Recent News Articles

Why did ministers give an NHS contract to Tory donor?

by Newswire     September 4, 2013 at 8:20 am

The Labour partyhas called on Ministers to justify the award of a multi-million pound contract to provide highly specialist cancer services after reports that the winner, Hospital Corporation of America International, has donated to the Conservative Party.

This week the Mirror reported:

The multi-million pound deal with Hospital Corporation of America was pushed through quietly just days before the Government handed responsibility for cancer care to NHS England.

A Mirror investigation has discovered that HCA has given the Tories at least £17,000 since they came to power.

Opposition MPs last night described the decision as “scandalous”.

Labour MPs are particularly angry because London’s University College Hospital – one of the best NHS brain treatment centres in the country – has been told to stop treating brain cancer patients and send them to HCA.

Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, has written to Jeremy Hunt asking him what contact he and his Ministers have had with HCA and whether they have had any involvement in the award of this contract.

He stated in the letter:

NHS privatisation is now proceeding at a pace and scale never seen before and is being driven from the very top. This award of a contract for specialist cancer care of the very sickest patients clearly demonstrates that the Government sees no limits on privatisation in the NHS. But it also raises a major question – who precisely is benefitting from David Cameron’s drive to open the NHS up to the market?

As Parliament gets ready to debate the Lobbying Bill, this episode threatens to erode further public trust in politics. Ministers must urgently come clean about the full extent of the links between the Conservative Party and HCA and whether they had any knowledge of, or involvement in, the award of this contract.

Eric Pickles cost taxpayers £90,000 over ‘reckless’ case

by Newswire     September 3, 2013 at 4:24 pm

British taxpayers face a £90,000 legal bill after communities secretary Eric Pickles’ “reckless and political” attack on the Public and Commercial Services union was ruled unlawful today.

The Department for Communities and Local Government had tried to unilaterally end a decades-old system for collecting union subscriptions through salaries – an arrangement that costs the department just £300 a year to administer.

But a High Court judge ruled today that Pickles’s move was a breach of contract and must be reversed, and that DCLG will have to pay the union’s legal costs as well as its own.

The judge agreed with the union that having union subscriptions deducted through salaries – known as ‘check off’ – forms part of DCLG staff members’ contracts and therefore could not be withdrawn without consent.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:

It is staggering that Eric Pickles pressed ahead with this reckless and political attempt to undermine our union in his department.

Pickles has very serious questions to answer about why he decided to spend tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money fighting to scrap something that costs less than £30 a month.

Pickles has previously advised local authorities to end check off but was the first cabinet minister to attempt to apply it in the civil service.

Britons don’t want to go into Syria – poll shows

by Newswire     September 1, 2013 at 12:35 pm

This from YouGov today on public opinion and Syria

a) The Government failed to persuade Britons that Syria’s President Assad ordered the use of chemical weapons against his opponents. Just 43% believe he is responsible; a further 43% say ‘don’t know’. Had voters been convinced of Assad’s guilt, their attitude to military action might well have been different. By 66-26% we regard chemical warfare as an ‘especially horrific a crime against humanity’ rather than ‘a terrible thing, but no worse than other forms of killing’

b) Many voters feared that British troops would be dragged into another Middle East quagmire. 51% of those who opposed military action thought that a limited missile attack ‘would probably have ended up with Britain being dragged into further military action and British troops having to go into Syria’

Yet the poll finds no desire for the West to go soft on President Assad.

We asked people whether Britain should help America if President Obama orders an attack and asks for our help. By huge majorities we want Britain to share intelligence information about Syria (by 70-15%) and to support the US at the United Nations (by 64-16%).

By a smaller but still clear margin (48-31%), we would be happy to give access to Britain’s military base in Cyprus to US forces attacking Syria.

More widely, our poll shows that opposition to British military action does NOT indicate – as some people fear and others hope – any wish for a doctrine of disengagement from the world’s problems. We posed seven different circumstances in which Britain might consider sending troops into action outside Europe.

In every case, most people said we should definitely, or seriously consider, taking part – ranging from contributing to a United Nations operation (75%) to stopping “an unfriendly country acquiring nuclear weapons” (53%).

UKuncut plan road blocks to protest Legal Aid cuts

by Newswire     August 30, 2013 at 3:05 pm

The anti-austerity network UKuncut are planning to undertake “mass civil disobedience” against what they described as “dangerous changes that will destroy democracy”.

They said this week they plan nationwide road blocks to protest against government plans to cut legal aid.

The statement went on to encourage other groups from around from around the country to organise similar road-blocks on October the 5th.

The group was unapologetic as to the disruption that would be caused, saying “We know that this will be disruptive. We know that it will stop the traffic. But we know that this kind of direct action works”.

Other direct action groups including Disabled People Against the Cuts and Plane Stupid also plan to join in.

The plans emerge following a week in which England’s most senior family judge described government plans for legal aid as ‘disconcerting’ and suggested that ‘something needs to be done’.

Last month the government was forced to backtrack on a key part of the reforms, that of removing the right of legal aid defendants to choose their solicitor, following protests.

The government claims that changes will improve efficiency in the legal system, but this claim has been challenged by research showing that the estimated £6m savings will be dwarfed by £30m in knock-on costs.

Watch: Galloway caught re: Syrian chemical weapons

by Sunny Hundal     August 29, 2013 at 8:16 pm

I didn’t realise George Galloway was so brazen.

Last week: Israel supplied the chemical weapons to al-Qaeda in Syria.

Today: I said no such thing.

(video via @iamthebeef)


Update: here’s the original

Labour statement on Syrian intervention

by Newswire     August 27, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, speaking after meeting the Prime Minister in Downing Street, released this statement this afternoon:

The use of chemical weapons on innocent civilians is abhorrent and cannot be ignored.

When I saw the Prime Minister this afternoon I said to him the Labour Party would consider supporting international action but only on the basis that it was legal, that it was specifically limited to deterring the future use of chemical weapons and that any action contemplated had clear and achievable military goals.

We will be scrutinising any action contemplated on that basis.

(by everette)

BBC Newsbeat asks: is homophobia just “banter”?

by Newswire     August 23, 2013 at 1:48 pm

BBC Newsbeat team posted this question today on Twitter


They later justified this with another tweet

Some people may indeed think homophobic / racist / misogynist chants are just “banter” – but should the BBC draw that equivalence?

Would the return of widespread football-fans chanting of “You fucking Paki bastard” simply be seen as banter?

Seems like an absurd question to ask…
(via @FelicityMorse)

Update: They have tweeted at us to clarify


Study: Tory voices on BBC four times as much as Labour

by Sunny Hundal     August 23, 2013 at 12:10 pm

A study by researchers at Cardiff University has found that in 2012 David Cameron outnumbered Ed Miliband by a factor of nearly four to one (53 vs 15) in reports on on immigration, the EU and religion across the BBC.

It also found that for reporting of all topics, Conservative politicians were featured more than 50% more often than Labour ones (24 vs 15) across the two time periods on the BBC News at Six.

It is usually the case that incumbents get more coverage than opposition politicians.

But the difference is remarkable. Labour leaders and ministers outnumbered Conservative shadow ministers by approximately two to one in 2007. By 2012 this has become four-to-one in favour of the Tories.

The evidence is even more stark for the BBC’s coverage of businesses versus trade unions:

In both 2007 and 2012, across all programming, business representatives received substantially more airtime on BBC network news (7.5% and 11.1% of source appearances) than they did on either ITV (5.9% and 3.8%) or Channel 4 News (2.4% and 2.2%). When we compare the representation of business with that of organised labour, the findings are even more striking.

On BBC News at Six, business representatives outnumbered trade union spokespersons by more than five to one (11 vs 2) in 2007 and by 19 to one in 2012. On the issues of immigration and the EU in 2012, out of 806 source appearances, not one was allocated to a representative of organised labour. Considering the impact of the issues on the UK workforce, and the fact that trade unions represent the largest mass democratic organisations in civil society, such invisibility raises troubling questions for a public service broadcaster committed to impartial and balanced coverage.

Today programme banking crisis interviewees 15/9/2008 to 20/10/2008.


The range of debate was even narrower if we examine who the programme featured as interviewees in the two week period around the UK bank bailouts

More on the study at The Conversation

Govt to face legal action over charges at Hyde Park

by Newswire     August 21, 2013 at 1:15 am

Lawyers are threatening to take legal action on behalf of the London Charity Softball League against Royal Parks over the introduction of fees to use the Old Football Pitches in London’s Hyde Park.

In a letter before action sent today, law firm Leigh Day have threatened the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Maria Miller MP, with formal legal proceedings if the decision to charge a fee for using the parks facilities is not reconsidered.

Royal Parks, the agency responsible for looking after London’s eight Royal Parks, have handed over a part of Hyde Park to a private company named Will To Win.

As Liberal Conspiracy revealed in July this year, Royal Parks admitted there was no public consultation on the decision. Regular users of the pitches say they weren’t even informed of the changes until recently.

Law firm Leigh Day has argued that the decision to charge for the use of the park is unlawful.

While the Secretary of State has the power to ban particular sports in the Park under Regulation 3(13)(a) of the Royal Parks and Other Open Spaces Regulations 1997 (SI 1997/1639), he or she does not have the power to charge community groups like London Charity Softball League, to play sports in the park.

The letter further explains that the decision to appoint a private company to manage, collect and enforce the new fees was unlawful as the decision and appointment was taken without any consultation with those members of the public who were likely to be affected by the proposal and without due regard to Department’s duties under s149 Equality Act 2010.

Vanessa Furey from the London Charity Softball League said:

We’ve asked the authorities nicely to look again at the decision to charge people for playing sport in the park, and they’ve ignored us. We hope the threat of legal action might make them sit up and take note.

Twelve months ago London was centre of the sporting world for the Olympics and there were high hopes for a new era of grassroots sport, instead we face a bill of nearly £6,000 for a few games of softball. 25,000 people have spoken up for our right to use our parks, and it seems the law is on our side too.

The London Charity Softball League was set up with nine teams 10 years ago by charity fundraiser Leo Visconti. Since then its grown to become an annual event with 68 teams.

Guardian ed “cannot explain” why GCHQ wanted their computers destroyed

by Sunny Hundal     August 20, 2013 at 12:52 am

The Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, in an extraordinary piece published tonight, wrote:

And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian’s basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. ‘We can call off the black helicopters,’ joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.

“Whitehall was satisfied, but it felt like a peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age. We will continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents, we just won’t do it in London.”

Wait… what? Why was this not reported by the newspaper earlier? And why was this anecdote buried halfway down a piece weeks later?

But put that aside for a moment. Two key questions arise from those paragraphs above: first, why did the Guardian not report this when it happened? second, why didn’t they fight it in court?

The answer to the first question seems to be that he was stopped from reporting on the incident. When asked in the comments what he made of the officials’ reactions to what happened, Alan Rusbridger writes:

I can’t explain their actions, sorry.

On the second point, it looks like the reason the Guardian didn’t report on this, or fight it, is because they wanted to avoid the courts.





Let’s see if all the newspapers that were crying about press freedom earlier say something about this incident now.

Update: the headline has been amended to reflect new information.

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