Ice skaters at the Winter Wonderland experience in London’s Hyde Park [Image: Niklas Halle’n/AFP/Getty Images].
You could lose a close relative or friend in the near future – particularly if they are elderly or vulnerable due to a health condition. In fact, your Conservative Government has done everything it can to arrange it.
Senior citizens are probably the least vulnerable group, as Tory right-wingers have – so far – failed to convince their leaders to cut cold weather and winter fuel payments. It’s just a matter of time, though.
Working-age people with health problems are a different matter. The Tories have cut benefits to the bone and these people may find it very difficult to cope with the cost of heating their homes while still putting food on the table.
That applies to unemployed people who are sanctioned by the Job Centre, as well.
And what about the homeless – 120,000 of whom, this Christmas, will be children?
Can anybody forget the horrifying fate of the man who was sanctioned, walked out into the street and froze to death?
Expect more – many more. Maybe not this week, but soon. And you know our NHS hospitals cannot cope because Jeremy Hunt has made sure of it.
Heath officials have reminded the public that cold weather can be fatal – hours before a widespread frost hits Britain.
Temperatures could drop to -6C over the coming nights in places, the lowest of the season so far.
An NHS contract to outsource care of older and mentally ill people collapsed after just eight months [Image: Getty].
This is where our money is going.
Because the Conservatives are keen to give public money to private enterprise, two NHS trusts banded together to become a service provider for older people and those who were mentally ill – and failed.
That means they were being paid our money for a service they couldn’t provide – so the people who needed the service didn’t get it.
They still need the service but the money has gone.
And now a Conservative MP has proposed charging people for NHS services.
This fiasco happened because the Conservatives created a false need to pay private firms for services.
The answer is not to introduce more commercialism into the NHS, but to strip it out completely.
Private firms should be banned from competing for NHS contracts, and the service should return to being run on sound principles of financial competence.
That is the lesson.
But Tories won’t learn from it, because they are wedded to an outdated, market-driven philosophy that simply isn’t relevant to a service like the NHS.
A “catalogue of failures” resulted in the collapse of an £800 million NHS contract to outsource care of older and mentally ill people, the Commons spending watchdog warned.
An influential committee of MPs concluded that the NHS lacked expertise in procurement and it was “worrying” that untested contracting arrangements could form part of the plans being drawn up for further changes to services across England.
The Public Accounts Committee was scathing about the doomed deal between Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and UnitingCare Partnership, which collapsed after just eight months.
The cash-strapped CCG awarded a five-year contract to UnitingCare, an NHS consortium of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust and Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, but the deal was scrapped in December 2015 after it ran into difficulties.
The MPs said: “The procurement exercise was undermined from the start by poor commercial expertise, a lack of realistic pricing, and weak oversight.
“The CCG accepted the lowest bid on the table, without seeking proper assurance that the two trusts, which had combined to form the UnitingCare Partnership, could deliver for that price.
“It was then grossly irresponsible of the trusts and the CCG to rush ahead with the contract without having resolved significant differences in their understanding of the contract price or indeed the scope of services that were included in that price.”
David Icke’s website took a characteristically strong view of Cameron’s performance.
Late last night (Tuesday), this writer was surprised to read a tweet from arch-Tory Andrew Neil, asking, “Does anybody feel that wheels are falling off Tory campaign?”
Perhaps Mr Neil had seen David Cameron’s performance at an Age UK meeting yesterday, where pensioners – widely believed to be the Conservative Party’s most loyal and likely supporters – did everything but climb onto the stage and physically rip the comedy prime minister apart.
If they are representative of all the UK’s senior citizens, then yes – not only have the wheels fallen off Cameron’s cart but the horse has bolted.
Arriving late, Cameron explained himself by saying he had just taken his 175th cabinet meeting. This display of pride at his longevity in-post impressed nobody – let’s face it, the man was facing a crowd whose defining feature is longevity. Perhaps Cameron himself was impressed by his (non-)achievement. If so, one has to wonder why; one of his first acts as prime minister was to fix the length of the current Parliament.
It was at the questions that he really fell to pieces. The first was about his diabolical treatment of the National Health Service – on which many elderly people must rely, of course. Why was it falling apart? Cameron’s claim that there was an army of carers, plus more doctors* and nurses, was met with a succinct reply from several areas: “Rubbish!”
“The NHS needs more money,” shouted a member of the audience, while another shouted: “You promised free prescriptions… we want the NHS how it used to be.”
Following on from this, Cameron tried to tell these experts on the subject that his government had protected health and social care budgets. Big mistake – as some pointed out loudly: “The social care budget has been slashed.”
Here’s The Guardian‘s coverage of the next question: “‘I am 91 …’ Dave began to applaud enthusiastically, remembering that a good TV chat show host always likes to give an old person a clap for having stayed alive so long. He quickly stopped once he realised no one else had joined in and started stroking his chin instead. In that moment, no one had ever cared more or listened harder than Dave.”
Moving on, Cameron told the tough crowd he would not have a Cabinet member responsible for the elderly: “I don’t want you to blame other people. I want you to blame me.” The response? “We are. We do.”
“It’s a dream come true that I am able to ask you a question,” said a member of the audience. “Then you’ve got very low standards!” was the instant response from the others.
Challenged on his arrogant suggestion that he would not serve a third term (when he hasn’t even won a second and only got into his first by the back door), Cameron began, “What I did in my kitchen…” and was drowned out by the laughter of people who have lived long enough to have done the kinds of things in their kitchens that only feature in Cameron’s buddy George Osborne’s dreams.
“Some people have said I have been too generous to old people.” – “Not us.”
“I hope I can count on your support for a future Conservative government.” – “Not a chance.”
*It takes seven years to train a doctor; any new arrivals on wards during Cameron’s time as PM would have been initiated under the previous Labour government.
Afterwards, Asima Rentulla told ITV News: “The NHS is not protected. We rely on the NHS. The NHS is ours.”
And Graham Curtis said: “The social care budget is being slashed and slashed and slashed and the National Health Service is having to backfill what’s happening there… He was being very disingenuous.”
It was a situation that Cameron couldn’t control. The opinion polls might put his Tories close to Labour and the right-wing press might be praising him to the heavens, but there’s no way to hide the honest reaction of the public when they finally get a chance to confront the man who has caused so much unnecessary misery.
On this performance, Cameron’s days in politics – let alone in office – are numbered.
We’re spoilt for choice with this subject – so many people have commented on it. Here’s Jayne Linney‘s contribution, as hers was the first to reach Vox Towers:
I am totally unsurprised, albeit perturbed, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Second Lord of the Treasury George Osborne, has demonstrated his total lack of understanding of the Welfare Reform Act. In his Conference speech he announced ‘working-age benefits will be frozen for two years after 2015′ with an added proviso that “the elderly and the disabled will be protected”.
He then confirmed Cameron’s statement of yesterday, of a £3,000 reduction in the Benefits Cap; and this is where confusion arises. Despite his promise of protection for disabled people, individuals in receipt of the work-related activity component of ESA will be included in the cap. Clearly Osborne has failed to notice that many disabled people are in receipt of precisely this benefit; and frequently these are the same people awaiting mandatory reconsiderations and/or Tribunals.
For more of her observations on this, please read the rest of the article on Jayne’s site.
The big question: Tories want nurses to ask the elderly, “Will you die so we can save some pennies on your pension and healthcare?”
For once, the Daily Mail‘s indignation is right on the button.
It reports today that district nurses are being asked to encourage elderly people to sign their lives away.
These ask if people have a preference to die at home when their time comes – and go on to suggest: Do you agree to a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) notice?
In other words, if they suffer a life-threatening health risk and doctors could bring them back, will they tell the medical professionals not to bother?
Nobody knows how long an elderly person might live after having their life saved. Some might say the Mail is simply trying to protect its readership – but this does seem to be a cynical attempt to save money – not only on health care but also on pension payments.
“The Royal College of Nursing says its members, most of whom will be meeting the patient for the first time, should not be put into the position of asking the elderly to sign their life away, particularly since they may be confused and not have a relative present to support them,” the Mail‘s comment column states.
It quotes a healthcare expert who said “the question itself is ‘callous’ and potentially disturbing, since it might leave the frail or vulnerable wondering if the visiting nurse ‘knows something they do not’, and death is imminent.
“Doubtless the NHS will say there is no malice intended, but this approach is as deeply troubling as it is insensitive. Don’t forget the Liverpool Care Pathway – under which patients judged to be dying were left without treatment, food or fluids – similarly began with supposedly humane intentions, only to be scrapped after… fears that it was being coldly misused to free hospital beds.”
The Conservative-led council that runs the Churchill Gardens estate wants to use current play facilities at the primary school to build an elderly people’s home, the paper reported.
Land marked out to accommodate the elderly will instead be used – get this – “for luxury apartments overlooking the Thames and the multi-billion-pound Battersea power station development. Flats that no-one in the overcrowded Churchill Gardens estate will be able to afford”.
Yes – it’s social engineering. Bring in the super-rich; bury the proles (and their children). Ensure enough Conservative voters live in the area to keep the Tories in control there.
Does anybody think the council has any intention of building children’s play facilities underground? It seems a bizarre effort, considering this council’s desire to do anything rather than spend money on the poor. Also, it would open up the estate to the possibility of terrible crimes, as children who are out of sight – as Tory councillors seem to desire – would be prey to criminals.
Both stories highlight the attitude of Conservatives in power in the UK today. They don’t care about anyone but their own.
They deprive the poor to save money, and then lavish it on those who have too much already.
Struggling to make an impact: Ed Miliband must reject the Tory Party’s narrative about the need for austerity and bring forward a vision for the future that really does make us ‘One Nation’ again, rather than hanging on David Cameron’s neoliberal coat-tails, as many former Labour voters believe.
The political debate is all about the Labour Party again today – as it has been since the Budget.
The newspapers and websites are full of advice for the party, which is now clearly seen to be struggling to gain any kind of a foothold with electors who have become disillusioned at what might best be called the Party of Very Little Opposition.
Labour “must adopt new principles” according to an alliance of thinktanks and party intellectuals who have written to The Guardian; Ed Miliband has been told “don’t play safe” with the party’s manifesto according to an article on the same paper’s site.
We can probably discount the Telegraph article by Dan Hodges, claiming that Labour is “closed for business”. It plays to right-wing readers’ prejudices just a little too much.
Will Ed pay any attention to these pleas? Evidence suggests he will not.
I should clarify from the outset that, as a Labour member, I want the Party to win in 2015 (and also to gain the lion’s share of the vote in May’s European elections).
But Miliband seems to be living in a world of his own, insulated from the rest of the Labour Party – not to mention supporters of Labour ideals who are not members – by a small group of (not-so-special) advisers who, it’s claimed, intercept any decent ideas before they get to the party leader and spin them until they turn to drivel. Whether this is true or not seems immaterial as this is the perception of the general public.
And perception is everything.
As I write this article I have just received a comment stating that “Miliband’s strategy for the next election seems to be a) to accept the Tory frame of reference for any given argument and b) to then concede the field of battle on that issue, whatever it is, without a shot being fired.” This is a common complaint, and Labour has no answer to it.
Why do Miliband, Balls, Tristram Hunt (notably), Rachel Reeves (lamentably) and all the other Labour frontbenchers blithely accept the Coalition’s terms of reference on any issue, against the wishes of their own backbenchers, their party as a whole and the public at large?
Are they really just a gang of greedy moneygrubbers, determined to screw the country for whatever they can get? That in itself would be a betrayal of Labour Party ideals and their constituency parties should deselect them if members believed that to be the case for one moment.
Are they a gang of neoliberals, their political philosophy so close to that of the Conservatives that you can’t get a credit card between them? This rings threateningly true in the cases of Oxford PPE graduats Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper, ex-Bank of England employee Rachel Reeves and Tristram Hunt. But Ed Miliband is (famously) the son of a Marxist. He, above all, should know better.
The trouble is, David Miliband is the son of the same Marxist and he was as much a part of the neoliberal New Labour Red Tory deception as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
Oh look – another comment has just arrived. “More people don’t bother to vote because they feel that we as a people have moved on and all we really want is people who will represent us honestly, by majority and with no hidden agendas, backhanders or lobbyists pulling the strings. I don’t see any evidence that the present government or the Labour Party are capable or willing to do just that… They should have the courage to change and become the voice of the people.”
Become the voice of the people. The meaning is clear – Labour is not currently representing anybody at all.
Is this true? Let’s look at some of the other comments on my (left-leaning, let’s not forget) blog. These are from people who are generally sympathetic to Socialism and who should, therefore, see Labour as the natural home of their vote. What do they say?
“[Is it] any wonder [that] 1. People don’t vote because they are seen as “all the bloody same”? and 2. The perceived differences have become so minuscule?”
“Until Labour wakes up and realises it is the welfare cuts that are a major concern to most of us and to anyone who has a conscience, they will lose the next election due to apathy.”
“Labour have to do something different to what they have up to now but they don’t seem to want to. Are they scared of being in government over a country in the state it is?”
“Labour have had four years to do something – anything – to fight against the welfare cuts, and to help the people they are supposed to be the party for! They’ve really done nothing when all is said and done.”
If Ed Miliband was reading this, I would be asking if he was getting the message yet (are you, Ed?) and what he proposes to do about it. You think not? Let’s have some more comments from people who should be supporting Labour – I’ve got plenty of them!
“There has been absolutely no fight in this opposition and I am ashamed of them.”
“People need a reason to apply their votes to Labour and Miliband-Balls are not providing them with one. They are sleepwalking into another hung Parliament and a very real risk of the Tories teaming up with UKIP. Then we’ll really see Nazism grip this country.”
“The would-be voters demand change and need bold new policies to blunt the Tory cutters. If the Labour Party cannot come up with policies which are radical then they don’t deserve to be in power at the next election, or ever.”
“Ed Balls worries me because he seems intent on copycatting Osborne. For example Osborne says he will run a surplus by the end of the next Parliament and Balls promises the same. Osborne say he will be introducing a Benefit Cap on social security spending on working age benefits (which could have devastating effects and lead to real terms cuts in benefits for years on end) and Balls says that Labour will vote with the Coalition to introduce it.”
“Surely we need some clear red water between Labour and the Tories? Surely Labour needs to differentiate itself more from the policies of the Coalition?”
“I sent an email to the Labour Party asking for its policy on TTIP (the rightly-feared Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that will force employment standards down to third-world levels, or below), amongst other things. They were decidedly equivocal and I felt no reassurance at all. I think it’s about we faced facts, Labour aren’t being coy in a pre-election year to avoid frightening the horses, they really are just another pack of neoliberals.”
This is how left-wing voters (and the squeezed-middle waverers to whom Ed Miliband keeps trying to pander) see the modern Labour Party: Carbon-copy Tories with no fresh ideas who aren’t worth the effort of voting.
If any of Ed’s shadow cabinet is okay with that description, he needs to sack them and bring in someone with a clue. And he needed to do it last year.
If the Conservatives win in 2015, it seems clear that responsibility will lie as much with Labour’s failure to provide any clearly-visible alternative.
We have already seen carnage inflicted on the poor, the sick and disabled, and a Conservative-only government (or in collaboration withUKIP) would increase that bloodshed tenfold (senior citizens take note: the bribe you were given last week was a trick and if you vote Conservative, many of you will not live to rectify your error at another election).
Unless Ed Miliband sorts out his party – pronto – that blood will be on his hands as well, and the people will not forgive him.
Note that I did not say they won’t forgive Labour. I said they won’t forgive Ed Miliband.
Words cannot describe the way people feel at what has been done to them by the Coalition. If Labour reveals even the slightest element of complicity, I wouldn’t give a farthing for Miliband’s safety.
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Mr Os-bean: As Ed Miliband gave his response to the Budget, George Osborne had a gormless smile on his face that made him look like Mr Bean. This is not him – but it’s the closest image I could find at short notice. [Image as credited]
If a Conservative government is returned to office after the 2015 election, there will be yet more spending cuts and service cuts afflicting hard-working, low-paid families.
That was the message for most people in George Osborne’s latest attempt at a Budget speech today.
There were plenty of groan-worthy moments as the part-time chancellor trotted out the Coalition’s catchphrases: “We will fix the roof while the sun is shining” (groan. The job is taking so long, one has to question whether the contractor is Con-ning the client). “We are all in this together” (groan). Oh really?
Benefit spending is to be capped at £119 billion per year, albeit rising with inflation; public sector pay “restraint” will continue for the foreseeable future. This is from the government whose Prime Minister was confirmed, only minutes previously, as having approved 40 per cent pay rises for his special advisors!
Most significant is the fact that Osborne avoided mentioning ordinary working people for most of his speech; this was a budget for businesses, with the benefits reserved for fatcat bosses.
No major advanced economy in the World is growing faster than the UK, said Mr Osborne; more people are in work. This appears to be borne out by current employment figures (although it should be noted that this is due to a vast and questionable boom in self-employment – the number of employees has dropped by 60,000).
Where is the benefit to the British economy? Why has the deficit not been eliminated? Osborne said it stood at £157 billion in the year he came to office, and would be £108 billion this year, but in fact £39 billion was removed due to measures brought in by the previous Labour chancellor, Alistair Darling. He has cut government spending by something like £80 billion so far, but the deficit has dropped by – possibly – £10 billion. Not a good start to his speech.
There will be further investment in high-speed rail, even though there is no way of predicting whether this hugely costly investment in making train journeys 20 minutes faster will create any economic improvement.
There will be money to fund new centres for medical research – but will these be absorbed by private health firms after the public purse has paid for them?
There will be investment in faster extraction of oil from the North Sea – aiming to get as much as possible out before the Scottish referendum, in order to impoverish the Scots if they decide to go for independence?
And there will be investment in low-cost energy (finally killing the highly questionable green agenda) – meaning money for shale gas companies, and to hell with the environmental cost.
All this investment will go into businesses whose main contribution to the Treasury – Corporation Tax – has already dropped by a quarter (from 28 per cent to 21 per cent) and will go down to 20 per cent this year. This is less than the lowest level of Income Tax.
Up go the profits – down go the tax payments. Who benefits?
Council tax in England remains frozen, meaning fewer public services.
The personal tax allowance is to rise, so people may earn £10,500 before paying tax. This is nowhere near enough to offset the massive drop in living standards that has been caused by the Tory-led Coalition. The cost of living has risen for 44 out of the 45 months of this Parliament – for the whole period, if the earnings of high-paid bankers are removed from the calculation.
The threshold for payment of the 40p tax rate is to rise, so fewer people will pay the higher rate.
Savers are to be helped but – again – this is not a boost for the poor. Most working and unemployed families don’t have any spare money to put into the banks. How does it help them to know they would not pay any tax on savings up to £15,000 in an ISA, when they cannot afford to open one?
And there is a new Pensioner Bond for rich senior citizens (poorer pensioners don’t live long enough to benefit).
As Ed Miliband said in his scathing response, the Coalition can afford to give a tax cut of £200,000 per year to bankers who earn £5 million – but can’t afford £250 per year extra for nurses.
Mr Miliband said the Budget speech was more significant in what it hid than in what it actually said.
Working people are suffering under the Bedroom Tax, under cuts to their tax credits, and they are having to visit food banks if they want to eat.
This is a government that gives with one hand, but takes back much more with the other.
And the Conservatives have the bare-faced cheek to call themselves “The Workers’ Party”.
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If you weren’t watching the BBC’s Question Time on Thursday, you didn’t miss much; questions about whether the young and poor should pay to maintain the lifestyles of the rich and old, and about whether the police should have shot unarmed Mark Duggan were deflected by Tory Nadine Dorries and Lib Dem Norman Baker – lamely, but that’s all they need to do with Dimbleby in the chair to protect them.
Dorries reckoned Mark Duggan was seen with a gun in his hand and threw it away but my information is that no witness actually said this. If so, then she should have been corrected but wasn’t – that’s the level of information you get on QT these days.
Then they moved on to immigration, and we got the wonderful speech by the lady in the YouTube clip above. She might not be the most sophisticated speaker ever to grace our screens but I, for one, don’t care a jot!
She made a point that Dorries, Baker, and particularly Dimbleby – look at the way he tried to shut her down – didn’t want aired: That this government is using the non-issue of Romanian and Bulgarian immigration as cover for its real work – destroying the National Health Service and the welfare state in order to force poor people to take out inadequate insurance against poor health and unemployment instead.
Let’s see more people doing the same on future editions of the programme.
The Establishment (including the BBC) want to keep you quiet, so just go out and make sure these people fail.
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