Tag: Nolan Principles

We must not permit the prime minister to tell lies in parliament with impunity, it’s dangerously authoritarian behaviour

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The government has been dismissive when facing challenges regarding the Windrush scandal. The prime minister has refused to intervene when it emerged that one man was being denied radiotherapy unless he could pay a £54,000 bill upfront. Downing Street also initially rejected Caribbean countries’ request for a meeting to address the problem. 

As outrage over the grotesque injustices has  grown, the home secretary made an unusually forthright apology in the House of Commons on Monday. Amber Rudd described her own department’s actions as “appalling”.

A new taskforce has been created and is supposed to resolve cases within two weeks. In a statement on Tuesday, the Home Office said that “in 2010, the decision was taken by the UK Border Agency to securely dispose of some documents known as registration slips.”  

This decision was made in line with the Data Protection Act 1998, under which the Home Office has a legal obligation to ensure that the personal data it holds is not kept for longer than is necessary.” 

However, speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, Theresa May claimed that the decision to destroy the documents had been made in 2009, when a Labour government was in power. The misleading of parliament is the knowing presentation of false information to parliament, a very serious charge in Westminster-style parliamentary assemblies. Especially from a prime minister.

The Home Office spokesperson also argued that the landing card slips did not provide proof of residence: “Registration slips provided details of an individual’s date of entry, they did not provide any reliable evidence relating to ongoing residence in the UK or their immigration status.”  

“So it would be misleading and inaccurate to suggest that registration slips would therefore have a bearing on immigration cases whereby Commonwealth citizens are proving residency in the UK.”  

Yesterday, the prime minister lied in parliament during prime minister’s questions. Jeremy Corbyn asked Theresa May if she  had “signed off” the decision to destroy the Windrush landing cards. May claimed that an “operational decision” by the Border Agency was made in 2010, but that the original decision was made in 2009 under the last Labour government.

Yesterday I posted a Home Office whistleblower’s account, reported by Guardian prior to May’s lie. The account contradicts the prime minister, saying that the Home Office made the decision and destroyed the records in October 2010, when May was Home Office secretary. Furthermore, May was warned at the time by staff about the problems it would cause for the Windrush generation migrants. So she knew about the purging of  disembarkation documents.

The prime minister delivered what seems to be an intentional lie with an expression of fury and sheer malice, the Conservative benches sneered and brayed like unpleasant boorish beasts in a zoo as usual, showing utter contempt for parliamentary procedure, norms and conventions of decorum and public expectations of objective, rational standards of parliamentary debate. And honesty.  

The Labour leader raised the “hostile environment” policy that Theresa May created in 2014, with an aim of “deterring” illegal immigrants. Because the landing records had been destroyed, the imposition of a harsh “verification framework” – which was designed to ensure that immigrants provide documentary proof of their legal citizenship status – presented unacceptable hardships and difficulties for some, leading to the absolute scandal of citizens who had lived and worked in the UK for many years being refused essential NHS treatment for cancer, being evicted from their home, being unable to access social security support, losing their jobs, being detained and facing threats of deportation. And death.  

The mother of a Windrush citizen who died suddenly last month after being classified as an “illegal immigrant” and sacked from his job believes the stress caused by his immigration problems was responsible for his death.  

Dexter Bristol, who was 57 when he died, moved from Grenada to the UK when he was eight in 1968, to join his mother who was working as an NHS nurse, and spent the rest of his life in the UK. He was sacked from his cleaning job last year because he had no passport, and was denied benefits because shamefully, government officials did not believe he was in the country legally. 

One problem facing those affected by the Windrush immigrants is that they cannot get a passport now because the documents proving they are longstanding UK citizens have been destroyed. 

Employers now are legally obliged to check employees citizen status, and landlords too. This has led to more than one person becoming homeless, unable to secure another tenancy, unable to claim social security unable to access lifeline support, and unable to work. These are citizens who have lived in the UK sinve the 40s, 50s and 60s, worked for years and have family here.  

Jeremy Corbyn said yestreday that May had been responsible for the destruction of the landing records in October, 2010, and added that parliament needed “absolute clarity” on when the decision was taken. As Home Office secretary, May must surely have at least given permission for the destruction of the records to go ahead, regardless of where the proposal to do so came from, originally, and why. 

Theresa May’s precise claim was: 

“The decision to destroy the landing cards was taken in 2009 under a Labour government.” 

Dawn Butler, Labour MP for Brent Central), also highlighted the fact that the prime minister had misled parliament with a point of order

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. During Prime Minister’s questions, the Prime Minister said that the decision to destroy landing cards was taken in 2009. I have had it confirmed that the Home Office briefed yesterday that the decision was taken by the UK Border Agency in 2010 and that the records were destroyed in October 2010. Can the House, the Windrush generation, the Commonwealth leaders and the country get clarification from the Prime Minister or the Home Secretary?” 

A point of order is a query in a formal debate as to whether correct procedure is being followed. In this case, the correct procedure is for the prime minister to tell the truth.

May – gloating over the impact of her lie on Corbyn – ventured into a defence of her appalling, discriminatory “crackdown” on illegal immigration, saying it was “absolutely right” that only people entitled to use public services used them. 

This isn’t about illegal immigration,” retorted Corbyn, “but about Commonwealth citizens who have a right to be here”. 

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman has said: “The decision was taken to securely dispose of these documents, and that was the right one to take.” 

Asked on Tuesday if Theresa May had been aware of the disposal of the records while she was home secretary, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “My belief, at this moment, is that it was an operational decision that was taken by the Border Agency.”  

The Borders Agency was effectively part of the civil service and it took its advice and direction from ministers. 

The Guardian reports

A former Home Office employee said the records, stored in the basement of a government tower block, were a vital resource for case workers when they were asked to find information about someone’s arrival date in the UK from the West Indies – usually when the individual was struggling to resolve immigration status problems.” 

“The former employee (who has asked for his name not to be printed) said it was decided in 2010 to destroy the disembarkation cards, which dated back to the 1950s and 60s, when the Home Office’s Whitgift Centre in Croydon was closed and the staff were moved to another site. Employees in his department told their managers it was a bad idea, because these papers were often the last remaining record of a person’s arrival date, in the event of uncertainty or lost documents. The files were destroyed in October that year, when Theresa May was home secretary.” 

Furthermore, as stated, it was reported that a Downing Street spokesman said yesterday that the “operational decision” to dispose of the documents was taken by the UK Border Agency, meaning it would not have come across the desk of the then Labour Home Secretary. They were then destroyed in 2010. 

May has finally acknowledged that the crisis had arisen due to the harsh rules imposed during her time as Home Secretary.

The measures, introduced from 2011 onwards, require employers, landlords and health service providers to demand evidence of legal immigration status. At the time, May said they were designed to create a “hostile environment” for people living in the UK illegally. 

As a consequence, some lost their jobs, others were evicted from their homes, and a few were reported to have been threatened with deportation. 

This issue has come to light because of measures that we introduced recently to make sure that only those with a legal right to live here can access things like the NHS,” May said, according to the UK Press Association. 

And this has resulted in some people who – through no fault of their own – has resulted in some people now needing to be able to evidence their immigration status.” 

May’s apology came after the Home Office announced the creation on Monday of a new team to help those with Commonwealth status secure their UK status. 

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “The Windrush generation have been threatened with deportation because they cannot provide documents, but now we learn that the Home Office destroyed the very records that could have demonstrated their right to remain.” 

On Tuesday, she called on Home Secretary Amber Rudd to announce that she will accept the “burden of proof” in deportation cases for the Windrush generation should lie with the Home Office rather than the potential deportee. 

She said: “The revelation that Windrush landing cards were destroyed is truly shocking and the culpability of this fiasco rests solely with the Home Office.

“Amber Rudd must explain who authorised this action and when, and what Theresa May’s role was as the then home secretary.”

In summary,  two Home Office whistleblowers have rejected May’s claim that the destruction of landing cards had no impact on immigration cases, saying they were routinely used as an information source before their destruction. 

The home affairs committee has summoned Amber Rudd, the home secretary, to appear before it next week and answer questions on the Windrush scandal. 

The Home Office said 113 cases had been reported to a hotline set up to try to resolve the arising distressing issues.

The Jamaican prime minister, Andrew Holness, and the Labour MP David Lammy have called for those denied services, wrongfully detained or deported to be awarded compensation.

Tory immigration policy was “reminiscent of Nazi Germany” – Bob Kerslake

Lord Kerslake has made clear the unease among politicians and civil servants at the set of policies implemented when May was Home Secretary, that have now come under scrutiny amid the Windrush scandal. 

The phrase ‘hostile environment’ was used by May in a 2012 interview, when she was Home Secretary. It involved legislation and regulation to “tackle illegal immigration” and help bring the net number of people coming to the UK down to “tens of thousands a year”. 

Theresa May had repealed parts of the previous government’s immigration legislation and amended overlapping legislation, to narrow the criteria that qualify UK citizenship, making them much more difficult to meet from 2010 onwards. The subsequent amendments were even more harsh. 

The changes involves migrants having to prove their immigration status when accessing NHS services and housing. Landlords and employers are also expected to enforce new policies or risk fines.

Emblematic of Lynton Crosby’s trumpeted dog whistling tactics, the much-criticised, extremely racially divisive ‘go home’ vans where dispatched by the Home Office in 2013,  displaying billboards with the message: “In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest.”

Remarkably, the vans, which some said out did UKIP in terms of displays of racism, prompted Nigel Farage to criticise them as “nasty” and “Orwellian.”

 

Appearing on BBC 2’s Newsnight, Lord Kerslake, head of the civil service between 2012 and 2015, told presenter Evan Davies about how the civil service gave advice on “some of the challenges of the policies”, especially over taking action against people who are “acting lawfully”. 

Asked whether May, then Home Secretary, was challenged, Lord Kerslake responded:  “It was not just a question of the Home Secretary being told that, the Prime Minister was as well, and this was a very contested piece of legislation across government departments.

The changes since 2010 involve migrants having to prove their immigration status when accessing NHS services and housing. Landlords and employers are also expected to enforce new policies or risk fines. (See also: Windrush: Home Office officials raised concerns over immigration rules says ex-civil service chief)

Yet the prime minister attempted to duck accountability and divert legitimate criticism from the opposition by making an outrageously expedient and deplorable, inaccurate swipe about the “rife antisemitism” in the Labour party. 

Still, it’s a change from the usual deeply divisive, confict-laden and untrue comments about Corbyn’s “special relationship” with Russia. It doesn’t do much for diplomatic relations and de-escalating conflicts when Conservative politicians and right-wing media pundits make openly insulting and disgraceful claims that Corbyn is “Russia’s useful idiot”. Aggressive playground politics, that weaponises Corbyn’s internationalism, diplomacy and respect for diversity, and further underlines Russian observations of “Russiaphobia” in the UK. 

It seems that the humbling public confession of telling outrageous lies and humiliating apology from Ben Bradley, following the threat of legal action, isn’t a sufficient lesson for the wider party to stop telling lies. Utterly despicable behaviour from the government.

 

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Deplorable BBC bias

On a site that makes the deeply ironic comment “Why you can trust BBC News“, which is definitely not because it is “accurate, impartial, independent and fair,” the BBC spectacularly failed to report that the prime minister misled parliament yesterday.

It wasn’t even commented on that May’s claim contradicted previous Home Office statements. The BBC have consistently failed to uphold public interests.  They fail in  challenging injustice, dishonesty and more generally, in holding an increasingly authoritarian government to account. There was no mention of the point of order made by Dawn Butler, either. Basically, the BBC are stage-managing democracy, or rather, they hold up a facade of democracy, on behalf of the authoritarian, media-monitoring Conservatives. 

I can’t believe that even the Daily Mail‘s account of yesterday’s prime minister’s questions was substantially more accurate, balanced, impartial and objective than the BBC’s frequently repeated propaganda. This morning, the record had not changed – May’s lie was presented and repeated as if it was an irrefutable truth, despite the fact that it was significantly challenged in parliament. 

I will stick to reading Hansard records. I know I can’t depend on the BBC for delivering factual and impartial accounts. However, I can always depend on the Corporation for their pro-Conservative grovelling, constructed PR stories and lessons in what not to do while a prejudiced, vile and dangerous authoritarian government systematically targets discrimination at one social group after another, while trampling on their human dignity and violating their human rights. 

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out, because I am not a socialist..” springs to mind yet again. 

Looking through the BBC article, the lack of independent and critical analysis leaves me wondering if Lynton Crosby and the numerous other PR/communications consultants employed by the Conservatives have been been distributing crib sheets again. One commentator on BBC News this morning, said “It as to be said that Lord Kerslake has been an advisor for the Labour Party”, as if that somehow negates his account, and the harrowing accounts of those people who are watching their lives fall apart because of the racist and Kafkaesque bureacracy of extremely punitive, socially divisive and discriminatory government policies. 

Back in 2011, Theresa May said: “The government should not be “constrained in removing foreign nationals by the Human Rights Act as it attempts to reduce levels of immigration into the UK.” Her offensive speech was designed to stigmatise immigrants, spoken in the language of hardened authoritarianism. And there was also catgate.  


I think the The British Broadcasting Corporation has become the CCBAC: The Complicit Conservative Bystander Apathy Corporation.

The Ministerial Code of Conduct

I feel very strongly that no politician should lie in parliament, or set out to deceive the public, least of all, a prime minister. The Conservatives have a long history, however, of role modelling atrocious behaviours, and delivering socially divisive rhetoric that signals a permission for public prejudice, discrimination, abuse, bullying and hate crime. 

The Ministerial Code, which sets out standards of behaviour expected from all those who serve in Government, says: “It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister. ”

And if the person who knowingly misled Parliament is the prime minister? Well, you can make a formal complaint to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Office here.

The prime minister has also violated the Nolan principles, which are:

Selflessness: Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. 

Integrity: Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence their work. They  should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships. 

Objectivity: Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias. 

Accountability: Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny necessary to ensure this. 

Openness: Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner.Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for doing so. 

Honesty: Holders of public office should be truthful.

Leadership: Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

You can complain about the lack of objectivity, fairness, balance and impartiality of the BBC here

It’s time we demanded democratic accountability from our government, and facts instead of propaganda from the media.


 

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Conservatives for hire: cashing in on Brexit

Lord Lansley, Peter Lilley and Andrew Mitchell

Andrew Lansley, Peter Lilley and Andrew Mitchell

Three former Conservative Cabinet ministers have been secretly filmed and exposed trying to sell information on Britain’s exit from the European Union. The former cabinet ministers have denied any wrongdoing despite being caught on camera offering to receive money in exchange for advising a fictitious Chinese company. 

Andrew Lansley, Peter Lilley, and Andrew Mitchell were caught trying to profit from providing “intelligence” on Brexit negotiations to a Chinese companyaccording to a joint investigation by the Sunday Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches.

The Sunday Times was tipped off by sources within Whitehall that Brexit had triggered a “lobbying frenzy,” as businesses are eager to get information about the negotiations. Undercover reporters then invited a number of former ministers to interviews for a job on the advisory board of ‘Tianfen’, a fake Chinese company.

Lansley, who served as health secretary when David Cameron was prime minister, was filmed being offered tens of thousands of pounds for information and “intelligence” on Brexit. He also said the deal could be kept secret from authorities if he was employed through his wife’s PR company, Low Europe, to avoid scrutiny.

He said: “If you have a contract with Low then basically I come with Low. So if you had a contract separately with me it would have to appear separately on the transparency register as a contract with you. But if it’s with Low then its covered by the Low contract.” 

Low says it’s core strategy “is to attract business primarily from clients who have pan-national projects in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.” Lansley is employed by the company, which has recently moved from the UK to Brussels.

On their site, Low say of Lansley: “He has extensive experience of managing reputational issues by communicating through the media; a wide knowledge of how the media works; and a large network of media contacts at the most senior levels.” However, he was clearly complacent regarding the risk of exposure via investigative journalists. 

Peter Lilley, who was the Tory party’s deputy leader between 1998 and 1999, also expressed interest in approaching key ministers for Tianfen. He told the undercover reporters that he sits on two advisory groups with influence over the Brexit process.

The Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, who was the international development secretary in Cameron’s government, was willing to give paid advice to the company for £6,000 a day and said he would work up to 10 weeks a year. The Times reported he already gets paid nearly £75,000 for his job as an MP. “My constituents don’t mind what I’m paid,” he said while being filmed.

Lansley said he was already making €5,000 a day (around £4384) by giving Brexit advice to his pharmaceutical clients. He spoke about his connections at the top of government, such as Prime Minister Theresa May and Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade.

However, he appeared to draw the line at lobbying the Government directly, saying conversations had to “follow the rules”. However,  he did offer introductions to senior Brexit figures.

Lansley said in a statement that he always kept his outside interests separate to his Lord’s duties. 

Lilley revealed his “good relationships” with Liam Fox and David Davis, and said he was happy to have chats with them on behalf of Tianfen. Last week, he denied being asked or agreeing to have private conversations with any ministers on behalf of Tianfen, and any suggestion the company would get insider information was “wholly misplaced.”

Mitchell said he could advise the owner of the company on Brexit, by drawing on his business experience and inner knowledge of government. He said last week that all of his outside interests were fully declared on the Commons register.

In total, the Times has discovered that more than 20 politicians are making money out of Brexit.

The Channel 4 documentary was initially pulled from transmission last week amid a string of complaints from the three men, prompting an emergency review involving Channel 4’s chief executive, Alex Mahon, and the director of television, Ian Katz.

Lilley accused Channel 4 of a “tawdry attempt at entrapment” and insisted he had done nothing wrong. Mitchell said he was “totally innocent” and suggested that he had launched his own investigation and alerted MI5 after suspecting the approach was fake.

The final decision to delay transmission, by Channel 4 and the Sunday Times, had been taken because of warnings about the potential impact of airing the programme on the health of Lansley, who is currently being treated for cancer.

However, by this time, the former ministers had also briefed their version of events to  the Mail on Sunday last week. That front page account outlined how the three former ministers were asked to come to the Mayfair property and were greeted by a woman named Fei Liu, who claimed she represented “Chinese millionaires.”

Sir Alistair Graham, former chair of the committee on standards in public life, said the behaviour displayed in the footage was unacceptable. “To take advantage of this difficult time and confusion to make extra money doesn’t demonstrate a great deal of concern for the public interest,” he said.

The first of the Nolan principles of public life is that “holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest” and the second is that “holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.”

Lansley has said: “I made it clear in these meetings, which took place while I was undergoing cancer treatment, that I would apply the terms of the House of Lords code in any business relationship; and that this would be written into any contract that I entered into.

“No privileged access, insider information, lobbying activity, parliamentary advice or services were offered,” he claimed.

The code of conduct for MPs clearly states that “information which members receive in confidence in the course of their parliamentary duties should be used only in connection with those duties. Such information must never be used for the purpose of financial gain”.

However, Lilley insists that he was not referring to any confidential information – and does not possess any. “That I am a member of groups with experts who express views on Brexit was relevant only to show that I am engaging in the many ways that Brexit can benefit Britain,” he told Channel 4.

He insisted: “I have not undertaken any venture which would involve me breaking the codes of conduct referenced nor the Nolan principles. I repeatedly made it crystal clear I would not use confidential information. I possess no such information. If I did I wouldn’t make it available to anyone.”

A Channel 4 spokesman said: This investigation raises important questions about transparency and accountability in public life. We are continuing to work on the film [Politicians for hire: cashing in on Brexit], which will be broadcast soon.”

Meanwhile, outraged Peter Lilley has referred Channel 4 to Ofcom, making a lengthy complaint about the planned Dispatches documentary, which you can read here.


Related 

A reminder of the established standards and ethics of Public Office, as the UK Coalition have exempted themselves

 


 

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Techniques of neutralisation: David Cameron’s excuses for Iain Duncan Smith

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I wrote earlier about the way the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) heavily micro-managed the recent Mortality Statistics release, and how the Government are using an excessively bureaucratic approach to ensure that no inferences are drawn from the data published, insisting that it’s “wrong” to link the mortality rates of sick and disabled people with punitive, Conservative austerity policies.

However, the accounts and experiences of sick and disabled people and their families (recorded in the media, in parliamentary inquiries, Commons debates – all preserved on the Hansard record) inform us that there is a clear correlation between the Tory “reforms” and increased distress, a loss of dignity and autonomy, financial insecurity and insolvency, increasing ill health, and sometimes, the death, of disabled people.

When confronted in the Commons, Iain Duncan Smith and other ministers dispensed with civilised debate, and simply blocked any discussion regarding concerns raised by the opposition about the negative impact of the Tory welfare cuts on sick and disabled people.  Values of decency and legitimate concerns about the welfare of sick and disabled citizens were depreciated as mere matters of “subjective interpretation” and not as worthy subjects of political, rational or objective discussion.

The Mortality Statistics release from Department of Work and Pension “provides further commentary on the appropriate use of this information” – in other words, it informs us what we may and may not do with the “data”, and carries this pre-emptive caution:

“Any causal effect between benefits and mortality cannot be assumed from these statistics. Additionally, these isolated figures provide limited scope for analysis and nothing can be gained from this publication that would allow the reader to form any judgement as to the effects or impacts of the Work Capability Assessment.”

Bearing in mind that the information in the release came about because of many Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from many of us, and the rulings of the Information Commissioner and a tribunal (Mike Sivier from Vox Political appealed against the original decision by the Information Commissioner and the DWP to refuse the Freedom of Information requests), it’s difficult to see why the Government have been so determined, firstly, to withhold the information requested, secondly, when forced to make the release, to present the information in a decontextualized way that renders it virtually meaningless, thirdly, to go to such extraordinary lengths to instruct us how we may and may not analyse the data and fourthly, to respond to any interpretive reference to the data as “wrong”, refusing to engage in any further discussion.

Unless of course it’s a Government that doesn’t want open and democratic accountability and public scrutiny of the often devastating impact of its policies.

Debbie Abrahams, the new shadow minister for disabled people, has long been an outstanding campaigner and spokesperson for disabled people. Earlier this month, she asked David Cameron:

“Two weeks ago, the Work and Pensions Secretary’s Department not only admitted to falsifying testimonies in leaflets, but published data on the deaths of people on sickness benefit, which showed that they are four times more likely to die than the general population. That was after the Secretary of State told the House that these data did not exist. Given that, and his offensive remarks earlier this week—referring to people without disabilities as “normal”—when will the Prime Minister take control and respond to my call for the Work and Pensions Secretary to be investigated for breaching the ministerial code?”

Here is the Ministerial code. Ministers are also expected to observe the seven Nolan Principles, which are the basis of the ethical standards of conduct that is expected of all holders of public office. 

Last year, I sent David Cameron a reminder of the established standards and ethics of Public Office, as the Coalition had exempted themselves, but he didn’t respond and it didn’t make any difference.

It’s true that the Department of Work Pensions (DWP) has admitted falsifying testimonies in leaflets. The DWP’s own data does indicate that people on incapacity benefits are four times more likely to die than other people in the general population. Iain Duncan Smith did tell MPs that this data did not even exist. Then he told them it did.

Let’s be frank here, Iain Duncan Smith has established a culture where it’s acceptable to lie, even his Curriculum Vitae is comprised of  Machiavellian, narcissistic-inspired confabulations – he’s qualified only in absolute and utter tosh, he graduated without Honour. Or a degree.

And it’s truly priceless that Iain Duncan Smith or David Cameron can accuse anyone of misrepresenting statistics with a straight face, given the large number of official rebukes the Tories have had from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for manipulating or  misrepresenting statistics and telling lies.

Today, Debbie received the following written response to her question from the Prime sinister Minister:

Cameron letter on claimant deaths

Cameron letter on claimant deaths

I’ve already addressed a lot of the content above, however I couldn’t help but note the apparent “policing” of Debbie’s tweets. The response isn’t a rational or reasonable one, and certainly not of a standard that is expected of a prime minister.

How can the use of fake statements from fake characters about fictitious “benefits” of harsh sanctions – the arbitrary and punitive removal of lifeline income to support people in meeting basic survival needs – ever “help claimants and advisers to understand the benefit system”?

How is telling lies about the impact of policy and constructing fake positive testimonies ever “illustrative”? That was no “error”: it was an intentional, deceitful act designed solely to mislead the public and to justify the Conservative’s crass and primitive behaviourist approach to what was once our social security.

As is the insistence that “the statistics showed it is quite wrong to suggest any causal link between the death of an individual and their benefit claim.” Tosh. The statistics showed no such thing,  they did not demonstrate that there is no existing causal link – but the data was presented in a way that intentionally obscures such a link. That does not mean we can conclude there’s no connection between increased mortality and the Conservative “reforms” at all.

Whilst we are warned not to draw inferences of causal links from the statistics, the prime minister thinks that it’s perfectly appropriate to do just that himself. Yet there is no empirical evidence whatsoever to support his denial of a causal link.  The statistical data does not falsify or refute the proposition that such a link exists. We have plenty of recorded evidence, however, to support our proposition that Tory policies are actually harming people.

Tory policies do. Margaret Thatcher’s policies caused premature deaths, too, and her Cabinet were far less harsh towards sick and disabled people than Cameron’s government. A research report which looked at over 70 existing research papers, concludes that as a result of unnecessary unemployment, welfare cuts and damaging housing policies, the former prime minister’s legacy includes the unnecessary and unjust premature death of many British citizens, together with a substantial and continuing burden of suffering and loss of well-being.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if you inflict stress and harm on people who are already ill, by withholding their lifeline support, by constantly reassessing them and telling them they are fit for work when they clearly are not, by invalidating their experiences, by forcing them to fight for the means of survival – without the means of survival, it will probably exacerbate any illness and quite possibly this will kill them.

As I discussed earlier today, Cameron and his government have consistently displayed an absolute lack of concern for sick and disabled people, who have borne the brunt of Tory austerity cuts. Yet it’s inconceivable that Conservatives don’t grasp the fact that their policies are at least potentially very harmful, and certainly very punitive in nature.

I’ve discussed many times before that Tory ideology is founded on toxic subterranean values and principles, which are anachronistic and incompatible with a society that has evolved to value democracy, human rights and the socio-economic gains from our post-war settlement.

Conservatives have always seen inequality as a necessary and beneficial element to a market driven economy, for example, and their policies tend to assemble a steeply hierarchical society, especially given their small state fetishism, which involves removing socio-economic support services and civilising mechanisms such as welfare, free healthcare and access to legal aid.

Beneath the familiar minarchist, class contingent Conservative policies and neoliberal schema is a tacit acceptance of socioeconomic Darwinism, and a leaning towards eugenicist principles, expressed most clearly recently in the withdrawal of tax credit support for low paid families with more than two children, in order to “change behaviours” as Iain Duncan Smith put it. The reasoning behind this is the government believe they can “nudge” poor people into “breeding” less. Such a class contingent policy reflects a deep prejudice and also demonstrates an authoritarianism that is certainly incompatible with democracy and human rights.

(See also David Freud was made to apologise for being a true Tory in public, Paternalistic Libertarianism and Freud’s comments in context and What will the Tories suggest next. “Compassionate” eugenics?)

The Tories employ techniques of neutralization which are used to rationalise or justify acts that contravene social norms or that are illegal.  There are five basic techniques of neutralization; denial of responsibility, denial of injury, denial of victims, condemnation of the condemners, and an appeal to higher loyalties.

The recognition of techniques of neutralisation by David Matza and Gresham Sykes happened during their work on Edwin Sutherland’s Differential Association in the 1950s. Matza and Sykes were working on juvenile delinquency at the time, and they theorised that the same techniques could be found throughout society and published their ideas in Delinquency and Drift, 1964.

It was Alexander Alverez who identified that these techniques were used more broadly at a socio-political level in Nazi Germany to “justify” the Holocaust. He added a sixth technique – Disengagement and Dehumanisation.

Such techniques allow people to neutralise and temporarily suspend their commitment to societal and moral values, and to switch off their own “inner protests”, providing them with the freedom to commit deviant acts. Some people don’t have such inner protests – psychopaths, for example – but they may employ techniques of neutralization to manipulate, and switch off the conscience protests of others.

It’s clear that this is a method frequently employed by the government. The Tories systematically attempt to to distort meanings, to withhold,  or deny any evidence that may expose the impact of their draconian policies on targeted social groups.

For example, when they habitually use the word “reform”, when   referring to is cutting funding or support. and “help” and “support” is Tory-speak that means to coerce and punish. The claim that the bedroom tax ishelping” people into workorhelping child poverty– when empirical research shows that 96% of those affected by the bedroom tax can NOT downsize due to a lack of available homes in their area – is a completely outrageous lie. People can’t move as there is a housing crisis, which is due to a lack of affordable homes and appropriately sized accommodation.

How can policies that further impoverish the poorest ever “help them to into work” or alleviate poverty? It’s glib, irrational tosh from a Government that can’t do coherent, joined up thinking, and even worse, thinks that we can’t either.

Forms of social prejudice are normalised gradually, almost inscrutably and incrementally – in stages. Allport describes the political, social and psychological processes, and how techniques of persuasion – propaganda – are used to facilitate stigmatising and dehumanisation of targeted groups to justify discrimination, until the unthinkable becomes acceptable, because of a steady erosion of our moral and rational boundaries.

The prejudice happens on a symbolic level first – via language – and it starts with subtlety, such as the use of divisive and stigmatising phrases like “scroungers and strivers” in the media and political rhetoric, referring to people who need support and social security as “stock”, suggesting that disabled people are not worth a minimum wage and so on.

These comments and strategies are not “mistakes”, this is how Conservatives really think. People who are prejudiced very seldom own up, and nor do bullies. They employ linguistic strategies, deceitful, diversionary and irrational responses that makes challenging them very difficult.

But as history has taught us, we really must challenge them.

36626_217452248405831_532419169_nPictures courtesy of Robert Livingstone

Related reading:

This is an excellent, substantial collection of evidenced lies, deceits and more lies from Ian Duncan Smith, collated by Bob Ellard, researcher for DPAC The IDS Files: the truth is out there