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The only way is up. May might finally end in June, after all.



And then there’s the bus.

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Got ‘election fatigue’ like Brenda?

Brenda of course does have a point. (Up to a point, Lord Copper.)

Brenda, like you or me, doesn’t particularly want ‘to go around again’, but there are reasons to be distinctly uncheerful this time – like the import inflation, fall in skills mix and lack of membership of the customs union/single market, and NHS, social care and schools in crisis.

You’re being directed to think Jeremy Corbyn is a monster. Look at the poll lead of Theresa May,

The media perseverated on why Jeremy Corbyn did not mention the ‘B’ word (this is of course ironic given that the BBC and Sky don’t like reporting on the #toryelectionfraud, and never let their lips become soiled by the failed NHS reforms of 2012 or national debt going through the roof in the Tory years 2010-7 compared to thirteen years of the previous Labour administration).

That word is ‘Brexit’. Emily Thornberry caused consternation is not having a ‘position’ on Brexit the other night, but it turns out from a response to Jack Blanchard, Political Editor of the Mirror, this morning, that a fuller account might be forthcoming.

Labour’s exact stance on Brexit continues to cause amazement, as the seats which had the highest % of ‘Brexiteers’ and ‘Remoaners’ were Labour seats. So technically it seems as if the Labour leadership wishes to face both directions at once, without offending outright either side of the debate. However, this has left many people who are strongly supportive of inclusion in the European Union feeling rudderless within Corbyn’s Labour Party. They feel that exiting the Single Market, or at the very least the Customs Union, could send the UK into a cesspit of economic despair. But likewise, the Brexiteers, stereotypically in Sunderland but who might actually live closer to Folkestone, feel that bearded 67-year old Jeremy Corbyn is not their friend. I have heard every insult about Corbyn under the sun in the copious media coverage of him, but Corbyn is never given any ‘credit’ for his speaking in favour of migrant workers, particularly in the NHS. Corbyn has never wished to ‘clamp down on immigrant numbers’ – it is, after all, Theresa May who has failed as Home Secretary to get immigration numbers down to the level which had been promised by the Conservatives in their former promises. This dividing line between Brexit vs Non Brexit means that the ‘rules of the game’ have indeed been ripped up. For example, Bath is a profoundly Remain seat Brexit-wise, but where the pro-EU LibDems have more than a good chance of taking the seat instead of the Conservatives. Tom Baldwin, former guru for Ed Miliband, and by far one of the brightest people in Labour at the moment in my opinion, is right in that I think Labour must be clearer on where it stands on Brexit. It’s clear that Theresa May wants to run the competence v chaos line which worked well for Sir Lynton Crosby in 2015, viz

But you could be forgiven for a mild degree of chaos in the Corbyn camp not being immediately being able to ‘rule out s second referendum’. Of course, this glimmer of hope for a second referendum will be music to the ears of pro-EU members of Labour, except that Labour later confirmed there would be no “second referendum”. It’s not that Jeremy Corbyn is avoiding talking about Brexit, it’s just that he doesn’t want to discuss it at the expense of everything else, such as the crisis in the NHS, social care or schools. And that’s not to say the economy is doing well – the economy having taken the first steps of ‘taking back control’ is likely to see a situation later this year when prices outstrip wages. This burden on the ‘cost of living’ is of course already known to nurses, particularly newly qualified nurses living in metropolitan areas, where the pay freeze for yet another year in a row, while every single other bill including council tax is rising, means that the triggering of Art. 50 is not the immediate problem.

But the advantage thus far is that the Tim Farron MP is very different from the Jeremy Corbyn MP offering. Labour’s pitch is so firmly to its pre-Blair core voters, who most strongly resemble Tony Benn rather than Dennis Healey supporters, that an ideological marriage between the current Liberal Democrat party and Corbyn’s Labour Party seems unlikely. Corbynistas are the first to remind people about the Liberal Democrats’ legacy from 2010-5, citing as examples the Health and Social Care Act (2012) – and creeping privatisation of the NHS, the hike in tuition fees, the welfare benefits cuts, and so on. But the advantage now for the Liberal Democrats to form a new Coalition with the Conservatives from June 9th 2017 onwards would be that the Liberal Democrats in coalition could act as a brake on a ‘hard Brexit’, i.e. killing off totally free movement of goods, services and people, and this would save the face of those Conservatives who don’t wish their political party to be overrun by the Bill Cash, Ian Duncan Smith, Michael Gove and Priti Patel types of this world.

1. “The nurse, the teacher, the small trader, the carer, the builder, the office worker, the student, the carer win. We all win.”

Well, the nurses are exasperated

And the evidence that selective schooling has a negative impact on children’s wellbeing is well known. At the end of last year, a very interesting article emerged from a Professor of Law in the Scientific American as to why Donald Trump overcame all the odds, ‘explaining Donald Trump’s shock win‘. There are some interesting lines from Jeremy Corbyn’s speech this morning. “It is these rules that have allowed a cosy cartel to rig the system in favour of a few powerful and wealthy individuals and corporations.” This is, of course, abuse of the word ‘cartels’ which should really apply to group monopolistic behaviour at sovereign level. But the point which is clearly being made here is that when a ‘critical mass’, say of Tory MPs, LibDem MPs and 170 Labour MPs, can easily find mouthpieces in the media run by a handful of every powerful and wealthy people, there is a big problem potentially with democracy.

That Jeremy Corbyn has had an offensively bad hearing is borne out even by the laziest quick glance at the English media. But if you need evidence – there’s plenty of it about, say for example from the LSE.

The LSE writes:

“Our analysis shows that Corbyn was thoroughly delegitimised as a political actor from the moment he became a prominent candidate and even more so after he was elected as party leader, with a strong mandate. This process of delegitimisation occurred in several ways: 1) through lack of or distortion of voice; 2) through ridicule, scorn and personal attacks; and 3) through association, mainly with terrorism.

All this raises, in our view, a number of pressing ethical questions regarding the role of the media in a democracy. Certainly, democracies need their media to challenge power and offer robust debate, but when this transgresses into an antagonism that undermines legitimate political voices that dare to contest the current status quo, then it is not democracy that is served.”

2. “Compare their lives with the multinational corporations and the gilded elite who hide their money in the Cayman Islands because the Conservatives are too morally bankrupt to take them on.”

It’s well known that certain people very close to the current Goverment have been involved in tax avoidance schemes of a truly industrial scale.  This is a political choice on their point, but causes a real problem when it comes to funding the country’s infrastructure including public services – including schools and hospitals – and of course investing in people including nurses and teachers.

And this message was reinforced a number of times in Jeremy Corbyn’s speech.

“Instead of the country’s wealth being hidden in tax havens  we will put it in the hands of the people of Britain as they are the ones who earned it.”

3. “A Labour government that isn’t scared to take on the cosy cartels that are hoarding this country’s wealth for themselves. It needs a government that will use that wealth to invest in people’s lives in every community to build a better future for every person who lives here.”

Here Jeremy Corbyn is articulating a genuine ‘enemy’, big Elites who are not ‘paying their own way’.

The enemy has of course become immigration.

And of course immigration has gone through the roof under Theresa May anyway.

4. “Don’t be angry at the privatisers profiting from our public services, they whisper, be angry instead at the migrant worker just trying to make a better life.”

The position of the Labour Party was from 2010 to launch a ‘Migration Impact Fund’ to support areas of the country with a high influx of migrants. The right wing media and politicians have of course gone to great lengths to belittle the contribution from migrant workers to the economy – the evidence is that migrants contribute more to the economy than they ‘take out’.

So therefore the attack from the Conservatives and their supporters, including some Labour MPs, is to criticise Jeremy Corbyn personally.

5. “Seven years of broken promises show us that on pay, the deficit, the NHS, our schools, our environment.”

In 2010, the Conservatives promised they’d pay off the deficit by 2015.

In 2015, the Conservatives promised they’d pay off the deficit by 2020.

Disabled people didn’t cause the global financial crash – City bankers did.

 

6. “Britain is the sixth richest economy in the world. The people of Britain must share in that wealth.”

It is likely there are more people who believe this than say so.

Take Donald Trump’s “shock win”.

But the polls were as wrong as the pundits. Problems with the polls’ methodologies will undoubtedly be identified in the days and weeks ahead. It seems equally reasonable to conclude that many Trump voters kept their intentions to themselves and refused to cooperate with the pollsters.

The 2015 EU referendum showed a deeply divided Britain, split down the middle over the issue on EU membership.

A reason why the polls could be wrong is the existence of ‘Shy Corbynistas’. After all, ‘Corbynistas’ have been so vilified everywhere including in the mainstream and social media that they are probably not revealing themselves in large quantities ahead of the general election on June 8th, 2017. That Jeremy Corbyn MP is trying to mobilise against inequality is convincing, compared to Theresa May giving a speech about equality from a helicopter. For all the talk of Corbyn about being ‘spineless’. 2-faced Theresa May can’t even be bothered to turn up to a TV debate.

 

 

7. “If I were Southern Rail or Philip Green, I’d be worried about a Labour Government.”

A lot of people who voted #Brexit voted against a 1% tyranny which they perceived from the EU ‘insiders’. The notion that Jeremy Corbyn is tapping into is an economy which isn’t working for people – look at the customer value of travelling by Southern Rail, or whether Philip Green really had pension fund beneficiaries at heart.

Take again Donald Trump’s “shock win”.

Trump’s victory would seem to herald a new era of celebrity politicians. He showed that a charismatic media-savvy outsider has significant advantages over traditional politicians and conventional political organizations in the internet age. In the future, we may see many more unconventional politicians in the Trump mold.

Even Corbyn’s critics agree that he has spent 34 years as a MP within the system – but as a complete outsider, only voting for things he believed in like the Equality Act (2o10) or the Human Rights Act (1999).

And Corbyn’s relative lack of experience in the top jobs?

Tony Blair was relatively under-prepared before he became PM in 1999; and Jim Callaghan MP had held every major office of state only to be booted out in the worst of all crises in 1979.

Back to Trump:

Trump will be the first president without elective office experience since Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s. Eisenhower, however, served as supreme allied commander in Europe during World War II and had unrivaled expertise in foreign affairs.

 

8. “If I were Mike Ashley or the CEO of a tax avoiding multinational corporation, I’d want to see a Tory victory.”

This is probably true.

Popularity ratings of the perception of business ethics of “First Direct” are not high. They resonate with the idea of a ‘sweatshop economy’, which is the fear of what the UK economy will become when it becomes a tinpot banana republic on exiting the EU.

 

 

9. “In this election Labour will lead the movement to make that change.”

“We will build a new economy, worthy of the 21st century and we will build a country for the many not the few.”

This has a lot to do with fighting the hostile ‘status quo’, who now include John Pienaar and Laura Kuenssberg.

Back to Trump’s win:

The answer lay in the intense and widespread public hostility to the political, media and business establishments that lead the country. Trust in institutions is at an all-time low and a majority of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.. The angry and volatile public mood made 2016 the ultimate change election.

Amid such a potent anti-establishment spirit, Trump’s vulgar, intemperate and unorthodox style struck voters as far more genuine than the highly cautious and controlled Hillary Clinton. As the brash and unpredictable Trump positioned himself as an agent of change, Clinton seemed like the establishment’s candidate, an impression that proved fatal to her campaign. Indeed, Trump used Clinton’s deep experience in the White House, Senate and State Department against her by citing it as evidence that she represented the status quo

 

And for all the talk of Theresa May’s ‘strong leadership’ (and we all remember how Angela Eagle’s pitch on that ended up), she has finally called for a general election, seeing the £ sterling plummet, after about seven public stern refusals of an early election. The 28 EU countries look set to give the UK a real blasting, and, whoever wins this election, the Cameron and May governments have now taken us all to a very bad place.

Labour it seems is now really only interested in a very small section of the general public who endorse Corbyn’s policies for social justice and public services, but the hope is that ‘rock solid’ Labour seats will remain rock solid while Tory-LibDem marginals turn LibDem. And the SNP vote is not as strong as it appears. For a start, there were people in Scotland who voted in 2015 SNP thinking their SNP MPs would be in coalition with Labour MPs led by Ed Miliband. Secondly, there are some people in Scotland who are sick to the back teeth of the performance of the SNP in governing Scotland or demanding yet another referendum.

Don’t be surprised if the general election is much closer than you’ve been led to believe. As Prof John Curtice said, it’s not likely that Jeremy Corbyn will win, but rather it will be one massive achievement if he does win.

The mother of all shocks?

Nigel Farage is not credible.

Theresa May and Boris Johnson are not credible.

The British on the whole tend to loath arrogant people – May might finally end in June, after all.

 

@dr_shibley

 

NHS “credibility gap”



The Conservatives have overtaken Labour for the first time since March 2012 in the latest YouGov/The Sun poll.

poll

David Cameron has an inherent advantage in the public perception’s of his leadership qualities, in that he is doing the job every day and being seen to do so on the news. Credibility is an important currency. And Labour has already stated ‘the market went too far’ in the NHS. It is not a secret that many parts of the media try to present Ed Miliband in a negative light. Labour is trusted on the NHS, and the Tories are trusted on the economy; so a rationale strategy for the Tories is to make the link between the country’s economy and the NHS. However, real-terms NHS funding has effectively flatlined for a number of years now, not keeping up with the inflation in the system, and debt under this Government has got out of control.

For example, you’re more likely to get a discussion of the ‘bacon butty’ incident than a discussion of how NHS contracts have been aggressively been promoted to the private sector, or how the Health and Social Care Act (2012) locks in the market.

bacon butty

The Prime Minister often blames this lack of coverage on the era of the rolling news, but conversations in the social media have been very productive in exposing events which the BBC would rather not cover. David Cameron’s segment on the NHS was certainly passionate. Cameron must have been distraught at the closure of the Cheyne Centre which he had once fought to keep alive.

But actions speak louder than words.  When Cameron claims he will protect the NHS he doesn’t say from whom or what he needs to protect it.   He no longer talks about the importance of competition in the NHS and many of the initiatives associated with Andrew Lansley seem to have been quietly forgotten.

If David Cameron had wanted to win the trust of the medical profession, he would not have ambushed them out of nowhere with a ‘top down reorganisation’ which he promised would never happen. The £2.4 bn reorganisation is widely considered to be a tragic waste, when money could have, and should have, been invested in frontline services. The chunk of the speech on the NHS was little consolation to hardworking nurses who’ve witnessed yet another pay freeze, despite the economy’s performance recovering. Nurses, part of the lifeblood of the service, are not immune from the ‘cost of living crisis’, particularly if they are living in London and working in one of the powerhouse teaching hospitals.

A&E targets have been consistently missed during the duration of this period of office by the Conservative Party (and the Liberal Democrat Party).

The current Government need to address what to do about the ‘private finance initiative’. New contracts have been awarded during the lifetime of this Government, and, whilst they were undoubtedly popular under New Labour, their origin is clearly found in the John Major Conservative administration of 1992-1997.

David Cameron, in his conference speech, simply behaved so passionately about the NHS as if the Lewisham debacle had never happened. The current Government even spent money trying to win the case in the Court of Appeal.

GP waiting times have been an unmitigated disaster under this GovernmentThere has been a marked rise in the number of NHS trusts in deficit. Jeremy Hunt is stuck in a time warp. He mentions Mid Staffs at every opportunity. Hunt, completely disingenuously, does not let the failures in culture, quality or management, identified at the CQC, soil his lips. The “Keogh Trusts” were dealt with due to failings which had occurred in the lifetime of and due to this government.

Like the referendum on Europe, promising ‘to protect’ the NHS could be ‘jam tomorrow‘, if the Conservative Party fail to get re-elected. It is either a sign of confidence, or sheer arrogance, that David Cameron and colleagues can hang these uncoated promises in thin air.

The position in an editorial of the Financial Times is clear – and damning:

“But in the bid both to draw a clear dividing line with Labour and reassure the wavering right, they have staked out a fiscal position that is neither sober nor realistic.”

And, hard though it might be to swallow, the Coalition appears to have an ‘edge’ on some key policy areas.

policy edge

Labour would never have been able to get away with such dodgy promises, with their plans for government being watched like a hawk. With the help of the BBC and other supine media outlets, rather, there will be an inadequate scrutiny of these Conservative plans, which hopefully will be better articulated before the time of the election. As such, it does not matter what Labour promises its voters on the abolition of the purchaser-provider split, whole person care, the private finance initiative, reconfiguration of hospitals, GP waiting times, patient safety, and so on, if voters wish to vote for ‘jam tomorrow’.

The hope is that a Secretary of State for a Labour government would be able to untangle the UK government out of TTIP and CETA trade agreements further giving propulsion to neoliberal forces attacking the NHS. There is a hope that health and care finances will be properly funded in the next Government. All parties have arguably failed to have this conversation with the general public thus far.

Some policies of the current Conservative-led administration are incredibly unpopular with Labour voters: e.g. welfare benefits, NHS privatisation, repeal of the Human Rights Act. The feeling of many, currently, is that, while they do not particularly like this Government, they do not wish to vote for Labour which appears to be offering a diluted form of what the Conservative Party is offering. This is not in any way a indictment of the sterling efforts of the Labour Party Shadow Health Team.

But, before Labour attempts to plug the ‘funding gap’, it will need to resolve any ‘credibility gap’ first.

 

@legalaware

The “disastrous” performance of this Tory-led government was not accidental. It was entirely deliberate.



PMNHS

One conversation I once had with Jos Bell (twitter here), an incredibly productive campaigner and chair for the independent Socialist Health Association London division, had much more of a profound impact than I thought at the time.

I simply remarked that the Conservative-led government had been ‘disastrous’.

Jos disagreed. She pointed out that the term of office had gone extremely successfully for the few who’ve made shedloads of money through private equity and hedge funds.

A massive assumption we’re all prone to make, some more than others, is that the political class largely represent us and our interests.

The number of ‘lost votes’ is the reminder to all of us of how disconnected parliamentary politics have become with our needs and concerns.

There are, of course, some truly outstanding MPs, however.

Another realisation for many, almost a right of passage, is the “lightbulb moment” that some leading ‘independent’ health and care think tanks have not been offering useful reliable impartial advice after all.

The performance of some on the issue of competition, a shoo-horn for neoliberal markets, against the wishes of many professionals, is a testament to them.

Dodgy advice was used to prop up the business case for the Health and Social Care Act (2012), and it is going to take a long time to unwind from this.

I know of the misery that the ‘welfare reforms’ have had on the morbidity and mortality of disabled citizens. This does not prevent ATOS from fulfilling a lucrative contract, which was made under the last Government (Labour).

There are accusations and counter-accusations of the effects of injection of private capital, the private finance initiative, which many hope will be addressed properly by the incoming government next year. City financiers and law firms continue to benefit from this sustained policy which has reaped havoc on various ‘local economies’ of the NHS.

The sale of Royal Mail, and various other projects, into the private sector at an undervalue (it is alleged) clearly has not been to the best benefit of the taxpayer. But again many in the City, some alleged to be close to the current Government, have benefited personally (it is alleged).

Through the prism of me and my friends, this Conservative-led Government has been ‘disastrous’. But they’ve actually achieved a lot for themselves in the last few years in the tenuous argument of ‘austerity’.

The buzzword for George Osborne was ‘choice’, and you could hear a pin drop literally at George Osborne’s reassurance in his speech yesterday, “We’re all in it together”.

I simply can’t agree with political commentators who wish to pollute the discussion with their meme that ‘Labour do not wish like a party who wish to govern.”

Many grassroots activists in Labour are desperate to sort out the mess the country finds itself in.

They certainly detest the idea of a Tory-UKIP coalition.

The repeal of the Health and Social Care Act (2012) will be in the first Queen’s Speech of an incoming Labour government.

This Act of parliament turbo-boosted the aggressive pimping of NHS contracts into private sector providers. Correct – another set of beneficiaries from this government, led by the Conservatives but the lifeblood of which is currently provided by the Liberal Democrats.

In many ways, the next period of office is a ‘poisoned chalice’ once again, with debt in the last four years 4 x as much as the debt amassed by Labour in 13 years.

But, to repeat David Cameron, “we can’t go on like this”.

And the goalposts keep on moving.

An identifiable threat still remains having a means-tested social care service bolted onto the ‘universal’ health system, like a badly soldered “lemon car”.

A threat, less visible on the event horizon, is the corporatisation of general practice in the English jurisdiction.

I suspect that, despite the noise produced by UKIP and LibDems, the NHA Party will fail to make inroads in seats in the actual election. This will be of great sadness to me, despite the fact I wish all Labour candidates very well, as they are clearly campaigning on many relevant issues.

I feel that Labour will win the next general election. But I am terrified that, like the aftermath of 1997, it will be another missed opportunity for us.

 

 

@legalaware

Trust has become totemic for the NHS, so a promise to preserve it would pay dividends



David-Nicholson-FOR-EXTERNAL-USE-approved

 

The CEO of the English National Health Service, Sir David Nicholson, sent out a stark warning in the Guardian today:

“Public support in this country for our healthcare system is greater than in almost any other country in Europe, and that’s so important for a taxpayer-funded system. My worry is that if it gets worse, before you know it you get to a place where a minority of the people support it and then people who can afford to [do so] will go elsewhere for their healthcare. In those circumstances the question of how sustainable the NHS is becomes a much more difficult one to deal with. That’s my worry.”

Various aspects of what Nicholson has said have in the past made me conclude Nicholson is definitely a Socialist, and not merely a Social Democrat.

At the end of a recent interview with Jeremy Paxman, Nicholson referred to how a private insurance system based on complicated genetic diagnoses would simply not work for the healthcare system, referring to imminent issues such as the growth in prevalence of the dementias.

Some even say that the private healthcare companies do not wish themselves a private insurance system; in that, they currently benefit from having some of the work outsourced to them in a controlled manageable way.

Ed Miliband said two highly significant things yesterday.

One was that he would take NHS policy out of the claws of EU competition law.

That is going to be essential if Labour is to have a manageable approach to ‘whole peson care’ or integration.

The Sir John Oldham Commission Report “One Person, One Team, One System” recently made a very noteworthy recommendation.

“We recommend that the benefits are considered of a single regulator covering issues of both care and economics, whilst recognising that is not feasible at present. We believe that the Office for Fair Trading’s role in reviewing competition decisions should be withdrawn.”

And we can see why with the Office for Fair Trading (OFT) due to report this month the results of its ‘market survey’ for ICT according to the ‘prime contractor model’.

The OFT are due to report on whether there has been ‘cartel’ like activity in awarding of contracts, where the award of subcontracts from lead contracts can be ‘opaque’.

With an eye-watering contract having been put out to tender only this week, it is going to be essential that the Government tightens up the law in this area, as integration might offend EU competition law.

The second thing which Miliband said, about electoral priorities in 2015, was equally interesting.

Miliband said he wanted the 2015 election to be about ‘the cost of living crisis’ and the NHS, and not whether he would hold a referendum on EU membership.

Whether or not the media will allow this to happen is another matter, but there has been considerable concern over NHS issues during the course of the parliament.

Firstly, Andrew Lansley against all the odds enacted his vanity project, now known as the Health and Social Care Act (2012); only this week, Jeremy Hunt managed to bring in his ‘fast track to hospital closure’ mechanism in the Care Bill.

As long as contracts continue to go out to the private sector, Miliband will be unable to pledge no further privatisation of the NHS. Labour can pledge to repeal the Health and Social Care Act and Clause 119, but this is different.

If the Labour government wishes to pursue ten-year contracts using the ‘prime contractor’ model, it is likely that many of these contracts will subcontract to the private sector.

The NHS ‘preferred provider’ plan, which Andy Burnham has been advocated, may indeed have limited scope if the TTIP (EU-US free trade mechanisms) are negotiated in the favour of the multinational corporations.

The bungle over #caredata has further demonstrated the need for politicians to be transparent with the public.

Angela Eagle may wish to talk up the progress she is making in overcoming the ‘democratic deficit’, the millions of lost votes and so forth, but essentially Ed Miliband’s Labour will rightly come under some scrutiny in the election leading up to May 7th 2015 regarding the NHS.

David Nicholson is a true socialist. He has spoken his mind about the public’s affection for the NHS. Hunt never talks about the Lansley legislation.

If Labour is unable to pledge much on this, it might at least pledge a term of government where the NHS is free at the point of need and paid for entirely through general taxation.

TTIP presents as a crucial test for Labour’s future direction on the NHS



The EU-US (TTIP) trade deal could be worth £67 billion to the EU, and could bring 2 million new jobs to the EU. Here in the UK, it is expected to add between £4 billion and £10 billion a year to our economy. That could mean new jobs for British workers, and stronger, sustainable growth for the British economy. The car industry keeps on bringing up as the poster body for TTIP, but everyone knows there are clear differences.

In Peter Mandelson’s “The Third Man”, Mandelson talks about how his aim was to seek a post-Blair era in leaving a legacy of New Labour. However, he also describes the personal tensions between Blair and Brown. Mandelson felt that there was an inevitability about Labour losing the election in May 2010, but how the mantra “it’s the global economy stupid” might work for Gordon Brown. It didn’t.

The next General Election is due to occur on May 7th 2015. It will be first which Ed Miliband fights. It could also possibly be his last. Miliband is still not ubiquitously popular within his party. If he loses the election, he almost certainly will be ditched by the Party. It would be inconceivable for Ed Miliband to wish to bang on about ‘One Nation’ should the electorate deliver a defeat for his party.

If Ed Miliband loses, there will be a leadership election. Clearly activists, even those who are ambivalent about Ed’s leadership will not wish for anything other than a Labour victory. The chances of a leadership fight, given how time consuming the last one was for Labour, are virtually non-existent. It seems we are ‘nearly there’ with the Labour Policy Review and the Sir John Oldham Commission on ‘whole person care’. It’s unlikely to be as bad as 1983, but who knows. Under Michael Foot, in the 1983 general election Labour had their worst post-war election result.

Not waving but drowning

It is intriguing how much both will have Andy Burnham’s personal stamp on it. Ed Miliband doesn’t wish to commit to the members of his Cabinet, if he were to be elected as Prime Minister. Likewise, there’s a growing feeling that some of the leading candidates, were he to fall on his sword, don’t particularly need his backing. Whether or not Labour can commit to Andy’s hopes would then become irrelevant, unless Andy Burnham becomes a central figure in health after the election. If somebody like Chuka Umunna takes over,  what Burnham says now might not matter to an extent.

What Burnham says now can act as a ‘weather vane’ as to the opinions of grasssroots membership of Labour. There has been a growing feeling in this parliament that Labour has acted as a frontman for the corporate establishment. As criticism of monolithic unresponsive outsourcing private providers continues, Ed Miliband may wish to capture on certain elements of left populism, as indeed he did at the Hugo Young Lecture. Miliband has offered to repeal the Health and Social Care Act (2012), and has overall made pro-NHS noises.

There’s no doubt that the Tories are scared of Burnham as a potential returning Secretary of State for Health. When David Cameron first addressed Parliament on the Francis Report, he told MPs that he didn’t wish to seek scapegoats. Despite numerous parts of a ‘smear campaign’ from Jeremy Hunt, with one even culminating in a legal threat from Burnham, Burnham has appeared surprisingly resilient. The only explanation of this is that he still carries with him considerable clout within the Labour Party.

The most notable comments by Andy Burnham in George Eaton’s New Statesman interview were on the proposed EU-US free trade agreeement and its implications for the NHS. Many Labour activists and MPs are concerned at how the deal, officially known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), could give permanent legal backing to the competition-based regime introduced by the coalition.

A key part of the TTIP is ‘harmonisation‘ between EU and US regulation, especially for regulation in the process of being formulated. In Britain, the coalition government’s Health and Social Care Act has been prepared in the same vein – to ‘harmonise’ the UK with the US health system. This would open the floodgates for private healthcare providers  well known in the US already. Simon Stevens as the incoming head of the NHS will wish not to appear unduly sympathetic, despite his own background with a US healthcare corporation.

When Eaton spoke to Burnham, he revealed that he will soon travel to Brussels to lobby the EU Commission to exempt the NHS (and healthcare in general) from the agreeement. He said:

I’ve not said it before yet, but it means me arguing strongly in these discussions about the EU-US trade treaty. It means being absolutely explicit that we carry over the designation for health in the Treaty of Rome, we need to say that health can be pulled out.

In my view, the market is not the answer to 21st century healthcare. The demands of 21st century care require integration, markets deliver fragmentation. That’s one intellectual reason why markets are wrong. The second reason is, if you look around the world, market-based systems cost more not less than the NHS. It’s us and New Zealand who both have quite similar planned systems, which sounds a bit old fashioned, but it’s that ability of saying at national level, this goes there, that goes there, we can pay the staff this, we can set these treatment standards, NICE will pay for this but not for this; that brings an inherent efficiency to providing healthcare to an entire population, that N in NHS is its most precious thing. That’s the thing that enables you to control the costs at a national level. And that’s what must be protected at all costs. That’s why I’m really clear that markets are the wrong answer and we’ve got to pull the system out of, to use David Nicholson’s words, ‘morass of competition’.

I’m going to go to Brussels soon and I’m seeking meetings with the commission to say that we want, in the EU-US trade treaty, designation for healthcare so that we can exempt it from contract law, from competition law.

Burnham’s opposition to HS2 was also highly significant.

Now it seems, from a totally unaccountable rumour, that Ed Miliband is to veto a policy by Burnham to hand over control of billions of pounds of NHS funding to local councils. Burnham, outlined proposals last year that would have committed a future Labour government to transfer around £60 billion of NHS money to local authorities to create an integrated health and social-care budget. It appears now that proposals have been rejected by both Miliband and Balls. Both men believe that the policy is misguided and would allow the Tories to accuse Labour of imposing another top-down reorganisation in England. Labour will still attempt to integrate health and social-care budgets to provide “whole person care”, but funding is likely to remain within the NHS.

But it is of course possible that Burnham wants increasingly to not pin his personal fortunes to Ed Miliband, but to what he believes in. And Ed Miliband may not necessarily taking Labour in the direction of a NHS relatively free from a ‘free’ quasi-market.

There are particular concerns about the potential implications of a mechanism called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), if it is included in the trade agreement. ISDS allows investors to challenge governments in an international tribunal if the government’s actions threaten their investments. There is concern that this could bypass national courts and limit the ability of democratic governments to enact their own policies. This on top of the EU procurement law fixes the domestic government in a rather tight spot, threatening our national legal and political sovereignty potentially.

There are also particular concerns that the ISDS could apply to the NHS. The Health and Social Care Act (2012), widely held to be a ‘vanity project’ from Andrew Lansley but actually legislated by a neoliberal coalition including the Conservative Party and Liberal (Democrat) Party allows American health care companies to compete for and win NHS contracts. There is a risk that if ISDS was applied to the NHS, repealing the Health and Social Care Act could be deemed to be in breach of the free-trade agreement. This would be a catastrophic legacy for Labour to pick up in May 2015, regardless of whether Burnham is in situ. Of course, many hope dearly he will be Labour’s Secretary of State for Health.

Negotiations are still going on, and Labour will continue to pressure the Government to ensure that the agreement does not place undue limits on future administrations. While Labour are in favour of a transatlantic trade agreement, once a draft agreement is reached, a review will be needed as a matter of some urgency.

The solution to the current malaise is not more extreme social democracy



Zen Ed Miliband

There’s an argument from some that more trenchant tax rises, such as VAT or income tax, and ‘getting more from less’, will be enough to see through an incoming Labour government led by Ed Miliband.

Put quite simply, I don’t think this will be nearly enough. It would the best Labour could come to retoxifying its own brand, reestablishing its credentials as a ‘tax and spend’ government. In fact, for the last two decades, the taxation debate has got much more complicated due to an issue nobody wishes to admit. That is: you’re not actually using taxpayers’ money to go into the salaries or wages of employees of the State, you’re increasingly using this tax to subsidise the shareholder dividends of directors of outsourced public functions (such as beneficiaries of health procurement contracts). Whether you like it or hate it, and let’s face it most people are ambivalent to it, resorting to this would ignore all the groundwork the Miliband team has done on “pre-distribution”. Forgetting this actual word for the moment, making the economy work properly for the less well-off members of society should be an explicable aim of government on the doorstep. Putting the brakes on the shock of energy bills, from fatcat companies, is a reasonable self-defence against an overly aggressive market which has swung too far in much favour of the shareholder and director. Paying people a living wage so that they’re not so dependent on State top-ups to survive is as close as you can get to motherhood and apple pie. Even Boris Johnson supports it.

Of course, Ed Miliband’s natural reaction as a social democrat would be try and survive government as a social democrat. But that doesn’t get round the problem experienced by a predecessor of his, Tony Blair. When Tony Blair had his first meeting with Robin Butler (now Lord Butler of Brockwell), Butler asked, “I’ve read your manifesto, but now what?” Ed Miliband has low hanging fruit to go better than Tony Blair on his first day in office if he can come up with clear plans for office and government.

Let’s get something straight. I don’t agree that the scenario which must be proven otherwise is that Ed Miliband will come into Downing Street only enabled by Liberal Democrat voters. There are plenty of former Liberal Democrat voters who feel deeply disgusted by Nick Clegg not acting as the ‘brake’ to this government, but as the ‘accelerator pedal’. They have seen Clegg’s new model army vote for tuition fees, privatisation of the NHS, and welfare reforms, as if there is no tomorrow. And for many of his MPs, there will be no tomorrow. Clegg’s operating model of supplying votes for whichever party happens to be his employer is clearly unsustainable, as within two periods of office, his flexible corpus of MPs would end up repealing legislation that they helped to introduce to the statute books.

In answer to the question, “What do we do now?”, Ed Miliband does not need to reply with a critique of capitalism. Miliband will have to produce a timeline for actions which he has long promised, such as implementation of a national living wage, controlling seemingly inexorable increases in energy bills, as well as other ‘goodies’ such as repealing of the Health and Social Care Act (2012).

Andy Burnham MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health, has already explained some of the ‘and then what’. Burnham has insisted that he will make existing structures ‘do different things’. But while getting rid of compulsory competitive tendering, Burnham needs to put ‘meat on the bones’ on how he intends to make the NHS work without it being a quasimarket. Burnham’s challenges are not trivial. Burnham seemingly wishes to maintain a system of commissioning, while intending to abolish the purchaser-provider split. Burnham also seemingly wishes to support local A&E departments in not being shut down, but has as not yet stated clearly what he thinks will work better than the current amendment of the Care Bill going through parliament for NHS reconfigurations. Furthermore, Burnham in advancing ‘whole person care’, in sticking to his stated unified budgets, may have to resist seeing the merging of the non-means tested NHS being merged with the means-tested social care. This might easily lead to ‘mission creep’ with merging with welfare budgets. And this brings up a whole new issue in ‘integrated care’ which Burnham has long denied has been on the agenda: “top up payments” or “copayments”. Reducing health inequalities by tackling inequalities social determinants of health should of course be well within the grasp of a socialist-facing NHS delivered by Labour. With patient safety also, correctly, a top priority for the National Health Service, especially for how frail individuals received medical care in hospitals, Burnham has in fact five timelines to develop fast as top priorities: addressing the social determinants of health inequalities (even perhaps poor housing), commissioning anomalies, reconfiguration tensions, whole person care implementation, and patient safety.

The global financial crash should have given some impetus to the Marxist critique of capitalism, but it didn’t. Tony Benn said famously that, when he asked to think of an example of ‘market forces’, he would think of a homeless person sleeping in a cardboard box underneath Waterloo Bridge. Benn further pointed out that the NHS was borne out of war, where normal rules on spending went out of the window: “have you ever heard of a General saying he can’t bomb Baghdad as he’s overrun as his budget?” However, it was not the global financial crash which caused there to be far too many people who feel disenfranchised from politics. Capitalism always drives towards inequality. It also drives towards economic and political power being rested at the top. The reason why people are well off tell you it’s important to do more with less is that they have a fundamental poverty of aspiration about this country. They don’t particularly care as the most well off are getting even more well off. This is an economic recovery for the few. The economy is not going to grow on the back of a record people with zilch employment rights under “zero hours contracts”. The economy is not going to grow either on the back of a property-boom based in London, even if a sufficiently large number vote Conservative as a result of a bounce in their property prices.

What there is a risk of, however, is socialism being popular, and this of course goes beyond the follower number of a few certain individuals on Twitter. Across a number of decades, particularly in Sweden and Cuba, we’ve been able to learn good lessons about what has happened in the worlds of communism and social democracy, as a counterpoint to capitalism. Tony Benn, when asked to give an example of ‘market forces’, would always cite the person sleeping rough under Waterloo Bridge. The Labour Party, most recently, in large part to Tony Blair being ideologically being ‘of no fixed abode’, has run away from socialism, meaning narratives such as Jackie Ashley’s recent piece are consciously limp and anaemic, a self-fulfilling prophecy of utmost disappointment. There is no sense of equality, cooperation or solidarity, and these ought to be traits which are found to be at the heart of Labour’s policy. If Ed Miliband hasn’t thought of how the answer to ‘Now what?’ fulfils those aims, it’s time he had started thinking about. With this, he can not only build a political party, but build a mass movement. With people choosing to become members of unions, and there is no better time with such a naked onslaught on employment rights, the Labour movement could become highly relevant, not just to very poor working men. Labour has to move with the times too; it needs to move away from reactionary ‘identity politics’, and seek to include people it hasn’t traditionally engaged in a narrative with. This might include the large army of citizens who happen to be disabled or elderly. There is no doubt that a socialist society needs the economy to succeed; if it is really true that the UK sets to be in a dominant position in Europe by 2030, surely the media should be helping the UK perform a positive rôle as a leader. The economy involves real people, their wages, their energy bills, their employment rights, so while it is all very easy to be po-faced about “the cost of living”, or have foodbanks in your line of blindsight, Labour needs to be a fighting force for many more people who otherwise don’t feel ‘part of it’. It should be the case that a vote should buy you influence in shaping society, in as much as the way to buy influence, say in the NHS, is to become a Director of a private health multinational company. This fight against how capitalism has failed can indeed become the alternative to commercial and trade globalisation; a peaceful transition into this type of society is one which the more advanced economies like ours is more than capable of.

Where Labour has thus far been quite successful in trying to make its policies look acceptable to the wider public is courting the opposition. Many would say they have taken this too far. Labour might wish to ‘look tough on welfare’, but Labour can easily advocate employed work being paid for fairly, while being fiercely proud of a social security system which looks after the living and mobility needs of people who are disabled. A radical look at ‘working tax credits’ is possibly long overdue, but Labour will need to get out of its obsession for triangulation to do that. If Labour merely offers a ‘lighter blue’ version of the Conservatives, members of the public will be unimpressed, and boot Labour out asap. Whilst Wilson and Blair both won a number of periods of government, the jury is out especially with what Blair achieved in reality aside from the national minimum wage (which was only achieved with the help of the unions). Many people feel that privatisation was a continuous narrative under Labour as it had been for the Conservatives, and many Labour voters feel intrinsically disgusted at the thought of Tony Blair being Margaret Thatcher’s greatest achievement. People instead of being liberalised by markets have now become enslaved by them. Across a number of sectors, there are only a handful of competitors who are able to rig the prices lawfully between them. The consumer always loses out, and the shareholders with minimal risk receive record profits year-on-year. Of course, rejection of privatisation does not necessarily mean nationalisation, in the same way that decriminalisation of illegal drugs does not necessarily mean legalisation. But it cannot be ignored that some degree of State ownership is a hugely popular idea, such as for the NHS, Royal Mail and banks. Where Ed Miliband might be constructively compared to Fidel Castro (in the days when things were going well for Castro) is that Miliband can set out a vision for a sufficient long period of time for people to become attracted to it (not disenfranchised by it). Thatcher, for all her numerous faults, was very clear about what she intended to achieve. As Tony Benn put it, she was not a “weather vane” but a “weather cock which is set in a direction… it just happened that I totally disagreed with the direction which she set.”

I think Ed Miliband will surprise people, exactly as he has done so far, in winning the general election on May 8th 2015. I also feel that he will surprise people by having answers to the “And then what?” bit too.

The solution to the current malaise is not more extreme social democracy



 

 

http://livingwelldementia.org

 

There’s an argument from some that more trenchant tax rises, such as VAT or income tax, and ‘getting more from less’, will be enough to see through an incoming Labour government led by Ed Miliband.

Put quite simply, I don’t think this will be nearly enough. It would the best Labour could come to retoxifying its own brand, reestablishing its credentials as a ‘tax and spend’ government. In fact, for the last two decades, the taxation debate has got much more complicated due to an issue nobody wishes to admit. That is: you’re not actually using taxpayers’ money to go into the salaries or wages of employees of the State, you’re increasingly using this tax to subsidise the shareholder dividends of directors of outsourced public functions (such as beneficiaries of health procurement contracts). Whether you like it or hate it, and let’s face it most people are ambivalent to it, resorting to this would ignore all the groundwork the Miliband team has done on “pre-distribution”. Forgetting this actual word for the moment, making the economy work properly for the less well-off members of society should be an explicable aim of government on the doorstep. Putting the brakes on the shock of energy bills, from fatcat companies, is a reasonable self-defence against an overly aggressive market which has swung too far in much favour of the shareholder and director. Paying people a living wage so that they’re not so dependent on State top-ups to survive is as close as you can get to motherhood and apple pie. Even Boris Johnson supports it.

Of course, Ed Miliband’s natural reaction as a social democrat would be try and survive government as a social democrat. But that doesn’t get round the problem experienced by a predecessor of his, Tony Blair. When Tony Blair had his first meeting with Robin Butler (now Lord Butler of Brockwell), Butler asked, “I’ve read your manifesto, but now what?” Ed Miliband has low hanging fruit to go better than Tony Blair on his first day in office if he can come up with clear plans for office and government.

Let’s get something straight. I don’t agree that the scenario which must be proven otherwise is that Ed Miliband will come into Downing Street only enabled by Liberal Democrat voters. There are plenty of former Liberal Democrat voters who feel deeply disgusted by Nick Clegg not acting as the ‘brake’ to this government, but as the ‘accelerator pedal’. They have seen Clegg’s new model army vote for tuition fees, privatisation of the NHS, and welfare reforms, as if there is no tomorrow. And for many of his MPs, there will be no tomorrow. Clegg’s operating model of supplying votes for whichever party happens to be his employer is clearly unsustainable, as within two periods of office, his flexible corpus of MPs would end up repealing legislation that they helped to introduce to the statute books.

In answer to the question, “What do we do now?”, Ed Miliband does not need to reply with a critique of capitalism. Miliband will have to produce a timeline for actions which he has long promised, such as implementation of a national living wage, controlling seemingly inexorable increases in energy bills, as well as other ‘goodies’ such as repealing of the Health and Social Care Act (2012).

Andy Burnham MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health, has already explained some of the ‘and then what’. Burnham has insisted that he will make existing structures ‘do different things’. But while getting of compulsory competitive tendering, Burnham needs to put ‘meat on the bones’ on how he intends to make the NHS work without it being a quasimarket. Burnham’s challenges are not trivial. Burnham seemingly wishes to maintain a system of commissioning, while intending to abolish the purchaser-provider split. Burnham also seemingly wishes to support local A&E departments in not being shut down, but has as not yet stated clearly what he thinks will work better than the current amendment of the Care Bill going through parliament for NHS reconfigurations. Furthermore, Burnham in advancing ‘whole person care’, in sticking to his stated unified budgets, may have to resist seeing the merging of the non-means tested NHS being merged with the means-tested social care. This might easily lead to ‘mission creep’ with merging with welfare budgets. And this brings up a whole new issue in ‘integrated care’ which Burnham has long denied has been on the agenda: “top up payments” or “copayments”. Reducing health inequalities by tackling inequalities social determinants of health should of course be well within the grasp of a socialist-facing NHS delivered by Labour. With patient safety also, correctly, a top priority for the National Health Service, especially for how frail individuals received medical care in hospitals, Burnham has in fact five timelines to develop fast as top priorities: health inequalities, commissioning, reconfigurations, whole person care, patient safety.

The global financial crash should have given some impetus to the Marxist critique of capitalism, but it didn’t. Tony Benn said famously that, when he asked to think of an example of ‘market forces’, he would think of a homeless person sleeping in a cardboard box underneath Waterloo Bridge. Benn further pointed out that the NHS was borne out of war, where normal rules on spending went out of the window: “have you ever heard of a General saying he can’t bomb Baghdad as he’s overrun as his budget?” However, it was not the global financial crash which caused there to be far too many people who feel disenfranchised from politics. Capitalism always drives towards inequality. It also drives towards economic and political power being rested at the top. The reason why people are well off tell you it’s important to do more with less is that they have a fundamental poverty of aspiration about this country. They don’t particularly care as the most well off are getting even more well off. This is an economic recovery for the few. The economy is not going to grow on the back of a record people with zilch employment rights under “zero hours contracts”. The economy is not going to grow either on the back of a property-boom based in London, even if a sufficiently large number vote Conservative as a result of a bounce in their property prices.

What there is a risk of, however, is socialism being popular, and this of course goes beyond the follower number of a few certain individuals on Twitter. Across a number of decades, particularly in Sweden and Cuba, we’ve been able to learn good lessons about what has happened in the worlds of communism and social democracy, as a counterpoint to capitalism. Tony Benn, when asked to give an example of ‘market forces’, would always cite the person sleeping rough under Waterloo Bridge. The Labour Party, most recently, in large part to Tony Blair being ideologically being ‘of no fixed abode’, has run away from socialism, meaning narratives such as Jacky Ashley’s recent piece are consciously limp and anaemic, a self-fulfilling prophecy of utmost disappointment. There is no sense of equality, cooperation or solidarity, and these ought to be traits which are found to be at the heart of Labour’s policy. If Ed Miliband hasn’t thought of how the answer to ‘Now what?’ fulfils those aims, it’s time he had started thinking about. With this, he can not only build a political party, but build a mass movement. With people choosing to become members of unions, and there is no better time with such a naked onslaught on employment rights, the Labour movement could become highly relevant, not just to very poor working men. Labour has to move with the times too; it needs to move away from reactionary ‘identity politics’, and seek to include people it hasn’t traditionally engaged in a narrative with. This might include the large army of citizens who happen to be disabled or elderly. There is no doubt that a socialist society needs the economy to succeed; if it is really true that the UK sets to be in a dominant position in Europe by 2030, surely the media should be helping the UK perform a positive rôle as a leader. The economy involves real people, their wages, their energy bills, their employment rights, so while it is all very easy to be po-faced about “the cost of living”, or have foodbanks in your line of blindsight, Labour needs to be a fighting force for many more people who otherwise don’t feel ‘part of it’. It should be the case that a vote should buy you influence in shaping society, in as much as the way to buy influence, say in the NHS, is to become a Director of a private health multinational company. This fight against how capitalism has failed can indeed become the alternative to commercial and trade globalisation; a peaceful transition into this type of society is one which the more advanced economies like ours is more than capable of.

Where Labour has thus far been quite successful in trying to make its policies look acceptable to the wider public is courting the opposition. Many would say they have taken this too far. Labour might wish to ‘look tough on welfare’, but Labour can easily advocate employed work being paid for fairly, while being fiercely proud of a social security system which looks after the living and mobility needs of people who are disabled. A radical look at ‘working tax credits’ is possibly long overdue, but Labour will need to get out of its obsession for triangulation to do that. If Labour merely offers a ‘lighter blue’ version of the Conservatives, members of the public will be unimpressed, and boot Labour out asap. Whilst Wilson and Blair both won a number of periods of government, the jury is out especially with what Blair achieved in reality aside from the national minimum wage (which was only achieved with the help of the unions). Many people feel that privatisation was a continuous narrative under Labour as it had been for the Conservatives, and many Labour voters feel intrinsically disgusted at the thought of Tony Blair being Margaret Thatcher’s greatest achievement. People instead of being liberalised by markets have now become enslaved by them. Across a number of sectors, there are only a handful of competitors who are able to rig the prices lawfully between them. The consumer always loses out, and the shareholders with minimal risk receive record profits year-on-year. Of course, rejection of privatisation does not necessarily mean nationalisation, in the same way that decriminalisation of illegal drugs does not necessarily mean legalisation. But it cannot be ignored that some degree of State ownership is a hugely popular idea, such as for the NHS, Royal Mail and banks. Where Ed Miliband might be constructively compared to Fidel Castro (in the days when things were going well for Castro) is that Miliband can set out a vision for a sufficient long period of time for people to become attracted to it (not disenfranchised by it). Thatcher, for all her numerous faults, was very clear about what she intended to achieve. As Tony Benn put it, she was not a “weather vane” but a “Weather cock which is set in a direction… it just happened that I totally disagreed with the direction which she set.”

I think Ed Miliband will surprise people, exactly as he has done so far, in winning the general election on May 8th 2015. I also feel that he will surprise people by having answers to the “And then what?” bit too.

What more can Labour do?



 

There’s an old adage that a third of all the people who know you will love you, no matter what you do, a third of people will hate you, no matter what you do, and the rest will simply be indifferent. It’s only one day every few years, but there will be millions on 7 May 2015 (if that’s the actual date of the General Election) who literally won’t be arsed to go down to their local election headquarters, because they feel their vote will not make any difference.

As usual, all of the nation’s woes and triumphs will be distilled into an election campaign, where you can sure that some things will be blown up out of all proportion, and other things won’t be discussed. Because of the short attention span of the media, and possibly even some readers/listeners, many issues will be distilled into soundbites. Remember the ‘tax on jobs’ debate we had last time in 2010 when the economy was actually recovering, prior to any discussion of ‘double dip’ or ‘triple dip’. You can rest assured that there’ll be no debate about A&Es closing, or the GPs’ out-of-hour contracts. Immigration is likely to be a headline though, not least because of Nigel Farage whose party has yet to get a MP elected to Parliament. However, the debate won’t go anywhere near how migrant workers are needed to keep the NHS alive, or the inevitability of globalism.

All Councillors I know are incredibly passionate about their ‘doorstepping’, and the general impression that I get is that the general public is generally more clued in than one might expect. However, because of the nature of politics, it’s going to be as usual pointless voting for certain parties in certain constituencies. Last time saw Nick Clegg being propelled into the limelight, with his famous tuition fees pledge. If there is to be another battle of the personalities, it is likely that Nigel Farage will be invited this time. Some gimmick like the “worm” will be back, and we’ll all be none the wiser until polling day.

So does this mean that politics doesn’t matter? Probably yes, as long as politicians fail to inspire potential voters. Many people on the left wing are just totally uninspired between a choice between Tory and Tory lite, and do not see a Labour leader leading on issues such as disability, a state-run NHS, or an economy which doesn’t take workers for a ride. Is there much Labour can do? Possibly get a move on, as people are totally sick to death of waiting for the climax of this neverending “policy review”, which many suspect will not answer certain fundamental issues, such as the fate of NHS Foundation Trusts. We seem to be waiting an eternity to find out what else will accompany ‘The Living Wage’ as a major manifesto issue, and if Labour didn’t do as well as they had wished for in the local elections it was simply because many voters did not consider them to be offering a valid alternative.

This is dreadful, when you consider quite how disastrously this current parliamentary term has gone for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Clearly, ‘One Nation’ is going to run into trouble, if voters in the South of England only feel as if they have a choice between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. If the Greens are becoming increasingly popular, it is because many people believe they deserve it: for example taking a strong stance against the Bedroom Tax. Labour indeed seems to be populated by ‘big personalities’, but there is no coherent strand to their philosophy at the moment. Their narrative appears to be a collection of sparse streams of consciousness, and this does not constitute a useful sense for direction.

It is not too late for Labour to remedy this. The reputation, deserved or not, that Labour is “fiscally incontinent” is going to be difficult to shift. Whether or not Labour was right to increase the deficit through recapitalising the banks as an emergency measure is not going to be a battle to be won now, ever. If anything, the Coalition have already won that battle, as they still cite the deficit for the reason that they are governing ‘in the national interest’. Labour can take the lead on a NHS which is universal and comprehensive. It can decide to push for an economy where workers have some security and long-term prospects in their job. It can also decide to represent the views of disabled citizens, many of whom have felt demonised by this Government.

Or else, despite great Councillors, it can carry on being… well… very bland.

Cameron won't get as far as holding a referendum in 2017, as he'll have been shown the door long before then.



 

The reply “The Tories just feel like crap managers” was in response to my recent question, “Do you think people are excited about politics?” Suzanne Moore instead suggested, “Yes but not the political system or way it is represented.” Olivia simply replied, “If people were excited about politics wouldn’t more people vote? The fact that so few actually bother to vote, suggests that people are far from excited about politics.”

Unusually, somebody in her 60s last week told me that she and her husband were determined to vote in the General Election anticipated around June 2015.  Vicky and John are not impressed by the current incumbents but feel passionately that any party is better than ‘this lot’. Returning to the answer, “The Tories are just crap managers”, there is an overwhelming feeling amongst my friends in real life, my 3000 friends on Facebook and 7000 followers on Twitter amongst both my accounts that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are playing for time. They offer no leadership, and are sub-standard managers.

They have bungled the forests issue, raised tuition fees, scrapped Building Schools for the Future, scrapped education support allowance, killed a growing economy from 2010, told Europe that they only wish to be in Europe on their own terms, unilaterally decided to scrap GCSEs, outsourced the NHS on the way to privatising it, produced a shambolic budget last year with numerous U-turns, and shut libraries.

The £3bn re-organisation of the NHS, which nobody voted for, was probably the pièce de resistance. The Conservatives have done a disgraceful job of explaining what these reforms mean, and the BBC have made no effort in explaining what is clearly a very significant issue of public interest. The public are none-the-wiser that NHS services have been completely thrown open to the private sector, such that you can walk into a walk-in centre with it having NHS branding but being run to maximise shareholder dividend for a private company. The medical Royal Colleges all opposed it, as did the BMA and the Royal College of Nursing. The marketisation of the NHS means that the service cannot be guaranteed to be anywhere near comprehensive, and already evidence is accruing of definite examples of rationing (e.g. in cataract surgery).

A similar disenfranchisement of key professionals was seen in the high street with the Government, the Conservatives enabled by the Liberal Democrats, ramraiding through the ‘Legal Aid and Sentencing of Offenders Act’ which has seen destruction of legal aid on the high street, killing off access-to-justice for social justice fields such as housing, immigration and asylum, welfare benefits and employment. The marketisation of law on the high-street means that the public are left with an incomplete fragmented service, and again these ‘reforms’ were officially opposed by the Law Society and the Bar Council.

A third disgrace has been the “reform” of GCSEs. Michael Gove barged through processes which meant that even examining in last year’s GCSE English ended up being a shambles, and had to go for judicial review in the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court. The teachers, notably the National Union of Teachers, were not consulted about the changes to the GCSE system, a completely ludicrous state of affairs that there are GCSE courses presently in progress.

The “political process” is the third arm of the long-awaited policy review of the UK Labour Party. Whilst millions will have been spent cumulatively on the Scotland referendum, and the AV referendum, and on the introduction of Police Commissioners, there is no doubt that the political process is broken. David Cameron’s talk of holding a referendum in 2017 shows complete contempt that he has disconnected him and his party from major areas of society. The list goes on – disabled citizens are sick of the welfare reforms in progress, with the disastrous introduction of the ‘Personal Independent Payment’ following fast after the pitiful administration of Work Capacity Benefits by the Department of Work and Pensions.

Cameron won’t get as far as holding a referendum in 2017, as he’ll have been shown the door long before then.

Nick Clegg's promise to be in the Top 40 was a promise too far



I’d like to take this opportunity to set a few things straight. Nick Clegg’s promise to be in the Top 40 was a promise too far. In fact, he didn’t enter the Top 40 at all as exclusively revealed on National Radio 1 yesterday, according to the Official Charts Company. Congratulations, however, to ‘Professor Green’ with ‘Avalon’ at number 38. Professor Green made his feelings known about ‘the Nick Clegg apology’ perfectly clear last night. 15 hours ago (as of the date and time of this post), Professor Green had received 1,933 re-tweets for this comment:

I am further disappointed and angry that Nick Clegg could not keep all his promises, such as to enhance the powers of PCTs in the NHS (in the Coalition Agreement). The PCTs have now been abolished. I am sorry, am sorry, so so sorry, but you are insincere, duplicitous, untrustworthy and a complete liar.

And please add to that ‘hypocrite’. It is easy to underestimate the significance of many students being conned into voting for the Liberal Democrats on the basis of a ‘cast-iron pledge’ not to increase them. Nick Clegg had previously sounded off about ‘broken promises’ in this PPB. Clegg had said categorically, “Now it is time for promises to be kept”, knowing full well that he had made an undeliverable policy.

The fundamental problem is that “Plan A” has failed due to a complex interplay of factors nothing to do with the Eurozone crisis, such as the withdrawal of infrastructure investment which might have kick-started key industries such as the construction industry (“Building Schools of the Future”) and the murder of consumer demand (through the controversial increase in VAT). As a direct consequence of this, Richard Reeves’ plan for the LibDems, Plan A, has been severely derailed. The first half of this parliament was of course to consolidate growth – and this failed as a predictable consequence of the economic incompetence of Coalition policy. The second half of this parliament is supposed to be ‘differentiation’, but there is nothing to distinguish the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, in everything from austerity, to NHS privatisation, to scrapping of the education support allowance, to scrapping of libraries, to imploding GDP figures, demolition of high-street legal aid, and a welfare benefit policy providing a substantial tax cut for the rich, for example. This desperate situation is accurately described as one of ‘despair’, by Linda Jack, Chair of the ‘Liberal Left’, as described on BBC Radio 4’s “Westminster Hour” last night. Nick Clegg is not just a ‘figure of fun’ politically. Actually, politically, he is hated, in as much somebody that you have never met can be hated. There is absolutely no sense that the Coalition reaches a consensus on anything. The idea of a permanent coalition in UK politics, specifically, fills people with utter dread. The ‘pupil premium’ is cited as a LibDem triumph, but independent experts unanimously agree it’s been a damp squib. The Conservatives wished the Health and Social Care Act to be passed, giving a free run for the corporatisation of the NHS. They have succeeded. It is likely that all the key personnel of Monitor will from the big corporates. Even Jeremy Hunt’s new assistant is likely to be the Communications Manager of Circle, it is reported. When Nick Clegg offers to tax the wealthy more, because he feels that the current frontloading of the austerity agenda is unfair to those who are disadvantaged in society, he has to concede briefly, as he did on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday morning, that he does not have a cat in hell’s chance of getting this approved by David Cameron and George Osborne. This is a current example of why the idea that ‘coalition politics’ works is simply outrageous and banal, and insults the intelligence of voters.

In the midst of it, Clegg knows he has no choice but to carry on lying. He lies, lies, and thrice lies about the financial stimulus which was required by the last Government to avert a serious depression. Clegg also had no choice on tuition fees, the abolition of large swathes of legal aid including welfare benefits legal aid advice, or the education support allowances. The ‘Building Schools for the Future’ initiative, which would have assisted in the recovery through stimulation of the construction sector, was also killed by LibDem MPs. Clegg’s career is over, and he has done spectacularly in damaging the future of coalition politics forever. Nobody serious on the left can trust the Liberal Democrats to be a force for the public good, as evidenced by the examples above. He has also failed spectacularly on Lords reform, and the alternative vote, which had been deemed as ‘once in a lifetime opportunities’. People will be terrified to vote for the Liberal Democrats, because their function is toxic and poisonous, and actually worthless apart from supporting a weak government. This Conservative administration actually lost the election, and have been given no mandate to bring into law any of their unpopular or undemocratic policies. Of course, desperate times call for desperate measures, and most Liberal Democrats feel as if they’re trapped are “in the loveless marriage”, where they are better off staying put in the Coalition for fear of going alone. Jon Lansman (@JonLansman) produced a very clever analysis on the blogpost in “Left Futures” this morning, which offers an interesting solution to the mess which is simply dragging the UK down ‘in the national interest’.

People are not stupid, and certainly not stupid enough for vote for him or his party in 2015. They simply would prefer not to take the risk. When he gets angry, he spits bullets at Gordon Brown and Labour in general, and his manner is repulsive. He has embued a visceral hatred by Labour members for the Liberal Democrat party, which are seen as limp, principle-less, direction-less and ineffective. Nick Clegg has proved himself to be willing to lie to the general public, against the advice of Danny Alexander and other members of his party, to win a few extra seats over a promise which he knew he could not deliver. Nick Clegg is treated with contempt for much good reason, and the demise of his political party is certain. The electorate’s frustration will be at tipping point when they finally have an opportunity to deliver a verdict on his MPs, but Clegg must know the ‘writing is on the wall’. He came from nowhere, so it’s only appropriate that he should return to nowhere. The tragedy is that some Liberal Democrat activists have had the “crisis of insight”. Clegg wishes to portray the situation as him needed not bailing out in a ‘difficult climb up the mountain’, but whilst Clegg, Laws and Swinson remain in this political suicide pact and do not comprehend that there is unlikely to be growth in the economy in the near future due to the death of consumer demand as a direct effect of Coalition economic policy, they do not comprehend that half-way up their mountain claim they have become submerged in a near-fatal avalanche.

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