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STEPHEN GLOVER on the BBC’s hatchet job on Rupert Murdoch

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stephen glover on the bbcs hatchet job on rupert murdoch

Maybe the fabulously wealthy and powerful can look after themselves, and the rest of us shouldn’t mind too much if their successes are ignored and their failings exaggerated.

Rupert Murdoch is, after all, the most influential media mogul who has ever lived, as well as the richest. Why should we care if he is the victim of a hatchet job? Haven’t his own newspapers sometimes traduced the innocent?

If his persecutor were a leading journalist, I wouldn’t care. But when the BBC —our state broadcaster whose power enormously exceeds that of Murdoch’s newspapers — is guilty of breathtaking bias, and a striking lack of fair-mindedness, it’s impossible to remain silent.

Parts of BBC2’s three-episode The Rise Of The Murdoch Dynasty, which concluded on Tuesday, were unexceptionable. Some of it was gripping.

A story of money and politicians sucking up to the billionaire proprietor, of family fallings-out and sibling rivalry, is bound to fascinate.

Why should we care if Rupert Murdoch is the victim of a hatchet job? If his persecutor were a leading journalist, I wouldn¿t care. But when the BBC ¿our state broadcaster ¿ is guilty of breathtaking bias, and a striking lack of fair-mindedness, it¿s impossible to remain silent

Why should we care if Rupert Murdoch is the victim of a hatchet job? If his persecutor were a leading journalist, I wouldn¿t care. But when the BBC ¿our state broadcaster ¿ is guilty of breathtaking bias, and a striking lack of fair-mindedness, it¿s impossible to remain silent

Why should we care if Rupert Murdoch is the victim of a hatchet job? If his persecutor were a leading journalist, I wouldn’t care. But when the BBC —our state broadcaster — is guilty of breathtaking bias, and a striking lack of fair-mindedness, it’s impossible to remain silent

But the case against the mogul was put one-sidedly by inveterate Murdoch-haters whose own discreditable pasts were overlooked. Meanwhile, the man’s achievements were barely mentioned. The BBC treated him like a low-grade Mafia don.

Here I should emphasise one ineradicable black mark against Murdoch: phone-hacking. His two red-top tabloids, the now defunct News of the World and The Sun, conducted extensive eavesdropping of the private telephone conversations of celebrities, and of people in the news.

This was obviously distressing to many of those involved. It led to the whole Press being investigated by the Leveson Inquiry, and to the still extant threat of coercive measures against newspapers.

If Murdoch were in all other respects as virtuous as the Archangel Gabriel, which he obviously isn’t, this stain couldn’t be removed.

However, the case against the tycoon was made at such length and so tendentiously that it was hard for this viewer to keep calm — particularly so when Murdoch’s hysterical accusers were wheeled out.

Parts of BBC2¿s three-episode The Rise Of The Murdoch Dynasty, which concluded on Tuesday, were unexceptionable. Some of it was gripping (pictured with sons Lachlan and James)

Parts of BBC2¿s three-episode The Rise Of The Murdoch Dynasty, which concluded on Tuesday, were unexceptionable. Some of it was gripping (pictured with sons Lachlan and James)

Parts of BBC2’s three-episode The Rise Of The Murdoch Dynasty, which concluded on Tuesday, were unexceptionable. Some of it was gripping (pictured with sons Lachlan and James)

One of them was former motor-racing boss Max Mosley, who readers may remember as the instigator of an S&M orgy involving dominatrices in his flat in 2008.

Although violence was inflicted, Mosley later described the goings-on as ‘perfectly harmless’. He sued the News of the World for having described the orgy as ‘Nazi’, and won £60,000.

Others may recall the more recent discovery by this newspaper of a 1961 pamphlet in his name which stated that ‘coloured immigrants’ spread disease.

The young Max Mosley, who made no secret of his Far Right sympathies, continued for some years to support South Africa’s extreme apartheid regime.

Yet none of his sleazy and shady past was mentioned by the BBC. He was presented as a decent and upright elderly man. I could scarcely contain myself when the old rogue described his (continuing) opposition to Murdoch as ‘a sort of battle between good and evil’.

Also part of what was described without irony as the ‘Rebel Alliance’ and ‘the resistance’ was erstwhile Labour deputy leader Tom Watson.

But the case against the mogul was put one-sidedly by inveterate Murdoch-haters whose own discreditable pasts were overlooked. The BBC treated him like a low-grade Mafia don (pictured with Rebekah Brooks)

But the case against the mogul was put one-sidedly by inveterate Murdoch-haters whose own discreditable pasts were overlooked. The BBC treated him like a low-grade Mafia don (pictured with Rebekah Brooks)

But the case against the mogul was put one-sidedly by inveterate Murdoch-haters whose own discreditable pasts were overlooked. The BBC treated him like a low-grade Mafia don (pictured with Rebekah Brooks)

Viewers were not told that he had accepted £540,000 in donations from Mosley, with whom he shares a hatred of the tabloid Press and a burning desire to regulate it.

Nor were we reminded of Watson’s championing of Carl Beech, who made fantastical allegations about a ‘VIP paedophile network’ that included war hero Lord Bramall, former Home Secretary Leon Brittan, and former Prime Minister Edward Heath.

The BBC also omitted to tell its audience that the third member of the gang, actor Hugh Grant, is a fanatical and long-standing supporter of the anti-Press lobby group Hacked Off.

It somehow slipped Auntie’s mind that Grant is a cheerleader for Impress, a State-approved regulator ignored by mainstream newspapers, funded indirectly by Max Mosley’s family charity.

Some biographical information about Nick Davies, the fourth member, would also have been helpful. To his credit, Davies spearheaded The Guardian’s exposure of phone hacking.

Actor and Hacked Off activist Hugh Grant

Actor and Hacked Off activist Hugh Grant

Max Mosley

Max Mosley

The case against the tycoon was made at such length and so tendentiously that it was hard for this viewer to keep calm — particularly so when Murdoch’s hysterical accusers were wheeled out. Left: Hugh Grant, right: Max Mosley

What wasn’t mentioned is that he was driven by an obsessive hatred for Murdoch, whom he had earlier described as a ‘brutal and unscrupulous bully’.

With a characteristic lack of generosity towards journalistic colleagues, in 2009 he declared The Sun ‘a source of repulsively dishonest journalism’.

Finally — in this list of facts withheld by the BBC — was a crucial flaw in Davies’s 2011 story about the hacking of the mobile phone of missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler, who it later transpired had been murdered.

This bombshell article led directly to the Leveson Inquiry, and Murdoch’s panic-stricken decision to shut down the News of the World.

This was the strapline in The Guardian’s front page ‘splash’ about the News of the World: ‘Exclusive. Paper deleted missing schoolgirl’s voicemail, giving the family false hope.’ But it turned out not to be true.

Five months later, The Guardian conceded that ‘the News of the World is unlikely to have been responsible for the deletion of a set of voicemails from the phone that caused Milly Dowler’s parents to have false hope that she was still alive’. Davies has never properly apologised for his error.

All these omissions are highly significant. I suggest that the programme makers made a decision to withhold important background information about its ‘star witnesses’ for fear of undermining the case it intended to build against Rupert Murdoch.

A story of money and politicians sucking up to the billionaire proprietor, of family fallings-out and sibling rivalry, is bound to fascinate.

A story of money and politicians sucking up to the billionaire proprietor, of family fallings-out and sibling rivalry, is bound to fascinate.

A story of money and politicians sucking up to the billionaire proprietor, of family fallings-out and sibling rivalry, is bound to fascinate.

There are other examples of the documentary rigging information. It alleged that, acting on Murdoch’s orders, The Sun and News of the World ran a series of Tory sex scandal stories in the months before the 1997 election in order to help Tony Blair and Labour win.

A series of lurid headlines were displayed. One featured a Conservative MP, Alan Amos, arrested by police over an alleged sexual indecency offence. In fact, this story was published by The Sun some five years earlier, on March 9, 1992, a month before the 1992 election, when the paper strongly backed the Tories.

There are other instances of the programme manipulating dates. The irony is that the BBC accuses Murdoch’s titles of shoddy journalism, and yet is itself guilty of the very same fault.

Needless to say, Murdoch’s achievements are ignored. In 1986, by removing his printing operations to Wapping overnight, he broke the power of the trade unions, whose restrictive practices were throttling newspapers.

Other titles followed his lead, and saved themselves financially. This is what Nick Davies later wrote: ‘He threw 6,000 men out of work when he broke away from the printing unions in London.’ That’s all!

Nor was Murdoch’s triumph in building up the satellite broadcaster BSkyB (nearly bankrupting himself in the early days) cited by the programme. Sky, as it became, brought increased choice for TV viewers, and a great deal of money to the Premier League and other sports.

Believe me, I’m very far from being a Murdoch acolyte. In 1993, he initiated a price war to damage the Independent, in whose founding I had played a part, by slashing the cover price of the loss-making Times — a cross-subsidy that would have been illegal in some countries. I shan’t forgive him for that.

But I can recognise that he has been a media titan, who has done great things as well as bad ones. Alas, the BBC is incapable of a balanced view. It showed none of the fair-mindedness we are entitled to expect from our national broadcaster. This was a stitch-up, borrowed from the Left’s mean-spirited playbook.

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Joe Biden slams AG Bill Barr as ‘sick’ for comparing lockdowns to slavery

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joe biden slams ag bill barr as sick for comparing lockdowns to slavery

Democratic nominee Joe Biden went after Attorney General Bill Barr for saying that coronavirus lockdown orders were the ‘greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history’ since slavery – and called Donald Trump’s handling of Covid ‘close to criminal.’

‘Quite frankly they’re sick,’ Biden remarked of Barr’s comments at a Thursday night CNN town hall with Anderson Cooper, held just outside his hometown of Scranton, PA.

‘I never, ever thought I would see such a thoroughly, totally irresponsible administration.’ 

Biden said he was in disbelief that Barr would almost equate ‘following the recommendations of the scientific community’ to save lives during the coronavirus crisis to ‘people being put in chains.’ 

‘You lost your freedom because he didn’t act,’ Biden said – that comment likely intended for his political rival, President Donald Trump.  

‘You’ve got to level with the American people, shoot from the shoulder. There’s never been a time when they’ve have not been able to step up,’ Biden said. ‘This president should step down,’ the Democratic nominee added.

And he seized on the Bob Woodward tapes revealing Trump calling the virus ‘deadly stuff’ and admitting he liked ‘playing it down’ and said: ‘He knew it and he did nothing. It’s close to criminal.’

The former vice president said, in contrast, that he’d consider fining people on federal property – which is in the president’s jurisdiction – for not wearing masks, after having already called for a nationwide mask mandate, which he’d have to implement by putting pressure on governors. 

‘If you’re on federal property you must wear a mask,’ he said. ‘And we could have a fine for them not doing it.’ 

The town hall featured a number of people who experienced loss – a Republican nurse whose police officer husband died from cancer contracted after cleaning up Ground Zero post-9/11, an immunocompromised teacher whose wive lost her mother to COVID-19. Unlike the ABC News town hall earlier in the week with Trump, it did not feature solely undecided voters, and included questions from explicit Biden and Trump supporters.

 The event opened with a woman who lost her mother to the coronavirus.         

Democratic nominee Joe Biden went after President Donald Trump's Attorney General Bill Barr who said hat coronavirus lockdown orders were the 'greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history' since slavery

Democratic nominee Joe Biden went after President Donald Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr who said hat coronavirus lockdown orders were the ‘greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history’ since slavery

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‘You’ve lost your freedom because he didn’t act,’ Joe Biden said blasting President Donald Trump’s inaction on the coronavirus during Thursday night’s CNN town hall outside of his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania 

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Joe Biden (left) told Anderson Cooper (right) he’d consider fining people for not wearing masks on federal property if elected president

Audience members are photographed watching Joe Biden from outside their cars, as CNN set the town hall up to be like a drive-in movie theater

Audience members are photographed watching Joe Biden from outside their cars, as CNN set the town hall up to be like a drive-in movie theater

Joe Biden (left) talked to a number of people who experienced loss, including Joe Vadala (right) an immunocompromised teacher whose wife lost her mother to COVID-19

Joe Biden (left) talked to a number of people who experienced loss, including Joe Vadala (right) an immunocompromised teacher whose wife lost her mother to COVID-19 

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A look at the drive-in movie theater set-up CNN constructed for Joe Biden’s Scranton-area town hall event 

‘First of all, I feel so badly for you,’ he told the woman. ‘You know, we talk about … almost 200,000 deaths and it’s almost like background noise,’ 

‘But it means a lot of empty chairs. It means a lot of children without their mothers or fathres. It means a lot of people not able to see their parents, so much, so my heart goes out to you,’ Biden said.    

And while the virus was top of mind, Biden was asked about the summer of racial unrest as well. 

Biden explained why he stuck up for peaceful protesters but criticized Trump for restarting his rallies. 

The ex-veep said COVID-19 safety was important on both scenarios. 

‘There is a big difference between people walking, moving along, and people sitting down, cheek to jaw, shoulder to shoulder, a thousand of them, breathing on one another, indoors and out, that causes real serious problems,’ he said. 

At one point, Cooper asked Biden if he believed he benefited from white privilege. 

In one of the taperecorded interviews between Trump and journalist Bob Woodward, Trump scoffed at the idea. 

‘Sure, I’ve benefited just because I don’t have to go through what my Black brothers and sisters have had to go through,’ Biden answered. 

Biden then made the point that growing up in Scranton, ‘we’re used to guys who look down their nose at us.’ 

‘Well I’ll tell you what bothered me, to tell you the truth, maybe it’s my Scranton roots, I don’t know,’ he told Cooper. ‘But when you guys started talking on television about Biden if he wins will be the first person without an Ivy League degree to be elected president.’ 

‘Who the hell makes you think I have to have an Ivy League degree to be president?’ Biden said, garnering applause from the audience. 

Biden would be the first president since President Ronald Reagan to not hold an Ivy League degree.   

‘We are as good as anybody else,’ Biden said. ‘And guys like Trump who inherited everything and squandered what they inherited are the people I’ve always had a problem with. Not the people busting their neck.’

Throughout the town hall, Biden continued to talk about the election was between Scranton and Park Avenue. 

‘All that Trump can see from Park Avenue is Wall Street. All he thinks about is the stock market,’ Biden said at one point. 

He also said that Trump downplayed the coronavirus crisis because his eyes were on Wall Street then as well. 

Biden repeatedly spoke of his background in Scranton, his connections to the wider area – including telling a questioner from Philadelphia ‘I married a Philly girl’ – and referred to his personal experience of grief and loss, with a series of questions at the start coming from people who had suffered bereavement, including a police officer’s widow as well as those whose families were hit by coronavirus.

The display of empathy played to Biden’s strengths as a campaigner, something which he has been unable to do for the past six months, and also presented a contrast to Trump’s town hall earlier in the week.

Hillary Clinton lost Scranton in the course of her defeat in Pennsylvania, one of the three ‘blue wall’ states which were won by Trump.

But after the event Biden said he would win Scranton. He had won applause from the audience for praising it and has returned repeatedly to it over the years.

Biden, 78, also stood throughout the town hall, despite chairs being on stage for him and Cooper, a contrast to Trump, 73, sitting throughout his ABC News town hall in Philadelphia on Tuesday.  

Trump had assailed Biden as ‘shot’ and physically and mentally incapable of becoming president, which Biden’s supporters say has simply lowered the bar on how he has to perform at the debates. 

His performance will be studied closely by Trump’s aides – and by Trump – ahead of the first presidential debate on September 29, a week on Tuesday.

Cooper asked Biden if he was practicing and if someone was playing Trump and Biden said ‘not so far,’ saying he was practicing being ‘concise.’ Unlike the town hall, the debate comes with time limits and moderator Chris Wallace proved a fierce enforcer of them in 2016. Two people are asking him questions, he said.

On Air Force One as the town hall began, Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows warned that Biden should not be underestimated as an opponent – even though Trump has been reported to have privately scorned practicing and said he would force Biden to stutter or make a gaffe.

‘To suggest that you shouldn’t take him seriously would be misguided,’ Meadows said, noting Biden’s almost five decades in electoral politics. 

Trump has also suggested that Biden was ‘on drugs or something’ when he performed well in the later Democratic primary debates, and suggested taking a drug test.

In Wisconsin Thursday he addressed a rally as Biden’s town hall concluded, and railed at Biden, claiming the Democrat used a teleprompter, while reading from two teleprompters himself.

His campaign accused Cooper of ‘giving Biden a total pass on his lies and misrepresentations’ and the questions being ‘an invitation for him to attack President Trump.’

Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller tweeted: ‘This town hall is an in-kind contribution to the Biden campaign.’

Drive-in with Biden: Obama's vice-president's town hall was in the format of a drive-in theater

Drive-in with Biden: Obama’s vice-president’s town hall was in the format of a drive-in theater

Joe Biden's town hall comes two days after President Donald Trump participated in a Philadelphia town hall, filmed indoors at the National Constitution Center, with only people posing questions as audience members. They wore masks and sat six feet apart

Joe Biden’s town hall comes two days after President Donald Trump participated in a Philadelphia town hall, filmed indoors at the National Constitution Center, with only people posing questions as audience members. They wore masks and sat six feet apart 

CNN created a drive-in movie theater set-up inside a ball park for the event. 

‘Who knew drive-ins were coming back?’ Cooper remarked as the event opened. 

Biden’s audience consisted 250 people gathered, the campaign confirmed, keeping in line with Pennsylvania’s coronavirus regulations. 

The ball park is where the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders play. 

The old school drive-in has become a stand-in on the Democratic side for campaign rallies, as Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris have preached caution about supporters attending gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Democratic Party set up a drive-in in a parking lot outside the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware on the final night of the Democratic National Convention so there would be an audience to cheer Biden and Harris as they emerged together as the official presidential ticket to watch fireworks.

Supporters watched the virtual convention on large screens and then cheered and honked their horns when Biden and Harris briefly appeared.  

Additionally, in cities around the country, watch parties were set up drive-in style so Democratic supporters could watch Biden’s nominating speech together.  

The town hall brings Biden – who was born in Scranton before moving to Wilmington – to the key swing state two days after President Donald Trump made the trek to Philadelphia for his own town hall with Pennsylvania voters. 

Trump’s town hall was produced by ABC News and was filmed indoors at the National Constitution Center, where the only audience was the likely voters questioning the president. 

They all sat six feet apart and wore masks, until they posed their questions to Trump. 

The president has been more cavalier about his campaigning amid a continued spread of the coronavirus. 

Last weekend he held his first indoor rally since June in the state of Nevada. 

He’s packed thousands into airport hangars as well. 

The campaign has encouraged mask-wearing of attendees, but droves have rebelled. 

At a recent rally in New Hampshire, Trump supporters booed when a voice over the loudspeaker encouraged them to wear masks. 

The president told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he wasn’t personally worried about contracting the coronavirus at these events.  

‘I’m on a stage and it’s very far away,’ he told the paper. ‘And so I’m not at all concerned.’   

Joe Biden says he will accept the ‘full election results and count every vote’ as he slams Donald Trump for refusing to agree to accept them in advance

Former Vice President Joe Biden skewered President Donald Trump for refusing to say outright he would accept the results of the election, then provided his own answer to the question. 

‘Sure, the full results. Count every vote,’ Biden responded, asked by CNN host Anderson Cooper about the freighted topic during a live, outdoor town hall-style meeting. 

‘Look, i mean, can anybody – any of you are history majors out there think of any president early on who said I’m not sure I’m going to accept the results of the election? It depends?’ Biden said, raising his voice for emphasis. ‘What’s happened to us? This is not who we are. This is not what America is. No president’s ever said anything like that.’

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Former Vice President Joe Biden blasted President Donald Trump for refusing to say he will accept the election results. ‘Sure, the full results. Count every vote,’ Biden responded when asked if he would do so

Responding to a question about mail-in voting – the subject of repeated escalating attacks by President Trump – Biden responded: ‘Look, if the president had even remote confidence that he was likely to win the election, he wouldn’t be doing this.’

He told Cooper: ‘Remember, I wasn’t on your show, but I said some months ago, I predict the president is going to try to move the Election Day. Everybody said oh he’d never do that.  Guess what? He suggested maybe we should move the election date, postpone the election,’ Biden said.

Powerful Senate Republicans immediately shot down the idea after Trump floated it.  

President Donald Trump has refused to say he will accept the election results. He said in July: 'Trump said in July: 'I have to see. No, I¿m not going to just say yes. I¿m not going to say no, and I didn¿t last time either'

President Donald Trump has refused to say he will accept the election results. He said in July: ‘Trump said in July: ‘I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either’

In this file photo, absentee voting manager Matt Kelly holds the ballot envelopes that will be used to mail ballots at the Franklin County Board of Elections office in Columbus on Wednesday, July 29

In this file photo, absentee voting manager Matt Kelly holds the ballot envelopes that will be used to mail ballots at the Franklin County Board of Elections office in Columbus on Wednesday, July 29

Trump loyalist Attorney General Bill Barr has also blasted mail-in voting

Trump loyalist Attorney General Bill Barr has also blasted mail-in voting

‘He’s done every single thing, including having a postmaster general who still doesn’t know who dismantled those machines – who ordered picking up those places to mail your ballots,’ Biden said. ‘I mean, it just is all about trying to delegitimize the effort.’

Trump told Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace in July when pressed on whether he would accept the results: ‘I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either.’

Trump took a similar posture in 2016, when he said: ‘I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense.’ 

Cooper asked him point blank: ‘Would you commit tonight to accepting the results of the election?’

Biden’s call to ‘count every vote’ only hints at the political and legal battle that lies ahead. He is assembling a team of top litigators, including former solicitors general, to fight to allow ballots and anticipating challenges.

Trump continues to rail against mail-in voting, as he did at the White House yesterday.  

Trump tweeted Thursday morning: ‘Because of the new and unprecedented massive amount of unsolicited ballots which will be sent to ‘voters’, or wherever, this year, the Nov 3rd Election result may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED, which is what some want. Another election disaster yesterday. Stop Ballot Madness!,’   

Asked by a Philadelphia voter what he would do to secure mail-in voting if elected, Biden said: ‘I would not try to throw into question the legitimacy of the election like this president and the people around him have done.’    

He spoke about an election two years ahead, when COVID-19 will hopefully be on the wane. ‘Look it’s all about people showing up and voting.  And i’m confident notwithstanding all the efforts the president’s made, I think you’re going to see a massive turnout,’ he said. 

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Government’s struggling test and trace system ‘could be outsourced to a tech giant like Amazon’

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governments struggling test and trace system could be outsourced to a tech giant like amazon

The UK’s test and trace system could be outsourced to a delivery giant such as Amazon, it was reported last night.

Ministers are said to be planning to hand over the running of the testing service to a logistics firm as the system struggles to cope with increased demand for tests.

An invitation to bid for a contract covering the management of the entire ‘end-to-end’ supply chain will be issued next month, The Daily Telegraph reported.

A Government source said ‘experts in delivery services’ were needed. ‘At the moment, the management of NHS Test and Trace has been in-house but, as we go into winter, we need experts in this area to take it forward,’ they said.

Amazon, DHL and other major logistics firms are all reportedly likely to be competing for the huge contract which will be the linchpin of the Health Secretary’s promise to deliver 500,000 tests a day by the end of next month.

Ministers are said to be planning to hand over the running of the testing service to a logistics firm as the system struggles to cope with increased demand for tests. Pictured: The Amazon centre in Darlington, County Durham

Ministers are said to be planning to hand over the running of the testing service to a logistics firm as the system struggles to cope with increased demand for tests. Pictured: The Amazon centre in Darlington, County Durham

An information notice issued by the Department of Health calls for potential bidders to register their interest in the contract to co-ordinate the testing service’s supply change.

It says: ‘In order to significantly scale up the number of daily tests as well as making the operations more efficient, we are looking for an end-to-end management of all associated supply chain and logistics processes along the chain.’ 

It comes as tough new measures to control the spread of coronavirus have come into effect in the north-east of England, taking the total number of people across the UK in lockdown to more than 10 million.

The new restrictions cover Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham and began at midnight.

Residents are banned from socialising in homes or gardens with people outside their own households or support bubble, food and drink venues are restricted to table service only and leisure and entertainment venues must close at 10pm.

The changes run alongside the England-wide six-person limit on social gatherings.

It takes the total number of people under in areas under additional restrictions across the UK to more than 10 million, covering parts of Scotland, south Wales, the north west and north east of England, Yorkshire and the Midlands.  

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Boss of Next slams ‘joyless’ working from home and says employees miss everyday office conversations

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boss of next slams joyless working from home and says employees miss everyday office conversations

Staff have missed the everyday spontaneous conversation of the office and the chance to learn from each other while working at home during lockdown, a chief executive has warned.

Lord Wolfson, the boss of high street retailer Next, warned about the damaging and ‘joyless’ effects of the new work environment on businesses.

The Conservative life peer also criticised video conference calls such as Zoom which have become vital for many companies as employees work from home.

He told The Telegraph that online meetings transformed ‘meetings from productive exchanges of ideas into boring, one-way lectures’.

Lord Wolfson, chief executive of Next, has warned working from home means employees cannot learn from each other or enjoy spontaneous everyday conversations

Lord Wolfson, chief executive of Next, has warned working from home means employees cannot learn from each other or enjoy spontaneous everyday conversations 

It comes as many bosses fear that office staff will soon be back working from home within weeks due to the current testing fiasco – as supermarkets make contingency plans if workers can’t get swabbed.  

The Government has come under fire after widespread reports of people having to travel hundreds of miles to get checked and being unable to book a test at all.

This is despite Ministers pledging that testing capacity will hit 500,000 a day by the end of October.

The test and trace system has buckled under the pressure since children returned to school and the Government made a concerted effort to encourage people back into the office in order to try and kickstart the flagging UK economy.

Visitors show a member of staff a mobile phone screen at a drive through test centre in south London today

Visitors show a member of staff a mobile phone screen at a drive through test centre in south London today

Business leaders have displayed concerns about the current testing system and emphasised that it working effectively will be vital for getting employees back to work and boosting the UK economy.

Matt Fell CBI, UK Chief Policy Director, said if the Government wants to encourage people into their workplace safely then the test and trace system will be a ‘key component.’  

‘Reports of people being unable to access tests in their area or waiting too long to get the results will be deeply frustrating for individual and businesses alike,’ he added.

‘No one doubts how much effort is going in to get it right. The prize is having a faster turnaround in getting results which will let people know where they stand and whether they need to self-isolate or can return to work quickly.’

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Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, told the Financial Times, the Government needed to improve the testing facility ‘immediately’.

‘A truly comprehensive test and trace programme is essential if the UK is to manage the virus without further lockdowns which will cripple businesses.’

‘Continuing delays and a shortage of tests saps business, staff and consumer confidence at a fragile moment for the economy.’

Business leaders are becoming increasingly anxious that members of staff will be left self-isolating at home with family members waiting for test results to come back, rather than being back in the office during a pivotal moment for the UK economy.

Some supermarkets and food retailers have already put contingency plans in place if the testing system buckles.

There have been long queues at some Covid testing sites, such as this one in Southend-on-Sea, but others have been deserted despite people struggling to get screened

There have been long queues at some Covid testing sites, such as this one in Southend-on-Sea, but others have been deserted despite people struggling to get screened

Brakes, a food wholesaler, who have been operating throughout the pandemic, said:  ‘We’ve got very strong contingency plans in place which include temperature checks before being allowed on site.

‘Only essential people on site and stringent policies once people are there, which has meant that so far we have had very few people showing COVID-like symptoms.’ 

The Co-op group said that funeral care staff are on the key worker list so can get priority testing, but their food workers are not. 

A spokesman said: ‘We’ve built a model where we know that we have access to variable colleague resources at fairly short notice, so we have some resilience on that. 

‘Clearly we all hope that the testing capability will continue to strengthen and improve but we’ve got some protection in place, because the Co-op has had to deal with this throughout. 

‘It’s clearly a real challenge and anything that can be done to help the [testing] situation [is welcome].’

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