Is Britain ‘shuffling on its Zimmer’ towards hegemony?

One-party rule for the foreseeable future?

On Sunday evening two of our readers were considering the future and seeing no possibility of anything other than an elective dictatorship, after boundary changes expected to boost the Conservatives by 20 English seats.

The younger generation and their children will bear the brunt

trickle-downAs yet, most people in their 20s and 30s merely express mild concern about this prospect – they don’t seem to realise the implications of such apathy for all who are not wealthy, not of Oxbridge/Russell Group ability or not in good health.

Award-winning journalist Matthew Norman has asked three questions:

How long do you think it will be before a party other than the Conservatives is in position to form a government?

Can you imagine it within two decades, or three?

Can you envisage it in your lifetime at all? 

An article he wrote last February referred to “our enfeebled democracy” and his sense that “Britain is shuffling on its Zimmer towards one-party statehood”. The points made included:

  • Labour is politically wounded by its huge losses in Scotland.
  • Labour has also been financially weakened by the Government’s Trade Union Bill halving what it gets from the unions.
  • Government will continue to sidestep the Commons by using statutory instruments and
  • threaten to create new peers whenever the Lords don’t rubberstamp cruel and oppressive measures.
  • Government will inflict more austerity on the poorest, continue to award beneficial concessions for the richest
  • and allow the health of city dwellers and the climate to be even more affected by many forms of pollution which benefit big business. 

Matthew Norman finds it “incredibly depressing . . . that no one gives a damn”

The writer puts it more mildly, like Yeats she finds that: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity”.

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Democracy appears to be doomed – unless the cross-party alliance to promote electoral reform gains ground.

 

 

 

Media 65: Reporting events in Syria – Felicity Arbuthnot crystallises the misgivings in many hearts and minds

Condensed and edited from this article by Felicity Arbuthnot:

As the US heaps blame and accusations on Russia and Syria for the alleged air strike on the aid convoy on Monday 19th September, there are more questions than answers – and whatever US spokespersons state, absolutely no certainties.

The only undeniable fact is that another tragedy killed at least twenty Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers and the organisation’s local Director Omar Barakat, father of nine. At least eighteen of the thirty one-truck convoy were destroyed with the warehouse where humanitarian aid was stored.

The Russian Defence Ministry has categorically denied any attack and – in a Reuter report – gives evidence that the convoy caught fire:

“We have studied video footage from the scene from so-called ‘activists’ in detail and did not find any evidence that the convoy had been struck by ordnance”, commented Igor Konashenkov, a Ministry spokesman.

Photographs of the affected lorries show burned out vehicles, metal skeleton intact.

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Burnt not bombed http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-23/destroyed-aid-trucks-western-aleppo-syria/7870646 – Reuter photo

“There are no craters and the exterior of the vehicles do not have the kind of damage consistent with blasts caused by bombs dropped from the air.” His observations are hard to challenge, anyone who has studied the assaults of the “international community” on far away countries over the last decades knows what a bombed truck looks like – what fragments remains of it.

Konashenkov said that damage visible in footage was instead the result of cargo igniting – “oddly” occurring at the same time as militants (formerly Nusra Front) had started a big offensive in nearby Aleppo, backed by tanks, artillery and other heavy equipment. He added: “Only representatives of the ‘White Helmets’ organization close to the Nusra Front who, as always, found themselves at the right time in the right place by chance with their video cameras can answer who did this and why.”

Read a disturbing account of the “White Helmets” here.

They call themselves the Syrian Civil Defence Force but are seemingly neither Syrian, nor Civil, nor Defence. Vanessa Beeley points out. “This is an alleged ‘non-governmental’ organization … that so far has received funding from at least three major NATO governments, including $23 million from the US Government and $29 million (£19.7 million) from the UK Government, $4.5 million (€4 million) from the Dutch Government. In addition, it receives material assistance and training funded and run by a variety of other EU Nations.”

United Nations rowed back from describing the attack on the aid convoy as air strikes

Felicity comments: “What better chance to push “the No Fly Zone scenario” than arriving within “moments” of the convoy tragedy, filming it and creating a propaganda scenario before any meaningful forensic investigation could even be started, since the trucks were still burning. And of course, the “White Helmets”, aka “Syrian Defence Force”, were filming rather than attempting to put out the fire and rescue those in the burning trucks”.

The Russian Defence Ministry subsequently caused outrage by claiming that drone footage: “shows bombed Syrian aid convoy included truck full of militant fighters carrying mortar guns. . . The footage emerged as the United Nations rowed back from describing the attack on the aid convoy as air strikes, saying it did not have conclusive evidence about what had happened.”

  1. http://katehon.com/article/attack-aid-convoy-kills-twenty-destroys-aid-and-obliterates-us-war-crimes
  2. http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/06/21/who-are-the-syria-white-helmets/

3.  http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/drone-footage-shows-bombed-syrian-8879319

 

 

 

 

Fluoridation of drinking water: MP allegedly failed to declare an interest

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Sir Paul Beresford MP, a member of Parliament’s standards committee is facing an investigation (Declaration of Financial Interests) on suspicion of breaching House of Commons rules.

A letterhead used in August

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This MP, a senior figure in the dental profession, is facing an official investigation by Kathryn Hudson, the Standards Commissioner, after she received a complaint alleging that he had not declared links to the British Fluoridation Society (BFS). Beresford has been vice chairman of the BFS for some years.

fluoride-uk-mapThis pressure group advocates the addition of fluoride to the country’s drinking water, as only 10% of the population suffers this hazardous chemical onslaught at present – London and the South being happily fluoride free.

Earlier this year Sir Paul, who is also chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dentistry, spoke in the House of Commons and poured scorn on growing support for a ‘sugar tax’.

He then advocated the promotion of oral fluoride for children “until such time as the water supply in the area in which the children live is fluoridated.” 

Sir Paul told The Telegraph that the role was unpaid and he stepped down from it some time ago. He said that he was unaware they had used his name on their letterheads or that the society considered him to be its vice chairman.

However the real public interest issue is not whether Sir Paul as paid or not, but the misuse of power with a vested interest bringing influence to bear on the decision-making process.

 

 

 

Revolving door 37 – confession time?

Recently Patrick Jenkins, Financial Editor of the FT, explored the history of the revolving door, saying that the practice of former politicians and central bankers seeking high paid work in financial services has a long pedigree, particularly in the US.

With apparent surprise – though it has been established practice in Britain involving senior politicians and corporates – he says. “Now it seems to be an accelerating trend in Europe”.

revolving-door-largerYet for the last six years sites such as Spinwatch, less directly Corporate Watch and the Private Eye magazine (see this article) – have highlighted this phenomenon. This Political Concern website was set up in 2010 to raise awareness of the ‘revolving door’, rewards for failure, widespread behind-the-scene lobbying and party funding which corrupts the decision-making process. A ‘media’ category was added later.

Patrick Jenkins’ article prompted the writer to count the articles on this website which have ‘revolving door’ in the title; there were 37 – but many more had incidental references and others added the graphic on the right. Jenkins writes:

“News that Lord King, the former governor of the Bank of England, has taken a key advisory role at Citigroup follows only weeks after it was announced that former European Commission president José Manuel Barroso would chair Goldman Sachs International. Rumours are growing, too, that senior members of the last UK government may follow a similar path, following in the footsteps of the previous Labour administration”.

After citing Tony Blair as ‘one of the most famous examples of the phenomenon to date’ and listing the many roles he has taken on in his post-politics career, Jenkins moved on to focus on central bankers and policy-makers switching from public service into the private sector and vice versa.

He ends: “Defenders of the practice say it helps break down barriers between financial services companies and policymakers, but critics think it can leave an unpleasant taste. “The potential is certainly there for conflicts of interest — both real and perceived,” says Bob Jenkins, who has worked as an asset manager, regulator and market reformist”. 

Brandon Patty, a young American politician, gets nearer the truth

brandon-pattyHe wrote in the FT yesterday, with reference to America, that the general public has zero confidence in . . . career bureaucrats, professional politicians looking out for our best interests:

“From immigration and trade deals, to excess regulations and scandals at far too many government departments, there is a very real sense that (the public’s) concerns and priorities do not matter to decision makers” adding that a September 2015 poll found 75% perceived corruption as widespread in the country’s government.

But will the shameless in Britain and America take the slightest notice of these commentators?

 

 

 

NHAP brings the latest revelation of the door revolving between big business and government

nhap-graphicDr Paul Hobday, leader of the National Health Action Party (NHAP), a political party that was formed by doctors and campaigners in 2012 to fight to protect the NHS, has written to inform David Babbs of 38 Degrees (following his article in the Guardian) about the nature of Incisive Health (IH), whom 38D had commissioned under the impression that they were independent health policy experts.

38D crowdfunded to raise the money to commission Incisive Health to review all publicly available documents on the Sustainability and Transformation Plans but Dr Hobday points out that the co-founder of Incisive Heath is Bill Morgan, who was a special health advisor to Andrew Lansley, the author of the Health and Social Care Act (2012). The company itself is a health lobby group, representing private sector interests to government.

Hobday emphasises that the National Health Action Party wants to see an end to the ‘revolving door’ culture of Westminster and Whitehall – and that Incisive Health is part of that culture:

revolving-door-larger“Not only does Bill Morgan’s role in the destructive Health and Social Care Act (2012) make his company particularly unsuitable for NHS campaigns, their links don’t end there. In February 2016, Richard Douglas, the Department of Health’s Director General of Finance, joined Incisive Health. Andrew Lansley said he had “hugely valued” Douglas for his “advice and guidance”. Jeremy Hunt was also full of praise. Douglas was in charge of NHS money and policy during both Lansley and Hunt’s reigns, and so had a strong connection to their cuts and privatisation agenda.Incisive Health count Pfizer as one of their clients, so perhaps it is no surprise to find one of their ex-employees, Ben Nunn, in the health team of Owen Smith, given Smith’s own career with Pfizer.

Dr Hobday ends: “We hope that now that you have been appraised of the nature of Incisive Health, 38 Degrees will consider ending its relationship with that company as soon as possible”.

Some of 38D’s own members imply a similar request as a comment here:

“Babbs omits to mention US influence in NHS restructuring, which Jeremy Hunt has acknowledged. Major US consultancies and healthcare corporations like McKinsey and UnitedHealth are heavily involved. But he confirms that 38 Degrees commissioned Incisive Health, lobbyists for Virgin Healthcare and the privatisers’ NHS Partners Network, to produce its crowdfunded report. It’s not surprising it glosses over what the STPs prefigure – the replacement of an NHS once recognised as world leading in cost-effective public healthcare by a privatised system whose providers’ financial interests will have undue sway. As members of 38 Degrees, we think it’s vital that it isn’t seen as an NHS privatisers’ tool”.

 

 

 

NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans under the spotlight

dr-walker-nhap

Dr Carl Walker (5th from left above), a member of the NHA party’s executive committee, is scrutinising the press reporting of the new mass cuts regime currently being implemented across the NHS:

He sees, on one side the government and their appointed spokespeople, scrambling to assuage a newly anxious population with the soothing language of consolidation, reconfiguration, efficiency, and modernisation masking service cuts, lost beds and staff lay-offs and on the other, a variety of campaigning groups, doctors and politicians, “using an array of evidence to carefully unpack these reconfiguration fantasies”.

Reduced provision will lead to better provision – really?

The scale and imminence of cuts advocated and the PR, which has ‘critically departed from reality’ is shocking health professionals. It is reported that, in Dorset, the new Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) suggests that a ‘reduction in the number of sites’ would lead to a better provision of services ‘for more hours of the day and days of the week’. Dr Walker continues: “In Hampshire and Isle of Wight, commissioners are planning to make general practice more sustainable by cutting GP workload by almost a third, while also significantly reducing patients’ face-to-face contact with primary care . . .

“No amount of PR window dressing and STP gobbledegook will ever convince anyone that removing beds, services, A&E units and GP surgeries is going to lead to better patient care. Indeed the way in which STP plans are wrapping the extraordinary shrinking of our NHS in the language of better patient care has now stretched incredulity to a truly insulting level.

“Thus far, those who resist these cuts publicly have made salient points about poor public consultation and lack of democratic accountability, about GPs being excluded from the STP planning process . . .”

Read Dr Walker’s article here: http://nhap.org/friday-surgery-21/ and consider taking the recommended action.

Next: NHA news about the ‘revolving door’ at work in shaping the future of the NHS.

 

 

 

Murdoch Times employee forecasts Labour purge and exodus but the Times’ YouGov findings support the spirit of ‘45

The YouGov survey for The Times, which polled 1,248 Labour members between August 25 and 29, shows that Jeremy Corbyn is leading Owen Smith, by 62% to 38%. Voting in the contest opened last week and the result will be announced on September 24, the eve of the Labour Party conference.

JC standingMonomaniacs?

The Trident nuclear deterrent is expected to dominate the party’s annual conference in Liverpool and the survey found that 53% of those voting in the leadership election do not want Britain to replace the weapons system — supporting Mr Corbyn’s stance.

Purge imminent?

Francis Elliott, Political Editor, asserts that the poll will embolden Corbyn supporters calling for a purge of critical MPs, with 48% of eligible voters in favour of requiring all Labour MPs to face constituency ballots before being allowed to stand, compared with 43% who are against.

Exodus inevitable?

She states that the party will face an exodus whatever the final result, with 29% of Mr Smith’s supporters intending to leave if Mr Corbyn wins and 36% of the incumbent’s supporters minded to quit if he loses.

But look at the figures given:

The poll finds that 63% of full members intend to stay if Mr Corbyn wins, with only 18% saying that they would join a new party.

Will this resolve eventually lead to a regime actually serving the common good in the spirit of ’45 – or will moneyed interests prevail?

 

 

 

Edward Luce: “Is democracy on course to duck the biggest challenge of our age?”

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Edward Luce (right) reports that the big reinsurance companies have called on Washington to take urgent steps to stop catastrophe, which threatens to make nonsense of their risk models.

edward luce (2)He writes: “You would never guess it from the US election. But for the third year running the world is on course to exceed a record temperature in 2016 — having suffered the hottest July in history last month”.

The hidden costs of climate change — the federal disaster relief, higher insurance rates, bigger levees and so on — will also grow.

Before the public reaches a verdict on global warming, we may be reaping the whirlwind. As Eric Reguly wrote in 2013, no climate-change deniers are to be found in the reinsurance business.

Most people encounter life through day-to-day problems. As Luce says, it is natural to worry more about job security, or the family’s healthcare, than about the grander themes of our time.

Though people fear that their children may not ‘have it as good’, they look at economic forecasts, complain about immigration and seldom mention the impact of global warming; they also fear that mwasures to address global warming, such as having a “carbon tax”, will raise the cost of living.

Luce points out that global warming is affecting daily lives in a growing number of ways:

 colorado disaterColorado event

  • Last month, America’s east coast suffered from summer temperatures so high the authorities in New York, Washington and elsewhere urged people to keep their children inside and stay well hydrated.
  • Washington was hit by two nights of electricity outage and many more such cuts are expected as. The underground cables were not designed to withstand so many days of daytime temperatures near 100F (38C).
  • Southern California has suffered from a rise in the ferocity of wildfires;
  • Louisiana, earlier this month was flooded by “once-in-a-thousand-year” rainfall;
  • Westerners may find it hard to identify with people in the Gulf, where
  • insurance rates have shot up in low-lying coastal areas, such as Florida, Alabama and even New Jersey.
  • Zillow, an online property site, forecast that one in eight homes in Florida would be underwater by the end of the century.
  • farmers in the midwest fret about the uncertainty of “extreme weather”.

Public scepticism about science and an allied distrust of funding-dependent experts has been rising in the past few years, with fear about the side-effects of vaccines on children, the impact of pesticides and fluoride in drinking water.

Most people don’t have the time or the education, to understand climate science. Luce reminds readers that scientists have consistently said that global warming will take place unevenly, unpredictably and by step-change rather than on a linear curve: “That means next year may be less hot than this year. It will not mean that global warming is a hoax. Here is one prediction: next time it snows in Washington DC, several US senators will send tweets mocking global warming.

To avoid the unpopular policy of taxation, governments have resorted to cap and trade schemes, which are floundering, ‘run by bureaucrats and vulnerable to lobbying’, but Luce believes in letting the market decide how to cut emissions by putting a price on carbon – charging those who emit carbon dioxide (CO2) for their emissions. For every dollar raised from carbon, we should receive a dollar in tax cuts — or better still, have it rebated in our tax returns.

He emphasises that the purpose should not be to raise money but to cut emissions.

 

 

 

The Empress has no clothes, but – like Owen Smith – she’s borrowing Corbyn’s

theresa May

The flood of compassionate conservatism flowing from the lips of the new PM – seemingly oblivious of her punitive past –  is checked by Professor Danny Dorling, social geographer (Oxford), whose relevant experience is documented here.

After hearing Theresa May’s torrent of lavish promises of research into inequality, with the emphasis on race, he pointed out that the data has already been collected. Many political promises have then been made but not kept. He failed to mention his own role in collecting such data – see his stellar record here.

danny dorlingOn Radio 4’s Today programme (27.8.16) Dorling discounted the emphasis May placed on race because the real disparity is between rich and poor – adding that she’s ‘skirting away from that’.

In 2013, when he became the Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography (Oxford), he spoke about the increasing disparity between Britain’s richest 1% and the rest in his inaugural lecture:

“Income inequality has now reached a new maximum and, for the first time in a century, even those just below the richest 1% are beginning to suffer, to see their disposable income drop.”

Those who are being swayed by the PM’s rhetoric should just look at her actions in office which belied this humanitarian stance, published earlier on this site. Her record as Home Secretary has been well-documented but more relevant here is her parallel term as Minister for Women and Equality, when her edicts downgraded the provision for carers, children in need and vulnerable people. Her finest year? 2010, when she:

  • suspended the registration scheme for carers of children and vulnerable people.
  • scrapped the former Labour Government’s proposed “go orders” scheme to protect women from domestic violence by banning abusers from the victim’s home.
  • closed the previous Government’s “ContactPoint” database of 11 million under-18-year olds designed to protect children in the wake of the Victoria Climbiéchild abuse scandal and
  • removed a clause from the Equality Act which would have required public bodies to consider how they can reduce socio-economic inequalities when making decisions about spending and services.

Has her attitude on ‘socio-economic inequalities’ really been transformed? Is she now a truthful and humane person?

 

 

A quadruple ’whammy’? The 99% finance pomp and ceremony, underwrite nuclear pollution, bear the cuts and lose some ‘human rights’

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Today a reader sent a copy of the Patients’ Association Weekly news which points out the current ‘crippling’ lack of community care. This means that patients who are ready to leave hospital, cannot be discharged. This is leading hospitals to cancel thousands of operations.

Evidence from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) indicates that the UK now has the lowest number of beds per capita in Europe, with 11,000 attendances per consultant – the highest of any developed country. 

patients association logo

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) records a total of  £4.6billion social care cuts in 2015, 31% of the social care budget. This has led to 466,000 fewer adults receiving social care than they did in 2009, during the height of the financial crisis. In 2016, funding was increased by £170m, though research suggests that maintaining 2015 levels of service would have required £1bn in additional funding.

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NHS England’s Chief Executive, in July, requested that any extra health expenditure should be earmarked not for the NHS but for the social care budget.

Former justice minister Ken Clarke and former attorney general Dominic Grieve QC, warn the move to remove some human rights could undermine the rule of law and risks putting the UK into conflict with the European court.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to oppose the plans, something which could lead to a “complete standoff” between Westminster and Holyrood.

The plans are said to contravene various national agreements. The Sewel convention dictates that parliament cannot legislate for devolved matters without the consent of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  

‘We’re all in this together’ – ‘in the best of all possible worlds’: ‘None so blind as those who won’t see’:

liz truss 2                            Minister Liz Truss, a supporter of the human rights move

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Meanwhile money can be found to finance pomp and ceremony, to underwrite the arms industry, to give financial support to nuclear pollution and to condone illegal emission levels in major cities causing hundreds of thousands to enter the country’s underfunded hospitals and then block beds because of its underfunded social care.