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Legal action over Russian intervention in UK politics? Let’s hope it happens before Johnson gags the courts!

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Boris Johnson and Evgeny Lebedev: 10 days after saying he saw no evidence that Russians were influencing UK politics, Johnson elevated a Russian to the House of Lords. He says there’s no evidence for an investigation into Russian influence in UK politics, despite a Parliamentary committee producing a lengthy report containing a large amount of it.

A group of MPs has threatened court action to compel the Johnson government to investigate allegations in a report on Russian intervention in UK politics.

Well, let’s hope they follow it through soon because Johnson is acting to stop the courts from having any power over his government.

Yes, that is dictatorship. You voted for it, folks! (Or if you don’t, being good, decent Vox Political readers, your neighbours did.)

It was in the Tory manifesto for the December 2019 election, for everybody to see, on page 48: a plan to forbid the courts from making orders that restrict the government from acting in any way it pleases.

I’m sure Hitler did something similar in Germany during the 1930s.

A group of politicians are threatening legal action unless Boris Johnson orders an independent investigation into Russian interference in elections.

The letter signed by Green MP Caroline Lucas and Labour’s Chris Bryant follows a report which said the UK “badly underestimated” the Russian threat.

The parliamentarians argue the prime minister’s “lack of action” breaches the right to free elections.

The government said the UK had “robust systems” to protect elections.

Johnson has very close personal relationship with very notable Russians based in the UK. But we’re sure that has nothing to do with his reluctance on this matter… aren’t we?

Source: Boris Johnson threatened with legal action over Russia threat – BBC News

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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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Commission’s refusal to probe disability deaths proves that some are more equal than others

Read this and draw your own conclusions about the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, and the views of its members on whether people with disabilities are either human, or have rights:

The equality watchdog has rejected calls for it to investigate deaths linked to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), more than a year after an MP asked it to launch an inquiry.

Labour’s Debbie Abrahams, a former shadow work and pensions secretary, first approached the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in April last year with her concerns about links between DWP and the deaths of benefit claimants, and the wider impact of DWP policies on disabled people.

Eight months ago, the commission said it was reviewing what “potential” work it could undertake to tackle “discriminatory decision-making in the social security system” and would respond to Abrahams “in due course”.

Now, 14 months after she first raised concerns with the commission, and following another “holding reply” in February, EHRC has finally decided that, “due to the pandemic”, it will not be able to carry out an inquiry into DWP this year.

It only produced this response after being approached again by Abrahams and Disability News Service (DNS).

Source: Watchdog snubs call for probe into DWP deaths, after delay of more than a year – Disability News Service

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Equalities watchdog undermines itself by refusing to examine Tory Islamophobia

Boris Johnson’s comments about the clothes worn by Muslim women are only part of the huge volume of Islamophobia and racial hatred he has tried to stir up on his own – but the EHRC is happy to let the Tories investigate accusations against the party.

It won’t matter what the Equality and Human Rights Commission has to say about Labour and anti-Semitism now.

It is clear that the organisation is not fit for purpose as, despite having “equality” as part of its title, it is incapable even of treating the UK’s two main political parties equally.

Boris Johnson’s behaviour alone provides a prima facie case for investigating Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.

If the EHRC can’t see that, then no decision it makes about the Labour Party can have any weight at all.

I recommend that it be disbanded and replaced by an organisation staffed by people who can do the job properly.

The Conservative Party will not face a probe by the equalities watchdog over Islamophobia in its ranks after launching its own independent investigation into discrimination.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said an investigation “would not be proportionate” after the Tories published the terms of reference for the party’s own inquiry, which included specific mentions of Islamophobia.

But the terms were described as a “facade” by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which argued the Tories’ investigation was too narrow even compared to Labour’s much-criticised Chakrabarti inquiry into anti-Semitism.

The inquiry would “hide the hundreds of incidences of Islamophobic bigotry” in the Tory party identified by the MCB, it said.

Source: Tories Will Not Face Islamophobia Probe By Equalities Watchdog | HuffPost UK

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Labour asks police to investigate death threats & abuse on staff said to have sabotaged election campaign

Keir Starmer: he has asked police to investigate death threats on Labour staff accused of sabotaging the party’s election chances – not to investigate whether they actually did work to arrange a Tory election victory.

The Daily Mirror seems to have headlined its story wrongly.

We’re told Labour has asked police to investigate claims that party staff worked for a Tory election victory – and against a win for Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.

But the article itself only states that

Death threats and abuse against staff involved have been reported and police called as the wide-ranging probe gets under way.

To This Writer, the article seems to be saying the exact opposite of the headline.

The investigation is about protecting the staff alleged to have sabotaged a Labour victory.

I should point out that it is perfectly reasonable and responsible for police to investigate death threats. Threatening to kill someone is a serious crime.

But people reading the article would have had reason to believe police had been called in to find out whether the claim – informing the leaked Labour report on the way anti-Semitism accusations were handled – was right.

I don’t think it’s an attempt to mislead the public but it does require an explanation.

Source: Labour ask police to investigate claims staff worked for Tory election victory – Mirror Online

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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.

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Watchdog to investigate after DWP refuses to provide information on benefit-related suicides

Pushed too far: How many people have been driven to consider taking their own lives because of brutal DWP policies? How many have actually done so?

The National Audit Office (NAO) is to investigate the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) over its refusal to provide figures on the number of benefit claimants who have committed suicide.

It seems the situation at the DWP is so bad that the NAO may attempt to collate the figures itself, if the government department fails to co-operate.

Ministers denied a request from Frank Field MP, who chairs the Commons Work and Pensions committee. In a letter to the NAO, he stated: “I struggle to believe that, given the time it must take to put together evidence for inquests, attend court hearings, and internally review the decisions, that there is no record of such.

“It shocks me even more that the DWP is apparently unconcerned with the most drastic efforts [sic; I think he meant “effects”] of its policies and conducts no internal monitoring of the tragedies in which it is complicit.”

“The tragedies in which it is complicit.” What a damning line from the chairman of the MP committee tasked with scrutinising the DWP. He was stating the belief that the DWP, its ministers, controllers and workers, are all knowingly involved in an activity that they are aware is morally wrong – that leads to the deaths of claimants.

There have been many studies linking with suicide the so-called “reforms” of DWP benefits since the Conservatives came back into office in 2010 and I do not propose to go over that old ground here.

I practically kicked off these investigations myself, when I forced the DWP to publish figures on the number of people who had died after being denied sickness benefits in 2015 – after a two-year struggle.

So I welcome this intervention by the NAO.

I hope it will include in its investigations all benefit claimants who may have taken their own lives as a result of the DWP meddling with their claims.

For example: the figures I extracted from the department in 2015 related only to those who died within a two week period of being denied their benefits. No effort had been made to discover the fate of those who survived beyond that point – although we have a multitude of news stories about people who died weeks or months afterward. They should be included in the NAO’s work.

I find myself in agreement with Sue Jones, who wrote, on her own website:

“An inquiry is long overdue.

“How many people with chronic illness and disability have simply died because they can’t meet their most fundamental survival needs in light of austerity cuts?

“What kind of government shows no concern or remorse that its policies are destroying some citizens’ lives?

“And continually denies that this is happening?

“Does the government intentionally disregard us as economically “surplus to requirements” and ultimately disposable? When the evidence points so clearly to the relationship between austerity cuts, which have disproportionately been targeted at the poorest and most fragile citizens, and suicide, it’s hard to reason otherwise. Especially when the government shows nothing but supreme indifference to those of us raising these serious concerns.”

Exactly.

The Tories’ attitude suggests that they regard benefit claimants as “useless eaters” – in just the same way the Nazis viewed people with long-term illnesses and disabilities in Germany between 1933 and 1945.

The only difference between their policies is that the Nazis took direct action to “euthanize” their “useless eaters”, while the DWP seems to prefer pushing UK-based benefit claimants to suicide, starvation, or death due to illnesses they can no longer afford to treat.

We have long suspected that the consequences of DWP – Conservative government – policy were far more serious than we had been led to believe, and we already have evidence that they are extremely serious.

Perhaps this investigation will prove it.

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Will new ‘serious case panel’ probe benefit-related deaths? | Disability News Service

I think we all know the answer to the question posed in the headline, but fair play to Disability News Service for actually asking it.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) appears to have secured funding to set up an independent panel to examine cases where its own failings have led to the deaths of benefit claimants.

The Treasury says it will provide funding of £36 million for 2020-21 to fund both the panel and ensure that decision-making on benefit claims is “accurate” and that benefit application processes are “straightforward and accessible”.

DWP … refused to explain why it was setting up the new serious case panel, or to provide any clarity on the other spending round announcements.

Instead, a DWP spokesperson said: “We will be announcing further detail on this in due course.”

But if the serious case panel is being set up to examine deaths linked to benefit claims, and other serious cases linked to DWP failings, it would be a significant victory for grassroots disabled activists who have spent years highlighting such tragedies.

Source: Will new ‘serious case panel’ probe benefit-related deaths? DWP stays silent – Disability News Service

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Investigation launched into money spent on Boris Johnson’s ‘no deal’ Brexit

Two-fingered salute: Is this Boris Johnson’s likely response to the National Audit Office’s findings about his ‘no deal’ Brexit preparations?

It seems the National Audit Office isn’t convinced that Boris Johnson is spending our money responsibly. That’s understandable.

And the object of that organisation’s concern is nothing other than his plan for a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

One can easily understand the reasons for the disquiet. Chris Grayling’s £50 million freight fiasco was just one of 24 scandals already discovered by the NAO.

And now Boris Johnson is prime minister.

All we can hope is that the report is published in time for Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘no confidence’ vote.

The National Audit Office has started its biggest and most ambitious investigation into Boris Johnson’s ‘no deal’ Brexit by scrutinising the £6.6 billion of taxpayers’ money earmarked to be spent on the project for rushed decisions and the wasting of public money.

Parliament’s financial watchdog announced the “super investigation” a week after Parliament rose. It now includes the extra £2 billion Johnson earmarked this month for “turbo charging” the ‘no deal’ process.

It follows a total of 24 reports by the NAO on Brexit since 2016, which highlighted scandals and public waste. This included the exposure of former Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s mishandling of ‘no deal’ Brexit freight contracts which cost the country more than £50 million including paying Eurotunnel £33 million in an out-of-court settlement.

Source: Parliament’s Financial Watchdog Launches Investigation into Boris Johnson’s No Deal Brexit – Byline Times

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Jeremy Corbyn: STAND FIRM against demands to outsource anti-Semitism investigations

Jeremy Corbyn is clearly not an enemy of Jewish people.

As the shadow cabinet prepares to meet today (July 22) to discuss criticisms over the way Labour has handled anti-Semitism complaints, This Site says to Jeremy Corbyn: STAND FIRM.

Right-wingers in the party are calling for the leadership to outsource handling of anti-Semitism complaints to an “independent” body – but nobody has actually named that body.

So who will it be?

Could it be the Jewish Labour Movement, whose members illicitly recorded Jackie Walker at a so-called “safe space” meeting at which attendees were encouraged to discuss concerns that may be considered questionable – and then handed a version of that recording to a newspaper as evidence of anti-Semitism, in an appalling display of bad faith?

That would not be acceptable.

Nor could Labour hand the matter over to the Board of Deputies of British Jews – because of political bias. It is possible that findings would be rigged to harm the Labour Party for political reasons.

And the so-called charity, the Campaign Against Antisemitism is the last organisation that could ever be considered, as it has been responsible for fabricating claims – I know, as This Writer was one of its victims.

The simple fact is that Labour does not have a problem with anti-Semites going unpunished. The problem is the persecution of innocent – and decent – party members.

So, to Mr Corbyn, This Writer says: RESIST demands to outsource anti-Semitism investigations because this will only worsen the problem. Seek advice from lawyers and reform party processes in line with national law. And scrap the National Constitutional Committee’s power of expulsion, which has been abused by biased panel chairpeople.

Source: Labour: Shadow cabinet to discuss anti-Semitism criticisms – BBC News

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