‘Look here, upon this picture, and on this’ as Hamlet said to his mother. The two pictures I’ve put up here are symbols of the current state of our nation. On the left hand side is Andy Burnham who is not just a handsome man but a man with principle, the right hand picture shows our Prime Mendacitor, a man with no principles at all, except for making money for himself and his friends. This has never been so clearly shown as it is now.
This Tuesday, Andy Burnham was told by the PM that Greater Manchester was going to be put into Tier 3 lockdown and asked the Government to assist the people in Greater Manchester who would lose their jobs in consequence by giving them financial help. He had estimated that it would require “Fifteen million pounds a month was what we costed was needed to support people across the 10 boroughs that make up Greater Manchester.” And that would add up to £90 million pounds up to the end of the financial year. During the discussions Andy Burnham said they would accept a lower figure of £65 million but could not possibly manage on less. At that point Johnson did what he always does in a tight situation, he closed the discussions and walked away.
At which point Andy Burnham made a passionate, public statement, standing up for the people he’d been elected to serve and lead. This is what he said.
“People here in Greater Manchester have been living under restrictions for three months, and they have taken a heavy toll on people. They are struggling. Businesses are on the brink of closure. To accept any further restrictions in these circumstances would be certain to increase levels of poverty, homelessness, and hardship within our city-region.”
“Let’s be clear who is most affected by a Tier 3 lockdown: it is people working in pubs, in bookies, driving taxis. People too often forgotten by those in power.“
“At the start of these negotiations, together with the Leaders of our councils, we made a commitment to all of those people that we would look out for them and stand up for what is right. It cannot be right to close people’s place of work, to shut somebody’s business, without giving them proper support so they can look after themselves, their families, through a very challenging winter that lies ahead of us.”
“We have been clear throughout: we could only accept further restrictions with full financial support. We put forward a costed package of measures – a detailed package of measures – but in particular to support people on the lowest incomes and people who are self-employed. These would be people who would need support to top up the furlough to 80%, recognising people can’t live on two thirds of their wages; people who are self-employed, also with 80% of their income, so they could make ends meet. That was the commitment that we made.”
“In negotiations with the Government we were prepared to reduce our request to £75 million, and we even were prepared to go even lower – £65 million as the bare minimum – to prevent a winter of real hardship here. That is what we believe we needed to prevent poverty. To prevent hardship. To prevent homelessness. Those were the figures that we had: not what we wanted, what we needed to prevent all of those things happening. But the Government refused to accept this, and at two o’clock today they walked away from negotiations.”
“I don’t think it is right to ask people to go into a lockdown, to accept further changes within their lives, without supporting them through all of that and what it entails. It can’t be right to do that.”
“I don’t believe we can proceed as a country on this basis through the pandemic – by grinding communities down through punishing financial negotiations. We are asking a lot of the public at this difficult time, and we need to carry them with us, not crush their spirit.”
“I want to finish by speaking directly to the people of Greater Manchester. We will carry on fighting for you, we will carry on putting your health first. But health is more than the virus. We will support people’s health in the broadest possible sense. Tough days lie ahead. Please, everybody, observe the law at all times and follow the public health advice.”
“Above all else, please look out for each other, as I know you will.”
There speaks a principled politician and what a joy it was to hear him.
But in order to understand this situation fully, I’m going to quote from an article in The Guardian, written by George Monbiot, partly because it is so succinct and detailed but also because I totally agree with him.
“If you are not incandescent with rage,” he writes, “you haven’t grasped the scale of what has been done to us. The new surge in the coronavirus, and the restrictions and local lockdowns it has triggered, are caused in large part by the catastrophic failure of the test-and-trace system. Its £12bn budget has been blown, as those in charge of it have failed to drive the infection rate below the critical threshold.”
“Yet the waste and inefficiency caused by privatising essential public health functions is off the scale.”
“The government’s irrational obsession with the private sector is symbolised by its appointment of Dido Harding to run NHS test and trace. She worked at McKinsey, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, and as chief executive of TalkTalk. After a disastrous hack of the TalkTalk database, exposing both the details of 4 million customers and Harding’s ignorance of the technology, she acquired the moniker Dido, queen of carnage, a nice pun on Christopher Marlowe’s play. In 2014 David Cameron, an old friend, made her a baroness; she sits in the House of Lords as a Conservative peer.“
“One of the government’s most controversial contracts is with Randox. It gave the global healthcare firm a £133m deal, without advertisement or competition, to supply testing kits. In July, following a series of errors, the government withdrew Randox testing kits, on the grounds that they might be unsafe.“
“The test-and-trace system might be a public health fiasco, but it’s a private profit bonanza. Consultants at one of the companies involved have each been earning £6,000 a day. Massive contracts have been awarded without competitive tendering. Astonishingly, at least one of these, worth £410m and issued to Serco, contains no penalty clause: even if Serco fails to fulfil its terms, it gets paid in full.“
“Why is failure rewarded? Why are contracts issued with so little accountability or transparency? There may be a perfectly reasonable explanation, but you might expect the government’s Anti-Corruption Champion to investigate. Or perhaps not. He is John Penrose MP, Dido Harding’s husband.” – Jobs for the boys!
“The head of Serco, Rupert Soames, is the grandson of Winston Churchill and the brother of a former Tory MP. His wife, Camilla, is a Conservative party donor. An email of his, leaked in June, suggested that the coronavirus pandemic could go “a long way in cementing the position of private sector companies in the public sector supply chain”.“
“The government has bypassed the lean and efficient NHS to create an outsourced, privatised system characterised by incompetence and failure. The system’s waste is measured not just in pounds, but in human lives. It is measured in mass unemployment, economic crisis, grief, isolation, long-term illness and avoidable death. So much for the efficiencies of privatisation.“
On Monday 21st September 2020, the Labour party or to be more specific, the Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds published a “‘file of failure’ detailing about £3.9 billion that Labour said the government has mismanaged and spent on ineffective schemes and equipment.”
The details are a hideous list of corruption.
- “£133 million was handed over to Conservative donor Randox Laboratories for testing kits, of which 750,000 had to be recalled by the Department of Health and Social Care because they turned out to be unsafe.”
- “At least £150m of a £252m face mask contract with Ayanda Capital was wasted due to the unsuitability of one type of mask ordered.”
- “Serco was contracted for £108m and Sitel £84m to run the national contact tracing service until late August, when their contracts were renewed despite poor performance. It is reported to have cost taxpayers £900 per person contacted by the scheme.”
‘In response to the publishing of the file, a Unite spokesperson said: “Labour is absolutely right to shine a light on the cost to the country of the Tories’ approach to getting this virus under control. The cronyism and chaos sickens voters. The funnelling of masses of public cash the way of their mates while at the same time talking of cuts to benefits to ‘pay’ for this crisis is just the same old Tories. Not acting in the public interest and certainly not up to the job.”’
And now, they are refusing to give Greater Manchester even the limited financial help they are asking for. The clash between responsibility and private greed is now so obvious I don’t think anybody, except the massively brainwashed, can possibly ignore it.
Strength to your arm Andy Burnham and thank you for the stand you’ve taken.