Tag Archives: effect

Can Parliament’s bars let us know how many post-10pm drinkers catch Covid-19, please?

NOTE: Shortly after I published this story, Parliament’s bars announced that they will stop selling alcohol after 10pm. The reason?

MPs said the rules risked making Parliament look “ridiculous” to the public.

That was very much my intention when I wrote the following:

I think it’s great that Parliament has put up its own bars as testing-grounds for the effectiveness of the 10pm pub drinking curfew.

It seems the bars on the Parliamentary estate – the Members’ Dining Room, Adjournment, Smoking Room, Terrace Pavilion, Pugin Room and Members’ Tea Room are exempt as they provide a food and bar service:

A spokesperson for the House of Commons confirmed that the new restrictions on hospitality do not apply to the venues on the parliamentary estate, saying: “As catering outlets providing a workplace service for over 3,100 people working on the Estate, the current regulations on hospitality venues do not apply to Commons facilities.”

Some have said this is another example of Boris Johnson’s cronies setting one law for us and then breaking it themselves. Many of them made reference to Orwell’s Animal Farm (which may soon be banned under Gavin Williamson’s new education rules):

Others disagree with the Animal Farm reference. I haven’t read it so I’m not in a position to comment.

But I do hope that the authorities at the Parliamentary bars keep us appraised of how their brave effort to keep our democracy in alcohol goes.

They will of course be keeping details of everybody who enters, in case Covid-19 breaks out in one, several, or all of these bars.

I expect regular updates. If they show no infections, we’ll know that it is safe to open all the rest of the UK’s pubs for normal hours again. Won’t we?

Source: Parliament bars exempt from 10pm curfew | The Independent

Review of harmful impact of Covid-19 crisis on BAME people delayed twice – because it shows RACISM?

Racism is hard-wired into Conservatives. This poster was from 1964 and attitudes haven’t changed since then.

When the Tories delay a review of the impact of Covid-19 on black and minority ethnic communities because of “worries” around “current global events”, you know the result can’t be good.

Considering “current global events” include escalating riots in the United States over the way the authorities treat black people, you can expect it to be scandalous.

Demonstrations against the attitudes that caused George Floyd’s death have taken place in the UK and it seems logical that the Tory government – already well-known for its racist policies and racist prime minister – would not want to enflame feelings to boiling-point.

But it makes perfect sense for the review to show that BAME people have been disproportionately harmed by Covid-19 – because the Conservative government has prioritised help away from them.

We already know that Tory Covid-19 policies have been disablist and ageist – look at the massacre in our care homes. Harm to BAME people completes their hat-trick.

Look at the language in the Sky News report:

They now say it has been delayed further because it is in “close proximity to the current situation in America” and it would be a “bad combination” if it was released amid global outrage over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

One Whitehall source told Sky News: “The government won’t be able to put this out without concrete and solid next steps.”

To make matters worse, the Department of Health has tried to deny that the killing of George Floyd had anything to do with the delay.

This comes from the organisation that claimed the UK had enough personal protective equipment and ventilators for everyone, and that 100,000 tests were carried out on a day when only 70,000 took place.

We’re left with the obvious question:

Is it better to withhold the review and let us all think government policy has been racist – or to release it and have our suspicions confirmed?

Source: Coronavirus: Review into impact of COVID-19 on BAME community delayed again | UK News | Sky News

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Is Netflix really killing the TV licence? Or is it naff BBC editorial policy?

According to the Mail, the “Netflix effect” is killing the TV licence, with 860,000 licences cancelled in 2017-18, an increase on the 798,000 cancelled the previous year.

The report states: “It is now believed that the ‘Netflix effect’ is leading viewers to abandon their BBC TV licences entirely.

“Streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Now TV do not require any license.

“A basic Netflix subscription costs £5.99 a month (about £72 a year).”

The BBC has announced that the cost of the TV licence – needed to watch the Corporation’s shows as broadcast or on iPlayer – is to rise to £154.50, an increase of £4, in April.

But does it deserve that money?

Are people really leaving because of the cost – or are they leaving because of the content?

This Twitter users says Jeremy Corbyn’s plan for a digital licence fee could breathe new life into the BBC, funded by a tax on big businesses and broadband providers:

“The BBC would flourish under Labour.”

But with a news editorial policy that is pro-Conservative, does it deserve to?


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Jeremy Hunt has talked himself into a hole – and is digging for all he’s worth

Here’s what “most doctors” think of Jeremy Hunt, I reckon [Image: Sean Hansford/MEN].

Everybody reading this will be familiar with the expression, “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” If only Jeremy Hunt would take that advice!

In the latest round of his ongoing dispute with Professor Stephen Hawking, Mr Hunt has tried to defend his claims about NHS spending – and failed.

He has also tried to defend his claims about falling numbers of people taking out private medical insurance – and failed.

Worst of all, he has tried to say he has not cherry-picked evidence in order to make a false claim about weekend deaths – by devising a new definition of cherry-picking.

Take a look at his words, taken from his own latest Guardian article:

He does not deny that it has record funding or record numbers of doctors and nurses, but describes these as a “distraction”. Such figures surely are crucial evidence if he is arguing, as he did last weekend in a speech at the Royal Society of Medicine, that the direction of the NHS is heading towards a US-style insurance system. Such systems – which he seems to now concede are not government policy – rely on individuals, and not the state, paying for their healthcare. If that was the direction of travel, the state would be spending less, not more, on the NHS.

But Professor Hawking has already stated that “record funding is not the same thing as adequate funding”.

We are all aware of Noam Chomsky’s description of the standard technique of privatisation, aren’t we? “Defund” – meaning, fail to provide enough funding – “make sure things don’t work” – and Mr Hunt has admitted he does not “think everything is working well in the NHS” – “people get angry” – like Professor Hawking – “you hand it over to private capital”.

How much of that “record” funding is going towards private companies? Some of that money will be handed out to shareholders as profit, meaning it serves no useful purpose in the provision of care. But it all counts as privatisation of health care.

So: Mr Hunt’s “record” funding isn’t enough, especially as a large proportion of it is funding the profits of private health – and the service is suffering, which means it is well on the way to privatisation according to Mr Chomsky’s pattern.

Likewise, more individuals would be taking out private medical insurance – again, the opposite is the case. Although there was indeed a small rise last year, overall there has been a dramatic drop in private medical insurance since 2009.

If there was a rise in the number of individuals taking out private medical insurance last year, then Professor Hawking is right to say that more individuals are taking out private medical insurance. Anybody can make figures say what they want by choosing an arbitrary starting date. Why not say, “There has been a rise in private health insurance since 2015”?

I do not accept his comments about the misuse of statistics, although inevitably in the heat of an industrial relations dispute there will be many such accusations hurled from both sides. To decide that one piece of research is the most credible is not “cherrypicking”, as Hawking suggested – it is doing what you have to do when researchers disagree.

If researchers disagree, then the evidence is not conclusive and no decision can be made. “To decide that one piece of research is the most credible” is exactly “cherrypicking” – it is citing one study but suppressing others in order to support a political policy, as Professor Hawking stated in his original Guardian article.

Finally, we have this:

But regardless of which research you back, none of us can bury our heads in the sand on the issues surrounding weekend care in hospitals. Most doctors in their hearts would rather a loved one was admitted mid-week than at the weekend.

And who said Jeremy Hunt could speak for “most doctors”?

The last time This Writer checked, “most doctors” had spent most of a year holding industrial action against Mr Hunt because of his attempts to speak for them on the subject of their pay and conditions of work.

And what research has Mr Hunt carried out? Since we’re discussing scientific evidence, with how many doctors did he discuss this matter?

Or, returning to the fact that he has dug himself into a hole, is Mr Hunt pulling his claim from another hole that he happens to have on his person?


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After Hunt attacked over NHS privatisation, we all knew Hawking wouldn’t let it lie

[Image: @Rachael_Swindon on Twitter.]

Picture the scene if you can: Professor Stephen Hawking reading Jeremy Hunt’s smear piece against his concerns about the NHS and then, in calm, voice-synthesized tones, uttering: “So he wants to play hardball, does he? Fine.”

Professor Hawking has written a response in The Guardian, expanding on his original points:

That Mr Hunt misrepresented scientific research in order to claim that poorer hospital care and staffing at weekends cause excess deaths.

That Mr Hunt’s claim of record NHS funding is a distraction as it does not show that funding is adequate.

And that all the evidence shows a move towards a US-style, privatised, health insurance system, whether the minority Conservative government wants it or not.

It seems unlikely that Mr Hunt will back down. It also seems likely that he will face renewed calls to defend his claims, in person, on the floor of the House of Commons.

That will be comedy gold – although, considering the state of disrepair into which he has allowed the NHS to fall, it will be gallows humour.

Hunt doesn’t deny that he dismissed research contradicting his claim of excess deaths due to poorer hospital care and staffing at the weekend. He admits he relied on one paper by Professor Nick Freemantle and colleagues. But even if one accepts its disputed findings, the authors explicitly warn that “to assume these excess deaths are avoidable would be rash and misleading”. The editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal, Fiona Godlee, wrote to Hunt to reprimand him for publicly misrepresenting the Freemantle et al paper. As a patient who has spent a lot of time in hospital, I would welcome improved services at the weekend. For this, we need a scientific assessment of the benefits of a seven-day service and of the resources required, not misrepresentation of research.

Hunt’s statement that funding and the number of doctors and nurses are at an all-time high is a distraction. Record funding is not the same thing as adequate funding. There is overwhelming evidence that NHS funding and the numbers of doctors and nurses are inadequate, and it is getting worse.

Hunt misquoted me, saying that I claimed the government wants a US-style insurance system. What I said was that the direction is towards a US-style insurance system, run by private companies. The increasing involvement of private health companies in the NHS is evidence for this. Hunt chose to highlight – dare I say, cherry-pick – the fact that private companies’ share of NHS contracts rose 0.1% over the last year. This is an anomaly among the data since 2006. The NHS private providers’ share was 2.8% in 2006-7 and rose steadily to 7.6% in 2015/16. The amount of private health insurance has fallen since 2009 as Hunt said, but that is because of the financial crash. We can conclude nothing about health policy from this and in any case, it is now increasing again. As waiting times increase, private companies report an increase in self-pay where patients pay directly for care such as hip and knee replacements.

Further evidence that the direction is towards a US-style system is that the NHS in England is undergoing a complete reorganisation into 44 regions with the aim of each being run as an “accountable care organisation” (Aco). An Aco is a variant of a type of US system called a health maintenance organisation in which all services are provided in a network of hospitals and clinics all run by the HMO company. It is reasonable to expect the powerful US HMO companies such as Kaiser Permanente and UnitedHealth will be bidding for the huge contracts to run these ACOs when they go out to international tender. Hunt referenced Kaiser Permanente as a model for the future budgetary arrangements in the NHS at the Commons health select committee in May 2016.

Source: Jeremy Hunt can attack me all he wants – but he is wrong to say the NHS is working | Stephen Hawking | Opinion | The Guardian


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Jeremy Hunt challenged to take part in TV debate with Stephen Hawking over the NHS

Will Jeremy Hunt go into hiding to avoid appearing in a TV debate with Professor Hawking – as he once hid behind a tree to avoid being seen going to a meeting with Rupert Murdoch?

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been challenged to appear in a televised debate on NHS statistics and the future of the service.

He would be opposed by Professor Stephen Hawking, whose claims about the Conservative minority government’s plans for the NHS were attacked by Mr Hunt on Twitter over the weekend.

Here’s the challenge:

This Writer is particularly pleased that doctors are taking this step. As I stated in my article on the subject, on Saturday (August 19):

“Let’s see the Health Secretary prove his claims against the kind of forensic examination that the world’s greatest living physicist can provide.

“And let’s have it televised. How about it, BBC?”

Well? How about it, Mr Hunt?

Of course we don’t believe him! Jeremy Hunt is a liar – and a fool, if he thinks anybody else is stupid enough to be persuaded by his lies.

His “weekend effect” argument is particularly weak because – as has already been proved, he really did cherry-pick his evidence, as Stephen Hawking stated in his Guardian article.

Professor Hawking, who has Motor Neurone Disease and has, therefore, enjoyed considerable experience of the NHS since 1962, makes the point that it is unscientific to base an argument for anything on only part of the evidence that is available; science demands a solution that encompasses all the evidence.

Mr Hunt’s response was to make an evidenceless claim about the 2015 Fremantle study.

Source: Hunt v Hawking on the future of the NHS: Who do you believe? | Vox Political


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Hunt v Hawking on the future of the NHS: Who do you believe?

You’ve got to believe Jeremy Hunt, right?

He is the Health Secretary, after all. He’s the man responsible for planning the future of the National Health Service. He should know whether the NHS is being run down to make way for a US-style health insurance system.

And we all know he takes his responsibility as a Conservative cabinet minister extremely seriously and would never lie to the public – right?

So when he says more money is being spent on the NHS than ever before, we believe him – right?

When he says he was right about the number of deaths increasing because of a so-called “weekend effect”, we believe him – right?

And when he says there are no plans to replace the NHS with a privately-run health system in which the public relies on private health insurance to pay for their treatment, we believe him on that as well – right?

NO!

Of course we don’t believe him! Jeremy Hunt is a liar – and a fool, if he thinks anybody else is stupid enough to be persuaded by his lies.

His “weekend effect” argument is particularly weak because – as has already been proved, he really did cherry-pick his evidence, as Stephen Hawking stated in his Guardian article.

Professor Hawking, who has Motor Neurone Disease and has, therefore, enjoyed considerable experience of the NHS since 1962, makes the point that it is unscientific to base an argument for anything on only part of the evidence that is available; science demands a solution that encompasses all the evidence.

Mr Hunt’s response was to make an evidenceless claim about the 2015 Fremantle study. This will be the report rubbished in an article referenced above.

Professor Hawking added: “This problem goes beyond the weekend effect. The NHS is in a crisis, and one that has been created by political decisions. These political decisions include underfunding and cuts, privatising services, the public sector pay cap, the new contract imposed on junior doctors, and removal of the student nurses’ bursary. Political decisions such as these cause reductions in care quality, longer waiting lists, anxiety for patients and staff, and dangerous staff shortages. Failures in the system of privatised social care for disabled and elderly people have placed an additional burden on the NHS.”

Mr Hunt, who co-authored a book demanding that the NHS must be privatised, provided this response:

Guess what? Nobody believed him.

Peter Stefanovic, author of the put-down above, sums it up very well in this video:

But let’s hammer the point home with a few more comments:

This Writer hopes someone on the Opposition benches has the presence of mind to call Mr Hunt to account for his lies in the Commons chamber.

Let’s see the Health Secretary prove his claims against the kind of forensic examination that the world’s greatest living physicist can provide.

And let’s have it televised. How about it, BBC?

Jeremy Hunt has accused Stephen Hawking of a “pernicious” lie after the physicist said it seemed the Tories were steering the UK towards a US-style health insurance system.

Hours after the health secretary was criticised for claiming Hawking was wrong in the row about the government’s seven-day NHS plan, he leapt back into the fray with two tweets defending the Conservative party’s record on the health service.

Hunt was responding to criticism from the renowned 75-year-old physicist and author of A Brief History of Time ahead of a speech at the Royal Society of Medicine on Saturday.

In the speech, Hawking will accuse the health secretary of “cherrypicking” favourable evidence while suppressing contradictory research to suit his argument.

In a Guardian opinion piece published on Friday, Hawking also criticised the power of profit-seeking multinationals, which he said had contributed to the inequalities rife in the US healthcare system.

“We see the balance of power in the UK is with private healthcare companies, and the direction of change is towards a US-style insurance system,” he wrote.

Source: Jeremy Hunt accuses Stephen Hawking of ‘pernicious falsehood’ in NHS row | Politics | The Guardian


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Housing association speaks out over Bedroom Tax

131222perkins

It seems the chief executive of a local housing association has taken issue with yr obdt srvt over the Bedroom Tax.

Shane Perkins, of Mid Wales Housing, wrote to the Powys-based County Times after I used that paper to expose an illegal action by the county council’s ruling group, aimed at preventing discussing of a motion for the council to adopt a ‘no-eviction’ policy.

The motion asked the council not to evict tenants who fail to pay their rent because of the Bedroom Tax. Councillors who are also private landlords were forbidden from speaking or voting on the motion as they stand to benefit if social housing tenants are forced to seek accommodation with them as a result of the vindictive policy, and this meant 30 councillors had to leave the chamber.

Members of the ruling group, realising there was a real possibility of the motion being carried, then claimed that any councillors who are social housing tenants should also be barred from taking part – a move that is against the law (to the best of my knowledge). My understanding is that a ‘general dispensation’ allows councillors who are council tenants to take part in debates on, and vote on, matters relating to council housing.

Mr Perkins, writing in the paper’s December 20 edition, suggests that it is almost impossible to establish whether or not a tenant has fallen into rent arrears solely as a consequence of the “pernicious” (his word) Bedroom Tax, and claims that the motion was “a meaningless ‘political’ statement”.

He makes the point that it may be possible to apply the policy where the tenant has never previously been in rent arrears, but this would be unfair on other tenants who are similarly affected now but had fallen into arrears for other reasons in the past. He asks why tenants who struggle to meet their rent payments should not receive a financial subsidy or reward for being a good and conscientious tenant; and also points out that the cumulative effect of other regressive changes to benefits is also likely to affect the rent payments of vulnerable people and, to be consistent, Labour’s motion should encompass them also.

He says all social landlords, including the council, will seek to advise and support tenants who are in financial difficulty, but “in the final analysis, if a tenant fails to pay their rent, the ultimate sanction has got to be eviction.

“To do otherwise would be irresponsible, as ultimately the cost of one tenant not paying their rent is borne by all those tenants that do pay, and spiralling arrears will ultimately affect the viability of the council’s housing, which will serve none of its tenants.”

It would be easy to pick holes in his arguments. The whole point of government policy is to make sure that nobody gets a penny more than the Conservative-led Coalition decides they should have – and this government wants to drive people into poverty – so there will be no rewards for hard work. The Labour Party, and non-political groups, has campaigned ceaselessly to force the government into assessing the cumulative impact of its changes to the benefit system, but the government has refused all such calls, knowing as it does that such research would reveal the monstrous truth about its attack on the poorest in society.

If Mr Perkins is really interested, then he should encourage his own MP to support the call for such an assessment in the debate on the ‘WoW’ Petition, due to take place in the House of Commons in the New Year. I helped write that document, which calls for (among other things) “a cumulative impact assessment of welfare reform”. Labour is supporting the motion. I would suggest, therefore, that any criticism of Labour for making a “meaningless ‘political’ statement” is unfounded.

As for the difference between tenants affected by the Bedroom Tax who have never been in arrears before, and those affected by it who have – this should be something a social landlord can track, especially if they are actively seeking to “advise and support” tenants. This support should include examination of a tenants income and outgoings, before and after the Tax was imposed.

The simple fact is that Mr Perkins would move offending tenants into smaller houses if he had any, but he doesn’t. He would not be talking about eviction if he did. He never built them and we must conclude that he never saw the need. Perhaps he believed that the welfare state would continue to support his tenants.

William Beveridge, the architect of that system, in the report that bears his name, said the British government should fight what he called the “giant evils” of society, including Want.

How could Beveridge know that, 70 years later, the British government would be actively increasing Want, wherever it could. That is what the Bedroom Tax, and the benefit cap, and all the other cuts brought in by this spiteful Conservative-led Coalition are about.

These measures are crimes against the citizens of this country – citizens who have paid into the State, generation after generation since the 1940s, believing that it would look after them if the spectre of Want cast its shadow at their door.

Mr Perkins describes the changes as “pernicious”, but if he allows a single tenant to be evicted then he will be a willing accomplice.

That is what he is saying when he tells us he is prepared to use this “final sanction”.

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GDP figures due – will Gideon have anything to show for his austerity idiocy?

Triple-dip breakfast: Will we all be dining on the sour cereal of recession again, when GDP figures are published on Thursday morning?

Triple-dip breakfast: Will we all be dining on the sour cereal of recession again, when GDP figures are published on Thursday morning?

Thursday will be another ‘crunch’ day for our part-time Chancellor of the Exchequer – he’s having quite a lot of those lately, isn’t he?

Only last week, the academic justification for his austerity policy was disproven by an American student (oh, the shame!), and then his former allies at the International Monetary Fund distanced themselves from him (oh, the betrayal!) saying he should calm down a bit.

That’s the best advice this columnist has ever heard the IMF provide; if not for his own health, then for the nation’s.

Thursday, though, is a really big day. On Thursday, GDP figures for the first quarter of 2013 will be published.

It is a sign of how low expectations have fallen, that all the economic commentators are saying the best we can expect is to have kept out of a triple-dip recession – with falls in output due to the weather, among other things, making that unprecedented outcome more likely.

There is a problem with all of these predictions, which should be obvious to those of us living in the real world: Short-termism.

It’s all about how the UK managed in the last quarter, how it will manage in the next; what the situation is today. What about six months from now? What about next year? What about 2015, when we’re all expecting an election and the chance to banish this nightmare? What about 2017-18, when 0sborne still reckons he’ll have eliminated the budget deficit (fat chance)?

The fact is that the only options open to a Chancellor in the current climate are unpalatable to the Boy.

He could boost investment in infrastructure, in a bid to make this country a better place to open – and carry out – business. The trouble is, this tends to be a long-term project and he no longer has the time. His chances would have been better if he had started this in 2010, but his government cancelled as many such projects as they could back then, claiming it was more important to cut public spending in order to balance the books.

That was a vain hope. Without new investment, the country has lost revenue.

But if that is unpalatable, the other alternative is likely to make him choke on his pate de foie gras (or whatever it is these posh boys ingest): Increase the spending power of the poor.

It is known that the ‘trickle-down effect’ is a myth – giving all of a country’s money to the very rich, in the belief that they will spend it, boosting the economy and the income of the poor, is nonsense. What they actually do is bank it – in offshore tax havens, most likely. That is what 0sborne has been doing; it is another reason the economy has bombed.

It is also a rock-solid fact that poor people do spend their money – or as much as they can get their hands on. When you are constantly struggling to make ends meet, it’s very hard to keep cash in the bank – you have to spend it on food, clothes, rent, heat, light, water… the list is endless, because it constantly repeats.

When you don’t have much cash, as Edmund Blackadder once said, you feel like a pelican. Everywhere you turn, there’s a large bill in front of you.

That money does work for society. It reinvigorates the economy as it filters through different hands. And it brings with it the extra joy of fiscal multipliers – every pound that gets put into the economy is worth more after it has been through.

The trouble is, Gideon shut off that money supply. He raised VAT, making it harder for working-class people and those on benefits to buy certain economy-boosting products, and then he and Iain Duncan Smith spent the last few years on their project to depress wages.

(For clarity, it goes like this: The DWP makes the benefit system so difficult to navigate that people in receipt have to do their utmost to get off-benefit as soon as possible. This means they are constantly looking for jobs, which in turn makes it possible for employers to refuse pay rises for their workforce, with the classic line that “there are plenty of other people who’d be happy to have your job, you know!” You didn’t really think the benefit cap was about making work pay, did you?)

Say what you like about Labour, but they’ve got the right idea when it comes to the money supply. Ed Balls wants to cut VAT; he wants to bring back the 10 per cent tax rate for the lowest-paid; he wants to bring in a National Insurance holiday for companies that agree to take on new employees.

These are measures that will help.

What is Gideon going to do?