Radical roundup: 10 stories that got buried this week

Left Foot Forward's roundup of the progressive news you might have missed.

In no particular order…

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10. Public interest campaigners at the Good Law Project have launched legal proceedings against the government for what they say are ‘two vast and inexplicable’ procurement contracts for PPE during the pandemic.

Normal tendering processes have been put on hold to deal with the crisis – but it has to accusations of government favouritism.

“£108m went to a tiny pest control company with net assets of £18,000. And another £108m went to a modestly-sized confectioner in Northern Ireland,” a Good Law Project spokesperson said in an email to supporters. They have begun legal proceedings to ‘try to keep government on the straight and narrow when it comes to public procurement’.

The group has also asked Jason Coppel QC to advise on whether Robert Jenrick has committed the crime of misconduct in public office, after he overrode Tower Hamlets council to approve a development from former Express owner Richard Desmond. Mr Desmond donated to the Conservatives.

9. The University and College Union (UCU) has warned Bradford College it could be at risk of unfair dismissal claims if it pushed ahead with a plan to axe 107 staff by Wednesday 5th August.

The college originally planned to axe staff within a week, but it has now extended the timeline to 5 August after UCU said the rushed timeline would likely lead to legal action. However, the union said the college is still at risk of unfair dismissal claims as its proposed termination date of 5 August does not allow enough time to consult with staff and allow them to serve their notice periods.

UCU regional official Julie Kelley said: “The college says it needs to make cuts due to a fall in apprentices but these proposals will impact on students across the college. The cuts would leave A-level students with access to an English literature and English language teacher for only one day a week, and a history teacher twice a week.”

8. The Scottish Greens have raised concerns about the policing of protests in the Glasgow, following an anti-racism protest on Saturday 20th June.

In a letter to Chief Superintendent Hazel Hendren, Divisional Commander for Greater Glasgow, Glasgow MSP Patrick Harvie and Councillor Kim Long highlight that different policing techniques have been deployed in recent weeks. They argue: “There is a strong impression that a lower-key approach has been taken to the protests by far right and loyalist groups than was taken in relation to Saturday’s anti-racism demonstration.”

The correspondence notes specific concerns about the treatment experienced by different groups, “On Wednesday 17th June a planned protest by a group of asylum seekers against their living conditions, which had already been re-scheduled from Sat 13th due to an assembly of people whose stated aim was to oppose Black Lives Matter protests, was disrupted by members of the far-right National Defence League. It is our understanding that Police Scotland did not curtail the space taken by the far-right group or attempt to disband their protest.

“When the End Hotel Detention demonstration arrived at the square however, they were contained by Police Scotland into a smaller space, too small for physical distancing, which left the rest of the square for the right wing demonstrators.”

7. London Climate Action Week (LCAW) will take place from 1st-3rd July. A series of over 60 virtual events has been developed to drive collaboration and policy solutions, as governments, NGOs, private finance and institutional investors all have a crucial role to play in delivering an economic recovery fit for the low-carbon future. 

This week-long series comes as new statistics from The Climate Coalition’s virtual lobby of MPs reveal Londoners’ desire for tougher climate action: 67% of Londoners call for investment in a green recovery as we emerge from post-COVID lockdown, and 83% of Londoners want to see national and local community solutions to tackle climate change from the government. This is the highest percentage in the UK.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said: “Last year we held London’s first ever Climate Action Week, bringing together climate expertise and talent from across the world. I’m proud to see that it’s back in 2020, despite the huge challenges posed by coronavirus.

“With the delay to COP26 we can’t lose the momentum on climate action, so I’m pleased to see that London organisations are leading the way, showing once again that the capital is a driving force for action nationally and globally.”

6. ‘Red Wall’ constituencies which helped deliver Boris Johnson’s election victory face serious economic and political consequences if the PM fails to deliver his promised European trade deal, according to new research.

A new report from Best for Britain, assessing the views of those who switched from Labour to the Conservatives concludes that Red Wall areas particularly vulnerable to the double economic shock of a No-Deal Brexit on top of a Corona recession. It also finds that voters of all persuasions in the Red Wall overwhelmingly want a deal to be struck with the EU.

Up to 90 per cent of voters in Red Wall seats believe it is important or very important that the government sticks to its manifesto pledge and delivers a ‘great new deal’ for Britain with the EU.

A No-Deal Brexit – very possible at the end of this year – will be felt most acutely in Red Wall constituencies both economically and politically, the report says.

5. The government has confirmed it will strengthen protections in courts for survivors of domestic abuse through an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill, following calls from campaigning organisations and opposition MPs.  

Following the Government announcement Christine Jardine said: “These latest recommendations to protect Domestic Abuse survivors  in family courts are what we were asking for in the Bill and so I’m delighted the Government is to recognise this with their own version of our amendment.

“Too often, perpetrators use court proceedings to continue their abuse and control. We’ve heard survivors describe how painful and traumatic court appearances can be. These changes will help.

“We’ve already improved the Government’s Domestic Abuse Bill significantly since it was first introduced last year, and that’s a testament to the survivors who’ve come forward to tell their stories and the campaigners who have kept the pressure on.”

4. The SNP has renewed calls on the Tory government to maintain support for employed and self-employed people for as long as is necessary in each of the four nations – and expand the schemes to cover people including the recently employed, seasonal workers, freelancers, and the recently self-employed.

Last week, the cross-party Treasury Select Committee urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to make good on his commitment to “do whatever it takes” to support people – warning more than a million people have fallen through the cracks in the government’s Covid-19 income support schemes.

Commenting, SNP Shadow Chancellor Alison Thewliss MP said: “Despite months of pressure, the Tory government has ignored the evidence and left millions of people without the support they need.

“There are still gaping holes in the financial support on offer – with many recently-employed, seasonal workers, freelancers, and self-employed people getting little to no help during this unprecedented health and economic emergency.

3. Nominations for the next leader of the Liberal Democrats have opened.

Candidates must be an MP and be proposed by at least 10% of other members of the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons. They must also be supported by at least 200 individual members from 20 local parties.

In order to vote in the contest, people must be a Party member at the close of nominations on the 9th July. The ballot will then open on the 30th July and close on the 26th August, after which the Party will announce the next leader.

Current Acting Leader Sir Ed Davey MP and Education Spokesperson Layla Moran MP have already confirmed they will stand. Bath MP Wera Hobhouse dropped out of the race to back Moran this week.

2. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime revealed that the COVID-19 epidemic currently gripping the world could lead to a greater number of disadvantaged people using illegal drugs, and thereby further enriching organised crime.

Other points from the report include: Estimates of people using illegal drugs ‘in the last year’ has risen by 59 million 2009 figures (210 million in 2009 to 269 million in 2019). Factoring in population growth this is a rise from 4.8 to 5.3% of the population. Opioids (including heroin) accounted for 66% of the total drug related deaths in 2017 (167,000).

Estimated global manufacture of cocaine reached an all-time high, and global seizures increased marginally, to the largest quantity ever reported.

James Nicholls, Chief Executive Officer of the UK-based Transform Drug Policy Foundation said:  “The findings of this UN report are a clear warning to global leaders that we must address drug problems with fresh thinking. That means recognising the failure of enforcement-led drug policy to reduce harm, and taking alternative approaches seriously.

“We need to end the criminalisation of people who use drugs, regulate the market, and provide necessary funding to drug treatment and harm reduction services.”

1. Initial findings from the Parliament-backed ‘Climate Assembly UK’ – a citizens’ assembly on the climate crisis – concluded that government, employers and others should support changes to the economy and lifestyles which help achieve the UK’s net zero emissions target.

The interim briefing from the citizens’ assembly on climate change, Covid-19, recovery and the path to net zero, offers a unique insight into how 100+ members of the public, working to give Parliament and Government an understanding of the public’s views on how the UK should reach net zero, feel about the implications of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdown for reaching net zero.

Climate Assembly UK’s members are representative of the UK population, and well-acquainted with the sorts of measures required to reach net zero having studied these over a number of weekends. The results in the interim briefing show that:

  • 79% of assembly members ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ that, “Steps taken by the government to help the economy recover should be designed to help achieve net zero”;
  • 93% of assembly members ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ that, “As lockdown eases, government, employers and/or others should take steps to encourage lifestyles to change to be more compatible with reaching net zero.”

Josiah Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

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