Week in Review: 5th – 11 July
Editor’s Review of the Week
You might ask, just how bad can things get for the current government. Immersed in scandals, accusations of corruption and abuse of office, it might come as no surprise that not only have the general public tired themselves of a workshy Prime Minister – business leaders now think the same. A survey of more than 500 UK-based business leaders, commissioned by the New Statesman, gave Boris Johnson a net approval score of -1 per cent, the lowest of any member of the government that were asked. (READ MORE)
It should also come as no surprise that the results of a deep analysis of ten years of data, that cuts to public health, education and social care services during the period of austerity were almost perfectly tailored to weaken the state in the face of a pandemic. In addition, leading scientists give their verdicts on the government’s handling of the pandemic. Robert West, an adviser to Sage, writes that “failures have arisen because the government has put political priorities ahead of public health. Each failure has been met with denial, obfuscation and bland reassurance.”
Robert Jenrick just can’t help himself, can he? First, he gets caught accepting money for fast-forwarding planning consent decisions to save a donor £40m, then gets caught up in something similar on a mining project and this week is involved in another row involving Tory donors and controversial planning decisions. The cost for getting permission to build 675 houses – just £11,000, but only if you’re a Tory donor (READ MORE).
Dominic Cummings has been given unprecedented access to Britain’s most sensitive military and national security intelligence sites – ready for a big shake-up (more below). Military and intelligence chiefs must be incandescent with rage that expertise built over over many years is being challenged by an unelected government ‘advisor’ who only gets security clearance because Boris Johnson (who the security services don’t trust) says so.
Rachel Reeves, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and MP for Leeds West aires her concerns about Britain’s lack of preparedness for Brexit come Jan 1st (more below). She says a leaked document “confirms fears that ministers have been making things up as they go, lacking awareness of the real-world consequences of border policies they’ve had four years to develop”. Reeves goes on to say the government promised an ‘oven-ready’ deal by end of this year, not chaos, confusion and further risk to jobs.
Inside Downing Street
Bribery for silence: The government have broken their own rules by silencing the recently sacked Sir Mark Sedwill. In effect, taxpayers money is used to bribe Sedwill. A senior political correspondent says: “I am told this £250,000 payment to the departing cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill means he must have threatened to take the government to an employment tribunal because only on that basis could the permanent secretary Chisolm have classified the payment as value for money.” IN addition to all this – the Enterprise Act rules that public sector payoffs were capped at £96,000? The Sedwill payment busts that comprehensively. It might not sound like corruption but silencing people with taxpayers cash and breaking the law is. (source)
Planning: In a strong signal of what is coming down the line, you need not look any further than when Boris Johnson announced he wants to dismantle England’s planning system and hand over more power to private developers. In itself, this might not seem like much, until you realise what he’s about to do. The basic pillars of England’s planning system have remained more or less the same since they were introduced by the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act. The legislation was an elegant attempt by Clement Attlee’s Labour government to balance public and private interests: land was kept in private ownership, but the right to develop it was nationalised. This meant that landowners and developers had to apply to their local authority for planning permission to build new property or convert existing buildings from one use to another. What Johnson will do is tear down 80 years of protective rights – strip power away from democratic authorities and hand it over to unaccountable private developers to do with as they wish. (Read More)
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Democracy: Britain is changing from a parliamentary democracy towards an elective dictatorship faster than people realise after Boris Johnson’s election victory. This is the conclusion of David Hencke – a British investigative journalist named ‘Political Journalist of the Year’ at the British Press Awards. ‘Disrupters’ are being employed by Dominic Cummings to radically change how Britain manages healthcare, social services, justice, law and order, education, housing and so on. The reality is that post-Brexit legislation will be at the centre of a power grab by ministers at the expense of democracy. Executive decision making will bypass Parliament if there is even a modest threat of resistance in The Commons. There is a war of independence coming – independence from accountability. The National Audit Office and an array of select committees, including the Public Accounts Committee are in the crosshairs of dictatorial intent. Henke concludes: “By the time of the next scheduled General Election in 2024, if Cummings and Gove have their way, Britain will have a smaller, more authoritarian Government. The judiciary will be less independent and Parliament will not have to meet as frequently – because many changes to law will be made by ministers without the need for primary legislation.” (READ MORE)
Russia Report: The Chair of the Government Petitions Committee has highlighted the now more than hundred thousand signatures the petition to publish the Russia Report has received – and urged the Prime Minister to expedite the establishment of the Intelligence and Security Committee so that this report can be published. He won’t because it’s too damning to do so. This then feeds into the next story. (source)
Military and Security Services: Boris Johnson’s controversial adviser Dominic Cummings will tour some of Britain’s most highly classified national security sites as part of his plan to radically shake up the military amid a major turf war in Westminster over how Britain will defend itself in the future. Cummings is reportedly demanding access to Britain’s intelligence services has no military or intelligence experience. Two points to raise are that A) Cummings is merely an advisor and no clearance by the security services was willingly given to access the most sensitive areas of national security (especially a man who spent much of his years in Moscow and funded the Brexit referendum with Russian money) and B) If Cummings is right, why has Britain spent undisclosed tens of billions on a completely failed GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 service – much of which was reconstructed in the last decade of Tory power. (READ MORE)
Borders not ready: A leaked Liz Truss letter has emerged. It warns that Boris Johnson’s Brexit border plans risk smuggling, legal challenge, and global reputational damage because Boris is going to ‘get Brexit done’ by January 1st but border systems won’t be operational until the following summer. The report says that Ports won’t be fully ready, the Northern Ireland protocol won’t be ready and that UK plans could be challenged at the WTO as the UK will be breaking international trading rules. In other words, we’re not ready. (READ MORE)
Bankers: In last week’s review, we highlighted that bankers in the City of London were just starting to realise they would not be given special access to European markets and if they wanted to see clients in the EU, they would have to apply for the correct visas to do so. They genuinely thought they would be a special case and exempt. The EU negotiator said ‘Non’. This week, the news is worse still. The FT reports that – “The risk of UK funds being frozen out of the European market at the end of the year has risen after Brexit negotiators missed a key milestone aimed at securing market access for the City of London.” In other words – ‘mutual market access’ is being denied. What does it mean? It means a lot of disruption for Britain’s £9tn asset management sector. Expect more offices to move out of London. The conclusion in this comment – the government is hopelessly out of its depth on Brexit negotiations. (READ MORE)
Nightmare unravelling: Brexit is going to get really uncomfortable and to a large extent, the government is being shielded by the C19 pandemic – because their handling of that is even worse. Political writer and commentator Jonathan Lis concludes that the illusion that the most complicated divorce in British history can be accomplished without any consequences is breaking apart. The true horrors of this entire nightmare are rapidly unravelling. “The transition period that will end in six months, and the agreement we’re meant to be implementing doesn’t even exist.” (READ MORE)
Reverse Voters: The time has arrived when predictions in the book Brexit – A Corporate Coup D’Etat (£2.99 instant download to any device )have now all been proved true except the last one, which we’ll only know about come January 1st next year. 1.08m leavers are now dead, 0.36m remainers are dead, 0.38m leavers turned to the voting age of 18, 1.53m remainers turned 18, 1.05m leavers are now remainers 0.16m remainers are now leavers The Brexit vote is now 54% to 46% in favour of remaining in the EU & rising with each month. Poll and after has now shown that a new referendum would show a reverse result (ie 52/48 to remain) and recent polls now say the public and business leaders massively back a Brexit extension. Public frustration with this government will soon turn to anger. (READ MORE)
PPE scandal: Jo Maugham QC is pursuing a case against the Government over the £108m PPE contract it said it entered into with a chocolatier and a supplier of pigeon netting. As if things couldn’t get any more weird said Maugham – they found two more cases to pursue. (source)
Bigger PPE scandal: The government awarded £250m to a ”family” accountancy firm to buy PPE. Dr Dominic Pimenta was exasperated when he said: “At the same time we were begging them to buy 30m masks a week from an actual supplier in China, and fund a £20m vaccine in Britain. Both were denied. This is an appalling scandal.” (source).
PPE budget: The Treasury is preparing for spending on personal protective equipment for the health system to hit up to £14bn this financial year, HSJ understands — representing more than 10 per cent of the pre-covid NHS budget. (source)
Testing fiasco: An MP has looked into the government’s claim of Covid testing numbers and found that a nasal swab and one from the throat from the same person count as two tests and multiple tests on the same person over say two weeks count as individual tests as well. Eight tests on the same person are counted as eight tests, not a test on the same person. The UK Statistics Authority said of test numbers “The aim seems to be to show the largest possible number of tests, even at the expense of understanding them“. This is probably why the target was subtly changed from “people” to “capacity.” (source)
Inside the News
Fired: The UK’s largest newspaper group Reach, which includes the Daily Mirror has announced plans to cut 550 staff and NewQuests furlough scheme was designated a ‘redundancy waiting room’ as 38 lose their jobs (source)
Fake Facebook: Most misleading stories about coronavirus originate on Facebook, Press Gazette research has found. Out of 7,000 fake news stories circulating all social media platforms, Facebook was responsible for pushing well over 4,000 of them or not far off 60 per cent.
Maxwell’s mouth: There are rumours that Ghislaine Maxwell, who is now facing 35 – 40 years in a maximum-security prison has cried pretty much from the time she was arrested and in deep distress. Whilst her acquaintances are saying she will not take a plea bargain, insiders say that view is wrong. That being the case, there will be a lot of rich and powerful old men worrying at the moment! How true this is, remains to be seen. Other rumours that Maxwell is suffering from C19 and is very unwell in a prison is fake news. (source) (source)
State censorship: Lobby journalists have complained that the government plan to replace physical press briefings with ones that are televised is just another example of state censorship. They are worried that the government will be able to control who asks what questions (source). RSF Reporters Without Borders had already complained that Boris Johnson’s new government was censoring reporters and said – “calls for an immediate reversal of this alarming trend before the UK follows the US further down the World Press Freedom Index.” (source).
- ONS weekly deaths data for England show of all deaths occurring up to 26 June (registered up to 4 July), now show 47,705 died with Covid-19 (source)
- Financial Times says Sunak’s £30bn boost to the economy is “a stopgap more than a kick-start” – aimed to limit redundancies and stem youth unemployment – but its not enough says the FT (source)
- Bizarrely, The Telegraph reports that if there was an influx of 3m migrants from Hong Kong it would boost the British economy by £12bn. This is the same paper that promoted Brexit on the basis that immigration was damaging Britain’s way of life (source – paywall article).
- Offshore wind farms being constructed in UK waters will produce electricity more cheaply than the next generation of nuclear power stations. The Hinkley C nuclear power plant has seen costs soar to £25bn, will be years late and by the time it comes online will cost consumers triple that of renewable energy with huge decommissioning costs later on. (source) (source)
- Vendors on HS2 route must accept offers at 85% of asking price (source)
- Stamp Duty cuts WON’T help the market as most First time buyers don’t pay it anyway – the problem is with the huge deposit now needed. (source)
Tweet of the Week
Shock Waves: Graham Vanbergen writes in the Political Anthropologist about the coming global shock waves that will reshuffle geopolitical influence, power and wealth and what its profound implications will inevitably do to reboot the global order in the near future. (READ MORE)
Statues: Award-winning British journalist Jonathan Cook wrote what he described as – “the most polarising article I have ever written. Given the many controversial topics I have addressed over the years, that seems noteworthy in itself.” The article entitled – “Tearing down statues isn’t vandalism. It’s at the heart of the democratic tradition” takes a view that Britain is inherently racist. It’s definatey worth the read even if you disagree with it. (READ MORE)
Farewell Whitehall, hello Red Square? Abby Innes of the London School of Economics outlines the similarities between the government’s promised new strategies and (failed) attempts to transform the USSR in this excellent article. (READ MORE)
Media censorship: We have recommended this article before – but if you’ve not read it, it explains why the independent media in Britain is vanishing. Richard Norton-Taylor writes for Declassified UK – “The British government is pushing ahead with “espionage legislation” that could criminalise the release of public information and impose even stricter controls on the UK media as part of an “epidemic of secrecy”. (READ MORE)
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