Admirable politician 10: Andrew Gwynne competently addresses aggressive Today presenter 

Despite constant interruptions or simultaneous talking which have become a recent feature of John Humphrys’ technique when interviewing Corbynieres, Andrew Gwynne met all criticisms and challenges perfectly today and this moved the writer to learn more about this politician

In February 2017, Gwynne was promoted to Elections and Campaign Chair whilst retaining some of his Cabinet Office duties and spokesperson role. Two admirable features of his work noted here are the campaign for the victims and families of the Tainted Blood Scandal and his introduction of the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Act.

He became one of the leading voices in the campaign for justice for the victims and families of the Tainted Blood Scandal, reaffirming his commitment to the cause on World AIDS Day 2016. He said in 2016 “This scandal saw thousands of people die, and thousands of families destroyed through the negligence of public bodies”.

In 2010, Gwynne introduced the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Act to restrict the activities of vulture funds which buy the debts of poor countries, usually at a significant discount, and sue for the full debt – plus costs and interest – in courts around the world. The UK government estimates the Act will save £145 million over six years. Similar legislation has now been passed in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

Comments on BBC Radio 4 Today‏ Verified account @BBCr4today added:

  • On rail nationalisation, Andrew Gwynne says the way the East Coast line was publicly-run for a time in recent years shows it can be done.
  • .@GwynneMP says manifesto “is not about government knows best, it’s about actually empowering people”.
  • Labour manifesto leak is “not ideal” but at least people are talking about the party’s vision, says elections chair @GwynneMP

An admirable politician.

 

Numbers 1-9:

Admirable politicians 8 & 9:  Barry Gardiner and Angela Rayner

An admirable MEP (Molly Scott Cato)

An admirable MP (John Hemming)

MP Margaret Hodge – admirable politician

Admirable politician’s work recognised at the Westminster meeting of the Family Farmers’ Association (Andrew George)

In Ireland’s Parliament: Senator David Norris, incandescent on Israeli government action

Another admirable politician – Tony Benn

An admirable politician – Salma Yaqoob

One superb politician inadvertently omitted – perhaps because universally recognised as such –  Caroline Lucas, No 11?

 

 

 

 

 

Broken Britain 4: being sold piecemeal to foreign governments and companies

In April, Peter Hitchens eloquently described the way this country is being sold to foreign governments and companies:

“I don’t think any other nation would put up with this. Why do we? The most ridiculous is the way our trains – devastated by John Major’s mad privatisation scheme – are falling into the hands of foreign state railways. So, while the Government cannot bear to have railways run by the British state, it is happy to have them run by the German, Dutch, French or even Hong Kong state systems . . . in this country that invented the railway and once exported equipment and skills around the world.”(Right: Private profit from public loss: NIPSA 2013)

Hitchens summarises:

  • Privatised railways’ jaws are clamped firmly to the public teat; when they fail they can just stroll away from the mess they have made.
  • British Rail’s trains were faster and more comfortable. It looked after its track far better and – given the money – it would never have made the mess its successors are now making of electrifying the Great Western line, which is years behind schedule, partly abandoned and vastly over budget.
  • In the 20 years to 2013, state subsidies to the rail sector roughly tripled in real terms, while fares continued to rise.
  • My trains are almost always late, frequently very badly so.
  • But they get more expensive all the time.
  • those responsible are protected from us by call centres and unresponsive websites, which only talk to us when they want to.

Finally Hitchens adds: “Last week it emerged that SNCF is bidding to operate HS2, a pointless vanity line that should have been cancelled long ago but which the Government is too weak to abandon. So we might be hiring a foreign state railway to run a service we don’t even need, while Britain is full of sizeable towns with no railway station, which could be linked to the national system for a tiny part of the cost of HS2 . . . The idea that our rulers have any idea what they are doing, or can be trusted with our national future, is a joke. They’re just hoping the bailiffs don’t turn up before the Election. But if they do, what have we got left to sell, to pay our bills?”

Hines argues that the Treaty of Rome needs transforming into a ‘Treaty of Home’ that will allow peoples to protect what they hold dear

Rupert Read has described Colin Hines’ ‘feisty clarion call’ for a change of direction away from acquiescence in the deregulated world that spawned the financial crisis and towards protection of nature, workers, localities and sovereignty, resisting rootless international capital.

As Read says, Hines’ policy of Progressive Protectionism will surely be part of a socially and environmentally viable future: crucial thought-leadership away from the political dead-end of globalisationist fantasy.

 

 

Read’s review (text here) will be published in the Ecologist, May/June issue, see Contents https://reader.exacteditions.com/issues/55993/spread/5

 

Crystal ball: if Theresa May wins in June will it be ‘goodbye to the NHS and hello to Kaiser Permanente’?

Online diagnosis a speciality

Kaiser Permanente members annually have more than 100 million encounters with company physicians, 52% of which are now virtual visits, according to Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson. The transition from physical to virtual visits has been enabled by Kaiser Permanente’s ‘aggressive spending’ on information technology – cheaper to provide, profits rise?

Tom Pride explains that Kaiser Permanente is an American private healthcare organisation based in California. McKinsey extols this company’s work in the US, because it provides a complete model of integrated pre-paid insurance along with healthcare which is supposedly free at the point of need but is:

Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt and other ministers have visited the company at its California headquarters several times.

And Kaiser’s website lists other recent visitors from the UK, including many representing NHS hospitals and NHS trusts as well as HM Treasury and the Ministry of Health itself (click on link above to find and enlarge):

In January the Prime Minister faced repeated questions about how much she was prepared to give away, ahead of her face-to-face talks with President Trump. Jeremy Corbyn urged her to rule out any deal that would give US healthcare giants a toehold in the NHS – after similar concerns over an aborted EU-US agreement – but Theresa May specifically refused to guarantee she would not open up the NHS to US firms in a post-Brexit trade deal across the Atlantic.

Is the lack of action to resolve the worsening NHS crisis likely to make the public support changes to a system that is being deliberately run down?

Will a Conservative government replace NHS England with private US healthcare system Kaiser Permanente aka The Center for Total Health?

 

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General Election 2017: poll watch

Corbyn well-wishers will have noted his increasingly effective performance on Prime Minister’s Questions and the enthusiastic crowds continuing to attend meetings held in different parts of the country.

Standing ovation at head teachers’ conference

“Enjoying life in the political trenches” (O’Grady)

A reader whose name I carelessly forgot to record, draws attention to an article by Sean O’Grady in the Independent. Amongst different poll results we read O’Grady’s reference to an earlier article recording Jeremy Corbyn’s party as rising by four points in the last week to 30% support (Opinium below).

A YouGov poll (below) between 27 and 28 April found that Labour was up two points to 31%; last week a YouGov poll gave the Tories a 23-point lead, showing that the Conservatives dropped by 10 points in the polls in the first week of the election campaign.

O’Grady believes that Mrs May is underestimating Jeremy Corbyn and “digging up old stuff” doesn’t matter much to the voters of 2017: “They already know he’s an old leftie. All it does is show he sticks to his guns and, in the case of talking to the IRA, he got there a decade before John Major and the Conservatives did. Man of Principle and all that”.

He says that the more exposure Corbyn and Farron have on TV, the more the voters will see that they are not the idiots the press tells them they are and adds that the Labour vote may well be more resilient in the North and London than May and her advisers thought: “London is firmly pro-EU and vast swaths of the North are still not convinced the Conservatives are for them. Across the country, poorer pensioners – still certain to vote – will not like what the Tories are telling them, or hinting, about the triple lock on the state pension . . . They need a responsive NHS too”.

May’s repetition of the “strong and stable leadership” phrase is also attracting derision, he notes – “a pretty silly soundbite” – and moves on to the subject of tactical voting:

“There are small signs of it now, especially among EU Remainers, and in the Green Party which is even standing down in some areas for Lib Dems or Labour. Ukippers are doing the same for the Tories, though some of their protest vote may just stay home next time. The net effect of all this is highly unpredictable, but tactical voting by Labour and Lib Dem supporters was one of things that punished the Tories so badly in 1997”. O’Grady thinks that “under first past the post it could leave the Conservatives at a net disadvantage. It will see Sir Vince Cable back in the Commons at any rate, and push the Tories’ hoped-for landslide back . . . The country doesn’t want one-party rule that doesn’t reflect or heal its divisions. May’s rhetoric goes against that grain and is alienating potential support”. O’Grady ends:

“(T)he Conservatives’ simplistic messages do not match the greater sophistication of the voters and the new media landscape. May and her shadowy PR advisers are just not as good at politics or as modern as Thatcher and Saatchi were back then. Maggie ran a Blitzkrieg campaign, her fast-moving tactics and policy arguments leaving her underprepared enemies foundering: Theresa is trying to do the same through an interminably dull trench war of attrition, lobbing the same old slogans across no mans land into the electoral mud, missing targets and doing little damage after the first bombardment. Her enemies have been given all the time they need to match her organisation and regroup, and they enjoy life in the political trenches”.

Nigel Nelson’s understated reaction to the polls: “If a week is a long time in politics then six weeks until the General Election is an eternity. And there is plenty of time to be surprised by the outcome”.

 

 

 

 

 

General Election 2017 – The No Policies Policy

‘Aside from a couple taken from other parties, do the Conservatives have any policies?’ asks Steve Beauchampé? (Edited extracts, for full text click here)

Has the Prime Minister turned into a parrot? I only ask because despite leading the country that gave to the world the rich and eloquent language of Shakespeare, Dickens, Betjeman and Ted Hughes, Theresa Mays vocabulary seems to consist of two phrases totalling just seven words (and we all know by now what they are so I wont repeat them). To be fair though thats two more than your average parrot, who struggles to get beyond Whos A Pretty Boy Then?

Despite refusing to participate in television debates because she would be busy travelling around the country talking to ordinary voters, May has remained in a hermetically sealed bubble, helicoptered in to stand before placard-brandishing Conservative Party members, robotically mouth those seven words, many times over, add a few other vacuous remarks, before flying back to Westminster, job done, no questions asked…literally!

Credit to Labour for taking this election business seriously and treating the voters like adults (ditto each of the larger of the smallerparties). Labours policy issues continue to be raised and debated, interviews continue to be given. Their manifesto should be quite a hefty document

Labour could perhaps do with a memorable slogan of their own, though its campaign has been surprisingly good so far . . . and the continual, relentless use of the same slogan and soundbite can quickly undermine its effectiveness, with signs over the weekend that Theresa May’s favourite phrases might just be becoming more mocked than listened to.

Perhaps the party should ask Boris for help, showing that a public school education trumps the state system, at least in terms of a varied and colourful vocabulary . . . As is his wont, Corbyn did not respond (when they go low, you go high JC) and credit to him for that.

Rumour has it that the Conservative manifesto is to be issued as a single tweet 

Still, if you don’t offer any policies then I suppose you can’t subsequently be accused of breaking any policy pledges. And given the enormity and complexity of extracting Britain from the EU, this most scrutiny-averse of Prime Ministers probably won’t have much time to introduce large tracts of legislation, especially if her opponents’ claim that she’ll be revoking swathes of current employment, environmental and consumer law prove correct.

On Brexit, Labour finds itself appealing fully to no-one, caught in a perfect political snooker somewhere between the attempts of the Lib Dems, SNP and Blair/Mandelson to reverse or otherwise negate the referendum result, and the Tory/UKIP rush to enact a complete break from the EU, its structures, laws and institutions. 

Given that Labour’s core voters were split between Leave and Remain, its position may in essence be reasonable – respect the EU referendum result but fight to achieve the best outcome for the future, prioritising the economy, environment, employment rights and consumer protection legislation over immigration.

And finally, lest you missed it, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon appeared briefly early last week to warn yet again that Jeremy Corbyn is a threat to national security, with his opposition to spending up to £41bn on renewing Trident at a time of ongoing austerity and swingeing cuts to vital public services. 

Fallon added that both he and Theresa May would be prepared to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike (I dont think they meant against Jeremy Corbyn but Im not entirely certain).  

Odd sort of a country where those willing to vaporise countless numbers of civilians are defined as moderate, whilst someone who prefers the de-escalation of military tension through dialogue over unleashing weapons of planet-changing destruction is viewed as extreme.

First published in The BirminghamPress.com

 

 

 

 

 

Broken Britain 3: ‘strong and stable government’: by the rich, for the rich, at the expense of the rest

Government for Britain’s rich: strong and stable; for its 99%: a crumbling NHS and farming sector, expensive public transport, vanishing libraries and cuts for the young, the poor and the frail .

Those who are ‘just about managing’ live in the only ‘big advanced economy’ in which wages contracted (2007-2015) while the economy expanded, the cost of living rose and multinational profits rocketed.

Pett lists the end goals which would benefit the 99% and the wreckers

As Eisenhower said, we need a humane government which would focus on the well-being of all, not the profits of the few and stop being complicit in slaughter . . .

 

and we should strengthen local/regional economies.

 

Close the global casino and the revolving door between big business and government

and offer all, especially superfluous managers and young commodity traders, socially beneficial work

 

 

 

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Worried? As an increasing number of commentators move to support Corbyn, Boris Johnson blunders into attack mode

Mugwump moi?

Project fear – yet again:

In Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper, Johnson cites the ‘semi-deranged regime in North Korea, bent on getting nuclear weapons (just as semi-deranged Britain has done) that could one day be used to strike this country’. He adds:

‘And we are engaged in a vast struggle against ‘an evil Islamist death cult’ that is taking lives around the world’; he totally fails to add that the ‘Islamist’ deaths equal only a tiny percentage of those lives taken by us and our special friend since the second world war.

And Project Prudence

Johnson’s strange proposition: EU heads of state would far rather negotiate with the  adult versions of this wealth-seeking, selfish and arrogant group than with Jeremy Corbyn

Talking to John Humphrys on Radio 4’s Today programme, Boris Johnson said that EU heads would not take Corbyn seriously and that he would be “disastrous” on Brexit. “Corbyn’s approach would be a recipe for paralysis and uncertainty – and for Britain to get totally stiffed in the negotiations.”

Not so. These European (EU) socialist heads of state regard Corbyn as a comrade and have already had cordial meetings with him. Any interaction with him as prime minister would have a far better outcome than negotiations with a Conservative government.

 

 

 

Broken Britain 2: prioritising the interests of the  privatised ‘care’ industry and nursing homes

As the media is reporting the case of a couple described by their son as being ‘fiercely independent’ in which the wife begged her husband to kill her, with appalling consequences, we publish the reflections of a reader whose terminally husband begged her and her son to end his life. She writes:

People in incurable pain or dependent on others to clean, dress and feed them should be given the option of a medically supervised peaceful end in the company of those who care for them – without the journey to merciful Switzerland.

Is this the way YOU want to live?

I asked a young friend who would advocate depriving people of a planned and peaceful departure – apart from a religious minority who should not decide the conduct of others with different beliefs; after a moment’s thought he replied that the vast and growing number of corporations (some listed below) setting up and running care homes and other nursing establishments would be deprived of many years’ income from the patients’ savings and property.

Will we get a more caring government which puts the welfare of human beings before that of the privatised healthcare lobby or will Britain continue to be ruled by multinational interest?

And before anyone writes in about the possible dangers it should be noted that this merciful option – assisted dying – is working well in seven countries and six American states – see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assisted_suicide#Legality_by_country.

 

 

 

 

Focus on cuts 6: JAM families suffer as bus fares rise

 

 

In 2016, though the price of oil was low, average bus fares rose three times faster than the consumer prices index. The statistics report presented by government for 2015/6 was precise: “Between March 2011 and March 2016, the average annual percentage change in bus fares was 3.8% higher than the average annual rate of inflation (2.3%)”. Families who can’t afford a car can find travelling by bus costs more than taking a taxi.

Theresa May: “We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives” (first speech as leader)

But reduced central funding means that as many bus services have been ‘axed’ people actually have less control:

  • Without accessible or affordable transport, adults in ‘just about managing’ [JAM] families will be less able to travel to work or to medical and other appointments.
  • Some feel compelled to go into debt to buy cars they wouldn’t need if bus services were reliable and affordable..

Due to government funding cuts, town hall chiefs have announced that councils have been forced to reduce bus services by more than 12% in the past year.

They  are calling on the Government to fully fund the Concessionary Fares scheme, and for the devolution of the £250m Bus Service Operators Grant scheme that refunds some of the fuel duty incurred by operators of registered local bus services. The grant was kept at 81% until April 2012, when it was reduced by 20%. The current payment rate is the lowest ever percentage since the rebate’s inception in the 1960s.

Theresa May: “When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few, we will do everything we can to help anybody”.

But government actions belied these fine words; her chancellor announced a fuel duty freeze whichhe saidwill cost taxpayers a predicted £850m in the first year alone and really help the ‘fortunate few’ running the largest cars, not the JAM families.

 

 

 

 

 

Labour, Conservative and Green voices call for a progressive alliance. Will it happen now or later?

An audience seriously considering the proposal

With thanks to the reader working in Uganda who sent the Hitchens link and remembering another who yesterday advocated ABC voting, ‘Anything But Conservative’.

Peter Hitchens insisted, some time ago, that a lot of people feel left out of the recovery we are supposed to be having, and they need a powerful voice in Parliament, adding:

“There is nothing good (or conservative) about low wages, insecure jobs and a mad housing market which offers nothing but cramped rooms and high rents to young families just when they need space, proper houses with gardens, and security . . .

“The truth is that both major parties have been taken over by the same cult, the Clinton-Blair fantasy that globalism, open borders and mass immigration will save the great nations of the West. It hasn’t worked. In the USA it has failed so badly that the infuriated, scorned, impoverished voters of Middle America are on the point of electing a fake-conservative yahoo businessman as President”.

Hitchens concludes that many Labour MPs have more in common with Mrs May than with Mr Corbyn and will ‘snuggle up beside her absurdly misnamed Conservative Party’.

He believes that the British public will at last see clearly that their only response is to form an alliance against the two big parties: “Impossible? Look how quickly this happened in Scotland”.

This Green House pamphlet with contributions from Molly Scott Cato MEP, Victor Anderson, Rupert Read, Jonathan Essex and Sara Parkin was written before the EU referendum and the economic and political turmoil which has followed but the authors believe its analysis and conclusions are still valid.

In her introduction, MEP Molly Scott Cato points out that a route to a more positive future offering hope to the majority of citizens is blocked by our archaic and unrepresentative electoral system which enables one party to control so much power with a minority of the votes cast. She continues:

“Our primary target is our electoral system. In the 2015 general election the Green Party received 1 million votes but only one parliamentary seat. By contrast the Scottish National Party received 1.5 million votes and 56 seats.

“This is the logic of first past the post . . . but as voters move into a multi-party future the system entrenches political stasis and blocks progressive change”. Later she cites Germany as the most striking example of a country that has benefited from Greens in power:

“Its industries are successful because Greens in government encouraged them to move into the new era of low carbon energy production before other European countries. Germany has turned its back on the nuclear age and is rapidly phasing out fossil fuels. Germany is the economy in Europe that is benefiting most from the energy transition that dangerous climate change requires of us. It is Greens in government who enabled this process”.

She, and other Green House members invite everyone who wants to see an alternative to continued Conservative government to join in the discussion about what that alternative can be.

Professor Jeremy Gilbert, in a Compass article, spells out the proposal, advocating a co-ordinated response involving every potentially progressive organisation and party in the country. He asks:

“Do you really think we can stand up to May, Murdoch and the Mail, to the City, the CBI and consumer-industrial complex all alone?

“Labour is never going to be back on 44% in the opinion polls. The electorate is too fragmented for that, and above all Labour’s electoral base is too fractured for it ever to happen again”.

(Ed: we note that the British Labour Party is already one of the parties and organisations from over 90 countries which participate in the International Progressive Alliance network of social-democratic and progressive political parties.)

Gilbert continues: “Would you rather it happen now, while the Left retains the leadership of the party, or in five or ten years time, when the Right is back in control? Would you rather have a Progressive Alliance, or an alliance of revanchist Blairites, (May)ites and ‘Orange Book’ Liberal Democrats? Because if we do not seize the initiative now, then the latter is what we are going to get, soon enough. This is going to happen sooner or later”.