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The first general election of 2017. My experience as a young-ish ‘Corbynista’.


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.





It is worth remembering that Theresa May could still be on course for a landslide

T May

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.


Theresa May’s campaign is the pits


As for last night’s debate…..

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.

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. 

“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.

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.




Saving Jeremy Corbyn



I discovered a new font this week. It’s called “Liberation Serif”.

I’ve never heard of this before.

It’s the font which was used to produce the draft of the 2017 general election Labour manifesto which was leaked to the press.

Leaks have happened for ages (remember the ‘you leak and I brief?’), so the claim that this is specific to the highly incompetent organisation of the Corbyn leadership is somewhat spurious.

The likelihood is that this 41 page pdf was leaked by a so-called Labour ‘moderate’ who did so with the sole wish of destabilising the Corbyn machine preparing for this shotgun general election.

The problem is – most people who at a push might consider themselves Labour supporters think the programme for government is absolutely brilliant, visionary and inspiring.

And it’s been invigorating and breathtaking to watch Barry Gardiner MP defend various issues, such as promoting world peace rather than detonating nukes, against problematic journalists.

But this is definitely a ‘tale of two elections’.

An antithesis to control freakery, or the Conservative election campaign, is being played out in the social media in a parallel universe where all the bare-faced shameless lying of Theresa May is being systematically exposed (even if through hyperbolic infographics).

This is still very much Theresa May’s election to lose. She may want to call herself ‘strong and stable’ all she likes – but she clearly is is a paranoid control freak as a politician.

As a person, she seems pleasant enough.

It doesn’t take much to work out why the polls are so bad for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. That is, even if you were a supporter of Labour, you probably would not wish to be open about it to pollsters given the intense hate campaign of all of the print media.

But you would feel perfectly happy to state support for policies, such as rail nationalisation or keeping fox hunting banned.

And the people you can blame for this are the vast majority of the media – especially the toxic nasty vindictive journalists who find themselves unable to criticise the Labour leadership on eminently sensible polices such as abolition of tuition fees.

Any reasonable person would call this policy ‘aspirational’.

I don’t even understand the logic of these mean-minded hacks – the resurgence of the LibDems evidently has not happened, nor is likely to happen in the general election, meaning that the certain ‘left wing newspapers’ have been working hard for an emboldened Tory vote.

Jeremy Corbyn has been completely ‘monstered’ in the media which is why one respondent in Nick Robinson’s focus group this afternoon called him a ‘snake’. And he has been monstered tragically by the vast majority of the parliamentary Labour Party.

About 172 Labour MPs have worked extremely hard at making the Labour Party unelectable. Quite frankly certain MPs should be running as independents to make way for MPs who are more suitable for the next Labour government to uphold the wishes of the current Labour manifesto.

I have found it very hard to like people who’ve been talking about, almost wishing for, a Labour opposition, namely Ben Bradshaw MP, Gordon Brown, and Tom Watson MP.

John Woodcock MP’s politics I find repulsive.

As John Prescott, former leader of the Labour Party, said yesterday about himself, I’ve backed every single leader including interim leader of the Labour Party. This does not mean that I have agreed with everything he or she has said.

This relentless war against Corbyn has been utterly disgusting and shameless. I’ve loyally supported every Labour leader since I became eligible to vote since the 1992 general election. But I do think he’s done his best despite enormous hostility.

I would understand the affection for Theresa May if she was any good – but she isn’t. She notoriously failed to negotiate adequate budgets for the police service against George Osborne as Home Secretary, where she repeatedly failed on the immigration targets set out in the 2010 Conservative general election manifesto.

May has shown herself – through either by chance or by intention – a serial liar. She discounted the possibility of a snap election many times, before, guess what, calling a snap election.

I don’t particularly care about incessant Tory love-ins on LBC, while all Theresa May can muster to make her sound human on LBC and BBC’s One Show is a love for cooking a spit roast or buying and wearing designer shoes.

And even if a young Tory was encouraged to go into politics because of her shoes – that’s feminism for you.

Her utterances of ‘strong and stable’ and ‘avoiding a coalition of chaos’ are intensely robotic and irritating, treating voters like fools.

Yes – even those UKIP voters who are not idiots, but who nevertheless are incapable of getting the names of senior Labour politicians correct on LBC, e.g. “terrorist” John McDonald (not McDonnell), or “smug” Emily Thornton (not Thornberry).

In a sense, the proposed programme for this new Labour programme seeks to redress the faults of the past. But this is no patch for an outdated Windows XP.

This is entirely new software, with new hardware to support it. The hardware is of course the new enhanced infrastructure of the United Kingdom.

I don’t think it’s possible that to argue that this programme abandons any wish to ‘govern from the centre’. If you’re physically disabled like me, you will recognise the clear wish of Government to not give you a personal independence payment after taking away your disability living allowance.

When I listened to a recent political podcast, an expert, supposedly guiding the Clegg and Miliband era, was talking with complete disdain about the notion of the Left being viewed as being charitable to the vulnerable.

This was exactly the same snootiness that I found utterly contemptible form Rachel Reeves in her bid for government.

It was the same detachment from the reality of lives of people with disability which led out of touch Harriet Harman MP to instruct Labour to abstain from the repellent welfare reforms from the Conservatives.

The only Labour leadership candidate who did not abstain, of course, was Jeremy Corbyn.

The main reason many people deserted Labour during the Blair, Brown and Miliband years – years before Corbyn – was that Labour seemed to be reckless in looking after groups of people

. While Lord Mandelson, who has subsequently claimed that he campaigns every day to get rid of Corbyn, was ‘intensely relaxed’ about people getting rich, it is clear that ‘none of the above’ would have called time on aggressive tax avoidance or the cuts in corporation tax at a time when social care funding has been on its knees.

The NHS has been subject to ‘efficiency savings’, when these are essentially cuts to control workforce costs as envisaged by the management consultants McKinseys. Together with crippling private finance initiative debts, it is easy to understand why the NHS is so susceptible to a cyberattack or continuing problems in patient safety.

The economy is clearly not working for all. Gas bills continue to be astronomic while the shareholders make a tidy profit.

UKIP voters have now all been effectively been safely rehoused in the Conservative Party, and see immigration as the cause of the problems.

The East Coast train line was handed to private shareholders even though the franchise had been returning a healthy surplus to the taxpayer.

To give the Labour top team credit, its manifesto is about to claim a desire to stay in the customs union or single market even if means that the economy will be better off (according to the draft).

To allow Labour some praiseand in particular Jeremy Corbyn, Labour has not signed up to this ‘immigrant bashing’ narrative at all.

The Conservative led-administrations from 2010 have clearly not been at the centre, but in fact very right wing. To give them credit, McDonnell and Corbyn have made clearly the argument that the austerity agenda has not only failed, but it was a political not economic choice.

National debt has gone through the roof, substantially more in 7 years of Conservative-led government than from 13 years of the previous Labour administrations.

Those pesky unconscionable utilities bills, due to a broken privatised economy, are still here. All of this contributes to nurses having to go to food banks to make ends meet.

The lie that ‘politics won from centre’ is further compounded by the fact there are clearly some very nasty, bigoted, racist people who have found themselves in UKIP.

Strangely enough, the BBC have found a group of people who used to be Labour voters who now will vote May, but it is obvious that these people voting May have gone via UKIP in the meantime. Contrary to the highly biased narrative which Kuennsberg and Robinson have tried to portray, arguably, there is not an army of floating voters about to vote Tory, in the same way Cardiff was not won by the end by the Conservatives.

The attack that the programme is a ‘throwback to 70s’ no longer has any teeth as this was an era when it was more affordable to buy a house or to leave university without crippling debt.

The worldwide ‘cyberattack’ on the NHS served to highlight how a lean approach to management does not leave too much lee way for safety even if the minor thing goes wrong.

The decision made in 2015 to save money by not patching up out of date Microsoft Windows XP has come back to bite the Scrooge-like management of the NHS on the arse.

The culure of running the NHS with the bare minimum of resources is one which makes its own workforce feel deeply undervalued – and the lack of investment in people in the workforce is symbolised by the lack of salary increase for years

Critics have thrown every random attack to the leaked draft manifesto. Firstly, it is claimed ‘it is a wishlist with no vision’.

I completely disagree .

You have to be an extremely mean-minded Blairite to say that rebooting the National Health Service and introducing a National Care Service or National Education Service comprises ‘no vision’.

There is a vision in wanting to do something about the number of homeless people sleeping on cardboard boxes on the street – a direct result of economic inequality and ‘market forces’.

Secondly, it is time and again claimed that the manifesto will be uncosted. It is well known that there is a small team which has been pouring over the costings repeatedly, to ensure that they are perfect when published.

And it’s a bit rich to attack Labour for this when it is the Brexit, as negotiated by Theresa May, which is likely to result in a 60-100 billion Euro as a one-off divorce settlement.

The Tories have no vision, and yet this is a truly radical, transformative agenda for government for Labour, comparable in my view to the 1945 Clement Attlee government.



Time to give Jeremy Corbyn a second chance. Vote Labour.


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

And then there’s the bus.















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.




NHS “credibility gap”

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



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


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.




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



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.

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