News in brief
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has donned his Scrooge hat in the run-up to Christmas by clobbering the living standards of workers and the unemployed in order to pay for the country’s worst recession in 300 years.
Sunak himself won’t, however, have any difficulty paying the electricity bill or in putting food on the table.
Not least because his multi-millionaire wife has channelled a sizeable investment portfolio through an offshore tax haven in Mauritius.
None of Mrs Sunak’s investments and shareholdings are listed in the official register of ministers’ interests, begging the question as to whether or not the chancellor will take any action on super-rich tax dodgers. We suspect he won’t!
Rich get richer
Of course, the Sunaks aren’t the only ones to benefit during this Covid pandemic year. According to Swiss bank UBS, the fortunes of the world’s super-rich billionaires shot up to a new record of $10.2 trillion in July, up from $8 trillion in 2019. And that was before global stock markets rebounded.
Last year, according to the Oxfam charity, the world’s 26 richest people were worth more than the poorest half of the global population combined.
Poor get poorer
Meanwhile, many Tory MPs, and the right-wing Daily Mail, are rejoicing that the government is cutting the overseas aid budget by a third – while spending vastly more sums on the military and nuclear power stations that don’t work.
But as Andrew Rawnsley pointed out in the Guardian, the aid cuts mean “nearly a million girls will be deprived of an education, more than 7 million will lose access to contraception and family planning advice, nearly 4 million people will be deprived of clean water and 5.6 million fewer children won’t get vaccinations, leading to 100,000 avoidable deaths.”
Doom and gloom
“Winter 2020 could see a combination of severe flooding, pandemic influenza, a novel emerging infectious disease and coordinated industrial action, against a backdrop of the end of the [Brexit] transition period…”.
No, this isn’t a quote from a political perspectives article in the Socialist, but an extract from a leaked Cabinet Office paper, written in September.
Of course, the government has brushed aside its importance by declaring it to be a ‘worst case scenario’ document.
True, it was written before a Covid vaccine was announced, but a mass inoculation programme won’t be available until the New Year, and current Brexit negotiations aren’t looking too rosy.
On the plus side for Johnson’s faltering government is the lack of action so far from trade union leaders to organise “coordinated industrial action” over pay, jobs and pensions.
Unsurprisingly, the Johnson government has reneged on a 2006 commitment to hold a public inquiry into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.
The civil rights lawyer was shot down in his home by two loyalist gunmen in 1989. It subsequently came to light that Brian Nelson, the intelligence officer responsible for directing Ulster Defence Association paramilitary attacks, was a British agent.
The government’s decision to veto an inquiry follows the passage of its ‘spycops’ bill in late October, and unopposed by Labour leader Keir Starmer, which according to Amnesty International gives a “licence for government agencies to authorise torture and murder”.