Category Archives: Business

If this is how Boris Johnsons’s test and trace system works, no wonder he’s self-isolating

Test: wouldn’t it be nice of the Randox operation – if it can be called that – had been found to have been running in a professional way? It wasn’t.

If you still think the Johnson government is doing a good job fighting Covid-19, you need to watch Channel 4’s Lockdown Chaos now.

The programme by the channels Dispatches team went behind the scenes at Randox, one of the private companies selected by Boris Johnson’s privatisation-crazy cronies.

You’d think this place must be the best testing facility in the world, after Johnson’s insistence that his government would have a “world-beating” test-and-trace system, earlier in the year.

Not a bit of it!

According to Channel 4’s report on the programme, its undercover footage includes:

  • The Dispatches reporter being told that used tests sent to to Randox for analysis are sometimes not unpacked properly and accidentally discarded with cardboard packaging waste. An expert who viewed the footage and has run an NHS pathology lab for 10 year said that not only does this mean people not getting their test results, it would present a contamination risk to waste handlers. He added, “We would be shut down if we performed that way.” Randox responded to Dispatches, saying there has “never been an issue of samples being mistakenly disposed of”. Staff are adequately supervised and instructed on the need to ensure “samples are correctly processed”.

  • Evidence that one particular type of red-lidded test sent to Randox frequently leaks and has to be voided meaning no results are available. Randox is aware the red lidded tubes are “more likely to leak” but say they do not manufacture them.  They say they “raised this concern” with the Test and Trace programme coordinators in August. The DHSC told Dispatches on Saturday that they have “started UK-based tube manufacturing with these tubes designed to minimise leakage.” These “will be in place across all Lighthouse labs and will mitigate against void results.”

  • During the undercover operation, the Dispatches reporter discovers that although leaking samples are often spotted whilst still in their plastic bag, this is not always the case. He finds that leaks from  tests can spill over the gloves of employees and is told by one staff member that his gloves aren’t always thrown away but sprayed down with disinfectant. During his time in the lab, he was told to place leaking samples – whether loose or still inside their bags – into a cardboard box.  Randox says a leaking tube “is not removed” from its bagging “under any circumstances,” so claim there is “no cross contamination.” An expert told Dispatches that this way of dealing with leaking tubes shows a “cavalier approach to safety” and could lead to cross contamination and potentially wrong test results. Randox say the boxes are disposed of as “clinical waste” and there is “no cavalier approach to safety.”

    • Once used tests are received by Randox and unpacked, they are wiped with a cloth which is occasionally sprayed with disinfectant. Undercover footage shows the tubes being freely mixed together with other test tubes in a cardboard tray. Experts who have viewed this footage believe this process risks cross-contamination of test samples. Randox denies this, telling Dispatches there is “no cross contamination.” Samples are “not mixed together” but “immediately placed in an upward position on a rack”
    • The Dispatches reporter is told that Randox’s high-paying “VIP” clients, some of whom are from the rugby and travel sectors, are being given “priority” over some other tests. Randox denies VIP tests are given priority, saying it “does not prioritise private clients” under any circumstances and denies that “VIP” tests delay the processing of other tests.
    • Samples from England may take twelve hours or more to arrive at the Randox laboratory in Northern Ireland.  Unpacking of large shipments may take more than a working day, and sometimes more than 24 hours. Randox, which has no control over travel times to the laboratory, says it consistently “meets the agreed turnaround times,” and processes samples mostly within 24 hours from receipt.
    • The Dispatches reporter is told that samples are colour coded according to a traffic light system based on how long it is since the sample was taken. Randox told us green is up to 38 hours, amber up to 77 and red up to 114 hours – nearly five days.

There’s a lot more information in the C4 News article (link below). The effect on the public who use the social media has been galvanising:

This last tweet leads us to ask why the work was outsourced to cowboys.

Ah yes – that will be the answer.

The backlash has been overwhelming, the condemnation universal.

And what is the Tory government doing about it?

Source: Dispatches uncovers serious failings at one of UK’s largest COVID-Testing Labs | Channel 4

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Businesswoman rationed daughter’s food after falling through cracks in government help

Closed: while lockdowns bit into small traders’ funds, government help has been restricted only to those that meet arbitrary criteria – meaning many are going hungry, along with their children.

This is the reality of Covid-19 for millions of self-employed people across the UK.

The government trumpeted huge amounts of funding for scheme to keep businesses open – but failed to mention the small print that means some businesses don’t qualify.

It’s as though the pandemic was being used for political reasons – to clamp down on small enterprises and their owners. Isn’t it?

Jo Hill, of Cardiff, was denied any support because her business had only two years of profit on its books.

She had to rely on food banks and borrowed money to survive.

The money I have earned I have had to use for food for myself and my daughter. She’s growing like a bean pole, I couldn’t afford to buy her shoes over lockdown. At times we were so skint food was rationed, I’ve had to be really careful.

When the Chancellor announced [support for self-employed businesses] I breathed a massive sigh of relief. I was applying and it would say I’m not entitled, I was quite bewildered. The money should have gone to everybody.

“I’m too scared to spend any money at all since I don’t know what will happen in the future and how long that money will last. There have been times I couldn’t afford a food shop, I don’t know if my budget is going to last two weeks, three weeks.

The Welsh government has announced business support worth £1.7 billion to firms across the country.

And a fat lot of good it will do to single traders like Ms Hill if they don’t qualify because of arcane eligibility standards.

Source: Mum-of-two forced to ration 12-year-old daughter’s food after support cut off – Mirror Online

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Locked-down Merseyside pub rebrands as The Three Bellends – after Johnson, Hancock and Cummings

A pub in New Brighton, Merseyside, has re-branded itself after new ‘Tier 3’ rules forced it to close again.

For the time being, the pub formerly known as the James Atherton, after the founder of New Brighton, is now The Three Bellends – after the architects of the area’s misery: Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock and Dominic Cummings.

Anyone who is familiar with vulgar slang will understand exactly how appropriate the title is, as attached to those individuals.

According to the Huffington Post,

Daniel Davies, chief executive of pub owners Rockpoint Leisure, said the new name “really reflects the mood of the nation” and was chosen on Tuesday when he was forced to tell his staff the pub would have to close.

“It really tears the heart up,” he told HuffPost UK. “It just really, really infuriated us and made us think: why are they doing this? All the evidence points against shutting down places like public houses.

“They’re bellends because Boris and co said they would invest a lot in the north when he got in – but they’ve done nothing for the north. They’re not being affected by this lockdown.”

The change has been rung in with huge support:

And it has launched a rallying cry for pubs across the country to rebrand in similar ways – as visual demonstrations of their disgust at Johnson, his government, and their daft policies:

Could this be the only successful initiative to result from the Johnson government and its actions?

Source: Pub Renames Itself ‘The Three Bellends’ In Protest Against Liverpool Lockdown | HuffPost UK

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Brexit: outrage as Tory lord falsely claims businesses have ‘head in the sand’

Lord Agnew: he appears to have an honesty deficit.

Business leaders are furious after Cabinet Office minister Lord Agnew told them they’ve had their “heads in the sand” by failing to prepare for new border checks at the end of the Brexit transition periods.

They say they have spent the last four years asking the Tory governments of David Cameron, Theresa May and now Boris Johnson what they need to do, only to be met with silence.

You can read the news story here

… or just see the reactions for yourself:

The facts seem clear:

  1. Businesses have spent four years – ever since the EU referendum vote happened – demanding clarity from the Tories on what Brexit will mean for them. They received no response.
  2. Now that the reality is almost upon us, Lord Agnew has been wheeled out to pretend that the situation in 1. above has not taken place.
  3. His lie has been exposed, and
  4. The government has still not told businesses what they need to do.

Have I missed anything?

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Cambridge Analytica did not misuse data in EU referendum; it just lied about what it could do, says watchdog

This can’t be the first time an organisation harmed its own reputation with wild claims.

But Cambridge Analytica seems to have engineered its own destruction with its claim to be able to influence people using data it had accrued about them.

These referred to Americans but it seems they raised questions about the organisation’s role in the UK’s referendum on membership of the European Union in 2016.

As a result, the (UK’s) Information Commissioner launched an investigation into the company in 2017 – and it collapsed in 2018.

Were the two events related? If so, it could be argued that Cambridge Analytica’s own boasts destroyed it.

Cambridge Analytica had repeatedly claimed in its marketing material to have “5,000+ data points per individual on 230 million adult Americans”, suggesting it had incredible power to micro-target individuals with suggestive political messaging using a giant psychographic database.

However, the investigation concluded that “based on what we found it appears that this may have been an exaggeration” and much of the company’s activities followed “well recognised processes using commonly available technology”.

So did it attract the unwanted attention of the information regulator needlessly?

Well, it seems the firm wasn’t involved in the EU referendum campaign at all:

[Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner] said she found no evidence that Cambridge Analytica were actively involved in the EU referendum campaign, beyond an early proposal to work with UKIP which was not put into action.

It turns out the Information Commissioner found no evidence of collusion with Russia to influence the referendum either:

[Denham] said her team also found no evidence Cambridge Analytica aided Russian intervention in the UK political process.

Particularly interesting to This Writer, though, was the revelation that

the company’s data protection practices were lax “with little thought for effective security measures”.

Couple this with the following –

Cambridge Analytica founder Alexander Nix was disqualified from acting as a company director for seven years for “offering potentially unethical services to prospective clients” including bribery or honey trap stings, voter disengagement campaigns, obtaining information to discredit political opponents, and spreading information anonymously in political campaigns.

– and we see that the firm (or at least its founder) was quite happy to break the Data Protection Act left, right and centre by obtaining information and then distributing it to the public in breach of the law.

This links with my recent court case against the Labour Party, in which I gave evidence that employees had put together false information about me and passed it to newspapers who then published it to thousands of people.

Labour’s representative tried to claim that, even though the party (as represented by its general secretary) was the data manager responsible for the way the information was used, it was not responsible for the acts of any employees because (as I understand it) there is no evidence that it ordered them to commit those acts.

But then, they wouldn’t have had access to this – false, in my case – information if Labour had not ordered them to compile it.

Put the two cases together and it seems the Data Protection Act is a dead letter – unless a person whose information has been misused can prove exactly who misused it and why they did it. That’s going to be impossible in most cases, isn’t it?

I was therefore hoping to read that the Information Commissioner was bringing recommendations to the government that would strengthen the law.

And I was keen to see what they would be.

I was disappointed. It seems all the information that we are obliged to provide to organisations, just to get on in modern life, is vulnerable to abuse every way you can imagine. Not a happy thought!

Source: Cambridge Analytica did not misuse data in EU referendum, says watchdog | UK news | The Guardian

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Should we have any sympathy for Leave-voting farmers facing bankruptcy after ‘No Deal’ Brexit?

Sheep: British farmers voted for Brexit like herds of sheep driven on by the dog. If they had thought for themselves, perhaps they wouldn’t now be facing bankruptcy.

A former chief economist for the National Farmers’ Union has said one in three farms could be driven out of business within five years if Brexit continues without a trade deal with the EU.

According to Farmers Weekly:

Sean Rickard said half of all farms were already unprofitable – and would be even less so after the government phased out direct payments to growers and livestock producers.

The situation would deteriorate further with no deal, he added.

Didn’t these people all vote for Brexit?

This Writer remembers attending pre-referendum meetings here in Mid Wales, with rooms full of Welsh farmers clamouring for the UK to leave the EU as soon as possible.

My recollection is that this was the pattern across the UK.

So it seems to me that they are getting exactly what they wanted.

Source: Farms could fold in no-deal Brexit, warns top economist – Farmers Weekly

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Now the Tories have given £240 million to a firm linked to religious extremists for PPE

It’s only money: Boris Johnson has no problems with handing over fistfuls of our cash to rich religious extremists. His problem is using it to help poor people. And were the contracts even honoured?

After all the criticism for awarding major contracts to firms run by their friends, you’d expect the Tories would have gone back to competitive tendering for their biggest PPE contract.

Not a bit of it!

Instead, they gave nearly a quarter of a billion pounds – for the supply of full-body overalls – to a firm founded and run by leading members of a hardline, conservative religious sect which preaches that the outside world is morally corrupting, according to Byline Times.

Unispace Global Health was also awarded a £103.7 million contract for the supply of examination gloves. Among the contracts so far revealed by the Tory government, these two represent the largest amount of taxpayer cash handed to a single firm for the supply of PPE during the Covid-19 crisis.

One of the firm’s bosses is linked to the world leader of the Exclusive Brethren, a subset of the Plymouth Brethren, who avoid contact with non-Brethren as much as possible, because the outside world is morally corrupting.

Apparently their ideology finds a way to allow commerce with the “morally corrupting” outside world, though.

Perhaps the Tories agree with their worldview. After all, “morally corrupt” seems an apt description of their procurement strategy.

And, was the contract even honoured? I seem to recall a lot of concern over the lack of PPE during April and May, when these contracts were awarded.

Source: Government Awards £240 Million PPE Deal to Firm Linked to Religious Sect – Byline Times

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Supine Sunak set to axe ‘Facebook tax’ because he’s scared of big, nasty Donald Trump

Rishi Sunak: ‘Please don’t force us to eat your diseased chicken, Mr Trump! Look – we’ll cancel our tax on your tech companies! They can take as much money as they like from operating in our country and we won’t ask for a penny! Will that persuade you, Mr Trump? Mr Trump? Are you there..?’

Could there be a more blatant display of the UK’s newfound powerLESSness in the world?

The UK imposed a tax on tech companies like Facebook last year, expecting to bring in £500 million per year from firms that make more than £25 million each and would otherwise pay very little indeed.

But now Rishi Sunak is reportedly planning to axe it, in the hope that doing so will encourage Donald Trump not to insist on sending chlorinated chicken to the UK.

Sunak doesn’t even have the bargaining power to say he’ll do it on condition that Trump relents on his determination to foist food poisoning on the United Kingdom.

The justification to the rest of us? “Oh, it’s more trouble than it’s worth.”

I don’t know about that. £500 million is a lot of money to most of us.

The whole situation is pathetic.

The Johnson government, in the footsteps of Theresa May and David Cameron, has reduced Britain from Greatness to a state that can only be described as Little.

Source: Rishi Sunak to axe ‘Facebook tax’ on US tech giants deciding it is ‘more trouble than it’s worth’ | Daily Mail Online

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Spendthrift Tories have spaffed £500 MILLION on firms run by their friends – that do NOTHING

‘Spaffer’: Boris Johnson is throwing money the UK doesn’t have at his mates’ companies. What will you do when he tells you to pay off the debt?

In a week when we learned the Tories have more than doubled the national debt to £2 trillion, a mere £500 million might not seem much.

It’s around 1/200th, or half a per cent, of the total they’ve borrowed since 2010.

But this is money they have spent in the last six months alone – on contracts with companies run by their personal friends… that have apparently done nothing useful in return.

According to the Labour Party, 13 firms run by friends of Tory ministers have won contracts related to Covid-19, without having to go through a competitive tendering process.

Here’s what they’ve done with the money:

One firm, Randox, received £133million for Covid testing.

It pays Tory MP and former Cabinet minister Owen Paterson £8,333 a month as an adviser.

Earlier this month, 750,000 unused Randox testing kits were ­recalled over safety concerns.

How about the Serco ‘test and trace’ fiasco?

Serco is paid £108million for running the national contact-tracing service and nearly £46million by the DWP to run call centres.

Health minister Edward Argar was a senior executive and boss Rupert Soames is brother of former Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soames.

In November 2019, Rupert Soames’ wife Camilla donated £4,995 to the Tory Party.

Here are the other firms mentioned in the Mirror article:

PricewaterhouseCoopers, which won seven contracts, hired Theresa May’s former top aide Gavin Barwell as a strategic adviser in January.

He is also a non-executive adviser at Arcadis – which was given a £1.5million consultancy contract with the Ministry of Justice in April.

Public First Ltd gets £840,000 to run focus groups for No10. It is owned by James Frayne, who started the New Frontiers think tank in 2003 with Dominic Cummings.

Dragontown Ltd was awarded a contract worth £675,000 to supply PPE to London’s Guys’ and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

Lady Xuelin Bates, a director of this firm, is the wife of Tory peer and former minister Lord Bates and has donated £30,000 to the Tories.

If we had anything to show for this emptying of the public purse, there might be some justification for these contracts – but we don’t.

This is nepotism intended to further enrich the undeserving while bankrupting the nation.

Expect Boris Johnson to demand that, now he and his spendthrift mates have run up a huge debt, you have to pay it off.

Source: Firms linked to Tories have won £500m coronavirus contracts without having to bid – Mirror Online

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Why would JP Morgan have employed Javid if NOT to take advantage of his insider knowledge?

Javid: I wouldn’t trust him to keep any of the UK government’s secrets from his new employer.

It doesn’t surprise This Writer that Sajid Javid has taken advantage of the revolving door between big business and national governments, picking up a part-time job at JP Morgan.

This is a return to his banking career (although with a different bank) where, some will tell you, he helped cause the financial crisis that led to the downfall of Gordon Brown’s New Labour government and the rise of the Con-Dem ‘austerity’ coalition that caused so much further harm between 2010 and 2015.

A BBC article has kindly detailed advice to MPs on the “potential risks” of taking a second job while continuing to be a member of Parliament:

If a former minister wants to start a job less than two years after leaving their government role, they should first seek advice from ACOBA – the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments.

In its advice to Mr Javid, the committee warns that the former chancellor’s “privileged access to information” means accepting a job with JP Morgan carries “potential risks”.

“Privileged information” refers to official information a minister has gained as a result of their job, but which is not available to the public.

This privileged insight could give the MP’s employer – in Mr Javid’s case JP Morgan – an unfair advantage over their competitors.

Specifically, the committee points to his knowledge of “potentially at risk firms” and the government’s likely post-Brexit policies.

However, the committee says in its advice on Mr Javid’s new job that these risks are partly mitigated by the change in economic conditions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The information you had access to is unlikely to be significantly up to date given recent events, which will significantly impact the economic and political context,” the committee says.

Isn’t it precisely this “privileged information” that makes Javid valuable to his new employer?

ACOBA provides advice on avoiding “potential risks” including a prohibition on using privileged information about Brexit that was available to him while he was a minister, and on lobbying the government on JP Morgan’s behalf.

It is easy to circumvent these prohibitions.

He is permitted to advise on the impact of the coronavirus, the future direction of the EU, emerging markets and geopolitics – and as a sitting member of Parliament who was involved in whatever passes for long-term planning in a government under Boris Johnson, we can expect that information to justify the undoubtedly huge paycheque he’ll be drawing.

Let’s face it: this stinks.

There is only one way to ensure that former ministers do not give away privileged information to new employers in big business who are paying them huge fees.

That is to forbid them from ever taking such employment.

Source: Sajid Javid: Why has the ex-chancellor been allowed to work for JP Morgan? – BBC News

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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