Tag Archives: Sir

Statistics supremo slams misleading Tory Covid-19 test figures

Next time you watch a news report showing Tory statistics on the number of Covid-19 tests published out per day, bear in mind that the numbers are deliberately wrong – and that comes from the highest authority in the United Kingdom.

The Tories are hiding the facts about Covid-19 testing by blurring their definition of  test, in order to maximise the number of tests they can report. This comes from Sir David Norgrove, chair of the UK Statistics Authority.

This Writer has corresponded with the UKSA on several previous occasions and you can take it from me: if the UKSA is saying something, you can be sure it is right.

He’s saying the way the Tories present their results is deliberately obstructing the purpose for which they are supposed to be carried out.

“Statistics on testing perhaps serve two main purposes,” he writes.

“The first is to help us understand the epidemic, alongside the ONS survey, showing us how many people are infected, or not, and their relevant characteristics.

“The second purpose is to help manage the test programme, to ensure there are enough tests, that they are carried out or sent where they are needed and that they are being used as effectively as possible. The data should tell the public how effectively the testing programme is being managed.”

He continues: “The way the data are analysed and presented currently gives them limited value for the first purpose. The aim seems to be to show the largest possible number of tests, even at the expense of understanding.

“It is also hard to believe the statistics work to support the testing programme itself.”

Of course the obvious problem gets an airing: “The headline total of tests adds together the tests carried out with tests posted out… There are no data on how many of the tests posted out are in fact then successfully completed.”

And this has also been brought to public attention: “The notes to the daily slides rightly say that some people may be tested more than once and it has been widely reported that swabs carried out simultaneously on a single patient are counted as multiple tests. But it is not clear from the published data how often that is the case.”

Moving on to the way the tests are presented to the public, Sir David reveals that “this presentation gives an artificially-low impression of the proportion of tests returning a positive diagnosis” – because the number of tests carried out has been artificially inflated, you see.

“More generally the testing figures are presented in a way that is difficult to understand. Many of the key numbers make little sense without recourse to the technical notes which are themselves sometimes hard to follow… Supporting spreadsheets… make it difficult to extract even basic trends.”

Perhaps crucially, Sir David moves on to criticise information that is omitted from test reports: “How many people in what circumstances are infected? Where do they live?

“Test results should include for example key types of employment (e.g. medical staff, care staff), age, sex and location (by geography and place, such as care homes).”

The implication is clear: figures derived from the testing programme are no good at all.

And Sir David lays down a serious warning about the new “Test and Trace” scheme: “Statistics will need to be capable of being related to the wider testing data and readily understood by the public, through for example population-adjusted maps of hotspots.

“The testing statistics still fall well short of… expectations. It is not surprising that, given their inadequacy, data on testing are so widely criticised and often mistrusted.

Here’s Sir David’s letter:

The letter has prompted a strong response – including from some former Conservatives:

Will the Tories pay attention?

I think they probably will.

This is criticism from an incorruptible authority on statistics and, should an inquiry take place into government handling of Covid-19 (and I think one will), the Tories will need the UK Statistics Authority on their side.

If they don’t get that support, then they’ll be in serious trouble.

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Home Office boss’s resignation shows Tory government LIED about split with Patel

Sir Philip Rutnam.

The top civil servant in the Home Office has resigned, claiming that their has been a “vicious and orchestrated” plot against him, apparently originating with Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Sir Philip Rutnam’s announcement that he is launching a court action for constructive dismissal means we can conclude that protestations by government spokespeople that there was no problem in the Home Office were lies.

Indeed, Sir Philip’s statement that he had attempted a reconciliation with Ms Patel, on the urging of Boris Johnson and the Cabinet Secretary, suggests that those at the top of government knew all about it.

It seems clear that Sir Philip was pressurised to keep his mouth shut – issuing a joint statement with Ms Patel that was clearly an attempt to hush up what was going on.

And he said he was offered a bribe to stop him from launching court action – a financial settlement “that would have avoided this outcome” – which we must again conclude was an attempt to hide the facts from the public.

Labour’s Jon Trickett seems to have got the right message – that Boris Johnson’s government is woefully incompetent, but cannot abide anybody saying as much.

He said: “They will not tolerate dissent, yet can’t cope with flooding or a possible pandemic.”

It’s another sign that we have a prime minister who thinks he can do what he wants, rather than what the country needs.

Let us hope the forthcoming court case comes as a hard slapdown.

Source: Home Office boss quits over ‘campaign against him’ – BBC News

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Inquiry demanded into claims Boris Johnson backers will profit from ‘no deal’ – and it can’t come soon enough

The sign says ‘leader’: but is there somebody in the shadows, telling him what to do in their interest, rather than that of the UK as a whole?

The Labour Party has demanded an independent “conflict of interest” inquiry into Boris Johnson, over claims that the prime minister’s backers will profit hugely from a “no deal” Brexit.

John McDonnell, shadow chancellor, has written to the UK’s most senior civil servant, Cabinet Office secretary Mark Sedwill, calling for an investigation into alleged collusion with currency speculators.

The demand is based on comments by Mr Johnson’s sister Rachel and claims by former chancellor – now an Independent MP – Philip Hammond that speculators were investing in “short” positions – betting on the pound plummeting and inflation rocketing – after a “no deal” Brexit.

It has been reported that they could make more than £8 billion – while the rest of us suffer.

In his letter to Sir Mark, the shadow chancellor said there had been widespread reports of increases in short positions taken against sterling in the lead-up to a possible no-deal Brexit.

Mr Johnson and the Conservative party had received “a significant sum” in donations from no-deal backers, a number of who are involved in hedge funds, he said. Meanwhile, the PM has made it clear he is ready to go ahead with a no-deal outcome to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

“These three facts have caused concern that the prime minister may have a conflict of interest,” wrote Mr McDonnell. “Donors to the Conservative party and/or the prime minister could stand to gain from a no-deal Brexit – even if only through cushioning losses by adopting short positions. The prime minister could reasonably be seen as having an interest in securing a no-deal Brexit to financially benefit his donors.”

He added: “It is becoming increasingly apparent from public comment that the prime minister is bringing into doubt whether he is upholding the highest standards, thereby further undermining public confidence and trust in him and his government… It is important for public confidence and trust in the House of Commons that any real or apparent conflict of interest is investigated.”

“The prime minister could reasonably be seen as having an interest in securing a no-deal Brexit to financially benefit his donors.”

No UK public servant can serve two masters in such a way, and for a prime minister the good of the nation must come before any personal benefit to that person, their friends or supporters.

The Jennifer Arcuri scandal has already placed significant doubt on Mr Johnson’s loyalties. The British public consider him entirely capable of putting the interests of himself and his financiers before those of the nation.

And in the meantime the Brexit deadline clock is ticking down to October 31.

Mr Sedwill must agree to this inquiry, and it must be carried out with haste. Everybody needs to know the facts before it is too late.

Source: Brexit: Labour demands inquiry into ex-chancellor’s claims Boris Johnson backers set to profit from no-deal | The Independent

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The Conservatives are now the Party of Upskirting

Selfie-centred: This has never happened (thank goodness) but it is exactly the kind of thing Sir Christopher Chope was supporting.

The practice of taking photographs of female celebrities’ private parts by pointing a camera up their skirts or dresses has won a ringing endorsement from Conservative backbencher Sir Christopher Chope and his ever-willing henchman Phillip Davies.

Mr Chope filibustered a private members’ bill calling for upskirting to be criminalised. Along with his supporters, he spoke for a total of four hours in order to prevent the legislation from progressing through Parliament.

He has defended this indefensible behaviour by saying he hates private members’ bills – shurely shome mishtake as he has tabled dozens of them himself:

Mr Davies is on the record as a supporter of men’s rights, which he believes are being eroded by feminists. Does he believe men have a right to examine the quality of a lady’s underwear if she doesn’t agree to it?

Prime minister Theresa May has expressed her own dissatisfaction with the outcome:

But she was lying again, I expect. If Mrs May was all that upset about it, she would have punished her errant MPs, perhaps by withdrawing the Tory whip from them.

But that would mean losing her majority in Parliament.

So her hands are tied.

And for all her fine words, her actions show tacit support for what her MPs did.

The official Conservative Party twitter feed also tried to de-legitimise the backbenchers’ point of view as an expression of Tory taste…

… and failed:

On Twitter, some of the usual suspects have been having a fine time satirising the sexists on the Tory benches:

One has to ask, though – why defend this intrusive and demeaning behaviour?

Other than perversion for its own sake, what exactly is the point of upskirting?

What do the paps who profane themselves with this practice possibly hope to find?

A long-lost masterpiece by Van Gogh?

The Titanic sailing back into harbour at long last?

Extraterrestrial life?

No.

The best they can hope to see, no matter how many such photos they take…

… is what Christopher Chope sees every time he looks in a mirror.

It’s all right for him: DWP chief quits to enjoy early retirement – after delaying it for the rest of us

Sir Robert Devereux announced that he is stepping down as the permanent secretary of the Department for Work and Pensions.


The message is clear: In Tory Britain, there’s one rule for the rank and file and a completely different one for the elite.

Sir Robert Devereux is one of the elite. He’s the civil servant who enacted the most punitive social security “reforms” (a vile euphemism for draconian attacks on the sick, the disabled and the vulnerable) on the working-class people of the United Kingdom.

And he has been well-rewarded for it – as the Daily Mail article quoted below makes clear.

So he’s cutting and running – many years before the retirement age he has forced on the rest of us including, most noticably, the WASPI women.

He can probably feel the way the wind is blowing. Time is running out for the Conservatives and a Labour administration will undoubtedly take great care to examine every act of the DWP throughout the last seven years of its blood-drenched history. Maybe he wants to be safely retired in some warm country where he can’t be caught before that happens.

Meanwhile, the rest of us continue to suffer.

The mandarin who pushed through a rise in the pension age to 68 is to retire – at just 61 years-old.

Sir Robert Devereux announced today that he is stepping down as the permanent secretary of the Department for Work and Pensions.

The senior civil servant has the biggest pension pot in Whitehall and will enjoy a retirement pot worth a staggering £1.8million.

This means the 60-year-old will get £85,000 a year and a lump sum of £245,000 when he leaves his job.

Source: Mandarin who pushed through rises in state pension age calls time on his career at age 61 with retirement pot worth £1.8million


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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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PIP policy hitch while Tory boys bitch

Stumble in the (political) jungle: Who wants to see two Tory clowns drawling weak attempts at wit when their party's policies are bringing the country to its knees?

Stumble in the (political) jungle: Who wants to see two Tory clowns drawling weak attempts at wit when their party’s policies are bringing the country to its knees?

Even boxing promoters would have had a hard time talking up the ‘spat’ between the so-called Grey Man and the Quiet Man of politics.

The hyperbolic talents of Don King would be hard-pressed to hide the fact that what Sir John Major and Iain Duncan Smith need, more than anything else, is a sense of proportion. People are suffering, and all they do is squabble.

It was Major who opened hostilities. In a speech on Tuesday, he questioned Smith’s attack on the British social security system, saying: “I truly wish him well. But it is enormously complicated and unless he is very lucky, which he may not be, or a genius, which – the last time I looked – was unproven, he may get some of it wrong.”

We were to see evidence of this very quickly, as the government has been forced to announce that its plan to shift people from Disability Living Allowance to the new Personal Independence Payment has been delayed. Instead of rolling out across the whole of England, Scotland and Wales next week, it will now happen in only certain areas.

If their condition changes, claimants in Wales, the East and West Midlands and East Anglia will transfer to PIP. Otherwise, everybody will remain on DLA.

The announcement echoes one earlier this year, in which Smith’s much-trumpeted Universal Credit rolled it, not so much with a bang as with a moan – in just one pilot area, where only the simplest cases were handled.

For those affected, this can only be a relief. PIP will be payable to fewer people than DLA because it has tougher requirements. For example, people used to qualify for the mobility component if they could not walk 50m; under the new benefit this has been cut to 20m for no good reason.

Sir John’s remarks revived hostilities between himself and the Work and Pensions Secretary that have been dormant since the early 1990s, when Smith was one of a group of Tory rebels who campaigned against the decision to sign the Maastricht Treaty for European Union integration.

In an interview at the time, Sir John described his opponents as “bastards”. He repeated the phrase in Tuesday’s speech, admitting its use was “unacceptable” – but then he added that his “only excuse was that it was true”.

Smith, nicknamed ‘Returned To Unit’ (or ‘RTU’ for short) by this site in recognition of his many failings and unanswered questions about his army career, responded by telling the Evening Standard: “I just say I think we should all look at each other and be a little more pleasant.”

Is that so, Iain?

May we take it that this is a new policy, and you will be telling staff in all your Job Centres and every DWP office, up and down the country, that they should be more pleasant to the people who have to use the excuse for a service that they provide?

Are they now to stop trying to bully people off Jobseekers’ Allowance any way they can, and to actually start treating their fellow citizens with the respect that has been missing from those places since you took over as Work and Pensions Secretary?

Perhaps the private Work Programme providers you pay to take these people off the unemployment statistics will start actually trying to help our unemployed people, instead of putting them on pointless courses in things they know already and pocketing the lion’s share of the cash?

No?

Well, that’s no surprise to anyone. You don’t listen to anything but your own beliefs. It’s long past time you grew up and admitted the failures inherent in Universal Credit, PIP and all your other reforms. In other words, get your priorities right.

And Sir John? That goes for you, too. You have no right to the moral high ground when your government set the scene for many of the problems we have today.