Weekly News Review 27th Sept to 3rd October

2nd October 2020 / United Kingdom
Weekly News Review 27th Sept to 3rd October

Editors Weekly Poke

There have been some incredible political U-turns in the last few decades. Who could forget George Osborne’s ‘Pastygate,’ Gordon Brown’s 10pence tax debacle and Nick Clegg’s reversal of his manifesto pledge as leader of “student party” to ramp up tuition fees. Perhaps the biggest was in 1970 when the Tories’ general election promises focused on cutting back public expenditure. Once in power, as unemployment rose to more than one million for the first time since 1947 and the country was hit by strike after strike, Heath ended up pouring money into the NHS, education and welfare, which ultimately led to his demise and paved the way for Margaret Thatcher to take over. Fast forward to 2021, and unemployment spikes at somewhere around 3.5 to 4 million for the first time since 1939 as a result of botched CoVid planning, just as Brexit rams home its own reality. Somehow, you look at the facts and wonder how we will get through this.

This week, we are just starting to understand that if ever there was a possibility of a U-turn, it would be now. The latest WhatUKthinks poll that has been tracking Brexit sentiment since the referendum, has put the levels of Brexit ‘regret’ at the highest since the pollster started recording it (source).

As it turns out, with just 12 weeks to go, 50 per cent of the country now thinks Britain was wrong to vote to leave the European Union and 11 per cent don’t know. This leaves just 39 per cent who say the decision was right. This was in fact predicted, not just by me but many others (source). As the ‘boomers’ reduce in numbers over time and Millenials take their slot along with a far more liberal-minded Gen Z adding to their numbers, this was a no-brainer. Perhaps also more significant here, is that this poll only asks those who actually voted in 2016. Statistically speaking, if the referendum was run again now – the result would look at more like 55/45 in favour of remain because more ‘boomers’ have died and been replaced with remain backing GenZ’s. As time rolls by, and the world disorder continues its current trajectory throughout the 2020s, we might all wonder what trickery it was that got a once great nation to shoot itself in the foot and then in the face. Brexit cannot be U-turned, the EU would never allow Britain to rejoin and even if it did, the terms of rejoining would be unacceptable. What will public sentiment be like by the time the spring arrives in our highly polarised country? I suspect, considerably worse than it is now.

All we can do now is hope that the Johnson/Cummings administration doesn’t do so much damage. To get into power, this government has attacked every one of the principles of its own guidance (source) on promoting British values  – the value of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance for those of different faiths and beliefs. Britain is becoming all ‘American’ and it is distressing to witness. The final nail in Britain’s coffin will be rejecting a trade deal with the EU and signing up to a rapacious one with the USA. Britain will then truly become a cowering and servile client state of a country that is itself already descending into its own form of anarchy. America is a corporate oligarchy who fund extreme political lobbying that drives inequality and threatened with civil unrest. If Brexit goes sour because this government proves to be as incompetent of it as they have over its management of CoVid, the potential is there for rising public anger to turn unpleasant just as unemployment, poverty and homelessness grips the headlines along with the fallout that CoVid will cause to public health.

In the meantime, the government has motored ahead with breaking international law on the Internal markets Bill – and to divert attention pushed out the story that Charles Moore (former Spectator and Daily Telegraph editor) and Paul Dacre (that malicious and spiteful Daily Mail editor), two right-wing critics of the UK’s broadcast media are to oversee British broadcasting. Quite obviously, it caused outrage as it would allow the government to reshape the British media in its own image and change the national discourse in its favour. Moore is a racist and a climate denier, Dacre is as unqualified for such a wide-ranging, diverse and complicated role and it’s possible to be – and it’s unlikely either will get these posts anyway. That is only if Johnson/Cummings doesn’t force the issue, which is technically possible. As for the IMB – the EU is about to announce formal action against the UK in the courts.

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Surreal in the extreme are the leaks against Priti Patel and her bizarre plan to send migrants to a remote island 4,000 miles away. Ironically, it was only after conversations with Australia’s Tony Abbott did this emerge. The last British ship to export its unwanted (criminals) to Australia left in January 1868 – 152 years ago. Then stories emerged of the UK spending £6m a pop on disused cruise liners to hold 1,400 illegal migrants, and onto housing them on disused oil platforms in the North Sea, then Moldova, Morocco or Papua New Guinea. The Home Office even discussed having boats with pumps generating waves that would force small boats back into French waters. All this for 400 people a month. Sources say the cabinet office, home office, disgruntled MP’s and hacked off civil servants are slinging mud at each other. At its heart though, these stories come from the acidic culture wars with ministers who think these ideas may be popular with voters. They are losing their minds and it’s clear the Tories have learned nothing from Windrush.

The new crop of Tories, especially so-called ‘red-wall’ MPs are already worried about re-election in four years time. Rumours that were circulating have recently turned into policy proposals. They are urging Johnson to lean harder into the culture wars that got them into power to win the next election. The renaming of institutions and use of micro-aggressions along with other strategies is up for serious consideration as is declaring a “war on wokery” in order to take the fight to Labour leader Keir Starmer. This is what we can expect – more failure, more blame-shifting and more culture wars – leading to yet more division.

 



Inside ‘Drowning’ Street

Comms Change: No10 handed an £840,000 contract to PR firm Public First, run by the co-author of the 2019 Tory manifesto, originally to keep an eye on public sentiment over Brexit – then on CoVid and since on how the government is performing in the eyes of the electorate on all fronts (source). Sources say it has concluded that it should “forget the polls” and “start telling the public some fundamental truths about the need to protect the economy.” Strangely enough – it is looking to tap into a more centrist audience –  “remember who the English are: law-abiding; fair-minded; (nuclear) family-focused; and ultimately liberal.” However, it has not forgotten its own populist values and recommends that No10 comms also focuses on “promoting politicians” and “downgrading scientists.” One last note to irritate the PM – was to “use Rishi Sunak more.”

NEET Trick: The PM stood up on Tuesday to announce radical new plans for higher education, which aims to prepare the country for two things – the technology revolution – and the fact that a million additional people will be unemployed very soon. The idea here is to keep NEETS or ‘adults not in education, employment or training’ off the unemployment figures. This is being cast as part of the “levelling up” and “build back better” agendas with college degrees, lifelong loans and skill boot camps.  It’s also interesting that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson did not make the speech. Two probabilities are that the PM needs some good news to deliver for once and GW’s career isn’t that important to Downing Street anyway.  Another rumour floating around Tory circles is that cash-splashing, crowd-pleasing Chancellor ‘Dishi Rishi’ has been racking up his street cred over the past few months, whilst Johnson’s electoral appeal has been sinking faster than British Airways stock prices – which, by the way – is very fast. Some Tory MPs want Johnson “get his mojo back” amid what is perceived as a growing rivalry as Sunak gains more confidence and fans. Unfortunately for Johnson, his confusing gaff on the same day that ended with the words “I misspoke” over his own Covid restrictions saw that all-important education announcement drowned out.

Rebel Army: It is extraordinary that the government have passed laws on a Sunday evening, given just a few hours notice before they become applicable, are draconian – and then moan about parliamentarians rebelling against them. Laws that ban singing or playing music over 80 decibels (source) was always going to cause a different type of din. Quite rightly civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch condemned the way the changes were introduced, saying: “Yet again, this was imposed without scrutiny from parliament. Where will it end? The government cannot and should not legislate every part of our lives.” Tory MPs have been sharpening their knives with Hancock’s back as the target but have backed down since the PM did a deal to stop an embarrassing rebellion of nearly 60 Tory MP’s.

Slum Dogs: You’ve heard a lot about that Tory rebellion over the Coronavirus Act – well there’s another one. This time councillors are now threatening government plans to accelerate housebuilding in England with 78 per cent believing Johnson’s reforms will make planning a lot less democratic. A survey across Tory heartlands revealed over 60 per cent of party representatives are baulking at ministers’ plans to sharply increase housing targets in electoral strongholds like Hampshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Surrey and are rejecting attempts to cut planning committees out of routine decision-making (source). Like Johnson’s attempt in the Coronavirus Act to give himself unprecedented executive powers, local councillors are rebelling against his anti-democratic agenda. Town and Country Planning Association has said Johnson’s plans were disruptive and rushed, and described as creating the “the next generation of slum housing” (source).

Get A Grip: Johnson will restore weekly Downing Street corona press conferences to try to get a grip of his government’s communications. One source said – “Cabinet colleagues are privately urging Mr Johnson to undertake a total rehaul to simplify the overcomplicated rules that differ from town to town.”

 



Inside Brexit

Broken Down: Britain’s car industry risks losing out even if there is a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU, according to newly leaked documents. This is because car parts from Japan and Turkey used in the UK will not be treated as British (min 45 per cent country of origin), so some exports may see higher tariffs. In a letter, Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator says the UK has failed so far to get the car parts deal it wants, and “obviously cannot insist on it”. Much of UK car manufacturing is below the required threshold to call them British, although the reverse is not the case for the European Union. The problem is particularly acute for electric vehicles where an even larger proportion of the value of the car is contained in the battery. Instead of focusing on this – British negotiators decided to switch to fishing rights and subsidy powers (which they have just backed down on). Car manufacturing is worth nearly £19bn, fishing £1.4bn leading many in the car business to get very angry at how negotiations are going (source).

Something Smells Fishy: Britain has backtracked on the issue of fishing rights in UK waters in a last-minute attempt to salvage Brexit trade talks. The UK offered the EU a three-year transition period for its fishing fleets to leave British seas beginning from 2021. The idea of a phase-out has been discussed before but details of how one would work were not released until recently (source).

Oz and us: The International Trade Dept of the EU has announced it is now in advanced negotiations with Australia on a trade deal. “We’ve just wrapped up round 8 of negotiations towards an ambitious European Union-Australia Trade Agreement. Happy with the good progress. More work lies ahead: The next virtual negotiation round is scheduled for 30 November” (source). The UK government continues to tell people that if it does not end up with an EU trade deal, it will revert to the ‘Australia’ deal, which the Australians don’t want themselves – because being outside of it is not as good as being in it (source).

The Queen’s Big Bet: The private bank to the Queen is moving $350million in a bet that there will be a Brexit deal that defies widespread market scepticism. Coutts & Co. has moved its US stock holdings to an exchange-traded fund that would benefit from a rally in the pound if the U.K. government defies the odds to secure a new trading relationship with the European Union. “Based on game theory, we think there’s a deal to be done between the UK and Europe. Markets will be surprised, and that will result in higher sterling.”

Mood Swings: A survey by Ipsos MORI found that 58% of the public now think Britain will not receive a good Brexit deal, while 63% say ministers have done a bad job overall (source). Round 10 of Brexit talks begin next week with optimism pairing back a little after last week. The Internal markets Bill wasn’t helpful and the EU not really knowing what the UK parliament will eventually agree isn’t either. Boris Johnson laid down his own ‘red-lines’ and said a deal must be done by October 15th, which it won’t be – meaning BJ is bluffing – again. In another survey – just under half of Britons (49%) believe that Britain is a force for good in the world, down 10 points from April 2019. While 41% of Britons say the UK should punch above its weight in world affairs, the proportion who believe Britain should stop pretending it is an important power is up five points from last year to 38%. (source)

Cut-Price Uni: UK universities are offering EU nationals cut-price tuition fees after the Brexit transition period ends, amid fears the numbers of students coming to Britain from the Continent will plummet. The problem: “Lawyers have questioned whether such an offer is legal and whether it could breach discrimination laws” (source).

Bad Deal – Good Friday: In a further dig to No10, the US government continues to emphasize its support of Ireland to thwart any use of the Internal Market Bill that pulls the rug on the Good Friday Agreement, the Irish foreign minister has confirmed once again. Dublin has full US support in opposing UK’s Internal Market Bill. Both Donald Trump and Joe Biden have made no bones about it – the Good Friday Agreement is to be protected or there’s no trade deal with the USA – and that’s final (source).

 



Inside the Economy

Dead Cat: The UK economy’s record contraction in the second quarter has been written up by the media as “less severe than first thought.” Gross domestic product plunged 19.8% between April and June, the Office for National Statistics has said. The ONS also revised first-quarter figures, which now show a steeper contraction of 2.5% between January and March. It previously estimated that GDP fell 2.2% in the first quarter and 20.4% in the following three months, which really means it estimated a fall overall of 22.6 per cent but it was actually 22.3 per cent, which of course, makes enough of a difference to change the headlines (source).

It’s not that bad: The chief economist at the Bank of England has hit out at anxiety over the UK economy, saying that undue pessimism will intensify the damage caused by Covid-19. In a speech just released, Andy Haldane argues that good news on the economy is being crowded-out by fears about the future. These worries are creating excess caution, fear and fatalism, Haldane argues, just at the point where the economy desperately needs optimism – not a ‘Chicken Licken’ panic that the sky is falling down. Haldane went on to say – “We now expect GDP to be around 3-4% below its pre-Covid level by the end of the third quarter. In other words, the economy has already recovered just under 90% of its earlier losses.” (source). Almost all other economists disagree with his sentiment and are predicting widespread job losses and large numbers of business bankrupcies.

Scot FightBack: This piece could be lodged under any of the headings this week. Ian Blackford, Leader of the Scottish National Party in the House of Commons angrily tells Boris Johnson to stop ‘yapping, bumbling, mumbling’ at PMQs and answer the question put in front of him. Blackford, responding to the PM over the Internal Markets Bill (IMB) that has severe consequences for Scotland retorted that – “Yesterday the Scottish social attitudes survey revealed that just 15% of people trust the UK Government to work in Scotland’s interests. Last night Scotland’s MPs voted overwhelmingly against the Tory ‘power grab bill’ but the Prime Minister forced it through anyway, in the biggest attack on our Scottish Parliament in the history of devolution.” The IMB is, of course, Brexit related and was resoundingly rejected in Scotland (in the referendum), and has very serious economic ramifications for our neighbours in the north.

The Last Straw: As from Thursday, October 1st, it is illegal for businesses to supply plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds to customers.

 



Inside the Media

State Secrets: The British army’s secretive 77th Brigade – an “information warfare” initiative in whose ranks serve two former ministers – is helping the government “quash rumours from misinformation, but also counter disinformation” concerning coronavirus. This article asks a vital question – what roles are secretive British army units 77th Brigade and Specialist Group Military Intelligence playing in the UK government’s battle against coronavirus? (READ MORE)

Assange: The mainstream media have remained largely silent on the extradition court case of Julian Assange, which by the day, seemingly acts like a kangaroo court. But then, out of the blue, up pops a celeb journo (who on many occasions you may not agree with) and says something sensible. Peter Hitchins in the Daily Mail writes that the case is clearly politically motivated, which is expressly prohibited by the 2003 Anglo-US Extradition Treaty. “Do we really want the hand of a foreign power to be able to reach into our national territory at will and pluck out anyone it wants to punish? Are we still even an independent country if we allow this? This is a basic violation of our national sovereignty and a major threat to our own press freedom. I think that no English court should accept this demand. And if the courts fail in their duty, then I think that any self-respecting Home Secretary should overrule them. This extradition is a lawless kidnap and Assange faces decades in a modern dungeon such as the notorious ‘Supermax’ prison at Florence, Colorado, more or less buried alive with little hope of ever seeing freedom again” (READ MORE).

Collision Course: New guidelines have been created for reporting on road collisions, following in the footsteps of similar best practice on stories relating to suicide, domestic violence and refugees. The draft guidelines, which have been put out for consultation in the hope of becoming an agreed industry standard, come after years of cyclists feeling frustrated by road deaths being painted as “unavoidable accidents” (source) rather than “the result of very avoidable criminal behaviour”. Although best practice reporting on-road collisions do exist, John Ranson from the NUJ’s ethics council said “too much” of it “has played into and reinforced lazy generalisations”. He added that journalists need to report with more accuracy and humanity (source).

What The: There is some confusion at the Daily Mail as colleagues working on the US section of the website are campaigning and fundraising for … wait for it … Black Lives Matter. In the meantime, The Sun newspaper fumes at people who grass up their neighbours for rule-bending during Covid restrictions but offers a big payday for scandal and gossip by grassing up their friends.

UKIP for Culture: Laurence Fox, the former star of the detective drama Lewis has become better known this year for making controversial comments about racism and inequality than for his acting. Even the Spectator has said Fox is the worst person to represent the ‘shared endeavour’ to end the culture wars – and many simply think he has no chance of being successful (source) due to Britain’s archaic electoral system. Meanwhile, The Daily Mail and The Sun couldn’t agree on whether Fox had raised £1m or £5m and Nigel Farage wants to launch another political party against Fox and the government, both of which would only take votes away from the Tories, so who cares anyway (source).

Content Battle: Almost three-quarters of journalists want national governments to force Google and Facebook to pay publishers for the use of their content, according to a recent poll. The question -“Should Google and Facebook be forced to pay publishers for content?” in late September saw a resounding 71% saying they agreed that governments should intervene to help the industry. Some 29% wanted them to stay out of it completely (source).

 



Covid-19

Parasitical Capitalism: Last week, in a largely unreported decision, Rishi Sunak quietly announced that private equity owned companies would now be eligible for government bailout loans. This decision is a national disgrace and shows exactly what ideology Sunak is operating to. It will only reinforce a system of parasitical capitalism. By their nature Private Equity are opaque, serial tax avoiders, short-sellers, asset-strippers and often based in secretive tax havens. This means that fabulously rich private investors like Blackstone, CVC Capital Partners, Apax Partners, Permira Advisors, and Bridgepoint will have access to taxpayer-funded business support schemes under Covid. The evidence is that the government’s business support schemes have not only been a major support to their friends in business – they have actually made the chances of our economic recovery worse (READ MORE).

Curfew: A letter to Boris Johnson, signed by 100 businesses including JD Wetherspoon and Burger King, has demanded that the 10 p.m. curfew on pubs, bars and restaurants be reviewed every three weeks.

IndyScot: Next May’s crucial elections to the Scottish parliament and Welsh Senedd could face delays as a result of CoVid. Talks are currently underway in both devolved administrations. BBC Wales reports Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems have said they would support moves to delay the election if the coronavirus situation “was extremely serious,” while the Conservatives and Brexit Party are against the idea as deterring voters works in their favour (source). The BBC has seen a report that indicates plans have been put together to allow more flexibility for postal and proxy voters in the event of the election going ahead. Given the serious Independence tilt on this election in Scotland, the electoral commission and other officials are assessing their options. One idea being considered is the entire election being conducted by postal vote. There is ample space for arguments here between Westminister and devolved governments – watch this space (source).

Student Bung: Students at lockdown-hit Manchester Metropolitan University were bunged a couple of weeks worth of rent, a £50 Asda voucher and some free hand sanitizer last weekend. Apparently, this was to make up for the confusion and distress of being effectively imprisoned in their own rooms (source).

Moonshot Matt: Matt Hancock said, “we’re giving up to 11,000 iPads to care homes to enable residents to connect with loved ones and reduce visits.” Leaving aside that ‘up to 11,000’ can mean anything – even if it is 11,000, with 885,000 people in state and private care homes – that’s one iPad per 80 residents.

Kick Start: Ministers have agreed on a last-minute bailout package for the fifth tier of English football to enable their season to start this Saturday. Emergency grants will be offered to clubs in the Vanarama National League to cover essential revenue lost from the lack of fans on the terraces.

 



Could it get any worse…

What Democracy: It was bad enough that the main Brexit campaigns were found to have broken electoral rules and laws and that broadly speaking they all got away with it as the Electoral Commission, the police and National Crime Agency all gave up on political grounds to prosecute any further. Brexit has turned into a country dividing political storm that will have serious negative effects for decades. However, now we find that secretive “outrider” campaigns with no clear agenda were used to pump millions of pounds of political advertising directly into people’s homes during the 2019 election, that saw Boris Johnson move into No10.

Academics studying the election have now found that official adverts placed by political parties constituted just a “fraction” of the total advertising spend on platforms like Facebook and Google. Dozens of groups suddenly appeared with no history, with millions in undeclared cash. One study identified by the academics is the case of “3rd Party Ltd”, which was run by an ex-Vote Leave staff member whose sole role was to split the Labour/Green vote in a marginal seat, which then went on to directly endorse the Conservative candidate. Another case study was the “Fair Tax Campaign”, which only ran adverts between 1 November 2019 and 12 December 2019, spending £63,105 on mostly anti-Labour adverts. The issue here was that the study’s authors say it is not possible to find out who was behind the campaign or who paid for it.

The upshot is this. Like Brexit, we have no idea how much cash really went into this election and we also don’t know who paid for it. We do know it dwarfs official political party advertising budgets and we do know this government has said it’s going to do something – but hasn’t even timetabled it. This is not democracy and the only conclusion you get to is that politics in Britain, like America, is now down to whoever has the deepest pockets (including foreign states), not the best policies in the public interest (source).

Resilience stranded: Three weeks ago, Defence secretary Ben Wallace extolled the virtues of Britain’s aerospace industry ahead of a recent trip to the Middle East. He said that during lockdown “the British aerospace industry has been at the forefront of our resilience.” With that, Wallace happily headed off on his trip to promote British aerospace. However, the industry’s resilience was not quite up to par when he went to board his RAF Voyager for the flight to Oman. It was then declared unfit to fly and a plane earmarked for bringing British troops back from Estonia was diverted to rescue the stranded minister leaving over 100 British troops stranded instead (source).

 



Thought of the Week

Universal Discredit: The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee has published its findings into Universal Credit, which is at best damning of a Tory flagship policy that has completely failed. Entitled – Universal Credit Isn’t Working, it concludes that it “disadvantages women, disabled people and BAME people – is linked to soaring food bank usage with housing providers reporting dramatic increases in rent arrears.” And “many claimants report finding the system incomprehensible … and Universal Credit’s reputation has nosedived” (source). It recommends that substantial reform is required as replacing it would be too disruptive and that it should focus on fixing – “its design, implementation and the adequacy of its awards” as if somehow that doesn’t mean – replace it with something that works. The report also says UC – “fails to meet the basic requirement of a social security system – the provision of a dependable safety net.

The extensive 103-page report goes on to say – “The UK has some of the most punitive sanctions in the world, but there is limited evidence that they have a positive effect“, which “risks pushing them into extreme poverty” with “a great deal of evidence that it will harm claimants mental health.” The reality is that there have been numerous reports, research documents and campaigns that have highlighted these very same problems over the last decade.

Ten years the Tories have had to make this flagship social experiment work – and it has dramatically failed in every aspect. Somehow we are supposed to be convinced that they can fix it or patch it up, which is clearly not the case. This report really says one thing. After a decade, Universal Credit proved to be a policy built around spitefulness with a class-war mentality that has seen more than double die in its care than the governments disastrous handling of Covid-19. If this is the best the Conservative party can do, they have universally failed to even attempt to aim towards its own core values and moral responsibilities. The very first word the party uses in its values summary, agreed upon in its own policy forum is ‘compassion’ (source). This is not the Conservative party. It is a radical right-wing faction who care little for the country or its people and we should not forget the depths of despair hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people have been deliberately plunged into unnecessarily so.

All of this begs the obvious question – if civilised societies don’t fail vulnerable people, what have we become when we look the other way?

 

 



Work Facts

  • There are 1.5 million people working in adult social care in England, in 1.1 million full-time equivalent jobs (similar to the NHS). This includes approximately 840,000 care workers, 87,000 senior care workers and 41,000 registered nurses (source).
  • There are 14.1 million disabled people in the UK. 8% of children are disabled, 19% of working-age adults are disabled, 44% of pension age adults are disabled. More than 4.1 million disabled people are in work. Life costs you £583 more on average a month if you’re disabled. 1 in 3 disabled people feels there’s a lot of disability prejudice. Between the years 2000 and 2017 the feeling that there is a lot of prejudice against disabled people trebled (source).
  • Of the approximately 72,800 sex workers in the UK — 88% are women and more than 50 per cent are mothers working to support families. More than 70% of UK sex workers have previously worked in healthcare, education or the voluntary sector. The average age of entry into prostitution is 19 for outdoor workers and 23 for indoor workers. Decriminalisation of prostitution is supported by prestigious organisations including the Royal College of Nursing and Women Against Rape in the UK and internationally Amnesty International, the World Health Organization, Human Rights Watch, UNAIDS, Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (source).
  • Lobbying in the United Kingdom now plays a significant role in the formation of legislation. The professional lobbying industry has been rapidly growing since the mid-1990s and in 2007 was estimated to be worth £1.9 billion, employing 14,000 people. MPs are approached over 100 times a week by lobbyists (source). There are now very few reports or research papers for what these figures look like today. As for Brexit – the annual spend on lobbying activities as at 2017 was around £2 billion and the number of people working in the industry is about 4,000 (source).
  • Job vacancies in the tech industry in the UK increased by 34 per cent last week compared to the corresponding period in August, according to real-time statistics compiled by Broadbean Technology, a global network of jobs boards (source).
  • Shell is to shed 9,000 jobs by 2022 as it overhauls its operations towards greener energy sources. The cuts equate to around one in ten staff across Shell. Ben van Beurden, Shell’s CEO, announced the cutbacks Wednesday 30 Sept. As well as cutting costs, he argues they will help Shell become a net-zero emissions energy business within 30 years (source).

 

Tech Facts

  • Google and Microsoft staff set to join the UK’s first tech trade union. A group of workers have launched the UK’s first union branch dedicated exclusively to the tech sector to tackle issues ranging from working conditions to racial injustice and the climate crisis (source).
  • Airbnb has paid an additional £1.8m in tax following an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs into its UK tax arrangements. It also said it was cooperating with HMRC to share data on the money made by Airbnb hosts – who are believed to number around 225,000 in the UK alone – in the tax years 2017-18 and 2018-19 (source).
  • The UK embraces hydrogen-fuelled future as a transport hub and trains are announced – The first-ever hydrogen-powered train will run on the UK mainline today (Sept 30) as part of a major project in partnership with the University of Birmingham – signalling a big step forward towards the UK’s net-zero targets (source).
  • Image-based social platform Pinterest has upgraded its shopping experiences and ad monetization opportunities ahead of the all-important holiday season. New ad technology tools for UK Pinners and advertisers will enable highly contextual ad experiences on the platform for the first time, making ‘every Pin shoppable‘ (source).
  • Amazon has announced a new payment system for real-world shops which uses a simple wave of the hand. Its new Amazon One scanner registers an image of the user’s palm, letting them pay by hovering their hand in mid-air “for about a second or so”, it says. The product will be trialled at two of Amazon’s physical stores in Seattle (source).

 

 



Quotes of the Week

Our economy is being trashed; public expenditure – out of control; good businesses – destroyed; thousands of patients – denied life-saving treatment; disabled people – unsupported; our children’s future – mortgaged and damaged; the people’s mental health and welfare – put at risk; this House and the other place remain marginalized and impotent. As Edmund Burke put it in 1780: ‘Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.‘” Former Conservative Cabinet Minister Michael Forsyth in the House of Lords last Monday (source).

Charles Moore and Paul Dacre are not just blinkered rightwing dinosaurs. They’ve spent their working lives in the service of oligarchs. Their appointments would, in effect, subject the BBC to the interests of the Barclay brothers and Lord Rothermere. (source) George Monbiot Guardian columnist.

As long as algorithms’ goals are to keep us engaged they will feed us the poison that plays to our worst instincts and human weaknesses.” Yael Eisentat responds to a recent report that said – “Right-wing populism is always more engaging, a Facebook executive said in a recent interview with Politico when pressed why the pages of conservatives drive such high interactions” (source).

UK car manufacturing sector is worth £18.6 billion to the UK economy. Fishing is worth £1.4 billion. Brexit is like demolishing your house to make the birdbath a stand out feature (source). Otto English – freelance writer on the leaked documents that said no matter what Brexit deal is done – can manufacturing will suffer as negotiations concentrate on fishing rights.

“It never fails to amaze me when I see right-wing people get so passionate and angry at the state of Britain when the people they voted for are in power – and have been in power for over a decade. It’s everyone else’s fault but theirs.” (source) Shamir Sanni – whistleblower over the Cambridge Analytica/Brexit scandal.

 

 



Recommended Weekend Reading

Behind Closed Doors: The ongoing USUK trade talks have been seen by some lobby groups as an opportunity to strip back environmental and food safety regulations to allow them to sell products – pesticides, hormone-fed meat, genetically modified crops (GMOs), and chemicals – that have been previously banned under EU law. The groups represent industries worth billions of dollars and are supported by some of the world’s largest polluters.  They are also backed by think tanks and campaign groups with histories of obstructing climate action and ties to funders of climate science denial and are affiliated with UK organisations closely connected to the UK‘s Department for International Trade. Read more about how these ‘wheels within wheels’ work that could very well affect just about everything in our lives quite soon in this latest report (READ MORE).

Defending the Indefensible: This is a really interesting twitter thread from The Secret Barrister that briskly delves into the world of legal aid. The Sun newspaper runs a story that is designed to rile and clickbait its readers. The case is about a defendant, a murderer on trial who, in the course of using the legal system is called out by the newspaper for costing the taxpayer £165,000. The reader is invited to conclude that the taxpayer has been ripped off by legal aid lawyers but The Secret Barrister turns the tables on The Sun’s owner who spent £60million defending its own crooked journalists, not for murder, but for hacking. This is a quick educational guide as to why you should be suspicious of the gutter press and the reasons why we have a justice system in the first place (READ MORE).

A Plug to Support TruePublica: All the proceeds of this book go to supporting TP. In one paragraph of the introduction to ‘Brexit – A Corporate Coup D’Etat’ it is clear that there was always more going on in the background to lay the concrete for Brexit to become a reality – “Well before David Cameron announced the EU referendum, powerful, often shadowy foreign actors had been lobbying for years to install those who shared their vision of Britain’s future into critical positions of influence. Right-wing free-market fundamentalists agitating for Brexit secured positions in high office and the very corridors of power. Collectively, they established and built authoritative organisations to ensure that Brexit was not a wasted opportunity to push forward the next stage of the global reign of free markets.” £2.99 any device, instant download. READ the full introduction and first two chapters FREE (READ MORE).

Why is the world going to hell? Award-winning journalist Jonathan Cook puts together a long read piece about Netflix’s The Social Dilemma that tells only half the story. “If you find yourself wondering what the hell is going on right now – the “Why is the world turning to shit?” thought – you may find Netflix’s new documentary a good starting point for clarifying your thinking. I say “starting point” because, as we shall see, the film suffers from two major limitations: one in its analysis and the other in its conclusion (READ MORE).

 



 

 

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