Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Corbyn's "Corruption"

This a photo of me and Andy Burnham in one of our lighter moments when he came to meet me at my Ju Jitsu club. I love it because despite us knocking lumps out of each other in the local press he is a good friend and when we see each privately the conversation is usually .... always about football, not politics. People with different political persuasions working together often get the best results. I was really pleased that Andy gave huge credit to Theresa May for her working in constructive collaboration to get justice for the victims of Hillsborough. It reminded me of a moment just recently in a House of Commons debate about the National Living wage where Labour MP, Siobhan McDonagh, spoke passionately about the lengths some employers are going to in order to circumvent to spirit of the living wage. As if in private conversation in the House of Commons tea room Anna Soubry intervened and said;

"As the Minister responsible for retail, I undertake to take this up directly with B&Q. ..... because I think that between us we could do something about it?"

It was a magic moment. The intention of the living wage was to give Britain a pay rise and the attempts of an employer to get round giving this statutory pay rise was caught in this Parliamentary pincer movement and B&Q will now compensate anyone who loses out for two years, doubling their previous offer. A brilliant result for Parliamentary democracy.

It really saddened me to see Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn undo all this party unity on getting the best from the National Living Wage in a single moment of political opportunism at Prime Minster's Questions today (11th May 2016). Not only did he undermine the very clear fact that workers will be getting a massive increase in their hourly rates he used the most derogatory term in doing so. He called the National Living Wage "A corruption of the very idea". Jeremy Corbyn's recent opposition to the National Living Wage is inexplicable but it is clearly not corruption to properly reward the hard workers who have made our economy grow, it is not corruption to make sure hard work pays, it's not corruption to see that employers properly pay their most prized asset, their workers.

As the Rt Hon Rob Halfon MP, President of the Conservative Trade Unionists and Deputy Conservative Party Chairman, pointed out in his response (  the National Living Wage will benefit 2.9 million people and mean that by 2020 workers on the National Living Wage will be £4,400/yr better off. Any attempt by any employer to undermine that has Parliament to deal with as B&Q discovered, if only Jeremy Corbyn would stop undermining it by using derogatory terms like "corruption".

My advice to Jeremy is to leave the politicking on the hustings and let his back benchers get on with the job of reasonable and constructive debate.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Corbyn, Why So Hostile to the Workers' Party?

Prime Minister's Questions 26th March 2016, Jeremy Corbyn showed his true stereotype and my blood boiled. On welfare reform he retorted at how disabled people would have been worried about changes to benefits and followed up saying;

"those members opposite wouldn't have any idea what it is like to have to balance a budget at home when you don't have any money coming in, the rent is going up and your children need clothes"

I have news for Corbyn. I'm a Conservative because I know what it is like to have to balance a budget with no money coming in, the rent going up and the children needed clothes.I needed, and got, welfare. I was forced from my rented house as I could no longer afford the rent and had to get emergency housing as I was homeless with a family. I found work as a farm labourer, it wasn't much but it paid. I got back on my feet, the welfare was no longer needed, I bought my own house. This is not a rare story and if Corbyn could countenance having a conversation with any number of Conservatives and he will find my story and background are quite typical.

What really makes my blood boil is that my background as a Conservative could not be more different from his as a Socialist. I had no private education, unlike Corbyn, my family had to graft and graft and often didn't make ends meet unlike Corbyn and I really do know what it's like to live in poverty unlike Corbyn. Also unlike Corbyn I know that what really terrifies is a plunging economy, seeing the news day after day reporting jobs being lost, unemployment rising and taxes increasing. A crashed economy can never help those who need support and Labour always, ALWAYS, crashes the economy and, as a person who has experienced real poverty this is the most terrifying.

I don't begrudge his privately funded primary education or the fact that he has no experience of being in genuine need. As a Conservative I want everyone to have a shot at the same opportunities, but I do object to his pretense that he has the monopoly of comprehension of what it's like to be in need. Just because he has advisers, has spoken to constituents and attends rallies he seems to adopt an evangelical understanding of the desperation of which I have first hand experience.

I put this to you Jeremy Corbyn, instead of pointing the stereotyping finger at the members opposite, do you have any idea what it is like to have to balance a budget at home when you don't have any money coming in, the rent is going up and your children need clothes.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

NHS Treatment Delayed is NHS Treatment Denied

So the Junior Doctors have had their 'strike' with a threat of more to come. Not all doctors were on strike as emergency cover was maintained. In other words the Junior doctors, under the direction of the BMA, decided that to press their argument home they were to impose on the patient weekend conditions on a weekday. Throughout the day there have been conflicting versions from striking doctors as to why they are on strike. One version complains that they will 'effectively get a pay cut' with the new contract, another complains that they will no longer get higher pay for unsociable hours. Most follow what is the quasi-official line of the BMA that this is all about patient safety. This is where the argument completely unravels. Study after study shows that discharge rates at weekends reduces massively (my personal favourite study is from the 2003 paper from the Emergency Medical Journal Reducing delayed discharges is not only crucial to the welfare of the individual patient but also to the patients waiting for admission and patients waiting to be seen in A&E only to be delayed by, you've guessed it, a delayed discharge elsewhere in the hospital. It is no coincidence that A&E sees its highest backlogs on Mondays when doctors resume non-emergency work and go about releasing patients who could otherwise have been set free to go home 24, 48 or sometimes 72 hours earlier. While the frantic bed unblocking goes on there are patients being denied the care and treatment they need. In my own personal experience I have been told to come to hospital on a Sunday to collect a patient who was discharged only to wait for over 4 hours while nurses frantically searched for a doctor to sign a prescription. A consultant was found who was worked off his feet. If junior doctors were on shift his job would have been less exhausting, my friend would have been discharged a great deal earlier and the bed would have been free, for example, to an A&E patient. Ironically it is in A&E where a junior doctor may well be working at the weekend and frustrated with weekend bed blocking due to lack of junior doctors on the wards. This account is repeated in the BMA's own publication "Hospital Discharge: The Patient, Carer and Doctor perspective" where patient "Julie" spoke of hours of delay due to not being able to find anyone to sign the paperwork. In this same publication a former chair of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee says of delayed discharges "When done poorly patient care can suffer, with distressing consequences for the patient and their family. Jeremy Hunt has called on Junior doctors to follow nurses, technicians, caterers, engineers and all the other people that make the NHS tick to work a regular weekend shift to nail the problem of delayed discharges. They've been persuaded by the BMA not to answer that call and go for the emotive argument of patient safety. The actions of the highly qualified, dedicated but poorly led junior doctors have not only continued to leave patients at greater risk at weekends but have decided to exacerbate this by recreating these conditions as a form of industrial action.

Failure to make adequate and timely arrangements to discharge patients has been a blight on the NHS for too long. It creates bottle-necks that often disrupt entire hospitals and adds to the stress suffered by patients, who find themselves stuck in hospital. If patients are not discharged, new patients, who require medical attention, cannot be admitted. Delayed discharge will only be eliminated for good when the NHS is adequately resourced and capacity meets demand.

I have to be honest, that last paragraph is not from my own hand so I must give it the necessary credit. My thanks to the BMA.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

U Turn If You Want To, Labour IS for Turning

U turn if you want to, the Lady's not for turning. This was Margaret Thatcher's response to appeals from all sides to U turn on economic policy. She didn't, she pushed on with painful but necessary economic reforms and she got Britain back into shape stronger than ever. Ironic that today, on what would have been her 90th birthday, the new Labour leadership has done exactly the opposite. A matter of days ago Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell was saying that he supported the Osborne charter of running a budget surplus in normal times. Today all that changed with Labour's U turn, they will no longer support George Osborne's charter. More accurately Labour leadership won't support it. Labour MPs took to Social media to openly criticise their party leader's stance, Shadow Cabinet member retaliated by giggling down the Radio 4 microphone and the leader himself cold stone silent. When they were last in Government Labour were openly, repeatedly and rightly criticised for not making the most of economic growth by putting money aside for economic downturns. Gordon Brown convinced by his own rhetoric that he had abolished boom and bust went further and sold billions of pounds worth of gold reserves at rock bottom prices. George Osborne's charter aims to correct that. No matter how convinced a future chancellor might be that the good times will never end the law will require them to run a surplus budget. If this had been the case in 2008 the Great Recession would not have been anywhere near as great.

Tonight Labour are ending this email to their members

"In less than 24 hours there will be a vote in Parliament on George Osborne’s “Charter” of cuts.
Make sure your friends and family know what Osborne is up to and why Labour is voting against it."

Labour is telling it's members that it will be voting against repairing the roof while the sun is shining. Have they not learned anything?

Monday, 10 August 2015

Corbyn Won't Run the Country But He Can Still Ruin It

I’ve seen a few times in social media that a win for Jeremy Corbyn would be of no consequence politically as he’ll never be Prime Minister. I agree to a point that Corbyn as Labour leader would render the Labour Party unelectable to National Government but there’s the rub, unelectable to National Government.
Jeremy Corbyn’s nomination is already having a marked and lasting effect on the Labour leadership campaign. Take Andy Burnham, seen as the front runner at the beginning of the campaign. He was the Labour Secretary of State who championed private sector provision in the NHS, recently admitted the Mansion Tax policy was wrong and oversaw a reduction in public spending when, as Chief Secretary to Treasury, he was responsible for the 2007 comprehensive spending review. There is no doubting his centre left credentials but he’s no Jeremy Corbyn … until now. The whole leadership contest has lurched to the left. Andy Burnham has now reversed his decision on the Welfare Bill and will oppose it, will oppose military action against IS and beats the rail nationalisation drum so loud you’d think he’d replaced the drummer in his favourite band, The Courteeners. With the notable exception of Liz Kendall who to her credit has been consistent throughout, whoever wins the leadership battle will be voted in on a mandate that has lurched to the left. If, as the polls suggest, Jeremy Corbyn wins then this is not good news for the country. Those of a certain age will have first-hand memories of the chaos caused by hard left councils. The hard left’s ability to politicise everything they touch was first evident with the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) in 1983 after Ken Livingston took over the Greater London Council. Originally a force for good Ken Livingston replaced the incumbent moderate Labour leader of ILEA with a left wing Union activist and it became a tool for the left to politicise education. Costs, all borne by the London tax payer, spiralled out of control.  Political in-fighting at ILEA marred its last years of existence until, unfit for purpose, it was scrapped. At the height of Conservative power, with landslide majorities David Cameron can only dream about, Militant Labour activists were running Councils. They spent money so profligately that local residents were being forced to pay higher and higher council tax (or domestic rates as it was). Forced to set a fair budget through Central Government enforced rate capping the most militant councils made redundancies, cut services and the local people suffered. The most militant of all, Liverpool City Council, refused to set a legal budget until the very last moment and as a result of their protest were rewarded with £20million of extra public funding. This was against a backdrop of a Labour Leader who did not support them and eventually expelled them from the party. In a Corbyn led Labour party militant led councils will have the leader’s wholehearted support. Measures in parliament to curb the excesses of militant local government will not be as easy to pass with David Cameron’s wafer thin majority. With her commanding majority in the Westminster even Margaret Thatcher struggled. Militant activists who have been swarming back to the Labour party will eventually get into positions of influence on local councils. Even Militant-in-Chief and 1980’s Liverpool Deputy Leader, Derek Hatton, re-joined the Labour Party only days after the General Election to “have a say in the way the party is going”.  This time he and his militant comrades would not be expelled and instead would be actively encouraged by their firebrand leader. While Government complains and the hard left revel in their new found influence it is the normal hardworking people who have the misfortune to live in a militant dominated council that will suffer. This is more relevant now than ever before. I live in Andy Burnham's constituency in Greater Manchester and with George Osborne's Northern Powerhouse going full steam ahead Devo-Manc will soon give control of transport, education, planning and even the NHS to a directly elected mayor. In this Labour dominated County a Corbyn led Labour party could well give us a a hard left leader. We will suffer both in the pocket and in life choices. A hard left council will never support Free Schools, will put every obstacle in their way and strangle them at birth. A hard left council will never support private sector involvement in care for the most vulnerable, stifling expertise and experience so badly needed in local services. A hard left council will never support entrepreneurial young businesses stunting growth and employment prospects for thousands. Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t have to become Prime Minster to be devastating to the UK so I will not be one of those voting for him to become leader, I’ll play no part in anything that can doom so many to a life of left wing self-destruction.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Why Labour Needs Jeremy

This is Cheddar cheese. Not the cheddar cheese you find in supermarkets around the world. This is real cheddar made in the village of Cheddar matured in a cave in Cheddar Gorge. In other words the rare and genuine article. Compare this to what has been happening to the Labour party over the past couple of decades. Unable to out gun the Conservatives on their own agenda at the 1992 General Election they took on Conservative values and policies. By promising to stick to Conservative spending plans and ditching their commitment to state ownership of industry and after junking raft of other socialist policies they also ditched their principles. By becoming quasi-conservative they attracted voters but  alienated en masse their own party members. In other words they became a metaphorical mass produced cheddar. It worked for a while until the party couldn't remain in denial any longer and returned to their socialist roots with the election of Ed Miliband as their leader. Labour's problem with Ed Miliband wasn't his politics, he was just a very poor leader. He lacked direction, chose the wrong people to run his campaign, made too many false assumptions about the electorate and relied too much on presenting a public image rather than his true self. He must have desperately wanted to be genuine Cheddar but weak in the face of advisers and PR guru's he presented as a poor cheesy copy. Jeremy Corbyn offers the Labour movement the genuine article and he presents his politics honestly, without compromise and true to the party's roots and values. Don't get me wrong I detest pretty much everything Jeremy Corbyn stands for and as Prime Minister would be a disaster for this country. If he is leader in 2020 I would fight with tooth and claw to make sure he never gets hold of the reigns of power. But I do admire him for sticking to his principles, however misguided, and not pretending to be something he isn't. If Labour is to rebuild they need to get back to principles and fight for what they believe in and not what makes them popular.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Coalfield Challenge

There is a myth that some areas are out of bounds to Conservative campaigners. A council estate is assumed to be a Labour stronghold and a leafy suburb assumed to be Conservative. While this is the stereotype it doesn't have to be true.  In ConservativeHome today Mark Wallace hit a nail so squarely on the head it hammered home in a single blow. Go back to the Coalfields. I live in Leigh which was home to two large collieries until 1992 and there were more, lots more, in the outlying areas. I've campaigned in Leigh for the Conservative Party for years (more about that later) and one thing that gets repeated time and time again on the doorstep is how Thatcher closed all the mines. The truth is that there were two mines at the beginning of Margaret Thatcher's tenure and there were still two at the end of it. The picture is of me at Astley Colliery near Leigh. Even here while out canvassing an angry resident yelled at full volume about the 1000's of miners who worked there until Thatcher closed it. The truth, the mine closed in 1970 on the orders of Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. This is an uncomfortable truth for many in Leigh where, to some, voting Labour is part of the DNA but this is no reason to concede defeat. At its lowest point the local vote in the heart of Leigh barely got into double figures. After just a few years of targeted campaigning this has risen to almost 35%. In neighbouring wards the success of hard campaigning is clearer where Conservatives have been successfully elected. The lesson is, it can be done. Mark Wallace's analysis is correct but I've found it takes a special kind of Get Out The Vote in the coalfields. In communities like Leigh it isn't enough to have a campaign of voter ID, GOTV and knock up. There is an added dimension of overcoming the WSIBTAW (Why Should I Bother They Always Win).  There are more Conservatives in these areas than you might imagine but you really have to earn their vote. This cohort has a tipping point which, if past, brings the votes in. This is evident in areas just outside Leigh where the tipping point has been tipped but Leigh's core still has someway to go, but it can be reached.