Weekly News Review 24th- 30th October

30th October 2020 / United Kingdom
Weekly News Review 24th- 30th October

Editors Weekly Poke

How we must all be yearning for a quiet week – but alas, this is a government where many column inches are required simply to scratch the surface of the fallout of the chaos of daily life they cause.  The school meals row was a screamer, then an acrimonious spat between northern leaders and Downing Street created a political fissure and another emerged between No11 and the Education Secretary. All this and the strong possibility that Trump will be booted out of office meaning Johnson’s Brexit plan goes up in smoke. We can, for the moment leave aside the fact that business leaders are up in arms over deal or no-deal with only eight weeks to go and that farmers are angry enough to start driving tractors in central London in protest over it all. It doesn’t help that the public now overwhelmingly thinks this government is the worst one to manage Covid, Brexit, ‘Global Britain’ or the economy – or that Keir Starmer would do a better job.

As one senior political correspondent for the MSM said whilst quoting a Tory politician just yesterday, we are witnessing the “disintegration in confidence in the government” (source). Danny Dyer is right when he said – “people who went to Eton are unable to run the country” because their track record is abysmal.

If the Tories stick to their ‘world-beating’ plan, it will be sometime in late 2024 when a new government looks to the task of clearing up the mess left by this one. The new administration will be facing a herculean task. By then, transparency, accountability, the rule of law, justice, sovereignty, ethics and compassion would have been, in some measure, dispensed with or seriously damaged. Then there is the economy and the infinite impacts that has on everyone, which will need fixing. This makes the assumption that democracy itself is working in the first place – and even that is in doubt as Britain looks set to slide down the global democracy index in comparison to peer nations … yet again.

As it is, after a decade of Tory ‘leadership’ in Britain, almost all of the markers of an advancing society in the 21st century are in reverse. Out of 40 OECD countries (high-income economies with a high Human Development Index, committed to democracy & the market economy), the United Kingdom sits comfortably inside the top 10 most unequal countries. The UK is now more unequal than even Russia with its numerous oligarchs and almost on par with the USA (source). Out of 153 countries, the UK is ranked: 21st on the gender pay gap, and as for women more widely – 38th on educational attainment, 58th on economic participation and opportunity and 112th on health (source). Press freedom, internet freedom, civil liberties and human rights are all in retreat. Even rape prosecutions have collapsed (source) and life expectancy is now in reverse (source). Going up in the opposite direction is working household poverty, child poverty and homelessness. Of course, the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic says a lot about this government – the worst performance on just about every metric possible anywhere in the world. Quite unbelievably, this government, the same one that crushed coal-mining communities back in the 1980s, is even opening the first coal mine for three decades (source) as it attempts to convince the world of its green credentials. This government is literally setting fire to everything that it once venerated – in its quest for centralised power. 

Benjamin Ward, deputy director of the Europe and Central Asia Division at Human Rights Watch, has said what needed to be said – the Boris Johnson government is quite deliberately – with a high degree of venom – tearing apart the very fabric of Britain’s democracy (source).

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To top all of this, the lies of Brexit are now causing a profound shift of attitude against it. New statistics show that 45 per cent of the public think Brexit will cause a substantial fall the influence of global Britain within 10-15 years – with only 10 per cent thinking the opposite. Nearly 60 per cent think the government is handling Brexit badly, with barely one-third thinking it is doing well. Sixty-five per cent of the public now believe the government has “generally failed” in its negotiating objectives (source). Astonishingly, less than a third (31%) of the public think the Tories are the best party to deal with Brexit in the first place. Nearly 60 per cent of people think it is completely unacceptable to break international laws with the Internal Markets Bill – with only 10 per cent saying it is acceptable to do so. In another survey reported last week, substantially more people now regret voting for Brexit. To put it bluntly – the public no longer supports the biggest political, economic and constitutional shift in 200 years which was built on a raft of lies. The conclusion now is undisputable – that Brexit is and will be – a disaster. There are no upsides and the Conservative party will take the can for it – big time (source).

One final comment, in addition to all of this, as if it wasn’t bad enough, the Resolution Foundation has just published its findings into the jobs market. We could be facing not 3 million unemployed as widely expected or 4 million – but more like closer to 5 million (see below), the effects of which, will be truly terrible if that becomes a reality.

 



Inside Drowning Street

Pursued: The government are now being sued left, right and centre. From the medical profession to grieving families. From lawyers hunting the government over dodgy PPE contracts and just plain old corruption. But now a cross-party group of MPs and peers including a former national security adviser are taking legal action against Boris Johnson himself over his refusal to order an inquiry into Russian interference in UK elections (source).

More Please Sir: There is an ‘acrimonious spat’ between Rishi Sunak and Gavin Williamson over briefings to the media accusing Sunak of blocking money for free school meals. In addition, two Cabinet ministers have (anonymously) spouted off about Downing Street’s handling of the free school meals row, after it emerged that a £63 million grant for vulnerable families earmarked for free meals had already been spent. One Cabinet minister says it is a “sh*tshow.” Another says it had been “pretty badly managed” (source).

Johnson’s Own Constituents Disagree: The Tory council in Boris Johnson’s own constituency joined the campaign to give free school meals. Hillingdon Council said it would feed eligible children for free after the PM’s party voted overwhelmingly against extending the voucher scheme (source). An anonymous Tory MP said it was a “political disaster” and he had “never known so many Conservative MPs and council leaders so angry.”

Hypocrisy Reigns: The government is attacking local democracy by forcing new planning rules upon them in the biggest shakeup since 1947. “Build, build, build” says the government — but not in Michael Gove’s back yard. Michael Gove has sided with residents against a developer that plans to build fewer than 50 homes, nearly half of them affordable in his village. Gove, the minister for the Cabinet Office and MP for Surrey Heath, took time off last Tuesday to attend a government planning inquiry in a “personal capacity” (source).

Praying for Trump: The Boris Johnson government are praying for a Trump win for two reasons. The first means Johnson can dump the EU trade deal and go all ‘global Britain’ with the USA. The second is that – “There is an intrinsic problem for Boris,” observes Sir Christopher Meyer, the UK’s ambassador in Washington during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W Bush. “The Democrats think Boris is a pea from the same pod as Trump and being “Britain’s Trump” goes down almost as poisonously as being Trump himself among many in Team Biden” – who won’t be supportive of Brexit (source).

Biden Prays: One of the most essential things to know about Mr Biden – it would be on the first page if anyone wrote a book called Biden for Beginners – is that he is a Catholic who is extremely proud of his Irish ancestry. Boris Johnson was either blithe or ignorant about that when he declared that he was ready to break international law by dishonouring clauses concerning Ireland in the withdrawal agreement with the EU (source).

Four corners: Boris Johnson is now under heavy pressure from his scientific advisers to implement stricter England-wide coronavirus measures by Christmas, as new modelling from the government’s SAGE advisory body suggests the second wave of the pandemic will result in more deaths than the first. He is also under heavy pressure from northern Tory MP to give them a roadmap out of restrictions – and under heavy pressure by an ever-growing right-wing faction demanding restrictions are withdrawn – whilst a resurgent Labour party demands the opposite.

 



Inside Brexit

Watch This: As the week’s roll by there’s a growing realisation of what Brexit really is. And if you want an expert explanation put into reasonably easy to understand words then watch this clip. This is a chilling explanation of what Brexit will do to the UK economy after December.  Adam Posen is the President of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, the No1 rated think tank in the world in international economics. Posen has been an advisor to various central banks, the IMF and the British government. Advice – get a stiff drink and brace yourself …(WATCH Twitter CLIP).

Biden’s Europe: In a blow to the Brexiteers plan to be truly ‘global’ – Britain is no longer Europe’s “centre of gravity” in the eyes of America — and particularly if Joe Biden is elected president next month — according to former senior diplomat and cross-bench peer Peter Ricketts. After 40 years defending Britain’s interests in the world, Ricketts offered a sobering interpretation of the impact Brexit is having on the U.K.’s international standing. “When Biden looks towards Europe, he will see Paris and Berlin more as the centre of gravity of what’s really important for America in Europe, both economically and in security terms, and Britain will be seen rather as an outlier, rather outside the mainstream of Europe,” he said (source).

More Contracts: Management consultants at Deloitte and McKinsey, among others, have landed contracts worth £180 million to carry out “strategic programme management” related to the end of the Brexit transition period. Government documents show six identical contracts, each worth £30 million. For their cash, these firms are expected to “support the successful delivery of the UK’s economic and political independence” the contracts read. “Including relationships with the EU and the rest of the world” (source).

Lorry Parks: Just as a dozen more massive lorry parks emerge all over the country it appears the government are using their own special powers to get around planning regulations and as local newspapers are reporting – none of the normal environmental impact studies that should be prepared for such a site had been made available for scrutiny. These huge ‘truck stop’ areas have little in the way of facilities for such things as drainage, electrical supplies, toilets and so on. The real cost of these facilities is unknown.

Farming: Whilst the 80 seat majority government have been given the mandate to get Brexit done – the public are very strongly concerned about what deal will be struck – and are especially against any deal with America when it comes to food and agriculture. A recent study showed 95 per cent of the public want the UK to maintain food standards, 92 per cent want to maintain animal welfare standards, 86 per cent fear low quality and currently banned food products that would come with a US trade deal. 68 per cent even want new laws to fully protect the animal welfare standards we already have (source).

The Russians Again: Even The Telegraph acknowledges that “an army of Russian trolls sent messages across social media with the hashtag #ReasonsToLeaveEU on the day of Britain’s referendum on membership of the EU.” The article was based on new data released by Twitter. Twitter graciously released its data – not before or during campaigning, but four and half years after the event when it didn’t matter.

 



Inside the Economy

Purchasing Managers say: Britain’s economy bounced back strongly over the summer but fears are mounting that the recovery is running out of steam. However, a report by IHS Markit showed the economy has lost momentum. Its purchasing managers’ index (PMI) – a key gauge of the private sector where scores above 50 show growth – fell from 56.5 in September to a four-month low of 52.9 this month. Paul Dales, chief UK economist at Capital Economics, said Britain was now at risk of a double-dip recession. (source).

The Institute of Fiscal Studies says: All indications point to only a thin trade deal (if any) with the European Union after the Brexit transition period ends in December. Despite over four years passing since the referendum, many of the associated economic costs still likely lie ahead. The shock from Brexit will affect different sectors from the COVID shock, meaning that Brexit is likely to cause additional economic pain even as the economy recovers from the virus-driven downturn. (READ MORE).

Investment Managers Say: The economy facing “capital destruction” event as furlough ends. As the scheme is wound up, many businesses will not be able to return to trade as normal. Mark Swain, co-manager of the Smith & Williamson Enterprise Fund, said – “Markets have held up relatively well in the face of coronavirus, including in the UK, but capital destruction is coming now. We are at the tipping point as the furlough scheme comes to an end, and unfortunately, coronavirus is going to create ‘survivor’ companies and remove a lot of weaker ones” (source).

The CBI Says: Britain’s retail recovery, a bright spot in the COVID-hit economy, came to a halt this month after several months of improvement, an industry survey showed on Tuesday. The Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) monthly gauge of retail sales fell to -23 in October, its lowest level since June, after hitting an 18-month high of +11 in September. “The fall in retail sales in October is a warning sign of a further loss of momentum in the economy as coronavirus cases pick up and restrictions are tightened across many parts of the country,” CBI economist Ben Jones said (source).

Everyone else says: The next set of Covid restrictions will cause another 5 per cent drop on overall GDP and set the country back an entire year. “The placement of tighter restrictions across broad swathes of the country would strengthen our conviction that GDP will stagnate over the next few months. A two-week national lockdown at some point could reduce the level of GDP by 5% and set back the economic recovery by a year”, says Paul Dales, UK Economist at Capital Economics (source).

 



Covid-19

Serco Scam: A recently leaked document reveals that school leavers and students are, after just a few days work on the Serco trace and track contact App – being ‘upgrades’ into work that is the equivalent of level 2 clinical contact caseworkers. These professionally qualified clinicians need to have – “demonstrable equivalent experience or qualifications”; experience in “a field related to public health or health and social care services as a practitioner” and “registration with the relevant professional body.” Why – because as school leavers and students they are being paid the minimum wage (source).

The Herd Plan: The Guardian newspaper published (22/10) a story involving ‘Exercise Cygnus’ which it said vital documents were leaked to it (source). The article said that the UK was not prepared for a pandemic and warned of a crisis in care homes. On March 20th TruePublica accessed these files online which were entitled – “Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response.” We published them and predicted a rapid rise in the C19 death toll. At the time, we wrote – “The government devised an atrocious plan of not tracing, tracking and isolating the infected to flatten the curve – but to simply to control the infections and ensure everyone got it for what they termed ‘herd-immunity’ and leave everyone to cope, including the NHS.” Has anything changed from that plan? (READ MORE from 20th March TP article).

Rebellion: Boris Johnson faced something of an open rebellion from his northern contingent of Conservative backbenchers starting Tuesday morning, after 55 Tory MPs in so-called ‘blue wall’ constituencies signed a letter warning him their seats risk being “left behind” by the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. In a rather threatening posture – they are calling themselves the “Northern Research Group” (NRG) in what can only be described as an unsubtle attempt to make themselves as fearsome as the European Research Group of extreme Brexiteers that got Theresa May sacked. This is actually a serious threat to Boris Johnson’s authority because 40 rebel MP’s would mean Johnson’s majority has gone – but the NRG has 55 members (source).

They Knew: Ministers struck a deal worth up to £119m with one of the world’s biggest marketing companies for a Covid campaign three weeks before the country went into its first national lockdown, official filings show (source). This means government officials had accepted the reality of the crisis but did nothing anyway.

Antisocial Type: According to a recent study, those people who actively resist wearing face masks in the current pandemic have an antisocial profile linked to higher scores related to “callousness, deceitfulness, hostility, impulsivity, irresponsibility, manipulativeness, and risk-taking” which are typical of Antisocial Personality Disorder (source). Many conspiracy theorists have jumped on the bandwagon shouting loudly that this report only goes to show that the new world order is coming for us all and we should resist wearing masks!

Death Toll: The number of people killed by the coronavirus in the UK is now comfortably on its way to taking 65,000 victims by mid-November as the country hits a 200-a-day rolling 7-day average weeks earlier than feared by the government’s chief scientific adviser. 8 million people have been placed under the strictest tier 3 measures, with millions more in tier 2 (source). Taking the average death toll to date – and being conservative with the numbers, the death toll is likely to reach 100,000 by April/May. The Telegraph reported that “Health officials expect the death toll to reach 500 a day within weeks.” This is the same paper that published more than a few comment pieces accusing Vallance of previously pushing “Project Fear” (source).

 



Could it Get Any Worse…

The 5 Million: The Resolution Foundation has a new report out this morning on the jobs market and the real impact of furlough. As they note, unemployment is now increasing really quickly. The poorest and most deprived are set to be hit the hardest and pay is rapidly falling. The self-employed are also to be hit really hard and 10 per cent are already completely inactive. About 40 per cent who have lost jobs have found new employment – 60 per cent have not – and another 25 per cent expect to lose their jobs soon. The result? A minimum of 4 million unemployed but worse, all the signals are there for it being closer to 5 million unemployed (READ MORE).

HS2 – World’s Most Expensive: British taxpayers will be delighted to know that Britain’s new high-speed rail line will be the most expensive railway in the world with costs per mile expected to reach £403m, according to Government calculations. It will be an eye-watering 15 times more than the cost per mile of the TGV in France. The project is now reassuringly expected to cost well over £100bn. It is therefore, hardly surprising that former transport minister John Spellar said the controversial project was an “ever-deepening bottomless pit”. Originally, Phillip Hammond, the former Tory chancellor (a bit like UK plc’s accountant), said HS2 will cost the taxpayer £32bn, which only goes to show how ‘Graylingly’ competent he was in the first place (source).

Clever Little Virus: City dealmakers, hedge fund managers, bankers and executives flying into the UK are set to be exempt from the current 14-day quarantine period in a bid to “promote global Britain”, according to reports published in the media. This is because a microscopic virus with no ability to think or reason, to choose or discriminate – has decided after a global conference call with itself – that bankers and hedge-fund managers will not be targeted by it. The virus very cleverly also thought to communicate this to SAGE and then give the good news to government officials just before Covid restrictions were imposed on half the population of the country (source).

Nepotism Plus: Want a top job but overwhelmingly unqualified for it? No problem. As long as you were Rishi Sunak’s boss at a bank or an advisor to Boris Johnson a few years ago – but most importantly you’ve given a few hundred thousand in donations – you could become the chair of the BBC (source).

Cameron Again: Attempting to whitewash his reputation (as worst PM in the history of Britain ever) – David Cameron is set to endorse an initiative this week aimed at ending the “chronic under-representation” of Black people across major British industries, which is surprising given the very public view that he is racist himself (source), (source), (source). This view possibly emanated from the fact that he carpet-bombed a country of black people and turned the wealthiest country in Africa into a slave market (source).

 



Thought of the Week

The government has quietly reduced the £35,800 minimum salary for migrants to settle in the UK by almost 30%. Not only that, but migrants will now be able to formally settle in the UK after six years of employment. This is just another example of the lies this government perpetrated to get Brexit over the line and then U-turned on when the reality of it all was staring at the economy. The government (inaudibly) acknowledged the essential contribution that lower-paid migrant workers make to the UK. The £35,800 salary threshold was introduced in 2011 by Theresa May and she was unceremoniously thrown out of office because her Brexit deal with the EU was too ‘soft.’ This means, the entire migration argument put up by UKIP, the ERG, the mouthpieces of Brexit such as Johnson, Rees-Mogg, Baker, Davis and so on – was all nonsense, because not one of them has publicly objected to this U-turn.

Even Rob McNeill of Migration Observatory told the Daily Telegraph (source): “They are acknowledging that the bluntest of all the instruments the government used to get to that target of tens of thousands has been kicked into touch. It is the final nail in the coffin of the net migration target“.

Boris Johnson guaranteed that migration would dramatically fall under his plans after the UK left the EU as he sought to appeal to undecided Eurosceptic voters in Labour marginals i.e. the ‘Red Wall.’ In addition, Migration Watch UK, which campaigns for tighter immigration control, said the move would reduce the incentive for employers to train British workers, which is one of the biggest reasons for Brexit and the election of ‘Red Wall’ MP’s getting into power in the first place.

The Tory Brexiteers lied. The constituents of the ‘Red Wall’ MP’s were lied to. What next when the true realities of Brexit hits home the hardest – in the North?



Quotes of the Week

“Never again should 29% of an electorate be allowed to put an 80 seat majority into a constitutionally unconstrained Parliament so that a gang of plunderers can drive our country over a cliff. Electoral reform is essential” (source) – A.C. Grayling – philosopher.

“In my maiden speech, I said a government that abandons refugee children abroad will just as quickly abandon working-class kids in Britain. Last week the Tories voted down safe routes to reunite child refugees with families & extending free school meals. Power without compassion.” Zarah Sultana, Labour MP for Coventry (source).

“The poor and middle-class are paying taxes, the rich are paying accountants, and the wealthy are paying politicians”. Mohamad Safa, Diplomat and Permanent Representative to the United Nations (source).

“If you’re angry about kids going hungry, you should also be angry about the conditions that led to that outcome: the closure of Sure Start centres, the ending of neighbourhood renewal programmes, huge cuts to local authority funding etc. The problem is chronic not just acute.” Kieth Burge -Director, Institute of Economic Development (source).

 



Recommended Weekend Reading

 

How British society dealt with the 1918 flu. Although the ‘Spanish Flu’ killed almost a quarter of million Britons – many young – it went uncommemorated. Martin Bayly, Assistant Professor in International Relations at the London School of Economics explains how British society attempted to deal with the pandemic (READ MORE).

Exposed – Special procurement channels for ‘VIPs’ and Cabinet contacts. This is the type of thing you expect to be reading about a state on the other side of the world run by a despot – sadly, it is right here in Britain. Leaked documents seen by Good Law Project set out special pathways by which “VIP” and “Cabinet Office” contacts are awarded lucrative PPE contracts at the height of the pandemic – and at massively inflated prices (READ MORE).

The government’s secretive Covid contracts are heaping misery on Britain: We don’t normally recommend mainstream media work in this section but this blistering piece by Guardian columnist George Monbiot is well worth the read. “The Conservative mantra, repeated for 40 years like a stuck record, is that the public sector is wasteful and inefficient while the private sector is lean and competitive. Yet the waste and inefficiency caused by privatising essential public health functions is off the scale. This isn’t like rail or water privatisation, where failure has caused dysfunction within a single public service. This is about the escalating collapse of national life” (READ MORE).

The cost of Brexit is likely to be more than double that of COVID – it must be delayed: Whether we face Hard Brexit or No Deal, the long-run costs to the economy are likely to be more than twice that of COVID-19 – at least £2,000 per person. John Van Reenen is Ronald Coase School Professor and was awarded an OBE for his contributions to “economics and public policy. He advocates delaying the exit from to EU to avoid the impending decades-long damage to the economy and society (READ MORE).

Dark Days Descend: As we head towards the Christmas break – the one hope the country does have is that soon it wakes up from its political stupor and holds these people to account for what they have done. Unfortunately, as the TruePublica editor points out – it is more likely that they will get away with it of course, just like the bankers did – something else we are all still paying for twelve years later (READ MORE).

 

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