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Will legal and political action deliver justice for WASPIs?

In an earlier post it was noted that “Governments are balancing budgets on the backs of the poor” (John Grisham) 2.6 million women born in the 1950s will ‘lose out’ because of changes to pension law: “while corporations and the richest individuals receive tax breaks”.

                                                        Left: hear affected Question Time audience member, no longer well enough to work (17.24 mins) and (right) the prime minister, herself a Waspi woman.

Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, wrote earlier this month:

“Across Britain some 3.8 million women are affected by the increase to the state pension age. Though there is a good deal of sympathy for the aim of equalising the retirement age, what has taken place in practice has been appallingly unjust. Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) agrees with equalisation, but does not agree with the unfair way the changes were implemented – with little or no personal notice (1995/2011 Pension Acts), faster than promised (2011 Pension Act), and no time to make alternative plans”.

Guy Opperman, work and pensions minister with responsibility for financial exclusion, failed to reassure women in their 60s, hit by changes to their pension, by advising them to get a job or take up “extended apprenticeship opportunities”. 

Morris continues:

“Raising the pension age for women, often with little notice and sometimes failing to notify people of the changes at all, is a recipe for disaster.

“Many Waspi women affected by state pension inequality have been working full time and paying national insurance since the age of 15 or 16. In my constituency of Easington, the government’s changes to the state pension age will harm some 4,542 women.

“The OECD has recently ranked Britain’s pensions system as the worst in the developed world – yet the Tories are attempting to deny Waspi women even a basic state pension” . . .

“Excluded from the winter fuel allowance, from the free bus pass and now from the state pension, this generation of women are now in numerous cases having to sell their homes, take on precarious poverty-wage jobs or rely on foodbanks . . .

“The government’s given reason for failing these 3.8 million women is that to give them their pensions would cost as much as £30bn – for six years of pensions.

“Yet research from Landman Economics suggests the cost of helping Waspi women would likely be a more modest £8bn”. Morris lists the wider context:

  • Refurbishing Westminster will cost the taxpayer some £7bn,
  • Britain’s airstrikes in Syria are estimated to reach a cost of around £10bn.
  • Increased privatisation of the national health service is estimated to cost at least an extra £4.5-£10bn each year.
  • There have been billions of pounds of needless tax cuts to the bank levy.

“In this context finding the money for Waspi women seems a sensible price to pay to give these women justice and stop poverty from rising to ever more tragic levels. We know and we can see that it isn’t equal, it isn’t fair and it isn’t justifiable – it’s driving down the incomes and the quality of life of countless women.

Morris: “The prime minister is herself a Waspi woman but I doubt she ever has or ever will be faced with a choice between heating or eating. Yet this doesn’t mean it is too late for the government to do the right thing”.

“The parliamentary ombudsman is currently investigating the Department for Work and Pensions for maladministration, by failing to notify women of the changes to their state pension age. If the ombudsman finds in favour of the Waspi women the government could have to pay compensation to the tune of billions of pounds”

The Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru, the DUP and 50 Tory MPs support the Waspi campaign.

 

 

 

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MP Chris Williamson, invited to appear on BBC to discuss ‘media blackout’ of Jeremy Corbyn’s IPB award

As the pro-Corbyn Watershed site said some days ago – re the Jeremy Corbyn award – BBC & MSM can no longer suppress news at will.

Steve Walker had asked how the BBC, as public service broadcaster, could have failed to report that the leader of the UK’s official opposition and holder of an 8-point voting intention poll lead over the government has received an international peace award – alongside one of the world’s foremost philosophers and authors?

As an example of the way in which social media can change the national political narrative, especially when supported by the parliamentary left, Labour front-bencher Chris Williamson was then invited to appear on the BBC’s Daily Politics programme to discuss the ‘media blackout’ of the news about Jeremy Corbyn’s award from the International Peace Bureau (IPB).

See the video here.

That ‘blackout’ would almost certainly still be in place if the award had not gone viral on social media after the SKWAWKBOX, followed by other ‘new left media’ (NLM) outlets, broke the story last weekend.

Williamson is a strong media performer and made the key points about the award and the ensuing MSM silence forcefully. Countering the establishment’s attempts to undermine the silence by undermining the stature of the award, Williamson pointed out:

  • that the MSM had given extensive coverage to Theresa May putting a star on a Christmas tree and to William and Kate receiving a Blue Peter badge
  • that the IPB is a venerable organisation with a history significantly longer than the Nobel organisation – and inspired the creation of the Nobel awards
  • that Corbyn hadn’t trumpeted the award because he doesn’t brag about any of his achievements
  • the disparity in the way Corbyn’s award was (not) covered and the type of coverage that would be given in a similar situation involving Theresa May
  • and that Corbyn’s position as the head of the official Opposition is what makes the award newsworthy, not just the award itself (which shows the error of FactCheck’s attempt to explain away the silence on the basis of the award only occasionally being mentioned in UK media before)

This conversation shown on national television would not have taken place had it not been for the ‘new left media’ (NLM} and its supporters on social media.

Steve Walker comments that this development is an encouragement for those who want to see genuine change in this country – and happened despite the Establishment and its media alternately attacking and blocking good news, revealed by the social media platforms that spread such messages.

 

 

 

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EU citizens continue to be harassed despite Theresa May’s reassuring words

A few days ago, Theresa May appealed – in an open letter – to three million EU nationals, asking them to stay in the UK after Brexit. This follows the EU’s refusal to begin trade talks until progress is made on the rights of EU citizens in the UK.

A month earlier this site reported that the Home Office had sent up to 100 letters to EU citizens telling them to leave UK or face removal.

One of these was Eva Johanna Holmberg who has lived in the UK with her British husband for most of the last decade and was threatened with detention under the Immigration Act. Her story was picked up on social media and the Home Office then said the letter had been sent by mistake. When the department called to apologise it did not offer to cover her legal costs of about £3,800.

Further encouragement to stay was given to another widely valued EU citizen, who has lived and worked in this country for years; her (fortunately secondary!) bank account had been blocked.  She couldn’t access online banking nor use the ATM.

When she went in to the local branch they said it was because a bank statement had been returned.

  • She said this was impossible as she only gets online statements.
  • Response to that: “Well it must have been something you’ve done”.
  • To unblock the account she had to provide proof of ID, proof of address, confirm she had paid UK taxes etc …

This is expected to happen more often from next January, as the accounts of ‘identified’ foreign nationals will be closed down or frozen. Even if the people concerned provide a passport or biometric residence permit showing they are lawfully present in Britain, banks have been instructed that such customers should be told to take up the matter with the Home Office – clearly an intent to harass.

Will there be more ‘rebuttals and clarifications’ on the Home Office media blog, as its recent record shows clearly that it cannot be trusted to implement such systems without errors.

Imposition of the forthcoming checks will simply add another category to the stress-inducing procedures incorrectly inflicted on ‘foreign nationals’ who have every right to be in Britain.

 

 

 

 

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Brexit – advantage the already rich: John Buchan, Jeremy Corbyn and Private Eye

John Buchan, 1915: Financiers can make big profits on a falling market and it suits their books to set Europe by the ears.

Jeremy Corbyn, March 2017; the Tories’ hard Brexit’ will benefit super rich and hold back millions.

Private Eye, 6.10.17: investors could swoop on cheap assets after Brexit wrecks the British economy

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Jeremy Corbyn opened in I News:

When Pret A Manger opened its first sandwich shop in 1986, I doubt many of us would have expected well-known high street chains to end up trying to pay their staff in leftovers. But that’s exactly what’s happened. Last week, Pret had to abandon plans for a work experience scheme paying 16-18 year olds only with food after a public outcry.

A taste of things to come . . .

It was an even faster U-turn than Tory chancellor Philip Hammond’s reversal of an increase in National Insurance for the self-employed – also after an outcry. Both the Hammond and the Pret sagas look like a taste of things to come. The not-so-hidden agenda of hard right Brexiteers, from trade secretary Liam Fox to foreign secretary Boris Johnson, is to create a bargain basement economy for big business.

In 2012, Fox said it is “too difficult to hire and fire” and “intellectually unsustainable to believe that workplace rights should remain untouchable”. Employment rights under threat Now that Article 50 has been triggered, Fox has his chance to sweep away decades of hard-won employment, consumer and environmental rights enshrined in EU law. In fact that’s exactly the direction Theresa May has made clear she intends to go if she can’t get the Brexit deal she wants – and Johnson has said not getting a deal is “perfectly okay”.

The Tories are preparing a Great Repeal Bill as part of the Brexit process, and all the signs are they will try to use it to tip the economic scales even further in favour of their super-rich supporters. They have after all spent the past seven years giving them one tax break after another while imposing austerity on everyone else.

Altogether, on official figures, they will have handed out £73bn in welfare for the wealthy between now and 2022. They have cut inheritance tax, the bank levy, capital gains tax, the top rate of income tax and corporation tax – squeezing or slashing support for the NHS, social care and other vital services.

While the earnings of working people have been held back, executive pay has soared to levels beyond most people’s wildest dreams. The chief executives of the top 100 companies on the London Stock Market were paid on average £5.5m each in 2015 – that’s 183 times average earnings.

The Conservatives justify tax cuts for the richest and big business by saying they will lead to an increase in investment. But there is no evidence of that.

On the contrary, investment in the UK has fallen, leaving us with antiquated infrastructure and uncompetitive industries. The future of our country cannot be left to the free market and the whims of the wealthy.

 

 

 

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Broken Britain 8: EU nationals experience the maladministration which has affected the country’s poorest for decades

EU nationals’ deportation threat was an ‘unfortunate error’, according to Theresa May

The Home Office mistakenly sent up to 100 letters to EU citizens telling them to leave UK or face removal

One of these, academic Eva Johanna Holmberg has lived in the UK with her British husband for most of the last decade, but the letter from the Home Office said that ‘A decision has been taken to remove you from the UK.’ It added that if she did not leave the country of her own accord the department would give “directions for [her] removal” as “a person liable to be detained under the Immigration Act”.

Her story was picked up on social media and the Home Office then said the letter had been sent by mistake. Several people have been told wrongly they should leave the country after trying to apply for permanent residency but this is the first time the Home Office has issued a letter telling people to leave.

Though the department called to apologise, the person who telephoned did not agree that the government would cover her legal costs of about £3,800.

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The Financial Times reports that more than 120 MPs have challenged the rollout of Britain’s flagship “Universal Credit” benefits system, saying that delays are leaving poor households exposed.

Universal credit payments are withheld for the first week and then paid monthly in arrears. In practice, almost a quarter of claimants are waiting even longer — for up to 12-13 weeks. A DWP spokesperson said “Around 80% of payments are made on time and where they are not it is usually because a claimant commitment has not been signed or there is a verification issue over information”.

Citizens’ Advice has helped more than 30,000 people facing problems with the new system, and the Trussell Trust ((food banks) has seen a sharp rise in referrals for emergency food in areas where universal credit has been introduced.

But private enterprise flourishes: MP Ruth George said there was evidence that high-cost payday lenders were targeting areas where the universal credit system has just been introduced – and household debt is already 140% of GDP. 

 

 

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Austerity 7: “Governments are balancing budgets on the backs of the poor” (John Grisham)

1. State Pensions

2.6 million women born in the 1950s will ‘lose out’ because of changes to pension law: “while corporations and the richest individuals receive tax breaks”

WASPIs (Women against state pension inequality) protest outside Parliament. Their aim: to achieve fair transitional arrangements for women born in the 1950s, for whom the state pension age is being raised from 60 to 66 by 2020.Photo: WASPI Campaign/Twitter

A Bournville reader draws attention to an article in Welfare Weekly reporting the findings of a new analysis by the Labour Party which reveals that tens of thousands of Theresa May’s constituents will be adversely affected by her decision to bring forward changes to the state pension age. The state pension age for men and women will be equal at 65 at the end of 2018, before rising to 66 in 2020 and then 67 in 2028. This will then rise again to 68 between 2037 and 2039, meaning those born between 1970 and 1978 will be made to wait an extra year before becoming eligible to claim.

Data obtained by Labour from the House of Commons Library finds that nearly 37 million people in total will be affected, including 56,547 people in Theresa May’s constituency of Maidenhead. 61,753 people who are under the age of 47 will be hit by the changes in Chancellor Philip Hammond’s constituency of Runnymede and Weybridge. 59,290 people will also be affected in the Work and Pension Secretary David Gauke’s constituency of South West Hertfordshire.

A BBC video clip showed that an outline given by MP Guy Opperman (right, Work and Pensions) of government measures to assist older people back into work, including apprenticeships and retraining received a mixed reception.

Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Debbie Abrahams, said: “Thanks to the Tories increasing the state pension age, 36.9m people will be forced to work longer, at the same time that evidence indicates life expectancy has stalled in some places and is reducing in others.” She called on Tory MPs to “explain to the tens of thousands of people in their constituencies why the burden of Tory austerity is being pushed on them, while corporations and the richest individuals receive tax breaks.”

Abrahams added: “Theresa May should answer her 56,547 constituents, and the 36.9m people across Britain, whose hard-earned retirements are being postponed because of her Government.”

Labour is to begin a “national state pension tour” to draw attention to how many people will be affected and voice their opposition to the policy.

 

 

 

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Broken Britain 7: prolonged, tragic sagas: infected blood transfusions, OP poisoning and Gulf War Syndrome, denial and delay, pending death

The Haemophilia Society has blown the whistle and called for an enquiry into its own failure and that of government, pharma and clinicians. More here.

Medics and politicians knew by the mid-1970s that commercially manufactured blood products from the USA were suspect. By the mid-1980s there were warnings of a similar situation in respect of HIV. Nevertheless these products continued to be imported and used – just as OP sheep dips were.

British haemophiliacs and other victims’ lives were blighted in the 1970s and 1980s by these cheap imported US blood products, harvested from inmates and drug addicts. More than 7,000 were infected and went on unknowingly to infect family

Last week in The Times, Margarette Driscoll recalls that in 2015, following the Penrose report into contaminated blood products in Scotland (which many victims denounced as a whitewash), David Cameron apologised to those who were infected by HIV and hepatitis C.

Weasel words

References to “compensation” have been changed to “payments” – to avoid admitting the liability which is already common knowledge? The sums received by victims of the contaminated blood scandal are known as ex gratia payments.

In April, as he left the Commons, the former health secretary Andy Burnham declared there had been a “criminal cover-up on an industrial scale in the NHS” over contaminated blood and called for a Hillsborough-style inquiry.

Diana Johnson, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull North, has been campaigning on the issue since she met one of her constituents, a mild haemophiliac who was given factor VIII in 1983 to prevent excessive bleeding when he had a tooth removed in hospital. He discovered he was infected with hepatitis C in 1995, when it showed up on blood tests for an unrelated illness.

As Theresa May had set up the Hillsborough inquiry when she was home secretary, Johnson was hopeful she would do the same for contaminated blood.

May refused. Johnson requested an urgent Commons debate, which was due to be held on Tuesday. She then got the six leaders of the opposition parties — including the DUP — to sign a letter to Ms May asking for an inquiry, and this is to be set up.

Adding insult to injury? Payment to many victims of NHS blood contamination is to be cut

In March this year a scheme to pay the victims of NHS blood contamination is to be scaled back under government plans announced on Monday. Ministers believe the reforms are necessary because more people are now considered likely to develop serious health issues – and be entitled to higher payouts – pushing the programme as much as £123m over budget.

The government has proposed measures that would cut predicted costs, including limiting the availability of the higher level of financial support under the scheme

Will an enquiry compensate the victims of this NHS for the cuts?

 

 

 

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Will the small print exclude some EU citizens living & working in Britain?

An EU citizen working in this country thinks it will.

She emailed a downbeat response to the announcement made by Theresa May to European leaders that no EU citizens living lawfully in Britain when it exits in March 2019 would be asked to leave. She added that EU citizens already in the UK – and those who arrive lawfully during a subsequent “grace period”, expected to be up to two years – will be given the opportunity to build up five years’ worth of residence.

Our reader explained that it’s all in the small print: the way the UK interprets “lawfully” means quite a few in reality won’t qualify.

One category is that of students without “comprehensive” private health care cover (‘comprehensive’ never defined!). Others will be wrong-footed as the number of qualifying years change; those based in the UK who travelled abroad in the course of their work for more than 100 plus days find that year doesn’t count… Our reader adds:

“Those who’ll be unlikely to qualify for May’s offer could also include the retired French widow living off her pension (arrived in the UK as teacher in the 70s), as she’s not ‘economically self-sufficient’ … It is inhumane to leave her (& others in her situation) in limbo (she was interviewed last year after Brexit referendum and I doubt May’s offer has helped her to sleep better!) 😦

Matthew Weaver reports that EU leaders have described the UK’s opening offer to protect EU citizens’ rights as vague and inadequate, suggesting the British government needs to go further. 

Donald Tusk, president of the European council, said the offer was “below our expectations” and would worsen the rights of the EU citizens.

Anne-Laure Donskoy, a founding member of the 3million – which aims to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK – agreed, saying “It is like a teaser this statement, it gives you general direction of travel potentially, but there are things in the statement that need to be unpicked.”

Our reader sends a link to an article by another 3million founding member who believes that Theresa May’s ‘outline deal’ falls woefully short of the comprehensive, reciprocal offer by the EU that includes lifetime guarantees of all existing rights for EU citizens in the UK (‘migrants’) and British citizens living in the EU (‘ex-pats’) whose rights are equally at risk.

She adds a link to these right-minded EU proposals which were published early in June: Essential Principles on Citizens’ Rights. They aim to protect the rights of EU27 citizens, UK nationals and their family members who, at the date of entry into force of the Withdrawal Agreement, “enjoyed rights relating to free movement under Union law, as well as rights which are in the process of being obtained and the rights the enjoyment of which will intervene at a later date [for example pension rights]”.

The Guardian reports that the full details of Theresa May’s offer to EU citizens will be published on Monday.

 

 

 

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General Election 2017 – Peace Policies and Foreign Follies

People in Iraq, Libya and Yemen are desperate for strong and stable government. Theresa May is partly why they don’t have it, says Steve Beauchampé.

The General Election campaign has returned after last week’s brief hiatus and with it a volley of unedifying Conservative attacks on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s historic support for a united Ireland and the Palestinian people, highlighting the most tenuous of links and associations.

Yet serious examination of Jeremy Corbyn’s activism shows him to have been on the right side of history and ahead of mainstream public opinion time and again, standing up for anti-racist and anti-apartheid causes, refugees and asylum seekers, gender equality, the LGBT community, environmental issues, animal rights and the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and self-expression long before such things gained widespread acceptance. Perhaps not surprising then that when you campaign in support of so many marginalised groups and outsider causes that you will from time to time encounter those whose frustrations and sense of powerlessness has led them to step outside of the law.

As regards Irish republicanism Corbyn’s attempts to achieve conflict resolution through dialogue may at times have been naive, but were his actions so dissimilar to the approach adopted around the same time by MI5 and later by John Major, both of whom ultimately realised that a decades-old conflict, whose death toll was inexorably rising, could not be won solely by military means?

But whilst Jeremy Corbyn’s peripheral rôle in the republican cause has been (and continues to be) pored over and examined by his opponents half a lifetime later, the record and judgement of Theresa May with regard to much more recent UK military interventions requires equally forensic scrutiny given her claims to be a fit and proper person to lead Britain.

And frankly, history’s judgement on this aspect of Theresa May is unlikely to be generous. After first being elected an MP in 1997, she voted in favour of the 2003 invasion of Iraq (having already supported the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in the frenzied post-9/11 atmosphere). Like so many of her colleagues on the opposition Conservative benches at the time, May failed to hold the Blair government to account despite the widely expressed caution of many experts over both the reasons for going to war and the lack of a post-conflict plan to stabilise Iraq. Instead, May limply and dutifully gave her support.

What followed for Iraqis has been almost fifteen years of societal breakdown throughout large parts of this once architectural, cultural and scholastic gem of a nation, with swathes of land occupied until recently by Islamic State and a fracturing of the country along religious, sectarian and tribal lines in a way that will be hard, if not impossible, to heal.

By 2011, and as the then Home Secretary in the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition government, Theresa May backed the Anglo/Franco-led military action in Libya, which despite its billing as merely creating a no-fly zone to protect civilians and rebel fighters, mainly located in the east of the country, quickly escalated into regime change, culminating in the overthrow and lynching of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Again, as a senior government minister Theresa May ignored warnings that historic tribal divisions, the absence of a strong and stable government or a long-term strategic plan would quickly fracture the country.

Six years on and Libya exists in little more than name only. There is no central government, armed militias and feudal warlords hold considerable power, whilst every international Islamist terror group of substance now boasts a flourishing branch office in the country from where they increasingly export their murderous ideologies. And every month, if not every week, scores of desperate migrants, people who long ago lost all control of their lives, drown off the Libyan coast whilst seeking something better than the hell that their lives have spiralled into.

Learning nothing from history and the consequences of her own actions, in August 2013 Theresa May supported Prime Minster David Cameron’s unsuccessful attempt to persuade MPs to back UK air strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The absence yet again of a coherent post-conflict strategy was sufficient for Labour leader Ed Miliband to refuse his party’s support to Cameron, who narrowly lost a House of Commons vote on the issue. The main beneficiaries of such an intervention, with its intention to downgrade Assad’s military capabilities (if not to remove him from power), would likely have been the plethora of extremist groups engaged in the Syrian civil war, principal amongst them the then nascent Islamic State.

Since becoming Prime Minister Theresa May has continued the supply of British made weapons and military expertise to Saudi Arabia for use in its war crime-strewn bombing campaign in Yemen, a campaign which has killed countless numbers of civilians and is fast creating yet another failed state in the region.

Iraq, Libya and increasingly Yemen: countries where British military interventions have created power vacuums swiftly filled by a combination of anarchy, lawlessness, violence and economic depravation, with catastrophic consequences and relentless, unending misery for millions of civilians.

Theresa May supported each and every one of these military interventions. Jeremy Corbyn opposed all of them. So whose judgement would you trust?   

May 29th 2017

Written for The BirminghamPress.com

 

 

 

 

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A win for the Conservatives is a loss for foxes and many human animals

Theresa May has announced that the Conservatives will renew a pledge to hold a free vote on overturning 2004 ban on the blood sport. During a visit to a factory in Leeds, the Prime Minister said: “This is a situation on which individuals will have one view or the other, either pro or against. As it happens, personally I have always been in favour of fox hunting, and we maintain our commitment, we have had a commitment previously as a Conservative Party, to allow a free vote”.

Is anyone surprised? What are the lives of a few foxes and the welfare of our least fortunate citizens to a person prepared to press the nuclear button?

Nicola Stavrinou writes about this repeal in Redbrick* (accessed via the Brummie aggregator):

She asks why: as 84% of British people are opposed to fox-hunting, would the Conservative Party back such an unpopular repeal?

Her answer: “Theresa May is using this repeal to gain back the hardliner Tories who wish to see the ban lifted once and for all. She is going for an electoral majority which could potentially remove Labour and SNP from the equation. The anti-hunting Labour and SNP MPs who voted to ban fox-hunting could potentially be replaced with Conservative MPs who are pro-hunting. May knows that she has the power to pass unfavourable laws because of the Conservative’s recent surge in popularity, most recently seen in the Mayoral elections from the beginning of the month”.

Wryly she concludes: “I have no doubt that if there is a potentially high Conservative majority win in the snap election, this ban will be lifted. Not that it has actually stopped anyone from hunting since then anyway”.

*Redbrick is the student publication of the University of Birmingham, established in 1936 under the original title Guild News

It has evolved to include eleven sections covering wide areas of student life, and expanded into the world of digital journalism. All content is produced by student journalists, including reporters, commentators, photographers and editors. As a student society, any student of the University of Birmingham can join and contribute to the publication.

The hard copy is published fortnightly and its website is updated continuously with regular content, videos, audio clips and photography. Events are covered through live blogging, providing a platform for readers to get directly involved with the debates. The website currently receives approximately 40,000 unique views per month.

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