Getintothis’ Jono Podmore has a look behind the smokescreen to report on what else the government have been up to to since the pandemic took hold.
The daily Coronavirus briefings continue and the death toll, the lockdown and the government’s criminal negligence in handling the current crisis provide a backdrop to the protests and counter-protests generated by the murder of George Floyd.
Yet alongside these seismic events, the government has been up to its usual incompetent and damaging tricks elsewhere.
Here’s a rundown of some of the hidden highlights.
- Brexit: the monster staggers on
Once the biggest story in our lifetime, Brexit appears to be sidelined, and yet the dreadful idiocy grinds on unabated and to some degree enlivened by the smokescreen provided by the virus.
Away from the spotlight the government appears to be deliberately planning a No-Deal Brexit.
When our economy is about to go into depression, Johnson has formally ruled out an extension to the transition period and the UK negotiating team are dragging their heels.
A deeply concerned Michel Barnier said at the end of April: “We need to find solutions on the most difficult topics. The UK cannot refuse to extend the transition and at the same time slow down discussions on important areas.”
In Brussels the implication is clear, Johnson and Cummings are deliberately steering us toward a No-Deal Brexit and all the chaos that will ensue.
In a spirit of sheer vandalism they are plotting to align the UK with the US – a nation in the grip of what could become a civil war.
Bizarrely, but in keeping with their double standards and contradictory behaviour elsewhere, the government have been negotiating access to the EWRS: the European Union’s pandemic early warning system.
“Having cake and eating it” has become a negotiating strategy.
Other than the pharmaceuticals industry, in which of course many Tory donors and MPs have direct financial concerns, health wasn’t mentioned in the Government’s written statement to parliament back in February.
This contradictory, self-defeating and destructive wish list is worth reading – it’s how they want to pull us apart from our neighbours, at any cost.
- 15% cut in the Fire Service
Did you notice that one?
This was sneaked through as part of the Local Government Finance Settlement, which received next to no scrutiny in parliament as the pandemic first hit.
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, put it clearly:
“Nearly two years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, this Tory government is still showing a complete disregard for public safety. A properly funded fire and rescue service is essential to protect our communities from fire and a wide range of other threats. These cuts are a danger to firefighters and a danger to the public.”
- NHS privatisation
As hypocrites such as Matt Hancock clapped for the NHS on Thursday nights, in reality they were exploiting the crisis as an opportunity to further their long held strategy to privatise health in the UK and end the NHS.
The government’s response to the pandemic has been to farm out over £1 billion worth of contracts – your money – for PPE, testing centres and even building the Nightingale hospitals, to the following companies:
Deloitte, KPMG, Sodexo, Mitie, Capita, Boots, US data mining group Palantir, and Serco.
Track and trace is interesting.
That’s been given to Serco, a company which incidentally sponsored an event at last year’s Conservative Party conference, and runs six prisons, an “immigration removal” centre and, bizarrely, the Caledonian Sleeper train.
Track and trace was rushed out to distract attention from Dominic Cummings in a completely unprepared state and will fail – it was planned to be ready by the end of June, although in countries that decided to protect their population rather that sacrifice them for political expediency, track and trace has been in place since March.
The failure will cost many lives, and the government are aware of this.
They will lay the blame at the door of the NHS while the Serco shareholders will receive dividends – and more NHS contracts will be coming their way.
- Life for immigrants even tougher
Although this did cut through briefly, the impact was forgotten as the pandemic raged on and we became obsessed with Cummings unlikely cover stories for his flagrant flouting of the rules he helped create.
On May 18th MPs passed a bill 351 to 252 that will bring in a “points based system” for immigration, as promised by Johnson as far back as the Brexit referendum campaign, thereby harnessing the racism that drove the Brexit vote.
Due to become law in January 2021, it is intended to end freedom of movement between the UK and our neighbours in other EU states.
It will mean that so many of the people, particularly in the care industry, who have kept a significant portion of the population alive in the last few months would never get in to the country because they do not have a job offers worth more than £25,600, and are therefore tagged as “unskilled”.
Nick Thomas-Symonds Labour’s shadow home secretary said:
“Those who clapped (for carers) on Thursday are only too happy to vote through a bill today that will send a powerful message to those same people – that they are not considered by this government to be skilled workers”
The hypocrisy is brazen.
- Food standards lowered
On 13th May MPs voted 366-211 in favour of a new Agriculture Bill that will soften up UK food standards and agriculture for US takeover post Brexit.
The farmers are fuming as the bill opens the floodgates to cheap food imports into the UK from around the world without the safety standards they try to maintain.
That chlorinated chicken is on its way.
Head of the National Farmers’ Union, Minette Batters has been tweeting warnings for some time – and now it’s set to become law.
— National Farmers' Union (@NFUtweets) February 25, 2020
- You are now an organ donor
Organ donation law in England has changed.
Since May 20 it’s assumed that if you haven’t registered that you don’t want your organs to be donated after your death then you agree to medics having what they want.
Although donating your organs is clearly the charitable thing to do, it’s probably worth knowing that it’s now automatic, so of there’s any bits of your body that you feel should accompany you into the beyond, better let them know.