Radical Roundup: 10 stories that have got buried – Week 2, July 2021

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10. The SNP’s Westminster leader has called out the Prime Minister for racist comments, echoing the footballer Tyrone Mings who said “this government doesn’t get to stoke the fires of racism and then pretend to be disgusted by it when it happens.”

Ian Blackford MP asked the Prime Minister at PMQs what sanctions he thinks would be appropriate for someone who publishes racist content – such as describing Africans as ‘flag waving piccaninnies’ with ‘watermelon smiles’ – as previously written by Boris Johnson in a newspaper article. 

Blackford also criticised the UK government’s own report on racism – the Sewell Report – which was published in March, and said that there was no systematic problem in the UK.

The SNP Westminster leader congratulated the England football team for “an incredible achievement” but said the tragedy of the tournament was the undercurrent of racism, and said it “falls on all of us to face it down and call it out.”

Commenting, Ian Blackford MP said: “The truth is that the Tory party don’t sanction those who publish racist content – they promote them to be Prime Minister. 

“The legacy of the Prime Minister’s dog whistling has followed him into 10 Downing Street and it is now at the heart of this Tory government.” 

9. The National Union of Journalists is to report incidents of violence against journalists and videographers covering the Euros championship to an inquiry opened by the football governing body UEFA.

Michelle Stanistreet said: “The level of abuse and violence our members have experienced while reporting on matches and fans viewing the games is shocking. Our members have told us about having missiles thrown at them, threats of violence and insults while lawfully doing their jobs. They have also witnessed disgusting racist behaviour from the so-called fans.

“This falls into a pattern of increasing intimidation and violence against the press on the streets of the UK. Such behaviour has been exhibited during recent anti-lockdown protests. The union’s concern is that the police have not always come to the aid of journalists and videographers who are being attacked. We will reporting these incidents to the UEFA inquiry and raising them with the police.”

Incidents reported to the NUJ include a videographer who was pushed and his camera grabbed several times by a group of young people near a line of police in Leicester Square. They demanded he stop filming, or they would beat him up.

A videographer at Wembley was told to stop filming by a group when his camera was slung over his shoulder, facing the ground and not switched on. He then faced a barrage of abuse and was called a peadophile.

And a videographer who reported being threatened by a knife from an England supporter said: “The amount of racism I witnessed was equal to any far right protest I have ever covered in my 16-year career as a video journalist.”

8. Labour has leapt on the news that ex-chancellor, Lord Philip Hammond, is being paid to advise the Saudi government.

Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s Deputy Leader and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said:

“This is yet more evidence that the system of rules and regulations that is supposed to prevent the revolving door between government office and lobbying is completely unfit for purpose.

“The ACOBA system is pointless and toothless. If anything it causes more harm than good by giving a veil of respectability to the rampant cronyism, sleaze and dodgy lobbying that is polluting our democracy under the Tories.

“Labour will ban former Ministers from lobbying government for at least five years after they leave office, and overhaul the current broken system and replace it with an Integrity and Ethics Commission that will close the revolving door and stamp out sleaze.”

7. Right-wing journalist Dan Hodges has been roundly mocked for attacking footballers who take the knee, after saying they ‘need a new anti-racist symbol that people can unite behind’.

Progressive commentator Femi Oluwole replied jokingly: “Black people have been desperately waiting for a white Daily Mail Journalist like Dan Hodges to tell us how to express our need for basic equality.”

Another added: “Maybe victims of racism are better placed than Dan Hodges to express what form their protest should take.”

6. Former Conservative minister Damian Green MP has alleged that jobs were “dangled” in front of Tory MPs to get them to vote through foreign aid cuts on Tuesday.

Speaking to John Pienaar on Times Radio’s Drive show, Green was asked what had been “dangled” in front of Tory MPs. He replied: “Jobs, essentially, that’s what people do. And to be fair, I am, as it were, repeating the conversations that have been had around the place since. So, before you ask me for any hard evidence of this, I haven’t got it.”

He went on: “I’ve been around long enough to know how this place works. And know how whips offices work on all sides. And so given that so many people have changed their mind in the course of a relatively short space of time, I suspect that normal whips practices have gone on. And let’s be honest, they’re effective. Look at the result of this vote.”

He also said that cuts to foreign aid is one of the factors that might have been why the party lost in the Chesham and Amersham by-election.

5. Leading scientists have warned the government that patent protections on Covid-19 vaccines are ‘threatening the security’ of the UK’s vaccination programme and could lead to further lockdowns after July 19.

Professor Stephen Reicher, who advises the government’s SAGE group of scientists, and Professor Christina Pagel, a member of Independent SAGE, have warned that the government risks “producing variants instead of vaccines” by upholding intellectual property rules on the jabs.

Scientists warn that allowing the virus to spread in poorer countries could lead to new variants of Covid-19 that are more virulent or resistant to vaccines, derailing the UK’s vaccine programmes, forcing the government to reintroduce lockdown restrictions. 

While vaccination rates are high in the UK, billions remain unvaccinated around the world. According to Oxford University, just 1% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine. Two-thirds of epidemiologists at world-leading institutions have warned that allowing the virus to spread in these countries could render our current vaccines ineffective within a year.

Stephen Reicher, Professor of Social Psychology at the University of St Andrew’s and member of the SAGE subcommittee on behavioural science, said: “If infection continues to rage internationally, there is a serious danger of new and more dangerous variants continuing to arise, spreading across borders and forcing us back into restrictions – thus undermining the Prime Minister’s ability to deliver on his pledge to make their removal irreversible.

He added: “in the longer term the key priority is not to redistribute what is already being produced. It is to make use of the unused capacity that already exists around the world and so to increase production to a level where there is enough vaccine for everybody. 

“That requires waiving patents – a policy supported amongst others by the Pope, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and also our most important ally, the United States. But the British Government continues to be one of the few blocking it.”

4. Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie MSP has branded Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross morally indefensible, after the Moray MP and his entire group fell in line with Boris Johnson to scrap billions from the international aid budget.

All Scottish Tory MPs, including Mr Ross, voted to slash aid expenditure to the world’s poorest, despite standing on a manifesto to protect the spending less than two years ago.

Former Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May said that as a result of these cuts, “Fewer girls will be educated, more girls and boys will become slaves, more children will go hungry, and more of poorest people in world will die.”

Patrick Harvie MSP said: “Douglas Ross’s actions are morally indefensible. This is someone who says he wants to give leadership to the country, but when push comes to shove he pitifully fell in line with Boris Johnson to vote for these vicious cuts as did his sad little band of Scottish Tory MPs.

“These Tory cuts to international aid will be devastating. But instead of taking a stand Mr Ross filed into the lobby behind The Prime Minister and joined him in attacking the most vulnerable people in the world, at a time when they are most in need of support.

“The UK is one of the world’s wealthiest countries. It should be supporting those most in need so that we are better able to deal, as a global community, with challenges like Covid and the climate crisis. Instead its government has chosen to shamefully abandon those most in need.”

3. The planned £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit in October is set to leave out-of-work families with children receiving barely half of the income the public believes is required to achieve an acceptable standard of living, while adults without children will receive around a third, according to a new report.

The annual Minimum Income Standard for the UK in 2021 (MIS) report, based on research carried out by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, acts as a benchmark of minimum living standards in the UK.

The looming cut to Universal Credit would reduce the value of out-of-work benefits to their lowest recorded levels relative to what the public thinks is an acceptable income.

The report also paints a concerning picture of how low-paid work and inadequate social security combine to pose serious financial risks particularly for single parent families and single adults without children.

  • Even with a full-time job on the National Living Wage, a single parent with two children aged 3 and 7 is £46-a-week short of a Minimum Income Standard (MIS) – increasing to £66 if Universal Credit is cut.
  • A single person without children relying on out-of-work benefits receives less than half of what they need through Universal Credit even before the cut.
  • A single person needs to earn £20,400 a year to reach MIS, but they would only earn £17,400 if working full-time on the National Living Wage.  

Iain Porter, Policy & Partnerships Manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “It is deeply concerning that millions of households across our country are having to live on incomes that fall so far short of what the public thinks is needed for a minimum standard of living. Social security should be strong enough for all of us when we need a lifeline, but cuts and freezes in recent years have left it to wear thin and threadbare.  

2. It’s time to take back the water back into public hands, the GMB union has said, following a major fine for Southern Water.

GMB, the water union, has said the industry is ‘rotten’ as Southern Water is fined millions for dumping raw sewage into the sea. 

The company has been fined a record £90m for deliberately dumping between 16 and 21 billions of litres of raw sewage into protected seas over several years to avoid costs and penalties.

In 2019, Southern Water agreed to pay a record £126m in fines and payments to customers for “serious failures” in its sewage treatment works and for deliberately misreporting its performance, while Thames water have also received recent fines. 

A recent GMB investigation showed the nine privatised water company shareholders made more than £6.8 billion in just five years, while 2.4 billion litres of water was wasted through leaks every single day in England. 

Gary Carter, GMB National Officer, said: “Water bosses and shareholders and trousering fortunes, while billions of gallons leak away and raw sewage is dumped into the sea. 

“The industry is rotten and needs to be cleaned up. If water barons won’t funnel their monstrous profits into repairing infrastructure and preventing environmental damage, it’s time to take back the tap and bring water back into public hands.” 

1. The Unite union has responded with anger to news that a former Amazon boss is being considered to lead NHS England.

The former head of Amazon UK, Douglas Gurr has applied to become the next chief executive of the NHS, according to reports.

Unite executive officer, Sharon Graham who is leading the campaign for trade union rights at Amazon said: “Appointing a former Amazon boss as head of the NHS in England is like putting a fox in charge of a hen house.

“It is an alarming signal from this Tory government. Amazon is steeped in corporate irresponsibility, including tax avoidance, poor working conditions and union busting.  Amazon’s values are completely at odds with the values of the NHS. Douglas Gurr should not be allowed anywhere near our prized health service.”

Josiah Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

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