nazi britain

Hatred, Hypocrisy & Plain Bad Journalism at The Times
Brian Cathcart, Byline Times, Nov 23 2020

Journalism standards are low at The Times where feelings of religious hatred seem to run high. Meanwhile, self-awareness is conspicuously absent. Dominic Kennedy, the newspaper’s investigations editor, has accused someone in a news report of making ‘insensitive remarks about Jews.’ This is the same Dominic Kennedy who once tweeted:

So many of the VIPs accused of being paedophiles are Jewish or gay. Maybe we could have a system to identify these people: triangles, stars.

Whether any responsible newspaper should continue to employ someone capable of such a comment is open to question (and the Board of Deputies of British Jews called in vain for Kennedy to be investigated). Whether such a journalist should ever be allowed near a story about race or religion is not. Yet this is only the start of the problems with the report today headlined:

Sufyan Ismail: Islamic Hardliner Invited to Address Civil Servants.

It is an unconcealed and fundamentally dishonest attempt to demonise and marginalise a law-abiding Muslim organisation of precisely the kind this country most urgently needs. The target is MEND (Muslim Engagement and Development), the mission of which is to encourage British Muslims to engage more fully with British democracy and public life. It is not remotely radical or extreme, as a visit to its website will quickly confirm, and nor is Sufyan Ismail, the Bolton-born businessman who set it up. Yet The Times is happy to describe it as hardline and divisive; as a group that “has been accused of sowing division and hate” and that “has come under fire for its dogged opposition to Britain’s approach to fighting extremism and terrorism.” What evidence does The Times have for this? It quotes two sources, who have previously worked together: Sara Khan, the Government’s Lead Commissioner for the Commission for Countering Extremism; and a representative of a body called Quilliam. Nowhere does The Times hold their credentials up to any scrutiny. It does not point out, for example, that in Britain’s Muslim communities, it is Sara Khan who is widely considered divisive and that more than 100 Muslim organisations, including MEND, criticised her appointment as Lead Commissioner by the Government in 2018. A spokesman for one of Britain’s leading Muslim organisations, the Muslim Council of Britain, said of the choice:

Sadly it will be seen as a move to placate those small sections of society who see Muslims as foreign, alien, rather than as equal citizens in this country.

Any responsible journalist quoting Khan’s views on MEND would have explained this background to readers because it is so obviously relevant. Dominic Kennedy chose not to do so. A responsible journalist seeking a fair judgement on these matters would also have sought the views of an individual or organisation not compromised on the point of divisiveness, as Khan clearly is. To whom did Kennedy turn? The so-called ‘think tank’ Quilliam.

If Sara Khan is a divisive figure (and she indisputably is), Quilliam is the same on a different scale. A glance at the activities of its chair, Maajid Nawaz (who has recently been promoting Donald Trump’s claims of US voter fraud), makes clear that this is not an organisation to be treated as uncontroversial. So when Kennedy writes that MEND “has been accused” and “has come under fire” for being divisive, his sources for this are themselves indisputably divisive, and yet he conceals this from his readers. This is dishonest journalism. Indeed it hardly qualifies as journalism at all. And remember, it comes from a man who tweeted about paedophiles being Jewish or gay and who made a joke about such people having to wear triangles and stars. At The Times, as this demonstrates, any consideration of journalistic standards is routinely set aside when it comes to serving the newspaper’s ideological agenda, and here few causes take priority over the vilification of Muslims. Kennedy’s colleague, the discredited Andrew Norfolk, is allowed to pursue Muslims with such abandon that the newspaper will happily pay libel bill after libel bill. And who can measure what damage he has done to the global reputation of The Times with false stories such as the ‘Christian Girl Forced Into Muslim Foster Care’?

In the case of MEND, Kennedy shores up his case with some pathetic scraps. When MEND published criticism of a Sikh politician, he implies, it should not have published a photograph of him wearing a turban – because this was divisive. When Ismail, MEND’s founder, remarked that there had been an Israeli lobby in Britain for 300 years, Kennedy reported, some people (who of course he did not identify) “saw this as a reference to the perceived power of British Jews.” I have known MEND for years; I have read much of its output and spoken on discussion panels it has hosted. It has helped me in my work. It is a sincere and hard-working organisation dedicated to engaging British Muslims more fully in democratic politics and to defending them from persecution. Never once in those years have I heard an expression of extremism or bigotry and, if I did, I know it would be instantly rejected because that is not what MEND stands for or advocates. What Dominic Kennedy and The Times are doing is simple: attempting to systematically marginalise or destroy any organisation that speaks for British Muslims because, very simply, they don’t want anyone listening to British Muslims.

Brian Cathcart is Professor of Journalism at Kingston University London and the author of ‘The Case of Stephen Lawrence’ (1999)

Dominic Cummings’ Role in The Great Procurement Scandal Shows He is Not a Mastermind
Sam Bright, Byline Times, Nov 23 2020

It has been more than a week now since Downing Street chief aide Dominic Cummings grabbed his gilet and, doubtless committing to memory all of Boris Johnson’s many secrets, marched very publicly out of government. It has been reported that the Prime Minister had grown tired of Cummings’ confrontational, alienating style of management. Johnson was the frustrated parent who decided it was time for Cummings to find a job. Or, in this case, a different one. The idea was, allegedly, that Cummings’ departure would usher in a new, less controversial era of government. Yet, in the time since, Johnson’s kinder, gentler administration has been mired in accusations of cronyism and largesse. After months of pressure from Byline Times, the Good Law Project and others, the scandal surrounding the Government’s procurement of services during the pandemic finally punctured the mainstream. Last Tuesday, the BBC covered the case of a Spanish businessman, paid £21m in taxpayer cash for acting as a middle-man on behalf of a Florida-based fashion designer, who had been commissioned by the Government to supply personal protective equipment (PPE). Compounding and validating the scandal, the National Audit Office released a report, accusing the Government of awarding contracts during the pandemic worth £10.5b without competition, of ignoring basic conflicts of interest and of not acting with appropriate transparency. Starmer raised the scandal at PMQs and, rather than defending his Government’s actions, Johnson merely accused Starmer of hypocrisy. There was a dangerous deficit of PPE during the early stages of the pandemic, which Starmer and others urged to be plugged, Johnson asserted. Of course, we weren’t suggesting that cronyism was the solution.

Ultimately, although Johnson bears responsibility for this scandal as Prime Minister, procurement decisions will have been made further down the food chain, by people like Dominic Cummings. Indeed, multiple reports suggest that Cummings poured his energies into “reforming the Government procurement process” in recent months, while departments awarded £18b to private sector firms in Coronavirus-related contracts. In the midst of this procurement splurge, Cummings must have been thankful for the opportunity to reform a system he blacklisted last March, a few months before he was hired by Johnson. In a blog post, Cummings lamented the “billions of pounds” of public money “enriching some of the worst corporate looters and corrupting public life via the revolving door of officials/lobbyists.” Blasting a system based on patronage rather than aptitude, he accused the procurement process of favouring “hugely large established companies with powerful political connections, true corporate looters.” The irony is stark. Allegedly under the duress of Cummings, the Government’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic has been to effectively sub-contract services to a range of politically-connected firms and big-ticket consultancy giants. Even Cummings’ pet project, Brexit, hasn’t been immune to this corporate devolution. As Byline Times revealed last month, the Cabinet Office is set to pay £180m for management consultants to handle the end of the transition period.

How did this happen? How did Cummings turn into an agent of a system he said was flawed, inefficient and even corrupt? The first explanation is likely his exaggerated importance in Government. On matters pertaining to politics and the media, he was the lynchpin of Johnson’s regime. The Prime Minister’s decision to prorogue Parliament last year, a crude attempt to bounce MPs into accepting his Brexit deal, was a Cummings trademark. And the Cabinet’s boycott of hostile TV and radio programmes, a decision reversed the day after Cummings’ departure, was also characteristic of his antagonistic approach. However, beyond political pageantry, Cummings has proven to be inept. If we consider his efforts to reform government and implement lasting policies, it is difficult to think of a single notch in his belt. As catalogued by David Hencke in this newspaper, Cummings has merely overseen a dramatic centralisation of data and power in Downing Street and the Cabinet Office; not exactly the techno-libertarian nirvana he envisaged. Despite his intellectual pretence, Cummings specialises in running misleading political campaigns and being rude to people. One of his few lasting legacies will be the successful effort to force out several senior civil servants – another example of his aptitude as an enforcer, not a strategist. Secondly, though Cummings previously preached the evils of corporatism, meaning the occupation of the state by big business, his alternative fosters the same outcome. In his aforementioned blog, Cummings rails against EU strictures, saying its “complex, slow and wasteful” procurement process benefits the corporate giants that can navigate the system. This is not an entirely unfair criticism, although the UK does have a large degree of flexibility in setting its own procurement rules. The problem, however, is that a lack of regulation, like too much regulation, creates a preferential procurement system.

Ironically, during the Coronavirus pandemic, we have seen the manifestation of both. On the one hand, corporate hulks have won contracts to effectively manage the pandemic, because they have pre-existing relationships with the Government, and are the only businesses that can manage the scope of work. Yet, equally, ditching regulations during the pandemic has led to appalling bias. Contracts have been outsourced to companies with close ties to the Government, and to small firms with little demonstrable experience in the work they have been asked to deliver. Cummings has even been a direct, personal culprit of this, with Coronavirus-related work awarded to his former Government colleagues. Perhaps the Prime Minister became tired of an advisor who was breaking dozens of eggs, without an omelette in sight. Indeed, the attractiveness of the awkward genius rapidly diminishes when it’s realised he is simply awkward. Blogging and campaigning are very different to governing, as Cummings has now found out.

Covid-19 Testing Chaos Forced Almost Half a Million Tests to be Processed Abroad
Sam Bright, Byline Times, Nov 20 2020

Baroness Dido Harding, the head of ‘test and trace’. Photo: PA

Nearly half a million COVID-19 tests were sent abroad for analysis, after the UK’s ‘test and trace’ system struggled to cope with demand, the Government has admitted. Responding to a written parliamentary question from Labour’s Dame Diana Johnson earlier this week, Health Minister Helen Whately detailed the number of tests exported abroad for analysis. In May, 66,648 tests were sent to the United States while, from late August to Oct 3, 271,716 tests were sent to Italy and 126,338 to Germany. Whately also said that roughly 150k/month are sent to Germany, under an agreement with a German testing provider. The UK experienced a scramble to ramp up its testing capacity in April, after Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock pledged 100k/day by the end of the month. The country’s testing regime had been lagging far behind its international counterparts, due to an apparent lack of resources. When it entered its first national lockdown in mid-March, the country was only testing between 5k/day and 10k/day. But this wasn’t the end of the problems for the UK’s test and trace system. After a Summer interlude from lockdown, a spike in cases inflicted paralysis in September, with hundreds of thousands of cases backlogged and testing turnaround times increasing precipitously. Faced with this strain, it appears as though the head of test and trace, Baroness Dido Harding, took the decision to send thousands of tests abroad, to labs that could cope with the UK’s surge. As this was happening, she appeared before MPs to claim that nobody “was expecting to see the really sizeable increase in demand” for tests in September. This was a month when schoolchildren returned to classrooms, students to universities, and a matter of weeks after Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme had ended. Therefore, in haste, the UK called in help from the Europeans. So much for ‘going it alone.’

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