Tag Archives: open

Thousands demand Boris Johnson withdraws race report whitewash

Sulky: Boris Johnson thought he could gaslight us all with a report on racism that pretended it doesn’t exist in the UK’s government and institutions. He was wrong. Will he grow up, throw it away and make a start on tackling race prejudice? I think we all know the answer to that.

Boris Johnson is facing demands by more than 20,000 people to withdraw a report claiming there’s no institutional racism in the UK.

Instead, they say in an open letter that he should implement recommendations from previous investigations, to combat the institutional racism that Johnson’s report claims isn’t there.

Organisations including Charity So White, Liberty, the National Education Union, The Runnymede Trust and, yes, Black Lives Matter called on Johnson to “repudiate the … findings immediately and withdraw [the] report”.

Recommendations by Johnson’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities included:

  • Forcing school children from disadvantaged areas into extended school days to catch up on missed learning caused by the Covid-19 lockdown.
  • Better quality careers advice for children from disadvantaged backgrounds – to be funded by university outreach programmes (This Writer has a few doubts about whether this would happen in any case).
  • Research on why children from some communities do better than those from others, in order to replicate conditions that help all children succeed (again, this seems unlikely to happen).
  • Retirement of the acronym BAME because minority ethnic groups should be recognised for their differences rather than their mutual disadvantages (but doesn’t this open them up to discrimination because of those differences, which is exactly what the report should be avoiding?) and an end to unconscious bias training.

People named as contributors to the report have distanced themselves from it, with some saying government representatives used false pretences to secure their participation, or misrepresented their contribution.

An expert on race-related health inequalities said the report used outdated references and notably underplayed the impact of structural racism in health outcomes.

Sir Michael Marmot said there are health differences between races that are not fully explained by class, and so therefore racism must play some role.

And these are just some of the criticisms that have been lined up against Johnson’s report.

That’s why its lame recommendations have been dismissed by the more-than-20,000 signatories of the open letter.

They want recommendations from previously-published reports to be put into practice instead, like:

  • The Home Office appointing a Migrants Commissioner, develop a programme of cultural change for the department, and establish a race advisory board.
  • The justice system introducing targets for a more representative workforce, to reduce race-related bias; allowing low-level offenders to “defer” prosecution and opt for a rehabilitation programme before entering a plea; and gathering more data on the ethnicity and religion of offenders.
  • Firms with more than 50 workers publishing a breakdown of their workforce by race and by how much they are paid (to establish any disparities between the different races).

To be honest, to This Writer, even these ideas seem like pussyfooting around the subject.

Those other reports, and Marmot’s work, and no doubt many others, have already established that the UK’s institutions are racist, and if measures to combat that racism haven’t been devised already, then I have to ask what all these commissions, organisations and pressure groups have been doing with their time.

So let’s have a bit of honesty about the real situation in the UK.

And then let’s have a bit of real action to put the prejudice in the past.

Source: Race report: Boris Johnson urged to withdraw ‘whitewashing’ inquiry – BBC News

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Minister for VACCINES in cock-up over vaccination dates while trying to justify reopening schools

Nadhim Zahawi: waving the flag and fuddling the dates.

Should we give Nadhim Zahawi the benefit of the doubt for this faux-pas? No!

If it was an honest mistake, we should remind ourselves that Diane Abbott was given no quarter for making one, even after it was revealed that she had been trying to cope with an illness at the time.

You can still see right-wing commenters on the social media referring to it at periodic intervals, and congratulating themselves on their (small) wit for doing it.

Zahawi appears to have no such excuse for this:

He quite clearly does assert that the Conservative government has calculated that it should be safe to open schools on March 8 because that is three weeks after mid-April, when everybody aged over 50 is expected to have been vaccinated.

Firstly, it is entirely arbitrary to use the vaccination of the over-50s as a trigger for the reopening of schools. Why not over-40s? Over-30s? Or indeed, over-20s? All are just as likely to be affected.

Secondly – and I come to this last because it’s a biggie! – March 8 is not three weeks after mid-April. That would be May 8. March 8 is around five weeks before mid-April.

So by his own calculations, the minister for Covid-19 vaccination is telling is that his government is planning to reopen schools an entire two months prematurely.

I look forward to hearing his justification for the deaths that will be triggered by this wrong-headed decision to open all schools, too early, rather than experiment with a phased reopening, increasing as evidence recommends – as the other countries of the UK are doing.

Although, no doubt, it will be equally incomprehensible.

Boris Johnson may have an opportunity to correct this cock-up when he officially announces his “roadmap out of lockdown” later today (if that is still going ahead).

That’s if our complicit Tory media remember they have a responsibility to grill him about it.

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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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‘We want the best for children’ lies Starmer Labour as it blows with the wind

Keir Starmer: if he can’t stop trying to make fools of us, he should keep his mouth shut.

Only a few days ago, Labour’s message was that the best thing for children was to go to their schools – and damn the scientists who said they had become localised Covid-19 petri-dishes!

Then Boris Johnson announced that the rate of infection and death had worsened to such a point that schools had to close after all, and Keir Starmer changed his tune in a flash.

On January 4 – the day Boris Johnson announced the so-called “Lockdown 3”, Starmer’s shadow education secretary Kate Green was saying, “We don’t think schools should close.” See for yourself:

Then Johnson made his announcement and Keir Starmer said this:

He u-turned in a matter of hours.

It makes a mockery of Starmer Labour’s claim that it wants the best for children.

All he has done is follow national developments and try to anticipate the mood of the population. Then he has tried to say what he thinks people want to hear.

It is no way for a politician to behave.

How can we trust someone who will say anything if they think it will win them a few votes?

Once upon a time – not very long ago – Labour had definite principles. It offered policies that were intended to make the United Kingdom a better place for all of its people.

But that was while Jeremy Corbyn led the party.

Before him, Labour had endured 20 years of triangulating schemers who said what they thought the public wanted to hear and then did what they wanted, following policies that made them a shadow of the Conservatives.

Under Starmer, the party has relapsed to that position.

Don’t get me wrong. If the scientific position on schools had changed, then it would have been right for Labour to reflect that.

But it didn’t.

The science has shown that schools are one of the principal means by which Covid-19 can get into the homes of families across the United Kingdom – since before the first lockdown in March 2020. That has not changed at any time since.

Boris Johnson changed his mind about whether schools should open – and Starmer changed right along with him, because he thought that was what the public wanted.

But we don’t.

The UK’s public want politicians who do what is right – not what they think is popular.

Their idea of what is popular is what has killed at least 80,000 of us so far.

Super Satur-die: but if pubgoers catch Covid-19, the blame will still belong with Boris Johnson

As I write this, some English people will have been in the pub for more than 10 hours. I wonder how many of them have caught Covid-19 by now?

Boris Johnson said pubs could open from 6am, dubbing the day “Super Saturday” in an attempt to get people in – and it seems to have worked.

People have camped outside and queued up to get into their local drinking establishments – forgetting the 2m social distancing rule in the process, This Writer notices.

There seems to have been a widespread amnesia about face masks, also:

Admittedly, Johnson has taken precautions. He told everybody to use their “common sense”:

So it seems likely that England is cruising towards another peak of infections, on a wave of alcohol – and lies.

Johnson claimed he would not ease lockdown if the ‘R’ rate – the rate at which Covid-19 infections multiply, edged above 1 – that is, one person being infected for every person who already has the disease. But the ‘R’ rate is above 1 now in many parts of England and he hasn’t said a word.

What’s going on? Some covert deal with Wetherspoons?

(It would make sense – Johnson might be expected to at least try to get back the £48 million he has given to the pub chain.)

The decision to allow pubs to open is like spitting in the face of everybody at the NHS who has worked hard to keep the number of deaths down, despite the Tory government’s continued failure to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) or carry out tests to any recognisable standard (because Johnson was determined to outsource provision of these to private firms that failed us all). NHS staff have protested…

… but it is impossible to reason with blank stupidity. That’s why this is likely to be accurate:

Of course, some of us might hope that certain people catch the virus, considering the way they have flouted all the other rules of lockdown…

And what about this idiot?

But we should all remember that if anybody gets it at all, they will not be to blame. They are, after all, only obeying the instructions of their government.

And any deaths will be entirely the fault of Boris Johnson.

Alternatively…

Remember the words of Samuel Pepys during the Black Plague of 1665:

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Tory u-turn on primary schools is right – shame on those who supported early return

Social distancing? If this shot was taken after primary classes returned from lockdown, do you think these kids are at least two metres apart – or the teacher and child in the background?

The Tory government has shelved its plan to fully reopen primary schools before the summer holidays after admitting it is impractical.

Schools are unable to accommodate all their pupils while classes are limited to just 15 pupils – half normal size. Where would the other half go?

It would be impossible to police all the pupils, ensuring that social distancing rules were followed. Have you ever had to spend all day reminding a five-year-old not to do something they really want to do?

And then there’s the fact that pupils simply aren’t turning up. When schools reopened 10 days ago, predictions were that only half of Reception/Year 1 and Year 6 pupils would attend, with parents keeping the rest away due to fears of Covid-19 contagion.

In fact, only half of the predicted numbers actually turned up – a quarter of the expected intake.

And still social distancing rules aren’t being followed, if the image accompanying the BBC’s report (a version of which appears above) is indicative.

Most disappointing for This Writer has been the response of the Labour Party to the school reopening plan. Instead of standing up for parents and children across the UK, Red Tory Keir Starmer supported Gavin Williamson and Boris Johnson.

No amount of backtracking by Rebecca Long-Bailey can change that.

Labour should have listened to parents, teachers, and the education unions – all of whom spent weeks warning that the plan was nonsense – but didn’t.

I like the comment by ‘Molly’ in the BBC article: “”Until it is safe for Parliament to sit next to each other and until it’s ‘safe’ to cuddle your own blood mother, then how is it deemed safe to mix your children with numerous other households?”

It is a shambles that the Tory government owns – we must not forget that.

But Labour has lost a lot of confidence by supporting it.

Source: Coronavirus: All primary pupils no longer going back to school – BBC News

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Join the demand for common sense overhaul of ‘humiliating’ and ‘degrading’ PIP process

Uncannily accurate: The Conservative government’s genuine policy towards PIP claimants may as well be as it appears in this cartoon from 2017.

Liz Gumbley’s experience is shocking – and all-too-common.

She suffers from a lifelong progressive illness – multiple sclerosis, which is well-known to be increasingly debilitating.

Unfortunately, her assessment for Personal Independence Payment in 2015 was carried out by a physiotherapist who had no specialist knowledge of the condition.

The interview resulted in her losing the higher daily living rate of the benefit, despite having received it for the previous 17 years under the legacy benefit, Disability Living Allowance.

Apparently the reason she no longer deserved it was that she had been seen lifting a medium-sized handbag in order to retrieve a purse.

From this, the assessor – who had no experience of MS, remember – deduced that she was able to prepare and cook a meal, and disqualified her from receiving the extra cash on the higher daily living rate of PIP.

In fact, as supporting evidence from her own physiotherapist, her MS nurse and her husband demonstrated, Ms Gumbley was at high risk of burning or cutting herself due to cognition problems which meant she had not prepared a meal in five years at the time of the assessment.

Apparently the fact she was well-nourished, well-dressed, clean and of good appearance also counted against her.

She decided not to appeal, in fear that a tribunal would cut her benefit award even further.

The cut she did endure meant she had to cut back on exercise sessions that helped her keep her mobility, and her cognition and sensory problems have also worsened.

The Tory PIP assessment process actually contributes to the worsening of the claimant’s illness.

And the statistics show that Ms Gumbley is not alone in her experience: In a survey of nearly 900 people living with MS in the UK, two thirds (65 per cent) of respondents struggled to complete the PIP application form.

More than half (55 per cent) who had a face-to-face assessment don’t believe their assessor had a good understanding of MS.

And of the respondents who saw a copy of their assessment report, six in 10 (61 per cent) don’t believe it gave an accurate reflection of how MS affects them.

Ms Gumbley is appealing for supporters to sign an open letter to whoever forms the next government, calling for common-sense changes to the PIP assessment process.

She says people need a system they can trust, and should be able to rely on support without being in constant fear of having it taken away.

The MS Society’s open letter to the next UK Government, calling on it to make common sense changes to the PIP assessment process, can be found here.

In conclusion, Ms Gumbley made this cutting observation: “Calling it Personal Independence Payment is ridiculous. They’re not helping you to be independent.

“If you go to your assessment showing you’re ‘independent’ it goes against you.”

That has to change.

Source: My humiliating and degrading battle to claim disability benefits | Metro News

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Irish border: Could Tories and DUP be heading for a clash?

Typical Tories.

Their partners-in-government, the Northern Irish DUP, have made it abundantly clear that they will not tolerate any hardening of borders between NI and the rest of the UK – and rightly so, in the opinion of This Writer.

But this clashes with the Good Friday Agreement that demands an open border with the Irish Republic; the problem is that the republic is in the EU and the UK must have a hard border with that bloc after Brexit.

So the Tories are preparing to stab the DUP in the back. Typical Tories.

There is no good answer to the issue. Ireland is in the EU and the UK must have a hard border with the EU and an open border with Ireland. It is not possible to resolve this – other than by imposing a hard border between NI and the rest of the UK.

Will this dissolve the agreement between the DUP and the Conservatives? Their pact depends on the NI party supporting the Tories on Brexit and this will not be possible if the Tories go through with the plan being proposed now.

And with the Lords dishing out defeat after defeat for the Tories on the EU Withdrawal Bill, this puts Theresa May and her cronies in a highly tricky situation.

One way or another, it seems the barricades will be going up soon.

A backup plan to impose border checks on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK at ports and airports to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland after Brexit has been drafted by senior civil servants.

Despite the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) angrily rejecting any suggestion of a border “in the Irish Sea”, a leaked paper reveals that officials have been working on a blueprint “to be deployed as necessary in the negotiation process”.

Source: Brexit plan drawn up for border checks between NI and rest of UK | UK news | The Guardian


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Torygraph Launches Scathing Attack On Commons Standards Commissioner After Rifkind/Straw Ruling

Painful though it is to agree with the Torygraph, the paper is absolutely right to go for Kathryn Hudson’s jugular in its editorial about her ruling on the Rifkind/Straw cases.

It seems that, rather than investigating MPs and uncovering wrongdoing, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is more interested in defending them against any investigation or criticism.

Where the Telegraph editorial questions whether she is fit to hold her post, This Writer would question whether that post should be dissolved altogether and potential wrongdoing by MPs referred to the police – preferably to be investigated by a force not directly connected to the Member in question or Parliament itself.

In her ruling, Kathryn Hudson, criticised the journalists who broke the story, commenting: “The distorted coverage of the actions and words of the Members concerned has itself been the main cause of the damage.

“If in their coverage of this story, the reporters for Dispatches and the Daily Telegraph had accurately reported what was said by the two Members in their interviews, and measured their words against the rules of the House, it would have been possible to avoid the damage that has been done to the lives of two individuals.”

But the Telegraph retorted with its own scathing editorial this week, saying the “sorry tale” of both ex-MPs proved “beyond doubt” that those in the Commons could not be trusted to regulate themselves over lobbying.

“Ms Hudson’s credulity towards MPs raises questions about whether she is fit to hold her post,” leader writers wrote, “yet her performance is laudable in comparison with the egregious work of the Standards Committee.

“Far from accepting any error by Sir Malcolm or Mr Straw, or any flaw in the rules they so nimbly stepped around, the committee suggests that the failing here lies with the public for not properly “understanding” the role of MPs.

It continued, saying: “That is bad enough. Worse are the committee’s words on the press. It is only because of investigative journalism that the conduct of Sir Malcolm and Mr Straw became known to the voters they were supposed to serve.

“Yet the committee’s report amounts to a warning to journalists not to carry out such investigations in future, promising to ‘consider further the role of the press in furthering…understanding and detecting wrongdoing’.”

Source: Daily Telegraph Launches Scathing Attack On Commons Standard Commissioner After Rifkind/Straw Ruling

Rifkind and Straw didn’t break lobbying rules – it seems they only offered

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Not the only Tory suspected of wrong-doing.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Not the only Tory suspected of wrong-doing.

Parliament’s standards commissioner, Kathryn Hudson, has let former MPs Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw off the hook after they were accused of corruption – but is this because they only offered to break the rules, rather than actually breaking them?

Rifkind and Straw were filmed secretly by Channel 4’s Dispatches documentary programme, speaking with an undercover reporter posing as a representative of a fake Hong Kong firm, ‘PMR’.

This representative asked Sir Malcolm if he would be able to provide advance information on HS3 – the mooted high-speed train route linking the northeast of England with the northwest.

He was recorded saying: “I could write to a minister… And I wouldn’t name who was asking… But I would say I’ve been asked to establish what your thinking is on X, Y, Z. Can you tell me what that is?”

Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said on the programme: “It’s absolutely clear in the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament that they have to be open and frank in all communications and yet he was saying on that clip that he would be able to write to ministers, and he wouldn’t have to say who exactly he was representing.

“Well that would be a clear breach of the Code of Conduct and an example of, here, an experienced Member of Parliament rather using their privileged position as a public servant in trying to get access to information which would benefit individuals and this company in a way that I think the public would find totally unacceptable.”

But of course, he didn’t actually do it, because PMR was a fictitious company.

Jack Straw was filmed telling an undercover reporter how he managed to get Ukrainian law changed in order to allow another company to run its business more easily there – a perfectly legal and reasonable activity, according to Dispatches.

But then he said that EU regulations had been hampering the business so he “got in to see the relevant director general and his officials in Brussels” and got the regulations changed. He said: “The best way of doing things is under the radar.”

Sir Alistair Graham pointed out, on the programme: “That’s worrying because that’s saying ‘I can do these things without transparency’ – without the
openness and frankness that the MPs’ Code of Conduct is expecting is the normal behaviour from Members of Parliament.”

But, again, he didn’t actually do anything “under the radar” because PMR was a fictitious company.

So Ms Hudson cleared both former MPs of any wrong-doing – and gave both Dispatches and the Daily Telegraph (with whom the programme had run its investigation as a joint affair) a lashing.

“If in their coverage of this story, the reporters for Dispatches and the Daily Telegraph had accurately reported what was said by the two members in their interviews, and measured their words against the rules of the House, it would have been possible to avoid the damage that has been done to the lives of two individuals and those around them, and to the reputation of the House.”

This seems unreasonable as Dispatches actually filmed both these people making their claims, and measured them against the words of Sir Alistair Graham – and there was plenty of qualification in the voice-over, explaining what was permitted by the rules and what was not.

What was she really saying? That Rifkind and Straw had to carry out their suggestions before they could be accused of anything? Wouldn’t that be leaving things a little late? Fixing the barn door after the horse has bolted, to quote a well-known phrase?

Remember, this is the standards commissioner who was reluctant to examine the case of George Osborne, who paid mortgage interest on his paddock with taxpayers’ money before selling it off with a neighbouring farmhouse for around £1 million and pocketing the cash.

She refused to look into it, saying she had already investigated the case – but an examination of her report revealed no mention of the million-pound paddock at all.

Prime Minister David Cameron was said to have welcomed the commissioner’s whitewash, in a BBC report.

But Channel 4 is standing by its story and has asked broadcasting watchdog Ofcom to investigate the programme. Channel 4 says the programme raised legitimate questions and, in all honesty, this is true.

Let’s hope the result of this investigation takes Ms Hudson down a peg or two. She is long overdue for it.

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