Tag Archives: first

If Boris Johnson wants to give cash to firms run by his cronies, why should we foot the bill?

Cronies: Dominic Cummings with Boris Johnson, whose government gave hundreds of thousands of pounds to a firm run by a former associate of the former and a woman who co-wrote the latter’s 2019 Conservative election manifesto.

Squirm as it may, Boris Johnson’s government cannot deny giving a hell of a lot of public money to Conservative Party cronies, bypassing the usual tendering system by claiming it is under emergency procedures.

So it cannot suggest it is unreasonable for the courts to investigate whether the process was used properly and the money given to professionals who could carry out the necessary work correctly.

In the case mentioned by the Mirror, it may prove hard to support a claim that the cash was handed over in a proper way.

It went to a firm run by a now-former associate of Dominic Cummings and a woman who co-wrote the Conservatives’ 2019 election manifesto.

And it is said that more than a quarter of a million pounds of public money was handed over to Public First on the basis of nothing more than a handshake.

According to Cabinet Office records, there seems to be some confusion about what the work entailed, as some of it is stated to be related to Brexit rather than Covid-19.

Public First was also involved in the fiasco in which an algorithm was devised to dictate the grades that ‘A’ level students would receive rather than taking the exams, after being granted a contract that, once again, was not put out to competitive tender.

The algorithm artificially boosted the results of pupils who attended private schools, while state school pupils’ grades plummeted – even in the most promising of cases.

Ofqual boss Sally Collier later resigned – apparently over the decision to provide the contract to Public First.

Prima facie evidence would suggest that there are questions to be asked about the firm’s competence.

And that leads This Writer to the following urgent question:

Given what we know about the nature of money – that it is created by the government and paid into the economy for particular purposes before being taxed out of it again, why should the public as a whole pay back in taxes the cost of an example of Tory Party cronyism that appears to have caused more harm than good?

Source: High Court ‘set to hear from Dominic Cummings’ over controversial Covid contract – Mirror Online

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Why haven’t police arrested Britain First thugs who raided migrant-housing hotel?

Proud of it: the banner seems to set out the Britain First agenda clearly – racism.

Did Theresa May intend our police to be toothless, back when she cut law enforcement numbers by more than 20,000 in 2016 or thereabouts?

Coppers in the UK now seem far more interested in prosecuting parking and speeding offences than in investigating crimes of violence perpetrated against human beings.

How else could one explain the inability of police services across the UK to stop people who are exempt from wearing face masks in shops from being assaulted by their fellow shoppers, who have no right to do so?

And how else could one explain the ability of Britain First “activists” (read: racists) to raid a hotel housing asylum seekers with impunity?

Cheshire Police were called but by the time anybody turned up, the perpetrators of the harassment had long since departed.

The incursion into the privacy and dignity of the people at the hotel has been roundly condemned by right-thinking people – for example:

But it seems clear that people like the Britain First thugs will feel empowered by the fact that they got away with it – and are likely to get away with it if they do it again.

Apparently the Johnson government has offered protection to hotels housing asylum seekers, but can we really believe that?

It is the jingoistic rhetoric of these Tories – and the Tory governments that came before them – that has made these racists feel entitled to stick their faces where they don’t belong.

And look at the recent behaviour of the Home Office, regarding asylum seekers and the people who stand up for them.

It seems likely that Britain First’s “activists” have been doing exactly what the Johnson government wants.

* I’ve put “activists” in quotation marks because it is interesting to note the way the word is being used. The Home Office attacked “activist lawyers” in a hastily-deleted video tweet last week, and now we see the word again here. What are we to conclude from this use of language?

Source: Far-right Britain First activists branded ‘disgusting’ for raiding hotel housing migrants | London Evening Standard

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Ofqual chief Sally Collier resigns – over letting Cummings chum’s company have contract?

Exams: If Sally Collier had examined Public First a little more closely, she might not have had to resign.

The big development in the ‘A’ level scandal yesterday (August 25) was the resignation of Ofqual boss Sally Collier – apparently under criticism about the algorithm that marked down students from poorer backgrounds.

That’s what Tory mouthpiece the BBC is saying:

Ofqual chief Ms Collier has been under fire for a controversial algorithm which changed GCSE and A-level marks, making them unfair, according to heads.

It also led to many A-level students losing university places they had been offered, and a crunch on degree places.

But didn’t that only happen because Ofqual had hired useless lobbying/research firm Public First, run by friends of Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove?

A spokesperson said: “Due to the exceptional circumstances presented by the cancellation of exams, the single tender justification process was used for this contract, due to the need to urgently procure the work, in line with our procurement policy.”

This comment makes it clear that Public First was hired to find a way forward for students’ exam results. It came up with the infamous algorithm and caused a scandal.

And we now know that the government paid £49,000 for that disaster.

So it seems Ms Collier has resigned, but the fault lies with James Frayne and Rachel Wolf, the people behind Public First.

Other contracts given to the firm under the “no competition” regulations which apply when a service is deemed “urgent” during emergency circumstances include £840,000 to research public opinion on government policies – including Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Not bad for a firm whose registered office is a residential address – a house – in Long Eaton, Nottinghamshire.

Another contract saw the company handed £116,000 by the Department of Health and Social Care to identify ways to “lock in the lessons learned” by the Government during the Covid-19 crisis.

But will the Tories learn the obvious lesson – that Public First should not be hired to carry out any work under any circumstances at all, whether in an emergency or not?

It seems doubtful.

Source: Ofqual chief Sally Collier steps down after exams chaos – BBC News

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The first baby born within the NHS says the only way to save it is to vote Labour

This tapestry praises the NHS as a “cradle to grave” service – but Boris Johnson wants to send it to a grave of its own. He’ll succeed – unless YOU stop him.

Here’s a lady who knows a few things about the National Health Service – she was the first baby ever to be born under its care.

And Aneira Thomas believes that Boris Johnson will end the NHS as we know it.

She thinks he wants the UK to return to what it was – a nation of privilege in which only the rich can afford medical care.

She cannot stop Mr Johnson and his Tories on her own.

She needs your help.

Or will you throw away your future, and that of your family and friends with it, because a Tory told you to?

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MPs defeat government: They’ll debate Bill to prevent “no deal” Brexit

Boris Johnson has been defeated in his first vote as prime minister.

MPs were voting on whether to debate a Bill to prevent “no deal” Brexit tomorrow (September 4).

And Tory rebels queued up to vote with Opposition MPs against Dictator Johnson – despite knowing that they will be stripped of the Conservative whip for doing so.

The result of the vote: Aye (to hold the debate on blocking “no deal”): 328 No: 301

“Not a good start, Boris!” shouted one backbencher.

Backbenchers will have control of Commons business on September 4.

It seems Mr Johnson is going to try to call a general election in response – although he’ll need the support of two-thirds of MPs to get it, according to the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, and they’re unlikely to allow it.

Apparently he’s not the first PM to lose his first vote. It seems Pitt the Younger suffered the same fate, in 1793.

But today, he seems to be stymied – and he only has himself to blame.

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‘You cannot decide in 24 hours what type of poison was used’ – first OPCW head condemns UK reaction to Skripal poisoning

Jose Bustani.

This is self-explanatory.

No doubt the UK government will try to condemn this as fake news because it is from Russia Today – but Jose Bustani’s words are reported verbatim. Watch:

What do Boris Johnson and Theresa May have to say about that?


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Is the Coalition progressive or are the spin doctors out again?

Spin doctor? Gove is more like a washing machine on 'slow rinse'.

Spin doctor? Gove is more like a washing machine on ‘slow rinse’.

“In these days it is hard to differentiate between reality and the work of spin doctors, and no more so evident in these days with 6 months to go before we go to the polls to elect a new government,” according to a blog new to Vox Political called Through a Carer’s Eyes.

“Especially evident is the fact that a spin doctor or Public Relations Specialist is in residence at 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister.

“A spin doctor is defined as: ‘a spokesperson employed to give a favorable interpretation of events to the media, esp. on behalf of a political party.’ It doesn’t say truthful interpretation.”

Absolutely correct, but it isn’t just Cameron putting a spin on events. Here’s – of all people – Michael Gove!

On the BBC’s Newsnight yesterday, Gove asked viewers to believe that the Conservative Party hadn’t spent the previous week saying it was pulling out all the stops to achieve victory against former Tory – now UKIP – MP Mark Reckless; instead he told us the prediction had been a 15 per cent lead for UKIP that he wanted us to think the Tories had prevented.

Bravo, Michael. You must believe you are single-handedly changing reality. And why not? In his mind, he single-handedly changed the facts about World War One a few months ago; many people believe he has ambitions to be the next Tory leader and single-handedly turn the clock back 90 years.

As we’ve mentioned the office of the prime minister, let’s see what Gove had to say about the incumbent, David Cameron: “People are all-too-well aware of the difference between a prime minister who has led this country through tough times and whose stature has been augmented during that period, and a leader of the Opposition who, during his tenure, has actually… you know… found the public moving away from him, just at the point when he should be rallying their support.”

Seriously? David Cameron? The most useless excuse for a national leader since Neville Chamberlain? The man whose standing amongst other national leaders, as evidenced by his performance at international summits, would have been improved if he had stayed at home? The man whose ‘reforms’ have corrupted Parliament to make it legal for money to be taken away from the poorest and given to rich businesspeople instead, so that they will donate some of that cash to the Conservative Party? The man who is such a weak leader he cannot even sack his worst-performing minister, Iain Duncan Smith?

If he had the stature of a gnome to start with, then now he has the stature of a dung beetle.

Here’s the icing on the cake. According to Gove: “I think that this government has been, er… one of the most, er… successfully progressive governments in our lifetime.”

He was referring to the legalisation of gay marriage (for example), but that doesn’t make the Coalition progressive. It means Tory leaders have realised that throwing a bone or two at the masses will make them think they are achieving real societal gain, while all it is really doing is hiding the massive destruction of our society’s structure that has been taking place alongside it.

In fact, this has been the most REgressive government Britons have had to suffer for the last century, at least.

How sad for Gove that the British people are far too perceptive to accept these absurd claims. This evening (Saturday, November 22) for example, his opponents will take to Twitter with infographics and comments explaining why they say #CameronMustGo.

Vox Political has several such tweets planned. If you want to see them, you’ll have to be on Twitter from 6pm – that’s 1800 GMT.

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Sajid Javid, the man who trivialised the WWI centenary, shames himself on the economy

Sajid Javid? No - this is The Collector, from the Doctor Who serial The Sun Makers, but it's an easy mistake to make. This charmer's game was extorting taxes from human refugees who had fled the death of the sun to live under artificial heat sources on Pluto(!) - but revolution triggers a recession in which he literally shrinks down to nothing, disappearing into the commode he appears to be sitting on. If only Mr Javid would do the same!

Sajid Javid? No – this is The Collector, from the Doctor Who serial The Sun Makers, but it’s an easy mistake to make. This charmer’s game was extorting taxes from human refugees who had fled the death of the sun to live under artificial heat sources on Pluto(!) – but revolution triggers a recession in which he literally shrinks down to nothing, disappearing into the commode he appears to be sitting on. If only Mr Javid would do the same!

They say the secret of great comedy is timing, and Sajid Javid’s speech lambasting Labour’s ability with the economy could not come at a better time – to make a fool of him.

Javid heads up the Department of Culture, Media and Sport – you know, the government organisation that offended everybody earlier this week by denying everybody but the Prime Minister a chance to write a personal message on the wreaths laid at a First World War centenary commemoration in Glasgow.

Having made one faux pas already this week, Javid was set to ram his foot even further down his own gullet with his speech knocking Labour.

According to the Telegraph, he was planning to say that Labour’s “basic instinct” is to spend money, the party’s economic policies will leave Britain £500 billion worse-off, and this will be the equivalent of two-thirds of national income in 2035, while the Conservative approach would make it the equivalent of one-third of GDP.

The speech met with scorn before it was even made, over on alittleecon. In an article headlined Tory Minister Sajid Javid plucks some numbers out of his arse, author Alex Little pointed out:

  • Sajid Javid does not understand economics; national debt is merely an indicator of how much a government wants the economy to be funded by the private sector or the public. As government debt is issued in the form of bonds, all of it represents somebody else’s savings and more government debt means more private savings, while the economy is funded by the public sector.
  • Whether a low debt-to-GDP ratio is better than a higher one depends entirely on how it has been achieved. A fast-growing, dynamic economy can have a high level of government debt, while a slow-growing economy could have a very low debt-to-GDP ratio.
  • His timescale covers the next 20 years, making his claim a nonsense from the start. The electoral cycle is only five years so, for Labour to win in 2015 and continue winning until the date Mr Javid uses, they’d have to be doing something right!
  • Of course, Labour has not produced any spending plans yet and, when they arrive, the totals are unlikely to be hugely different from the Tories’ (although the way the money is used may differ greatly). So Mr Javid has (as Mr Little rather indelicately puts it) plucked some numbers out of his arse.

Mr Javid’s week is going very well – he has ruined a major ceremony with the behaviour of a schoolboy, then followed it up by showing that his understanding of economics – wasn’t he Financial Secretary to the Treasury before moving to the DCMS? Coupled with George Osborne as Chancellor, this could explain much – is worse than that of a schoolboy. And it’s only Wednesday.

Let’s all hope he goes for the hat trick.

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Tory disrespect stains WWI centenary commemoration

Disrespectful: The laminated messages that were attached to the wreaths. David Cameron was the only political leader allowed to write a personal message by the Conservative-run Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Disrespectful: The laminated messages that were attached to the wreaths. David Cameron was the only political leader allowed to write a personal message by the Conservative-run Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

This is a new low for the Conservative Party.

Leaders of British political organisations laid wreaths at Glasgow’s cenotaph to mark 100 years since the beginning of the First World War – but only David Cameron was allowed to write a personal message.

Worse than that, the Conservative Party and its allies then attacked leaders of the other parties – in particular Ed Miliband – for failing to do the same.

Former Tory MP Louise Mensch showed exactly why she deserves to be out of Parliament by tweeting: “Really we need to ask where we are as a society, when politicians are so casual as ‘hand me the wreath’ without asking to write on it.”

And Telegraph blogger Dan Hodges brought his paper into disrepute by tweeting, without checking the facts: “Just seen the wreath. Ed Miliband is becoming a parody of Ed Miliband.”

Asked to explain Mr Miliband’s actions, a Labour spokesman told the BBC that his wreath – with a card stating only “From the Leader of the Opposition” – was handed to him by a representative of organisers the Department of Culture, Media and Sport only seconds before it was laid.

“Ed Miliband was not given the opportunity to write a personal message on the wreath,” he said.

Perhaps an even worse indignity was that into which Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was forced. His read “From the Deputy Prime Minister” and a Liberal Democrat source said the gap between Mr Clegg being handed the wreath and laying it had been “a 10-second thing”.

The BBC checked with the manufacturers of the wreaths – Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory in Edinburgh, and was passed on to Poppy Scotland, whose spokeswoman said: “We were asked to send [the cards] to the DCMS and the wreaths were sent through to Glasgow in advance, but the blank cards to London.”

So what happened, in fact, was that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport – which is run by the Conservative Sajid Javid – decided that the Conservative Prime Minister should be the only person allowed to write a personalised tribute. Every other political leader – including those of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland – had to lay wreaths with a laminated description of their job, so they could not even scribble something quickly in the few seconds available to them.

The tell-tale was the fact that all messages other than Cameron’s were written in the same handwriting.

Worse still is the fact that Cameron’s message wasn’t even appropriate. He had written “Your most enduring legacy is our liberty. We must never forget.” Very stirring, but it would be more appropriate to attribute that to those who died in the Second World War, rather than the First.

Also, as Thomas G Clark pointed out adroitly in his Another Angry Voice blog:  “I´m pretty sure that most would agree that the practice of remembrance is a much more tangible and enduring legacy than the general concept of “liberty“, especially given that Cameron and his rotten government have striven relentlessly to undermine “liberty” with grotesque totalitarian and anti-democratic legislation such as the “secret courts” bill, retroactive workfare sanctions, the “Gagging Law” and the “DRIP spooks charter“.”

Worst of all is the fact that the sacrifice of more than a million British lives, and the suffering caused to more than 1.5 million British people who were wounded, some so severely that they suffered the consequences for the rest of their lives, has been overshadowed by a petty squabble engineered by small-minded Tories who wanted to make themselves look better than everyone else.

It was a silly tactic, easily exposed. David Cameron’s only logical move was to apologise for what happened, for the insult to his fellow political leaders and for the upset it has undoubtedly caused to all those who lost loved ones in the war and wanted them commemorated respectfully.

True to form, he showed he had a yellow streak instead. Our gutless Prime Minister had nothing to say.

We should all send him the White Feather.

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Tories and the police – it’s like an acrimonious divorce

Confrontational: Theresa May has made an enemy of the police. They'll be taking solace from the thought that one day they might be asked to arrest her. [Image: Daily Telegraph]

Confrontational: Theresa May has made an enemy of the police. They’ll be taking solace from the thought that one day they might be asked to arrest her. [Image: Daily Telegraph]

Does anybody remember when the police were the Conservatives’ best friends? This was back in the days of the Thatcher government, when she needed them as political weapons against the unions.

She gave them generous pay and pension deals, let them move out of the communities they policed (providing a certain amount of anonymity – people no longer knew their local Bobby personally), and put them in patrol cars rather than on the beat. In return, she was able to rely on their loyalty.

The same cannot be said today. Current Home Secretary Theresa May wants you to think the police service is out of control.

In fact, it isn’t. The problem for Ms May, whose position on human rights makes it clear that she wants to be able to use the force as a tool of repression, is that our constables have found better ways of upholding the law.

This is why May’s tough talk on reforming the police rings hollow. She wants to break the power of the Police Federation, our constabularies’ trade union – but her attack is on terms which it is already working to reform.

She has demanded that the Federation must act on the 36 recommendations of the Normington Report on Police Federation Reform in what appears to be a bid to make it seem controversial.

But the report was commissioned by the Federation itself, not by the Home Office. It acknowledges problems with the organisation that may affect the wider role of the police and makes 36 recommendations for reform – whether the Home Secretary demands it or not.

One is left with the feeling that Ms May is desperate to make an impression. She has been very keen to point out that crime has fallen since she became Home Secretary – but this is part of a trend since Labour took office in the mid-1990s. Labour brought in neighbourhood policing, police community support officers, antisocial behaviour laws, improved technology and (more controversially) the DNA database. These resulted from Labour politicians working together with the police, not imposing ideas on them from above; they brought the police back into the community.

Theresa May’s work includes her time-wasting vanity project to elect ‘police and crime commissioners’, and her time-wasting project to replace the Serious Organised Crime Agency with the almost-identical National Crime Agency.

She has taken a leaf from the Liberal Democrat book by claiming credit for changes that had nothing to do with her, suggesting that police reform only began when she became Home Secretary in 2010.

Is it this attitude to history that informs Michael Gove’s attempts to revise our attitude towards the First World War, as was reported widely a few months ago? If so, it is an approach that is doomed to failure and derision, as Mr Gove learned to his cost. Ms May deserves no better.

There is much that is wrong with the police service – and most of that is due to interference from Conservative governments.

Thankfully, with the service and the Police Federation already working to resolve these issues, all Ms May can do is grumble from the sidelines where she belongs.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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