Weekly News Review
Editors Weekly Poke: There won’t be a full news review this week. We’ve had to undertake some website maintenance and do some clever things like move servers and stuff like that. However, I’ll do my best to review the week in one shorter piece, so here goes.
Quite honestly, it’s difficult to know where to start. In a week where the news of a potential vaccine rollout to combat the CoVid crisis is announced – things still get worse for this government. I’ve said before that corruption and incompetence will be the legacy of the Boris Johnson administration, along with fiasco that is Brexit, but truthfully speaking, I think things will get quite a lot worse before they get better, because this is the trajectory of travel.
We shouldn’t forget the grim news this week that 50,000 Briton’s have now (officially) succumbed to the Covid virus, the worst outcome of any nation in Europe to date. Many families have already blamed the government for negligence and are seeking damages such as front line workers (source) and the elderly in care homes (source) with legal claims running into hundreds of millions (source).
At the beginning of the week, former Tory PM Sir John Major came out with a blistering speech that condemned the Boris Johnson administration for running Britain into the ground, turning it into an irrelevant state and undermining not just government, the civil service, the judiciary, the BBC but by dividing the entire nation. On Brexit, Major said – “There is no consensus on Brexit, and never has been. It was a bitterly divisive policy and uncorked a populism that may be difficult to quell. The referendum debate was unlike any I have known before. Emotion overcame reality. Fiction defeated fact and fostered a belief in a past that never was – whilst boosting enthusiasm for a future that may never be. If that mode of politics takes root, it will kill all respect in our system of government. Brexit is the worst foreign policy decision in my lifetime and was sold to our electors on false premises.” Major didn’t stop there – he attacked Johnson on his non-stop lies and fictions simply to get into power, his law-breaking strategies, dereliction of duty to the nation and said no democracy should find itself in such a position. “This is a wretched betrayal of what our electors were led to believe.” From this, you could easily interpret that Major was saying that Johnson is a traitor to British values and its standing in the world (source). All four former living PM’s have decried Johnson as they watch in horror how the country is descending into global insignificance. Frankly, all of this is heart-breaking to witness.
It appears that wanton corruption within the government is now spreading, becoming uncontrollable and yet somehow not on the front pages of every newspaper in the land. This week, we learn that Johnson’s sister’s cousin by marriage – almost certainly unlawfully – was awarded a substantial contract to a PR firm connected to Dominic Cummings’ father-in-law. We’ve also learned that almost five thousand million pounds of government contracts related to Covid have been awarded to unknown companies (source). Is there some unwritten Tory rule where nepotism or cronyism is the qualifying criteria for doing business? In this, the government has broken every rule in the book using Covid as its shield with some of these companies who are absorbing huge amounts of taxpayers money and not delivering.
At the same time, we also find out that Chancellor Rishi Sunak wants to hit the middle classes with new tax rises and then squeeze the pips. Property owners, investors and pensioners face paying tens of thousands of pounds more in tax under a review ordered by the chancellor that could raise £14 billion a year (source). Sunak might look the part by handing out billions to save the nation in a crisis – but he is a malevolent creature. His intention of skewing an ever-dwindling middle class comes amid questions over his own multi-million fortune – stashed offshore and then hidden in a so-called blind trust (source). It is hypocrisy to the extreme to burden the nation with new taxes, hide his own wealth in a way as to become exempt from them – whilst allowing the government to distribute billions in contracts to relatives and friends. Sunak has made no mention of going after British companies who have taken advantage of taxpayers cash in the Covid crisis who are themselves offshored in tax havens.
Inside ‘Drowning Street: Another astonishing story is that Boris Johnson sent security ‘experts’ to the homes of front line cabinet ministers and had their mobile phones seized as part of a major leak enquiry (source). It was only July last year that Theresa May restricted Boris Johnson access to secret intelligence and information of national security because he couldn’t be trusted as Foreign Secretary. In addition, British spy chiefs were “wary” of sharing information with Johnson because they also didn’t trust him (source). It’s ironic that Johnson now doesn’t trust the closest in his own team and can’t ask the domestic security services to act.
Last week we saw the US election decide that Joe Biden should take the reigns from a narcissistic racist dictator. As the entire world was watching this event, the news that another school meals U-turn and triumph for a football player was attempted to be buried by the hapless Johnson/Cummings/Gove propaganda machine. It all now resembles something out of a ‘Some Mothers Do Ave Em” episode. That news trended on social media and embarrassed just about every Tory across the land.
On Wednesday, the news came out that Boris Johnson’s director of communications, Lee Cain announced his resignation after the prime minister’s ‘fiancée’ opposed plans to appoint him as chief of staff. It is bad enough that Dominic Cummings, an unelected ‘advisor’ swings so much power in Downing Street. Now we find out that the direction of government communication is managed by Johnson’s latest girlfriend. Cummings is so upset he too has walked. Frankly, the sooner the better. It would be the first bit of good news Britain has had this year. Apparently, Allegra Stratton, who is due to host Downing Street’s televised press conferences from January is deeply involved in the spat. Cain is said to have tendered his resignation last week amid claims that he was being sidelined by Ms Stratton. If a business were run as badly as Johnson runs Downing Street – the only event facing it would be bankruptcy. This implosion of the power struggle in Downing Street is an utter disgrace at every level. The most pressing things the government has is fighting a once in a hundred-year disease that’s killing thousands and a constitutional crisis not seen for three hundred years – not a Game of Thrones ego contest. Johnson needs to go – he’s inept and he’s dangerous for Britain’s future prosperity. He’s now a huge liability for the Tory party.
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Brexit: With Brexit negotiations, things are literally on a knife-edge with the EU. Another week has failed to produce an agreement and there is really only a week to go before a stalemate is declared and the United Kingdom is left high and dry. The thought that the UK, in the middle of a pandemic and an economic crisis, with millions of jobs hanging in the balance – is willingly to go through with a no-deal Brexit is really quite frightening.
Britain’s international trade department, headed up by Liz truss has emphatically failed to meet any of its own targets. It has not replaced enough of the basic agreements with governments around the world that Britain had as a member of the EU. The EU has 44 preferential trade agreements in place with individual states or regional trading blocs, covering 77 countries in total. Britain has not yet signed up one-quarter of lost trade after four years of effort. The FT reports that as far as the EU is concerned – “More trade agreements are in the pipeline: Brussels is negotiating with Australia and New Zealand and has struck a deal with the South American Mercosur bloc (South America – Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) that is awaiting ratification. They are a subset of the 750 agreements the EU has negotiated with other governments around the world — covering everything from trade to co-operation in handling dangerous nuclear materials. The UK will automatically lose the rights and benefits of these deals when its post-Brexit transition period ends on January 1 (source).”
In the meantime, the DUP and Sinn Fein leaders have sent a joint letter to the European Commission describing as “unacceptable” the alleged threat to the continuity of existing food supplies to Northern supermarkets once the Northern Ireland Protocol takes effect (source). The reality of Brexit in N.I. is now just a few short weeks away and trouble is brewing. The same can be said north of the border where Scottish independence will be the reality of the May elections ticket.
In addition, this week we’ve learned that US firms will gain access to Britons’ personal data via the Japan trade deal that no-one, including MP’s was allowed to scrutinise before it was agreed. Campaigners have warned: ‘Current restrictions on European data to stop regulated transfers to the USA, would disappear.’ Somehow, this is not mainstream news either. This onslaught of our withering privacy is astonishing and before long will be as intrusive as China is to its own people.
Truss said in a recent speech at Chatham House: “It is the government’s ambition to secure free trade agreements with countries covering 80 per cent of UK trade by 2022.” Even if that were true, which it won’t be, Britain still loses 20 per cent of its trading partners that will have to revert to WTO rules. This was something else not written on the side of a bus. Liz Truss was also accused this week of misleading MPs and the public over her new Japan trade deal, because all the tariff “wins” are for goods the UK does not export to the country anyway (source).
Trumpism: Trump has not gone yet and he is likely to fight dirty to stay on in the Whitehouse. He has good reason. The New York Times reports that he faces at least 12 federal and state investigations and has to repay loans of $300m in the next few years and has debts of another $100m as well. Meanwhile, his questionable tax affairs are being investigated (source). Now it appears that the law firms representing Trump in the legal fight for his presidency are backing off over something called … democracy (source). Trump’s long history of tax avoidance is about to catch up on him and when it does – it will bankrupt him (source).
As award-winning journalist Carol Cadwalldre quite rightly point out, the end of Trumpism – ‘feels more like the end of a regime than the end of a democratically elected government’ (watch this extraordinary short Twitter clip).
Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro had avoided commenting on the electoral defeat of Donald Trump. However, last week, he broke his silence to announce he might not run for re-election as “there is an advance from the left” in South America (source). Is this the beginning of the end for the hard right-wing factions that have caused so much damage in the world and in our own country?
One penalty of Johnson’s use of extreme language really doesn’t bode well for Britain when – “The UK faces acute challenges in repositioning itself for the new US presidency. Mr Biden described the UK prime minister as ‘a physical and emotional clone’ of Mr Trump” (source). And speculation grows that Biden may well pick Barrack Obama as his most senior diplomat in Britain – a man who won’t forget Boris Johnson’s reckless comments about Obama’s ancestry (source). As John Major said – “we are no longer an irreplaceable bridge between Europe and America” – because of the rancid ideology of Brexit and because of Johnson’s big mouth.
There are so many other things to report but perhaps the last 1800 words make depressing enough reading to want to stop. The only good news is that a vaccine may save lives and our economy. However, the writing is on the wall that even that will be badly managed by this government and then drenched in accusations of corruption.
In four short years, Britain has gone from a top second-tier power, punching well above its weight into a national decline that I never thought possible. The world’s top economists think so, four former PM’s think so, the world’s foremost diplomats think so as do world leaders. And this government have four more years before they can be stopped from harming us all. By then, the United Kingdom will be a shadow of what it once was just a decade earlier. Remember, it was only two decades ago that Britain was riding a wave of optimism called ‘Cool Brittania.’