Radical roundup: 10 stories that got buried (11th Nov 2020)

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: [email protected]

10. Green Party peer Jenny Jones has condemned the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill ahead of its second reading in the House of Lords today.

Baroness Jones, who was herself the subject of covert police surveillance for more than a decade, said: “The police are paid to uphold the law; this Bill allows officers to either act illegally, or to pay others to break it.  It is one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation any government has ever proposed. 

“The government has learnt a major lesson from the Spycops scandal and are passing legislation to ensure that innocent people, who become victims of devastating state intrusion in their personal lives, can never take legal action to get justice.”

9. Labour’s leader in the House of Lords, Baroness Angela Smith, has complained to the Lords standards authorities after crossbench peer Lord Kilclooney’s referred to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as “the Indian” in a tweet.   

Though Kilclooney ‘withdrew’ the tweet, he insisted there was ‘nothing racist’ about it.  

Baroness Smith told Times Radio the comments were ‘despicable’: “I think he should retract them, withdraw them and give us a strongly worded heartfelt apology. But that’s not what I’ve seen from him, so far unfortunately.”

She described her move to lodge a formal complaint to the Lords Commissioner as “unprecedented”, something that could only be initiated by such “unacceptable ” comments. 

It is unclear whether his comments breach House of Lords rules, though the House of Lords can expel members in extreme circumstances.

8. The Welsh public are not being provided with the basic information they need to be able to participate meaningfully in next May’s Senedd elections, Plaid Cymru has warned.

According to a study by Cardiff University, carried out by YouGov and with a sample size of 3000 people, 40% of the people of Wales incorrectly thought that Plaid Cymru was in government between 2011 and 2016.

The study also found that only 50% knew that education was devolved, and only 49% knew that health was devolved.

The study also identified what could be a key reason for this: only 6% of the Welsh population read Welsh newspapers. The corresponding figure for Scotland was 46%.

7. Campaigners visited hospitals, health centres and GP surgeries in 25 towns and cities this Wednesday, calling on MPs to make their constituencies an ‘NHS trade deal free zone’.

The campaigners called on MPs to vote for an amendment to the Trade Bill which would ensure the NHS is not included in trade deals, when the Bill returns to the House of Commons later this year. 

Activists held blue ribbons around the hospitals and GP surgeries to symbolise the protections they want to see the NHS given. Among the towns and cities to see protests were Sheffield, Bristol and Swindon.

In July, the House of Commons voted against amendments to the Trade Bill that would have stopped the NHS from being included in trade deals.

We Own It, which organised the protests, claim that the Trade Bill needs specific protections for the NHS to avoid opening up the health service to being charged more for drugs, enshrining the rights of American healthcare companies to access our NHS in international treaties, and “locking in” privatisation that would be incredibly difficult for a future government to reverse.

6. Wales’ Education Minister, Lib Dem Kirsty Williams, has announced her decision to stand down at the next election.

Announcing the move, the Member of the Senedd told supporters: “Four years ago, I became Wales’ Education Minister. It wasn’t an easy decision to accept the position.

“I’d spent the last decade holding the Labour Government to account – nowhere more so than on education where Wales had continued to drop in international tables.

“But, as liberals, we have always believed that education is the key to ensuring everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential. This was our opportunity to make a difference – so Welsh party members voted in favour for me to join the government.

“We have come a long way since then. We have reduced the attainment gap, giving more support to learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our improved examination results and international performance means that there is a new respect for Wales and a new confidence at home. We led the way in guaranteeing that children who receive free school meals continue to have them provided over school holidays.”

On Tuesday, the Welsh Government also announced that this year’s GCSE and A-Level students will be graded based on classroom assessments, rather than having to sit exams next year potentially amid the pandemic.

5. A record number of 314,000 redundancies were made in the UK between July and September, while 782,000 fewer people were on payrolls in October than in March, figures from the Office for National Statistics show.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It‘s time to stop the government’s economic rollercoaster. Every day more job losses are announced – and every one is a tragedy for a family. 

“Ministers must use the spending review to set out a plan to create millions of good new jobs. TUC research shows that we could create 1.2 million new jobs in the next two years in green transport and infrastructure, and another 600,000 by unlocking public sector vacancies. 

“Hard-hit sectors like the arts, hospitality and aviation are really struggling. These industries have a long-term future – but ministers must step in and deliver targeted support to help them get through the months ahead. 

“People who have lost their jobs must get the support they need to make ends meet. We need an urgent boost to universal credit or many risk being plunged into poverty,” O’Grady said.

4.  A migrant worker and trade union activist has been elected to lead the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB).

Henry Chango Lopez, who joined the IWGB as an outsourced worker in 2013, was elected general secretary by a landslide at the union’s Annual General Meeting on Saturday 7th November. 

Mr. Lopez, originally from Ecuador, has lived in the UK for twenty years. He began advocating for his fellow workers in his first job as an outsourced cleaner at the University of London and went on to unionise the majority of workers there, the union said.

Last week the union won a 10-year battle to end outsourcing at the University of London, where Mr. Lopez once worked as a cleaner and campaigned for equality and better conditions for all outsourced workers.

Henry Chango Lopez said: “I have the experience of being in the union since the beginning, when we had about 300 members and no office. I used to work as a cleaner and porter at the University of London. Before I joined a union, I didn’t know anything about unions and I was an exploited worker, so I am very proud of what we have achieved.

“Working closely with branches and officials, my focus will be workplace organising, fighting outsourcing, developing new leaders and building capacity. The IWGB will continue to be a light at the end of the tunnel for so many exploited workers.”

Dr. Jason Moyer-Lee, outgoing general secretary of the IWGB, says: “We should all be proud that our union believes that a migrant worker, who came to this country barely speaking English and got involved in unions as an outsourced cleaner earning less than the living wage, is the best person to be our leader.”

3. The progressive IPPR think tank has warned that the UK is off course to meet its own net zero carbon ambitions by 2050.

On the eve of what would have been the start of the global COP26 climate gathering in Glasgow, the think tank noted that the government is not yet delivering the scale of investment needed to lead the world towards a low carbon future.

New analysis reveals that over the course of this Parliament the government has committed to investing just 12 per cent of what is needed to meet their net zero emissions target. The think tank estimates that £33 billion a year in additional annual investment is needed to meet the net zero target, but only around £4 billion annually has so far been committed.

The green homes grant, investment in cycling, walking infrastructure and in offshore wind announced earlier this year show the government is moving in the right policy direction, but action at a greater scale and pace is needed, according to IPPR.

2. A leading candidate to become Unison’s next General Secretary has announced an emergency plan to support members across public services throughout the second peak of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Speaking at an online campaign event – “Responding to Lockdown 2.0” – he outlined the plan which includes:

  • Setting up a lay member led Covid-19 Task Force to lead the union’s emergency work. 
  • Supporting health and safety reps to ensure that all workplaces have risk assessments in place and that we support any worker who refuses to work in an unsafe workplace.
  • Dispatching hundreds of Unison staff from all over the country to directly support branches in protecting jobs, pay and conditions. 
  • Recruiting retired members to assist branches to support members 
  • Directing all resources and activities of the union, including all meetings, seminars and conferences, to supporting member organising

McKenzie says he will prepare the union to be ready for “huge challenges and huge fights” amid the pandemic, calling for a publicly-run test and trace system, closing all schools and colleges to students, and a seat at the decision making table for workers and their unions.

1. A new report from Kenyan-based climate and energy think tank Power Shift Africa has shown that, per capita, the UK burns more CO2 than 18 Commonwealth countries combined.

Mohamed Adow, Director of Power Shift Africa, said: “It’s remarkable that there is such climate inequality within the Commonwealth.  Whether it is droughts and desertification in Sub-Saharan Africa, water shortages in Cape Town, floodwaters in Bangladesh and India or rising sea levels threatening the Pacific Islands, more than ever, it’s now clear that the Commonwealth’s poorest citizens are already bearing the brunt of climate change.

“This climate change has been driven by the Commonwealth’s big polluters; the UK, Australia and Canada.

“With Boris Johnson seeking new post-Brexit trade deals with Commonwealth members one would think he might act more decisively on climate change considering the impact of the UK’s current, and historic, emissions.”

The UK is hosting the next United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).

Josiah Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

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