It’s becoming clear that the focus of next years’ General Election – and the key policy issue which highlights the difference between what the Labour Party stands for and what the Conservatives are all about – is the way we look after our NHS.
The Tories have delighted in negative stories about the NHS. They’ve said it needs reform.
The fact of the matter is we all know that the NHS isn’t perfect but what it does guarantee is that every person in this country receives whatever medical treatment they require no matter what background they come from and at no charge.
It’s the most basic moral offer of a civilised society – that we’re all born equal human beings and health or medical problems are not in our control and should not require payment. The rich should have no more right to medical treatment than a person living off benefits having been in a road accident that has prevented them from working.
No matter how hard the Tories try to tell us they care about the NHS, deep down we all know the truth. They don’t care because, firstly those at the top of the Conservative Party have no problem in paying for their own healthcare and secondly, basically they know that those most likely to need healthcare are from more deprived areas and most definitely not likely to vote Conservative.
The Tories opposed the creation of the NHS – fact. And in every Tory government since then they’ve tried to dismantle it. We cannot afford to let them get another five years or it will without a shadow of a doubt be too late.
The Liberal Democrat Party must surely be in turmoil after last weeks’ election results. Whilst the top headline will be the fact that UKIP polled highest the second will surely be the fact that the Lib Dems were behind the Greens and face being completely wiped out in next years’ General Election.
As a Labour supporter I don’t have a great deal of time for Liberal Democrats who in my dealings appear to possess a strange ability to be part of a coalition yet pretend that they are not part of the decisions which that coalition is taking. Look at our local Lib Dems in Blackburn with Darwen who appear in total agreement with Labour when it comes to being unhappy with the level of cuts imposed on us by the Conservative/Lib Dem Government.
However, from the point of view of healthy democracy, not to mention the historic contribution made by the Liberal Party – which is one of England’s oldest – it would be far better if they did not disintegrate, and offered a more serious challenge against the Conservatives.
So how do the Lib Dems possibly get out of this mess? Dumping Nick Clegg might help a little – but nowhere near enough.
The answer – in my view – the Lib Dems should resign from the coalition Government. They should have pulled out of the coalition well before now but there is still time to redeem themselves a little if they are able to say that they’ve withdrawn as they’ve listened to the voters and it’s clear that the voters do not want right wing Conservative policies.
The current void of unhappy Tory voters is clearly being filled by UKIP, and as they grow in success this will inevitably and worryingly lead to a rightward move in British political thought. And whilst some UKIP representatives have expressed irritation with being accused of being a rightwing extremist party I have no doubt that it is the same ideas that the Nazi Party and more recently the BNP have proclaimed, which are appealing to voters – ideas and policies that rear their head again and again at times of economic hardship – when the public are struggling day to day and immigrants are the easiest people to blame.
We live on an Island. Everyone in the UK is a migrant or descendent of a migrant; and Europe is our main trading partner. UKIP’s policies might resonate with people looking for someone to blame for the current mess but the reality is that it’s our Tory Government and its policies of austerity, causing stagnation, that are to blame. The Lib Dems could be standing in opposition – like Labour – and opposing those policies. Instead they are a silent voice.
The current debate on Europe and migration is simplistic and ill informed and will continue to be so if the Lib Dems fail to develop a back bone.
As far as I can see UKIP will fizzle out at the General Election as they will not be able to get enough support to win many seats. However, the consequence is more likely to be an overall Tory majority – which just doesn’t bear thinking about.
My trip to the supermarket last weekend.
Picture this. At a local low cost supermarket in Blackburn me, my wife and children witnessed a tragically distressing scene. Whilst waiting at the checkout we see shop security confront a guy who must have weighed no more than 6 stone; dressed in tired old clothing. They search through his pockets and find that he’s shoplifted some bread and mince meat. To their credit the security men were pretty sensitive. They clearly saw no point in calling the police as it was clear that the chap was without any money whatsoever to pay a fine. And judging by what he’d taken, I doubt very much that the goods were for anything other than personal consumption.
Apart from the distress of having to witness this humiliation of a fellow human being what is more troubling is that these are scenes we are seeing more and more of in our sad society.
You can come to all kinds of conclusions about what this person’s background is but here’s a reasonable guess – benefits sanctioned for six months because he was judged by the Jobcentre to be ‘not looking hard enough for a job’ or not providing the ‘appropriate evidence’, or perhaps not accepting a part time job on minimum wage that would make him no better off as he would lose whatever other subsistence benefits he was receiving – Housing to pay the rent; or perhaps the fact that he couldn’t find a job because he’d been fighting for the same low pay part time work that others recently made redundant from full time work with mortgages to pay are also searching for. With his benefits sanctioned and zero money coming into the house resulting in empty kitchen cupboards (empty meaning empty – there are plenty of people in this situation). In these circumstances it’s difficult to see many other options than shoplifting.
Benefit reform may have been needed – but not the way this heartless Government has chosen to do it – if you really want to get people back into work you need to provide the support to help them find work – the schemes previously in place were disbanded by this Government because public spending ‘needed’ to be cut. It’s clear that this Government’s only motivation is saving money to cut taxes for the better off. To really tackle unemployment and benefit dependency you need to invest in the people and make sure there are jobs for them to go for – two things that Cameron and Clegg are grandly failing on. Apparently the economy is picking up. Not round here it’s not! But of course towns like Blackburn don’t matter to Cameron and the Eton boys – as long as London and the home counties are doing ok that will do nicely.
After thirteen years of relative prosperity under Labour it saddens me that our country is heading back to the Victorian era. How long before the workhouse returns?
We cannot and must not allow this to go on. On Sunday 29th September there is a demonstration at Tory Party conference, opposing the cuts and the Government’s austerity policies. I’ll be there. I hope you’ll join me.
On this significant day in our country’s history it’s clear that lots of people have strong views about Margaret Thatcher. I certainly do, but I think the most powerful evidence of what people thought about her is the comments of people who lived through her term of office. Why don’t you let Blackburn Labour Party know what you think. Please let us know your views.
‘Judge us on the economy’ say Coalition buddies Cameron and Clegg. Well, two and a half years into the shambolic coalition Government the economy is at best stagnant and at worst heading back into recession. An increase in women in part time employment may have stopped unemployment shooting above 3 million but we can all see the true situation around us. As I drive into work this morning I see that Staples in Blackburn is to close. Blackburn town centre actually had a good Christmas period unlike the rest of East Lancashire so if major stores are not even surviving in Blackburn what hope is there for the rest of the country. Yesterday I drove past the site of a well established car dealership – next to Darwen Vale High School. Any local will know the one I mean. It’s been there for ever. Anyway – not anymore – closed down and desserted. Try telling the former employees there or at Staples that our economy is doing great!
But of course if you say this to your local Tory we all know what they’ll come back with – ‘it wasn’t us it was Labour’ or ‘it’s a global recession’.
OK. We’ll judge you on the economy. You’ve had two and a half years so you’ve got two and a half left. But the fact is, when Labour left office, measures we introduced such as cutting VAT, and stepping in when the banks were collapsing had led the UK out of recession. You, Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg changed those policies and now we find ourselves in a situation where there is 0% growth, the deficit is not shrinking, public debt is up and more money is being spent on benefits. So far you’ve failed the economic test. If things haven’t picked up by 2015 you’ll surely have to say ‘hands up, we were wrong’. I doubt you will though!!
Predictions for next week’s Police and Crime Commissioner elections are that the turnout will be low – very low. An election in November for a position that’s perhaps not been properly explained or justified by the Government which has been determined to introduce it, and at a cost of almost £100 million at a time when police budgets are being cut. This and a number of other factors will contribute to many people saying ‘why bother voting’.
I’d share everyone else’s question as to why the Tory Government is so insistent on introducing police commissioners – Labour voted against them on the basis that we already have a good police service that has brought reductions in crime year on year for the past decade and more. Labour PM Tony Blair promised that we would be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. We didn’t need Police Commissioners to achieve that – we needed more bobbies on the beat and more real powers to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour that was blighting our communities.
But the fact is we are where we are, the election is happening, and in a weeks’ time each area of the country will have elected a Police and Crime Commissioner with sole responsibility for setting local police policy and deciding where budgets will be spent.
As a politically interested person I actually enjoy voting. I love the feeling of ‘doing your bit’ when I go to the polling station and put my cross against the candidate’s name. Some people would probably say I’m a bit sad! I probably am! But voting in any election is important. It’s your chance to have your say. We have a democracy which means there are always winners and losers, but we know it’s a fair process and at least if we’ve voted we can say ‘I didn’t support that’ if our candidate doesn’t win. Those who don’t vote can’t make any comment or complain when they aren’t happy with the way things are run.
And whether we agree with Police Commissioners or not, they will exist and they will have significant powers. So your vote will make a difference as to how our police are run.
So my message to anyone who’s reading this is please vote and preferably please vote Labour.
As we all wake up to hear the good news from the USA – a second term for Barack Obama and the Democrats- our Prime Minister must be feeling pretty downhearted. He would clearly have been hoping for a Republican victory to give him at least one friend! Yes – life must be getting pretty lonely for David Cameron and the ConDems. Across the world people are rejecting right wing policies and austerity measures which have caused hardship and stunted attempts for economies to come out of recession.
Times are hard in the US, just as they are here in Britain, but Obama’s appeal to all people to work together as one will help send a positive message across the globe about what we can achieve by working together to make society a better place for everyone. It’s commonly said that all politics in the US is right wing, yet everything I hear from Barack Obama shows that he truly is a democratic socialist who is committed to making America a better place rather than trying to dominate the world.
Cameron talks about us being ‘all in it together’ but nobody believes him and nobody is listening anymore because we all know that it’s not true and Cameron and his millionaire croneys have felt no pain at all since they plunged this country into a double dip recession (in spite of claims that they’d ‘sort the mess out’ our debt is now higher than it was when Labour left office).
Cameron might as well face it now – his days are numbered.
Michael Gove yesterday proved what we all already thought – that he is actually a time traveller in true Orwellian style and has stepped out of his time machine, built in 1958, and landed here in the 21st century. In his statement, announcing that GCSEs would be abolished and replaced by ‘Bacs’ he declared that the GCSE was created for a different time. If that is the case I’d say that Gove’s plans are truly from a different era. Comment was made yesterday that O-levels – upon which the ‘new’ qualification is based – where dropped in the 1980s as it was agreed by all that they’d had their day. In fact everyone in any position of respect in the academic world has dismissed Gove’s plans as barmy.
Of course exams have their place in learning and qualifications but the whole point of moving to the GCSE system, with more focus on coursework and year round learning, was that for the modern era we need a flexible qualification that understands the strengths of all young people and not just a minority of grammar school taught geeks (I’m one of these!) who have been prepped in the art of cramming.
The idea that hundreds of thousands of young people will now leave school with no qualifications in these key subjects, starting their working life feeling like failures, can only be damaging to our society and international competitiveness – contrary to Gove’s claimed intention.
And if anyone still thinks Gove even remotely cares about education at all don’t forget the millions he slashed from Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme – which has delivered world class facilities in Blackburn and Darwen and was the biggest ever investment in our schools.
Chancellor George Osborne continues to show his true colours and prove that he really does love our bankers. In spite of public disgust at recently announced bonus payments being made – to the heads of now state owned banks – Osborne has said that they are necessary and justified, arguing that the bonuses were higher under Labour.
Even his own colleagues Deputy PM Nick Clegg and London Mayor Boris Johnson have expressed their discomfort at the sums being paid out at a time when day after day the unemployment figures rise. But it is clearly Osborne’s view that the bankers are doing a good job and that people like Stephen Hester (Chief Executive of RBS) are perfectly entitled to receive almost £1 million from the tax-payer owned banks.
Contrast this with the ConDem Government’s determination to demonise public sector workers for being ‘greedy’. How dare the people educating our children, cleaning our streets and working in our hospitals demand decent pay and decent pensions (don’t forget that the Tories opposed the minimum wage – now around £6 an hour).
But of course I forget, Mr Osborne lives in a different world to the majority of people in this country – with a personal fortune of around £4 million I doubt he’ll ever struggle to pay the bills at the end of the month!
I don’t know if the Government is paying Pete Waterman to be it’s PR Manager for its plans to build a high speed rail link so that we can all get into London quicker and spend our money there, but if he is then Mr Cameron should be asking for his money back!
The performance by the eccentric millionaire on today’s BBC Breakfast News Show can only have helped those opposed to the scheme. What the presenters presumably hoped would be a reasonable discussion became a blazing row between Waterman and the HS2 opponents – with the ex-record producer launching into a tirade of anger, shouting ‘rubbish’ as the other side tried to speak.
Personally I’m firmly on the side of sustainable rail investment. But we need a proper and sensible discussion on this. I’m yet to hear any decent argument for HS2 when the railway network all over Britain is crying out for investment. Train times to London are already well down – you can comfortably get from Preston in Lancs to London in 2 hours – which makes a day visit perfectly practical. Yet it takes almost the same amount of time to get from Blackburn to Liverpool, and almost an hour to make the fairly short trip from Blackburn to Manchester.
The basics are there – by spreading the £17 billion it is claimed HS2 will cost, across the rail network we could have a truly fantastic service – faster trains all over the country, better stations, and perhaps a halt to ever increasing fairs. All of which would help the economy in general – as opposed to putting a bit extra onto the economy of the capital.
Everyone in every region knows of a local railway that can be improved so it wouldn’t take much research on the Government’s part to work out how else it could spend the money. As things stand I won’t be backing HS2 but I am backing Jack Straw’s bid to get the Blackburn to Manchester track doubled – allowing half hourly services instead of the current hourly arrangement. And I support schemes such as reintstatement of the Todmorden curve and the re-opening of the Skipton to Colne link. The Government should show a bit of imagination – rather than the old fashioned London-centric model they are using.