Category: Campaign

Centre for Welfare Reform calls for citizen convention to develop rights-driven constitutional reform

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Last month, the Centre for Welfare Reform (CWR) launched a new campaign, calling for constitutional reform to combat a political system that serves only the interests of the few.

The CWR, working with a broad alliance of different organisations, is calling for a citizens’ convention in order to develop a better constitution for the UK. The Centre have published an open letter calling for change:

Open Letter on Constitutional Reform: A new settlement between people and government is needed. We need a written constitution.

We, the undersigned, work to bring about a better, fairer society. However we have come to see that our efforts are compromised by an economic and political system that serves only the interests of the few. Every day we see grotesque inequality, poverty wages and rising consumer debt, over-powerful banks and energy companies, a housing crisis, and disregard for environmental standards. Worst of all we see a retreating welfare state that inflicts punitive sanctions on some of our most vulnerable people and communities.

Multiple injustices at home are mirrored by a deeply unethical foreign policy. Rather than promote peace, uphold human rights and democratic norms, our foreign policy is dominated by commercial imperatives which include lucrative arms sales to countries with repressive regimes and abysmal human rights records.

None of these crises can be resolved without reference to basic principles of economic, social and environmental justice and these in turn should not be separate from the legislative principles that guide the work of Parliament.

To make this happen, we need a new settlement between people and government in the form of a written constitution that embeds a comprehensive bill of human rights, including economic, social and environmental rights. It must delimit the power of Parliament by devolving real power to the regions and nations that make up the UK and place local government on an independent legal footing. Only then can ordinary people gain real control over their lives and shape their own future. The people, not Parliament, must be the new sovereign and a written constitution is the means to achieve that.

We therefore call for a Citizens’ Convention on a written constitution as the first step towards this goal.

Anyone wishing to add their support to this campaign can do so by contacting Gavin Barker from the Centre for Welfare Reform.

You can also read Gavin’s excellent article here: Why the UK Needs a Written Constitution

Neoliberalism works to support a politically powerful and influential minority to accumulate wealth by steadily dispossessing the majority of citizens. This has implications for social justice, human rights and democracy. The idea that the market is somehow a neutral mechanism through which the sum of individual choices will lead to progress has been seriously challenged by empirical evidence that demonstrates clearly how neoliberalism has led to social, political and economic regression, as our post- war settlement has been systematically dismantled.

As a researcher and campaigner against austerity, inequality, social injustice and political authoritarianism, and as also, as someone who recognises that neoliberalism is utterly incompatible with democracy and a human rights framework, Politics and Insights welcomes and supports this campaign.  

The current government believes that some people are ‘better than others’, and deserve more wealth. The neoliberal view of a meritocratic society has simply reconstructed the traditional Conservative defence of order, authority and discipline (but only for the poorest citizens) and has simply reimposed their view of a hierarchical ‘natural order.’

The political justification presented for this is the mistaken belief that socioeconomic inequality is desirable, as it somehow ‘incentivises’ people to achieve more. However, historic empirical research indicates that achievement and human potential are stifled when people have to struggle to meet their basic need for food, fuel and shelter. 

We are told that we are free to choose the course of our lives, but the freedom to make decisions outside the narrow narrative of ‘success’ is limited. Furthermore, those who fail are deemed to be ‘losers’ or ‘scroungers’, and defined as a burden on the state.

Neoliberals would have us believe that success depends on individual effort and talents, meaning responsibility lies entirely with the individual and authorities should give people as much freedom as possible to achieve this goal. For those who believe in the myth of unrestricted choice, self-government, self-responsibility, self-discipline and self-management are the mantra. For those who don’t, well there is a team of behavioural economists employed by the Government who are running social experiments without your consent, looking for ways of aligning your behaviour with neolberal outcomes. Choices become choice, our ‘best interests’ are ultimately being defined by the state and a handful of self appointed technocrats and “choice architects”.

Along with the idea that wealthy people are cognitively competent, but the rest of us are not, the freedom of choice we are told we have in the UK is the greatest untruth of our age. Competitive individualism invariably means a few win and many more lose. That is the nature of competition, after all. Inequality is built into the meritocratic script. It’s also built into our laws. Along with growing material inequality, the distribution of power in our society has also never been more unequal in our lifetime. Imposing an economic system that benefits so few requires an authoritarian Government, which, despite its ‘small state’ narrative, has become increasingly intrusive on a personal and psychological level over the last few years. 

The steady retreat of the welfare state that now embodies coercion and punishment, rather than support, inflicting discipline and draconian sanctions on some of our most vulnerable citizens and communities, no longer provides adequate support for citizens who lack the means to meet their basic survival needs. 

Our post-war settlement is being dismantled with stealth and dispatch – the welfare state, the NHS, legal aid and social housing – each of these historic social gains formed the basis of inclusive, civilising and civil institutions that have democratised and civilised our society. Yet public services came about to ensure each and every citizen’s life has equal dignity and worth; that no-one dies prematurely because of absolute poverty or because they have no access to justice, medical care and housing. 

Small state libertarian principles apply only to public services and meeting public need, when it comes to the private interests of the wealthy, the Government shows a remarkable generosity. Apparently wealthy people aren’t ‘incentivised’ by cuts to their income, draconian discipline, and brutal ‘behavioural change’ policies like poor people are claimed to be. Public policy has become an instrument of stigmatisation, social exclusion, outgrouping and increasing marginalisation.    

Othering and outgrouping are politically weaponised and strategic inhumanities designed to misdirect and convince populations suffering the consequences of intentionally targeted austerity, deteriorating standards of living and economic instability – all of which arose because of the actions of a ruling financial class – that the ‘real enemy’ is ‘out there’, that there is an ‘us’ that must be protected from ‘them.’  

It needs to be challenged and we need to change this, because social prejudice undermines the safety, fair treatment, dignity and worth of fellow human beings, on the basis of their characteristics. 

This extremely divisive and dangerous approach to imposing a totalising neoliberal ideology has been amplified by a predominantly right-wing media, who have constructed negative stereotypes – folk devils – from already marginalised groups to generate moral outrage and to desensitise and de-empathise the public to the terrible consequences of harsh neoliberal policies on previously socially protected groups. Stereotyping goes hand in hand with prejudice. 

Given our diverse and multicultural world, it is of great importance to understand ways to reduce social prejudice. In the 1950’s, Gordon Allport – who studied the role of social prejudice in Nazi Germany, leading to the Holocaust –  introduced the intergroup-contact hypothesis. In this view, intergroup contact under positive conditions can reduce social prejudice. The necessary conditions include cooperation towards shared goals, equal status between groups, and the support of Government, local authorities and cultural norms. 

I’m also a strong advocate of prefigurative, participatory democracy. I don’t believe that democracy is just about voting once every five years. It’s also about distributive social justice (concerning the socially just allocation of resources and goods).  

Government policies are expressed political intentions regarding how our society is organised and governed. They have calculated social and economic aims and consequences. In democratic societies, citizens’ accounts of the impacts of policies ought to matter. However, the Government persistently dismiss qualitative accounts from citizens as ‘anecdotal’, refusing to engage in a democratic dialogue.

In the UK, the way that policies are justified is being increasingly detached from their aims and consequences, partly because democratic processes and basic human rights are being disassembled or side-stepped, and partly because the government employs the widespread use of linguistic strategies and techniques of persuasion to intentionally divert us from their aims and the consequences of their ideologically (rather than rationally) driven policies. Furthermore, policies have become increasingly detached from public interests and needs.

I absolutely agree that none of these issues can be resolved without reference to basic principles of economic, social and environmental justice and these in turn should not be separate from the legislative principles that guide the work of Parliament. 

And: “To make this happen, we need a new settlement between people and government in the form of a written constitution that embeds a comprehensive bill of human rights, including economic, social and environmental rights. It must delimit the power of Parliament by devolving real power to the regions and nations that make up the UK and place local government on an independent legal footing.” 

Positive change is long overdue.

Kitty.

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Related

The still face paradigm, the just world fallacy, inequality and the decline of empathy

The importance of citizens’ qualitative accounts in democratic inclusion and political participation

Neoliberalism and corruption: hidden in plain sight

 


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Please let the Conservatives know that the Grenfell tragedy must not be trivialised and ignored

Yesterday I had the following email from Jeremy Corbyn:

Sue, we’ve just found out that the Tories in Kensington have been asking residents how important the Grenfell tragedy is on a scale of 0-10.

It is insulting and insensitive.

Preventing another fire like Grenfell couldn’t be more important. And Theresa May has the power to do it — she could use next Wednesday’s budget to set aside money to fit social housing with sprinklers that would save lives. Let’s make sure she hears our message.

Please sign this and tell the Tories why Grenfell must not be ignored.

Sign this and help us make sure that residents of high rise social housing can sleep safely with the knowledge that they are being listened to.

Jeremy Corbyn
Leader of the Labour Party


 

It’s like they need instructions for being human.” Kay Bailey

I agree, the Conservatives’ survey is crass and insensitive, it trivialises the Grenfell tragedy, putting it at the same level of priority as refuse collection and local parking facilities, which is insulting and callous. Asking people to place such an avoidable and tragic event on a scale of priority, from one to ten, is both brutal and shows a complete lack of responsibility and remorse on the part of the government. 

I have signed both petitions. 

Will you?


Related

Grenfell, inequality and the Conservatives’ bonfire of red tape

Grenfell is a horrific consequence of a Conservative ‘leaner and more efficient state’

Dangerous electrical faults were historically ignored at Glenfell Tower

 


 

A brief and blunt discussion about ‘economic competence’ before the general election

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The question asked shouldn’t ever have been how will Labour fund their costed manifesto. We have permitted this expedient Conservative diversion for long enough. It should have been exposed for what it is when George Osborne was rebuked for lying about Labour’s administration and economic management, and David Cameron was rebuked twice for claiming that his government were “paying down the debt“. They have done no such thing, however, and despite a substantial number of official rebukes for telling lies, the Conservatives have remained blatantly conservative with the truth

The real question that matters is this: where is the public’s money that citizens, their parents and grandparents have paid into the Treasury all these years? Why is there nothing to show for it over the past seven years? Why are increasing numbers of citizens of every age experiencing hardship and distress

This is a despicable way for a government to treat people who have contributed to this country’s fortune and development.

Why are older people being robbed of their lifelong national insurance contribution and tax investment and now being told they must fund their own care?  Why are older people being forced to work longer before they may retire? New government “calculations” suggest a “hard Brexit” – with migration being dramatically reduced – could push up the age of retirement and force people to work into their mid-70s. It has created further uncertainty regarding the future of state pensions.

At the same time, there has been an unprecedented rise in the mortality rate, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data. For the past few decades, there has been a very strong improvement in life expectancy in the UK, both at birth but also for older people 

But that trend has slowed down since 2011, and is now reversing. According to the actuarial company, Mercer, winter deaths of people aged 65 and over has increased by 11 per cent over the last two years. Yet the Conservatives are planning to cut winter fuel payements to “target those most in need”.

There’s that Tory phrase again, which reflects a euphemising tendency of a government that does not care for the welfare of UK citizens, and signals the intent to strip away every single civilised public support mechanism and provision that has grown from the social gains of our post-war settlement. The social gains PAID FOR BY THE PUBLIC FOR THE PUBLIC. 

What kind of government does not care that citizens are dying prematurely because of their policies? Or that cases of malnutrition in the UK are rising?

Why are d
isabled people being left without adequate living standards, dignity, independence and sometimes, being left to die, because we have a government that can’t even observe their basic human rights? The only rights that matter to the Conservatives are the property “rights” of the wealthy and the right of millionaires to accummulate more money by dispossessing everyone else.

The “Economic Enclosure Acts” would be a more fitting name for the Conservative “reforms” and austerity programme.

Where has the money gone that was taken from those people targeted with punitive policies and a deeply patronising “behaviour change” agenda that simply reflects a government’s traditional class prejudices, all in the name of “economic growth” and the ideologically driven Conservative austerity programme, the burden of which fell on our poorest and most vulnerable citizens?

What kind of government financially punishes disabled and elderly people simply for being disabled and old? It’s the Conservatives that need to change their behaviours. Perhaps someone should inform the economic Darwinists in government that we moved on from dehumanising eugenic policies after the terrible consequences of them in Nazi Germany. 

What is the point of a government in an “economically stable”and wealthy first world country that does not ensure a basic standard of living and health for the majority of citizens, and fails to fulfil basic human rights obligations?

This is a government that has failed to protect the human rights of our children.

Why are our children going hungry, fed by food banks and by concerned school teachers when their parents are in work or have worked? Why are young people under 25, disabled people and people in social housing not considered worthy of having a secure home of their own? 

Why are those in low paid or part time, insecure work being punished by the government with in-work sanctions, for the sins of exploitative, increasingly unregulated employers and rubbish government supply-led labour market policies that clearly don’t work?

We have permitted a government to relinquish its responsibilities and obligations towards some members of the public. Why doesn’t the social and economic welfare of these social groups matter to the government? Are we not citizens in a so-called first world democracy?

Where is the investment in our public services? Why are rogue multinationals making billions from the public on the pretext of “saving money”? If that’s “economic competence” then I’m Jerry Cornelius, one of the greatest fictional and darkly hilarious anti-hero nihilists of all time. 

What have the Conservatives done wth OUR money, our NHS and our public services? And why on earth would we continue letting them “disappear” our money, adding to the now massive national deficit? The Conservatives have borrowed more money this past seven years than every single Labour government combined throughout history. There is NOTHING to show for it, except for a few rogue multinationals like Atos, Maximus and G4S making huge and private profit and a few millionaires hoarding our wealth and demanding more.

The UK now has the highest level of  socioeconomic inequality in Europe.

THIS is what Cameron meant when he said he would “tackle” the “culture of entitlement”. He meant that ordinary people would no longer be treated as democratic citizens with rights. He meant that our society should regress to a time when there was no legal aid, social housing, welfare state and no National Health Service. Despicably, the Conservatives have deliberately stigmatised groups of citizens in order to get away with dismantling our social safeguards, caliming that they are a “burden” to “tax payers”. As the older generation about to be hit with pension cuts and the “dementia tax” will tell you, ordinary people are ALL tax payers. 

The authoritarians need to go.

The NHS and welfare state are essential for the lives, health and wellbeing of our fellow citizens as well as ourselves. Without being able to meet basic needs, people are unable to meet higher level psychosocial ones, such education and work. Ancel Keys once said “Starved people cannot be taught democracy.” Abraham Maslow would certainly agree with that. He said  “Man lives by bread alone when there is no bread.” When people are hungry, food becomes their only priority and motivation.

Any effective measure of a government’s economic competence must surely include an evaluation of the proportion of a population that are able to meet their basic living requirements. 

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If you value our public services, including those providing emergency care such as the NHS, the the fire service, police, social care, mental health services, social security and pensions and education, all of which have been savagely cut these past 7 years, then you need to know that they are NOT safe in Conservative hands. Nor are our human rights. A genuinely strong and stable economy ought to include everyone. 

The Labour Party has made a comittment in their manifesto to ensure that our public services are safe, funded and there for everyone who needs them. They will also preserve our human rights act. Human rights are there to ensure the wealthy and powerful are accountable to the rest of us, and to ensure governments don’t abuse and exclude social groups, such as disabled people, elderly people and children. Like access to justice – and legal aid has also almost gone at the hands of the Conservatives – human rights are the bedrock of democratic societies.

If you value the civilised and civilising features of our society, then you must vote on 8 June to preserve them. If you don’t have need of them yourself, consider that your parents, children and friends may do in the future. Let’s halt the socially regressive destruction of our public services.

Let’s make sure that everyone is included in our society, and ensure that we live in a democracy.

Let’s make June the end of May. 

Let’s take our country forward again.

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I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a very limited income. 

But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

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I’ve just told the Conservative director of campaigning to jog on

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I have just been given an award for Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). Not sure how much I will get towards my rent as the award notice doesn’t make much sense, but I got it after sending in my medical evidence recently. 

It means I get to keep a roof over my head for a bit longer, anyway. It’s very, very difficult to get an award of DHP now, as it has been made highly conditional, partly because councils are so strapped for cash due to Conservative cuts, partly because Conservative policies, such as the bedroom tax and other “reforms”, have increased the need considerably for this support.

My own council informed me that already there are very little funds left for DHP. I applied because since becoming too ill to work, my income has dwindled to the point where I’m now short by more than £100 per month to pay for my rent, council tax, food and fuel. I don’t have a spare room, but I have to pay council tax currently because my son is taking a couple of months out from university to care for me, following a severe bout of pneumonia and sepsis, which almost cost me my life. My son is therefore classed as a “non dependent”. Despite the fact he has no income out of term time, he is still expected to contribute to the rent. I am currently so poor because of draconian Conservative policies. 

So imagine my surprise and disgust when I got an email today from the Conservative campaign director, asking me to donate £30 to the Tory election campaign. You couldn’t make it up. 

Note the nudges used in their grubby mail opening: “We’ve had a great response…” which is an approach that the Behavioural Insights Team at the heart of the cabinet office call “social norming“. It was designed by the advertising industry and is increasingly being used in polcy and political rhetoric to create a false consensus effect. Social norming is increasingly being used in policies aimed at behavioural change. That the government is using such an approach from their Nudge Unit to influence voting behaviour is deplorable.

This kind of nudge is based on the bandwaggon propaganda technique. It’s an improper appeal to emotion, used for the purpose of swaying the opinions of an audience.  This technique involves encouraging people to think or act in some way simply because other people are doing so, or so it is implied. It’s an appeal to “join the winning side” because pretty much everyone apparently endorses it, after all. 

Plus there is an urge for us to “all stand together”, remarkably, from a government that has intentionally caused massive social division in order to manipulate the populations’ perceptions and behaviours towards politically scapegoated others, (unemployed and disabled people, refugees and asylum seekers, for example) to divert attention from the fact that Conservative policies are causing massive inequality as their policies reward the wealthy and punish the poorest citizens, their policies are aimed at dismantling the social gains of our post war settlement, and creating scapegoats and the growth of social prejudice as a diversionary tactic to protect those responsible for our ruined economy – the financier class and the government.

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I’m wondering just how many people needing social security would be donating half their weekly income to these sadistic jokers after years of their extremely punitive “reforms”?

I’m guessing none.

Quite properly so.

Here is a copy of the email, with my considered response:

From: Darren Mott – Chief Agent and Director of Campaigning
Sent: 24 April 2017 12:39
To: suejones
Subject: Re: We need to stand together Susan 

Dear Susan,

We have had a great response from supporters across the country joining our 2017 Fighting Fund supporters list.

It has been exciting to see such support for our plan for a stronger Britain through Brexit and beyond.

I will be speaking to our campaign team at midday tomorrow to set spending priorities in this crucial phase of the campaign to strengthen the Prime Minister’s negotiating hand in Europe. Donate now to help.

The stakes couldn’t be higher, Susan, we need you. Elections are always hard fought. Only Theresa May and the Conservatives can ensure we have strong leadership, certainty and stability through Brexit and beyond.

If you haven’t already, please donate £30 today and join our 2017 Fighting Fund supporters list.

Thank you,

Darren

Darren Mott
Chief Agent and Director of Campaigning

PS: Donate by midday to make sure you are on our supporters list for this key phase of the campaign.

From: Conservative Campaign Headquarters
Subject: We Stand Together 

Tory

Dear Susan,           

This is urgent.

In 6 weeks’ time there will be a general election. Your donation is vital. It is vital to bolster an election campaign that aims to strengthen Theresa May’s and the UK’s negotiating position on Brexit.

Your donation will help defeat Jeremy Corbyn, and our Lib Dem and SNP opponents, who together are planning to disrupt our Brexit negotiations, raise taxes, increase borrowing and waste.

Will you be one of our General Election 2017 Fighting Fund supporters, and will you help us get on with the job of making life in the United Kingdom even better, Susan?            

Donate today:

£20 gets us 100 campaign posters

£35 delivers 500 leaflets to target voters

£50 helps us call 1000 target voters

£100 delivers 3000 letters to target voters

£500 delivers 3000 freepost surveys to target voters

We are finalising our election plans now, Susan. Will you donate to our campaign and become a Fighting Fund supporter today?

Thanks for your support,     

Conservative Campaign Headquarters
                 

  Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London, SW1H 9HQ

 

 

My measured response:

Bootstraps

Susan Jones
05:56

RE: We need to stand together Susan

To: Darren Mott – Chief Agent and Director of Campaigning

After this government’s policies have systematically robbed me of an adequate income, I am afraid I haven’t even enough money to meet my basic needs, let alone donate to a party that has nothing but disdain for those of us who become too ill to work. I have worked most of my life and contributed tax and National Insurance, only to see you dismantle the social gains of our publicly funded post-war settlement and hand out my money to millionaires and rogue multinationals.

You’re right, the stakes have never been higher. That’s why I will be campaigning as hard as I possibly can for a Labour government, which will acknowledge and reflect public needs in their policies. That’s rather more democratic than a government that imposes their own needs on the population to meet their ideological and draconian policy outcomes.

So jog on.

It’s time to put the Tories out of our misery

 Sent from Mail for Windows 10

Related

The Conservative’s negative campaign strategy: “share the lies and win a prize”

 


I don’t make any money from my work and I am not funded. I am disabled because of illness and struggle to get by. But you can help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others, by making a donation. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

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Politics and Insights condemns George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard in joint independent media statement

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Politics and Insights is proud to join other independent media journalists, writers, collectives and organisations across the UK to condemn the appointment of George Osborne as the new editor of the Evening Standard.

Independent media includes any form of autonomous media project that is free from institutional dependencies, and in particular, from the influence of government and corporate interests.

We are not constrained by the interests of society’s major power-brokers.

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Here is our joint statement:

The appointment of George Osborne as Editor of the Evening Standard signals the continued demise of trusted mainstream media sources at a time of great political strife in Britain. We have come together to denounce the brazen conflict of interest advocated by this announcement, and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media channels.

Trust in the mainstream media has never been lower. At present, the number of people who trust the media polls at about 24%. That’s 12% lower than it was before Brexit at the start of 2016, and 2% lower than trust in politicians.

Revolving doors between business, media and politics have severely affected impartial reporting, while political analysis has proven to be a futile exercise when journalists become politicians and politicians become journalists. The Evening Standard’s former editor, Sarah Sands, known for her conservative-leaning views, leaves a Conservative MP in her wake, at the helm of a paper which will offer no challenge to its new editor and his politics.

George Osborne, who comes into this role without any formal journalism experience, will not be bringing an editorial revolution to the Evening Standard to give London the representative newspaper it needs. The appointment of the Tory MP does, however, plainly illustrate a situation which sees personal interests and closed cliques continue to dominate the information disseminated to the masses. To put it very simply, how can a member of parliament hold parliament to account? When the issues of the day relate to policies supported, or indeed created, by Osborne, what can we expect from his editorial stewardship?

Before Osborne’s recent hire as Editor of the Standard, former journalists Michael Gove and Boris Johnson ran a deeply damaging pro-Brexit campaign, facilitated by the nation’s biggest newspapers. Columnists have been paid to spew hate and fear, whether of Muslims, migrants, transgender people, disabled people or other marginalised groups within our society for some time now.

For an effective democratic system, we need a vibrant public sphere fuelled by varied independent broadcast and print media. We do not need the ex-Chancellor benefitting from the editorial control of a free London daily which benefits from city-wide circulation to publicise the divisive rhetoric of a right-wing government. When a crisis of representation, fed by a culture of nepotism already plagues so many establishments, Osborne’s appointment is a step in completely the wrong direction.

We write this as independent journalists, committed to holding the powerful to account. We will continue to fight for better representation and healthier political analysis in our media channels, and we will continue to produce the journalism that is missing from the corporate-owned outlets which dominate our newspapers and televisions today.

Signed:

The Platform
OpenDemocracy

Media Diversified
Skin Deep Magazine
Red Pepper
gal-dem
Consented
Novara Media
Real Media
Media Reform Coalition
Now Then
Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom
Centre for Investigative Journalism
Politics and Insights

 

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Collaborative solidarity

Terminally ill woman lost her ESA, home and all her belongings after being told she was fit for work

 


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Claire Hardwicke

Claire Hardwicke has stage four thyroid cancer. This means that it has spread to other parts of her body, and sadly, Claire was told that her cancer is terminal. She also has chronic osteoarthritis. Despite taking 80mg of morphine a day to cope, she still experiences considerable pain.

Additionally, Claire already had a life-threatening, acute allergy to latex. This means that she has to carry an EpiPen at all times, which is an epinephrine (adrenaline) injection to treat life-threatening anaphylaxis. Developing a severe allergy to latex unfortunately meant that Claire could no longer continue working as a mental health nurse. 

Claire first became ill 9 years ago with uterine/ovarian cancer, but it was the allergy that made her unemployable and ended her career as a mental-health nurse, her partner, Alan King, told me

Claire’s first bout of cancer was treated and she made a recovery, which lasted only 7 years. Sadly, the diagnosis of her more recent thyroid cancer and metastases wasn’t diagnosed until it was incurable. The tumours had spread throughout her thyroid gland, neck, lymph system and adrenal glands.   

All Claire can hope for now is palliative care, which is alleviatory only, as a cure isn’t possible. 

Unbelievably, Claire was assessed as “fit for work” by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) last year. Her Employment and Support Allowance was stopped. All of her financial support ended. This was despite being told by the Capita assessor (for Personal Independence Payments) that the report to the DWP would state that Claire was in need of more support, not less. 

Overnight the couple lost every bit of financial support they had previously been entitled to, so Alan decided to use what little financial resources he had left to help Claire to fulfill some of  her”Bucket List.”

The couple were forced to say goodbye to their rented bungalow and 99% of their possessions because their housing benefit was stopped. They had no income, as Claire’s Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) was stopped, and the Carer’s Allowance also ended.

Claire explained to me that when she lost her lifeline support, the wait for appeal hearings was over 18 months. The couple couldn’t afford to wait that long, as they had no income. They also didn’t know if Claire would survive the wait.

Claire and Alan went to visit family members around the UK before setting off, in October 2016, on a Mediterranean cruise for a month, which Alan paid for, using his credit cards. They already owed a lot of money on their credit cards, but with no income at all, the couple were facing destitution.  The incredible distress the couple suffered took its toll on Claire’s already poor health, too.   

On the return journey, both of them realised that coming all the way back to the UK – where they were homeless, with no income, and they no longer even qualified for free prescriptions – would be pointless. So the couple left the cruise when they got to Portugal, where it’s significantly warmer than the UK (and therefore less painful for Claire) – and they’ve been there ever since, living in a very basic, rented room.

Alan told me: “Claire’s cancer hasn’t claimed her life as quickly as we both had imagined, (which is good), but with medications, food and board, we’re now out of funds and out of options unless we can somehow fundraise for some subsistence.”

The couple have paid money in advance for their single room in Portugal, which covers rent until 14th March, after which time they will have absolutely nowhere to go.

Claire says: “There are new trial therapies for extreme cases of thyroid cancer like mine.

 I wish I had a pot of gold to pay for the experimental cancer therapy.
I don’t want to die, but choices and chances aren’t given to the poor people. We need a miracle, a winning lotto ticket. There should be equal opportunities for all patients.”

The treatment would possibly extend Claire’s life and improve the quality of the time she has left. She says: “I could have a chance of a longer, fuller life…. but I don’t have that option open to me….”

Tiffany Williams, a friend of Claire’s in the UK, has set up a crowdfunding page on JustGiving to raise £800 to help pay for her treatment. So far, 53% of the sum has been raised. 

It’s such a modest amount for a treatment that will make a huge difference to Claire and Alan, who have lost their home and everything else they had in the UK. Now they are at risk of losing their room in Portugal, too. 

You can make a donation at:  https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/tiffany-williams

Update

Claire informs me that the gofundme collection has now closed. But for those wishing to help in some way, there is a beautiful painting of Claire by Jason Pearce, which is up for auction with funds going to her medical fees.  

She says many thanks. 

Jason Pearce is an administrator for a very popular political group, and like me, he was originally contacted and asked if a member (Alan) could post a gofundme page to raise money for treatment costs to the group, as his wife, Claire, is seriously ill. Jason agreed, and offered to help. As Jason is an artist, it was suggested that he could paint a portrait of Claire and it could then be auctioned online to help raise some more money towards Claire’s ongoing treatment.

This is Jason’s lovely painting of Claire.

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“Claire”

20″ x 16″ Mixed media on canvas.

 


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Urgent: UK-US trade inquiry and consultation quietly launched by select committee, deadline for submissions this Monday

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A Commons Select Committee launched a public inquiry on 2 February. The International Trade Committee invited the public to send their views regarding the upcoming UK-US trade deal. The Committee will use those ideas to form recommendations for the government’s approach to the deal. 

However, in addition to the fact that the inquiry wasn’t widely publicised, the time scale given for responding is less than a month. The deadline for written submissions is (unbelievably) Monday 27 February 2017

The Conservatives wholly endorsed the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would have enshrined the rights of corporations under International Law, and restrict future governments in overturning the changes through the threat of expensive legal action. These are the largest trade agreements in history, and yet they are NOT open for review, debate or amendment by Parliaments or the public.

The agreements would have shifted the balance of power between corporations and the state – effectively creating a corporatocracy. It would have NO democratic foundation or restraint whatsoever. The main thrust of the agreement was that corporations will be able to actively exploit their increased rights through the TPP and TTIP to extend the interests of the corporation, which is mostly to maximise their profits.

Human rights and public interests certainly would not have been a government priority. Six hundred US corporate advisors have had input into the TTIP. The draft text was not made available to the public, press or policy makers. The level of secrecy around the trade agreement was unparalleled. The majority of US Congress were also kept in the dark while representatives of US corporations were consulted and privy to the details.

A major concern for many of us was that many of the regulations likely to be affected under TTIP are designed to protect our health and the environment by setting safe levels of pesticides in food and chemicals in our toiletries and household cleaning products for example. These safeguards will be eroded or eliminated, potentially exposing people to greater risks of unsafe, unregulated commercial goods to support the interests of multinationals.

The infamous TTIP (and the EU-Canada trade deal CETA) provide likely blueprints for future trade deals. So we also have a good idea of what kind of potential dangers for our public services, such as the NHS, lie ahead. Trump, like the Conservative government here in the UK, is a strong advocate of deregulation and “free market competition” – which effectively means that (even more) of our public services are at risk of being sold off to big multinational companies.

The Conservative privatisation programme has been an unmitigated failure. We have witnessed scandalous price rigging, massive job losses and job insecurity, decreased wages and poorer working conditions, profoundly decreased standards in service delivery, disempowerment of our unions, and above all, at terrible cost to many citizens. But then the Conservatives will always swing policy towards benefiting private companies and not the public, as we know. In Britain, privatisation is primarily driven by the neoliberal New Right’s ideological motives, to “roll back the frontiers of the State” and to “increase efficiency”. 

SumOfUs – a global campaign that fights for people over profits, and is committed to curbing the growing power of corporations – have drafted six key demands for a better, more just trade deal with the aim of “letting Theresa May know right from the start that we won’t let her turn Brexit into a corporate takeover.” 

The SumOfUs community has urged the UK government to uphold the following principles in negotiating a trade agreement with the US: 

1. Labour, climate and human rights agreements and how they’re implemented in UK law should take precedence over the trade agreement.

2. Violations of human rights, workers’ rights and environmental protection should be sanctionable, and those sanctions meaningful and effective. 

3. Negotiations need to happen transparently and inclusively. Text proposals as well as consolidated treaty texts need to be published to allow for public scrutiny and robust debate. Corporations must not be granted privileged access.

4. No special rights for investors. The deal should not enable US corporations to sue the UK over policy in the public interest that threatens their profits.

5. All public services must be exempt and protected from corporate takeover. 

6. No race to the bottom on regulation – all laws should be harmonised to the highest standard and should always allow a party to go beyond the levels of protections agreed upon.

You can visit SumOfUs site to add your name to their message to the International Trade Committee, and endorse the six outlined principles. 

The inquiry is to examine the potential for a UK-US trade agreement, the opportunities and challenges any agreement might present and the implications for the production and sale of goods and services on both sides of the Atlantic. It will make recommendations to the Government on how it should approach trade relations with the US. 

Interested organisations or individuals are invited to submit written evidence to the Committee. (Quickly.)

Terms of reference

The Committee is particularly interested in the following:

  • what the UK’s priorities and objectives should be in negotiating any such agreement;
  • the possible impacts (positive and negative) on specific sectors of the UK economy from such an agreement;
  • the extent to which any agreement could and should open up markets in services, including public services; 
  • the extent to which any agreement could and should open up markets in public procurement;
  • how any agreement should approach regulation, including regulatory harmonisation;
  • what dispute-resolution mechanism should form part of any such agreement; and
  • what involvement, if any, the UK should seek to have in the North American Free Trade Area or any future regional free trade agreement involving the USA.

Send a written submission to the International Trade Committee

Update: The deadline for written submissions is extended to Tuesday 7 March 2017. Written evidence should be submitted via the inquiry page, so you will still have to act quickly to have your say.

Chair’s comments

On launching the inquiry, Committee Chair Angus MacNeil MP commented:

“It seems highly likely that a trade deal with the US will be this Government’s first step in their attempts to reshape the UK’s economic relationship with the rest of the world. This will be a tough test. The UK will be entering negotiations led by a newly formed department. They may feel the need for a deal to show the rest of the world, and domestic audience, that the UK is open for business. And any outline agreement could impact on how our negotiations progress with the EU. 

The US might not be expected to offer many concessions, either. In his first days in office, President Trump has not shied away from implementing his campaign pledges, no matter how radical. How will his pledge to buy American and hire American sit with his aim to negotiate a deal “very quickly” with the UK? Is the President’s desire to prove his reputation for winning in deals bad news for a UK wanting some form of equal partnership?

Most importantly, this is a necessary inquiry as we must move beyond the showmanship and controversy that will no doubt be a feature of this process, and drill down to the detail of what is proposed. What should be the UK’s red lines? What sectors could win and lose? Will access to public services be on the table? 

Crucially, we want to explore how far Ministers should be prepared to go to get the marquee deal they are after.”

Related

A UK trade deal with Trump? Be careful what you wish for

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I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness  and have a very limited income. But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

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