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… PS: Got a story tip? Email us: [email protected]

10. The Bank of England was the scene of protests this week as campaigners called on Britain’s central bank to act on its pledges to support a green post-Covid recovery.

Campaigners accused the Bank of England of failing on pledges to ‘build back better’ from the covid crisis, as recent research reveals the Bank is currently pumping tens of billions of pounds towards companies which are polluting the planet and laying off workers.

The Bank’s latest reports made almost no reference to the climate emergency, with the only mention in the Financial Stability Report, which noted that the Bank had delayed its climate stress tests until 2021.

The protests come as new research published by the New Economics Foundation on Tuesday revealed that £11.4bn of the Bank of England’s corporate QE programme has gone towards high-carbon companies, including the likes of Shell and BP. This is despite Andrew Bailey pledging to make decarbonising the Bank’s balance sheet “a priority” when he became governor in March.

9. Benefit figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions showed a shocking rise in the number of households affected by the benefit cap.

154,000 families across the country saw their benefits reduced by £248 per month on average in May, a 93% increase since February and the largest spike in capped households since April 2013.

Almost two thirds of families affected are single parent households. The vast majority – 86% – of currently ‘capped’ households include children. Labour along with the IFS, Child Poverty Action Group and over 50 organisations called for the benefits cap to be suspended three months ago, but the Government chose not to listen.

Labour and welfare campaigners are calling on the Government to act now to suspend the cap so that more families and children aren’t pushed into poverty by this Government’s actions.

8. Roger McKenzie, a leading left-wing candidate for Unison general secretary, is pledging to build a union that will win a real pay rise for NHS workers as they protest in dozens of cities around the UK this Saturday.

“It’s inspiring to see thousands of NHS workers planning to protest this week demanding a pay rise – clapping for them is one thing – Now it’s time for us to stand with them, and once and for all end the scandal of health workers relying on food banks to get by.

“This Government’s limited reversal of some of its public sector pay freezes shamefully excluded thousands of NHS staff.

“It is not enough to plead with those in power. As general secretary of Britain’s biggest public service union I would build power in our branches and communities that can take on those who are cutting and selling off chunks of our health service and making staff and patients pay the price,” he said.

Information on other candidates is available here.

7. The Scottish Greens hit out at the instalment of Douglas Ross as leader of the Conservatives in Scotland.

Scottish Greens Co-Leader Patrick Harvie MSP said: “Just months ago, the Scottish Tories were maintaining the pretence that they were something different from the extremist No-Deal Brexiteers of the Boris Johnson camp…The instalment of Douglas Ross as their part time, absentee leader without even asking their members confirms that there isn’t a hint of difference between them.

“It’s also clear that the Prime Minister thinks the entire Holyrood group is useless, having overlooked the lot of them to appoint a backbench MP as leader. Combined with the stand-in role of Ruth Davidson, who is only marking time at Holyrood till she gets her ermine and her unelected job for life, it’s all symbolic of Boris Johnson’s contempt for Scotland and our Parliament, and even for their own members.”

6. Analysis by the left-leaning Institute of Public Policy Research has found that six dominant digital companies – Facebook, Alphabet, Apple, Microsoft, Netflix and Amazon – saw their combined market valuations rise by $1.9 trillion since the pandemic began, an increase of 38 per cent.  

By comparison, over the same period the average value of all stocks remained roughly unchanged in the US, while it fell 16 per cent in the European market and 22 per cent in the UK.

A complete rethink of how digital data is collected, owned and used is needed urgently to prevent a handful of big tech companies dominating people’s lives for decades to come, according to a new report from IPPR.

Otherwise the huge global firms whose value has soared since the Covid-19 pandemic will exert ever-increasing control over the most valuable elements of the fast-growing digital economy, the report says. IPPR argues that the pandemic has caused society to become even more dependent on data, through homeworking and increased medical surveillance needed to combat the virus.

5. Luton and Dunstable Hospital’s outsourced cleaners have won the same pay as their NHS colleagues after a months-long fight for justice, Unison has announced.

When a new cleaning, catering and housekeeping contract begins in November, the workers, many paid the minimum wage, will enjoy full NHS pay of at least £9.21 an hour, as well as any nationally agreed future rises. Staff have also won improved annual leave and sick pay entitlements.

Workers overwhelmingly backed the deal, which will come into effect when private firm Engie’s contract ends in November, in consultative ballots over the last fortnight.

The Trust is currently picking the next private firm to run its cleaning, catering and housekeeping contract but all workers will be guaranteed NHS pay rates.

4. More than 4,000 staff are being forced to leave British Airways and the remaining workforce will discover their fate today.

Unite has warned the airline that this ‘gross injustice’ will destroy precious relationships with passengers and employees for many years to come.

Unite, which has accused the company of ‘industrial thuggery’, has denounced today’s redundancies as a gross injustice marking a bleak day in BA’s history when loyal employees are being ‘forced out by company greed’.

The union has written to its members to reassure them that it will provide advice and support to all those receiving letters from the company, which will indicate who has been selected for redundancy above and beyond the 4,000 employees who leave the airline today.

3. The SNP has said Boris Johnson jeopardised public health by refusing to sack his rule-breaking aide Dominic Cummings – after new research revealed the scandal caused lasting damage to confidence in the UK government and its response to coronavirus.

The University College London Covid-19 Social Study, published in the Lancet, tracked more than 40,000 people’s views of the UK government’s approach to the epidemic – and found that in the three weeks following the Cummings scandal, willingness to adhere to lockdown rules dropped more steeply in England than in Scotland and Wales.

2. London has seen a drop in toxic NO2 emissions which is five times greater than other parts of the country.

Labour’s London Assembly Environment Spokesperson, Leonie Cooper AM, said: “This is yet further proof that with the right political will, we can really tackle air pollution.

“Toxic air disproportionately impacts children on the way to school and those in our poorest communities, contributing to the premature deaths of almost 10,000 Londoners each year.

“Coming out of the first Covid-19 outbreak, we need to redouble our efforts to tackle the health inequalities that blight our society.”

1. A new youth handbook on climate campaigning has been released, written by a 17 year old Extinction Rebellion activist.

“Challenge Everything” written by Blue Sandford – named by The Times as a ’British Greta Thunberg’ – is a manifesto for how young people can help to save the planet.

A spokesperson for XR said: “It’s an important call to action” and will appeal “to teens who feel disillusioned by current world leaders and want to stop the decimation of our environment and the greed of big businesses; to those who want to make a difference but aren’t quite sure where to start – or how much of a change they can really make.”

Josiah Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

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