Batley and Spen by-election billed as crucial test for Labour leader Keir Starmer

Support us and go ad-freeVoters in the West Yorkshire constituency of Batley and Spen are going to the polls in a by-election touted as a fundamental test of Keir Starmer’s leadership of the Labour Party. Labour is defending a majority of more than 3,000 in the seat. Starmer’s spokesman has insisted he will not resign if Labour loses but new polling this week suggested that as many as four in 10 party members would want him to stand down and make way for new leadership in the wake of a loss. Supporters of deputy leader Angela Rayner have been preparing for her to challenge Starmer’s leadership if he…

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Government gives Serco Test and Trace contract worth millions despite a history of failure

Support us and go ad-freeOutsourcing giant Serco has won a new contract worth up to £322m to continue running coronavirus (Covid-19) testing sites for another year. Bosses said they signed a new deal with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to operate regional, local, and mobile testing centres in England and Northern Ireland following a competitive tendering process. The value of the new contract could change significantly due to its flexibility to levels of demand in coming months, they added. The contract is for 12 months with the option of a six month extension. This is despite Serco’s involvement in last year’s Test and Trace system,…

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Tadpoles among the first in line to test the UK’s G7 biodiversity promise

Support us and go ad-freeTadpoles have emerged as unlikely pioneers who are putting the UK government’s G7 promise on biodiversity to the test. At the recent summit, the government signed up to a range of “commitments to biodiversity and sustainability” in the G7 Nature Compact. Among its promises, the government has pledged to “dramatically increase investment in nature”, account for nature in all economic and financial decisions, and show leadership on “the protection, conservation and restoration” of critical ecosystems. Enter the tadpoles. Researchers have found that a disease that is thought to have caused mass casualties in frog tadpole populations in the US has come to Britain. They…

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MPs say ‘no clear evidence’ Test and Trace scheme works in critical report

A cross-party group of MPs has said there’s “no clear evidence” the £22bn Test and Trace scheme contributed to lower coronavirus (Covid-19) infection levels. “Staggering” Meg Hillier, chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) behind a critical report, urged the government to justify the “staggering investment of taxpayers’ money”. The MPs said ministers had justified the vast expenditure on preventing a second national lockdown. But they they questioned the programme’s effectiveness noting that England is currently living under its third lockdown. They also urged the scheme, led by Tory peer Dido Harding, to “wean itself off” reliance on thousands of “expensive” consultants and temporary staff. Some of…

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Shamima Begum loses British citizenship in landmark test case

Shamima Begum has failed to restore her British citizenship after the Supreme Court ruling that she’d lost her case. 21-year-old Begum was infamously groomed as a 15-year-old child. She was a minor when she entered Syria and also when she married an ISIS fighter. All three of her children have since died. Begum was born in the UK. The government has cited her Bangladeshi heritage as proof of her claim to statehood in Bangladesh. However, Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has refused entry and citizenship for Begum. Begum hasn’t been allowed to return to the UK over the course of the trial. According to the Guardian: Lord Pannick QC,…

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Catalans set to vote in an election that could be a test for the separatist movement

Voting has started in Spain’s north-eastern Catalonia as 5.3 million voters are called to cast their ballots. It’s an election that will test the region’s secessionist movement. Salvador Illa will lead the ticket of the Socialists’ Party of Catalonia. Until January, he was in charge of Spain’s coronavirus (Covid-19) response as its health minister. A tight race Illa is hoping to end the hold that pro-independence politicians have held in the regional parliament for the past decade. Polls, however, predict a tight race. The Socialists will compete for votes with the two leading pro-secession parties, the left-wing Republic Left of Catalonia and the centre-right Together for Catalonia. People…

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Financial watchdogs criticise government’s car crash handling of Test and Trace

Financial watchdogs have sharply criticised the government’s handling of the coronavirus (Covid-19) Test and Trace operation and insisted it must do better.Not enough and too fewNot enough test results are delivered within 24 hours, and too few contacts of infected people are being reached and told to self-isolate, an interim study by the National Audit Office (NAO) found. With the budget for the Test and Trace service for 2020-21 soaring to £22bn, the financial watchdogs said the situation needed to improve.The NAO found that while the government had “rapidly scaled up” the operation from a low base, at times “parts of the national tracing service have barely been…

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Boris Johnson shamelessly uses an MP’s Covid diagnosis to plug his failed Test and Trace system

Boris Johnson has, once again, made news headlines for being exposed to coronavirus (Covid-19). And yet again, Downing Street appears reckless in taking the necessary precautions to prevent the virus from spreading. Not one to miss a trick, the prime minister grabbed the opportunity to shamelessly plug the Test and Trace system in a home-made propaganda video. It’s a futile attempt to cover up just how much the Tories have failed us, and just how disgraceful the Test and Trace system has been so far. Flouting his own rules. Again. Tory MP Lee Anderson travelled from Nottinghamshire to meet with the prime minister inside No 10 on Thursday,…

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Serco profits soar while Test and Trace reaches lowest ever proportion of contacts

The NHS Test and Trace system has reached the lowest ever proportion of contacts of people who tested positive for coronavirus (Covid-19) in England.Four in 10 close contacts of people who tested positive are still not being reached by the system, at the same time as it recorded its highest weekly number of positive cases.A total of 137,180 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to 28 October – an increase of 8% on the previous week and the highest weekly number since Test and Trace was launched at the end of May.According to the latest figures, 59.9% of close contacts of…

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