Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

Tag: david cameron

Experts; aren’t we all?

What makes Doctors think they are special, “so very special” that they don’t have to work 7 days a week like many of us? Actually, in reality, Doctors do already work 7 days a week on rota but they currently get more money for weekends than what’s being offered in their new, soon to be imposed contract. How you side in this Junior Doctor’s dispute, be it the emotive BMA “patient safety” or the Government “manifesto commitment to a 7 day NHS” against the constant “crisis” backdrop the NHS is always in, the whole thing is all about money.

Back to the initial question. What makes Doctors think they are special? Is it the commitment to be a doctor that starts in their early teens when they select their GCSE’s? Is it the vision, commitment and passion to select and get the right A Levels and grades to match? It could be the 4/5 years at Medical School followed by a decade or more of training, exams, more training and more exams? Maybe it is the constant changing of jobs and hospitals to gain vital experience, which could also mean travelling 100’s of miles a day, including at weekends? Perhaps it’s the failed relationships and missed family moments as being a doctor is all-consuming? Hard to know really what makes a Doctor special but in a world of Google and Social Media, where we can diagnose ourselves without having to do any of the above, what’s the point of all that effort and commitment? Doctors aren’t special. We don’t need experts.

During the now widely discredited Referendum Campaign (discredited on both sides in a report by the Electoral Reform Society published this last week) one of the most revealing moments was when Leave campaigner Michael Gove (remember him) said “I think people in this country have had enough of experts”. Experts had been telling us what might happen if we chose to Leave or Remain in the EU. It is fair to say that following the result to leave on 24th June all of the doom predicted by those experts has not happened, so far. In fact, after the initial shock, the UK economy has returned to pretty much where it was when the (then) Prime Minister David Cameron (remember him) called The In/Out Referendum in February this year. It’s been a very long 7 months.

Is Michael Gove right in his assertion that we don’t need experts? Is our existential age a time of instant information and connectivity to anything, everything and everyone making us all instant experts? We can now have hundreds of “friends”, we crave “likes” and most of us have more “followers” than Jesus could manage when he was “alive”. Does this means we don’t need real experts, doctors, elected politicians, public servants, journalists, newspapers, radio, TV because we can all get what we want when we want it, all at a click or swipe or scroll? The internet has democratized information and for those who wisely choose to go beyond one single source of information or a single “trusted” news site we can be better informed. You can check and cross reference anything.

Yet there is a problem with all this. If we don’t like what we see, read or hear we can trash it, troll it, attack it and get our “friends” and “followers” to pile in too. We don’t need experts. Your opinion is not mine. Your politics is not mine. Your race is not mine. Attack. We live in the moment were we can easily be extreme and many relish this. We are entitled to do so. We are entitled. Nobody is worth more money than me. Nobody. Social Media is allows us to be everything including judge, jury and expert.

Starting with newspapers many centuries ago, for almost the last hundred years radio followed by TV was all we had. This so-called traditional media is now changing fast to adapt to the social media world and rightly too. As this old media tries to marry with the new maybe the new needs to respect the old a little bit more than it currently does. Our rush toward Social Media is not taking account of the long path it took to get to this point. It took hundreds of years from the first printing press to create the first mass-produced published book. Facebook is just 12 and half years old. Would you just trust a 12-year-old with your life, business and future? We need to respect what was and how it came to be more than we currently doing or we risk losing the bath water, baby and the bath.

This is the case with junior Doctors too. We need to respect what happened in the past. This past and path gave us the Consultant Medics and Surgeons we rely on today and will have to rely on even more with the coming strikes. Both sides in the Junior Doctors dispute would do well to remember this and would do better to talk less and listen more. Doctors know better than most the power of listening. It saves lives. Taking a “history” is vital to diagnose and treat anyone. We need to respect our past, our experiences and do a little less existential scrolling, clicking, swiping and living. Doctors are special and we do need experts.

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It’s up to EU

So the saying goes, if you can’t explain it clearly to a 5-year-old then you really don’t understand it yourself. Apply this to the E.U and find yourself a 5-year-old to test the theory. I would be interested to speak to you and the 5-year-old after your explanation to see how you both got on. If only our political class had tried this before they embarked on their ”Leave” or ”Remain” campaigns as the last few months has been little more than claims and counter claims. These have now mostly been discredited as part truths at best or lies at worst. The truth is and the facts are that they don’t and can’t know. The painful reality of the 23rd June and our pending referendum is that it is change we are voting for, regardless, and to make it in/out or status quo/unknown is naive. The biggest question of all is why are we having this referendum in the first place.

So far the campaigns might as well have been saying that each of us will get our own Unicorn and money tree if we stay in the EU but our ears will fall off and our kitchen taps will all leak if we leave EU, or visa versa. Most of the claims on what The EU costs or doesn’t, what the EU does or doesn’t do or what the EU will be or not be in the future have been rightly pulled apart (in part) by the opposition but they never let facts or the truth temper their best interest not their possible raw political gain. The sign written Out Battle Bus is a prime example of a ”fact” that is just not true.

So what can we do before we make the most important political and social decision of our lives and of our generation? Firstly, ask yourself how the EU affects you directly or indirectly? This is a tough question. It’s hard to know but think about the hours you work and the hours others work to support you. Those hours along with maternity and paternity pay, sickness and holiday pay are all down to the EU. As are European mobile phone charges, migration, free trade, product safety standards, VAT setting, tax on tampons, education, nursing staff, doctors training and food quality. Check the facts on those and then you can make an informed decision for you and yours.

Heaven help us if we make the most important democratic decision of our lives solely on migration and immigration. We can not go back fifty years to a time of Police Officers with whistles and no radios, when you mostly likely would have lived, worked and shopped in your town and your world was a much smaller place. That is not today and we can’t go back to that unenlightened time even if we really wanted to. Now is not a time to be romantic or nostalgic nor is it a time to rely on all those who we elected last year and this year. They have too much to gain or lose politically from this vote and they are hardly likely to tell you the whole truth now so close to the actual vote.

There will be two debates that I will be moderating in my BBC Radio Bristol day job during June and my plan for both these debates is simple. Get answers to questions that are truthful and factual. Only when the head and mind is informed can the heart be allowed to guide. The 23rd June has to be a head lead decision not an emotional response to ‘Johnny Foreigner’ coming over here and doing what ever. If the EU and its solution really were as simple as our black top tabloid newspapers sell it there would be no need for a debate at all.

One last thing. We all need to learn the very important difference between migration (a net figure in the last year of 184,000 to the UK from within the EU), immigration (a net figure of 186,000 people to the UK from outside the EU) and refugee, who is someone who has no choice other than leave their home or be killed.

One last question. Why has every British Prime Minister been pro the EU with the majority of Treaties sign by Conservative Prime Ministers?

And for the record I am undecided.

The dash to beat Daesh

Its been quite a week. The talk of war and then a notional declaration of war, but the reality is somewhat different. The fact that the UK, along with other international partners, has been bombing ‘so called’ Islamic State/ISAL/IS/Daesh in Northern Iraq for over a year and is now doing the same in Northern Syria should come as no surprise to us or them. It is exactly what they wanted and we have given it to them. David Cameron has delivered a victory to Daesh.

From the foundation of Islam, the Crusades, the rise of Wahhabism in the 18th Century, the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire, Sykes-Picot in 1916, the rise of House of Saud and foundation of the Islamic State of Saudi Arabia in the 1932 all combined with our various 20th and 21st Century attempts to ‘deal with the Middle East’ the west has never got it right. Now we are facing all those failures and potentially creating more. We have more often than not backed the wrong camel.

Daesh want war. They crave it. They need it. It is what they are all about. Without war they are nothing, where as we are if we choose not to fight. Europe has seen relative peace in the last 70 years, with the notable exception of the Balkans and Bosnia. There we got it wrong before we got it right. Know thine enemy and this is where we are failing again. Pacifism is no the answer either. It might be wonderful and Christian to turn the other cheek but sometimes you must use all four cheeks, face thine enemy and fight.

So what do Daesh want? Simply, they want to harm us, kill us, destroy us and they want to impose their own twisted version of Islam on the world. This version of Islam was born in what is now Saudi Arabia in the mid 1700’s as a fundamentalist branch of Sunni Islam. It is used by the House of Saud to run their country and, by default, run the world’s oil. The problem is that Saudi Arabia don’t run world oil any more and the low oil prices OPEC that Saudi Arabia are trying to use to destroy the USA’s fracking industry (America is all be self-sufficient in energy now thanks to fracking) by making Arabian oil cheaper than U.S produced oil is not working for them. A war suits Saudi Arabia now. If they are really worried about Daesh why aren’t Saudi Arabia using all those lovely planes, bombs and missiles we’ve sold them on Daesh? That is the biggest unanswered question. But lets be clear; Saudi Arabia is an Islamic State and there is nothing ‘so called’ about it. Amnesty International estimated last month that the Saudis had executed 151 people so far this year.

The West getting involved in the Middle East is never going to work any more than Jeremy Corbyn’s political settlement mantra. Daesh are not going to sit around a table and talk to any political conclusion but if Corbyn wants to try let him go there. It maybe prudent not to waste the money on a return fare.

The solution, if there can be such a thing with over a thousand years of none, must come politically and military from those Arab, Islamic countries along with our very distant support. It is for Saudi Arabia and Iran (and they are far from friends) to lead the charge to take on Daesh. If we continue on the path started this week it will be our war with a very long future and an uncertain outcome. To solve the Middle East it must be of their doing.

War BUT is there something more to believe in?

So the UK is at war, notionally and actually. It was a decisive vote for the Prime Minster. Our Parliament, our MP’s and our democracy showed us and showed the world how the United Kingdom does business and means business. You may not like the outcome but democracy was served.

We have joined the 40 or so other countries who are completing air strikes against Islamic State, I S or ISAL. Two things on this. They are not Islamic as any scholar of Islam will tell you if you ask and listen and they are not a state, nation or country. They are an idea, a belief.

This is THE issue. How do you bomb an idea, a belief, a version of a religion? ISAL do have a flag, always something that has been fought over throughout history. You take the flag and you win. With the flag comes the castle, the country and the spoils but there is none of this to win. If ISAL are bombed to oblivion Iraq is still as failed state that the west created and Assad is still president of Syria, spported by Iran, China and Russia. This is going to be a long process and it will cost many lives. It has already been a long process from the birth of Islam and its divisions into its various forms and the conflict resolution by the hands of the British and the French at end of the First World War. The Sykes Picot agreement at the fall of the Ottoman empire created the division of the Middle East regardless of tribe or creed. The division of the Middle East then are the lines on the map we know today. Division; never has a single word meant more as the world lines up to fight the idea and belief that is ISAL.

Wars based on ideas or beliefs and their execution are flawed. History is replete with those failures, the most recent of which being the War On Terror. You can’t win against an idea because it is not a castle to be won any more than you can wage a war against a belief because you can never kill every believer. It is just not possible. You have to marginalise the belief and give those who harbour the ideals of their belief something better to believe in. Nor can you just tell believers they are wrong, that you are right and bomb them into agreement.

Here is reality. Bombing ISAL is right because the Gulf States are part of it. It is they who can show ISAL they are wrong in thier ideas and beliefs. They can show them that there is something better to believe in, the real Islam and not some crack pot, nutty, vile version of a faith that has no place in a modern world. The Gulf States, these Muslim states have a duty to their faith, their God, their Prophet and what they believe in, especially this week with the Hajj beginning on Wednesday. The greatest enemy to Islam is ISAL.

The beliefs of the Gulf States, the ones we like, the ones we do’t like and the ones that don’t like us need to get through to those who have chosen ISAL. ISAL can’t seem to see any other way than their warped version of Islam, which we in the west find abhorrent. It is vital the Gulf States make this clear having got ISAL’s attention through force, with our help.

Islamic State bares no resemblance to any decent Shia, Sunni or Sufi. This needs to be as clear and loud as the bombs we drop, for all our sakes and for Muhammad, peace be upon him and on us too.

Oh, those Russians…

Summer holidays are about the sun, the sea, getting away from it all or, in the case of Russians, getting away with it. This year I have spent two weeks with my family in the hot African sun, surrounded by Russians both big and small, but very Russian. The following became quite clear from being with them, closely watching them and talking with them.

1. They are locked into the 1980s like a Hazel Dean Greatest Hits collection. (There would be only five songs on that album and if you can name two you win a prize.)

2. They really can drink a lot.

3. They like to take pictures and pose in those pictures, a lot. The sort of poses that would grace the catalogues of the very companies that would sell you the clothes you used to buy in the 1980s.

4. They have money. A lot of money.

The Russians I shared the sun with were not oligarchs who were handed a state-run monopolies by a pissed president to do with what they willed. These are Russians who work for these oligarchs. They are middle class Russians mainly and they are happy, not just because they were on holiday.

When you probed a little deeper, they were happy because they love and are proud of their country and their leader, one V Putin.

The world, geopolitics and the media love a bogie man. Nothing sells a news bulletin or a newspaper more than a bad guy to point at and say ‘it’s his fault’, or ‘her fault’ for that matter. Think of the names that have been used for that very purpose over the last few years; Saddam Hussein, Col Gaddafi, Mohammed Morsi, Jimmy Saville, Sharon Mathews, Maxine Carr, Angela Merkel. The media love the binary world of the old Hollywood Western where the good guys wear the white hats and support their gun slinger against the black hats and their gun slinger.

Vladimir Putin has a very big black hat. He would not be out-of-place in a hollowed out volcano lair, sitting in a high back, black swivel chair. You can picture Putin stroking a white cat while surrounded by Ninjas in orange boiler suits turning nobs and flicking switches, tapping on computers and watching security screens. But it’s not as simple as this Bond image and the media in general is doing a disservice for making it so, much like the coverage of Gaza and the continuing ripples and waves of Sykes-Picot a century on from the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Take Crimea. Putin has. Bad joke. But Crimea is more Russian that Ukrainian, indeed if you look at the history of the region Crimea is more Russian than Moscow. Is it wrong to cede to the will of the people and take control of what actually wants to be yours? Putin did not seek a war, conflicts or even a spat with the west, but it has done him no harm. Quite the contrary. Putin needs us to be his black hats and we need him and his people to be ours. Putin also needs the west to be strong too in turn make him look and be stronger and he needs the West, especially the EU to buy Russian gas, oil, coal, wheat.

History is replete with lines drawn on a map as a result of war, dividing lands and people. The effects of this from the First World War are still being felt today thanks to the afore-mentioned Sykes-Picot plan for the Middle East.

Putin is a leader, not a manager and the world needs leaders as it does have too many managers. Look at Barrack Obama. The world thought they were getting a leader but they got a manager. Margret Thatcher was a leader, John Major was a manager. Tony Blair was a leader, Gordon Brown was an unmitigated disaster. The jury is out on David Cameron but I think we all know what Ed Miliband will be, and so do his party.

So what has this all go to do with my holiday in the company of Russians? Well they are happy, they have a sense of nation and purpose and, even with their economy going into recession, they are bound together and even if they struggle they will struggle together and be stronger for it. History should teach us that a strong leader, who knows the people and their history needs watching very closely. That leader also needs our respect, our admiration and our caution.

One last thing. Can you think of any other flag of the world that could be turned into a bikini without it causing offence? Well the Union flag and the Stars and Stripes makes an excellent two piece swim wear ensemble. Maybe the flag of Saudi Arabia could be next? Maybe not.

This last week has been about the weak.

In Westminster last week the Leader of the opposition was called weak by the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister was called weak by the Leader of the Opposition. Next week neither will be there as they will both have a note from their mum’s saying they ‘can’t go as they are being bullied’.

Also it is the weak and vulnerable who will suffer with the coming winter fuel bills of the big six energy companies and their average of 9.2% increases in energy prices. What is actually being done about that? Naff all in reality. The ‘Big 6’ effectively said ‘not me mate’, Labour’s price freeze idea is totally potty as it can never work in the global energy market of today, the Coalition’s proposal of a competition review will take 12 months to reach a conclusion and shifting the Green tax into general taxation only mean you will pay more, just differently. It is going to be a long, cold winter for many so warm, snuggly Christmas jumpers might not be such a bad present idea this year.

All this has occurred against the background of Russell Brand calling for a revolution against the political class of today, those who seek to make a profit and pretty much anyone who is not him or who think like him. Free speech is a wonderful thing.

Yet it is free speech that is actually under threat by the very actions of those who benefit most from it, make money out of it and use it to fill the pages of our daily and Sunday papers.

Whether we end up the Royal Charter to govern and control the actions of the press, or they continue to ‘mark their own homework’ as the campaign group Hacked Off call it, one thing is for certain. Thanks to the actions of some journalists and maybe others on trial right now, our press and journalism will never be the same again in the UK.

But this is far bigger problem than just our UK press.

The world looks to us for a free press. Our tradition of free speech and a free press first gained its printed voice in the mewing 17th century newspapers and in the articles of Milton against the puritanical views of Cromwell and his the English Republic. If our press falls under parliamentary control other governments will use our newly ‘state controlled’ media as the very example they need to control, govern, censor what can and can’t be printed. Then it will be the same for broadcasting. Mr Brand may yet get his revolution, but perhaps not quite on the terms he was elucidating.

Why did all this happen? Why did the press do what they did? What made it okay for the press to rifle through the bins of Steve Coogan, ‘convict’ Bristol’s Christopher Jefferies on a series of front pages or hack into the phone of the then missing school girl Milly Dowler? You.

You bought the papers. You bought the stories. You chose the front page of the paper, you fed the beast. It is all down to you. And it’s down to me too. No paper, no journalist, no editor would have done any of the things revealed in the Leveson enquiry if you didn’t buy them.

So now we may not have lost the sensational headlines, but we have lost threatening, penetrating investigative journalism, challenging opinion and, most of all, the freedom of the press that we all enjoyed, maybe just a little too much.

The press will be weak from this last week.

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