Weekly News Review 23-29th August

29th August 2020 / United Kingdom
Weekly News Review 23-29th August

Editors Weekly Poke

It appeared that the general public was still backing the Tories all the way up to last week, then the mood suddenly changed. A new YouGov poll found the Tories have suffered a slump in the public’s confidence which the pollster said is a “massive shift” (for Labour), not that the shift means anything in real terms right now (source). The twig that broke the camel’s back was the fallout of Woeful Williamson’s A-Level fiasco. Leading up to the twig breaking moment was Johnson’s dreadful handling of Covid, the corruption and abuse of public office that followed, Cummings and goings, a cratering economy and a duck-and-dive PM that never seems to be around when the fan gets a good covering. The collective penny seems to have dropped.  It has led to senior officials in No 10 condemning a story in The Times which claimed Sir Humphry Wakefield, Dominic Cummings’ father-in-law, had informed a reporter that Johnson would step down in about six months (source). Time will tell, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Johnson does not have what it takes, nor has the stomach to be a PM even in the calmest of waters. Brexit will be done and no matter how bad the deal is or how bad it turns out to be, Johnson does not want to take the heat for it and given his track record – any excuse will do. ‘Sir Humphrey‘ said Johnson’s excuse was that he was still struggling with the effects of coronavirus. Ultimately, Johnson’s legacy will be the lies that led to Brexit and the devastating mess he made of a pandemic and Britain’s economic prospects. It sounds more like to me that Johnson will be thrown under a much more regularly scheduled bus, to save an imploding party. I suspect he is clever enough to know when to go – certainly next year, but I suspect within the first six months as he can then claim he got Brexit done, then leave the mess for another.

The Tories are looking more and more like the farcical Home Guard platoon in the 1970s sitcom Dad’s Army. In the episode “The Battle of Godfrey’s Cottage”, the platoon believes the enemy has invaded Britain. Mainwaring, Godfrey, Frazer and Jones (along with Godfrey’s sisters, who are completely unaware of the invasion) decide to stay at the cottage to delay the German advance, buying the regular army time to arrive with reinforcements; “It’ll probably be the end of us, but we’re ready for that, aren’t we, men?”, says Captain Johnson Mainwaring. “Of course”, replies Frazer. I feel sure you are nodding your head as you imagine No 10 being just as mistaken and poorly managed with outcomes that leave everyone else completely baffled.

However, this is a tragicomic government with serious consequences for us all. A few weeks ago we learned that a group of 100 MP’s hope to pull Boris Johnson away from the influence of the Tory hard right (source) and especially away from the Brexit headbangers within the ERG. They know a disaster beckons. Last week, a senior Tory MP also slammed these headbangers as a group which acts as the ‘very opposition’ of what it means to be Conservative (source). This week, another senior Tory confirmed that ‘Gav’ has lost so much trust he can no longer serve effectively in the cabinet (source). In response, the Home Guard threw the head of the exams board under another bus but as that didn’t seem quite enough, they threw the head of England’s exams regulator under one as well.

The fallout within the ranks has emphatically demonstrated that populists like Captain Johnson are not leaders. And the hatred following his senior advisor, Dominic Cummings, throughout the machinery of government is surely a type of ‘night of the long knives’ in the making – metaphorically speaking of course. To distract, Captain Johnson wades opportunistically into a diversionary tactic over a song when it is he and his cronies who are draining away all of our hope and potential future glory.

In desperation, the Tories are now engaged in a full-on culture war against the institutions of what we once knew as a liberal democracy – the very thing that the Home Guard are supposed to defend. At least, that’s what they did in the sitcom anyway. The evidence of Captain Johnson’s moral bankruptcy lies all around us. In the space of just one week, we’ve learned that Matt Hancock has junked Public Health England in order to deflect from the massive failings of ministers, that Sajid Javid can work in a major bank whilst somehow remaining as an MP, and that Priti Patel has blamed ‘smugglers’ for the death of a migrant in the English Channel, to sidestep the realities of their unworkable policies. Today, the Conservative parliamentary party can no longer serve as the custodians of Conservatism – it is now just a slightly more media-friendly version of Farage’s cult-driven Brexit party.

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This week, we’ve also learned of the leaked “reasonable worst-case scenario” document in case of another Covid outbreak just as Brexit happens (source). “Don’t panic” – it’s only military food air-drops to the Channel Isles, power, petrol and medical supply shortages. Then there are the town halls going bust up and down the country with troops drafted on to the streets if the economic toll causes public disorder, shortages and price hikes (source). The reality is, it could be none, some or all of those things, but make no mistake – this is Britain’s current trajectory.

Centre-right Tories, the ones that are left anyway, are still fearful of showing themselves until such time as things are so much worse that they simply have no alternative but to act. That moment is getting closer by the day. In the meantime, another U-turn on schools by the indecisive and hapless Captain Johnson adds to the U-turn Olympics, of which Britain really does appear to be ‘world-beating’. This week ended with Boris Johnson, a serial adulterer, unsure how many children he actually has, who gave public money to his lover behind the back of those who trusted him, ends up lecturing parents on their moral duty to send their children back to school. It’s no wonder Britain as a country is in chaos and as divided as it is. The moral authority has been drained away by a con-artist lounging about in the highest office in the land.

 



Inside Downing Street

Taking Back Control: Boris Johnson has insisted that he “seizes control of school agenda” and takes charge of getting children back to school. However, taking charge is not one of Johnson’s best attributes. “Boris Johnson to take personal charge of the negotiations over UK future relationship with the EU” (Telegraph Dec 2019), “Boris Johnson to take personal charge of new taskforce to tackle crime gangs” (The Sun Jan 2020), “Boris Johnson is to personally take charge of the Government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak next week” (The Express – Feb 2020), “Boris Johnson takes back control of coronavirus crisis with Downing Street shake-up” (Telegraph– June 2020). Finally, one from the Times (Source – May 17th) – “In a meeting early last week, two sources said Johnson had listened as details of the plan for lifting the lockdown was outlined but then asked – “who is in charge of implementing this delivery plan? One recalled: There was just silence. Johnson looked over at cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill and said “Is it you” Sedwill said, “No, I think it is you, Prime Minister.” Apparently, This is what some people refer to as – taking back control.

U-turns U-turned: Boris Johnson is facing a furious Tory backlash over U-turn on face masks in schools with senior backbenchers calling on ministers to ‘get a grip’. Tory MP, Huw Merriman said the treatment of young people during the coronavirus pandemic had been an “absolute disgrace “ and the public was “sick and tired” of seeing advice constantly changing in a way that made it appear the government was “making it up as we go along” (Source). And senior Tory Charles Walker – vice-chair of the influential backbench 1922 Committee – said an increasing number of Conservative MPs were “very worried” at the government’s ever-extending record of chopping and changing policy without debate.

Source revealed: On Mar 12, Robert Peston, the political editor of ITV News broke the herd immunity story. This was a government made up pseudoscience fantasy story that led to 1000s of deaths. It turns out that Dominic Cummings was an info source for Peston for 2 years. The Observer’s Carol Cadwalldre writes – But his (Peston) ‘source’ had intimate knowledge of a strategy that ended up killing tens of thousands of people. Is there public interest in protecting this ‘source’? Surely the public interest here is on the public’s right to know? It only goes to show that some mainstream media ‘journalists’ are so close to government officials that they are not holding them to account – but simply bleating out what they are told (source).

Rape MP: There’s an open secret inside Downing Street about the Tory MP accused of rape and the secret is – they all know who he is. And friends of said Tory MP have launched a fairly public pre-emptive bid to stop his identity being revealed when Parliament returns next week.  They fear that Labour or Liberal Democrats may, quite rightly, use parliamentary privilege to name the suspect when MPs return. The MP is question is said to be a senior Tory MP in his fifties, close to the apex of the hard-right group at the ERG. If nothing comes to light soon, someone in the House of Lords may well use the same privilege and expose the accused. And, as Tim Shipman, political editor at The Times says – “If your MP is accused of rape, don’t expect anyone to let you know” – because there’s nothing new about a Tory involved in a serious sexual assault being thrown a cover-up blanket by their own (source).

Not in My Back Yard: Local Conservatives politicians are up in arms over Boris Johnson’s new planning laws that basically rides rough-shod over highly effective localised decisions that have been in place since 1947. Widely seen as tipping the balance of power in favour of developers and away from local people, this ‘reform’ of planning laws is too much for some in the Tory rank and file. One Conservative Group said it’s – “a betrayal of localism and it’s authoritarian” which was backed up by local MP, Peter Bottomley. It is noted by some Tory MP’s that this ‘liberalisation’ of planning laws that takes control from local voters, could create an electoral headache for the government (source).

Useless Passport: The duty of government is to protect its citizens. However, in Britain, citizens are sometimes used as diplomatic bargaining chips. The British government has deliberately delayed taking steps necessary to secure the release of British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – including making a payment of a £400m debt owed to Iran, for a firearms deal it reneged on. Lawyers acting for the British-Iranian woman have alleged Boris Johnson’s government is so weak it is now waiting for permission from Donald Trump – who no doubt will add this situation as one of the many conditions of a trade deal. In the meantime, the US has secured the release of its own nationals without the need for permission from anyone else (source).

Who is running the UK: Up until Boris Johnson was elected, Britain was regarded as having one of the most efficient and stable government bureaucracies in the world. But giving so much power to unelected Dominic Cummings to revolutionise the wheels of Westminster via a massive power grab has created much animosity and destabilised the service that has not seen before. Even the Daily Mail, Telegraph and Daily Express (source) has turned against this techno-Stalinist where we read reports that Johnson was made to sign a contract so that Cummings could do what he wanted unchallenged (source). As the months have rolled by, it is clear Boris Johnson is no longer in command. Labour MP Andrew Adonis asks who is actually running the country – “Top Whitehall officials now speak openly about Cummings’s ‘shit list’ – & who is on it and ‘for the chop’” (source).  Many are now predicting the fall of Cummings (source) as he has simply upset too many people in high places.

Scottish Holiday: In the midst of the revelation that PM Boris Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds had been staying at a cottage in Scotland, the Tories ended up trying to blame Scottish nationalists – and particularly Ian Blackford – for outing the location and forcing them to return to London. It turns out – in comedic fashion, that it was Johnson’s own security team. The photojournalist who got the location and photo of the PM said –  “As for the Tory conspiracy theories later amplified by the likes of Neil Oliver, well, they have been proven to be rubbish. The story was achieved through good honest local journalism, not the conspiracy of anyone, as Peter Jolly will happily confirm” (source).

Chairman Mao: Quite obviously, Labour MP Andrew Adonis has an inside track on the workings of government. He served five years in government under two PM’s and was Sec of State for Transport amongst other senior roles.  This week he confirms that – “A senior Whitehall official tells me that Dominic Cummings refers to ‘Project Mao’: his plan to remove as many top officials as possible to create a ‘new sense of loyalty born of fear across Whitehall.” This is a common thread across Johnson’s government now – rule by coercion and bullying (source).

 



Inside Brexit

EU Gives Up: In an extremely serious turn of events, Germany has scrapped plans to discuss Brexit at a high-level diplomatic meeting next week because there has not been “any tangible progress” in talks, as Brussels laments a “completely wasted” summer. EU officials now believe the UK government is prepared to risk a no-deal exit when the transition period comes to an end on 31 December and will try to pin the blame on Brussels if talks fail. The EU has now, after all this time, all but given up and are walking away from the table (source).

Another Lorry Park: Several sites across Hull have been identified to hold Britain’s fifth Brexit ‘lorry park’ to deal with congestion caused by the UK’s exit from the EU. Although the official site is yet to be named publicly, there are rumours it could be built in the Humber Bridge car park. This comes as four sites in Kent have been mapped out to host lorry parks aimed at easing traffic travelling through Dover port much to the annoyance of the Brexit backing voters in Kent (source).

No deal more likely: Negotiators have continued to meet over the summer break, where the seventh round of talks between the EU and UK over post-Brexit trade relations resumed last Tuesday. The UK says that the remaining negotiating rounds will seek to “plug the gaps”. EU negotiators said the opposite. Barnier repeated that an agreement was “unlikely”, adding that he was “disappointed, concerned and surprised” by the UK’s rigid stance. “I simply do not understand why we are wasting valuable time,” Barnier told reporters.

City not Ready: 94% of senior managers at London’s largest finance firms – including banks, asset managers, insurance firms and fintech businesses  – said they still had work to do “to remain operational” in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and that they were simply not ready, according to a poll conducted by consulting firm EY. John Liver, a UK financial services partner at EY, said Brexit uncertainty was now “causing increasing concern across the City” and was becoming “increasingly critical” (source).

Cornwall – one of the poorest parts of the UK, has been among the biggest recipients of financial support from Brussels in the past twenty years. Cornwall, who overwhelmingly voted for Brexit, now wants the government to stump up £700 million to make up for the EU funding it is set to lose after Brexit (source). Andrew McRae – an English professor at the University of Exeter – said: “What a desperately sad story this is. All those Brexit myths of British greatness somehow overlooked the fact that the UK has some of the poorest regions in Europe, that gained considerably from EU support. Good luck getting that from the Tories” (source).

Cost of Brexit: It is almost impossible to calculate but If you estimate what the UK will have paid in net contributions to the EU by 2020, using the latest figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility on the financial settlement with the EU, then it comes to around £222 billion in real terms. But that is the total cost over 47 years (including rebates). Bloomberg Economics puts the cost of Brexit at £170bn as at January this year and £200bn by the year-end, which only covers four and half years (source).

What’s the point: Britain is attempting to strengthen its weak negotiating position by waving its £2.2trillion economy in front of America and the EU in the hope that one blinks before the other. The reality is that a real trade deal with the USA is impossible to sign in 2020 (for all sorts of reasons) and the EU deal will be Theresa May’s deal or no deal – both of which are terrible options. The least worst deal is May’s deal with the Johnson difference being the Irish backstop replaced with the Northern Ireland Protocol, which means Britain is in the same trading position as it was before Brexit, but has no influence in the EU (source). This then leads to the question – why bother in the first place?

 



Inside the Economy

Repressiononics: The U.K. economy rebounded faster than expected in August but the figures were clouded by warnings of an impending crisis for retailers, a jobs crunch, ballooning public debt, signs that trade talks with the European Union will fail (source) and that manufacturing has plummeted. All this is without the expected return of a winter crisis in the NHS just as Covid-19 gets a grip. If the country goes into another lockdown will another furlough scheme emerge? And who will pay for all this debt? Financial repression is now being touted as the way forward by some – and the idea is gaining ground on the political right. It means more austerity, the lowering of interest rates into negative territory and taxing pension funds. Corporate profits will be maintained by job losses, social security will be tightened further and austerity continued. The influential Adam Smith Institute, claims that government spending is too generous: “The Tories are caring less and less about fiscal responsibility. They are instead looking for a magic money forest” (source). Chancellor Sunak has already confirmed that “tough times are here.”  (source).

Digital U-turn: In January this year, the EU’s leading tech regulator threw its weight behind the British government’s courageous plan to press ahead with a digital tax despite threats from Donald Trump (source). On April 1st this year, Britain’s tech tax came into force despite US pressure to back down (source). The digital services tax is applied to revenues generated by social networks, search engines and online marketplaces. Last Monday the government admitted it had dropped the tax in favour of signing a trade deal with the USA. The following day amid claims of bowing to pressure from Trump – the government U-turned on its U-turn. For now, there is still a digital tax.

Self Employed: By 31 July 2.60 million people had claimed a Self Employment Income Support Scheme grant with the value of these claims totalling £7.6 billion. This is out of around 5 million individuals reported self-employment income for the tax year 2018 to 2019, and had their data assessed for potential SEISS eligibility. The number who have not claimed raises some interesting questions about those who do not wish to be investigated by HMRC. IN addition, 1.4 million made no profits, made losses or were found to have other sources of incomes. (source).

Bankruptcy or Austerity: At the beginning of the year, before Covid struck, it was evident that many local councils around England were suffering financial problems with some threatening bankruptcy like the 22 local authorities in the Yorkshire and the Humber region making a choreographed joint declaration that they had run out of money (source). Northampton went one step further and declared bankruptcy. When C19 arrived the government were forced to offer bailout cash in early April. Within a month the money had been spent. By June, more than eight out of 10 English councils were at risk of a technical bankruptcy (source) or make very deep and painful cuts to services.  This month, soaring spending on Covid-19 has compounded the damage from depleted revenue in council tax and business rates meaning the English council shortfall is estimated to be £2billion. The result of that £2bn shortfall is that the IFS now estimates that around 40% of councils would still be technically bankrupt even if they spent all their reserves. The government has refused to provide more cash. Meanwhile, the amount of money the government blew on a failed track and trace system – £10billion (source). They also blew £1.7bn on dodgy untendered contracts (source) (source) and is wasting £27billion on a roads project destined to provide little future benefit (source). Let’s not mention the world’s most expensive train set as HS2 is set to sting the taxpayer for £106billion and the most expensive power plant in the world at £23bn. Oh and Brexit – it’s cost in lost revenue to date £170 billion (source).

Speaking of Hinckley -The French market watchdog levelled a £4.5m fine against the energy giant EDF for misleading investors about the cost of the Hinkley Point C nuclear project. The fine was handed down amid growing frustration in France over the “unacceptable” delays and cost overruns, which EDF is building alongside the Chinese nuclear company CGN, which is itself mired in scandals over technology theft (source) (source), spying (source) and fraud (source).

Climate Unfriendly: The BBC headlines with – “New UK law to curb deforestation in supply chains” and reports that “UK businesses will have to show that their products and supply lines are free from illegal deforestation, under government plans” (source). Nowhere in the report does it mention that the government infrastructure scheme called HS2 is Europe’s biggest deforestation scheme (READ MORE).

 



Inside the media

Propaganda: The Conservative Party used disinformation tactics with a “new level of impunity” during last year’s general election, a new report has found. Researchers from King’s College London warned that the campaign had undermined public trust during the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to all sorts of problems in public health. Their report concluded that the Tories had “employed overt disinformation” at an “industrial rate” to secure votes, and had violated four out of five of the criteria during the election campaign (source).

UK Fox News: Rupert Murdoch is allegedly gearing up for a return to the UK news market with a new channel called ‘GB News’. Murdoch launched Sky News in the UK in 1989 and the right-leaning US network FOX News in 1996, selling the former as part of Comcast’s takeover of Sky in 2018. Sources say it is to be a ‘patriotic British news channel based on FOX NEWS, which will include presenters prepared to “go beyond mainstream coverage on issues on race, science and anti-liberalism.” Apparently, Andrew Neil and Nigel Farage are due to sign up (source) (source).

Disinformation: Recent research by fact-checking organisation First Draft said that although every political party in Britain published misleading adverts during the 2019 election campaign, the Tories were “by far the most frequent”. That statement seems something of an understatement given that the figures were – 88% of the Tories most shared online adverts between December 1 and 4 contained misleading information, compared to 6.7% cent for Labour. Authors of the report also noted that the government “wants citizens to believe the message that it is ‘succeeding’ in controlling the epidemic”, despite its recent electoral record of “using disinformation tactics and admitting it unapologetically” (source).

Fake Farage News: Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has been accused of pedalling ‘fake news’ after falsely claiming an Ellesmere Port hotel was housing what he calls ‘illegal immigrants’. Farage is currently going around the country ‘campaigning’ against migrants arriving on boats from France then being housed in hotels while they await news on their asylum applications. He visited four hotels in the North West claiming this region had been ‘most heavily burdened’ with accommodating migrants in a YouTube video he called ‘Nigel Farage investigates’. Farage also claimed the housing of these ‘illegals’ costs £10billion when it actually costs one 25th of that (source). His declared ’emergency’ in the English Channel and of an ‘invasion’ (of 400 a month) is merely a distraction from say, not detailing a post-Brexit transition deal or how the country might deal with it.

MSM Complaints: Last year, the Daily Mail once again won the dubious award of being the most unreliable paper in Britain, having been sanctioned more times by press regulator IPSO than any other title. They also managed this dodgy distinction three years in a row (source). This year, they are definitely in the running and ahead of the pack. A quick scan of last 200 complaints made to IPSO puts the Daily Mail, just ahead of The Times and The Sun with only four months to go (source).

A Taxing Issue: Anna Powell-Smith complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) that The Mail on Sunday breached the accuracy of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Corbyn ‘war on homeowners’“, published on 23 June 2019. The article reported that the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn had proposed to “grab more inheritances and tax profits on family house sales.” The article said things like – “bombshell plans being drawn up by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn” and a “proposal to scrap the Capital Gains Tax exemption on main homes would force owners to pay income tax on the profits when they move home – and lead to a ‘double whammy’ levy on their estates when the owners die“. The complainant was not just misquoted (in her own report) by the Mail on Sunday but that the MoS had fabricated much of their article. The Mail on Sunday and Mail Online was found guilty – and made to apologise. This article was designed specifically to frighten voters, especially homeowners ahead of an election. The complaint was lodged July 2019 and IPSO’s ruling was November 2019 (source). In July 2020 – The Conservative party ordered a review of capital gains tax, which includes these words from The Telegraph  – “Chancellor Rishi Sunak is being urged to introduce a new “property capital gains tax” on the proceeds from selling a house” (source) and “Introduce capital gains tax on all homes and raise £421bn” (source).

Anti-maskers – UK anti-mask groups and social media accounts have focused on the debate over whether children should wear masks when they return to schools next week. This organizing includes a post on the Stand Up X Facebook Group, which with almost 30,000 members is one of the main online communities opposing masks and other lockdown measures. The group called for anti-mask comments on a BBC report after it was proposed and later announced that pupils in secondary schools in England and Scotland would be required to wear masks in some communal areas. The post has attracted some 2,000 interactions but appears to have failed to flood the BBC article with anti-mask comments. Elsewhere, accounts with a history of opposing lockdown measures have also spread misinformation about mask mandates for schools in posts with hundreds of engagements. Claims range from baseless assertions that mask-wearing will give children “life long physical, mental and emotional damage” to false assertions that other countries have successfully dealt with the pandemic because they have not introduced mask-wearing in schools. Political accounts with fringe views have also posited that mask-wearing in schools could lead to a second wave of coronavirus cases, quoting without context claims that the evidence for masks among younger people is unclear. These posts, however, have as yet failed to reach large audiences. (source).

 



Covid-19

State Cover-Up: According to a new report, the Department of Health and Social Care (DCHC) has confirmed that the deaths of NHS staff from COVID-19 will be kept a secret. It comes after it was revealed that over 600 health and social care worker deaths are now believed to be linked to COVID-19 – a stark contrast to the 247 deaths that have been reported publicly. Sir Ed Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “We currently have one of the highest number of deaths of health and care workers in Europe. The government has utterly failed to protect staff in both hospitals and care homes. The fact that now they are trying to cover up how and why each tragic death occurs is a disgrace.This is yet more reason for an immediate independent inquiry into the coronavirus crisis.” (READ MORE).

Crazy Moonshot: Operation Moonshot is the name given to the biggest NHS privatisation in history, and civil servants are shaking their heads in disbelief. Amid the mounting scandals of hundreds of millions of taxpayers cash being dished out to government cronies, the government had plans to test everyone in the country for coronavirus every week by October. Yes, every single citizen tested every single week. Civil servants greeted the scheme with widespread incredulity, given the government’s previous record on testing and tracing – which failed even at its most basic function. One senior civil servant described the plan as ‘crazy.’ The plan would have involved the UK’s already overstretched labs multiplying their capacity by 31 times, within six to ten weeks (source). In the same week, it was also announced from the same C19 testing labs that home testing kits had completely run out and the testing backlog was so great they couldn’t manage them anyway even if they hadn’t (source).

Desperate Vaccine: The Trump administration has authorised the fast-tracking of an experimental coronavirus vaccine developed in the U.K. for use in the United States. Many would consider it a dangerous move to use “emergency use authorization” for the vaccine – meaning, it has not been properly tested. Last Saturday, Trump made a baseless accusation that the FDA was standing in the way of drug companies’ efforts to test potential coronavirus vaccines and treatments for political reasons. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said – “The FDA must approve drugs or vaccines based on their safety and effectiveness – NOT political pressure from the White House.” Trump then said on Monday – “This is what I have been looking to do for a long time, I am pleased to make a truly historic breakthrough against the China virus that will save thousands of lives.” The vaccine company based in Oxford then denied it has spoken with the Trump administration (READ MORE).

First Million: Just over 800,000 people have now died worldwide from Coronavirus meaning that by the end of September it will have reached nearly 30 million infections and one million fatalities (source).

The Dark Knight: Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, owner of Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge, Evans, Wallis, Burton and Dorothy Perkins is accused of (potential) breaching employment law by basing redundancy pay on staff’s furlough earnings instead of their full salary. Arcadia is making up to 500 staff redundant after a slowdown in trade during the pandemic. On July 30th – the Government brought in laws to ensure furloughed employees received statutory redundancy pay based on their normal wages, rather than a reduced furlough rate (source).

Death Trap: The families of low-paid frontline NHS and social care workers who die from coronavirus whilst being in the frontline will be stripped of eligibility for welfare benefits if they receive a payout under the government’s Covid-19 compensation scheme. Under the NHS and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme, the £60,000 lump sum breaches capital limits rules for most benefits, meaning that the recipient would unable to claim universal credit, housing benefit or pension credit until it was gone – in order that they then qualified for it. Makes you proud to be British doesn’t it! (source)

 



 

Could it get any worse…

Sex offender: A former Tory Party campaign manager has walked free from court, even though he possessed more than 1,500 indecent images of children, making and distributing indecent images and discussing abusing children with other offenders. Whilst this story appeared in the mainstream media is has not featured prominently, which is odd given that another Tory MP is currently accused of rape – and now on the loose as well (source). In the meantime, Shaun Smith from Wakefield – was sentenced last week to nine months prison for flashing and stealing a pair of trainers (source).

Blackmail: The man behind the plot to blackmail Tesco for £1.4m by contaminating jars of baby food was a Ukip MP candidate and a Grimsby Conservative chairman (source).

Lies: Robert Jennick, the corrupt cash-for-planning-consent Tory proudly spouted off in April – “We’ve helped 90% of rough sleepers off the streets into safe accommodation to protect them from COVID19. Now we’re working with councils and charities to plan the next step.” At the time – we all believed him. Then it was revealed last month that rough sleeping rose during the pandemic (source).

Choose your populist: Which leader does this best describe – one that; cannot be trusted, has no principles, is a liar, doesn’t read, was a brat and failed at school. Whilst these were the words of Donald Trump’s sister Maryanne (source) in her latest book Too Much and Never Enough, they also perfectly describe Boris Johnson (source) (source) (source) (source) (source) (source).

The God delusion: The Church of England is very concerned about climate change. The first sentence on its website reads – “We believe that responding to climate change is an essential part of our responsibility to safeguard God’s creation” (source). This is the reason why it has nearly £20million invested in fossil fuel companies – because one creation they do believe in is dividend payments – irrespective of who’s creation it is (source).

Hand in Glove: The Sun newspaper has a Wednesday exclusive this week – headlined: “OUR WIZARD OF OZ  Ex-Australian PM Tony Abbott to be unveiled as Britain’s new trade deal supremo as Brexit deadline looms” (source). According to The Sun, Abbott was personally chosen by Boris Johnson and he seems to fit the bill like a hand in a glove. In two short years before being ousted as PM, Tony Abbott, a man who loved three-word slogans like ‘Axe The Tax’ – went from conservative hero to the political wilderness. His leadership was littered with scandals, missteps and impropriety such as a war on refugees arriving by boat, an expenses scandal in his cabinet, and was caught spying on allies. In addition, his cabinet were involved in accusations of corruption, attempted to roll back carbon taxes, brought back the Knights and Lords (abolished three decades earlier), attempted to repeal sections of the Racial Discrimination Act, made it harder for Australians to go to university and priced sick people out of getting the healthcare they need. Abbott’s premiership ended in tears amid a catalogue of political misjudgements (source). The incoming Australian PM that replaced him said – “Tony Abbott has not been capable of providing the economic leadership our nation needs. He has not been capable of providing the economic confidence that business needs.” It is clear that Britain has had to scour the world for someone to represent it and could only come up with one of the worlds worst politicians.

The Best and Worst: The top five most sustainable economies in the world in the 2019 Fragile States Index is No1 – Finland, followed by Norway, Switzerland, Denmark and Iceland. The most worsened in 2019 is No1 – Venezuela, Brazil, Nicaragua, Gt Britain and Togo. Britain also appears as No15 in most worsened in the category 2009 -20019 (source).

Bankruptcy or Austerity: At the beginning of the year, before Covid struck, it was evident that many local councils around England were suffering financial problems with some threatening bankruptcy like the 22 local authorities in the Yorkshire and the Humber region who made a joint declaration that they had run out of money and needed a central government bailout (source). Northampton went one step further and declared bankruptcy. When C19 arrived the government were forced to offer bailout cash in early April to councils all over the country. Within a month the money had been spent. By June, more than eight out of 10 English councils were at risk of a technical bankruptcy (source) or forced into making very deep and painful cuts to services.  This month, soaring spending on Covid-19 has compounded the damage from depleted revenue in council tax and business rates meaning the English council shortfall is estimated to be £2billion. The result of that £2bn shortfall is that the IFS now estimates that around 40% of councils would still be technically bankrupt even if they spent all their reserves. The government has refused to provide more cash. However, the government blew £10billion on a failed track and trace system (source). They also blew £1.7bn on dodgy untendered contracts (source) (source) for PPE that never turned up, and is wasting £27billion on a roads project destined to provide little future benefit (source). Let’s not mention the world’s most expensive train set – as HS2 is set to sting the taxpayer for £106billion and the most expensive power plant in the world at £23bn in Hinckley Point. Oh and Brexit – it’s cost in lost GDP to date £170 billion (source). Austerity is a political choice, not an economic model – and despite Boris Johnson’s promises to end it at the last election – he is once again, as everyone keeps saying … lying (source) (source).

EU/US Trade Deal: With no mainstream media coverage at all – the International Trade Dept of the EU has announced (Aug24) – “We have a deal. The EU and the US have agreed on a significant tariff reduction, the first in more than 20 years. The agreement eliminates or reduces tariffs in EU and US exports (source). Why then is Britain being bent over a barrel to sign a deal that includes chlorinated chicken, hormone-injected beef, unmarked GMO laden food and all the other negative effects of a trade deal with America? Perhaps it has something to do with being a smaller economy in a desperate negotiating position. In addition, the EU/US trade deal would have given Britain more access to the US market had it remained an EU member.

 



Fact File

  • Privatisation – Average rail fares have risen two and half times faster than wages, with the average commuter now paying £3,113 for their season ticket – £919 or 42% more than in 2010 (source).
  • Teen anger: 48% of teenagers blamed the Government for the A-Level/GCSE debacle and just 28% said exams regulator Ofqual was responsible. 63% said the Government handled the scandal badly – including 36% who believed it was handled “very badly”. A whopping 55% of the youngsters said the education system benefits the more comfortably-off (source).
  • Personal Debt: UK Finance says outstanding credit card balances fall by 12.6% in the year to May, as worried consumers chose repayment over spending, but that outstanding debt then rose by £1 billion compared to April (source).
  • News: At least 265 local newspaper titles have closed since 2005 (source). At least 2.2m extra people used local news websites in June compared to January (source).

 

Tech File

  • Five incidents of contraband have been located and seized thanks to “game-changing” technology at Lincoln’s prison HMP Lincoln is one of 11 prisons that has been gifted an advanced X-ray body scanner as part of a £100 million package put together by the Government to tackle violence and drugs within jails (source).
  • New hybrid technology is being tested on the Army’s Foxhound and Jackal 2 vehicles following a £3 million investment from the MOD. Offering improved silent mobility, hybrid and electric drive systems will provide sustainability benefits and deliver potential military advantages, reducing noise and increasing stealth capability. Electric systems will also provide game-changing power off-board, while increased power on-board will allow the vehicles to operate the latest technologies (source).
  • The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) has launched an innovation competition to develop new capabilities for police and law enforcement agencies to stop armed or violent offenders with the minimal necessary force from distance. Advancing Less Lethal Weapons seeks proposals for innovative technologies from industry and academia that can temporarily stop a violent or armed subject to prevent the escalation of conflict or destruction of property (source).
  • “Recent field trials allowed a team of three (one tractor driver and the two people feeding the tapes into the machine) to plant 150,000 trees in an hour. This is in stark contrast to the old technology, which was the industry standard for decades, that would allow a team of seven to only plant 60,000 trees in one day” (source).
  • Cancer chemotherapy often means serious hair loss, but many patients may be spared that as the result of a new device that looks a little like a World War II aviator’s cap (source).

 



Quotes of the Week

  • From the very beginning, Democrats, the media, and the World Health Organization got coronavirus wrong but one leader took decisive action to save lives: President Donald Trump.” Video launched at the 2020 Republican National Convention in the US election race for the Whitehouse (source).
  • The Rule Britannia brouhaha is completely made up. No antiracist org has asked for it to be dropped. What’s played at The Proms has never been a major concern of Black Lives Matter. And yet, those facts don’t seem to matter much to those media organisations covering the furore.” Ash Sarker –Contributing Editor Novara media (source).
  • As if there is still anyone in the nation who are compus mentis who actually believed that Boris Johnson would ever do anything the nation could call ‘truth’ especially camping on a slope on a hillside near a cliff edge. The Daily Mail may have some half-witted rejectors of rationality but hopefully, most of the rest will actually accept that they have been duped… Again.” Commentary on the Dorset Eye over Johnson’s fake Scottish holiday (source).
  • Rule Brittania should only be played at the Proms if Nigel Farage gets fired out of a water cannon at the end.” A bloke called Dave on social media (source).
  • “Joe Biden has promised to take that money out of your pocket and keep it in the swamp. Joe Biden is the “Loch Ness Monster” of the “swamp.” Donald Trump’s son on the campaign trail (source).

 



Recommended Weekend Reading

Cummings Will Go: From the hundreds of thousands of words on Dominic Cummings own website, he neither addressed the process of Brexit (that is, how Brexit was to be negotiated, organised and put into practice), or the gains that would flow from it, other than in the most general and propagandistic terms. Cummings, it seemed, wasn’t interested in that. Daniel Wolf at The Article makes the case that – “It may still take a while before the country realises it has fallen into the hands of people who are neither capable nor trustworthy, but it will get there in the end” (READ MORE).

The Syrian Job: Uncovering the Oil Industry’s Radioactive Secret: Cancerous lesions have developed across Keith MacDonald’s body and his son is dead from leukemia. His life has disintegrated, and in his eyes fault lies with the third richest company on earth. It is headquartered in the Netherlands, incorporated in the United Kingdom, and is an entity (thanks to the Parliamentary Pension Fund) that every single British MP has a stake in (READ MORE).

Brexit – The Bottom Line: Best for Britain is a non-profit organisation whose mission is to keep campaigning for the closest possible future relationship with Europe. They commissioned a report, which was put together by the Social Market Foundation to analyse the double whammy effect of the pandemic and Brexit (both with and without a deal) on Britain’s economy as we enter 2021. Here is the bottom line (READ MORE).

US/UK trade deal – Digital Rights: At TruePublica we have taken the stance that doing a trade deal with America, on balance, will be a bad thing for Britain as a country and its overall way of life. America is already Britain’s largest trading partner outside of the EU and provides us with a healthy trade surplus. But once we sign a deal with America everything from agriculture to digital rights will be changed and that change will always be in favour of more freedom – more freedom for corporations – at your expense. I have not read a single convincing article or been in a conversation that makes me think otherwise. Indeed, I struggle to think of anything at all that Britain would benefit from in this scenario – and any additional trade transacted would be at the catastrophic loss of trade with the EU. In addition, once this trade deal is announced, the general public will suddenly wake up and give rise to an entirely new form of political resistance – perhaps even a ‘Boycott American Goods’ campaign (READ MORE)

 



 

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