Tag Archives: public

Banning UK citizens from protesting against Israel’s government is anti-democratic. Here’s why

Anti-Semitism? The Tory government’s plan to ban public bodies from taking part in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against a murderous foreign apartheid regime will be painted as a crusade against anti-Semitism. But it is one that will lack accurate evidence.

One of the (many) planned laws in Boris Johnson’s new legislative programme is one said to “prevent public bodies from adopting their own approach to international relations” by adopting ethical positions against foreign human rights abusers with boycotts of their exports.

It is widely understood that Johnson’s aim is to protect the government of Israel from the growing BDS movement, which seeks to end that country’s apartheid regime in Palestine.

This is – of course – hugely undemocratic. Local authorities and the devolved governments are elected by the UK’s voters and should be allowed to procure goods and services as they see fit, including according to a higher standard of ethics than that of the national UK government itself.

In essence, it seems the legislation is intended to smear those who refuse to tolerate the Israeli persecution of Palestine as anti-Semites. For some of us, it’s a familiar tactic.

Many people, including This Writer, have already been smeared as anti-Semites for opposing the harmful – indeed, homicidal – activities of a national government that presents itself as representing an entire ethnic group (it doesn’t; many Jews around the world are repulsed by the way Palestine is being treated).

Perversely, it is anti-racism campaigners who are being branded as anti-Semites – a brand that the UK’s own government intends to burn into local authorities, devolved governments and other public bodies if they insist on acting against the persecution of Palestine.

You can find out more about what has already happened – and help fight what is happening now – by visiting the website of a relatively new organisation whose title states exactly what it is about: the Campaign Against Bogus Antisemitism.

The organisation’s website states: “It is deeply hurtful to anti-racist campaigners to be branded as antisemitic. People are broken by the embarrassment and shame of attacks they suffer in the media, there for friends, family and other campaigning bodies to see – as if it were the truth… CABA aims to help set the record straight.

“We are a volunteer-led group dedicated to exposing and countering bogus antisemitism- through education and championing those unjustly accused.

“We are building a network of activists across UK, Palestine and further afield, working in a concerted manner, campaigning to allow us to decry apartheid in Israel without being branded ‘anti-Semites’.”

There’s a lot of information on the CABA site – This Writer hasn’t been able to read all of it, and I’m sure that much of it will be disputed by those with an interest in doing so.

But the intention seems an honest one – which is more than the Tory government can offer with its pro-racist, pro-apartheid planned law.

Give it a look and judge for yourself. You may learn a lot.

Source: About Us- and Joining – Campaign Against BOGUS Antisemitism

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Dorries defies public opinion to push ahead with Channel 4 privatisation

Cash cow: campaigning organisation We Own It created this banner, with a highly-relevant message. And why DO the Tories want to privatise Channel 4 so much? For their own profit?

What is the point of the government running a public consultation if it is only going to ignore the result because it disagrees with it?

That is the question we should ask after a public consultation on Nadine Dorries’s plan to privatise Channel 4 showed that a massive 24/25 of the public don’t want it to happen.

96% of responses to a Government consultation said they did not agree with the statement that there are “challenges in the current TV broadcasting market” that present barriers to “a sustainable Channel Four” staying in public hands.

Just 2% said they agreed.

A large number of responses to the consultation came through the social campaigning organisation 38 Degrees, which rephrased the Government’s statement as: “Do you think Channel Four should be privatised?”

But even with these stripped out of the figures, the vast majority of the other respondents – 89% – disagreed that Channel Four is facing challenges to a successful future in public ownership, while 5% agreed.

Dorries has unilaterally decided that the 55,737 UK citizens who responded to her consultation don’t matter.

In a response, she reiterated her claim that the broadcaster faces “serious challenges” and that anyone “choosing to dismiss them” is “burying their head in the sand”.

It seems to This Writer that it is the Culture Secretary who is burying her head in the sand!

Her counter-claim is that Channel 4’s current ownership model, as a publicly-owned, advertising-funded broadcaster, is too restrictive.

But it is a model dictated by the government. Dorries says after the channel is privatised it will be better-able to make its own programmes, because the government will then lift restrictions on borrowing money or raising private sector capital by issuing shares.

While remaining in public ownership would preclude the issuing of shares, it would be perfectly possible for the government to vary Channel 4’s current ownership model to provide it with other forms of revenue generation in order to make, and then sell, programmes.

There is absolutely no need at all – and no public desire – for Channel 4 to be privatised.

But Dorries is determined to do it anyway.

Governments don’t make any changes lightly. They always act (in the case of good governments) in the public interest or (in the case of bad governments like that of Boris Johnson) in their own members’ selfish self-interest.

Look at the increasing influence on the National Health Service of private health companies who count dozens (if not hundreds) of MPs as shareholders.

Dorries’s decision means it is appropriate for us to ask: what do the Tories hope to get out of this? And why should we tolerate the loss of another great public institution to their greed?

Source: Nine in 10 people disagree with Government plans to privatise Channel 4 – survey

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Here’s why campaigners are right to seek end of ‘government by WhatsApp’

Social media junkie: for all we know, Boris Johnson is probably deleting WhatsApp messages in this shot.

Government ministers led by Boris Johnson are conducting business via insecure social media services because it is easier than doing the work properly – and because they can hide what they are doing.

That’s the only explanation This Writer can see for Boris Johnson receiving a summary of the material from his ministerial red box via WhatsApp – he’s simply too damned lazy to go through the paperwork himself.

It means some poor civil servant has to do his work for him, in order to present him with a summary that he just about manages to keep in his tiny mind long enough to get it entirely mixed up – as seems to have happened, infamously, in the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in 2018. If not that, what was the real reason for his shocking faux pas?

As for hiding what they are doing – we have seen secret WhatsApp messages from Boris Johnson because his former aide Dominic Cummings took screenshots of them – and they include decision-making on the procurement of ventilators, testing in care homes, and Mr Johnson’s description of then health secretary Matt Hancock as “hopeless”.

But there is no official record of these messages. That is unacceptable.

Worse, it has emerged that Johnson and other senior ministers, along with at least one of the six Cabinet Office senior civil servants, downloaded Signal – an app that can instantly delete messages. The only reason for them to do that is to communicate decisions outside of official government channels; government in secret.

That’s why campaigning lawyers from the Good Law Project and Foxglove are challenging the government’s use of these social media platforms in the High Court.

The Good Law Project and Foxglove say records of vital decision-making have been lost to the public, and this could undermine investigations such as next year’s inquiry into the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

They say the government is potentially in breach of its own data security guidelines and the Public Records Act of 1958, which requires legal checks to be made on messages in case they need to be kept for the public interest:

Cori Crider, director of Foxglove, said: “Our democracy can only work if the decisions of those who represent us are open to scrutiny.

“That can’t happen if officials govern by secret WhatsApp chats that vanish into thin air.”

The government says it has secure channels for exchanging sensitive information, and ministers are obliged to record important decision-making discussions with officials.

It argues that a record is kept of all substantive discussions and only ephemeral messages are deleted.

With proof that Johnson used WhatsApp to communicate decisions – and then deleted them – freely available courtesy of Cummings, it will be interesting to see if any right-thinking judge can uphold that argument.

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Join the call to end the ban on public ownership of buses

Award-winning: Reading Buses regularly invests back into its services and have one of the greenest fleets in the UK.

Greater Manchester has won the right to cap bus fares at £2 for adults and £1 for children after a landmark ruling by the High Court.

The ruling allows the metropolitan authority to regulate bus services there in the public interest.

Liverpool, West Yorkshire and Sheffield plan to do the same.

But the victory has opened up the debate on whether local authorities should continue to be banned from running services for people and not profit.

Even the Tory government seems to have shifted its position on this, believing the ban on municipal ownership is now “ripe for review”.

According to We Own It,

Only 9 municipal bus companies around the UK survived Thatcher’s disastrous deregulation. Because these bus companies don’t have to pay dividends to shareholders, they can invest more into improving local services.

This makes them incredibly popular, with Nottingham City Transport, Reading Buses and Lothian buses all regularly winning awards.

Reading Buses invests an additional £3 million a year into its service and has one of the greenest fleets in the UK.

The power of public ownership has led Reading to have the best passenger numbers outside London, with a 40% jump in just 6 yearsTalk about levelling up.

If the Reading model of public ownership was rolled out across the whole of Great Britain, it would save well over £500 million a year.

And in times of crisis, public ownership can also help insulate the public. In Northern Ireland, the operator Translink, owned and operated by local people, has just frozen fares to protect people from hikes in fuel costs.

Sadly the Tories seem to have lost track of this great idea, amidst all the emergencies they have created over the last year, in order to distract us.

We Own It has launched a petition to raise interest and prompt the Tories to remember the statement they made as part of Bus Back Better, their national bus strategy, launched on March 15 last year.

If you agree that it’s time we all had a bus service that served us, rather than profiting the owners, sign here: End the ban on public ownership of buses now! | We Own It

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Aircraft owner Grant Shapps lobbies against his own government’s plan to built on private runways

Grant Shapps: he’s not stranger to controversy. Check out the businesses he ran under his pseudonyms Michael Green, Sebastian Fox and Corinne Stockheath.

The Transport Secretary of Boris Johnson’s Conservative government is spending public money paying private lobbyists to argue against his own government’s plans to build on aircraft runways that are privately-owned, it has been alleged.

The reason? The government minister concerned – Grant Shapps – is the owner of a private aircraft, and also of a private runway.

The allegations are made in a Times article hidden behind a paywall:

So that’s all the information we have. Alok Sharma was certainly being cagey about it when Andrew Marr interviewed him:

The issue is clear: government policy is to build houses on land currently occupied by the runways used by owners of private planes.

Shapps is paying private lobbyists to try to get the government – of which he is Transport Secretary – to change this policy. He is using public – government – money to fund this activity.

So the government is paying your money to fund opposition to its own policy.

It has been said before but could it ever be more clear?

These Tories really do think it’s one rule for them and another for the rest of us.

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Corruption: Tories employ firm involved in ‘Test and Trace’ fiasco – to rig public inquiry into it?

Tory corruption never ends; now they are trying to rig the findings of the forthcoming public inquiry into the mishandling of Test and Trace.

Government outsourcing firm Deloitte has been hired by the Conservative government to prepare a “strategy” for “evidence generation requirements” of the public inquiry into the fiasco.

But Deloitte was involved in Test and Trace. The firm was awarded huge government contracts worth almost £300 million. Consultants were paid £6,000 per day – apparently to do very little – and the company charged the government £1 million per day in fees.

It therefore has a considerable interest in ensuring that the Test and Trace system brought in by the Tory government receives a clean bill of health – even though it was an unmitigated disaster.

Fortunately, Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner is doing her job (unlike her boss Keir Starmer) and has written to Steve Barclay, Tory Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (who, one presumes, commissioned Deloitte to carry out the inquiry work), demanding answers.

As she points out in her letter, “The mismanagement, waste and failure of Test and Trace is well-documented. Up to £37 billion of taxpayers’ money has been wasted on a system that did not control infections and did not prevent future lockdowns.

“[Deloitte] was at the heart of Test and Trace’s operations, and therefore the failure of Test and Trace. It is clearly a conflict of interest for Deloitte to be awarded this contract.”

Here’s her tweet, publishing the letter to the world:

No matter what Barclay may say about Test and Trace (he’ll probably try to defend it), the central point of the letter is absolutely correct: as a contractor involved in Test and Trace, Deloitte should not have been even considered for a role in the inquiry.

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New MP scandal as they’re claiming rent on expenses while renting out dwellings

Extra cash for MPs who rent: it’s not exactly a backhander because it’s in line with Parliamentary rules – but the practice certainly shouldn’t be.

Do Tory MPs receive a manual on election, entitled Tories On The Take: How To Do It?

Here’s the latest:

In fairness, two of the MPs accused represent Labour – but commentators other than This Writer have called them Red Tories:

The Independent, which lists 16 of the accused MPs, states:

Over the past five years, 16 MPs have claimed over £1.3m in taxpayer-funded rent while collecting thousands rent letting out properties in the capital, according to submissions published by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) and the register of members’ interests.

Claims for rent are permitted under Ipsa rules, which state that MPs can receive taxpayer funding for “rental payments and associated costs”. An Ipsa document in 2017 conceded that some arrangements could be controversial – but advised against any change to the rules.

“We recognise that there can be a perception of personal gain if an MP receives rental income from their own property while living in an Ipsa-funded flat,” it said. “However … We do not want to judge an MP’s private arrangements and whether or not they should live in a property they own.”

That may be about to change.

If a member of Parliament is able to carry out their work from their own home, but rent accommodation and charge it to the public purse while taking rent income from their own property – and the rental income means they profit from the arrangement, then they are running an expenses scam and it should stop.

That’s how members of the public are likely to see it.

They may have a good point, I think.

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Labour is so shifty it won’t commit to help anybody

Clueless: when Starmer was talking up Labour’s barely-scraped-together win in the Batley and Spen by-election, who knew that this gesture was his explanation of his policies – a shrug.

Isn’t it the job of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition Party to say what it would do if it was running the UK?

Here’s Labour’s Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury – also known as James Murray – taking nearly two minutes to avoid giving a straight answer to a straight question: whether Keir Starmer’s newly right-wing party would reinstate the £20/week Universal Credit uplift:

He said: “I’ve been really clear.. it’s really important to be clear about this.”

Then he said three times that Labour opposed the cut, but he wouldn’t say if the party would reinstate it. That’s shifty, not clear.

His problem is that Labour is now sympathetic to the miserly billionaires who store all their cash in offshore tax havens, and this means it has no tax option to fund the £6 billion/year that would be needed to make it viable.*

For the same reason, Labour can’t commit to a higher-than-inflation public sector pay rise after Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that he was ending the current pay freeze:

Weak.

It makes Labour look like the Tories poorer little sister – unable to offer even a more imaginative alternative to big brother’s failed plans.

*We all know that the UK government can use the Bank of England to create as much money as it needs, but to be responsible it must prevent inflation via tax, right? Labour’s normal policy is to redistribute the nation’s funds (all money belongs to the government via the Bank of England, remember) by taxing the rich to pay for large-scale public services, but Keir Starmer wants to change that to a Conservative approach, and this means no cash for badly-needed social changes.

See:

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Boris Johnson broke ministerial code on by-election trip – because he can?

He loves it: the overgrown schoolboy that some of us put in charge of the country thinks it’s a terrific wheeze that he can flout the rules in our faces and get away with it.

This is typical of Boris Johnson and his government.

They deliberately break the rules by which we all have to live, just to show us that they can.

If Boris Johnson wrongly used public funds to make a party political visit to Hartlepool ahead of this year’s by-election there, it wasn’t an accident.

Of course, a row has sprung up after the Conservative Party’s spending return did not include the cost of the trip – which was by private jet, let’s all remember:

Johnson flew by private jet from London Stansted to Teesside International Airport, travelling in a motorcade to Middlesbrough, where he conducted official government business promoting a rise in the minimum wage at the DIY store B&Q.

He was then driven to Hartlepool, where he met with the Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer for a visit to the local company Hart Biologicals, supporting her campaign in the constituency.

The pair then visited a nearby housing estate for doorknocking, leafleting, and speaking to residents, the Hartlepool Mail reported.

That afternoon, Johnson flew back from Teesside International Airport to Stansted.

None of the costs of Johnson’s travel by plane or car appear to be included in the spending return, which says the candidate spent nothing on transport.

The Labour Party has demanded an inquiry into the breach of spending rules, which is also a breach of the Ministerial Code (government ministers must not use public money for party political business).

This Writer doesn’t understand why she didn’t take it straight to the police – unless this is tacit acknowledgement that MPs are above the law and the police simply wouldn’t lift a finger.

I wonder also why the Electoral Commission has not become involved, as election spending is a matter for that organisation and failure to declare it properly is also a criminal offence.

Perhaps this is a reason Labour is going so easy on the matter:

That Jeremy Corbyn. How dare he show everybody else up by being honest!

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Why aren’t private health employers already paying MORE than the NHS?

A hospital ward: the NHS employs workers in many more areas than merely medical care – many from private firms. Why aren’t they all on compatible pay rates and why should public funds support pay rises in private firms?

The trade union Unison has said that workers employed by private health companies – that work within the NHS – should not miss out on the three per cent pay rise the government is providing.

I have a problem with this.

We have been told for years that private health firms should be allowed to provide NHS services because they can do so, better than if the NHS offered them in-house.

Surely that should also extend to pay?

If not – as appears to be the case – then doesn’t this prove that privatisation is just a backdoor means of inappropriately funnelling cash to bosses and shareholders, that should be used on health treatments?

Also, if pay rates aren’t equal, then doesn’t this make it possible for employers to set private and public-sector workers against each other?

Finally, if private firms match the pay rise, won’t the money actually come from the UK Treasury – so the increase will be funded by the public, rather than by the private shareholders who should be providing it?

Unison has opened a huge can of worms here. Can anybody think of a solution to these problems?

Source: Union calls on private NHS employers to match public-sector pay rises | NHS | The Guardian

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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The Livingstone Presumption is now available
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