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It was a genuine time to cheer at one small victory over oppression as Slave Trader Edward Colston got the heave-ho into Bristol harbour captured on camera for posterity and the pleasure of all who have enjoyed that priceless piece of footage online. Pritty Patel could barely contain her rage, Boris Johnson was furious, but made an awkward attempt to try showing empathy for the rejoicing supporters of the protest while still threatening to prosecute them as vandals! The Tories need to realize that the public mood is not going to side with privileged toffs past or present and they too may soon be toppled from their undeserved pedestal of power. These multi-ethnic protests have gone way beyond just a few token solidarity marches over the murder of George Floyd. They have expanded to embrace the intense hurt felt by the families of those killed in violent incidents here in the UK, the fear that so many young men must feel when they are repeatedly stopped by police for no good reason other than the colour of their skin.
Keir Starmer lost Labour support by stating that the statue should not have been removed in that way. No Starmer that was exactly how it had to come down; that finally got the authorities to take note of the ignored masses. Keir Starmer needs to reflect on the core public feeling on this as well as other issues. David Olusoga’s Guardian Opinion Piece; “The toppling of Edward Colston’s statue is not an attack on history. It is history.” He epitomized my feelings when he wrote, “For people who don’t know Bristol, the real shock when they heard that the statue of a 17th-century slave trader had been torn from its plinth and thrown into the harbour was that 21st-century Bristol still had a statue of a slave trader on public display. For many watching the events unfold on social media, that was the real WTF moment.” Timing is everything as this occurred right as the Tories cautiously released the more palatable segments of a sanitized review into why Covid 19 puts members of the BAME community at increased risk?
The Government Review was not the only examination of the alarming data. In the biggest survey of its kind, ITV News asked the UK’s BAME healthcare community – respondents were of different ethnicity and roles in the NHS – “why they thought more of their BAME colleagues are dying than their white counterparts.” They reported, “From the more than 2,000 respondents to our survey, comments revealed BAME NHS staff feel fearful in the most at-risk frontline roles, while others are feeling unfairly deployed, and at an increased risk of infection, with many feeling unheard, and some driven to quit their profession. Perhaps most shocking, 50 per cent of respondents felt discriminatory behaviour has played a role in the high death toll – with one in five claiming they have experienced it personally. 50 per cent also said health was a contributing factor.”
ITV reported, “One of the most revealing parts of the survey was the stark insight into the experiences of BAME workers in the NHS gained from more than 4,000 comments.” The said that, “The most common reason given in the survey for the potential cause of these figures was the deployment of BAME staff to frontline roles, with higher potential for exposure to the virus. Whilst this may be due, in part, to minority ethnic groups often being over-represented at lower levels of the NHS – many respondents told ITV News they believed unfair or discriminatory decisions were also at play. One respondent described treatment as “very unfair” adding: “All BAME nurses [have been] allocated to red wards and my white colleagues [are] constantly in green wards.”
The survey highlighted that, “For BAME NHS workers from overseas, the fear of losing their jobs is coupled with the fear of losing their home due to visa regulations around employment. One respondent told ITV News: “A lot of BAME [people] don’t have the support of an immediate family because they live alone in UK whilst their family are back in their home country” saying, “I believe this adds to the stress especially now it’s pandemic a lot of BAME have not been able to go back to their home country to be with loved ones.” I would also add that many of these Healthcare workers send ‘Remittance Money’ overseas to help support family members who rely on them. For the Brexiteer Tories this deliberately engineered job insecurity is the perfect set of circumstances to insure hard work, long hours and unwavering compliance, despite gross inequality while ignoring dubious safety conditions. Eliminating the EU’s level playing field to force UK workers to compete with desperate developing world medics will destroy the power of unions in post Brexit Britain.
Multiple respondents told ITV News that, “they were told by superiors not to ‘panic’ after they raised concerns around PPE early in the outbreak.” Another medic said: “I have had a few precarious discussions with managers early in the crisis who were telling us to stop panicking and not to ‘waste’ PPE because we wanted to protect ourselves.” This sentiment was echoed in a callous statement made by Matt Hancock suggesting that dwindling stocks were only running out because NHS staff were needlessly squandering precious PPE supplies! Survey respondents continued, “Though PPE guidance to medical staff has changed during the outbreak, one health worker responded to the survey that they had been ‘actively forbidden’ from wearing masks in the two weeks prior to lockdown.” The individual said: “We were […] threatened with being sacked If we spoke up about not being allowed to wear PPE.”
ITV reported, “Reflecting on their experiences since the outbreak began, 90 per cent of respondents pointed to the government – calling for more to be done to protect BAME medics. Downing Street has announced a formal review will take place into why people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds appear to be disproportionately affected.” This was reported on and debated in the Commons on the 4th on June, but significant segments were missing and there were no recommendations. They said that, “Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary for England, told ITV News he is ‘very concerned’ about the numbers of ‘people from a BAME background’ contracting Covid-19 and dying from the virus.” Hancock said, “I fully acknowledge that there is a higher prevalence amongst people of BAME backgrounds and it’s something that we’re doing work on.” Mr Hancock added: “It’s something I’m really worried about.”
The ITV survey was conducted before the Government Review, but it should have provided a stark warning of the realities driving the disparity in prognosis. However the input of Professor Fenton was omitted and his leading role was downgraded to contributor as the Tory Government sought to whitewash the damning results. ITV had said, “Indeed, the formal review is something the heads of medical organisations have called for, Chair of the BMA Dr Nagpaul told ITV News a ‘proper investigation’ is needed.” He said, “94% of doctors who have died after contracting Covid-19 are from a BAME background. That proportion is far greater than the proportion of BAME doctors in the workforce.” ITV added, “But will a review, or an investigation, go far enough?” In retrospect it seems not! One survey recipient said: “I strongly feel that the lost lives of the BAME NHS staff will be brushed off without much changes or protection [it] reflects the current state of affairs within the system.”
• The ITV News survey was created after discussions with BAME medics.
• The survey was distributed directly, officially through large medical organisations, like the GMC, and to leading British BAME medical groups including: APPS, BAPIO, MDA, BIMA, SDDA,SDU, Melanin Medics, BSMA, NMA, GMA, GDDA, RCN, NNCAUK and BIDA.
• Responses were gathered across a seven day period from when the survey was released on May 2
Just as concerning ITV News reported that, “Half of pregnant women in hospital with Covid-19 were from a BAME background, study reveals.” According to the, “ peer-reviewed research, published in the British Medical Journal, looked at data for pregnant women admitted to 194 obstetric units in the UK with a positive Covid-19 infection between March 1 and April 14. It found that of the 427 pregnant women in hospital during that period, 233 (56%) were from BAME backgrounds, of which 103 were Asian and 90 were black. The high proportion of pregnant women from BAME groups remained after excluding major urban centres from the analysis.” They authors said that, “We sought to collect national, population-based information on severe SARS-CoV-2 infection, defined as hospital admission, to capture the incidence and outcomes of severe disease in pregnancy.”
As I highlighted when writing about the debate the other day the word from north of the border might offer a ray of hope with input from the SNP. Joanna Cherry said she, “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 confirmed, this disparity between Scotland and the rest of the UK 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.
Boris Johnson and his wretched Tory cabal might have really thought that the demonstrations would detract from the Cummings scandal, but in reality their whole elitist attitude epitomizes the colonial superiority over ordinary people that had fired up the UK Black Lives Matter protests. They might have thought that they had managed to drive such a massive angry wedge between various ethnic communities that there would be no possibility of solidarity; they were wrong. Imagine Johnson’s outrage when Bristol law enforcement had been ordered to stand down as irate citizens dragged Slave Owner Colston off his plinth, rolled him down the street and dumped him unceremoniously into the harbour. Why didn’t the police start cracking heads? He would push for prosecutions, but it had aroused the press and created a call for other venerated members of the past elite to be removed.
The media had failed to normalize the unrest and get the public to Move On… The Tories might not reveal it, but they are scared; that such strength of feeling could topple more than effigies, it topples tyrants too. Do we even need Cummings to turn vengeful Whistleblower and spill the beans? That would certainly destroy Johnson’s legitimacy overnight. We should not stop trying to get Cummings fired as there is ample reason, growing by the day, and it could precipitate his betrayal of Boris Johnson. We should not stop demanding a full, comprehensive investigation for complete exposure of the truth about the Covert 2019 Rigged Election either. However, the way the shambolic handling of the Covid 19 crisis continues to rapidly deteriorate where this Government has become the global, stand-out failure at some point people will take to the streets in protest or the current protests will get ugly. We need to maintain focus and solidarity: DO NOT MOVE ON!