We might now be able to denigrate experts all we like, but it is difficult not to show deference to the brilliance of Albert Einstein in discovering out of the theory of relativity that there exists little black holes which could suck in billions of stars into oblivion. I was reading yesterday random sections of the Oxford Book of Phrases and Quotations, and I came across an interesting phrase from the Bible which stated that one should watch out for any book which has an excessively long prologue. This is how I feel about the Starmer plan for government, such that it is. The plan for government seems to be ever changing, unlike the poll lead. The explanation for this is that Labour is receiving drip-by-drip details about how bad the finances are, but is this really true? Andy Burnham in my view has correctly asked for a ‘direction of travel’. When people moan that Labour have not ‘sealed the deal’, this is so true. Starmer is asking for voters to vote for Labour with the absence of knowledge about the programme of the government is about. There’s no good plan about social care, there’s no settled opinion in ‘sorting Brexit’ out, and so on. But it is in fact considerably worse than that. Starmer has reneged on all ten pledges he made to become leader of the Labour Party, and the fiscal landscape has not merited U-turns on all of them. If anything, the state of the economy, and more specifically, the state of the mismanagement of the country in total merit more radical and drastic action from a ‘progressive left’. This includes fixing the market failure in the utilities, or executive pay/worker pay. And it also includes boring stuff, but quite important for the average voter, like getting a GP appointment in a timely manner such that patients are not forced to go private, or being able to drive a car without sinking in a pothole.
An ever more common refrain is that ‘nothing in this country works’. Whilst there has been a superficfial change of gear in ownership and management of the Labour Party, the unease and difficulty about certain tensions still have not been resolved. Many members on the left do not see their concerns being addressed; and even worse somewhat, being flagrantly dismissed. There are certain figureheads of the anti-Corbyn movement who have gone quiet on what ideologically is afoot from Labour. I remember vividly one of these figureheads proudly saying that ‘decisive leadership was back’. And yep, you’ve guessed it, ‘grown up leadership is back’. It may be decisive, but not universally popular. The 2 child policy is not popular. The Bibi barge is not popular. But Starmer wants at least for Labour to be a ‘safe pair of hands’ – until what? Presumably, Starmer wants Labour to be a safe pair of hands to keep Murdoch or his successor to be happy, and to keep the seat warm until there is a new Conservative government with a direction. Whatever one’s views on Brexit, clearly there is no convincing plan for the UK to improve from its flatlined state of productivity, with an allergy to talking about membership of the EU single market which nobody actually specifically voted for in the 2016 referendum.
With so many employment shortfalls in critical sectors such as the NHS or social care, the UK needs critically a migration policy people can trust. It also needs to sort out the backlog of asylum applications to be processed, in much the same way it also needs to sort out the torrential backlogs in welfare benefits. It is difficult to argue coherently that the Tories have not destroyed the country, because every which way you look everything is failing apart – e.g. ambulance waits, expecting the Police to record let alone solv e a crime. Rishi Sunak might be able to pretend that everything is ok by taking his family to see Barbie, but his pledges have fallen apart. These are the same pledges which paradoxically onlookers said were ‘too easy’ and would be fulfilled even if Sunak didn’t lift a finger – but these pledges include the hospital waiting lists, the inflation level, the national debt. Having run of things to privatise, the Tories appear to have run out of things to destroy, apart from one thing. They have managed to soil the reputation of the ‘red wall voter’ by even getting the Deputy Leader to say ‘f* back to France’ then. These voters are not White, racist and rude. They are apparently ‘speaking for all of us’ when they say that migrants should stay in France as that is a safe country – except there is no legal imperative at all for asylum seekers to seek refuge in the first country they meet. Take for example Afghanistan – there was barely an exit plan, and all refugees from there caused by the British disastrous foreign policy can stay in France? Refugees with genuine links to England, such as family, are meant to go to France? Time to call out this sick filth really. We do need well informed leadership, not bigoted pub landlord speak, or even worse bigoted opinions with a posh accent. Even the good ship Bibi looks as if it is a sitting duck for an infectious disease such as legionella or tuberculosis, even if has allegedly self-certificated itself a fire safety certificate.
It’s simply quite boring and uninspiring, and at worst unacceptable, for Sir Keir Starmer to hope that people will vote Labour as they are not the Tories. Socialists are likely to find a home in the Green Party nationally, or with a Jeremy Corbyn Labour Mayor bid locally. The Greens are looking more and more appealing for those voters who have been actually shunned by Starmer’s Labour, and who offer appealing policies in their own right. If it is a bit touch and go for Labour to win after thirteen years of a disastrous Labour government, including E. coli in English beaches, you need to ask whether this is actually the worst Labour opposition ever. It is clearly not credible to pin all the problems on the 2019 election on Corbyn, which it promoted a disastrous second referendum policy (and whose bright idea was that?) and as noted by experts Corbyn was personally monstered in the media. For example, there’s been much outrage about the Greenpeace protesters on Sunak’s roof, but it was somehow acceptable to doorstep Corbyn daily? Back on planet Earth, Brexit has delivered no material advantage, but if anything to do with a slew of problems to do with supply chains and inflation. Many people that the culture is far more hostile to non-English people, howeverso defined, such that people are now being actively gaslit about whether racism ‘actually exists’. The cesspit that was the talking shop in X is now English society, and Keir Starmer seems to be a follower not a leader. This approach means that we just have to ‘believe in’ Keir Starmer in much the same way that we were forced to ‘believe in’ Boris Johnson, Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak. And look how well that turned out? All for the sake of avoiding those dangerous ‘reds under the bed’ (or as they are now ‘wokes under the bed’).
Enter man of the moment, Jeremy Hunt.
Jeremy Hunt is yet another very wealthy man, who really doesn’t need to be there in the centre of government. Like Liz Truss, Nadhim Zadhawi or Rishi Sunak, he would be able to ‘work from home’, and still draw a handsome salary from various options and dividends. He doesn’t need to lift a finger to ‘help’ the country. He already had plenty of scope to stop social care from haemorrhaging, or to stop the decline of the NHS by introducing a workforce plan. The fact that Jeremy Hunt declined to do so, despite plenty of opportunity, whilst waging war with the junior doctors, still speaks volumes. There is an absurd irrational hope that ‘holding the pursestrings’ to the Treasury he might be able to stop the depravity of NHS and social care funding. Judging on his past performance, I wouldn’t hold your beer.
OK, in the words of Tories doing their faux humility routine, I ‘get it’. Liz Truss said all along that she felt that by reducing the tax load on everyone, she could suddenly magic up growth. Her intention was stated explicitly as getting rid of the NJ levy and by stopping the Sunak increase in corporation tax, I think this stratehy is bananas, but she explained it on many occasions for the hustings she did over many weeks. This was not a surprise. It was her economic policy. She did not ‘go rogue’ at the last minute. The decision to appoint Kwasi Kwarteng came right at the end – but he did not ‘go rogue’ either. His economic ‘scorch and burn’ credentials were known for a long time. The approach was articulated in ‘Britannia unchained’. It was not a surprise that, as a person who had been active in Eton and the Cambridge Union, Kwarteng might be ruthlessly ambitious – a bit like his Oxford Union contemporaries described as ‘Chums’ in the Boris Johnson circle.
The media ‘lobby’ had all the opportunity in the world to dissect this approach. None of them chose to. I am not even sure that any of them are especially literate in macroeconomics;. As far as I know, the leading lights in the Institue of Economic Affairs are largely illiterate in economics too. And yet they profess to be big experts – exactly what is bringing Britain into decline. Michael Gove culturally made a massive mistake in denigrating experts, but maybe this was simply a Trumpian malign influence. None of ‘the lobby’ seemed capable of pointing out that the sums did not add up – borrowing, tax spending or public spending. Sunak knew, but wasn’t given the oxygen to explain himself. No wonder he is keeping his counsel now.
As you can see, I am launching into a ‘blame game’ – this is not particularly helpful now, but simply makes me feel good for ‘doing something about’ the reputation of Great Britain being trashed internationally. The words used to describe Britain now range from ‘farce’ to ‘basket case’. Previously, the ‘lobby’ had put this down to a very focal vendetta from the New York Times, but clearly the game was up when Bloomberg agreed, and then the markets hyperventilated when the ‘not so’ mini-budget was revealed (or rather unravelled). My point is that Liz Truss is a known contrarian. There is nothing there to be especially surprised about. Rishi Sunak was very clear on the arguments, although it is clear that he made some own goals himself, whether it was talking about educational aspiration or ‘levelling up’. The media went for it in attacking him, in their comparisons to Brutus in the Julius Caesar context, or his love of PRADA shoes. None of this post mortem especially helps the person whose standard variable rate mortgage dividends have shot up, or the person who has to put his business for sale as he cannot afford the energy bills. Not all of it can be levelled at Putin. The Tories are a mess.
No amount of bullshit from the Cameron supporters can make up for it. They are all out in force to defend why we had chaos under Cameron rather than competence under Ed Miliband. I feel that the Tories know the game is up, at a number of different levels. There is no sense of national pride, apart from, say, hosting Eurovision. The utilities are indeed now nationalised, except that they are owned by private equity abroad making unconscionable profits at the expense of the tax payer. Public services are not ‘world beating’. In fact, waits to see a GP, despite GPs leaving in droves due to the monstering they receive from hate incitement from the media, or to get to hospital in an ambulance if you have a heart attack, “are a disgrace” as Truss would put it.
There is absolutely no point having low taxes, if public services are on their knees. The Tories have zero reputation in either competence or integrity. I have always felt that their reputation for economic competence was a complete myth. Even now shills from the IEA refuse to acknowledge that the 2008 economic crash was global. They mislead on the circumstances where the IMF loan, quickly repaid, was given at the tail end of the Labour administration under Callaghan in the 1970s. Boris Johnson c completely obliterated the integrity image of the Conservatives. This was, as we were kept ob being told, was ‘factored in’, with him having previously made racist comments along the lines of ‘piccannies’. Partygate only confirmed what we knew along. His government’s approach to care homes spoke volumes, as did his vigorous shaking of hands at the beginning of the pandemic. The Tories saw him as a ‘winner’, but the votes were ‘lent’ on the basis of ‘getting Brexit done’. Brexit has been high risk for no return. There is yet to be a visible benefit from Brexit. Many industries have imploded due to Brexit. The economy is further screwed due to Brexit. Luckily, there is a complete media black out on what is possibly one of the most massive geopolitical and economic disasters in UK history.
The problem is – if you ask Labour what they would do, they religiously and sanctimoniously explain that they are not in government, and they haven’t ‘seen the books’. Labour is trying to look professional as a ‘safe pair of hands”, but many members in the party are equally sick about the fact that they are low on detail on how they might have done things differently. Starmer does not appeal to many, and this could still produce a final reckoning despite a superficial poll lead. It would not be altogether unsurprising if Labour fails to win an overall majority in 2024, and the SNP still command a powerful popular base in Scotland.
Liz Truss’ days are possibly numbered, depending on the success of an ever increasing membership of a collective political suicide pact which now includes Jeremy Hunt. Rishi Sunak for the time being, unsurprisingly, is keeping well away. Expecting Rishi Sunak to come back and clear up somebody else’s mess for the Tory membership would be like handing a dust pan and brush to a vomiting toddler who had just made a massive mess on your expensive rug. The point I’m making is that the Tory membership knew what they were doing when they voted for her, and the Tory parliamentary party knew what they were doing when they offered her aa part of the ‘final two’. The intriguing thing now is that the Liz Truss affair could ‘seal the deal’ for the annihilation of the political career of others.
It could be that this time next week Liz Truss won’t be there. Offering yet another Tory leader with such a dramatic departure from the 2019 general election manifesto would be palpably wrong, and would necessitate a general election.
The LBC presenter didn’t know what to say.
The caller from Germany explained, ‘Germany thinks you’re a basket case’. While not totally convincing about his sources, he then articulated an argument to do with how Britain’s perception of its own brilliance wound people up. Exceptionalism in the wrong place.
The next caller simply started, “I agree with the previous caller”.
The New York Times has written a series of articles about how Britain is in decline. We can of course debate on the details but Britain is experiencing a worse energy crisis than the rest of Europe, a 37 year low of the pound against the dollar, and gross levels of inequality.
The Queen’s death was a hit for those who believe in the Monarchy and those who don’t alike.. Some ardent republicans found themselves soul-searching how they had quite liked the Queen but were ambivalent to the Monarchy as an institution.
Indeed, many thousands of people are queiung on the South Bank in London to see a box which may or may not contain the late Queen. The coffin is a symbol of a sense of national pride of times gone by. For me when the Queen died it was months after my mother had died. It felt like an end of an era, and the death of somebody whose values and character I found inspiring.
It may be that people waiting to pay their respects, either by legitimately queuing like David Beckham or queue-jumping, are truly emotionally invested whatever their means of showing it. People waiting for twelve hours or more in a queue may simply be there for ‘fear of missing out’, but likewise are there in a once-in-a-lifetime experience of something rather quite extraordinary.
An aside. People like David Beckham make me proud to feel British. An East End boy with extraordinary talent, who didn’t misuse his celebrity to get a VIP pass to see the coffin. Andy Burnham missed a trick here.
England decided in 2016 to propel itself into a period of society uncertainty and self-doubt through the EU referendum. The fact that the pound is tanking and that Sterling has increasingly become an unattractive currency to lend is symptomatic of the ‘shock’ liberal economics of Truss and Kwarteng.
There has been no realistic hope of reversing a collapse in productivity lasting for several decades through tax cuts for the wealthy. “Trickle down economics” is well and truly a busted flush. There is, however, one possibility based on actual economics. Increasing GDP through decreasing our trade deficit is not a bad plan, and joining the single market could be a practical way of incentivising productivity.
Criticising the New York Times is literally shooting the messenger.
A focus on the Oxford comma looks a bit like outright denial, or at the very least being a tad ‘out of touch’.
The current Conservative Government is trying to justify the removal of the caps in bankers’ bonuses by saying it is restoring the competitiveness of the UK. It is not. It is simply lining the coffers of those who are in a position to donate the Tories.
It is a Brexit benefit only in as much as leaving the European Union has facilitated bankers bonuses and international tax evasion. This particular lurch into England being a ‘Singapore-on-Thames’ is simply going to incentivise riskier banking behaviour, thus precipitating another disastrous global financial crash.
Rather than contribute to a mountain of marmalade sandwiches on the floor, it would be better to donate to food banks. Britain has no reason to be proud that it has more food banks than branches of McDonalds. It is no longer possible to hide or spin these facts. Twelve years of Conservative Government has led to Britain being a divided basket case. Sewage being pumped into the sea, and privatised utilities up the spout. Ambulance waiting times dangerously long, and the police being grossly under-resourced to solve any crime.
And yet the cheerleaders of culture wars and identity wars bugger on regardless. Even criticising a mega racist being invited into a safe place could lead to that person being ‘cancelled’ – and OUTRAGE. The only people who have benefited from this perpetual gaslighting are those with books and TV to sell. They are improving their brand, paying off the mortgage. They are the true anti-patriots, who couldn’t care less if the UK has trouble applying for the G-200 in future.
With there being no functional democracy in the UK, so long as proportional representation is kept off the agenda, Britain looks like lurching from one fiasco to the next. Tory landowners get a boost from selling off Tory land to frackers. Frackers, notorious for inducing tremors and earthquake-prone land and producing an energy supply which is totally non-sustainable in real terms, do not of course care.
Brexit meant we came out of the Treaty of Dublin. You know, the one where we had reciprocal arrangements to deal with those people crossing the English Channel by dinghy from France. One audience member to a Tory leadership hustings suggested “returning these boats back to Kenya” – but in the real world, the Tories are drawing ever closer to full withdrawal from the European Court of Human Rights, so they can dispose of meddlesome red tape on human rights, and get flights done (to Rwanda).
The left wing want this country to succeed. There’s nothing left to sell. There’s nothing left to de-regulate. But they are intensely patriotic too, but not the extent they need to shag flags.
It probably wouldn’t be a good idea for the Tories to hold another referendum on the Monarchy in 2025, despite this being a known issue. But then again the Tory Party are as united on the Monarchy as they are on capital punishment.
There is, however, a lot to do. Things really can’t get much worse.
I laughed out loud when I read a tweet by someone who reported she had been watering a pot plant. The difference was that the pot plant was artificial, with ‘life like’ leaves. She thought that she was going to make a difference.
This sort of thing can easily happen, of course. The more I came to reflect on this tweet the more I felt the disconnect between action and outcome. I then felt that it was an excellent allegory for voting in our current political system here in the US.
Truss and Sunak are playing to their loyal membership base. I am not the intended audience, so I cannot be offended if I find their values on degrees and money earning potential, WASPI or unpaid carers perplexing.
I was most politically active when both my parents were alive in 2009, under a Labour government. My mum died at the end of July 2022. This has become my yardstick of whether I feel that life has improved much. There used to be a measure, for example, that you would want to leave the country or world in a better place than when you had found it. I felt this sharp reality when I was watching an item on the new TV channel about ‘levelling up’.
That TV channel, like the Tories and its recent political journey, is thought-provoking certainly. I too believe that one can be allowed to disagree, without being disagreeable. The discussions frequently can revert to certain topics. Take for example: why do the Police advertise their rainbow flags? The discussion is never about why funding for the Police has drastically been reduced, such that community policing is under-resourced, and a small minority of crimes such as theft or burglary reach prosecution. Or, take another example. Why shouldn’t you get angry about a statue about someone you haven’t heard of has been pulled down in a location you haven’t heard of? Of course, this cultural vandalism would be objectionable, until you realise that, also under a series of consecutive Tory governments, local libraries have been shut down.
In an elegantly executed leadership debate with Liz Truss on that TV channel, one member of the TV audience suggested sending ‘illegal immgrants to Kenya’, missing totally the point that the number of dinghie crossings had massively gone up due to UK’s pulling out of the Treaty of Dublin through Brexit. This is another problem caused by Brexit, caused by a Conservative government, which has whipped up idiotic views out of nowhere. It is not difficult to realise that the UK needs co-operation with other countries to have any standing in the world. And it is not difficult to understand that Brexit has damaged that, and that any political party should face up to that.
One can assume that one of the critical functions of any government is to run public services safely. Whatever your own belief about public services adding to the ‘productivity’ of this country, we can all agree that delays in ambulances for medical emergencies is unsafe and is unacceptable. A bad dancer will always blame the floor, but the media attention to this issue is at least as deserving as whether we should have unisex toilets.
Back to the ‘levelling up’ TV report package. The one from Cornwall. I remember when David Cameron with immense pride talked in the 2015 Conservative Party conference announced how the whole of Cornwall had gone Tory. So much for the deceit of levelling up. If you talk to most people even in the Red Wall, they will confirm a decline in public services, ranging from NHS, to social care, to libraries, which coincides with the period of austerity and decline from the Conservatives in the last decade.
And another event happened in 2016 which has led to an enduring process. Whatever you feel about Labour’s participation ever in the Brexit process, it is hard to work out why it has never allowed a discussion of participation in the single market. If Keir Starmer is indeed worried about ‘partnerships’ and ‘productivity’, like he now claims to be, it is of concern why he should wish to exclude a large market on his doorstep, unless he has other markets in mind.
If Brexit is the solution from the Tories, what problem did it fix? The most parsimonious belief is an internal dispute within the Conservative Party. It is obvious if you ‘replay’ the speeches of David Cameron that he wished to settle this dispute in the same direction as the Scottish referendum. He lost – and the fact that he didn’t know how to cope with it explains why he simply walked away. The Conservatives have never explained why their exit plan was never articulated. One can assume, perhaps, that the plan all along was to make the UK a successful ‘Singapore on Thames’. Labour could have decided instead to demonstrate solidarity with Scotland on important issues. It didn’t. So it should not be surprised if Scotland seeks solidarity with the European Union instead.
It could have been up to Labour to advance a sense of solidarity with the Scottish, except that the leadership of Scottish Labour was not that friendly to a left wing Labour. The Scottish SNP have always been more popular and more left wing than the Westminster Labour. Nicola Sturgeon is a much more charismatic politician than Keir Starmer, whether you agree with either of them or not. The most relevant, point, however is that it is in the Conservatives’ interest for the SNP to be more popular than Labour in Scotland. Every time that the SNP is popular, a bit of the probability that Labour will win an outright majority drops just a little bit more. Brexit was of course a gamechanger for the Scots. It may be the Conservatives ultimately lose the UK Union because it gifted Scotland to the SNP on purpose.
Therefore Brexit was another solution to a problem which caused more problems. It’s as if the Conservatives not only did not ‘fix the roof while the sun was shining’. It’s as if the Conservatives actively set fire to the roof while the sun was shining.
About a decade ago, in an evening course MBA, I studied economics and markets. I learned that if you privatise a state-owned monopoly, if you don’t break it up, you get a privatised monopoly. One can blame it all on the Ukraine War as an externality, but the catastrophic outcome with the privatised utilities from Thatcherite economics was entirely predictable. It was so predictable that Ed Miliband actively campaigned on it in 2014 prior to the 2015 general election, discussing ‘predators’ and ‘producers’. And he lost. The tragedy is that national ownership of basic resources is not a terribly controversial policy. More controversial is a ‘regional’ water company being owned by Malaysian private equity.
So it might be that the artificial pot plant is not actually innocuous after all, but is a “triffid”, or something which you would buy off a little shop of horrors. Can Labour now make the UK a better place with such an open goal? Time will tell.
By playing fast and loose with the Northern Ireland protocol, and even wishing to overrule the international rule of law previously, it is clear that the current Government has no intention of being respected – or even liked – in the world. Even though Boris Johnson may feel a temporary grandiose delusion, pretty much in keeping with a narcissistic persona, of British exceptionalism when talking about his contribution to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, it is patently clear that if the conflict escalates to involve the European Union more including neighbouring countries things will change more. That is, Britain will ‘feel’ its identity as being a geopolitical loner. It already has had a taste of being a loner with the perception from France, and much of the world, that Britain is now a laughing stock. British people, especially Scottish and Welsh citizens, need to prioritise not being tarred with the same brush. British conflict with France means that Britain will remain unsuccessful in ‘securing its borders’. Immigration policy is fitting for Priti Patel’s Britain: having an immigration issue getting more out of control, and yet having a lack of freedom of people inwards to keep key industries going, whether that be lorry drivers, fruit pickers, or people to wipe your grandma’s arse in the care home.
The problem with the populist media, and the stereotype of the Red Wall, is that they collectively are dragging the rest of us down. The stereotype is that they’re at home watching Ricky Gervais, fist pumping attacks on ‘women’s with penises’, but all along they’re simply sticking two fingers up at the people who stole their jobs. Fine, this is a stereotype. But why has their war so far been on lawyers, NHS, GPs, the BBC, Starmer, people who care about equality, University academics, and so on. It is all nonsense. This all points to an arrogant Executive, loving their freedom of speech but suppressing the feelings and views of others, a deeply nasty autocratic authoritarian state. The fish rots from the head down and Starmer’s difficulty is that he has no interesting offering on the European Union, no clear strategy on improving the NHS and social care, no overall idea about how to win on inflation despite screaming rather sanctimoniously about his Windfall tax. Labour currently is a deplorable collection of has beens, some of whom are nasty, unpleasant, and so on, but they are needed. Britain needs to get out of one party rule. One Nation Toryism has turned into a tinpot dictatorship, where it feels impossible to get rid of Boris Johnson despite the fact he is unbelievably crap. Whether it be P&O Ferries, or the fact that the British automobile industry has imploded, the phobia to discuss how badly |Brexit has gone is now really rancid. It is stopping getting in the way of the country. The people who are holding the country to ransom are not the Unions who want to protect transport from being so automated that disabled people don’t have a chance. The people holding the country to ransom are the Tories.
Sunak probably has a skimpy idea of behavioural macroeconomics despite having had a well paid job in the City and access to lots of other money. But be in no doubt that his recent helicopter drug is an ideological addiction which will see inflation, coupled with Brexit, go through the roof. It does matter that Nadine Dorries does not have a clue, because her ignorance is totally dangerous to the rest of the UK’s (ironically) culture. The destruction of the BBC, enabled by its senior membership, has already begun. Look at CBeebies or BBC4. Not everyone has access or means to universal broadband. Yes, remember the nasty git who wanted to introduce a green economy, improved social care and NHS, rail nationalism to stop unconscionable fair increases, break up of the energy companies (a known issue since about 2014 and successfully ignored by David Cameron in the 2015 election to ‘get Brexit done’ and a load of other crap), national broadband, and so on? Yes, that evil Jeremy Corbyn. Thanks to the power house of intellectuals at the Guardian (I am joking), partly, and despite socialism going from strength to strength in Wales and to a lesser extent in Scotland, we now have permanent Tory rule in England. The Lib Dems, under Jo Swinson, have shown how toxic they can be. Back to the internet. Not everyone can watch Netflix, or the Disney Channel, so these kids definitely will be sorry to see the back of Hacker T Dog. Be in no doubt the Tories are holding the UK to ransom. Sure, you can blame it all you like on the COVID-19 pandemic. Or you could explain it through naked opportunism from a bunch of corrupt crooks with no moral compass.
It is undeniable that the Tories have unleashed a series of political fiascos that could accelerate the breakup of the United Kingdom. That’s ok with me, because it will remind these people that ‘take back control’ and tub thumping about national sovereignty can go in one direction. Talking of one direction, even musicians are feeling the pain of Brexit. But why the news blackout in talking about how dire Brexit is, costing about £400 million per week? Surely it’s time to call time on those who personally profited out of Brexit but who have happily seen the UK implode. Boris Johnson with his culture of corruption has to go. Even if the Guardian are complicit in keeping this lot in power, something radical has to be done to get rid of this lot. The Tories can’t be allowed to hold the UK to ransom any more.
The Sue Gray report didn’t change much, much to the disgust of the Labour luvvies in the media who think they can rule on who the PM should be. Of course people are sick of ‘Partygate’, but they were even sicker of an offer to: carry out the denationalisation of British Rail, fund the NHS and social care to a higher level, scrap tuition fees, build one million new homes over five years, abolish zero hour contracts, a National Education Service, breaking up the big six energy companies, more investment in mental health, and promotion of the green economy.
All the right-wing tropes have re-emerged with galliant chutzpah, and emboldened with two new Freeview channels the facilities for promoting an ideological cesspit has never been easier. Whether or not Boris Johnson knew he was lying has been one of semantics for his lawyers (it’s funny how Johnson suddenly wants to instruct ‘leftie lawyers isn’t it?) But the cabal of Beth Rigby, Robert Peston, Pippa Crear, James O’Brien and Jonathan Freedland now bore me senseless with their sanctimonious dissection of one issue, Partygate, when they have been patently sleeping at the wheel prior to the Starmer golden era of Labour.
It’s very difficult for somebody like me, who had voted Labour all his life, to support the Labour Party given how much it tried and succeeded to assassinate politically its leader despite winning two leadership elections twice. It cannot also be ignored how toxic the perception that Labour wanted to reverse the referendum had become, with the carrot of a second referendum. It soon became a stick whereby Brexit supporters couldn’t support a Knight of the Realm, wealthy, lawyer wanting to look neutral. The right wing can do the politics of envy, as best as the next man or woman.
Of course it was optimistic and foolish in equal measure for the establishment automatically to support ‘Remain’ especially with Alan Johnson and Sir Stuart Rose leading the charge of the very light brigade for ‘Remain’. There was no serious attempt to dissect the Northern Ireland Protocol from Starmer. Labour rightly wanted to stamp out all racism, but we have heard little about their progress on this year, and heard even less about the infamous Forde Report.
So instead of talking about social care reform, reform of the energy markets and so on, we’re in a never ending cycle of discussing whether the rainbow symbol and Ukrainian flags are overused, whether transsexual athletes should compete in international tournaments, whether risqué comedians and academic should be cancelled, whether icons as great as Churchill or Oswald Mosley should necessarily be ‘cancelled’ and so forth. In a weird utopia, there’d be 57 channels devoted to various varieties of Dorries TV, discussing the same thing: how Starmer ate a pasty. Result: a hung parliament, with Scotland voting SNP.
Andrew Rawnsley famously wrote a piece called ‘End of the Party’, and in a way I want it to be the end of the Partygate. I am sick that they lied and others died, of course I am. But there’s a debate to be had about whether all the quantitative easing in previous Tory governments has helped with the ‘cost of living’, as well as maximising shareholder dividend for all the privatised industries. But Tory voters aren’t thick. Please hold my non-alcoholic beer.
Starmer doesn’t do it for me. A London cabbie told me that, despite being a lifelong socialist, we should now rally behind Starmer, who’s so forgiving that he has expelled socialists from the Labour Party. But in the same breath that London cabbie told me we must root out benefit scroungers.
It never fails me how Tory England is, nor Boris Johnson’s interminable ability to ‘get away with it’.
I had been a lifelong Labour voter since 1992. When I ‘came out’ in support of Jeremy Corbyn as the democratically elected leader of the Labour Party, twice in fact, I was much derided on social media. I was attacked for supporting someone who was alleged to be ‘anti-semitic’, and the whole thing became totally unpleasant with much time-wasting leadership bids from Owen Smith and Angela Eagle.
There’s currently much for all of us to be concerned about – to name a few, the ‘cost of living’ crisis including sky high energy bills, inflation creeping up to 10%, record waits on the NHS waiting list, the possible independence of Scotland and Northern Ireland, crises abroad such as Afghanistan or the Ukraine. I would not consider the numerous fixed penalty fines from Johnson (or Starmer, if they happen) an issue to be one which occupies my mind much (so called “Partygate”), or his dreadful gaffes including the CBI Peppa Pig speech.
You may knock GB News, and to be honest I’m not that interested in the “culture wars”. But watching the channel, with some favourite shows, for a few months has exposed me to an open discussion of many issues which I simply did not hear on the BBC. Likewise, just because I am a regular GB News viewer, that does not make me ‘far right’. To imply that is to imply GB News viewers are all far right. It’s as insulting as saying Brexiteers are lacking intelligence, an easy insult to make in the heat of the moment.
The discussions on GB News tend to be respectful and informed. Clearly, some of the panels are a bit Mail/Sun/Express for me, but I choose to watch these individuals. Some arguments are bit off-the-wall and to my knowledge incorrect, but you get that everywhere. But the election results from England came as no surprise to me. Keir Starmer will not become Prime Minister, and I am certain that the Labour Party in due course will replace him.
The exclusion of Jeremy Corbyn is an admission that we live in a Presidential system, and that there should have been processes and procedures in place to root out all antisemitism in the Labour Party. But that is clearly not the only problem in the Labour Party – others include its funding crisis, the lack of publication of the Forde Report, allegations of Islamophobia, and so on. The attacks on Corbyn simply look like a hate campaign, a highly personal one, and disenfranchises all the people who supported him for the last few years. Last Thursday, the ‘get out the vote’ door knocker who came to my flat was clearly a young person recruited during the Corbyn era, who did not really want to be there.
Having read Paul Embery’s book ‘Despised’, which I strongly recommend by the way, it struck me that I fall into the demographic which did not really understand Brexit, living in North London, a Europhile and University-educated. The book is very elegantly argued, and it has helped me understand what has gone badly wrong from the ‘left’. For example, we have pumped a huge amount of an effort into an university class saddled with colossal debt with few opportunities to build a future sometimes. It happens that, from my personal experience, that the people on the left who have succeeded have come from privileged backgrounds.
Seeing gains in the North East for other parties, and basically the performance of Labour flatlining, made me think that Dehenna Davidson MP’s opponent in a TV debate really didn’t understand why Labour was so unattractive to the voters, almost to the point of lacking all insight. It was totally exasperating, almost to the point that that Labour MP looked dangerously out of touch.
The next general election could come sooner than you think. Starmer offered no alternative thinking in the pandemic, nor on Brexit. OK, he has put all his eggs in the windfall tax basket, but it seems that Starmer cannot put forward a political argument and take people with him. Optics matter. The spectacle of Sadiq Khan euphoric in Barnet in London as a ‘game changer’ was utterly ridiculous, and possibly itself alienated voters. The issue is that Labour did not do well in the rest of the country, and the Conservatives and LibDems even managed to make some gains.
The fact that Labour can’t even discuss Brexit or immigration is staggering. The lack of opposition on Brexit is extremely worrying given the potential effects this is having economically and geo-politically, and even Brexiteers, I assume, don’t want a total cover-up. At a time when freedom of speech is so cherished, why is that the problems regarding Brexit aren’t discussed in a mature manner.
Rather surprisingly, I was called a ‘fat gammon’ this week on Twitter, despite the fact that I troll Tweeps with my profile which says, ‘Woke’. Watching GB News as entertainment has helped me to understand other people’s views, even though I may not necessarily agree with them. There are, for example, reasons why some people felt they did not benefit from membership of the European Union. I suspect some Tory MPs know that Johnson is more in touch with his voters than they are, whatever your personal views about these voters. The election results from England last night therefore made perfect sense to me, even if the BBC pundits seemed extremely surprised.
As it happens, I too feel despised by the Labour Party, and the discussions on GB News have in fact opened my eyes. There’s a lot there I disagree with, rest assured, but I am mature enough to make up my own mind.
When I sat finals in clinical medicine in Cambridge in 2001, student doctors would be given ‘short cases’ and a ‘long case’. It was all a bit of a carnival in short cases, where you’d be taken to various patients and you might be given a few minutes with them.
For example, in the ‘old days’, you might be taken to a patient wearing a wig, and the discussion might be causes of hair loss. Or even, you might be taken to a patient with a glass eye with a successfully resected choroidal melanoma, and the discussion might be on melanoma.
There is no wish from me to be nostalgic about this. This was a very hit or mess method of assessment, and suited those people who treated clinical medicine exams like a game show. Exactly twenty years later I find myself writing a station for an ‘objective structured clinical examination’ – the OSCE – where student doctors are given a finite amount of time to take a history or to do a focused clinical examination, and examiners mark off certain competences against checklists to provide a rating overall.
Once qualified, student doctors after a period of pre-registration will become registered by the General Medical Council. This means that they are considered ‘fit to practise’, and their primary duty is to the patient and to observe patient safety. For a qualifying examination, you would therefore expect the candidate, a student doctor hoping to qualify in clinical medicine, to interact with a ‘real patient’ or a ‘simulated patient’ or even mannequin.
The key word here is ‘patient’ not ‘carer’.
When I first embarked on an academic journey into dementia, which led to my first book on dementia published in 2014 entitled ‘Living well with dementia’, it was very much the case that the narrative was individuals with newly diagnosed dementia were individuals in their own right. They had autonomy, independence and are deserving of dignity. It was argued that the stigma and prejudice surrounding people with dementia came from persistent media distortions representing people with dementia as devoid of credible speech and other behaviours.
But it is clear that carers are relevant to patients in all sorts of contexts – such as improving health and wellbeing, shared decision making and integrated care and support planning.
Delirium might be a presenting syndrome in someone who later goes on develop a full-blown cognitive impairment of some sort. In many cases, delirium is said to ‘unmask’ the dementia, comparable to how a urinary tract infection might reveal underlying vulnerabilities in an older person with frailty.
The issue here is that a person with delirium might have no idea who he or she is, might be talking gibberish, might fall asleep mid-sentence, or might not know where he or she is. Therefore, taking a traditional history off him or her might be very challenging, to say the very least. We should like student doctors to feel confident in identifying accurately a patient with delirium. With time, we should expect doctors to be able to complete successfully a quick 4AT on someone with delirium.
Delirium is worth diagnosing because what it isn’t in all cases is totally reversible with no sequelae. With, for example, recurrent delirium episodes, somebody might become more cognitive impaired, lose indeependence, become deteriorated in functional activities of daily living, and might even die earlier than expected. Carers often say to me in person that they have a really awful time communicating with doctors in the NHS. Carers in reality are friends or close family, often, and the bad communication is not intention.
Carers end up being quite important in health and social care services, including unpaid family carers. These family carers are often with a ringside seat to observe an acute change in consciousness and cognition or behaviour over hours or days. They invariably end up being care partners during somebody’s hospital admission which tends to be emotionally demanding for all, including healthcare professionals. They are clearly important at the point of discharge, especially if somebody loses abilities temporarily including physical deconditioning.
I find myself coming full circle studying a Masters in medical education at Nottingham. In designing an OSCE for delirium, I find myself drawing on experience as a family carer, and my situated learning of delirium in that context. As it happens, I am also a physician by training.
I am drawn to the immense distress the delirium episode provides for me as a carer, the loved one (the patient) and the clinician.
If I am to write an effective OSCE for delirium it is therefore to emphasise its position as a medical emergency. This is because delirium is often the ‘canary in the mineshaft’, i.e. the warning for something more sinister like severe constipation or an infection of some sort.
It is therefore a test of the art of diagnosis.
But it is also a test of someone’s communication skills and especially empathy. Distress requires attention. Delirium, or the “acute confusional state”, therefore does merit some practical examination of clinical skills. It is virtually never likely to come up as an examinable case for the membership of the Royal College of Physicians, but conceivably could be a 10-minute GP-consultation “CSA” case in the corresponding clinical examination for the Royal College of General Practitioners.
What is striking to me is the lack of published peer-reviewed literature on the examination of communication skills of doctors with carers, or the ability to take an informant or collateral history prior to undergraduate qualification.
We know that that the official curriculum is over-burdened, and hard to put in practise, but delirium is inherently distressing as well as clearly a patient safety matter.
We might be able to do better.
The narrative from the media is: Cressida Dick bad, the rest of the world good.
I’m not surprised Baroness Claire Fox’s head was hurting after hearing two opinions on GB News, about the resignation of Dame Cressida Dick.
I am likely due to the ‘footballification’ of politics likely to indulge in a bit of conspiracy theory that Dame Cressida Dick is best mates with Boris Johnson, both having been to the same Oxford college (perhaps, I haven’t checked the factoid).
But if the referendum has taught us anything at all, it is dangerous to do ‘binaries’. And the world is full of them: vax or no vax, net zero or no net zero, Brexit or no Brexit, lockdown or no lockdown, and so on. Life could just be a series of referenda.
Dame Cressida Dick is the top of her profession, regardless of her gender or sexuality. And uniquely so, regardless of her politics.
It would therefore be unlikely that Cressida Dick is a misogynist, and so on.
For all the talk of the Met Police being institutionally racist and sexist, why would they need so much training in these domains? Why go to so much effort with rainbow armbands or “taking the knee”?
To reuse a binary, the Met Police is either misogynist and racist – or it’s not.
But I personally am fed up of the abuse of marketing about diversity.
For all the talk of the disability employment gap, the NHS is ineffective in employing people who are disabled at the bottom or the top or in between in the NHS.
I attended a teaching day yesterday, and there was no discussion of the value that disabled doctors could bring to the NHS. The teaching session went straight in with ‘reasonable adjustments’ under law.
Somebody I had never known before tweeted me to say he had been encouraged to seek a non-medical job, despite being a very intelligent doctor, on account of ‘you can’t cure autism’.
I am not especially surprised at this sentiment from others. For ages, I have been wanging on about how adults who suddenly find themselves disabled need a phased return under reasonable adjustments of the Equality Act 2010. That is their right.
In effect, nothing happens. The NHS does not even have a workforce plan for disabled doctors. It instead has a glossy ‘People Plan’ which is no more useful than Grazia magazine.
Not for the first time I find myself in agreement with Claire Fox.
And I am no contrarian!