Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Tory Lies or Labour Cluelessness?

Three days ago I received a post on my Facebook news feed which was entitled 'Top Ten Tory Lies of 2013 and had been shared by a Labour supporter. I subsequently placed it on my timeline and added this comment - "I received this photo on my news feed yesterday. It is a shoddy piece of work by Labour supporters, not referencing any sources to justify either what it says are Tory claims or its supposed refutation of those claims. You're just supposed to take it all on trust. Well, while I'm no apologist for the Tories, I do think there are mistakes in this list and I was wondering if anyone who supports its claims would be interested in defending them with actual referenced facts. Perhaps we could then have a reasoned discussion / debate".  Since the post was just an image, I can't copy and paste the text it contains. I can't be bothered to type them all, so here's just the first five items, first the supposed claims and then the supposed refutations:

1 David Cameron: Royal Mail was making a loss when privatised
2 Grant Shapps: The Tories have cut the national debt
3 Esther McVey: Unemployment has fallen 400,000 since May 2010
4 David Cameron: House building is up a third under the Tories
5 Iain Duncan Smith: Child Poverty rose under Labour

1 Royal Mail doubled its profits to £403 million in the last full year of trading before being privatised
2 National Debt has climbed by £427,000,000,000+ under the Tories
3 Unemployment was up 23k at the time the claim was made (since down 00.08m)
4 House Completions have fallen to 89 year lows in most recent data
5 Child Poverty fell 50% under Labour. It's up 300,000 under IDS

I said on Facebook that the list didn't reference any sources. The reply I received there was that "the sources on the 1st list are clearly named". But by "reference" I don't just mean a name, I mean something which would allow me to perform a meaningful check. David Cameron, Grant Shapps etc. have said a lot of things over the years.

Googling "David Cameron: Royal Mail was making a loss when privatised" (without the quotation marks) didn't bring up anything relevant in the first page. All I can really say about the privatisation is that it is something which has been in the pipeline for well over a decade, and I'm pretty sure the coalition just completed steps which were started under New Labour. Whether it was a necessary step may be open to question, but it went remarkably well as privatisations go.

For "Tories have reduced national debt (Grant Shapps)" I've been searching for a while now without finding anything which would substantiate the Labour claim. I did find something from Grant Shapps about cutting the DEFICIT, though. The deficit, which reached insane proportions under Labour, is the amount by which our spending as a nation exceeds our income. It has to be cut all the way to zero and beyond before the debt starts going down. It looks like the author of point two doesn't even know the difference between deficit and debt, which might explain why both skyrocketed under Labour.

And so on, down the list. Is there anyone out there willing and able to defend just one of the points on the list with actual, verifiable facts?

Change the World

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Happy Christmas

I still have nearly three hours to wish everyone a Happy Christmas and a prosperous 2014, but not too prosperous as we don't want any more of that boom and bust stuff.

Just like David Cameron's photos in the 2010 poster campaign, this photo has not been manipulated (but it was taken in December 2009).

Happy Christmas

Monday, 23 December 2013

Vote Of No Confidence In Facebook Page

Today a friend shared a link to a Facebook page from 'Vote of No Confidence in the UK Coalition'. I have read the link but initially I didn't get past the first sentence as it began with 'why is our unelected government...?' I replied to him on my Facebook page that this is the first government since WWII in which the majority of votes have gone to the MPs in power. The reply came back that if this is the case then we need full electoral reform - we agreed immediately! He did go on to write that constituents in the neighbouring Westmorland and Lonsdale 'got a Tory government they didn't vote for'. I am sure that Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat MP in that constituency, would disagree and so do I (and so does the Facebook group if the title is anything to go by).

I did check the Facebook site for the vote of no confidence group and I suppose they were bound to respond to my comment about the 'unelected government' as it strikes at the heart of their raison d'etre. They wrote 'Michael, it is a coalition in name only, and as for them being elected, they weren't. Neither the Tories nor the Lib Dems won enough seats to govern, so the Tories did a dodgy deal with the Lib Dems and took power without the permission of the people, the majority of whom would have rather seen the election voided and another taken...'

If this Facebook group has no confidence in the coalition and wish to undermine the government then where do they place their confidence? Is it that they are Labour supporters but feel they have more gravitas without a direct link? Are they supporters of Russell Brand's revolution? Are they simply trying to stir things up? If they are Labour supporters then wouldn't it be more honest (that's an adjective not often associated with politicians) to own up to it? Whoever they are they certainly haven't grasped the idea of full electoral reform.

I am sure that the Liberal Democrats are playing a large part in Government - too large for many Tories. David Cameron told us that we couldn't raise the tax threshold. Would anyone deny that this is a Liberal Democrat policy? We have the steady hand of Vince Cable in the Treasury. The Secretary of state for Energy and Climate Change is the Liberal Democrat Ed Davey. Haven't the Tories given up on the green agenda so Liberal Democrats can lay claim to these policies too.If you want to know how many Tory policies have been scuppered then I believe that David Cameron has a little black book of them. No O' Levels or two-tier education system. No profit-making schools. No inheritance tax cuts for millionaires. No ditching of the human rights act. No 'go home' poster vans...

As much as the Facebook group would like to support Labour, they can't claim success on these and many other issues because they are the opposition. Labour has no power. It is quite refreshing to write that after years of having this criticism labelled at the Liberal Democrats but I write this not with a sense of hubris but because of unfounded criticism. If this Facebook group really want to undermine the government then they have to tell us about a better alternative and if they want to do so objectively then they have to list the successes too and how the coalition had to deal with an economy which was profoundly unbalanced. My friend got it right immediately. We need full electoral reform.Why am I thinking that this is not on the agenda for the Facebook group?

Change the world

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

How To Turn People Off Politics

The last time I wrote a blog which mentioned the campaigning organisation 38 degrees it was about a petition on their website which was badly written. I don't know how anyone could have signed it. It was so bad I even got a comment on the blog from a member of their staff who disowned the content. I have come across 38 degrees again in a Facebook link and again it concerns Michael Gove. I have to confirm again that I am not a Michael Gove fan so please take this blog entry as a criticism of 38 degrees in allowing this particular petition and as a criticism of the comments that relate to the link on Facebook.

It is one thing not to like Michael Gove's policies but it is another not to like him. To save you from clicking on the link I'll tell you that the petition to the Prime Minister says get rid of Michael because he is a waste of space. It goes on to justify this view by saying he is a waste of space. Hardly the most compelling of arguments. It does tell us that some teachers have disagreed with him but there is no reference to anyone or to anything that Michael has (or has not) done. There is a criticism that Michael has denied 'expert opinion' but the author should know that Michael has his own 'experts' so it's not a valid argument. Perversely it concludes ' Michael Gove must be persuaded to resign' when the headline was 'remove Michael Gove from Office' and was addressed to the Prime Minister. I'm fairly sure this petition wasn't written by 38 degrees since it was on a section of their website which invites members of the public to contribute. However they have to take some responsibility for the errors. On the other hand I really hope that the petition was not written by a teacher. That would be the saddest indictment of our education system.

The person in the street is not interested in personal abuse of politicians. All it does is switch them off politics. All they see is politicians praising themselves for an educational system that allowed grade inflation, then they see politicians praising themselves for a system that stopped grade inflation (for grade inflation please read any other political change in our educational system). 

The motivation for this blog did not come from the petition but from the comments on the Facebook page... 'get him gone can not stand him'. When did this become personal? People who should know better are clicking on 'like' when what they are liking is personal insult. I may not agree with Michael Gove and would argue against his policies, but I would defend his right to implement his decisions and to do so without personal abuse.

Change the world

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Mail Gets Article Wrong

There is a report in the Mail Online which is on the subject of Muslims protesting about the sale of alcohol by other Muslims in east London. Unfortunately this report in the Mail looks like it is pandering to racism. Let's give the Mail the benefit of the doubt and take the view that the protesters are wrong. It is wrong to tell shopkeepers what they can and can't sell and it is wrong that they are inciting violence. In this case the law should be used against these protesters. I suppose the Mail will say that there has been no legal action so far which means that they are allowed to give their opinion without giving prejudice to the legal proceedings.

Now take the view that  the protesters are right (which means the Mail is wrong). Doesn't everyone have the right to peaceful protest? This is not a balanced report as the protesters may just be using their legal rights to protest peacefully. If this is not the case and it happens that a court case ensues then the Mail is hardly setting the scene for justice to prevail. David Cameron learned about this earlier in the week.I don't know if protests were peaceful or whether they are breaking the law but what I do know it that this report has incited xenophobia.

It may not be the Mail's own Facebook page but their article is given a link by another Facebook page which doesn't make pleasant reading. "This is our country not theirs...". I don't want to quote any further from this site or give you the link as it is full of hatred. I wonder if the Mail realised that their report would cause such an outbreak of public anger? The Mail was wrong in that they didn't stress that the protesters are in the minority who will be opposed by the majority of Muslims - you can read the comments from Muslims on the Mail website. In the main article the Mail does quote a couple of Muslim anti-extremist spokespersons, however this does not make it clear that theirs is the mainstream view.

I don't know the details of this protest but it is really important that we remain a tolerant country that allows peaceful protest whatever we may believe ourselves. Balanced reporting would be nice too.

Change the world 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Mail Gets Headline Right

It was nice to see a headline in today's Mail Online, "Lib Dems have held us back, says Cameron: PM says Britain deserves a 'more accountable' Government than the Coalition". So the Tories are saying that the Liberal Democrats are wielding power. Liberal Democrats are saying that too but it sounds so much better when it comes from the Prime Minister. It sounds so much better if Liberal Democrats have restricted the cuts to vital services and although the article emphasises that the Conservatives are the party to cut tax, the corollary is that Liberal Democrats support the social nature of government and need taxation to pay for it. I have always thought that the role of government is to redistribute wealth as capitalism is far from perfect and the rich will look after themselves.

I have written a recent blog on Russell Brand and if you take a look you will realise that I am not his greatest fan, but Russell does have a point that many would relate to when he spoke to Jeremy Paxman about the need for wealth distribution. We may not be near a revolution but that does not mean that things can't change.

I have agreed with the first half of the Mail's headline which is something I don't say too often, but I also agree with the second half. Doesn't everyone want more accountable government? The trouble is that the report does not mention more accountable government. David wants more accountability but not a more accountable government. The headline should have read that David wants more power. I wish he had meant accountability as many who are on the electoral register (again like Russell Brand) do not feel that they are part of the political system so they don't vote. A headline about a politician asking for more power isn't going to get them voting again.

Change the world

Monday, 9 December 2013

It's Not Brain Surgery

I have a friend who suffers from mental illness. I don't know the diagnosis but I do know that she feels that all the world is against her. She also feels that anything that involves other people and goes wrong is actually deliberate and against her. This includes getting the medication wrong that is supposed to be helping her. So if her name is wrong on the prescription or label for the medication then it's a deliberate error. If the pharmacy doesn't have the tablets then it's deliberate too. The doctor might write mane (take them in the morning) and it may become nocte (take them at night) after a visit to pharmacy. So many things have gone wrong that the doctor doesn't want her to visit a pharmacy again and she picks them up from hospital.

Tablets are picked up on Monday mornings after 8.30am. So 10am was a safe bet to pick them up and they weren't ready but would be delivered by 12.30pm. This made matters worse. She couldn't go and I was asked to pick them up. They weren't ready and I was told that she should not have been told 12.30pm as there is no delivery before 1pm. I didn't use the word iatrogenenic (disease caused by medical intervention) but I did tell the receptionist that she was worse and this is why tablets were being picked up at the hospital. I asked if this message could get back to the doctor as I am sure that he would like to know that his intervention was making matters worse. I was also hoping that communication could improve as when I worked in the NHS and a physio was off sick we used to phone the patients to let them know. No such luck here.

I went again at 3pm and was wondering whether to ask if my request to inform the doctor had been acted on. I told a different receptionist why I was there and he told me categorically that no medication was dispensed on Mondays. He went on to tell me in great detail how medication is only dispensed on other days. I know it is not funny but I laughed because he was so wrong and he felt he was so right. I am not ill. I don't have to pick up any tablets but this person tells me that there is always something wrong with her tablets. Pharmacies are so bad that one health professional told her that there was one good one in Morecambe. It is a sad indictment of all the other Morecambe pharmacies when one is mentioned as good (this pharmacy had been tried and wasn't).

If I wasn't sure at 3pm whether I should check on my polite request to inform the doctor then I was sure after the third receptionist of the day had got it so wrong. It's a good job I'm not ill because I may have been after one day of trying to get tablets. After a gentle explanation of what had happened in the day, I received the tablets. I asked the pharmacist if she could ensure that the message would get to the doctor. The primary reason was to let the doctor know that he was inadvertently causing ill health but maybe my primary aim was to improve communication between receptionists. I left with the feeling that the pharmacist didn't really get the problem - and that's the problem.

What does it matter if you don't have exactly the right name on the label for your medication as long as it is the right medication? What does it matter if mane becomes nocte as long as the medication is taken at the right time? What does it matter if it takes three trips instead of one to get tablets that could have taken one trip if a phone call with accurate information had been made? Some may say that the patient still gets the tablets and the patient isn't doing anything special so it's no big deal. It is a big deal and highly trained receptionists and pharmacists have to recognise this.

I am sure that my friend is not on her own. Most patients who see a slight error would dismiss it at once but anyone may feel that the world is against them and getting the name wrong adds to that feeling. Getting the name right is not brain surgery.

Change the world

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Nelson Mandela - a hero of all time

Nelson Mandela has made all the recent headlines since his death two days ago. Television has had nothing but praise for the 'freedom fighter' and world leaders have added their eulogies. This is understandable as he was quite possibly the most significant statesman in the past hundred years. However one person's freedom fighter is another person's terrorist and you don't have to look too far in our internet age to find some adverse comments.

Nick Griffin tweeted that Nelson Mandela was a 'murdering old terrorist'. I am sure that the BNP leader is not on his own in this view and you don't have to go back too far to realise that many prominent mainstream politicians held the same view. If you click on this link you will read that these politicians include Margaret Thatcher, John Carlisle, Terry Dicks and Teddy Taylor. Many in the Conservative Party held this view and some still do, even though David Cameron has apologised for "The mistakes my party made in the past with respect to relations with the ANC..."

I have only searched the internet for an hour or so and there must be significant detail to be found on the acts of 'terrorism' carried out by the ANC but I haven't found it. I have heard about acts of sabotage, but that is all. It is wrong to act violently and the ANC may have done so, but all I have read or heard is about Nelson Mandela the lover of peace and for that reason Nick Griffin, some Conservatives and anyone who can't join in the tributes to this great man are wrong. David Cameron calls him "not just a hero of our time but a hero of all time". I agree with David (and I don't say that very often) but this is not a view held by all his party.

Change the world