What will be mentioned in the Covid inquiry… and what won’t?

Baroness Heather Hallett: she has made good decisions so far – but can anybody understand her apparent bias against bereaved families?

We all know that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have been making a fuss over whether they will have to give evidence to the Covid inquiry and what it will be.

But what do you make of this?

The article states:

Not a single witness offered up by the UK’s largest group for families bereaved by Covid has been called to speak at the official inquiry, openDemocracy can reveal.

Those representing the voices of the bereaved say they are being “marginalised by the process” just days before the inquiry is set to begin. It follows a scandal sparked by openDemocracy’s revelation that Tory-linked PR firms had been hired to manage the voices of the bereaved.

The inquiry rejected all 20 witnesses volunteered by Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, but has asked the group’s co-founder Matt Fowler to speak. He will now be attempting to represent thousands of members who won’t be able to give evidence to the inquiry’s first module, which focuses on the UK’s preparedness for a pandemic.

What’s the story there? Does inquiry chair Baroness Hallett think they’ll all say the same thing? Does she think there won’t be time to hear all their different stories? Or is she simply not interested in what happened to the little people like you and me?

Here’s something else that might not be mentioned:

And what about this?

So private schools that were formerly attended by government ministers received millions of pounds of Covid support loans, while state schools were left to face bankruptcy. And the ministers were responsible for supporting the state schools, not their alma maters.

Will that get a mention? It should.

Meanwhile, the government’s decision to take court action against its own inquiry is still kicking up a huge smokescreen around the whole affair.

Is that a side-issue? Or was it the point?

Whichever, what do you think of this MP’s point?

Sir Robert Buckland, who served as justice secretary and Lord Chancellor from 2019 to 2021, said that the move by the government was “unnecessary”, telling Sky News: “it would have been far better to negotiate and deal with this in a way that would have respected the discretion of the chair”.

Well,

Sir Robert suggested he has been told that the High Court could hear the government’s challenge to the Covid inquiry “as early as next week”.

so at least if it is a waste of time, it will be out of the way very soon.

But what will the decision be? Will it be better than that of the inquiry on representatives of bereaved families?


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Home Secretary lies about migrant backlog and refuses to correct herself

Suella Braverman: we don’t have an image showing her expression when she was challenged to correct the record but you can bet it was close to this.

This is yet another shocking display of contempt for Parliament by Suella Braverman.

The Home Secretary gave a statement to MPs yesterday (June 5, 2023) on the number of people awaiting an initial decision on whether they would be granted asylum in the UK – and it was inaccurate, according to the official figures.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper pointed this out in a point of order but the Deputy Speaker, Eleanor Laing, did not demand a correction, as you can see below:

The figures show that the total number of cases has indeed increased, as Cooper said:

This Writer can’t actually see the numbers that either politician mentioned in the figures provided; the total number of people waiting for a decision seems to have been more or less static for months.

But that’s not a fall, so Braverman should have corrected the record either way.

Not only has she not done so, but she has actively refused.

That’s contempt of Parliament, as far as I can tell. It is a serious breach of the Ministerial Code and she should be brought to book for it.

But will that happen?


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The news in Tweets – Tuesday, June 6, 2023

The number of stories linked below seems to be proliferating. Is it because UK society is increasingly breaking down while corruption is increasing?


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An Israeli soldier has shot and killed a toddler. Let’s discuss ‘outdated’ notions

Muhammad Tamimi: his two-year-old life was ended after a member of the Israel Defence Forces raided his village and shot this defenceless toddler in the head.

Remember last week, when This Site commented on Jewish Chronicle reviewer Jonathan Sacerdoti’s critique of Maureen Lipman’s performance in the play Rose, in which he stated that it invests “dramatic capital in the outdated notion that Jews kill children”.

Outdated?

This happened last week:

I think it’s time we discussed some of these “notions” that certain people are constantly telling us are “outdated”.

Certainly the claim that armed Israelis shoot children is neither a notion, nor outdated. It is a terrifying fact.

Some have tried to justify the killing of a child by saying his parents put him in the line of fire. This is clearly false; the shooting happened during a raid on a Palestinian village by members of the Israel Defence Forces.

They claimed that they were responding to Palestinian aggression and I am not going to debate that. It might be true but that is irrelevant to what has happened, which is this:

Armed military aggressors attacked unarmed civilians in their homes and shot a toddler in the head, causing injuries from which he later died.

There is no explanation that can justify such an act.

It is unacceptable on any level at all – as all civilised observers must agree. Nobody can ever say they shot an unarmed toddler in the head as an act of self-defence.

And the very least the rest of us should expect is a little contrition from people like Mr Sacerdoti.


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Stop the what, Rishi? We’ve just seen your footwear: STOP THE BOOTS!

A big mistake by Rishi Sunak has led to his greatest – possibly only – contribution to UK culture…

And it’s sartorial.

You see, it turns out that he has shockingly bad taste in footwear.

The boots he’s been wearing are … a feast for the eyes, and when he was filmed wearing them on a channel patrol before giving a speech about his “Stop the Boats” policy, well… the public response was predictable:

For those who wonder why there are always attempts to limit the reach of social media posts: it’s because of things like this.


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The news in tweets: June 5, 2023

Is the Tory government scared of sanctioning Alexander Lebedev because his son Evgeny is a Tory peer?

Here’s what you should be reading but I haven’t got time to write about:


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Keep track of corporations that break the law with this handy tool

Sewage dumping: it’s the most visible example of corporate rule violations in the UK right now – but not the only one.

This is another public service announcement:

The site’s introductory statement says:

Violation Tracker UK is the first wide-ranging database of enforcement actions brought against companies by government regulators in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It contains more than 80,000 cases involving issues such as financial misconduct, workplace abuses, environmental offences and anti-competitive practices.

It combines cases resolved since 2010 from over 50 regulatory agencies. Violation Tracker is produced by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First.

This Writer would guess that Prem Sikka has found Violation Tracker UK because of his interest in infringements by the privatised water companies.

But now that he has found and publicised it, we can use it to check up on anyone we like, including privatised utilities and companies owned by political donors.

Feel free to give it a go – and let us know about any really shocking breaches you find!


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Poll shows Tory government has its priorities wrong – and is failing at them

Rishi Sunak and his priorities: he appears to be apologising for getting them all wrong; if only that were true!

Not only is Rishi Sunak’s government ignoring priorities the public think are important, but he is failing at his own, a poll has found.

Read:

The prime minister set out five priorities at the start of the year, including halving inflation, growing the economy, cutting NHS waiting lists, reducing the national debt and stopping small boat crossings.

But almost halfway through the year, a poll by Ipsos UK found more than 50 per cent of people think the Government is doing a bad job on almost all those priorities.

In worse news for the Government, the poll found that the public tended to think Sunak was doing a worse job on the areas that were most important to them.

The public’s top priority, according to the poll, was easing the cost of living, with 59 per cent listing it as important, followed by ensuring people can get NHS treatment more quickly on 54 per cent and reducing NHS waiting lists on 51 per cent.

But 60 per cent said the Government was doing a bad job on easing the cost of living, with only 18 per cent saying it was doing a good job, and 62 per cent thought it was not delivering on reducing NHS waiting times.

On growing the economy, which 39 per cent listed as one of their priorities, 50 per cent said the Government was doing a bad job.

So the Tories are terrible – not only by failing to acknowledge the right priorities, but by failing at those on which they’re concentrating instead!

Source: Stopping small boats is a low priority for the general public


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Crony-watch: son of Tory donor who hosted Boris Johnson’s wedding party had £11.2m Government cash

Jo Bamford of Wrightbus: what did he do to deserve government funding apart from be the son of a friend of Boris Johnson?

This is from a while ago but let’s put it up so we can keep an eye on it:

The son of a Tory donor who hosted Boris Johnson’s wedding party was handed an £11.2million UK Government grant to build hydrogen buses.

Jo Bamford’s Wrightbus was given the cash to pioneer the “green” fuel cell vehicles in March 2021.

He is the son of JCB founder Lord Bamford, who hosted Johnson’s lavish wedding party on his grand Cotswolds estate. The then-Prime Minister and his wife Carrie partied with family and friends at 18th-century Daylesford House after officially tying the knot in 2021 during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hmm. There are hydrogen fuel cell buses on trial now – but they aren’t made by Wrightbus.

Is this another waste of public money on a Tory crony?

Source: Son of Tory donor who hosted Boris Johnson’s wedding party given £11.2m Government cash – Daily Record


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Covid inquiry: is government bid to blackmail Boris Johnson over evidence a bust?

Disinformation: apparently, during the Covid crisis, Boris Johnson’s government set up a unit to remove posts about vaccines and lockdown that were perceived as harmful to the government’s position. Considering that most of us perceived the government to be lying, was any accurate information allowed to circulate at all?

This Cabinet Office blackmail attempt might be a bit late:

This Writer’s understanding is that Boris Johnson has already handed all his WhatsApp messages from April 2021 to February 24, 2022 over to the Covid inquiry. He gave his diaries and notebooks to the Cabinet Office and has requested that they be given back, so he can pass them on as well.

So this blackmail attempt by government lawyers might be a bit late.

The Cabinet Office has also foisted on him a requirement to co-operate with any “reasonable” demand and to send them his witness statements and any requested documents for pre-approval and redaction before they are submitted to the inquiry, according to the Times article.

The article states that

The Cabinet Office has agreed to fund his advice but last week its lawyers wrote to Johnson, saying: “The funding offer will cease to be available to you if you knowingly seek to frustrate or undermine, either through your own actions or the actions of others, the government’s position in relation to the inquiry unless there is a clear and irreconcilable conflict of interest on a particular point at issue.”

They said that the money would “only remain available” if he complied with other conditions, including sending the Cabinet Office “any witness statement or exhibit which you intend to provide to the inquiry so that it can be security checked by appropriate officials”.

Johnson, the letter continues, must not submit evidence until “you have applied any redactions which the Cabinet Office has informed you are needed before submission”.

The lawyers add the caveat that their request “does not in any way restrict your freedom nor your duty to provide sincere witness to the inquiry independently and without reference to the views of the current government”.

That reads like a lot of nonsense to This Writer.

Firstly, it seems the government is trying to unilaterally alter its contract with Boris Johnson to provide funding for his legal advice. In law (as I understand it), this cannot be enforced unless Johnson agrees to it.

Also, the claim not to be restricting his freedom/duty to provide sincere witness evidence to the inquiry independent of the current government’s views appears to be rubbish. How can he do so, without knowing the current government’s views, and having to submit his evidence to the government for redaction so that it can withhold its views from him?

Personally, This Writer thinks his best bet is to turn his back on the government’s funding and pay lawyers at Peters and Peters (according to The Times; it’s the same firm advising him at public expense on his response to Parliament’s Partygate inquiry) from his own money.

He’s certainly banked enough of it from extracurricular activities since he ceased to be prime minister.

Meanwhile, the Times article also features a couple of pieces of information which appear to have been tacked on, as they’re about the Covid inquiry but the paper didn’t seem to have anywhere else to put them:

Tussell, a data provider, says the government has issued £113 million worth of public contracts for law firms and other suppliers carrying out the inquiry.

One of the issues the inquiry will examine is the government’s communications strategy as Britain entered lockdown. The Daily Telegraph has alleged that the Cabinet Office had a secretive team called the Counter-Disinformation Unit which worked with social media companies to tackle perceived “threats” and remove posts about vaccines and lockdown that were deemed to be harmful.

Will we learn what those posts were, why they were deemed harmful, and what measures were taken against them, I wonder?


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