When Strong and Stable is Not Enough

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mays-titanic-moment

Will June 8th be May’s Titanic Moment?

The Titanic was described as incredibly STRONG, with gigantic steel plates and a hull made of wrought iron and over 1k tons of rivets.

The Titanic was designed to be STABLE so that passengers would feel they were sailing in ‘the most sumptuous palace afloat’.

But…
When the Titanic hit an iceberg, the wrought iron’s inability to stretch caused the hull to shatter into pieces.
And the rivets were not up to standard for the steel plates and gave way.

As for stability, the Titanic had a tendency to heel to port and allowance had not been made for the excessive roll caused by flooding of watertight areas on impact and thus rapid flooding of the starboard side.

The Titanic sunk for several reasons, but the designers’ assertion that its strength and stability made it unsinkable may well have led to less than adequate planning for an impact.

The result was chaos and catastrophe…

The passengers on the Titanic required more than promises that it was STRONG and STABLE.
Just like UK citizens require more than shallow words and empty promises.

Don’t vote for empty rhetoric and policies which will only shatter and leave the country and its people sunk in the dregs.

Don’t vote for the Tories!

References:
http://www.thomas-hardye.dorset.sch.uk/documents/students_work/titanic_essay_rebecca.pdf
http://marconigraph.com/titanic/fire/fire2.html

 

 

NHS Crisis We Saw It Coming And Now Labour Must Stop It.

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May 2015 seems an awful long way away now, so much has happened.
But I remember making a blog post near the General Election saying that, despite some misgivings on some of the policies put forward by the Labour Party that year (and set out on that terrible ‘headstone’…), I would be voting Labour with one main objective in mind – to Save Our NHS.

I truly feared for our NHS under a Tory government and I just couldn’t understand why so many people couldn’t see this too.

Well, my fears about the Tories have come true – they are deliberately dismantling our NHS and allowing it to fail.
I would guess that their solution would be to sell it all off (or give it away as they have done recently) to private investors, while assuring us that this will be best for us and ‘the only way’, and that plans will be set up so that we can all get private insurance…

So I have to agree with Devutopia here:

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And I could just say ‘I told you so’ at this point, to all those Tory voters (or those whose votes split the left of centre vote) who are now complaining about not being able to see a GP or about ever longer waiting lists and waits at A&E.

But that would be pointless and would solve nothing.

Especially when the Labour Party, of late, has been struggling within itself rather than getting on and opposing the Tories and UKIP and exposing them for the parasites they are at every opportunity.

Now I’m a member of the Labour Party (and have been since summer 2015) and I am looking to my party to hold this government to account – to show the public the Tory lies and to offer us all a solution that will not involve further privatisation (in fact, ideally the only way this will work is if the whole lot comes back completely into public ownership).

And I’m looking for everyone in the Labour Party to get over their back stabbing and petty squabbles and to concentrate on doing something which is absolutely vital for all of us – that the Labour Party as a whole gets together and fights with everything its got to save our Free and public NHS.

I know it won’t be easy. I would be a fool if I didn’t realise that the establishment in general will do everything it can to belittle and denigrate Labour now that it has a true democratic socialist as leader.

But Labour brought us the NHS and Labour needs to be getting this across at every opportunity and demonstrating that they have real solutions and alternatives for Tory deliberate mismanagement.

So, I guess this is not so much sad remembrance of why this is happening now and why we have a true Humanitarian #NHSCrisis, but a plea to everyone in the Labour Party – left, centre and right (and all bits in between) to come together for the sake of Our NHS.

Because if Labour cannot do this then there really is no hope for any of us.

Keep Corbyn

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I guess it would have been too much to hope that Labour’s PLP would be true to the wishes of a large majority of Labour Party members and actually support the democratically elected leader. But I was hoping that, after successful opposition leading to u-turns by the Government, good results in the local elections, great results in the mayoral elections and the fact that, whether the PLP believe it or not, Corbyn’s support for Remain helped to get a large majority of Labour Party members and a huge proportion of young people voting Remain, the PLP would be supporting Corbyn’s leadership.

Guess I should have known better…..especially considering the imminent arrival of the Chilcott Report and September’s NEC voting….

So, I will just have to reassert how I stand and post this again….

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Labour and ‘the snoopers charter’

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Mass surveillance came in under the Tories, with ‘state of the art’ CCTV footage on the streets, but it was embraced with open arms under Blair and strengthened after 9/11, when the US ‘anti-terrorism policies’ led to snooping on a grand scale. It was like Blair’s Government not only watched with envy, but attempted to do even better with their surveillance on British citizens.
Today, and even after local authority cuts, I believe that the UK is still covered with more CCTV cameras than anywhere else in the World. They can track our every move. And even when the cameras are unavailable, the GPS on our mobiles does the job for them.

Mass surveillance is something that you imagine a totalitarian right wing government subscribing to, but that isn’t necessarily so.

The authoritarian nature of government in the Blair years was one of the reasons I, as a socialist, felt increasingly disenfranchised.

A PM who insists on taking the country to war, despite huge public outcry and strong evidence contrary to the reasons for the war in the first place, affirmed my misgivings.
Couple this with the strengthening (rather than abolition) of Thatcher’s trade union laws and the post-9/11 strengthening of the forces of the state against public assemblies, together with the loss of clause 4, plus the many measures put in place to tell families what to do, rather than actually helping them, and it seemed to me that Blair’s government was in no way supporting working class people and their rights to speak out and organise against injustice. Rather, it was seeking to control them.

To me, it seemed that a government that insisted on controlling the very class who historically supported them was not to be trusted to support their voters when it came to fair treatment in the workplace, or when it came to peaceful protests of any description.

But the ‘importance of surveillance’ argument carried on, and there were further discussions on how to ‘control’ information on the internet (always given as ‘ways to ensure public/family safety’).

I believe it was during Brown’s short premiership that laptops were given to poor families so that they too could have access to the world-wide web. These were the laptops given to school children whose parents were on a low-income and, on the surface, it seemed like a great idea. However, these laptops came with many blocks to places you were not ‘allowed’ to browse (not just ‘adult’ sites – many students were unable to access sites they needed to complete their homework and their parents couldn’t use these laptops to pay a bill, or visit their bank account, and FB and Twitter were definitely out).
Savvy parents found an ‘IT friend’ to help them permanently delete the blocking software; others simply threw the laptop away, or sold it on eBay to another unlucky customer.
This was a short-lived and not very successful attempt to control internet access under the guise of ‘safety’, but, some might say that suspicions about the ideas behind the ‘free laptops’ may have been correct….

And, although by now more and more people were getting worried about the implications of mass surveillance and the way it could be used against ordinary people, this implication that ‘we need strong surveillance for our own security and safety’ has prevailed as the overriding argument to oppose anyone who objects.

And even today, if anyone raises their head above the parapet and complains about increases in surveillance, they are likely to be met with the argument: ‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about’, and if you go on complaining, you can be made to feel like ‘the enemy’ – ‘what have you got to hide then?’ is likely to be the (sometimes unsaid) question. So many prefer not to complain at all.

Of course, the Tory Government, returned in 2010, was never going to cut back on mass surveillance, despite some ‘libertarian’ claims from a few in their midst. No, what the Tories had (in coalition and now on their own) was a ready-made system of population control, backed up with laws passed and experiments already undertaken.
It fitted right in to their plans to make things even harder for the majority, with new bills on trade unions to control them completely, and with legislation they could put in place in case of mass public protest.

But what the present government still struggles with is control of information via the internet. They can certainly try to monitor individuals and group suspects, but when they carry out legislation that will leave most of the population extremely angry, they face the prospect that all these people could be suspects! And it is not that easy to monitor everyone!

So, on 7th June ‘the Snoopers charter’ was placed before Parliament…
This is a description of the bill by The Canary:

‘On 7 June a bill passed in parliament that threatens the fundamental rights of everyone in the UK. But it seems that only around 25% of the population is aware of its existence, giving MPs the opportunity to take an axe to our autonomy largely without our knowledge.

‘The Investigatory Powers (IP) bill, more commonly known as the Snoopers Charter, passed through its latest stage in the commons by 444 to 69 votes.
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‘Privacy is indeed at the heart of the IP bill, but it will destroy privacy rather than protect it. It is designed to secure immense surveillance powers for the UK’s security services, and other public bodies. The proposals include allowing bulk interception of communications, bulk collection of communications data – meaning ‘metadata’ which is essentially the data about data – and bulk equipment interference – aka hacking.

‘Indeed, ‘bulk’ gathering of information seems to be a major point of the IP bill. As Bella Sankey, Director of Policy for Liberty, explains:

This Bill would create a detailed profile on each of us which could be made available to hundreds of organisations to speculatively trawl and analyse. It will all but end online privacy, put our personal security at risk and swamp law enforcement with swathes of useless information.

‘As The Intercept has recently reported, even the UK spies themselves have warned that collecting too much information is dangerous. The publication released a secret report from the UK’s security service, which stated that MI5:

can currently collect (whether itself or through partners …) significantly more than it is able to exploit fully… This creates a real risk of ‘intelligence failure’ i.e. from the Service being unable to access potentially life-saving intelligence from data that it has already collected.

‘The IP bill aims to put these deficient data practices on a statutory footing, to legitimise them. But many argue that targeting specific communications, rather than scooping up information on everyone, is a better way to fight crime. It would also ensure that most individuals retain the liberties afforded to them under multiple human rights conventions.’
See the full article by the Canary here.

Now, you may think that Labour Members of Parliament would oppose this bill. It is not only extremely flawed, it also attacks our human rights on several levels.

And after all, isn’t the Labour Party opposing the Tories’ attempts to change our access to human rights, by opposing the extremely suspect Tory-proposed ‘British Bill of Rights’?

But of course, you only have to look back at the recent history of the Labour Party to realise that this wouldn’t necessarily be the case…

However, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, with his strong belief in human rights, I was hoping that there would at least have been a virulent opposition to ‘the snooper’s charter’ and a good debate among Labour MPs about whether or not to support it.

But this didn’t appear to be the case…

Three parties did vote against the bill: the SNP, the Green party and the Liberal Democrats.

But many Labour MPs appeared reasonably happy to vote for the bill as long as concessions were made, including ‘a privacy clause’ and protection for trade unions from being targetted. They also received assurance that there would be a ‘double lock’ on warrant approvals.

However, they did not challenge the ‘mass surveillance’ part of the bill, and yet that is at the bill’s core.

Knowing the history of recent mass surveillance in the UK and the strong support from recent Labour Governments for this, although I am dismayed to learn that Labour MPs allowed this bill to pass ‘in principle’, I am sadly not surprised.

Now, I know that the Labour Party are deeply involved in getting a ‘Remain’ vote right now in the EU referendum, but that can be no excuse for taking their eye off the ball with this bill.

It is draconian. It will be used to target individuals, even if trade unions are considered ‘safe’, and it will be used to target protest groups and protest posts.

And that’s not even to mention the way that mass surveillance of the UK population, once a shady business or the work of commercial search engine ‘algorithms’ with ‘privacy clauses’, is now being legitimised for state use.

Surely, as a Corbyn supporter I should be dismayed, not to mention disappointed….?

 

Time for Labour Party Members to Speak Out

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When I browse articles, or Twitter and Facebook, if I see something I like, I re-post it, re-tweet it, or ‘like’ it and often comment on it as well.

But just lately for Labour Party members, that has become increasingly difficult.

Since April, there has been what some call ‘a witch hunt’ in the Labour Party.  Members who are passionate about politics and about particular issues are finding themselves suspended, often without immediate explanation as to why.

A lot of the suspensions appear to be on the grounds that the member has been accused of saying or posting something ‘anti-Semitic’, or even, in some cases, of re-tweeting or ‘liking’ something of this nature. It is usually described as ‘not being in line with Labour Party values’ or something similar.

Of course, if the accusations were true, this would be very understandable. But often the accusations appear to be based upon a reading of ‘anti-Semitism’ that says that it is wrong to criticise political Zionism, or the activities of the state of Israel. And yet, this is not included in the description as used by the Labour Party, or, indeed, by any of the usual definitions of anti-Semitism or racism.

Another accusation of anti-Semitism, which led to the suspension of anti-racist activist, Jackie Walker, was based upon a disagreement by some parties with her reading of a fairly long-standing and highly controversial argument between historians and others, about the nature of the sugar and slave trade, who was involved, and in what numbers.  And, as that argument still goes on today among historians, I wonder how on earth anyone from Labour’s ‘Compliance Unit’ could possibly be expected to make a definitive assessment on the issue. Luckily, common sense prevailed and Jackie Walker’s suspension has now been lifted.

Nevertheless, on the same day, another left-wing Labour Party member was suspended.

And so it goes on….

Along with this are suspensions of other Labour Party members who have been described as ‘to the left of the Party’. In this case, it is often for supporting political parties (usually left wing) other than Labour before they were Labour Party members, which to me appears ridiculous when we have seen it published that ex-Tories have joined with no fuss and even some fanfare.

And it seems to me that the majority of the suspensions, whether for ‘anti-Semitism’ or another reason,  have been of this type of member – to the left of the Party and usually a Corbyn supporter, even more so if they are also a member of and active in Momentum.

I’m a member of Momentum also. In the run-up to the council elections, I was standing as a Labour candidate. I was aware of what was happening with the suspensions, but in the last few days of campaigning, I kept my head down and got on with the job.  I thought that the suspensions were suspect and worrying, but I hoped that people in the Party would realise that I was ‘a good Labour Party member’, in that I was doing my utmost to get elected for the Party.

And afterwards for a few days, I found myself checking what I was posting, re-tweeting, or even ‘liking’.

But then, with more time to think, I realised that the person I was becoming wasn’t me.

I am a political activist because I feel very strongly about issues that affect us all and I want to do something to change things. I am a socialist and I am proud of that.  I am also a reasonably good writer, who can write passionately about political issues.

And I hate injustice and I need to speak out about it wherever it occurs.

If being careful of every single word I say or write, or even ‘like’, is the way I am expected to behave as a Labour Party member, when I know I am a caring person who hates discrimination and who cares about all human beings, then there is something wrong with the Labour Party, not with me.

I hope that the Labour Party as a collective body will realise that the present regime of instant suspensions is not doing the Party any good and is causing a great deal of anger and uncertainty among ordinary members – the grass roots and the bulk of the Party. And I hope that in the days to come, ordinary Labour Party members begin to feel safe again in their ability to speak out without the threat of immediate suspension on suspicion.

Either way, it’s time to speak out again.

Otherwise, what’s the point?

Sorry Nicky, I’m out.

If you care about children’s education, please read this blog post. And then ask yourself why this Government thinks it is necessary to teach children this way and to undermine teachers so badly.

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Dear Nicky Morgan,

Please accept this as written notice of my resignation from my role as Assistant Head and class teacher. It is with a heavy heart that I write you this letter. I know you’ve struggled to listen to and understand teachers in the past so I’m going to try and make this as clear as possible. In the six short years I have been teaching your party has destroyed the Education system. Obliterated it. Ruined it. It is broken.

The first thing I learnt when I started teaching in 2010 is that teaching is bloody hard work. It’s a 60 hour week only half of which is spent doing the actual teaching. It eats into the rest of your life both mentally and physically. If it’s not exercise books and resources taking over your lounge and kitchen table it’s worrying about results or about little Ahmed’s home life keeping…

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Why We Must Support Junior Doctors And Student Nurses In Their Struggle

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It was good to see that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell gave their full support to the Junior Doctors’ Strike last Tuesday. Not only was this the first time in my memory that a Labour Leader and Labour Shadow Chancellor had openly and unequivocally supported a strike, but it was, without doubt, the correct thing to do.

The fight by Junior Doctors for fair treatment at work and by nurses and all NHS workers to retain their bursaries is not only their fight; it is ours too.

Of course, this is about wages, and working hours, and payment for training, but it is also very much about patient safety. And at the heart of the struggle is the fight for something we all hold dear: our Free National Health Service.

Without doctors and nurses we would not have a health service, and without the hard work and dedication of doctors, nurses, and all health support workers and practitioners, our NHS would certainly not be free.

And the issue of ‘free’ is important when we look at the creeping privatisation of our NHS and how it affects not only doctors and nurses, but all of us.

The NHS Privatisation plan:

There are 3 main factors to this:

Devolution
Soon there will no longer be a ‘national’ health service.
This has already happened in Manchester, and very soon we will have ‘regional health services’ all over the UK, with NHS funding subsumed within local authority funding. And we all know what has happened to local authority funding…it has been cut, and cut again!

Privatisation
The Private Finance Initiative or ‘PFI’:
Since 1992, most large scale public capital investment in the UK has used PFI procurement, whereby a consortium of investment banks, builders, and service contractors raises the finance, and designs, builds, and operates the facilities for the public authority through a project company

Now on the surface, this sounds good – after all, it appears that nothing has been sold off and that the private sector is contributing to the NHS.

But that of course is not the case….

Through the PFI scheme private companies have built NHS hospitals and leased them back to the NHS. They also run support services as part of these contracts. This has of course been highly profitable for the companies involved, otherwise the scheme would not have worked, but it is now becoming crystal clear that the PFI model offers very poor value and is, in fact, draining our NHS of desperately-needed funds.

A number of NHS hospitals are struggling to cope with the cost of meeting their PFI debts. South London Healthcare Trust was the first to be put into administration after being put on a growing list of trusts burdened with PFI debt.

In the early 1990s, hospitals paid no charge on their land, buildings and assets, but today many PFI-run hospitals are paying a substantial percentage to PFI investers just to keep going. And the percentage they pay is rising all the time. At the moment, when new government money is injected into the NHS, most of it goes directly to private investors because of PFI.

We are told that we can no longer afford to pay for universal healthcare, but that simply wouldn’t be true, if only we stopped using NHS funds to pay back the banks and other financiers who control the PFIs.

The Five Year Forward View:
On 1st April 2014, NHS England’s new chief executive, Simon Stevens, laid out his plans for the NHS, and on the surface they sounded positive enough. For example, he talked about:

“Unleashing the passion and drive of the million plus frontline NHS staff who are devoting their professional lives to caring.”

The problem was, that Stevens had a different idea of how to ‘unleash that passion’ than most users of the NHS would have wanted to hear.

By October, 2014, Stevens had published his ‘5 Year forward Plan’; a 39-page report which sets out ways the NHS in England needs to change over the next five years to ensure (and I quote) “it remains affordable in the face of increasing demand and finance pressures.”

On the surface, this ‘plan’ was welcomed by members of the NHS, as it outlined a way of dealing with patient care to fit a more modern age.

However, it has now become apparent that the ‘5 year forward plan’ was based more on business strategy than on patient need (In fact, when talking about his plan, Stevens described it as ‘NHS England’s Business plan’, first and foremost).

One of Steven’s most controversial measures is the call for more ‘super hospitals’, which are, no doubt, more cost-effective in a business sense, but are in actual fact dangerous for some patients living in rural areas, whose access to hospital emergency care and follow-on care will be severely restricted (especially when we take note of cuts to our ambulance services).

But that’s just one example of the problems with this ‘5 year plan’.

The main problem is that it has been designed with profitabilty in mind, rather than patient need.

Now, when you combine these 3 strategies – Devolution, Privatisation, and the ‘5 year forward plan’, you begin to see how much our Free and Public National Health Service is being put under pressure and is already being privatised.

Add to that the ‘profitability factor’, so beloved by PFI investers and by Stevens, and you see where the perceived need to change Junior Doctors’ contracts and to end Nurse’s Bursaries come in. Wages and personel costs being a huge part of the cost of any large ‘enterprise’, something has to be done about them to make them more ‘affordable’ for private investors.

The present scheme of work and pay for Junior doctors is not profitable enough when considered as part of a business plan for investors, and neither of course are bursaries for training NHS staff.

When you take all these things together, it becomes clear that our NHS is not only under threat of privatisation; it is already being privatised.

And this is why it is so important that we all support the junior doctors, student nurses, and in fact all NHS and health care workers.

We may not have access to the boardrooms of private companies, or be able to take part in meetings of private investment consortiums. But we can sure as hell let this government know that we know what they are doing, and that we intend to make them stop doing it!

So, we need to support our Junior Doctors and we need to support our Student Nurses and all NHS workers hoping to train within a free NHS.

Their fight is a fight that all workers and students are having to make – for fair treatment at work; for a living wage; and for free education.

If we as workers let Jeremy Hunt force the junior doctors to sign up to a new contract, how can we expect this Government to be fair to us when we call for decent wages and safe working conditions?

If we as students let this government force all health care workers to pay for their training, we are effectively saying that it is okay to pay for education, and we are therefore giving up the right to call for an end to student loans and for the right to free education for all.

And, if we, as users of the NHS, do not support Junior Doctors and Student Nurses in their fight for fair treatment by Mr Hunt, we are effectively saying “It’s okay Mr Hunt – you go ahead and make their services more profitable to the private sector.” And by doing that we would be giving up our right to demand that our NHS is saved from privatisation.

So we must support our junior doctors, our student nurses and all of our NHS workers.

And as for the Tories, we need to tell them in no uncertain terms “get your thieving hands off of our Free and National Health Service!”

Single parent? Attend the Jobcentre and get referred to social services as a troubled family. New trial at Ashton Jobcentre.

Very worrying report that single mums are being labelled as the heads of ‘troubled families’ by JSA staff under a new ‘incentive scheme’.

The poor side of life

Yesterday I heard something very disturbing. A lady contacted me, she was very upset. She attended the Jobcentre for her signing on appointment and was confronted with something totally unexpected. She’s a very intelligent lady and thankfully she acted quickly and appropriately. She said hello to the advisor or job coach as they call them now. I don’t know why because they don’t coach you into anything except desperation. She’s been attending a mandatory work related course and had despite this completed all her Job searches correctly. The meeting then took a totally different atmosphere. The advisor suggested to her that she should be willing to get involved with a trial that they are running with Tameside Council. They are asking single parents to be assigned a social worker and a key worker so they can keep an eye on her… The reason for this? Because they said she hadn’t…

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The establishment are ‘frit’ because Ed Miliband is the biggest threat to the status quo we’ve seen for decades

As the article says: “the media campaign, aimed at attempting to undermine Miliband’s credibility as a leader, arose precisely because Miliband is the biggest threat to the UK power base and status quo that we’ve seen for many decades.”

Politics and Insights

10424302_677497562319775_766713150422913861_n“We’re in a fight not because our opponents think we’re destined to lose the election. But because they fear we can win. And between now and the election they are going to use every tactic to try to destabilise, distract us and throw us off course. Our task, the task for every person in this party, is simple: To focus our eyes on the prize of changing this country.” Ed Miliband.

Ed Miliband has pledged to take on “vested interests” and “powerful forces” in his bid to win the next general election. Not even the Crosby and Murdoch-orchestrated media campaign, which was aimed at demoralising, undermining and monstering Ed Miliband can disguise the fact that the Tories are in a state of panic.

In fact the media campaign, aimed at attempting to undermine Miliband’s credibility as a leader, arose precisely because Miliband is the biggest threat to the UK power…

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