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What the French think…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 30/11/2021 - 8:40am in

MarionVan Renterghem is a French journalist who works for L’Express, which is, I’d suggest, not a radical, but simply a soft right weekly in France. But (below – in French) she calls Johnson a liar and someone with whom Macron cannot get on with. (She criticises Macron ‘en passant’) but suggests Johnson renders proper Franco-British... Read more

Taking back ‘our’ borders

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 27/11/2021 - 2:17am in

So diplomatically skilled is Boris Johnson in writing his letter to President Macron which he seems to have tweeted first rather than actually sending it first, that Gerard Darmanin, France’s Home Affairs minister, quickly uninvited his UK counterpart, in spite of her recently discovered empathy for immigrants. Neither Johnson nor Patel much appeal to the... Read more

Shots at redemption, or cartoons in a cartoon graveyard?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 26/11/2021 - 2:02am in

Source: Stefan Ray/Flickr

Both Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer chose to address the Confederation of British Industry conference this week. But far more interesting than the party leaders’ paeans to profit or to Peppa Pig were the comments made the same day by the CBI’s new Director General, Tony Danker. Greeted with pearl-clutching in the Daily Mail, rentagob Tory backbenchers providing the copy, Danker has taken careful aim at forty years’ worth of neoliberal economic policy in Britain, specifically calling out the loss of manufacturing jobs under successive governments. And although reported as an attack on Thatcher, Danker picked his words more carefully: “Since the 1980s, we let old industries die… We have spent the past decades living with these consequences.”

It’s not something Labour like to talk about, but if deindustiralisation under Thatcher is notorious today – informing, still, how much of the North of England is perceived – its second round, under New Labour, was also far-reaching.

Source: ONS

Between 1979, when Thatcher entered office, and 1990, when she left, employment in manufacturing fell by 1.8m. But then between 1997, when Labour’s Tony Blair became Prime Minister and Gordon Brown’s exit from No.10 in May 2010, manufacturing employment fell by 1.7m.

The only periods of sustained increase in manufacturing employment occurred under Conservative Prime Ministers: rather weakly, rising around 200,000 in the nine years from 2010 to 2019; and then more dramatically under John Major, rising 190,000 in just four years from 1993 to 1997.


The big picture here is well-known: deindustrialisation from the late 1960s onwards was common to the developed world, with major industries, from coal mining to car manufacture, shaking out jobs on a huge scale. Thatcher’s destruction of industrial employment was more dramatic than elsewhere, but not completely out of line with the general experience. The second wave of deindustrialisation in the West, apparent from the mid-1990s onwards but accelerating from the 2000s, then helps account for the loss of jobs under New Labour.

An overvalued pound – itself the symptom of government monetary policy – is common to both experiences, with recovery in employment being particularly tied, in the 1990s, to the crash in the value of the pound following Britain’s exit from the Exchange Rate Mechanism.

Of course, under New Labour these lost manufacturing jobs were (in effect) replaced with service sector employment, in both the public and private sectors. Overall employment remained high until the Great Financial Crisis, in striking contrast to the searing rises in unemployment under Thatcher. But the swap of typically better-paid, more secure manufacturing work for typically lower-paid, less secure (private) service sector work was keenly felt and, despite some efforts at geographic redistribution under Labour – whether directly via the old Regional Development Authorities or indirectly via public sector employment – the relative weakening of economies outside of London and the South East became all too apparent once the boom of the 2000s ended.

For the entire period, however, until the last few years, the general direction from government has been consistent: that government itself should, as far as possible, “just get out of the way”. At most, it could compensate for “market failures” in the provision of some essentials – basic infrastructure, say, or education. Labour was more expansive in its spending; the Conservatives, and the Conservative-led Coalition from 2010-15, rather less. When Gordon Brown, as Chancellor the Exchequer, told the CBI conference in 2005 he wanted business regulation to be “not just a light touch but a limited touch”, he was simply repeating the neoliberal commonsense of the time – and no doubt his audience would have nodded along with it.

The contrast with Danker’s argument could not be clearer. Noting the “shot of redemption” new industries give to deindustrialised regions, here he is on making “levelling up” work:

This might be a new line from the head of the CBI, but simply saying the market will fix this is simply not good enough. There are free marketeers in the debate who say government should never play an active role like this. But I don’t know a country in the world – including, and especially, the United States – where governments aren’t active in economic geography.

If we go back far enough we can find heads of the CBI disagreeing with Margaret Thatcher during the early years of neoliberalism. In spring 1981, its then-Director General promised a “bare-knuckle fight” with government over their economic policy. The larger companies the CBI represented were in some “panic” from the 1980 onwards about the impact of mass unemployment and industrial recession on their own profits. Thatcher, for her part, tended to view the CBI at the time as corporatist dinosaurs – bureaucratic managers as responsible for Britain’s presumed decline as the over-mighty trade unions. But for much of the last three decades the CBI has been a reliable defender of the free market doctrine.

It’s a sign of the turn against the neoliberal rules of the game – apparent since the financial crisis, accelerating as the pandemic erupted – that the CBI’s director today will make such a pointed criticism of them, and of how they have failed the last four decades. Would that either main party leader had the same confidence.

The post Shots at redemption, or cartoons in a cartoon graveyard? appeared first on The Progressive Economy Forum.

As Sewage Discharge Doubles, Conservative MPs Represent More than Half of the UK’s Most Polluted Waters

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 25/11/2021 - 11:01am in

As Sewage Discharge DoublesConservative MPs Represent More than Half of the UK’s Most Polluted Waters

A new report which shows an 87.6% increase in sewage notifications since last October also reveals the pollution of Britain’s rivers and seas is disproportionately affecting Conservative-voting seats


More than half of the most polluted waters in the UK are represented by Conservative MPs who voted down an amendment to the environment bill that would have placed a legal duty on water companies not to pump sewage waste into rivers.

The amendment was initially rejected in Parliament last month after only 22 Conservatives rebelled after the environment secretary, George Eustice, recommended the party’s MPs vote against it. 

The angry backlash from constituents took some Conservative MPs by surprise and prompted an embarrassing Government U-turn. A compromise to the bill followed that subsequently secured the backing of Conservative rebels.

But Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), part of a coalition of clean water campaigners that had pushed for the amendment, said the compromise was still too weak and did not impose a legal duty on water companies to stop releasing raw sewage into waterways.

The Government maintains that the bill will bring about reductions. In 2020, water companies released raw sewage into rivers more than 400,000 times over a total of 3.1m hours, according to the Environment Agency (EA). 

New research by SAS, published today, details the number of sewer overflow discharge notifications issued over the 12-month period from 1 October 2020 to 30 September 2021, using data accessed from water companies via SAS’ Safer Seas & Rivers Service (SSRS). 

More than 5,500 sewage discharge notifications were issued by water companies over this period, an increase of 87.6%. Of these alerts, 3,328 were issued during the bathing season between May and September.

The report notes that while sewer overflows can be an important part of the safe management of sewage systems in exceptional circumstances, increasing instances of discharge notifications are being issued at times many would consider extreme under normal conditions.

SAS said the actual figures are likely to be much higher as data is only available for coastal waters and some companies only provide updates during the bathing season. 

Worst Affected Constituencies

The report identifies 37 locations across the country that are either the worst affected by sewage discharges or featured the most health reports by location, measured by the number of users being ill after entering the water.

Evidence collected by SAS found one in six days have been rendered “unswimmable” due to sewage pollution during the official bathing season alone, and one in three reports of sickness after bathing were connected to pollution events.

In addition, six out of eight rivers tested by SAS had elevated E. coli levels and pose a continuous serious risk to human health. The UK currently has just one designated river bathing water. 

Using constituency data provided by Maproom, Byline Times was able to plot the 37 worst affected areas across just 27 constituencies. Of those, 16 MPs voted with the Government during last month’s sewage vote, six voted against and five didn’t vote. 

Two of those areas, Porthtowan and Gwithian Towens, are in environment minister George Eustice’s constituency of Camborne and Redruth. He did not respond to a request for comment. 

Poldhu Cove is a west-facing sandy beach in West Cornwall and St Ives represented by Conservative MP Derek Thomas. It ranks amongst the top 20 locations for poor health reports. He originally voted against the Government. 

But in response to SAS’ latest report, Thomas praised his colleagues for securing what he described as a “world-leading and ambitious” Environment Act that “went even further to include a legally-binding requirement for water companies to cut the amount of foul water entering our waterways and seas”.

Labour MP and Shadow Environment Minister Luke Pollard, who voted along party lines against the Government, did not think the act went far enough. A keen wild swimmer in his Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport constituency, he told Byline Times he wasn’t surprised to hear that sewage discharges had increased.

He said: “The compromise amendment that was passed was not strong enough and doesn’t give companies a timetable to invest and update the sewage system against. It will do something but nowhere near what is needed.”



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Pollard said the fact it takes on average five years for the EA to administer fines is a reflection of a lack of resources and called for a “hike in fines” for water companies. “The government has not required these companies to invest in the system which is why we have this sewage scandal,” he added. 

The EA welcomed the latest SAS report. “We have been increasing the transparency and monitoring of sewage spills in order to tackle it more effectively and drive the improvements that we all want to see,” said a spokesperson.

“Monitoring has increased 14-fold over the last five years and for the first time this year, we published data on the frequency and duration of all sewage spills across the country.”

“While 93% of bathing waters are classed as good or excellent – up from 28% in the 1990s – there is clearly much more to do and we continue to work with all those who want to be a part of the solution.”

The Biggest Culprits

Water companies are currently under investigation by financial and environmental watchdogs the Environment Agency and Ofwat after they admitted they may have illegally released untreated sewage into rivers and waterways.

According to the report, Southern Water, followed by South West and Wessex Water saw the largest year-on-year increases for sewage discharges but Southern was by far the biggest culprit.

Over the course of the bathing season alone a total of 1,949 sewage discharge notifications were issued by the company and almost 30% of the 286 health reports submitted this year came from the company’s operating area.

Southern said it knows its performance has to improve and has committed to spending £2 billion to cut pollution incidents by 80 per cent by 2025. Industry trade body Water UK said companies recognise the urgent need for action to protect and enhance the UK’s rivers and seas but this must be done in collaboration between industry, government, regulators and other stakeholders.

Hugo Tagholm, chief executive of SAS, said concern has so far failed to turn into action and the loopholes in the law and systematically defunded regulators had let water companies run amok.

“The fact is, water companies continue to increase profits whilst causing catastrophic damage to river and coastal ecosystems, with limited consequence,” he said. “Instead, eyewatering sums of money are paid out in dividends to investors and huge pay packets are enjoyed by CEOs.”




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Asylum seekers – who wants them? We do!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 25/11/2021 - 9:13am in

We learn this evening that, very sadly, thirty one people have died in trying to cross the Channel. Amid all the guff from the Tories about how it is an indication of these people all being rich and paying smugglers, it seems to me we have to take on board various points: That well-known Conservative... Read more

Out Of Control Brexit Britain Can Still Be Steered Clear of Chaos

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 24/11/2021 - 12:48am in

Out Of Control Brexit Britain Can Still Be Steered Clear of Chaos

In an article first published in the October print edition of Byline Times, Chris Grey explores how continuing dishonesty around the entire Brexit project is resulting in continuing incompetence from the Government when it comes to dealing with its impact


The genius of the Vote Leave campaign was to convincingly propose that Brexit would be cost-free and to demonise all claims to the contrary as ‘Project Fear’. It was certainly never sold as ‘Brexit at any cost’ or as something to be endured rather than enjoyed.

In fact, since the day after the 2016 Referendum result, the costs have been stacking up, often in the invisible form of growth foregone or investments not made. They are also being paid by just about every business sector in new trading and regulatory requirements, but the details of that are mainly only known to insiders in particular industries rather than being obvious as a big picture to the general public. 

Thus, it has only really been since the end of the Brexit transition period that there have been visible signs of the huge structural transformation that Britain is undergoing. 

Rotting fish and unharvested crops were early examples but, now, with sustained shortages in shops and, especially, long queues for petrol, there is something like a Brexit crisis beginning. Although the current fuel disruption will probably ease as people fill their tanks, in the absence of a sustainable solution to the driver shortage, it is always liable to recur. Meanwhile, the normal winter spike in demand for EU fresh produce will exacerbate food shortages.

Of course, the causes and effects are very complex, and many other factors – including most obviously the Coronavirus pandemic – are in play.

Brexiters are quick to point these out and, in doing so, easily slip from correctly saying that Brexit is not the only cause to falsely implying that this means it can be entirely discounted. The key point is that, while many countries may be experiencing similar problems, in Britain, uniquely, there is the additional and self-chosen burden of Brexit, which is why it is only here that we see panic buying of petrol, for example.

Some of that burden is inherent to Brexit itself, but the extent of it is also to do with the hard form of Brexit Boris Johnson’s Government chose. Then, within that, it is to do with the incompetence with which that form was implemented. 

Paradox of VictimhoodNo Form of Brexit WillEver Satisfy Brexit Ultras
Chris Grey

Here, the architects of Brexit were prisoners of their own propaganda about its costlessness. The consequence was that, even assuming Brexit was a desirable thing, far too little planning and preparation was undertaken, because doing so would have entailed admitting the costs that were denied. 

Instead, Brexiters, including Johnson, persisted with the fantasy that there was some magical form of trade deal whereby the UK could ‘have its cake and eat it’. Indeed, even as he signed the deal with the EU which allowed anything but that, the Prime Minister claimed to have confounded his critics by negotiating such a ‘cakeist’ agreement.

This is why now, for instance, we are in the ludicrous situation where the EU was ready to implement controls on imports from the UK at the end of the transition period, whereas the UK has yet again delayed introducing full controls on imports from the EU. But the need for such controls was apparent from the moment, in January 2017, that Theresa May announced that Brexit would mean leaving both the customs union and the single market.

Since such things were still dismissed by Brexiters as Project Fear, little if anything was done to prepare. Even by July 2020, with the pandemic raging, when the UK still had the option to extend the transition period to give it more time to get ready, blind ideology trumped pragmatism and the chance was squandered. 

Similarly, the logistics and haulage industries have been warning for years about how Brexit would affect them, but were dismissed as doom-mongers. Even now as those warnings have been proved true, there are anonymous ministerial briefings about ‘diehard Remainers’ being responsible for stoking panic.

Meanwhile, it is already clear that the belated and grudging offer of temporary visas for HGV drivers is an entirely inadequate response to the magnitude of the problem created by ending freedom of movement even in the haulage industry, let alone all of the other sectors, such as social care, which face desperate staff shortages.

The dishonesty with which Brexit was proposed continues to contribute to the incompetence with which it is being delivered. This intertwines with Johnson’s reckless drive to ‘get Brexit done’, without regard for what he was agreeing to. That is most obvious with the Northern Ireland Protocol, which he proclaimed to be a huge triumph of his negotiation because it removed May’s ‘backstop’. But it did so by creating an Irish Sea border, which from the outset he denied and which he now says is totally unacceptable. Yet, he and his MPs campaigned on it as a great ‘oven-ready deal’, voted for it in Parliament, and signed up to it in a binding international treaty.

Dishonesty and recklessness can work as political tactics for a while, but eventually reality catches up and this is what we are now witnessing in the economic crisis over supplies and the political crisis over Northern Ireland. 

It is impossible to turn the clock back, and there is little point in anyone saying ‘we told you so’. But we – collectively, as a country – do need to understand what has created this situation if we are to begin to mend it. Central to doing so is to start being honest about the rising costs of Brexit and to identify what needs to be done to reduce them. 

That does not mean re-joining the EU, which would be unacceptable to both the UK and the EU, at least until such a time as there is large, sustained, and genuinely enthusiastic support for that in the UK. But it could mean recognising that increased customs costs due to not having a UK-EU customs union far outweigh the benefits of the independent trade policy which having no customs union allows. That has always been true, and is all the more obvious now that it is clear that there is no UK-US trade deal in prospect. Along with aligning on food and related standards, this would also go a long way to addressing the Northern Ireland situation, rather than persisting with former Brexit chief negotiator David Frost’s aggressive and, worse, unrealistic blustering. 

It could also mean seeking single market membership via the European Free Trade Association – something like the ‘Norway’ Brexit that, for so long, we were told would be desirable. That would do much to remove the ludicrous regulatory hurdles UK businesses are now facing, for example in having to use the UKCA standard mark to sell products here and the CE mark to sell identical products in the EU.

Subverting the‘Will of the People’How Brexit Sowed the Wind
Chris Grey

This is another change that has been postponed because of a lack of readiness, and one which also illustrates the hidden costs of Brexit that are ramping up beneath the headline stories of shortages.

These choices were available to us after the Referendum and were not taken – a big reason being that single market membership entails freedom of movement of people.

But we have already begun to see how vital that is for Britain and this is going to continue, if only because the age profile of the British population means that, even if wages and work conditions massively improve, there simply aren’t enough people of working age here. It just wasn’t true that British people were ‘having their jobs taken’ by EU workers. We’ve also begun to see what has been lost to British people who want to work, study or retire on the continent. Despite the claims of some Brexiters, these things have not simply continued regardless of Brexit.

The key point is that we are not forever bound by those choices, made as they were in a highly toxic and impassioned political atmosphere. As in our personal lives, it is perfectly possible and sometimes wise to admit that mistakes have been made, to learn from them, and to put them right. Doing so would not be cost-free either and involves eating a certain amount of humble pie as a nation, just as, in our private lives, it can be hard to put things back on track after making a bad decision. But it would be a very harsh world in which people were not allowed to try to do so, and an absurd political world in which countries forbade themselves from doing this.

Of course, the biggest obstacle to this is the hardcore Brexiters. But they have had their chance. They promised that Brexit would be costless and we now know for a fact that it is not. The result of the Referendum has been fully honoured: the UK has left the EU and we certainly won’t be re-joining again without another referendum. 

So now we are fully entitled to make the best of what being out of the EU means rather than clinging with ideological dogmatism to that particular version which, between them, May and Johnson delivered. We are not prisoners of those decisions regardless of the crisis they are now creating. We can, to quote a phrase, take back control.




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The post Out Of Control Brexit Britain Can Still Be Steered Clear of Chaos appeared first on Byline Times.

The Disaster that Dare Not Speak Its Name

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/11/2021 - 8:48pm in

The Disaster That Dare Not Speak Its Name

From the October print edition of Byline Times, Jonathan Lis explains how Brexit has distorted British politics to such an extent that its untruths will now keep everyone trapped in its chaos


Britain’s voters have witnessed more turbulence and mismanagement in the past five years than in the preceding 70, but it is sometimes only possible to focus on one thing at a time.

A few weeks ago, it was a shortage of essential goods in supermarkets and blood-testing vials in the NHS. Then it was rocketing gas prices. Then a fuel crisis that saw motorists queue for hours for petrol, if they could secure any at all.

Of course there has been a pandemic and pressure on global supply chains. And yet, the rest of the world is not experiencing this level of instability. The root cause is something unique to Britain – something we knew about and consciously enacted: Brexit.

A Succession of Failures

The reasons for the chaos are, by now, well rehearsed. 

A shortage of essential workers has placed critical pressure on services. Many of the EU migrants who kept the British economy afloat have gone, both because of Brexit and the Coronavirus crisis, and for some reason now prefer to remain in countries that grant them better working conditions and accord them the full rights of citizens. The UK’s offer of 5,000 temporary visas for HGV drivers simply highlights the UK’s treatment of migrants as a resource to be exploited and then dispatched. 

But the trouble around us is, curiously, not being balanced out by any discernible benefits. The only demonstrable Brexit ‘win’ so far has been the tentative announcement of a trade deal with Australia – yet to be finalised – and which would add under a tenth of 1% to the UK’s economy.

The country is injured enough not to need insult, but recent weeks delivered a further blow. On his trip to the US, the Prime Minister conceded that a trade deal with America would not, after all, be imminent. Ministers freely concede that such a deal will not happen in President Joe Biden’s first term and few expect it to take place any time soon after that. This is not just a matter of the UK’s weak global position and leverage when negotiating with larger partners. It is not even about the tiny advantages of a US deal (0.2% added to the UK’s GDP by the Government’s own estimates) compared to the loss from leaving the EU (5%). It is that a US deal was trailed as Brexit’s great prize: a like-for-like replacement for the EU and the sign of Britain’s buccaneering entrance to freedom. Now, at the moment of truth, the Brexiters shrug and say that it doesn’t even matter.

Britain appears doomed to endure a succession of economic convulsions – not through involuntary global movements, but by a direct failure to tell the truth

Old problems, too, have not gone away. The fishing industry has called for the Government to renegotiate its EU deal in order to improve quotas and market access; while the agricultural sector, still reeling from new veterinary checks, is bracing itself to be undercut by producers in Australia and New Zealand. In the meantime, a post-Brexit lack of butchers threatens an imminent and unprecedented cull of 150,000 healthy pigs.

And more trouble is brewing. Reports indicate that the Government is now certain to trigger article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, upending its already fraught relationship with the EU and discarding the last crumbs of trust. It will prove yet another exercise in futility. Not only is article 16 designed to provide temporary relief for mediation, rather than an emergency exit from obligations, but the move will trigger a package of retaliatory measures from the EU – all the while further destabilising the political equilibrium in Northern Ireland. Its only purpose seems to be to provide nationalist red meat to the British tabloids and distract the public from Brexit’s failures. It is unlikely that the sense of triumph will last long. In the end, the Government is likely to be humiliated into another climbdown, because it is not strong enough to prevent it.

The Impossible Problem

The fundamental issue is, in effect, unchanged from 2016: Brexit cannot present opportunities that do not exist and the Government cannot invent benefits it does not have. 

No number of slogans or press releases about ‘Global Britain’ or ‘taking back control’ can eliminate new trade barriers, bureaucracy, or costs to business and consumers. No amount of boosterism from Boris Johnson can replace the EU workforce that has left, or magic up Britons to replace them. Nor will it trump the evidence of people’s eyes and ears. The public will see for themselves whether essentials are getting more or less plentiful and whether goods and services are getting more or less expensive; whether, in short, life is getting easier or harder.

But here lies the main challenge. In contrast to the world’s seemingly insurmountable problems, the economic catastrophe of Brexit would be relatively easy to resolve. The UK could quite smoothly negotiate membership of the EU’s single market, provided it was willing to join the European Free Trade Association, harmonise regulations, and accept the free movement of people. But it cannot. Like Theresa May before him, Johnson will not countenance any move to participate in the single market, because he places ideology above the economy. In practical terms, he and his ministers refuse even to acknowledge the single market’s existence.

The moment we begin a conversation about solving the problem we have to identify what the problem actually is. In the current political climate, that is unacceptable. According to the Government’s narrative, Brexit has happened successfully and is now ‘done’ – except in Northern Ireland, where it must be overturned – and other than that it must scarcely be mentioned.

Temporary fixes, such as short-term visas, can only skirt around the problem, because they fail to address what has actually happened. A departure from the single market necessitated permanent trade barriers with our largest partner and neighbour, and a permanent problem cannot be mitigated by answers which are both temporary and inadequate. Consequently, Britain appears doomed to endure a succession of economic convulsions – not through involuntary global movements, but by a direct failure to tell the truth.


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The Government cannot be honest about why we are facing economic difficulty or about the trade-offs of sovereignty. Ministers emphasise the importance of other factors, such as the Coronavirus, and of course that is an important consideration. But the pandemic makes the Government’s position even less defensible. Downing Street knew about the crisis last year and, against every piece of expert advice, pursued a hard Brexit to the original timetable. Indeed, it rebuffed every EU offer to extend the Brexit transition period, even though the EU was ready and the UK was not. In other words, the Government saw the disaster that was coming and deliberately chose to aggravate it.

Brexit’s cheerleaders are divided about how to proceed. Some, like the Government, deny the importance of Brexit. Others, like Nigel Farage on GB News, pretend that the crisis is Europe-wide. For the most part, a right-wing media which would gleefully report on trouble elsewhere remains silent, and resolutely fails to attack the Government for the policies which have brought chaos here. The Labour Party also cannot land any kind of attack because it, too, appears to have joined the conspiracy. Although Keir Starmer has begun, tentatively, to discuss Brexit, he cannot bring himself to acknowledge the disaster of leaving the single market or call to rejoin it. Labour’s calculation seems to be that basic economic pragmatism carries too great a political risk; the Opposition cannot offer to help the electorate in case it offends them.

Telling the Truth

The truth is that Brexit has infantilised British discourse and the British people. Political leaders refuse to tell voters what has happened and why for fear of upsetting or disappointing them. The Conservatives gaslight voters and Labour is scared of them.

Brexit is, in effect, the disease that dare not speak its name: its effects are toxifying the body politic but no doctor is brave enough to diagnose it. As a result, the Government cannot be held to account and the illness must simply spread.

This is not about relitigating the past or arguing about whether or not Brexit should have happened. It has. But someone in power now needs the courage to admit what it meant so that we can be honest about the cure.




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The post The Disaster that Dare Not Speak Its Name appeared first on Byline Times.

Only Nine Applications for UK Fuel Tanker HGV Scheme

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/11/2021 - 4:29am in

Only Nine ApplicationsFor UK Fuel Tanker HGV Scheme

A flagship Government scheme to deal with fuel shortages received only a handful of applications, Sam Bright reveals


Haulage companies only applied for nine people to join a UK Government scheme designed to boost the number of fuel tanker drivers, Byline Times can reveal.

The Government launched the scheme in early October, amid a shortage of fuel in the UK, encouraging 300 EU drivers without a visa to enter the country. However, a recent written parliamentary question shows that only nine applications were made under the scheme, just 3% of the total.

The scheme contained a number of criteria: the drivers needed an EU licence to drive HGV fuel tankers, alongside a commitment not to claim benefits, an intention to leave the UK after the expiry of the scheme, and an endorsement letter from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Ultimately, due to low demand, only nine endorsement letters were sent by the department.

Byline Times understands from individuals in the haulage industry that many drivers have been put off by the Government’s stringent requirements for EU drivers. Notably, the drivers are only allowed to remain in the country until the end of March. Driving a fuel tanker is a highly specialised occupation, and there is a shortage of HGV drivers in Europe – too many jobs and too few drivers. Therefore, industry figures believe the UK Government offered few incentives for foreign drivers to make the leap to the UK.



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“This is a global problem and we have been working closely with industry for months to understand how we can boost recruitment. All hauliers are putting in place strategies to fill their vacancies and ensure that they are recruiting new talent into the sector,” a BEIS spokesperson said.

The Government has announced a number of visa schemes, designed to boost the number of HGV drivers in the country – not just those transporting fuel. Overall, the UK has made 4,700 temporary visas available to HGV drivers, which will expire early in 2022. This is alongside 5,500 visas for poultry workers, and 800 for pork butchers.

However, Byline Times understands that the Government has so far been unwilling to share information with industry bodies on the success of the schemes, after their launch in early October. Strangely, Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously claimed that 127 applications had been made to the tanker driver scheme – rather than just nine.

Either way, the Government’s proposed solutions seem insufficient to deal with the scale of the problem. Speaking to CNN, British Chambers of Commerce President Ruby McGregor-Smith likened the Government’s temporary visa schemes to “throwing a thimble of water on a bonfire”.

“Badly planned, completely ineffective and only needed to clean up their own mess, this scheme was the perfect microcosm of how this Government does business,” Naomi Smith, chief executive of the campaign group Best for Britain, told Byline Times. “After years of fostering a hostile environment for overseas workers, the Government should not be surprised that foreign HGV drivers are not tripping over themselves to return to the UK.”

Indeed, the Road Haulage Association has estimated that there is a shortage of 100,000 HGV drivers in the UK, which has increased from 60,000 following the UK’s official departure from the EU in 2020 and the Coronavirus pandemic. There were 16,000 fewer EU nationals working as HGV drivers in the year ending March 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), compared to previous years.

This shortage of drivers has naturally affected the goods that they transport. In late September and early October, warnings of temporary petrol shortages caused a rush in demand for fuel, leading to days of extended queues and the closure of some stations. A survey of Petrol Retail Association members in late September suggested that 40% of forecourts had run out of fuel.

These shortages have also translated to supermarket shelves, with an HGV driver shortage combined with a chronic deficit of fruit pickers. The Government was forced to scrap its ‘Pick for Britain’ scheme in April, which attempted to attract more British fruit pickers, after a lack of interest. Some fruit farmers say that they have virtually no workers left after vast numbers of EU nationals decided to leave the country – spurred by Brexit and the pandemic.

Byline Times last week revealed that the UK has seen a reduction in exports to our top European trading partners equivalent to £515 million a week, following the onset of a new trading relationship with the EU.

So far, the Government seems entirely unable to quell the worst excesses of Brexit, despite promising that it will revive the domestic economy.




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The Vote Leave Regime Knows Our Election System Can Be Corrupted – So Won’t Do Anything to Change It

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 11/11/2021 - 10:00pm in

The Vote Leave Regime Knows Our Election System Can Be CorruptedSo Won’t Do Anything to Change It

Former Labour MP Ian Lucas – author of the forthcoming book Digital Gangsters – says Downing Street knows that British politics is broken but has a stake in preserving this system


In the aftermath of the 2016 EU Referendum, in July 2017, a leading political figure was concerned about the UK’s elections laws. “Overall, it is clear that the entire regulatory structure around national elections including data is really bad,” they said.

“There are so many contradictions, gaps, logical lacunae that it is wide open to abuse… There has been no proper audit by anybody of how the rules could be exploited by an internal or foreign force to swing close elections. These problems were not fixed for the 2017 election and I doubt they will be imminently… The system cannot cope with the fast changing technology.”

These were the words of Dominic Cummings, the architect of Vote Leave’s victory in 2016 and the man who would once again brutally exploit these democratic holes in 2019.

Indeed, after he was appointed as the Prime Minister’s chief aide in July 2019, Cummings took no steps to address the deficiencies that he had previously highlighted.

In July 2018, the Electoral Commission watchdog found that Vote Leave had broken electoral law. The campaign broke spending limits imposed by Parliament to ensure a fair referendum by colluding with another organisation, thereby exceeding the spending limit by £449,079 – a huge amount of money in any political campaign. At that time, the Information Commissioner was also carrying out an inquiry into the use of data by Vote Leave.

DIGITAL GANGSTERSThe new book from former Labour MP Ian Lucas, lifting the lid on how data and electoral corruption warped democracy with Brexit and beyond…

Out this winter through Byline Books: CLICK HERE to get your copy

When Cummings was appointed to Downing Street by new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, working alongside their Vote Leave ally Michael Gove – who was put in charge of elections – these three players were in an ideal position to remedy the “really bad” regulatory structures ahead of the 2019 General Election. But they did not.

The Government took no action to remedy elections regulations, ignoring recommendations from the Electoral Commission, the Information Commissioner and the Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, of which I was then a member.

At every turn, Johnson, Gove and Cummings – now the ‘Vote Leave Government’ – frustrated my efforts in the autumn of 2019 to require them to give evidence to the DCMS Committee and to fully disclose their personal knowledge of the Vote Leave’s unlawful actions.

It seemed as though they wanted to ensure that the UK’s existing electoral laws – the ones which underwrote the 2016 referendum – remained in place for the next general election.

But on the DCMS Committee, we had uncovered evidence that the Vote Leave campaign had micro-targeted individual voters using vast amounts of data gathered on social media during the course of the referendum. According to Cummings himself, Vote Leave deployed these adverts en masse in the “final crucial five days” of the campaign, in order to swing the vote.

Johnson, Gove, CummingsThe Trio Behind a Law-Breaking CampaignObstructing Further Investigation– What are they Hiding?
Ian Lucas MP

After the 2019 General Election – in which I stood down as the Labour MP for Wrexham – the new Government introduced an Elections Bill. This should have been a vehicle to address the widely accepted deficiencies in electoral law highlighted following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It is, instead, a partisan set of proposals which fails to address the obvious problems that Cummings describes. Notably, it seeks to reduce the powers of the independent Electoral Commission which exposed the unlawful activity of Vote Leave.

This story is, of course, part of a pattern. Since 2016, Boris Johnson has acted repeatedly to subvert fair play and the rule of law: the deceptions of the EU referendum; his unlawful prorogation of Parliament in 2019; failing to disclose the Russia Report prior to the 2019 General Election; breaking international treaties; and once again misleading the electorate by negotiating an ‘oven-ready’ Brexit deal which he then attacked and rejected.

Throughout all of these scandals, Johnson and his Vote Leave cabal have prospered – because the system is fatally flawed.

Against this backdrop, it is no surprise that Johnson sought to overrule an independent finding of “egregious” lobbying levied against one of his MPs and to rip up the entire House of Commons disciplinary system – again for partisan advantage.

Boris Johnson sees the law on corruption – financial as well as electoral – as a barrier to his unfettered exercise of power. He always has and he always will. If we are to restore our country’s reputation, the system must undergo radical, fundamental change.

Ian Lucas was the Labour MP for Wrexham from 2001 to 2019. His book ‘Digital Gangsters’ will be published by Byline Books in 2022




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11 Players Who Have Made a Difference Off the Football Field

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 10/11/2021 - 8:30pm in

11 Players Who HaveMade a Difference Off the Football Field

As Marcus Rashford is honoured with an MBE for his work campaigning to end food poverty for children, Nathan O’Hagan selects his team of football heroes, past and present, who have influenced the world of politics


There has been much popular debate in recent months about the role of football in promoting social justice causes – prompted largely by the decision of Premier League players, and the England team, to take the knee before games in a stand against racism.

In this spirit follow 11 footballers, past and present, who have led the way in campaigning for a more just form of politics.

Goalkeeper: Neville Southall

There’s only one choice between the sticks. The Everton and Wales legend is a perfect example of what can happen when a straight, white middle-aged male opens his heart and mind to the experiences of others.

In recent years Southall has used social media to reach out to many people – the trans community in particular – to understand their experiences, moving from someone who was simply curious to a prominent advocate and ally. Since then, he has taken part in regular Twitter takeovers, allowing sex workers, mental health advocates, addiction support services and broadcast their view to his 170,00 follower-strong Twitter account.

Defender: Gary Neville

In recent months, the former Manchester United and England right back has gained headlines for more than his football punditry. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, he opened up his two Manchester hotels to be used by NHS staff free of charge, and since then has been increasingly outspoken about politics, most recently appearing on Good Morning Britain to criticise the scrapping of the £20 a week Universal Credit uplift. Responding to former Conservative MP Edwina Currie, who was defending the Government, he said: “To me the language is always divisive, it’s not helpful. It’s really dangerous, we’re one team in this country, we’re one group of people.”

“Honestly,” he added, “to remove Universal Credit payments at this moment in time is brutal. Let’s be clear, it’s brutal.”

Defender: Ben Mee

The Burnley captain may not be the most high-profile figure in football’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement. However, Mee condemned the Burnley fans who in June 2020 hired a plane to fly a banner bearing the message “White Lives Matter Burnley” over the club’s home ground. Mee said that he and his teammates felt “ashamed and embarrassed”.

Two months earlier, Mee criticised comments made by then Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s that footballers needed to “play their part” in the fight against the pandemic by accepting pay cuts; something many had already done voluntarily and without fanfare.

Writing in The Guardian, Mee said, “… as we’ve worked hard to do our part, those headlines have created a distraction, needlessly trying to make villains out of footballers, rather than praising the great work of key workers who are putting themselves at risk to help others.”

The defender was also instrumental in efforts by Premier League players to set up a fund into which players donated wages to support NHS charities.

Kicking BackWhy the ‘Culture Wars’ Backfired
Jon Bloomfield and David Edgar

Defender: Tyrone Mings

The Aston Villa and England defender was present at the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 and was praised for his response to Priti Patel’s, after the Home Secretary claimed to be “disgusted” by the racial abuse received by England players following their Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy.

“You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘Gesture Politics’ and then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against, happens,” Mings tweeted. 

Right Wing: Pat Nevin

Nevin’s position here is right-wing, but that’s the only thing about him that is. Far from a conventional footballer (how many other former professionals have had DJ slots at an obscure music festival ?) Nevin has always worn his politics on his sleeve, not least in his role as chair of the players’ union, the Professional Footballers’ Association.

He risked the wrath of a certain section of his Chelsea support in the early-to-mid ‘80s by speaking out against their racial abuse of his teammates and opponents, as well as against homophobia. Nevin was an ally log before the term had even been coined.

Midfield: Jordan Henderson

As well as being a vocal figure in the England squad’s decision to take the knee, Henderson has also spoken out more than once in support of LGBTQ+ football fans. He also surprised one non-binary England fan who tweeted how “terrified” they were attending their first match. Henderson responded, “Hi Joe great to hear you enjoyed the game as you should. No one should be afraid to go and support their club or country because football is for everyone no matter what.”

Midfield: Peter Reid

The engine of the same Everton team as Southall in the ‘80s, Reid is a proud socialist who has never been afraid to express an opinion, as Boris Johnson found out when playing on a charity England XI side that Reid was managing in 2006. 

“As soon as he walked into the dressing room I went for him,’ Reid wrote in his 2017 autobiography.

“Hello Peter, Boris Johnson, pleased to meet you,” Reid recalls. “I wasn’t in the mood for pleasantries, though.

“I’ve been meaning to have a word with you, you twat; having a go at Scousers, who the fuck do you think you are?

“You could hear a pin drop and the likes of John Barnes, Richard Ashcroft, Nigel Benn and Sean Bean were all open-mouthed. I could tell he couldn’t work out whether I was pulling his leg because he was half-smirking and half-shocked but I wasn’t messing.

“You are a f**king disgrace… He s**t himself”.

The former Sunderland and Manchester City manager frequently uses Twitter and a column in The Independent to make his feelings on Brexit and the Conservative Party very clear. 

Euro 2020A New England
Adrian Goldberg

Left Wing: Marcus Rashford

What can one say about Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford? A man who decided to use his platform to take on the Government and won – to ensure millions of children living in food poverty were provided with support both during school terms and in school holidays. He forced the Government into multiple U-turns with his respectful but relentless campaigning, leading some to dub him “the real leader of the opposition”, and earning and MBE for his efforts.

Forward: Raheem Sterling

After he was racially abused by Chelsea supporters while playing for Manchester City in 2018, Sterling spoke out against the kind of media coverage he had received – which he felt had emboldened racists. Sterling had long been targeted by the right-wing press more than most, with racially-charged headlines that analysed his every act, from smoking shisha, to having a gun tattoo, to every time he spent what the papers decided was too much – or even not enough – money.

Posting on Instagram, Sterling said the coverage received by him and other black players “helps fuel racism and aggressive behaviour, so for all the newspapers that don’t understand why people are racist in this day and age all I have to say is have a second thought about fair publicity an give all players an equal chance.”

Forward: Gary Lineker

Few footballers enrage the right to the same extent as the Match Of The Day presenter, a man for whom the tiresome riposte of “stick to football mate” could have been invented. There’s something about a wealthy man speaking out on issues like Brexit, racism and the plight of refugees that certain people seem to find particularly infuriating.

Many people have attempted to catch out Lineker. When he dares to express empathy for refugees, many ask whether he’d be willing to have one in his own home. To which England’s third top goal-scorer points out that he already has. 

Forward: Troy Deeney

When he was captain of Watford, Deeney was one of the key organisers in football’s decision to take the knee, and to replace the traditional players’ names on the back of their shirts with the Black Lives Matter slogan. While always keen to highlight the role others played in the process, particularly Leicester’s Wes Morgan, there’s no doubt how crucial Deeney himself was. He also previously fronted the Football Association’s Heads Up campaign, designed to increase awareness of men’s mental health. 




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