Tag Archives: discussion

Tories gag drug companies to stop them admitting no-deal Brexit will seriously harm the UK – and their own electability

Companies must sign non-disclosure clauses “to prevent leaks that could weaken the government’s negotiating ability”.

It isn’t often that I agree with Keir Starmer these days, but he’s right on the money here:

The fact that the Tories are asking firms to sign non-disclosure agreements is tacit confirmation – not only that a no-deal Brexit is now likely, but that it will also cause an incalculable amount of harm to the UK economy.

This leads us inexorably to the other reason an NDA would be demanded; the information the Tories would provide to company representatives must be so damning that they think it will seriously harm not just the economy but their party’s electability.

The Conservatives know that they are responsible. Not only did they trigger the referendum that led to this point, they made sure no effort was made to explain what Brexit would mean in the run-up to the vote, and they have squabbled among themselves like children rather than acting in the interests of the country after it.

But they want to hide this from the general public.

So they are forcing gagging orders on anybody they think might give the game away.

With less than five months to go before we sever our ties with our greatest trading partner, the UK is on the brink of Conservative-created catastrophe.

Drug companies are being told to sign gagging clauses before discussing contingency plans for a chaotic no-deal Brexit with the government.

The Department for Health and Social Care has asked drug companies as well as bodies representing the pharmaceutical industry to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) so that officials can talk to them “in confidence” and ensure that “any requests of them are clear, appropriate and deliverable”.

Labour accused the government of silencing the health sector. After last week’s revelations about the retail magnate Sir Philip Green’s use of NDAs, Theresa May vowed to crack down on employers who are “using them unethically” and to “improve the regulation around NDAs”, although the prime minister did not condemn the use of gagging clauses altogether.

Source: Drug companies gagged over no-deal talks | News | The Times

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Jeremy Hunt is playing with words when he could be having an adult discussion about healthcare, says Ralf Little

Ralf Little was talking about his dialogue with Jeremy Hunt in an interview conducated by James O’Brien on LBC.

Actor – and former medical student – Ralf Little appeared on radio to repeat his appeal for Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to take part in a live-broadcast debate with him about the state of the NHS.

Mr Hunt had previously challenged Mr Little, on Twitter, to prove his claim that the Health Secretary had “knowingly” lied to the public using inaccurate statistics, in an interview on The Andrew Marr Show.

Talking with James O’Brien on LBC, Mr Little said: “In hindsight that was probably a regrettable choice of words.”

But he said he still wanted to debate the facts – in the name of transparency.

Mr Hunt, on the other hand, has become reticent. His claim is that he only challenged Mr Little to a debate because the other man had said he “knowingly” lied, and would not take part in such an event on any other terms.

“It’s getting extremely semantic and… extremely technical, and it may even be legally sound,” said Mr Little. “But what it feels like is, this man who’s a clever politician… is obfuscating and avoiding a serious discussion about the NHS, and mental health, and the future of the NHS, off the basis of a semantic argument and a technical argument, and I don’t think that’s reasonable.”

Mr Little said he had debunked two of Hunt’s claims and actually bolstered one, the health secretary having undersold his achievement.

Little told James O’Brien he couldn’t believe the Tory had tried to dispute Hawking’s cherrypicking claim: “Literally, his job is to analyse evidence and use that to theorise the most extraordinary things that most of us can’t comprehend.

“If anyone knows what cherrypicking statistics is, and how evidence works, it’s Stephen Hawking. If he’s telling you you’re getting it wrong, you listen. Surely?”

He said: “Where the problem comes is going, ‘Everything’s going really well,’ and it’s simply not true or it’s certainly not the full story… It’s the NHS. We need to know what’s going on with it… We need to know it’s not being privatised on the quiet.

“Again, something I’d like to ask the man.”

Here’s the full interview:

It seems to This Writer that Mr Little has a very strong point.

It doesn’t matter whether Mr Hunt “knowingly” lied or inadvertently quoted false figures – the end result is the same.

We can’t allow ourselves to believe a word he says.

Maybe he doesn’t want to clear that up.

If so, that might be a worse stain on his character.

Source: Ralf Little Explains The Twitter Row Between Him, Jeremy Hunt And Stephen Hawking – LBC


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You can peacefully combat extremism – Michelle Thomasson

Labour MP Rushanara Ali sponsored the discussion.

Labour MP Rushanara Ali sponsored the discussion.

A guest blog by Michelle Thomasson.

Last week at the House of Commons in London there was a discussion on ‘Youth, Alienation and Radicalisation’ – terms that can equally encompass young Muslims as well as white working class people.

Rushanara Ali MP had agreed to sponsor the meeting and she was joined by Fiyaz Mughal OBE, director of Faith Matters, an interfaith and anti-extremist organisation and Professor Matthew Feldman, an expert on fascist ideology and the contemporary far-right in Europe and the USA.

There were comments from the discussion that can prompt us all to do our part to peacefully combat extremism and as one of the attendees I was keenly listening for anything that may shed light on the root causes of this disenchantment and how it could be addressed.

Here are some of my notes:

Fiyaz opened the meeting by acknowledging that the Paris incident would result in new legislation and information-gathering amongst the North African community that would have consequences on free speech, but the right to publish is a right we should protect.

He also stressed that even though people from a lower socio-economic group were more vulnerable to radicalisation, evidence was only cursory. Social exclusion could have many causes such as mental health issues, a lack of trust in the system, a perceived discrimination, ideology or theology. ‘Stop and search’ practices along with anti-Muslim rhetoric in the media and our UK foreign policy in relation to the Israeli/Palestinian crisis should also be considered. The Koachi brothers had been described as normal boys but they became politicised after a journey to Yemen and had stated that the images from the Abu Ghraib prison in 2004 were a source of grievance, while Kahn – a UK extremist – had cited the Iraq war as one of the driving forces behind his actions, so the online world can radicalise young people.

There is also vulnerability after converting from one faith to another (as well as changes in the individual, familiar external supports also fall away) leaving the young person susceptible to gang-like pressures, thereby allowing an extreme group to exert greater influence. Extreme groups often have a gang mentality; they are against state structures and have a nihilistic mindset. Fiyaz also mentioned that radicalisation did not occur in the Mosques; it was actually taking place in common public spaces such as the gym.

Matthew highlighted radicalisation as an accumulative process, created from a series of events. However, since 9/11, this was the first time France had suffered home-grown terrorism. He stated that terrorism is a tactic that is not just linked to one group; extremists, though diametrically opposed, rely upon each other’s narratives.

A member of the audience asked the unanswerable question, “Why do people move from non-violence to violence?” Matthew replied that, currently, there are no definitive explanations – only indications as to the causes, with less than one per cent of extremists actually moving to violence. At this point he made it clear that far-right groups may not agree on the use of violence or have similar views on the electoral system, but they do have a common denominator: Anti-Muslim prejudice now prevails (Anti-Semitism used to be the common factor). Approximately half of the attacks on Muslims in the UK are carried out by a hardened core of far right individuals who use prejudicial logic and tit-for-tat extremism. For example, there was a 373 per cent increase in reported anti-Muslim incidents (the contagion effect) in the week after the Lee Rigby tragedy and up to three months later a massive rise in Mosque attacks had been maintained.

Note that collecting detailed statistics is not easy because hate crimes are not disaggregated into their specific types and five out of six hate crimes are not usually reported to the police. Hate crimes are often opportunistic and only 25 per cent of them are tried, resulting in a significant lack of confidence.

New faces of the far right include ‘National Action’, a small group of “proud” neo-Nazis who are targeting campuses, and ‘Britain First.’

Rushanara gave her opinion on why young people turned from politics to radicalisation. She said that, politically, we live in a difficult international environment, the interdependence between countries is profound, while technology and the Internet can be a negative or positive force. On the positive side, she thought young people wanted interactive politics and that they were interested in issues such as the environment and poverty.

Nevertheless, the events of 9/11 and 7/7 were uniquely different for those of young Muslim identity; other groups had not suffered the same effects. She felt that Britain leads in dealing with youth alienation but extreme narratives have to be constantly challenged; we have to be thick-skinned and be able to explain our stance contrary to those holding extreme views:

  • How can we use our collective intelligence to prevent such extremism?
  • How can we use our personal sphere of influence in our everyday contact with young people and can we empower ourselves to confront these issues?
  • We have to ensure that young people are not made to feel defensive if blamed, incorrectly, for the acts of others who conveniently use the term ‘religion’ for their terrorism.

Matthew at this point reminded the audience that liberalism requires everyone’s participation; we all have a responsibility for the society we inhabit.

Far right groups are aware that The Racial and Religious Hatred Act in the UK does not offer Muslims protection (as an ethnic group) and are therefore, for example, not given the same legal protection as Jews or Sikhs. Britain has strong equality legislation but funds have been slashed, so the Equality and Human Rights Commission cannot enforce the legislation well.

Rushanara stated that neighbourliness in the UK overall was in decline, therefore charging immigrants with all the responsibility for non-integration ie that they were the ones who were at fault for non-integration only served “to do immigrants down”.

Fiyaz reiterated the role of the media and that the Murdochs of this world, who carry on as normal, are not being held to account for their sensationalist, negative reporting; the media needs to develop a responsible approach. He emphasised that far-right propaganda can be extremely slick and difficult to combat and that we, as citizens, need to build a shared sense of community ownership that creates more opportunities to mix and care for one another.

Were all the important issues covered? Did we get to the bottom of youth disenchantment in this short discussion? No. The role of UK foreign policy and the militaristic agenda was only briefly mentioned; after all, extreme far-right views are not only the territory of the young and disenfranchised!

One statement from the audience aptly described the difficulty many of us have in expressing our citizenship: The majority can feel disempowered in a society driven by rampant neoliberal capitalism.

We can all suffer from alienation – can we do our bit to help each other? Can we especially reach out to young people, to combat this inhuman milieu? A small act of kindness may go much further than we think.

Let’s give it a try.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Revealed: Cameron’s lies over Euro bill

– Verbal malfunction: “I’m not going to pay that bill on 1 December. If people think I are- I’m going to- They’ve got another thing coming.” Cameron can’t even announce his complaint properly.

David Cameron has lied and lied again about the £1.7 billion bill from the European Union, it has been revealed.

An investigation by Full Fact has shown that the UK has been taking part in an exercise to revise the way payments are calculated since at least May this year, meaning that discussions on the subject must have been taking place previously.

The Treasury must have known about these discussions, meaning George Osborne would have been aware of them – and this means that Cameron himself should have been told. If he had not, then his government has not been doing its job properly. He says he knew nothing until he was presented with the invoice this week.

Not only that, the amount does not reflect any increase in the size of the UK economy during the current Parliament, but – humiliatingly for Cameron – during the period of the last Labour government. He reckoned it was based on his own government’s (dubious) economic recovery.

The report states: “EU law requires that member states measure the size of their economy according to EU standards. The UK hasn’t been fully compliant with these standards, so statisticians at the ONS have spent the last year revising old estimates of the size of the UK economy. Some, though not all, of these changes have had a generally upward impact on the figures the EU uses to determine the UK’s contribution to its budget.

“The resulting increase in the estimated size of the UK economy relative to other nations – specifically between 2002 and 2009 – is what’s caused the EU to ask for more money. If the Commission had known the size of the UK economy at the time, it would have charged us more, so the £1.7 billion represents the ‘back payments’ following the counting changes.”

There is some good news for Cameron, though. As the bill is for ‘back payments’, it seems likely to reduce in future years – no matter how the economy has performed under his government. His claim that the bill is because his government has turned the economy around is simply balderdash.

And it seems the largest factor in the increased bill has been changes in measuring the contribution of the not-for-profit sector – mainly charities and universities. As universities are currently experiencing a fall in income as their intake from foreign countries drops off due to “unwelcoming” government policies, it seems reasonable to expect that the UK’s contribution will fall.

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The best way forward now is for Cameron to accept the advice of Denmark’s prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, that he should swallow his pride and pay up.

There’s no reason the UK cannot amortise the amount over a period of time. If it does so in an agreed manner, it may avoid having to pay punitive 2.5-per-cent-per-month interest payments.

But then, Cameron has proven to be an economic idiot and may not understand this.

That’s what happens when you’re born into money; you end up with no idea of its value.

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