The Daily Mail’s enemies

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The Daily Mail says Trump’s absurd but he’s not the enemy.  Let’s remind ourselves who the Daily Mail thinks is the enemy.  Ah, yes.  An independent judiciary.  Very Trump.

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Hague and Cameron couldn’t detoxify the Tories – May has no chance

The Guardian:

For Theresa May, rebranding to a green and caring image is even less likely to work. First, she has effectively presided over a retox of her party: she has promoted Dominic Raab and welcomed back Liam Fox and David Davis, all of whom have strongly objected to the Tory modernisation project, claiming it takes the party away from its grass roots. Her party’s flagship purpose – Brexit – has anti-modernisation at its very core. Attempting a facelift, at this point, will be painful and difficult.

Second, she is in a far trickier position than Cameron ever was. Cameron recognised his party could not be seen as both “nice” and “effective”, but had to dance between the two. The party could be nice in the good times, as long as it dropped all that to be effective in the bad. It could be nice to attract young voters, as long as it could switch back to being effective when the older and working-class vote fell. May has no such wriggle room.

She cannot afford to lose the support of those on low incomes, and she cannot afford to be seen wasting money at a time when the economy is in peril – her party must project an air of flinty reliability. But neither can she afford to see the Tories abandoned by the young, who are overwhelmingly turning to Labour – her party must be seen to care, too. The task is almost impossible. May, dogged politician though she is, may not be the person to do it.

Relatedly:

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Eton teachers help set seven exams taken by their pupils, says headmaster

The Guardian:

Eton teachers are involved in setting seven public exams taken by their own pupils, the school’s headmaster admitted at an inquiry into exam integrity on Tuesday.

Simon Henderson told parliament’s education select committee that eight of his staff set 10 exams in total, of which seven were for papers being sat by the school’s pupils. But he said he wanted to avoid a repeat of the scandal that led to a teacher’s departure from the school earlier this year, after it was first revealed in the Guardian that pupils had had access to material that later appeared in their final exams.

And amid ongoing concern that exams are vulnerable to manipulation by unscrupulous examiners, England’s exam watchdog also told the committee that it was considering plans to crack down on classroom teachers who set public exams in the subjects they teach.

Who could have seen that?  Oh yes, from 2014: The next shoe to drop will be realisation of the scope for abuse by allowing fee-paying schools to administer their own exams.

The Deepening Divide Between the South’s Blue Cities and Red States

Truth-out:

But as in North Carolina, these progressive mayors and the city councils they lead face the challenge of operating under conservative legislatures that want to limit local power. For example, Mississippi has a preemption law barring local governments from setting minimum wages higher than the state’s $7.25 an hour, while last year the Alabama legislature blocked Birmingham’s attempt to raise the local hourly minimum wage to $10.10.

And it’s not a problem only in the South: Preemption efforts have become more common nationwide as cities in states with conservative legislatures have pushed for more progressive policies. In 2016, 36 states considered preemption legislation, up from 29 in 2015 and 23 in 2014.

As Facing South reported earlier this year, preemption laws don’t just negatively impact local sovereignty but marginalized communities as well. For example, Georgia recently passed a law barring local governments from passing “fair workweek” ordinances that require employers to compensate employees for changing their schedules without proper notice — policies aimed at improving conditions for low-wage workers, who are disproportionately people of color.

“The United States is coming to resemble two separate countries, one rural and one urban,” as Durham, North Carolina-based writer David A. Graham observed last year in The Atlantic. “Only one of them, at present, appears entitled to self-determination.”

The tensions between a state and its cities is increasing.  States want autonomy from the federal Government and yet want control over their cities.  Internet access, gun control – any number of issues.

Police review 10,000 cases in forensics data ‘manipulation’ inquiry

The Guardian:

Ten thousand criminal cases in England and Wales are being reviewed after it emerged that data at a forensic laboratory in Manchester may have been manipulated, causing the biggest recall of samples in British criminal justice history.

A minister said the alleged data manipulation was discovered in 2017 at a lab run by Randox Testing, but the Guardian can reveal that warnings about the lab run by a predecessor company date back to 2012.

Nick Hurd was forced to issue a statement acknowledging “the potential impact on public confidence” in forensic science of the revelations, while police said two cases involving road deaths had been referred to the court of appeal and about 50 prosecutions of drug-driving had been discontinued.

Those alleged to be involved in the scientific work under scrutiny had previously worked at a different firm, Trimega, which was criticised for the quality of its work in court judgments dating back to 2012. It was bought by Randox, and two senior Trimega employees were taken on in influential positions.

In 2012, an open judgment criticised Trimega for wrongly informing a court that the mother of a three- and four-year-old had been using increasing amounts of cocaine and opiates as as she fought to keep her children.

The court was told that following its error, Trimega had withheld an apology to the mother because it feared rivals would exploit it for commercial advantage.

I wonder if we’re now at the point where the cost of underwriting these mistakes has completely absorbed any notional saving from outsourcing the companies.

The Nationalist’s Delusion

The Atlantic:

Even before he won, the United States was consumed by a debate over the nature of his appeal. Was racism the driving force behind Trump’s candidacy? If so, how could Americans, the vast majority of whom say they oppose racism, back a racist candidate?

During the final few weeks of the campaign, I asked dozens of Trump supporters about their candidate’s remarks regarding Muslims and people of color. I wanted to understand how these average Republicans—those who would never read the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer or go to a Klan rally at a Confederate statue—had nevertheless embraced someone who demonized religious and ethnic minorities. What I found was that Trump embodied his supporters’ most profound beliefs—combining an insistence that discriminatory policies were necessary with vehement denials that his policies would discriminate and absolute outrage that the question would even be asked.

It was not just Trump’s supporters who were in denial about what they were voting for, but Americans across the political spectrum, who, as had been the case with those who had backed Duke, searched desperately for any alternative explanation—outsourcing, anti-Washington anger, economic anxiety—to the one staring them in the face. The frequent postelection media expeditions to Trump country to see whether the fever has broken, or whether Trump’s most ardent supporters have changed their minds, are a direct outgrowth of this mistake. These supporters will not change their minds, because this is what they always wanted: a president who embodies the rage they feel toward those they hate and fear, while reassuring them that that rage is nothing to be ashamed of.

“I believe that everybody has a right to be in the United States no matter what your color, no matter what your race, your religion, what sex you prefer to be with, so I’m not against that at all, but I think that some of us just say racial statements without even thinking about it,” a customer-care worker named Pam—who, like several people I spoke with, declined to give her last name—told me at a rally in Pennsylvania. However, she also defended Trump’s remarks on race and religion explicitly when I asked about them. “I think the other party likes to blow it out of proportion and kind of twist his words, but what he says is what he means, and it’s what a lot of us are thinking.”

Most Trump supporters I spoke with were not people who thought of themselves as racist. Rather, they saw themselves as antiracist, as people who held no hostility toward religious and ethnic minorities whatsoever—a sentiment they projected onto their candidate.

“I don’t feel like he’s racist. I don’t personally feel like anybody would have been able to do what he’s been able to do with his personal business if he were a horrible person,” Michelle, a stay-at-home mom in Virginia, told me.

Far more numerous and powerful than the extremists in Berkeley and Charlottesville who have drawn headlines since Trump’s election, these Americans, who would never think of themselves as possessing racial animus, voted for a candidate whose ideal vision of America excludes millions of fellow citizens because of their race or religion.

The specific dissonance of Trumpism—advocacy for discriminatory, even cruel, policies combined with vehement denials that such policies are racially motivated—provides the emotional core of its appeal. It is the most recent manifestation of a contradiction as old as the United States, a society founded by slaveholders on the principle that all men are created equal.

Theresa May’s policy chief quits No 10 role

The Guardian:

Theresa May’s policy chief has said he is standing down from his role at No 10 to concentrate on grassroots reform of the Conservative party.  George Freeman said an “ambitious” programme was needed to reconnect with younger voters after the Tories’ “ill-conceived” general election campaign.

Freeman called the manifesto shambolic and said it was the product of “the undemocratic concentration of power in the hands of a narrow inner circle”.

Writing in the Telegraph, he said: “When a manifesto is produced without having even being seen by ministers (or myself as chairman of the prime minister’s backbench policy board) it shows a fatal contempt for parliamentary opinion.”

Freeman has been an outspoken critic of the Conservatives’ strategic approach to grassroots members and younger voters in recent months and he hosted his own Big Tent festival dubbed the Tory Glastonbury as part of efforts to reconnect with those groups.

In the run-up to the election, he warned May that the Tories risked being seen as “a narrow party of nostalgia, hard Brexit, public sector austerity and lazy privilege”.

My emphasis.

The law we need to really regulate companies and trusts

Tax Research UK:

John McDonnell appropriately called for proper registers of beneficial ownership for companies and trusts in the Uk and its Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories today. And I support the call.

But the call is not enough. That’s because right now the UK supposedly has a register of beneficial ownership of companies and the result is an absolute farce. Recent evidence reported in Scotland was that there are just four people at Companies House in Cardiff who check the near four million annual declarations submitted by UK companies each year. This, of course, means it is impossible for them to undertake any proper checks at all on these returns. The consequence is obvious: there is in effect no checking at all on the returns made by UK companies, which can be nonsense as a result.

And that means we do not have a Register of Beneficial ownership in the UK; we have a sham that masquerades  as such a thing instead. And that is no use to anyone but a government that wants to claim it is doing something about abuse when it is actually doing nothing of the sort. In that case this is not a model to copy.

So, what can be done about this? Two things, I suggest. One is to employ a lot more people to properly regulate companies, both at Companies House and at HMRC. And this need cost the taxpayer nothing: make those using companies pay for the costs of properly regulating them is the way to avoid that. It’s really not hard to put up Companies House fees tenfold (to £130 a year) to deliver a vastly more effective service at no cost to the taxpayer at all.

Second, law that I wrote in 2013 needs to be passed. That law is here. Only clause 4 onwards matters. I also reproduce the relevant bits below because I did not write that law for the late Michael Meacher MP for fun: I wrote it because it needed to be law and as I recall it Jacob Rees Mogg talked it out in the Commons.

I’m sure Rees Mogg had the best of intentions.

Tory ex-minister who defended tax avoidance has Bahamas trust fund

The Guardian:

The former Treasury minister James Sassoon is a beneficiary of a Bahamas trust fund that has sheltered a family fortune worth hundreds of millions of dollars from tax since 1957.

The Conservative peer, who has used debates in the House of Lords to defend tax avoidance, has emerged as one of many high-profile clients of Appleby, the law firm at the centre of the Paradise Papers.

Established by his grandmother, Doris Herschorn, the trust has invested and distributed money to the peer, who is a relative of the war poet Siegfried Sassoon, his father and half a dozen family members for more than half a century. It controlled a Bahamas investment vehicle called Orchard Ltd, which in 2008 held funds worth almost $250m.

The revelation raises questions about why peers are specifically entitled by the Lords code of conduct to keep family trusts secret, when they have to declare most other significant financial interests on the official register.

Tamasin Cave of the campaign group Alliance for Lobbying Transparency said: “This is why we have disclosure rules: to ensure that MPs and peers act in the public interest and not for private gain.

“The exclusion of family trusts from these rules is an anomaly that needs to be addressed. As with any other outside interest, the public should have a right to know if an MP or peer financially benefits from or manages a trust. The financial affairs of legislators are a matter of public interest.”

My emphasis.   A reasonable question for any MP, I think.