Doctors from Justice for Health walk past supporters outside the Royal Courts of Justice [Image: Leon Neal/Getty Images].
Headlines have been claiming that the junior doctors of Justice for Health have lost the judicial review of Jeremy Hunt’s new contract for them – but these are based on a misunderstanding of the case.
In order to avoid a judgement against Mr Hunt, lawyers for the Department of Health had to admit that the Health secretary had no powers to “impose” the controversial and dangerous contract; he could only encourage employers to introduce it.
This is not what Mr Hunt has been claiming, of course, and represents a huge amount of backtracking by the Conservative Government.
Justice for Health says this means junior doctors are free not to sign the contract and to demand further negotiations.
With the contract due to be phased into operation from next week, it seems the next move is Mr Hunt’s.
If he insists on a contract that is unsafe for patients being signed by doctors who have sworn an oath to protect their safety, how many will sign?
Junior doctors have lost a judicial review challenging the legality of a controversial new contract, which is now set to be introduced next week.
In a judgment published on Wednesday, Mr Justice Green rejected arguments presented at the high court by five junior doctors that the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, had exceeded his powers.
The decision means that the long-running impasse over the contract remains. The junior doctors, who formed the group Justice for Health, claimed Green’s finding that Hunt was not imposing the contract, but merely encouraging employers to introduce it, was a victory for them.
Their interpretation was that it meant medics were free not to sign it and opened the door to negotiations with the NHS nationally or at trust level, although such a prospect appears unlikely.
Russell Howard criticised Philip Davies strongly on his Good News TV show [Image: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images].
Why did Philip Davies complain to the BBC about Russell Howard’s criticism of him? He is a windbag and a toad-faced hypocrite!
Mr Howard’s attacks on him were highlights of his TV show, and the BBC’s ruling means This Writer can support that claim – with this:
Davies’s claim was an attack on free speech. Mr Howard was right to point out the contradictions in the MP’s behaviour, and right to draw the obvious conclusions about his character.
The complaint against the comedian was nothing less than an attack on free speech, here in the UK.
If upheld, it would have set a disturbing precedent. For once, the BBC Trust is to be commended.
A rightwing Tory MP’s complaint about a Russell Howard comedy show in which he was described as a “windbag” and “toad-faced hypocrite” in Commons debates has been rejected by the BBC Trust.
Philip Davies came under fire in two editions of Russell Howard’s Good News, a topical comedy show that provides the comedian’s “unique perspective on the big stories”.
Howard… accused Davies of filibustering, or speaking for long periods to slow down a bill passing into law.
Davies lodged a complaint with the BBC that the comments made about him were inaccurate and defamatory and that the show misrepresented him.
The MP succeeded in getting a clarification about some of Howard’s comments published on the Clarifications and Corrections section of the BBC website [that he did not use up all of the time allotted for the debate].
“Those in the public eye, such as politicians, could expect robust criticism,” said the BBC Trust. “Programmes featuring satire and particularly political satire would necessarily be allowed substantially more leeway in their approach to accuracy and fairness than, for example, news or a current affairs programme. To do otherwise, would be to risk an unwarranted curtailment of freedom of expression which would not be acceptable in a democracy.”
Jackie Walker was accused of ‘failing to demonstrate any sensitivity to the impact of her words … upon the Jewish community’. What about her accusers’ own failure to demonstrate sensitivity – that they might be causing problems themselves? [Image: Andy Hall for the Observer].
Am I the only one to see the significance of this happening at a training day, where mistakes may legitimately be aired in order to be corrected?
This Writer has appeared at an event marking Holocaust Memorial Day (a reading from The Investigation by Peter Weiss which contains some harrowing information, many years ago) but I must confess I have never been led to associate it with other atrocities.
(I like the first point. Certain people in the Israeli establishment have been working very hard to do exactly what is claimed here. What does that make them?)
What the Guardian story doesn’t provide – significantly – is the definition that was offered on the training day itself, so we have no way of judging whether Ms Walker was justified in taking issue with it.
Finally there is the issue of Jewish organisations needing high security to protect themselves from anti-Semitism – and I am confused.
Is this a reference to a situation here in the UK? If so, why was Ms Walker’s comment about security at her child’s school countered with a comment about IS attacking a school in Toulouse which, unless I am mistaken, is in France?
Issues of national security come into play when discussing cross-border matters; France has been criticised by its own people over its response to the threat of terror attacks – against anybody, not just Jewish people.
If it is a reference to the UK, then I wonder how much ill-feeling has been stirred up by those accusing others, rather than by any actual anti-Semitism?
Of the allegedly anti-Semitic messages Naz Shah sent – that sparked the initial allegation against the Labour Party in April – only one could be interpreted reasonably as having that intent. Her suspension was lifted a few weeks ago.
Allegations of anti-Semitism against Ken Livingstone are on similarly dodgy ground, relying on a lack of historical knowledge and a manipulation of the context in which his words were spoken. Read The Livingstone Presumption for more details.
And Jewish NEC member Rhea Wolfson also – improbably – fell foul of anti-Semitism claims when Jim Murphy tried to scupper her bid for election to that committee by claiming the organisation supporting her – Momentum – was a hotbed of anti-Semitism.
It still surprises me that people believed anti-Semites were supporting a Jewish candidate for election to the organisation that lays down the law in the Labour Party.
So we’ve had one allegation after another proved false – including those that were originally made against Ms Walker.
But the people making those allegations are still pushing their fake case.
Is it beyond the pale to speculate whether any real incidents are a reaction against their belligerence?
Momentum’s vice-chair, Jackie Walker, is facing calls to resign after she incorrectly criticised Holocaust Memorial Day at a party antisemitism training session for commemorating only Jewish victims.
Walker also took issue with the definition of antisemitism used at the training event, which was organised for members at the annual Liverpool conference by the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM).
“In terms of Holocaust day, wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust day was open to all people who experienced holocaust?” she told organisers, heard in a recording of the event.
Holocaust Memorial Day is intended to commemorate all victims of the Nazi Holocaust, and other genocides, including atrocities in Bosnia and Rwanda.
During the training event, Walker also questioned why Jewish organisations, including schools, said they needed high security to protect themselves from antisemitic attacks.
Momentum has not responded to a request for comment, but in a statement Walker denied questioning the need for security at Jewish schools and also apologised for any offence she may have caused.
Two-faced: Johanna Baxter is pictured applauding Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during a speech in Brighton – before embarking on a series of backstabbing plots [Image: Ben Pruchnie via Getty Images].
So it was Johanna Baxter who proposed the rule change that put Corbyn critic Kezia Dugdale and a nominee of Corbyn critic Carwyn Jones on Labour’s National Executive Committee, removing Mr Corbyn’s majority support there.
Johanna Baxter, who was voted off the NEC earlier this year when party members overwhelmingly supported the six candidates of the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance over Labour First, of which she was a member.
Johanna Baxter, who then ran the panel of NEC members who adjudicated on complaints that other members had acted inappropriately – policing the rule change retrospectively so that comments made many years before members even became members were used against them, as was previous support or membership of other political parties, in one famous case, support for a rock band, and – of course – support for Jeremy Corbyn.
Johanna Baxter who, while still an NEC member, released her contact details to the public, calling for opinions on whether Mr Corbyn should be allowed onto the leadership ballot paper without nominations from the Parliamentary Labour Party – and then cried crocodile tears while falsely claiming bullies had published her details online as part of a campaign of intimidation against her and other NEC members, to make them support Mr Corbyn’s case.
And now she is saying people who want to reverse the undemocratic decision to put unelected opponents of Mr Corbyn onto the NEC are putting internal politics ahead of the Labour Party’s interests.
No, Ms Baxter. That is what you have been doing – for many months. Once again, we see that the accuser is guilty of the abuse she identifies.
Perhaps somebody should make a complaint to the party’s ‘Compliance Unit’ – of which, having been removed from the NEC, she should no longer be a member.
The architect of the Labour rule change that saw Jeremy Corbyn lose his majority support on the party’s national executive committee has said it would be “deeply unhealthy” if critics of the leader were silenced.
Johanna Baxter, who served on the party’s executive for six years before losing her bid for re-election over the summer, said opponents of her decision to give Scotland and Wales dedicated seats on the ruling body had tried to put internal politics ahead of the national interests of the party.
The change, which Baxter said she had pushed for her entire time on the committee, was voted through this week at party conference after an angry debate on the conference floor where Corbyn supporters accused the NEC of a “stitch-up” and “gerrymandering”.
The Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale, will now join the committee as a full member and the Welsh first minister, Carwyn Jones, chose a representative, Alun Davies. Dugdale and Jones are prominent critics of the Labour leader and as well as securing better regional representation, the seats are a huge boost to the anti-Corbyn faction in the party.
NEC chair Paddy Lillis. He looked extremely unhappy when he announced that Jeremy Corbyn had retained the party leadership, despite all the NEC’s efforts to prevent this result [Image: BBC].
This Writer’s local Labour Party branch had its first get-together after the embargo on meetings was lifted last week, and it was incendiary.
I won’t tell you the exact number of people attending, but it was more than usually attend meetings of the Constituency Labour Party.
Why so many?
They were angry – and with good reason.
Over the course of a long summer, they have been dismayed to see their democratic rights as members eroded or removed altogether by the self-interested actions of privileged members of Labour’s National Executive Committee, and enacted by the party secretary. They want payback – and who can blame them?
So the meeting agreed to send two motions to the Constituency Labour Party, to be ratified there before going on to the appropriate authorities.
The first “notes with alarm the imposition of new rules of conduct by the National Executive Committee which said to be intended to prevent abusive behaviour between members but seems to have been used as a tool to purge people from the party prior to the leadership election, by suspension or expulsion. There seems to have been no rigid standard, and the NEC ‘panels’ enforcing the new rules seem to have relied on their own arbitrary prejudices.
“This means that people have been purged for things they have said on social media in the distant past that do not relate to their political lives in any way. Some have been purged over previous support for policies put forward by other parties – but why should they be barred from Labour just because they have come here from another political organisation? Others have been purged for reasons that can only be described as ridiculous – such as the person who expressed her support for a particular rock band in a forceful way. All of the letters notifying members that they are no longer members had Iain McNicol’s name attached to them.
“As general secretary, Mr McNicol has legal responsibility for the Labour Party and must ensure that everything done by the party is legal. He has not ensured that the processing of complaints against members has achieved an acceptable standard and – because this directly relates to the leadership ballot – this means he has not ensure that the processing of ballots to members has been carried out properly.
“We therefore call for a vote of ‘no confidence’ in Mr McNicol and demand his removal from the post of general secretary of the Labour Party.”
The second calls on the NEC “to nullify the recent vote at party conference on a package of 15 rule changes, including the addition of Welsh Labour and Scottish Labour representatives to the NEC, on the grounds that Mr Paddy Lillis, who was chairing the conference at the time of the vote, prevented members from voting on the changes in the proper manner.
“On Sunday, September 25, Mr Lillis refused calls by members for a proper debate and ballot on each individual NEC rule change and called a vote by a simple show of hands on the Conference Arrangements Committee’s report, that said the NEC’s proposals would be packaged as one ‘take it or leave it’ bundle. Forcing the vote to be by show of hands only meant there was no proper oversight. Although the numbers of hand for and against were clearly closely-matched, Mr Lillis called out “overwhelmingly carried” and moved on, ignoring demands that he abide by the rules and carry out a card vote that would be properly monitored and counted. If a single delegate requests a card vote, then it must take place, so this was a clear breach of the voting rules.
“The following day, delegates against asked for ‘reference back’ – a proper debate and vote – on the ‘pre-pack’ of the rule changes, and again Mr Lillis refused.
“On Tuesday, September 27, the vote on the packaged rules was scheduled to take place. Once again, many delegates stood to denounce the pre-pack as anti-democratic and demanded both a proper debate and vote on each change and that each decision should be made by card vote. Mr Lillis and the CAC chair dismissed demands that the rules of the Labour Party be followed, insisting on only a show of hands – even when a member of the NEC itself, Christine Shawcross, spoke to remind him that the party rules state, unequivocally, that if a delegate requests a card vote, a card vote must take place.
“The show of hands was again hard to judge, but Mr Lillis simply said it was clearly carried. The vote then took place in the early afternoon. Because the Unite union had a number of rule changes it wanted included in the bundle, delegates from the UK’s largest union were instructed to abstain, meaning that the eventual vote (which was always going to be by card) was won by a significant majority that does not reflect conference’s feeling on the individual rule changes or the manner in which they were presented.
“The decision to allow the rule changes cannot be allowed to stand as Labour Party voting rules were broken on at least two occasions. As they stand, these rule changes are unenforceable and no party unit is obliged to abide by any decisions made under them. According to party rules, the NEC is authorised to adjudicate in disputes that arise at any level of the party and, according to party rules, the NEC must find that the vote on the new rules was carried out improperly and should be rendered null and void. We call on the NEC to do so, at its earliest opportunity.
“Note: As this matter concerns the rule change which allows representatives of Welsh Labour and Scottish Labour to sit on the NEC, it is clear that they have a conflict of interest and may not vote on it.”
Undoubtedly members of other Labour party branches and constituency organisation across the UK. Perhaps they would like to consider submitting their own motions or supporting these.
This just in from Steve Walker of the Skwawkbox blog (latest post here):
“So ludicrous it’s likely true – from a well-placed source.”
So the right-wingers at the Labour Conference want to keep people out of the hall when Jeremy Corbyn is delivering his speech in order to make it seem as though he has no supporters.
After nearly 62 per cent of voters in the Labour Party gave him a landslide victory in a leadership election?
And these are the people who are going to lead us to general election victory?
Please, if you’re attending conference, make sure this silly idea fails to get past the lobby.
If there’s a “shortage of tickets” and you’re told you can’t go in – demand proof that the hall is full. If it isn’t, then kick up a stink about it. Humiliate everybody involved – starting with the person who tried to stop you getting in. Demand to know who told them to do it, and then drag that person into it too. Go right up the chain until you find the ringleaders and expose them.
And tell every mainstream media hack about it, as well.
Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters have protested against the rule changes over NEC nominations [Image: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian].
The right-wingers have achieved their aim and “stitched up” Labour’s National Executive Committee.
The promotion of members of Scottish Labour and Welsh Labour to the NEC means Jeremy Corbyn will lose the support of the majority of the committee – not because a majority of members of those organisations oppose him, but because their leaders do.
I’d say it was shocking that these entitled characters have put their own interests ahead of the United Kingdom, but it is no more than we have come to expect; they’ve been doing it throughout the summer.
Kezia Dugdale, an outspoken Corbyn critic, has already leapt at the opportunity to join the NEC herself, denying Scottish members the chance to elect somebody who genuinely represents their interests.
And Carwyn Jones has said he will nominate the Welsh Labour representative. This means that, even though a majority of Welsh Labour members support Mr Corbyn, their representative is likely to vote against their wishes?
Is that democracy? No. Of course not. As Vince Mills said, it’s patronage. Wales and Scotland have been robbed of their voice by the privileged elite.
And it means two people will be able to disenfranchise more than half a million Labour members, whenever Ms Dugdale and Mr Jones’s puppet decide they disagree with Mr Corbyn.
The vote was rigged – I don’t care what Paddy Lillis has to say about it; there should be a ‘no confidence’ vote heading his way in the immediate future. He deliberately denied members the democratic right to vote on whether the measure should be part of a package of 15 rule changes, or whether they should all be part of a single package.
His action, coupled with claims that left-wingers and supporters of Mr Corbyn were either suspended from the party under suspicious circumstances before conference or simply refused entry when they arrived, casts serious doubt on the legitimacy of the vote.
Amazingly, Mr Jones has described this denial of democracy as a “significant step forward”. Perhaps he would like to explain how it is a “step forward” for him to choose an anti-Corbyn representative on Labour’s decision-making committee, in spite of the wishes of Welsh Labour?
Ms Dugdale said she would be a loud, passionate voice for “Scotland’s interests”. Perhaps she would explain how that is likely to work, considering she’ll be just one voice among more than 30. No, her contribution will be in joining others to backstab her leader whenever she can.
It is a terrible decision and must be overturned at the first available opportunity. When can that be arranged?
Jeremy Corbyn has lost his majority on Labour’s national executive committee after a fierce debate at the party conference, where there were accusations of attempts to rig the balance of the party executive.
Conference voted on Tuesday to adopt controversial rule changes to let Labour leaders in Scotland and Wales nominate one person each to sit on the NEC. The Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale, will now join the committee as a full member and the Welsh first minister, Carwyn Jones, will also choose a representative.
NEC members wanted better Welsh and Scottish representation at the top of the party, but the extra NEC seats are a key win for the anti-Corbyn faction in the party.
Dugdale and Jones have both been critical of Corbyn. Giving them each the right to sit on, or nominate someone to sit on, the NEC meant Corbyn’s allies lost their majority support on the committee, despite six leftwing candidates being elected to the executive this summer.
At the conference debate, some delegates had earlier called the process a stitch-up and gerrymandering, but the motion was comfortably carried by a vote later on Tuesday.
During the debate, the Momentum activist Max Shanly, a Young Labour delegate, tore into NEC members on stage in the conference hall, saying the party was “attempting to rig the discussion”.
Shanly accused moderate MPs of trying to curb Corbyn’s power and undermine the leadership election result. The change would “gerrymander the NEC”, he said, deriding MPs as “not accountable to this movement”.
Leigh Drennan, the chair of North-west Young Labour, also gave an angry speech, saying the rule change was “essentially a stitch-up of the NEC” to loud applause and cheers from supporters in the balcony.
“It disenfranchises members because it is the leaders who appoint themselves,” he said. “All members should be able to put themselves forward to represent their nation. It’s common sense.”
David Flat, another constituency Labour party delegate, said he was “appalled at the lack of democracy and gerrymandering that’s going on in our party”, which he said was being “bamboozled” into changing the rules.
The leftwing Scottish Labour group, the Campaign for Socialism, condemned the decision on Tuesday and said a new Scottish representative should be elected by members. Spokesman Vince Mills said: “Having a leader place someone on the NEC is an exercise in patronage, not democracy.”
Jeremy Corbyn and Shami Chakrabarti, who published the Labour anti-Semitism report [Image: Getty].
Michael Segalov is exactly right in his Independent article, where he states that current cries of anti-Semitism on the left of the Labour Party make a mockery of the issue.
He is also exactly wrong where he accuses Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone of anti-Semitic behaviour.
The accusations against those people were made for entirely political reasons. Even though Ms Shah isn’t a Corbyn supporter, it was possible to use her against him because the claims about her were made after he became leader. Mr Livingstone is a long-term friend of Mr Corbyn.
Neither are anti-Semitic, but I am sure Mr Segalov is not the only person to have been taken in by the hysteria surrounding events earlier this year. These need to be analysed and clarified.
It cannot claim to be an exhaustive analysis of the evidence as the row is still rumbling on – a delegate at the Labour Party conference was talking about it earlier today (September 27).
But it does show exactly what is really going on and the reasons behind it.
If you have been disturbed by the allegations, counter-allegations, and media furore, I strongly recommend that you read it.
Since Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, unsupportive MPs, campaigning groups and journalists have been desperate to paint him and the movement who support him as anti-Semitic fanatics, despite knowing it’s really not the case.
I could tell you about my own experiences, how I’ve never experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism inside the party – but that’s just what I’ve seen, non-Jewish defenders of my religion will claim. My experiences, and those of countless other Corbyn-supporting Jewish members who I’ve spoken to, aren’t reflective of what’s really going on, apparently.
Now, we only need look at the most high-profile of cases to see that anti-Semitism is by no means a product of Corbyn’s supporters. Naz Shah, MP for Bradford West, was rightly suspended for sharing anti-Semitic posts on Facebook, not a Corbynite but a backer of Yvette Cooper in the last leadership election. Ken Livingstone, similarly sanctioned for his remarks about Hitler, has been a party grandee for decades. An insurgent? I think not.
For years now I’ve travelled across the UK to report from far-right, fascist and neo-Nazi rallies, and the counter-demonstrations that take place alongside. I’ve seen the real threat that faces Jews in the country, those who profess hatred for Jews and our religion, who wear swastikas as badges of honour, who’ll salute like a Nazi in front of your face… It’s the left, and Corbyn’s supporters, who’ve put their bodies on the line time and time again to protect us from these racist organisations.
That’s why these cries of anti-Semitism make a mockery of a real and present danger. Corbyn’s commitment to fighting discrimination and prejudice has been well documented for decades. His supporters are those who’ve stood alongside him. Accusing these people now of peddling prejudice is nothing but political point-scoring at its worst. It undermines real hatred, and waters down the impact of calling out anti-Semitism when it rears its ugly head.
Junior doctors and supporters protest outside St Thomas’ hospital, London, in April [Image: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters].
It seems the BMA has all but given up resisting the hugely dangerous junior doctors’ contract – but the doctors themselves have not.
This puts the NHS in an extremely difficult position.
Doctors are calling for the establishment of a new union that will take a more robust stance against health secretary Jeremy Hunt and his stealth plan to ruin the NHS by starving it of resources and forcing doctors into impossible working conditions.
Meanwhile the BMA is weakly complaining that it is still planning “alternative forms of protest”, as if that means something.
Doctors have a right to be angry. They have been let down by their representatives.
But they should not allow their anger to lead them into the Conservative Government’s hands.
It is easy to make a mistake, and the Tories will take advantage of anything they can find.
But with the contract due to come into force next week, time is running out.
The British Medical Association is facing a major backlash from angry members and an exodus by medics disillusioned with its “appalling” handling of the bitter junior doctors’ dispute.
There has been a spate of resignations from the doctors’ union after it announced, then called off, a series of five-day all-out strikes in a failed attempt to stop the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, imposing a controversial new contract on the 54,000 trainee medics in the NHS in England.
Members are accusing the BMA of being “spineless” and “incompetent” and of betraying junior doctors, and there are growing calls for the creation of a rival trade union to represent them. BMA leaders, one of whom admitted privately that it has ended up “in a big mess”, are worried that its handling of the year-long contract row has left it divided and weakened in defeat.
Junior doctors have inundated their Facebook discussion group with angry messages about the BMA and Dr Ellen McCourt, the chair of the union’s junior doctors committee (JDC). Some have posted screengrabs of cancelled direct debit forms, showing that they are rescinding their membership.
“I don’t want to just cancel my direct debit. I want to tell the BMA why I am withdrawing my subscription. I want to tell them how spineless they have been,” said junior doctor Mukhtar Ahmed.
He criticised the BMA for endorsing in May a revised contract that it had negotiated without seeking members’ views. The contract was later rejected by 58% to 42% in a referendum among junior doctors.
“I want them to know that these series of blunders have not only lost us this fight, but any future fight and the NHS as a whole. I believe in the power of the union but not this one,” Ahmed said.
The BMA is examining alternative forms of protest against the contract, which will start being imposed from next week. It is due to announce details this week, though the options under consideration are believed not to involve any form of industrial action, such as a work-to-rule or refusal to do overtime.
The Benefits and Work website, from which the following excerpt is copied, suggests that the result is a “foregone conclusion” but that doesn’t mean we should let them say there was no dissent.
The government is poised to bring an end to the shaming success rates at benefits appeals, but they will do so by nobbling the appeals system rather than by improving decision making.
In the future many more appeals will be “on the papers” where success rates are drastically lower, hearings that do take place will be on the phone or via Skype type links and most appeals will be decided by a solicitor (often retired) sitting alone, without a medical wing member or a disability wing member.
The introduction of the mandatory reconsideration before appeal system was intended to bring appeal success rates for claimants crashing down to earth. In fact, whilst it has drastically reduced the number of claimants who lodge an appeal, success rates remain sky high.
A new online system of appeals brings the twin advantages for the government that it will hugely cut costs as well as cutting success rates.
The plan is to go almost entirely digital for many areas of the justice system, with Social Security and Child Support tribunals being “one of the first services to be moved entirely online, with an end-to-end digital process that will be faster and easier to use for people that use it.”
The proposed changes – which are currently open to consultation but are virtually certain to be adopted – include
More use of case officers for routine tasks
More decisions made “on the papers”
More virtual hearings
More cases resolved out of court
Simplifying panel composition
The whole plan is open to consultation until 27 October 2016. However, judging by other recent consultations, the outcome – regardless of the evidence submitted – is a foregone conclusion.
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