Dear 99% members (and other readers),
As 2021 draws towards a close, I thought it might be worth quickly reviewing some of the high and low points of the year.
The year began, as it is ending, with concern about whether the government is doing enough to protect the population of the UK from COVID. Our first article of the year looked at the powerful anti-science faction within the Conservative party and its influence on government policy. It pointed out that despite the presence of the vaccine, unless the government introduced further measures, in the worst case, 2021 might see more deaths than 2020. Unfortunately, the government seems to have taken this warning as a target: according to the Office for National Statistics, deaths at the end of 2020 were around 90,000; by the end of this year they look set to be around 175,000.
By the second quarter, the government had given us more to think about. Rishi Sunak published a Budget which clearly indicated his desire to pursue the market fundamentalist agenda. Priti Patel had started work on the Police Bill which threatens to remove from UK citizens the right of peaceful protest. One of our members, Lynne Jones, former MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, was so concerned about the government’s intentions that she wrote The Road To Serfdom: . At that point, the government, with its majority of 80 and with a largely supportive press, seemed able to get away with anything, and we were motivated to write The Fragility Behind The Facade. Finally, the Queen’s speech made clear that the government was deadly serious about further erosion of our democratic safeguards, about migrating the NHS towards the US healthcare system and hinted at returning to the policies of austerity.
By Quarter Three, COVID was back on the agenda when it became clear that the UK had managed to combine one of the world’s worst death tolls with an extremely poor economic performance. We responded to the Queen’s speech by instituting, in collaboration with the National Health Action Party, a new project to protect the NHS from the government’s new Health and Care Bill. The extent to which the government was attempting to create a society in which there would literally be one law for them and another for us began to be clear during this quarter, as did the scale of corruption and the role of wealthy donors in setting policy – for example in the test and trace programme, to which £37 billion of our money was earmarked and which is currently the subject of a judicial review. It was in this quarter, also, that we saw the first sign that the one-nation Conservatives may not have been completely subdued. Although they were not initially successful, it was the first significant rebellion against the government.
But it is the last quarter of 2021 which has been the most dramatic. First of all there was the sewage scandal in which many Tory MPs voted against a Lords’ amendment which would have stopped water companies from polluting our rivers and coastal waters with sewage. When Owen Paterson was found guilty of egregious breaches of anti-lobbying rules, the government attempted to rip up the Standards system: in effect the government wanted to legalise corruption. It quickly became clear that Paterson was far from the only MP who might fear what the system might conclude about their behaviour – indeed the PM himself has much to be concerned about in this regard. Nevertheless a combination of public revulsion and rebellion by one-nation Conservatives forced a U-turn. In October, Sunak published another dismal Budget which confirmed that the Johnson government has moved beyond small-state conservatism to Plunder State. Our NHS project published its conclusions on the Health and Care Bill, and we submitted these to the Scrutiny Committee of Parliament. We also launched a petition, which has so far been signed by some 45,000 people. Some of our articles were published in new media outlets Byline Times and National World, both of which have taken articles on the NHS, while the National World also took a series of three articles on Malice in Plunderland. And finally, of course, the by-election in North Shropshire (Owen Paterson’s former seat) was won by the LibDems, who overturned a majority of almost 23,000 and nearly 200 years of history. It is clear now that tactical voting has become a potent force – only 3 Conservative seats could have withstood the swing that happened in North Shropshire. Quarter four has shown us that if we unite, we can prevent the government from implementing the market fundamentalist agenda.
On that more optimistic note, may I take this opportunity to wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
With all good wishes,
Mark E Thomas
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