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.
Political strategist in the FT: Corbyn-Labour’s ideas are framing the decisions the new government is making
Johnson is ‘parking his tanks on Labour’s lawn’
Jeremy Corbyn’s claim that the Labour party “won the argument” in the UK general election has stunned some commentators, but John McTernan a widely experienced political strategist, argues that – to use Corbyn’s words – Labour has “rewritten the terms of political debate”.
The Conservative party won the election, but they are far from winning the battle of ideas. In the Financial Times today McTernan describes Johnson – elected on the promise of “getting Brexit done” – as being devoid of policies which would retain the new electorate the Conservatives now represent. He cites the worst Conservative attempt to devise an agenda aimed at working people shown in an infographic after a recent budget in which their boasts about cutting tax on beer and bingo., was widely burlesqued (below left).
McTernan points to the funding for NHS concession on nurses’ bursaries packaged with other policies as a significant reversal of direction and says that Mr Johnson’s promise to intervene, to buy British and to use state aid to protect UK industries is also being interpreted as “another example of parking his tanks on Labour’s lawn”. He comments: “When Tory plans for new council house building are announced or the remake of rail franchising begins, it will all be the hand of Mr Corbyn”.
But, he asks, “at what point does the mask actually become the face?”
Not in the immediate future, fear those concerned about the post election disability ruling by the government’s Department for Work & Pensions.
A historical perspective
- Labour would propose a policy.
- The Tory government would denounce it as extreme.
- The tabloid press would pile in.
- Then the government would adopt it after all.
It happened with energy price caps. And it happened with the living wage. But he ends:
“(S)omething deeper is going on. From corporate capitalism to housing, from climate change to transport, Labour’s ideas are framing the decisions the new government is making” – a movement that is not going to disappear.
The editorial board says that the author of Labour’s defeat, above all, is Mr Corbyn:
Resist and Rebuild is George Monbiot’s challenging title for his latest article – replaced as usual, with a blander headline, by the Guardian editor
He sees a future, darker, arguably, than at any point since the Second World War. His verdict:
“This government has no vision for the country, only a vision for the oligarchs to whom it is bound, onshore and offshore . . . We should seek, wherever possible, to put loyalty to party and faction aside, and work on common resolutions to a crisis afflicting everyone who wants a kinder, fairer, greener nation.
“All the progressive manifestos I’ve read – Labour, Green, SNP, LibDem, Plaid – contain some excellent proposals. Let’s extract the best of them, and ideas from many other sources, and build an alliance around them. There will be differences, of course. But there will also be positions that almost everyone who believes in justice can accept”.
Monbiot believes that we need to knit these proposals into a powerful new narrative – the vehicle for all political transformations.
Knowledge is the most powerful tool in politics.
- We must expose every lie, every trick this government will play, using social media as effectively as possible.
- We must use every available tool to investigate its financial relationships, interests and strategies.
- We should use the courts to sue and prosecute malfeasance whenever we can.
Create, to the greatest extent possible, a resistance economy with local cooperative networks of mutual support, that circulate social and material wealth within the community (Ed: see Relocalising Britain)
The work of Participatory City, with the Barking and Dagenham Council, shows us one way of doing this through volunteering which provides the most powerful known defence against loneliness and alienation, helps to support the people this government will abandon and can defend and rebuild the living world.
We will throw everything we have into defending our public services – especially the NHS – because the long-standing strategy of governments like this is to degrade these services until we become exasperated with them, whereupon, lacking public support, they can be broken up and privatised. Don’t fall for it. Defend the overworked heroes who keep them afloat.
He ends “No one person should attempt all these things. . . We will divide up the tasks, working together, with mutual support through the darkest of times. Love and courage to you all”.
In an earlier post it was noted that “Governments are balancing budgets on the backs of the poor” (John Grisham) 2.6 million women born in the 1950s will ‘lose out’ because of changes to pension law: “while corporations and the richest individuals receive tax breaks”.
Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, wrote earlier this month:
“Across Britain some 3.8 million women are affected by the increase to the state pension age. Though there is a good deal of sympathy for the aim of equalising the retirement age, what has taken place in practice has been appallingly unjust. Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) agrees with equalisation, but does not agree with the unfair way the changes were implemented – with little or no personal notice (1995/2011 Pension Acts), faster than promised (2011 Pension Act), and no time to make alternative plans”.
Guy Opperman, work and pensions minister with responsibility for financial exclusion, failed to reassure women in their 60s, hit by changes to their pension, by advising them to get a job or take up “extended apprenticeship opportunities”.
“Raising the pension age for women, often with little notice and sometimes failing to notify people of the changes at all, is a recipe for disaster.
“Many Waspi women affected by state pension inequality have been working full time and paying national insurance since the age of 15 or 16. In my constituency of Easington, the government’s changes to the state pension age will harm some 4,542 women.
“The OECD has recently ranked Britain’s pensions system as the worst in the developed world – yet the Tories are attempting to deny Waspi women even a basic state pension” . . .
“Excluded from the winter fuel allowance, from the free bus pass and now from the state pension, this generation of women are now in numerous cases having to sell their homes, take on precarious poverty-wage jobs or rely on foodbanks . . .
“The government’s given reason for failing these 3.8 million women is that to give them their pensions would cost as much as £30bn – for six years of pensions.
“Yet research from Landman Economics suggests the cost of helping Waspi women would likely be a more modest £8bn”. Morris lists the wider context:
- Refurbishing Westminster will cost the taxpayer some £7bn,
- Britain’s airstrikes in Syria are estimated to reach a cost of around £10bn.
- Increased privatisation of the national health service is estimated to cost at least an extra £4.5-£10bn each year.
- There have been billions of pounds of needless tax cuts to the bank levy.
“In this context finding the money for Waspi women seems a sensible price to pay to give these women justice and stop poverty from rising to ever more tragic levels. We know and we can see that it isn’t equal, it isn’t fair and it isn’t justifiable – it’s driving down the incomes and the quality of life of countless women.
Morris: “The prime minister is herself a Waspi woman but I doubt she ever has or ever will be faced with a choice between heating or eating. Yet this doesn’t mean it is too late for the government to do the right thing”.
“The parliamentary ombudsman is currently investigating the Department for Work and Pensions for maladministration, by failing to notify women of the changes to their state pension age. If the ombudsman finds in favour of the Waspi women the government could have to pay compensation to the tune of billions of pounds”
The Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru, the DUP and 50 Tory MPs support the Waspi campaign.
Broken Britain 7: prolonged, tragic sagas: infected blood transfusions, OP poisoning and Gulf War Syndrome, denial and delay, pending death
The Haemophilia Society has blown the whistle and called for an enquiry into its own failure and that of government, pharma and clinicians. More here.
Medics and politicians knew by the mid-1970s that commercially manufactured blood products from the USA were suspect. By the mid-1980s there were warnings of a similar situation in respect of HIV. Nevertheless these products continued to be imported and used – just as OP sheep dips were.
British haemophiliacs and other victims’ lives were blighted in the 1970s and 1980s by these cheap imported US blood products, harvested from inmates and drug addicts. More than 7,000 were infected and went on unknowingly to infect family
Last week in The Times, Margarette Driscoll recalls that in 2015, following the Penrose report into contaminated blood products in Scotland (which many victims denounced as a whitewash), David Cameron apologised to those who were infected by HIV and hepatitis C.
References to “compensation” have been changed to “payments” – to avoid admitting the liability which is already common knowledge? The sums received by victims of the contaminated blood scandal are known as ex gratia payments.
In April, as he left the Commons, the former health secretary Andy Burnham declared there had been a “criminal cover-up on an industrial scale in the NHS” over contaminated blood and called for a Hillsborough-style inquiry.
Diana Johnson, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull North, has been campaigning on the issue since she met one of her constituents, a mild haemophiliac who was given factor VIII in 1983 to prevent excessive bleeding when he had a tooth removed in hospital. He discovered he was infected with hepatitis C in 1995, when it showed up on blood tests for an unrelated illness.
As Theresa May had set up the Hillsborough inquiry when she was home secretary, Johnson was hopeful she would do the same for contaminated blood.
May refused. Johnson requested an urgent Commons debate, which was due to be held on Tuesday. She then got the six leaders of the opposition parties — including the DUP — to sign a letter to Ms May asking for an inquiry, and this is to be set up.
Adding insult to injury? Payment to many victims of NHS blood contamination is to be cut
In March this year a scheme to pay the victims of NHS blood contamination is to be scaled back under government plans announced on Monday. Ministers believe the reforms are necessary because more people are now considered likely to develop serious health issues – and be entitled to higher payouts – pushing the programme as much as £123m over budget.
The government has proposed measures that would cut predicted costs, including limiting the availability of the higher level of financial support under the scheme
Will an enquiry compensate the victims of this NHS for the cuts?
Edited extracts from an article by MP Dawn Butler, responding to a claim by Minister Liz Truss
Her message to Theresa May: you delivered a caring speech on the steps of 10 Downing Street, but it is clear that it was nothing more than rhetoric and spin. The few it governs for are certainly not the working class . . .
Rents have sky-rocketed to ridiculous levels, with my constituents, in the worst cases, spending 70% of their wages on rent alone, whilst drivers on modest incomes – who need their car to get to and from work – continue to face misery at the petrol pump. In Brent, we have two very busy foodbanks and several soup and bread kitchens. This 19th century scenario is the sad reality for the working class in 21st century Britain.
Wages for the majority of people have continued to fall in real terms, whilst those at the top have seen their salaries soar
Living conditions in the UK are now at their lowest levels for 60 years, with hundreds of thousands of families relying on food parcels just to get by. Our hospitals are in crisis, hate crime has rocketed and homelessness has doubled.
And to compound the struggle, this government has been cutting services, such as money for pupils, access to justice and policing
This means that when you are being discriminated against at work, you will be less likely to be able to take your employer to court. Tribunal cases have plummeted by 70%. To the government this number represents success, but to me, these are hard-working people who have had the rug pulled from underneath them when it comes to getting proper recompense for their grievances. These are the signs of a government destroying the working conditions and protections of those who need it most.
Nearly one million people are on zero hours contracts which means, from month to month, they are in a panic to know if they can pay their rent on time or at all.
This government is openly deceiving the general public by claiming to be something they’re so clearly not. Whether you call it “alt-facts” or “fake news”, if such untruths are peddled often enough, people soon start to believe it may be true.
Conservatives have tried to force the trade union bill through parliament to silence and, ultimately, destroy trade unions. Why would they want to do this unless they wanted also to destroy the voice of the working class and important workers’ rights? How about the workers’ rights bill? The Tories wouldn’t allow a discussion in parliament of a bill which sought to protect the rights of the working class after Brexit. Features like working 48 hour weeks, holiday pay and maternity and paternity rights are all at risk due to us leaving the EU. The government appear to be running roughshod over them.
Throughout our history in power we have championed the working man and woman in establishing great working class systems, from the NHS to the minimum wage, and all equality legislation, tenets that have now become the fibre that gives our country its unity, fairness and strength. We defended SME businesses, created through a movement of working class men women and trade unions, all with a common goal of helping the many and not just the few.
Dawn Butler is MP for Brent Central
Dr 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:
“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”.
National Health Action Party executive condemns influence of corporate sector and recommends vote to REMAIN
The executive of the National Health Action Party – formed by health professionals deeply concerned about the state of the NHS – decided that they would not actively campaign in the debate when the referendum was first announced.
The party policy on democracy in both the UK and the EU has not been fundamentally affected by the referendum and it remains the case that they want to see substantial reform of our democratic processes.
However, at all levels, local, national and supra-national, the democratic process is being subverted by the undue influence of the corporate sector.
This enables industrial scale tax avoidance, legislation which is skewed in the interests of those with most financial influence and our elected representatives vote on issues from which they benefit personally or politically. The message continues:
“As the current investigations into Tory electoral expenses shows it is clear we are in danger of allowing those with the most money to buy elections. We have, in effect, a two party system. This makes it very easy for corporate influence to be maintained as it will always be one or the other in government (with the exception of the occasional Coalition). In the EU the corporate sector meets the negotiators from the Commission to discuss agreements such as CETA and TTIP behind closed doors with very little access given to representatives from campaign groups. These exceed the remit of ordinary trade agreements. Not only do they cover the traditional ground of tariffs (import and export duty) and quotas but also contain substantial deregulatory conditions. As even Peter Lilley, Conservative MP, has noted, this is not the proper business of a trade agreement. These are areas which national governments legislate for.
“In short, at both national and supra-national level, we have neo-liberal government and we have had for the last 30 years at least. In the current context what we are seeing is a lot of jockeying for position from the right wing over the leadership of the Tory Party and the political opportunism of UKIP, but neither side talks about the political reality of the situation. It is not in the interest of neo-liberals to discuss the faults in their own ideology. So the real issues around the EU are never aired, despite the fact that it is the only debate we should be having. Indeed if the EU and our relationship with it had ever genuinely been on the agenda surely the negotiation of the Lisbon Treaty, in 2009, would have been the appropriate time, not now.
“The NHS and how-much-or-how-little is or will be spent on it has been the subject of much speculation. But this is a simplistic notion. The NHA is well aware that the de-funding of the NHS, whilst improving the private sector access to contracts and to the running of the commissioning system itself, is a political choice not an economic one. ‘Austerity’ economics is an ideological commitment to shrinking the state, not a genuine lack of money in this, the fifth richest country in the world. Our services are under threat in or out of the EU. The decision we have to make is about how we can best counter that threat. CETA, TTIP and TISA create additional pressure for the further privatisation of our public services and adds a ‘locking down’ element which will make it very difficult for any future progressive UK government to restore them to public ownership and delivery. But this is where the debate hinges for NHA.
“Across Europe there is mounting opposition to these agreements. Not only campaign groups but governments have begun to question them. Here in the UK, however, it is very possible that in the event of an exit vote on Thursday the UK government would start its own negotiations, unimpeded by the progressive voices joining ours across Europe. In these circumstances it appears that the best counter weight we can have to international corporate power is international cooperation.
“There is another counter-democratic strand that runs through this debate. It says, ‘this is your one and only chance to vote’. No, it isn’t. The whole point of democracy is that you don’t just get one shot at something. We debate – and vote – on that basis.
We should be under no illusions about the task to counter the There Is No Alternative mantra of the neo-liberals. If the vote on Thursday is to remain, Cameron’s government will no doubt insist that their ‘mandate’ to destroy the welfare state and continue austerity has been renewed.
“If the vote is to leave we face truly dangerous times as Farage will claim it validates him and his odious politics. But progressives should be clear. If we tear each other apart after Thursday in an avalanche of blame and recrimination then we will not be equipped for the fight to come.
“If it is ‘remain’ we must prepare to stand the best candidates we can for the European elections in 2019. If it is ‘leave’ we must prepare for a possible early general election. It is in this context that the NHA executive recommends to the party that they vote to remain in the EU in the referendum this Thursday. The NHA Executive Committee.”
David Edwards of Media Lens responds to a Guardian article by Polly Toynbee in which she suggests that voting for Jeremy Corbyn would amount to a ‘betrayal’ of the electorate by quoting Ian Sinclair’s argument that in fact it is Toynbee, not Corbyn, who is out of touch with public opinion.
Sinclair noted that Corbyn supports a publicly run NHS, a position supported by 84 per cent of the public, according to a November 2013 YouGov poll. In addition:
- ‘He supports the nationalisation of the railways, a position backed by 66 percent of the public, including a majority of Conservative voters, according to the same poll.
- ‘He supports the nationalisation of the energy companies, a position supported by 68 percent of the public, including a majority of Conservative voters, according to the same poll.
- ‘He believes the Royal Mail should be publicly owned, a position supported by 67 percent of the public, according to the same poll.
- ‘He supports rent controls, a position supported by 60% of the public, including 42% of Conservatives, according to an April 2015 YouGov poll.
- ‘He opposes the retention of Trident nuclear weapons, a position John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, notes is supported by a “smallish plurality” in “the majority of polls”.
- ‘He strongly opposed the 2003 Iraq War, which was also opposed by the more than one million people who marched through London on 15 February 2003.
- ‘He has long pushed for the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, a position favoured by 82 per cent of the public, according to a May 2014 YouGov poll.’
Thus: ‘Corbyn’s key political positions are in actual fact supported by a majority of the British public.’
Edwards ends: “Like Blair and the rest of the establishment, the Guardian and other corporate media claim their motivation is to preserve Labour’s electability, rather than to attack any and all politics that stray off the ‘centrist’, ‘modernising’ path.
“In reality, it could hardly be more obvious that this collection of profit-seeking, corporate enterprises – grandly and laughably proclaiming themselves ‘the free press’ – is opposing a threat to their private and class interests”.