This was first posted on Facebook on 23rd March 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.
Look, imagine an afternoon when you settle down to listen to Parliamentary debate for eight hours (with breaks for tea and food and actually a glass of wine about 8pm because OMG) and it is interrupted by:
The Alex Salmond verdict (at least 8 out of the 13 jurors decided Not Guilty for most of the charges, Not Proven for the attempted rape charge, and a horde of sexist gits all over Scotland rose up to cheer, including, unfortunately, SNP MPs Angus MacNeil and Joanna Cherry).
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been postponed by the IOC to 2021.
Boris Johnson announced at 8:30pm that from tomorrow the UK is in lockdown.
And all the while, in the Commons, the Coronavirus Bill is passing at a gallop through the Second Reading debate, the Committee of the Full House debate, and he Third Reading vote. It’s now off to the House of Lords.
Iain Duncan Smith has resigned. The cuts to disability benefits which he approved are to be reversed++.
After 2138 days in office, after being directly implicated in more than 80 suicides, after more than 2380 people had died though Iain Duncan Smith’s system found them “fit for work”, while children go hungry and cold because of Iain Duncan Smith’s benefit sanctions on lone parents, after a jump in the death rate for the elderly and infirm unprecedented since World War II, Iain Duncan Smith has finally resigned – claiming at length that he did so because the new disability cuts brought in by Wednesday’s budget were “indefensible”.
David Cameron has now been Prime Minister of the UK since May 2010: five and a half years, five New Year messages so far.
In 2010, back when Cameron and Clegg were still pretending to be best mates, they did a joint press conference on 21st December, in which Cameron explained that the snow was a problem inherited from the previous government and Clegg assured the press that coalition meant the next election would be a very polite campaign.
The polls open in a minute, and I’ll be on my way to vote. You’ve got til 10pm tonight to vote. You don’t need a polling card or ID: you just need to be registered and to know where your polling station is. (The doors of the polling stations close at 10pm, but anyone inside at 10pm is entitled to vote. Queue properly.)
I’m voting Scottish Green.
There are five men and two women standing in my constituency, and here’s why I chose Sarah Beattie-Smith to vote for.
There were three easy rejections: UKIP, the Tories, and the LibDems.
Cheap-work conservatives don’t like human rights: for the principle of human rights, universal and indivisible, stands against the cheap-work conservative need to exploit, use, and abuse everyone less wealthy than they are or than they aspire to be.
It shouldn’t surprise us that so many cheap-work conservative MPs – of all parties – made greedy use of the MP expenses system, and regarded transparency and control of the system as a new tyranny.
Cheap-labor conservatives support every coercive and oppressive function of government, but call it “tyranny” if government does something for you – using their money, for Chrissake. Even here, cheap-labor conservatives are complete hypocrites.
We live in a country where unemployment is at 7.7% after the Department of Work and Pensions has massaged the figures to exclude unemployed people on mandatory government training schemes, and anyone sanctioned of their benefits. Foodbanks across the UK saw a surge in need during the school holidays, as families struggled to feed their children without the benefit of a free school lunch. Even by the DWP’s massaged figures, there are 2.39 millon people out of work.
I meant this post to be a compilation of a few pleasant links to celebrate Christmas, but then I got a dose of norovirus for the solstice, and if you have ever had norovirus you will understand, but if you haven’t yet: I spent Sunday feeling like complete crap, and the next couple of days recovering.
My best gift to myself was remembering that oral rehydration therapy would both be good to drink and do me good:
- 30 ml sugar : 2.5 ml salt : 1 liter water
- 2 tbl. sugar : 0.5 tsp. salt : 1 quart water
- 6 tsp. sugar : 0.5 tsp. salt : 1 liter water
ORT – simple solution of sugar and salt in water – is reckoned to be one of the biggest medical discoveries of the 20th century, which has probably saved more lives than any other. I wouldn’t have died of 24-hour norovirus: I am a strong healthy well-nourished adult. But people can die of prolonged vomiting/diarrhea due to dehydration and sodium depletion: and ORT both helps replenish fluid and the sugar solution helps the gut absorb the salt it’s losing. Although packets of ORT salts are manufactured under the supervision of WHO / UNICEF, anyone with access to water, sugar, and salt can mix up an ORT solution at home, and if you are even slightly dehydrated, it’s much safer to drink than plain water.
So, having cheered you all up: who’s going to watch The Bishop’s Wife? (BBC iPlayer til 30th December.)
Rachel Reeves became Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on 7th October, Iain Duncan Smith’s new opposite number, replacing Liam Byrne. (She was Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 7th October 2011, and she’s been MP for Leeds West since May 2010.) Her first interview as IDS’s Shadow was published in the Observer late on Saturday night – and Twitter exploded. Blogs to read: Paul Bernal’s “Dear Rachel Reeves”; Mike Sivier’s “Sort out the tax dodgers, Labour, then the benefit bill won’t be a problem”; Jayne Linney “Oh Dear Rachel Reeves – You Got it Badly Wrong!!”.
But in the shouting and the tumult, a handful of people seemed genuinely bewildered as to the problem with what Rachel Reeves had said:
Neither Andrew Spooner nor Hossylass seem to have noticed that while Rachel Reeves is enthusiastic about forcing people into “compulsory jobs”, she’s said nothing about what kind of pay those compulsory jobs will get – and she’s made clear that if you are unwilling or unable to be forced, a Labour government will just let you starve homeless.
If you have been unemployed for a year or two, you are desperate. Read Jack Monroe’s speech to the Conservative party conference. You don’t need a kick in the face, you need a job. And there aren’t enough jobs going.
Well, say the comfortable people who’ve never been there, isn’t that what Rachel Reeves is offering?
Imagine this scenario, then. A woman of 23, with a child to support, loses her job. She can’t find work. After a year, she’s summoned to the Job Centre and told that from now on, she’ll be stacking shelves in Tescos, on whatever pay the DWP choose to give her. If the pay isn’t enough to cover childcare? If the job is too far away and there’s no public transport? If she’s applied to Tesco a dozen times for a paid job and been told there were no vacancies because they can get all the compulsory labour they want from the Job Centre, no cost to themselves? If she wanted to find part-time or flexible work so that she could spend time caring for her child? Tough, says Rachel Reeves: take the compulsory job or we’re done with you, you can die on the street for all we care.
Iain Duncan Smith says:
This government has embarked on one of the most aggressive programmes of welfare reform Britain has ever seen, and we already have a proud record of achievement. There is no doubt that changes to the welfare state are desperately needed. Our reforms will put an end to people being left on sickness benefits year after year; they will eradicate the trap that has left so many better off on benefits than in work; and they will ensure the benefits bill is sustainable over the longer term.
For example, someone like Steve, permanently disabled since an accident thirteen years ago:
I suffer from fibromyalgia, depression, severe pain in the lower back and neck and constantly have to have pain relief. My left leg is useless as a leg, and will if I don’t watch it get caught under my own wheelchair wheels as I’m not always aware of where it is. My right leg is better but standing upright, for even a few seconds’ causes a massive increase in pain then, I collapse and have even passed out.
Everyone dies. Nothing’s sure but death and taxes.
In general, over decades of the NHS and welfare support and help for disabled people, people have been living longer. Since the first Coalition government spending review, cuts on spending have targeted the poor and disabled.
The DWP’s own figures say:
The prevalence of disability rises with age. Around 6 per cent of children are disabled, compared to 16 per cent of working age adults* and 45 per cent of adults over State Pension age in Great Britain.
In 2008/09, 16% of pensioner households were living in poverty.
Esther McVey, the minister for disabled people, told the Mail on Sunday in March this year that in her view many of the people receiving disability didn’t really need it:
“Only three per cent of people are born with a disability, the rest acquire it through accident or illness, but people come out of it. Thanks to medical advances, bodies heal.”
Mortality rates have been falling steadily for years. There was a blip upwards in 2003, but it was followed by a blip downwards in 2004 – no overall change in the general trend downwards. Since the beginning of 2012, mortality among older people has been rising steadily, and has continued to rise in 2013.
[Note: The government have since decided to ensure no further evidence is published that could evidence a general trend upward by abolishing the Public Health England reports.]