Thursday, April 02, 2020

Call for cooperation against Covid-19

A Joint OPEN LETTER FROM World Political Parties CONCERNING closer International Cooperation against COVID-19

Today, as COVID-19 is spreading rapidly across the globe, it constitutes the most urgent and serious challenge to both the health of the humanity and world peace and development.

Faced with this unprecedented situation, we, major political parties of various countries tasked with the weighty responsibility of improving people’s wellbeing, promoting national development and safeguarding world peace and stability, hereby issue our joint appeal as follows:

I. We pay our loftiest tribute to all the people, health workers in particular, who devote themselves to saving lives and protecting people’s health. We extend our heartfelt sympathies and solicitude to those who are suffering from pain and whose lives are under the threat of COVID-19 as well as the bereaved families of those deceased. We also express our deep mourning for the unfortunate loss of lives in the outbreak.

II. We recognise that if the COVID-19 outbreak is not effectively and promptly contained, it will inflict even greater harm to the lives, safety and health of many more people, and exert a severe impact on the economic and social development of most countries as well as on international exchanges and cooperation. We call on all countries to put the lives, safety and health of the people above everything else and take resolute and forceful measures to put an end to the spread of COVID-19.  

III. We support countries to put in place contingency plans and strategies for combating COVID-19 in light of their specific national conditions and to strengthen cooperation, with equal emphasis on containing the further spread and on patient treatment. Meanwhile, modern science and technology must be applied to the full to ensure the quickest and best possible results.

IV. We call on the general public of all countries to comply with prevention and mitigation measures with a due sense of social responsibility. We encourage countries to fully leverage the strength of civil society organisations and volunteers with a view to unleashing the power of all social sectors to combat COVID-19. 

V. We encourage all countries, while devoting efforts to epidemic control, to adopt an integrated approach to ensure economic and social development, take targeted measures to protect vulnerable groups and the SMEs, and honour their commitment to people’s living standards and social progress. We call on all countries to step up the international coordination of macroeconomic policies to maintian stability of global financial market as well as that of industrial and supply chains, and to reduce or exempt tariffs for trade facilitation so as to prevent world economic recession. Countries are also encouraged to maintain an appropriate level of international exchanges, in particular to facilitate the cross-border transportation of urgently needed medical equipment and protective materials for the fight against COVID-19.

VI. We are aware that the virus respects no borders, and no country can respond to the challenges alone in the face of the outbreak. Countries must enhance their consciousness of a community with a shared future for mankind, proactively rendering mutual help and support to one another as the situation becomes more difficult. Closer international cooperation, coordinated policies, concerted actions, and mobilisation of resources and forces globally will enable us to defeat this virus, a common enemy to all of humanity.

VII. We take note of the significant progress in the fight against COVID-19 in China and some other countries, which has bought time and offered experience to the rest of the international community. We highly commend countries including China for adopting an open, transparent and responsible attitude to disclosing related information in a timely fashion, sharing experience on response and patient treatment, and in particular providing medical and other supplies to the best of their ability to other affected countries. These represent a major contribution to the global fight against COVID-19, boosting the hope and confidence of countries that they can win this battle.

VIII. We welcome the Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit Statement on COVID-19 and support countries to strengthen the sharing of experience and medical cooperation in containing the outbreak, including joint research and development of specific medicines, vaccines and tests. We call on the provision of material, technical and other support to developing countries and countries with vulnerable public health systems. Let the sunlight of cooperation disperse the darkness of the pandemic.

IX. We call for science-based professional discussions on issues like prevention measures and the origin of the virus. We strongly oppose the politicisation of public health issues and the stigmatisation of other countries under the excuse of COVID-19. We stand firmly against all discriminatory comments and practices against any country, region or ethnic group, and call on governments of all countries to take proactive measures to protect the health, safety and legitimate interests of foreign nationals and students they host.  

X. We are of the view that the COVID-19 outbreak has laid bare the need for all countries to further foster the global governance outlook of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration and to support the leading role of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation in global public health governance. We call for all parties to enhance coordination and cooperation within the framework of the G20 and other international mechanisms for effective international prevention and control as we strive to build a global community with a shared future for public health.

As major political parties from countries of the world, we undertake to maintain close communication under the unusual circumstances, and ensure better performance of the due role of political guidance for the purpose of injecting political energy into the global fight against COVID-19. We firmly believe that our current difficulties are only temporary, just as the sunlight shall eventually shine after each storm. If the international community makes concerted efforts with confidence and resolve and takes a science-based and targeted approach, it will definitely win the final victory in the global blocking action against COVID-19. It is our belief that, after the pandemic, the community with a shared future for mankind will emerge stronger and humanity will embrace a brighter tomorrow.

 The Communist Party of China and more than 230 political parties, including the New Communist Party of Britain, have signed this Joint Open Letter calling for carrying out closer international co-operation to beat COVID-19. The letter, which was published on 2nd April 2020 is the first joint appeal of major world political parties for strengthening international cooperation since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Lock-down Britain

 The partial lock-down announced on Monday will, hopefully, help in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Boris Johnson, who is clearly unfit to hold high office, has finally heeded the advice of the medical community to adopt the sort of emergency measures that the rest of Europe implemented weeks ago. But they still fall well short of the action taken by the Chinese government that has successfully halted the spread of the virus in recent weeks.
Meanwhile the new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced a whole tranche of reforms to maintain social peace, including a wage support programme for those suspended or on short-time, as well restoring direct control over the rail network and preparing to buy controlling shares in British Airways and other airlines to stave off their complete collapse.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "This is the package of measures that trade unions like Unite have been pressing for as the most effective way to stave off mass hardship and the conditions for a depression.”
The leader of the biggest union in the country said: “The Chancellor has done the right thing and we look forward to working further with him in the coming days to get this money into the hands of those most in need.”
Well, we wouldn’t go that far. State intervention in the transport industry is being dubbed “renationalisation” but it is, in reality, bail-out economics much like the hiring of the entire English private health sector by the NHS for the duration of the crisis.
In the corridors of power in Westminster moves are afoot to clip Johnson’s wings. He’s already been forced to abandon the crackpot “herd immunity” ideas of his Rasputin, Dominic Cummings, which would have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable pensioners who are the mainstay of the Tory vote in the Home Counties these days. Some are now demanding Cummings’ resignation whilst others are calling for a “national unity government” to deal with the health crisis.
At the moment cross-party co-operation is going on through Privy Council procedures that, by their very nature, remain confidential. A ‘grand coalition’ would operate in the public arena and share the burden and, indeed, any blame if the crisis management falters or fails. It would also open the door for the extension of the UK’s European Union (EU) transition period into 2021 on the grounds that, at the moment, existing trade agreements should not be jeopardised. And it would give the Remainers, who haven’t given up the fight, a breathing space to plan their next move to keep Britain inside the EU.
Boosting the health service and saving jobs in the rail and aviation industries is all very well. But is it enough to halt the advance of the deadly virus and stave off mass unemployment?  Only time will tell.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said: “The Prime Minister is right to call for people to stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives. This is the right response to the coronavirus pandemic, and one we have been calling for.
“There now needs to be clear guidance to employers and workers about which workplaces should close – and the Government must close the loopholes to give security to all workers, including the self-employed, as well as renters and mortgage holders.
“We welcome these moves and will be working to ensure everybody has the protection and security they need.”

Belgravia: a Victorian fantasy

by Ben Soton

Belgravia: ITV drama series by Julian Fellowes. Stars: Tamsin Greig, Philip Glenister, Harriet Walter.

Starting on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the drama then jumps 26 years to 1841 without the characters having aged more than a day. The series centres around the Trenchards; James Trenchard (played by Philip Glenister), is a merchant and supplier of food to the British army. We should be reminded of Napoleon’s remark about an army marching on its stomach.
The 1840s, the first full decade of Queen Victoria’s reign, was a time when a number of modern bourgeois sensibilities came about. The period saw the development of construction firms employing a variety of tradesmen; previously customers would hire numerous tradesmen on different contracts.
James Trenchard is associated with this new business model. Anne Trenchard (played by Tamsin Grieg) attends an event where the latest fad, ‘Afternoon Tea’, is being held. We are reminded that an advantage of this practice is that you can circulate and can leave whenever you please; not always possible in the case of a formal meal.
It is at an Afternoon Tea that Anne meets Caroline Countess of Brockenhurst (played by Harriet Walter), as someone on intimate terms with the elite of Hampshire society. The Countess’s son, who was engaged to the Trenchards’ daughter, died at Waterloo. Both the Trenchards’ daughter and the Countess’s son are now dead, but it soon materialises that the family has a secret.
The Trenchards live in Belgravia – a part of London’s West End that was developed as a residential area for the wealthy by the Duke of Westminster during the Victorian era. Brockenhurst, however, is just a village in the New Forest, about 15 miles from Southampton, and there has never been a Countess of it.
This historical drama is the product of Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, ITV’s epic period drama known for showing the ruling class through very rose-tinted spectacles. Fellowes’ depiction of the nouveau riche Trenchards mixing with the likes of Countess Caroline is probably his idea of class-struggle.
In the case of Downton Abbey, whilst depicting the ruling class as quaint or wonderful philanthropists there were some references to the events of the time. These included the First World War, the liberation struggle in Ireland and the death of the Russian royal family. As the 1920s progressed, however, political events seemed to become less frequent.
This drama begins in the 1840s, an era that saw included rapid industrialisation, Chartism at home, famine and unrest in Ireland, and the 1848 Revolutions that swept across Europe. All we get in episode two are brief reference to contemporary Prime Ministers Robert Peel and Viscount Melbourne.
Fellowes, a Tory peer who sits in the House of Lords as Baron Fellowes of West Stafford, sees history from the perspective of the rich with occasional reference to their servants. Events such as those mentioned above are largely incidental and receive only an occasional mention.