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It seems the Conservative Party is doing exactly as many of us feared, and using the attack in Woolwich on Wednesday to revive its proposals for laws to snoop on the emails and social media communications of law-abiding citizens.
Make no mistake – these powers would not be used for the good of the country, but for repression. And bear in mind that, for a Tory, the law is something that they set, and the poor obey. They think it doesn’t apply to them.
Let’s all remember that these new calls have been prompted by the actions of two men who were already known to – and monitored by – the security services. Monitoring your internet communications would not have made any difference to what happened in such a situation.
You cannot trust the Tories with the facts – all we have to do to prove that is look at Iain Duncan Smith.
Here is a man who will say anything to get his own way – which is to impoverish people who are already poor, pushing them beyond breaking-point with ridiculous ‘directions’ and unreasonable decisions in the hope, one presumes, that they will sign off benefits. The reality is that many of them go on to die from aggravation of their illnesses (if they are sick or disabled) or commit suicide.
He will be dragged before the Work and Pensions Committee within the next few weeks to answer for some of these transgressions, including his claim that 8,000 people who would have been affected by the benefit cap had moved into jobs instead, which the UK Statistics Authority rubbished by pointing out that the report from which he drew the figures “explicitly states that the figures are ‘not intended to show the additional numbers entering work as a direct result of the contact’”.
Worse than that was the claim, taken up by fellow Tory truth-fiddler Grant Shapps (if that’s his name today), that 878,300 people people decided not to pursue their claims for Employment and Support Allowance because a change in the benefits system meant that they’d have to be assessed for their level of disability – and that this showed how necessary this government’s attack on disabled people is. In fact, the figures represented nothing more than ‘churn’ – a turnover of claims withdrawn because of perfectly normal things like people getting better, or finding a job they can do even if they’re ill. After the government intensified its scrutiny of disabled people, the number in receipt of the benefit increased.
Iain Duncan Smith isn’t the only one making mockery of the facts. Look at George Osborne, who made unsupportable claims about the value of another DWP effort – Workfare – a few weeks ago.
Osborne also talks tough on tax avoidance, but he himself is known to have taken part in a legal tax avoidance scheme; he advocated one to a caller on a TV politics show; he re-wrote the law to make it easier for firms in the UK to stash their cash in offshore subsidiaries, putting their profits into tax havens rather than the British tax system; and he allowed tax lawyers from the so-called ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms into his department, where they re-wrote tax laws to make it easier for their clients to dodge high tax bills.
Cameron also claimed – on a party political broadcast! – that the national debt was falling under his Conservative Party. In fact, it has risen massively during the course of this Parliament, due primarily to the poor decisions made by the comedy Prime Minister and his allies.
It seems Cameron is a serial exaggerator of the truth. On April 15 he tweeted that the benefit cap is equal to the average wage. His claim was, therefore, that this is £26,000. Average family income, when benefits are taken into account: £31,500.
The government also lied that disability benefits were not affected by the benefit cap. Employment and Support Allowance is a disability benefit and is counted when considering whether a claimant’s income is to be capped.
On March 19 this year, Tory employment minister Mark Hoban lied to Parliament that there were no league tables in place showing which Job Centres had applied the most sanctions on jobseekers. Just one week later, those league tables were leaked to the press. Like his boss, Iain Duncan Smith, Hoban should have been expelled from Parliament under Parliamentary convention. Both are still in office. Why?
And, if you want proof that Tories like to play ‘fast and loose’ with the law:
Smith’s department has been forcing people to take rubbish ‘psychometric’ tests that have been rigged to produce set results, as part of an illegal experiment by Downing Street’s so-called ‘nudge unit’ (such experiments require the willing consent of the participants and none has ever been given).
The test itself was stolen by the ‘nudge unit’ from an organisation in the USA, and the UK government has been facing legal action from those people as a result.
The DWP lost a judicial review earlier this week, when a tribunal found that the ‘work capability assessment’, a so-called medical test (in reality nothing of the sort) designed to make it easy to push people off of the sickness and disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance, discriminates against the mentally ill.
Worst of all was the moment in March this year when Iain Duncan Smith decided to actually change the law, because his policies had been found to be illegal. Think about that! If you or I did something illegal, we would pay a penalty ranging from a fine right up to imprisonment for an indefinite period of time; if Mr Smith does it, he changes the law so he can be whitewashed. Tories think the law doesn’t apply to them. His department had been found to have breached human rights laws with the regulations it had been using to sanction people who refused to take part in Mandatory Work Activity or Workfare schemes. Utterly despicable – and worsened by the fact that the Labour Party colluded with the Conservatives to change the law, with no meaningful concessions to show for it.
Come to think of it, if you can remember far enough into this Parliament’s useless history, you might recall that the Department of Health, under Andrew Lansley, started implementing changes to the structure of the National Health Service – illegally – before his Health and Social Care Act was passed by a misguided and misled government.
The Information Commissioner had repeatedly ordered Lansley to publish a risk assessment which had been compiled by civil servants, and which is believed to have explicitly warned that the financial viability of the Tory NHS Bill was seriously questionable, predicting “deteriorations in the financial positions of one or more NHS organisations”. Practices could go bust or require central intervention to prop up their financial position. The Risk Report also warned of economic ‘slippage’ and ‘cost pressures’ arising. The London NHS risk report – which was made public – categorically stated that commissioning groups run by GPs may “not be able to secure [services] [...] within the running cost range”.
As Mark McGowan pointed out on his blog, the entire top-down reorganisation of the NHS was done “without a mandate, having concealed their health policy”.
All of the above examples either occurred, or were referenced, within the last two months alone.
With a record like that, how could we possibly believe the ‘snoopers’ charter’ will be a blow for freedom?