Black Lives Matter UK: Who are its organisers?

30 Jun

Yesterday, Keir Starmer made an important distinction during an interview with BBC BreakfastWhile he acknowledged that the Black Lives Movement had been about “reflecting” on the dreadful events in America, he regretted that it had become “tangled up… with the organisation Black Lives Matter”, a statement that he received equal doses of praise and backlash for.

What Starmer highlighted is that there’s a crucial difference between the statement “black lives matter” – which surely any decent human being agrees with – to “Black Lives Matter”, an organisation that has clear goals.

But here it gets slightly more complicated, as the movement is largely “non-hierarchical”, making it harder for Starmer, and other leaders, to engage with its UK representatives.

What British groups do have in common is their inspiration: the American BLM movement, which was prompted by the acquittal of George Zimmerman after he fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an African American teenager walking to a family member’s house, in February 2012.

This shocking event prompted Twitter users to form the hashtag – #BlackLivesMatter – to highlight racial inequalities in the judicial and policing system – and it increasingly gained traction with the help of three activists, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, who encouraged the growth of networks and calls to action.

Despite the fact that the organisation is decentralised with no formal hierarchy, everyone knows who these founders are. They regularly give interviews, with their biographies listed on the Black Lives Matter website, and people know their political views.

Cullors once described her and Garza as “trained Marxists” and said she would not sit at the table with President Trump who is “literally the epitome of evil, all the evils of this country”, singling out “capitalism” as one of them.

Given this level of political openness, people in the UK might want to hear from BLM leaders about their aims for this country, but it’s tricky as the movement is divided into many groups, such as Tribe Named Athari, Black Lives Matter Leeds, All Black Lives UK, and Black Lives Matter UK, the latter of which Tribe Named Athari has said it has no direct affiliation with.

Black Lives Matter UK, set up in 2016, is arguably the most famous branch here, with 72.1k followers on Twitter (at the time of writing). In recent days, it gained prominence for criticising Israel on social media, and posting “FREE PALESTINE”, as well as attacking Starmer for his comments on defunding the police (a goal of BLM US).

Though the group doesn’t have a website, Black Lives Matter UK has a Go Fund Me page, where it has raised £1 million. Organisers state their aims are “to dismantle imperialism, capitalism, white-supremacy, patriarchy and the state structures that disproportionately and systematically harm Black people in Britain and around the world.”

Although the group says it is endorsed by Patrisse Cullors, it refuses to name anyone else, posting: “Amongst calls for transparency and demands to reveal the leadership behind BLM UK, we are currently dealing with emergency legal matters following last week’s protests in addition to the hostility of far-right groups. This is a genuine threat to our safety”. So this appears to be the rationale for hidden identities.

Then there’s the website (BLMUK on Twitter – where it has 1,500 followers). On its front page, it tells visitors that it is not connected to “the activist coalition using: Twitter @ukblm” (the branch mentioned above) or the Instagram account @blmuk, even going so far as to point out “The UKBLM coalition do not have an official website”.

Furthermore, in its “About us” section, it writes: “There are many independent activist groups across the UK who do and will not publicly identify themselves, nor having leadership or declare leadership, no office base or website to go to, preferring a small or for some a huge interest and following from profile statuses on social media platforms and some raise funds via gofundme, crowdfunding pages and alike.”

Another website is called the Black Lives Matter Movement, which explicitly states that it’s “not connected to BLMUK” (above). It is founded by Gary McFarlane, an author on its site, who is a prominent member of the Socialist Workers Party.

On Russia Today, he said “In all revolutionary situations statues are toppled and that’s a good sign for the future because we do need a revolution in this country and many others.” The SWP has been accused before of trying to infiltrate Extinction Rebellion (XR) and the Labour Party, and some BLM representatives released a statement distancing itself from it.

Clearly there is a socialist undercurrent to some of these movements; indeed, Natalie Jeffers, founder of BLMUK, was quoted saying that we must fight “capitalism with socialism” and “dedicate ourselves to revolutionary politic power”. But it’s hard to know the extent of this sentiment, due to how spread out the movement is.

Although all of these groups are fighting for the same broad cause – to end racism, but the decentralised system could cause confusion around what policies they are proposing.

Whereas XR also favours a dencentralised system, which led to protesters doing their own thing – such as jumping on tube carriages, it arguably has more practical demands for the Government (citizens’ assemblies), compared to BLM’s (US) desire to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure”.

XR has also fielded representatives onto television, such as Skeena Rathor, the “co-leader”, as well as Zion Lights, a spokesperson. The Hong Kong protests, too, though “decentralised”, have had Joshua Wong as their figurehead. As far as ConservativeHome is aware, there has not been an equivalent spokesperson for BLM UK in this way. 

Perhaps the closest is Imarn Ayton, an activist, who has demanded a meeting with Boris Johnson and called for the statue of Winston Churchill to be removed on Radio 4. Whether she is accepted as overall leader of the movement is less known, though.

Either way, with the movement growing in power in recent weeks, politicians – and TV producers – will increasingly want to know what’s being proposed for the UK. Perhaps Andrew Neil is already gearing up for an interview. But with no clear BLM UK leader, different funding levels for each group, and separate manifestos, it’s not obvious who will answer questions.

Paul Bristow: The biggest challenge for our NHS may still lie ahead, but it’s also an opportunity

30 Jun

Paul Bristow is the MP for Peterborough and a member of the Commons’ Health and Social Care Select Committee.

Our NHS has done an excellent job looking after us during the Covid-19 crisis. But the biggest challenge for our NHS may be about to begin as the service deals with the backlog of delayed operations and treatments.

The lockdown began in order to protect our NHS. This was the early central message. The Government was concerned that hospitals would be overwhelmed as we saw in Italy and elsewhere at the start of the pandemic. This didn’t happen. Our NHS ramped up capacity as former NHS workers came back to serve, new hospitals were built, and a deal was struck with the independent sector. This push for increasing capacity within the system needs to continue.

We need a national effort backed by the Government PR machine – supported by the charisma and optimism of the Prime Minister – to back our NHS and clear the backlog. I have heard personal harrowing stories from NHS patients through my role on the Health and Social Care Select Committee.

Rob Martinez from Bracknell, who needed a double knee replacement, had his operation due in April cancelled. He told our committee that he had taken early retirement. I asked him if he would have continued to work if his operation had taken place – he confirmed he felt he could have worked for another 5 years. What was the most bitter blow is that he has been told there is ‘zero chance’ of his procedure taking place this year.

Another patient from Sevenoaks had her chemotherapy stopped. And while it has restarted, there remains huge concern that the number of patients receiving chemotherapy is far fewer than would be expected. Cancer Research UK estimates more than 20,000 patients did not get treatment because of the virus crisis.

Whilst official statistics have been paused, it is estimated almost two-thirds of Britons with common life-threatening conditions have had care cancelled. The NHS Confederation is saying that NHS waiting lists could rise to 10 million in the autumn, and take up to two years to clear. The Royal College of Surgery has called for a five-year strategy to tackle the waiting list situation.

This is now one of the Government’s central challenges.

We can do this. The NHS has shown its remarkable ability to cope, and yet again the British people have shown great resilience through this emergency. But it needs to be framed as a national effort with the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State personally leading this.

Those who have re-joined the NHS to help with the Covid-19 crisis need to be persuaded to stay. I appreciate staff will be tired, and those that have returned will need to be properly motivated. The appreciation that the public has shown to our NHS staff should help, but efforts will need to be made to make the NHS a better place to work and should be prioritised.

The Prime Minister had it right with the simple message about workforce at the General Election, promising to recruit and retain 50,000 nurses. We need to look with urgency at long-term recruitment issues. The NHS needs staff in almost every setting, as many begin to reach retirement age. According to the latest annual census from the UK Royal College of Radiologists, in 2020 approximately 200 doctors will qualify as radiology consultants – not enough to fill even half of the estimated 466 vacancies.

The Government needs to be alive to the challenges associated with the safety of NHS staff and patients. The need for PPE and new designed layouts will affect theatre capacity. Diagnostics, which underpin clinical activity in hospitals, and a backlog in MRI/CT scans, endoscopy and laboratory tests are also limiting factors.

Back in March, Matt Hancock was right to sign a deal with the independent sector. In peace time this would have been an incredibly courageous thing to do with those on the left gleefully pointing to proof of Tory privatisation. I hope that the Covid-19 emergency has dismissed the lazy assumption that the independent sector and the NHS cannot work in partnership.

A similar long-term deal agreement with independent providers to retain capacity will be crucial in the years ahead. They can help ramp up elective capacity, power through knee, hip and cataract procedures, and improve lives – and in the case of Mr Martinez may even allow him to return to work and generate more tax revenue to fund public services. It will also allow for cancer treatment and cardiology procedures to resume at pace and scale. With appropriate testing arrangements, these could quickly become a significant proportion of the ‘Covid-light’ units that are being regularly discussed as the means to reduce the elective backlog.

The NHS does so many things well. But few would claim – especially staff – it cannot become more productive. We have seen the NHS conduct GP appointments and other consultations through digital challenges. This has worked. It is also worth noting that much of this would have been impossible if it wasn’t for the visible presence of the NHS on our streets in the form of community pharmacies offering that face-to-face reassurance for many routine issues.

This obviously needs to continue, but it is only the beginning. Let’s start a conversation about how the NHS can change many care pathways to become more productive. We can accelerate the uptake of already established treatments, which can keep patients out of a secondary care setting or at least not in expensive hospital beds for days at a time, by the adoption of less invasive procedures.

Changing pathways to enable the adoption of technology has often meant local evidence needed to be established – this could take years and was often completely unnecessary. We can expediate the move to integrated care working, especially with regarded to initiatives such as shared waiting lists and flexibility in payment mechanisms. This is a chance to improve existing practice.

We can be optimistic and ambitious for the future of our NHS. So much goodwill has been garnered and our staff are more valued than ever. But it is also an opportunity for change. A national effort led by a transparent and upfront Government is what is required.

“It sounds like a New Deal, and all I can say is that…is how it is meant to sound and to be.” The Prime Minister’s speech. Full text.

30 Jun

“It may seem a bit premature to make a speech now about Britain after Covid

when that deceptively nasty disease is still rampant in other countries

when global case numbers are growing fast

and when many in this country are nervous – rightly – about more outbreaks

whether national or local

like the flare-up in Leicester

whereas I promised we are putting on the brakes and I thank the people of Leicester for their forbearance

and yet we cannot continue simply to be prisoners of this crisis.

We are preparing now slowly and cautiously to come out of hibernation

and I believe it is absolutely vital for us now to set out the way ahead

so that everyone can think and plan for the future – short, medium and long term

because if the covid crisis has taught us one thing it is that this country needs to be ready for what may be coming

and we need to be able to move with levels of energy and speed

that we have not needed for generations.

And I know that there are plenty of things that people say and will say that we got wrong

and we owe that discussion and that honesty to the tens of thousands who have died before their time

to the families who have lost loved ones

and of course there must be time to learn the lessons, and we will

but I also know that some things went right – and emphatically right.

I think of the speed and efficiency with which we put up the Nightingales – ten days for a hospital –

I think of the drive and inventiveness of the British companies who rose to the ventilator challenge

with three brand new production lines called into being within the space of eight weeks

with a new model of ventilator developed in March and granted regulatory approval in weeks, and 9,500 of them now made.

I pay tribute to the pace at which Oxford University managed to perform the trials for dexamethasone,
the world’s first demonstrably life-saving treatment for the disease.

I am in awe of the problem-crunching fury with which HMRC and the Treasury created the furlough scheme and all the other means of support,

world-leading standards of protection for jobs and incomes

set up in a matter of days.

There were brilliant and determined individuals who more than rose to the challenge of this crisis

there were thousands and thousands who put their hearts and souls into it

and yet our debt is not just to them.

It is not just even to the devotion and love of the NHS and the care workers who saved so many lives

including my own.

There was one big reason in the end that we were able to avert a far worse disaster

and that was because the whole of society came together

to make a sacrifice on behalf of those who might be particularly vulnerable – particularly the elderly.

We all knew went we went into lockdown that there would be huge economic costs

We could see what would happen

and yet we did it, we the United Kingdom

in a display of solidarity not seen since world war two

and so today we must combine that energy and drive

with that concentrated burst of collective willpower that protected the NHS

controlled the virus

and saved literally hundreds of thousands of lives

and we must work fast

because we have already seen the vertiginous drop in GDP,

and we know that people are worried now about their jobs and their businesses

and we are waiting as if between the flash of lightning and the thunderclap

with our hearts in our mouths

for the full economic reverberations to appear,

and we must use this moment – now – this interval to plan our response and to fix of course the problems that were

most brutally illuminated in that covid lightning flash

the problems in our social care system,

the parts of government that seemed to respond so sluggishly

so that sometimes it seemed like that recurring bad dream when you are telling your feet to run

and your feet won’t move

and yet we must also go further and realise that if we are to recover fully,

if we are to deal with the coming economic aftershock,

then this covid crisis is also the moment to address

the problems in our country that we have failed to tackle for decadesbecause it is one of the most extraordinary features of the UK

– in so many ways the greatest place on earth –

that we tolerate such yawning gaps between the best and the rest,

We have some of the best and most productive companies in the world

– and yet we are not as nationally productive as many of our global competitors

We have the world’s most brilliant medical minds, the world’s best pharmaceutical companies,

our doctors and treatments are the best in the world

and yet we have so many millions who have to wait for too long to see their GP – even before the new waiting lists produced by the crisis.

We have umpteen fantastic, globally outstanding universities

and yet too many degree courses are not now delivering value

and for a century we have failed to invest enough in further education and give young people the practical training

and further education they need

We have a capital city that was, is and will be in so many ways the capital of the world

theatre, finance, tech, restaurants

you name it, London leads the world

and yet too many parts of this country have felt left behind

neglected, unloved, as though someone had taken a strategic decision that their fate did not matter as much as the metropolis,

so I want you to know that this government not only has a vision to change this country for the better

we have a mission to unite and to level up

the mission on which we were elected last year

and we have a plan

and in advancing that plan now

I just serve notice that we will not be responding to this crisis with what people called austerity

we are not going to try to cheese-pare our way out of trouble

because the world has moved on since 2008

and we not only face a new and in some ways a far bigger challenge

and I can tell everybody, businesses that next week the Chancellor will be setting out our immediate plan to support the economy through the first phase of our recovery

but this moment also gives us a much greater chance to be radical and to do things differently

to build back better

to build back bolder

and so we will be doubling down on our strategy

we will double down on levelling up

and when I say level up, I don’t mean attacking our great companies

I don’t mean impeding the success of London – far from it

or launching some punitive raid on the wealth creators

I don’t believe in tearing people down any more than I believe in tearing down statues that are part of our heritage

let alone a statue of our greatest wartime leader.

I believe in building people up

giving everyone growing up in this country the opportunity they need

whoever you are, whatever your ethnicity, whatever your background

and there are certain things that are indispensable for that opportunity

the hospital you are born in

the schools you go to

the safety of the streets where you grow up

and this government has not forgotten that we were elected to build 40 new hospitals

and we will – Matt Hancock is setting out the list in the next few days, and that is just the beginning.

We will continue and step up the biggest ever programme of funding the NHS

and we won’t wait to fix the problem of social care

that every government has flunked for the last 30 years.

We will end the injustice that some people have to sell their homes to finance the costs of their care while others don’t.

We are finalising our plans and we will build a cross-party consensus.

We will look after those who have looked after us and at the same time.

We will build the foundations now for future prosperity.

to make this country – a Britain that is fully independent and self-governing for the first time in 45 years

the most attractive place to live and to invest and to set up a companywith the most motivated and highly skilled workforce

and so we are investing massively now in education

with over £14bn for primary and secondary education between now and 2023

and today with a new ten year school building programme

beginning now with £1bn for the first 50 schools

and a vast £1.5 bn programme of refurbishing our dilapidated Further Education sector – dilapidated in many places, but not here of course

because it is time the system recognised that talent and genius are expressed as much by hand and by eye as they are in a spreadsheet or an essay

so when I say unite and level up

when I say build up people and build up talent

I want to end the current injustice that means a pupil from a London state school is now 50 per cent more likely to go to a top university than a pupil from the west midlands

and that is not only unjust

it is such a waste of human talent

We will unleash the potential of the entire country

and that means basic things, cracking down again on the crime that blights too many streets and too many lives

and we will get on with our plan to recruit 20,000 more police officers – we have already found 3,000

and I thank them for everything they are doing and have done

in this crisis

and we will back our police all the way

and give our justice system the powers we need

to end the lunacy that stops us – for instance – deporting some violent offendersjust as we have already stopped the automatic early release of terrorists

We will make this country safer

We will build the hospitals

build the schools and the colleges

but we will also build back greener and build a more beautiful Britain

we will protect the landscape with flood defences

and plant 30,000 hectares of trees every year

creating a new patchwork of woodlands to enchant and re-energise the soul

and in those towns that feel left behind we have plans to invest in their centres

and with new academy schools, new green buses, new broadbandand we want to make them places where people have the confidence to stay, to raise their families and to start businesses

and not to feel that the action is all in the cities or the metropolis

and yet I don’t think that this crisis has ended the desire or need to move around swiftly and efficiently

We have learned the wonders of Zoom and MS Teams

the joys of muting or unmuting our colleagues at key moments

but we still need to travel

and more than ever the time has come when we must unite and level up in the most basic way possible
not just with HS2 and NPR

but with better roads, better rail

unblocking the central Manchester bottleneck that delays services across the north

and 4000 brand new zero carbon buses

and a massive new plan for cycleways

and we will build and rebuild those vital connexions to every part of the UK

because now is the moment to strengthen that incredible partnership between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

and I know that some have sometimes played up the legitimate variations in the response between the devolved administrations

but when you look at the whole effort you can see the absolutely vital role of that union and that partnership

It is our fantastic UK armed services that have played such a crucial role in this crisis

running the test centres, building the hospitals, transporting people from the Shetlands to the right Covid wards

It was the might of the UK Treasury that set up that furlough scheme – in all corners of the country
and sent massive and immediate extra funding to all four parts of the UK

I believe the union has more than showed its worth

and a prosperous and united Kingdom must be a connected Kingdom

and that is why we are now accelerating projects from South West to the North East from Wales, to Scotland, to Northern Ireland

and to drive economic growth in all parts of the country

we will carry out a study of all future road, rail, air and cross-sea links between our all our four parts of the UK

When did a government first promise to dual the A1 to Scotland ?

It was 1992

Well this government is going to do it

and it is this infrastructure revolution

that will allow us to end that other chronic failure of the British state

decade after decade in which we have failed to build enough homes

We will build fantastic new homes on brownfield sites

and other areas that with better transport and other infrastructure could frankly be suitable and right for development

and address that intergenerational injustice

and help young people get on the housing ladder in the way that their parents and grandparents could

and it is to galvanise this whole process that this government will shortly bring forward the most radical reforms of

our planning system since the end of the second world war

Yes, we will insist on beautiful and low carbon homes

but covid has taught us the cost of delay

why does UK public procurement take 50 per cent longer than in Germany?

why are UK capital costs typically between 10 and 30 per cent higher than other European projects?

Why is HS2 – transformational though it will be – going to cost us the equivalent of the GDP of Sri Lanka?

Why are we so slow at building homes by comparison with other European countries?

In 2018 we built 2.25 homes per 1000 people

Germany managed 3.6, the Netherlands 3.8, France 6.8

I tell you why – because time is money, and the newt-counting
delays in our system are a massive drag on the productivity and the prosperity of this country

and so we will build better and build greener but we will also build faster

and that is why the Chancellor and I have set up Project Speed to scythe through red tape and get things done

and with every home we make, every mile of full fibre broadband that we laywith every flood-defending culvert that we dig

with every railway station, hospital or school that we buildwe will of course be tackling the next wave of this crisisby helping to create thousands of high-paid high-skilled jobs

because we know in our hearts that the furloughing cannot go on forever and as the economy recovers we also know that the jobs that many people had in January are also not coming back

or at least not in that form

and we know that is our biggest and most immediate economic challenge that we face

and so we will offer an Opportunity Guarantee so that every young person has the chance of apprenticeship or an in-work placement

so that they maintain the skills and confidence they need to find the job that is right for them

I am conscious as I say all this that it sounds like a prodigious amount of government intervention

It sounds like a New Deal

and all I can say is that if so, then that is how it is meant to sound and to be

because that is what the times demand

a government that is powerful and determined and that puts its arms around people at a time of crisis

that tackles homelessness

the inequalities that drive people to food banks

because it is time now not just for a New Deal but a Fair Deal for the British people

and we can do all this now partly because of the prudent management of the economy in the last ten years

but also because we are planning to invest now

when the cost of borrowing allows it

and when the returns are greatest

because that is the way both now and in the medium term to

drive the growth, to fuel the animal spirits and the long-term business investment

on which our future prosperity depends

my friends I am not a communist

I believe it is also the job of government to create the conditions for free market enterprise

and yes of course we clap for our NHS

but under this government we also applaud those who make our NHS possible

our innovators

our wealth creators

our capitalists and financiers

because in the end it is

their willingness to take risks with their own money that will be crucial for our future success

This is Dudley the birthplace of Abraham Darby who massively accelerated the industrial revolution by using coke instead of charcoal to produce pig iron

(it may not sound like it, but it’s also the greener option)

and today Dudley remains at the cutting edge of green technology that is increasingly driving the whole of the UK  economy

It was here in 2011 that a company called Westfield produced the world’s first commercially viable electric racing car

and the whole of the West Midlands is now a global centre of battery technology and batteries for EVs

and that is the vision of Mayor Andy Street, and we will back that vision

This is a government that backs Britain, and believes in British innovation

and this summer we will be creating a new science funding agency to back high risk, high reward projects

because in the next 100 years the most successful societies will be the most innovative societies

and we in this country have the knack of innovation

we lead the world in quantum computing, in life sciences, in genomics, in AI, space satellites, net zero planes, and

in the long term solutions to global warming

wind, solar, hydrogen technology

carbon capture and storage, nuclear

and as part of our mission to reach Net Zero CO2 emissions by 2050, we should set ourselves the goal now of

producing the world’s first zero emission long haul passenger plane

Jet Zero, let’s do it

and though we are no longer a military superpower we can be a science superpower

but we must end the chasm between invention and application

that means a brilliant British discovery disappears to California and becomes a billion dollar American company
or a Chinese company

and we need now a new dynamic commercial spirit to make the most of UK breakthroughs

so that British ideas produce new British industries and British jobs

And yet to achieve all that from where we are now we must get on first with the hard and painstaking work of re-opening our economy

and I feel the urgency and impatience of all those sectors that are still being held back

the theatres, the arts, the salons, the gyms, the cricket clubs, sectors in which we lead the world

and yet which suffer because they depend on the very physical proximity and contact that Covid makes so difficult

and I say to everybody in those sectors we will get you going as fast as we can
we will get life back to normal for as many as possible as fast as possible

But as we approach July 4 I am afraid that the dangers – as we can see in Leicester – have not gone away
the virus is out there

still circling like a shark in the water

and it will take all our collective discipline and resolve to keep that virus at bay

and if we can and get on to the next phase of recovery then we can get on all the faster to the next phase

and to the delivery of our plan

This is a government that is wholly committed not just to defeating coronavirus

but to using this crisis finally to tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades

to build the homes

to fix the NHS

to solve social care

to tackle the skills crisis

to mend the indefensible gap in opportunity and productivity and connectivity between the regions of the UK

to unite and level up

and to that end we will build, build, build

build back better build back greener build back faster

and to do that at the pace that this moment requires

we need now to distil the very best of the psychic energy of the last few months

let’s take the zap and élan of the armed services who helped to build the Nightingales

let’s take the selflessness and the love of the health and the care workers and the charities

the public spirit and the good humour of the entire population

and let’s brew them together with the superhuman energy of Captain Tom

bounding around his garden at the age of 100 and raising millions for charity

let’s take that combination, that spirit bottle it, swig it

and I believe we will have found if not quite a magic potion, at least the right formula to get us through these dark times

And I must stress that there will still be some tough times ahead

and to work this whole plan through will take effort, and nerve, and patience

and no we won’t get everything right
we certainly won’t get everything right first time

but this is the moment to be ambitious

to believe in Britain

to rise to the scale of the challenge and the opportunity

If we deliver this plan together

then we will together build our way back to health

We will not just bounce back

We will bounce forward – stronger and better and more united than ever before.

Thank you all very much.”

Alan Mak: Britain should champion a new Five Eyes critical minerals reserve system

30 Jun

Alan Mak is MP for Havant and Founder of the APPG on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The on-going trade dispute between the US and China has put the spotlight on so-called “critical minerals”. We in Britain cannot afford to be passive observers. Instead, we should take an active interest in this key strategic and economic issue, and play a leading role in safeguarding access to critical minerals, both for ourselves and our Five Eyes allies. Ensuring our scientists, manufacturers and technology businesses have a secure and reliable supply of critical minerals is vital for Britain’s leadership of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Critical minerals consist of the 17 Rare Earth Elements (REE) recognised by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, with names such as promethium and scandium, plus other economically valuable but relatively rare minerals such as lithium and cobalt (used in batteries), tungsten (used in defence products including missiles), bauxite (the source of aluminium) and graphite (key to battery production).

The REEs have unique magnetic, heat-resistant, and phosphorescent properties that no other elements have, which means they are often non-substitutable. Whilst used only in small quantities, they are key components in a wide range of consumer products from mobile phones, laptops and TVs, and have widespread defence applications in jet engines, satellites, lasers and missiles.

Although they are more abundant than their name implies, REEs and critical minerals are difficult and costly to mine and process. Converting critical minerals embedded in rocks from under the Earth’s crust to separated elements is a complex and costly process which often involves the use of highly concentrated acids and radiation.

China hosts most of the world’s processing capacity and supplied 80 percentemploy of the REEs imported by the US from 2014 to 2017. On average, China has accounted for more than 90 pe cent of the global production and supply of rare earths during the past decade, according to the US Geological Survey.

By contrast, the US has only one rare earth mining facility, and currently ships its mined tonnage to China for processing. Lynas Corporation, based in Australia, is the world’s only significant rare earths producer outside China. Other critical minerals are similarly concentrated in a small number of producer nations. For example, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was responsible for around 90 per cent of the world’s cobalt production in 2018, whilst Guinea dominates bauxite, with around 35 per cent of the world’s reserves.

As globalisation and industrialisation accelerate around the world, critical minerals have become a highly sought-after resource for the high-technology, low-carbon and defence industries. They will play a vital role in Britain’s future plans for economic growth, innovation and green industrialisation, especially as we renew and expand our manufacturing base in the wake of Coronavirus.

Given the national strategic and economic importance of critical minerals, the UK needs to act now and lead efforts to protect our national supply for the future. Neither we nor our Five Eyes allies can remain reliant on one producer for anything, including critical minerals. Here are four steps we should take:

Establish a New Five Eyes critical minerals reserve stockpile

The Five Eyes intelligence sharing partnership between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the USA and the UK has been in existence since 1941 and provides the perfect foundation on which we should develop a new critical minerals reserve that would end our collective vulnerability of supply.

The reserve would consist of inter-connected physical national stockpiles of critical minerals, and then extend to become a processing chain that all partners could draw on. The US already maintains stockpiles, and creating others including in Britain would lead to new jobs. The UK is never going to become resource independent, but through international co-operation we can diversify supply and refine, through innovation, the processing of these elements.

Use our international aid budget to secure critical minerals supplies

As the Foreign Office and DFID merge, the UK can align its development goals alongside diplomatic priorities. We should deploy our international aid to unleash the untapped supply of critical minerals in developing countries, effectively funding the start-up of new critical mineral mines and processing plants. This would enhance our supply of these elements and create jobs, transforming communities around the globe through trade, not just aid. China has already implemented a similar strategy in Africa, for example providing Guinea with a $20 billion loan to develop the country’s mining sector.

Create a new National Critical Minerals Council

The Government should establish a new National Council composed of metallurgists, scientists and foreign policy experts to monitor global trends in critical minerals, and advise the Government on rare earths and its strategic stockpile. Given the national security and defence procurement implications, the National Council’s establishment would help to keep this issue at the forefront of future policymaking.

Become the world’s greenest stockpiler by incentivising private sector involvement in critical minerals processing

The Government should provide funding for greater research into how we can improve the processing chain of critical minerals with a focus on how we can tighten environmental controls in this sector internationally.

The UK should establish itself as the world’s “greenest stockpiler” of critical minerals by offering incentives that encourage private sector investment in recycling processes and reward companies that contribute to the UK stockpile. We need more facilities like the University of Birmingham’s Recycling Plant at Tyseley Energy Park, which is pioneering new techniques that are transforming the recycling of critical minerals such as neodymium, which is commonly found in hard disk drives.

The Coronavirus pandemic has taught us the importance of supply chain security, whether for PPE or critical minerals. With our reputation for scientific excellence, global alliances and diplomatic networks, we can help ourselves and our allies strengthen our access to the key minerals that will power our economic growth and innovation potential for decades to come.

This is the first in a three-part series on how to boost our economy after Coronavirus.

Andy Street: Our blueprint setting out the economic ambitions of the West Midlands

30 Jun

Andy Street is Mayor of the West Midlands, and is a former Managing Director of John Lewis.

Last week saw the launch of a blueprint setting out the post-Coronavirus economic ambitions of the West Midlands. As a manufacturing heartland, where draftsmen drew up plans for everything from steam engines to Spitfires, blueprints are in our blood. They illuminate our history. This intentionally ambitious £3.2 billion business case draws a clear trajectory to our region’s future.

As Mayor of the West Midlands, it’s my job to attract as much investment as possible. Rishi Sunak’s bold and decisive actions – notably through the furlough scheme – have provided unprecedented economic support for jobs during lockdown. Now, demands on the public purse are high. All investment must be fully justified, diligently used and – crucially – deliver real results. Every penny counts.

Our region was the UK’s fastest growing outside the capital until Covid-19 struck, and as a hotbed of export, manufacturing, construction and professional services, we play a key role in the UK’s economic success. This new blueprint lays out a powerful business case for how continued investment can spark rapid and sustained recovery, not only for us here but for UK PLC.

Our ambition is deliberate because the stakes are high. Research suggests we could be hit harder than most by the lockdown. When coronavirus struck, the West Midlands was in a strong economic position, with record employment figures and productivity growth well ahead of the national rate. However, our economic mix – dependence on manufacturing and business tourism, as well as a significant contribution from universities – leaves us vulnerable.

By following the blueprint we have drawn up, the Government can demonstrate its commitment to ‘levelling-up’ by backing the people of the West Midlands to deliver.

We need to do everything we can to get back on our feet quickly and return to the levels of success we were enjoying before the outbreak hit. That means driving a rapid economic recovery, safeguarding more than 135,000 jobs while building thousands of new homes. It also means learning the lessons of the financial crash of 2008/09, and listening to business.

Investment is crucial. However, while we need significant investment from the Government – £3.2 billion over the next three years – this is broadly in line with the £2.7 billion investment we have secured since 2017, which supported strong economic success here.

Our business plan is to build on our success and on the investment we have already attracted from Government, while leveraging much more private and public sector investment locally, including from our universities.

The blueprint sets out a business case for investments, while outlining the economic benefits they would deliver. For example, it directly supports our automotive sector by harnessing clean technology and electrification. A major investment package, including £250 million towards a Gigafactory producing state-of-the-art batteries, will unlock 51,700 green jobs.

The building of HS2, next year’s Coventry City of Culture festivities and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games present opportunities to create jobs for local people. By accelerating major infrastructure investment and supporting the recovery of the tourism and cultural sector we can unlock 33,000 jobs.

Then there is the West Midlands’ growing reputation as a hotbed for health research. By investing in healthcare innovation we can protect 3,200 jobs, while improving the health of our population.

Improving transport, housing and digital infrastructure will play a key part in a rapid recovery, while laying the foundations for future economic strength. We can build better transport and digital links to drive productivity and create thousands of jobs in construction. Schemes include extending rail, metro and bus routes, with cash for enhanced digital connectivity and to accelerate fibre connectivity in deprived areas. Reopening long-closed railway stations will better connect people to employment opportunities, attract investment into once-isolated areas and improve productivity.

The West Midlands has pioneered the regeneration of brownfield sites to tackle the housing crisis, while protecting the environment. We even have our own regional definition of ‘affordable housing’ applied at planning level by the West Midlands Combined Authority. We want to build 35,000 new homes – 15,000 of which will be affordable – with a focus on housing key workers. Plans include using a £200m investment package to regenerate derelict eyesores and £24 million for a new National Brownfield Institute in Wolverhampton, which will be a centre of excellence for land reclamation.

Investment to equip people with the skills needed for the future aims to help get them back into work. This includes helping 38,400 young people obtain apprenticeships and work experience, retraining 20,000 workers for in-demand sectors such as health and social care, logistics and business services, and upskilling 24,000 for jobs for the future.

Finally, we want to back the region’s businesses with support schemes – including helping them navigate their way through the post-lockdown world – creating or safeguarding 43,900 jobs.

This ambitious business case is based on our region’s experiences not only of recovering from the last downturn, but on the successes of the last three years. The blueprint has been developed as a team effort between the region’s local enterprise partnerships, universities, business groups and local authorities.  Crucially, some of our biggest employers have also shared their insights about how the region can play its part in securing a strong national recovery, putting central investment to good use.

For the UK to fully recover, all of its regions must recover too – creating a stronger country with a more robust, balanced economy.

Rob Sutton: Top Tories on Twitter. Case Study 2) Johnny Mercer

30 Jun

Rob Sutton is an incoming junior doctor in Wales and a former Parliamentary staffer. He is a recent graduate of the University of Oxford Medical School.

Number 11: Johnny Mercer

Mercer narrowly missed a spot in the top 10, and everyone ranked ahead of him is either a current or recent Secretary of State. For a Parliamentary Under-Secretary who has been in his first ministerial role for under a year, that’s an impressive achievement.

Before entering politics, Mercer did three tours of Afghanistan in the Army, retiring at the rank of captain. Unseating Labour’s Alison Seabeck in Plymouth Moor View at the 2015 general election, he has grown his parliamentary majority from just 2.4 per cent to 29.2 per cent.

His posts can be playful and self-effacing. When one of his campaign boards was vandalised with expletives, he took the opportunity to make a light-hearted video about it. His interactions with other members in the House feel more like office banter than the work of a national legislature.

They can also take a more serious tone. He entered Parliament as a man on a mission and is quite happy to ruffle some feathers along the way. He recently shared a scathing attack on Alastair Campbell. A post mocking Jeremy Corbyn received almost 20,000 likes. A fight with local newspaper the Plymouth Herald went viral. And a confrontation with a constituent who had allegedly spat at a young female Conservative campaigner is one of his most popular posts.

This skill in picking battles has carried over into his parliamentary career. He withdrew his support for Theresa May late during her tenure and was an early backer of Boris Johnson’s leadership bid. This loyalty translated into his first ministerial appointment,

Mercer has seen his political clout and parliamentary majority grow steadily in just five years. It seems entirely possible that he’ll be a Secretary of State five years from now.

Anand Menon: Our latest research finds that the Conservatives are divided on economics, but united on culture.

30 Jun

Anand Menon is Director of the UK in a Changing Europe.

Dominic Cummings must be rubbing his hands with glee. As more and more questions are raised about what some are calling the ‘lethal amaterurism’ that has characterised the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, the country spent most of June distracted by furious arguments about race and statues.

This has moved the debate on from Boris Johnson’s chief advisor’s unique approach to optical health. More importantly, a debate about values rather than health outcomes suits the Government down to the ground.

The referendum of 2016 polarized the country along values lines (between social liberals and social conservatives) rather than along the left-right cleavage that traditionally structured political competition.

Source: British Election Study

Nor was this a one-off phenomenon. The values division laid bare by the referendum went on to shape the nature of subsequent electoral competition. Think back to last year’s election.

The fact that the Conservatives won seats like Wakefield, Bishop Auckland and Workington, or that they won by 21 per cent among working class voters is testimony to the realignment that had taken place in our politics.

So too is the fact that in seats where over 60 per cent backed leave, the Tories increased their support by an average of six per cent, whereas in those seats where more than 60 per cent voted Remain, the party’s vote actually fell by three points.

The argument over statues that has been such a central part of the Black Lives Matter protests in this country has mobilized that same division. And it is terrain on which the Conservatives are relatively well equipped to fight.

Recent work carried out by the UK in a Changing Europe compares the attitudes of MPs, party members and voters, by asking each group a series of questions about fundamental ideological attitudes. The findings are revealing.

When it comes to social values, the Conservative clan looks relatively united. Even more importantly, on values they are far closer to those crucial voters who switched from Labour in 2017 to the Conservatives in 2019 than to Keir Starmer’s party.

But when it comes to the politics of left versus right – questions like whether ‘there is one rule for the rich and one for the poor’, and the idea that ‘ordinary working people do not get their fair share of the nation’s wealth’ – the picture could hardly be more different.

Conservative MPs are to the right of both their own party members and Conservative voters, and significantly to the right of those 2019 Labour-to-Conservative switchers. Labour, on the other hand, is not just far less internally divided but considerably closer to those lost voters.

Looking forward, then, the Conservatives have an interest in maintaining a focus on values. Think of it this way. On the (feigned) threat to Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square, the Conservative Party spoke with one voice and rallied behind Boris Johnson. When it comes to the economic response to Covid-19, the party’s backbenches are increasingly restless.

The easing of lockdown will focus attention firmly on economic recovery. How these issues are framed then takes on crucial importance. We face another decade in which political life will be shaped by the impact of an economic crisis.

The Conservative narrative may well seek to major not on the details of the economic response – on how great the role of the state should be, or how we pay for ballooning deficits – but on arguably more ‘ephemeral’ concerns.

Conservative commentators are already queuing up to point out that it is surely no longer a priority to publish gender pay gaps, or to ‘suffer a little for the sake of the planet.’ Others argue that fads like the war on plastic have been made redundant by the virus.

It seems Number 10 is, in the short term, planning a number of ways of triggering values divisions. The Sunday Times reported that the Government is planning to scrap plans to allow people to change their legal gender.

Other reports suggest that some in Downing Street are encouraging the Prime Minister to launch a ‘war on woke’. The hope is clearly to profit from profound values divisions within Labour’s electoral coalition and detatch voters who might, if it really were all about the economy, stupid, support the centre-left rather than the centre-right.

For Labour, then, the key will be to find a way to nullify this strategy. Paul Mason has rightly argued that the party must focus on coming up with a more convincing narrative about reshaping the role of the state in the economy, as a means of uniting a coalition that has fractured over the last decade over values questions.

The party now has a leader that the public, including Leave voters, find broadly convincing – and one who is going to be less easy to label as an unpatriotic ultra-liberal.

A narrative about economic fairness unites Labour and has the potential to tap into the ideological attitudes of the median voter.

The Government’s current plans to emerge from lockdown will create millions of economic losers, and the Conservatives look set to incur significant governing costs.

A laser like-focus on the economy and on the steps needed both to recover from the post-lockdown slowdown in such a way as to tackle the numerous inequalities that the pandemic has highlighted could command broad support, not least among those voters that fled the party last year.

As the recent Labour Together review of the 2019 election concluded, Labour could win by building support for a ‘big change economic agenda’ that neutralises cultural and social tensions.

Whatever happens, the relative impact of the two cleavages – left vs right and social liberal vs social conservative will be crucial. The relative success of each side in imposing its own agenda on the political debate will help determine who ultimately triumphs.

This article is a cross-post from the UK in a Changing Europe’s website.

Read the Mind the values gap report here.

Newslinks for Tuesday 30th June 2020

30 Jun

‘New Deal’ spending spree to boost Britain’s recovery

“Boris Johnson will promise today to lead Britain out of the coronavirus crisis with an economic recovery plan as bold as Franklin D Roosevelt’s New Deal. The prime minister is announcing a £5 billion programme of accelerated capital spending on hospitals, roads, rail, prisons, courts, schools and high streets to help to sustain a job market ravaged by the pandemic. Mr Johnson will invite comparisons with the reforming 32nd US president, who used the full power of the state to restore American fortunes after the Great Depression, as he sets out a programme that includes a pledge to retrain those who have lost their jobs.” – The Times


First UK city to go back under lockdown

“Matt Hancock shut non-essential shops and closed schools in Leicester as he forced the city back into lockdown following a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases. The Health Secretary confirmed lockdown measures will be extended in the East Midlands city for at least two weeks, with non-essential shops which opened on June 15 closed again from tomorrow and schools shut from Thursday. The nationwide easing of restrictions this Saturday – including the reopening of pubs, hair salons and restaurants – will also not extend to the city. Residents were advised to stay at home as much as possible and were warned against all but essential travel. The drastic move follows a spike in Covid-19 cases in Leicester, which accounted for around 10 per cent of all positive cases in Britain over the past week.” – Daily Mail

  • Leicester is hit by first local lockdown – The Times
  • City plunged back into lockdown – Daily Telegraph
  • Law will be changed to enforce local lockdown – The Sun
  • The 36 cities and counties where cases are rising – Daily Telegraph
  • Police, Mayor and businesses hit out at lockdown decision – Daily Telegraph
  • Sunak expands £500m fund for start-ups – The Guardian
  • Greece bars British tourists – The Times
  • German lockdown extended – The Times
  • Flu virus with ‘pandemic potential’ found in China – BBC News
  • Schools may focus on English and maths – Daily Telegraph
  • Sharpest fall in UK economy since 1979 – The Sun

Cummings and Gove join forces in battle against Whitehall ‘blob’

“The first strike against “the blob”, the Johnson government sees as its enemy, was made on Sunday evening, when Mark Sedwill, head of the civil service and national security adviser, abruptly quit. Tensions had been rising between Mr Johnson and Sir Mark for months, but the announcement of his exit in September marks the start of an effort to overhaul the Whitehall establishment. While Mr Johnson is supportive of the plan to reform the UK civil service, he is not spearheading the efforts. Instead it is his powerful adviser Dominic Cummings and the Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove who are leading the charge in tackling what they see as ineffective, pro-EU bureaucrats.” – FT

  • Sedwill ‘promised shot at Nato job’ – The Times
  • Mandarins in revolt over Sedwill sacking – Daily Mail
  • Runners and riders to become cabinet secretary – The Times
  • Senior female civil servant among candidates – Daily Telegraph
  • Cabinet office could be next – Daily Telegraph
  • PM’s pick for national security post condemned as ‘party political’ – The Guardian
  • Desmond in spotlight over bid to run Lottery – Daily Mail

Hague: The Civil Service needs reform, but this wasn’t the right way to start

“Michael Gove’s speech on Saturday on reforming the civil service was a vintage performance from one of the most effective ministers of recent years: passionate, well-informed and clear in its proposals. In calling for our public servants to be more diverse, more expert and more open to experimentation he was absolutely right, and both my own experience in government and observation of the current crisis bear that out. Sadly, the rushed announcement a few hours later of the departure of Sir Mark Sedwill as Cabinet Secretary was not a good example of how to lead the government machine towards positive change.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Trump ‘bullied and humiliated May’ – The Times

Starmer under fire from BLM activists

“The UK’s Black Lives Matter movement has told Sir Keir Starmer he has no right ‘to tell us what our demands should be’ after he claimed the campaign’s message was getting ‘tangled up’. BLM has been behind a number of high-profile protests which have taken part across the country following the death of George Floyd in police custody in the US last month. It has also played a key role in the removal of statues which glorify historical figures who profited from slavery. However, calls to ‘defund the police’ have been rubbished as ‘nonsense’ by the Labour leader, who in turn was branded ‘a cop in an expensive suit’ by activists, referencing his previous job as head of the Crown Prosecution Service.” – Daily Mail

  • BLM calls Starmer ‘cop in suit’ – The Sun
  • Long-Bailey accuses Starmer of plunging Labour into an ‘avoidable mess’ – Daily Mail

Clegg attacked by campaigners over ‘hate and racism’ on Facebook

“Organisers of an advertising boycott against Facebook have criticised Sir Nick Clegg after the former deputy prime minister said the social media giant would “redouble” its efforts to remove hate speech from the platform. The Stop Hate for Profit campaign has been urging large corporations to remove advertising from Facebook, accusing the social media giant of allowing “racist, violent and verifiably false content to run rampant on its platform.” Coca-Cola, Levi’s, Honda and Unilever are among those who have pulled advertising. Sir Nick, Facebook’s head of global affairs and communication, told CNN that the company had made “meaningful change” but Facebook will not be able to “get rid of everything that people react negatively to”. – The Times

And finally, Raab needs a clock watcher

“Time flies in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Quite literally: nine antique clocks have gone missing from its Whitehall HQ, according to an annual release of data on its counter-fraud investigations. Civil Service World reports that the FCO suffered losses of about £133,650 in the past year, of which £53,000 was the value of the nine missing timepieces, none of which has been traced. Dominic Raab must be ticked off. According to James Landale, the BBC’s diplomatic editor, the joke doing the rounds is that Downing Street is to blame. Boris Johnson needs a supply of clocks to give to all the permanent secretaries he’s about to retire.” – The Times

News in Brief