Tag Archives: interfere

Will Russia give us its working Covid-19 vaccine if we’re condemning Navalny poisoning?

This is awkward.

It seems Russia has developed a Covid-19 vaccine that works – it creates an immune response with no ill effects:

Sputnik V, which the Kremlin announced in August would enter mass production this month despite serious international concern, caused no major adverse effects and induced antibodies in all participants in two small rounds of early testing. The results were published in medical journal The Lancet on Friday.

If this is true, then it could end the crisis worldwide – if distributed beyond Russia.

There’s just one problem.

The Establishment here in the UK spends most of its time condemning Russia. At the moment the UK is treating that country with disdain over the poisoning of Alexei Navalny – and for interfering in UK democracy.

So there’s very little incentive for the Russians to help us.

In fact, the Russians would do well to withhold the vaccine. That country could then resume business as usual while the rest of us remain under restrictions until we come up with a vaccine of our own – or steal theirs via spies (gosh).

The UK has already fallen well behind the rest of the world because of Boris Johnson’s pathetic response to the pandemic. Make no mistake; the nation has suffered unduly because of his dithering.

Brexit could push us even further back, if Johnson fails to get a decent trade deal. That’s what we understand he wants, too.

Being forced to try to compete while still under Covid-19 restrictions could finish off the UK economy altogether.

Source: Coronavirus: Russia’s vaccine induces immune response and is safe, early trial results suggest | The Independent | Independent

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DWP crashes to another court defeat over sickness benefits

The High Court – also known as the Royal Courts of Justice – in London.

The High Court has just ruled that a rule allowing the Department for Work and Pensions to force some benefit claimants to wait – unpaid – for a mandatory reconsideration before they can appeal against refusal is unlawful.

The system previously demanded that, if a claim for income-related Employment and Support Allowance was refused, claimants would have to wait for a “mandatory reconsideration” of their case to take place before they could appeal.

This could take weeks, and has often taken months, in which the claimant – who is claiming because of serious illness, remember – has no income on which to survive.

Mr Justice Swift ruled that the demand that a mandatory reconsideration must take place before a claimant can appeal is a “disproportionate interference with the right of access to court” – in some cases.

This case was brought by law graduate Michael Conner, with crowdfunded aid from the website Benefits and Work – and represents a considerable victory for the claimant, the website, and crowdfunded legal proceedings in general.

Mr Connor had been forced to wait 18 weeks while the DWP carried out a mandatory reconsideration of his ESA decision. During this time he had no right to claim ESA.

If he had been able to lodge an appeal, he would have been paid ESA on a probationary rate, dependent on the provision of medical evidence by his doctor.

The judge said that after his benefit was cancelled on October 18, 2018, Mr Connor applied for a mandatory reconsideration.

But, in an “error” of the kind that benefit claimants have come to expect from the DWP, he said “no action was taken in response… The request for revision was incorrectly entered onto the Secretary of State’s electronic document management system.

“The document was not recognised or recorded as a request for reconsideration, and instead was classified as ‘unstructured whitemail'” and “it was not until 6 March 2019 – 4 months after Mr Connor’s request had been received – that it was identified as a request for revision.”

Mr Connor had managed to claim Income Support and Carer’s Allowance in the meantime, so he decided not to appeal the decision. Instead, he informed the DWP that he intended to challenge the legality of the rule making him unable to appeal until a mandatory reconsideration had happened.

He pointed out that:

  • The rule creates an open-ended deferral of the right to appeal that could leave claimants without income for an unlimited period – as evidenced by his own case.
  • Its effect is anomalous as ESA is payable before a decision is made and while an appeal is taking place, but not while the DWP is going through the mandatory reconsideration process [or, more likely, forgetting about it – in the opinion of This Writer].
  • If an appeal is started, there is no provision for back payment of ESA to cover the period of the revision decision while an appeal is ongoing.
  • So the interference is disproportionate because “it places benefits claimants, such as him, who are vulnerable, in a position of ‘legal and financial limbo, distress and destitution’ for the duration of the revision process that must be pursued before an appeal can be commenced” – and there is “no limit on the time permitted to the Secretary of State to determine an application for revision.”

In his ruling, Mr Justice Swift said: “It is anomalous that the payment pending appeal arrangements for ESA … do not extend to ESA claimants who are required … to request the Secretary of State to revise a decision and await her decision on that request before initiating an appeal.

“At the hearing of this case I gave the Secretary of State the opportunity to … explain why no provision exists to pay ESA to claimants… None of this further information provides the answer.

“My conclusion is that [the regulation in question] is a disproportionate interference with the right of access to court, so far as it applies to claimants to ESA who, once an appeal is initiated, meet the conditions for payment pending appeal.

“The advantage permitted to the Secretary of State by [the] regulation … comes at a cost to ESA claimants. There is no explanation for that.

“There is no evidence to support a conclusion that the objective pursued by [the] regulation … would to any extent be compromised if payments like the payments pending appeal made to ESA claimants who are pursuing appeals to the Tribunal, were made to them while they waited on the Secretary of State’s revision decision.

“In the absence of payment equivalent to payment pending appeal, the application of [the] regulation … to ESA claimants does not strike the required fair balance, and for that reason is an unjustified impediment to the right of access to court guaranteed by ECHR Article 6.”

Benefits and Work has stated: “Sadly, the ruling does not apply to other benefits such as PIP or DLA.

Nonetheless, it is an important victory and it means that ESA claimants, who are often faced with the prospect of many weeks without funds if they wish to appeal, are now in a much better position when challenging a decision.”

It will be interesting to see what will happen now.

The ruling is that the current situation is unlawful but no further remedy has been put in place beyond a statement to that effect.

What will happen to ESA claimants who must go through the mandatory reconsideration process now? Will they be paid while their case is reviewed?

That seems the logical course.

But I fear the DWP may find a way to duck out of it.

Source: Connor, R (On the Application Of) v The Secretary of State for Work And Pensions [2020] EWHC 1999 (Admin) (24 July 2020)

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Russia report: If Russian influence over the UK is ‘the new normal’, shouldn’t someone be charged with treason?

Bosom buddies: Boris Johnson with Russian industrialist Alexander Temerko. All perfectly innocent?

Now we can all see why Boris Johnson did not want the so-called ‘Russia Report’ released before the general election last year.

The report – released today (July 21) by Parliament’s new Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) – shows that successive Conservative governments have welcomed Russian oligarchs “with open arms”, giving them access to political figures “at the highest levels” – and made absolutely no attempt to investigate Russian interference in referendums and elections; in fact, the Tories “actively avoided” doing so.

This has led, the report states, to the growth of an industry of “enablers” who are “de facto agents of the Russian state”. The report does not explicitly state that these enablers include Conservative government politicians, but its assertion that Russia had access to “the highest levels” of political figures certainly suggests that this is the case.

And the fact that Russia has influence “at the highest levels” seems to have made it almost impossible to organise a response.

The report refers to the defence of UK democratic processes as a “hot potato” over which no government organisation wanted to take the lead in conducting an assessment of Russian interference.

In its response to the report today, the Tory government has said it has seen no evidence of interference in (this is the example it gives) the Brexit referendum. It seems clear that there is a good reason for that: nobody was looking. The government has said it sees no reason to conduct a retrospective investigation into such interference, which looks like a tacit admission of guilt in the light of the report. Committee member Stewart Hosie said, “That is meaningless if they haven’t looked for it.”

The ISC states that “social media companies must take action and remove covert hostile state material. Government must ‘name and shame’ those who fail to act”. The latter demand seems unlikely to happen as it seems clear that the Tory government does not want to do anything.

One reason for that may be the fact that the Tories have been delighted to welcome Russian money and the oligarchs who owned it, “providing them with a means of recycling illicit finance through the London ‘laundromat’.”

It is unlikely that Russia actually interfered in the mechanics of voting in general elections or the Brexit referendum; the UK’s paper-based voting system “makes actual interference with the mechanism difficult” – but “we should not be complacent about other forms of interference”.

The report states that Russian influence seems to have been exerted prominently in the social media, whose bosses had no interest in preventing it.

It states: “There have been widespread allegations that Russia sought to influence voters in the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU: studies have pointed to the preponderance of pro-Brexit or anti-EU stories on RT and Sputnik, and the use of ‘bots’ and ‘trolls’, as evidence.

“The actual impact of such attempts on the result itself would be difficult – if not impossible – to prove. However what is clear is that the Government was slow to recognise the existence of the threat – only understanding it after the ‘hack and leak’ operation against the Democratic National Committee, when it should have been seen as early as 2014.

“As a result the Government did not take action to protect the UK’s process in 2016. The Committee has not been provided with any post-referendum assessment – in stark contrast to the US response to reports of interference in the 2016 presidential election. In our view there must be an analogous assessment of Russian interference in the EU referendum.”

In their statement, the Tories have made it clear that they will not conduct a retrospective investigation: “The Intelligence and Security Agencies produce and contribute to regular assessments of the threat posed by Hostile State Activity, including around potential interference in UK democratic processes.

“We keep such assessments under review and, where necessary, update them in response to new intelligence, including during democratic events such as elections and referendums.

“Where new information emerges, the Government will always consider the most appropriate use of any intelligence it develops or receives, including whether it is appropriate to make this public. Given this long standing approach, a retrospective assessment of the EU Referendum is not necessary.”

This is hardly encouraging, given that the ISC report makes it clear that the Tory government has deliberately avoided looking for Russian interference.

Labour has delivered the weak-ass response that we have come to expect from Keir Starmer’s sub-Tory party, courtesy of Lisa “I wouldn’t disclose plans to sell off the NHS” Nandy.

“The report is very clear that the Government has underestimated the response required to Russia and it is imperative we learn the lessons from the mistakes that have been made,” she said. “The Labour Party calls on the Government to study the conclusions of the report carefully and take the necessary steps to keep our country safe.”

Fat chance! And she knows it. The people of the UK needed a much more robust response, calling out Prime Minister Boris Johnson over his extremely strong ties with Russians – he plays tennis with them in return for donations to the Tory Party, remember – and demanding a full-strength investigation into connections between Conservative government members past and present and Russians in the UK – both private citizens and representatives of that country’s government.

I’ll say it again, for clarity:

What we need now is a comprehensive and independent investigation by law-enforcement agencies into connections between anybody who has been a member of a Conservative government over the past 10 years (including members of other parties who have allied with the Tories – the DUP and the Liberal Democrats) and Russians in the UK who have been here either as private citizens or as representatives of that countries government. Did – and do – these relationships pose a threat to the UK’s security and to its democracy?

And if so, should those who have created that threat be arrested and charged with treason?

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MPs from all parties say failure to release Russia report is ‘affront to democracy’

Bosom buddies: Boris Johnson with Russian industrialist Alexander Temerko.

If a week in politics is a long time, how would you describe eight months? An eternity?

That’s the length of time Boris Johnson has been sitting on the report into Russian interference in UK democracy.

He says it cannot be released because the UK’s Intelligence and Security Committee has not been reconvened since it was dissolved for the December 2019 general election and has no members.

But this is a feeble excuse when one realises that the only reason for this is, Boris Johnson nominates everybody on this committee – and he hasn’t bothered to do so.

It is the only committee that Parliament has yet to appoint, and it is extremely unusual for a Parliament to fail to appoint it for six months – one-tenth of its term.

If Johnson wanted, this committee could meet on Monday and the report could be out on Tuesday (June 23).

He simply doesn’t want to – and now a cross-party group of MPs have slammed his inaction as an affront to democracy. They’re absolutely right:

MPs on Tuesday wrote to the UK prime minister to tell him it “is untenable for you to continue to block the publication of the Russia report,” adding that “the situation is an affront to democracy.”

The letter… tells Johnson “your refusal to allow publication of this crucial document raises serious concerns and questions about the transparency and integrity of our democratic process.”

Johnson faces fresh pressure to publish the report after the Electoral Commission last week published new data showing continued financial support for the Conservative party from the wife of a former minister in Vladimir Putin’s Russian government.

The letter to Johnson says this new information highlighted “the party’s deep connections to Russian oligarchs,” and “further questions as to why you are so reluctant to reconstitute the Intelligence and Security Committee.”

Source: Boris Johnson failure to release Russia report an affront to democracy – Business Insider

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LabourLeaks: will party leaders take disciplinary action while inquiry is ongoing?

The scope of an investigation into the leaked Labour report on a right-wing faction’s interference will not stop party members being suspended and investigated for improper behaviour, it seems.

So it is entirely possible for Keir Starmer and his team to suspend the memberships of all those who are named as responsible for misconduct in their roles as party officers, investigate what happened alongside the investigation into the report, and finally expel them if necessary.

The investigation’s full terms of reference have yet to be published but a LabourList report states that:

  • “The inquiry does not preclude disciplinary action by the party… the new leadership team was not trying to discourage such action from being taken by the party in line with normal processes, and in fact “they’re encouraged” to do so.”
  • The person who leaked the report will be protected as a whistleblower. A Momentum spokesperson said: “While the report should not have been leaked unredacted, Labour is Britain’s largest political party and the contents were clearly in the public interest. Labour’s half a million members deserved to know what was happening at the top of their party, and those involved in bringing these actions to light must not be penalised.”
  • Sources say the independent investigation will not focus on the leaking of the report in terms of identifying the leaker(s), though how and why the leak occurred will be considered.

Of course, both Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner have said they support introducing an independent complaints system.

For the benefit of Labour members: this means the party, as data controller, would pass your personal details to somebody completely unconnected with it, who you may not wish to have information about you, without consulting you about it and without asking your consent. This runs contrary to the Data Protection Act.

A majority vote in Conference will not be enough to give the party legal justification for such a move. It will have to gain the consent of every single party member – and if just one of you refuses to allow it, then the party will be acting illegally in doing it.

That’s the law.

This Site will continue to report on this matter as developments continue to take place.

Source: Labour’s ruling body agrees scope of investigation into leaked report – LabourList

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Labourleaks: right-wingers on NEC try to suspend people they suspect – without evidence

Wow, the new right-wing-dominated Labour National Executive Committee really is something, isn’t it?

Apparently, at its meeting today, certain unnamed extremists called for the suspension of people they suspect of leaking the Labour report showing right-wing factional interference in anti-Semitism investigations and in general elections.

Did they have any evidence? No!

It’s like the run-up to the party’s leadership election in 2016, all over again.

We can only surmise that these specimens were engaging in exactly the kind of factionalism that the report highlighted. If anything were to show that its information was accurate, it must be this.

Incidentally, while we have more than 850 pages of evidence indicating misconduct by right-wing Labour officers, it seems their colleagues on the NEC have a blind spot there; no action was proposed against the alleged wrong-doers.

Fortunately for sanity, the proposal was not agreed.

If it had been, then Labour’s more than half a million members would have had grounds for an immediate vote of no confidence in the committee. I urge all party members to watch these representatives closely.

Source: Labour right trying to suspend suspected leakers without evidence while those implicated in report carry on as normal | The SKWAWKBOX

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The only answer we need about the leaked Labour report is the reason Starmer sat on it for so long

Keir Starmer: he had the Labour report on right-wing factionalism interfering with the party’s response to anti-Semitism – for more than a week – and did nothing about it. He doesn’t need to hear other people’s answers – he needs to provide them himself.

The report that shows how a right-wing faction among the Labour Party’s staff actively sabotaged the party’s electoral chances, partially by interfering in investigations into alleged anti-Semitism, was commissioned by the party’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, it seems.

This is entirely proper.

It was intended to be an annex to Labour’s submission to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, which is investigating claims that there is “institutional anti-Semitism” in the party.

Keir Starmer, as new leader, was handed the report soon after he took on the role on April 4, along with a recommendation from the party’s lawyers that it should not be sent to the EHRC. It seems we don’t know the reasons for this recommendation.

Starmer sat on the report. He didn’t send it back with a call for changes that would make it suitable for submission; he didn’t authorise its submission; and he didn’t cancel it either.

Perhaps that is the reason whoever it was leaked it.

Here’s the juice from ITV News:

The real question, as it occurs to This Writer, is why Starmer sat on the report for so long.

Is it because, as Mr Khan describes it, the report’s researchers “found more than they bargained for” among the hundreds of thousands of emails and the WhatsApp chats to which they were granted access?

Was he trying to cover up the genuine institutionalised racism and other misbehaviour that the report describes?

If so, he doesn’t need an independent inquiry.

He should just confess what he did.

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Tory suppression of report on Russian interference in UK democracy suggests they are in it

Boris Johnson: Didn’t he take a huge amount of money just for a tennis game with a Russian donor? What did they talk about?

Why is Boris Johnson sitting on a Parliamentary report on Russian meddling in the UK democratic process?

What does it say about him?

What does it say about his party?

Is it something to do with the huge amount of Russian money that has been donated to the Conservative Party in recent years?

How much have they taken from Russian donors by now?

And here’s a question: Theresa May condemned Russia for sending assassins to the UK who failed to kill the Skripals but succeeded in eliminating innocents who had nothing to do with them – but was her party taking a massive infusion of funds from Russia in the background?

What does that tell us about her actions?

These are serious questions that need answers.

We must not have a government that is a pawn of a foreign power.

We cannot be sure that the Conservatives are not already such a pawn.

Until we see the report, there is only one way to be safe – and that is to vote for a Labour government instead.

The former head of MI5 has backed calls for a parliamentary report into alleged Russian interference in the UK democratic process to be published before the general election.

Downing Street has been accused of holding back the report by the Intelligence and Security Committee, which oversees the work of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ and sees highly sensitive intelligence material as a result.

Source: Make report on Russian meddling public now, says former MI5 chief | London Evening Standard

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Israeli company banned from Facebook after interfering with elections around the world

Now why on Earth would Israel want to interfere with elections in Africa, Asia and Latin America?

The fact that it has – according to Facebook – raises questions about interference in the UK. Have Israeli organisations been trying to influence our elections.

What about other countries? We hear a great deal about Russia, for example.

But then, can we trust Facebook? This is an organisation that hosts targeted “dark advertising”, which cannot be seen by anybody other than the intended recipient, meaning it is hard to follow and, if it is funded by a political party, it is difficult to track that party’s spending for electoral purposes.

Globalisation is a keystone of the neoliberal ideology pushed by organisations like the Conservative Party in the UK.

I wonder if they realised it meant letting foreign powers try to dictate who would win elections right here.

Facebook has banned an Israeli company for interfering with elections around the world by creating fake accounts and pages to spread propaganda and manipulate voters.

Tel Aviv-based Archimedes Group coordinated campaigns across Africa, Asia and Latin America, according to an internal investigation by Facebook into inauthentic behaviour on its platform.

The social network removed 265 Facebook and Instagram accounts, pages, groups and events that were deemed to be fake or used to disseminate deliberately manipulative content.

Around 2.8 million Facebook accounts followed one or more of these pages, with various events organised by the pages’ creators.

Source: Facebook busts Israeli company’s campaign to disrupt international elections | The Independent

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Refusal to investigate Leave campaigns is direct police interference in politics

Corruption Yard: Police have stalled an investigation into possible criminal offences by the Leave campaign in order to influence the progress of Brexit.

Members of the Metropolitan Police Service have taken it upon themselves to interfere in the most important political issue of our time.

After the Electoral Commission handed over a large amount of evidence on the expectation that the police would investigate whether serious criminal offences had been committed by three pro-Brexit campaigns in the EU referendum of 2016, officers have sat on their thumbs.

They say the matter is politically sensitive because it relates to an election “and much else besides”.

Not very convincing, it is?

Firstly, the referendum was not an election. It may have had relevance to the 2017 general election but that is a secondary concern.

Secondly, when anyone mentions “much more” or, in this case, “much else”, it usually means there isn’t much more and the person saying it is hoping you don’t notice.

The point is that this investigation needed to be handled immediately because it has a direct bearing on the validity of the decision to leave the European Union – a departure that is now less than six months in the future.

If the various Leave campaigns indulged in criminality to achieve their aim, then the result of the referendum is not valid. That would have huge significance.

And a crime is a crime. When evidence is available to them, it is the responsibility of the police to investigate it immediately. Justice brooks no delay.

So we must conclude that the police officer(s) who halted the investigation have done so in order to interfere with political affairs – allowing Brexit to happen when an investigation may prove that it should not.

Who are the officers responsible?

Why are they not stepping forward to give a full and frank account of this abhorrent behaviour?

There is no place for this kind of political interference in the modern police service and in This Writer’s opinion the culprits should be resigning their positions and submitting themselves to criminal investigations of their own.

The Metropolitan Police has stalled the launch of any criminal investigation into three pro-Brexit campaigns – citing “political sensitivities”.

Despite being handed their first dossier of evidence of potential crimes committed by pro-Leave groups over five months ago, the police force has made no progress nor logged a formal case into the activities of either Vote Leave, fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, or Leave.EU, the pro-Brexit campaign bankrolled by Arron Banks.

In May and July this year, the UK Electoral Commission reported that multiple breaches of electoral law, false declarations and covert campaign over-spending had taken place by pro-Leave groups during the 2016 EU referendum.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) was then expected to investigate whether key individuals, including Leave.EU’s campaign chief, Liz Bilney; Vote Leave’s board official, David Halsall; and the founder of BeLeave, Darren Grimes, had committed related criminal offences.

The Met revealed it has yet to start any formal investigation, and has remained effectively stalled for months in “assessing evidence”.

Pushed on why there has been no progress, or no formal case logged, a Scotland Yard spokesman admitted there were issues and “political sensitivities” that had to be taken into account. The Yard spokesman later added that the political issues related to “any allegation or referral relating to an election, and much else besides.”

Source: Police still not investigating Leave campaigns, citing ‘political sensitivities’ | openDemocracy

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