britain is a disgusting sold-out proto-fascist dump

Test and trace fails to contact almost 110k in English Covid hot spots
Josh Halliday, Groan, Nov 25 2020

The government’s £22b test-and-trace system has failed to reach almost 110k people exposed to coronavirus in England’s worst-hit areas since the second wave began, official figures show, with 40% not asked to self-isolate. A Guardian analysis found that the privately run arm of the test-and-trace programme had reached 58% of the close contacts of infected people in the country’s 20 worst-hit areas since Sep 9, having barely improved since its launch. Boris Johnson defended the value of the struggling system in a Downing Street briefing on Monday after it received a further £7b in funding, taking its cost to £22b this year. This amounts to nearly a fifth of the NHS budget and about the same as the Dept for Transport. The health secretary, Matt Hancock, told MPs on Tuesday that test and trace “was functioning to reduce transmission enormously” and had “broken the chains of transmission hundreds of thousands of times” before England’s second national lockdown on Nov 5. However, official figures suggest its performance has waned as demand has increased.

The proportion of close contacts being reached across England fell to its lowest level in October, to just over 60%. In the areas with the highest infection rates, the private firms Serco and Sitel have reached 58% of exposed people since the start of the second wave, meaning the programme has barely improved on its 55% success rate in its first 11 weeks. SAGE has said that 80% of an infected person’s close contacts must be contacted and told to self-isolate within 48 to 72 hours for the national programme to be effective. In total, almost 110k people in the worst-hit areas were not contacted when they should have been in the 11 weeks to Nov 4, the Guardian has found, leaving them at risk of spreading the disease further. Serco and Sitel were paid an initial £192m for the first three months of the programme, with the value of the contract reaching £730m over 12 months. Alice Wiseman, the director of public health at Gateshead council, said she was concerned that the national system was failing to reach four in 10 potentially infectious people in the town. she said:

It means there are more than 3,400 people out there potentially spreading the virus without knowing. It’s critical we get test and trace into a brilliant position for when we come out of lockdown.

Another director of public health said the low success rate of contact-tracing had “undoubtedly contributed to our continuing high rates” of infection. There is also concern that the system will struggle to cope as rapid testing is rolled out to more parts of England from next week. The Labour MP Justin Madders, a shadow health minister, said:

It has been clear for months now that the privately run parts of test and trace are failing badly, and that the government have had ample time to fix or ditch the private providers. This second lockdown should have been used to finally resolve these problems but the time has been wasted and there is a huge risk that infections will spiral out of control again. It seems as if the government are almost in denial about the action needed.

In Bradford, test and trace did not call 17,645 people who had been in close contact with an infected person, half of the number identified and by far the worst of the 20 worst-affected areas. In Blackburn with Darwen, which has the UK’s highest per-capita infection rate since the start of the pandemic, only 50% of close contacts have been reached during the second wave. In Leicester and Oldham, the figure is 53% and 54% respectively. The analysis, which spans Sep 9 to Nov 4, is based on figures released weekly by the Dept of Health and Social Care (DHSC). It is not known how many of the 109,903 people were not reached due to a lack of contact details, as DHSC does not release this data by geography. Susan Hinchcliffe, the leader of Bradford council, urged the government to allow local authorities to trace close contacts as well as those who have tested positive for coronavirus. Currently, councils are only given the power to trace infected people, not their close contacts. she said:

Naturally, I’m concerned by this because we need to make sure that everyone who might have the virus self-isolates because that’s the only way to get the virus down. We all know that this system should have been designed with national and local working hand in hand.

The DHSC said:

Contact-tracing is working in every part of the country. The most recent weekly statistics show a record number of positive cases were transferred to contact-tracers with 323k people reached and asked them to self-isolate, people who might otherwise have unknowingly spread the virus. In high-outbreak areas such as the north-west, we have reached almost 500k people. This is undoubtedly curbing the spread of Covid and saving lives. NHS Test and Trace has been boosted by the introduction of more than 150 Local tracing partnerships where councils are provided with extensive data and supported to manage local outbreaks, working closely with ring-fenced groups of NHS contact-tracers.

UK’s ‘chaotic’ PPE procurement cost billions extra
David Conn, Groan, Nov 25 2020

The government spent £10b more buying personal protective equipment in “chaotic” and inflated market conditions during the pandemic than it would have paid for the same products last year, according to a report by the parliamentary spending watchdog. But less than 10% of the gloves, gowns, face masks and other products, ordered for a total £12.5b, had been delivered to NHS trusts and other front-line organisations by the end of July, the National Audit Office (NAO) report found. Of 32b items ordered at exponentially rising prices, 2.6b had been distributed by July. The controversial “parallel supply chain,” rapidly set up by the Dept of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in March, has still not received much of the PPE it ordered, the report said, “with some of it not yet manufactured.” According to the NAO, the stockpile was “inadequate” before the pandemic, containing only two weeks’ worth of PPE but the health department then dramatically over-ordered, it was suggested, with the 32b items amounting to five years’ worth of supply. Setting out comparative costs for the equipment, the NAO said 760m gowns and coveralls, which would have cost 33p each last year, were bought for £4.50 each, an increase of 1,277%. 1m body bags that would have cost £1 each last year were bought for £14.10, with millions of gloves, face masks, goggles and sanitiser also bought at inflated costs. The report said:

The department had to pay such high prices because it was in the position of needing to buy huge volumes of PPE very quickly.

The total cost of all 32b items at 2019 prices would have been £2.5b, £10b less than the government paid. The report follows NAO revelations that the DHSC operated a “high priority” route for PPE suppliers with political connections, where bids for multimillion-pound contracts were 10 times more likely to be successful. Competitive tenders were suspended in the emergency. NHS organisations told the watchdog that they had been able to get the PPE they needed in time, but the report contrasts that assurance with health and social care workers who told their professional bodies and unions that they suffered shortages of vital PPE. Adult social care providers felt they were “not adequately supported by government in obtaining PPE,” receiving only 10% of their estimated need from the government between March and July, while NHS trusts received 80% of their estimated need. Office for National Statistics figures show 612 deaths of health and social care workers involving Covid-19 were registered between Mar 9 and Oct 12 in England. The NAO calls for the government to hold a “comprehensive lessons-learned exercise” to consider whether “any issues with PPE provision or use might have contributed to Covid-19 infections or deaths” and to inform planning for future emergencies. The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, whose members include relatives of health and social care workers who died after complaining of PPE shortages, has repeatedly called for a rapid public inquiry. Jo Goodman, the group’s co-founder, said:

The fact that some of our NHS heroes have been lost due to the government’s failure to adequately supply them with PPE is yet another national disgrace which can only really be truly understood with an urgent public inquiry. It is not too late to learn the lessons from the first wave of the pandemic and save lives.

Jolyon Maugham QC, founder of the Good Law Project which is challenging the government’s procurement processes and several individual contracts, said of the report:

It shows there has been an obscene waste of public money. This was the worst of all worlds, where the government paid five times the normal price, but bought five years’ worth of supply, most of which will never be used. Most striking in the NAO report is the question they don’t answer: why the government procured 32b items of PPE in a period in which they only distributed 2.6b.

Health minister Jo Churchill said:

As the NAO report recognises, during this unprecedented pandemic all the NHS providers audited ‘were always able to get what they needed in time’ thanks to the herculean effort of government, NHS, armed forces, civil servants and industry who delivered around 5b items of PPE to the frontline at record speed. We set up robust and resilient supply chains from scratch and expanded our distribution network from 226 NHS trusts to over 58k health and care settings. With almost 32b items of PPE ordered we are confident we can provide a continuous supply to our amazing front-line workers over the coming months and respond to future eventualities.

Front-line workers failed by wasteful, inefficient £15b PPE procurement effort, report reveals
Sam Bright, Byline Times, Nov 25 2020

The Government has come under sustained fire for the way it has procured personal protective equipment (PPE) during the Coronavirus pandemic. While these criticisms have largely been carried by Byline Times, the Good Law Project and a handful of others, official vindication finally arrived last week. In the first part of a two-part report on PPE procurement, the National Audit Office (NAO) reached a range of damning conclusions. The spending watchdog said that the Government had awarded £10.5b in Coronavirus-related contracts without inviting competition, that an expedited “high-priority” lane was established for suppliers with links to ministers and MPs, and that glaring conflicts of interest were somehow missed. The Government has maintained a consistent comeback to these accusations, articulated in its official response to the first NAO report. The Cabinet Office said:

The Government pledged to do whatever it took to protect the people who protect us, deploying hundreds of officials to work night and day to source as much PPE as quickly as possible to protect the NHS and care sector and save lives.

On this logic, the need to procure PPE rapidly and in vast quantities outweighs any criticisms. However, the second NAO report, released today, bursts this idea that the Government’s efforts should be looked on favourably because it succeeded in its overall objective of delivering PPE to the frontline. To begin with, the NAO contextualises the UK’s frantic procurement efforts. NHS trusts spent £146m on PPE in 2019, the report highlights, while the Dept of Health and Social Care (DHSC) did not set any targets for the availability of equipment in the event of an emergency. the NAO states:

The operating model was not designed to respond to a pandemic.

In fact, the situation was pretty dire. The Government’s stockpile contained enough PPE to cope for just two weeks, with some items in dangerously short supply. There were only aprons to last six days in the national stockpile, the report suggests. What’s more, the stock was not exactly easily accessible. Much of the PPE was housed in “deep storage,” which led to delays in ferrying it to the frontline. Some of the equipment had also passed its expiry date or did not meet safety standards, including six million respirator masks that had to be tested and re-labelled. Delays were likewise compounded by an archaic IT system, meaning it was not actually possible to add new PPE storage warehouses onto the database, to track their stock. However, despite these problems, the NAO explains how the Government still believed in mid-March, when England was about to enter its first full fat lockdown, that its existing stockpiles “would provide most of the PPE needed to manage a COVID-19 pandemic.” It was only by late March to early April that the DHSC realised the NHS Supply Chain could not procure and distribute PPE quickly enough to meet demand, and so took responsibility for the process. By late April, the Government’s previously held optimism had been fully dismantled. Modelling future demand, the DHSC estimated a huge increase in the need for some types of PPE compared with previous flu pandemic calculations: an 820% increase in demand for aprons, 388% for gloves and 125% for face masks.

However, though the Government subsequently set in motion a mass procurement drive, this didn’t solve the problem. By the end of May, the DHSC had ordered 14.6b items of PPE worth £7b, yet because of the time lag between ordering the equipment and its delivery, the supply chain “could barely satisfy local organisations’ requirements,” the NAO claims. Indeed, while existing NHS suppliers delivered 738m items of PPE in April and May, new firms delivered just 235m, largely limited due to a lack of air freight capacity. The Government’s frantic attempt to refill its coffers led to huge waste. The NAO claims that if the country would have been able to purchase PPE at the same unit prices as 2019, it would have paid £2.5b. As it stands, the DHSC has approved up to £15b of PPE spending in 2020/21. Indeed, the UK entered the market when demand for PPE was it its highest and supply was falling. The case study of body bags, that went up in price by 1310% compared to last year, epitomises the hyper-inflated prices suffered by the Government. The DHSC also “wasted hundreds of millions of pounds” on equipment that wasn’t up to scratch, the report says. 75m respirator masks that cost £214m, for example, will not be used in the NHS for their original purpose.

The Government has wasted a massive amount of public money during the pandemic. This is bad. Generations will be forced to pay back this needless excess. Yet the human cost of the Government’s actions are far more important. A lack of foresight from ministers and officials before the pandemic, and their indecision during it, led to a deficit of protective equipment. As a result, care workers, doctors and nurses faced the reality of going onto the frontline without the tools to protect themselves. This is spelled out in the NAO report. Health workers, at least 8,152 of whom contracted COVID-19 and 126 died from the disease, “considered that they were not adequately protected during the height of the first wave of the pandemic.” Commenting on the NAO report, Justin Madders MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, said:

The Government has put front-line workers at unnecessary risk. There is no doubt that a significant reason for the shortage was the Government’s failure to prepare properly and take on board warnings about PPE stockpiles.

And it was adult social care providers that suffered the worst excesses of the system. While NHS trusts received 80% of their estimated PPE need from central government, social care providers were supplied with only 10%. Even now, the majority of the 32b items of PPE procured by the Government still hasn’t arrived. The Government ultimately claims that it has built a stockpile that will last four months, yet even this might be wide of the mark. Given that the Government currently distributes 500m items of PPE a month, the backlog of supplies would last five years even if, contrary to expectations, demand continues at the same rate. As the two NAO reports have explained, the Government’s procurement of PPE during the Coronavirus crisis has been a multi-dimensional failure. The standard defence has been that officials needed to bend the rules in order to replenish the country’s stockpile. Now we know the process was slower than expected, thus limiting the amount of PPE that made it to the front-line during the first peak of the virus, we are left with a procurement exercise that simply funnelled millions in taxpayer cash to friends of the regime. An exercise the country is now being billed for.

The Untouchable Johnson Regime
Jonathan Lis, Byline Times, Nov 25 2020

Several extraordinary things happened in Westminster at the end of last week. A senior minister was found to have bullied her staff. That same minister was found to have broken the Ministerial Code, but kept her job. The Prime Minister showed such indifference to standards in public life that his independent advisor on the Ministerial Code resigned. Perhaps most extraordinary of all, the minister who had breached the code apologised. But Priti Patel’s ‘unreserved’ apology was anything but. The Home Secretary declared that she was “sorry that my behaviour has upset people,” not that she was sorry for her behaviour. She even remarked that she was “sorry if I have upset people in any way,” echoing her notorious comment from April that she was “sorry if people feel there have been failings” on personal protective equipment.

These are, of course, all versions of the non-apology apology: it is not your fault for upsetting people, but other people’s fault for being upset; it is not your fault for failing at your job, but other people’s for noticing. These days, even in the rare circumstances when a minister apologises for something, it comes with qualifications and without consequences. This is not a flaw in the system, it is the system itself. Why, for this Government, is sorry always the hardest word? Two weeks ago, the chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Lord Jonathan Evans, delivered a speech examining the evolution of standards since the days of 1990s sleaze. He observed that a strand of political thinking declares that governments are accountable only to the electorate, once every five years, and to nobody and nothing else in between. He noted the consequences:

Quite simply, the perception is taking root that too many in public life, including some in our political leadership, are choosing to disregard the norms of ethics and propriety that have explicitly governed public life for the last 25 years, and that, when contraventions of ethical standards occur, nothing happens.

This goes beyond a lack of transparency and accountability. Nobody in power now seems to take responsibility, resigns when they get caught out, or indeed suffers negative implications from any actions at all. The Government will not apologise for mishandling the Coronavirus pandemic, resulting in the highest death toll in Europe. It will not apologise for wasting billions of pounds of public money on failed outsourcing and on expedited contracts to its friends and donors. It will not apologise for jeopardising peace in Northern Ireland, breaking international law or smashing the economy after the Brexit transition.

The past four years have transformed Britain’s body politic. Like America over the same period, it has replaced a culture of accountability with one of impunity. Worse even: one of deliberate recklessness. The defining moment of this phenomenon, and certainly the most memorable, came in May, when the Prime Minister refused to apologise for the behaviour of his then chief advisor Dominic Cummings. Everyone could see that Cummings had flagrantly broken the Coronavirus lockdown rules but, instead of owning up to that, Johnson dug in. Cummings, he insisted, had in fact been doing the right thing all along by going up to Durham and taking his eye test drive to Barnard Castle. Johnson showered him with praise for protecting his family. It was this, rather than the trip itself, which damaged the Prime Minister most. The refusal to apologise became an act of gaslighting. It wasn’t enough not to say sorry for an obvious mistake. The mistake had to be recast as an obvious virtue.

The culture of impunity manifests in multiple way. The first is dishonesty: refusing to explain the reality of policies to the public, pretending that everything will be alright, and fully denying egregious mistakes. This was the Government’s raison d’etre for the first seven months of the COVID-19 pandemic, from lying that the Coronavirus wasn’t a serious threat, to ‘throwing a protective ring around care homes.’ But this tactic was lifted directly from the origin story of national myth-making: Brexit. Boris Johnson and his Vote Leave colleagues built Brexit around the idea that the UK could have it all: more sovereignty and more prosperity, all of the benefits of EU membership and none of the obligations. First, nothing bad could be conceded. Later, they declared that everything bad had already been made plain. The Brexiters, both before and after they became the Government, never told the British people what their options were and so never provided a fair chance for the public to vote on them. It may well have been that the voters would have endorsed a project which was going to shatter prosperity in the name of independence, but we will never find out. The Government’s lies earned it an 80-seat electoral majority.

Of course, lies do eventually get exposed, in the sense that people become aware of them. At that point, the question of dishonesty becomes one of deflecting blame. In the case of Brexit, that was the EU, ‘Remoaners,’ the media, Civil Service, judiciary, and opposition MPs. For COVID-19, it is the public itself. Ministers have blamed ordinary people for everything: following contradictory advice, wavering on discipline, and not self-isolating when in many cases that proves financially ruinous. People have been condemned both for staying away from shops (stifling the economy) and for frequenting pubs and restaurants (spreading the virus). The fact that the Government literally bribed them to eat out is neither here nor there. The Government denies its own guilt in direct proportion to impugning others. The culture of impunity is a culture of machismo. Sorry is a sign of nuance and nuance is a sign of weakness. The Government’s over-riding obsession is with strength. It expects people to look up to their leaders and not to challenge them. Johnson has perfected this art. He treats challenges from Labour leader Keir Starmer as personal attacks, or worse, attacks on the nation itself. Sincere questions about the ‘test and trace’ service are branded defamations of the NHS. His ministers, meanwhile, have spent most of the pandemic boycotting the nation’s leading news programmes. Nobody need ever apologise for weaknesses if they don’t answer questions about them.

The tragedy is that this is all a trap the Government chose to build itself. It is not only easier to say sorry than to deny a self-evident fact, more people would respect it for doing so. Most people are reasonable and understanding. Certainly, they would sharply criticise a government which confessed to so many massive errors. But they would recognise the fact that ministers were being honest and treating the public as grown-ups. In the absence of this, it is not just that the Government makes a lot of mistakes, it is that it cannot acknowledge any of them. This compounds the initial sin. People understand that in a pandemic unprecedented in living memory, ministers will occasionally make poor choices. But people also have a right to expect that ministers will recognise them, and they never do. This is not just a sin of pride, but a sin of repetition. If you cannot accept that you have done something wrong, you are doomed to re-enact it. So the Government has. If Johnson had apologised for going into lockdown so late, he might not have repeated that mistake in September, when his scientists advised him to adopt a circuit-breaker, advice he ignored.

The Government’s real fear is opening the floodgates. It knows that the minute it says sorry for one thing, it will eventually have to take responsibility for everything. This is the doctrine of ‘taking back control,’ and keeping it. This Government has constructed its entire identity on the basis of always being right. It assumes a kind of divine infallibility: it cannot do wrong by virtue of what it is. That is dangerous as well as stupid, because it compromises both democracy and its own interests. If your claim to power rests on never being wrong, any fault at all risks destroying your authority and thus your legitimacy, eventually collapsing the whole edifice. This process has already begun. It is like pulling the curtain back on the Wizard of Oz every day and just watching him re-draw it. Like Donald Trump, the Government will eventually learn that the people have a limited tolerance for a culture of impunity. In the end, the political is the personal. The Government has misunderstood one of the key lessons of growing up: that saying sorry is not a weakness but an incalculable strength. This is a story of overwhelming contempt, but underneath it, profound insecurity.

Keeping The Empire Running: Britain’s Global Military Footprint
Dr Binoy Kampmark, South Front, Nov 24 2020

A few nostalgic types still believe that the Union Jack continues to flutter to sighs and reverence over outposts of the world, from the tropics to the desert. They would be right, if only to a point. Britain, it turns out, has a rather expansive global reach when it comes to bases, military installations and testing sites. While not having the obese heft and lumbering brawn of the US, it makes a good go of it. Globally, the UK military has a presence in 145 sites in 42 countries. Such figures tally with Ian Cobain’s prickly observation in The History Thieves: that the British were the only people “perpetually at war.” Phil Miller’s rich overview of Britain’s military footprint for Declassified UK shows it to be heavy. He writes:

The size of the global military presence is far larger than previously thought and is likely to mean that the UK has the second largest military network in the world, after the US.

The UK military, for instance, has a presence in five countries in the Asia-Pacific: naval facilities in Singapore; garrisons in Brunei, drone testing facilities in Australia; three facilities in Nepal; a quick reaction force in Afghanistan. Cyprus remains a favourite with 17 military installations. In Africa, British personnel can be found in Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Mali. Then come the ever dubious ties to Arab monarchies. The nature of having such bases is to be kind to your host, despite him being theocratic, barking mad, or an old-fashioned despot with fetishes. Despite the often silly pronouncements by British policy-makers that they take issue with authoritarians, exceptions numerous in number abound. The UK has never had a problem with authoritarians it can work with or despots it can coddle. A closer look at such relations usually reveals the same ingredients: capital, commerce, perceptions of military necessity. The approach to Oman, a state marked by absolute rule, is a case in point.

Since 1798, Britain has had a hand in ensuring the success, and the survivability, of the House of Al Said. On Sep 12, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced that a further £23.8m would go to enhancing the British Joint Logistics Support Base at Duqm port, thereby tripling “the size of the existing UK base and help facilitate Royal Navy deployments to the Indian Ocean.” The Ministry of Defence also went so far as to describe a “renewal” of a “hugely valuable relationship,” despite the signing of a new Joint Defence Agreement in Feb 2019. The agreement had been one of the swan song acts of the ailing Sultan Qaboos bin Said, whose passing this year was genuinely mourned in British political circles. Prime Minister Boris Johnson called him “an exceptionally wise and respected leader who will be missed enormously.” Papers of record wrote in praise of a reformer and a developer. A sycophantic column in The Guardian observed:

The longest serving Arab ruler, Qaboos was an absolute monarch, albeit a relatively benevolent and popular one.

The same Sultan, it should be said, had little fondness for freedom of expression, assembly and association, encouraged the arrests and harassment of government critics and condoned sex discrimination. But he was of the “one of us” labels: trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, an unwavering Anglophile, installed on the throne by Britain in the 1970 palace coup during the all but forgotten Dhofar Rebellion. Cobain reminds us:

Strategically, the Dhofar war was one of the most important conflicts of the 20th century, as the victors could expect to control the Strait of Hormuz and the flow of oil.

The British made sure their man won. Public mention of greater British military involvement in foreign theatres can be found, though they rarely make front page acts. The business of projecting such power, especially in the Britannic model, should be careful, considered, even gnomic. Britain, for instance, is rallying to the US-led call to contain the Yellow Peril in the Asia Pacific, a nice reminder to Beijing that old imperial misdeeds should never be a bar to repetition. The head of the British Army, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, said in September regarding Asia:

There’s a market for a more persistent presence from the British Army. It’s an area that saw a much more consistent Army presence in the Eighties, but with 9/11 we naturally receded from it. Now is the time to redress that imbalance.

The UK Chief of Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, prefers to be more enigmatic about the “future of Global Britain.” To deal with an “ever more complex and dynamic strategic context,” he suggests the “Integrated Operating Concept.” Britain had to “compete below the threshold of war in order to deter war, and to prevent one’s adversaries from achieving their objectives in fait accompli strategies.” Gone are the old thuggeries of imperial snatch and grab; evident are matters of flexibility in terms of competition. “Competing involves a campaign posture that includes continuous operating on our terms and in places of our choosing.” This entails a thought process involving “several dimensions to escalate and deescalate up and down multiple ladders, as if it were a spider’s web.” The general attempts to illustrate this gibberish with the following example:

One might actively constrain in the cyber domain to protect critical national infrastructure in the maritime Domain.

In 2017, there were already more than just murmurings from Johnson, then Foreign Secretary, and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, that a greater British presence in the Asia-Pacific was warranted. Fallon was keen to stress the reasons for deeper involvement, listing them to a group of Australian journalists as fllows:

The tensions have been rising in the region, not just from the tests by North Korea, but also escalating tension in the South China Sea with the building program that’s gone on there on the islands and the need to keep those routes open.

With such chatter about the China threat you could be forgiven for believing that British presence in the Asia-Pacific was minimal. But that would ignore, for instance, the naval logistics base at Singapore’s Sembawang Wharf, permanently staffed by eight British military personnel with an eye on the busy Malacca Strait. A more substantial presence can also be found in the Sultanate of Brunei, comprising an infantry battalion of Gurkhas and an Army Air Corps Flight of Bell 212 helicopters. The MOD is particularly keen on the surroundings, as they offer “tropical climate and terrain well suited to jungle training.” Over the next four years, the UK military can expect to get an extra £16.5b, a 10% increase in funding and a fond salute to militarists. Johnson declared:

I have decided that the era of cutting our defence budget must end, and ends now. Our plans will safeguard hundreds of thousands of jobs in the defence industry, protecting livelihoods across the UK and keeping the British people safe.

The prime minister was hoping to make that announcement accompanied by the “Integrated Defence and Security Review” long championed by his now departed chief special adviser, Dominic Cummings. Cummings might have been ejected from the gladiatorial arena of Downing Street politics, but the ideas in the Review are unlikely to buck old imperial trends. At the very least, there will be a promise of more military bases to reflect a posture General Carter describes rather obscurely as “engaged and forward deployed.”

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