Think tank wants new laws and failsafes to fight environmental and human threatsA report by right-leaning think tank Policy Exchange highlights how global undersea cables are poorly protected, and suggests that Britain should lead the way in remedying this.The report, titled Undersea Cables: Indispensable, insecure written by Conservative MP Rishi Sunak, discusses how easily cable-based communications can be disrupted, and the past and potential future threats to their continued function.He described the current laws as "far more suited to the comparatively peripheral role the infrastructure played in the '70s and '80s, than to the indispensable status they now hold in the internet age".The age of those laws means that enforcement agencies struggle to deal with suspects and offenders with appropriate severity, said Sunak, who added that the need for reform has been ignored by national governments because the cables are often managed by private companies rather than nation states, and therefore slip under the gaze of legislators.The risk of severed cables is compounded by the aggregation of cables into "dangerously concentrated" choke points.
Data from telecom analytics firm Telegeography shows how cables connect the world.The map, by telecom analytics company Telegeography, uses coloured lines to show how there are many hundreds of fibre optic cables running under the world's oceans.It's built up over decades, mainly as a result of private enterprise rather than coordinated state infrastructure projects, like road or water networks.According to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, 97% of all intercontinental data is carried via such cables.In recent months, defence authorities have started to warn that state aggressors — Russia in particular — could cut them.A US admiral, one of Britain's most senior military commanders, the former head of GCHQ, and a London-based think-tank all made similar warnings in a matter of days late last year.
The “great British tradition” of children’s playgrounds are “declining at quite an alarming rate”, a Labour MP has warned.Chris Leslie said that nationally playgrounds were not being replaced at the same rate at which they were disappearing, with pressures on the availability of local outdoor spaces, plus “very squeezed” resources.The Nottingham East MP said parents were faced with the “retreat of the traditions of municipal provision” and had little choice but to find some voluntary alternative, adding: “It’s very, very difficult and the resources are quite scarce.”Speaking during his Westminster Hall debate on the provision of children’s playgrounds, Mr Leslie said communal open spaces were “largely taken for granted”, adding that it was not just children who gained from outdoor exercise and socialisation, new parents also got to meet other [email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]@eibeplayLtd have you signed our petition to help protect Heritage Lottery Funding for Parks.Please sign this @38_degrees petition: https://t.co/BE0T6kxP2K ParksMatter PleaseSharepic.twitter.com/jelBkjlIky
❒ Latest World NewsIt is very surprised to know that for the first time, Indian-origin politician Rishi Sunak was appointed as the UK’s new finance minister on Thursday (13.02.2020) by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in an extensive Cabinet reshuffle amid reports of serious differences within Downing Street.❒ Son-in-Law of Infosys Narayan MurthyThe 39-year-old son-in-law of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy will be joining Priti Patel on the top government bench, after her promotion as Home Secretary.Sunak told reporters that he is thrilled to be appointed as Chancellor and has “a lot to get on with, standing outside the Treasury office soon after his promotion.Sunak, as soon as he takes charge of the second most important government position as the finance minister will be moving into No.11 Downing Street, next door to the Prime Minister’s office.As soon as he is on duty, he has to work very hard as the UK Budget is due to be tabled next month March 2020.Sunak had campaigned Leave in the EU referendum, and his constituency voted 55 per cent Leave.
Coronavirus has changed everything. Make sense of it all with the Waugh Zone, our evening politics briefing. Sign up now.Singing socialist anthem The Red Flag, Jeremy Corbyn celebrated becoming Labour leader in 2015 at the pub, mobbed, as ever, by a posse of faithful fans. When the big moment came for Keir Starmer - who has marked 100 days at the helm of HM Opposition - the occasion was markedly more sober. The former director of public prosecutions filmed his victory speech practically alone, as the coronavirus pandemic tightened its grip on the UK. And with Labour facing allegations of institutional anti-Semitism, cash woes and the humiliation of its worst defeat since 1935, he was arguably taking the toughest job in British politics. While many predicted Labour’s surge to the far left would end in electoral disaster, few doubted the direction Corbyn would take. The same cannot be said of the former shadow Brexit secretary. “He’s an enigma,” said one Labour MP. “Nobody is quite sure where he stands.” He has yet to unequivocally commit to policies, but early signs suggest he is plotting a route back to the centre. Be it stepping away from a hard 2030 net zero carbon target, refusing to call for an extension to the Brexit transition period or toughening the party’s stance on China, the signals are that Starmer will opt for the middle ground. “Right now, it’s about three things: ‘competence, competence, competence’,” said one insider. They added: “Keir will actually read the brief and think about what we are doing and, almost to a fault, he doesn’t wing it.”Labour is inviting the public to contrast “forensic” Starmer with “bumbling” Boris Johnson - and there is evidence that strategy is working.  Starmer is beating Johnson in most polls for ‘best PM’ and has the best ratings of any opposition leader since Tony Blair in 1994.But given the only way was up for Labour are things really getting better? Or is it a blip?“There are good signs. It was like ‘amateur hour’ under Corbyn where you basically had activists running the show,” said one left-winger. “Now, it is so slick and so fast. “Keir mentions an issue to Boris at PMQs and the leader’s office has a letter ready and typed up to go to Number 10 straightaway.” Rosie Duffield, Labour MP for Canterbury, said: “Keir is letting Boris make a fool of himself and the PM does not need any help with that.” She said Starmer is “steering a steady ship” and, unlike Corbyn, is not viewed as “down on Britain”, instead talking up businesses and backing the armed forces.  Tomorrow’s Telegraph front page: “Starmer: 'We owe it to VE Day generation to protect them from virus in care homes' ”#TomorrowsPapersTodaypic.twitter.com/AlE9EYL2B9— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) May 7, 2020Starmer’s biggest achievement as a political leader so far may be to have survived his first 100 days unscathed by the press. In fact, he secured what many of his predecessors could only dream of: positive front page coverage by the Daily Telegraph on VE Day.“It may not have been electorally useful, because so few people who read the Telegraph would vote Labour - but it was signalling,” said one source, adding that it countered the “Tory tanks on Labour’s lawn in red wall seats”.  That he has not yet been “put in a box” is success to some.  “The press did a number on Ed Miliband, and he never really recovered,” said one insider. It may be a long wait before Starmer nails his colours to the mast, however, with sources saying most policies may not be decided until 2024 to avoid them being “out of date” at the next election. “It is a four-year marathon, not a short sprint,” one said. “The main thing is to build up a sense of trust and to advertise ourselves as a competent, principled and decent team of people that can form an alternative government.” Those close to Starmer describe his politics as “close to Gordon Brown” and his shadow cabinet as “mainstream”, aiming to build a case for Scandinavian-style social democracy.One source drew a different comparison, saying Starmer has the same appeal as John Smith, like “a Scottish bank manager you could trust with your mortgage”.   He added: “He is a lawyer and we don’t get rhetorical fireworks - but you feel you can trust him.” Some moderates criticise the “slightly odd appointment” of Ed Miliband as shadow business secretary, saying a former leader at the top table could be distracting.“It’s not the role I would have given him,” said one key activist. “I would have given him something that plays to his strengths.”  Labour MP Wes Streeting, meanwhile, believes the move demonstrated Starmer’s “confidence”, and underlined Miliband has grown in popularity since losing in 2015.  Another MP added: “They’re friends. Ed was leader when Keir first became an MP. He encouraged him to stand.” Other divisions suggest policy wars may be coming down the track. Anneliese Dodds, Starmer’s choice for shadow chancellor, who previously worked for John McDonnell, last week backed a wealth tax, only for Labour to later ask Rishi Sunak to impose no tax rises at all in his mini-budget.The focus will be “jobs jobs jobs, better jobs, more secure jobs, more meaningful jobs, better paid jobs” in the months ahead, but Starmer is unlikely to back a universal basic income (UBI) – something which will be seen as another blow for the Left. A shadow minister told HuffPost UK: “I don’t think he will move towards UBI because in his heart of hearts he knows that it doesn’t work. It takes away the incentive to work.” It also means a softer message on the 2030 climate change target, said one key player: “We can’t push to destroy jobs.” Critics say Labour is failing to get the all-important “cut-through” on key issues, with headlines dominated by Sunak and Johnson during the Covid-19 crisis.Starmer allies insist the leader is content to fly beneath the radar for now. “It will be a slow build up of the case, brick by brick by brick,” said a shadow minister. Where Corbyn may have demanded an inquiry, for example, Starmer will offer gentler criticism. And after years of political turmoil, referendums and division, the party’s hope is that the public will find that reassuring. “Keir will show he cares about keeping the country safe and ensuring people have stability in their lives, jobs and futures,” said one former adviser. “It will be a ‘things will be alright’ and ‘you and your kids will be alright’ message. “That means steady as she goes, no fireworks, no bulldozers going through fake walls, give people a break from the endless drama - make politics boring again.” As Labour needs to outdo its 1997 landslide to win power, ‘Brand Starmer’ is not likely to be enough Warrington North MP Charlotte Nichols, who describes herself as on the party’s Left, said: “In the Corbyn years, a lot of people felt posting things on Twitter would win people over. Keir is getting out of the echo chamber and that is really important.  “He has avoided some of the traps set for Labour, particularly around extending the transition period.” Though he “keeps his cards very close to his chest”, she says: “A lot of people project on to him something that they wanted to see reflected back and there is a lot of expectation on him now from all different parts of the party.” Starmer has landed blows at PMQs she said, before adding: “It feels like a courtroom but when we have full PMQs, without social distancing, it is more like theatre and there is going to have to be a change in tone. Keir is going to have to adapt his style.” Another insider complained: “Our hope is that he will grow into the role. If you want to be PM, show me then. I would give him a B-minus so far.” Not everyone is feeling so lukewarm about the new leader, however. “Businesses are absolutely relieved,” one advisor said. “There is a lot of people in the business community who are deeply frustrated at the current  government. It strikes me that we will have a lot more support from businesses than we had in previous elections.” The biggest signpost of a change in direction from Starmer came when Rebecca Long-Bailey, his former rival for the leadership, was sacked as shadow education secretary over the sharing of an article that contained an anti-Semitic trope. Depending on who you ask, Long-Bailey was either forced out or refused to apologise and left Starmer with no choice. “She was the only Left-wing member of the shadow cabinet,” said Matt Zarb-Cousin, a former advisor to Corbyn who also worked for Long-Bailey. “I think a lot of people were happy to get on board when we had a seat at the table. “A lot of people think that the general direction of travel will just accelerate now. “I think they just want the Left to get demoralised and leave. Local government is where the Left will deploy most of its energy over the next few years.” Another former advisor says the decision was win-win for Starmer. “If she refused to apologise, I think he showed a level of decisiveness that people weren’t expecting and an understanding of the threat that anti-Semitism poses to the soul of the Labour Party,” he said. “If she wanted to apologise, it shows a level of decisiveness that we haven’t seen since the ’90s.  “Conflict clarifies for the public where a leader stands.” With Momentum regrouping and Labour needing both ideas and activists for next year’s local metro mayors elections, it would be a mistake to isolate the Left, some warn.“The Left needs more skin in the game,” one staff member said. “Dennis Skinner used to go and see Tony Blair every week.” Local elections will be “Keir’s first big test”, said Duffield, adding “we cannot simply assume we will do well”. Target number one is the West Midlands metro mayor seat, currently occupied by Conservative Andy Street. “If we had terrible local elections, given the way Boris has run the country, I would be worried if I was Keir,” said one left-winger. “I think there will definitely be a leadership challenge at some stage - maybe Richard Burgon or Ian Lavery - but I don’t know if anyone will take any notice.” Hinting at a broader electoral strategy, Rosie Duffield says ‘blue wall’ seats in the Midlands and North “will be harder to gain” than many three-way marginals held by moderate Tories, further south and in Scotland, where Lib Dems may also be in contention. “To win, we have to do better than we did in 1997,” she said. “We need some traditional Tory seats, including in Kent and the South, as well as winning back in the North.“Moderate Tories find Boris Johnson’s government really embarrassing, and they are going Labour or Lib Dem – certainly in my area.” Duffield, chair of the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party, added abuse of MPs had significantly subsided.She said: “There have been some teething problems but on the whole I feel much safer with Keir as leader.” While the party remains exposed to criticism it has never had a female leader, supporters say northern woman Angela Rayner serving as Starmer’s deputy “balances the ticket” for voters. “Keir has real respect for Angela and not just her feel for the wider labour movement but her ability to speak to some of the voters Labour has lost touch with over recent elections,” said one advisor. Matt Zarb-Cousin says what Starmer’s team has failed to recognise is that economy has made voters less loyal to parties. “He is obviously conscious of the fact that they need to win seats back in the red wall and there is a definite emphasis on appealing to older, more socially conservative voters, in terms of policy and rhetoric,” he said. “The risk of that is that it is informed by the view that we can rebuild the coalition of voters that we had in ’97, but given the context that we are in now – most people under 40 don’t have property, for example, and we have lost Scotland – we have to remember that the working class is less tribal now.”He said Starmer must prove he can “shift the narrative”.  He said: “When Jeremy Corbyn was leader of the opposition, yes we lost two elections, but the government was influenced by the opposition.” Starmer replaced general secretary and Corbyn ally Jennie Formby – the party’s failure to deal with anti-Semitism was often laid at her door – with moderate David Evans. He has also succeeded in pushing through voting changes which, it is claimed, will see more moderates secure places on the party’s ruling National Executive Committee. But, the source added, he has been “quite slow” in removing what they called “partisan influence” from other sections of the party’s staff.  While most in the party broadly are happy with Labour’s apparent change in fortunes, there have been missteps. Starmer is blind to the fact that many voters have not left Brexit behind, even if Westminster had. One MP, with a Leave constituency, said Brexit voters deserved an apology from Labour. The Labour Party needs to make some kind of apology to the communities that weren’t listened to and acknowledge the hurt caused by some people in our party.Labour MP“It isn’t enough for Keir to say that Brexit is over and done with,” she said. “The Labour Party needs to make some kind of apology to the communities that weren’t listened to and acknowledge the hurt caused by some people in our party.“He needs to say sorry and that we got it wrong before we can properly move on.” Deep concerns have also been raised over how Starmer has handled questions about the Black Lives Matter movement. Some mark a “lack of empathy” in statements about the fall of slaver Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol. He also dismissed as “nonsense” calls to “defund the police”, which call for more money to be pumped into health, education and other support services. While Starmer has appointed a number of BAME MPs as shadow ministers, the lack of diversity in his staff is a “five alarm fire”, said one insider. “It is 2020. You can’t have an all-white team,” he said. “And that isn’t just about the optics – though they are terrible – it’s about having people around the table with lived experience who can say ‘we are missing something here’.” We kneel with all those opposing anti-Black racism. #BlackLivesMatterpic.twitter.com/ZvjBndwqKk— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) June 9, 2020He added a failure to engage meaningfully with BAME communities would lose the party votes: “It is similar to what is happening with Joe Biden right now. A lot of BAME people are saying: you have had our support for 20 years and what have you done with it.” One shadow frontbencher, however, defended Starmer, saying: “It was an instinctive reaction [to reject the phrase ‘defund the police’] and would be aligned to what average voters think.” While the first 100 days are important for any leader, it is perhaps the next 100 that could be the real measure of Labour’s new leader. The Equality and Human Rights Commission is expected to publish its investigation into anti-Semitism in the party within weeks. “He feels strongly about the Labour Party rebuilding its moral authority,” said one advisor. “People underestimate how strongly he feels about anti-Semitism festering in the party. His wife’s family is Jewish.”Another source added: “There will be expulsions, it will be a big moment and we hope to see Labour recover its moral authority,” said one insider. While that reckoning has yet to arrive, most are satisfied with the state of play. Or, as one shadow minister, put it: “I think the great British public has so far picked up that he is not Jeremy Corbyn, and that is a great start.”  Related... Tory Conference Cancelled And Replaced By Virtual Event Due To Coronavirus Crisis Does Keir Starmer Really Want A ‘Wealth Tax’ To Fund A Covid Recovery? Keir Starmer To Take Unconscious Bias Training And Says Everyone Should Do So
You’re reading The Waugh Zone, our daily politics briefing. Sign up now to get it by email in the evening.Deputy dawgBoris Johnson and Michael Gove have always had much in common, not least their shared expression of grey-faced shock the morning after the Vote Leave triumph in the 2016 EU referendum. Both Oxford Union-presidents-turned-journalists-turned-MPs, both responsible for what Remainers remember as “the column that went wrong” of Brexit, both had a prickly relationship with Theresa May.Despite Gove’s famous political knife crime in the subsequent Tory leadership race, Johnson actually handed him the job of Cabinet Office minister three years later when he finally got to No.10. The role was an important one, and since the 2019 election Gove has effectively been appointed Brexit secretary, in charge of sorting the nuts and bolts of the UK’s future relations with the EU.Much closer to Dominic Cummings than Johnson, Gove still has a big role in shaping ‘the centre’ of this government even after Brexit trade phases kick in next year. But he still lacks a big spending department all of his own, and everything that comes with it. Although his admirers like to see him as on a par with Rishi Sunak in importance, the Cabinet Office will never be the Treasury.‌Don’t forget too that in his first Cabinet appointments last summer, Johnson gave the plum post of foreign secretary, and the prestigious title of sirst secretary of state, to Dominic Raab. That title took on huge new significance when Raab became stand-in prime minister during the PM’s Covid illness. Any illusion that Gove was ‘the real deputy PM’ were shattered quite quickly.‌So, maybe those Gove barbs back in 2016 - that Johnson could not “provide the leadership” or unity needed to be PM, that he wasn’t really a true believer in Brexit - have indeed never been forgotten. Johnson, after all, did provide both the leadership and unifying skills his party sadly lacked under May and then went on to win a thumping majority. Even Gove’s closest friends would struggle to argue he could have pulled off such an audacious feat as smashing the ‘Red Wall’ last December.Today’s events confirm the rawness of their power relationship. While Gove was on the defensive in the Commons - trying to explain how Pet Passports would work next year and that Kent would not become a lorry park costing business £12.8bn in red tape - Johnson was on the offensive. Yes, just a day after Gove had appeared to contradict the PM on face coverings, Johnson put him firmly in his place on the issue.Gove had gone on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday to declare that the wearing of facemasks should not be made mandatory. Only on Friday, Johnson had hinted at forcing the public to comply, saying “I do think we need to be stricter in insisting people wear face coverings in confined spaces”. But here was one of his senior cabinet ministers saying it should instead be a matter of “basic good manners”.Well, compulsion is on its way, with Matt Hancock set to annouce on Tuesday that face covering will be mandatory in England from July 24. As with Brexit, Gove may have purer credentials as a libertarian unkeen on the state regulating our behaviour, but once again Johnson sees the task of getting the public on his side. Getting people out and about and driving the economy, while stressing safety, is seen by No.10 as the priority.Today’s latest King’s College London study suggesting Covid-19 antibodies don’t last more than a few weeks, severely undermining any hope of a “herd immunity” strategy, emphasises the case for extra vigilance. Mass mask wearing could do more to clarify the government’s vague slogan “Stay Alert” than the actual slogan itself.The expected new compulsion will be seen as another sign of Gove’s lack of clout, or that the PM never lets anyone forget who is the boss, or both. The lingering suspicion among the Cabinet Office minister’s allies will be that he is yet again being treated like a “performing dog” by another Etonian PM who sees him as not really ‘one of us’.That was the complaint against David Cameron by Gove’s pals, back when he was demoted from education secretary. The pair’s kids were at school together, Gove was the captain of their school quiz team, their families went on long walks, yet ultimately (even before their final schism over Brexit) Cameron ruthlessly plonked him in the job of chief whip, a role for which he was pretty unsuited.At the time, Gove joked that while others talked of “demotion, emotion, locomotion” it was “exciting to be given a role at the heart of government”. And here he is again “at the heart of government” but without any real authority. The “performing dog”, given the grunt work of sorting that new Brexit arrangement of customs, borders and the Northern Ireland sell-out, may be forgiven for thinking he’s in line for his very own pet passport out of government at some point next year.The danger is of course greater than any harm to Gove’s personal feelings. The risk is the mixed messaging, not just over the past few days but over the past few weeks, will leave the public cold when the PM wants them running hot down to the shops. Why are masks compulsory now, when there are fewer cases and deaths since lockdown started, but they weren’t at the height of the pandemic?Sadiq Khan spent weeks calling for compulsory masks on transport before it was finally agreed. Nicola Sturgeon enforced it in Scottish shops last Friday. Yet Rishi Sunak served meals last week without one, then the PM finally wore his own £2 mask two days later. There is also the practical problem of who in shops should actually police this mask-wearing. Although police will have the power to issue fines, where does that leave security guards in supermarkets?‌On the wider issue of where people should work, the confused and chaotic messaging was again evident in the past few days. Justice secretary Robert Buckland neatly summed up the problem in one interview with ITV: “The guidance is work from home if you can..That’s still there….[But] the message is, yes, come back to work.” Okayyyy.Maybe that’s why the black and white clarity of face coverings is what appeals to No.10. Even this government can’t tell people to wear them and not wear them at the same time. Can it?Quote Of The Day“We in Scotland intend to take him exactly at his word, although perhaps not quite in the way he intended.”The SNP’s Pete Wishart ridicules Michael Gove’s ‘Let’s Get Going’ Brexit slogan.Monday Cheat SheetBoris Johnson used a visit to London Ambulance Service to say an announcement on whether face coverings should be compulsory in shops will be made “in the next few days”.Chris Grayling, Sir John Hayes, Stewart Hosie, Diana Johnson, Kevan Jones, Julian Lewis, Mark Pritchard and Theresa Villiers were approved by the Commons as members of the Intelligence and Security Committee.The UK’s post-Brexit border regime will take place over three stages next year, with most businesses able to delay filling out any customs declaration forms until July. Up to 12 inspection sites will be built near ports like Dover. Labour’s Rachel Reeves warned the new red tape could cost business £12.8bn.Labour revealed it has received the draft findings of the Equalities And Human Rights Commission’s report into anti-Semitism in the party.Home secretary Priti Patel unveiled the new health and care visa of her points based immigration system, but sparked a row when it emerged care workers would not be included.BT’s chief executive Philip Jansen told the BBC would be “impossible” to remove Huawei from the whole of the UK’s telecoms infrastructure before 2030.What I’m ReadingElon Musk’s Big Tech Bubble Ride Isn’t Forever - BloombergGot A Tip?Send tips, stories, quotes, pics, plugs or gossip to [email protected] Subscribe To Commons PeopleEach week, the HuffPost UK Politics team unpack the biggest stories from Westminster and beyond. Search for Commons People wherever you listen to podcasts and subscribe.Related... Face Coverings To Be Compulsory In England's Shops How The Government Spent Four Months Screwing Up Its Message On Face Coverings UK Records 11 More Covid-19 Deaths In 24 Hours – Lowest Daily Rise Since Early March
Coronavirus has changed everything. Make sense of it all with the Waugh Zone, our evening politics briefing. Sign up now.The public will not have to wear face masks in food takeaway shops when new rules kick in next week, Downing Street has revealed.Visitors to most shops and supermarkets will be required to wear face coverings from Friday July 24, with £100 fines for refusal.But in a move that spares the blushes of cabinet minister Michael Gove – who was photographed without a mask leaving a Pret a Manger – No.10 said that there will be an exemption for sandwich retailers and fast food sellers.Gove had said on Sunday that it was “basic good manners” to wear a face covering in shops, but just a day later was snapped without one as he exited a sandwich store in Westminster. Fellow minister Liz Truss visited the same shop with a mask.The prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “We will be publishing the full guidance shortly but my understanding is that it wouldn’t be mandatory if you went in, for example, to a sandwich shop in order to get a takeaway to wear a face covering.“It is mandatory… we are talking about supermarkets and other shops, rather than food shops.”No.10 said that detailed guidance on the new rules will be published “shortly”.I thought it was "basic good manners" to wear a face mask in shops...? pic.twitter.com/UASJ1yRSRf— Matt Dathan (@matt_dathan) July 14, 2020Health Secretary Matt Hancock said earlier on Wednesday that he was “not frankly interested” whether Gove wore a mask in the Pret a Manger.“Those photographs were taken before I announced the change in policy to the House of Commons yesterday afternoon,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.“And it’s absolutely straightforward that from July 24 we’re making it mandatory to wear a face covering in a shop in the same way it’s mandatory on public transport and in the NHS.”But chancellor Rishi Sunak – who was criticised last week for waiting tables in a restaurant without a mask – tweeted a photo of himself wearing one in a Pret a Manger on Wednesday.Making the most of @Pret's price cut in response to the VAT reduction that takes effect today for the tourism and hospitality sectors. As part of our #PlanForJobs this temporary cut will help over 150,000 businesses protect the jobs of 2.4 million people. pic.twitter.com/mSh6jOvBlp— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) July 15, 2020Gove had told the Andrew Marr programme on Sunday that he preferred voluntary rather than mandatory mask wearing, declaring: ”I think that it is basic good manners, courtesy, consideration to wear a face mask if you are, for example, in a shop.”However, Hancock appeared to contradict the Downing Street line earlier when he told Sky News: “In any shop you do need a mask. So, if you’re going up to the counter in Pret to buy takeaway, that is a shop - that is Pret operating as a shop.”In a separate move, No.10 also defended the PM’s practice of “elbow bumping” people he met, despite its breach of social distancing guidelines of staying one metre away from others while wearing a mask.Boris Johnson repeatedly used the gesture when he met NHS staff at an ambulance station earlier this week.“That’s the PM’s way of greeting people while keeping some distance from them,” a No.10 spokesperson said.Labour has accused the government of “dangerous mixed messaging” on face coverings.Related... Face Mask Law Could Last Until Coronavirus Vaccine Found, Says Matt Hancock Tory MP Complains About 'Monstrous' Face Coverings Despite High Retail Death Rate Why Experts Aren't Happy With This Government Video On Face Masks
Coronavirus has changed everything. Make sense of it all with the Waugh Zone, our evening politics briefing. Sign up now. Minister Kemi Badenoch has said she rejected a chance to lead a Downing Street coronavirus briefing amid concerns it would appear “tokenistic”. Badenoch, who is leading a government review into the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people, revealed to MPs on Wednesday that Boris Johnson had invited her to answer questions about the probe at one of the high-profile televised press conferences. But the Black MP, who serves both as equality minister and exchequer secretary to the Treasury, said she feared appearing to discuss BAME issues would not “give the right impression”. She went on to say “people shouldn’t feel that advice has to come from people who look like them” and she felt it would “look like when we were talking about Black issues we bring a Black person”. Badenoch was giving evidence before the Commons’ women and equalities committee and was pressed by Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy on why the briefings were led 97% of the time by men and the majority of the time by white people. Badenoch said: “On the point about things being tokenistic, I do think if it is done in the wrong way it can look tokenistic. “I was asked for instance at one point whether I would want to do a daily briefing but I didn’t feel, as a junior minister, that that would give the right impression. “It would look like when we were talking about Black issues we bring a Black person on to talk about that not not about the wider things. I’m not just equality minister I am also a Treasury secretary. ″I think we also need to be very careful about giving the impression that ethnic minorities do ethnic subjects, women do women’s subjects and everybody does everything else.” Ribeiro-Addy went on to point out that BAME people had not felt represented at the meetings. Badenoch said she understood that point but also that “people shouldn’t feel that advice has to come from people who look like them”. She went on: “Because if that happens, then the converse is true: where when an ethnic minority is speaking people might feel well this person is only speaking for their sub-group. “It is a challenge, that perception, but we shouldn’t just accept it.” The minister accepted that initially the PM and health secretary Matt Hancock dominated briefings, but claimed that later changed to a more diversity cast. She cited chancellor Rishi Sunak and deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam as examples, before saying it was “completely wrong” to suggest BAME people were not contributing to the government’s response to the pandemic. She said: “I think at the beginning when the briefings were happening, it was very much the prime minister and the health secretary, but to say that people should be judged on the colour of their skin and their gender rather than what they are saying I think is wrong.” She added: “It is completely wrong to say BAME people were not involved in the decisions. The chancellor is an ethnic minority, so is the business secretary. “I’ve been cabinet or sub-cabinet meetings where they have been taking the lead on a lot of the interventions we have been making to ensure that people are being protected – so they have had a voice.”Asked why the work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey had not appeared, despite her department encompassing a disabilities brief. Badenoch said other ministers had been approach but she did not know whether Coffey had. Related... Why The Appointment Of Munira Mirza As Head Of Racial Inequality Review Is So Controversial Boris Johnson Does Not Think The UK Is A Racist Country, No.10 Says Matt Hancock Names Two Asians When Asked To Identify Black Cabinet Members
You’re reading The Waugh Zone, our daily politics briefing. Sign up now to get it by email in the evening.Who he, Lewis? And the newsThe look on Chris Grayling’s face said it all. The former minister had breezed into the first meeting of the newly convened Intelligence and Security Committee in the Macmillan Room in Portcullis House, fully expecting to be the only Tory name on the ballot paper.But it turned out that Macmillan’s ghost hovered over proceedings as much as his portrait, as the day of the short knives produced a spectacular shock. Grayling was a picture of incredulity and puzzlement as he saw Julian Lewis’ candidacy in black and white next to his, before the swift realisation kicked in that he had been outmanoeuvred.The ensuing secret ballot yielded the inevitable result: 5 votes for Lewis (his own, plus three Labour and one SNP vote), 4 for Grayling (himself, plus three Tory MPs). The election of the person who now oversees MI6, MI5 and other UK security agencies was itself a masterpiece of cloak and dagger politics, precision timing and superior intelligence gathering. The Tory whips were furious, and No.10 more furious still at this very British coup.Grayling had made clear his own intention to be chair two days ago, but Lewis had left it until the day of the committee’s first meeting to inform its clerk that he was putting himself forward. There was no prior notice for the government, as unlike select committees, the ISC picks its own chairman from its own members.It was a moment of which Lewis’s old friend John Bercow would have been proud. Just as Bercow became Commons Speaker on the back of Labour votes, the veteran Tory backbencher clinched the chairmanship of arguably the country’s most important parliamentary watchdog thanks to Opposition backing.Lewis, 68, was undeniably better qualified to chair the ISC than Grayling. A former member of the committee from 2010 to 2015, a former defence select committee chairman and a former Naval reservist, he has long experience of security and intelligence issues. Even Grayling’s allies admit his closest involvement with security issues was when he was transport secretary (which does mean being on the emergency Cobra committee from time to time).Lewis was so respected that he secured the nomination of the prime minister for the committee, which is unusual in parliament in that its entire membership requires the prior approval of No.10 in consultation with the leader of the Opposition. Although it is up to the Commons and Lords to then approve its membership, the sifting process - on grounds ostensibly of national security - makes it unique.‌It is perhaps that prior approval that fuelled the strong sense of betrayal felt in Downing Street when the news came through. The decision to swiftly withdraw the whip from Lewis underscored the anger, with No.10 sources muttering that his “duplicity” had to be punished. Most embarrassingly of all, chief whip Mark Spencer had been caught cold on an issue where whipping was in theory not allowed - the statute that governs the ISC states expressly that the chair of the ISC is “chosen by its members”, not No.10.Whips have been suggesting that Lewis had assured them he would vote for Grayling, only to renege on the promise. The MP may refuse to answer that charge if asked about it, but he and the Opposition members may have left no traces of collusion. The committee itself is shrouded in adherence to the Official Secrets Act, so the ironies are multiple.‌Lewis is so idiosyncratic that he is the only one of 650 MPs in the Commons not to allow constituents to contact him by email, insisting instead that they use letter, fax or phone to do so. He is thought unlikely to have left an evidence trail of any plans for the committee chairmanship.Lewis’s security experience attracted him to the Opposition members, but it was his “fierce independence” and “consensual” approach that was the clincher. And throughout his career the New Forest East MP has certainly been no leader’s poodle. He was among the hardcore Brexiteers who consistently voted against Theresa May’s Brexit deal, but he also voted against David Cameron’s bid to launch military action in Syria, and against the Lib-Con coalition increasing student tuition fees. Maverick is his middle name.Yet Lewis also had early experience of pulling off audacious actions behind enemy lines. As a graduate research student, he managed to infiltrate the Labour party in the 1970s, helping ‘moderates’ recapture part of the Newham North East local constituency party where MP Reg Prentice was targeted by the Left. Ultimately, Prentice had the crucial vote that brought down James Callaghan and ushered in Margaret Thatcher’s 1979 victory.There is little likelihood of Lewis crossing the floor to join Labour as Prentice did, but the stripping of the Tory whip means he is now as officially “independent” as an MP as much as he was figuratively. Some Conservative MPs are already speculating that the whole affair proves the need to axe Spencer as chief whip and perhaps move him in what is seen as a more likely reshuffle, possibly to Defra.The decision by Johnson to remove the whip was also further evidence of his own ruthless approach to party management, last seen when former cabinet ministers like David Gauke and Philip Hammond were effectively booted out of the party over Brexit, despite their willingness to return to the fold.‌The difficulty for No.10 now is just what next step to take. In theory it could take the “nuclear option” and oust Lewis from the committee by tabling a Commons motion of selection, replacing him with another Tory MP, and thereby allowing a fresh internal election of a new chairman of the ISC. A 90-minute debate would be needed, followed by a vote on the floor of the Commons.The danger is that would lay bare just how party political the chairmanship would be, itself seen by even some of the PM’s allies as a move that could undermine the committee and its relationship with the intelligence agencies - all of which need to be protected from any charge of party politics in their scrutiny.The government would have to act very quickly too, and it may be too late to get any motion on the Order Paper in time. Tomorrow morning the ISC meets to discuss when to publish the ‘Russia report’, believed to cover donations to the Tory party among other issues. It is likely that the committee will recommend very swift publication.In the latest James Bond movies, the chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee is Gareth Mallory, played by Ralph Fiennes. Mallory goes on to replace Judi Dench as ’M”. Few would consider Lewis to be as dashing as Fiennes’s character and he would make an unlikely spy. But no matter what happens to him next, the spectre of high-handed incompetence is again haunting Boris Johnson’s government.Quote Of The Day“Standing up every week saying, ‘It’s a stunning success’ is kidding no one.”‌Keir Starmer in PMQsWednesday Cheat SheetBoris Johnson has for the first time committed to an “independent inquiry” into the coronavirus pandemic, after being prompted by Lib Dem acting leader Ed Davey.Helen MacNamara, the senior civil servant in charge of the bullying inquiry into the home secretary Priti Patel, is to leave her post next month, the Guardian reports.Downing Street couldn’t substantiate the PM’s claim that the UK’s test and trace system was “as good as or better than anywhere else in the world”.Equalities and Treasury minister Kemi Badenoch has revealed she rejected a chance to lead a Downing Street coronavirus briefing amid concerns it would appear “tokenistic”.‌The Treasury will not carry out any further analysis of the economic impact of the Brexit trade deal Boris Johnson agrees with the EU or the impact of negotiations collapsing, Rishi Sunak has said.The public will not have to wear face masks in food takeaway shops when new rules kick in next week, No.10 said, sparing Michael Gove’s blushes in the process.What I’m Reading Why The New No.10 Comms Strategy Is A Good Idea - Chris WilkinsGot A Tip?Send tips, stories, quotes, pics, plugs or gossip to [email protected] Subscribe To Commons PeopleEach week, the HuffPost UK Politics team unpack the biggest stories from Westminster and beyond. Search for Commons People wherever you listen to podcasts and subscribe.Related... Tories Withdraw Whip From Julian Lewis After Beating Chris Grayling To Top Job Chris Grayling Fails To Become Intelligence Committee Chairman Is Boris Johnson Playing Fast And Loose Again With The British Constitution?
Coronavirus has changed everything. Make sense of it all with the Waugh Zone, our evening politics briefing. Sign up now. The UK’s spending watchdog has been urged by Labour to investigate the government’s multi-billion pound procurement of protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.The party has written to the National Audit Office to request a probe following the award of a number of contracts without any competition under emergency procedures used by ministers, HuffPost UK has learned.The move came as it emerged that the Cabinet Office had awarded a £800,000 contract to consultants McKinsey for the “Provision of Consultancy Services for Civil Service Modernisation and Reform”.The contract suggests that the PM’s adviser Dominic Cummings is driving through his agenda to overhaul the civil service.Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed for the first time last week that £15bn has been allocated by the Treasury to spend on PPE (personal protective equipment).At the end of March, consulting firm Deloitte was chosen by Michael Gove’s Cabinet Office to advise on sourcing of PPE for NHS staff.As the pandemic spread, soaring demand for masks, gowns and gloves at home and abroad forced the government to abandon the normal processes as speed was the key factor in procuring the items.The UK government has used the single bidder emergency procurement process - which bypasses usual rules on the need for rival bidders - more than 60 times in April and May 2020. Not all of the contracts have been made public.Usually, contracts with a value of more than £10,000 have to be advertised and awarded after a competitive tender.Estimates of the amount spent to date vary, but officials have suggested in a letter to Jo Maugham, director of the Good Law Project which is seeking a judicial review of one of the deals, that the figure could be £5.5bn.Shadow cabinet office minister Rachel Reeves and shadow health minister Justin Madders have now written to NAO chief Gareth Davies to highlight how many emergency tenders were issued in comparison to other European countries.They added that contracts to supply PPE were placed with companies with little or no prior experience in the field.Reeves said: “Transparency in the awarding of public contracts is crucial to good government. The public don’t expect emergency laws to be used inappropriately and have raised questions about a number of contracts which deserve scrutiny.“Ministers should welcome the independent oversight a National Audit Office investigation can provide.”Madders added: “We understand that due to its failure to prepare properly in the first place that the government had to take urgent action to secure new supplies of PPE.“However, what we have seen is a chaotic, almost wild west style goldrush with many companies coming forward with no experience in the area being handed significant government contracts.”When the issue was raised in the Commons during Cabinet Office question time on Thursday, Gove said that he would “absolutely” support the NAO taking a look at the procurement process.The PM’s official spokesman has recently pointed out that 28 billion items of PPE have been procured since the pandemic began.A government spokesperson said: “Coronavirus has placed unprecedented global demands on PPE supply chains. Almost 28 billion items of PPE have been ordered overall from UK-based manufacturers and international partners to provide a continuous supply in the coming months.“We’ve been working tirelessly to deliver PPE to protect people on the frontline throughout this global pandemic, and have delivered over 2 billion items of PPE since the pandemic began.“We have a robust process which ensures that orders are of high-quality standard, meet commercial due diligence and checked for risk and fraud.”Here’s Labour’s letter in full: Dear Mr Davies,Government’s handling of procurement of Covid-19 PPEWe are writing to request an investigation into the Government’s handling of procurement of Covid-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).The Labour Party supports UK manufacturers of PPE playing their full role in protecting front-line workers and we have consistently encouraged the Government to engage with manufacturers and especially those in the UK textiles industries. Regrettably, there are many cases where this has not happened effectively and some of the decisions merit greater scrutiny.We recognise that the Covid-19 pandemic has been a significant challenge to government, not least because of insufficient PPE stockpile to meet the demand of this pandemic. However, there is also real public concern at some surprising or seemingly irregular arrangements made between the Government and some suppliers. This could lead to significant waste, fraud or inappropriate contracts being awarded. Crucially, such occurrences would present missed opportunities to spend this public money in a better manner achieving a bigger impact from more suitable suppliers.At the end of March 2020, Deloitte was chosen by the Cabinet Office to assist with the procurement of personal protective equipment for frontline NHS staff. The contract was awarded without competition after the suspension of usual procurement procedures, which require contracts with a value of more than £10,000 to be advertised and awarded after a competitive tender. There could be important lessons learned if Deloitte’s approach and effectiveness was examined in this crucial role.The UK Government has used the single bidder emergency procurement process over 60 times in April and May 2020. It is notable that other European countries have used single bidder processes on far fewer occasions with Spain doing so on only 2 occasions, Italy and Germany on 11 and 17 occasions respectively. Some of this may rely on extreme necessity, but where this does not apply it is important that this does not become the default approach of Government departments in the months ahead.It appears that some multi-million pound orders to supply PPE were placed with companies with little or no prior experience in this area. You will be aware that the Government faces a judicial review into the award of a £108m PPE contract to Crisp Websites Ltd (trading as PestFix). A number of other media reports raise compelling questions around the suitability of some businesses for these sizable contracts. Some appear to have had poor company histories or appear to have been dormant in the months beforehand. Others are seemingly linked to tax havens which while raising ethical concerns could also present unfair advantages over the many established businesses paying the appropriate levels of taxes to the UK. There is also concern at apparent links and over-familiarity between a number of outsourcing companies and Conservative politicians or advisers.We believe an investigation would provide important scrutiny into whether contracts were fairly and appropriately awarded, matching the national interest with the expertise of providers, and it would help ensure that the integrity of public procurement decisions is maintained.The transparency from Government has fallen significantly short of what is reasonably to be expected even in such demanding times. There is £1.5bn of PPE contracts published so far, yet according to the Financial Times the Government admitted in correspondence to the Good Law Project that there is likely to be around £5.5bn spent so far.Full transparency is needed to reassure the public both in terms of the process but also to achieve the best outcomes. We want public money to protect those on the frontline who have endured so much during this crisis. A full investigation into the Government’s approach to PPE procurement could help explain recent decisions and ensure lessons can be learned ahead of the important challenges facing the country in the months ahead. Many MPs have been contacted by concerned constituents over these matters. The public would be reassured if their concerns were misplaced.We therefore request the National Audit Office investigates this matter and publishes its findings as soon as is practicable.Yours sincerely,Rachel Reeves MPShadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Shadow Cabinet Office MinisterJustin Madders MPShadow Health MinisterRelated... Coronavirus: Number Of Workers On Payrolls Drops By 649,000 Since March How Julian Lewis Pulled Off A Very British Coup To Chair The Intelligence And Security Committee Coronavirus Infects Half Of Incarcerated People At California's San Quentin Prison
We’re here to guide you through the coronavirus pandemic. Sign up to the Life newsletter for daily tips, advice, how-tos and escapism.When chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak was spotted buying lunch from Pret, all eyes were on him and his fetching grey mask.The face covering fitted well to his face, covering his nose and mouth (top marks there), but it also featured a valve – and here lies the problem.Valved face covers are banned in some cities and counties in the United States because they can expel the wearer’s germs into the environment.People are told to wear face coverings to protect others. But when people wear face masks with valves, this doesn’t quite go to plan.Related... Why Experts Aren't Happy With This Government Video On Face Masks Making the most of @Pret's price cut in response to the VAT reduction that takes effect today for the tourism and hospitality sectors. As part of our #PlanForJobs this temporary cut will help over 150,000 businesses protect the jobs of 2.4 million people. pic.twitter.com/mSh6jOvBlp— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) July 15, 2020Experts say the one-way valve closes when a person breathes in and opens when they breathe out. This means while the valve doesn’t let germs in, protecting the wearer, it does allow a person’s exhalations to leave the mask – and therefore does not protect others and slow the spread of the virus.Professor Trisha Greenhalgh, an expert in primary care at University of Oxford, told HuffPost UK: “The valve acts like an exhaust pipe, potentially spewing germs out to the environment.“Cloth face coverings are the best thing. They stop droplets – that’s why they get wet of course, and you have to change them when they do.“Droplets contain viral particles so the more droplets get caught in your face covering, the fewer germs get into the air. A valved mask bypasses the barrier and potentially emits the droplets in an explosive gas cloud.”The valve acts like an exhaust pipe, potentially spewing germs out to the environment.Professor Trisha GreenhalghSome people argue that valved masks can have filters between the mouth and the valve – therefore, isn’t the air people expelling going to be clean?“It’s true that some masks have a valve that isn’t as dangerous as most valves, but it’s still a very dumb thing for a politician to wear a valved mask because it gives the message that valved masks, in general, are a good thing,” says Prof Greenhalgh. “They’re not, they’re a bad thing.”A study published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology concluded that the use of masks with valves in the community “may be an additional and under-recognised transmission source” – and therefore they shouldn’t be used.Earlier this month, Dr Bharat Pankhania, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School, urged people to stop wearing masks with valves in them. He told LBC they force a “high velocity flow of air from the mouth out through the valve which could create a plume of infection”.“Wearers can propel, much further, the very droplets we are trying to capture within the mask,” he said.Clear messaging on face masks is crucial for the adoption of wearing face masks and coverings by the general public, a study by the University of Oxford found. But so far, the messaging has been anything but.On Tuesday, the 10 Downing Street Twitter account shared a public health video which showed an animated man wearing what appeared to be a face mask with a valve on it. HuffPost UK contacted 10 Downing Street for comment on this, but is yet to hear back.Related... Why Experts Aren't Happy With This Government Video On Face Masks What We Know About The Long-Term Impact Of 'Mild' Covid-19 7 Things You Should Know About Face Masks
Public sector workers on the front line of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic will be given a pay rise, the chancellor has announced.Doctors, teachers and police officers are among those who will see extra money in their pay packet after a testing few months since Covid-19 hit the UK.But social care workers, who have also been at the forefront of the battle at the deadly virus, are not part of the group being given an increased wage.The TUC is calling on the government to “urgently announce a pay rise for social care workers, who put their lives on the line to care for others during this pandemic”.  More than 300 NHS workers have died in England alone after contracting the deadly virus, many doing so while caring for patients.Teachers continued looking after the children of key workers throughout the lockdown while police have been enforcing social distancing rules, which at their sternest forbade leaving the house except for specified circumstances.The above-inflation pay rise announced on Tuesday will see almost 900,000 workers benefit, with teachers and doctors seeing the largest increase at 3.1% and 2.8% respectively, according to the Treasury.Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “These past months have underlined what we always knew, that our public sector workers make a vital contribution to our country and that we can rely on them when we need them.“It’s right therefore that we follow the recommendations of the independent pay bodies with this set of real-terms pay rises.”Each award is recommended by independent pay review bodies, and this year the government has accepted the suggested rise for each workforce.Police, prison officers and National Crime Agency staff will be given a 2.5% rise in pay as a result and members of the armed forces will receive a 2% uplift.Meanwhile, members of the judiciary and senior civil servants will also see their pay topped up by 2%.The pay awards for the armed forces, prison officers, senior civil servants and NHS staff will be backdated to April, whereas the pay rise for police and teachers starts in September due to those professions operating on a different pay schedule running from September to August.Labour shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said the pay rise was “good news” but claimed it would not make up for a “decade of real-terms pay cuts” for frontline workers.TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady called for social care workers to join the ranks of those being offered a pay rise.“These rises are welcome, but there’s still a long way to go to restore pay after a decade of real terms cuts,” she said.“Many public sector workers, like job centre staff and local government workers, aren’t getting these rises. They deserve a decent pay settlement too.“And the government should urgently announce a pay rise for social care workers, who put their lives on the line to care for others during this pandemic.”Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea called for “more resources for local authorities” so council staff and social care workers could also be entitled to a “decent wage increase”.
Ramen, katsu curry and a side of finest BSOD Bork!Bork!Bork!  Amid the table football, beanbags and overpriced coffee, London's silicon roundabout also plays host to that most modern of afflictions: the BSOD bork.…
Coronavirus has changed everything. Make sense of it all with the Waugh Zone, our evening politics briefing. Sign up now.Ministers have been urged to boost mental health support amid claims Rishi Sunak’s coronavirus bailout failed to reach people struggling with the financial fallout of the pandemic. The chancellor was told on Wednesday that gaps in his emergency wages package - known as the furlough scheme, introduced in March - excluded more than a million people from government help. MPs said Sunak has “effectively drawn a line” under aiding more than a million people after Covid-19 hit the UK, due to government small-print and special terms. Now, a letter sent by the Lib Dems to Sunak and the health secretary Matt Hancock, call on the government to step up mental health services to support those on the bread line. Jamie Stone, a Lib Dem MP and chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for Excluded UK - a group representing a coalition of campaigners including freelancers and those unable to claim support because of childcare - said: “The terrible financial pressure on the millions excluded from financial support is putting tremendous strain on people’s mental health.“We need action now, not just to support this group financially, but to support the mental health of those affected.“We are calling on the government to increase funding for mental health support for all groups affected by this pandemic, not least those who are burdened by significant debt.” Pressure continues to build on Sunak to extend the Covid-19 support package to a number of groups not covered by the furlough scheme. Chairman of the Commons’ Treasury select committee, Mel Stride, has stressed that more than a million people have not received support from the government and called on the chancellor to “do whatever it takes” to protect people and businesses.In a letter, Sunak admitted to MPs on the committee that it “is correct that some people have not been eligible” for furlough or self-employment scheme funding, while others, such as PAYE freelancers, do not have a specific scheme.However, the chancellor defended the scheme and said that these “were the right policies for the first phase of the crisis”.Sunak also said that the Treasury was unable to allow returns for the 2019-20 tax year to be used by people to secure self-employment support as that would create an opportunity for an “organised criminal gang to file fake or misleading returns to claim the grant”.In response, Stride said: “The chancellor has effectively drawn a line under helping the million-plus people who have been excluded from support for four months.“Despite stating that he will not pick winners and losers when it comes to sectors and businesses that need support, the chancellor has done this when it comes to households and individuals.“The chancellor said that the schemes were designed to be open and accessible to as many people as possible, but the committee remains to be convinced that more people could not have been helped.“The chancellor initially told those at risk of losing their livelihoods that they would not be forgotten.“While the government is clear that it is moving on to the next phase of its recovery plan, it cannot just turn its back on those who are suffering.” The committee continues to urge the government to rethink its position. Related... Care Workers Have Toiled On The Covid Frontline – This Is How We Repay Them Pay Rise For 900,000 Public Sector Staff – But Social Care Workers Left Out Spending Watchdog Urged To Probe Gove's £5bn PPE Contracts
You’re reading The Waugh Zone, our daily politics briefing. Sign up now to get it by email in the evening.Masking the problem?Oh, the irony. Boris Johnson, who famously described women wearing burkas as looking like “bank robbers”, is from Friday legally requiring the public to wear face coverings in shops. On Thursday, as he toured Scotland, the PM himself was sporting a black mask that made him look like an albino Dick Turpin.And in a double irony, the mass face mask wearing that will be compulsory in shops, cafes and supermarkets is not an act of ‘stand-and-deliver’ plunder but of self-interested selflessness. The science suggests that covering up does not protect you much from others who have coronavirus, but it does protect others if you unwittingly have the disease.‌The new practice (well, new to England) is in many ways the pandemic-induced version of the Golden Rule that has powered moral codes and religions for centuries. As the second commandment lyrically put it, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.Way back on March 3, when the ‘Three Amigos’ No.10 press conferences of Johnson, Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance first began, it was the chief medical officer who predicted: “The response of the British public to disasters and emergencies is extraordinary outbreaks of altruism.” But even though South Koreans and Japanese had long worn masks, that particular altruism wasn’t encouraged by Whitty or the government early in the covid wars.As we all get used to the new facial fashions (just as every other country apart from the US seems to be doing with little fuss) there’s even a hope that they could help stop the spread of flu this coming winter. One obvious benefit is that they will very visibly remind the public that despite ‘unlockdown’, this virus is lurking invisibly. At a stroke, they will do more to ram home the need for caution than No.10’s lame ‘Stay Alert’ slogan, a line that few can remember.Of course, the real defence against a second spike, or at least means of squeezing a second spike, is not a multicoloured mask. It is the NHS Test and Trace system. And today there was finally some good news from its chief Dido Harding, as the percentage of people testing positive for Covid and being reached by the system hit 79.7%. Among their contacts, 77.9% were reached. That’s just shy of the magic 80% Sage says is needed to make the whole thing viable.There was some bad news for the PM too though, or at least his target of turning round most tests within 24 hours by the end of June. The numbers on that went backwards for the second week in a row, with just 71.4% of ‘in-person’ tests completed within the timeframe. Still, the numbers for results returned “by the end of the next day” are better, and Harding clearly believes that’s what matters most.Like many businesspeople, Harding is a big believer in the “incremental gains” philosophy that saw Sir Dave Brailsford turn British cyclists into Olympic giants. If you disregard Johnson’s own target, she can claim some success in slowly improving the test and trace system to get it to a place where we can all trust it will snuff out the disease in local outbreaks. Combined with local public health knowledge, maybe the dire 50% contact rates in places like Blackburn can be improved, and not so incrementally.‌There was another major shift in emphasis today on testing, however. Although no one in government will say it explicitly, the home testing kits are quietly being killed off. These whizzo swabs (whose posting out helped Matt Hancock his 100k a day target met, but also got him into trouble with the statistics authority) just can’t be reliably turned around within 24 hours (that’s why they were never in the PM’s target). They will still be used to provide negative tests for people waiting for hospital operations, but as a positive indicator of covid their use will wither on the vine.Few will lament the home kit’s demise. And the other shift today was the announcement that there will be at least 200 more walk-in test centres, massively expanding the 15 at present, by the end of October. The ‘ambition’ (not a target, don’t be silly) is to ensure everyone in an urban area will be just 30 minutes’ walk away from a test. In rural areas, everyone will be a 30 minute drive away from a test.Crucially, these testing centres can turn round results far faster than home kits. They can also help with translation for people with English as a second language and give access to the poorest who don’t have a car.As I pointed out earlier this week, having blundered early on in key areas the real test for the government is whether it can learn from its mistakes as it goes along through this pandemic. The one big new mistake could however be the withdrawal of furlough in September. Will the Treasury finally change course on that too, allowing targeted sectors to keep getting the money, if there’s a swift spike in unemployment?‌If not, Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson could both be portrayed not as bank robbers, but as the nation’s job robbers in chief - just as we brace for that second wave. There’ll be no point going into the shops, mask or no mask, if those people have no wages to spend.Quote Of The Day“Considerable gaps remain in the most difficult areas, that is, the so-called level playing field and on fisheries.”David Frost, UK negotiator on a new EU trade dealThursday Cheat SheetBoris Johnson sparked fury from Nicola Sturgeon when he claimed that an independent Scotland would not have had the financial muscle to stop coronavirus causing an economic “disaster”. The “sheer might” of the UK union had been proven, he said on a visit that avoided the general Scottish public.Public Health England published full guidance on wearing face coverings in shops, less than 12 hours before the new rules come into force. It will be compulsory to wear one in cafes like Pret A Manger when buying food and drink to takeaway. But if you sit down and eat/drink you can remove the mask.The UK and EU have both said they still remain some way off reaching a post-Brexit trade agreement, following the latest negotiations in London.Howard Beckett, one of Keir Starmer’s most vociferous critics, was confirmed as having lost to Steve Turner for the crucial endorsement of the United Left faction of Unite the union.Gavin Williamson is facing calls to provide extra funding for school cleaning after a new Unison survey suggested heads were struggling to make premises Covid-secure for pupils ahead of reopening in September.What I’m ReadingWhat Happens If Trump Refuses To Concede Defeat? - New YorkerGot A Tip?Send tips, stories, quotes, pics, plugs or gossip to [email protected] Subscribe To Commons PeopleFor our final Commons People before the summer break we are joined by Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. Hear us chinwag through the ISC report, Russia, China and Starmer and Johnson’s pandemic record.Tugendhat has some stern words for MI5 too, saying its failure to proactively tackle the Russian threat to UK elections risks undermining its key role “defending the realm”. Click HERE to listen on audioboom or below for iTunes. Search for Commons People wherever you listen to podcasts and subscribe.Related... People Who Identify As Right-Wing Less Likely To Wear Face Masks, Study Finds This Is Where You Have To Wear A Face Mask In England From July 24 Our Face Masks Say Who We Are: 'When I Wear Mine, I Feel Seen'
The UK child care system is broken. It was broken long before the Covid-19 pandemic pushed it to crisis point. Crippling underfunding, underpaid workers, and inflexible provision were pushing the child care sector to breaking point long before lockdown, fuelling growing inequality. Now, government inaction means a quarter of providers are facing closure, 71% are likely to be running at a loss and cutting back on places over the coming months. As ever, mothers have been left to fill in the gaps, risking their jobs as the pressure to return to work only grows. Now is the time to guarantee free, universal childcare to stimulate the economyThis matters not just for parents but for all of us, because the economy will never fully recover without guaranteed access to childcare. Parents will be unable to return to work with mothers most affected. Children’s vital early years development will continue to be overlooked, every sector will be disrupted. Meanwhile, those sectors predominantly staffed by women – like frontline health and social care workers, and teachers who have proved so vital to our nation’s survival during the pandemic – will be put under intolerable strain.It is astonishing that, despite this urgency, despite the moral and business case, the government has so far failed to provide any meaningful support for the childcare sector whatsoever. It must listen to calls from the sector, trade unions, and parents and take action. But those whose suggestions are limited to nursery bailouts also do not go far enough.Related... All The Interruptions I’ve Had From My Kids While Working From Home I'm A Social Worker. Coronavirus Has Been Cruel On The Already Struggling Families I Work With Propping up providers that many parents could not afford before the economic downturn is not an answer on its own. Now is the time to guarantee free, universal childcare, to stimulate the economy, save parents’ jobs and ensure that all children are able to catch up on the crucial early years support they missed during lockdown. This policy would not just be a stop gap, it would be truly transformative.Some people might feel that freeing women to work when they choose to and guaranteeing every child the best possible start in life is just a pipe dream. They are wrong, it is absolutely within our grasp. We don’t lack the funds – the cost of delivering universal free childcare is dwarfed by the billions the government has already committed to roads and other physical infrastructure and over the long term it would reap economic and social benefits that would cover the cost. What is lacking is the imagination, and the political will.The Women’s Equality Party has a fully funded plan for universal free childcare. I am offering this plan to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, and to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. WE have done the heavy-lifting. All they have to do is find the will.Mandu Reid is leader of the Women’s Equality Party.Related... Opinion: You Don't Need To Pretend To Not Have A Family To Be Professional Sunak Warned Coronavirus Bailout Lacks Mental Health Support Opinion: If The Government Is Serious About 'Building Back Better', Rishi Sunak Must Invest In Care As A Mum In Lockdown, My Social Life Has Never Been Better. What Happens Now?
From Brexit to a global pandemic and the rebirth of a civil rights movement, Boris Johnson’s first year as prime minister has been uniquely tumultuous. And it has coincided with a series of events that exposed just how the deep the lines of racial injustice lie across the country. Simon Woolley, founder of Operation Black Vote, told HuffPost UK: “Historians will look at back on 2020 and ask but one question: how did our national leader react to this perfect storm that laid bare deep-seated racial inequalities as never before?“The devastating impact that Covid-19 has had on BAME communities, along with the death of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter, demands our prime minister lay out a race equality strategy now.”Before taking office, Johnson already had a worrying track record on race, referring to Black people as “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”. Prior to last year’s general election, many Black people told HuffPost UK they were fearful about Johnson re-entering Number 10.A year on, what do they make of his time in office so far? These are the key moments that show how Boris Johnson has responded to major tests in race relations. ‘Perilous for ethnic minorities’“Boris Johnson cannot deny that he has presided over a period where the denial of the existence of stark, overt racism in the NHS has cost lives of people who are simply working to support those who are sick and vulnerable.“These are the words of a senior NHS manager, who has asked to remain anonymous. “The lack of PPE and the sacrifice of [Black, Asian and minority ethnic] staff in the Covid-19 pandemic will forever characterise the reign of Boris Johnson and evidence that he and the government – which has led us on a merry dance of death – have blood on their hands.“If the racial inequalities [in society] that were known about had been addressed, then the disproportionate impact would not have been so stark.”There have so far been more than 56,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 is mentioned on the death certificate.NHS England data for the first 12,600 deaths from the virus revealed that Black people were dying from the virus at almost twice the rate of their proportion of the population.Following public pressure, the government eventually asked Public Health England (PHE) to conduct in a review into the disparities of risks and outcomes of Covid-19.Former equalities chief Trevor Phillips was appointed to assist with this review, sparking widespread criticism from BAME communities – many branded the move “shameful” and “alarming” given Phillips’ suspension from the Labour Party over Islamophobia allegations and previous offensive comments on race.Phillips and Professor Richard Webber – who together run specialist research company Webber Phillips – were asked by Public Health England (PHE) to provide expert support to an inquiry into why such high numbers of victims of the coronavirus pandemic were from BAME backgrounds.When the review was eventually published in June, it simply confirmed what many had known for weeks prior: Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people are more likely to die of coronavirus than their white counterparts.The data was published late with ministers under pressure amid reports it was delayed due to the Black Lives Matter protests.People in deprived areas “may” be more at risk of infection because they live closer together, or because they live in places that contain a higher proportion of workers in jobs more likely to be exposed to the virus, the report said.Indeed, public sector staff such as bus drivers and NHS workers – many of whom are from BAME communities – told HuffPost UK that felt disregarded as UK authorities battled to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, as they were forced to work without adequate PPE.Windrush generation nurses also gave their opinion on being asked to fight the battle against Covid-19 after the travesty of the scandal.More than half of pregnant women who were admitted to hospital with coronavirus in the UK were from a Black and minority ethnic background, prompting campaigners to demand greater protection for pregnant mothers from these communities.Reflecting on the past year of Johnson’s government, Nels Abbey – author ofThink Like A White Man: A Satirical Guide to Conquering The World...While Black – told HuffPost UK: “The first year of Boris Johnson’s leadership has proven perilous for ethnic minorities, especially Black people. And sadly, given Johnson’s highly successful – and largely unchallenged – relationship with racism, things are not going to change any time soon.“His response to ethnic minorities dying in disproportionate numbers from Covid-19? Appoint a despised, discredited and unqualified, yet ideologically compliant, Black man to lead the review.“His response to the murder of George Floyd? Exactly the same as his response to Covid-19.”Abbey said that, in his opinion: “From journalist to editor, mayor of London to leading Brexiteer, to foreign secretary to prime minister, racism has served as the oxygen of Boris Johnson’s career. Without it he would not be where he is now.”He added: “From the moment he announced his candidacy he went straight for the racism card. In his first campaign video, he proactively offered a white male he is speaking to on the doorstep ‘more stop and search’. The dog whistle was heard loud and clear.” New race commissionFollowing the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was murdered by US police, a wave of Black Lives Matter protests took place in London across July.These demonstrations were in solidarity with the US, and also called for systemic racism to be tackled in Britain.In response, the government announced it would form an independent Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities.Munira Mirza, the current head of the No.10 policy unit, led the commission’s formation.This sparked concern in light of the fact Mirza had previously cast doubt on the existence of institutional racism and condemned previous inquiries for fostering a “culture of grievance”.Yesterday I chaired the first meeting of our new Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. Thank you to all the members - I hope this will really make the difference that we need right now. pic.twitter.com/aQ20l97sMT— Boris Johnson #StayAlert (@BorisJohnson) July 22, 2020The commission will aim to report its findings on the priority areas of health, education, criminal justice and employment by the end of this year.Some have questioned how this commission differs from the Race Disparity Unit, established by Theresa May in 2017 to tackle systemic inequalities in BritainHuffPost UK has sought clarification from Downing Street but has not received a response.Johnson chaired the commission’s first meeting on Monday, where he said: “We cannot go on like this. We do need to make progress. [...] There’s an alternative story to be told – there’s an alternative narrative about success, achievement, championing lots of positive things that needs to be told in addition to some of the obstacles that unquestionably exist.”The commission will be chaired by Dr Tony Sewell, an international education consultant who is head of the charity Generating Genius. It works to ensure talented students from disadvantaged and diverse ethnic backgrounds are positioned to excel in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers.Sewell, who worked with the prime minister in 2013 when he was mayor of London, has previously described any evidence of institutional racism as “flimsy” – and concerns have been raised regarding his suitability for the role. In an interview with The Times newspaper last year, the former teacher suggested the root cause of knife crime and gang culture among Black youths was absent fathers, citing figures showing about 50% of Black children grow up without a father. Some fun facts about Tony Sewell who will be heading the govt's race disparity commission: Sewell believes that black single mothers don't have the "strong arm" to raise boys; school lessons are too "feminised" for boys and African-caribbean "youth culture" is "anti-intellectual" https://t.co/XWQHSoIdyX— Dr Zubaida Haque (@Zubhaque) July 16, 2020Responding to Sewell’s appointment, Dr Zubaida Haque, interim director of the Runnymede Trust, tweeted a 2019 clip of Sewell appearing on Channel 5 News.Sewell will be joined by nine others in the group, comprised of representatives from the fields of science, education, broadcasting, economics, medicine, policing and community organising. They will look to deliver a report on race disparity within the health, education, criminal justice and employment sectors by the end of this year.This includes equalities minister Kemi Badenoch, who recently rejected claims “systemic injustice” is the reason ethnic minorities are more likely to die from coronavirus in England – sparking criticism when findings of the PHE review appear to suggest otherwise.These have prompted doubts around her role, too, in the government’s new race commission. HuffPost UK has put these concerns to Downing Street but has not received a reply.National lockdownBlack and Asian people were disproportionately fined under the Coronavirus Act, HuffPost UK revealed in May.Out of 13,445 contraventions where the individual issued with the notice had a self-identified ethnicity recorded, 5% of recipients issued with fines were Black, according to National Police Chiefs’ Council data. Black people only account for 3% of the England and Wales population.Analysis by the Guardian last month confirmed Metropolitan Police officers enforcing the coronavirus lockdown were more than twice as likely to issue fines to Black people as white people.This renewed concerns about the Black people being over-policed in the UK yet under-protected from the pandemic.Meanwhile, researchers found BAME people in Britain had been hit harder by job losses during the coronavirus crisis than the population as a whole, Reuters reported. And data from the Fawcett Society and West Midlands Women’s Voice found BAME women in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester were more likely than white women to have taken a pay cut because of the pandemic.As of July 19, 2020, approximately 9.5m jobs, from 1.2m different employers were furloughed in the UK as part of the government’s job retention scheme.The scheme, introduced in response to the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, covers 80% of an employee’s usual monthly wage, up to £2,500 a month.In a column for The Voice newspaper, broadcaster Dotun Adebayo wrote: “When the furlough scheme ends, it will be black workers that will suffer the most.” Angela Phillips, a Black woman who worked in the media on a fixed term contract, was furloughed in May before being dismissed four weeks ago – just prior to easing of the lockdown.Reflecting on Johnson’s first year, she told HuffPost UK: “I believe Boris Johnson has bumbled his way through his first year and all the credit for recent measures of support should go to Rishi Sunak. “His bumbling on Brexit, his refusal to bend the knee in support of Black lives when he is known for his clapping for the NHS and other gestures [...] plus his flip-flopping and stuttering are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to assessing Boris Johnson.”Public sector workers on the front line of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic will be given a pay rise, the chancellor announced this week.Doctors, teachers and police officers are among those who will see extra money in their pay packet after a testing few months since Covid-19 hit the UK.But social care workers, who have also been at the forefront of the battle at the deadly virus, are not part of the group being given an increased wage.Woolley of Operation Black Vote is calling upon the PM to prioritise tackling race inequalities. “Implementing the recommendations from previous race reviews is the lowest hanging fruit,” he said. “Having a strategic plan that ensures BAME communities do not have another hit as we enter an unprecedented economic downturn is the role of our leader, the prime minister Boris Johnson.”Angelo Irving, a London-based comedian, portrays a Black version of Boris Johnson in popular online sketches as means of raising awareness around sociopolitical concerns through satire.  A #metpolice officer caught kneeling on a black man's neck? #BlackBoris speaks about his superb relationship with the BAMEs. #BlackLivesMatterpic.twitter.com/y5Lkk0k4dU— Black Boris (@Angelo3000k) July 18, 2020Reflecting on Johnson’s year, he expressed disappointment.“By any objective measure, Johnson’s tenure has been a failure. He is the exact wrong prime minister for this moment. The things that he is good at – soundbites, bluster, ingratiating himself and presenting himself as a loveable buffoon to conceal the nastiness underneath – are absolutely not enough to meet the moment that we are in. “Where he would normally be just a bad premier like the two previous ones, his premiership has been singularly awful for ethnic minorities. In my opinion, his defence of his adviser Dominic Cummings broke this country, which had followed the rules and saw them flagrantly flouted by someone who had drawn them up.“Johnson has been a failure and no soundbite or sycophantic cheering by Tory MPs at PMQs will change that. His government has been awful when it comes to acknowledging, let alone tackling, racial inequalities in 2020. “The fact that the report had to be leaked before it was released and that there are claims that a section of that report said that discrimination played a part in the increased number of deaths ‘did not survive contact with Matt Hancock’s office’ all serves to paint a picture of a government that wants to do the minimum when it comes to tackling racial inequality.“This has also been seen with government responses to #BlackLivesMatter. Whether it was the painful interview with Matt Hancock on Sky – where, when asked how many Black members Boris Johnson had in his cabinet, he talked of ‘diversity’ and ‘BAME’ as a feeble attempt to deflect from the truth – or Johnson’s speech where he acknowledged the ‘incontrovertible, undeniable feeling of injustice’, whilst at the same time praising peaceful protest but threatening those that protested in a violent way, it is clear again that Johnson doesn’t have the desire for any real change. “Johnson claims that we are right to say that Black lives matter, but says nothing about the fact that between March and May during lockdown a quarter of all black males aged 15 to 24 were stopped and searched in London.“Covid has served to shine a light on the inequalities in the health system, policing and race relations. Johnson’s peculiar habit of leading from the back, in particular leaking policy days before announcing it, has led to a confusion on the rules and a leadership vacuum.“He is a failure for the whole country and a ruinous failure for ethnic minorities. I shudder at the thought of four more years of this. As to the new race commission, it is amazing how often they find black faces that will sit comfortably within their ideological sphere.”WindrushOf course, one of the greatest stains on the Conservative’s government’s conscience is the anguish caused by the Windrush scandal.Paulette Wilson, a Windrush campaigner who was left destitute while fighting for her rights as a British citizen, died unexpectedly age 64 on Thursday, sparking grief and renewed anger at the injustices that she – and others – faced.Wilson, a former chef, died while still selflessly campaigning for justice for Windrush victims.It emerged in July that the government had asked victims to prove their case “beyond reasonable doubt” before being given compensation.It is the same level of proof required to convict defendants in criminal courts across the UK. Immigration lawyer Jacqueline McKenzie told HuffPost UK that as compensation claims are civil cases, the burden of proof should be “on the balance of probabilities”.The compensation scheme has been criticised over its slow progress in offering payouts to those wrongly told they no longer had a right to be in the UK. At least 83 victims with the right to live in the country have been deported.By the end of March, 1,275 people had applied under the scheme. But to date, just 60 people have received compensation through the scheme, which was launched more than a year ago, with £362,996 paid out to them. Some estimates suggest the total fund could be between £200m and £500m.A Downing Street spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “The prime minister is proud to lead the most diverse ministerial team in this country’s history. He campaigned on a commitment to level up across the nation and has repeatedly made clear that there is no place for racism in our country.“The government continues to take action to address the disparities that exist across society, including implementing recommendations from reviews that we have agreed to take forward.”Related... Who Is Tony Sewell, The Head of The Government's New Racial Disparity Commission? Wake Up To How You're Treating Black Men, Top Custody Deaths Lawyer Urges Police Why The Appointment Of Munira Mirza As Head Of Racial Inequality Review Is So Controversial Five Inequality Reviews Boris Johnson Could Have Acted On Instead Of Ordering Another 'Britain's Future Looks Dangerous To Me': Black People React To Tories' Landslide Victory
Get the latest on coronavirus. Sign up to the Daily Brief for news, explainers, how-tos, opinion and more.Renters are being served eviction notices despite the government’s promise to protect people from a wave of homelessness resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.Evictions have been banned since the start of lockdown, however landlords have continued to serve Section 21 notices throughout this period. The notices allow landlords to evict tenants without giving any reason – a so-called “no-fault eviction”.The government has confirmed the ban on evictions will end on August 23. Last week it published new civil procedure rules for eviction proceedings, which will require landlords to submit a “reactivation notice” setting out a tenant’s circumstances, including whether the lockdown has impacted their ability to pay rent, or whether the tenant is vulnerable. But as it stands, any private tenants in more than eight weeks of rent arrears will still be at the mercy of automatic evictions using Ground 8 of Section 8 of the Housing Act.Housing experts are calling on the government to change this rule, arguing that as long as it stands the new regulations do not compel landlords to do anything at all, as judges will have no legal means to protect renters from Section 21 evictions or Section 8 evictions.Although government guidance has urged landlords to “show compassion”, many private tenants who are struggling financially as a direct result of coronavirus are now facing eviction and possible homelessness.One such example is small business owner Daniela and her musician partner James, of Liverpool. The couple have struggled financially during lockdown, as James’s freelance work has completely dried up with the closure of venues and cancellation of festivals.With their incomes slashed by half, Daniela and James wrote to their letting agency in early March, saying they could not pay their rent in full and hoping they could receive an agreement.Instead, they received some “completely inappropriate” “load of generic nonsense suggesting how to budget our money” and were told to contact their water, gas and electricity companies to ask for a “payment suspension”.After racking up four months of rent arrears and receiving emails that made them feel “incredibly humiliated”, a letter arrived with a Section 21 notice attached. The couple are now facing “further debt and potential homelessness”, while Daniela’s anxiety has affected her ability to work.They also discovered their landlord has benefited from a mortgage holiday – while at the same time ignoring their pleas for leniency.“We’re at a point where we have to choose if we’d like to pay rent or risk not being able to buy groceries,” Daniela told HuffPost UK. “I just don’t earn enough on my own to sustain both of us and pay all of our bills. This has obviously affected us mentally.”Boris Johnson previously pledged to scrap Section 21 as part of last year’s Conservative election manifesto, but has so far failed to do so.Last week Labour warned the country faced a “homelessness emergency” unless new legislation was introduced to prevent a wave of evictions.Thangam Debbonaire, shadow housing secretary, said the government’s mortgage relief policies have “helped property developers, second home-owners and landlords make money from housing”.“But they are doing nothing to help thousands in rented accommodation, who may find themselves without anywhere to live later this year,” she said. Jeanny Priebe, 48, lives in Bournemouth with her three children. She was furloughed from her retail job at the start of the pandemic and is still unable to return.She has endured difficulties with paying rent, and her landlord has asked the family to leave the home they have rented for four years by October 4. Her estate agency says that the property was previously a family home and the landlord now needs to “reassess the family situation”.“I’ve problems to sleep through the night, I wake up very often,” Jeanny told Huffpost UK. “The same with my children. My 19-year-old daughter is autistic. She struggles with any kind of changes and this has a massive impact on her.”She added: “I have no idea where we are going. I don’t even want to think about it because it makes me so sleepless and ill. I don’t want to eat, I don’t want to do anything. It makes me upset. It makes my family upset. And because I am the only breadwinner in this family, I have to be fully aware of things that have to be there.”The government’s decision to allow homeowners to have a mortgage payment holiday has meant some landlords have followed the advice to “show compassion” and offered some form of rent reduction or suspension. Others, however, have been less than sympathetic. When academic researcher Jordan Osserman, 31, wrote on behalf of more than 100 private tenants of a block of flats in Stoke Newington, London, asking for 20% reduction in rent, the managing agent informed him the request was “unreasonable”.“The response we received back was nasty and hostile,” he told HuffPost UK. “They told us to use the money you save on lunches, work travel and cancelled holidays on rent instead.”On Tuesday, Jordan and his flatmates received an email informing them their tenancy would not be renewed, with a Section 21 notice attached.“We are feeling incredibly distraught – but not surprised,” he said. “They just want us out.”Ironically, he and his flatmates have been paying their rent in full throughout lockdown. “We haven’t missed a single payment.“We drafted the letter to begin with just to help our neighbours, to help our community under these difficult circumstances. There were so many people talking about how difficult things were, and we wanted to contribute to a sense of community in the building and enable people to act collectively.”Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, Diane Abbott, said “no one should lose their home”.“There should be no evictions during this crisis. There is a public health crisis and many are struggling with bills because of the economic crisis,” she told HuffPost UK.“No one should lose their home while this is happening, and these evictions should be stopped.”Jordan, Daniela and James are all currently seeking legal advice to challenge the Section 21 notices they received from their letting agencies. However in many cases, private tenants can feel too overwhelmed and intimidated by the threat of eviction to fight back.One renter, who preferred not be named, received their notice at the end of May informing them they only had one month to move out of their property in South Acton, London – the current rules are that a landlord must give a notice period of three months.“It was a houseshare and it wasn’t convenient for everyone to move out,” they told HuffPost UK. “I lost nearly all my income [since lockdown] and two other housemates sharing a room had lost their work.”They said they felt “strong-armed” by the agency, which was “reliant on us not knowing our rights or feeling too uncomfortable to protest”.“It was very stressful,” they said. “To suddenly find the rug pulled from under my feet was miserable. I got headaches and insomnia, my appetite was affected, and honestly I didn’t realise how bad I felt in general until I moved out.“It was also pretty miserable because it felt sort of like I was a commodity – yes, there’s a deadly global pandemic, and yes, you’ve always paid your rent, and no, legally we shouldn’t even be serving this notice on you – but we are! So shove off!“I wasn’t able to find anywhere for a long time. I’m on universal credit as a self-employed person with low income and I was openly discriminated against for that reason. An agency openly told me the landlord didn’t want me to rent if I was receiving any benefits. Other adverts just flat-out stated ‘No DSS’.“I still feel insecure about renting now, because what if it happens again? It’s difficult to feel at home when I know that’s how landlords and letting agencies feel about me.”On Wednesday the tenants campaign group Generation Rent urged Robert Jenrick to ensure no one who has lost income because of coronavirus will be evicted from their home.In an open letter to the housing secretary, the group’s director Alicia Kennedy said renters “urgently need reassurance that they will not lose their home”.“Over half a million households are behind on their rent and people are terrified about losing their homes,” she said.A separate study conducted by the homelessness charity Shelter found nearly 230,000 tenants across England are at risk of eviction, while Generation Rent said 45,000 are at serious risk of homelessness this autumn.“Section 21 notices are immoral and the legal system is heavily weighted in the favour of landlords,” said actor and theatre producer Phoebe Kemp, who was served a Section 21 order after complaining about issues with the property that predated the lockdown.“The one impacting us most at the moment is damp, which at its worst was causing mushrooms to grow out of my carpet,” Phoebe said.As a wheelchair user, Phoebe explains finding a home to rent is difficult even in the best of times: “It took us three months looking in non-pandemic times to find this place, so it seems like it will be impossible to find somewhere else now.”Phoebe says the situation has been “absolutely awful” and detrimental to their mental health: “I was already dealing with the fact that my future career is completely up in the air without this happening with my living situation as well.”“We are going to see so many evictions when the freeze comes and homelessness is already a major issue in this country, with or without a pandemic.”On Wednesday the housing minister suggested court action to evict tenants could be postponed if a landlord cannot demonstrate “good cause”.Speaking to MPs, Christopher Pincher said measures would be introduced to make it “very difficult” for landlords to bring applications to court in order to “support hard-pressed renters”.Debbonaire said Johnson had “let down renters”.“Choices and delays by this government mean hundreds of thousands of people risk losing their homes in the middle of a global pandemic,” she told HuffPost UK.“The Tories promised to end unfair ‘no fault’ evictions, but needlessly delayed it until after the expected wave of evictions when the ban is lifted in August. We were promised that ‘no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home’.“The Tories have let down renters, and failed all of us who want to avoid a rise in homelessness in our communities this autumn.” Related... Black Woman Charged More Rent Than White Neighbour For Identical Property Renters 'Left Out In The Cold' By Rishi Sunak's Coronavirus Mini-Budget I’m An Asylum Seeker. Coronavirus Is Tearing Apart My Second Chance At Life
Get the latest on coronavirus. Sign up to the Daily Brief for news, explainers, how-tos, opinion and more.A government crackdown on obesity by banning “buy one get one free” deals on unhealthy meals and a restriction on junk food adverts has been criticised as “hypocritical” and “victim blaming” by people on the ground who want to see the true causes of the health bomb tackled.Boris Johnson has unveiled a raft of new measures that also includes restaurants displaying calorie counts on menus and junk food adverts being banned on TV before 9pm.And GPs will be asked to prescribe cycling to overweight patients following a warning from Public Health England that obese people are at greater risk of hospitalisation and death if they become ill with coronavirus.But experts have accused the government of ignoring the real causes and major factors of obesity – such as poverty and inequality depriving people of healthier choices. They say it is easier to “victim blame” or target advertisers than face the “uncomfortable truth”. Others have blasted officials for launching the obesity campaign while simultaneously trying to coax people into fast food outlets such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Pizza Hut with their “Eat Out To Help Out” discount initiative.Deals like 50% off in McDonalds and Pizza Hut courtesy of the government?I'm confused.You cannot have the cake and fight obesity! pic.twitter.com/4j4nKu4YJa— Jon Matthews (@jonmatthewsuk) July 27, 2020One 36-year-old mum who was forced to rely on food banks after plunging into poverty told HuffPost UK that people struggling financially are less likely to eat healthily as the foods that are the cheapest are not necessarily the healthiest.The Yorkshire mum of a 14-year-old boy explained that even those with the best of intentions are less likely to buy fruit and vegetables and choose a healthy diet if money is an issue.She also admitted that, although she is incredibly grateful for the food she has received from food banks, the food is more likely to be unhealthy as it is usually tinned and processed, while fresh produce is rare.When you’re poor, the choice of eating healthily is taken away from you.“Before we had to rely on food banks, I always cooked meals from scratch and tried to eat healthy and nutritious food,” she said.“But since using food banks – for which we are very grateful – foods high in salt and sugar have become a daily part of our life.“The problem is things like pasta, rice, noodles and tinned food are staples of food banks. But if you are using them in your diet for almost every meal, it is not good long term. “My son had never had spaghetti hoops but this is a regular food given out at food banks. When you’re poor, the choice of eating healthily is taken away from you.”Financial poverty and time poverty are two major factors when it comes to obesity, Luke Billingham, a youth and community worker in Hackney, east London, told HuffPost UK.“It is about being cash poor, time poor and not having access to the same things as more well off people,” he said.“If you are rich, you might be a member of an expensive gym or maybe your company pays for a gym membership. You can afford to go to somewhere like Pret for a fancy £8 salad and you might have the leisure time to buy expensive ingredients and cook nutritious meals from scratch.“But there are plenty of other people who would love to do these things but it takes more time and money than is available to them.“Individual choices made by people is part of the obesity problem, but it is about what is available to people. If they don’t have the money to buy healthy food or are time poor as they are working two jobs and are stressed, they don’t have those same choices.”If you are rich, you might be a member of an expensive gym or maybe your company pays for a gym membership. You can afford to go to somewhere like Pret for a fancy £8 salad.Billingham says while companies that profit from advertising junk food do play a part in obesity, he wants to highlight that this is not the only factor and there are many other reasons the government needs to tackle.But he believes the government is deliberately ignoring many factors as they played a part in creating some of the inequalities that exist.“I think the government has got a myopic view of individual choice,” he said. “People can only make choices in the context of the options and opportunities available to them.“Very little attention is paid to the day-to-day lives of people who are struggling financially.”Billingham also pointed out that youth centres and leisure centres have been closed and school budgets have been cut. This means there are fewer free and easily accessible physical activities for people to engage in.“The places that young people most love are the sports cages on estates – multi-use games areas where they can play basketball and football. Some are well maintained but others are neglected,” he said.“If the government really wants to tackle child obesity, in my view, they would invest in things like these sports cages and in youth workers and community-based sports coaches, and put money into training young people to be sports coaches, too.“But because it is the government who is responsible for removing a lot of these opportunities, it is an uncomfortable truth for them to face and it is convenient for them to blame individuals and advertisers rather than recognising the roles these things play in obesity.”Billingham added that the families of young people he sees struggling with these issues are those who lack money, time and facilities: “It is all about inequality and these three things need to be addressed.”Professor John Ashton, former north west regional director of public health, slammed the government for its “victim blaming” approach to tackling obesity.“The thing about this government is that they do not believe in tackling things from the root cause,” he said. “They are all about blaming it on people’s individual choices.“It is a victim blaming approach by saying: ‘It’s up to you, really,’ and blaming it on what people buy.“They are very reluctant to interfere with the commercial sector because it is easier to focus on and blame the individual. But they need to go further upstream to the production of food and there need to be incentives for things like processing lean meat.”Ashton told HuffPost UK the government measures such as banning junk food adverts until after 9pm are meaningless in his opinion.“A 9pm watershed does not mean anything these days,” he said. “In this modern digital world, children are watching things on their tablets and on playback later on.“They are playing with the advertisers – but they will simply find other ways to promote their foods.”Obesity is a complicated issue and Ashton believes all the different factors need to be examined, not just individual choices, and the crisis needs to be addressed at its root. He says it all stems back to inequality and poverty. “Poorer people end up eating cheaper foods and the fatty stuff, which costs less,” he said.“If you look back to the Second World War when we had rationing, we had some of the most well nourished and healthy people as poor families were getting the same as everyone else.“We had a very healthy generation of pregnant women and babies born during and after the war as poor families who would have been facing starvation were getting the same rations so there was equality.” When we had rationing, we had some of the most well nourished and healthy people as poor families were getting the same as everyone else.Ashton says it is a shortage of time as well as money that is a huge problem for many families today. “In the 1950s, most women did not work,” he said. “But now in many couples, both are working and one of the biggest issues is time shortage and the disappearance of family mealtimes.”He told HuffPost UK education is another powerful weapon against obesity and he believes all children should get a free school meal. “School should be a place where all children should get balanced and nutritious food from a young age and get used to the taste of it as well as being educated about it,” he said.“It is important obesity is tackled from infancy. It is the distortion of taste in childhood to salty and fatty food where you start losing the battle against obesity.”Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, has also criticised the government’s measures to address obesity. It has accused the government of putting the health of people affected by eating disorders at risk with things like calorie labelling and a promoted weight loss app.Andrew Radford, Beat’s chief executive, said: “It is extremely disappointing the government has chosen to put at risk the health of people affected by eating disorders.Without suitable safeguards, what could be useful in helping people with obesity risks harming people with eating disorders.“We recognise the importance of addressing obesity but the risks of stigmatising and poorly considered campaigns on those affected by eating disorders must be taken into account.“In particular, we are concerned that the campaign will encourage people with eating disorders to use the promoted weight loss app which fails to prevent under 18s or people with normal or low-weight from using it, despite it not being suitable for them.“Without suitable safeguards, what could be useful in helping people with obesity risks harming people with eating disorders.“It is also worrying to see a renewed emphasis on measures such as calorie labelling as evidence clearly shows these risk exacerbating eating disorders of all kinds.”The Institute for Fiscal Studies says it is unlikely that extending advertising restrictions would lead to a large reduction in the amount of advertising for unhealthy food and drinks that people actually see.This is because they feel firms could increase their advertising of these products after the watershed or on other types of media.No.10 has denied it is sending out mixed messages by clamping down on “buy one get one free” promotions on unhealthy products while launching Eat Out To Help Out.“The Eat Out To Help Out scheme applies to all restaurants and people will be able to choose a range of healthy options from the menus if they are struggling to lose weight.” the prime minister’s official spokesperson said.“The scheme is aimed at protecting jobs in a sector hit very hard by the coronavirus pandemic.”Related... Firms 'May Cut Sugar, Salt In Food' To Avoid TV Ad And Discounts Ban The Link Between Obesity And Covid-19, Explained 'Eat Out To Help Out' – How To Get 50% Off Food In August
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