Archive for the 'current events' Category

Boris Johnson lifts the lockdown

“Look, it’s perfectly simple. Go back to work, but don’t use public transport. Travel in a chauffeur-driven ministerial limousine. Use common sense – under no circumstances shake hands with people you know to have the virus. Covid-19 appeared in December, which makes it a Sagittarius, so Taureans and Libras should wear masks. But it also appeared in China, which makes it a Rat, so anyone called Mickey or Roland is advised to wear gloves. We’re following the science, so here’s a graph.

Incomprehensible graph

Remember, this is Blighty, not a nation of Moaning Minnies, Fondant Fancies or Coughing Keirs (thanks, Dom!). England expects every interchangeable low-paid worker and old person in a care home to Do Their Duty: let’s just Get Dying Done. God save the Queen, Tally-ho!”

Why I won’t clap for Boris

A right-wing friend got angry with me because I refused to “clap for Boris”, saying now is not the time to make political points.

If you think this is not a time to make political points, you’re wrong. Boris Johnson has Covid-19 because he went around shaking Covid patients’ hands, against expert advice. Those experts who, in 2016, Gove said everyone is tired of.

He shook people’s hands because he had a plan to boost herd immunity – we should all “take it on the chin” he said. This policy was dreamed up by him and Dominic Cummings, who said “herd immunity to protect the economy and if a few pensioners die, so be it”. That’s your dad and my mum he was prepared to sacrifice.

And because of this deranged policy (which models showed would cause the death of an extra quarter of a million British people), he delayed ordering the Personal Protective Equipment that the health workers need — the health workers whom he voted to deny a 1% payrise to. Mass testing and contact tracing are what got China and South Korea through this. But even the lefty paper the Daily Mail is reporting that the “herd immunity” delay means we won’t have enough of the chemicals needed to produce the 100,000 tests that Matt Hancock promised by the end of the month. (After Johnson falsely promised 250,000.)

In October 2016 the UK government ran a national pandemic flu exercise, codenamed Exercise Cygnus. “We’ve just had in the UK a three-day exercise on flu, on a pandemic that killed a lot of people,” chief medical officer Sally Davies said at the time. “It became clear that we could not cope with the excess bodies,” Davies said. One conclusion was that Britain, as Davies put it, faced the threat of “inadequate ventilation” in a future pandemic.

What did the Tory government at the time do? Nothing. Johnson was a senior Cabinet Minster at that time.

Matt Hancock was invited by the EU to collaborate in bulk-buying ventilators. Johnson said no, because he didn’t like the politics of collaborating with the EU. End result? We don’t have enough ventilators.

I hope he gets better, because I’m a socialist so I value his life more than he values mine (or yours). I hope he recovers and comes back more humble, more humane. And as a patriot, I will not stop holding to account this dangerous man whose bad political choices mean that UK will have Europe’s worst death toll:

In the early stages of the UK outbreak, deaths climbed steeply, which the IHME says is a major driver of predicted deaths.

The flirtation in government with the idea of “herd immunity” as a way out of the epidemic meant there was a delay in implementing physical distancing until 23 March, when there were already 54 daily deaths.

It is unequivocally evident that social distancing can, when well-implemented and maintained, control the epidemic, leading to declining death rates.

His political choices will cause far more of our compatriots to die than would have otherwise. His policies require scrutiny. He deserves no applause.

On the rudeness of March To Leave

The word ‘demagogue’

refers to someone who may be charismatic and often bombastic, and is able to use his oratorical skills to appeal to the baser, more negative side of people’s feelings

It’s an apt word for the right-wingest of the Brexiteers who are marching to leave. The way they speak about the European negotiators is simply rude: “You must live in Narnia, Michel Barnier!” and “Get back in your bunker, Jean-Claude Juncker!”, both on the march to leave home page.

Silly people.

Reading List

Web Stuff

Other stuff

Winston Churchill and Tommy Robinson

LOL, the far right. They’re spreading a photo of a £5 on which someone’s drawn a speech bubble to show Winston Churchill saying “Free Tommy Robinson”. Churchill would never have approved of Mr “Robinson” Yaxley-Lennon’s contempt of court, jeopardising a free and fair trial. I made and sent them this to show them what Churchill said on July 20, 1910 in the House of Commons:

The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country. A calm dispassionate recognition of the rights of the accused … These are the symbols, which, in the treatment of crime and criminal, mark and measure the stored-up strength of a nation, and are sign and proof of the living virtue in it.

Winston Churchill

It’s almost as if they have no real knowledge of, or respect for, British traditions such as rule of law, religious tolerance, freedom of speech etc, and mendaciously hijack national symbols (Union Jack flag, Churchill) in order to apply a veneer of “patriotism” over what’s simply racism.

On #StopFundingHate and Center Parcs

I’m very glad to read the news that Center Parcs pulls Daily Mail ads over Tom Daley article — of its advertisement next to a homophobic Richard Littlejohn article, the holiday organisation said “We felt this placement was completely unacceptable and therefore ceased advertising with the Daily Mail with immediate effect”. London Southbank Centre also said, “We monitor the environment in which our advertising appears, to ensure the values of a publication are compatible with our own. We have no future plans to advertise within the Daily Mail”.

Predictably, there has been a little faux-anguish about “free speech”, which is mis-placed. I’m a great believer that anyone should be able to say what they want to say (even “hate speech” as long as they’re not inciting violence). My position is “I disagree with what you say, but will defend to death your right to say it. But that doesn’t mean I want to waste my time listening to you”.

Similarly, I have a choice whether to fund your free speech. In our democratic capitalist society, I have a once-every-four-years opportunity to vote between largely-indistinguishable political parties in a General Election. But the true power I have is in my choice of goods and service that I consume.

So it’s a game of “follow the money”: Centre Parcs wants my money (that’s why they advertise); the Daily Mail wants some of Centre Parc’s money; Richard Littlejohn wants some of the Daily Mail’s money. (He’s perfectly free to set up a blog to publish his views, after all. He has every right to air them, and everyone has the right to read them, or not, as they choose.)

So if I tell a company that I won’t buy their products because they indirectly fund Littlejohn, or Breitbart, that is my right and my (only) leverage as a consumer. The key is to tell organisations why you consume their products or not. That’s why my tweeting “Good” to Centre Parcs is not “virtue signalling”; it’s letting them know that I will continue to purchase their products, and why. (The last good time I had with my dad — who was gay — three months before he died was a family holiday in Centre Parcs, which he paid for. We had a great time.)

Am I trying to close the Daily Mail down? Not at all. But right now, money I give to Co-op, Hertz, Visa etc indirectly subsidises the Daily Mail’s cover price. If those companies pull their advertising, then avid Richard Littlejohn fans can continue to pay to read it, they’ll just pay more. If they don’t want to pay more, and they stop buying it, that’s up to them. It’s called “the free market”.

There are many things to dislike about consumerism and capitalism. But the fact I can tweet to organisations and exercise financial influence is a power that I cherish, and will continue to use.

On yesterday’s High Court ruling

The right-wing newspapers today have hit a new low in their attempts to mislead and whip up anger. “Enemies of the people” the Daily Mail headlines, saying that the high court judges “defied 17.4 million Brexit voters”.

Let’s be clear what happened. From the first paragraph of the judges’ summary of their ruling: “The court is not concerned with and does not express any view about the merits of leaving the European Union: that is a political issue.”

A member of the public, Gina Miller, asked the court to review whether the UK government could remove her rights without going to Parliament first. Any citizen can ask for a judicial review; this is because we live under the rule of law. This is a Good Thing, but the right-wing press are trying to undermine this.

The ruling goes on to state (paragraph 2) “It is accepted by all sides that this legal question is properly before the court and justiciable; under the UK constitution, it is for the court to decide”. (Note “all sides” accepted the legitimacy of putting the question before the court.)

The judges decided that triggering Article 50 would fundamentally change UK people’s rights – and that the government cannot change or do away with rights under UK law unless Parliament gives it authority to do so.

Whether or not you approve of this ruling (and, for the record: I do) it is dangerous nonsense to say that the judges are “blocking Brexit” or “enemies of the people”. On the contrary, they are champions of the people: they are upholding British law, upholding the British Constitution, protecting Parliamentary democracy and restoring sovereignty to the people’s representatives.

Addendum: Some rushed and barely coherent thoughts on today’s Article 50 judgment by Matthew, a barrister.

I want to take my country back!

I’ve been wondering why I feel so personally affronted by the recent UK referendum result that means we’ll leave the EU. Of course, it’ll make my job harder; by the end of this year, I will have had easy, visa-free access to France, Germany, Denmark, Poland, Romania, Netherlands, Spain, Greece and Norway. That could end. (Or not — who knows? There is no plan, just uncertainty).

I’m unhappy that the pressing matters of government will take a backseat to rewriting laws, treaties and standards that we’ll abandon. I’m angry that friends of mine who live and work here now find their status uncertain: the front-runner for Tory PM, Theresa May, refused to guarantee the right to remain for EU people who came before the vote. I’m furious that my daughter’s plans to go to an overseas university are now thwarted.

But mostly, I want to take my country back. I believed that I lived in a country that was a bit weird, detached geographically from continental Europe and therefore a little aloof, but by-and-large liberal and tolerant; a nation of sea-farers who, almost by definition, tended to think internationally; a nation of pragmatists who wouldn’t shoot their own economy down in flames for a dogma of immigrantphobia (the babysteps of the dogma that our grandparents fought against).

It seems I don’t live in that country.

If the vote had been more overwhelmingly in favour of exit, I’d conclude that the country I thought I lived in was a fiction, mutually constructed by the liberal, border-hopping people I call colleagues and friends. But the vote was so close (48% to 52%) that I realise the country I believed in was shared by almost half the population of the UK. It really feels that we live in a divided nation.

Soon, it will really divide. Scotland will leave; why would they stay? The Scots overwhelmingly rejected Westminster Tories and Brexit. To “save the UK”, the Brexiters are breaking it up, and leaving a rump state with a faltering economy and a great schism in the population. I want to take my country back, and I see no way to do it.

Proud to be British; voted ‘Remain’

There’s been lots of weird nationalist stuff circulating around the media about “Proud to be British. Vote Leave”, as if wanting to remain in Europe is somehow unpatriotic.

So I’ll clearly say: I’m proud to be British, and thus sent in my postal vote to Remain. I don’t want the economic turmoil that an exit would cause, especially as we’re teetering on the edge of another recession. I’d probably be OK, but I fear for the livelihoods of friends of mine.

Sure, the stockbrokers and millionaires and directors who are leading the exit campaign tell you that it’s all about sovereignty and “controlling our borders” (whatever either of those mean). But really, they want to abolish the workers protection that we get from EU. They’d like us to leave European Court of Human Rights (which was the only way the ordinary families in Liverpool got any justice for Hillsborough).

Sure, the Brexit leaders tell you that “not paying the EU levy would free up resources to put into the NHS”, but many of them have had years in Parliament, quietly demolishing the NHS instead of protecting it.

They want to leave the EU so they can be more aggressively right-wing, make workers’ lives harder instead of better, and use the economic problems that would inevitably ensue as an excuse to implement even more ideologically-driven “austerity”.

I don’t want that; I love my country. So I voted ‘Remain’.

On labelling NHS prescriptions with their real cost

Jeremy Hunt announced that all medicines costing over £20 will be marked “funded by the UK tax payer”. Fair enough. I’m happy to pay my taxes to help those who are sick. I call this idea “civilisation”. But it’s right that people understand where the money comes from.

Similarly, I trust that every sleeping member of the House of Lords wear a sign around their necks saying “My attendance today cost 7.5 medicines”; every ministerial breakfast be costed in terms of the number of life-saving drugs that could have been supplied but weren’t, because croissants were more important; every MP’s hotel room that isn’t the cheapest one on laterooms.com have a similar advisory notice on the wall and the receipt. GCHQ should have a sign outside saying “spying on you today cost 1 million prescriptions”.

That would be fair, because we’re all in it together. Aren’t we?