David Cameron’s Had a Bad Week – Even By His Standards

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By Natalie Bennett

When religious leaders across the spectrum line up to say your policies have created a “national crisis” of hunger and poverty, when your government is forced to push out a long-delayed report that comprehensively debunks your already obviously weak explanation for the explosive growth of food banks, it really isn’t a great idea to claim that your policies were driven by a “moral mission”.

The biggest blow delivered to Cameron over the course of the past week came from an unexpected source.

Last Wednesday, I joined protesters outside Atos’s office in London speaking out about the dreadful Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and the obscene profits the company makes from it.

Strikingly, Atos is now looking better than the government after it emerged that the company, sick of being a byword for inhumanity and ineptitude for administering the WCA, has asked to be excused from the contract.

That doesn’t exonerate it for the years of misery, fear and suffering it has inflicted on the people of Britain unfortunate enough to have a disability or suffer from illness. The finding of the Public Accounts Committee last year that Atos was making huge profits from a test while the government bore the cost of the huge number of appeals against its findings, 38% of which have been successful, means they still have huge culpability. If Atos wants to make reparations, it should donate all of the profits it has made from the tests to disability charities.

But Mr Cameron has made much-hated Atos look good by comparison – really a new low in his stint as PM, which is already defined by a failed policy of austerity and its resulting widespread poverty, Victorian levels of inequality, and missed opportunities to restructure our economy.
So my advice to the Prime Minister? Now’s the time to see the light – to accept the findings of the judicial review that concluded is the Workplace Capability Assessment isn’t fit for purpose. You could blame the former Labour administration for introducing the flawed system, and then you could introduce an alternative that trusts the people best placed to judge whether an individual is or isn’t fit to work – the medical professionals who are treating them.

It’s also time to admit that the Personal Independent Payment (PIP), set up to replace Disability Living Allowance (and slash payments), is also punishing people simply for having a disability, and will be an equally huge black mark on your record if you don’t act fast.

For WCA and PIP, swapping one outsourcing giant for another is no kind of answer – and it’s hard to imagine any company would welcome the kind of opprobrium Atos will carry for many years.

On food banks, the problem is more complicated.

Certainly, Mr Cameron, a good start would be to agree with your chancellor, George Osborne, and push the minimum wage up significantly. The Green Party has long been calling for it to be set at the level of a living wage, and that would provide additional income for the Treasury.

When Green MEP Keith Taylor and I recently visited Winchester food bank, volunteers there were noting how more and more of their users were young working families.

You must also recognise and acknowledge that unreasonable sanctions put on benefit recipients, and failures of administration in benefits are a huge part of the reason that hundreds of thousands of people are forced to use foodbanks in Austerity Britain.

Acting on even one of these proposals, Mr Cameron, might just result in a better week for you. Perhaps you could even use the word “moral” without it flying back in your face.

At least the very least, you should be able to sleep more soundly in your bed, knowing that you’ve saved some Britons from government-inflicted hunger, fear and misery.

Original article by Natalie Bennett here

Follow Natalie Bennett on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@natalieben

“Extreme weather shows action on climate change is urgently needed”

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“Extreme weather shows action on climate change is urgently needed” says North West Green Party

After high winds hit the region this week the North West Green Party has highlighted the urgent need for political action to tackle climate change and the threat of increased extreme weather.

Peter Cranie, the North West Green Party’s lead candidate for the European elections, said: “On Wednesday night 100mph winds battered the North West, causing major disruption and injuries. While individual weather events can’t be explicitly linked to climate change the evidence suggests that due to climate change we can expect more of this kind of extreme weather in the future. For too long politicians have avoided the issue. But now the consequences of a warming planet are here. The Met Office recognise it, the Prime Minister accepts it and we now need urgent action to protect us from future extreme weather.”

Ahead of this year’s European elections Peter Cranie criticised the Conservatives and UKIP for voting against European action to tackle flooding. In a European Parliament vote on the implementation of EU water legislation designed to tackle the ‘rise in the frequency and intensity of floods’ one of the region’s Conservative MEPs, Sir Robert Atkins, voted against the plans and the other two, Jacqueline Foster and Sajjad Karim, and the region’s UKIP MEP, Paul Nuttall failed to turn up to vote [1]. The motion called on the European Commission to conduct ‘a relevant analysis of the ways to prevent the effects of flooding, given the noticeable increase in the flood risk in Member States in recent years’.

Peter Cranie said: “David Cameron and Nigel Farage have pulled on their wellies and waders to stand in the flood waters looking sympathetic, while in the European Parliament their party members fail to support action to tackle flooding. While better planning and flood defences will help us mitigate some of the risks of climate change, the only way to properly protect ourselves is to take radical action to lower our reliance on fossil fuels.”

He concluded: “If the government is serious about protecting the UK from flooding, and wants to live up to its claim of being the ‘greenest government ever’ then it must end its obsession with climate change causing energy production like fracking and its hostility towards renewable energy sources.”

Fracking Announcement Is a Sign of Desperation and an Indication of its Undesirability

 

 

 

Monday’s announcement from the government of ‘bribes’ to be offered to local councils and communities that accept the presence of fracking for shale gas can be seen as a sign of two things.

 

The first is desperation – the resistance to the government’s enthusiasm to fracking has been strong and determined. From the camp at Balcombe in leafy Sussex, to the site at Barton Moss on the edge of Manchester airport, where 500 people gathered yesterday to show their opposition to the drilling there, across the country, surveys show that Britons understand that fracking is something they don’t want in their back yard, in their region, or in their country.

 

The second aspect of the government’s bribe is that they demonstrate fracking for shale gas is something you really wouldn’t want to have near you. Just like you offer a child a sweet if they’ll swallow their nasty-tasting medicine, the government’s very offer demonstrates the unattractiveness of fracking for shale gas for local communities.

 

Further telling news that emerged this week was the announcement that French multinational Total is to invest in fracking here. Banned for conducting the procedure in its own country, which has instituted a moratorium on fracking, as Germany plans to do and Bulgaria has long done, it’s planning to come here.

 

Not surprising really, when Prime Minister David Cameron is boasting that he’s offering the most generous tax regime in Europe – indeed overall more generous than that offered by the United States. So Mr Cameron is seeking to enrich big multinational fossil fuel exploiters, while giving scant attention to the alternatives. Continue reading