13 July 2017
Campaign Diary of a Corbynista
Maybot in Flames
by Don Urquhart
This government cannot last long. Sir Keir Starmer presented David Davis with a negotiating option which meant effectively staying in the European Union. Davis looked very weak indeed.
Today should be dramatic. Jeremy Corbyn has tabled an amendment to the Queen’s Speech to lift the 1% pay cap for public service workers and to increase the police and fire service personnel. It is a test of the government’s sincerity about reducing austerity. Will there be Tory MP’s who break ranks? Heidi Allen perhaps? Sarah Wollaston? The DUP might even be tempted? Unlikely, given the confidence and supply agreement signed on Monday. On TV at the moment Grenfell survivors are pulling apart the council and the government. Where is the “Gold Command” which is supposed to have grabbed hold of the problem?
Sir Martin Moore-Bick has been appointed to run the Grenfell Inquiry. Back in 2014 he had a single mother moved from Westminster to Milton Keynes. His decision was overturned on appeal. Michael Mansfield QC complains that the survivors should have been consulted about who runs the inquiry. It smells strongly of long grass. Meanwhile the government, having assumed responsibility for the whole thing is dragging its heels in providing accommodation for the survivors. Are they also covering up the true number of dead and missing?
Apparently the contractor was asked to use cheaper cladding to save £300,000. Names have not yet been named. Residents were not told that the cladding would be changed. What it is crying out for is decent investigative reporting. I imagine the books will be on Amazon by Christmas. The judge is worried about the scope of the inquiry. Fair play to him but it should by now be crystal clear what questions need to be answered. A detailed description of the progress of the fire and events from midnight on the Wednesday has to be high on the list.
James Chapman works for lobbying company Bell Pottinger. Until the election was announced in April he was David Davis’ Chief of Staff at the Brexit Ministry. He is doing the media rounds telling everyone that Theresa May is making things difficult for David Davis. What’s his game? I can only believe he has been hired by someone who is looking for us to stay in the EU. This intervention can only serve to disrupt negotiations. More than ever it looks as if we don’t know what we are doing. Might find out more today.
Increasing evidence today that Jeremy Corbyn is running the country. Michael Gove writes in The Sunday Times that the verdicts of independent pay review bodies should be respected. Teachers and police have pay body results due this month. To my mind the whole concept of an “independent” pay review body is laughable, given that public sector pay has been frozen by the government for 7 years. 100,000 people were on the streets in London yesterday to protest about austerity in particular and Tories in general. Tory backbenchers are getting worried as Corbyn tours 73 marginals to whip up dissent.
The Tories’ new anti-austerity position gives Labour a few problems. On the one hand Corbyn can claim that Labour are setting the agenda but on the other Theresa May can claim that the Tories are moving to the centre and therefore who needs Labour.
Cabinet ministers are calling for a relaxation of the 1% public sector pay limit. Greg Hands gave the game away by claiming that the freeze had saved 200,000 public sector jobs. So if the freeze goes, so will the jobs either into degraded services or private companies.
The Grenfell situation appears chaotic. There was a meeting yesterday with Fiona Wilcox, the Coroner, and Commander Cundy but attendees were not allowed to question them directly. They had to email questions in advance. 139 offers of accommodation had been made but only 9 accepted. There are calls for the resignation of Sir Martin Moore-Bick. Corbyn and Khan urge him to talk to the residents. If he hasn’t done that yet he should resign. David Lidington has every confidence in him. But who has confidence in David Lidington? It reeks of establishment fear and cover up.
I admire Sir Martin Moore-Bick for exposing himself to a meeting of 200 probably hostile people. He stayed for 3 hours. I have not had a problem with him as an individual, but question the process. Surely it is not beyond the wit of Sir Martin and his team to sit down with each of the people and extract their requirements of the inquiry. That is true consultation. Just standing in front of meetings doesn’t hack it. Having been a judge for 20 years he has not had to invent ways of solving problems, so he needs help.
The fire brigade didn’t have the right equipment, notably a long ladder. London had to borrow one from Surrey. I think the LFB is right to ask firemen to avoid the press until the inquiry has reported. Nevertheless Newsnight has managed to obtain anonymous testimony. There is also the issue of water pressure. Thames Water says it was fine but the firemen say it was inadequate. If only Sir Martin was on the case and looking as if he would start tearing into witnesses to get the full facts of the case. He must get the people onside.
How on earth do people manage to get drugs into prisons? You have to think that corrupt prison officers are involved. They probably work for outsourcing companies, are poorly paid with no security of tenure. It is yet another aspect of the public services that has been underfunded or sold off or both. Why is it that governments move heaven and earth to distance themselves from the responsibility for running the country. They like the chauffeur driven cars and the status but exhibit a glibness that is barely conceivable.
Theresa May has asked other parties to come up with ideas because she is now keen on a fairer Britain again. I cannot see this arousing much enthusiasm in the Labour Party so I guess this is a call to LibDems to prop up her ailing majority. I think they might just be dim enough to fall for this. They might feel they have nothing to lose. They should look back to 2010, when they at least had positions in the Cabinet. This is different, but I wouldn’t put it past them. Vince Cable is gullible enough in my view.
Matthew Taylor has completed his 9 month review of the gig economy. He thinks people should not be paid in cash and should be treated as “dependent contractors”. We shall have to see what his report says in detail. A point he makes is that the UK has managed to create a lot of jobs but in general they are constructed so that employers can exploit their workers at will. At least this seems like an area where Theresa May can obtain the cooperation of the Labour Party. Corbyn & Co. will have plenty to say about the treatment of low-paid workers.
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