The Death of Empathy in Cruel, Heartless Britain

Last Wednesday, while George Osborne was delivering his Autumn Statement, taking aim at the most vulnerable members of society once more, with another savage attack on the welfare state, I was in central London, and I returned home after he had made his smug and visibly heartless performance in the House of Commons, when the Evening Standard was already announcing his new attack on the poor and disabled.

The Standard‘s headline — “George Osborne hits welfare for poor and raids pensions of rich” — was not exactly a ringing endorsement of the Chancellor’s statement, but it failed to dent the prejudices of the two women next to me, who were returning home, presumably from their office jobs. As they idly perused the paper, they complained about the amount of money the unemployed receive, followed swiftly by a complaint that they then sit around at home doing nothing. There was no mention of the fact that most of what the unemployed receive from the government goes to their landlords, or that there is still only one job for every five people who are unemployed, let alone the fact that a large proportion of benefits are actually paid to working people who aren’t otherwise paid enough money to survive on. Why let anything that might lead you to regard the unemployed as fellow human beings interfere with some knee-jerk bigotry?

Complaining that they too were suffering, they then spent the rest of their journey home — disturbingly, to Brockley, where I also live — rather undermining their case, by talking about party dresses and which gyms they attended. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: The Best Placards and Banners from “A Future That Works,” the TUC March and Rally in London

George Osborne: First Class TwatWe are not a plebThe cuts are a jokeDisabled. Socialist. Artist. I'm screwed.Beware the thieving hand of OsborneThe plebs are revolting
Teachers against Michael GoveDanger: Toxic ToriesPlebs on tourI've never kissed a Tory …The Occupy familyGobshites
Queers Against CutsWe won't pay for their crisisBankenstein

The Best Placards and Banners from “A Future That Works,” the TUC March and Rally in London, a set on Flickr.

Anyone with a heart would be hard-pressed to say that living in Tory Britain — with the particularly savage dolts currently in Downing Street and in the Cabinet — is anything less than an ordeal. Through their treatment of the disabled alone, ministers have taken a route that is thoroughly depressing on a permanent basis, as the government — and its overpaid puppets in the French multinational Atos Healthcare — systematically pursue a policy of making disabled people undergo tests designed to prove that they are fit for work — when they are not — to cut their state support.

The stress and the impoverishment of those who should be helped rather than put through this callous ordeal — and which is repeated if claimants manage to prove that they are unfit for work, or if they successfully appeal (as a majority do) — enrages me on a daily basis, but they are not the only casualties of the Tories’ shrinking state — one which, shockingly, public sector expenditure will plummet to a smaller percentage of GDP than the US by 2017. Read the rest of this entry »

Call Time on This Wretched Government and Its Assault on the Disabled

Please, please, please sign and promote the petition, initiated by Pat Onions and other disabled activists, calling for the British government to “stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families.” The petition needs to reach 100,000 signatures by November 1 to be eligible for Parliamentary debate.

One month ago, the Paralympic Games came to an end, and there were hopes that, after two weeks in which disabled people had been the focus of the media and the British people, and had performed spectacularly well, the time might be ripe for those fortunate enough not to be physically or mentally disabled to realise that they were being lied to by their government, and that the Tories’ wretched assault on disabled people as cheats and scroungers was both cruel and deeply unfair.

In a cynical attempt to cut expenditure on welfare, the government has embarked upon a particularly horrific assault on the mentally and/or physically disabled through the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), administered by the French-based multinational company Atos Healthcare, and designed to find disabled people fit for work, even when, as in a heartbreakingly large number of cases, they are not.

In addition, hundreds of thousands of disabled people will lose between £20 and £131.50 a week when the ­Disability Living Allowance (DLA) that is a crucial part of their support is ­”replaced with the more restrictive ­Personal ­Independence Payments as part of a £2.2billion cost-cutting plan,” as the Sunday Mirror explained last month. As the Mirror also explained, “The DLA currently goes to around 3.2 million people at a cost of £12.6 billion a year. Analysts estimate up to 500,000 disabled people will have their allowance entirely withdrawn over the next four years as ­eligibility criteria is tightened.” Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Unaffordable London: The Great Housing Rip-Off Continues

On Monday, a rather unprecedented event occurred. The BBC, in its long-running but generally dumbed-down Panorama slot, broadcast a half-hour programme — Britain on the Brink: Back to the 70s? — which took off the blinkers, or the rose-coloured spectacles, that much of the mainstream media have clamped on Britain’s face since the cruel and incompetent Tories began laying waste to the British economy two years ago.

Those of us with any intelligence — and I don’t count George Osborne and David Cameron or any of the other clowns masquerading as functional ministers in this category — knew that the government’s claims that, despite all evidence to the contrary, savage austerity cuts to the state provision of almost services, accompanied by up to a million job losses, would allow the private sector to ride in on a white charger dispensing new jobs like confetti were the worst sort of fantasy. The truth, of course, is that savage austerity cuts always — always — mean an economic death spiral, and the only way out of a recession is to spend wisely to stimulate demand.

In addition, of course, those not blinded by having studied the propaganda that mostly passes for economics would also have realised that the private sector’s ability to provide answers has come to an end. In truth, the motto that private was better than public was largely a ruse of Margaret Thatcher’s to destroy Britain’s manufacturing, and then plunder the family silver for profit — the nationalised industries and some other necessary state-provided services. Read the rest of this entry »

Britain’s Tax Avoidance Scandal and David Cameron’s Colossal Hypocrisy

When David Cameron responded to a Times investigation into offshore tax avoidance schemes, which found that around 1,000 individuals — including the comedian Jimmy Carr, and other celebrities, including musicians and sports stars — were paying as little as 1% of their earnings in tax through a legal, but morally unacceptable scheme in Jersey, a notorious tax haven, he decided to take the moral high ground.

Saying that media reports of Carr’s financial arrangements suggested “straightforward tax avoidance,” the Prime Minister added:

I think some of these schemes — and I think particularly of the Jimmy Carr scheme — I have had time to read about and I just think this is completely wrong [sic]. People work hard, they pay their taxes, they save up to go to one of his shows. They buy the tickets. He is taking the money from those tickets and he, as far as I can see, is putting all of that into some very dodgy tax avoiding schemes. That is wrong. There is nothing wrong with people planning their tax affairs to invest in their pension and plan for their retirement — that sort of tax management is fine. But some of these schemes we have seen are quite frankly morally wrong. The government is acting by looking at a general anti-avoidance law but we do need to make progress on this. It is not fair on hardworking people who do the right thing and pay their taxes to see these sorts of scams taking place. Read the rest of this entry »

How Can We Stop the Tories’ Relentless Destruction of Britain?

On Wednesday, the coalition government delivered a dud Queen’s Speech demonstrating that they have run out of ideas, apart from insisting, like deranged automata, that their inflexibility and lack of vision is actually helpful. In the House of Commons, David Cameron claimed that the Queen’s Speech was “about a government taking the tough, long-term decisions to restore our country to strength, dealing with the deficit, rebalancing the economy and building a society that rewards people who work hard and do the right thing.”

That is ridiculous, of course, as the Tory-led government’s mania for austerity has pushed Britain into a double-dip recession, and rewards are the last thing being visited on “people who work hard and do the right thing.” Instead, the ordinary hard-working people of Britain are being squeezed financially and besieged by ministers whose only message seems to be to tell people to be permanently insecure, while the only people who really matter to those in power — those rich enough not to feel the squeeze — continue to get richer through their dubious investments in property, their exploitative ventures around the world, and their shareholding in private companies profiting or preparing to profit from the destruction of the state (as with the NHS, for example).

In the Guardian, Simon Jenkins did a good job of kicking the government, as they deserve to be kicked, in an article entitled, “George Osborne’s growth policy is turning British cities into Detroit UK.” Jenkins began by noting, with reference to the pan-European obsession with austerity over the last two years, that “Europe’s collective response to the 2008 credit crunch ranks with the treaty of Versailles and German reparations among the great follies of history.” Read the rest of this entry »

As Britain Enters Double-Dip Recession, George Osborne and David Cameron Remain Clueless, Arrogant and Inflexible

Only 23 percent of those eligible to vote elected these clowns to run the country, and yet we’ve ended up with two whey-faced Etonian buffoons — David Cameron and George Osborne, who are both clever only to the extent that they can conjure up the illusion of intelligence — driving the UK over a cliff.

Recently blasted by Conservative MP Noreen Dorries as “two arrogant posh boys who show no remorse, no contrition and no passion to want to understand the lives of others,” and by other Tory MPs as being full of “sneering condescension,” lacking a core set of beliefs, and lazy, they have weathered two years of Frankenstein-like rule with their coalition partners, managing, somehow, to get away with blaming Labour, the Euro, students, the poor, the unemployed and the disabled for all our economic problems, but their illusion of competence, and the success of their cynical manipulation of the British people appears to be coming to an end.

Cameron has seemed particularly out of touch lately, on the one hand calling for children to “stand up when their parents or teacher walks in the room” like a Victorian patriarchal bully, and on the other sending out a message that he is a “new man” by apparently starting work late on some days so that he can drive his  own presumably cowed and saluting children to school, which, of course, only adds to the conviction that, as a Prime Minister, he is indeed lazy. Read the rest of this entry »

Can Jeremy Hunt Prevent a Tsunami of Sleaze from Engulfing David Cameron?

What a disgrace the Tories are. Even on the election trail two years ago, it was clear that they were sucking up to Rupert Murdoch in an even more ingratiating manner than previous parties on the verge of unseating the existing government. Moreover, it was, I contend, only public outrage — over the revelation that the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler had been hacked by News of the World reporters — which, last July, definitively prevented the government from allowing the Murdochs and News International from upping their stake in BSkyB from 39 percent to 100 percent, and becoming an unrivalled titan on the British broadcasting scene with a dangerous and undemocratic monopoly.

Last July, when the police arrested Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor who, conveniently, had subsequently become Cameron’s Chief of Communications, the scandal threatened to engulf David Cameron, and I wrote two articles, Why Would Anyone Trust David Cameron, As Police Arrest Andy Coulson? and Waiting for the Fall of David Cameron, which, I hoped, would reflect a major change in the public’s perception of the Prime Minister, and a widespread awareness of the extent of the Tories’ corruption.

That huge backlash did not emerge, however, as the public soon moved on, and Cameron survived. However, although It’s impossible to know whether political incompetence or sleaze plays the biggest role in discrediting corrupt and useless governments, it’s clear that the tide is turning against David Cameron, George Osborne, and the rest of the tired neo-liberal idiots — and Lib Dem stooges — who make up the Cabinet. Read the rest of this entry »

As Sleaze Engulfs the Tories, Is This the Beginning of the End?

No one should be surprised that, as was revealed in secret footage shot by the Sunday Times in an investigation into government sleaze, the Tories’ co-treasurer Peter Cruddas offered access to the Prime Minister David Cameron and the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, in exchange for donations of up to £250,000, with the thinly-veiled promise that it would be helpful to donors’ interests.

Cruddas, who has made an estimated £750 million fortune in financial speculation, and is the founder of the online trading company Currency Management Consultants, met with, and was filmed by Sunday Times reporters posing as potential donors, who, as the BBC described it, “said they were British expats working for a company called Zenith incorporated in Liechtenstein with wealthy Middle Eastern funders.”

Telling the reporters that £250,000 gave them “premier league” access, and that “things will open up for you” if they donated that amount of money, Cruddas also explained, as the Guardian put it, “Two hundred grand to 250 is premier league … what you would get is, when we talk about your donations the first thing we want to do is get you at the Cameron/Osborne dinners. You do really pick up a lot of information and when you see the prime minister, you’re seeing David Cameron, not the prime minister. But within that room everything is confidential — you can ask him practically any question you want. If you’re unhappy about something, we will listen to you and put it into the policy committee at No 10 — we feed all feedback to the policy committee.” 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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