It’s Tuesday, #TheWeekInTory is already 80 points long, and I’m very sorry you have to read it.
And even more sorry I had to write the bloody thing.
Anyway, here goes.
1. The govt announced quarantine for people returning from France
2. It waited until everyone had made travel plans, then brought the policy forwards 24 hours
3. And then an MP using the name “Grant Shapps” helpfully told everybody the wrong date for the start of quarantine
4. Irony’s own Bermuda Triangle, Priti Patel, said migrants were only coming here because the French are all racist and Germans torture people
5. Days after MoD said Patel’s plans for channel protection were “completely potty”, the Navy refused to send warships into the Channel
6. And the UN said her ideas were “very troubling” and would cause “fatal incidents”
7. The govt proceeded with plans to end the furlough scheme, after think-tanks predicted would cost 2 million jobs
8. Universal Credit requires £11bn extra investment to make it cope with current levels of claims, and here come another £2m
9. So naturally, the govt made applications for Universal Credit “online only”, after removing 4000 computers from libraries and job centres since 2015
10. The govt claimed 90% of homeless people were helped off the streets, but data actually showed rough-sleeping rose sharply
11. So govt will scrap the ban on evictions in 5 days’ time, predicted to cause 220,000 extra people in England to become homeless just as winter starts
12. The National Residential Landlords Association said the ban on evictions was “an unnecessary hindrance to our members”
13. 28% of Tory MPs are landlords, and I’m going to mark that down as “an incredible coincidence” and ask no further questions
14. News of unnecessary hindrances brings me to top fireplace salesman Gavin Williamson. He started the week modestly, with a cheery pledge to starve 175,000 children of immigrants, by stopping their free meals while their families cannot legally work or claim benefits
15. All the way back in the mists of time (in May) the govt instructed Ofqual to tell teachers to spend hours per-pupil creating estimated grades, which were reviewed and approved by headteachers
16. But then toothsome mantis Gavin Williamson decided teachers know less than quickly-written and badly-tested software does, and commissioned an algorithm to invent grades for this year’s students, based largely on totally different students from different years
17. The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) offered to help assess the outcome of the algorithm after staff at Dept for Education raised concerns. But the govt put barriers in the way which would prevent the RSS from operating properly for 5 years. So they couldn’t help.
18. Gavin Williamson is on record instructing Ofqual to design a system that could not allow grade inflation
19. But this week, in a wildly unpredictable turn of events, he blamed Ofqual for – brace yourself – designing a system that did not allow grade inflation
20. But private schools did get grade inflation, an average 8x the increase state schools got
21. On average, 40% of state schools results were downgraded, and in Northern England it was as high as 84%
22. In some subjects, 98.9% of results from private schools were inflated
23. The Times reports the govt still plans to use the algorithm for GCSE’s, but will not downgrade any results, only upgrade them: which only benefits private schools
24. And then a maelstrom of policy changes began: first, students were barred from appealing against results
25. Then they were permitted to appeal results, at a cost of £113 per exam
26. Then it was announced schools would pay the fees, even though schools are not only closed, but broke, having had £7bn cut from their budget by Tories
27. And then it was announced the appeals would be free, even though Ofqual has no facilities to handle that number of appeals
28. And then they cancelled the appeals program completely
29. All that appeals stuff happened in just 48 hours
30. When Scotland used the algorithm, it led to a crisis and had to be abandoned, and Tories called for the Scottish Education Minister to resign
31. Regardless, the UK govt implemented the algorithm that had just been proven to fail, and seemed surprised when it failed
32. The Minister of Innovation said A-Levels don’t matter as much as “grit and determination”, and his failure at Harrow “taught me how to hustle”. He is the 5th Lord Bethan, and “hustled” his way to a hereditary peerage as a result of his Dad dying. Good hustling, dude!
33. Gavin Williamson said there would be “No U-turn, no change”, which I think he got from a sign outside a toll-booth on the M6
34. Boris Johnson said, “be in no doubt about it, the exam results that we’ve got today are robust, they’re good, they’re dependable for employers”
35. The Daily Mail – yes, even them – reported the govt only changed its mind after the headmaster of Eton – yes, even them – complained about the unfairness
36. The UK Equalities Watchdog warned it would intervene because the algorithm results were discriminatory
37. Gavin Williamson claimed he only spotted the flaws “at the weekend”, but hours later it was revealed the Commons Education Dept warned him of all these flaws and dangers, in person, and then in a report sent to him on 10th July
38. On the steps of Downing St the day he became PM, Johnson said “My job is to make sure your kids get a superb education, wherever you are from. I will take personal responsibility. The buck stops here”.
39. Boris Johnson is busy “glamping”, so in his absence it was decided the buck stops at the head of Ofqual, who simply followed ministerial instructions; and at Gavin Williamson’s permanent secretary, who was unceremoniously sacked for doing what his boss told him
40. Meanwhile, Williamson felt the best use of his time was to pose for a photo with little on his desk but a cup, a seemingly empty file, and a whip (for reasons that bewilder, but are in keeping with his apparent background as a mildly disturbing minor Addams Family character)
41. Winston Churchill’s grandson, a Tory MP, said of Gavin Williamson “what could have been in the Prime Minister’s mind that led him to appoint so mere, so unreliable, so wholly unsuitable a man to one of the most important jobs in Government”
42. A Tory MP said “It was as clear as day that there would be an issue, given what happened in Scotland, yet they fucked around”
43. A poetic Tory MP said the govt was “wanking into the void”, and if that’s not the name of a band by midnight, what’s the point of anything?
44. There are now calls for Ofqual to be abolished and replaced with something that will probably be worse, but as yet no news on which unqualified but vaguely aristocratic Tory MP’s wife will run it. I’ll keep you posted.
45. Meanwhile, Gavin Williamson had promised to provide laptops to disadvantaged students during the lockdown, but only half the required laptops were delivered, and 27 Academy Trusts got just 1 laptop each, to be shared between over 2000 students
46. After the stunning success of this bit of Artificial Intelligence, the govt announced plans to boost Whitehall AI spending by £200m. The money will go to Faculty AI, which has links to [checks notes] a Mr Dominic Cummings, resident of Whitehall and Specsavers in Durham
47. Rumours that the govt has an algorithm that turns every minister into Chris Grayling are unfounded
48. Chris Grayling – I mean, Gavin Williamson – now has to persuade parents that he’s competent enough to make schools safe for their kids to return. Good luck with that, Gav.
49. The govt had 5 months to plan and execute one exam policy affecting 335,000 students
50. The govt now has 4 months to plan and execute over 2000 Brexit policies affecting 67 million of us, and every business in the country. Brace, brace.
51. On the subject of Brexit, this week Boris Johnson said there would only be a customs border in the Irish Sea “over my dead body”.
52. The same Boris Johnson signed the Withdrawal Agreement that creates a customs border in the Irish sea
53. Trade Secretary and part-time punchline Liz Truss promised “I will consign these unfair tariffs to the bin of history” when she makes her stern demands in a trade deal between USA (world’s biggest economy) and UK (2% of global trade). I bet the USA is shitting itself.
54. Meanwhile, after Liz Truss sang the praises of a potential deal with NZ (value: 4% of the trade we will lose with a No Deal Brexit) the NZ deputy PM said “Britain is not match fit for trade talks” and was “beset with inertia”
55. Boris Johnson promised “lower costs and a bonfire of red tape” as a result of Brexit
56. So imagine my shock when this week the govt pledge £355m to help companies in NI deal with “a new wave of red tape”
57. The govt scrapped Public Health England in the middle of a pandemic. Cos that’s what we need. Not testing. Just a new sign over a door.
58. It then appointed Dido Harding to the replacement organisation, even though the replacement organisation didn’t exist at the time
59. Some notes on Dido Harding, in case you’re unfamiliar with her impressive record of failing upwards
60. The Evening Standard – a Tory-supporting paper – wrote of her “Dido Harding’s utter ignorance is a lesson to us all”
61. She ran the programme that spent 15x the worldwide average building a tracing app that she was told wouldn’t work, unsurprisingly didn’t work work, and which it then scrapped without publishing accounts of where that £13m went
62. She runs Test and Trace, described as “not fit for purpose, let alone world-beating” by the chair of NHS Providers
63. Her £100m Test and Trace programme traced only 56% of cases, compared with Blackburn council, who traced 98% without a penny of new funding
64. She is a Tory peer, married to a Tory MP, who is adviser to a group that campaigns for the defunding, break-up and sale of the NHS; and if you wanted that, putting somebody famous for “utter ignorance” in charge would be a good first step
65. She’s on the board of The Jockey Club, which is based in Matt Hancock’s constituency and gave tens of thousands in donations to Matt Hancock, and then coincidentally got dispensation to stay open for 180,000 unwitting fans when the Covid 19 outbreak began
66. A major Jockey Club sponsor is Randox, to whom her husband is an adviser, and which coincidentally got a £133m contract to produce testing kits without any other providers being allowed to bid for the work
67. Her husband – get this – is a “Govt Anti-Corruption Champion”
68. More govt anti-corruption, and Serco got a £108m contract, just months after it was fined £2.6m for buggering up a previous contract. The minister awarding the contract? A former Serco lobbyist. Chief exec of Serco? A Tory MP.
69. Meanwhile, Medical Examiners have been instructed not to make public the results of investigations into hundreds of deaths of NHS workers who didn’t have PPE
70. The value of utterly useless PPE rose from a mere £50m last week to £300m this week
71. And who got the contracts for useless PPE? A company part-owned by a friend and advisor to Liz Trust. Did I say Trust? I meant Truss. Definitely not Trust.
72. Meanwhile, Sajid Javid, employed full-time as an MP, also took a job at banking giant JP Morgan; cos if the last 10 years has taught us anything, it’s that there’s no danger in MPs or bankers not fully concentrating on what they’re doing
73. The Royal Society issued a report saying relaxing the lockdown early would “inflate deaths and deepen recession”
74. So obviously, the govt relaxed the lockdown in Leicester
75. The Chief Exec of the care home charity CIC said the care sector was “being left to prepare for a second wave alone” as it has received no advice or assistance from govt
76. 10% of care home residents died of Covid in the first half of this year. Not laughing now, are you
77. Weeks after it was proven Russia was regularly attempting to pervert UK democracy, a report found “an ongoing risk of cyber security incidents within Cabinet Office due to the vulnerability of legacy IT systems”, and Michael Gove is directly responsible for fixing it
78. Michael Gove was found to use an insecure email account under the name “Mrs Blurt” (and boasting of blurting as a way of deterring spies is, shall we say, novel) to discuss govt business with Dominic Cummings. So I don’t have terribly high hopes
79. The govt continued to focus on the big stuff, by converting a privy council room in number 9 Downing St into a TV studio it dubbed “the best in the world” – but then again, isn’t everything in this list?
80. The “best in the world” studio isn’t big enough to fit socially distanced journalists, the PM hasn’t even got an official spokesman, and Civil Service regulations prevent one from being appointed but the govt hadn’t realised that
It’s Tuesday. We have 3 more days of this week to go.
I’ll be here again in a few days, and in the interim I will accept gifts of good single malt whisky, or heroic doses of laudanum
Originally tweeted by Russ (@RussInCheshire) on 18/08/2020.