Fallout from a Road Trip

Fallout from a Road Trip

The press have been full of the story of Dominic Cummings’ trip to Durham (from London) while he was isolating due to CV19 infection. “Led by Donkeys” have their own inimitable take on this; they took it to Cummings’ London home. However, he has been supported by various members of the Cabinet, including the Attorney General, probably in an act of prejuidice, in the legal sense, and capped off last night, by Boris Johnson who took the daily press conference, for the first time in a while and, not for the first time told the nation to fuck off. It seems that what Cummings did is responsible and legal. Johnson also restated that the Govt. planned to re-open the schools, starting with the youngest, against the will of most parents and most school workers. Johnson’s press conference was followed by an extraordinary hostile tweet from the Civil Service twitter account, allowing us to draw the conclusion that Johnson is “arrogant & offensive”; I mean it’s not exactly news.

What the Tory Government fail to recognise is the elitism and arrogance of this behaviour. A number of twitter users have expressed their anger and sadness that they were able to see, visit and comfort their dying relatives, even when living much closer than Cummings’ 500 mile round trip. It took me a while to realise how important it is to spend some time with the dying to properly say goodbye. As a child, I had been protected from family deaths and had thus learned not to see them as important events; I even almost missed saying good bye to my mother, through choices of my own, and can now see how important the visits to my dying father in the ICU were. My solidarity goes out to all those who have lost relatives and others precious to them during this crisis, I know that my grief would have been harder to overcome, if I had not been able to see my Dad although I only know this looking back helped by the insights and grief expressed by those writing today. The grief will hurt for a longer time then if they’d been able to visit them. I am sorry for your loss. …

Technology lessons

Technology lessons

It seems there is insufficient evidence to prosecute Boris Johnson for misconduct in a public office; the police had been investigating him as a result of his alleged relationship with Jennifer Arcuri  in the light of decisions taken by the Mayor’s Officer to support her business. It should be noted that he did not declare his relationship as a potential conflict of interest. His day-time visits to her home, so presumably during working hours, were, it seems, for ‘technology lessons’; it reminds me of the private eye euphemism of “Ugandan discussions”. One disturbing part of the affair is that the emails seem to be unavailable., possible in contravention of the GLA’s & Mayor’s statutory record keeping rules and duties. The rest of this blog looks at alternative legal approaches to investigating if wrong doing has occurred; it highlights the role of ISO 27001 in specifying good IT Management and Security practices and that compliance/certification may be seen as part of a legal defence against liability for a security breach. Without good IT Security controls, essential audit questions cannot be answered.

In order to help consider how that might have happened, I have just written a short note on how ISO 27001 deals with deletion. It is clear that the rules and means of making data deletions need to be specified and controlled. ISO guidance on “Asset Management” specifies good practice for data management and the section on “Logging & Monitoring” details how business actions need to be, well …, logged and monitored. Without these tools, we cannot know who took any actions, and who instructed that these actions occur. I talk about the well known exception to the storage principle, that data needed for disputes or compliance must not be deleted until these needs aee no longer in place. If these tools, are not available, perhaps we should be asking, why not? Who said that these controls were too expensive? The GDPR establishes that using a certified code is an important indicator that the organisation has “adequate technical and organisational protection”.

While Johnson’s relationship with Arcuri is not what led me to look at the Bribery Act, I wrote a short note on that and discovered that a bribe is

[any] act designed to obtain or having the effect of obtaining advantage through the ‘improper performance’ of another person.

Now it’s over to the GLA’s Oversight Committee. …

On Labour’s Money

On Labour’s Money

I was looking through the LP’s finance report presented to#Lab19, which has the 2018 7 2017 figures in it. I had previously discovered that at the end of 2018, the Labour Party had £20.8m “cash in hand” and so it had become a surprise to me that we had only spent £8m on the General Election, when we had spent £11m in 2017.

But this time round I found some other things that piqued my interest

  1. The Labour Party made a surplus of £1.4m in 2017, the year of a General Election that we lost by 2,500 votes. Why is this?
  2. Income from Affiliations is the third largest source of income, after membership fees, and the front bench “short money” grant.
  3. On the expenditure front, they spent £3m (6%) on “Grants and payments to CLPs”.

For context, total income in 2018 was £46.3m and membership fell by 8.1% (45,914) from 564,433 to 518,519.

Here’s a chart of the sources of income,

 

  …

New Blood, New Labour

The NEC are considering whether to use STV for the CLP division of the NEC. This is important, and much discussion is to be had about whether and how this will change the power on the NEC and if its desirable. My helpful contribution is that we never use STV because our preferential systems are for single positions, maybe it would be good, particularly now that many CLPs send multiple delegates to Conference, but we are not talking about that yet.

Much more interesting are Charlie Mansell’s comments.

The results of the last NEC which were narrowly won by the right may underestimate their support.

Mind you, if we’re having STV for the CLPs we can have it for the ALC positions.

It all reinforces my feeling that the Left need, as a priority, to talk and listen to those who voted for Jeremy in 2016 and for Kier or Lisa in 2019. …

Sectarianism

Sectarianism

This article is a review of Anatomy of the Micro-Sect, by Hal Draper, dated 1973. It thus refers to political sectarianism. I was particularly taken by this quote,

What characterizes the classic sect was best defined by Marx himself: it counterposes its sect criterion of programmatic points against the real movement of the workers in the class struggle, which may not measure up to its high demands. The touchstone of support (the “point d’honneur,” in Marx’s words) is conformity with the sect’s current shibboleths – whatever they may be, including programmatic points good in themselves. The approach pointed by Marx was different: without giving up or concealing one’s own programmatic politics in the slightest degree, the real Marxist looks to the lines of struggle calculated to move decisive sectors of the class into action – into movement against the established powers of the system (state and bourgeoisie and their agents, including their labor lieutenants inside the workers’ movement). And for Marx, it is this reality of social (class) collision which will work to elevate the class’s consciousness to the level of the socialist movement’s program.

There’s more below/overleaf, including a commentary on the featured image. … …

Politics matters, even against a disease

Politics matters, even against a disease

It would be odd not to comment on the CV19 pandemic. For various reasons I have been looking back at my blog and remember at one stage it was a semi-public diary. Because it’s my blog, this is quite abstract and very political, I hope that my readers are keeping safe with their families.

It would seem that the worst of it may be over in the UK, provided that there isn’t a second wave. The best, most understandable charts are held at the FT and I have posted a screen grab of the their chart as at 19th April 2020. These charts and the Govt. numbers underestimate the deaths cased by CV-19 because they only count those that died in hospital; those who dies in care homes or at home are not counted.

The figures are probably double the official ones.

 

Within the Labour Party the fight for the tone of Starmer’s Party continues with some, including, it seems, him saying that we need to be a responsible opposition, which it seems to mean is not to oppose. The role of Labour in Parliament must be to act in the interests of people’s lives and safety; the Govt’s response to the COVID19 outbreak must be held to account, and where wrong opposed. The lack of preparedness, the lack of speed, the lack of PPE, the failure to test, all in breach of WHO guidance, the stupid exceptionalism in refusing to co-operate with EU & WHO are all failures, and the constant lying are things that as an opposition we should be challenging and where it makes a difference seeking to get changed.

The lack of tests and lack of hospital staff PPE is a continuing disgrace, to which there are simple answers. NHS Staff are dying. At least the Tories have postponed their Immigration Bill, but the current Brexit transition laws on immigration and citizenship are driving EU citizens back home, which is critically effecting the NHS ability to operate.

Much of the so-called economic security measures are problematic. Firstly, for the wage subsidy there is too much discretion left to the employers, whether to declare work essential and whether to apply for furlough subsidy. Firms can only get the subsidy if the workers are not working; instead of furlough, some people are having their hours & money reduced which is causing real hardship. People, even vulnerable people, have no say in whether they have to work i.e. if their work is essential. This is all compounded by the shit level of statutory sick pay, which the companies often avoid by using bogus personal service contracts. Some companies fear that the lockdown and consequent slump will cause their companies to fail and have started redundancy programmes, where again the statutory minimum is unsatisfactory for the low paid, often being less than their notice entitlements, and certainly less than their bosses’s. (The notice period for consultation was reduced from 90 days to 45 by the Tories).  The support for the self employed/personal service companies is weak and the paperwork requirements onerous as is the furlough scheme. Not the least of its half arsed provisions is that this is only available to companies with a three year trading record and it only protects the average profit over that period; so it’s a bit amusing for those that have been hiding their income in a bloated expense budget, but less so for those with marginal profitability or companies started more recently.

Other factors increasing the misery is that Universal Credit is appallingly low, and there is a five week waiting period for it. This is a problem well known to anti-poverty campaigners, the only upside is that a bunch of people who have never considered themselves as possible benefit claimants are now learning what hostile environment means as they have to put themselves through the degrading application process.

Another under considered fact is that the Courts are hard to keep safe, they’re old and under cleaned and they have reduced their capacity s a response to CV19. This means that those unfairly dismissed will have difficulty getting justice as their representatives and the courts struggle to adjust with the extra work and reduced capacity caused by lockdown. The Tribunal notification deadlines should be extended.

Another group of workers who will suffer are those with less than two years service who will be denied any redundancy payments or any protection against unfair dismissal and will thus be more likely to succumb to threats to make them comply with reduction of hours or made to work in unsafe environments. Since the lockdown is to isolate the disease, these failures risk everyone’s health.

In the long term, we should be looking to see,

  1. Sick pay & Redundancy increased and made state payed
  2. The two year service requirement for unfair dismissal to be abolished.
  3. Universal Credit’s waiting period to be abolished, actually this should be scrapped and rebuilt from scratch

The final piece of the jigsaw, is aggregate demand. It’s one of the reasons we should be subsidising wages during the crisis, the economy will not recover if people aren’t spending, and the poor spend more of their next £1 than the rich. The government is doing this through monetary quantitative easing (QE) i.e. giving money to the banks; they have rejected a universal basic income as in Spain, increasing Universal Credit payments or even a people’s QE. …

Employee self-defence

Employee self-defence

I have been meaning to write an “employee self defence” manual for a while now, and something came across my desk today to remind me of this ambition. Here’s mine off the top of my head.

  • Always reply to management in writing and in good time.
  • Know where your contract is, make a good .pdf copy of it and keep a copy of any variations particularly if you work for a business unit that has been subject to a TUPE agreement, you’d be surprised how careless some managements can be in keeping good records. If you opt out of the working time directive or refuse to, keep a record.
  • While contracts can be varied unilaterally i.e. imposed, it depends on the wording of the original contract, if you object to the changes, let management know in writing, it can’t stop it but it may be relevant for future grievances or disciplinary processes.
  • Keep a contemporaneous diary and keep it off your employer’s IT; they can deny it to you when you need it or worse, amend the record.
  • See your Doctor when needed and take their advice, don’t make them look a fool. If signed off sick, make sure your appropriate management know and they have the appropriate documentation.
  • Tell your management if you are disabled or chronically sick, they won’t make reasonable adjustments unless they do.
  • Know your grievance and whistle blowing policy so you know who to talk to when you need it.
  • If you think it’s a grievance, lodge it, the least that will happen is that your case is in writing, actually shit managements might retaliate but your case is in writing and if they’re bad, it’ll only get worse anyway.
  • Know the IT use and record management policy of your employer; don’t break them and complain if others try and get you to do so too, by for instance, using personal phones or emails and whatsapp or twitter to discuss work matters. If an employee, don’t use your own phone for any work business; they have a duty to provide one if you need it for work.

That’s it for the moment but I know there’s more. …

The problem of the bureaucracy

The problem of the bureaucracy

Sky News and Rowena Mason, in the Guardian, have both run stories about a Labour Party document “The work of the Labour Party’s Governance & Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism 2014-2019”. This would seem to catalogue a conspiracy to subvert the party’s disciplinary process and even the 2017 election campaign to the detriment of the elected party leadership and the aspirations of its membership. There’s probably a lot to say, which I will wait to say, but I prepared this rule change last year as I had observed massive factional manipulation throughout the Labour Party and while this wouldn’t stop it, it would give the membership another avenue to hold Labour’s staff accountable to the values of the party. The document shows it’s needed at the highest levels; it’s a shame that no-one is thinking of those whose lives have been marred by the casual bullying covered up by more junior staff. I think the supporting statement needs to be strengthened. If the CLPD can get it’s act together I’ll ask them to support it, but you don’t need their permission.

Member’s Rights and the Nolan Principles

The Labour Party Rule Book 2019 Chapter 2 Membership rules, Clause II Charter of Members Rights, Section 7 (pg 14) reads as follows:

‘Members have the right to dignity and respect, and to be treated fairly by the Labour Party. Party officers at every level shall exercise their powers in good faith and use their best endeavours to ensure procedural fairness for members.’

Amendment

After Party officers, insert ‘, staff and volunteer role holders’

After ‘good faith’, insert ‘in accordance with the Nolan Principles of conduct in public life’

Replace ‘endeavours’ with ‘efforts’.

Supporting argument

All Party Officers, staff and volunteer role holders are to be held to the Nolan Principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty & leadership.

ooOOOoo

Image Credit: Comes from a telegraph article on McNicol’s ‘moving on from the position of GS of the Labour Party. (I would link to it if WordPress allowed featured images to be linked, I have cropped it fit into the blog, i.e. I have not made this image available.) …

More on Free broadband

More on Free broadband

One of the allegedly glaringly popular promises in the last Labour manifesto was the promise of free broadband. I wrote about it a couple of times and decided that though it was desirable, the failure to socialise it both within the movement and society as a whole allowed the promise to be undermined by questions of cost. I concluded the article above by asking “why not free water?”. One of the answers to that is that much government business, which it requires those most likely to not have the internet requires its use, on the one hand, recording business activity and on the other claiming benefits and maybe equally importantly writing to one’s MP or Council. The idea came from two sources, one of them the London CWU who issued a pamphlet, calling for broader public ownership of the telco and postal services on the grounds that private/market ownership was wasteful of wealth and resources, has delayed the adoption of superfast broadband, caused an investment famine and led to a pursuit of short term fashion & profit rather than investing in infrastructure for long term aggregate growth. The Executive Summary is reproduced below/overleaf. … …

Virtuality & the Labour Party

Virtuality & the Labour Party

Somewhere inside my head there’s an article on how businesses weren’t planning for a pandemic as a business continuity risk, most plans were about protecting infrastructure. My most recent linkedin article looks at the under-licensing and data leakage risks exposed by the spontaneous adoption of remote desk top technology but the country has had to adopt a much wider “work from home” practice than previously, stressing those parts of the economy that serve it, including home space and furniture supply. This all leaves unanswered how are democratic decisions being taken? Let’s look at the Labour Party; I wouldn’t want to be the Labour Party apparatchik that allowed 7.IV.H.8 (P41) 2019 to expire. It used to say,

The NEC shall invite CLPs to take part in pilots of staggered meetings, electronic attendance, online voting and other methods of maximising participation. The NEC may immediately give effect to these pilots and may incorporate any resultant rules into this rule book, subject to approval at Annual Conference 2019, when this sub-clause shall expire.

It wasn’t extended at Conference 19, and the rule now no-longer exists and virtual meetings are not permitted to take decisions. Someone’s going to be happy.

If deliberate, it’s another example of the bureaucracy just not giving a shit. …