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Volume 50 Number 28, July 25, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Trade Bill 2019-21:

The Necessity to Speak Out in the Fight to Limit the Power
of the Monopolies to Impose Trade Agreements on Society

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

Trade Bill 2019-21:
The Necessity to Speak Out in the Fight to Limit the Power of the Monopolies to Impose Trade Agreements on Society

Coronavirus and Education:
Teachers and Support Staff Are Speaking in their Own Name!

Safeguarding the Future of Education:
School Funding 2021

Workers' Forum:
Frontline Nurses Betrayed - Government Keeps Pay Held Down
March for Pay Justice for NHS and Key Workers

Conditions Still Fuelling the Covid-19 Pandemic

Reorganising the Arrangements of Government:
Cummings and Gove Push Ahead with their Overhaul of Whitehall and the Civil Service

Hands Off Venezuela!:
Return the Gold to Venezuela
Inexcusable Provocation by US Southern Command in Venezuela's Contiguous Zone
Oppose Trump's Sanctions on Venezuela

Trade Bill 2019-21:

The Necessity to Speak Out in the Fight to Limit the Power
of the Monopolies to Impose Trade Agreements on Society

On Monday, July 20, the government continued to press through its Trade Bill 2019-21 in Parliament. It has now completed all its stages in the House of Commons and it has now been passed to the House of Lords. In the debate, the government brushed aside the Opposition clauses aimed at giving Parliament some control over new and ongoing trade agreements, some protection for the NHS, and food and environmental standards, as well as workers' rights in trade agreements, which millions of people have been demanding since the Bill was tabled. Instead, the government introduced its own new clauses to further strengthen its executive power arrangements over trade agreement decisions, with new clauses allowing different public authorities to share data.

The new clause 5 that the government introduced "would allow named public authorities to share information for the purpose of facilitating the exercise of a Minister's functions relating to trade", according to Greg Hands, Minister for Trade Policy opening the report on the Trade Bill. He said: "The government have set out our ambition to have a world-leading border by 2050. This will support our aim to make the UK a globally attractive place to do business as we move forward. To achieve that ambition, the government need to make better use of the data we currently hold, and new clauses 5 and 6 are aimed at doing just that." He continued: "The government have also tabled amendments which make minor changes to the existing clause 8. These amendments are to enable Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs data to be shared with all Ministers of the Crown, where HMRC is satisfied that the data may be shared for the Minister's functions relating to trade."

The Minister, in saying that the government's aim is its "ambition to have a world-leading border by 2050", is revealing more about the ambition not just of the government but of the financial oligarchy, the oligopolies that the government represents. The global oligarchy with its factions in cut-throat competition, are aiming to get further control of state authorities, of the customs arrangements and of national borders for their own interests. The Minister even spelt it out in the new clauses that the government would assist in doing just that. The government is rejecting out of hand all of the concerns that the people and nations of Britain have expressed to the Trade Bill.

Among the amendments rejected by the government were ones in the name of Jonathan Djanogly, Conservative MP for Huntingdon. He had tabled clauses that require parliamentary approval of trade agreements. Addressing the House of Commons, he said: "I speak to the new clauses tabled in my name, and those of others, concerning the scrutiny of free trade agreements. Simply put, today the House must address the question of whether, post Brexit, the UK will have less scrutiny of free trade agreements than we had before Brexit. That is the current government proposal, which I suggest flies in the face of the claim that we leave the EU to take back control."

It was a similar story on the other amendments rejected by the government. On the amendment that would ensure that the consent of a devolved government was required, Steward Hosie, SNP MP for Dundee East, said, "It strikes me as fundamental that if we are to genuinely respect the devolved settlement in the UK, Ministers must self-evidently gain the consent of the devolved Administrations before making changes to regulations that directly affect them."

On the clause that had the aim to protect the NHS and publicly funded health and care services in other parts of Britain from any form of control from outside the UK, Labour MP for Jarrow Kate Osborne said: "I received hundreds of emails from constituents asking me to ensure that the NHS is kept off the table in any trade negotiations. I share their concerns." She pointed out that the interests of corporate America would come first in any trade deal, and that they will want a deal on their own terms both on the market in health and demanding that the NHS pays higher prices for drugs.

On the clauses rejected by the government that would set a requirement for imported agricultural goods to meet animal health and welfare standards which are at least as high as those which apply to the United Kingdom, with appropriate protection for agriculture and the environment, Mary Foy, Labour MP for City of Durham, said: "My inbox is full of constituents worried that this government are so desperate for a US trade deal that they will water down food standards, allowing for chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef to be sold on the shelves of British shops. No doubt the government will say that is scaremongering, but I ask them to explain to the farmers and voters in my constituency why they will not place food standards guarantees into the Bill. Finally, the Bill lacks any guarantee of workers' rights, human rights or environmental protections. They are vital to protecting our planet, and to improving living and working conditions across the world. They must be a cond ition of any trade deal and must be included in the Bill."

Increasingly, we see such trade agreements dictating social conditions on the people at home and in developing countries from food standards, to working conditions, to the provision of healthcare, as well as enabling financial arrangements that often dictate privatisation of water and other vital utilities. Most of these international trade agreements also contain a provision for "investor state dispute settlements", which enable corporations to sue governments in secret offshore tribunals over any government policy that might affect the "future anticipated profits" of investors.

All the rhetoric of the government about Britain "taking back control" is being further exposed in the resistance that is continuing to the Trade Bill. The reality further exposed is that the government, through its executive power, aims to further hand over control to these international corporations at the expense of the rights and interests of the peoples and nations of Britain as well the peoples and nations worldwide. Whatever happens with the outcome of the Trade Bill, this struggle is bringing to the fore the necessity for the people to have the power to make the decisions. Through their actions, the working class and people are speaking out in the fight to limit the power of the monopolies to impose trade agreements on society that are against the rights and interests of all at home and abroad.

Article Index

Coronavirus and Education

Teachers and Support Staff Are Speaking in their Own Name!

It has now been five months since the Covid-19 pandemic hit Britain. From the outset in late February and early March, as the number of cases and then deaths caused by the virus began to mount, teachers and support staff, schools and education unions, found themselves having to deal with the problems arising, as well as having to sort out the arrangements now needed in the new conditions.

Given the nature and extent of the crisis into which the whole of society was plunged, people were looking to the government for guidance and help in dealing with the new conditions. However, the government abjectly failed to respond to the calls of the education workers or to give any sort of responsible leadership throughout this time. Indeed, this whole period has been characterised by a refusal of a reckless government to address, to discuss, or even listen to the questions of what resources and support are needed at this time.

Instead of which, at various points during the last five months, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has tried to assume a veneer of authority by simply making announcements about what he and the government has decided will be, but without reference to those delivering the education, and often flying in the face of the oft-quoted science, and in direct contradiction with what was clearly needed or what teachers and their unions were desperately calling for.

By contrast, it has been the teachers, support staff and their unions who have from the outset got on with the business of doing the thinking, the preparation, the provision of new resources, and the getting to grips with an entirely new way of teaching classes using online technology and formats such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. And they have done this with the highest sense of social responsibility and the express aim of looking after the wellbeing of the children in their care.

From the word go, this whole period has shown up the contrast and contradiction between the abstract government announcements, full of sound and fury, signifying only their attempts to sound authoritative but manifestly out of step with the reality of what has been going on; and the responsible and organised discussions and actions of the teachers and education unions. Teachers, support staff and schools have, throughout this pandemic, been having widespread and mass meetings together to consult on all aspects of what needed to be done. For example, from late February, it became clear that the virus was taking hold in Britain and that the evidence from countries such as Italy and Korea was showing not only how overwhelmingly devastating this disease was, but that the immediate solution was to lock down to restrict the rapid spread of the virus.

The National Education Union (NEU) wrote and appealed to the government on March 9 and then again on March 16 to close all schools in England to stop the spread of the virus. However, the government's initial response was to claim that the science was indicating that they should follow so-called "herd immunity" and use schools to accelerate, not limit, the course of the virus. At this point, the NEU and eight other unions met online with all their members, which included the very new measure of holding online participatory meetings involving thousands of teachers and education workers. As a consequence of all this discussion, a statement was sent from the nine unions to Gavin Williamson declaring that their considered view necessitated the immediate closure of schools, and that if the government failed to heed this call, then the unions would order the mass walkout of all their members. Within days, the government then announced that schools would close on March 20 and that the whole of England would enter into lockdown from March 23.

As the virus took hold, many teachers gave up their entire Easter break to work on new resources which could be supplied to pupils online. Schools also worked overtime to provide centres for the children of essential workers. This entailed entirely new arrangements within the schools and a raft of other measures to deal with education in all aspects within the new conditions, including working out how to provide staffing of children of essential workers during lockdown, how to run any sort of school timetable online, how to look after and cater for the individual needs of vulnerable children and staff, how to fund all the health and hygiene measures that became necessary, and - looking ahead - how to manage any form of social-distancing once schools did return. And throughout there have been numerous and regular online meetings involving thousands of people all participating and working to solve the problems so that, whilst recognising, as NEU co-President Kevin Courtney expressed it, there could be no "business as usual", schools would safeguard the wellbeing of the children in their care, whilst ensuring that everything was done to continue to provide an education for all children.

On the other hand, and often in opposition to all these efforts, the government has consistently refused to consult with education unions, it failed to acknowledge the urgent need for resources to supply all of the PPE and cleaning needed within schools opening on this special basis, and it would not respond to the Five Tests drawn up by the NEU and other teaching unions calling for measures to be put in place to ensure the safety of teachers and workplaces before schools returned to on-site learning. More urgently, the government was not listening to teachers nor recognising that, within the new conditions, the vast majority of teaching was now happening online, and many teachers, and especially whole swathes of pupils from disadvantaged or poorer working class backgrounds, simply could not afford the necessary computers or internet connection costs necessary to receive this education. Instead, pronouncement followed pronouncement.

In what appears to have been a desperate bid to reassert its authority, the government abruptly announced towards the end of May that schools would reopen on June 1. However, it was not possible for many schools to comply with that date. It was then decided that a few select year groups would return on June 8, and then on June 15. However, as very little funding was offered to underpin these decisions, many schools lacked the staffing and resources to carry out them out. Other pronouncements decreed that schools would have to maintain "bubbles" of 15 children, which involved huge logistical arrangements to sort out, but which by late June had been amended to include "bubbles" of some 300 pupils, something that by that stage could hardly justify the term "bubble".

All of these "decisions" have been done in a reckless and incoherent manner, without any consultation and without any seeming regard or care for the wellbeing of those who were going to have to implement them and have been characterised by a refusal to engage with the realities on the ground.

What has become clear from all these goings on is that throughout the Covid-19 crisis it has been the educators - the teachers, support staff, schools and the education unions - who have worked tirelessly to provide an education for and to safeguard the wellbeing of all children throughout England, Scotland and Wales. To do this they have had to deal with the often irrational and arbitrary decisions being made by government. Throughout this crisis, education workers have fought to speak in their own name, and by doing so, have shown that the necessity is to acquire the power to become the authority with the right to speak and to decide what should be done to ensure the highest provision of education for pupils and students.

Article Index

Safeguarding the Future of Education

School Funding 2021

Teachers and their education unions are speaking out on the funding of education and how to safeguard the future of education.

Commenting on the government's announcement on school funding in 2021, under which school funding for 2021 does not even reach 2010 levels, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said that "it is important to be clear that this funding does not even replace the budget cuts made since this government was elected, originally as part of the Coalition in 2010."

"Even the claim that every child will see a funding rise is not true when you take account of inflation; we estimate a third of pupils will see funding in their school fall," Mary Bousted continued. "A million children are in classes of over 30 and we have the biggest primary classes in Europe, the highest in this country for over 15 years. 4,000 schools are in need of immediate repair. Class sizes will continue to rise and school buildings will continue to crumble until the government takes decisive action instead of a series of underfunded initiatives."

Educators are taking the stand that it is they who must have the decisive say over the conditions and the values of the teaching profession, and that the initiative must lie with them.

Article Index

Workers' Forum

Frontline Nurses Betrayed - Government Keeps Pay Held Down

Keep Our NHS Public, July 21, 2020

Today the government announced a pay rise for some public sector workers. It notably excludes nurses, one of the biggest health and social care workforces in Britain. Understandably, this has gone down like a lead balloon, writes nurse Jemma James, a Staff Nurse based in Newcastle and a member of Nurses United.

Nurses aren't just angry because of pay. We're angry for a lot of reasons. We're angry because of years of brutal cuts to health and social care in the name of austerity. Cuts cost lives - patients and staff. It's that simple. We're angry because nurses, carers and support workers are being paid less than a living wage and constantly told their professions are "vocations". We're angry at the ongoing privatisation of public services which has resulted in job losses, service cuts and the deaths of our most marginalised and disadvantaged. We're angry that nurses and carers have the highest suicide rates in the UK due to huge workloads, unsafe staffing ratios, lack of support and media pressure. Before Covid-19 when was the last time you heard about a nurse or carer in the media unless they'd done something wrong? We're angry at the fact we have to pay thousands of pounds to work full time, for free, to train and graduate with tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt (in England, anyway). We're angry at relying on food banks and charities such as the Cavell Trust to survive day-to-day.

We're angry, and heartbroken, that we've lost colleagues, loved ones and friends to Covid-19. The death toll has been huge. We've lost over 540 health and social care workers in the UK so far - especially care home and BAME nurses and care workers. Thousands more are still suffering from the illness and its complications. We've lost some to suicide from the trauma of what they've seen and dealt with during the pandemic whilst the survivors struggle with PTSD. Many will carry the scars for the rest of their lives.

Did the government respond with PPE, track and trace or early lockdown? No. Instead, they clapped and tried to sell us a wartime story based on "blitz spirit" and the famed "stiff upper lip". After all, it's easier to accept losses when they're phrased like they're unavoidable or a necessary and heroic sacrifice.

But we are not angels. We are not martyrs. We are not brave warriors on some imaginary front line. We are human beings. We are highly trained professionals desperately doing our best despite the odds. And then the government announced this pay rise.

NHS workers share photos of their faces bruised from wearing masks for gruelling shifts treating coronavirus patients.

This pay announcement is designed to drive a wedge between public services. The government deliberately picked teachers for the highest raise as they're the group who've been repeatedly targeted for being "paid to do nothing" which is hugely untrue but gives people a target to aim their rage and frustration at that's not the government. They also picked doctors because nurses and doctors have had each other's backs in previous pay disputes and strikes and they want to drive a wedge in there too. But why have they done it (this time)?

Maybe it was to hide last night's vote. A vote where the government refused to take all publicly owned health and social care, including the NHS, off the table for US-trade negotiations. Or maybe it's just the latest in a long line of increasingly desperate attempts by the government to point the finger at anyone and anywhere else for its disgraceful "response" to the pandemic and silence calls for a full, independent enquiry.

The truth is, all public sector workers (and many more besides) deserve a pay rise. The government wants us divided so they can watch us fight each other rather than uniting and fighting them. We cannot turn on each other. We have to stand together and say enough is enough. No more cuts. No more privatisation. No more excuses. We deserve fair pay, all of us, and now is the time to push for it.

Article Index

March for Pay Justice for NHS and Key Workers

Wednesday, 29 July 2020 from 17:00
St Thomas' Hospital

Socially-distanced protest - wear a mask!

Assemble at St Thomas Hospital from 5pm, march to Downing Street at 6pm. All welcome.

NHS workers have been criminally let down by this government. Despite all our sacrifices, the government has not included us in the pay deal for public sector workers.

We have worked masses of overtime, isolated from our families, and lost over 540 of our colleagues to Covid-19. And we are not valued.

We are calling on all NHS workers in London to join us for a socially-distanced protest to demand pay justice for all NHS workers and key workers.

NHS workers deserve a pay rise for the 20% pay cut since 2010. We need a pay rise to address the 40,000 vacancies across the NHS that puts our patients at risk. We need a pay rise because of a decade of austerity.

We need the government to act now to show they value NHS staff, before we face a second wave. Demoralised and underpaid staff won't be able to protect and care for patients through a second wave.

We are supporting the Nurses and Midwives say NO! protest on August 8, but want to mobilise people now to pressure the government and demand they increase all NHS workers and key workers' pay.

Hosted by Keep Our NHS Public, NHS Staff Voices

Article Index

Workers' Forum

Conditions Still Fuelling the Covid-19 Pandemic

Vested interests and their disregard of the health and safety of many workers, often low-paid women and minority workers, is fuelling the infection and deaths of many from Covid-19. This is not to mention the major scandal of deaths in care homes, where the government has contemptibly attempted to shift the blame onto the care home workers themselves.

On the conditions of textile workers in Leicester, where the city has had lockdown re-imposed, the TUC said: "The terrible way that workers in Boohoo's supply chain have been treated has once again exposed the huge gaps in the law that allow big companies to wash their hands of responsibility for the behaviour of their subcontractors." [1]

The TUC estimates that several million workers cannot enforce their basic rights with the companies for which they are ultimately working. [2]

It is clear that the lockdown in Leicester, with the spike of Covid-19 infections, is an example of a wider scourge. Conditions in such workplaces as food processing, abattoirs, and others, where social distancing has not been observed, have contributed to the growth in infections. Whatever the reason, spikes have also occurred in cities such as Luton and Blackburn also, which have been declared "areas of intervention", along with Leicester.

In the Leicester context, it is evident that the extra exploitation of minority workers has made the city a hotspot of the pandemic. It is reported that workers are paid as little as £4 an hour, totally unaffected by the minimum wage. And garment factories in Birmingham, Manchester, London and elsewhere are also known to exhibit sweatshop conditions.

Workers in sectors such as furniture, construction, contract cleaning, recycling and domestic work are also being paid less than the minimum wage and experience wage theft, unsafe working conditions, verbal and physical abuse, and unpaid overtime.

"Exactly the same labour abuses that the government and brands are professing shock and horror over in Leicester are happening at scale across the country," said Emily Kenway, a senior adviser at Focus on Labour Exploitation (Flex), as reported in The Guardian. "It's not just garments. In the construction sector in London we found a huge amount of abuse, underpayment of wages, verbal and physical intimidation. We know migrant cleaners are having their rights abused. The list goes on. It is not acceptable that action is only taken when the most extreme cases come to light. Basic labour laws are simply not being upheld across the country and that is corrosive and wrong."

Workers and their unions must take up this situation as a problem for solution, demanding that the dignity of labour be recognised and the rights of all workers be upheld.


1. Boohoo Group plc is a UK-based online fashion retailer. The business was founded in 2006, and had sales in 2019 of £856.9m. More than half of Boohoo's garments are produced in the UK, especially Leicester, London, and Manchester. Boohoo buys 75%-80% of the clothing produced in Leicester. This was made possible when other retailers such as ASOS and Missguided reduced the amount they sourced from Leicester over concerns about working conditions. [Source Wikipedia]

2. The July 9 issue of "Risks", a TUC bulletin of union health and safety news, carried the following paragraph:

Boohoo to investigate suppliers over exploitation claims
The online fashion retailer Boohoo is launching an independent review of its UK supply chain after allegations that some factories in Leicester that sell clothes to Boohoo paid workers below the minimum wage and failed to protect them from the coronavirus outbreak. The company had more than £1bn wiped off its value on July 6 as it pledged to investigate renewed claims that staff making its products in the city were being exploited and put in danger. Boohoo was already under fire after Labour Behind the Label, a workers' rights group, claimed that some employees at factories in Leicester that supply the fast fashion firm were "being forced to come into work while sick with Covid-19", charges the company denied. The union Usdaw has also criticised the company for leaving workers at its Burnley warehouse without PPE or sufficient social distancing (Risks 944). The TUC said last month that Boohoo was one of eight major companies that was not publishing online its Covid-19 risk ass essments (Risks 952). Boohoo, which owns brands including Pretty Little Thing and Nasty Gal, said the review would be led by Alison Levitt QC, the former head of Mishcon de Reya's white collar crime unit, and said it would initially invest £10m towards "eradicating malpractice" in its supply chain.

Article Index

Reorganising the Arrangements of Government

Cummings and Gove Push Ahead with their Overhaul of Whitehall and the Civil Service

Over the course of the Covid crisis, particularly in recent weeks, Boris Johnson's Special Adviser Dominic Cummings and Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove have been pushing through a number of changes to reorganise Whitehall and the Civil Service. "Things are possible - and they are particularly possible when crises hit," Cummings said in 2014. Now, out of the lockdown-flouting affair, Cummings has assumed a position of impunity, which is being used to push through the agenda of transforming the arrangements. "A hard rain is coming" to the Civil Service, Cummings told advisers at the end of June, following the announced departure of its head Sir Mark Sedwill earlier that month and the resignation of a number of other senior civil servants.

Other recent developments include the merger of the Department for International Development with the Foreign Office, and the mooted relocation of various Government departments out of London, to be spread around the country.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has been coming under fire by figures such as Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle for his "presidential" approach, prompted in part by the plans for US-style daily press briefings to be held at Number 9 Downing Street.

At the same time, massive cuts to departmental communication teams were internally announced on July 2. The currently 4,000 staff across 20 Government departments are to be reduced to a fraction of that size as a maximum of 30 per department is reported to be suggested [1]. Furthermore, control over these teams is to be centralised under the Cabinet Office rather than managed by the departments themselves, under a plan spearheaded by Government communications director Alex Aiken. The Financial Times reports one official as saying: "The plan is for press officers to play more of a rebuttal role. The tectonic plates are moving. It's all part of the Civil Service purge and efforts to slimline teams."

In a recent Tweet, Jonathan Powell, former Downing Street Chief of Staff to Tony Blair, called these changes a "rolling coup". The New European asserts that the Government is "aggressively politicising the Civil Service", and "plans to remake the Civil Service in its own image" [2]. Indeed, the position of National Security Adviser left by the departure of Mark Sedwill will be taken over by current European adviser and chief Brexit negotiator David Frost, a political appointee [3].

The coup being carried out is a further concentration of power by the Prime Minister and inner circle; the change of arrangements is to incorporate the Civil Service as an adjunct of this ruling elite.

Part and parcel of this is a view, being spearheaded by Cummings and Gove, on what the function of Government is. Their conception is of a Government running the country like a company. It is a neoliberal view, in that Government is conceived of as there to administer the state, manage the population, run the economy in the interests of big business, where nothing succeeds like success. Yet the powerful interests represented by Government are getting obsessed with their failure, in particular the inability to predict and hence control the situation.

In an interview with The Telegraph on July 19, Boris Johnson said: "Maybe there are ways in which we can all learn together to do things faster, to have a real spirit of 'can do'. I'm not saying that people don't have that, but there's an opportunity to learn from the crisis and to work faster."

One Downing Street official, quoted by the Financial Times, said: "People want an efficient and transparent Government which delivers on their priorities and provides value for money - and that is what the PM is going to deliver."

In a recent speech [4], Gove summarised this version of "deliverology": both Government and the Civil Service need to be focussed on quantitatively measurable effectiveness. "If Government ensures its departments and agencies share and publish data far more, then data analytics specialists can help us more rigorously to evaluate policy successes and delivery failures," he said, adding, "it is imperative that we learn the hugely valuable lessons that lie buried in our data."

Connecting this with the theme of politicisation, The New European characterises this as the "further weaponisation of evidence, research and facts in the service of pre-determined, politically-convenient outcomes".

In a move seen as significant, US recruitment agency Russell Reynolds was contracted by the Government to find a new permanent secretary for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, rather than the usual practice of hiring from within the Civil Service. As the Byline Times [5] points out, the agency is aligned with Cummings' view, aiming at recruiting those able to provide digital leadership.

Byline also draws attention to an advert to hire some thirty deputy directors, which states that the role will be "using data and evidence to make decisions and influence" and requires "experience of analysing complex problems and interpreting complex data to create and present evidence-based insight and recommendations. Using data to effectively drive recommendations, consider the impact on a vast range of customers from diverse backgrounds, understand and highlight risks to customers, and add value to the business. Encouraging others to do the same". [6]

According to The Times [7], Cummings has set up a training programme for special advisers, and has ordered them to read the book "Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction" by Philip Tetlock and "High Output Management" by Andrew Grove. The idea is that forecasting and prediction, which Cummings sees as central to governance, is a purely pragmatic activity: rather than expert knowledge, what is decisive is generic analytical techniques, statistical and probabilistic science. The assertion of Tetlock is that a "superforecaster" is a special kind of elite forecaster, one with the right personality traits.

Hence Cummings' search for "misfits with odd skills", in his words. Cummings sees governance as the exercise of this mathematical pragmatism. The search is for the geniuses with the right mindset, the personality profile combined with the flair for maths and statistics, forecasting and data processing, who can run the country as an elite. Part of the point of education is to select out and train this elite layer of people who are fit to govern [8].

The direction all along the line being pushed by Cummings and Gove is centralisation of power in the form of rule by a small elite. Referring to the Cabinet Office and Number 10 in a conference call to special advisers, it is reported that he declared that "a smaller, more focused and more elite centre is needed" [9]. Further: "it's ludicrous to suggest the solution to Whitehall's problems is a bigger centre and more centralisation" - the problem being not the centralisation, but that "it's already far too big and incoherent".


[1] Laura Hughes, "Downing Street to cut back Whitehall communications unit", Financial Times, July 2, 2020

[2] The Secret Civil Servant, "The resistance against Dominic Cummings is only getting started", The New European, July 10, 2020

[3] "Conflict Between Government and Civil Service: Head of the Civil Service and National Security Adviser Steps Down", Workers' Weekly, July 11, 2020

[4] Michael Gove, "The privilege of public service", Ditchley Annual Lecture, published by the Cabinet Office July 1, 2020

[5] David Hencke, "Dominic Cummings' Whitehall Revolution is Underway", Byline Times, May 29, 2020

[6] David Hencke, "Dominic Cummings' Shake-Up of the British State Gathers Pace", Byline Times, June 10, 2020

[7] Steven Swinford, "Read how only the paranoid survive, Dominic Cummings tells aides", The Times, July 1, 2020

[8] See Dominic Cummings' Blog, "My essay on an 'Odyssean' Education"

[9] Paul Goodman, "Johnson prepares for his new Prime Minister's department", Conservative Home, July 19, 2020

Article Index

Hands Off Venezuela!

Return the Gold to Venezuela

Francisco Dominguez, Ars Notoria, July 18, 2020

On July 2, 2020, British Judge Nigel Teare, with regard to a Central Bank of Venezuela litigation for 31 tons of gold entrusted to the Bank of England [1] to be returned to the Venezuelan state, issued a verdict in favour of 'interim president" Juan Guaidó.

The real Venezuelan government has proposed that the gold was given to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to be administered so it was used to purchase food, medicine and vital health inputs. Such a guarantee has not been demanded of Mr Guaidó.

The spurious grounds on which Teare's verdict is based are essentially that Her Majesty's Government (HMG) of the UK, "whatever the basis for the recognition", has "unequivocally recognised Mr Guaidó as President of Venezuela". Thus the UK Court rules in favour of Mr Guaidó because HMG recognised him as 'interim president' because in turn he invoked Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution.

Dr Francisco Dominguez is a senior lecturer at Middlesex University

But Justice Teare's verdict is based on a fabricated interpretation of Article 233 used by Guaidó to declare the Presidency "vacant", hence his self-proclamation. Article 233 states:

The President of the Republic shall become permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote.

President Maduro is alive, has not resigned, has not been removed from office, is not physically or mentally incapacitated, has not abandoned the Presidency, and has not been recalled by popular vote. Furthermore, the very notion of "interim presidency" does not exist in the Venezuelan Constitution.

HMG's utterances on Venezuela's domestic crisis are full of high-flying rhetoric ("democracy", "free elections", "legitimacy", "human rights" and so forth) but the true reason for Guaidó's recognition was revealed by The Canary journalist, John McEvoy, who, resorting to the Freedom of Information Act, reported on a secretive Foreign Office "Unit for the Reconstruction of Venezuela", set up in collusion with the "self proclaimed president" and which involved his "ambassador to the UK", Venezuelan-US citizen, Vanessa Neumann.

As early as May 2019, Neumann wrote to FCO officials [2] that she had contacted Rory Stewart at DFID [Department for International Development] for a meeting that "will sustain British business in Venezuela's reconstruction"; the discussions also included "Venezuela debt restructuring".

Thus, HMG extended recognition for Mr Guaidó as laying the ground to fully participate in the spoils once and if US policy of "regime change" came to fruition. The irony is that Jeremy Hunt, in his official Guaidó recognition statement - probably at the same time he said he was "delighted to co-operate with the US on freezing Venezuelan gold deposits in the BoE" - charged the government of President Maduro with being "kleptocratic". A typical UK colonial pillage operation disguised as altruistic concern motivated by ethical political principles.

Demonstration at the Bank of England demanding the return of Venezuelan gold

Mr Guaidó is not only thoroughly discredited in Venezuela, where he enjoys little support, but substantial sections of the opposition have publicly broken with him and have constructively engaged with President Maduro in creating the best conditions for the coming elections to the National Assembly on December 6, 2020, which includes a new agreed National Electoral Council. After that there will be not even be fictional basis for the UK, the US or the EU to continue recognising Guaidó. Thus, with sublime hypocrisy, Trump excepted, Europe and the UK de facto recognise the Bolivarian government: they all, including the UK, have ambassadors in Caracas who have presented their credentials to President Maduro in public ceremonies.

After a recent diplomatic spat with Maduro, the EU applied sanctions on 11 Venezuelans, including opposition politicians who favour elections, dialogue, and who oppose Guaidó's sanctions, violent "regime change" and external interference, leading the latter to expel the EU ambassador. A joint communiqué [3] by Jorge Arreaza and Josep Borrell, foreign ministers of Venezuela and the EU respectively, resolved it. They "agreed to promote diplomatic contacts between the parties at the highest level, within the framework of sincere cooperation and respect for international law".

Given his farcical "self-proclamation", Guaidó's democratic credibility has been highly dubious - if he ever had any. Since then he has associated himself with Colombian narco-paramilitaries; used paramilitary force to try and control Venezuelan territory in preparation for external (US) forces to invade; staged a failed coup seeking to oust the Maduro government by force; contracted US mercenaries to carry out an attack on the presidential palace and kidnap and/or assassinate President Maduro and high government officials; and he and his entourage reek of corruption, leading many to resign in disgust [4].

Guaidó's "presidency" unequivocally controls nothing, not even a street lamp in Venezuela. He is just a device for the pillage of his country's vast wealth. Does the UK government seriously intend to hand over Venezuela's gold to such a felonious character? Likewise, why do European countries continue to recognise such a repellent and corrupt US proxy?

The Central Bank of Venezuela will appeal seeking to reverse Judge Teare's decision so that the gold can be returned to its rightful owners ( and through the UNDP can be used to continue saving lives against the pandemic. Retaining illegally these resources from Venezuela in the middle of the pandemic is denying the human rights of 32 million ordinary, Chavista and non-Chavista, Venezuelans.

Dr Francisco Dominguez is a senior lecturer at Middlesex University, where he is head of the Research Group on Latin America. He is National Secretary of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign. Dominguez came to Britain in 1979 as a Chilean political refuge. Ever since he has been active on Latin American issues, about which he has written and published extensively. He is co-author of Right wing politics in the New Latin America (Zed Books).


1. The minutes of the Court of Directors of the Bank of England of May 19, 2020, contain a note that "lawyers acting for President Maduro's current (unrecognised) government in Venezuela had made a claim in the UK Court for delivery of gold, currently held by the Bank as custodian for the Central Bank of Venezuela" and that "[g]iven its responsibilities as custodian, the Bank would oppose the application and resist the claim on the grounds that the Maduro appointee at the Venezuelan central bank had no authority".

2. John McEvoy, "Revealed: Secretive British unit planning for 'reconstruction' of Venezuela", the Canary, May 13, 2020

3. Joint communiqué after the phone call between High Representative Borrell and Minister Arreaza, July 2, 2020

4. Orlando Avendaño, "Exclusive Interview with Juan Guaido's Former Ambassador to Colombia", Panam Post, July 24, 2020

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Hands Off Venezuela!

Inexcusable Provocation by US Southern Command in Venezuela's Contiguous Zone

Ministry of Peoples' Power for Foreign Affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

No War on Venezuela Demonstration at the Bank of England, February 23, 2020

In a press release on July 15, US Southern Command stated that one of its warships, allegedly engaged in an "enhanced counter-narcotics operations" in the Caribbean, had "challenged Venezuela's excessive maritime claim in international waters" in what it called a freedom of navigation operation. In response, the Venezuelan government has issued the following communiqué:

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela addresses the national and international community on the occasion of its denouncing of the infamous statements issued by the United States Southern Command through its official social media accounts, in which it points out that Venezuela is exercising "excessive control" over its jurisdictional waters, while the war vessel USS PINCKNEY (DDG-91) was sailing in our Contiguous Zone at a distance of sixteen point one (16.1) nautical miles from the Venezuelan coast.

The illegal entry of the US vessel into Venezuelan jurisdictional waters is a clear violation of International Maritime Law and can only be described as an inexcusable act of provocation - erratic and childish - which is being carried out as a result of the recent visit of Donald Trump to the aforementioned military command in Florida, in his desperate campaign to attract the Latino vote in that state in exchange for permanent and illegal aggression against Venezuela.

The institutions of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, particularly its Bolivarian National Armed Forces, will ensure respect for the sacred sovereignty and territorial integrity of Venezuela at all costs according to international law, contemplating all actions deemed necessary, without falling into absurd provocations intended to affect the peace and tranquility of Venezuelans, as well as the Latin American and Caribbean peoples.

Caracas, July 16, 2020

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Hands Off Venezuela!

Oppose Trump's Sanctions on Venezuela


We oppose Trump's illegal sanctions on Venezuela, which have created an ever-tightening economic blockade.

This is severely hampering Venezuela's efforts to tackle the coronavirus outbreak and putting the lives of ordinary people at risk. Under US influence, the IMF has also refused a $5 billion loan request by Venezuela to combat the pandemic.

We join a wide spectrum of countries, organisations and prominent figures across the world - including the Pope, the EU, the UN General Secretary and many others - in calling for US sanctions to be suspended.

The post appeared first on the website of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign (

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