Corruption

Error message

  • Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Deprecated function: implode(): Passing glue string after array is deprecated. Swap the parameters in drupal_get_feeds() (line 394 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).

We are descending into economic crisis and the government is not talking about it

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 25/04/2022 - 7:25pm in

The ONS has published a report on the cost of living crisis this morning. They say:

  • Around 9 in 10 (87%) adults reported an increase in their cost of living over the previous month in March 2022 (16 to 27 March 2022), an increase of 25 percentage points compared with around 6 in 10 (62%) adults in November 2021 (3 to 14 November 2021).
  • Nearly a quarter (23%) of adults reported that it was very difficult or difficult to pay their usual household bills in the last month, compared with a year ago, in March 2022 (16 to 27 March 2022); an increase from 17% in November 2021 (3 to 14 November 2021).
  • Focusing on the latest period, among those who pay energy bills, around 4 in 10 (43%) reported that it was very or somewhat difficult to afford their energy bills in March 2022 (16 to 27 March 2022).
  • Of adults currently paying off a mortgage and/or loan, or rent, or shared ownership, 30% reported that it was very or somewhat difficult to afford housing costs, and 3% claimed to be behind on rent or mortgage payments, in March 2022 (16 to 27 March 2022).
  • Among all adults, 17% reported borrowing more money or using more credit than they did a year ago, in March 2022 (16 to 27 March 2022).
  • Among all adults, 43% reported that they would not be able to save money in the next 12 months, in March 2022 (16 to 27 March 2022); this is the highest this percentage has been since this question was first asked in March 2020 (27 March to 6 April 2020).

This finding was unsurprising:

As was this:

The stress of this crisis is already beginning to tell, and quite unevenly.

It impacts other costs as well:

The risk of people losing their homes is, as I have kept saying, high.

So too is the chance that we will have a debt crisis growing:

People are borrowing more. But will they be able to repay?

This is a profoundly worrying review. And remember two things.

First, the Treasury made this worse by increasing taxes.

Second, the Bank of England is making this worse by increasing interest rates.

You cannot make up callousness like that in the face of a crisis of this magnitude.

We urgently need an alternative economic policy. Danny Blanchflower and I have offered on.

Death by a Hundred Scandals: Are We Living in a Sociopathocracy?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/04/2022 - 7:09pm in

Iain Overton considers the calibre of people drawn to high office, and how power has warped their sense of empathy and compassion

The French philosopher Georges Bataille kept a photograph on his desk. It was from the early 20th Century and showed a Chinese prisoner undergoing one of the worst executions imaginable: a “death of a hundred cuts”.

Exactly what Bataille would have made of the past few years in British political life is hard to guess, but it is not unimaginable that he would have also contemplated British democracy being slowly eviscerated: a death by a hundred scandals.

He might also have considered something else. As Susan Sontag wrote, Bataille saw in the grisly picture a view of the pain of others “which links pain to sacrifice… a view that could not be more alien to a modern sensibility, which regards suffering as something that is a mistake or an accident or a crime".

Suffering, to Bataille, was viewed both empathetically and having purpose. Bataille, if contemplating modern British Conservative politics, may have considered two things.

First, that there was an emotional disconnect to the suffering of others among the leaders of the Conservative Party.

Second, that Conservatives ministers saw themselves as the victims of their own scandals: a suffering whereby the humiliations of ‘Partygate’ or the scrutiny of the tax affairs of the wife of the Chancellor were the products of mistakes or – worse – exaggerations concocted by journalists or religious leaders.

Such a profound lack of empathy, Bataille may have concluded, would suggest that the UK is being led by a confederacy of sociopaths: a sociopathocracy wielding its weapons against democracy.

After all, a sociopath is one who has no regard for others’ rights or feelings, lacks empathy or remorse for wrongdoings, and has a compulsive need to exploit and manipulate others for personal gain. And, at every turn, this sums up the actions of the Government. 

When, for instance, the Home Secretary was criticised for her plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, she rounded on the opposition, calling their concerns “xenophobic”. She failed to appreciate any of the deep, human concerns of sending vulnerable people to central Africa. Just as she refused to accept – as summed up in a recent US State Government report – that Rwanda has significant human rights issues, including “unlawful or arbitrary killings by the Government; forced disappearance by the Government; torture by the Government; harsh and life-threatening conditions in detention facilities”.

Or the fact that, in 2018, Rwandan police killed 12 refugees after a demonstration outside the offices of the UN high commissioner for refugees in Karongi district.

The Altar of Power

Boris Johnson, too, claims a moral high ground that is even higher than the Church. He has rejected calls to apologise for slandering the Archbishop of Canterbury after he denigrated the Anglican church leader’s critique of the Government’s Rwanda asylum policy.

Rather than be concerned the principal leader of the Church of England had fundamental issues with the Government’s treatment of his human beings, the Prime Minister instead accused Justin Welby of having “misconstrued” the plans.

Rishi Sunak diminished the concerns about his wife’s ‘non-dom’ tax status as a “political hit job” and “smearing her to get at him”.

And, faced with 'Partygate', Conservative MPs have – in turn – blamed journalists for behaving like “vultures” (Lee Anderson); compared the police’s decision to fine the Prime Minister to that of a judgement in cricket (Jacob Rees-Mogg); argued that Johnson hadn’t robbed a bank (Andrew Rosindell); that he was “ambushed” with a cake (Conor Burns); that it was like nurses having a drink together at the end of shifts at the height of the pandemic (Michael Fabricant); and that the best way to respond to the anger felt by the British people was to criticise Putin’s attack on Ukraine (Boris Johnson).

The opposition sits wide-eyed at this textbook sociopathy. When the Prime Minister walked into the Commons this week to the applause of his own backbenchers, an opposition MP shouted out: “Why are you clapping, he’s a criminal?”

But clap they did – leading Labour Leader Keir Starmer to accuse Johnson of “never taking responsibility for his words or actions”.

But, still, the Conservatives stay in power and – with the exception of a few Conservative MPs who have spoken out – unashamedly so. Perhaps this is of little surprise, as Brian Klass concludes in his book Corruptible: Who Gets Power and How it Changes Us, “people most attracted to power are often those least suited for it.”

Indeed, perhaps the members of Johnson’s Cabinet weren’t always sociopaths. It is just that the heady whiff of power has made them so. After all, becoming powerful, Klass writes, “makes you more selfish, reduces empathy, increases hypocrisy, and makes you more likely to commit abuse”.

To prove this, Klass describes a 2015 study where researchers played a dictator game. The dictator could divide a pot of money among his companions in a 60/40, 50/50, or 90/10 split. In the first, “low power” scenario, the dictator controlled just one other person. In the “high power” scenario, the dictator controlled three people. In the low-power option, there was a 39% chance that the dictator took nine-tenths of the money. In the high-power case, the dictator took the most money 78% of the time. The more people they had control over, the more they behaved selfishly.

The participants also had their saliva tested to measure testosterone levels. It is no surprise that those who were in the high-power group and who had high levels of testosterone were the most likely to take the money. If there is one thing that Boris Johnson – a man with seven children – seems to have in ample supply, it is testosterone.

Klass ends his book with a call to action: “Better people can lead us. We can recruit smarter, use sortition to second-guess powerful people, and improve oversight. We can remind leaders of the weight of their responsibility... And if we’re going to watch people, we can focus on those at the top who do the real damage, not the rank-and-file.”

With MPs finally approving a plan to open an investigation into whether the Prime Minister misled the House of Commons on lockdown parties, we may see an end to this political age of a hundred scandals. But, knowing sociopaths will sacrifice any principle upon the altars of power, we cannot count on it.

Bataille once wrote that “you will recognise happiness / when you see it die”. And unless something is done, and soon, it may well be democracy itself that will be recognised at the point of its death – at the hands of sociopaths.

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

LIMITED TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Knocking the Tories about, as happened yesterday, is all well and good. But knocking them out is what is required

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/04/2022 - 3:59pm in

So, Johnson apologised with, he claimed, ‘full humility.’ The trouble was, no one relay believed that, and for one good reason. That reason is that even if his confusion about attending an obviously illegal birthday party was genuine (even if the credibility of doing so depended upon our belief in his incompetence) there is no way that the same excuse can be rolled out when the next round of penalties are issued, with these relating to events where such excuses will be impossible. In reality then what Johnson did when offering inadvertent incompetence as his defence on this occasion was to dig a seemingly impossible hurdle for himself to climb when the next fines are imposed.

This will not, not course, prevent Tory MPs voting to support him in any vote on a referral to the Standards Committee on Thursday. They will be three line whipped. But there will be many more than Mark Harper MP, who was the only Tory to tell Johnson to go, who will have their doubts about supporting Johnson in that vote. Any in their number who wants to be in a future, non-Johnson, government will have to think very hard about voting to protect a Prime Minister who will seemingly inevitably, and soon, be found guilty of deliberate criminal acts for which on possible excuse can be found. Sunak has already sacrificed his career to support Johnson. How many others will note that, and hold back?

It is no wonder then that Johnson looked profoundly shaken by events yesterday. So too did his front bench. Starmer knocked him out, and as far as I could tell never really withdrew his accusation that Johnson was dishonest. The Speaker was, as usual, made to look stupid. Starmer’s anger was obviously real.

The Tories knew it. Long after they gave up defending Johnson the opposition’s combined questions were still coming, but most Tory MPs had indicated their lack of support by then by leaving the House.

Can Johnson survive this? In the House he looked shocked, broken and almost confused, knowing that none of his usual bombastic approaches would work. And the reality is that things can only get worse from here as more fines, the Sue Gray report and maybe a Standards Committee report replete with photographs (which is why the government is so frightened of this) all head Johnson’s way. 72% of the country think Johnson is a liar even though this still cannot be said in the Commons. The likelihood is that even this percentage will get worse.

I won’t say Johnson will go. His ability to wriggle is extraordinary. But it looks as though it will get harder, and harder to stay. And the damage is done. We have a discredited Tory government. Priti Patel’s shameless defence of the Rwanda extradition policy was another indication of that. Sajid Javid’s lame defence of being a non-dom was another. It would take more than a miracle for this lot to survive.

But when Labour, and to some degree the SNP, only offer managerialism and not vision as alternatives what is it that is going to restore faith in parliament? Whilst all Labour can suggest to support those whose households are going to be in crisis this year is a windfall tax they are not the torch bearers for change. Those households do not understand a windfall tax. But they do instinctively know that such a charge will not keep them fed, warm and in their homes. And they are right, because it won’t.

Labour has to get over its crushing fear of spending.

It has to show that it believes in the power of government to effect change in society.

It has to say what the change it wants is.

And it has to spell out what that will mean for people.

I want democracy restored, but not for its own sake, but for what it can do to redress the wrongs that otherwise exist in society. And the best way to achieve that goal is to start righting those wrongs.

I have laid out agendas for this, time and again. Knocking the Tories about, as happened yesterday, is all well and good. But knocking them out is what is required to save us from fascism. And that requires vision, confidence and a real promise of delivery. When will we get that?

Democracy and the credibility of parliament are on trial today

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/04/2022 - 4:42pm in

Today will be interesting, politically. It will also, almost certainly, be depressing.

Johnson has to make a statement to the Commons on being fined. It is being widely trailed that he will deny having broken the law and that he thinks he has done anything wrong. This is despite being fined, and in the face of the very strong likelihood that more fines are coming his way.

The reality (for there must be one on a quite simple issue, which this is) is that:

a) There was a gathering, which was legally what were not permitted by Covid regulations;

b) It has been decided by the Met that this was not required for work purposes and was, therefore, a social gathering, and these were banned;

c) Johnson attended. Presumably there is photographic evidence. And in any event, Johnson had not denied it.

As a result Johnson was guilty of an offence.

Johnson will deny this but as a matter of fact that option is not available to him. It was, but it is no more. If he wanted to make that claim he should have refused to pay the fine. He should have challenged the police to pass the file to the Crown Prosecution Service who could then have brought the issue to trial. We know they would have done; they have been involved in the reviews of these cases for that reason.

Accepting the fine is an admission of guilt, but technically avoids a criminal conviction because there is no trial. Maybe it is this that Johnson will play on. He might say he paid to simply push the matter aside. The claim might be the country required that he not be distracted. But that does not avoid three things.

The first is that he has legally accepted the police interpretation of events, and cannot reopen the case.

The second is that this law was massively publicised by him and so widely understood that millions have appropriately judged that he was guilty of an offence, whatever he says.

Third, the greater charge is that Johnson lied to parliament, and by accepting the facts of this case he has confirmed that he has done so. The only wriggle room is that he denied attending a party and the event was legally not a party, which was too hard to define, but a gathering. I really doubt that anyone will take that claim seriously.

So, it is exceptionally likely that Johnson will lie to parliament again today. And it is as likely that under the rules of parliament anyone saying he has done so deliberately, which we know will be the case as his intention is being trailed, will be expelled from the House for telling the truth whilst Johnson will suffer no sanction.

The consequence is that Johnson is doing what he and his faction always intended to do: he will be making a mockery of parliament and will be doing so deliberately and with the active connivance of a supine Speaker, all with the intention of undermining democracy itself.

What will the Opposition do? Unless person after person stands up and says Johnson is a liar and refuses to withdraw they play along with this. They cannot win a vote today. The Tories will all vote for the liar. So the opposition parties can only make clear the Tory lies.

Those in opposition have to tell the truth in other words and keep doing so. And if the Speaker objects they have to tell him he is making democracy and Parliament the subject of ridicule. That is their duty today. Nothing less will do.

Will it happen? If Keir Starmer is expelled we will know. If he isn’t he will either have won a battle with the Speaker or he will not have done his job.

Democracy and the credibility of parliament are on trial today. It needs a strong defence. I just hope it gets it.

The Tories are demanding acquiescence as if it is their right. They risk revolt.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/04/2022 - 7:29pm in

Yesterday the Archbishops of Canterbury and York attacked the government’s plans to deport asylum seekers in the UK to Rwanda. I use the term deport carefully, because these asylum seekers will be forcefully removed from the UK to a country not of their choosing, which is illegal. There is no return ticket.

The reaction has been furious, and hostile. Jacob Rees Mogg said the Archbishops did not understand the spirit of redemption within the scheme. It’s quite reasonably been argued that only a Pharisee could see what he finds in it.

Priti Patel has said the Archbishops offered no alternative. Actually, I think she will find they did. The Christian message has always been of welcome to the stranger, albeit the Church forgot it for long periods.

Tom Hunt MP and other Tories argued that the Church should not be teaching about the gospel of Jesus at Easter, of all times (their choice fo words, not mine).

The media reaction has seen The Times, Mail, Express and Telegraph all run front-page stories criticising the Archbishops for being political. These paper's claim is that is not the role of the Church. Clearly, none of them has read the New Testament. It is a profoundly political text. It was only when it was depoliticised by Constantine, and hidden from many by only being available in Latin for more than a millennia that this was forgotten. Until then the reason why Christians were persecuted was that they profoundly upset the political status quo.

And so they should. Especially now. You do not have to be a Christian to appreciate the radical teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. His instruction was to have bias to the poor, to love your neighbour, to forgive debts, to end the tyranny of the money changers and much more. All of that is deeply radical. Try this from the Magnificat in Luke for a flavour:

My soul magnifies the Lord,

He has shown strength with his arm;

he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;

he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate;

he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.

That is said or sung at evensong every day in the Church of England. This is no peripheral text: this is what is at the core of CoE thinking.

But of course, the Tories and their media supporters do not know that, or want to know that. Let alone do they want to hear it. They want to believe God is on the side of the achiever and that the sacrament of wealth (there isn’t one, just for the record) is the true outward sign of inner grace.

If they can’t have that from the Church then something more sinister happens. They now demand silence. “Who will”, the papers ask, “rid us of these troublesome priests?” (I only misquote a little). The precedent is not encouraging, but relevant. In these demands there is an implicit menace. The threat is that the Church should comply, or be silent. The demand made of it by the Toriues is for endorsement, not questioning, let alone opposition.

I know that the Tories are aware that from many churchgoers acquiescence will be forthcoming. But they will also know that amongst the very early inmates of Dachau concentration camp there were quite a lot of priests whose silence could not be bought.

In that case every priest now has to face the question we all might have to consider at some time, which is whether we have the courage to oppose, come what may?

The Tories need to also consider this question, because their whole modus operandi is now based on intimidation in the expectation of fearful response. Priests, they say, must not teach Christianity. Lawyers must not uphold the law. Opposition politicians must not oppose. Acquiescence is now the demand. And some will give it.

But others won’t. And that number will grow. That is because courage is, at least in part, liberated by the realisation that there is no alternative but to take a stand. Those who will do so on principle are small in number but big in impact.

But they are going to be joined by millions who are pragmatically fearful. They will be those who can no longer pay the bills. Their houses will be unheated. They or their children will be unfed. Their homes will be at risk. They will also have nothing left to lose. Their families are at risk. They too will cross a line.

And their condition is commonplace. It is not one chosen, politically. It is one imposed, actually. So even those inclined to oppose those with principles will recognise themselves and those they know in these people.

There is in this the real danger for the Tories.  And danger for us all, of course. Creating the potential for volatility, which someone as calm as Martin Lewis thinks likely, is an inherently reckless political act. The risk for everyone is that much might go wrong. But the simple fact is that Tory politics is now moving so far into extremism, and appears so fascist in its approach, that many will see no option soon but to oppose a government that is giving them no choice but to oppose, because all other options will have gone.

I wish we did not live in such dangerous times. But it seems that we do. And we have to ask in that case what this demands of us.

United Kingdom government’s intention to offshore asylum processing to Rwanda sends a worrying signal

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/04/2022 - 1:17am in

The following press release has been issued this afternoon by Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, and I think it worth sharing as indication of international reaction to what the UK is proposing with regard to the treatment of those legitimately claiming the right to asylum in the UK:

Strasbourg, 14 April 2022 - “Today’s announcement by the UK government of its intention to offshore asylum processing to Rwanda sends a worrying signal”, said Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović. “Not only does such externalisation raise questions about the protection of the human rights of the people involved. It also indicates that the UK intends to shift the responsibility for what is in fact a very small proportion of people seeking protection worldwide from its territory to that of another country. Such a shift in responsibility  runs the risk of seriously undermining the global system of international protection.”

While the government emphasises the importance of safe and legal routes in general, the announced plans do not address the lack of such possibilities for people currently in France, even those who have legitimate claims to move to the UK, for instance on the basis of family links. Expanding such safe and legal routes and putting human rights at the heart of the approach is crucial to addressing the problem of dangerous sea crossings of the Channel and to removing the conditions in which the smuggling of people can flourish.

I call on parliamentarians, in the context of their further examination of the Nationality and Borders Bill, to ensure that no downgrading of the human rights safeguards and protections in the UK’s asylum system takes place. They should in particular reject proposals that enable offshoring and that make distinctions in the level of protection or the procedures applied on the basis of the manner in which people arrive in the UK.

More than ever, all Council of Europe member states should stand firm in their commitment to upholding the human rights of people seeking protection. From this perspective, I will continue my engagement with the UK government on this important matter.”

Migration: some facts, and the shame

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/04/2022 - 10:38pm in

This post is by Andrew, who is a regular commentator to this blog, who has posted two comments to this blog this morning, all of which I share here because I think they are important in the context of what Boris Johnson has had to say today.

Andrew began with this:

Let’s have some basic facts on asylum.

In 2021, there were 48,540 asylum applications in the UK, relating to 56,495 people. That was a 63% increase on 2020, and the highest for years, but it it not a record. It was over 80,000 in 2002. Unsurprisingly, the number of refugees increase in times of civil disturbance and war.

Nearly 10,000 came from Iran, 6,000 from Iraq, 5,000 from Iraq and Albania, and several thousand from Syria, Afghanistan and Sudan. Nearly half were males aged 18 to 29. I wonder if we can think of any reasons why these people may find it easier to leave. But a sixth were children, and over 3,500 unaccompanied.

So that is who we are talking about. Largely young Moslem men from the Middle East, many of whom might speak some English but probably not French.

In 2021, the UK offered protection, in the form of asylum, humanitarian protection, alternative forms of leave and resettlement, to 14,734 people (including dependants). Barely more than 1000 per month.

Around half the people from Iraq and Albania are granted asylum, so there is clearly a problem with people from these countries who are not refugees, but over 80% and for some countries over 95% are granted asylum.

Overall, in 2021, initial decisions on asylum were made in 14,572 cases, so the backlog is getting longer year on year. The number of initial decisions is significantly lower than in 2019 (20,766). And overall 72% were granted asylum or another status allowing them to remain in the UK (which is higher than the usual trend, of about a third).

There were appeals against refusal in 4,035 cases and 49% of appeals were granted.

That left 81,978 cases (relating to 100,564 people) awaiting an initial decision.

These are the sort of of people we might give a one-way ticket to a country in the middle of Africa which has a history of human rights abuses and ethnic violence. That is 90%+ Christian, and English is the third language. Where LGBT rights are problematic. Where the president is a former army officer who has been in office for over 20 years, changed the electoral law to his benefit, banned opposition parties and disqualified potential opponents, and as a result has been elected with over 90% of the vote three times. Either he is more popular than Jesus or … well.

This would not be the first time the UK has set up camps in Africa to hold civilians it didn’t care for.

The prospect of my country treating desperate people in this inhuman manner disgusts me.

He then added this:

I tried to post some basic facts about immigration earlier, but here is another angle.

The UK has a population of around 67 million. There are around 700,000 births and 600,000 deaths each year. So the population is growing by about 100,000 each year just due to births exceeding deaths. But an increasing number of people are aged 70 and over, and the post-war baby boom generations from the 1950s and 1960s (over a million per year) are at or approaching retirement.

Even without the moral argument that we are obliged to give asylum to people who need it – which is most of those who claim it – if we can accommodate hundreds of thousands of new children each year, who will need health and education services for at least 18 years, and a million people per year entering retirement, whose health and welfare needs will only increase, then we can add some more people seeking asylum without too much problem. Most of the migrants are young, fit and healthy (they need to be to get to the UK) and could be working productively for decades. Many are well educated, and will save us the time and cost of primary and secondary schooling. The economic argument in favour of immigration is almost unanswerable.

No, no. Let’s ship them off to Rwanda. It beggars belief.

The delay was all my fault: I realised I intended to post the comment as a post and so delayed moderating it.

I am as appalled as Andrew, and am ashamed that this country can propose something as base and racist as this. That is why I share this.

Resigning Matters: By Failing to Step Down, Johnson has Put Democracy on Standby

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/04/2022 - 10:34pm in

Rachel Morris catalogues the history of government resignations, explaining why it’s such an important feature of British democracy

Last June, then Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock resigned after images were released of him kissing a non-executive director in his department. In many workplaces, this is inappropriate behaviour and its potential for abuse of power would be a matter for disciplinary measures or dismissal, though it’s not unlawful. In 2019, the McDonalds CEO was made to resign because of a relationship with an employee.

In Hancock’s case, which ended his marriage, his resignation was tendered because he had broken Coronavirus social distancing restrictions while being the minister responsible for overseeing them.

Six months later, Downing Street aide Allegra Stratton resigned after a clip of her emerged laughing in a mock press conference about law-breaking Government parties during lockdown.

Boris Johnson accepted both of these resignations. Now, he has been fined for his own breach of COVID laws, but has chosen not to resign.

Most Conservative MPs and ministers have rallied behind the embattled Prime Minister with a series of identikit tweets, citing the war in Ukraine and other domestic challenges.

The Chancellor has also been fined but has refused to step down. Rishi Sunak has been embroiled in a series of scandals in recent weeks, involving his financial interests and those of his wife. None of these stories have prompted the Chancellor to hand in his notice.

This is arguably the first time in British political history that Cabinet ministers have clung to power after such a slurry of scandals, when previously one alone would have been enough to bring them down.

Indeed, the three prime ministers prior to Johnson all resigned. Resignations are normal, and they matter. There are normally at least as many changes of office holders due to resignations and reshuffles as elections.

Herbert Asquith resigned early in the First World War over failures to provide adequate munitions to the front. Winston Churchill was a member of the Cabinet during that war, but resigned after the disastrous Gallipoli campaign. Having become Prime Minister following Neville Chamberlain’s resignation at the start of the Second World War, Churchill himself resigned in 1945 – before the war’s end – as his government lost an election to the Labour Party and its leader Clement Attlee.

Margaret Thatcher resigned after losing the confidence of her party. Tony Blair resigned in 2007 to allow Gordon Brown a chance to govern. In 2016, David Cameron resigned within hours of losing the EU Referendum. Theresa May resigned in 2019 after failing three times to push her Brexit withdrawal deal through Parliament.

When Stratton resigned, she was visibly upset – she will have known that many others ought to have stepped down, but to date the only further resignation over ‘Partygate’ has been that of Justice Minister Lord David Wolfson, who said that the “scale, context and nature” of COVID breaches in Government was inconsistent with the rule of law.

But, as in Donald Trump’s era as US President, trampling norms is the new normal. It is customary for a Prime Minister to resign when they believe that they no longer 'have the confidence of the House'. In other words, if they can’t guarantee they have the ability to pass legislation in the House of Commons. With a large majority in there, Johnson is only at risk from the seditious instincts of members of his own party.

Dictator in Disguise

Yet, the public evidently wants Boris Johnson to resign. Omnisis conducted a poll for Byline Times on 27 January showing that a clear majority of voters wanted the Prime Minister to step down. The war in Ukraine has somewhat changed this arithmetic, but the polls continue to show rock-bottom levels of public trust in Johnson.

The Profumo Affair, during which Secretary of State for War John Profumo was found to have lied to the Commons, damaged the credibility of the government overall. Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan resigned on grounds of ill health, but the affair contributed to that Government’s electoral defeat in 1964.

It seems as though there will be several more years before an election – it’s only in the gift of the Prime Minister to call one sooner. There is no trigger in our political system for a Prime Minister who has lost public trust – and who has broken the law – to be held accountable. Johnson can only be removed by his own moral conscience, a parliamentary vote of no confidence, or if his own MPs organise a leadership contest. None of these options seem likely.

It is hard to imagine any previous Prime Minister refusing to resign after breaking their own laws. But, looking at his history of lies, scandals and errors – including lying to the Queen – it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Johnson believes he is beyond reproach.

The ability of our constitution to enforce the norms of democracy is reliant on respect from those in power. The Ministerial Code, governing the conduct of ministers, is only advisory – and is enforced by the Prime Minister. Democratic order relies on the self-governance of ethics and standards by those in power.

The court of public opinion – the shame and dishonour applied to ministers for their wrongdoing – has often spelled the end of ministers. But Johnson has no shame – while his reputation is carefully guarded by his allies in the right-wing press.

The nation still awaits the full Partygate report from civil servant Sue Gray. This is expected to catalogue all the misdemeanours in one place, triggering a potential political maelstrom. On 8 December, Johnson assured the House that he would “place a copy of the report in the library of the House of Commons” – un-redacted, unedited and unabridged.

For the sake of democracy, it is essential that the Gray report is made publicly available. Whatever your political views, our democracy is held together by the rule of law – the principle that laws apply to all equally. But it’s also held together by conventions demanding fair play – requiring ministers to recognise when they have lost the confidence of Parliament and the nation.

Without the full facts, the people still cannot declare their judgment, and thus democracy is on standby.

The Ministerial Code states that ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament must resign. Johnson told Parliament that he knew of no parties in Downing Street and that – if events had been held – all the rules were followed. “All the guidance was followed completely in Number 10,” he told the House on 1 December 2021.

Pressed by Labour Leader Keir Starmer during Prime Minister’s Questions on 26 January, Johnson said that he would resign if found to have broken the Code and misled Parliament over the lockdown parties. No resignation has been forthcoming from Johnson – the dictator in disguise.

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

LIMITED TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Conservatives’ ‘Partygate’ Impunity for Johnson Shows the Entire British Constitution is Now At Stake

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/04/2022 - 7:37pm in

If the governing party proves that those in power can get away with anything, the essential contract between leaders and their people will be ruptured for good, says Jonathan Lis

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES NOW

Four months after the story of lockdown parties in Whitehall first exploded, two months after Sue Gray’s initial summary of the events, and seven weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine suspended much of Britain’s everyday politics, we have at least one definitive answer: at this country’s most dangerous moment since the Second World War, the Prime Minister broke the law he said was there to save people’s lives.

It was the most significant law of his premiership, which he insisted that people must follow, and he himself had no interest in doing so.

Having been fined by the Metropolitan Police for attending a gathering for his birthday in June 2020, Boris Johnson now becomes the first British Prime Minister to receive a criminal sanction in office. There is every possibility that he will receive more fines for larger and more substantial gatherings.

The facts on their own are stark enough. In normal times, they could easily force a sufficient number of Conservative MPs to remove the Prime Minister from office. But these are not normal times. And yet, the problem is that Johnson is facing no normal consequences – and this is the greatest danger.

The failure of the British political system to respond to Johnson's transgressions could prove more damaging than the initial offence. What began as the moral disgrace of one man, could now be the death spiral of a national constitution.

Arrogance and Luck

Our extraordinary political situation is neatly encapsulated by a new Savanta ComRes poll, which reports that 61% of voters believe Boris Johnson should resign, with only 10% thinking that he will. The public, in other words, has the exact measure of the man. His moral and public obligation is in direct opposition with his personal lack of shame.

As so often with this Prime Minister, it is difficult to know which is worse: the fact that he thinks he can get away with anything, or the fact that he actually can. Neither should be possible.

Just as the fine demonstrates that nobody is above the law, nobody should be above basic standards in public life. Any rules of fairness and decency dictate that the Prime Minister must go – not simply because the man responsible for creating and upholding the law has been found to have broken it, but because of what that law was.

Contrary to the preposterous arguments of Conservative backbenchers, the fine was not on the level of a parking or speeding ticket. These were unique peacetime regulations to combat a once-in-a-century pandemic killing thousands of people. By prohibiting unnecessary gatherings, the laws were designed to save lives. They formed the sum total of the Government’s public messaging for more than a year.

These laws dominated every bit of our lives until barely a year ago. The ban on two people from different households meeting indoors only ended in May. It is inconceivable that Johnson did not know that a birthday party – or the other gatherings he attended – would be illegal. He was lying then and he is lying now.

This is not simply a question of law but moral authority. Millions of people suffered lifelong trauma in order to follow Johnson’s rules – staying away from relatives who later died, curbing funerals, eschewing personal contact and touch over long months of isolation. These were not simply written laws but personal sacrifices – and the Prime Minister considered himself exempt from both.

As ever, Johnson has been incredibly lucky. If this fine had been announced two months ago he could easily be facing a no-confidence vote. But his luck runs deeper still: if these stories had emerged at the time, he could not have survived the wave of public anger.

This also speaks to Johnson's arrogance. The party for which he has been fined took place three weeks after Dominic Cummings’s Barnard Castle revelations and dramatic press conference in the Downing Street rose garden. The public mood was unmistakeable. People were enraged that the Prime Minister’s chief advisor had broken the rules by travelling across the country during lockdown and then taking a brief leisure trip to 'test his eyesight'.

Johnson must have known how the public would react to something much more serious and dangerous – hosting family and colleagues indoors to mark a social occasion. But he did it anyway and continued to. He did not, does not, and will not care.

A Toxic Party

This, of course, goes far beyond Boris Johnson. It is only possible for him to exercise such naked entitlement thanks to his backbenchers. Indeed, if it was simply a case of one toxic narcissist, the situation would be swiftly resolved. The real problem is a toxic party and political culture.

Since the fines issued to the Prime Minister – and Chancellor Rishi Sunak – were announced, Conservative MPs have been scrambling to debase themselves for a man who would sacrifice any one of them.

We have heard that it was ‘only cake’; that the gathering only lasted 10 minutes; that Johnson didn’t know the party was illegal; that there was ‘no malice’ involved. In one of the most egregious defences, Michael Fabricant declared that nurses and teachers had done the same.

These people know that all of this is irrelevant. Ignorance and ‘lack of malice’ do not make a crime legal – as the party of 'law and order' has made clear for decades. 

Perhaps the most offensive element has been to invoke the war in Ukraine.

Numerous backbenchers have declared that they could not possibly remove the Prime Minister at a time of war. Not only is this a reprehensible defence – using the suffering of the Ukrainian people as a shield – but it is also a lie. Any candidate for Prime Minister would continue the same policy and few people in Kyiv would even notice. It will have no impact on Vladimir Putin’s decision-making. The people of France are electing a new president right now.

For most of Johnson’s defenders, this is nothing to do with Ukraine. They decided long ago that the Prime Minister can do whatever he likes, provided that he stands the best chance of retaining their seats for them. Their motivation is not rooted in ethics but a raw calculation of self-interest.

For the first time in modern history, both the Prime Minister and his MPs are wilfully obstructing the national interest in order to save their careers.

A Constitution in Crisis

In some ways, the invocation of Ukraine highlighted something important. The backbencher Sir Roger Gale, a fierce critic of Boris Johnson, declared that “now is... not the moment to give... Putin the comfort of destabilising the Government of the country... leading the coalition in support of Ukraine”.

Gale’s conclusions are wrong: removing Johnson would not destabilise the Government but almost certainly strengthen it. A new Prime Minister, free of the scandal of lockdown parties, would command far greater moral authority both here and abroad.

Moreover, Britain is not at war and Johnson is no kind of war leader. He has neither the judgement nor the integrity to take decisions affecting other people. If the situation did deteriorate, he would be the least suitable candidate to command the response.

More significantly, however, this is about values. Changing leaders is the hallmark of a democracy – it is what separates functioning democracies from purely nominal ones. It is unthinkable that Putin might leave office through democratic means. It should be reasonable to expect that Johnson might.

If the Conservative Party is really interested in drawing a distinction with Putin, it should consider its own actions. Democracy means holding power to account and that necessitates following democratic norms. The worst way to showcase Britain’s values is to grant its leaders freedom from moral and political consequences. The only thing that might really give Putin ‘comfort’, is showing him that our country, too, considers democracy a sham.

The Conservatives have, in effect, granted Boris Johnson total constitutional impunity. At his party’s discretion, the Prime Minister is free to commit any crime, or tell any number of lies to Parliament, and remain in office. There is no individual or independent institution that can force him from power. If it suits Tory backbenchers, he stays – enabling political patronage and electoral success to trump the demands of moral probity and standards in public life.

There is no longer any credible oversight of Johnson’s actions. He is the ultimate arbiter and judge of the rule-book governing his conduct. If an advisor determines that he has broken the Ministerial Code – a resigning offence – it is the Prime Minister himself who has the discretion of responding. This charming, period-drama constitution of old school ties and gentlemen’s conventions in fact represents carte blanche for all-pervasive corruption, in which one individual can fully capture the levers of state without any checks or balances.

The ramifications of this are immense. If the Prime Minister doesn’t know the law and cannot be entrusted to follow it, how can anyone? What is the point of the Ministerial Code if not to police the conduct of the most senior minister? If neither basic standards nor accountability apply to the person at the very top, how can the public have any faith in its leaders or institutions? It is hard to imagine anything more corrosive to the body politic. 

This is a profoundly dangerous moment for our democracy; one which goes far beyond one grubby narcissist. If the Conservatives prove – and the public sees with its own eyes – that those in power can get away with anything, the essential contract between leaders and the people they govern will be ruptured for good.

This was not about birthday cake then and it is not about Ukraine now. Britain’s entire constitution is at stake.

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

LIMITED TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

The scorched earth policy begins as Johnson moves into retreat

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/04/2022 - 4:51pm in

We know that Boris Johnson is failure at everything but being a buffoon.

He has failed on Brexit, Covid and now the economy.

He has failed the public services.

He has failed the public.

He has even failed at complying with his own laws, so now he is a criminal. He has admitted it.

The trouble is, an authoritarian element of the UK population do love a buffoon. They were brought up on Dick Emery and Benny Hill. The same people were brought up in awe of Churchill, with a sneaking regard for Hitler. So they bought into Johnson. They probably still do.

On any rational analysis Johnson, and the Tories who support him, are finished. No one who cannot spot a birthday party should be in charge of our nuclear deterrent. But absurd lines of reasoning that people openly laugh at are being brought out in Johnson’s defence.

And no one, from Sunak onwards, is willing to bring him down within the Tory party where there is no one to replace him, let alone provide an alternative cabinet in waiting.

So we now move to the familiar territory of the failed tyrant, which is the scorched earth policy as they retreat towards their inevitable demise.

Today we have an attack on migrants with a policy being announced that cross-Channel migrants are to be sent to Rwanda. I rather strongly suspect that Rwanda has not been asked whether it agrees as yet. I also suspect it is illegal. But the Benny Hill fans will like it. And that is all that matters.

Expect more like this. All the usual targets will be hit, starting with benefits for single parents. Then there will be an announced crackdown on serious crime (because going to banned birthday parties is minor crime). There might even be a consultation on the death penalty. That would be incredibly popular. There will also, no doubt, be attacks on Wales and Scotland. Expect some limitations on powers. Green policy will effectively be abandoned. And who knows what will happen with the EU? All of which will simply be to fill front pages of the Mail, Express and Sun.

And what is sad is that it might just work. Maybe thirty per cent of those likely to vote in the UK want this sort of authoritarian posturing, and think they have little to lose from it. If the other parties don’t align against it - and for the common good - the policy may just work.

We are in for a torrid two plus years of a remaining Johnson government. And who knows thereafter? Watching Rachel Reeves on Channel 4 last night she managed not a single blow on the Tories. If that is the best Labour can do don’t presume that the scorched earth policy might not last a very long time.

Pages