Radical Roundup: 10 stories that got buried

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

In no particular order… PS: Got a story tip? Email us: editor@leftfootforward.org

10. Opposition parties have challenged Boris Johnson to commit to making the £20 uplift to Universal Credit payments permanent – warning that millions of families could see their incomes cut unless the Tories perform an urgent U-turn on plans to scrap the uplift.

Speaking at Prime Ministers Questions this Wednesday, the SNP’s Westminster Leader Ian Blackford pointed to research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, warning 700,000 more people – including 300,000 children, could move into poverty if the £20 uplift is scrapped by the Tory government. Responding to Ian Blackford, the Prime Minister refused to give a commitment.

Boris Johnson said the £20 uplift was ‘under constant review’ but offered no clarity on whether it would continue for the duration of the pandemic.

9. Right-wing ideology can reduce the positive effects of education on climate change understanding in economically developed countries, a study in the Nature Climate Change journal has found.

The research, which draws on data from 64 countries, also finds that education has a broadly positive effect on climate change understanding in low- and middle-income countries.

Carbon Brief reports that the authors say: “The effects of education on people’s climate change beliefs vary as a function of political ideology. For those on the political left, education is related to pro-climate change beliefs, whereas for those on the political right, these effects are weak or negative.”

8. David Lammy MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, responded with anger to the news that G4S has been awarded the contract to run the new prison at Wellingborough.

He said: “G4S’s past performance illustrates the failings of privatisation in the justice system. Its well-publicised failure to manage HMP Birmingham led to reports of violence, unsanitary conditions, drink, drugs, and the bullying of staff.

“Serious questions must be asked about why the government has handed the contract for the new prison in Wellingborough to G4S.

“To deliver justice and keep the country safe, prisons must be well-run, disciplined environments that punish offenders while enabling them to rehabilitate.”

7. The government faces a potential loss of £15 billion to £26 billion through fraud and businesses not being able to repay Bounce Back Loans, according to a new report from the National Audit Office.

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme was announced in April to quickly provide loans of up to £50,000, or a maximum of 25% of annual turnover, to registered and unregistered small businesses to support their financial health during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the British Business Bank (the Bank) expect the Scheme to lend £38 billion to £48 billion by 4th November. However, there have been growing concerns about high potential levels of fraud in the scheme.

6. A lobbying firm run by allies of Dominic Cummings was handed a contract worth £900,000 to conduct public opinion polling on the coronavirus pandemic.

The contract was awarded to Hanbury Strategy without any advertisement or competitive tender process, according to the Good Law Project (GLP). Sworn evidence from the group claims that the price paid by government was “absolutely off the chart”.

A statement from the public interest lawyers states: “Two of three active directors of Hanbury Strategy are Mr Paul Stephenson, a former Conservative advisor and Vote Leave alumni, and Mr Ameetpal Singh Gill, a former advisor to David Cameron. The government has ignored the law which requires them to publish details of the contract. However, media reports state that the contract came to an end after four months, with Hanbury Strategy having run up a bill of more than half a million pounds. Without details of the contract, we have no way of knowing how they arrived at this huge sum of money.”

GLP has now issued judicial review proceedings to challenge this award, claiming: “Ignoring proper procurement practices to hand lucrative contracts to your mates is unlawful.”

5. The Guardian has terminated the contract of cartoonist, Andrzej Krauze, following lobbing by the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

Krauze was accused of drawing allegedly homophobic, racist and anti-Muslim cartoons for the Polish right-wing press.

The Guardian advised the foundation’s Director, Peter Tatchell, that “Andrzej Krauze’s work for the Guardian has come to an end.” His final Guardian cartoon was published last week.

“I thank the Guardian for listening to my concerns and those of Polish human rights defenders. Krauze stands accused of promoting far right extremism in Poland by drawing cartoons construed as homophobic, racist and anti-Muslim,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, director of the foundation.

One of Krauze’s cartoons appeared to equate same-sex marriage to bestiality. Tatchell continued: “He is actively colluding with the intolerance that has fuelled Poland’s anti-LGBT+ witch-hunt, where a third of the country has been now declared a LGBT-free zone. Freedom of expression is important but not when it aids the denial of freedom to others.”

Krauze was contacted for comment by LFF.

4. The Stop Trump Coalition – which organised hundreds of thousands-strong protests against the Muslim Ban and the state visit – is set to mobilise for a protest on Saturday 24th October in Parliament Square, alongside a coalition of other groups.

The ‘Stop Trump, Stop the Trade Deal’ protest will take place just ten days before the US Presidential election. It will be a focus for everyone who wants to show their disgust at the Trump administration, and to make a stand against the rise of Trumpism and right wing populism here in the UK – including by Boris Johnson’s Tory Party. 

The protest is part of a nationwide day of action against a proposed US trade deal, which is being organised by Global Justice Now, War on Want, Keep Our NHS Public, Traidcraft, We Own It, Open Rights Group, SumOfUs, Stop Trump and Another Europe is Possible. The day will also include local actions across the country and a virtual online rally with speakers including Emily Thornberry and Jay Rayner.

Shaista Aziz, from the Stop Trump Coalition, said: “Donald Trump has been one the most racist and toxic Presidents in American history. Since 2016, we have witnessed the Muslim ban, the brutal repression of Black Lives Matter protests, allegations of sexual harassment, the torture of migrants, climate change denial and a string of outrageous policies and statements on women, trans people and other minorities.”

3. The University and College Union (UCU) has welcomed the decision by Northumbria University to move learning online after its members threatened to ballot for industrial action over Covid health and safety failings.

But the union said the decision should have been taken earlier, and urged other universities to move their work online.

Both Northumbria University and the University of Newcastle will move online from Thursday for a minimum of three weeks. Newcastle has some of the highest rates of Covid UK and saw 1,227 new cases last week.

UCU regional official Iain Owens said: “It was the right decision for Newcastle’s universities to move learning online. But it should not have taken the threat of industrial action for Northumbria University to put the health and safety of its staff and students first…

“We now desperately need a nationally coordinated response from government that moves working online across all universities to help lower the rate of transmission and stem this crisis.”

2. The SNP has said the Tory government “cannot be trusted” – after leaked documents revealed the Tories hid extreme Brexit power grab plans from Scotland and the other devolved nations.

The leaked Brexit planning documents published by a right-wing blog prove the Tory government attempted to hide information about its extreme Brexit plans – including details of the power grab on the Scottish Parliament and the threat to Scotland’s food supply, the SNP says.

The UK government’s “Transition period planning assumptions (central case)” document, circulated to Cabinet ministers in June, included a specific instruction that it “should not be shared publicly or with the devolved administrations at this stage.”

A document on the food supply, which warned of “a tightening of supply” and “reduced supply availability, especially of certain fresh products” from Brexit also stated “Food is a devolved policy area. We have not shared this assumption with DA [Devolved Administrations] as per handling instructions, but it will have an impact on DAs and their planning.”

SNP Deputy Westminster Leader Kirsten Oswald MP said: “These leaked documents prove that the Tory government deliberately hid crucial information about its extreme Brexit plans – including the likelihood of food shortages – from the devolved nations, as well as details about the Tory power grab on the Scottish Parliament.

“It demonstrates, yet again, that the Tories cannot be trusted to act in Scotland’s interests – or even tell the truth. We already knew they were willing to break international law, and this shows they have attempted to disguise their plans to impose an extreme Brexit against Scotland’s will.”

1. Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley has welcomed the end of the Tories’ ‘long-running opposition to wind power’.  

The Prime Minister promised to power every home in the UK with offshore wind energy by 2030 in his conference speech this week.

Reacting to the news, Bartley said: “For decades, Greens have been arguing that the UK is ideally placed to become a world leader in onshore and offshore windpower.

“But we have battled opposition from Conservative MPs locally and nationally as they sheltered their fossil fuel friends. Johnson’s support for wind power suggests that the transition to green energy is now irreversible.

“However, the level of investment proposed by the Prime Minister is nowhere near matching his rhetoric. The £160m for wind power…falls far short of the £48bn that analysts say is necessary. The government needs to set out where this investment will come from.

“Nor will it provide what we need to power every sector of the economy, most notably transport. The Green Party proposes that 70% of the country’s electricity should be provided by wind by 2030. The government’s proposals fall far short of this.

Boris Johnson claimed in his Tory conference speech on Tuesday: “Some people used to sneer at wind power… and say it wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding.”

An article then resurfaced of Boris Johnson sneering at wind power, and saying it wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding.

Josiah Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

See last week’s Radical Roundup here.

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