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Monthly Archives: October 2021

The Stench of Corruption

By Adrian Ekins-Daukes

It was not until late Match 2020 that  the UK Government began to arrange for protective equipment (PPE) for hospital staff and care workers. The EU had done so in early January. By then Britain had to do so in emergency conditions, and a tightening global market for PPE.

 In order to speed up procurement, it set up a up a high-priority channel to assess and process tenders and grant contracts, without going through normal procedures. To maintain transparency, the government was required to declare details of such contracts within 30 days of awarding them.  Lord Bethel, a junior health minister, promised that suppliers would be evaluated by officials on their financial standing.  On 27 March Government began to invite  tenders for PPE.

By the end of 2020, following a report by National Audit Office (NAO) and court cases brought by the Good Law Project, it was clear that the the new system had resulted in setting aside safeguards ensuring good value for public money and against corruption.  Suppliers with political connections (such as Ministers, Tory MPs and Cabinet Office officials) were being directed to a “VIP” lane where their tenders for lucrative contracts were automatically treated as credible and prioritised by officials. Such bids were 10 times more likely to succeed than those of non-favoured suppliers. VIP tenderers also got very favourable terms. Despite Government efforts  to cover up VIP profits, it is known they received inflated margins  of 35% – 45% or more , on contracts up to hundreds of millions of pounds. By comparison, a normal profit margin was 10-20%

The NAO also criticised government for other failures, including lack of transparency, and conflicts of interest. In particular, it noted that the Cabinet Office and Health Ministry had failed to explain why companies with government connections and poor due diligence records were chosen to provide crucial services such as supplying PPE, consulting and policy advice.  Some lacked any experience of PPE;  NAO disclosed that 195m pieces of PPE had proved to be unusable.

A further report in April 2021 by Transparency International, (TI), a respected anti-corruption organisation, stated that 1 in 5 government COVID contracts awarded between February and November 2020 were marked with 1 or more red flags indicating a need for investigation for possible corruption. 27 PPE or testing contracts worth £2.1bn had been awarded to firms with clear connections to the Tory party.  £255m of contracts had been awarded to companies that had only been formed within the previous 60 days. (Such a short lifespan suggests no track record of actual business).  As for the Government’s claim that the system was a form of triage, to prioritise serious companies over chancers, a senior TI researcher commented :. “Triage fine, bur why on earth ask politicians to do it?  Did they even ask any medical experts? Or was it just prioritised on the basis of who managed to ring the right person at the right time?”  TI concluded that there was “apparent systemic bias in the award of PPE contracts that favoured those with political connections to the governing party”. It called on the Government to disclose the identities of companies awarded public money through the VIP lane urgently, a request which the government has so far illegally refused.

All in all, the Government spent £17.3bn on contracts awarded to private companies without competitive tender to tackle the crisis . The total awarded in all COVID contracts was more than the capital expenditure budgets of major government departments such as Defence, Transport and HousingAlthough Government regulations require all contracts valued more than £10,000 to be published and sent for publication within 30 days,  the procurement consultancy Tussell found  although the Health Ministry had spent about £15 bn on PPE  by 1 October, only £2.68bn worth of contracts had been published.

This scandalous record of deceit and misuse of public money should be viewed against the PM’s Ministerial Code of conduct,  issued in August 2019:


Johnson went on to say:

“There must be no bullying and no harassment; no leaking; no breach of collective responsibility. No misuse of taxpayer money and no actual or perceived conflicts of interest.; the precious principles of public life enshrined in this document – integrity, objectivity, accountability, transparency, honesty and leadership in the public interest – must be honoured at all times as must the political impartiality of our much admired civil service.”

Adrian Ekins-Daukes

Write to MPs

Crossing the chasm

By Paul Bowers.

Please write to your MP to suggest that some ALL PARTY activity be undertaken on the European Union. These approaches are more collaborative than our two party politics allows and Paul has experience as a lobbyist. There are two versions of the letter below to suit your own needs. Please feel free to adapt as necessary.

Version 1: if your MP is NOT a Liberal Democrat (see version 2 below if s/he IS a LibDem)

[Name] MP

House of Commons

London

SW1A 0AA

Dear [MP]

All-Party Parliamentary Group on European Union

I am writing as a constituent to ask you to consider setting up an All-Party Parliamentary Group on the European Union.

[ADAPT AS NECESSARY: I am a member of {name of activist group}]. I voted Remain in the 2016 referendum, and I have campaigned on the issue ever since.]

[INSERT PERSONAL CONNECTION HERE: In addition, my husband is Estonian; I have fond memories of studying at the Sorbonne; I once ate a croissant … ]

As you know, leaving the EU has damaged the UK’s fishing communities, threatens our farmers and food security, has cost eye-watering sums for financial services, harmed our creative industries, and forced many exporters either to scale down or to relocate. Outside the EU we have not strengthened our standards, we have lowered them. We have not prospered, we have lost business and consumer choice. We have suffered disruption to supply chains that outstrips any global Covid effect. Raw sewage floats in our rivers and seas, livestock are needlessly culled, fruit and vegetables rot in the fields.

The Government’s responses have been to undermine the very withdrawal from the EU that it proclaimed. Checks on imports are not used, placing UK business at a disadvantage; a one-way visa scheme for HGV drivers is introduced; and the Northern Ireland Protocol that the Government celebrated is now disowned.

Brexit has also damaged UK democracy, reduced our standing in the world, stigmatised EU nationals, and divided our country.

I believe that membership of the European Union is a necessity for the UK.

However, the response of the major political parties to the result of the 2019 general election risks creating a vicious circle of despair. Many voters wish to rejoin the EU, but feel that this is not possible because politicians are not showing leadership to that end. They feel politically homeless.

If no voice in Parliament even addresses the damage of our loss of membership, nor points out the opportunities presented by new developments within the EU, such as the growth of the green and digital sectors from the ambitious NextGenerationEU recovery and transformation plan, we will not be in a position to take advantage promptly of any opportunity to promote membership that might arise.

According to the APPG Register of 6 October 2021, there are Groups on individual European countries, but not on the EU itself. APPGs on Erasmus and on Reuniting Britain Post-Brexit, which were on the June Register, have vanished. There are groups, however, on other international organisations, such as the UN and the Commonwealth.

As you may know, Article 11 of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement provides that the European Parliament and the UK Parliament may establish a Parliamentary Partnership Assembly “to exchange views on the partnership.”

In its Resolution 2021/2658(RSP) of 28 April 2021, the European Parliament endorsed this, envisaging an Assembly which would monitor implementation of the TCA, and suggesting that its remit include “the right to submit recommendations for areas where improved cooperation could be beneficial for both parties and to take joint initiatives to promote close relations.”

An APPG could support this work, and undertake a number of other roles:

  • Provide scrutiny of the TCA, now that the Government has abolished the Commons Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union
  • Raise awareness of the damage caused by Brexit and the broken promises of Brexiteers
  • Channel constituents’ views on policies that might reconcile them to EU membership
  • Represent the experiences of EU national constituents and their children
  • Commission research, providing spokespeople to the media and promoting an informed view of the EU, life outside, and the accession process
  • Provide a conduit to Parliament, through external membership, for informed activists
  • Contact the Conference on the Future of Europe to discuss reforms that might help reconcile UK voters to a future return, and to stay in touch with new developments in the EU
  • Create a basis for lobbying within your own party in an effort to shift the leadership towards Rejoin

I hope you will consider this suggestion positively, and speak to other Members about the possibility of creating an APPG on the EU. The longer we go without one, the more glaring the omission, and the harder it will be for politicians to break their silence on this most vital of issues.

Yours sincerely,

[Name]

[Address]

Version 2: If your MP is a Liberal Democrat

[Name] MP

House of Commons

London

SW1A 0AA

Dear [MP]

All-Party Parliamentary Group on European Union

I am writing as a constituent to ask you, as a Liberal Democrat MP, to advance your party’s conference policies by setting up an All-Party Parliamentary Group on the European Union.

[ADAPT AS NECESSARY: I am a member of {name of political party, activist group, etc}. I voted Remain in the 2016 referendum, and I have campaigned on the issue ever since.]

[INSERT PERSONAL CONNECTION HERE: In addition, my husband is Estonian; I have fond memories of studying at the Sorbonne; I once ate a croissant … ]

As you know, successive Liberal Democrat conferences have established as party policy support for the long-term objective of EU membership, and in the meantime close alignment on trade, security, environmental and other issues. They have condemned the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. They have authorised party bodies to demonstrate to the public the benefits of a closer relationship, create roadmaps towards the single market, customs union and agencies, and maximise support for renewed membership of the EU.

Leaving the EU has damaged the UK’s fishing communities, threatens our farmers and food security, has cost eye-watering sums for financial services, harmed our creative industries, and forced many exporters either to scale down or to relocate. Outside the EU we have not strengthened our standards, we have lowered them. We have not prospered, we have lost business and consumer choice. We have suffered disruption to supply chains that outstrips any global Covid effect. Raw sewage floats in our rivers and seas, livestock are needlessly culled, fruit and vegetables rot in the fields.

The Government’s responses have been to undermine the very withdrawal from the EU that it proclaimed. Checks on imports are not used, placing UK business at a disadvantage; a one-way visa scheme for HGV drivers is introduced; and the Northern Ireland Protocol that the Government celebrated is now disowned.

Brexit has also damaged UK democracy, reduced our standing in the world, stigmatised EU nationals, and divided our country.

I believe that membership of the European Union is a necessity for the UK.

However, the response of the major political parties to the result of the 2019 general election risks creating a vicious circle of despair. Many voters wish to rejoin the EU, but feel that this is not possible because politicians are not showing leadership to that end. They feel politically homeless.

Regardless of the Liberal Democrat policy on paper, the party is not providing any tangible leadership against Brexit or against the TCA, nor is it fulfilling its commitment to point out the benefits of a closer relationship.

If no voice in Parliament even addresses the damage of our loss of membership, nor points out the opportunities presented by new developments within the EU, such as the growth of the green and digital sectors from the ambitious NextGenerationEU recovery and transformation plan, we will not be in a position to take advantage promptly of any opportunity to promote membership that might arise.

According to the APPG Register of 6 October 2021, there are Groups on individual European countries, but not on the EU itself. APPGs on Erasmus and on Reuniting Britain Post-Brexit, which were on the June Register, have vanished. There are groups, however, on other international organisations, such as the UN and the Commonwealth.

As you may know, Article 11 of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement provides that the European Parliament and the UK Parliament may establish a Parliamentary Partnership Assembly “to exchange views on the partnership.”

In its Resolution 2021/2658(RSP) of 28 April 2021, the European Parliament endorsed this, envisaging an Assembly which would monitor implementation of the TCA, and suggesting that its remit include “the right to submit recommendations for areas where improved cooperation could be beneficial for both parties and to take joint initiatives to promote close relations.”

An APPG could support this work, and undertake a number of other roles:

  • Raising awareness of the damage caused by Brexit and the broken promises of Brexiteers
  • Channelling constituents’ views on policies that might reconcile them to EU membership
  • Creating a basis for lobbying within your own party in an effort to shift the leadership towards Rejoin
  • Representing the experiences of EU national constituents and their children
  • Providing scrutiny of the TCA, now that the Government has abolished the Commons Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union
  • Commissioning research, providing spokespeople to the media and promoting an informed view of the EU, life outside, and the accession process
  • Providing a conduit to Parliament, through external membership, for informed activists
  • Contacting the Conference on the Future of Europe to discuss reforms that might help reconcile UK voters to a future return, and to stay in touch with new developments in the EU

I hope you will consider this suggestion positively, and speak to other Members about the possibility of creating an APPG on the EU. The longer we go without one, the more glaring the omission, and the harder it will be for politicians to break the silence on this most vital of issues.

Please would you write back to me and explain why you and other Liberal Democrat MPs have not established an APPG on the EU, and how you reconcile this with your party’s conference policy.

Yours sincerely,

[Name]

[Address]

Britastrophe

THE COST OF OUR BREXITEER GOVERNMENT:  MORE THAN 100 AVOIDABLE DEATHS EVERY DAY

By Adrian Ekins-Daukes

When appointed health minister Javid announced that July19 would be ”Freedom Day’, the end of COVID restrictions, a date which would be “the start of an exciting new journey for our country”, and even “that the nation would be healthier without the restrictions”.  At the time  the number of cases was “ticking up”, but the death rate was low. Hospital admissions had doubled, but he saw no reason to  delay “be we could not eliminate the virus, we must learn to live with it”.  He also claimed that COVID was only a sort of snuffle, like a bad cold. This was an extraordinary statement, coming from a new appointee with experience in banking and politics but none in healthcare. As was pointed out, the approach went against the views of virtually all of the medical profession and NHS.  It ignored major problems such as the huge backlog of non-COVID cases, Long COVID and the risk of virus mutation. Javid either did not bother to take the advice of his scientific advisers or chose to ignore it. 

The situation has since worsened.  All the problems ignored by Javid have materialised. In addition, it has become clear that the double vaccines, on which the Government had relied to avoid taking anti-COVID measures, were rather less effective against the Delta variant  than anticipated, and began to lose efficacy after 6 months, requiring a booster vaccine programme, However, perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the current pandemic is the government’s complacent refusal to accept that we are in a pandemic at all.  The statistics and facts below correct this nonsense

Since mid-August, as many people in the UK have been dying from COVID every two weeks as typically die from flu in a year: about 1,400. Deaths are at the same level as in October 2021. The UK suffers around 100 deaths per day more than France, 

  • The UK has one of the highest per capita infection rates in the world: 4 times higher than Germany, 9 times higher than France, and 25 times higher than Spain, all of which apply light restrictions (not lockdown).
  • 40,000 new infections are recorded per day and pressure is rising. .Already, before winter sets in, the NHS is struggling to cope with hospitalisations;  1 in 5 intensive care beds are occupied by COVID patients. Queues of over 20 ambulances unable to deposit patients are reported.By October, 1 in 20 schoolchildren were COVID-positive and 1 in 7 are thought already to have long-lasting COVID symptoms.
  • Children down to the age of 9 have had to be hospitalised and paediatric beds in London and  N Ireland have recently been fully occupied . 
  • There remains a backlog of more than 5m delayed treatments from the summer.

So much for Javid’s ridiculous fantasy of a healthier nation.

Despite  protestations to the contrary, Johnson and his regime have never followed scientific advice until too late. Repeating the folly of ‘Freedom Day’,  Downing St merely says it is keeping a “close eye” on the deteriorating situation.  Javid remarks that the infection rate “feels quite stable”, as though huge numbers  don’t matter so long as they don’t change, Whilst recognising  the possibility of 100,000 infections per day this winter,  he still ignores the fact that  sheer numbers of infected people broaden the pool of virus in which new variants can arise and that the best way to avoid that is to keep infections low. Already, a new Delta variety has appeared since July that might be even more transmissible.

Our Government complacently regards  COVID-19 as if it were a natural hazard about which we can do nothing more, and wants us to think the same way despite the suffering involved. But, as the rest of western Europe shows, there was nothing inevitable about our predicament. It was a political choice. It happened mainly because of Johnson’s cowardly reluctance to face down the extremist dinosaurs on his own benches; eg Rees Mogg, who regards  wearing masks as a subject for scoring trivial political points rather than a means of combatting a lethal disease. But the alternative path available on July 17 is still there. It simply involves reverting to a program of light restrictions with social distancing, compulsory masks in public indoor spaces, vaccine passports and advice to work from home. None of these measures would cause significant economic disruption. No one is calling for a lockdown. They could be implemented very quickly. 

The choice before Johnson and his regime is as follows|-

Do they continue to appease the prejudices of populist bigotry ?;

OR 

Do they save lives and secure the future, particularly of children, from lifelong debilitation, at little economic cost ?

When the official inquiry into the COVID-19 crisis finally happens, this of the pandemic will warrant as much scrutiny as the earlier ones. If the  Government chooses the former option, the loss of life and disablement of so many might well justify charges of manslaughter and grievous bodily harm against Johnson and those ministers responsible for avoidable, and indeed wilful, criminal negligence.

Brexit Sewer

Down in the Brexit sewer

On this day when it became obvious that Brexit literally means Brexshit, as beaches are closed, due to the Tories voting to dump raw sewage in rivers due to lack of chemicals from Europe, this article is dedicated to the wonderful work of James Rowland aka Aidan Grooville on Twitter. Follow up for up to the minute satire on Brexit and other related matters.

Down in the sewer