Tag Archives: Mark

Why is the Transport Secretary trying to force ‘reforms’ on unions that want better pay?

Mick Lynch: he’s frustrated because the rail companies and Network Rail say they don’t have the power to negotiate meaningfully with him over pay and safety conditions for RMT Union members.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper reckons rail unions need to accept “reforms” that would free up money for pay rises.

Why?

On the Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg show, he said: “It is the reforms that free up the savings that then unlock the ability for the companies to make an offer to the trade unions on pay.”

But that is to assume no more money could be brought in – and that is a political choice by the Tory government.

He also said: “I do not have a bottomless pit of taxpayers’ money to throw at this problem.”

And he doesn’t, because taxpayers’ money doesn’t pay for any public services at all. Public money – created by the government – does. It’s time our politicians stopped trying to hoodwink us with this lazy lie.

The government can very easily create as much money as is needed to provide a “proper seven-day rail network” – also Harper’s words, and why doesn’t the UK have that network any more since privatisation anyway?

Taxation relieves inflationary pressures that may be created by investing money into public services – and may be used by progressive governments to re-balance the gap between the richest and the poorest citizens in the country, by taking money from those who can most easily bear it. Of course the UK’s Tory government is as far from progressive as one can get.

And Harper said any money saved through reforms would have to be split “fairly between the taxpayer and the people who work in the industry”. Why give savings back to taxpayers when so much needs to be done to improve the rail service? Is he looking for another tax cut for the rich?

The whole spiel strikes This Writer as self-serving claptrap.

If Harper really wanted to do some good, wouldn’t it be better for him to offer to give the private rail operators and Network Rail the mandate for meaningful negotiations with the RMT union that its general secretary, Mick Lynch, has been told they don’t have?

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After the nurses, civil servants vote to strike over pay and conditions

Strike call: PCS Union General Secretary Mark Serwotka.

Civil servants in the PCS union have voted to strike, just one day after members of the Royal College of Nursing voted to do the same.

Around 100,000 public sector workers in 126 areas voted to strike, demanding a 10 per cent pay rise, better pensions, job security and no cuts to redundancy terms.

It comes after government announced plans to reduces civil servant jobs by 91,000 and proposals to cut redundancy pay by an estimated 25.9%.

Details of the industrial action will be announced on November 18, the union said – unless the government provides “substantial” proposals to resolve the dispute before that date.

According to the BBC,

In a statement, PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our members have spoken and if the government fails to listen to them, we’ll have no option than to launch a prolonged programme of industrial action reaching into every corner of public life.”

Mr Serwotka said that the pressure of the cost-of-living crisis, job cuts and office closures had meant workers had “reached the end of their tethers”.

The PCS, which represents workers employed by several British government departments, said an average of 86.2% of its balloted members voted for industrial action – the highest percentage vote in the union’s history.

The BBC also listed the other strikes that are already known to be taking place, turning late 2022 into an Autumn of Discontent, if not also another Winter of Discontent as well:

The Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) union has also announced that train drivers working for 12 British operators will go on strike on November 26, and teachers in Scotland have also voted to strike.

Who’s next?

Tory Mark Francois makes racial slur against Japanese people in Parliament

Is a delay in building a ship really a good reason to make a racist remark? Tory MP Mark Francois seems to think so.

Here he is in Parliament, doing just that:

The word that was bleeped out is “Japs” – a term often used to describe Japanese people in a derogatory way, for example during the Second World War. It has not been used in the House of Commons since the 1940s.

Francois reckons he didn’t mean any “disrespect or offence”, but that’s hardly the point. If anybody of Japanese ethnicity heard his speech and took offence, they would be entirely within their rights to do so.

He made his comment during Defence Questions on Monday (November 7). At the time, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle didn’t condemn the language Francois used, nor did Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.

It was only in response to a point of order by Labour’s Sarah Owen that the Speaker said “the casual use of racial terms causes upset and should not be used” and asked MPs to choose their words “carefully”.

It’s not good enough.

Tories have been nurturing an atmosphere of division in the UK since they slithered back into office in 2010, and deepening racism has been a keystone of this.

Now, it seems, they feel comfortable enough to make racist remarks in the House of Commons itself.

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Welsh First Minister rages at ignorant Tory leader in the Senedd – over the NHS

Mark Drakeford: this is the only image This Site currently has of Wales’ First Minister.

This is what should happen across the UK, whenever a Conservative tries to take the moral high ground – especially on a subject as contentious as the National Health Service, which their party has been attacking for many years.

Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies was trying to make a point about the National Health Service – and First Minister Mark Drakeford took exception to it in the most extreme way.

You can get the gist from this clip:

The moral of the story? If you are a Conservative: SHUT UP.

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Tory criticism means Truss’s chief of staff won’t be paid through his firm

Carry On Fullbrook: he’s now being paid directly by the government, rather than via his firm (that might have enabled him to use a tax dodge). So that’s all right then.

We have to take our victories where we can – and this is good, as it seems to prevent Mark Fullbrook from dodging tax.

Here’s The Guardian:

The government made a U-turn after an outcry from the opposition and some Tory MPs, with one saying it did not “smell right” after tax changes in the budget making it easier to pay less tax if paid through a self-employed company.

The government admitted over the weekend that Fullbrook would be paid through his lobbying firm, a move that could have helped him avoid paying tax. He had previously claimed the firm had stopped all commercial activities.

It subsequently emerged that Fullbrook had been promised a lucrative contract to run Truss’s next election campaign as well as being made chief of staff.

On Tuesday, a No 10 spokesperson said: “While there are established arrangements for employees to join government on secondment, to avoid any ongoing speculation Mark Fullbrook will be employed directly by the government on a special adviser contract.

“All government employees, including those joining on secondment, are subject to the necessary checks and vetting, and all special advisers declare their interests in line with Cabinet Office guidance.”

Previously the government had said the arrangement was properly vetted by the propriety and ethics team.

Source: Plan to pay Liz Truss’s chief of staff through firm is dropped after criticism

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Controversy grows around Truss chief-of-staff Mark Fullbrook

The man Liz Truss chose to be her chief of staff has already been interviewed by the US FBI in relation to vote-rigging in Puerto Rico.

Now it transpires that he is not being paid directly by the government for his government role, but by a private firm, for which he works (or has worked). So the government has been privatised. Is there a tax dodge involved here?

It’s a lobbying firm, which means this company seeks contact with the government in order to influence it.

Worse still, it’s alleged that Truss persuaded Fullbrook to take the role in return for running the Conservatives’ next general election campaign.

This has really upset Tory MPs.

Here’s why…:

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Wales is trialling a £1,600 a month Universal Basic Income for care leavers | Left Foot Forward

It’s all happening in Wales!

I bet UK Labour members are eating their hearts out that they’re stuck with Keir Starmer, who probably wouldn’t dream of allowing such a policy in a million years.

The Welsh government has announced that young adults leaving care in Wales will be offered £1,600 a month for two years as part of a universal basic income trial.

That means around 500 18-year-olds will be receiving the money as a ‘safety blanket’ as they enter adulthood. The payments will begin from 1 July and the Welsh government hopes that it will help them “on a path to live, healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.”

Read more: Wales is trialling a £1,600 a month Universal Basic Income for care leavers – Left Foot Forward: Leading the UK’s progressive debate

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Mark Drakeford attacks UK Government plan to repeal Welsh trade union law

Mark Drakeford: This Site really needs to get another image of him.

So much for devolution, eh?

Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford has launched a scathing attack on UK Government plans to scrap a law made in Wales on how trade unions operate in Welsh public services.

The law, brought in five years ago, banned employers from bringing in agency staff to replace striking public sector workers.

So the idea is to stop public sector workers striking in order to have enough pay to, you know, survive by making it possible for low-paid agency workers to be brought in instead. Is that right?

The UK Government’s plan would see it repeal the Trade Union Act (Wales) 2017, which applies to devolved Welsh public bodies and to trade unions in public services delivered by devolved Welsh public bodies including the Welsh NHS, local authorities, schools, fire services and Welsh Government sponsored bodies in Wales.

It says it wants trade union legislation to “apply equally across Great Britain”.

But isn’t it the point of devolution that the different countries can do things in different ways?

Mark Drakeford told the BBC Today programme that it is “absolutely disgraceful that the Westminster Government announced its intention to do this without a single word to the Welsh Government or Welsh Parliament which passed this legislation”.

“We discovered it tucked away in an explanatory memorandum, it just speaks volumes of the disrespectful agenda this Government has towards devolution.

“It’s nonsense, isn’t it, the idea you’ll find an agency worker capable of driving a train, an agency worker capable of operating a signal box. These are hugely safety critical roles we’re talking about. This is just a piece of nonsense dreamt up by a Tory Government.”

Source: Mark Drakeford launches furious attack on UK Government plans to repeal a law made in Wales

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#BorisJohnson reshuffles #Cabinet to shift blame – but can’t even do that well

Thumbs up: Boris Johnson has announced new roles for some of his MPs in a bid to be seen to be cleaning up the government. But there’s no indication of HOW they’ll do it – so what’s the point?

Errant prime minister Boris Johnson, still trying to divert attention – or blame – away from his (alleged) participation in those lockdown-busting Downing Street parties, has decided to reshuffle his Cabinet.

Many of us predicted that he would carry out a reshuffle to present one or more scapegoats to the public – and save his own alcohol-soaked neck.

But this one seems more a case of Johnson lining up sacrificial lambs – to take the heat off him in the future.

So Jacob Rees-Mogg becomes Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency, even though experience has shown that there are no opportunities arising from Brexit that are worth having.

That being said, the wording of his new title is vague enough that it could refer to opportunities arising from Brexit for a very few, very rich people – those for whom Brexit was originally intended.

As for government efficiency – exactly what does Boris Johnson want his government to be efficient at doing?

Ultimately, This Writer doesn’t think it matters – if public opinion turns against Johnson because of misbehaviour by government personnel, it will be Rees-Mogg’s responsibility; if the cost of living rises further because of Brexit (for example, due to increased bureaucracy at our borders), it will be Rees-Mogg’s fault.

Chris Heaton-Harris becomes the new chief whip, because his forerunner Mark Spencer is replacing Rees-Mogg as Leader of the House of Commons.

Spencer’s appointment has been questioned because he is currently being investigated for Islamophobia after allegations were made by former Tory Cabinet Minister Nusrat Ghani.

Logically he should have been suspended from any position of responsibility, at least until such time as the investigation is complete – not promoted to a position of more responsibility.

Indeed, as Leader of the House, he is responsible for standards of behaviour in Westminster. Doesn’t that make him responsible for the investigation into himself? And isn’t that a conflict of interest?

I think it is.

Paymaster General Michael Ellis takes on some roles currently carried out by the Minister for the Cabinet Office, lifting some weight from Steve Barclay, the incumbent, who Johnson appointed as Downing Street Chief of Staff this  week, in addition to his ministerial role and his duties as a constituency MP.

Questions have been raised about Barclay’s ability to carry out three jobs at once, and Ellis’s appointment seems to have been an attempt to address that issue – alongside being a reward for his attempts to defend Johnson from allegations about the Downing Street parties in Parliament.

In agreeing to take on three jobs at once, of course, Barclay has shown that Johnson didn’t learn any lessons at all from the Owen Paterson scandal last year, which was all about MPs having more than one job (although, admittedly, their second and subsequent jobs were outside Parliament, not in it).

So it seems that Johnson is lining the ways of the Cabinet Office with potential fall guys if the government comes under further criticism for letting us all down.

And – crucially – we’ve heard nothing about how putting these people into these jobs will ensure that Downing Street – and the government generally – will clean up its act. Are we just to take it on trust? Only, some of us don’t have very much trust left for Boris Johnson.

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If #Partygate #blackmail claims are false, why is this man taking them to the police?

William Wragg: he’ll soon be talking to the police about blackmail in Parliament.

The MP who claimed Tory whips were blackmailing other MPs to withhold letters of “no confidence” in Boris Johnson is taking his allegation to the police.

William Wragg reckons he has evidence that will justify a police investigation, despite claims from 10 Downing Street that it has seen no such information, and from Johnson loyalists that the scandal is nonsense.

Mr Wragg said he will see a police officer on Monday because he wanted to leave any investigation to “experts” rather than Number 10. His faith may be misplaced – consider the way the Metropolitan Police has ignored allegations that parties happened in Downing Street when officers were standing guard at the door.

Chris Bryant, chairman of the Commons Committee on Standards, said he had spoken to about a dozen Tory MPs who claimed whips threatened to withdraw funding for their constituencies, including for campaigning and infrastructure such as bypasses and schools.

He said some had alleged that Johnson himself has been doing this, describing such behaviour as “misconduct in public office”. He agreed with Mr Wragg that is was a matter for the police.

He also said the allegations seemed to be part of an erosion of standards that had been taking place over a period of years.

Nusrat Ghani would probably agree with him, although This Writer isn’t sure anybody has asked her.

She lost her job as a transport minister in a mini-reshuffle in February 2020 and has now said she was told it was because her religion – she’s a Muslim – was “making colleagues uncomfortable”.

This seems likely in a Party that has been riddled with accusations of Islamophobia for years – including allegations against Johnson.

Apparently chief whip Mark Spencer has claimed this accusation relates to him but is false.

Well…

“I had to listen to a monologue on how hard it was to define when people are being racist and that the party doesn’t have a problem and I needed to do more to defend it.

“It was very clear to me that the whips and No 10 were holding me to a higher threshold of loyalty than others because of my background and faith.”

said Ms Ghani.

I think she should join Mr Wragg’s interview with the police officer early next week.

And Mark Drakeford, Wales’s First Minister, whose Covid-19 policies have safeguarded the population here so much better than Johnson’s have in England, has said Johnson’s plan to ease ‘Plan B’ health protections (you may call them restrictions) is probably a distraction tactic.

“Everything that goes on in Whitehall and Westminster at the moment for the UK government is seen exclusively through the lens of, how does this make a difference to the efforts that are being made to shore-up the position of the prime minister,” he said.

“This is a government that at the moment is simply not capable of doing the ordinary business of government in a competent and sensible way because it is overwhelmed by the headlines that surround dreadful events that went on in Downing Street.”

He also said:

“The prime minister is someone who’s been sacked from two previous jobs for not telling the truth.

“I think The Times wrote an editorial on the eve of the December 2019 election pointing to the many flaws in the prime minister’s record and in many ways, I think what you see is his history catching up with him.”

There’s a lot of accuracy in that, I reckon.

Even if he slithers out of the Partygate accusations, it seems Johnson may be sunk by his efforts to avoid being backstabbed by his own MPs.

Source: ‘History catching up with’ PM, Wales first minister claims – as more details of No 10 parties are revealed

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