Category Archives: Conflict of interest

The censor: is‘active Tory party agent’ shaping BBC news output?

Robbie Gibb: is Theresa May’s former director of communications a Tory agent on the BBC board, skewing its reputation for impartiality?

Former BBC Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis has said a member of the BBC board is an “active Tory agent” who is skewing the broadcaster’s news output by “acting as the arbiter of BBC impartiality”.

It seems she was referring to Sir Robbie Gibb, previously Theresa May’s director of communications and a founder of right-wing channel GB News. Before those jobs, he had a successful 25-year career at the BBC, ending up as head of BBC Westminster.

Last year he was appointed to the BBC’s board by Boris Johnson’s government and has since influenced a series of ongoing reviews of the broadcaster’s editorial output.

Delivering the MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival, Maitlis told an audience of industry insiders that she had been rebuked after she told Newsnight viewers that Boris Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings had breached Covid-19 lockdown rules in 2020, by taking his family to Barnard Castle.

She said: “A phone call of complaint was made from Downing Street to the BBC News management. This, for context, is not unusual.

“What was not foreseen was the speed with which the BBC sought to pacify the complainant. Within hours, a very public apology was made, the programme was accused of a failure of impartiality, the recording disappeared from iPlayer, and there were paparazzi outside my front door.

“Why had the BBC immediately and publicly sought to confirm the government spokesman’s opinion? Without any kind of due process? It makes no sense for an organisation that is admirably, famously rigorous about procedure – unless it was perhaps sending a message of reassurance directly to the government itself?

“Put this in the context of the BBC Board, where another active agent of the Conservative party – former Downing Street spin doctor, and former adviser to BBC rival GB News – now sits, acting as the arbiter of BBC impartiality.”

She added that issues like Brexit had led to journalists self-censoring and trying to “sidestep”.

“sections of both the BBC and government-supporting newspapers appear to go into an automatic crouch position whenever the Brexit issue looms large,” she said.

And they are still reluctant to discuss the impact of Brexit “in case they get labelled pessimistic, anti-populist, or worse still, as above: unpatriotic”.

She added: “And yet every day that we sidestep these issues with glaring omissions feels like a conspiracy against the British people; we are pushing the public further away. Why should our viewers, our listeners, come to us to interpret and explain what is going on when they can see our own reluctance to do so?”

Worse still, perhaps, is the fact that it allows Tory representatives to criticise the BBC – like leadership candidate Liz Truss, who recently sidestepped a question about her own activities.

Asked on GB News about a report she had written suggesting that doctors’ pay should be slashed by 10 per cent, she corrected presenter Alistair Stewart, who had said it was written in 2019 when in fact the year was 2009.

Truss corrected him, then said: “I always thought you had high-quality standards at GB News… It’s not the BBC, you actually get your facts right.”

In response to Maitlis’s speech, it seems the BBC told Sky News: “The BBC Board has collective responsibility in protecting the BBC’s independence and ensuring it delivers on its mission and public purposes. It is made up of executive and non-executive members from a range of backgrounds.”

The corporation called Maitlis’s comment over a Financial Times journalist’s assertion that a BBC board member has played a part in selecting journalists “totally incorrect”.

The role of the board is to ensure the BBC delivers its mission and public purpose.

Source: Emily Maitlis says ‘active Tory party agent’ shaping BBC news output

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#Corruption row over #DowningStreetRefurbishment intensifies with #GreatExhibition revelation

Duper’s delight: This is the smile Boris Johnson wears when he is lying. Watch his face in the video clip of him being asked about his WhatsApp messages and you’ll see the same smirk.

Did Lord Brownlow pay for Boris Johnson’s flat to be redecorated, to ensure his plan for a “Great Exhibition v2.0” would have prime ministerial support?

Downing Street says no – because the plan is not being pursued. But Brownlow did discuss it in a meeting with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden a few weeks after his WhatsApp chat with Johnson about the flat and the exhibition in November 2020.

And Downing Street can’t define any material difference between “Great Exhibition v2.0” and a so-called “Festival UK” that apparently will happen this year.

Johnson faced investigation over the funding of his flat refurbishment last year because it gave rise to fears that he was caught in a conflict of interest, if he was aware of the identity of the person(s) paying for his expensive flat redecoration.

He was cleared by the ministerial standards watchdog he had employed, Lord Geidt, last May – but in December the Electoral Commission published information showing that Johnson had contacted Brownlow seeking extra funding in November 2020.

This prompted another investigation by Geidt, leading to the publication of the WhatsApp exchange in which the redecoration funding and the exhibition plan were linked.

Geidt then, unaccountably, cleared Johnson a second time – despite the apparent conflict of interest.

Was this because he’s Johnson’s employee, and not an independent advisor on ministerial interests?

Johnson, of course, claimed he has “followed ministerial guidance at all times” – but he couldn’t keep the smirk off his face while he was doing so:

The affair has brought the Ministerial Code into disrepute, with some people asking…

… and others suggesting…

One conclusion we can draw with certainty is that there will be no attempt by this Tory government to reform the Ministerial Code in order to prevent the corruption we see here; it helps them, so they won’t change it.

They’re probably hoping that, even though we see them now, we’ll forget what has happened by the time the next election rolls around. They really do hold us in that much contempt.

Here’s some background reading:

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Hancock breached ministerial code with his shares in firm that has NHS contract. Why is he still health secretary?

Matt Hancock: you wouldn’t trust him to pick up a prescription from the chemist, but Boris Johnson made him health secretary. No wonder hundreds of thousands of people have died of Covid-19.

Here’s a great example of Tory corruption: the independent advisor on ministerial standards has announced that Health Secretary Matt Hancock has breached the ministerial code. It’s a sacking offence, so why does he still have his job?

Answer: because standards have slipped to such a low standard under prime minister Boris Johnson that cabinet ministers can get away with anything.

This case concerns a firm called Topwood, run by Hancock’s sister and brother-in-law. It managed to get onto NHS Shared Business Services framework in 2019, just months after Hancock became Health Secretary.

Hancock was then given – it seems he didn’t pay for them – a 20 per cent share in the shredding, storage and security firm, right before it won two NHS Wales contracts worth £150,000 each to carry out waste disposal including the shredding of confidential documents.

His failure to disclose that he has shares in the firm was described as a “technical breach” of the ministerial code by Lord Geidt – who has also given Boris Johnson a clean bill of health over the funding of refurbishment work on the 11 Downing Street flat.

Hancock was characterised as having been unaware that he needed to declare this conflict of interest. But ignorance of the law is no excuse – as you or I would soon find out if we were to fall foul of similar rules.

You see the problem?

Labour’s Angela Rayner does. She has pointed out that the decision not to penalise Hancock sets a precedent that cabinet ministers do not have to follow the rules.

She said:

“I have asked Lord Geidt whether he agrees that this precedent of a Cabinet minister being found by an independent investigation to have broken the ministerial code and then not resigning sends a very clear message that the rules don’t apply to Cabinet ministers, with this case therefore damaging public trust in our politics, fundamentally weakening the ministerial code system and giving carte blanche to other ministers to break the ministerial code safe in the knowledge that they will not face sanctions.”

In fact, this has already happened.

Priti Patel was found to have broken the ministerial code in a serious way – she had been bullying civil servants in the various government departments she has darkened with her presence, including the Home Office.

But prime minister Boris Johnson, who has ultimate power to decide whether a breach has taken place, let her off.

The decision prompted former independent advisor on ministerial standards, Sir Alex Allan, to resign.

The Cabinet Office has tried to laugh off the controversy by saying that new guidelines suggest that ministerial code breaches should be attract a range of different sanctions according to their seriousness, and this was the first case to be examined after the change.

How convenient.

All this shows is that the Johnson government has deliberately let the corruption in.

The removal of a minister after any breach of the code at all was intended to be a strong deterrent – to ensure that ministers stuck strictly to their duties, because even the slightest deviation would attract the harshest penalty.

But now deviants like Hancock are being told they can do what they like.

It is a scandal and you should not put up with it.

But you do, because there is no mechanism within the law by which you can put a stop to it.

Now, who do you think put that system in place?

Source: Letting Matt Hancock keep job after breach ‘gives ministers licence to break rules’ | Evening Standard

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Tory tax avoidance advice firm had £145m Covid contract unlawfully, says lawyer

The ‘Big Four’ accountancy firm Deloitte is being pursued in the courts over a claim that a £145 million consultancy contract related to Covid-19 was handed to it unlawfully.

There’s also an issue over the fact that the Conservatives failed to announce details of the five-month contract until after it had expired.

Deloitte is well-known to the Tory government. One of the main accountancy firms involved in creating tax avoidance schemes, it also advised the Cameron government on – guess what? – tax avoidance.

This Writer has a feeling there may have been a conflict of interest there…

Now, Deloitte is being criticised after it received 25 Covid-related contracts, totalling £193.3 million, courtesy of Tory peer James Bethell, the government minister in charge of test and trace. Of these, five – worth £170.5 million – were awarded directly with no competition.

Lord Bethell previously ran a lobbying company that represented Deloitte as they won over £700 million of government contracts on Chris Grayling’s Work Programme schemes for the unemployed.

This Writer has a feeling there may have been a conflict of interest there, too…

The most important issue here is the misuse of public money.

In the Mirror article, Jolyon Maugham of the Good Law Project makes a good point:

“It’s like we set up a whole new Government department, but instead of civil servants paid £40k a year, it’s run by hundreds of private consultants for whom we pay £40k a month.”

That is not responsible use of public funds! Yet the Tories keep presenting themselves to us as the Party of Economic Responsibility.

It simply isn’t true.

They create money by the billion, shovel it out to their cronies and chums, and then tell those of us who don’t use Deloitte’s tax avoidance schemes that we have to pay for it in our tax bills!

It is corrupt; it is a perversion of government. It is exactly the kind of behaviour we have come to expect from Boris Johnson and his people. And it is right that it should be challenged.

Source: Lawyer says £145m Covid contract given to private company with Tory links ‘not lawful’ – Mirror Online

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Government buys 100 million doses of vaccine by firm that ‘procurement tsar’ part-owns

Interesting display of priorities by the Conservative government here.

It has bought 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, enough to vaccinate 50 million people, having approved its supply with the first doses to be given on Monday.

This compares with just 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that was approved in early December – enough for 20 million people, with doses already supplied to nearly 700,000.

Is it a coincidence that – as revealed by the New York Times – Lord Deighton, the Tory procurement tsar whose attempts to get personal protective equipment went so badly wrong, is a shareholder in AstraZeneca?

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in the UK, with the first doses due to be given on Monday amid rising coronavirus cases.

The UK has ordered 100 million doses – enough to vaccinate 50 million people.

This will cover the entire population, when combined with the full order of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

Meanwhile, the number of new Covid-19 cases has soared again, to 53,135 on December 29. This is due to the Tories’ failure to make any real effort to control the spread of the virus.

Even in the current lockdown, schools will reopen when term begins in January – and schools are now recognised as the principle vector for the spread of the disease.

It’s almost as though someone had created an urgent need for a vaccine, in order to supply that demand.

I know.

It’s just paranoia. And I shouldn’t mind that somebody is getting very rich indeed from the suffering of millions of people.

Source: Covid-19: Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine approved for use in UK – BBC News

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