Tag: Priti Patel

Prime minister phones union leaders in desperate attempt to peddle her Brexit deal

theresa may on phone

Theresa May has taken the completely unprecedented move for a Conservative PM of telephoning union leaders, including Unite’s Len McCluskey, a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, to lobby support for her Brexit plans ahead of next week’s Commons showdown. 

I think he gave her pleading a swerve.

She also called Tim Roache, the general secretary of the GMB union. It was the first time she had spoken to either man since she became Prime Minister in 2016, indicating her desperation. Downing Street has also confirmed that she plans to call other union leaders, thought to include Unison’s Dave Prentis, in the run-up to Tuesday’s “meaningful vote” on her Brexit blueprint.

I’m sure the draconian policies designed to stifle trade union freedoms, which took our country down a dark path, will have been forgotten by now. We’ve all really valued the big move away from freedom and towards greater control for the state over our lives over the last eight years. Who could possibly object to state micromanagement and such authoritarian attacks on unions and collective bargaining, diminishing citizen freedoms that are not theirs to give away.

The EU Social Charter of Rights was intentionally excluded by May’s government from the Withdrawal Bill. Many Conservatives see Brexit as an opportunity for more deregulation and ‘cutting red tape.’ Priti Patel, for example, said: “If we could just halve the EU social and employment legislation we could deliver a £4.3bn boost to the economy.”

A boost for whom?

When Conservatives talk of a boost to the economy, they are usually referring a boost in private profits that comes at the expense of ordinary citizens.

Back in 1984, Margaret Thatcher reached the absurd conclusion it wasn’t possible for someone to be in a union and be loyal to their country. Consequently, GCHQ employees in Cheltenham were denied their basic rights and could no longer have the protection of a union at work. Fourteen workers who refused to give up their union membership cards were unceremoniously sacked.

In 2013, the coalition government introduced fees for taking cases to employment tribunals, claiming it would cut “weak and unnecessary cases”. This not only limited access to justice for some of the most vulnerable citizens in our society, it also gave some of the most unscrupulous bosses free reign exploit people, to abuse health and safety and employment law, knowing there was little chance of being called to account.  In July 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that the Tribunal fees were unlawful and the government was forced to reimburse all those who had paid them. This is a prime example of a vindictive government policy which hurt employees.

In 2015, when the Conservatives were elected with an overall majority, they attacked the trade unions and their right to organise and strike. The right to strike is a fundamental freedom in our democracy.

Now the Conservatives have the brass neck to treat worker’s rights as a mere bargaining chip to get their own way. A means to an end, nothing more. I’m pleased to say that Roache gave her a scornful rebuff to her bargaining bid. He said: “I represent 620,000 working people and it’s about time their voices were heard. After nearly three years I’m glad the Prime Minister finally picked up the phone.

“As you would expect, I was very clear about GMB’s position – the deal on the table isn’t good enough and non-binding assurances on workers’ rights won’t cut it.”

“If the deal genuinely did the the job for GMB members, our union would support it, but it doesn’t,” he added.

Both unions came out against her deal, saying her efforts to woo them were nowhere near enough to get their support. 

May’s approach is all the more surprising because of her previous lack of engagement with the TUC’s Frances O’Grady, revealing last year that she had only met the PM once since she came to power.

The PM has also launched an attempt to sell the merits of her withdrawal agreement to Labour backbenchers in an apparent recognition that she needs to reach out to opposition MPs to avert a very heavy defeat. The government is also preparing to back an amendment tabled by Labour MPs John Mann, Caroline Flint, Lisa Nandy and Gareth Snell to give stronger guarantees that EU workers’ rights and environmental safeguards are enshrined in British law.

Mann met the PM last night along with others, including Flint and Snell, to discuss working together.

It’s rather late in the day for the PM to suddenly declare her concern for worker’s rights. The Conservatives have spent the last eight years destroying people’s job security, and any opportunity for worker’s to exercise collective bargaining. People claiming social security, for example, are coerced into accepting any employment, regardless of pay or conditions, otherwise they face sanction – the withdrawal of their lifeline support, which is barely enough, as it is, to meet basic living costs. 

May has gone out of her way to meet small groups of Labour MPs from strongly Leave-supporting constituencies. Nandy, the MP for Wigan, told the BBC that the PM would only win backing for her agreement if she negotiated with the majority of MPs opposed to no deal or a hard Brexit.

“That’s the importance of what happened this week. Finally there seems to be a recognition from the Conservative leadership that they are going to have to do that,” she said.

Downing Street described May’s contact with union leaders as “constructive” and denied that the move was a sign of desperation.

A spokeswoman said: “It’s part of her ongoing engagement with leaders from across the United Kingdom.”

She added: “The PM speaks to leaders across a range of industries, business groups, and has done that consistently throughout this process and today she spoke to a couple of union leaders and there will be further engagement in the days ahead.”

The news comes as a fresh analysis from the BBC indicates that the PM could face a whopping 228 vote loss. 

 

Related

The link between Trade Unionism and equality 

 


I don’t make any money from my work. I have a very limited income. But you can help if you like, by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others affected by the Conservative’s welfare ‘reforms’. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

DonatenowButton

Government denies censuring Priti Patel regarding secret Israeli meeting, now she’s resigned

Theresa May faces increasing pressure to strip two more cabinet ministers of their posts following separate conroversies involving Priti Patel and Boris Johnson.

Patel jumped before she was pushed, and offered her resignation yesterday. In her resignation letter, Patel said her “actions fell below the high standards that are expected.”

Senior Conservatives said both ministers had committed sackable offences which have materially damaged the UK’s interests and those of its citizens.

The controversy around Patel’s unofficial trip to Israel grew, as it emerged she may have omitted to tell May she discussed funnelling UK aid cash to the country’s army despite Downing Street asking for full details of her visit.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson faced pressure in the House of Commons, were he denied he made undiplomatic comments that were clearly recorded in Parliament and which led to the Iranian judiciary threatening to double a British woman’s prison sentence unfairly. The 38-year-old British woman was arrested and jailed in Iran, accused of spreading propaganda, with a central part of her defence being that she had never worked teaching journalists in the country, but was merely there on holiday.

But when Johnson mistakenly told MPs in a public hearing that she had been “teaching journalists”, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was hauled in front of an Iranian court and threatened with another five years in prison – on top of her existing five-year sentence. 

These ministerial gaffes come less than a week after the Prime Minister was forced to push Michael Fallon out of her Cabinet, following allegations about sexually inappropriate behaviour. And then there are the emerging allegations regarding Damian Green and Mark Garnier, who both face Cabinet Office investigations over inappropriate conduct, too.

According to the government, Priti Patel, the International development secretary, failed to inform the Prime Minister about the meetings she had in Israel, including discussions of plans to send funds to the Israeli army, to support “humanitarian operations” in the Golan Heights. Amid the recent Conservative diplomatic omnishambles, Patel was already facing demands she should quit the post after failing to come clean with Theresa May over 12 other meetings she has held with senior Israeli figures, including prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Sources from the Department for International Development (DfID) confirmed on Tuesday night that Patel held further meetings in September with Israeli government officials without adhering to proper procedures. It emerged that Patel had two further meetings in September without government officials. She met the Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan in Westminster and Israeli foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem in New York.

She was also rebuked by No 10 after giving the false impression in an interview with the Guardian that foreign secretary Boris Johnson and the Foreign Office knew about the meetings.  

At 13 out of a total of 14 meetings with Israeli officials over August and September, she was accompanied by Lord Polak, a lobbyist and a leading member of Conservative Friends of Israel.

No 10 on Tuesday said Patel had not informed the prime minister about the “aid to Israel” discussions at a crunch meeting on Monday which was supposed to draw a line under the controversy. 

The Foreign Office advised that because Britain did not officially recognise Israel’s annexation of the area, (it’s been an area of longstanding geopolitical dispute) it would be hard for the Department for International Development to work there.

Speaking in the Commons, Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt defended Patel’s “perfectly legitimate” right to raise the matter – saying it was within the context of providing medical help for Syrian refugees who could not get assistance in their own country. 

Labour’s Kate Osamor said it was a “black and white case” of the ministerial code being broken, and called for Patel’s resignation.

Writing to the prime minister, Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson said he understood  Patel had met UK officials during the holiday.

“I have been informed that while she was in Israel, Ms Patel met officials from the British consulate general Jerusalem, but that the fact of this meeting has not been made public,” he wrote.

“If this were the case, then it would surely be impossible to sustain the claim that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was not aware of Ms Patel’s presence in Israel.”

He added: “The existence of such a meeting or meetings would call into question the official account of Ms Patel’s behaviour, and the purpose of her visit.”

In a her disjointed statement on the government site, Patel says: “On Friday 3rd November, the Secretary of State was quoted in the Guardian newspaper as follows:

“Boris knew about the visit. The point is that the Foreign Office did know about this, Boris knew about [the trip].”

This quote may have given the impression that the Secretary of State had informed the Foreign Secretary about the visit in advance. The Secretary of State would like to take this opportunity to clarify that this was not the case. The Foreign Secretary did become aware of the visit, but not in advance of it.

“The stuff that is out there is it, as far as I am concerned. I went on holiday and met with people and organisations. As far as I am concerned, the Foreign Office have known about this. It is not about who else I met, I have friends out there.” 

And: “The Secretary of State regrets the lack of precision in the wording she used in these statements, and is taking this opportunity to clarify the position.”

The comments looked like a pretty terrible attempt to gloss over what were apparently  out and out lies. On the face of it.

But perhaps the lies are not entirely Patel’s. 

She then goes on to disclose the meetings in her statement. The official story is that Theresa May learned about the proposals from reports in the media, and Downing Street sources “confirmed” this.

However, Stephen Pollard at the Jewish Chronicle says that he understands Patel was told by Number 10 not to include the extra meetings so as not to embarrass the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In an interesting development, information emerged from two different sources, that Patel did disclose the meeting with Mr Rotem but was told by Number 10 not to include it as it would embarrass the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In addition, the article goes on to say that although Patel’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not authorised in advance, the British government was made aware of it within hours. 

The Jewish Chronicle says: “On 22 August – the same day as Ms Patel spoke to Mr Netanyahu – Middle East minister Alistair Burt and David Quarrey, the British Ambassador to Israel, met Michael Oren, Deputy Minister at the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office. According to the notes of the meeting, Mr Oren referred to Patel having had a successful meeting with Mr Netanyahu earlier. 

It is understood that this information was then conveyed to Number 10.

In addition, Prime Minister Theresa May spoke to Patel in advance of the UN General Assembly and they discussed the Development Secretary’s meeting with Mr Netanyahu, as well as the details of Ms Patel’s plan for UK aid to be shared with the Israelis. Mrs May agreed that the idea was sensible but needed sign off from the FCO.”

Of course Downing Street deny telling International Development Secretary Patel to withhold the information. A spokesman for May accepted Number 10 knew about a meeting between Patel and Yuval Rotem, but said the minister’s department did not put it in a list disclosing 12 meetings that took place on her summer holiday “because it occurred several months later.” 

The Number 10 spokesman said Patel did disclose the September 18 meeting when she met and was censured by Theresa May on Monday.

He explained that the reason the meeting did not appear on the list of disclosed appointments was because the Department for International Development had confined the list to those that took place on her summer holiday to Israel.

Several reports have claimed Number 10  instructed Patel not to publicise the Rotem meeting, because it would be too embarrassing for Boris Johnson and the Foreign Office.

It was thought the emergence of the Rotem meeting in New York would give the prime minister further reason to sack Patel, who was expected to lose her job yesterday.

However, she resigned. She was ordered back from an official trip in Africa by the PM and summoned to Downing Street over the row, yesterday. 

In her resignation letter, Patel said: “While my actions were meant with the best of intentions, my actions also fell below the standards of transparency and openness that I have promoted and advocated.

“I offer a fulsome apology to you and to the government for what has happened and offer my resignation.”

In her reply, the prime minister said: ‘‘As you know the UK and Israel are close allies, and it is right that we should work closely together. But that must be done formally, and through official channels.

”That is why, when we met on Monday I was glad to accept your apology and welcomed your clarification about your trip to Israel over the summer.

“Now that further details have come to light it is right you have decided to resign.”

The question is what did the Foreign Office already know of Priti Patel’s visit to Israel?

 


I don’t make any money from my work. But you can support Politics and Insights and contribute by making a donation which will help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated, and helps to keep my articles free and accessible to all – thank you. 

DonatenowButton

A black day for disabled people – disability benefit cuts enforced by government despite widespread opposition

536738_306169162785952_999031084_n

“The fact is that Ministers are looking for large savings at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable. That was not made clear in the general election campaign; then, the Prime Minister said that disabled people would be protected.” – [Official Report, Commons, 2/3/16; cols. 1052-58.]

A coalition of 60 national disability charities have condemned the government’s cuts to benefits as a “step backwards” for sick and disabled people and their families. The Disability Benefits Consortium say that the cuts, which will see people lose up to £1,500 a year, will leave disabled people feeling betrayed by the government and will have a damaging effect on their health, finances and ability to find work.

Research by the Consortium suggests the low level of benefit is already failing to meet disabled people’s needs. 

A survey of 500 people in the affected group found that 28 per cent of people had been unable to afford to eat while in receipt of the benefit. Around 38 per cent of respondents said they had been unable to heat their homes and 52 per cent struggled to stay healthy.

The Government was twice defeated in the Lords over proposals to cut Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for sick and disabled people in the work-related activity group (WRAG) from £103 to £73.

However the £30 a week cut is set to go ahead after bitterly disappointed and angry peers were left powerless to continue to oppose the Commons, which has overturned both defeats. The government has hammered through the cuts of £120 a month to the lifeline income of ill and disabled people by citing the “financial privilege” of the Commons, and after Priti Patel informing the Lords that they have “overstepped their mark” in opposing the cuts twice.

The Strathclyde review, commissioned by a rancorous and retaliatory David Cameron, following the delay and subsequently effective defeat of government tax credit legislation in the House of Lords, recommends curtailing the powers of Upper House. Strathclyde concludes in his report that the House of Lords should be permitted to ask the Commons to “think again” when a disagreement on proposed legislation exists, but should not be allowed to veto. MPs would ultimately make a decision on whether a measure is passed into law. The review focuses in particular on the relationship between the Commons and the Lords, in relation to the former’s primacy on financial matters and secondary legislation, and serves to highlight the government’s very worrying increasing tendency towards authoritarianism.

The cuts to ESA and proposed and probable cuts to Personal Independent Payments (PIP), take place in the context of a Tory manifesto that included a pledge not to cut disability benefits.

Yesterday in the House of Lords, independent crossbencher Lord Low of Dalston warned: “This is a black day for disabled people.”

Contrary to what is being reported, it won’t be only new claimants affected by the cuts to ESA. Firstly, it may potentially affect anyone who has a break in their ESA claim (and that could happen because of a reassessment with a decision that means needing to ask for a mandatory review), and secondly, those migrated onto Universal Credit will be affected. The benefit cap will also cut sick and disabled people’s income if they are in the ESA WRAG.

Paralympic gold medallist Baroness Grey-Thompson said she was bitterly disappointed that this “dreadful and punitive” part of the Bill was going ahead.

Parliamentary procedure had prevented her putting down another amendment opposing the move, which will have a harsh, negative impact on thousands of people’s lives.

Already facing a UN inquiry into grave and systematic abuses of the human rights of disabled people, Cameron remains completely unabashed by his government’s blatant attack on a protected social group, and the Conservatives continue to target disabled people for a disproportionately large burden of austerity cuts.

The Government have been accused of failing to fulfil their public sector equality duty. Under the Equality Act 2010, the Government must properly consider the impact of their policies on the elimination of discrimination, the advancement of equality of opportunity and the fostering of good relations. This is shameful, in a very wealthy first-world democracy.

The “justification” the Tories offer for the cut of almost £120 a month to the lifeline support of people judged to be unfit for work by their own doctors AND the state, is that it will “help people into work”. I’ve never heard of taking money from people who already have very little described as “help” before. Only the Conservatives  would contemplate cutting money from sick and disabled people, whilst gifting the millionaires with £107, 000 each per year in the form of a tax “break”.

Reducing disabled people’s incomes won’t “incentivise” anyone to find a job. It will just make life much more difficult. The government have made the decision to cut disability benefits because of an extremely prejudiced ideological preference for a “small state” and their antiwelfare agenda. There are alternative political choices that entail far more humane treatment of sick and disabled people. The fact that ministers have persistently refused to carry out a policy impact assessment indicates clearly that this measure has got nothing to do with any good will towards disabled people, nor is it about “helping” people into work.

The cut simply expresses the Conservative’s contempt for social groups that are economically inactive, regardless of the reasons. Sick and disabled people claiming ESA have already been deemed unfit for work by their doctors, and by the state via the work capability assessment. Simply refusing to accept this, and hounding a group of people who are ill, and who have until recently been considered reasonably exempt from working, is an indictment of this increasingly despotic government.

I can’t help wondering how long it will be before we hear about government proposals to cut the financial support further for those in the ESA support group. There does seem to be a recognisable pattern of political scapegoating, public moral boundaries being pushed, and cruel, highly unethical cuts being announced. Social security provision is being dismantled incrementally, whilst the Conservative justification narrative becomes less and less coherent. Despite the arrogant moralising approach of Tory ministers, and the Orwellian rhetoric of “helping” and “supporting” people who are too ill to work into any job, or face the threat of starvation and destitution, none of this will ever justify the unforgivable, steady withdrawal of lifeline support for sick and disabled people.

Baroness Meacher warned that for the most vulnerable the cut was “terrifying” and bound to lead to increased debt.

Condemning the “truly terrible” actions of the Treasury, she urged ministers to monitor the number of suicides in the year after the change comes in, adding: “I am certain there will be people who cannot face the debt and the loss of their home, who will take their lives.” Not only have the government failed to carry out an impact assessment regarding the cuts, Lord Freud said that the impact, potential increase in deaths and suicides won’t be monitored, apart from “privately” because individual details can’t be shared and because that isn’t a “useful approach”.

He went on to say “We have recently produced a large analysis on this, which I will send to the noble Baroness. That analysis makes it absolutely clear that you cannot make these causal links between the likelihood of dying—however you die—and the fact that someone is claiming benefit.”

Actually, a political refusal to investigate an established correlation between the welfare “reforms” and an increase in the mortality statistics of those hit the hardest by the cuts – sick and disabled people – is not the same thing as there being no causal link. Often, correlation implies causality and therefore such established links require further investigation. It is not possible to disprove a causal link without further investigation, either.

Whilst the government continue to deny there is a causal link between their welfare policies, austerity measures and an increase in premature deaths and suicides, they cannot deny there is a clear correlation, which warrants further research – an independent inquiry at the VERY least. But the government are hiding behind this distinction to deny any association at all between policy and policy impacts. That’s just plain wrong.

Insisting that there isn’t a “causal link” established, whilst withholding crucial evidence in parliament and from the public domain is what can at best be considered the actions and behaviours of tyrants.

 

Related reading

House of Lords debate: ESA – Monday 07 March 2016 (From 3.06pm)

Thatcher’s policies condemned for causing “unjust premature death”

MP attacks cuts hitting disabled people – Debbie Abrahams

Leading the debate against the Welfare Reform and Work Bill – 3rd reading – Debbie Abrahams

My speech at the Changes to Funding of Support for Disabled People Westminster Hall Debate – Debbie Abrahams

The government need to learn about the link between correlation and causality. Denial of culpability is not good enough.

The new Work and Health Programme: government plan social experiments to “nudge” sick and disabled people into work

A Critique of Conservative notions of “Social Research”

The DWP mortality statistics: facts, values and Conservative concept control

10177255_710935002309364_996655242459079802_n

Pictures courtesy of Robert Livingstone

My work isn’t funded and I don’t get paid to write. But you can support Politics and Insights, and help me to continue researching, analysing and writing independently.

The smallest amount is much appreciated, and helps to keep my articles free and accessible to all – thank you.

And a massive thank you to those who have already contributed.

DonatenowButton
cards

Maximus ‘has falsified results of fitness for work tests’, says MP – John Pring

By John Pring

The discredited US outsourcing giant contracted to carry out “fitness for work” tests on behalf of the government has been accused by an MP of “falsifying” the results of assessments.

Labour MP Louise Haigh attacked the track record, ethics and even criminal behaviour of Maximus in delivering public contracts in the US, during a debate on the work capability assessment (WCA).

But she also highlighted what she described as a “disconcerting pattern of behaviour” by Maximus in the UK since taking over the WCA contract from Atos last year.

She said: “There seems to be an alarming trend of cases being rejected based on factual errors or even – I hesitate to say this – falsification.”

Haigh (pictured speaking in the debate), a shadow Cabinet Office minister, also raised concerns that there was no way for the public to check whether targets set for Maximus by the government – such as the number of serious complaints and the payment of travel expenses within nine working days – were being met.

 

You can read the rest of this excellent article here

Related

Doctors bribed with 70-90k salaries to join Maximus and “endorse a political agenda regardless of how it affects patients.”

Benefits Assessor: How Long Are You Likely To Have Parkinson’s?

I was asked in 2011 by an Atos assessor how long I thought I would have a “chronic, progressive illness”.  Medical testing had confirmed I have connective tissue disease (lupus). That was the diagnosis from my rheumatologist, which she read aloud at the assessment, from a correspondence between my consultant and my GP. Dumbfounded, I replied:

“Until I die. The clue is in the words ‘progressive’ and ‘chronic’.”

But an essential failure to grasp what words like “chronic”, “degenerative” and “progressive” actually mean isn’t peculiar to state assessors of illness and disability, who work for the government specifically to reduce the number of people eligible for sickness benefits. Government ministers display the same level of purposive ignorance:

Ca68L1xWcAA9MGT.jpg large

Hardly  “appropriate” , “reasonable” or taking “circumstances”, or medical diagnoses, for that matter, into account. A degenerative condition is one that DOES deteriorate. That is why it is called  a “degenerative condition.” It is therefore wrong and displays a degree of exceptional ignorance to assume that people WON’T or “may not” deteriorate.

This is why we don’t visit the government rather than a doctor when we become ill, especially when the state thinks it knows best about our medical conditions and how we should address those – and clearly doesn’t. This is about irrational ideology-driven policies aimed at cutting  back the welfare state. Regardless of how unreasonable that is and regardless of the consequences for those needing social security.

Sick and disabled people need support, understanding and medical care, not ignorance, Conservative dogma, vicious stigmatisation and a (neo)liberal re-translation of the words “Arbeit macht frei”.  

The government have conflated human needs with purely dogmatic economic outcomes.

Kitty S Jones.

Same Difference

This paragraph from Frances Ryan’s latest article- an interview with a claimant called Phil Brehaut- just says it all.

“It was very daunting, like being in court,” he says. “The lady on the panel actually asked me, ‘How long are you likely to have Parkinson’s?’” He pauses. “The person next to her quickly whispered in her ear … You would think they’d know a little bit about it.”

View original post

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

disempowerment
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, 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.

The merits of quantitative analysis

The government have denied there is a causal link between their welfare policies, austerity measures and an increase in mental distress, premature death and suicide. However, ministers cannot deny there is a clear and well-established correlation, which warrants further research. But the government are hiding behind a distinction often made by researchers, to avoid accountability and to deny any association at all between policy and policy impacts. That’s just plain wrong.

Correlation isn’t quite the same as causality. When researchers talk about correlation, what they are saying is that they have found a relationship between two (or more) variables. “Correlation does not mean causation” is a quip that researchers and quite often, the government, chucks at us to explain that events or statistics that happen to coincide with each other are not necessarily causally related.

However, the possibility of causation isn’t refuted by political denial or somehow invalidated by the establishment of a correlation. Quite the contrary. Indeed an established association implies there may also be a causal link. To prove causation, further research into the association between variables must be pursued. So, care should be taken not to make an assumption that correlation never implies causation, because it quite often does indicate a causal link.

Correlations between two things may be caused by a third factor that affects both of them. This sneaky, hidden third factor is called a confounding variable, or sometimes, simply a confounder.

However, a lot of social research tends to indicate and discuss a correlation between variables, not a direct cause and effect relationship. Researchers are inclined to talk cautiously about associations.

It’s worth bearing in mind that establishing correlation is crucial for research and shows that something needs to be examined and investigated further. That’s precisely how we found out that smoking causes cancer, for example – through repeated findings showing an association (those good solid, old fashioned science standards of replicability and verification). It is only by systematically eliminating other potential associations – variables – that we can establish causalities.

The objective of most research or scientific analysis is to identify the extent to which one variable relates to another variable and the direction of the association. If there is a correlation then this guides further research into investigating whether one action causes the other. Statistics measure occurrences in time and can be used to calculate probabilities. Probability is important in research because measurements, observations and findings are often influenced by variation. In addition, probability theory provides the theoretical groundwork for statistical inference.

Statistics are fundamental to good government; to the delivery of public services and to decision-making at all levels of society. Statistics provide parliament and the public with a window on the work, performance and intentions of a government. Such data allows for the design of policies and programmes that aim to bring about a desired and stated outcome, and permits better targeting of resources. Once a policy has been implemented it is necessary to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the policy to determine whether it has been successful in achieving the intended outcomes. It is also important to evaluate whether services (outputs) are effectively reaching those people for whom they are intended. Statistics play a crucial role in this process. So statistics, therefore, represent a significant role in good policy-making, monitoring and political accountability. The impact of policy can be measured with statistics.

So firstly, we need to ask why the government are not doing this.

If policy impacts cannot be measured then it is not good policy.

Ensuring accuracy and integrity in the reporting of statistics is a serious responsibility. In cases where there may not be an in-depth understanding of statistics in general, or of a particular topic, the use of glossaries, explanatory notes and classifications ought to be used to assist in their interpretation.

Statistics can be presented and used in ways that may lead readers and politicians to draw misleading conclusions. It is possible to take numbers out of context, as Iain Duncan Smith, amongst others, is prone to do. However, official statistics are supposed to be produced impartially and free from political influence, according to a strict code of practice. This is a government that systematically breaches the code of conduct. See: List of official rebukes for Tory lies and statistical misrepresentations, for example.

We need to ask why the government refuses to conduct any research into their austerity policies, the impacts they are having and the associated mental distress, physical harm, deaths and suicides.

Without such research, it isn’t appropriate or legitimate to deny a causal link between what are, after all, extremely punitive, targeted, class-contingent policies and an increase in adverse consequences, such as premature mortality rates.

It isn’t unreasonable to be concerned about policies that are targeted to reduce the income of social groups already struggling because of limited resources, nor is it much of an inferential leap to recognise that such policies will have some adverse consequences.

In social research, traditionally, quantitative methods emphasise maintaining objectivity, and aim to keep social inquiries “value-free.” However, the area of study is intentionally selected by researchers, funded by interested parties and there are problems related to the connection between observation and interpretation. Perhaps every observation is an interpretation, since “facts” are seen through a lens of perceptions, pre-conceptions and ideology. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation choose to study poverty. Cynical Iain Duncan Smith simply changes the definition of it.

The importance of qualitative research: who are the witnesses?

Social phenomena cannot always be studied in the same way as natural phenomena, because human beings are subjective, intentional and have a degree of free will. One problem with quantitative research is that it tends to impose theoretical frameworks on those being studied, and it limits responses from those participating in the study.

Social reality is not “out there” waiting to be discovered: we are constructing and reconstructing it meaningfully. However, politically, there’s been a marked shift away from understanding the lived experiences of real people in context.

There are also distinctions to be made between facts, values and meanings. Qualitative researchers are concerned with generating explanations and extending understanding rather than simply describing and measuring social phenomena and establishing basic cause and effect relationships. Qualitative research tends to be exploratory, potentially illuminating underlying intentions, responses, beliefs, reasons, opinions, and motivations to human behaviours. This type of analysis often provides insights into social problems, helps to develop ideas and establish explanations, and may also be used to formulate hypotheses for further quantitative research.

The dichotomy between quantitative and qualitative methodological approaches, theoretical structuralism (macro-level perspectives) and interpretivism (micro-level perspectives) in sociology, for example, is not nearly so clear as it once was, however, with many social researchers recognising the value of both means of data and evidence collection and employing methodological triangulation, reflecting a commitment to methodological and epistemological pluralism.

Qualitative methods tend to be much more inclusive than quantitative analysis, lending participants a dialogic, democratic and first hand voice regarding their own experiences.

The current government have tended to dismiss qualitative evidence from first hand witnesses of the negative impacts of their policies – presented cases studies, individual accounts and ethnographies – as “anecdotal.” However, that is a very authoritarian approach to social administration and it needs to be challenged. 

The most rigid form of quantitative research, associated with positivism, is a traditionally Conservative way of rigidly demarcating the world, imposing hierarchies of priority, worth and order, to assure ontological security and maintain the status quo, regardless of how absurd this shrinking island of certainty appears to the many of us that are being systematically exiled from it.

Neither positivism nor Conservatism extend an acknowledgement, recognition or account of human diversity – which is among our greatest assets, after all. It’s a curious ideological tension for neoliberal Conservatives: they value competitive individualism on the one hand, but have such rigid ideas about pluralism and social group deviations from imposed, value-laden norms, on the other. 

Competitive individualism is a form of individualism that arises from competitive systems, rather than co-operative, collective ones. The function of the system is to maintain inequality in the society and fields of human engagement. Neoliberals believe that competition acts as an incentive to people’s behaviours, encouraging a “race to the top”. Those at the top then ‘trickle down’ wealth to benefit the poorest’, according to this behaviourist theory. But of course that hasn’t happened.

In any system of competition, there are inevitably relatively few ‘winners’ and rather more ‘losers’. Such is the logic of competition. And most people don’t share their trophies with others.

The competition is rigged in any case, since the Conservatives are not too keen on equality of opportunity. Such is the logic of elitism. 

The Conservatives don’t like social individualism, difference or diversity within society.  For them, the only individualism worth anything is that defined and categorised by how much money you have.  A ‘good citizen’ is wealthy. The logic follows that they must be ‘good’ to be so wealthy, after all.  Such is the politically convenient circular argument of meritocracy. 

In the current context, the Conservatives’ approach to ‘research’ is tantamount to a politically extended epistemological totalitarianism. (Epistemology is an important and underpinning branch of philosophy that extends various theories of the nature and grounds of knowledge in the social sciences, particularly with reference to its limits, reliability and validity.) It’s merely politically convenient to use a discredited positivist approach to policy-making, because such pseudoscientific narratives can be used to legitimise and impose virtually any policy.  Pseudoscience was once used to justify eugenic policies, after all. This is an approach that purposefully excludes citizens’ accounts. It’s authoritarian.

However, a qualitative approach to research potentially provides insight, depth and richly detailed accounts. The evidence collected is much more coherent and comprehensive, because it explores beneath surface appearances, and reaches above causal relationships, delving much deeper than the simplistic analysis of ranks, categories and counts. It provides a reliable and rather more authentic record of experiences, attitudes, feelings and behaviours, it prompts an openness and is expansive, whereas quantitative methods tend to limit and are somewhat reductive. Qualitative research methods encourage people to expand on their responses and may then open up new issues and topic areas not initially considered by researchers. 

As such, qualitative methods are prefigurative and bypass problems regarding potential power imbalances between the researcher and the subjects of research, by permitting participation and creating space for genuine dialogue and reasoned discussions to take place. Research regarding political issues and policy impacts must surely engage citizens on a democratic, equal basis and permit participation in decision-making, to ensure an appropriate balance of power between citizens and the state.

That assumes, of course, that governments want citizens to engage and participate. There is nothing to prevent a government deliberately exploiting a research framework as a way to test out highly unethical and ideologically-driven policies, and to avoid democratic accountability, transparency and public safeguards. How appropriate is it to apply a biomedical model of prescribed policy “treatments” to people experiencing politically and structurally generated social problems, such as unemployment, inequality and poverty, for example? This is happening and needs to be challenged.

Iain Duncan Smith and Priti Patel, amongst other ministers, claim that we cannot make a link between government policies and the increasing number of deaths of sick and disabled people. There are no grounds whatsoever for their claim. There has been no cumulative impact assessment or monitoring of welfare policies, no inquiry, no further research regarding an established correlation and a longstanding refusal from the Tories to undertake any of these. There is therefore no evidence for their claim.

Such political denial is oppressive – it serves to sustain and amplify a narrow, hegemonic political narrative, stifling pluralism and excluding marginalised social groups, excluding alternative accounts of citizen’s experiences, negating counternarratives; it sidesteps democratic accountability, stultifies essential public debate, obscures evidence and hides politically inconvenient, exigent truths. Denial of causality does not reduce the probability of it, especially in cases where a correlation has been well-established and evidenced.

So, how do we address these issues?

Democracy is not something we have: it’s something we have to DO 

Government ministers like to hear facts, figures and statistics all the time. What we need to bring to the equation is a real, live human perspective. We need to let ministers know how the policies they are implementing and considering directly impact ourselves, their constituents and social groups more widely. One of the most powerful things we can do to make sure the government listens to our concerns is to engage and support the organisation of family, friends, neighbours and wider communities. While many people regard state or national-level politics as an intractable mess that’s impossible to influence, collective voices really do make a difference. The best weapon of influence we have is meticulous documentation of our experiences.

Once upon a time, policy was a response from government aimed at meeting public needs. It was part of an intimate democratic dialogue between the state and citizens. Traditional methods of participating in government decision-making include:

  • political parties or individual politicians
  • lobbying decision-makers in government
  • community groups
  • voluntary organisations
  • public opinion
  • public consultations
  • the media
  • prefigurative politics

Nowadays, policies have been unanchored from any democratic dialogue regarding public needs and are more about monologues aimed at shaping those needs to suit the government and rigid policy outcomes. For many of us, policies are being formulated to act upon us as if we are objects, rather than autonomous human subjects. This political dehumanisation has contributed significantly to a wider process of social outgrouping and increasing stigmatisation.

But in democracies, Governments are elected to represent and serve the needs of the population. Democracy is not only about elections. It is also about distributive and social justice. The quality of the democratic process, including transparent and accountable Government and equality before the law, is crucial to social organisation, yet it seems the moment we become distracted, less attentive and permit inequality to fundamentally divide our society, the essential details and defining features of democracy seem to melt into air.

arnstein-ladder-citizenship-participation

 

 Sherry Arnstein’s Ladder of Citizen Participation and Power.

Whereabouts are you on the ladder? I think socioeconomic status has some bearing on how far up people place themselves and how much power they feel they have to influence decision-making. 

For Arnstein, participation reflects “the redistribution of power that enables the have-not citizens, presently excluded from the political and economic processes, to be deliberately included in the future. It is the strategy by which the excluded join in determining how information is shared, goals and policies are set, tax resources are allocated, programmess are operated, and benefits like contracts and patronage are parceled out. In short, it is the means by which they can induce significant social reform which enables them to share in the benefits of the affluent society.”

A starting point may be the collective gathering of evidence and continual documentation of our individual narratives concerning experiences of austerity and the welfare “reforms”, which we must continue to present to relevant ministers, parliament, government departments, the mainstream media and any organisations that may be interested in promoting citizen inclusion, empowerment and democratic participation.

We can give our own meaningful account of our own experiences and include our own voice, reflecting our own first hand witnessing, experiencing and knowledge of policy impacts, describing how we make sense of and understand our situations, including the causal links between our own circumstances, hardships, sense of isolation and distress, and Conservative policies and subsequent socioeconomic frameworks, as active, intentional, conscientious citizens. Furthermore, we can collectively demand a democratic account and response (rather than accepting denial and a refusal to engage) from the government.

ImageVaultHandler.aspx

Related

How can we find out whether people are really turning against democracy? – Democratic Audit UK

Psychologists Against Austerity campaign – call for evidence

The Psychological Impact of Austerity – Psychologists Against Austerity

A critique of Conservative notions of social research

The Conservative approach to social research – that way madness lies

Research finds strong correlation between Work Capability Assessment and suicide

Suicides reach a ten year high and are linked with welfare “reforms”

I don’t make any money from my work, and I’m not funded. You can help to support Politics and Insights by making a donation to help me continue to research and write independently and continue to support other people

DonatenowButton
cards

Soul-breaking government scheme to provide ‘expert’ employment ‘support’ to young people in schools

430835_148211001996623_1337599952_n (1)


The so-called ‘small state’ government have pledged to intrude schools to place ‘demand-led, Jobcentre Plus staff to supplement careers guidance and help schools deliver their statutory duty to provide high-quality, independent and impartial careers advice.’

See government press release: Jobcentre Plus support rolled out to schools.

Isn’t all existing careers advice impartial?

Ah, I see that impartial now means: ‘to inform independent choice,’ according to the newly introduced Careers and Enterprise Company, who will work with Jobcentre Plus staff ‘to ensure schools receive a coherent and aligned offer.’

Aligned to what? 

The needs of local businesses and the neoliberal labour market and not the needs of young people.

To inform independent choice. That’s a bit like saying “If you do everything I say, you will be truly free to make your own choices.  

The Tories are experts in linguistic behaviourism, telling lies and social control freakery, but not very much else.

Impartial. It’s another one of those Tory definitions that mean something else completely. Like helping or supporting people into work, which actually means a crude type of punitive behaviourism  – the imposition of  punitive financial sanctions if you don’t do exactly what you are told, and actually, quite often, even if you do. I’ve never understood how starvation and destitution can ever help or incentivise anyone to find a job, especially when experience and empirical evidence tells us otherwise. The welfare state has been weaponised against the people it was designed to support: a penultimate, vindictive Tory tactic before they completely dismantle it once and for all.

In 2015, the government’s Earn or Learn taskforce announced a new 3-week programme to give young jobseekers an ‘unprecedented level of support that will help them find work within 6 months.’  Personally, I shudder at the very thought of the Tories supporting my own children. I don’t want them anywhere near young people more generally. Regressive and Orwellian Tory ‘support’ has killed adults. There is no conceivable way that this bunch of tyrants can ever be trusted with our children’s future.

From 2017, the new programme will offer ‘an intensive curriculum’ involving practicing job applications and interview techniques as well as extensive job searches, and is expected to take 71 hours over the first 3 weeks of the claim. Welcome to the ultimate libertarian paternalist’s dystopic ‘education’ programme.

This ‘expert employment support to young people’ has been launched by two utterly inept, lying, dogmatic Conservatives with a history of formulating extremely nasty, punitive approaches to state defined ‘welfare and wellbeing’ – Iain Duncan Smith and Priti Patel.

Someone should put them straight: education includes the opportunity to attend college and university. Curiously, the Conservative brand of ‘impartial’ career advice seems to be all about big business ‘leading the way’ by instilling the protestant work ethic in our children. Life and learning is about working for people who make profits. That is the order of the world. 

Children from the age of twelve are to be coached to undertake ‘work experience.’ To clarify, that’s work fare – stacking shelves at Poundland or sweeping floors at your local McDonald‘s, for no pay.

It’s difficult to see what kind of educational process such a Conservative ‘curriculum’ entails, although it does include a sequence of instruction: a barely concealed hidden curriculum which reinforces existing social inequalities by ‘educating’ students according to their class, promoting the acceptance of a social pre-destiny of exploitation without promoting rational and reflective consideration.

A veritable pedagogy of the oppressed.

Duncan Smith babbles:

This scheme is fundamentally about social mobility and social justice – ensuring we give all young people the best chance to get on in life.

Someone should tell this idiot that social justice is all about the fair and just relationship between the individual and society. This is measured by the distribution of wealth, resources, opportunities, freedoms for personal activity and social privileges. It is about removing barriers to social mobility, the creation of social safety nets and economic justice. There is no mention of work fare for adults and children, exploitation, corporate profits and Tory donors in any standard definition of social justice anywhere.

Steve Bell cartoon

It’s not as if the Conservatives have historically shown the slightest interest in and recognition of realising human potential. That’s far too progressive and would require the capacity for democratic dialogue instead of paternalist preaching and lofty class-contingent, traditionally prejudiced, moralising. The Tories have always prefered a steeply hierarchical world, comprised of ascribed social status.

What the Conservatives plan is a blatant programme of indoctrination and political micromanagement to ensure that young people learn their place and accept a future of exploitative, low paid, insecure jobs, without the prospect of real opportunities or the chance to go to university. It’s more psychoregulation and authoritarian politics and has nothing to do with genuine needs-led or evidence-based policy.

And it’s to be delivered in our schools: transforming them from Ideological State Apparatuses – ideologies have the function of masking the exploitative arrangements on which class societies are based – into unmasked Repressive State Apparatuses. Hidden in plain view.

Authoritarianism tends to become more visible and frankly expressed over time.

demcracy

 


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.

DonatenowButton

%d bloggers like this: