Dodgy Dave’s support remains as strong as ever…

There’s a lot of surprise evident this morning, particularly on Twitter, that the Conservative vote held up so well last night. There shouldn’t be. After all, survey after survey has shown that Cameron, lying sack of shit though he is, has the support of around 50% of the country, including the entire readerships of the Telegraph and the Mail, I suspect.

This is why I keep insisting that, although the demos and protests are absolutely necessary, it’s going to be a long war of attrition – there is not going to be Continue reading

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Say Yes to AV – just don’t expect a change of government…

Is there a plague of stupidity affecting the British electorate?

I ask because a stupefyingly large number of people, in blogs, on Twitter, in newspapers – pretty much everywhere – seem to have convinced themselves that the AV referendum is a general election.

I have a pretty poor view of the electorate, as a whole, at the best of times (if you made being able to Continue reading

Power to the people? No thanks…

Cameron, apparently, is attempting to woo Nick Clegg with an offer of an electoral reform referendum. I have a serious problem with that.

If you went into the city centre, and bumped off, say, 20 people at random, the average IQ of the country would probably go up, the reason being – and I know this is going to sound elitist, but what the hell – that the average person is not especially bright. More so when taken out of their comfort zone and asked to consider something which is alien to them (i.e., not football-related).

The situation is, in a less extreme form (for now), not too dissimilar Continue reading

Political insanity…

Latest news – Cleggy has said the LibDems will support the Tories on the Queen’s Speech, the Budget, and Votes of Confidence, but not on anything else.

In what sane universe does a majority on, perhaps, 3 days a year constitute an overall majority?

Hopefully the queen will tell Cameron to bugger off.

Fred Goodwin now, but who’s next?

Retired banker Sir Fred Goodwin may be odious, he maybe personally responsible for at least part of RBS’s financial meltdown, and his pension is obscene, but it is perfectly legal. Yet the government look set to relieve him of it (and where will the money go, I wonder?).

Really, I have serious problems with the idea of the government changing the law just because they disapprove of something. Continue reading

Sick & Disabled? You’re screwed…

James Purnell, fuckwit, er, Work & Pensions Secretary, said, on the Today program this morning, that a white paper being published today will create a system where “virtually everyone has to do something in return for their benefits”. Only the most severely disabled will not have to do some kind of work for their money. The plans, if they survive parliament, will come into force in 2010. This is, they say, putting an end to the “money for nothing culture”. Are they insane? My Incapacity Benefit is way below the official poverty level, at £95.90 a week – who would live on that if they really didn’t have to? It is NOT money for nothing – it’s money because I am not able to work and earn my own money – if I was able to, and earn a lot more money, even on the minimum wage, do they seriously think I wouldn’t?

Purnell, revealing how insanely out of touch with the real world he is, said “These reforms will transform peoples’ lives.” Bloody right they will – very much for the worse. Just watch the suicide rate soar. Bankers get billions of of pounds of taxpayers money, and still pay themselves huge bonuses, while the most vulnerable members of society are persecuted. Where’s the justice in that? He also went on to say “…our reforms put the individual, and their needs, at the heart of the welfare system.” No, they won’t. Do not believe for one moment that this is for your benefit. Purnell is motivated by one thing, and one thing only – reducing the Incapacity Benefit bill. Most people forced into work will end up on the dole, and that, for someone with no hope of being able to work, is totally unacceptable.

This is the killer, though:-

“We will give people the support they need and in return we will have higher expectations on people to take up that support. I believe it is wrong to have a welfare system which doesn’t encourage people to prepare for or get back to work. In future virtually everyone will be expected to do something in return for their benefits.”

How is forcing people, too ill or disabled to work, into some sort of make-work scheme – because, let’s face it, that’s all there’s going to be – in any way whatsoever “support”. If we were able to work we wouldn’t be on fucking benefit in the first place – what part of this does this asshole Purnell have trouble understanding?

Disregarding the insanity and immorality of such a policy – not to mention the sheer impossibility of it – where’s the work? We’re deep in recession, there simply aren’t enough jobs for the able-bodied, thousands more jobs are lost every week, so what are the sick and disabled supposed to do, and who, in their right mind, would employ someone, like me, who hasn’t been able to work in any meaningful way since 1982, and at all since 1986?

Let’s not forget, either, that single parents are also going to be forced into non-existent jobs, yet childcare is either ruinously expensive or simply unavailable – how the hell is that going to work?

Let’s consider my situation, because that’s what I know about – I’m sitting here, starting to type this at 09.00, in my jim-jams, waiting to feel well enough to get washed, shaved and dressed, which may happen in the next hour; I’m taking a course of Amoxyl for respiratory and intestinal infections, and I feel like shit – and this is a good day.

I spend a couple of hours each day blogging, but that’s not work, and despite a reasonable typing speed, other factors mean it can take me a couple of hours to type, say, 1,000 words, but one thing I can’t do is go out to work.

On the days I’m able to get out (and, until I get out of bed in the morning, I have no idea what I’m going to be capable of, so making any sort of plans is impossible), I’m not ready to leave home until around 11.00 – anyone expecting me to start work at 08.00 or 09.00 is going to be gravely disappointed. Using public transport is something I only do in exceptional circumstances, like when I have no money for taxis (going to the doctor, 5 minutes away, is a £7 return trip – taxis are ferociously expensive). There are several reasons for this – I’m not able to stand for extended periods, so having to wait for a bus isn’t possible. If I do get a bus – the local service actually stops right outside – it’s fraught with danger. Since its inception the bus route has been extended twice, but the permitted time hasn’t been changed. The result, despite notices exhorting passengers to remain seated until the bus has stopped, is that drivers drive like maniacs, hurtling away from stops when the passengers are barely onboard, never mind seated – using buses is dangerous for those of us who use crutches, as I do, due to a lack of spare hands to hang on with.

Taxis are out – unless an employer pays. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. If I used taxis for everything I have to do – instead of scrounging lifts – my taxi bill would be around £60 a week. If I had to use them every day, that would probably triple. Who pays, because it’s sure as hell not going to be me.

Then there’s the killer – I am not able to go out to work, not ever, not under any circumstances – it’s physically impossible, and yet I am not what this poxy government would class as severely disabled. No, scratch that – I am severely disabled, and with an illness with only one prognosis, an early and painful death, but I work very hard, at considerable physical cost, at trying to live as normal a life as possible which, to be fair, isn’t very normal, but it’s way better than just giving up and waiting to die. If push comes to shove, though, I’ll simply stop trying, because there will be absolutely no point.

Ok, that’s the practicalities out of the way – what about the morality? It is actually against the law for a disability benefit claimant to undertake any activity that may make them worse – that’s a condition of the benefit claim. How, then, will making the sick and disabled work for their poverty-level benefits not make them worse? It’d certainly make me a hell of a lot worse.

And what work would we do? Breaking rocks? Picking oakum? What? Any job worth having already has an incumbent, not to mention a queue of able-bodied workers, many with families, who want that job and who in any sane society would take precedence. Sweeping the streets, then? Nope, someone already does that. Whatever jobs the sick & disabled are capable of doing (my skills are considerable, but out of date and physically impossible, for the most part) – and they, realistically, are few – someone is already doing them, and the growing roster of the unemployed has first dibs.

Then there’s pay. If I were able to work, the minimum wage would get me about £240 a week for a full-time job, before deductions. No fucking way am I going to do that – even if I could – for £95.90 a week in Incapacity Benefit (the government’s avowed aim is that almost no-one gets benefits for nothing), and to expect me to do so is insane and utterly immoral.

DLA mobility, by the way, is payable whether you work or not, it’s money for transportation.

Of course, many people unable to work because of illness or disability do have the ability to do a job – but no-one will employ them because they have poor sick leave records, which was, initially, the case with me – before I developed ME and was signed off permanently, I’d never worked a full year in my life, and in my final working year, 1981, I had 6 months sick leave for the second year in succession because of my COPD. I was unemployable, which angered me at the time but, with hindsight, I wouldn’t have employed someone like me, no matter how good they were. And I was very good at my job, which was why I survived for so long, but there are limits.

A GP, interviewed on Radio 2 a short while ago, said that the government’s pernicious scheme was a good thing, as it would enable sick and disabled people who wanted to work to do so. Maybe, but how will it work? And how many such people are there, really?

Wanting to work if someone will have you is one thing, being able to work effectively is something else – I’d love to work for an employer who would pay me, say, £12,000 a year for working 3 hours a day (my travel costs would be the same for a few hours or a whole day), allow me to take off the entire flu season – a time when I simply will not, on medical advice, use public transport (did I mention that my immune system sucks?) – and allow me, perhaps, another month or two sick leave over what remains of the year. A ludicrous idea, obviously, and but that’s the only way I’d be able to work,

Will the government bribe employers to take on these people? Possibly, but that would be highly unethical while there is a single unemployed person available who can do that job without bribery. And wouldn’t such bribery, whether in cash or tax breaks, simply ramp up the costs they claim to want to reduce?

Of course, I think we all know who the first victims of this scheme are going to be – the mentally ill, because (a) they’re a soft target, and (b) they are at least physically able to work – and that’s all that will matter to the DWP storm troopers. That their mental health will be wrecked, possibly beyond all hope of recovery, will count for nothing.

These are just proposals right now, and have to go through the parliamentary process (though Labour have sidestepped this system in the past, and may well do so again – cast you mind back, and remember, over the past 11 years, how many new laws have been announced while parliament wasn’t in session – there are a few). But let’s assume they’ll put this abortion of a bill to parliament, then that’s when it can be killed in the Commons. I urge all of you to write to your MP, expressing your displeasure at these proposals, and urging him/her to vote against this appalling bill. Do it now.

Oh, and it goes without saying that Jeremy Vine, twat extraordinaire, is going to give us all a kicking during his show today. You think it’ll be a balanced debate? Don’t know why you’d think that – Vine is the BBC’s Daily Mail equivalent.

Incapacity Benefit – the lies…

Sicknote culture costs risen to £16bn a year … but two-thirds of claimants ARE able to work screamed the headline in the Daily Mail and, as so often with the Mail, it’s complete bullshit.

The scumbag Mail hack, Steve Doughty, goes on to say “Many claim to suffer from mental or behavioural disorders, in other words, stress,”. Lumping the entire spectrum of mental illness together and just calling it stress is an opinion so crass that the only sensible response would be a bloody good kicking, with a swift prayer to whatever gods there may be that Doughty succumbs to a hugely disabling mental illness as soon as possible, and that everyone he goes whining to tells him to bugger off, it’s just stress!

There is, it seems, a great deal of paranoia over the fact that many Incapacity Benefit claimants are 35 or under, as if there’s some magic cut-off age, below which you can’t possibly be disablingly ill. Complete bollocks, of course. When I left school, having been seriously ill since the age of 2, and missed about a third of my schooling (though I still did moderately well academically – well, as well as you could do in a secondary school in 1959), I was told by my doctor, that I must never work, as the risks of infection were too great, but if I felt I had to, I must never work in the winter. Advice, almost 50 years on, I wish I had taken. So you see, age is no bar to disability – just ask all the disabled children.

I started work the day after I left school – no gap years in those days, folks, we had to get out and earn a living – and worked until I became unable to continue, in my forties, during which time I lost almost every job I ever had through excessive sick leave. I have no compunction at all about claiming Incapacity Benefit (or DLA), though I have to say that the attractions of poverty are minimal. Luckily, I have a frugal lifestyle, or I’d not be able to afford luxuries like food, or clothes! Seriously, I do live frugally – if I had three meals a day, instead of just one, I’d really feel the pinch.

For the record, Incapacity Benefit amounts to approximately £4,500 per year, with minor variations depending on previous earnings. With DLA it comes in at something over £7,000 a year, depending on the rates of DLA claimed (compared to a minimum wage annual rate of around £11,500). This is, by any definition, poverty, yet we’re asked to believe that people in their many thousands are fraudulently claiming this when they could be working (I could, perhaps, more readily believe it if the claim was that they were working as well, but it’s not).

Before you start screaming that the minimum wage isn’t a fair comparison, bear in mind that income tax would be minimal – in fact there may well be tax credits – so I think it’s fair enough. After all, we all have the same outgoings – in fact, the disabled, being in many cases housebound, will have higher heating and lighting costs as they’re not out at work all day. So if the constant cry that the minimum wage isn’t high enough is credible – and it is – what does that say for benefit rates?

Here’s something that’ll wind up Daily Mail fruitcakes – readers and writers – I get free prescriptions. If I didn’t the bill would be £1,363.20 per year minimum. No doubt pillocks like Doughty would far rather I footed the bill myself, but at least getting older has some benefits. Mind you, that’s been a bone of contention most of my life. I have a life-threatening illness** that, without constant medication, would very likely kill me, yet like very many people in my position, until I turned 60 I couldn’t get free prescriptions. I could if I had one of a wide variety of unpleasant, painful but not necessarily life-threatening conditions, but not for one that at best could drastically shorten my life, and at worst could kill me at any time (if I live to draw my pension I’ll take that as a win – 2 years to go, watch this space!). That was, and continues to be, completely unacceptable.

Ah well, I seem to have wandered off the point, but those things are relevant to the chronically sick and disabled. But to get back to the alleged fraud, and the scale of it, which in my view is minuscule – we’ve been here before, with DLA some years ago, and many thousands of sick and disabled people had their lives blighted by Benefits Agency storm troopers, to find just a few “frauds”, and many of them were overturned on appeal. The level of benefits fraud claimed by wankers at the Daily Mail, and by failing politicians, eager to drum up the support of the more rabid sectors of their electorates (yes, you, Gordon, ya great gowk), just isn’t there.

There’s a very simple check – compare benefit records with tax and national insurance records. If many thousands of people are working and claiming, a lot will turn up in that search. Has that ever been done? To the best of my knowledge, no. On the other hand, maybe it has been done, and so few fraudsters were caught, just as with DLA, that it was hushed up as embarrassing and, of course, contradicting government propaganda (Goebbels would have loved these fuckers!).

So here’s a challenge for the Daily Mail – instead of publishing lies, distortions, and prejudice, SHOW US THE EVIDENCE! Or – and here’s an original thought, guys – get off your fat, overpaid arses and come and talk to us, the people you fuckwits are continually demonising – we ARE real people you know, not just cyphers. The crap you publish is seriously detrimental to us as individuals, and were it addressed to an individual instead of a faceless group, would quite definitely be libellous.

** From the age of 2 I had bronchiectasis and asthma – simultaneous measles and whooping cough really did a number on my lungs (note to idiot parents; get your kids vaccinated!!) – and at 17 was told I’d be doing well to get to 40. This, now I’m older and have emphysema, is all lumped together as COPD which, despite what many people think, is not exclusive to smokers – it is exacerbated by them, though! If smoking in the workplace had been banned 40 years earlier, I’d be a lot better than I am now.

Email to the Prime Minister…

The following has been sent to the Prime Minister today. Do I think it will actually reach him? No, not at all, but at a time when he, and his cabinet, are scrabbling for ways to impress the electorate, somebody may take notice, so I figured that by sending it now there was slightly less chance of it sinking without trace than normal.

Sir,

Like all legitimate Incapacity Benefit claimants, I deeply resent being demonised by your government (I have a condition from which I cannot recover, and which will kill me sooner rather than later – it doesn’t stop the DWP harassing me, though). However, I resented this even more when I discovered (in the context of Polish migrants, though it presumably affects all EU nationalities), that migrants working here legally, and paying their taxes, are entitled to claim Child Benefit for children who are back at home in their native country.

Checking this out online showed that this is perfectly legal, but here’s a thought – perhaps it shouldn’t be. At a time when your government is happy to encourage the persecution of UK citizens who, for reasons beyond their control are no longer able to work, this surely needs to be changed? Persecution? Yes, indeed; have you read the Daily Mail on the subject of IB, or listened to the egregious and fundamentally mendacious Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2? If you had, and you were in my position, you’d feel persecuted too.

Closing this loophole is, surely, a better way of making savings than by making the lives of me, and a great many others like me, even more miserable than they already are.

Immature oiks…

The most politically significant state visit for centuries, putting an end to seven hundred years of political rivalry and, all too frequently, outright war between Britain (note for pedants – I know that, historically, the conflict has been with England), and France is taking place right now. And what are the newspapers full of? Pictures of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, that’s what – pages and pages of them – which no doubt gives our European colleagues the not entirely erroneous impression that UK newspapers are run by a bunch of 12-year-old wankers (apart from the age, this is, in fact, the case with the Daily Mail and the Sun).

There’s no doubt that Mrs. Bruni-Sarkozy is an absolute babe, and sexy as hell, but right now, the important thing is what her husband had to say about building a union between France and Britain. There can be no doubt that he’s committed to this course of action, the only question is whether or not the government can stop drooling over Carla long enough to seize the moment, and not piss about so much that Sarkozy gets brassed off and goes to talk to the Germans. I’m not putting money on it…