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It was truly nauseating to hear the Prime Minister mouth off the sentiment “of course Black Lives Matter,” when we are all painfully aware that a serial lying racist usurped the leadership of our country in the Covert 2019 Rigged Election. Boris Johnson has amply proved himself an equal opportunity bigot with his numerous offensive comments directed at ethnic minorities and other sectors of the UK population. He has never demonstrated the courage to say sorry and the example he has set to the nation still remains appallingly divisive and a serious reason for people to take to the streets to let him know his conduct is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated. I am convinced that Johnson’s willingness to embrace and latch onto the toxic movement stirring up vile anti-migrant sentiment in the UK to get elected, in reality did not succeed as is evident from the protesters on our streets. We must not give up on the investigation required to expose this injustice; under Johnson and the Tories we are doomed as no lives will matter.
The tide is turning and we must demand change. If you have not yet reviewed the Petition I launched, please read, sign, share and link to: 2019 TORY LANDSLIDE VICTORY DEMANDS URGENT NATIONWIDE INVESTIGATION.
I believe that the strength of anti-Tory sentiment began to build in this country with the entitled arrogance of Boris Johnson’s refusal to sack his miscreant Chief Advisor, Dominic Cummings after he callously breached the lockdown rules that everyone throughout the country had made huge personal sacrifices to adhere to for months. He was counting on procrastinating just long enough to get the public and the press to compliantly “Move On.” He probably thought that ongoing fear of infection with the virus would keep people from protesting, but he had already made so many workers to take risks by forcing them back to their jobs on cramming public transport it was no longer an issue. Frontline workers, many of whom are from BAME backgrounds, are being treated as “cannon fodder” in Johnson’s genocidal “Slaughter of the Sheeple!” DO NOT MOVE ON!
This evil agenda is being fully exposed and the public have sent Boris Johnson a strong message that fear will not prevent protest as he continues to put people’s lives at risk with leis, lack of scrutiny and dangerous rule by selfish Tory dictate. In the Guardian Article: “Labour accuses Government of cover-up over BAME Covid-19 report” they report that the Government is accused of “covering up vital recommendations” They say that, “Concerns about censorship mounted this week after third-party submissions, which reportedly highlighted structural racism and social inequality, were left out of the government-commissioned report on the disproportionate effects of Covid-19 on BAME people. On Saturday the shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, demanded the report be published in full.” Bell Ribeiro-Addy, the MP for Streatham, said, “the fact the review overlooked factors arising from structural racism and wrongly focused on comorbidities including obesity and diabetes sent a message that ‘we don’t matter’.”
According to Hansard, during a Parliamentary debate held on the 4th of June Urgent Question requesting a statement on the Public Health England review of disparities in risks and outcomes related to the covid-19 outbreak. This is most of the debate, a long read. Responding for the Tory Government Kemi Badenoch started into her statement with the words, “As a black woman and the Equalities Minister,” before commenting on her reaction to the George Floyd case in the US. Rather than establishing concern, her remarks bore the hallmark of a ‘they’re worse than we are’ pitch. It was not a confident start to a speech that made a familiar veiled request not to criticize the Government and meandered through continued inaction to culminate in the need for further review.
Labour’s shadow Minister for Women and Equality, Gill Furniss MP, voiced concern over what had been published. Furniss stated that, “The review confirms what we already know: racial and health inequalities amplify the risk of covid-19. It found that those from BAME backgrounds were more than twice as likely to die from covid-19 than white people, and that BAME healthcare workers are at particular risk of infection. Public Health England’s review fails to make a single recommendation on how to reduce those inequalities, protect workers on the front line, or save lives. That is despite the fact that its terms of reference include to ‘suggest recommendations’ for further action. Will the Minister urgently explain why the review failed to do that? The Government have said that the Race Disparity Unit will publish recommendations on the findings from the review. When will those recommendations be published, alongside a plan for their implementation?” Badenoch’s response was to offer more noncommittal Government stalling.
Joanna Cherry speaking for the SNP, wanted to “reassure Scotland’s BAME communities that the SNP were taking the issue very seriously.” She said that, “On 20th May, the Scottish Government published Public Health Scotland’s preliminary analysis, which suggested that the proportion of BAME patients among those seriously ill with Covid is no higher than the proportion in the Scottish population generally. However, the Scottish Government are treating those findings with caution, given the findings in England and Wales. Further work is under way to deepen understanding of the risk factors and improve analysis.” If this disparity between Scotland and the rest of the UK is confirmed then it would diminish the possibility of genetic factors that cannot be changed and increase the likelihood of socioeconomic factors and discriminatory problems that can and should be very urgently addressed.
Highlighting an issue raised at Liaison Committee Cherry asked, “What action will the UK Government take to review their ‘no recourse to public funds’ policies, given that the Prime Minister revealed that he was unaware that thousands of people are locked out of available support due to those rules? In addition, why will the UK Government not lower the earnings threshold for statutory sick pay, which is forcing people in BAME communities out to work when it is not safe for them to be working?” These two really important points demonstrate the need to create a more comprehensive and all inclusive safety net that does not force people to choose between community safety priorities and personal economic survival.
The Public Health Scotland results differing from Public Health England, offered a further excuse for Government prevarication and an endless stream of reports as Badenoch cited it as “one reason why we are not rushing to recommendations.” She then reverted to the classic Tory ‘blame the patient’ evasion of responsibility by saying, “It is important to note that the PHE review did not take into account other factors such as comorbidities.” The slightest mention of those excluded from support brought forth a torrent of self-congratulatory propaganda spin with inflated financial compensation lavishly spread across various sectors in ways that best support those least in need of assistance while denying huge sectors of the working poor who are being forced back into unsafe work environments even if they really need to shield of isolate.
Several of the Tory contributors to the debate seemed intent on steering the focus well off course by raising other issues like age, the learning disabled, lung damage among former Miner’s and Tory MP Dr. Liam Fox should have known better than to make a pitch for the plight of men! The report was to focus on issues where intervention or a change of policy might make a difference to reduce the poor outcome for those from a BAME background. Badenoch welcomed any distraction to set off on a tangent especially if it could be used to blame the victims and exonerate the Government for ten years of Tory cuts, low investment, neglect, rising poverty and ongoing inequality. Referring to the report she said, “Some of the things not present included comorbidities, population density, public transport use, household composition and housing conditions.” It was time for another hefty Tory kick into the long grass…
While Tory Richard Fuller compared how although there had “historically been an over-representation of black and minority ethnic people among employees, they have been under-represented in the leadership of the NHS.” Which gave Badenoch the ideal opportunity to promote fake news by saying, “We do want to see diversity in leadership across institutions in this country, which is one reason why we asked Professor Kevin Fenton, who is a black surgeon, to lead on this review?” Although Public Health England announced the inquiry, which investigated the impact of the virus on different ethnic groups, would be led by black doctor Prof Kevin Fenton, the Canary Reported and the BBC clarified that the report was led and written by Prof John Newton, head of the UK’s testing programme. PHE said Prof Fenton “contributed” to the review.
Labour MP Rachael Maskell said, “In 2010, Professor Marmot published his report on how structural inequalities predispose the poorest to the worst health outcomes. We know how race inequality is entwined with that. A decade on, the inequalities have grown. The PHE report has now highlighted the fatal consequences of that. Even today, low-paid workers are exposed to the greatest infection risks, and lockdown easement is reinforcing that. Will the Minister pause the easement plan until a full mitigation plan is in place to address these inequalities?” Badenoch defensively grasped for Tories favourite human shield ‘the science…’ saying, “It is important to reiterate that any easement plan is being made in conjunction with scientists.” She then tossed the responsibility onto employers to, “make risk assessments for their staff so that they are not unduly exposed to the virus.”
A Skwawkbox Article revealed how Fenton’s input was so controversial it was removed and his role leading the review was downgraded. Badenoch answered the next point about employees with typical Tory jargon saying, “Engaging employers as well as employees will be essential. Professor Kevin Fenton of PHE has already undertaken extensive stakeholder engagement on this issue, and I intend to assist him in continuing that excellent work.” Later in the debate Labour MP Mary Kelly Foy also raised Marmot stating, “In February of this year, Professor Marmot published his review of health inequalities a decade after his original report. He made several recommendations, the first being for the creation of a cross-government, cross-party strategy led by the Prime Minister to address those health inequalities. Given that covid-19 has shown how far we are from achieving a fair and equal country, will the Minister say whether the Government will incorporate that recommendation as a key part of the recovery from coronavirus?”
Labour MP Fleur Anderson asked, “The Spanish flu epidemic led to huge, widescale social reform, and this report points to the need to do the same. Almost three quarters of health and social care staff who have died as a result of covid-19 are from black and ethnic minorities. Why does the review fail to mention the occupational discrimination faced by BME healthcare staff, which has been highlighted by the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing and needs urgent attention?” Although Badenoch seemed emphatic in her reply saying, “Again, it is important to remember that the purpose of the review was to look at specific factors,” she appeared a lot more willing to dismissively muddy the waters with frequent references to comorbidities. She just had to include that pathetic Tory claim of “working round the clock to protect everyone on the frontline during this pandemic for as long as it is required…”
Labour MP Helen Hayes brought up the injustice suffered by the woman who died tragically from coronavirus after being spat at while at work at Victoria station. She said, “There must be justice for Belly Mujinga and her family by way of meaningful action to stop unnecessary BAME frontline deaths now. When will the Government instruct employers to put in place the comprehensive protections that are needed for all BAME staff and other vulnerable workers who need protection to stop them dying now?”
Badenoch response professed sympathy, but then coldly added, “I understand, contrary to what the hon. Lady says, that British Transport police are not taking further action in Belly Mujinga’s case because senior detectives are confident that the incident at Victoria station did not lead to her contracting Covid.” It was just an assault ignored by police because of her BAME background: not OK! Hopefully, due to public pressure, the perpetrator will now be prosecuted, but Badenoch was not offering her support,
SNP Alison Thewliss was one of several MPs to raise the issue of “no recourse to public funds” remarking, “As I said to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care earlier this week, it is one thing to say that black lives matter and quite another to force black people and people from BAME backgrounds out to work who have no choice other than to go to work because they have no recourse to public funds. No recourse to public funds is a racist policy. Will she abolish it now?”
Badenoch was fiercely defensive in her reply saying, “I must push back on some of what the hon. Lady said. It is wrong to conflate all black people with recent immigrants and assume, which is what she just said, that we all have to pay a surcharge.” Was she trying to ramp up Tory anti-migrant rhetoric? Dig out that favourite Tory word “conflate” to help blur the harsh reality of warranted criticism and remind the House that she was, “a black woman…” as if this was not perfectly obvious. Verbally brandish her ethnic badge, she continued her rant, “It is absolutely wrong to try to conflate lots of different issues and merge them into one, just so that it can get traction in the press… It is not right for us to use confected outrage. We need courage to say the right things, and we need to be courageous in order to calm down racial tensions, not inflame them just so that we have something to put on social media.”
Labour MP Dr. Rupa Huq was unperturbed by this inappropriate defensive rant when she spoke of the Black Lives Matter protest as she challenged, “The Minister talked about having courage and being a black woman herself. She and I are both BME parents. Can we really look into our sons’ eyes and say we acknowledged it? Surely we need action. It is not good enough. When will we see a detailed plan, with deliverables, objectives, dates and buy-in from all our diverse communities, so that this does not just look like a box-ticking exercise?” She got that right, Badenoch appeared seriously out of touch with the UK protesters when she said, “actually this is one of the best countries in the world in which to be a black person.” Not as bad as the US, is not good enough!
Despite prefacing with Black lives do matter! Tory MP Jason McCartney started into the “stroking” routine of “Does the Minister agree…” and claiming, “that the UK should be very proud of the huge contribution BAME workers have made during this crisis, both as key workers and in the health service? With that in mind, following this review, will she say once again what immediate action she is taking to address these disparities?” Badenoch, a typical Tory, ready to cheer on the key workers while denying their paltry pay rises, failed to see the hypocrisy. On immediate action she was more reticent saying, “we must take the right action; we must not rush into doing the things people are asking for if it turns out they are the wrong steps to take but look right. It is not about optics; it is about doing the right thing, and that is why we are not rushing. We will have a proper programme. We will look at all the studies that have come out, not just the Public Health England one, and produce an appropriate set of recommendations that have the confidence of various communities.” The Tories will kick this into the long grass.
Labour MP Dawn Butler got right to the point, “The PHE report has no third-party submissions. Where are the missing submissions and will the Minister place them in the House of Commons Library? The Government have a reputation for whitewashing reports and hiding from the consequences of structural racism. The Minister says she is not going to rush. In 2016, the Conservative Prime Minister said she would tackle the burning injustices in society. What happened? Where is the social injustice office that was promised in 2016? There is not rushing, and then there is taking your time and avoiding the issue. The Windrush report was delayed and edited, and some parts were deleted. That is a worrying trend of this Government. The PHE report essentially says that there is nothing internal about why black, Asian and minority ethnic people are dying of Covid at twice the rate of their white counterparts. There is nothing internal. That means that it is external, and it is accelerated by this Government.”
Badenoch was really on the defensive saying, “I utterly reject what the hon. Lady has said. With permission, Mr Speaker, I think I need to clarify some confusion that seems to have arisen.” She claimed the review was separate from the input solicited on the same subject and we should not expect the Government to act logically by assessing the totality of this information. She said, “Separately, PHE has been engaging with a significant number of individuals and organisations within the BAME community over the past couple of months to hear their views. That was not a part of this. A lot of people think that that is something that should have been in the report. We will be building on, and expanding on, that engagement as we take this work forward, but that is different from the report that we have commissioned.” Very long grass…
Tory MP Mrs Flick Drummond came to the rescue with excuses about how the report was rushed, but “…does raise a number of issues, such as the effect of age and ethnicity. Further examination is also needed of other issues such as comorbidities, socioeconomic issues and multi-generational living, which is the case in Italy too. Does the Minister feel that the report has gone far enough?” Badenoch replied, “The short answer is no. The report is a welcome first step, but it certainly has not gone far enough. We will take it to where we think it needs to get to.” We’re talking very, very long grass…
Labour MP Zarah Sultana said, “The coronavirus does not discriminate, but the system in which it is spreading does. Higher rates of poverty, overcrowded housing, precarious work and jobs on the frontline mean that if you are black or Asian you are more likely to catch the virus and to be hit worse if you do. “Black lives matter” is not a slogan. We are owed more than confirmation that our communities are suffering; we are owed justice. Will the Minister commit to a race equality strategy covering all Whitehall Departments, so that we can rebuild by tackling the underlying inequalities and systemic injustice that coronavirus has so brutally laid bare?”
Badenoch replied with that Tory “All I can say…” line claiming once again that, “the Government are doing every single thing they can to make sure we eliminate the disparities that we are seeing because of this disease.” She then wandered off course to include various other issues, “We must remember that, as we talk about different groups, there are many other groups that have been impacted based on age and even based on gender. We are looking at all of that.” Badenoch then got quite insulting, to the point where a Canary Article reported on the hypocrisy of her response, she said, “I am not going to take any lessons from the hon. Lady on race and what I should be doing on that. I think the Government have a record to be proud of. We will wait and see the outcomes of the following steps in the recommendations.” Another Tory proud the UK’s disgraceful high death toll track record!
Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine elaborated on what was missing saying, “The review, as we know, found that people of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, other Asian, Caribbean and other black ethnicity had between 10% and 50% higher risk of death when compared to white British, yet only 11 of the 89 pages explore the issue of racial inequalities in coronavirus deaths. We have also heard reports that there is a chapter, referring to individuals and stakeholder groups, which is not included. Can the Minister assure us that there is no reason why the people she referred to as being dealt with separately should not have been included in the report? Can she assure us that what we will see from the Government is the full unredacted evidence from individuals and stakeholder groups to address the imbalance in the evidence in this review?”
Badenoch was back to the Tory jargon on ‘Stakeholder engagements’ and ‘conflating issues’ saying, “Again—I will repeat this point—it is important that we understand the key drivers of the disparities. What we commissioned was a quantitative review. We want to be evidence-led. Stakeholder engagement is important, but we do not want to conflate the two things, and that is something that we will be taking forward in the future.” That will be the very distant future… If you deliberately ask the wrong question it will help you to deliberately confuse or procrastinate endlessly over the answer and how to implement recommendations to the point where everyone forgets there was even a question posed in the first place… Tory strategy in a nutshell!
Labour MP Chris Bryant commended Tory MP Scott Benton for what he has said regarding deprivation as it was a point he was about to raise. Referring to his own constituency he said, “the Rhondda, has one of the highest death rates per 100,000 head of population in the country, and therefore in the world. Being poor is certainly an early death sentence—by some 20 years compared with richer parts of the country—and that is because it is the people who are subsisting on poor wages, few hours and unsafe labour in difficult working conditions, without proper protection, with miserly benefits, with statutory sick pay that does not enable people to put food on the table, relying on food banks, who are dying. Surely, one lesson that we must learn from coronavirus is that we must pay our key workers properly so that they can put food on the table and not rely on food banks.”
Badenoch who had obviously been ordered to continue the Tory ‘levelling up’ deception needed to signal her agreement even if her Party would never follow through. Surprisingly Tory MP Nusrat Ghani attacked what she called, “The lack of leadership and transparency in Public Health England and NHS England has been shamefully exposed, with BAME health workers dying at a greater rate. Covid has showed us what it means when these institutions are not equal, with BAME workers saying that they did not have the same access to personal protective equipment as their white colleagues and felt pressured to work on the frontline. As both Public Health England and NHS England are independent, how will my hon. Friend hold them to account?” Badenoch replied by referring to “concerns that we have been hearing anecdotally” as if the issues raised were just fake news, but she was careful not, “criticising NHS workers for not looking after their own.”
Labour MP Stephen Timms again raised the issue of those excluded from support asking, “will she press her colleagues to suspend the ‘no recourse to public funds’ restriction, which has prevented thousands of hard-working BAME families, many with children born in the UK, from claiming universal credit during this crisis?” Badenoch tried to create the classic Tory separation of good migrants who work in the NHS from those bad migrants who we want to punish and deport by saying, “We understand that there may be difficulties for failed asylum seekers who cannot return home, and we are continuing to provide free accommodation to those who would otherwise be destitute. That is just another example of how the Government are looking at these things intensely. We have not forgotten anyone.”
SNP’s Patrick Grady reinforced the same concern saying, “Does the Minister not understand that ‘no recourse to public funds’ reinforces the various structural inequalities that the Black Lives Matter campaign is trying to call out? It is not leaving my constituents looking for mortgage holidays; it is leaving them destitute. That is not just unequal; it is inhumane. So will the Government please review this situation and allow people to get the support that they so desperately need?” Badenoch was back to conflating… “I will repeat the point I made earlier: we should not conflate black people with people who do not have any recourse to public funds. It is a very—I am not going to say the words ‘disingenuous argument’, Mr Speaker, but I do think that this is something that we need to be very clear about and not muddy the waters in terms of what is going on.”
Labour MP Maria Eagle said, “The research shows, among many disturbing findings about race disparities, that diagnosis rates are higher in deprived and densely populated urban areas, and that our great cities such as Liverpool have been hardest hit by the virus. Does the Minister accept that the reason why we must research Covid disparities is so that effective action can be taken to address them? Will she undertake to ensure right now that the Government allocate resources to combat Covid in such a way as to address these inequalities—she can do that now—rather than on a crude per capita basis that completely ignores the realities of who is hardest hit and why?” Badenoch made a point about engaging with local authorities despite the reality that this Tory Government rarely tries to “engage” with anyone.
Tory MP Andrew Griffith started by repeating the mantra of the day, “All lives matter! He said going on to make an important point, “They matter now and they mattered in March and April, when many of my constituents could not get a test when they needed one. Will the Minister talk to her colleagues about changing the attitude of Public Health England towards working with the private sector to mobilise testing capacity?” Badenoch broadly agreed, without attempting to explain why testing had been so calamitous or so delayed.
Getting towards the end of the session, in reply to a typical self-congratulatory “stroking” non-question, Badenoch made the astonishingly brazen reply that typifies Tory lack of self awareness. She actually said, “People do look to this House to set an example across the country, and those of us in this House must not just demonstrate that we agree with the guidance, but show that we are following the rules as well.” What planet is she on? Does Badenoch have no idea how angry people are that Dominic Cummings has remained in post despite breaking the strict rules that he created? I do not know how in hell Badenoch could come out with a statement like that while the scandal of Boris Johnson continued refusal to fire his “handler,” Cummings for blatantly breaching lockdown restrictions has remained such a raw wound of abused privilege and betrayed trust. DO NOT MOVE ON… if Cummings is ousted he might just turn Whistleblower, expose the truth and bring down this toxic Tory Government out of revenge.