Just checking in

Just checking in. Brexit poll a week from today looks bad news if the opinion polls are accurate. Nigel “No more Mr. Nice Guy” Farage’s party of bigots and climate change enthusiasts may do well. Unfortunately he has the support of a lot of angry, misguided people who somehow genuinely believe that Brexit is in their interests. He plans to try yet again to join the “Westminster elite” which he condemns after seven failed attempts. There are many unanswered questions about Farage dealings, Trump (and the Clinton emails), Assange, Cambridge Analytica, Arron Banks, the dodgy Brexit campaign donation funnelled through Arron Banks’ dodgy offshore company …

Coming soon: the great universal credit deception

After years of ministers pretending otherwise, Amber Rudd, the DWP secretary, now admits universal credit’s introduction has left people so short of cash that they have resorted to food banks. What Iain Duncan Smith hailed in 2011 as a transformation of welfare has turned into something grotesque, with massive delays and huge flaws both of administration and design, repeatedly damned by MP select committees. The independent National Audit Office judges that universal credit has neither saved public money nor helped people into work. But it has left thousands of vulnerable claimants penniless, while others starve and even lose their homes. In a House of Commons debate last summer the London Labour MP Catherine West recounted how one of her constituents had “fallen off benefits” and ended up “sleeping in a tent in a bin chamber” on a housing estate.

Such are the horrors whose very documentation by journalists the DWP letter dismisses as “unfair”. Rather than halt universal credit, as demanded by so many groups, the department’s managers now say they will respond “in a different way … very different to anything we’ve done before”.

What follows is an elaborate media strategy to manufacture a Whitehall fantasy, one in which the benefits system is running like a dream while a Conservative government generously helps people on the escalator to prosperity. It begins at the end of this month with a giant advert wrapped around the cover of the Metro newspaper; inside will be a further four-page advertorial feature. This will “myth-bust the common inaccuracies reported on UC”. What’s more, “the features won’t look or feel like DWP or UC – you won’t see our branding … We want to grab the readers’ attention and make them wonder who has done this ‘UC uncovered’ investigation.”

Not only is this a costly exercise, with a Metro wraparound going for a headline rate of £250,000 (of your money, let’s not forget), but the Advertising Standards Authority will doubtless be interested in that description of the feature. Its guidelines stipulate that“marketers and publishers must make clear that advertorials are marketing communications”

Under Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) the state – probably the Home Secretary – could make secret orders which could never be revealed. That sounds familiar somehow. RIPA has since been replaced by the Investigatory Powers Act but I’m sure that similar laws still exist. It’s a way for the state to attack people while hiding. A hypothetical example – the state could interfere in a political activist’s affairs e.g. frustrating complaints, actually denying the activist’s human rights so that the activist would be consumed with pressing more personal issues and thereby distracted from the bigger political issues. People tend to change their jobs and move away in my experience. Isn’t that the obvious thing to do if you’ve been prevented from doing your job and prevented from discussing it with anyone under threat of imprisonment? I think that the way to deal with this nonsense is to carry on regardless so that many more people become aware of these actions against democracy (even if they can’t discuss it with anyone).

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