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This has got absolutely nothing to do with the Iraq War or Tony Blair. The background to this for me is personally relevant. I’ve voted Labour all my life – in other words, at every general election since 1992. I voted for Jeremy Corbyn twice as leader of our party, so let me indulge you on why I think Labour has to tread very carefully now.
The likelihood is that the main motion on December 11th, the Government and European Union proposal, will not be accepted. This defeat means that Labour will deliver on a promise for a ‘no confidence’ motion. And the likelihood is that even despondent Tory MPs, with no obvious successor in sight, will not want to inflict a defeat in that no confidence motion. We already know that the DUP, despite their reservations over the EU/UK proposal, intend to support the Conservative Government. So, as for Jeremy Corbyn’s challenges, this might end up consolidating and reinforcing Theresa May’s position as the Prime Minister.
These events won’t make the problem of the European Union exit disappear. The clock is still ticking on the UK’s exit. The position that would be, however, that the UK parliament will have rejected the mutually agreed terms for departure. The departure of the UK was always presented by Brextremists as being entirely on the UK’s terms, well Little England’s terms actually. The reality is that the agreement legally will need to show consideration, and will need to be bilateral with an intention to produce a meaningful arrangement.
The absence of a deal, or ‘crashing out’ of the European Union, would be disastrous on a number of fronts, ranging from medicines to airports. But with a lack of instant agreement on WTO processes, we would not be able to sell our products with agreed standards abroad. That is one of the biggest problems, aside from other major problems such as the lack of radionuclides for urgent cancer treatment.
It cannot be forgotten also that the EU has been incredibly patient and accommodating with the UK government, and themselves have earned a ‘good deal’ by all reasonable measures. So, they’ve run of patient a long time ago, but they want this all settled now. This means that they have already stated categorically that they don’t want a renegotiation, and this is unlikely to change with a change of government. It would, however, be useful if the EU could state their position on this now.
One of the former heads of the civil service of the UK government has said it would take at least 7 months to sort out the logistics of a people’s vote. We’d have to agree the question too.
I think socially, economically and politically, now that we know on what terms the UK would depart from the EU, different from when the original ‘will of the people’ was measured, it would be a disaster to exit the European Union.
People make mistakes, and, as a surrogate phenotype, UKIP won’t care as they are changing in public into their BNP clothes. The Conservatives are admired for their control of their economy (which I disagree with). Labour is not. Lexit is also a deeply deceptive construct, as it is always possible that exceptions can be carved out for public services for the UK. The EU didn’t make us legislate for competitive tendering in NHS services in section 75 in the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The guff about state aid and greater public investment as a result of Lexit are so false it belongs on the side of a bus.
A lot of the problems in our country have been entirely self-inflicted by the domestic governments, such as welfare reforms including universal credit and the ‘Bedroom Tax’. These have been nothing to do with Brussels. At the risk of re-running the refererendum campaign, Jeremy Corbyn can legislate for his socialist nirvana for all, promoting equality, fairness and social justice, even if the UK remains part of the EU.
The Conservatives are also admired for their decisiveness. Whilst Barry Gardiner will deny he has vassilated from warning against a ‘vassal state’ to embracing the ‘will of the people’, it all is beginning to look a bit false and hollow from Labour. I agree they need to win an election to get anything done, but, if they willingly want to give a vote to people knowing that the UK could tank in the process, I don’t believe they can be supported.
As Emily Thornberry said this morning, “There is nothing stronger than a person of principle…. Thanks to Jeremy Corbyn’s inspirational leadership, and the efforts of all the people in this room, it’s time to put Labour values back into government.” Everything has now in fact changed. This is not merely because the Conservative party, and their bullshit such as £350 million re-invested in the NHS, is a ‘busted flush’. It’s much more than that. I first went to the Labour party conference in 2010 in Manchester. It was in fact a few months before my father was to die. I remember my time there crystal clearly. I remember meeting John Prescott for the first (and only) time in a curry restaurant in the Curry Mile, and various people who were both very young and very energised about being in the Labour movement. David Prescott kindly helped me across the street, avoiding being run over by the trams. I had become newly physically disabled at the time, due to meningitis. In fact, I remember going to a fringe event at breakfast time in Manchester Town Hall on the subject of how to engage ‘missing voters’. Ellie Mae O’Hagan was there. Some brilliant contributions from Matt Zarb Cousin stuck in my mind. I wonder what happened to him.
At the time, I was in the ‘top ten’ Labour blogs. But now is much better. I think this Labour conference in 2017 in Brighton is full of optimism and hope. Labour for the first time in ages, I feel, has a realistic chance of being the party of government. I think we very mostly agree Jeremy Corbyn has turned ‘pro’. He batted away questions on striking from Andrew Marr with amazing ease yesterday morning. The hacks have made it an open secret that they have no conflict to discuss. The observation that Brexit is not one of the motions for debate is the only thing that desperate hacks can cling onto, but you only have to look at the list which has emerged – which includes the NHS, social care, growth and investment and employment issues – to see that there is no existential crisis in the Labour Party. Not at all. It is a party which is prepared to govern for the many, not the few.
The Tories’ economic model of delivering shareholder dividend with rocketing prices, suppressed wages with inflated cost of living, is not appealing to the vast majority. The ‘work til you drop’ approach is terrifying. The way in which disabled citizens have lost their personal independence payment is nothing short of the ultimate in unacceptable morally. Corrupt capitalism has had its day. Grenfell paid testament to that. Outside of the hall, it is very clear that many delegates have been speaking to some of ‘the many’. There has been a strong sense from speakers from the floor to speak out about issues of social justice, in the quest for equalities and fairness. There has been reference to homeless people, which Tony Benn famously used to congratulate market forces for. There has been a clear drive to reset the narrative to appreciate and value migrants and asylum seekers. The Momentum festival has been well received. There is no sense that Polly Toynbee needs to visit it to provide it with external validation. Trade unions defend public services, campaign to prevent abuses of workers and employees, and are no longer a ‘dirty word’.
I voted for Jeremy Corbyn twice as leader of the Labour Party, and, like many, it is tempting not to forget so easily the time which has been wasted in setting out the case for Corbyn again and again and again, the carping and criticism from 170 or so Labour MPs, or the whingeing from senior people in the Labour Party keen to ‘blame’ Corbyn for Brexit. Nor is it quite so easy to forgive and forget the amount of time, effort and money taken by the NEC to stop people voting for Corbyn as leader out of fear that all the new members of Labour were Marxist throwbacks from the 1980s. But the surge in membership of the Labour Party is entirely genuine, making Labour a massive democratic party. This is an especially amazing achievement, given the context of how parties such as ‘Alternative for Deutschland’ with an anti-Muslim and anti-migrant, far right, agenda have garnered support to fill the ‘political space’. True that the Labour Party is not entirely a socialist party, although it has socialists in it. But it is also true that there are many more people are loud and proud to be associated with the socialist ideals and values which have been promoted by the current leadership of the Labour Party.
Whilst the ‘we want a Jobs first Brexit’ is in danger of being a vacuous phrase, there’s no doubt about the dependence of certain sectors, not least the NHS and social care, on EU citizens living in Britain. If it turns out that the Conservatives are simply unable to negotiate a meaningful settlement with the European Union within two years, it is quite possible that the Labour Party will have to do something drastic about deciding upon a post-Brexit future. Jeremy Corbyn openly explained on #Marr yesterday that it was possible that state aid rules had not made it possible to intervene in industries as he would have liked, and actually had helped to privatise certain industries such as rail. It wasn’t that long ago, after all, that there had been concerns about how TTIP might stitch up a trade deal with the US over the NHS, but now the threat to the NHS from Donald Trump and Jeremy Hunt is far greater. Free movement of workers has had problems also with employees, particularly of multi-national corporates, effectively leading to wage suppression, but this fundamentally was always a problem presented by employers. But Labour is well aware that the UK economy could easily tank on Brexit especially on leaving membership of the signatories to the rules of the “single market” or “customs union”, and the devaluation of the pound sterling and exodus of jobs abroad are both already alarming. But if you think to choose who you want driving the car – Boris Johnson, David Davis and Priti Patel or Sir Keir Starmer, I know who I prefer.
Members of the media have consistently been spitting bullets at Corbyn. James O’Brien on LBC spent substantial daily effort into rubbishing Corbyn. The 2017 Labour manifesto was a massive triumph, propelling Labour to its largest vote this century. The Tories claim they even put Jeremy Corbyn on the ballot paper the first time around. Various people sneered at the rallies held by Corbyn across the country, claiming simultaneously that Corbyn had a ‘bunker mentality’ which prevented him from meeting the general public, and saying that there was no such social movement. But it is clear that there is something material and significant happening under the RADAR, as Jess Phillips, Clive Lewis and Laura Pidcock are treated like rock stars rather than members of parliament. Paul Mason, I remember, was often criticised for claiming that “strong and stable” Theresa May would not be returned with a stonking majority, and Paul Mason’s views and opinions, for example, on topics ranging from tuition fees to bellicose nuclear speak from Donald Trump are taken with considerably more gravitas than other commentators. The whole team are pretty awesome now, including Barry Gardiner who is prepared to call out people talking nonsensical crap.
Gains such as Canterbury and London Kensington and Chelsea have been amazing. Amber Rudd’s seat in Hastings is now up for grabs. Nobody can fault how amazing Andy Gwynne has been. Of course, much blood has been spilt and this is to be expected from a broad coalition of sorts. I no longer speak to the Socialist Health Association because of their open support for marketization of the NHS, PFI and Owen Smith. Tom Watson is no longer on Len McCluskey’s Christmas card list. I think critics within Labour have really got the work cut out if they wish not to help Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party prepare for government. You can tell from the reception to the limp interventions from Ben Bradshaw and Heidi Alexander over the single market that they are not the future now. But supporters of Labour fundamentally know that they did not introduce austerity. Vince Cable, on the other hand, did. The Liberal Democrats cannot be absolved from their blame on the bedroom tax, either. The Fabians, with their star turns, are having trouble trying to reverse the deluge of criticism they have doshed out to Corbyn and colleagues. The Twitter community, with Chunky, Rachael, Steve, Matt, Tom, Peter, Liam, “Scouse Girl”, EL4JC, Michael, WowPetition, Éoin, Matt, Ellie, or Paul, of course going from strength to strength. Labour’s policies speak to the concerns of the many not the few – such as personal debt, only today, being worked up by John McDonnell and Rebecca Long-Bailey. I agree with Jeremy Corbyn that he will need at least two terms of government to get the UK back on course, but there is a real sense of energy, positivity, drive and optimism which means that Labour and its social movement deserve every success.
In political circles, there’s an “unwritten rule” that ‘voters don’t do macro’. In other words, voters tend not to get concerned about the actual numerical level of GDP or national minimum wage, but whether policies affecting the country affect them personally.
Rachel Clarke’s “Your life in my hands” has 14 chapters, each with a one word title, such as “Haemorrhage” or “Haemostasis”. You realise quite quickly on in this book that the author’s account of being a junior doctor is deeply personal, as well as acknowledging the larger narrative elsewhere. Each chapter has a memorable individual and an equally useful narrative on the wider context.
The commitment to being a junior doctor shown by the author is extraordinary. Here is someone who had a glittering career in journalism ahead of her, but who choose to fit in science A levels in her spare time to make her eligible to do a second degree in medicine.
The author can spot all the devices of journalistic spin a mile off – so one can only imagine her intense disappointment about the junior doctors’ strike being reduced to an industrial pay dispute, being seen to be protracted by an overzealous BMA, and potentially doing harm to patients whom Rachel Clarke clearly loves.
I normally, being annoying, like to read everything very carefully, including the epilogue. And here the epilogue is deeply poignant. It speaks of a personal influence on the author. Sometimes the criticism is that being a junior doctor is simply like doing any other ‘job’, but Rachel Clarke’s personal familial influences on medical professionalism are deeply raw, very insightful and quite often surprising. And the descriptions of very vivid ‘brushes with death’ are incredible.
My late father was a much-loved single-handed GP of about 30 years’ standing, and I remember him getting up at 3 am to drive to a patient’s house, when I was a very young boy, even now.
The time when Rachel Clarke’s young boy, acting the part of a paediatric surrogate patient, points out to some hapless medical students, ‘it’s called a stethoscope’ is brilliant.
Even though the characters referred to in the book are anonymised, I recognised most of them. The descriptions are amazingly fine-grained. If you’re a stickler for detail, the character portraits are brilliant. In my case, the heroin addicts were brilliant at shooting up themselves.
The notorious fear of cannulaes and cockroaches would make any junior doctor proud. The accounts of friendships made, as well as experiences such as exact contemporaries saying, “Please could you have a look at this? I’m not really sure”, are brilliantly described.
Also, the sheer detachment of the junior doctor workforce from the managers is captured exactly by the promotion of Zumba classes at inappropriate times.
The clinical vignettes are accurate and interesting, such as the need to cannulate with very large venflons someone about to engulf herself in a gastrointestinal bleed, or the peaked T waves on the ECG of someone with a dangerously high serum potassium.
In my case, one of my latest memories whilst a junior physician at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurology was the junior doctor in the adjacent cubicle screaming, “Just relax”.
This always signalled to me someone to me nervous about his examination technique rather than a genuine appreciation of gegenhalten and other similar phenomena.
As someone caught up in the GMC ‘class of 2006’, I have always found the concept of ‘resilience’ somewhat baffling. Rachel Clarke’s analysis of whether junior doctor training can really be likened to training in the army is both sophisticated and fascinating, as doctors invariably do not see themselves ‘in battle’ with their patients.
The word ‘resilience’, rather, I find inappropriate as it implies some regulatory frailty which is the fault of the junior doctor. Rather, in the case of a junior doctor with mental health problems, it is a feature of an extended ecosystem of lack of supportive seniors, often in a truly toxic culture, a lack of appointment of a GMC health supervisor, or a protracted regulatory regimen designed primarily to humiliate publicly its respondents, with no discernible endpoint.
The book clearly makes out how the professionalism of being a doctor completely defeats everything else. The joy of ‘take a look at this!’ for a medical student, in reference to situs inversus/dextrocardia, or a bulging palpable abdominal aorta aneursym, is wonderfully conveyed in the author’s description. None of this is, of course, captured by ‘productivity’, ‘efficiency’, or ‘innovation’ metrics.
I must admit that many of the recent episodes were immediately familiar to me, such as when Rachel and Dagan found themselves sitting at a fold-up table outside Richmond House, or that time messages from a secret group in the BMA found themselves in the public media.
The examples of the hashtags made me laugh, how the Secretary of State was unable to control all of the narrative. Nonetheless, the frustration of how the core problem of understaffing in hospital medicine had been exacerbated by deliberate cuts leading to threats in patient safety was clearly palpable like the most dilated vein Rachel Clarke has ever had to cannulate at 4 am.
And I do agree with a Twitter follower. When I come to re-read this astonishing book, I will want to do so on my iPad.
“Your life in my hands: a junior doctor’s story” Rachel Clarke, publisher Metro, July 2017.
One of Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘trump cards’ was that Jeremy Corbyn’s personal vigour and attractiveness had attracted an unprecedented number of younger voters to the Labour Party. Lord Ashcroft’s recent breakdown of the demographics of the people who’d voted in the 2017 general election revealed that many older people, despite the policy disasters over the winter fuel allowance or the ‘dementia tax’, had decided to vote Tory. Critics of Jeremy Corbyn always insisted that these younger voters would never pull their finger out to go to vote Labour. Even when pictures appeared on Twitter of queues of young people voting in predominantly University towns, there remained a hardcore contingent who insisted nothing could be read into the turnout from such spurious anecdotal reports.
Owen Jones, to be clear, blamed himself as part of a collective failure ‘of the left’ to get their message across. But I disagree potentially with an important nuance of this. I don’t think it was ever held in doubt that it might have been unconscionable not to give nurses a pay rise. I believe even the most hardened belt-tighteners saw this as fair. John Rentoul for some time appears to have insisted, though I may be wrong, that ‘left wing policies’ are not instrinsically attractive. I think this needs some considerable qualification, even if you agree with the premise that there exists a very clear subset of ideas which are definitely left wing.
Supporters of Margaret Thatcher had for a long time resorted to drastic extremist arguments to make their points about state ownership. This varied, for example, from the ludicrousness of having a State removal van company such as Pickford’s, or how one would never contemplate a state-owned supermarket. But I feel this was the first step in taking voters for idiots. It was painfully clear that Southern Rail has been operating as a disaster. The Tories tried to discredit the costings of Labour of returning private rail into state ownership, but leading economists maintained that their criticisms were false.
It is well known that Andrew Lansley had in mind the utilities companies, such as British Telecom or British Gas, when thinking about ‘liberalising the market’ in the NHS. However, in economics, basic principles matter. The provision of healthcare is highly complex, and not everything is a homogeneous product such as water or gas. It is possible, conceivably, to hive off high volume and cheap services as hernia repairs into the private sector. But the issue boils down to whether you feel that market failure is a price worth paying for “market forces”. Tony Benn used to remark that whenever he saw a homeless person sleep under Waterloo Bridge he used to think of “market forces”.
If you leave anything to the market, there is always the risk that there will be large swathes completely not covered. For NHS patients, this is a disaster, if patients with rarer diseases bear the brunt of lack of coverage just because it is not profitable. This is the problem with taking a liberal view to the market, as indeed the Liberal Democrats had in 2012 pursuant to New Labour earlier.
Whilst it might appear easy to ‘ringfence’ younger people with younger issues, these are in fact issues which ‘cut through’ quite a large range of people. I ‘get that’ university fees are likely to affect predominantly people thinking about going to university imminently, but even this is not clearcut due to the mere existence of parents. The NHS is relevant to anyone for promoting health or fixing illness – or even delivering a baby. And the cut through continues for issues such as social housing too, where the purchase of a house to buy to build up your life is unaffordable.
The problem now for Labour is whether it develops a false sense of triumph from all of this. That would indeed be a disaster. It is true that Labour managed to make inroads last Thursday on results night in some weird and wonderful places, such as Kensington. It is overall true that Labour did in the end benefit from a ‘remainer’ vote – of people voting who perhaps saw Labour as an achievable way of slowing down a “hard Brexit”.
But the problem remains for Jeremy Corbyn for continuing to preach to the converted. There is an argument that ‘one last heave’ might well do it. It’s essential to remember that the Conservatives’ campaign was sensationally catastrophic. I am not sure whether it will become sufficient for Nick Timothy and Fi Hill to take the cop for the disaster, or whether the mission will creep to Sir Lynton Crosby and “strong and stable” Theresa May herself. The Liberal Democrats campaign was pretty dire too, although I don’t take away the achievement of Sir Vince Cable of returning to frontline politics. Remember it was Sir Vince’s acumen that had written off Jeremy Corbyn completely until only last week? The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto seemed to offer obfuscation for delivering Brexit, some spin on drugs of abuse, and little else. Oh yes, and it was launched in a night club surrounded by some controversy over gay sex.
Whether it’s shrugging off “the past”, or a failure of teamwork with some people who clearly can’t tango either, Jeremy Corbyn has become the lightning conductor for everyone else’s faults in Labour. I feel that while Corbyn has not got everything right, and I have supported him like every Labour leader for all of my adult life, he has got some of it very right. He has tried to communicate his message through his rallies when it is clear that none of the mainstream media have given him the time of day, resorting to innuendo and further innuendo. And that message is highly relevant to many people. And he offered a vision that was understandable by many – the many who understood, as Nick Timothy identified, that austerity had failed, indeed caused further problems, and was accelerating the decline of England.
An unknown is whether the Conservatives would have won if they had got rid of the robotic memes from their campaign and looked as if they did not wish to punish the older vote. Being a longstanding voter on the Left, I can’t help feeling the Tories are a busted flush, but it will take just one single mutation of their offering, like making their leader Boris Johnson, to throw everything into turmoil. On a more pragmatic note, the ‘supply and confidence’ relationship with the DUP is not an ideological marriage made in heaven, and a Government which only just manages to get its Queen Speech passed cannot be considered ‘strong and stable’. It is just as well that Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker always thought that the argument that an increased mandate would mean a stronger negotiating position was complete and utter bollocks.
The adage is of course that oppositions don’t win elections, but governments lose them. There is little more to lose from Theresa May, who somehow branded herself into a toxic brand. The reality is that all of this has happened at a terrible time, when issues such as our membership of the single market or the customs union should not be decided by a Conservative administration which has lost its majority and to all intents and purposes on life support. I entirely get that there will be people who will never vote Labour because of Corbyn, but I can tell you hand on heart there were plenty of people in Labour who felt they could never vote Labour because of Blair or Brown.
The fact that Corbyn did manage to win two leadership elections, and poll a share of the vote only second to Clem Attlee, is a disaster for all those pople who had diarised June 9th as the start of the campaign to get rid of Corbyn. Of course the current MPs could take to the media studios, like they did in support of THAT chicken coup, to finish off this government. The truth remains that many of them did not get elected because they hid Jeremy Corbyn out of sight – but that Corbyn in fact spoke to their needs in a way that Tony Blair didn’t. A lot of them could pretend to support Jeremy Corbyn. I suggest that those who want a senior job in his shadow cabinet at least make an effort to.
These are interesting times. What I disliked about the previous lack of support of certain journalists was the fact they knowingly were determined to extinguish my hopes as a well meaning left wing voter, but likewise there are plenty of people like Paul Mason, Steve Richards or Gary Younge who at least were sympathetic. But as far as I’m concerned it has to be water under the bridge. We now need a period of reconciliation to rebuild a country which has been savaged by war.
As I said, we live in interesting times.
I’m not a member of “Momentum”, though I was mildly amused by Andy Marr making reference to the Momentum uniform of the Royal Guards during the recent election coverage. I don’t in fact know what a ‘Corbynista’ is, though I have heard it invariably used as a term of abuse – somebody who is quite young, an ‘entryist Trot’ who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, some member of a cult supporting Jeremy Corbyn.
To disappoint you – I have consistently voted for the Labour Party at every general election since 1992. I am currently 42, and I’m hoping to make my 43rd birthday on June 18th this year.
There was a time when I thought I wouldn’t make my 33rd birthday. Well, sort of. I was completely unconscious at the time, being kept alive on the ITU of the Royal Free where it was anticipated that I would never leave the hospital at the time.
So, I can understand why relatively young people are interested in the NHS. I can understand why people of my age are interested in the abuse of zero hour contracts, or why they feel frustrated at not having had a pay rise as a newly qualified nurse for years. I can understand with the sheer fear of not being able to get a foot on the housing ladder.
I thought the manifesto proposed by John McDonnell and others was excellent. It contained ideas I mostly agreed with, and was relevant to people Labour moderates might call “aspirational”. There was an offer, for example, about tuition fees, which would have given younger people hope.
I had no problem with the manifesto. I liked it because it genuinely inspired hope not fear, and, as the meme goes, was for the many and not the few.
I think Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign was superb.
Despite this, some of the estimates of the Conservative majority were simply ludicrous – 50, 75, 100 or 125 even.
I knew it wouldn’t be anywhere near that – nor did Paul Mason, YouGov or Survation.
He had seven weeks to close a gap, and he did it. Friends of mine would sometimes say to me that they’d heard Corbyn for the first time, and that they were ‘surprised’. The one advantage of the plethora of MPs and all of the media in rubbishing Jeremy Corbyn was that they managed to set the bar for expectations so low. So, when Corbyn started closing the gap, I feel that a critical momentum was achieved, whereby some people were no longer ashamed to say they’d be voting Labour.
During all of this, there was a small but robust band of intelligentsia who could not bring themselves to vote Labour, but needed to vote Liberal Democrats. Those of us who’ve paid any attention to the Liberal Democrats knew that the visceral hatred of Nick Clegg to Labour members is torrential.
I don’t know whether the social media ever ‘converted’ anyone into anyone to voting for Labour, or ‘holding your noise’ and laterally voting for Jeremy Corbyn. I do know however it was great fun, with a strong band of people on Twitter being able to rebut virtually anything. The accusation, of course, is that this was simply furthering an “echochamber”, but many of us felt we had no choice. We felt, not to generalise, that our views were largely misrepresented or totally ignored by the mainstream media.
So, the idea of Jeremy Corbyn being an IRA ‘sympathiser’ was easy to rebut with clear explanations of how Tories had also met “unsavoury” people. A classic example of this was when Emily Thornberry asked Sir Michael Fallon what he was doing meeting Assad in 2007, when he was not even a member of Government.
I’ve never personally understood the expected efficacy of the “magic money tree” argument. Most people who support Jeremy Corbyn are well aware that the economic competence of the Tories is simply the myth. It was tacitly acknowledged that the large national debt of the country had not been well controlled. The deficit target which Sir George Osborne had set for 2015 had mysteriously been extended to 2025.
But it was not simply an issue of the existence of the money tree which caused problems.
Whenever Paul Mason was asked about the ‘magic money tree’, or indeed “Chunkymark” was, the reply would come, “Oh, don’t worry, the magic money tree does exist. It’s in the Bahamas”.
The Panama papers had been recent events, and people on Twitter were accustomed to seeing a particular prominent member of the Cabinet appearing because of her tax avoidance allegations.
I was once warned, “Shibley – be careful. It’s not just the content of what you say that matters, it’s also the style.
When I was watching the BBC Question Time event with Theresa May, I felt the content and style of the answer to the junior nurse who had been denied a pay rise for years was awful. May’s answer that ‘the money tree doesn’t exist’ showed a complete contempt of her situation, also given on the whole voters don’t do “macro”. It showed a complete misreading of the problem with stagnant wages but rising bills, what Ed Miliband might have referred to in discussion of the “squeezed middle”.
This seemed totally inconsistent with the Tony Benn aphorism, “But there’s always money for wars”. There was a fundamental issue why it seemed that the number of hospital beds was being cut, or cuts in social care were rampant, and yet somehow money could appear by magic for vanity projects such as grammar schools or HS2.
As someone who has now voted for Jeremy Corbyn twice, it was incredibly demoralising to see John Woodcock slag off the leader of my political party in public on a repeated basis, or the appearance of complete lack of interest in Jeremy Corbyn’s campaigning from Ben Bradshaw, Hilary Benn, Yvette Cooper, Jess Phillips, Wes Streeting and so on.
And yet again the media would appear the same memes – for example ‘terrorist friends’, economic incompetence (and yet not seeming to worry about the fact that the Conservative manifesto was completely uncosted), raving Trot or Marxist, ‘red under the bed’.
There’s no doubt in my mind, however, that the mainstream media overplayed their hand. There was a complete U turn from Polly Toynbee, but frankly my dear I don’t give a damn. It was far too little too late. Owen Smith MP who was effusive with praise for Jeremy Corbyn had spent months last year trying to take Jeremy Corbyn to the cleaners politically, and failing.
I do think there were people who are genuinely unsure though. I felt this with Owen Jones, who was faultless once the general election was imminent.
The irony now with all the terrorist friends accusation is that the Conservatives need somehow to form an arrangement with the DUP for survival. And it is a fact that all the seats provided by the progressive alliance would not be sufficient to get above the magic number of 326. The argument that Jeremy Corbyn’s appeal was restricted is tempered by the real fact that he obtained a share of the vote only bettered by Clem Attlee.
Everywhere you looked, the Theresa May campaign looked desperately out of touch – Trident, for example, is of limited use in a NHS cyberattack or a terrorist in a built up metropolitan area.
I don’t think many people are sitting down to dinner to discuss Nick Timothy or Fiona Hill. But the conversation topic of how Theresa May spent £130 million to conduct a referendum on herself and lost might come up. It was May after all who demanded a stronger mandate to start the Brexit negotiations. She now has fewer parliamentary seats, the programme for Government will be presented in only a week’s time, and has become a mammoth laughing stock as far as Juncker and Tusk are concerned. Whatever is unclear, it’s pretty clear her negotiating position as regards the DUP or the European Union is the opposite of “strong and stable.”
The Theresa May campaign, from the perspective of a junior ‘Corbynista’, was the worst in my lifetime. I can’t remember anything as catastrophic as the Dementia Tax ever, which was a ridiculously partisan non-solution to a highly complex and important issue of the funding of social care.
The whole flavour of the Theresa May campaign was excruciating to watch with highly robotic and wooden sessions in what appeared like random derelict factories in England. The vernacular “strong and stable” and “coalition of chaos” jarred with the image of Jeremy Corbyn actually looking as if he was enjoying himself. The TV images of this rallies might have been motivating, but I am certain that they were highly motivating for some of us in the social media world.
The Tory Party is ruthless when it comes to its leaders. I think Theresa May’s days are numbered and the issue is whether she will have to delay the negotiations. I don’t believe for a second Theresa May will do the negotiations herself – the negotiations involve complex law, which she simply is not up to.
Theresa May did not give a resignation statement – quite the reverse, it was utterly delusional.
Delusional is when you don’t believe your police cuts are relevant to security.
Delusion is when your immigration targets have not been met ever.
“Now back to work.”
So, while I have no doubt that the Labour moderates are continuing to send their secret emails, and Peter Mandelson is campaigning every day still to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn, I feel extraordinarily happy. Whilst we didn’t officially win, many of us definitely have the feeling we could win – and this matters – if certain people do not continue to undermine us maliciously. Time will tell.
A swing to Labour in Enfield?
No thanks to the ” solidarity ” of Ben Bradshaw or John Woodcock.
John “Labour is on course for a catastrophic defeat” Woodcock.
Yes – I deeply dislike you. I have no intention of ‘ uniting ‘ with you, mate.
Well done to others who tried to kill off Jeremy Corbyn but who kept their seats.
I have no respect for you either.
I won’t lie about this.
I can’t say I give a toss about Ayesha Hazarika’s pathetic apology for “getting it wrong”.
I am fuming at a number of people in our party who have done nothing other undermine the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott in the Labour Party.
Thanks to Hilary Benn’s “coup” of sorts, where we wasted months going through a pointless leadership contest for no reason apart from making Jeremy Corbyn ‘bulletproof’, for making us a complete laughing stock.
Yes – that’s right Jeremy’s electability was needed to compensate for all this incompetence from Blairite moderates.
I have voted Labour all my life.
I am 43.
I am totally disgusted at the 172 MPs who stuck the knife into Jeremy Corbyn. We then as the membership, some of which are loyal supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, have suffered gratuitous humiliation on a regular basis from the vast majority of journalists in the Guardian except from Gary Young.
Polly Toynbee has been worse than useless in supporting Labour through the pages of the Guardian, though she did managed to put in a feeble last minute support for Labour.
Yes, the manifesto was brilliant. The policies were socialists but they were popular.
The NHS and social care have been totally unaccountable for their poor performance, despite the staff working extremely hard to keep the NHS safe. This has been nothing short of a miracle, but virtually no Doctor I know has faith in Jeremy Hunt. If he were a doctor, the General Medical Council might haver him referred for compromising patient safety.
And Ayesha Hazarika has done nothing but carp relentlessly and I’m sick of it.
Time for Tom Watson MP to go. He may have given a rousing speech which was wdelcomed in the Labour conference, but I currently have got ten friends who’ve blocked him on Facebook and can’t stand the common perception of his lack of support for Jeremy Corbyn.
We’ve all been fighting for the reputation of the Labour Party despite the pathetic specimens of MPs above.
I’m a remainer.
The Tories are for the time being are sxrewed, but they will rise like a phoenix from the ashes again.
But we must get down to business in Labour – a new leadership contest for Deputy Leader.
And Luke Akehurst can plot his next revenge attack.
Tom Watson, your time is up.
Much as it offends my sense of natural justice, it’s still entirely possible that Theresa May is on course for a landslide.
We’ve been told from the horses’ mouths themselves, for example Ben Bradshaw MP and John Woodcock MP, that their strategy has been to tell potential voters to vote Labour. The reason is, “It won’t matter, as Labour doesn’t have a cat in hell’s chance of becoming elected.”
Of course this strategy was easier to sell on the doorstep with such a large polling lead of the Conservatives over Labour.
The experience of the 2015 general election and 2016 EU referendum reinforced the position, as well as the election of Donald Trump, that the polls are ‘unreliable’. The gold standard is what people actually do when it comes to the ballot box.
Of course, there are sorts of reasons why people might not tell pollsters the truth until the last minute. It could well be that there is a swing in the polls, and it happens at the very last minute. There is some evidence, albeit somewhat anecdotal, that this might have happened previously.
There are other reasons – in various combinations, such as the weather, voter turnout, and whether members of the public fundamentally lie to pollsters.
We’ve all been there before where we have seen the dreams of our political parties evaporate as the real results came in. 1992 and 2015 were good examples in my lifetime where I thought Labour was ‘in with the shot’.
But Lord Spencer Livermore and various others have opined on this in slight permutations that the campaign does not fundamentally alter the mood music of the way that voters are feeling.
It is noticeable that in the overwhelmingly negative rhetoric used by Theresa May there has been consistent reference to ‘trust’ – articulated invariably as ‘if 172 Labour MPs can’t work with Jeremy Corbyn, how can he become Proem Minister?’
I have no idea what has been going through the minds of these Labour parliamentarians, save for the fact that the ‘snap general election’ might have caught them by surprise. If they had “trusted” Theresa May, there would be no reason to believe she would go back on her word by wriggling out of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.
However, beware the ideas of March – or in this case May. Theresa May had a perception of a healthy poll lead, so why wouldn’t she ‘go for it’? After all, it is well known that Gordon Brown “dithered” after what has hailed as a good budget by George Osborne, and stumbled on to lose the 2010 general election.
The question of trust in Theresa May is of course nonsensical, given all sorts of others which have materialised, for example costing school dinners or the lack of decrease of inward immigration despite numerous pledges, or failure to meet the deficit targets, but again this election swings onto trust again and again.
That is why, I assume, Sir Lynton Crosby has been getting people to bang on about that Nick Ferrari interview with Diane Abbott, or the Emma Barnett Woman Hour’s interview Diane Abbott, or the Sophy Ridge interview with alleged ‘terrorist sympathiser’ connections of Jeremy Corbyn.
Somehow this torrential avalanche of innuendo, from a Tory sympathetic media, it has been hard to displace, even with the ‘power of social media’, the actual news of catastrophic news on school funding, nurses’ pay, repeatedly missed NHS targets, and so on.
As an example, the lasting memory of Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘Question Time’ debate with Jeremy Corbyn is not a sober, detailed analysis of what had happened in London 1 and Manchester, nor what was about to happen in London 2, but the memory of ten White middle aged men fantasising about a nuclear war with Iran – and “would he or wouldn’t he” press that red button?
It could well be that Theresa May’s dreadful electioneering performances don’t matter. It might indeed be the case that she wins despite Jon Snow not having got an interview off a sitting PM for Channel 4 News for the first time in 14 years.
It could well be that many voters remain ‘undecided’ or positively antagonistic about Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott or John McDonnell, despite the well attended Labour rallies reinforcing the idea of ‘movement’ – snd that Jeremy Corbyn will in fact go the same way as Michael Foot who also had well attended rallies.
It is worth noting, however, that the Labour 2017 manifesto has, despite the usual criticisms of fantasy economics, not been dubbed “the longest suicide note in history”, as allegedly coined by the late Sir Gerald Kaufman.
It could well be ‘Tory arrogance’ that Theresa May wins for an enhanced ‘mandate’ in the Brexit elections.
It could well be that she wins with a landslide – even if that means ‘hard Brexit’ and the NHS and social care collapsing further within five years.
As for last night’s debate…..
Love an election in the Twitter era. It’s like seeing a fight in the playground and then getting to read all the bitchy texts too #BBCDebate
— Hannah Jones (@comedyhan) June 1, 2017
For all the criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn’s “incompetence”, Corbyn managed to nail it today. He referred to Theresa May as inciting “pumped up animosity”. Theresa May has not been able to give even the most basic details about what future cuts are in store from the failed austerity of the Conservatives, nor what ‘no deal’ in Brexit without inclusion in the EU single market would actually mean.
The Conservatives are now very exposed indeed. Every one should be concerned about the lack of vision of Theresa May for the future of this country. And to be honest quite a few people have not treated with Jeremy Corbyn with the respect he clearly deserved as twice democratically-elected leader of the Labour Party. Journalists are incredulous that Jeremy Corbyn has staged an ‘astonishing comeback’, but to be fair to Team Corbyn the narrative was likely to change if the narrative switched from personal attacks on Corbyn to a focus on policies.
Take Carville’s “It’s the economy stupid”.
Even that rule book is in tatters through exposing the truth about Tory economics.
— Dr Shibley Rahman (@dr_shibley) May 31, 2017
As for the ‘rule book’, Jeremy Corbyn has thrown out the doctrine that campaigns are irrelevant – something which Spencer Livermore is said to believe in. The argument goes that if the mood music has been sustained for long enough no amount of campaigning will make a difference. This is of course what the toxic parliamentarians in the Labour Party has relied on. They had hoped that Jeremy Corbyn would put in such a disastrous performance in this snap election that getting rid of Corbyn would be like taking sweets off a child following the result on June 9th.
The latest poll finds that Labour is closing the gap with Tories and now stands just three points from Theresa May’s party, a new YouGov poll shows. The poll, commissioned by The Times, found the Conservative lead has slipped dramatically in recent weeks and is now within the margin of error. I am deeply ashamed of the reaction to Emma Barnett, but that interview for me shone out for how Jeremy Corbyn dealt with, with dignity, to not knowing a particular election costing. Barnett’s attitude appeared to be one of someone wanting to slip you up and humiliate you, and I very much oppose this. This is the same approach which saw the parliamentary Labour Party in large part 2015-7 decide to strangle Corbyn’s leadership rather than nurture it.
The figures show the Conservatives on 42 points but Labour are close behind on 39. This has only been possible from the barrage of lies from the Tory media. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are struggling to maintain the momentum of their “fightback” as they slip to just 7 per cent vote share. Based on last night’s ratings, it was calculated that Theresa May was knocking on at least 648 doors a second to have the same reach. May is already in a worse situation even she wins the general election, as her brand has been exposed for what it is. An uninspiring, shower of a shit-storm of boredom. Could throwing away a 20% poll lead soon mean for Theresa May that “exit means exit”? The knives are certainly out.
The fact that Sir Lynton Crosby has taken sole responsibility for the election, according to Newsnight’s Nicholas Watt, and when Crosby tells them all to jump the only query is ‘how high’, means that Theresa May has become nothing other than an actor speaking her lines. And if Theresa May stays as PM, as the continuity candidate, Jeremy Hunt will continue to dismantle the NHS. May will lie at any cost to keep her job. She maintains the myth that she will be conducting the negotiations, when it is clear that someone else like Boris Johnson or David Davies will do it. Corbyn has clearly already said that Sir Keir Starmer QC would lead the negotiations for the Labour Party. The campaign does matter. Jeremy Corbyn is now London’s favourite candidate. The policies of the Labour Party are more popular than those of the Conservative Party.
I couldn’t agree more with John Prescott. The #BBCDebate showed us the Conservatives with their non road tested ‘leader in hiding’ making any old stuff up, talking about a long term plan without actually having one. Theresa May’s ex-communications chief has penned a devastating critique of her former boss’s botched social care U-turn, which knocked the Tory election campaign off course. Katie Perrior said the ground should have been laid to publish the policy weeks in advance, but it was instead “whacked out in a manifesto and briefed the night before”. She also said those in charge of the Conservative campaign had failed to manage lofty expectations of a landslide when it first launched.
The whole campaign of Theresa May has had the content and style of a bucket of cold sick. “Strong and stable” Theresa May is instead “Incredibly dull and robotic”, with stunning U turns on whether to call the election, or the Dementia Tax. The Conservatives are riding on a stench of entitlement and arrogance, which means they don’t care that their school meals are costed at 7 p per person. All of this does leave an impression about what kind of a leader Theresa May can be for us. As someone noted earlier from ITV, she actually refuses to answer any questions (for example how many people will have their winter fuel allowance taken away, or what the upper cap of the Dementia Tax will be.) Theresa May thinks that the voters can yet further cope with a week of more of this drivelfest. It is possible that some basic mixup of communication meant that Theresa May simply got her wires crossed, and did not turn up to the Senate House in Cambridge because the event was not being held in a cold warehouse or factory with pre-packaged Tory stooges. It’s actually even worse than that.
For all the criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the expectation for Corbyn was set so low that Corbyn’s subsequent performance has subsequently been hailed as incredible. And for Corbyn’s supporters he is genuinely worth supporting. On the other hand, but Theresa May gives a strong impression of NOT wanting to answer questions directly and even telling the truth. I don’t know about you, but if I didn’t show up to the job interview, my prospects may be limited. If Theresa May does not happen to win the general election or to increase the size of her majority, questions will be asked about whether her ‘no show’strategy was fair to voters. On a practical point, one is entitled to think May stayed away from the #BBCDebate because every time she opens her mouth the polls for Tories drop another a few points. Her performance is genuinely shambolic, and this is of no particular surprise as she has not ever been properly ‘road tested’ apart from the Conservative Party and Laura Kuenssberg.
But in the real world, Theresa May is shambolic. Right wingers are obviously entitled to claim that last night’s audience was left wing biased, presumably because there wasn’t a fair number of Saudi Arms dealers. But in ComRes’ defence, the demographics of the audience had been meticulously worked out. A big problem now is that Theresa May is seen as a weak leader, as she couldn’t be bothered to turn up to the #BBCDebate. She therefore has no moral authority to attack Jeremy Corbyn for his leadership, when in fairness Corbyn’s answers on leadership (ranging from not being a dictator to the importance of listening) have been impressive. People are now not laughing with Theresa May, but laughing at her. The lady is not even for turning up.
Yep it is incredible that she’s busy losing the biggest lead in election history.
Even Corbyn ‘dark past’ smears are now longer working with an electorate who are more worried that the Tories wish to continue with their disastrous NHS and social care policy without batting an eye lid. With all the added scrutiny, the Tories and their journalists are not so vocal about their support for Apartheid quite so much any more.
Amber Rudd was laughed at during the #BBCDebate when asking the audience to trust the Tories “on our record”. Caroline Lucas, who is fast being recognised as a leading light in the new progressive alliance, was right to allude to how defending arms sales to Saudia Arabia as a strong economic benefit is a perfect illustration of how Tories value profit over people, and is morally indefensible. I agree that many people probably know little of the ‘money tree’ apart from a stick with which to beat the Labour Party. But a party which has progressing towards doubling the national debt in recent years is not in a good position to lecture on basic macroeconomics. The UK economy due to the flawed foundations of George Osborne, of poor productivity poor employment rights ‘gig economy’ is currently a busted flush, as today’s disastrous global figures how.
Voters are no longer falling for these pumped up lies from the Tories on their economic policy – for instance, economic growth, two words absent from Tory economic policy, act as ‘a money tree’ as does fair and equitable redistribution of income/wealth. Drinkers at the last chance saloon toasting to fundamentalism of supply side economics have received their last orders. The real money tree is well known to many victims on the left of course. These include dozens of Tory donors ending up on the Sunday Times rich list, Tories turning up in the Panama papers, a deficit not fixed not predicted to be fixed until 2025 now despite of cuts, 4 out of 5 NHS trust in deficit, a Tory manifesto where the only figures are the page numbers, and billions lost in tax avoidance and evasion. Theresa May is a busted flush.
— Danny (@danguest47) June 1, 2017
“The first rule of leadership is to show up”, as Caroline Lucas said.
The policies are popular of the progressive left are popular, and the contrast with the ideologically barren Conservative Party could not be more stark. The proposed programme for government for the Labour Party is as Angela Rayner alluded to is a continuation of ‘unfinished business’ from the previous administration of the brilliant Clem Attlee, who made the NHS a reality, introduced child benefit, nationalised the bankrupt private railways and introduced free secondary education as a right, and many other staggering achievements.
There is no vision with Theresa May.
She is deeply dull and boring.
— Nicole Jackson (@Jmappel0Nicole) June 1, 2017
I feel quite sorry for the person on Twitter who thinks “lefty” BBC is funded by the European Union. I can only assume that he is not paying his license fee. It is of course deeply patronising of Tories and the Daily Mail to tell us #BBCDebate was biased. We can judge that ourselves.
It is now patently clear that too much right wing opinion dressed up as news. And some news or opinion is being given a disproportionate amount of attention. The fact that UKIP are given such platform without an MP at all lends UKIP a credibility they do not deserve. The idea that the #BBCDebate was merely “echo chamber for left-wing views” is entirely risable.
The ConKip brand most definitely has very limited appeal.
Theresa May is trying her very best …
.. to completely blow this election.
Theresa May’s team can be congratulated on achieving one thing in particular.
That is, her team have produced an incredibly boring campaign.
The campaign can best be summarised as, ‘Vote for me because I’m not Jeremy Corbyn’. And – given the historic state of the opinion polls, and the past behaviour of the rebellious Labour MPs, this might have seemed like a bullet-proof strategy.
I’ve voted Labour all of my adult life. I am aged 43. I have indeed voted for Tony Blair’s national government three times. I’ll be voting for Jeremy Corbyn.
I apologise. I can’t write very well.
The Head of English at my school once wrote on my term’s report: “Shibley sometimes has very interesting things to say, but his approach is very vernacular.”
I was so disappointed, I looked up what ‘vernacular’ means.
It means ‘wooden’.
And that’s exactly how I feel when I see Theresa’s team campaigning – it feels ‘wooden’.
When I hear the phrase ‘strong and stable’ robotically activated, I despair.
I know people are on the whole uninterested in politics, but even a cursory glance at Theresa May’s record identifies her lack of strength and stability as a political force.
One is reminded of Groucho Marx’s famous saying, “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.”
And May has done U turns which are too many to mention: like the funding of school dinners, whether to hold an election at all, whether to leave the European Union, and so on.
Whatever is the truth, I am in no doubt it is the public perception that matters.
When Gordon Brown ‘dithered’ about whether to hold an election or not, the media were flooded with complementary similar stories about how he cannot make his mind up about ‘dunking’ Hob Nobs.
And when you would have expected Theresa May to be ‘strong’ in defending an ideological stance, which indeed some in her own party will support, there’s not a “sausage”.
I am no clearer now than when the Conservative manifesto was published about why it is not a good idea to socialise the risk of getting a long term disability such as dementia – and we should make people with lots of money pay with their houses albeit after their death.
Theresa May has made it all about her.
You may dislike Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘style’ . Indeed, you don’t know how many times I have come to close to throwing rotten tomatoes at my TV set when he gets ‘angry’ when on his rallies.
But the content of Jeremy Corbyn is clear enough – whether you find it agreeable or not.
There are, however, reasons to be not so cheerful at Theresa May’s ‘strong’ style of communication.
Do you remember how she talked around the subject of whether a Trident missile had been misfired in the sea?
Or do you remember how she refused to explain, several times, how new money would be made available to the NHS?
To all intents and purposes, Theresa May seems to be ‘just about managing’ to keep her show on the road.
There can be no doubt that, even if one has grave reservations about the messenger, Jeremy Corbyn has sufficient patriotism and pride in his country not to see the NHS, social care, housing or schools go to pot in the next five years.
The narrative had been in 2010: “Give us a chance, and we’ll fix the economy. And you’ll live happily ever after.”
And despite valiant efforts from the BBC and Sky, and some judicious use of ‘smears’, this has clearly been outed to be a complete lie.
We have ‘paid’ through the roof for austerity – some more than others, ask any families of disabled citizens who have committed suicide because of the welfare reforms.
And national debt has gone through the roof.
Margaret Thatcher always used to talk of her ‘strong foundations’, but it is crystal clear that George Osborne’s legacy, apart from a personal knighthood, has been a gig economy kept alive through poor workers’ rights.
And look at the state of A&E departments nationally.
Whilst the opinion polls were so bad for Jeremy Corbyn, in no small part due to the monstering Corbyn has had from all parts of the mainstream media, it has been easy to maintain the ‘Corbyn is incompetent’ narrative.
But the ‘Theresa May is incompetent’ narrative is much more damaging for the Conservatives.
If the Conservatives’ campaign is indeed all about her, it does matter if her answers to Andrew Neil as a whole are catastrophic.
I have racked my brains about how people who dislike Jeremy Corbyn feel.
I think their last throw of the dice was ‘unleash Corbyn’ in the hope that once the public truly saw what he was made of they would instantly find him repulsive.
People who dislike Corbyn genuinely find themselves between a ‘rock’ and a ‘hard place’.
The argument has long been: “He is unelectable” and “We can’t get rid of him.”
The “He is unelectable” mantra has been thrust at every opportunity – whether in the Manchester mayoralty race or the Stoke by-election.
And while Corbyn does seem to tap into something, it might indeed be difficult to get rid of him.
And that’s ironically where it all started.
Angela Eagle MP said it was all about ‘real leadership’, but few people can criticise Jeremy Corbyn for putting a good effort in a resilient performance despite having to re-invent his shadow cabinet several times.
And the leadership is authentic – and now we know it has a vision (whether you agree with it or not).
The wheels of the alternative vision are rapidly falling off – Nigel Farage is increasingly looking like a used cars salesman off ‘Only fools and horses’ and Katie Hopkins has ‘left’ her LBC show by ‘mutual agreement’.
With two weeks to go – there is all to play for. The disadvantage of the poll lead narrowing for Theresa May is that Tory voters will know that they cannot necessarily take victory for granted.
I must thank my friends and colleagues at this point, finally – including Paul Mason, “chunkymark”, Steve Topple, Dr Éoin Clarke, to name but a few.
Barry Gardiner, Angela Rayner, John McDonnell and Rebecca Long Bailey have tireless in interviews.
And also Liam Young – who has, even when Corbyn’s made was truly ‘mud’ – has heroically put the case forward for Jeremy Corbyn for many months now on the Independent.
That is where Owen Smith and Angela Eagle got it so badly wrong.
The strength in the Labour leadership is its collective nature. If you look at Theresa May’s team, you’re hard pressed to identify the other strong players – such as Boris Johnson or Phil Hammond?
There is something we can all learn from the damp squib nature of the May campaign.
But if she happens to win, there’ll be a lot of soul searching by many.
None of us know for certain what medical problems we’ll have, when or how they’ll be manifest.
Even precise genomics won’t be able to give us the full answer one day.
We all know there is a problem somewhere.
There’s been relentless messaging like ‘grey tsunami’ and ‘dementia timebomb’, reinforcing the notion that the ‘aged population’ (and immigrants) are the root causes of all that is wrong with Britain.
You know when things are bad for the Conservatives when they have to resort to “Google ads” to divert your Google search for the phrase “dementia tax”.
I’ve resisted from commenting on the ‘dementia tax’ as I have voted Labour all of my adult life. This means that I have voted for Tony Blair’s national government three times, and I intend to vote for Jeremy Corbyn in about twenty days’ time.
There are about 900,000 people living with dementia currently in the UK. I am united with them, not united against them.
I am also an academic physician in dementia and frailty. Nonetheless, I am loath to get involved in participating in participating in a highly emotive debate.
The issue which has caused the furore is essentially to do with elderly care. The media have not really helped by their conflation of ‘elderly care’ and ‘social care’. For example, social care is not just about ‘old people’. And the policy proposal conflated with ‘dementia tax’ is not entirely helpful either as not all people living with dementia need hugely excessive care costs and indeed dementia can affect young people.
But onto the actual heart of the issue.
I was left feeling that this policy announcement was either one of immense incompetence or sheer cunning from Theresa May, parliamentary candidate, and her inner circle reported to include Ben Gummer and Nick Timothy. The only reason at all we’re “taking a second look” is because the Tories themselves, and substantial parts of the Tory media, have complained about it.
The starting point is that the divide between ‘health’ and ‘social care’ is an untenable one.
It cannot be morally acceptable that cancer and dementia are viewed differently – cancer as a health issue will not cripple you financially like dementia as a social care issue. Also, many conditions, considered ‘health conditions’ such as emphysema, might have a formidable social care component, say if accompanied by physical disability.
Also – dementia very rarely ‘travels alone’. A person with dementia with substantial care needs is likely also to be living with various medical co-morbidities.
It can hardly be expected that good policy will come out of a general election announced at shotgun notice. After all, we’ve had countless and commissions looking at the same thing, all producing imperfect conclusions.
This new proposed policy on elderly care, conversely, does not appear to have come out of any policy commission. But ‘seemed like a good idea’.
And this contribution is not only disappointing in itself, but also in that it was signposted as a massive new contribution, so much so there was nothing substantial in the Budget.
As a society, the social contract between us individually and the State is that we all pool risk together.
We as a society decide not to punish financially those who get unwell through no fault of their own.
I can see exactly why this new policy is going down like a plate of cold sick on the doorsteps. It goes against a generation of people encouraged by Maggie Thatcher to buy their own houses.
Now the equivalent value of the house that people have saved for will now be surrendered to pay for the event of huge care costs.
In a way, these Conservatives are being disingenuous in that they would prefer to be bailed out by the State against excessive social care costs rather than using their money in an entirely individualistic way.
This is the policy as stated in the Conservative manifesto 2017.
“Under the current system, care costs deplete an individual’s assets, including in some cases the family home, down to £23,250 or even less. These costs can be catastrophic for those with modest or medium wealth. One purpose of long-term saving is to cover needs in old age; those who can should rightly contribute to their care from savings and accumulated wealth, rather than expecting current and future taxpayers to carry the cost on their behalf. Moreover, many older people have built considerable property assets due to rising property prices. Reconciling these competing pressures fairly and in a sustainable way has challenged many governments of the past. We intend to tackle this with three connected measures.
First, we will align the future basis for means-testing for domiciliary care with that for residential care, so that people are looked after in the place that is best for them. This will mean that the value of the family home will be taken into account along with other assets and income, whether care is provided at home, or in a residential or nursing care home.
Second, to ensure this is fair, we will introduce a single capital floor, set at £100,000, more than four times the current means test threshold. This will ensure that, no matter how large the cost of care turns out to be, people will always retain at least £100,000 of their savings and assets, including value in the family home.
Third, we will extend the current freedom to defer payments for residential care to those receiving care at home, so no-one will have to sell their home in their lifetime to pay for care.”
In other words, the ‘family home’ is vulnerable, even if it is not during the course of your lifetime.
As an academic physician dealing with dementia, I have been struck with the difference between global policy from the United Nations and World Health Organization and the cheereladers of English charity on ‘dementia friendly communities’. In global policy, the notion of enhanced care at home or supported living, as part of the United Nations sustainable development goals, is actively embraced. However, the model of dementia friendly communities is predominantly one large charity in England endorsing their model of what a dementia friendly community is, with symbolic recognition of how dementia might bring Nudge-eque competitive advantage (e.g. dementia friendly leisure, shopping, banking, tourism), to the point that the relentless cuts in social care and NHS (unmatched for demand) have become an eyesore in the PR that ‘the UK will the best place to have dementia”.
There are only 8 years until David Cameron reveals his cure for dementia as part of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge. But I expect Cameron’s cheerleaders ought to be and will be held to account even this means through the academic version of pitchforks.
The English dementia policy is entirely in keeping with a Small state ideology, with contraction in the promotion of clinical specialist nurses, a cure ‘round the corner’, and the annihilation of social care.
It is tragic that the social care profession has had its wings clipped, when it could be given the resources to enable and protect people diagnosed with dementia and care partners.
But the Prime Minister Dementia Challenge also failed in the way it did not adequately recognise dementia advocacy services. This is ironic, given the proliferation of an added tier of rent-seeking middle men involved in the vague concept of ‘dementia awareness’.
This advocacy was, and is, essential for advising for people who lose legal mental capacity. At a time when global and international policy is overall preferring people with dementia to make their decisions known at a time when they retain capacity, as opposed to a third party making the decisions for them, it is shocking that England is in such a parlous state with dementia advocacy. Dementia advocacy, from regulated professionals, was and is essential for people with dementia upholding their legal rights, especially when the State might be interpreted as overzealous in taking these rights away – see, for example, the deprivation of liberty safeguards.
I fully agree with the desire to close the ‘diagnosis gap’. For people with dementia to live better after diagnosis for longer, they should be diagnosed at the last minute.
In my experience, in answer to the question ‘what do you want ideally?’ to a person with dementia, I receive the answers ‘hope’ and ‘time’.
If dementia services had properly matured after 2012, with the same ‘accelerator’ fervour so rampant from Pharma, medical advocacy through colleagues in palliative care might see advance care planning to be seen as routine and acceptable, rather than odd ball and luxury.
Advocacy would also have protected the human rights and democratic citizenship of people with dementia. The attack on the human rights legislation is one thing, but at the moment “contained” in as much as Theresa May does not wish us to leave the European Convention on Human Rights.
But people with dementia, if/when they lose the ability to make decisions according to the Mental Capacity Act, need some degree of protection. Indeed, the Care Act (2014) contains useful statutory guidance on safeguarding.
Theresa May in her 2017 manifesto has introduced unfortunately another element requiring safeguarding. Her policy effectively is one of equity release, with delayed payment, until proven otherwise.
An example of current guidance, for example, on this is this:
“A deferred payment agreement is an agreement with us which could help you to use the value of your home to fund residential care costs. If you are eligible, subject to the council being able to obtain a first legal charge over the property, the county council will pay a sum agreed during your financial assessment towards your residential care home fees on your behalf. You can delay repaying the council until you choose to sell your home, or after your death. The amount you are assessed as having to pay for your care and support is delayed and not ‘written off’. The costs of your care and support will still have to be repaid by you or someone on your behalf at a later date either when you choose to sell your house or 90 days after your death.”
However, for the first time, this rule will now also apply to so-called domiciliary care – care at home – if the Tories win the election.
All of this is the end result of market failure from successive governments. There is no yearning for a private healthcare insurance market which is contracting rather than expanding.
This policy offering from the Conservatives is most dangerous because at first it had no upper cap. Now that, as of yesterday, there is a cap, but we don’t know what the cap might be even after questioning. And this cap is necessary to make sure there is some State intervention in excessive care costs.
Closing the ‘diagnosis gap’ is fine as long as people with dementia are given the proper care and support following diagnosis. It is clear that there is still much to be done, despite “Cameron’s cheerleaders”. To give you an example of how problematic English policy is at the moment, look at how the NHS Transformation Network “The well pathway for dementia” simply omits “caring well” from its structure.
With no upper cap, the State is in a position to repossess your house at some later stage if you need to pay for care costs.
The State will argue that it will guarantee you do not lose more than a modest sum in the process, but the devil is altogether in the detail.
Who for example is going to pay for the surveyors’ costs of your family home? Which lawyer, given the annihilation of legal aid following the Legal Aid and Sentencing of Offenders Act 2012, is going to help people with the legal paperwork which accompanies this?
The ideal of universal coverage is that we all put in and it’s luck of the draw what we pay out. Some people indeed hardly ever need to use the NHS or social care. But as a society we should worry, whatever political allegiance one is, about a policy which clearly acts to the detriment of a group of people because of their medical diagnosis, such as dementia?
But this is a policy which clearly benefits those involved in the private home equity release financial products, and where there are potential conflicts of interest from Government and “associated persons”, it would be helpful if these conflicts could be clearly identified if transparency is indeed the best disinfectant.
It happens that this is a policy which acts to the detriment of a protected characteristic under the Equality Act (2010), and is therefore potentially unlawful for indirect indiscrimination. The label “dementia tax” has somehow stuck, and is extremely effective during this general election period, but is not strictly speaking wholly accurate.
The Tory manifesto policy proposal does nothing to bring integration of health and social care closer (though this criticism by some was also made of the Dilnot recommendations). It also fundamentally does not address issues of quality of domiciliary care which could be affected by a number of disparate factors, such as implementation of the national living wage, lack of financial reimbursement for carers, ‘burnout’ of carers, abuse through zero hour contracts, poor financial sustainability of healthcare providers.
The Brexit induced by the Tory government 2015-7 has advantages and disadvantages as far as this policy is concerned. Firstly, if there were some delay in implementing this policy, the legislation might escape the EU gender directives (we know that more women on the whole are affected by dementia, so by escaping EU anti-discrimination law private insurance companies can ensure that women pay higher premiums to offset problems in paying out). Secondly, there might still be problems in getting enough people to be prepared to be paid carers if the UK stops free movement of workers.
The Tory manifesto proposal is sick as we don’t pool risk in the same way we do for the NHS, and yet the divide between health and social care is untenable. And definitely doesn’t address the problems so inherent in the lack of integration between health and social care, such as delayed transfers of care.
The sad thing is – I expect at the end of all this we won’t be much further forward. But at least some attention on social care, as opposed to the vast amount of attention normally given to the NHS, is welcome.