“As we suffer in the heatwave and Greece burns, the Tories are signing off a fracking bill that is laughable”

Harry Cockburn writes in The Independent: “In Greece, the death count may reach triple figures. Wildfires have melted cars, wiped villages off the map and decimated families… What could our governments do to alleviate the carnage? What about some fracking? What about pumping millions upon millions of gallons of water and chemicals down into earth to break rocks to release gas which we can then burn?”

[Read column on Independent website…]

“If Esther McVey’s getting away with it, things must be really bad”

Frances Ryan writes in the Guardian: “The irony of Esther McVey‘s current brazen predicament can hardly be lost on most jobseekers. If someone on universal credit made an error – no matter how slight or unintentional – they would be hauled in front of an official, and promptly have their benefits sanctioned. If a cabinet member gives false information to parliament – of significant proportion and even knowingly – they can get away with it with barely a slapped wrist.

“There’s a worry that the sheer scale of Theresa May’s Brexit disaster, coupled with the depth of her cabinet infighting, means McVey’s actions are already the political equivalent of tomorrow’s chip paper. These are, after all, not typical times.

“In any other government, Johnson would not have been allowed the dignity of resignation: he’d have been sacked months ago. At any other point, McVey’s actions would, at a minimum, lead a prime minister to launch an investigation into whether one of her officials knowingly lied to parliament. Yet against this current crop, McVey can misrepresent an independent body’s report in order to hide the failings of her department and still have competition to appear the most incompetent or unethical cabinet member.

Read more

The Guardian view on Boris Johnson’s resignation: good riddance to a national embarrassment

Guardian editorial: “Mr Johnson is the most overrated politician in Britain, especially by himself. He was an embarrassingly useless foreign secretary. He diminished Britain’s standing in the world and he diminished his own reputation by the way he played his role, not least by his praise for Donald Trump. He was simply not up to the job. But Boris Johnson does not do serious. He does self-interest. The British government is better off without him. The Tory party should not deceive itself that he is the answer to its problems.”

[Read full article on Guardian website…] 

Britain’s drug laws are in the dark ages. Billy Caldwell’s case proves it

Simon Jenkins writes in the Guardian: “What kind of country gets a politician rather than a doctor to prescribe medicine for a sick child? When the home secretary, Sajid Javid, decided at the weekend to allow 12-year-old Billy Caldwell “one bottle” of cannabis oil, his spokeswoman said it was an exceptional case to meet “a short-term emergency”. The only emergency was to the home secretary’s reputation. Britain is like a banana republic, in which politicians, not judges, decide who goes to jail.
[…]

“This is inhuman and absurd. The reason for Caldwell’s treatment has nothing to do with cannabis and everything to do with ministerial terror of seeming ‘soft on drugs’. This terror is now archaic. Public opinion has moved on. So-called recreational cannabis is as freely available on Britain’s streets as cigarettes and alcohol. It is available in schools and universities, clubs and festivals. Most British police forces turn a blind eye to modest possession.

Read more

Wrecking ball Christopher Chope v upskirting bill? Alas, no contest

Jess Phillips writes in the Guardian… “In a week of so much parliamentary nonsense, we rounded off with Sir Christopher Chope objecting to the law that would have stopped perverts taking pictures up women’s skirts. That parliament still has procedures that allow bills to be stopped by one backbencher is one in a long list of stupidities about our parliament. I’d explain it to you but I don’t understand it and, unlike Chope, I have a life.

“The bunch of MPs who spend their Fridays filibustering to dismantle the hard work of backbenchers trying to change the country claim that they do it for parliamentary scrutiny. They invent a million ways of exclaiming that the only reason they stop new laws is because they find some tiny element of the bill imperfect. Have a look at Hansard from any Friday and see Chope and Philip Davies intervening on each other over tiny detail, then constantly congratulating the other for their brilliance like some kind of legislative circle jerk.

Read more

“It’s a bit late for Amber Rudd to be ‘heartbroken’ over anything” – Polly Toynbee

Polly Toynbee writes in the Guardian: “Amber Rudd, in her car-crash replies to Yvette Cooper’s forensic questioning on Wednesday, was forced to admit that she had a target for removals: this year it is 12,000 people.

“[…] From inside the Home Office comes evidence that hard targets were pinned on immigration officers’ walls. Of course they went after ‘low-hanging fruit’, those easy to find because they had lived here for ever, paying income tax and council tax; the older, the easier. Gotcha!”

[Read full column on Guardian website…]

“Cut youth services and violent crime will rise – is that really so hard to see?”

Polly Toynbee writes in The Guardian… Another young person killed in the escalating epidemic of violence. The cause? Take your pick.

The right blames Theresa May for easing up on stop and search for weapons – though she knew there is no evidence that it catches or deters, while it fuels anti-police anger. Others suggest decriminalising drugs would destroy the trade that underpins this mayhem.

Unless you think nothing works, shutting down most youth services, including successful programmes to tackle gang violence, was always likely to ricochet back. Youth services went first in the post-2010 slash-and-burn of council budgets. The young poor were early targets for all benefits cuts: their education maintenance allowance went – up to £30 a week for 16- to 19-year-olds from lowest-income families to keep them in education, covering travel, lunches, books and pocket money. Their families lost child tax credits, child benefit and housing benefit, and were often forced to move and move again.

Causes are always complex – but does anyone think those cuts had zero effect on young teenagers turning to gangs, drug-dealing and local identity wars, seeking a fleeting sense of respect as so much was taken away?

[Read full column on Guardian website…]

Journalist Owen Jones calls out media bias

Owen Jones talks on BBC Newsnight about media framing of Jeremy Corbyn‘s response to the Russian spy poisoning.

Media bias called out

🔥🔥🔥

Posted by Momentum on Saturday, March 17, 2018

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The Tories knew there would be an NHS winter crisis but did nothing

Polly Toynbee writes in the Guardian: “Doctors and managers around the country are warning they have never seen it so bad, so many sick people in long trolley queues, ambulances stacked up outside, no beds free. And so far, though there are more flu cases, there is no flu epidemic. This is normal winter: what’s abnormal is the longest squeeze in funding the NHS has ever known. The lack of nurses and doctors was planned: cutting nurse training was one of the first acts of the Cameron government in 2010.

“Seasoned observers doubted the feasibility of the Blair-Brown pledge to bring waiting times down to a maximum 18 weeks, cancer waits to two weeks, A&E to four hours. But by pledging to raise NHS funding to EU average levels, they did it. Waiting lists were all but abolished.

“But that’s a distant golden age: since 2010 the NHS has gone into steady reverse, its funding falling further behind the 15 comparable EU countries. Now spending 5% less, despite accelerating numbers of the old, the NHS has considerably fewer beds, doctors and nurses per head than those countries.

Read more

Owen Jones: “Look at Tory Britain. No wonder people yearn for solidarity”

Owen Jones writes in the Guardian:Thatcherism – or neoliberalism, whichever you want to call it – tried to bulldoze every last remnant of solidarity we felt – and it failed. ‘We have to move this country in a new direction,’ Margaret Thatcher declared after her first election triumph, ‘to change the way we look at things, to create a wholly new attitude of mind.’

“I wonder how she would feel reading a new survey by the European commission asking EU citizens whether, by 2030, they would prefer a society that gave more importance to solidarity or to individualism. She would undoubtedly be heartened to find that Britain comes joint top of the individualism league table. But she would probably be dispirited to read that only 29% favoured individualism, with a solid 52% hoping for more solidarity.

“That doesn’t mean there aren’t formidable challenges to building socialism in modern Britain. The fragmentation of society has been pursued as a deliberate Tory strategy ever since the days of Thatcher. After her triumph over Michael Foot, the late Tory leader lamented that ‘socialism was still built into the institutions and mentality of Britain’. She listed as examples the high level of union membership, the millions who remained council tenants, and a leftwing ethos in education.”

[Read full column on Guardian website…]

“Such is the poverty of Tory ideas that they deny poverty even exists”

Zoe Williams writes in The Guardian: “The people of Taunton Deane, according to their MP, Rebecca Pow, have never had it better, thanks to Conservative policies. A combination of the higher minimum wage, the higher personal threshold for paying income tax and the frozen fuel duty meant people had ‘thousands more in their pockets’.

“Good intentions would manifest in curiosity about the lived experience of one’s policies, which would in turn entail figuring out what those policies amounted to in the aggregate. Failure to ask such questions is not born out of ignorance: it is critical to the Conservative narrative to deny, forcefully and sometimes gleefully, that anyone in the country is struggling.

“The smart ones do this with ‘economicky’ words – David Freud explained the surge in food banks as a simple issue of supply and demand. ‘Food from a food bank – the supply – is a free good, and by definition there is an almost infinite demand for a free good,’ he triumphantly declared. Because who would go to a shop when they could scam limitless free tinned tomatoes out of their community?

“The confident ones simply deny the premise. There aren’t any unemployed people, according to Philip Hammond. Theresa May thinks nurses use food banks for ‘many complex reasons’.”

[Read full column on Guardian website…]

“Such is the poverty of Tory ideas that they deny poverty even exists”

Zoe Williams writes in the Guardian: “The people of Taunton Deane, according to their MP, Rebecca Pow, have never had it better, thanks to Conservative policies. A combination of the higher minimum wage, the higher personal threshold for paying income tax and the frozen fuel duty meant people had ‘thousands more in their pockets’.

“Good intentions would manifest in curiosity about the lived experience of one’s policies, which would in turn entail figuring out what those policies amounted to in the aggregate. Failure to ask such questions is not born out of ignorance: it is critical to the Conservative narrative to deny, forcefully and sometimes gleefully, that anyone in the country is struggling.

Read more

The Guardian view on rail privatisation: going off the tracks

Editorial from The Guardian: There are few more annoying issues for the great British public than their railways. While some cities and towns have seen stations spruced up, the public suffer from often late, expensive and frequently overcrowded train services. While the cack-handed rollout of infrastructure improvements has led to cancellations and delays on the network, commuters saw ticket prices rise at twice the rate of their wages between 2010 and 2016. Tuesday’s news that rail passengers will be hit by the largest fare hikes in five years next month will do nothing but confirm the view that the public are being taken for a ride. The situation, it seems, is one where private companies reap the benefits, while passengers bear the costs.

There is a good case to return more train operating companies to state hands. Three in four voters, disillusioned by high prices and poor service, back renationalising the railways. Many train lines in Britain are run by state-backed European rail firms. So why not in Britain?

[Read full editorial on Guardian website…]

Zoe Williams: It’s true – Conservative governments really do kill people

Zoe Williams writes in the Guardian: “There was a splenetic exchange on BBC Question Time last week, between an audience member and my colleague, Aditya Chakrabortty, who had pointed out that disabled people had died as a result of cuts to social security. You’re like ‘Donald Trump’, said a guy in the audience: the parallel was, Aditya had made a statement that was stirring, powerful, emotive and trenchant – so I guess, if we leave aside the fact that it was also true, it was pretty Trumpian.

“Just as it’s verboten to call someone a liar in parliament, so there is a curious and ancient disapproval around pointing out that a state has been the direct cause of any deaths, whether of its own citizens or abroad. It is taken as hysterical overstatement (something that should only be levelled at an authoritarian regime, which takes its people out and shoots them) and pitiful naivety (a wilful misunderstanding of the business of government, to trace its policies crudely back to the lives of those who are affected by them). Read more

Aditya Chakrabortty tells #ToryEconomics and #VotingToryKillsDisabledPeople on BBC Question Time; Tory in audience can’t handle it

Guardian columnist Aditya Chakrabortty tells the truth on BBC Question Time about #ToryEconomics and the #ToryWarOnDisabledPeople.

A Tory councillor in the audience then throws a hissy fit simply because the #VotingToryKillsDisabledPeople truth is too uncomfortable for him.

Finally! Aditya Chakrabortty speaking a truth about disabled people dying because of Govt policies that Tory voters do not want to hear #bbcqt

Posted by Imajsaclaimant on Thursday, November 9, 2017

 

Owen Jones: We can no longer pretend the British press is impartial

Owen Jones writes in the Guardian: “Britain’s press is not an impartial disseminator of news and information. It is, by and large, a highly sophisticated and aggressive form of political campaigning and lobbying. It uses its extensive muscle to defend our current economic order which, after all, directly benefits the rich moguls who own almost the entire British press. Whether it’s the Sun, the TelegraphThe Times, the Daily Mail or the Daily Express, that means promoting the partisan interests of the Conservative party. The press has been instrumental in upholding the political consensus established by Thatcherism: deregulation, privatisation, low taxes on the rich and weak trade unions. It has traditionally defined what is politically acceptable and palatable in Britain, and ignored, demonised and humiliated individuals and movements which challenge this consensus.

[Read full article on the Guardian website…]

The Guardian view on homelessness – do ministers care?

Editorial comment in the Guardian: “The National Audit Office report into homelessness lays bare the legacy of human waste caused by the callous indifference and intellectual vacuity of Compassionate Conservatism, a Tory creed – promoted by David Cameron – where responsibility shifted from the state to individuals, families and communities. Read more

“Water privatisation looks little more than an organised rip-off”

Jonathan Ford writes in the Financial Times: “How hard can it be to be the chief executive of a privatised British water company? Your customers are determined by geography, your prices set by a regulator… Pretty much all you have to do is to make sure your sewage plants work and to keep the public waterways clear of human waste.

[Read full article on FT website…] (paywalled, but free registration allows access to one free article per month)

Journalist of the year: “Our foreign secretary is an international joke”

Rachel Sylvester, the Political Studies Association’s 2016 Journalist of the Year, writes in the Times: “According to diplomatic sources, even officials at the Trump White House ‘don’t want to go anywhere near Boris Johnson because they think he’s a joke’. If that seems ironic, one minister says: ‘It’s worse in Europe. There is not a single foreign minister there who takes him seriously. They think he’s a clown who can never resist a gag.’

[Link to full article in The Times…] (paywalled, but registration allows two free articles per month)

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