Tag Archives: government

How much public money are the Tories wasting on court action to hide their unlawful acts?

Let’s just remind ourselves that Matt Hancock isn’t the only Tory cabinet minister who has wasted our money in the courts, defending the indefensible.

Spotlight has published an article highlighting current and recent court action against the Johnson government, including the following:

CIVIL SERVANTS UNION BRING CASE AGAINST BORIS JOHNSON OVER PRITI PATEL BULLYING INCIDENT

ASYLUM SEEKER BRINGS CASE AGAINST PRITI PATEL OVER 23HR A DAY CURFEW POLICY

GOVT LOSES APPEAL IN CASE WHERE CHILDREN BEING CHARGED £1012 FOR BRITISH CITIZENSHIP

GOVT APPEALS RULING WHERE CHILD REFUGEE DETAINED AS AN ADULT BY IMMIGRATION SERVICES

GOVT APPEAL RULING THAT SHAMIMA BEGUM BE ALLOWED TO RETURN TO FIGHT FOR HER CITIZENSHIP

Details are here: UK government swamped by legal action and costs! | Spotlight News

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Are the Tories trying to stop poor people having a say in public services because they stopped the low-paid from paying tax?

Some of us saw this coming.

If you’ve seen the video clip in which Richard Murphy explains how money works, you’ll know that people who pay tax are more likely to vote – they feel they have more of an interest in it.

(Of course, tax is about returning money the government has created, in order to avoid catastrophic inflation – and not about giving the government the money it needs in order to provide public services, but let’s not complicate matters by going into that.)

But the Tories have spent the last 11 years raising the earnings threshold at which people pay tax, claiming this as a sign of their generosity.

Oh really? Watch the video and consider the comment by Paul Sweeney.

It seems to This Writer that, through no fault of their own, attempts are being made to deny more than 20 million people the right to say which services the government funds. Presumably the next step is to say, if you don’t pay tax, you don’t get to vote.

We’re on a very slippery slope, here.

And a hypocritical one.

You’ll notice that nobody is saying you shouldn’t have a say if you don’t pay all the tax for which you should be liable – for example, because you engage in tax avoidance.

So super-rich tax avoiders will be able to vote/help decide which public services are funded or whether they get funded at all – despite the fact that most of them don’t need the most expensive of those services. Logically, they’ll say those are the ones to get the axe.

Meanwhile, the super-poor – who are now prevented from paying tax, either because they are on benefits or their wages have been pushed into the dirt by Tory employers – may be denied that right.

It should not even be a subject for discussion.

The qualification for voting – and therefore for helping decide how public money is spent – is UK citizenship because we all live here and we are all affected by the decisions the government makes.

Oh, and of course Income Tax is not the only tax that people pay.

So to rule people out of the process because they have been priced out of paying just one of the UK’s many taxes would be unfair in the extreme – and Emma Barnett was talking out of her rear end.

What a shame that’s such a good description of our current Tory government.

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Dutch Rutte government resigns over child welfare fraud scandal – Vox Political Scrapbook

I brought this to your attention yesterday, remarking on the similarity between this and the wrong done to UK child benefit claimants by the Conservatives, with their so-called ‘rape clause’.

Now this has happened:

Mark Rutte’s government has stepped down after thousands of families were wrongly accused of child welfare fraud and told to pay money back.

Families suffered an “unparalleled wrong”, Dutch MPs decided, with tax officials, politicians, judges and civil servants leaving them powerless.

An “unparalleled wrong”.

The Dutch can recognise when their government mistreats their benefit claimants abominably.

Why can’t we show the same perception, here in the UK?

Source: Dutch Rutte government resigns over child welfare fraud scandal – BBC News

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After another SERIES of ‘free school meals’ scandals, Rashford demands overhaul of the whole system

Marcus Rashford: he wins campaigns against Boris Johnson’s government (unlike Keir Starmer’s Labour Party) so it is welcome that he is spearheading this call for an all-encompassing review of government policy on child food poverty.

After the second ‘Free School Meals’ scandal in three days, This Writer feels sure I was among many people who wondered why Marcus Rashford – now generally accepted as the Opposition to the Tory government in such matters – had not spoken up.

Now we know.

Rashford, who was instrumental in forcing the government to provide free school meals during Covid-19 lockdowns and during holidays – including Christmas – when the Tories wanted children to starve, has not confined himself to a single FSM-related issue.

Instead he has joined with celebrity chefs and campaigners to demand a full review of Tory policy on child food poverty which they rightly say is not fit for purpose.

They have written a letter to Boris Johnson and his trained-ape-serving-as-Education-Secretary, Gavin Williamson, here:

It deserves to be reproduced in full:

 We are writing to you to express our concern that the issue of Free School Meals risks once again becoming divisive, and to encourage the Government to undertake an urgent comprehensive review of Free School Meal policy to reform the system for the longer term. We are ready and willing to support your Government in whatever way we can to make this review a reality and to help develop a set of recommendations that everyone can support. It is only by working together that we end child food poverty.

We know that all political parties agree on the outcome that we are aiming for – ensuring that all children have access to enough health, good-quality food to fulfil their potential. Last Autumn, the Government announced several very positive new measures to help combat child hunger, and we strongly welcomed those announcements. This week, we were heartened to see the Department for Education’s swift response to reports of inadequate Free School Meal food parcels being provided by private companies. The robustness of the message from you and the Secretary of State on this issue was very welcome.

I can only assume the last two sentences of this paragraph were included to butter Johnson up, as most of the nation was horrified that Johnson had contracted out responsibility to provide £30 food parcels to private, profit-making firms who did what came naturally – skimmed off five-sixths of the cash in profit and provided £5 worth of food to cover children’s meals for 10 days.

Some Tories even went on the record to say they couldn’t understand the fuss as this was only supposed to provide for a single meal in the day – without realising that their right-wing policies have stamped on families so hard that this may be the only food those children see in a day.

Despite these positive commitments, we strongly feel that now (following the series of problems which have arisen over school food vouchers, holiday provision and food parcels since the start of the pandemic) is the right moment for you to step back and review the policy in more depth. The signatories to this letter urge the Government to conduct an urgent comprehensive review into Free School Meal policy across the UK to provide recommendations for the next Spending Review.

This would allow the Government to provide strong national leadership on children’s food so that our nation’s most disadvantaged children and their families, already disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, don’t continue to bear the brunt. In the first lockdown (March-August), 2.3 million children experienced food insecurity and during the 2020 summer holidays 850,000 children reported that they or their families visited a food bank. Free School Meals are a very important part of the safety net that protects children from impoverished families from hunger and poor nutrition.

We believe the review should be debated in Parliament and published before the 2021 summer holidays. The process will require collaboration from politicians in all the devolved nations with responsibility for school food in their regions, and must involve close consultation with children and young people, as well as teachers, charities, NGOs, frontline catering staff and school meals service providers. It should draw on evidence of food insecurity and health inequalities. We stand ready to provide our full support to the review process.

And experience tells us that the only people Boris Johnson’s government likes to consult are those who are likely to agree with what he wants to do; dissenting voices are ignored. This will make it very difficult for the Tories to devise a strategy that works for any group wider than the Conservative government of Boris Johnson.

We recommend that its scope include:

1. The current eligibility thresholds for Free School Meals. The Government should seek to ensure disadvantaged children are not excluded from Free School Meal eligibility (in line with National Food Strategy recommendations) and to work with the Devolved Administrations to eliminate disparities between the nations. Current estimates show 2 in 5 UK children under the poverty line are missing out. The ongoing eligibility for children from No Recourse to Public Funds should be address explicitly.

2. How funding for Free School Meals can deliver the biggest nutritional and educational impact, supporting children’s learning and well-being throughout the school day and during the school holidays (including breakfast provision and the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme). This should include whether the current allowance for Free School Meals is adequate and whether funding for national breakfasts adequately covers all who would benefit from access to provision.

3. How schools can be supported to deliver the best quality school meals which adhere to school food standards and which ensure the poorest children receive the best possible offer. This should include introducing mandatory monitoring and evaluation on an ongoing basis of Free School Meal take-up, the quality/nutritional adequacy of meals, and examining how the financial transparency of the current system can be improved.

4. What we have learned from Covid-19 and its impact on children in low-income families and the implications of this for school food policy for the next 5 years, as the country recovers.

5. Ensuring that existing school food programmes (such as Free School Meals, holiday provision and breakfast provision) eliminate experiences of stigma for the poorest students. Review the impact that Universal Infant Free School Meals has had on stigma, health, and education.

6. The role of family income (wages and benefits) in enabling families to afford quality food in and outside of school time and during the holidays with choice and dignity.

The Tory response to this should be interesting. Tories habitually say families should be able to provide for their own children, despite the fact that their own policies have squeezed family incomes beyond breaking-point. It’s no good saying people should be able to afford things when you are responsible for ensuring that they can’t!

This review would provide the Government with the opportunity to future-proof its policy on school food, and to carefully consider how best to support low-income children and families in the aftermath of the pandemic. It would also demonstrate the Government’s commitment to tackling child food poverty in the longer term and be a significant step towards a comprehensive long-term plan.

I foresee difficulties.

Already the Welsh Government – which is run by the Labour Party – has taken to Twitter to let people in Wales know that the problems created by the Tories in England do not affect them:

The Tories are hardly going to want to work with organisations that are merrily scoring points off them.

School food is essential in supporting the health and learning of our most disadvantaged children. Now, at a time when children have missed months of in-school learning and the pandemic has reminded us of the importance of our health, this is a vital next step.

The letter is signed by Rashford, Jamie Oliver, Emma Thompson, Tom Kerridge and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and by representatives of Food Foundation, School Food Matters, Chefs in Schools, the Children Society, Children’s Food Campaign, Children’s First Alliance, Feeding Britain, Soil Association, The Bread and Butter Thing, Mayor’s Fund for London, The School Food People, Meals & More, Poverty and Inequality Commission, Independent Food Aid Network UK, Impact on Urban Health, The Fair Education Alliance, the WI, ASSIST FM, Magic Breakfast, Turn2Us, Buttle UK, Greater Manchester Poverty Action, End Child Poverty Coalition, TACT, Scottish Qut of School Care Network, Khulisa UK, The Mighty Creatives, The Equality Trust, One Parent Families Scotland, End Furniture Poverty, Family Action, USDAW, Child Poverty Action Group, Biteback 2030, Just Fair, Rose Hill & Donnington Advice Centre, Oxford, Co-Op Retail, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, The British Psychological Society, British Association of Social Workers, Association of School and College Leaders, King’s Cross Academy, Academies Enterprise Trust, Cabot Learning Federation, Co-op Academies Trust, The Shared Learning Trust, The Eden Academy Trust, LDBS Academies Trusts, National Governance Association, Centre for Literacy in Primary Education and Teach First.

I include the whole list because I think it is important for us to understand the sheer number of organisations that now exist to address children’s food poverty – or have to address it as part of their wider activities.

This has only become such a major issue because the Conservatives have forced so many families into food poverty.

So it seems worthwhile to raise the issue of whether we should stop allowing Conservative Party members to form governments that inflict such misery, such starvation, on so many millions of us, just so a tiny minority can live in the kind of luxury that most of us cannot even imagine.

There’s only one question left to ask:

Why is Rashford doing the Labour Party’s job? If Jeremy Corbyn was still party leader, Labour would be all over this.

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Dutch government faces collapse over child benefits scandal. Why didn’t that happen to the Tories?

I bring this to your attention because the UK Conservative Party restricted child benefits to cover two children a few years ago.

Any parent wishing to claim benefit for a third child (or more) had to prove that the child was born in extraordinary circumstances conforming to a clause in new Tory legislation that swiftly became known as the rape clause.

It demanded that people who had been criminally violated not only had to relive the experience but also had to discuss it with strangers who should have had no right to know.

Parents with more than two children who could not provide such information lost benefit for more than two children instantly.

Those who could provide it were not guaranteed the extra cash because a DWP adjudicator could easily decide against them.

There was an outcry against this change in the law – which unreasonably discriminates against victims of violent crime.

But the Tories were never in any danger of being removed.

So here’s the question:

Are the Dutch overreacting? Or should the Tories have stepped down over their law that exposes and humiliates rape victims?

The Dutch government will decide on Friday whether to step down over an escalating scandal in which tax officials wrongly accused thousands of parents of fraud, plunging many families into debt by ordering them to repay childcare allowances.

The opposition Labour party leader, Lodewijk Asscher, who was social affairs minister in the previous government, resigned over the affair on Thursday, denying he knew the tax authority was “wrongly hunting down thousands of families” but conceding a failing system had “made the government an enemy of its people”.

Source: Dutch government faces collapse over child benefits scandal | Netherlands | The Guardian

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Lords inflict two defeats on government over ‘spy cops’ bill – but Keir Starmer could have made it three

Keir Starmer: he thinks the government and its agents should be above the law.

The Tories bid to allow spies working for government agencies like the Financial Conduct Authority to commit crimes like murder and rape without fear of prosecution has been foiled by the Lords.

Peers supported amendments to the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill as follows:

Peers inflicted two significant defeats on the government on Wednesday evening over a bill to regulate the use of undercover informants, passing amendments to stop them participating in murder and rape, and to curtail the use of children as informants.

The government was also defeated by 299 to 284 on an amendment from the peer Doreen Massey, which proposed explicitly banning those acting undercover from being allowed to participate in a list of serious crimes, including murder, torture, rape or other sexual offences as they gained information.

Ministers had ruled out introducing such a list previously, arguing that creating a list of forbidden offences could give terrorists and serious criminals ways to unmask infiltrators by asking them to engage in such banned activities.

Campaign groups welcomed the result, arguing that it would put the UK on a par with similar western countries in setting clear limits.

Sadly, this result is notable for another reason – Labour leader Keir Starmer’s unacceptable support for the Bill with all immunities against criminal prosecution intact.

If he had whipped Labour to oppose it in the Commons, it would never have got as far as the Lords. But he didn’t.

Worse still, after former shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti put forward an amendment to remove immunity from prosecution for crimes from government agents who commit them, saying there would otherwise be a “grave risk” of human rights abuses by undercover agents, Starmer whipped Labour peers to abstain and it failed:

Peers were debating the bill at the second day of its report stage. On Monday, an amendment from Shami Chakrabarti seeking to strike out immunity for undercover agents acting within authorised guidelines was defeated by 309 to 153, after the Labour leadership chose to abstain.

It seems clear that this former Director of Public Prosecutions thinks the government and its agents should be above the law.

It is an unacceptable attitude for any potential national leader to have.

Source: Lords inflict two defeats on government over ‘spy cops’ bill | House of Lords | The Guardian

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Why are devolved governments accused of failure after the Tories couldn’t roll out Covid vaccine properly?

Tory mouthpiece news media seem keen to blame the UK’s devolved governments for failing to roll out Covid-19 vaccines fast enough – but in fact the blame lies with the Conservative-led Westminster government.

Distribution of the vaccines is being carried out centrally from Westminster but has been hampered by delays in obtaining supplies of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines.

It seems that, as a result, the Tories have been restricting supplies to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – and then blaming the devolved governments in those other countries (none of which have Conservative-run administrations) for providing a smaller proportion of injections.

According to Nation.Cymru,

In the run up to Christmas Frontline NHS staff in Wales complained they were struggling to get access to the recently launched Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, and Len Richards, the chief executive of Cardiff and Vale University health board, warned of “an indisputable supply and demand constraint” in an email and said access to the jab was being rationed because “the supply is so low”.

What do you think of this?

Should the Tories get away with restricting vaccine supplies and then blaming their counterparts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for failing to protect as many people?

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Four dead after Trump provokes US Capitol riot – and the UK Tories are taking notes

Buddies: Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. Johnson has refused to condemn Trump’s involvement in the US Capitol riot; indeed, he was probably too busy taking notes.

It has been claimed that what happens in the United States is brought to the UK several years later.

With that in mind, watch this clip of Priti Patel refusing to condemn Donald Trump for provoking a riot in Washington DC yesterday:

UK prime minister Boris Johnson also condemned the riots but stopped short of criticising Trump:

The reason? They’re taking notes.

Trump has spent the last two months protesting against the result of last November’s presidential election, which he lost decisively to Democrat Joe Biden.

He triggered a scandal earlier in the week when it was revealed that he had engaged Georgia’s (Republican) Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in an hour-long telephone conversation in which he appealed for his colleague to “find” 11,780 votes – one more than the 11,779 majority that Biden achieved in that state.

This is electoral fraud and Raffensperger wouldn’t have it.

Trump went on to spout a series of conspiracy theories that (it has been claimed) far-right internet sites have been promoting – including that his opponents tampered with voting machines in the state. His claims were greeted with a blunt “no” from the leading lawyer on Raffensperger’s team.

The revelation was greeted as a scandal bigger than Watergate. The only reason Trump wasn’t facing impeachment after the recording of his call was published by the Washington Post is that unlike Richard Nixon, his own party leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives are not willing to condemn him.

Then came the riot.

Congress was due to meet yesterday (January 6) for a purely ceremonial event to confirm Biden’s election victory – but Trump wasn’t having it.

He tweeted a call for his supporters to attend and protest, appealing for them to “stop the steal”.

Events escalated out of control into a riot in which members of the US public stormed the Capitol, and now four people are dead.

One, unofficially named as San Diego-area US Air Force veteran and Trump supporter Ashli Babbit, was part of a group that forced entry into the House room while it was still in session. They were confronted by plain-clothes police officers, one of whom pulled out a weapon and fired it. She was rushed to hospital where she was later proclaimed dead.

Another woman and two men died as a result of “medical emergencies”, officials said, without giving details. At least 14 members of the police were also injured.

Trump has not apologised for instigating the riot or for the deaths to which it led. He is still denying the legitimacy of the election result but has agreed to an “orderly transition” of the presidency to Biden.

Add it all up and it amounts to a shocking degeneration and indictment against Trump in the last days of his presidency.

And the silence from the UK’s government is equally appalling.

But then, we should remember that Boris Johnson’s Conservative government has been a wholehearted Trump supporter – with Johnson himself even suggesting the soon-to-be ex-president should receive the Nobel Peace Prize:

But let’s not restrict this to Johnson (and Patel, above). Plenty of other UK political figures have supported Trump:

That is why I feel the need to amplify these comments:

Think about it – because you can be sure Johnson and his planners are.

They’ll be looking at what happened and how it happened, and working out how they can create the same situation in the UK and spin it to make them look good.

Then they will have a little ace-in-the-hole if their policies look like creating civil unrest in the future.

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New Covid threat – but government sticks to advice over Christmas ‘bubbles’

Not a Christmas decoration: but the fear is that people will be letting Covid-19 into their homes – possibly a new, more virulent strain – when families come together under restriction relaxations that are still being permitted by the government.

Boris Johnson’s Tory government is sticking to its advice about the five-day ‘bubbles’ into which families will be allowed to go while they celebrate Christmas.

But ministers are warning that people should do “the minimum that is possible” over the festive period.

What the hell does that mean?

Meanwhile, new threats are arising with the discovery of a new strain of the Coronavirus, most heavily concentrated in London and the South East.

Is it a coincidence that London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire are going into Tier 3 restrictions from midnight today (December 15-16)?

The number of cases of the virus there has been found to have risen, even while cases elsewhere were falling during the English lockdown in November.

Up to three households will be permitted to meet – in ‘bubbles’ – for five days over Christmas. But the government is saying people will have to make their own judgements about the amount of contact they have.

And the matter will be kept under review.

The discovery of the new strain of the virus was announced by Death Health Secretary Matt Hancock:

He seems to think that although it is faster-spreading, it is no more harmful than the established strain and he expects the current vaccine to be effective against it.

Those are very large assumptions.

And there are concerns that ministers are divorced from the realities of the situation.

Guardian leader article has warned that the government’s attitude to schools shows a failure to understand the ongoing threat:

Just last week the schools minister, Nick Gibb, wrote to the headteacher of a school in Ware, Hertfordshire, warning that the government could use its powers under the Coronavirus Act to prevent schools such as his from carrying out plans to send most pupils home before the end of term and switch to remote learning.

In a similar vein, suggestions from unions that schools might operate remotely at the start of next term, in order to decrease the chances that contacts over the festive period could lead to a spike in infections, were rebuffed.

Yet school leaders, and councils including Greenwich, that have asked headteachers to switch to remote learning for the final few days of term, appear more in touch than ministers with the realities – and risks – of the situation they have created, by promising the public that get-togethers of up to three families could go ahead over the festive period.

It remains unclear how Boris Johnson and his cabinet became convinced that closing schools for just the usual fortnight could be considered compatible with a plan to relax the pandemic restrictions below even the tier 1 level, under which gatherings of people who do not live together, and are not part of the same support bubble, are limited to six.

Throughout the Covid crisis, Hancock, his boss Boris Johnson, and their minions have been wrong – on an epic scale that has cost tens of thousands of lives.

They claimed their decisions were “based on the science” when in fact the underlying motive was the maintenance of a national economy that has been harmed more by their poor leadership than by the virus itself.

Now they stand poised to make another terrible mistake – and to make the rest of us pay the cost. Again.

Source: Covid: ‘Do minimum possible’ over Christmas, says UK minister | World news | The Guardian

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Let’s do the Brexit ‘hokey-cokey’: supermarkets told to stockpile food after Sharma said no

Remember this? It won’t be toilet roll that’s missing from supermarket shelves in January if they follow Alok Sharma’s advice – it will be food.

I had not realised how badly business minister Alok Sharma embarrassed himself on Monday’s breakfast media round.

Only a few hours ago, as I type this, he told the nation – well, see for yourself:

It turns out he was directly contradicting the government of which he is the business minister! See:

The UK government is reported to have warned supermarkets to stockpile food and other essential supplies amid increasing fears of a no-deal Brexit in less than three weeks’ time.

And in anticipation of shortages prompted by a no-deal, ministers have told supermarkets to start stockpiling goods.

Food producers have warned supplies of fresh vegetables will be worst hit if tariffs were imposed on goods in the event of a no-deal. They say shortages could last for at least three months.

If that is accurate, then Sharma’s advice is borderline criminal.

He was telling supermarkets not to stock up on vital food, despite having been warned of a shortage in the very near future.

He was telling the nation’s grocers to starve the people of the UK.

Source: Supermarkets ‘told to stockpile food’ as fears grow of no-deal Brexit | Brexit | The Guardian

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