Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

Tag: politics

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.

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It’s election time, there’s no reason to be afraid

It’s less than a month until the nation decides, until we get our chance to have our say. Excited? No, me neither.

The Fix Term Parliament Act has taken all the excitement and fun out of ‘the election’. We knew when this election was going to be, if we actually gave a stuff, years ago. So did the politicians and so did the media. All this nonsense about TV debates not happening and candidates not being ready or prepared is utter tosh. If any of them are not ready then, frankly, get off the stage preferable pursued by a bear. That would make great TV. Channel 5 would make a series out of it.

There was a time, not in a good ole days ‘Gorr blimey, ‘ave a banana, we use to leave all our windows and doors open’ way, when elections were called and you got three weeks of campaigning. Out would trot the political candidates wearing oversize rosettes like podgy gymkhana ponies asking for your vote. Then, after polling day, they left you alone again for another four years or so. Now Politicians seem to have it in their heads that we want to hear from them all the time. Politicians should be like the bank manager, the Doctor or the police. You never, ever want to hear from them because when you do it’s usually bad news.

The 2015 General Election has been going on since the party conference season last year, and look where we are in the polls? It’s neck and neck and not a cigarette paper (to be found behind a screen and soon to be in a plain packet because nanny knows best) between the two main parties in policy terms. At least some of the smaller parties have more radical or wacky, far out, sensible or stupid policies. Please delete or use the words you feel fits your politics.

Politicians have got to stop thinking we care about them and are actually interested in them. Politicians have a job to do and we have our life to lead. Our electoral contract should be as simple as this. I elect you as an MP or Councillor and then you go away and do your job. You don’t get in my way or tax me too much. You are fair to everyone, not just those who support your party and you keep me safe. And stop asking me what you should do as I elected you to do it, as I have my own life to lead.

A sensible, liberal democracy should allow us the right to vote freely and then to be left alone. If Politicians or political parties are going to muck about with our local schools, healthcare, energy bills or the tax I pay (and tax IS the price of civilisation) then it better be for the REAL benefit of my family, friends and me. If not then you’re out next time.

A few last points.

If you are a political party member or standing for election don’t think most of us give a stuff about your party’s ‘vision’ or ‘policies’ because we don’t. Have you ever read a manifesto? More people are members of the RSPB than are members of all the main political parties. We like birds more so maybe politicians should more like birds? Maybe, if you want to get elected, you should dress up as a chicken or a cock.

TV debates are for a presidential system not for our constituency based electoral system. You and I should be voting for the best person to represent us where we live, not a just a leader and a bunch of party lemmings to do their bidding.

Any politician who says they want ‘power’ or ‘when we are in power’ or ‘when we get into power’ must be denied that power at all costs. You are not voting anyone into power. You are voting for someone to represent you, your family, your friends and your neighbors. You are voting for someone to keep you and yours safe and well. Any election candidate who wants power is in the wrong country. You and your vote is the power and those you elect are your servants.

The General Election is all well and good and when you have your MP you will either desperately need their help (and I hope this never happens to you) or you will want to avoid them like a bad smell emanating from an old dog. Please remember the local elections too, as this matter more in your everyday life. Local Councils and your local councillor are more important than your MP.

Finally to that vital democratic cross you have. It’s yours to use. It is real power that you give in majority to your elected representative. Many have died for you to use your vote. Your vote is not free. Your vote comes with responsibility and reason. If you decide not to vote that is your absolute right in our democracy, but if you don’t vote then you can’t moan about the ‘bloody government or council’.

If in doubt make it up, just like the papers and bloggers

In the last few days I have had a taste, an amuse bouche as to what it’s like to be the subject of a press story rather than being a commentator on them.

The news of my engagement to Charlotte Leslie ‘broke’ late Wednesday night on-line. First it was on the Bristol Post site followed by The Times 2 article. This second article was the one we did together, where they asked us questions to do the story. No other paper asked us anything.

Why did we do it? The BBC asked me to be overtly open about my relationship with Charlotte, me having told them in early October that it was serious. I had certainly not hidden it. I had been see out many times with Charlotte and told anyone who would listen we were together but the BBC wanted me to let the listeners know, to do a press article and to be open to everyone. Why? Impartiality. To protect the BBC’s impartiality, to protect me from accusations of partiality, to protect the audience and to make sure that I can’t be accused of being partial in the future. So be it and so it was done as I love my job and feared losing it.

What has been interesting in 48 hours since the original article was published is the response and the subsequent reporting in other papers and on-line. It was not what I was expecting in any way. The comments where lovely. Some were nasty but that says more about them than the story. Freedom of speech is a right we all enjoy, so long as it is based in truth. Ed Miliband and Lord Fink may have found this taking to their lawyers on Wednesday afternoon following PMQs.

I am a private person who has a personal life. I am with Charlotte because I love her but I was dreading the reaction to our going public about something very personal. The real prospect of some putting 2+2 and getting 22 was scary.

The fact is that I’m not card-carrying member of any political party, I’m not a union member nor have I ever been one of those who follow one political party or its ideals. I question those who are as I question those who follow a single faith. I have political views and I have faith but I have many questions on both. Those who claim they follow or believe without questions or doubts worry me greatly. They should worry you too. As Billy Connelly once joked ‘never trust anyone with just one book’. What will be interesting in the coming days and weeks will be those who will claim I have ever been politically partial. Find it, prove it and I will happily admit it.

My biggest concern has been the reporting of the story. The original article in The Times was fine, with a few odd points and some odd bending of the facts. The other articles and reports were frankly full of bollocks, not least of which that I am in my 50’s. I was born in 1966, I am currently 48 and will be 49 in October. That makes me in my 40’s. On the face of it a mistake? No. It was a lie to make me older, to make the age difference between me and Charlotte bigger and therefore make her look bad. Disgraceful, partial and just wrong. So much for press accuracy post Leveson.

This was the first time in my life I have been in the papers and they got it wrong, with a partial agenda. Other on-line sites also blogged and wrote some utter tosh too. The result is this. I will never trust what I read in any paper ever again and I urge you to do the same. As for blogs they are fine for thoughts and ideas. Blogs that claim facts with out source and evidence or are partial in any way Please read them with a large pinch of salt at the ready, much like the bible, The Daily Mail or any book by Jeffery Archer.

My politics are mine, my job is to question everything as is my personal persuasion. The fact is I was born on the 2nd October 1966 and I look forward to being 49 later this year, and, if I’m very lucky, married to Charlotte too.

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.

Do you buy the bi election result?

UKIP win a bi election and come a very close second in another. What does it all mean? Who really knows? All the claims of a new ear of four party or even five party politics are a bit far-fetched as one Green MP and one UKIP MP doesn’t really change anything for you and me. It does mean they can do stuff in the House of Commons and for their constituents but it’s a bit like being a one-legged man at an arse kicking party; thanks for the invite but I can’t really join in.

History shows us that fringe parties are mostly parties of protest. There are a chance to give the main parties a bloody nose and tell them to listen and to stop being what they think they should be. This time it may be different, especially if the Rochester bi election or as it should be known the Reckless bi election goes UKIPs way too. The Reckless bi election; how apt.

What is surprising is that the main parties didn’t see this coming, much like they didn’t see the SDP coming, they failed to see the financial crisis, prepare for the recession and actually deal with deficit that we are all living with and will continue to suffer from for many years to come. Why? Simple. Short termisum.

Our current leaders are short-term opportunists, hoping that the next year will be better than the last by tinkering around the edges but seldom planning much beyond the next electoral cycle. Even when they try with deficit reduction plans or fixing energy prices we don’t believe them and, in reality, they can’t actually do it because big P politics always gets in the way of achievement. The drastic public spending cuts and/or tax rises required to reduce the deficit will never happen as they would be political suicide. Other ‘vote winners’ such as the freezing of energy prices in a global market are, frankly, nuts. It’s the stuff of Canute and tides. If this had been done last year you would have lost out on the falling oil prices of the last 12 months and be paying well over the odds. Today the oil price is at a four-year low. Short termisum defined.

Our leaders, or managers (see earlier blog) do not get it. We need vision, leadership, statesmanship plus the ability, ambition and drive to see it through. We need do-ers not talkers who say they are ‘listening’ or have had ‘a wake up call’ or say ‘I want to tell you this’. Any politician who says ‘I want to tell you this’ should have the microphone removed from him or her, be sent home and they do something else, where nobody will be really listening either.

We need actual, real leaders and those who actually do. We need those who say they are going to do something and then actually do it. We need our faith restored and, until we have that, we will give anything a punt because our hope is the most powerful aspiration we have. The trouble is that hope is killed by failure and our hopes have been dashed a fair bit by all the political colours and their successive failures in the last two decades.

On my recent BBC trip to Bordeaux I saw a French city through the eyes of its governance not through the eyes of a tourist. It was fascinating. In two decades and with a lot of pain for those who live in Bordeaux the Mayor and the council have transformed the city with integrated public transport and bold policies to claim the city back for the people. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops but I didn’t meet anyone who didn’t see the city today as better than it was twenty years ago. The Mayor of Bordeaux has been elected three times and is about to run to be the President of France. Alain Juppe is a man who gets things done.

The vision, the action, the result is what we vote for in a true liberal democracy not words, more words and sniping at the other lot. UKIP have clearly demonstrated that if you fill the green leather benches of parliament with managers and sound bites voters will look for leaders who apparently stand for something. UKIP a have cleverly combined Europe and immigration into policy with a simple solution, leaving the rest of the political class to flap about like fish out of water, still gagging at the word immigration.

The next seven months will be very interesting as we may see the emergence of two types of politics and politician. Those who get it and those who lose their seat.

I’m not being racist but…

Immigration. It’s a complex word that strikes a deep chord, gets the media in a tangle and makes politicians worry about what they can say, or don’t say.

At the last general election in 2010 it was the third rail of British politics. Touch it and you will die. Bigotgate anyone? Ask Gordon Brown about immigration and see his jaw lock, as only it can. This year and the next general election this will and must change.

It is a painful reality that, as part of he EU, we have freedom of movement around the 27 member states and they do here. So we can no more pull up the UK PLC drawbridge and lock the doors with a sign on saying ‘No Vacancies’ than Spain can do the same to us. Maybe Spain, Greece, France, Portugal would like to send back all those British expats living in those warmer European climbs? Freedom of movement is a central plank of the EU and, without it, the whole project will fail. So for the UK not to be part of this fundamental part of the EU means we are out, even before you get be asked if you want to be in or out in 2017. It is a shame that the bill that would have made that law has now died a painful death at the hands of our noble lords. That is politics for you.

This last week has seen the Prime Minister commit again to ‘tens of thousands’ of net immigration just as parliament got itself into a total tis over the Immigration Bill. The sight of our Home Secretary having to sit on her hands and abstain on an illegal amendment to the bill shows how difficult this whole issue is, even for our law makers and party leaders.

So is it racist to debate immigration? The BBC gets itself in knots over the issue, as do most national newspapers and politicians. Is it racist to want border controls? If it is then most countries outside the EU are guilty as charged. ‘I’m not being racist but … can I see your visa?’ Is it racist to expect those who choose to the UK to pay taxes, to be part of the wider community, to speak the common language and respect the laws and traditions of the UK? Is it racist to ask those who come her to be part of our culture, life, and principles? Is it racist to send home those who threaten lives or incite hatred against the wider society?

Last year the retiring Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks suggested multiculturalism creates a society where “everyone is a guest”, and went on to call for a “multi-ethnic” society not multi-cultured. In essence multicultural means many cultures rubbing along together, all trying to understand and respect each other. But what happens when things rub? Friction, heat and then worse. Lord Sacks went on to say multiculturalism in Britain has “had its day” having led to “segregation and inward looking communities”. Is he a racist for say that? Am I a racist for expanding on it?

We must stop being afraid of a debate on immigration and the many unique cultures that live in the UK. We must control our boarders, know who is coming in and out and we must stop saying ‘I’m not being racist but’ every time we dare to express a view that might offend someone. Free speech is just one of the many reasons why we are all here and free speech might just achieve a multi ethnic, broad, mono cultured society that we can all live in, happily.

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