Mile-wide: Mr Miliband explained his idea to bridge the gulf between the public and the Prime Minister to Andrew Marr.
Ed Miliband engaged in a particularly compelling piece of kite-flying today (July 27) – he put out the idea that the public should have their own version of Prime Minister’s Questions.
Speaking to Andrew Marr, he said such an event would “bridge the ‘mile-wide’ gulf between what people want and what they get from Prime Minister’s Questions”, which has been vilified in recent years for uncivilised displays of tribal hostility between political parties and their leaders (David Cameron being the worst offender) and nicknamed ‘Wednesday Shouty Time’.
“I think what we need is a public question time where regularly the prime minister submits himself or herself to questioning from members of the public in the Palace of Westminster on Wednesdays,” said Mr Miliband.
“At the moment there are a few inches of glass that separates the public in the gallery from the House of Commons but there is a gulf a mile wide between the kind of politics people want and what Prime Minister’s Questions offers.”
What would you ask David Cameron?
Would you demand a straight answer to the question that has dogged the Department for Work and Pensions for almost three years, now – “How many people are your ‘welfare reform’ policies responsible for killing?”
Would you ask him why his government, which came into office claiming it would be the most “transparent” administration ever, has progressively denied more and more important information to the public?
Would you ask him whether he thinks it is right for a Prime Minister to knowingly attempt to mislead the public, as he himself has done repeatedly over the privatisation of the National Health Service, the benefit cap, the bedroom tax, food banks, fracking…? The list is as long as you want to make it.
What about his policies on austerity? Would you ask him why his government of millionaires insists on inflicting deprivation on the poor when the only economic policy that has worked involved investment in the system, rather than taking money away?
His government’s part-privatisation of the Royal Mail was a total cack-handed disaster that has cost the nation £1 billion and put our mail in the hands of hedge funds. Would you ask him why he is so doggedly determined to stick to privatisation policies that push up prices and diminish quality of service. Isn’t it time some of these private companies were re-nationalised – the energy firms being prime examples?
Would you want to know why his government has passed so many laws to restrict our freedoms – of speech, of association, of access to justice – and why it intends to pass more, ending the government’s acknowledgement that we have internationally-agreed human rights and restricting us to a ‘Bill of Rights’ dictated by his government, and tying us to restrictive lowest-common-denominator employment conditions laid down according to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a grubby little deal that the EU and USA were trying to sign in secret until the whistle was blown on it?
It isn’t VP policy to name names usually, but this gentleman’s tone was so aggressive that he deserves to be identified. On his own FB page he describes himself as ‘Belligerent Ruler of the Planet Earth’. You are encouraged to visit if you want to enjoy more of his pearls of wisdom, such as: “Mental. Thankyou very much to the lefty anti-UKIP article someone posted the other week listing me in the top 8 ‘worst UKIP tweeters’ my Twitter following gave me a much needed boost from fellow Kippers!”
He’s right – that is mental. Or maybe they are…
His communication with me was as follows (in fact the first is much the same as a comment he posted to the blog itself): “The UKIP picture you have published as an article was created by a Green Party member/supporter before the European and Council Elections.
“It’s so outdated it’s cringeworthy.”
Let’s just pause for a moment and look at the caption under the image, which states that “Most of the links on this now-infamous meme have been taken down by UKIP members, anxious to hide the embarrassing facts they revealed. The vote in favour of marital rape is not so easily removed as it is recorded on the European Parliament’s official website.” It explains perfectly adequately that matters have moved on since the image was created.
Back to Mr Evans, who asks: “Are you just recycling out info to damage UKIP or are you genuinely just that out of date?!”
Neither. I was using it as a direct example of the way UKIP behaves.
“The picture makes use of 2010 manifesto policies which have long since been abandoned.
“UKIP’s 2015 General Election manifesto doesn’t come out until September. Same goes for the other parties if you hadn’t realised. So how on Earth can you be critical about any parties policies for an election when they haven’t even been released yet?!
“In fact the only certain policies released by UKIP aren’t mentioned anywhere in your article or that picture so are you intentionally trying to be misleading?!”
You will know, Dear Reader, that this ground has been covered very thoroughly already – here, for example, and also here and here.
So Yr Obdt Srvt was very sure of his ground when he responded: “I checked the accuracy of the information contained in the meme and was able to substantiate everything except the claim about cutting education funding to build aircraft carriers.
“Just because this information has since been taken down (to eliminate embarrassment for the party?) that does not make it any less valid.
“Don’t waste my time with the argument about the manifesto.
“And don’t waste my time with suggestions that I am trying to be misleading. It is UKIP that has tried to mislead the public, and it is UKIP that is desperately trying to cover up its policy indiscretions.”
Alas – as noted in my article earlier today, Kippers don’t like to let the facts get in their way. Mr Evans got back to me with the following:
“Eliminate what embarrassment?
“You are referring to past policies as current policies in your article.”
No. He inferred that, but the line “Policies put forward by UKIP or by high-level members of UKIP include…”, although a quotation from a previous article, is as accurate now as it was when it was first typed, a couple of months ago. UKIP, or high-level members, did put forward those policies. There is no reference in today’s article to whether they are from the past or still active.
“2010 manifesto – 4 years ago for the 2010 General Election “2015 manifesto – Released in September this year for 2015 General Election.”
None of the references in the meme – or those that were discovered when VP was researching its allegations – are from this 2010 manifesto, though. Some are from the 2013 manifesto, and some are from the party’s own policy page (now deleted, although the likelihood of eliminating embarrassment is muted by the fact that UKIP cannot say it was left there for so long by mistake and still expect to be taken seriously).
“UKIP have only divulged a handful of policies non of which are detailed on the picture you referenced.”
Perhaps they weren’t relevant to the points being made.
“What you have referenced has been discussed to death on Twitter and Facebook and even the Green Party chap who created it has admitted it is outdated information.”
We’ll get back to Mr Abberton momentarily.
“Nigel Farage party leader said 5 MONTHS AGO that the 2010 manifesto is outdated, unwanted and will not be used again policies wise for the next General Election.
“Lord Pearson of Rannoch was the party leader at the time of the 2010 election, he compiled and produced the manifesto.”
Irrelevant, for reasons mentioned above. Now we get to the grit:
“Your comment about ’embarrassing the party’ is more an ’embarrassment’ to yourself. You are referencing outdated information as if it is current policies and information. So what you are in fact doing as you have been informed to this fact by myself is lying to your readers…
“Is this what you are? A person intentionally lying to mislead the electorate? If so please tell me…
“You say that UKIP are misleading the electorate. Feel free to tell me how?
“UKIP have said on numerous occasions, varying members and reps that the 2010 manifesto is defunct and not worth the paper it is written on. It no-longer represents UKIP.
“Yet you are posting it as current information which is misleading.
“You are the liar. You have been informed and if you continue to mislead people with discredited and past policies I will make people fully aware of your willingness to do so and your willingness to mislead people for your political agenda.
“You have been warned.”
Let’s go back to Michael Abberton, the “Green Party chap” mentioned a few paragraphs ago.
He and his meme first came to attention when it was revealed that the police had been sent to visit him after UKIP complained about an entry in his own blog, The Axe of Reason. He said he knew the image had been on Twitter for a while so he had set about seeing if its claims could be verified.
In his blog discussing the police visit, far from admitting he was quoting outdated policies, he states: “All I had done is promote the party policy using links to their own sources – no editorialising, no commenting. And in fairness highlighted those allegations I could find no evidence for.”
Take a look at the date on the blog – May this year. “So outdated it’s cringeworthy“?
Mr Abberton continued: “About fifteen minutes after they left I received a threatening tweet from a party member I had had an exchange with earlier in the day. Though appearing to be no more than a party supporter, he seemed to know that the police had been involved. I copied the tweet and sent it to the police.”
So we have evidence that Kippers are willing to cause a nuisance with the police in order to silence critics who have divulged information that UKIP would rather keep quiet, and we have a Kipper who has denounced Yr Obdt Srvt as a liar (despite the evidence to the contrary) and who has “warned” that he will act against VP if the blog continues in its function, which is to provide accurate information, no matter what he asserts.
For further information on Vox Political‘s attitude to this kind of interference, see the Scriptonite blog on the same matter.
That is why he got this response: “They are not discredited policies. They are not past policies until they are replaced with something else.
“It is UKIP that is trying to mislead – the party’s attempts to shut down its critics are a clear example of this.
“Don’t think for a moment that you can threaten me. I’m fully aware that UKIP and its adherents like to throw their weight around and I am not impressed at all.
“Now you’d better get off my page before I have you slung out of Facebook for threatening behaviour.”
There will be no tolerance of any UKIP member or representative who wants to threaten this blog, Mr Evans.
Yet again UK government ministers, having painted themselves into a corner, have tried to manoeuvre out of trouble by misleading other MPs and the general public.
Readers of this blog – and its writer – were disgusted (although not surprised) to hear Iain Duncan Smith protesting innocence on behalf of his absent employment minister, Esther McVey, in a statement and short debate on Universal Credit in the House of Commons yesterday (July 9).
We have all endured too much of this. It is time honesty – or at least, more of it than is currently evident – returned to the corridors of power.
With this in mind – in hope more than expectation – I have written to John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, to request action. He chairs debates; it seems likely that he should be the one who puts and end to dishonest practices. The letter runs as follows:
It may have been inappropriate for Chris Bryant MP to make an accusation of deliberate deception against a group of ministers during the debate on Universal Credit, but in my opinion he would have been correct if he had done so.
We know that the Employment Minister, Esther McVey, told Parliament on June 30 that the Department for Work and Pensions’ business case for Universal Credit had been approved by the Treasury; we know that Sir Bob Kerslake said on Monday that the business case has not been signed off; and yesterday we heard from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions that the Treasury has only been signing off on annual budgets.
There is a significant difference between a business case and an annual budget. It would stretch credulity too far to ask the British people to accept that the Employment Minister, the Secretary of State, the head of the Civil Service or anybody in the Treasury cannot tell the difference.
Therefore we must conclude that at least one member of the government has lied to Parliament and to the public. Since the Employment Minister’s statement referred to a comment by the Secretary of State on December 5, in which I am reliably informed that he did not say the business case had been signed off, it seems likely that she is the culprit.
It is also possible, however, that she was misinformed by the Secretary of State himself. Logically, if the Employment Minister did not check Mr Duncan Smith’s speech in Hansard, then she must have asked him what he said. In that case, the Secretary of State has knowingly misled the Employment Minister, Parliament and the public.
You will be aware that it is possible for MPs to commit Contempt of Parliament, if “any act or omission … obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions… or … has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results”. An attempt to mislead the House regarding the status of a flagship policy such as Universal Credit must certainly qualify as such an offence.
Perhaps you are aware of the case of Nicholas Scott, a minister of state for social security in the John Major government of 1992-7, who ‘talked out’ a private members’ bill aiming to outlaw discrimination on grounds of disability. Asked if he had deliberately filibustered, he denied it – but was found to have misled Parliament.
The then-Prime Minister had previously given his word that any minister who knowingly misled his or her fellow MPs should be sacked. It is to his shame that he did not honour this promise.
MPs accused of contempt of Parliament may also be suspended or expelled.
I regret to say that this is the point at which my knowledge runs out – I do not know whether a member of the electorate may request the investigation and possible dismissal of a Member accused of misleading Parliament, or whether the request must come from another Member. Perhaps you could assist me in this respect.
At the very least, it would seem that if Mr Bryant or another Member raised an official complaint on grounds that one or more of the team at the Department for Work and Pensions has misled Parliament, an investigation would be in order. Perhaps – again – you could assist me with information on how this may be facilitated.
This seems an appropriate moment to explore Parliamentary procedures on contempt/misleading or lying to MPs, as Hansard is littered with incidents of such behaviour – not only by ministers of state but by Cabinet ministers including the Work and Pensions secretary, the Minister without Portfolio (Cabinet Office) (Mr Shapps), and indeed the Prime Minister himself.
I cannot speak for everybody but I do know that many members of the electorate are utterly sick of this behaviour and want it ended.
No Member was ever elected to Parliament in order to lie to us and an example should be made of those who do.
Evil eyes: Esther McVey seems to get a perverse thrill from pretending her government’s policies are helping people; it is more likely they are driving the needy to despair and suicide.
Note to Iain Duncan Smith: It is not a good idea to try to inspire confidence in a £multi-billion “money pit” disaster by wheeling out Esther McVey to lie about it.
The woman dubbed “Fester McVile” by some commentators 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.
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.
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.
In a debate on food banks, McVey’s lies came thick and fast: She accused the previous Labour government of a “whirl of living beyond our means” that “had to come to a stop” without ever pausing to admit that it was Tory-voting bankers who had been living beyond their means, who caused the crash, and who are still living beyond their means today, because her corporatist (thank you, Zac Goldsmith) Conservative government has protected them.
She accused Labour of trying to keep food banks as “its little secret”, forcing Labour’s Jim Cunningham to remind us all that food banks were set up by churches to help refugees who were waiting for their asylum status to be confirmed – not as a support system for British citizens, as they have become under the Coalition’s failed regime.
She said the Coalition government was brought in to “solve the mess that Labour got us in”, which is not true – it was born from a backroom deal between two of the most unscrupulous party leaders of recent times, in order to ensure they and their friends could get their noses into the money trough (oh yes, there’s plenty of money around – but this government is keeping it away from you).
She said the Coalition had got more people into work than ever before – without commenting on the fact that the jobs are part-time, zero-hours, self-employed contracts that benefit the employers but exploit the workers and in fact propel them towards poverty.
She lied to Parliament, claiming that children are three times more likely to be in poverty if they are in a workless household. In fact, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, in-work poverty has now outstripped that suffered by those in workless and retired households; children are more likely to be in poverty if their parents have jobs.
She attacked Labour for allowing five million people to be on out-of-work benefits, with two million children in workless households – but under her government the number of households suffering in-work poverty has risen to eight million (by 2008 standards), while workless or retired households in poverty have risen to total 6.3 million.
She claimed that 60,000 people were likely to use a food bank this year – but Labour’s Paul Murphy pointed out that 60,000 people will use food banks this year in Wales alone. The actual figure for the whole of the UK is 500,000.
She said the Coalition’s tax cuts had given people an extra £700 per year, without recognising that the real-terms drop in wages and rise in the cost of living means people will be £1,600 a year worse-off when the next general election takes place, tax cuts included. She said stopping fuel price increases meant families were £300 better-off, which is nonsense. Families cannot become better off because something has not happened; it’s like saying I’m better off because the roof of my house hasn’t fallen in and squashed me.
Her talents won exactly the recognition they deserved when her Wikipedia entry was altered to describe her as “the Assistant Grim Reaper for Disabled People since 2012, second only to Iain Duncan Smith. She was previously a television presenter and businesswoman before deciding to branch out into professional lying and helping disabled people into the grave.”
In her food bank speech, she also said the government had brought in Universal Credit to ensure that three million people become better-off. There’s just one problem with that system – it doesn’t work.
Don’t expect Conservative ministers to do the honourable thing when they are found to have misled Parliament – it turns out they have ‘previous’ (or is it ‘form’?) in this regard.
Take a look at the YouTube clip above. It is from an April, 1994 episode of Have I Got News For You and refers to Nicholas Scott, then a minister of state for social security, who ‘talked out’ a private members’ bill aiming to outlaw discrimination on grounds of disability.
On behalf of the Conservative government of the day, he made it his business to ensure that it would remain possible to discriminate against disabled people.
Asked if this was true, he denied it and – as the very young-looking Ian Hislop states in the clip – “he was lying, of course.”
Angus Deayton (remember him?) fleshes out the story: “John Major previously gave his word that any minister who knowingly misled his fellow MPs should be sacked… It sounds like John Major has knowingly misled his fellow MPs as well. Perhaps he should go sack himself.”
Of course Major stood by his minister – Scott was only doing what Major had told him!
In fact, Parliamentary convention has long held that anybody committing ‘contempt of Parliament’ by deliberately misleading fellow MPs may be suspended or expelled, as highlighted previously by this blog.
The clip makes it clear that Conservatives have been ignoring such rules for decades – and that the person to blame is usually the one at the top – John Major, back in the 1990s.
David Cameron, now.
This makes sense. Look at Iain Duncan Smith, who has loudly and continually fibbed his face off about his so-called “welfare reforms”, in spite of the mountain of evidence showing that tens of thousands of people have died because of them.
That is as discriminatory as a law can be.
Commenters on this blog, in their multitudes, have asked why Iain Duncan Smith has remained in his post after setting in motion the sequence of disasters that have hit the Department for Work and Pensions on his watch. Looking at the Scott/Major affair, we can deduce that the man we call RTU has not been ‘Returned To Unit’ (in this case, the backbenches) because he has been doing exactly what David Cameron wanted – victimising the disabled in the worst possible way.
What does this say about Cameron, whose own late son was disabled? Cameron claimed all the disability benefits he possibly could, before he became Prime Minister and ordered RTU to cancel them or change their eligibility criteria so that almost nobody could legitimately claim them.
Meanwhile, Cameron has to answer for multiple offences of his own. Most recently he lied about waiting times in the English part of the National Health Service, but this article also highlights his false claim – in a party political broadcast – that the Coalition was “paying down Britain’s debts”, and the false claim that spending on the NHS had risen in real terms since the Coalition took office.
What conclusion can we draw from this? It’s obvious, really.
Your Conservative-led Coalition government has been lying to you. It is lying to you now. It will lie to you in the future.
This is not in the national interest. How can it be in the national interest for the government to pass laws that harm the disabled – and to pass laws that could harm the sick by delaying medical aid – and then lie to you to keep you quiet?
It is ideologically-motivated cruelty. Nothing more.
It will continue as long as your vote supports it.
You see, not only has this been going on ever since the Coalition government established welfare-to-work in its current form –
Not only have government ministers and backbenchers been lying to you about the payouts given to the profit-driven privately-owned provider companies –
Not only have these companies been sucking down on your hard-earned taxpayer cash as though they had done something to earn it –
But the people they were supposed to be helping – people who have been forced into ever-greater poverty by the benefit uprating cap, arbitrary and unfair benefit sanctions, the bedroom tax, the £26,000 cap on benefits for families, the imposition of council tax on even the poorest households (in England at least), the stress of continual reassessment (if they are ESA claimants in the work-related activity group), the humiliation of having to visit food banks and who knows what else…
The people who are desperate to get any kind of paying job, despite the fact that zero-hours contracts could make them worse-off than unemployment, due to the effect on in-work benefits, despite the fact that those in-work benefits are also being squeezed hard, and despite the fact that there are at least five jobseekers for every job that becomes available…
These are the people that government ministers, backbenchers and the right-wing press keep victimising with their endless attacks on “skivers”, “scroungers”, the “feckless”, the “idle” and the “lazy”!
If I was unemployed and my MP had been caught slagging me off while praising these good-for-nothing so-called work programme ‘providers’, I would make it my business to bring them before the public, lock them into some medieval stocks and pelt them with rotten vegetables. Public humiliation is the least they should get for this continual insult to common decency.
But wait! There’s more.
It turns out that, not only are these work programme providers a bunch of lazy good-for-nothing parasites, but many of them are also a bunch of foreigners who’ve come to the UK to take our jobs!
Ingeus is Australian. G4S is part-Danish. Maximus is American.
It seems that all the politically-fuelled and media-driven anger against immigration into the UK from the rest of the European Union and beyond may be designed to distract us all from the fact that foreign firms are immigrating here to take government jobs that should be yours, and to steal your tax money.
Nobody can say they’ve earned it, after all.
But let us not be unfair. It would be wrong to concentrate on welfare-to-work providers when all of government is riddled with foreign interlopers.
Look at the Treasury, where the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms have been re-writing tax law to suit their tax-avoiding corporate clients for the last few years. They are Deloitte (American), PriceWaterhouseCoopers (part-American), Ernst & Young (part-American) and KPMG (Dutch).
And then there is the huge, criminal, foreign firm that has been advising the Department for Work and Pensions on ways to privatise the welfare state since the mid-1990s – a firm so controversial that there is currently a moratorium on the mention of its name in the national mainstream media. It is an American insurance giant called Unum.
The best that can be said of these five corporations is that – at least to the best of our knowledge – they do work for a living.
“This particular Secretary of State, along with his Department, is pushing people through [the] cracks and hoping that the rest of the country will not notice that they have disappeared.” – Glenda Jackson MP, June 30, 2014.
If the man this blog likes to call RTU (Returned To Unit) thought he would be able to show that his behaviour had improved, he was sorely mistaken – as the comment above illustrates.
It is vital that this information reaches the general public despite the apparent news blackout, in the mainstream media, of any disparaging information about Duncan Smith or his DWP.
But we were discussing the debate as a trial. Let us first look at the evidence in favour of the government.
There. That was illuminating, wasn’t it?
Seriously, the government benches were unable to put up a single supportable point against the mountain of evidence put forward by Labour.
Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary-in-a-State, resorted yet again to his favourite tactic – and one for which he should have been sacked as an MP long ago – lying to Parliament. He accused Labour of leaving behind a “shambles” – in fact the economy had begun to improve under intelligent guidance from Alistair Darling. “The economy was at breaking point,” he said – in fact the British economy cannot break; it simply doesn’t work that way. His claim that “We were burdened with the largest deficit in peacetime history” is only supportable in money terms, and then only because inflation means the pound is worth so much less than it was in, say, the 1940s – or for the entire century between 1750 and 1850. He called yesterday’s debate “a cynical nugget of short-term policy to put to the unions,” but the evidence below renders that completely irrelevant.
He said complaints about long delivery times for benefits were “out of date” – a common excuse. He’ll do the same in a few months, when the same complaint is raised again.
“Universal Credit is rolling out to the timescale I set last year,” he insisted – but we all know that it has been ‘reset’ (whatever that means) by the government’s Major Projects Authority.
He said there had been four independent reviews of the work capability assessment for Employment and Support Allowance, with more than 50 recommendations by Sir Malcolm Harrington accepted by the government. This was a lie. We know that almost two-thirds of the 25 recommendations he made in his first review were not fully or successfully implemented.
He said appeals against ESA decisions “are down by just under 90 per cent” – but we know that this is because of the government’s unfair and prejudicial mandatory reconsideration scheme – and that the DWP was bringing in a new provider to carry out work capability assessments. Then he had to admit that this provider has not yet been chosen! And the backlog of claims mounts up.
He tried to justify his hugely expensive botched IT schemes by pointing at a Labour scheme for the Child Support Agency that wasted hundreds of millions less than his Universal Credit, without acknowledging the obvious flaw in his argument: If he knew about this mistake, why is he repeating it?
Conservative Mark Harper said Labour opposed the Tories’ most popular scheme – the benefit cap. That was a lie. Labour supported the cap, but would have set it at a higher level. We know that the Coalition government could not do this because it would not, then, have made the huge savings they predicted.
Now, the evidence against.
First up is Rachel Reeves, shadow secretary of state for work and pensions: “After £612 million being spent, including £131 million written off or ‘written down’, the introduction of Universal Credit is now years behind schedule with no clear plan for how, when, or whether full implementation will be achievable or represent value for money.
“Over 700,000 people are still waiting for a Work Capability Assessment, and… projected spending on Employment and Support Allowance has risen by £800 million since December… The Government [is] still not able to tell us which provider will replace Atos.
“Personal Independence Payment delays have created uncertainty, stress and financial costs for disabled people and additional budgetary pressures for Government… Desperate people, many of whom have been working and paying into the system for years or decades and are now struck by disability or illness, waiting six months or more for help from the Department for Work and Pensions.
“The Work Programme has failed to meet its targets, the unfair bedroom tax risks costing more than it saves, and other DWP programmes are performing poorly or in disarray.
“Spending on housing benefit for people who are in work has gone up by more than 60 per cent, reflecting the fact that more people are in low-paid or insecure work and are unable to make ends meet, even though they may be working all the hours God sends.
“More than five million people — 20 per cent of the workforce — are paid less than the living wage. Furthermore, 1.5 million people are on zero-hours contracts and 1.4 million people are working part time who want to work full time.
“This… is about the young woman diagnosed with a life-limiting illness who has waited six months for any help with her living costs. It is about the disabled man whose payments have been stopped because he did not attend an interview to which he was never invited.
“The Government are wasting more and more taxpayers’ money on poorly planned and disastrously managed projects, and are allowing in-work benefits to spiral because of their failure to tackle the low pay and insecurity that are adding billions of pounds to the benefits bill.
“The Government are careless with the contributions that people make to the system, callous about the consequences of their incompetence for the most vulnerable, and too arrogant to admit mistakes and engage seriously with the task of sorting out their own mess.
“What this Government have now totally failed to do is to remember the human impact, often on people in vulnerable circumstances, of this catalogue of chaos. Behind the bureaucratic language and spreadsheets showing backlogs and overspends are people in need who are being let down and mistreated, and taxpayers who can ill afford the mismanagement and waste of their money.
“To fail to deliver on one policy might be considered unfortunate; to miss one’s targets on two has to be judged careless; but to make such a complete mess of every single initiative the Secretary of State has attempted requires a special gift. It is something like a Midas touch: everything he touches turns into a total shambles.
“Meanwhile, the Secretary of State will spew out dodgy statistics, rant and rave about Labour’s record, say “on time and on budget” until he is blue in the face and, in typical Tory style, blame the staff for everything that goes wrong.”
Julie Hilling (Labour) provides this: “The Government do not know what they are talking about… They talk about the number of jobs being created, but they do not know how many of them are on zero-hours contracts or how many are on Government schemes or how many have been transferred from the public sector.”
Stephen Doughty (Labour/Co-op): “another stark indictment of their policies is the massive increase in food banks across this country.”
Helen Jones (Labour): “When I asked how many people in my constituency had been waiting more than six months or three months for medical assessments for personal independence payment, the Government told me that the figures were not available. In other words, they are not only incompetent; they do not know how incompetent they are!”
Sheila Gilmore (Labour): “Although the problems with Atos were known about—and it is now being suggested that they had been known about for some time—a contract was given to that organisation for PIP. Was due diligence carried out before the new contract was issued?”
Gordon Marsden (Labour): “Many of my constituents have been caught by the double whammy of delays involving, first, the disability living allowance and now PIP. They have waited long periods for a resolution, but because a decision is being reconsidered, their Motability — the lifeline that has enabled them to get out of their homes — has been taken away before that decision has been made. Is that not a horrendous indictment of the Government?”
Emily Thornberry (Labour): “I have been making freedom of information requests.. in relation to mandatory reconsiderations. When people get their work capability assessment, and it has failed, before they can appeal there has to be a mandatory reconsideration. The Department does not know how many cases have been overturned, how many claimants have been left without any money and how long the longest period is for reconsideration. It cannot answer a single one of those questions under a freedom of information request.”
Natascha Engel (Labour): “The welfare state is designed as a safety net to catch people who absolutely cannot help themselves… That safety net is being withdrawn under this government, which is certainly pushing some of my constituents into destitution.”
There was much more, including the devastating speech by Glenda Jackson, partly in response to Natascha Engels’ comments, that is reproduced in the video clip above.
The vote – for the House of Commons to recognise that the DWP was in chaos and disarray – was lost (of course). A government with a majority will never lose such a vote.
But once again, the debate was won by the opposition. They had all the facts; all the government had were lies and fantasies.
By now, one suspects we all know somebody who has died as a result of Coalition government polices on welfare (or, preferably, social security). Two such deaths have been reported in the Comment columns of Vox Political since the weekend, and it is only Tuesday.
That is why it is vital that this information reaches the general public despite the apparent news blackout, in the mainstream media, of any disparaging information about Duncan Smith or his DWP.
Share it with your friends, use parts of it in letters to your local papers or radio stations, even mentioning it in conversation will help if the other person isn’t aware of the facts.
Don’t let it be suppressed.
You don’t want to do Iain Duncan Smith’s work for him, do you?
It seems some of your favourite bloggers – including Yr Obdt Srvt – have been hoodwinked by a hoax claim that assessment criteria for the new Personal Independence Payment have been made much more severe than has been the case until now.
If you were distressed by this article, please be reassured that – from what has been said over the last few hours – it is not accurate.
Vox Political only published the claims because they came here via a colleague of good character who in turn received it from a trustworthy source. There were telltale signs that it was a wrong ‘un – for example the fact that the story is based on unsubstantiated information allegedly provided by an anonymous Atos employee to an equally anonymous source – but here at VP it was felt that the possibility of another DWP betrayal merited a mention.
Much of the hoax article focused on the descriptors used to define the effects of their disabilities on a claimant. These are defined by regulations that can only be changed by Parliament (although not by an Act of Parliament, if I understand correctly) and that should have been evidence enough that the claims were false.
But we know that Iain Duncan Smith, Lord Freud and the other vipers infesting the Department for Work and Pensions like to change the conditions in which people receive benefit – especially if it helps them reach their savings targets. This goes for the rest of the Conservative-led government too; they hide information from us.
Look at the ‘negative resolution’ the government introduced last year, to open England’s health service to widespread competition. This happened after the Conservatives (Andrew Lansley in particular) promised on their honour that they would do no such thing. Their plan was that the new rules would not be discussed, and there would be no vote; instead they would automatically become law. How could any of us know whether the government was planning more of the same?
Let us decide, for the moment, that this was a hoax. Some commentators have suggested that it has been planted by fifth columnists working for the government but claiming to be acting for the people, in order to bring other, more substantial criticisms of DWP policies into disrepute. This seems unlikely.
Instead, it shows us that the policies put forward over the last four years by Mr Duncan Smith and his colleagues, together with the way they have been implemented, have shown ineptitude, underhandedness and treachery of such magnitude that people now believe they are capable of anything at all – even the bizarre and contradictory changes that were publicised yesterday.
This is the government department that changed the assessment rules for Employment and Support Allowance to such a degree that the death rate for people claiming the benefit rocketed. Iain Duncan Smith’s solution: Stop publishing mortality statistics for people claiming incapacity benefits.
This is the government department that, faced with a court ruling that its rules for mandatory work activity were illegal, simply changed the law in order to legalise them. This act alone made the Coalition government a criminal regime.
This is the government department whose behaviour shows only one area of consistency – continually making false or misleading claims about its work. Take a look at DPAC’s excellent Report on DWP Abuse of Statistics from June last year for no less than 35 examples of this.
When you are discussing liars it is easy to believe lies about them.
This is why it will be hard to believe any attempt by the DWP to discredit its critics on the basis of this single hoax.
If Iain Duncan Smith wants us to believe him, why doesn’t he give us those ESA death stats we’ve wanted for so long?
The BBC has actually dared to run a story criticising the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government! Perhaps its editors are worried that the social media are getting a better reputation for news reporting.
The government chart, released with the Autumn Statement, appeared to show an even spread across sectors, but used a ‘logarithmic’ scale – with gaps between £1 million, £10 million, £100 million, £1 billion and so on represented by increments of the same size.
The scaling appeared to show flood defences getting at least half as much funding as transport and energy – the projects that received the most money.
The Treasury’s ‘logarithmic’ chart, apparently showing a relatively even spread of funding.
In fact, would you like to know the proportion of money actually being spent on flood defences, compared with energy infrastructure?
Two per cent.
The UK Statistics Authority’s more representative chart, showing that flood defence (third from left) receives two per cent of the funding that goes to energy (second from left).
The newest right-wing party: This Gary Baker cartoon appeared after Ed Miliband’s ‘One Nation’ speech last year, but let’s adopt it to illustrate the fact that successive Labour leaders, from Blair to Brown to Miliband, have steered the party ever-further away from its support base until, with Miliband’s speech this week, it has become a pale shadow of the Conservative Party it claims to oppose, leaving the majority of the UK’s population with nobody to speak for them.
Yesterday I wrote that Ed Miliband’s speech on social security reform was the beginning of the Conservative victory in 2015 – and picked up a little criticism for it in some areas. I stand by my words.
Ed’s speech proved he is not a leader but a follower. He has agreed to follow Conservative spending cuts and not reverse them. He has agreed to follow Tory spending plans for the first year after a Labour government takes office (if it does) in 2015. He has said he would cap social security spending, formally adopting as policy an idea the Tories floated during the March budget. He has agreed to give up the principle of universal benefits.
He has done this when the Conservatives have no argument whatsoever that can possibly justify what they are doing.
All the Tory claims about austerity have blown away in the wind – hot air to disguise their real aim of shrinking the state and selling off the family silver to their rich friends.
Iain Duncan Smith is to face a grilling by Parliament’s Work and Pensions committee over his – and his colleagues – persistent misrepresentation of the facts about unemployment, sickness and disability and the people claiming benefits on these grounds.
As for the benefit cap, Miliband said an independent body should advise government on how best to design it. Great! Can I sit on this body? I could do with the cash!
Or is it another example of fake jobs for the boys to get their snouts in the trough?
The system needs to change, because the Conservatives/Coalition have cocked it up. Miliband offered up more of the same, with a little bit of tinkering around the edges. Red Conservative.
For a party that’s supposed to be the official Opposition to the government, there was a hell of a lot of Tory talk in Miliband’s speech, like this: “It is only by reforming social security with the right values that we’ll be able to control costs.” Tory values?
“We have always been against the denial of opportunity that comes from not having work. And against the denial of responsibility by those who could work and don’t do so,” he accused, in one of those confusing single-sentences-split-into-two that make his speeches so utterly unreadable. But he needs to get his facts right. The number of people who could work but don’t do so is around 2.5 million – but that’s because there isn’t any work available for them. One job for every five people, although we have witnessed moments when adverts for a handful of places at a single shop have attracted thousands of applications. These people aren’t denying responsibility, Ed – they’re desperate for a chance.
He was referring to benefit fraud, though, wasn’t he? Benefit fraud is the bogeyman that haunts much of Iain Duncan Smith’s policy, even though it is, as the facts show, a ghost. In fact, 99.3 per cent of all benefit claims are genuine and are made out of real need – according to government figures – and that figure rises to 99.6 per cent in sickness and disability cases. It’s not a perfect situation but any system will have its abusers, and that’s why we have fraud detection built into it. Benefit fraud is not a huge problem, and Miliband does himself and his party enormous harm by adopting the Tory line and alienating the genuinely sick and disabled people who have been fighting the unjust removal of their benefits by a system he seems unlikely to reform, for all his weasel words.
He returns to this theme later: “Just as there is a minority who should be working and don’t want to, there is a majority who are desperate for work and can’t find it.” Evil, divisive, Tory rhetoric. Isn’t this the man who wants a ‘One Nation’ government? Why is he trying to split us up and set us against each other? That’s Tory policy.
Have some more of the same: “I want to teach my kids that it is wrong to be idle on benefits, when you can work” – implying that people – many people – are in just that position. Tory divisiveness from a Labour leader.
Here’s another: “It appears that some people get something for nothing and other people get nothing for something – no reward for the years of contribution they make.” This one really got my goat because it turns the principle of the Welfare State on their head.
For goodness’ sake, it isn’t about paying in money in order to get exactly the same amount back another time. It’s about contributing to the welfare of the state as a whole, including everyone in it. A Labour leader should be making the argument that this is not about selfishness; if you’re a part of this nation, you contribute to its well-being. “From each according to [their] ability, to each according to [their] needs,” as Marx put it. His philosophy may be out of fashion with the ‘Me, me, me’ generation but that doesn’t make those words any less relevant to the funding of a national economy.
I wonder whether quoting Bob Crow from last night’s This Week programme will actually make the message any easier to hear, but I’ll give it a go. He said: “It’s the strong helping the weak – that’s what the whole welfare benefits system is based on.”
“We have to tackle this too,” bleated Miliband. Yes, we do – by correcting the wrong attitude, whenever we hear someone spouting it. So get a clue, Ed.
There are dire portents for the future “laser-focusing” of a Labour government’s spending, as well.
Look at his ideas about attempts to get people into work. He said: “This government’s work programme can leave people… unemployed year after year after year,” leading one to believe that he’ll ditch the work programme and its useless money-grubbing private, for-profit ‘provider’ firms that have been leeching millions from us for years. Official figures have proved they are worse than useless.
Alas no. He went on to voice his support for the grievously damaging Atos-run assessment regime for Employment and Support Allowance, claiming that this backdoor genocide policy “was the right thing to do. We continue to support tests” that kill 73 people per week, on average, according to official figures last year.
His problem with the Atos test was that it should be focused on helping to identify “the real skills of each disabled person and the opportunities they could take up” – completely missing the point about disability. Of course people who are off work with illness have skills, but they cannot use those skills because they are ill! It doesn’t take a genius to work out the sticking-point so he must be intentionally avoiding it.
And then, the killing blow: “So these tests should be connected to a work programme that itself is tested on its ability to get disabled people jobs that work for them.” He would re-employ the useless and wasteful ‘work programme provider’ firms, putting the final seal of hopelessness on the lives of people who thought they could rely on him for help.
Perhaps the worst betrayal in this whole sorry mess – and I’ve only scratched the surface here – is the fact that Miliband and Labour had the front to claim they were making tough decisions. There’s nothing tough about copying the hated policies of a hated and failed administration. There’s nothing tough about allowing their private-interest friends to continue bleeding the state of its cash, and there’s nothing tough about opening up more opportunities for them to strip us of whatever we have left.
Miliband and his team have proved they cannot take the tough decisions; that they are followers and not leaders. If they can’t – or won’t – step up and meet the challenge of our times – starting with a retraction and apology for yesterday’s speech – then they should make way for somebody who will.
And they should do it now, while there is still time to mount a credible opposition to David Cameron’s government of failures.
Postscript: One aspect of the speech I haven’t explored in detail relates to housing benefit, and the pledge to build more houses. Be warned: It seems this heralds another expensive and wasteful private finance initiative (PFI) adventure: “We would let [councils] keep some of the savings they make, on the condition that they invested that money in helping build new homes.” I have a feeling that those homes would fall into private hands at some point in the future – at huge cost to the taxpayer. Again.