Not my image: Somebody else made this – indicating that concerns over the BBC’s claim to impartiality are well-founded.
Look at the state of this. The Conservatives have lost almost ten times as many seats as Labour, but the mainstream media have lumped them together to make it seem they have been equally hit:
The Conservatives and Labour have faced a backlash at the ballot box over the Brexit deadlock, with smaller parties and independents winning seats.
In England so far, the Tories have lost almost 800 seats and 28 councils overall, while the Liberal Democrats have gained more than 450 seats.
Labour has lost more than 80 seats.
At the time of writing, the Tories have lost 848 seats, and Labour is 90 behind its previous total.
Labour’s performance has not been wonderful, especially in the context of previous elections in these council areas. In 2015 the party under previous leader Ed Miliband lost 203 council seats.
But the Conservative collapse has been catastrophic, when judged by the same yardstick. In 2015, that party gained 541 seats.
This year’s result has wiped out those gains and seems likely to take away from the party almost as many seats again – possibly even more.
The MSM are also discussing each party’s share of the vote, saying Labour and the Tories are tied on 28 per cent. That’s just one per cent lower than in 2015 for Labour…
But it represents a massive seven per cent plunge for the Conservatives.
Oh, and the Liberal Democrats who are crowing about their 503 gains?
It simply means they’ve gained back the ground they lost in 2015, when 411 seats went to other parties in a reaction against the hated ConDem coalition of 2010-2015, with a few extra that may be attributed to the main parties’ lack of progress on Brexit.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Inferno: Grenfell Tower burst into flames last June.
Conservatives have no shame – especially when they’re trying to con you into voting for them.
At the moment, with the local elections approaching, it seems they have decided that it is a good time to politicise the inferno at Grenfell Tower – despite having deplored those of us who did so at the time.
According to the Mirror, “Tory canvassers were allegedly heard discussing how to spin the Grenfell blaze for political gain a mile from the scene of the tragedy.
“Local council candidate Maxwell Woodger is said to have been part of the group – which was also allegedly heard saying survivors still living in hotels were ‘milking the system’.
“Mr Woodger strongly refuted the allegation but a complaint has been made to Kensington, Chelsea and Fulham Conservative Party.”
For clarity: Any former Grenfell resident still living in temporary accommodation is there because Theresa May has failed in her promise to find them a permanent home. And you know how soon she said that would happen?
Within three weeks of the fire. It happened last June.
That should tell you everything you need to know about how Conservatives care for the people of London.
The conditions that surrounded the fire itself were bad enough for the Tories: I should not have to remind anybody that landlords put flammable cladding on the walls and Tory council chiefs, together with MPs, failed to review safety.
I wrote at the time: “Members of the local Conservative-held Kensington and Chelsea Council, their officers, and government ministers all knew that the tower block was a danger to life – but did nothing about it.
“Concern has been raised that these public representatives were too keen to bury complaints – because they would have required expensive remedial action by landlords, both here and in 4,000 other blocks around the UK.”
Others suggested that the tower block would have been earmarked for development in the ‘gentrification’ of the Kensington and Chelsea council area.
In such circumstances, a fire that destroyed the block would have contributed to those plans and any deaths would have been cheap collateral damage.
If there is any truth to the claims that Tories are saying survivors in hotels are “milking the system”, then it seems the Conservatives would have preferred more deaths than the 71 that have been recorded.
At the time, people were saying “Enough is enough” – that rules and regulations must be tightened to ensure no repetition of the tragedy.
In fact, it was far too much. And it was because of the Conservatives.
The same Conservatives who are seeking election back onto local councils across London so they can strip public services still further and endanger the lives of even more people.
Remember: When you are alive, they call you “stock”. If you die because of their plans you are “collateral damage”.
Londoners: For your own sakes, vote Labour on May 3.
Vox Political needs your help! If you want to support this site
(but don’t want to give your money to advertisers) you can make a one-off donation here:
Here are four ways to be sure you’re among the first to know what’s going on.
1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the left margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.
Sarah Olney smiles after winning the Richmond Park by-election [Image: PA].
Congratulations to Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney on her narrow win against Zac Goldsmith. It shows that if you flood a constituency with supporters and pester the public hard enough, there’s nothing you can’t get them to do.
Of course, it isn’t very pleasant – but then, Liberal Democrats aren’t.
Party supporters flooded into Richmond Park, making nearly 100,000 attempts to speak to the constituency’s 82,500 voters, and stuffing their letterboxes with pamphlets.
Many constituents said they had been annoyed by the bombardment of Lib Dem propaganda.
The Liberal Democrats had two advantages in any case: Firstly, Richmond Park had been a Lib Dem seat until 2010, so voters had a natural inclination in their direction. And the constituency had voted Remain in the EU referendum, with 72 per cent of voters opposing Brexit.
Party campaigning was therefore focused on a promise to oppose Tory plans to quit the EU, with Ms Olney vowing to vote against any move to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that might be put through Parliament.
Where does that leave Labour?
Many commentators will want to assure you that this is evidence of Labour’s disappearance from the political mainstream. You’ll see it in all the newspapers that are run by right-wing businessmen who want you to vote in their best interests.
Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, came up with this scurrilous nonsense in his comments to the BBC: “Clearly a concern to voters was they desperately wanted a moderate, decent alternative to the Tories now Labour has shuffled off the main stage.”
Again, this is a comment from a man with a vested – indeed, desperate, considering the Liberal Democrats now have a grand total of nine MPs – interest in talking down the Labour Party.
Hopefully his comments will come as a sharp reminder to those within Labour who said that party should not field a candidate, that it had a duty to do so – and that failing to do so would have worsened the criticism from opponents like the schoolboyish Farron.
Clive Lewis, Lisa Nandy and Jonathan Reynolds had argued that Labour had little chance of winning in Richmond Park and should not field a candidate, but This Writer agrees with Peter Edwards of LabourList.
He wrote: “Avoiding the fight entirely would have resonated around the country. Labour needs to show people who struggle under the oppressive and unjust weight of a Tory government that it is fighting for them, even when its chances of success are slim to minuscule.”
Quite correct. Labour’s position on Brexit – that the EU referendum is done, the people have spoken, and we have to get the best out of it that we can – was never going to be popular in Richmond.
But Labour had to be there to show that the party opposes – in all parts of the UK – the dangerous right-wing policies of Zac Goldsmith and, until the dissolution of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition, Tim Farron; policies that led to the death of a man in freezing Birmingham earlier this week.
And after Mr Goldsmith’s disgustingly racist campaign to be London Mayor, how would it have looked if Labour had not fielded a candidate against him? The party would have been accused of backing away from the fight or – worse – condoning the racism employed by the Goldsmith campaign.
This is a tricky time for Labour.
The party has a hugely popular leader who has, at long last, put forward policies that a majority of the public support.
The Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, UKIP, the SNP and most of the people you’ll see on the BBC’s Question Time are terrified of this.
So their strategy is to starve Labour of the oxygen of publicity by putting forward warped claims about the party and denying it the chance to respond.
Notice, for example, that there is no comment from a Labour representative in the BBC’s article, quoted below.
That is not an accident.
These so-called Liberals and Tories and their allies in the media will spin you into voting for another extreme right-wing government if they possibly can.
The Liberal Democrats have caused a major upset in the Richmond Park by-election, overturning a 23,015 majority to oust ex-Tory MP Zac Goldsmith.
Mr Goldsmith stood as an independent after leaving the Conservative Party in protest at the government’s decision to back a third Heathrow runway.
But Lib Dem Sarah Olney, who is also opposed to Heathrow expansion, fought the campaign on the issue of Brexit.
Labour’s Christian Wolmar lost his £500 deposit as he trailed a distant third.
Ms Olney polled 20,510 votes to Mr Goldsmith’s 18,638.
The Conservative Party, UK Independence Party and Green Party did not field candidates.
Emily Maitlis takes her medicine from Dennis Skinner.
It seems BBC reporter Emily Maitlis has caught foot-in-mouth disease – possibly from David Cameron (we’ll know after PMQs, but in the meantime we have his recent tweet as evidence), possibly – and more frighteningly – from Rupert Murdoch.
She was upbraided on Monday for distorting the facts after an interview with the legendary ‘Beast of Bolsover’, Dennis Skinner, when he told her he had not taken a job on Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet because he had made it clear, prior to Mr Corbyn’s victory in the Labour Party leadership election, that he did not want a place there.
“I don’t believe in patronism,” he told the BBC interviewer – but when she inferred that this meant Mr Skinner would not work for the new leader, he responded: “Work for him? I’m going to walk through the lobby with him today, against this anti-trade union bill.”
Ms Maitlis went on to suggest that Mr Skinner believes the era of ‘spin’ is dead – but then said he had turned down the opportunity of a job under Jeremy Corbyn.
The instant response was: “You’re spinning already. That was spinning; that was an example of spinning, because you were trying to imply that I’d turned it down.”
“No, that was a joke,” said Ms Maitlis – but Mr Skinner’s response made it very clear that she was now the joke.
“I think it’s time that you got real – and that you understood that you’re not working for Murdoch at the BBC, because you seem to be following the same pattern,” he warned, before walking off with a BBC technician trailing, trying to retrieve the microphone attached to his chest.
One very interesting aspect of this is the desperate way right-wingers seem to be trying to ‘own’ this interview. Look it up on YouTube and you’ll see clips marked “Dennis Skinner whining”, “Dennis Skinner mansplains to Emily Maitlis”, “Dennis Skinner launches incredible rant”.
He did none of those things. Interestingly, the clip labelled “mansplains” was posted by a man – who clearly didn’t know what the word means. If you ‘mansplain’, it means you “explain (something) to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing”. Skinner’s comments were neither.
He was not putting her down because she was a woman; he was attacking her attempt to falsely attribute actions to him that he did not take – which is also exactly what Yr Obdt Srvt is now doing to “Henry Reeve”, whoever this person may be – and I’m not the only one, to judge by the comments on the YouTube page.
Perhaps it’s time these Tory boys and girls got real too – but it will be great fun watching them flounder until they do.
Don’t they look cosy together: Remember when the SNP was vilifying Labour politicians for appearing in photographs next to Conservatives? How do you think they’ll justify this little gem?
Scottish voters have been pulled hither and yon over the past few months – mostly by the claims of the SNP.
It is good, therefore, to have clarity from the Labour Party.
The message is clear, as reported by the BBC: “Labour leader Ed Miliband has told party members in Edinburgh … that ‘every one less Labour MP’ made it more likely the Conservatives would be the largest party” after the general election.
The much-maligned Jim Murphy added: “The biggest risk of Scotland getting the government it didn’t vote for is to believe you can get a Labour government while voting for somebody else.”
We’ve had a lot of SNP spin about Scotland’s relevance to the larger picture in general elections. “It doesn’t make any difference,” according to that party and its followers.
In that case, why are they hoping for a minority Labour government that needs SNP support to pass its policies? According to their own argument, this should not be necessary because Scotland “doesn’t make any difference”.
It is obvious that this argument is “pish”, as SNP adherents like to describe anything they don’t like.
Nicola Sturgeon has dropped demands that a minority Labour government must abandon the Trident nuclear weapon system if it is to have SNP support, indicating her own desperation for a deal (although, in reality, it may not make much difference; 75 per cent of Labour Parliamentary candidates oppose Trident out of principle).
The Tories are stupidly calling on Labour to rule out a deal with the SNP on the grounds that Labour would be relying on a party that wants to weaken the United Kingdom and eventually break it up altogether. Grant Shapps said: “Ed Miliband and the SNP have signed the pre-nup and are now half-way up the aisle.” Rubbish, of course.
But Murphy pointed out that the SNP brought down a Labour government in 1979 by opposing it in a vote of no confidence. That is what led to the Conservative governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major.
Labour hasn’t forgotten that betrayal. When somebody comes calling who has stabbed you in the back, you don’t welcome them with open arms.
Meanwhile, the SNP has been stupidly claiming that Labour is considering a coalition with the Tories, based on the flimsy evidence of a tweet from a now-departed Scottish Labour functionary and an off-the-cuff comment from an MP.
That silliness has also been dumped unceremoniously into the grave.
“We’ve got so little in common when it comes to the big issues that that is never going to happen,” said Murphy.
So if you’re Scottish, you’ve got the SNP claiming Labour will do a deal with the Tories (ha ha), and the Tories saying Labour is “halfway up the aisle” with the SNP (ha ha).
Candidates in the general election will have 23 per cent more money to spend after the Tories slipped the increase through without debate. This only applies if any candidates other than Tories actually have that much money, of course.
The Observer has reported that, under the new limits, the total amount the candidates of each political party can spend has increased from £26.5m to £32.7m.
In March, the Electoral Commission recommended there should be no such increase in spending limits for candidates over the so-called “long campaign” period between December 19 and general election day on May 7.
The change to the law on candidates’ election spending, passed without parliamentary debate, was made despite a direct warning by the commission against “excessive spending” in order to “prevent the perception of undue influence over the outcome of the election”.
Ministers changed the law through a statutory instrument, the terms of which were not debated in the Commons, which is used more properly for consensual changes in the law. A Labour source said the move had not been spotted by them at the time, so they missed the chance to force a vote in the Commons.
It’s too late for that now.
We know the Conservatives have much more moolah than any of the other parties – let’s face it, they have spent all of their period in office changing the law to make it possible for the extremely rich and big businesses to donate increasingly ludicrous amounts to Tory Party funds, and this is the reason.
For example: In the past four years, 27 per cent of the £78,010,807 the Tories have raised – £21,072,508 – has come from hedge fund donors. George Osborne’s 2013 budget abolished stamp duty reserve tax on funds, a £145m giveaway to those very same hedge funds. That’s just one example.
The Observer states: “With the Tories having amassed a £78m war chest over the past four years, they can now funnel huge amounts of cash into key seats.”
We know that the Tories won more seats than anyone else at the 2010 election by throwing ridiculous amounts of Lord Ashcroft’s money at marginal seats and by lying about their policy intentions. This undemocratic move – there was no Parliamentary debate and one can hardly say it has been announced loudly; did you even know this decision was made in the summer? – clearly states their intention to repeat the same grubby, underhanded manoeuvre next year.
And we know that David Cameron has made this decision against the advice of the Electoral Commission – meaning that it should be plain for all to see that this is yet another corrupt decision by the most corrupt government of the last century.
What else are we to think of this? Lucy Powell MP, Ed Miliband’s election strategist, had a few well-chosen ideas on that subject. Writing in The Guardian, she stated:
“With only a record of failure to run on, David Cameron’s campaign is reliant on smear, fear and fat cats’ chequebooks. This is a party flush with big money backers but without the empathy or ideas the country needs, so they are rigging the rules of our democracy in their favour.
“When he was first leader of the opposition, David Cameron said he wanted to take the big money out of politics. He promised to address the ‘big donor culture’, arguing that we should ‘cut what is spent on a general election’. Yet he has now cynically changed his tune. Desperate to hang on to power, the Tories have quietly changed the rules to allow them to spend big in the runup to the election. The changes would allow them to spend millions more than they’re presently allowed, paving the way for Tory propaganda to flood constituencies.”
Opponents of Tory tyranny cannot match the Nasty Party’s spending power. All we have are our own voices and the facts.
That’s why next year – more than ever before – we have to put the message out to protect the public against the next wave of lies and ‘spin’.
The Tory Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act means we can’t spend any appreciable amount of money doing this, but they can’t stop us talking and they can’t stop us publicising the facts.
It’s up to us – all of us – to show the Tories that money isn’t everything.
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.
Vox Political relies on popular support for its livelihood!
This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions. Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going. You can make a one-off donation here:
Alternatively, you can buy the first Vox Political book, Strong Words and Hard Times in either print or eBook format here:
Andy Burnham, Shadow Health Secretary: He’d rather listen to real doctors than spin doctors.
The title of this article should seem brutally ironic, considering that the Coalition government famously ‘paused’ the passage of the hugely controversial Health and Social Care Act through Parliament in order to perform a ‘listening exercise’ and get the views of the public.
… Then again, maybe not – as the Tories (with the Liberal Democrats trailing behind like puppies) went on to do exactly what they originally wanted, anyway.
Have a look at the motion that went before the House of Commons today:
“That this House is concerned about recent pressure in Accident and Emergency departments and the increase in the number of people attending hospital A&Es since 2009-10; notes a recent report by the Care Quality Commission which found that more than half a million people aged 65 and over were admitted as an emergency to hospital with potentially avoidable conditions in the last year; believes that better integration to improve care in the home or community can relieve pressure on A&E; notes comments made by the Chief Executive of NHS England in oral evidence to the Health Select Committee on 5 November 2013, that the NHS is getting bogged down in a morass of competition law, that this is causing significant cost and that to make integration happen there may need to be legislative change; is further concerned that the competition aspects of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 are causing increased costs in the NHS at a time when there is a shortage of A&E doctors; and calls on the Government to reverse its changes to NHS competition policy that are holding back the integration needed to help solve the A&E crisis and diverting resources which should be better spent on improving patient care.”
Now have a look at the amendment that was passed:
“That this House notes the strong performance of NHS accident and emergency departments this winter; further notes that the average waiting time to be seen in A&E has more than halved since 2010; commends the hard work of NHS staff who are seeing more people and carrying out more operations every year since May 2010; notes that this has been supported by the Government’s decision to protect the NHS budget and to shift resources to frontline patient care, delivering 12,000 more clinical staff and 23,000 fewer administrators; welcomes changes to the GP contract which restore the personal link between doctors and their most vulnerable patients; welcomes the announcement of the Better Care Fund which designates £3.8 billion to join up health and care provision and the Integration Pioneers to provide better care closer to home; believes that clinicians are in the best position to make judgements about the most appropriate care for their patients; notes that rules on tendering are no different to the rules that applied to primary care trusts; and, a year on from the publication of the Francis Report, notes that the NHS is placing an increased emphasis on compassionate care, integration, transparency, safe staffing and patient safety.”
Big difference, isn’t it?
From the wording that won the vote, you would think there was nothing wrong with the health service at all – and you would be totally mistaken.
But this indicates the sort of cuckooland where the Coalition government wants you to live; Jeremy Hunt knows what the problems are – he just won’t acknowledge them. And he doesn’t have to – the media are run by right-wing Tory adherents.
So here, for the benefit of those of you who had work to do and missed the debate, are a few of the salient points.
Principal among them is the fact that ward beds are being ‘blocked’ – in other words, their current occupants are unable to move out, so new patients cannot move in. This is because the current occupants are frail elderly people with no support in place for them to live outside hospital. With no space on wards, accident and emergency departments have nowhere to put their new admissions, meaning they cannot free up their own beds.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had nothing to say about this.
Andy Burnham, who opened proceedings, pointed out the huge increase in admissions to hospital accident and emergency departments – from a rise of 16,000 between 2007 and 2010 to “a staggering” 633,000 in the first three years of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government.
Why the rapid rise? “There has been a rise in people arriving at A and E who have a range of problems linked to their living circumstances, from people who have severe dental pain because they cannot afford to see the dentist, to people who are suffering a breakdown or who are in crisis, to people who cannot afford to keep warm and are suffering a range of cold-related conditions.”
He said almost a million people have waited more than four hours for treatment in the last year, compared with 350,000 in his year as Health Secretary; the statement in the government amendment that waiting times have halved only relates to the time until an initial assessment – not total waiting time. Hospital A and Es have missed the government’s targets in 44 of the last 52 weeks.
Illnesses including hypothermia are on the rise, and the old Victorian ailments of rickets and scurvy are back, due to increased malnutrition.
Hospitals are filling up with the frail elderly, who should never have ended up there or who cannot get the support needed to go home because of a £1.8 billion cut in adult social services and support. This, Mr Burnham said, was “the single most important underlying cause of the A and E crisis”; ward admissions cannot be made because the beds are full. The number of emergency admissions of pensioners has topped 500,000 for the first time.
Ambulances have been held in queues outside A and E, unable to hand over patients to staff because it is full. That has left large swathes of the country — particularly in rural areas — without adequate ambulance cover.
The government is downgrading A and E units across the country into GP-run clinics, while pretending that they are still to be used for accidents and emergencies – in the middle of the A and E crisis.
People in England are reducing the number of drugs they are taking because they cannot afford to buy them. Families are choosing between eating, heating or other essentials, like prescriptions.
Competition rules have been stifling care, Mr Burnham said: “The chief executive of a large NHS trust near here says that he tried to create a partnership with GP practices and social care, but was told by his lawyers that he could not because it was anti-competitive.”
He added: “Two CCGs in Blackpool have been referred to Monitor for failing to send enough patients to a private hospital. The CCG says that there is a good reason for that: patients can be treated better in the community, avoiding costly unnecessary hospital visits. That is not good enough for the new NHS, however, so the CCG has had to hire an administrator to collect thousands of documents, tracking every referral from GPs and spending valuable resources that could have been spent on the front line.”
And the health trust in Bournemouth wanted to merge with neighbouring Poole trust, but competition rules stopped the merger taking place.
Mr Burnham demanded to know: “Since when have we allowed competition lawyers to call the shots instead of clinicians? The Government said that they were going to put GPs in charge. Instead, they have put the market in charge of these decisions and that is completely unjustifiable. The chief executive of Poole hospital said that it cost it more than £6 million in lawyers and paperwork and that without the merger the trust will now have an £8 million deficit.
“The chief executive of NHS England told the Health Committee about the market madness that we now have in the NHS: ‘I think we’ve got a problem, we may need legislative change… What is happening at the moment… we are getting bogged down in a morass of competition law… causing significant cost and frustration for people in the service in making change happen. If that is the case, to make integration happen we will need to change it’ – that is, the law. That is from the chief executive of NHS England.”
The response from current Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt needs to be examined carefully.
He said more than 96 per cent of patients were seen within four hours – but this conforms with Mr Burnham’s remark; they were seen, but not treated.
He tried to rubbish Mr Burnham’s remarks about scurvy by saying there had been only 26 admissions relating to scurvy since 2011 – but this misses the point. How many were there before 2011? This was an illness that had been eradicated in the UK – but is now returning due to Coalition policies that have forced people into malnutrition.
He dodged the issue of competition rules strangling the NHS, by saying that these rules were in place before the Health and Social Care Act was passed. In that case, asked Mr Burnham, “Why did the government legislate?” No answer.
As stated at the top of this article. he did not answer the question of the frail elderly blocking hospital beds at all.
The vote was won by the government because it has the majority of MPs and can therefore have its own way in any division, unless the vote is free (unwhipped) or a major rebellion takes place among its own members.
But anyone considering the difference between the Labour Party’s motion and the government’s amendment can see that there is a serious problem of perception going on here.
Or, as Andy Burnham put it: “This Secretary of State … seems to spend more time paying attention to spin doctors than he does to real doctors.”
Vox Political believes in a free and full health service for all – not just the rich. But the site’s health is in constant danger due to lack of funds! That’s why Vox Political needs YOUR help to continue. You can make a one-off donation here:
Alternatively, you can buy the first Vox Political book, Strong Words and Hard Times in either print or eBook format here:
“It’s my policy and I’ll cry if I want to” – or is Jeremy *unt simply responding to criticism of his bid to climb on the anti-immigration bandwagon?
A speech by Iain Duncan Smith is immediately reminiscent of a wasp negotiating its way through a bulldog’s digestive system; there’s a lot of droning and implied pain, but through it all you know exactly what the outcome will be.
From this starting point, one may liken a speech by Jeremy Hunt to a hippo having an unhappy bowel movement as a result of an unwise dietary choice; much clumsy blundering in the wilderness and a fair amount of distress – which may be transferred to any poor creature unlucky enough to get in the way.
It seems that migrants and visitors from abroad who use the NHS are now facing the full onslaught of the Health Secretary’s metaphorical indigestion, with nary a bucket of Rennie in sight – except in this case the cure would be a set of reliable statistics covering the use of NHS services by our foreign-born friends.
Armed with new reports by independent firms Prederi and Creative Research, the Health Secretary (and well-known misprint) believes ‘health tourism’ is costing the NHS £2 billion every year – and has announced that he plans to claw back around £500 million of that money.
A BBC report states that ministers believe some of the spending is unavoidable but “it would be realistic to save a quarter. Savings would come from deterring so-called health tourism, recovering money owed by other countries and a levy on non-European temporary residents”.
But the cost of health tourism, as set out in the report, is tiny – at a maximum of £80 million it would be four per cent of the estimated total loss – and this is based on evidence which even one of the reports’ authors, Prederi, have admitted is incomplete. On its own, it could not possibly generate the saving demanded by the new policy, nor could it justify the claim that £2 billion is currently being lost.
That is not the point, though. This is about getting the NHS on the anti-immigration bandwagon.
The study has been released to coincide with the Immigration Bill, which (surprise, surprise) includes plans for a £200-per-person-per-year charge for temporary migrants to use the NHS during any stay lasting between six months and five years.
The Conservative-led Coalition government says this could recoup around £200 million per year, but this is clearly nonsense.
Put yourself in the position of a person from abroad, considering an extended stay in the UK. If an extra cost of up to £1,000 for a five-year stay was added to the trip, out of the blue, would you go ahead with it? Or would you consider other destinations?
Alternatively, if the trip could not be avoided, would this not make you more likely to use the NHS, in order to simply get your money’s worth? The trouble with this is that such a person would not know the cost of a consultation. According to Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GPs committee, the cost of a single hospital outpatient appointment would equal the £200-per-year levy.
And then there is the administration cost. New Statesman revealed that the chair of the Royal College of GPs, Claire Gerada, has warned that the cost of administrating the new system could outweigh the savings, while also increasing public health problems such as TB by deterring temporary migrants from seeking treatment when they first fall ill. This gives rise to the possibility that we are facing another Tory policy that could have deadly consequences for the population.
This is not a plan to deal with health tourism at all. This is an attempt by an increasingly-desperate Conservative Party to claw back some of the voters who have (themselves) migrated to UKIP because of fears that have been planted in their minds by political spin-doctors, rather than any real threat – the phantom problem of immigrants getting benefits they haven’t earned.
Health tourism is not costing the UK £2 billion a year, and the measures outlined by the government will not stop it, or save any lost money. If anything, it will cost the country millions of pounds.
But then, when has Jeremy Hunt bothered with the facts, when he can have his way simply by playing on people’s fears and manipulating their beliefs?
This is why reference was made, at the top of this article, to Iain Duncan Smith – another Tory minister who won’t let thousands of possible deaths interfere with his beliefs.
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.