Category Archives: Cuts
Read the article here.
Alan Simpson opens: “The nation is at war. Peacetime production has slumped, foreign travel collapsed, casualties rise. In every part of the country, people anxiously worry about how to avoid the enemy. This time, however, it is germs, not Germans, that we fear!”
What Britain needed was wartime mobilisation for peacetime survival. Instead handwashing and a mêlée of ‘unofficial’ messages have been offered that simply add to public confusion and anxiety.
He sees Boris Johnson’s preference for encouraging individual behaviour change (rather than more interventionist ‘test-and-trace’ and ‘social distancing’ policies) as likely to deliver a slower drift into a much deeper problem.
Most offensive of all is his claim that ‘herd immunity’ is what will save us is offensive, because “throughout history, herd immunity comes only after widespread infection and substantial death rates. Even the benefits are often short lived; with immunity not comprehensively passed on to succeeding generations of the herd”.
Johnson’s policy of turning his back on more interventionist measures, may result in ‘A Very British Cull’; ironically, one getting shut of large numbers of the voters who put him into power.
Simpson’s article predicts – according to the pattern revealed in Italy – that in less than three weeks – assuming the rate of increase remains constant – the total number of cases in Britain will have exceeded 16,000.
The World Health Organisation now says that China’s most effective strategy was the extensive testing, pro-active detection and immediate isolation of patients. This is what rapidly reduced infection rates. By choosing not to adopt vigorous ‘test-and-trace’ policies, Britain has opted not to know precise numbers. Simpson anticipates that by the end of three weeks, the capacity of the NHS to deal with the Coronavirus epidemic will be close to breaking point.
Due to the scale of NHS cuts since 2010 the UK has only 6.6 ‘critical care’ beds/100,000, whereas Italy has 12.5 ‘critical care’ beds/100,000 people. 14,000 EU nationals left the NHS during Britain’s Brexit debacle and there has been an 87% fall in NHS job applications that followed this.
His generation (the older generation) mustn’t miss the chance to face painful home truths. Coronavirus is to the elderly what climate is to the young. If population growth is a problem, it isn’t the kids. It’s those of us living longer. Coronavirus has grasped this in a way that prejudice doesn’t.
Far too often climate campaigners come across indifferent (older) voices saying “It’s population, not climate, you should worry about. So let’s look at the actual numbers. According to the UN, out of today’s global population of 7.6 billion there are about 2 billion children (under 15). By 2100, when the population may rise to 12 billion, the number of children is projected to be … 2 billion.
An economic implosion in 2020 is unavoidable
No amount of Central Bank interest-rate reductions will avert this. Societies that are afraid to go outside, or share the air they breathe, and have lost faith in the safety nets they once took for granted, are only ever semi-functional. But it is around the silver linings of such a collapse that tomorrow’s New Jerusalem will have to be built.
The silver lining to a dire situation
In the absence of government leadership, whole communities have been quietly stepping up to the plate; providing the leadership the nation lacks. In Wuhan, an impromptu army of young volunteers, transporting food around on empty buses, has delivered the food and medicines that has kept others alive. It is what happens in a war. Dad’s Army, Mum’s Army and (increasingly) Kid’s Armies have stepped in, providing the emergency safety nets their society needs. One way or another, we are all following China’s lead. In the UK, the most visible sign of this came from those volunteering as emergency responders; providing non-medical support services to the NHS.
As self-isolation increases, it appears too in local support networks. We’re part of a neighbourhood ‘internet Group’ that offers shopping and support to anyone self-isolating. Go onto Twitter, WhatsApp or Facebook and you will find these in their thousands, all across the country.
Some reports suggest that up to 3 million UK volunteers are stepping in this space. Increasingly, as older/more vulnerable members self-isolate, it is younger people who underpin these safety nets. Slowly, we are rediscovering what previous generations did in wartime. They called it ‘social solidarity’.
Simpson forecasts that today’s crisis will see carbon emissions tumble, pollution levels plummet, and a generation of younger people emerge as social saviours. Around them a very different Green New Deal must then be written. Tomorrow’s security will require a more circular, cleaner, inclusive economics. It will have to put back to the planet more than it takes out, and turn its back on beliefs that we can just shop our way from one crisis to another. This won’t be before time.
A new report by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) calls for addressing the climate crisis to be treated as the ‘first duty of government.’
Fighting the Wrong Battles: How Obsession with Military Power Diverts Resources from the Climate Crisis, is written by CAAT’s Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman, the group’s research co-ordinator and former head of military expenditure at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. He says:
“The climate crisis is not only an environmental crisis, it is also one of human security. It is already causing catastrophic damage and loss of life worldwide.
Analysis in the report shows that the government spends more than twice as much on the military as it does on mitigating climate change. The report argues that “The balance of priorities for these two areas of spending should be clear. Climate change represents an existential threat to the UK and the world. Loss of the UK’s status as a global military power does not.”
While the programmes for Trident replacement and new large aircraft carriers go ahead, the same level of financial support is not provided to tackle the biggest threat to the security of people in the UK and worldwide – the unfolding climate catastrophe. As the report reflects:
“It is striking that the maximum spending estimate for achieving the UK’s climate change targets is around the same level as what the government considers to be the bare minimum requirement for military spending.”
“The climate crisis is not only an environmental crisis, it is also one of human security. It is already causing catastrophic damage and loss of life worldwide. The recent floods have shown how ill-prepared UK infrastructure and government responses are today. As climate change worsens then so will the impact of floods and extreme weather events.
Pictured in a thoughtful article in Carbon Brief
“If we are to make the changes that are needed, that means moving towards a vision of climate justice and sustainable security. We must focus on the real threats to human well-being, recognise the interdependence of security for people around the world, and ensure that our economic systems remain within the bounds set by nature.”
Shadow peace minister Fabian Hamilton hosted a lobby in parliament today from 11.30am where CAAT presented the report.
Speakers were the report’s author, Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman and Anna Vickerstaff, UK Team Leader at 350.org, which works to end the use of fossil fuels and build community-led renewable energy.
A wider discussion followed.
As many readers have a particular interest in defence we add a distinction between spending on true defence and on the nuclear weapon and the equipment used in Allied coalition operations in the Middle East.
The BBC reported the views of a former Head of Joint Forces Command, Gen Sir Richard Barrons, some time ago. He established the important Joint Force Command, which examines areas such as cyber warfare, medical, logistics, information and surveillance.
Sir Richard said that key capabilities such as radars, fire control systems and missile stocks had been stripped out. Neither the UK homeland nor a deployed force could be protected from a concerted air attack . . . Manpower in all three services is dangerously squeezed and Navy ships and RAF planes depend on US support.
Major General Tim Cross, who served in the British army for 40 years, responded to criticism of Sir Richard’s statements as “wrong and unfair”; adding that he was “simply highlighting a reality”.
Read more here:
Will politicians ever put their constituents’ interests first?
By 5pm on Sunday there were 271 flood warnings for England, landslides in Wales, hundreds evacuated from their homes, tens of thousands without electricity. many town centres heavily flooded and hundreds of train, plane and ferry services cancelled.
Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard said, “The reality of the climate crisis is that more extreme weather will happen more often and with devastating consequences.
MP Craig Whittaker’s constituency includes a string of communities along the River Calder that have been repeatedly devastated by floods. Among them are the villages and small towns of Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd, Luddendenfoot and Sowerby Bridge. But after the 2015 floods the Commons debated a motion calling for annual spending on defences to be increased from £695.3 million to £800m, Mr Whittaker was amongst those who voted against the motion, which was defeated.
Some whose homes and businesses were affected have had enough and are going to move away: “We don’t want to become a ghost town.”
In November 2019, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was vigorously heckled by local people when belatedly visiting flooded Stainforth in South Yorkshire, after expressing little concern about the floods.
After intense lobbying £33m.was granted for work in Mytholmroyd which began in June 2018 and is due to be finished in July or August 2020
Workers constructing flood defences in Mytholmroyd in the Upper Calder Valley in West Yorkshire, building walls to contain the River Calder
Peter Lazenby points out that while this scheme struggled to get funding, the government was subsidising landowners who are increasing run-off in rainstorms by clearing Pennine moorland above the Calder Valley for grouse shooting, burning off moorland which removes mosses and other plants that absorb and store water.
In some places, water flows are controlled by bodies called Internal Drainage Boards, independent locally funded and operated statutory public bodies. Many members of these boards are landowners and seem interested only in speeding water off farmland: they dredge, straighten and embank rivers, rushing water towards cities lower in the catchment. a recent National Audit Office report revealed significant issues with their governance, transparency and accountability.
MP Philip Davies branded it “completely unacceptable” that many of his constituents in Shipley, West Yorkshire, which was also flooded during Storm Ciara, had also been victims of the 2015 floods.
Towns in the Calder Valley, such as Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd (above) have been flooded repeatedly, partly, local people argue, because the upper catchment is unable to hold back most of the rain that falls on it.
A paper published in the Journal of Hydrology X reported experiments conducted in another part of the Pennines, the range in which Calderdale is located. It found that when peat bogs are restored, deep vegetation is allowed to recover and erosion gullies are blocked, water is held back for longer in the hills, and peak flows in the streams draining them are reduced. There has been a major shift in awareness, in and out of government, that impeding the flow of water off the land and slowing a river’s pace can reduce flooding downstream, saving lives, homes and infrastructure.
One paper suggests that reforesting between 20 and 40% of a catchment can reduce the height of floods by 19% and recommends:
- leaky wooden dams embedded in streams,
- building no more houses on floodplains,
- using new engineering techniques to defend those already there,
- planting shelter belts of trees along the contours: water sinks into the soil under trees at 67 times the rate at which it sinks into the soil under grass and
- building ponds to catch the water instead of draining the wettest ground
In Japan, England, the Netherlands, and other low-lying countries, architects and civil engineers have developed technologies for flood control barriers, weirs and floodgates When the water rises, the computerized walls close and water fills tanks along the barrier. The weight of the water pushes the walls firmly down and keeps water from passing through. Hydraulic motors don’t need electricity to run, so they aren’t affected by power failures that can occur during storms.
Flood-affected urban areas often face a different set of problems, related to housebuilding in floodplains and damaged sewage systems. Whilst the housebuilding problem persists it is good to read about progress made in places like Stirchley.
In due course we hope to hear the residents in places like Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd echoing the cautious 2020 accolade of Peter Walker – Stirchley Neighbourhood Forum
“I think that the defence work that has been done so far is having some success”.
The revolving door between government & big business
Yesterday’s headlines review of ONS report: 2008-2019, richest 10% enjoy biggest gains in household wealth
NHS: Boris Johnson proposes to let Africa and India educate our medics, engineers, scientists and technicians – then poach them
Early this morning Radio 5 reported that Boris Johnson has promised to lure more medics educated in poorer countries by halving the cost of the ‘NHS visa’ and speeding up the application process. This followed an announcement of measures to attract specialists in science, engineering and technology.
Boris Johnson proposes to intensify the harmful practice of importing doctors, nurses, workers in agriculture, service industries and IT experts from poorer countries. Rather than bearing the costs of educating our own, he advocates depriving developing countries of the able young enterprising citizens they desperately need.
In March, the Telegraph quoted figures from the General Medical Council showing that last year Britain imported more doctors than it trains. New figures show a steep rise in the numbers recruited from overseas. 53% of those joining the medical register came from overseas to do so – a rise from 39% in 2015.
This is the first time since 2006 that overseas doctors have outnumbered UK medics joining the register
NHS Providers, representing hospital, mental health, ambulance and community services, has written to Boris Johnson to demand action (FT 5.11.19). It made ominous references to ‘a complicated pension problem’ and advises recycling some unused employer pension contributions as salary.
Rule changes introduced in 2016 meant that rising numbers of consultants and other senior staff were facing unexpected tax bills linked to the value of their pensions. The FT article alleges that some high earners are left some facing effective marginal tax rates of more than 100% and in June the Guardian reported that some staff have had to remortgage their homes to cover their tax bills, while others were faced with the choice of cutting their hours.
Raise job satisfaction: as austerity continues, news of distressing delays and anecdotal accounts of neglect in NHS hospitals abound. A Labour government could:
- heed Simon Stevens, head of the NHS: “We need to train more health professionals in this country and that includes doctors. We’ve got five new medical schools coming online as we speak which will be a 25% increase in undergraduate medical places – arguably, that needs to be more”;
- reduce ratio of managers to medical staff;
- train nurses on the wards for the first three years before they undertake part-time university or technical education and
- as pledged by the Department of Health in 2007, bring back matrons who would once more be responsible for all the nursing and domestic staff, overseeing all patient care, and the efficient running of the hospital.
“We’re emptying Romania of doctors” a moral issue
Simon Stevens, speaking at the Spectator Health Summit in London, said the health service must stop “denuding low income countries of health professionals they need” amid warnings of a growing moral crisis. We need to do so in a way that is ethical so we are not, certainly, denuding low income countries of health professionals they clearly need,”
See https://thenewleam.com/2018/01/crisis-public-health-system-india/ There were many excellent photographs of long queues to see doctors in rural India but Alamy demanded a high price for them.
In March. the Telegraph reported that cancer surgeon Professor J Meirion Thomas told the conference: “We’re emptying Romania of doctors … they’re coming from eastern Europe, they’re coming from Pakistan, India, Egypt and they’re coming from Nigeria . . .
“I think there is a moral issue here. We are poaching doctors from abroad and have done for decades. They are coming from countries where they have been trained at public expense and where they are sorely needed.”
A surge in number of young people registering to vote has been reported as more than 300,000 applications were submitted in two days. There was a big spike on the day the election was announced.
- A third were from people under 25.
- Nearly two-thirds of applications were from people aged 34 and under
- and 4% came from those aged 65 and over.
Dr James Sloam is co-director of Centre for European Politics at Royal Holloway University, currently leading a project for the Greater London Assembly investigating the key policy issues for young people and questions of civic and political engagement and their relevance to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Dr Sloam argues that there has been a step-change in youth political participation, as young people have been attracted in large numbers to Jeremy Corbyn’s message. In the 2017 general election, turnout amongst 18-24 year olds rose from 43% in 2015 to 54% and polling data showed that most of them voted Labour.
BBC journalist Laura Lea points out that this is the generation that has borne the brunt of the financial crisis with uncertainty, unemployment and wage freezes being a staple of their adult life. Young people have experienced the tightest pay squeeze in the wake of the financial crisis – with real pay falling by 13%, according to the Resolution Foundation.
And – we add – they will have to face the increasing hazards of climate change.
Setting off on tour
In his first full week as Britain’s new prime minister, Boris Johnson toured the country before there was a pre-election legal requirement for balanced media coverage. He was booed in Scotland, confronted by farmers in Wales, chided over the future of the union in Northern Ireland, watched his coalition’s majority in Parliament shrink even further and saw the pound fall to a two-and-a-half-year low.
Richard House commented in the Western Daily Press that Mr Johnson has:
- seized headline after headline to create the illusion that the Tories are actually doing something domestically,
- induced voters to forget three years of self-inflicted Brexit-induced torpor and abject failure on all these domestic issues,
- been backed by the ongoing right-wing mainstream media propaganda assault on Jeremy Corbyn and Labour
- presented the Tories as the solution to the social and economic problems their austerity policies caused and
- created a xenophobic Brexit scenario where a heroic Churchillian Johnson rides to the rescue and tub-thumpingly “delivers” Brexit against all the establishment and Remainer odds.
Richard predicts that Johnson will rush to a general election before the November GDP growth figures show that the UK economy is formally in recession and warns the 99%:
“Really… if voters are fool enough to have their vote influenced by all this carefully choreographed manipulation, rather than on a straight and sober analysis and assessment of nine years of Tory policy-making calamity, we’ll end up deserving the government we’re landed with”.