Unrobing the Emperors and other matters of concern. An author's blog - begun in January 2016 - revealing political deception in the UK - paving the way to The Road to Corbyn (2016, Matador) and Dying to Know - Running through a Pandemic (2022, Matador). Also updates on my work in progress: 'Mine to Die', an unusual work of local history with global ethical importance.
In my blogpost a week or so ago, I explained the change in the policy of Jacinda Ardern's New Zealand government - and I highlighted the tone of carping criticism that I had identified in British media responses to these latest developments in the admirable measures adopted by New Zealand against the coronavirus. Here is a link to that blogpost - press here.
Jacina Ardern - PM of New Zealand
Last Tuesday, 25 October 2021, that same begrudging and critical tone was evident in an 'i' article, headlined 'Ardern admits Covid policy will create two classes of people.' The No.10 'nudge' unit seems to be at work again, making sure the media besmirches all those who represent a threat to Johnson's GB project. The 'i' grey box that highlights a key point in any article reads:
'Concerns have been raised that the country's approach will disproportionately impact on its indigenous Maori population (emphasized in the 'i' text)in which vaccination remains low.'
This assertion is misleading. As you will see in my last blogpost (the link is above), the take-up of the vaccine in most of the Maori population is broadly similar to the non-Maori population. The sector of
(My thanks to SKWAWKBOX for this post that appeared yesterday - 21 October 2021)
A proper government response to massive wealth accumulation could easily fill social care funding gap, increase pay for public sector workers by 15% to reduce Universal Credit reliance, reverse the £20 a week cut to UC, solve the housing crisis, reverse education funding cuts – and more. One Labour MP is making the arguments the party’s leader refuses to even raise
A landmark new report by Labour MP Jon Trickett has examined the way that wealth works – and is abused – in the UK and concludes that the case for a wealth tax is overwhelming.
‘The Nature of Wealth in Britain: How Wealth Wields Power and the Case for a Wealth Tax’ notes the enormous increase in the wealth of the richest in this country during the course of the pandemic so far, as millions of others have struggled and fallen into poverty – and that the number of billionaires in Britain is at an all-time high as wealth becomes ever more concentrated in the hands of a few.
And that increase in wealth for a tiny minority is to the detriment of the country as a whole. Trickett points out that the syphoning of
Skwawkbox has produced this post today. I share it with you without further comment. You can join up the dots yourself - and mourn - and decide which side of the divide you place yourself.
Remembering Aberfan: 55 years since 113 children and 28 adults killed as slurry landslide crushed school and homes
On this day in 1966, 113 children and 28 adults were killed when 110,000 cubic metres of colliery ‘spoil’ slid onto Pantglas Junior School in Aberfan school after heavy rain. The slurry ran 640m down the mountain above the school, on its way demolishing two farmhouses and killing all their occupants, before crushing and burying a large part the school along with nearby houses.
The heap had been built by the National Coal Board (NCB) over a natural spring. Residents had been complaining for years about the danger, but had been ignored by the NCB.
The acting head at the time described what he saw:
The Girls’ Entrance [of the secondary school] was approximately two-thirds to three-quarters full of rubble and waste material…
I climbed onto the rubble in the doorway… when I looked directly in front of me… I saw that the houses in Moy Road had vanished in a mass of tip-waste material and that the Junior School gable-ends, or part of the roof, were sticking up out of this morass. I looked down to my right and I saw that the Moy Road houses had gone.
The scene was of utter devastation:
Local people began desperately digging for survivors, using garden tools and bare hands and soon aided by miners arriving from the nearby pit. No one was found alive after 11am. The children who died were aged between seven and ten. School meals clerk Nansi Williams had used her body to shield five children. They all survived but she was killed. According to reports at the time, she was found by rescuers still holding a pound note she had been collecting as lunch money.
Deputy head Dai Beynon had used a blackboard to shield himself and five children from the avalanche, but he and all the class’s 34 children died. Five of the adults killed in the disaster were teachers at the school. Years later, survivors of the disaster reported that they felt unable to play outside as children because they were too aware of the grief of parents who had lost their children and felt guilty about being alive.
It took the authorities more than two hours to turn off the water pouring from two mains broken by the slide, during which time the slurry continued to move through the village as the mains poured out millions of litres of water.
Shamefully, the NCB and the government of the day resisted local people’s campaign for the removal of the remaining spoil heaps – and when they were removed, they took a forced contribution of £150,000 – a huge sum at the time – from the Aberfan Disaster Memorial Fund. The money was only repaid more than thirty years later, with the Welsh government – not Westminster – adding further funds to compensate for the wrong.
The Charity Commission initially banned the disaster fund from providing financial help to bereaved families, saying that doing so would breach the terms of the fund’s trust. This ban was only lifted after legal challenge, but the board tried to impose a £500 limit. The fund said it was going to give £5,000 of the £1.75 million ultimately raised to each family.
The board backed down – but said that the Charity should interview each family before giving any money,
to ascertain whether the parents had been close to their children and were thus likely to be suffering mentally
Some in the media also disgraced themselves. One reporter was heard asking a child to cry for her dead friends as it would make a good picture.
Nine NCB employees were censured by the inquiry that followed for their . None were dismissed or demoted and the NCB was never charged. One of the employees criticised by the inquiry was later promoted to the board.
NCB chair Lord Robens offered to resign – but only after obtaining assurances from the relevant government minister that his resignation would not be accepted. The NCB offered bereaved families just £50, though this was later raised to £500 in what the Coal Board described as ‘a good offer’.
The public inquiry found,
that the Aberfan disaster could and should have been prevented… the Report which follows tells not of wickedness but of ignorance, ineptitude and a failure in communications. Ignorance on the part of those charged at all levels with the siting, control and daily management of tips; bungling ineptitude on the part of those who had the duty of supervising and directing them; and failure on the part of those having knowledge of the factors which affect tip safety to communicate that knowledge and to see that it was applied.
The report had been given to the NCB ten days before publication, allowing the Board to prepare its ‘spin’ in advance.
The people of Aberfan would likely disagree about the wickedness.
Following the trails left by SKWAWKBOX, I very quickly became an advocate of Jacinda Ardern's zero-COVID strategy in New Zealand. Their elimination strategy, following WHO guidelines and explicitly rejecting a herd immunity strategy without a vaccine as 'unthinkable'. It has given New Zealand the lowest COVID-19 mortality rate in the OECD, a high level of freedoms, and above-average economic performance. If New Zealand had experienced the same mortality as the UK (around 2000 per million), New Zealand would have had 10,000 deaths. Instead NZ has suffered 28 deaths (5 per million).
We all need heroes - Jacinda Ardern is one of ours
There have been occasional leaks, but the protective media dyke-wall that has surrounded the UK's policy of herd immunity from the very beginning of the pandemic remains intact. Stories about NZ's success and experiences are not for trumpeting. I first picked up this new development in the NZ story earlier this week in the 'i' when they carried a small article focusing on a Maori leader's criticism of Jacinda Ardern and her treatment of the indigenous peoples of New Zealand. The last sentence of the
My thanks to Steve Walker and SKWARKBOX for the original post, fuelled with rage. Here it is:
Johnson says wage growth more important than life length or cancer outcomes
My thanks to Gary Barker for such a brilliant cartoon depicting this man's destructive pathology
Psychopathic Tory PM says ‘never mind’ life or heath – wage growth ‘most important metric’
Tory PM Boris Johnson has said – in a televised interview – that wage growth is the ‘most important’ and people should ‘never mind’ cancer outcomes or life expectancy.
Press and listen:
In a country where cancer outcomes are poor compared to other similar countries and around 166,000 people a year die of cancer even before the Tories allowed the pandemic to swamp the NHS and where life expectancy is falling for the first time in decades, particularly among poorer people, Johnson is certifiable.
We are now into October and I have a full enough set of figures for coronavirus infection, hospital admissions, and deaths over September this year. You will find them at the end of this first section of the blogpost.
What conclusions do I draw?
What conclusions do you come to?
Are we in agreement?
Cummings and Johnson - the architects of the UK coronavirus pandemic
I would like to preface my judgement call by referencing some headlines I noticed in the 'i' newspaper this past week:
On Tuesday 28 September, I noted this:
Two-thirds of Britons now have Covid jabs
The article beneath went on to say that Canada, Chile, Singapore, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, and Spain are among those countries who have already beaten the UK to this milestone. Portugal however leads the world with 84% cent of its population having had two doses. Note we are not exactly world-beating even in the prized area of the vaccine roll-out.
That same day, I also noticed this:
Infection warning as rules change
Underneath, I read that the number of patients contracting coronavirus in hospitals is likely to rise now NHS executives have been told by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) [I promise I am not