Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Help! How about some forward thinking leadership!

Another Guardian article which I just had to respond to:

Thanks Gordon. You have ably illustrated why you are so out of touch with reality. You obviously can't see the wood for the trees. NEW LABOUR HAVE WASTED 11 YEARS in which they could have invested in renewables, energy efficiency and a low carbon (how about hydrogen?) economy.

That would have left us in a much stronger position than we are now.

Your response to the oil 'crisis' - is to talk about how the price of oil is too high! WISE UP! - the world is changing and its your responsibility to make sure that we can cope, not only with the post-oil economy but climate change to boot. So get your finger out and start doing something about it before its too late!.... Oh and while you're at it - forget about nuclear power that is not the solution.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Credit crunch? Not for the fat cats

I was interested to read a Guardian report yesterday on City 'workers'. Apparently £13.2bn in bonuses have been handed out so far this year! No credit crunch for them then. How long can we continue to put up with this abuse? These people are rewarded out of all proportion to any useful role they may play in society. That money could be put to a good use rebuilding schools, or dealing with the growing problems created by the shortage of housing in the UK.

Even the director general of the CBI made critical comments about the bonus culture. What useful purpose do these people serve? - none at all. But in an economic system driven by greed this kind of madness is apparently acceptable. What is most depressing about this situation is that we no there is no chance of a Labour government doing anything about it.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Cameron the charlatan

David Cameron is a 'progressive', or so he claims to be. I'd like to believe him. If what he says is true that would bode well for a possible future for the UK under a Tory government. But I don't believe him. Why? - because when Black Wednesday happened who was standing next to Norman Lamont? - and who wrote the 2005 Tory Election manifesto ? - possibly the most right-wing in the party's history. You've guessed it - David Cameron.

Some people would say that a leopard doesn't change its spots and I'm justifiably skeptical that David Cameron, Eton Schoolboy, and Bullingham Club member has managed to travel a millimetre to the left. Why Should anyone else believe him?

Then look at who Cameron has surrounded himself with - William Hague!, Ian Duncan Smith (IDS) ! - even the Vulcan (Redwood) is still in favour! A real progressive bunch if I've ever seen one!

And while I'm on the subject IDS has been much praised for his efforts in looking at poverty. But what did his study conclude? That one parent families were a bad thing and responsible for social breakdown. In other words, the much vaunted 'research' just happened to churn out a result which confirmed every Tory prejudice against the poor!

Apart from being an insult to all those single parents who struggle to bring up children and who do a marvellous job - what IDS and his chums failed to understand is that its poverty that causes social breakdown NOT single parents - an error you would hardly expect even an Eton schoolboy to make.

No, Cameron is not a progressive - I'd like him to prove me wrong. But there is about as much chance of that happening as there is of New Labour winning the next election.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

You just don't get it do you....

I'm writing this whilst listening to The Week in Westminster on Radio 4. Two Labour MPs discussing Labour's problems, and Gordon Brown's performance, show just out of touch they are with reality. They think that the voters are angry about the 10p tax rate debacle - and they are - but this is just a symptom of their complete disillusionment with New Labour. Call it New Labour's poll tax moment if you like. It means that Gordon cannot win the next election. He has to go if Labour are to have a chance. Not only does he have to go but New Labour has to go with him.......and the new leader of the Labour Party will have to return to Labour values.

This is confirmed by the fact that Alastair Darling's 10p tax fix has had no impact. Voters see it for what it is - a cynical temporary measure. If he had taken the £2.7 billion in a windfall tax on the energy companies, or raising taxes on the rich - now that would have made a difference.........that would have been Labour.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Privatising the NHS

Have you heard of polyclinics? These are the future of primary healthcare in the UK according to Lord Darzi who has been 'asked' by the government to look at GP provision. Polyclinics are, allegedly,bigger and better than GP practices. They will be able to offer more 'services' to patients, or should that be customers? You see the plan is that these polyclinics will be run by Virgin Health or Tescos. Perhaps you will be able to buy some groceries whist you see the nurse, or book a flight after your consultation.

Sounds convenient? Not to me. Not only does this mean a further centralisation of NHS services, making them more remote from the sick and elderly, but it means the private sector getting a dirty great big foot in the door. Call me old fashioned but when I go to see the doctor, I want to see the doctor, not simpering staff in Virgin uniforms trying to sell me health insurance and offering discounts on rail fares.

But that is not the most important point. In the USA, where healthcare is privatised, medical treatment is the biggest single cause of bankruptcy. Ever seen Sicko, the film by Michael Moore? If not you should. Yes, like his other documentaries its flawed, but the central message is entirely accurate - people die because they can't afford healthcare in one of the world's richest countries, and that's obscene, and unnecessary. And they die because healthcare is privatised.

There will no doubt be some who don't believe that could happen here. But I'm not one of them. Giant corporations like United Health want to get their hands on our NHS. If they do, costs will rise and money we spend on healthcare will go to provide profits for shareholders and the rich instead of providing medical treatment for the likes of you and me.

The government knows that private sector companies can't compete with a well run public sector that doesn't have to make a profit. That is why they are they have dreamed up 'patient choice' and are giving the likes of Virgin and Tesco contracts when it comes to running polyclinics - because they are ideologically committed to privatisation. It not too late to stop this from happening. Support you local GP and lobby your Primary Care Trust (PCT). If New Labour succeed in their privatisation plans we should all be very worried about the future. Just don't get sick.

Monday, 12 May 2008

The Emperor's Clothes

I have a confession to make. In 1996 I joined the Labour Party. I'd never been a member of a political party before, and I won't go into why not now. Suffice to say I was heartily sick of Tory rule and, like many others, had high hopes for a Labour government. Despite the fact that I didn't particularly like Tony Blair - he reminded me of kids I knew at school, who had stayed behind to help at parents evenings, and ended up becoming prefects - I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and I have always been interested in policies rather than personalities. After all, hadn't Labour promised to re-nationalise the railways, and end the gross waste of taxpayers money know as the private finance initiative (PFI). There was even hope that they might repeal some or all of the anti-trade union legislation. Compared to now, those were halcyon days.

After the euphoria of the election victory had died down I began to have an odd feeling right from the start. There was all that stuff about sticking to Tory spending plans. Then we had Brown handing over the setting of interest rates to the Bank of England. I've always believed that control of the economy is first and foremost a political, rather than economic decision, and that those elected should take responsibility for it rather than passing the buck to a bunch of economists. And then there was that fact that all the wrong sort of people thought it was a great idea.

But the first sticking point came after just six months. A ludicrous, petty, and unnecessary cut of £60M in social security. What for? To impress Daily Mail readers? That was not what Labour governments were for. I suddenly began the think about not renewing my membership - and I didn't.

From then on things started to become a bit unreal. There was still this massive love affair with Blair, he could do no wrong. But the scales had fallen from my eyes. I could see Blair for what he really was. A Tory with a small t. An ex-public school boy who admired Margaret Thatcher, who was more style than substance. And there I was, like the boy pointing at the Emperor - "He's got no clothes on!" - while all those around me looked on adoringly. That's why I wasn't surprised when the railways weren't re-nationalised and we ended up with a sort of Thatcher-lite government. Not centre-left or centre but centre right.

So lets not forget when all about us are bashing Gordon, that Tony really was no better, and not just because of Iraq - not by any means. By the time the 2005 election was due he was deeply unpopular. For many of us he had begun to grate, just like Thatcher did. He was able to get re-elected on a much reduced majority by saying it would be his last term. Despite the fact he was forced out in the end - he 'departed' at the right time, while he still had something of a reputation left. Gordon, ironically, did him a favour.

Bryan Gould in summed it up in today's 'comment is free' - " suspects that there may be many in New Labour whose main response to Gordon Brown's travails will be one of schadenfreude. Some will say that if only Tony Blair had remained at the helm, everything would have been different. But, like Thatcher before him, Tony's supporters will conveniently forget that he was forced out because he had lost the confidence of his party and the country".

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Chickens coming home to roost.......

In the local election in Northwich West I polled 540 votes which was 14.3% of the total - not bad for a first attempt. Northwich West is part of Cheshire West and Chester, one of the two new unitary authorities imposed on Cheshire without consultation. The boundary is the same as the old county council ward - which was held by Labour. The 'new' ward now elects three councillors and all those elected were Tories.

So, not such a bad night for me but a terrible one for Labour. Back in April I predicted that Brown and New labour would lose the next election and gave my reasons before the 10% row really broke.

The reasons are not difficult to work out. Eighteen years in opposition corroded Labour right down to the core. So desperate were Labour politicians for power that they were happy to ditch Labour principles to get elected. Now as a result New Labour stands for very little. It is a centre-right party, based on neoliberal free market ideals which belong in the 19th century. The very ideals which the Labour Party was set up to fight. Along the way
they have ditched not only Labour values but thousands of loyal activists and thus hollowed out the party. Those left are hardcore followers, donkeys who could be lead anywhere, Blairite and Brownite apparatchicks, opportunists like Hazel Blears, those who don't know where else to go, and those who hang on in the hope of change. Meanwhile those ministers who promise to "listen and lead" - what a fatuous comment! - listen and learn is what they need to do - might as well be living on Mars for all the understanding they have of the depth of their plight.

My Dad used to be a local Labour Party chair and he fought local elections against all the odds in a safe Tory area. He resigned in disgust about two years ago and has vowed never to return. There are many like him, now joined by many more thousands (millions?) of Labour supporters who are bewildered by the fact that the Party that they elected with such enthusiasm in 1997 has done so little for them, and so much for the rich. Something had to give sooner or later, the amazing thing is it wasn't sooner. In fact, Blair only did as well as he did in 2005 because he promised to quit. Had he not New Labour's majority would have been a lot lower.

So what has New Labour done for us? Well we always hear about the minimum wage and there is no doubt that Gordon has managed a certain amount of re-distribution. But balance that against the downside:
  • student fees
  • rampant house prices
  • the destruction of pensions
  • damaging PFI projects which have lined the pockets of corporations and saddled the nation with debt
  • closure of post offices and cuts in public services
  • privatisation of the NHS
  • the Iraq war
  • refusal to repeal damaging trade union legislation
  • promotion of divisive faith schools and privatisation of education
  • a complete and comprehensive failure to deal with environmental issues
  • an increasing gap between the rich and poor
  • a reduction in social mobility
None of the things in this list are things which natural Labour supporters would have wanted. Only the party right and those fools who were dazzled by apparent Blairite invincibility supported them. What's worse is that they were done dishonestly. Whoever asked us if we wanted the NHS to be priviatised? Not New Labour. Why? Because they knew it would have been rejected.

Not only is New Labour going to lose the next election but we have to ask - what is New Labour for? Tony Blair said "We will govern as New Labour". I say they are going to die a political death as New Labour.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Buttermere election break

I was the Green Party local election candidate for Northwich West - but before I can get my result I am off to Buttermere for the weekend with Susie to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We stayed at the Bridge Hotel, one of our favourite Lakeland haunts, which we have always found to be welcoming and good value. But there is no telly or radio - so I am in suspense to find out my result, and the dread of Ken losing to Boris Johnson in London. Of course I don't expect to get elected. But I do hope to have a decent showing - especially after slogging round Kingsmead, Leftwich and Castle delivering at least 1300 flyers.

However, a beautiful weekend in Buttermere is ample compensation for having to wait for the result. I had thought to take my ipod touch so that I could check the internet via wi-fi but they wouldn't have it would they - well they did! - so to ease that frustration we went for a bracing - beautiful sunny day but strong wind - walk up Grasmoor via Whiteless Pike [2159'].

What a slog Whiteless Pike is! We were both out of condition and just about managed to haul our creaking bodies to the summit. According to Wainwright "...nor is it as steep as may be expected" - well I beg to differ. The pain was well worth it and we were rewarded with superb views of Gable, Pillar and the Scafells - on this matter I would happily concur with Wainwright's opinion.

The ridge between the Pike and Wandope [2533'] is a splendid aerial promenade, and when you reach the top it flattens out onto a plateau which connects Wandope with Eel Crag and Grasmoor.
Here I somehow managed to turn my ankle, which was sore but not sprained, so we decided to make our way down by the least steepest route. This happens to be via Gasgale gill which is only steep in short sections but very rocky and also the longest route back. Nonetheless, apart from a few painful twinges, it was a splendid walk rewarded with excellent views of Red Pike form Crummock water.
Its about twenty years since I visited that high plateau, and the thing that struck me most of all was the erosion on footpaths. All are in need of repair and could do with the sort of treatment which has been carried out on Shining Tor in the Peak District. Its not quite the same walking on 'pavement' but action is needed to preserve these grand old mountains from the folk that love them.

So how did I do in the election? - well you will have to wait until my local election review - coming soon............