Iain Duncan Smith Urges Bishops To Back Off

We’ve have had a weekend of the Tories shamefully spinning the facts on immigration and benefits, now this:

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) has hit out at bishops trying to block his welfare reforms, accusing them of ignoring the concerns of ordinary people.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, he acknowledged that his plans to limit the total payments any household can receive could face defeat in the House of Lords on Monday.

“The question I’d ask these bishops is, over all these years, why have they sat back and watched people being placed in houses they cannot afford? It’s not a kindness,” he said. The question the Bishops might ask is why did successive governments sit back and watch house prices rise, driven by an out of control, clearly self destructive, free market, to levels where ordinary hard working people could not afford to live in ordinary houses in the same area as their job, family and friends?  Why did successive governments do nothing about providing affordable housing for all those hard working families who cannot make ends meet regardless of how hard they work simply because their wages are too low?

“I would like to see their concerns about ordinary people, who are working hard, paying their tax and commuting long hours, who don’t have as much money as they would otherwise because they’re paying tax for all of this. Where is the bishops’ concern for them?  Well the Bishops might ask why do these poor ordinary hard working people have to pay tax to subsidise owners of buy to let properties because let’s remember that’s were the money goes.  In addition, perhaps the Bishops are concerned that these ordinary people are paying a higher percentage in tax than many of the property developers who benefit from the income from high rents but live abroad for half the year to avoid paying a fair tax.

“I would like to see a more balanced response from the bishops.  Perhaps the Bishops actually want critical analysis based on facts, evidence and rational thought.

“It’s all very well for the bishops to express a political opinion, but I would love them to ask about the poor people on low incomes who are working hard, whose families share rooms, who are doing the right thing.” I think that is exactly what the Bishops are concerned about i.e. families who have lived in the same area / village for generations but who are priced out of their village  by  free market houses prices, grotesquely inflated by second and third home buyers. Then there are people who want to live near their work because they cannot afford to travel far but are priced out of the area  by people whose earnings are so high that they do not have enough to spend their money on.

With Liberal Democrat peers expected to vote against the plan in the Lords, Mr Duncan Smith acknowledged the result could come down to the independent “crossbenchers”, including the bishops.  Let’s hope the Lib Dems demonstrate some critical and independent thinking – it seems to be more than can be expected from their colleagues in the House of Commons.

“My sense is that unless I can persuade them that they’re in the wrong place on this one, which they are, then they might be tempted to vote against it. It’s down to the crossbenchers,” he saidI think it is pretty obvious that whatever way the Bishops vote they will not be persuaded by such a flawed set of arguments as those given by Ian Duncan Smith. I suspect the Bishops are more adept at critical thinking than IDS assumes. Finally, I think IDS overlooked the possibility that the Bishops might exhibit a little Christian humanity.

Text above in black taken from: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/01/22/iain-duncan-smith-urges-bishops-to-back_n_1221715.html?ref=uk (accessed 22nd Jan 2012)

Text above in red italics is my own.

Post script: My knowledge of the Bible may be a little rusty and please correct me if I am wrong but unless you are an Old Testament fundamentalist, the teachings of Jesus Christ and the new testament would seem to make it mandatory that Bishops involve themselves in politics, the welfare of their parishioners and fairness and justice in society.  Who else should lead the way in over turning the tables of the money changers??

Further, given Iain Duncan Smith’s history regarding tax payer funded expenses it might be worthwhile asking him to cap his own tax payer funded benefits at the same rate he is setting for the Housing Benefits Cap.

Here are some quotes from Edinburgh Eye:

Iain Duncan Smith believes that after one year off, cancer patients should be able to get back to work, and that those “with a certain level of income” should know that state support will not be “open-ended”.

In 2009, Betsy Duncan Smith was diagnosed with breast cancer. During that year Iain Duncan Smith took those six months off work to care for his wife. In 2009/10, the same year in which Iain Duncan Smith took six months out of Parliament, he received an MP’s salary of £64,766. While IDS thinks that people in their sad situation – partner with cancer, other partner able to do some work from home but not able to go to their main place of work – should not receive “open-ended” support, he doesn’t seem to have grasped that to most of them, a guaranteed income of £64,766 would look pretty damned open-ended, compared to what they do get.

Just £64,766 a year would by itself put IDS in the top 10% of the population (discounting his wife’s personal wealth as that’s not a matter of public record, though her estimated wealth puts her in the top 1%).

But though £64,766 is nearly two and a half times the £26,000 that Iain Duncan Smith says ought to be the absolute limit that a family can receive from the state, it’s not all IDS gets. In 2008/09, he claimed £98,077 in expenses.  So in total, in one year, IDS claimed from the state (i.e from all those hardworking tax payers) well over six times what he says a family ought to get.  (IDS is a multimillionaire and has the benefit of his wife’s inherited wealth – hence they have a two million pound home in Buckinghamshire)

Please go to: Edinburgh Eye for more on this story.

The Hidden Housing Crisis – an impending disaster

It looks like people are finally paying attention to the government’s Health & Social Care Bill – let’s hope it’s not too late.

According to independent and objective comparisons, the NHS is one of the most successful health care systems on the planet. This is despite political interference and persistent underfunding for most of its existence.  Just think how much more successful the NHS would have been if it had been consistently funded at the same level as comparable countries and had politician’s efforts simply gone into further improvements in care and eliminating the undoubted problems that exist.

The government’s Health and Social Care Bill is hugely complex, making it very difficult for ordinary people to understand the consequences. However, finally, it is becoming clear that the proposals:

  • remove the Duty of the Secretary of State to secure and provide comprehensive health care
  • will result in a top down, hugely expensive and complex reorganisation of the NHS that was not in any party election manifesto
  • are already having a negative influence on service provision and waiting times
  • do not address any of the real issues, particularly how we cope with an ageing population
  • are designed to privatise the provision of services and encourage the profitable parts of the service to be taken over by international health care companies who will make decisions that prioritise their shareholder’s interests and will channel huge sums of tax payers’ money into their profits and CEO bonuses.  (Many of these companies already have a disastrous track record)
  • will lead to a US style health care system led by and for the benefit of insurance and private health care companies

If you doubt any of the above, please do your own research.  But beware of what is clearly double speak and spin from the Health Minister and from organisations that stand to benefit handsomely from the proposals.  We desperately need decisions based on facts, evidence and rational debate. If we care about the NHS we need to pay attention and get involved – it will soon be too late and there will be no going back.

Essential reading for anyone who cares about the NHS: http://bit.ly/z8X7Ge

Here is a set of short video clip from Dr Hamish Meldrum  (Chair of the BMA at the Save our NHS rally): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpC9Ug-rLcI&feature=related

David Owen on the NHS Bill (at the Save our NHS Rally): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jx0sJtCtXJw&feature=related

“it will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it. A short speech by  Clive Peedell, co-chair of the NHS Consultants’ Association – someone with faith and prepared to fight.

Time to pull the plug on this unloved health bill – Deliberately or not, the NHS is being set up for failure:http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2012/01/health-bill-nhs-private-care

An interesting article: Will the health bill increase private activity in the NHS?:http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/reality-check-with-polly-curtis/2012/jan/19/health-bill-private-patients

The Health Service is being privatised! I don’t remember voting for that, was there a referendum?

Cost of NHS reorganisation and the rise in Waiting Lists: http://www.dropthebill.net/news Why isn’t this in the news????

“The health bill will create ‘genuine opportunities’ for the private sector to take over large chunks of the NHS”, the health minister in charge of steering the reform bill through the House of Lords claimed.  Former banker Lord Howe told an audience of private sector providers that though the NHS ‘will not give up their patients easily’, there were opportunities for those wishing to ‘enter the fray’.  ‘The Pulse’, Jan 2012

Bad science concerning NHS competition is being used to support the controversial Health and Social Care Bill

“370,000 migrants on the dole”

“370,000 migrants on the dole”

This is a Daily Telegraph headline for an article based on this DWP report .  However if you bother to read the report you will see that the headline massively distorts the contents of the report and either of the following headlines might have been more appropriate.

“DWP Report shows a staggeringly LOW rate of benefit fraud by ‘foreign nationals’”

“Immigrants claim far less in Benefits than UK Nationals”

Here (“370,000 migrants on the dole. Really?“) is an alternative interpretation of the report which seems to be based on the actual data.  (Please let me know if there are any flaws in this interpretation.)

Chris Graying and Damian Green have already written an article in the Telegraph in which they pursue their previously exposed habit of distorting facts and figures to create a narrative that is totally unsupported by the evidence.  Their dishonesty beggars belief and these are two government ministers.  As I write this, many others will be writing similar follow up articles for the right wing press in which they will endeavour to smear and vilify all “immigrants”  as work shy benefit scroungers – all of this based on no evidence whatsoever.

Instead of directing their venom at immigrants, whose only crime is that they had the initiative and gumption to get off their back sides and try to make  a better life for themselves in another country (just like many Brits have done in the past), the ‘Alf Garnetts’ of the tabloids should be directing their criticism where it belongs, at successive British governments both Labour and Tory who have failed to develop a coherent immigration policy.  If immigration has been haphazard, poorly planned, and ill prepared, it is the politicians that should be blamed, perhaps that’s why they are so busy trying to deflect the blame.

Both immigration and welfare need reforming but this must be based on open public debate based on facts and evidence not made up stories and propaganda  from the tabloid press and government ministers with little acquaintance with honest debate.

Here is another must read article if you want a more balanced view of the issues. It comes from two members of the Labour party who must share the blame for New Labour’s disastrous inability to take the lead in getting to grips with immigration policy, however their contribution in this article is infinitely more useful than that of Grayling and Green) :

Chris Bryant and Stephen Timms: Grayling and Green are using dodgy statistics

Here is another rebuttal this time from OpenDemocracy – well worth reading.

And another:  A shameful spinning of the facts on immigration – In fact, the Government statistics debunk the myth of ‘benefits tourism

I would be interested in the comments of anyone who can give evidence that undermines any of the above.

Sierra Club vs “Ethical Oil” – One of them is a Ridiculous Radical

I recently came across a debate on Canadian TV (via Desmogblog) that is worth watching – it’s  only 10 minutes long. It shows what we are facing across the world if we do not start paying attention.  Wherever their interests are threatened, multinational oil  and mining companies are pouring money into campaigns to undermine their opponents. They do not do this by argument or rational debate but by the clandestine spreading of misinformation, lies, and smears.  In many cases they have actually corrupted the democratic process [1].  All of this is obvious to anyone who is paying attention, the facts are clear, the situation incontrovertible.  But we sit back and let it happen.

In Canada the government has been corrupted [2] by oil and mining companies who are also trying to misinform the public via phony grass groots groups such as “Ethical Oil”.  The video clip (below) shows a debate [2] between representatives from the Sierra Club (an environmental organisation) and Ethical Oil.  All you need to do is watch the video to see what is going on.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=toR3Tt9fS2E

[1] http://www.reasonandreality.org/?p=338

[2] http://www.desmogblog.com/cozy-ties-astroturf-ethical-oil-and-conservative-alliance-promote-tar-sands-expansion (accessed 18/01/2012)

[3] http://www.desmogblog.com/unaccountable-oil-enbridge-already-polluting-canadian-political-environment (accessed 18/01/2012)

Canadian campaign puts the spin on ‘ethical oil’

Snippets of Stolen Emails Cannot Make the Earth Flat

(Scroll down for list of links)

Timed to undermine the Durban climate conference we have another release via a Russian web site of, apparently,  the same emails that were stolen from the University of East Anglia in 2009.  The person(s) responsible have had two years to search through a quarter of a million emails covering a period of ten years.  Yet all they have found is a small selection of short quotes which, taken out of context, might ‘look’ suspicious.  You could of course do this with anyone’s emails and generate a fictitious conspiracy theory. Bloggers are doing this all the time on the web.

If you take a look at the emails you will see that, out of context, they mean very little. At most, they give evidence that the scientists involved are human and have private discussions involving  arguments, debates, questioning each other, they have jokes and yes sometimes are rude about colleagues or people for whom they have no professional respect.

What the emails in general show is a group of scientists openly and frankly discussing the science, the uncertainties and the more general political and social ramifications of their work.  What else would we expect them to discuss?

However you look at the selected, out of context quotes, they do not show evidence of a smoking gun or a hot bed of fraudulent science.

It would be very interesting to see the emails of some of the members of Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Lobby group (see below) but funnily enough they refuse to release them. One set of rules for climate science and no rules for those who refuse to accept the evidence.

Here is a list of links that give some balance to the story including the Real Climate site where some of the actual scientists involved in writing the emails explain the context of the quotes.

Sorry if suggesting that we actually read the defendants side of the story is anathema to a few of you but I think that it’s called natural justice.

Useful Links:

*****Real Climate: Two year old turkey (Recommended: It is very revealing to read the comments by those involved in writing the emails and who actually know the context. To get a good picture of what is going on you need to be thorough and read them all)

Snippets of stolen emails cannot make the Earth flat (Scott Mandia)

A video that explains the emails in context

Media matters US

Climate Progress: Fool Me Once, Shame on You, Fool Me Twice, Shame on the Media

Climate Brief:More on the UEA ‘Climategate’ emails – recommended reading

Attacks on climate scientists are the real ‘climategate’

Bad News for Deniers: Grown-ups Weigh in on Email Leftovers

How have the UK Media reported the Climategate 2?

Nigel Lawson’s Think Tank: refuses to reveal funders, refuses Freedom of Information requests – Hypocrisy and Dishonesty but ignored by most of media.

Skeptical Science has the facts on the previous Climategate – essential background reading

On finding one’s email in the hacked climate science email files

Professor Phil Jones explains the context of some of the phrases cherry-picked from the thousands of emails

The Real Scandal: The Endless Effort to Smear Climate Scientists

Please let me know if I have missed any useful links

What is really fuelling energy bills in Britain?

My interest in Energy issues tempted me to watch this week’s episode of BBC’s Panorama:  “What is really fuelling energy bills in Britain?” – and unfortunately I was in for a shock.

There are two answers to the question in the title of the programme depending on your politics i.e the rise in energy bills is due to the rapidly rising wholesale costs of oil and gas or to the massive profits being made by the six big energy companies. Most likely the reason is a combination of the two.  Coming in well behind these is the cost of developing low carbon energy sources.  However, if you watched the programme (which confusingly mixes the future with the present) you would get the impression that the family collecting timber from their local forest for heating (yes I’m not kidding) were doing so because of the adverse affect of wind turbines on their energy bills.  The sources of information were an unpublished and unverifiable report from the accountants KPMG, some unsubstantiated figures from a self proclaimed expert with an unmentioned political agenda and some more dodgy figures from USwitch.

There has been criticism of the programme in the Guardian and, Tom Heap, the programme’s narrator, has responded to those criticisms but, in my opinion, Tom is not convincing.  I fail to see how anyone, whatever their point of view can come away from the programme thinking that it was anything other then one sided. Worse, it did not push the debate forward because of the sparsity of any useful and validated facts and figures.

There is a real debate to be had about how our energy needs are to be met. I am having difficulty getting my head around the complexity of the issue and the wealth of propaganda from a variety of sources does not help.  The need for the debate is urgent if we are to meet our future energy requirements.  The great thing about this debate is that we are in a position t0 argue on the basis of facts and figures.  There will always be those who will ignore or cherry pick the facts or simply make up their own facts to fit their -preconceived ideas. But for those of us who want the discussion to be based on reasoned, rational, evidence based debate we need programmes like Panorama to consist of high quality investigate journalism where the aim is to get as far as possible to the facts of the argument. It is essential that self proclaimed ‘experts’ with a hidden political agenda are not allowed to present their facts and figures without any attempt by the makers of the programme to validate those figures or to check their provenance or authenticity.

A big black mark to the BBC and Tom Heap and a missed opportunity to bring some light to the debate.

Below I have given some further sources of information  which I hope will address the lack of balance but the issue is so big and complex that they only really demonstrate the bias of the Panorama programme.   A great deal more research is needed – I hope to return to this subject.

Update: KPMG refuses to release controversial green energy report that the programme was based on.

Update 2: BBC Admits it got it wrong: Clarification: What’s Fuelling Your Energy Bill?

This is the programme: What is really fuelling energy bills in Britain? http://news.bbc.co.uk/panorama/hi/front_page/newsid_9631000/9631864.stm

This is Damian Carrington’s Criticism of the programme: The vast, shocking hole in Panorama’s analysis of rising energy bills: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/damian-carrington-blog/2011/nov/08/energy-bills-panorama-renewables

This is Tom Heaps reply: Energy Bills: the Guardians big green blind spot: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/nov/09/energy-bills-panorama?newsfeed=true

Further sources:

Video: Why BBC’s Panorama got it wrong on Green Energy

Looking into Panorama’s sources:  http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2011/11/looking-into-panoramas-sources

Huhne: Wind turbines are here to stay: http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2123863/huhne-wind-turbines-stay

Why are energy prices rising (OFGEM): http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/Media/FactSheets/Documents1/Why%20are%20energy%20prices%20rising_factsheet_108.pdf

Let’s end the tyranny of the six big energy companies: http://www.leftfootforward.org/2011/10/friends-of-the-earth-time-to-end-tyranny-of-big-six-energy-companies/

EDF found guilty of spying on Greenpeace:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/nov/10/edf-spying-greenpeace

The Health Service is being privatised! I don’t remember voting for that, was there a referendum?

Government ministers have such close ties with the private health care industry in Britain, America and Europe that it verges on legalised corruption.  The previous Labour government started the process of allowing private health care providers a central role in planning the privatisation of health care. Now the current Conservative Government has enthusiastically escalated the rate at which the NHS is being privatised.  What is happening now will soon be irreversible. It was not in the Labour, Lib Dem or  Conservative Party manifestos  – there is no democratic mandate and yet it is happening now, they are not waiting for the current Health & Social Care Bill to be passed.  Here is some of the evidence:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrb3rJoLu9g&feature=youtube_gdata_player

http://www.powerbase.info/index.php/Health_Portal

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n18/james-meek/its-already-happened

http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/allysonpollock

http://bengoldacre.posterous.com/article-the-plot-against-the-nhs-opendemocrac

http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/colin-leys/plot-against-nhs

Quote of the week

“The central irony of the financial crisis is that while it is caused by too much confidence, too much borrowing and lending and too much spending, it can only be resolved with more confidence, more borrowing and lending, and more spending.” Larry Summers (United States Secretary of the Treasury from 1999 to 2001)