Tag Archives: PR

Kate Bingham: ‘vaccines tsar’ resigns amid ‘dodgy cronyism’ claims – and Johnson THANKS her for her work

Kate Bingham: you probably don’t know her but she’s a venture capitalist who was appointed to lead Boris Johnson’s vaccines taskforce – something about which she knew nothing – because her husband is a minister in Boris Johnson’s government. She then spent £670,000 on public relations, using a firm linked to Dominic Cummings’s father-in-law. And there’s a claim that she showed private government documents to US financiers at a $200-a-head conference.

This tweet has aged badly – and at the time of writing it’s not 24 hours since it was written:

He was referring to Kate Bingham. If you haven’t heard of her, it’s not surprising. She’s another unqualified crony of Boris Johnson and his Tories, given a role as head of Johnson’s “vaccines taskforce” because she knows him (she is married to a Tory minister, Jesse Norman).

She knew nothing about vaccines when she was appointed; she’s a venture capitalist. And now she has announced she is retiring at the end of the year.

Her announcement came after some embarrassing revelations became public:

Worse was to come:

The Mirror story claims that in addition to spaffing £670,000 on a public relations firm, Bingham showed US financiers private government documents at a $200-a-head conference.

Oh, and that £670K PR firm? Linked to Dominic Cummings’s father-in-law, apparently:

The stink of corrupt cronyism is ripe here.

But Death Secretary Matt Hancock insisted to the Mirror that Bingham’s retirement is nothing to do with the revelations. It was always a six-month job, set to end at the year, he said.

So why announce it? And why make the announcement right after these embarrassing revelations?

Could it be that Johnson, Hancock, the Tory government and its remaining cronies were hoping to avoid further examination of their decisions in appointing unqualified friends to vital Covid-19 related jobs, rather than people who knew what they were doing?

If so, it seems they were set to be disappointed…

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Tories mark third anniversary of the Grenfell tragedy with a staggering display of hypocrisy

As it was then: firefighters are pictured dousing small blazes on what remained of Grenfell Tower’s outer cladding, after the fire three years ago. The extent of the damage is clear.

What a strange mob these Conservative brutes are turning out to be! It seems they think everyone can be fooled by a bit of public relations jiggery-pokery.

So on the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower blaze, they lit up 10 Downing Street in green, took a photo of it and gave us some flowery words about a commitment to uncover the causes of the disaster and ensure it never happens again.

Did it work?

Don’t make me laugh…

Another Twitter commenter added: “Oh do naff off. There are still families who have not been properly housed. There are thousands of properties country-wide cladded with flammable materials. No amount of cosmetic PR will exonerate you.”

Consider this:

And this:

If you’re wondering about the significance of the names, they’ll belong to the people who died.

The Independent tells us of the plight of the Grenfell families who are still living in temporary accommodation, three years after they were put there:

Figures from Kensington and Chelsea Council show that there are still seven households living in temporary accommodation. There are also said to be around 10 households who used to live in the tower who have since requested to be moved again as they were placed into permanent [homes] that [were] unsuitable.

Spike Western, housing paralegal at North Kensington Law Centre, told The Independent the delays stemmed from a failure by successive governments to provide adequate social housing:

“The households who have still to be rehoused permanently following Grenfell are the most vulnerable survivors. They represent either those with particular housing needs, such as those arising from a disability, or those on whom moving permanently is something that cannot be rushed and must only be done when the survivor is ready,” he said.

“The damage has been done, and that is severe lack of investment in social and affordable housing over a long period, meaning there aren’t a whole lot of suitable options.”

Then-prime minister Theresa May had promised them their stay would last a maximum of three weeks.

What a liar. And now she has gone, leaving her successor to handle the mess – or kick this can of worms further down the road.

And once again, people with disabilities are left to suffer the most.

Grenfell went up like a tinderbox because it had been covered with a “flame-retardant” cladding that was the exact opposite. Fire chiefs have condemned the fact that the Tories haven’t exerted themselves to replace the same flammable cladding that covers many other blocks of flats – endangering the lives of thousands, three years after the tragedy:

The National Fire Chiefs Council called for “a fundamental reform of building safety” ahead of Sunday’s third anniversary of the fire that killed 72 people.

A parliamentary committee warned that fixing all serious fire-safety defects in high-risk residential buildings could cost up to £15 billion.

Some 2,000 residential buildings are still wrapped in dangerous cladding, meaning that thousands of homeowners sleep in potential fire traps every night, according to the report by the housing, communities and local government committee.

And bandwagon-jumping Labour leader Keir Starmer has said the fact that hundreds of buildings still bear Grenfell-style cladding three years later is “unforgivable” – but, I don’t know… I’m not sure his heart was in it. He seemed much more comfortable siding with the Tories over the threat to statues of racists and slave dealers than against them over this.

The question in the tweet is a good one for all of us to ask, I think.

Are we really more concerned with the safety of a few chunks of rock than for the lives of thousands of our fellow human beings?

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

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Mock indignation from IDS won’t halt the uproar over benefit-related deaths

The latest DWP-related death (to be reported in the newspapers): David O'Mar had collected thousands of football kits, to be given to children in Eastern Europe, before he succumbed to pneumonia after a tribunal said he was fit for work - while he was lying in a hospital bed.

The latest DWP-related death (to be reported in the newspapers): David O’Mar had collected thousands of football kits, to be given to children in Eastern Europe, before he succumbed to pneumonia after a tribunal said he was fit for work – while he was lying in a hospital bed.

The Conservative Government’s stalling tactics when confronted with questions about benefit-related deaths have at last tarnished the image of Prime Minister David Cameron, along with his ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions.

When Debbie Abrahams, a Labour MP whose own image is refreshingly glowing after she stood up for her principles and voted against the Tory ‘Welfare’ Bill last night, asked an Urgent Question of him in the House of Commons yesterday (Tuesday), Cameron was nowhere to be found, having run like a jackrabbit and left others to face the grilling.

His Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, was present – but refused to respond, despite this being an issue of serious concern to the public.

Instead, he sent his minister for employment, Priti Patel, to the Dispatch Box and confined himself to muttered comments from the sidelines. At one point he could be heard very clearly, whining, “Don’t lecture us about it.”

It was a public relations disaster – and on the very last day before the summer recess, meaning people will remember it.

Ms Abrahams asked the Prime Minister to make a statement on his commitment of June 24, to publish DWP data on the number of people in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance and Incapacity Benefit who have died since November 2011, including those found fit for work – to honour This Writer’s Freedom of Information request on the subject, and answer more than 240,000 petitioners who have supported it.

“I am disappointed that the Prime Minister is not here in person to explain why he has not yet honoured his commitment,” she said.

“When will we see the data published?” she asked of Ms Patel. “When are they being prepared for publication?”

“Will the Minister commit to publishing the actual numbers of deaths?”

She also asked how much the DWP had spent on staff and legal fees in the decision to refuse my FoI request – and now to contest the Information Commissioner’s ruling that my question should be answered.

She called on Duncan Smith to reconsider his decision not to publish the details on any of the DWP’s 49 peer reviews into social security claimants who died, including – importantly – changes brought forward by the department as a result of them.

Finally, she asked what assessment has been undertaken of the potential impact on the health status of those on Incapacity Benefit or Employment and Support Allowance, given the measures introduced in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

Ms Patel repeated the platitudes we have heard already – that the information will be published “but before doing so the statistics need to meet the high standards expected”.

She added: “We will publish all aspects of the data that we have been asked to publish.”

Rest assured that this writer will hold her – and the Conservative Government – to that!

She did not say anything about the cost of refusing and appealing against my FoI request, about the 49 peer reviews, or about assessments of the health status of those on IB or ESA – despite being challenged several times by different MPs on the first of these issues in particular.

The tone of Ms Patel’s responses left so much to be desire that it attracted particular comment from – among others – the Father of the House, Gerald Kaufman.

In a room where emotions were already running high, due to the nature of the issue being discussed, she began by demanding: “Would Labour Members like to listen to my response before they start chuntering away?”

Her response was immediately branded “arrogant” by Mr Kaufman and a later claim that the Conservative-led Coalition was the first government to publish statistics on benefit-related deaths was labelled “misleading” by Labour MP Dawn Butler.

It is as though the government deliberately set out to cause upset, as Parliament dissolved for its summer recess.

For the record, the last-published statistics on benefit-related deaths were released in July 2012 and conveyed figures for the period January-November 2011, in which 10,600 ESA claimants died. That’s around one every two or three hours.

As Labour’s Kate Green pointed out: “There is huge disquiet among disabled people, as story after story surfaces in the media about disabled people being found fit for work and dying shortly afterwards—last week another story appeared in the Daily Mirror about a disabled man who died two weeks after his assessment.

“The shenanigans in the DWP around the release of the statistics are concerning—and puzzling, if the Department has nothing to hide.”

Mr Kaufman put Ms Patel right in her place when he said: “I say to the junior Minister that she needs to take some lessons from her boss in dealing with questions in this House, because whatever the nature of his replies, he replies with courtesy. She needs to learn about that as well.”

He had already cast doubt on the honesty of the Conservative Government as a whole, remarking witheringly: “I wish my hon. Friend (Debbie Abrahams) every good fortune in awaiting a reply to a letter to the Prime Minister, in view of the fact that in the last five years I have had exactly one letter from him, and that was after I had received a letter from No. 10 signed by somebody who did not exist.”

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