Considering the current febrile state of relations between the UK’s Tory government and Russia, and the fact that we know the Conservatives have taken a huge amount of money in donations, this can be filed under: “What the-?”
A 2013 article on the website of Russian State News Agency TASS claims that not long after a close friend of Vladimir Putin, Vasily Shestakov met David Cameron at a Tory Party fundraiser, the former Tory leader “approved” of the creation of a pro-Russian PR organisation created by two pro-Putin Tory Party donors, Timothy Lewin, David Burnside:
Wouldn’t it be pleasant if, once in a while, a Conservative government would release a major statement in which we didn’t have to dredge out all the nasty little surprises hidden in the small print?
Spring Statement day – March 13, 2018 – was not that day.
For a start, did you know we’ll be paying for Brexit until 2064?That’s 46 years from now! I’ll be 95 years old – and still paying for the mistakes made by a majority of people who will be long-dead by then. The only light at the end of that tunnel is the possibility of having a vote to go back into the EU, and get out from under that debt burden.
Oh, and all that talk of having eliminated the deficit? It turns out that was just talk. In fact, there is expected to be a budget deficit of £21.4 billion by 2022-23, making it highly unlikely that the books will be balanced by 2025, as predicted by Philip Hammond. If you recall, George Osborne said he’d balance the books by 2015, so the Tories are already 10 years behind their own schedule – because their policies don’t work. Still, neither Mr Osborne nor Mr Hammond will be particularly bothered – both will be long gone by 2025 and won’t have to face up to the cost of their stupidity.
There are other stingers too – the so-called ‘Sugar Tax’ was supposed to raise £520 million that would be spent on school sports, but that amount has been revised down because food companies have rewritten their recipes to use less sugar, thus dodging the requirement to pay. Now only £240 million is expected to be paid in 2018-19. It’s bad for school sport – but good for youngsters’ health.
I bet there are more that even the experts haven’t spotted.
Tories are past masters at the creation of so-called “unintended consequences”. One wonders how “unintended” they really are.
Sweeping cuts to school meal eligibility have been waved through in a Commons vote.
The Conservative government said the shake-up is “necessary to ensure that this funding is targeted towards the most disadvantaged families.”
That’s except in Northern Ireland, of coure, where the earnings threshold for parents to lose the right to free school meals for their child will be £14,000 – because the Conservatives need the support of the Northern Irish DUP to get any legislation through Parliament.
This is a government so twisted, every minister needs the help of a civil servant to screw them into their clothes in the morning.
(Perhaps I could have phrased that better…)
What I want to know is: What happened to “English votes for English laws”?
Could the Tories not rely on the number of MPs they have representing English constituencies to get the vote passed?
It turns out that they could – an England-only breakdown of votes shows that they could have won by 282-214.
So why involve the DUP at all?
This is, after all, legislation that affects England alone, isn’t it?
It sure looks like it!
The outrage is palpable:
Tories: "Let's cut free school meals in the UK".
DUP: "No way."
Tories: "How about we cut free school meals in the UK except Northern Ireland?"
DUP: "That's better. Go ahead."
Welcome to the strong and stable Coalition of cruelty…
Thousands of front line servicemen and women could be worse off.
What on Earth is the point of ending the Salary Sacrifice scheme in favour of something worse?
I think we all know the answer to that one, where the Conservative government is concerned.
The Tories are rolling out a new ‘tax-free childcare’ scheme that (of course) is less generous than the current range of programmes.
It’s no wonder nine-tenths of the target customers haven’t bothered to take it up.
But when this means the Tories are likely to under-spend by £800 million, you won’t hear them complaining.
Perhaps that’s the point, don’t you think?
Meanwhile, 10,000 servicepeople and 2,500 support staff are worse-off by £456 per year, according to the Childcare Vouchers Providers Association.
So it’s a double bonus for the Tories.
Not only do they not have to spend millions of pounds a year, but they get to put thousands of people in dire financial straits.
And these are servicepeople whose pay packets have already lost £1,000 a year, in real terms, since Tory austerity kicked in, back in 2010.
It’s all gravy for the Tories.
Let’s hope they don’t need lots of Armed Forces people to, I don’t know, try to prevent people in the UK being poisoned by a foreign military nerve agent.
Good thing that’s never likely to happen, isn’t it?
ADDITIONAL: In the debate, the Tories were beaten back and delayed axing the current scheme by six months – but only because of an intervention by a member of the DUP, the party with whom the Tories have a “confidence and supply” alliance.
Labour has pushed the government into agreeing to a six-month extension of the workplace childcare voucher system after using a parliamentary procedure to force a vote on a series of changes that ministers had hoped to put in place by directive.
The delay on the abolition of childcare vouchers, which Labour whips were predicting could lead to the policy being abandoned altogether, is another example of the party using Commons tactics to frustrate the government.
Labour secured a three-hour debate on the changes using a so-called humble address in which MPs can “pray against” proposals.
But it was only when Emma Pengelly of the DUP spoke against the proposal that Education Secretary Damian Hinds said the Tory government would keep the voucher scheme open for a further six months.
It’s a classic example of the tail wagging the dog.
The Tories are trying to axe a vital childcare scheme which around 10,000 military personnel rely on to be able to serve their country.
Thousands of front line servicemen and women could be worse off if the government wins a crunch Commons vote on Tuesday.
Ministers also admitted that a further 2,500 civilian support staff benefit from the Ministry of Defence scheme.
Donald Trump has sensationally sacked Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State (equivalent to the UK’s Foreign Secretary), hours after Mr Tillerson made a strong statement supporting the UK’s stance against Russia over the Salisbury poisonings.
Mr Tillerson had said: “We have full confidence in the UK’s investigation and its assessment that Russia was likely responsible for the nerve agent attack that took place in Salisbury last week.
“There is never a justification for this type of attack — the attempted murder of a private citizen on the soil of a sovereign nation — and we are outraged that Russia appears to have again engaged in such behaviour. From Ukraine to Syria — and now the UK — Russia continues to be an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens.”
The official statement from the White House was much less supportive.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said: “The use of a highly lethal nerve agent against UK citizens on UK soil is an outrage. The attack was reckless, indiscriminate and irresponsible. We offer the fullest condemnation, and we extend our sympathy to the victims and their families, and our support to the UK government. We stand by our closest ally and the special relationship that we have.
Pressed further on whether Russia was behind the act, she said: “Right now, we are standing with our UK ally.”
Did Mr Trump sack Mr Tillerson because he went too far in condemning Russia?
The official line is that “the president wanted to make sure to have his new team in place in advance of the upcoming talks with North Korea and various ongoing trade negotiations.”
But there are rumours that Mr Trump actually told Mr Tillerson he was to be replaced on Friday last week (March 9). In that case, with Mr Tillerson’s statement following the lukewarm comment from the White House, was the departing Secretary of State making a gesture of defiance to the President – and putting him in a tricky position with Russia at the same time?
It’s all a long way from the situation with the European Union:
We stand shoulder to shoulder with the British people. It must be made clear that an attack against one EU & NATO country is an attack on all of us. https://t.co/QfjvYKk9c6
Contaminated: Investigators examine the park bench in Salisbury where Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found after they were poisoned – an incident that may not have happened, had the Conservatives not disbanded the military regiment that handled such attacks.
Labour created a military regiment dedicated to fighting threats such as the use of nerve agents to harm UK citizens in the 1990s – but the Conservatives cut it as part of their Austerity measures in 2011.
It was one of many, many cuts that the Tories inflicted on the country, weakening our ability to combat not only terror attacks but also attacks from foreign aggressors.
It seems clear that the poisoning of Sergei Skripal might hot have happened, had the Tories not “neglected and underfunded” – the Tories’ own words! – specialist military expertise to deal with the threat.
Today’s (March 13) BBC Daily Politics show featured a vox pop in which a majority of the people of Bexleyheath said Austerity has not been worth it.
As I write this, Philip Hammond is desperately trying to get us all to believe the opposite.
Would Sergei Skripal say Austerity was worth it? Would his daughter Yulia? How about DS Nick Bailey, who was also poisoned by the nerve agent in Salisbury?
How about the 120,000 people who died because of Tory health and social care cuts?
How about the countless (literally – the Tories refuse to count them) sick and disabled people who died because of Tory benefit changes?
Mr Hammond is desperately trying to convince us of a lie that the Tories are responsible enough to run the UK for the benefit of everbody.
In fact they are genocidal to the vulnerable, and have deliberately devastated our national defences against foreign aggressors. They are a menace that must be eliminated.
Defence chiefs are urgently reviewing how to upgrade the military’s ability to protect against chemical, biological and radiation attacks following the Salisbury poisoning.
The use of a military-grade nerve agent in an attempted assassination on the streets of Britain, as well as the brazen use of poison gas in Syria, has increased fears about the use of the weapons by states and terrorist groups.
Whitehall sources said it was now accepting specialist military expertise to deal with the threat had been neglected and underfunded after the 2010 cost-cutting defence review.
Greg Hands: He’s probably wishing he’d kept his lips sealed (or rather, kept his typing fingers to himself).
You may well be asking, who’s Greg Hands?
He’s the Tory MP for Chelsea and Fulham, and a former Chief Secretary to the Treasury under David Cameron. He would have been responsible for telling us there was no money to be spent on public services or benefits – so he’s familiar with the practice of lying.
In the House of Commons yesterday (March 12), Jeremy Corbyn described the poisoning of former Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia as a “deeply alarming attack, which raises very serious questions.
He said: “The whole House condemns the suspected poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury and, of course, we wish them a return to good health. I am sure that the whole House will join me in wishing Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey a speedy recovery as well. No member of our police force and nobody on the streets of Britain should ever face such an attack—let alone one with chemical weapons.”
He continued: “We need to see both the evidence and a full account from the Russian authorities in the light of the emerging evidence to which the Prime Minister referred.”
But he also warned: “We need continue seeking a robust dialogue with Russia on all the issues—both domestic and international—currently dividing our countries, rather than simply cutting off contact and letting the tensions and divisions get worse and, potentially, even more dangerous.”
Here’s how Mr Hands described that speech, on Twitter:
Not a single word of condemnation for Russia from Corbyn on the Salisbury attack in the Commons now, instead calling for “dialogue”. Instead questions Tory donations. Shouts of “Are you saying this for a clip on Russia Today?” #weak
Victoria Atkins: No smoke without fire? Keeping it in the family?
Here’s an interesting turn up for the books – or, more likely, one that those involved would like to keep off them.
Victoria Atkins MP, the UK minister responsible for drugs policy… strongly and totally opposes the use of cannabis for either medical or recreational use and supports the government’s hard-line position that there is ‘no therapeutic value’ in cannabis.
Paul Kenward – the CEO of British Sugar … surprisingly has managed to obtain a licence from the British government to grow cannabis in the UK for medicinal use abroad.
How on Earth did Mr Kenward manage to persuade Ms Atkins to allow his company to grow cannabis in the UK when she is so strongly opposed to it and so strongly convinced it has no therapeutic value?
It surely couldn’t be anything to do with the fact that they’re married?
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