Trust Cameron on NHS? Not on your nelly!

Today’s announcements in the media by Tory PM David Cameron will I’m sure be laughed at by the demoralised staff in our NHS.  His suggestion that nurses will carry out hourly ward rounds, and that they need to learn that ‘caring is their main job’  and his proposed survey asking them if they would be happy to let their relatives use the same services is at best a complete insult to the fantastic hard work and dedication of our nurses – under ever more pressure , and at worst just another attempt to divide and rule the NHS as well as undermining public confidence – all more evidence of the Tory agenda ultimately to privatise the NHS through the back door.

Let’s face it – no one ever really trusted Cameron’s promise to protect the NHS and the real terms cuts now being made are clear proof of his real intention.  Cameron and his incompetent Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, are determined to pursue a badly thought out NHS restructure which is costing £100s of millions in redundancy payments to doctors and bureaucrats who went on to get good jobs elsewhere, and at the same time their claimed ‘protection’ of NHS budgets is in reality a cut as inflation will mean that the cost of providing services will exceed budgets. 

So before everyone starts believing the Tory press rhetoric it’s worth remembering a few facts – under Labour 149 new hospitals were built, under Labour deaths from heart disease fell by 40% (that’s 180,000 lives saved), 99% of suspected cancer cases were seen within 2 weeks and began treatment within a month – saving 60,000 lives (a pledge scrapped by the Tory led Government) and significantly there are now 80,000 more nurses than there were under the last Tory Government.  And under the last Tory Government NHS waiting lists rose by 400,000, over 284,000 had been waiting for more than six months and nurses struggled to cope in crumbling buildings that hadn’t had investment for decades.

When the elections come round again it will be time to judge the Parties on record not rhetoric – so remember these facts because I’ll be amazed if Mr Cameron has genuinely discovered a heart and his actions match his words!

The beginning of the end for Cameron

Marching through the streets of Blackburn town centre today I, like everyone else, was amazed by the fantastic turnout of demonstrators from all backgrounds and services.  These were scenes that Blackburn has not witnessed for decades – not since the dark days of Margaret Thatcher and the poll tax.

It feels like people are starting to realise that we don’t have to accept the policies being implemented by this Government, which has spread lies and misinformation about public sector pensions – claiming that they are funded by the tax-payer and that the workers don’t support the strike.  Fact – the public sector workers themselves contribute to their pensions – they are NOT funded by the tax-payer.  Fact – the public sector workers did not create the deficit or economic crisis – the bankers did.

Some of the thousands who converged on Town Hall Square

Some people have had the nerve to describe public sector workers as ‘greedy’ for demanding a decent pension.  So basically they work hard all their lives, providing vital services such as nurses, paramedics, police, teaching, pay for their own pensions but then somehow don’t deserve the pension they paid for?  That makes no sense to me.

One of the best arguments I heard from today’s speakers was that all workers should come together to demand decent pensions – the fact that workers in the private sector have poor pensions is not the fault of public sector workers – it’s all our fault for allowing capitalists to get away with it.

This Government is using classic divide and rule tactics to demonise public sector workers and pass the blame for the country’s economic mess to them.  It’s time we got the message across – we know who’s to blame –  the bankers.  And don’t let Tories tell you it was Labour’s fault – remember the Tories backed Labour’s spending plans and when the international economic collapse happened they had nothing to say about how they would have solved it.

Fact is the Tories are now showing themselves up for what they really are – i.e. interested in making the rich richer and the poor poorer and weaker.  They opposed the minimum wage and will abolish it, they opposed the NHS and will abolish it, they oppose workers rights and will abolish whatever rights they can.

So moving forward let’s hope we can mobilise more demonstrations and strikes, because this government doesn’t want to listen so it must be stopped in its tracks.

Osborne and Cameron get it wrong – again. It’s now ‘barmy Britain’

I’ve got to be honest – I haven’t been glued to the TV this week, excitedly listening to the words of wisdom from Chancellor George Osborne and Prime Minister David Cameron.  But I think I’ve picked up enough to reinforce the view I previously held, that the Conservatives haven’t changed a bit and never will do.

In spite of their claims that the NHS would be safe under the Tories, or that they would ‘get us out of Labour’s mess’, one by one their election promises are being broken.  And for what?  As May 2010 approached, whilst people might have decided it was ‘time for a change’ they at least felt some hope that the economy was recovering – unemployment was falling, the housing market was starting to move again.

What a change today, as the Tory Party Conference draws to a close.  Unemployment is once again on the rise, houses are not selling and prices are dropping.  The general mood of the nation is depressed.

What does Mr Osborne say in response to this?  ‘It’s an international economic crisis’.  So clearly not Labour’s fault?

And what action has his Government taken?  1)  Increase VAT to 20%, 2)  Cut public sector spending by up to a quarter, 3) stop major building projects, 4) re-organise the NHS – spending £813 million on redundancies and causing real terms cuts and 5)  Introduce elected police commissioners which no one asked for, at a cost of £1 billion and will result in 16000 police losing their jobs (that’s exactly the number of police officers it took to get the summer riots under control – but Cameron wouldn’t know that since he was on holiday in Tuscany!)

The man must know something we don’t!

But of course – I’m forgetting – just like all upper class, millionaire capitalist Tories he couldn’t really care less about investment in education, our hospitals, the police or the urban economy.  He can pay for his children to go to public school.  He can pay for private healthcare.  And why should people like Mr Osborne pay taxes for police officers in urban areas where there happen to be no Tory voters! Why should they!  The fact of the matter is Osborne and Cameron couldn’t care less if buildings were burning down in areas where unemployment has shot back through the roof.  We’ve got the ‘Big Society’ now – so people can sort their own problems out!

We all know that the Labour Government wasn’t perfect.  But at least we could be assured that it’s aims were targetted at investing in the country as a whole.  If Osborne had half a brain he’d work out that these are his interests too – as investing in the economy means that business does better.  I think it’s called a ‘virtuous circle’.  But sorry, I wouldn’t want to bombard the Government with that ridiculous idea – common sense.

Why I will be voting ‘No’ in the AV referendum

On May 5th this year voters will be confronted with two ballot papers.  Not only will they be asked who they want to represent them on the local Council but they will also be asked whether they would like to keep the current voting system, known as ‘First Past the Post’ or change to a different system, the ‘Alternative Vote’.

The current system, which has been used in elections since democracy was first invented, could not be more simple.  You place a cross next to the candidate and political party you would like to win the election.  Our whole political system and ideological structure is based upon this and it enables political parties to give clear reasons why individuals should offer their support.  Virtually all national elections in the last century have produced a clear majority for one Party and that Party has a mandate based on holding the most Parliamentary seats.  The current coalition government is a rarity in the UK – the last one being the National Government at the end of the 1920s – it has been established following a failure of all three major parties (including the Labour Party) to convince enough voters that they were the best placed to run the country.  What has to be emphasised is that under First Past the Post coalition governments are a rarity.

The proposals being presented in this years’  referendum are to introduce the ‘Alternative Voting’ system in which the voter ranks the candidates/party in order of preference, i.e. 1 next to the favourite, 2 next to the 2nd favourite, etc.  Under this system the least popular candidates are eliminated one by one and their votes allocated amongst the more popular until one is victorious.

The Liberal Democrats are supporting the AV proposals as they claim that the new system will lead to a fairer, and more proportionate allocation of MPs to Parties.  They have always campaigned for Proportional Representation on the basis that under the current system it could be argued that those who did not vote for the winning candidate have ‘wasted’ their votes and are unrepresented.  Three points should be noted in responding to this argument.  1)  That no winning Party in the UK has achieved 50% of the total vote since World War Two, and so every Government would have been a coalition (as opposed to just the current Government), 2) That the only party that would have significantly benefitted under Proportional Represntation would have been the Liberal Democrat Party (funny coincidence that they want PR and they are the only ones who will benefit).  And 3)  That once elected an MP takes on a duty to represent everyone in their constituency no matter what their political persuasion.  It should be remembered that in our society voters have a secret ballot.  Therefore the MP has no business questioning whether or not a person who seeks their assistance supported them or not as political persuasion should not prejudice any individual.  The truth of this is that if an MP works hard for their constituency they will be re-elected time and again and often receive the votes of those who do not share the same political perspective but recognise the MP’s work.  Blackburn’s MP, Jack Straw is a perfect example of this – often polling significant votes in areas otherwise considered to be rock solid Conservative.

Now in theory you might say, ‘surely a coalition is better if the votes of more than 50% of the electors are represented’, however, what I would point out is that it falls to the small party, which holds the balance of power, to decide which party it will join to form a government.  This therefore gives the small party, which has received a small minority of the overall vote, the biggest share of the power – for example – 40% for the Conservatives, 20% for the Liberal Democrats, 40% for Labour so the Lib Dems have all the power.  The small party is able to broker deals with the big parties to get it’s policies implemented, which means that the Party which was least popular amongst the voters is actually in charge.  Where is the fairness in this?  Imagine if that small party was the BNP.

As it happens, the fact that we have no real experience of coalitions in the UK means that the Lib Dems have been hopelessly out of their depth in the negotiation stakes and have been dragged into a Tory Government which is doing precisely what it likes and letting the Lib Dems carry the can.  Part of the so called deal which produced the current coalition was that there would be a referendum on AV – but the Tories are not supporting a ‘yes’ vote and indeed some prominent Conservatives such as William Hague and Ken Clarke have publicly stated their opposition.

The First Past the Post system is not perfect, granted; but what it guarantees is that the largest party will form the government and the policies it implements will be those set out in its manifesto.  What we would have under PR is elections fought on the basis of ‘we might do this if another party agrees with us but we might not’.  I want to see people motivated to go out and vote for political parties with strong policies that aim to improve peoples’ chances in society.  Turnout in elections is more often than not low and has been declining overall for the last 40 years.  I fail to see how a PR system is going to give anyone the incentive to go out and vote.

So on May 5th I’ll be voting ‘no change’ in the referendum – a vote for Democracy and against the Liberal Democrats.

A day that made me feel proud to be from Blackburn

Wednesday 1st December 2010 will I am sure be remembered by Blackburn people for many years to come.  There had been much publicity in the lead up to the Homecoming Service and parade by the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment and most expected it to be well supported by the public.  However, I for one was amazed by the sheer number of people who came into town to welcome home the brave troops and stayed for hours in spite of the snowy winter weather.  It really goes to show how much the public values the sacrifices being made and the duty shown.

Estmimates have put the total number of people attending the parade at 10,000 which is a truly magnificent level of support.

Much can be said about the merits of military action in far off lands but what must be recognised is the absolute sense of duty and dedication shown by our armed forces in not only ensuring that they work together as comrades but also for a better future.  Afghanistan is far from perfect today but what is clear to me is that the troops knew that they were working to improve the lives of people there and create a more stable and prosperous future – and we are now nearer to that than we were before the coalition forces intervened.

The recognition is well deserved and I for one was proud to be there on a day when Blackburn showed the North West how much it appreciated the efforts of the 1st Battalion the Duke of Lancaster Regiment.

Local Facilities needed more than ever during hard times

The last few weeks in Blackburn with Darwen have been eventful to say the least. And having taken over as the Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport I’ve certainly had a busy time grappling with the difficult issues facing the department. During the Summer the Labour group supported local residents in enthusiastic campaigns to stop the closure of Shadsworth Leisure Centre and a number of the Borough’s community centres, so it was important that once we came back to power we acted as quickly as possible to re-open the Leisure Centre and stop the Community Centre transfer.

Today I was pleased to be at Shadsworth on the day the pool re-opened to the public. This is a vital facility in the Borough and the 220,000 visits during 2009/10 show that it is needed. However, the coalition decision to close the pool has done a lot of damage. The Labour Government, through Refresh, had put large sums of money into increasing sporting activity within Blackburn which had amongst the worst fitness levels in the UK. As a result of the scheme activity is now up to the national average – a fantastic achievement. But when a leisure centre closes history shows that rather than going to a different centre people just stop altogether. And with the obvious effects on health that a possible further recession will have it is vital that people have low cost leisure facilities available.

So I hope you hear the message loud and clear – Shadsworth is back in business – come down and use these great facilities.

Where will the cuts end!

The shortsightedness of Tory policy astounds me more each day.  With every day the TV news and the local press highlight more drastic cuts announced by the local Council and the national government.

There has been much publicity surrounding Blackburn Council’s decision to close Shadsworth Leisure Centre as well as a string of community centres in deprived areas.  What has received less publicity but is no less significant is the Tory Council’s decision to cut funding for Police Community Support Officers.

There has always been a sense of pride in Blackburn that we pioneered community policing – with police offices based in community centres and crime down.  PCSOs form a vital part of this.  They ensure a police presence on the street and have helped act as a deterrent to those considering criminal or anti-social behaviour.

The plans pushed through last week have put the Tory led Council in direct conflict with local police.  Surely if other facilities are shut and jobs are lost we will need more police not less!

It’s quite simple though to the Tories – they know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

How the Tory chumps have failed Blackburn

The sweeping cuts being made by Blackburn Council’s Tory led administration, announced in today’s Lancashire Telegraph (1st July 2010) show their complete failure not only to understand the needs of the local community but also to stick up for Blackburn in Westminster.

The cuts will have a massively damaging effect on those most in need – take Shadsworth with Whitebirk for instance – one of Britains top ten most deprived wards – it faces losing two community centres and a leisure centre, on top of this the Blakewater College is due to close under Building Schools for the Future – so the ward will have no community facilities at all.

All community centres in the Borough are facing closure – and surprise surprise they are situated in wards represented mainly by Labour Councillors.  The fact is the Tories simply don’t care about these communities because they can’t win any elections there.  In this years’ Council elections they didn’t even bother standing candidates in most of them.

Not only this though, the cuts being made are terrifyingly shortsighted.  Many of the problems of high crime and vandalism that we have experienced were as a result of the last period of Tory government when there was no investment in schools, the police or communities.  Labour did invest which is why we now have the highest ever school standards and the lowest crime for almost 30 years.

It’s a well known fact that Blackburn is one of the most deprived communities in England and its funding from Government reflects that fact.  However, under George Osborne’s proposals the Council is forced to make higher cuts than almost every other authority in Britain – at the same time as authorities represented by Tory Ministers which have to make no cuts at all.

Yet when there was a Council meeting following the ’emergency’ budget the Tory and Lib Dem members in Blackburn refused to back Labour’s motion demanding that the national spending cuts be shared out fairly and equally.

We all know what the Tory answer to this mess is – ‘it’s Labour’s fault’.  Change the record please – in Blackburn the Tories have now been in power for over 3 years – they’ve had massive amounts of money allocated by the then Labour Government yet they have failed to use that money responsibly.  We now have a Tory government which has asked its Tory chumps in Blackburn to make massive cuts – Council Leader Mike Lee must be saying thanks a bunch to his pals David Cameron, Nick Clegg and George Osborne!

The end of an era – a golden age

Compare the feeling of the nation today to that in 1997 when Labour first came to power – in 97 there was joy – a national outpouring of happiness that a cruel and damaging Tory regime of 18 years had been ousted – today the feeling is of fear – where will the cuts begin?  I think it is generally accepted that maybe it was time for some kind of a change – and Gordon Brown realised that – but the election results clearly show that the public did not want a Conservative Government – neither did they want the Lib Dems – yet that is what we now have.

My view is that the last Labour Government will only truly be appreciated after a period of Conservative rule – and it will be remembered as a government that did good things for this country – it wasn’t perfect but then no government is.  Under Blair’s leadership and Brown’s chancellorship this country prospered and returned once again to being a great international power.  We invested in both the physical and the social infrastructure of Britain – schools, hospitals, transport, housing – have all seen massive investment – the first public housing programme since the last time we had a Labour Government – more police, more doctors and nurses, more teachers, the minimum wage, tax credits, more equality laws, childcare payments, support for the elderly.  The Labour Government believed in investing in our whole society because we believe that everyone deserves fairness and every person should have an equal chance in life.

And on the economy – we made the right calls – nationalising the banks to prevent economic meltdown and massive job losses.  We’re out of recession now but you can bet your bottom dollar we’d still be in it if the Tories had been in (and with more unemployed).

The Tories have not changed and will never change – they opposed virtually all of Labour’s progressive legislation – they bang on about cutting taxes but you can’t have a healthy, educated forward thinking competitive nation if you don’t invest in it and the more you invest the more people have jobs so the more people are paying tax.

The Labour Party was established to give a voice for the working class who were oppressed by the old establishment of this country – the public school educated upper classes who believed they had a given right to govern – the sad thing is David Cameron and Nick Clegg come from exactly that ‘establishment’ background.

People may over the coming months come to realise the consequences of not supporting Labour – I hope so.  One thing’s clear to me though – neither Cameron nor Clegg have any more mandate to run this country than Labour – they might cobble together a coalition and run the country for a while but the decent thing would be to go back to the country and let the people have their say again within the next 12 months.

I think you’ve got a bit too much time on your hands Dave!

As if we needed to see much more evidence of the shallowness of Tory Leader, David Cameron’s campaign, I’ve heard it all this morning after seeing a clip of his wife’s comments on ‘David – the real man!’

A few months ago our Prime Minister’s wife, Sarah Brown got up and spoke of his passion for the Country, and his workaholic nature – because he believes in improving society for the good of everyone.

What was the best Mrs Cameron could come up with?  ‘He flicks the channels on the TV too much and he’s always playing with his Blackberry.’  So, whilst Dave Cameron is trying to decide whether to watch Coronation Street or Eastenders and checking whether one of his mates has sent him an email or not our Gordon Brown is tackling weighty issues such as investment in the NHS and securing Britain’s economic recovery.

What do you think?  Who would you trust?