Trump claims Montenegro a bigger threat than Russia

19/07/2018
NATO-heads-of-state-2018

NATO heads of state all looking at one thing – except Trump, who has something something else in his sights. As usual, eh!

In between rounds of golf and tea with the Queen, US president Donald Trump has told the world that he considers Russia as a more valuable ally than NATO and has called into question whether the NATO mutual defense agreement still stands.

Trump launched his assault on his NATO “partners” immediately, criticising Germany’s reliance on Russian natural gas, and other members’ failure to commit adequate funding for their membership.  He made it clear that he prefers Putin and Russia over some of his “allies”, and even called into question the doctrine of mutual defense.  In a Fox News interview, newsman Tucker Carlson asked the Prez why the U.S. should protect a country like Montenegro, which joined NATO last year; and Trump replied that he has asked himself the same question.

“Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people,” Trump said. “They’re very aggressive people, and they may get aggressive, and congratulations, you’re in World War III. But that’s the way it was set up.”

NATO summit--Trump-shoves-Markovic

Trump shoves Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic out of his way at NATO summit

When Montenegro joined NATO, Russian president Putin didn’t like it at all.  So really it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that Trump doesn’t like it either.  He declared that Russia did not pose any kind of danger to the US, contradicting everything he has been told by his military advisors.  The White House tried to put a different spin on it, but the facts are clear: Trump has got a very “special” relationship with Putin – more “special” than the “special relationship” US and UK leaders are supposed to have enjoyed at least as far back as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher back in the 1980s.

This also shouldn’t really be a surprise: in London Trump made it clear that his favourite thing in the British government was Boris Johnson, former Foreign Secretary who has quit his job over Brexit.  Trump said that prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans have scuppered any chance of a post-Brexit trade deal between the US and UK.  So Trump clearly wants May out of office and Johnson in.  Then the special relationship can be resurrected.

So, what did Trump achieve on this trip to Europe?  He offered the hand of friendship to Vladimir bloody Putin and Boris bloody Johnson.  He belittled or ignored his allies in NATO.  He undermined the British prime minister.  He called into question the principles on which NATO was founded.  And he had tea with the Queen.

All in all, a profitable few days.  Thanks Mr Trump!  Come back soon!

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Welfare Minister Esther McVey is a liar shock horror!

04/07/2018
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Esther McVey, Welfare Secretary – she needs to be careful or she might end up seeing how Universal Credit works from a claimant’s point of view!

Well what a surprise: a politician has told lies!

Sorry, all you honest politicians out there!  I really shouldn’t imply that all politicians are liars.  Of course that isn’t the case.  I know there must be politicians out there who have never told a lie, ever.  If you are one of these politicians, please leave me a message – in Comments below or the contact form here.

Anyway, Esther McVey appears to be a liar liar pants on fire.  And it isn’t some lone kook making the allegation – it is the National Audit Office (NAO): “an independent Parliamentary body in the United Kingdom which is responsible for auditing central government departments, government agencies and non-departmental public bodies” (from Wikipedia).  Would a Parliamentary body with such an important remit knowingly make accusations like this if those accusations were untrue?  Would a government minister tell lies to cover her own ass and that of a bumbling Tory government?  Hmmm…

Sir Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, wrote to McVey on the “misleading statements” (aka lies – why are civil servants and politicians so civil and polite when they are trying to kill each other?) because he had not been able to make an appointment to meet her face to face.  And this frustration has led to him making public the content of his letter – the first time that Morse has released personal correspondence with a minister, and is a reflection of the tension between the DWP and the NAO over McVey’s statements.

Okay, so what has McVey been lying about?  In June the NAO released a report about Universal Credit, the Conservative government’s flagship welfare “innovation”, which squeezes 6 other benefits into one, and is supposed to make it easier for unemployed people to get back into work.  It is paid monthly (while other benefits are normally paid fortnightly), and all claims and enquiries are handled online.

McVey claimed that the NAO report said Universal Credit is being rolled out too slowly, that it was working successfully in those areas where UC has been introduced, and that any criticism of UC was because the report had failed to take into account recent improvements in the payment of benefits.

Sir Amyas Morse said McVey has “misinterpreted” the report “to make it look as if the new welfare system is working well.”

Does the report say that Universal Credit is being rolled out too slowly?  Sir Amyas says No!!  In fact the report recommended that the DWP should ensure it was working properly before transferring any more people from previous benefits.

Did the report say that Universal Credit is working?  Sir Amyas says No!!  In fact the report says Universal Credit has not been proven to work.

Did the report fail to take into account recent improvements in welfare administration and payment timeliness?  Sir Amyas says No!!  He wrote to McVey:

Our report was fully agreed with senior officials in your department [on 8 June]. It is based on the most accurate and up to date information from your department … it is odd that by Friday 15 June you feel able to say that the NAO “did not take into account the impact of our recent changes.”

Although Morse didn’t say “You’re a liar,” that is clearly what was meant.  So, will McVey survive this assault on her credibility?  Of course she will.  For those who refuse to vote Conservative, McVey and her colleagues lost their credibility a long time ago, if they actually had any credibility to start with.  For those who are willing to vote for those awful people, McVey automatically is seen as the victim.

McVey apologised for her “misinterpretation” of the NAO report just hours after the release of Morse’s letter.

“The NAO report did not say that [it wanted Universal Credit to be rolled out more quickly] and I want to apologise to the House for inadvertently misleading you. What I wanted to say was that the NAO said there was no practical alternative,” she said.

She also told MPs she was “working on setting up a meeting with the NAO” about other matters, but that she stood by her claims that the auditors’ report did not take into account recent changes to universal credit. “The impact of these changes are still being felt and therefore, by definition, couldn’t have been fully taken into account by the NAO report,” she said.

So really her apology is meaningless as it makes no real difference.  Fundamentally she stands by her previous statements.

She is expected to face further parliamentary scrutiny over the debacle after Frank Field, chair of the work and pensions committee, asked the Speaker, John Bercow, for an urgent question as early as Thursday.  Field said to the Guardian: “The secretary of state needs to be questioned about the three mega-Trumpisms which the NAO says are untrue.”

Of course he wants her to go, as does every other opposition MP and some Tory colleagues.  But will that mean anything?   I suppose it comes down to this: does prime minister Theresa May need a blood sacrifice?  If she does, McVey is finished.  If not, this story will be forgotten soon enough.  At the end of the day, no one in power cares about benefit claimants.  The welfare minister least of all.

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National Audit Office chief Sir Amyas Morse has called Esther McVey on her “misinterpretation” of the NAO report on Universal Credit

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Won’t let us play with your multi-billion dollar satellite system? We’ll build our own!

25/05/2018

The UK chancellor Philip Hammond has announced that if the European Union refuse the UK access to the Galileo satellite navigation system, the UK will create its own system – a move that will add billions more to the Brexit bill.

From the Guardian:

EU is insistent that the UK had agreed in 2011 as an EU member state on the rules on blocking non-EU countries from access to secure elements of the project.

A senior EU official said, following some fraught negotiations this week, that it had become clear the UK “would like to transform Galileo from a union programme to a joint EU-UK programme, and that is quite a big ask for the EU”.

“They want to have privileged access to the security elements of PRS (the encrypted navigation system for government-authorised users) and to be able to continue manufacturing the security modules which would mean that after Brexit the UK, as a third country, would have the possibility to turn off the signal for the EU,” the official said.

Put like that, the EU’s position makes perfect sense.  Why would they put a third country in a position where it can switch off the EU’s system?  And the fact that the UK was instrumental in formulating the rules under with third countries – like the UK is about to become – are not allowed access to the system, well that’s kind of ironic really.

But of course that isn’t how the UK government sees things.  They want Britain to have some special status again.  Called “having your cake and eating it too.”  Again.

Hammond told reporters: ““We need access to a satellite system of this kind. A plan has always been to work as a core member of the Galileo project, contributing financially and technically to the project.”

Yes, that was the plan.  And that would still be the plan, if we hadn’t decided to leave the EU.  But we did decide to leave and now we need to renegotiate all of the deals that we enjoy as members of the EU.

 


Freepost address for the Conservative Party

10/02/2016

If you want to contact the Conservative Party about anything, but didn’t want to buy a stamp for the letter (maybe because you don’t earn a living wage, or your benefits have been sanctioned…), fear not!  On Facebook I found a Freepost address so you can send mail to the Tories without worrying about the cost of postage.  You still have to provide writing paper and envelope yourself… but every little bit helps, doesn’t it?

The address is:

Freepost RTHS-TLXL-XKXK
The Conservative Party
4 Matthew Parker Street
LONDON
SW1H 9HQ

I haven’t actually tried it myself, as I only just discovered it.  I think it would be great if anyone who writes to the address reports the success or failure of their attempt; so if the Freepost no longer works I can edit this blog post accordingly.  Similarly, if anyone knows of other Freepost addresses, or 0800 phone numbers so we can call them for free, I’ll gladly add them to this post.  Information sets us free.  And there’s something extra satisfying about sending an actual letter through the post rather than emails, don’t you think?

Please don’t use this address to send the government any offensive or hate mail.  That would possibly be a crime, and in no way do I encourage you to do so!  Thanks.

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Send the prime minister a letter today!  I’m sure Dave is looking forward to a robust conversation with the British electorate!


The Tories won the election; but our true political ruler is still in charge – the Queen!

13/05/2015

I’ve always thought that the UK’s status as a “constitutional monarchy” meant that political decisions were made by our elected government and parliament, and that the Queen’s job was to attract the tourists and to rubber-stamp legislation with her truly ceremonial “Royal Assent”.

But it seems that I, and just about everyone else, have been misled.  The Guardian has reported that the Queen has powers of veto that are stunningly far-reaching.  One small example is the Queen vetoing the Military Actions Against Iraq Bill in 1999, a private member’s bill that sought to transfer the power to authorise military strikes against Iraq from the monarch to parliament.  In effect, it’s the Queen who decides whether to take military action or not, and there is nothing the government can do about it!

Downing Street did what it could to keep all this secret – we only know about it now because of a court order to release details of an internal Whitehall pamphlet was only released following a court order and shows ministers and civil servants are obliged to consult the Queen and Prince Charles in greater detail and over more areas of legislation than was previously understood.

The new laws that were required to receive the seal of approval from the Queen or Prince Charles cover issues from higher education and paternity pay to identity cards and child maintenance.

In one instance the Queen completely vetoed the Military Actions Against Iraq Bill in 1999, a private member’s bill that sought to transfer the power to authorise military strikes against Iraq from the monarch to parliament.

She was even asked to consent to the Civil Partnership Act 2004 because it contained a declaration about the validity of a civil partnership that would bind her.

In the pamphlet, the Parliamentary Counsel warns civil servants that if consent is not forthcoming there is a risk “a major plank of the bill must be removed”.

“This is opening the eyes of those who believe the Queen only has a ceremonial role,” said Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, which includes land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, the Prince of Wales’ hereditary estate.

“It shows the royals are playing an active role in the democratic process and we need greater transparency in parliament so we can be fully appraised of whether these powers of influence and veto are really appropriate. At any stage this issue could come up and surprise us and we could find parliament is less powerful than we thought it was.”

This power of veto has been described by constitutional lawyers as a royal “nuclear deterrent” that may help explain why ministers appear to pay close attention to the views of senior royals.

The guidance also warns civil servants that obtaining consent can cause delays to legislation and reveals that even amendments may need to be run past the royals for further consent.

And of course, how is the government supposed to do away with this remnant of absolute monarchy?  If a bill was voted through parliament to do away with the royal power of assent, the Queen would simply veto it – and the veto would probably remain secret, just as it has for so long!

The concept of Royal Assent has always been considered as a quaint anachronism that allows the UK to be both a functioning democracy and a monarchy.  Now we know that’s a lie.  The question is: what the hell are we going to do?

British dictator for life Queen Elizabeth II.  Don't mess with this bitch!"  Picture stolen in the interests for freedom from http://guardianlv.com/

British dictator for life Queen Elizabeth II. Don’t mess with this bitch!” Picture stolen in the interests for freedom from http://guardianlv.com/


Bedroom tax suicide… a feature, not a flaw

13/05/2013

No doubt most British readers will know about the tragic case of grandmother Stephanie Bottrill, who committed suicide because she could not afford to live with the bedroom tax. Her children had left home, as adult children tend to do, so Ms Bottrill was living alone in her three-bedroom home – a house she had lived in for 18 years, bringing up 2 children as a single mother. So, under the “spare room subsidy” (ie bedroom tax) the 2 “under-occupied” bedrooms reduced her housing benefit by 25%.

In the days leading up to her suicide, Ms Bottrill had told her son she struggling to cope, and she had told neighbours she couldn’t afford to live anymore. left a note blaming the government’s so-called “bedroom tax” for her death.

In a letter to her son Steven, 27, she said: “Don’t blame yourself for me ending my life. The only people to blame are the Government.”

The suicide note blaming the government

The suicide note blaming the government

Steven added:

“She was fine before the bedroom tax. It was dreamt up in London, by people in offices and big houses.

“They have no idea the effect it has on people like my mum.”

“Hopefully now someone will listen. Someone will realise what has gone on and change things.

“They are all sitting in an office in London thinking of ideas how they can make money, but Mr Cameron has to give the seal of approval.

“They haven’t thought it through properly, how it will affect people. For my mum £80 a month is a huge amount of money but for people who are on huge salaries who have gone to Eton it is a different world.

“She was struggling already, it was a lot to ask for.

She was so poor she used hot water bottles instead of her central heating. Steven added: “She couldn’t afford it. All the winter she didn’t have the heating on.

“She wrapped up warm, she had hot water bottles even when she was watching the telly.

“In 2013 in Britain you can’t imagine this. To live like that…”

She packed all her belongings, tidy and thoughtful until the end, before killing herself by throwing herself under a lorry on the M6.

This is an awful thing to think about, but I can predict a lot more similar cases in the coming months. Poor people in social housing, in homes where they have lived for 20 years or more, are now being forced to pay a lot of money because their children have grown up and left home. The government want old people dragged away from their homes and stuffed into tiny flats where they have no space for the sentimentally valuable possessions they have gathered over the years, stuffed into tiny cells where they can be safely ignored – out of sight, out of mind.

And, while politicians make all kinds of sympathetic noises, the fact is that the government couldn’t care less. Most of these suicides are by poor people, so that’s another Labour voter the Tories need not worry about any more.

No government like poverty in their own backyard, but only the Conservatives could come up with this solution. Kill the poor.

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Robin Walker – what a nasty piece of Tory to find on the sole of your shoe!

01/05/2013

I am a member of online campaign groups like 38 Degrees and Open Rights Group. These are groups that ask members what campaigns it should get involved with, then the group will call on its members to send to local MPs. ministers and other such, so our will is focused and targeted and helps ensure that the government and others can’t just ignore us. Divided we are nothing. United we can do anything… well, the government can’t just ignore us.

My local MP is the Tory Robin Walker. Incidentally, his late father Peter Walker (1932-2010) was MP for Worcester until 1992, when he resigned as MP and was sent to the House of Lords to do his masters’ work. Robin has been a pretty engaged MP – he has replied to every email I’ve sent him (he uses official House of Commons writing paper and envelopes – you would have thought that Parliament had discouraged use of snail mail) but only once has he expressed agreement with my point, about the Defamation Bill). Most recently he sent me a (probably form) letter telling me how important it was that the government keep my communication and other logs for all eternity just in case I were a terrorist or paedophile. He wrote:

Communications data is vital for the police in their fight against crime, including serious offences, such as child abuse, drug-dealing and terrorism.

Note the use of the “big 3″: child abuse, drug-dealing and terrorism”. The suggestion is that opposing the Data Communications Data Bill is, or supports, nonces, pushers and suicide bombers. Thanks Robin; yet another reason to avoid voting for him when the general election comes round.

Right now, I don’t have a clue who’ll get my vote: it won’t be the Conservatives, the Lib Dems are no longer a viable choice…if Ed Miliband can drag Labour back to the left I might put my mark by his name; but how likely will that happen?

Brits are wage-slaves, with mortgages and their children’s educations keeping the populace keeping their nose to the stone, while bankers, corporate directors and other vested interests keep their money in tax havens. But don’t worry: the Conservatives want your personal data, phone logs, emails, bowel movements, whatever, stored for all eternity in a massive computer system that probably fail (as do most government-contracted computer systems do). We’re stuck with this situation unless someone does something about it.

Who’s your MP? Does he care about you? I’d love to see along string of Comments to this post, telling us how our MPs act for our best interests. And my current voting advice regarding the next election: go to the voting station, spoil your ballot (I like to write at the bottom of the voting card “None of the above” and a X in a box next to it), put it in the black box, and be on your way. This is not apathy, this is showing the establishment that the status quo must end.

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