Friday, 26 August 2016

The running down of our NHS

Iain Dale, on LBC, is debating the pros and cons of privatising the the NHS. Although he is showing his bias as pro privatisation.
Dale is also insisting that Theresa May is not going to privatise the NHS. No, his thesis states that if the Tories were going to privatise the NHS they would have done so under Thatcher or Major.
Iain Dale is of course being very disingenuous. He knows, as most of us know, that in order to fully privatise the NHS this government, and its predecessor Coalition regime, have, and are, systematically running down the service.
More and more negative stories are coming out of the NHS, propagated by our capitalist-bought media. Basically, our NHS is being set-up to fail. As failing services and debt increases so we'll see the media, in connivance with the government, calling for the private sector to come to the rescue.
This is exactly how Tories dealt with British Rail over 20 years ago. And look at our national rail system today. The subsidy is higher. Many services have been scrapped as unprofitable. Our trains are packed. Our trains are filthy.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Brexit Broken Promises

Listening to LBC, pro-Brexit Iain Dale, made me laugh. The phone-in topic was on Owen Smith's vote winning call for a second referendum on our position in Europe.

This topic drew all the Brexit voters out of the woodwork. As you'd expect. The usual complaints were voiced on how the 'Remain' side of the referendum told outrageous lies. And again they echoed the same denial that the Brexit side ever committed itself to funding the NHS by using the £350 million per week that we send to the EU per week.

Despite supporting our remaining in the EU I don't agree with Smith's re-running the referendum. However, I am angry with Brexit voters who on the one hand complain about the Remain dirty tricks campaign while accepting the lies told by Farage, Johnson and IDS. In fact on the day after the ballot was run Farage was strenuously denying the £350 million promise while sitting in a studio with the coach in question on a giant screen behind him.

Branson tries to smear Corbyn

A capitalist using a capitalist-bought media to tarnish Corbyn's reputation. Corbyn has declared publicly that a Labour government led by him would re-nationalise our national railways. Overcrowding and cost are the main reasons for reclaiming the service.

Branson has come out against Corbyn’s stance all guns blazing. Virgin Trains stands to lose scores of millions of pounds if privatization goes through. Who wouldn’t fight to keep their seat on the gravy train?

In 1995 our national rail service was broken into hundreds of pieces, then sold off to the private sector. Sadly, the travelling public was then presented with a privately owned jigsaw of a service. A service that has progressively become massively overpriced, we’re paying a greater subsidy than pre-privatization. Unprofitable routes have been cut back thus leading to overcrowding. The carriages are too often filthy.
Branson is running scared of losing a lot of easy money. Of course he will do what he can to put Corbyn down.

PLP must back Corbyn in Commons

Come the 24 September when Corbyn wins a second leadership election I hope the PLP do the principled thing and get behind their leader. Corbyn is more than capable of holding the government to account; and he can accomplish this without resorting to the Yahoo style of political discourse so beloved of the professional Westminster bubble brigade.

So, those within the PLP who are not willing to back Corbyn please have the decency to join your natural allies the Tories on the other side of the floor. At least this will give Corbyn and those loyal PLP members the opportunity to protect their backs while facing the enemy.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Re-Nationalise our national rail

In 1994 John Major's government began the break-up and privatisation of British Rail. Privatisation saw the dismemberment of our rail system. Stations, infrastructure, maintenance and train operating were sold off to dozens of different companies.

Where once you could travel from A to B on one ticket. Privatisation made buying tickets a far more complex operation. Travelling from company to company is problematic.

However, the complexity of travelling from one railway company to another is just one complaint. The state of our trains is a disgrace. Trains are dirty, windows filthy and toilet's usually in need of proper cleaning, if indeed working at all. As the diagram above illustrates, we are paying through the nose for a second class service.

So much for Major's argument that only the private sector could properly run our railways. The UK's national rail system now costs the tax payer, in subsidies, more than it did when it was in public hands.

Our national rail system needs to be re-nationalised. 

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Say no to Blunkett's centre-left alliance

Lord Blunkett and Baroness Brenda Dean, ex-GS of SOGAT, are attempting to build a centre-left alliance to challenge Momemtum, the group set up to defend Jeremy Corbyn and support his progressive policies. Two more establishment figures attempt to save the Blairite/Progress project within the Labour Party. 

"They hope to help re-build the centre left grassroots in what appears to be a counterbalance to some of the campaigning work of Momentum, the fringe group set up to protect Corbyn, which earlier this month claimed to be receiving donations of £11,000 a day."

New Labour under Blair operated from the centre-left. While it achieved general election victories it did so by abandoning the core values of the Labour Party. It adopted neoliberalism policies that increasingly drew it further to the right of political thinking.

Eventually New Labour became barely indistinguishable from the Conservatives. Their failure to re-privatise our railways; their intensive programme of PFI in the NHS and schools; and the introduction of privatisation into the NHS, are some examples of this morphing.

While we expect Tory governments to look after their own in the business world. While we know their policies will always favour the wealthy at the expense of the poor. We did not expect a Labour government to follow suit. But that's exactly what happened from 1997-2010 as the poverty gap grew wider.

So, centre-left politics gave us a massive headache for the future with PFI contracts continuing to suck money from depleted health and education budgets for decades to come. Centre-left politics under New Labour began the salami slicing process of privatisation in the NHS. And Blunkett's idea of a mainstream Labour government introduced the hated Work Capability Assessment which has contributed to the premature deaths of god knows how many sick and disabled people.

My inclination would be to avoid any proposals of Blunkett's given his record. Instead we should reject any talk of reverting to New Labour and support Jeremy Corbyn's progressive policies and ways of doing politics.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Keep Guards on Our Trains

For many years’ train travel was a no-no for certain groups of disabled people, even when accompanied. Today as the system becomes more accessible, albeit slowly, disabled people are facing the prospect of new barriers replacing those that we had broken down.

Gone are the days when the only way for wheelchair passengers to travel was in a draughty often very cold guard’s van (though I understand this can still be the only option). Today disabled people can travel more freely with greater access.

Traveller assistance is commonplace at major termini, but less so at quieter more isolated stations. And increasingly the smaller stations are getting rid of their platform staff.

What then does the future hold for disabled travellers? It is bad enough us losing staff who are an important link to station, platform and train access. Now companies such as Govia Thameslink Railways (GTR), which runs Southern Rail wants to get rid of guards.

The guard isn’t merely someone who walks up and down a train inspecting tickets. No, the job also includes protecting passengers during emergency situations such as the driver becoming incapacitated, fires, derailments. They ensure doors are secure, particularly on crowded trains; and protect passengers boarding and alighting crowded trains. They are on hand to deal with anti-social behaviour on trains. And of course, they assist disabled people throughout the journey.

The guard is therefore a necessary staff member aboard a train. For disabled people they can be the difference between arriving at your destination within a reasonable time frame or taking hours to complete a local journey.

Disabled people travelling on trains often meet further challenges when on the train. Other passengers blocking the carriage exit with luggage. On countless occasions I’ve tried to negotiate with other passengers about blocking the doorway. On the occasions I’ve been ignored I find the guard usually carries enough authority to get the obstructions moved.

Guards will also assist vision impaired and those with mobility difficulties to the WC. They will go to the buffet car and bring back refreshments.

But all that aside having guards on trains gives disabled travellers a greater sense of personal safety; of being secure in the knowledge there is someone there to assist you; it gives us a sense of inclusion, being able to travel just as the rest of the passengers.

Squabbling Tories Boost Corbyn's Popularity

"Labour has taken a slender one point lead in the latest opinion poll despite the unpopularity of leader Jeremy Corbyn." The unpopularity of the politician who has thousands queuing around the block to hear him speak. The same unpopular leader who has to hold open-air meetings to accommodate his supporters. Then I say, stuff popularity the smart money's on unpopularity.

"The narrow advantage in YouGov's latest survey was blamed on a fall in support for the Tories because of the bitter infighting over Europe in David Cameron's party." Opined the ever faithful Hate.
Ah, that'll be it then. The bitter infighting in the Tory Party gives Labour a narrow advantage. Forgetting of course the internecine war going on in the Labour Party.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Radio 4 should listen to its interviewees

The question of Muslim women's employment inequality was discussed on Radio 4's Today programme a few minutes ago. Maria Miller MP, Chair of Women's and Equalities Committee, put forward a number of reasons for the inequality.
Being women, their ethnicity and their religion were found to be the greatest barriers for Muslim women becoming employed. Yet Nick Robinson pressed Miller on the issue of family influences, mainly men, being the major factor.
While a factor, Miller disagreed that pressure from Muslim husbands and fathers was the overriding reason, and reiterated the committee's findings.
Next a Muslim woman, Faiza Fareed (may have the name wrong, sorry) spoke. Once again Robinson led with the it's Conservative Muslim men's influence that deters women from working. Fareed came in straight away and denied this.
She outlined the way in which more and more Muslim women were entering the job market. She cited RAF engineers and GPs. But this was not good enough for Robinson who kept pushing the one point that Muslim women were blocked from employment by Muslim men.
This has become typical BBC style for a number of years. Instead of asking questions from those in the know, there is a tendency for the interviewer to push their point of view. When this fails they pose the question in another way with the intended purpose of forcing the interviewee to agree with them.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Worrying Trend in Social Care and Support

There I was, uptight, irascible, tetchy, moody as hell, grouchy, miserable and a tad on the snappy side. Why? Because I was due my social care and support review today. However, my social worker (s/w) sent me an email at close of play yesterday stating she was looking forward to meeting me tomorrow to complete my ILF package reassessment.

Reassessment? For months we’ve been negotiating a suitable day for the meeting. Throughout I have insisted that I will present MY version of MY Support Plan to the s/w; and that we work from that.

My s/w has tried from the start to dictate how the meeting will go, but I have each time resisted.

This morning I was fuming when I called the s/w. On getting through I asked her to tell me whether I was having a review of my package, which was what we were calling it up until she changed the rules at the last minute; or was it a reassessment, and if it was I wanted, as is my right under the Care Act, a copy of the questions she would be putting to me.

After a great deal of discussion, much of which I spent explaining that she could not simply change the nature of the meeting and expect me to compliantly roll over and accept her terms.

A while later she sent me a 17-page PDF of the FACE overview assessment. Leafing through the pages, I am familiar with the document through my work, I came across an interesting response to a question:
This assessment indicates that: “you do not have eligible needs”.
Interesting, don’t you think?
During my conversation with the s/w I had expressed my concerns at the lack of objectivity shown by some of her colleagues. Stating that too many of them were ignoring the fact that they were supposed to carry out impartial assessments that took account of people’s needs. When asked to qualify this I cited a number of cases I knew of inside and outside the area I live where people’s packages had been slashed, in one case from 35 hours per week to 7.
When I called back the s/w to point out the interesting assessment outcome that assessed me as having no eligible needs, she denied the existence of those words. Yet she had sent me the document as a PDF and I have no way to make alterations, to add or take away any text.
Of course I went on to tell her that sending me this predetermined assessment had only reinforced my lack of confidence in her as an objective assessor and indeed my council’s ability to give me a fair assessment. I will be speaking to the relevant councillor for adult services on Monday. Indeed, I may go to the press with this.

Self Pity

Self Pity

Earthquakes, elections and princesses
Just some of today’s unneeded stresses;
Add to this a quite worrying health scare
Then you might understand why I despair.

On top of all this my PA is off sick today
And I’m struggling to locate a stand-in;
It’s past 3 am and I’m beginning to fray
Not feeling good, more like a has-been.

What the fucking hell will tomorrow hold
When I go to the hospital for a lung scan
Will it be good news, and I’m to be paroled
Or, will it be cancer, and I’m a dead man.

Oh well my life has a habit of doing this
Turning me over, then putting me down
One long struggle, always taking the piss
As though I’m my own prize fucking clown.

Despite being told not to buy into self-pity
Most often by people who lack empathy
This exercise has been cathartic and witty
And I’ll graciously take any spare sympathy.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Desperate Time for Owen Smith

Just had one of my local councillors on the phone. Wanted to know which way I would vote in the leadership election. "Corbyn", said I. "Oh", said he.

"I'm guessing that's not the response you were hoping for," I quipped.

He then attempted to explain why he was voting for Owen Smith. When he got to the part where Smith was the only viable choice if we wanted to win a General Election, I stopped him in his tracks.

"Look her, while your lot, the Blairites and Progress, are stabbing him in the back whether in the Commons or between the pages of the scum press, where you're as likely to read a feature by a Labour MP as you are any scab Tory MP, how can he possibly take on the Tories?

At that he hung up. I'm guessing he's getting a fair few answers in that vain.