Tag Archives: advisory

#NadineDorries take note: #SAGE predicted #Lockdown2 – but NOT with a crystal ball!

Nadine Dorries: The lights are on but nobody’s home.

The MP we all know as “Mad Nad” has struck again.

Nadine Dorries, who has miraculously managed to climb the greasy pole far enough to become a health – health! – minister, has performed another spectacular display of idiocy:

“Only a crystal ball could have predicted the need for a second lockdown”?

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies called for it on September 21.

Its acronym may be SAGE but that doesn’t mean it uses a crystal ball!

The reaction on the social media has been exactly what she deserved:

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Coronavirus: Outrage follows revelation that Dominic Cummings attended SAGE meetings (oh yes he did)

Not a scientist: Dominic Cummings.

What was the point of Dominic Cummings attending SAGE (the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies) meetings if not to influence them?

And, considering his right-wing, eugenicist, economy-first, “if a few pensioners die, too bad” views, is it any wonder Boris Johnson is facing cross-party demands for Cummings to be barred from any further meetings?

Former Brexit secretary, David Davis, is among those calling for Dominic Cummings and Ben Warner, an adviser who ran the Tories’ private election computer model, to be prevented from attending future meetings.

He voiced the concerns of many when he said Cummings’s presence could alter the advice offered in meetings.

And he added: “We should publish the membership of Sage, remove any non-scientist members, publish their advice in full, and publish dissenting opinions with the advice.”

Other people who attend SAGE meetings have also said the Downing Street advisor’s presence made them uneasy.

According to another Guardian report, one said they felt Cummings’ interventions had sometimes inappropriately influenced what is supposed to be an impartial scientific process.

A second Sage attendee said they were shocked when Cummings first began participating in Sage discussions, in February, because they believed the group should be providing “unadulterated scientific data” without any political input.

Tends to indicate that Cummings is affecting what’s said at these meetings, doesn’t it?

And how can we trust the “science” that the Tories say they’re following if it come from him?

Downing Street has been (rather desperately) trying to claim that political “advisors” don’t make any difference, but then why would these two SAGE attendees say the following?

“When a very senior civil servant or a very well-connected person interrupts, then I don’t think anyone in the room feels the power to stop it. When you get to discussing where advice might be going, there have been occasions where they have been involved, and a couple of times I’ve thought: that’s not what we are supposed to be doing.”

“He was not just an observer, he’s listed as an active participant… He was engaging in conversation and not sitting silently.”

Another Downing Street claim was that it is “entirely right” for its political advisers to attend meetings of the group, implying – one may expect – that they have been at SAGE meetings from the start.

No!

Sage was first convened to advise on swine flu in 2009, and there had been almost 50 meetings between then and the start of the coronavirus crisis.

And guess what? “There is no evidence in the publicly available minutes of those meetings of any Downing Street officials or political advisers attending.”

Coming back to Cummings’s remarks about pensioner deaths, it should be clear that neither SAGE nor the “science” the Tories say they’re following will have any credibility until that committee is given back to the scientists.

Source: Top Tories join calls to bar Cummings from scientific advisory group | Politics | The Guardian

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McVey steps down from the Samaritans. What about other Tories on charity boards?

Walking away: Esther McVey [Image: REX/Shutterstock].

From the Samaritanswebsite:

Esther McVey MP has stepped down from our Advisory Board due to her commitments as Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions.

She was invited by the Board to become a member in early 2017 when she was Chair of the British Transport Police Authority, one of the partners we work with to reduce suicides in the rail environment.

We are extremely grateful to Esther for her support for the work of Samaritans and for the time she has given to the Advisory Board.

Samaritans’ Advisory Board provides us with informal support, helping us to increase our potential to influence and fundraise. Neither the Chair nor any of its members is paid.

Note that Ms McDeath’s departure is not being ascribed to the public outcry after her membership of the Samaritans‘ advisory board was revealed. Some may therefore question the honesty of the statement.

Of course, as This Site reported earlier, the Samaritans is not the only charity to have Conservative politicians in prominent positions of influence.

May we expect a mass exodus from the others – or do we have to winkle them out one by one?


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New judge appointed for child abuse inquiry – third time lucky?

Serious task: New Zealand High Court Judge Lowell Goddard has been appointed as the third chair of the inquiry into historical child sex abuse.

Serious task: New Zealand High Court Judge Lowell Goddard has been appointed as the third chair of the inquiry into historical child sex abuse.

Did anybody notice this in the mainstream media? It was reported, but not very strongly.

New Zealand High Court judge Lowell Goddard has been appointed as the third chair of Theresa May’s much-aborted inquiry into historical child sex abuse in the United Kingdom.

She has told the Commons Home Affairs select committee she wants to have the troubled inquiry “up and running” by early April and would aim to revisit past wrongs, clarify what happened and ensure children were protected from sexual abuse.

She also said she intended for the inquiry, which she has been told could take three to four years, to have a “truth and reconciliation” element to it, which would allow survivors to speak about their experiences in private if necessary – as well as an investigative function.

And she said she has no links to the establishment, telling MPs: “We don’t have such a thing in my country.” This last claim may be suspect!

Concerns have been raised about her record. According to one site, while heading the NZ Independent Police Conduct Authority, Justice Goddard concealed a number of serious complaints against police and, while Deputy Solicitor General, refused to release evidence that former judge Michael Lance was guilty of perverting justice in a police prosecution of his son Simon’s business partner, claiming it was not in the public interest to allow the prosecution.

But she dismissed allegations made by New Zealand bloggers by pointing out that her prime accuser has been officially certified a “vexatious litigant” and stressing that her record on child abuse included passing the longest sentence in New Zealand judicial history on a man who abused and murdered two girls.

So that’s all right then. Is it?

One of her first moves has been to end Theresa May’s experiment to put child abuse survivors on the panel. She said: “There are inherent risks in having people with personal experience of abuse as members of an impartial and independent panel.”

Blogger David Hencke, who has far more experience in these subjects than Yr Obdt Srvt, commented: “Frankly the row and bitter campaign by some organisations, l am afraid like the Survivors Alliance, against people appointed to the panel has ended in excluding survivors voices in the writing of the report. They have shot themselves in the foot.

“There will obviously be some appointed to an advisory panel, but no one should kid themselves that they will have the same influence as a member of the panel. It will be up to the judge to decide how often and how much they will be consulted but up to her and her QC adviser, Ben Emmerson, to decide what  will appear in the report.

“A radical experiment in setting up an inquiry to deal with one of the nastiest and most persistent blots in British public life – the exploitation of children by paedophiles – has been killed  with the help of the very people who suffered that fate.” [bolding mine]

Survivors will still be able to speak to the inquiry and also to the new People’s Tribunal now in the process of being set up, which has survivors on its steering committee.

Is this a good start – or another false one?

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Death of democracy is confirmed as Cameron ignores the will of Parliament

The not-so-great dictator: It seems David Cameron's government is now ignoring all attempts to hold it to account.

The not-so-great dictator: It seems David Cameron’s government is now ignoring all attempts to hold it to account.

Ladies and gentlemen of the United Kingdom, your plight is worsening: The government now no longer pays any attention to the decisions of your Parliamentarians.

You’ll remember that a debate was held on Monday, in which MPs called for an inquiry into the effect of changes to the benefit system – introduced by the Conservative-led Coalition government – on the incidence of poverty in this country; the question was whether poverty was increasing as a result of the so-called reforms.

Parliament voted massively in favour of the inquiry (125 votes for; two against), as reported here.

We considered it a great victory at the time, and looked forward to the commissioning of the inquiry and its eventual report.

Now that dream is in tatters as Michael Meacher, the MP who brought the motion to Parliament, has reported that nothing is to happen and the government is ignoring the vote.

It seems he is blaming this partly on the media because “it wasn’t reported” – and he has a point; only 2,500 people have so far read the article on Vox Political, and that’s not nearly enough interest to worry David Cameron and his unelected cadre.

This turn of events raises serious questions about the role of Parliament in holding the government of the day to account, influencing legislation and taking effective initiative of its own.

Perhaps we should be glad that this has happened, because the illusion that we have any kind of democracy at all has been, finally, stripped away.

(On a personal note, this saddens me greatly as it confirms the belief of a very rude Twitter user who accosted me on that site earlier the week to inform me that democracy died many years ago, and I was deluded in trying to save it now. What a shame that such a person has been proved correct.)

Here are the facts, according to Mr Meacher – and they make bitter reading: “The chances of influencing … legislation are negligible because the government commands a whipped majority at every stage of a bill’s passage through the commons.

“Parliament can make its voice heard, but it can hardly change anything that the government has decided to do.

“The only rare exception is when there is a revolt on the government benches which is backed by the opposition, and even then when the government lost a vote on that basis last year on the EU budget, it still ostentatiously dismissed the vote as merely ‘advisory’.

“Nor, it seems from Monday’s vote, can parliament take any effective initiative of its own either.”

He said newly-instituted systems that followed the expenses scandal are already disappearing:

  • “The backbench business committee, which for the first time gives parliamentarians some control over what is debated in the house, is being sidelined and decisions on its motions ignored.
  • “The promised house business committee, which would share negotiations between government and parliament over the passage of all business put before the house, has been quietly dropped.
  • “Only the election of members of select committees by the house, not by the whips, has so far survived, but one cannot help wondering if that too will be taken back by the party establishments over time.”

This is, as Mr Meacher states, a major constitutional issue – especially as our current government was not elected by the people but created in a dirty backroom deal, and its actions have no democratic mandate at all; nobody voted for the programme of legislation that we have had forced – forced – upon us.

Did you vote for the privatisation of the National Health Service? I didn’t.

Did you vote for the privatisation of the Royal Mail? I didn’t.

Did you vote for the increase in student fees? I didn’t.

Did you vote for the Bedroom Tax? I didn’t.

Did you vote for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal? I didn’t.

Did you vote for the Gagging law? I didn’t.

Did you vote to protect the bankers who caused the financial crisis from having to deliver compensation to us? I didn’t.

Did you vote to protect tax avoidance schemes? I didn’t.

There are many more examples I could list.

Mr Meacher suggests possible ways to reassert the authority of Parliament, but none of them will have any immediate effect – or possibly any effect at all.

He ends his piece by saying “the most effective way of making progress is greater awareness among the electorate of how Parliament actually performs, or fails to perform. If the public understood more transparently how the corrupting influence of patronage actually works, how the power system turns everything to its own advantage, and how the genuine objectives of democratic elections are so readily thwarted, a lot of these unedifying practices would have to be curbed.”

Considering Cameron’s attitude to the will of the people so far, this seems unlikely.

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