Boris Johnson has had a good summer, with his political cache at stratospheric levels after the Olympics and Paralympics, but I wonder what damage these appalling comments on the Hillsborough Disaster will have on his seemingly titanium political image?
It is cheap, shoddy, low life journalism like this that must have added considerably to the families’ pain over the past 23 years.
Do we really trust this insensitive Tory toff with running the country when The Spectator, which he edited in 2004, calls The Sun newspaper the “whipping-boy”, the Police a “convenient scapegoat”, and Liverpool fans “drunken”?
I am sure he got paid handsomely for his work editing The Spectator in 2004 when he allowed this article to appear in his magazine. I wonder if he will now donate to the families of the Hillsborough victims?
I wonder also if the super rich and secretive Barclay brothers, David and Frederick, who own and publish The Spectator, will also make a substantial donation to the Hillsborough families for this gutter press journalism that somehow found its way into their publication?
Johnson has said he is ‘very, very sorry’ for the eight-year-old article, but victims’ families have branded his apology ‘too little, too late’.
The Hillsborough disaster occurred on 15 April 1989 when 96 Liverpool fans died after they were crushed within Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium during the 1989 FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest.
For years the police, and some politicians and journalists, tried to blame the disaster on drunken Liverpool fans. Four days after the disaster The Sun newspaper ran a notorious front page story, entitled The Truth, that claimed drunken fans had urinated on police and pickpocketed the dead.
However, an independent panel report into the disaster showed how senior South Yorkshire police officers, and Tory MP Irvine Patnick, put forward damaging and untrue allegations to a Sheffield news agency which culminated in the infamous Sun headline and article.
A Labour backbencher has now written to David Cameron calling for the removal of Sir Irvine Patnick’s knighthood. Let’s hope we see some action on this soon.
The report, compiled by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, scrutinised more than 450,000 pages of documents over the last 18 months.
Speaking in the Commons PM David Cameron said he is profoundly sorry for the “double injustice” of the Hillsborough football disaster.
The Hillsborough Justice Campaign welcomed the prime minister’s apology.
Hillsborough has rightly been called the biggest cover-up in British history. Now the truth is out let’s hope that next comes justice and those responsible face prosecution.
There Are Better Things To Spend the BBC Licence Fee on Than Political Media Tarts and Rent a Quotes
The Daily Mail reports that MPs are receiving large sums of BBC licence fee payers’ cash simply to appear on a range of BBC output, including politics, news, and entertainment.
Among those cashing in are leading political figures not short of a bob or two such as MPs Diane Abbott, Caroline Flint, Sir Menzies Campbell, and Hilary Benn.
Diane Abbott has had generous BBC payments questioned before. In 2004, Abbott was investigated by Parliamentary authorities regarding payments she had received from the BBC. They found she had failed to declare earnings of £17,300 which had been received for appearances on the late night tv politics programme This Week. She was required to apologise to fellow MPs at the House of Commons. The latest payment scandal to hit Abbott is a payment of £1,000 to appear on day time junk telly programme Cash In The Attic.
A disturbance fee of £50.00 – £100.00 seems reasonable to give a backbench MP for a sought for view and opinion especially during unsocial hours but a grand to appear on what is instantly forgettable wallpaper tv is ridiculous. I wonder if subsequently Abbott donated her appearance fee to any of her hard up Hackney constituents caught up in the summer London riots? Paying front bench spokesmen, as the Daily Mail allege, who are often on large tax payer funded salaries, also seems a step way too far.
The BBC came under fire for paying celebrities like Jonathan Ross eye watering salaries. What the Daily Mail has revealed is not of that order but the BBC should be wary of cultivating a cosy relationship with politicians, and a gravy train for the political classes.
More importantly, in this era of swingeing cuts at the BBC, there are better things to spend licence fee payers’ money on than political media tarts and rent a quotes.
At their party conference next week the Tories are set to announce that the unemployed will have to do more to prove they are looking for work or face losing their benefits.
Amazingly, at the moment all a jobseeker has to do is complete a CV and make some enquiries about jobs to qualify for benefit. In total about 8 minutes a day is said to be spent on looking for work by jobseekers claiming benefit.
This is symptomatic of a something for nothing society that politicians, left and right, talk tough about ending but the truth is they do not have the electoral balls to push through truly effective measures.
A simple fix would be to say that between the hours of 09.00 and 17.00 the unemployed should be forced to do community work to qualify for benefit. Some will squeal “but where will they find time to look for work?” Easy, they can work on CVs, searching for jobs online, and mailing job applications evenings and weekends, and they can have flexible time off from their community work to attend job interviews – if they can prove these interviews are genuine.
Unemployment should not be a stigma or punishment. It can happen to anyone in these difficult economic times. But equally when in receipt of generous state benefits that may include, help with housing costs, and a plethora of other linked benefits, the unemployed should not be allowed to sit back and coast on state handouts without putting something back.
Community work experience can make an unemployed person more employable than writing a CV or half hearted attempts at job interviews. Just as importantly community work can make a big difference to society – tidying up litter, repairing church yards, feeding the elderly in day centers, driving the elderly and infirm to hospital appointments, helping with youth activities for young people. The unemployed will have a range of experiences and skills they could and should put back into society whilst in receipt of state benefits.
At the moment it is all too easy to play the system. Half heartedly turning up for job interviews arranged by the job centre, deliberately making themselves look and sound unemployable, taking work experience arranged by the job centre but spending most of the time playing on Facebook on smartphones instead of making the most of the work experience opportunity. The list of tricks and cons the work shy use to play the system is endless.
Look online or in any job centre window and there are plenty of jobs available. They may not be the most glamorous jobs; night porter, supermarket shelf stacker, warehouse operative, cleaner, carer but are the unemployed too proud to care or clean to earn their state benefits? The true answer is yes. People generally are afraid of manual work these days. As daft as it sounds call centre operator is cooler work than cleaner.
He may have been speaking in a different context but President Obama was right this week when he said Americans have become too soft over the past twenty years. All of us in the West have become too soft and too fat and it’s contributing to an economic and unemployment time bomb as much, if not more, than the current economic debt crisis.
The Tories are said to be looking at a system of conditionality and a points system for job seekers in return for benefits. Systems are put there to be exploited by the cunning, crafty, and work shy. The new Tory system will be no different. But while the Tories play with a new system a quick and easy fix would be to end the something for nothing society by making the unemployed do community work in return for benefits.
Our European neighbors know our system is soft and easy to exploit. In Poland the unemployed get nothing after six months without work, and there is no such thing as housing benefit and other linked benefits. Contrast that with our barmy benefits system? No wonder the Government is concerned about an influx of benefits tourists from Eastern Europe. But right wing Tory euro sceptics need not froth at the mouth about EU laws. No benefits tourist from the EU would want to come here if we had a system of hard 09.00 to 17.00 community work in return for benefits.
Welfare reform will dominate the politics news agenda
Politics news next week will show politicians talking tough about welfare reform, but no politician, Tory or Labour, has the balls for truly effective welfare reform. IDS will no doubt talk tough at the Conservative Party Conference but several significant factors stand in the way of effective reform of the benefits system. The Lib Dems will blunt and thwart truly effective remedies. Politicians are afraid of the electoral fall out of upsetting 2.5 million potential unemployed voters. No politician has ever had the electoral balls to do what’s needed since the birth of the welfare state. Effective reforms cost money in the short term and George Osborne and David Cameron have been reluctant to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to reforming welfare.
So while the Tory faithful will cheer Cameron and IDS’ tough talk next week on welfare little will change. Significant numbers of stubborn long term unemployed will continue to play the system, the something for nothing society will not rock at its foundations, and politicians will talk tough but the benefits bill will keep on rising while the hard working majority subsidize an increasing minority of work shy.
Getting a member of its backbench fodder to raise a controversial issue is a tactic often used by governments to test the water on a policy and gauge the reaction to it. The tactic is called flying a kite, and the advantage is that it allows a controversial issue to be raised in a way that gives a government the cloak of deniability if the reaction is negative.
So it was last week when, bang on cue, right wing Tory MP Philip Davies rose to his feet during a Commons debate on the Employment Opportunities Bill and sparked outrage by saying disabled people should work for less than the minimum wage. He said if employers had to pay the same wage they would always choose to hire an able-bodied job candidate over a disabled rival.
Reaction across the board from politicians, charities, and campaign groups was swift and most certainly negative to Davies’s kite flying. Idiot, fool, preposterous, warped, worrying lack of understanding, outrageous, unacceptable were just some of the phrases used to describe Davies’s loony idea.
Davies is left to look a right loon for his barmy idea but it does not take a forensic scientist to see the fingerprints of right wing Tories in cabinet flexing their muscles on this one.
Davies’ reward for pulling the government’s strings - watch this space but it probably won’t be long until he is promoted from the back benches.
As for the idea – this is one kite that won’t ever fly again.
One final point, if Davies’s remark that people with a “learning disability clearly, by definition, can’t be as productive in their work as somebody who hasn’t got a disability” had been repeated outside the Commons, and the protection of parliamentary privilege, he could well have been facing litigation and a charge of discrimination.
That’s what you call kite flying a little too close to the wind.
Last nigh’s BBC Panorama was shocking, breathtaking television, undercover documentary making of the highest calibre. But the abuse it uncovered of vulnerable disabled people in an English care home shames us all. It is a sickening indictment of mixing private profit with care.
Panorama’s under cover reporter captured footage at Winterbourne View care home of patients being repeatedly pinned down, slapped, dragged into showers while fully clothed, taunted and teased.
These victims of abuse were not alleged terrorists. They are the most vulnerable people in our society. If this abuse had been revealed in a Guantanamo or a Abu Ghraib there would, rightly, be a firestorm world wide with Presidents and Prime Ministers forced to make apologies.
The Coalition government’s response today is to put up little known Care Services Minister Paul Burstow to say he has asked the Care Quality Commission (CQC), to conduct an urgent investigation. Â The same Care Quality Commission who ignored a whistle blower’s complaint about abuse at Winterbourne View. Hardly grounds for confidence that something will be done to prevent further instances of abuse. Â IÂ would have thought this shocking abuse, unveiled before millions of aghast and disbelieving prime time tv viewers last night, should merit an emergency Cabinet Minister Commons statement at the very least. We have an urgent right to know if this abuse is the tip of the iceberg in privately run care homes in Britain today.
Winterbourne View is a privately owned home, which charges taxpayers an average of £3,500 per patient per week. Winterbourne’s owners are Castlebeck who care forÂ 580 patients in 56 facilities across the country and has an annual turnover of £90m.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley and the Tory right are pushing for more of this private sector involvement in the Health and Socoal Care Bil being debated by MPs at the moment. Hopefully, Panorama has made us all sit up and pause for thought. Squeezing out profits from health and social care services to fund private shareholder dividends means in practice low hourly rates for care workers, inadequate staffing levels, inadequate monitoring and supervision, sometimes recruiting the dregs in society, the list of negatives goes on and on.
David Cameron is said to be in favour of institutional care for disabled people. If he has had a chance to see Panorama he should learn that compassionate conservatism should always put care before profit. That the right place for vulnerable disabled people is at home with adequately funded personal care in the community. Not in large, remote, privately owned institutions where the drive for profit means this abuse can go on unchecked.
The BBC Panorama producers deserve a BAFTA for shining a light on the abuse that goes on behind closed doors in some privately owned care homes.
As the Tory led coalition’s Welfare Reform Bill receives its second reading in the House of Commons serious questions are being asked about whether the government’s plans are fit to work.
There are fears that thousands of genuinely sick people maybe plunged into poverty as a result of changes to the benefits system. Talk of suicidal disability benefit claimants, worried about cuts to their fragile existence, have not come to pass yet but the full effects of cuts have yet to bite as the plans come under parliamentary scrutiny.
The bill’s aim, says the Coalition, is to make the benefits system fairer and simpler.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) press release says the introduction of a Universal Credit will provide a single streamlined benefit that will ensure work always pays.
The DWP says it wants a stronger approach to reducing fraud and error with tougher penalties for the most serious offences.
They want to reform Disability Living Allowance , through the introduction of the Personal Independence Payment to meet the needs of disabled people.
They want to create a fairer approach to Housing Benefit and reform Employment and Support Allowance, which replaces a range of incapacity benefits, to ensure, they say, help goes to those with the greatest need.
However, serious cracks are starting to show already in Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s ambitious plans. Last month the Guardian reported that the architect of the new sickness benefit system warned it would be a mistake to start introducing it nationally because of serious problems with the medical test designed to assess whether benefits claimants are genuinely sick or disabled. Professor Paul Gregg, an economist and welfare reform expert, described the current test as a “right mess” for finding people with terminal cancer, multiple sclerosis and serious mental illnesses fit to work.
Over the next three years, 1.5 million people claiming incapacity benefit will undergo a work capability test to see if they should receive a less generous benefit, employment and support allowance (ESA). The reform is expected to save the government Â£1bn over five years.
Next to line up to embarrass ministers, and criticise the coalition’s plans, was it’s own official advisory body.
The social security advisory committee has questioned the motives for the proposed replacement of disability living allowance (DLA), paid to almost 3 million people to help cover extra costs of living with disability. It also criticised the move to withdraw DLA from people living in care homes who receive it to help with the costs of mobility.
The committee said it was concerned that cuts seem to be driving reform. The government says it is looking to cut annual spending on DLA by Â£2.1bn from more than Â£12 bn.
The weak and ineffectual Lib Dems have had nothing to say about these damaging cuts to the vulnerable, which is lamentable. What vested interests have they been supporting while in government? But now Labour, who until now have been frightened of appearing soft on welfare reform, are coming under pressure from it’s own backbenchers to vote against the Welfare Reform Bill.
If Labour cannot support the most vulnerable in society what can it do? Ed Miliband needs to wake up and smell the mood of the nation on welfare reform. Yes people are fed up of benefits fraudsters and scroungers like the alcoholic on incapacity benefit for addiction who claims hundreds of pounds in benefits but has not done a honest day’s work in his life. Yes they are fed up of the walking wounded and bad back brigade who live next door and use a bit of back ache to claim a life time of DLA and a brand new car though the Motability scheme. Yes they are fed up of some single mums with posh new prams courtesy of the tax payer, who breed constantly to avoid work. But in sweeping up these abuses people are in no mood to see the most vulnerable in our society punished and damaged.
One of the nastiest proposals is to take a few quid a week in DLA mobility benefits from severely disabled people in residential care. No one should be in any doubt that this proposal is targeting THE weakest and most vulnerable in our society. Single mums and scroungers on welfare have a choice. If you are brain damaged with cerebral palsy or epilepsy, and you are in a care home, you have no choice. This measure, if it goes through, will significantly reduce the independence of disabled people in care homes, which runs counter to the aim of DLA to support disabled people to lead independent lives.
The truth is most people don’t understand disability. It’s not something that touches their lives. Even less understand the complex disability benefits system. However, right thinking, decent people in middle England did not vote last May to allow conditions to exist where a banker is allowed a multi million pound bonus and a vulnerable severely disabled child or adult in a care home is denied the last Â£10.00 that means a chance of occasional freedom and an independent life.
Neither did compassionate and decent Britons vote to see the scale of cuts planned. To see hard pressed parents of disabled children have their respite care cut, to see severely disabled adults have their already difficult lives made harder by having their social care cut.
British people are compassionate, fair, and decent and will not tolerate such injustices. The coalition are badly misjudging the mood of the nation. Maybe Cameron’s new communications chief Craig Oliver will put him on the right track on this misjudgement.
David Cameron has close personal experience of disability. His late son Ivan had a severe disability and would have fallen into the group of disabled people whose DLA he is seeking to cut. Of course it wouldn’t have made much difference to multimillionaire Cameron but it certainly does to many others. He really should know better than to allow some of these nasty cuts to proceed on his watch. What a missed opportunity on the comfy BBC One Show sofa last night for him to be pressed on the human consequence and damage caused by his policies.
What disabled people need to enable them to work, and escape a life on benefits, are not cuts in benefit that trap then in care homes but flexible support systems in place to support them in work, or self employment. This means hard cash, equipment, and adaptations, not seminars, low grade advisors, and airy fairy government schemes that cost millions and do not deliver.
The small business sector could make use of disabled workers. No longer do we have to go down mines or plow fields to earn a crust. CCTV companies could employ wheelchair users to monitor CCTV footage, even from home. IT companies could employ even the most severely disabled as web developers. The disabled could make up a bank of call centre operators working individually from home via Skype. Why not disabled virtual PAs for Richard Branson, Alan Sugar, or Philip Green? How many millionaire cabinet ministers employ disabled workers in their past or present commercial interests? But small business is going to need cash incentives to help them change practices. They also need a sea change in discriminatory attitudes because while there is a lot of compassion for disabled people there is still a lot of discrimination based on ignorance.
The government’s Access to Work scheme does a lot of good work to support disabled people in work. It funds support workers and equipment and adaptations, but it’s budget has been squeezed in recent years. Also, the government doesn’t exactly plug it to disabled people and employers. If Iain Duncan Smith is serious about getting disabled people off benefits and into work he should double the budget for Access to Work, not squeeze it.
Practical but costly common sense ideas like these are unlikely to see the light of day as the cuts agenda gathers pace and zeal.
The ConDem welfare reform plans are a smokescreen for cuts. It’s an attempt by the Tory right to rebalance the economy in favour of capital. But there are many elephant traps in reforming welfare.
Welfare reform has been tricky to put into practice by successive governments since Beveridge let the genie out of the bottle. Successive welfare ministers, Tory and Labour, have tinkered and salami sliced, fearful of the electoral fallout of going the whole hog.
My prediction is that few of these reforms will actually happen because decent, compassionate Britons, with a sense of what is right, won’t allow them. However, the irony is this is a missed opportunity for all the good, but costly, ideas that could make a difference but wont see the light of day in this cuts obsessed madness.
David Cameron relaunched his Big Society policy today. It needed a relaunch because of the heat Cameron has felt recently from charities and councils facing cuts they say will undermine the Big Society.
Cameron calls his Big Society policy his mission. Every PM must have a mission. A legacy, something that leaves their mark on history. Some succeed more than others. Thatcher’s was privatisation, Major had the ill fated back to basics, Blair had Northern Ireland.
Few can argue with the big idea of getting people to contribute more to society. But Cameron’s problem at the moment is that the Big Society is inextricably linked in the public’s eyes with the cuts he is inflicting on them. A sceptical public just don’t buy into it, and there is no sign they are blaming their councils for cuts. They know where the cuts are coming from.
If old Etonians, the wealthy, and the self sufficient can be be motivated to contribute more to society that will be a very good thing. But when you’re vulnerable and your arse isn’t washed because the council has been forced to cut it’s care force, or there isn’t a charity to do it, Cameron’s big idea will be a very bad thing.
Cameron calls his idea his duty. His real duty should be to protect the most vulnerable in society from the worst of the public sector cuts.
A real legacy for a PM to be proud of would be to lead us from deficit to growth while creating a more equal society with quality public services that look after the vulnerable in a big society.
The Big Society and Cameron and Miliband clash at PMQs. Miliband came out on top. Lib Dem Councillors are up in arms over local council cuts undermining the Big Society policy. Nick Clegg is red faced and furious. The public are increasingly seeing through Dave’s tattered policy as an excuse for cuts, running essential front line services on the cheap by an army of well meaning volunteers. We’re not stupid David and Nick.
There was further trouble and embarrassment for the Lib Dems when little known Lord Oakeshott, a Lib Dem Treasury spokesman, had his day in the limelight, resigning over the “pitiful” deal with the banks. Good to see a politician doing and saying what he really thinks.
The public spending axe starts to swing, libraries, forests, and care services for the vulnerable are all coming under strain. This is just the start. Greek style protests may kick in when front line cuts start to really bite.
MPs of all parties unite on banning votes for prisoners. For once a no brainer really. But spells problems for Cameron who is wriggling on implementation of the policy handed down by Europe because of his restive right wing eurosceptic party.
Until two days ago Eric Ilsley was a sitting MP. Tonight he’s spending his first night in prison for fiddling his expenses. Jim Devine, another former labour MP, was also found guilty and now awaits his fate too. The course of justice often runs slow but runs true.
All in a week at Westminster Naked.
Exposing plots, rumours, gossip, lies, spin, and conspiracy in UK politics at Westminster.
From the Gunpowder plot to the present day Westminster has always been a hive of intrigue, rumour, spin, gossip, and conspiracy.
In the name of Realpolitik politicians sometimes compromise, or agree to disagree, and never more so in recent times than the coalition deal.
However, tribal politics means more often than not members of the legislature and executive, and their hired hatchet men, will spin, plot, stab each other in the back. We can all recall John Major’s “bastards”, the dysfunctional Blair Brown relationship, and Draper and McBride et al.
Politicians will lie to the public, strike grubby deals they don’t want the public to know e.g. Megrahi for BP oil contact, or Murdoch backing for ownership of BSkyb, or hide their expense claims for decades, to name but three topical examples.
It is is in this toxic pool that Westminster Naked came to life. To expose, to shine a light, to explain, to comment, to educate. To strip down to the bare bones the veneer of respectability at Westminster and reveal naked Realpolitik in action day to day.
We will comment, explain, and, where we can, reveal what is really going on in the corridors of power in Westminster.
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