‘Heroes are being left stranded’ by Michael Larcey

June 2020 – Feature Story

Michael Larcey – labour activist from Downham Market in Norfolk.

To be frank, Rt. Honourable Elizabeth Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Member of Parliament for South West Norfolk, illustrates the whole hypocrisy of the Johnson government. She patronises her constituents by saying how proud she is of them but then she is supporting the Immigration Bill which, in effect, classifies those ‘heroes’ as ‘unskilled’ and that those hard-working immigrants who provide 20% of care staff have no right to reside in this country.
Then there is the Conservative Party’s and its propaganda machine’s (The Daily Mail, Daily Express et cetera) demonising of our children’s teachers and their Unions because they question the decision to open schools gradually. Even Michael Gove cannot guarantee that it will be safe for teachers and children to return to school.

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The Conservative Party and your media also has completely misrepresented what teachers are really doing to maintain education during lockdown. What is of major concern is that the government has no idea of what goes on in schools or probably ignores this and is failing to protect children, parents, and teachers by not providing any extra resources in the way of protection. Elizabeth would probably reply that this is the responsibility of the local councils or educational trusts, but they have had their budgets cut over the past 10 years. The government’s concern for the less well off families is hypocritical because in the first place most poverty has been caused by the policy of austerity for the most vulnerable, and secondly, if such concern were genuine they would fund computers and internet access for poor children. What I understand by these attacks on teachers is the beginning of an attempt to undermine the role of Unions in the workplace.
As for your staged plan to reduce lockdown, it is clear that the Johnson government has learned very little from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other countries. The best one can call it is ‘dithering’ and the worst ‘herd immunity’. Instead of ‘test, track, trace’ there was an amazing Trump-like indifference as shown by Johnson failing to attend four Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBRA) meetings. The testing is failing to meet its targets daily. The failure to respond to the crisis in residential and nursing homes beggars belief.
The consequences of all this, are that:

  1. the UK has the highest death rate in Europe
  2. thousands are losing jobs and many more thousands are living on subsistence levels
  3. many industries big and small are collapsing
  4. councils are losing commercial funds hand over fist
  5. consequently services are likely to be cut.
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The constant broadcasts about Covid-19 are annoying because most of the time it is pure and simply brain-washing, trying to persuade people that Johnson has a grasp on the situation (that fake news would be funny were it not proving to be fatal). It is a ‘drip drip’ of questionable information with little challenging by truthful experts. Certainly, the Tories are using the tactics of Hitler’s Nazis: constant propaganda, after their campaign against Democratic Socialism in the anti-Semitic slurs, and now attacks on Unions. What next? The burning of Das Capital and other books they don’t like the cover of? I use my, up to now, right to turn them off. Am I being caustic? But they let the cat out of the bag with their ‘herd immunity’. It illustrates what Hitler thought: the need to purge the population to purify it. To confound matters, there are reports that to pay for the Johnson government’s incompetence or wilful inaction (Herd immunity theory), taxes for the many are to be raised while taxes for the rich are to be lowered.

While the lives of our elders, our vulnerable, and essential workers are at stake during the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of millions of us across the globe have been restraining ourselves at home, choosing not to do many things for many weeks in order to protect those we love. Surely the earth is breathing a sigh of relief for our reduction in pollution and fossil fuel use. This “Great Pause,” as some are calling it, gives me hope that we will soon find it within ourselves to protect our shared home, not only for our own sake, but for our neighbours across the globe, and future generations.
We have the tools (nonviolence chief among them) to allow us to stand up to the powerful and the reckless, and we have the fundamental idea of human solidarity that we could take as our guide.

The Covid19 pandemic cannot be treated as a trivial matter, despite Prime Minister Johnson’s indifference to it at the beginning: some of his early brush-offs have proven fatal for tens of thousands of people and a danger to the health of hundreds of thousands who became ill with the virus and put millions into isolation. Hopefully an independent inquiry will investigate the government’s handling of the response to the pandemic.

Rt. Honourable Elizabeth Truss, President of the Board of Trade, is setting up trade deals with the Trump administration. These will include bartering the NHS, of which you say you are so proud and undermining our farming industry, for deals that include products from the USA that would be banned in the UK and the EU. The Trade Bill sets out to introduce trading unfettered by our government’s intervention whatever the colour of the government. We already know that our farmers will be ruined through international dumping of food that currently does not meet our standards of production produced by practices that are banned in the UK and the EU. This will apply to all UK industries. As for the NHS and our welfare system, both will become market places with the emphasis on profits not caring. Sir Captain Moore has raised £33million and in the future most of that will end up in the pockets of directors who ‘help’ to administer these types of funds. I admire Sir Tom for what he has done but in a sense he is an indication of how the funding of our health and welfare is heading: to charities, lotteries and directors pocket, and eventually to global insurance. Should a private company lose out in a tendering process, they will get their smart suited lawyers to demand compensation. Virgincare did this and got £300k+ from the taxpayer because they did not succeed in getting a contract.
Forget about the sovereignty of the UK. By promoting ‘free trade’ it is ‘no holds barred’. Parliament will lose its ability to protect us citizens from unsafe practices, poor production values, dangerous goods with no right to reply. You get a dodgy T.V., too bad. The economist John Kenneth Galbraith wrote in The History of Economics 1991, ch. 21: ‘The great dialectic of our time is not…between capital and labour; it is between economic enterprise and the State. It looks as though Ms. Truss is in the vanguard for economic enterprise. Underneath it all, our ‘Heroes’ are being left stranded. ’ We have given up the protection of the EU, to a situation in which anything goes. UK sovereignty is now a thing of the past.

One of the blessings of living in this country is that we have one of the best farming communities. I have watched on various programmes on TV how our farmers valiantly try to produce food, acknowledging the need to be ecologically progressive as well as maintaining high standards of meat and vegetable production.
But not just maintaining but also pushing up the standards through well-grounded research.
It is our fortune to be recipients of this ever-improving industry.
This is against a background of global retailers like Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury, and so on forcing down their costs so that farmers have to subsidise promotions by these supermarkets.
However, this is not the end of their trials. Unfortunately, for centuries the UK has had to import a lot of its food, but now, because of the need to offset the damage that will be done by Brexit, this government will have to make trade agreements as a junior, begging partner, with countries that will swamp our markets with food of an inferior standard: beef full of antibiotics and other chemicals, chicken washed with chlorine, vegetables grown in fertilisers banned by the EU and the UK.
Now, there is the leaked government report that forecasts that the UK economy will be badly damaged Post-Brexit which the Brexiteers are trying to dismiss but tried to keep it secret and want to pursue it until they have fixed it to their liking.
Yet, we have people like Edward Wheatley, the resident Kipper, who, living in a Ukip fantasy land Walt Disney would have be proud to draw, says that the UK economy is growing and that unemployment is at a low level and that everything is Brexit hunky-dory.
What he doesn’t say is that the growth in the UK economy is the slowest possible and this against a background of global economic buoyancy.
Countries that once were deemed economically backward have better growth than the UK and it is not Brexit time just yet! Just one industry, car manufacturing, in the UK is 3pc down.
As for unemployment figures, they are of people who are registered unemployed.
However, employment figures do not account for the increase in homelessness, up triplicate in East Anglia, increasing poverty and de-valuing of wages and pensions, private companies exploiting public services, and leaving large debts for the public purse to pick up while shareholders and executives avoid paying taxes.
If the economy is doing so well, how come the NHS and social welfare services, the police, fire and ambulance services, the prison, probationary, and border services are in crisis?
Meanwhile Tory politicians can increase their expenses well beyond the rate of inflation? Come on. Ted, prick your Ukip bubble, stop blaming everything on immigrants, and face the neo-liberal reality forced on UK citizens.

As for the future, I believe that the (Labour) Party and the Local Party should take a radical approach that needs to be worked out according to local conditions. It is not a matter of obtaining power but of fighting to improve the lives of Norfolk people. What we need to do is try to understand how those being canvassed perceive it.
We tell the issues and we tell them the solutions!
What if before canvassing we asked them what concerns them. Some of the answers will not be palatable, but along with acceptable answers, local parties can respond in a way relevant to local issues. This was used in Chipping Barnet and the Party won Thatcher’s local authority, her seat, and two other seats in London Borough of Barnet.

(All opinions belong to  Michael Larcey)

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