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Senior Tories including ‘Brexit Steve’ Baker demand continuation of Covid death spiral

The image above may not be the most sophisticated graphic This Site has ever published, but it is accurate all the same.

The Tory rabble who have been pushing for more deaths in a bid to keep the economy going and their paymasters in big business happy have been pressuring Boris Johnson for another early end to the restrictions he has (laughably) encouraged us all to call a lockdown.

The infection and death rates are back at pre-‘lockdown’ levels, they say, so he she start easing us all back into work at the beginning of March.

Shockingly, arch-Brexiteer Steve Baker, clearly believing he hasn’t done enough to wreck the nation, has been traipsing around the broadcast media today, claiming that we need to give Covid-19 a chance at a third wave, for the sake of the poorest in society.

“Think of the poor!” How disgusting.

As the infographic above points out, he couldn’t care less when he voted against letting the poor keep the Universal Credit uplift they need to get by.

In this light, he seems clearly revealed as the kind of opportunist who says whatever he thinks will get him what he wants.

And he isn’t the only one:

Lockdown-sceptic Tories have piled pressure on Boris Johnson, calling on him to commit to a timetable for lifting coronavirus restrictions with a complete end to controls by the end of April.

In a letter to the prime minister, the leaders of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) said the “tremendous pace” of the vaccination rollout meant restrictions should begin easing from early March.

They said ministers must produce a cost-benefit analysis to justify any controls that remain in place after that date, with a “roadmap” stating when they would be removed.

The letter was organised by the CRG chair and deputy chair, Mark Harper and Steve Baker, and was said to have the backing of 63 Conservative MPs in all. However, scientists advising the government are warning that lifting restrictions too quickly risks another wave of the disease as big as the current one.

Of course, 63 Tory MPs in rebellion isn’t enough to bother Johnson – the Tory majority in Parliament is 80 – but it might be enough to rattle his cage, reminding him that he needs to keep his members happy.

He has already said he hopes to map out a “cautious” route out of lockdown on February 22 – next Monday.

The CRG people, led by Baker and Mark Harper, reckon they can dictate its pace – demanding that schools reopen by March 8 and hospitality businesses by Easter.

So we’ll be well on the way to another surge by Whitsun, then.

Source: Tory MPs tell Johnson to commit to lifting Covid restrictions by end of April | World news | The Guardian

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Better late than never? Labour demand end to Tory ‘crony contracts’ SEVEN MONTHS after they were reported

Should we be applauding Labour’s demand for the Conservative government to stop handing contracts to firms with links to the Conservative Party?

If so, it should be the slow, mocking handclap that denotes disapproval. This move comes no less than seven months after the so-called Tory ‘chumocracy’ was revealed to the nation.

Did Rachel Reeves have to wait for a focus group to say it was okay to talk about this?

I think so.

And her words ring hollow.

She has said that a Labour government would overturn government outsourcing, bringing contracts back into the public sector, reform Freedom of Information rules to include companies who are awarded government contracts, create an ‘Anti-Corruption and anti-cronyism commissioner’ as a check on government contracts.

But we don’t have a Labour government. And the earliest we can now expect to get one is December 2024.

By then, knowing that Labour is now ruled by focus groups and by politicians who might as well be Tories themselves, we must expect all the policies to be different; Starmer Labour changes to reflect whatever it thinks will get it into power.

If Labour really cared about £2 billion of public money going into the hands of amateurs who did nothing with it, Reeves (or whoever) would have spoken out about it last July, when I did.

Doing it now only lays bare the cynicism at the hollow heart of Starmer Labour.

Source: Labour call for clean up of ‘crony contracts’ as £2bn in deals handed to Tory pals – Mirror Online

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Conservative Party ‘racially profiled’ 10 million voters illegally before 2019 election

Questionable behaviour: the party that once put out the above as an election communication has been gathering information on UK voters by race and religion. What harm do you think they were going to do with it?

Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party bought tools to work out voters’ race and religion and used it for “racial and religious profiling” of 10 million people before the 2019 election, the Information Commissioner’s Office has revealed.

The Open Rights Group has said the data could have been used for “voter suppression techniques”, and referred to Tory Zac Goldsmith’s 2016 London Mayoral campaign, when he was criticised for ethnicity-targeted leaflets aimed at Hindu, Sikh and Tamil voters.

There is no evidence to suggest that the Tories used the information in any specific way in the 2019 election campaign.

The Open Rights Group has released this video, in which ICO staff explain that it was illegal to collect ethnicity data:

Cat Smith, Labour’s shadow minister for voter engagement, said the revelation that the party in government – that is due to impose new, discriminatory voter identification laws – had been using illegal means to gather information is serious cause for alarm:

“The Conservative Party’s illegal misuse of ethnic race data – a characteristic protected by law – is deeply concerning.”

“With the government’s discriminatory Voter ID laws due to come into law this year, such racial profiling by the Party that is in charge of upholding our data protection laws raises serious alarm bells.”

Why would the Tories want to gather information that the law forbids them from taking, if not to give themselves an unfair electoral advantage?

What were they planning to do with it?

And why have they not even been punished?

We don’t know whose voter information received this “racial and religious profiling” treatment, so I think we all need to ask the Tories what they have been finding out about us.

We should all send a Subject Access Request to Conservative Central Office, demanding full disclosure of all information they have about us.

Source: Conservative Party ‘racially profiled’ 10 million voters | openDemocracy

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Damning: Parliament reports on Johnson government’s Covid-19 response – and pulls no punches

 

Boris Johnson’s government has failed to address the Covid-19 crisis in any reasonable way, according to a new report by his fellow MPs.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus published its interim report today and it is scathing in its criticism of Johnson and his cronies.

At 91 pages’ length, there is far too much material for me to publish an in-depth analysis so soon – but I don’t have to. The introductory conclusions are damning enough. Here are some highlights:

The UK government’s approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic has been based on the
false choice between saving lives or saving jobs and the economy.

The centralised and outsourced Test and Trace system operating in England is not working. It
has consistently failed to meet the required target of 80% of contacts traced to be effective.

The UK government has prioritised arbitrary testing targets over a coordinated testing
strategy.

The UK government’s outsourced tracing service has consistently traced only 60% of contacts,
well below the required 80% target. Local contact tracing services have been much more
successful, regularly tracing 90% of the contacts.

Without adequate financial support and general assistance to isolate, the requirement to
isolate is not being complied with by a significant proportion of cases. As a result, the chains
of transmission are not being broken, and cases continue to rise.

Lockdowns have become the UK Government’s only solution to bringing down the incidence
of Covid-19 in England, because it does not have a locally led Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and
Support system in place throughout the country.

The inability for local authorities to access the precise real-time data has significantly impaired their ability to work effectively at a local level to contain outbreaks.

Centralised identification of, and communication with, those shielding has not been
consistent or clear.

Councils need clarification on the resumption of the policy of ‘everyone in’ (ensuring
accommodation for all homeless people).

UK government advice and guidance on shielding and on visiting those in residential care has
been inconsistent and unclear.

UK government public health messaging has been inconsistent and unclear.

Testing

Access to testing for frontline NHS and social care staff has been unsatisfactory, resulting in
staff being absent from their role while they or their family members wait for test results. This
impacts on the ability of the NHS and social care sector to provide care.

The international standard for the turnaround time of tests is 24 hours. The APPG
recommends that the UK government improves turnaround time for tests, such that all
results are accessible within 24 hours.

The APPG finds that there has been inadequate coordination between Pillar 1 (NHS) and Pillar
2 (commercial) laboratories, which has detrimentally affected testing capacity, information
flows and management decisions.

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the capacity deficiencies in the UK’s public health
laboratory capability: existing public health laboratories did not have the capacity to meet
the surge in demand posed by Covid-19.

The recently announced proposals for testing at airports are not sufficient.

Personal Protection Equipment

There was an insufficient supply of PPE for those in the social care sector
and NHS.

Public Health England

The reorganisation of Public Health England would be detrimental to UK’s ability to respond
to the coronavirus pandemic.

Support for the NHS

Before the coronavirus pandemic, NHS England had around 106,000 FTE vacancies including
nearly 44,000 nurses and more than 9,000 doctors.

Support for the Social Care sector

The social care sector did not receive sufficient support in terms of PPE, guidance, testing or
quarantining provisions for those coming from the NHS into social care settings.

At the outbreak of the pandemic, there was a shortage of 100,000 social care staff.

Oversight of the social care sector was stopped in March 2020 due to a lack of testing
availability for Care Quality Commission inspectors.

Isolation is having a devastating impact on those in social care. All people living in care or
supported living need to be safely reconnected with their support networks for the crucial
emotional and practical support that friends and families provide.

Inequalities

NHS staff, and in particular those from BAME backgrounds, have experienced bullying and discrimination in the workplace when raising questions of workplace safety and lack of PPE.

The impact [of the Covid-19 crisis] has been particularly detrimental on those living in areas of high deprivation, on people from BAME communities, on older people, men, those with a learning disability and others with protected characteristics.

Long Covid

As a medical condition, Long Covid has not yet received full recognition, sufficient research
funding or adequate rehabilitation support.

There are insufficient guidelines for employers and GPs on recognising and managing Long
Covid.

The UK government is not counting the number of individuals who are left with long-lasting
effects of Covid-19 as a measure of the severity and impact of the pandemic.

Mental Health

Covid-19 has had severe impact on the mental health of a significant proportion of society. This may be because of isolation, loss of income, or loss of daily routine.

There has been an increase in demand for mental health support services, with many individuals seeking help for the first time. The APPG also finds that those suffering from mental health issues, including addictions, have seen their condition worsen over the course of the pandemic.

International Comparisons

The UK government has failed to look to or learn from other countries in their handling of the
pandemic. The APPG notes the experience of Norway and Finland, who built up their Find,
Test, Trace, Isolate and Support systems over the Summer, as well as those countries who
instigated testing and quarantine measures at airports early on, such as South Korea,
Singapore, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

That last comment is particularly telling – that the UK has failed in comparison with other countries – on the day that Gavin Williamson was telling radio audiences that Britain is best. What a bad joke.

You can see that this report pulls no punches. This Writer only regrets the fact that the parts quoted above fail to mention the number of fatalities.

I will try to go into depth in the near future.

In the meantime, I look forward to hearing Boris Johnson attempt to justify his inactions in the face of this substantial criticism.

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#NadineDorries take note: #SAGE predicted #Lockdown2 – but NOT with a crystal ball!

Nadine Dorries: The lights are on but nobody’s home.

The MP we all know as “Mad Nad” has struck again.

Nadine Dorries, who has miraculously managed to climb the greasy pole far enough to become a health – health! – minister, has performed another spectacular display of idiocy:

“Only a crystal ball could have predicted the need for a second lockdown”?

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies called for it on September 21.

Its acronym may be SAGE but that doesn’t mean it uses a crystal ball!

The reaction on the social media has been exactly what she deserved:

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MPs launch inquiry into Tory government handling of Covid-19 crisis

On the same day families of those who died (needlessly?) of Covid-19 told Boris Johnson he could not hide from them, MPs said they were starting to take evidence in their own Coronavirus inquiry.

I would be leaping to sing their praises, but – unlike the Graun – I’m not convinced an inquiry by MPs is entirely independent, and I’ll be keen to find out if anybody offering evidence is turned away.

Johnson is under pressure to order an independent inquiry after 153,000 people signed an online petition.

Obviously these are people with reason to believe the Tory response fell short of the mark (as we all should, in This Writer’s opinion).

Organisers’ complaints can be read in this Metro article, and I would certainly hope that some of them will be asked to submit evidence to the new All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Coronavirus.

Families of those who have died will be able to give submissions in writing, via video call, or in person – if they are invited.

It isn’t a judge-led inquiry and its findings won’t have the weight of one; it’s clear from the comments in the Guardian article that some of the APPG members have already made up their minds.

But it’s a start.

Frontline workers and relatives of people who have died are invited to visit the March for Change website where they may make submissions via a dedicated portal, anonymously if they wish.

Professionals and trade bodies can submit evidence via email.

I reckon it’s worth a shot.

Source: Cross-party group of MPs to lead first UK coronavirus inquiry | Politics | The Guardian

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Coronavirus: Outrage follows revelation that Dominic Cummings attended SAGE meetings (oh yes he did)

Not a scientist: Dominic Cummings.

What was the point of Dominic Cummings attending SAGE (the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies) meetings if not to influence them?

And, considering his right-wing, eugenicist, economy-first, “if a few pensioners die, too bad” views, is it any wonder Boris Johnson is facing cross-party demands for Cummings to be barred from any further meetings?

Former Brexit secretary, David Davis, is among those calling for Dominic Cummings and Ben Warner, an adviser who ran the Tories’ private election computer model, to be prevented from attending future meetings.

He voiced the concerns of many when he said Cummings’s presence could alter the advice offered in meetings.

And he added: “We should publish the membership of Sage, remove any non-scientist members, publish their advice in full, and publish dissenting opinions with the advice.”

Other people who attend SAGE meetings have also said the Downing Street advisor’s presence made them uneasy.

According to another Guardian report, one said they felt Cummings’ interventions had sometimes inappropriately influenced what is supposed to be an impartial scientific process.

A second Sage attendee said they were shocked when Cummings first began participating in Sage discussions, in February, because they believed the group should be providing “unadulterated scientific data” without any political input.

Tends to indicate that Cummings is affecting what’s said at these meetings, doesn’t it?

And how can we trust the “science” that the Tories say they’re following if it come from him?

Downing Street has been (rather desperately) trying to claim that political “advisors” don’t make any difference, but then why would these two SAGE attendees say the following?

“When a very senior civil servant or a very well-connected person interrupts, then I don’t think anyone in the room feels the power to stop it. When you get to discussing where advice might be going, there have been occasions where they have been involved, and a couple of times I’ve thought: that’s not what we are supposed to be doing.”

“He was not just an observer, he’s listed as an active participant… He was engaging in conversation and not sitting silently.”

Another Downing Street claim was that it is “entirely right” for its political advisers to attend meetings of the group, implying – one may expect – that they have been at SAGE meetings from the start.

No!

Sage was first convened to advise on swine flu in 2009, and there had been almost 50 meetings between then and the start of the coronavirus crisis.

And guess what? “There is no evidence in the publicly available minutes of those meetings of any Downing Street officials or political advisers attending.”

Coming back to Cummings’s remarks about pensioner deaths, it should be clear that neither SAGE nor the “science” the Tories say they’re following will have any credibility until that committee is given back to the scientists.

Source: Top Tories join calls to bar Cummings from scientific advisory group | Politics | The Guardian

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Socialist Labour MPs demand action on leaked Labour report but Starmer’s too busy saving his officials

Socialist Labour MPs – in other words, proper Labour MPs – have demanded action from party leader Keir Starmer, after a report showing how party officers sabotaged the party was leaked to the public.

The Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs has issued a statement as follows:

“In light of the recent revelations about senior officials undermining the 2017 general election campaign, we, as members of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs, make the following demands:

“1. The report should be published in full officially by the Labour Party.

“2. An emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting should be convened to discuss its contents.

“3. That NEC meeting must establish a transparent process to investigate the conduct alleged in the leaked document, with the terms of reference set by the NEC officers.

“4. This process must produce a report, that is publicly available, which restores faith among Labour members in the practices of our party.

“We understand the disappointment and frustration that many Labour members will feel with the details revealed in this report. It contains revelations of senior officials undermining the 2017 general election campaign and suggests there are cases to answer on bullying, harassment, sexism and racism.

“We express our solidarity with Labour volunteers who give up their spare time to fight for a better society and to get a Labour government.

“We believe people must stay and fight for a Labour Government, organise to defend our socialist manifesto and push for action.”

The statement is signed by Diane Abbott, Paula Barker, Apsana Begum, Olivia Blake, Richard Burgon, Ian Byrne, Dan Carden, Mary Foy, Rachel Hopkins, Imran Hussain, Kim Johnson, Clive Lewis, Ian Lavery, Rachael Maskell, John McDonnell, Ian Mearns, Nav Mishra, Grahame Morris, Kate Osamor, Kate Osborne, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Zarah Sultana, Sam Tarry, Jon Trickett, Beth Winter, Claudia Webbe, Mick Whitley and Nadia Whittome.

But Mr Starmer has released a statement of his own, saying he intends to investigate: the background and circumstances in which the report was commissioned – despite the fact that we’re told he has been in possession of the report for more than a week; the contents and wider culture and practices referred to in the report – which suggests an intention to find that it is not accurate; and the circumstances in which the report was put into the public domain – which suggests that he wants to attack the people who leaked it because he thinks that is much worse than gross misconduct and betrayal of every single Labour member and voter in the United Kingdom.

So it seems this has become a matter of trust.

The wider membership of the party will have to base its future choices on what Starmer chooses to do. But I will say this:

There is enough prima facie evidence in this report to justify the suspension of every Labour official, MP and member who is named in it as having acted against the interests of the party. Starmer should take this step, to justify members’ continued support – and to ensure that the accused don’t end up investigating themselves.

Postscript: And now we learn that Starmer bypassed Labour’s National Executive Committee – which is supposed to be it’s sovereign decision-making body – to announce that an independent investigation on the lines he described would take place. The NEC’s chair is furious:

https://twitter.com/andydaisyfox/status/1249738666848800768

The weird part of it is, Starmer didn’t have to do this to rubber-stamp a decision not to carry out the obvious investigation – into the behaviour of the Labour officials, MPs and members cited as having acted wrongly. Labour’s NEC is now predominantly right-wing and probably would have agreed to a whitewash anyway.

But now he will – or at least, should – be open to questions about why he thinks he is above the scrutiny demanded by the party of its leaders… People like Jeremy Corbyn, to name a topical example.

At this rate, it won’t be long before other leading party figures can demand a quick “no confidence” vote and he can go home.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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Theresa May’s husband works for a firm that didn’t pay tax for eight years. Has it started yet?

Philip and Theresa May.

A row over the amount of tax paid by the firm that employs the prime minister’s husband has been revived – just in time for Christmas.

It was reported last year that the investment firm that employs UK prime minister Theresa May’s husband, Philip, had not paid any Corporation Tax since 2009.

The tax is paid only on profits, and it seems Capital International Ltd had managed to make a loss of £125 million over the eight-year period between 2009 and 2017.

It did, however, have a turnover of £467 million – nearly half a billion pounds – in the same period, and has assets of £1.1 trillion.

And it managed to pay its board of directors a total of £43 million in salaries and benefits during that time.

Creative accountancy?

You have to admit, it’s a little odd for a firm to be paying out bonuses to anybody at all if it is losing money.

It seems the company, which is part of the international Capital Group, made its losses after making multi-million pound payments to its parent organisation which is based in the United States and pays its taxes there. Another subsidiary, Capital International Sarl, is bassed in the tax haven of Switzerland.

It does not pay tax in years when it makes losses or in years when those losses have been carried forward.

The amount paid to Mr May is not known as the prime minister does not have to declare it.

The company expressed an intention to start paying tax again in 2018 and it is possible that the row has erupted again because we have seen no evidence that this has happened.

What are we to make of this?

People are certainly asking hard questions on the social media:

Meanwhile, Mrs May has been spotted in an exclusive shop where a handbag can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds – a price she certainly can’t afford on her Parliamentary salary:

I would like to have some answers on this. Wouldn’t you?

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What kind of benefit is Universal Credit, that people need a support group to cope with it?

 

This is Tory Party insanity at its height.

They keep telling us Universal Credit is the best thing that ever happened to the benefit system – yet now people in Portsmouth are being directed to charity support groups, simply in order to survive it.

That’s not social security – it’s a crime against humanity.

No one needs to navigate Universal Credit alone, support groups have said.

Across Portsmouth … a network of organisations … have been working towards the introduction of Universal Credit in partnership with both the council and the Jobcentre.

Source: Support groups set up to tackle Universal Credit in Portsmouth – The News

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