Newsletter October Newsletter

Good and Bad News Update – Britain October 2022

Good News Britain

  • Former Iran detainee Anoosheh Ashoori ran the London Marathon in his Evin prisoner’s uniform on 2 October. He ran for hours each day in his cell hoping one day he would run the marathon as a free man. He dedicated his medal to the women of Iran, political prisoners and the freedom of Iran
  • The five British nationals held by Russian-backed forces in Ukraine have been released as part of a prisoner exchange.
  • The government published its Rough Sleeping Strategy in September. It aims to provide 14,000 beds, 3,000 support staff and 2,400 long-term supported homes with a view to ending rough sleeping.  
  • A church plaque commemorating an 18th century slave owner has been taken down in Dorchester after a judge approved its removal. The plaque had praised the owner’s bravery and humanity in quelling an uprising in 1760 in Jamaica which resulted in up to 500 enslaved people being killed.
  • The Department for International Trade was given an enforcement notice – the first to be issued in seven years – by the Information Commissioner over its ‘persistent failures’ in handling freedom of information (FOI) requests. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been warned that it may face similar action if it does not improve its handling of FOI requests.
  • Birmingham City Council has created a buffer-zone around an abortion clinic using a three year Public Space Protection Order. About a quarter of abortion clinics experience protests or vigils but creating buffer-zones around them is controversial as they raise questions about the right to protest. Local residents in Birmingham had worked for two years to secure this buffer zone. An amendment to the Public Order Bill has been tabled that would introduce protest-free areas around all such clinics in England and Wales.

Bad News Britain

  • Less than a quarter of the people hosting Ukrainian refugees in Cambridgeshire are believed to be willing to continue and many arrangements are expected to end in October and November.
  • Britain grants asylum to Rwanda refugees – seven so far this year, raising important questions about how safe Rwanda really is.
  • 1.1mn visas were issued to people coming to work or study in the UK in the last year, an increase of over 80 per cent on the year before. Many of these are medical professionals leaving countries which can ill afford such losses because the UK chooses not to train a sufficient number.
  • Medical experts have expressed concern about the views of the new Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey on abortion. She voted against extending abortion rights to women in Northern Ireland, and also went against medical advice and voted against extending the right to access abortion pills for early medical abortions before 10 weeks, as did 173 other Tory MPs. This is despite the fact that the British Social Attitudes Survey shows that there is near-unanimous support for abortions when the woman’s health is endangered, and more than two thirds support if the woman does not want the child or if the couple cannot afford it. A YouGov poll in 2020 found that nine out of 10 UK adults identify as pro-choice.
  • Analysis by Crisis suggests that the cost of living crisis could result in 1.7mn households becoming homeless this winter. London Councils have estimated that in London alone 125,000 households are at risk of homelessness.
  • The Resolution Foundation’s report In at the Deep End: the Living Standards Crisis Facing the new Prime Minister warns that 14mn people will be living in absolute poverty in 2023-24 unless policy or economic forecasts change. Child poverty is projected to reach 33 per cent in 2026-27.
  • Free-trade talks have previously always included provisions to help ensure countries uphold basic human rights but this is set to be no longer the case.
  • The HateLab research centre at Cardiff University monitors hate speech across social media and, over the last decade, has found that online misogyny is ubiquitous.
  • The TUC commissioned Number Cruncher Politics to poll 1,750 black and ethnic minority workers and conduct focus group interviews. The research showed more than half had faced racism at work in the past five years. The most common source was colleagues but 17 percent of incidents involved a manager or someone with authority over them.
  • Reprieve has called for a re-evaluation of the rejection of Shamima Begum’s claim for citizenship after it found evidence an Isis recruiter working as a spy for Canada smuggled her (and her two fellow schoolgirls) into Syria.
  • For the first time in 25 years, the word Women has been omitted from the Ministry for Equalities. It is said that the equalities brief has not changed but it should be noted that the Prime Minister’s chief economic advisor is in favour of abolishing the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
  • A number of anti-monarchy demonstrators were arrested during the period of mourning for the late Queen. However, the police have a duty to facilitate legitimate protests, and the right to protest peacefully is enshrined in the rights to freedom of expression and to freedom of assembly as expressed in articles 10 and 11 in the European Convention of Human Rights and incorporated within the Human Rights Act.
  • MPs on the Work and Pensions Select Committee called in July for benefit deductions to be paused – as they were during the pandemic – and restarted only when inflation eased or benefit levels caught up. They said the debt deductions were causing ‘hardship’ for ‘households currently struggling with huge financial pressures’, and people needed ‘breathing space’. The government rejected these calls in September.
  • Fourteen campaign groups, including Liberty, have written an open letter to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner calling for an end to the use of facial recognition technology. They claim that 87 per cent of the alerts generated by this technology are misidentifications and that ‘millions of Londoners’ faces have been scanned by these cameras without their consent’. The police dispute this figure and state that the percentage of misidentification is very low.