Camden

Member
Boris - Tories - What now?
Good article sorry published in full but behind paywall

Paul Tyler JANUARY 16 2021

How Britain’s democracy is being undermined​

A series of government proposals on the constitution and electoral law disregards consensus

Rt Hon Lord Tyler CBE, Liberal Democrat spokesperson on political and constitutional reform,

Take a look behind the Brexit and Covid headlines this week and you will get a glimpse of a devious destruction of our constitutional conventions. In a series of proposals in recent months — including on constituency boundary changes, election spending and the Electoral Commission — the government’s intentions add up to an alarming undermining of democracy in the UK.

The Conservatives are not content with the likely additional winnable seats they will gain from the boundary changes in the new Parliamentary Constituencies Act, which will make constituency populations more uniform and see some disappear.

Ministers have also resisted cross-party amendments in the Lords to get more eligible young people registered to vote which were set to boost the electorate in black, Asian and minority ethnic (Bame) communities, who are more likely to support opposition parties.

Hard on the heels of that came a Cabinet Office statement on December 3 that the Conservatives wanted to increase the party limit on general election spending from the present £19.5m to about £33m. The move would translate into many thousands of pounds that could be targeted at about 100 marginal seats. In the 2019 election no party spent anything like that. However, one party clearly wants to make millions more pounds the key element for success, rather than more millions of registered voters.

A few days previously, Chloe Smith, minister for the constitution reporting to Michael Gove at the Cabinet Office, asked for short-notice comments from a shortlist of experts on a proposed “clarification” of electoral law. This arises from a Supreme Court judgment in the election expenses case against South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay, published in July 2018, which reiterated long-established law that a candidate and agent should be held responsible for all campaign expenditure intended to advance that candidature in a constituency. The judgment was followed by extensive consultation from which the Electoral Commission produced final codes of practice in April 2020. Ministers have failed — for an unprecedented nine months — to present the codes to parliament. The proposed “clarification” would permit candidates and agents to claim they are unaware of their party’s targeted expenditure.

Last December, the Conservative party gave evidence to the public administration and constitutional affairs select committee inquiry into the work of the Electoral Commission. It claimed that the commission was “unaccountable”, suffered from “conflicts of interest”, required “clear ministerial and parliamentary oversight” and that there should be an “option to abolish it”.

No other party has made comparable comments. This is not surprising. The commission is a statutory regulator, accountable to parliament and deliberately divorced from any such party or government political influence. To make the referee subservient to one of the teams on the pitch would be to destroy their independence and integrity. In themselves, these proposals may seem concerning but not exactly attacks on our established constitutional conventions. However, the complete lack of consensus, alongside other changes, is alarming.

The government has already proposed to “take back control” of prorogation and dissolution of parliament, thereby codifying royal prerogative powers in the hands of the prime minister. This week Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the House of Commons, refused an extension for the Commons committee on the future relationship with the EU, chaired by Hilary Benn.
If he thinks that Brexit is done, he should listen to the fishermen, hauliers and supermarket managers. Far from strengthening the sovereignty of the British parliament, and the electoral system on which it is founded, these changes add up to something more sinister. In 1976, the late Lord Hailsham — former lord chancellor and a true Tory if ever there was one — warned of Britain’s slide towards “elective dictatorship”.

He said: “My object is continuity and evolution, not change for its own sake.” Some 45 years later, this lecture is especially relevant because it is more than 12 months since Boris Johnson promised: “In our first year we will set up a Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission”.

This is not yet formed, but is expected to examine the role of British judges and the use of judicial review — a thorny issue after the prime minister’s defeat over shutting down parliament in 2019. What changes will its work bring? Of course, Hailsham could not foresee the arrival of digital campaigning, and, with it, US-style inflation of “dark money”, foreign interference and attempts to undermine electoral law. However, his case for comprehensive rather than piecemeal change remains persuasive. Parliamentarians of all stripes believe that the challenge and the opportunity are now even more urgent. The government’s attrition must stop. Instead, the constitution commission must be truly independent, and resolute in protecting our parliamentary democracy from this elective dictatorship.
 

yalimart

The Carnwath Massive
Boris - Tories - What now?
The COVID-19 goldrush keeps on giving - providing you are a Tory party donor

Hi Martin

Of the million laptops Government ordered for remote learning during lockdown, more than three quarters have come from Computacenter. The total value of the contracts awarded to Computacenter is at least £198 million. Its founder, Sir Philip Hulme, has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Conservative Party in recent years and Mr Hulme’s wife has also donated £100,000 as recently as the 2019 Election.

And now it transpires that some of the laptops supplied do not meet the minimum standards set out in the DfE specification and many contain malware.

A school in Bradford which received 90 Geobook 1E laptops via the Computacenter booking system this week found they had been handed devices infected with a malware virus. A letter from the school’s deputy head states: "Upon unboxing and preparing them it was discovered that a number of the laptops are infected with a self-propagating network worm (Gamarue.I). The network worm looks like it contacts Russian servers when active."

An online forum used by school IT experts suggests this is far from an isolated incident - numerous schools have reported the virus to the DfE. Reports suggest laptops have arrived with no sound driver installed, causing access issues for pupils.

And, from what we can see, it appears that the price they’ve charged for some of their devices is almost twice what it should be. The DfE has redacted key pricing documentation from the published contracts, so we are unable to provide a definitive cost per laptop or tablet. However we do know that in September and October last year, the DfE placed three contracts valued at £39.7m with Computacenter. The deal required Computacenter to supply 192,400 devices. This equates to an average cost of £206 per device. But experts have told us they would expect the basic laptops to cost the taxpayer closer to the region of £100 per device. An education IT expert who wanted to remain anonymous told us: “When it comes to the GeoBook, we had seen similar laptops on sale via China for less than £100.”

The Government is yet to publish the contract award for the additional 300,000 laptops it announced 4 days after we launched our latest legal challenge. So we don’t know who the contract has been handed to - or at what cost to the taxpayer. But on the basis of their track record, you’ll forgive us if we aren’t optimistic about what will come to light.

The COVID-19 goldrush continues for those fortunate enough to have links to the Conservative Party. Sadly this time it’s the most vulnerable families picking up the pieces, and fighting for the most basic provisions to continue their child’s education.

Thank you,

Jolyon Maugham QC
Director of Good Law Project
 

Camden

Member
Boris - Tories - What now?

Is Government ramping up costs to silence us?​

Correspondence with Government has revealed they expect to spend a staggering £1 million defending our judicial review of their decisions to award contracts criticised by the NAO. This is a sum unprecedented in our lawyers’ experience of judicial review proceedings. We can’t but wonder whether they are trying to scare us off – using the bottomless public purse to avoid accountability to the public.

Government also says, remarkably, that finding out whether they acted lawfully in channelling hundreds of millions or billions to their VIP associates, is not in the public interest.

We had until recently been working on the understanding that we had raised enough money for our challenges to Government’s awards of hundreds of millions of pounds of PPE contracts to Pestfix, Ayanda, and Clandeboye.

We were shocked to learn that – having failed to provide the evidence we’ve been asking for since July – Government is threatening a vast disclosure exercise going well beyond what would normally be undertaken in a judicial review. And not just that they have hired an expensive international commercial law firm. They expect to have a team of 30-40 working for up to 3 months on an exercise that has not been requested by us, or by the Court.

We were shocked this week to receive their response contending that the litigation is not in the public interest, and refusing our proposed reciprocal cap: “In particular our client does not agree that the proceedings are ‘public interest proceedings'”. These are cases involving on Government’s own admission hundreds of millions of pounds being spent on unusable facemasks on companies that went through the VIP lane.

Not in the public interest? What are they on!


PS wonder what happened to Chips, Ombudsman on Govt Contracts ...he never did give us that link ..Mmmmm.
 

429nufc

Member
Boris - Tories - What now?
It S because they know these people and trust them, trust them to look after them when it,s their turn!
We are all in this together
 

yalimart

The Carnwath Massive
Boris - Tories - What now?
Is the Covid Goldrush for Tory donors over ?

The High Court has ruled “The Secretary of State acted unlawfully by failing to comply with the Transparency Policy” and that “there is now no dispute that, in a substantial number of cases, the Secretary of State breached his legal obligation to publish Contract Award Notices within 30 days of the award of contracts.” We have won the judicial review we brought alongside Debbie Abrahams MP, Caroline Lucas MP, and Layla Moran MP.

In handing down the judgment, Judge Chamberlain brought into sharp focus why this case was so important. “The Secretary of State spent vast quantities of public money on pandemic-related procurements during 2020. The public were entitled to see who this money was going to, what it was being spent on and how the relevant contracts were awarded.

The Judge went on to say that if Government had complied with its legal obligations we “would have been able to scrutinise CANs and contract provisions, ask questions about them and raise any issues with oversight bodies such as the NAO or via MPs in Parliament.” When Government eschews transparency, it evades accountability.

Government’s behaviour came under criticism in the judgment. If it had admitted to being in breach of the law when we first raised our concerns, it would have never been necessary to take this judicial review to its conclusion. Instead, they chose a path of obfuscation, racking up over £200,000 of legal costs as a result.

We shouldn’t be forced to rely on litigation to keep those in power honest, but in this case it’s clear that our challenge pushed Government to comply with its legal obligations. Judge Chamberlain stated that the admission of breach by Government was “secured as a result of this litigation and at a late stage of it” and “I have no doubt that this claim has speeded up compliance”. It begs the question, if we hadn’t brought this legal challenge, what other contract details would have remained hidden from view?

And whilst Government always sought to dismiss our challenge by claiming we needed to be an ‘economic operator’ to have standing, the judgment states that it is unrealistic that economic operators would have challenged Government’s breach of the law in these circumstances. In other words, if we hadn’t taken this case, there are not many others who could have done so.

This judgment, which can be found here, is a victory for all of us concerned with proper governance and proof of the power of litigation to hold Government to account. But there is still a long way to go before the Government's house is in order. We have now written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care detailing what needs to be done to improve procurement processes and ensure value for British taxpayers.

But for now, we can take a moment to celebrate this win. Thank you, as ever, for all your support.

Jolyon Maugham QC
Director of Good Law Project
 

Mushroom

Member
Boris - Tories - What now?
Oh dear the government can't just "move on" as they hoped.
I look forward to further details emerging on these lucrative contracts just bunged to their mates.
When there is finally an enquiry, all this will come to the forefront and it wont be looking good for Boris and Co.
I read that the landlord of Matt Hancock's local made an offer to supply PPE early doors (not quite early enough!) and was awarded a contract worth millions, without any tender process. Even stranger, he was used to pulling pints but had never supplied PPE before !!
There are plenty of other examples.
I don't think it will unduly worry Boris because when the time comes for the inquiry, he will have stated that he has seen Brexit done, the pandemic either done or very much controlled and he is now leaving to spend more time with his family and make a few million away from Politics.
 

Kanga

Member
Boris - Tories - What now?
Cronyism is a scourge in any area of life. I've seen no mention here of any Labour cronyism. Does it exist or do you think it's exclusively a Tory trait??
 

Mushroom

Member
Boris - Tories - What now?
Cronyism is a scourge in any area of life. I've seen no mention here of any Labour cronyism. Does it exist or do you think it's exclusively a Tory trait??
It exists in all of politics at local and national level and all parties.
My dad was a Labour councillor and his fellow councillor who later became an MP and later a knight of the realm, was chair of the planning committee. A certain architect by the name of John Poulson tendered for every council backed building project and always was successful. A certain councillor made sure of that. It all unravelled at a later date, Mr Poulson went to prison but didn't implicate the councillor and his career in politics continued.
 

Camden

Member
Boris - Tories - What now?
Kanga said :Cronyism is a scourge in any area of life. I've seen no mention here of any Labour cronyism. Does it exist or do you think it's exclusively a Tory trait??

No, just the Tories have done their Own, Family, Friends and Donor enrichment due to Cronyism on an industrial scale, using the Pandemic to cancel the normal checks and balances tendering gives , and trying to hide by not publishing contracts. eg Matt Hancock unlawfully failed to publish details of billions of pounds' worth of coronavirus related contracts,

It will be us the taxpayer that will be paying it back through taxes or further Tory Austerity .

So large is the scale there is an interactive map to follow trials back to the party, members and friends.

Link to the Tory My Little Crony

download (1).png
 
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429nufc

Member
Boris - Tories - What now?
Mr Poulson was also extremely successful up here . I'd like to think we socialists were more moral but i'm afraid not. Rumour had it that at Christmas he supplied more turkeys and cases of Whiskey than the Co op
 

Mushroom

Member
Boris - Tories - What now?
Mr Poulson was also extremely successful up here . I'd like to think we socialists were more moral but i'm afraid not. Rumour had it that at Christmas he supplied more turkeys and cases of Whiskey than the Co op
He was very high ranking in the freemasons and he believèd in not blabbing. That left a lot of people who had initially thought that they were going to be implicated, getting away with their actions.
A very good old friend of mine was a detective at the time and was handed the Poulson file to see if he could extract any more names. He had found the connection with the councillor colleague of my dad and also of a Leeds MP who I believe was Merlyn Rees (apologies if spelt wrong) who was also a cabinet minister if I'm correct.. He was going great guns with connecting the dots when word came from above that the enquiry had ended forthwith and to return the file for the attention of the Chief Constable.
 

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