From Maheen Behrana - Best for Britain <[email protected]>
Subject Weekend Wire #12
Date May 27, 2022 2:02 PM
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Dear John

We’re (predictably) back again on this Friday like every other. But while our updates may be a reassuring constant, it’s impossible to be certain what each week in politics will bring.

This week, of course, has been tumultuous for our Government - so we’re here to take you through the rocky happenings bit by bit. Sit back, relax and soak in the news. 

Party pooper

It’s finally out…the long-awaited Sue Gray report <[link removed]> into Downing Street’s lockdown parties was released this week, hitting headlines. 

As expected it contains shocking details about law-breaking taking place at the heart of Government over the pandemic - and Gray comes to the conclusion that this culture of disregard for the rules came right from the top. The report found that:

- Covid rules were broken at number of parties in Downing Street

- Some parties were planned days in advance and even after warnings of a 'substantial comms risk'

- One event which finished after 3am involved a fight and one attendee being sick. At another, attendees had use of a karaoke machine 

- Security and custodial staff were treated poorly and with a lack of respect

- Staff uncomfortable with the rule-breaking felt unable to raise their concerns

- Senior leadership at Number 10 were responsible for the culture of rule-breaking

It is clear that those at the head of the Downing Street operation were central to the rule-breaking that took place - made worse by the fact that they were also the rule-makers.  

Our social media team asked people on Twitter to share their lockdown memories from June 2020 <[link removed]> - and the contrast between our respondents’ behaviour and that of the Government makes for sobering reading. Do also take a moment to watch the team’s latest Tik Tok <[link removed]> on the subject. 

The PM offered up a mealy-mouthed half-apology <[link removed]> in the wake of the report, continuing to insist he hadn’t known he was breaking the rules. He looks set on staying, and while some Conservatives are clearly angry <[link removed]> at the Prime Minister, others seem determined to help him cling to power <[link removed]>.

We (obviously) think this Government needs to go - but as Tory MPs won’t do the right thing, we’re asking our supporters to get behind our campaign to get progressive parties to work together to oust this Government at the next election - our polling <[link removed]> shows that this is the safest strategy for removing this Government. 

So please sign our petition and show your solidarity here <[link removed]>.

Met under threat

Further fallout from partygate is the threat of legal action against the Met Police <[link removed]>.

The Met is to face a judicial review over the “apparent failure of the Metropolitan Police to adequately investigate or investigate at all the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s participation in three unlawful gatherings held at 10 Downing Street …”

This is largely because photo evidence has been released of Johnson at events for which he has not been fined - and it seems that he was not even given a questionnaire regarding his presence. The sense that Johnson is being let off lightly is difficult to ignore.

More awkward

In another piece of uncomfortable news involving politicians and the police, news has emerged <[link removed]> that Neil Basu, once tipped for the top job at the National Crime Agency, is out of the running after an alleged intervention by Downing Street. 

In something like déjà vu (anyone remember the chair of Ofcom <[link removed]> debacle?) the Government has appeared to intervene in the selection process for this job, in an attempt to see their preferred candidate, Bernard Hogan-Howe, appointed instead. 

Hogan-Howe is an open supporter of Boris Johnson, while Neil Basu has been more openly critical of policing practices. It seems the Government would prefer to appoint a cheerleader rather than someone who could actually drive change, but that’s hardly surprising judging by their track record.

Windfall by another name

In better news for the Government, this week, Sunak announced <[link removed]> his highly original ‘temporary, targeted energy profits levy’ - to alleviate the cost of living crisis. 

His proposal wasn’t fooling anyone though - it was taken straight from Labour. As Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves pointed out, Labour first called for a windfall tax <[link removed]> on excess oil and gas profits nearly five months ago. And it’s taken up till now for the Chancellor to finally acknowledge the benefits of implementing one. Always decisive in times of crisis it seems.

Oil and gas profits have surged in recent months, and there is broad agreement that this is the right thing to do when so many people are struggling with the soaring cost of living. However, many understandably say this announcement has come far too late and are asking if it was coincidence that the policy was announced hot on the heels of yet another government scandal. Also problematic are the increased food costs that people are shelling out for - a problem partly caused by global supply disruptions but seriously exacerbated by Brexit <[link removed]>. How does the Chancellor plan to sort that one out?

Public oppression

This week saw the Public Order Bill introduced into the House of Commons. This Bill essentially replicates a lot of the content that was kicked out of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in the last Parliament. 

That content was kicked out because it was only introduced late in the Bill in the House of Lords, and so when the Lords voted against it, rules dictated that those provisions could not be reintroduced by the Commons. 

But now that this Bill commences in the Commons (where the Government enjoys its huge majority), it is sadly likely to pass into law. 

In an excellent article <[link removed]>, Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy poured scorn on the Government for beginning this Parliament (when people are under huge pressures from soaring energy prices and a cost of living crisis) with a Bill that blatantly seeks to quash dissent. 

Under this proposed legislation, as Ribeiro-Addy points out, the types of protest that won women the vote more than a hundred years ago would be outlawed. The Bill will also allow for the Government to target individual protestors and will expand the use of stop and search, a draconian power that we know has little beneficial effect and often serves to sow division. 

Yes he really did say this

This week, like most others, the Conservatives are having to contend with a scandal - and I’m not just talking about partygate. 

Last weekend, it was revealed that a Conservative council candidate had posted a deeply disturbing tweet <[link removed]> regarding how ‘girls’ smell at different ages. He described girls between the ages of 16 and 22 as having a ‘creamy, buttery, slightly sweet smell that is unbelievably magnetic.’ He said that this was in contrast to the smell of a ‘girl’ aged 28 (though he didn’t offer more detail).

This blatant (and super creepy) objectification of women and girls comes against a disturbing backdrop of sexual harassment scandals and highlights the rampant misogyny which seems to often go unchecked in our governing party. 

Fit for a Queen?

It was the moment all train enthusiasts had been waiting for for *checks watch* FOUR YEARS. 

The Elizabeth Line (also known as Crossrail) finally opened its central arm on Tuesday. 

Railfans were indeed out in force, with hundreds queuing at Paddington and Abbey Wood stations <[link removed]> on either end of the line for several hours before the first train departed at 6.33 am. Commuters too (maybe less enthusiastic about early morning travel) will also benefit greatly from this new, super-efficient service. 

All the jubilation couldn’t hide the fact that many were deeply disapproving of the extra time and budget <[link removed]'s%20Elizabeth%20Line%20station,and%20%C2%A33bn%20over%20budget.> the project had eaten up. 

This didn’t stop the Queen paying a visit <[link removed]> to Paddington Station though, as she took in the completed trainline. 

It’s also (obviously) an even bigger week for the Queen next week as she celebrates her Platinum Jubilee - expect street parties galore and let’s keep our fingers crossed for good weather over our four-day weekend. 

The week in cartoon

Our friends at We Are Cognitive <[link removed]> put together a weekly animation covering what’s been happening in the news. Make sure you check out what they’re doing each Friday. 

We love the news nuggets they manage to include - who knew that scallops love disco lights <[link removed]>?

Weekend reading

For something a little slower-paced, but still hugely interesting, we’re recommending you take five minutes out of your weekend to read this Guardian interview <[link removed]> with Martin Lewis, founder of the site Money Saving Expert. 

In it, he shines a stark light on the cost of living crisis and on his increasing clout when it comes to topics concerning social issues. 

It’s remarkable, and slightly depressing, to chart how Lewis has gone from helping you get the best deal on a new car or oven, to offering practical survival guides to millions weathering the energy crisis - but it shows clearly how this Government has presided over a shocking fall in our standards of living. 

Definitely do read it. 

That’s all from us this week - have a lovely weekend!

Best wishes,

Maheen Behrana

Senior Campaigns and Policy Officer, Best for Britain

P.S. It's really easy to support Best for Britain's campaigns and be first to know what's going on. £10 per month will make you a Best for Britain Fellow Traveller. Join now <[link removed]>.


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