Tag Archives: disaster

Did ‘activist lawyers’ tell Home Office its Windrush compensation scheme was a disaster, too?

The Empire Windrush brought many people to the UK to help rebuild the country after World War II. If it had still been in service a couple of years ago, the Tories would have been trying to use it to deport them all again.

How unfortunate for the Home Office that it should fall foul of the lawyers twice in one day.

Or is it perhaps a sign of the Johnson government’s disregard for the law?

The Tory government’s much-maligned Windrush Compensation Scheme has been trashed by – one would expect – activist lawyers from no fewer than nine separate firms.

They say it is failing to provide access to justice – a claim that can only have gained validity after it was revealed that the HO tried to rush-deport 23 people illegally, because it had not allowed them their right to appeal.

The – activist – lawyers also said that while the Windrush scandal traumatised its victims, the compensation scheme is only worsening the trauma.

The HO has already confirmed that at least five people who applied for compensation died before receiving it.

Lawyers say they have experienced significant delays and difficulties filing claims for clients who were wrongly classified as illegal immigrants and lost their jobs, housing or pensions as a result.

The letter says many applications appear to be “appear to be lost in a kind of bureaucratic limbo”, with some people forced to wait more than a year for decisions.

Look at this:

The decision to put the Home Office in charge of processing of claims was particularly problematic, they write, given the criticisms of the department made in Wendy Williams’ official inquiry into the scandal. Williams’ report identified a “culture of disbelief and carelessness” within the Home Office and “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race”.

And now let’s all remember that the Home Office is carrying out its own inquiry into the death of refugee Mercy Baguma. What chance does justice have in a “culture of disbelief and carelessness” with “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race”?

Coincidentally (or is it?) yesterday HO permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft announced:

Perhaps inevitably, this was one of the responses:

Source: Windrush payout scheme not fit for purpose, say lawyers | Windrush scandal | The Guardian

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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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Bungling Starmer is stumbling through one race-related fiasco after another

Dithering and indecisive: and we were told he would sweep Labour back into power!

Keir Starmer is now in serious trouble.

His tone-deaf description of Black Lives Matter as a “moment” – along with a series of other race-related mishaps – has upset a multitude of voters – not just black or from ethnic minorities but everybody – and heralded a mass exodus that he seems ill-equipped to stem.

And the mass media are full of stories about it.

Here‘s black, working-class woman – and now-former Labour member – Evie Muir in Metro:

When Starmer took over this year, I was open to the change in leadership. His voting record on social issues mirrored my values and I was hopeful that this would be reflected in his actions moving forward.

But over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself distancing from the Labour Party at an evolving pace.

Starmer … positioned himself as a leader who will not be exploring [racism] for the party’s constituents. He is not only gatekeeping a problematic institution, but also failing to recognise the nuances within the relationship between the police and Black communities in the UK.

His comments are neglectful of the most recent examples of incompetency in the sector, including the circumstances around 12-year-old Shukri Yahye-Abdi’s death by drowning, and the police officers who just weeks ago allegedly took selfies with Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, two murdered Black women.

After the statement [on Black Lives Matter] went viral, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, notorious for his unapologetic bigotry, right wing rhetoric and anti-multiculturalism stance, tweeted that he ‘heartily agrees’ with Starmer’s condemnation of the BLM organisation.

I immediately cancelled my Labour Party membership.

I am not the only one to abandon Labour. My social media feeds, WhatsApp groups and DMs sprung to life with likeminded friends telling me they feel equally betrayed.

Questioning the validity of the only organisation that advocates for Black people, questions the validity of all Black people.

If the Labour Party is not prepared to listen to the needs of Black people, unapologetically support these and advocate for our rights to be heard, then the party is no longer a safe place for us. You are either with us or you are against us, there is no room for debating our humanity, excusing our oppressors or talking over us. This only puts us in further danger.

Starmer’s statement othered us so completely that I no longer feel like we have a home in the party, and as an avid and loyal Labour advocate, this turnaround is humiliating.

I won’t be forgetting Starmer’s comments, and I won’t be returning to Labour under his leadership.

This article has been endorsed by at least one black Labour MP:

Black Lives Matter has published its own opinion:

If you click on the link to the article, you’ll see that BLM is asking Labour members to report anti-black racism within the party – including, presumably, that of its leaders – to their regional offices, with contact details included, hence Jackie Walker’s exhortation for people to do it.

Here’s a tweet identifying two more issues alongside the Black Lives Matter fiasco:

The first point refers to the way party officials allegedly defended “racist, sexist and abusive” messages about colleagues, as seen in the leaked Labour report on the party’s response to allegations of anti-Semitism.

Here‘s The Independent:

One third of the National Executive Committee’s members, including representatives from four trade unions, wrote to the Labour leader this week accusing his office of misleading them about how the party dealt with leaked WhatsApp messages by senior officials detailed in a controversial internal report.

The messages, which included senior officials saying they wished a prominent Labour activist would die in a fire, calling a left-wing staffer “pube head”, and commenting that female advisers had “stopped wearing bras” in meetings, provoked widespread anger in the party when they came to light earlier this year. The party’s NEC ordered an investigation, which is still ongoing.

However, last week Labour’s press office provided a statement to journalists covering the story that defended the comments, describing criticism as “po-faced” and stating: “These were messages exchanged between co-workers in the expectation that they would remain private and confidential and the tone of the language used reflects that.”

The comment outraged NEC members, who called for an apology and retraction at a meeting of the body on Tuesday, but Sir Keir’s office is understood to have told them that the statement was not intended for publication and said it had been provided by the party’s lawyers.

But the offending statement, which The Independent has seen in full, was sent to journalists at the OpenDemocracy website from the Labour press office’s main email account and refers to “the party’s lawyers” in the third person. Although clearly written in legal language, it has the subject line “Re: URGENT: Right of reply offer pre-publication”, suggesting it was issued in response to a request for comment.

Labour has launched an inquiry into the contents of the leaked report, but NEC members – rightly – pointed out that this was now prejudiced by the press release:

In their letter to Sir Keir, the 13 NEC members said: “The Labour Party’s statement was not only inexcusable in defending the racist, sexist and abusive comments in the WhatsApp groups, it also directly prejudged the specific issues that Martin Forde’s inquiry is considering. This prejudices Martin Forde’s inquiry and thereby undermines its independence.

“It is clearly unacceptable for party officials or officials in the leader’s office to politically interfere with or compromise the integrity of the independent investigation that the NEC has commissioned. As members of the NEC, we therefore ask that you issue an immediate apology for this Labour Party statement and retract it completely.”

No such apology or retraction appears to have been made. A statement that the quoted comments “do not in any way represent the party’s position in relation to the contents of the leaked report overall and do not prejudge the outcome of those investigations” is unconvincing; we can judge those words for ourselves.

The storm over the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey has been well-documented on This Site and elsewhere.

All in all, it seems Starmer has dug a hole for himself and seems determined to sit in it.

Perhaps he thinks this will all blow over and he’ll be able to carry on as though he hasn’t made a damn fool of himself and everybody who follows him.

It won’t.

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Coronavirus test and trace programme hit by further disasters on only its second day

This is going well, isn’t it?

Let me put it another way: it isn’t.

There are serious IT problems which mean contact tracers can’t use the dedicated “test and trace” website.

There isn’t enough work yet, meaning contact tracers are being paid for nothing – although they are being made to wait for it; payments have been unreasonably delayed or were for the wrong amount.

And they don’t even have dedicated team leaders to help them sort out these problems.

NHS workers in the scheme reported being unable to log into the new website, with staff saying they received a message saying a “critical incident” has been reported.

[Also:] “They’ve recruited all these people and there’s not enough work… launching this early was purely to try and dominate the news.

The tracer said she can see there are hundreds of contact tracer shifts available, commenting that, given there are no cases assigned to her, “I could book every day if I was that inclined and get money for sitting painting my nails!”

Another issue that contact tracers have told Sky News about is delayed pay.

One area of progress is that she now has been provided a number to talk to the team leaders but still has not been assigned a specific one for her.

Source: Coronavirus: Test and trace programme ‘hit by more problems’ on day two | UK News | Sky News

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The Conservative conference has been a disaster – for Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson: Don’t you think he looks tired?

Cards on the table: I couldn’t be bothered to cover the Tory conference this year.

I figured it would be days of the unbearable addressing the unspeakable – and the following clips suggest I was right.

Biggest loser is clearly Boris Johnson. Consider this:

If you think that’s bad, look at this:

Well, we already knew he’s a racist.

And he has lost the confidence, even of young Conservatives:

Okay, two of the above were by the Tories’ political opponents, but they’re not wrong!

Don’t pay attention to the opinion polls. If the Tories get near a general election with BoJob as leader, they’ll be buried.

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Is this an attempt to scapegoat the London Fire Brigade for the Grenfell disaster?

Ruin: Firefighters risked their lives in Grenfell Tower – not just while the building was burning but afterwards, as they searched among the rubble for residents.

This seems extremely sinister.

We know that the Grenfell Tower disaster was caused by a faulty kitchen appliance.

It was then accelerated by the fact that the tower had no sprinkler system because landlords working for Kensington and Chelsea Council did not consider it necessary.

And of course the same landlords had installed “fire resistant” cladding that instead hugely worsened the blaze.

Right?

But no real action has been taken against either the landlord organisation or the council.

And now the fire brigade that handled the blaze has been interviewed under caution by police over potential health and safety breaches to do with the policy to tell people to stay in their flats while the fire raged outside.

But the “stay put” policy had been imposed by landlords the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) and was standard policy for a high-rise building in the United Kingdom. 

It relies on the assumption that construction standards such as concrete and fire-resistant doors will allow firefighters to contain a fire within one flat – which was impossible in Grenfell Tower, which was not built to a standard that made this possible.

It seems clear that firefighters followed nationwide guidelines that were understood to be the best course at the time, and changed their plans when they realised that these guidelines had proved ineffective.

Blame for this ineffectiveness must fall on builders who used substandard materials, the landlord who decided that the proper materials and safety methods were not necessary, the council that employed that landlord, and the Tory government that relaxed safety requirements – making it possible for actions that endangered residents to happen.

I remember the eyewitness accounts of firefighters coming out of that inferno. It was clear that not only had they done everything they could to get as many people as possible out of danger; they had put themselves in considerable danger to do so.

But now it seems attempts are being made to blame them.

Who ordered this investigation into the Fire Service? What was their motivation for doing so?

And shouldn’t they be made to feel ashamed?

London Fire Brigade officials have been interviewed under caution by police investigating the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Scotland Yard detectives questioned the body over its duty to protect the public and its own employees from health and safety risks.

Source: Grenfell Tower fire: London Fire Brigade officials interviewed under caution by police over disaster | The Independent

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International watchdog says we all have 12 years to tackle climate change

Every little helps: But don’t be fooled – these personal measures to cut your carbon footprint are tiny compared to what governments can do. Will they do anything, though?

We’ve all heard a lot of debate about whether climate change is real and whether it poses a significant threat.

Here’s the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) spelling it all out for us:

We (meaning national governments across the world) need to act without delay to prevent the destruction of coral reefs and stop sea levels rising by as much as ten centimetres. If that happened large parts of the world could become uninhabitable.

Within 12 years.

Are we all clear on this now?

The Tories are already saying the UK has the best record of any G20 country in attacking the causes of climate change.

Do you believe that?

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Brexit HAS united the country – just not in the way the Tories wanted

The Conservative Party’s cack-handed tackling of the UK’s departure from the European Union is the biggest disaster this country has faced in decades – and people on all sides of the political divide know it.

That’s why outrage has been building on the Left, Right and Centre.

Take a look at these three self-explanatory exclamations, all of which appeared on This Writer’s Twitter feed yesterday (September 2).

The first is the image at the top of this article.

Now, here’s a right-wing view: former West Dorset Conservative Peter Reynolds’ resignation from the party. This is a cracker [boldings mine]:

After the disastrous handling of the EU referendum result, the ludicrous decision to appoint one of the most incompetent and out-of-touch ministers as prime minister and her farcical election performance, I have been wrestling for some time as to whether to renew my membership.  The Conservative Party is now far divorced from its fundamental principles of liberty and small government and Mrs May is an authoritarian bigot stuck in some 1950s delusion of what Britain is today.

Following her ridiculous announcement last night that she intends to stay on as leader I am now tendering my resignation forthwith.  She has no mandate, no respect and in my view is held in utter contempt throughout the country.  It is also self-evident that all other ministers are too weak, cowardly and neurotic about their own jobs to do anything to stop her.

Mrs May failed consistently over six years at the Home Office. She is a Remainer and should never have been permitted to lead the party or the country after the referendum result.  Mrs May and all ministers failed entirely to plan for a leave vote and they have dithered, waffled, dodged and tripped up again and again, achieving absolutely nothing in the period since the result.

Brexit was a huge opportunity for the UK but the Conservative Party has wrecked it and damaged Britain irreparably in the process. If I had my way Mrs May would be led in chains out of Downing Street and placed in stocks in Parliament Square to endure the humiliation she so richly deserves.

Note that these are the words of a ‘Leave’ voter, disgusted with his own party’s failure to get to grips with the necessary actions required to effect an acceptable departure from the EU.

Finally, it seems a proportion of the population is angry at pensioners for voting selfishly. Here’s 54-year-old Chris Webster from Abergavenny:

He writes:

“Clacton’s ruthlessly pro-Brexit Boomers are an inspiration. Brexit is expected to cause a long-term loss of some 10% of GDP, or around £200bn per year.

“Government revenues are around 35% of GDP, so a 10% drop means £70bn less for public spending.

“But state pensions cost £90bn a year, and 65% of voters over 65 voted Leave.

“The obvious solution is to cut pensions by 65% or £58bn, and let the generation that mostly voted for Brexit pay for most of it.

“This is a controversial idea, so we should hold a referendum to ensure we know the will of the people. As in the EU referendum, we must ignore the interests of those who will be most affected, so pensioners will not be allowed to vote.

“Of course many old people will lose out, but they will be reassured by empty promises from wealthy politicians, and they can starve happy in the knowledge that it is a price worth paying for Brexit.

“Never mind cake, let them eat sovereignty.”

Of course, the impression of solidarity against Brexit is illusory.

Look at the details and they’re all different.

But they all hate the Tory travesty we’re living now.


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Fire union chief attacks terms of Grenfell inquiry – because they will not identify the culprits

Work begins on covering Grenfell Tower with protective wrapping [Image: Tang/Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock].

This Writer agrees with, supports and applauds the words of Matt Wrack, head of the Fire Brigades Union.

It seems clear that Theresa May wants a whitewash. She must not be allowed to have her way.

So what is to be done?

The head of the Fire Brigades Union, whose members rushed to save Grenfell Tower residents, has criticised the failure to have the judge-led inquiry into the disaster look at its social and political context.

Matt Wrack said that under its current terms the investigation would fail to answer crucial questions. He said it seemed designed to protect Whitehall from scrutiny and would exacerbate the hurt felt by survivors and the families of those who died.

Wrack said: “How is it remotely possible to seriously examine the causes, spread and results of the fire without examining ‘social, economic and political’ matters?”

He called the decision a “mighty kick of some really fundamental issues into some very long grass”. “There is clearly no intent from government for any wider inquiry or serious debate,” he said.

Source: Fire chief criticises terms of inquiry into Grenfell Tower blaze | UK news | The Guardian


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Mock indignation from IDS won’t halt the uproar over benefit-related deaths

The latest DWP-related death (to be reported in the newspapers): David O'Mar had collected thousands of football kits, to be given to children in Eastern Europe, before he succumbed to pneumonia after a tribunal said he was fit for work - while he was lying in a hospital bed.

The latest DWP-related death (to be reported in the newspapers): David O’Mar had collected thousands of football kits, to be given to children in Eastern Europe, before he succumbed to pneumonia after a tribunal said he was fit for work – while he was lying in a hospital bed.

The Conservative Government’s stalling tactics when confronted with questions about benefit-related deaths have at last tarnished the image of Prime Minister David Cameron, along with his ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions.

When Debbie Abrahams, a Labour MP whose own image is refreshingly glowing after she stood up for her principles and voted against the Tory ‘Welfare’ Bill last night, asked an Urgent Question of him in the House of Commons yesterday (Tuesday), Cameron was nowhere to be found, having run like a jackrabbit and left others to face the grilling.

His Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, was present – but refused to respond, despite this being an issue of serious concern to the public.

Instead, he sent his minister for employment, Priti Patel, to the Dispatch Box and confined himself to muttered comments from the sidelines. At one point he could be heard very clearly, whining, “Don’t lecture us about it.”

It was a public relations disaster – and on the very last day before the summer recess, meaning people will remember it.

Ms Abrahams asked the Prime Minister to make a statement on his commitment of June 24, to publish DWP data on the number of people in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance and Incapacity Benefit who have died since November 2011, including those found fit for work – to honour This Writer’s Freedom of Information request on the subject, and answer more than 240,000 petitioners who have supported it.

“I am disappointed that the Prime Minister is not here in person to explain why he has not yet honoured his commitment,” she said.

“When will we see the data published?” she asked of Ms Patel. “When are they being prepared for publication?”

“Will the Minister commit to publishing the actual numbers of deaths?”

She also asked how much the DWP had spent on staff and legal fees in the decision to refuse my FoI request – and now to contest the Information Commissioner’s ruling that my question should be answered.

She called on Duncan Smith to reconsider his decision not to publish the details on any of the DWP’s 49 peer reviews into social security claimants who died, including – importantly – changes brought forward by the department as a result of them.

Finally, she asked what assessment has been undertaken of the potential impact on the health status of those on Incapacity Benefit or Employment and Support Allowance, given the measures introduced in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

Ms Patel repeated the platitudes we have heard already – that the information will be published “but before doing so the statistics need to meet the high standards expected”.

She added: “We will publish all aspects of the data that we have been asked to publish.”

Rest assured that this writer will hold her – and the Conservative Government – to that!

She did not say anything about the cost of refusing and appealing against my FoI request, about the 49 peer reviews, or about assessments of the health status of those on IB or ESA – despite being challenged several times by different MPs on the first of these issues in particular.

The tone of Ms Patel’s responses left so much to be desire that it attracted particular comment from – among others – the Father of the House, Gerald Kaufman.

In a room where emotions were already running high, due to the nature of the issue being discussed, she began by demanding: “Would Labour Members like to listen to my response before they start chuntering away?”

Her response was immediately branded “arrogant” by Mr Kaufman and a later claim that the Conservative-led Coalition was the first government to publish statistics on benefit-related deaths was labelled “misleading” by Labour MP Dawn Butler.

It is as though the government deliberately set out to cause upset, as Parliament dissolved for its summer recess.

For the record, the last-published statistics on benefit-related deaths were released in July 2012 and conveyed figures for the period January-November 2011, in which 10,600 ESA claimants died. That’s around one every two or three hours.

As Labour’s Kate Green pointed out: “There is huge disquiet among disabled people, as story after story surfaces in the media about disabled people being found fit for work and dying shortly afterwards—last week another story appeared in the Daily Mirror about a disabled man who died two weeks after his assessment.

“The shenanigans in the DWP around the release of the statistics are concerning—and puzzling, if the Department has nothing to hide.”

Mr Kaufman put Ms Patel right in her place when he said: “I say to the junior Minister that she needs to take some lessons from her boss in dealing with questions in this House, because whatever the nature of his replies, he replies with courtesy. She needs to learn about that as well.”

He had already cast doubt on the honesty of the Conservative Government as a whole, remarking witheringly: “I wish my hon. Friend (Debbie Abrahams) every good fortune in awaiting a reply to a letter to the Prime Minister, in view of the fact that in the last five years I have had exactly one letter from him, and that was after I had received a letter from No. 10 signed by somebody who did not exist.”

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