Radical roundup: 11 stories that got buried this week

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

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

11. The National Union of Journalists has warned that the BBC’s plans to cut 450 jobs across England could have a serious impact on local news and investigative journalism.

It represents a 15 per cent cut across the board in TV, radio and online and is in addition to 150 jobs cuts announced last week for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “These are huge cuts which will inevitably have an impact on the BBC’s ability to sustain the breadth and depth of news coverage throughout England which truly reflects the diversity of the nation. We are consulting our members on how these plans will impact on the BBC’s output and the extent to which it will increase workloads on already-stretched newsrooms.”

10. A new political party, Beyond Politics, has offered free rides to the public by tying open opening tube ticket gates at Highbury and Islington railway station.

This is the second in a series of weekly actions in a build up to ‘bringing down the government on July 25 in Trafalgar Square’.

Beyond Politics is demanding the creation of Citizens’ Assemblies to ‘give power back to people’.

9. The General Secretary of Unite, Len McCluskey, has warned Labour leader Keir Starmer he won’t be able to get into Downing Street without the left of the Labour Party.

Speaking to John Pienaar on Times Radio, Mr McCluskey said: “He [Keir Starmer] knows that in order for him to become Prime Minister at the next general election he has to have a united party, and that effectively means carrying with him all elements of the party. And all of the data shows that our membership are wholeheartedly behind the radical nature of the policies that have been developed under Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.”

8. Commenting on a new report on Asylum Accommodation and Support by the National Audit Office, the SNP’s Shadow Immigration Minister said the Home Office has done the ‘bare minimum’ to assess the concerns of MPs and campaigners.

“It is incredibly frustrating that instead of undertaking the total re-design that was called for, the UK government simply tweaked the old and flawed ‘Compass’ contracts – and now we still face many of the same problems as before. The ‘hands-off’ approach of the Home Office to such a vital service is reprehensible.

“The way in which the system was designed made it virtually impossible for anybody but the large private service providers to win a contract. Local authorities and even smaller private providers were effectively frozen out.”

7. Businesses are becoming increasingly concerned about the UK’s planned system to check goods heading to the EU after the transition period ends.

Leading business figures told Business Insider that the UK government has so far failed to provide assurances on how the new IT system will work and whether it will be ready when the Brexit transition period ends in 2021.

Commenting, Best for Britain CEO Naomi Smith said: “This week we formally missed the opportunity to request an extension to the transition period.

“It is therefore jaw-dropping that in the very same week we find out the government cannot guarantee the IT systems needed to make our new borders operational will be ready in time.

“Businesses need these commitments in order to plan their investment. I don’t see how a British company exporting goods into the EU can be sure they can meet demand in the New Year if they can’t get permission from a system that isn’t ready.”

6. The widespread belief that the monarchy is good for tourism is the ‘original fake news’ and ‘complete fiction’ republican campaigners said this week.

The comments follow Meghan Markle’s claim her wedding generated £1bn for UK tourism, a claim that has already been challenged by leading experts.

Graham Smith, speaking for Republic, said: “No-one has ever been able to provide any evidence that the royals are good for tourism. It’s a convenient lie used to deflect criticism of the royals’ abuse of public money.

“A few years ago, it was suggested the royals bring £500m into the country through tourism. That represents less than half a percent of the UK’s £127bn tourism industry, yet even that £500m figure is complete fiction.

“With Buckingham Palace as low as 68th on any list of UK tourist attractions it’s hard to see how the royals make any difference to the industry.”

5. The UK’s promised ban on gay ‘conversion therapy’ has not been delivered, two years after the pledge was made.

“On this day two years ago [3 July 2018], the UK government promised to outlaw gay conversion therapy but still no legislation has been brought forward. We’ve had rumours that it will happen but no details or timetable,” said LGBT+ and human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell.

“In 2018, the then prime minister, Theresa May, said the government would bring forward proposals to ‘end the practice of conversion therapy’ as a priority.

“No one should be told their sexual orientation or gender identity is something that is flawed and requires changing. The practice is based on an assumption that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans is a defect or illness that can be ‘cured’…

“These therapies are unethical, ineffective and harmful. While Boris Johnson and Liz Truss procrastinate, people continue to be damaged by this quack practice,” Mr Tatchell said.

4. The Joint Committee on Human Rights has found that the right to family life of children whose mothers are in prison risks being breached by government policy.

The Committee proposes that the government ends the ban on children visiting, and considers the temporary release from prison of every low risk mother of dependent children, alongside pregnant women and women in Mother and Baby Units.

The Committee took evidence from those affected in June, and heard that the outbreak of Covid-19 has exacerbated problems of the separation of children from mothers in prison. Prohibition of visits and the seeming inability for the government’s early release programme to reunite a large number of mothers with their children have put at risk the right to family life of up to an estimated 17,000 children of mothers in prison. 

The government is largely working on these issues in the dark as they do not know even the most basic information about the numbers of women in prison who are separated from dependent children, the Committee said.

3.  Oxfam spoke out against Israel’s planned annexation of the West Bank this week.

Oxfam’s Country Director in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel Shane Stevenson said: “Oxfam strongly condemns any annexation of West Bank territory and urges the international community to reject any further steps in this plan. This serious – and likely irreversible – plan to acquire occupied territory by force, would be a violation of the most basic principles of international law.

“Whether [it takes place] incrementally or in swathes, it would be a betrayal by the international community to millions of Palestinians and would throw families into indefinite limbo. It would see an increase in discriminatory legal regimes, home raids, family separation, checkpoints, walls and fences; further limiting Palestinians’ already restricted freedom of movement and access to basic services. It is nothing less than a reversal of decades and billions of dollars of development and humanitarian work.

2. 30,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Welsh Government to make it compulsory for schools to teach black history in Welsh schools.

The Welsh Government’s draft Curriculum Bill will be published on the 8th of July. Plaid Cymru is calling for black history to be properly taught in all Welsh schools.

Shadow Minister for Education, Siân Gwenllian MS said: “Plaid Cymru has long argued that the history of Wales should become a statutory element of the new curriculum so that every child can come to know and understand the history of our nation.

“However, the recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations have brought into sharp focus the need for the history of black and people of colour also to be included as a statutory part of the curriculum.

“The Welsh Government’s Curriculum Bill does not currently making it compulsory for any school to teach Welsh history or black history. Instead, it leaves those elements as discretionary and up to individual schools.

“Having a fully open-ended curriculum means that every pupil will not have the opportunity to learn about issues that we believe are key to creating a more equal and prosperous society and in shaping citizens who are aware of their past.

1. At 5pm on Sunday – the anniversary of the NHS’ creation – people across the UK are being encouraged to join the biggest ever ‘clap for carers’ to thank all key workers.

The public are also being urged to raise a (socially distanced) cup of tea – or a drink of their choice – with neighbours.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “As a society we’re living through troubled times, and sadly we’re not out of the woods yet. Communities and families have been devastated by the virus, which has taken too many lives, kept loved ones apart and made people fear for the future.

“But we can come together, as demonstrated by the weekly claps from our doorsteps and balconies showing our appreciation for those who’ve been keeping us safe.

“This is an opportunity to give thanks and thoughts for all those who’ve lost their lives, as well as recognising the wonders of the health service, social care sector and other essential public services.”

Josiah Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

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