Tag Archives: briefing

£2.6 million was spent on Downing Street TV studio for nothing as media briefings scrapped

The briefest of briefing rooms: your local parish council could have done a better job, and cheaper, but Boris Johnson gave the contract to a company based in a hostile state. Now it is being withdrawn from service. How many times was it used?

Boris Johnson has scrapped plans for White House-style press briefings from a new £2.6 million TV studio in Downing Street – meaning he spent all that public money for nothing.

Apparently the room will be used for internal government briefings by Johnson and his ministers instead. They could do that in any ordinary Whitehall office.

Most of us have been doing much the same from our own homes, using Zoom, Skype, or even Facebook Messenger.

The decision confirms what This Writer believed – that this was nothing but another hugely expensive vanity project for Johnson.

His overspending on fripperies like this, described by some as “spaffing cash up the wall”, has brought a new meaning to the phrase “quantitative easing” (which is what the Bank of England has been having to do in order to allow the nation to cover the cost).

Johnson was shamed into admitting the existence of the studio in February, after it was reported on the social media that, after the huge expense, the space was going unused.

Last month he announced that he would be using the studio after all – and we all warned that he doesn’t have the personality to pull it off.

And then we discovered that the studio had been fitted out by a tech firm based in Russia. Who knows what surveillance equipment was installed there?

(I suppose we’ll find out soon enough, if Johnson really intends to have private briefings there instead of public, press affairs; any really embarrassing secrets will soon get out if the place is full of bugs.)

The whole sorry saga has been a national embarrassment.

Our man-child of a prime minister wanted to play with a new toy that he thought would make him look good – and has wound up looking like a spoilt brat squatting in his own mess.

Source: Downing Street scraps plans for White House-style press briefings – BBC News

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Every new MP receives briefing on how Tory social security reforms have harmed us – so they can’t say they don’t know

Long-term readers of This Site will remember Mo Stewart, the researcher into the harm being caused to claimants of sickness and disability benefits by successive Conservative governments’ determination to convert the social security system to a for-profit insurance scheme.

Mo spent 10 years researching and writing a book on this subject: Cash Not Care – The Planned Demolition of the UK Welfare State.

After the 2019 general election, she became concerned that the huge new influx of Conservative MPs – along with those from other political parties – were ignorant of the harm that government policies had caused.

So she wrote a briefing paper specifically addressing the issue and sent it to all of them.

Labour’s John McDonnell has apparently offered to arrange a debate on the subject, if possible.

Whether or not that happens, Mo has provided me with a copy of the document so we all have a record of what these MPs should know – and so they won’t be able to plead ignorance.

And here it is:

Social Policy Abused:
The Creation Of Preventable Harm

Executive Summary

The Preventable Harm Project (the Project) ran for ten years and closed in November 2019, with the evidence identified within the Project findings widely promoted during 2019/20. The Project identified the bipartisan political ambition to eventually remove the UK welfare state, to be replaced by private income replacement health insurance. In order to remove the welfare state, it was first necessary to remove the psychological security provided by the welfare state. This was achieved by the adoption of a flawed disability assessment model, and the manipulation of the general public aided by the tabloid press, that successfully demonised claimants of disability benefit(s). Large numbers of suicides linked to the adoption of the Work Capability Assessment are overlooked by the Department for Work and Pensions, and successive Rule 43 ‘prevention of future deaths’ Coroners’ reports, highlighting the link between the Work Capability Assessment and suicides, have also been disregarded. The Work Capability Assessment was fatally flawed by design and should be abolished, and the departmental intimidation of disability benefit claimants should be outlawed.

Introduction: The Creation of Preventable Harm

1. Introduced in 2008 to restrict access to the new Employment and Support Allowance long-term out-of-work disability benefit, the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is a ‘non-medical functional assessment’ that disregards all clinical opinion. Since 2010, the WCA has been linked to the deaths of thousands of chronically ill and disabled benefit claimants who applied for state financial support when unable to work, yet were deemed to be ‘fit for work’ by the fatally flawed WCA.

2. Twelve years since the adoption of the WCA there is an identified and growing mental health crisis within the UK linked to claimants of disability benefit(s), and a disturbing increase in suicides directly linked to the WCA, as identified by published academic research but dismissed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

“The worst thing, I find, is realising that I am forced into looking for a life that I want but have no chance of having. I seriously feel I may kill myself because being sick, having next to no money, no life, no future, no cure, constant pain and constant disapproval defeats me.”

An extract from the ‘Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work-Related Activity Group’ project, conducted by Catherine Hale and published by MIND and the Centre for Welfare Reform.

3. In both 2006 and 2007 the government’s own expert medical panel warned the administration not to adopt the WCA, advising that it was ‘not fit for purpose’ due to the predictable negative impact on public mental health. The expert panel’s clinical opinion was disregarded by the DWP. The removal of clinical opinion from disability assessment using the WCA guaranteed that many of those in greatest need were destined to die, as the state removed the financial and the psychological security of a guaranteed income when unfit to work.

4. There have been two official Rule 43 ‘prevention of future deaths’ Coroners’ reports linking the WCA to suicides, with other Coroners expressing concern at inquests due to the identified enforced suffering of the deceased by the DWP. Coroners’ official Rule 43 reports and identified concerns are disregarded by the DWP, whose social policy reforms since 2010 created preventable harm to those in greatest need linked to intimidation. The constant threat of sanctions, which removes all disability benefit income, leaves the chronically ill and disabled community in need of state financial support living in fear of the DWP.

5. Regardless of the Jobcentre being advised that a claimant is unable to attend an interview due to ill health, disabled claimants are routinely met with an ‘institutional reluctance’ to meet their needs, as identified in Coroner’s reports. Jobcentre staff’s decisions to sanction a claimant can cause death by starvation, in C21st UK, when all income is removed for a period of weeks or months. No-one is held to account when some of those in greatest need are starved to death by the state.

6. The WCA is used to limit access to all state disability funding including the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Universal Credit and the War Pensions for older working-age disabled veterans, which is a military medical pension not an out-of-work benefit.

7. The WCA is regularly and inappropriately referred to as a ‘medical assessment’ by the DWP, MPs, academics, policy advisers and journalists. The WCA is not a medical assessment and is totally unrelated to clinical opinion. The adoption of the WCA is identified as being attributed to psychocoercion by successive administrations, to remove what once was the psychological security of the welfare state for anyone who is unfit to work.

8. Identified in 2008 by the American Association of Justice as being the second worst insurance company in America, the corporate insurance giant Unum (Provident) Insurance have been advisers to the UK government since 1992, and were appointed as the official UK government consultants for ‘welfare claims management’ from 1994. Concerned by the increase in various conditions that could not be confirmed by blood tests or x-rays, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, Unum Insurance adopted a biopsychosocial (BPS) model of disability assessment, which disregards all clinical opinion.

9. Unum advised the UK government as to how to adopt a similar BPS assessment model in the UK, and funded an assessment centre at Cardiff University for this purpose. The DWP adopted the discredited Waddell-Aylward BPS model of assessment for the WCA, which disregards diagnosis, prognosis, past medical history and prescribed medicines. The human consequences of using the WCA is that many of those in greatest need would die, with many driven to suicide with a common perception that anyone claiming to be unfit to work, and in need of state financial support, will be persecuted by the DWP. The Waddell-Aylward BPS model of assessment failed all academic scrutiny.

Policy recommendations

• Since 2009 every clinical authority in the UK have demanded that the WCA should be abolished. This includes the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of Nurses and the British Psychological Society. Introduced by the private health insurance industry, disregarding clinical opinion was always dangerous. The WCA is fatally flawed and should be abolished without further delay, to be replaced with a disability assessment that considers clinical opinion, with many assessments being paper-based, so that the chronically ill and disabled community are no longer intimidated by the DWP.

Research findings
• In order to remove the past psychological security provided by the welfare state it was necessary to discredit vast numbers of disability benefit claimants, aided by the tabloid press, which helped to manipulate the British public.
• Social policies were adopted with a fiscal priority whilst disregarding health and wellbeing, which policymakers failed to take into account when recommending policies which were harmful.
• Since 2010 the social policy reforms, and the additional austerity measures, were destined to have a catastrophic and often fatal consequence for many of those in greatest need. Thousands of chronically ill and disabled benefit claimants have died when ‘killed by the state,’ with a 2014 NHS Digital Adult Psychiatry Morbidity Survey report that identified that almost 50 percent of ESA disability benefit claimants had attempted suicide at some point.
• Prosecuted disability hate crimes, including murder, increased by 213 percent between 2010-2016, during the coalition government’s term in office.
• The relationship between physical health and mental health is well documented. The numbers of benefit claimants who have perished due to social policies since 2010 will never be known.
• Published in September 2016 ‘Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state’ provides the results of the first six years of independent disability studies research for the Preventable Harm Project. The book is now recommended reading for various social policy, health and legal courses at universities in the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

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£2.6 million Downing Street briefing room was built by Russians. Not ‘very sensible’!

The new government media briefing room: your local parish council could have done a better job, and cheaper, but Boris Johnson gave the contract to a company based in a hostile state.

After This Site’s article yesterday showing that Boris Johnson is trying to hide the idiocy of his decisions by claiming they are “very sensible”, this:

His government paid £2.6 million to a Russian company for construction of the new media briefing room – in Downing Street, the heart of the UK government.

Despite being sued for unlawfully withholding details of contracts, the Tory government has refused to say whether the work was put out to competitive tender. It should have been, because the contract was not awarded as part of an emergency.

In fact, no details of the contract with Russian-owned Megahertz have been published.

Megahertz carried out the main work on the project, including installing computers, cameras, microphones and a control desk. Its owner Okno-TV has previously carried out similar technical work for Russian state-controlled broadcasters Russia Today, Channel One, and Public Television of Russia.

It has not been suggested that the company is influenced by the Russian government, but the question has to be asked:

Why did Boris Johnson hire a company from a country that has been designated a “hostile state” to build a communications hub for the UK government?

It’s a security nightmare.

And, after the Salisbury poisonings, a public relations disaster.

Worse still, the briefing room itself looks amateurish.

Advance photos of the space, released before it goes into daily use, show a layout that could have been put together at a village hall, with a central podium backed by two Union flags and a TV screen on one side facing rows of the kind of chairs you see stacked at the side of your local meeting-room.

It doesn’t look like a £2.6m facility. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t look like it cost £2,000.

Admittedly, the broadcasting equipment was probably expensive. But, coming from a Russian firm, who knows what might be included in it, alongside what Johnson asked for?

The work also comes after a Tory government had to end the involvement of Chinese firm Huawei in the rollout of 5G telecommunications in the UK.

So This Writer is in a rare position of agreement with Labour’s Chris Bryant, who chairs the all-party Parliamentary group on Russia, who said,

What shocks me most is that the Johnson government seems to have learnt nothing about the involvement in sensitive UK projects of companies with [links] to autocratic regimes, whether in Russia or in China.

Fundamental to the whole issue, of course, is the fact that Johnson spaffed this cash to Russia while do the dirty on nurses by giving them a pay cut.

It is clear that Johnson’s claim that he could not afford to pay any more to the people who saved so many from Covid-19 is bunkum; he’s got money to burn.

The problem is that his priorities are wrong.

Source: Exclusive: Russian-Owned Firm Played Key Role In Downing Street Media Refit | HuffPost UK

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Have the Tories been SHAMED into bringing their £2.6 million ‘briefing room’ out of mothballs?

£2.6m on a TV studio and it will look much like this: the flags will be there but probably not the fireplace, and Johnson is likely to be speaking from a podium. One thing that is likely to remain absent is a comb.

Funny how the Johnson government has announced it is planning to run daily press conferences from its £2.6m media briefing TV studio, shortly after the social media reported that the space was going unused and the money had been wasted, isn’t it?

This Site’s own story appeared on February 22 and you can read it here.

I said at the time that the spending on a Boris Johnson vanity project showcased his fascination with the United States presidency. Perhaps he wants to seem presidential?

If so, it won’t work because he simply doesn’t have the personality to pull it off. All that will happen is we will be able to identify his lies more quickly, without a layer of client-journalist interpretation to get in our way.

This in turn causes me to speculate on the selection of press representatives who will be allowed access to the briefings.

It seems unlikely that anybody without a Conservative Party membership card in their pocket is likely to get past the Downing Street gates.

With the briefings being televised, that may not matter. But how long will that last?

I can see live briefings turning into “selected highlights” as the novelty diminishes and ratings decline.

And who will select them?

Source: Downing Street: Millions spent on new media briefing room – BBC News

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‘Bullied’ former Home Office boss drops case against Patel in return for huge payout of YOUR cash

Sir Philip Rutnam: rather than prove claims of bullying against him – and demonstrate the culture of bullying allegedly created by Priti Patel in the Home Office – he’s going to take the money and run.

Pathetic.

The former Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, Sir Philip Rutnam, has stabbed his fellow civil servants in the back by coming to a settlement of his ‘unfair dismissal’ case against Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Rutnam had claimed he had been the victim of a “vicious and orchestrated” briefing campaign after trying to get Ms Patel to change her bullying behaviour.

His case was due to be heard by an employment tribunal in September – which seems a long wait, considering he quit in February last year.

But now it isn’t going to happen because he has opted to take Patel’s thirty pieces of silver instead – or rather, £340,000 plus his legal costs.

And when I say “Patel’s” money, I mean public money because of course she wouldn’t dream of paying him anything herself.

This is not an appropriate use of public funds.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said:

Taxpayers will be appalled at having to pick up the bill for the home secretary’s unacceptable behaviour.

(Strictly speaking, he’s not right. The government creates money to cover its expenditure. It taxes us to give that money its value. But he’s right that we should not expect public money to be used to pay for the indiscretions of Tory ministers.)

The government is saying it does not accept liability for the manner of Rutnam’s departure from his job.

If that’s true, then why pay a “substantial” amount to settle the case?

Source: Philip Rutnam: Ex-Home Office boss settles unfair dismissal case – BBC News

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#Whitty and #Vallance TV briefing shows incompetent Tories failed to contain #Covid19UK while causing maximum public inconvenience

[Image tweeted by The Brexit Comic.]

There’s no way around it: Boris Johnson and his gang of Tory nincompoops have really cocked up the Covid-19 crisis.

That’s the message This Writer took from the televised briefing by chief medical officer Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance.

Here’s a summary of what they said, courtesy of that great critic of the Johnson government, Piers Morgan:

Those are the points I got from it too – and here’s my conclusion:

That’s right:

Here’s the rest of what I took from the briefing:

So what can we all expect in the future from Johnson?

More of the same.

He may impose more restrictions on our freedoms but he won’t tell us not to go to work again, because making money for his friends is more important to him than saving our lives.

His policies will be intended to keep hospital admissions within treatable levels – to prevent Covid-19 from overwhelming the UK’s doctors and nurses – as it always has been. But they won’t be about reducing levels of infection to zero because he has never been interested in that. Making money for his friends is more important to him than saving our lives.

Johnson may even try to justify his refusal to impose measures that would eradicate the disease by saying the effect on the economy would cause even more harm to public health. As I tweeted, that’s a political decision – he could legislate to ensure that any such harm is prevented. But he won’t, because making money for his friends is more important to him than saving our lives.

And that means many more people are going to die – your relatives and friends, perhaps. Maybe even you. Because making money for Johnson’s friends is more important to him than saving our lives.

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This could be a preview of every day’s coronavirus TV briefing by the Tories [SATIRE]

I’m just using this shot of Dominc Raab looking clueless at the daily briefing to hammer home the fact that the satirical clip (below) is right-on-the-button.

Larry and Paul (apparently that’s who they are) have got this exactly right:

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People in America are ingesting bleach after Trump suggested it as coronavirus cure

[Image from Dorset Eye.]

If someone turned up on the telly and told you to ingest bleach to cure the coronavirus, would you do it? Or would you say: “after you”?

This Writer would do the latter.

Sadly, it seems some people in New York, the US city hardest-hit by the pandemic, haven’t had that presence of mind.

We already know that Trump suggested injecting bleach during a White House press briefing:

In the 18 hours immediately after, according to New York’s Poison Control Centre, the city handled:

Nine cases of possible exposure to Lysol, a US brand of disinfectant; 10 cases regarding bleach; and 11 to household cleaners generally.

That’s 30 cases, compared to just 13 in the same period last year.

On Friday, Trump tried to backtrack, claiming his comments had been “sarcastic”. What do you think?

While it seems none of these people have died, someone else hasn’t been as lucky:

Gary Lenius and his wife Wanda, both in their 60s, drank chloroquine phosphate last month after confusing it for hydroxychloroquine – a drug previously touted by Donald Trump as a potential cure to treat Covid-19.

Gary, a retired mechanical engineer living in Arizona, died on March 22 and his wife was left in critical condition after ingesting the toxic chemical.

The man’s wife said she had watched televised briefings during which President Trump talked about the potential benefits of chloroquine.

There’s no denying that this man died, and his wife suffered, because they didn’t understand they were taking the wrong substance.

But it also happened because Donald Trump made an ill-advised comment on American television, direct to his nation.

This Writer has absolutely no doubt that he will do it again and more people will suffer and/or die.

So the moral is clear: if America wants to cut the number of deaths related to the coronavirus crisis, the President must stop talking about it.

Source: Coronavirus: New York sees spike in disinfectant exposure cases following Trump’s dangerous treatment musings | The Independent

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We KNEW Tory ministers were warned about coronavirus in 2019. Now we have damning details

Boris Johnson: If he had taken seriously the briefings on coronavirus he had LAST YEAR, he might not have caught it.

There is nothing new in the Guardian headline that UK (Tory) ministers were warned last year about the risks of the coronavirus pandemic.

One day This Writer will tire of mentioning this, but my blog article of March 30 – gosh, nearly a month ago, now! – made this abundantly clear:

Boris Johnson was first briefed about a new virus causing havoc in Wuhan, China, in November 2019. He did nothing.

Okay?

The details now reported by the Graunare damning:

The recommendations within it included the need to stockpile PPE (personal protective equipment), organise advanced purchase agreements for other essential kit, establish procedures for disease surveillance and contact tracing, and draw up plans to manage a surge in excess deaths.

Having plans for helping British nationals abroad and repatriating them to the UK was also flagged as a priority.

All of these areas have come under relentless scrutiny since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with the government accused of being too slow to react to the crisis. It is now under sustained pressure to provide answers about what was done nationally and locally to provide the support that planners have long called for, amid growing fears ministers were “caught out” by the crisis and have been playing catchup ever since.

So where, later in the same article, we see a government spokesperson saying:

“This is an unprecedented global pandemic and we have taken the right steps at the right time to combat it, guided at all times by the best scientific advice.”

This is quite clearly false.

I would agree with the source who said the Tories had not properly focused on the pandemic threat and had been “caught out” flat-footed.

Watch, in the months to come, as the Tories fall over each other to claim there won’t be any need for an inquiry into their sheer, possibly-criminal, incompetence.

Source: Revealed: UK ministers were warned last year of risks of coronavirus pandemic | World news | The Guardian

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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Coronavirus: have the Tories told a big lie? Do they expect HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of DEATHS?

Did I make that headline big enough for you?

According to Byline Times, the people there have gained access to a Home Office conference call that shows the facts about Tory government policy on the coronavirus: heartless and two-faced.

It seems the government does not expect a vaccine to appear before most of the population has caught the virus – and expects around 264,000 of us to die in the long term.

This is the scientific advice behind the government’s policy on coronavirus; remember that when Dominic Raab or Boris Johnson come out to a press conference and say they’re “following scientific advice”.

So it seems the Tories want to downplay the dangers of going to work. As we’re all going to catch Covid-19 anyway, they want us to get back to servicing their economy.

We already know that Tory policy is to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus infections – ensure that the rate of infection slows to one that the NHS can manage, after years in which that party, in government, has starved it of investment in favour of giving money to profit-making firms.

But it turns out that a more accurate description is that Tory policy is simply to slow down “the rate at which we get this virus [which] has direct impact on the NHS”.

So sending us home might have more to do with preventing the NHS from having to deal with it – even if it means people die in their homes (or care homes); and it explains why vulnerable people received letters saying they would be denied treatment if they caught the disease.

The whole strategy suggests that the Tories have never shifted from the “herd immunity” nonsense spouted by Boris Johnson in early March; they want us to “take it on the chin” and if we die in a quiet corner as a result, that’s just too bad.

And it seems that, while we wait for a vaccine that may be a long time coming, we will experience several peaks in infections, each increasing the aggregate number of deaths.

These assumptions are supported by a lot of bad science.

First, it was claimed that the coronavirus cannot survive more than 48 hours on hard surfaces and clothing; in fact survive on hard, shiny surfaces like plastic and steel for up to 72 hours, up to four days on glass and paper money, and as much as seven days on the outside of a surgical mask. Suggestions of a shorter lifespan are begging for people to be infected.

It was also suggested that the coronavirus is uniformly spread across the country, and that this is the reason it is not possible to stop it spreading – but without mass community testing it is impossible to make that claim.

Statements in support of people going to work are contradictory in the extreme.

People who go to work while a vulnerable person is at home are said to be protecting that person because they don’t have to leave the house – but then if the worker catches Covid-19 their housemate is likely to die of it.

So a person going out to work must put a vulnerable person in their household at higher risk!

Going to work is justified because it would keep the economy moving – and said to be equivalent in risk to staying at home or shopping, again on the grounds that we are all doomed to get the virus.

“It’s perfectly okay to carry on in your business” is the claim – made only, it seems, to support the economy rather than to support workers’ safety.

In other words, it seems to be Tory policy for people to put themselves at risk of contracting Covid-19, in order to keep money flowing into the hands of the already-rich. If true: despicable.

Source: COVID-19 SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Leaked Home Office Call Reveals Government wants Economy to ‘Continue Running’ as ‘We Will All Get’ COVID-19 Anyway – Byline Times

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.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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The Livingstone Presumption is now available
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