Literally read the room! Fury as Tory council leader tucks into buffet at food bank opening

The image of Dartford’s Tory council leader grinning as he cut the ribbon to open a food bank has rightly sent people into orbit, as the pics emerged.

www.thelondoneconomic.com 

But now more details have been discovered about the buffet they had afterwards, more of this later.

As you can see from the tweet below the initial unveiling didn’t go down very well…

James O’Brien also tweeted: “WTF are they all so happy about?”

It comes a Conservative MP has been slammed for suggesting people in the UK use food banks because they “cannot cook properly” and “cannot budget”.

Ashfield MP, Lee Anderson, invited “everybody” on the opposition benches in the House of Commons to visit a food bank in Ashfield, Notts, where, when people come for a food parcel, they now need to register for a “budgeting course” and a “cooking course”.

He claimed food bank users in his constituency are shown how to cook meals for “about 30 pence a day”.

Buffet

Now another image has revealed the party went on to enjoy a buffet after the opening event – in the same church building where desperate families will queue for handouts.

The leader of the local Tory council, Jeremy Kite, was among those tucking into the food.

Pictures of the event were hastily deleted from his Facebook page once they were spotted.

Nicholas Hair, a Labour council candidate in Bexley, said: ‘Having worked with colleagues in Dartford, and seeing the destitution of up to two million people across this country right now, this was disgusting to see.

‘Food banks are not “heart warming”, they are evidence of a failure of government and of a society to seek social justice.’

Reactions

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Sewage dumps into English rivers widespread, criminal inquiry suspects

A criminal investigation into water companies in England has uncovered suspected widespread illegal sewage discharges from treatment plants, the Environment Agency has revealed.

Remember “The tories just voted against an amendment to stop water companies dumping raw sewage into rivers” (Including Simon Jupp and Neil Parish) – Owl

www.theguardian.com 

The investigation into more than 2,200 water treatment plants run by all 10 water companies is examining whether the firms breached legal regulations about when and how frequently they are allowed to release raw sewage into waterways.

The EA said an initial examination of hundreds of documents from the water firms “confirmed that there may have been widespread and serious non-compliance with the relevant regulations”.

Breaching the legal regulations amounts to illegal dumping of raw sewage, and criminal penalties apply. Last year, Southern Water was fined a record £90m for illegally discharging billions of litres of raw sewage into coastal waters off Hampshire and Kent. The company argued in court that the discharges had not been deliberate, and said it was committed to transformation, transparency and cultural change.

The revelations came as members of the public, NGOs and charities rejected as too little and too late government plans to cut the scale of raw sewage discharges into rivers and seas.

Targets drawn up by government and put out to consultation include a requirement for water companies to reduce the frequency of discharges to bathing waters by 70% by 2035, or significantly reduce harmful pathogens they contain, for example by using ultraviolet radiation.

By 2040, 160,000 discharges of raw sewage through storm overflows into all waters should be eliminated, and by 2050 ministers are promising to eliminate approximately 320,000 discharges, about 80% of the total, into all waters.

The latest Environment Agency figures recorded the scale of raw sewage discharges from the 15,000 storm overflows in England in 2021 as 372,533 discharges for a combined total of more than 2.7m hours. In 2020, there were more than 400,000 sewage discharges, totalling more than 3m hours.

The majority, 55.2%, of the 18,268 people who responded to the consultation via 38 Degrees, a campaign group that regularly helps the public respond to government consultations, disagreed with the timescale and scope of the government’s targets. Questioned further, 83.9% said the timeframes being proposed by the government were much too long.

Matt Richards, campaign manager at 38 Degrees said: “The conclusion we can draw from this is that, regardless of people’s stated views of the proposed targets, the overwhelming majority want the government to move much quicker than they are currently proposing.”

Christine Colvin, of the Rivers Trust, said: “We think this plan gives us too little, too late. We need to see a broader scope that includes clear milestones for government as well as water companies, and much more urgency and ambition. We want to have healthy rivers fit for people and wildlife within the decade, not by 2050.”

Any release of raw sewage into rivers and coastal waters through storm overflows is supposed to take place only after exceptional weather and according to conditions in the permits issued by the EA.

Fish Legal, in its response to the consultation, also rejected the timeline and ministers’ proposed approach. It said the ambition to cut discharges into bathing waters was “extremely limited”.

The legal group also condemned the entire approach of the reduction plan. It said: “There appears to be an assumption running though this consultation that most storm overflows only happen due to excessive rainfall … The Environment Agency, as a regulator, also appear to have been working on that assumption … Our members and the public therefore do not share the Environment Agency’s confidence.

“The Environment Agency has previously taken a passive approach to regulating these discharges, relying on the water companies to collect and even analyse the relevant data. If nothing else, the current major investigation into water companies’ permit compliance is a tacit admission that operator self-monitoring and self-reporting – a situation whereby the water companies oversee their own works and report their own permit compliance – has not worked.”

A report by the environmental audit committee in January found that rivers were being subjected to a chemical cocktail of sewage, agricultural waste and plastic pollution.

Champagne bottle signed by Boris Johnson auctioned at charity event ‘as souvenir of Partygate’

A champagne bottle signed by Boris Johnson was auctioned off at a charity event “as a souvenir of partygate”.

Tories really are in a class of their own! – Owl

Chiara Giordano www.independent.co.uk

Food critic Jay Rayner tweeted an image showing a description of the bottle from what appeared to be the page of an auction catalogue.

Beneath the title “Bottle of champagne signed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson”, the description read: “A bottle of champagne signed by Boris. Hugely valuable as a souvenir of partygate and the exemplary behaviour and morality of our dear leader! Donated by: Oliver Dowden”.

Sharing the image on Twitter on Friday morning, Mr Rayner wrote: “Perhaps you thought the Conservative party took partygate seriously.

“Last night a champagne bottle signed by @BorisJohnson was donated to a charity event in Hertfordshire by local MP and Tory party chairman @OliverDowden. Read the description.”

Mr Dowden, who has been the MP for Hertsmere since 2015 and co-chairman of the Conservative Party since 2021, confirmed he donated the item – but had no knowledge of the description.

The MP’s spokesperson said: “This item was donated in good faith several months ago for a local charity auction.

“Oliver Dowden had no prior knowledge of the description and this is obviously not his view.”

The Metropolitan Police on Thursday announced the number of fines handed out to government staff for law-breaking parties held during the Covid-19 pandemic had doubled to more than 100.

Scotland Yard said last month that 50 referrals had been made to the criminal records office for fixed penalty notice (FPN) fines over parties in Downing Street and Whitehall when the country was under strict social-distancing rules.

In an update, the Met said its Operation Hillman team had now recommended 100 fines. The force said its investigation, into 12 separate events, remained ongoing.

Number 10 said Boris Johnson had not been issued with another fine, after he was punished last month over his rule-breaking birthday party in June 2020.

Slashing Civil Service jobs – the incoherence of slogan politics

Cutting civil service jobs is an old chestnut that plays well with the right wing.

Owl looks at three consequences of this proposed solution to the cost of living crisis that has emerged in place of an emergency budget from the Stoke-on-Trent awayday.

Depriving 91,000 (one in five) civil servants of their jobs, as we teeter on the brink of recession, seems a perverse way of dealing with the short term impact of the  cost of living crisis. It surely can only make matters worse.

The civil service has been increased to deal with Brexit. Reducing it  size will  inevitably reduce the services the government can deliver.  With 38 new bills announced in the Queen’s speech, what is the government now going to stop doing? Boris Johnson’s administration consistently falls short on delivery eg issuing visas to Ukrainian refugees. Its record on the value for money of contracting work out cronies isn’t too good either.

Civil service jobs are (or were until the cabinet went on its awayday brainstorming session) considered by the government to be so prestigious that a key part of the Levelling Up programme envisages moving 22,000 of them out of London. The recent Bloomberg analysis points this up as one of the consistent failings of Boris Johnson to meet his own levelling up targets. Only a couple of days ago Michael Gove gave us his views that arithmetical targets were not a thing of beauty.

Tiverton & Honiton: Voters in porn MP by-election desert Johnson’s Tories

Swing voters in Tiverton & Honiton have said that they will not vote for the Conservatives until the “lying buffoon” Boris Johnson has quit, boosting the Liberal Democrats’ hopes in an impending by-election.

[Neil’s comeback story continues across the press under various headlines eg. “Tractor pull the other one! Porn MP is eyeing up a comeback” www.thelondoneconomic.com]

Chris Smyth www.thetimes.co.uk 

A focus group for Times Radio found that voters in the Devon constituency who supported the Tories in the last election were swinging towards the Lib Dems as they lost faith in the prime minister.

Some said that they would never vote for the party until it had a different leader despite a lukewarm reception for Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer, who was described as bland.

The findings will boost Lib Dem hopes of overturning a 24,239 Tory majority in a by-election prompted by the resignation of Neil Parish, the MP who was caught watching pornography in the Commons.

While the voters were not enthused by Sir Ed Davey — with one describing him as the “British version of Biden, been around forever but known for not doing anything” — their hesitation about voting for his party has largely evaporated.

One voter, Andrew, who is retired, said that he had “begun to really not respect Boris. He’ll say anything and does very little to deliver”. Lucinda, a charity worker, said: “A lot of people have lost trust in Boris and the Conservatives — it’s just a bit of a mockery.”

James Johnson, Theresa May’s former pollster who ran the focus group for Kekst CNC, likened the issue of Downing Street parties to the Iraq war for Tony Blair, or Nick Clegg’s broken pledge on university tuition fees, in causing a permanent loss of trust.

The voters described the prime minister variously as a “lying buffoon”, “just an idiot”, a “selfish greedy man”, and a “self-promoting arsehole” and told him: “Do the right thing, resign, we don’t want to be led by a clown.”

They dismissed Johnson’s argument that he had got the “big calls right” as “smoke and mirrors”, describing him as an opportunist.

Four of the six voters opted for Starmer over Johnson, despite a lack of enthusiasm for the Labour leader. Starmer was described as “weak”, “boring” and “a bit like Theresa May”, although some voters contrasted his lack of charisma positively with “bombastic, buffoonish Boris”.

Almost all the voters described the cost-of-living crisis as the main issue in the forthcoming by-election, with some also mentioning GP appointments and local issues such as pot holes and new development. James Johnson argued that this meant “the issue agenda is stacked heavily in the Lib Dems’ favour”, adding: “the Lib Dems are seen as a ‘credible’ party, ‘the lesser of evils’ and a ‘happy medium’ to vote for. There was no mention of tuition fees.”

Read the full conversation by clicking on this tweet: