the brilliantly leaping gazelle

My election notes. E-Day +20

 

SH

The above ‘photo was taken a few days ago when, according to the Independent,

A school trip to a police firing range where pupils took aim at targets with toy guns has been criticised on social media.

West Midlands Police opened its doors to a Year 3 class from Kings Norton Primary, Birmingham, to thank pupils who had written to officers following recent terror attacks.

Pictures from the visit show a line of pupils, aged seven and eight, aiming plastic replica firearms at targets metres away.

I could, if I was so minded use this as a way to comment upon in both the decline in police numbers and the cut in central government funding of the police. As evidence for this, I might cite the Institute for Fiscal Studies recent analysis of police funding and it’s key findings that;

The number of full-time equivalent police officers in England and Wales fell by 14%, or almost 20,000 officers, between 2009 and 2016. This has undone the workforce expansion of the 2000s – there are now fewer police officers in England and Wales than there were in the late 1990s.

Spending on the police fell by 14% in real-terms between 2010–11 and 2014–15. Central government grants for the police fell by more (20%) but some forces were able partially to offset the cut by raising more money through council tax.
At the autumn 2015 Spending Review the Government planned further cuts to central government grants for the police up to 2019–20. It was planned that if police forces each chose to increase the council tax precept by the maximum permitted then their budgets would remain constant in cash-terms between 2015–16 and 2019–20.
Current estimates of police force revenues in 2016–17 show that the government has done as they promised so far: Police budgets remained broadly flat in cash terms between 2015–16 and 2016–17. However, this does mean that in real-terms revenues have continued to fall.

 

I could do that. Of course I could. I could also use it to highlight the fact that politics is all about choices, and that it is all well and good Teresa May praising the police after a terrorist incident, but her warm words are not much use to pay for anything in the real world. Unless she’s invented a new kind of virtual reality currency, rather like Bit Coin, only Bitch Coin. So instead of denominations of pounds, one might have instead increasingly descriptive words for warmth to denote value. So a lukewarm might be worth only five tepids and a tepid only worth five cools. The most valuable being of course the centre of the sun, but that wouldn’t ever be used – not even by Russian oligarchs – but for most people it would instead be boiling.

Anyway, being puerile, my immediate thought on seeing this picture was this scene from ‘The Hangover’.

 

My election notes. E-Day + 19

 

rr

The drugs that my doctor prescribed for me to help lower lower my blood pressure might have more likelihood of success if I didn’t read the news. Well ‘news’ in it’s loosest possible definition of the word, as this piece of irrelevant nonsense on todays MailOnline, aptly demonstrates

Britain will continue to pay millions of pounds in child benefit to children living across Europe after Brexit – despite widespread anger at the handouts.

The country forks out around £30 million a year in benefits to 34,000 children living across the bloc, mostly in Poland.

It chundred, before adding,

It was contained in a 15-page policy paper which sets out the government’s plans to protect the rights of EU nationals living in Britain.

The document states that the ‘export of UK benefits’ will be ‘protected for those that are exporting such UK benefits on the specified date, including child benefit, subject to on-going entitlement to the benefit’.

This means that EU nationals who arrive here before the cut off date – which will be some time between March this year and March 2019 – will still get the handouts.

It’s nonsense in the sense that it’s so trivial. I mean, £30 million a year in benefit payments for 34,000 children? No wonder the Mail is angry about it it, it’s just so amateur! Given that Teresa May has raised the bar so high with her £1 billion bribe for 10 D.U.P MP’s, Thats £100 million each!

And they say that votes can’t be bought!

And as if to prove that austerity is relative – the relative in question being if your relative happens to be the queen or or not – comes the news in todays Guardian that;

The Queen is in line for a near-doubling of her income to more than £82m due to a government decision to increase her funding to cover “essential works” to Buckingham Palace.

The Crown Estate, which owns most of Regent Street and swaths of St James’s as well as thousands of acres of farmland, forests and coastline, made £328.8m profit in the year to the end of March 2017, an 8% increase on the previous year.

The Queen’s sovereign grant, the amount she receives from taxpayers, is calculated as a percentage of Crown Estate profits. In November, it was announced that the percentage would rise for 10 years from 15% to 25%.

But one piece in the story is worth mentioning;

Of the cost, Sir Alan Reid, the Keeper of the Privy Purse, said: “It accounts for 65p per person per annum in the UK; that’s the price of a first class stamp. When you consider that against what the Queen does and represents for this country, I believe it represents excellent value for money.”

The funding increase to cover improvements to Buckingham Palace was decided in a review by the Royal Trustees – the prime minister, the chancellor and Reid. Officials have said the repair work, which is set to take 10 years, is essential to avoid the risk of “catastrophic building failure”.

If someone could explain to me the difference in reaction to this and to this, as reported in the Independent;

Kensington and Chelsea Council threatened a resident of Grenfell Tower with legal action after he blogged about his concerns over fire safety.

The Grenfell Action Group (GAG) raised their fears time and again both with the council and with the company which managed the doomed 24-storey tower block, writing an eerily prophetic post last year warning that only a “catastrophic event” would expose the “ineptitude and incompetence” of their landlord, the KCTMO.

Instead of taking their concerns seriously, the Conservative-run council replied with its own warning letter from solicitor, Vimal Sama, dated 25 July 2013 and addressed to Francis O’Connor, accusing him of “defamatory behaviour” and “harassment.”

Then please do.

I’ve blogged about this before, of how those in control of taxpayers funds deem some costs somehow more worthy than others. The queen lives on state benefits. She holidays at our expense. Are the D.W.P ever told about her leaving the country? She has numerous dwellings around the country, but does the D.W.P ask her what happens when she’s not there? Or even when she is there? How many bedrooms can one person sleep in at a time. So is she being sanctioned for under occupancy? Her eldest son runs a business? Are the D.W.P investigating him for fraud or is he taking the biscuit? One of her grandchildren gets married and we pay for it? In what way isn’t she a benefit cheat?

And how can we as a society afford this and but not this?

The fate of a centre for disabled children will be discussed at a cabinet meeting today.

The closure of Nascot Lawn Respite Centre, Langley Road was announced on Friday, June 16.

The centre which looks after disabled children with severe medical needs while their families rest, is due to close on October 31 due to funding cuts from the Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

It’s facing closure because its £700,000 annual running cost is too high. It’s yet another sad and telling indictment of what is and isn’t affordable. There will be more.

 

 

 

My election notes. E-Day + 17

Royal Windsor Horse Show - Day 5

Friday evening and the first few hours of Saturday morning were spent by me and my partner at the local Accident and Emergency department of my local hospital. I had fallen quite well from an artistic point of view – with nonchalant grace and aplomb – but quite badly from any other point of view, given that the aplomb in question was the sound my head made when it hit the table.

So that covers the why I was there.

Believe me, I wasn’t going to post about my trip to hospital, because it was as essential as it was inherently boring. But earlier today I received a text, which I’ll share with you, so you can judge whether or not I think too much about things

I am posting about this is because it is an indictment of our times, the rather bizarre modern phenomena of people feeling the need to rate something,

“We would like you to rate your recent experience at xxxx A&E department. How likely are to you to recommend or A&E department to your Friends and Family if they needed similar care or treatment.” It then gave a rating out of 5, with 1 being extremely likely and 5 being extremely unlikely.

A few things immediatly sprang to mind.

First, the clue is in the name, front and centre ‘Accident and Emergency’ specifically the ‘Emergency’ part. Emergency suggests many things, but one thing it doesn’t is cause one to reflect upon irrelevanacies.

Perhaps yes, the staff could’ve been a tad more communicative but there weren’t that many of them – well not in the reception and initial assesment area anway – so much so that the area was frequently unstaffed, causing one of the patients waiting patiently to be seen to offer advice to the newcomers.

And perhaps yes, the seating could’ve been less industrial and more functional, given that after a while I was getting a numb bum. But I suppose when hospitals are expected to do even more with even less this is an inevitable consequence.

Related to that is the fact that possibly I could’ve been seen by the doctors sooner than the six hours after my arrival and intial assessment and four hours after my second blood pressure reading which was, the nurse taking it agreed, ‘abnormally high’. But then my local hospital is also a major trauma unit. Through frosted glass I could see blue lights arriving with alarming frequency, followed by hurried tannoy calls for ‘resuscitation staff to the trauma unit’ which were inevitably followed some time later by one for a ‘cleaner to the trauma unit for a deep clean’

Eventually I was seen. All of those earlier irritations faded instantly. Because whilst any organisation that is the third largest employer in the world is bound to have some area’s of improvement, the N.H.S, is still by some order of magnitude both the best healthcare system in the world and uniquely British. Only we have access to free healthcare paid for through general taxation. Only a Labour Government could’ve had the will to make it a reality.

Going to an Accident and Emergency isn’t on peoples ‘to do’ list.  One shouldn’t in most cases compare hospitals with each other. It’s not like Trip Advisor. where you can read other peoples ratings. They’re an essential public good. People don’t just choose to go one. Well, not most people anyway, because I remembered an observation I shared with my partner as I was waiting to be seen. About how Prince Phillip,

 “Was admitted to King Edward VII Hospital in London last night, as a precautionary measure, for treatment of an infection arising from a pre-existing condition.”

Namely how on earth would any other 96 year old man living on state benefits be treated by the media if he tried a similar stunt? I mean, we are funding his private healthcare whilst our own is underfunded?  In what possible universe is that fair?

My election notes. E-Day + 12

BC

 

I could write a post about the Chancellor Phillips Hammonds speech this morning at Mansion House, and what it might mean for Brexit negotiations.

Of course I could.

Or I could write about how German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she could back a eurozone finance minister and eurozone budget “if the circumstances are right”. Of how this might confirms the worst fears of those who voted to leave the EU as the start of a slippery slope towards a United States of Europe.

Of course I could.

Indeed, I could write a post about how Barclays and four former executives have been charged with fraud over their actions in the 2008 financial crisis. About how they are the only senior staff at bank to have been charged in the UK on this. Indeed, I might draw unfavourable comparisons between this and the numbers of people convicted of benefit fraud since 2008.

Of course I could.

I could do all of those things. But I won’t.

Because part of my childhood died yesterday and I imagine people who were children in either the ‘60’s, ‘70’s or ‘80’s might’ve felt the same way upon hearing the sad news that Brian Cant died yesterday. Put simply he was the voice of my childhood, calm, playful and encouraging. Everything me as a child wanted in a voice and if it had to come out of a TV well, I was just glad it was there at all.

As the Guardian in it’s obituary of of him it noted,

 For two decades from 1964 there was scarcely a BBC show aimed at little children that didn’t come with Cant’s distinctive tones. It was his voice that weekly introduced us in the late 60s to the townsfolk of Camberwick Green (1966). And it was Cant who did the prosodically captivating roll call for the fire brigade in Camberwick Green’s sequel, Trumpton (1969): “Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb.”

He presented ‘Play School’ – I can still remember an episode that showed us through the round window how rubber gloves were made – and ‘Play Away’. Brilliant children’s shows’, never patronizing but always fun. He didn’t try to be your friend as much as he made me want to be his. His tone somehow conveyed a sense of here was someone you could trust, here was someone who was still in possession of a child-like imagination of invention and above all here was someone who was genuine. That, for me at any rate at least, is what made him so beloved.

Because when you’re a child you quickly learn to spot fakes; you don’t know why they are or even how you know but you just know. It’s both intuitive and quickly forgotten, something all children have, yet some forget when they become adults and become the people that they as children despised.

I mean, I don’t look back on my childhood with any great fondness so I’m just glad his voice was such a large part of my childhood.

And no, I’ve no idea what ‘prosodically’ means either.

My election notes. E-Day + 11

Today there was a minutes’ silence at 11am for the victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and in a macabre twist of fate, at 11am in Brussels saw the beginning of talks regarding Britain’s exit from the EU. Or to be exact, talks about talks, as the processes that will govern the talks have yet to be agreed upon.

All of this whilst the clock is ticking. The deadline for the conclusion of these talks which is March 29th 2019, which is two years after Teresa May triggered Article 50.

One might be forgiven for thinking that possibly she might have been wiser to trigger Article 50 after the general election. There was no pressing need to, in fact there was every pressing need not to, to help Britain sort out it’s negotiation stance. The EU is in no hurry. They are like someone in a messy divorce who knows they’re going to keep the house and the car. They don’t care. They have nothing to lose – well nowhere near as much as we do – and can act accordingly. Two years is an incredibly short time to ensure the smooth and orderly transfer of powers back to the UK. Which brings me back to Grenfell Tower.

 

How exactly will all manner of regulations be challenged in the courts, I mean will the UK Supreme Court be the final court to appeal to once we leave Europe?

My election notes. E-Day + 10

Tumbleweed-862x574

The headline in today’s Daily Telegraph raises a lot more questions than it answers.

In fact, it answers none at all.

 Prosecutors are considering manslaughter charges after Grenfell Tower disaster, Keir Starmer reveals.

I mean anyone can consider anything. It remains to be seen if anything will result of this consideration. Because. As I wrote two years ago about the UKIP manifesto:

Anyone can aspire to anything. The great thing about an aspiration is that it doesn’t commit you to anything. An aspiration is another, more grown-up word for a wish. Just imagine saying to an excited child on their birthday, “Now take a deep breath and remember when you blow out the candles to make an aspiration.”

The same is true of consideration. Its vagueness is also its strength. It suggests possible action at some unspecified time.  We’ve all considered doing things. But how many of the things we consider actually happen and how many of them are like conversational tumbleweed?

My election notes. E-Day + 9

 

GT1

I went swimming on Thursday, well not swimming exactly, it was more hydrotherapy and more hydro than therapy at that. The theory was that lying on my back in the water and staying afloat by means of moving my arms on the surface of the water would in some way alleviate the pain in my left shoulder. That was the theory. Practical application of the theory proved otherwise, as my body communicated to me that I was causing it pain. That was on Thursday, and the pain hasn’t as yet fully abated. Hence the words you are reading have been typed by my glamorous assistant Julie, who is smiling as she types this!

One person who never seems to smile unless she’s looking at a horse is the Queen and  she visited the scene of the Grenfell Tower disaster and met some of those affected. As any reader of my previous posts will know, I am no great fan of the royal family. In fact, they are to democracy in the 21st century what the Pied Piper of Hamelin was to child safety. The tragedy at Grenfell Tower exposes many things wrong with our cost conscious society, but not least of which is the hypocrisy that underpins our society inasmuch as the need to be cost conscious only seems to affect one strata of society, the same one that bears the brunt of austerity, the same one that didn’t create the conditions that necessitated it.

In 1992, Windsor Castle was gutted by fire. This was seen at the time as a great tragedy – although no-one died – and immediately there was talk about restoring the castle to its former glory. There was almost as much unanimous support in parliament for this to be carried out at the taxpayer’s expense, as there wasn’t public debate.

As fire-magazine notes in its excellent account of it;

 Fires in such important and high profile buildings were not new: Hampton Court Palace was badly damaged by a fire on Easter Monday, 1986.

Following the Hampton Court Palace fire, a detailed survey of Windsor Castle was carried out by the Property Services Agency (PSA) which identified a works programme of £20 million to incorporate fire prevention measures including complete rewiring of the main Castle buildings, the fitting of automatic detection, installation of fire resisting doors, improved fire compartmentation, treatment of timber and separation between heating elements and combustible materials. Between the date of the report and the fire, responsibility the fire safety and royal residences was transferred from the PSA to the royal household, which employed its own consultants.

Before noting;

As a result of the fire, not only was Windsor Castle made safer but safety in a range of other heritage premises was improved. The interaction between listed buildings, heritage features and smoke alarms had been a concern for many years, with a general reluctance to utilise systems because of the intrusive nature of work such as drilling holes. This has undoubtedly spurred on the development of wireless smoke alarms which protect without causing collateral damage to the fabric of buildings.

Compare this to the tragedy that killed 6 people at Lakanal House in Southwark in 2009. There was a coroners inquest – of course there was – which made recommendations – of course it did – and one of these recommendations was ignored were ignored – of course it was. The coroner’s report into Lakanal House called for developers refurbishing high-rise blocks to be encouraged to install sprinkler systems. And guess what happened? With an almost predictable inevitability Lakanal House was refurbished and re-opened recently but no sprinkler system was installed. The leader of Southwark council was on ‘The World At One’ on Thursday trying to explain his reasons not to. (the interview with him starts at 37mins).

He points out that local councils have many competing demands on their funds and this is but one of them. He also points out that fires of this nature are more likely to happen in social housing as opposed to private. Quite why his comments haven’t received coverage and wider debate – especially given the media interest in this issue – is as bewildering as it is inexplicable.

How and why is it that some costs can be borne by the taxpayer, especially if they’re to a wealthy pensioner who not just works the system but is integral to it’s very perpetuation, yet other costs are somehow too expensive? Politics is about choices, and the catastrophe at Grenfell Tower neatly brings into focus how some choices can be afforded, whilst some can’t.

One more thing.

If the report in Wednesdays ‘Independent’ are true, that;

“Due to its height the tower is visible from the adjacent Avondale Conservation Area to the south and the Ladbroke Conservation Area to the east,” a planning document for the regeneration work reads. “The changes to the existing tower will improve its appearance especially when viewed from the surrounding area.”

Then the blackened ruin that is Grenfell Tower once was a home to so many, should be left as it is, as a permanent reminder of what the inherent unfairness in a capitalist society can lead to.

My election notes. E-Day + 8

PAIN

 

Happy days are here again.

Not.

Mind you, nowhere near as much as others are going through. Mine will pass.

 

 

My election notes. E-Day + 6

 

R

The news that the Supreme Court had rejected an appeal by a mother and daughter in their legal battle for women from Northern Ireland to receive free abortions on the NHS in England is deeply troubling. Because not only highlights the discrepancy between the health choices available to women in various parts of Britain, not only does it send out the message that women’s bodies are only their own if they can afford to have them so, not only does it impose religious ‘beliefs’ on those that may have none and not only indicate that the power and the reach of the state negates any notion of the personal. That’s troubling enough for any libertarian.

But more troubling is the fact that the Conservative party considers the D.U.P a suitable coalition partner is indicative of the priorities of the Conservative party. Thinking about The Conservatives need to be in power no matter the cost, makes me think of Denis Leary’s joke about cocaine, of how all other matters become subservient in pursuit of it;

That was the worst part about the coke, man, was being in that bathroom with that stranger at the end of the night. Wasn’t it, huh? Talking about shit like solving the world’s problems and the only reason you’re in there is because he has the coke. That should have been a fucking sign, don’t ya think? I mean if Hitler had coke, there’d be Jews in the bathroom going, “I know you didn’t do it. (snort) I like your mustache. (snort) Fucking Himmler. (snort)”

Because I found this on the D.U.P website;

Public debate has focused on the needs of women who are pregnant with a child diagnosed with a severe life limiting condition. The DUP believes that women who find themselves in these most difficult of situations need the best medical and emotional support. The DUP is committed to establishing a perinatal hospice care service or facility in Northern Ireland.

Which sounds fair enough right? I mean who’s going to argue against the proposition that women who find themselves in these most difficult of situations need the best medical and emotional support.’ No-one right? It is one horror I thankfully will never have to undergo, that of giving birth to a baby with no chance of life. But whereas theoretically ‘perinatal hospice service’ is a choice for the parents, whether or not to continue with a pregnancy that isn’t viable outside of the womb, one that respects the right of the parents to choose, in Northern Ireland the state has decided that all babies should be born, regardless of viability. How is it possible that In the 2nd decade of 21st Century this is allowed to happen? Are we living in the Dark Ages? Because this isn’t an archaic legal throwback to a time best forgotten that has somehow yet to be repealed.

Oh no. A proposal to legalise abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality was defeated in the Northern Ireland Assembly in February by 59 votes to 40. Even worse, an amendment relating to pregnancies which are the result of rape or incest was defeated by an even wider margin.

Not as wide a margin as the one between the D.U.P and the 21st Century!

My election notes. E-Day + 6

EE

 

Yesterday Parliament reconvened, and parliamentarians on all sides were at pains to demonstrate how important it was that there were more women MP’s there now were. And whilst it is A VERY GOOD THING INDEED that our elected representatives are more representative of the population they serve, with 32% of them being women, I do have a couple of issues with it.

Just because an MP happens to be a woman, is that a good thing. I’m not being misogynistic here, but why on earth should an MP’s gender matter? Shouldn’t their values, or principles or convictions matter more than what’s between their legs?

What seems of more importance to me is the both the social background and ethnic diversity of all the MP’s we’ve returned to Westminster. I mean, if a majority of those women went to public school and then to Oxbridge, is that really such a good thing? If the majority of them are white and heterosexual does that reflect 21st Century Britain? How many of them are disabled?

The figures for this parliament, are, bizarrely, not yet publicly available. I write bizarre because in this internet age, when information is meant to be freely and readily available, this information should be available on the respective political parties own websites, pretty much after ebbing elected, if not before it. After all, they are in theory meant to represent us. However according to a report cited by the BBC in

 Almost a third (32%) of MPs in the new House of Commons went to private school, according to an analysis by an education charity.

Of these, almost one in 10 went to Eton, suggests the Sutton Trust study.

Among Conservative MPs, nearly half (48%) were privately educated, the report indicates.

“If Parliament is truly to represent the whole nation, the best people should be able to become MPs, regardless of social background,” said Sutton Trust chief executive Dr Lee Elliot Major.

Only 7% of the UK population have a have a private education, yet those fortunate to have gone to Oxbridge make up a disproportionally large amount of our MP’s (2015 intake) and half of Cabinet posts (2015 intake). Indeed one’s chances of succeeding life increase dramatically if you had a private education. So who exactly are they representative of? Who have been instrumental in helping shape their political opinions? And how large – or small – is the circumference of their social circle? Who is in it? These things matter, much more than simple gender because, as the Guardian reports

Just one in 100 members of the UK public was educated at Oxbridge, however graduates from those two universities make up 75% of senior judges, 59% of cabinet posts, 57% of permanent secretaries, 50% of diplomatics, 47% of newspaper columnists, 44% of public body chairs and 33% of BBC executives.

Don’t get me wrong, electing more women Map’s is great and everything, but should it not be seen as a sign of how progressive we are as society, but instead as sign of we are focusing on the wrong thing!