Tag Archives: supply

Will people realise the food shortages they suffer in January are due to Brexit?

Grant Shapps: he’s telling us supply chains will remain open after Brexit-imposed border restrictions are imposed from January 1. But he’s the guy who said it was perfectly safe to go back to work, while remaining safe at home himself.

Wasn’t it a stroke of genius to stagger the date the UK leaves the EU and the date any changes to our relationship take effect, so people don’t recognise the connection?

Clearly Boris Johnson wasn’t behind it. We can all agree that a yoghurt has more intelligence than the prime muppet.

So the UK is no longer a member of the European Union at the time of writing – but the Tory government still needs to make preparation for border controls that must be imposed from January 1.

And that isn’t happening.

Rod McKenzie, from the Road Haulage Association, said the government should “act now before it’s too late”.

Mr McKenzie told BBC News: “It is a real case of the government sleepwalking to a disaster with the border preparations that we have, whether it is a deal or no-deal Brexit at the end of December.

“The supply chain on which we are all dependent to get the things we need could be disrupted and there is a lack of government focus and action on this.”

He added: “When we are trying to emerge from the crisis of covid, if we then plunge straight into a Brexit-related crisis, that will be a really difficult moment and we need real pace.

“The difference here is between a disaster area and a disaster area with rocket boosters on.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is busy fitting the rocket boosters to this disaster area.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he “could not pre-empt the outcome” of trade talks with the EU, which he conceded created “some uncertainty”.

But, he said the government had kept supply changes going [I think he means “routes open”] throughout the pandemic and “we are absolutely confident we will do that again in the future”.

Let’s take a moment to remember that the Tory government was unable to supply personal protective equipment during the pandemic, meaning many doctors and nurses died of Covid-19 and Covid-related conditions.

The Tory government was unable to supply respirators during the pandemic, meaning tens of thousands of UK citizens died of Covid-19 and Covid-related conditions.

The government did not keep supply routes open – in fact, there is evidence that the Tories consciously shut them down.

And now Grant Shapps wants us to believe in his pie-in-the-sky promise that everything will be fine.

I don’t buy it. And that’s not all that you won’t be buying from January onwards, if your MPs don’t get their fingers out of their collective rear ends.

Source: Brexit: UK ‘sleepwalking into disaster’ over border plans, hauliers warn – BBC News

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.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Here are four ways to be sure you’re among the first to know what’s going on.

1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the left margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.

2) Follow VP on Twitter @VoxPolitical

3) Like the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VoxPolitical/

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

4) You could even make Vox Political your homepage at http://voxpoliticalonline.com

And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.


The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

NHS coronavirus PPE supply ‘severely undermined’ by private firms

Yet again: another chance to see this image of the rubbish PPE attempts in UK hospitals.

This Site reported that the privatisation of PPE supplies was a serious problem, weeks ago.

Vox Political is vindicated yet again.

It is alleged that a “dysfunctional” supply chain process and the production of essential PPE by private firms is behind the recent “fiasco” of hospitals not receiving enough protective kit.

Authors We Own It, a group of campaigners protesting privatisation of public services, and the Public Services International Research Unit at the University of Greenwich say that part-privatisation of NHS Supply Chain – the government organisation that oversees the supply of goods to health bodies – is leading to inefficiencies in the health service’s coronavirus response.

They also say more than 11 private suppliers provide medical equipment to hospitals.

In the case of PPE, they reported that parcel delivery company DHL led the procurement process for suppliers and private logistics firms who then provided hospitals with the medical items, removing civil servants from the process.

The report, named Privatised and Unprepared: The NHS Supply Chains, also blamed what it called “just in time” business models used by private companies like logistics business Unipart for the run down of PPE supplies. It alleges that this system encourages the reduction of stock.

Researchers argue that this creates a risk for the NHS that sufficient supplies are not available to manage unforeseen events, such as the current epidemic.

They also say the system’s part-privatisation made it “fundamentally dysfunctional”.

Source: NHS coronavirus PPE supply ‘severely undermined’ by private contractors, a report claims | The New European

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.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Here are four ways to be sure you’re among the first to know what’s going on.

1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the left margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.

2) Follow VP on Twitter @VoxPolitical

3) Like the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VoxPolitical/

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

4) You could even make Vox Political your homepage at http://voxpoliticalonline.com

And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.


The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Tory government’s wish to avoid embarrassment on Personal Protective Equipment puts us all in danger

Why is the government dragging its feet so badly on the provision of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to NHS workers? Do the Tories have some psychotic desire to watch us all die of the coronavirus?

This is a government that was told – years ago – that the UK’s health service would be unable to cope with a pandemic virus infection without plentiful supplies of protective equipment for health workers… and decided that such an investment was too expensive.

And now:

Also:

NHS workers are crying out for proper equipment because the lack of it is putting them in danger – and if they’ve got the virus themselves, they can’t treat anybody. Consider this:

Doctors and nurses can’t have the equipment because it simply isn’t there:

The NHS procurement chief mentioned above was Alan Hoskins, whose tweet on Sunday, which has since been deleted, said: “What a day, no gowns NHS Supply Chain. Rang every number escalated to NHS England, just got message back — no stock, can’t help, can send you a PPE pack. Losing the will to live, god help us all.”

It’s possible that the tweet was deleted under duress, as it seems doctors have been warned not to make any comments about shortages on social media, as well as avoiding talking to journalists, and NHS England has taken over media operations for many hospitals and health trusts in order to ensure that they all stay “on message”.

Some doctors claimed managers had threatened their careers if they breathed a word of how bad the situation really was:

This part is grimly amusing: “NHS England confirmed it was controlling media communications, which it said was part of its national emergency incident planning to ensure the public received “clear and consistent information”. Notice that nothing is said about that information being factually accurate!

But why aren’t NHS workers getting the protective equipment they need?

It’s a good question, considering the manufacturers have been desperate to provide it, but haven’t been able to even start making them until the government put in an order – and the government did nothing but stall for a prolonged period of time:

https://twitter.com/ScouseGirlMedia/status/1244347321875410959

Fashion and textile firms said they could have begun making gowns and masks for frontline workers on March 19.

The government, meanwhile, has been insisting that everything is all right – creating something of a credibility gap:

Trade group Make It British said factories had been receiving calls from individual hospitals, begging them to send anything they could provide.

A spokesperson said she believes the government does not have the expertise it needs to source the products from UK firms because it is so used to importing goods from overseas.

So This Writer would suggest that the government has been hiding the fact in order to prevent embarrassment for ministers.

And that leads me to the big question:

Which is more important – saving lives or saving Tory ministers’ blushes?

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.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Here are four ways to be sure you’re among the first to know what’s going on.

1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the left margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.

2) Follow VP on Twitter @VoxPolitical

3) Like the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VoxPolitical/

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

4) You could even make Vox Political your homepage at http://voxpoliticalonline.com

And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.


The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

‘Food supplies minister’ appointed to ensure Tory caviar supplies go uninterrupted


If everything is under control, why have the Tories appointed a minister to try to safeguard food supplies from abroad?

And when they talk about safeguarding supplies, we need to ask: For whom?

My fear is that they won’t care a scrap for the businesses that could go under if there’s just a tiny delay at the borders…

They want to ensure they have a supply of caviar and don’t care if the rest of us end up eating grass.

The government has appointed a minister to oversee the protection of food supplies through the Brexit process amid rising concerns about the effect of a no-deal departure from the European Union.

The MP David Rutley, a former Asda and PepsiCo executive, was handed the brief at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs earlier this month.

Defra said that Rutley, who once ran home shopping and e-commerce businesses at Asda, was merely taking on responsibilities already held by other ministers. He said: “It is an honour to join the Defra ministerial team at such an important time. I am determined to ensure that we fully realise the opportunities of leaving the EU.”

Food industry insiders welcomed his appointment after warnings that delays of only half an hour at UK ports and the Irish border would risk one in 10 British firms going bankrupt.

Visit our JustGiving page to help Vox Political’s Mike Sivier fight anti-Semitism libels in court


Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Here are four ways to be sure you’re among the first to know what’s going on.

1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the left margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.

2) Follow VP on Twitter @VoxPolitical

3) Like the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VoxPolitical/

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

4) You could even make Vox Political your homepage at http://voxpoliticalonline.com

And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.


The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

So many different groups say Tory-DUP deal breaches the rules – why don’t they team up?

The confidence and supply agreement signed in Downing Street between the DUP and the Conservatives [Image: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA].

We have already heard – several times – concerns that the deal between the Conservative Party and the DUP breaches power-sharing agreements in Northern Ireland.

Now it seems the deal is questionable because spending commitments may breach equality duties.

The people behind these claims have launched separate challenges, it seems.

Why don’t they just get together and put the most forceful case possible?

It seems to This Writer that Conservatives are very handy at doing everything they can to cling to power, and they may use contradictory arguments to undermine separate challenges.

But that wouldn’t work if a single, unified challenge took place.

Or am I being too sensible?

The £1bn deal between the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist party securing Theresa May’s parliamentary majority is being challenged on the grounds that the spending might breach equality duties.

An exchange of letters between the Treasury and a prominent Northern Ireland human rights group… has raised questions about whether the extra funding will be allocated on a non-partisan basis.

In July, shortly after the confidence and supply agreement was signed in Downing Street, the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) in Belfast wrote to the government in London raising concerns about how the money would be allocated.

Fidelma O’Hagan, a solicitor with the CAJ, pointed out that the agreement implied that a “number of decisions have already been taken to earmark funding that have equality implications”.

Source: Tory-DUP £1bn deal may breach equality duties, says NI rights group | UK news | The Guardian


Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Here are four ways to be sure you’re among the first to know what’s going on.

1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the left margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.

2) Follow VP on Twitter @VoxPolitical

3) Like the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VoxPolitical/

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

4) You could even make Vox Political your homepage at http://voxpoliticalonline.com

And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.


The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Skilful work is needed to cut the slaughter-supporting rebels out of Labour

The Labour MPs who rebelled against Jeremy Corbyn over Yemen are desperate to provoke him into expelling them - so they can retain their seats in the House of Commons. What if he made it impossible for their constituency parties to continue supporting them?

The Labour MPs who rebelled against Jeremy Corbyn over Yemen are desperate to provoke him into expelling them – so they can retain their seats in the House of Commons. What if he made it impossible for their constituency parties to continue supporting them?

It is nauseating to hear that Labour MPs – who rebelled against a three-line whip in order to support the killing of innocents in Yemen – did it for no better reason than to undermine their leader.

But it seems right-wing Labour has failed to think its actions through (yet again) and should suffer the consequences of its actions.

In refusing to support the motion against supplying arms to Saudi Arabia, these MPs defied a three-line whip. Normally, this should trigger a certain course of action – withdrawal of the party whip from the MPs concerned, who must sit as independents until the whip is restored.

This would suit the rebels, because they could use any such action against them to justify splitting away from the Labour Party – and claim that Mr Corbyn was responsible.

But nobody can support a decision to continue allowing innocent people to be killed – especially members of the Constituency Labour Parties, on whom these MPs rely to campaign for them in the run-up to elections.

The rebelling MPs cannot say they are following Jeremy Corbyn’s example, defying the party whip on a matter of principle, because his rebellions were always against wars and harm to ordinary people – and never in support of the Conservative Party.

So This Writer tends to agree with the Skwawkbox blog. Mr Corbyn should select a few of the more prominent rebels – those who have repeatedly tried to undermine him – and make an example of them.

If he publicly explains that they are losing the whip because they have shown de facto support for the Conservative Party, and for the killing of innocents, then it will be impossible for them to argue that they were making any kind of principled stand.

The line could be that, if they don’t want to support Labour values, perhaps they should resign their seats and stand for another party, or as independents.

How well do you think they would manage on their own?

Almost 100 Labour MPs (not 100 or 102 as you may have read, since a handful of those who didn’t vote were absent because of serious illness or family situations, including Corbyn loyalists on the front bench) rebelled against their party to vote against a Labour parliamentary motion put forward by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry for the withdrawal of support for the Saudi-led coalition that has been targeting schools, hospitals and rescue services in Yemen, costing thousands of civilian lives.

The vote was lost by fewer than 100 votes.

Those Labour MPs have made themselves responsible for further deaths of innocents – according to the papers, simply in order to undermine Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. But it goes further than that.

I believe that these Labour MPs are attempting to provoke Corbyn into taking action against them so they can use it as justification for splitting from the party.

Here’s what parliament.uk says about the consequences of defying a 3-line whip: “Defying a three-line whip is very serious, and has occasionally resulted in the whip being withdrawn from an MP or Lord. This means that the Member is effectively expelled from their party (but keeps their seat) and must sit as an independent until the whip is restored.”

Even the braver of the rebels is too cowardly to be known forever as the ones who broke up the Labour party, so they’re trying to provoke Corbyn into expelling them. They keep their seats and can set up their own Parliamentary grouping

The key is to expose what they’re up to and why – before they do it – and establish control of the narrative, so they’re simply exposed as dishonourable and ridiculous.

A decisive move against the ringleaders would test the nerve of those who are less entrenched – and a strong PR offensive could make clear why those expelled were selected, tied with hammering home the baseness of the moves they’ve co-ordinated this week and the fact that they were elected as Labour MPs, would put pressure on them and any who follow them to ‘do the decent thing’ –to resign their seats and fight as independents.

After all, even the two Tories who jumped ship to UKIP felt honour-bound to resign and fight by-elections – and who wants to be lower than UKIP?

Source: Labour Yemen rebels support slaughter to provoke Corbyn – and he has to take the bait | The SKWAWKBOX Blog

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.


The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Why NHS charging is a zombie policy

http://youtu.be/e6ci9ROmTO8

Several political organisations (including, to Yr Obdt Srvt’s regret, Labour) have been talking up the possibility of imposing charges on the public for NHS services. Possibilities under discussion have included direct charging at the point of use or a new ‘NHS tax’. Nobody wants to mention that this means paying for the NHS twice (we already fund it with our taxes/NI contributions).

BBC Radio 4 recently ran a debate on NHS charging, on which one of the speakers was Dr Clive Peedell. This gentleman is a stalwart of the National Health Action Party, the political group founded to end the Coalition’s privatisation of healthcare by defeating the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats at election time.

He made many solid points – information that the public needed to hear. We know this because the presenter tried to shout him down while he was in full flow, and in the Tory-dominated BBC this is always a sure sign that a speaker is on the right track.

The YouTube clip (above) whittles down the debate to cover only Dr Peedell’s words, in which he states that:

  • It is a myth that charges can reduce demand for healthcare; this is a zombie policy.
  • If people start paying they expect more from the service, so you get people with wants, rather than needs.
  • The NHS has been chronically under-funded for decades – by £267 billion over 25 years.
  • It is become a fantastically efficient system and all the evidence suggests that progressive taxation is the fairest way to pay for healthcare.
  • Even so, there are efficiencies that can be made – the market system costs £10 billion per year in administration costs, and 10 per cent of the budget pays off venture capitalists who invested in costly PFI schemes.
  • Austerity increases demand on the healthcare system and reduces supply.
  • And healthcare spending stimulates economic growth so we should increase healthcare expenditure with money reclaimed from tax avoiders.

The clip is well worth playing.

After all, it isn’t often you hear anybody talking sensibly about the health service for nearly six minutes!

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Buy Vox Political books!
Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook
The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Vox Political needs your help!
This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions.
Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going.
You can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Conservatives in chaos over food bank stance

Credit where it's due: The vast majority of reasons for people being referred to food banks are attributable to the Department for Work and Pensions. Could that be why the DWP is so desperate to silence the food bank charities?

Credit where it’s due: The vast majority of reasons for people being referred to food banks are attributable to the Department for Work and Pensions. Could that be why the DWP is so desperate to silence the food bank charities?

Tories – what are they like?

The answer is, of course, even they don’t know – as evidenced by their current confusion over food banks.

David Cameron has enthusiastically backed their work at a Christian faith group’s Easter reception (and so he should, having sent so much of it their way), and Treasury minister David Gauke also praised them in an interview on Channel 4 News last week.

But the DWP says leading food bank provider the Trussell Trust is guilty of “misleading and emotionally manipulative publicity seeking”, with the rise in food bank use being the result of the charity’s leaders “aggressively marketing their services” and “effectively running a business”.

At least one commenter on this blog has been completely taken in by the DWP’s prattling, claiming that demand for food banks has not risen at all since Cameron came to office. No, it’s clear to this demented individual that opening a food bank anywhere is like opening a supermarket – if there isn’t one nearby already, people will flock through your doors.

This, of course, completely misconstrues the way food banks are used and assumes that anyone can walk through their doors, claim food poverty and take away a packet of supplies whenever they want. It doesn’t work like that.

Food banks operate on a referral system. As Trussell Trust chairman Chris Mould put it in an Observer report: “You can’t get free food from the Trussell Trust by walking through the door and asking for it; you must have a voucher. More than 24,000 professionals – half of whom work in the public sector and health service, the police, and in social services – ask us to give this food to clients of theirs because they’ve made the decision that this individual or family is in dire straits and needs help. We’re not drumming up demand.”

This is absolutely correct and no amount of negative campaigning by the DWP can change it. In fact, Mr Gauke spent some time crowing about the fact the DWP rules have been altered to allow “signposting” to food banks by Job Centre advisors, in his Channel 4 News interview (although claiming credit for government employees sending people to someone else, rather than providing help themselves, is in itself a mean-spirited shot in the foot).

Once again, the Conservatives are getting stuck in the mire while trying to claim the moral high ground.

Not only have they created a poverty-driven starvation threat that organisations like the Trussell Trust have been forced to step in and fight, but the Tories have also tried to vilify those good people for laying the blame where it belongs.

It is a situation so twisted, there can be no wonder the Tories are tying themselves in knots.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political needs your help!
This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions.
Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going.
You can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Alternatively, you can buy the first Vox Political book,
Strong Words and Hard Times
in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

UK involvement in Ukraine is just a lot of gas

Battlefield: Independence Square in Kiev after clashes on February 20.

Battlefield: Independence Square in Kiev after clashes on February 20. [Image: AFP]

It isn’t often that Vox Political discusses foreign affairs; this would usually involve mentioning that national disaster, William Hague. But we’ll make an exception in the case of Ukraine.

If you don’t know that thinly-disguised Russian soldiers have occupied the Crimea, which is currently Ukrainian, you’d probably have to be living in a hole in the desert.

Russia says this is entirely justified, but the position is not clear-cut.

It seems this crisis started after a pro-Russian Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, decided to abandon plans for co-operation with Europe in favour of allying his country more closely with Russia.

At the time, Ukraine was deeply in debt and facing bankruptcy, with £21 billion needed to get through the current financial year and 2015. The country cannot call on the same financial levers as the UK, meaning this is a serious issue. How fortunate, then, that Russia was on hand to buy $15 billion of Ukrainian debt and reduce the price of Russian gas supplies by around one-third.

Gas. Ukraine produces around a quarter of its own supply and imports the rest from Russia and Asia, through pipelines that Russia controls. These pipelines continue into Europe, providing supplies to Western countries as well.

The alignment with Russia sparked huge popular protests which quickly escalated into violence. Even though Yanukovych gain office through an election that was judged free and fair by observers, it seems clear his pro-Russian policies do not have the support of the people. But Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, and most of its population are Russians.

Then on February 22, Yanukovych did a runner to Russia, from where – surprisingly – he has claimed he is still President of Ukraine. Politicians in Kiev thought differently and have named their own interim president until elections can take place in May. It is this action that sparked rival protests in Crimea, where people appear to support the previous, pro-Russian policies.

Troops, apparently in Russian uniforms, have appeared across the Crimea, besieging Ukrainian forces and effectively taking control. It has been suggested that Russian President Putin sent them in response to a request from Yanukovych, but Putin denies this. Crimea’s parliament has asked to join Russia.

There is also the matter of the Russian naval base on the Crimean Black Sea coast. This seems uncontroversial, though, as Ukraine had agreed to allow Russia to keep it.

To sum up:

It seems that most of Ukraine wants to keep Russia at arms’ length; but it must still find a way to pay back its debts.

It seems that most of Crimea wants to rejoin Russia. This will be tested in a referendum on March 16.

It seems that Western European countries like the UK are desperate to condemn Russia for interfering in Ukraine. Concerns were raised on the BBC’s Question Time last Thursday that the referendum will be rigged, but we have no evidence to suggest that will happen – independent observers have reported that previous exercises of democracy have been free and fair.

It seems hypocritical of us to condemn Russia’s intervention in a place where that country’s citizens are threatened by violence. What did we do when the Falkland Islands were invaded in 1982 – and have we not stood firm against threats to those islands ever since? Nor can we criticise Russia for invading a country on a flimsy pretext – Iraq springs to mind.

So what’s it all about?

Gas.

It seems most likely that, because most of Western Europe’s supply of Russian gas comes through Ukraine, we are far more concerned about our energy supply than about local democracy in an eastern European country. The UK, along with France and Germany and no doubt many others, wants to ensure that this supply is not interrupted as this could seriously jeopardise our ability to generate power.

… And if that isn’t a powerful reason for this country to invest massively in renewable energy generation, it’s hard to find one. What possible advantage is there in putting ourselves at the mercy of another country – especially one that has been less than friendly to us in the past?

It seems the only reason the UK has for outrage is the possibility of violence. We know that military intervention in the affairs of another country doesn’t work; nobody can parachute in, effect regime change, and leave a stable democracy running smoothly behind them. We should have learned our lessons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

Unfortunately, it seems that only a minority are willing to speak up and admit this – headed most visibly by Russia Today presenter Abby Martin, who delivered an impassioned denouncement of Russia’s involvement. “I will not sit here and apologise for or defend military action,” she said.

Nor should we.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political is an independent political blog.
We don’t receive any funding other than contributions from readers.
Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going.
You can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Alternatively, you can buy the first Vox Political book,
Strong Words and Hard Times
in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

No justice for legal aid as Grayling ignores thousands of consultation responses

Blind Justice: In Tory-led Britain, it's also deaf. And ignorant. In fact, can it really be described as 'justice' at all?

Blind Justice: In Tory-led Britain, it’s also deaf. And ignorant. In fact, can it really be described as ‘justice’ at all?

A story has appeared on the BBC News website, stating that elite barristers have joined the chorus of opposition to the government’s plan to cut legal aid for criminal cases by almost a quarter.

It states that the Treasury Counsel, a group appointed by the Attorney General to prosecute the most serious crimes, has followed the lead of the Bar Council and the Law Society in saying the plan to cut £220 million from the annual £1 billion legal aid budget is unsustainable.

This is accurate, but fails to address the most damning indictment against Chris Grayling and the Ministry of Justice in this matter.

According to the Treasury Counsel’s written response: “HM Government has indicated that it rejects or can ignore much of the content of the thousands of Consultation Responses, …particularly as to the future effect on the supply and quality of criminal advocacy services from the proposed changes to legal aid funding.”

It continues: “Criminal legal aid remuneration is identified as an appropriate target for ‘reduction’: this is based on a ‘belief’. The belief is that ‘further efficiency and cost savings in criminal legal aid remuneration” are both possible and sustainable’.”

This means that Chris Grayling and his cronies have decided to ignore evidence-based opposition to their plans because of an unfounded, unquantifiable “belief” that cutting funding will not affect the quality of the legal advice available in criminal cases.

If this matter were itself a court case, it could be settled with a simple question: When has this ever been proved in the past?

Can you think of any time when cutting budgets has not harmed a service – or actually improved it? Of course not.

The response – written by people who are appointed by the Coalition Government’s own Attorney General, let’s not forget, and who may therefore be taken as broadly sympathetic to its aims, continues: “The Minister of State said, ‘This is a comprehensive package of reform, based on extensive consultation. I believe it  offers value for the taxpayer, stability for the professions, and access to justice for all’… yet the Impact Assessment attached to the new Paper simply makes no attempt to evaluate or monetise the behavioural changes that will most certainly result from its proposals.

The entirely obvious and predictable outcomes are lost quality and reduced supply. These are airbrushed in the Impact Assessment by repeated “steady state” assumptions. The behavioural changes are not then, uncertain. Neither will any steady state remain. They are, though, unpalatable; they will not improve the public interest.

“In a telling acknowledgment of this, the Ministry in its new consultation paper wholly abdicates its responsibility for this assessment by first making neutral assumptions and then asking the consultees what the impact will be. The Minister of State has lifted his telescope to his bad eye.

The assessment of the Treasury Counsel is that cumulative changes since 1997, and a real terms cut of nearly half since 2007, mean Grayling’s proposals “will do significant harm to the operation of the criminal justice system… In particular, they will have both an adverse and disproportionate effect on the supply of such services by the acknowledged experts – the criminal Bar”.

Not only that, but the response says the cuts could be achieved in less harmful ways, such as “the proper working through of existing changes. Or, for example, in the proper letting and administration of government contracts for CJS services; court interpreters, custodians and other activities are telling examples of incompetent administration and wasting money – and these on services ancillary to the main process, that are provided by trading companies rather than professionally regulated people.”

In other words, allowing the market into the Criminal Justice Service (that’s the ‘CJS’ in the quotation) has lowered its quality and increased its cost.

The bottom line: “We consider that the proposed reductions, in whichever iteration, are unnecessary, have an effect much larger than claimed and will produce unsustainable results.” In terms of quality of service, it seems that it is the government’s proposals that are unaffordable.

The Attorney General himself, Dominic Grieve, indicated his own lack of enthusiasm for the proposals in a letter to the Bar Council in June. This accepted that opposition to the proposals cannot be explained away by self-interest, acknowledging that there is serious and principled opposition to the proposals which cannot be attributed to mere selfishness.

“Many… took the view that these proposals would cause the edifice to collapse,” he wrote, adding that he would continue to draw Grayling’s attention to the concerns that had been expressed to him.

It seems, considering the latest developments, that the Ministry of Justice not only has a bad eye but also a deaf ear.

What a shame its members are not speechless as well. For the sake of balance, here’s what a Ministry spokesperson had to say: “At around £2 billion a year we have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world and even after our changes would still have one of the most generous. We agree legal aid is a vital part of our justice system and that’s why we have to find efficiencies to ensure it remains sustainable and available to those most in need of a lawyer.

“We have engaged constructively and consistently with lawyers – including revising our proposals in response to their comments – and to allege we have not is re-writing history.”

Is it constructive for a government department to ignore evidence that it has specifically requested?

Is it consistent to run a consultation process, and then throw away the results because they don’t agree with ministers’ “belief”?

Of course not.

Grayling’s plans are ideologically-based and entirely unsupportable and should be laughed out of court.