Jeremy Corbyn may have been ideologically further away from his fellow Labour MPs than any former leader, but that doesn’t justify the relentless nature of the attacks. What Corbyn and his team had to deal with behind the scenes went far beyond factionalism and showed a scorched-earth mentality. Not only did they not want Labour to win under Corbyn, they seemed to be actively trying to lose.
Once the dust finally settles on the Corbyn-era, historians may ponder how different things might have been if these Labour staffers, and numerous Labour MPs, had spent their energies supporting their leader rather than working against him.
The number of extra votes in marginal seats that Labour needed in 2017 to give Corbyn a chance of being prime minister was an agonising 2,227 [ed: c’mon Ind, let them in;). This will forever remain a sore point for many of us. Because as the leaked report exposed – we know that in 2017 party resources never reached many of the winnable seats that they should have, with allies of the small faction in party HQ standing in safe seats seen as the first priority.
A total of 28 trillion tonnes of ice have disappeared from the surface of the Earth since 1994. That is stunning conclusion of UK scientists who have analysed satellite surveys of the planet’s poles, mountains and glaciers to measure how much ice coverage lost because of global heating triggered by rising greenhouse gas emissions.
The scientists – based at Leeds and Edinburgh universities and University College London – describe the level of ice loss as “staggering” and warn that their analysis indicates that sea level rises, triggered by melting glaciers and ice sheets, could reach a metre by the end of the century.
“To put that in context, every centimetre of sea level rise means about a million people will be displaced from their low-lying homelands,” said Professor Andy Shepherd, director of Leeds University’s Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling.
The scientists also warn that the melting of ice in these quantities is now seriously reducing the planet’s ability to reflect solar radiation back into space. White ice is disappearing and the dark sea or soil exposed beneath it is absorbing more and more heat, further increasing the warming of the planet.
Science doesn’t tell anyone what to do, it merely collects and presents verified information. It is up to us to study and connect the dots. When you read the IPCC SR1.5 report and the UNEP production gap report, as well as what leaders have actually signed up for in the Paris agreement, you see that the climate and ecological crisis can no longer be solved within today’s systems. Even a child can see that policies of today don’t add up with the current best available science.
We need to end the ongoing wrecking, exploitation and destruction of our life support systems and move towards a fully decarbonised economy that is centred on the wellbeing of all people, democracy and the natural world.
If we are to have a chance of staying below 1.5C of warming, our emissions need to immediately start reducing rapidly towards zero and then on to negative figures. That’s a fact. And since we don’t have all the technical solutions we need to achieve that, we have to work with what we have at hand today. And this has to include stopping doing certain things. That’s also a fact. However, it’s a fact that most people refuse to accept. Just the thought of being in a crisis that we cannot buy, build or invest our way out of seems to create some kind of collective mental short circuit.
This mix of ignorance, denial and unawareness is at the very heart of the problem. As it is now, we can have as many meetings and climate conferences as we want. They will not lead to sufficient changes, because the willingness to act and the level of awareness needed are still nowhere in sight. The only way forward is for society to start treating the crisis like a crisis.
The established system for contact tracing is operated through Public Health England (PHE) and run by local public health protection teams in the public sector. Its services had been badly eroded as a result of decades of cuts and closures.
Instead of rebuilding capacity the government decided to create a centralised, privatised system managed by outsourcing giant Serco and call centre company Sitel – which had no experience in contact tracing.
The 27,000 workers employed by Serco and Sitel have reached and advised an average of about two cases and two contacts per call handler over a twelve week period. That’s the equivalent of around £900 per person traced. Call handlers report having nothing to do and some have had no calls to make at all – with some even claiming that they have been paid to sit around and watch Netflix.
To make matters worse, test and trace data show in the twelve week period leading up to August 5th, the privatised national call centres and online service reached and asked to self-isolate only just over half of close contacts of those diagnosed with Covid-19, leaving local health protection teams and local councils to mop up the rest from their scarce resources.
Allyson M Pollock is Professor of public health at the Faculty of Medical Sciences in Newcastle University. Her latest book The End of the NHS is forthcoming from Verso.
It took the last Tory government the best part of 18 years to become mired in sleaze, but Boris Johnson’s administration is smelling of it already. Whether doling out lucrative contracts, helping billionaire property developers cut costs, or handing out lifetime seats in the House of Lords, the guiding principle seems to be brazen cronyism, coupled with the arrogance of those who believe they are untouchable and that rules are for little people.
This week came word of at least £156m of taxpayers’ money wasted on 50 million face masks deemed unsuitable for the NHS. They were bought from a private equity firm through a company that had no track record of producing personal protective equipment – or indeed anything for that matter – and that had a share capital of just £100. But this company, Prospermill, had a crucial asset. It was co-owned by one Andrew Mills, adviser to the government, staunch Brexiteer and cheerleader for international trade secretary, Liz Truss.
Somehow Prospermill managed to persuade the government to part with £252m, boasting that it had secured exclusive rights over a PPE factory in China. Just one problem. The masks it produced use ear loops, when only masks tied at the head are judged by the government to be suitable for NHS staff. If the government wanted to spend £156m on masks for the nation’s kids to play doctors and nurses, this was a great deal. But in the fight against a pandemic, it was useless.
… Ayanda is not the first unlikely winner of covid-related contracts awarded by the Johnson government. Another lucky supplier is Crisp Websites, a company whose main business is pest control (trading as Pestfix) and which, despite having assets of only £19,000 and just 16 employees, won a £108 million contract for PPE. Clandeboye Agencies Ltd, a confectionery wholesaler, won another £108 million contract, despite lacking prior experience in this area.
And SG Recruitment UK, a healthcare recruitment firm, won a £24 million contract to provide overalls for healthcare workers. While SG Recruitment was at least somewhat experienced in the healthcare industry, its poor financial health made it a risky proposition for providing this critical public service. Auditors had issued a “going concern” warning five months earlier, flagging that the company’s liabilities exceeded its current assets by £376,000. Given recent experience of outsourcers going bust and leaving the government with hefty bills and unfinished projects, SG Recruitment also seems an odd choice.
Just over a month ago Boris Johnson promised to deliver the most radical reforms to England’s planning system “since the second world war”. This week we found out what that means in practice, and it’s clear the prime minister wasn’t joking.
In a new white paper the government has set out sweeping plans to “cut red tape, overhaul the planning process and build better, greener homes faster”. But even by the standards of the modern Conservative party, this is no ordinary regulatory bonfire. In one fell swoop, the entire system that has governed land use in England for more than 70 years has been set ablaze.
[W]hy is Boris Johnson’s government really dismantling the planning system? As ever, it helps to follow the money.
As openDemocracy has revealed, the Conservative party has received £11m in donations from individuals and companies linked to the property sector since Johnson became prime minister. These donors are no doubt expecting a return on their investment. Robert Jenrick’s cosy relationship with Richard Desmond may may not be the last scandal to catch the limelight.
From the opening sentence to the final full stop, the government’s white paper emits a strong stench of corporate lobbying, and represents a slap in the face to evidence-based policymaking. At best the reforms represent an ideological crusade to undermine local authorities and hand over more power to private developers. At worst, they are part of a coordinated attempt to undermine English democracy. Either way, they must be resisted every step of the way.
The biggest shake-up of planning for decades has caused fury that moves to fast-track the construction of “beautiful” homes across England will “dilute” democratic oversight, choke off affordable housing and lead to the creation of “slum” dwellings.
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) described the proposals as “shameful” and said they would do “almost nothing to guarantee the delivery of affordable, well-designed and sustainable homes”. “While they might help to ‘get Britain building’ – paired with the extension of permitted development rights last week – there’s every chance they could also lead to the development of the next generation of slum housing,” said RIBA president Alan Jones.
The Conservative government has a known mistrust of experts, but rarely do ministers fly in the face of their own commissioned research as starkly as the housing secretary did this week. On the very same day that Robert Jenrick triumphantly extended permitted development rights (PDR), allowing a range of building types to be converted into housing without planning permission, his own ministry published a report condemning the same rules for leading to “worse quality” homes.
After studying hundreds of new homes carved out from converted offices, shops, warehouses and industrial buildings, created between 2015 and 2018 through permitted development, a team of academics from University College London and the University of Liverpool found predictably grim results. The planning loophole had unleashed a new breed of tiny, dingy apartments, many barely fit for human habitation, with rooms accessed from long corridors, windows looking across internal atriums into other people’s rooms, and some bedrooms with no windows at all.
Julia Park, head of housing research at architects Levitt Bernstein, says developers are taking advantage of the lack of controls to build flats in basements for which they would not have received permission in the past. “Daylight and space are the two most obvious victims of permitted development rights,” she says. “I can’t imagine that any planning authority would allow either a conversion or a new home to go ahead without a window to each habitable room or at least a roof light.”
Lack of natural light can have serious implications for those living below ground. The government’s housing health rating system, which determines the standards demanded by housing officers, warns inadequate natural light poses a threat to physical and mental health. Sunlight is also known to boost vitamin D, which helps prevent bone loss and reduces the likelihood of various diseases.
For experienced planners, windowless flats are anathema. Hugh Ellis, head of policy at the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), says the window-free flats in Reliance House should never have been built: “Dwellings of any kind without natural light should not be allowed under any circumstances.”