I’m not well at the moment and supposed to be resting, but I must make some comment on record regarding the disgraceful behaviour yesterday in parliament of Priti Patel and Iain Duncan Smith, such is my utter disbelief, disgust and outrage.
For example, Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Labour) asked the very reasonable question:
“The Government’s own data show that people in the work-related activity group are twice as likely to die than the general population. How can the Secretary of State justify £30-a-week cuts for people in that category?”
Duncan Smith made a petty and vindictive retort to avoid answering the question:
“The hon. Lady put out a series of blogs on the mortality stats last week that were fundamentally wrong. Her use of figures is therefore quite often incorrect. I simply say to her—[Interruption.] She has had an offer to meet the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson), time and again, but she just wants to sit in the bitter corner screaming abuse.”
Hardly a reasonable and adult response to a very reasonable question, which wasn’t anything remotely like “screaming abuse” as claimed. In light of the many official public rebukes that the Tories have faced for telling lies and using fake statistics, and given the fact that the Government face a United Nations inquiry regarding the fact that their welfare “reforms” are incompatible with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, it’s truly remarkable that Priti Patel and Iain Duncan Smith have the cheek to call disability campaigners “thugs” and imply the opposition MPs are “liars”, when they are faced with valid concerns and founded criticisms regarding the consequences of their draconian policies.
This said, a well-known bullying tactic is projection of the bully’s own inadequacies and nasty traits onto their victims to cover their tracks. Scapegoating is used to divert public attention, to discredit the victims and invalidate their experience of bullying and to justify the bully’s own vicious actions towards their targets. It’s so telling that bullies always accuse others of the very things that they themselves are guilty of.
Rather than do the decent, democratic thing and organise an independent inquiry into the Work Capability Assessment related deaths of sick and disabled people, and carry out a legally required cumulative impact assessment of their nasty, punitive and cruel welfare “reforms”, the Tories prefer to simply loudly and repeatedly deny that there is any correlation between their policies and the increased mortality statistics, released recently by the Department of Work and Pensions, following the order of the Information commissioner and a tribunal ruling.
Debbie Abrahams, amongst others, had raised concerns regarding the recent mortality statistics release, as well as calling for an inquiry into the cruel sanctions regime that is leaving people without their lifeline benefits, and too often, without the means of meeting basic survival needs. The aggression, malice, defensive diversionary tactics and lack of capacity for rational response that Patel and Duncan Smith demonstrated was frankly far beyond disgusting: it was frightening.
These ministers are sneering, dishonourable, dishonest and callous Social Darwinist stains in British political history and they need removing from the position of power that they occupy, simply on the grounds that they are formulating and continually justifying policies that cause harm, distress, and sometimes, terrible and tragic consequences for sick and disabled people. That they demonstrate such a fundamental lack of concern for the welfare of UK citizens and persist in their refusal to accept that there is even a possibility that Tory policies may be causing harm to ill and disabled people is a very damning indictment.
Yet these ministers have no grounds whatsoever for their claims that there is no provable causal link between their policies and the increase in mortality, because the correlation is shown by their own record of statistics. The same statistics that they fought very hard to withhold.
Denial, sneering and directing malice at anyone who raises concerns and by accusing everyone else of being liars does not constitute a reasoned debate, as is expected of a government, nor does it count as empirical evidence of the claims being made by Tory ministers.
So it’s absolutely priceless comment from Patel and Duncan Smith that opposition ministers, who have raised concerns and cited cases of extreme hardship and tragic deaths many times – all recorded on the Hansard record, as well as in the media – that are clearly correlated with the welfare “reforms,” are “liars” and are “misrepresenting statistics” by the despicable liar Iain Duncan Smith.
It’s very reasonable to raise concerns about policies that are damaging people. It’s unreasonable of the government to deny those concerns have any legitimacy, despite evidence to the contrary. Many of us have gone through the Tory-reformed Work Capability Assessment more than once and know only too well what a dreadfully stressful experience it is, and how the strain tends to exacerbate illness, only to be dismissed by the Tories and told that the accounts we have provided and the cases we present as evidence of the urgent need for investigation are merely “anecdotal”.
Yet when the government talk of “scroungers”, the “workshy”, “generations of ‘worklessness’”, a “culture of entitlement”, a “something for nothing culture”, we are expected to accept that at face value as “empirical evidence”. With no offer of reasoned discussion.
The Tories are masters at closing down crucial open and democratic debate, which worries me greatly. This is not a government that models responsible and accountable behaviours towards UK citizens, or the opposition parties, for that matter.
With further debate about the assisted dying Bill due in parliament, one Tory minister said: “ We have to legislate on behalf of the weak and vulnerable”. However, the Tories’ track record on policies aimed at the weak and vulnerable is hardly shining with compassion and good intention.
This is a government that doesn’t provide adequate support for many sick and disabled people to live, so I doubt it has the capacity for the compassionate administration of assisted dying. It’s a government that prefers to simply scapegoat rather than support social groups and dismiss them as some kind of “burden on the state”. How could we be sure that “euthanasia” won’t simply become another Tory method of reducing welfare and healthcare costs?
Yet most sick and disabled people have worked and paid for their own support provision. And for those that have been unable to work, any civilised country would choose to support them, rather than direct malice at them. I don’t think this is a good context to debate euthanasia – with such an untrustworthy and unreasonable government in power and with their history of draconian policies, and rationing of health care and welfare for those most in need of support. Such class-directed rationing of services and the systematic closing down of access to support is very clearly underpinned by Social Darwinist ideology.
In fact I am very worried because history has taught us that there’s a very steep, slippery slope from euthanasia to eugenics.
As I have discussed elsewhere, the point-blank refusal to enter into an open debate and allow an open, independent inquiry into the deaths that are correlated with Tory policy is extremely worrying and reflects a callous, irrational and undemocratic government that draws on a toxic and implicit eugenicist ideology and presents a distinctly anti-enlightenment, impervious epistemological fascism from which to formulate justification narratives for their draconian policies, in order to avoid democratic accountability and to deflect well-reasoned and justified criticism.
This is not the conduct expected of a government of a very wealthy, so-called first-world liberal democracy. It’s not the behaviour of accountable, responsible, decent, moral, rational and reasonable people, either.
Pictures courtesy of Robert Livingstone
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