Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

Tag: Labour

‘I think y’know’

The current Labour leadership contest has thrown up many interesting moments not least the man who only just made it to be nominated is, according to those ever reliable polls, leading the field. Those who nominated him weren’t expecting that, only doing so to widen the leadership debate. Now many in Labour are crying foul because Jeremy Corbyn is doing just that. Watching and listening to the Labour leadership debate is both refreshing and 600,000 people getting involved can’t be a bad thing, even if some are making mischief.

Whatever your flavour or colour of politics any government needs a strong opposition. Democracy needs opposition or it doesn’t work and some very bad things start to happen. Look at Syria as a very painful, worrying case in point. The point of opposition is to oppose and give credible, thought out alternatives. As those alternatives are debated it makes the government up its game and we get better governance and a choice, a real and actual choice. We may even get something to believe in too.

What the last election proved was the ‘centre ground’ is not what many want, as to have a centre you need to have two points to know where it actually is. We didn’t have those two real opposing points. As a result other parties flourished although they are now not fairly represented in our first past the post system. Can it be fair that 4 million voted for UKIP and they got one MP and 1.5 million voted for the SNP and they got 56 MPs?

Whoever gets the Labour leadership we all need them to be an effective opposition, to hold the government to account. We need Labour to come up with ideas and policies that inspire, to raise the debate and our interest in politics for all our sakes. But there is a bigger issue.

Our political class, both locally and nationally, seem to lack any real ideas and vision. There are some obvious examples of those who do but the majority don’t, hence the disinterest and our contempt in our leaders and elected representatives. The evidence? Simple. When you hear them speak you will hear two key ‘tells’; ‘I think’ and ‘y’know’, as in ‘i think the NHS needs reform’ or worse ‘y’know, I think the NHS is the best in the world’. If our politicians need to think then they can do it in their offices or one of their many homes. When they talk to us through interviews or through parliamentary debate I want them to know.

I want our politicians to have arrived at some certainty, a clear vision and conviction and not to be still thinking about whatever it is they are talking about. And, y’know, ‘y’know’ is just lazy and shows a lack of clarity too. I don’t know, I’m waiting for you to inform me so I can make my own mind up, so I can decide who or what is best to make the big stuff happen. That is why I have elected you, to do this for me so I can live my life knowing that you know, that you are doing the thinking about it and then when know you tell me. I want to know our elected representatives are certain in their purpose, having informed me at the election their thought out intentions.

Currently our elected representatives keep putting it all back on us, maybe we so we can’t hold them to account for it. That is not part of the deal in a liberal democracy. The rise of the consultation is the weak answer to a lack of certain vision. It’s crept in from weak management and leadership in business. It’s the ‘I don’t know despite being elected/paid the big bucks/being somehow put in charge, so I will put it back to you, and then when it goes wrong it’s your fault not mine’ mentality of our decade.

Leaders lead, they tell us their already thought out vision and then do it, with our democratic support. Leaders don’t expect us to know ‘y’know’ because if we did know then we wouldn’t need them.

In the next few months we can only hope that when the silly season is over, the summer holidays are done and the political pondering is complete we have an effective government and an effective, vibrant opposition. This might get us all involved in the process more as we may have leaders who thoughts lead to conclusions, policies and actions.

You never know, y’know.

The NHS is not safe in anyone’s hands.

The NHS is in crisis. It’s probably been in crisis since it was founded in July 1948. It will be in crisis no matter how much money you throw at it or who runs it. It doesn’t matter which political party comes up with yet more policy or politics on the NHS or who changes it or who blames the other for what they did. Politics has put the NHS in crisis. They are all at fault. They are all to blame. To blame each other is naive and utterly insulting to us, the voter.

The most naive part of the NHS was the founder himself. Bevan’s devastating mistake was not to have the foresight to factor in the likelihood that medical advances and an ever progressive medical profession would render a health service free at the point of need impossible to deliver. If you marry medical advances and science to an NHS promised in our low taxation economy, as pledged by our two principal political parties, the NHS as promised is, frankly, little more than a big fat lie. It just can’t be done and all political parties should come clean and tell us the hard truth. Neither Labour or the Conservatives will give the NHS the £8bn it has asked for.

Let’s deal with the basic principle of the NHS being free at the point of need. This is a worthy aspiration and it is achievable, if it’s not confused with free at the point of want. ‘Need’ really means this: if you are fat and want a gastric band because you want to be thin then you pay for it. You can be treated for any mental health issues that make you eat excessively so you stop eating so much. But it is for you get off your arse, reduce your food intake and exercise. It’s not the state’s job to make you thin, that is down to you.

An NHS free at the point of need is about the heart attack, the broken leg, a stroke or Ebola. It is not for want as in ‘I want a nicer nose as my nose is to big’. But what about the heart attack due to smoking and drinking or poor diet or lack of exercise? That is why *in a world where the NHS is free at genuine ‘need’* you must pay more tax to fund your *own* failings in you not looking after you. You either pay more tax under they current system or you don’t get anything free at the point of *immediate* need, let alone at the point of want.

What of the future of the NHS? As it is now it can’t survive? There isn’t the money or the resource to deal with an ageing population who can be kept alive thanks to costly medical science and its continued advances. It is medical science that defies nature and keeps us going long after nature should have taken us.

So here is my prescription for an NHS worthy of all.

1. All political parties need to stop blaming each other for the NHS in crisis. They have all caused it and they have failed us by not being honest in what is needed. In simple terms, you and I need to pay more tax for the NHS to work. We need to pay for a GP appointment, much like those who can pay for the dentist and optician now. The same exemptions would be applicable. If we don’t turn up to the appointment we must to be fined £10 before we can see a doctor again. Personal responsibility starts with all of us treating the NHS with respect and responsibility.

2. We need be more responsible for our own health and not expect the NHS to pay for what we knowingly do to harm our health. If you want to smoke, drink to excess, go rock climbing, skiing, caving, ride a horse, surf and so on then you need to take out some insurance to protect you if you come to some harm. Don’t expect us all to pay for your choices.

3. It is a bit late for many of us but our children need to be educated about health and wellbeing at school, as part of physical education. They need to be taught how to exercise throughout life, what to eat, first-aid and life-saving, how the body functions and how to take care of it. In a generation, through education, we may have a healthier society than we have now. *If we achieved that,* they *might even* be fortunate to pay less for an NHS free at the point of need.

4. The current NHS needs to be split into the following basic groups. Acute Care, Chronic Care, Social Care and Elder Care. You will fall into one or more of these categories and will be treated accordingly.

5. Pharmacies need to be empowered to deal with sniffles and basic ailments with the power to prescribe and, if needed, refer accordingly.

6. GP’s need to be open 7 days a week, 9am to 7pm. Outside these times you wait or if it really is an emergency you go to A and E. This is THE last port of call on the NHS not the first stop in our ‘I want it sorted now’ society of today.

7. 111 must be scrapped. Like NHS Direct before it, it is a fundamentally flawed idea, thought up by a bunch of Whitehall wonks who didn’t think it through. If you’re ill you need to speak to someone medically trained, not a call handler.

8. Most importantly, we all need to be educated to take responsibility for our own health. It’s not the government’s job to make you better, it’s your responsibility to do everything you can to keep you well in the first place. If you take risks or make choices that impact on your health then you must be responsible for the consequences, regardless of income or social standing. Being rich or being poor is no excuse for poor health.

Being fit and well is all of our individual responsibility. Paying tax for those who are genuinely unable to be fit and well in our society, so they can be cared for properly, is the mark of a civilised society. Tax is the price of civilisation. We all have a responsibility to do all we should to look after ourselves in the first place so the NHS is only used when we really need it.

Finally, as this is an election year, perhaps our politicians can be honest about the NHS, its cost, its failures and its future rather than blaming each other for their collective failings since its inception back in 1948. That would be start to saving the NHS for all of us.

So, that’s that then?

It’s Christmas time and there’s no reason to be afraid? Maybe this is the very essence of what we have all enjoyed in the last few days? This time of year is fraught with fear, danger and emotional hurdles to overcome. Have you bought the right present, have you made the right choices for food, have you bought enough, drank enough, eaten enough or eaten too much?

Christmas is a time for very few answers. This time of year is the real balance between need and want, and want seems to have the balance tipped to its favour. We have all just gone through a period of want, from wanting it to be the best Christmas ever to wanting ‘the’ present and probably having to put on the ‘you shouldn’t have’ face on when you really meant ‘why did you?’.

We are now all the other side of this commercial and financial excess. The festive payday reckoning will come for us all in January. We can all take comfort or face the fear from the reality of our own personal debt. And if we didn’t get what we really wanted on the big day, we can always go and buy it at a huge discount in the sales. This is assuming you haven’t already done so on-line on Christmas day. Jesus would be so proud.

It is hard to know what this ‘most wonderful’ time of year really means? Family plays a huge part in its definition and it did for me. Spending time with mine was a real gift tainted with sadness and a good dash of hope. Yet there was something lacking, something missing, something not there. As I was sitting watching the joy of my two youngest children opening their gifts while I was stuffing discarded wrapping paper into a bin bag, I wondered what they were really thinking. Do they want all their gifts, let alone need them? Is the paper that I am ‘recycling’ only going to cover more gifts next year, which will be enjoyed all to briefly before being put on a shelf or in a cupboard as we all move on into another new year? Probably.

The opened gift in the cupboard is a sad indictment on our way of life. It is proof that we are driven by an economy that requires us to keep buying stuff to keep the ball rolling and our economic world spinning, whether we have the actual money or not. Real incomes have fallen in the last five-year and despite the personal injection of over £10 billion PPI cash in to many pockets, paid back to us by banks who took it from us illegally in the first place under Labours ‘light touch’ financial regulation, the current government needs us to spend this and more or we will economically die. Our principal political leaders and their party’s need us to continue to want and not to think too hard about what we need.

In 2015 we all face a number of choices ranging from who we pay off first to who will form the next government and lead us for the next five years. Each party will claim they have a plan for our financial security, to give us more of ‘our money’ in our pockets so we can shop and buy stuff. Yet they will all talk about cuts and belt-tightening. They are all guilty of a basic hypocrisy, suggesting it’s not you but someone else and they are on your side. In reality it is you who must be on your side first and foremost by taking responsibility.

We all need to work out the difference between want and need. Maybe, regardless of who gets their hand on the tiller of power next May, we can all give our loved ones what they need next year and want to do it too.

You want out of the EU, right?

Then there were two. UKIP now have their second MP and it’s fair to say that neither of the defectors who are now UKIP MP’s were moderate Conservatives in the first place. They wanted out of the EU. They have their position and they don’t want a debate it. UKIP don’t want a renegotiation, they don’t even want to discuss what is good about the EU, they just want out. UKIP arrogantly assume you want out of the EU too. To UKIP it is a binary question with a binary answer, and that ‘out’ answer leads to a land of men in business suits, women at home, blue striped milk jugs on the breakfast table, corporal punixshment and lunchtime drinking in the pub. Where do I sign?!

Of course you want ‘out’ of the EU don’t you? Of course you do. The press says you want out, UKIP says you want out so that’s it. And you weren’t asked about the EU. You were only asked about the Common Market back in 1975. The EU is a bad thing. It takes all our money, makes all our laws and the entire population of continental Europe wants to come to the UK to take all our benefits and all of our jobs. The simple solution is get out of the EU and the UK is back to its 1950s heyday. This seems to be a UKIP vision of the UK, a sort of Kath Kidston brand of the past, a stylised pre globalised world of safety, empire and security, which never really existed. But it will have lovely spots.

Here are three of many arguments for staying in the EU.

Peace. Since the formation of cooperation over coal and steel production between Germany and France in the early 1950s the central tenet of the EU has been the free movement of people, to remove the need for formal boarders and denies any nations desire to expand the beyond them. The countries not in the EU but who trade within the block, such as Norway, also have to allow free movement of people. It’s part of the EU deal. This is something UKIP forget to mention, along with the rest of the political class and the press. The EU won the Nobel Peace Prize back in 2012.

The European Convention of Human Rights. This is nothing to do with tehe EU. It was born out of the atrocities of the WW2 and originally called the Treaty Of London. The treaty protects the rights of everyone beyond the European landmass. Winston Churchill was one of the instigators.

Cheaper labour. The reality is that if you want a pre made lunchtime sandwich, fresh seasonal British veg and fruit in the shops or decent service in a restaurant then you need cheaper labour from the EU. Simply, our UK work force can’t or won’t do these low paid, hard work jobs. British workers want more pay than is available and if you think it’s just a case of paying more for the job then you’re deluded. If it cost more to do the job it will cost you more to benefit from the product of that job. And if it costs you more than you will need to earn more to pay for it. This is called inflation. It’s a bad thing.

Being in or out of the EU is not as simple as UKIP are selling or as complicated as the other political parties are implying. The EU is far from perfect. The EU needs reform so free movement of people does not mean free money if you move to the UK. Yet to use immigration as the reason your lot is not how you want your lot to be is a delusion. UKIP’s ‘Kath Kidston 1950s Britain’ is no more real than the Labour or Conservative view of Britain’s place in the EU. A real, factual debate is needed.

If you could be made happier, healthier and wealthier by leaving the EU then don’t you think the other parties would be selling an exit too? Of course they would. It’s time to open our minds to what the EU is for and stop looking for simple answers to complicated questions.

UKIP have conflated immigration and the EU into a potent cocktail with a big kick. They offer a simple solution and an even simpler result. The other political parties have failed to answer their pitch.

It’s not the EU that has failed us, it’s our political class, again.

Who is squeezing you then?

This year will be dominated by three main arguments in the national news. Europe and being in or out of it, energy costs and can you afford them and your income; are you earning enough of it?

Lets ponder the last one. When have you ever earned enough? Isn’t there always someone earning more than you, maybe even doing the very same job as you, probably working less hard than you, not as deserving as you of the money they earn. Twas ever thus but now this has become political.

Labour has given this earning paradox a name and it’s called a ‘cost of living crisis’. You might call it ‘life’ because the age-old reality is that no matter how much money you have, chances are you live to your means. The painful reality for many is that this shifted in the last four decades to living beyond your means. Life has been fuelled by easy credit and the simple, now misplaced belief that property prices are another household income steam. They were always going to rise and rise and rise and even after they crashed, property prices would rise again. All political parties are guilty of instilling this belief. Many bought in to it, literally. The reality is that, for some, there is a genuine ‘cost of living crisis’ but for most this is just life, boom or bust, feast or famine and the answer is not as simple as more income. That would be like starving yourself thin.

January has given us a slew of statistics and predictions for the coming year. The trouble is that statistics are losing their power. Just look at the lack of belief in crime numbers or NHS waiting times. The IMF (not to be confused with the much missed MFI … OPEN BABK HOLIDAY MONDAAAAAAY) say the UK economy will become one of the fastest growing in the world this year and ONS say our unemployment rate has dropped to 7.1% of the workforce, with the highest number employed workers ever. So it’s basically all good, but do you ‘feel’ good? This is politically important. You have to feel good because if you don’t you must find someone to blame for feeling bad.

The chances are you don’t feel good at all. In part this is the human condition. In reality this maybe because you might be doing one of the newly created jobs that are poorly paid. Or it maybe because you have not had a pay rise in the last few years. Or it maybe because you took a pay cut to save your job or the job of the colleague. Also there is no doubt that prices have gone up on most of the things you buy. So if someone tells you you’re having cost of living crisis it does tend to make you question if you are. Yet what is Labour’s answer to this soundbite and label? Freeze UK energy prices in a global energy market, raise the tax rate to 50p in the Pound for those earning over £150,000 and borrow more to build stuff. The Coalition say things will start to get better for you soon. Are you smiling now?

Politics isn’t working. We know this. I’ve blogged about this before (see earlier posts) and it’s set to get worse. The Hansard Society suggest that less than 13% of young people have any intention of voting at all in the next General Election. Turn out at the forthcoming local council elections, European elections and the Scottish independence referendum may be so poor that the actual mandate of these elections may come into question.

Why? Maybe it is as simple as the failure of modern politics and politicians to engage with you other than the tried and tested way of ‘why you should be afraid of it and who is to blame for it’. They are all at it. And Labours ‘cost of living crisis’ is a prime example of this. Who isn’t having one of those? And what is the answer? A pay rise of course. But by how much? Who is going to pay for it and where will the money come from?

The answer to the last question is you. One thing that is for certain is that the current UK economic recovery has been driven by the consumer. All political parties agree on that. The reality is that you will have to pay for your own pay rise because inflation will increase, prices will go up all because the bosses will have to put their prices up to pay for the rise they have given you.

There are no easy answers to this but labels and soundbites are as much use as statistics now. We don’t believe them and we are tired of hearing them. All we want something to believe in and to feel good about.

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.

%d bloggers like this: