The unbelievable stupidity of James Purnell (and that’s being polite)…

I’ve referred to Purnell here, before, as a fuckwit (and had someone complain about it, though not to me), but I make no apology for the word. It’s the worst thing I can say here that won’t have the libel lawyers banging on my door, or getting WordPress to demolish my blog (a process against which there is no appeal, according to their ToS – that’s fundamentally wrong, guys, it really is).

He does not, though, when it comes to the abilities of chronically sick and disabled people, have the slenderest grasp of the realities of the situation, nor do his Labour colleagues who have mostly embraced his numb-nuts plans without quibble (it’s nice to see they’re going belly-up, as I mentioned on Sunday). However, the plans haven’t really gone away, the companies who are implementing them just want more money – as if that will magically create jobs where there are none, and make us all, in some miraculous way, fit for work.

The clue to your error, Mr. Purnell, is in the words “chronically sick and disabled”; we simply are incapable of work (if we were not, why would we suffer the sub-poverty-level benefits on offer, and the indignities of the application system?). And from here on, I’m going to be talking about myself, as my disability is the one of which I have the most intimate experience – and it would be improper to discuss someone else anyway. For the record, and for people new to this blog, I have severe COPD (I’ve had the precursors to COPD, asthma and bronchiectasis, all my life; I’ve never smoked); I was struck by lightning in 1983, which damaged most of my joints, literally fried my feet, and caused some CNS damage; I’ve had often severe ME/CFS since 1985; I have widespread osteo arthritis, probably thanks to the lightning strike, and I am losing the sight in my right eye. And Purnell believes I should work for my benefits!

So, yes, I can blog, but I do that from the comfort of my own home, where I can retreat to my bed when necessary, and where all my meds are close at hand (my drugs, by the way, except for a handful of inhalers that go everywhere with me, occupy a large, fly-tying toolbox – no way I’m toting that anywhere!). There’s a compartmentalised tray for small parts, that I use for current meds, while underneath, the storage compartment holds my stock – it’s a system that works very well, and if I’m ever hauled off to hospital, it’s a matter of seconds to close up the box and bring it along. That’s the theory anyway.

I spend a lot of time sitting in front of this computer (the operative word being “sitting”), blogging, reading, surfing, and I can do that because it requires minimal effort (I even use a trackball, as moving a mouse around is painful). It could be argued – and no doubt Purnell has done so – that if I, and others like me, can do this, we can go out to work, and do something similar for someone else. No, Mr. Purnell, we bloody well can’t.

Why? Well, for a start, I can’t travel, except by taxi, which means only short distances as they’re ferociously expensive (visiting my doctor, a ten-minute walk away – assuming I could – is a £7 round trip by taxi, which is quite absurd). I haven’t been more than 10 miles from home in over 4 years, and that was when I was able to drive, so how can I possibly travel to work?

Let’s consider the question of getting up to go to work. I take my meds at 05.00, then go back to bed. I’m doing well if I’m then able to get up by 08.00, at which time my meds have kicked in, but so have the side-effects of extreme nausea and a killer headache, after which it takes me around 3 hours to get ready – if I’m going out (a twice-a-week treat at the moment, and then only to the pub for lunch and a few drinks – something else I can do while sitting down!). When I was well (actually, never well, but better than I am now – with the benefit of hindsight, I should have heeded medical advice and never worked, I’m sure my health would be a lot better now had I not), I’d have to get up at 06.00 to be sure of being at work for 09.00, even though I never worked more than 8-10 miles from home – these days I’d have to be up so early it would hardly be worth going to bed.

Assuming I can get up, and we’ve got past the travel problem – how, I’ve no idea; maybe the DWP would pay my taxi fares, because I’m sure as hell not using public transport – once I got to my place of work, there could well be access problems. I refuse to use steps, it’s just too painful, and I can’t use stairs at all; not only are they painful and exhausting, they’re dangerous.

Then there’s the actual work. I’m having a spectacularly bad day today – I can’t spell, or concentrate, and putting these words on the page is a major challenge right now – what I’m mostly doing is staring blankly at the screen and wondering why my heart is behaving so strangely (throwing PVCs* as if they were going out of fashion – my doctor assures me they’re harmless; I’m not convinced, especially as I’ve never been able to get them investigated).  That’s OK when I’m doing my own thing, here, when I can just wait for things to return to normal (for a given value of normal, anyway), but if I’m working for someone else then it wouldn’t go down very well. Nor would my need to knock off for a rest in the afternoon.

*PVCs = premature ventricular contractions.

Let’s say, though, that all the obstacles have been overcome, and I turn up for my first day’s work and, let’s say miracles happen, and it all goes well. Looks good, doesn’t it? In reality it wouldn’t happen, and if it did, putting in one day’s work would guarantee that there wouldn’t be a second day. In fact, putting in a single, 8-hour day would probably trigger a relapse that would put me out of action for – well, for who knows how long.

I’m in a relapse phase now – 2 years and counting. The indications are that I’m starting to improve, and I think that’s at least in part due to the fact I didn’t have my flu jab last autumn (I was too ill to go to the surgery, and the one day I was well enough to go out was the day they scheduled a home visit; at an hour’s notice, so I missed that too, I was already on my way out). The flu vaccine always triggers a relapse, of varying severity. Some years I feel crappy for a few weeks, others I’m out of it for the entire winter and sometimes even longer. While I’m aware that not having it means I could die (I didn’t have it last year, either, and came too close to that point for comfort – and that’s not hyperbole), I feel very strongly, sometimes, that the risk is worth it for the sake of not feeling like shit for months on end.

So that’s just me, but there are many thousands of people at least as ill, or worse (I don’t know what the actual numbers are for Incapacity Benefit and DLA claimants – I can’t find any), and yet Purnell thinks we are able to put all this sort of stuff behind us just because he says we should. Frankly, that idea is so bizarre, and failing to intersect, even tangentially, with the real world, that it’s insane.

Nearly as insane as this, from Hansard, Written Answers to Questions. Monday 2 February 2009:-

Peter Lilley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has for future arrangements for assistance offered by his Department to long-term recipients of incapacity benefit. [253036]

James Purnell: We have already invested heavily to support existing incapacity benefit customers into work, by ensuring they can volunteer for any appropriate back to work support available in Pathways to Work. Our recent White Paper announced a strong package of new initiatives to provide further support to this group, including pilots of new innovative approaches such as the ‘invest to save’ pathfinders recommended by David Freud.


That, by the way, is the same David Freud whose widely-publicised rant about Incapacity Benefit claimants in the Telegraph (seized upon rabidly by the fascists at the Daily Mail), was entirely untrue – I wouldn’t trust this bugger to tell me it was Wednesday tomorrow! Doesn’t that just fill you with the warm glow of confidence? Nope, though not… Oh, and for “further support” feel free to read “increasing persecution”. And look at that first sentence – he really has no idea at all, does he? Or, and let’s be fair here, because it’s probably the truth, he is undoubtedly fully aware of what he’s doing, the damage to people’s lives and well-being he’s causing, and of Freud’s past mendacity (I’d like to think it was stupidity, and a one-off, but hey…), and doesn’t give a shit.

Read about Freud’s unfamiliarity with the truth here.

4 thoughts on “The unbelievable stupidity of James Purnell (and that’s being polite)…

  1. Ron, I agree with so much of what you say. To save repeating your views, here is what I would like to say to James Purnell myself.

    Dear James Purnell,
    I wanted to write to say what sterling work you are doing in the fight to get scroungers and wastrels off benefits and back to work. I think the idea of using lie-detectors in DWP offices is a brilliant move. I would like to say, though, that you don’t make as much of this approach as you could. I’m sure you can see that, with the deepening recession, the country can no longer afford to keep lazy people sitting on their sofas watching daytime TV, so you need to push ahead and remain steadfast, even if unemployment is increasing and the jobs aren’t there.
    Your assistant, David Freud, took three weeks to learn what he needed to about Incapacity Benefit, and come up with his plan. This was an amazing piece of work, if you don’t mind me saying so. But I think you might find that there would be a better way of saving money on benefits, than paying up to £60,000 to the private sector for getting one unemployed person into work. It seems to me that there are many people out there who are already really good at spotting work-shy, thieving scroungers, and these are largely to be found among the readership of the Sun and the Daily Mail newspapers. I think you would do well to employ some of these people – the expense of employing them would be considerably less than the sum David Freud is suggesting. Also, these people are already out there, and, from reading the comments and blogs, it is clear they would be enthusiastic workers, and able to diagnose perfect health far better than most doctors, but with no training costs whatsoever.
    The next stage, however, that you have not apparently considered, is to roll this out into hospitals. After all, there are many people sitting up in hospital beds, chatting to their family and visitors. I think that if someone is well enough to sit up in bed and smile, and able to get to the toilet, they are not really sick and should be sent home and told to get back to work. You could back this up with the lie-detector software. If it was installed in every GP’s surgery – it could easily be running in the background – and the patient said he had a really bad pain in his stomach, for example, the doctor would be able to see whether he was lying or exaggerating. If he seemed not to be telling the truth, the doctor could reasonably refuse to treat him: after all, if you are not sick, you don’t need treatment. This would result in massive savings for the NHS. I am surprised that you haven’t thought of this yet, but I suppose you are taking a softly-softly approach so that people don’t get wise to what is going on. Announcing the use of lie detectors in the Queen’s Speech hardly raised a murmur. Obviously that unpleasant Damian Green affair happened at just the right moment really.
    Anyway, once you have sorted out the problem with so-called sick people, there is another logical stage to go to. I think that, once people have got used to the use of lie-detectors in GPs’ surgeries, attention should be turned to the dead. After all, even dead people should be able to do something. I see from the press that there is a national shortage of lollypop men and women. A dead person would be perfect for a job like this, as they could be propped up with the lollipop in their hands, and could swivel in the wind, thus giving the children a chance to cross the road, until the lollipop person swivelled back again. I am afraid, however, that the current fashion for cremation deprives the country of many possible workers, and should be deplored. The laziness of the dead is quite shocking, they seem to expect just to lie there while everyone else does the work, and are even apparently capable of asking for cremation in order to cheat the rest of us out of their contribution to society. And you can’t get much lower than that.
    Anyway, I hope my ideas have been of interest to you. I personally think the sun shines out of you backside, and you obviously do too, so at least we are in agreement about that. I would like to wish you good luck in your future career, and wish you continued health and financial security, and hope you will never suffer from bad health or poverty. Possibly dropping dead at fifty after never missing a day’s work would be the best way to go. It’s a shame more people out there can’t see the sense in doing just that and have to mess things up by their selfish and thoughtless decline into poverty and ill-health.
    Yours Sincerely,
    R Slicker

    • Good point about the dead – shame it wasn’t mine! Ah well . . .

      We would all do well to remember, though, that the policies of the present government are those originally cobbled up by Purnell and his partner in mendacity, David Freud, now roosting at the DWP as Lord Freud.

Comments are closed.