Posts Tagged ‘Deaths’

Bristol South Labour Party’s Motion Demanding Action and Leadership from Starmer and Dodds

June 19, 2021

Mike has put up a chilling post this morning revealing a hidden truth about the recent Lib Dem by-election victory in Amersham and Chesham. They won not because there is actually a revival in that awful party’s fortunes, but because of tactical voting and the almost complete collapse of the Labour vote. Labour got only 622 votes, 1.6 per cent of the total, and lost their deposit. And I don’t doubt for a single minute that it’s because of Keir Starmer’s abysmal leadership. He has spent all his time and energy as leader persecuting the left, all under the specious pretence of fighting anti-Semitism. He has broken every one of the promises he made to support Labour’s genuinely popular manifesto commitments. These were for nationalised utilities, a renationalised NHS, a proper welfare state, and strong unions and workers’ rights. He showed his contempt to the party’s Black members through his offhand, lacklustre support for Black Lives Matter and by refusing to investigate or punish the bullies responsible for the racist abuse and treatment of Diane Abbott and other Black MPs and activists. And more significantly, he has done precious little to attack the Tories and hold Boris Johnson accountable for the deaths resulting from his bungled Covid policy, the corruption which has seen the Etonian fraud grant government contracts to his friends’ companies, the continuing assaults on democracy and free speech, the absence of any genuinely beneficial trade deals for Britain as a result of Brexit, and the descent into rioting and unrest in Ireland.

All of these issues are open goals. But I’ve seen precious little comment from Starmer on any of them. One internet commenter has already posted that Cummings seems to be doing more damage to the Tories than him. And I agree.

As a result, Bristol South Labour party passed a motion Thursday night to invite Anneliese Dodds down to the constituency to hear our concerns about the lack of leadership. It’s an amended motion. The original explicitly called upon Starmer to make his presence felt and start showing that Labour had good, viable policies. This was altered because some members felt that Starmer was already doing something towards this with his policy review.

“Social Change Motion

The dark days of WW2 exposed a desperate need for radical social change in Britain.  The Labour Party took on the challenge and delivered the miracle of our Welfare State.

Most of the years since then have seen a Tory hegemony; the last decade in particular has brought about a devastating erosion of all our public services; the crisis today is scarcely less urgent than that of 1945. Just as during the war, the Covid pandemic has thrown into harsh light how grievous the levels of need have become – in health, education, housing, social care and now, of course, climate change.  The whole country is witnessing this and is desperate for signs of future hope and change.

Hope can come only from a Labour Government in power with a bold and radical agenda for change.  We know, however, that to achieve this will require extraordinary action – not only an inspired and inspiring manifesto but an imaginative co-operation within the parties of the Left.  Clearly. some form of PR will be necessary if the Tories are to be held in check in the long term.  Equally clear is the need for Labour to stop its factional infighting and concentrate on winning the next election.  

Our Leadership’s current policy of holding the Government to account for its handling of Covid and for its many other failings is right and necessary but it is nowhere near sufficient to the country’s needs.  The time for radical change is now.  The country is ready to listen now and it is high time for it to hear what the Labour Party stands for.

The path to victory in 2024 must be opened up without delay.  This branch therefore calls upon our Leadership to set aside their present caution – and reliance on focus groups -and respond to the country’s urgent needs.

Action: to invite Annelise Dodds** in her role in co-ordinating the NPF consultation to a Bristol South CLP meeting to hear and address the concerns expressed above.

Amendment to add: Action: Invite Annelise Dodds** in her role in co-ordinating the NPF consultation to a Bristol South CLP meeting to hear and address the concerns expressed above.”

The motion shows the depth of concern Bristol South CLP has with the lack of action and leadership on Starmer’s part. Some of those who actively campaigned during the council elections said they were told by people on the doorsteps that they were voting Green, because they didn’t know what Labour stood for. The party has some excellent Green policies, but these haven’t been sufficiently communicated to the public.

I honestly don’t know what would come of inviting Dodds down to hear the concerns of the constituency party. Given the highly authoritarian and dictatorial leadership style, precious little. It seems that Starmer’s and the party bureaucracy’s response to criticism is to suspend the critics. But they and Starmer are leading the party to disaster. He can’t blame Corbyn, or the continuing power of the left. Labour’s poor showing in the elections is due to him and him alone.

He should now either start showing real leadership and demonstrably oppose Johnson, or he should leave and make way for those who will.

Labour suffers worst by-election result in party’s history. Will Starmer accept the blame? | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Right-Wing Internet Host Belfield Now Pushing for NHS Privatisation

May 7, 2021

It’s now the morning after the council and elected mayoral elections that were being held up and down the country yesterday. And to no-one’s surprise, Labour lost the Hartlepool bye-election to the Tories. The media commenters have identified Brexit as the cause of the defeat. For those of us on the left of the party, Brexit was a major factor, but it was also partly due to the shoddy, ineffectual leadership and arrogance of the current leader, Keir Starmer. Starmer parachuted into Hartlepool his preferred candidate, a Remainer, over the heads of local Labour party members, activists and supporters. Mike on Vox Political predicted that this would lead to defeat, and so it did. Because of this, the right-wingers on the Net were putting up videos stating that Labour was insulting Hartlepool’s working people. This was further compounded by the fact that Starmer has been such an ineffective opposition leader, that some people didn’t know who he was. Mahyar Tousi, one of the Brexiteers with arch-Thatcherite views, included a clip from Sky News on his video about Labour in Hartlepool yesterday. This showed Starmer earnestly talking to people. The presenter then stopped a passing woman and asked her if she knew who that man was over there. She didn’t. The presenter told her it was Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour party. The woman still didn’t know. So much for Starmer’s glittering leadership.

And it was also yesterday that right-wing internet radio host, Alex Belfield, put up a video openly calling for the NHS to be handed over to private management. This isn’t the first time he’s done this, and I doubt that it will be the last. He’s already put up videos with titles like ‘Private NHS Now’. Belfield is vehemently against the lockdown, which he feels is unnecessary and actually harmful, as it has prevented the elderly in nursing homes being visited and comforted by their relatives. It has also created another crisis in the NHS, as the concentration on the Coronavirus has meant routine operations, examinations and treatment have been postponed to the point that waiting times have increased. Highly vulnerable people, like those suffering from cancer, are going untreated.

This is a terrible problem, and much of it, like the grotesque mishandling of the Coronavirus crisis that has seen well over 100,000 die from the disease, can be put down to Boris Johnson’s ineptitude and his cavalier disregard for human life over the economy. Plus the way the NHS has been run down, starved of funds and partially privatised over the past ten years.

But not to Belfield. The ginger-headed man with the tiny man-sausage, as he has described himself, knows better. He put up a rant yesterday claiming that it was all due to increased bureaucracy and ‘box-ticking Celia Imrie types’. Belfield has a feud going with the BBC, and he never fails to include jabs at that organisation. I don’t know whether he has anything against Celia Imrie, or whether it’s just he’s using the kind of parts she’s played as an example of a certain kind of fussy, totally unnecessary management type. You know, the sort of people the Golgafrinchams put into an ark to send into space and crash on Earth on the grounds that they were ‘a bunch of useless bloody loonies’ according to the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The solution, according to Belfield, is for the NHS to be handed over to private management.

This is no solution, as it is private management that has created this situation.

Jacky Davis and Ray Tallis have comprehensively shown in their book, NHS – SOS, that private enterprise is very definitely not as efficient as state healthcare. It’s actually more bureaucratic, as the US private healthcare companies can spend as much as 40-50 per cent of their income on management and legal issues. A book I bought a few years ago discussing the privatisation of healthcare in places like Canada as well as Britain found that the privatisation of parts of the health service over here had actually increased costs by 6 per cent. Parts of the NHS are being handed over to private management, and the effects are not good. Private enterprise is all about profit, not service, and so we’ve seen the private healthcare chains close down doctors surgeries even though they were needed by local people who were then left without a local GP. At the same time, Tory MPs have been demanding the levying of payments for users of certain NHS services, which are supposed to be free at the point of service.

This is all part of the long-time project of privatising the NHS, and turning it into a for-profit healthcare system like the American.

And Belfield is fully behind it.

Belfield likes to present himself as an ordinary working class lad without a degree, who’s despised by the middle class White liberals. His audience seem to be the middle aged, White working class, who feel left behind, excluded from political representation in favour of ethnic minorities. The kind of people, who voted for UKIP.

But these are exactly the people, who will suffer if Belfield’s political aims are realised. If Belfield and the other Tories have their way and privatise the NHS, it will be the working class – and that includes the White working class – who will struggle to pay for healthcare treatment. It’s already happening now, through hospital and GP closures due to private management. And thanks to the privatisation of the dentists, many people have been struggling for a long time to find dentists, who will take NHS patients.

Belfield may well be a working class lad, but his politics are those of the upper classes, who wish to impoverish and exploit working people.

And that means privatising the NHS, even, or especially, if it harms working people’s health.

They won’t care, so long as it turns a profit.

I’m not going to post his video, but if you want to see it, it’s on YouTube at Booze 🇬🇧 Disaster 🍻 Told Ya 🤦‍♂️ Chickens 🐓 Coming 🍺 Home To Roost 🍷 Price Of Last 14 Months – YouTube

Just remember, it is right-wing, pro-privatisation propaganda.

Bath Landlord Throws Starmer Out of His Pub

April 19, 2021

The right-wing press have been all over this story like a bad rash and put their videos of the incident up on YouTube, including the Scum, the Heil and mad right-wing internet radio host Alex Belfield. It has also been on the local news. Starmer was out in the Georgian city trying meeting and greeting the general public for the mayoral and council elections next month. One member of the public he met was a very angry pub landlord. The publican was mad at the way the country had been locked down and the economy handicapped because of the Coronavirus. He showed Starmer a graph and quoted stats, which he said came from the British Medical Journal, that the average age of death was 82 years, whilst previously it had been 81. Or something like that. Thanks to the lockdown, he claimed we have the highest levels of debt since 2008. He then said that the country’s economy’s been destroyed to prevent old people from dying. He gave the graph to Starmer, who in the clip I’ve seen put up by Belfield in his video on it, shows Starmer apparently walking away with it unable to reply. The landlord described himself as ‘gracefully incandescent’. He then became absolutely furious because Starmer tried to enter the pub. The landlord told him he was not wanted in his pub, and tried to throw him out. At which one of Starmer’s goons stood in front of the man and kept advancing until the poor fellow was pushed back down the stairs to one of his other bars. Starmer and his part then left the pub to not a few raised eyebrows and doubtless comments from some of the drinkers outside.

Belfield says in his video that this has ended Starmer’s career and made the Labour party unelectable. He’s forgotten that he’s a public servant, and has acted in an entitled, thuggish manner. Just like all of the politicians, including ‘Worzel’ Boris Johnson. Well, as a man of the right, Belfield naturally hates Starmer and the Labour party, and he very strongly and vocally opposes the lockdown. He has also been saying many times in his videos that Starmer and Labour are finished, because they aren’t an opposition.

This is a story that I find particularly interesting, as Bath’s only a few miles from my part of South Bristol, and I worked there a long time ago. It’s a beautiful city, but like towns everywhere it does have its problems. Way back in the 1980s they had riots. Because it’s a major British tourist attraction, it’s a very expensive to live in. I certainly don’t share the landlord’s views on the lockdown. The elderly have the same right to life as everyone else, and while they may be the principal victims of the Coronavirus, we’ve seen that they aren’t the only victims. It has also disproportionately affected Blacks, Asians and ethnic minorities, as well as the disabled. Over the past year we’ve seen dedicated health professionals killed by this terrible disease, and BoJob was hospitalized because of it, though whether there was actually any danger of it carrying the vile liar off is moot. But the landlord isn’t alone in his views. The local news in Bristol and the surrounding area have featured other pub landlords and small business people talking about how they’ve been hit by the lockdown. As the pubs have just been tentatively allowed to reopen, it was almost to be expected that Starmer would be faced with questions about its necessity. Belfield states that instead of trying to enter the pub without the landlord’s permission, he should simply have sat down with him and debated the topic. But it seems he didn’t. I do wonder why he wasn’t able to do so. Senior politicos at his level have people to brief them, but either they didn’t or Starmer ignored them.

I also wonder why he tried going into the pub if he was unable to answer the landlord or discuss it with him. If I’d been in his position, I think I would have politely thanked him for sharing his opinion and then moved on. After all, a cold or hostile reception from a member of the public is an occupational hazard for every politician. Some of us can still remember the video of Tweezer being politely told ‘No, thank you’, when she tried campaigning on a street in Scotland. And some of us can remember the Scum’s gloating article about an old lady hitting Arthur Scargill with a tin when he was speaking somewhere during the miners’ strike. My great-grandfather was a member of the Fabian Society, who used to speak at Speaker’s Corner in one of Bristol’s parks. My gran told me how he was also abused and had objects thrown at him. But for some weird reason, Starmer doesn’t know how to handle the public.

Unfortunately, Belfield is right about him. He’s a terrible political leader. He doesn’t oppose the government but then, I don’t think that was why the Blairites in the party wanted him elected. He was put in power to secure the party for the neoliberal right. Hence the purge of socialists and people, who hold the traditional, genuine Labour values and policies – strong welfare state, and unions, a mixed economy and a nationalised NHS that supplies universal treatment free at the point of delivery. Instead, he’s an opportunist who has no fixed policies and has broken his electoral promises to keep the genuinely popular policies that were in Labour’s manifesto last year. He and the NEC have attacked and undermined democracy in the Labour party itself. That’s shown not just in his purge of left-wingers, but also in his arrogant, arbitrary decision to bar the local party activists and politicos in Liverpool from standing for selection as Labour’s candidate for mayor of that great city. It was extremely high-handed and no explanation was given why the eminently suitable ladies, who had come forward, could not stand. The NEC had simply ruled, and could not be questioned.

All suggests that Starmer is personally dictatorial, who is absolutely unable to cope with not having his own way. If he can’t get it, he rides roughshod over people. And it’s not just his party members, but also the ordinary public, if his treatment of the pub landlord is anything to go by.

I fear Labour will take a very definite pounding in the elections next month because of Starmer’s incompetence and arrogant, entitled attitude. That’s going to be a disaster for the party and for the country, as it means that the Tories will be able to carry on with their horrific policies without an effective check. There are many principled, effective politicos in the party at both the national and local level, who are serious about representing their communities and restoring pride and prosperity to our great country and its awesome working people.

But they, and we, are going to be punished because of the sheer ineptitude, gracelessness and arrogance of Starmer.

By all rights, he should go, but I am very much afraid he, like the Blairites in general, will hang on, even if it means destroying the party.

Tories Now Want to Set Up Privately Run ‘Secure Schools’

April 10, 2021

This is really alarming, considering the appalling record of the outsourcing giants running the privatised prisons. Mike put up a piece yesterday suggesting a possible reason for Gavin Williamson’s absurd statement that pupils’ behaviour had got worse during the lockdown and absence from school. Mike and myself both noted that there was zero evidence for this. In fact a friend of mine, who is a school governor, believed the children at her school were actually better behaved. And it seems this friend isn’t alone. Mike put up a series of quotes from people in education saying very clearly that children’s behaviour hadn’t deteriorated. One of them even said it had improved. Williamson’s statement is thus pure nonsense.

But there is a possible explanation for it in the Tories’ proposed change to the school system, which in fact is a further expansion of the prison-industrial complex. He wants to introduce privately run ‘secure schools’. This sounds to many concerned educationalists like the return of the Young Offenders Institutions. One of those, who oppose this plan, is Zahra Bei, who fears that they will be a ‘fast track to prison’. The Tories have said that they won’t be ‘prisons with education’, but I really don’t put much faith in that considering the Tories appalling record of lying as easily as most people breathe. Private companies have so far been excluded from running such schools, but the government wants to reform this legislation so that they can do so under the guise of charities. This seems to me to be already a scandalous disaster in waiting, considering the mess companies like G4S, Serco and the rest of them have made of running adult prisons and migrant detention centres. It was only a few years ago that conditions in privately run prisons were so appalling that the prisoners were rioting. Private Eye has also run any number of stories in its ‘Footnotes’ or ‘In The Back Column’ about the tragic deaths of young people put in adult prisons, either by their own hand or murdered by their fellow inmates. The Tory plan to start building privately run prison schools seems to me to threaten the further deaths of vulnerable young people. And this is quite apart from the horrors of their predecessors, as depicted in films like Scum.

But I can see more children being unjustly sentenced to these places as the government and the companies running them want to turn a profit and give a nice, fat dividend to the shareholders. The ‘capped crusader’ Michael Moore gave an example of such a glaring miscarriage of justice in his documentary Capitalism – A Love Story. This was the case of a teenage American girl, who was sentenced to a spell in prison. The girl had committed a trivial offence. I can’t remember what it was – it may have been simply bunking off school or underage drinking. It certainly wasn’t anything more serious. It was the kind of crime which over here would be have been punished with a small fine or so many hours community service. Or simply being grounded by her parents and having her playstation taken away for the duration. But no, the beak decided that she was such a dangerous delinquent, that only a spell in the slammer would deter her from a life of crime. Well, actually, not quite. The real reason was that the judge was on the payroll of the private company running the prison. Their profits depend on people being put in them. Hence the incentive for the esteemed lawman to put a teenage girl behind bars.

And I’m afraid the same will happen here. Williamson’s comments about the bad behaviour of all those children coming back to school seems set to prime public opinion for it. The Tories are past masters at exploiting the public’s fear of rising crime, especially by the young. Children haven’t become worse behaved because of the lockdown. In fact, Mike’s probably right when he says that they may even have become more self-disciplined because of it. But Williamson needs people to believe that children’s behaviour has got worse, so that he then has a pretext for locking them up in his new, shiny, privately run educational prisons.

When they run the risk of really getting set on a career as a crime and a lifetime in prison, or brutalised by the staff employed by private companies running the schools or the other inmates, with the dreadful prospect that some will either commit suicide or be killed by the others. Bei has said that the majority of people put in these wretched schools will be young, Black, poor and disabled. That’s a certainty, given that the prison population is generally composed of the poor and those from ethnic minorities. The number of female prisoners in the UK is comparatively small – 4,000 women compared to 80,000 or so men. But women in prison can be particularly vulnerable, especially as the majority of them aren’t violent. It’s been claimed that many of the women currently banged up are for crimes like failure to pay their TV license. But I can imagine a number of girls getting sentenced to these schools as part of Williamson’s campaign to stamp out the entirely imaginary tide of school-age crime he wants us to think is coming.

Colonial Ties, Not Oppression, Is the Best Reason for Granting Asylum

April 9, 2021

This has been irritating me for some time now, and so I’m going to try to get it off my chest. A month or so ago I went to a Virtual meeting, organised by the left wing of the Labour party, on why socialists should be anti-war. It was part of the Arise Festival of ideas, and featured a variety of speakers all concerned with the real possibility that the war-mongering of Tony Blair, George W. Bush and so on would return. They made the point that all the interventions in Iraq, Libya and elsewhere were motivated purely by western geopolitical interests. Western nations and their multinationals had initiated them solely to plunder and dominate these nations and their industries and resources. One of the speakers was the Muslim head of the Stop War Coalition, who stated that many people from ethnic minorities had supported the Labour party because historically Labour had backed independence for their countries of origin. And obviously the Labour party was risking their support by betraying them through supporting these wars. After the failure of these wars – the continued occupation of Afghanistan, the chaos in Iraq and Libya – the calls for further military interventions had died down. But now these wars were being rehabilitated, and there is a real danger that the military-industrial complex will start demanding further invasions and occupations.

I absolutely agree totally with these points. Greg Palast’s book Armed Madhouse shows exactly how the Iraq invasion had absolutely nothing to do with liberating the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, but was all about stealing their oil reserves and state industries. The invasion of Afghanistan has precious little to do with combatting al-Qaeda, and far more to do with the construction of an oil pipeline that would benefit western oil interests at the expense of Russia and its allies. And the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafy in Libya was also about the removal of an obstacle to western neo-colonial domination. These wars have brought nothing but chaos and death to these countries. The welfare states of Iraq and Libya have been decimated, and the freedoms women enjoyed to pursue careers outside the home have been severely curtailed our removed. Both of these countries were relatively secular, but have since been plunged into sectarian violence.

Despite this, one of the speakers annoyed me. This was the head of the Black Liberation Association or whatever Black Lives Matter now calls itself. She was a young a woman with quite a thick African accent. It wasn’t quite what she said, but the tone in which she said it. This was one of angry, indignant and entitled demand, rather than calm, persuasive argument. She explained that the Black Liberation Association campaigned for the rights and self-government of all nations in the global south and their freedom from neo-colonial economic restrictions and domination. She attacked the ‘fortress Europe’ ideology intended to keep non-White immigrants out, especially the withdrawal of the Italian naval patrols in the Med. This had resulted in more migrant deaths as unseaworthy boats sank without their crews and passengers being rescued. This is all stuff the left has campaigned against for a long time. I remember learning in ‘A’ Level geography in school that Britain and Europe had erected tariff barriers to prevent their former colonies competing with them in the production of manufactured goods. This meant that the economies of the African nations, for example, were restricted to agriculture and mining. As for the withdrawal of the Italian navy and coastguard, and the consequent deaths of migrants, this was very much an issue a few years ago and I do remember signing internet petitions against it. But there was one argument she made regarding the issue of the granting of asylum that was weak and seriously annoyed me. She stated that we had to accept migrants because we had oppressed them under colonialism.

This actually doesn’t work as an argument for two reasons. I’m not disputing that we did oppress at least some of the indigenous peoples of our former colonies. The colour bar in White Rhodesia was notorious, and Black Africans in other countries, like Malawi, were treated as second class citizens quite apart from the horrific, genocidal atrocities committed against the Mao-Mao rebellion. The first problem with the argument from colonial oppression is that it raises the question why any self-respecting person from the Commonwealth would ever want to come to Britain, if we’re so racist and oppressive.

The other problem is that the British Empire is now, for the most part, a thing of the past. Former colonies across the globe formed nationalist movements and achieved their independence. They were supposed to benefit from the end of British rule. In some cases they have. But to return to Africa, since independence the continent has been dominated by a series of brutal dictators, who massacred and looted their people. There is an appalling level of corruption to the point where the FT said that many of them were kleptocracies, which were only called countries by the courtesy of the west. Western colonialism is responsible for many of the Developing World’s problems, but not all. I’ve heard from a couple of Brits, who have lived and worked in former colonies, that they have been asked by local people why we left. These were older people, but it shows that the end of British rule was not as beneficial as the nationalists claimed, and that some indigenous people continued to believe that things had been better under the Empire. But the culpability of the leaders of many developing nations for their brutal dictatorships and the poverty they helped to inflict on their people wasn’t mentioned by this angry young woman. And that’s a problem, because the counterargument to her is that the British Empire has vanished, and with the handover to indigenous rule British responsibility for these nations’ affairs ended. It is up to these countries to solve their problems, and we should be under no obligation to take in people fleeing oppression in these countries.

For me, a far better approach would be to stress old colonial ties and obligations with these nations. Part of the ideology of colonialism was that Britain held these countries in trust, and that these nations would only remain under British rule until they developed the ability to manage themselves. It was hypocritical, and I think there’s a quote from Lord Lugard, one of the architects of British rule in Africa, about how the British had only a few decades to despoil the country. Nevertheless, it was there, as was Kipling’s metaphor of the ‘White Man’s Burden’, in which Britain was to teach these nations proper self-government and civilisation. It’s patronising, because it assumes the superiority of western civilisation, but nevertheless it is one of paternal responsibility and guidance. And some British politicians and imperialists took this ideology very seriously. I was told by a friend of mine that before Enoch Powell became an avowed and implacable opponent of non-White immigration with his infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, he sincerely believed that Britain did have an obligation to its subject peoples. He worked for a number of organisations set up to help non-White immigrants to Britain from her colonies.

It therefore seems to me that supporters of non-White migrants and asylum seekers would be far better arguing that they should be granted asylum because of old colonial ties and kinship in the Commonwealth and continuing paternal obligations, rather than allowed in as some kind of reparation for the oppression of the colonial past.

The first argument offers reconciliation and common links. The other only angry division between oppressed and oppressor.

Tories Once Again Demanding Clampdown in Schools for No Reason At All

April 8, 2021

Why do the Tories hate schoolchildren? Why are they so determined to make school as miserable as possible? I ask these questions, ’cause yesterday Mike put up a piece on his blog about the education minister, Gavin Williamson. Williamson has claimed that there’s a lack of discipline in schools because children were allowed greater freedom during the lockdown. Mobile phones are a particularly destructive influence, and shouldn’t be allowed.

Now I agree with Mike about this, who does agree with Williamson. They shouldn’t be allowed in schools because of the danger that children can use them to cheat. Quite apart from the temptation amongst some pupils to play Tetris or whatever at the back of the class instead of concentrating on Miss trying to teach them trigonometry. But this isn’t a new problem. People have been talking about the problems caused by mobile phones in school ever since children started taking them into class in the ’90s. What is remarkable is Williamson going on about the lack of discipline among school students when there’s absolutely no evidence for it. I haven’t heard anyone complain about a decline in schoolchildren’s behaviour in my neck of the woods, and I’m pretty sure you haven’t either.

In fact, not only is there no evidence that the returning pupils are particularly badly behaved, there appears to be plenty of evidence to the contrary. One of our friends down here in south Bristol is a school governor. They told us that the children coming back to school had actually been better behaved. So where does Williamson’s claim that discipline has declined come from?

I think it’s partly due to an habitual Tory distrust of youth. Ever since the ‘youthquake’ of the 1950s and the emergence of modern youth culture, there’s been a particular distrust of young people on the right. This wasn’t entirely unwarranted. I remember the annual fights during the Bank Holidays between Mods and Rockers at Weston Super Mud and elsewhere in the country, and those were frightening. There was a rise in juvenile delinquency, and for years the papers were full of stories about the terrible lack of discipline and poor educational standards in many schools. These were real problems. Private Eye devoted a whole section in one issue to complaints from teachers about the problems they were faced with teaching entirely uninterested, disruptive and sometimes violent students, compounded with lack of support from the headmaster or the education authorities. I dare say in some schools this is still the case, but it doesn’t seem quite the issue it once was. But school discipline is something of a Tory ‘talking point’. School standards are breaking down, and it’s all due to modern, progressive schooling. Kids are being indoctrinated into rebellion by Marxist feminist teachers of ambiguous sexuality.

Except that I don’t think they are. I wondered if this was a response to events at Pimlico academy last week, when the children and some staff decided that the headmaster’s new dress code was somehow racist, as was the flying of the union flag, which some idiot decided to burn. I don’t support the protests there – I think they’re unwarranted and show instead a nasty streak of racism amongst the protesters. But as far as I can make out, it was an isolated incident that was a response to very specific circumstances that has not been repeated elsewhere.

But it also seems to fit with the Tory determination to remove any kind of joy from schooling. When the Tories took over ten years or so ago, they declared that they were going to enforce school discipline and make sure the children worked hard, introducing homework for primary school children. There does seem a determination on the Tories’ part to make school as grim as possible.

And this attitude is shared by some of the academy chains that have been brought in to run schools. Before I came down with the myeloma I did voluntary work listening to children read at one of the local school in south Bristol. This was a normal primary school, whose walls were decorated with the children’s work and paintings along with the usual school notices, and the usual hubbub when the children came in from playground or moved between classroom. It came across as a normal, happy British school, full of normal, happy children.

And then the school was handed over to an academy chain, whose headquarters, incidentally, were registered in Eire as the usual tax dodge. The whole ethos changed. When next I arrived, the walls were bare except for the school notices and children were expected to move from class to class in silence. The children still seemed to be as happy as ever, but a vital part of the school experience had been excised. The place seemed far more dour. I suppose this new austerity was to show that there was now an emphasis on learning and the importance of discipline. It now seemed actually rather joyless and forbidding. I think that putting students’ work up on school walls is enormously encouraging – it rewards pupils for their good work but putting it up for the appreciation of the rest of the school. Or the kids’ parents at parents’ evenings. Ditto with the art. I think it helps to create an attitude among schoolchildren that it is their school, and creates a sense of a common school community. It’s what makes a school a school, rather than a prison.

I think this dour, very authoritarian attitude to education comes partly from Tory authoritarianism. The people at the top set the rules, and the lower orders have to obey, work and suffer. Conditions must be made as hard as possible to encourage people to work and improve themselves. It’s an attitude they’ve introduced into the welfare system by trying to make it as hard as possible to discourage people going onto benefits. This means making benefits all but impossible to obtain and doing their best to hide the fact that people are dying as a result. Now they’re introducing it to education.

I think it also partly comes from the Japanese school system that the Tories are desperate to emulate over here. I got the impression that discipline is extremely strict in Japanese schools, with staff even checking the children’s underwear to make sure they’re the right colour. It’s so strict in fact that in one year in the ’90s, five school kids were beaten to death by their teachers. But this discipline, supposedly, has led to the Japanese and other far eastern countries leading the world in high educational standards. However, a friend of mine told me years ago that this isn’t quite the case. Yes, the east Asian countries do lead the world in their educational standards, but the discipline and extremely hard work are actually typical of a relatively few Chinese and Japanese schools, not the system as a whole. And seeing how hard the schoolchildren in these countries are expected to work, you wonder if something is being lost. Hard work is important, but childhood should also be a time for fun.

Except to the Tories and Gavin Williamson, who seems to be so obsessed with a decline in school discipline that he’s seeing it where it doesn’t actually exist. Perhaps it’s another attempt to put state schools down after the failure of the algorithm he introduced a year ago to predict exam results. This aroused massive outrage because it unfairly assumed that pupils from state schools were perform far less well than those from private schools. Mike and the peeps on Twitter have suggested that Williamson might be trying to revenge himself on schoolkids after one of them tore apart his wretched algorithm on social media.

Whatever the cause, the fact remains that there has been no decline in school discipline. In fact, I’ve heard that in some schools the kids were actually better behaved. This means, as Mike has pointed out on his blog, that children have actually developed self-discipline. And good for them!

As for Williamson, this just shows how out of touch he is with real conditions in schools, and how determined he is to push the Tory view that all schoolchildren and young people are ill-behaved and need the firm hand of authority to keep them in order.

Tory Flag-Waving Now Reaching Reaganite Proportions

April 6, 2021

Patriotism, someone once said, is the last refuge of the scoundrel. And the Tories have done their best to show how true this is, especially last week when it seemed that they wasted no opportunity to wave the flag. This also led them to generate more synthetic outrage towards the BBC. Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty raised Tory ire when Stayt joked about the relatively small size of the union flag on display during an interview with Matt Hancock or one of the other Tory ministers. This led to howls from the Tory press that the Beeb was sneering at the flag. They weren’t. They were laughing about the Tory’s sheer opportunistic use of it.

It’s no accident that they’ve started waving the flag in the weeks running up to the local elections. Their performance on health, the economy, Brexit and just about everything else has been dire. They’re still trying to privatise the health service by stealth, they insulted the nurses with a 2 per cent pay rise, which is in real terms a cut in their salaries, wages are still frozen, more people are being forced into real, grinding poverty, the queues at the food banks are as long as ever, or longer. The Brexit that Boris has been so desperate to ‘get done’ is spelling disaster for Britain’s manufacturing industry, and businesses dealing with the continent and ordinary Brits wishing to travel abroad are now faced with mountains of paperwork and bureaucracy. Bureaucracy which the Brexiteers blithely assured us wouldn’t happen. Hopefully this year will see us coming out of lockdown and the Coronavirus crisis. We’ve a far higher rate of peeps receiving the vaccine than the EU, but that shouldn’t distract attention from the colossal way the Tories have mismanaged the Covid crisis as a whole. As Mike’s pointed out in one of his articles, Tory bungling and corruption – they gave vital medical contracts to companies owned and run by their friends and supporters, rather than to firms that could actually deliver – that over 100,000 people have died of the disease. One of the good peeps on Twitter has shown how this compares to the numbers killed in some of the genocides and ethnic massacres that have plagued recent decades. And the report, which was supposed to show that Britain isn’t institutionally racist, has been torn to shreds with some of the academics cited claiming they were not properly consulted and seeking to distance themselves from it. And then there are the mass demonstrations up and down the land against their attempts to outlaw any demonstration or protest they don’t like under the guise that it would be a nuisance.

And so, with all this discontent, they’ve fallen back to Thatcher’s tactics of waving the flag at every opportunity. One of the hacks at the Absurder in the 1980s said that Britain had three parties – the patriotic party, who were the Tories, the loony party, which was Labour, and the sensible party, which was the SDP/Liberals. Which showed you the paper’s liberal bias even then. The SDP, Liberals and their successors, the Lib Dems. have sold out utterly, while after four decades of Thatcherism Michael Foot’s Labour party looks far less than loony. But the hack was right about the Tories and patriotism. Thatcher waved the flag as frantically as she could and constantly invoked the spirit of Winston Churchill and World War II. One particularly memorable example of this was the Tory 1987 election broadcast, which featured Spitfires zipping about the sky while an overexcited voice told the world ‘Man was born free’ and concluded ‘It’s great to be great again’.

Here’s another feature of Fascism that’s been adopted by the Tories to add to those on Mike’s checklist. Fascism is an ideology of national rebirth and revival. Thatcher was claiming she was making us great again, just as Donald Trump claimed he was doing for America. Just as Oswald Mosley called one of his wretched books The Greater Britain. And unfortunately, as Zelo Street has also pointed out, Fascists like the Nazis have also used people’s natural loyalty to their flag as a means of generating support for their repulsive regimes. British Fascism was no different. Mosley also made great use of the flag at his rallies, and this tactic was taken over by his successors in the National Front and BNP. This has been an embarrassment to ordinary, non-racist Brits, who simply like the flag. One of my friends at school was a mod. At the time, the union flag and British bulldog formed a large part of mod imagery without meaning that the person was a racist or White supremacist. During one of the art lessons my friend started painting a picture with those two elements – the union flag and bulldog. The teacher came over and politely asked him not to do so, as he was afraid people would like at it and come to the wrong conclusion. This was just after the 1981/2 race riots, so you can understand why. But it is frustrating and infuriating that ordinary expressions of reasonable patriotism or simple pop culture iconography have become suspect due to their appropriation by the Far Right.

But the real excesses of flag-waving were to be seen over the other side of the Pond in Reagan’s America. Reagan was wrecking his country with privatisation and an assault on what the country had in the way of a welfare state, while murdering the people of countries like El Salvador and Nicaragua by supporting Fascist dictators and their death squads. But, like Thatcher, he did everything he could to use the symbols of American nationhood. Like the Stars and Stripes. A Republican party political broadcast in 1984 or thereabouts showed the American flag being raised no less than 37 times. This was so bizarrely excessive that one of the Beeb’s foreign correspondents commented on it. As far as I am aware, no-one took him to task for sneering at it.

This flag-waving is part of the Tories attempts to present themselves as the preservers of British national identity, tradition and pride against the assaults of the left, particularly Black Lives Matter and their attacks on statues. I’m not impressed with the attacks on some of the monuments, like that of Winston Churchill, even though he was a racist. But in Bristol the only statue attacked was that of the slavery and philanthropist Edward Colston. None of the other statues in and around Bristol’s town centre of Edmund Burke, Queen Victoria, Neptune and the sailors who made my city a great port, were touched. And then there was the protest last week against the new school uniform policy at Pimlico Academy in London. This ruled out the wearing of large afro hair styles. So the students started protesting it was racist. The headmaster also raised the union flag, which led the statement from one of the students, Amna Mukhtar, that it weirdly felt like they were being colonised. And then some idiot burnt the flag in protest. The headmaster has now rescinded the school’s uniform code and taken the flag down. Now I gather that one of the Tories is now calling for every school to fly the union flag.

It all reminds me of the comments the late, great comedian Bill Hicks made when Reagan and his supporters were flying the flag and their outrage when a young member of the Communist party burned it. After making jokes about the Reaganite rage and hysteria, Hicks said that he didn’t want anyone to burn the flag, but burning wouldn’t take away freedom, because it’s freedom. Including the freedom to burn the flag.

Quite. And the Tories are wrecking our country and taking away our freedoms while cynically waving the flag.

So when they start spouting about it, use your scepticism and think of Hick’s comment instead. And vote for someone else.

Twitter Peeps Educate Universities Minister About What Decolonising the Curriculum Really Means

March 3, 2021

It’s not about censoring history but about including the ignored or omitted perspectives of the colonised peoples themselves.

Zelo Street put up a brilliant piece on Sunday refuting nonsense printed in the Torygraph by their reporter Christopher Hope. Hope had been talking to the universities minister, Michelle Donelan, who was extremely concerned about the ‘culture war’ being waged in the universities. She was afraid that those unis, who were decolonising their curricula were engaged in a massive piece of historical censorship. Like the former Soviet Union, they were removing those incidents that were not regarded as stains. This greatly concerned her as a former history student who was also a vehement champion of preserving our history.

This provoked a number of academics and/or students, whose universities were involved in this restructuring of their history curricula, to put her right. They informed her that this wasn’t about removing awkward parts of British colonial history, but adding to it by including the perspectives of the subject peoples we ruled and all-too frequently abused and exploited.

Alex Stevens from the University of Kent put this up:

Dear [Michelle Donelan] ‘Adding stuff in to enrich our understanding’ is *exactly* what decolonising the curriculum is doing at my university”.

Edward Anderson of Northumbria University also agreed, posting the following

When we decolonise curricula, it’s almost always ADDING more stuff in: scholarship & perspectives from the Global South, source material of the colonised not just coloniser, etc. [Michelle Donelan] must know this, but chooses to peddle a straw man, fictitious idea of what uni’s do”.

Coventry University’s Andrew Jowett backed this up with his remark

She has no idea what she’s talking about. It’s not about ‘taking things out’ of the curriculum, it’s about contextualising what is taught and ensuring other cultures and indigenous peoples are represented in the curriculum. Maybe she should attend a webinar on it”. 

And then came Dr. Priyamvada Gopal, who teaches colonial literature at Cambridge

 “Let’s break this down for [Michelle Donelan]. When we ‘decolonise’, we put the ‘offensive’ bits BACK IN. To give a random example, we tell [the] story of Winston Churchill not just as unimpeachable war hero–but as a man of empire & race science. We don’t pander to white snowflakery”.

Gopal was the centre of controversy last summer in the Black Lives Matter protests, when she was falsely accused of hating Whites because she’d put up a tweet ‘White don’t matter as White lives’, which I think she intended to mean that White lives have no more or less intrinsic value than anyone else’s. Their value lay simply in being human lives. This was in response to an enraged White chap flying over a local football match on a plane towing the banner ‘White Lives Matter’. I think another of Gopal’s tweets had been altered and the fake version reproduced by the right-wing press to present Gopal as wishing for a real White genocide. Gopal sued for libel, and I believe won.

The comments about Churchill were provoked by the denunciation s of the Great Man at a conference on his legal at Churchill College, Cambridge. Churchill was denounced by some of the speakers as responsible for the horrific Bengal famine, which killed 3-6 million Indians, and a White supremacist. Kehinde Andrews, a prominent Black racial activist, was present at this event, who is notorious for claiming that the British Empire was worse than the Nazis.

This provoked a reaction from offended Tories, like Nicholas Soames, who declared that if they were going to denounce the British wartime PM, then they shouldn’t use his money. The right-wing historian of Africa and the British Empire, Andrew Roberts, also wasn’t impressed. He is the co-author of a paper, published by the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange, defending Churchill. But I think that the allegations against Churchill are absolutely correct. He was an imperialist and White supremacist. It was the dominant ideology of the time and obviously very strong in the British and colonial ruling class. He was also responsible for the Bengal famine through the sequestration of their grain in order to feed British troops in Europe. The result was mass starvation in India, while the emergency requiring its use never came. Nevertheless, Churchill refused to release it to where it was really needed, blaming the Indians themselves for their plight. It was all their fault for having too many children. His attitude shocked many senior British officers and colonial administrators, who compared him to the Nazis.

Zelo Street described Donelan’s interview and her views as

Once again, we have a Government minister apparently not in command of their brief, with their ignorance amplified by a shameless propagandist for the sole purpose of riling up his paper’s base and demonising purveyors of inconvenient thought.

He concludes that, as for her reference to the Soviet Union, that is exactly where her government is taking us, but you won’t read it in the papers. Quite. We have a very authoritarian government, which really is determined to censor history. And the press are right behind her.

This looks like an attempt by a failing government to whip up some popularity by playing the race card. The approved Tory view of the British Empire as essentially benevolent is under attack from evil lefties, and so must be defended at all costs. Just as Britain is being invaded by all those evil refugees crossing the Channel in dinghies.

Meanwhile, people continue to die from the Coronavirus, and the government is determined to push through the welfare cuts which Mike has documented as killing the poor, the disabled and the unemployed.

But we mustn’t look there. They’re just welfare scroungers. We must be worried about the attack on our imperial history and great leaders like Winston Churchill. Even when those attacks are historically accurate.

See: Zelo Street: Decolonising Drivel Deceives No-One (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

Diane Abbott on Supporting the Teachers against a Premature Lifting of the Schools Lockdown

February 27, 2021

The much maligned MP Diane Abbott has written a piece for Labour Outlook discussing the effectiveness of the vaccines and the continuing death toll from Covid 19. While the vaccines are a great success, they are not going to end this disease on their own. Other measures are needed. Schools are important vector for the disease, which is why Abbott supports the teachers against the government in maintaining that the schools lockdown should not be lifted too soon.

Abbott writes

Only a safe reopening is in all our interests. Support the teachers, head teachers & school workers against the Tories – Diane Abbott MP Exclusive

“The government is currently refusing to budge.  But we know this is a government which can be forced to U-turn.”

Diane Abbott MP.

Diane Abbott MP

Life in Britain, including political life is once more dominated by the spread of the Covid-19 virus and the government’s failures to halt it. 

On February 22nd the government published a ‘roadmap’ out of the lockdown we have all had to endure.  This lockdown, our third, is actually longer than many countries’ sole lockdown.  The countries that have successfully suppressed the virus include Australia, China, New Zealand, Thailand and Viet Nam all achieved that by having a both a much stricter, shorter regime and by having an effective system of testing, tracing and properly supported isolation. The government still does not have any of those in place.

So, the roadmap is itself seriously, potentially fatally flawed.  Just as the government was outlining its plans there were two other important pieces of news.  The first was that the average of new daily cases is over 11,000 and the average for new deaths is almost 500 per day.  There is a possibility that new cases will be as high coming out of this lockdown as they were at the peak of the first wave in April, 5,000 a day or more.

The second news item was that the minutes of the most recent SAGE meeting were publicised.  SAGE emphasised that it had “previously advised that the opening and closing of schools is likely to have an impact on transmission and R, and that policymakers need to consider the balance of risks and harms. The opening of primary and secondary schools is likely to increase effective R by a factor of 1.1 to 1.5 (10% to 50%) (medium confidence)”.

There are two risks from a premature relaxation of lockdown led by reopening of the schools.  The first is that, exactly as SAGE says, transmission and infection rates will go into reverse, having fallen from late January after lockdown was imposed.  The second risk is that, in the absence of a suppression strategy, the virus will freely circulate and then mutate once more into even more deadly strains.  Again, this is a risk identified with current policy by SAGE itself. The government has clearly ignored this advice.

SAGE also emphasises the global nature of this pandemic, which is important for the whole world, including this country. “Aside from the significant human and social costs around the world, ongoing transmission in other countries would continue to pose a threat to UK health even if the epidemic were under control in this country and a high proportion of the population were vaccinated”. 

Yet the epidemic here is clearly not under control, and only a minority of the population has received even a single jab.  Public Health England (PHE) has assessed the efficacy of single jabs and the recommended double-dose. PHE found that protection from a single jab rose after a number of weeks to just under 60%.  But the protection after just a few days for a second jab was around 96%.  These are great outcomes. 

Yet contrary to government ministers, there is no suggestion in the minutes that vaccines are or can be a magic bullet.  Two-fifths of all those receiving a single jab have no protection from the virus.  But they are all encouraged to believe and to act as if they have full protection. Once again the Government is not being straight with the public and is taking another gamble with public health.  

The crunch point ahead is the government plan to reopen all the schools in a ‘big bang’ on March 8th.  This flies in the face of its own expert advice, the policy of the administrations in the rest of the country, and our own bitter experience about the spread of the virus after schools reopened last September.

I would urge everyone to read and support the joint statement from nine unions in response to the government’s plans.  They describe those plans as reckless, and argue instead for a phased return to schools, with rotas, ‘blended learning’ and a number of simple but effective safety measures. 

The government is currently refusing to budge.  But we know this is a government which can be forced to U-turn. Unions showed that over the Chancellor’s plans to cut furlough pay to two-thirds of wages, and both Marcus Rashford and Jo Whiley can testify to it over free school meals and vaccines for the learning disabled respectively.

The key issue now is the unity of all those demanding a different course of action from the government in applying the maximum amount of pressure on this issue.  Those who work in schools care about themselves, their own loved ones and the pupils we entrust to them.  But in opposing a reckless reopening of schools now they are acting in all our interests.  They deserve our full support.

…………

I realise that Abbott is hugely controversial and much reviled. About half of the abusive messages received by women MPs are actually directed at her. And the Tories have been trying to make her out to be stupid ever since she made a mistake about budget estimates a few years ago. Senior Tories have also made similar mistakes, but this is ignored and they are lauded as if they are mighty intellectuals. As this piece shows, Abbott is anything but stupid and she is exactly right to back the teachers. Contrary to what the Tories are shouting about teachers being lazy, they are not. Our mother was a primary school teacher for very many years, and I know exactly how hard they work. Most teachers I’m sure would love to be back in class, in front of blackboard, actually teaching. But they are also vulnerable to Covid-19 themselves and aware of the role contact in schools can play in its transmission. Children may not suffer particularly from it themselves, but they are able to spread it to adults, some of whom may be extremely vulnerable.

Abbott is right to urge for a cautious, phased reopening of schools and support our front line teaching staff. It’s what Starmer should have done from the start, but didn’t because he was too intent on chasing Tory votes.

See: Only a safe reopening is in all our interests. Support the teachers, head teachers & school workers against the Tories – Diane Abbott MP Exclusive – Labour Outlook

Dido Harding Didn’t Realise Viruses Mutate – How Did She Get Her Job Again?

February 7, 2021

I realise that it’s an old story, but it’s worth repeating as it shows the level of corruption and plain incompetence surrounding Boris Johnson and his appointments to official post. Mike posted up a piece a little while ago commenting on a statement by Dido Harding, the head of NHS Test and Trace, that no-one could have predicted that the virus would mutate. Really? Doctors and scientists have known for a very long time that viruses mutate. It’s why there are different varieties of the flu vaccine and they haven’t yet been able to find one that will absolutely eradicate it, as they have with smallpox. The disease mutates too rapidly, so that as soon as an effective vaccine against one strain is found, a new variety, immune to it, emerges. It’s also why the world’s scientists are worried about the declining effectiveness of penicillin, as new strains of bacteria are emerging that are immune to it. I also believe that malaria is also changing so that quinine is becoming less effective.

This isn’t some deep medical secret, hidden by the scientific establishment for some nefarious purpose of its own, along with alien bases on the Moon, the Greys, the Face on Mars and the location of Atlantis. It’s widely known, well-publicised fact. One of the peeps on Twitter, Kit Yates, showed that it was actually taught in his seven year old’s science textbook. Which looks a lot more fun and exciting than some of the textbooks we used when I was at school. And scientific concerns about viral immunity to penicillin and quinine has been discussed on several programmes on Radio 4. This is the public service broadcaster the Tories want to defund and abolish in favour of something far more right-wing and owned by Rupert Murdoch or another millionaire like him. The fact that Tory official Harding doesn’t know a fairly basic fact about disease clearly demonstrates that if the Tories have their way, the abolition of the Beeb will leave Britain dumber and much less informed. But that’s obviously the only way the Tories feel they can win in the long term.

Fortunately for Britain, as Dr Julia Grace Patterson pointed out, doctors had been tracking different strains of Covid since last Spring. She also pointed out that viruses mutate, which was why the flu vaccine changed annually, and concluded that Harding’s remark was ‘awful’. This shows that we can count on our scientists diligently researching and doing everything they can to combat the disease. We just can’t count on their bosses knowing much about it.

If Harding was an ordinary member of the public, her ignorance would be excusable. You don’t expect ordinary people to know everything. They don’t have the time, the energy nor often the education. But Harding’s different. She’s in charge of the government body set to monitor and combat the spread of the disease from person to person. Her ignorance says much not just about her suitability for her position, but also about the cavalier attitude Boris’ government seemingly has to putting the right people in charge of such vital work. It has always looked as though Harding got the job, not through any real skill, knowledge or ability on her part, but because she was a friend of Boris and his wretched coterie. She was put in purely because of personal loyalty, as well as an attitude on Johnson’s part that no particular expertise was needed in this area. Anyone could do it, so it was important that that anyone was a personal friend or supporter of his.

This attitude seems to go back to the 90s. Private Eye in its literary column lamented the emergence of an attitude to bookselling and libraries, which saw them as just another product to be marketed. Managing directors were being appointed to publishers, booksellers and libraries, who had no experience of that sector, from industries like catering. One of them was the head of a sandwich firm. The attitude seemed to be that in the new commercial environment, industries, no matter how different, were somehow at some basic level identical. A man, who knew nothing about books or literature but made great sandwiches was just as good a choice as someone who had been in the book trade all his or her life, and appreciated that books were a social good with a distinct ethos and societal and ethical function far beyond their value as a material ‘product’.

And the same cavalier ignorance pertains here. BoJo and his fellow morons clearly regard NHS Test and Trace as just another business. Anyone from any business can therefore run it. They don’t have to have any personal expertise themselves, as they’ve got scientists below them to do that. But virology is not any kind of business, and while you wouldn’t expect Harding to have the same level of expertise as the scientists underneath, you do want her to have a basic understand of the nature of disease and the way its fought. Even if that comes from seven year old’s science text books.

Harding’s ignorance is amusing at one level, as the jokes about her on Twitter have shown. But it’s also dangerous. The Tories have absolute contempt for experts. Boris, Cummings and the rest of the ratbags supported ‘herd immunity’ against the advice of the overwhelming majority of doctors and scientists, because it fitted their prejudices of letting the poor die to protect the rich. I think it was one of them, rather than an American Republican, who said that people are sick of experts. Even if it was a Conservative from across the Pond rather than our own, homegrown rightists, the Tories certainly share that determined, anti-intellectual attitude.

Tory medical ignorance and negligence has cost something like 50,000 lives. And it’s still going on. Harding’s lack of a basic fact about viruses is symptomatic of a wider cavalier attitude to science and protecting people’s health and lives. They’re a disgrace. It’s time Harding was sacked and Johnson and his fellow cronies also forced out of office in favour of people better qualified to run the country and preserve its people.

Anyone got any ideas who that might be, as it surely isn’t Tory Starmer!

For further information, see: ANYBODY could have predicted that Dido Harding would be wrong on Covid-19 mutation. Here are some of the funniest responses | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)