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Vive la France

Vive la France


Christopher Harries
@CjHarries14

Another week, another act of barbarism on the streets of France. A febrile atmosphere is developing as the secular, French Republic comes to know the pernicious Islamic extremism. 

Rhetoric could be excused and dismissed, yet slaughter on the streets is far more difficult to ignore. Violence is not a new phenomenon, yet the frequency is making it difficult to forget. The murder of three including decapitation at the Notre Dame Basilica in Nice followed mere weeks after the beheading of Samuel Paty. Paty, a history and geography teacher from a suburb of Paris, ended up butchered for daring to show a Charlie Hebdo cartoon of the prophet Muhammad to a classroom of students.

The Charlie Hebdo cartoon that provoked fury and led to the beheading of Samuel Paty.

Earlier this month, President Macron positioned himself in a speech as a defender of the French Republic. In the speech, Macron announced a plan to tackle separatism. Particularly Islamist separatism while acknowledging France had failed its immigrant communities. 

In the wake of the beheading of Paty, Macron announced “We will not give up caricatures and drawings, even if others back away” action was also taken with the state forcing the closure of a mosque which had published videos agitating action against Paty, the deportation of foreign nationals and the dissolution of some non-governmental organisations.

This rhetoric from Macron has provoked outrage in the Islamic world. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey has described Macron as mentally ill, while there are boycotts of French goods.

Rhetoric will not suffice, further steps must be taken to challenge this pernicious ideology. Thinking about this subject reminds of the paradox of tolerance outlined by the philosopher, Karl Popper. As Popper described it “in order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance.” 

As Ayaan Hirsi Ali outlined in The Spectator, in practical terms, Macron can do this by utilising French Law, such as a denial of citizenship to those foreign citizens deemed to have assimilated. Tackling the dissemination of ideological extremism by other nations and strengthening immigration considerations.

It is also worth considering that the perpetrators of the two recent acts of savagery were not born in France. In the case of the murder of Paty, the perpetrator was an eighteen-year-old refugee called Abdoullakh Abouyedovich Anzorov. While the perpetrator in Nice according to France’s chief anti-terrorism prosecutor, is a Tunisian national who entered Europe last month, having crossed the Mediterranean. 

This highlights some of the risks posed by illegal crossings, namely we cannot be sure of the identity or intent of those making the crossing. Given the illegal crossings over the English Channel, we should be vigilant that a wolf may seek to enter the United Kingdom in such a manner. 

To talk about France is not to ignore the issue here in the United Kingdom. We have experienced the violence of Islamic extremism from suicide bombings and acts of barbarism. We should take similar action to avoid a replication of such recent horrors on our streets. 

The Labour Civil War

The Labour Civil War

Tomos Llewelyn

The news is out: Jeremy Corbyn MP has been suspended by the Labour Party. Big in the Labour world with implications for politics at large, especially the civil war that has been brewing ever since Sir Keir Starmer took to the helm of the near sunken ship.

The reasoning behind this explosive decision has everything to do with the inquiry into the matter of allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour party by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) coming to its conclusion and the publication of a report detailing the parties’ failings and unlawful acts with regard to the Equality Act of 2010.

The findings themselves were quite astonishing: Worse than mishandling the complaints of anti-Semitism from the party’s activists, worse than gross negligence or sweeping the problem under carpet; the report found that the party broke the law with regard to ‘acts of harassment and discrimination’ during Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure as leader. To add salt to the wounds of those caught up in all of this, the commission went on to state that Corbyn’s office itself ‘politically interfered’ with the complaints process. This was of course done in order to quell the issue for it to not develop into an electoral headache, don’t forget he had to fight two general elections.

Corbyn’s response, a statement on Facebook, included the line: ‘the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party’. Corbyn, in typical fashion I might add, dodged the issue and shifted the blame to his opponents including in particular this time, factions within his own ‘former’ party as well as the usual suspects of the media and the Conservative Party. This was deemed unacceptable by the new Labour leadership with Starmer stating in a speech today that: ‘those that deny this is a problem are part of the problem’ and ‘those that pretend it’s exaggerated or factional, are part of the problem’. This is of course a direct reference to Corbyn’s statement. Corbyn (still the MP for Islington North) was then suspended from the party ‘pending an investigation’.

At the very heart of the British left, the Trotskyite-Twitter sphere itself, a great disturbance has been felt echoing throughout. A great wave of resentment, already present but now intensified tenfold as their martyr fell. Just as Starmer demoted the natural successor to Corbynism: Rebecca Long-Bailey into non-existence, he has ejected the Grandad of Socialism himself.

Is Sir Keir out of his depth? Will the Labour party now eat itself? Only time will tell.

Our Parliament Is Out Of Order

Our Parliament Is Out Of Order

Crispin John

As often happens during Recess, the media try to keep people’s interest alive in politics by publishing a piece or two that’s more “general interest” rather than “current affairs”. In spite of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the associated political hubris, BBC Wales have republished an updated piece on unparliamentary language. We’ve seen the same sort of thing in several versions before, and to those of us who are interested in Parliamentary proceedings, it’s actually quite interesting.

After all, did we not laugh, or shake our heads in bemusement as Dafydd Elis-Thomas kicked Leanne Wood out of the Chamber for referring to Her Majesty the Queen as “Mrs Windsor”? Did we not also have a bit of a chuckle when Elin Jones, the current Presiding Officer, sent Lord Elis-Thomas a strongly worded letter for calling the Conservative benches “right wing shits”?

But therein lies a difference – and it’s causing a problem. You see, Lord Elis-Thomas used the Standing Orders of what was then the National Assembly to kick Wood out of Siambr Hywel for unparliamentary language. Jones however simply sent him a letter when he was guilty of the same offence.

YouTube is full of clips from the UK Parliament showing various speakers, from Baroness Boothroyd, to John Bercow, and Lindsay Hoyle, making denouncements from the Chair and admonishing members or kicking them out. No such material presents itself for the Welsh Parliament, for this prepubescent institution is yet to find its constitutional cajonas.

Let us take, for example, the recent case of Neil McEvoy, who turned up in the Senedd Siambr with a strip of gaffer tape over his mouth and a placard complaining that he had been “gagged by a racist”, because one of his amendments had not been selected for debate. This was, according to Standing Orders, conduct that questioned the Chair’s authority. McEvoy is now only being called for questions he’s tabled or amendments that have been selected, until he apologises.

The same did not apply to Gareth Bennett, MS for the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party and previously for UKIP. After his speech on transgender rights, he was told simply that he wouldn’t be allowed to speak until he apologised. There wasn’t any suggestion, apparently, of him being allowed to table questions in the interim. It’s a double standard, and demonstrates to me that the rules are being made up as we go along. If Members are going to take real liberties with Standing Orders, then by all means kick them out. Have the guts to do it – and certainly don’t shilly-shally with this “until you apologise” malarkey. But at the same time, we need to ask why we’ve got to where we are.

Writing on this website a week or so ago about Mark Reckless’ move to Abolish, my learned friend Daran Hill made a good point. He questioned whether or not people within the Cardiff Bay Establishment realised that people are driven to “fringe” or “anti-Establishment” outfits by the very nature of the Senedd’s attitude to what they would term as “newcomers”. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the Members apparently “guilty” of “unparliamentary” language recently are exactly those people for whom the Cardiff Bay elite hope not to be renewing security passes next May.

The fact of the matter is that it isn’t just the language of our Parliament that’s problematic. In fact, the discourse is the last of its issues. As soon as the UKIP Group, and then the Brexit Party Group, started to lose Members, privileges were taken away. Leaders questions were reduced, and they always came last, rather than rotating with the main opposition spokesmen. Committee places were dropped. Members, and staff, were out of the loop on consultation about Senedd business. But this was all evident before people jumping ship. I know – for I was there. Even when UKIP had its full complement the Group was left on the sidelines.

So it’s not just the language that’s become intemperate. The Parliament itself needs to grow up and stop acting like a spoilt toddler.

The Government has rightly come under fire in recent months for its unwelcome habit of dodging Senedd scrutiny. As much as politicos and opposition politicians complain about this, and rightly so in my view; there is only one actual body that can do something about it – and that is the Senedd and its Presiding Officer.

If the Senedd is to aspire to its marketing strapline of “representing all voices in Wales”, then it can make a start by listening to those Members whose message they may find difficult. Only then can we truly take the heat out of the debate and find common ground to deal with the immediate problems that face us. Running up to an election, this is a tall order – but if the Senedd wishes to challenge those who would seek to curtail its powers or, indeed, have a Referendum on its very future, then the time to start talking is now.

Revelation

Revelation


Christopher Harries
@CjHarries14

The people of Wales have in the last few days been unwittingly subject to a miraculous act. The First Minister, Mark Drakeford has inadvertently performed the political equivalent of the miracle in the Gospel of John. In the Gospel, Jesus cured a Celidonius of blindness while Drakeford may have gifted the Welsh public sight.

Since the onset of Devolution, Labour has dominated politics in Cardiff Bay. That dominance has been impervious to failings or scandal.

In the absence of media scrutiny and public interest, events that would cause substantive damage to the public trust if they were to happen in Westminster can pass without impact on the public perception of the Welsh Labour Government.

Imagine the furore if in Westminster a Minister had sought to pressure the civil servants at their command to obtain private information on opposition figures. Or if the Prime Minister were to act unlawfully in the way he made arrangements for an inquiry connected to the suicide of a colleague? These are just some of the scandals that have passed here in Wales without the Government facing real scrutiny or judgement.

To focus on scandal is not to ignore failings, like the management of the Welsh Health Service which has seen five of seven health boards in Wales taken into special measures. Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board remains in special measures more than five years after being into placed into such measures by the then Health Minister, one Mark Drakeford.

Let us not forget that Labour has governed Wales in one form or another for over twenty years. Yet how often has the Welsh Government been held to account for failings that harm the people of Wales?

Devolution has created a situation where politicians in Cardiff Bay have been able to evade being accountable for their failings. The public often apportions blame to Westminster rather than to those responsible in Cardiff Bay. This situation is exacerbated by a client media that seems to be averse to subjecting Ministers in Cardiff Bay to the sort of scrutiny afforded to those in Westminster.

The First Minister may have inadvertently given the Welsh public the miraculous restoration of sight that has largely been missing for twenty years. The debacle of restrictions applied to the sale of non- essential goods in retailers allowed to remain open has given the Welsh Government greater scrutiny or wider media attention since the onset of devolution.

With the next election for the Welsh Parliament looming closer, this miracle should be welcomed by all. Increased interest in the politics of Cardiff Bay may help to address the apathy that has become increasingly apparent with each election.

With the devolved Government finally seen to be responsible for measures that adversely impact on the lives of individuals, this could be the decisive moment of political awakening and with it change.

In the wake of scrutiny and public anger, the opportunity is there for the Welsh Conservatives to demonstrate that they are a government in waiting. Offering enhanced scrutiny as well as a substantive agenda for change that delivers for the people of Wales.

Let us hope that the restoration of sight to the people of Wales is not fleeting but permanent like that restored to Celidonius.

Worst Instincts

Worst Instincts


Christopher Harries
@CjHarries14

The manner that the Welsh Government have gone about implementing the so-called fire break risks undermining the process. The decision to restrict consumer choice in those shops permitted by the bureaucrats to open has descended into farce. The disparity in interpretation by retailers across Wales has led situations like the refusal in the sale of items like sanitary products.

The subjective restrictions imposed on retailers have exposed Mark Drakeford and Vaughan Gething to ridicule. Nothing demonstrates the worst excesses of the paternalist instinct at the heart of the Welsh Government than the perverse sight of shops with shelves of stock covered to prevent the public from buying the wares upon them.

In recent years, commentators have remarked on the empty shelves of shops in Venezuela or the fake shops of North Korea. Yet here in Wales we have the experience of aisles closed off not for an absence of stock but due to political choice. The First Minister, Mark Drakeford has justified this draconian measure on the grounds of fairness. Yet the Welsh Government is the architect of this inequity having forced businesses deemed to be non-essential to close.

This myopic measure does not help small businesses impact by the firebreak lockdown. Restricting sales in supermarkets merely force consumers into taking their custom to an online outlet like Amazon. The only measure that will help businesses forced to close by the Firebreak Lockdown is to end the arbitrary national lockdown.

The argument of fairness lacked credibility while justification on the grounds of scientific advice fell short. If the shopping experience posed a risk to consumers, that risk would remain irrespective of which aisles were open to consumers. This action, like the closure of pubs at a set time, is because the relevant ministers have embraced the illiberal instincts which is at the heart of their politics.

The Welsh Government’s disproportionate action is fitting for that famed quote from the politician and historian, Lord Acton: ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’

Most would accept the need for government action in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Yet for such intervention to be effective requires public support, fear alone will not suffice. Measures must be seen by the public as reasonable, driven by science not merely the whims of a minister. Will the public see the implementation of the Welsh government’s diktats as reasonable or as unnecessary interference?

The consequence of policy perceived to be disproportionate is that the public comes to see other measures in regards to tackling the pandemic as unnecessary.

Trump’s YUGE Debate Win

Trump’s YUGE Debate Win

Tomos Llewelyn

My analysis of the final debate can be compressed into one conclusive statement: Donald Trump won. Many pundits and Biden backing outlets are calling it a draw, meaning only one thing; the President must have truly performed.

Let’s rewind briefly and remember the first debate. The stand out moments were the interruptions and insults, their multiplicity as well as the sartorial gaucherie of the format. Much of the criticism was levelled at the moderator: Chris Wallace and the Commission on Presidential debates’ rules. For the final debate with Kirstin Welker presiding as moderator, the indecorum had practically vanished. She has been praised for her handling of the discussion and the Commission praised for employing mute buttons for use during the opening statements for each question. In all honesty however, the candidates themselves were likely embarrassed by the feedback from the first debate and were attempting, at least for the most part, to avoid a repeat. The second debate was of course cancelled due to Trump’s refusal to participate virtually due to his covid-19 diagnosis.

This brings us to the final debate where as I previously indicated, Trump dominated. Take some of the topics that should have been weak points for the President, such as the coronavirus pandemic. While Biden once again tried to paint Trump as a liar who downplayed the virus, Trump hit back much harder this time by drawing attention to Biden’s apparent indictment of the President’s travel restrictions from China: his cries of xenophobia and fear-mongering the day after the ban. It’s worth noting that Biden denied this, however the damage was seemingly done as the former Vice-President’s confidence was clearly diminished after this exchange.

Even on the issue of race relations, a perceived weak point in the President’s record, Trump was able to list his accomplishments with regard to ‘historically black Colleges and Universities’, ‘opportunity zones’, prison and criminal reforms while slamming Biden for the 1994 crime bill which lead to the incarceration of ‘tens of thousands of young African Americans’. Biden responded by calling the move a mistake and jokingly calling the President Abraham Lincoln, a wisecrack that Trump abruptly shut down thereafter. This lead the President to strike while the iron was hot and paint Biden as the Washington insider, being a politician for 47 years with little accomplishment in the areas he is currently purporting to champion, ‘he’s all talk, no action’.

Climate change came up again and Biden once more would have likely won the hearts and minds of a majority of Americans on this issue. However, the American public rate the issue as being less important than many others this cycle and in actual fact, the President was able to focus the discussion on Biden and Harris’ previous opposition to fracking. Fracking is a contentious issue in the state of Pennsylvania, a constituency Trump is pinning his hopes on winning in order to obtain a majority in the Electoral College. Pennsylvanians have disproportionate numbers of workers in the fossil fuel sector. Biden, on an issue that should have been a strong point, was on the defensive again.

Accusations of corruption cropped up throughout the debate where Biden appeared to leave the discussion heavily scathed as Trump was able to reel off specific instances of potentially corrupt acts involving his son and brothers whereas Biden’s specifics consisted only of listing countries where Trump had bank accounts in the past.

On the issue of restoring the character of the nation, a central theme of the Democrat’s campaign, Biden was on message. Unfortunately for him, many even on his own side see this issue as empty and not enough to win over the country that voted Trump into office in the first place. All in all the race is well and truly NOT over. Watch this space…

Wales’ Dystopian Nightmare

Wales’ Dystopian Nightmare

Charlie Evans

It is 10:00am on Saturday morning as I write this. I have just sauntered through Aberystwyth’s town centre, really to take in the air as I despair at what has become of Wales. However, this walk did not bring much relief. Boarded up shops. No-one to be seen. The Council’s “Stay Home Save Lives” banners recycled and plastered everywhere. This being a county where there has been next to no coronavirus in this “second wave” outside its student and hospital communities. In fact, Ceredigion  never had a first wave.

I peruse the various supermarkets to try and find some semblance of normality yet find book aisles blocked off with hazard tape, and everyday hardware aisles closed off. Every store is doing something different- for it has not had any guidelines from Welsh Government. Some have no deodorant. Some without flowers and birthday cards. All without any phone chargers. Halloween has all but ended.

Of course the control of what you read and what festivals you celebrate were often the activities of fascist, communist and theocratic regimes. But now it’s the policy of Wales’ Labour Government.

Tonight in bordering counties such as Herefordshire and Shropshire, households and extended households and people blissfully ignoring the “rules” will wine and dine in their pubs, bars and restaurants. 10pm close-time now seems like a luxury. Even in Tier 3 Merseyside you can go out for a family meal. That of course is the danger of all of this- you come to accept that 10pm curfews are normal because we ourselves are going through something much more cruel.

See the source image
Source: Soft Net

The control of what you read and what festivals you celebrate were often the activities of fascist, communist and theocratic regimes. But now it’s the policy of Wales’ Labour Government.

Charlie Evans

Those of us stuck indoors will watch programs like Strictly Come Dancing, filmed with small audiences over the border, and of course the Wales game to bring some relief from our collective house imprisonment. Next I am sure the Welsh Government will only show us the highlights of rugby matches and fix them to ensure Wales wins, and Welsh Labour will celebrate it as a vindication of their regime.

None of this normal.

Of course, I could lament the sheer banality of this Government- of an out-of-touch elite imposing its restrictions on an unsupportive public. The sadness of it all is that Mark Drakeford and his socialist autocrats have largely been supported. It has been this public consent that has validated this draconianism.

But Welsh Labour may now have gone beyond the realms of acceptability with its policing of what supermarkets can and can’t sell. Supermarkets are not entitled to most of the government support because it isn’t mandated to close so the thought of people being unable to buy a book, a bin or a pair of pants has truly wound everyone up. A petition calling for the ban on non-essential goods has already climbed above the 10,000 mark meaning it must now be considered for a debate in the Senedd.

To those outside of Wales thinking we’ve all lost the plot- some of us indeed have. But not all of us. Increasingly, more of us are waking up from our deep and collective slumber.

In Pictures: Wales’ Lockdown Supermarkets

In Pictures: Wales’ Lockdown Supermarkets

As Wales’s ban on “non-essential” products kicks in, we have compiled some of the odd photos taken of supermarkets complying with Welsh Government law. These images have been shared multiple times on social media and thus have no attributable source.

Source: Grant Tucker

Many complain that Wales is never given adequate coverage. Well the comedic Welsh Government has ensured Wales has now had that media interest, but for all the wrong reasons.

The Lockdown Madness Is Back

The Lockdown Madness Is Back


Matthew Paul

Here we go again. At 6pm today, Wales goes back into lockdown. On 23rd March, the UK Government assured us this sort of thing was necessary to protect the NHS and save lives. That was while patients in Bergamo gasped for breath in hospital corridors and the Government’s scientific advisors projected that half a million Britons might die. In March, locking the country down still seemed draconian. Now, it just looks plain crazy.

In March, we didn’t know that the survival rate of people infected with Covid-19 was around 99.8%. Despite the WHO telling us so repeatedly, a lot of the British public still don’t seem to get this. The project fear propaganda exercise has been far too successful. Young, healthy people –for whom the annual risk of dying from Covid-19 is well below the annual risk of taking one short motorbike ride– prefer to be shut into their homes than take that trivial chance with the grim reaper.

Try it the other way round: “You have two choices”, says a man who has come from the Government and is there to help. “Your first choice is that you get on the back of this motorbike and ride from Pembroke to Tenby”.

“Oooh, no thanks,” you say. “I don’t like motorbikes. Noisy, dangerous things. I might fall off and get killed! Choice two please!”

“Thought not,” says the man in uniform. “Very sensible, if I may say so. Now, you’re to stay in your house for the next four months. Your holidays are cancelled. We’re closing your business and all the local pubs, and you’ll be paying for it all for the rest of your life.”

Peculiarly, the reaction to this from the people of Wales wasn’t “Wait, what?” Instead, the majority meekly accepted the Government’s decisions, put up the shutters, hand-painted signs calling anyone who fancied a weekend break ‘rats’, and enthusiastically joined in the collective shaming of Covidiots; this century’s (equally morally abhorrent) version of the WW1 white feather.

Through the first lockdown, you could see how the Government might get away with it. Like some Arthurian golden age, economic historians will look back in wonder at the period post-2008, when financial magicians and wizards roamed the land and money could be conjured up –just like that– by clicking indeterminable numbers of zeroes into existence on an electronic balance sheet.

Rishi Sunak makes a good Merlin, and for now we still live in the age of magic money. While the state continued to pay people not to work and the spring sunshine beamed down, it was easy enough to think this wasn’t a bad way to live. Sitting in a sunlit garden beats spending eight hours a day shut in a grey office doing drudgery for the DVLA or the local authority. Those whose jobs aren’t drudgery, or whose profits depend on others doing drudgery in their employment, were always likely to see the lockdown differently.

With that generous, if esoteric, financial assistance from the state, most businesses could just about survive lockdown happening once and stay in business. We still don’t know how many actually did fold, because the furlough still hasn’t quite finished. We see pubs, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, gyms and leisure businesses shutting their doors all around us; unable to cope with the uncertainty of knowing whether or not they will be allowed to open up from one week to the next. This is just the beginning of the bad economic news; wait and see what it’s like when the newly-unemployed come off furlough to join the dole queues, locked-down businesses keep on going bust hand over fist, and the tax take from a weakened economy isn’t nearly enough to service the debt.

Another total lockdown in Wales isn’t necessary, and Mark Drakeford must know it’s not affordable, even if he thinks he can just shove the whole tab over to Merlin.

Matthew Paul

Anyone who says these businesses don’t matter –that human lives should always come above the economy– is just wrong. There are always lives that could be saved, but at a cost no reasonable society should be prepared to pay. We are doing the equivalent of banning all road travel to prevent road deaths, or prohibiting alcohol to stop cirrhosis and liver cancer. 170,000 people in the UK die of heart disease every year; 44,000 of them are under 75. If Covid logic prevailed, we would shut down every chippy and burger bar, rather than letting people selfishly chase profit by selling fatty food.

Another total lockdown in Wales isn’t necessary, and Mark Drakeford must know it’s not affordable, even if he thinks he can just shove the whole tab over to Merlin. Until now, the public have lapped up irrational, authoritarian solutions to the Covid-19 crisis –only expressing dissatisfaction that the measures weren’t strict enough– but public tolerance of being locked down indefinitely can’t last. No-one should be daft enough to think that a two-week ‘firebreak’ means what it says. Firebreaks stop fires; starved of fuel they burn themselves out. Lockdowns don’t just keep the fire lit: they store up vast tanks of fuel for the future.

Covid-19 isn’t going away. An eventual vaccine is likely to provide only partial protection. The nation is going to have to reassess its tolerance of risk, because the risk of a larger death toll from Covid-19 is nowhere near as serious as the risk of monetary meltdown, a tsunami of unemployment, a mental health crisis, and turning the country into an artistic and cultural desert. As Freddy Mercury advised: Get on your bikes and ride.

NEWS: Non-essential shops have “low impact” on COVID

The scientific advice that Welsh Government used to impose a three week circuit lockdown from Friday has been published.

It seeks to make the case for a firebreaker lockdown however the Technical Advisory Cell report says non-essential shops and outdoor socialising poses a very minimal impact on the rate of infection (R).

It raises concerns that the new lockdown imposed by the Welsh Government was not purely based on the scientific evidence.

Lee Waters MS, Deputy Minister for the Economy said in response to questions on these points: ‘The advice was that while a number of activities have small impacts on the R rate, taken together they have a significant impact. To keep schools open we need as many gains elsewhere as possible.”

Questions still remain over how closing hair salons for example, another sector said to be low risk, will impact education.

Technical Advisory Cell report