Falling On His Sword

So Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary and government minister, has had to resign.

During his chaotic handling of the Coronavirus pandemic, even some Conservatives in his own party criticised him. It emerged that he had shares in various pharmaceutical companies, and was awarding contracts to supply PPE to companies owned by his friends.

The aborted Test and Trace scheme wasted billions of pounds of public money, and there is speculation that he deliberately held back on adequate support for Care Homes, hoping that the virus would kill off a significant portion of the elderly.

He did not support early vaccination for younger people with disabilities or learning difficulties, but was an advocate of the ‘herd immunity’ idea that probably cost the lives of thousands of people.

Yet none of this forced his resignation.

He continued to enjoy the unqualified support of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and was frequently praised by his Cabinet colleagues in government for his ‘hard work and dedication’.

His downfall came, as it so often does, because of his attraction to a female adviser that he employed. An old friend from his university days, this woman was employed as an independent adviser at a time when the Civil Service had many well-qualfied and salaried advisers already in place capable of doing her job.

Gina Coladangelo was already a millionaire when employed in that unnecessary role, and married to a multi-millionaire retail shop magnate. Hancock employed her to work for just 20 days in one year, at a fee of £15,000. That’s £750 a day. Not a bad pay rate at all, but she really didn’t need the money.

The real reason was to get her close to him. Very close. He spent public money so he could have sex with a woman he knew.

Unable to keep his hands off his lover during working hours, he was caught on camera kissing and fondling her. Nobody cared that they were having an affair outside of their marriages. What upset everyone was that this was at a time when grandparents were not allowed to hug their grandchildren, and people were dying alone, deprived of the last embrace of a loved one. Families were restricted to meeting in low numbers, and only ouside in a garden, and relatives were forbidden from visiting residents of Old People’s Homes.

Yet the smugly entitled government minister was happy to cuddle up to an ’employee’ who was not in his social bubble, and do a lot more than shake hands with her, or bump elbows.

Even faced with this uproar, he only managed a feeble apology, and asked that his private life be his own affair. But the media and the public were not having it, and the uproar continued, despite Boris standing by the philanderer. That left him with no alternative but to resign.

Good riddance.

Iran, Britain, And The Scandal Of The Tank Deal

In the late 1970s, the British Government sold a number of tanks to Iran, at the cost of £400,000,000. The former Shah of Iran paid in advance, and awaited delivery of the tanks. But then he was overthrown by the ayatollahs, and Britain decided not to send the tanks after all. To rub salt in the wound, they sold the tanks to Iraq instead, getting paid twice for the same weapons.

The question of Britain returning the money to Iran has often been raised, but consistently ignored by every British government since 1979.

In 2016, a woman named Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in Iran, and accused of spying for the Bitish government. She was there visiting her parents, taking along her baby daughter for them to see for the first time. Despite her being a writer, married to a British man, and holding dual nationality, the Iranian court convicted her, and sentenced her to five years in prison. Since then, a vigorous campaign has been going on to try to get her released.

In March this year, her sentence finished. She was then re-arrested on charges of ‘Spreading propaganda’. Today, she was sentenced to a further year in prison.

This is all a game of course. Nazanin was arrested as little more that a ‘hostage’, in the hope of securing payment of that old £400 million debt. The British government could have easily secured her release in 2016, by acknowledging the debt to Iran, and arranging to pay it. But they chose not to. Last month, they coud have stopped her being arrested again, simply by paying the outstanding debt from 1979. They chose not to.

Government ministers think it is acceptable for this young woman to spend six years in prison in a foreign country, and for her baby daughter to grow up without seeing her mother, just to save them the embarrassment of admitting the debt, and actually paying it.

Shame on them.

Shedding No Tears

The media in the UK is completely overwhelmed by the unsurprising news that Prince Philip has died at the age of 99.

For me, that is nothing to cry about. Since 1945, the man lived a life of privilege. He never had to do a real day’s work after the end of WW2. He spent his time driving Carriages, shooting pheasants and other birds and animals, and walking around next to the Queen.

If he got so much as a toothache, he would be hurried onto an exclusive private hospital, and given the best medical care available in Britain.

He travelled the world on a Royal Yacht, exclusive aircraft, helicopters, and even a Royal Train. He could own and drive any car he desired, and choose to live in any of the numerous Royal residences around the country.

His life was one of comfort. Probably part of the reason he lived to such a grand old age.

The Prince was never shy to court controversy, often outspoken, and occasionally racist too. Unlike politicians or celebrities, that didn’t cost him his ‘career’ though.

A 99 year-old man died today, as no doubt did many other 99 year-old people.

As far as I am concerned, he deserves no more respect than any of those others.

Royal Tantrums

Unless you have been hiding in a cave, you cannot have missed the constant news coverage of the split between Prince Harry and his wife, and the British Royal Family.

The Prince has gone to live in America, and made allegations against the British media for racism and harrassment, and his wife has talked about bad treatment at the hands of the other Royals.

Now they are to be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, threatening to ‘tell all’. This follows a much-publicised interview between the Prince and James Corden, shown here as ‘News’ on every channel. It has been reported that over 200 TV networks will be showing the Oprah Winfrey interview around the world, making a small fortune for CBS, and a similar cash pile for Ms Winfrey, no doubt.

The scramble for early snippets to report is unseemely indeed. And it is strange that the TV companies in America, and many Americans, seem far more interested in the comings and goings of our Royal Family than we do.

Oprah has told reporters that the Prince and his wife are receiving no fee, and there is no donation being given to any nominated charity either.

Looks like they missed a trick there. (If that’s true of course)

In Britain, Royal press people are already preparing to counter any allegations by leaking reports of Meghan’s ‘bullying’ of staff employed by the Royal household.

It seems to be coming down to taking sides. Who do we believe? Who said and did the worst things? Is this interview going to open up a can of worms at long last?

For my part, I couldn’t care less. One bunch of over-privileged wealthy royals sniping against another bunch is of no interest to me whatsoever.

People here and in America are still dying from Covid-19. That’s what should be on the news.

Health care workers including nurses are being offered a derisory 1% pay rise, after all their tireless efforts during the pandemic. That should be on the news.

Or perhaps the news that all of the British Royal Family are going to pack their cases, and go to live in California near Harry.

I would watch that report.

Covid News: Who Can We Believe?

It is becoming increasingly difficult to make any sense of conflicting reports about the current health crisis.

Take this exchange, found today on Twitter.

@bbc5live
· Jan 1

“It was minimally affecting children in the first wave… we now have a whole ward of children here.”

Laura Duffel, a matron in a London Hospital, tells Adrian Chiles about the Covid situation in hospitals.

Radio @BBCSounds.

@CheungRonny

I’ve been the on call consultant in a london children’s hospital this week – this is simply not true, and irresponsible in the extreme – frightens parents, fuels covid-deniers. Covid is rife in hospitals, but not among children. We have enough to deal with without this garbage.

Twitter reply, January the third.

Nightingale Hospitals: The Great Lie

Given the recent spike in Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions, the news reports are full of stories about overwhelmed hospitals. Seriously ill patients are being driven from one county to another in the hope of finding a hospital bed for them.

Understandably, the question has been asked. Why not use the purpose built Nightingale Hospitals? They were built in record time earlier this year, with the assistance of the Army. Every bed had access to a ventilator, and they were specifically designed to accommodate Coronavirus patients, thereby allowing other hospitals to continue to see other patients who did not have Covid-19.

The one in London at the Excel Centre cost tens of millions of pounds to convert and equip.

Journalists went there, to see how it was coping with the recent rise in cases.

They found it had been dismantled. It is now mostly an empty building, guarded by security staff who are supposed to stop people finding that out. But they told the reporters anyway. This is what they said.

It has no hospital beds inside.
It has no ventilators or oxygen inside.
It has no operational medical staff inside.

The equipment has apparently been ‘redeployed’ to other areas of the NHS.

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/covid-patients-england-nightingale-hospitals-b538294.html

Yes, it was all a great lie. Built with the help of the Army, and equipped by companies owned by friends of Boris Johnson and his cronies, only to be stripped out at the earliest opportunity. Don’t forget this, when the next election comes around.

Five hundred Intensive care beds just removed without public consultation, at a time when they are needed more than ever before in history.

Boris and his pals should be hanging from lamp-posts.

But nobody seems to care.

I do though.

Arise, Sir Tax Avoider

Lewis Hamilton is an incredibly successful F1 racing car driver. His skill has made him world famous, as well as very, very rich.

Much is made of his humble background, and how he overcame that to be able to set an example to other young black people in Britain and elsewhere.

Today, he has been made a Knight of the Realm, in the New Year Honours List.

Sir Lewis Hamilton.

He has indeed set a great example with his driving, his respectful demeanour, and his entrepreneurial business sense.

But he has also set another example, that of how to become even richer by not paying the correct amount of income tax on his earnings.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/lewis-hamilton-tax-dodging-paradise-papers-f1-champion-latest-claims-a8041061.html

And he doesn’t even live in Britain any longer.

He has learned well from so many other rich Tories and tax-avoiding businessmen, pop stars, and other celebrities.

And like so many of those, he has been duly rewarded with his knighthood.

Compare that to Captain Tom.

Chancellor Sunak: Richer Than Queen Elizabeth

The Chancellor of Britain’s Treasury, Rishi Sunak, has a lot to say about how generous the government has been granting furlough payments to workers unable to go into work because of the current pandemic.

He has also praised the temporary increase in Universal Credit, with an aditional £20 a week granted to claimants for the duration of the lockdowns. Is £20 a week more better than nothing? I suppose it is, but believe me, £20 doesn’t buy much in modern Britain, ask anyone.

Mr Sunak receives a ministerial salary of £71,090, and an additional salary of £81,932 as a member of parliament. A total annual salary of £153,022. This is boosted by living in an official residence, having a government car and driver at his disposal, and being able to claim expenses for almost anything that can be attributed to his job.

Let’s face it, £20 is neither here nor there to him. If he dropped a £20 note, I doubt he would bother to bend down to pick it up.

But there is more.

His wife is one of the richest women in the world. In fact, she is worth more than Queen Elizabeth, the current ruler of Great Britain.

And that’s saying something, as the Queen has a massive amount of personal wealth.

And it seems Mr Sunak ‘forgot’ to declare his wife’s vast fortune, as government ministers are compelled to do. So how much are the Sunaks worth?

The following information is from TheLondonEconomic.com

Rishi Sunak is facing renewed questions about his financial affairs after it emerged that his wife and her family hold a multimillion-pound portfolio of shareholdings that are not declared in the register of ministers’ interests.

Akshata Murty – who married the chancellor in 2009 – is the daughter of one of India’s richest men. Her father co-founded tech giant Infosys, and she has shares in the company worth £430 million – making her richer than the Queen.

The ministerial code complex Sunak to declare any financial interests “relevant” to his job that might constitute a conflict of interests. Ministers are also supposed to declare the interests of close family members.

Richer than the Queen
After he became chief secretary to the Treasury in July 2019, Sunak revealed he was the beneficiary of a blind trust – meaning he can’t make decisions about how his money is invested, but can still profit from his investments.

However, according to a Guardian investigation, Sunak’s declarations make no mention of his wife beyond referring to her ownership of a small venture capital company.

But the paper revealed that Murty and her family hold a score of other valuable interests – including a £1.7 billion shareholding in Infosys, which employs thousands of UK staff and has held a number of government contracts.

Other holdings include a reported £900 million-a-year joint venture with Amazon in India, and a direct shareholding in a British firm which runs Jamie Oliver and Wendy’s restaurants in India.

As we say in London, he’s not short of a few quid.

So the next time he traps on about how great it is to get £20 a week more to spend, perhaps take less notice of him.

He is just a criminal in a nice suit.

The Dark Right

Not since the grim 1930s have we seen such a rise of the Far Right in politics around the world. Black shirts have been replaced by national flags in European countries, and by assault rifles and military clothing in America.

All the usual signs are there. Demonizing minorities and immigrants. Blaming foreigners for the pandemic and natural disasters. Denying the past, flocking to fundamentalist Christianity and ultra-orthodox Catholicism. Attacking other religions and customs as ancient and barbaric, and calling on past glories as justification for new horrors.

This is more than the Far Right though, this is the Dark Right. The Right that rules without conscience or caring, the Deep Right that wants a return to old values and restriction of personal freedoms. Workers with no contracts on poor wages, and immigrants driven out, or ‘sent home’. The Right that asserts that everyone should fend for themselves, pay their own way, or just fall by the wayside.

It is building everywhere, and no longer hiding its intentions or policies. It sneers at ‘ordinary’ people, and laughs at the distress of those less able to cope. It seeks strong leaders; father figures, strong men who say what they think without reserve, and the women who are content to play a traditional role in the background.

You only have to read a history book to see what will happen.

Dark times are ahead.