Category: UK

A case for school-led political education

Beanna Olding

Twitter wars; they’re everywhere. Even if you are not on Twitter, you’ve probably still seen a fair few. And even if you haven’t directly seen the venomous, back-and-forth, 280-character limited attacks, I’ll wager that you’ve read the news articles denouncing or encouraging them. It seems that the debate around whether or not these Twitter wars […]

The taste of Lavender is as good as the scent

Meryl White

How I’ve appreciated the smells of lavender growing in my garden this year reminding me of visits to Lavender farms across the UK and Provence in France. As well as being a beautiful plant, lavender is well known for its soothing scent and the calming benefits of its oil. It’s a classic in the world of […]

Brexit backing billionaire plans to open new car plant – in France

Anthony Robinson

Sir Jim Ratcliffe, founder of the chemical company Ineos and Britain’s richest man, plans to open a car plant in France to build the successor to the 4×4 Land Rover Defender which was discontinued in 2016. Ratcliffe, who was a supporter of Brexit, reportedly moved to Monaco in 2019 in order to avoid paying £4bn […]

Public health should be in public hands

Jane Thomas

This morning on BBC Radio 4, Minister of State for Health Edward Argar attempted to defend the indefensible by suggesting that the government will stick with Serco to provide the essential coronavirus test and trace programme. This is despite mounting evidence of the abject failure of the current test and trace programme run by Serco, […]

Testing (and tracing) is not just for schools

Jane Thomas
adorable blur bookcase books

It may only be August, but as far as Covid-19 is concerned, it’s now all about autumn and winter. In particular, what is concerning for children, parents, educators and employers is how prepared the country is to reopen schools and what impact this will have on the pandemic. Will it be safe enough for our […]

Social instability? It’s on the house! (part two)

Andrew Leach

Part one of ‘Social instability? It’s on the house!’ is available HERE Successive UK governments have had, at best, short-sighted housing policies for decades. Despite all the promises and white papers, programmes of house-building, bank lending, and false starts, headlines over recent years have talked of a housing crisis. The population’s getting older, house ownership […]

Labour warns of “jobs bonfire”

Anthony Robinson

Labour’s shadow business and consumer minister has slammed the government for costing small businesses millions of pounds in wasted preparations after they were given just 24 hours’ notice to scrap a planned reopening. Lucy Powell set out yesterday how bowling alleys, casinos and beauty salons across the country had all spent time and money preparing to […]

Planning for profit

Andy Brown
high angle shot of suburban neighborhood

Planning regulations are hugely complex and difficult to understand. It must be very tempting for a new minister to try and make their mark by simplifying and reforming the system. Particularly if they represent a political party that has received huge donations from building developers. So, it comes as no surprise that Robert Jenrick wants […]

Social instability? It’s on the house! (part one)

Andrew Leach

Home, they say, is where the heart is. Quickly followed by “I wonder what this place is worth?” For too long that most basic of provisions, a roof over one’s head, has been seen as “an investment” rather than a home, a sanctuary. And increasingly, it’s the politicians who are rubbing their hands at the […]

Multigenerational is the new black

Javed Bashir

First, it was minority ethnics, then Blacks Live Matter and now Asians – the popular trope doing the rounds for why the North is being locked down is now multigenerational households. Yes, multigenerational is the new black. Craig Whitaker, Conservative MP for Calder Valley, gave an interview on LBC radio with Ian Payne on 31 […]

Hen Harrier Day highlights the lifelessness of our landscape

Natalie Bennett

I’ve never been lucky enough to see a hen harrier. The closest I came was on Hen Harrier Day 2017 at the Rainham Marshes in Essex, when a marsh harrier came to patrol the wetlands, where hundreds of fans were listening to Chris Packham, Mark Avery and many other wildlife luminaries. The bird was, of […]

Brexiters want Johnson’s oven-ready deal sent back to the kitchen

Anthony Robinson

Iain Duncan Smith is the latest Conservative Eurosceptic MP calling for the Withdrawal Agreement, negotiated at the last minute by Boris Johnson and his adviser David Frost, to be scrapped, thus giving a new twist to the old adage about doing something in haste and repenting at leisure. In his case, having voted in favour […]

Corporate control of Britain’s farming after Brexit, and why it matters

Pauline Allon

According to Greenpeace, a small number or US companies control the food industry worldwide, reducing farmers’ say in what is grown and how to grow it and leaving little choice for the consumer. This is industrial agriculture. The US Department of Agriculture defines factory farming as a system that houses more than 1,000 cattle, 2,500 […]

Coronavirus rapid inquiry takes evidence from experts and the public

Professor Juliet Lodge

Is it too kind to describe the government’s handling of the covid crisis as a dog’s dinner? It’s certainly a mess for all manner of reasons: incompetence, over-centralisation, fragmentation of procurement, ignoring public health experts and labs, chaotic and ad hoc reactions, inefficiency, dogma, spin and outsourcing testing to a myriad of private companies. On […]

What happens when ‘the chaps’ are no longer ‘good’?

John Cole

Radio 4 has a most amusing comedy programme: ‘The Unbelievable Truth’. In this, four panellists take it in turns each to spin an amusing yarn that is all lies – except for five truths hidden in the tissue of falsehood. Boris Johnson is clearly a fan of programme and has managed to turn prime minister’s […]

Yeh but, no but let’s be absolutely clear about quarantine

Professor Juliet Lodge
stressed black male entrepreneur working on laptop in park

You know something’s rotten in the state of Denmark when a Lord gets the same money for ‘signing in’ once, as a single person gets in a month on universal credit. In four days, not counting their Lordships’ allowances, their sign-in takes nearly £1m from the public purse, which is filled by anyone paying tax. […]

The government is in danger of being overwhelmed by Brexit

Anthony Robinson

As we enter the final stretch with just five months to go before the transition period ends, and with a second wave of coronavirus already threatening Europe, there are growing signs that serious Brexit problems are beginning to overwhelm the government. The workload is increasing as the time available to complete it is decreasing and […]

“The GMO lobbyist will see you now, minister”

Martin Brooks

The UK is under immense pressure to sign up to US demands on the regulations applying to GMO (genetically modified organisms), as part of the US-UK trade deal. One look at the USA’s commercial commitment to GMO tells you why. GMO technology, often developed by US companies, is embedded in US farming practices and hence […]

Will planning rules derail the Brexit express?

Anthony Robinson

Rachel Reeves, the shadow cabinet secretary, visited the MOJO site close to junction 10A of the M20 at Ashford in Kent recently with the BBC also reporting that construction “began earlier this month” on a “giant lorry park” for Brexit-related customs purposes without local people being consulted. The MP for Leeds West has now written to Michael Gove asking […]

The fat of the land

Andrew Leach

“Eat Out to Help Out”, the government says. A phrase that comes oven-ready with a side order of “Ew”. In essence, it’s a scheme whereby Westminster will pay fifty per cent of the cost of your meal out up to a £10 contribution. So a £20 surf ‘n’ turf will come in at a measly […]

New UK Magnitsky-style human rights sanction regime

Marc Limon and Louis Mason

An important step forward for accountability On 6 July the UK became the latest country to join the growing ‘Magnitsky momentum’ by passing the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations, allowing the government to sanction alleged perpetrators of the gravest forms of human rights violations. Introducing the regulations in parliament, the UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, […]

PC Andrew Harper’s killers sentenced for manslaughter

Linda Sage

A dedicated police officer had officially finished his long shift four hours before and was on the M4 due to go home, when a 999 call came in. Police constables Andrew Harper and Andrew Shaw responded to the call, with a catastrophic outcome. PC Andrew Harper, who was only 28 years old, was killed by […]

The doctor will thin you now: government announces new obesity strategy

Annabelle Levins
food dinner lunch unhealthy

On 27 July, the government announced a new strategy to tackle obesity in Britain, the so-called “fat man of Europe”. Measures include the introduction of calorie counts on menus in chain restaurants, a 9pm watershed on junk-food advertising and a ban on ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ deals on foods high in fat and sugar. The new plan has […]

Public health begins at home

George Baker

How often have you left a public loo and thought, “Yuk! That person didn’t wash their hands after using the loo and is now touching their burger”, or worse, picking up food and handing it to children?  And then there are the adults and kids who wipe their noses on their bare hands, touch the […]

Counting on the shock of the new

Andrew Leach

Being in government is like playing with Lego. Or at least it seems to be, judging by the number of times things are taken apart before being triumphantly put back together again. Allied to which is a collective amnesia. It appears that when you’ve been in power for over a decade, it’s fine to forget […]

Decade of dissonance

Javed Bashir

Part one of a three part series on social change The world is different, especially since Covid-19 emerged and a meagre four months ago the global pandemic triggered a lockdown of the UK economy. But the UK has been different since 2010; we have lived through a decade of dissonance and could now face a […]

EU banking watchdog tells British banks: Check, Change and Come – to Europe

Anthony Robinson

As the British government launches its advertising campaign to help businesses and individuals prepare for the end of the transition period, with the inevitable three-word slogan “Check – Change – Go”, the European Banking Authority (EBA) had a message of its own to Britain’s financial institutions. In a lengthy and uncompromising statement published yesterday on its […]

The truth: bending it like Boris

Anthony Robinson

Johnson has been rapped over the knuckles by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) for repeatedly quoting erroneous and misleading figures on child poverty. The OSR is the regulatory arm of the UK Statistics Authority watchdog, and they were responding to a complaint from the End Child Poverty Coalition (ECPC). The story is all over […]

Masking the communication

Daphne Franks
crop man putting medical mask on face of ethnic child

When I explain that my job is teaching student doctors and other healthcare professionals to learn how to communicate with patients, there’s one response I often receive: “But surely that’s just common sense?” Frequently, and without awareness of any apparent contradiction, they immediately follow up the “common sense” remark with an anecdote about when some […]

Select committee criticises coronavirus failures in social care

Dr Stella Perrott
health workers wearing face mask

The government’s “slow, inconsistent and negligent approach” to social care during the pandemic was today (29 July) heavily criticised by the commons public accounts committee. The committee is a cross party group with a government majority of members. The report, Readying the NHS and social care for the COVID-19 peak, notes that the NHS managed […]

Covid-19: early reopening worse than lockdown

Amanda Robinson
bank notes bills cash commerce

It is clear that the government’s preparations for a pandemic were lacking, despite Exercise Cygnus in 2016 which reviewed the UK’s preparedness by simulating a flu outbreak and contained 26 recommendations. It is alleged that the Cygnus report was buried “for fear workers would be alerted to the immense dangers posed by a pandemic”. The […]

Government to create “single source of truth” for border data

Anthony Robinson

Just a week after publishing the Border Operating Model describing how Britain’s borders will operate from 1 January next year, we learn it’s really only a stop-gap measure after the government launched a consultation on creating “the world’s most effective border” in the next five years. Not content with erecting conventional barriers to trade with […]

Only words

Dr Pam Jarvis

In Alice Through the Looking Glass, the child protagonist Alice is introduced to the ways the adult world uses words, by her irascible antagonist, Humpty Dumpty: ‘When I use a word’, Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean–neither more nor less.’  ‘The question is,’ said […]

Reuters: “Barnier confident Brexit deal with Britain possible”

Anthony Robinson

Reuters reported within the last half hour that sources in Brussels are claiming Michel Barnier, in a closed-door meeting with national envoys this morning, “expressed confidence” that a deal between the UK and the EU can be agreed. Barnier’s comments are said to be in sharp contrast to the most recent downbeat assessments that he […]

Undermining the rule of law: Buckland, Begum and my son

Liz Webster

I was relieved to hear the recent court of appeal ruling that Shamima Begum should be allowed to return home to appeal the decision to deprive her of her British citizenship. The fact that she has to fight to regain her citizenship is ludicrous and potentially dangerous. If she fails, the repercussions will be extensive […]

We must stand up for democracy against Boris Johnson’s ‘dictatorship’

William Wallace

Serious people on all sides of politics now worry about the way Boris Johnson is undermining the British constitution. Decisions have been centralised in No. 10 Downing Street, with a team of unelected advisers under Dominic Cummings pushing the Cabinet to one side. They expect the Commons to do what they tell it, relying on obedience from […]

The Irish Sea border: Brexit’s own iceberg

Anthony Robinson

Northern Ireland was barely mentioned during the referendum, but since 2016 it has consistently proved the most insoluble problem. Theresa May’s plan to resolve it by keeping the whole United Kingdom in the customs union eventually proved her undoing. Johnson’s answer, to erect a border down the Irish Sea, could soon be his. Northern Ireland […]

Failing? Blame someone else!

Richard Corbett

The Daily Telegraph carried a remarkable article yesterday claiming that the main obstacle to getting a post Brexit deal on trade (and other matters) with the EU is simply the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier. Blaming a Frenchman always goes down well with parts of the British public, but lashing out at Barnier is facile. […]

The dubious “expert” driving the UK’s post-Brexit trade policy

Richard Sadler

We’ve all heard of Dominic Cummings – but what about Shanker Singham? This obscure industry lobbyist has penetrated the inner circles of the deregulatory, free-trade ideologues at the heart of government. Like Cummings, he is unelected and unaccountable. Yet he has developed close contacts with ministers from the prime minister down, and is playing a […]

Johnson puts a troubled year behind him and faces a winter of discontent

Jane Thomas

If a week is a long time in politics, then a year seems interminable. On 24 July 2019 Boris Johnson entered Number 10 having comfortably won the Tory leadership election with a pledge to recruit 20,000 more police officers and “fix the crisis in social care”, as well as deliver extra funding for schools and […]

Scots welcome the “crime minister”

Hecate

Joy oh joy! The prime minister grabbed his rubber ring, stuffed his budgie smugglers into his pocket and flip-flopped around the room, packing his case ready for his hols. Briefly stopping to douse his joss sticks, slap on some self-tan and check the latest Tory sex scandals, he did a press-up to celebrate his success […]

Government’s £400m purchase of bankrupt OneWeb looks doomed to fail

Anthony Robinson

There is growing curiosity and another potential scandal surrounding the government’s £400m purchase of the bankrupt satellite company OneWeb. Dominic Cummings believes that in the UK we need something like the US DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) where the government pumps money into blue skies projects in the hope of getting a lead in […]

Experts deny coronavirus will be ‘over by Christmas’

Helen Davidson
syringe and pills on blue background

While the country was preoccupied with the imminent release of the Russia report, the commons health and social care committee was hearing expert evidence on the management of Covid-19 and what further steps were needed to prepare for the winter. Interestingly, they didn’t recommend bringing in the army to tackle the civil unrest following the […]

Another MP in the sexual spotlight

Rick Dillon

What is it about politicians and their sexual urges? The latest scandal involves a Tory MP allegedly propositioning an intern, but the history of indiscretions goes back a long way, and despite the chance of being caught out now almost a given in our media age, our political class doesn’t seem to be behaving any […]

Sex workers further marginalised during pandemic

Isabel Ralphs
silhouette of woman during sunset

Lockdown has pushed some women in our local communities even further into the shadows, as the government fails to account for the unique needs of marginalised women, leaving sex workers, ex-offenders and the female homeless poverty-stricken and highly vulnerable.

Russian influence in the UK: is this the ‘new normal’?

Charlie McCarthy
st basil s cathedral

The first act of the newly formed international security committee (ISC) under the leadership of former Tory Julian Lewis, was to publish the long awaited Russia report. It is important to remind ourselves of the primary aims of the government when considering our relationship with a potentially hostile power such as Russia. The government’s aim […]

Abandon all hope ye who enter here

Jane Thomas

The latest round of EU trade talks taking place in London is expected to end on Thursday in a deadlock. The Telegraph reports that the government’s working assumption is that we will be unable to agree a deal with the EU by the time the transition period ends, so Britain will trade with Europe on […]

Lords call for government food strategy to protect food security

Natalie Bennett
assorted sliced fruits in white ceramic bowl

Last night after 8pm, some 16 hours into the debate of the 321 amendments to the agriculture bill, with Lords huddled over their laptops in remote parts of the country, you’d have to be a keen political wonk to have still been attached to Parliament TV. But Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick described this part of […]

Britain to develop world-beating circumlocution industry

Anthony Robinson

Charles Dickens invented the Circumlocution Office in Little Dorrit, a fictional government paper-shuffling department which never achieved anything but, “in the spirit of national efficiency” gradually led to it having “something to do with everything”. Dickens talked of people “who in slow lapse of time and agony” became lost inside it. It appears from the […]

Levelling down: councils face bankruptcy as funding dries up

Jane Thomas
coins and a piggy bank

It may have been the last day of term for our MPs, but they went out with a bang. Monday night saw Conservative MPs, having whined about wanting to take back control, give most of it straight back to the executive. A Tory backbench attempt to give parliament a definitive say on post-Brexit trade deals […]

Who will benefit from a no-deal Brexit?

Amanda Robinson

“The prime minister has a significant opportunity here to win popularity and secure himself a solid future; if he revoked Art 50 before 31 January 2020 on national security grounds he would immediately assume the mantle of a hero. But if the ‘Russia Report’ comes out after Brexit, he may well end up being cast […]

Yorkshire and Humber MPs who turned their backs on the NHS

Professor Juliet Lodge

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the government is asleep on the job – not paying attention and not asking critical questions affecting the safety and security of the UK. This is as much about the Russian report as it is about the very serious issues surrounding the role of the British parliament […]

Why forced labour thrives in the UK

Dr Stella Perrott

Stella Perrott explores the continuum between poorly paid employment and exploitative or forced labour and how race and gender underpin workplace exploitation. She discusses the weaknesses of the current regulatory framework and how the government’s ‘hostile environment’ supports the conditions for exploitation

Protecting the UK from predatory traders

Professor Juliet Lodge
alligator head

One of the more intriguing aspects of what parliamentary scrutiny committees do concerns the way in which they have, more recently, revealed how weak parliament is when it comes to controlling government. MPs are now setting about challenging this. At a time when the UK is facing the double whammy of Covid-19 and Brexit, it […]

Is the penny finally dropping at The Telegraph?

Anthony Robinson

Last Saturday, The Telegraph carried a report about British international haulage companies facing disaster without a trade agreement at the end of the year: Three quarters of hauliers face loss of permits in no-deal Brexit. This was a reference to the EU’s notice published on 9 July about the coming changes once the transition period […]

Hunting Johnson: rule breaking, populism and animal cruelty

Liz Webster
brown and white fox on green grass

There is a virulent theme running throughout Boris Johnson’s life and ascent to the top job as prime minister. His carefree and clownish approach to life has assured him enormous popularity. To his fans he is the Uncle Buck they always wanted – clumsy, clutzy, naughty but nice Boris Johnson who makes people laugh and […]

Vera Lynn of the virus: saving lives with humour

Jimmy Andrex

Has the Vera Lynn of the virus saved more lives than Boris Johnson? It’s a funny old world, but no-one’s really laughing. Apart from the beyond-satire antics of government ministers (the highlight of which was surely the health secretary’s Reeves & Mortimer-esque parkour), the pandemic has been a miserable time full of fear, pain and […]

Every child really does matter

Dr Pam Jarvis
woman carrying baby at beach during sunset

In the UK, we urgently need to consider the reasons why children in most other nations of the world do not begin formal schooling until they are six or even seven. Having recently retired from frontline teaching to give my full focus to several writing and research projects, I have had time to reflect on over thirty […]

Burnout can happen to anyone

Linda Sage
adult alone anxious black and white

“I wanted to sit down and cry and curl up in the corner. I am so scared if I breakdown, I might never recover. Been up five times last night with dad, now I have to put on a smile and go to work – so tired and drained of energy.”  This was part of […]

Boys from the Blackstuff: an insightful drama to our own hard-hit times

Séamus O’Hanlon

‘Nobody on the dole counts, my friend.’ Alan Bleasdale’s revered 1982 television mini-series Boys from the Blackstuff is brave, bleak and though occasionally boring, is rather brilliant. This 306-minute series is captivating and now, more than ever, highly relevant as the economy falters and Britain again sinks into being the ‘sick man of Europe’. The towering […]

UK single market white paper: “irony so bitter it makes your eyes bleed”

Anthony Robinson

Only a government as intellectually incoherent as this one could publish in the same week two important documents with absolutely no consistent philosophy underpinning the policy objectives behind them. Worse, the objectives themselves seem diametrically opposed. On Monday, we got the border operating model setting out all the new barriers to trade the government intends to […]

Symbols and cynicism: Britain’s cultural war

Jacob Taylor

Symbols are the cultural and political currency of the day. From the Thursday evening clap-for-careers, rainbows in the windows, taking the knee, or toppling statues – the political battlefield in Britain is by some being turned into a cultural war in which image takes precedence over substance. Symbols are important, they allow us to represent […]

Brexit preparations: are we out of time?

Professor Juliet Lodge

Rushing headlong into anything serious should be worrying at the best of times. But when we’re facing the worst of times any of us have known, it is crazy. An illusion has somehow been created of there being plenty of time before the transition period ends. But this is far from the reality. The UK […]

Trade bill may tip the scales on Scottish independence

Charlie McCarthy

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the shops in a face mask, Brexit is back with a vengeance (not that it ever went away). The government will publish legislation on Thursday that will form the foundation of the UK’s ‘internal market’ when the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December […]

Artists rain on Dowden’s Glyndebourne parade

Jimmy Andrex

Culture secretary enthuses about champagne picnics while artists try to work out how to make a living. Forget the grassy knoll, 9/11 or the outbreak of WWII. Can you remember where you were when Oliver Dowden announced that “music lovers can attend Glyndebourne this summer”? This writer still has lacerations of the throat from choking […]

OBR forecasts government borrowing to hit £385bn this year

Anthony Robinson
bank blur business buy

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) released its latest fiscal sustainability report for July 2020 yesterday. The report was finalised before the chancellor Rishi Sunak announced yet more spending measures, so the figures were out of date even before the report saw the light of day. The OBR was set to forecast that government […]

Masking the real problem for Boris Johnson

Jane Thomas

The belated news that wearing face masks is so important that we have to wait another ten days before it comes into force is another example of how we are being played by this government. Interviewed by Andrew Marr last Sunday, Michael Gove said he did not think face coverings should be compulsory in shops […]

A perfect storm for predatory marriage

Daphne Franks

In May, I wrote an article for Yorkshire Bylines about how my mother, age 91, was found after her death to be married. A man 24 years younger had married her secretly, five months earlier. Although she lived next door to us, none of her family or friends knew of the marriage. Even my mother […]

Smash ‘n grab apps

Hecate
facebook application icon

In the land of smash ‘n grab, the prime minister packed the final box of champers and truffles to send to his chums. This was the signal to pop off on their hols now he’d finished playing whack-a-mole with public services and outsourced just about every public contract and asset he could lay his hands […]

Gove’s new border plan: the longest suicide note in history?

Anthony Robinson

The long awaited border operating model was published yesterday to coincide with Michael Gove’s statement in the House of Commons. It sets out in gruesome detail how the import and export of goods to and from the EU will take place from 1 January 2021. At 206 pages it’s far longer that Labour’s 1983 manifesto […]

Check Change Go (and the Farage Garage)

Jane Thomas
woman sitting on luggage

There are 170 days until we leave the EU, and just five working days left before MPs go off on their summer jollies. Those with any sense may want to think about using their vacation to visit the EU now (quarantines permitting) before the unprecedented travel measures kick in from 1 January next year. To […]

York MP seeks to deregulate gene-edited crops without scrutiny

Claire Robinson

Julian Sturdy, MP for York Outer, has proposed an amendment to the agriculture bill that will deregulate the gene editing of crops and foods. He suggested the amendment in a letter at a late stage of the bill’s progression through parliament, when it was being discussed in the House of Lords – thus bypassing the […]

National Audit Office to investigate £15bn spend on PPE

Anthony Robinson

There is a growing sense of disbelief at the revelation by Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week that the government has approved £15bn in 2020 for PPE to protect frontline staff during the coronavirus pandemic. Nobody begrudges health workers being provided with the right PPE to keep them and the patients they are treating safe of […]

There’s no ‘I’ in the real dream

Mo Kanjilal and Susie Courtault

In the social movements of the 21st century, collaborative women are showing the way. Social movements in history have usually been centred on a charismatic male figure with a famous quote. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech is a leadership speech full of hope and inspiration on posters on many students’ walls. Think […]

Bursting the education bubble

Dr Pam Jarvis

Alongside the rest of the world, the English education sector is now beginning to consider how it will move out of pandemic lockdown and into a new, tentative phase of normality. The tiger has been chased off into the jungle, but it is still lurking there, and may return at any time. The feeling of […]

Why don’t they say sorry?

Robert Ellson

Let’s give the prime minister the benefit of the doubt. Don’t worry, it won’t be for long. Just one paragraph. Bear with me. Let’s say that he wasn’t trying to blame care workers. Let’s say that he meant that no one knew the correct procedures for care homes to follow. Let’s acknowledge that if you’re […]

The BOGOF chancellor

Jane Thomas

“The final measure I’m announcing today has never been tried in the UK before. This moment is unique. We need to be creative.” said Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday in his summer statement. And with that final flourish he announced the latest BOGOF (buy-2-get-1-free) scheme to hit the high street. Promising discounts of up to […]

Leicester lockdown: government information inadequate and misleading

Helen Davidson

While the rest of the country enjoyed the easing of lockdown across England on 4 July, Leicester remained closed following an announcement by the secretary of state for health, Matt Hancock on 27 June. This followed a reported upsurge of cases with 658 being recorded in the week beginning 16 June, 10 per cent of […]

Black people don’t ski!

Joel Baccas

My grandparents came to England from Jamaica in the mid-50s. Grandad came first, attracted by the call “your queen needs you”. Although his name was Bevat Baccas, he was given the name of Arthur Dougall on his passport. This was the name of the sugar plantation owner where he worked, a remnant of the way […]

Tasty chemicals: is your food safe?

Andy Brown

There aren’t many companies in the world that would pay out ten billion dollars in compensation if there wasn’t a problem. Yet that is how much the giant German drug company Bayer is reported to have agreed in order to settle claims made by users of products containing glyphosate in the USA who believed it […]

Collateral damage: the plight of the excluded

Anthea Simmons

“You have not been forgotten. We will not leave you behind. We are all in this together.” So tweeted Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the exchequer at 17:56 on 26 May. Sounds nice, huh? What a shame that it isn’t true. Some 3 million taxpayers, at a cautious estimate, feel utterly forgotten, completely left behind and […]

Lord Dom of Mordor

Hecate

Never, never apologise! Sorry? The word isn’t in the prime minister’s lexicon and he wasn’t about to start by wiff-waffing around with apologies at prime minister’s questions before the hols. He’d thrown a cordon sanitaire around him and his crew. He was fed up with clapping the NHS, ready instead to clamp them for not […]

PPE procurement: the government responds to legal action

Anthony Robinson
woman in yellow protective suit wearing white face mask

The government has hit back against Jolyon Maugham’s pre-action protocol letters issued in June against Health Secretary Matt Hancock concerning multi-million pound contracts for personal protective equipment (PPE) awarded to Pest Fix Ltd of Littlehampton and Clandeboye Agencies Ltd, a chocolate wholesaler in Antrim. Maugham challenged their lawfulness on the grounds that there was no […]

Grappling with chronic pain during the pandemic

Dr Frances Cole

Co-authored with Dr Kristy Themelis of the WITHIN team at Warwick University. The main priorities of the government and health services are currently aimed at preventing the spread of the virus and protecting our health from Covid-19. Meanwhile, chronic pain is one of the biggest health issues not just in the UK, but around the […]

Sunak’s magic money tree

Jane Thomas

A lot could still go wrong, but this an opportunity to do the right thing with more honesty, transparency and attention to detail. It remains to be seen whether Sunak will grasp this opportunity.

It’s parliamentary democracy, but not as we know it

Lord Newby

Faced with a government that combines incompetence and ruthlessness in equal measure, preventing damaging public policy decisions won’t be easy. But the only alternative to letting them get away with things is to do nothing – in parliament or outside it. For many of us that is simply unthinkable.

Government approach to Brexit legislation lacks scrutiny

Jacob Millen-Bamford

The government is looking at a ‘to do’ list longer than the River Don, with its 31 December deadline looming ever closer. To tick things off this list it is pushing through legislation that specifically empowers its ministers to avoid extensive scrutiny. In the process, it is excluding elected MPs (be they the new ‘red […]

EU covid response: solidarity in action

Professor Juliet Lodge

Can the UK afford to ignore what the EU is doing on Covid-19? Or will it gradually try to join in with its ambitious plans for the future? Opening pubs at 6am was another U-turn for the government. But it didn’t deflect attention from it casually letting drop that the UK would participate in EU […]

The fracturing of the union

Jane Thomas

Something quite profound was published at the weekend that largely went unnoticed in England. Maybe some people were just nursing the mother of a hangover while others were just thankful that Super Saturday was over. But what’s happening in Scotland should be one of the biggest political stories in Britain right now and it’s barely […]

Farmers need access to good research and reliable advice

Natalie Bennett

Farming requires a huge number of skills and a vast amount of knowledge, all of which needs to be continually updated and revised as the environment – physical, legislative and market – changes. If you think about what the job description of ‘farmer’ involves, it runs the gamut from pharmacology to mechanical engineering, animal behaviour […]

Dad dancing at 6am

Hecate

Dad dancing to YMCA after a pint of wallop and a whiskey cider chaser at 6am to test-drive independence day had left the prime minister feeling decidedly razzled. It was all Jabber-the-Raab’s fault for sending their Uber to Soho’s Old Compton Street instead of Chequers. It was an easy mistake for someone so geographically challenged […]

Supplying PPE: the new Klondike?

Anthony Robinson

After revealing two extraordinary £108m contracts placed by the government for personal protective equipment (PPE) with companies that have no apparent experience or history of supplying such items, Jolyon Maugham QC seems to have uncovered two more. Providing PPE is becoming the new Klondike and the scandal appears to be getting dangerously close to the […]

British businesses begin to speak out

Stephen Stacey

The contrast between what we were promised during the referendum and what the government is doing now couldn’t be starker. In the midst of a pandemic the UK government refuses to allow negotiators the time to arrange the ambitious and comprehensive trade deal we were promised. For its part, the EU has set out comprehensively […]

Continued confusion from Johnson

Jane Thomas

Today’s daily press briefing was important, coming as it did on the eve of lockdown restrictions being lifted despite thousands of new Covid-19 infections every day. Indeed, Boris Johnson was only too aware that he had to tread a careful line between being upbeat and giving a sense of being in control of the pandemic. […]

Black Lives Matter and the Benin Bronzes

Charlie McCarthy

The message to those in similar positions of influence remains simple. Be the change you want to be. Use you influence, move the British Museum into the twenty-first century. By changing the dialogue and presenting British history from the viewpoint of the colonised as well as the colonisers, you could make it an even more interesting place to visit.

Cheers lads! UK duo design app to rescue the British pint

Louise Houghton

Pub-loving entrepreneurs Tim Joyce and Justin Smith have launched a new app called Play It Safe, to help businesses keep their customers safe as they open up after lockdown. The app can be used by any business looking to quickly and simply trace visitors – pubs, restaurants, campsites, shops, museums, galleries, and many more. But […]

Democratic accountability and the pandemic response

Vicky Seddon

The government has steadfastly refused to inform, consult, plan or coordinate with local authorities and regional health structures in dealing with Covid-19. Instead, ministers have worked with their pals in the private sector, putting ideology before the nation’s interests.

Fit as a butcher’s dog

Hecate

Having escaped, down but not out, from another prime minister’s questions, Johnson breathed a sigh of relief and made a dive for the exit … If you’re out-gabbed by that “left-wing agitator”, you know your number’s up. Mark Sedwill had an uncanny knack for saying stuff the PM really didn’t want to hear. So did […]

Prime minister riddled with certainty (country riddled with doubt)

Andy Brown

Most reasonable people are occasionally riddled with doubt. Questioning what you believe, changing your mind, and never being over certain or over confident are actually very positive behaviours. Particularly if you are trying to make objective decisions about how best to run a country. Boris Johnson seems riddled with certainty. He knows what the ‘good […]

Local lockdowns signal further government chaos

Jane Thomas

As Leicester goes into lockdown, it’s a reminder of what a big week this is for Boris Johnson, culminating in so-called ‘super Saturday’ on 4 July when pubs, hairdressers, cinemas and restaurants reopen. It will come at the end of a week that will have seen summer holidays given the green light, after the government […]

Cummings is starting to make the ERG nervous

Anthony Robinson

The letter that Mark Francois sent to Michel Barnier on Friday (see below) looks like a spoof but turns out to be genuine – though it’s difficult to read and keep a straight face at the same time. He describes it as “a missive from a free country.” It was sent just four days before […]

Civil service – reform or destruction?

Dr Stella Perrott

On 28 June Michael Gove, cabinet office minister, delivered the Ditchley Foundation’s annual lecture entitled the “privilege of public service”. It generated considerably more interest than would normally be expected for a speech on civil service reform to a rather obscure think tank, as it followed accounts of Dominic Cummings’ determination to come down on […]

Johnson’s failure to extend transition will come back to bite him

Mike Buckley

Boris Johnson was never going to extend the transition period, pandemic or no pandemic. It was never politically tenable to win an election on the back of ‘Get Brexit Done’ only to go back on his word six months later. An extension would be attacked as betrayal however it was dressed up, all the more […]

Four years on: the ignorance and the idiocy

Anthony Robinson

Last week’s virtual session of the future relationship select committee has sparked quite a lot of comment after it was revealed that Britain lacked a system or even a plan to handle trucks arriving at Dover. The amazing revelation came from Tim Reardon, head of EU exit at the port of Dover. He told Barry […]

Why we need a coronavirus public inquiry

Helen Davidson

An excess death toll of 66,000 is, of itself, sufficient reason to reflect on how the pandemic has been managed. The government says it will reflect but not yet and has made no commitment to how that reflection will happen. In the absence of any government commitment to an open, wide-ranging review, groups of scientists, […]

Are small business owners prepared for a no-deal Brexit?

Edward Mitchell

Margaret Thatcher, surely the embodiment of Conservatism, grew up above her father’s tobacconists and grocery shop. As prime minister, she continued to live above the shop: 10 Downing Street. Throughout her time in charge of the country she demonstrated an astonishing mastery of detail. She was not exactly a consensus politician – unlike say, John […]

Johnson begs public to set an example for Cummings

Anthony Robinson

In what can only be described as a bizarre reversal of leadership, Boris Johnson this week essentially called on the British people to set an example to his most senior adviser Dominic Cummings on how to properly observe government guidance. He told reporters that it was crucial we “get this right” and appealed to the […]

Pants on fire!

Hecate

This was the week of the great cover-up that didn’t work. There weren’t just bats in Big Ben’s belfry but sloth-sized rats running amok in the Commons. Prime ministers’ questions had become just an ad break in a very British farce masquerading as democracy. The prime minister understood neither the concept nor the practice. Hit […]

Is this our darkest hour?

Dr Pam Jarvis

And so, yet another Tory scandal hits the headlines, this time relating to housing secretary Robert Jenrick, who is alleged to have “insisted” a planning decision for a £1bn property development should be rushed through so a Conservative donor’s company could reduce costs by £45m. The donor, ex-Express owner and pornography promoter Richard Desmond, allegedly […]

Barnier complains UK is “backtracking” as no deal warnings mount

Anthony Robinson

Michel Barnier gave an interview yesterday to the European Policy Centre (EPC), a Brussels-based think tank, which has Herman Von Rompuy as its president. Some commentators seemed to think Barnier hinted at more flexibility on fishing so it may be that some progress is being made on the substantive matters. The whole 55 minute interview […]

‘Save British Farming’: Westminster tractor rally planned

Liz Webster

A group called ‘Save British Farming’ – representing farmers, consumers and members of the food production industry – is calling on farmers and supporters of upholding food standards to drive their tractors, trucks and cars to Westminster on 8 July, to protest the agriculture bill that is currently going through parliament. The group says, “The […]

Charities need certainty about Brexit as much as business

Carol Botten

Charities have been at the forefront of supporting those most marginalised and isolated during the Covid-19 crisis. We now urgently need clarity from the government about what support and information it will provide as the end of the transition period inches closer. The economic impact of the pandemic cannot be understated. The Office for National […]

A romp in the park

Hecate

The week before the 4th birthday of the Brexit referendum hasn’t been a walk in the park for Tories escaping lockdown. The now-you-see-him-now-you-don’t prime minister has proved he can remember things after all. After schoolchildren demonstrated how to keep him at arm’s length, he got Father’s Day done and ducked for cover when Prince William’s […]

How to dig ourselves out of an enormous economic hole

Andy Brown

Few people are fascinated by the intricacies of quantitative easing. Which is a shame because how it is done is going to have an enormous influence over everyone’s lives for at least the next decade. As I write, the Bank of England has just announced that it will operate another programme of £100bn of it. […]

Defunding the police

Dr Stella Perrott

What are the police for? In 1842, Lancashire magistrates, voted by 81 to 55 votes to abolish the police force. In the same year a number of townships petitioned county magistrates to defund the police. Durham Quarter Sessions received 172 (out of a possible 240) petitions, with over 6,000 ratepayers (property-owning males) signatures. Although the […]

Food poverty is everywhere in 21st century UK

Jane Dawson

All credit to Marcus Rashford for forcing the government to finally face up to the issue of food poverty. For a decade at least, those on the front line have watched the government rely on charities and food banks to support failures in the benefit system. The introduction of universal credit in 2013 left the […]

Is York’s chocolate industry under threat from Brexit?

Anthony Robinson

The Food and Drink Federation is the latest to come up with a have-cake-and-eat-it plan, this time on rules of origin. They want the EU to change things for this former member, in order to help maintain trade so that British and EU customers can enjoy the same choice and quality as before, as if […]

The politics of knowledge: 21st century poverty

Charlie McCarthy

Marcus Rashford has changed the government’s view on free school meals in the summer holidays. He, and other footballers, have found their political voice and the Conservative government is going to have to listen. Poverty can be a motivator. Children born into homes where there isn’t enough to go round never forget the experience. Some, […]

Lessons for Labour

Jane Thomas and Mike Buckley

The publication today of two reports into Labour’s dismal showing in last December’s general election will be instructive reading for the party’s leadership. The two reports from campaign groups Labour Together and Labour for a European Future shed light on why Labour did so badly, not just last winter but also in the preceding three […]

Celebrate our wins

Natalie Bennett

We’ve seen two screeching, high-profile U-turns from the government this week – on school meal holiday vouchers and the Covid-19 tracing app. But a further step in the reversal of a long-term Conservative policy – of backing fracking – has slid under the national political radar. Kwasi Kwarteng might be getting a pat on the […]

Bxllocks to the red, white and blue

Professor Juliet Lodge

It’s very tempting to ask Antony Gormley how much paint would be needed to cover his 65-foot tall Angel of the North with its wingspan as wide as a Boeing 767. And how much it’d cost to slap red, white and blue on it. No doubt a lot less than the £900,000 for tarting-up the […]

EU parliament: no deal is better than a bad deal

Anthony Robinson

This week the EU parliament debated and voted on a motion approving a 137-page report setting out their “Recommendations on the negotiations for a new partnership with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. The vote took place yesterday and the motion was given what the EU are calling “unwavering support”, with 572 […]

Bottom-beating Blighty

Hecate

Mid-summer’s eve and the former Australian prime minister’s verdict on UK trade deals couldn’t have been more apt if Bottom had uttered it. Had Malvolio pranced into a Cabinet meeting cross-gartered, no one would have blinked either. The president of the USA didn’t know the UK had nuclear capabilities. The UK foreign secretary, renowned for […]

Eugenics: the Malthus Cummings delusion

David Holden

The announcement that the Department for International Development is to be wrapped into the Foreign Office allows Cummings complete control of its budget. The disbursement of foreign aid has been a contentious issue for many years. In its various incarnations, aid objectives have long wiff-waffed between ministerial ownerships as the political overlords redefined its purpose. […]

What will our transport systems look like after Covid-19?

Jack Walker

The government has recently announced new powers for local councils to protect cyclists and target drivers who misuse cycle lanes. The announcement comes as more people have taken to cycling as an alternative method of transport during lockdown. Cycling minister Chris Heaton-Harris has given local authorities the power to use CCTV cameras to issue fines […]

Government by U-turn

Helen Davidson

The government has made several recent U-turns following public pressure. It first extended the NHS bereavement scheme to include NHS non-medical staff such as cleaners and porters. It then agreed to stop the NHS surcharge for foreign health workers working in the NHS. Last week it reversed its decision to open schools to all pupils […]

Has Johnson accidentally thrown Cummings under a bus?

Anthony Robinson

How casually the lie came out. The prime minister told the world at his press conference yesterday he only learned about Marcus Rashford’s campaign to get free school meals extended through the summer, earlier in the day. If true he must have been the only person in Britain who didn’t know and I assume therefore that […]

Remembering Jo Cox

Salli Martlew

“We have more in common than that which divides us.”  Jo Cox is still remembered for these words in her maiden speech in parliament in June 2015. Although tragically she was assassinated a year later on 16 June, her words have continued to reverberate around the country and beyond, from Westminster, to her Batley constituency […]

A very Tory Eton Mess

Hecate

And a very blasé tiger in the tank. After the click-and-collect school of government had run out of bait, it was perhaps unsurprising that the blancmange-like prime minister claimed to have been inspired by an email about bubbles from a constituent. Wedded to his ear-buds and never one to ponder risk and impact assessments, he […]

Reopening schools: Scotland vs England

Charlie McCarthy

A different response to reopening schools in Scotland may bring about more lasting changes and a more balanced experience for pupils north of the border. Will England step up to the mark? John Swinney, the Scottish government’s education secretary, has said it is “unlikely” that Scottish schools will return to normal next year. With schools […]

Marcus Rashford asks the government to find its humanity

Jane Thomas

Today in an emotional open letter Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford has called on the government to reverse a decision not to provide free school meal vouchers during the summer. The footballer, who has raised nearly £20m through FareShare, a charity that helps fight hunger and food waste, has written to all MPs […]

EU parliament turns the screw in deadlocked talks

Anthony Robinson

This weekend the EU parliament officially published the report that was partly leaked to The Guardian recently. It backs Michel Barnier and the EU mandate to the hilt, increasing the pressure on Boris Johnson on the eve of his teleconference today with the three EU presidents. The 137-page report has been drafted by MEPs and […]

The mental health crisis in nursing

Linda Sage

In the first eight months of 2019, NHS nurses took nearly 1,000,000 days off sick with mental health issues. Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that the suicide rate for nurses is 23 percent higher than the national average, with women nurses in particular at high risk. During this Covid-19 crisis, the […]

Time to drop the silly shibboleths

Richard Corbett

One of the more ludicrous aspects of the ongoing standoff between the government and the EU is the announcement by Michael Gove that, for reasons of “national sovereignty”, it will not countenance the EU having an office in Northern Ireland.  Yet, the USA has a fully fledged consulate in Northern Ireland. So do China, India, Poland […]

Before freedom of movement

Professor Juliet Lodge

It didn’t used to be like this: buying tickets online to travel from Leeds to Amsterdam via Brussels by train with just a passport and euros. Back in the day, we needed travel agents to source tickets well in advance, book Channel or North Sea ferries, point us to the ticket counters in the different […]

Johnson’s next “oven-ready” deal will be another turkey

Anthony Robinson

As the government tries to “distance itself” from the political declaration and “fix the defects” in the Withdrawal Agreement (WA), Johnson’s next oven-ready deal has all the signs of turning out to be another turkey. The reason the WA is not quite right apparently is that they didn’t have enough time last year, according to […]

Trade deals could mean more dangerous pesticides

Anthony Robinson

A new report suggests British consumers post-Brexit could be exposed to larger amounts of more toxic chemicals at the same time as farmers here face a double whammy of low-cost imports produced to a lower standard and the loss of access to the lucrative EU single market. The Pesticides Action Network UK, a charity campaigning […]

Absinthe-induced fantasy island

Hecate

It’s hard to say precisely when the government sold its collective soul to the devil. But it was way before Theresa May did her Faustian dance in the shadow of Cameron, busily bent on decimating decency with indecent speed. Not a shred of honesty remained by the time the government and BBC repeatedly displayed an […]

UK economy takes a massive dive

Jane Thomas

Figures from today’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) report make grim reading and show that economic recovery for the country is going to be a long, slow haul. The 20.4 per cent fall in the UK economy in April is the largest since records began. All sectors have experienced historic falls, with manufacturing and the […]

No Auf Wiedersehen Pet

Professor Juliet Lodge

It’s weird how the prime minister constantly has to refer to ‘this country’. When other leaders do press briefings, they don’t keep reminding their people about the alleged greatness of their nation. One wonders whom he’s trying to convince. Himself? The public isn’t fooled; in fact, it’s pretty fed up and angry. Even the farmers […]

Is Boris beginning to get that haunted look?

Anthony Robinson

As calls for an independent inquiry into the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic grow, is Boris Johnson beginning to acquire that haunted look? At his press conference on Wednesday he looked particularly uncomfortable being asked about Britain’s appalling mortality rate compared with other countries and only offered the weak line that it was too early […]

Senior Tory launches broadside at Johnson and Cummings

Anthony Robinson

How many people have heard of Tim Montgomerie? Not that many I suspect but he is known as one of the most influential Tories outside the cabinet. He founded the website Conservative Home and co-founded, along with Ian Duncan Smith, the Centre for Social Justice. The dry-as-a-bone Tory Brexiter has launched a devastating broadside at Boris […]

Tea politics

Andy Brown

At a time when good news is in short supply, I was heartened this week to see Yorkshire Tea tell a customer who made racist remarks that they didn’t want them to buy their product. I was even more heartened when that customer announced that that was fine because they’d just switch to PG tips […]

Barnier: the EU wants a deal “but not at any cost”

Anthony Robinson

The EU is about to become our biggest competitor, make no mistake. Michel Barnier gave a speech to the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) plenary session yesterday, reported in typically hysterical and erroneous fashion by the Daily Express as Michel Barnier CAVES: EU now ready to offer ‘compromise’ after UK threats of no deal. […]

Pandemic, protests and prejudice

Amy Holdsworth and Chris Onuoha

Chris Onuoha, 22, medical student Amidst the ongoing pandemic, we are reminded yet again that systemic racism is a serious problem in the world we live in today. The murder of George Floyd and many other black men and women before him should not be swept under the carpet, should not be treated as a […]

Who gave the “bloviating beshagged puddingbowl” permission to trash the UK?

Hecate

Asking for the great British public. In Belgium, King Leopold II’s statue was taken down as part of the global response to #BlackLivesMatter. In Belgium, the prince who went on a lockdown-breaking jaunt to Spain was fined over €10k. But in barmy Britain, the public was told to get over the lockdown-breaking Barnard Castle affair […]

Freight boss tells Gove: “don’t patronise us”

Anthony Robinson

The simmering row between road hauliers and the government burst into the open yesterday when the chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation told Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, “don’t patronise us.” Shane Brennan had just become aware of Gove’s comments in front of the future relationship select committee on 27 May. He tweeted his […]

In the British Empire, black lives didn’t matter

Charlie McCarthy

Tearing down the statue to Edward Colston is an historic moment for Bristol and a much needed history lesson about the British Empire for the rest of the UK. The video clip of the toppling of his statue has demonstrated to us all how aggrieved members of the black community, and many other people, feel […]

Dover-Calais and the chaos to come

Anthony Robinson

Peter Foster, public policy editor at the Financial Times has been to Dover to find out how prepared they are for leaving the single market and the customs union at the end of the year. His article is “Dover-Calais post-Brexit trade plagued by uncertainty.” The government apparently promised to publish a plan in March, entitled […]

Local plans, local lockdown – or Mexican standoff?

Jane Thomas

Another week, another raft of measures from the government to combat Covid-19, all sending conflicting messages. On the one hand, we have new quarantine arrangements for those arriving into the UK, despite a growing backlash from aviation chiefs and MPs warning it would be “devastating” for the economy. On the other hand, some of the […]

The government is flying blind on trade

Anthony Robinson

On the Irish border issue the government failed to reconcile three irreconcilable positions, one of which was always mutually exclusive to the other two. Leaving the customs union without establishing a hard land border, or a sea border, was always trying to square an impossible circle, as they finally had to admit. This is why […]

Yorkshire campaign groups call on MPs to extend Brexit transition

Yorkshire Bylines

“One crisis at a time, please!” The chairs of 13 pro-European campaign groups from across Yorkshire have written to our region’s MPs to call for the Brexit transition period to be extended. In their open letter to the Yorkshire MPs, the groups stress that this is, “not an attempt to thwart Brexit. We simply want […]

Barnier raises concern at UK backtracking

Anthony Robinson

The fourth round of future relationship negotiations, which took place by a series of video calls, ended yesterday lunchtime. At his press conference Michel Barnier made his now familiar announcement that once again there was “no substantial progress.”

Dirty weekend anyone?

Hecate

Kicking off summer with a weekend of super f*ckwittery, the big yellow Tellytubby announces he’s off on a squelchy ‘charm offensive’ to the EU27, presumably complete with 14 days self-quarantine on his return.

Difficult conversations to have while we still can

Julie Barnes

“Whatever you want to do, do it now. There are only so many tomorrows.” Michael Landon At the start of lockdown, Robert Peston, TV journalist, wrote an article reminding us that in these strange times of the coronavirus, we are being confronted with questions that we rarely want to face. How do we want to die […]

Poke it and it wobbles

Hecate

It was one of those days. C4 Dispatches had revealed the turpitude, disdain and incompetence of the government over Covid-19, doing its best to ensure the UK’s daily death rate was still higher than the combined total of the 27 EU member states. Barry Gardiner had taken the knee in a socially undistanced George Floyd […]

CBI: British firms “not remotely prepared” for no-deal “hammer blow”

Anthony Robinson

Carloyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has warned the government that many firms in Britain are not “remotely prepared” for a “chaotic change” in EU trading relations in seven months’ time. Writing in Politico, she says many firms are fighting to keep their heads above water through the present crisis […]

Why the UK does not have Jacinda Ardern as its prime minister

Dr Stella Perrott

Measured by the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths, countries led by women have done better than other comparable countries led by men. In the advanced economies Jacinda Ardern (New Zealand), Tsai Ing-wen (Taiwan), Sanna Marin (Finland), Mette Frederiksen (Denmark) and Angela Merkel (Germany) have been praised for their management of the crisis. The US, […]

The government is gambling with Nissan and Sunderland

Anthony Robinson

This morning’s BBC report carrying a warning from Nissan’s chief executive, Ashwani Gupta, about the plant being viable only if we secure a tariff-free trade deal with the EU reveals what a huge risk the government is taking by threatening to leave on WTO terms. The EU’s ten per cent tariff would spell the end […]

Chlorinated chicken is just the tip of the iceberg

Pauline Allon

During the 2016 referendum campaign, senior Leave figures promised a UK-US trade deal as one of the major prizes of Brexit. This is now the ambition of the UK government. But an investigation by Unearthed has revealed that a powerful lobby group, representing US chicken producers, is working with allies in Congress “to demand that […]

Cummings is far from the genius that he thinks he is

Anthony Robinson

Dominic Cummings has acquired a reputation as something of an intellectual super-being, his oversized forehead seeming to be growing through his thinning hair and giving him the appearance of possessing a brain so huge it’s trying to burst out of its bony shell. Unfortunately, looks can be very deceptive.  The great ‘forecaster’ was recently caught […]

Lords committee lambasts government mishandling of the NI protocol

Anthony Robinson

The House of Lords European Union committee yesterday released a blistering report into the government’s shambolic management of the Northern Ireland protocol, part of the Withdrawal Agreement agreed last October by Boris Johnson. In the introduction peers condemn the handling of the implementation process with this claim: “On the Government’s part, there was a series […]

Hancock hauled over the coals by UK Statistics Authority

Anthony Robinson

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been rapped over the knuckles by Sir David Norgrove, chair of the UK Statistics Authority for providing figures on coronavirus testing that “are still far from complete and comprehensible.” In a letter dated 2 June, Sir David said the purpose of providing statistic was firstly to help understand the pandemic […]

This is no way to run a pandemic never mind a county

Jane Thomas

Government initiatives over the last seven days have been rather like the 82 bus – none for ages and then more than you can wave a stick at. Schools reopened. Outdoor retail such as markets and car showrooms in England allowed to open. Restrictions adjusted for those currently shielding. And people can now meet in […]

Brexit will take us from coronavirus to omnicrisis

Anthony Robinson

Coronavirus is first and foremost a health crisis but it will soon become an economic one – with the cost of Brexit about to be added. The Social Market Foundation (SMF), an independent think tank, yesterday launched a report that lays out the devastating impact of wilfully boosting a natural crisis with a man-made one. […]

Government announces (EU) funding for high street businesses

Jane Thomas

With the wealth of government initiatives in the last seven days, one can be forgiven for missing the announcement by High Streets Minister Simon Clarke of a £50 million pound fund to help kick-start high street businesses and other public spaces, such as beach fronts and promenades. The announcement was made on 24 May, with […]

What is wrong with this country?

Hecate

Something is rotten to the core when others no longer call the UK ‘plague island’ in jest, but take steps to shield their own countries from UK holiday makers: Greece was first, and Spain looks set to follow. You’d have thought that anyone would pause, look at what successful countries are doing and follow their […]

Ex Tory MEP breaks ranks to demand an extension to the transition period

Anthony Robinson

A former Tory MEP has called on Boris Johnson to extend the transition period, warning that leaving the EU without a trade deal together with the impact of coronavirus would be “catastrophic” for the economy. Struan Stevenson, writing in the Scottish daily The Herald said it “makes sense” to have longer for the transition talks because […]

The legend that is Van-Tam

Louise Houghton

The daily coronavirus briefing has morphed into a propaganda show, with the government now using every opportunity to trail a good news story to distract us from the reality of their incompetence. Saturday night’s show was no exception and the culture secretary Oliver Dowden warmed our hearts by announcing that a third of all remaining […]

The folly of ending freedom of movement

Mike Buckley

Freedom of movement was always the most personal right won through EU membership. It made EU citizenship feel real, the thing that meant we could – almost – get on a plane to Spain and not worry about whether we would ever need to come back. This was never entirely true – it was always […]

Future funding in these Covid times

Jane Thomas

Coronavirus has changed the political landscape in a way that would have been unimaginable this time last year. But while the government grapples with one of the biggest challenges since the Second World War, there are some political certainties that remain. One of the most significant is the completion of the details of our exit […]

Test and trace is another programme designed to fail

Helen Davidson

On 25 May Yorkshire Bylines published a piece on the government’s laissez faire approach to handling the crisis and its unwillingness to take decisive action until forced to do so. This followed a report in the Sunday Times about the government’s dithering over whether or not to implement a UK-wide lockdown. The paper estimated that […]

A slap too many

Hecate

The weekend’s upon us and over 161,000 have signed up on Facebook for the ‘Road Trip to Durham for Sunday lunch with Dom’s mam’. Irresistible, or maybe not. This week, 61 Tory MPs called for the brat who’s trashing UK-Toytown PLC to be sacked. The PM told us to “move on” and ignore the lies, […]

Is Boris Johnson Dominic Cummings’ Willy?

Anthony Robinson

Margaret Thatcher had William Whitelaw, a Tory of the old school to help keep the party together when things got tough; she famously said “every prime minister needs a Willy”.  Up to now, in a strange reversal of roles, it seemed Johnson was Cummings’ Willy. The two most powerful men in Britain certainly make an […]

The Daily Express: fishing in a parallel universe

Anthony Robinson

The Daily Express has for a long time had the reputation as the newspaper for a parallel universe. For several days they have been suggesting that the EU is about to offer huge concessions on fishing rights in order to help reach an agreement on trade with the UK. The headlines have been increasingly jingoistic. The […]

New Immigration Bill is Priti poor

Martin Brooks

It’s never too late for a grown up debate about immigration. Martin Brooks assesses the limited, inflexible thinking in the latest Immigration Bill and reviews the shortcomings of the endless public debate on immigration. The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill 2020, which returned to Parliament for its second reading last week, puts […]

The Cummings affair and its role in undermining government authority

Sam Slater

The last few days have unearthed a remarkable series of events, which has led to perhaps the most extraordinary crisis a British government has ever installed onto itself. No special adviser to the government has ever held a press conference whilst in government to explain their own actions, especially not in the comfortable setting of […]

Cowan’s plague journal: the real Cummings statement

Alistair Cowan

Sorry I’m late. First of all, I’d like to refute some of the blatantly untrue stories circulating about me on social media. Particularly those published on Twitter by supportive cabinet ministers. I’d like to address the recent allegations now. I was informed that the prime minister and several other No 10 colleagues had displayed symptoms […]

Dominic Cummings: mastermind or fool?

Anthony Robinson

The only way to make sense of yesterday’s press conference by Dominic Cummings in the Downing Street rose garden is to assume it was a tissue of lies from start to finish. To do otherwise, you would have to think the arrogant ‘mastermind’ Cummings is nothing more than an irrational idiot. The self-proclaimed intellectual giant, […]

The cost of dither and delay

Helen Davidson

On 23 May Jonathan Calvert, George Arbuthot, Jonathan Leake and Dipesh Gadher published an indictment of the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. The Sunday Times report examines the government decision-making process in the crucial three weeks from 2–23 March as the number of cases in the UK rose from 14,000 to 1.5m. The report […]

Johnson’s SPAD digs him a hole

Anthony Robinson

The incredible revelations about Cummings and his 500-mile circular lockdown tours of County Durham filled the newspapers and the twittersphere all weekend.  The story is symptomatic of Cummings’ arrogance – as well as his coronavirus. He had breached the lockdown rules we learned, not once but twice. More than that, during one apparent breach he […]

The brutal truth about farming standards

Yorkshire Bylines

Joe Stanley is a farmer from the East Midlands. He describes himself as a conservationist, columnist and advocate for sustainability in food, farming & the environment. In a Twitter thread using data from a briefing by the National Farmers’ Union, he outlines the differences between our own UK food standards and those in the USA, […]

Kuenssberg’s impartiality under fire

Anthony Robinson

The revelations yesterday about Dominic Cummings’ apparent breach of the lockdown rules, travelling 250 miles to his parents’ home in County Durham while experiencing the symptoms of coronavirus, has sparked a flurry of activity on Twitter about the impartiality of the BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg. She has long been seen by some as too […]

State of Happiness: a confident, clean break from Scandi noir

Séamus O’Hanlon

This Norwegian drama is tailor-made for English-speaking audiences; a small-town setting that overnight is invaded by alluring American strangers, stuffy legislators and big oil itself, all looking for the next boom. The series starts with a charismatic Texan, arrogantly determined that there is still plenty of oil off the Norwegian coast. Stavanger is a small […]

Primary schools are not yet safe places for our children

Dr Pam Jarvis

On 20 May, ITV news reported that four out of five local authorities in West Yorkshire have refused to enforce the reopening of schools in their area, and are instead leaving the decision to Head Teachers, who are ultimately responsible for the health and safety of children in their care. Various concerns have been raised […]

Where’s Boris with the hurty knee, Hecate?

Hecate

It’s not just that something stinks. It’s that consensus is growing that, as @DerekJames150 puts it, “Corruption in the UK is alive and well and living at 10 Downing Street!” Commentators around the world boldly remark on what they see as something rotten at the heart of British government. Twitter juxtaposed Trump, Putin, Johnson and […]

An exhausted government, an exhausted civil service

Dr Stella Perrott

As the government lumbers heavily towards its third ‘no-deal’ Brexit deadline, it has strongly asserted that there will be no extension to the transition period. Stella Perrott considers the government’s capacity to deliver a managed Brexit over the coming weeks in the light of the findings of the recent publication of the Institute for Government […]

Barnier sinks Johnson’s negotiating strategy

Anthony Robinson

Michel Barnier issued a sharp response to the letter sent by UK chief negotiator David Frost on Tuesday with a missive of his own on Wednesday. It is as if the negotiations have burst out into the public realm with Britain abandoning face-to-face talks to try and convince us that the EU is just being […]

NHS at risk from new Trade Bill

Brian Batson

Whilst we are all preoccupied, rightly, with trying to survive the coronavirus pandemic the government is forging ahead with its Brexit agenda. Today, Wednesday 20 May, a Trade Bill will receive its second reading in the House of Commons. This Bill is paving legislation for the government to open trade negotiations with other countries, principally […]

UK chief negotiator bleats EU not offering us a ‘fair’ trade deal

Anthony Robinson

The British government is discovering what it is to be a third country. Having published its near 300-page draft legal text yesterday, after the third round of talks ended last week with “very little progress”, our chief negotiator has now written to Michel Barnier complaining the EU is not offering us what we want. David […]

Cowan’s plague journal

Alistair Cowan

So recently I learned from “Everything I Do I Do it for You” hit-maker Bryan Adams that coronavirus was definitely caused by Chinese wet markets. Lockdown hasn’t even lasted as long as that song was No 1, and I know which seemed to last longer. Bryan Adams has an interesting face in that, much like […]

Express and Telegraph spread fake news about no deal job losses

Anthony Robinson

Fake news isn’t only a social media problem. Politicians and the national press are equally good at it (or bad, depending on your point of view) but they’re far more dangerous because they seem more plausible. Yesterday, the Express ran an article that appeared to show a study by a highly respected German institute indicating […]

The Telegraph confirms Yorkshire Bylines story

Anthony Robinson

Ten days after Yorkshire Bylines published a story concerning the flawed computer code used by professor Neil Ferguson at Imperial College to model behavioural strategies for Covid-19, the Telegraph have written their own report: Modelling behind lockdown was an unreliable buggy mess, claim experts – essentially confirming the details. The Telegraph provides more expert evidence […]

Choose your pandemic leader – would Boris make the cut?

Beanna Olding

It’s a Tuesday morning on 23 July 2019, and Boris Johnson has just won 66 per cent of the Conservative Party members’ vote, meaning that he is now our new prime minister. In a characteristically jovial speech, Johnson chimes that even some of his own supporters may “wonder quite what they have done”. Retrospectively, this […]

Government U-turn in track and trace fiasco?

Professor Juliet Lodge

The government seems yet again caught in trying to find its own makeshift solution for controlling the coronavirus pandemic. After abandoning the initial herd immunity strategy in favour of the World Health Organisation approach of test, trace and isolate that has seen much lower mortality wherever it was adopted, UK authorities seem on the brink […]

Our Plan to Fail: the UK Government’s Covid-19 relapse strategy

Helen Davidson

The government’s announcement of the publication of its 60-page strategy, Our Plan to Rebuild, for reopening the country, quickly turned a sensible and pragmatic approach to easing lockdown into an unnecessary scramble to rescue the government from another mess of its own making. Helen Davidson discusses how the indecent haste to implement the strategy coupled […]

Disagreement over schools reopening

Charlie McCarthy

With five working days left until schools are meant to reopen for nursery, reception, Year 1 and Year 6 children, doubts remain over their role in spreading the virus. This debate about children as vectors of the virus is becoming critical. Osama Rahman is director of analysis at the Department for Education (DfE) and chief […]

Testing the tests – false negatives and testing errors

Helen Davidson

Discussion about the number of tests completed each day continues unabated. In the meantime, the low rate of home testing kits being returned – and their error rate, which may be as high as 30 per cent – goes largely unreported. Based on accounts of people self-testing, Helen Davidson examines why the failure rate might […]

Domestic abuse: the lockdown effect

Barbara Lodge

In an overwhelming understatement on 5 April, UN Secretary General António Guterres defined war as a “non-essential activity” and called for a global ceasefire to allow the world to concentrate on the coronavirus pandemic. Less reported was his call to end to all violence, from the battlefield to the home. The UN is concerned that around […]

Nadine Dorries in ‘doctored video’ storm

Anthony Robinson

Twitter had gone into meltdown this morning after a doctored video of Keir Starmer was retweeted by several leading politicians including Nadine Dorries, MP and Junior Minister at the Department of Health. Her retweet has since been deleted. Unfortunately for her, it was captured and tweeted by plenty of others, including Paul Waugh, political editor […]

Fuelling the recovery: the case for raising fuel duty

Helen Davidson

With a £337 billion hole in Britain’s finances, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak is urgently looking for ways to plug it. In a time of plummeting petrol prices, Helen Davidson examines how increasing fuel tax could help fund the coronavirus debt, assist the government’s gradual easing of lockdown and have only a marginal impact on consumers. […]

Looking over the edge: Brexit just got serious.

Anthony Robinson

EU Legal guru warns UK it’s later than you think In a move calculated to focus minds on both sides of the Channel, a former Director General of the EU’s legal services department has delivered a stark warning, one that will echo particularly strongly in Whitehall. Unless an extension to the transition period is agreed […]

Treasury warns of “sovereign debt crisis” caused by Covid-19

Anthony Robinson

The Telegraph has got hold of a leaked Treasury document warning of a “sovereign debt crisis” unless the economy soon begins to recover from the seven-week coronavirus lock down. On 1 April, a week after the lockdown was announced, Yorkshire Bylines ran an article: Coronavirus and Brexit: double austerity on steroids is coming up which now […]

Hauliers: Transition period “must be extended”

Yorkshire Bylines

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) yesterday issued a desperate plea for the transition period to be extended due to the “impossible amount of work to be done” by the end of December. The coronavirus pandemic has “stripped resources” from both the government and the haulage industry and neither will be able to properly prepare for […]

“Boris is culling you” says Twitter

Hecate

Twitter’s verdict on steps to end the lockdown was swift and brutal. ‘Tory voters – at the next election – Stay home-Protect the NHS’. Matt Lucas summed up the ‘go out but not out out’ message as he mimicked the squeezed vowels typical of Johnson’s speech. Quips scoffed at “an entire cabinet of Graylings”, fiddling with the […]

Lockdown viewing: Our Friends in the North

Séamus O’Hanlon

If you enjoy The Crown, a show with an impressive scope, spanning decades and revealing insights to recent British history, then this is an alternative for you during lockdown. Our Friends in the North may not have had the same budget and gloss, but it is a powerful creation that focuses on ordinary people. A […]

Health, wealth and food security in the UK

Salli Martlew

We all need it. No-one can live without it. Sufficiency of it brings peace and productivity. Deficiency leads to weakness, illness and lower productivity. The kinks and distortions in supply and demand for food are not new. But then came Covid-19, described as the ‘great magnifier’. All that was there before, good or bad, is […]

Daniel Hannan: Britain’s misleader-in-chief?

Anthony Robinson

Daniel Hannan is not a man you would necessarily trust to give you the truth about anything. He is on record in 2016 saying that, “absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market”; since when, he himself never stops telling us that’s precisely what we should do. The former MEP and […]

A Predatory Marriage

Daphne Franks

Three days after my mother’s death in March 2016, the phone rang. It was her GP. He sounded worried. “Daphne, did you know your mother was married? Because your mother’s man-friend’s here with a marriage certificate. It says they were married five months ago.” The shock hit me like a punch in the stomach. During […]

The Cygnus Report on pandemic flu preparation – ignoring the advice

Dr Stella Perrott

Following publication of the number of care home deaths due to coronavirus, much media attention has focused on the government’s response to concerns raised in 2017 in the Exercise Cygnus report(published by the Guardian on 7 May 2020). The report highlighted potential difficulties for the care home sector in a flu pandemic. Stella Perrott considers […]

Computer model used to develop government Covid-19 strategy allegedly “unusable for scientific purposes”

Anthony Robinson

Explosive allegations have been made by a programming ‘expert’ that the underlying code of the program used by Imperial College in London to model population behaviour in response to different Covid-19 measures, was itself deeply flawed and regularly produced different outputs when given the same inputs. The work at Imperial, done under professor Neil Ferguson […]

Dilemma for early years practitioners when schools reopen

Dr Pam Jarvis

Vigorous discussion has now begun about how to organise the back to school process, with questions raised about full-time or part-time attendance, and which age groups are to return before others. One important concern that has not yet hit the headlines is the issuing of personal protective equipment (PPE) to those who work with very […]

Outcry over downgrades to safeguarding rules

Don Lodge

At a time of national crisis, emergency measures have to be hurriedly put in place; new priorities emerge and regulatory systems have to be adjusted. This is all an essential part of good leadership. But what if these crisis-inspired ‘shortcuts’ remain when normal life resumes? There are worrying signs that this may happen in areas […]

Detecting the fake news virus

Connor Ohalloran

A guide to spotting fake news – COVID-19 edition In an inter-connected world with a captive, susceptible and vulnerable audience – and in this climate of uncertainty – disinformation and fake news thrives. Our natural tendency to share helpful information is exploited by a proliferation of disinformation pollution, seeping into our information bloodstream. Disinformation is […]

PPE: the truth about your personal protection

Peter Robinson

The phrase ‘personal protective equipment’, or PPE, was unfamiliar to many before the current crisis. Builders wearing hard hats and high visibility vests were familiar, as were police officers wearing stab vests and firefighters wearing breathing apparatus. These sights are unlikely to raise comment. But now we see members of the public in gloves and […]

Border realities dawn over the Irish Sea as storm clouds gather

Anthony Robinson

There is a growing and increasingly tense row developing between the UK and EU over arrangements for implementing the Northern Ireland protocol in the withdrawal agreement, threatening plans for entry points into the province becoming a de facto EU border.  Britain appears to be dragging its feet and going out of its way to be […]

We need to discuss the way out of lockdown

Professor Juliet Lodge

The Government’s reluctance to discuss an exit strategy from Covid-19 suggests it’s trying to hide something, yet again. The public is getting fidgety and wants to know what strategies might surface. But we also want to protect our loved ones and prevent the collapse of the NHS. It’s not unreasonable to expect that when these […]

Face masks: Government U-turn by public demand

Nigel Young

Prof. Nigel Young explores how public ethics are influencing government coronavirus policies. The Government’s justification for recent sudden policy changes has been the public’s demand for action. This appears to be their preferred option when the policy would potentially have been unpopular if enacted by decree. So, rather than ‘following the science’, the Premier League’s […]

The two-party system is strangling our democracy

Sam Slater

The British Parliament, long held as a bastion of government – which inspired enlightened thinkers such as Montesquieu and is the framework for other parliaments worldwide – needs an overhaul. The first past the post (FPTP) electoral system is the rot. It promotes and reinforces our two-party system; two complacent, comfortable, mainstream parties that fail […]

Watch out for Boris Johnson’s imminent Churchill impersonation

Martin Brooks

The stage is already being set by this discredited prime minster and his government. They are positioning themselves as victorious leaders of the country’s emergence from our disastrous encounter with the Covid-19 virus. Moreover, they are already using the pandemic to argue for the UK’s isolation from the rest of the world, by holding to […]

Coronavirus: is it becoming the Brexit argument continued by other means?

Anthony Robinson

Brexit continues to be the unseen thread that runs through everything happening in this country, even coronavirus. The pandemic has somehow become a proxy for Brexit and for some people it is the continuation of the European campaign by other means. Brexiteers are clearly worried about the impact Covid-19 might have on the government and […]

We have the Government we deserve

Helen Davidson

Even before Covid-19 has finished wreaking havoc across the world, commentators and politicians have started to point fingers and apportion blame for the crisis. So far in the dock we have the Government (primarily Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock), China, the World Health Organisation, the NHS, No 10 political advisors (particularly Dominic Cummins) and the […]

Lockdown cooking across the North-South divide

Meryl White

Pots away! As a nation, why did people suddenly panic-buy pasta and pizza? I remember reading that some people think these are the key ingredients for the famously healthy “Mediterranean diet” – so perhaps that explains the empty supermarket shelves? But if the aim was to boost our immune systems, why haven’t we heard more […]

When did the NHS become a charity?

Richard Sadler

Today, the formidable Captain Tom Moore – the new celebrity of the coronavirus crisis – will open the Nightingale hospital in Harrogate, having raised an astonishing £26m for NHS Charities Together doing laps of his garden with a mobility walker. The event will be watched by millions of TV viewers. Then on 30 April – […]

Have you heard about Ractopamine in animal production?

Pauline Allon

It’s understandable that British farmers want to export their products to Europe, America and the rest of the world. Already, some 40 per cent of our lamb is currently exported to Europe and the National Farmers’ Union has warned that 25 per cent or more of UK farmers could go out of business in the […]

Home education in a pandemic – how we de-schooled almost overnight

Charlie McCarthy

School’s out for summer – or is it out for longer? In the space of just one weekend we de-schooled our country. What does this mean for the future of education? In ‘De-schooling Society’ (1971) Ivan Illich, the philosopher critic of the institutions of modern culture, put forward a series of suggestions for learning for […]

Peers call for a public inquiry into the handling of the COVID-19 crisis

Dr Stella Perrott

Fifteen senior peers, including Chris Patten, Bob Kerslake and Helena Kennedy have written a letter to the Financial Times calling for a full public inquiry into the UK’s handing of the coronavirus crisis. They argue that the public but particularly “health and care professions, the medical science community and those who have lost loved ones […]

Britain’s productivity gap: will robots hold us back post Brexit?

Anthony Robinson

In terms of installations of industrial robots, Britain’s record is woeful compared to every other industrialised economy. In 2012, a group of Tory MPs including Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng co-authored a book: Britannia Unchained, in which British workers were described as “among the worst idlers in the world”. Three of […]

Brexit negotiations during a pandemic lockdown

Dr Stella Perrott

Stella Perrott considers the impact coronavirus is already having on the UK and EU’s attempt to forge a Brexit deal and the implications for the future. David Frost the UK’s Brexit negotiator reassures us by tweet, almost on a daily basis, that the Brexit negotiations are progressing well. This is in spite of Michael Barnier […]

The Bubonic Plague – lessons for the modern age

Dr Stella Perrott

In 1347, the bubonic plague swept through Europe arriving on the UK’s shores in 1348; possibly caused by marmot fleas which transferred to rats as it moved from Central Asia to Crimea in about 1343. A secondary strain, pneumonic plague was transmitted from human to human through infected droplets, much like the COVID-19 virus today. […]

Scientific authority, whose data counts?

Dr Stella Perrott

The scream of the motos struggling up the hill taking their owners to work suddenly stopped and even the dogs were instantly silenced, with no passers-by to bark at as the Spanish lockdown was introduced. It was immediate, and immediately enforced with loud hailers touring the streets telling people to stay inside. Police patrolled the […]

UK Covid-19 strategy: did the experts get it wrong?

Anthony Robinson

In the middle of this terrible coronavirus pandemic, spare a thought if you can for embattled Health Secretary Matt Hancock, coming in for criticism because of our limited testing facilities. He and Dominic Cummings are blamed, but on this issue, if not on many others, they are almost certainly innocent. Hancock was only carrying out […]

Covid-19 crisis: UK dogma vs EU solidarity

Professor Juliet Lodge

Why isn’t the Covid-19 crisis presided over by a committee of the wise, people experienced in international politics and crisis management? The easy answer is blinkered attachment to confrontational party politics and the associated dogma. The evidence from our closest European neighbours shows that collaborative, consensus-seeking politics works. The Dutch government called on a previous […]

Coronavirus and Brexit: double austerity on steroids is coming up

Anthony Robinson

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently warned that the economic shock from the present coronavirus pandemic was already bigger than the financial crash of 2008–09. It means we are almost certain to be looking at another ten years of austerity at least, but this time on steroids. Angel Gurría, OECD secretary general, […]

Think tanks: a malign influence on the media

Anthony Robinson

Before the referendum, figures about the cost or benefit of EU membership were dropped like cluster bombs by both sides until everybody was completely shell shocked and confused. The one that resonated and stuck was the £350 million a week painted on the side of the red bus. It was perhaps the most famous but […]

Brexit’s great repeal mystery

Anthony Robinson

Brexit was billed as taking back control of our laws but the government has still not published a list of EU laws they want to repeal After the transition period Boris Johnson will be free to tinker as much as he likes with a whole new section of the British constitution, called retained EU law. […]