Posts Tagged ‘Mark Hoban’

Private Eye on the Companies Sponsoring the Tories in 2008

March 5, 2016

Private Eye in their issue for 5th-18th September 2008 printed this piece listing the companies sponsoring the Tory party conference that year.

Meet the Tories’ Brum Chums

The Conservative party conference will see Team Cameron entertaining a plethora of wealthy bedfellows from industry when it kicks off in Birmingham on 28th September …

The Arms trade…
Labour have been too embarrassed to be seen mixing with the weapons makers, but if shadow defence secretary Liam Fox becomes a real minister all that will change. Fox is timetabled to speak for the Defence Industries Council, an arms trade group led by BAE Systems chief executive Mike Turner.

Fox shares the enthusiasm of the “Vulcan” wing of the US Republicans for military reaction to perceived threats, reflected in the title of another meeting he is addressing on “Resurgent threats: Terror, Russia and Iran?” The meeting is sponsored by yet another arms firm, EADS, who hope to sell loads of kit to a future Tory government.

The Greens…
Cameron is fighting to make green a new Tory, colour, but it’s a very pale shade indeed. The Tory Green Initiative’s first meeting at the conference is paid for by the British Cement Association and has cement lobbyist Mike Gilbert on the platform. The link makes the TGI look more like an industry-friendly lobby group than an environmental campaign. Hardly surprising, as the Initiative is run by Nick Wood-Dow, the boss of lobbying firm Chelgate, which assists clients from the construction industry who have problems with “disproportionate response from the community, or from pressure or environmental groups.”

The Poor…
Shadow Treasury minister Mark Hoban is demonstrating the new Conservative interest in poverty with a meeting on the credit crunch, sponsored by Cattles plc, one of the Britain’s leading sub-prime lenders. Cattles makes millions through its “Shopacheck” loans to the low-paid that have APRS as high as 400 per cent.

The Lobbyists…
Last year Tory MP Peter Luff was outraged that the Canary Wharf Group gave £120,000 to Labour while promoting Crossrail, the line that will improve access to Canary Wharf. Boris Johnson also backs Crossrail, and Luff will presumably be horrified that the Canary Wharf Group is paying the London Assembly Conservatives. The group is funding a political “speed dating” lunch, where delegates can meet “the most influential people in London politics, from London Assembly members to deputy mayors.”

Elsewhere, shadow Treasury bod Mark Hoban is advertised as the top speaker at the “invitation-only financial services reception” of lobby firm Lansons, which makes a living from trying to influence politicians on behalf of big-money clients such as HBOS bank. It’s easy to see why Lansons has invited a shadow minister to their party, but harder to see why Hoban would accept.

The list of curious sponsors goes on: shadow health minister Stephen O’Brien is speaking on problem drinking – sponsored by brew SAB Miller. And Frances Maude, a key member of Team Cameron, is speaking on “Preparing for Power” – that to money from management consultants PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

…and the Labour ex-ministers
Of course, the Tories aren’t the only one who know on which side their bread is buttered – three former Labour ministers will address the conference, getting in practice at sucking up to Cameron’s crew. Former trade minister Brian Wilson was once a left-wing MP and enthusiastic supporter of Castro’s Cuba; now he is chairman of the pro-airports lobby group FlyingMatters. Steven Twigg, the man once famous for defeating Portillo, and former Culture secretary Chris Smith complete the trio.

Those were the companies seeking to profit from the Tories gaining power that year. And looking at this, and the way Cameron very swiftly dropped his Green initiative when it appeared to have worked, it’s clear that this always was a sham. His Green Initiative was simply an astroturf organisation to get the Tories and their backers in the very un-Green cement industry back into No. 10. And since then, the Tories have dropped it completely. Cameron took down that windmill from his house, and has put his full support behind fracking, another industry which comprehensively wrecks the environment.

David Cameron is still firmly behind the arms industry. He was up at the BAE systems base the other week in Wharton, boasting about how he’d sold millions of their products to the war criminals and mass murderers in Saudi Arabia. He wasn’t bothered, calling their armaments ‘brilliant things’.

And the hypocrisy and deceit behind their lobbying bill, which shuts out charities and other organisations from influencing government, while leaving the real lobbyists to pursue their sordid trade, should be no surprise given their appearance sponsoring so much of the Tory conference.

And then there’s the matter of the 95 Tory and Lib Dem ministers with links to health care companies, who are hoping to get rich from the privatisation of the NHS.

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Your Unrepresentative Representative: Esther McVie in Wirral West

March 25, 2015

Mike in his series exposing the lies, hypocrisy and sheer malignancy of Tories in marginal constituencies has also turned his attention to Esther McVey. McVey’s views and the policies she embraces are so unpleasant, that she has been dubbed ‘Fester McVile’. It seems, however, that from the number of falsehoods she has spun to justify herself and her continuing punitive attitude towards the poor and less fortunate, that she should equally be called ‘Festering Lie’. And Mike goes on to list the lies she has told.

She said it was impossible to hold a cumulative impact assessment into the effect of government welfare reforms. Untrue.

She also lied, and denied the existence of a loophole in the bedroom tax legislation that meant the government removed housing benefit from people, who were actually exempt. At least one person, Stephanie Bottrill, committed suicide because she feared she could no longer support herself because of the reduction in her benefit. She also denied she knew anything about how many people were affect by the loophole. Mike cites FoI requests that show that at least 16,000 people have been affected.

It was Mark Hoban, rather than Lie, who came out with the next whopper. He claimed that independent reviews of the work capability assessment showed that the government was working to improve it. Studies instead showed that almost 2/3 were either incompletely or inadequately put into practice.

It’s on the subject of foodbanks that she really begins to lie. She claimed that the government’s austerity programme was due to uncontrolled spending under Labour, and not from the greed and venality of out-of-control bankers. She then declared that foodbanks were Labour’s ‘nasty little secret’, until Jim Cunningham set the record straight by pointing out that under Labour they were set up to support asylum seekers awaiting decisions on their cases, and not poor citizens.

She’s repeated the lie that the Coalition came about to solve ‘the mess we’re in’, rather than as the result of a cynical political deal by two parties desperate for power. She claimed that 60,000 people would go to a foodbank in 2014. Jim Murphy pointed out that that was an underestimate. It’s the number of people in Wales, who would be forced to go to them. In 2013-14 the minimum number across Britain was 913,138.

She attacked Labour for allowing five million people to be supported on benefits for being out of work, with two million children living in families without jobs, and claimed that children were three times more likely to be in poverty if they lived in households where the parents were unemployed. Another lie. The Joseph Roundtree Foundation found the number of working households in poverty has risen to 8 million, while unemployed households in poverty is now 6.3 million.

She boasts that the Coalition has got more people into work than ever before, but doesn’t mention that this is nearly all zero-hours, part-time or self-employed contracts that deprive workers of certain basic rights and pay low wages. She claimed that the tax cuts meant families were better off by £700 per year, but in fact low wages and the cost of living means that people or £1,600 worse off.

And when you examine her voting record, it’s pretty much the same tale that emerged with Anne Soubry, Nick de Bois and Kris Hopkins: she supported the cuts to all the welfare benefits, including benefit uprating cap, and legislation making councils responsible for their citizens ability to pay council tax, while depriving them of the funds to do so. She also strongly supported the Bedroom Tax.

She’s against tax increases for the rich, wants to see corporation tax cut, and also supports increasing VAT. She is also in favour of further military action overseas, but against strengthening the military covenant. In education she support the privately run academies and free schools, voted to raise tuition fees, and end state support for 16-19 year olds in education. She also supported the privatisation of the Royal Mail and Britain’s forests, and is against localism and the devolution of further powers to local authorities. She is also in favour of deregulating gambling and allowing rail fares to rise without government restrictions. And she’s also a supporter of the piecemeal privatisation of the NHS.

She was also one of those in favour of the police and crime commissioners, the secret courts, restrictions on legal aid, and the expansion of government surveillance. She doesn’t support equal rights for gays and same-sex marriages. She’s also voted both for and against a referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

Mike’s article begins:

There is little that this blog can add to the litany of outrage against the woman who has been dubbed ‘Fester McVile’ by commentators who are feeling kind towards her.

In a previous column, this blog stated that the employment minister, who works under Iain Duncan Smith, “has accumulated a reputation so bad that the only way she can hide the metaphorical stink from the public is by associating with …Smith himself, in whose stench she seems almost fragrant. But not quite”. How accurate those words are.

This is a woman who has lied to the public that it is impossible to carry out a cumulative assessment of the impact on the sick and disabled of the Coalition’s ‘final solution’ changes to the benefit system.

This is the woman who, in the face of public unrest about the prevalence of zero-hours contracts, announced that Job Centre advisors will now be able to force the unemployed into taking this exploitative work.

She has previously misled Parliament over the loophole in Bedroom Tax legislation that meant the government had removed Housing Benefit from thousands of people who were exempt from the measure – including Stephanie Bottrill, whose suicide has been attributed to the pressure of having to survive on less because of the tax. Asked how many people had been affected by the loophole, McVey played it down by claiming she did not know the answer, while other ministers suggested between 3,000 and 5,000. In fact, from Freedom of Information requests to which just one-third of councils responded, 16,000 cases were revealed. Esther McVey is a very strong supporter of the Bedroom Tax.

Mark Hoban stood in for McVey to trot out the lie that independent reviews of the Work Capability Assessment had identified areas of improvement on which the government was acting. In fact, out of 25 recommendations in the Year One review alone, almost two-thirds were not fully and successfully implemented.

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/24/will-wirral-west-divest-itself-of-esther-mcvey/

Read it and decide for yourself if this is a woman, who should be anyway near power and public authority.

From 2013: Private Eye on the Government Doctoring Workfare Stats

March 22, 2015

As numerous left-wing bloggers have pointed out, the government’s welfare-to-work programme has been a disaster from the start. Johnny Void in particular has repeatedly pointed out how you are actually more likely to get a job using your own initiative, than if you are one of the hundreds of thousands of unfortunates pressganged into workfare. I’ve posted up several pieces from Private Eye supporting this, and showing that the workfare sector can only succeed and make a profit through continual bail-outs. In some cases, employees for the workfare companies have even been reduced to committing fraud by falsifying the names and details of claimants, who have found work through the system.

In their issue for the 19th April – 2nd May 2013, Private Eye carried this story reporting how the government itself was falsifying the statistics in order to present workfare not as an appalling shambles, but as a success. The story ran

Emails between employment minister Mark Hoban and lobbyists representing Work Programme contractors reveal how the coalition tried to massage the pisspoor results of its welfare-to-work initiative last year “for public consumption.”

The correspondence, released to Private Eye, under freedom of information rules, show that Hoban pushed for “simple” figures to be publicised instead of the grim official statistics – a pattern likely to be repeated when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) releases more Work Programme results next month.

The first figures, released in November, sowed that firms like A4e were not meeting minimum performance levels. The DWP had estimated that 5.5 percent of the unemployed would find jobs without the programme; and as no workfare firm has exceeded this, performance was thus worse than useless.

Hoban responded by meeting Kirsty McHugh, head of the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), which lobbies for A4e, Working Links and others who are paid to get the jobless off benefits and into work. She told Hoban: “On performance overall, I think it is really important that both the industry and the department are robust in terms of defending the Work Programme as much as we can.”

Instead of castigating failing contractors, Hoban agreed and emailed McHugh to thank her for “discussion around the November publication and the simplicity of messages required for public consumption”. He told her he was keen on the ERSA figure of “200,000 Job entries” which, he said, would be “much more understandable to the media/public than discussion around Job Outcomes.”

This “simple figure” was misleading, however. Official “job outcomes” numbers show the proportion of the unemployed who find and keep jobs via the Work Programme. Baldly stating that 200,000 people started jobs means little without counting the far larger official number who did not start or hold on to a job.

Hoban preferred to push unofficial industry figures over official ones, however, and set up teleconferences and meetings between ERSA and the DWP press office. The emails also suggest he considered simply ignoring the contractors’ failure to meet minimum performance levels. But McHugh wasn’t so sure. She emailed Hoban to say: “On Minimum Performance Levels we absolutely take the points made by the department of these. However, our view is that the existence of Minimum Performance Levels are in the public arena and we need to prepare for questions around them.” In the event she was right. Hoban’s official DWP press release avoided all mention of minimum performance failure – but this damning statistic still grabbed the headlines.

It really isn’t surprising any more that Hoban should prefer to publish industry spin, rather than any kind of objective assessment. The Tories see themselves as the party of business, to the near absolute exclusion of any other concerns. Furthermore, all the parties have developed almost symbiotic links with the major government contractors. Private firms, like the big accountants, send staff to help the political parties formulate policy. They sponsor the party political conferences, and then afterwards offer politicians and senior civil servants well-paid seats on their boards. Hoban was probably thinking of this, when he went off to get McHugh’s advice.

And massaging statistics seems to be second nature to the Tories. Mike and the other left-wing bloggers have in vain tried to get the figures for the number of people, who have died after being assessed as fit for work under the Work Capability Assessment, from the DWP under the Freedom of Information Act. The DWP have repeatedly turned this down, often under the most spurious claims. They have also released completely different sets of figures on similar issues, but subtly different, in order to present the situation as being much better than it actually is.

This is a mendacious government, which has been lying almost since before Cameron was elected. It’s high time it was gone.

Private Eye on Think Tanks Funding Political Conferences

February 16, 2015

One of the key causes in the corruption of British politics has been the way the different political parties are being lobbied and funded by the same, almost exclusively right-wing think tanks. These organisations provide the parties with advisors and sponsor debates and events at the various political conferences. As a result, while the parties themselves have changed, the Thatcherite policies they have pursued have remained unchallenged. Not only is this influence corrupt in itself, but it’s also led to the British voting public becoming alienated and disenfranchised. They feel with some justification, that there is little difference between the parties, and that they are being sidelined and ignored in favour of big business.

Private Eye published a piece on this issue in their edition of 21st September – 4th October 2012, listing the various think tanks and describing their links to various politicians and ministers.

Conference Callers

Party members may see conference season as their chance to be heard, but judging by the brochures put out by think tanks, the grassroots will have a job making it past better-funded rivals from the business lobby.

Over the summer, the Eye acquired prospectuses from several think tanks looking to recruit sponsors for debates at the forthcoming Tory, Lib Dem and Labour conferences.

Reform, a think tank with Tory links, tells potential sponsors it can set up “successful events attended by ministers and shadow ministers, special advisors, MPs, MEPs and council leaders”, among them minister for welfare reform Lord Freud, housing minister Mark Prisk, employment minister Mark Hoban and the Foreign Office’s Henry Bellingham.

Lest anyone mistake the purpose, any “partner organisation” – ie company willing to pay for access – can use roundtable events or dinners with “around 20 high-level participants” to put their own “insights into the relevant policy debate at the beginning of the meeting”.

Not to be outdone, ResPublica, run by David Cameron’s “Red Tory” guru Phillip Blond, offers potential “partners” a chance for “intimate discussion over diner with select stakeholders and policymakers”, plus the opportunity to “contribute” to the choice of subject and speaker for meetings with ministers.

Meanwhile the Social Market Foundation (SMF) is touting “an excellent standard of service to our sponsors”, including the chance to “shape the key questions for debate” and “input into the speaker line-up”, with top totty on offer to include Lord Freud (again), Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin, prisons and probation minister Crispin Blunt, universities minister David Willetts and chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.

Trendy think tank Demos urges companies to cough up for events and roundtables potentially hosted by the prime minister or chancellor, with sponsors getting the chance for “conversations that link their policy agenda to contemporary political issues”. And Policy Exchange, the Cameroonian think tank, trumpets its “competitive sponsorship package”: as well as potential access to ministers, a few broad themes scheduled for debate will be honed after … conversations with sponsors.

Think tanks have tax-free charitable status based on their lofty aims to improve public policy. How does offering commercial interests the chance to pitch ideas to ministers over dinner fit that mission?

Clearly, it doesn’t. If politics in Britain is to be improved, and its people to be given a genuine choice between the parties, and have a real voice in how their country is governed, the corporatists think tanks need to be thrown out. Removing their charitable status, except for those rare occasions where they might, actually, represent charities, would be a start.

Vox Political: Conservative Minister Mark Hoban Making it More Difficult to Appeal against Atos

July 24, 2013

My brother, over at the excellent Vox Political blog, has this story about how Tory minister Mark Hoban has said he wants to improve the quality of the Atos assessments. As hopeful as this statement sounds, it really means that he wants to prevent more of Atos’ victims from successfully appealing against their poor assessments. The article’s entitled ‘Bad Government: Their Idea of ‘Wrong’ isn’t the Same as Yours’. Mike begins the article

‘ This is the last article in the quartet about private organisations carrying out public duties – and the government ministers who employ them – focusing on what happens when things go wrong.

(This was delayed from yesterday because yr obdt svnt developed a splitting headache. It seems that a trip to the gym and a three-hour drive, taking a sick neighbour to get help, isn’t conducive to writing four articles in a day!)

It should be noted that, in some cases, the error is clear and a logical solution is enacted. For example, when G4S completely failed to carry out its security responsibilities at the London Olympics last year, the government cancelled the company’s contract and called in the Army to sort out the mess. This wasn’t a perfect solution as it meant leave was cancelled for many squaddies and officers, but it did at least allow the Olympics to go ahead with a reasonable amount of security.

On the other hand, we have the current situation with the DWP, Atos and the work capability assessment.

“DWP is to bring in additional providers to carry out assessments,” yesterday’s press release announced under the headline Hoban – taking action to improve the Work Capability Assessment.

The possibility that the Work Capability Assessment may be improved might fill the casual reader with joy, but the problem – for those of us in the know – that that Mark Hoban’s name is attached to it. This is a man who has admitted that he does not understand the benefit system. Why is he still being allowed to meddle with it?

Read down the release and it turns out that the government does indeed want to change the WCA – but not in any way that is meaningful to us. It seems that the paperwork accompanying decisions isn’t sufficiently robust for the Department for Work and Pensions. It seems likely Mr Hoban’s problem is that this might make it possible for more people to succeed in appeals against decisions.’

It’s at http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/bad-government-their-idea-of-wrong-isnt-the-same-as-yours/