Given the disastrous overspend on the Test and Trace programme, which has been found to have minimal impact, and the £500m cost for each percentage point rise in pay for our NHS staff, who have worked (and died) selflessly to help those affected by Covid-19, perhaps it is time for a new Boris bus, with this message:
“We send Test and Trace more than £350m a week – let’s give it to our NHS instead”
I’m a woman in my sixties, who from my teenage years has suffered from mental health issues, which led in the Eighties to a suicide attempt. I managed with some help from my GP to keep going and in fact hid the suicide attempt from my family and friends. Neither of my parents ever knew. In the Nineties, mental illness was talked about more in public and celebrities spoke out, this seemed to lead to more openness and I gradually felt I could open up to people about my struggles. I told my husband of 20-plus years and my daughter. I did still, however, feel it impossible to talk to work colleagues who had very firm opinions about “nutters”.
Things have been very hard during lockdown, and then yesterday morning I listened to Piers Morgan tell a UK audience that he believesMeghan, Duchess of Sussex, lied about mental health issues. In a few seconds it was like I was back in the Eighties, ashamed, frightened, guilty and unable to leave the house.
I am so scared that his stupid ignorant comments could lead to isolation or worse, and that he is so hung up on his hatred of Meghan that he's prepared to see people suffer, he has made us feel ashamed all over again.
The article “New crackdown on Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter needed due to a ‘huge inconvenience’, minister says”, rightly raises alarm bells on ministers attacking our right to peaceful protest. But it’s important to note just how far the government wants these restrictions to go, and how many liberties and communities could be ripped apart by them.
Some ministers are not subtle in their contempt for activist groups like Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter but with the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill any citizen could face new restrictions on protests when they try to hold the powerful to account. Peaceful protest is the lifeblood of democracy and our environment is better as a result of it. Hidden within the bill they look to stealthily create a brand new trespass offence that will essentially make the nomadic Gypsy and traveller way of life illegal and have implications for our right to roam, set up protest camps, and our access to nature.
Does a country that so often prides itself on civil liberties, and its green and pleasant land, really want to go down this road?
Rosemary Harris, political campaigner, Friends of the Earth
Test and trace fail
Now we know the test and trace system is ineffective and costs £37bn, we must ask some real questions about the value given to certain jobs. The top footballers receive more money in a week for entertaining us than our NHS frontline staff earn in a year.
Do we really value our NHS? I, and I expect others, would be willing to pay more towards the NHS. However, I do not trust the government to collect this tax and pay it to the NHS, given that we are still waiting for the £350m a week to be paid as a result of leaving the EU.
Ofcom’s decision to remove the broadcasting license of CGTN – China’s English language TV channel – is an act of censorship that is not in the interests of Britain and its people. It is well-known and publicly acknowledged, that CGTN is a Chinese state broadcaster and viewers can therefore take this into account in judging its services and broadcasts. As a state television broadcaster, CGTN’s status is similar to that of the BBC, France Televisions, NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), and others.
Ofcom’s justification for taking CGTN off-air is that any holder of a broadcasting licence in Britain must not be controlled by political bodies. However, this law is only selectively applied. Numerous private and state channels have clear political agendas or control – the BBC itself, which had its staff vetted by MI5, has not had its broadcasting licence revoked.
This attack on free speech also takes place in the context of the threat of a new cold war against China. At such a moment, it is crucial to build mutual understanding between peoples and also to accurately comprehend the positions of the chief actors in the global situation. Denying a voice to China’s CGTN hampers this.
Britain’s claim to be a free society is undermined by Ofcom’s decision to shut down CGTN. We call upon the British authorities to reverse this decision and to reinstate CGTN’s broadcasting licence.
John Pilger, prize-winning journalist
Oliver Stone, award-winning director, producer and screenwriter
Tariq Ali, writer and filmmaker
Kerry-Anne Mendoza, editor of The Canary
Ben Chacko, editor of the Morning Star
Vijay Prashad, chief correspondent of Globetrotter
Ken Loach, award-winning filmmaker
Jonathan Cook, award-winning author and journalist
Lowkey, musician and activist
Anna Chen, writer, poet and broadcaster
Asa Winstanley, journalist
Alan Macleod, senior staff writer at MintPress News
John McEvoy, journalist
Mohamed Elmaazi, journalist
Pablo Navarrete, journalist and documentary filmmaker
Fiona Edwards, No Cold War campaign
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