Week in Review 25th July – 1st August

1st August 2020 / United Kingdom
Week in Review 25th July - 1st August

Editor: Review of the Week

It’s been an interesting July, hasn’t it? With seemingly never-ending stories of corruption, malfeasance and duplicity centred around Her Majesty’s government. And it isn’t about to stop just because the Commons has gone on holiday, in the midst of the biggest crisis since WW2. According to The Telegraph ‘newspaper’ – “Boris Johnson has speeded up plans to curb the judiciary”. The headline – “Judiciary in PM’s crosshairs” is far more of a chilling headline than many have attributed. Make no mistake, claims that this is about restoring “the sovereignty of Parliament” is yet another deception. This is all about Number 10 increasing its power to sideline Parliament and the checks and balances it provides. Boris Johnson is to punish Britain’s long-standing and highly respected judiciary for reversing the suspension of Parliament in 2019, and for insisting that only Parliament could trigger Article 50. In reality, the court ruled only to restore power to Parliament and ensure No10 was curbed in its desire to make decisions without political debate. What the courts were challenging was not the sovereignty of Parliament itself (remember the Daily Mail’s enemy of the people disinformation campaign), but the right of Number10 to shut Parliament down. Don’t forget, this government, the Boris Johnson government, does not like democracy now that they are in power. The method by which they got there is now known and they hate the idea that public opinion could throw them out for their malfeasance.

The truth is that a new authoritarian era has entered Downing street and is shown up for what it is when under the fog of the pandemic, Parliamentary committees have been suspended, ignored or subjected to heavy-handed attempts to stuff their membership with ‘yes-men’ and appoint their chairs. MPs (many lifelong members) who have challenged No 10 for their heavy-handedness and hard-right actions have been thrown out from the Conservative party, while Parliament itself has been rendered almost unworkable. The Covid pandemic has strengthened No10’s resolve to act in the shadows where it has consistently chosen to legislate during the Covid crisis with almost no reference to Parliament. It has done this simply by using so-called emergency powers and Statutory Instruments to create new criminal offences at will. This is not just about the police being able to dish out a few fines during the pandemic. Take for instance the Brexit Bill that has seen protection promises for NHS, for agriculture and the environment – only to be thrown out the window without so much as a whimper. This would have been as impossible just six months ago as it would have been six decades ago. And the attack on the courts is the first of many to come because this is not about asserting “the sovereignty of Parliament” over “the judiciary”. In the end, it is about dismantling the very checks on the power of No10 to do what they want without challenge, which will make it much harder to assert the rights of Parliament in future. It goes without saying that this has very serious implications for Britain’s democracy. This outrage, an outright attack of British democratic principles, should be on the front page of every newspaper in the land. Not one has chosen to do so, except the right-wing press who laud it as some sort period of freedom to allow the government to ‘get things done.’ Don’t forget, once these powers are here, they are here to stay no matter whose knees sit under the desk at No10. Echoes of Trump should be our alarm bells but a compliant media makes them complicit in this power grab.

The Russia Report (rightly) won’t go away. And it’s interesting that the London School of Economics published Ewan McGaughey’s opinion that “the extent of Russian-backed fraud means the referendum is invalid” (source). What’s different here is that this report was written in November 2018 and started off by saying – “how Russia used the Leave campaigns, official and unofficial, to sway the referendum.” Its last sentence reads – “The law tells us every vote must be free and fair. If Brexit was not, as four reports show, it looks like it’s time for a funeral.” And somehow we are supposed to believe that the security services were looking the other way. Was this referendum rigged then – in plain sight? And if so, why has no-one done anything about it? (READ MORE).

 



 

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Inside Downing Street

Expensive tricks: There is a growing sense of unease among top civil servants that Boris Johnson is up to his old tricks just as he was when he was London major, by spending money the country doesn’t have on headline-grabbing projects with no tendering processes under the Covid emergency powers the Tories gave themselves. The scandal of hundreds of millions of taxpayers money going to companies who would, under normal circumstances, have no chance whatsoever of being successful in applying for government procurement contracts continues (source).

Cliff-edge Tories: So concerned are centre-right Tories about Boris Johnson that 100 MPs have set up a group to combat the current trajectory that they see is heading for disaster (source). It is mainly aimed at pulling Boris Johnson away from the hard-right of the party. “Many of us were asking ourselves: is this still our party?” one senior backbencher said. “Have we ceased to be a liberal, one nation party?”  The former Cabinet Office minister Damian Green, who chairs the group, said he was keen to move the focus of the group away from Brexit and added that there was a need for an “intellectual regeneration” of the party. Stephen Hammond, the former health minister who lost the Tory whip over his opposition to a no-deal Brexit but then regained it to fight the 2019 election, has written one of the group’s paper’s on the post-Covid economic recovery. “Much of this is where Boris has been, evidenced in the second half of his mayoralty in London. We want to present practical solutions to problems presenting us in the post-Covid world.” All this means is that there is now recognition that the Tory party is no longer the Tory party and before they implode – some are trying to rescue it from its own cliff-edge.

White Elephants: You knew this one was coming sooner or later with Boris Johnson at the helm. “Billions of pounds to ‘level up’ economy risks being wasted on white elephants, MPs warn.” BJ announced £640bn in investment for projects across the UK, as well as a further £5bn in coronavirus “bounce back” investment. MP’s said – “Developing grand infrastructure projects must not become an end in itself” (source). In other words – BJ has a track record of blowing billions of taxpayers cash. One article in the press makes a point that BJ refused to listen to ‘experts.’ Think Garden Bridges, the Orbit Tower, Routemaster buses, water cannon’s, an airport in the Thames estuary (yes seriously) – all of which failed but cost collectively nearly one thousand million pounds to bailout or abandon. (source)

Fat Lords: Boris Johnson aims to pack the House of Lords with pro-Brexiteers and is yet again distorting democracy. Plans to appoint dozens of new unelected Lords make a mockery of claims that the chamber is slimming down.  It’s got so bad that the Lords’ Speaker Lord Fowler has now written to all peers, warning that if the Prime Minister goes ahead with packing the chamber, it will reverse a recent reduction in numbers – bringing the size of the unelected chamber past a whopping 800 members (READ MORE).

 



Inside Brexit

The most recent report from the London School of Economics provides yet more devastating news for Brexit. Whether Boris Johnson secures a deal with the EU or not, Brexit is going to hurt with business conditions worsening for those sectors that have survived the impact of coronavirus and lockdown measures so far. The report warns that we should all get ready for the “biggest (economic) slowdown of our lifetime” and “rushing Brexit through” would “broaden the set of sectors” that experiences worsening business conditions. In other words, what has survived so far, will still feel what’s coming next. The report urges the government to put in place an industrial strategy that “must reflect the cold reality of being in a post-Brexit UK which is placed in a post-Covid world economy where global trade shrinks.” (READ MORE)

UK position weakens again: Yet more manoeuvring by the EU makes a mockery of British ‘exceptionalism’ in Brexit negotiations. After creating a €5B Brexit support fund, the EU27 won’t back off its demands, especially as it has now strengthened its position is so doing. As at Monday this week, the latest round of negotiations have fallen apart. Britain’s position weakened even further when it admitted that a trade deal with the US will not be signed this year either. A hard Brexit is looking ever more likely as each month passes by. There are just eight weeks left to agree a trade deal before its too late for the EU27 to ratify one. All the cards are now in the hands of EU negotiators. (READ MORE)

NHS for Sale: “Omit the NHS from any future trade deal with the US.” That is the petition that has reached over 100,000 signatures with four months to spare – but it’s too late. The government rammed through the bit about the NHS not being protected in future trade deals without the proper debate it warranted. When the general public learn that a trade deal includes foreign companies bidding for Britain’s healthcare service – there will be an explosion of anger. (source/petition).

Imagine this scenario – Boris Johnson’s government up against Angela Merkel’s government in EU negotiations. Well, that is exactly the reality right now. EU leaders seem emboldened by having German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the helm of the Council of the EU for the sixth months leading up to the end of the UK’s transition period (source). Merkel has been firm on the EU’s demands for the trade deal and future political relationship. She has been calm, cool and collected throughout but stood steadfast in defending the EU project. For Britain – it’s a case of back down or back off. So much for ‘taking back control.’

MUST READ – The Brutal Truth: This really is an enlightening read. It explains why Britain faces such a fateful decision. If it wants a free trade agreement (FTA)  with the EU, says Carl Baudenbacher (London School of Economics), it will need to either sign up to EFTA/EEA institutions or accept the Ukraine model – which will mean it is still under the jurisdiction of the ECJ. Ever heard anyone speaking about the ‘Ukraine model’? Me neither. This incisive article lays out what happened to Switzerland, what the EU wants and why they will get it. There’s another truth here – the EU really does have ambitions of being an empire! (READ MORE)

 



Inside the Economy

Jobs Rush: Eight people are now applying for employment support for every available job vacancy. And this is before the tsunami of unemployment that is going to hit us has really begun to develop (source).

Gold Rush: Gold has reached an all-time high price of $1954 an ounce. Goldman Sachs has warned of “real concerns” about the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency as America grapples with soaring debt and rising political and social uncertainty (source). The truth is this. The world is in turmoil. There’s a lot of money around and those with money think assets such as property and shares are going to nosedive. Predictions of $2,500 an ounce are all over the markets. The last time gold shot off like this was when the price was $732 an ounce in 2008 when the bank-led financial crisis blew up. Gold then increased just over 250 per cent over a three year period to mid 2011 (source). The pandemic is considered to be much, much worse than the financial crisis.

Hustle Rush: The Gig Economy Is Failing. Say Hello to the Hustle Economy. Unemployed teachers, cooks, dancers are turning to Patreon, Twitch, and OnlyFans (READ MORE).

 



Could it get any worse…erm

Kremlin cash cow: The appointment of Nikhil Rathi to lead Britain’s main financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, speaks volumes for the light touch, free-market instincts that lie beneath the cloak of competence which chancellor Rishi Sunak has assumed while doling out Covid cash. As chief executive of London Stock Exchange plc, Rathi could be heard in recent years boasting how it had become the “largest exchange outside China for renminbi business”, and had “hosted the first-ever issuance by the Chinese sovereign [ie government] outside China”. At the same 2017 event, he rattled off a list of Russian companies with Kremlin connections that had raised billions in London thanks to the LSE. But now we’ve gone and fallen out with them – Oh. (READ MORE)

Voodoo Economics: The Infrastructure & Projects Authority gives HS2 a “red” risk warning (Happy Factoid – HS2 also happens to be Europe’s biggest deforestation programme). To be clear, the IPA states the project is currently on track to be unachievable and poor value. HS2 Action Alliance rightly asks – “It really is time for the Government to listen to its own reports.” The project which started at £58 billion is now estimated as at last year to cost £106billion. Richard Houghton, director of protest group HS2 Action Alliance, claimed the railway’s business case “has always been based on voodoo economics”. (READ MORE)

Elite Grooming: There was panic and much hasty footwork by Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and Jack Straw last week as they sought to distance themselves from the 48 Group Club, which lists them and other grandees as honorary fellows – and which is accused in a forthcoming book of “grooming Britain’s elites” to advance Beijing’s interests. Yep – it’s another Russia Report like critique accusing a powerful network of British business and political elites who were doing deals with Chinese dignitaries and top executives. (READ MORE).

Assange: For over a year, the West’s top anti-corruption NGO, Transparency International (the keyword here is transparency), has not said a word about the world’s most prominent jailed transparency activist, Julian Assange. Is the US and UK government paying for the organisation’s silence? Patrick Maynard at Greyzone explains it all (READ MORE)

Feeding the rich to feed the poor: An excellent example of privatisation that does nothing but eat money whilst providing little back to the taxpayer. The Private firm that runs the government’s much-criticised disability testing for benefits has paid out £56.8million in dividends to its US parent company (source).

 



Covid-19

Child starvation soars: A UN report released on Monday said Coronavirus and its restrictions are pushing already hungry communities over the edge, killing an estimated 10,000 more young children a month as meager farms are cut off from markets and villages are isolated from food and medical aid. In the call to action shared with The Associated Press ahead of publication, four UN agencies warned that growing malnutrition would have long-term consequences, transforming individual tragedies into a generational catastrophe. (READ MORE)

US Propaganda: Pulitzer-Prize winner Laurie Garratt says that Donald Trump is at it (yet) again. The Whitehouse has stripped the CDC of its data-collection responsibilities for COVID19 and hired a private company to take over. Within hours, the data was deemed to be useless (source). 

Green or Black? Plan B, a climate litigation charity, says Boris Johnson vowed his government would “build back greener” after the Covid-19 crisis, but is instead using billions of pounds of public money to prop up fossil fuel corporations without financing a transition to a clean and sustainable economy. (READ MORE).

Celebs: More celebrities join the growing conspiracy theory movement. In April celebrities like Wiz Khalifa and Amanda Holden, who were pushing conspiracy theories to millions of fans. Since then, several new influential names have joined the roster. Lewis Hamilton and Robbie Williams feature. (READ MORE)

Blame Game: Boris Johnson is looking to deflect all the blame for his handling of the Covid Crisis. It’s what populists do. So blames Public Health England for failing to control the pandemic, completely forgetting that A) it was the Tories who created PHE in the first place and B) ignored their expert advice.

Good Covid News: From an NHS doctor, here’s some good news – “Our new passion for handwashing and social distancing has reduced the incidence of flu, colds, viral hepatitis, asthma, tonsillitis, conjunctivitis, chickenpox and diarrhoeal diseases” (source)

 



Inside the Media

News avoidance: The Reuters Institute reports that nearly a quarter of the UK population actively avoid the news. Most of those that avoid news about the No1 issue of concern right now (COVID-19) say it is because ‘it has a bad effect on my mood’ (56%). More generally, roughly equal numbers of people think that the coronavirus situation in the UK is ‘heading in the right direction’ (25%) and off ‘on the wrong track’(25%). However, 45% think that the picture is mixed. IN other words – as with just about everything in the UK today, no-one agrees (READ MORE).

Anti-vaxxers profit: The pandemic has turbocharged misinformation around vaccines, and social media firms are struggling to deal with it. Anti-vaccine misinformation has been a problem for years, but here health-tech reporter Erin Brodwin delves into just how much further it has spread during the pandemic. Brodwin cites a study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a UK based nonprofit organization, which found that anti-vaccine misinformation grew rapidly in May and June as the pandemic took off. The report also identified a group of what it calls “anti-vaccine entrepreneurs” who make money from misinformation about vaccines, with a combined total of 28 million followers, a figure that had grown by almost 850,000 during the pandemic (READ MORE).

Social Media in the dock: Here’s something that the UK should look at in the light of the Russia Report and damning evidence that Boris Johnson and Brexit got over the line because of disinformation campaigns. While there has been significant progress toward countering disinformation, the way in which social media is designed is exacerbating the harm caused by misinformation and conspiracy theories, writes Joan Donovan, research director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center. Ahead of a congressional hearing with four of Big Tech’s CEOs on Wednesday, Donovan argues it is antidemocratic that disinformers and their amplifiers have an advantage in the current online media ecosystem. Given that medical misinformation poses real-life risks, she concludes: “If Congress chooses to look in the right places, it may discover the true cost of social media — and the fact that we cannot build a healthy democracy on top of an ailing communication system” (READ MORE).

The Guardian: Editors and writers of the Guardian’s Saturday supplements have accused the publisher of carrying out a “massive act of self-sabotage” with its proposals to close the Weekend, Review, The Guide, and Travel sections. Staff were told last week of plans to cut 180 jobs, including 70 journalists, after Covid-19 cost it £25m for this year. A statement written on behalf of editors and writers on the Saturday supplements following a meeting of the paper’s NUJ chapel called for more of the Scott Trust Endowment Fund to be used instead of large-scale redundancies. The fund has nearly £1bn sitting in it. The statement said: “If we aren’t using our ‘rainy day’ endowment fund for a once-in-a-generation global pandemic, what use is it? (READ MORE)

Left-wing bias: The BBC’s internal complaints unit has ruled that not mentioning the political ties of a doctor interviewed as part of a Panorama report on NHS personal protective equipment was a breach of its editorial standards. The report, titled “Has the Government failed the NHS?”, drew criticism from seven viewers for what was perceived to be a left-wing bias among its contributors, which they said were not made clear. The Executive Complaints Unit found that one of the six contributors to the programme, which was broadcast on BBC One on 27 April, should indeed have had their political affiliations explained to viewers. (READ MORE).

 



Fact File

  • Pulitzer-Prize winner Laurie Garratt says that Donald Trump is at it (yet) again. The Whitehouse has stripped the Centre for Disease Control of its data-collection responsibilities for COVID19 and hired a private company to take over. Within hours, the data was deemed to be useless (source). 
  • Covid has caused nine out of ten pension funds to suffer losses and as a result, annuities have hit record lows. Only 11% of pension funds avoiding losses, according to Moneyfacts (source).
  • Mitsubishi Motors in the UK has written to its UK franchised retail partners to inform them of the Japanese car manufacturer’s plan to exit the UK and European new car markets (source).
  • Boris Johnson’s new obesity strategy could be completely ‘torpedoed’ by a US trade deal that Boris Johnson is so desperate to sign (source).
  • Major UN report states – ‘We are losing the web of life’: 1 million species now under threat and why the global nature crisis is as dangerous as climate change (source)
  • The huge recent coup against organised crime was the result of international cooperation in crime-busting. Shame the UK is about to drop out of Europol, the very organisation that busted it (source).

 



Tweets of the Week

 

 

 

 

 



Recommended Weekend Reading

MUST READ – The Brutal Truth: This really is as enlightening as it gets. It explains why Britain faces such a fateful decision if it wants a free trade agreement (FTA)  with the EU, says Carl Baudenbacher (London School of Economics). It will need to either sign up to EFTA/EEA institutions or accept the Ukraine model – which will mean it is still under the jurisdiction of the ECJ. Ever heard anyone speaking about the ‘Ukraine model’? Me neither. This incisive article lays out what happened to Switzerland, what the EU wants and why they will get it. There’s another truth here – the EU really does have ambitions of being an empire and what they have planned is mind-boggling! (READ MORE).

The awful conclusion of Britain’s predicament: Written before Boris Johnson became someone of note three months before the election. This incisive piece by another editor of TruePublica quotes the CEO of Britain’s Democratic Audit and sums up nicely what happened, why and predicted exactly what state the country would be in by now.  (READ MORE)

How can we use our psychology to prevent misinformation from spreading and influencing people? – Part three of a series about the psychology of misinformation — the mental shortcuts, confusions, and illusions that encourage us to believe things that aren’t true. This section explains it all and more – definitely worth the read. (READ MORE)

 



 

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