Tag Archives: tsar

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

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

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

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

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

Her announcement came after some embarrassing revelations became public:

Worse was to come:

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

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

The stink of corrupt cronyism is ripe here.

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

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

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

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

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Was John Mann a ‘fifth-columnist’ for the Conservatives all along?

John Mann.

My first reaction to the defection of John Mann to the Tory government, where he intends to be their ‘anti-Semitism tsar’, was: “Good riddance!”

He has been an irritant in the Labour Party ever since Jeremy Corbyn became leader.

And his decision to join the government raises serious questions about this behaviour.

Remember this, back in 2016?

Mr Mann was lying – or at least, inaccurate – in his claim that Mr Livingstone had said “Hitler was a Zionist.” He had said no such thing but the accusation stuck, due to the support of others who may have had a political axe to grind.

Eventually Mr Livingstone was forced to quit the Labour Party, because of a trumped-up, meaningless accusation. As he was a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, the short-term effect was to weaken the Labour leader’s position.

Fortunately, support from the party’s grassroots membership means Mr Corbyn’s opponents have not been able to capitalise on that.

And now Mr Mann has jumped ship, joining the Conservative government.

He has announced that he will retire as Labour MP for Bassetlaw at the next general election (which we all expect will take place before the end of 2019). He has been appointed as a Crossbench peer in Theresa May’s Resignation Honours list – and this has raised suspicion.

The independent watchdog on Lords appointments warned that it would set a dangerous precedent and could be seen as a bribe – or perhaps as a reward for services rendered?

Whatever the fact of the matter, the decision to join the Tories casts doubt on all Mr Mann’s activities in accusing fellow Labour members of anti-Semitism.

Was there a political motive to his claims?

It seems clear that any cases brought against members on his word should be re-opened and the evidence re-examined – at the very least.

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Celebrations in Labour as Mann quits to become Tory anti-Semitism ‘tsar’

John Mann.

John Mann, the MP who falsely accused Ken Livingstone of saying Hitler was a Zionist (he didn’t) and who discriminated against gypsy travellers in an election leaflet, has quit the Labour Party to become the Conservative government’s “anti-Semitism” tsar.

The language is ambiguous here; under the tsars, Russian Jews suffered a huge amount of persecution.

Mr Mann won the enmity of right-thinking people across the UK after he falsely accused Ken Livingstone of saying “Hitler was a Zionist” in an infamous confrontation in a stairwell, where he had somehow managed to rustle up a camera crew out of nowhere to film the moment. This move to the Conservatives casts into doubt the sincerity of everything he said and did in relation to this matter.

But his own credentials in fighting racism are not spotless; a gypsy traveller named Ben Bennett complained to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn about a leaflet Mr Mann issued in 2016, highlighting a section on “Travellers” and a passage which stated: “The police have powers to remove any Gypsies or Travellers and have powers to direct people to leave the land and remove any vehicles or property they have with them, if they believe, Trespass is occurring.”

The matter was referred to the police, who interviewed Mr Mann before sending a letter to the Bennett family, saying they had offered “advice to Mr Mann concerning the section entitled ‘Travellers’, including any further publication of the booklet, on the basis that it should identify the problem… and not single out a group of people as responsible for the problem… We also advised that any further publication of the booklet would require that the advice it contains would need to be updated.”

The letter also described Mr Mann’s behaviour as “this hate incident”.

https://twitter.com/toughermintrude/status/1170487248187482118

He’s a shady character and the Labour Party is better off without him.

So when The Sunday Times tried to describe the defection as follows…

… it sparked a tidal wave of derision:

“Are you kidding? We’re all f**king delirious! It’s like an early Christmas present!” tweeted Richard Oneill.

And there were many more comments on the same lines.

The Prole Star: “Mann gets out ahead of the trigger ballot that would have deselected him – and good riddance at long last!”

Buddy Hell: “Aren’t you overlooking the obvious? He isn’t Jewish. It’s like appointing Toby Young to the role of Women’s ‘tsar’. He’s also an anti-Gypsy racist. I guess you’re okay with anti-Gypsy racism, no?”

Kathryn Houghton: “Correction: The Labour Party is celebrating after the slithering snake @JohnMannMP FINALLY left the Labour Party to take up his rightful place working officially for his beloved Tory party.”

Rabble Cat: “If Mann jumping ship before he loses his seat in an election is Labour civil war, what would you call the mass exodus from the Tory party? Nuclear war!”

Audrey: “Oh @JohnMannMP I’m so sorry to hear this. ..you were such a great MP. Always fighting for Labour and your consti.. Just kidding.. Not a min too soon. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out. While you’re at it, can you take Watson with you? Cheers.”

Oh, and he couldn’t even get the timing of his announcement right. Hoping to get the lead on the 10 o’clock TV news bulletins, to turn the focus on allegations of Labour anti-Semitism again, he was overshadowed by the resignation from the government of Amber Rudd. Note also the comment by Suzy S:

Fellow Labour MP Wes Streeting, who has also fallen foul of This Site and many right-thinking people in the recent past, praised Mr Mann for his move – and got the response he deserved:

And one last pertinent point from Matt Thomas:

Fair comment?

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Adonis quits as ‘infrastructure tsar’ over Theresa May’s Brexit – in the most damaging way possible

Andrew Adonis said Brexit was ‘a dangerous populist and nationalist spasm worthy of Donald Trump’ [Image: Martin Godwin for the Guardian].

Let us be clear from the start: This Writer is not a fan of Andrew Adonis. He was a Blairite who was too keen to introduce the private sector into public service.

I’m aware that he regretted introducing tuition fees, but he still went through with the introduction of the policy.

So his appointment as “infrastructure tsar” for a Conservative government did not surprise me in the least.

His resignation – on the prejudicial terms that have come to light – has. Pleasantly!

Put simply, it is hard to see how Lord Adonis could have spoken out more strongly against Mrs May, her government, her legislative strategy and her abilities in general. He’s given her a right old trashing.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at his resignation letter – the actual letter, not the sanitised version put out by Mrs May’s government. She tried a bit of damage control here, but Lord Adonis wasn’t having any of it. Here’s the unredacted version:

“The European Union Withdrawal Bill is the worst legislation of my lifetime.”

He has accused Theresa May of being the worst lawmaker to head the United Kingdom since 1963. That’s quite an achievement!

“Brexit is a populist and nationalist spasm worthy of Donald Trump.”

This is not meant kindly. He is saying that the voters who gave Brexit its miniscule majority engaged their emotions – not their brains – in doing so, and in so doing, have condemned the United Kingdom to a long period of suffering.

“By allying with UKIP and the Tory hard right to wrench Britain out of the key economic and political institutions of modern Europe, you are pursuing a course fraught with danger.”

He is accusing Mrs May of pushing herself and the Conservative Party to an unacceptably right-wing position politically. There is nothing intelligent about her action or intention, he is saying. She is dismantling the UK’s ability to make its way in the world, with no alternatives lined up to take the place of the current systems.

“If Brexit happens, taking us back into Europe will become the mission of our children’s generation, who will marvel at your acts of destruction.”

Hard right-wing and Brextremist commentators have already raised issue with the “if” at the start of this sentence. Lord Adonis is saying that Brexit should not happen; that it is the worst possible course of action for the United Kingdom and that we will waste generations trying to win back the ground that a few hard-line jingoistic nationalists are determined to throw away on behalf of the rest of us. He is right. Brexit will be cripplingly damaging. There is no argument against halting it. Saying “We had a democratic vote” means nothing when you add the required caveat “that makes absolutely no sense at all”.

For those who are determined to force their version of democracy on us, I like to reference Alan Moore’s classic line about democracy. Suppose every animal on Earth had sentience and was able to vote on what we all had for breakfast, with the result as enforceable as Brexit seems to be for the Brextremists. Human beings would vote for bacon and eggs, or porridge, or some accepted breakfast food, right? And then billions upon billions of ants and other insects would vote for excrement. We would all end up eating sh*t in the name of democracy.

That’s a pretty good metaphor for what Brexit will do to the United Kingdom, as everybody with an ounce of sanity knows.

The line about future generations marvelling at Theresa May’s “acts of destruction” may seem pessimistic to some, but Lord Adonis is saying that a certain proportion of the current generation is too blinkered to accept the facts. Future generations won’t have the prejudices of the current age to blind them and will have bitter experience to inform their actions.

All in all, therefore – and this is what Lord Adonis is saying – the only sane policy is to scrap Brexit altogether.

“A responsible government would be leading the British people to stay in Europe while also tackling, with massive vigour, the social and economic problems within Britain which contribute to the Brexit vote. Unfortunately, your policy is the reverse.”

He’s saying the Conservative government under Theresa May is irresponsible. With regard to Brexit, dangerously irresponsible.

“The Government is hurtling towards the EU’s emergency exit with no credible plan for the future of British trade and European co-operation, all the while ignoring – beyond soundbites and inadequate programmes – the crises of housing, education, the NHS, and social and regional inequality which are undermining the fabric of our nation and feeding a populist surge.”

Okay, this part is quite involved. In a nutshell, Lord Adonis is saying that the narrow vote in favour of Brexit was informed by the crises mentioned here – in housing, education, the NHS, social and regional inequality. These are all products of almost 40 years of useless neoliberal policies that have dismantled the perfectly capable state system we had before in favour of an anarchic private-enterprise hell in which the rich exploit the poor to their death while telling them immigrants and foreigners are to blame for their predicament.

“I would have been obliged to resign from the Commission… because of the Transport Secretary’s indefensible decision to bail out the Stagecoach/Virgin East Coast rail franchise. The bailout will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds, possibly billions if other loss-making rail companies demand equal treatment. It benefits only the billionaire owners of these companies and their shareholders, while pushing rail fares still higher and threatening national infrastructure investment. It is even more inexcusable given the Brexit squeeze on public spending.”

This is a reference to the government’s decision to spend public money bailing out a private company that has tried to run a privatised railway line and failed. The Conservative government is committed to the neoliberal ideology that privatisation produces more efficient and profitable services, but the East Coast rail franchise proves that it doesn’t. This is not acceptable to the Tories so they are determined to sink millions (or perhaps billions) of pounds of your money and mine into keeping it in private hands, rather than simply re-nationalising it, for the good of the country.

Note also that Brexit is forcing a reduction in public spending. The Leave campaign swore to us – promised us fervently, day in, day out – that Brexit would provide more money for public services, from the moment the decision was made. Clearly that was a lie. It seems idiotic, therefore, to expect the floodgates to open and money to come pouring into the UK, the moment our departure from the EU takes place.

We are going to be poorer – significantly so – after Brexit. Unless you are a company director, you may be driven to extreme poverty. If you voted in favour of that, ask yourself why.

“Astonishingly, Stagecoach has not only been bailed out: it remains on the shortlist for the next three rail franchises.”

If anyone can explain this, please do. It makes no commercial sense whatsoever.

“Brexit is causing a nervous breakdown across Whitehall and conduct unworthy of Her Majesty’s Government. I am told, by those of longer experience, that it resembles Suez and the bitter industrial strife of the 1970s, both of which endangered not only national integrity but the authority of the state itself.”

A “nervous breakdown”? Yes, that seems accurate.

“Conduct unworthy of Her Majesty’s Government”? Yes – David Davis alone bears out that claim.

A danger to “the authority of the state itself”? Certainly.

Nobody This Writer knows has anything but contempt for Theresa May, her government, and its conduct – and Lord Adonis, having made exactly the right points, will only deepen that contempt across the UK.

Andrew Adonis, the former Labour minister, has resigned as chair of the government-backed National Infrastructure Commission in protest at Theresa May’s management of Brexit, describing the process as “a dangerous populist and nationalist spasm worthy of Donald Trump”.

The former transport secretary headed the body that makes recommendations to the government on projects such as the high-speed rail link HS2. Most recently he recommended that 1m new homes be built in the “brain belt” spanning Oxford, Cambridge and Milton Keynes.

He resigned with a strongly worded letter accusing the prime minister of becoming the “voice of Ukip” and pursuing policies that he said would leave Britain in “splendid isolation”.

Adonis said he would be “duty bound” to oppose the government’s EU withdrawal bill, which will reach the House of Lords in the new year. He described the bill – the government’s flagship piece of Brexit legislation – as “the worst legislation of my lifetime”.

He said Britain could have left the EU, abiding by the result of the 2016 referendum, “without rupturing our essential European trade and political relations”. Instead, the prime minister had “become the voice of Ukip and the extreme nationalist rightwing of your party”.

Source: Andrew Adonis quits as Theresa May’s infrastructure tsar over Brexit | Politics | The Guardian


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Thatcher’s privatisation tsar will be the BBC’s new chair. What do you think he’ll do?

Sir David Clementi. The government adopted the recommendations of his report, which called the BBC Trust flawed and said oversight should be handed to Ofcom [Image: David Hartley/Rex/Shutterstock].

The Guardian‘s report on the appointment of Sir David Clementi as the new chair of the BBC misses two important points: He was formerly in charge of Margaret Thatcher’s privatisation programme, and he never applied for the job.

See for yourself, here:

And here:

Now, why do you think the Conservative Government would give the BBC to their arch-privatiser, even though he didn’t ask for the job?

We’ll have to keep this one under very careful scrutiny.

Sir David Clementi, a former banker with no broadcasting experience, has been confirmed as the new chair of the BBC.

Theresa May has confirmed the appointment of Clementi, the preferred candidate put forward by culture secretary Karen Bradley, who will lead the corporation’s new unitary board that will replace the BBC Trust on 1 April.

“I am confident that Sir David will provide the strong leadership necessary for the BBC to remain the world’s best broadcaster,” said Bradley.

“Sir David will bring a wealth of experience to the role and was the strongest candidate in an extremely competitive and high-calibre field. He has extensive experience as a chairman in both the commercial and not-for-profit sector and has a strong regulatory and business background. I am confident that under his direction, the nation’s broadcaster will continue to go from strength to strength.”

Source: Sir David Clementi confirmed as new BBC chair | Media | The Guardian

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Three words for the Coalition: Mathematics, mathematics, mathematics!

Mr Osborne probably couldn't help him. It's possible the Coalition's maths problems have been caused by the fact that a towel-folder is in charge of the economy.

Mr Osborne probably couldn’t help him. It’s possible the Coalition’s maths problems have been caused by the fact that a towel-folder is in charge of the economy.

Back in 2010, when he still thought he could win an election fairly, David Cameron mocked Tony Blair’s famous “Education, education, education” speech by saying he could sum up his priorities in three letters: “N-H-S.”

He was, as we have discovered with Mr Cameron, completely wrong. He did need three words after all.

Mr Cameron’s priorities should have been: “Mathematics, mathematics, mathematics.”

Here’s why:

Sticking with the medical theme, it turns out that the government’s figures on the number of new midwives entering the NHS are inaccurate.

Before the general election, according to the BBC website, Mr Cameron promised to increase the number of midwives by 3,000. Despite creating 5,000 training places, however, this has not been translated into jobs and figures from the Royal College of Midwives show the number of midwives in employment has increased by just 145.

Challenged by this on his weekly radio show, Nick Clegg said the government had not deceived anyone but was putting more money into ensuring there are more midwives who are properly qualified to work in the NHS.

Anyone can see that this is not what Mr Cameron promised. Was the government deceiving us? Or was it incompetent and simply got its sums wrong?

Let’s look at another example: The government’s so-called ‘troubled families tsar’, Louise Casey, has admitted its claim that there are 120,000 such families in the UK is inaccurate. “The number came from Labour research on disadvantaged families with multiple and complex needs, rather than families that caused problems,” according to an interview in The Guardian.

In fact, her initiative has been working with 23,000 families and has succeeded with 1,675 – whose children are now attending school regularly and not committing crime, while the adults have found work, triggering a £4,000 bonus for local councils dealing with each of these families.

More disturbing was the claim that, “if we take that 120,000 figure, give it to local authorities, give them the criteria behind troubled families, and they can populate it, which they have done, with real names, real addresses, real people – then I am getting on with the job”.

Hang on! Is she saying that she’ll shoehorn families into her definition of ‘troubled’, whether they qualify or not, just to make up the numbers?

Finally, the BBC revealed today that the Benefit Cap, limiting the amount of state benefit available for British households to £500 per week, will affect far fewer households than originally estimated.

The government said 56,000 households would have their benefits reduced – by an average of £93 per week. This would save £275 million per year. In fact, it now expects only 40,000 to be affected. That’s a drop of nearly 29 per cent – not 25 per cent, as the BBC article, itself, inaccurately states. Perhaps reporter Ross Hawkins got his figures from the government.

This means the saving goes down to around £196,500,000.

The Department for Work and Pensions says the change is because more people are seeking help to get into work, but this won’t wash. If they’re seeking help, they haven’t actually found work.

Could this be another situation like we had recently, when Grant Shapps claimed the number of people claiming ESA had dropped by 878,000 since new assessment criteria came in, only for it to be revealed that this was perfectly normal with such claims, and the people who had dropped off had either got better or found work they could do despite their disability (in other words, they had complied with the terms of the benefit and found a way not to have to claim it), or they had died?

Number-crunchers will be watching these figures carefully.

If we are to draw any conclusion from this, it is that this Coalition government is extremely cavalier about the figures it uses to support its policies.

To summarise: The Coalition cannot be trusted to do its sums properly.

Mathematics, mathematics, mathematics, Mr Cameron. We all guessed you wouldn’t understand its importance when you appointed class dunce Michael Gove as Education Secretary.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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