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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Is NHS sharing patient data cause for alarm?

Over at the Times, the paper reports that NHS chiefs have held a closed meeting with giant technology and pharmaceutical companies to consider how billions of pounds could be made from a central database of patient records.

Local NHS IT officers have criticised the service’s leaders for discussing it “behind closed doors”, saying that a lack of transparency could erode public trust. The NHS denies acting secretively:

At the meeting in London in October, officials including the chairman and the chief executive of NHS England, Lord Prior of Brampton and Sir Simon Stevens, met representatives of companies including Microsoft, Amazon Web Services and Astrazeneca. NHS data is of great interest and monetary value to US and global companies because of the service’s universal coverage.

According to The Register, a technology website, the meeting discussed the creation of a repository that could be available within two years, bringing together data about all patients in England sourced from GPs, NHS trusts and directly from medical devices — capturing the “full journey of care from cradle to grave”.

By replacing fragmented data repositories with one comprehensive, centralised resource, the intention would be to enable more “effective, efficient and safe patient care”. It could also provide companies and researchers with real-time access to anonymised medical and genetic records, in return for cash or other benefits.

Analysis of the data using artificial intelligence from tech giants could enable earlier diagnoses, the development of new drugs and tracking of wider trends in public health.

A study this year by the consultant EY found that NHS data could be “worth £9.6 billion a year through operational savings, improved patient outcomes and economic benefits”. That breaks down as £5 billion of benefits to the NHS and £4.6 billion to patients. NHS England disputes the estimates.

At the London meeting the NHS told more than 30 invited guests about nine potential models for how the increased exploitation of patient data could be funded. These included arrangements whereby the NHS would charge fees to companies and researchers for accessing data, or would waive fees in return for services such as storage and analysis of data. In other models the NHS would freely provide data in return for a share in any intellectual property derived from it or an equity stake in the company involved.

The sharing of data in this way is one benefit that many US drug companies hope to derive from any trade deal after Brexit. However, for now the issue appears to be about transparency. It is vital that the public realise who has access to their data and the purposes for its use.

Monday, December 30, 2019

It is raining plastic

Those of us who might have thought the pollution of our oceans with minute pieces of plastic is such a remote problem that it has nothing to do with us, may be shocked to read this story in the Guardian.

The paper reports that microplastic pollution is raining down on city dwellers, with research revealing that London has the highest levels yet recorded.

They add that only four cities have been assessed to date but all had microplastic pollution in the air. Scientists believe every city will be contaminated, as sources of microplastic such as clothing and packaging are found everywhere.

Recent research shows the whole planet appears to be contaminated with microplastic pollution. Scientists have found the particles everywhere they look, from Arctic snow and mountain soils, to many rivers and the deepest oceans. Other work indicates particles can be blown across the world.

Worryingly, the health impacts of breathing or consuming the tiny plastic particles are unknown, and experts say urgent research is needed to assess the risks:

About 335m tonnes of new plastic is produced each year and much leaks into the environment. The research, published in the journal Environment International, collected the microplastics falling onto the roof of a nine-storey building in central London. This ensured that only microplastic from the atmosphere was collected.

They were found in all eight samples, with deposition rates ranging from 575 to 1,008 pieces per sq metre per day, and 15 different plastics were identified. Most microplastics were fibres made of acrylic, most likely from clothing. Just 8% of the microplastics were particles, and these were mostly polystyrene and polyethylene, both commonly used in food packaging.

The rate of microplastic deposition measured in London is 20 times higher than in Dongguan, China, seven times higher than in Paris, France and nearly three times higher than Hamburg, Germany. The researchers do not know the reason for the variation, but differences in experimental methods are likely to be partly responsible.

The microplastic particles in London were between 0.02mm and 0.5mm. These are large enough to be deposited on to the airways when inhaled and would be swallowed in saliva. Smaller particles that can get into the lungs and bloodstream represent the greatest potential health hazard. These were seen in the samples but their composition could not be identified with current technology.

The serious health damage caused by the pollution particles emitted by traffic and industry are well known. A comprehensive global review earlier in 2019 concluded that air pollution may be damaging every organ and virtually every cell in the human body.

But the potential health impacts of inhaling plastic particles from the air, or consuming them via food and water, are unknown. People eat at least 50,000 microplastic particles per year, according to one study.

Plastics can carry toxic chemicals and harbour harmful microbes, and the limited research done to date has shown harm to some marine creatures. The only assessment of microplastic in human lungs, published in 1998, found inhaled fibres were present in cancerous lung specimens.

In some Chinese and Japanese Cities, people wear masks to protect themselves from pollution when out in the city. I can see this becoming more commonplace across Europe as the impact of this pollution is felt.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Claims of racist right wingers infilrating the Tory Party

The Guardian reports on claims by Britain First that more than 5,000 supporters of the far-right extremist group have joined the Conservative party in recent weeks, attracted by what they describe as Boris Johnson’s negative attitude towards Islam.

The organisation, whose leaders were jailed last year for hate crimes against Muslims, say that about two-thirds of the 7,500 signed-up members of the openly anti-Islam Britain First have joined the Tories since the general election, believing the prime minister’s approach towards “radical Islam” had encouraged the majority of its membership to take the leap:

Britain First’s spokeswoman, Ashlea Simon, who was among senior figures recently investigated by counter-terrorism police, said: “We will support a party that is willing to take a firm stance against radical Islam and it looks like the Tories are willing to do that.”

Days after his election victory, Johnson dropped a promised inquiry into levels of Islamophobia within the Conservative party and was accused of “rewarding racism” after Zac Goldsmith, who allegedly exploited anti-Muslim prejudices during the 2016 London mayoral campaign, was given a life peerage and kept on as an environment minister despite losing his Commons seat.

Simon added that Johnson’s hardline response to November’s London Bridge terror attack corroborated the notion he would be firm on the issue. “The majority of our followers appreciate [home secretary] Priti Patel’s and Boris Johnson’s hardline approach,” said Simon, who was questioned under terrorism laws at Heathrow airport last October after a trip to Russia.

Simon said Britain First members wanted to form a movement of far-right activists within the Conservative party that would back Johnson in the same way supporters of Momentum joined Labour to solidify Jeremy Corbyn’s grip on the party.

The mass defection of Britain First supporters confirms the backing of Johnson by far-right figures following his election triumph.

Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the English Defence League, recently told followers on the encrypted messaging service Telegram that he has become a paid-up member.

Of course we only have the word of the Britain First leaders that such infiltration has taken place on this scale, but it would be naïve to think that some crossover in membership has not happened.

The really worrying part of this story, though, is that a mainstream political party, who also happen to be the government of our country, and our Prime Minister are now considered to be acceptable bedfellows for those who might consider the anti-Islamist party, Britain First, to be their natural home.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Watson complains of Labour brutality

I don't have a lot of sympathy for Tom Watson when he says that he left parliament because of the “brutality and hostility” he experienced within Labour.

In the Guardian, the former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party says that even though he was renowned in the party as a savvy organiser and occasionally brutal scrapper, Watson said he left in part because of the aggression he had faced within Labour. He said at one point police told him that a Labour supporter had been arrested for making a death threat via the party that Labour officials did not inform him about:

In a wide-ranging interview, Watson praised Corbyn personally but said conditions within Labour had contributed to making his political career unsustainable. “The point is that the brutality and hostility is real and it’s day to day,” he said. “So I just thought: now’s the time to take a leap, do something different. You’ve had a good innings. You’ve done good stuff. Go now.”

Watson cited the pressures of social media, factionalism and criticism from unions: “On their own, you deal with them and they’re a normal part of life. Combine them, and you’re carrying a very heavy load. And sometimes you’ve got to realise when that balance of life shifts and there are other things that are more rewarding.”

At what turned out to be Watson’s final Labour conference as deputy leader in September he faced a motion from the left of the party seeking to abolish his job. It was eventually withdrawn. Watson said that even amid the wranglings, the move surprised him: “I don’t think you could pre-empt such political idiocy and collective self-harm.”

As important as this insight into internal Labour politics is, Watson himself is a renowned political bruiser who has treated his opponents both within and without the Labour Party with the same sort of ruthlessness that he complains about being directed towards him. You reap what you sew.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Boris Johnson and another bridge

What is it about Boris Johnson and bridges? His obsession with white elephant projects is starting to get out of hand. His support for an airport in the middle of the River Thames (also known as Boris Island) is one example - a project that was never going to fly.

Johnson's privatised garden bridge across the Thames was described as an 'absurd vanity project for our age' and cost taxpayers £43 million before it was finally abandoned. While we should be grateful that the 22 mile bridge he proposed across the English Channel did not get past a few headlines.

Now, the latest Johnson white elephant idea is a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland. Just how far this will get of course depends on a number of factors, but do I detect the hand of Donald Trump in this?

Trump famously demanded that Mexico pay for a wall between their country and the USA, and got two fingers in response. Now, it seems that Johnson wants the EU to pay for his bridge. Perhaps he has forgotten that he has just told the EU to get out of the UK.

The man is completely shameless.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Free speech means freedom to offend

The Times carries an interesting interview with the Chair of press regulator, IPSO in which he argues that there is no right to be offended, and that any attempt to censor people for unpleasant views would be fundamentally dangerous.

Sir Alan Moses told the paper that sensitive issues such as religion should be up for discussion and emphasised the importance of a free press:

'If you're the victim of something that is deeply offensive, it is the most unpleasant, uncomfortable thing that you can imagine,' he said. 'But what we have to acknowledge is that, in striking the right balance in this country, there is no right not to be offended.'

He added that a vibrant press is essential to safeguard democracy and added that the 2017 killing of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia showed what is lost when media freedoms are violated.

Just as interestingly, and reflecting my view and that of many other people, Sir Alan said that the BBC gets itself into ridiculous situations because of its concerns about balance.

Defending the right of news providers to pick sides, he said respected presenters were being driven out by broadcasters trying to avoid bias.

Sir Alan said that Ipso's approach of 'self-regulation with a contract' is the best model available and called state regulation 'completely unacceptable'.

'The idea that the law should control what news providers should and shouldn't say, as the price of being able to publish, seems to me quite wrong . . . and fundamentally dangerous.'

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The mixed up world of the Home Office

The Guardian reports that a man accused of pretending to be gay to avoid deportation to his native Malaysia, where homosexual acts are illegal, has been granted asylum after the Home Office accepted that people could be gay and single.

There is so much bundled up in that sentence that I am struggling as to where to start. The paper says that the result is being celebrated as a victory against outdated stereotypes about gay people. Those stereotypical attitudes must exist in the Home Office in abundance, where those determining asylum applications appear to think that unless somebody is promiscuous or sexually active, then they cannot be gay.

It is of course necessary to test claims made by asylum seekers, but I often wonder whether the hoops that many of them are required to jump through to be accepted, are strictly necessary. Is cynicism part of the training for officials? There must be a better way to do these things.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Why Sky Sports should apologise for shutting down Gary Neville

The racist incidents at football games over the weekend are unacceptable, but unfortunately also appear to be part of a growing trend.

I did not see the Sky Sports coverage, but according to the Guardian Gary Neville was applauded for saying the Premier League need to “stand up” to the problem.

The former England player reportedly said that while critics were quick to point out racist incidents occurring abroad, “we have a racism problem in the Premier League in England and the Premier League have got to stand up, they hide behind the FA on this issue”.

Neville added that racism in football was mirrored in UK politics and criticised both the Conservatives and Labour for not doing enough to stamp out racism in their parties.

It is at this point that the presenter, David Jones, interrupted to say: “I am compelled to say, they are the views of you, Gary Neville, and not those of Sky Sports, that is my duty.” He later clarified on Twitter that it was Neville’s comments about racism in politics from which he had been distancing Sky Sports.

That clarification is part of the problem. You cannot just partition sport off from the rest of society and treat it as a separate entity on an issue like this. Gary Neville is absolutely right when he says that racism in sport is a reflection of similar problems within political parties and the rest of society.

The evidence is that racist behaviour has increased following the Brexit referendum, the anti-Semitism controversy in the Labour Party, Islamophobia within the Tories and racist comments by our Prime Minister. A small minority believe that these examples make their behaviour acceptable. It doesn't.

Until our broadcasters are prepared to support their commentators in pointing out this link, then opposing and dealing with this racism will become more difficult.

Sky Sports should not be apologising for Gary Neville making the obvious link between racist soccer fans and wider societal and political trends, they should be supporting and applauding him.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Does Tory defence of US food standards presage the realities of new trade deal?

The Independent reports that senior Conservative MPs have dismissed concerns over US food practices such as chlorinating chicken and allowing a certain amount of fly eggs in drinks as “tired old lefty rhetoric” as the government looks to tear away from the hygiene standards expected by the EU to broker a trade deal across the Atlantic.

They say that former trade secretary Liam Fox and former party leader Iain Duncan Smith took turns to jibe at Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn after he decried US government regulations on acceptable levels of maggots in orange juice:

The US food and drug administration (FDA) says juice with five or more fly eggs or one or more maggot per 250ml should be automatically considered defective.

But Mr Duncan Smith claimed approaches across the Atlantic – such as the management of salmonella through practices like washing chicken meat in chlorine in an attempt to sterilise it – were more effective than those deployed by UK farmers. He accused the Labour leader of “sneering at the standards in the United States".

Speaking in the Commons about the importance of the results of hygiene systems as opposed to practices, he said: “If you look at their standards, when it comes to campylobacterial infection and also salmonella they have fewer deaths per capita than the UK or the European Union. It gets there by different methods and it gets there better than we do, so we should stop sneering."

Of course it is not just Corbyn who has raised concerns about the lowering of food standards if we do a trade deal with the United States. The general public are also wary of such a development. Until Johnson secured a majority in the House of Commons for his Brexit deal, he and the Tory Party had been careful to offer reassurance on this point. Now they are preparing the ground for a U-turn.

What commitment will be abandoned next in the quest to appease Donald Trump? My money is on access being granted to US companies to both take over some health services and to harvest our medical data.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Labour delusion

I am just catching up with this article in the Guardian, in which Labour leadership candidate, Emily Thornberry states that senior advisers should pay the price for the party’s disastrous election showing, rather than the junior workers who are losing their jobs.

The context is a decision which has generated anger among Labour employees that two senior figures, Seumas Milne and Karie Murphy, are still in their posts, while at the same time more subordinate staff are being laid-off.

The row over job losses also blew up in the shadow cabinet, as some senior figures raised concerns that they had not even been told in advance that some of their long-serving advisers were being offered redundancy packages by the central party.

Thornberry seems particularly aggrieved as she appears to blame Milne and Murphy for decisions that led to Labour losing so much support during the General Election. However, in common with other leadership contenders she does not address the real cause of Labour's defeat, at least publicly, namely the unpopularity of Jeremy Corbyn and the fence-sitting over Brexit.

Irrespective of the status of the advisors, decisions in a political party are taken by politicians, not by staff. If scapegoats are needed then MPs should be looking to their own leadership. That those seeking to succeed Corbyn are not doing so, is the ultimate delusion. Labour cannot move on until they get this right.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Boris Johnson gaslights the UK with Queen;'s Speech

If anybody was in any doubt what a majority Boris Johnson government will mean, then yesterday's Queen's Speech must surely have dispelled their illusions.

As the Guardian reports, the new Brexit Bill has stripped out protections for workers’ rights, watered down a commitment to take unaccompanied refugee children from Europe, and removed parliament’s say on the future relationship. It also inserted a ban on the government extending the Brexit transition period beyond the end of 2020.

That last clause alone gives rise to serious concern. It means that any trade deal with Europe can only be an intermediate or incomplete one and makes it more likely that we will eventually crash out without having sorted out key issues. It is little wonder that the pound fell again on the markets.

The Tories laud the negotiating skills of Boris Johnson but the deal he delivered was only possible because he abandoned some of Theresa May's red lines and handed the EU a better settlement than they had hoped for. That is why the DUP walked. Maybe we should call it 'Johnson's surrender deal.'

And then there is the so-called radical” domestic agenda, which, will include a new Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission, to examine “how our democracy operates”. This has naturally caused concern that Johnson will seek to change the UK’s constitutional arrangements in the Tories’ favour.

There has been speculation that he could give politicians the power to appoint judges, as in the US, following Johnson’s loss in the supreme court this autumn, and of course there is the proposal to insist that voters produce identification at polling stations in a move that can only be interpreted as voter-suppression, US style, in the Tories' favour.

The Queen’s speech also announced plans to ditch the Fixed-term Parliaments Act early next year, which gives the government licence to call an election at a time of its choosing, possibly as late as December 2024.

Human rights groups have expressed reservations about plans to review the possibility of reviving the offence of treason, which dates back to 1351 and was last used to prosecute the Nazi propagandist William Joyce, or Lord Haw-Haw, after the second world war:

Clare Collier, advocacy director at Liberty, said: “Creating new criminal offences is rarely justified and existing laws already define hostile state activity extremely broadly.”

Britain’s spy agencies have been pressing for the government to reform espionage legislation, last tackled two decades ago in the Official Secrets Act 1989, before the emergence of the world wide web. Existing secrecy laws are full of archaic terms such as “code words”, although Collier warned that reform could easily result in “a further attempt to increase state power while reducing accountability” unless safeguards were introduced.

And any hope that we can retain a healthy interaction with our European friends was dashed with proposals to bring in a new immigration bill to make EU citizens “subject to the same UK immigration controls as non-EU citizens”, thus ending free movement, and introducing an Australian-style points-based entry system.

This is a Queen's Speech that will curtail many of our rights as citizens, persecute some of our fellow workers because they come from another part of Europe and hasten our isolation from the rest of the world, with possible severe economic consequences. Welcome to Boris Johnson's Britain.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Tories drop Islamophobia inquiry

With the General Election behind them and a enjoying a comfortable majority, the Tories are reverting to type with one of their first acts after voting being to abandon the promised inquiry into Islamophobia. Instead Boris Johnson has announced a broad-brush review of how the party handles discrimination complaints.

The Guardian says that the Muslim Council of Britain has expressed concern at the move on Tuesday, saying it suspected that broadening the remit was designed to bury the real problem:

“This appointment is at risk of being seen in the same light as the Conservative party’s customary approach to Islamophobia, that of denial, dismissal and deceit,” said its general secretary, Harun Khan.

“We were promised an independent inquiry into Islamophobia specifically. Now we have a review that aims to broaden the scope to examine discrimination more generally. A laudable aim if it were not for the fact that the Conservative party is afflicted with a particular type of bigotry that it refuses to countenance.”

The prime minister, who has himself publicly ridiculed Muslim women who wear the burqa, indicated that he would renege on his pledge to hold the more focused inquiry within a fortnight of making the vow live on television as he sought the Conservative leadership this summer.

Johnson faced staunch criticism as the plan was quickly watered down and the Tories have opened numerous investigations into allegations of Islamophobic behaviour by party figures in recent months.

While he has declined to apologise for the comments he has made in newspaper articles, Johnson has said sorry in more general terms for “all the hurt and offence that has been caused” by Islamophobia within the Tory party during the general election campaign.

On Tuesday, five days after the vote that handed the party a solid Commons majority, the Conservatives appointed the former equality and human rights commissioner, Prof Swaran Singh, to lead the independent review into the party’s handling of complaints of any form of discrimination and prejudice.

Unfortunately, this U-turn is not impacting on the Tory Party in the same way as the controversy over anti-Semitism has hit Labour.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Battle for UK to remain in the EU is now lost

Over at the Independent, Michael Heseltine injects a dose of reality by saying out loud what we have all been thinking since Thursday's Tory landslide victory. His view is that the battle for UK membership of the European Union is lost and the question will not be reopened for 20 years:

Lord Heseltine, who lost the Tory whip after urging people to vote against Conservatives to stop Brexit, played down the prospect of an immediate campaign to rejoin the EU, and said the focus must now be on ensuring that Boris Johnson’s withdrawal deal works for disadvantaged areas of the UK.

After securing a landslide majority in Thursday’s election, allowing him to “get Brexit done”, Mr Johnson was coming under pressure to strike a trade deal with Brussels that allows the UK to maximise commercial links by maintaining close alignment with EU regulations.

French president Emmanuel Macron has said that an ambitious deal will require “ambitious regulatory convergence”, while Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he expected Mr Johnson to accept EU standards on the environment and labour rights as the price for access to European markets. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen indicated that an agreement to be reached within Mr Johnson’s deadline of 31 December 2020 can only cover areas like goods, fisheries and security, with the vital services sector to be dealt with later.

And the TUC warned that Mr Johnson must be ready to take his time to secure a deal which will support jobs and workplace protections in the northern and midlands seats which secured his stunning victory over Labour.

As much as this sounds like commonsense, the danger is that Boris Johnson will heed the calls from both within and without his party to break ties with the EU completely and try to get trade deals elsewhere. That will not be possible if he accepts the EU's terms for free trade going forward.

Donald Trump has said that a “far bigger and more lucrative” deal is on offer from the US if the UK breaks free of EU standards, and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has warned that Leavers will “reapply pressure” on the PM if he moves towards a “soft” outcome.

The battle now must be avoid jumping into that particular chasm, which will plunge us into economic chaos and depression for possibly the next ten years.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Escalating the climate emergency

The scale of the climate crisis has just increased massively, with news that the destruction of the world’s largest tropical rainforest in November more than doubled the same period last year.

According to the Guardian, preliminary government data has revealed that deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon jumped to the highest level for the month of November since record-keeping began in 2015. The country’s space research agency INPE found that 563 square kilometres of the world’s largest tropical rainforest were destroyed in November, which is more than double the area in the same month last year.

The paper says that would bring total deforestation for the period from January to November to 8,934 square kilometres, 83% more than in the same period in 2018 and an area almost the size of Puerto Rico:

Deforestation usually slows around November and December during the Amazon region’s rainy season. The number for last month was unusually high.

Researchers and environmentalists blame right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro for emboldening ranchers and loggers by calling for the Amazon to be developed and for weakening the environmental agency called Ibama. Bolsonaro and environment minister Ricardo Salles have said previous governments played a role in deforestation’s increase, saying policies including budget cuts at agencies like Ibama were in place well before the new government took office on 1 January.

Brazil’s environment ministry had no immediate comment on Friday on the new data for November.

The data released by the space research agency was collected through a system that publishes alerts on fires and other types of developments affecting the rainforest. The numbers are not considered official deforestation data. That comes from a different system called PRODES.

PRODES numbers released last month showed deforestation rose to its highest in over a decade this year, jumping 30% from 2018 to 9,762 square kilometres.

Reducing emissions is one thing, but if we keep destroying the earth's ability to absorb CO2 then we are fighting a losing battle.

Friday, December 13, 2019

The etiquette of gifting books

As I posted on Facebook a few minutes ago, The country may have lost its collective senses but cheer up, you can still buy my novel here. Of course you may wish to buy it for somebody else, after all, Christmas is less that two weeks away. If so, then it is worth reading this piece in the Guardian, on the etiquette of gifting books.

Elle Hunt tells us about rare book dealer and author Rick Gekoski's two rules on buying books for others:

“The first is, always save a receipt” – the reason being, if a book has jumped into your mind as the perfect present for someone, it has doubtless occurred to someone else. When Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves was published in 2003, Gekoski recalls, “everybody got five copies for Christmas” – then tried to regift them to others who already had several copies themselves.

And the second rule? “Never write an inscription in a book, unless you’ve written it yourself.” (He is bemused by authors who do not like to give their own books, lest they be thought of as self-promoting.)

Gekoski suggests people restrict their sentiment to an enclosed card, in part to encourage people to own fewer things, and to extend the life of the book. “A third of everybody’s gifts end up in somebody else’s house, or in Oxfam. No matter how much you love the person, you’re basically defacing the book.”

It is possible that as a rare book dealer Gekoski has a particular bias on the matter. For those who buy secondhand books, past lives evoked by inherited personal inscriptions may be part of the appeal. And for those who give new books, writing in the inner leaves may be the final flourish that transforms them into presents, like an artist’s signature.

Yes, it is self-involved – but arguably the gift of books says more about the giver than it does the recipient. In a recent New Yorker profile, Jamie Lee Curtis said she buys People Will Talk, a 1985 collection of show business interviews by film archivist John Kobal, “all the time” to give as gifts – most recently, to her Knives Out director Rian Johnson, “as a way to sort of say hi”. (The interviewer, Rachel Syme, admitted that she herself bought 10 copies as a result.) At least part of the satisfaction of giving books lies in at best signalling your own taste, and at worst imposing it. If you are not giving a book you loved so that the recipient can agree with you about its brilliance, you are attempting to demonstrate your mastery of the brief, pinpointing the title that will delight them most, that they don’t already own. But good etiquette is to “choose for the recipient, rather than what you think they should read,” says Dave Kelly of Blackwells.

Just for the record, I am available to put any message you like in my own novel for when you give it as a gift, or just if you bought it for yourself.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The most immediate victims of a Brexit-enabling election

The Guardian reports on the anxiety felt by many European citizens, living and working in the UK at the implications for their future if a majority Tory Government is elected tonight, which takes us out of the EU.

Most EU nationals living in the UK cannot vote. leaving them feeling helpless as the rest of us decide their fate in the ballot box. It is worth reading the article in full, but here is an extract:

Up and down this country, from Bradford to Bristol and Manchester to west London, EU nationals are eyeing an election that they could be forgiven for feeling is, at some level, all about them – and whose outcome will affect them as much as it will everyone else living in Britain, if not more.

Few will have any say in what happens on 12 December: two-thirds of EU nationals living in the UK may have applied for the settled status most will need to stay legally after Brexit, but in the past three years, barely 130,000 have applied for the citizenship that allows them to vote.

Many, after making Britain their lawful home, paying British taxes and raising British families, have been angered and offended by the anti-immigration rhetoric of pro-Brexit politicians - including Boris Johnson’s remark just this week that for too long EU nationals have been “able to treat the UK as though it’s part of their own country.”

And all are now intimately concerned by what happens next: by how, precisely, the decision of the British government to profoundly alter the status of as many as 4 million UK inhabitants will play out in their daily lives, once – as now seems increasingly likely – it is fully enacted.

For plenty, things don’t feel that great already, and Brexit hasn’t even happened yet. “This ‘not belonging’ stuff is quite hard to escape,” said 38-year-old Kuba Jablonowski, who came to the UK in 2006 “for the music, I guess, like everyone else” and now lectures in political geography at Exeter university.

“The other day I was in a DIY store here in Bristol, buying an extractor fan,” he said. “There was one really friendly young assistant, and an older one, looking at me a bit oddly. Four years ago, I would have thought: ‘She’s having a grumpy day.’ Now I’m thinking: ‘She wants me to go home.’”

That was not, Jablonowski stressed, any kind of judgment on the salesperson: “It’s just about how I feel. But the point is, there are millions of people who feel this way. The ordinary spaces of human interaction have become politicised, beyond belief. It’s quite scary, and it’s ripping the country apart.”

These are people who have invested their lives and that of their families in the future of the UK. Surely we owe them the consideration and respect they have always afforded us. What right do we have to cast them out as they fear?

When I vote later today, I will be thinking of these EU nationals and trying to make my voice heard in that polling booth to retain the tolerant, diverse and multi-national society which benefits all of us.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Does Greenland's meltng ice sheet suggest climate change is irreversible?

The Guardian reports that Greenland’s ice sheet is melting much faster than previously thought, threatening hundreds of millions of people with inundation and bringing some of the irreversible impacts of the climate emergency much closer.

They refer to data that suggests ice is being lost from Greenland seven times faster than it was in the 1990s, and the scale and speed of ice loss is much higher than was predicted in the comprehensive studies of global climate science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

As a result it is believed that sea level rises are likely to reach 67cm by 2100, about 7cm more than the IPCC’s main prediction, putting 400 million people at risk of flooding every year, instead of the 360 million predicted by the IPCC, by the end of the century:

Sea level rises also add to the risk of storm surges, when the fiercer storms made more likely by global heating batter coastal regions. These impacts are likely to strike coastal areas all around the world.

“These are not unlikely events or small impacts,” said Andrew Shepherd, professor of earth observation at the University of Leeds, one of the lead authors of the study. “[These impacts] are happening and will be devastating for coastal communities.”

Greenland has lost 3.8tn tonnes of ice since 1992, and the rate of ice loss has risen from 33bn tonnes a year in the 1990s to 254bn tonnes a year in the past decade. Greenland’s ice contributes directly to sea level rises as it melts because it rests on a large land mass, unlike the floating sea ice that makes up much of the rest of the Arctic ice cap.

About half of the ice loss from Greenland was from melting driven by air surface temperatures, which have risen much faster in the Arctic than the global average, and the rest was from the speeding up of the flow of ice into the sea from glaciers, driven by the warming ocean.

Oceans have absorbed most of the excess heat arising from our disruption of the climate to date, and much of the carbon dioxide, but they are reaching the limits of their capacity to do so. Sea level rises are driven not only by melting ice but by the thermal expansion of the seas as they warm.

The paper adds that some experts are concerned that the IPCC's findings do not take into account the potential for “tipping points”, thresholds beyond which climate breakdown accelerates and becomes catastrophic and irreversible:

Louise Sime, a climate scientist at the British Antarctic Survey, said of the new paper: “This finding should be of huge concern for all those who will be affected by sea level rise. If this very high rate of ice loss continues, it is possible that new tipping points may be breached sooner than we previously thought.”

Have we now reached the point when, whatever we do, the devastating impact of climate change is now unstopable?

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

How the media is being manipulated in this General Election

Yesterday was extraordinary for two stories that went viral, and in one case threatened to derail the Tory General Election campaign. How those stories were handled by Conservative Central Office however, illustrates perfectly both the inadequacy of the scrutiny being applied to politicians by journalists, and how those promoting 'fake news' are seeking to manipulate our opinions.

As the Guardian reports, with just days to go until polling day, the Tories suffered one of their worst days of the campaign as Boris Johnson refused on camera to look at a picture of a sick four-year-old boy forced to sleep on a hospital floor and pocketed the phone of the reporter who tried to show it to him.

The paper says that the incident escalated when Matt Hancock, the health secretary, was dispatched to Leeds General Infirmary in an effort to show that the party was taking the case seriously. But Johnson’s team ended up trying to deflect the story on to Labour by wrongly briefing that a Tory aide was “punched” outside the hospital by a left-wing activist.

The claims quickly turned out to be untrue when video footage showed that the adviser was accidentally brushed in the face.

What is remarkable about the way the story about the poorly boy was handled is its treatment on social media. This thread by Dr Marc Owen Jones, who according to his twitter handle is an Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies at Durham University, illustrates how a viral campaign was launched to try and discredit the story:

[Thread]1/ This one is about the fake news claiming that a sick boy on the floor of a hospital in leeds was staged by his mother. We know the story is real, Dr Yvette Oade, chief medical officer at Leeds even apologised

2/ Firstly, the bots and sock puppet accounts are on the case on Twitter. As you can see, an identical tweet claiming the mother staged the photo was circulated on Twitter. It's literally copied and pasted, and the accounts are targeting it at various influencers

3/ Even more alarming is on Facebook. The exact same tweet is mentioned on dozens of fairly dodgy looking FB accounts. What's more, is that some of these posts are pasted into groups where they get liked and commented on, often by people who seem to believe it ... #bbcqt

4/ In one example, Jason Crosby pastes the tweet on the FB group for "Seaham Have Your Say". Seaham have your say is a page with 24k followers serving the North Eastern coastal town of Seaham. His post gets 91 comments and 26 shares.

5/ This one is even more egregious. The fake news post on the group March Cambridgeshire Free Discussion with 37k members has 235 comments and 28 shares. You can see the comments here, https://facebook.com/groups/550171758376588/permalink/2738102966250112/… - many call out the fakeness, others seem to believe it...

6/ It's interesting to note that in addition to targeting national level Facebook groups, a lot of these accounts are targeting influential local Facebook groups such as that of Cambridgeshire and Seaham. We know the role local FB groups are said to play in this election

7/ Meanwhile, back on Twitter, @Telegraph columnist @allisonpearson retweeted the copy and pasted tweet (of course in theory the text could still be genuine - but if so why is is circulated by weird sock puppets). Pearson 'presumes it is genuine'.

8/ It's 3.20 am here and I'm tired but I'll wager @allisonpearson is perhaps the most influential proponent of the faked floor theory. Stay tuned for her expose in the telegraph. I hope she interviewed the senior nursing sister! Night all !

9/ Last one. Interestingly @allisonpearson 'a retweet of what looks like a bot was then retweeted by @Fox_Claire (albeit with more caveats - not that it matters really) . Goes to show how potentially fake accounts and news can spread so insidious

10/ Important Update! Former England Cricketer @KP24 has tweeted to his over 3 million followers the same copy and paste fake news story perpetuating the myth that the boy on the hospital floor photo was staged. Crisis mode!

There is no better example of how our views and opinions are being manipulated through social media.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Is NHS data deal with Amazon the thin end of the wedge?

It is only a few days since the Sunday Times reported that NHS patient data may be exploited by US technology companies under a trade deal with America. They quoted leading trade economist, Alan Winters, who is director of the Trade Policy Observatory at Sussex University, that clauses on data sharing and algorithms US negotiators want inserted into a deal could be used to capture the value in NHS patient records, estimated at £10 billion a year.

It is disturbing therefore to find the UK Government roll over so quickly on this sort of provision by agreeing to a deal with Amazon, which will give them free access to healthcare information collected by the NHS. The material, which excludes patient data, could allow the multinational technology company to make, advertise and sell its own products.

The Guardian reports that the contract will allow the company access to information on symptoms, causes and definitions of conditions, and “all related copyrightable content and data and other materials”.

They add that Amazon, which is worth $863bn and is run by the world’s richest person, Jeff Bezos, can then create “new products, applications, cloud-based services and/or distributed software”, which the NHS would not benefit from financially. It can also share the information with third parties.

Is this the thin end of the wedge with regards to the sort of data that might be made available to US companies under a wider trade deal?

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Leaked documents show Labour's inability to stamp out anti-Semitism in its own ranks

The Sunday Times has a fairly sensational but nevertheless unsurprising story about the inability of Labour to cope with a rising tide of complaints regarding anti-Semitism in its own ranks.

The paper refers to a massive leak of secret documents which reveal the party is still overwhelmed with complaints about anti-Jewish racism that have been left unresolved for months or years. They say most have resulted in lenient punishments or no sanctions, according to the documents, despite Jeremy Corbyn’s election campaign claims of zero tolerance:

In a leaked audio recording from the party’s disciplinary committee in late October, a Labour official complains that more than 130 cases remain outstanding even though the “vast majority” were reported to the party 18 months ago. One unresolved case had been on Labour’s books for more than three years, according to the recording.

Some of the cases in the files are disturbing, with Labour members likening Jewish people to killer viruses, labelling them “bent nose manipulative liars” and calling for the “extermination of every Jew on the planet”.

One Labour member from Nottingham wrote that “Jews represent a viral infection that need to be completely eliminated” and said he wanted the “complete extinction of all Jews”. It took more than 10 months for the party to expel him after his case was first reported in 2018.

Lord Macdonald, a former director of public prosecutions, said the member in question had clearly committed a racial hate crime. Labour refused to say whether it had referred him to police.

Another member was allowed to stay in the party after allegedly confronting a veteran councillor at a Labour meeting and shouting that he “licked the bum of Jews for money”.

The secret files show half of 100 anti-Semitism cases between last summer and this May involved a warning or no action at all. Some members were told to attend “diversity training” although Labour has not set up such a scheme despite promising to do so.

Other members were let off without punishment this year despite posting comments about Holocaust denial and distortion, sharing articles about “a Jewish agenda to obtain the conquest of the gentile world” and saying it was justified to “have a dim view of the Jews”.

As the Times says, The disclosures blow apart claims made during the election campaign by Corbyn that anyone responsible for anti-Semitism was “suspended or expelled” from the party and paint a picture of the party’s disciplinary process in disarray. The paper continues by listing examples of the evidence in the files, showing the severity of some of the anti-Semitism in the Labour party:

A Labour member from Birmingham was subject to a complaint after posting on Facebook that the Red Sea was the “ideal destination” to get rid of the Jews “who are a cancer on us all” before adding, “no need for gas chambers anyway gas is so expensive and we need it in England”. It took eight months for him to be expelled from the party after he was suspended by Labour last year.

Another female member based in East Sussex described Sajid Javid, the chancellor, as a “treacherous choc ice” for making comments that were supportive of Israel. She is said to have resigned from the party before a hearing could take place.

Other Labour members’ posts include claims that: “IRA murderers took their cue from Jews”; Jews were behind the 9/11 attacks; and the family of the former Jewish Labour MP Margaret Hodge were “rancid and “all in it together . . . the family of Israel”.

All very disturbing and not worthy of any politic party, never mind one that seeks to become the government of this country.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

The polluting impact of Christmas jumpers

Research by the environmental charity, Hubbub suggests that Britons’ love of novelty Christmas jumpers is helping to fuel the world’s plastic pollution crisis.

The Guardian reports that Hubbub has shown that because most new sweaters contain plastic, the garment has become one of the worst examples of fast fashion, now recognised as hugely damaging to the environment.

Its analysis of 108 garments on sale this year from 11 high street and online retailers – including Primark, George at Asda and Topshop/Topman – found that 95% of the jumpers were made wholly or partly of plastic materials. Twelve million jumpers are set to be snapped up this year, despite sixty five million already languishing in UK wardrobes:

With so-called Christmas jumper day – an annual publicity push by the charity Save the Children – looming on Friday 13 December, millions of consumers are expected to scour shops for eye-catching festive woollies.

Hubbub’s research found that two out of five Christmas jumpers are only worn once over the festive period, and one in three adults under 35 buys a new Christmas jumper every year.

The plastic fibre acrylic was found in three-quarters of the jumpers tested, with 44% made entirely from acrylic. However, only 29% of consumers realised that most Christmas jumpers contain plastic.

A recent study by Plymouth University found that acrylic was responsible for releasing nearly 730,000 microfibres per wash, five times more than polyester-cotton blend fabric and nearly 1.5 times as many as pure polyester.

Sarah Divall, the project coordinator at Hubbub, said: “We don’t want to stop people dressing up and having a great time at Christmas but there are so many ways to do this without buying new. Fast fashion is a major threat to the natural world and Christmas jumpers are problematic as so many contain plastic. We’d urge people to swap, buy secondhand or rewear, and remember a jumper is for life not just for Christmas.” Its tips for eco-friendly options include customising existing sweaters and hunting for charity shop and vintage bargains.

Personally, I do not own a Christmas jumper, nor do I intend to purchase one. However, I do have a Christmas tie, which I roll out every year.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Tory Ministers backing Islamophobia

The Prime Minister may claim that the Tory Party have zero tolerance for candidates and members who exhibit Islamophobic tendencies, but somebody appears to have failed to pass that message onto his ministers.

As the Guardian reports, at least four ministers have gone on election campaigning trips to endorse Tory candidates facing allegations of Islamophobia since the claims against them came to light:

In constituency visits that appear to contradict Boris Johnson’s repeated claim that the party has a “zero tolerance” stance on the issue, Sajid Javid, Matt Hancock, Andrea Leadsom and Thérèse Coffey have thrown their weight behind the accused candidates – all of whom are fighting in key marginal battlegrounds.

Incidents include one candidate who argued that Muslims have divided loyalties, as well as blaming immigrants for bringing HIV to Britain, and another who retweeted posts from former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson.

Johnson himself has also posed shaking hands with a Conservative candidate accused of sending an anti-Muslim tweet to Nobel Peace prize winner, Malala Yousafzai, 22. It is understood the photograph was taken after the party became aware of the tweet.

Nick Lowles, chief executive of anti-racism charity Hope Not Hate, is absolutely right when he says: “For Conservative Cabinet members to be campaigning openly for candidates who are facing serious accusations of anti-Muslim prejudice is nothing short of hypocrisy after Boris Johnson promised a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to Islamophobia.

“There is no question that many of the individuals concerned should have been suspended and no responsible politician should be helping them into parliament – they should be doing the opposite and stopping them.”

As with Labour over anti-Semitism, it seems that the Tory Party are incapable of resolving this issue and getting their own house in order.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

The big lie: 'Brexit will be done at the end of January'

Those who still believe the lie being spouted by the Prime Minister amongst others that the Tories intend to get 'get Brexit done' by the end of January may well be shocked by this report in the Independent.

They say that EU leaders will spell out their plans for potentially years more Brexit talks on the day after the general election.

No, this is not a hoax, nor is it yet another trick by the EU to keep us in the club. In fact, these talks are an intrinsic part of the process of leaving the EU and have always been necessary, despite what Boris Johnson might tell us. These talks are necessary to deliver a future trade agreement, and they will take longer than the 12 months the Government claim is needed:

In a striking deja vu, the leak shows the leaders are to confirm that Michel Barnier will reprise his role as chief negotiator, that there would be no side deals with individual member states, and that the issue would come to a head at a string of make-or-break EU summits.

A new no-deal cliff edge would also see the UK potentially leave without a trade agreement to replace the EU's single market at the end of 2020 – with possible extensions, as now.

The EU's 27 presidents and prime ministers will meet in Brussels for a summit on election day, when they will formally confirm the plans, which have already been drawn up by diplomats and officials behind the scenes. If previous summits are a guide, the final version is likely to be published either late on December 12 after the close of polls in the UK, or the next day, December 13. Downing Street has already confirmed Mr Johnson will not attend the meeting to focus on the election.

The leaked draft European Council conclusions seen by The Independent, which are marked as classified information level "LIMITE" or restricted, say that "negotiations should be organised in a way that makes the best possible use of the limited time available for negotiation and ratification by the end of the transition".

The transition period is set to end next December but is extendable for years beyond that with the consent of the EU. The Government says it will not extend the transition, but has also said this prior to every extension of Brexit negotiations and always extended them.

They also add: "The European Council welcomes the Commission's decision to reappoint Michel Barnier for the negotiations on the future relationship. The negotiations will continue to take place in a coherent manner and in a spirit of unity and transparency with all Member States. The negotiations will be conducted in continuous coordination and permanent dialogue with the Council and its preparatory bodies.

"The European Council will follow negotiations closely and agree further general political directions as necessary. Between European Council meetings, the General Affairs Council and Coreper, assisted by a dedicated Working Party, will ensure that the negotiations are conducted in line with the overall positions and principles agreed by the European Council as well as the Council's negotiating mandate, and provide further guidance as necessary."

The agony looks like continuing irrespective of who wins the General Election.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

More dirty Tory cyber tricks

The Tories have been caught out again playing fast and loose with their online campaigning. As I noted a few weeks ago, they have already doctored videos of Keir Starmer and Jess Phillips and changed the name of its Conservative campaign headquarters press office Twitter account, which is followed by nearly 76,000 users, to factcheckUK from its usual CCHQPress.

Now they have been accused of buying up a website address in the name of a Labour candidate – to tell voters to “stop Jeremy Corbyn.”

As the Independent reports, the domain name margaretbeckett.com – instead of promoting the former Labour foreign secretary, a candidate in Derby South – reads ‘Don’t Vote Labour’ and attacks her voting record.

A video of her Conservative rival, Ed Barker, carries the banner: “As the Labour candidate hasn’t set up her own website, I thought I’d do one for her.”

It seems that anything does go in this election.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

UKIP leader flounders over trying to define degrees of racism

Is UKIP a racist party? Well its latest interim leader, Pat Mountain seems a little confused by that question, insisting that she that has only met “a few” racists in the party, and that none of them were “seriously racist”:

Speaking at the launch event, Ms Mountain told members of the media: “We are here, we want to answer your questions. We want you to give a good impression, please, to the public that we’re not nasty racists – we are good, honest, caring people.

“I’ve never met any racists in Ukip – well, maybe a few people on the edge but not seriously racist. Only people who are concerned about this country.”

In an earlier interview, Ms. Mountain told Sky News that far-right activist Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, could not join UKIP “because of his association with other racist parties” before quickly correcting herself by saying: “Not other racist parties – racist parties”.

The idea that there are acceptable degrees of racism is not one that any non-racist party would embrace, never mind allow their leader to articulate unchallenged. The fact that Ms. Mountain feels able to do so speaks volumes for the kind of party UKIP are.

I am indebted to Evening Post journalist, Jason Evans, for drawing my attention to a quote from Lord Justice Rose in a chapter on 'Racism, Discrimination and Diversity'. He wrote: 'racism must not be allowed to flourish....it is incompatible with democratic civilisation.'

UKIP may be an irrelevance in this election, but they are participating in a democratic contest nevertheless. Is it too much to ask that they acknowledge that they are doing so because we are a civilised nation, and that they act and speak accordingly?

Monday, December 02, 2019

The danger of a Brexit brain drain

The Guardian reports that Brexit is contributing to a serious brain drain in UK universities, after it emerged that almost 11,000 EU academics had left since the 2016 referendum.

They say that these figures are based on freedom of information responses from universities, and show 10,918 left in the three years starting with the 2016-17 financial year. In 2018-19, 4,014 quit, 31% more than in 2015-16, and 40% more than in 2014-15.

However, the figures are almost certain to be underestimates of the real total, because the study is based on 81 universities that responded to the requests. Universities UK, the main representative body for the higher education sector, has 136 members:

Numbers varied significantly between institutions. The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London reported no EU staff leaving, while Oxford University said 1,515 had done so over the three years. Edinburgh University saw 1,271 depart, and Cambridge 1,292.

Universities have introduced measures to try to keep EU academics in place, with Oxford saying a year ago it would pay any administrative costs for staff from EU countries and their families to stay in the UK permanently after Brexit.

The Lib Dem statistics only cover departures, and not EU nationals entering the UK to take up academic posts. Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that the overall number of EU academic staff rose slightly between 2016-17 and 2017-18, the most recent data available, from 35,920 to 37,255. However, the sector has previously warned that Brexit is likely to harm the country’s universities because of factors including uncertain immigration procedures and the loss of research funding.

In September, Universities UK said a survey of members had found that almost 60% had lost existing or potential staff to overseas institutions; 55% had seen a change in their level of collaboration with other countries; and 50% had experienced a change in demand from EU students.

In a briefing on Boris Johnson’s departure plan, Universities UK said that while it was greatly preferable to a no-deal Brexit, the sector still faced potentially losing out on academic talent, as well as being hit in areas such as research collaboration and access to funding, and sending students abroad as part of their degree.

Separately, in October the Royal Society said the UK’s share of EU research funding given out per year has fallen by almost a third since 2015.

These figures are deeply concerning as it is evident that Brexit is driving the UK into an intellectual cul-de-sac, with severe consequences for research and development, and future employment.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Supine BBC rolls over for Johnson

When it emerged that Boris Johnson was too frit to be interviewed by Andrew Neil, most of us expected the BBC to shrug its shoulders and move on. But no, instead they told Conservative HQ that if the Prime Minister did not do this interview, then they would bar him from the Andrew Marr show.

We waited patiently for something to give and, disappointingly but predictably, it was the BBC. Using the terror attack on London Bridge as an excuse the Beeb has now backed down, allowed Johnson onto Marr, and imposed no pre-conditions whatsoever.

The response of the opposition was absolutely right:

Labour candidates accused the BBC of “abject surrender” in allowing Johnson to be interviewed by Marr without agreeing to the Neil interview.

Ben Bradshaw, a Labour former culture secretary and candidate in Exeter, tweeted: “This is a shameful and abject surrender by the BBC management, which will leave professional BBC journalists absolutely horrified and in despair with an organisation where morale is already at rock bottom.”

In a tweet, the Ilford North candidate Wes Streeting said: “I love the BBC and hate the regular attacks on its impartiality and the professionalism of its journalists, particularly when it has some of the very best in the business. But this decision is wrong. The BBC have been played by the Tory leader and shouldn’t dance to his tune.”

Labour had accused Johnson of avoiding Neil, insisting it had agreed to let Jeremy Corbyn appear on the programme in the belief that the prime minister was already signed up.

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said: “The reason [Johnson] is doing this is because he thinks, like his Bullingdon friends, that they are above the rest of us, that they don’t need to be held to account, they don’t need to be treated like the rest of us.”

The Prime Minister also declined to appear on Channel Four's debate on Climate Change, but at least that broadcaster refused to allow a substitute - a decision that is now the subject of a Tory complaint to Ofcom.

We are in the middle of an election in which the main public sector broadcaster is refusing to do its duty and ensure that all parties receive equal treatment and equal scrutiny. Is it any wonder that our democracy is broken?

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