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I’m not even a Corbynista. I’m not a Trot. I’m not a member of the Socialist Workers Party. I am not a Member of Momentum.
I have merely voted Labour since 1990. I’ve been a member of Progress some time ago. I became bored with their flaccid uncritical superficial meetings. I’ve retained membership of the Fabian Society since about 2010, and I occasionally go to conference.
For the first time in my political life I am tempted (a bit) by the Liberal Democrats.
You have to say all this to pre-empt the huge abuse you get these days, mainly from liberal Guardian readers, who are fully signed members of the clubs above – who seem to have with them a strange sense of entitlement within the Labour Party.
You see –
I think I recently had to block Angela and Maria Eagle MP, who share the same birthday from what I remember from being Facebook friends with them. There had been no uncivil disobedience or even the slightest of interaction. I just felt like changing the locks before I knew we were to go our separate ways.
It was a clean break. I don’t think Angela checked in that much into Facebook. She certainly had never commented on my posts.
If there is one thing that this particular coup has taught me it’s the sheer personal unpleasantness about it. People I like, for example Alastair Campbell and Tom Baldwin, and in fact Neil Kinnock, have driven me up the wall with their comments about the unworkability of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership after merely nine months. Alastair Campbell by his own admission recently in a TV interview said he had little involvement with the Party, but he seems pretty “hands on”, to me anyway.
The coup reeks of Tony Blair and New Labour. It’s obvious that the conception of this, ironically, was 9 months ago, and now the baby is being delivered on time. The fundal height is about 39 cm – except the coup baby has its head pointed in the wrong direction and contractions were slow to start. But started they have. Angela (not Andrea) has announced she will be making an announcement on Monday, whereas Owen Smith works out whether his candidature might split the vote (not a difficult decision to make).
This coup is the Chilcot of coups. It has been done with little regard to the rule book. There has been a lot of ‘will she? won’t she?’ about Angela standing, given the problem of Jeremy having to resign first before ceremonies begin. In the wait for a second UN resolution not forthcoming, Angela has mobilised her tanks onto Jeremy’s lawn, so to speak. There’s absolutely bugger all plan for the world post Jeremy. There will inevitably a bit of a bloodbath, and civil war and anarchy emerging as victors. Possibly the Labour Party will split. Who knows?
The last two weeks, “Waiting for Chilcot” and Godot was it boring, felt like a bit of a phoney war to me. Dan Hodges was tweeting factoids such as this.
But it turned out that the truth was considerably more complicated – but in this post fact bullshit era, accelerated by Twitter, a smear is a smear.
This is what Wikipedia had to say about Alice Mahon’s involvement here.
But it turned out that Alice Mahon’s resignation from the Labour Party turned out to be considerably more interesting, which ‘journalist’ Dan Hodges was not keen to alert you to. This, together with her view of Damian McBride, made for interesting reading.
As I said, a smear is a smear. Whilst it is clear that Labour has foci of deep seated issues, I found it impossible doing due diligence on each smear as they came along, such was the volume of them.
So, when Angela finally declared her candidature (again), I was mightily relieved.
Of course, the idea of one leader being ‘to blame’ is a very outdated, if incorrect, concept of how leadership actually works. This article from the Guardian, a well known Corbynophobic paper, explains some of the nuances.
“Leaders may be in charge but they are not always in control. Those leading complex organisations need a high tolerance of uncertainty and ambiguity; the capacity for reflexivity, enabling them to notice how they and others are being caught up in the game of organisational life; the ability to recognise patterns of activity between them and their colleagues and more broadly in the organisation; and political savvy as well as knowing how to negotiate, persuade and form alliances.”
And furthermore, if Chuka, Liz, Rachel or Liz refuse to serve, to name but a few, your options are limited. And if you’re then victimised to high heaven in your organisation by colleagues, it can be difficult to be an effective leader, one can argue.
Under such a toxic culture, it is clear that the current Labour Party in parliament is not fit for purpose. In the last nine months since Corbyn’s election, I have heard nothing from the Shadow Secretary of State for health on an intention to solve the growing deficit in NHS finances, nor what to do about the private finance initiative, which would have required urgent work early on working with the Shadow Chancellor. I’ve heard nothing about how the Shadow Secretary of State intended to progress on ‘whole person care’, which had been advanced by Andy Burnham MP, a form of person-centred integrated care. I heard nothing about what was to be done about reconfigurations in the NHS, as this issue was outsourced entirely to Simon Stevens’ Five Year Forward View. In other words, Labour became a total waste of space on health. Expectedly, a senior representative from health was unwilling to support the junior doctors on the picket line, and no discussion was uttered about the possible contagion of the problems with the junior doctor contract on consultants or GPs, or indeed other clinical staff.
And maybe it’s time to remind Angela Eagle MP of this small matter – how she was singing a rather different tune in the ‘Left Futures’ last year during the Deputies’ race. The one where Angela came 4th – now reported in various places as “massive grassroots support”.
The text of this is:
“Angela Eagle, candidate for Deputy Leader, weighed in on the leadership debate yesterday attacking those who have said they would not work with Jeremy Corbyn, and calling for the party’s elite to respect the membership’s decision if they elect him.
Writing to members, Eagle said, “I would happily serve under anyone the members choose to be our leader. Why? Because I respect the wisdom of our members, supporters and affiliates and our Party’s process of electing a new leadership team. Every candidate has the right to be heard and put forward a vision for Labour’s future and, whether you agree with Jeremy Corbyn or not, he is in the race and is entitled to participate. So the talk of coups, remarks about not serving in Shadow Cabinets and former Prime Minister’s telling people to get ‘heart transplants’ need to stop now.”
This followed stories in the Independent last week that Labour MPs were plotting a coup to remove Corbyn by triggering an immediate re-election, if he were to win, and comments from Tony Blair that Corbyn supporters needed a ‘heart transplant’.”
I like Tom Watson – I’m friends with him on Facebook, and followed by Tom on Twitter. I don’t subscribe to all the ‘I’ve felt very let down by Tom’ remarks about Tom on Twitter, with words such as ‘sabotage’ unhelpfully used by Len McCluskey in relation to rather dubious negotiations.
And it’s become bloody easy for the social democratic/Liberal journo class to crap on about how Corbyn fans always talk about his ‘democratic mandate’. For all the brilliance of the leadership of Ed Miliband, loyal adult life long Labour members like me had to endure the indignity of the #EdStone from Lucy Powell and a million conversations from somewhere. I remember Ed wanted to have a conversation with me, no doubt as a bloody PR stunt. I don’t blame Tom Baldwin even.
But Ed’s Labour LOST the election.
This means that Labour MPs have to implement Government policy even in their locality – which they seem to be more keen to do than, say, doing something about unconscionable private landlords, or aggressive tax avoidance, or the lack of social housing stock, just because “the leaders’ office made me do it“.
Of course, Labour MPs can rebel against all these highly immoral policies at the NEC, while meanwhile in the real world Andrea Leadsom advances the Am Dram Front.
And – it’s not all to do with “that butty“.
There’s a reason why Ed lost the election for Labour – and the Labour Party machine lost it. Many of us who support Corbyn know why. It’s not actually to do with foundation trusts or PFI, or section 75 Health and Social Care Act (2012). For me, it’s all to do with the full adherence to the austerity agenda, which is a political choice not an economic one as the meme goes. Because Labour did not address its perceived lack of credibility on the economy, not helped by Ed Balls’ personal branding which ensured he himself lost his seat, Labour had to look like the Tories in their embracing of cuts. This went down like a lead balloon with many wondering ‘what on earth is the point of Labour?’ which was symbolised with all of the Labour leadership candidates ABSTAINING on welfare reform apart from Jeremy Corbyn. Rachel Reeves MP had written several offensive articles to the disabled community. I am physically disabled, so when John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn gave their full support to WOW Petition, I loved it. I lost my disability living allowance for no reason from the previous government, which I won back through the law courts. Labour did not speak to me at all on this – apart from Jeremy Corbyn. I am not a Corbynista.
And if you ‘embrace’ austerity, the rest follows. You call NHS hospitals ‘unsustainable’ whereas you actually mean you DON’T WANT to fund them properly. And if hospitals are negotiating PFI loan repayments, and the guidance on safe staffing is lax, with efficiency ‘savings’ expected, there’s a perfect storm compromising quality in the NHS. If you then strip social care to the bone (this budget has not been protected since 2010), it is reasonably foreseeable that patients will be stockpiling in hospital, not being able to be discharged through no fault of their own, disparagingly called ‘bed blockers’ by an incompetent and biased media.
That’s why I continue to support Corbyn.
Angela, despite her ‘vision’, does not do it for me. I think her voting record is somewhat irrelevant given that she will have been whipped according to the crazy parliamentary system (so she would have voted for Tory welfare changes, the Iraq War). For me, though, I can’t envision a future Labour leader having voted for a war that might be perceived as legitimised mass murder. She is meant to be the shadow business secretary, and yet I had no idea about her steer on EU v internationalism during the #Brexit campaign. All of this is ancient history, I suppose – for example, the Parliamentary Labour whips help out with coups now.
It’s got nothing to do with the fact I am according to my detractors in a cult (though if you want lessons in personality cults, I suggest you go to one of the many cliquey meetings of Progress with every excuse for Tony Blair possible laid bare). It’s all to do with the fact that many of us are fed up of being served up essentially the same meat with different gravy.
How do I feel, though, about a split following the Angela Eagle plan? To steal Lord Mandelson’s phrase, and I am sure his pupil Owen Smith MP will too in a Pontypridd way, I’m “intensely relaxed”.
Ed Miliband has often remarked that he views his pitch for being Prime Minister being like a job interview. This is not a bad way of looking at the situation he finds himself in, one feels.
The “elevator pitch” is a construct where you’re supposed to sell yourself in the space of a short journey in an elevator. What would Ed Miliband have to do to convince you that he means business?
This question is not, “Would you like to be stuck in a lift with Ed Miliband?” But that is undoubtedly how the BBC including Andrew Neil, Andrew Marr or David Dimbleby would like to ask it.
On Facebook yesterday, Ed presented his potted ‘here’s what I stand for in four minutes’ pitch.
It’s here in case you missed it.
Presumably advisers have recommended to Ed in interviews that he must look keen to do the job. But presumably there is a limit to looking ‘too keen': i.e. desperate.
Ed being given the job depends on what the other candidates are like: and Nigel Farage, Nick Clegg and David Cameron are not the world’s most capable candidates.
It’s said that most HR recruiters ‘google’ the candidates before shortlisting. Will Ed Miliband survive the stories about him eating a butty? Or being public enemy no. 1?
Does Ed Miliband have issues he wants to bring to the table?
Yes he does: repeal of the loathed Health and Social Care Act (2012), abolition of the despised bedroom tax, a penalty for tax avoidance, and so on.
Will the media give him a fair hearing?
Does Ed Miliband have a suitable background? Well, he got at least a II.1 – this is all anyone seems to care about these days. (I, for the record, think that the acquisition of a II.1 in itself is meaningless, but that’s purely a personal opinion.)
Would Ed take the job if offered it? Yes.
Will he have OK references? Not if you ask Andrew Marr, but if you ask somebody like James Bloodworth, Sunny Hundal, or Dr Éoin Clarke, yes.
Can Ed return something to his stakeholders? Possibly more than David Cameron can return to his. All Ed has to do is to win.
It’s going to be difficult. This general election on May 7th 2015 is incredibly unpredictable. The main factors, apart from Ed Miliband’s two critics, are whether the LibDem vote will collapse, how well UKIP might do, whether Scotland will be a ‘wipeout’, and so on.
But Ed Miliband’s government repealing the Health and Social Care Act (2012) is far more significant than whether he can eat a butty.
It is undeniable that the state of the NHS is directly linked to the overall state of the economy. Austerity has posed a challenge to patient safety, though the official line is that “efficiency savings” have not impacted on safety in England. Nonetheless, it is a fact that unsafe levels of staffing have often been at the root of shortfalls in clinical safety.
The “Keogh review” could not have been a clearer example of this.
The public tend to be most concerned about the NHS if there is an identifiable event, such as Mid Staffs, or breaches of the four hour wait.
It is no big secret that Labour intend to make the NHS THE big issue of the general election campaign of 2015. This is despite the Conservatives’ electoral strategy Lynton Crosby not wishing to discuss the NHS.
But like a Marlboro cigarette, the issue of the link between Lynton Crosby, Philip Morris International Inc. (“Philip Morris”) and smoking policy has been a slow burn in the last year or so.
Labour has always wished to paint the picture that the Conservatives do not come with “clean hands” to the discussion of smoking and health.
There has always been the question: are the public aware of the financial problems facing the NHS? And, despite an universal consensus for low taxes, would they wish something to be done in the specific case of the NHS?
A new dawn for NHS campaigners was the relief that the media, who once a upon a time had been respected, were conflating “unsustainable” and “unaffordable” in their discussions of NHS funding. The NHS is, as they will tell you, should be comprehensive, universal, and free at the point of need. It is hard to know precisely where this confusion had arisen from. I remember vividly complaining about this on this SHA blog in October 2013.
In yesterday’s speech, the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls made the direct link between income from taxes for the Government and the NHS.
“‘Next year, after just five years of David Cameron – with waiting times rising, fewer nurses and a crisis in A&E – we will have to save the NHS from the Tories once again,’ he said. ‘And we will do what it takes.’”.
Also in October 2013, the Local Government Association published a pamphlet entitled, “Changing behaviours in public health – to nudge or to shove?”.
And there is more than a cigarette paper between the two main political parties here on this ssue.
The current government has made exploring the potential of behavioural change a priority. In fact, the coalition agreement itself made direct reference to the issue, stating that the government would be “harnessing the insights from behavioural economics and social psychology”.
But likewise it has also clear that tools available to government include more draconian approaches as shown by the fact that consultations were carried out on plain packaging for cigarettes (a shove) and minimum pricing for alcohol (a smack). However, neither policy has subsequently been introduced.
I, over a year ago, wrote on this blog on the topic of changing behaviour in relation to smoking.
Ed Miliband has been banging on his “cost of living crisis” drum for some time. And, in fairness to him, it is an issue which resonates with the general public. For socialists, such as Owen Jones, the issue does particularly resonate as an example of how privatised companies with vested interests have protected their profits at the expense of their customers. They are able to do this due to markets, which have not failed from the perspective of the shareholder, but which have clearly failed from the perspective of the end user.
And a noteworthy consideration here is that such providers have been able to rely on robust demand, for example the need to drink water or to make a phone call. Likewise, certain luxury brands have not seen their profit margins dented by the global economic recession.
Indeed, on May 12 2009, it was reported that tobacco use would continue, possibly grow, during recession, according to experts at the time.
Death and taxes may be inevitable according to the famous Benjamin Franklin quote. But Lord Stewart Wood, advisor and friend to Ed Miliband, is known also to be petrified that Labour once again becomes known as THE “tax and spend” party. Whilst Labour might have been flirting with sexier and covert ways of working things to their advantage, such as “predistribution”, an epiphany lightbulb moment came when Labour realised it could get away with taxing entities rather than people, provided that it did not offend the neoliberal virtues of competition and enterprise.
In an economic downturn, products seen as giving comfort in the midst of stress tend to sell very well. In the U.S. and abroad, tobacco is no exception. That’s why taxing a commodity which does not become popular, and which could damage your health, is such an attractive political policy.
Just under a year ago, in October 2013, Ben Page as Chief Executive of Ipsos MORI presented a talk: “Public opinion: What price the NHS?”.
79% of the general public were reported as opining that the NHS should be protected from cuts (as opposed to other areas such as policing, benefits or schools).
88% of people agreed that the NHS “would face a severe funding problem in the future”.
Lack of resources and investment in the NHS is way above (42%) is way above other factors which could be posited to be “the biggest threat” to the NHS (including, for example, not enough doctors or nurses, or too much management).
Fast forward to now, and in a September 2014 report from “The Health Foundation”, entitled “More than money: closing the NHS quality gap”, the authors Richard Taunt, Alecia Lockwood and Natalie Berry considered that the NHS faces a significant financial challenge is well known and much discussed. This ‘financial gap’ has been projected to reach £30bn by 2021. This is due to the disparity between the pressures on the NHS and the projected resources available to it.
In the leader’s speech later today, Ed Miliband is ex[ected to put the nation’s health at the centre of a 10-year plan for Britain’s future on Tuesday, front loading the NHS with funding from a novel windfall tax on the profits of UK tobacco companies and the proceeds of a mansion tax on homes worth more than £2m.
A windfall tax normally has its critics because it’s considered to be a very short term measure that risks really damaging the relationship between government and big businesses.
But here is a windfall tax somewhat like no others – as the demand for cigarettes, despite the threat from e-cigarettes, is largely sustainable, and Labour if it is at any war with business is as at war with big businesses abusing markets.
In his final Labour party conference speech before next year’s general election, Miliband will tell sceptical voters he can bring the country back together and offer six ambitious goals, including changes to the NHS, designed to overcome “the greatest challenges of our age and transform the ethics of how Britain is run” over the next decade.
A mansion tax could raise £1.7bn, and had originally been earmarked by the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, to fund a 10p starting rate of income tax, but that is now due to be funded by abolishing the marriage tax rate.
The poorest twenty per cent of households in Britain spend an average of £1,286 per year on ‘sin taxes’, including betting taxes, vehicle excise duty, air passenger duty, ‘green taxes’ and duty on tobacco, alcohol and motor fuels. In addition, they also spend £1,165 on VAT.
“Sin taxes” have generally been unwelcome by proponents of the free market, such as the Institute of Economic Affairs (“IEA”). In October 2013, the IEA published a report entitled, “Aggressively Regressive: The ‘sin taxes’ that make the poor poorer”.
In this report, the IEA made their disgust for ‘sin taxes’ clear.
It is said that, despite significantly lower rates of alcohol consumption and car ownership, the poorest income group spends twice as much on sin taxes and VAT than the wealthiest income group as a proportion of their income.
It is possible for the Conservative Party to mount an argument that tax is the single biggest source of expenditure for those who live in poverty, and indeed indirect taxes are a major cause of Britain’s cost of living crisis.
The average smoker from the poorest fifth of households spends between 18 and 22 per cent of their disposable income on cigarettes. The tax on these cigarettes consumes 15 to 17 per cent of their income.
And tobacco remains one of the world’s most profitable industries. Current data suggests that smoking is still a huge part of the global consumer landscape and that the habit is not going to die out anytime soon.
Philip Morris is currently the leading international tobacco company, with seven of the world’s top 15 international brands, including Marlboro, the number one cigarette brand worldwide. PMI’s products are sold in more than 180 markets.
In 2013, the company held an estimated 15.7% share of the total international cigarette market outside of the U.S., or 28.3% excluding the People’s Republic of China and the U.S.
On Sep 14th 2014, it was announced that the Board of Directors of Philip Morris on the NYSE/Euronext Paris PM), increased the company’s regular quarterly dividend by 6.4% to an annualized rate of $4.00 per share.
But cigarettes contain more than 4000 chemical compounds and at least 400 toxic substances.
Cardiovascular disease (disease of the heart or blood vessels) is the main cause of death due to smoking.
Smokers are more likely to get cancer than non-smokers. This is particularly true of lung cancer, throat cancer and mouth cancer, which rarely affect non-smokers. The link between smoking and lung cancer is clear. Ninety percent of lung cancer cases are due to smoking. If no-one smoked, lung cancer would be a rare diagnosis – only 0.5 per cent of people who’ve never touched a cigarette develop lung cancer.
Other types of cancer that are more common in smokers are bladder cancer, cancer of the oesophagus, cancer of the kidneys
cancer of the pancreas, and ervical cancer.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a collective term for a group of conditions that block airflow out of the lungs and make breathing more difficult.
So, in a weird way, smoking may come to be saviour of the NHS due to a perversion of market forces. It might be the latest brand of “left populism”, leaving Ed Miliband to want to have another puff. It is hard for the Conservatives to criticise without appearing to come down heavily on the side of tobacco companies such as Philip Morris, but Philip Morris are unlikely to forget this in a hurry if the Labour Party are responsible for denting their profits.
Public health was never a sexy campaigning issue for the Labour Party, despite the best efforts of some, with popular newspapers coming down heavily on the side of the consumer than the “interfering state”. But the whole concept of the ‘responsible state’ has become tarnished with neoliberal governments increasingly outsourcing state functions to companies embroiled in inefficient practices and allegations of fraud practices. A windfall tax on cigarettes, despite giving off an unattractive odour of Labour “going back to its taxing roots”, may be, however, just what the Doctor ordered at this particular time in the history of the service.
And, as all politicians know, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
After today, Labour might be feeling like (a) whole (person) again.
Miliband has indeed called the right shots on certain issues, such as phone hacking and energy bills, but he is wrong to think all of his woes are due to a fixation with image.
This is Ed Miliband who recently posed with a copy of the Sun newspaper remember, despite rather vociferous opposition of the Liverpool MPs in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.
It’s pretty likely now that the Conservatives have screwed up in a sufficiently large number of areas for them not to be able to win an overall majority on May 8th 2015. This all leaves Labour looking as if it will be the largest party at least. The indictment list for the Coalition is massive: real problems in access to justice through the decimation of law centres, operational failures in access to acute medicine, the distress caused to disabled citizens through their withdrawal of disability benefits, and so it goes on.
And indeed it’s pretty likely now both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have done enough to lose the next general election.
But Miliband’s fixation on image is odd. It’s odd particularly he has always claimed he never reads the papers, like an aloof academic who never reads bad reviews of his work. The “I am not worried about my image” story presents an inherent paradox that Miliband is intensely worried about his image. But he should be worried about other things.
Labour is looking, policy-wise, in healthy shape. The UK Labour Party is relatively united, and the list of policy proposals look coherent.
But the Labour Party, like all parties, have ‘questions to answer’. It needs to answer whether it would be prepared to safeguard the NHS budget as the inequality gap gets bigger. If it is indeed the case that Greg Dyke, who considers himself reasonably well off, is happy to pay a larger amount of taxes to not have a NHS on its knees, should Labour be bringing that discussion openly to the public?
Labour says it cannot do much about the TTIP investor state dispute settlement negotiations as they’re being done in private, but Labour still gives an impression of being led by events not being in control of them. Likewise it is committed to negotiating a new settlement for PFI literally, not solely the problem of the Labour Party, but PFI does not seem to be a discussion out in the open. It clearly is not a niche subject when it can affect the reconfiguration of local hospitals.
And the general public are not convinced about the NHS being run on the model of a supermarket. Members of the public include disgruntled former employees of the NHS who have found the culture oppressive and stifling, with abuse of power by people in authority. And nothing much seems to change.
Ultimately there is always enough money for wars, and inquiries into war, and you never hear of the Prime Minister saying we can’t intervene because we’ve overspent our budget. People who used to vote Labour want some sort of ideological reassurance that the NHS will not be sold off to the highest bidder, and our utilities won’t be owed by foreign oligarchs. Yes, the left is capable of “doing” patriotism too.
For the record, I have never been one to dismiss the National Health Action Party or Keep Our NHS Public as cranky pressure groups who have no credibility in their mission. They are speaking up for massive faultlines in our NHS policy, and, whilst Labour is clearly speaking out against the current Government, many former Labour voters simply put their face in their palm when Miliband dismisses the problem as image.
It is not.
Rumours of the political death of Ed Miliband have been greatly exaggerated. But he can’t be a ‘one trick pony’.
The ‘rumours of my death’ quotation, attributed originally to Samuel Langhorne Clemens, has a long history.
Ed Miliband’s political journey, via Haverstock Hill Comprehensive School and Oxford University, by comparison has been much shorter. He does not appear to have gone via many checkouts along the way, though his nearest checkout would have been at Morrisons at Chalk Farm Road had it existed then.
But socialism did exist then. Miliband is clearly intent on fixing markets, but socialism, arguably, would prefer to get rid of them. Such an analysis will inevitably take you through hybrid economies, or the feasibility of the implementation of socialism in various countries. But the refrain that Ed Miliband is not a ‘socialist’ does not particularly appear to worry him.
Whatever Miliband’s formulation on the structure and function of the National Health Service, it’s more likely to be interesting than him eating a chip butty, or whether he can remember a local leader’s name from a dimly lit studio in London.
Miliband’s view on the running of the health and social care system may not often openly discuss payment by results or root cause analyses in patient safety, but nor does Mr Farage’s. Ultimately, Miliband needs to produce a vision on the NHS is more coherent than Farage’s, Clegg’s, or Cameron’s.
And this job is not particularly difficult. Clegg will be interested in the goals of competition lawyers, and Cameron with that of private providers. Farage is yet to unleash his crack squad focus group on health, so we have no idea what his offering will be.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Ed Miliband is totally buggered politically. But the pained expressions of John Mann and Graham Stringer as sore losers undermine their credibility as critical friends.
They are readily available for vacuous commentary from a supine BBC, which hailed the finding of zero councils for UKIP as an ‘earthquake’.
And Labour did perform on decent objective measures, such as the overall number of seats and the popular share of the vote. One of the myriad of untold stories is the complete implosion of the popular support of the Conservative Party. That Party know they’re stuck with David Cameron, and no Tory wants to break ranks ahead of Newark (a seat likely to be won by the Tories.)
Patrick O’Flynn, chief communications officer for UKIP, may be congratulated on producing Nigel Mirage, a figment of a new Jerusalem in politics which does not exist.
The UKIP message is claimed to be ‘selling on the doorstep’, but it does not seem to be selling particularly well on the doorsteps on metropolitan centres of England such as Newcastle, Manchester, London, Birmingham or Bristol.
To say it is an earthquake is a disingenious as selling cod roe as caviar. Sure, Ed Miliband needs to be more convincing about the ‘cost of living’, but most people can smell a rat when it is Andrew Neil, recently returned from Dubai, who complains that the ‘cost of living’ message is not getting through. Or Patrick O’Flynn, former Chief Political Editor for the Daily Express, is responsible for selling the message that the modern political class continues with the same Oxbridge types on a revolving door basis.
The BBC may have captured the safe seat of Nick Robinson (no innuendo intended), but rumours of Ed Miliband’s demise or death have certainly been greatly exaggerated. While the ‘35% strategy’ clearly promotes a strategy of the bland leading the bland, it has succeeded in completely annihilating the Liberal Democrats as a credible force in politics.
Ed Miliband must up his game, and have a very clear vision on the NHS which he can articulate without looking strained. While the ‘cost of living crisis’ may be resonating, particularly with some in London, Ed Miliband cannot be seen as a one trick pony, particularly if real wages overtakes the cost of living later this year as predicted.
Whether or not UKIP gets sucked in to fill this vacuum depends on UKIP’s ability to co-form a Government. And for this it needs MPs. The idea of Liberal Democrats repealing their own legislation, propping up a Labour administration with insufficient numbers to form a majority, is simply enough to fill anyone with dread.
But Labour does need some support from the chattering classes, particularly existentialist Green voters in the Guardian.
Time after time, voters in polls and in focus groups return the finding that they don’t especially trust any mainstream political party with their handling of the economy.
But in a forced choice, a small majority of voters think the Conservatives are ‘better at handling the economy’.
This of course depends on what your definition of the economy is. If it means the rich getting a lot richer, that is possibly true. And don’t forget Lord Mandelson was ‘intensely relaxed about that too’.
Gordon Brown and Ed Balls are adamant that they’ve won the argument on needling to pump money into the investment banking sector to avert a ‘Great Recession’.
However, David Cameron and Nick Clegg appear to have succeeded in spinning repetitively their yarn that it was Labour that ‘brought the economy to its knees’.
And it seems Ed Miliband is equally obsessed about ‘winning the argument’. Miliband is continuing with the line that the cost of living outstrips real wages, even though it is widely reported that this trend will reverse sometime this year.
But Miliband possibly is on surer ground with ‘zero hour contracts’, and the financial insecurity of some who have them. He would be on massively firmer ground if he were to attack the lack of access of justice through the closure of law centres through legislation introduced by this Government.
He would be on much firmer ground if here were to attack the changes in employment rights such as unfair dismissal.
There’s no doubt that the ‘cost of living crisis’ is important to many – with the well known #shockedface when many of us open our energy bills.
But he almost appears to mention the NHS as an after thought. Now is the time when Labour should produce a series of announcements on what it wants to do, aside from leaks on public health which look pretty deliberate in the Daily Mail.
Labour could campaign strongly to ensure that the English Law Commission’s proposals on the regulation of clinical professions see the light of day, with Jeremy Hunt having made this such a totemic issue.
Labour could hone in on the incredible waste in PFI loan repayments, and their subsequent effect on budgets regarding safe staffing. These have been identified by Margaret Hodge’s team in the Public Accounts Committee.
It could decide to wish to implement legislation which makes it a certainty there’ll be no hospital closures appearing from nowhere and any discussion of changes to health services will require a meaningful discussion with the local community first.
It is up to Labour to choose the narrative too. People desperately want Labour, and Ed Miliband, to take a lead on the NHS. As Carville said, “It’s the economy stupid….. but don’t forget about healthcare.”
There’s no doubt Andy Burnham MP drives the Conservatives potty.
Despite the Conservatives’ best attempts to annihilate Burnham MP, Burnham keeps on scoring goals.
Meanwhile Jeremy Hunt continues to score blanks, apart from where profits from ‘Hot Courses’ are concerned.
But Burnham is more concerned about the day job, and that is running the NHS to a level of some degree of competence.
Hunt meanwhile continues to run his NHS into the ground, paying for costly advice on the managerial implementation of compassion, when he could be paying nurses to do the professional job they’re trained to do.
So Burnham can certainly hold his head up high as chief striker or scorer for Labour United.
As the Conservatives spit out the oranges from their half-time pep talk, as the oranges were in fact horsemeat due to the abolished Food Safety Agency, it’s time to recapitulate.
Clive Peedell kindly tweeted the other day points on which he would like Labour to play ball.
— Clive Peedell (@cpeedell) April 22, 2014
Before the 2010 election, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg indeed condemned PFI as “a bit of dodgy accounting – a way in which the government can pretend they’re not borrowing when they are, and we’ll all be picking up the tab in 30 years”. It’s well known that PFI is a relic of the John Major government from 1995 (predating New Labour in fact). In opposition, Osborne pledged that the Conservatives would stop using PFI and denounced Labour for relying so much on a source of finance that he said was “totally discredited”. “We need to find new ways to leverage private-sector investment. Labour’s PFI model is flawed and must be replaced,” Osborne muttered in November 2009. Indeed Margaret Hodge, chair of the powerful Commons public accounts committee, said the coalition had failed to come up with the promised alternative since coming to power. The facts speak for themselves.
And Burnham is handicapped by not being the actual Secretary of State for Health at this crucial time for the NHS.
He nonetheless did go to Strasbourg last month to try to explain the case:
(This is a video recording I took of Andy’s talk at the Southwark Labour meeting recently.)
Labour will need to abolish PFI contracts or renegotiate them or both. But Ed Balls will need to be on the wing to help Burnham shoot. And it’s hoped the football manager is not asleep on the job. Labour has indeed proposed a five point plan to tackle ‘tax avoidance’. Labour supports a form of country-by-country reporting. It would extend the Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes regime, which Labour introduced, to global transactions. It would open, further, open up tax havens, with requirements to pass on information about money which is hidden behind front companies or trusts. Crucially, Labour also wants to see fundamental reform of the corporate tax system. But Peedell’s work is not done.
The abolition of the purchaser-provider split remains one of the totemic political decisions to be made, as is not a ‘deal maker’ for many grassroots voters.
In fact, the whole issue of whether the general public is interested by public health or competition remains uncertain.
Nonetheless, a pioneering integrated healthcare scheme in New Zealand has improved the care of patients while reducing demand on hospital services.
On the contracting side, the report said that the abolition of the purchaser-provider split in the health system was important as it gave boards the autonomy to decide how to fund their hospitals.
The project was launched in 2007 in response to rising hospital admissions and waiting times and to a population that was ageing more rapidly than in other parts of New Zealand and other developed countries.
Similar to the drive towards whole person care in this jurisdiction, is aim was to create a “one system, one budget” approach to health and social care, together with various aspects as centrepieces: sustained investment in training, support for staff to innovate, and new forms of contracting, including abolition of the split between healthcare service purchasers and providers.
The outgoing NHS England chief executive Sir David Nicholson last year told HSJ his organisation was looking at “whether the straightforward commissioner-provider split is the right thing for all communities”.
Hospitals wish to focus on delivering better services to patients and often get frustrated by the amount of time they have to spend negotiating contracts with commissioners with the legal shutgun pointing in the direction of their necks.
And there’s no doubt there’s a steady stream of whistleblower tragedies, with Raj Mattu the latest in the long line of casualties.
People still struggle to think of a NHS whistleblower who has had a good outcome.
The Nursing Times ‘Speak Out Safely’ has only so far succeeded in signing up 30% of NHS Trusts.
Most people accept that the whole system is rotten, not least in how clinical regulators appear to pass the buck or even worse target whistleblowers.
Many do not think the Public Interest Disclosure Act, enacted by New Labour is 1998, is fit for purpose either.
So Clive Peedell is right, but Andy Burnham may have trouble in shooting goals on target with nobody on wing or a manager more concerned about ‘One Nation’.
Moyes, sacked by United on Tuesday after the 2-0 defeat at former club Everton on Sunday confirmed their failure to secure Champions League qualification, oversaw just 51 games in charge of the team after succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson last summer.
Moyes, like Ed Miliband, though had his army of people who thought he was doing a good job.
But Burnham like many, although focused on sorting out the undeniable problems of the NHS, is avoiding relegation for his team too.
I certainly don’t want to ask who the Ryan Giggs is. That certainly would be tempting fate.
Tony Benn said famously, of Tony Blair, “It’s not up to Mr Blair to rename my party. I haven’t suddenly become a member of New Labour. I was never a member of Old Labour.”
There is a therefore a strange cognitive dissonance in this picture to come out of the Spectator factory.
It mixes a parody of the famous Tony Blair ‘evil stare’ with the letters ‘Old Labour’.
Presumably the overall message, unsubtle though it is, is that a vote for Ed Miliband is a vote for socialism.
And the advertising shill in this is that socialism represents a ‘danger’.
Let’s get this clear.
The private finance initiatives led to some investors in the private sector making very good deals on the financing of hospitals and associated services, often with exorbitant profit.
Andy Burnham’s message of letting the market creep in too far is understating the severity of the problem.
There is a plethora of NHS trusts which have been crippled by PFI loan repayment debts.
These loan repayments possibly represent the biggest single threat to the financial stability of the NHS in the forthcoming decades, not the ageing population.
The PFI situation has gone beyond farcicle. An instrument first developed in John Major’s government in 1995, later welcomed with open arms by Tony Blair’s governments and beyond, has clearly been an abuse of power.
Not only can NHS entities conceal their staffing data under freedom of information, but PFI shares in hospitals which may ultimately shut down may be freely traded like carbon credits on the stock market.
That’s what letting the market has become.
You can now hire consultants who are experts and could make you millions on predicting whether your local hospital will shut.
There is no doubt that these market considerations have impacted on the provision of care, which should be made on clinical conditions. And yet the current regulatory set up, which gives a lot of power to Monitor’s elbow, is clearly unable to cope.
It is now widely recognised that the NHS has lacked both the expertise and the resources to cope with the aggressive pimping of services into the private sector.
And private investors are now lining up to provide financing for social value impact bonds, which could help to sustain multinational corporates to enter markets they otherwise would have dreamt of.
This further leads to leeching out of resources away from the NHS to the private sector.
So long as senior leaders in the NHS say technology and innovation need to drive the NHS, you will see further leeching of money into the private markets.
This shift on emphasis, to people ‘finding opportunities in the NHS’, is by far the biggest danger in the NHS. And the political dynamite question is to what extent does Ed Miliband produce a killer stroke?
Everyone concedes the PFI situation is a mess, but should Miliband simply buy back these hospitals into the public sector?
After all buying back shares is common currency currently in corporate land, pardon the pun.
And there is never any shortage of money for illegal wars.
That would be quite a break from New Labour, but the public, and the Spectator know this, might actually welcome a return to state ownership. This is borne out by all the polling evidence in fact.
Despite the undeniable popularity of issues such as immigration considered to be “right wing”, the Spectator might have done Labour a favour – in telling Labour that the Tories are in fact terrified of Miliband and Burnham.
If Ed Miliband loses the General Election on May 7th/8th 2015, he’ll be toast.
It would change the mood music enormously. Dan Hodges would say something to the effect of ‘I told you so’. Len McCluskey might pull a rabbit out of his hat.
I know many people amongst grassroots Labour supporters and members, though, who would defend Ed Miliband to the hilt.
They dismiss criticism of him as ‘weird’ as merely a red herring, to be expected of smear campaigns.
They remind us that geeks will inherit the earth (though no-one can remember quite who said this – was it Jarvis Cocker?)
We’ve been told on numerous occasions to be patient for the meticulous deliberations of the Labour policy reviews. But there has been concern that the outcome might be the bland leading the bland, and is ideologically of no fixed abode.
Bill Bailey, the star of Black Books, predicting the results of the general election in 2015, he described Labour leader Ed Miliband, rather unflatteringly, as being “like a plastic bag caught in a tree.”
“No one knows how he got up there and no one can be bothered to get him down,” he said.
Bailey, who had appeared in Labour’s 2010 general election broadcasts, spoke about his growing dissatisfaction with the Labour party earlier this year.
“I find them increasingly frustrating because there seems to be a lack of direction,” he said in January.
The problem here is that this plastic bag might suddenly get blown off course with a forceful gust of wind. This bag could lead Labour into an ideological outer space, though it probably is more helpful of it potentially spending some time in the wilderness.
Ed Miliband, one knows, is capable of populist campaigns, such as on phone hacking or energy prices. But it is unclear whether these cumulatively lead to a sustained strategy.
David Cameron, love him or loathe him, does find it easy to score easily political points, such as this week reminding Miliband that he’s the first leader of the Opposition asking for someone’s resignation after he or she has resigned.
In as much Ed Miliband, or Labour, can be criticised, one of the key problems seems to be that, despite having had a clear success on energy prices, they do appear to lag sometimes on key political narratives.
One example is welfare, conceding a ‘benefit cap’ after the Conservatives. A second totemic issue is the economy, advocating a need for austerity, despite considerable opposition from a sizeable proportion of the membership of the Labour Party.
The Labour Party also seems to drift with ideological mist and fog on other key issues, such as privatisation. It complains about the operational mechanism of the flotation, though having been in favour of the Royal Mail privatisation.
Underlying this unease for Labour is that they should miles ahead in the polls by now. And yet they seem unable to fix their nails to the mast over issues they should have decided a long time ago. What are they going to do about the private finance initiative in hospitals? Also, do they agree with High Speed 2 while endorsing ‘efficiency savings’ in the NHS?
This might appear as if Ed Miliband wants to reveal all the ‘goodies’, such as proposals for a national living wage, nearer the time. But by that stage they might be so far down their chosen path that the plastic bag is likely to be blown away at any second.
There is no doubt that many people want Ed Miliband to succeed. There is no doubt that this current Government has not only made massive operational errors, but they have a nasty ‘out of touch’ image which refuses to go away.
But Ed Miliband knows that this will be insufficient to win a massive landslide on its own. He is personally liked by many, and is known to be far from trivial in his political outlook. He has also begun to identify something highly potent as an idea: that unfettered markets cannot always be trusted to work for the public good.
Ed Miliband needs to ‘go back to basics’. This doesn’t require open letters from think tanks. This requires common sense on his part, such as listening to and acting upon concerns of disabled citizens. This means listening to and acting upon the concerns of those citizens who find them insecure in any form of under-employment.
It’s actually low hanging fruit on the same tree with that same plastic bag. One is hoping that Ed Miliband is looking in the right direction.