Why Barnard Castle?

Reproduced in full from: Craig Murray Please share widely.

UPDATED Dominic Cummings specifically stated now in the press briefing that he had been eager to “get back to work to get vaccine deals through, move regulations aside” and that is why he drove to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight.

Now it may be entirely a coincidence that the place to which he chose to drive for his eyesight test happened to be the site of the major factory of GlaxoSmithKline. It may be an entire coincidence that two days later, on the very day Cummings actually started work back in Downing Street he has stated was “to get vaccine deals through”, GlaxoSmithKline announced an agreement to develop the vaccine.

It is however plainly not crazy to ask the question. This astonishing Twitter pile-on against Clive Lewis for retweeting my piece says something very worrying, when you consider that the large majority of those piling in are supposedly part of the “opposition” and include many journalists. A society where it is viewed as a sign of madness to look into the prospect of corruption involving a company as massively, provenly corrupt as GlaxoSmithKline and a figure as shady as Cummings, is a very unhealthy society indeed.

One red flag to me is the number of trolls claiming GlaxoSmithKline only has a small and remote office in Barnard Castle. This is not the entire site, and in a further £96 million investment two new blocks are in construction or recently finished:

So to return to my original posting:

In 2012 GlaxoSmithKline were fined $3 billion for fraud, overcharging and making false claims about medicines in the USA. In 2016, GlaxoSmithKline were fined £37.6 million in the UK for bribing companies not to produce generic copies of their out of patent drugs, thus overcharging the NHS.

Despite the fines, these frauds were still massively profitable for GlaxoSmithKline. A perfunctory search on the company brings up similar frauds and fines it perpetrated in South Africa and India. All this within the last decade. I cannot find any information that anyone was jailed, or even sacked, for these criminal activities. It is absolutely astonishing that such an habitually criminal enterprise carries on serenely in the UK. And what is particularly interesting today is that it carries on its crooked activity from its massive manufacturing and research base in Barnard Castle, County Durham.

On 12 April Dominic Cummings was seen in Castle Barnard during lockdown. Two days later, GlaxoSmithKline of Barnard Castle signed an agreement to develop and manufacture a Covid-19 vaccine with Sanofi of France.

Of course, that could be coincidence. As a child I lived in nearby Peterlee and I know families may go to Barnard Castle just for relaxation. Even when that is illegal. But GlaxoSmithKline Barnard Castle has been working 24/7 during the coronavirus crisis including the weekends. It was working.

The government’s extraordinary refusal to confirm or deny Cummings visit to Barnard Castle appears to make little sense if he just went there for a walk.

But surely if he was discussing Covid-19 vaccine business on behalf of the government, that would answer all the critics of his trip, would it not? They would want to trumpet it from the hills? I mean to believe otherwise, you would have to propound a crazed conspiracy theory. You would have to believe that criminal activity may be occurring again involving GlaxoSmithKline of the kind which might lead to fines of 37.6 million pounds for overcharging the NHS, or of three billion dollars for fraudulent medical claims in the USA. Nobody sane believes that kind of thing, do they?

UPDATED: I should never be surprised by the puerile nature of debate on the internet, but I frequently am. There appears to be organised pushback stating that this article is only speculation. Of course it is. It states a number of facts not generally known, and wonders if there is a connection. It does not claim to have proof Cummings visited GSK, let alone of what he did when there. But both GSK and Cummings are known bad actors.

The even sillier argument is that Barnard Castle is the research and manufacturing centre and not the corporate HQ and therefore no deal could have been done there. Because when a company is involved in a massive criminal conspiracy, as GSK undeniably was in the multi-billion fraud in the USA or its price-fixing to the NHS, such criminal actions obviously can only be arranged in the main London company boardroom during normal working hours with lots of people around and the maximum chance of inconvenient people finding out what is happening? That is a stupid argument.

Equally, those who claim I have uncovered a criminal conspiracy are wrong. I have not. All I have done is put together some circumstances around Cummings denied trip to Barnard Castle, that could potentially provide a more reasonable explanation for why he would take the risk of going there, and why the government would stake all politically on denying it, than a day trip for a walk for his wife’s birthday. I have not proven anything.

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Scrubs: The Story from the Bottom Up, from Haringey Solidarity Group.

Scrubs: The Story from the Bottom Up

Much like the elderly forced to walk laps and climb stairs to raise money for the NHS, the scrubs movement has been popularised by mainstream media as part of a ‘national effort’ at a time of ‘war’ fighting an ‘enemy’ we allegedly cannot see. We are being encouraged to paint rainbows and clap for the bravery of the health workers, when in reality we are sending them to their deaths. As of today (19/4/2020), at least 86 health and social care workers have died of COVID-19. The enemy is not invisible, it has been sitting in the leathered seats of parliament, imposing years of austerity which have left the health system bare to the bone; it has criminalised and worn down benefit claimants with strategies of surveillance, sanctions and deterrence; it has exploited the labour of key workers living hand to mouth, whilst endowing inessential services with bonuses, tax rebates and bailouts.

The current PPE scandal is no different

At the end of January 2020 it was already clear that a country like the UK, which had been de-industrialised through decades of neoliberal economics, was not going to be able to cope with the demands for PPE. The Tories had a simple answer: “people are going to die” and their fellow eugenicists chimed about “herd immunity” and supposed facts based on “science”. And once again, the working class was put to slaughter. After years of vilification and abuse, they were placed at the knife edge of this crisis. COVID-19 is not the touted ‘great leveller’, it is disproportionately culling the elderly, the disabled, the poor, and BAME communities. 70% of NHS workers killed by COVID-19 are BAME. Workers who have been brought to the point of desperation and are starting to fight under the slogan “no kit, no care”, facing suspensions and potentially prosecutions for negligence if they fail to continue to work, in spite of a lack of protection.

We are now entering our fourth week of running one of the many autonomous scrub production units that have sprung up as forms of mutual aid across the country. We provide scrubs to all sorts of health workers who are lacking access to them in their workplaces. Staff who have had to perform C-sections on women wearing soiled clothes, scrub-less doctors bringing infections back to their family homes, workers on respiratory wards without protection, homeless nurses, social care providers looking after the elderly and disabled, trainee nurses sent to COVID wards wearing flimsy plastic aprons and bin bags. These are just to name a few.

Some of us are mothers, some of us lost our jobs, some of us just want to help or need something to take our minds off the crisis, and a large majority of us are professional seamstresses and tailors, providing an entirely unfunded service, save for public donations, across the entire country. A number of these local groups have up to 300 people, working from the safety of their homes. Delivery companies and independent workshops have offered their help in cutting and distributing fabric pieces to sewers, some of which are decentralised into smaller neighbourhood collectives, able to help each other out through the use of WhatsApp chats.

These local initiatives are sometimes receiving up to 1000 orders and are having to suspend taking more requests, as volunteers grapple with long hours, balancing paid and unpaid work. It doesn’t take much to realise that the network of these groups combined, exceed the workforce presently employed by large manufacturing companies, who have only recently received contracts to make changes to their production lines in order to deal with the demand for PPE.

There is no official scrub production in the UK. Scrubs are primarily made overseas, in countries such as China, India and Pakistan, often by informal labourers for extremely low wages. They are then entered into convoluted distribution systems and finally reach the hospitals which allocate the scrubs according to an equally tragic priority chain. Our particular scrub collective aims to remedy this by making them locally and delivering them directly to the health workers in need.

Many of these groups have managed to enter production with professional atomised systems within a week. You would think that we would be able to supply hospitals with stock, however we have been unable to contact procurement departments, who are often externalised from the main hospital sites and thereby have little connection to the health workers themselves. In fact I was told by unions reps, that if I ever did manage to contact them, it would be a miracle. General managers in hospitals are likewise fairly unresponsive, and those who have responded, told us there was plenty of PPE, when in fact nurses on their wards couldn’t even access basic items such as masks. Some hospital trusts are accepting donations only and are failing to pressure those further up the chain to release funding for their production.

The absurdity of this dilemma runs deep within the heart of the capitalist system. While the government is engaged in international profit-wars, back in the UK, Deloitte has been approaching friends and well known textile brands such as Barbour and Burberry, in effort to manage a temporary solution to the problem. Smaller scale manufacturers on the other hand, have heard nothing from the government after filing in their survey nearly two months ago, and instead are asking our scrub groups for material donations in order to start their production. Groups, who are at the forefront of providing immediate solutions to the problems, which more often than not, fall to women and their continuous underpaid and unpaid labour.

Burberry is expected only to start production in another week, other companies facing difficulties with the required certifications for water-resistant gowns are not to start in another two, at the very least. On the horizon is also a shortage of fabric, and the incessant greed of distributors who have hiked up even the cheaper cotton poplin to nearly half of its original price. Many are now resorting to use old duvet covers and bedsheets in order to make scrubs.

We also have to mention the struggles of our fellow workers internationally, such as in India, who are likewise fighting against the privatisation of hospitals; a lack of PPE; a lack of welfare provisions for informal factory workers, and a recent government decision to revoke the Factory Act of 1948, in order to standardise 12 hour working days, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushes to restart manufacturing in the middle of a raging pandemic. In Bangladesh the COVID infection rate is increasing faster than many hard hit countries.

We need to politicise the struggle with a clear internationalist response that unifies all of us, our work, our mutual aid and our care. For as long as profit rules, there can be no peace. We need to requisition all health, manufacturing and transport sectors and provide all workers, currently unpaid or paid with fair wages and safe working conditions. This is not a public relations crisis with seemingly unfortunate logistical difficulties, this is an emergency stoked by the greed of those for whom our deaths are only a motivation for the accumulation of their capital.

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Remember on International Workers Memorial Day but also organise for a new economy

Freedom news

Photo: Guy Smallman

Apr 28th

Today is International Workers Memorial Day, a time to think about workers that have been killed by capitalism. When people die at work it is very rare that anyone is held responsible. Often workers die because they haven’t been provided with the right protective equipment or training.

This is very clear when it comes to the deaths of essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The UK government has totally failed to protect the NHS and social care workers. A week ago reports showed that more than 100 healthcare workers had died of the virus so far. We must remember also the bus drivers, lorry drivers, shop assistants and other workers who have been killed by the virus.

The scale of this could have been avoided and the government failed in their oft-mentioned and so-called primary objective of protecting the public. The prime minister gave a speech outside No 10 yesterday to say nothing other than he was back. He should have apologised, resigned and handed himself over for trial.

As our understanding of the virus increases, links emerge to meat production and consumption. As humans increasingly alter the habitats of other species they increasingly risk contracting viruses that can leap from animals to humans. There needs to be a local and a global reaction to this pandemic. Locally we must hold the politicians who have made this a disaster accountable for their actions and lack of action. Globally it is capitalism that remains the driving force for all our ills.

Capitalism, however, is on its knees. In the UK we are seeing Tory politicians fretting about the economy because of the lockdown. They are demanding that parts of it open and open up soon. They are terrified of the consequences of not doing so. Meanwhile, we see essential work continue and mutual aid plug the gaps. We know that there will be a new normal; could mutual aid be a feature of that.

We cannot go back to the old normal. Capitalism, with its push for profit and growth at all costs leads to a battle for resources which in turns pushes war and climate change. The virus pandemic is a chance to stop and think. A chance for the Earth to breathe. We can forge new relationships with each other, with other animals and with our planet. Any new economy should prepare the world for future pandemics and accept that such action is an investment that will save future lives.

This new economy should be based on essential work and mutual aid. Getting food to people, getting them healthcare, providing shelter. Capitalism has had its day if we decide to let it die. The free market is not a viable system if we all wish to survive. Instead of a system that takes our labour and gives the shareholders a fortune for doing nothing we need a system that values essential work and makes it pay for everyone.

When we are told the lockdown is over they will also get around to telling us how they intend to make us pay for it. Too many people have died from this man-made disaster to allow them to tell us how it’s going to be. Those days need to pass. We must honour the dead workers and vow to end the system that placed them in danger.

Jon Bigger

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Struggling to keep up with Martin these days!




We are not all in this together!

Anarchist Communist Group.

In crisis situations, the Queen, government, big business and the media push the idea that the nation is united to fight a common enemy, in this case a killer virus. Sir Keir Starmer, the new Labour Party leader, is “refusing to rule out” a government of national unity. However, as in times of war, divisions and inequalities in society become if anything more apparent. The same is true now with Covid-19. Though in theory anyone can succumb to the virus, as we have seen with Prince Charles and Boris Johnson, the chances of actually being infected and surviving it are not equal.

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Second thoughts on the corona virus pandemic, from the south of England. By Mal Content.

RIP Manu Dibango.

Things have moved on apace since my last article, though the sum of human knowledge on the SARS-2 organism and its Covid-19 syndrome has not. There remains no scientific consensus on the best way to mitigate it, or the likely outcome. This piece will necessarily be speculative, take it or leave it, as ever.

You will find dissenters who refuse to accept the infection as a ‘global pandemic’, based on the statistics, notably Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing, and a few independent epidemiologists. I’ve no grounding in epidemiology, medicine or mathematical modelling, so I will swerve this issue*, and for the sake of argument assume that it is what the WHO after much cajoling from their political sponsors, accepted it to be.

* But if that’s your thing, do your own research and draw your own conclusions.

What is patently obvious to all, though, is that politicians whose sole interest and aptitude is for the stewardship of capital accumulation have nothing to contribute in the way of response. The extent to which the NHS has been turned into a supermarket was revealed, when, like the supermarkets, it ran out of everything important. Universal credit, which was broken already, has exploded under the pressure of mass unemployment. As commercial activity has for the most part ground to a halt they have moved in more or less blatant ways to protect the hierarchy it would normally support.

Beyond the list of businesses that have been instructed to cease trading, the definition of “essential work” has been left up to the bourgeoisie*, with an invitation to re-write employment contracts to suit themselves. It’s mostly leisure that has taken a crap; hospitality, sports and entertainment, comprising some of the lowest and highest paid workers of all. Maybe there will be some levelling as the relative value of human activity is re-assessed: delivering babies versus scoring goals, driving a fork-lift versus advertising.

* Bailiffs, debt collectors, demolition …

The bosses’ problem of course, is to balance their vested interest with a fiction of cross-class unity. This has thrown up a few glaring anomalies and some more subtle ones. However clueless the government are about public service and logistics, they are well-versed in Orwellian or perhaps Kitsonian psychological operations. Language is carefully manicured and new words have appeared: “lockdown”, “social distancing” and “furlough” having no precedent or prior legal status leave plenty of room for flexibility of definition.

Medical- and scientific- has given way to government- advice. Words like “instructions”, even “orders” are bandied about by the chattering classes reduced to excruciating virtue-signalling and ferocious government cocksucking. Feigned interest in the condition of the British prime minister, one Alexander Boris de Pfeffle Johnson, a nasty bigoted toff who acquired the office through a series of bizarre flukes, and the virus by ignoring his own advice, has been taken up by the public service broadcaster alongside the s*n newspaper. The demise of this loathsome etonian could only be a glimmer of cheer to the beleaguered NHS worker. A legendary hypocrite, on his discharge from hospital the toff thumbed his nose at us by going to his country house rather than his primary residence.

Now if you really intended people to act responsibly this is the last thing you’d do. No-one wants to be on the same side as a tory government unless they belong to the tiny minority it serves, and there’s less than a one in four chance they voted for it as their least worst option. In the most bizarre turnaround imaginable the tories urge us to follow their advice to “protect the NHS”, the very institution they have been trying to abolish for forty years. No one should be under any illusion that their control measures are informed by epidemiology, they are simply to cover for the inadequacy of public health provision left by their neoliberal austerity policies. If the hospitals had been adequately resourced and staffed as in my youth, they would be neither necessary nor desirable.

“One sad conclusion of the confused, fragmented, and variable response of the NHS to COVID-19 is that … we do not have a National Health Service at all.”

– Professor Richard Horton

Editor in Chief, The Lancet, April 1st 2020

We like to think of “our” NHS, but although it was modelled on the self-help mechanisms once common in Working Class communities, it has never been fully socialised. Bevan’s compromise with the medical establishment required a great deal of legislation and government investment, so it fell prey to the philosophy of 20th Century corporatism, which to many of our class seemed perfectly natural after a World War in which they had all been employed by the government. In a way we got the worst of both worlds, a top-down corporation modelled on bourgeois enterprises, ripe for selling off, and an arm of the state under control of the executive. That made it the plaything of the ruling class, a rope to pull with us on the other end. The information you read on the NHS website will have been written under the direction of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, in this case a person with no relevant qualifications whatsoever. It’s therefore easy to confuse medical advice with public policy. On the one hand, the aggregate best guess of clinicians and academics, themselves selected by the government of the day, and on the other, measures taken by the executive to further their own agenda. Remember when all’s said and done, what’s good for them is bad for us and vice versa.

Opportunistically attacking civil liberties is always a plus for a ruling elite, and where they are so patently and visibly out of their depth, some people, the ones who postulate benign governance, would rather they went too far than did nothing. It is the dream of totalitarians to make us afraid of each other, are we in danger of becoming afraid of ourselves? This morning I passed a very frail-looking elderly person struggling with a heavy shopping bag. I would usually offer them a lift, but I’ve no way of making a risk assessment, I could be signing their death warrant if the government hasn’t already.

None of them have the faintest idea what they’re about, but more important than controlling the infection is controlling the people. The purpose of the money economy, besides maintaining hierarchy, is to have the majority of Working Class people engaged in prescribed tasks whether mostly futile waged labour or “looking for” work. “social distancing” is a gift to the faltering state. With so many idle, it would be better to keep them indoors in overcrowded unhealthy conditions than leave them to their own devices. Above all, they must be discouraged from thinking for themselves. Fear is their weapon of last resort; does it strike anyone as odd that the UK, unlike most countries does not publish recovery figures? Last week it stood at 135 – is that credible?

“We’re all in it together” it seems indecently soon to rehabilitate Cameron’s disgraced phrase from the ruling class’ last fuck-up, and of course we aren’t. In the sense that the rich can catch it too, and were instrumental in bringing it to Europe with their profligate travelling, it might appear to be class-neutral, but there is no comparison between the experience of rich and poor, whether as patients or collateral damage. They keep giving themselves away; the minister referred to “our businesses” in case we’d forgotten which class he speaks for. Exhortations not to take advantage of the bank holiday weather were another blatant class swipe. A bank holiday means fuck all to those ‘working’ from home, this was aimed at the drivers, shop workers, warehouse staff, building workers, who still can’t escape their contracts.

Purveyors of fictitious capital have raked in billions short selling the stock market, they can’t lose because they don’t depend on commodity exchange. It isn’t the fruits of your past labour they’re trading but your future efforts, to validate whatever money they create.

The super-rich, notably the big-eared heir to the throne and his partner, fled to their second homes to put pressure on depleted rural services. They will have been accompanied by a retinue of flunkeys and armed filth, these bastards never go anywhere on their own. The unwelcome guests have been met with hostility from rural communities and even the government is embarrassed. That will be the reason for the injunction against driving to a place of outdoor exercise. The suggestion that it is safer to run or cycle to the park than drive is too stupid for words, and privileges the able-bodied. In fact the medical profession has had nothing to say about driving.

The middle classes, i.e. people who do nothing of any importance: advertising, selling, counting the money, managing the folk still working, politicians and so on, are ‘working’ from home. The media especially flaunt this privilege and simper about the sacrifices they’re making, having to spend time with their children etc. (check out Radio 4) and share tips on how to set up their home offices using high tech kit delivered by precarious drivers, so they can sit on their arses doing fuck all without hurting their backs. They point their fingers at anyone they suspect of enjoying themselves, sitting in the park rather than jogging, and you can understand their pain; their pension fund is down 30%, their house price has dropped, their new car’s worth fuck all and their skiing holiday has been cancelled, so won’t you please join them in looking glum?

Meanwhile the workers who maintain the infrastructure on minimum wage and zero-hours run the gauntlet of reduced public transport, jammed in like sardines. Fourteen London transport workers and one from the midlands have perished at time of writing; I’ve been told of another who should be covered by the shielding programme owing to a pre-existing medical condition but was refused sick pay and had to return to work. In New York, the disease is disproportionately affecting African Americans who work for the city and don’t have the luxury of staying at home. In Gaza, Europe’s refugee camps and most African cities social distancing is a pipedream.

After a sweeping statement on shielding the most vulnerable, it transpired the plan had not been thought through at all, Croydon Council managed to deliver only fifteen food parcels in one week, while autonomous groups such as Norwood Community Kitchen have produced hundreds. We hear of an elderly man who crashed his car after ten days without food, when he had to go outside for the medication without which he will die anyway. They promised to bring all the homeless indoors, but they have not.

Some disabled and chronically sick workers have been bluntly told they will not be treated if they get it. Remember the debate about assisted dying and the concern that elderly patients might be pressured by selfish relatives into easing their burden? Well now it’s the council pressuring care home residents to sign “do not resuscitate” agreements.

Every petty bureaucrat and jobsworth with a need to justify their existence has produced a set of rules then torn them up the next day, every time you go to the shops you’ll find it’s all changed since the last time. The pigs are misbehaving, swaggering around, breaking their own rules, ordering people about (which is what they join for) and making berks of themselves on twitter. Inevitably they will use any new power as a stick with which to beat ethnic minorities, the homeless, trans people and sex-workers.

We may never eradicate the virus but we must eradicate the bourgeoisie and their lackeys, let’s not go back to work, let’s turn this into an expropriatory General Strike, make rent and mortgage strikes permanent, let us decide what is produced and what we do with it.

I don’t like metaphysics at all but if one could imagine ma nature striking back against a feckless humanity it might look something like this. I believe the mediaeval plague resulted from a Papal Bull requiring the extermination of the domestic cat, causing the rat population to explode. Insofar as this plague was caused and exacerbated by reprehensible conduct: trapping wildlife and selling it for food, flying around the globe to no good purpose, overcrowded living and inadequate public healthcare it could be taken as an admonishment. I’ve yet to see figures for the improvement in air quality or reduction in CO2 emissions. Economic de-growth has been predicted between 13 and 32% this year, and will in the long run save thousands of lives, but only if we refuse a return to business as usual.

For now, spare a though for your favourite DIY musician (not bloody U2!) Without gigging and busking their only income will be from online sales or downloads, so buy a CD or T shirt or something if you can.

#Corona Capitalism: six ways capitalism spreads the crisis

Corporate watch

Are people sunbathing in parks the real villains of the corona crisis? What about the corporations pushing industrial agriculture, Big Pharma companies locking up drug research, or the investment funds draining health services? What about the bosses refusing their workers paid leave, media barons spreading fear for ad-clicks, or governments using a pandemic as cover for power grabs?

This article looks at a few ways the economic system we call capitalism has been fundamental in spreading the virus – and in fostering a wider crisis of panic, repression, and looming poverty. And this is by no means a complete list. The general point is that capitalism, based on prioritising profits over people’s lives, is incapable of serving our health and well-being. To care for each other now and in the future, can we use our anger to fight for change?

Feature image above: occupation of Deutsche Bank owned building to create a mutual aid hub in Chicago, US

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