Lightening never strikes twice

Lightening never strikes twice

In my blogs on the Track & Trace failure [blog | linkedin], I make the throwaway comment that Govt. IT often fails repeatedly because no-one is accountable, nor punished and thus they fail to learn but in this case it’s not true; Dido Harding the CEO of the Track & Trace was CEO of Talk Talk when it was fined £ ½m for another data protection breach caused by another failure to in this case close down an application running on an out of date & unpatched version of MySQL, making it vulnerable to a SQL injection attack, one of the OWASP top 10 vulnerabilities.  How unlucky can you get? …

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. …

Safe and Equal

A comrade writes,

I think the demand to raise SSP is very weak. the only way of maximising the chance workers will selfisolate when they have signs of Coronavirus infection is to ensure they can take leave on full pay. the demand for all outsourced NHS workers to get full pay if they need to selfisolate (contained in this letter) was implemented by NHS bosses in early march and has existed for substantive staff before then so that bit doesn’t make sense. agency workers in nhs still dont get full pay to selfisolate which is a problem and there is an issue of whether outsourced workers know about this provision. but the big problem on sick pay is in the care sector where almost half a million care workers have no occupational sick pay and are working with people most likely to die if they get the virus. It’s also a big problem in supermarkets, logistics and delivery sectors and manufacturing, including food manufacturing. the government is very vulnerable on this issue but labour and the unions (apart from a few exceptions pcs, rmt, unison north west region) are very weak. more on this here: www.safeandequal.org

I am of the view that SSP must become a state benefit (and increased) but the writing above addresses the short term issues about UK public health and the adverse impact that low wages has on the decisions to self-isolate and co-operate with the lockdown. ( The quote refers to a letter that I do not have.) …

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. …

With a whimper

big brother is watching you

There’s a sinister element to the way governments are acquiring emergency powers to keep us safe during the public health crisis. It’s a fact that nearly all governments do this. A comrade Simon Hannah has listed the problems with the UK Emergency Powers  and the civil liberties concerns have been highlighted by Big Brother watch while the data management and privacy threats have been identified by the EDRi and the open rights group (ORG).

The UK powers give the Police unprecedented powers of arrest, although where they’re going to put them I don’t know;  we should be aware that the Courts are now shut and that Parliament has adjourned for a month without even putting any interim measures in place. We may be about to find out the minimal difference between orders-in-council and decree. Strangely for me, it’s the Tory back benchers who’ll be missed as the self-employed support package has massive holes and will disappoint many; and the change in line of the Tory Party is self-generated. Is this fascism? AS Orwell said,

“When I speak of Fascism in England, I am not necessarily thinking of Mosley and his pimpled followers. English Fascism, when it arrives, is likely to be of a sedate and subtle kind (presumably, at any rate at first, it won’t be called Fascism)”

Who knows? We are a different society but the Tory Governments over the last nine years have attacked the constitution, the judiciary, our legal protections i.e. legal aid and retrospective legislation and suspended parliament twice, while being now led by a buffoon.

More worryingly, in Hungary, Victor Orban, has passed even more restrictive laws and is seeking to extend them without a “sunset” clause. Hungary has already adopted  a series of anti-democratic measures due to various so-called threats which have been criticized by the EU Commission and EU Parliament to the extent that the EU is considering sanctions against Hungary; I wonder if they would do so against the UK where our historic reliance on convention is being stretched beyond breaking point by the 21st Century Tory party with its alt-right entryists, consisting of Cameron’s “fruitcakes, loonies & closet racists”.

The collapse of democracy in Weimar Germany came as a result of the Reichstag Fire, when the Nazis burned down the German Parliament Building and on the passage of two Laws. Wikipedia says,

The Enabling Act (German: Ermächtigungsgesetz) of 1933, formally titled Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich (“Law to Remedy the Distress of People and Reich”) was an amendment to the Weimar Constitution that gave the German Cabinet — in effect, the Chancellor — the power to enact laws without the involvement of the Reichstag. The Enabling Act gave Hitler plenary powers and followed on the heels of the Reichstag Fire Decree, which had abolished most civil liberties and transferred state powers to the Reich government. The combined effect of the two laws was to transform Hitler’s government into a legal dictatorship.

Is it too far fetched to consider this a realistic precedent? As a final thought I leave you with Elliot’s quote,

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

 …

The Govt. and public health

The Govt. and public health

To deal with the coronavirus crisis, the Govt. wants more powers and it wants them for a long time. I wonder why because they don’t seem to be making any decisions and they pretty much have the powers they need. They have a page on Gov.UK describing what they think they need, and Big Brother Watch have published their take on it, as have Inclusion London. The proposed laws reduce the standards for staff in the NHS, make changes to i.e. reduce duties under the Mental Health Acts and Social Care laws, they make it easier to dispose of the dead, postpone the May elections, take powers to close events and venues, and give the police & immigration officers powers to detain people. It also abolished the three day waiting period for SSP. We should consider their failure to offer security to those in work who may lose their jobs, fall sick or have to stop work to look after children or elderly relatives. This will also highlight the appallingly low levels of statutory sick pay and redundancy payments, not to mention the 2 year employment longevity requirement for redundancy payments. No-one is talking about those living on savings who will be hurt by the reduction in the BoE interest rate to 0.1%, by the collapse in the stock market (the FTSE 250 is down by over 40% in the month), and even their business support programme is based on loans and not grants. (This blog is based on one written yesterday and has been published before I have read today’s announcement offering an income for those not working.) …