> Evidently not having lost heart at their candidates piss-poor showing in the Yarm election last week, UKIP now have their sights on Hartlepool (insert monkey joke of your choice here).
General Election planners at UKIP have decided Hartlepool is their best chance in the region, with a relatively strong local branch helping pave the way for an election push.
Labour’s Iain Wright holds the seat with a majority of 5,509, down from the days of Peter Mandelson and a 14,000 strong majority. Back in 2010 UKIP took just 7% of the vote.
But, Nigel Farage said, after recent success in the South Shields by-election, where the party came second despite never standing there before, there would be a General Election rethink after this May’s Euro polls.
It was revealed last month how new academic research suggests Labour’s working class vote is at risk of moving away from an increasingly middle class Labour party, with UKIP making clear they now want to take left-wing voters across the North.
Mr Farage, who was in Gateshead last week, claimed that even an area with as many safe seats as the North was not beyond their reach.
“It’s a Labour heartland, but you know what, we’re having a go,” he said. “Let’s be honest. We are at a later stage in our development in the North East, compared to, say, the East of England.
“That’s because we didn’t quite get over the line in 2009, 15.4% in those elections. Let’s see where we are after these elections.
“We’re fighting more than 100 local election seats, and if, if, we start to win in those we suddenly have a base to build on.
“In South Shields we came second, and it showed how much Labour hate us in the North East. They hate us here, they are scared, they know they represent a different set of interests to the old Labour party.
“We will not win where Labour has a massive majority, but we can find marginals or other seats where we can make a difference.
“Hartlepool is very, very interesting. Watch Hartlepool. It is an interesting seat for us in 2015.
“We have a base there, it is our longest established branch in the North East.
“The North East is our fastest growing membership area, and if I had to pick I’d say Hartlepool was an area where we can make a substantial impact.
“We will have to look hard after the elections at what our targets will be in 2015, but Hartlepool is very interesting to us.”
Last night leading Teesside MP Tom Blenkinsop ( Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) said UKIP would struggle to convince voters in the North to back Mr Farage’s right-wing policies.
> Sadly, I’m not so sure. Many life-long Labour supporters I’ve met espouse personal views that would place them well to the right of UKIP. They only vote Labour because they always have, and their fathers before them, etc – there’s very little innovative thinking or grasp of political theory. It’s a classic case of double-think. And OAPs are often the worst – they’ve got theirs, now they want to pull the ladder up behind them.
The Labour MP said: “Nigel Farage says he’s ‘the only politician keeping the flame of Thatcherism alive’.
“He should tell that to the steel workers of Hartlepool and the rest of Teesside that numbered 25,000 in 1987, and only numbered 5,000 by 1992.
“Or maybe the mining communities of County Durham and Northumberland.
“If you want to know about UKIP, look at how Farage has employed Neil Hamilton in a senior party role, a man who took brown paper envelopes full of cash to ask questions in parliament.
“Farage supports privatising the NHS. He wants to cut maternity rights for women, and he wants to privatise chunks of our education system.
“He sounds like a Thatcherite Tory, he looks like a Thatcherite Tory and of course he tried six times previously to be a Thatcherite Tory MP.
“I’m very sure that firms like TATA, Nissan and Hitachi would be more than a little bit concerned at a follower of Farage’s getting into any position of representation in the North East.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle 27 April 2014
This article was written by Patrick Wintour, political editor, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 28th January 2014
Jobcentre staff should no longer be given incentives according to how many benefit claimants they get off the dole but instead should be rewarded for how many they get back into employment, according to a critical report published on Tuesday by a committee of MPs.
The work and pensions select committee said claimants were in many cases wrongly losing their benefits and that a “haphazard” approach to assessing claimants meant that individual needs or problems were often misunderstood.
> Or just plain ignored.
The select committee report claims jobcentre staff refer many claimants for a benefit sanction inappropriately, or “in circumstances in which common sense would dictate that discretion should have been applied”.
The committee also said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) needed to take urgent steps to monitor the extent of financial hardship caused by claimants losing their benefits – including the collection and publication of data on the number of claimants “signposted” to food aid by jobcentres and the reasons why these claimants were in need of assistance.
The report added that a current government review into sanctions was too limited. The review has been made more urgent by the minister for employment Esther McVey’s admission that the number of sanction referrals made by jobcentre advisers is part of a “variety of performance data” used to monitor their work.
Academic research cited in the report found that 19% of all jobseeker’s allowance claimants in the period from April 2008 to March 2012 were sanctioned – a total of 1.4 million people.
Sanctioning rates in the year to October 2012 were 4.2% of all jobseeker’s allowance claimants per month. For claimants aged 18–24 the rate was 8% per month.
But the latest release of official data, covering the period from the introduction of tougher regimes in late 2012 to June 2013, shows that sanctioning rates have increased further to around 5% each month.
In total 553,000 jobseeker’s allowance sanctions were applied, an increase of nearly 11% on the same period in 2011-12. The number of sanctions in the year to 30 June 2013 was around 860,000, the highest number in any 12-month period since statistics began to be published in their present form in April 2000.
The committee challenged claims by DWP ministers that staff were not disciplined for failing to meet targets to get claimants off the dole. It also asked if it was sensible that jobcentre staff should be regarded as having succeeded if jobseeker’s allowance claimants simply no longer received benefit.
The committee chairwoman, Dame Ann Begg, said the current DWP incentive system took no account of whether the claimant was “leaving benefit to start a job or for less positive reasons, including being sanctioned or simply transferring to another benefit. We believe this risks JCP [Jobcentre Plus] hitting its targets but missing the point. JCP must be very clearly incentivised to get people into work, not just off benefits.”
Begg said: “The processes by which JCP currently establishes claimants’ needs are haphazard and prone to missing crucial information about a person’s barriers to working, including homelessness and drug dependency. A more thorough and systematic approach to assessing claimants’ needs is required.”
The all-party select committee said a broader review into benefit sanctions should also investigate whether, and to what extent, the policy was encouraging claimants to engage more actively in jobseeking.
The MPs on the committee said they “strongly believe that a further review is necessary and welcome the minister’s commitment to launch a second and separate review into the broader operation of the sanctioning process”. The DWP was not able to confirm that it had committed to a separate formal review.
Begg said: “An unprecedented number of claimants were sanctioned in the year to June 2013. Whilst conditionality is a necessary part of the benefit system, jobseekers need to have confidence that the sanctioning regime is being applied appropriately, fairly and proportionately and the government needs to assure itself that sanctioning is achieving its intended objective of incentivising people to seek work.”
The report also questions whether the DWP has the resources to carry out its work, pointing out it is subject to large funding cuts at a time when its workload is increasing.
It noted that in future there would be weekly signing on for half of all jobseekers, and daily signing on for a third of claimants. It also noted the introduction under Universal Credit of an “in-work conditionality” regime – meaning people in work can be subject to benefit sanctions if they do not for instance increase their skills to get a better-paid job – widely expected to apply to more than 1 million low-paid Universal Credit claimants.
The DWP was not able to provide any figures to the select committee on the numbers of people that would be attending jobcentres as a result.
Begg said: “The government has no clear idea about how working with both employed and unemployed claimants will affect demand on jobcentres because it has not yet formulated plans to deliver its ‘in-work conditionality regime’. It must address this as a priority.”
> SNAFU (Situation Normal, All Fucked Up). Still, at least they’ve accurately identified the problem… now what are they going to do about it?
Source – Welfare News Service 28 Jan 2014