Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has branded attempts by Labour MPs and welfare campaigners to force the government into publishing benefit-related death statistics ‘disgraceful’.
A petition calling on the government to publish figures revealing how many people have died within six weeks of having their benefits removed, including those who have committed suicide, has now passed 220,000 signatures.
Civil servants have admitted that they collect the data, reports the Daily Mirror. And the Information Commissioner recently ordered the DWP to publish the figures.
Iain Duncan Smith continues to resist the mounting pressure to release the requested data, even insisting that the Department for Work and Pensions “doesn’t collate the numbers”. This is despite of the DWP releasing similar statistics in 2012, showing that thousands of Incapacity Benefit claimants tragically lost their lives between 2009 and 2011.
A “Westminster elite” of Labour MPs look down on people with Northern accents, a politician from the region has claimed.
Wansbeck’s Ian Lavery, himself a Labour MP, said that when MPs hear his North East accent they think “that man doesn’t know too much” and claimed his party has too many politicians who haven’t worked “on the factory floor”.
But he today claimed the remarks were not a criticism of party leader Ed Miliband – saying they were about getting more working-class MPs into Parliament.
The Northumberland MP was recorded making the remarks at a conference on social mobility in London organised by the think-tank Class.
“I’ve got to say there are some superb Labour Party MPs,” he was reported to have said.
“Sadly, there’s not enough MPs who’ve actually worked on the coalface, on the factory floor.
“We haven’t got enough ethnic minorities, we haven’t got enough disabled people in, who have actually been there.
“We’ve got an elite in Westminster which, quite frankly, frightens me.
“They haven’t been anywhere or done anything, and when you’ve got an accent like mine, they think ‘Well, that man doesn’t know too much’.”
Mr Lavery, a former president of the National Union of Mineworkers, said some national media had “willfully misrepresented what I said” and stressed that he fully supports Mr Miliband as his party’s leader.
“My comments were about the need for more working-class MPs and in no way a criticism of Ed or his office.
“For the record, I believe s absolutely the right man to bring in policies that will be of great benefit to people in the North and across the country.”
It comes after former Prime Minister Tony Blair appeared to criticise Labour leader Mr Miliband.
The ex-Sedgefield MP told The Economist that May’s General Election was shaping up to be one “in which a traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, with the traditional result”.
> Sounds good – remind me, which is the left-wing party ?
Asked if he was implying that the Conservatives would win, Mr Blair is reported to have said yes.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 01 Jan 2015
Northumberland MP Ronnie Campbell was one of a small number of Labour rebels to vote against Conservative proposals for a welfare cap in the Commons
Other North East MPs expressed opposition to the cap but did not vote against it, in some cases because they were unable to attend the debate.
Only a handful of Labour MPs defied orders from the party leadership and voted against Government proposals set out in the Budget to introduce a cap on overall welfare spending, set to be £119.5bn in 2015/16.
The measure, in the Charter for Budget Responsibility, comfortably passed the Commons 520 to 22, a majority of 498, after the Labour front bench backed the plan.
Conservatives had hoped to embarrass Mr Miliband by giving him a choice between opposing the cap, allowing them to claim he opposed plans to cut the welfare bill, or supporting it and potentially provoking a rebellion among backbench MPs.
But the Labour Party largely united around the leader and only a small number rebelled. They included Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell. Other high-profile rebels included former shadow health minister Diane Abbott and Tom Watson, who was Labour’s campaign chief and deputy chairman before resigning last year.
Labour MPs who expressed opposition to the cap but did not vote against it included Gateshead MP Ian Mearns, who is in the US looking at the American schools system in his role as a member of the Commons Education Committee.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery and Easington MP Grahame Morris also said they opposed the cap. They were attending the funeral of former Durham mineworker Stan Pearce, from Columbia, Washington, an activist known for his work with the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA), who died aged 81.
> I wonder if Stan Pearce, as a DMA activist, might have rather they had got their arses down to Westminster instead, and actually voted instead of just talking about it.
In a message on Twitter, Mr Lavery said: “Just left the funeral of NUM & DMA legend Stan Pearce. For the avoidance of doubt I totally oppose the benefit cap and would vote against it.”
> Yeah, right…
But Newcastle MP Nick Brown said the cap would not affect people who are out of work, and voted for the move.
He said: “The vote is symbolic rather than real. The cap set in the Government’s motion is higher than the previously forecast outturn and it leaves out pensions and Jobseekers Allowance. The principle of controlling this budget as well as other Departmental Budgets is right and therefore I agree with the Labour Party Leadership’s position and will be voting with the Labour frontbench. The proposed cap does nothing to actually reduce the welfare budget. The best way to do so would be to create well-paid private sector jobs here in the North East of England.”
> Yeah, but since no-one actually is… hitting the poor is the next best alternative ?
Source – Newcastle Journal, 27 March 2014
Those Labour rebels …
Diane Abbott, Ronnie Campbell, Katy Clark, Michael Connarty, Jeremy Corbyn, Kelvin Hopkins, Glenda Jackson, John McDonnell, George Mudie, Linda Riordan, Dennis Skinner, Tom Watson, Mike Wood.
All North East Labour MPs, with the exception of Campbell, either did what Red Ed told them or really, really would have voted against, if only they conveniently hadn’t arranged to be elsewhere.
THE region’s Labour MPs have thrown their weight behind Ed Miliband’s plans to shake up trade union influence over the party, ahead of a crunch vote.
The North-East MPs enthusiastically backed the proposals, arguing they would strengthen – rather than weaken – the historic link with rank-and-file union members.
Some also welcomed a greater say for party members, despite the package dramatically diluting the influence of MPs themselves in choosing the party leader.
And others expressed hope that voters would respect Labour for standing up against large donors – at a time when the Conservatives are bankrolled by big companies and the wealthy.
Only Dave Anderson, the Blaydon MP, broke ranks to criticise Mr Miliband for “naval gazing”, instead of focusing on defeating a “lousy” Government.
In contrast, Easington MP Grahame Morris – who had previously criticised the shake-up – said he was prepared to give the Labour leader the benefit of the doubt.
The leftwinger said: “There are dangers involved and I question the whole basis for doing this, but I will support the changes.”
That basis was the damaging row over murky behaviour in Falkirk, where the Unite union was found to have tried to “manipulate” the selection of its candidate.
> Ironic, really, since that’s what the whole electoral system is about – trying to manipulate the selection of one candidate or another.
Now, in the biggest shake-up since Labour was born more than a century ago, Mr Miliband wants to introduce a “one member, one vote” system for electing future party leaders.
The current electoral college – giving the unions, MPs and the party’s 180,000 members equal one-third shares of the vote – will be swept away.
But candidates for the leadership will need to win nominations from about 25 per cent of Labour MPs, double the current 12.5 per cent threshold, to enter the leadership ballot.
In 2010, such a barrier would have allowed only the two Miliband brothers onto the shortlist – excluding Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott, the other candidates.
But the other key reform – to union funding – will now be phased in, over five years, after officials admitted to fears the party would “take a financial hit”.
By 2020, union members who want to contribute to Labour’s funds will have to “opt in”, rather than “opt out”, becoming “associate Labour members” for a reduced fee.
The unions currently provide Labour with £8.5m a year in affiliation fees. If only half of the current 2.7m affiliated union members “opt in”, then Labour could lose £4m annually.
Unison, the key public service union, already has such a system – giving Labour a pool of 400,000 affiliated members from which to recruit immediately.
The package – overwhelmingly approved by Labour’s ruling national executive committee (NEC) earlier this month – will be put to a special party conference on March 1.
But Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps said: “Ed Miliband promised to loosen the trade union barons’ grip on the Labour Party. But he has been too weak to deliver.”
THE VIEWS OF NORTH-EAST LABOUR MPS:
Dave Anderson (Blaydon): “We face an enormous struggle to get rid of the present lousy administration, so the last thing the Labour movement needs is to spend precious time navel gazing.”
Hugh Bayley (York): “This will show the public that the Labour Party continues to modernise and, unlike other parties, reduce the influence of large donors.”
Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland): “This is a step in the right direction and shows Ed Miliband wants to lead his party and the country.”
Jenny Chapman (Darlington): “I am happy with the reforms. It will introduce more voices and make Labour more representative of working people.”
Alex Cunningham (Stockton North): “It will be positive to have individual – rather than block – votes, but it will still be important for the party to be challenged and positively influenced by the unions.”
Kevan Jones (North Durham): “This is well overdue. It will make the party more transparent and democratic and re-connect us with thousands of trade unionists. Ed has got the balance right.”
Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough): “The trade union movement and the Labour Party are of the same root and future. These reforms will help to enshrine this most important bond.”
Grahame Morris (Easington): “If this leads to more trade unionists becoming involved in the Labour party, that will be a good thing – but that will only happen if we make an attractive offer to working people.”
Phil Wilson (Sedgefield): “I don’t want Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and BNP supporters who happen to be a member of a trade union to have a say in the leadership of my party. Only those committed to Labour should.”
Iain Wright (Hartlepool): “Creating a mass membership party of trade unionists and others will make sure Labour never again loses touch with its roots.”
> No comment from any of the Wearside or Tyneside Labour MPs (Dave Anderson excepted) ? And since when was York in the North East ?
Source – Northern Echo, 20 Feb 2014