Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Want equal pay girls? Forget the vulgar militancy of the suffragettes & ask nicely


If I never hear the word “suffragette” again, it’ll be too soon. Last week’s media fest was tiresome. Fortunately, this week it’s business as usual with women fading into their rightful place. The background.

A few years ago, I cringed as I watched my toddler grab a toy from a similar aged girl in playgroup. Supernanny would advocate that I intercept my son, “encourage” him to return said toy and teach him the virtues of sharing. I wrestled with this and, on balance I decided that, whilst sharing is a valuable life skill, it’s gender specific.

After all, when that girl (with princess emblazoned across her chest) grows up, there won’t be a knight in shining armour to fight her battles for her. If my son snatches a coveted promotion from under her nose while she’s on maternity leave, she’ll have to find the time and energy to snatch it back, all by herself. If she persists she’ll be labelled a trouble maker and will face a tribunal, whereupon an all-male panel will preside as judge and jury.

Since Tory cuts put legal aid beyond the reach of ordinary people, she’ll have to re-mortgage her house to pay for the court case, the strain of which will have caused her marriage to collapse, resulting in a nervous breakdown and the baby being taken into care.

A responsible parent would teach their daughters not to resist the inevitable. Why not give them less pocket money than their sons? I realize now that, if you’re a parent, equal pay only matters if you have a daughter.

As things stand, the odds are stacked in favour of my son. He only needs to achieve average grades to get paid up to double that of a more qualified female graduate. If he marries and has children, it will be his wife (she’ll be paid less) who stops working. Fulfilling society’s expectation of him as breadwinner, he’ll be free to network and get noticed (she’ll be working ‘round the clock for no pay and no-one will notice). His route to world domination need not be derailed by fatherhood.

Why should I take on someone else’s battle? What with sourcing Mini Boden outfits and block booking Monkey Music, it’s all I can do to lift a glass of Chardonnay before unwinding in front of Loose Women.

With few exceptions, women who make it to the top are unlikely to have done so by challenging the status quo. Parliament, business and the media, is awash with women willing to demonstrate their masculine credentials. Rebekah Brooks didn’t get where she is today by tackling sexism (page 3) at The Sun. Until there are sufficient numbers of women in top jobs to make a difference, my boy’s future is safe.

The BBC knows this and has taken steps to ensure women are kept in their place. They do this, allegedly, by paying their male talent more than their female counterparts. When “dissident” BBC journalist, Carrie Gracie, demanded to know why her male colleagues get paid some 50% more for similar work, she got a perfectly logical explanation. Their work is more valuable.

Take John Humphrys on the Today Programme. In a leaked recording, this legend was heard ridiculing Carrie Gracie, for daring to question their pay disparity. Previously, he conflated the sexual harassment of female MPs with normal dating behaviour. Granted, none of Humphrys’ female colleagues could pull that off and that’s why his “talent” is worth £400,000 more than theirs.

Despite the fact that it is men’s reckless incompetence at the highest level that has brought the global economy to its knees, still we don’t question their merit. In 2008, a male journalist made a compelling case as to why men were to blame for the recession. No-one has heard from him since. Rumour has it he’s in witness protection and writes verses for Hallmark.

The bottom line is, when my son takes his rightful place (s) at the top table (s) of power, be it as media mogul, corporate giant or political behemoth, even if he did fail (through no fault of his own, obviously), his contract will contain so many get out of jail cards he’ll be laughing all the way to the bank, where he’ll take out enough money to buy a peerage and live happily ever after on the Costa del Tax Haven.

As long as our daughters aspire to be princesses rather than politicians, men will continue to ride roughshod over women. If I had a daughter I’d be throwing myself in front of the Queen’s Corgis, but I don’t, so I’m off to the hairdressers instead.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Stripped of his ministerial mantle, sacked health minister Philip Dunne must now face his constituents

Sacked health minister, Philip Dunne, is my MP. His callous comments, suggesting that patients in A&E should be grateful for chairs (beds are so 1970's), come as no surprise to me. In his own constituency, on Christmas eve, patients in A&E didn't even have chairs to sit on. Staff had to step over them on the floor. See my article in today's Guardian for more on the failures in Mr Dunne's back yard:


https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/12/philip-dunne-nhs-remarks-face-constituents

Clip from BBC news coverage of public meeting where Philip Dunne was booed and heckled by constituents:







Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Tory Britain saw record numbers of children waking up homeless & malnourished this Christmas

Having an ignominious stand-off with my child, outside the local food bank, wasn’t quite how I envisaged Christmas Eve. It had been brewing since before we left the house. He was having second thoughts about donating some of his toys, which were thrown in (by me) to make the box of food we had prepared look less, utilitarian. 

To be fair, said offspring (who, like Andy in Toy Story, wants to find loving homes for his beloved toys at a time of his choosing) has a heightened social conscience. Children aren’t born with it, it’s learned through exposing them to situations where they have the opportunity to empathise with vulnerable human beings and teaching them not to judge. My parents taught me that destitution is not a life choice and that it can happen to any-one.
“There, but for the grace of God, go I”! That’s what my father said whenever we saw a homeless person on the streets. Even when he had no money himself, he never walked past without giving people he called, “our friends,” the time of day. “A kind word costs nothing”, he’d say.
We’ve instilled that ethos of humanity in our child, who regularly pitches up to sell The Big Issue for our friend, Samaria. When her baby was born dead recently, he raided his piggy bank to help pay for the headstone. She wouldn’t take his £25 so he bought toys for her two other children for Christmas instead.  
On a visit to the German Christmas market in Birmingham last week, we met Stephen. He told us he had been sleeping on the streets for 13 months. I asked him if he knew the homeless man, Paul, found dead nearby the previous week. He did, “and more besides that never get reported”. He wept silently as he sipped a coffee that a kind man had given him, along with a half-eaten sausage roll (note to well-meaning folk, if you wouldn’t eat scraps, don’t give them to homeless people).
Recent research by Crisis, revealed that the actual number of people sleeping rough on the streets of England is double the 9,000, previously estimated, when hidden rough sleepers (such as those sleeping in tents and cars) are factored in.  
The charity Shelter also revealed that child homelessness has reached a 10-year high, with nearly 130,000 children in Britain waking up homeless and in temporary accommodation this Christmas.
The family went to see A Christmas Carol last week. An eerie, tangible sadness befell the cinema during the iconic scene in the counting house, where two men of means attempt to extract money from Scrooge for charity. Affronted that the poor would shun workhouses, for which he paid his taxes, he admonished, If they would rather die, they’d better do it, and decrease the surplus population.
Dickens’ words never felt so real and their resonance so cruel. Increasingly, our taxes are not funding safety nets to catch our vulnerable, but are being siphoned off quietly to repay the debts owed to the rich (and the DUP) who have underwritten this tyrannical Tory regime.
The erosion of the welfare state under the Tories has seen women’s refuges closed and child poverty and homelessness soar. Recent analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated the number of children living in poverty is set to rise to a record 5.2 million over the next five years (it’s currently 4 million). Causal factors identified were frozen benefits and the introduction of universal credit. Concerned GPs who are seeing an increase in Victorian illnesses like rickets  are piloting food prescriptions to malnourished children.
My father’s compassion was born of his own experience of falling on hard times when, as a young man, he was robbed en-route from rural Ireland to a new life in London. His entire  savings – enough to cover his first month’s rent, gone. He had to work as a labourer for a month before he received a penny in wages. During that time he stayed in a “doss house” for the homeless and lived on jam sandwiches.
In 2018, I’ll continue to contribute to food banks and buy The Big Issue, but for people like Stephen, Samaria and Paul (may he rest in peace), that’s just not good enough. Much more must be done to redress this government’s “abject failure” in tackling homelessness. Abandoning austerity would be a good place to start

Friday, 13 October 2017

The Tories are lying about Brexit. It'll end in tears

On Wednesday, Liz Truss told Andrew Neil on the Daily Politics that she had changed her mind on Brexit. She voted to remain, she said, based on forecasts that leaving the EU would have major economic consequences. "Since we have left, it has been more positive, so the facts have changed and I have changed my mind."

In that last sentence alone there are two factual inaccuracies, which were not exposed as such by the selectively incompetent Neil. Firstly, we haven’t left the EU yet and secondly, the economy is not fine.

On the same day, Neil will have known that the IMF cut growth forecast for the UK and predicted it would slow from 1.8% in 2016 to 1.7% this year and 1.5% in 2018 and a report by leading investment bank Rabobank concurred. It predicted that a hard Tory Brexit would plunge the UK into immediate recession, cost the economy £400 billion and wipe 18% off GDP growth by 2030. The ONS also warned of record trade-in goods deficit in August and the OBR, the treasury’s official forecasting body, downgraded the UK’s productivity, which it expects to hit growth and weaken the economy.

The economy is in meltdown and Andrew Neil lets Liz Truss, chief secretary to the Treasury, mislead his viewers. A Labour MP would have been skewered.

Meanwhile, also on Wednesday, Philip Hammond admitted that “It is theoretically conceivable that in a no deal scenario there will be no air traffic moving between the UK and EU on the 29th March, 2019”.

Not to be outdone by her hapless subordinates, Theresa May said she didn’t know how she would vote in a re-run of the EU referendum. She would have to look at all the facts. You couldn't make it up. 

Does that mean David Davis is withholding the results of his Brexit impact assessment from the PM, as well parliament and the public? Is she not aware of the predicted damage Brexit will cause to jobs and living standards? If Theresa May doesn’t have sufficient facts on which to base an informed decision about leaving the EU several months on, why is she going ahead with it her kamikaze mission?

Surely it is in our national interests for the findings of the Brexit impact assessment to be made clear and for the public to be given a chance to vote again – this time based on facts. Not lies.


We are experiencing major economic consequences, the NHS is not getting the £350 million a week and, for many children in this country the tooth fairy leaves magic dust under the pillow because the magic money tree is based in the Bahamas. Not easily accessible for a nurse who, despite being in work, is dependent on food banks to feed her children.  

On a more positive note: Pics from the Labour party conference in Brighton. Spent most of it in The World Transformed fringe events. The highlight was definitely having an intimate audience with the absolute girl - Naomi Klein!







With the People's Chancellor: John Mc Donnell!



Friday, 21 July 2017

I went to Grenfell Tower. What happened there is a national disgrace

The acrid stench infused the air. The landscape, adorned with messages and memorials, struggled to reconcile the veneration of dignified grief and irreverent, visceral anger.

I oscillated between both. Grief hung in the ether like a flammable fume. Volatile, toxic, debilitating. The photos of those whose lives were lost. The prayers, the pleas, the eulogies. The human faces behind the headlines.

Days before, some of the dead and feared dead would have taken the train journey I just took, walked the route I just walked to get there, sat in the park around the corner that I just sat in and exchanged perfunctory pleasantries with the local shop keeper like I just did.

The photo of Isaac caught my eye. He left school at the same time as my little boy that day. He will have had his tea, maybe smearing ketchup on his school jumper, like mine did and went to bed, forgetting to brush his teeth, like mine did. Wrapped in a blanket of love he may have told the spiders lurking in a corner of his room a story, like mine did, before drifting off to sleep clutching his threadbare teddy, like mine did.

The difference between Isaac and my child is, Isaac lived in a tower block with no fire sprinklers, exposed gas pipes, combustible cladding (cheaper than the non-combustible yet aesthetically pleasing variety) and dodgy electrics prone to potentially lethal surges. Illegal? You’d think so, but Tory cuts to legal aid means rights are now only available to those who can afford to buy them. That ruled Grenfell Tower residents out.

Five weeks on and survivors are still homeless and dependent on sporadic, demeaning state handouts. A hundred quid here and a voucher for a hotel there isn’t good enough. Survivors need certainty, security and dignity. That starts with a secure, safe home. Some children don’t know if they’ll be returning to the same school in September because they don’t know where their new home will be. Some survivors say they’ve been told to accept homes without being allowed to see them first. Others say they fear being forcibly rehoused outside the borough. I’ve been told of survivors who’ve been threatened that declining housing they’re offered, however inappropriate, would be deemed as elected homelessness, and would incur benefit penalties.

Even now, survivors are being excluded from key decisions that will impact their future. Security firms were employed, at tax payers expense, to “keep them out” of Kensington and Chelsea’s council meeting on Thursday. Scenes of survivors being kettled into a public gallery, side-lined and silenced, prevented from participating in decisions about their own lives, were a national disgrace. The footage of Tory councillor, Mathew Palmer, mouthing “Don’t let them in” spoke volumes about the Tories’ contempt for humanity, decency and democracy.


Making my way back to the tube, I was stopped in my tracks by a child. She was surveying the messages pinned to the street railings and was transfixed by an elaborate picture of a dove. She asked her Dad what the text around it said. “I don’t know love, it’s written in a foreign language”.  I squinted to read it, “It says, Suaimhneas stíoraí da anam, which is Irish for, may your souls rest in peace”.

If the souls that perished in Grenfell are ever to find peace, they must first be afforded truth and then justice. We owe Isaac, and all those who died with him, that much.


Wednesday, 28 June 2017

With Momentum behind Labour, Jeremy Corbyn will be in No 10 by Christmas

So proud to have been part of the Momentum/Labour team that saw the party come from a polling of 24% at the start of the General Election campaign to gaining 32 seats.

Theresa May expected a landslide victory. She got a kick in the teeth. Instead of crushing the Labour Party & strengthening her mandate for a hard Brexit & austerity max, she inadvertently gifted Jeremy Corbyn a media platform he had previously been denied.

Suddenly the man that his New Labour detractors claimed was unelectable emerged as the people’s politician – headlining Glastonbury & smashing it. Everywhere he went, thousands came, each leaving inspired, taking the message of hope back to their families and friends, sharing memes and messages on social media. I saw the crowds that the mainstream media wouldn’t show & I knew history was in the making.

From the NHS to NME, Corbyn cared. He touched lives, spoke the truth, his humanity already healing wounds inflicted by 7 years of Tory hate. “He seems like a decent man” people would say, then, parroting tabloid propaganda, “but he’s not a leader”. If principles and integrity aren’t leadership traits, what are?

Towards the end everything changed. Sneers were replaced with beaming smiles. Reacting to my (vote Corbyn) badge on the tube one Saturday night, a football reveller broke into song, “Oh Jeremy Corbyn”, as he swayed, arms aloft, shrapnel from his burger discharged randomly about the carriage. Joined in the refrain by a suited white man, a Chinese couple and a Jamaican octogenarian, it was the sweetest tube ride of my life.  

The genie is out of the bottle now & there’s no going back.

Having backed Jeremy Corbyn and his socialist vision of hope and social justice from the start, I never lost the faith. Here's some stuff I wrote in the past:

On Jeremy Corbyn: A worthy leader:

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/dont-think-jeremy-corbyn-is-a-worthy-leader-maybe-its-time-to-leave-the-labour-party-a6773741.html

On the chicken coup:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/tess-finchlees/jeremy-corbyn_b_10760550.html

On media bias:

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/the-media-must-give-jeremy-corbyn-a-fair-hearing-a6804821.html

On New Labour losing the 2015 General Electiom

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/suffragettes-died-for-my-right-to-vote-so-dont-tell-me-that-i-shouldnt-vote-for-jeremy-corbyn-10495014.html


With 27,000 members in the UK alone Momentum has already changed the course of British politics. Why not sign up & join the army of foot soldiers we're gonna need to win next time 'round.


Sharing a post election drink with Emily Thornberry & Cat Smith. Two Labour legends & future cabinet ministers.



See channel 4 news clip about Momentum’s role in Labour’s incredible GE result here:

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

A Call for Labour on June 8th

We're within touching distance of a Labour victory on June 8th. Jeremy Corbyn and his team have produced the most visionary manifesto in British history, with social justice, fairness and hope jumping out from every page. Despite the right wing media (I include the BBC in that) & Tory attack dogs resorting to underhand tactics and taking out "dark ads" on social media, Labour has run a positive, dignified campaign. 

The politics of fairness, building a society & economic infrastructure to benefit the many rather than the elite, rich few, has ignited an excitement that change is within our grasp. Jeremy Corbyn's principled politics of hope over hate has won the hearts & minds of the nation. More young people have registered to vote than ever before, thanks to Labour's efforts to engage them. The Tories made no attempt to register the youth vote.

Despite royally stitching up their loyal older supporters (Dementia tax, scrapping winter fuel allowance & the triple lock on pensions), the Tories can probably still rely on their vote on June 8th. Just because many older voters will vote (according to polling experts) out of habit.

So, winning this historic election on June 8th will depend on getting young people to come out & vote Labour and encouraging our parents & grandparents not to vote Tory & vote Labour instead.

Here's 4 things we can all do to make June 8th the end of May & be part of making history:

1) Call your parents & grandparents: Owen Jones' video below is spot on. It provides good routes into the kind of conversation (see below) we can have with our family.



2) Call your friends & talk to them about your hopes, fears & the importance of voting for all of our futures on June 8th.

3) Get out on the door steps: Momentum has a tool (see below) to help find your nearest marginal (a constituency where the gap in votes is narrow & Labour could win- with grassroots support). June 8th is the most important day for door knocking. If you click on the link below it tells you where the meeting point is, if you feel you can spare a couple of hours, or even an hour on Thursday. If you're driving, maybe offer a lift to some friends & be part of making history together!







Sunday, 30 April 2017

How Many More Babies Must Die Before Lessons Are Learned?

Kate Stanton Davies, Jenson Barnett, Ella and Lola Greene, Sophiya Hotchkis, Oliver Smale. Jack Burn, Kye Hall, Graham Scott Holmes-Smith, Ivy Morris & Pippa Griffiths.

These are the babies, that we know of, who died needlessly in maternity services in Shropshire.

In February, Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt ordered a review into a cluster of 15 baby deaths, and three mothers, at the Shropshire Telford and Wrekin hospital Trust (SaTH). At least eleven baby deaths between September 2014 and May 2016 have already been ruled by the coroner as avoidable. The tragic, heart breaking, needless loss of little lives before they’ve even begun.

When the medical director responsible for patient safety at the hospital trust was asked to respond, he said, ‘When I look at the perinatal mortality rate at our trust compared to the rest of the NHS, we are at an equivalent level to the rest of the country”.

Hiding behind national averages, when the coroner rules that babies have died avoidable deaths on your watch, is an egregious affront to grieving families. Yet Dr Borman, along with the CEO, Simon Wright, remain secure in their jobs. For her part in this unholy scandal, the head of wifery at the time has been rewarded with a promotion.

There are some striking similarities in the culture that led to the avoidable baby deaths in Shropshire and the Mid Staffordshire scandal. Causal factors, as identified in The Francis report, were:


  • A board that was concentrating on cutting costs rather than patient safety
  • A Senior Management Team that stopped investigating patient concerns robustly, which meant that patient care was effectively downgraded, and
  • The creation of a culture where staff felt unable to raise concerns about clinical safety for fear they would either be ignored or victimised.

In the wake of Kate Stanton Davis’ death in 2009, her parents, Rhiannon and Richard, were faced with the further indignity of a cover up. Amid their trauma and grief, they had to fight  to have Kate’s death investigated properly. On Thursday, at the first hospital board meeting since the BBC broke the story of an investigation into a further cluster of baby deaths in 2014 and 2015, the board hid behind a cloak of secrecy. Despite it being an agenda item, the board refused to comment.

I asked the non-executive directors, as the conscience of the organisation, if they would intervene and hold the medical director and CEO to account for their failings. This was met with blanket silence. The board also refused to answer a question asked on behalf of Kate’s parents, who did not attend in person. The question was, could the subsequent baby deaths have been avoided, had their complaint been investigated properly?

Tory under funding, pay caps and removal of midwifery bursaries have contributed to a midwifery crisis nationally in this country. In 2014, Cathy Warwick, RCM chief executive warned, “Our maternity services are overworked, understaffed, underfunded and struggling to meet the demands being placed on them. This is deeply worrying for the quality of care women are receiving, and the safety of services." She said safety was at risk because services were operating beyond their capacity. "The Government is responsible for this and it is they who are letting down women, babies and their families”.

 In October 2016 she warned that investment in midwifery services from the government 'remains inadequate to provide the quality of care that women deserve'. The RCM carried out a survey of members in which, only 9% of respondents felt that the government valued midwifery.

Tory cuts cost lives. There has never been a more important time to fight for our NHS & there’s no more powerful a place to take that fight than the ballot box. That’s why I’ll be voting Labour on June 8th.

See video below of my speech at a recent NHS rally. 






Sunday, 9 April 2017

My 9 year old sold "the Big Issue" & revealed the truth of Brexit Britain

I've never felt so proud & sad in the same moment.

This article was published in today's "i". Read it & weep...

https://inews.co.uk/opinion/9-year-old-sold-big-issue-revealed-truth-brexit-britain/

The Big Issue itself ran with the headline, "9 year old boy sets example of how to behave in Brexit Britain". See below:

http://www.bigissue.com/news/nine-year-old-boy-sets-example-behave-post-brexit-britain/

You might also like to read my Brexit Fraud piece published in the Independent:

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-referendum-alternative-facts-brexit-bill-white-paper-european-union-a7558886.html

And the alternative facts about immigration used by the Brexiteers in the EU referendum

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/now-my-eight-year-old-thinks-he-could-be-deported-because-of-leave-rhetoric-clearly-its-time-to-face-a7095016.html







Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Brexit Fraud sentiment resonating throughout Europe

Thank you to Rob in Spain for alerting me to the fact that my Brexit Fraud article in The Independent has gotten 63K shares & counting.

Estoy de acuerdo. Brexit es una locura!

See link below in case you missed it.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-referendum-alternative-facts-brexit-bill-white-paper-european-union-a7558886.html

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

BBC's Question Time Special Asks What Brexit Britain Will Look Like? The Answer? Pale, Male & Very Grey

Monday Night’s BBC Question Time special posed the big question, What will Brexit Britain look like? The clue to the answer could be found by looking at the panel. Dominated by white middle aged men, where only gobby women (no more than two) on the right of the political spectrum are invited to speak.

Having intravenously administered a medicinal dose of alcohol to numb the pain of sitting through the agonising programme, my rancour subsided only to be replaced by reality induced despair. How could the BBC exclude young people (anyone under 40 would be a start) and black people (even a dark brown panellist would have shown willing) from a discussion purporting to be about the future of Britain? Of the three pro EU voices, not one was female. Then the dulled, toxin imbued penny dropped. After the EU immigrants are gone and the combination of isolationist xenophobia and misery claims our young people, these clones are all we’ll be left with.

Just before the EU vote, research showed the extent to which women’s voices were being side lined from media debates. Despite other research indicating that women voters could decide the outcome, the Remain camp continued to wheel out white haired men, largely New labour/Blairite, grandees such as, Alistair Campbell, Baron Mandelson and Gordon Brown. Between them, these men have got more baggage than Heathrow’s terminal 4, so the idea that they could speak to minorities, women or the disenfranchised working classes, anywhere in this country, was dangerously delusional.

Harriett Harman also rightly complained of the gender deficit in media representation 4 weeks before the EU vote. The problem with that is, the man who headed up the Labour “in” campaign, Alan Johnson (himself a New Labour grandee), was responsible for giving the media gigs to his old boy mates. And who appointed him to that powerful job? Harriet Harman,while interim leader. Which begs the question, why didn’t she appoint one of her female colleagues to that key role?

Despite the cast having failed at the box office, they just keep getting the staring roles. Airbrushed out of Monday night’s Question Time was the almost certain collapse of the NHS if EU immigrants’ rights are not secured imminently and what a xenophobic country, with hate crime on the increase, will do to the fabric of British society. 

In the months following the referendum result, 5,500 EU workers in the NHS handed in their notice. Surveys suggest that they left because they didn't feel welcome. A recent survey of EU NHS staff confirmed that the vote had made the UK a less appealing place to work. Thanks to successive governments reducing training places here for doctors and nurses, the NHS is already experiencing chronic staff shortages. In a recent Channel 4 Dispatches programme, recruiters were practically begging Theresa May to secure the rights of EU immigrants to work here because without them, the NHS will collapse. 

A German doctor's response to David Davis' reassurances that he would be entitled to get British citizenship (after living here for 20 years) was instructive. "Citizenship isn't just a decision of the head" he said, "it is also a decision of the heart". That was a polite way of saying, "You can take your citizenship of little Britain and shove it where the sun don't shine". 

In the coming years, it's not immigration that will dominate British political discourse, it will be emigration. Who can blame anyone with a lifeboat for clambering in, while the good ship Britannica is sunk by a bunch of deranged sailors drunk on a cocktail of omnipotence, lunacy and stupidity.

Friday, 17 March 2017

It's Paddy's day but this is no time for shindigs

It’s St Patrick’s day but I’m not in the mood for shindigs. Whichever side of the pond you live on, there has scarcely been a worse time to be an immigrant. A hundred years ago, the Irish fled destitution and famine in coffin ships. So desperate and hungry were they, that possible death at sea was better than certain death of starvation by remaining.

Today is not a day to congratulate ourselves on our apparent seamless assimilation into our host countries, it’s a time to remember that the persecution our ancestors once endured still exists today. The scapegoats are different but the fight is the same.

The day the EU referendum results were announced I was forlorn. Asked by another mum if I was OK, I said “not really. For the first time in the twenty years I’ve lived here, I feel like an immigrant. Rolling her eyes, she said “You’re not an immigrant, you’re Irish“. She assured me that “we didn’t mean people like you”. It became evident that she thought Brexit would stop foreigners of a darker hue, allowing more palatable, white European immigrants, like me, unfettered access.

She wasn’t the only one who was confused about Brexit. A few weeks after the referendum result, a Sikh woman was racially abused not far from where I live. A racist thug was reported to shout, “The British people have spoken, so f**k off back home”.

The fact that the woman was British and lived around the corner was a mere fact that didn’t get in the way of an unbridled act of hatred. One of the many indicators of a rising epidemic of odium unleashed on communities up and down the country as a direct result of the EU referendum.

I fear too for my family and friends on the Island of Ireland. The peace and stability that was so hard won is in jeopardy. Growing up in Dublin, people from the south rarely crossed into Northern Ireland, unless they had to. When I was 11, I went on a summer school trip to Donegal which meant having to brave the check point. Combat clad soldiers pointed guns at us from high concrete look outs, adorned with barbed wire and graffiti reading, “Brits out, Peace in”.  After hours of waiting, two British soldiers got on the bus wielding riffles, checking for semtex (according to Bridie O’Malley) under our seats. My friend was so terrified that she wet herself. Even at 11, I remember being made to feel like a terrorist. That was my first impression of British people and I harboured huge resentment for a long time (until I discovered the loveliest person on the planet is British and married him).

After the Good Friday agreement, that all changed. The removal of physical barriers heralded peace and economic prosperity on both sides of the border. With the guns and blockades gone, people felt safe to move freely on the island. We were welcome guests as opposed to deviant interlopers to be viewed with suspicion. Peace and stability paved the way for foreign investment and with it, people from all over the world came to work and share in the prosperity brought about by being an open, outward looking society. No-one in Ireland, north or south, wants to go back to the dark days of borders and all the misery, animosity and instability that will unleash.

Although the Good Friday agreement allows for a unity referendum, until last June, there was no appetite for one. For the people of Northern Ireland who lived through the turmoil of the troubles, seeing their young people trapped in a cycle of violence, with little hope of a future in the region, economic and social stability trumps national identity every time.

That’s why, if forced to choose between building barricades or keeping the hard won peace and economic benefits of EU membership, I believe the people of Northern Ireland will choose a united Ireland over a disunited little Britain. As a (protestant) friend of mine from Belfast said recently, “Theresa May bangs on about the will of the English people, ignoring entirely the will of the Scottish and Northern Irish people who voted to Remain in the EU”. Who could’ve imagined that a united Ireland would be delivered, albeit accidentally, by a hapless Tory government.


Living in Brexit Britain feels like being a passenger on a speeding train, with an intoxicated driver asleep at the wheel. We know the crash is imminent and that the human fall out will be devastating, but our cries for help go unheeded. All we can do is bang on the locked door and pray to god that the driver wakes up. If enough of us shout loudly enough, she might.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

March For The NHS This Saturday: "The NHS Will Last As Long As There Are Folk Left With The Faith To Fight For It" (Nye Bevan)

In towns and villages throughout Britain, an invisible army of NHS foot soldiers have been fighting cuts, closures and the creep of privatisation for years. On Saturday, the army will march on London and I’ll be there with my placard wielding 9 year old.

Ever since my child was nurtured back to health by the NHS having been seriously injured in a car crash, I’ve been part of a local campaign to safeguard both of the county’s A&Es. I live in one of the most rural counties in Britain, with journey times to hospital of over 1 hour already for some. Our Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) wants to reduce a population the size of 19 Birmingham’s to just one A&E. What started as a handful of people is now one of the most formidable health campaigns in the country, with thousands of members who have seen off 2 health chiefs, thwarted 4 attempts to close an A&E and won the respect of the local press, who were initially hostile.

The clue is in the name, accident & emergency.  When patients are faced with life threatening injuries/illnesses, time is absolutely of the essence. There was a 25% increase in deaths when Newark A&E was closed, even though that increased the average travel time from 7minutes to 12 minutes. The distances to A&E where I live, are already further than anywhere else in the country. 

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine cautioned recently, ‘Emergency care pressures are not going to go away, just by closing an A&E department. In many adjacent areas, most A&Es are already pretty full, and most hospitals are pretty full with regards to admissions. It only takes a small change to tip the balance to a hospital being congested. To close a department is likely to have a domino effect on other hospitals.’

A legal Requirement for any major restructuring within the NHS is to do a patient & public needs assessment & an impact assessment on neighbouring hospitals, primary care, social care & planning data. None of this have been done and not a shred of clinical evidence has been forthcoming.
We were promised a network of rural urgent care centres and increased community investment to support the huge predicted transfer of care into the community. Instead, urgent care centres have been scrapped, community hospital wards have been closed and GPs are creaking under the strain of increased workload with no additional resources. That’s before they shut an A&E.
Both A&Es are already stretched beyond capacity. Ambulances are regularly held up in a queue outside both hospitals preventing them from being able to respond to blue light calls. The ambulance service is underfunded and under resourced & they’re regularly taking over 1 hour to get to patients in my region. The air ambulance is a charity staffed by 6-7 volunteers. The fleet is old, can’t land in dark, fog, even drizzle.
In September, the architect of the Health and Social Care Act, Lord lansley, said the act was supposed to be about promoting better services to patients but admits the focus is becoming increasingly about reducing costs – not improving quality of patient care....

“We must not allow reconfiguration to be used as a means of constraining demand – by restricting supply. The NHS must have the resources it needs for a sustainable future. These necessary resources are not anticipated in the current spending review”.

Having failed to invest in social care & the community infrastructure necessary to take pressure off hospitals - the founding tenet of this act - acute service cuts cannot be allowed to proceed. Having immersed myself in consultant speak for over 2 years, I’ve spotted that “improved patient pathways”, and “strategic Transformation Plans (STPs) can be translated as “cuts”. The pathways are designed to divert traffic away from hospitals even if it means into the morgue.

Then there’s the corporate heist of the NHS by private health providers. The Health and Social Care Act removes the responsibility of health care provision from the government. Section 75 compels tendering for contracts, £16bn of which have been awarded to private contractors since 2013.

While the media lens was focused on Richard Branson’s spat with Jeremy Corbyn in August, Virgin Care was quietly signing an NHS contract worth £17.6m a year to co-ordinate adult community health services in Guildford. Despite operating as a tax haven and, according to Tax expert, Richard Murphy, Virgin Care is unlikely to pay tax in the UK in the foreseeable future, the company has been awarded contracts worth millions to provide NHS services across England. All hidden behind the NHS logo.

In July, Virgin Care lost its contract to run Croydon’s Urgent Care Centre in the wake of criticism by the CQC, which found patients were being streamed by untrained reception staff which compromised safety. 30-year-old Madhumita Mandal died of multiple organ failure and sepsis caused by a ruptured ovarian cyst after a receptionist at the urgent care centre failed to refer her to a medic.

The problem is, private companies are not bound by the same accountability as public services and they’re driven by profit, not patient care or employee wellbeing. A recent study showed that mental health related absences in the NHS, due to stress, depression and anxiety, have doubled under this government. Apart from the tragic human costs, sickness and absence costs the NHS millions every year.

One senior A&E sister who left my local hospital in the last few years said, “It’s like being in a war zone every day. There was never enough staff on duty to cope with demand, so we were working under constant stress. Every time you’re forced to deprive a patient of the care they need, it chips away at your soul until eventually there’s nothing left to chip away at and you just stop caring. That’s when most of us realise it’s time to leave the profession”.


If we accept the narrative that NHS cuts are necessary, it follows that we concede privatisation is inevitable. If we relinquish the principal of public health care for all, we’re signing our NHS over to corporate providers. That is like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank. 

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Brexit is the greatest fraud perpetrated on the British public

An edited version of my blog (below) was published in today's Independent.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-referendum-alternative-facts-brexit-bill-white-paper-european-union-a7558886.html

You might also be interested in reading a pre EU referendum piece I wrote debunking the myth that immigration is bad for Britain: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/now-my-eight-year-old-thinks-he-could-be-deported-because-of-leave-rhetoric-clearly-its-time-to-face-a7095016.html


Brexit is the greatest fraud perpetrated on this country since Tony Blair’s dodgy Iraq dossier. It was predicated on lies and tonight it was legitimised by deceit.

MPs who voted to remain in the EU in June, queued up to give Theresa May carte blanche to trigger article 50, which sets us on an irreversible course of self-destruction.  The only honourable justification for MPs, who hitherto vehemently believed remaining in the EU was in the country’s best interests, not opposing Theresa May’s bill tonight, would be if they had been persuaded that the opposite is true. Instead they all hid behind the vapid UKIP mantra, the so called, “will of the people”.

The idea of being driven to economic ruin (for which the poor will pay) for political expediency is, in my view, an act of constitutional vandalism. Worse still, it flies in the face of all the emerging evidence indicating the will of the people has changed since June.

Professor Low of Staffordshire University has analysed the result of 13 polls since the Brexit vote in June, all of which ask variations on the question, “would you vote the same way again”. A staggering 11 of the 13 polls show that, were there to be a second vote, Remain would produce a decisive victory. Whilst the remain vote held firm statistically, a significant number of people who voted to leave would now change their vote.

In December, the West Midlands Express and Star newspaper published this: We DON’T want out anymore: shock poll reveals Express readers have changed their minds.  When asked before the referendum how they would vote, 80% of readers voted leave and 16% remain. When asked the same question in December, an incredible 62% voted to remain with only 37% voting to leave. 

The Express and Star conceded that it was the biggest survey the paper had ever carried out, with 10,000 respondents.

Why was Brexit fraudulent?

1. It traded in “alternative facts”, or lies. Most notably the promise of £350 million a week to the NHS which was rescinded as soon as the vote was in.

Families in my community have fallen out because older members admitted they voted leave, believing the NHS would get the promised cash. The younger ones feel betrayed by their parents and grandparents and the parents and grandparents feel betrayed by the politicians who deceived them. 

2. Only 37% of the population voted and of them only 26% voted to leave. This is not a representative or legitimate outcome.

3. The referendum did not require the 2/3 majority which is the norm when the outcome involves major constitutional change. 

4. In the wake of the Brexit win, a significant number of those who voted leave told the media they regretted it, or didn’t understand it, or thought it could be reversed at the next election, or that they did it as a protest against austerity and the Tories.

An irate local farmer told me he voted to leave as a protest against EU bureaucracy that delayed payments of his subsidies. When I pointed out that Defra was responsible for the delays, he said, “That’s right!”. He thought Defra was an EU department. He didn’t realise it was the department for rural affairs and that the EU had fined our governmental department for its incompetent administration of subsidies. No matter, we got our country back, even if it means losing the subsidies and keeping the incompetence.

Britain’s farmers received £2.4bn last year in EU payments and the NFU has already warned that many farms would fail without these handouts.

5. There was no mandate to leave the single market, sell off the NHS to US private health insurers or to turn the UK into a tax haven.

6. EU membership already has built in border controls under the “right to reside” test. This provides conditions to entry, such as, having a job or being financially self-sufficient. There are no immediate, automatic entitlements to benefits, which require further conditions. Most other EU states impose these controls rigorously but the UK has been less assiduous in its implementation. If immigration is such a problem, why did Theresa May not sufficiently implement the EU controls at her disposal in her 10 years at the home office? 

Brexit has divided the nation. For Theresa May to unite the country she must heal wounds and take the public with her. This can only be done through a second referendum, which eradicates the fraudulent failings of the first.


As Churchill said, “Never give in--never, never, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense”. Brexit is neither, so I’ll never, never, never give in.