Wednesday, 26 August 2009

NHS safe in their hands? Hardly...

There's been lots of crocodile tears from all sides about the parlous state of the NHS in recent weeks, driven by the USA's debate over whether to have an equivalent publicly-run health service or not.

Thatcherite poster boy, local MEP and general Tory buffoon Dan Hannan started the row (as usual) by telling a US audience that the NHS was a "sixty-year mistake".

Labour politicians - presumably afraid to admit that some of their number were using their excessive ministerial salaries to opt out and buy private health care for themselves and their families - completely failed to defend the NHS and its staff, despite the facts that life expectancy is longer in the UK than the US - and that American taxpayers pay more NOT to have an NHS than we do to fund one.

It wouldn't be so bad if this was just an academic row - but it isn't.

Just this week, The Argus has run two stories revealing the extent of the cash shortfall faced by local NHS services under Labour's stewardship: on Monday it led with the shocking news that crumbling Sussex hospitals faced a £120 million unpaid bill for a backlog of building repairs - and yesterday we learned that here in Kemp Town the Royal Sussex County Hospital alone has spent £3 million on temporary staff since April.

Sometimes it seems that only the Green Party remains committed to a publicly-funded, free for all, health service - and believe that it's fairer to fund it from general taxation than a share of the profits made by the private companies the government is sneaking into the NHS with increasing frequency.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Tories press ahead with plans to close Falmer High despite 'best school' accolade

The Argus has published its short-lists for its annual Achievement Awards celebrations, which are due to tare place at the Theatre Royal tomorrow (Thursday, August 27).

The Awards are a showcase of the best Brighton - and Sussex - have to offer: the greenest pupil, the local hero, the charity, the courageous child, good neighbour and so on. The citations are really worth a look if you've got the time - I can't find a link on The Argus website, but I'll post one later). There are some amazing stories there: of the Clock Tower Sanctuary, which has helped thousands of young people find homes in the city, for example, or green-fingered Piotr Szota, who has helped transform an overgrown courtyard at Varndean School into a forest fruit garden.

But I raised an eyebrow though over Falmer High being short-listed for School of the year for its 'dramatic progress'. Certainly not because Falmer doesn't deserve to win the award - it does.

Falmer is fast improving under the inspirational headship of Stuart McLaughlin.

But because the Tory-run council, with wholehearted Labour support, will close it in a year to be replaced by a completely untried (and not even built yet) privately-run academy, Mr McLaughlin, the man responsible for so much of the recent improvement at Falmer (and himself up for the Teacher of the Year award) having been replaced too.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Green Party grows up?

Well I for one am glad to see that the Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW) is, at last, behaving like a major political party - and that even the Guardian diary has noticed.

An almighty row has blown up after the party-wide ballot for the internal post of External Communications Co-ordinator, between current incumbent Tracy Dighton-Brown and the job-share partnership of Brighton City councillor Jason Kitcat and MEP candidate Rupert Read was suspended.

The decision comes after both 'sides' began publishing endorsements from other party members, and Jason and Rupert's 'blog carried one including some fairly choice criticism of Tracy's approach to communications.

Usually, cutting most party members out of the decision would benefit the incumbent, but in this case the move looks set to hand the election to Jason and Rupert, as Jason's local party colleagues will be greatly in evidence when the vote is taken in Hove next month.

Although some have argued that this sort of muck-raking does us no good at all - and that all the protagonists will have to work together, and with others outside the party afterwards - most people I've spoken too have observed that internal rows are simply the stuff of political parties.

I've been involved with GPEW for seven years now, and witnessed a fair few rows and seen a fair pile of mud flinging around, one way or another. The only difference this time is that the outside world has noticed.

Internal elections are the best dry runs we've got for the external ones and personally I think the dirtier they get - as long as no-one resorts to telling lies in their zeal to win - the better rehearsal they offer: if National Executive (GPEx) elections are uncontested, or are conducted in an artificially 'positive campaigning only' way they don't offer much practice for the real world!

It's quite clear that whoever wins we'll have an excellent Ex Comms Co-ordinator - what a luxury to have a choice between such experienced, committed and hard-working candidates.

So, imho, we need more election contests like this, and less getting our collective underwear in a tangle.

Meanwhile, Jason and Rupert's campaign 'blog has been suspended - as has Tracy Bighton-Brown's.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Bob Ainsworth's guilt-fuelled insomnia

Barely a day seems to go by without Secretary of State for Defence Bob Ainsworth cropping up on TV telling us that another young soldier has come back from Afghanistan in a body bag, or that meeting the Queen and getting a new medal will help grieving widows and orphaned children help 'plug the gap' left behind.

It's given me plenty of chances to study his face for signs of shame, remorse, sorrow - anything really.

But none of it's there: just the characteristic moustache: I wonder how he sleeps at night? In fact - I wonder IF he sleeps at night, or if he just tosses and turns in a frenzied, guilt-fuelled insomnia?

The great ID card scam

If ever there was a reason to be cheerful about recession forcing that nice Mr Brown to cut millions from public services to fund massive handouts to the bankers that got us into this mess in the first place, its that he'll have to abandon the ludicrous, scary and expensive plan to make us all carry ID-cards.

It's not just that ID-cards would have cost millions, or that they were part of a calculated plan to make us all a little more scared of terrorism than we really should be (in the hope that we'll all roll over and just accept future erosions of our human rights).

No, it's scary: ID-cards will provide the state with a biological record of everyone living in the UK (according to campaign group No2ID about 50 different pieces of data per person will be recorded in a national database), making future discrimination - based on just about anything - a little easier: just ask the Tutsi of Rwanda, a million of who were genocidally murdered after their ethnicity was apparently recorded on state ID-cards.

And it wouldn't even work anyway. It took a hacker working for the Daily Mail barely a quarter of an hour to crack the supposedly uncrackable system: to clone a card and programme it with false data.

But the scheme's likely price tag of £200 per person would have meant bumper profits for some of the Government's preferred contractors - a direct transfer of cash from the taxpayer to Peter Mandelson's friends in the security industry.

Let's hope some of the savings find their way into publicly-owned schools and hospitals.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Mike Mendoza

“In an earlier blog I made comments about Radio Presenter and UKIP PPC for Hove MIKE MENDOZA. I have since discovered that my comments were ill founded and totally incorrect and take this opportunity to unreservedly apologise for any distress my comments may have caused Mr Mendoza. I have withdrawn the previous comments from my blog and assure Mr Mendoza that they will never be repeated by me.”