Weekly News Review 6th – 12th September

12th September 2020 / United Kingdom
Weekly News Review 6th - 12th September

Editors Weekly Poke

The Times reported on Monday that – “Boris Johnson has set a five-week deadline to reach a post-Brexit agreement with the EU, saying that a no-deal would be a “good outcome” for Britain” – and in true Trumpian style said Britain will “prosper mightily.” And with this week’s explosive news from the FT that Johnson is to renege on the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) – let us also not forget that Britain is now being seen as contemptuous of the international community – where trust has been sacrificed to save Johnson’s failing Brexit strategy. This is proof that the electorate were lied to by Johnson – who were told quite emphatically that the deal he had personally brokered was ‘oven-ready’. The FT’s incendiary piece was game-changing in so many ways. The article said – “The move would “clearly and consciously” undermine the agreement on Northern Ireland that Boris Johnson signed last October to avoid a return to a hard border in the region” (source). The FT has made this separate article free to read – “UK bid to circumvent Brexit deal risks far-reaching consequences” (READ MORE). This government has done significant damage to Britain on the world stage. Jim Pickard, Chief Political Correspondent at the Financial Times also points out that this change of strategy is nothing less than “weapons-grade revisionism’ – or to put it another way – it amounts to monumental lying. Whilst I doubt Tory benchers will oppose this in enough numbers to stop the Internal Market Bill, the Lords have every right to challenge the government over it – and may well do so to compel Johnson to honour the promise to the electorate and the EU. They will do so though with dramatic constitutional consequences. 

Let us also not forget that in little more than nine months, Boris Johnson’s administration has angered the EU27 who are threatening legal action, angered China over 5G, angered the USA over the Good Friday Agreement and angered Scotland, Wales and Ireland/Northern Ireland enough as to seriously threaten the Union.. I might add that this strategy has Dominic Cummings signature all over it. Creating chaos and attempting to shape the result is his thing and there is no doubt that this latest tactic that Johnson has slavishly followed shows just how desperate the situation is. It now appears that illegally proroguing parliament was just the starters of a few courses to come. The world sees that Britain is now actively subverting the rule of law at home and abroad. Trade negotiators’ will be thinking twice about what they are signing their own countries up to in the midst of this crisis. Is Britain really to join the ranks of Putin’s Russia, Xi Jinping’s China and Trump’s America? Global Britain’ has never looked more isolated or foolish.

In the meantime, Boris Johnson simply cannot afford a no-deal Brexit alongside other losses that include his shameful handling of Covid, an oncoming second wave, an inevitable car-crash ‘Moonshot’ and an economy spiralling out of control. Business leaders are now frantically lobbying MP’s as the double blow of Covid and a no-deal Brexit would be disastrous. ‘Red Wall’ Tory MP’s who represent the former Labour heartland in the North and Midlands sit nervously as they read repeated reports stating their constituents would be hit hardest by no-deal. For many Tories, a question needs answering; whatever happened to Margaret Thatcher’s guiding principle that “the first duty of government is to uphold the law”?

Many political commentators are now asking is Britain becoming a rogue state (read more). All this is just a demonstration of Britain’s continuing weakness rather than its strength. And you know how bad things have become when Theresa May then becomes the de-facto leader of the opposition. Keir Starmer can dodge being dragged into the culture war simply by being silent and watching the Conservative party sink to new depths.

To sum up this week, one only has to look at the school Boris Johnson visited on August 26th to explain how safe schools were and not to be frightened of Covid-19, only for it to be closed on the 7th September due to an outbreak of Covid-19. It’s a real-time metaphor for miscalculation, failure and government by nothing more than a bunch of chancers who are literally making it up as they go. And we are supposed to be putting our trust and faith in these people for the biggest multiple crises this country has faced since the outbreak of the last war.

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Inside ‘Drowning Street’

Ear to the Ground: Our editor says the result of the (Withdrawal Agreement) leak to the FT has resulted in Whitehall not looking at themselves inwardly and questioning their strategy but to instead open an inquiry into where the leak emanated – hunt down the guilty and make them pay for it to keep control. In addition, Tory backbenchers are becoming more and more agitated by the machinations of their government over Brexit. There have been too many failures but this latest leak is a step too far for many. Many less hard-right Tories are also genuinely worried about the prospect of a rapidly fractured Union, which may well be confirmed in May. No British government or politician has ever pushed the Union to a cliff-edge and many Tories don’t want to be branded as the party that destroyed it. As one senior backbencher said – “You can’t talk about patriotism and then threaten the break-up of the UK.” There is now a clear divide appearing within Tory ranks so expect to read headlines about ‘Tory Civil Wars’ and so on.

Dead Parrot Parliament: There’s an interesting blog piece by right-wing and controversial Christian conservative Peter Hitchins who writes – “We have ceased to be a Parliamentary Democracy and are being ruled by decree. Ask your MPs now, why they are still being paid if they will not do their jobs. The basis of what Hitchins says is right even though some of the detail is up for further debate. You’re either in the anti-mask, anti-vax camp or not (which Hitchins is) – but still, Hitchins is right when he says – “There was no military putsch. Nobody passed an Enabling Act allowing rule by decree. But the House of Lords and the House of Commons are now the Dead Parrot Parliament. They are dead because they do nothing to hold the Government to account. They are parrots because, when asked, they obediently confirm decrees Downing Street put into effect (source). This brings us to the huge power shift that Covid has enabled where laws are being enacted without debate, scrutiny of royal assent.

One rule for them: The 1922 Committee is the parliamentary group of the Conservative Party in the UK House of Commons. In normal times, it meets weekly while parliament is in session and provides a way for backbenchers to co-ordinate and discuss their views and actions. It is generally closely related to the leadership and under the control of party whips. The 1922 Committee has questioned Boris Johnson over his decision making and constant U-turns over the Covid crisis that is damaging the Tory party reputation, especially when Dominic Cummings was caught galavanting between London and Durham, apparently to test his eye-sight. Why then did the committee meet in breach of social distancing regulations itself?  Calls have now been made by Wera Hobhouse, LibDem shadow leader of the House for a full investigation (source).

Triple Whammy: The critical issue of the week facing the government is how to get people back to the office since the economy depends a lot on plenty of unnecessary movement. The government’s furlough scheme comes to an end quite soon and no doubt, quite soon we’ll see what U-turns are coming from No 11 Downing Street. The suspicion is that they will end up extending support to some but not all industries. The big problem facing Downing Street is a resurgence of Covid-19 but this time entering the winter flu season (as opposed to entering the spring season), the economic damage being inflicted by C-19 (or perceived handling of it) – coupled with Brexit.

Operation Moonshot: The announcement by Matt Hancock and then Boris Johnson that the entire population of the country will be tested monthly multiple times (with some reports at 10 million per day by the end of January) for C19 worries many Tories (source). It has all the hallmarks of failure written across it and they know this is another car-crash moment in the making. Then there is the inherent risk of corruption. Johnson who increasingly seems to be blinded by Silicon Valley and its supposed God-like abilities to solve everything, constantly falls into their traps, which we all have to pay for. Check out part of the secret briefing pack (HERE). It’s £100 billion of tech-driven consultancy claptrap and a suite of totally untested technologies – that Grant Shapps actually admitted himself. Not a word on how to manage those who are tested positive.

 



Inside Brexit

Poker stakes: For all of the noise coming from Downing Street over the FT’s article over the Withdrawal Agreement – don’t forget that Boris Johnson is a poor poker player. The question is – is Johnson serious over walking away if he doesn’t get what he wants? On October 7th last year No10 sent a bombshell text message to the Spectator Magazine claiming the talks were about to end for good as they’d had enough of intransigence from the EU (source). “They think we’re bluffing and there’s nothing we can do about that… We’ll either leave with no deal on 31 October… we will wash our hands of it, we won’t engage in further talks … everything to do with ‘duty of sincere cooperation’ will be in the toilet.” Three days later, a deal was reached. That deal was Theresa May’s deal with some changes that ended with the Northern Ireland Protocol and lots of fanfare that Johnson has saved the day. The financial markets don’t believe Johnson this time, nor does the EU and now, nor do many of his own party.

Follow the Money: Bloomberg writes an interesting article about Brexit by pointing out that international currency traders no longer believe Boris Johnson’s government. “Yet Johnson is setting Oct. 15 as a deadline to reach a deal, while also apparently promising to rip up the last one. This is crazy, as my colleague Therese Raphael puts it, not to say breathtakingly reckless, and downright stupid.” Bloomberg quotes traders as saying – “traders appear to have decided that Boris Johnson’s threats don’t need to be taken seriously” – the consequence is that Sterling remained stable (when it should have quickly weakened) because they are now backing against what Johnson is saying. They stand to make significant losses if Johnson does take Britain over the cliff (source).

Cliff-Edge: There is ‘plummeting trust in Boris Johnson” as EU diplomatic cables leaked to the Guardian’s Daniel Boffey: “Johnson is suspected of holding back on finding a compromise on the key outstanding issues of fisheries, state aid and dispute resolution until the last moment in order to achieve a last-minute trade-off.” Apparently, the European Commission “fears Downing Street is behind a barrage of anti-EU articles in the British press, citing reports accusing Brussels of intransigence directly ahead of the last round of talks” (source).

Can the WTO be saved: Brexiteers keep banging on about how great Britain will be outside of the EU. Boris Johnson has this week declared Britain will ‘prosper mightily’ without a deal. All of them cite the fact that the UK can simply trade on WTO rules. But there’s a problem. As the World Trade Organization selects a new director-general this month, the Geneva-based group will be faced with two acute challenges: There is not a great deal of support for trade outside of trade deals, and there is even less support for the WTO itself. There are many reasons for this, not least – “For its part, the WTO is faulted for its inability to complete a trade round. To put it politely, the WTO is not designed for success.” The WTO is really a place where decades ago, countries needed to reach common ground over trade. Today, they do that through global trade deals not via the WTO (READ MORE).

Truth Hurts: Billionaires Sir James Dyson and Sir James Ratcliffe, the latter of chemical giant Ineos, are two of Britain’s big business Brexiteers, where both made grand plans in the motoring space to return the UK to its former glory in the year following Brexit. However, with news that Ineos is moving its reported Grenadier 4×4 project to France, and Dyson having pulled the plug on his own electric vehicle dreams last October, the reality of Brexit (and the complexities of trade) are proving that even for billionaires, it is risky to stay in the UK. This is because, as they now say themselves any competitive advantage from the U.K.’s decision to leave the EU is heavily diminished. Both Dyson and Ratcliffe were vocal in supporting Brexit – but when the reality of it became clearer – they jumped ship as both have now abandoned plans to build in Britain (READ MORE).

The Withdrawal Method: The swivel-eyed fanatics of the ERG are gearing up for yet another fight with Boris Johnson. This time they are pressurising the PM to fully and selectively renege on any Withdrawal Agreement clauses if they don’t get the deal they want and that Britain should abandon the WA in its entirety on the basis that it has the mandate to do so. Sir Bernard Jenkin, chair of the ERG steering group officially stated that “I hope it is not necessary, but if it is the only way to achieve UK prosperity and the kind of sovereign independence which is the democratic right of any nation recognised under the UN charter, then so be it.” The ERG should be mindful that a majority in government does not give them an automatic mandate if electors were duped. What the electorate voted for was to end the Brexit nightmare and get it done – with a deal that was promoted by Boris Johnson and fully supported by the ERG (source). In addition, the ERG are effectively promoting Scotland’s position over independence.

 



Inside the Economy

Wealth and Poverty: Britain’s billionaires have seen their fortunes soar since the Covid-19 lockdown, despite the economy entering a deep recession. This might be bad enough as things go – but it gets much worse now that the Treasury is reportedly scrapping plans for a minimum wage rise next year. Shockingly, the value of fortunes for 53 of the UK’s billionaires leapt by 14.3% (£26.3 billion) to approximately £211 billion over the past six months, data from Forbes shows. In addition, since the lockdown began the FTSE 100 index of the UK’s largest firms has risen more than 17.2% (source). Forbes suggests none of the British billionaires in its list saw their fortunes drop as a result of the coronavirus. How’s that for a promise by Boris Johnson to level up the country just as unemployment is about to soar to levels not seen since Thatcher came to power.

Wealth Warning: In the September edition of HSBC’s personal wealth insights report, there was an ominous warning about the world economy with one country in particular named. “We are already witnessing the emergence of relative winners, such as China and industrialised Asia and losers such as emerging markets ex Asia, smaller oil exporters, frontier economies, and the UK.” 

Coffee Economy: The government has warned that home working is damaging the economy as fears grow for city-centre businesses (source). This is the warning from Dominic Raab who somehow forgets it was Thatcherism that forced manufacturing to be replaced with ‘services’ – an economy which heavily depends on people buying things like coffee and bagels whilst commuting to work rather than focusing its efforts on science, engineering, manufacturing and cutting edge technology. The result of a new shift to home working is that commercial property owners are soon to take a hit as September rents due for the last quarter of the year fail to materialise. It will be some months before the banks report huge defaults (source).

Jobs: In the week to 4 September, total online job adverts fell from 55 per cent to 50 per cent of their 2019 average, according to the Office for National Statistics’s (ONS) analysis of postings on job website Adzuna. The fall in job adverts suggests that the labour market is worsening. It comes as firms lay off workers at a rapid pace: around 125,000 jobs have been lost in retail this year alone. At the same time, the fall in remote working meant 49 per cent of people were back at their normal place of work. It is still not yet clear the extent to which people coming off furlough have returned to work or been laid off (source).

Jobs cull as firms digitise and furlough ends: Aberdeen Standard’s smaller companies investment team believe the UK faces an imminent jobs crisis when the furlough scheme ends next month. The government’s insistence that the already extended employee support mechanism must end on 31 October will expose many workers to redundancy, say the fund managers. On top of that, the efficiency gains many businesses have made accelerating the ‘digitisation’ of their operations during the Covid-19 pandemic has shored up a further wave of job cuts. This is a factor that Abby Glennie, deputy head of the team, and fund manager Amanda Yeaman say remains overlooked, although it will bring benefits to investors (source).

Real Cost: The ‘good outcome’ from a no-deal Brexit that Johnson referred to this week has been calculated to take a minimum of three decades to achieve. Brexit fanatic Jacob Rees-Mogg famously admitted it might take 50 years, and was willing to sacrifice two generations in order to recover from Brexit (source). This is the amount of time it will take to simply catch up on lost trade and its equivalent losses of national GDP. Already, Britain’s GDP fall that is directly related to Brexit (and nothing to do with C-19) equates to about £200billion from June 2016 to the end of this year (READ MORE). From there, the government has graciously accepted on our behalf, a fall of £120billion every year for at least the first fifteen years. Basically, the economy will feel about the same as when the banks blew it up in 2008 for the following decade (without the additional effects of Covid) – and all that assumes a deal was done with the EU. Yes, the economy will grow but it will do so from a much lower base and will fall behind peer economies as predicted by the OECD.

 



Inside the Media

Revolving Door: The latest newspaper hack to slip through the Fleet-Street-to-Whitehall revolving door is the Telegraph’s Asa Bennett. He has been poached by International Trade Secretary Liz Truss to be her department’s new chief speechwriter as one of her cheerleaders to – “help fly the flag for global Britain” alongside the failed Australian politician Tony Abbott and Brexit jihadist Daniel Hannon (source).

Media Suppression: The Council of Europe is protesting a blatant infringement on press freedom in Britain (source). This goes in line with The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, who raised their concerns over the decision by the Press Office of the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) to blacklist an investigative media organisation called DeclassifiedUK in seeming retaliation for its critical reporting (READ MORE). ‘Journalism’ magazine called it out as nothing more than ‘censorship’ and reports a ‘media freedom alert’ (READ MORE).

Censorship: Boris Johnson announces after Extinction Rebellion blocked Rupert Murdoch newspapers from leaving the printing presses last week that – “A free press is vital in holding the government and other powerful institutions to account on issues critical for the future of our country, including the fight against climate change.” Piers Morgan responds by saying – “Says the man who has banned all his cabinet ministers from appearing on Good Morning Britain since April because he didn’t like them being held to account (source). Even the right-wing Spectator takes a view thatBoris Johnson’s is now waging a “war on the media” (source) after political journalists have been barred from press briefings and Bloomberg’s Tim Ross stating that – “Boris Johnson has copied Trump in the war on U.K.’s mainstream media” (source). State-sponsored censorship is being rolled out and so the PM is once again lying about his views on a free press being vital to democracy.

Treason? There was a time when most of us thought that Russia-bashing was a government tactic to divert from their own failures. However, it is now true to say that Putin and his corrupt bunch of cronies is indeed meddling in UK politics. And as one political commentator says – “If you are from the left of UK politics and your social feeds are full of anti-Kier Starmer posts then you are being targeted. Russia is trying to split centre/left-leaning political supporters to keep access to the UK – that the Kremlin has bought through right-leaning politicians” (source). The evidence now leads us to conclude Russia has malign intent, is deliberately damaging democratic principles in Britain for its own gain – and it has succeeded in its goals. For the government to knowingly, as they are, allow Russian influence over our democracy, would, in times not so far into British history be classed as treason. You only have to have some basic knowledge of the Profumo Affair to see that (source).

Murdoch Again: The Australian Associated Press launched a crowdfunding campaign Monday as the newswire struggles with financial pressures just a month after it was sold off and relaunched as a non-profit. CEO Emma Cowdroy said AAP was facing aggressive competition from a new rival, NCA, created by News Corp after the Rupert Murdoch-owned media giant backed out of its role as the leading shareholder in the national newswire (source).

 



Special – Julian Assange

It should be of special note this week that the mainstream media, who profited so much from the revelations unearthed by fellow journalist Julian Assange nearly a decade ago, has been so abandoned by them as their knees shake in fear of what is quite obviously an oppressive state threatening what used to be known in Britain as a – free press. The show trial is purely political. A corrupt judge in the pocket of the establishment has decided that witnesses cannot appear for more than 30 minutes, that journalists can’t hear proceedings and that something like 40 human rights organisations are now banned from daily live feeds. Assange has not had contact with anyone for six months, not even his legal team and has been subjected to the type of prison treatment you’d expect in some sort of failed state in a frontier nation. If ever there was an expression of ‘kangaroo court’ that needed detailed explanation – Britain has just served it up in front of the world. The government now has no place wagging a disapproving finger at places like Belarus, Russia or China – all of whom stand accused of the same crimes. And the one newspaper above all that should hang its head down in outright shame by far, is the Guardian.

On August 14th a letter was sent to the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland QC, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Dominic Raab and UK Home Secretary Priti Patel. It was sent by legal practitioners and legal academics to express their collective concerns about the violations of Julian Assange’s fundamental human, civil and political rights and the precedent his persecution was setting. The letter outlined the illegality of these proceedings and how the government were complicit. It highlighted the political nature of the case against Assange and what he faces in a savage prison system that the US presents quite specifically to Assange. In addition, it highlighted violations of press freedoms, Assange’s right to be free from torture and his right to life. It also highlighted the governments’ duty to protect Assange – knowing what he faces – that includes the basic fact that Assange has no chance of a fair trial in America. In the USA, Assange faces a particular court that has never lost a case in its history. Lastly, the experts point to judicial conflicts of interest, not least Senior District Judge (Magistrates’ Courts) Emma Arbuthnot who has clear financial ties to institutions and individuals whose wrongdoings have been exposed by WikiLeaks. In short, the government stands accused of being deeply complicit in blocking Assange’s “right to a fair trial which is a cornerstone of democracy and the rule of law.” Britain, under this government, will be exposed once again as being America’s lapdog. It truly is a weak government – and an embarrassment to its citizenry (READ MORE)

John Pilger writes this week that, “one of the most important struggles for freedom in my lifetime nears its end. Julian Assange who exposed the crimes of great power faces burial alive in Trump’s America unless he wins his extradition case.” This case proves that Britain is a client state of America. Assange will lose, he will be extradited and will be thrown into solitary confinement in a maximum-security penitentiary, where, as Pilger rightly forecasts, he faces a slow death. The silence of the mainstream media, the lack of support for a fellow journalist is about as disgraceful as possible and will surely turn even more people away from buying newspapers. It confirms nothing more than their complicity in an act of crowning injustice that supports a corrupt government. And as award-winning journalist, Jonathan Cook writes – “For years, journalists cheered Assange’s abuse. Now they’ve paved his path to a US gulag” (READ MORE).

Last November, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer focused his frustration and anger at Britain and warned that his life was now at risk – both in prison and should he be extradited to the USA (source). A few months earlier the OHCHR stated that Assange was being politically ‘persecuted’ (source) and would experience “cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.” Again this January, the UN blasted the UK governments’ indifference to the abuse being metered out by the state to a journalist (source).

Another UN message fell on deaf ears – “Today, one year ago, we visited Julian Assange in prison. He showed clear signs of prolonged psychological torture. First, I was shocked that mature democracies could produce such an accident. Then I found out it was no accident.”

We have reached a new threshold in Britain and with Assange’s expected extradition where a line has been crossed. The rule of law has been suspended. A vibrant free press keeps governance at every level, transparent and accountable, which has also been suspended. The UN Rights chief has pointed out just this week that – ‘the freedom of the Press is not something that you just have, it’s something that you have to defend and continue to defend” (source). By remaining silent we are all guilty for what looks more and more like an out of control state supported by a media that cowers in the shadow of tyranny. And make no mistake, without a free press, freedom of expression and basic human rights – the phrase “all tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent” becomes a new reality.

 



Covid-19

  • The school that Boris Johnson visited on August 26th to explain how safe schools were to attend and not be frightened of Covid-19 – was closed on 7th September due to Covid-19 (source).
  • BA took €1 billion worth of loans from the Spanish government to offset the impact of the coronavirus crisis (source). It then took £300 million of guarantees from the UK taxpayer (source). Less than six months later £883,000 is available in bonuses to line the pockets of Willie Walsh, whilst staff are thrown on the scrapheap, fired then rehired on inferior terms and conditions. 
  • The very rapid rise in UK new Covid infection cases are because people have ‘relaxed too much’ – says England’s deputy chief medical officer – who didn’t quite go as far to mention that it was the government who encouraged everyone back to the bars and restaurants to claim their ‘eat out to help out’ discount. It is now known that 100 million meals under the scheme were claimed in August alone – or 3.2 million per day (source). In the meantime, the health secretary said younger people, those predominantly at the forefront of the eat out scheme – should remain observant of distancing rules if the UK was to avoid a wider return of the virus (source).
  • Christina Pagel, professor of Operational Research explains in plain English why the government has failed so far, and more importantly why it will continue to do so by pointing out a 1 to 5 point scorecard, which makes the whole management of handling Covid-19 understandable (Twitter Thread HERE)

 



Could it get any worse…

Shameful hypocrisy: On the 8th September, whilst a political storm over the EU Withdrawal Agreement raged – Conservative MPs voted against putting into law the implementation of the Grenfell Inquiry Phase I recommendations. Even local Tory MP Felicity Buchan voted against it in her own constituency that includes Grenfell. Her website headline says – “we must support the North Kensington community as we rebuild following the Grenfell Tower tragedy” (source).

Lawbreakers: On Tuesday, Jonathan Jones, the head of the UK’s government legal department quit over suggestions that Boris Johnson is trying to row back on parts of last year’s Brexit deal relating to Northern Ireland (source). Hours later, Rowena Collins Rice – Director General at the Attorney General’s Office – announced she was quitting (source). This can easily be explained – lawyers have a professional duty not to be law-breakers or to facilitate law-breaking. This is the sixth senior civil servant to walk out of the government since March.

Check: Currently, the government are asking everyone to follow some rules. Vulnerable back to work- CHECK. 30 kids in a classroom – CHECK. Working in a factory – CHECK. Buses full of people- CHECK. Pub with drunk people – CHECK. Packed supermarket – CHECK. Eating out – CHECK. Aeroplane with recycled air – CHECK. Family members in the same house numbering 7 – too dangerous. Wait, what …

Burnout: Thousands of NHS doctors and nurses are burned out, mentally stressed and now facing a scend wave. Half of all healthcare workers questioned across the UK said their mental health had deteriorated since the virus started taking hold of the NHS. Sickness absence is now at an all-time high and thousands are now planning to quit. This article is an interesting read because it is rarely considered what a second wave might do to the people on the frontline who have barely recovered from the first (READ MORE).

 



Thought of the week

The deep roots of American fascism, and how the violent legacy of ultra-nationalism has returned to haunt the republic is essentially being stoked by its president, especially on the runup to the November election. Poll after poll sees the British general public very much taking the view that Trump is toxic and should not be welcomed either politically or with a trade deal. What really surprises many is the revelation that Boris Johnson truly looks up to Trump as a world leader. According to a leaked cache of official notes taken during high-level UK-US meetings (source), Johnson said Trump was “doing fantastic stuff” was “making America great again” and that “under his leadership, America was “back and engaged in the world”. This is about as worrying as anything published about Johnson, especially when announcing that – “the president is increasingly popular in the UK” – which simply couldn’t be further from the truth. It shows that Johnson believes his own lies. Britain is already descending into a world of ‘Americanism’ – and the faster that stops the better the chances of uniting the nation under at least some common goals.

The one thing that changes everything though is demographics. In America, from an electoral point of view, this election is the ‘Boomers’ last stand as their numbers will quickly diminish before the next one. The much more liberal Generation Z and Millenials are as angry as hell and are expected to vote in greater numbers than ever. It’s the same in Britain. Covid has made many more younger people unemployed or earning less than older generations. Brexit will do the same. By the time the UK goes to the polling booths, expected to be 2024 – the world will be very different both economically and politically. Big change is coming and all the betting is against Johnson and his confused form of Conservatism.

 



Fact File

  • 65% of U.S. voters would be sceptical of a Covid-19 vaccine this year published in a US YouGov poll last month (source).
  • One in three people surveyed said that they have either stopped drinking or reduced how often they drink, since the lockdown. Six per cent have stopped drinking entirely. However, around one in five drinkers (21%) told us that they have been drinking more frequently since the lockdown (source).
  • Three biggest industries in the UK 2019: The service industries employed 25.3 million people, 85% of UK workers, Manufacturing employed 2.4 million people, 8% of the total, The construction industry employed 1.4 million people, 5% of the total (source)
  • UK Car Manufacturing: With some 168,000 people employed directly in manufacturing and in excess of 823,000 across the wider automotive industry, it accounts for 14.4% of total UK export of goods, worth £44 billion, and invests £3.75 billion each year in automotive R&D (source).

 

Tech File

  • AI has found religion. Or at least one engineer and quantum researcher has brought a bit of religion to his AI project. George Davila Durendal fed the entire text of the King James Bible into his algorithms designed to churn out dialogue in the style of the Old Testament. Durendal claimed his project, AI Jesus, learned and absorbed “every word more thoroughly than all the monks of all the monasteries that have ever been (source).
  • Oops. Apple, which recently stepped up efforts to guarantee malware is tracked and blocked before it can infect its Macs, has acknowledged the first breach of its notarization process. A trojan Adobe Flash downloader made it past Apple’s automated security system designed to scan new programs for malicious content and potentially harmful code (source).
  • An independent report has suggested that a 3-year delay to the roll-out of 5G could cost the UK economy £18.2 billion (source).
  • Technology firms are set to play a larger role in the UK’s post-Covid economy and are being encouraged to expand overseas after a strong year for digital exports (source).
  • Commsworld and retailTRUST have introduced the UK’s first major use of smart technology in an assisted living setting to a Scottish retirement community (source).

 



Quotes of the Week

Today, one year ago, we visited Julian Assange in prison. He showed clear signs of prolonged psychological torture. First, I was shocked that mature democracies could produce such an accident. Then I found out it was no accident. Now, I am scared to find out about our democracies.” Nils Melzer – UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (source).

Let’s be clear… there will be no US-UK trade deal if the Good Friday Agreement is undermined.” (August 2019 – Source) Brendan Boyle (US Congressman).

“We have parents reporting symptoms then sending siblings in. We have parents unable to get tests. We have families that have been tested still waiting for results (day 6) We have staff off because of childcare as other schools have returned positive cases. Is this a plan?!?” Head Teacher (source).

You cannot have freedom without a rule of law… And if you don’t have it, what you tend to get is corruption and that is death to freedom, it’s death to truth, it’s death to honour, it’s death to democracy.” (Margaret Thatcher, 1 October 1996.) Quoted by The Good Law Project this week over its concerns for British democracy (READ MORE)

“In more than 30 years as a diplomat, I have not experienced such a fast, intentional and profound deterioration of a negotiation. If you believe in partnership between the UK and the EU like I do then don’t accept it.” German Ambassador to the United Kingdom Andreas Michaelis (source).

 



Recommended Weekend Reading

Law-Breaking: BeLeave whistleblower Shahmir Sanni explains how the Vote Leave Government is now wedded to breaking the law in order to achieve its political goals. The Conservatives are not thinking in terms of the economic sustainability for which they are so famously supported by the moderate right and small ‘c’ conservatives – but entirely in terms of maintaining political power. And that is where the political and cultural crisis in Britain is at its precipice (READ MORE).

Taxpayers and social housing: By housing Britain’s most vulnerable people, private investors have made millions from the benefits system. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism blows up some myths and reveals that up to 79p of every pound claimed in housing benefit goes straight to private investors. This model sees companies profit from the uncapped housing benefit that vulnerable people such as autistic and learning disabled adults are entitled to. There are 263 councils in England that house vulnerable people through this lease-based model and some of the numbers are eye-watering (READ MORE).

Facebook Kills: Following the fatal shooting of two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during civil unrest in the city, an event promoting armed violence hosted by armed militia group Kenosha Guard was taken down. Facebook initially claimed that it had removed the event, but as BuzzFeed News reveals, the company never took such action. In fact, the militia group itself took down the page after the shooting. This is just one of the many ways Facebook failed the residents of Kenosha, as well as the platform’s more than 2.7 billion users worldwide (READ MORE).

A Way Out For Johnson? Johnson has two major and one minor political fears. He is now realising that a hard or crash-out Brexit will play into the hands of Nicola Sturgeon and a new referendum on independence. He also knows that chaos at the border ports of England will play in Labour’s hand, whilst keeping an eye on ageing Brexit hardliners in the Tory party. Then there is the anger from the leaders of the EU and USA over its lawbreaking with the Withdrawal Agreement. Is there a way out? Denis MacShane is the former UK Minister for Europe – he writes his answer to this question at the London School of Economics (READ MORE).

 



 

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