Posts Tagged ‘London’

Tories Have Fiddled the Statistics on Coronavirus Deaths – Is Anyone Surprised?

April 4, 2020

Last Tuesday, 31st March 2020, Mike put up a piece reporting how the Office for National Statistics had caught the Tories fiddling the figures for the numbers of deaths from the Coronavirus to date. According to the government’s figures, the number of dead up to March 20th, the cut off date for the ONS figures, stood at 120. However, they achieved this figure by only counting deaths in hospitals. When the ONS factored these in, the real number of fatalities increased by 23.5 per cent or more, rising to 210. The official death toll at the time Mike put up his article was 1,408. But if the ONS’ estimation of the real figures is correct, then the real number of deaths was 1,739. This assumes that the proportion of deaths in hospitals has remained constant, but as Mike pointed out, it could be much higher.

Mike pointed out in his article that these stats are important, as they show that the government’s figures cannot be trusted. It also means that the government cannot be trusted when it claims that the spread of the virus is slowing. He was concerned that the government would be tempted to lift the lockdown prematurely, which would allow the virus a whole new lease of life.

Coronavirus: UK government death figures are FALSE

Mike wasn’t the only person smelling a rat with the government’s official Coronavirus stats. The previous Thursday, March 26th, Zelo Street put up a piece about how the government’s statistics had mysteriously changed as they altered the rules regarding how the deaths were counted. That Tuesday, the Department for Health and Social Care declared at 15.51 on Twitter that the number of people, who had tested positive for the virus, stood at 8,077 and 422 had died. But on Wednesday the situation appeared to change. At just past a quarter past two, the Department’s Twitter feed announced that the figures would be announced later that afternoon, but reassured readers that they were working hard to compile them. However, the figures were only released on Twitter at 2300 hours, after they had been given to the media. The number of people, who had tested positive was now 9,529, but there had been only 463 deaths in total.

Sienna Rogers of LabourList reported that it had been claimed that the government was changing the way it was releasing the death figures. The numbers of deaths reported may not be the same as the number of deaths that had occurred in the previous 24 hours, as family consent was now required to release the figures. Luke Cooper of the LSE called it what it looks like. He said that family consent was not required if the information was anonymised. This looked like the Tories were fiddling the stats. Chris Smyth of the Times then added that the low figure of the 28 new deaths that had been recorded wasn’t a piece of good news, but the opposite. There were now so many new deaths that the government had changed the cutoff time from 1 pm to 7.30 am. This was supposedly to give the government more time to inform the families and get the details on the locations of the deaths before releasing them. Zelo Street contrasted this with the situation in Italy and Spain, the two countries worst affected, where the hundreds of new deaths are freely reported to the media. The Street concluded that

‘We are told that there is bad news coming down the track; a new NHS facility is being built at the ExCeL centre in London’s Docklands; that facility, NHS Nightingale, has provision for thousands of beds and two morgues; individual reports of deaths are everywhere; TfL staff report scores of their colleagues falling ill from the virus; and the numbers dry up.

This is the stuff from which conspiracy theories spring. Government must come clean.’

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/03/virus-stats-is-government-being-honest.html

This, alas, is too much to hope for. The Tories are a party of liars – always have been, always will be. Their record on the unemployment stats abundantly testifies to that. When unemployment under Maggie Thatcher shot up to over 3 million – an unheard of record at that time, the Tories immediately changed the way the unemployment figures were counted in order to make it smaller. And they’ve kept doing it. A few years ago, when Dave Cameron was the latest malign presence squatting in No. 10, it was revealed that they’d changed the way the stats were collected once again. The unemployment figures were based only on those currently claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance. Which meant that the peeps, who were unemployed but ineligible to sign on, or who had refused to do so because of the humiliating way they were treated by the staff and the infamous ‘work coaches’, who ring you up at home to harangue you into getting work, weren’t included.

This is a government that prefers to hide embarrassing statistics. The DWP under another malign presence, the utterly vile Iain Duncan Smith, fought tooth and nail to stop Mike and the other great disability bloggers from getting the statistics for the number of people, who had died after being declared ‘fit for work’ by the government assessor, outsourcing company Atos. They stonewalled, tried to claim that Mike’s request was vexatious, appealed against the Information Commissioner’s ruling when he ruled in favour of Mike, and, when they finally had no choice but to release the stats, interpreted Mike’s request to give him a slightly different set of figures than those he requested. But these were damning enough, even so.

And the subsequent Tory leaders, Tweezer and now Boris, really don’t like meeting the public. They run away and hide from unexpected meetings and questions from the media. Tweezer’s appearances on the campaign trail were carefully choreographed with selected groups and closed to the general public. So were Johnson’s, who fled when confronted by someone he didn’t expect. Remember how he disappeared into a fridge when he was visiting a dairy in order to escape questions from a TV journo? And then we had the unedifying spectacle a few months ago of Boris and Cummings trying to divide the media lobby into inner and outer groups. The inner – who were all their loyal supporters – were to be rewarded by being invited to a press conference on Brexit at No. 10. That attempt to control the media didn’t work, as all the media, even those that staunchly support the Tories, immediately balked at such overt, cynical manipulation and walked out in protest.

The Tories are congenital, irremediable liars. No-one should be surprised that they fiddled the stats. They tried to hide the number of deaths of disabled people, who had been falsely declared fit for work. They’ve falsified the unemployment figures. It should come as no surprise that, as they have shown themselves incompetent and out of their depth at handling the Coronavirus crisis, they should be fiddling those statistics too.

And Mike is right. They are a menace. Boris dithered and tried everything possible to delay imposing a lockdown until it was too late, because he was too worried about the economy at the expense of people’s lives. And a sizable proportion of the Tory party and their supporters, like the noxious Brendan O’Neil of Spiked, Toby Young of the Spectator, Trevor Kavanagh of the Scum, still believe that people should sacrificed for the sake of the economy.

There is therefore a very real danger that the Tories will use the falsified stats to justify lifting the lockdown prematurely, and so starting off a new wave of illness and deaths.

Radio 3 Series Next Week on Paul Robeson

March 26, 2020

Radio 3’s The Essay next week is doing a series of programmes on Paul Robeson. The show’s called ‘The Essay: Paul Robeson in Five Songs’, and is on from Monday to Friday at 10.45 pm. The short description of the series by David McGillivray on page 122 of the Radio Times runs

The turbulent life of Paul Robeson, the American performer whose career was shamefully curtailed by racism and anti-Communist hysteria, is reflected in five of his songs in a series of essays through the week. His was one of the most magnificent bass baritone voices of the 20th century, and the story behind his biggest hit, Ol’ Man River, is told by his granddaughter tomorrow [Tuesday]. Robeson’s most sustained success in films was in the UK but mostly the roles offered him were demeaning and he turned to political activism. The trade union ballad, Joe Hill (Friday) provides a melancholic epitaph.

Here are the blurbs for the individual episodes by day.

Monday.

No More Auction Block

The life and struggles of New Jersey-born bass-baritone singer, actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson (1898-1976) are explored through five of his songs. Robeson’s signature performances include Show Boat and Othello, but spirituals defined his early career, and in 1925, Robeson and his accompanist Lawrence Brown turned them into “art music”. In this first installment, scholar and professor of black music Shana Redmond explores the ways in which Robeson’s performances of No More Auction Block map his own struggles.

Tuesday

Ol’ Man River

Susan Robeson explores the personal and political aspects of the song that is forever identified with her grandfather  – Ol’ Man River, written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein expressly for Robeson for their groundbreaking 1927 musical Show Boat. But the singer would not wrap his unique voice around it  until the following year in the London production. He would have a lasting and complex relationship with the song, especially as a black superstar performing for white audiences. “My grandfather transformed Ol’ Man River from a song of submission and despair into a song of resistance.”

Wednesday

The Canoe Song

Paul Robeson and film should have been a perfect fit. The 20th Century’s first black superstar had presence, voice and fierce intelligence that projected from the screen. British audiences adored him, but for Robeson cinema was a constant betrayal of his political idealism. Matthew Sweet considers the confusing threads that make up Zoltan Korda’s 1935 Empire flag-waver Sanders of the River, which still hummed to the astonishing power of Robeson’s voice in the Canoe Song, prompting British audiences to declare him as “our Paul”. 

Thursday

Zog Nit Keynmol

When Paul Robeson stood before a Moscow audience on the evening of 14th June 1949 in the Tchaikowski Hall, few expected to hear him perform the Yiddish Partisan song Zog Nit Keynmol (Never Say). His rendition of this fierce anthem of defiance, composed in the middle of Nazi slaughter, was thick with emotion, and at the end the crowd either fiercely applauded or booed. Robeson had sung for those he knew were already murdered, imprisoned or facing death as a new wave of Stalinist repression against Soviet Jews was underway. Nigerian-born actor and singer Tayo Aluko explores Robeson’s torment and contradictory emotions that make this performance so dramatic.

Friday

Joe Hill

London-based cultural historian Marybeth Hamilton summons up the ghosts of both Earl Robinson’s 1936 song Joe Hill – about the Swedish-American labour activist – and Paul Robeson as she explores the ways Robeson was so completely erased from culture and memory for many Americans. “If any one song in Robeson’s repertoire sums up those histories of denial silencing it is Joe Hill.

Paul Robeson – one of the left-wing giants of the 20th century. I had a very left-wing aunt, who was a massive fan of Robeson. She would have loved this. I also wondered if all the Israel-critical Jews smeared and vilified by the Israel lobby shouldn’t sing Zog Nit Keynmol. From what I gather from reading David Rosenberg’s and Tony Greenbstein’s blog’s, the greatest resistance against the Nazis, including the Warsaw ghetto, came from the anti-Zionist Bund. The Zionists all too often made deals with the Nazis, as when the Zionist newspaper, the Judischer Rundschau, praised the Nazi Nuremberg Laws and urged its readers to ‘wear your yellow stars with pride.” Or when Rudolf Kasztner, the head of the Zionists in occupied Hungary, cut a deal with the Nazis whereby tens of thousands were deported to Auschwitz in return for a few being allowed to emigrate to Israel.

Hope Not Hate Publishes Dossier of Tory Islamophobes

March 14, 2020

A week or so ago Mike put up a piece on his blog commenting on the Equalities and Human Rights Committee’s apparent double standards towards racism in the Labour and the Conservative parties. They have spent a year combing the Labour party for evidence of anti-Semitism. It’s undoubtedly there, because it exists in wider British society. However, the fact that they haven’t published anything about it so far indicates what has already been said about anti-Semitism in the Party: it’s at a much, much lower level than mainstream British society, and the majority of it comes from the right and especially the far right. However, the Tory, media narrative demands that Labour be a hotbed of anti-Jewish hatred, and so they’re determined to find it. No matter how long it takes.

This is in sharp contrast to the Tory party, which is seething with real islamophobia. The internet personality Jacobsmates found plenty of it on Tory Facebook and Twitter accounts, with the supporters of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg expressing real, vicious, murderous hatred towards Muslims. Sayeeda Warsi has been demanding that islamophobia in her party should be investigated, as has Miqdaad Versi of the Muslim Council of Great Britain. I think Boris even promised an inquiry, but put it off until after the election. How very convenient! A fortnight ago, 20 Tories were suspended and expelled for their prejudice towards Muslims. But so far the EHRC has done nothing. Perhaps it has something to do with its leader, Trevor Philips, being suspended from the Labour Party for it. This has infuriated the Tories, who are all claiming that Philips is innocent and it’s because he was telling the truth about Muslims and their grooming gangs. But the evidence against Philips seems strong. He did make false accusations against Muslims, particularly over the case of a child placed with a Muslim foster family. Please go and see Zelo Street’s posts about this for further information, such as https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/03/trevor-phillips-doth-protest-too-much.html

Now the anti-racism/anti-religious extremism organisation, Hope Not Hate, has published its list of Tory islamophobes, and is calling on the Conservatives to take firm action against them and racism in the party. The organisation says

Throughout 2019 there was a steady flow of allegations made against Conservative Party councillors, activists and members which, when viewed alongside the polling of members conducted by YouGov in July, paints a picture of a party that has a significant problem with anti-Muslim sentiment at local level. Now HOPE Not Hate can reveal a new dossier of Islamophobic social media posts by more than twenty Tory officials and activists, including six sitting councillors. We are calling on CCHQ to take immediate action against these individuals, and will continue to demand that they take proper steps to tackle the Islamophobia crisis that has gripped the party at every level.

The list includes:

Councillor Steve Vickers, of Nottingham County Council

Councillor Sonia Armstrong, Harworth and Bircotes Town Council

Councillor Judith Clementson, Winchester City Council

Councillor Karl Lewis, Llandinam Community Council

Councillor Derek Bullock, Bolton Council

Councillor Ranjit Pendhar Singh Gill, Hounslow

Parliamentary Assistant Fraser McFarland

Ex-councillor Bryan Denson, Wakefield

Ex-Councillor Gail Hall

Ex-Councillor Christopher Meakin

Ex-Councillor Susanna Dixon, Coventry

Ex-Councillor Martin Akehurst, Henley-on-Thames

2019 Council Candidate Liam Christopher Ritchie

2019 Council Candidate Roger Vernon, Bassetlaw

2019 Council Candidate Deirdre Vernon, Bassetlaw

2016 Council Candidate Yonah Saunders

2018 Candidate Paul Ingham, Tower Hamlets

2017 Council Candidate and Former Chair, Alan Booth, Durham

2016 Council Candidate John Hill, Portsmouth,

2016 Council Candidate John Shoesmith, Calderdale

2016 Council Candidate Charles Beckham, Darlington

Party Donor Fraser Duffin

Activist Fraser Duffin, Inverness

The offensive comments and posts they made include personal attacks on London’s mayor Sadiq Khan and Sayeeda Warsi, general hatred of immigrants and support for Donald Trump. Unsurprisingly, some of them also believe that Muslims are collectively responsible for 9/11 and support terrorism, as well as the various conspiracy theories about Muslims deliberately invading Europe in order to take over and destroy western society. Many of them believe the discredited ‘Eurabia’ nonsense, which holds that Muslims are outbreeding everyone else, and in two generations will be the dominate ethnic/ religious group.

Revealed: New evidence of Islamophobia among Conservative Party officials and activists

I have strong reservations about Hope Not Hate. They’ve done some brilliant work exposing genuine racism and religious extremism. However, one of the organisations they liaise with is the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, which has been one of the major promoters of the Labour Party anti-Semitism smears. Nevertheless, they’ve done an excellent job in helping to expose the rabid islamophobia in the Tory ranks.

And Labour’s allegations of deep-seated islamophobia in the Tories is clearly causing more than a little discomfort. One of the hacks in the I last week wrote a piece attacking political ‘whataboutery’. I didn’t read the article, just the headline, so I may well be wrong. But I took this to mean that they weren’t happy with Labour raising the issue of Tory islamophobia in response to the anti-Semitism smears. Smears which the I, like the rest of the press, was all too eager to promote.

This is an embarrassing issue for the Tories. Which is why they and the media are trying to play it down and cover it up. But it’s not going away, and needs to be exposed and dealt with.

Perhaps after Hope Not Hate, other organisations will take up the challenge and pressure Johnson to do more to combat such racism in his ranks. But as he’s one of them, don’t bet on it. 

See: https://www.hopenothate.org.uk/2020/03/02/revealed-new-evidence-of-islamophobia-among-conservative-party-officials-and-activists/

 

 

Radio 4 Programme on Welsh 20th Century Decline

March 11, 2020

This might be of interest to Welsh readers of this blog, particularly as Mike’s a long-time resident of mid-Wales. Next Monday, 16th March 2020, Radio 4 are also broadcasting a programme on how Wales declined during the last century. The programme, Wales: A 20th-Century Tragedy?, is described thus in the blurb on page 131 of the Radio Times:

Simon Jenkins looks at the fortunes of Wales over the past century, asking how it might be possible to restore some glory to its valleys and mountains.

Rather more information is given in the short piece about the programme on the opposite page, 130, by Chris Gardner. This says

Simon Jenkins is passionate about Wales, the land of his father. His 2008 book Wales: Churches, Houses, Castles showcased the beauty and majesty of Welsh architecture, but the author and journalist is now worried for the nation’s future, citing among other factors the rise in the poverty index, while counties just over the border, such as Cheshire, have become richer. Examining Wale’s illustrious cultural, political, industrial and intellectual heritage over the last century, Jenkins uncovers historical reasons for this comparatively recent decline.

I think the major reason for this decline has been decline of the major Welsh industries during the last century – coal mining and iron working. There have been various history programmes on the Beeb that have shown that Swansea and Cardiff were major centres of the copper and iron industries from the 19th century onwards. I think Swansea was the world centre of copper production at one point, so that it was nicknamed ‘Copperopolis’. But this all gradually vanished due to competition from cheaper, foreign products. And this has continued into this century under the Tories, as we saw a few years ago with the proposed closure of one of the last surviving steelworks in the principality.

The country also hasn’t been helped by the fact that we haven’t had a Welsh prime minister, or one whose constituency was in Wales, for a long time. I seem to recall that Cardiff became the great city it is, housing Wales’ national museum, partly because Lloyd George wanted to turn it into a great national centre for Wales, like England and Scotland had London and Edinburgh respectively. The Labour PM, Jim Callaghan, attempted to do something for Wales, from what I recall, by diverting money that was earmarked to go to Bristol’s Portbury Docks to Cardiff. But his tenure of 10 Downing Street ended with Thatcher’s victory in 1979. And the Tories made it very plain that they weren’t going to help ailing industries, so that coal pits, and iron and steelworks up and down Britain were closed. This was partly because she wanted to destroy the coal industry so that a Tory government could no longer be overthrown by the miners, as Ted Heath’s had in the early ’70s.

I don’t know why Cheshire should have become more prosperous, unless it’s connected to the success of Liverpool FC. A friend of mine from that way told me that there’s a district in the county, which has become the country home of rich Liverpudlians, including footballers. Perhaps that’s part of the explanation.

If you want to listen to it, the programme’s on at 8.00 pm in the evening.

 

Melanie Philips Pushing the Anti-Semitism Smears Again

March 7, 2020

Okay, it’s the beginning of March, Boris Johnson’s government has settled into its new round of incompetence and personal vindictiveness, and the Tories have been caught in another islamophobia scandal. According to the Mirror, 20 Tory members were expelled for their horrendous views on Islam. BBC Politics Live in its wisdom decided to discuss the issue of race. Unfortunately, one of the guests they chose to talk about it was Daily Heil hack Melanie Phillips. The author of Londonistan, which claims that London is now seething with Islamist terrorists and that Muslims are intent on destroying western society, her views on race are closer to Tommy Robinson than Dr. Martin Luther King. And like the rest of the Israel lobby, she confuses anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. According to Zelo Street, she began by expressing her views on the leading contender for the Labour leadership. Keir Starmer, she opined, was a ‘very decent guy’, and she was sure he was going to put in eye-catchingly good measures to get rid of people, who have not been got rid of.  As for Rebecca Long-Bailey’s response to questioning the day before, she declared that Long-Bailey was trying to avoid the fact that she had gone along with something she should never have gone along with, along with many other members of the Labour Party. Which was, she then explained, that Starmer wasn’t going to get on top of this problem. And that problem went beyond the Labour Party and permeated progressive politics. And it was all about hostility to Israel. She said

It’s wrapped up in attitudes to Israel. It’s wrapped up with beliefs that what’s being talked about isn’t really anti-Semitism, it’s not really prejudice, it’s simply an attempt to stop criticism of Israel. In other words, even among people of goodwill, there is a very widespread failure to understand quite what this thing is that has come out of the woodwork, and until and unless people are prepared to acknowledge precisely what it is, and acknowledge the enormity of it, and the depth of it, no-one’s going to get on top of it”.

As Zelo Street points out, not only is Phillips highly presumptuous in arrogating to herself the authority to define what anti-Semitism is, she expands it so that it includes legitimate criticism of Israel. Even the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which includes amongst its examples criticisms of Israel, also allows legitimate criticism.

And Zelo Street also pointed out that Philip’s opinions were at variance with the facts. After all the evidence of anti-Semitism was passed to the cops, the rozzers only charged one person. Five were arrested, but four of them – three men and a woman – were released and told they would face no further action. That’s out of a party with nearly half a million members.

The Street concludes

‘If what Melanie Phillips was talking about “goes very deep”, how come only one person was charged with an offence? After all that evidence was handed over to the Police? After all the hype, if there was such a serious problem, wouldn’t one expect the numbers to be rather more significant than that? It’s almost as if someone was exaggerating.

Not that one could ever accuse Melanie Phillips of such behaviour. Perish the thought!’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/03/melanie-phillips-racism-hypocrisy.html

In fact nearly all the allegations of galloping anti-Semitism in the Labour Party are fact-free. The people accused and expelled, like Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, Martin Odoni, Mike Sivier, Cyril Chilson and many others, were smeared because they were supporters of Corbyn and/or critics of Israel. They are all genuine anti-racists, but the whole point of the anti-Semitism witch hunt is to close down criticism of Israel and its barbarous treatment of the Palestinians, regardless as to truth or legitimacy. Eleven years ago Peter Oborne, a former Telegraph journalist of immense integrity, who just before the election announced his support for Corbyn, present a Dispatches documentary on Channel 4 on the Israel lobby. He talked to former Groaniad editor Alan Rusbridger, who told him that whenever the newspaper published a piece on Israeli atrocities, the head of the Board of Deputies of British Jews would turn up with his pet lawyer, moaning that coverage of such events would result in a rise in anti-Semitism. He also discussed how the Board had accused the Beeb of anti-Semitism because it dared to cover the massacre of Palestinians by the Lebanese Christian Phalange in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps during that country’s civil war. The Phalange were allied to Israel, and therefore the coverage was anti-Semitic. And so were the very respected Beeb foreign correspondents, Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin, who reported it. When the Beeb tried to defend them, the defenders, in true witch hunt fashion, were also accused of anti-Semitism. And that included David Attenborough, the very well respected wildlife presenter and former head of BBC 2 many decades ago. The documentary interviewed the Oxford academic Avi Shlaim, an expert on Middle East affairs, who revealed that the Board’s complaints had been examine by the broadcasting regulators, and rejected except on a minor point. The Beeb’s reportage had been correct.

But this is immaterial to the Board and the rest of the Israel lobby. What matters is defending Israel, whatever it does. Even when that includes shooting nurses and unarmed protesters dead and torturing children. And the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is an important weapon in its defence. Because it states that some criticism of Israel may be anti-Semitic. This is expanded to mean all, or as many as the Israel lobby can get away with. It’s why Kenneth Stern, the Zionist American academic, who was one of those who formulated the definition, has criticised it for having a chilling effect on free speech about Israel.

The Tories and the Israel lobby are terrified of legitimate criticism of Israel. So terrified in fact, that they ignore the fact that anti-Semitism is far more prevalent in right-wing parties, and that almost all of it in this country comes from the far right. And so Melanie Phillips and her ideological ilk have precious little to say about members of the Met police having connections to real Nazi organisations, or Tommy Robinson greeting his supporters with ‘Shalom’ and appealing for more money to overthrow the White race – a clear reference to the real anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

No, they’re far more worried about a united, resurgent Labour Party. A party that would allow legitimate criticism of Israel. And that says much about their racism and hypocrisy.

 

 

Private Eye: Tory NHS Privatisers Heading Back into Government

March 5, 2020

This fortnight’s issue of Private Eye, for 6th to 19th March 2020, has a worrying piece, ‘Smear Campaign’, in their ‘HP Sauce’ column on page 13. This reports that Boris, having won the election, is reneging on his promise not to privatise or commercialise the NHS. Instead, two Tory MPs with connections to the Serco and the private accountancy firm, McKinsey, respectively, which were deeply involved in the privatisation and outsourcing of NHS services seems to be coming closer to getting into government. It also names another senior NHS official, who is also in favour of privatisation and who also has connections to the same wretched bunch of profiteers. The article runs

“There has been no increase in NHS privatisation and there won’t be under a Conservative government”, the Tories insisted during the election campaign. But two of Boris Johnson’s new health ministers come from leading health privatisers.

Edward Argar, minister responsible for NHS England, was chief lobbyist for outsourcer Serco before he became an MP in 2015. Serco’s involvement in NHS privatisation includes some what the Tory manifesto liked to call “Labour’s disastrous PFI deals.”

Then there’s Helen Whatley, the MP for Faversham and Mid Kent and now minister for health and care integration, who was a management consultant in the health division of consultancy McKinsey from 2007 to 2015. McKinsey’s long-running interest in NHS privatisation includes helping former Tory health secretary Andrew Lansley draw up the reforms in 2012 that created many more opportunities for private firms to be “commissioned” for NHS work.

Though th egovernment was keen to close down NHS commercialisation as an issue during the last election, the appointment of a former McKinsey consultant as health minister suggests it is no longer worried on this score now it has such a big majority.

McKinsey’s influence was further cemented in January when NHS England appointed Penny Dash, its head of healthcare for Europe,to chair one of London’s five “integrated care systems” (ICS). These were set up to make the NHS and local authority social care work better together – a responsibility that will now be overseen by new minister and ex-McKinseyite Whatley. NHS England tells the Eye that Dash is “in the process of retiring” from McKinsey, though there is no set date: thus she will simultaneously work for NHS England and McKinsey until her retirement is complete.

Dash, who has also worked for the health department, typifies McKinsey’s enthusiasm for privatisation. In 2016 she talked up the Alzira plan, a Spanish scheme whereby a private firm takes responsibility for providing care to a given population in return for a fixed, per-capita payment. In 2011, Dash tried to revive interest in an idea rejected by Tony Blair, which would have given women needing a smear test or patients wanting an X-ray a voucher to shop around among providers. Will ideas like smear vouchers soon be back on the agenda? Watch this space…

I sincerely hope not, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they will. Nor would I be surprised if Cummings and crew aren’t discussing them even now.

There should be absolutely no surprise that the privatisation of the NHS is back in the Tory sights. As Mike’s pointed out in his piece today about Boris’ mendacious answers about nurses’ bursaries and free hospital car parking, the Tories are absolutely incapable of telling the truth. As for the guff about ‘Labour’s disastrous PFI deals’, well, yes, they were disastrous. But who dreamed up the Private Finance Initiative in the first place? You guessed it – the Tories. It was Peter Lilley’s big idea to open up the NHS to private investment.

The fact that Boris and his sordid band were desperate to deny they were going to privatise the NHS at the election shows how important it is that Labour should oppose NHS privatisation and demand its renationalisation. As for Serco and McKinsey, they should be thrown out of government contracting immediately. And Dash, Argar and Whatley should be kept as far from government and the NHS as possible.

Don’t believe the Tories lies – they are determined to privatise the health service. And that is something this country cannot afford.

Channel 4 Threatened by the Tories with Privatisation… Again

February 6, 2020

The ‘Viewpoint’ column in next week’s Radio Times, for the 8th to 14th February 2020, contains an article by Maggie Brown, ‘Saving Thatcher’s baby’, about the problems confronting Channel 4. It begins

In 2020, Channel 4 is facing a number of challenges. Its staff are scattered to the winds, Channel 4 News is under attack from the Government, and the threat of privatisation looms. Is the pioneering broadcaster, which was launched in 1982 by Margaret Thatcher, facing an endgame?

She then describes how the broadcaster has moved its headquarters out of London and into Leeds, with hubs in Glasgow and Bristol with more programmes filmed in the regions, such as Manchester and Wales, and changes to the broadcasting schedules with the introduction of new programmes. One of these will be Taskmaster, taken from the Dave digital channel. Brown comments that the programme’s acquisition by Channel 4 is an attempt to boost audiences, but is also ‘a symptom of the tricky compromises and tightrope that C4 has to walk.’ She continues

It is a public service broadcaster “funded by advertising, owned by you”. It must also rally support as an alternative public service broadcaster to the BBC in the face of a hostile Conservative government that is needled by its mischievous independence and most recent mockery (that melting ice sculpture after Boris Johnson failed to show up for a climate change debate).

But relations with Conservative governments have always been tense, with liberal Channel 4 News and tough current affairs programmes such as Dispatches the lightning conductors. After the climate change debate last November, privatisation was immediately threatened again: a knee-jerk response.

She ends the piece by stating that the broadcaster’s business team will remain in London. She sees this as an indication that the broadcaster will not only confound the pessimist’s predictions of its impending demise, but will actually thrive. The business team have the Thatcherite values of self-reliance, and it’s this quality that will allow the broadcaster not only to survive but flourish.

Hm. Possibly. My own feeling is that if Channel 4’s business team manages to save the broadcaster, it won’t be because of an nebulous ethos of ‘self-reliance’, but because it will reflect the views and demands of metropolitan business. The same businesses that fund the Tory party.

She is, however, right about the Tories having a persistent distrust of the broadcaster. Thatcher set Channel 4 up in order to be an alternative to BBC 2. It was to serve communities that the Beeb channel didn’t, like ethnic minorities. It was also to excel in news coverage, as well as alternative arts and sports. By the latter, Denis Thatcher actually meant yachting. What that meant in practice was that the programme broadcast opera, as well as Indian cinema, a serial of the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, a history of the madrigal, the pop show, The Tube, and a variety of comedy shows. These included Who Dares  Wins, a sketch show whose cast include Rory McGrath and Tony Robinson, the classic satirical puppet show, Spitting Image, and Desmond’s, which was set in a Black barbers, and launched a wave of Black comedian in Britain. It also had a history of Africa presented by the White afro-centric historian, Basil Davidson, and a news programme about the continent with Black presenters and reporters.  It also showed Max Headroom, which consisted of pop videos hosted by the eponymous Max, the world’s first computer-generated video jockey. Offsetting all the highbrow stuff were sexually explicit films and programmes, which was the closest teenage schoolchildren could get to viewing porn before the internet. It was the sexually explicit stuff that particularly annoyed the Daily Mail, who branded the broadcaster’s controller at the time, Michael Grade, ‘Britain’s pornographer in chief’. The Channel responded to this by broadcasting programmes for gays and lesbians. Amid the furore, one of the most sensible comments was made by the archdeacon of York. When they asked the good churchman what his view of the broadcaster showing a series about lesbians, he replied, ‘Well, who’s going to watch that if there’s Clint Eastwood on the other?’ Quite. Now I understand that one of the channels is bringing back The ‘L’ Word, a lesbian soap opera first shown at the beginning of this century. Quite apart from Channel 4’s own gay soap opera, Queer As Folk.

Private Eye seemed to regard Channel 4 back then as condescending and pretentious. Its literary reviewer sharply criticised a book by its then chief, Jeremy Isaacs, because he made it plain he wanted to bring the British public material like miner’s oral history and so on. When people complained that people didn’t want some of this, Isaacs replied that they had latent needs, needs they didn’t know they had, until someone showed them the material they’d been missing. It was this comment that particularly aroused the reviewer’s ire. But Isaac’s was right. Sometimes you don’t know if there’s a demand for a subject, until you offer people the chance of trying it. And Channel 4 really tried to expand, create and satisfy a market for culture. Oliver Letwin, the former sketchwriter for the Daily Mail and now the Times, actually praised the broadcaster for this in his book, Bog Standard Britain. The broadcaster’s programming always hit and miss. Amid the good stuff there was also much material that was rubbish. And while it had the reputation as rather left-wing, it also carried a programme of political discussion for Conservatives, Right Talk. On the other hand, its opera performances actually managed to reach a decently sized audience, showing that ordinary Brits wanted and would watch highbrow culture.

Its average audience, however, was tiny, and there was pressure on the broadcaster, like the Beeb, to produce more popular programmes to give the British public value for money. Hence the channel became much more mainstream in the 1990s. Its audience grew as expected, but the country lost out as the channel no longer tried to expand the public’s minds and tastes as it once had. And as I said, this was lamented by Letwin, among others, a supporter of the very party that had spent so much time decrying and criticising the channel for being too daring and alternative.

If I remember correctly, the Tories have privatised the channel before. There have been at least two part-privatisations, where the government has sold off some of its share in it. One was under Thatcher, when she was privatising everything. I think the other may have been under Major, who continued her programme. I have a feeling that the second privatisation may have been a cynical move by the Tories to try and work up some enthusiasm for the government. It was announced with the fanfare the Tories usually gave the privatisations, presenting them as some kind of exciting generous opportunity granted to Britain’s workers. Thatcher was trying to create a shareholder democracy, where ordinary people would own shares as participants in capitalism. That’s all died the death a long time ago. The shares given to the workers in the privatised industries have all been sold on, and are now in the hands of a few big businessmen. The council houses she sold off have been bought by private housing associations for profit, and there’s now a housing shortage. And the privatisations were never as popular as the Tories tried to make us all believe to begin with. Support for them, according to polls done at the time, never rose about fifty per cent.

Channel 4 news has a reputation for excellence. Which is undoubtedly why the Tories now despise it and are discussing privatisation again. Britain’s publicly owned broadcasters are under threat because they are obstacles to Murdoch, the Americans and the British private broadcasters, who fund the Tories, dominating British television. They also despise them because they’re supposed to be impartial, unlike the private networks, which would be free to have whatever bias their proprietors chose. And besides, as this week’s attempts to dictate to the media, who could and could not attend BoJob’s precious lobby briefings shows, the Tories want to impose ever more restrictive controls over the media. The end result of that process, if it goes on is, is the rigorous, authoritarian censorship of totalitarianism.

I dare say that if the Tories do go ahead and privatise the Beeb and/or Channel 4, it’ll be presented as some kind of great liberalisation. The British public will be freed from having to support them, and they will have to take their chances in the market place, according to the tenets of Thatcherism. But if that happens, public service broadcasting will have been destroyed along with what should have been cornerstones of media impartiality.

But considering how relentless biased the Beeb has been against Labour and in favour of the Tories, their news desk has done much to destroy that already.

The Labour Party, Affirmative Action and the Problem of Liberal Prejudice, Part 1: Racism

February 4, 2020

This is another piece about one of the issues raised at the Labour party deputy leadership hustings in Bristol on Saturday. It could be controversial, because in it I question some of the assumptions underlying some of the pro-minority movements and campaigns. I’m doing this not because I’m opposed to them, but simply to try to correct what I regard are flaws and defects in them, which may be the source of other kinds of injustice and fuel a backlash against these programmes from the right.

One of the questions at the hustings came from a student at one of the city’s universities. They were upset at the appearance of posters saying, ‘It’s Okay To Be White’ around campus. Racism was on the rise, and they wanted to know what the candidates would do about it.

Now let’s be clear about it. Racism is on the rise. There has been an increase in racist incidents since Brexit. Yesterday the papers carried a story about poster that had been put up in a block of flats telling non-Anglophone residents that they should only speak English. If they couldn’t do this, it said, that they should hand their property over to an English family and leave for their countries of origin. One of the documentary shows following real police doing their job last night showed them tackling a racist incident. A Romanian family had been abused by their English neighbour, and the father had been attacked. One of the two female rozzers, who made the arrest, said that she didn’t feel that the number of racist people had increased, but that the racists had been emboldened by Brexit. Some of Zelo Street’s posts confirm this. The supporters of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson, whose anti-immigrant abuse and vitriol was uncovered by the blogger Jacob’sfriends, also seems to be strongly pro-Brexit. As were the right-wing posters attacking Rachel Riley for getting Katie Hopkins banned from Twitter, whatever lies Oberman wants to push about the far left. 

But the situation is complicated by the fact that many Whites do not feel themselves to racist, and believe that the anti-racism campaigns are racially smearing them. Over a decade and a half ago the Spectator expressed and tried to capitalise on this resentment with an article ‘Blackened Whites’. Another article stated that the only minority not welcome in central London was White working class men. The slogan ‘It’s okay to be White’ is another expression of this feeling. As far as I can make out, it started in America among Conservatives, who believed that Whites were being unfairly tarnished as racists. These Conservatives include Blacks as well as Whites. There’s a series of videos by a group of Black activists carrying a placard bearing the slogan as the confront liberals and left-wingers.

And unfortunately, they do have a point. I’ve read material from anti-racist and Black activists that seems to assume that if you’re White, you have to be racist and which does approach a kind of racial essentialism. There’s a hidden assumption that, through their history, somehow all Whites are racist and can only be stopped from being so through Black activism. I’ll admit that not all Black or anti-racist activists are like this by any means. But it is there, and it is causing a backlash against anti-racism programmes.

All of the candidates expressed their firm determination to combat racism. One of the female candidates – I’m fairly sure it was Dawn Butler, but I could be wrong – announced that she wanted to defend and promote the rights of all minorities. Not only did she want all-women shortlists, she wanted all-Black shortlists, and similar representation for the LGBTQ communities and the disabled. She, or one of the other female candidates, also said that they were also determined to stamp out misogyny.

There have been calls for greater numbers of Black and Asian MPs for a long time. It has been said that if the number of BAME MPs reflected the size of the Black and Asian population, there would be 50 of them rather than the handful there is at the moment. However, as many Black communities form a minority within White majority constituencies, there’s a tendency, conscious or otherwise, to choose White candidates. Hence there was a letter in one of the papers during an election in the first decade of this century by a Black writer, stating that Black people could represent them.

I am absolutely sure in many cases that this is correct. But this also raises the question of Black racism and double standards. If Whites can’t represent Blacks, then it could be asked if it is also unfair to assume that Blacks can represent Whites. And Black and Asian anti-White racism exists. At the same time that letter was written, Whites became the majority of victims of racial abuse and assault. Reading between the lines, I think that the majority of victims were still Black and Asian, but Whites constituted the single largest group of victims. The rise in anti-White racism was throughout the country, and the organisations set up to help victims of racial abuse made it clear that they were also going to help Whites. Since then, and particularly after 9/11, the situation has returned to Blacks and Asians being the victims of most of this abuse and violence. But anti-White racism is still present. And unfortunately some of the Black anti-racist organisations don’t want it recognised or tackled.

A few weeks ago, Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, put up a video about the Black and Asian organisations, which had written to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. They were upset because the Commission was also including stats on incidents against White British. This, they felt, could not be justified because Whites don’t have the long history of racist persecution as non-White minorities. This is an extremely dangerous view. The recognition of racial abuse and violence by ethnic minorities against Whites in no way subtracts from the racism experienced by those communities. It is merely a recognition that anti-White prejudice also exists, and needs to be tackled. If it isn’t, it hardly needs to be said that a certain section of the White community will look instead to the far right as their protectors. Racial tensions have also increased due to the mishandling of the cases of Asian paedophile gangs abusing White girls. In Rotherham it went on for years, and the Manchester police and local authority knew about it, and did nothing. They were afraid that if they did act, it would start riots.

I am very much aware that the majority of child abusers in this country are White. I am also aware that the abusers were secular individuals, and that they weren’t abusing White girls because they were Muslims, as the Islamophobes have claimed. One academic, who has covered the case, has denied that race was a motivation behind their assaults. However, it was a factor in the authorities decision not to prosecute the offenders for about ten years. They did not want to do so because they were Asian, and the girls were White. And this has promoted the feeling that the liberal establishment, as it is so considered, has no interest in defending Whites from victimisation by ethnic minorities. It’s a gift to organisations like Britain First and the EDL. Or simply the Conservative party, as it has moved so far to the racist right under Johnson.

There is also the problem that some of the alienation experience by Whites in constituencies with large ethnic minority communities, has been increased immensely when the parties seem only interested in choosing candidates from those communities. Following the Oldham riots, the Financial Times sent their correspondent, Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, to the town to investigate. The Asian and White communities there were nearly equal, with the White a fraction larger. However, all of the parties – Labour, Lib Dem and the Conservatives – had chosen Asian candidates. And these candidates seemed less interested in the local issues that affected everyone in Oldham, regardless of colour, than in issues far away in India and Pakistan, most specifically the issue of Kashmir. A section of the White community felt ignored and marginalised, tensions increased and then exploded into violence.

This puts any politician elected from an all-Black or Asian shortlist in a difficult position. They are there to represent all of the community. But many will be on the list because they specifically want to help Blacks and Asians. In constituencies where Whites are in a minority, like parts of London, that could mean that parts of the White population feel discriminated against. Some might turn to the far right. Others may leave London to White majority in the ‘White flight’. And some will remain, but become alienated and cynical. It’s recipe for increasing racial tension, not fighting it. The situation is made worse by the network of organisations and schemes that are only open to Blacks and Asians and which exclude Whites in a system that the Financial Times called ‘liberal apartheid’. Black and Asian politicians elected through such shortlists will be seen as part of an establishment that actively discriminates against Whites. Individual politicians elected through such lists will have to show that they can also represent Whites as well. Which means that they also may be too cautious, and fail to give deprived ethnic minority communities adequate help and support.

All-Black and Asian shortlists will help solve the problem of Black underrepresentation in Parliament, but depending on the local personalities and organisations involved, they risk increasing racism by excluding Whites. 

 

Private Eye Attacks Hypocrisy of Non-Dom Tax Dodging Press Barons

January 29, 2020

Five years ago in 2015 the then leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, outraged the press barons in Fleet Street by suggesting the abolition of non-dom tax status for people actually living in the UK. This frightened them, as many of them, such as Evgeny Lebedev, the owner of the I and Evening Standard, David and Frederick Barclay, the weirdo owners of the Torygraph, and Heil owner Viscount Rothermere, also avoid paying British tax through non-dom status. There was therefore a flurry of articles in their papers scorning Miliband’s suggestion and declaring that if it came in, it would bankrupt Britain by forcing all the millionaires in London and elsewhere to flee the country. And the papers certainly did not tell their readers that there was more than a bit of self-interest behind their attacks on Miliband.

Private Eye, which, according to editor Ian Hislop, skewers humbug, therefore published an article in their ‘In the Back’ section, ‘Street of Sham’ in the issue for 17th to 30th April 2015 attacking this fine display of gross hypocrisy. The piece ran

So consuming was the Tory press’s rage at Ed Milibands’s plan to make Russian oligarchs and gulf petro-billionaires in London liable for the same taxes as British citizens, its hacks forgot to declare their interest.

“London backlash over Ed’s non-dom attack,” boomed the front-page of the London Evening Standard, as if a mob had descended on Labour HQ to defend London’s much-loved oligarchs and hedge-fund managers. “Attacking non-doms could backfire on us,” continued an editorial inside. Sarah Sands, the Standard’s Uriah Heepish editor, did not risk her career by saying who the “us” included – namely her boss, Standard proprietor Evgeny Lebedev, the Russian who last year dodged the Eye’s repeated questions over his own domicile.

Silence infected the Telegraph too, where not one of the reporters who warned that Labour’s “cataclysmic” decision would drive away “tens of thousands of entrepreneurs and business leaders” mentioned that their owners, the weirdo Barclay twins, reside in Monaco and the Channel Islands to avoid British tax.

Instead they quoted James Hender, head of private wealth at Saffery Champness accountants, who warned that the rich may leave. The Telegraph didn’t tell its readers that Hender boasts of his long experience ensuring that “the most tax efficient strategies are adopted for non-UK situs assets” for his non-dom clients.

It was the same at the Mail, which failed to declare that its owner, 4th Viscount Rothermere, is treated by the tax authorities as a non-dom. And at Sky, political editor Faisal Islam reported that “Baltic Exchange boss Jeremy Penn slams Labour non-dom plans” without declaring that his owner, Rupert Murdoch, does not pay UK tax and that Penn acts for super-rich shipping owners.

Jolyon Maugham QC, who has advised Labour and the Tories on tax reform, tells the Eye that any reader silly enough to believe the Tory press and tax avoidance industry should look at what they said in 2008, when Labour introduced the first levies on non-doms.

Back then the Mail then said the central London property market would crash as non-doms sold up and moved to Switzerland. In fact, between Labour introducing the levy and 2014, prime central London property prices rose 41 percent. At the end of 2014, Knightsbridge estate agent W.A. Ellis said 54 percent of sales were to overseas buyers.

The Mail was equally certain the City would suffer. On 8 February 2008 it cried that the levy “risks the City’s future”. The British Banking Association warned of “a devastating blow”. The Telegraph of 12 February 2008 said that “the country’s wealthiest individuals are being bombarded with leaflets and letters explaining how easy it would be to relocate to Switzerland, Monaco and a host of other countries”. Not to be outdone, Mike Warburton, senior tax partner at accountants Grant Thornton, said the levy was the “final straw”.

If a word of this had been true, there would be no non-doms left for Milband to tax. As it is, there are 115,000 because, as Maugham says, London remains a “very nice place to live, if you’re wealthy. And that won’t change.” Or as the Financial Times put it: “The many advantages of London as a financial centre do not dissolve simply because of a change in a hitherto generous tax treatment of resident non-domiciles.”

The pink ‘un has only recently realised the iniquity of the non-dom rule, with an editorial last month calling for its abolition. Editor Lionel Barber modestly claims some credit for Miliband’s stance. But as editor for almost a decade, why was he so late to the party? Surely not because, until 2013, FT owner Pearson was run by US-born Dame Marjorie Scardino, who would certainly have qualified for non-dom status and whose London flat, the Eye revealed, was owned via an offshore company?

The Daily Mail’s owner, Lord Rothermere, is a particularly flagrant tax dodger in this regarded. The current Rothermere inherited the status from his father, who really was not resident in the UK. He lived in Paris. But Rothermere junior appears very much to have made Britain his permanent or at least primary residence. He has a parking space in London, and the Eye reported a few years ago he was extensively renovating his stately home in the West Country.

The non-dom tax status, offshore banking and other ways used by the corporate and super rich to avoid tax are part of the reason for the increasing impoverishment of everyone else. They aren’t paying their fair share of the tax burden, but receiving massive tax handouts instead. Thus the NHS and other important services are deprived of money. The tax burden is then passed onto ordinary, working people. This reduction in taxes for the rich used to be justified under Thatcher with the argument that the money the rich saved would somehow trickle down to the rest of us. This hasn’t worked. It doesn’t encourage the rich to open any more businesses or employ more people. The money just sits in their accounts earning more interest.

It also doesn’t the rich closing businesses and laying people off either. This was shown a year or so ago in America, when one of the corporate recipients of the Republicans’ tax cuts closed a branch or a factory, laying hundreds of workers off.

And the purchase of London property by foreigners is also a further cause of poverty. Ordinary people in the Smoke can’t afford to buy homes as rich foreigners – not asylum seekers or migrants – push property prices up far out of their reach. Some of these homes are simply left empty as an investment in what is known as ‘land banking’. This has a knock-on effect for the rest of the UK. Here in Bristol property prices have also risen to extremely highly levels through Londoners forced out of the capital relocating to the city. And in turn, some Bristolians are looking for cheaper homes elsewhere in places like Wales.

London still is a ‘very nice place to live, if you’re wealthy’, but the tax cuts which make Britain so comfortable for the global rich are causing poverty, misery and homelessness for everyone else.

And this is applauded and cheered by hypocritical press magnates and editors.

Anti-Tory Cartoon: Ozymaggias

January 28, 2020

Here’s another of my cartoons mocking the Conservatives. And the specific subject of satire today is, once again, Maggie Thatcher. It’s inspired by the incident 18 years ago when someone, who was very definitely not a fan of Maggie’s, decapitated a statue of her in London’s Guildhall. Private Eye marked the occasion in its edition for 12th to 25th July 2002 with a parody of Shelley’s classic poem, ‘Ozymandias’, written by ‘Percy Bysshe Sparty’. It was a very appropriate joke. Shelley’s poem is a meditation on the vanity and transitory nature of earthly power. It tells how a traveller ‘from an antique land’ tells the poet about the remains of statue out in the desert, consisting of just two legs and a head. The statue’s face is cruel, with a frown, wrinkled lip and ‘sneer of cold command’. The pedestal is inscribed with one of the most famous lines in British literature, ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’ But nothing of these remains, and all around the statue the bare sands stretch far away.

Private Eye’s spoof of the poem ran:

I met a traveller from, er, England

Who said: – A great big lump of stone

Stands in the Guildhall. Near to it, on the carpet,

Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown

And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,

The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed,

And on the pedestal these words appear:

“My name is Ozymaggias, queen of queens.

Look on my works, ye mighty and despair!”

Thatcher was ousted from power in 1990 or so, and died years ago, a sad and embittered old woman. Unfortunately, her legacy, neoliberalism with its privatisation, destruction of the NHS and dismantlement of the welfare state continues. And it’s killing our people and destroying the country, just as climate change threatens to turn the planet into a burning desert.

We need a proper Labour leader, who can finally beat the Tories and destroy the reign of fear and poverty Thatcher started.

And then hopefully we can all gather round the visage of a statue of her, and mock her frown, wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command with a few of our own.