Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Partisan thinking does not lead to peace

The Arab Spring began in late 2010 when violent and non-violent protest arose in many Arabic countries in the Middle East and North Africa.  We have seen many disturbing acts on our television screens but who can forget those scenes in Libya when Colonel Gaddafi was executed or the violence in Egypt?

I am sure we all have our own particular distressing scenes that we remember but let’s take Syria where the civil war began as a protest against the government which was followed by violent crackdowns, and then protest became armed rebellion and war. Hezbollah gave support to the Syrian army. ISIS, a jihadist militant group are fighting the army. Russia supports the government, while the USA supports the rebels. Our ‘special’ relationship must mean that our government sees the Syrian establishment as bad and the rebels as good.

The trouble with this sort of partisan thinking is that it does not lead to peace. There are opposing sides in any conflict but now take Gaza. Here there is propaganda on both sides, and there are good and bad people on both sides. Anyone who takes the side wholly of the Palestinians or wholly of Israel is not a lover of peace. It may well be that you think that Israel has carried out war crimes and its response is totally disproportionate to attacks from a terrorist organisation. You may think that it is appalling, that Israel has bombed innocent children in their school but unless we all look to negotiate peace settlements and criticise all sides in violent conflict then violence will continue.

Change the world

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Lord Carey gets it wrong

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury is in the news today because he remains a member of the House of Lords and has indicated that he will support the Assisted Dying Bill "in the face of the reality of needless suffering". He has obviously decided that there are clear guidelines between needless and needful suffering. He obviously believes that there is no right and wrong in matters of life and death despite that bit in the Bible about thou shalt not kill, because that is what assisted dying does.

I have also seen a quote from the campaign for dignity in dying, "an assisted dying law would not result in more people dying, but in fewer people suffering". Well the first part of the quote is simply a waste of time because we all know that everyone is going to die. As for the second part, we expect medical science to conquer suffering. Where we are let down is not in the control of terminal pain, but by the suffering that is caused by the malpractice of basic care to those who are vulnerable. If you don't believe me take a look at 'care home abuse' in a search engine.

Dr Carey should know better because if he wants to break one of the ten commandments with his exceptional circumstances then what about the other nine? Can I covet my neighbour's wife if I don't get my tea on time or if the other woman is exceptionally beautiful or talented? Pick your own exceptional circumstance.

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Monday, 7 July 2014

Theatre of the Absurd

I have just returned from a short break in London. I went to the theatre a couple of times, and feeling like a lazy tourist, I went into one of those half-price theatre ticket outlets. Unfortunately they only had the most expensive seats for the performance that I wanted to watch so I didn't book them. Strangely, I went to the theatre box office for the same production and all tickets were available including some that are only sold on the day which are £15 as opposed to the top price of £57. The view to the stage was fine and I had just saved £42 on each ticket!

This made me think about our markets in general. There are times when a third party will make life more convenient for us but they want something in return. When I see 'half-price tickets' I should know that it is the middle man's job to make money. They don't want to sell tickets cheaply as they make more money by selling the most expensive items - and they make a livelihood. It should be cheaper to cut out the middle man. It should be more efficient to deal directly with the producer of the commodity or the provider of the service and it should not make any difference whether it is the NHS or street cleaning, providing transport or anything else you can think of.

The trouble is that we, as consumers, are lazy. We want middle men to make our lives slightly easier. It doesn't make for the most efficient systems  but we need a balance between the public and private sector. Now I will always deal directly with the theatre's box office and maybe this is a good rule of thumb for anyone thinking of contracting out their service. Margaret Thatcher used a divide and rule method of thinking in her policies. What does it matter if there are no council houses as long as she wins the votes of the people who live in those houses? It certainly matters to those who want a council house. What does it matter if I am too lazy to deal with a box office as long as I use my money in a way that is convenient to me? This was Thatcher's strong answer, and the strong reply should be that it matters a lot because we are living in a society in which efficiency doesn't matter. Personal gain overrules the right thing to do - and that isn't right. We may have spare money but that doesn't mean we should spend it recklessly as individuals or as a society.

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Friday, 27 June 2014

UKIP: Not all bad?

Today I heard from a local councillor that there were many (other) councillors who were concerned about the Ukip effect and their main concern was whether they would hold their seats.

This is perhaps the main reason why I became active in politics. It is simply not right that any elected representative can sit back and have no concerns about whether they would hold their seats. Far too many are elected for life, regardless of what they do, so long as they keep in with their party. If this is not an incentive to be lazy then at least it is an incentive to simply keep friends in the local party, and both incentives have little to do with doing the right thing for the electorate.

Maybe I shouldn't be too harsh with Ukip, after all, they might be making ensconced councillors do some work.

Change the world 

Friday, 30 May 2014

Change in the NHS?

The NHS is a common theme in these blogs - well I did work there for 25 years so I know a little bit about it. Common themes run along the lines that members of the public want a good local service, there is pressure to close smaller hospitals and there should be local accountability.

However there is no local accountability and the NHS has been centralised. There seems to  be a certain inevitability about centralisation as technology advances and becomes more expensive, but the whole of the NHS, regardless of its sophistication, has been swept into the tide of centralisation. Minor injuries are often dealt with at centres of excellence. Consultations often take place in hospitals which are miles from the patient's home when all that is needed is a private room. Local hospitals have closed.

Times may have changed in regard to the provision of local NHS services. The BBC reports that the new chief executive, Simon Stevens said that there needed to be new models of care built around smaller local hospitals.There appears to be a welcome shift towards prevention rather than treatment. When there is a need for acute care then centres of excellence may be the place to be, but there are so many health care interactions that take place that do not need these centres.

The appointment of Simon Stevens could provide a much-needed opportunity for change for the better. He has a lot of relevant experience and a good reputation and crosses the political divide, being an adviser to the former Labour government  that the current government is very happy to have acquired. Hopes and expectations are running high. Are those hopes and expectations justified? Well you can see from the links above that he's now saying some of the things that I've been saying in the past, so that's definitely a good sign :-). Maybe it is beyond Simon's scope but let's also hope that local accountability also gets on the NHS agenda.

Change the world.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Reason 9: Making it legal for a man to rape or assault his wife

I have received a comment about last week's blog 'Top reasons for voting UKIP?' which asked about point 9, 'Making it legal for a man to rape or assault his wife'. Here is a brief answer to that comment.

In 2006 UKIP members voted against a resolution titled "combating violence against women", one which "urges member states" ... "to make rape within marriage a criminal offence".

Now UKIP almost always either abstains or votes against absolutely anything and everything which comes up in the European parliament (which is why their claim to "give the UK a voice in Europe" is particularly nonsensical), so it might have made some sense for them to abstain. At least they would have been being consistent in doing so. But they didn't abstain, they voted against. At the time there were 12 UKIP MEPs, and the vote went 545 for and 14 against, so you can see that apart from UKIP there were only 2 MEPs disturbed enough to vote against. To absolutely everyone else UKIP must have been seen as a pariah, and Britain too by extension, because we are disturbed enough to vote these people in.

It could be argued that voting against the criminalisation of something is not the same as voting for that something, so that technically the list of ten reasons is slightly inaccurate, but that is a technicality which I think wouldn't impress many people. What cannot be doubted is that UKIP made a very wrong move, one which showed them up and showed Britain up, and they should be ashamed about it.

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Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Reason 1: Scrapping Paid Maternity Leave

This week the police asked someone to remove a tweet about the ten UKIP policies that I listed in yesterday's blog. I am concerned that the police don't know how tweets work. I am more concerned that they tried to stifle political debate. I am even more concerned that the police acted on a complaint from a UKIP councillor even though there was nothing illegal. The police should have enough to do maintaining law and order. However I save my greatest concern for UKIP policies themselves - and if polls are anything to go by, they will receive votes for these policies in the European elections.

So in this blog I will look at the first policy on the list, scrapping paid maternity leave. This link doesn't just tell us that UKIP would abolish statutory maternity leave, it is also a useful link for anyone wanting to read abour UKIP's other policies. They would make a good comedy sketch except this isn't a comedy. Here is another link to a web page entitled 'support maternity leave'.

I have linked to this piece in the Guardian previously as it is a good expose of the rubbish that was the UKIP manifesto in 2010. If you are a UKIP supporter and want to criticise me for being vague in my criticism then I would ask you to read the article and be aware that Nigel Farage thinks it is rubbish too. Is your faith in UKIP's policies now not shaken to the core? How can you lend support to a party that asks for your vote on a manifesto based on rubbish? You may feel that that was then and this is now and Nigel is a good bloke that you could go down to the pub with and share a pint. Well think again. This week UKIP don't want you to hear their policies and will send the police round if you mention them. I'll soon be writing about the other policies. In the meantime the gauntlet is still down for any UKIP supporter.

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