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


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Kim Sanders-Fisher
Guest

Boris Johnson started into last Wednesday’s session of Prime Minister’s Questions by drawing the attention of the House to the horrific tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire. Although the PM has never acknowledged any responsibility for decimating the London Fire Service with swinging cuts, Fire Station closures and redundancies during his time as London Mayor; there wasn’t even the slightest tinge of remorse as he callously offered sympathy towards victims who are still being sidelined by this cruelly dismissive Government. He said, “As we approach the third anniversary, this coming Sunday, of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, I know that the whole House would wish to join me in sending our heartfelt sympathies and thoughts to the families and friends of the 72 people who lost their lives and to the survivors. Across Government, we remain committed to ensuring that such a tragedy can never happen again.” This empty statement was followed by birthday wishes to the 99 year old Duke of Edinburgh and to the Speaker.

Before the Leader of the Opposition began the weekly fray there was a question about shielding from an MP who as shielded person herself requested, “a ‘safe hour’ walk for shielded people similar to that adopted in many other countries… They also want more transparency on the shielding list, with each category named and risks published. Will he provide that? Finally, will he agree to review the furlough scheme so shielded people, in the future, are not penalised?” The PM replied, “Yes, I can tell the hon. Lady that we certainly will be doing as much as we can in the near future to ensure shielded people get guidance about how they can come out of their shielded environment safely, in a way that is Covid secure. Her point about furlough is a very important one, and clearly newly shielded people may be asking themselves whether they will be entitled to furlough funds. I have been made aware of the issue very recently. I can assure her that we will be addressing it forthwith.”

Keir Starmer began by saying, “May I join the Prime Minister in his comments on Grenfell—that dreadful night—in his comments on the Duke of Edinburgh and, of course in his best wishes to you, Mr Speaker? May I also say that I listened carefully to what the Prime Minister just said on furlough for those newly shielding, which I welcome? That has been something we have been concerned about. We will look at the proposal when it is put on the table, but I am grateful that he has listened to that and for what he has said this morning.” It was a subtle warning that Starmer would be on the PM’s case if he did not follow through.

Starmer then said, “The Prime Minister on Monday said that feelings of black and minority ethnic groups about discrimination are ‘founded on a cold reality’, and I agree with him about that. There have been at least seven reports into racial inequality in the past three years alone, but precious little action. For example, most of the recommendations in the Lammy report into inequality in the criminal justice system have yet to be implemented, three years after the report was published. Similarly, the long-delayed and damning report by Wendy Williams into the Windrush scandal has yet to be implemented. I spoke last night to black community leaders, and they had a very clear message for the Prime Minister: ‘Implement the reports you’ve already got’. Will the Prime Minister now turbocharge the Government’s responses and tell us when he will implement in full the Lammy report and the Windrush recommendations?”

The PM responded, “I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and of course I understand, as I said, the very strong and legitimate feelings of people in this country at the death of George Floyd. Of course I agree that black lives matter. We are getting on with the implementation, not just of the Lammy report but also of the report into Windrush. For instance, on the Lammy report, which this Government commissioned, and for which I thank the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), we are increasing already the number of black and minority ethnic people in the Prison Service, as he recommended. We are increasing the use of body-worn cameras, and we are trying to ensure, among other things, that young BME people are not immediately prosecuted as a result of the trouble they find themselves in. We try to make sure that we give people a chance, but I must stress that on the Lammy report and all these matters, it is absolutely vital at the same time that we keep our streets safe and that we back our police, and that is what we are going to do.”

Starmer said, “I welcome what the Prime Minister says about implementing the reports, and obviously we will hold him to it. He will appreciate that people do notice when recommendations are made and then not implemented, so it is very important that they are implemented in accordance with those reports. The latest report is the Public Health England report on the disproportionate impact of covid-19. That report concluded that death rates are “highest among people of Black and Asian ethnic groups.” It went on to say—this was the important bit—that “it is already clear that relevant guidance…and key policies should be adapted” to mitigate the risk. If it is already clear that guidance and policy need to be changed, why have the Government not already acted?”

Name dropping the lead person who was demoted for his honesty about the situation before redacting his controversial input so that it was not published in the report, Johnson bluffed through his response. “Not only is it already clear, but we are already acting. I can tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman that as a result of the report by Professor Fenton, which again we commissioned, we are looking at the particular exposure of black and minority ethnic groups to coronavirus. We should be in no doubt that they have been at the forefront of the struggle against coronavirus, whether that is in the NHS or in public transport. Some 44% of the NHS workforce in London are black and minority ethnic workers. That is why what we are doing first and most directly is ensuring that those high-contact professions get expanded and targeted testing now, and that is what I have agreed with Dido Harding from NHS Test and Trace. I think that is the first and most practical step we can take as a result of Professor Fenton’s report.”

Starmer was persistent, “The Prime Minister, I know, understands the frustration of those most at risk when they see a report like that and they know action is needed. Action is needed now, not in a few weeks or months, so can I ask for the Prime Minister’s complete… Well, perhaps the Prime Minister will indicate whether that is all the action or whether there is more action. This is a serious issue, and we can make progress together, but it is important that it is done swiftly for those most at risk.”

Starmer began a new question, “I want to turn to the overall numbers of those who have tragically died from covid-19, because those overall numbers haunt us. Since the last Prime Minister’s questions, the Government’s daily total figure for those who have died from coronavirus has gone past 40,000. The Office for National Statistics figure, which records cases where coronavirus is on the death certificate, stands at just over 50,000. The number of excess deaths, which is an awful phrase, stands at over 63,000. Those are among the highest numbers anywhere in the world. Last week the Prime Minister said he was proud of the Government’s record, but there is no pride in those figures, is there?” This was a thoroughly pointless waste of a question to take a snipe at the PM; it was like water of a ducks back trying to appeal for to Johnson for accountability, shame and humility!

Take control of the question Johnson – Johnson was the question so he defaulted to empty sentiments with, “Let me just say that on the death figures for this country, we mourn every one; we grieve for their relatives and their friends. But I must also tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman—he has raised this point repeatedly across the Dispatch Box—that the best scientific evidence and advice is that we must wait until the epidemic has been through its whole cycle in order to draw the relevant international comparisons. I simply must repeat that point to him.” The Tories want us to wait until the ‘Holocaust in Care’ has completed a comprehensive cull of the elderly and the targeted ‘Slaughter of the Sheeple’ has removed the ‘economically inactive,’ the poor and the vulnerable before we begin to assess Johnson’s ‘Final Solution!;

More bluster was needed to silence opposition criticism so the PM continued, “As for what this country did to fight the epidemic, I must say I strongly disagree with the way he characterised it. I think it was an astonishing achievement of the NHS to build the Nightingale hospitals. I think it was an astonishing thing that this country came together to drive down the curve—to follow the social distancing rules, in spite of all the doubt that was cast on the advice, to follow those rules, to get the number of deaths down, to get the epidemic under control in the way that we have. This Government announced a plan, on 11 May, to get our country back on to its feet, and that is what we are going to do. We have a plan, we are following it and we are going to stick to it.” No one ever told Boris that when you’re in a hole it’s best to stop digging!

Starmer wasn’t going to let the matter drop, he responded, “It just does not wash to say that we can’t compare these figures with other countries. Everybody can see those figures and see the disparity, and we need to learn from those other countries—what did they do more quickly than us, what did they do differently? We can learn those lessons and ensure that the numbers come down. It is little solace to the families that have lost someone to simply be told, ‘It is too early to compare, and to learn from other countries.’ And of course there will be long-term consequences of the Government’s approach.”

Starmer moved to another question, “I want to turn now to another aspect of Government policy, and that is school reopening. We all want as many children back into school as soon as it is possible and as soon as it is safe. What was required for that to happen was a robust national plan, consensus among all key stakeholders and strong leadership from the top. All three are missing. The current arrangements lie in tatters; parents have lost confidence in the Government’s approach. Millions of children will miss six months’ worth of schooling and inequality will now go up. Several weeks ago, I suggested to the Prime Minister that we set up a national taskforce, so that everybody could put their shoulder to the wheel. It is not too late. Will the Prime Minister take me up on that?” Not the slightest chance Johnson will seize this opportunity to dumb down a whole generation of already deprived children.

Why did no one listen when he doubled-down on his lies, it was so annoying to have to keep repeating himself. Boris Johnson responded by saying, “As I told the House before, I have been in contact with the right hon. and learned Gentleman by a modern device called the telephone, on which we have tried to agree a way forward, which he then seemed to deviate from later on. Last week… Last week he was telling the House that it was not yet safe for kids to go back to school; this week he is saying that not enough kids are going back to school. I really think he needs to make up his mind.” It was a great manipulative tool the telephone, you could pretend you had discussed something and you had reached agreement reinvent the truth and just keep then confuse.

Johnson was starting to sound sarcastic and insulting saying, “Since he is so fond of these international comparisons, he should know that there are some countries in the EU—in Europe—where no primary school kids are going back to school, I think. We are being extremely cautious in our approach; we are following the plan that we set out, and I think that the people of this country will want to follow it. All the evidence—97% of the schools that have submitted data are now seeing kids come back to school. I think what we would like to hear from the right hon. and learned Gentleman is a bit of support for that, and a bit of encouragement to pupils, and perhaps even encouragement to some of his friends in the left-wing trade unions, to help get our schools ready.”

It was such a pity they had to cancel that cheerleading troupe who were all set to provide vibrant half-time entertainment, but they had to follow those Social Distancing rules even if Tory MPs and staff were permitted to ignore the regulations. But Starmer just was not going to choke down that lie about the phone call that never happened; he was getting annoyed as he said, “Let us just have this out.; It sounded like he wanted to go outside for a fight! He said, “The Prime Minister and I have never discussed our letter in any phone call; he knows it, and I know it. The taskforce has never been the subject of a conversation between him and me, one-to-one or in any other circumstance on the telephone; he knows it, so please drop that. Secondly—he mentions other countries—plenty of other comparable countries are getting their children back to school. Wales is an example; across Europe there are other examples. We are the outlier on this. And it is no good the Prime Minister flailing around, trying to blame others…”

He was stopped by the Speaker who wanted to move on calling “Order. We need to get through lots of other Members, so if we can listen to the question, I certainly want to hear the answers.” Starmer continued, “I was saying it is no good the Prime Minister flailing around, trying to blame others. A month ago today—a month ago today—he made the announcement about schools, without consulting relevant parties, without warning about the dates and without any scientific backing for his proposals. It is time he took responsibility for his own failures. This mess was completely avoidable. The consequences are stark. The Children’s Commissioner has warned of ‘a deepening education disadvantage gap’ and she spoke yesterday of, ‘an emerging picture, which doesn’t give confidence that there’s a strategic plan.’ She called for the Government to scale up their response and said, ‘It must have occurred to the Government that space would be a problem; that there would be a need for temporary accommodation and classrooms.’ The Government built the Nightingale hospitals; why are they only starting on schools now?”

There was no way anyone in the opposition could possibly understand the Tory plan because it was so disgustingly perverse: The chaos was intentional and gave the Tories space to blame the Teachers and the Unions. The agenda remains that missing a serious amount of school time will seriously dumb-down the most disadvantage children and thereby create a vast pool of poorly educated worker drones who have dismal life chances and can be paid subsistence wages for the rest of their miserable lives. The Nightingale Hospitals were a great PR stunt that fooled the public into thinking that Boris Johnson was going to prioritize the NHS. In reality, while PPE was in short supply putting frontline staff at risk, the Nightingale project had made a fortune for his elite Tory benefactors supplying costly equipment that was now lying idle awaiting the Government’s planned horrific second wave of Covid.

No point trying to explain all that, just stick to the confusion. Johnson replied, “The right hon. and learned Gentleman still cannot work out whether he is saying that schools are not safe enough or that we should be going back more quickly. He cannot have it both ways. It is one brief on one day and another brief on the next. I understand how the legal profession works, but what the public want to have is some consistency. I hope he will agree that it is a good thing that 37% of kids in year 6 in our primary schools are now coming back, and that is increasing the whole time. I think the message that teachers want to hear across the country is that all parliamentarians in this House of Commons support the return of kids to school and, furthermore, that they are encouraging kids to come back to school because it is safe. Will he now say that?” The PM is supposed to answer the questions not ask them, but Starmer was not falling into the PMs trap of getting him on the defensive.

Starmer said, “I want as many children to go back to school as possible, as soon as possible, as quickly as possible—when it is safe. I have been saying that like a broken record for weeks on end. I know that the Prime Minister has rehearsed attack lines, but he should look at what I said in the letter and what I have been saying consistently.” In another question he suggested, “One way in which the Government could help those worst affected would be to extend the national voucher scheme. Because child poverty numbers are so high in this country, 1.3 million children in low-income families rely on those vouchers. They mean that children who cannot go to school because of coronavirus restrictions still get free meals. The Labour Government in Wales have said that they will continue to fund those meals through the summer. Yesterday, the Education Secretary said that will not be the case in England. That is just wrong, and it will lead to further inequality, so may I urge the Prime Minister to reconsider on that point?”

The PM responded, “Of course, we do not normally continue with free school meals over the summer holidays, and I am sure that is right, but we are aware of the particular difficulties faced by vulnerable families. That is why we are announcing a further £63 million of local welfare assistance to be used by local authorities at their discretion to help the most vulnerable families. This Government have put their arms around the people of this country throughout this crisis and done their absolute best to help…” He wanted to portray Labour as ‘sitting on the fence’ so he said, “I may say that this is not helped by the wobbling and tergiversation of the Labour party and the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Last week he said that it is not safe; this week he says we are not going fast enough. We protected the NHS, we provided huge numbers of ventilated beds and we are now getting the disease under control, but we will do it in a cautious and contingent way.”

He was channelling his hero Churchill commanding the people in a time of crisis. He hadn’t noticed how unpopular the old chap had become daubed in paint and angry reminders of the appalling impact of his most bigoted decisions. Johnson would do well to learn that it is becoming harder and harder to rewrite history to whitewash over your mistakes. How long has he got to keep lying and pretending to the British people before he too will be toppled from his pedestal of power? Trying to sound Churchillian he continued, “Today I will be announcing further measures to open up and unlock our society, but only because of the huge efforts and sacrifice that this country has made. We are sticking to our plan of 11 May. It is a plan that is working and will continue to work, with or without the assistance of the right hon. and learned Gentleman.” It was a stark reminder that his control over Government was absolute as long as he could manage to hold on to his Machiavellian side-kick Dominic Cummings. He was relieved when a compliant Tory MP gave him the opportunity for more self-congratulatory boasting about lavish spending on a research project.

SNP Ian Blackford started with the same perfunctory statements, “May I associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister on Grenfell, and on the birthdays of both the Duke of Edinburgh and yourself, Mr Speaker?” He then went to his first question which began with a shocking statement, “The Prime Minister told the Liaison Committee: ‘I do not actually read the scientific papers’. It is no wonder, then, that it took the UK so long to act on quarantine measures. The Prime Minister’s scientific advisory group was not even asked for advice on this significant policy. This has been a complete shambles: too little, too late. We cannot risk ignoring the experts once again. Can the Prime Minister confirm what scientific papers he has read on the 2 metre social distancing rule?”

Oh no! That was a really stupid admission for him to make as it looked like he was not on top of his brief. The best thing would be to deny what was unfortunately documented in Hansard. Confident that nobody would read Hansard, he just lied saying, “I must say that I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. I have read a huge amount about a disease that affects our entire nation. I have actually read many papers on the social distancing rule, and it is a very interesting point. Members across the House of Commons will want to understand that I believe that those measures—the 2 metre rule—need now to be kept under review. As we drive this disease down and get the incidence down, working together, I want to make sure that we keep the 2 metre rule under constant review, because, as I think the right hon. Gentleman indicates, there is all sorts of scientific advice about that particular matter.”

Blackford responded, “Of course, we know that the Cabinet has discussed reducing the 2 metre social distancing rule, but that is not the experts’ advice right now. SAGE reported that being exposed to the virus for six seconds at 1 metre is the same as being exposed for one minute at 2 metres. That is a significant increase in risk. The last time that Professor Whitty was allowed to attend the daily press briefing, he stressed that the 2 metre rule was going to be necessary for as long as the pandemic continues. People are losing confidence in this Government: a U-turn on schools; a shambolic roll-out of quarantine measures; and now looking to reduce the 2 metre rule far too soon. Will the Prime Minister continue to ignore the experts, or will he start following the advice of those who have actually read the scientific papers?”

Obviously Johnson was not including the brazen non-compliance of his Chief Advisor Dominic Cummings when he claimed that, “Actually, the people of this country are overwhelmingly following the guidance that the Government give. Tomorrow the House will be hearing a bit more about what has happened with NHS Test and Trace, and they will find that there is an extraordinary degree of natural compliance and understanding by the British people. In spite of all the obscurantism and myth making that we have heard from the Opposition parties, I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that there are all sorts of views about the 2 metre rule. He is absolutely correct in what he says about the SAGE advice, but, clearly, as the incidence of the disease comes down—I think members of SAGE would confirm this—the statistical likelihood of being infected, no matter how close or far people are from somebody who may or may not have coronavirus, goes down.”

Tory, Mrs. Mary Miller said, “Many peaceful protests have been held across the country against racism following the appalling events in the US, including in my own constituency yesterday. Can I commend my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for recognising the significance of these events? As well as scrutinising the health impact of c-19 on ethnic minority groups, can he look again, using the Race Disparity Audit, for any persistent and systemic racism in all Government Departments—from the treatment of BAME people in the judicial system through to how we teach children about these issues in our education system?” Wow! I did not expect to hear that final statement from a Tory.

Boris Johnson saw this as an opportunity for boasting in pretence of his non-existent support for the BAME Community; as London Mayor he was in post while police forces were being cut by the Tory Government across the UK and London was no exception. He said, “I thank my right hon. Friend. I completely agree with the need for all political leaders to promote these issues—to recognise how important they are in people’s hearts. I am very proud of what I did as Mayor to encourage the promotion of young BAME officers in our Metropolitan police; we had a system to move them up. I want to see that kind of activity across the government of this country. It is the right way forward for the UK.”

The SNPs Kirsty Blackman asked, “The response from the US President to the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement has been horrendous. Can the Prime Minister confirm to me if he still believes that Trump has “many, many good qualities”, and if so, what are they?” Johnson was defensive as he proclaimed, “I renew what I have said many times; it is important for the House to hear it again. Yes, black lives matter, and yes, the death of George Floyd was absolutely appalling. As for the qualities of Mr Trump, let me say that, among many other things, he is President of the United States, which is our most important ally in the world today. Whatever people may say about it—whatever those on the left may say about it—the United States is a bastion of peace and freedom and has been for most of my lifetime.”

Tory MP, Father of the House Sir Peter Bottomley, offered a fitting tribute to retiring Archbishop of York, renown humanitarian John Sentamu. He said, “Mr Speaker, I hope you will allow me to ask the Prime Minister also to welcome the birthday of the Primate of England—the 2007 Yorkshireman of the year—the Archbishop of York, who is just laying down his crosier after 14 years of service. His great words were that we can share the glories, the struggles, the joys and the pains of this country. We should remember that John Sentamu was tortured in Uganda, served in Tulse Hill, Stepney and Birmingham as well as York, and was a critical adviser to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.”

He continued, “Can I put it to my right hon. Friend that if, in a period of eight years, there are eight interrogations of a bishop, each time John Sentamu, we have got more to learn about making the colour of one’s skin as important as the colour of one’s eyes and the colour of one’s hair—something you may notice but does not tell you any more about them.” That was a profound statement, but Boris Johnson’s reply made a mockery of this noble man. He started by saying, “I join my hon. Friend warmly in paying tribute to the Archbishop of York as he lays down his crosier. He and I correspond very often and I take his advice very sincerely. I had no idea that today was such a distinguished birthday.” No one could quite believe that Johnson would actually have the humility to take advice from a genuinely committed humanitarian; the PMs advisor was a scrawny semi-bald white guy with poor dress sense.

In tune with the recent weeks of protest over ‘Black Lives Matter’ this was excellent timing for Lib-Dem Sir Edward Davey to raise this really important racial inequality question. In a topical challenge to the disproportionate BAME targeting of Stop-and-Search, Davey asked, “Under suspicionless stop-and-search powers, which this Government are expanding, a black person is 47 times more likely to be stopped and searched than a white person—47 times. On too many occasions, stop-and-search seems to mean that being black is enough to be suspected of being a criminal. So will the Prime Minister abolish suspicionless stop-and-search powers and end the pain and injustice they wreak on so many people in Britain’s black and minority communities?”

Johnson who obviously has no problem with this blatant racial profiling replied, “It is very important that stop-and-search is carried out sensitively in accordance with the law. The fact that we now have body-worn cameras has made a great difference to the way it happens. I must say that section 60 powers can be very important in fighting violent crime. I am afraid that what has been happening in London with knife crime has been completely unacceptable, and I do believe that stop-and-search, among many other things, can be a very important utensil for fighting knife crime. It does work. It worked for us when I was running London and it must work now. I am not saying it is the whole answer—the right hon. Gentleman is right; it is not the whole answer—but it is part of the mix.” There is no hint in this reply of the way in which section 60 powers are being used to target black neighbourhoods.

SNP Stewart Malcolm McDonald highlighted Sick Pay, asking, “Even before the pandemic began it was clear that the UK has one of the most manifestly inadequate systems of statutory sick pay in the world: we are second from the bottom in European terms, and it continues to shun millions of workers who are low earners, work in the gig economy or are self-employed. As we come back from the crisis in economic terms and make the workplace better, will the Prime Minister agree to work with those of us in the…?” The PM started by agreeing, but then lapsed into a series of self-congratulatory boasts that bore little relationship to the truth. After admitting that, “Yes, of course, statutory sick pay is an important…” he started into typical Tory banter with, “…Anybody looking impartially…” and rambling on with “will concede that the UK has done more than virtually any other country on earth…”

Labour MP Rachel Hopkins said, “My constituents tell me that they have lost trust in the Government, as they are confused by mixed messaging around public health measures and angry that Dominic Cummings seems to have been let off the hook, but they are particularly worried about local jobs and livelihoods because of inadequate support schemes, a lack of crisis funding for Luton council and an illogical quarantine impacting Luton airport. All of this has been on your watch, Prime Minister. How can my constituents feel confident about the proposed next steps for easing lockdown when your Government have fallen short so far?”

Oh no! She had triggered the Cummings alert, his master was under attack; she had dared to ask about the disgraced Dominic Cummings, for whom no rules or restrictions must be applied or it could derail their grand Tory plan for Dictatorship of the country. It was time to turbocharge the insulting, disingenuous, lying Boris Shit. His defensive reply enlisted all those people who had yet to realize no longer supported him, but he was too narcissistic to recognize that fact as he claimed, “Because I think the British public, with their overwhelming common sense, have ignored some of the propaganda that we have been hearing from the Opposition about our advice. They have ignored the negativity and the attempts to confuse and they are overwhelmingly following advice, and indeed, they are complying with NHS Test and Trace—which is the way forward—which will enable us to defeat this virus both locally and nationally.”

Johnson really thought he had managed to get the opposition to ‘Move On;’ It was just one more Tory scandal so why couldn’t they just let it go? It was not good the Tory MP on the Isle of Weight had also been caught breaking lockdown rules and a Welsh MP was admonished for a party at his house; these regulations were meant to control the masses not the privileged elite, but Johnson failed to see why that was unfair. Instead of eased restrictions driving the working poor back to their abysmally paid servitude they were taking to the streets in ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest demanding equality and desecrating dear old Churchill. All this protest and our refusal to “Move On” has them worried; we cannot let up now. If we can force Cummings out he will be livid; no personal power – no Tories. He could seek vengeance by exposing the truth about the Covert 2019 Rigged Election; that might lead to a full police investigation with the Tories removed from power . Keep protesting: DO NOT MOVE ON!