Category: Political ideology

Facebook fined a mere £500,000 for lack of transparency and failing to protect users’ information

Image result for facebook data theft news

Facebook has been been fined for the massive data leak to Cambridge Analytica, which broke the law. I can almost hear the echoing laughter around Silicon Valley from my house.

The fine is for two breaches of the Data Protection Act. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) concluded that Facebook failed to safeguard its users’ information and that it failed to be transparent about how that data was harvested by others. Facebook breached its own rules and failed to make sure that Cambridge Analytica had deleted the harvested personal data.

Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, said “Facebook has failed to provide the kind of protections they are required to under the Data Protection Act. Fines and prosecutions punish the bad actors, but my real goal is to effect change and restore trust and confidence in our democratic system.”

Kyle Taylor, director of campaigning group Fair Vote UK said “Under new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) laws, the ICO could fine Facebook £479m.

Unfortunately, because they had to follow old data protection laws, they were only able to fine them the maximum of £500,000. This is unacceptable,” he said.

Denham said “this is not all about fines,” adding that companies were also worried about their reputation.

She said the impact of behavioural advertising, when it came to elections, was “significant” and called for a code of practice to “fix the system”.

The fine was issued along with scathing report from the ICO, which issued the maximum fine allowable under old data protection laws – £500,000. The social network was accused of failing to protect user data and failing to be transparent about how it shared information with third parties.

The ICO investigation also highlighted the extent to which political parties were using personal data sold on by data brokers without consent. It was announced that the ICO is expanding its 14-month investigation into data and politics, which has centred on the Facebook data leak, into whether Arron Banks, a major donor to the campaign for the UK to leave the EU, improperly gave pro-Brexit groups data about voters obtained for insurance purposes.

The ICO is also investigating whether Banks’ Eldon Insurance Limited’s call-centre staff used customer databases to make calls on behalf of Leave.EU. The official Remain campaign, Britain Stronger In Europe, is also being investigated over how it collected and shared personal information.

The ICO opened its inquiry in May 2017 “to explore practices deployed during the UK’s EU referendum campaign but potentially also in other campaigns”. Elizabeth Denham,  said the ICO had been “astounded” by the amount of personal data in the possession of Britain’s political parties. (See The government hired several murky companies plying the same methods as Cambridge Analytica in their election campaign, which details the many subterranean companies that the government employed during the run-up to last year’s general election. I sent the ICO a copy).

It’s understood that the ICO sent warning letters to 11 political parties and notices compelling them to agree audits of data protection practices, and started a criminal prosecution against SCL Elections – parent company of Cambridge Analytica, after accusing the company of failing to deal properly with a data request.

SCL Elections declared bankruptcy in May, two months after the Observer reported that 50m Facebook profiles had been obtained. Denham said the ICO was examining whether the company’s directors could be still be pursued now that SCL Elections had been placed into administration.

The investigation also found that Aggregate IQ, a Canadian electoral services company, had “significant links” to Cambridge Analytica, Denham said, and “may still retain” data about UK voters; the ICO has filed an enforcement notice against the company to stop processing that data.

Facebook had sought to draw a line under the data privacy scandal after revelations that it allowed data from up to 87m US voters to be harvested and then passed to Cambridge Analytica, a company employed in the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

Denham said: “We think they broke the principle of fair processing; we think it was unfair processing. Data controllers are supposed to have reasonable safeguards in place to process data and we felt they were deficient in that and in their response on questions and follow up about the data leak.”

“Most of us have some understanding of the behavioural targeting that commercial entities have used for quite some time. To sell us holidays, to sell us trainers, to be able to target us and follow us around the web.

“But very few people have an awareness of how they can be micro-targeted, persuaded or nudged in a democratic campaign, in an election or a referendum.

“This is a time when people are sitting up and saying ‘we need a pause here, and we need to be sure we are comfortable with the way personal data is used in our democratic process’.”

He said: “This cannot by left to a secret internal investigation at Facebook.

“If other developers broke the law we have a right to know, and the users whose data may have been compromised in this way should be informed.”

“We were significantly concerned around the nature of the data that the political parties had access to,” said Steve Wood, the deputy information commissioner, “and we followed the trail to look at the different data brokers who were supplying the political parties.

Responding to the ICO report, Christopher Wylie said: “Months ago, I reported Facebook and Cambridge Analytica to the UK authorities.

“Based on that evidence, Facebook is today being issued with the maximum fine allowed under British law.

“Cambridge Analytica, including possibly its directors, will be criminally prosecuted.”

The ICO intends to carry out an audit of the University of Cambridge’s Psychometrics Centre. The department carries out its own research into social media profiles. The ICO said it had been told of an alleged security breach involving one of the centre’s apps and had additional concerns about its data protection efforts.

The watchdog also calls for the government to introduce a code of practice limiting how personal information can be used by political campaigns before the next general election.

They will also make an effort to ensure ex-staff from SCL Elections and Cambridge Analytica do not illegally use materials obtained from the business before its collapse

The ICO said it is expected that the next stage of its investigation to be complete by the end of October.

The problem of data mining and psychographic profiling far exceed the revelations about the wrong doings of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Psychological manipulation of citizens by both corporate entities and governments is now the norm. 

The moment that we accept that it is legitimate for governments to ‘influence citizen decision-making’ and impose a ‘behavioural change’ agenda on a non-suspecting, non-consenting public, it becomes a slippery slope from there into a cesspit of private vested interests, one-party states, corporatocracy, tyranny and ultimately, to totalitarian forms of governance.

The Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal is the first ‘case study’. It’s a symptom of a much more fundamental problem. Mass surveillance, data profiling and behavioural modification strategies are embedded in the corporate sector and are now being used in a way that challenges the political canon of liberal democratic societies, where citizens are traditionally defined by principles of self-determination.

The political integrity and the future of democratic sovereignty has been seriously undermined because of the fundamental erosion of citizens’ right to self determination.  Power imbalances are being created, recreated and amplified via the non-transparency of corporate and political practices, aimed at surveillance, data collection, psychological profiling and psychologically tailored messages, aimed at manipulating citizens’ perceptions, decision-making and behaviours, which serves to ultimately profoundly limit the choices available to them.

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Related

The government hired several murky companies plying the same methods as Cambridge Analytica in their election campaign

 


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Esther Mcvey forced to apologise for being conservative with the truth

euphemisms

In my previous article, I discussed the outrageous responses that the Department for Work and Pensions minister and petty tyrant, Sarah Newton presented to Shadow Disabilities Minister Marsha De Cordova, who had once again raised the fact that the United Nations (UN) had found “grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights” in the UK.

The Labour MP also said yesterday in parliament: “This government’s policies have created a hostile environment causing grave violations on disabled people.”

Newton responded to these serious and valid concerns by an act of scandalised denial, outrage, vindictiveness, blaming the messengers, telling lies and by using gaslighting tactics.

Gaslighting is an intentional, malicious and hidden form of mental and emotional abuse, designed to manipulate others, creating self-doubt and insecurity. Its aim is to redesign and edit people’s experiences and accounts of reality, replacing them with someone’s own preferred and more convenient version, by persistently altering the perceptions of others, to confuse and disorientate them. Like all abuse, it’s based on the need for power, control, and very often, concealment. It’s far more damaging than simply lying, because it is intended to control, hurt and silence others. It’s a strategy very commonly used by psychopaths, bullies, despots and the Conservatives to ensure they get their own way. 

The government often use doublespeak – language shifts entailing words such as “reform”, “fair”, “support” and “help”- to disguise the horrible impacts of their extraordinarily draconian welfare policies and austerity programme, and to divert public attention. People who object to the harms that Conservative policies cause are told they are “scaremongering”. This is a form of gaslighting. It indicates that the government have no intention of changing their punitive policy approach or remedying the harms and distress they have caused.

The Conservatives have shown very strong tendencies towards socially illiberal and authoritarian attitudes over the past seven years. Furthermore, they aren’t exactly a party that designs policies to bring delight to the majority of ordinary citizens. Ministers regularly use a form of Orwellian Torysplaining and scapegoating to attempt to discredit and invalidate citizens’ experiences of increasing economic hardships and vulnerability  – particularly those of marginalised groups – caused directly by punitive Conservative policies. This is certainly an abuse of political power.

The Conservatives have a long track record of determined authoritarianism and telling lies. See for example A list of official rebukes for Tory lies and Dishonest ways of being dishonest: an exploration of Conservative euphemisms.

Today, cabinet minister and creature of habit, Esther McVey was rebuked for telling lies ‘misrepresenting’ the National Audit Office’s (NAO) very critical report on the roll-out of Universal Credit with a series of ‘inaccurate’ claims to MPs. The NAO is the government’s spending watchdog.

The NAO took the highly unusual step after the work and pensions secretary dismissed the catalogue of failings outlined by auditors last month in their report into the government’s flagship welfare programme.

In his open letter to McVey, which is likely to raise questions about her future as a cabinet minister, the Auditor General, Sir Amyas Morse, said that elements of her statement to Parliament on the report were lies “incorrect and unproven.”

He said it was “odd” that McVey told MPs that the NAO did not take into account recent changes in the administration of universal credit, when the report had in fact been “fully agreed” with senior officials at the Department for Work and Pensions only days earlier. 

Sir Amyas added that McVey’s claim that the NAO was concerned that Universal Credit was rolling out too slowly was “not correct”. 

The NAO report concluded that the new system – being gradually introduced to replace a number of benefits – was “not value for money now, and that its future value for money is unproven”.  

The authors of the report also accused the government of not showing sufficient sensitivity towards some claimants and failing to monitor how many are having problems with the programme, or have suffered hardship.

In his letter, Sir Amyas told McVey: “Our report was fully agreed with senior officials in your Department. It is based on the most accurate and up-to-date information from your Department. Your Department confirmed this to me in writing on Wednesday June 6 and we then reached final agreement on the report on Friday June 8.

“Her assurance, in response to the report, that Universal Credit was working was also “not proven.” 

He continued: “It is odd that by Friday June 15 you felt able to say that the NAO ‘did not take into account the impact of our recent changes’.  

You reiterated these statements on July 2 but we have seen no evidence of such impacts nor fresh information.”

Sir Amyas added: “Your statement on July 2 that the NAO was concerned Universal Credit is currently ‘rolling out too slowly’ and needs to ‘continue at a faster rate’ is also not correct.”

And he told McVey: “Your statement in response to my report, claiming that Universal Credit is working, has not been proven. 

“The Department has not measured how many Universal Credit claimants are having difficulties and hardship. What we do know from the Department’s surveys is that although 83% of claimants responding said they were satisfied with the Department’s customer service, 40% of them said they were experiencing financial difficulties and 25% said they couldn’t make an online claim.

“We also know that 20% of claimants are not paid in full on time and that the Department cannot measure the exact number of additional people in employment as a result of Universal Credit.”

The Auditor General said that he had written to McVey on June 27 asking for a meeting to discuss her comments, and was publishing his open letter “reluctantly” because he had not yet been able to see her. McVey has a history of showing disdain for democractic norms and the protocols and mechanisms of transparency and accountability.

Now the Work and Pensions Secretary is facing calls to resign, after admitting that she had told lies “inadvertently misled” parliament. 

You can hear her full statement here. She doesn’t look appropriately humble, sincere or ashamed, however: 

Related

I’m a disabled person and Sarah Newton is an outrageous, gaslighting liar

 


 

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

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Why won’t ministers come clean about the impact of cuts on disabled people? – Frances Ryan


B
ack in 2014, armed with only a laptop and phone, disabled campaigners started a hunt for the truth. As policies including the bedroom tax, the abolition of disability living allowance, and the rollout of controversial out-of-work sickness benefits hit, War on Welfare (Wow) called on the coalition government to carry out a cumulative impact assessment of the wave of disability cuts to measure the effect on disabled people. It resulted in a debate in parliament – the first time disabled people had secured a debate in the main chamber of the House of Commons – but no action

Now, four years on, Wow has gained the backing of a cross-party coalition that wants Theresa May’s government to calculate the overall impact of the so-called welfare reforms on disabled people. Every party except the Conservatives is in favour of a Commons debate on conducting this assessment, including the DUP. In light of the pressure over Northern Irish abortion reform, their support for detailed analysis of the impact of Tory disability cuts is another awkward clash between May and the DUP’s 10 MPs propping up her administration. But more than that, it’s a sign of hope that ministers may have to finally investigate just what damage their disability cuts are causing – from the social care crisis to cuts to multiple parts of the NHS, to the disastrous rollout of universal credit; now delayed for an extra year until 2023

Last week’s damning report by the National Audit Office (NAO) on universal credit castigated the system’s inability to protect and support “vulnerable claimants”. It follows the revelation this month that the government was forced to say it would repay thousands of severely disabled people made worse off under the UC system ahead of the high court ruling last week that it was “discriminatory” to have docked two disabled men’s benefits after transferring to UC. Following pressure from disability groups, this week ministers made another U-turn, this time to stop repeatedly testing some disabled people for personal independence payments.

The government’s austerity programme has resulted in multiple reductions in income since 2010 that have hit disabled people all at once and disproportionately. Being hit by the bedroom tax is tough – but losing your sickness benefits as well after being found “fit for work” is even harder.

If you need an insight into the damage these policies have done, just go to Wow Voices, a website set up by campaigners that features disabled people explaining the impact of cuts on them. One woman with terminal breast cancer writes of how, for the last 18 months, she’s been told she needs to be reassessed for her benefits every six months, and she’s frantic about the thought of losing her support. “I’ve cried more about this than my terminal diagnosis,” she says. 

The UN’s damning report in 2016 into the UK’s “violations” of disabled people’s rights has put further pressure on the government over its treatment of disabled citizens. Meanwhile, the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s own cumulative impact assessment shows that families with a disabled adult and a disabled child will lose £5,500 a year by 2022 as a result of tax and benefit changes – contradicting the government’s claim that such analysis would be “too complex” to do. 

This month, research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found around 650,000 people with mental and physical health problems were officially destitute in the UK last year – that means being so poor, they can’t afford deodorant, the electric, or regular meals – with social security changes found to be a key cause. It’s bad enough for ministers to take away state support from disabled people en masse, but to refuse to analyse its effects is the definition of irresponsible. The Conservatives must finally shine a light on the impact that disability cuts have had. What are they so afraid of?

 

Related

The government response to the WoW petition is irrational, incoherent nonsense on stilts

The government refuse to carry out a cumulative impact assessment of welfare “reforms”. Again

 


I write voluntarily, to do the best I can to raise awareness of political and social issues. In particular I research and write about how policy impacts on citizen wellbeing and human rights. I also co-run a group on Facebook to support other disabled people going through ESA and PIP assessments, mandatory reviews and appeals.

I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled and don’t have any paid employment. But you can contribute by making a donation and 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.

The EDL have paedophiles in their ranks but Tommy Robinson evidently doesn’t condemn them

‘Tommy Robinson’, former leader of the English Defence League arrested.

A senior member of the English Defence Leagure (EDL), a far-right group which has a long history of tirades that conflate Islam with terrorism, paedophilia and sharia – accusing Muslims of paedophilia on a generalised basis – has been sentenced to 17 years for the grooming and sexual abuse of a 10 year old girl. 

Former co-founder, spokesperson and leader of the EDL, Tommy Robinson, alias  Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, is also currently in prison. He was arrested for allegedly breaching the peace and incitement outside a court during an ongoing grooming trial. Robinson is already under a suspended sentence for committing contempt of court over a gang rape case heard in Canterbury last year. 

The man sentenced for child abuse, who is also a member and contributor to several far-right social media groups, has been sentenced at the Old Bailey to 17 years after he sexually abused a schoolgirl. 

He assaulted the young girl around 100 times over a five-year period, the court was told.

The court heard how Leigh McMillan, 46, from Milton Keynes, groomed his 10 year old victim with cigarettes and drugs before subjecting her to a “spiral of sexual abuse” during the mid-1990s.

McMillan attacked the girl as she lay on her mother’s bed and and warned: “You mustn’t tell your mum, she’d be really upset.”

Prosecutor Jane Carpenter told jurors the girl “felt as if every day was Groundhog Day” and described her own ordeal as a “spiral of abuse”. In a statement provided to the court, the girl described how she “had not had control” of her own life. 

McMillan was arrested in September 2016 and convicted of three counts of indecent assault, two of indecency with a child and one of attempted rape following trial last month.

On Monday, the judge, recorder Bruce Houlder QC, jailed him for a total of 17 years.

“What you did was entirely devoid of any form of consent,” the judge said, describing how McMillan had “deprived her of a natural childhood”, “ruined her relationship with men” and left her with a “terrible legacy” of abuse due to his “warped and persistent attacks”.

He was jailed for a total of 17 years and also made subject to notification on the sex offenders’ register and a sexual harm prevention order indefinitely.

The anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate, which monitors the online activity of far-right groups such as EDL, described McMillan as a “senior member” of the organisation.

The group also said he was a “lead figure” in the EDL’s “Lee Rigby campaign – a campaign to use the soldier’s death for further hatred”.

Hope Not Hate also accused fellow EDL members of attempting to cover up McMillan’s abuse.

McMillan is a popular figure in the far right, so much so that a number of fellow far-right figures have been trying desperately to cover up the fact that he is a perpetrator of child abuse.

Another leader of the EDL, who was described as a “political prisoner” after being jailed for violence at a march had already been placed on the sex offenders register for downloading indecent images of children, back in 2010.  

The far-right group launched a campaign to free Richard Price, co-ordinator of the West Midlands division of the EDL, after he was jailed for violent behaviour. But Price, 41, had been convicted in June 2010 of making four indecent images of children, and possessing cocaine and crack cocaine.

That conviction followed an earlier arrest in 2009 for public order offences believed to have been connected with EDL marches. Police were understood to have seized and analysed his computer, leading to the discovery of sexual images of children that he had downloaded. His home was also searched and the drugs were found. 

Price admitted four counts of making indecent images of children and two charges of possessing cocaine when he appeared at Birmingham Crown Court. He was banned from owning a computer for a year, given a three-year community supervision order and ordered to sign on to the sex offenders register for five years.  

When Price was jailed, EDL members launched a campaign urging supporters to write to the Prime Minister and MPs to try to “win justice for Richard Price, EDL”. ‘Tommy Robinson supported Price after he was convicted of child porn charges. Apparently, paedophilia is OK if it is an EDL member who is commiting the horrific crime. Later, Robinson hurriedly issued a statement to claim that Price has never been a leader of the EDL, forgetting that back in June 2010 he had published a statement on Facebook naming the management and amongst those names were Price’s, and he was credited for co-founding the group. 

Last year, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner, Mark Rowley, warned of  the dangers of online extremism. He said the Finsbury Park attacker turned violent because of the content far-right posts from Tommy Robinson, the EDL and Britain First.Rowley said that Darren Osborne  – an alcoholic, suicidal, “loner” – was vulnerable to radicalisation. 

Rowley also said “There is “no doubt” that far-right material posted online by the likes of Tommy Robinson and Britain First drove the Finsbury Park terror attacker to target Muslims.”  

He had grown to hate Muslims largely due his consumption of large amounts of online far-right material including, as evidenced at court, statements from former EDL leader Tommy Robinson, Britain First and others,” he told an event in London. 

“Osborne had a ‘dysfunctional’ background and history of alcohol and drug abuse, and violence. 

“There can be no doubt that the extremist rhetoric he consumed fed into his vulnerabilities and turned it into violence.” 

Osborne, a father of four from Wales, was radicalised within weeks as he consumed far-right material after watching a BBC documentary on grooming gangs in Rochdale. 

He hired a van and drove it from Cardiff to London, intending to massacre pro-Palestinian protesters before a security perimeter forced him to hunt for an alternative target. Osborne rammed the vehicle into a crowd of Muslim worshippers leaving mosques in Finsbury Park shortly after midnight on 19 June, killing a grandfather and injuring several others. He is currently serving a life sentence. 

Giving a lecture last year at an event held by the Policy Exchange think-tank, Rowley revealed that four far-right terror plots had been foiled by the police since the Isis-inspired Westminster attack in March last year. 

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Robinson is widely known for his opportunist politicking, and his willingness to search for scapegoats, making social unity so much harder to achieve. Those toxic voices that are known for their divisive rhetoric have already used the terrible events  of terrorism and the tragedies of others to stir up emotions and extend a socially corrosive brand of nationalism – the public peddling of indecency to their own pecuniary or political advantage. We need to take the media megaphone from those who use it to inflame social tensions, ethnic nationalism and drive rage-led ideologies.

I was harrassed by the charming Tommy Robinson in 2015 on Twitter. I told him to stop mithering me and to go peddle far-right myths elsewhere. He then designed a malicious meme that used my account photograph and details, claiming I had said that “child abuse is a far-right myth”, which of course is untrue. I didn’t mention child abuse or Rotherham at all, regardless of his claims. There was also an invitation on the meme for people to “let her know what you think of this” and details of my account were on there with the comment “she can be found here,” along with the photograph of me

The meme was circulated repeatedly by Britain First, the EDL, National Front, some UKIP groups, amongst others. As a consequence I received numerous death threats, threats of rape and a threat involving Combat 18, a neo-Nazi organisation, that is the armed branch of Blood and Honour. My crime? Simply being a Labour Party supporter and irritating Tommy Robinson by telling him to do one from my Twitter page.

It’s also possible that my involvement with the Rock Against Racism movement back in the eighties has marked my card. I did get beaten up by a big, brave National Front bloke wearing size 100 Doc Martins. I needed a good few stitches after he kicked me in the head, out of the blue. A few weeks later, I had a break in. Nothing was stolen but my flat was completely trashed, and someone had spray painted the wall with “we know where you live”. Some groups speak entirely in hateful cliches. 

I involved the police, and reports were made to Facebook about Tommy Robinson’s nasty design by a police officer and others regarding the malicious content of the meme and concerns about my personal safety. Guess what? Facebook did not remove the meme or ban any of the posters. The meme wasn’t just malicious, nor did it compromise just my own safety – my children also received threats –  and it was illegal, too. 

Big brave Robinson didn’t have the courage to own up, though. He told police that there were “other people” who post on his social media accounts, and it “wasn’t” him that designed and posted the meme. 

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Aye. From himself.

 

Related

“This contempt hearing is not about free speech. This is not about freedom of the press. This is not about legitimate journalism; this is not about political correctness; this is not about whether one political viewpoint is right or another. It is about justice, and it is about ensuring that a trial can be carried out justly and fairly. It is about ensuring that a jury are not in any way inhibited from carrying out their important function. It is about being innocent until proven guilty. It is not about people prejudging a situation and going round to that court and publishing material, whether in print or online, referring to defendants as “Muslim paedophile rapists”.

“A legitimate journalist would not be able to do that and under the strict liability rule there would be no defence to publication in those terms. It is pejorative language which prejudges the case, and it is language and reporting – if reporting indeed is what it is – that could have had the effect of substantially derailing the trial. As I have already indicated, because of what I knew was going on I had to take avoiding action to make sure that the integrity of this trial was preserved, that justice was preserved and that the trial could continue to completion without people being intimidated into reaching conclusions about it, or into being affected by “irresponsible and inaccurate reporting.

“If something of the nature of that which you put out on social media had been put into the mainstream press I would have been faced with applications from the defence advocates concerned, I have no doubt, to either say something specific to the jury, or worse, to abandon the trial and to start again. That is the kind of thing that actions such as these can and do have, and that is why you have been dealt with in the way in which you have and why I am dealing with this case with the seriousness which I am.” 

 HHJ Norton, quoted from: What on earth happened to poor Tommy Robinson? 10 Things You Should Know

A defence of “political correctness”

Who killed Jo Cox?

UKIP: Parochialism, Prejudice and Patriotic Ultranationalism

 


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.

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Telegraph made to pay £30,000 in damages over defamatory article

Jeremy Corbyn and Mohammed Kozbar.

Jeremy Corbyn with Mohammed Kozbar last summer following the far-right terrorist attack near the north London mosque. Photograph: Hannah Mckay/Reuters.

The Sunday Telegraph has been made to pay “substantial damages” to the general secretary of Finsbury Park mosque after it falsely portrayed him as a supporter of “violent lslamist extremism”, as part of yet another attempt to smear and discredit  the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, as well as Mohammed Kozbar, the vice-chair of the Muslim Association of Britain. This was an attempt by the Conservative Telegraph to discredit someone using “guilt by association” – a type of ad hominem fallacy. Use of this type of association fallacy in the media is often used to generate fear as well as to discredit someone.

On 13 March 2016 the newspaper published an article headlined: Corbyn and the mosque leader who blames the UK for Isil.” The story tried to connect the Labour leader to “extremist” views, which the Telegraph alleged were held by Mohammed Kozbar, who also runs the mosque in Corbyn’s Islington North constituency. The Telegraph claimed that Kozbar “blames Britain for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [Isil]” and had “called for the destruction of Israel and appeared to praise the recent wave of terrorist stabbings in that country”.

Kozbar issued a libel claim in relation to the article, written by Andrew Gilligan, and a UK court ruled that it had defamed him. A statement, issued by Kozbar and his solicitor, was shared on Twitter by the Muslim Council of Britain’s Miqdaad Versi, who has himself challenged inaccuracies around Islam in the national press.

Kozbar said that he “regretted the lengthy and attritional process” rather than “the newspaper simply apologising and admitting fault.” He added: “I felt that a defamation claim was the only option in order to protect my community at the Finsbury Park Mosque from continued Islamophobic media coverage.”

Kozbar added that he was “falsely portrayed by the newspaper as an individual who supported the use of violence in the Israel-Palestine conflict”.

He said: “I was also falsely described as someone who blamed the UK for Isil. The truth is that I abhor and condemn the use of violence in any situation.”

Kozbar’s lawyer, Jonathan Coad, who took up the case after Kozbar was unsatisfied with a ruling by the press regulator Ipso, said: “While there are many responsible elements of the press, the demonising of Muslims in some parts of it is incredibly destructive.

“These legal proceedings should never have been necessary. The article should not have been published.”

Kozbar said that the article was defamatory and the Sunday Telegraph has now removed the article from its website, published a ruling accepting the article was defamatory, and paid damages understood to be in the region of £30,000 to settle the case. This does not include the newspaper’s costs.

It was not just myself who was the target of this article, it was Jeremy Corbyn,” said Kozbar, following the verdict. “The aim was to damage the reputation of Jeremy and make his progress with the Labour party more difficult.”

In a correction statement issued by the Telegraph on 9 May, the newspaper said: “The  Telegraph has accepted an offer to settle the claim by payment of substantial damages and his costs to be agreed.”

Related Stories

Telegraph sorry over travel article that repeated ‘anti-Semitic trope’ ruled inaccurate by IPSO

Sunday Telegraph pays £20,000 in libel damages to man wrongly described as ‘Islamist activist’

 


I don’t make any money from my work. I’m disabled through illness and on a very low income. But you can make a donation to help me continue to research and write free, informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

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The self-declared ‘most transparent government in history’ is editing history

A general view of the main entrance of the National Archives in Kew, London

In 2013, The Guardian revealed that Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) had illegally withheld 1.2 million (later revised to 600,000) historic documents from the public, in flagrant breach of the UK Public Records Act. The documents – which include the desk diary of Soviet spy Donald Maclean; case files from Nazi persecution compensation claims; and masses of material removed from Hong Kong – were being held at Hanslope Parka secret, high-security compound in Buckinghamshire that the FCO shares with intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6.

Now documents concerning the Falklands war, Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’ and the infamous Zinoviev letter – in which MI6 officers plotted to bring about the downfall of the first Labour government – are all said to have been ‘misplaced’, too.

The Conservatives do like their purges. Back in 2013, they travelled beyond the acceptable into an Orwellian realm and wiped a decade of speeches from the internet, rewriting their own history.

It seems an entire file on the Zinoviev letter scandal is claimed to have been ‘lost’ after Home Office civil servants ‘took it away’. The Home Office declined to say why it was taken or when or how it was lost. Nor would its say whether any copies had been made.

Not to worry, though. In 2015 I made a copy of the Zinoviev letter in full, here.

Other missing files include those concerning the controversial British colonial administration in Palestine, tests on polio vaccines and long-running territorial disputes between the UK and Argentina.

Almost 1,000 files, each thought to contain dozens of papers, are claimed to be ‘lost’. In most cases, the entire file is said to have been ‘mislaid’ after being removed from public view at the archives and taken back to Whitehall.

In other cases, papers from within files have been carefully selected and taken away.

For example, Foreign Office officials removed a few papers in 2015 from a file concerning the 1978 murder of Georgi Markov, a dissident Bulgarian journalist who died after being shot in the leg with a tiny pellet containing ricin while crossing Waterloo Bridge in central London. The Foreign Office subsequently told the National Archives that the papers taken were nowhere to be found.

After being questioned by the Guardian, Foreign Office said it had managed to locate most of the papers and return them to the archives. A couple, however, are still missing. The Foreign Office declined to say why it had taken the papers, or whether it had copies.

Other files the National Archives has listed as ‘misplaced while on loan to government department’ include one concerning the activities of the Communist party of Great Britain at the height of the cold war; another detailing the way in which the British government took possession of Russian government funds held in British banks after the 1917 revolution; an assessment for government ministers on the security situation in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s; and three files about defence agreements between the UK and newly independent Malaya in the late 1950s, shortly before the two countries went to war with Indonesia.

The disappearances of these documents highlights the ease with which government departments can commandeer official papers long after they have been declassified and made available to historians and the public at the archives at Kew, south-west London.

A Freedom of Information Act request in 2014 showed that 9,308 files were returned to government departments in this way in 2011. The following year 7,122 files were loaned out, and 7,468 in 2013. The National Archives says Whitehall departments are strongly encouraged to promptly return them, but apparently, they are not under any obligation to do so.

A spokesperson said “The National Archives regularly sends lists to government departments of files that they have out on loan. If we are notified that a file is missing, we do ask what actions have been done and what action is being taken to find the file.”

Some historians have been particularly distrustful of the Foreign Office since 2013, following the Guardian disclosure that the department had been unlawfully hoarding 1.2m historical files at the high-security compound near Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire.

The hoard came to light during high court proceedings brought by a group of elderly Kenyans who were detained and abused during the Mau Mau insurgency in 1950s Kenya, when the Foreign Office admitted it had withheld thousands of colonial-era files.

A few years earlier, the Ministry of Defence refused to consider a number of files for release under the Freedom of Information Act on the grounds that they ‘may have been exposed to asbestos’.

The files concerned such matters as arms sales to Saudi Arabia, UK special forces operations against Indonesia and interrogation techniques. The Ministry of Defense denied it was using the presence of asbestos in an old archive building as an excuse to suppress the documents.

Dr Tristram Hunt MP, the historian and MP who sits on the all–party Parliamentary group on archives and history, said: “To have areas of the national memory erased like this is worrying.” He plans to table written questions to Lord McNally, the Justice Minister with responsibility for The National Archives, to ask about the documents.

He said: “I’m hopeful it’s a temporary aberration. These things do get lost and come back to life.

“History is an asset in this country. It’s a natural resource, like oil. We have a lot of it and we need to take care of it.”

Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Jon Trickett said: “The ‘loss’ of documents about controversial periods in history is unacceptable.

“The British people deserve to know what the Government has done in their name and their loss will only fuel accusations of a cover up.

“These important historical documents may be a great loss to history – and their disappearance must urgently be investigated.”

With a straight face, a Government spokesman said: “This is the most transparent Government in history and we are committed to making public as many records as possible, while balancing the need to protect the small amount of information that remains sensitive.

“Last year 95 per cent of government records that were transferred to the National Archives were made public and since 2013 the Government has doubled the amount of material it reviews and releases each year, as we honour our commitment of releasing documents after 20 years.”

However, the record number of files withheld from release to the National Archives, along with those apparently ‘disappeared’ ought to raise serious concerns about the government’s approach to democratic accountability and transparency. 

 


 

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


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Tory MP David Morris denies citizens accounts of the devastating impact of Tory policies

This is part of the second of two special reports. ITV Granada Correspondent Daniel Hewitt investigates the rise of in-work poverty in the North West of England. You can watch the first report here.

The Conservatives have, on more than one occasion, tried to pass off evidence regarding the negative impacts of their policies as ‘anecdotal’ or as politically ‘biased’.  

Conservative MP David Morris has attempted to deny the accounts of rickets and  children going hungry because of poverty, saying claims are from schools ‘with links to leftwing group Momentum.’

Of course this approach also entails attempting to discredit dedicated public servants and constituents who dare to criticise government policies that are causing harm. 

A report by ITV earlier this week showed teachers at more than one school explaining that they had to wash their pupils’ uniforms because their families couldn’t afford to pay the electricity bills. The report was very widely shared on social media.  

West End primary school reported that teachers sometimes gave coats and shoes to pupils whose parents could not provide them.

Meanwhile, a local GP spoke of treating children for rickets, a condition not seen commonly in the UK since before the development of the welfare state.

It’s clear that welfare provision is no longer adequate in alleviating absolute poverty, which is usually seen in only in developing countries. The welfare ‘reforms’ have systematically reduced the amounts provided for people to meet their basic living costs, such as for food, fuel, clothing and shelter. 

However, Morris, who is the MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, responded to the reports by posting a call for social services to investigate on Facebook. He wrote: “These claims are not those being experienced by myself or the jobcentre in the area and I would urge anyone affected to book an appointment with the staff at Morecambe jobcentre to assess if they are receiving all of the benefits they are entitled to.” 

Morris added that the claims “always seem to emanate from the same primary schools and Ash Trees surgery in Carnforth”.

Dr David Wrigley of Ash Trees Surgery issued this comment on Twitter: 

“As a senior GP partner at Ash Trees Surgery (mentioned by my own MP Mr Morris in his statement) I can categorically state we have NO links to Momentum as he has stated. I would ask Mr Morris to provide solid evidence of this accusation or withdraw his remark.”

The Morecambe and Lunesdale Labour party said in a statement that Morris “does not see what is happening on his own watch because on the rare occasions he is here, he refuses to engage with the community and attacks teachers and doctors for being ‘politicised’.”

A spokeswoman for the party said: “In the age of the internet, MPs should use social media to establish meaningful dialogues with their constituents.

“For a long time now, Morris has blocked and banned from his Facebook page those who voice their concerns regarding things that happen in our constituency and speak out about the government’s policies, which he supports. However, Mr Morris has gone beyond blocking and banning his aggrieved constituents and now frequently accuses those who criticise him of being trolls or part of coordinated campaigns against him, often using parliamentary privilege to do so.”

The spokeswoman added that Morris was “yet to provide a shred of evidence to back up his accusations and continues to refuse to acknowledge the genuine concerns of his constituents”.

Morris later told ITV: “I’ve not got issues with the report that you’ve run, I’m just questioning the validity of it … [the schools featured] have very strong links to Momentum, and to be quite frank, all the indicators from Ofsted say that the child poverty at that school is absolutely no different to any other in the country.”

Actually, that last part should worry him, because it indicates a widespread problem at a national level. 

As for ‘questioning the validity of it’, well the Conservatives do that with every single piece of research that shows their policy in an unfavorable light. Yet study after study have found pretty much the same thing: that people don’t have enough money to meet their most fundamental needs, including many of those in work

The Conservatives have closed many Sure Start centres, despite the fact that the Sure Start programme was a groundbreaking success. A commitment to supporting families in the early years of their children’s development shouldn’t have been revolutionary, but it was. When the Labour government announced Sure Start in 1998, the programme was targeted at the poorest 20% of wards in England. From there it grew into a network of 4,000 children’s centres across the country, each dedicated to improving the life chances of young children and the wellbeing of families. 

The children’s centres offered employment support, health advice, childcare, parenting help – unified service delivery designed to prevent isolation and, ultimately, to reduce the gaps between rich and poor children which, as a growing body of evidence shows, often go on to define lives.

Now, after almost 7 years of Tory government, it’s hard to imagine what it would feel like were a prime minister to announce a new, universal service designed to reduce poverty and inequality. Instead, the current government seems happy to reverse the social progress made by the Sure Start programme.

By April of last year, nearly a quarter of all Sure Start children’s centres had closed; 156 centres closed in 2015 – almost twice as many as in the previous year. This is unforgivable and tragic because Sure Start worked. A study by Oxford University revealed by the Department for Education just before Christmas was the most detailed ever conducted on the impact of children’s centres – and it found the centres benefited parents and families who regularly attended classes in poorer areas, contributing to less disruptive home lives, better maternal mental health, and improved social skills among children and adults.

Just 4 months ago, Learndirect, the UK’s largest adult training provider, blamed the government’s austerity programme for its failure to meet the education regulator’s minimum quality standards.

Morris claims that “all the indicators from Ofsted say that the child poverty at that school is absolutely no different to any other in the country.” However, Ofsted don’t provide evidence of variations in levels of poverty in their annual report at all. The only comment made by Ofsted relating to poverty was an acknowledgement that schools under-performed and had some difficulty improving their educational standards in areas with acknowledged high levels of deprivation.

It was noted that there is a correlation between high levels of deprivation and educational under-performance, but there was no comparison undertaken between the levels of deprivation in each Local Authority area. So Morris’s reasoning there is fundamentally flawed.

In fact the National Education Union commented on the latest Ofsted report – produced this month – saying: “[…] Ofsted as the Chief Inspector of Education should take Government to task over this. Teachers can do what they can do within schools but it is Government that is missing child poverty reduction targets, presiding over increases in  poverty and failing to produce a decent industrial strategy. 

Conservative ministers wanted to remove a statutory duty to publish levels of UK household income as part of the welfare reform, since 2013, but have been forced to accept, after a battle last year with the House of Lords, that the material deprivation measures should remain protected. The Conservatives had cynically argued for changing the criteria of childhood poverty targets in a way that did not relate to family income. However, poverty IS related to a lack of income that is necessary to meet basic needs.

The government wanted assessments which reflected traditional Conservative prejudices. They wanted to include ‘the number of households with parents in long-term relationships and households where parents were addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling for example.’ Yet research shows that substance misuse is not correlated with poverty.

The government suffered a defeat in the Lords after peers pushed through an amendment forcing the Conservatives to retain four established indicators, including income, which use official statistics to track and monitor relative and absolute poverty.

It’s difficult not to see the Conservatives’ original proposed changes to what was an anticipation of worsening child poverty figures as a cynical move. It was at the time widely perceived as an attempt to mask the impact of equally widely anticipated cuts to tax credits and to other forms of essential welfare support. 

Poverty and social exclusion: social immobility 

The government has attempted to defend its commitment to improving social mobility for the most disadvantaged people, despite the recent resignation of the entire social mobility commission board, but when pressed, Conservative ministers struggled to name any proposals recommended by the body that had been adopted in the past year. The Conservatives have consistently failed to acknowledge, despite all their rhetoric about ‘meritocracy’, that social mobility is a product of favorable and accommodating economic and social structures. The austerity programme that was aimed disproportionately at the poorest citizens has not facilitated social mobility. Instead it has extended inequality of opportunities, as well as widening material inequality.

In his resignation letter, Alan Milburn says:

“The need for political leadership in this area [social mobility] has never been more pressing. Social mobility is one of the biggest challenges facing our country today. It is not just the poorest in society who are losing out. Whole communities and parts of Britain are being left behind economically and hollowed out socially. The growing sense that we have become an “us and them” society is deeply corrosive of our cohesion as a nation. As the commission’s work has demonstrated, the 20th-century expectation that each generation would do better than the last is no longer being met. At a time when more and more people are feeling that Britain is becoming more unfair, rather than less, social mobility matters more than ever.

While the government seems unable to devote the necessary energy and focus to the social mobility agenda, I have been heartened that others in civil society – from local councils to major employers – are actively embracing it. So I will be establishing a new social mobility institute, independent of the government and political parties, to take forward the practical work that is needed to make a reality of my belief in a fairer, more open, more mobile society in Britain.”

As an emblem of this government’s antipathy to genuinely improving opportunity, it is forecast that record levels of  child poverty will be reached on its watch; the inevitable product of savage cuts in support for low-income working families by around a thousands of pounds a year and those cuts made to people out of work, including disabled people – the cuts that are funding expensive tax cuts which benefit the most affluent.

Many charities have complained they have been silenced from criticising Conservative social policy despite the fact they are hugely damaging. 

Increasing authoritarianism

The Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill – a controversial legislation introduced in 2014 – heavily restricts charities and other organisations from intervening on policy during an election period. However, the legislation has been used to effectively stifle legitimate criticism of damaging policies.

Earlier this year, for example, the Prime Minister launched an attack at the British Red Cross after its chief executive claimed his organisation was responding to a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in hospitals and ambulance services. Theresa May accused the organisation of making comments that were ‘irresponsible and overblown.’ Yet the British Medical Association, Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Physicians and Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, had all issued warnings about the increasing pressures on health services.

It’s not the only time the Conservatives have tried to gag charities for highlighting the dire impacts of their policies. In 2014, Conservative MPs reported Oxfam to the Charity Watchdog for campaigning against poverty. I guess the Joseph Rowntree Foundation had better watch it, too. What next, will they be reporting the NSPCC for campaigning for children’s welfare?

The Oxfam campaign that sent the Conservatives into an indignant rage and to the charity watchdog to complain was an appeal to ALL political parties to address growing poverty. Oxfam cited some of the causes of growing poverty in the UK, identified through meticulous research.

'Lifting the lid on austerity Britain reveals a perfect storm - and it's forcing more and more people into poverty' tweeted Oxfam

The Oxfam poster that caused a storm among the Conservatives

Conservative MP Priti Patel must have felt that the Conservatives are exempt from this appeal, due to being the architects of the policies that have led to a growth in poverty and inequality, when she said: “With this Tweet they have shown their true colours and are now nothing more than a mouthpiece for left-wing propaganda.”

I’m wondering when concern for poverty and the welfare of citizens became the sole concern of ‘the left-wing’. That comment alone speaks volumes about the indifference and prejudices of the Conservatives. 

Another  Conservative, MP, Charlie Elphicke, branded the campaign post as a: “shameful abuse of taxpayers’ money,” while Priti Patel went on to accuse Oxfam of “behaving disgracefully.

Therese Coffey, used a favorite Conservative response and accused Oxfam of using: “anecdote to create alarmist generalisations.” Since when is empirical evidence ‘anecdotal’? The increasingly remote Conservative government also label everyone who challenges their ideology and spin on policy as ‘scaremongers’.  

It’s impossible to discuss poverty without reference to its root cause, and that invariably involves reference to government policies. 

Ben Phillips, Oxfam campaigns and policy director, responded:

“Oxfam is a resolutely non-party political organisation – we have a duty to draw attention to the hardship suffered by poor people we work with in the UK.

Fighting poverty should not be a party political issue – successive governments have presided over a tide of rising inequality and created a situation where food banks and other providers provided 20 million meals last year to people who could not afford to feed themselves.”

“This is an unacceptable situation in one of the world’s largest economies and politicians of all stripes have a responsibility to tackle it.”

Oxfam are far from alone in their concern about the rise of absolute poverty in the UK. Around the same time, medical experts wrote an open letter to David Cameron condemning the rise in food poverty under this government, stating that families “are not earning enough money to meet their most basic nutritional needs” and that “the welfare system is increasingly failing to provide a robust line of defence against hunger.” There have been further cuts to welfare, including both in-work and out-of-work support since 2014, which means that the situation can only have got worse.

Many charities have said that the UK government has violated the Human Right to food.  Article 11(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) recognises the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, clothing and housing. The UK has signed and ratified the Covenant, and in so doing is legally bound by the ICESCR, in particular, the human right to adequate food.

According to the Just Fair Consortium report, welfare reforms, benefit delays and the cost of living crisis have pushed an unprecedented number of people into a state of hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity in the UK.

Further research by Oxfam has revealed the extent of poverty among British children, with poor families taking drastic measures to survive. What kind of government is concerned only about stifling critical discussion of its policies, and not about the plight of the citizens it is meant to serve? This is a government that attempts to discredit the accounts of people’s experience of the suffering that is directly caused by this government.

By blaming the casualities of government policy, by imposing coercive ‘behavioural change’ programmes on the poorest citizens – which indicates the government has loaded the responsibility for poverty on individual citizens – and by trying to discredit anyone that champions the rights of the most vulnerable people, the government has abdicated its responsibility to ensure citizens can meet their basic living needs. Their survival needs

Malnutrition is becoming commonplace

In 2014, I wrote an article about the rise in hospital admissions relating to malnutrition. Diseases associated with poverty, which were common during the Victorian era had almost vanished with the advent of the welfare state. Now we are seeing them again. 

NHS statistics indicated that the number of cases of infectious illnesses such as cholera, whooping cough and scarlet fever have almost doubled within five years, with a rise in other illnesses which indicate severe malnutrition such as scurvy, rickets. People are more susceptible to infectious illness if they are under-nourished.

Scurvy is a disease associated with pirates who have been stuck at sea for long periods – it has increased by 31 per cent in England since 2010. This is caused by a lack of vitamin C and is usually due to an inadequate diet without enough fresh fruit and vegetables.

Figures from January 2014 from the NHS indicate that there were 833 hospital admissions for children suffering from Rickets – a condition which is caused by a lack of Vitamin D, from 2012-13. Ten years ago, the figure was just 190. 

The disease, which causes softening of the bones and permanent deformities, was common in 19th century Britain but was almost eradicated by improvements in nutrition. The body produces vitamin D when it is exposed to the sun, but it’s clear that adequate diet plays an important role, too, since the decline of Rickets happened at a time when we saw an improvement in the diets of the nation as a whole.

It is thought that malnutrition is the main cause, children are most at risk if their diet doesn’t include sufficient levels of vitamin D.

Low incomes, unemployment and benefit delays have combined to trigger increased demand for food banks among the UK’s poorest families, according to a report commissioned by the government and released in 2014.

The report directly contradicts the claim from a government minister that the rise in the use of food banks is linked to the fact that there are now more of them. It says people turn to charity food as a last resort following a crisis such as the loss of a job, or problems accessing social security benefits, or through benefit sanctions.

The review emerged as the government comes under pressure from church leaders and charities to address increasing prevalence of food poverty caused by welfare cuts. 

The report was written by food policy experts from the University of Warwick, and it was passed to ministers in June 2013 but had remained undisclosed until February 2014, creating reasonable speculation that the government suppressed its findings.

Examining the effect of welfare changes on food bank use was not a specific part of its remit, and the report is understood to have undergone a number of revisions since early summer, ordered by the Department for Food and Agriculture and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The researchers found that a combination of rising food prices, ever-shrinking incomes, low pay, increasing personal debt, and benefit payment problems meant an increasing number of families could not afford to buy sufficient food.

In a letter to the British Medical Journal, a group of doctors and senior academics from the Medical Research Council and two leading universities said that the effect of Government policies on vulnerable people’s ability to afford food needed to be urgently monitored.

The group of academics and professionals said that the surge in the number of people requiring emergency food aid, a decrease in the amount of calories consumed by British families, and a doubling of the number of malnutrition cases seen at English hospitals represent “all the signs of a public health emergency that could go unrecognised until it is too late to take preventative action”.

The health specialists also said:“Access to an adequate food supply is the most basic of human needs and rights”.

The authors of the letter, who include Dr David Taylor-Robinson and Professor Margaret Whitehead of Liverpool University’s Department of Public Health, say that they have serious concerns that malnutrition can have a long-lasting impact on health, particularly among children.

Public spending in food stores fell for the first time on record in July 2014, putting the UK recovery in doubt at the time. Such a worrying, unprecedented record fall in food sales indicates that many consumers evidently had not felt the benefit of the so-called recovery.

Yet Conservative ministers have repeatedly insisted that there is no “robust link” between the welfare reforms and rising food bank use, while the welfare minister at the time, David Freud, claimed the rise in food bank use was because there were more food banks and because the food was free.

The Department of Health figures showed that the number of ‘bed days’ accounted for by someone with a primary or secondary diagnosis of malnutrition rose from 128,361 in 2010-11, the year the coalition came to power, to 184,528 last year – a 61% rise over five years.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence classes someone as malnourished if they have a body mass index of less than 18.5, have suffered the unintentional loss of more than 10% of their weight over the last three to six months, or if they have a BMI under 20 and have unintentionally seen their weight drop by more than 5% over the previous three to six months.

Worryingly, four out of five people who needed inpatient hospital care because of malnutrition were admitted as an emergency, which suggests their health had deteriorated significantly in the days before they were taken into hospital.

Not enough health and social care professionals have the time or knowledge to correctly identify malnutrition.

Stephen Dalton, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents hospitals, said: “Our members take malnutrition seriously. Good nutrition is a fundamental human right our citizens can expect, and vulnerable, particularly older, people are most at risk of serious consequences if denied basic compassionate care. At a time of unprecedented demand on health and social care we need to be alert and will take seriously any reliable evidence of basic care not being delivered.”

Time and time again, when challenged and confronted with overwhelming empirical evidence of the terrible harm that their austerity policies and welfare ‘reforms’ are inflicting on citizens, the government simply deny any ‘causal link’. They say that the increase in absolute poverty, malnutrition and hunger, deaths and distress are unrelated to their policies, which they also quite ludicrously claim to be ‘working’. Anyone who tries to raise debate on the matter is labeled a ‘scaremonger’ or a ‘marxist’.

With no sign that the government are going to emerge from behind their basic defence mechanism of collective denial – nor are the Conservatives remotely interested in investigating a clear correlation between their blatant attacks on the poorest citizens via their draconian policies and the terrible hardships people are suffering –  we do have to wonder what the real intention is underpinning their intentionally targeted austerity programme. 

In a very wealthy first-world  democracy, it is absolutely unacceptable that anyone is left hungry, malnourished and in absolute poverty. 

Increasing numbers of people are living in absolute poverty. This is because of the governments’ austerity programme, depressed wages and the steep rise in the cost of living over the last few years.

Disgraceful Conservative MPs that continue to deny this in the face of consistent and overwhelming empirical evidence from a wide array of sources for the past five years at least, are not fit to represent their constituents, nor are the Conservatives, with their crib sheet strategies of denial and dismissal, and techniques of neutralisation, fit to run this country. 

If the government refuse to listen to citizens and to prioritise the basic living conditions and needs of the public, it really is time for it to go. 

 


 

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

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