Radical roundup: 10 stories you may have missed this week

The progressive news that got buried.

In no particular order… PS: Got a story tip? Email us: [email protected]

10. Seventy-seven percent of Britons say the UK government should agree to an extension of the Brexit transition period to focus on coronavirus – if an extension is offered by the EU – according to new polling.

The findings are from a Focaldata poll for Best for Britain, the cross-party group campaigning for close UK-EU relations, according to Politico Playbook.

Tory voters are very supportive: 61 percent of Tory voters agree the UK should take an extension if it were formally on offer, as do 57 percent of those who voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum, according to the poll.

9. Polling by YouGov, conducted on Thursday, shows that across Britain sixty per cent (60%) of people oppose the government’s plans to end the Virtual Parliament proceedings – including a majority in all demographics and voting groups.

Sixty-eight per cent (68%) of people in Scotland oppose calls for all MPs to return to Parliament physically. LFF first reported that Scottish MPs could be locked out of Parliament under the moves.

Commenting, SNP Westminster Deputy Leader Kirsty Blackman MP said: “The Tory government must abandon its reckless plans to shut down virtual participation in Westminster. The overwhelming majority of people oppose the move, which would increase the risk of infection in communities and effectively lock Scotland out of Parliament.

“It is vital that full virtual participation continues so that all MPs can do their job – representing our constituents and holding the UK government to account.

8. Members of the GMB union will be delivering vital Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to frontline staff over the next week, including GMB members working in local authority care homes across Central Bedfordshire and Bedford Borough Council.

After receiving a number of calls and emails from GMB members working in these care homes who are concerned about the future supply of PPE, GMB Beds County Branch took matters into their own hands and have sourced and purchased additional backup supplies of PPE, which the branch plan to deliver themselves.

The items being delivered to each local authority run care homes are face masks, gloves, aprons as well as a full face visor for every member of staff.

Martin Foster GMB Beds County Branch Secretary said: “Staff including many GMB members who work in local authority care homes across Bedfordshire, come to work every day to care for their residents. They are putting themselves at risk, not knowing if they have or will contract this deadly disease themselves and take it home to their loved ones.

“GMB is here to ensure that work is safe, and if the government does not provide adequate funding to local authorities in order to provide our members with proper PPE, we will step in and do whatever we can to help.”

7. There were calls for a ‘right of reply’ to the government’s daily press briefings, after Grant Shapps was accused by the opposition of being overtly political in his Thursday No 10 briefing.

Green co-leader Sian Berry said she would welcome the move.

6. Liz Kendall MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Social Care, commented on statistics from the ONS that show a large increase in deaths in care homes compared to previous years:

“It is horrific to see such a large increase in the number of people dying in care homes, and it’s clear that the virus is having an even bigger impact on care home residents than was first thought.

“The government has been too slow to get to grips with this problem. Despite recent announcements there is still complete confusion about testing, with care homes telling MPs they have been unable to access tests. The government’s own Covid-19 recovery strategy can’t guarantee that every care home for the over 65s will even be offered tests until 6 June. This is not good enough,” the MP said.

5. This weekend Extinction Rebellion groups across the UK are inviting people to ‘Reclaim the Streets’ and join them in peaceful, physically distanced protest in their towns and cities.

They are calling for the government to prioritise public health and well-being as the UK lockdown is eased and to invest in safer streets for walking and cycling. Groups taking part include Islington, Lambeth, Hackney, Exeter, Staines and Manchester.

Beginning on Saturday 16th, groups around the UK will be reclaiming streets by painting stencils of bikes in normally congested, polluted areas with non-toxic paint or chalk, to create their own pop up bike lanes, inspired by activists around the globe.[2] This will be followed by a physically distanced bike ride the next day to ride the newly reclaimed streets.

Although the group welcome the government investing an emergency £250 million to widen streets and bring in temporary bike lanes, Extinction Rebellion says the move doesn’t go far enough.

4. Campaign Against Arms Trade has condemned the role of UK arms company, BAE Systems, and the RAF, in continuing to transfer and maintain military equipment to Saudi Arabian forces throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

A response to a Parliamentary Question shows BAE and Britain’s RAF are still transferring military equipment to Saudi forces. UK-made fighter jets and bombs have played a key role in bombardment of Yemen.

3. Over 140 world leaders have demanded that all Covid vaccines, treatments and tests be patent-free, mass produced, and made available to all people, in all countries – free of charge.

Signatories include former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown, the former President of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo, the former United Nations Development Programme Administrator and former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark.

They join notable economists, health advocates and others, from the Chair of the Elders and the former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, to the Nobel Laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, the Director of African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr John Nkengasong and Dainius Puras, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

“Billions of people today await a vaccine that is our best hope of ending this pandemic,” said Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa. “As the countries of Africa, we are resolute that the COVID-19 vaccine must be patent-free, rapidly made and distributed, and free for all. All the science must be shared between governments. Nobody should be pushed to the back of the vaccine queue because of where they live or what they earn.”

The letter came as Oxfam found that vaccinating the poorest half of humanity – 3.7 billion people – against coronavirus could cost less than the ten biggest pharmaceutical companies make in four months.  

2. The government admitted that there will be customs checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea after the Brexit transition period ends.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs and Brexit spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said: 

“Johnson’s Government has failed to give businesses much needed clarity on this issue. It now seems Johnson was deeply dishonest with businesses when he previously asserted there would be no checks and businesses could put paperwork “in the bin”.

“His Brexit deal will mean extra costs and bureaucracy for businesses in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, at a time when many are already struggling with the impact of coronavirus.”

1. Legal campaigners the Good Law Project announced a legal challenge to lack of PPE in care homes.

In a statement to supporters, the group said: Care homes across the country have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, with thousands of deaths of residents and staff. And whilst carers strive to protect our country’s most elderly and vulnerable, they have been left without the PPE they need. One care home has even resorted to taping plastic bags around carers’ feet, arms, and hair.

“If we are to have any chance of halting the crisis in our care homes, we need to know why the Government is failing to provide them with the PPE they need. That’s why, along with the Doctors’ Association UK, we are taking legal action to bring about an urgent public inquiry.”

Josiah Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

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