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As Emily Thornberry said this morning, “There is nothing stronger than a person of principle…. Thanks to Jeremy Corbyn’s inspirational leadership, and the efforts of all the people in this room, it’s time to put Labour values back into government.” Everything has now in fact changed. This is not merely because the Conservative party, and their bullshit such as £350 million re-invested in the NHS, is a ‘busted flush’. It’s much more than that. I first went to the Labour party conference in 2010 in Manchester. It was in fact a few months before my father was to die. I remember my time there crystal clearly. I remember meeting John Prescott for the first (and only) time in a curry restaurant in the Curry Mile, and various people who were both very young and very energised about being in the Labour movement. David Prescott kindly helped me across the street, avoiding being run over by the trams. I had become newly physically disabled at the time, due to meningitis. In fact, I remember going to a fringe event at breakfast time in Manchester Town Hall on the subject of how to engage ‘missing voters’. Ellie Mae O’Hagan was there. Some brilliant contributions from Matt Zarb Cousin stuck in my mind. I wonder what happened to him.
At the time, I was in the ‘top ten’ Labour blogs. But now is much better. I think this Labour conference in 2017 in Brighton is full of optimism and hope. Labour for the first time in ages, I feel, has a realistic chance of being the party of government. I think we very mostly agree Jeremy Corbyn has turned ‘pro’. He batted away questions on striking from Andrew Marr with amazing ease yesterday morning. The hacks have made it an open secret that they have no conflict to discuss. The observation that Brexit is not one of the motions for debate is the only thing that desperate hacks can cling onto, but you only have to look at the list which has emerged – which includes the NHS, social care, growth and investment and employment issues – to see that there is no existential crisis in the Labour Party. Not at all. It is a party which is prepared to govern for the many, not the few.
The Tories’ economic model of delivering shareholder dividend with rocketing prices, suppressed wages with inflated cost of living, is not appealing to the vast majority. The ‘work til you drop’ approach is terrifying. The way in which disabled citizens have lost their personal independence payment is nothing short of the ultimate in unacceptable morally. Corrupt capitalism has had its day. Grenfell paid testament to that. Outside of the hall, it is very clear that many delegates have been speaking to some of ‘the many’. There has been a strong sense from speakers from the floor to speak out about issues of social justice, in the quest for equalities and fairness. There has been reference to homeless people, which Tony Benn famously used to congratulate market forces for. There has been a clear drive to reset the narrative to appreciate and value migrants and asylum seekers. The Momentum festival has been well received. There is no sense that Polly Toynbee needs to visit it to provide it with external validation. Trade unions defend public services, campaign to prevent abuses of workers and employees, and are no longer a ‘dirty word’.
I voted for Jeremy Corbyn twice as leader of the Labour Party, and, like many, it is tempting not to forget so easily the time which has been wasted in setting out the case for Corbyn again and again and again, the carping and criticism from 170 or so Labour MPs, or the whingeing from senior people in the Labour Party keen to ‘blame’ Corbyn for Brexit. Nor is it quite so easy to forgive and forget the amount of time, effort and money taken by the NEC to stop people voting for Corbyn as leader out of fear that all the new members of Labour were Marxist throwbacks from the 1980s. But the surge in membership of the Labour Party is entirely genuine, making Labour a massive democratic party. This is an especially amazing achievement, given the context of how parties such as ‘Alternative for Deutschland’ with an anti-Muslim and anti-migrant, far right, agenda have garnered support to fill the ‘political space’. True that the Labour Party is not entirely a socialist party, although it has socialists in it. But it is also true that there are many more people are loud and proud to be associated with the socialist ideals and values which have been promoted by the current leadership of the Labour Party.
Whilst the ‘we want a Jobs first Brexit’ is in danger of being a vacuous phrase, there’s no doubt about the dependence of certain sectors, not least the NHS and social care, on EU citizens living in Britain. If it turns out that the Conservatives are simply unable to negotiate a meaningful settlement with the European Union within two years, it is quite possible that the Labour Party will have to do something drastic about deciding upon a post-Brexit future. Jeremy Corbyn openly explained on #Marr yesterday that it was possible that state aid rules had not made it possible to intervene in industries as he would have liked, and actually had helped to privatise certain industries such as rail. It wasn’t that long ago, after all, that there had been concerns about how TTIP might stitch up a trade deal with the US over the NHS, but now the threat to the NHS from Donald Trump and Jeremy Hunt is far greater. Free movement of workers has had problems also with employees, particularly of multi-national corporates, effectively leading to wage suppression, but this fundamentally was always a problem presented by employers. But Labour is well aware that the UK economy could easily tank on Brexit especially on leaving membership of the signatories to the rules of the “single market” or “customs union”, and the devaluation of the pound sterling and exodus of jobs abroad are both already alarming. But if you think to choose who you want driving the car – Boris Johnson, David Davis and Priti Patel or Sir Keir Starmer, I know who I prefer.
Members of the media have consistently been spitting bullets at Corbyn. James O’Brien on LBC spent substantial daily effort into rubbishing Corbyn. The 2017 Labour manifesto was a massive triumph, propelling Labour to its largest vote this century. The Tories claim they even put Jeremy Corbyn on the ballot paper the first time around. Various people sneered at the rallies held by Corbyn across the country, claiming simultaneously that Corbyn had a ‘bunker mentality’ which prevented him from meeting the general public, and saying that there was no such social movement. But it is clear that there is something material and significant happening under the RADAR, as Jess Phillips, Clive Lewis and Laura Pidcock are treated like rock stars rather than members of parliament. Paul Mason, I remember, was often criticised for claiming that “strong and stable” Theresa May would not be returned with a stonking majority, and Paul Mason’s views and opinions, for example, on topics ranging from tuition fees to bellicose nuclear speak from Donald Trump are taken with considerably more gravitas than other commentators. The whole team are pretty awesome now, including Barry Gardiner who is prepared to call out people talking nonsensical crap.
Gains such as Canterbury and London Kensington and Chelsea have been amazing. Amber Rudd’s seat in Hastings is now up for grabs. Nobody can fault how amazing Andy Gwynne has been. Of course, much blood has been spilt and this is to be expected from a broad coalition of sorts. I no longer speak to the Socialist Health Association because of their open support for marketization of the NHS, PFI and Owen Smith. Tom Watson is no longer on Len McCluskey’s Christmas card list. I think critics within Labour have really got the work cut out if they wish not to help Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party prepare for government. You can tell from the reception to the limp interventions from Ben Bradshaw and Heidi Alexander over the single market that they are not the future now. But supporters of Labour fundamentally know that they did not introduce austerity. Vince Cable, on the other hand, did. The Liberal Democrats cannot be absolved from their blame on the bedroom tax, either. The Fabians, with their star turns, are having trouble trying to reverse the deluge of criticism they have doshed out to Corbyn and colleagues. The Twitter community, with Chunky, Rachael, Steve, Matt, Tom, Peter, Liam, “Scouse Girl”, EL4JC, Michael, WowPetition, Éoin, Matt, Ellie, or Paul, of course going from strength to strength. Labour’s policies speak to the concerns of the many not the few – such as personal debt, only today, being worked up by John McDonnell and Rebecca Long-Bailey. I agree with Jeremy Corbyn that he will need at least two terms of government to get the UK back on course, but there is a real sense of energy, positivity, drive and optimism which means that Labour and its social movement deserve every success.
‘Reasons to be cheerful’ part 4. Prof Sube Banerjee’s inaugural lecture in Brighton on living well with dementia.
For me the talk was like a badly needed holiday. I joked with Kay there, a colleague of Lisa, that it felt like a (happy) wedding reception.
@charbhardy hello Chars – not at all the same without you. Thinking of you and G. Very windy on seafront here at Brighton x
— shibley (@legalaware) February 27, 2014
Unknown to me, the title of Prof Banerjee’s talk is an allusion to this famous track from 1979 (when I was five). It’s “Reasons to be cheerful (part 3)” by Ian Drury and the Blockheads.
The Inaugural Lecture – Professor Sube Banerjee (“Professor of Dementia”), ‘Dementia: Reasons to be cheerful’ was held on 26 February, 2014, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm, at Chowen Lecture Theatre, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Sussex Campus. BN1 9PX. Details are here on the BSMS website.
I found Prof Banerjee to be a very engaging, ‘natural’ speaker.
I arrived with hours to spare, like how the late Baroness Thatcher was alleged to have done in turning up for funerals.
Brighton are very lucky to have him.
But his lecture was stellar – very humble, yet given with huge gravitas. Banerjee is one of the best lecturers of any academic rank in dementia I have ever seen in person.
Banerjee started off with a suitable ‘icebreaker’ joke – but the audience wasn’t at all nervous, as they all immediately warmed to him very much.
He is ‘quite a catch’. He is able to explain the complicated issues about English dementia policy in a way that is both accurate and engaging. Also, I have every confidence in his ability to attract further research funding for his various teaching and clinical initiatives in dementia for the future.
Most of all, I was particularly pleased as the narrative which he gave of English dementia policy, with regards to wellbeing, was not only accurate, but also achievable yet ambitious.
1979 was of course a big year.
Prof Banerjee felt there were in fact many ‘reasons to be cheerful’, since Ian Drury’s remarkable track of 1979 (above), apparently issued on 20 July of that year.
Banerjee argued that the 1970s which had only given fruit to 209 papers, but things had improved ever since then.
It was the year of course Margaret Thatcher came to power on behalf of the Conservative Party.
In contrast, there have already been thousands of papers in the 2000s so far.
Banerjee also argued that “what we know is more likely to be true” which is possibly also true. However, I immediately reminisced of the famous paper in Science in 1982, “The cholinergic hypothesis of geriatric memory dysfunction”. This paper, many feel, lay the groundwork for the development of cholinesterase inhibitors such as donepezil (“Aricept”, fewer than twenty years later.
It is definitely true that ‘we are better at delineating the different forms of dementia’.
I prefer to talk of the value of people with dementia, but Banerjee presented the usual patter about the economic costs of dementia. Such stats almost invariably make it onto formal grant applications to do with dementia, to set the scene of this particular societal challenge.
I am of course a strong believer in this as my own PhD was in a new way to diagnose the behavioural variant of frontotemporal dementia. In this dementia, affecting mainly people in their 50s at onset, the behavioural and personality change noticed by friends and carers is quite marked. This is in contrast to a relative lack of memory of problems.
Not all dementias present with memory problems, and not all memory problems have a dementia as a root cause. I do happen to believe that this is still a major faultline in English dementia policy, which has repercussions of course for campaigns about ‘dementia awareness’.
A major drive in the national campaigns for England is targeted at destigmating persons with dementia, so that they are not subject to discrimination or prejudice.
The dementia friendship programmes have been particularly successful, and Banerjee correctly explained the global nature of the history of this initiative drive (from its “befriending” routes in Japan). Banerjee also gave an excellent example to do with language of dementia friendship in the elderly, which I had completely missed.
Raising awareness of memory problems in dementia is though phenomenally important, as Alzheimer’s disease is currently thought to be the most prevalent form of dementia worldwide.
The prevalence of dementia may even have been falling in England in the last few decades to the success prevention of cardiovascular disease in primary care.
The interesting epidemiological question is whether this should have happened anyway. Anyway, it is certainly good news for the vascular dementias potentially.
That dementia is more than simply a global public health matter is self-evident.
I’m extremely happy Banerjee made reference to a document WHO/Alzheimers Disease International have given me permission to quote in my own book.
Banerjee presented a slide on the phenomenally successful public awareness campaign about memory.
Nonetheless, Banerjee did speak later passionately about the development of the Croydon memory services model for improving quality of life for persons with mild to moderate dementia.
In developing his narrative about ‘living well with dementia’, Banerjee acknowledged at the outset that the person is what matters at dementia. He specifically said it’s about what a person can do rather than what he cannot do, which is in keeping to my entire philosophy about living well with dementia.
And how do we know if what we’re doing is of any help? Banerjee has been instrumental in producing, with his research teams, acceptable and validated methods for measuring quality of life in dementia.
The DEMQOL work has been extremely helpful here, and I’m happy Banerjee made a point of signposting this interesting area of ongoing practice-oriented research work.
Banerjee of course did refer to “the usual suspects” – i.e. things you would have expected him to have spoken about, such as the National Dementia Strategy (2009) which he was instrumental in designing at the time: this strategy was called “Living well with dementia”.
“I’m showing you this slide BECAUSE I want YOU to realise it IS complicated”, mused Banerjee at the objectives of the current English dementia policy.
I asked Banerjee what he felt the appropriate ‘ingredients’ of the new strategy for dementia might be – how he would reconcile the balance between ‘cure’ and ‘care’ – “and of course, the answer is both”, he said to me wryly.
Banerjee acknowledged, which I was massively pleased about, the current ‘barriers to care’ in this jurisdiction (including the known issues about the “timely diagnosis of dementia”.
Clearly the provision at the acute end of dementia care is going to have to come under greater scrutiny.
I increasingly have felt distinctly underwhelmed by the “medical model”, and in particular the repercussions of this medicalisation of dementia as to how grassroots supporters attempt to raise monies for dementia.
That certain antidepressants can have a lack of effect in dementia – Banerjee’s work – worries me.
That antipsychotics can have a dangerous and destructive effect for persons with dementia – also Banerjee’s work – also clearly worries me.
I am of course very proud that Prof Alistair Burns is currently reading my book focused on the interaction between the person and the environment in dementia.
And of course I’m ecstatic that Lisa Rodrigues and Prof Sube Banerjee signed my book : a real honour for me.
I signed Lisa’s book which was most likely not as exciting for her! X
— Lisa Rodrigues (@LisaSaysThis) February 26, 2014
There was a great atmosphere afterwards: the little chocolate brownies were outstanding!
Being an antisocial bastard, I didn’t mingle.
BUT I had a brilliant chat with Lucy Jane Marsters (@lucyjmarsters) who gave me a little bag of ‘Dementia is my business’ badges, very thoughtfully.
We both spoke about Charmaine Hardy. Charmaine was missed (and was at home, devoted to G.)
I’ve always felt that Charmaine is a top member of our community.
@legalaware oh Shibley how did you enjoy it? I wish I could have been there but it’s not possible to leave G anymore. Good being by the sea.
— Charmaine Hardy (@charbhardy) February 27, 2014
A reason not to be cheerful was leaving Brighton, for many personal reasons for me.
Not even the Shard was a ‘reason to be cheerful’, particularly.
— Lisa Rodrigues (@LisaSaysThis) February 27, 2014
But when I came back, I found out that ‘Living well with dementia’ is to be a core part of the new English dementia policy.
— Living Well Dementia (@dementia_2014) February 27, 2014
I have, of course, just published a whole book about it.
The photograph of the poppy was of course taken by Charmaine Hardy: I have such great feedback on that one poppy in particular!
And what does the future hold?
Over to Prof Banerjee…