Posts Tagged ‘Work Capability Tests’

Thousands Protest Tory Conference in Manchester

October 2, 2017

This is another really great clip from RT. It shows the mass protests that have taken place outside the Tory conference in one of the great, historic centres of British working class radicalism. One building flies a red banner proclaiming, ‘Ohhh, Jeremy Corbyn’. A speaker declares ‘They say Labour is a government in waiting. I agree with that, except for one thing. I am not waiting’. Another speaker states that ‘they have slayed men, women and children as they slept in their beds’, presumably referring to Cameron and May’s escalation of the illegal wars in the Middle East. One elderly lady states that we’ve had eight years of austerity, pay caps and poverty, and we’re not taking it any more. A crowd from Unison march with a banner, ‘Taxi for Theresa’. A group of girls march past, smiling for the camera, while at the end there’s a couple pushing a skeleton in a wheelchair underneath the banner ‘Found Fit for Work’, in protest at the government’s murderous Work Capability Tests. The crowd seem good natured, and drawn from across Britain. I noticed one banner, which seemed to be a group from my hometown, Bristol.

This shows some of the extent of the deep dissatisfaction with the Tories, their lies and the deaths they’re causing in Britain and particularly in the Middle East through policies designed to drive the poor at home to starvation and suicide, and murder innocents abroad under the guise of combating terrorism, when the intent is simply to seize their oil reserves and state industries. Same as it was in the imperialism of the 19th century.

I’m left with only one question after watching this: has any of it been broadcast by the Beeb? Somehow, given the Beeb’s flagrant right-wing bias, I doubt it was. Or if it was, much time was spent on it.

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Chris Smith: People Want the Advertising Standards Authority to Act on Political Claims

September 26, 2017

This is another fascinating little video from RT’s Going Underground. Host Afshin Rattansi talks to the former cabinet minister under Blair, Chris Smith, above his decision to oppose the Invasion of Iraq, his work in the Advertising Standards Authority, and Brexit.

Smith was Blair’s Culture Secretary, and the author of a book, Creative Britain. The cover showed him wielding a professional movie/TV camera. He states he opposed the Iraq invasion because it was ‘obviously the wrong the policy’. He also states that during his time with the Advertising Standards Authority, people wrote in asking them if they could possibly act against the misleading political advertising in elections. Smith states that this is sadly impossible. Their constitution limits them to commercial advertising only, and they have no power to prosecute or punishment politicians that lie.

On the subject of Brexit, he and Rattansi clearly hold different views. Smith appears to be a Remainer, while Rattansi believes that the EU is unreformable. Smith states that it was ludicrous to leave such a powerful grouping of countries. As for reform, this very much on the agenda now, with Macron advocating a series of them. After leaving office, Smith was elevated to the Upper House, and Rattansi asks him how the Lords will handle the government’s Brexit legislation. Smith states that they won’t challenge democracy, but they will scrutinize it very thoroughly to make sure that Britain gets the very best deal. And he states clearly that they will also examine very carefully the government’s Repeal Bill, which gives the government massive powers in all areas of life.

This interview is worth watching for Smith’s statement how people have written to him and the other members of the ASA because of the lies disseminated by the political parties. He didn’t mention them, but the most flagrant falsehoods have been made by the Tories and UKIP. Mike, Johnny Void, Tom Pride, and the Angry Yorkshireman, as well as DPAC, Stilloaks and others too many to mention here have spent years debunking and critiquing the lies spouted by David Cameron, Theresa May, and their Lib Dem enablers before the coalition broke up. The worst and most pernicious of these lies has arguably been against the disabled, defending a brutal and malign assessment system, which has seen millions of genuinely disabled people thrown off the benefits they need, simply because Blairite, and then Tory dogma, dictated that they had to be malingerers. This has left thousands in desperate poverty, and in hundreds of cases it result in that person’s death from starvation and misery. And despite the fact that some of these poor souls actually wrote down before they ended their lives with their own hands that they were driven to do so by the assessment system, Iain Duncan Smith, Damian Green, Esther McVie and the rest of the vile crew infesting the DWP have denied that there is any link between their deaths and the work capability assessment.

And the lies the Tories are spreading against the disabled are whipping up hatred against them. Thanks to the rags like the Heil, Scum and Depress informing their readers that the benefits system is awash with fraud when it really isn’t, disabled people have been subjected to increasing abuse and physical assault. Many of Mike’s disabled readers have posted comments describing their own experiences, or those of the people they care for. And I’ve heard the same thing from disabled friends of mine.

And then there’s the lies told by the DWP to defend the indefensible sanctions system, which has seen millions thrown off much-needed welfare support and onto food banks to keep body and soul together. These are imposed for the most trivial reasons, such as being a few minutes late. In very many cases there were extremely good reasons why the person could not make their interview: they were in hospital, or there was an emergency with a sick child. It makes no difference. They’re still sanctioned. Whistleblowers have said that there is a quota in place, so that Jobcentres must get a set number of people off their books. Those clerks, who have stopped the most people from receiving benefit get rewarded with Easter eggs and marshal’s stars. But the Tories go on lying about this as well.

Last week, the head of a jobcentre in Scotland claimed that Jobscentre staff weren’t cruel and heartless, but carried out their duties, including the imposition of sanctions, in ‘a supportive way’. You what? Too many people have made it clear that the treatment they receive by these wretched petty bureaucrats is deliberately demeaning and humiliating for this to be remotely credible. I’ve experienced it myself. And Thatcher even said that she wanted the welfare system to go back to the old attitude that the poor were to be discouraged from relying on the state aid to become more self-reliant and look for work. This is less eligibility, the ideology on which the workhouses were run.

As for the official unemployment figures, this have been subjected to political interference ever since Thatcher came to power nearly four decades ago. They are so unreliable that I give absolutely zero credence to the Tory claims that our unemployment rate under them is somehow miraculously low. Mike has himself put up the arguments from other economists and political activists showing that the real figure is much higher.

And the Tory Brexiteers are lying again now. Remember how BoJo the Clown told us that we gave £350 million a year to the EU – which was itself a lie – and then said on the Leave Campaign’s battle bus that if we voted to Leave, it would all be spent on the NHS? That was a lie. We left, and it hasn’t been. And Boris the Menace then went on air and the press to huff and puff in his Eton-cultured voice to say that he hadn’t made that promise at all. They just meant that it could be spent on the NHS, and things like it.

And now he’s back, repeating the same lie. He really has absolutely no shame. I’d say it was amazing, but it really isn’t. He’s a liar from an entire party of liars. These are people so crooked, that to borrow a phrase from Hunter S. Thompson, they have to get their aides to screw them into their pants in the morning.

It’s time to stop the lies, and end the culture of lying. It’s time to vote for Corbyn and a revived Labour party and get them into government.

Jimmy Dore Show: Bernie Sanders Supporters Chant ‘The Media Is Corrupt’ at Rally

August 14, 2017

This is why Google, Facebook and the mainstream media hate left-wing, progressive and Socialist bloggers and vloggers. People are sick of their lies, and know that they’re corrupt. And they say it.

In this clip from The Jimmy Dore Show from July 2016, the American comedian and his guests comment on a clip from a Bernie Sanders rally in Philadelphia. The crowd spontaneously turned towards the section of the stadium where the media were positioned, and chanted ‘the media is corrupt’, while pointing fairly and squarely at them.

Dore makes the point that not only are people fed up with establishment politics and its corruption, they’re also sick of establishment media. ‘How’, he asks rhetorically, ‘can it not be corrupt, when just five guys own it? Five guys!’ As for how the media felt having the crowd turn on them, he speculates that they’re already so soulless they didn’t feel anything. It’s all about money and simply getting on TV, whatever happens. It has nothing to do with presenting the news. It is, in his words, ‘all about selling soap to people’.

And their ears are so stuffed with money that they don’t hear it when the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future come calling. Scrooge should have been like them, and stuffed money in his ears when they turned up in Dicken’s story, A Christmas Carol.

Well, now we’ve seen how the corporate media is reacting to this, both in the US and this side of the Pond. They’re corrupt, they know they’re corrupt, but rather than doing anything about it, like raising standards and actually reflecting what’s important to severely normal citizens, they’re just taking the corporate money and representing the corrupt politicos and their corporate paymasters. It’s just business as usual.

And they way they’re responding to criticism is by trying to drive out and slander the independent media outlets, and the myriad bloggers and vloggers, who are telling it like it is. It’s why YouTube is demonetizing videos by left-wing broadcasters like The Young Turks, Secular Talk, David Pakman and Sam Seder. It’s why Facebook is prioritizing corporate content, to deprive independent bloggers like Mike over at Vox Political of an audience.

It’s why one of the soulless corporate shills from the Groaniad penned a piece last week loftily claiming that corporate media hacks like his paper were the acme of journalistic standards, while all you’d get from the independent media and bloggers like Mike are lies, sloppy reporting and fake news.

Despite the fact that a lot of lies and fake news has always come from the mainstream press.

As for Mike, he’s a qualified journalist, who worked on a series of local papers. He even edited one for a time. Mike cares deeply about what he writes, about professionalism and proper journalistic standards, and checks the accuracy of his stories.

And so do very, very many other bloggers. For example, Another Angry Voice. I don’t know the Angry Yorkshireman’s background, but his pieces are carefully and thoughtfully argued and meticulously footnoted.

And they’re not the only bloggers doing quality journalism on the Net. The disability websites, like DPAC and others are goldmines for information about the government’s attacks on disabled people, and the pseudoscientific nonsense on which the Work Capability Tests are based on. There are thousands, perhaps millions of others, all saying what the corporate, mainstream media, including the Beeb, do not want you to hear.

Support them. Read them, and reblog them if you like what they say. Don’t let them be silenced.

American Historian Nancy Maclean on James McGill Buchanan and the Libertarian Attack on Democracy

July 27, 2017

This is another very interesting clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report. He talks by phone to Nancy Maclean, the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University, who explains the origins of Libertarianism in the thought of James McGill Buchanan and the threat this now poses to American democracy through the Koch brothers. Buchanan was one of the founders of Public Choice Economics. This exists in both left- and right-wing versions, and in Buchanan’s case, it’s extremely right-wing. Buchanan took an attitude towards the American constitution similar to Calhoun, one of the figures in early American political history, who was strongly opposed by Madison. Calhoun divided society into ‘makers’ and ‘takers’. The ‘makers’ were the rich, while the ‘takers’ were the poor. Buchanan expanded on this distinction to found the Virginia School of Political Economy. This considered that no constitution in the world, including the American, adequately protected property rights. As Maclean herself points out, this is a ridiculous statement when applied to America, whose constitution protects private property to a higher degree than those of other nations. Buchanan then became political active trying to change this.

Central to the Virginia’s school’s thinking was the doctrine that it was immoral to tax the rich to benefit the poor. Buchanan, and the other Libertarians around him, were firmly opposed to progressive taxation and the embryonic American welfare state. It is this opposition to progressive economic and social policies that has strongly influenced the Republican party’s current attempts to destroy Obamacare.

This led to the foundation of the Montpellerin Group, a think tank which was one of the founding organizations of Libertarianism in the 1970s. Its members included von Hayek, von Mises, and the founder of Monetarism, Milton Friedman, as well as Charles Koch. They also realized that they would be a minority, and so looked for ways to assist non-democratic regimes so seize power, like General Pinochet in Chile.

The Kochs are oil billionaires, who have been major figures in the Libertarian party, and have given lavishly to a number of extreme right-wing organisations in America working to destroy the American welfare state and undermine the Constitution. Two of these are the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, but Maclean states that there 15 of these in all. Maclean states that the Libertarians present themselves as Madisonians, determined to return the Constitution to its original form and protect it against the progressives and liberals they feel have hijacked and corrupted it. She points out instead that their views are those of Calhoun, rather than Madison. Madison and the other Founding Fathers were extremely Conservative themselves, and determined to protect private property as much as possible. She acknowledges that the Constitution as it is, with its four veto clauses, is a Conservative document. But Madison was a determined opponent of Calhoun, and stated that if Calhoun was successful, it would be the end of freedom in America.

I’ve put up several pieces from Reichwing Watch over the past few days, showing that Libertarianism, far from being a form of Anarchism, as its supporters claim, is actually a form of extreme right-wing politics similar to, and increasingly declaring itself to be, at least according to spokesmen like That Guy T a form of Fascism. This adds a little information to show that it has always been Fascistic. Buddy Hell over at Guy Debord’s Cat has pointed out that Pinochet and his regime was Monetarist, strongly influenced by von Mises, and that Milton Friedman frequently visited the country to see how the thug was implementing his economic policies. This shows that the connections between Pinochet and the Chicago school weren’t coincidental. Friedman and his cohorts didn’t visit Chile, because Pinochet just happened to be a Monetarist and wanted their assistance. They visited Chile because they had rejected democratic government and were actively assisting Pinochet to achieve power in order to help the rich exploit and brutalise the poor.

And this isn’t an issue that’s just confined to America. Libertarianism has also been a very strong influence on the Tory party since the days of Maggie Thatcher. She was deeply impressed by von Hayek, and turned up at a political meeting in the ’70s with his book, The Road to Serfdom. A young man had been speaking before her, recommending a more middle of the road policy in line with the post-War consensus. Instead Thatcher slapped von Hayek’s wretched screed on the table and announced, ‘This is what we all believe now.’ There was always a section of the Tory party that despised the welfare state, and they have become the dominant section of the party since Thatcher. It was Thatcher, who talked explicitly of dismantling the welfare state, including the NHS, which she wished to privatize. It is these policies, that are still being carried through nearly forty years later.

And these ideological links and the threat they pose to the NHS are likely to become fixed through the free trade agreements that the Tories are desperate to conclude with Donald Trump. The break up of the welfare state and the gradual privatization of the NHS is being done partly for the benefit of American private healthcare and state outsourcing companies. Private Eye revealed that the work capability tests were introduced by Peter Lilley and the Tories through the influence of the American insurance fraudster, Unum, an influence that continued when Tony Blair and New Labour came into power in 1997. The magazine also revealed that Blair was being lobbied by a number of American firms, including Wackenhut, which, amongst other things, runs private prisons. Any deal the Tories make with Trump’s administration is likely to cement the privatization of the remains of the NHS and the wider state sector into international law.

If we wish to defend the NHS and what’s left of the welfare state, and create a better, fairer society, we need to make sure such privatization does not become enshrined in any trade treaties, either with America or the European Union, and combat Libertarianism and its attack on the poor and weak as the underlying ideological cause.

The Euthanasia of the Elderly in Stephen Baxter’s ‘Titan’

July 18, 2017

A few days ago I put up a post about the nightmare, alternative future described by the British SF novelist Stephen Baxter in his novel, Titan. Baxter’s a writer of hard SF, a subgenre in which the fiction is nevertheless grounded in solid, known science fact, though often with an element of artistic license. Titan was written in 1995, and is partly set in the decaying America of the first decades of the 21st century. A militantly anti-science president, Maclachlan, has been elected with the support of the Ku Klux Klan and Christian fundamentalists. Maclachlan shuts down NASA for good after a shuttle disaster. The launch complexes are closed down. Those that aren’t demolished become simply tourist attractions, as do the agency’s headquarters and mission control. One of these, a museum to the Apollo moon landings, is altered so that it promotes instead the spiritual experiences many of the astronauts did have during their missions. Maclachlan also introduces legislation demanding that only the Aristotelian cosmology of Thomas Aquinas, with its crystal spheres, is taught in schools. What is left of the agency is given over to the USAF under the paranoid and nationalistic General Hartle, who is very much like the rogue American General Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s classic nuclear black comedy, Doctor Strangelove.

Against this, the agency attempts to launch one last, great space mission, a crewed voyage to Titan, where the Cassini probe has found evidence of active biological chemistry.

I commented in my post on the remarkable similarity between the policies of the fictional Maclachlan and Donald Trump. Maclachlan is fiercely nationalistic, and withdraws American peacekeepers from their stations around the globe, as well as pulling America out of NAFTA and the various other free trade agreements. America also pulls out of the World Bank and the IMF, and the UN is kicked out of New York. Like the real anti-Semites of the America Far Right, Maclachlan believes that the US is under ‘Israeli occupation’. Maclachlan also dismantles the country’s welfare programmes, especially those benefiting Blacks and other minorities, and starts building a wall with Mexico.

He also devises a policy to deal with America’s increasingly aging society: euthanasia chambers for the unwanted or neglected elderly. These are euphemistically called ‘Happy Booths’. There’s a very touching scene in which the last, fictitious surviving Apollo spaceman, Marcus White, is gassed to death in one of these chambers by a couple of nurses, who are every bit as malign as Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. By this time, however, White is so confused with dementia, that he is lost in the delusion that he is back as a middle-aged man at NASA in his prime, suiting up and breathing the pure oxygen in preparation for another flight to the Moon.

This is interesting, as it completely turns on its head one of the truly despicable pieces of propaganda the Republicans were running ten years ago to make sure the American public didn’t get single-payer healthcare. Instead, we had Sarah Palin and the rest of the maniacs screaming that the introduction of single-payer healthcare, where all Americans would have free medical treatment financed by the state, would lead to ‘death panels’. Palin herself made a speech about how she didn’t want her children facing them. The idea was under a socialist system, medical care would be rationed. Those individuals deemed to be a waste of state money and resources, such as the elderly, would thus be humanely killed.

It was a disgusting piece of propaganda, based partly on the murder of the disabled in Nazi Germany. The Nazis were also pro-euthanasia, producing propaganda forms with titles such as I Don’t Want to Be Born. It was also based partly on the vile views of some of the founders of the Fabian Society, particularly H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, who were very much in favour of eugenics and the sterilization of the biologically unfit.

Unfortunately, many Americans were taken in by this bilge. There was a BBC report on the truly horrific state of American healthcare, in which a clinic offering free treatment in California immediately attracted 50,000 + prospective patients. These are the 20 per cent of Americans, who couldn’t afford their private healthcare before the introduction of Obamacare. The Beeb’s reported also attracted the attention of Republican supporters, who’d believed all the rubbish they’d been fed by Palin and her stormtroopers. One of these was an elderly man, who rushed up to the Beeb’s crew and shouted ‘Your healthcare system stinks!’ When they politely asked him how so, he looked confused, and began to mutter about ‘death panels’.

There are no death panels in Britain, or anywhere else with a socialized, or state-funded medical system. As for Germany, state financing of medical treatment for the workers was introduced by Bismarck in the 1870s, nearly fifty years before the Nazis seized power. There is a problem, where dying individuals may be refused treatment of expensive and/or experimental drugs or other procedures on the NHS because the costs far exceed any chance of success. This is very much a controversial issue, as we’ve seen the past week with the parents fighting to send their dying son over to America for treatment. However, there are no death panels.

The ‘Happy Booths’ described in the book are a piece of artistic invention by Baxter. Conventional Christian morality rejects euthanasia for the same reasons it has traditionally ruled out abortion, except in certain very restricted circumstances. This is because both judge that there are certain forms of human beings, such as the unborn and the disabled, who are held not to have the same rights to life. If it is permitted to kill the disabled and the unborn, it is argued, there is a danger that the same attitude will spread to other groups also considered inferior, like the Jews and other ‘untermenschen’ in Nazi Germany. And Baxter is aware of this, as elsewhere in the book he describes how the British relative of one of the astronauts, stricken by CJD or ‘Mad Cow Disease’, is going to a euthanasia clinic even though their parents consider it unchristian.

A president dependent on the support of right-wing Christian fundamentalists would alienate a sizable part of his constituency if he did. What happens instead is that, through its hostility to state medicine and the welfare state, Republican politicians of Maclachlan’s type make it impossible for the poor, severely ill to support themselves. Hence Bernie Sanders’ chilling statistic that 50,000 Americans die each year because they cannot afford private medical treatment.

This is basically the same attitude of Tory party under David Cameron and Theresa May. They have extended the sanctions system and the Work Capability Tests to make it as difficult as possible for the unemployed and the disabled to quality for state support. The result of that has been that researchers at Oxford University found that in 2015 alone, 30,000 people died through the Tories’ austerity policies. And Mike over at Vox Political reported yesterday that, according to the Skwawkbox, there’s a nasty clause in Universal Credit, which means that the claimant has to find a job in two years, or they lose their benefit.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/17/uc-gives-disabled-people-just-two-years-to-find-a-job-or-lose-everything/

This is a right-wing ‘genocide of the disabled’, as Mike, Johnny Void, Stilloaks, Tom Pride and the Angry Yorkshireman have said on their blogs, and Jeffrey, one of the great commenters here, has said on this. But it’s carefully hidden. The victims aren’t actually killed, they’re simply left to die. And the few politicos, who dare to call it what it is, are denied their ability to sit in parliament.

On Friday Mike commented on a piece in the Disability News Service about Mr. Jared O’Mara, a disabled Lib Dem MP, who has called the Tories’ policies towards the disabled ‘eugenics’, and stated that they want disabled people to ‘suffer and die’. Mr. O’Mara is to be commended for the way he tried to tackle Iain Duncan Smith, the former head of the DWP and therefore the government’s chief minister responsible for implementing this policy. However, Mr. O’Mara finds it impossible to find anywhere in the House of Commons to sit during debates. There is insufficient seating for all 650 MPs, and there is no form available for disabled MPs to fill in stating that they have particular seating needs. As Mike says, this is all very suspicious.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/07/disabled-mp-accuses-tories-of-eugenics-is-that-why-they-wont-let-him-take-a-seat/

As a religious person, I can’t say I’m happy about the anti-religious stance of Titan. I went to a Christian college for my undergraduate degree, and some of the students were Creationists. I am not saying that their literalist reading of the creation story in Genesis is correct, but I have to say that they were, by and large, decent people. Those I met weren’t racists or political extremists, and I know that one or two were actually left-wing. I also can’t say that they were anti-science, outside of the very specific field of evolution. Moreover, since the election of Donald Trump there has been the emergence of a religious Left in America, something which couldn’t have been predicted when Baxter wrote the book back in the 1990s. One of the authors of the collection of articles attacking the Neo-Cons, Confronting the New Conservatism, pointed out that the Neo-Cons were not necessarily going to be politically dominant for ever. Kansas, and many of the other mid-western Republican states, had in the 1920s been centres of the Social Gospel movement, which combined Christianity and Socialism. It’s possible that as more Americans recognize how truly disgusting Trump and his party are, Christians over the other side of the Pond may return to it.

However, Trump and his administration are anti-science. The Republican party is strongly opposed to climate change, and so there has been a concerted attack on environmentalism since Trump took office. Legislation protecting America’s glorious natural heritage has been repealed, and federal scientists responsible for monitoring the environment have been effectively gagged. They may not publish any scientific papers supporting climate change, and the federal agency itself has been effectively gutted.

Titan also portrays a future suffering from global warming and catastrophic climate change, as do very many of the SF novels written during the same decade, such as Bruce Sterling’s Heavy Weather. So far Trump hasn’t wound up NASA, though I don’t doubt that the agency is still under considerable pressure to keep expenses under control. But the real harm is being done by Trump’s deliberate rejection of climate change to appease powerful donors from industry, particularly the Kochs in big oil. This denial of climate change, and that of the other world leaders, will lead to the deaths of millions worldwide. If it hasn’t already.

End Workfare Now! Part 1

June 20, 2017

This is the text of another pamphlet I wrote a year or so ago against the highly exploitative workfare industry. As the pamphlet explains, workfare, or ‘welfare to work’, is the system that provides industry with cheap, unemployed temporary labour under the guise of getting the jobless back into work by giving them work experience. If the unemployed person refuses, he or she is thrown off benefit.

These temporary jobs go nowhere, and it’s been proven that the unemployed are actually far better off looking for jobs on their own than using workfare. And it’s very similar to other systems of supposed voluntary work and forced labour, such as the labour colonies set up in Britain in 1905, the Reichsarbeitsdienst in Nazi Germany, and the use of forced labour against the ‘arbeitscheu’ – the ‘workshy’, as well as the compulsory manual labour required of all citizens in Mao’s china during the Cultural Revolution, and the Gulags in Stalin’s Russia.

Mike over at Vox Political has blogged against it, so has Johnny Void and the Angry Yorkshireman of Another Angry Voice, and many other left-wing bloggers. It’s another squalid policy which New Labour and the Tories took over from Reagan and Bill Clinton.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to get rid of the work capability tests. I hope also that under him, the Labour party will also get rid of this vile policy, so that big corporations like Poundland and supermarkets like Tesco’s will have to take on workers and pay them a decent wage, rather than exploiting desperate and jobless workers supplied by the Thatcherite corporate state.

End Workfare Now!

Workfare is one of the most exploitative aspects of the contemporary assault on the welfare state and the unemployed. It was advocated in the 1980s by the Republicans under Ronald Reagan in America, and in Britain by Thatcher’s Conservatives. In 1979 the Tory party ranted about the need to ‘restore the will to work’. Geoffrey Howe, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, declared that ‘The Government and the vast majority of the British people want hard work and initiative to be properly rewarded and are vexed by disincentives to work’. At its heart is the attitude that the unemployed should be forced to work for their benefits, as otherwise they are getting ‘something for nothing’. Very many bloggers and activists for the poor and unemployed, including Vox Political, Johnny Void, Another Angry Voice, and myself have denounced it as another form of slavery. It’s used to provide state-subsidised, cheap labour for big business and charities, including influential Tory donors like Sainsbury’s. And at times it crosses the line into true slavery. Under the sanctions system, an unemployed person is still required to perform workfare, even if the jobcentre has sanctioned them, so that they are not receiving benefits. Workfare recipients – or victims – have no control over where they are allocated or what jobs they do. The government was challenged in the courts by a geology graduate, who was forced to work in Poundland. The young woman stated that she did not object to performing unpaid work. She, however, had wanted to work in a museum, and if memory serves me correctly, had indeed got a place at one. She was, however, unable to take up her unpaid position there because of the Jobcentre’s insistence she labour for Poundland instead. A young man also sued the government, after he was sanctioned for his refusal to do 30 hours a week unpaid labour for six months for the Community Action Programme. The High and Appeal Courts ruled in the young people’s favour. They judged that the government had indeed acted illegally, as the law did not contain any stipulations for when and how such work was to be performed.

Iain Duncan Smith, the notorious head of the Department of Work and Pensions, was outraged. He called the decision ‘rubbish’ and said, ‘There are a group of people out there who think they are too good for this kind of stuff .. People who think it is their right take benefit and do nothing for it – those days are over.’ This is rich coming from IDS, who was taking over a million pounds in farm subsidies from the EU. Eventually, Smith got sick of the criticism he was taking for the government’s welfare policies, and flounced off early in 2016 moaning about how unfair it all was that he should get the blame, when the notorious Work Capability Tests inflicted on the elderly and disabled were introduced by New labour.

Those forced into workfare are in no sense free workers, and it similarly makes a nonsense of the pretense that this somehow constitutes ‘voluntary work’, as this has been presented by the government and some of the participating charities

The political scientist Guy Standing is also extremely critical of workfare in his book, A Precariat Charter, demanding its abolition and making a series of solid arguments against it. He states that it was first introduced in America by the Republicans in Wisconsin, and then expanded nationally to the rest of the US by Bill Clinton in his Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. It was part of his campaign to ‘end welfare as we know it’. Single parents receiving social assistance were required to take low-paying jobs after two years. Legislation was also passed barring people from receiving welfare payments for more than five years in their entire lives.

David Cameron, unsurprisingly, was also a fan of the Wisconsin system, and wanted to introduce it over here. In 2007 he made a speech to the Tory faithful at the party conference, proclaiming ‘We will say to people that if you are offered a job and it’s a fair job and one that you can do and you refuse it, you shouldn’t get any welfare.’ This became part of Coalition policy towards the unemployed when they took power after the 2010 elections.’ Two years later, in 2012, Boris Johnson, speaking as mayor of London, declared that he was going to use EU money from the Social Fund to force young adults between 18 and 24 to perform 13 weeks of labour without pay if they were unemployed. In June that year David Cameron also declared that there was a need to end ‘the nonsense of paying people more to stay at home than to get a job – and finally making sure that work really pays. Ed Miliband’s Labour party also joined in. Liam Byrne, the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, declared that

Labour would ensure that no adult will be able to live on the dole for over two years and no young person for over a year. They will be offered a real job with real training, real prospects and real responsibility … People would have to take this responsibility or lose benefits.

This was echoed by Ed Balls, who said

A One Nation approach to welfare reform means government has a responsibility to help people into work and support for those who cannot. But those who can work must be required to take up jobs or lose benefits as such – no ifs or buts.

Forced Labour for the Unemployed in History

Standing traces the antecedents of workfare back to the English poor law of 1536 and the French Ordonnance de Moulins of twenty years later, which obliged unemployed vagabonds to accept any job that was offered them. He states that the direct ancestor is the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, the infamous legislation that, under the notion of ‘less eligibility’, stipulated that those receiving support were to be incarcerated in the workhouse, where conditions were deliberately made much harsher in order to deter people from seeking state
support, rather than paid work. This attitude is also reflected in contemporary attitudes that, in order to ‘make work pay’, have demanded that welfare support should be much less than that received for paid work. This has meant that welfare payments have become progressively less as the various measure to make the labour market more flexible – like zero hours contracts – drove down wages. The workhouse system was supplemented in 1905 by the Unemployed Workmen Act, supported, amongst others, by Winston Churchill. This directed unemployed young men into labour, so that they should not be ‘idle’ and be ‘under control’. Nor were leading members of the early Labour party averse to the use of force. Sidney and Beatrice Webb, two of the founders of the Fabian Society, were also in favour of sending the unemployed to ‘labour colonies’, chillingly close to the forced labour camps which became such as feature of the Nazi and Communist regimes. Weimar Germany in the 1920s and ’30s also developed a system of voluntary work to deal with the problems of mass unemployment. This was taken over by the Nazis and became compulsory for all Germans from 19-25 as the Reicharbeitsdienst, or Imperial Labour Service It was mainly used to supply labour for German agriculature. Because of its universal nature, the Reicharbeitsdienst had no stigma attached to it, and indeed was seen as part of the new, classless Germany that was being created by Hitler. In a speech to the Service’s workers, Hitler declared that there would be no leader, who had not worked his way up through their ranks. Much harsher was the Nazi’s treatment of the serially unemployed. They were declared arbeitscheu – the German word, which forms the basis of the English ‘workshy’. These individuals were sent to the concentration camps, where they were identified with a special badge on their pyjamas, just like those marking out Jews, gay men, Socialists and trade unionists, and so on.

Liam Byrne also harked back to the Webbs to support his argument for workfare as Labour party policy. He stated

If you go back to the Webb report, they were proposing detention colonies for people refusing to take work … All the way through our history there has been an insistence on the responsibility to work if you can. Labour shouldn’t be any different now. We have always been the party of the responsibility to work as well.

The Workfare Scheme

The result of this is that many unemployed people have been placed on the Mandatory Work Activity – MWA – scheme, which requires them to perform four weeks of unpaid work for a particular company, organisation or charity. The scheme also includes the disabled. Those now judged capable of performing some work are placed in the Work-Related Activity group, and required perform some unpaid labour in order to gain ‘experience’. If they do not do so, they may lose up to 70 per cent of their benefits.

This has created immense fear among the unemployed and disabled. Standing quotes one man with cerebral palsy, who was so afraid of being sanctioned for not performing the mandatory work, that he felt physically sick. Mental health professionals – psychiatrists and psychologists, have also released reports attacking the detrimental effect the stress of these tests are having on the mentally ill. So far they have estimated that upwards of a quarter of a million people with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety have had their condition made worse – sometimes very much worse – through the stress of taking these tests.

The system also affects those in low-paid part-time jobs or on zero hours contracts. These must prove that they are looking for more working hours or a better paid job. If they do not do so, they may lose benefits or tax credits. In 2013 the Tory-Lib Dem government made it even harder for people to claim tax credits by raising the number of working hours a week, for which tax credits could not be claimed, from 16 to 24.

More on the Government Falsification of the Figures for the Deaths from Grenfell Tower

June 19, 2017

Mike has this evening put up another piece about the figures for the number of people, who have died in the Grenfell Tower fire. The Met police have now said that the number of people believed to have been killed is 79. Mike reasons from this that there are a further 382 still missing, as the block had 600 residents. 65 were rescued, and 74 are in hospital.

There is an appeal for residents who are well, but who have not yet made themselves known to the authorities to come forward.

However, as Mike points out in his article, many people are convinced that the authorities are deliberately underestimating the fatalities. He has a video in the post, where people say that they have seen many more bodies than have been officially counted.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/19/grenfell-tower-death-toll-up-to-79-with-382-still-missing-or-are-they/

In an earlier post, Mike suggested that a true estimate of the number of people, as suggested by EvolvePolitics, might be given by taking the total number of residents and subtracting the numbers for those, who had been rescued and were in hospital. At the time EvolvePolitics tweeted this, it was believed thirty people had been officially declared dead, so the probably figure for the numbers of people killed in the blaze is 461.

One of the people posting about this on social media, Gemma-Fox-Official, claimed that she had been told by two of the firefighters who tackled this inferno, that there were many more bodies recovered than have been officially acknowledged. According to her, they said it was three tents full of them. The firefighters informed her, she says, that they were ordered to count only those people who physically died in the building. If they leaped from it, and fell to their deaths, they were not counted in the official death toll.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/19/evidence-mounts-against-the-authorities-over-the-grenfell-tower-disaster-strong-language/

If this is true, then it’s truly revolting. It means that, in order to keep power, the Tories are once again lying about the numbers their policies have killed. It’s frankly another denial of justice.

These rumours may well be wrong, but considering the way the Tories have massively denied and then falsified other mortality statistics – such as for the number of disabled people, who have died after being found fit and well by Atos, they are all too plausible.

Does the ‘I’ Really Believe People Hate May Because of her Gender?

June 7, 2017

On the front page of the I, the paper boasted that it had an article by novelist Philippa Gregory on the eight prejudices that have historically been levelled against women rulers.

Is this supposed to imply that opponents of Theresa May are motivated solely by sexism?

It wouldn’t surprise me. After all, the paper gave a lot of support to the various female Blairites, who claimed that voting for Jeremy Corbyn and not for his female rivals in the Labour leadership elections was very, very sexist indeed. Despite the fact that Corbyn had far better policies for women, while the Harriet Harman and Angela Eagle had all been Blairite neoliberals, who had backed the failed economic and social policies that have actively harmed women.

If this is what the newspaper intends, then I have got news for them.

May’s gender is completely irrelevant to me.

I would loathe and despair her, even if she was a bloke called Terry. Just as I despised her male predecessors, the unfunny comedy double act David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

I despise May because she has

* Cut and done everything she could to privatise the NHS, running it into the ground.

* Cut and done everything she could to privatise the education system.

* Maintained the current system of tuition fees, which are loading students with mountains of debt.

* Carried on with Cameron and Clegg’s policies of massive welfare cuts, including the Bedroom tax and the humiliating and murderous Work Capability Tests, which have thrown thousands off benefits and into misery and starvation.

* Cut the numbers of police, armed services, border guards and other services back so that Britain was left dangerously vulnerable. A policy that ultimately allowed the Manchester and London terrorists to commit their horrendous crimes.

* Lied about her intention to put British workers in the boardroom, while she’s done just about everything in her power to get rid of workers’ rights.

* Her policies have also resulted in stagnant wages and maintained high levels of unemployment, to the point where most of the people on benefit are those ‘hard-working’ folk she and the Tories have patronised with their condescending rhetoric.

* Shown that she is completely incompetent to negotiate a fair deal for Brexit, which will enable British firms and other organisations contact with the EU and access to their markets.

* Done everything in her power to support the erosion of our precious civil liberties begun by Major, Blair, Cameron and Clegg. This means the massive expansion of the surveillance state and the malignant system of secret courts, in which you may be tried without knowing the crime, the evidence against you, who your accuser is, and behind closed doors. Like Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union.

* Cut taxes for the rich, while transferring the burden to the poor. Which, incidentally, was one of the reasons behind the French Revolution.

* Repealed legislation protecting our environment, so she can sell off Britain’s forests and trash our green and pleasant land with fracking for the profit of her friends in the oil industry.

* Supported Tory policies that have, instead of drawing the peoples of our great island nation together, have instead caused even further division by supporting islamophobia, fear and resentment of immigrants, and general racial intolerance.

* Not that she’s simply worked up racial intolerance. She and the Tory press have also done their utmost to whip up prejudice against the disabled to justify cuts in their benefits. The result has been a massive increase in hate crime against people with disabilities.

* Carried on with policies which will result in the break-up of the United Kingdom after three hundred years in the case of Scotland and England, and two hundred in the case of Britain and Northern Ireland.

The ‘Celtic Fringe’ – Scotland, Wales and Ulster don’t want Brexit. The Welsh and Scots Nationalist leaders want their nations and Ulster to be part of the Brexit negotiations. And all of the Northern Irish parties want to keep the open border with Eire. But all this is in jeopardy through May’s high-handed attitude to the nations, and her determination to promote only ‘Leave’ supporters to manage Britain’s departure from the EU.

And I could probably carry with more. Much more.

This is why I despise Theresa May and want her voted out, along with the party that chose her and has done so much serious harm to this country and its people for seven years.

I therefore urge everyone to vote Labour tomorrow to get her and them thrown out.

Vox Political: Tories Lie about Labour as Set to Lose Overall Majority in Parliament

May 31, 2017

As I’ve mentioned in a post earlier today, the Heil and Torygraph are spreading more lies about Labour. This time they’re claiming that Labour has drawn up ‘secret plans’ to let in millions of unskilled immigrants after Brexit. And the Mail Online has put up another piece, claiming that Labour will impose a ‘garden tax’.

As you would expect, this is all rubbish and fake news from the two newspapers that hate and fear Corbyn the most. It was the Fail and the Torygraph that were pushing the most the smear that Corbyn was a ‘Trotskyite’. As for drumming up fears of a mass influx of foreigners, well, no surprise there either then. Both papers have been ranting about uncontrolled immigration and ‘unassimilable foreigners’ since the 1960s. Several of the hacks, who’ve written for the Mail, such as Simon Heffer, even contributed chapters celebrating the centenary of Enoch Powell.

Although it’s not being put in such crude, racist language, we’re back to the old smear of ‘If you want a n***er for a neighbour, vote Labour’. And many people in modern Britain do live in multiethnic areas, and get on perfectly well with people of different ethnicities and skin colour, thank you very much. And many White older folk appreciate the respect given to the elderly in other cultures, such as amongst Asians.

Of course, the Mail should be very careful when trying to stir up fears of mass immigration. This brings back painful memories of the 1930s, when the newspaper screamed its support of Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists with the notorious headline, ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’. It was avowedly pro-Hitler, supported the Nazi regime and published tirades warning the country of the supposed threat from Jewish immigration. That is, from people fleeing unimaginable persecution in Germany and eastern Europe. Just as it now attacks the refugees from the Middle East fleeing the chaos and terror western imperialism has inflicted on their native countries.

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece showing why the Tories have gone back to playing the race card: they’re set to lose their overall majority in parliament by 16 seats. At the moment they’re set to win 310 seats, Labour 257, the SNP 50, Lib Dems 10, the Greens and ‘Northern Irish’ 1 each, and other parties 18.

UKIP are set to get no seats at all. So much for the mighty revolution in British politics which Farage was supposed to have unleashed.

Mike’s article also graphically shows why no disabled people should vote for the Tories. The article contains a disturbing video by a disabled woman, Aleesha, of the privations she suffers thanks to the Tory cuts. This lady lives in an unadapted home. She cannot walk, and so must crawl painfully from room to room, even heaving herself up painfully onto the toilet. She states that she has fallen off it several times, and knocked herself out on the bath. She has stopped taking her medicines, or some of them, because she could not afford to pay the prescription charges for the four sets of drugs she needs to take each day. The cuts to her benefit also means that she subsists on milk, and has lost many pounds in weight. This has also exacerbated her eating disorder. She also suffers from incontinence, but again, has no money to pay for the special underwear, and so has suffered from the humiliation of soiling her clothes.

It is disgusting that anyone in Britain in the 21st century should suffer such humiliation and poverty.

And this is being done to give by the Tory party and their paymasters in big business massive tax breaks and a cowed workforce, which is prepared to suffer poverty wages in order to avoid the threat of unemployment. There are 100,000-odd people, who have been saved from starvation only through food banks. There are seven million people living in ‘food insecure’ households. That means that they don’t know where their next meal’s going to come from. It means mothers, who are starving themselves in order to feed their children.

It means 600 disabled people and rising have died in misery and starvation.

By contrast, Labour have promised to repeal the work capability tests, the repeated testing of people with severe illnesses or disabilities, so you won’t have any more amputees asked the moronic question of when they expect their limbs to grow back, and increase carers’ allowance by £30. As well as scrapping the sanctions regime.

As Mike point outs in his article, if you’re disabled or care about disabled people, you’ll love Labour’s manifesto. But if you’re a Tory, you’re going to hate it.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/31/want-to-know-why-the-papers-are-printing-lies-about-labour-policies-heres-the-answer/

Don’t be misled by Tory lies. These reforms have all been costed. And they are not, contra the claims of George Alagaiah and John Pienaar on the Six O’clock News yesterday, going to come from extra taxes on ordinary people.

They’re going to come from the rich.

Which is why the Tories and their lapdogs in the press are going berserk and trying to smear the Labour party with everything they have.

And it’s very clear why the Mail and Telegraph are going to hate it especially. Quite apart from the bitter hatred these papers have for the poor and working people, both are owned by rich tax-dodgers. Viscount Rothermere, who owns the Heil, has non-dom tax status inherited from his father. Despite this, he seems very much domiciled in this country, where he has a stately home. The Torygraph is owned by the weirdo Barclay twins, who have their own private island, Brecqou, in the Channel.

Don’t let these people lie to you.
Don’t let any more people die of starvation, or live in fear of it.
Don’t stand for the poverty and degradation they’re inflicting on the disabled.
And don’t let them keep Britain divided by stirring up hatred against ethnic minorities and immigrants.

Vote Labour June 8th.

Tories Plan to Rob Elderly of their Homes as Plan to Enrich Insurance Companies

May 20, 2017

Gerald Scarfe’s personification of Thatcherite greed. Still going strong under ‘Red Tory’ May.

One of the policies ‘strong and stable’, ‘Red’ Tory May has put forward in her manifesto is that house prices are to be included in calculating the cost of social care for the elderly. Which means that even more people face the prospect of losing their homes in order pay for the care they will need as they grow older. I know people, who are already worried about this. And people are already worried that Tory policies will make them homeless. Mike reports in one of his posts on this matter, how one caller to Nick Ferrari’s show on LBC was desperately afraid that she’d lose her home when her mother died.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/19/at-last-britons-are-uniting-against-theresa-may/

Yesterday Mike put up a piece, based on a social media post by Trish Campbell, which suggested that May had introduced this policy to give more work, and more money, to the insurance companies. She stated that she had read a piece on the Net, by someone, who had been told by a City worker that the Tories had approached the insurance industry months ago with the opportunity of selling more insurance policies. The elderly wouldn’t have to sell their homes to pay for their care, if they took out an insurance policy for it.

Mike has posted the original text and graphic on his blog, as well as transcript provided by one of his commenters if you can’t read it. It runs

“The Conservatives will attempt to soften the blow by promising that pensioners will not have to sell their homes to pay for their care costs while they or a surviving partner are alive. Instead, ‘products will be available’ allowing the elderly to pay by extracting equity from their homes, which will be recovered at a later date when they die or sell their residence.

“I have just seen this post online:

“‘People need to read the small print associated with this because its a lot nastier than it looks.

“I work in the City. The insurance industry was approached by the Government several months ago with the aim of creating a new market for a new product.

“This arrangement is a culmination of those discussions. You wont have to sell your house PROVIDED that you purchase an insurance product to cover your social care. The “premiums” would be recovered from the equity after the house has been sold and the Insurance company will have a lien on the house and can force a sale if it wants to. So your offspring cant keep it on the market for long in order to get the best price.

“The real kicker in this is that in order to encourage the industry to market these products the government guaranteed that there would be no cap on the premiums.

“This was in some ways “atonement” for Osborne’s destruction of the highly lucrative annuities market. This means that the premiums could be up to (and including) the entire remaining equity in the property after the government has taken its cut. Companies will be falling over themselves to get their snouts in this trough.

“In short your offspring and relatives could get absolutely nothing from your estate.

“If you buy one of these products you need to read the small print very very carefully indeed because there will be some real dogs on the market.

“I suspect that this is another financial scandal waiting to happen, but by the time it does May will be long gone.’”

Mike concludes his piece by wonder if Unum had something to do with it.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/19/now-it-makes-sense-dementia-tax-is-an-insurance-scam/

Well, this doesn’t seem at all unlikely. The work capability tests, that have seen tens of thousands thrown off benefit, and hundreds of severely sick and disabled people die in misery and starvation – see Stilloak’s blog and the site, Atos Miracles – were introduced at the behest of American fraudster Unum, and its chief, John Lo Cascio. And other insurance companies have also been very strongly involved in the privatisation of the NHS.

And I can remember the Financial Times reporting, way back in the 1990s, a scheme by the Tories and the insurance companies to launch special insurance schemes at workers to cover them if they were made redundant.

This is how the Tories and their backers in big business and the financial sector see poverty – not as something that should be removed, but as an excellent business opportunity. And so they are doing their best to cause more anxiety, to make people’s financial situation even more precarious, in order to make their friends and paymasters in the City even richer.

Till, like the figure above, they puke money.

Don’t let them do this. Don’t let them rob you of your house, to pay for your elderly relatives care – care that they’ve worked for and paid for through their national insurance contributions and tax.

Vote Labour on June 8.