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Saturday, 8 December 2012

NHS Death Factories

If you're old, if you're sick, if you're inarticulate or incapacitated, if you haven't got a sharp-elbowed champion to protect you from the NHS, then avoid hospital admission like Ebola. An NHS where consultants are the new GPs and the average junior doctor has about as much knowledge of medicine as a PC World salesboy has of motherboards, where nursing staff have never been so highly paid or so poorly vocationally committed, where staff have to be coerced to wash their hands, and where basic human dignity has little place. If you're inconvenient, a nuisance or they simply can't make a diagnosis, you risk being placed on the Liverpool Death Pathway, deprived of food and water and drugged to the point of unconsciousness until you die. It's less offensive than the method used by the T4 clinics to euthanise patients - an exhaust hose from a truck - but none the less effective. 

More and more frequently one hears from friends, relatives and colleagues or reads in papers of all flavours of the deaths of relatives or spouses from lack of care at the hands of the NHS. Even as I write, hundreds of older people, many who served this nation in the last war, are being shepherded towards institutional death. How many would have fared better at home, cared for by relatives, with visits from a wise GP? How many would have recovered, won another decade of quality life? Of course there are few wise GPs left. 

We've lost our way on healthcare. We've spent too long defending the 'Carry On' NHS of competent and caring SRNs, stern Matrons, erudite consultants and clean linen, spent too long defending the NHS of the 1960s, and all the while the real NHS has changed out of all recognition. Nurses with 'tramp stamp' tattoos, binge hangovers and Chlamydia more interested in their mobile phones than their patients, timid and self-doubting Bengali housemen, consultants swamped with trivial referrals from GPs who simply can't be arsed any more, indolent contract cleaners and a stifling bureaucracy isolated from the shit and pus behind walls of Powerpoint presentations and performance indicators. The NHS is sick. More money isn't the answer. 

Friday, 7 December 2012

They'll miss us when we're gone

From Snr JI Torreblanca writing in El Pais;

If we examine the legacy that the UK has left Europe, the list is anything but small.

First, the number of members. That we are 27 (soon 28) is due in large part to the continued support from the UK to EU enlargement. The fact is that we are a large, open Europe largely thanks to the UK. The same is true of the internal market; no nation has led the project like the UK, which has been and is a major source of wealth and well-being of Europeans and we have also the main asset and appeal of the European presence in the world. From the eighties of the last century, thanks to the vision of the UK, and its support of the use of qualified majority for matters related to the internal market, we have made rapid progress on the path of market creation, inward and outward , while keeping under constant budgetary control policies such as agriculture, which came to rampage and absorb more than half of the EU budget. Unfortunately, the EU has a budget too small, largely because of the United Kingdom, but also more rational, transparent and geared to innovation and jobs through the British effort clip the wings of the alliance between regional agricultural stakeholders and European bureaucracy.  

And it is also true that the EU, with its variable geometry, in which Danish, Irish, Swedish and British can accommodate their desire not to be part of the Euro, that defence, freedom of movement and social policy is also the responsibility of London. Not to mention foreign policy and European security, inconceivable without the participation of the United Kingdom, as the Germans, as has been demonstrated many times, are not up to the job of helping the EU to become a global player. The fact is that, for better or worse, whether we like it or not, the legacy of the United Kingdom is a powerful and current one. It is paradoxical that the UK has to leave the EU it is moulded so deeply. And on top, after they leave, we will continue using English to understand a British Europe without Britain.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Blacklisting - action needed now

Never have I so wholeheartedly supported an newspaper piece than that by Seumas Milne in Tuesday's Guardian. "Thousands have been driven out of work in Britain by corporate spying outfits. It's an outrage that calls for more than an inquiry" says Milne, and we can but agree. An edited version of the article appears below;
As in the phone-hacking scandal, the evidence of illegality, surveillance and conspiracy is incontrovertible. In both cases, the number of victims already runs into thousands. And household names are deeply tied up in both controversies – though as targets in one and perpetrators in the other. But when it comes to the blacklisting scandal, the damage can't only be measured in distress and invasion of privacy. Its impact has already been felt in years of enforced joblessness, millions of pounds in lost income, family and psychological breakdown, emigration and suicides. Behind the blacklists is the shadowy organisation "Common Purpose". 

Liberty has equated blacklisting with phone hacking, insisting that the "consequences for our democracy are just as grave". Keith Ewing, professor of public law at King's College London, calls it the "worst human rights abuse in relation to workers" in Britain in half a century.

The victims of Common Purpose's blacklists include members of the public who had requested, under FOI, details of how their taxes are being diverted to the shadowy organisation. Their personal details were circulated to all public authorities in which Common Purpose 'plants' have attained positions of authority with the intention of blacklisting them from exercising their basic rights as citizens.

Corporate managers who were up to their eyes in Common Purpose's blacklisting continue to occupy some of the most influential posts in the civil service, local government, the NHS and civilian management of the emergency services. 

Of course, blacklisting by the left isn't new. The 'closed shop' arrangements in which employers were blackmailed by Trade Unions into employing only TU members or face strike action and bankruptcy allowed Unions to exclude from earning a living, no matter what their qualifications or ability, anyone who disagreed with their socialist agenda. Printers, dockers, construction workers and their families were condemned to poverty and starvation following blacklisting by the Unions. 

A new 'closed shop' under which only those deemed acceptable by Common Purpose can gain public employment, and those that disagree with them are blacklisted, is the greatest danger for the present century. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

James Crosby - driven by greed

The first lesson any successful business learns is that it's not about turnover, it's about profit margin. No matter how great the sales figure, if you're losing money you've got it wrong. The chart engraved in our brains from microeconomics 101 on which the marginal cost curve meets the marginal revenue curve and magically reveals the point of maximum profit has served many successful businesses well. Except, of course, the really big ones.

When you're very big, it's not about profit margin, it's about turnover. Poor profits can be disguised by a spiralling sequence of mergers and acquisitions, and of course the bigger you get, the more that greedy executives can cream off in salary and bonus; "Yes, I'm paid £5m a year, but that's only a tiny fraction of a percent of our turnover, you know .."

Amazon don't make profit because they're acquiring market share instead, using coercive means to lock-in consumers to their products. As do Apple. The wise avoid them, adopting open platform gadgets instead. Coercion by technical block is not a sustainable business model, as Microsoft found. But banks aren't consumer technology retailers - the global financial market is free and open, and banks only establish market share if they're fundamentally sound, i.e. profitable. 

James Crosby, like Fred Goodwin, drove a bank into the ground because he was greedy. He admitted incompetence to a Commons committee, but it was far more than that. Like many others, I can't understand why Crosby isn't now in prison, rather than enjoying a pension of £570,000 a year, a reward of such obscenity that it defies rational understanding.

Monday, 3 December 2012

A Winter warming hatchet job

The list of those in the public eye to whom I have taken an instant dislike is quite long. Inevitably, those first judgements don't change - their subjects merely become increasingly more irritating as time goes on. Salman Rushdie was an early member of the list; just a few paragraphs of the Satanic Verses revealed his unique brand of petty pomposity. Along with Billy Connolly, Terry Waite, Neil Oliver, Maya Angelou, Griff Rhys Jones solo and Noel Edmunds he shares an instant channel-change effect for the TV; I will instantly stab the face of the remote at random just to get any one of them out of the parlour immediately.

Zoe-with-an-umlaut Heller's hatchet job in the NYRB on Rushdie's Joseph Anton is therefore a welcome winter-warmer, to be relished at a slow read with a pint of hot spiced cider at one's side. Rushdie is not an attractive person, and Heller has his measure. Splendid stuff.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Please lose the £ ...

Well, I almost did it. I actually started filling in the online membership form, happy to pay £30, happy to declare I've only ever previously been a member of the Conservative Party and not the BNP, NF and their offshoots, but then I couldn't do it. That bloody Mr Byrite pound sign. It's just so naff.

Please, UKIP, get a decent graphic artist working on your logo and I promise if you lose the £ sign I'll join. 

Time to bust the cosy Party club

It won't be long before the dying private clubs that are the big three parties start bleating again about getting more tax funding. Never mind that in a 2008 paper for Policy Exchange Michael Pinto-Duschinsky calculated that with TV broadcasts, free postage and central and local government expenses and allowances all added in they already get £1.75bn 'free' over the electoral cycle. 

The cosy Westminster club looks after its own. Mandarins and ex-mandarins such as Hayden Phillips and Christopher Kelly also have a stake in maintaining the status quo of 'one in, one out and Buggins' turn', hence the corrupt and distorted recommendations of their respective 'independent' inquiries. The club's self-preservation mechanism is nowhere more apparent than in the distribution of over £9m of tax cash to the big parties;

P.D.G. 2012/13 Short Money 2012/13 Cranborne Money 2012/13 TOTAL % of 2010 election votes % of tax funding
Conservatives 455,193 NIL NIL 455,193 36.1% 4.9%
Labour 455,193 6,313,426 540,898 7,309,517 29.0% 78.3%
Liberal Democrats 455,193 NIL NIL 455,193 23.0% 4.9%
UKIP NIL NIL NIL 0 3.1% 0.0%
BNP NIL NIL NIL 0 1.9% 0.0%
Scottish Nationalists 171,337 176,892 NIL 348,229 1.7% 3.7%
Greens NIL NIL NIL 0 0.9% 0.0%
Democratic Unionists 155,788 157,013 NIL 312,801 0.6% 3.4%
Sinn Fein NIL NIL NIL 0 0.6% 0.0%
Plaid Cymru 151,509 75,423 NIL 226,932 0.6% 2.4%
SDLP 155,788 66,610 NIL 222,398 0.4% 2.4%


In fact if there were an election tomorrow, the LibDems are the only party whose share of the pot is about equal to the share of the vote they would get, according to the latest Opinium poll in today's Observer. If Labour win in 2015, the Conservatives will pick up the £7.5m annually instead. One in, One out and Buggins' turn.

This isn't an argument for PR; I'm convinced that FPTP remains the best electoral system for this nation. No, it's an argument for bringing to an end the pernicious distortion of throwing tax money at some parties but not at others. This funding encourages central, Statist parties in league with a central, Statist mandarinate and Big Corporatism. The total of £9.33m is equal to 311,000 members paying £30 a year each - a membership total that not one of the big three parties can come even close to. With a combined membership of less than 450,000, fewer than 1% of the electorate, this tax funding almost gives them equal match funding in lieu of real members. It's a disgrace; it's distorted, corrupt and exclusive. And we must end it.