Week in Review: 2nd to 8th August
Editor – Review of the Week
The whole month of July saw the Boris Johnson government immersing itself in mismanagement and corruption of just about everything it put its hand to. It ended the month nicely with nominations to the House of Lords that was astonishingly shameless in its nepotism. It is, unfortunately, representative of the decrepit state that Britain becoming as it refuses to reform itself in line with the 21st century. It all feeds into the Brexit story that was tainted with illicit foreign money, Russian agitators, hedge funds, bankers and American corporations – all looking to cash in on their own agendas as they poured huge amounts of ‘dark-money’ into their campaigns (source). Brexit proved beyond doubt that British democracy was up for sale. But what Boris Johnson has also proven is that the British parliament itself is up for sale as well. No longer will a British MP or PM for that matter, be able to point a disapproving finger at the growing list of authoritarians around the world as Britain rapidly becomes their model of governance. To the increasing dismay of many, Britain now appears to lead the West in political cronyism and inequality. As I have said on many occasions over the last five years, what we have now is anarchy by the rich and powerful. Further confirmation of this comes from Darren Hughes, the CEO of the Electoral Reform Society – the world’s oldest operating organisation concerned with political and electoral reform. Hughes said this week – The unelected House of Lords is looking increasingly like a Westminster private members’ club … this is a home for prime ministers’ pals, special advisers and donors. We cannot continue to allow our parliament to be the joke of modern democracies and It’s time for it to join the 21st Century. This oversized expenses free-for-all must be overhauled.” (source).
What Hughes was angrily pointing out was that Britain’s declining global reputation has been crushed in a matter of months by Boris Johnson’s administration. Yet more confirmation comes from researchers at Queen Mary University who have declared that post-Brexit London will become the global epicentre of money laundering (source) with all the joys that the world’s top thieves and criminals bring with it. No doubt, many will be Russian.
In addition to the generally accepted malfeasance of high office in London these days, the government has now got itself embroiled in a four-month cover-up of a serious crime by attempting to protect the identity of an accused rapist (see below) amongst its own ranks. The PM along with the Leader of the House and Chief Whip have serious questions to answer (for their own actions) if the rapist is charged and subsequently sent down.
For Fox Sake. Is this the headline that never was? Months before the December general election, the government knew highly sensitive documents relating to the US/UK trade deal had been stolen. It was Liam Fox’s email account that got hacked because he transferred these documents from a safe server to his own email account. You simply don’t get more stupid than that do you? Fox was sacked as Defence Secretary in 2011 for breaching national security (source). Then he was sacked as international trade secretary as new Prime Minister Boris Johnson carried out a Cabinet cull. One might have known that a man sacked for not being able to keep secrets might get sacked for not being able to keep secrets. Don’t forget though, it was Theresa May who ‘told spy chiefs to keep state secrets from Boris Johnson because of his big mouth’ (source). The British sitcom Carry on Global Britain gets better by the day, doesn’t it?
One hint that all is not well in the sunny uplands of Old Blighty, is that there has been a 500 per cent increase of Britons taking up citizenship in an EU state. You will soon see many headlines referring to the ‘brain-drain’. Nearly 80,000 Brits are now taking their talent (and money/assets) to the EU each and every year as a direct result of Brexit according to the OECD (source). Ironically, Germany saw a 2,000 per cent increase last year. “These increases in numbers are of a magnitude that you would expect when a country is hit by a major economic or political crisis,” said Daniel Auer., co-author of the study (source).
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This is Britain’s new normal. Interference into British democracy by hostile foreign state actors, corruption, cronyism, nepotism, cover-ups and our best talent with their young families leaving in droves. When Brexit arrives in January, many people who voted for it will start to shift blame from themselves onto the politicians for mishandling the Covid crisis and selling an idea like Brexit that ended up cratering of the economy. One thing you can be sure of – 2021 is going to be an economic disaster as it will demonstrate just how fragile our ‘services’ economy really is in challenging and highly competitive times.
Inside Downing Street
Lords, Lords, Lords: Boris Johnson was apparently annoyed that he was unable to give dozens more peerages two weeks ago, so what is his plan – a second wave. The Telegraph quotes a source from inside Downing Street that says Boris Johnson is planning a second peerages list to reward donors in September or October this year (source).
Tory Rape Case: What seems apparent is that Jacob Rees-Mogg (Leader of the House), Mark Spenser (Chief Whip) and Boris Johnson were all informed of this case at least a month ago (source). However, it appears that the victim had made this complaint four months ago (source). The victim also complained nothing was done – so a suspected rapist was able to walk the corridors of an old dark building with many young female interns, secretaries, assistants and advisors. This being the case, it looks set to explode in the faces of senior Tories without some serious censorship, libel threats and D-notices being issued left, right and centre. And if it is true that the MP in question sits at the apex of the hard-line Brexiteers ERG pressure group – it will likely disintegrate as other MP’s scramble to distance themselves from a scandal that could see serious jail-time for the MP in question. This attempted cover-up is now serious for the government and will be high on their damage limitation agenda.
Francois: Mark Francois has spent all week trending inside the top ten of Twitter amid speculation of who the MP is that has been accused of rape. But here is an interesting thought. Whatever you might think of a social media account called MI6Rogue (30k followers), it’s a point worth considering. Libel dictates that caution should be used here. However, if the accused does happen to be this person in this clip, it makes you think that there is a lot more to this story than we are being told. The post says: “Actual footage of MP Mark Francois signing his own death warrant by ’Cheeking’ General Sir Nicholas Carter, MF actually threatens the head of the UK armed forces with Dominic Cummings.” The post is HERE. What do you think?
Johnson the Philanderer: The media frenzy over the accused MP in the current rape case should jog our memories of something else. It took a three-year court battle just to find out who the mother of another of Boris Johnson’s offspring was, back in 2013. That ruling was supposed to “redraw the privacy rights of public figures in England and Wales” – i.e. make it easier to find out what public figures have been up to (source). Johnson was determined by the court itself to be a ‘philanderer‘ and more importantly that he demonstrated little more than “recklessness and whether on that account he was fit for public office.” How Britain has changed since Johnson’s arrival to the top job and how the media has been muzzled!
Secrecy: The Government has been accused of being too secretive in all manner of areas of governance. Here we see London Mayor Sadiq Khan saying he only found out the government was considering locking London down when he read it in the paper. Khan hasn’t had any contact with Boris Johnson for 87 days. (source)
Operation Brock: For the last four years the government has called warnings of supply chain delays and ‘friction’ over Brexit as nothing but ‘scaremongering.’ However, we’ve just learned that Operation Brock is set to return in December in readiness for Brexit. This is the planned traffic management system in Kent for use in the event of a no-deal Brexit (source). In other words – another border will be created in Kent to cope with all the red tape of logistics movement (source). The government is now expecting chaos. The UK logistics industry is dismayed – “It is disappointing to see that the government is expecting significant friction… after the logistics industry had been given previous reassurances that friction would be minimised” (source).
US/UK trade deal: Politico reports that Britain is forging ahead with trade deal negotiations with America even though there is an expectation that Donald Trump will not be re-elected in November. The third round of negotiations entered its second week on Monday. “The extreme unpredictability of American policy until after the election means what might or might not be available from the US to the UK is just inherently unknowable,” said Ian Shapiro, Sterling professor of political science at the Yale School of Management. The way the November election turns out, he said, could “reshape the future of the UK- US trade deal in ways Britain cannot control” and he cautioned the UK about its chances of striking a quick mini deal before the end of the year (READ MORE).
Terrorists, gangsters and people-smugglers – will be among the big winners if negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with the EU end without an agreement later this year. It’s not just the gilded statue of the goddess of justice atop London’s Old Bailey Central Criminal Court that will be blindfolded. UK police and prosecutors also risk being suddenly unsighted by the loss of vital real-time information provided by the European Arrest Warrant. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin, the Brexit specialist at the U.K. National Police Chiefs’ Council, told the House of Lords earlier this year gives a stark warning of what we can expect in 2021 (READ MORE).
‘A bigger deal than chlorinated chicken’: Experts warn of post-Brexit attack on UK food standards that will affect products from animal antibiotics to pesticides. In little-noticed remarks, President Trump’s chief trade negotiator laid bare the extent to the US deal when he said he would reject any UK-US deal that threatened to exclude American food products carrying residues of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals. This alarming report from Unearthed highlights what a trade deal with America really means. “We will soon be routinely bringing drug-resistant bacteria into our house. It’s a bigger deal than chlorinated chicken,” he said. “If I was a European consumer, I would want any American chicken to be cleaned with chlorine because I know that there’s drug-resistant bacteria in those animals.” (READ MORE)
According to Stanley: As if Boris Johnson’s father has anything to do with anything at all, it is noteworthy if nothing else that even he thinks Brexiteers like his son are in ‘cloud cuckoo land’ over the EU’s chances of backing down over a ‘level playing field’ to secure a deal. In other words, Stanley Johnson’s expert prediction is a no-deal or terrible deal. I think most of us deduced that about two years ago (source).
Led by Donkeys: Iain Duncan Smith is as hard-right a politician as we ever really want to see in this country. An ardent supporter of a hard Brexit – this is what IDS tweeted this week (source) – “Whilst the UK wants to have a good trade relationship with the EU as a sovereign state, the EU has different ideas. They want our money and they want to stop us being a competitor. The Withdrawal Agreement (WA) we signed last year sadly helps them.” As many on Twitter responded – It wasn’t really an ‘oven-ready deal’ was it? You supposedly read it, pushed it, signed it – now you own it!
Inside the Economy
We are constantly being warned that Covid-19 has caused massive public debt and that we will all have to pay for it to keep control of public finances. Not so say the experts. “There is no immediate need for substantial tax increases or spending cuts immediately after the recovery is complete” – says Simon Wren-Lewis. His article – The Reality Behind Fiscal Scare Stories spells out why the government must not repeat its catastrophic decision in 2010 to implement austerity in times of economic decline (READ MORE).
Fraud Tsumani: The coronavirus is likely to trigger a tsunami of U.K. fraud cases when courts and law enforcement get back to full strength, accounting firm KPMG warned. The backlog of criminal cases in England and Wales stood at 37,434 at the end of 2019 and likely has grown considerably during the outbreak. The first quarter to 2020 saw a significant increase on the year before and this was prior to the C19 crisis. In addition, 65 per cent of cases that would have been brought to court have been postponed. In addition – “We are likely to see a lot more HMRC activity where government aid schemes have been abused,” said the head of investigations at KPMG. “We are likely to see a tsunami of Covid-19 related fraud cases.” (READ MORE)
UK Bank woes: Britain’s banks took a gloomier view than almost all their European peers in their second-quarter earnings, as coronavirus fears, Brexit and low-interest rates caused them to bake tougher “worst-case” scenarios into their risk models. Provisions for potential loan losses across the five banks topped £16.80 billion ($22bn), blowing past analyst forecasts and increasing selling pressure on shares already hammered by the pandemic this year. All five UK banks have under-performed, falling by between 42% and 55% this year compared to a 36% fall in the European banking index (source).
Job losses mount: In July, 26,000 major job losses were announced by British employers. Nearly 4,500 jobs have been lost at major British employers in only the first two working days in August, as businesses continue to feel the fallout from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Dixons Carphone, Pizza Express, Hays Travel and DW Sports have all announced major redundancies. June saw 30,000 jobs lost not including 45,000 job losses from HSBC and BP who are losing most of those jobs in other countries. May saw 36,000 jobs shed. However, these are job losses by the biggest employers but the biggest employers in the country overall are actually the smallest companies combined. (READ MORE)
Banks and insurance: The banks have taken a pasting as a result of the Covid crisis – but the insurance companies have done OK. While people dying from Covid has meant paying out on life insurance – it also means far less pension liabilities to pay out for those same people. L&G paid out £35m in life insurance but made £32m additional gains on pension liabilities. Claims from burglary have cliff-dived as people remained at home – the same with car insurance (source).
Could it get any worse…erm
Payback for Russians: A secretive Russian-born tycoon whose company has donated almost £250,000 to the Conservative Party is seeking ministerial approval for plans to build a £1.2 billion undersea electricity interconnector between Britain and France. Viktor Fedotov, 73, is the ultimate owner of Aquind, has given donations to cabinet ministers including Rishi Sunak, Alok Sharma & Brandon Lewis. The project is deemed a “nationally significant infrastructure project.” This is what happens when you sell-out to the highest bidder simply to get into power. Bribes are paid for a payback somewhere. (source).
Climate implosion: A warning of an impending financial implosion driven largely by fossil fuel industry deception has come to light – a recent report has found. It calls on fossil fuel insiders and other whistleblowers to help expose and prosecute this fraud. The National Whistleblower Center (NWC) published the fossil fuel executives’ deception on the financial risks of climate change—to their business and the economy at large. It is widespread and is likely actionable fraud, meaning that further securities fraud lawsuits against companies like ExxonMobil should be expected (READ MORE).
Warped Lords: Just as 36 news peers are being crammed into the second chamber – the warped nature of the House of Lords has once again been revealed after the Electoral Reform Society found that nearly a quarter of peers are based in London compared to just 13% of the UK public. As if to highlight just how irrelevant the Lords is to civil society – over half – 55% of peers – live in the capital, or the East and South East of England, while peers, for instance, in the East and West Midlands make up just 6% between them. How about that for Boris Johnson’s ‘levelling up’ pet project (READ MORE).
Killing for profit: The Trump administration announced last week that it will breach the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) by unilaterally re-interpreting it in order to export armed drones. The US has tried without success over the past four years to persuade other signatories of the agreement including the UK, Canada, France and Germany to make changes to allow unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS) to be exempt from the 1987 agreement. There’s money in killing identified targets – the trouble is, very often the targets are missed and civilians are killed. The body bag count averages about 93 innocents per targeted kill. The Americans call this ‘collateral damage.’ Jeremy Scahill wrote in the Intercept in 2015 that “drones are a tool, not a policy – the policy is assassination” (source – Intercept) (source – dronewars).
Experts: How much does it surprise you that a group of Britain’s leading virus experts say mistakes are being made in the handling of the Covid pandemic, with testing contracts awarded on apparently ideological grounds to private sector companies rather than based on expertise. In a letter to England’s chief medical officer and the chief scientific adviser, nearly 70 of Britain’s top clinical virologists say they have been sidelined by the government and excluded from discussions on how to respond to the pandemic. This is more evidence that the government is in disarray, has no meaningful crisis management team and is acting on the hoof (source). And we are supposed to believe Dominic Cummings knows everything!
Test and Trace: Covid-19 has been hunting down the elderly, the weak, the vulnerable, front line workers and others too. Leaving aside a vaccine – our species should be hitting back and hunting it down. The all-important Test and Trace system being used around the world in various guises is working. The more aggressively T&T is used, the less cases and fatalities there are. And yet, Britain has spent an eye-watering £10billion on a ‘world-beating’ App that doesn’t work. Nobody seems to be pressing Serco who were dished out this contract for answers on this one. And right in the middle of a huge crisis – Parliament has gone on holiday. Test & trace is the entire foundation of any virus suppression strategy and Britain doesn’t have one. For all of that investment – it appears that each tracer employed is tracking just one (yes one) contact per day (source). There are small countries in the Mid-East beating this virus into the ground (source) – but Britain is standing in the headlights of a second wave (source). Now local councils are forced to set up their own track-and-trace systems to plug holes in the government’s failed system (source).
Worlds Worst: As at two days ago (05/08/20), nearly 19 million people have officially contracted Covid-19 worldwide with nearly three-quarters of a million dying from it. On the same day, the UK had more Covid deaths than – Italy, Belgium, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Austria, France, NL, Poland, Greece, Switzerland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden, Ireland, Czechia, Norway, Finland, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Estonia, Iceland combined. Britain has the second-highest death rate per million in the world and for a country with a population of over 15 million boasts the worlds worst (source). Officially, 56,600 Brits have died from Covid-19 or 41,000 depending on what you read.
Airborne: There is mounting evidence to suggest that the coronavirus is airborne, but health advice has not caught up – still. In the UK we’ve not only opened pubs, Eat Out to Help Out is actively encouraging people to dine in at open venues. Governments’ have changed policies around the world amid these concerns. And after months of denying the importance of this, the World Health Organization is reconsidering its stance. This report was public knowledge at the beginning of July. It is safe to say a second wave in on its way in Britain (source).
Inside the Media
Princely protection: Although the story has been covered by the mainstream media – it is heavily muted given that a member of the Royal household is accused in court documents of “having orgies with numerous underage girls” (source). More surprising is that this story has not been a trending story on social media. What could explain this silence? Maybe it’s the 77th Brigade of the British Army. General Sir Nick Carter confirmed back in April that 4,000 army personnel were now fighting the (Covid-19) infodemic. ArmyTechnology.com reports “In perhaps a less obvious support role, Carter said the secretive 77 Brigade is working with the Cabinet Office Rapid Response Unit to help “quash rumours from misinformation and counter disinformation” (source). Of course, none of us will ever know what the 77th Brigade is really fighting will we?
Political protection: In yet another nail in the coffin of press freedom, broadcasters have urged Ofcom to exclude news and current affairs programming from proposed new “duty of care” requirements being drawn up after the deaths of two former reality TV show contestants. In submissions to the regulator, ITN has said the proposals could lead to news programmes avoiding sensitive subjects and narrowing the diversity of their contributors, leading to a “sanitised view of the world”. Ofcom wants to introduce new requirements across all genres except drama, meaning broadcasters will have to take further measures to get “informed consent” from participants. ITN also feared the guidelines could extend to the subjects of investigations or those being secretly filmed and that this could “deter news programmes from carrying out vital public interest journalism”. Sky News said the proposals created a risk to freedom of expression. It’s all rather convenient for some – especially public figures like … politicians for instance (source).
Daily Fail: The Daily Mail was pushing racist content and got caught out again. This time a Conservative peer accepted substantial damages and an apology over an article that falsely accused him of “rubbing shoulders with Islamists, hate preachers and Holocaust deniers for years”. Lord Sheikh said he was “delighted to have been able finally to clear my name from these shocking and unfounded allegations” months after a High Court judge ruled the article had a highly defamatory meaning. It took two years for this admission by the Daily Mail to be forthcoming (source). It shouldn’t be forgotten that last year, the Mail Online rated one out of five for credibility by a new feature to fight fake news, that Microsoft browsers started to warn users to beware of visiting the Mail Online website (source), that Media/Bias Fact Check warned the Daily Mail was a ‘questionable source’ of hard right-wing news (source) and that even Wikipedia had banned the Daily Mail as a link source (source).
- Lords for Sale: 22 people have given £50m to political parties since 2007 and are now in the House of Lords (source).
- More than 20 African countries have joined together to plant a giant wall of trees that will run across the continent to stop the spread of the Sahara Desert. The Great Green Wall of Africa will stretch for 7,000 kilometres, from coast to coast right across the continent (source).
- The NHS could lose more than 5,000 commercial research staff and around £500m in funding because of covid-19, according to senior trust leaders (source).
- Waste incinerators are three times more likely to be built in the UK’s most deprived neighbourhoods than in the least, a new investigation has found (source).
- US economic annualised growth rate. 3rd quarter of 2019: +2.6%, 4th quarter of 2019: +2.4%, 1st quarter of 2020: -5%, 2nd quarter of 2020: -32.9% (source).
- Organisations representing over a million healthcare workers have filed a complaint to the International Criminal Court accusing President Bolsonaro of committing a crime against humanity through his ‘neglect’ over coronavirus (source).
- Germany is banning single-use plastic cutlery, cotton buds and food containers by July 2021.
- Government’s post-Brexit ‘freeport’ scheme tipped to make ‘no material effect’ on UK economy (source).
Tweets of the Week
Recommended Weekend Reading
Scotland: Chaminda Jayanetti’s article entitled – “The road to independence: How Covid and Brexit pushed Scotland from the Union” explains exactly why it is that in the not too distant future the United Kingdom will be no more. The article interviews election guru John Curtice and ends with the warning – “There’s a feeling now that Scotland is being run by a bunch of clowns in London, and that things won’t get any better, and will probably keep getting worse unless something is done about that.” (READ MORE)
What was it for: In the Afghan war, 454 British soldiers lost their lives and well over 7,000 were injured – many injuries were life-changing. This week we find out from a UN report that Helmund Province now produces 80% of Afghan opium and since the country is the dominant global source that means this one province produces around two-thirds of world supplies. As Trump pulls out from America’s longest war, the deal to agree that withdrawal was done quietly as it hands power back to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, while sidestepping the Afghan government and keeps the whole toxic saga away from the November election (READ MORE).
Build, Build, Build: As part of its plans to stimulate the economy, the Government has promised to build more homes, faster and greener. Nancy Holman at the London School of Economics argues that any planning deregulation they embark on will have severe consequences for protecting the poorest from substandard housing. And in this report a fine example of what is coming down the line highlights just how dangerous deregulation of planning laws can become (READ MORE).
Infodemic: The COVID-19 pandemic has spawned an infodemic, a vast and complicated mix of information, misinformation and disinformation. In this environment, false narratives – the virus was “planned,” that it originated as a bioweapon, that COVID-19 symptoms are caused by 5G wireless communications technology – have spread like wildfire across social media and other communication platforms. Some of these bogus narratives play a role in disinformation campaigns. Lessons from the Pandemic by professor Kate Starbird is a sobering and worthwhile read (READ MORE).
NHS: Boris Johnson clapped for the NHS on the steps of Number 10 Downing Street and seemed understandably grateful to the NHS nurses who had looked after him in intensive care when he was struck down by COVID-19. But does he and his Government really care about the NHS? The facts speak for themselves. Here, Stephen Colegrave produces nine examples of the UK Prime Minister’s lack of care for the NHS in its time of greatest need (READ MORE).
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