Tag Archives: state

Latin to be offered to state school pupils to make the UK even more out-of-touch

Wearing the dunce’s cap yet again: but should Gavin Williamson get all the blame for wanting to inflict Latin on our unsuspecting sprogs? I suspect this is another daft demand from Boris Johnson and Williamson, being a dimwitted yes-man, is just pushing it through.

It is as though Gavin Williamson actually sat in the Department for Education, thinking: “I can’t screw up exams this year; how else can I bugger up state school kids?”

Here’s what he came up with:

Latin lessons are to be offered to thousands of state school pupils in England as part of an effort by the Department for Education to make the language less “elitist”.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said a new programme would ensure the subject was not “for the privileged few”.

A £4 million Latin Excellence Programme will see the ancient language offered to 40 state schools in England as part of a four-year pilot, according to The Daily Telegraph.

It makes a perverse kind of sense: having killed the economy with Brexit and enormous numbers of the population with Covid-19, the Tories now want us all to learn a dead language.

It’s not as if there aren’t plenty of other things to which Williamson could be devoting his time – as the Twitter community was quick to point out:

All good points as I’m sure you’ll agree.

Other commenters have taken glee in pointing out that Williamson has, yet again, drawn attention to his own shortcomings:

I’m sure nobody would want to argue with that!

Source: Latin to be offered to state school pupils to make subject less ‘elitist’ | The Independent

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£2.6 million Downing Street briefing room was built by Russians. Not ‘very sensible’!

The new government media briefing room: your local parish council could have done a better job, and cheaper, but Boris Johnson gave the contract to a company based in a hostile state.

After This Site’s article yesterday showing that Boris Johnson is trying to hide the idiocy of his decisions by claiming they are “very sensible”, this:

His government paid £2.6 million to a Russian company for construction of the new media briefing room – in Downing Street, the heart of the UK government.

Despite being sued for unlawfully withholding details of contracts, the Tory government has refused to say whether the work was put out to competitive tender. It should have been, because the contract was not awarded as part of an emergency.

In fact, no details of the contract with Russian-owned Megahertz have been published.

Megahertz carried out the main work on the project, including installing computers, cameras, microphones and a control desk. Its owner Okno-TV has previously carried out similar technical work for Russian state-controlled broadcasters Russia Today, Channel One, and Public Television of Russia.

It has not been suggested that the company is influenced by the Russian government, but the question has to be asked:

Why did Boris Johnson hire a company from a country that has been designated a “hostile state” to build a communications hub for the UK government?

It’s a security nightmare.

And, after the Salisbury poisonings, a public relations disaster.

Worse still, the briefing room itself looks amateurish.

Advance photos of the space, released before it goes into daily use, show a layout that could have been put together at a village hall, with a central podium backed by two Union flags and a TV screen on one side facing rows of the kind of chairs you see stacked at the side of your local meeting-room.

It doesn’t look like a £2.6m facility. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t look like it cost £2,000.

Admittedly, the broadcasting equipment was probably expensive. But, coming from a Russian firm, who knows what might be included in it, alongside what Johnson asked for?

The work also comes after a Tory government had to end the involvement of Chinese firm Huawei in the rollout of 5G telecommunications in the UK.

So This Writer is in a rare position of agreement with Labour’s Chris Bryant, who chairs the all-party Parliamentary group on Russia, who said,

What shocks me most is that the Johnson government seems to have learnt nothing about the involvement in sensitive UK projects of companies with [links] to autocratic regimes, whether in Russia or in China.

Fundamental to the whole issue, of course, is the fact that Johnson spaffed this cash to Russia while do the dirty on nurses by giving them a pay cut.

It is clear that Johnson’s claim that he could not afford to pay any more to the people who saved so many from Covid-19 is bunkum; he’s got money to burn.

The problem is that his priorities are wrong.

Source: Exclusive: Russian-Owned Firm Played Key Role In Downing Street Media Refit | HuffPost UK

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The Tories are cheating us out of our pensions – and our retirements

Arguments used by the Conservative government to justify increasing the age at which we may draw our pensions are increasingly false, it seems.

Fellow social media journalist David Hencke has all the information on his website.

He says the Tory claim is that as life expectancies continue to rise, it will be impossible for the pension fund to pay out for everybody unless the pensionable age rises too.

There’s just one problem:

Ministers always quote figures up to 2011… [the] last year of any big rise in longevity which had risen for decades.

Since then the rise has flattened – in one year it actually fell – and last year was the first in five years that showed a small rise. Next year the ONS is warning will be the first year they will have figures of the effects of Covid-19 – and the hint is that longevity will fall because of the disproportionate deaths among pensioners.

Worse still:

When you compare the UK to many other developed countries both men and women have lost out big time in the longevity stakes. The countries that make up the UK (with the exception of Northern Ireland) are all near the bottom of the table.

So while we all are being expected to wait longer for our pension in the UK, our extra weeks of life expectancy fall well below many comparable developed countries. We are being cheated – or at least not given the full facts – by our political leaders. So don’t believe any facile claims we have a world beating system for pensioners. Far from it.

The increased longevity argument was used strongly by the Department for Work and Pensions in its court battle to avoid paying compensation to 3.8 million women whose pension age rose from 60 to 66 – but who were not given enough warning to make proper preparations for it.

But our people aren’t living as much longer as people in other countries. What are those nations doing about pensions? And how are they doing it?

It seems clear that Mr Hencke is right and we are being cheated.

I wonder what we can do about it, if DWP representatives are prepared to perjure themselves in court to preserve a lie.

Source: The chances of living longer are getting shorter – new Office of National Statistics figures show only small rise in longevity | Westminster Confidential

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‘No deal’ Brexit looking more likely as UK negotiator rattles his sabre at the EU

If the UK government is not “scared” of leaving the EU without a trade deal, then it is because the interests of UK government ministers will not be harmed.

Reading between the lines of the BBC’s story, perhaps they expect the taxpayer to fund any businesses in which they have an interest?

The downside is that UK negotiator David Frost is saying your Tory government couldn’t care less if your business crashes to dust as a result of high tariffs that will be imposed by the EU nations in January.

Both sides want a deal agreed next month in order to have it signed off by politicians on both sides of the Channel by the end of the transition period on 31 December.

Differences remain on issues such as fishing and the level of taxpayer support the UK will be able to provide for businesses, also referred to as state aid rules.

The EU has said it wants full access for its boats to fish in UK waters in return for giving the UK fishing industry full access to EU markets.

On state aid, the EU has expressed concern that it could give business in the UK an unfair advantage over their European competitors and Mr Barnier has previously said the EU will require “robust” guarantees in this area if it is to agree a deal.

This Writer would be inclined to suggest that the EU should keep its nose out of the UK’s businesses if we could be sure that taxpayer funding for our firms could be administered in a reasonable way – but that’s not what we’re seeing.

Look at the Covid-19 crisis: the Tories have deliberately manipulated government procurement mechanisms to give whomping great wodges of public money to private companies run by their friends. That’s not reasonable!

On balance, the EU’s insistence on interfering in the way UK businesses are run is not acceptable, though. Does Michel Barnier really think a little state aid is going to make much difference for a single country dealing with the world’s largest trading bloc?

If This Writer was running a large concern, though, I would be worried.

Whatever happens, it seems UK businesses will end up paying large tariffs to sell into the EU, while receiving no support from their own government. Am I right?

Source: Brexit: Negotiator David Frost says UK not scared of walking away – BBC News

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Does money matter more than your life? Corporations prepare lawsuits against countries over Covid-19 protections


Remember the fuss over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)? No?

Let me tell you a story.

Back when the UK was part of the European Union, there was a move to create a trading partnership with the United States, allowing goods to flow between the two power blocs, practically tax free.

But problems arose over a so-called ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlement’ system that would have allowed corporations to prosecute individual nations if they passed laws that – for example – protected citizens from having to buy inferior goods that put their health at risk.

This would have interfered with the corporations’ profits, you see.

The possibility of entering an agreement that gave ultimate power to greedy shareholders rather than national governments that – at least nominally – exist to protect citizens killed the TTIP stone dead.

Now we have evidence of what a good idea this was:

Countries could soon face a ‘wave’ of multi-million dollar lawsuits from multinational corporations claiming compensation for measures introduced to protect people from COVID-19 and its economic fallout, according to a new report.

Researchers have identified more than twenty corporate law firms offering services to mount such cases, which would seek compensation from states for measures that have negatively impacted company profits – including lost future profits.

Measures that could face legal challenges include the state acquisition of private hospitals; steps introduced to ensure that drugs, tests and vaccines are affordable; and relief on rent, debt and utility payments.

Under controversial ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlement’ (ISDS) mechanisms, foreign investors, companies and shareholders are able to sue states directly at obscure international tribunals over a wide range of government actions… in what the researchers describe as “a parallel justice system for the rich”.

This Writer is not aware of the UK being a part of any ISDS procedure, and it is clear that any agreement to take part in one would be an offence against democracy.

Note very carefully that the UK’s Conservative government was very keen to take us into such an agreement with the United States, as part of the EU.

I can only agree with Labour’s John McDonnell…

… and urge that anyone hearing of such lawsuits taking place here in the UK let me know immediately.

Source: Exclusive: Countries to face a ‘wave’ of corporate lawsuits challenging emergency COVID-19 measures | openDemocracy

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If Eton isn’t reopening until at least September, why the hurry to bring back state schools?

Closed: and apparently Eton won’t be open to pupils until at least September.

Don’t you think it’s a bit strange?

I mean, if it was safe to reopen schools at the beginning of June, you’d think the recipients of the most expensive education in the United Kingdom would be desperate to get their noses back to the grindstone. Wouldn’t you?

And their parents – many of whom are, I’m sure, inhabiting chairs in Boris Johnson’s cabinet – would be lining up to send them.

But it seems there’s no chance of Eton (for example) reopening its doors until September at the earliest.

We know that there’s no scientific support for schools opening so soon.

We know that teachers and teaching unions are absolutely opposed to it – along with the British Medical Association:

We know that the devolved administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland won’t be allowing it – along with some English cities whose leaders are thinking for themselves:

And protest against the Tory plan to force our children back into school, without having shown any interest in making them safe, is mounting:

So why are the Tories so hasty about getting your kids back to school where they’ll almost certainly catch Covid-19 and give it to you?

Here’s a thought:

Perhaps it’s because, as long as children are out of school, parents are divided between staying home to look after them and going to work. With the kids in school, the parents have no reason to stay away and the economy can get moving again, making money for the Tories’ billionaire donors.

It’s a stupid, stupid rationale, I know. If the kids catch Covid-19 in schools (because there won’t be any social distancing there – try telling four, five and six-year-olds they have to stay at least two metres away from anyone else), and transmit it to their parents, then the adults will be busy trying not to die, rather than working.

But then: what’s rational about the Tory response to coronavirus?

Even the Queen didn’t look like she believed her speech

The Queen’s speech: the only part of it that sparkled was her jewellery.

Parliament has just undergone its most underwhelming State Opening – possibly ever – with a speech delivered by a gimlet-eyed Queen who sounded like she didn’t believe a word she was saying.

And what she said was vague beyond expression.

Here’s the first bit, about Brexit:

(If you can’t see the video, it’s on Twitter here.)

And here’s the rest of it:

It was a speech that will have satisfied very few people apart from Boris Johnson’s sycophants.

It contained nothing on alleviating poverty, nothing on productivity, nothing on the causes of crime.

Nothing for the WASPI women.

Poor measures on education.

Climate change was included at the end, as an afterthought.

And none of it is likely to be enacted in any case.

It was a stunt by Boris Johnson to distract from his Brexit bungling, that has already been rightly described as disrespectful of the Queen.

And she knew it.

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Almost three-quarters of people hit by the Bedroom Tax are sick or disabled

Iain Duncan Smith was the architect of the hated Bedroom Tax.

Was the so-called Bedroom Tax a tool to attack people with long-term illnesses and disabilities?

That seems to be the conclusion we reach from an answer to a Parliamentary question by minister for welfare delivery Will Quince.

He said by April 2019, 240,350 households had been affected by the State Under-Occupation Charge – the penalty inflicted on Housing Benefit claimants who have a spare bedroom.

Of these, a staggering 170,360 households – 71 per cent of the total – included a person in receipt of sickness or disability benefit.

Figures for Universal Credit claimants – whose Housing Benefit is included in the amount they receive under this benefit – were not available.

It seems clear that the penalty disproportionately affects people with long-term illnesses and/or disabilities, and we may speculate that this is what it was intended to do.

We know the United Nations has ruled that this discrimination is a “grave and systematic violation” of the human rights of those affected.

And we know that the government has had to re-write the laws governing the bedroom tax, to exempt couples who cannot share a bedroom due to a physical disability and families who need an extra room for a disabled child’s carer.

We are told that the Bedroom Tax, together with other changes to benefits, has left sick and disabled people four times worse-off than their able-bodied equivalents.

And the hardship caused by the withdrawal of 14 per cent of their housing benefit (for one “spare” room; 25 per cent for two) has forced some disabled people to go without food while others went without medicine.

This Site, and others like it, have reported the deaths of a large number of disabled people that may be directly connected to this withdrawal of funds.

The Department for Work and Pensions refuses to admit that there is anything wrong.

But the evidence mounts up further every day.

Source: Disabled people still disproportionally affected by the ‘bedroom tax’

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Planned pension-age rise means most will die before ever seeing it

Iain Duncan Smith is a genuinely evil little man, isn’t he?

He spent years orchestrating the deniable deaths of uncounted (literally – the Department for Work and Pensions deliberately did not check on what happened to these people) sick and disabled people by changing the benefit assessment system to make it easier to cancel their payments.

Now the Centre for Social Justice think tank, of which he is chairman, is recommending that the age at which we may qualify for the state pension should be raised to 75 by the year 2035.

(Its previous big success – ha ha – was Universal Credit, which it dreamed up on the back of a fag packet in 2009 and which David Cameron adopted as Coalition government policy a year later.)

Apparently all the state-shrinking cuts inflicted by the Tories, along with the tax cuts they have given themselves and their super-rich friends, mean that the Treasury can no longer afford the ballooning cost of supporting an ever-increasing elderly population while the birth rate continues to decline.

Importing workers from other countries would have helped, but Brexit and the xenophobia the Tories have nurtured alongside it have put an end to that.

The aim, of course, is to avoid paying the state pension at all – to make ordinary people work until they die.

This is one of the reasons the Tories have been working to ensure that life expectancy – the age at which we may expect to die – falls.

They have succeeded in this aim, as David Hencke noted in an article last year:

“Britain is literally dying. Ever since the Tory and Liberal Democrat coalition came to power a 50 year improvement in the death rate year on year went into reverse.”

He wrote that the lowest life expectancy in April 2018 was in Glasgow, Blackpool, Dundee, West Dunbartonshire and North Lanarkshire, where men could expect to live until the age of 75.4 at the most.

Under Iain Duncan Smith’s plan, that means most men living in these places would never draw the state pension, despite having paid into it for the whole of their working lives.

As comedian George Carlin told Americans, the same now applies in the UK: “They’re coming for your social security money, they’re coming for your retirement money. They want it back.”

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UK railway services are now almost entirely state-owned – by foreign countries

Could there be a better argument to support Labour’s call for train services to be re-nationalised?

British rail commuters pay the highest prices in Europe to use trains that are almost exclusively run by European state operators.

We are subsidising services in their countries.

If our railways were re-nationalised, the money we pay would flow into UK state coffers. From there it could be used to, possibly, improve the service and reduce prices.

Don’t you think that would be a better way?

With rail fares set to rise again by as much as 2.8 per cent, the debate over whether the UK should renationalise the railways – which Labour made a 2017 manifesto pledge – has already reared its head.

This week the Trades Union Congress renewed its call for renationalisation, saying doing so would lead to lower ticket prices.

“We’re already paying the highest ticket prices in Europe to travel on overcrowded and understaffed trains,” the organisation’s general secretary Frances O’Grady said.

[But] extensive state-ownership exists among UK rail operators, it just doesn’t involve the British state.

Here’s the full list:

c2c: Italian state

Chiltern: German state

Caledonian sleeper: PRIVATE

CrossCountry: German state

East Midlands: Dutch state

Eurostar: French state

Gatwick Express: French state

Grand Central: German state

Great Northern: French state

GWR: PRIVATE

Greater Anglia: Dutch state

Heathrow Express: PRIVATE

Hull Trains: PRIVATE

LNER: British state

London Northwestern Railway: Dutch state

London Overground: German state

London Underground: British state

Merseyrail: Dutch state

Northern: German state

Northern Ireland Railways: British state

Scotrail: Dutch state

South Western Railway: Hong Kong state

Southeastern: French state

Southern: French state

Stansted Express: Dutch state

TfL rail: Hong Kong state

Thameslink: French state

TransPennine Express: PRIVATE

Transport for Wales: French state

West Coast: Italian state

West Midlands Railway: Dutch state

Source: Trains on UK railways now almost entirely state-owned – by foreign countries | The Independent

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