Quote Of The Day

“We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic games in the middle of nowhere.” - Prime Minister David Cameron in response to Mitt Romney questioning Britain’s readiness to host the Olympics

Burn, baby, burn.

The Coalition’s £500 Million Blush-Sparer

This is unbelievable.

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan’s opposition to the proposed high-speed rail link between Birmingham and London was so strong she pledged to resign if the plans were approved. Her main reason for opposing it was the railway line would be an unsightly blemish on the beautiful countryside in her Buckinghamshire constituency. So, to avoid a Cabinet minister’s resignation creating an unsightly blemish on David Cameron, the Government will have a tunnel built in Gillan’s constituency to the tune of £500 million (The Daily Mail’s headline is incorrect – it is the Welsh Secretary, not the Transport Secretary, they are desperate to keep in the Cabinet):

Plans for a railway tunnel costing up to £500million to spare David Cameron an embarrassing Cabinet resignation are expected to be unveiled this week.

Sources say Transport Secretary Justine Greening is likely to confirm the 1.5-mile project when she gives the go-ahead for the London-to-Birmingham high-speed rail line. The proposed new tunnel, in the Buckinghamshire constituency of Cheryl Gillan, comes after the Welsh Secretary threatened to quit at the prospect of some of the loveliest countryside in England being scarred by new trains racing by at 250mph.

But if, as expected, Ms Greening approves the new tunnel under the Chilterns, Whitehall sources say they hope it will be enough to persuade Amersham and Chesham MP Ms Gillan to withdraw her threat. However, the move would come at a heavy price – the planned extra tunnel works out at about £190,000 a yard, or nearly £5,300 per inch.

While the Tories trumpet austerity, make devastating cuts that will harm families and communities all over Britain and are already strangling our fragile economy to the point of sending it back into recession, they will blow £500 million on a project that serves no purpose other than to save a politician’s career and avoid yet more embarrassment for this already ridiculous Government.

As always, austerity is for the little guy, while the big shots carry on as normal.

 

 

 

 

House of Lords Reform: Another Better Chance For PR?

Though I’m pessimistic that this will pass the House of Commons, let alone the House of Lords who will naturally be opposed to any shake up, the current plans to reform the upper chamber, though sketchy and vague at present, seem to me to be an ideal way to pilot proportional representation.

A joint committee of 13 MPs and 13 peers to be set up in the next few months will consider plans for members of the new legislature to be elected for 15-year terms under the single transferable vote system.

Under the government’s plans, members would be elected on a staged basis – a third every five years – with the first elections for the new chamber to take place in 2015 – on the same day as the next general election.

By introducing an advanced form of PR (AV was really the least worst option) to vote in elections which have never been held before, thus requiring no messy, difficult switch, and for the subordinate House of Parliament, would be more likely to gain public support for the system. The other positive is that while backbenchers on both sides are making rather a lot of noise, this time the Tories and Lib Dems are in agreement that the House of Lords should be at least partly elected, so we are also likely to be spared the bitter infighting which marred the AV campaign.

The arguments for reform vastly outnumber the ones against. We are the only Western democracy which has an unelected chamber of government.  Given the fact the vast majority of the Lords are there not on merit but by various Prime Ministers rewarding cronies and seeking to stack the Lords in their party’s favour, the House of Lords as it is laughs in the face of democratic and meritocratic principles. Furthermore ,while I definitely would not want the Lords to become a replica of the US Senate – where the members can literally block everything passed by the House – neither am I comfortable with the current system in which the Lords are almost powerless to prevent laws eventually being passed, thanks to the Parliament Act. We need, to use the American description of its system of government, checks and balances. It would be great if Britain were to find a way to stake out a middle ground, and planning reform of the Lords provides us with a great opportunity to do so.

Cameron Adviser Sees NHS As Enemy To Be Destroyed

The ‘friendly neighbourhood Tory’ masks always come off in the end. Under that velvet glove of  ‘fairness’ is an iron fist of ideology:

A senior adviser to David Cameron says the NHS could be improved by charging patients and will be transformed into a “state insurance provider, not a state deliverer” of care.

Mark Britnell, who was appointed to a “kitchen cabinet” advising the prime minister on reforming the NHS, told a conference of executives from the private sector that future reforms would show “no mercy” to the NHS and offer a “big opportunity” to the for-profit sector.

Our friends across the pond spent generations desperately trying to move away from the kind of system Britnell wants, and have since taken a big step in the direction of achieving that goal with the passage of the Affordable Care Act last year. One state in America, Vermont, is actually about to introduce single-payer healthcare of the kind we in Britain enjoy, and unfortunately take for granted. The American people didn’t like their for-profit system, where health care was based on ability to be insured and ability to pay. Yet senior Tories would take reverse over 60 years of progress and drag Britain’s healthcare system in the opposite direction to which every other Western country is going.  Britnell suggesting  “no mercy” should be given to the NHS is the conservative id laid bare – anything they don’t like must be utterly destroyed.

Note that Britnell is talking about ‘future reforms‘. This is irrefutable proof that despite Cameron’s insistence that he loves the NHS and his promises to preserve it, these odious ‘reforms’ are intended to be a stepping stone to eventual privatisation of the NHS. And as for said current ‘reforms’, no one in the Government has managed to satisfactorily explain why handing GPs the responsibility of running and allocating funding for health services would improve the current system. Even my own parents, who are dyed-in-the-wool Tories, don’t understand it and think it’s a stupid idea. Doctors are not substitutes for bureaucrats, and I have no doubt that giving them these additional powers would adversely affect the job they were trained and are meant to do – namely treat their patients. Indeed, one of the actual problems the NHS has is an excess of bureaucracy, and this plan would actually exacerbate it by creating a whole new pile of red tape.

As touched on above, the NHS is not perfect. Indeed, the length of waiting times have been and remain a serious problem, many hospitals are not up to the standards of efficiency, care and hygiene that they should be, and health costs are only going to increase with an aging population. So let NHS reforms be targeted at fixing those real, tangible problems, and not at transforming the institution because it doesn’t mesh with conservative ideology. Our system treats healthcare as a right, which is as it should be. Healthcare should be first and foremost universally available and free so that people do not have to bear what would be disastrous financial burdens for something they cannot help – getting sick or being injured.  And naturally, should people desire an alternative, the option should be there – as it is now with private health insurance providers such as BUPA. Because health care is a matter of life and death to people, it should not be turned into a money-making machine;  the idea that companies should be allowed to make money on the backs of the sick and injured is morally repugnant.

I could write an entirely separate blog post on the flaws of privatisation, but suffice to say anyone who has used private services that were once public will tell you it has not improved services, but merely made them more expensive. It has been proven over and over again to be a failed policy, and so it would be the definition of insanity to extend it to our healthcare system. We love our NHS the way it is, and if the Tories succeeded in turning into a soulless machine where human beings come a poor second to the pursuit of profit, they would be doomed to a much longer spell in the wilderness than the one following Tony Blair’s victory in 1997.

This Is What David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ Really Looks Like

A very disturbing article in the Guardian reveals that despite David Cameron’s grandiose and vague talk of a Tory utopia where everyone joins hands and works together for the common good, his actual policies are creating a nasty atmosphere of suspicion and resentment towards Britain’s most vulnerable:

Disabled people have faced greater hostility from the public since the government launched its controversial benefits reforms, according to a survey by a leading charity.

A majority said that they experienced hostility, discrimination and even physical attacks from strangers every week and more than a third claimed the position had worsened over the previous 12 months.

Victims blame ministers for portraying all people with disabilities as scroungers as they seek to cut the number of people on the disability living allowance, the benefit now given to 1.9 million people deemed physically unable to work.

Scoring cheap political points, alas, is not a victimless crime, and as the conservative MO in most countries is to stir up resentment among middle class voters against people on benefits (read: people who are receiving the help they desperately need) to get them to the polls, it’s hard not to think this is exactly what they were hoping for. Now we have people assuming those in wheelchairs are frauds, falsely believing that because disabled people can -shock! – leave their houses, they must be faking it, and are demanding that their fellow citizens show proof they are disabled to them, who have no right to demand any such thing from these unfortunate folk, or are reporting them to the council. This is not the country I want Britain to be.

As someone who was until very recently unemployed, I too feel resentment – towards those who used me as a pinata in order to generate support for their unfair, cruel policies towards those on benefits. While there are people who abuse the system, and people who do regard receiving benefits as a way of living, they are vastly outnumbered by the genuine cases of people needing support from the state while they attempt to find work, or are living with disabilities and so are incapable of working. And I always found it laughable – after seeing firsthand on jobsites that there were at least several dozen applicants for literally every job – that Iain Duncan Smith and company claimed that people on Jobseeker’s Allowance just needed more incentive to find work, as if that would cause jobs to magically spring out of the ground for them. There are simply not enough jobs to go round even in the best of times, but the Tories, most of whom have never had to fight for a job in their lives, still don’t understand that.

Maddie Fatigue

Actually, to be more accurate, it’s more ‘McCann fatigue’. Heartless this may sound, but I am truly sick of the sight of both Kate and Gerry McCann. Today came news that no less a person than the Prime Minister is personally intervening and ordering the police to reopen the investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance.

The intervention came after Kate and Gerry McCann made an impassioned appeal for the PM to help them revive the search for their daughter.

The girl vanished in Portugal in 2007 shortly before her fourth birthday.

The Metropolitan Police are to now “bring their expertise” to the search for Madeleine after a personal request from the Prime Minister.

“There has been a huge amount of public interest in this case since it began, Madeleine McCann has been missing for a long time, there is the international dimension,” Mr Cameron’s official spokesman said.

“The Prime Minister has been clear that he wants to do everything he can to support the family.”

The part highlighted in bold is apparently what makes the case ‘exceptional’ enough to merit the country’s leader personally lending a powerful hand. One can only imagine what the family of Ben Needham, who vanished without trace in 1991 must feel, as he too has been missing for a very long time, went missing overseas, and at the time there was considerable public interest in his disappearance too. Yet they received no response whatsoever from the Prime Minister then or now, as this BBC article shows.

100000 children go missing in the UK every year. Yet only a fraction ever receive attention from the media, and certainly none have had the Prime Minister intervening to try and ensure they are safely found. Why is Madeleine McCann different? Why, instead of throwing so much effort into helping one couple, does David Cameron not try and do something which will improve the chances of children who disappear in the future of being discovered alive? This is what annoys me so much about this case. We have seen several cases where the parents of children who have gone missing or been murdered who have led campaigns to try and stop it happening to other children. Look at Sara Payne, who after her daughter Sarah was brutally murdered, went on to fight for ‘Sarah’s Law’: a law that would inform parents about any paedophiles that were living in their neighbourhood.

The McCanns have done no such thing. To the contrary, they have literally used their daughter’s disappearance to their own benefit – using money donated by generous, kind hearted people to help find their daughter to pay their mortgage instead,  cashing in further by writing a book (what can Kate McCann possibly have to tell us that she hasn’t told us several hundred times over the past four years?) I no longer have the slightest sliver of sympathy for them. I do however, feel desperately sorry for poor little Madeleine, who is probably long since dead, who had the deep misfortune of having parents so self-absorbed they were quite happy to leave her and her siblings alone in a flat in a foreign country while they went out and had a good time.

The tragedy of the Madeleine McCann case is that it reaffirms what many of us have long believed in regards to missing children: help, attention and concern will only come if the child in question is lucky enough to be cute, white and from an upper-middle class family.