Weekly News Review – What A Mess We’re In
TruePublica Editor: The Tories have been in power now for almost eleven years. In that time, Britain has gone from one of the most politically and economically stable countries in the democratic West – to one of the least. It has a populist in power and political factions within the government are driving wedges into all manner of public policy that affects us all.
A disastrous plan called austerity dramatically weakened the nation. One example of many is that Britain now has more food banks than branches of McDonald’s. It saw the degradation of important public services that had been built up over decades including that of the national safety net and with Brexit – a deliberate undermining of the institutions that uphold civil society. Press freedom has fallen, transparency of government has completely cratered, the rule of law abused, and any moral authority the government had has vapourised in numerous allegations of corruption and mounting negligence lawsuits. The government is even being legally challenged for its abuse of power in public office. It used to be the stuff of fiction, the stuff that brought governments’ to its knees – and we’d all be subjected to another election. Not today.
And then something really, really bad happened – a pandemic arrived. Tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths have occurred and the economy has been dealt terrible blows. Both are just about the worst outcomes in the developed world. It should not be forgotten that as political commentators start to gaslight the nation about how brilliantly Boris Johnson has done with the vaccine – Taiwan, another island nation (next door to China), with a third of the population crushed into just 14 per cent of the landmass of the UK – has had eight Covid related deaths overall. Eight. (source) Taiwan also has a higher democracy ranking (No11) than Britain (No 16) (source).
Somehow, creeping into the national narrative there is the feeling that this was all inevitable and there was nothing the government could have done differently because the pandemic was something unknown. That is a lie. The government had tested the NHS for a flu-like pandemic back in October 2016 via Operation Cygnus (source) – but because it is ideologically opposed to free health-care – it did not want to invest in the recommendations of that report. There was a way forward to do better in a pandemic – and Boris Johnson knew it all along. Other nations took it – ours went with herd-immunity. Today, there’s a very long queue at the morgue. They will get away with it – won’t they!
In the meantime, the government is happy for any distraction of its deadly handling of the pandemic, no matter how bad it is. And that brings us nicely to Brexit.
Parliament is now being bypassed and as Jo Maugham of the Good Law Project said just this week (source) – “Any area of law touched on by the EU is now within the purview of Ministers. They can even extend their own powers under the Act.” Democracy is dissolving before our eyes. Most people cannot see that – ministers are happy with that – when it is their job to uphold democratic principles.
In more Brexit reality news, the Northern Ireland issue has raised its ugly head after just 33 days. Johnson ‘did everything he could’ say his defenders – for the barrier to exist down the Irish Sea. Specifically – he changed Theresa May’s policy, so to have this barrier – he agreed to it in the Brexit withdrawal agreement – he won a mandate for it in the general election – he pushed it through parliament. And now it’s blown up in his face. It’s not like he and two PM’s before him weren’t warned. Ian Paisley Jnr said – “it’s been an unmitigated disaster.” And it is.
Another potential calamity heading towards us is the failure to stop people flying into Britain and bringing new strains of Covid. Boris Johnson refuses to do so by explaining at PMQs, and I quote – “75% of our medicines come from the EU and so does 45% of our food.” First of all, I would say we’re talking people bringing in Covid, not tomatoes from Spain and secondly – what a great idea being a member of a trade bloc without borders that … err oh!
And on that note – just before the referendum in 2016, Britain matched its previous high in 1972 for car manufacturing. Obviously, that’s kind of screwed now.
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They will get away with all this too – won’t they!
Former BBC politics presenter David Dimbleby who has covered every general election for the broadcaster between 1979 to 2017 as well as hosting the EU referendum coverage, has said it had been the worst administration he had witnessed since he was born in 1938 (source). Many agree, notably on the Tory political centre-right. But those that were in this group were unceremoniously chucked out – a bit like a Myanmar-on-Thames coup but without the aerobics. Yes-men dominate.
Evidence of Dimbleby’s assertion is that it is frankly ‘Trumpian’ of Boris Johnson to stick inappropriate stooges into positions of power. And there have been many examples – such as a Johnson supporting Russian tycoon with family connections deep inside the Kremlin and KGB being appointed to the upper chamber (House of Lords) of law lords. But Paul Dacre, the former editor of the Daily Mail to Ofcom?
Under Paul Dacre’s 25-year reign at the Daily Mail, the paper became the UK’s most fanatical and hysterical anti-liberal voice. For Brexit, it stoked up a culture war environment where the immigration ‘invasion’ was the central pillar of an anti-European campaign. Racism was quickly unleashed from the underbelly of society. And this man is to be the gatekeeper of news balance. The trouble with Ofcom is that it might state it is independent, but it is funded by fees paid by the companies it regulates and it will do as the government directs. Of course, all this is OK for Dacre because it was only last October that Boris Johnson was roundly condemned for his ‘appalling’ Tory alliance with neo-Nazi and anti-Muslim parties across Europe (source). And then there’s a new and dangerous form of American styled right-wing news broadcasters that are to be unleashed on an unsuspecting public this year and they need ‘their man’ to protect them. Obvs. It’s what got Trump into power – and somehow, Britain thinks that’s a good idea!
As the NewStateman said back in 2017 – Who seriously believes that Johnson gets up each morning and asks himself: “How can I improve the lot of ordinary people?” The notion of him serving the general public, rather than himself, is so manifestly absurd that no answer is required.
Hypocrisy and failure
In more depressing news to this week – it is telling isn’t it that just three weeks ago, a wave of Tory MPs backed an amendment to protect leaseholders from cladding costs after the Grenfell Tower disaster (source) – and then this week, they cynically abstained on a parliamentary vote calling to do just that. At best, it was reprehensible. And they have left tens of thousands of innocent homeowners unable to sell, insure or even live in their own homes. The government are happy to spend £5.2billion of taxpayers money (shaken from that money tree) on property market interventions schemes like ‘help-to-buy’ to prop up house prices (source) but not help those that could die in a fire.
To add to the woes to a country suffering its worst-ever recession since Robin Hood was doing charitable work – we find that the UK’s once-dominant fashion industry is going down the Brexit tubes along with all the fish, cows, lamb and jumpers no-one wants to buy. The Public Policy editor at the Financial Times states that 50,000 small and medium-sized enterprises in that industry are facing ruin due to additional VAT, customs and work permit issues (source). They join the entertainment industry who have been left completely stranded with unmanageable costs to simply perform a gig in the EU (source). The UK’s global fashion industry is worth £35bn a year – and its been crushed overnight. Twiggy and Yasmin Le Bon are amongst 400 others in the industry who have written to the government via the Fashion Round Table to air their views about this deplorable situation. Typical of their complaints is Isabel Ettedgui, the chief executive of Savile Row brand Connolly, which sells Scottish cashmere and manufactures leather goods in Spain, who says its an “existential challenge for a 185-year-old company that holds the Royal Warrant.” (source)
Press-Gazette reports this week that a photographer was arrested at his home after covering a protest at a Covid-hit asylum centre in Kent. P-G says the case is “significantly worrying” for press freedom in the UK.“ Police seized his mobile phone and camera memory card. “It feels a bit like I’ve landed in a similar situation to a lot of journalists and photographers recently,” Aitchison told Press Gazette. It’s all very North Korea isn’t it.
Also this week. A Tory MP accused the HuffPost journalist in a Twitter thread of “making up claims” about vaccines naming the reporter, Nadine White, who then received a torrent of abuse, much of it was racist. These were basic questions being asked by the media and nothing ‘conspiratorial,’ but left the reporter in a potentially vulnerable position.
This week, we hear yet again of the ineffectiveness of the mainstream media to challenge government. Peter Oborne asserts repeatedly that newspapers, their owners and their staff have colluded with politicians to smear and fabricate without fear. They are not doing the job they supposed to be doing. If ever there was proof needed that he is right – the consequence for Oborne is that no MSM outlet will now deal with him.
However, there is some good news this week to lift the spirits. Steve Bannon, the man who makes Ghenkis Khan seem positively Corbyn-like – who received a last-minute pardon from former President Trump, after being indicted on federal charges of defrauding donors to a border wall, may yet face state charges in connection with the same scheme (source). The American’s are clamping down on those that would threaten democracy.
And – John Matse, the CEO of right-wing hate speech social media platform Parler, says he was fired by its right-wing investor – Rebekah Mercer (source). It appears the Mercer family aren’t quite so sure about being at the forefront of a coup on Capitol Hill. So they’ve clamped-down – to save their own skins.
To top it all, the EU have found an unexpected Brexit bonus. Convicted sex offenders, such as Brexiteer ex-Tory MP Charlie Elphicke, will be inadmissible for entry clearance to any EU member state (as well as USA, Canada, Australia etc) as he has received a jail sentence of more than 12 months. Lucky them for clamping down years ago.
Next week is sure to provide us all with even more depressing news. It’s hardly surprising that a huge mental health crisis is building what with half the nation mourning over the crisis that Brexit is bringing, everyone suffering from lockdowns and several million threatened with unemployment. Britain is a mess right now and it’ll take more than some selfish self-serving politicians to get us out of it.