.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Brexit Trade problem

The impact of Brexit continues to hit the UK economy with the Independent reporting that new figures reveal that more than 40 per cent of British products previously exported to the EU have disappeared from European shelves since we left the free trade area.

The paper says that trade economists trying to assess the effects of Brexit warned in research published on Monday that new bureaucracy was putting off exporters on a grand scale. They also said their research showed the export gap created by the policy has “widened rather than closed” in a year of the new trade system being in place:

The researchers, from the Centre for Business Prosperity at Aston University, found that small businesses were the least likely to be able to deal with the government’s new red tape and would be most likely to give up selling abroad.

“We find that, due to the [EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement], the UK has experienced a significant contraction of trading capacity in terms of the varieties of goods exported to the EU,” the researchers write.

“Our estimate suggests that as many as 42 per cent of the product varieties previously exported to EU have disappeared during the 15 months following January 2021.

“We argue that this decline has unfolded in three ways: a large number of exporters has ceased to export to the EU, the remaining exporters have streamlined their product lines, and fewer exporters are choosing to enter the EU market.”

The academics said that losing these exporters is likely to damage the UK economy in the long run by breaking “the pipeline for future export growth and harm the UK’s already frail productivity”

Under the terms of the Brexit deal with the EU, British exporters have to fill out reams of new paperwork and bureaucracy in order to be able to export to the continent.

There could though, be worse to come. Politico reports that three years after leaving the EU to chart its own course, Britain finds itself caught between two economic behemoths in a brewing transatlantic trade war.

They say that in August the United States Congress passed the Biden administration's much-vaunted $369 billion program of green subsidies, part of the Inflation Reduction Act. This has started a potential trade war with the European Union, who fear Washington's subsidy splurge will pull investment — particularly in electric vehicles — away from Europe, hitting carmakers hard:

The EU is preparing its own retaliatory package of subsidies; Washington shows little sign of changing course. Fears of a trade war are growing fast.

Now sitting squarely outside the ring, the U.K. can only look on with horror, and quietly ask Washington to soften the blow. But there are few signs the softly-softly approach is bearing fruit. Britain now risks being clobbered by both sides.

“It’s not in the U.K.’s interest for the U.S. and EU to go down this route,” said Sam Lowe, a partner at Flint Global and expert in U.K. and EU trade policy. “Given the U.K.’s current economic position, it can’t really afford to engage in a subsidy war with both.” The British government has just unleashed a round of fiscal belt-tightening after a market rout, following months of political turmoil.

For iconic British motor brands, the row over the Biden administration's IRA comes with real costs.

The U.S. is the second-largest destination for British-made vehicles after the EU, and the automotive sector is one of Britain's top goods exporters.

Manufacturers like Jaguar Land Rover have warned publicly about the “very serious challenges" posed by the new U.S. law and its plan for electric vehicle tax credits aimed at boosting American industry.

They add that in response to Washington's plans, the EU is preparing what could amount to billions in subsidies for its own industries hit by the U.S. law, which also offers tax breaks to boost American green businesses such as solar panel manufacturers. Britain faces being squeezed in both markets, while lacking any say in whatever response Brussels decides.

The consequences of leaving the world's biggest free trade area could well be severe for the UK economy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Compare and contrast

Rishi Sunak was absolutely right when he used his first foreign policy speech as Prime Minister to warn of the creeping authoritarianism of Xi Jinping’s regime in China, including throwing his support behind protesters by condemning Beijing’s crackdown on civil disobedience and the assault on a BBC journalist.

However, I have yet to hear a government spokesperson, let alone a government minister, condemn the arrest and detention of a documentary photographer, a press photographer and two reporters, who were covering an eco-protest by Just Stop Oil on the M25.

As the Press Gazette reports, these journalists were arrested and detained by police for filming an eco-protest by Just Stop Oil on the M25:

Rich Felgate published a film on Twitter showing himself and photographer Tom Bowles being arrested. 

The pair peacefully asserted that they were journalists filming from a public area (a bridge over the M25) and offered to show their press cards.

They were arrested anyway and held for 13 hours.

LBC reporter Charlotte Lynch was also arrested covering the M25 protests despite holding a press card. She was held for five hours.

Shami Chakrabarti, the former shadow attorney general, told LBC today: “If the police are now going to start arresting journalists for conspiracy to commit a public nuisance – in other words for knowing that a demonstration is about to take place – then they are effectively shutting down the free press, the free media, in this country.

“And that means the public don’t get the opportunity to judge for themselves whether the police have policed a particular demonstration well or badly, or indeed whether the protesters behaved well or badly.

“So this is very, very serious.”

On the video showing the arrest of Felgate and Bowles, the latter can be heard saying: “I’m sorry officer you can’t arrest me, I’m a member of the press, would you like to see my press card.” But as he was doing so he was placed in handcuffs.

One of the officers said: “You are being detained under section one of PACE.”

This law allows police officer stop, detain and search someone if they believe they will find stolen or prohibited articles.

Felgate can be heard saying on the video: “I’m quite obviously a member of the press, I’ve got cameras and I am in a public place.”

Felgate said that while he was held by police they asked him for information about his sources and wanted the PIN to access his phone.

Bowles said that three male officers arrived at his home at 11pm, woke his wife and daughter and carried out a search. He said he finally arrived home at 3.30am.

Felgate said he believes at least seven journalists have been arrested covering Just Stop Oil protests and that he has been arrested twice in the last month.

Isn't it time the Prime Minister got his own house in order, to avert the sort of police state developing here that he is criticising elsewhere?

Monday, November 28, 2022

What is the point of Keir Starmer?

Labour may be thirty points ahead in the polls and on course to win the next general election, but what is really going to change if Keir Starmer becomes Prime Minister?

With the UK economy on the rocks, and unlikely to recover while we continue to cut ourselves off from the rest of the world, what is needed is some radical thinking, including repairing the crucial economic ties with the EU. Unfortunately, Starmer does not appear to get it.

The Guardian reports that the Labour leader has ruled out bringing back free movement of people between Britain and the EU, saying it would be a “red line” for his party if it gets into power – despite supporting the policy just three years ago.

They add that Starmer has also ruled out a “Swiss-style” deal with the EU, which would allow access to the single market but require more generous immigration rules, after reports the government was considering such an arrangement prompted frantic denials from No 10.

This is despite the fact that, for example, as reported yesterday, Brexit has worsened the UK’s acute shortage of doctors in key areas of care and led to more than 4,000 European doctors choosing not to work in the NHS. This has caused the NHS to struggle to recruit vital specialists such as anaesthetists at home, and worsening longstanding workforce shortages in some professional groups.

A report by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford back in August found employers are facing recruiting difficulties and high vacancy rates in many different occupations across the economy, including in industries that relied heavily on EU workers such as hospitality and transport and storage.

Starmer and his Labour Party are failing to argue for the positive aspects of immigration and how it benefits our culture and economy. In that respect there is little difference between him and the Tories.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

It's the culture

The Sunday Times continues it exposé of abuse in our public services today, with a story reporting on the he head of the country’s biggest fire brigade, Andy Roe, who says he expects to sack staff after a damning report concluded the London Fire Brigade was “institutionally misogynistic and racist”.

As worrying as the allegations in London, later on in the article Nazir Afzal, a former chief prosecutor in the Rochdale grooming case, is quoted as saying he has received messages from women and ethnic-minority staff at the BBC, the NHS and many police forces:

Afzal was asked to carry out a review after the suicide of a black trainee firefighter, Jaden Francois-Esprit, 21. He spent months speaking to people inside the brigade and elsewhere. A high-profile BBC TV presenter was among those to get in touch, Afzal said. He called for a “national inquiry” into other public bodies and said he hopes the “floodgates” had opened.

“I ask anyone who’s rushing to judgment on London Fire Brigade to look in the mirror and look at themselves because they will see similar things happening,” he said.

The Independent Culture Review of London Fire Brigade contains scores of examples of staff members who said they had been victims of violence, racism or sexism. A Muslim firefighter found a terrorism hotline sticker near his belongings. When he returned from a pilgrimage, colleagues asked how his “al-Qaeda training” had gone.

The stories prompted outsiders to demand investigations of their own. People from “five police forces, the NHS and the BBC” had all contacted him.

He declined to specify which forces but said: “They were talking about racism, misogyny, sexual harassment, sexual assault ... pretty much everything in my report seemed to resonate.” At the BBC two members of staff and a TV presenter had sent messages, he said.

Afzal said that within the NHS “senior people of colour” had shared examples of racism.

Many of those who had been in touch had “no confidence” in their own institution to help them and were asking how to get similar inquiries opened elsewhere.

His call for a national inquiry into misogyny and racism within all public institutions has a lot of merit.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Government ideology could send universities into bankruptcy

Whoever thought that excluding overseas students from “low-quality” degrees as a means of controlling immigration was a good idea, needs to go back to school.

The Independent reports that the suggestion that non-British students would only be allowed a place at an “elite” university, could mean only London, Cambridge and Oxford will be able to enroll them from now on. However, the chair of the Migration Advisory Committee, who is also a King’s College professor, has pointed out that foreign students keep many universities afloat in less prosperous places, a point that is obvious to anybody who understands university finances:

He warned the government: “If you’re interested in the levelling up agenda, you might want to worry about harming universities around Britain.”

Prof Bell told BBC Radio 4 a harsh crackdown “could send many universities over the edge”, without a “massive increase” in fees paid by British students.

“Most universities, for most courses, lose money on teaching British students and offset that loss by charging more for international students,” he said.

“If you close down the international route, I’m not sure how the university continues to survive.”

As Anneliese Dodds, the chair of the Labour Party, says: “When we look at our university sector, it’s responsible for some of the biggest amounts of export revenue of any part of our economy.

“It is important that we have that proud tradition of students coming from other countries, to our nation to study, they then can become ambassadors actually, for our country, when they go back home.”

And Vivienne Stern, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “Cutting international student numbers would run directly counter to the government’s strategy to rebuild the economy – given the huge financial contribution they make to every part of the country.”

Once more the Tories are allowing ideology to blind them to what is good for our economy.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Paying for Christmas parties

The Independent reports that the watchdog responsible for MPs’ expenses has apologised for telling MPs they could charge taxpayers for Christmas parties, which resulted in some politicians receiving “abuse”.

The paper says that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) had been widely criticised for giving the go-ahead amid a cost of living crisis:

MPs also complained that the watchdog had given the impression they had been “clamouring” to put food, refreshments and decorations for an office party on expenses.

Ipsa said that after issuing the guidance around Christmas spending, a number of MPs got in touch to say “they have never made such claims in the past and have no intention of doing so in the future”.

We also failed to recognise the public mood at a time of severe economic and financial pressures.

The watchdog’s chief executive, Ian Todd, said: “We got the messaging wrong by allowing the impression to form that this is what MPs were wanting to do, rather than our interpretation of the discretion available under the existing rules.

“We are an independent body and we make our own decisions but, occasionally, like everyone, we make mistakes.

“I would like to apologise to those MPs and their staff who have had to deal with phone calls, emails and, in some cases, abuse as a result of our guidance. They did not write the guidance or influence its contents.

“In issuing it, we also failed to recognise the public mood at a time of severe economic and financial pressures. I am sorry for that.”

What is not clear from this non-apology apology however, is whether the guidance has been withdrawn. or are Ipsa just concerned that they got the PR wrong?

Thursday, November 24, 2022

The Tory peer who secretly received £29m from ‘VIP lane’ PPE firm

The Guardian has an important scoop today in which they say that documents available to them reveal that Conservative peer Michelle Mone and her children secretly received £29m originating from the profits of a PPE business that was awarded large government contracts after she recommended it to ministers.

They add that Lady Mone’s support helped the company, PPE Medpro, secure a place in a “VIP lane” the government used during the coronavirus pandemic to prioritise companies that had political connections. It then secured contracts worth more than £200m:

Documents seen by the Guardian indicate tens of millions of pounds of PPE Medpro’s profits were later transferred to a secret offshore trust of which Mone and her adult children were the beneficiaries.

Asked by the Guardian last year why Mone did not include PPE Medpro in her House of Lords register of financial interests, her lawyer replied: “Baroness Mone did not declare any interest as she did not benefit financially and was not connected to PPE Medpro in any capacity.”

The leaked documents, which were produced by the bank HSBC, appear to contradict that statement. They state that Mone’s husband, the Isle of Man-based financier Douglas Barrowman, was paid at least £65m in profits from PPE Medpro, and then distributed the funds through a series of offshore accounts, trusts and companies.

The ultimate recipients of the funds, the documents indicate, include the Isle of Man trust that was set up to benefit Mone, who was Barrowman’s fiancee at the time, and her children. In October 2020, the documents add, Barrowman transferred to the trust £28.8m originating from PPE Medpro profits.

That was just five months after Mone helped PPE Medpro secure contracts to supply masks and sterile gowns for use in the NHS.

Contacted about the new disclosures, HSBC said it was unable to comment, even to confirm if the couple had been clients. A lawyer for Mone said: “There are a number of reasons why our client cannot comment on these issues and she is under no duty to do so.”

A lawyer who represents both Barrowman and PPE Medpro said that a continuing investigation limited what his clients were able to say on these matters. He added: “For the time being we are also instructed to say that there is much inaccuracy in the portrayal of the alleged ‘facts’ and a number of them are completely wrong.”

Mone, 51, and Barrowman, 57, have over the last two years repeatedly insisted they had no “involvement” in PPE Medpro, and “no role” in the process through which the company was awarded its government contracts. PPE Medpro has repeatedly refused to identify its mystery backers, but denied it was awarded contracts because of “company or personal connections” to the UK government or Conservative party.

The Guardian has previously reported how those claims seem to be at odds with documents appearing to show the couple were secretly involved in PPE Medpro’s business, and emails suggesting Mone repeatedly lobbied the government on its behalf during the nine-month period after she helped secure its place in the VIP lane.

However, the Guardian’s latest revelation – that the peer and her husband secretly amassed an offshore fortune on the back of PPE Medpro profits – could prove the most consequential for Mone, who has already been placed under investigation by the House of Lords commissioner for standards.

The way Tory Ministers handled PPE contracts during the pandemic, and the VIP lane in particular, remains a national scandal, but nobody has yet been held accountable for it. Let's hope that these revelations will change that.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

When Brexiteers start to consume themselves

I am a fan of irony in politics, but after reading this latest news in the Guardian it seems that whole concept is dead.

The paper says that Owen Paterson, the former Tory cabinet minister and arch Eurosceptic who resigned from parliament last year after an inquiry found he had broken the rules banning MPs from paid lobbying, is taking a case to the European court of human rights.

They add that in a court summary of the case, Paterson “complains that his article 8 rights [to privacy] were infringed [by the inquiry process that led to his resignation], as the public finding that he had breached the code of conduct damaged his good reputation, and that the process by which the allegations against him were investigated and considered was not fair in many basic respects”:

Like most Brexiters, Paterson has never been fond of the European court of human rights – although of course this court is not part of the EU.

But, in the light of his decision to launch legal action, Paterson may be glad the government never followed the advice of the prominent Tory who gave a speech in 2014 saying the UK should break free of the European convention on human rights, on which the court adjudicates. That was Paterson himself.

Paterson claims that the inquiry into the allegations against him was unfair because he did not get a proper right of appeal. MPs on the Commons standards committee did not accept that – they took evidence from Paterson after an inquiry from the parliamentary commissioner for standards found he broke the rules, and arguably that part of the process functions as an appeal – but Paterson was able to persuade Downing Street that he had a case, and Boris Johnson ordered Tory MPs to vote down the recommendation saying he should be suspended.

The spectacle of Tory MPs voting to protect a colleague who broke the rules was disastrous for Johnson, who quickly realised he had made a huge mistake and ordered a U-turn. That prompted Paterson’s resignation, but the episode is seen as the start of the process that led to Johnson himself being forced to resign less than a year later.

You really cannot make this stuff up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Not so much a festival as a damp squib

In many ways, Boris Johnson's Festival of Brexit resembles the disaster it was meant to celebrate. It had unrealistic targets, failed to deliver on expectations and left the UK Government severely out-of-pocket. It is little wonder that the National Audit Office has been called in to finally lay it to rest. If only they could do the same for Brexit.

The Independent reports that the £120m “Festival of Brexit”, which culminated in a year-long series of events celebrating British creativity, is facing fierce criticism for its “colossal waste” of taxpayer money after bringing in live audiences of less than 4.5 per cent of its original target.

The paper adds that following criticism by a parliamentary committee of an “irresponsible use” of public funds, an investigation into its spending has been launched by the National Audit Office (NAO):

MP Julian Knight, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, says it has proven to be a “colossal waste of money”.

“There was certainly some stigma over the phrase ‘festival of Brexit’ at the start for certain artists, but the reality is that this was clearly a failure of the project. It was a failure in terms of having an idea and actually having something that resonated with people,” he said.

What is really depressing is that this £120m is not the largest amount of money thrown doen the drain by this government since 2019. They have in fact wasted or lost billions from mismanagement and dodgy deals, especially on not-fit-for-purpose  PPE during the pandemic. It is no wonder government finances are in such a mess.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Facing reality on the economy

There was a very telling article by Will Hutton in yesterday's Observer that nailed the dishonesty and self-denial that is prevalent in what little debate we are currently having about the UK economy. The article is worth reading in full, but these are some of the key conclusions:

Government is a pantomime horse. Immigration is to come down, says the Home Office, but it is running at the same level as when we were in the EU single market and is welcomed by the chancellor as essential. Council tax is climbing to its highest levels for 20 years, based on property values last valued in 1991. Eight weeks ago, a Tory chancellor promised the biggest tax cuts for 40 years; now, facing reality, there is a proper reversal on the same scale. Even Ruritania could not do worse.

It is true that inventing a new growth model is challenging, but the foundation must be honesty. Today’s Conservative party is incapable of that. It has collapsed into a confederation of incompatible cults united only in mutual loathing, with a significant element living in a fantasy of what Britain can be and how the economy works. Not even its better leaders dare speak the truth for fear of provoking civil war. Around 40 Tory MPs, members of the Bring Back Boris WhatsApp group, gathered at London’s L’Escargot restaurant last Wednesday to discuss how to restore their hero. Small wonder that Hunt, the nearest the Tories have to an honest politician, cannot acknowledge the damage of Brexit. He has to genuflect to the nonsense that trade deals with the rest of world will over time compensate for what has been lost, as he did on Radio 4’s Today programme. His budget speech pretended that capital spending was protected when in fact it was reduced, with the levelling up department suffering the biggest real cut, and built on impossible assumptions about public sector wages.

Britain needs a serious national conversation for which the precondition is truth telling. There is no growth without an upsurge in investment, for which there have to be ideas to back, finance and markets to enter. Elements of what might make things better are scattered around like Lego, but few are picked up and joined together. Major figures in the City of London float the idea of a national wealth fund. The chief scientific officer, Sir Patrick Vallance, has advocated a sovereign fund to support science and tech scale-ups. Business is beginning to urge the necessity of full access to EU markets.

But there is no cut-through until the wider political conversation is truthful – impossible in the current political climate. No viable tax base is possible with a property tax regime based on 30-year-old residential values; no viable growth plan works with exclusion from the EU single market; first-rate public services cannot be built on third-rate wages. The best on both frontbenches know these truths. Time to acknowledge them and more. Let’s leave Ruritania behind.

Brexit has left the UK economy weaker and isolated, it has severely impacted on our ability to fill key jobs and is destroying our trading base, vital public services are on the verge of collapse because of underfunding, understaffing and underpaid workers, and we are in denial about shrinking private investment levels, and as a result, and because we have cut ourselves off from the EU, we cannot sustain any realistic levels of growth. Is there any good news?

Friday, November 18, 2022

How Brexit is undermining our living standards

Following on from Michael Heseltine's demolition of Brexit yesterday, the Independent reports on evidence given by a member of the bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) to parliament's treasury committee.

Dr Swati Dhingra said British workers had taken a 2 per cent real terms cut in their wages due to the UK’s departure from the EU, while Brexit has added 6 per cent to UK food prices. Living standards are under immense pressure around the globe this year due to record inflation, particularly in food and energy prices, but Dr Dhingra said Britain would suffer more as a direct result of having left the EU:

“It’s undeniable now that we’re seeing a much bigger slowdown in trade in the UK compared to the rest of the world,” Dr Dhingra, who is also an associate professor at the London School of Economics (LSE), told MPS.

She said that British households had seen their food shopping expenses rise 6 per cent higher than other countries in recent years, referencing research by LSE students that examined the impact of the UK’s poorer trading terms since Brexit.

She added: “The simple way of thinking about what Brexit has done to the economy is that in the period after the referendum, there was the biggest depreciation that any of the world’s four major economies have seen overnight.

“That contributed to increasing prices and reduced wages ... we think that number is about 2.6 per cent below the trend that real wages otherwise would have been on.”

She said that was followed by reduced business investment and trade numbers were now reacting to the impact of the Brexit deal that the UK signed with the EU.

Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said Britain’s economy was recovering far worse from the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic than that of the eurozone and the US.

Despite this, he said, Brexit’s impacts so far had not been surprising and stuck by the bank’s longstanding estimate that UK productivity would see a long-term fall of around 3 per cent.

“This [estimate] was done pretty soon after the referendum, it essentially assumes that there is a long-run downshift in the level of productivity, a little over 3 per cent,” he said.

“As a public official, I’m neutral on Brexit per se, but I’m not neutral in saying that these are what we think are the most likely economic effects of it.”

We definitely need a bigger bus if we are going to write all this on its side.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Heseltine trashes Brexit

It is no surprise that Michael Heselton is not a fan of Brexit, but his analysis of the damage done by this policy in a speech on Tuesday is damning and stands out as an exceptionally honest and perceptive position for a Conservative politician. His criticism is worth quoting in full:

A short time ago I argued that: ‘If Boris goes Brexit goes’. Johnson was not alone in souring our relationship with Europe. The Atlanticist prejudices of Rupert Murdoch and Conrad Black using a power over our media that would never be granted to foreigners in other countries, the populism of Nigel Farage and Paul Dacre’s nationalistic editorship of the Daily Mail all contributed to the propagandist exploitation of the consequences that followed from the implementation of the EU single market.

The harmonisation of the rules and regulations that governed the European economies was one of Margaret Thatcher’s greatest achievements. To introduce one European regulation in place of 28 involved a constant flow of forms. The blame game began. Boris Johnson led the charge to Get Brexit Done.

Well, not quite. Brexit was never going to get done. Brexit was based on an undeliverable set of promises:

Get our country back

New trade deals

Bonfire of controls

End of wealth destroying regulations

Immigration controls

No border in Ireland

That was 2016.

Four Prime Ministers, four Trade Secretaries, five Foreign Secretaries, six Chancellors, six Chief Brexit negotiators and an oven-ready Brexit later, we can see the worthlessness of those promises. I must be fair. The impact of Covid and Ukraine has seriously prejudiced our living standards and those of the Western World. We hope that the worst of Covid is behind us.

The vaccine developed under the regulatory discipline of the European Medicines Agency was the first to achieve clinical approval. The agency which provided hundreds of jobs in London has now been transferred to Amsterdam because of Brexit Ukraine enjoys the support of the Western World, and to its credit we all appear ready to pay a high price for it.

However damaging to us now, the effect of covid and the Russian invasion of Ukraine may be relatively short term. Brexit is not. It represents a permanent fracture of our relationship with our closest neighbours and our largest market.

It has led to queues in the hospitals and G.P.s waiting rooms, disruption to supply lines, increased prices and interest rates. It reduces our attraction as a gateway to one of the world’s largest markets and diminishes our ability to influence European decisions over great global challenges.

I followed every Conservative Prime Minister from Winston Churchill up to and including Theresa May in their support for our membership of Europe. You would expect me to be critical of Brexit but I am not alone. Recently the Daily Telegraph put the past six years into context. Under the headline “After six wasted years”.

Alistair Heath summarised the situation as follows:-

“It has been clear for years that our putrefying economy is in desperate need of shock therapy. Yet instead of addressing its many horrific pathologies, our ruling class, well served by the status quo, has stubbornly blocked radical surgery. The result has been catastrophic: Poland and Slovenia are catching up with us in terms of middle-class lifestyles, and our desperate young can’t afford to buy a home.

I quoted the first four words of the headline. Let me quote the whole headline. After six wasted years Truss is about to deliver a Brexit that actually works. The consequence of Liz Truss' seven weeks in office has an eloquence beyond the finest oratory. Let me set out the reality of Brexit.

One pound sterling was worth 1.48 US dollars on 23 June 2016, the day of the referendum. The following day that value plummeted to 1.36 dollars. Yesterday a pound was buying 1.18 dollars. That amounts to a loss of over 20% of the pound’s value against the dollar since 2016. The pound has also lost over 12% of its value against the euro, falling from an exchange rate of over 1.30 before the referendum to 1.14 yesterday.

The London School of Economics has estimated that Brexit alone – before the effects of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine are accounted for - is responsible for a 6% rise in food prices. Put starkly, Brexit means that more people are unable to pay their mortgage or rent, are having to turn to food banks, or are unable to heat their homes.

The Resolution Foundation estimates that average real pay per UK worker will, by the end of the decade, be £470 lower each year - that’s a thousand pounds for an average couple. Normally, lower exchange rates have an important silver lining in that they make UK exports more affordable and increase their volume. But the signs are that – due to Brexit-induced trade barriers and red tape - this did not happen. Post-Brexit.

UK exports to the EU fell by 14% in 2021. The Centre for European Reform, has estimated that Brexit had, by the end of 2021, reduced trade in goods between the UK and the EU by 13.6% and left UK GDP 5.2% lower than it would have been had the UK stayed in the EU single market. The CER puts the Brexit hit to overall investment in the UK economy at 13.6%.

The Office for Budget Responsibility concluded that consequent upon the new trading relationship as set out in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement that came into effect on January 1 2021 British imports and exports would eventually be reduced by 15%. They further concluded that new trade deals with non-EU countries will not have a material impact on GDP. Little surprise that the Truss government did not consult them about the consequences of their budget.

I doubt if the government were consulted about the decision to build a new model of the Land Rover Defender in Slovakia. The queues in the Health service are of alarming proportions. The European doctors and nurses have gone home. The government is left trawling developing countries to replace them.

No one explained that a consequence of Brexit would be that our country - one of the world’s richest - would have to attract specialists trained by some of the world’s poorest.

The OECD in June of this year predicted that in 2023 the UK economic growth at nil would be the slowest in the G20 above only Russia. Three months later the dire energy crisis in Germany had a similar effect there. The three major credit rating agencies . crucial to UK’s borrowing costs - Moody’s, Fitch and S&P have this year all downgraded the outlook for the UK from stable to negative.

These are the judgements of independent organisations and markets and stand in stark contrast to the propaganda of Brexiteers. It was all too easy to promise a bonfire of red tape and demonise Brussels bureaucrats in a cynical exploitation of people’s anxieties and frustrations.

Only yesterday in the Times, Mark Littlewood, Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a pro Brexit think tank, wrote ‘Nowhere has the failure been so stark as in the strange story of the almost complete absence of a so-called Brexit dividend.’

The simple truth is that six years on, the only significant example of that bonfire has been to allow unlimited bankers’ bonuses. Regulation is the difference between civilisation and the jungle. We can all enthuse at David Attenborough’s brilliant depiction of life red in tooth and claw where the only law is survival of the fittest.

Regulations are the codes and standards that hold modern societies together. That is why whenever the government has sought to dilute or lower the standards they uphold, civilised bodies like The National Trust, The Wildlife Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds protest at the legislative processes involved.

The Brexiteers told us new deals with faster growing markets would more than compensate for lost European trade. Six years’ later all but three of those new deals merely replicate those already negotiated by the EU. A deal with the United States has been scuppered by the government’s attempt to unilaterally override the Northern Ireland protocol.

India wants us to reverse our immigration controls as the price of a deal. There are new deals with Australia and New Zealand. The consequences for our farmers are so adverse that even a minister who helped negotiate it says the Australian deal is not good for the UK.

No wonder full implementation is delayed until the late 2030s! I am helped once again by the Sunday Telegraph - Jeremy Warner on October 30th. wrote “Brexit is irreversible, but we must strengthen economic ties with the EU”. I disagree with his irreversible gambit. Public opinion has already moved.

In October an IPSOS MORI Poll reported that 51% of the people thought that Brexit had damaged the economy whilst only 22% thought the opposite. Listen, however, to what Warner says about Brexit. He refers to Rishi Sunak’s commitment to building an economy that embraces the opportunities of Brexit.

He needs to get a move on and indeed articulate precisely what those opportunities are - for six years after Britain voted to leave the European Union all we’ve got to show for it so far is political, economic and financial chaos. From an economic perspective there has been zero payback and particularly in the area of international trade and reputation, considerable harm.

Let's hope his party colleagues are paying attention.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Questions over Welsh Government's 20mph limit plan

It is fair to say that the Welsh Government's plan to introduce a 20mph speed limit as the default on all urban roads is controversial. There are genuine questions about how it is going to be enforced, and whether it is really necessary away from schools and accident blackspots. Their rationale though is that reducing speeds increase safety, and so far, that argument has not be challenged.

There is a report on the wales-on-line website however, that research by Queen's University Belfast has found that reducing speed limits to 20mph has "little impact on road deaths or crashes".

Researchers say that while the lower limits lead to quieter streets with fewer cars, they have "little impact on long-term outcomes including road traffic collisions, casualties and speed":

The research looked at roads in central Belfast before, one year after and three years after 20mph speed limits were introduced in 76 streets in the city centre in 2016. They compared the data with city centre streets where the restrictions didn't apply, as well as streets in the surrounding metropolitan area and similar streets elsewhere in Northern Ireland that had all retained their speed limits of 30-40 mph.

They found that a 20mph speed limit was associated with little change in short or long-term outcomes for road traffic collisions, casualties, or driver speed. Specifically, they found crashes were reduced between three and 15% after one and three years but there was no "statistically significant" difference over time.

Casualty rates fell by 16 and 22 per cent one and three years after implementation, but these reductions "weren't statistically significant." Average traffic speed fell by only 0.2 mph one year and by 0.8 mph three years after roll-out.

The most significant findings was the reduction of vehicles on the roads. During the morning rush hour between 8am and 9am there were 166 fewer vehicles a week compared with similarly matched streets where the 20 mph speed hadn't been applied.

A decrease in traffic volume of 185 fewer vehicles a week was also found when comparing all sites before and three years after roll-out.

Study author Professor Ruth Hunter said: "Previous research has suggested that 20 mph speed limit interventions should be supplemented with other interventions such as driver training, social marketing, community engagement, closed-circuit television (CCTV), in-car interventions, community interventions (eg, speed watch), and police communications.

"Such success may then have the capacity to facilitate an ambitious culture change that shifts populations away from the car-dominant paradigm and help us recognise that 20 mph speed limits are not simply a road safety intervention, but instead part of the fundamental reset of the way we choose our life priorities-people before cars.

"Our findings showed that a city centre 20 mph intervention had little impact on long-term outcomes including road traffic collisions, casualties and speed, except for a reduction in traffic volume.

"Future 20 mph speed limit interventions should consider the fidelity [enforcement], context and scale of implementation."

This research casts doubts on claims that the new default speed limits would save Wales £100m in the first year from less medical treatment needed because of fewer crashes. They claim that the cost savings alone are a "gross over-simplification and underrepresentation" of the health benefits of the lower speed limit, although studies have shown a 20mph limit encourages more walking and cycling, therefore improving physical and mental health.

Perhapsx the Welsh Government need to go back to the drawing board.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Home office failing on fraud

The Guardian reports on findings by the National Audit Office that the Home Office has an incomplete and out-of-date grasp of the cost of fraud in the UK and a poor understanding of who commits the crime.

The paper says that the government's current estimate of the cost of fraud to individuals is based on data and prices from six years ago and that that the Home Office has no reliable estimate of the cost of fraud to businesses, or how much firms spend on tackling the crime:

Fraud made up 41% of crime in the year to June 2022 and 987,000 fraud offences were recorded by police in England and Wales.

However, only a fraction of fraud cases end with a criminal charge or summons to appear in court – 4,816 in the year ending March 2022.

The NAO report said: “The [Home Office] does not have a complete or up-to-date estimate of the cost of fraud to the economy.

Its most recent estimate of the cost of fraud to individuals is £4.7bn [in 2015-16 prices]. This is based on 2015-16 data and the department is currently working on a more up-to-date estimate.

“It does not have any reliable estimate of the cost of fraud to businesses. It also has a limited understanding of the perpetrators of fraud or those who enable it by their action or inaction.”

The NAO also found that the Home Office did not have a complete picture of what was being spent on tackling fraud by businesses or the public sector.

There were also “inherent tensions” between the government and the private sector over some anti-fraud schemes that could “slow the customer journey”.

The head of the NAO, Gareth Davies, said: “Five years on from our last report on this subject, the Home Office has taken limited action to improve its response to fraud.

“Its approach has lacked clarity of purpose, it does not have the data it needs to understand the full scale of the problem, and it is not able to accurately measure the impact of its policies on this growing area of crime.

Given the way that the government itself was taken for a ride during the pandemic on the supply of PPE, you would think that they might have learnt their lesson by now.

Monday, November 14, 2022

A toxic culture

Wales-on-line has picked up on this story in the Times, on how the contents of a dead police officer's phone has unveiled a tocic culture in the Gwent Police force.

The Times says that WhatsApp and Facebook messages on the phone show Gwent police officers openly discussing the sexual harassment of junior female colleagues; racist, homophobic and misogynistic abuse; the leaking of sensitive police material; and corruption. 

They add that in September, two Gwent police chiefs were dismissed for gross misconduct after a junior female officer was groped at a party for the outgoing chief constable in 2019. A third would have been dismissed had he still been a serving officer. But the mobile phone reveals such behaviour to be the tip of the iceberg for a force of 1,300 officers, covering an area of 600 square miles of southeast Wales.

The Chief Constable says that "The content shared with us paints a picture of a toxic culture which does not represent the majority of our service. We have also made it clear that those who do not uphold these standards have no place in Gwent police — or in policing.” 

Of course, we only have her word for it that this abuse is limited to a minority of officers. There is no way that we can verify that statement without a comprehensive investigation by an independent body with full access to all the facts. The details published in the Times though, are very disturbing:

Jones and his former colleagues regularly shared pornographic videos and images of naked women. The Sunday Times tracked down several former female officers. “We call it the boys’ club,” said one. “It’s like a mob mentality. People say the police are racist, misogynistic and homophobic. Gwent police tick every box.”

Perhaps the most offensive exchanges were sent to Jones by a retired sergeant we are calling Officer A, who spent 30 years in the force and will receive a large police pension.

Officer A messaged Jones about a mutual friend — a traffic cop caught having sex with another officer while on duty: “He has been shagging on duty and it’s been recorded on his tetra [police radio] mate,” he wrote. “Didn’t he learn anything from me at all?? I thought I taught him well and how not to get caught.”

In 2018 and 2019 Officer A sent a number of racist images to Jones, mostly about Muslim women. A picture of Grenfell Tower on fire is titled “The Great Muslim Bakeoff”. In May 2019 Officer A sent Jones a racist image about the new royal baby.

In another exchange, on Facebook Messenger, Jones is discussing a possible divorce. Officer A offered him help in carrying out a possible fraud, saying he had done the same in the past for a Gwent police chief.

“I didn’t realise things were so bad,” Officer A wrote in December 2019. “If you need to hide some money, I will look after it or open an account for you in my name if you want. I did it for (name of senior Gwent police officer).” Hiding money from a partner during divorce is fraud and can be punishable by a custodial sentence.

Jones shared regular messages with his friend Clarke Joslyn, who served in the Gwent force for 26 years and carried out public order training with new recruits.

In November 2018 at a misconduct hearing female officers gave evidence of domineering, controlling and physically abusive behaviour by Joslyn, then aged 46.

He resigned from the police before the hearing was completed, but the panel determined that he would have been dismissed.

The Times records that when a former partner, who was a serving officer, reported Joslyn for abuse, the police later dismissed her on a data protection breach. Gwent police arrested her at home in front of her neighbours and searched her house. She was never charged. The paper lists other incidents where female officers were targeted within the force.

Wales-on-line reports that Gwent police, which covers Newport and Gwent, has been at the centre of allegations about behaviour within its rank for a number of years:

In September three senior members of Gwent Police were found to have committed behaviour amounting to gross misconduct. Former Gwent Police chief superintendent Mark Warrender was found to have committed gross misconduct by "inappropriate touching" while he and two senior colleagues were found to have held an "inappropriate conversation" with a more junior member of staff as a police social event and “failed to challenge and report” the alleged improper behaviour of others in that conversation.

Warrender and colleagues chief superintendent Mark Budden, who held the role of acting assistant chief constable, and chief inspector Paul Staniforth faced allegations of gross misconduct which they each denied. All officers have been barred from policing. Their disciplinary hearing was held in private with only basic details shared with the public despite the overwhelming public interest in s spotlight being thrown on the culture at the force.

All the evidence points to a force that is not fit for purpose, is not safe for female officers and where many officers are abusing their position. The question has to be asked as to why management has allowed this toxic culture to persist for so long, where is the Chief Constable in all this and what has the Police and Crime Commissioner been doing to stop it?

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Plaid Cymru in turmoil

There is an interesting article in Wales-on-line, which alleges that there is significant discontent within Plaid Cymru at the culture that critics claim has developed under Adam Price’s leadership.

The paper says it has spoken to several people within the party, who have described an increasingly toxic atmosphere:

Some have expressed concern that ability is not rewarded while the leader surrounds himself with a "clique" of close associates. People told us they were scared to report allegations or felt they would face repercussions for raising them. Others have raised concerns that when allegations are raised, the party's processes are opaque and ineffective.

Mr Price remains popular with close supporters, and his speech at the party conference was very well received, but our investigation has revealed an increasingly divided party. Plaid sources have described the party management of complaints as “unprofessional”. Testimony from people within the party paints a picture of staff members being “scared” to report concerns and frustrations that complaints are not diligently investigated.

The party has faced several serious incidents over the past several years. The handling of the return of MP Jonathan Edwards, who represents Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, with different parts of the party giving contradictory messages was chaotic. It created deep divisions , especially around the readmittance of Mr Edwards which led his estranged wife to issue a statement saying she was appalled.

The party was also forced to issue a statement more recently saying it was investigating after a former Plaid employee made allegations in a series of since-deleted tweets alleging a serious assault by another party employee.

This raised broader themes over people feeling unable to report serious accusations which is something that was raised time and again over the course of WalesOnline’s investigation. The culture of the party under the current leadership was raised repeatedly.

The anger that has simmered below the surface with how allegations were dealt with by senior party leaders has come to a head with the suspension of Plaid Member for South Wales Central Rhys ab Owen. He was suspended for allegedly breaching the code of conduct for MSs and is currently being investigated by the Standard’s Commissioner. According to the party the suspension was "mutually agreed" and was a "neutral act". Mr ab Owen has not commented.

It isn’t the suspension of Mr ab Owen per se that has led to strong criticism of Adam Price within the party, but more the fact that it is perceived to have taken far too long to act. WalesOnline understands that the concerns that led to Mr Owen’s suspension have been known to the party leadership for well over a year and were common knowledge within large parts of the wider party. But critics of Mr Price say that it was only after the matter began to be investigated by the standards commissioner that the Plaid leader’s hand was “forced” and he acted.

A Plaid employee told WalesOnline: “The party has been aware for over a year about serious allegations surrounding Rhys ab Owen’s behaviour. Repeated concerns have been raised by multiple people within the party with members of the senior leadership seemingly taking no action until they were forced to when the Standards Commissioner informed them he had received a complaint of sufficient seriousness, it has led to a suspension.”

Beyond the allegations regarding Mr Thomas there has been wider exasperation and incredulity at the lack of robustness and professionalism within the party itself about how complaints are dealt with when they arise. Several sources said that there was a growing reluctance to report any concerns due to the perceived inaction.

The lack of a proper and independent process for handling complaints is a major weakness in any party. The leadership cult that has built up around Adam Price has apparently reinforced that weakness in not tolerating dissent. It is no wonder Plaid Cymru are in a mess and support for them falling.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Remainer converts expose the Brexit lies

One of the more puzzling aspects of the leave campaign in 2016 was why so many businesspeople were prepared to back the Brexit cause despite this position being contrary to their best interests. It is gratifying therefore to have some key figures finally seeing sense and reversing their position.

The Independent quotes Lord Simon Wolfson, who was a prominent advocate of Brexit, but now says that the UK’s current immigration policy is holding back economic growth.

Wetherspoons' Tim Martin who campaigned for a hard Brexit, including leaving the single market and the end of freedom of movement which came with it, was urging former prime minister Boris Johnson in 2021 to create a “reasonably liberal” visa scheme to encourage foreign workers to relocate to the UK.

Luke Johnson, chairman of bakery chain Patisserie Valerie and former head of Pizza Express, was another figure who supported Brexit but was less impressed by the reality once it happened. 

When asked about the impact of Brexit on the UK economy, he admitted that it has cost us growth before adding: “I think however if we spent our lives punishing ourselves and refighting the last war over Brexit we're not going to make progress.”

Meanwhile, Sir James Dyson and Sir Jim Ratcliffe both came in for criticism after moving their residencies out of the UK after supporting Brexit.

Those of us who have to live with the consequences of Brexit are not so lucky.

Marina Hyde speaks for us all

In her Guardian column today, Marina Hyde speaks for us all:

Which brings me to the other horror show on offer: Conservative MPs queueing up to pour scorn on Hancock now. Have you clocked this tendency? It’s exemplified by an actual secretary of state, Chris Heaton-Harris, repeatedly going on telly yesterday to smugly claim that “hundreds of MPs and peers” were downloading the I’m a Celebrity app and voting for Hancock to face unpleasant trials.

To which the only possible response is: oh NOW you’re voting against him, is it? Sorry, but where were you lot before? Where were you lot every time it turned out one of Hancock’s mates had got a PPE contract? Where were you when he threw “a protective ring” around care homes, which was an odd way to talk about discharging untested residents from hospital back into them, resulting in a vast death toll? Where were you when he lied about this? Where were you when he lied about the fact there had been a PPE shortage? Where were you when Dominic Cummings was writing to Boris Johnson about Hancock’s hopelessness, saying “I think we are negligently killing the most vulnerable who we are supposed to be shielding and I am extremely worried about it”? Where were you for any of this? Where were you when it mattered?

The fact that these people have discovered what they imagine is a backbone only when Matt Hancock is washed up and doing reality TV tells you everything about their calibre and conviction. MPs who troop obediently through the government lobbies for any old shit currently imagine themselves to have the moral high ground because they’re voting on an app for Matt Hancock to face a bushtucker trial. DO ME A FAVOUR.

I can’t think of anything more pathetic and depressing – it’s literally worse than Hancock going on the show. So spare me so much as one further barb about Hancock from the people who kept shtum when it was a matter of life or death. They’ve got even fewer balls than the kangaroo he’ll be tucking into.

Friday, November 11, 2022

The 'whisper list' that must set off alarm bells about our democracy

'What happens on tour, stays on tour' is a well-known adage that apparently applies to the behind the doors worls of Westminster as well. According to the Guardian, a Labour MP has claimed there is a “whisper list” of roughly 40 politicians to keep at arm’s length in Westminster – including two former cabinet ministers.

The paper says that Charlotte Nichols, the MP for Warrington North, said she was warned of colleagues to never accept a drink from or be alone with. The list, which is not written down, includes people known for “bullying or sexual misconduct”:

She said: “We need to be aware of these MPs from a range of political parties for our friends’ sake who may visit parliament, for our staffers’ sake and of course for our own safety and professional reputation as well.”

In order to stay safe, she admitted she would avoid them “as far as possible”, even if it meant dodging trying to work with them.

Nichols said the list “is not 100%”, as someone whom most people would deem “good and safe” had left her facing a harrowing ordeal.

“Everyone will know of a whisper network list of people to avoid in parliament. When I joined, I was sat down and told of people I should never accept a drink from, never be alone with and avoid as far as possible to stay safe.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Nichols, who was elected in 2019, said she would have the “perfect job” if it was not for abuse online and “the culture of toxicity” within Westminster itself.

She added: “We all know [who they are] and nothing is done and they continue to walk around and do their jobs – and there’s that kind of culture of impunity on it.”

Nichols did not identify any of these politicians, but said there were roughly 40 on the list, with two of them once having served as cabinet ministers.

“I think I was quite staggered at how long the list was,” she said, adding that new names appeared “all the time”.

A senior Tory female MP who did not wish to be named said she had been warned of which male journalists to avoid in parliament, and she wished women did not “have to share this sort of info – but it’s what we do”.

The sooner there are proper, and trusted, mechanisms in place the report and deal with this behaviour the better.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

The reality of post-Brexit Tory Britain

Two articles that stood out on the Mirror's website today underline the stark reality of post-Brexit, Tory Britain.

The first one tells us that vital NHS and education workers are quitting their roles for better-paid jobs in supermarkets.

They quote union chief Christina McAnea, many of whose 1.3 million Unison members work in hospitals and schools, who says: 

“I was on a TV programme recently with the chairman of Tesco and he was actually apologising for the fact that his company, his shops, are taking on ex-NHS workers because people are leaving the NHS to go and work there because they can get more money,” she told Committee Corridor, the podcast from House of Commons select committees.

“That's a dreadful situation to be in where people can leave what is a stressful job as a healthcare assistant or a nurse and go and get more money because you can go and work in a supermarket.

“It's not that it's an easy job to work in a supermarket - it's a different level of stress and you can get more money for it.

“That just can't be good for society, that we've got people leaving our essential services to go and work in retail because they can get more money.”

Meanwhile, another article says that the country's largest foodbank charity handed out 11.5million meals over a six month period. That is more than 63,000 a day on average:

The Trussell Trust distributed 1,281,148 emergency parcels between April and the end of September, figures show today.

Each contained enough food for three meals a day for three days - meaning 11,530,332 meals were provided.

The figure rocketed by 32% compared with the same period last year and by 52% compared with April to September 2019 - before the coronavirus pandemic.

I read elsewhere that we are the only country to have lower employment levels post-Covid than before that pandemic. What a sorry state of affaits the Tories have created for us.

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

The inconsistency of Welsh Ministers

The BBC reports that Welsh government ministers have decided not to attend the COP27 climate summit in Egypt in order to limit their air miles, instead they are going to attend December's COP15 on biodiversity in Canada.

All this is very laudable of course, but as Welsh Liberal Democrats leader, Jane Dodds asks: 

"Why does the Welsh government consider going to COP27 an inappropriate use of air miles on the one hand, yet they are ploughing ahead on an inappropriate trip to Qatar on the other hand? 

"The planned visit to Qatar by three Labour ministers is totally unnecessary and inappropriate. Welsh Labour must cancel their trip immediately and take a strong stance on human rights rather than seeking investment at any cost."

The presence of Welsh Labour Ministers at the World Cup in Qatar, at a time when UK Labour is boycotting the event, is a disgrace. 

FIFA were wrong to award the tournament to this regime in the first place, but now it is happening, football teams are obliged to attend. That is not the case for politicians, especially those who supposedly take a strong stance on women's and LGBTQ rights.

By attending the World Cup in Qatar, Welsh Ministers are offering succour to an authoritarian regime. T
They should be saving those air miles as well.

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

More Islamophobia in the Tory Party

The Independent reports that the Conservative Party is facing renewed accusations it is failing to tackle Islamophobia – both in society and within its own ranks. Recent figures show anti-Muslim hate crimes are on the rise in the UK, while an investigation into alleged Islamophobia by a Tory MP continues.

Conservative Party Chair, Nadhim Zahawi has been urged to use Islamophobia Awareness Month to implement the recommendations of the Singh Investigation into Islamaphobia within his party in full, confirm whether the government will adopt the APPG’s definition of it and end the party’s “bizarre practice of refusing to use the term”:

Government figures show religious hate crimes targeting Muslims in the UK rose by 28 per cent in the last year, accounting for 42 per cent of all recorded religious hate crimes in 2021/22.

Muslims have also formed the highest proportion of victims of religiously motivated hate crimes for each of the past five years.

Last week The Independent revealed the government has dropped work on an official definition of Islamophobia that was promised more than three years ago.

An adviser was appointed but work stopped after Boris Johnson became prime minister, and current communities secretary Michael Gove opposes the establishment of a definition.

Mr Gove, reappointed as the levelling-up secretary by Mr Sunak, previously said he wanted to target “political Islam”, which he called a “virus”.

He denied being an Islamophobe and said there was “resistance” in Whitehall because of a “desire not to cause offence”.

An all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on British Muslims defined Islamophobia in 2018 as a “type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness”, which was accepted by Labour and other opposition parties but rejected by the Conservative government.

Imam Qari Asim, appointed to draw up the wording, said earlier this year the government “had not engaged with him at all and had completely failed to undertake any steps to facilitate the work of establishing a new definition in the last three years”.

In February an investigation was launched into Mark Spencer, Tory MP for Sherwood, following a complaint from a member of his own party.

Tory MP for Wealden, Nusrat Ghani, claims she was told she was sacked from her ministerial post because her Muslim faith was “making colleagues uncomfortable”.

While Mr Spencer, appointed as a farming minister by the prime minister in September, admits he spoke to her, he strongly denied using the words and described Ms Ghani’s claims as “defamatory”.

Last month cabinet secretary Simon Case said the probe remains “outstanding”.

This is something both the government and the Tory party need to sort out urgently. We are a multi-cultural, multi-faith society and we should not allow hatred and prejudice to undermine that.

Monday, November 07, 2022

Tories fail to get down with the youth

The Mirror reports that out of touch Tory ministers have spent nearly £160,000 on a 'youth survey' to help the Government get down with the kids.

They say that the research was signed off by ex-Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, just days before being replaced in the job by Liz Truss’s choice, Michelle Donelan:

The contract, published last month and worth £159,000 to pollsters Kantar, admits the research is designed to fill "gaps in knowledge."

It’s the second youth survey the department has commissioned in two years.

Ms Dorries rubber stamped a previous review of youth services in February 2021 - just 18 months ago.

The results of the survey - which found youth clubs and organised activities outside of school were “hugely important” to young people - were published in February (2022).

YMCA research in 2020 found spending on such services had been cut by 70% in real terms since the Tories came to power.

Lib Dem Education Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said: "It shouldn't take yet another government survey to tell us what we already know, youth services are in desperate need of more investment.

"Young people in our country are sick of being treated as an afterthought by the Conservatives. They don't need more empty words, they need action."


Sunday, November 06, 2022

It's all about the money

So the truth is out at last, Boris Johnson did have enough nominations to contest for the Tory leadership again, but pulled out because the risk to his future earning potential was too great.

The Observer says informed sources in the entertainment industry believe that the former PM would have forfeited earnings of at least £10m a year from speeches and sales of his memoirs if he had fought a leadership battle against Rishi Sunak and lost, and that these financial considerations played a part in his decision to pull out .:

They add that since he resigned in July, Johnson is known to have been in talks with entertainment and talent agencies including Endeavour, run by US businessman Ari Emanuel, and the Harry Walker Agency (HWA), one of its subsidiaries. HWA’s clients include Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Serena Williams:

The Observer has been told that people associated with Emanuel made it clear to Johnson that had he lost against Sunak, his appeal to global audiences, and therefore a good deal of his earning power, would disappear. It is understood that the talent industry believed his value would have dropped by at least half.

It's always about the money.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

Pointing the finger at Brexit

There were some interesting comments yesterday from Mark Carney, who oversaw the Bank of England as Governor during the 2016 referendum and repeatedly warned leaving the EU would damage the economy. 

He argued that Brexit is one of the main reasons Britain has been sucked into a prolonged tide of inflation, and the ongoing onslaught of rising prices and stagnant wages is ‘what we said was going to happen’.

THe Metro says that Carney acknowledged that other countries face similar difficulties due to spiralling global energy prices and the aftereffects of Covid, but he said the UK faces the ‘rare’ and ‘very difficult reality’ of having to sharply hike interest rates while on the cusp of its longest recession in 100 years.

Specifically on Brexit, he said:

Leaving the EU has also ‘slowed the pace at which the economy can grow’ by causing a ‘long-standing shock to productivity’, Mr Carney argued.

Research by the Resolution Foundation think-tank in June found that Brexit has led to an 8% fall in Britain’s trade openness, which in turn is reducing productivity and workers’ wages.

It predicted that productivity will fall by 1.3% by the end of the decade due to changes in trading rules alone, with output in the fishing industry likely to fall a whopping 30%.

The notion that Brexit has significantly fuelled inflation is not widely shared by economists, and there has been no major research behind it. But weaker wage growth is known to make it harder for families to afford rising prices.

Speaking of the producitvity fall, Mr Carney said: ‘It was predicted that we would get that, it’s coming to pass.’

The former governor did not give specifics on the scale of Brexit’s effect, although doubled down on claims he made last month on the matter.

He told the FT he wouldn’t give a ‘value judgment’ on the matter but had simply this to say: ‘In 2016 the British economy was 90% the size of Germany’s. Now it is less than 70%.’

We really do need a bigger bus.

Friday, November 04, 2022

Braverman puts her foot into it again

I suppose we should be grateful that Suella Braverman was not appointed as Foreign Secretary becasue it is clear that she is no diplomat. 

The latest incident comes after the Home Secretary singled out Albanians as part of what she described as an “invasion” on the UK’s south coast, remarks that were roundly condemned and led to accusations she was “dehumanising” migrants.

According to the Independent, these remarks have jeopardised plans to speed up the removal of Albanians who arrive on small boats, with the country’s prime minister warning Suella Braverman the UK must treat his country with “respect” if it wants a deal:

In an extraordinary attack, the already embattled home secretary was accused of discriminating against Albanians to excuse homegrown “policy failures”. Edi Rama also hit out at what he said were “insane” beliefs and “easy rhetoric”.


The Home Office says that some weeks this summer more than half of small boat arrivals said they were Albanian.

The government wants a “bespoke route” agreed with the country to bolster the removal process.

But Mr Rama tweeted that he was “ready to work closer with UK but facts are crucial. So is mutual respect”.

The row erupted as Ms Braverman was warned by council chiefs that Kent is at “breaking point” as a result of the migrant asylum centre crisis, with the potential for disorder at an overcrowded processing facility.

The chairs of four House of Commons select committees have also written a joint letter to Ms Braverman expressing their “deep concerns about the dire conditions” at Manston asylum processing centre and wider issues with Channel crossings.

Together they demanded answers from the home secretary on how her department plans to get a grip on the issues, including reducing “as a matter of urgency” the backlog in asylum cases.

Ms Rama said: “Targeting Albanians (as some shamefully did when fighting for Brexit) as the cause of Britain’s crime and border problems makes for easy rhetoric but ignores hard fact.

“Repeating the same things and expecting different results is insane (ask Einstein!).”

He said the UK “should fight the crime gangs of all nationalities” and “stop discriminating” against Albanians “to excuse policy failures”.

He also argued that Albanians in the UK “work hard and pay tax”.

How much longer do we have to put up with this awful Home Secretary.

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Disturbing findings on police need action

The Independent reports that HM Inspectorate of Constabulary has found a culture of misogyny and predatory behaviour towards members of the public, female police officers and staff, which is pervasive in many police forces across England and Wales.

The paper says that their damning new report found police are not adopting high enough standards when screening potential officers and warned it is too easy for the “wrong people” to join or remain in the force:

The watchdog, which analysed hundreds of police vetting files, discovered many cases where individuals should not have been permitted to become police officers, even including those with organised crime connections.

Inspectors who looked at forces such as the Met, Cumbria, South Wales, Nottingham and Dorset also discovered incidents where evidence that a potential officer could endanger members of the public was overlooked.

Officers moved from one force to another, even though they had a track record of troubling complaints, intelligence, or had claims of misconduct levied against them.

Chief inspector of constabulary Matt Parr warned “we are close to a tipping point in policing” adding there were warning signs before Sarah Everard was kidnapped, raped and murdered by serving Met Police officer Wayne Couzens in March 2021.

“We found incidents that should have been addressed as gross misconduct,” he said. “Sometimes they were downgraded to misconduct only, which has a much lower penalty, or worse still, they weren't treated as misconduct at all.”

Mr Parr noted officers are first vetted before they join the police and then again 10 years after joining or if there is a change in their circumstances – arguing the time between screening is too lengthy.

“Some forces have a greater risk appetite for taking people with chequered pasts than others,” he said.

Mr Parr added: “If your appetite for risk is too high and you fail to put sufficient mitigation in place then you are risking the force and the public.”

He went on to note that no vetting system will be perfect, and that investigators did agree with most of the vetting decisions they looked at.

However, Mr Parr explained they found that “sometimes a force will find people have got a very concerning, worrying profile on social media.

“Rather than make that grounds for not actually taking them on, they’ve just decided to take them on and then have a word with them about their use of social media.”

Mr Parr said conduct that most people within the wider public would perceive as wholly “unacceptable” is “normalised” within policing.

Of particular concern is that of the individual files sampled, one in seven of them raised the sort of concerns expressed by HMIC. This is no small number and surely must call for robust action by the Home Office to sort this out.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

A major embarrassment

Has it really got to the stage when one of the major offices of state is being held by a right-wing extremist, whose actions and words would be better suited to a 1970s National Front rally? The only difference it seems to me, is that the National Front would have been targeting Suella Braverman and her family, whereas she seems determined to prevent desperate asylum seekers and economic migrants from following in her family's footsteps in establishing themselves as British citizens.

The Home Secretary's performance in the House of Commons yesterday, was a disgrace. As the Guardian reports, Braverman described desperate people seeking to clain asylum from war, torture, hunger and drought as an 'invasion'. She is right that many of them are being facilitated by criminal gangs, but that is largely her government's fault for not putting proper processes in place.

The fact remains that if the UK Government worked with France to process asylum seekers before they crossed the channel, and if they got their act together and processed people quicker, then there would be fewer families risking their lives on the English Channel, while the scandal of overcrowding and illegal detention at the Manston asylum seekers centre could have been avoided. It is only ideological posturing by Tory ministers that is stopping that happening.

As Emily Maitlis tweeted yesterday, the immigration numbers have grown bigger since Brexit not got smaller. The reason is not “ marauding criminal gangs “ (more than 80% whose cases are heard are ultimately granted asylum) but a break down in relations with France and others.

She also believes that if we spent more money on speeding up the asylum process there would ironically be far less pressure on the system. You only have to look at this graph to see that the backlog is not due to the number of arrivals, but the incompetence of the government in processing them:

The fact is that Brexit did not give us control over our borders as was claimed, it put us outside the EU and prevents us working with European partners to better deal with migration pressures. This Home Secretary and this government are an embarrassment, and the suffering their policies is causing is making the UK a pariah on the international stage.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?