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Many Labour MPs are on suspended sentence – and they know it

jeremy corbyn




It’s impossible to escape the conclusion that the failed coup (and it wasn’t even that in the end) did quite a lot of damage to the perception of Labour. At a time when the UK was reaching an existential crisis, as to whether it should be a Union or part of it, Hilary Benn made himself into a political Archduke Ferdinand and precipitated world war within Labour. Benn Junior’s legacy was a real “* you” to the membership, given that it is ubiquitously accepted that the general public will always punish divided parties as a rule of Newtonian classical dynamics.

The post-truth era for Jeremy Corbyn had of course begun long before his second election as Labour’s elected leader. It’s no mean feat for Rafael Behr or James O’Brien to continue their boring whingeing about Corbyn all the time, but to give them credit they need to pay their mortgages. But other people need a Labour government. The meme ‘Britain needs a strong opposition’ laying the blame at Corbyn of course is completely laughable given the torrent of abuse at Corbyn from all of the mainstream media, whether it’s on the inclination of his bowing in official ceremonies, the lack of singing at the National Anthem, or the alleged refusal to kneel and kiss at the Privy Council inauguration ceremonies.

Corbyn does not have the Twitter following with the magnitude of Donald Trump. He would not wish to boast about ‘expanding his arsenal’ either (pardon the unintentional pun about the Holloway Road in Islington). Nor is he best friends with Vladimir Putin. Talking of which, all of the pseudo-commentators who were spitting bullets at Corbyn’s morality seem to have gone deadly quiet about Trump’s ‘locker room’ banter, did you notice?

For all the talk about strong leadership, Jeremy Corbyn is no Adolf Hitler, Donald Trump or Nigel Farage. It’s hard to disagree with his ten pledges, which include the ‘bread and butter’ for many of us on the left wing of politics. Take for example the pledge ‘full employment and an economy that works for all’. George Osborne’s legacy, possibly not meriting a CBE, was to produce one giant ‘gig economy’, with workers having desperately and deliberately poor employment rights, many on zero hour contracts, and many being topped up with ‘working tax credits’ (hence becoming the ‘working poor’). Unsurprisingly, this has done very little to tackle the poor productivity of the UK in general, and the poor tax receipts have been a shocker for running public services safely.

A second pledge is impossible to disagree with. That is, “Secure our NHS and social care”. The emphasis of the current Conservative government has been a traditional one of ‘getting more bang for your buck’ and the euphemistically termed “delivery”, but the crisis in social care has been due to a toxic combination of imposition of private markets and lack of funding matched to demand since 2010. Even Conservative MPs are concerned about the parlour state of social care, which is also having a cost in the economy in people of working adult working age being unable to lead independent lives because of the need to care for “dependents”, for example people living with dementia with substantial caring needs. For a very long time, A&E departments nationally have been unable to meet their targets, and delayed discharges have gone through the roof. But this is not headline stuff due to a corrupt mainstream media – hellbent on their character assassination of Jeremy Corbyn.

No poll, even up until the night of Donald Trump’s eventual election, had predicted accurately the scale of the Republican victory. The general public are continuously being told about the unelectability of Jeremy Corbyn, however, even though British pollsters have a formidably catastrophic recent polling record, for example in the EU referendum or the 2015 general election. No amount of fiasco is too large to displace the vitriolic attacks on Corbyn, whether that be the failure of privatised rail services, the corruption of captains of industry for well known high street brands, an ability to curb the excesses of unconscionably paid people, and so on. But Corbyn himself would be the last person to bank on a three full terms with him as Prime Minister. He is currently 67 – not being ageist, but he would be over 80 if he completed three full terms for Labour. The succession planning for Tony Blair was an unmitigated disaster, reputedly because many of the successors did not want to ‘succeed’ taking up profitable jobs elsewhere.

Talking of which, Jamie Reed is doing himself and Labour simultaneously a favour. There is more of a chance of a pig landing on Mars, than there is a chance of Reed winning in the strongly Brexit seat of Copeland. It is a fact that Labour cannot triangulate itself into making itself very pro European Union for the benefit of many in Scotland and London, while also being anti European Union for very many in England. Whilst there are a few with extreme opinions such as ‘send Muslims back’, there are some who hold the opinion that EU workers are ‘stealing the jobs’ of indigenous citizens due to being able to work at lower salary rates. Theresa May MP has been consistently unable to stick to immigration targets, and Hilary Benn MP would have been better off campaigning on this than sticking the political knife into Jeremy Corbyn? It’s pretty unlikely that Theresa May will be able to deliver on both exiting completely out of the single market and exempting itself from free movement of people, meaning that there’ll be a lot of disappointed people around.

The LibDems have already made their bed, which they intend to lie in. The possibility of another Tory-LibDem coalition beckons (particularly if Kezia Dugdale keeps up her triumphant work of Armageddon in the Scottish labour vote; this catastrophe long predates the Corbyn factor). They in case are not the party of the 52% or the 100%, but the 48%.

I suspect people who claim to want a ‘strong opposition’ want nothing of the sort. They are prepared to continue to undermine Jeremy Corbyn at all costs in 2017, and are fully prepared to see Theresa May secure a mandate for a hardline exit from the European Union.

Jeremy Corbyn for the time being has taken back control of the Labour Party, but his strategy has paradoxically been to make himself not dependent on others to the point of being isolationist. But the strength for Labour will be, as always, when the whole works for the collective good, and is larger than the sum of individual parts. If some people with big egos don’t feel they wish to suffer the indignity of losing under Corbyn for their own beliefs, and want to leave, that can only be interpreted as a good thing. If they can offer constructive criticism as leading Commons select committees, that I suppose is good potentially too. Strictly isn’t bad either.

But if they’re just going to whinge holding onto minor London seats, or larger, they’re better off getting out for the sake of all of us.



Compromise agreements, redundancy and efficiency – the ingredients of a ‘perfect storm’ in the NHS?

David Nicholson


The NHS spent £15 million in three years on gagging whistleblowers, according to the Daily Mail. In just three years there were 598 ‘special severance payments’, almost all of which carried draconian confidentiality clauses aimed at silencing whistleblowers. They cost the taxpayer £14.7million, the equivalent of almost 750 nurses’ salaries.

Whistleblowers have found them at the end of such agreements, and why the NHS culture is not one of transparency and trust is a damning observation. Compromise agreements have also been used in ‘genuine’ situations of redundancy. Redundancy arises when an employer either:

  • Closes the place of work; or
  • Reduces the number of employees which are employed by it.

The employer is under an obligation to pay a redundancy award to any employee who is dismissed by reason of redundancy if that employee has two years’ service or more. From an employee’s perspective, it is quite common that when employment ends, you and your employer agree to enter into a “Compromise Agreement”. The purpose of the compromise agreement is to regulate matters arising from the termination. A compromise agreement is a legal document that records the agreement between an employee and employer whereby the employee agrees to ‘compromise’, or not to bring, a claim against the employer in relation to any contractual or statutory claims they may have in relation to their employment or the manner of its termination. This type of agreement is typically in return for the payment of a sum of money from the employer to the employee. It may also contain details of additional ancillary agreements between the parties on topics such as: ongoing confidentiality/ restrictions, agreed form references etc.

Compromise Agreements can be very effective and, in essence, amount to a ‘clean break’ that, hopefully, benefit both parties and enable everyone to move on. They are enshrined in law through s.203 Employment Rights Act (1996). A dismissal by reason of redundancy can amount to an unfair dismissal. There are other statutory reasons for unfair dismissal which are allowed, which are cited earlier in the Employment Rights Act.

A dismissal by reason of redundancy can amount to an unfair dismissal.  Issues which render such dismissal unfair often include:-

  • The selection of a pool of employees from which the redundant candidate is chosen;
  • The criteria for such selection; and
  • Failure to consult appropriately.

The House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts published a document “Department of Health: progress in making NHS efficiency savings: Thirty-ninth Report of Session 2012–13″  on 13 March 2013.  The discussion between Meg Hillier and Mike Farrar talks about redundancy payments, but interestingly this document does not refer to ‘compromise agreements’ once.

Q29 Meg Hillier: Maybe at chief executive level, but I know for a fact that there are people out there who have taken generous redundancy payments—they may genuinely have thought they were not going to work in the NHS again—but there is such demand for their skills and services that they have been brought back in. There seems to be no real ability to have safeguards. I know they are your members, so maybe it is in your interests for them to get these positions, but this is about all taxpayers’ money, and in the end it affects everyone.

Mike Farrar: We have tried to support the management of people through the system to the best possible place to get the best value for taxpayers; that is what we would want to see. The reforms have abolished authorities and organisations. People have not been able to take redundancy unless they were eligible for redundancy on the basis that their organisation has been abolished. That has allowed management cost savings of a significant level—

Q30 Chair: Well, we do not know, because you might have had a whole load of management costs in terms of redundancy, with people then re-emerging elsewhere. We are very sceptical.

Mike Farrar: I think the reforms of this House are responsible for certain people having been eligible for redundancy. There is a notion that those individuals leapt at the chance to be made redundant in order to deploy their services back, but that has only been created in terms of an opportunity because of reforms passed by the House. Some of these points were made during the passage of the Bill. “

HM Government has never published its “Risk Register” for the Health and Social Care Act (2012), despite the guidance involving the Information Commissioner. Today’s Report published by the National Audit Office on the use of compromise agreements makes for depressing reading:

“There is a lack of transparency, consistency and accountability in the use of compromise agreements in the public sector and little is being done to change this situation, an investigation by the National Audit Office has found.

Public sector workers are sometimes offered a financial payment in return for terminating their employment contract and agreeing to keep the facts surrounding the payment confidential. The contract is often terminated through the use of a compromise agreement and the associated payment is referred to as a special severance payment.

The spending watchdog highlights the lack of central or coordinated controls over the use of compromise agreements. The NAO was not able to gauge accurately the prevalence of such agreements or the associated severance payments. This was down to decentralized decision-making, limited recording and the inclusion of confidentiality clauses which mean that they are not openly discussed. No individual body has shown leadership to address these issues; the Treasury believes that there is no need for central collection of this data.”

It could be there that there is a fundamental faultline in how performance management in the NHS is currently being implemented, in which commercial lawyers are not quite silent bystanders. That is, the NHS has found itself in a situation where it is generating efficiency savings, which do not get ploughed back into frontline care. A reasonable place to start is also the implementation of the Health and Social Care Act (2012), and this complex strategic restructuring has obviously had its opportunity cost, even as described on Wikipedia here:

Cost implications for the NHS

When you have CEOs and NHS Foundation Trusts being judged by their ‘efficiency savings’ which may involve redundancies (though these parties will argue that many of these staff are mostly employed back), the performance management system is heavily weighted against long-serving staff with experience and skills of working in the NHS who ought to be cherished for ‘adding value’. This is clearly a massive fault with how the NHS rewards ‘success’ in the NHS (and if the CQC’s recent scandal and more are anything to go by does not appear to punish ‘failure’ in the regulatory system, either.) And when you add to that that the experience of NHS whistleblowers, often at the receiving end of compromise agreements with suboptimal legal advice (whereas the NHS has access to the best commercial and corporate lawyers), is that whistleblowers tend to get humiliated and marginalised to such an extent that they never work again, you can see how compromise agreements, while certainly enshrined in law for a legitimate person, along with an alleged lack of teeth of the Public Interest Disclosure Act (1998), has successfully allowed a ‘toxic culture’ to perpetuate very successfully indeed?

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