Week In Review 18th – 24th July
Editor’s Review of the Week
Are we shocked by it all any more? It has taken Boris Johnson just six months to infect Westminister with wide-ranging levels of corruption and poisoned Britain’s global standing in the world. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Tory MP’s voted for all this and it’s almost impossible now to ignore echoes of the Trump administration as each month passes by.
The Russia Report (more below), released on Tuesday seemed more like an organised ploy by the Tories to divert attention from what was really happening in the House of Commons, where a devastating blow was delivered to the NHS. The Tories overwhelming majority voted down a Bill to protect the health service from future trade deals – i.e. Trump’s America. This now abolishes a “comprehensive and publicly funded health service free at the point of delivery” and allows it to be exploited from 2021. It also voted against protecting NHS staff from having their wages and rights slashed and against protecting the quality and safety of health and care services. Not a single newspaper or broadcaster thought this fundamental change to Britain’s way of life was worthy of leading the news with.
There is a highly toxic cocktail of trouble brewing right now and the government have no credible plan for this. Unemployment is going to skyrocket by the year-end. Then add Brexit, which will just compound that problem. And as many have warned – Brexit will cause a degree of disruption to the overall supply chain. Industry leaders are desperately trying to get the government to listen that they are simply not ready. Soon, lenders will start repossessing homes, bankrupting businesses and call in their debts from early 2021. Then, a credit squeeze to the bottom 50 per cent of households will come (irrespective of government interventions). Struggling parents will be unable to feed their children just at the point that they absorb the new reality that hopes of any job – no matter what, are becoming hopeless (and there’s a possibility that Covid-19 could come back at about the same time). By April 2021, there will be queues outside Job Centres like we’ve never seen before. Just this week, it was reported that 484 people applied for just two £9-an-hour jobs at a pub (source) and a thousand went for a single job as a receptionist. Unending frustration and feelings of helplessness is the stuff that causes civil unrest – its what causes governments to fall. Britain is so polarised now that wearing a mask to keep a pandemic at bay has become part of the ‘culture war’ that this government stoked to get into power. Already more than 600,000 have lost jobs and as the furlough schemes wind down, September will bring tens of thousands more. But the first quester of 2021 is where the true reality of this toxic cocktail is going to make its presence known. Somehow Boris Johnson and his sidekick Dominic Cummings can’t see this seismic catastrophe coming and just like Covid and Brexit – they appear to have not adequately prepared. This is echoed in Johnson’s surprise at just how strong support for Scottish independence really is north of the border – something else he’s not prepared for.
Corruption within government is now endemic. So bad has it become that a new website – CorruptionUK.org is going to start keeping a tally. They will be busy. In the meantime, lifetime peerages for high profile supporters of Brexit is just another abuse of an archaic system that many people are getting truly fed up with. Britain’s real problem is that it refuses to modernise its political system to match the needs of the 21st century – this is why the country is in a state of decline.
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The Russia Report said nothing because – and I quote: “the security services actively avoided looking for evidence.” (source). There was an active threat to our democracy and both the government and ALL of the security services were deliberately looking the other way. Instead, they decided to spend billions destroying British civil liberty laws with government agencies such as GCHQ illegally surveilling the civilian population and microscopically examining every detail of our lives. Apparently, that was more important than the democracy our government is supposed to uphold – at all costs. They simply didn’t mention the scale of illicit money and activities going on behind our backs to prop up a corrupt government as this one. For years we have known about Putin’s oligarchs buying up swathes of London property, washing dirty money through the suits in the City of London. We have known about them buying up influential assets like national newspapers and donating large sums of cash to the Tory party. It was David Cameron who thought it was a great idea to open the doors of No10 to Russian spooks masquerading as billionaires. Here’s the first sentence of a report out by “Organised Crime and Corruption Project dated 16th June – “The wife of Vladimir Putin’s former deputy finance minister donated £325,000 (US$405,033) to Boris Johnson’s party in the first quarter of 2020.” Is there something about that line that the security services could not understand? Also, no mention in the MSM was the fact that 3 asterisks in the text really meant huge swathes of the report was redacted. The Russia Report was a whitewash and it is clear that they are all in it together! Borisky of Londongrad, should be ashamed that he has dragged Britain as a country into the gutter. One can only imagine the state Britain will be in after four more years of his profligate corruption and malfeasance. (READ MORE)
Inside Downing Street
Thinking again: It is clear that Tory backbenchers are becoming unhappy with their leader. In mid-June, Johnson was pressed by the executive of the 1922 Committee over the “disconnect” with backbenchers (source) and looking back over his first year, many have concluded he is not up to the job of what this winter will bring. Many others think he is incompetent and malicious (source) and has created an ‘iron curtain’ around his team that is headed up by the very disliked Dominic Cummings (source). A Tory spokesperson said – “The hard facts are that Boris is a good-time prime minister; his grip on detail is shocking. He’s the chairman of the board rather than the chief executive.” Many have publicly stated that Johnson – “has few trusted friends in the party.” One long-serving Tory MP said he and a colleague had discussed how many members of Johnson’s cabinet would have met the threshold to be included in Margaret Thatcher’s top team, and decided the answer was none. When the economy sinks with the pressures of C19, a global downturn and Brexit – Johnson will likely go with it.
Why Biosecurity?: The government has announced that it will be creating a Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) to bring together expertise and analysis to inform decisions on tackling Covid-19 (see Inst for Gov’t press release). That means Gove and Cummings being in control. What was not announced was that the United Kingdom Security Vetting Office is also moving to the cabinet office. The UKSV now moves from the Ministry of Defence to Downing Street. The question is – why? What is it that UKSV will be actually monitoring and when it does, why does it need to be inside Downing Street? (source).
Air Corps Down: Dominic Cummings was given access to secret intelligence security buildings and visited top brass in the military. Unreported by the MSM is that unbelievably, Cummings – an unelected bureaucrat with no military or intelligence background now has the ability to “rip the heart out of Britain’s Army Air Corps” with the closure of its HQ. The 2,000 famous ‘blue berets’ of the Army Air Corps operates the MoD’s fleet of 200 Apache and Gazelle helicopters providing battlefield reconnaissance, medevac and air support to ground troops (source) (source).
Not so Priti: The results of an investigation into allegations of bullying by Priti Patel will not be published in full, Downing Street said last Monday. It was as if the report was so shocking that the public was unable to handle it. All it really confirms is that the truth is too difficult to publish for the Tory hardliners on the front-bench – and therefore it’s safe to come to the conclusion that Patel is nothing less than what she is accused of – i.e. that she orchestrated a vicious campaign against staff at the Home Office. In fact, the report’s finding was obviously so awful that Boris Johnson’s spokesman refused to say if any of its findings will be published at all (source). In addition, Patel also faces separate complaints about mistreating staff from her time at the Department for International Development and the Department for Work and Pensions.
Cummings Command Centre: Dominic Cummings has just taken charge of all government data. Given the fact that DC hasn’t proved himself capable of doing anything except utilising technical systems to get a charlatan in Downing Street by peddling a pack of lies – what could possibly go wrong?!
Amazon Bombshell: For British Amazon traders – a bombshell has just been dropped. Brexit will force an end to Pan-European inventory transfers between the UK and the EU. Therefore, traders and manufacturers will no longer be able to fulfil their European marketplace orders from a UK warehouse. It also means that British sellers now need not one VAT number but five. They also need warehouses to split their stock to continue trading in the UK as well as the EU. It wasn’t on the side of a bus to let 280,000 British Amazon sellers know what might happen with Brexit was it? (READ MORE)
Brexit Undone: There has been a surge in support for European Union membership among the British public since the Brexit referendum, a major new survey found. The European Social Survey, conducted every two years (source), found that support for the EU had risen across Britain. The survey, completed in 2019 and released this week, found that 57% of Brits said they would vote to be inside the EU, compared with 50% who said the same in the previous survey, released in 2018 (READ MORE). All this in the same week that UK and EU trade negotiations came to another shuddering halt with more evidence that a deal simply can’t be done in time. Markets are getting very worried. Even The Telegraph has given up and is now trying to spin a positive story on this mess (source).
Hauliers unable to haul: Pro-Brexit loudhailer The Telegraph newspaper now complains that three-quarters of Britain’s hauliers could be left without permits and unable to bring in goods from the continent if there is no Brexit trade deal. This is the warning from the freight industry. (source). It’s not like the government weren’t warned. The Road Hauliers Assoc chief executive, Richard Burnett is concerned that Government’s latest Brexit campaign “The UK’s new start: let’s get going” fails to address the magnitude of what is needed to manage customs complexities as businesses race to ensure their ‘border readiness’ ahead of post-transition trading. Burnett says – “I am completely at a loss to understand how this framework can be achieved by 1 January 2021.” (READ MORE)
US/UK trade Deal hopes: The FT reports that the British government has abandoned hopes of reaching a US-UK trade deal ahead of this autumn’s American presidential election, with British officials blaming the Covid-19 pandemic for slow progress. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and international trade secretary Liz Truss had hoped to conclude a fast-track agreement by late summer, which would be hailed as an early win from leaving the European Union. Senior government figures have concluded no comprehensive deal is possible before the November poll as the two sides grapple over contentious issues (source).
Food standards: Jay Rayner called Michael Gove a “straight-up liar” after MPs voted down an amendment that would have maintained food and animal welfare standards after Brexit. Of the 337 that voted this amendment down, 336 were Tory. Speaking in 2018 when he was environment secretary Michael Gove – vowed to deliver a ‘Green Brexit’, claiming that there was “no way in which animal protection can be diminished in any way, in any shape, or in any form” – and “As we leave the EU we will deliver a Green Brexit, not only maintaining but enhancing animal welfare standards.” Last night he voted against this clause, meaning animal welfare standards are to be ‘relaxed’ next year. The National Farmers Union is – livid. (READ MORE)
Kent regrets: Dejected residents living close to where a huge post-Brexit lorry park is being built say the realities of Britain leaving the EU are now sinking in. 59% in Ashford voted Leave, in line with 59% in Kent overall – and many are now sadly realising what their vote entailed for their local area. MP Rachel Maclean also apologised to residents that they had to learn the news of the massive lorry park from the press having been given only hours notice that it was happening before plant and machinery turned. The 27-acre truck park is being rapidly constructed in readiness for 2,000 trucks to be parked awaiting documentation and checks before being allowed to move their goods to the continent. (READ MORE)
Inside the Economy
We bought the wrong ones: Downing Street pushed ahead with an investment in a bankrupt satellite operator as part of its post-Brexit independent space strategy despite a top civil servant warning the “unusual” deal could see taxpayers losing the entire $500m with “no wider benefits accrued”. The FT reported (source) that Boris Johnson has gone against normal political procedures in this investment, and an MP warned there are ‘significant downside risks’ involved. The investment did not meet the value-for-money requirements set out by government and no business case was put forward. This was orchestrated by Dominic Cummings. “The fundamental starting point is, yes, we’ve bought the wrong satellites,” said Dr Bleddyn Bowen, a space policy expert at the University of Leicester (source) (source).
Eye-watering: There is much debate swirling around various industries, economic forecasters, government bodies and experts on the likely rate of unemployment by the end of the year and into 2021. Just six weeks ago, the Bank of England were predicting unemployment (source) will double from 1.3 million to 2.6 million. That has now been adjusted to 3.5 million by the year-end. But now there’s a realisation phase approaching when the furlough scheme ends in just over two months – with an eye-watering 6 million forecasted by Tax Research UK and others (source).
Bloodbath: The FT reports that – More than half of UK manufacturers expect to make job cuts over the next six months as large employers across automotive, aerospace and other core industries brace themselves for a sustained downturn in demand during the pandemic and Brexit beyond. The UK will lose high-value skills in what is being called a “jobs bloodbath” by manufacturing trade group Make UK, whose members reported that their redundancy plans were ramping up as the prospects for a return to normal trading was clearly fading (source).
Universities: Tens of thousands of part-time academics have been fired or are about to be. UK universities are cutting the jobs of thousands of academics on short-term contracts as the sector prepares to make sweeping cuts in the wake of coronavirus and Brexit. This leaves academics facing unemployment and depleting the capacity of departments to run courses and support students (source). The OBR has calculated at least 30,000 jobs will go in universities and a further 33,000 jobs in the wider economy that cater to them (accommodation, events and so on) are also threatened (source).
No support: About one hundred supporters attended a protest in London last weekend against wearing facemasks and proudly stated they had just over 7,000 signatures for their petition (source). Out of a population of 67 million, it is fair to say the wider general public do not support their views at all.
Click-baiting: A completely distorted YouGov poll entitled – “Why Won’t Briton’s Wear Face Masks” – tries to say that 37 per cent hadn’t worn face masks in the previous week. This actually meant that 63 per cent had (source). Looking at their results and ridiculous conclusion, it is clear the vast majority are indeed being responsible when in situations that require them. In fact, those answering the question – “For what reasons have you not worn a face mask” – only 3 per cent said -‘don’t want to” – meaning 97 per cent didn’t agree with that option. The first response in the comments section reads – “This is a classic example of asking leading or loaded questions to achieve a desired outcome.” In other words, YouGov are ‘click-baiting’ a population in the middle of a pandemic and a culture war.
Living with C-19 for “many years.” “Things will not be done by Christmas,” Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, a large biomedical health charity, and a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, told MPs (21/07). Farrar was speaking about the UK’s coronavirus pandemic and referring to Boris Johnson’s rather optimistic and Trumpian statement that all will be as it was by the time Father Christmas comes to visit. “This infection is not going away, it’s now a human endemic infection,” he said. Even if we had a vaccine or very good treatments, “humanity will still be living with this virus for very many, many years… decades to come,” he said. Farrar’s comments come after UK prime minister Boris Johnson announced further easing of restrictions in England (source).
Inside the Media
BBC ‘Madness’: The BBC News website will “cease to function in its current state” if the corporation closes its central online hub in Birmingham, an insider has claimed. A source within BBC News online told Press Gazette the proposals would have a “devastating effect” on the website. The source also claimed that the central newsdesk’s experienced sub-editors save the BBC from two or three legal cases and dozens of reputational injuries every week. Another well-placed source told Press Gazette the decision to get rid of the hub was “madness”. “It’s a 24-hour operation without which many stories on the BBC website wouldn’t have seen the light of day,” they said. (READ MORE)
SM Regulation: A group of MPs is calling on the UK Government to immediately launch a new body to regulate social media giants whose bosses have “failed to tackle” the Covid-19 infodemic. Julian Knight MP, chair of Parliament’s DCMS Committee, said: “Evidence that tech companies were able to benefit from the monetisation of false information and allowed others to do so is shocking. The coronavirus crisis has demonstrated that without due weight of the law, social media companies have no incentive to consider a duty of care to those who use their services. We need robust regulation to hold these companies to account.” (READ MORE)
Murky Murdoch: A new documentary on media mogul Rupert Murdoch has provided new insight on his “almost incestuous” relationship with Tony Blair. It also shone a light on the Sun, Times and Fox News owner’s sometimes minute level of management that led to its “shock backing for Tony Blair in 1997”.
Press Freedom: Ironically, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Global Affairs Canada issued a statement marking the 1 year anniversary of the Global Conference for Media Freedom (source). This, in the same year the Johnson government is accused of threatening media freedom by RSF, Reporters Without Borders, the Freedom Index, Lobby journalists and a whole raft of newspapers and media outlets (source). RSF rightly said – “Vindictive responses by governmental bodies to public interest reporting on stories related to the Covid-19 pandemic – including the latest slur of “campaigning newspapers” – and restrictions on journalists’ participation in government press briefings are fuelling a growing climate of hostility and public distrust in media in the UK.” This is the reason why the government has a global conference for media freedom – it’s state-funded propaganda.
- The USA military expenditure budget for 2020 is the equivalent of spending $1.1million a day since the birth of Christ (source). By contrast, the UK has spent the equivalent of $71,000 a day (for 737,00 days) in the same year (approx. one third per capita of US dollars spent per day).
- The median earnings of employees in the 20% of the workforce most likely to be able to work from home is £19.01, compared with £11.28 for workers in the 20% of workers in jobs least likely to be adaptable to home working (source).
- Rishi Sunak, the UK’s Chancellor could be forced to borrow half a trillion pounds over 2020 and 2021 pushing the national debt to well over £2.5trillion (source).
- Millenial hardship – Data from the Insitute of Fiscal Studies finds that it is the first time that people in their 30s are earning less than those who were born a decade earlier. The median annual household income has declined for those born in the early 1980s in comparison to those born in 1970s (source).
- The OBR has concluded that the government would need to re-impose austerity measures to fix some of the permanent damage caused by the C19crisis, as well as pay for the costs of an ageing population (source).
- Half of people moving home in the UK stay within a three-mile radius. Lucian Cook, residential research director at Savills, says employment and social networks, schooling and retirement hotspots all played a part in encouraging people to trade up within an area they already knew (source).
- Despite media headlines about rapidly rising house prices in a Covid mini-boom – a total of 68,670 residential properties were sold in June, data from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) shows. This was down 31.5% on the same month a year ago. (source)
- Coronavirus deaths in India. 21st of April = 645, 21st of May = 3584, 21st of June = 13,703, Now: 28,099 (source)
- JAPAN: Country will pay $536 million in subsidies for fifty-seven companies to move their factories out of China (source)
Tweets of the week
Recommended Weekend Reading
It started as £1. Now it’s £1 million. Where’s the mandate for letting Palantir into our NHS? This is an openDemocracy report on the same company involved in the SCL Elections/Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal over Brexit. Big Tech firms are getting their feet further under the NHS’s table, with very little accountability – and they are doing it knowing that the NHS is on the table in future trade deals – as confirmed just this week. (READ MORE)
The last big fish: A century of industrial fishing and whaling has emptied the world’s oceans, according to one of the world’s most prominent fisheries scientists. Professor Daniel Pauly paints a bleak picture of humanity’s relationship to the sea – but on climate change, the biggest challenge we now face, he still has hope that humans will turn things around in time. (WATCH 8 min VIDEO)
An Israeli charity group is uprooting Palestinians – not planting trees: Jonathan Cook’s incisive reporting from Nazareth, Israel gives an accurate picture of what is really happening on the ground. The Jewish National Fund has won plaudits for its environmental work, but its agenda has been to evict on behalf of the state (READ MORE)
Populism and the manufactured crisis of British neoliberalism: the case of Brexit: The London School of Economics writes about the challenge of prevailing accounts explaining populism as a political response to neoliberalism’s negative impact on voters. Using a descriptive analysis, they explain how the antagonistic ‘people’ vs. ‘elite’ relationship at the core of populism has been mobilised by opposing British political actors as a discursive frame to generate voter support for their own policies. (READ MORE)
Powerful backers support a UK nuclear future: Contrary to Boris Johnson’s electioneering promises last December and his plan to push for a resurgence of renewable energy (source), Johnson is actually planning a massive expansion of the United Kingdom’s nuclear industry, just as other countries, like Germany pull away from it. (READ MORE)
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