Tag Archives: NHS

Day of Judgement

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By the time this blog is published it will be all decided: Britain will/won’t be at war. It feels very strange writing that. Maybe it should feel reminiscent of WWII; at least that seems to be the aim. There were the bombings in Paris which were truly reprehensible. As reprehensible as the deaths caused by the French retaliation bombings in Syria, with scores of young children, young lives laid out as corpses. Nothing shows the futility of mass murder, through terrorists or governments, as the lifeless body of a corpse.

The propaganda war post-Paris was surprisingly quick as well, with Facebook issuing their ‘temporary’ French flag pin a mere few hours after the bombings. At the time it smacked to me of purposeful emotional manipulation, to gauge what the public appetite was for war. It still does. It gave people the opportunity to feel like they were part of a previous war, part of the French resistance, without doing anything more significant than pressing a button. Solidarity, while necessary in some situations, can lead societies astray in terms of looking at the fine print when tribal hurt has been endured.

There is something strange about this push towards war – it feels totally orchestrated by senior Tories, including the Prime Minister, anti-Corbynites, whose sole purpose in politics now seems to be ABC (Anyone But Corbyn) and Rupert Murdoch. The public don’t want it – after 5 years of Tory austerity and broken promises, and over 14 years of futile and immoral wars in Iraq, the public recognises political subterfuge when they see it. Former hostages like Nicholas Henin don’t want it  and have explicitly said that airstrikes will play into Daesh’s hands, and potentially escalate their recruitment drive. The Express-reading public don’t want it – over 70% of them voted against airstrikes. The Daily Mail doesn’t seem to want it either according to their comment on 27 November 2015. When the Daily Mail has no appetite for war, one should be able to concede that, given the importance of Middle England to any politician, the game is over. This is not a war about glory, or heroism. This isn’t even about waging war on terror – even by Cameron’s own admission, the intelligence services have effectively thwarted seven terror strikes in one year. That seems to be working – so, as the old adage goes, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

But Cameron has seemed incapable of accepting this, and this is what is interesting. He has gone so far as to brand the Leader of the Opposition and all who oppose airstrikes as ‘terrorist sympathisers’. Besides this ludicrous and quasi-libellous assertion lies the desperation of a man on whom the screws are being tightened. Some might opine that the real interests he serves are those of Murdoch and Rothschild, with their interests in Genie Oil & Gas. Some might opine that it is the interests of companies like Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Boeing, who will surely be beneficiaries of any escalation in the ‘war on terror’. Some might opine this – I couldn’t possibly comment.

But even putting all of this aside and looking at Cameron’s judgement in the past, because essentially when a prime minister sets out the case for war, he is asking us to trust said judgement.  Cameron counts among his friends Rebecca Brookes. He appointed Andy Coulson as his spin doctor. He sold off the Royal Mail for a mere £2bn, which was later proven to have grossly undervalued it, to the tune of £750 million detrimentally to the taxpayer, but to the benefit of George Osborne’s best man. He promised in 2010 that the NHS would remain untouched. He promised in 2015 that tax credits would remain untouched. His party have increased the deficit to £1.5tn, and his enthusiasm in selling arms to Saudia Arabia, Qatar and other reprehensible regimes which should be pariah states diplomatically resemble nothing so closely as a used car salesman. Not to mention PigGate. And this is the man to lead us into an unwanted war and whose judgement we should trust.

The unspoken rule in politics is that we get the politicians we deserve. And in a sense, that is true. No one forced a small majority of the British voting public to put Cameron and his cronies back into power. If the last seven months have shown us anything however, it should have shown us that individual self-interest is not the best foundation on which to cast a vote. As glad as I am that they did it, it was a sad day for democracy when the undemocratically elected House of Lords are the last recourse to hold the Government to account.

And the last five years and seven months should have proven to us beyond reasonable doubt that the interests of the private and public sector – for politicians and Prime Ministers are public servants, after all – should be totally separate. What I will be most interested in after all is said and done, and the votes are counted is who stands to profit from war. Before the UK goes down the path of war irrevocably it would be in the public interest to reveal all those politicians with ties to munitions, banking, energy and pharmaceutical companies, which are all too often mutually dependent. Because as much as politicians and their business bedfellows lie, dissemble, prevaricate and propagandise, money doesn’t. Money reveals the true heartbeat of the war drum and coffers. Let’s uncover that heartbeat.

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Cameron the “Christian”

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Today, theoretically is the holiest day in the Christian calendar. I say “theoretically” for a number of reasons. Firstly, Easter isn’t a “Christian” holiday per se; there is much argument about this, but according to a friend of mine, it is derived from “Hausos” which was an Indo-European (precursor of the Celts) holiday, which was then translated into “Auster” in Latin (a true “Roman Holiday?) and consequently into the Anglo-Saxon “Easter”.

Interesting, around this time, David Cameron sought to come out as being an “evangelical Christian”, and criticising those who did not share his beliefs. While the last census in 2011 showed that just over 59% of the population in the UK self-identify as being of a Christian faith, it did lead me, as a lapsed Catholic, to ask: What exactly does he mean?

My first reaction was that this was nothing other than pure political isolationism, i.e. if you are not a Christian, you are not in our gang (not that most people want to be in the Bullingdon Bullies gang, but that is a debate perhaps for another post). This isolates deliberately those of another religion i.e. Muslims (5%), Hindus (1.5%), Sikhs (.8%), Jews (.5%), Buddhists (.5%), and those who put down “other” (.4%). In total, this makes up 8.7% of the population. Relatively small fry in election terms. So while I think there was a slight Crusader-like zeal in the statement, it is clear that the full force of his opprobrium was reserved for those non-believer in any faith, who make up 31.9% of the population, and who, if Marx is to be believed about religion being the opium of the masses, are harder to control.

But it also calls into question the very nature of Christianity as well. As aforementioned, I am a very lapsed Irish Catholic. Lapsed for reasons that are obvious; and those that were cultural and therefore not so obvious. I remember hearing priests threatening eternal damnation on those who voted for divorce in the 1980s. I remember the state preventing a 14-year old travelling to England for an abortion (not that she should have had to travel), despite having been raped by a neighbour, because abortion was and is against the Church’s teachings. I’ve worked with people who were so traumatised by their experiences as novices in Ireland in the 1960s in the infamous Magdalen laundries that they left not only their vocation but the Church itself. While there is a special kind of misogyny inherent in Irish Catholicism, having dabbled with other world religions I have found it is manifested only a little less. So I am curious to know what David Cameron thought he would achieve by avowing evangelical Christianity.

Here’s what I think he thought would happen. He thought that by evoking the word “Christian” that it could expunge the deeds of the Coalition over the last four years, and conjure up an image of a moral person. What I would say to David Cameron is there is a difference between morality and piety. In the words of the Duke of Wellington, just because you were born in a stable, it doesn’t make you a horse. And essentially it was an attempt to challenge those naughty non-believers, who do make up a sizeable chunk of votes that the Tories could do with winning in 2015. I guess, in the land that was built on the laws of divide and conquer, you can’t blame him for having a go.

But getting back to the matter in hand: let’s test the theory of Cameron’s version of Christianity, and see if it holds water:

Would Christ have axed 576 Sure Start centres? I think he would not have. I know he said “Suffer the little children” – but he did then add “..to come unto me”.

Would Christ have directly targeted the disabled? He would have, but only to heal them; not to persecute them by cutting their benefits, and forcing them to prove their disabilities, which reportedly has been linked to suicides, that of Stephanie Bottrill, and an attempt by Lawrence Keane.

Again, on the subject of healing: would Christ have sought to privatise the NHS? I don’t think so; as far as is recorded, his healing services were free, gratis and for nothing. Lest we forget, we actually pay for the NHS through NI.

Would Christ have implemented policies that have forced nigh on 1 million people to be forced to go to food banks? I think, as is recorded in the Gospels, he would not have – in essence (remembering the tale of the loaves and fishes) he seemed to be a one-man food bank in himself.

And would Christ have been keen to influence bankers getting a 64% bonus increase within a year? Maybe it’s my selective memory, but I seem to remember Christ having a really big chip on his shoulder regarding bankers, to the extent of throwing them out of the temple and then splitting the temple in two with the force of his wrath?

My point here is: if you are going to buy into the myth, buy into the whole myth. I may be a lapsed Irish Catholic; but I have a lot of religious friends who take it as an affront to their beliefs that Cameron, with his lip service to Christ (touted as a radical non-violent revolutionary on a meme doing the rounds) but obvious worship of Mammon, aligns himself with Him. They do not recognise their beliefs in a man whose whole premiership thus far has been about pitting the powerful against the vulnerable, rich against not-so-rich and downright poor. Quibble with religion as you might (and I do), most people with and without faith would not want to see children go to school hungry, homelessness numbers rise, essential services be cut, and the rich profit from other people’s misery disproportionately. Evangelical Cameron may be: but his God is Greed.

 

 

Beyond the Tube Strike

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The headline on this evening’s Evening Standard was interesting, as its interpretation depended solely on one’s political persuasion: “Millions caught up in rush-hour chaos as Tube strike cripples the London Underground“. For my part, as someone who might be described as being on the left (though not far-left: to my way of thinking, my politics haven’t changed much in the last 15 years, but the centre of the political axis has shifted to the right) I feel a sense of grim satisfaction. Not against those people who have been inconvenienced or delayed by this – although in the grand scheme of things, it is merely an inconvenience. But because by their strike action, the RMT and the TSSA are hitting Johnson, Osborne, Cameron and their cronies in the City where it hurts – in their bank balances.

I have lived in the UK for 15 years, mostly London, and while I appreciate the many good qualities of living in a relatively tolerant, multicultural metropolis, the one thing that has always puzzled and dismayed me is the seeming disinterest in politics. I have often, only half-jokingly, attributed it to the difference between being a “citizen” and a “subject”. A “citizen” actively participates; a “subject”, by semantic connotation, doffs their cap and tugs their forelock at their master. What has been slightly heartening over the last 5 years (if nothing else) is the sudden awareness that politics matter, in every sphere of life. If you’re an artist – actor, singer, visual artist – you will have seen award-winning organisations like Shared Experience lose funding, while other bodies like the globally acclaimed UK Film Council (one of whose last investments made millions and was the Oscar-winning “The King’s Speech”) was one of the first fatalities of the Coalition’s vendetta against “quangos”. You will know that the cuts to the creative industries didn’t arise out a sense of fiscal responsibility – for every pound invested in the creative industries, the HMRC gets £1.50 back – so in that sense they are a better investment than, let’s say, banks, who in 2011 had lost £28 billion of taxpayers’ money. You will also know with a sinking feeling in your heart that we are being governed by a group of over-privileged, over-paid nincompoops whose commitment to outdated ideologies of free-market capitalism and power overrides any not-so-common sense or sensibility.

Why do I think this action will have repercussions beyond the Tube strike itself? Well, if people can wean themselves off the incredible job of brainwashing and manipulating the truth that the right-wing media does, it comes down to this: Boris Johnson made an election promise to not close any ticket offices and these two unions are calling him out on this. For those of you who don’t believe that our politicians should be accountable, fair enough; whinge away about the delays, and fixate on Crow’s holiday, his salary, his supposed intransigence (those who know him say he is a tough, but straight-talking operator). However, he is, unlike many of our politicians, doing what his members pay him to do i.e. to represent their best interests. There are 750 members of LU staff whose jobs are at risk here; not inconsiderable when one considers the workforce is approximately 5,000. There is also the risk to the public – underground stations are already understaffed and at crucial times of the day and evening it could leave people vulnerable. Boris has “promised” that there will be no staff cuts; but if his broken “promise” which has been at the crux of the strike is anything to go by, it isn’t worth the oxygen that was wasted in the making of it.

Imagine if the same cuts were administered to Westminster, or indeed to the Tory party; a loss of 15% of their MPs. Oh the outrage! Oh the wringing of hands! Oh the talk about workers’ rights there would be then! But of course, that hasn’t happened: they instead have “reluctantly” accepted that they “have” to have an 11% pay rise for their paltry 140 days in the Commons (that’s 28 weeks a year – down from 304 in 2006). This is why I personally am glad that these unions are striking, and I wish that every union had leaders as committed to their members. In the last 4 years, we have seen attacks on the public sector; an attempt at garrotting the NHS and the idea of free healthcare for all; vilification of teachers by a man who is the epitome of the inept ideologue with more ideas based on fiction than on fact; a sneering contempt for those most vulnerable in society through the murderous and insane bedroom tax (a descendant of the equally vile and contested window tax of the 17th century); the criminalisation of homeless people in key Tory councils, 30% of whom are former army personnel (ironic in the year that Cameron has poured in £55m into what promises to be a jingoistic insult to the fallen who believed they were fighting “the war to end all wars”);  the over-emphasis on pursuing benefit fraud and the under-emphasis on pursuing tax avoidance and in bank regulation.

The type of politics that has been practised over the last four years is that of the smoke-and-mirrors variety; divert the public’s attention to one over-inflated issue/persona while deflecting from what the core truth of the matter actually is. In this immediate case it is that 750 workers livelihoods are at stake; that the public is being put at risk by the redundancies that will inevitably come on the back of Boris’ broken promises; and that the unions are holding him accountable for reneging on those election promises. In the future, the success or failure of these two unions in this instance will highlight whether the electorate in the UK, but we in London in particular, have been brainwashed by right-wing vitriol, or whether we will, despite long journeys, despite the inconvenience over the next few days, stand politically and intellectually, shoulder to shoulder with the unions and their members. In the end, all unions, whether it is BECTU, Unite, Unison, Equity, the TUC, TSSA or indeed the RMT are there to remind the politicians: You work for us.