Reason for hope

So whilst Uponnothing is away, I’m taking advantage of my posting privileges.

On Wednesday the Mail front page headline was this: The shirking classes: Just 1 in 14 incapacity claimants is unfit to work

This is classic Mail in so many ways, see how many you can count. These are the ones, I found:

1. Abuse of the poor

2. Abuse of the vulnerable

3. The use of dodgy statistics

4. The headline contradicted by the story

5. A Tax-payers’ Alliance quote

Everyone on incapacity benefit is facing a ‘testing’ process to decide if they are fit for work. Because this began with a pilot system and is now being rolled out we get a drip-drip effect as each set of statistics are released. The way it works, is that the government pay ATOS (A French company) £100m to assess people as belonging in one of three groups; ‘unfit for work’ ‘activity group’ and ‘fit for work.’ This, in principal is a good idea; people who wish to claim Employment and Support Allowance (that is replacing incapacity benefit) by definition will fit into these three groups. And moreover there are a lot of people who cannot work, who want to work and who will be able to work with support. It is even the case that people put into the activity group do get support to help them back into the work place.

The problem lies with the testing process, which according to the Work and Pensions Select Committee is completely flawed. 40% of people who appeal against the ATOS decision get the decision reversed and over 80% are successful if they have expert representation. (The tribunals alone cost the tax-payer £30m). This is of course, buried in the article thus destroying the credibility of the headline…. Overall, so far 160,000 people have successfully appealed.

Let’s have a look at the figures (from the article)

33% drop out before completing the process

39% declared fit for work

17% able to work with support

7% unable to work

Yes I know that the figures don’t add up. So let us look at this for a moment, the headline is claiming that 13 out of 14 people who claim Employment and Support Allowance are ‘Shirkers’ or whichever term of abuse you want to use – that’s 93%. Which isn’t even true on the basis of these figures. 24% are not able to work at present (The 17% in the support group are not able to work, but may be able to do so…). In addition they are assuming and/or implying that the third who don’t complete the process were by definition trying to cheat the system. An assertion for which there is no evidence whatsoever. Not to mention the fact that over 160,000 people have successfully appealed (which is 14% of the total). Never mind the fact that being turned down even if it is the right decision does not mean that someone was trying to defraud the system – many would have been honestly applying for a benefit they were told they might be entitled to. That’s what they are supposed to do.

These articles make me extremely angry. I don’t have the time, nor do I wish to make and already over-long post even longer, to explain fully the truth behind these stats and how I have no confidence at all in ATOS’s assessments. The point of the article, though, is not to inform and educate but to slur and demonise anyone who is unfortunate enough to be disabled. And that is plain wrong.

But as, you may have noticed, the headline for this post was ‘Reason for hope’ and I promise you my headline will not be contradicted by the body of my article. In general, reading the comments section of Mail articles is darkly amusing and more than a little depressing. Usually the most highly rating comments are those that have swallowed the Mail lies completely and want to be angry at, and abuse whoever is the Mail’s target this time.

But, but! When I looked today, this was the most highly rated comment:

Best rated

Can it be true? Are Mail READERS finally realising that they cannot trust anything they read?

Maybe, just maybe.


Daily Mail: the letters

Today David Cameron made a speech about immigration designed to specifically generate glowing tabloid headlines and appeal to the readers who have been systematically lied to about immigration for years. Here are two letters printed in the Daily Mail – one yesterday, one today – that demonstrate the sort of person David Cameron is shaping his immigration policies around:

Joyless Britain

It’s a pleasant evening, so you think you’ll stroll down to the pub for a pint. Then you remember your local has closed and been sold to a property developer. So you decide to take the bus to the next village – but wait a minute, it’s the evening, so there are no buses.

Reluctantly, you take the car, even though it will restrict you to just one pint. But perhaps that’s just as well because at the pub you find a pint of ale now costs more than £3 (and you read recently that it actually costs just 10p to produce).

You buy a pint and are just about to light up, when you remember you’re not allowed to smoke in the pub. You could go outside, but it now looks like rain.

So you stay indoors and share a joke with a friend, but be careful – your joke must be politically correct in case one of the many whingeing minorities overhears you and denounces you, in which case you could possibly be jailed.

You fancy a bite to eat and ask the landlord if he has a pork pie or a sandwich.

‘No,’ he says. ‘But you can have a three-course meal for £20. What do you want, Chinese, Thai, Indian or flambe?’

Making any remark about that would probably be misconstrued as a racist comment by any do-gooder nearby, so you say nothing, drive home – carefully – and read a good book (if you’ve got one because the local library has been closed).

That’s Merry England today.

ALAN CAIRNS, Tadley, Hants.

Jobs for the boys

Here’s my ad for a local government job: ‘Jolly Gym Knickers Officer Required. Frustratedshire County Council is a forward-thinking, newly Tory-controlled council which when under Labour was proactive, multi-cultural, diversity orientated and community paranoid.

‘It seeks to employ a Jolly Gym Knickers Officer who must be white, male, middle-class, healthy, well-built and fully capable of smacking any Socialist or Liberal in the mouth if they so much as mention political correctness in the workplace.

‘Applicants must be of a normal sexual orientation, been born in England and lived here all their lives, with a healthy appreciation of the English sense of office humour, which they should be able to demonstrate by keeping staff supplied with all the latest jokes on religion, sex, culture and race.

‘Duties will include making sure ashtrays are available on every desk. No excuses for stopping work to smoke outside will be tolerated. It will also be the duty of the officer to make sure all suggestions deriving from EU directives must be regarded as anti-English interference.

‘He must also ensure that when the council is in session, the Union Flag is flown and each session is ended by all councillors singing God Save the Queen. Foreigners need not apply.’

Edward A. Walker, Redcar, Cleveland.

We desperately need a better press.

‘Daily Mail Diamonds’

I would dearly love to interview this couple to get their opinion on the world; from the Daily Mail Letters page today:

Daily Mail Diamonds

My husband (aged 85) and I (83) can beat Brian Toon’s brother-in-law’s parents (Letters) for the longest readership of the Daily Mail’s lively pages.

Last week we celebrated our Diamond Wedding anniversary and we’ve been regular readers for all those 60 years – plus both of us before we were married, making a total of well over 120 years between us.

My only grumble is that in a busy life it’s so meaty that I’m often still finishing it in bed at midnight – and I don’t read the sports pages.

We could buy two copies as my poor husband, in allowing me to commandeer the paper, is always a day behind reading it.

Down the years, with the Mail’s help, we’ve invested money wisely and feel we know what’s going on in the world. And what would we do without Fred Basset?

Mrs Madge Green,
Farnham, Surrey.

[Presumably the answer to her rhetorical answer is: ‘laugh’.]

It is not about truth

I often write about how Daily Mail readers swallow any old rubbish if it suits their prejudices – even the ‘stories’ that are nothing more than a completely dishonest headline and the article clearly states that the truth is completely different attract legions of outraged comments from Mail readers. Yet the current top story on the Daily Mail website has attracted some cynical comments from an otherwise gullible readership:

I do not believe it

I think you can probably guess the article: ‘Black British couple give birth to white blue-eyed blonde baby girl‘. It is strange how the same readership can utterly believe an entirely made up story about the Red Arrows being banned from flying in Dartmouth (when presented with zero evidence and actually told in the article that they had not in fact been banned), yet this story – with evidence from doctors and the hospital – is not believed.

Almost as if Daily Mail readers just believe what they want to, rather than what is actually true…

Daily Mail readers sexually inadequate

It is something that might explain the mixture of partial nudity and anger on the Daily Mail website: ‘Seven minutes ‘is the optimum length for sex”. Currently the worst-rated comment on this article seems to reveal a lot about the sexual expectations of Mail readers:

Daily Mail readers not into long-lasting sex

Whilst the best-rated comment says just as much:

The Daily Mail idea of perfect sex

‘These comments have been moderated in advance’

Bearing the title of this post in mind, imagine what kind of comments didn’t make it through on this article: ‘Cameron to host No.10 party for gay celebrities in bid to woo ‘pink vote’‘:

Gay 1Gay 2Gay 3Gay 4

And in the red corner:

Gay 5

Not surprisingly only one comment has passed moderation on this article: ‘‘Immigrants are making our country dumber’: Anger as board member of Germany’s central bank cites ‘ample statistics‘.

There’s Always One

Last night on Twitter I joked that someone might accuse Sir Alan’s Choice of Arjun Rajyagor as the winner of Junior Apprentice as ‘PC gone mad’, and the Daily Mail website hasn’t let me down:

PC brigade, again
Sir Alan, famous PC Brigade member

It is good to see this accusation well in the red, and the fact that he is pretty much alone in suggesting it is down to PC ‘again’ gives me a little more faith in humanity.

Mike Phelps

I know that Tabloid Watch has already covered this, but I’ll just stick this picture here to prove to any doubters just what a shit rag the Daily Mail is:

Daily Mail letter
Click to Enlarge

And also point out the heading that the Daily Mail decided to add: ‘Now here’s an idea’, which is essentially stamping an big seal of approval on the letter. Another suggestion to help Mike and other concerned Daily Mail readers avoid having to watch awful foreigners and black people on their TV is that they could turn off the TV or stab themselves in both eyes with a fork.

I’d even be willing to pay for the forks.