Brexit, the ERG and the terror of success

It’s very strange that the larger Brexit looms in our lives the more Brexiteers want to distance themselves from it. It’s almost as though they know it’s going to be a disaster and they don’t want to be blamed for the damage Brexit continues to do to our economy, our access to goods and our standing in the world at large.

Four years ago it was all hunky dory.

That was when the Brexiteers were still calling our warnings ‘Fake news’ or ‘project fear’, despite knowing all about Dominic Cummings dirty tricks and Boris’ lies on the side of the bus.

Even last year they still kept up the pretence…

Remember how we held all the cards and the EU would give us a better deal even than its own members were getting?

And now they’re even lying about anyone saying there’s an oven ready deal in the first place.

It’s fascinating how these giants of intellectualism, these Eton and Dulwich college educated men of the people, these wealthy gents with their even more wealthy backers who want nothing more than to help out the working man have forgotten almost everything they once said about Canada deals, Norway deals, Sweden deals and even Australian deals (that last one is really just no deal, by the way).

Even my own MP, former UKIP candidate and now tory MP, Mark Jenkinson seems desperate to move away from his hardline, no deal past.

Despite joining the ERG, the tory backbench extreme Brexit pressure group just 5 days after being elected he now claims that he has never been a member. The chairman of the ERG, Steve Baker actually lists Jenky in the roll of new members in the press. Jenky’s own twitter feed displayed a picture of his at the ERG meeting on 17th December 2019. A picture that appeared in the press shortly after.

Well… seeing is believing, Jenky.

So why Are you trying to distance yourself from the hardline, no deal Brexit you always wished for? Is it because you’re finally beginning to understand the dire consequences that we Remainers have been warning you about for years? Is it because you finally realise the damage you’ve already done to our economy and to the electorate in one of the country’s hardest hit areas by voting for this awful nonsense?

Are you that desperate to make someone else take the blame that you’re walking away from your success so quickly now that you’re getting what you wanted?

And remember, Jenky… and all the rest of you sleazy tories who voted to impoverish your fellows just so you could make a quick profit. This really is what you’ve worked so hard for and we will not forget it.

Dear Tory MP, are you not ashamed?

Every time you see your Tory MP, ask them this. Get your friends and neighbours to ask them too… Repeatedly. Don’t let them get away with it!

How dare you Matt Hancock?

How bloody dare you?

It’s not #NHS staff who are misusing #PPE. It’s all the numpties wearing it for dog-walking or wearing the same gloves from one customer to the next in shops. It’s all those selfish oafs who stock their cupboards full of much-needed kit & then stay at home. That’s the misuse that means we #nurses can’t get enough PPE!

But even that pales into insignificance against the decade of cuts that has left the health service so depleted we hadn’t stocks to begin with.

As usual, for all their superficial praise, the Tories are gearing up to blame us for their betrayal of our efforts against #coronavirus. And as usual, people will believe them and another bit of the NHS will be declared unfit for purpose and flogged off once the crisis passes.

Conservative constitutional con continues

That just might be my most alliterative title ever. Con, con, con, con. But is it accurate?

Well, sadly… yes… it’s absolutely accurate and the Cabinet Meets After Reshuffle In Londonpotential ramifications for our government, our courts, our parliament and our rights are way scarier than many innocent, unsuspecting voters, including Tory voters, have hitherto imagined. But don’t just take my word for it… Read on whilst I lay out my case and then judge for yourselves.

British governance has for many centuries been a balance, a constitutional push and pull process between parliament (the Lords and the commons), the Government (the Prime Minister and the cabinet) and the judiciary (the legal system, especially senior courts like the Lords and more recently the Supreme court).

It has always been clear that…

• The government sets out proposals
• Parliament scrutinises those proposals and makes amendments or even rejects them as it sees fit
• The courts ensure that laws are legal (based upon the laws already laid down by parliament).
• Some issues clearly fall within the court’s remit but most matters are for parliament to decide – not the courts and not the government.

That balance works and generally prevents the government from acting unlawfully or stupidly for populist reasons.

One of the most important duties of the court system is to uphold parliament’s right to scrutiny and to make decisions. To acknowledge when a decision is not theirs to make and pass it back to the appropriate body – Parliament. I assume that even the most ardent Brexiter would have no problem with that statement. Here it is again, for clarity…

Senior judges are expected to protect parliament’s right and opportunity to scrutinise government proposals.

Fair enough?

So what’s all this about the courts overstepping the mark?
Why do we need constitutional reform?
Why do we need people with a proven track record of disregarding the law, human rights and the will of Parliament to change the rules that have maintained our democratic balance for generations?

Suella Braverman attorney generalBoris Johnson claims that the courts made political decisions when they twice ruled against the government over Brexit. The newly appointed Attorney General, Suella Braverman, writing in ‘Conservative Home’ opined…

“People we elect must take back control from people we don’t. Who include the judges.”

But let’s look at what she actually meant. In the article she commented upon only two cases, the Supreme Court rulings over Article 50 in 2017 and Parliamentary prorogation in 2019. So let’s be clear…

1. First – the courts ruled that Brexit was a decision for Parliament, not for the PM alone. This is entirely in keeping with the legal duty of ensuring that Parliament gets to scrutinise government.
2. Second – the court ruled that it was unlawful to prevent Parliament from scrutinising the Withdrawal bill by proroguing it without any other, pressing reason and no actual plan. Once again the judgement was intended to uphold Parliament’s right to represent the people who voted it into office.

Remember what we said earlier…

Senior judges are expected to protect parliament’s right and opportunity to scrutinise government proposals.

That’s exactly what the Supreme court did. So no harm done. Except that Boris and his handler, Dominic Cummings were furious. In fact, it is widely known that this whole constitutional review is the result of Cummings intention to…

Get the judges sorted

Perhaps that’s why Suella Braverman has become Attorney general in the first place. It’s clear that for all her legal experience (which is considerable) she is quite prepared to rob the Supreme court of its ability to protect Parliament’s rights. It’s equally clear that she dislikes the Human rights act. In fact, in the same article she misrepresents both the actions of the Supreme court and the HRA. It’s almost as though this experienced lawyer doesn’t understand the law – or is deliberately misleading people to justify an unwarranted coup as part of Johnson’s growing infrastructure of dictatorship.

And she, along with Michael Gove is taking a lead role in the whole review.

So, to summarize:

suella braverman 2The court has upheld parliament’s right to scrutinise and make decisions;
Therefore the government is to remove the court’s powers because;
Boris apparently want to maintain Parliament’s right to scrutinise and make decisions;
Along the way Boris will move a little closer to dictator status and our human rights will be thrown under the bus.

Good, innit?

A little history: Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus crucifiedThe Nazarene (0-33) seems to have been an extreme lefty by today’s measures. He preached against greed (many of his followers conveniently ignore that bit) and recommended compassion instead. He even got a bit ‘fighty’ with the capitalist pigs in the Temple grounds.

Like other socialists, he was especially unhappy with the usurers (like modern day bankers) whom he described as ‘thieves’. These were the money changers, the guys who took normal money in exchange for unsullied ‘Temple coin’ that could be used to purchase sacrificial lambs at Passover. The money-changers charged exorbitant rates – a bit like Wonga (which is linked to the Tory party, by the way) and so profited from the obligatory observance of the faithful. Jesus seems to have had a point there.

Jesus apparently hated inequality. He was the guy who said that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He lived among the poor, helped the sick and the disabled and eschewed the tables of the wealthy whose oppressive ways simply maintained the suffering of their fellows.

Like many others before and since from Confucius, the Buddha and Lao Tzu to a host of Gurus and philosophers he recommended living by the Golden rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

That’s why he fed those who were hungry and advocated help for the sick and those without shelter, the direct opposite of this present government’s actions. The tories have spent the last 10 years increasing homelessness, forcing people to use foodbanks to survive and denying sick and disabled people the resources they need. They’re even starving the NHS of funding in preparation for selling it off to private enterprise as a way of increasing personal profit through the suffering of others.

It’s amazing how many Tories profess to be Christians and yet ignore almost everything their Messiah said.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu once remarked…

“I am confused as to which Bible people are reading when they suggest that religion and politics don’t mix!”

To those non-religious Tories and others and others who either support oppressive Tory ideology or stand idly by and look the other way, the good Archbishop had this to say…

“When the Elephant stands on the mouse’s tail, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality”

Taking up the slack

Saffron Cordery is the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, the membership organisation for NHS hospitals, mental health, community and ambulance services. These guys really do know what they’re talking about.

According to Cordery, writing in The Independent just after the general election, Boris’ government, for all its fine words is setting the NHS and Social care up to fail, not least in respect of older people.

Not that this comes as any great surprise to those of us who’ve been watching developments since 2010. The Tories, with the help of their LibDem enablers, have been stitching up our NHS, ready to sell it off to the highest bidder for years.

“Although quality of care once you’re in the system has held up remarkably well, timely access to treatment in the NHS has been slipping for years, despite frontline staff working harder than ever – so hard, in fact, that they’re in danger of burning out. Demand has been steadily outstripping supply; gaps in the workforce have widened substantially; our assets have deteriorated; and financial investment has been lower in the past decade than at any point in the NHS’s 70-year history.”
For all his fine words, Mr. Johnson is well aware that his promise of funding falls way short of the amount currently provided to our country’s flagship health service. Even if he restored funding to previous levels the backlog of neglect and decay, of equipment and buildings upgrades would mean a significant cut in comparative terms.

Last July Boris promised the nation that he had “a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity they deserve“.

The tories may be promising money but they’re hardly making much of an effort.

Of course, they can’t make too big an effort because the money’s already earmarked for tax cuts and perks for big corporations. Which is why the health, mental health and social care sectors are to be left to pick up the slack.

If you thought the last 10 years were bad, just watch this space. There’s far worse to come.

Harness that anger – quickly

So here’s the thing. It’s New Year’s day 2020 and like many of us I struggle to think of much to be optimistic about for the year or even the decade ahead. Tory austerity will continue, most likely at an accelerated pace and even more people seem likely to fall into poverty with an ever shrinking social safety net to support them. I know I’m not the only one who worries about this today because I see my contacts on social media saying exactly the same. That’s the Facebook echo chamber at work, I imagine.

But let’s just take a breath. Pause for thought and see if we can’t make a little better use of our characteristic, socialist compassion.

I have long believed that the difference between the right and the left is this. The right looks after its own, be they defined through race, religion, nationality or social class whereas the left wants to make the world better and fairer for everyone. And that includes the people we might be angry with as the country embarks on another decade of Tory inequality.

Too many of us are promising never to befriend a Tory voter again. Too many of us are venting our anger, our sense of betrayal even on our working class neighbours who voted Tory, LibDem or worse. I understand that anger. I feel it too. But it’s not what we should be about and it certainly won’t help restore fairness and decency to the UK.

We’re all fallible, even us and so are our neighbours. In my view nothing demonstrates that fallibility more than the recent election result. Our friends and neighbours have just voted for austerity, privatisation of public services, greater inequality and the destruction it working class communities across the land. And we’re all going to suffer for it – including them.

If we are to survive the next few years with our rights intact and our people protected we have to come together. That’s not just an option, it’s a necessity. We need to heal our broken communities and quickly because the Tories aren’t hanging around. And we’ll never do that by ostracizing our neighbours because they made a mistake, a mistake fuelled by the concerted efforts of the mainstream media and a right wing network that wouldn’t know the truth if it came up and bit them!

Personally I’ve only ever disowned a single relative and that’s not because he’s a Tory. It’s because he wants to treat Muslims, refugees and asylum seekers as less than human. He even claimed to want to sit stop the white cliffs with a machine gun and execute desperate refugees. Him, I disowned years ago but I won’t be rejecting anyone for voting Tory, angry and disappointed that I am.

They’re part of our community and we need them!

Welcome to the Twenties

It’s 2020! Welcome to the Twenties!

What a decade it’s been. We began 2010 in the throes of recession thanks to a global recession that began in 2008 with the American sub-prime mortgage and investment fiasco and quickly spread across the globe. By 2010 our economy here in UK  had suffered massive damage but we had a working welfare state to protect our citizens from the worst of the crisis.

Then, in May of 2010 the real British catastrophe began, The ConDem government introduced austerity and so began a decade long process of starving our social safety net of funds while throwing massive tax cuts at the wealthy. Ten years on and our vital services are almost unrecognisable, they’re so depleted by years of Tory and LibDem cuts and back door privatisation. And now, in the closing weeks of 2019 a new disaster has begun to bite.

Boris Johnson has such a huge parliamentary majority that he can do whatever he wants and make no mistake, he will. He’s already made it clear that he plans to ‘review’ the relationship between the government, parliament and the judiciary in such a way that he and his ministers will be able to rewrite any law they choose without recourse to anyone – not even the law. Privatisation of the NHS is increasing quickly now and manifesto promises about minimum wage rises and working peoples’ rights are already being fudged. The new decade looks set to be a whole lot worse than the one we’ve just left.

If this nation is to survive the next ten years and still retain even a modicum of decency, if we are to maintain anything close to the social safety net we have taken for granted for so many years we  need to come together as one. We need to put the differences of the last few years aside, forget the petty prejudices and paranoia centering around race, religion, country of origin or social status and work together for the good of the whole community.

Many of us are working hard to do just that. Join us – help keep UK society together until the storm of this far right government is over. It’s a storm we need to face together or few of us will survive it at all.

The NHS is not safe in their hands

FB_IMG_1573195407980.jpgA few days before the general election I found myself increasingly frustrated as I tried (and ultimately failed) to get a family member to understand the threat to the NHS from privatisation. He had 2 lines of argument that I just couldn’t break through.

1. Boris has said that the NHS won’t be privatised
2. Even if it is privatised that’ll just make it more efficient.

Trying to get him to understand the contradiction between his two points was as useless as attempting to make chicken soup from a brick. He just wasn’t prepared to listen, preferring instead to flood my Twitter feed with American alt-right memes equating socialism with totalitarian communism and countering any attempt to provide reasonable balance with accusations of Marxism or just plain accusations that I was lying to him.

Well, it’s now a little under 3 weeks since the election that gave Boris Johnson an overall majority and carte blanche to do as he pleases with Britain’s economy, with the country’s approach to rights and of course with our precious public services like the NHS. So let’s review the situation, shall we?

First some history. It’s not true to say that the NHS won’t be privatised when large parts of it already have been. Private providers are rife, especially in the South of the country where Richard Branson’s ‘Virgin’ owns huge tracts of the service which are run for profit. This is the company that managed not to pay a single penny in corporation tax in 2017! The service may continue to operate under the NHS umbrella but it’s modus operandi is very far from that of the rest of the service.

Screen-Shot-2017-12-14-at-12_39_28

NHS contracts go to private hospitals, private outpatient departments, private GP surgeries and even private ambulances. Many of these firms are indeed American, by the way so it’s very definitely not true to suggest that US healthcare firms aren’t interested in the NHS. They are and they have been for quite some time.

Almost a quarter of NHS mental health beds are now in the hands of private firms and they are paid handsomely out of the public purse for their efforts. This includes approaching half of the child and adolescent mental health services (whether in the community or hospital). And we all know how hard it is for adolescent mental health services to cope with demand – perhaps we can also see why.

Three private firms, Elysium (Luxembourg), Cygnet (US) and Acadia (US) own and make huge profits from British mental health services and yet they are responsible for fully thirteen of the sixteen mental health units judged “inadequate” by the Care Quality Commission in 2019.

All of these services continue to provide care that is free at the point of delivery but there’s a catch. Well, actually there are several catches…

p06ttxsp.jpg1. Private companies tend not to provide the less profitable services – they cherry pick the ones they can make most money from, leaving the NHS to carry the cost of the really expensive treatments and procedures. In the past the NHS used money from one pot to subsidise others but that’s no longer possible. The delicate balance of public health care budgeting is being destroyed by private profiteers.

2. Private companies don’t train staff – they let the NHS do that and then they poach them. This may make them look more efficient but that’s only because they’re relying on the public purse to train their staff – staff the private firm then uses to make money for its shareholders. And make no mistake – it is all about profit. The money the NHS ploughs back into research and development is the same money that private firms plough into shareholder dividends. That means for every procedure done privately there will be less money available for treatments next year. It’s an endless spiral, a race to the bottom as we can see…

3. Private companies starve the NHS of funding and resources as outlined above. They leave the NHS impoverished as it struggles to provide the most expensive services with less and less funding. This inevitable results in reduced conditions for staff, run down buildings and equipment, overworked staff and even closures of hospitals and departments. We have seen al this in spades over the last few years, beginning with new Labour but dramatically increased in pace since the ConDem government changed the rules in 2012 to make it easier for private companies to cherry pick work from the NHS. It’s interesting to learn that many of the ConDem ministers involved also hold shares or even sit on the boards of private healthcare companies.

4. It’s not uncommon for private surgeries to go wrong and need to be fixed by the NHS. Private firms still get their money but don’t compensate the NHS for sixing up their mistakes. This cost the NHS £250 million in 2016.

5. The NHS is publically owned. That means it’s an ‘arm of the state’ and as such is bound by human rights legislation, freedom of information and data protection legislation to a much higher degree than private organisations are. If you want to know what’s happened in the NHS you fill in a Freedom of information request and the information is provided in keeping with the Data Protection Act. If you want to know what happened inside a private organisation… well… erm… not so much.

6. Healthcare data is worth a fortune to private companies who sell it to insurance companies, marketers and even political organisations (via third parties, of course). Why wouldn’t they? It’s all about profit in the private healthcare market.

This isn’t the complete list of reasons why private healthcare is strangling our NHS but it may include the most significant. At least the most significant to date.

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On December 28th 2019, 15 days after we learned of Boris’ electoral victory the news broke that the government is inviting still more private firms to tender for the right to deliver NHS cardiology, paediatrics, oncology and gynaecology services. Officially this is a way to cot waiting lists but hang on a minute. Given the 6 points listed above is private healthcare really the solution to waiting lists or is it actually the cause?

This government, like the tory and ConDem governments that preceded it is using our health as a political cash cow. We’re the victims, sacrificed to ever increasing lengths of stay on hospital trolleys in A&E, all in the name of profit. Our NHS diminishes in size, in scope and in quality whilst private entrepreneurs profit from providing sub-standard care in its place. And you tell me that the NHS hasn’t been privatised.

Really?

I think you’d better go and give your head a wobble.