By Bev Haigh-Jones
HEAR ALL ABOUT IT! PARTIES – LIES, ENQUIRIES – LIES, INDIGNATION – RESIGNATIONS, ETC. ETC.
Politics – is there anything else in the news these days?So much scope for this month’s edition, but I will start with a sad announcement, the one from Caroline Lucas stating that she is standing down as an MP to focus on environmental issues. She will be sadly missed in Parliament, and also by her constituents, I’m sure.
Unfortunately, there are many in the House of Commons who do not demonstrate the same level of integrity and compassion as people such as Caroline Lucas. Someone else who thinks so is John Claughton, Former Master of Eton College, as he makes his opinion of some of his past pupils quite clear in his letter to The Times.
It seems no matter what, Boris Johnson is never away from the limelight for long. I’m sure that you will all be up to date on his latest antics, but there may be elements, or comments that you may have missed. We all know about the furore surrounding his Resignation Honours List and the accusation that Rishi Sunak had made changes, but you may not be aware that HoLAC [House of Lords Appointments Committee] blocked a further eight of the people on the list. Around the same time Johnson resigned, stating that he had been forced out by a “witch-hunt”, or “kangaroo court” operated by the Select Committee looking into Partygate. Johnson’s resignation was followed closely by that of Tory MPs Nadine Dorries and Nigel Adams, both of whom had expected to receive peerages.
Moving on to Partygate, though still of course focusing on Boris Johnson, the report is now due to be published on Thursday 15 June, with a possible vote in the Commons on Monday 19 June. Much controversy stills surrounds the enquiry, though. Johnson himself has been highly critical of those involved, but other criticisms aimed at Johnson have also been plentiful. Two former Tory MPs, Dominic Grieve and Anna Soubry, both launched scathing attacks on Johnson and his character on Sky News, whilst some of his fellow members tabled an early day motion concerning the funding of his defence. Had he been innocent of charges, presumably his defence would not have needed to be too significant, but, as it was, the legal bill came to around £250k and it was funded by the taxpayer, a fact which did not sit well with those raising the motion.
Now that the Partygate enquiry is almost over, we move on to the Covid Enquiry, which, we are given to understand, could take three years to complete. As with the previous enquiry, controversies have already arisen. Johnson’s lawyers have apparently passed damning information to the enquiry, (a little bit of humour here), mysteriously both Johnson and another key witness had phones which conveniently broke at the critical time, making it difficult to provide relevant WhatsApp evidence, and the government itself seems reluctant to release the information requested by the committee, issuing a legal challenge to the request. In the meantime, accusations regarding suspect PPI contracts are rife, as with this one tweeted by Carol Vorderman. Watch this space – but you will need to be patient.
A final perspective on Boris Johnson (at least for this issue – I promise!) is from a very interesting article in the latest New European. Alastair Campbell writes, “Boris Johnson has only ever been motivated by the interests of Boris Johnson. His teachers at Eton said so. His friends in the Bullingdon Club at Oxford said so. His bosses, staff and colleagues in journalism said so. His colleagues in parliament said so, yet so mesmerised were they by those manipulative skills that they allowed him to rise to the pinnacle of power despite many of them sensing he shouldn’t be allowed near the bottom of the political pile, let alone the top.” The full article is available here, though you may need a subscription.
Unfortunately for him, our current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is not escaping the sharp tongues of the media either. Being accused of wasting public money on embarrassing publicity videos, claiming that the public don’t mind him spending extortionate amounts on private jets and overseeing a quadrupling of the fraud figures is not the look he should be projecting. Justin King on Peston stated that Sunak is not in control of inflation, and despite his assertion that we don’t mind his private air travel, the New European reports, “Both his office and Conservative HQ are declining to comment on a £38,500 air travel gift that Sunak disclosed in the register of members’ interests that Triapathi (Tory donor Akhil Triapathi, Eds) gave him.”
Funding, immigration and the Australian Trade Deal. Staying with politics, but moving away from individuals, we move on to funding. The first revelation, which hopefully will be considered by the Covid Enquiry, is the disparity of school funding during the pandemic. According to openDemocracy, private schools were provided with millions in loans while state schools were excluded from applying. Perhaps even more shocking comes the statement from The Samaritans regarding reductions/removal of funding for suicide prevention. It seems that funding has already been stopped in some of the highest suicide areas and will stop completely by 2024. Finally on this subject, another New European article by an anonymous doctor highlights the plight of the elderly care system.
The controversial subject of immigration is never far from the news, but many of the claims from the government do not seem to be backed up by fact. Take this tweet from Suella Braverman concerning the barring the dependants of the majority of foreign students from joining them in the UK, for example, which has drawn criticism from many including the Chair of the European Movement, Mike Galsworthy, and Jo Grady, the general secretary of the University and College Union, said the proposals were “a vindictive move” and “deeply shameful”. A full explanation from the Guardian here.
Now for another recurring topic – the Australian/UK trade deal. (Sorry, but Boris Johnson gets mentioned again here after all.) As the trade deal comes into force, Politico have an article explaining how it came to fruition and how our farmers were sold out by our former PM, which is concerning enough, but the clip from Australian TV presenters discussing the subject should make us all cringe and be angry.
Brexit is up next and as usual plenty to report. Firstly, Financial Post tells us that a report by LSE cites Brexit as being responsible for one third of price rises. Are we surprised? Jon Danzig covers this well in his Facebook post and this was just one of the disastrous effects discussed by Dr Mike Galsworthy during his interview with Jack Peat of the London Economic recently. On the other side of the import/export scene, we also hear that the UK’s fruit exports to the EU have dropped by more than fifty percent! It isn’t just physical supplies that are suffering either, the City has been severely impacted by our disastrous decision to leave the EU. Quite how anyone can now fail to see the damage that has been caused to our country is difficult to comprehend. It isn’t just Nigel Farage admitting that Brexit has failed, the London Economic tells us that “New polling published in The Times shows 37 per cent of Leave voters think Brexit has been more of a failure compared to 35 per cent who are on the fence and just 20 per cent who think it has been more of a success.”
As for the EU, we still have many friends there. Guy Verhofstadt has been following the change in opinion of the UK voters and is always supportive of our interests and on a very positive note, Michel Barnier told the Independent recently that the UK can rejoin the EU any time – “The door is open any time. I always say that during the negotiation and after negotiation, the door remains open.” Full article here.
Latest from Cornwall. Beginning with a subject that has been causing much anger for a long time now, the sewage problem has far from receded. Yes, the water companies have now stated that they will spend money to “improve” their networks, but, as we know, they are planning that this will be our money and, in the meantime, the impact on Cornwall has been significant. As reported in the Guardian and acknowledged by Baroness Jenny Jones when she visited one of the affected businesses last week, the Cornish shellfish industry is being decimated. Despite this, most of the water companies have announced increases in the dividends that it will pay their shareholders, but I can’t help thinking that some compensation for businesses that have suffered as a result of their negligence might be more appropriate.
Still on the subject of water, though in this case the cleaner sort, the recent long spell of hot weather is leading to serious reductions in available water supplies for Cornwall. Lovely as this weather is for many, it could be leading to critical shortages particularly once the main holiday season gets into full swing.
It was with sadness that we heard of the apparently heartless and ruthless decision by Cornwall Council to evict Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre from their Newquay Airport base recently. Despite a petition signed by 40,000 people the council pushed ahead with the eviction and failed to offer an alternative site, even though suitable areas were apparently available. This is a sad loss for Cornwall, for locals, for visitors and for all the volunteers who gave their time to the project. To use a phrase from Jane Austen, this was “badly done”, Cornwall Council.
Last but not least, Cornwall, like many other areas in the UK, is suffering from a housing crisis. You might think that there would, therefore, be quite a significant number of staff in the council focusing on this problem, especially as they claim it as their number one priority, but it seems that you would be wrong. According to an article by Julia Penhaligon in Cornwall Reports which was shared on Facebook by Pam Otto, Cornwall Council do not even currently have a housing department. Make of that what you will!