Thursday, April 02, 2020

Testing frontline NHS staff for Coronavirus

Yesterday Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that Hospitals should use spare laboratory space to test self-isolating NHS staff in England for coronavirus.

But if there was spare capacity, why weren't they being tested already?

And if there isn't spare capacity, is he just pretending to do something?

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

BREXIT Myths: Can't we just get Brexit done?

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: No. When we leave, we're straight into a decade or so of the real Brexit  negotiations. What we've negotiated so far is just the Irish Border, the divorce bill, and citizens' rights. Everything else (the hard bits) will be negotiated after we leave. We will be trying to replace all our current trade deals with the rest of the world - all the countries and trading blocs - at the same time. It is likely to take at least 5 years.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

BREXIT myths: Do we need the threat of "no deal" to strengthen our negotiating position?

Short answer: no.

Longer answer: Right now we're only negotiating the arrangements for the actual trade talks. The real negotiations come after we leave. At that point, we are committed to reaching trade deals, and we'll have no way to walk away. The no deal "threat" won't help with that - we'll have to take what we can get.  If "walking away" now means leaving with no transition deal, then we'll need new agreements even more urgently than if we did have a transition deal. The only real way to "walk away" from the talks is to change our minds, and cancel Brexit...

Saturday, September 07, 2019

BREXIT Myths: Can't we just leave and get it over?

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: No, we can't. It's wrong on both counts. We can't "just leave", and even if we do, Brexit won't be over...

Thursday, August 02, 2018

No-deal Brexit by Accident?

Jeremy Hunt says we are heading for a no-deal Brexit by accident. He could be right...

If you can believe that...

Monday, May 22, 2017

Are you a Marxist?

Sometimes the question you are answering is not what you think. Especially in politics!

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

If we don't vote for a better future, who will do it for us? If not now, when? If not this way, how?

Ballot box
So here we vote again. Some people are cynical, saying "all politicians are the same - what's the point of voting?" I've heard people complain about their MLAs and then say, resignedly, "what can you do?"

There is only one thing to do, if you're not happy with the way your MLAs have been behaving (or your Ministers, or First Ministers, for that matter)...

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Labour - what are they for?

Labour, it seems, needs a new leader. The current one, apparently, is "not electable". But what difference will a new one make? What is the problem with the policies of the current leader that has driven rebellions and resignations in the parliamentary party since the day he was elected? Surely nobody can seriously suggest the day-one wave of resignations and subsequent chorus of complaints were about his leadership style...

Monday, July 11, 2016

On anger and what to do with it

When the Referendum result gradually became clear, I was very disappointed. Not by the result so much as by what it said about us as a country. But as I thought about how it had come about, I felt anger. This is what I wrote on FriendFace shortly afterwards...

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Our Disenfranchised Young - Let them be heard

The EU Referendum was an outrage. The young - who have most to lose - were denied a voice. And to be quite blunt, the old - who voted to leave in such numbers - will have to live with the consequences for the shortest time. This is wrong!

There must be another referendum, in which our 16 and 17 year old citizens who were denied a voice - denied a vote - can have their say!

Young lives matter - Let them speak!

Friday, June 24, 2016

DUPed again!

I am saddened by last night's referendum result. The vote to leave will cause economic damage, it is true. But more seriously, it threatens the stability of the UK and Europe. And the working people who seem to have voted overwhelmingly for exit are likely to pay the price - how will they not, under a government which has already made them pay the price for the Bankers’ Recession?

Britain (or possibly just England and Wales) can survive outside the EU. The skies will not fall, as the official remain campaign promised, but we will be the worse for it. If the decision had been taken after careful reflection, and an honest campaign, I would not have minded so much. But to be dragged out of an organisation that was founded to help ensure peace in Europe and to prevent a hyper capitalist race to the bottom in working conditions, by a campaign that was so thoroughly dishonest, racist, and misleading, is hard to stomach.

Remain’s project fear was defeated by Vote Leave’s fear and hatred. The country has taken a selfish and inward looking turn. Facts have become optional in our political discourse. Now we will wake up and begin to realise what we have, collectively, done.

The farmers have voted for an end to agricultural subsidies, like turkeys for Christmas. Vote Leave has given comfort to every racist in the country and to far right fascists throughout Europe. And at the end of it we may well concede "uncontrolled migration" from the EU as the price of access to the EU's single market.

And we may now see the end of the UK. That will be the final irony for the dreamers of Empire who begrudged the pooling of sovereignty that kept the peace, encouraged laggards to protect the environment, and ended predatory corporate practises like roaming charges. Little Englanders indeed.

So, Boris, when will the NHS be getting its extra £350 million?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Vote Leave because... Migration?

Migrants are flooding into the UK, claiming benefits, clogging up hospitals and stretching services to breaking point - all thanks to EU rules - or so the Brexit campaign seems to say.

But are they?

Well, some flood in, and some flood out. Lots of elderly Brits, for example, swarm to Spain and clog up their hospitals. Many British people work in Europe. Or study at European Universities - for rather less than £9000 a year! That is not so bad for this country.

Inward migration is mostly young people who are working, and paying taxes. In fact migrants on average pay more towards the NHS and schools than us natives. And being young and healthy, they use the NHS less. Win win! In fact, being in the EU means that if our under resourced NHS cannot provide treatment quickly enough, it is sometimes possible to be referred for treatment in a European country, free of charge.

So if the NHS is under pressure, and it is, it's not because of the disproportionate share of money the migrants are contributing - it's because it's not being funded properly.

Same with schools and housing. Rents are not high because of net migration - that barely compensates for our falling birth rate. Rents are high because there aren't enough houses. We have failed to build enough for the last few parliaments! The solution is building, not Brexit!

When a society starts to blame other ethnic groups or minorities for its problems, it becomes very ugly very quickly. And when the problems are caused by the politicians we choose, the hypocrisy is staggering.

But if the Brexit campaign wins and we leave the EU, with all the economic pressures that will bring, how much more will have to be blamed on migrants and innocent minorities. How much more divided will our society become?

Is that the sort of country we want?

We can choose a better way. Will we?

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Farage - the new Trump?

The poisoning of politics continues apace, as Nigel Farage plumbs new depths. Following on his "there will be riots" speech, with its echoes of Enoch Powell, now he seems to be channelling Donald Trump, who earlier called Mexicans criminals and rapists. Farage in his turn seems to be characterising migrants - or maybe just Turks en masse - as molesters of women.

At least we have the English Channel, so Farage won't need to repeat Trump's demand for a wall. Would he have had it built by refugees, and funded by Turkey, I wonder?

Friday, June 03, 2016

Spend spend spend!

I wonder how many people the Brexit campaign have promised the £350 million a week of savings on EU membership to?

Last week it was the NHS. Then it seemed to be the Environment. Neither of them are causes close to the hearts of the right wing conservatives who make most of the running in the Brexit campaign. But if you talk to Brexit-inclined farmers concerned about loss of EU subsidy, they seem to think the savings will be spent on continuing the subsidies.

So the NHS, the Environment, and farmers could receive up to 350m of extra money (or not lose the money, in the farmers' case). It reminds me of the promised speeds in broadband ads. Up to 350 could mean very little indeed to your favoured cause.

But it's worse than that. Mrs Thatcher negotiated a rebate back in the last millennium, so it's only "up to £276m". Or "up to £161m" if you count the money the EU spends on support for the UK - from farming to projects in disadvantaged areas!

And if you want a hint about where the "savings" are actually likely to be spent, look at the government's current priorities - cuts for the disadvantaged, and tax cuts for the rich, and broken promises on pollution and the Environment. What are the real chances of a Damascus Road conversion to non-private health care, saving the planet, or support for the poorest parts of our country?