Tag Archives: first

Crony contract to Tory friends was ‘unlawful’ – but government is lying about the decision

Backhander: the Tory government is still claiming there was nothing wrong with the Public First contract but the High Court’s ruling is final – it was not legal.

The High Court has ruled that a Tory government decision to award a £560,000 contract to friends of a Tory minister and advisor gave rise to “apparent bias” and was unlawful.

The Tories are already trying to spin this by saying there was no suggestion of “actual” bias, and the contract was not awarded due to personal or professional connections between Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings and their friends in Public First, Rachel Wolf and James Frayne. She co-wrote the Conservatives’ 2019 election manifesto and he worked on the campaign to leave the European Union with Cummings.

I don’t know what the Cabinet Office is trying to achieve by saying that. The judge’s ruling is crystal clear: the government broke the law:

Delivering her ruling, Mrs Justice O’Farrell said: “The claimant is entitled to a declaration that the decision of 5 June 2020 to award the contract to Public First gave rise to apparent bias and was unlawful.”

Nothing else matters. Public First and the Cabinet Office can say what they like but the decision to award the contract to Tory cronies was not permitted within the law and that is the end of the matter.

This Site has been reporting on it since July last year, when the contract first became public knowledge.

I wrote at the time: “It’s jobs for the boys, the Old School Tie, and every other example of favouritism you can imagine in the Tory government during the Covid crisis!

“They’re using emergency regulations, that allow services to be commissioned quickly, to pass huge amounts of money to their friends.

“And apparently there’s a conflict of interest as it seems to involve Eurosceptics working on focus group research related to Brexit – parts of the work contracted involved research on public attitudes to Brexit, which is dodgy in a Eurosceptic firm – although a Cabinet Office spokesman said this was a bookkeeping issue. Do you believe that?

“The Tories are using the Covid-19 crisis to funnel public money away from vital services and into their friends’ bank accounts.”

And I quoted The Guardian‘s report which is interesting in that it states the contract was worth £840,000. It’s curious that these amounts always fall when people are in trouble over them – and always rise when public money is being used to pay.

One piece of information that should have been a dead giveaway was the fact that Public First’s registered office is a residential address – a house – in Long Eaton, Nottinghamshire.

Public First was also behind the disastrous plan to bias (there’s that word again) ‘A’ level results against students who didn’t go to Public Schools like Eton.

The collaboration led to the result we all know:

The algorithm used by Ofqual downgraded 40% of the A-level grades assessed by teachers under the process set after the exams were cancelled, leading to a storm of protest from students, parents, school leaders and teachers, that culminated in a complete government U-turn on Monday and the system being scrapped.

Details of this contract were not made public and Ofqual declined to say how much public money had been spent hiring the firm of Tory cronies. It was only later that the organisation had to admit handing over £49,000 of your money to buy poorer results for your children.

Ofqual’s boss at the time, Sally Collier, later resigned – apparently in shame at having given Public First the contract, and at what that firm did with it.

So now here’s the big question: if the contract to Public First was not legal, shouldn’t that money be paid back?

And if so – by whom?

Say what you like about Public First; the work was carried out. Whether it was carried out to an acceptable standard has not been recorded (and the Ofqual experience casts doubt on that) but somebody did the work that was contracted, and we may expect that it was done in good faith.

So, shouldn’t the government minister(s), who broke the law by awarding the contract wrongly, now pay back into public funds at least the £560,000 quoted in the High Court’s judgement?

Matt Hancock, maybe? Or Boris Johnson?

Source: Government acted unlawfully over firm’s £560,000 Covid contract – BBC News

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‘Shadow’ Labour Party is a good idea – IF it can avoid the stigma that will be thrown at it for obvious reasons

Perhaps this is the moment for people who have been smeared for political reasons to form their own party.

Alex Salmond has formed Alba – a new Scottish nationalist party – after SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon was found to have misled Parliament (albeit unintentionally) in evidence about accusations against him – and already one SNP MP has quit that party to join him.

Before Salmond made his announcement, suspended and expelled Labour Party members were already planning to create a ‘shadow’ Labour Party to fight back against the purge of left-wing members instigated by Keir Starmer and his unelected general secretary, David Evans.

The ‘shadow’ party is the brainchild of Labour In Exile Network (LIEN), a national organisation of members who have been unfairly suspended or expelled from the party headed by Starmer.

It is holding its first meeting today (March 27) at 6pm – and as an unfairly-expelled Labour member, This Writer did seriously consider attending.

But my problem is that I come with the kind of baggage that opponents in Labour and the other mainstream political parties could exploit.

And I’m not alone. Most, if not all, of the members of LIEN will have been removed from Labour accused of anti-Semitism or of supporting anti-Semitism by backing Jeremy Corbyn after Starmer (or was it really Evans?) suspended him.

I have no doubt that such accusations are false. They were in my case. But that won’t matter to seasoned politicians who will merrily manipulate a lie if it means keeping their privileged position.

So I hope one of the topics of tonight’s inaugural meeting will be a discussion of how to sideline such accusations and make the accusers look ridiculous.

LIEN has said this about the event:

How do we fight back against the ongoing onslaught against the left in the Labour Party? That’s the theme of LIEN’s first Fightback Meeting at 6pm on Saturday 27 March on Zoom – open to all members and supporters of LIEN (and no, you don’t have to have been expelled or suspended from the Labour Party to get involved!)

SHADOW CLPS: One key way is the building of shadow structures, “ghost” CLPs which enable members to continue debating how we advance the cause of the left. People will share their experience of setting up such structures and possibilities of national cooperation will be discussed.

WORKING GROUPS: From fighting the witch-hunt, racism and disability discrimination, to how we engage with the media and transform the Labour Party — LIEN is setting up a series of working groups to enable grassroots members to take their struggle forward. This meeting is your chance to get involved in an existing group or make the case for a new group. If you have an idea for a working group, please draw up a proposal of around 200 words and send it to [email protected] There are a few working groups already running/in preparation – see here: https://www.labour-in-exile.org/working-groups/

Please consider joining LIEN – annual minimum fee of£5 unwaged/£10 waged: https://membermojo.co.uk/lien

I have no doubt that this organisation will develop into a political party of its own, rather than concentrating on trying to save the original Labour Party; many are likely to believe this is a lost cause after more than 40 years of pollution by right-wingers, starting in earnest with Neil Kinnock but expanded hugely by Tony Blair. After that amount of time, the corruption runs deep.

I wish it the best in its inaugural meeting – and may apply to join later. I want to be sure it will be able to deal with the smears first. If you want to sign up for the meeting, you can do so here.

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Tories plan to rig local elections with change from proportional representation to FPTP

The Conservatives are planning to make it easier for them to win local elections by changing the voting system to make it less representative.

Currently, elections for Combined Authority mayors, the mayor of London and police and crime commissioners are carrried out using a version of proportional representation which takes into account the preferences of people whose first choices do not have the highest number of votes.

Two candidates go through to the second round if no one gets more than 50 per cent of the primary vote.

A winner is then chosen from the remaining two by taking preferences into account from the voters who chose eliminated candidates as their first preference.

This means that everybody’s vote helps to influence the result – but the Conservatives lose out.

That’s why they want to change the system to FPTP – “First Past The Post” – in which the party winning the most votes in a single round of voting wins the election, even if it doesn’t have the support of a majority of the people.

Priti Patel announcing the plan to change the system, lied that the British people had rejected proportional representation in a referendum in 2011.

She was wrong. The public endorsed FPTP only for general elections, because the referendum was focused only on them.

The intention is clear: the Tories are going to rig local elections to ensure that they have the best chance of winning.

The London School of Economics has warned that the change could wipe out the accountability of a London mayor (for example) by removing small parties like the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party from the London Assembly, which holds the mayor to account.

And London Labour warned,

For the Tory Government to impose a change to the electoral system without first asking the views of Londoners in a follow-up referendum demonstrates their breathtaking arrogance and their utter disdain for devolution.

Fortunately for democracy, any change to electoral systems will have to be approved by Parliament via legislation, and this cannot happen before the local elections – including the London mayoral election – on May 6 this year.

Just watch how quickly the Tories try to impose the change if they lose that election!

Source: Government plans to change London mayor elections to First Past the Post : CityAM

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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.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook