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Is the Current UN Investigation into British Violations of the CPRD Treaty a Complete Waste of Time

  • Published: 2015-11-02 (Revised/Updated 2015-11-18) : Author: Paul Dodenhoff
  • Synopsis: Under the current political climate within the UK, will an UN investigation into British violations of the UNCRPD treaty be a complete waste of time?.

Quote: "Liar, Liar, Pants on fire! So, do we need to warn our fire brigade just in case Mr Cameron's underpants suddenly self-combust one day while spouting another bout of lies during Prime Ministers questions? I fear we may."

Main Document

Recently, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron appeared to completely dismiss the United Nations investigation into his government's treatment of disabled people. Labor's new leader, Jeremy Corbyn asked Mr Cameron during a weekly Prime Minister's Questions session about the inquiry, requesting that he publish details of the Government's response.

The United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in the year 2006. The CRPD was officially opened for nations to sign on March 30th of 2007; it is now 2011. The Convention, 'entered into force,' meant it became law for nations that ratified it on May 3rd, 2008. America signed the CRPD on July 30th, 2009 - joining more than one-hundred and forty other nations that had already signed the treaty. Signing of the treaty creates the obligation to not violate the object and purpose of it, yet State Parties are not bound to uphold the specific obligations of the CRPD until they ratify it.

Mr Cameron indeed responded. However, through the usual political 'double' speak:

"Of course I will look at any United Nations investigation but sometimes when you look at these investigations they are not necessarily all they are originally cracked up to be"

Adding:

"There are many disabled people the world who don't have any of the rights or any of the support we have here in Britain and I think we should be proud of what we do as we cooperate with this report."

More than 12 months have passed since talk of a UN investigation into British Human Rights abuses have circulated both nationally and globally, although without little comment by the British Government nor the majority of Britain's mainstream press. So, David Cameron's response was arguably the first real government acknowledgment that that not only have international concerns been raised about Britain's treatment of disability, but that an UN investigation is indeed under way.

While David Cameron has confirmed that his Government will co-operate with the investigation, this will mean absolutely nothing if the UN has no real power to enforce the changes that any future UN report will undoubtedly recommend. If Mr Cameron won't voluntary change his government's behavior, then there is very little the UN or anybody else can do about it. Something which will arguably be at the forefront of David Cameron's mind as he 'co-operates' with the UN over the matter.

Liar, Liar, Pants on fire

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire is a phrase that children like to scream at each other whenever they think the other is lying. If this was literally true then the House of Commons would burn down on a daily basis. All politicians lie at some point, I know that and most of you reading this will know that - at least by instinct if nothing else. Because that is the nature of the beast called 'politics'.

Early on this year, Sir Malcolm Bruce who stood down as a Liberal Democrat MP at the last election, also knew that. When asked the question on BBC Radio in May this year, Sir Malcolm left the political double speak at home:

"Yes. Lots of people have told lies and you know perfectly well that to be true," he responded. "If you are suggesting every MP who has never quite told the truth or even told a brazen lie, including cabinet ministers, including prime ministers, [should be removed] we would clear out the House of Commons very fast, I would suggest"

Benefit reform is one such area where half-truths, outright lies, manipulation, and misrepresentation of the facts went into hyper drive many years ago, with disabled people consistently portrayed as spongers and layabouts motivated primarily by an over-generous welfare system, which was literally draining Britain's resources and causing spiraling national debt. So, is that really true Mr Cameron?

In 2011 the Glasgow Media Trust reported a huge increase in the use of words such as 'scrounger', 'cheat' and 'skiver' in tabloid papers stories linked to disability. Research that also indicated that the general public actually believed that between 50 and 70 per cent of those on disability benefits were indeed frauds.

The Conservative party undoubtedly also played the benefit fraud card, linking it to a declining work ethic. The Department for Work and Pensions have repeatedly made false claims about disabled people and disability benefits. As far back as 2011, the Parliamentary Work and Pensions Select Committee actually warned the DWP that it needed to take more care when releasing and commenting on benefit statistics, in order to make sure media stories were actually accurate. With little apparent effect, as the DWP continued in its demolition of the truth.

Such as the press release below:

""...more than 50% of decisions on entitlement are made on the basis of the claim form alone, without any additional corroborating medical evidence."

However, last year, the UK Statistics Authority found that the real percentage of such benefit claims passed without any supporting medical evidence was just 10%. Again contradicting highly misleading information disseminated from DWP sources, which in the scheme of things count for little more than just blatant propaganda, and propaganda arguably designed to attract anger towards disabled people as well as generating support for welfare reform itself.

But lying about welfare and deliberately demonising disabled people is not the only thing that the current government is capable of. Despite the 2008 global financial meltdown being caused solely by the wayward actions of the global banking system and its financial institutions, particularly regarding the sub-prime housing market (and something that needed trillions of multi-national funds, including from the UK to be injected into the global banking system). The blame of the subsequent and knock-on effect of recession on the UK economy has cleverly been re-directed by the Conservative party and its associated media, and redirected towards the previous Labor government. A hapless Labor government accused of mismanagement of the British economy and primarily by overspending on welfare benefits.

Lie and half-truths presented in a deliberate and cynical display of blatant opportunism that the Labor party themselves have inadequately (and often oddly) failed to challenge. But something that arguably contributed greatly to Labor losing the general elections of 2010 and 2015.

So, was the 2008 economic recession really the fault of a Labor government mismanaging the country's finances by overspending on welfare, Mr Cameron? The short answer is certainly no. The permanent secretary to the British Treasury, Sir Nicholas Macpherson also argued in May this year that the 2008 financial crisis was "a banking crisis pure and simple" . Completely contradicting both past and present Conservative claims that it was primarily caused by Labor overspending on welfare, and more specifically, on sick and disabled people.

However, by 2012 most polls and surveys showed that the propaganda had indeed worked, with 29% of the British public holding the view that the last Labor government was the sole cause of the 2008 recession, and with another 60% believing that it mismanaged the economy by failing to regulate the British banking system properly. In the 2015 general election, all opinion polls indicated that the Labor party lost the election simply because they were not trusted by the electorate on economic issues - full stop. Something that had very little to do with its choice of leader, although the choice of leadership is something consistently picked upon by Britain's media as being Labor's election downfall. A media that spouts out daily how Labor should still not be trusted to run Britain's economy, particularly now, with a shadow chancellor who some within the press have even dubbed a 'nutjob'.

But Mr C and his media chums do not just stop there either. Since 2008, welfare reform and austerity measures are argued to be needed in order to bring the UK's 'spiraling' debt crisis under control. Because in 2008, Mr C's government believes that we became very close to collapse - 'just like' Greece.

Greece's well publicized economic problems have featured several times in Chancellor George Osborne's speeches about the UK's public finances, and he has certainly likened rising debt levels within the UK to problems in the Greek economy.However, Greece accumulated a debt mountain that is calculated to be something like 175% of GDP, compared with a UK debt total that is currently about 80%. British finances that are certainly comparable to and certainly no worse than other European countries such as France and Germany. So, comparing the UK to Greece is not only intentionally misleading, but can arguably be classed simply as scare-mongering, and used primarily in order to generate fear within the public consciousness.

As welfare reforms were introduced as an 'austerity' measure to stop Britain's debt spiraling even more out of control than it was, we would now logically expect those debts to be decreasing after five years of savage welfare cuts. However, despite reductions in welfare spending on disabled people and Britain's unemployed, Britain's national debt increased by £68.9 billion over the past year alone - and now measures something like £1.505 trillion according to the Governments Office of National Statistics (ONS). More than when the Conservatives took office in 2010 on a remit of austerity and welfare cutbacks.

However, borrowing such large sums of money is the way that all governments work, so it is not particularly unusual. Despite that, this government and its media cronies have managed to completely convince the British public that managing the country's finances is exactly comparable to the way we manage our own family budgets in the home - that our outgoings cannot exceed our income. Yes, while that is correct for the family home, as far as I'm aware, no family within the UK can actually print their own money when needed, raise taxes, have access to bullion reserves, sell off billions of pounds of public assets nor issue bonds. So, it's highly misleading to compare an individual's income or debt issues to the running of a country. That is not the way governments works.

Finally, Mr C told a 'whopper' of a lie concerning Britain's welfare system being overgenerous, as well as being unsustainable. Well, in response to that suggestion, I don't see many British politicians dashing to swop their overgenerous incomes for a life on disability or unemployment benefits. Particularly, as while welfare benefits are currently being slashed to the bone by the politicians, they themselves recently received an overgenerous 11% pay rise.

So, despite the lies about British welfare benefits, the facts are this. If you are disabled on benefits or able-bodied on benefits, you are more likely than not to be living well below the national poverty line. That is a fact.And as for Britain's welfare spending being unsustainable?

A study conducted by the Economic and Social Research Council's Center for Population Change (CPC) in 2012, found that the UK had average levels of welfare benefit spending that where much lower than those of other developed nations, and with many European countries completely outranking the UK. So, while the UK is argued to spend large amounts of unsustainable state money on unemployment and disability benefits, just 2% of yearly welfare spending has traditionally been spent on unemployment benefits, and just 15% on disability benefits. With the largest single area of welfare spending going on state-pensions, which takes up more than 50% of the total welfare budget. While well over half of HM Revenue and Custom annual expenditure also goes on tax credits to Britain's working poor.

Something that Mr Cameron will also be targeting in the near future. And we have already had the 'spongers and layabouts' rhetoric directed at Britain's pensioners recently by Britain's lovely 'free press'. As well as recent government moves to end tax credit support for Britain's poorest workers.

So, are you still 'proud' Mr Cameron?

Arguably, the use of the narrative of benefit scroungers and fakers, and creating a fear that the UK was on the verge of bankruptcy in 2008 has been generated solely in order to manipulate and frighten a witless British public into agreement about welfare reform. If the public hold inaccurate beliefs about disability welfare, unemployment and austerity, those beliefs have to come from somewhere, and most of them have arguably been influenced by the dissemination by government and its associated media, of half-truths and lies, together with the outrageous manipulation of the 'facts'. All for political gain.

Therefore, in the coming months the UN will also be dealing with politicians in Britain who more often than not will, and without much shame, disseminate half-truths and outright 'whoppers' about disability, welfare and poverty for their own self-interest and in the self-interest of their associates. Outright lies and the manipulation of statistics and data that while probably not within the UN remit to investigate, should certainly be monitored. Because it is such lies and manipulations of the truth have both directly and indirectly led to the deaths of many of Britain's disabled and sick. So, come on UN - wake up.

But coming from Mr Cameron's perspective, he will indeed feel proud of his government's record since becoming Prime Minister in 2010. Within five short years he has done exactly what he is was mandated to do by his bank-rollers, supporters and voters, which is primarily to continue reducing the role of Britain's welfare state. So, while Mr Cameron picked disabled people as his first and arguably easy target (after already being set up by the media for being fakes and layabouts) it was an attack that was actually much less about saving the country money and much more about 'redefining' disability - and primarily by cynically forcing disabled people off welfare and into work, by fair means or foul. While additionally shoring up the ideology of 'self-responsibility' and 'work ethic'.

But it was only ever going to be the first salvo in an sustained attack upon Britain's poor, as the overarching remit of Mr Cameron's government is actually to reduce state intervention in the provision of welfare to all British citizens, and a remit that uses lies to generate anger and fear in order to motivate public support for policy that will eventually come back to bite many of themselves on the bum. So while disabled people have been hit hardest by the first wave of welfare reform, it was never going to stop at only disabled people.

Do we Brits need to become more politically astute?

The short answer is yes. If you vote in an election, make sure you know what you are voting for. Many of us Brits arguably don't and that's why we complain when our expectations of change for the better are not met - be it by a Labor government or a Conservative one. However, as Sir Malcolm Bruce argued, all politicians lie, and therefore we should not take any politician's word or political party manifesto purely at face value - particularly when they talk about 'equality', 'freedom' or 'democracy'.

In 2015 more than 11 million Brits voted for an 'austerity' government committed to a further £12 Billion of welfare reduction, and a further erosion of human rights within the UK. 11 million people out of a country of more than 60 million and therefore very much a case of 'the tail wagging the dog'. A situation generated by Britain's undemocratic and archaic 'first past the post' voting system, where the majority of electoral votes (and views) are simply tipped into the rubbish bin.

However, I certainly didn't think a further £12 Billion reduction of welfare would achieve much in terms of equality or democracy issues, especially when the Conservatives would not commit themselves to saying who those cuts would actually be aimed at. Additionally, I don't want my freedoms and democratic rights reduced further by a Government stuck firmly towards the far-right of the political spectrum. But obviously 11 million Brits do.

But how many of those actually knew what they were voting for? And how many of them actually understood what they were going to get in return?

This is a question that some disabled people have been asking recently following an incident on the BBC television program, Question Time on the 16th October. A Conservative voter in the audience of Question Time launched an emotional and impassioned attack upon Conservative minister, Amber Rudd, who was one of the guest panel members taking live questions from the audience. The voter was upset over a recent government decision to remove tax credits from Britain's hard working families, a voting decision that had indeed quickly come back to bite herself on the bottom as it would further reduce her own low income. However, the woman's hostile salvo went completely and conveniently un-answered as the panel quickly moved on to talk about the 'reported chaos in Labor's policy-making' .

In the run-up to the 2015 General Election, the Conservatives launched their 'austerity' manifesto with a planned £12 billion further reduction in state welfare, but repeatedly refused to say where those cuts would be targeted. Leading many of Britain's unemployed and disabled to draw their own conclusions about further cuts - causing a metaphorical, mass battening down of the hatches.

Obviously a few abled-bodied people also came to the same conclusion about who would be targeted and who would not - judging by the extremely upset Conservative voter in the Question Time audience. Unsurprisingly really, as in a pre-general election special episode of Question Time, which was aired this April, presenter David Dimbleby actually asked Mr C directly about cutting tax credits for working people:

Mr Dimbleby: "There are some people that are worried about you cutting child tax credits, are you saying absolutely as a guarantee that you'd never have it?"

Mr C respond: "First of all child tax credit we increased by 450 pounds..."

Mr Dimbleby: "And it's not going to fall?"

Mr C: "It's not going to fall."

Liar, Liar, Pants on fire! So, do we need to warn our fire brigade just in case Mr Cameron's underpants suddenly self-combust one day while spouting another bout of lies during Prime Ministers questions? I fear we may.

Of course, Mr Cameron is completely wrong to lie or mislead the public in this way and he should resign. Not just for lying about tax credits but for all the other lies and manipulations of the facts that he and his government has come out with over the years. But, if the British public are far too lazy to find out for themselves just what exactly is driving Conservative, Labor or any Government policy and its effects or possible effects (and it's not exactly rocket science) who can really blame these grubby, self-interested, career politicians for taking advantage?

However and most worryingly, Britain's treatment of disability over the past number of years by both the Conservatives and Labor has had very strong overtones of pre-World War II, Nazi-Germany propaganda. Where whole sections of society were blamed and scapegoated for the perceived economic woes of their Country. Therefore, the UN needs to wake up to the fact that disabled people are highly dependent upon them for not only raising worldwide awareness about Britain's re-occurring mistreatment of disability, but that current welfare reforms are now effectively killing disabled people off.

But as David Cameron says, he is proud of the way his government deals with disability, so what chance is there that he will change tack without some kind of pressure being applied? Maybe he should take a look at 'Britain Fairer: The Equality and Human Rights Commission' latest review of equality and human rights within Britain. According to the Disability News Service, the report just recently released presents damning arguments that disabled people's rights have indeed gone backwards over the last five years. A backward step that concerns increased deprivation, decreased independence, social exclusion and ill-health.

Mr Cameron is not stupid, he will know all this already, but it is all a means to an end. But it's an end that the UN need to be painstakingly investigating before we Brits sleepwalk into the madness of extremism that was witnessed during Nazi-Germany. If 11 million Brits can happily vote for a Government committed to reducing Human Rights for British people, and where the views of those 11 million override the views of 50 million others - where will it all end?


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