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 »

Who Will Rid Us of This Callous Government, Assaulting the Poor, the Unemployed and the Disabled?

Last month, while I was in the US for 12 days to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on the 10th anniversary of the prison’s opening, I was actually pleased to be away from the UK, not because I wanted to be away from my family, or my friends, but because I needed a break from the relentless anger that anyone with a heart must feel when confronted by the Tory-led coalition government’s cuts programme, and the British public’s widespread acceptance of it.

I have written about various aspects of the austerity programme over the last 16 months, including the assault on university education, the plans to savage the NHS, and the unprecedented cuts to the welfare state, but it was my anger about these latter two topics — focused on the Health and Social Care Bill (for the stealth privatisation of the NHS) and the Welfare Reform Bill (comprehensively attacking the poor, the unemployed and the disabled) — that I was glad to escape temporarily.

Of course, for those most fundamentally affected — disabled people terrorised by their own government, the tens of thousands of poor families wondering if they will be made homeless by a welfare cap — there is no respite, and I cannot even begin to feel what they must be feeling, but I identify strongly with their plight, as I believe it is fundamentally unforgivable for the government of one of the wealthiest nations on earth — and one whose leaders espouse Christian values — to be targeting the most vulnerable people in society. Read the rest of this entry »

Brutal Benefit Cuts for the Disabled Are Leading to Suicides in the UK

When it comes to callousness, the supposedly caring veneer of David Cameron’s Tory party disintegrated almost as soon as the expedient governing coalition with the hapless Liberal Democrats was formed, when our new leaders announced, with evident relish, their intention of haranguing those without work at a time when there was only one job available for every five unemployed people.

Targetting the unemployed during a recession would be cruel under any circumstances, and it was disgraceful to see the government peddling the false notion that anyone without a job was a workshy scrounger and parasite — and to see that particular lie being lapped up by large numbers of my fellow citizens, thereby revealing that, beneath many people’s superficial respectability beat hearts of hatred, forever burning to find a scapegoat and to make them suffer.

With a sleight of hand, involving an absurdly strict cap on immigration that seemed to have been sourced directly from the fascist BNP, Cameron and his fellow butchers of the British state diverted attention away from immigration but made sure that the new scapegoats consisted of people without a job — even if, or perhaps especially if — they have physical or mental health problems. 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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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