The Queen’s Speech. Running out of steam before they’ve even started. 

So the Government’s legislative plans for the coming two-year parliamentary session have been announced. The Queen’s Speech outlined 27 bills, of which 8 relate to Brexit. Of course, without an overall majority, it remains to be seen whether the Tories will stay the course.

As for the overall tone of the Queen’s speech, this what Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party said:

“This hollowed out Government has produced a stunningly unambitious Queen’s speech at a time when Britain desperately needs a change of direction. Failing to propose any meaningful plans to tackle climate change is a near-criminal act of political vandalism, and refusing to give our hard pressed NHS workers the pay rise they deserve reveals a Government utterly out of touch. The proposed immigration clampdown sees an increasingly hardline Government doubling down on plans they know will wreck our economy.

“Though climate-deniers in the DUP might be celebrating this Queen’s Speech, it simply isn’t a serious programme of Government. This speech should have included an Environmental Protection Act and a guarantee for EU Nationals that their rights would be protected, but these basic Brexit laws were nowhere to be seen.

“While some proposals in the Queen’s speech deserve praise – in particular plans to help people suffering from mental health problems – the overall picture is one of a Government which has run out of steam, and a Prime Minister who has lost authority.”

For most people, the Government’s programme will be judged by its impact on themselves their communities. On this theme, here is what Neil Cleeveley, Chief Executive of NAVCA had to say about the Queen’s Speech:

“Many in the local voluntary sector will be concerned about what is missing from the Queen’s speech rather than what’s in it. As a society we have major issues to address around inequality and community cohesion. We also face an unprecedented squeeze on the services that local communities rely on such as health and education. Many of our public services are at breaking point and it is local charities that are rooted in local communities to which people turn. There is nothing in this Queen’s speech for them, it is a wasted the opportunity to confront the real issues facing communities across the country.”

“Many warned that Brexit would all consuming for the Government, and so it is proving. It appears the interests local charities and the people and local communities they serve are being pushed into the background.”

On polling day, our democracy will fail spectacularly…

It really doesn’t matter what you think of Corbyn or May. All the manifestos, the (non) debates, the spin, vox pops and soundbites – all will have absolutely no effect. For in some two-thirds of constituencies the result is already known. Indeed, on the morning of 9 June, the returning officer will declare a Conservative as my own member of Parliament. I know this because for the last 67 years my constituency has always been Conservative regardless of who has the keys to number ten. Unless I vote Tory (and I most definitely will not), my vote will not matter.

Sadly, forgone conclusions like this make a mockery of our democracy. Unless you live in a marginal constituency, then you will have no influence on who forms our next government. But it’s even worse than that, for under our first past the post voting system, most of us will end up with a government that we didn’t want (no party since at least 1945 has ever won more than 50% of the popular vote).

Put another way, a relatively small number of swing voters, in a minority of parliamentary constituencies, will ensure 100% of the power goes to a party that is supported by less than half of those who voted. The winner will take it all; and democracy will have failed spectacularly.

Note: For information on proportional representation, please see Make Votes Matter and the Electoral Reform Society

We should all become political; and social media must be our platform

A great article, re-blogged from Green Pepper…

 

Green Pepper Consulting

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The general election campaign opened with Theresa May heading for a greatly increased majority in the Commons. Two weeks in, and nothing much has changed. So unless the unexpected happens, we must prepare for five more Tory years.

For civil society, the prospect of continued austerity, and a hard Brexit, is unlikely to receive a gracious welcome.

But as polling day approaches, I doubt that the many serious problems facing us will receive much coverage. There will be little mention of charity, social value, cooperation or collective action. Nor will we see, for example, policy debates on disability, civil liberties or employment rights; while issues like rough sleeping, social care and the environment will not receive the attention they deserve. No, sadly the election will be decided by headlines; and the respective personalities of the party leaders. It will mean surely, an abundance of soundbites and vox-pops from a seemingly…

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And so it begins…the alarming prospect of five more Tory years

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And so it begins…The general election campaign kicks-off officially today with when the current parliament is dissolved. As it currently stands, we face the alarming prospect of five more Tory years taking us towards a hard Brexit, with continued austerity, and the underfunding of our public services.

Calling the election has been a cynical, and well-calculated step by Theresa May. She knows things will get ugly as Brexit day approaches. I predict that she will not have secured a good deal (if any deal at all), the pound will fall further, inflation will be rising, and international companies will begin pulling out of London and elsewhere.

But she knows she has a massive lead in the polls, due in part to the continued in-fighting within Labour ranks; and a media, including it seems our BBC, that presents the Tories in a favourable light . Not only that but she will also avoid the embarrassment of a potential 20 or more by-elections if  Tory MPs are prosecuted for alleged election fraud.

And if this wasn’t cynical enough, Theresa May is refusing to debate anything on TV with the leaders of other parties. Instead she will settle for soundbites, and pro-tory articles in right-wing newspapers. Public accountability it seems, is not her thing.

Sadly, this unwillingness to engage in democratic debate will end up being to her massive advantage. She has everything to lose from debate, and nothing to gain. Indeed, in our flawed first-past-the-post democracy she will, unless there is some real shift in opinion, likely win well over half of the seats in the new parliament, with much less than 50% of the vote. What’s more, she will claim a mandate to pursue her hard Brexit with far fewer total votes than the number who voted “leave” in the referendum. Meanwhile, the majority of us – the ones who didn’t vote Tory – will have five more years to endure.

 

 

 

 

Sorry for my absence. I’ve been in the care of our fantastic NHS

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Yes, the considerable gap in posting anything on this blog has been enforced in part by a long-standing health issue. It led to four operations last year, and another just a few weeks ago. A cycle of – operation – pain – recovery – low mood – operation again – has been my life for quite some time.

The thing is though, without our NHS I don’t know how I’d have managed. Indeed, I could never have afforded private care as the health insurance premiums would have been through the roof. After all, who would insure someone who was always needing hospital care?

So what about the care I received on the NHS? From my local GP practice, through to the operating theatre, via consultant, ward, pre-assessment, blood tests and more, it was nothing short of excellent. The only thing I never truly grasped, was why there was such a complicated system to dispense Tramadol upon my discharge from hospital.

What did become very apparent, was the dedication of all the staff in spite of the visible pressure. Frankly, there didn’t seem to be enough nurses or medical staff on the wards; and on one occasion I spent four hours in the recovery room because there was nowhere else for me to go.

The impact of funding cuts, and the lack of beds is clearly a serious issue. But it certainly isn’t going to be solved by more so-called efficiency savings and yet more private sector involvement in the NHS. From what I saw the staff were already working flat out, and only additional resources (and I include in that resources for more effective social care) will make a difference. Something tells me though that the Chancellor is not going to be very helpful come the spring budget.

As for me, well hopefully my medical problems are behind me. My biggest fear however, especially as the Tories seem to have consolidated their likelihood of staying in power, is that by the time my grandchildren are all grown up, our health service may be all but gone.

 

 

Leading Tories target NHS for sell-off after Brexit

Pride's Purge

Uh-oh!

Here’s a recent article on the Conservative Home website by former cabinet minister and leading Brexit campaigner Owen Paterson calling for an end to the NHS:

It’s time for the Government to face up to the grim truth. The NHS simply isn’t fit for purpose.

Not surprising, as before the Brexit referendum leading Brexiters had already made clear their desire to sell off the NHS to privately owned corporations.

But now after the referendum result, senior Brexit supporters in the Tory Party are openly calling for the end of the NHS.

Incidentally, Paterson is in the pay of a private healthcare company called Randox Laboratories, which is paying him £4,166 a month for 8 hours work:

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Be afraid.

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Under first past the post, it is swing voters in marginal seats that shape policy

In the referendum aftermath, we seem a more divided, more intolerant country.

Worse, we have seen Brexit legitimising and empowering anti-immigrant views, leading to a massive jump in hate crime across the country. We face an uncertain future, with more demons being unleashed once Brexit has failed to deliver a new era of well funded public services.

Yet just when a clear political response on the way forwards is needed, we learn that neither side in the referendum had any meaningful plan for a Leave win. Cameron, who history will blame for calling this referendum, has neatly passed the Brexit buck to whichever hard right Tory succeeds him. Meanwhile, the victorious Boris, out-manoeuvred by his supposed ally Michael Gove, has quit the Tory leadership race altogether.

So a golden opportunity for Labour you might think. But just when the Tories are at their most divided, so most of the PLP turn on their leader in what seems like a well-organised coup. Scared of their electoral chances, they believe that a principled socialist and experienced politician is not what a democratic socialist party needs for a leader.

But surely a successful coup outcome is unlikely. The Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) must recognise the support Corbyn has within the party membership; and if he wins another leadership contest – then what? That said, the tone of the dispute between Corbyn supporters and the MPs is turning nasty. I don’t agree with what the PLP are doing, but using Twitter to describe these MPs as vermin, scabs and traitors is not helping.

Perhaps the real problem for Labour, is that to win, they have to appeal to a smallish number of swing voters in some 145 constituencies. So the problems facing this country, as well as the democratic wishes of the Labour Party membership, come second to the interests of this small group of voters in marginal constituencies.

And this of course is a symptom of our out-dated and undemocratic first-past-the-post electoral system. If the only votes that matter are those from a small part of the electorate, then it is their interests that will shape policy. This, I believe, is why Labour will always revert to centrist policies in order to appear electable.

Of course in the referendum every vote counted. And while some people are looking at a possible legal challenge on whether or not the outcome is binding, it would be a brave parliament that ignored the wishes of the people. Indeed, only a general election, or another referendum on the actual terms of Brexit could morally overturn the result. Either way it will probably need a change of government to bring this about.

But with an electoral system against us, the odds of a don’t look promising. Caroline Lucas has advocated some type of progressive alliance to topple the Tories, something the Green Party leadership is now promoting. It could work but would take some organising. But getting a squabbling Labour party to agree is always going to be a tall order.