Tag Archives: David Cameron

Making The Disabled Heard Beyond Party Politics

The hashtag generation demands that it be heard, and when you question what it is demanding expect your points not to matter. For the message of the hashtag, the emotions and passion are the thing.

My points on #CameronMustGo are very clear. It is one thing to point out the impact of coalition policies especially on the disabled – as indeed I have recounting my experience looking after my brother full time.

My concern though is not holding the other parties to the same standard. We should be demanding to know what impact, changes and guarantees they all will have regarding how local government and the state will help the disabled and those that care for them.

I have been a party activist in the past. Yet the things I cared about were ditched as they passed through the door of Ten Downing Street. Labour in 1997 promised no tuition fees. Then promptly did a U-Turn having deliberately targeted the young student vote.

Then in 2010, with a commitment on tuition fees during the election, the Liberal Democrats went into coalition with the Conservatives. Lib Dem activists came to their HQ during negotiations, from far and wide to press they hold the line on … electoral reform. Despite all their parliamentary candidates signing not to raise tuition fees, the policy was shoved in the bin. Years later the leader Nick Clegg apologised for having made such a promise in the first place.

A policy means nothing unless you are prepared to hold a party to account to honour it. That there is a consequence regarding your support if they do not follow through. Otherwise, you are voting for them come hell or high water. Begging to be lied to. To be let down, again and again.

I value people who show loyalty to principles more than to a political party that abandons them.

It is one thing saying the system will be more caring, dignified and empowering under us. Stuff your kind words. I have heard too many in my time while fighting for the things I know my brother needed, which we had to fight tooth and nail for. I do not want sympathetic faces and platitudes from those that want my vote; money talks. Will cuts in public services for the disabled be reversed? Will local governments be stopped from taking money away from disabled benefits? Will full time family carers be given more than £105 per week to survive on each week (64 pence an hour)?

Let me address some feedback from Twitter. No I am not suppressing your right to free speech. Go say what you want, have an opinion. I am allowed one too. Yes the Conservatives have made life a lot harder, I noticed that.

Use that anger to point out the harm and hurt government policy is doing. But please hold the political party you want to win to a commitment to improve the lives of disabled people and their full time care givers. Be prepared to show that anger if they fail to live up to it. Make sure they show real policies, real figures, actual sums, not just rhetoric to gain your support. Do not let them take your vote for granted.


Blog post: “We Need To Talk About Ivan” by Alex Andreou

Ivan was the disabled son of the Prime Minister; he passed away before the 2010 election year at the age of six. Many on the hashtag are saying that Ivan has been used as a PR prop to improve the image of Cameron, to make a false claim to a commitment to the NHS, and to suppress debating government policy on the disabled.

A snap shot:

Try not wearing a party activist hat for a second and those glasses that make you see everything your opponent does as cold, callous and calculating. For too long disabled people were kept out of the limelight, even airbrushed from the memories of people’s families. I remember those times growing up – when daring to go to a restaurant you would be asked to leave, people getting up moving tables when you had only just arrived. The callous remarks.

Seeing a Prime Minister with his disabled son, releasing photos and not hiding Ivan away, is for me something empowering. Not being ashamed, but loving and caring. Acknowledging that he is still a part of him. A family member that will not be air brushed from their life.

It is in stark contrast to the catty comments being made.

The blog post “We Need To Talk About Ivan” linked to in one of the tweets above has proved quite popular on the hashtag. It had this to say about the photos that various publications printed:

Something highly unnatural about the poses, about the way Ivan is turned towards the camera, as is his father… Something about the different shots – the protagonists are wearing the same outfits, are similarly framed, but some are indoors and some outdoors. Everything had the feel of a “photo opportunity” – not a family portrait.


“Protagonists”, supporting the head of a cerebral palsy disabled child who cannot naturally pose and is unaware of their surroundings. They are wearing completely different shirts too for heaven’s sake! However, do not let that those obvious incorrect details stop you on mass sharing a blog post that vigorously says what you feel.

No mention that the series of photos were part of journalists visiting the Cameron’s home in 2009, with the first photo coming from this Guardian article. That article mentions Cameron commenting in a previous interview:

“I’m sure it’s a significant influence in my life. And significant impact in terms of just bringing you into contact with a whole world – not just the NHS but also social services, community nurses, social workers, special schools, therapists, speech and language, hydrotherapy, statementing. You know you become quite an expert in some of these things.”

That experience, the ambulance journies, the sleepless nights I can relate to. The time consuming paperwork as well, something in a PMQ he alludes too. Back to how the Ivan blog post covered that in 2012:

In last week’s PMQs Cameron was asked by Dame Joan Ruddock about cutting the benefits to one of her constituents – a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. In his response he denied that the benefits available to disabled children were being cut (a distinct untruth with regard to new claimants as explained in this factcheck) and continued: “As someone who has actually filled out the form for disability allowance and had a child with cerebral palsy, I know how long it takes to fill in that form.”

No reference to the girl about whom the question was; no offer to look into her case; no attempt to answer the question. Only an out-of-context reference to Cameron’s dead child, offered as irrefutable proof that his reforms must be right and implied rebuke for daring to question them.

Handily they included a link to Hansard. See how the PMQ actually went by contrast to the retelling by the blogger:

Q4. [98317] Dame Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab): The Prime Minister is proud of his welfare reforms. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] Can he look me in the eye and tell me he is proud of the decision to remove all disability benefits from a 10-year-old child who can hardly walk and who cannot toilet herself because she has cerebral palsy? Is he truly proud?

The Prime Minister: This Government are not cutting the money that is going into disability benefits. We are replacing disability living allowance with the personal independence payment. As someone who has actually filled out the form for disability allowance and had a child with cerebral palsy, I know how long it takes to fill in that form. We are going to have a proper medical test so that people who are disabled and need that help get it more quickly.

The reference is in context, in how long it takes filling in forms and time taken to claim disability living allowance compared to the new personal independence payments (but is it quicker?). The child still qualifies for benefits based on their disability. No mention is made of the confrontational “can he look me in the eye” and inaccurate phrasing of the question posed. I am not surprised he dismissed it as he did, especially as the MP made no request for him to look at the case.

It actually sums up my concern with Labour. They will use the issue for political point scoring but do not have a clue as to the actual impact or how to change the system brought in by the Conservatives. I genuinely fear it will be a more sympathetic voice, but no new money and same old problems with the current system more or less still in place.

By all means convince me otherwise – which is kind of my point – to vote for you rather than against someone else.

A general election is coming in May next year. Rather than calling on any party leader to resign now, campaign for the policies that we need the next government to have to help the most vulnerable of society. Do not just be tribalist activists running alongside party apparatchiks, and inflammatory political commentators. Reach out to others not just by condemnation, but with the problems that disabled people and their carers face.

Mention the problems, demand solutions. For the sake of the disabled make sure the next government follows through better than this collation has.

Be prepared to not only make your vote count in 2015, but beyond if they dare not deliver.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Video: David Cameron Conference Speech Parody

Set to Eminem’s 2002 track ‘Lose Yourself’, the rap slices together moments from the Prime Minister’s party speeches over the years.

It was released the day a new EU law came into effect which allows comedians to splice together or parody other people’s work without risking legal action. [The Independent]

(N.B. some use of mother farmers in video, but in a pulp fiction sense)

The British Prime Minister’s actual speech to the Conservative Party Conference did reach moments of self parody.

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Warsi Leaves Government


When you have to remind your boss of the job you do in your resignation letter, usually it is a sign that leaving is the right option. Clearly you have lost their confidence. Your choice is to be ignored or to try things on the outside.

Warsi may have resigned on a point of principle and out of pique and self aggrandisement. They do not have to be mutually exclusive. A junior minister resigning due to foreign policy over Israel will not cause the government to miss a step.

With the centenary of the First World War, the resignations of several cabinet members in the build up then really were significant but did not change foreign policy. Those were also on a point of principle. Perhaps it is too rare a thing in modern politics.

Warsi was everything a rebranded Conservative Party needed. True, she was never elected an MP. However, she had drive, brains, she came from an ethnic minority and faith, and as from Yorkshire you could be sure she was all woman and much more. From the House of Lords she was given a place at the cabinet table, that her status as a junior minister did not otherwise warrant.

The problem for Government was she felt this made her an equal player at the table. The briefings before the recent reshuffle and since her resignation indicate she was not considered so. Inside government, instead of being a team player, she ran her own issue parallel platform. Challenging the government line on extremism while promoting faith initiatives at it’s heart saying it was “the most pro-faith government in the world.”


She stressed all faith at the high table of public policy, while treating secularist concerns as from “fundamentalists”. For example in the Cambridge speech (that I wrote on here) she also said:

I was concerned with what I saw was public policy being secularised.

To the extent that Christmas was being downgraded.

Stating that:

Giving religion a voice at the top table. Not a privileged position, but an equal informer of the debate.

It is only fair to point out Islamists hated her too for not being a political Islamist. She wanted the Church of England strengthened, recognising the church’s reinforcing faith in public furthered her own views of religious pluralism involved at highest levels of public policy.


The result of all this – secularists, Islamists, progressives and inner Cabinet members all had grievances with her. At the reshuffle key allies of her happened to be removed. It was becoming clear with the “Trojan Horse plot” public institutions like schools were being used to enforce narrow religious views on children.

The public face of religious faith, the most prominent woman and Muslim invited to the Cabinet table was no longer the photogenic asset for the government. Other women had leapfrogged her. Not unreasonably, she might have been getting tired of playing the typecast – she had ideas and things to do. As her remit played with values Conservative voters, her behind the scenes haranguing was barely tolerated. It was better in the tent, even if she did sometimes piss people off.

So Cameron – under pressure to have more women in the Cabinet in the last reshuffle before the election – really could not dismiss her. However, there was no desire to promote her. To a position where rather than trying to influence, she might actually set the agenda. Warsi’s tragedy was not to realise the need to be a team player or to be extraordinarily competent. The result: she was never going to go higher but sacking her was too costly politically. However much pressure there was for her dismissal.


For the insults flying around, Warsi is smart enough to realise all this. Maybe she was prepared to see it out till the General Election. She might have seen a way to try and influence the arms review supplying Israel. Still tried to shape how the education department tackled religion in state schools. If the current ceasefire holds, how a lasting political settlement for the Palestinians and Israel might be helped by foreign policy.

We all know she was not in a position to do those things. She might have been at the table, but she had not been invited to change things unless told to do so. Attending otherwise as the spectre at the feast. Eventually the appearance of power wears thin when you realise you need to change things, to stamp your mark. Yet no one lets you.

Her exit, when we may be near the end of the month long Operation Protective Edge, is late in the day, but just in time to catch the headlines. The chance for her to talk about the principles and ideas she has while in the news cycle. To build on a political career outside of government to rapturous applause for having a principle.

While some are trashing her for using Gaza as a self serving platform for herself (see cartoon) it is no less a play than the timing of Russia Today journalists suddenly finding a conscience to resign. Then being invited to talk about your views at length to fill air time for a day of two.

The illusion of power drains whether it is all about you, or you really have big ideas to change the world. What her resignation boils down to, is Warsi being accused of playing politics to further herself and her ideas. Which is a ludicrous charge to level at a politician. Of course she will, if that is the only way.

She might have wanted to be Foreign Secretary, though she did not show that competence to her boss for that. Now the world is listening to her over Gaza and Israel. I am just glad she is no longer in Government. While I doubt she will affect government policy, she could be used as a thorn in the government’s side by opponents. Rather than a wrecking ball as they will try to make her out to be.

For those talking about the impact on the government, may I just remind you of Clare Short?


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An Alternative Easter Message

I doubt Jesus would be flattered by the Easter messages of David Cameron or Ed Miliband. But then Jesus is not so much God made flesh, or a great man in his own terms, but made in the image of whoever speaks of him. I am no exception here.

Cameron made a wishy washy appeal to all while saying we needed the established Church of England to help support rights of other faiths, and Jesus was for the “Big society” that Cameron now and again attempts a Lazarus rise from the dead on. Jesus the Zealot wanted God’s Kingdom on earth in the here and now – the sword very much in one hand with charity in the other as God’s Law became Man’s Law. Equal marriage doubtful as would tolerance of non Judaism religion. Jesus was no secularist or religious freedom advocate if we go by Reza Aslan’s “Zealot“.

Ed Miliband talked of service to communities, especially in times of austere government policy. Instead of political masters it was time for servant leaders. The resurrection of Tony Blair, winner of three elections,  in that sentiment was rather welcome. With the new appointment of political messiah David Axelrod, Labour might even win the next election. Though even he could not bring Mario in Italy back from the dead by polling day.

My point is that Jesus was not a pluralist – he advocated one narrow path and the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth. Islam would not have got off the ground under it. The Church of England supported the state by seeking out heretics and traitors – often being one was the same as the other. Any claim that it supports other faiths now is more to the secularising of the institution in modern times.

The establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the horrors of the holocaust have more to do with the secular nation we live in today than Christianity. King Henry VIII “domestic relations”, let alone foreign ones, are the reason for an established church and the anachronism remains. It was only in 1858 that a Jew could become an MP in Britain – Disraeli’s father converting to Anglicanism was his only chance earlier.

So Miliband has a point identifying himself as potentially the first Jewish Atheist Prime Minister. That again a reflection of a more tolerant attitude to immigration in the past. Britain became a melting pot of ideas and cultures. Pluralism allows that self identity, just as secularism defends it.

An established church does not secure or underpin religious freedom; it rather risks the privileging of a state faith. Twenty six un-elected bishops in the House of Lords. The Head of State must be Defender of the Faith. A role Prince Charles has questioned wanting to be “defender of faith.”

I might add Prince Charles has raised the issue of apostasy in Islam as he has the persecution of religious people, including Christians. No monarchist heart have I, but Charles is an educated enlightened man of his times (ignoring quack homeopathy; no one is perfect). The Church of England reflects the times we live in rather than being a trend setter regarding plurality of faith. That is to be welcomed without being confused as the de facto cause.

Secularism is about safeguarding citizens from coercion in matters of religion by the state being neutral. The morality that makes people generously give of their time to others is separate from public policy formulation and delivery. We are all equal citizens whatever our belief or none.

This Easter my message is that we are not a Christian Nation anymore than we are a White Nation. We are a nation of many people, united that making sense of ourselves is for our own conscience. That we shall have the freedom to worship God as we understand them, or to be against the very notion there is one. One where Anjem Choudray and Richard Dawkins may make their pronouncements under free speech whatever you may think of them.

I am fortunate to have been born here. May all be free to be who they are and express it, without fear or favour by the state or other people. Violence and intimidation has no place. Free debate is to be valued and when it comes to charity, also be charitable to your critics. For forged in fire of open debate we may yet refine our arguments.

That in living and thinking, we might all look to serve humanity as best we can in a pluralistic society.

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Syria – The World Intervenes; Little England Does Not


Listening to the House of Lords debate the government motion on responding to chemical weapons used in Syria, it was Old Men not sending Young Men to die, but a flea in the ear of the “Young Turks” of the government that knew nothing about the misery of war or what it was like to be boots on the ground. We were treated to reminisces as a child of having gas masks during the Second World War, one Lord mentioned Wilfred Owen’s “DULCE ET DECORUM EST” and then King Lear in the folly of thinking we could make a difference.

Whilst the debate lacked the commons political grandstanding, it missed a crucial point. The young of Syria are dying while old men talk we can do nothing. Dying because of conventional let alone chemical weapons; cluster bombs for example. Civilians being targeted, not insurgents or military troops. Massacred. The Commons could not even agree to try to exhaust diplomatic efforts before a second vote on military action to reduce chemical weapon launch capability in Syria. By 13 votes in The Commons the government motion was defeated. In the Lords about 90% of speeches were against military action – which roughly reflects public opinion.

Yes the motion was vague on what military action, debating before the UN inspectors report seemed suspect, and some MPs felt being rushed to a US timetable for action. That I believe was the clincher over the spectre of Iraq and weapons inspectors for MPs (maybe not for UK public). Prime Minister Cameron clearly did not know he lacked the votes to pass the motion – the whips office was a shambles over this. Despite Cameron’s elegance in making the case, it lacked the detail to persuade on the fence MPs that diplomatic efforts would be used before a wide ranging military onslaught.

I have made clear what approach I prefer, and it is not “shock and awe.” Quite simply it is a limited humanitarian intervention with teeth to reduce civilian casualties, with which to force Assad and others to the negotiation table at an international conference where failure to reach a peace accord would lead to further measures.

So immediately:

    No fly zone

    Refugee Camps secured and fully resourced

    Safe havens and corridors established


To be honest I find it incredible that even this measure is hotly disputed by some. It is like the arguments I had over Bosnia as a student all over again. Then Kosovo as an undergraduate. The later causing me to flee peacenik German students when, after refusing to sign their petition against Kosovo intervention, I had mentioned when it came to ethnic cleansing they should be the first to support NATO with the weight of history.

The weight of history should not be confused with the white man’s burden. We have a military capacity to respond (limited but still there). The United States as the only superpower left has even more wide ranging capacity, and a historic legacy of having used Weapons of Mass Destruction to end a war to deal with. We cannot ask the past to forgive us by making amends for the mistakes of past foreign adventures that squandered treasure with the earth chocked on the blood that was spilt. It has to be a judgment call today with best information you can get. There is no certainty. Only if you and indeed others will live with the decisions you support.

We can see what is happening in England. The cry of enough of using our own resources to pay for others misfortunes, sending our children to die in distant fields, or return home maimed. The siren voices that doing something will not work, the solution is worse than the problem, we just do not understand the Middle East. That our actions will legitimise retaliation against us on our streets.

So forget the multiple nations that are resourcing the factions to an entrenched stalemate that could go on for years, to such an extent that using Chemical Weapons becomes viable in a blood soaked civil war. With that in the mix at what risk do you think Al Qaeda get hold of WMD if Rebels were responsible, or a fractured chain of command regime cannot secure for much longer? Lebanon looks to be engulfed into the conflict, the Kurds have enough instability to push for autonomy by force in Syria, much to Turkey and Iraq’s dismay, for a loose federation of de facto states across the region. The powder keg that is Syria is too dangerous not to be involved in.


Those calling for a conference with no intervention forget that the main players involved – Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia – have no desire for peace at the moment unless on their differing terms. This is a proxy war with too much strategic advantage to bargain away at the negotiation table unless someone can broker. I believe the US position is strengthened with the humanitarian intervention I call for, that fear of further US involvement may focus minds towards conflict resolution

President Obama knows if he goes it alone in intervention, he will probably never be forgiven by the Democratic Party – though France does seem keen to support. The Nobel Laureate has to act in the national interest. Showing that using WMD will provoke an American response is important – unless you want the rule to be do use as we chide you from the red lines.

Coming back to the discussion in the UK there was talk of handing over Assad to the international criminal court in the future. That is scant comfort for the people dead, dying and who will die. The tipping point should have been the massacres of civilians – the inability of the national government to safeguard it’s own citizens.

As I said writing about Srebrenica we wilfully fail to honour the legacy. That mutes my celebration of the return of parliamentary democracy to the UK.

Edit 1 September: See comments for link to President Obama’s speech from the Rose Garden on Syria.

To save anyone else on twitter misunderstanding the title – “little England” refers to anti-imperialist sentiments and an isolationist position in world affairs.

Little Britain would not have had the same meaning at all …

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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