Monday, 13 October 2014

Ebola travel ban: Imagine it's your friend or relative

Here is an interesting photo from Facebook. At first glance it makes sense that Ebola should not be helped to spread around the world. Let's think about it a bit more. Closing borders for any reason means border checks. We can't check for Ebola in other countries so the checks have to be done here and then we have to make sure it isn't cholera or malaria or lots of other diseases.

We have to be prepared to fly patients back to where they came from so we would have to protect the airplane staff. We have seen the extensive personal protective equipment that is needed for this and it would make for a strange extra flight because I wouldn't book a seat on that one.

Then we have to turn away British subjects returning with the disease. Where do they go? Back to where they came in order to die? Imagine that is your friend or relative. Do you still want to share this photo?

Disease doesn't stop at national borders. Do we stop flights from particular areas? What about the possibility that a sick person has taken two flights to get to Britain. Do we want to stop all border movement?

My first thought was that if my relative was coming back to the country and was ill then I want them to receive care. This photo tells us to let them die. It's not a nice photo and it's not nice to share.

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Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Selling Out The Staff

I had a conversation today with someone whose relation works in the courts. She was given a 12-month contract and then had to apply for her job again and she was successful, if that is the right word. She received another contract for three months with £100 less pay per month. Her new employer was an agency, so the courts were paying more for the same person who had to be re-employed. I believe it when I am told that all the other staff tell her she is doing a good job and want her on a permanent contract and she couldn't have a mortgage on this contract even if the government built thousands of 'affordable' housing.

Competitive tendering in the NHS means keeping the internal markets efficient and effective, or so they tell us. I know someone who was a manager in the laundry. He was doing his job efficiently and effectively but another company tendered for this role and won. He lost his job and left the NHS. He lost it because time and motion people had come in from outside companies and laid down the plans to give employees worse terms and conditions and to offer a cheaper service - I use the term cheaper in the financial and the quality sense.

I have worked in the NHS when governments of different colours, including red were selling it off. I use the phrase 'selling it off' because this is what Labour banners now tell us they don't want. It is hard to believe them. We do want an efficient and effective service. We don't want chopping and changing for the sake of worsening terms and conditions, for that is what it amounts to. Mostly, we don't want to see an apathetic workforce caused by political whim. 

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Thursday, 2 October 2014

Who Is This We Exactly?

Yesterday's party political broadcast by the Conservative Party reminds us of the 13 years of Labour government and how it felt to see businesses close and (other) people lose their jobs. Britain was down, but "we rolled up our sleeves" and we are making progress again. 1.8 million more people are in work after four years of coalition, and "providing for their families". The trouble is that many people will still relate to businesses closing. Many are still out of work. The unemployment rate  was 7.8% at the last general election and 6.5% now. Sounds great but not if you are part of the 6.5%, and what about the manipulations of the figures like zero-hours contracts?

The broadcast has the audacity to suggest (sorry that should be tell us) that "our children can grow up without mountains of debt". When I grew up I went to university and I received a grant and no debt. Now almost half of our children go to university and end up with a mountain of debt.

Vote Conservative and hard-working families will be rewarded. David Cameron tells us that our "debts will be paid down" whatever that means. I won't say he has confused the deficit and debt (again), but we really have to get rid of the deficit before we can even think about debt. I would have thought that he should have learned his lesson.

It is quite clear where this broadcast is directed. It is for the 'hard workers'. It is for those in employment. It is for families that are still together. What about those who work hard but don't get paid for it? What about the unemployed? What about those from broken families? Well  I suppose David has given up on their vote so why bother asking?

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Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Blackpool Airport, a Gold Mine?

It is sad to read that Blackpool Airport may be closing if no buyer is found. I have worked within a stone's throw of the airport and I have met many people who used it. It is twenty years since I worked there but I think I was told that parking was free. This would have been a big bonus to flying from Blackpool but the main benefit to those who use it is that it saves them a drive to Manchester, Liverpool, or further afield.

It is a lovely location by the Irish Sea and between Blackpool and Lytham St Annes and with those two towns either side there must be a good chance that developers could move in and build houses. We need houses and there can be few complaints as there is a good road in and out. It has to be a good road as it caters for the holiday traffic. In my humble opinion this large site is ripe for development.

So who owns the airport? I was a little surprised to find that 95% of it was owned by Balfour Beatty and the other 5% by Blackpool Council. This is great news. Balfour Beatty, only need the council's permission and they are sitting on a gold mine. The council is also likely to pass the land for building because of all the extra revenue when the houses are built, and of course they have a vested interest in the 5% stake. That's lucky for both the owners.

It's also nice to read that  Blackpool council and Balfour Beatty have had a good working relationship over the past 14 years. Wait a minute. Isn't the council supposed to have no bias when it comes to planning? Are we less likely to hear any concerns about any future development in which the council has a vested interest?

When I was working in Blackpool there were houses on East Park Drive near Stanley Park which were not fit to live in. These houses were new. I seem to remember the council and the builders were strongly criticised and I also vaguely remember an out-of-court settlement. Does anyone remember these houses as I have spent twenty minutes searching and can't find a thing? I remember that it did make Look North West and the Sunday Politics but it could well have been in the days before everything was written into the internet.

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Thursday, 25 September 2014

Compelling Arguments For Military Action?

If I had to vote on whether we take part in air strikes against ISIL in Iraq then at the moment I would definitely abstain. It is a decision that cannot be taken lightly so there have to be compelling arguments. Let's look at those arguments.

Firstly the attacks would be legal because the government has asked for them. I'm not sure about the justification of what make this legal because if Saddam Hussein had asked for air strikes against the Kurds then would this have been legal? The answer is clearly no. There is a lot more information that I need before I change my mind about abstaining.

Secondly this is a very big coalition. If the whole class shouts "fight" does it make it alright to fight.

Thirdly there will be no British combat forces on the ground, not now and not in the future. Does this mean that there are never any convincing arguments to use troops? What about all the compelling arguments that politicians have used in the recent past? What about all the compelling arguments put forward in the recent past by our military leaders? And they should know.

Fourthly this decision is good because it has to be voted on in the House of Commons. The trouble is that I remember the vote when we went to war in Iraq. That was the House of Commons too, and wait a minute, David Cameron is telling us that the decision has already been made.

Will this decision to take part in air strikes make the world a safer place? Well it didn't make it a safer place for one French tourist,  HervĂ© Gourdel in Algeria. He was beheaded because of French military intervention against ISIS.

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Monday, 22 September 2014

Ed Balls - not quite affordable and fair

In his speech today at the Labour Party conference Ed Balls told us he wants pay settlements that are affordable and fair. "Private and public sector workers should all share in rising prosperity. So Labour will not undermine fairness and the independent review bodies by rejecting their advice out of hand". Good point well made Ed. Unfortunately I did hear you, a few minutes earlier, talking about  ministerial pay rises. If you win the election the pay for every government minister will be cut by 5% and ministerial pay will be frozen each year until they have balanced the nation's books.

This makes me think two things. Firstly that you have undermined fairness for the sake of applause at conference. You see, for the working man (and woman) government ministers earn unimaginable amount and a freeze for a few years (because surely you can't guarantee fiscal restraint for longer than a government's term in office) is not that important. Sure - it's a nice sign but that's all it is. And if we are to take this sign seriously then Labour is saying that you should not earn the right wage as a politician. Following this logic then you are stopping many entering politics. That's probably the case anyway but shouldn't we be concerned about equality and diversity and getting people from underprivileged backgrounds into politics. Secondly, we have an Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) to review pay. Would it save a lot of money if and should Labour be saying that they would scrap IPSA? Surely not, as then we would be back to MPs giving themselves rises.

It makes me think that MPs can afford wage cuts and Labour MPs would do this to win votes. This may then lead to a Dutch auction to see who can take the least pay in order to win votes. If IPSA say a pay rise is fair then accept it. Don't try to win votes by telling us you will take a pay cut. That road leads to MPs who are only from a certain background. So those with plenty of money like Nigel Farage will be the model for future candidates.

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Poor to be hit hardest by Labour

It was good to see one head shaking in the audience for Ed Balls' speech at the Labour Party Conference today. Here's the background. Ed wants to see child benefit rising again in line with inflation but he won't spend money that he can't afford. So if Labour get back to power they will cap the rise in child benefit to 1% which will save £400,000,000. Sounds like a lot but that's when I saw the one incredulous female face. You see large figures do sound large but this delegate was thinking that she relies on her child benefit to keep her head above water and related to inflation she sees it is now going to be cut. She is thinking how can she manage.

The good news, in the next breath Ed told us that all the savings will go towards cutting the deficit, but this lady's expression didn't change. In fact the person next to her also pulled a face as if to say that the deficit  was one thing but her child benefit was another. Ed went on to reassure us that "unlike the Tories, we will ask those who have the most to make the bigger contribution". Hang on Ed, I thought you were talking about a benefit not a tax. You know, it's a bit like calling the bedroom tax a tax when it's a subsidy. (just in case you are wondering about my view on the spare room subsidy, there is nothing wrong with the idea of getting the right-sized families into the right-sized homes. It's implementation has not been good but moves by Liberal Democrat Andrew George should sort this out.

Ed goes on to talk about the 50p tax cut and makes a complicated issue very simple. A Labour government will reverse this tax cut. However, I am confused (and so are two members of the audience). If Labour propose to reduce child benefit (which is the effect of a 1% rise if inflation is higher than 1%) then a something and nothing reduction for the rich will certainly be hurting the poor. So Ed is not asking "those who have the most to make the bigger contribution". He is asking them to take the biggest hit.

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