Disgusting! As Tories Lurch to the Right, Criminal Jeremy Hunt Takes Over Health

Please sign the campaigning group 38 Degrees’ open letter to Jeremy Hunt, warning him not to mess with the NHS.

Sometimes it’s almost unspeakably depressing to be living in England, in a dystopian fantasy that no one voted for, with a useless coalition government of the Tories and the Lib Dems that required Frankenstein-like engineering just to come into being.

Yesterday was one of those particularly depressing days, as David Cameron shuffled his cabinet and lurched even further to the right. Of course, there is desperation in the Prime Minister’s manoeuvring, and we should be thankful for that. Cameron has not got rid of George Osborne, of course, as he is the prime architect of the Tories’ economic policy, which involves allowing the rich to hoover up whatever they can, including that which has been secreted offshore, while obliging the rest of us to have to try and prise five pound notes out of Osborne’s hands, who it turns out, has the tenacity of a corpse with advanced rigor mortis. However, when 48 percent of voters recently gave Osborne a vote of no confidence, it was obviously significant. Cameron may be the whey-faced buffoon who can come up with an opinion at any time of the day or night, but Osborne is the whey-faced buffoon in charge of economic policy — Gordon Brown to Cameron’s Tony Blair, if you will.

48 percent of voters recognised the toxicity of Osborne, thereby providing a stunning vote of no confidence in the government, but he remained in place in the reshuffle while other buffoons got shifted around or axed. Andrew Lansley, who trailed the Chancellor with a 37 percent disapproval rating in the Guardian/ICM poll on August 28, was shifted out of health, to be replaced by Jeremy Hunt, who had a 24 percent disapproval rating as culture secretary. Michael Gove (on 36%) keeps his job as the butcher of education, Kenneth Clarke (on 28%) was replaced at justice by the incompetent employment minister Chris Grayling, and William Hague (on 21%) kept his job as foreign secretary. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos of the Paralympics Demonstration Against Atos Healthcare in London

RIP Cecilia BurnsThe mark of a civilised society is how it treats its most vulnerable membersStudents against AtosAtos: bloody contract killersCounter Olympics NetworkNobody likes hurdles as much as Atos
How many paupers' funerals per Atos 2012 Paralympics gold medal?David Cameron's Boris bumThe protest against Atos HealthcareAtos Out!

The Paralympics Demonstration Against Atos Healthcare in London, a set on Flickr.

Yesterday, Friday August 31, was the last day of the Atos Games, a week of events organised by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and UK Uncut against the jaw-dropping hypocrisy involved in Atos Healthcare, the French IT giant, being allowed to sponsor the Paralympic Games, while the company is also in charge of running the government’s Work Capability Assessments, a review process that is designed to find disabled people fit for work.

As a result, huge numbers of disabled people, who are not fit for work by any genuinely objective measure, are being driven into poverty — a wretched and cruel policy for a government that claims to have Christian values — and the results are leading directly to suicides, or other deaths through the stress involved. Undeterred, however, the government recently renewed Atos’ contract, to the tune of £400 million, and ministers are permanently involved in ignoring the inconvenient truth that, on appeal, tens of thousands of decisions made by Atos’ representatives are being overturned. The average is 40 percent, but in Scotland campaigners discovered that, when claimants were helped by representatives of Citizens Advice Bureaux, 70 percent of decisions were overturned on appeal. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos of the Olympics: In Search of the Paralympic Torch

Tower Bridge from Butler's WharfCanary Wharf from RotherhitheThe Shard, viewed from beside City HallHay's GalleriaRick Rodgers, Paralympic torch bearerOne of the Paralympic Games' corporate sponsors
Light the wayThe Paralympic torch relay, WestminsterThe Paralympic torch on the move in Westminster

The Olympics: In Search of the Paralympic Torch, a set on Flickr.

With the main Olympic Games now a memory, the focus, for the next 11 days, is on the Paralympic Games, before Britain returns to the gloom of life under the crushing yoke of a myopic Tory-led government. While the Games were a great success, the emotional resonance of the Paralympic Games is much stronger, given the obstacles people have had to overcome to take part in the first place, and it is a tribute to the UK that the Paralympics began here in 1948. As Wikipedia explains:

The first organised athletic event for disabled athletes that coincided with the Olympic Games took place on the day of the opening of the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, United Kingdom. German born Dr. Ludwig Guttmann of Stoke Mandeville Hospital, who had been helped to flee Nazi Germany by the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA) in 1939, hosted a sports competition for British World War II veteran patients with spinal cord injuries. The first games were called the 1948 International Wheelchair Games, and were intended to coincide with the 1948 Olympics. Dr. Guttman’s aim was to create an elite sports competition for people with disabilities that would be equivalent to the Olympic Games. Read the rest of this entry »

Where is the Shame and Anger as the UK Government’s Unbridled Assault on the Disabled Continues?

What has happened to my country? I grew up in a Christian household — my father was Church of England, my mother Methodist — and both believed in Christian charity; in other words, the need for people of faith to look after those less fortunate than themselves. In the case of my Methodist heritage — as a working class religion, rather than the establishment C of E — this care for those in need was absolutely central to how the world was perceived, providing a social and political perspective as much as one based on religion.

Christians — and, of course, believers of other faiths — have their own share of hypocrites, and certainly do not have a monopoly on caring for the poor and the sick, as can be seen by the number of atheists with a well-developed social conscience, but in the Britain of today, driven by the Tory-led coalition government, concern for the poor and the ill appears to have become deeply unfashionable, leading to a callousness in society as a whole that has been encouraged by governments themselves (not just this shower of heartless Etonians), and by large parts of the media.

The defining characteristics of this cruel new world appear to be a preoccupation with selfishness and materialism, and, as part of a decline in empathy and the dissolving of the kind of political solidarity that was central to those opposing Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, for example, a narrow and horribly misplaced focus for dissent — not on the bigger political picture, and on the corporate and banking elites getting way with financial murder, but on people’s neighbours, or those regarded as different, or inferior, or feral, or workshy scroungers. Read the rest of this entry »

Doctors Urge Government to Scrap Callous Disability Tests

Two weeks ago, doctors at the annual conference of the British Medical Association (BMA), which represents 141,000 doctors and trainee doctors in the UK, delivered a resounding rejection of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), which is being used by the government to establish that people who have physical and/or mental health disabilities are fit for work.

The inflexible computer-based system, administered by ATOS Healthcare in sessions that last for just 20 to 30 minutes, has been repeatedly condemned by disability campaigners, and/or by those subjected to it, and at the BMA conference, as a press release noted, London GP Louise Irvine said the WCA system “was causing ‘distress’ to thousands of people with long-term health conditions deemed fit for work, as well as subjecting the doctors involved to ‘McDonaldisation’ of their careers.”

She added, “There is no empathy in the system, it is all accusatory.”

Although David Snashall, a London-based consultant in occupational medicine,  “urged the meeting not to call for the WCA to be replaced, arguing that there was a scrutiny process in place to improve the system,” the BMA supported a motion to demand that the WCA should be ended “with immediate effect and be replaced with a rigorous and safe system that does not cause unavoidable harm to some of the weakest and vulnerable in society.” Read the rest of this entry »

RIP Karen Sherlock, Another Victim of the Tories’ Brutal, Heartless Disability Reforms

Since coming to power in May 2010, through a Frankenstein’s Monster coalition with the Lib Dems, the Tories have embarked on the most sustained and unprecedented assault on the British state in history, and seem determined to turn back the clock to a time before notions of universal suffrage, of education and healthcare for all, and a welfare state that would look after the most vulnerable and unfortunate members of society took effect.

In this savage world, in which, for ideological reasons — and using the global economic crash of 2008 as an excuse for punishing those who had nothing to do with it, and allowing the rich crooks to escape scot-free — the Tories and their Lib Dem stooges have been pushing a criminally deceptive message: that everything that has not yet been privatised must be privatised, and that the state provision of services is unaffordable, and must must be brought to an end.

Amazingly, the government has largely been getting away with its lies, shielding irresponsible and almost unthinkably greedy bankers and corporate tax avoiders from scrutiny, and these 21st century neo-liberal butchers, whose policy decisions are all filtered through an un-Christian, cruel, myopic and destructive worldview, have even succeeded in making people believe that, although we, the taxpayers, pay over £500 billion to the government in tax and national insurance every year, we no longer have any right to demand that any of that money — any of it — is used for the state provision of services like health, education, or welfare. Read the rest of this entry »

Today the Tories Took £100 A Week from Some of the UK’s Most Disabled People: How Can This Be Right?

Today, largely unnoticed by British citizens fortunate enough to not suffer from any sort of disability, the vile Tory-led government hacked away much of the financial support for disabled people. As austerity cuts go, the cutting of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for disabled people is particularly harsh on some of society’s most vulnerable people, to an extent that makes me feel queasy, and will severely diminish the lives of tens of thousands of disabled people and their partners, reducing them to a level of poverty that ought to be unacceptable in a civilised society.

As Claudia Wood, head of public services and welfare at Demos explained for the Public Finance blog yesterday:

Today marks a watershed in the history of the welfare state. It is the last day that the contributory principle — the concept of social insurance that underpinned [William] Beveridge’s vision [for a welfare state] — remains intact.

This is because tomorrow 70,000 ill and disabled people will lose their Contributory Employment and Support Allowance — a benefit that provides financial support for those who become unemployed due to illness or disability, in return for the national insurance contributions they made during their working life. Read the rest of this entry »

The Full Extent of the Tories’ Assault on the Disabled Exposed

With the Tory-led coalition government attacking vulnerable people on so many fronts, and with the last month in particular dominated by the last-ditch resistance to the wretched NHS reform bill, it’s been a while since I had the time to examine the ramifications of another appalling piece of legislation — the welfare bill that became law six weeks ago.

Since this government came to power through a Frankenstein-like coalition agreement, I have been disgusted by the Tories’ mission to savagely cut expenditure on welfare, for a variety of reasons.

The first is because the government is fundamentally dishonest, and is falsely insinuating that cutting the country’s deficit through cuts to state expenditure is the only way forward. This involves the Tories (and the Liberal Democrats propping them up) blaming all our economic woes on Labour’s welfare expenditure, when it was criminal activity by investment banks that caused the economic crash of 2008, dealing a savage blow to our economic health as jobs were lost and government revenues fell, leading in turn to an increase in government spending, including bailing out the banks that failed.

Along with this fundamental dishonesty, the government is fixated on reducing the deficit, even though it is clear to anyone not blinded by ideology that savage austerity will only further depress the economy, leading to a kind of economic death spiral from which there will be no recovery. Also dishonest is the government’s refusal to tackle the widespread tax evasion by corporations and rich individuals, estimated to cost £95bn a year, and the “implicit subsidy” to UK banks in the wake of the 2008 crisis, in which high-risk behaviour is essentially underwritten by the government — to the tune of £100bn a year, according to a Bank of England official speaking in 2009. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: The “Austerity Isn’t Working” Protest Outside Downing Street and Parliament

UK Uncut, the organisers of the “Austerity Isn’t Working” Dole Queue outside Downing Street this morning advised supporters to turn up for 11 am prompt for a recreation of the notorious “Labour Isn’t Working” poster from 1979 as a protest on Budget Day — and, lamentably, as a wake for the NHS. In the end, there were, at first, dozens and then hundreds of us — largely unaffiliated protestors — milling about outside Downing Street, tentatively striking up conversations with each other, while members of  Coalition of Resistance, CND, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union and Stop the War set up stall on the other side of the road, and the organisers were nowhere in sight.

At 11 o’clock, however, it all suddenly came together, as the UK Uncut activists arrived with an “Unemployment Office” banner and hundreds of us queued up in an attempt to recreate the poster that helped Margaret Thatcher win the 1979 General Election. Because Downing Street was so crowded, it was difficult to capture a good image of the queue (which was, to be fair, a rather disorderly affair), but the atmosphere was thrilling, and after the demoralising news about the NHS yesterday it was good to be with like-minded people — even if the general impression is still that most of the country has fallen into an irreversible coma.

As a result, the organisers decided to move down to the gardens opposite Parliament, where TV broadcasters had set up a raised platform to discuss the budget, and where four of them bravely tried to soldier on with their commentary as the crowd struck up a deafening and repeated cry of “Tax the rich, not the poor.” Eventually, they gave up, and as a rather more successful attempt was made to recreate the 1979 dole queue, and various “no cuts” chants rang through the balmy air, it was clear that the event had been a success, and we had hijacked the mainstream media. Read the rest of this entry »

Lying Bully David Cameron Hails Passage of Welfare Reform Bill

Ever since the Tories sneaked into power nearly two years ago, having failed to convince a majority of voters to trust them, and having had to construct an unlikely coalition with the Liberal Democrats, my country has become an unrecognisable place: mean-spirited above all, as the tiresome David Cameron — an unqualified, whey-faced buffoon, but one with an opinion about everything, who is barely ever off our TV screens — has presided over a wholesale attempt to raze the British state to the ground, conceived by an array of unpalatable and arrogant ministers with no clue as to the true costs and ramifications of their tired ideology.

This has involved encouraging British citizens to turn on one another, and, when not blaming the Labour government for the crash of the casino economy that the Tories had also encouraged, and that almost everyone bought into for over a decade, David Cameron has taken cynicism to new depths, blaming the poor, the unemployed and the disabled for the debts racked up primarily after the economic collapse for which Wall Street and the City of London were largely responsible. In response, I’m sickened to note, the British people have obligingly bought into this disgusting charade.

After early success in axing university funding, the coalition government has struggled with its attempted hatchet job on the NHS, but appears to be largely getting away with its welfare reforms, under the guiding hand of Iain Duncan Smith, an allegedly kindly man who, in fact, blames the poor for their poverty, and is, therefore, the most dangerous kind of reformer — the kind of Social Darwinist familiar from the Victorian era, who, in the early 20th century, often began to embrace the deadly pseudo-science of eugenics. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
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