Reply To: Elections Aftermath: Was our 2019 Vote & the EU Referendum Rigged? #TORYRIG2019


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Kim Sanders-Fisher
Guest

While other matters are now dominating the news cycle, like the serious transgressions of much despised Dominic Cummings, and the delightful prospect of forcing him out of number ten, there were some significant victories won by the opposition earlier in the week at PMQs. Boris Johnson, began Prime Minister Questions this past Wednesday by announcing an updated figure for the horrific death toll among our precious frontline staff, “One hundred and eighty-one NHS and 131 social care workers’ deaths have sadly been reported involving Covid-19. I know that the thoughts of the whole House are with their families and friends.” At least we were spared the pathetically insincere repetition of “our hearts go out…”

The Labour MP Claudia Webbe was the first to question Johnson with her valid concern that: “The Government keeps saying that this virus does not discriminate, but that is not true. Office for National Statistics figures show that black people, African and African Caribbean people are four times more likely to die from covid-19. The figure is also disproportionately high for Bangladeshi, Pakistani or Indian communities. What is the Prime Minister going to do now about this,- and will he act now to ensure that African, Asian and minority ethnic communities in Leicester East and across the country are supported in the next phase of this virus?”

Boris Johnson replied with an affirmative, “Yes. As the hon. Lady may know, we are looking at all the co-morbidities associated with the Coronavirus and all the reasons why people might be disproportionately affected. A rapid review is now being conducted by Professor Fenton, who will report at the end of the month about particularly vulnerable groups. We will take steps to ensure that they are protected where that is appropriate.” Although Webbe was referencing a sector of the population, that the PM must have been relieve were not specifically targeted by his incompetence, the way in which he answered bordered on a demonstration of ignorance as he made is sound as if he considered ethnicity a form of co-morbidity!

Keir Starmer started into his allotted questions of the PM by reminding him of a ludicrously inaccurate statement made by Matt Hancock with the direct quote of what the Health Secretary said: “Right from the start we’ve tried to throw a protective ring around our Care Homes.” Starmer reiterated the public shock by saying, “that caused quite a reaction. Yesterday, it was flatly contradicted by the chief executive of Care England. He was giving evidence to the Select Committee on Health and Social Care, and he said that we should have been focusing on Care Homes from the start and that despite what is being said, there were cases of people who either did not have a Covid status or were symptomatic who were discharged into our Care Homes. The Government advice from the 2nd to 15th of April was: ‘Negative tests are not required prior to transfers/admissions into’ Care Homes. What is protective about that?”

The PM started in on the defensive, “As the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows full well…” he then appeared to moderate his tone continuing, “of course he is right to draw attention to what has happened in our care homes, and we mourn the loss of every victim. No one was discharged into a Care Home this year without the express authorisation of a Clinician, and they have the interests of those patients at heart.” Typical Johnson find someone else to blame as identified in this Skwawkbox Article entitled: “After NHS saves his life, Johnson blames clinicians for spread of C19 to elderly – when government policy drove return of infected patients to Care Homes.”

Relieved that he might have offloaded responsibility for his gross incompetence, Johnson continued to insult, “As I said to him last week, he does not seem to have remembered, actually, the number of patients discharged from hospitals into Care Homes was 40% down in March on January. The guidance was changed to reflect the change in the epidemic, and that guidance was made available to Care Homes and, of course, since the Care Homes action plan began, we have seen a sharp reduction in the number of deaths in Care Homes. Indeed, since I last stood before the House, the number of deaths in Care Homes has come down by 31%.” In a familiar Tory disgraceful attempt to turn the sincere opposition questioner into an unsupportive public villain he quipped: “I think he should pay tribute to all those who have helped to fight that epidemic across the NHS and across our local services.”

Starmer did not rise to the bait replying that, “I think the Prime Minister rather missed the point.” He maintained laser like focus on his critical point repeating, “The question was whether people were tested going back into Care Homes. The Chief Executive of Care England says that because they were not, people who had no Covid-19 status or who were symptomatic were discharged into Care Homes. That is a very serious issue that requires an answer.” The reality of the point Starmer had been trying to make is borne out in the recent Skwawkbox Article entitled; “Video: govt claims it would never knowingly send infected patients to Care Homes. But it’s official POLICY on gov.uk website,” where it reveals documented directives from the Government.

Starmer continued, “Yesterday, the Chief Executive of Care England, in his evidence, was also asked when routine testing would start in Care Homes. This is the answer he gave yesterday: ‘I think the short answer is that we’ve had the announcement, but what we haven’t had is delivery, and we are not really clear when that will arrive.’ This is the Chief Executive of Care England in his evidence. Even the Government’s Command Paper, published last week and introduced by the Prime Minister to this House, says within it. The Health Secretary says, ‘He’s wrong.’ I am quoting the Government’s paper. It says that ‘every Care Home for the over 65s will have been offered testing for residents and staff,’ by the 6th of June. That is from the Prime Minister’s Command Paper. That is over two weeks away. What is causing the continued delay in routine testing in our Care Homes?”

The PM was again on the defensive, “I am afraid the right hon. and learned Gentleman is simply in ignorance of the facts. The reality is that already 125,000 Care Home staff have been tested, 118,000… Perhaps he did know that. One hundred and eighteen thousand Care Home workers have been tested, and we are absolutely confident that we will be able to increase our testing, not just in Care Homes but across the whole of the community. Thanks to the hard work of my right hon. friend the Health Secretary and his teams, we will get up to 200,000 tests in this country by the end of this month. The right hon. and learned Gentleman may know this, perhaps it is one of those international comparisons he hesitates to make, but actually this country is now testing more than virtually any other country in Europe.” The operative word here is “Virtually;” the UK is a global leader in “Virtual” testing!

Keir Starmer was not at all impressed with Boris’s empty bragging saying, “Again, the question was when would routine testing start, and the Chief Executive of Care England, who knows what he is talking about, gave evidence yesterday that it has not. If the Prime Minister is disputing the evidence to the Select Committee, that is his own business.” At this point Matt Hancock was rudely creating a distraction, but the Speaker swiftly intervened booming, “Order! Secretary of State for Health, please. I do not mind you advising the Prime Minister, but you do not need to advise the Opposition during this.” There was a reaction so he sharpened the slap down threatening, “Sorry, do you want to leave the Chamber? We are at maximum numbers. If you want to give way to somebody else, I am more than happy.” Humiliated, Hancock whimpered into silence; sadly it was not directly caught on camera, but the Skwawkbox picked up on the incident describing Hancock as “spanked” by the Speaker for childish behaviour.

Keir Starmer returned to business saying, “To assure the Prime Minister, I am not expressing my own view; I am putting to him the evidence of experts to Committees yesterday.” Satisfied he had made his point he moved on with, “Testing was referred to by the Prime Minister. That on its own is obviously not enough. What is needed is testing, tracing and isolation. At yesterday’s press conference, the Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser said that we could draw particular lessons from Germany and South Korea, which have both had intensive testing and tracing. The number of covid-19 deaths in Germany stands at around 8,000. In South Korea, it is under 300. In contrast, in the United Kingdom, despite 2 million tests having been carried out, there has been no effective tracing in place since the 12th of March, when tracing was abandoned. That is nearly 10 weeks in a critical period without effective tracing. That is a huge hole in our defences, isn’t it, Prime Minister?”

Once again Starmer was making those embarrassing international comparisons he had no right to make. The Government had done absolutely everything they could to blur and obscure the statistics, even removing the most telling of the daily update slides, but this infernal man kept banging on about the death toll. With the indignation of a petulant child Johnson attempted to defend his appalling track record replying with, “I must say that I find it peculiar, because I have given the right hon. and learned Gentleman repeated briefings on this matter. He is perfectly aware of the situation in the UK as regards testing and tracing in early March. It has been explained many times to him and to the House. I think his feigned ignorance does not come very well.” It was time to divert attention with one of his relentless outpourings of ‘fact-free’ bragging.

Johnson answered an alternative unasked question with, “However, I can tell him that today I am confident that we will have a test and trace operation that will enable us, if all the other conditions are satisfied—it is entirely provisional—to make progress. I can also tell him that we have already recruited 24,000 trackers, and by 1 June we will have 25,000. They will be capable of tracking the contacts of 10,000 new cases a day. To understand the importance of that statistic, I remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman that today the new cases stand at 2,400. We are making vast progress in testing and tracing and I have great confidence that by the 1st of June, we will have a system that will help us greatly to defeat this disease and move the country forward. I therefore hope that he will abandon his slightly negative tone and support it.” How dare he fault abysmal Tory progress!

Starmer would have none of it building up to a crescendo of justified public outrage he hammered home the shocking impact of Government incompetence and indecision: “Thirty-four thousand deaths is negative. Of course I am going to ask about that, and quite right too. The Prime Minister says ‘feigned ignorance,’ but he knows that for ten weeks there has been no tracing, unlike in Germany and South Korea. Tracing is critical, there is no getting away from that. The Prime Minister knows it is vital, he made a great deal of it in his speech to the nation Sunday week ago.” The recent Canary Article entitled: “Track and trace strategy coming late in the day, NHS leaders warn,” highlights the ongoing problems,

Starmer went on to quote the PM, “He said, ‘we cannot move forward unless we satisfy the tests that he has set,’ one of which is a ‘world-beating’ test and trace system, World-beating! Leaving aside the rhetoric, ‘effective’ will do. There now appears to be some doubt about when the system will be ready. This is the last Prime Minister’s questions for two weeks. Can the Prime Minister indicate that an effective test, trace and isolate system will be in place by the 1st of June, Monday week?” The PMs seemingly respectful mode of address generally belays contempt as it did in his reply, “The right hon. and learned Gentleman seems to be in the unhappy position of having rehearsed his third or fourth question but not listened to my previous answer, brilliant forensic mind though he has. He has heard that we have growing confidence that we will have a test, track and trace operation that will be world-beating, and yes, it will be in place by the 1st of June.” Said the World-beating – Breast Beating PM!

Although Starmer had not requested another barrage of boastful fabrications and false promises Johnson blathered on, “To repeat the figures, since the right hon. and learned Gentleman has invited me to do so, there will be 25,000 trackers, who will be able to cope with 10,000 new cases a day. That is very important because currently new cases are running at about 2,500 a day. They will be able to trace the contacts of those new cases and stop the disease spreading. I hope very much, notwithstanding the occasional difficulty of these exchanges, and I totally appreciate the role that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has to fulfil, that he will support us as we go forward, that he will be positive about the test, track and trace operation and that we can work together to use it to take our country forward. That is what the people of this country want to see.” Again he invoked the populous as if they supported him one hundred percent.

Starmer responded, “I am very happy to work with the Prime Minister on that. He knows that from our previous exchanges.” But there was just time for his powerful parting salvo as he scathingly remarked on how, “Every Thursday, we go out and clap for our carers. Many of them are risking their lives for the sake of all of us. Does the Prime Minister think it is right that Care workers coming from abroad and working on our frontline should have to pay a surcharge of hundreds, sometimes thousands of pounds to use the NHS themselves?” This question was bound to strike a chord and elicit a number of bold tabloid headlines; would Boris Johnson really dare to refuse this request. How could the PM demonstrate such flagrant hypocrisy towards those who had saved his life? How dare he piss on that public display of support clapping for carers while he punished them for serving our country in our hour of greatest need. Do not expect this selfish, narcissistic PM to suddenly grow a conscience!

Without the slightest consideration towards the dedicated overseas staff who had just taken such diligent care of him in Hospital just a few short weeks ago, Boris Johnson said, “I have thought a great deal about this, and I accept and understand the difficulties faced by our amazing NHS staff. Like the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I have been a personal beneficiary of carers who have come from abroad and frankly saved my life. I know exactly the importance of what he asks. On the other hand, we must look at the realities. This is a great national service, it is a national institution, that needs funding,” he said, evoking xenophobic sentiments as he spoke of our NHS and focused in the money clawed back from poorly paid workers adding, “…those contributions help us to raise about £900 million. It is very difficult in the current circumstances to find alternative sources, so with great respect for the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s point, I think it is the right way forward.”

Keir Starmer was not relinquishing the moral high ground, the PM should really have hung his head in shame as the Leader of the Opposition said, “I am disappointed, because the Prime Minister knows how raw this is. The fee in question, the Immigration Health Surcharge, is currently £400 a year. From October, that goes up to £624 a year. For a Care worker on the national living wage, that will require working for 70 hours to pay off the fee. The Doctors Association and a number of medical groups wrote to the Home Secretary this week, and they set it out this way: ‘At a time when we are mourning colleagues, your steadfast refusal to reconsider the deeply unfair immigration health surcharge is a gross insult to all of us who are serving this country at its time of greatest need.’ We agree, and Labour will table amendments to the Immigration Bill to exempt NHS and Care workers from this charge. Can I urge the Prime Minister to reconsider his view as we go through this crisis?”

The belligerent and totally insensitive Boris Johnson curtly replied, “I have given my answer, but what I will say is that I think that it is important that we support our NHS and that we invest massively in our NHS.” He then started into another sickening stream of lies and false promises that he beloved offered a warped form of redemption from Tory greed and exploitation, “This Government, this one nation Conservative Government, are determined to invest more in our NHS than at any time in modern memory. We have already begun that, and we will want to see our fantastic frontline workers paid properly. That is, I think, the best way forward. I want to see our NHS staff paid properly, our NHS supported and…” This after rumours emerged reported in a recent Skwawkbox Article that the Government were seriously considering using another public sector pay freeze to cover the economic impact of the Covid 19 crisis.

In the spirit of ‘if you are going to tell a lie, tell a really big lie,’ Boris had not finished boasting about his highly improbable plans for the future of the NHS that most people now feel will be fully privatised and sold off to giant US Healthcare Corporations Just like the big lie on that Brexit bus he dredged up his favourite party political spin hoaxes that no one in the entire country believes except fantasy Brexiteers. It was truly nauseating to hear him brag, “I want to continue our programme not just of building forty more hospitals, but recruiting 50,000 more Nurses and investing hugely in our NHS, and I believe that will be warmly welcomed across the whole of our establishment of our fantastic NHS.” He had sorely misjudged the British public as they were not about to let him piss on our NHS heroes.

There was the typical Tory self-congratulatory “stroking” non-question to briefly help the PM rally before Ian Blackford of the SNP started into his usual tough questioning. He began by offering sympathy for disaster victims saying, “Our thoughts this morning are with the communities in India and Bangladesh dealing with the landfall of super cyclone Amphan. I am sure the Government will be monitoring the situation and will seek to give all necessary support.” I doubt this Tory Government gave it a moment’s thought, but it was worth making progressive MPs aware that there were other serious crisis situations threatening lives overseas. Blackford was about to double down on the Tory Government’s grotesque hypocrisy over their attitude towards foreign Care givers…

Blackford reminded the PM again that, “Every week, members of this Government applaud our truly heroic NHS and care staff, who have been on the frontline of this pandemic, regardless of whether they were born here or elsewhere. Indeed, the Prime Minister has thanked the nurses who cared for him, who were from New Zealand and from Portugal. The UK has the highest number of deaths in Europe, and without their sacrifice, we would be facing something much worse. I know the Leader of the Opposition has already asked the Prime Minister about overseas Care workers, but on Monday the Prime Minister ordered his MPs to vote for an immigration Bill that defines many in the NHS and Care sector as low-skilled workers. Given their sacrifice, is the Prime Minister not embarrassed that this is how his Government choose to treat NHS and Care workers?”

Johnson was not looking good as he tried to spin the toxic Tory agenda in a positive light, “This is a Government who value immensely the work of everybody in our national health service and our Care workers across the whole community. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that the reason for having an Immigration Bill of the kind that we are is not to keep out people who can help in our NHS; on the contrary, we want an immigration system that works for the people of this country and works for our NHS.” The PM was desperate for support as he appealed to the xenophobic minority, “I think what the people of this country want to see is an immigration system where we control it, we understand it and we are able to direct it according to the needs of our NHS and the needs of our economy, and that is what we are putting in place.”

With an angry stab at his opponents Johnson said, “I know it is rejected by the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras and indeed by the right hon. Gentleman himself, but it is the right way forward.” But Blackford hit back with, “The harsh reality is that the Prime Minister does not even pay NHS and Care staff the real living wage and wants to block many of them from working here at all. We need an immigration system that is fit for purpose. The Home Secretary and the Prime Minister seem hell-bent on implementing a purely ideological immigration policy with no basis in fairness or economics. The Government have talked about giving back to our NHS and Care staff. It is time for him to deliver. People migrating to these nations and choosing to work in our NHS and Care sector must have the Government’s cruel NHS surcharge removed immediately. Will he make that pledge today, or will he clap on Thursday, hoping that no one really notices that he is giving with one hand and raking it in with the other?”

Johnson seized on the so called “living wage” a well perpetrated Tory hoax that fails to hide the stark reality faced by the exploited working poor in the UK. He boasted of this fake achievement saying, “First, the right hon. Gentleman mentions the living wage. This is the party and Government who instituted the living wage and have just increased it by a massive amount. Secondly, this is the party that is putting £34 billion into the NHS, the biggest investment in modern times, and believe me we will continue with that investment.” Empty Tory spin about investment in the NHS after running it into the ground for over a decade fails to impress and it is certainly not credibly newsworthy; Johnson was bound to get slaughtered in the press. He finished with a bizarre dig at Scottish nationalism saying, “He talks about discriminatory policies at the border. The logic of his policy is to have a border at Berwick.”

Among other questions to the PM Colum Eastwood of the SDLP raised an issue related to our impeding Brexit crash out of the EU. He said, “In Ireland, both jurisdictions are working hard to organise contact tracing on a north-south basis, but the Prime Minister’s obsession with avoiding a Brexit transition extension means we risk crashing out without a data-sharing framework, which will critically undermine our ability to protect people from covid-19. When will he put the lives of people in our community above petty, narrow Brexiteer politics?” His appeal for sanity was bound to fall on deaf ears. In the PM’s disingenuous rebuttal Johnson said, “I must respectfully disagree with the hon. Gentleman. We are working very closely not just with our colleagues in the Government in Northern Ireland but with our colleagues in Dublin. I had a very good conversation with Leo Varadkar the other day and we saw eye to eye on the way forward. There is a huge amount shared between the UK and Ireland, and it will continue to be so.”

In the midst of the Tory Government’s shambolic and dangerous mishandling if the Covid 19 crisis we are being encouraged to forget about the next unnecessary catastrophe this reckless team on corrupt thugs has planned for us: crash-out Brexit. Just as the EU are pulling together to establish an effective economic recovery the UK will be careening towards another cliff edge disaster designed to devastate and enslave our population in decades of neo-liberal authoritarian dictatorship. We are fighting back and despite the fake Tory majority in Parliament we have forced Boris Johnson unto a couple of screeching U turns following this hammering at PMQs. This hoax of a Government is becoming less credible by the day; we must be really bold and demand a full investigation into the Covert 2019 Rugged Election to destroy their legitimacy and remove they from power before the cause any more serious harm and unnecessary death to our citizens and those who share our shores.