The Confidence Trick

“Oh Mr. Blue Sky please tell us why
You had to hide away for so long (so long)
Where did we go wrong?” – ELO – Mr. Blue Sky

So the PM deigned Scotland with her presence today. A full media fanfare edition of her “Strong and Stable Tour” ahead of her snap General Election in June.

I noted especially Sky News’ coverage in the morning which described May’s evident “confidence” in feeling able to come to Scotland given our country’s typical attitude towards the Conservatives.

So how did Confident May present herself to the voters of Scotland?

Did she fill the Hydro with adoring crowds and glitter cannons?

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Or perhaps held a smaller conference where her policies could be scrutinised and debated?

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Maybe she visited to a major city and went for a walk out among the people?

Heck. Maybe she even, as I did this morning, just set up at a little stall somewhere approachably public?

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Nope. None of these. Confident May. Strong and Stable May came, spoke quickly and left as quietly as she could. To a small village hall 17 kilometers outside Aberdeen with only a couple of party activists for company.

Given that this was all done in secrecy, even to the point of lying on the hall’s booking form, only a couple of members of the public managed to get there in time to see her arrive.

She came. She spoke. She left again. No chance for voters to ask her about her policies or challenge her on her ideas. No chance for her to see what those policies are doing to Scotland and the people who live here. No chance of her ever governing for us. Only at us.

And this is supposed to be “confidence”. This is supposed to be “Strong and Stable” leadership.

Just by way of comparison, I’ll share the basic format for the talks and presentations I’ve been giving across Scotland in recent months to do with the White Paper Project. Typically, I’ll be invited to speak on a particular topic* within the Project. Currency, GERS, Debt and Assets, Demographics. That kind of thing.

I usually aim for about 20-30 minutes on the topic at hand and then we quickly get on to the fun bit. An hour or two of completely open, unvetted and unrestricted questions from the audience about absolutely anything they like. I’ve always enjoyed this, even more than giving the talk itself, because it keeps me on my toes and allows me to see which arguments are convincing and which can be improved. Which need simplified and which can go into more depth. And, most importantly, which arguments are of interest to the audience. We probe our policies. Test them. And we debate them.

But because you never know who’s going to turn up to these talks and don’t know what they’re going to ask about, you need real confidence to be able to stand there and answer them (especially if that answer turns out to be “I don’t know”).

*Side Note:- If you’re a Yes, Common Weal, pro-indy party or other activist group and you’re looking for a speaker, feel free to give me a shout here.

Confidence isn’t turning up to a hall of your own activists then hiding again. That’s not strength. And it won’t make for a stable government either. Believe me Ms May, when you go to the EU with your Brexit demands you WILL be asked questions and they will NOT be content with the same soundbite shouted at them over and over.

And the same will (or, at least, should if their media hosts hope to be worthy of their names) happen in the election leaders debates which I do hope that you will either turn up to or at least have the humility to not complain when they empty chair you.

Of course we all know why she chose to do it this way. She’ll have no doubt listened to BBC’s Any Questions yesterday when one of her most ardent Defenders of the (Tory) Faith, Adam Tomkins, had endure some scrutiny over the Rape Clause. He couldn’t do it in Parliament and he most certainly did not do well in public yesterday. And he’s one of the best speakers they have. I mean that.

So this is the confidence trick behind the Tories. They either know their policies are bankrupt or they are so far behind their own bubble that they genuinely can’t see it (I’m not sure which is worse), but thanks to a compliant media and the lack of any effective opposition they are getting away with it. Cobble together a couple of soundbites. Focus group them to sterility. Repeat them ad nauseum only in places where they can’t be challenged.

There are two elections coming up over the next month or so. Those who have noticed need to get challenging and force some scrutiny on this government. We simply can’t keep being ruled by fiat diktat. That never ends well.

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You can read more articles from Dr Craig Dalzell at The Common Green and also on twitter at @thecommongreen 

Austerity – Is For the Thick “Jocks” Up In Scotland – Down Here In London We Take Their Money and Spend It – Spend It – Spend It – Keep Your Oil Flowing In Our Direction – Keep Them Confused Ruthie – We Love You

My top staff aren’t worth their extravagant pay extraordinary confession from boss of RBS

The boss of bailed-out Royal Bank of Scotland revealed that many of his top staff ‘aren’t worth’ their extravagant pay and bonus deals.

In an extraordinary admission, the chairman said legions of traders and financiers at RBS’s investment bank were not generating enough profits to justify their lavish rewards.

He told a conference on restoring trust in the banking industry: “I’m sure that we’re paying many people who aren’t worth it – maybe that’s the issue.”

The declaration by the RBS boss is also likely to inflame public anger over the pay deals on offer at the bank, which has received more than £45b in government cash since its implosion.

More than 100 bankers at the group’s investment banking wing were paid a bonus of at least £1million last year – even though the Edinburgh based giant racked up losses in excess of £28billion.

 

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But, defending the practice of handing fat bonuses to staff at its so-called “casino” division – even if it meant that some bankers were paid too much for their efforts he said: “We see people who are worth a lot of money (to us), who when they leave take a lot of business with them,”

He further claimed that RBS, which is 84 per cent owned by the taxpayer, was powerless to rein in rewards as this would trigger a walk-out of top staff. He said: “If you are the bank that decides to cut bonuses for the most important people, you’ll be the first with a franchise-destroying defection.”

So the UK electorate is forced to stand back and witness a rapid, public funded banking recovery from a financial crisis created through the greed of those who stand to benefit most.

Seizing the opportunity and with embarrassing haste, banks embarked on a virtually unprecedented hiring spree, driving up wages across the London Square Mile.

RBS, which employs 160,000 staff across the globe, last night maintained that very few of its staff enjoy bumper bonuses and salaries.

But the bank handed out a gigantic £1.3billion to its 16,800 investment bankers last year. On average, this is equal to a bonus of around £77,400 each.

But, in mitigation the Chairman offered that RBS had “virtually” eliminated cash bonuses, with most rewards paid out in shares and other stock, and staggered over a number of years so that they can be clawed back.

 

 

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His comments were echoed by Barclays chairman, who added that “unilateral action by any single bank (would) not provide a practical solution” to the problem of ever-rising pay for “star” performers.

The revelations lift the lid on the bonus arms race that is currently sweeping through the Square Mile. Goldman Sachs recently handed tens of millions in bonuses to its 80 London-based partners to prevent more senior staff defecting to rivals.

The headline is incomplete, should it not have read “My top staff aren’t worth their extravagant pay”, but “what the hell, we are being subsidised by the taxpayer so lets make hay while the sun shines”.

They and all of the banking industry know that those in government have not the guts or the brains to stop one of the massive injustices of all time. Instead they hit the soft target, the Taxpayer. (Daily Mail)

 

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A Boom in Hedonistic “Greed is Good” Spending is Sweeping Through London

The return to “flaunting it” mirrors the conduct of the cinematic symbol of eighties excess, (Michael Douglas’s amoral trader Gordon Gekko.) West End stores, clubs and restaurants have been astounded by the sustained growth in guilt-free spending.

 

 

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A spokesman for Selfridges said: “The range and style is more obvious’ or ostentatious than ever. Stuff is just flying off our shelves. There are a lot of £1,000-plus shoes being sold.”

Particularly popular are Alexander McQueen Loki’ankle boots at £2,195 a pair and Christian Louboutin Margot platform shoes costing £1,575.

 

 

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fashion and luxury goods groups report that sales of their  £1000 Prada bags had exceeded expectations. The ‘Neverfull’ handbag from Louis Vuitton at £900 is very popular

 

 

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Bollinger UK, imports £140 a bottle Special Cuvée into Britain because demand is so strong. A spokesman said: there was a time when people certainly didn’t want to be seen with an expensive bottle of champagne — but we’re past that phase now.”

 

 

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Bugatti and Ferrari have sold out of their latest models

 

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The spending boom is being fuelled by the prospect of yet another year of bumper bonuses in the City — an estimated £10billion will be handed out this winter

And there is the influx of rich high spending Arabs influx of high-spending

The opening of a number of rejuvenated nightclubs and hotels after sumptuous makeovers is also being seen as a sign that it is acceptable to be rich.

 

 

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Tottenham Court Road lap dancing hangout Spearmint Rhino, which fell heavily out of favour during the credit crunch years, is booming. A club spokesman said: “We sold out of  £395 a bottle champagne last night.

 

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He went on: six City guys came in and dropped £5,000 to take the VIP area for the evening.

A few nights ago we had four guys from the Middle East who bought £20,000 in chips for dances and drinks. After service charges they spent £24,000.

It’s great to be back to the days of five or six years ago. Those sort of customers are starting to come back, there’s been a huge increase just in the past five or six weeks.”

 

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London is also being assisted by France’s burka ban with many wealthy Arabs boycotting Paris. Saudis who divert to London spend an average of £40,000 each.

They will easily spend £5,000 or £10,000 a night on the casino tables at Les Ambassadeurs (in Park Lane) or treat their friends with the best champagne as Scott’s.

You can follow Calton Jock at his webpage CaltonJock

 

 

Sophie Long and that tweet

COMMUNICATION is a wonderful thing.  Whether it’s through talking, listening, writing or sharing views on social networks.  Literature has the power to ignite thoughts, it can comfort us or make us angry.  But most of all, it educates us.

Words have started wars and ended them.  The quote ‘jaw jaw is better than to war war’ was said by the great Winston Churchill.  Journalist David McKittrick said the late Martin McGuinness made the switch from war war to jaw jaw. McGuinness’ passing has provoked much debate surrounding his legacy.

Much has been said about McGuinness’ past.  We’ve watched, listened and read a range of people expressing their views.  Everyone has the right to their opinion.  Many, and rightly so have been angered by McGuinness taking secrets to the grave.  And others put him on a pedestal because they believed he held the power to the peace we now enjoy.  Without his methods of communication, we’d surely be in a worse off position.  Republicans and Loyalists have always been in contact with each other and they make no secret of it.

In 2009, as a child of an ex prisoner I was invited to a play in the Waterfront Hall.  The Chronicles of Long Kesh was about a group of republican and loyalist prisoners, prison officers and their families.  The play was great but the panel discussion afterwards was even better.  I couldn’t believe the esteem both sets of prisoners held each other in.  There was huge respect there.  It showed the human side to the conflict and gave people like me an understanding of how things were.

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Having grown up in a house that resembled a Long Kesh souvenir shop, I was always exposed to only one side.

Since joining twitter, my knowledge of loyalism has grown and I became fascinated by the other side.  Not because ‘they’ were different but because we are exactly the same.  We laugh at the same jokes and have the same problems.  Our young males are victim to academic underachievement, our family and friends have succumbed to addiction and people we know are dying from cancer.

What’s blatantly obvious is the divide between us and them.  I’m not talking Catholics and Protestants, I’m talking about the haves and have nots.  The middle and working classes.

One working class person who stuck out most during the run up to the 2017 election was Sophie Long.  She was relentless in trying to show fellow loyalists that the DUP don’t speak for them.  But she might as well have banged her head off a brick wall.  The message wasn’t and didn’t get through.  Because yet again hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom living in poverty – voted for sectarianism instead of sense.

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Not surprisingly she was lit on for daring to offer condolences to the comrades of Martin McGuinness.  But she was only being attacked by people that don’t know their history.  They aren’t as well read as she is.  And too many of them don’t have the gumption to put their real names and faces to their accounts.  The abuse she received for reaching out and doing what others have done before her has exposed loyalism’s insecure side.  Whereby the only threat posed is not a man in a coffin but a woman with books.

You can follow ÁINE at her twitter page at @AineCarson1 and at her webpage Áine Carson

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Wales voting Tory is almost like the end of humanity!

Channel 4 seem to be peddling a story as well now as the BBC that opinion polls are putting the Tories ahead of Labour in Wales for the first time since about 1859. We’ll soon find out for real I suppose but even the thought of it is making me physically sick. Why? What might be provoking my fellow Welshmen to be contemplating such a hideous action?

Of course it’s all Jeremy Corbyn fault according to his enemies and to those who blame Jeremy for all the problems of the world. Labour was doing so well in Wales that he’s come along with his hard left stances and Welsh people just don’t buy socialism like this. What utter rubbish. EVEN if you did think this WHY does it necessarily follow you would vote for a Party Aneurin Bevin called “lower than vermin?”

Let’s first deal with the myth that it’s all Corbyns fault. Labour just about has a majority in the Senedd due to Dafydd Ellis Thomas. Labour should be flying in Wales after 7 years of Tory misrule. But Welsh Labour has been stagnant and bereft of ideas for some time. It’s stuck in a mentality that Welsh people will always vote Labour and taken the Welsh people for granted. People in Wales have become more disenchanted than vote for anyone. Plaid should have picked up the mantle and much as I like Leanne Wood, they haven’t made the progress they ought to have done. Basically Labours misfortune in Wales pre-date Corbyns election as national Labour leader.

So let’s now discuss why any sane Welshman would vote Tory. I think you need a PhD in logic to work this one out but I will try. “Mrs May is a strong leader” I hear done say on tv. String? She’s already had more change of mind than toucan remember and she failed to stand up to Trump on her visit to the racist bigot. She has resorted to threatening her EU partners and has poodle like followed American imperial ambitions around the globe. She voted for disability cuts and supported the austere government cut backs to the NHS and education. If that’s strong then I’m a Dutchman.

There is NO LOGIC for most Welsh people to vote Tory. They have not changed nor reinvented themselves. They are the same old Tories. They support tax cuts for the wealthy. They allow big companies to pay little or no tax and they bungled into a referendum that need not have been held just to appease their rabid right wingers. They have destroyed the industrial base in Wales and helped Wales become one of the poorest parts of the Eu. They don’t deserve to be a party in Wales let alone vote for them. Welsh people do do do are either rich, deluded, forgetting their history or all three. I am ashamed as it is that Wales voted Brexit but to contemplate Wales voting Tory would be a kick in the teeth for all those Welsh people who have stood up to the vile philosophy that this party espouses. It’s Corbyn tho is advocating policies to rescue Wales from the abyss and how people think the Tories are doing a good job doesn’t say much for our education system….think on pobol Cymru!

You can follow Leighton on twitter at @leightonkib63  and at his webpage LEIGHTONSIMPLYRED

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Could May be out in June?

A week ago I would never have contemplated asking the question but a week is a long time in Politics and we still have five to go!

People are seeing and hearing for themselves that those ‘safe secure’ hands are anything but, instead they see someone who hasn’t even got the basic requirements for leadership.  She hides away at heavily choreographed events, no ability to answer straight forward questions only sticking to her mantra.  Professional interviewers not allowed to push for answers,  makes them look more inept than her.

Her Scottish visit well and truly back fired, not to mention the Electoral laws broken in the process.

I don’t know how much she is paying her publicity team, they may be protecting her in one sense but by another they have laid her wide open to ridicule.  Even with the heavily biased BBC on her side heads are shaking in disbelief.  You can fool some of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time!

So glad she is not the General leading my army, even Tank Commander Ruth won’t save her in Scotland, because contrary to media news there ain’t no revival.  As I have said before polls are just polls to me, what’s happening on the ground is more important.  Those who knock on doors week in and week out get the real picture.  If anything the danger for Nicola is complacency.

Every Yes at a door must be born out by a vote on the day……that’s the hard part.  No use having an army if they are not going to turn up on the day.

So what of England, can those thousands of Corbyn supporters upset the apple cart and maybe at very least force a hung Parliament?  Either way it won’t make one iota of difference regarding Brexit.  The EU has set out its stall as the great stand off takes centre stage…….who will blink first?

Well Theresa does have form!

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You can follow Joan McDowall on twitter at @JoanFlitcroft and at her webpage Joan Flitcroft

What’s Propaganda Got To Do With It? | Turn LEFT and Make June the End of May

Over the last few days the misrepresentations of and attacks on Jeremy Corbyn have escalated. Whilst Labour continue, day-on-day to publicise and attempt to widely promote new policies on health, housing, Brexit, pensions, education and so on all we hear from the Conservatives (aside from juvenile insults and made up smears) is how ‘strong and stable’ they are. Their claims are twofold in terms of a ‘strong and stable leadership’ and ‘a proud record’ as opposed to ‘a coalition of chaos with Jeremy Corbyn’. There is no talk of how the Tories might tackle poverty, homelessness, the health and social care crisis and so on and in their attempt to distract us from election fraud, their dubious allies (at home and abroad), the poor state of the economy, rising child hunger and the rest they continue with their their two pronged campaign of a) smearing the Leader of the Opposition and b) the cracked record like messages. In this they are largely supported by the mainstream media (MSM). No need to take my word for it; check out these two recent articles by Steve Topple:

The Tories have been caught using fake news to smear Corbyn
https://www.thecanary.co/2017/04/25/the-tories-have-been-caught-using-fake-bbc-news-to-smear-corbyn-video/

We need to talk about the mainstream media and the Election. Because a disaster is looming 
https://www.thecanary.co/2017/04/26/need-talk-mainstream-media-election-disaster-looming-images/

In the few ‘closed’ speeches she has given in the last week (in contrast to the very public presence of Corbyn, other members of the shadow cabinet and politicians from other parties), and in the final Prime Ministers Questions before the General Election, Theresa May repeated her key phrases, most especially ‘strong and stable leadership’, and popped in other references to ‘strong’ and ‘stable’ innumerable times. To save you having to look I can also confirm that there are short clips of her repeating this mantra on her twitter feed also. There is a precedent for this type of campaign as the constant repetition of  ‘strong leadership’, a ‘clear economic plan’ and ‘a brighter, more secure future’ helped the Conservatives to gain power in 2015. Well that worked out well, didn’t it.

We have to hope this time that the simultaneously teeth grindingly annoying and comical repetition of ‘strong and stable’, (rather than, as many have noted, the more accurate ‘weak and wobbly’) by Theresa May, and anyone near her, has less of an hypnotic effect on the many. Anyone who parrots it needs to be reminded of this; a ‘proud record’ indeed.

I have written before of my gratitude to the alternative news sources (and to various bloggers and vloggers) for the challenge to and corrections of the MSM. If like me you lament the election coverage on the BBC and many other outlets and in much of the newsstand coverage have a look at The Canary, The Morning Star, The Word, The Prole Star (all available online) or written and video posts by people such as Peter Stefanovic, Harry Leslie Smith, Lindsey German, Rachael Swindon (and others) and look at some of my previous posts here.

Yesterday I was cheered also by a tweet from @MirrorPolitics. By way of introducing an article focusing on the foolish posturing of Boris Johnson MP (there’s no need for me to go into detail given the MSMs preoccupation with this non-story but read the article if you want to here http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/jeremy-corbyn-blasts-boris-johnson-10306382) they wrote:

      Labour leader vows not to use Tory’s ‘personal’ tactics (and gets on with campaigning about               housing instead). 

As a further example of the current MSM spin on the messages from and behaviour of Jeremy Corbyn the BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg @bbcclaurak tweeted: Corbyn says ‘I don’t do personal attacks’ but says disappointing the tories are doing negative campaigning. As at least one person has pointed out why BUT and not AND here. . .

Recent political events (in the USA as well as closer to home), and the media coverage of them, have led some to reflect on the significance of George Orwell’s work. I see the point. Returning to Animal Farm (1945) recently myself I was struck, as others have been, by the rewriting of the agreed seven commandments of Animalism, by the ruling elite (the pigs). The seventh commandment which begins All animals are equal and becomes All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others is relevant not least in that: All British people are equal but some are more equal than others (and just as in Animal Farm it is the many rather than the few that are other/less equal. And it is the 1%/more equal whose privilege can even protect them from both the laws of the land and the demands of the tax office that the rest of us are subject to).

And then there’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). Any cursory dip into mainstream or social media gives us much fuel for comparison between our most powerful media and the propaganda machine at the heart of the novel: the infamous ‘Ministry of Truth’. Additionally, we know that Big Brother is not only watching but silencing us as the new surveillance law, or as it has been termed ‘The Snoopers Charter’, requires web and phone companies to store everyone’s browsing histories for 12 months and gives the police, security services and official agencies unprecedented access to the data. There are implications here for all of us, not least in terms of the investigative journalism that we have left.

I wonder what’s in your Room 101?  As a researcher of both patient and healthcare professional experience; as a daughter and wife of individuals who suffered cancer and heart disease; as a friend of people who care for young children and others who care for elderly parents; as a mid-life woman who already accesses screening services (and will likely access more in the future) and who has a health condition that will need monitoring and treatment for as long as I live the death of the NHS is high up on my list. Take a look at this Alan B’stard YouTube clip which is doing the rounds at the moment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVltOSC0JMQ Sadly and frighteningly if it wasn’t for the laughter it would be easy to think this wasn’t a comedy sketch.

Staying with Orwell for a moment, anyone reading Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) or The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) and comparing the injustices and inequalities so evidence today to those described by Orwell in the 1930’s must surely ask themselves, as Orwell did ‘Why are we not all socialists?’ 

So as I said I see the point of these references but I’d like to suggest there were warnings in other iconic books. Just a brief review of a couple from my own childhood and youth.

John Wyndham’s 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos tells the story of an alien invasion of children born on the same day across the world; children who protect themselves as much as possible using a form of mind control. When the people in the village that is the focus of the book begin to understand what is going on they attempt to resist but to no avail as ‘the Children’ make the villagers attack each other. Sound familiar?

Ira Levin’s novel The Stepford Wives, published in 1972 focuses on the town of Stepford where ‘Diz’ (a previous Disney employee) is the ominous leader of

the Stepford Men’s Association and the power behind the Stepford phenomenon of the gynodisation of the women of the town. The popularity of The Stepford Wives is reflected not least in the classification of Stepford as an adjective: 
‘Relating to a person who has an unthinking. conformist, and uncritical attitude.’ 
www.wordspy.com/words/Stepford.asp Take note everyone.

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SO: What’s propaganda got to do with it?
Answer: A LOT.

It is, I believe, the responsibility of all of us to keep challenging the dominant messages we are hearing and seeing and to keep offering the alternative. With this in mind  I watched a vlog by Giles Fraser this morning:

 ‘Maybe that;s why I am a fan of Jeremy Corbyn’ says @giles_fraser ‘…he seems like an 
        ordinary bloke, concerned with ordinary people’. #bbctw 

Please go to his twitter page and watch it too. Have a look as well at  #publicduty, the hashtag being used by individuals across health, education and beyond, warning us all of the consequences of five more years of the Conservatives: https://www.indy100.com/article/general-election-2017-tories-hashtag-publicduty-7703846


Turn LEFT and Make June the End of May.

You can follow Gayle on twitter at @GayleLetherby or at her webpage Arwenack Creatives | Gayle Letherby’s Blog

featured image by by Dave Brown political cartoonist
NB: with my friend and colleague Deborah Davidson I have previously used the Stepford analogy to reflect on the increasing corporatism of higher education: Davidson, Deborah and Letherby, Gayle ‘Heroes of Higher Education?: Stepford Wives, Non/Mothers and Academics’ Auto/Biography Study Group Conference, BSA, Reading University (July 2012) 

To #OurNHS ~ with love

My abiding memory from the #OurNHSdemo in London last Saturday 4 March? Marching through Trafalgar Square. Traffic at standstill; police marking the way; chants of Whose NHS? Our NHS; tourists snapping in awe. A black helicopter whirring high above us. It felt historical. Monumental.

And it was. It was the largest NHS demonstration in history. Peaceful protesters marched from Tavistock Square… past Nelson’s Column… down Whitehall… past Downing Street and the Department of Health to the rally in Parliament Square. However, only one Sunday paper ran with this huge event on their front page the next day. There were online news reports and postings on Twitter and Facebook, but people at home seemed dismayed with the scant TV coverage. The BBC reported tens of thousands took to the streets – I think they needed to add another zero – as the police estimated 250, 000 people took part. That’s monumental.

The march and rally, organised by the People’s Assembly and Health Campaigns Together, had an impressive line up of speakers too: Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Jacqui Berry, Len McCluskey, Danielle Tiplady, Mark Serwotka, Jeeves Wij, Dr Tony O’Sullivan and many more. The rally began at 2pm and lasted a couple of hours. But due to the vast number on the march, not everyone managed to get down to Parliament Square in time to hear all of the speakers – this is not a criticism, but further testament to the amazing turn out of committed people.

Unions such as Unite, PCS, GMB, The BMA and Unison were represented. People were armed with banners, flags, PA systems, megaphones, whistles and voices. And after a seven hour coach journey from Newcastle, I definitely was up for making some noise.

Everyone was there for different reasons. Everyone had their own story to tell. If you search on youtube you will find amateur and professional footage of the day. Or search for journalist Steve Topple, filming his first documentary for The Canary, by garnering facts and opinions from some eminent people such as Dr Phil Hammond and Jolyon Rubinstein. He even nabbed Corbyn and McDonnell for comment.

Words and phrases such as underfunding; STPs; no NHS cuts; appreciation of staff; Hunt Must Go and political choices were repeated throughout the day by speakers and interviewees. But we all had one thing in common – every one of us and everyone at home who couldn’t make it – we all had one main aim – to defend the NHS and tell the Tories it’s OURS. 

I’ve often said that my GP has been steadfast in my corner when times were tough. So Corbyn’s speech resonated with me. He said:

Defending the NHS is defending a basic human value and a basic human right.

He then continued:

You don’t walk by on the other side, when somebody is in difficulties or needing help and support. You put your arms round them and give them the love, the support and the comfort that they need. That’s what our NHS has been doing for all of us for all of our lives.

That certainly is true for me and my family. We are indebted. That was the reason behind my 57 tweets to Jeremy Hunt last year – one for every year I’ve needed our NHS so far.

Owen Smith MP tweeted on the day: what was the point of the march? He obviously wasn’t there to feel the camaraderie and to know how it feels to be stronger together. He obviously didn’t hear Corbyn say: “Defend the NHS with all of your might.” He obviously doesn’t realise that people can then take the energy and momentum from such a massive demonstration, to lobby their MPs and councillors… and to fight local cuts and closures. Just yesterday I was part of a group collecting signatures outside a Walk-in Centre in North Tyneside, which is facing closure this October, along with another centre. We will be left with one instead of three. We were asking residents to say no to the closure of primary care services in the community. Surely such closures will compound the pressure on GPs and A&E departments? And there would have been countless other campaigns going on across the country yesterday too. People defending our NHS and our right to healthcare. It is a right. It is not a commodity.

John McDonnell began his speech by paying a “debt of honour to the junior doctors who took strike action last year.” Part of their message was to highlight the plight of the NHS. And today they still blog, tweet and write articles about the front line pressures and the risk to patients. Nurses and other NHS staff are fighting a pay restraint and urge people to back their #scrapthecap campaign. McDonnell said he and Corbyn will stand on the picket lines and carry on taking to the streets, if any further industrial action is needed to be taken by any NHS healthcare workers. That they will do whatever it takes to save the NHS. All fighting talk.

But we need more action and we really do need to be all in this together. We can’t leave it to some doctors, nurses, campaigners, activists and a few MPs and councillors. Hammersmith Labour council have said no to their STPs. Labour needs to call out to all of their councils to reject STPs and austerity cuts. The NHS Bill needs supporting, which will stop further privatisation and will reinstate the NHS as an accountable public service. The NHS, Social Care and Mental Health services need to be fully resourced. Hound your local MP and councillors and hold them to account. After the disastrous budget last week then email, tweet or write to your MP, asking them to be part of the debate this Tuesday, in Parliament, re the NHS funding crisis and to represent your needs.

Defending our NHS needs to be the responsibility of all of us – cross party, trade unions and their leaders and patients together. The NHS has shown us so much love; it’s our turn to show it some love back.

There were 250, 000 voices last Saturday and just as many, if not more, at home in spirit – we are not invisible – we exist and we are not giving up without a fight. Jolyon Rubinstein summed it up for me at the end of his speech on the day:

As Nelson Mandela said: It always seems impossible until it’s done.

You can follow Wendy on her twitter at @Erriwend and at her webpage #CreativeGeordie

The Bridge

“Politics is a life we choose because we think we can do some good” – Kezia Dugdale, 25th April 2017

Today the Scottish Parliament debated the cuts to Child Tax Credits being imposed by Westminster. This necessarily centered much of the debate around certain exceptions to those cuts, in particular the so-called Rape Clause. This article isn’t about that Clause in particular. That must be for others. If you want, you can watch the entire debate below

Instead I want to particularly highlight Labour leader Kezia Dugdale’s speech (from 26:20 above or here). Please watch it in the context of that debate before continuing.

Scottish politics is becoming increasingly polarised but sometimes we’re reminded that we don’t always disagree on what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed. Today, Dugdale reminded me of that. This may be a cynical and untrusting age but it still holds that Politics is at its absolute best when conviction shines through. It should be applauded when it does.

On issues like today, we can stand in complete agreement. The cuts to Child Tax Credits are wrong, the exceptions are wrong and trying to pass the blame for the policy on to the Scottish Government as theirs to “mitigate” is wrong.

In other issues, we may see the same way on the problem but differ on the solution. Compromise politics should be the order of such things and by them we should find a collegiate way forward.

Today was a reminder that even when such differences occur we can’t let ourselves be blinded by them and to use them to simply demonise our opponents as the source of all that is wrong in the world. We choose the life of politics because we think we can do some good in the world. It does us well to consider that when faced with our opponents and even when we self-examine our own policies. What good do they do in the world and what good are they supposed to achieve. Maybe when we understand that, we’ll better understand ourselves and each other. Maybe then we’ll find those solutions. And maybe we’ll do some good in the world.

Occasionally, we’ll differ on whether or not there IS a problem at all. This is where the discussion gets more difficult and this is where we are with the Conservatives today on this particular issue. The cuts and the Rape Clause aren’t in-and-of themselves problems to the Conservatives, but are a solution to their version of the problem (ostensibly, to “pay down our debts”, although, from my own point of view a relatively cursory examination of “Austerity” as a means to do that shows up the evident flaws in the logic). It will be harder to find a compromise solution which will please them (not least because their “suggestion” that the Scottish Government subsidise the cuts would have to be paid for by cuts elsewhere or by tax rises, both of which the Tories would no doubt also oppose). It will be harder even to get to the position of discussing compromise because we could spend all of our energy just trying to find out what they think the problem they’re solving actually is. Without that, we’d just be arguing at cross-purposes and making a lot of noise without meaning.

So instead I’d like to better understand my opponents. I’d like them to tell me what good they think they are bringing into the world with these cuts. I’d like them to tell me what good they think we who oppose it are bringing. I’d like them to try to better understand why we choose the life of politics and why we stand where we do within it.

And I’d like all of us to try to do the same with everything else we do in this life of politics we chose.

You can read more articles from Dr Craig Dalzell at The Common Green and also on twitter at @thecommongreen 

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‘Scotland – The Conservative Country’

The results of the Holyrood election are announced and three scenarios are represented. The first being the SNP obtaining the lion share of the seats with the Greens replacing Labour as the main opposition with up to 20 seats. This may not be so far fetched given the power of SNP likely voters in not only choosing their party in government but their own opposition. A more likely scenario though is an SNP triumph followed by a rump of opposition parties led by the Labour Party who survive of the back of their remnant support and that of the rare creatures of the political landscape, the Scottish Tory. The Greens do well almost emulating their tallied achievements in the so called ‘Rainbow Parliament’ elections but Labour maintains it double digit haul. The third scene would be the wiping out of Labour into single digits resulting in a stronger Tory block in Holyrood. Not a far fetched notion as recent by-election polling has indicated such a shift could occur either way. The ink spilt over the unholy alliance of Labour and Conservative voters which enabled Ian Murray to save his Edinburgh seat has been plentiful. But nobody talks about the Borders or the South West, these hinterlands of Scotland that go as non-ventured as unspoken.

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Certainly as an outsider my views of Scotland before moving and before interacting were shaped hugely by an idea of distinct difference. It is the Highlands and the Central belt even the West Coast that is so prominent in the mind of the traveller or settler to Scotland. On a personal level this may have something to do with history and imagery. The Highlands are vast and peaked so unlikely anything in England as even the Pennies or Lake District are poor comparisons. There is also the cultural markers of Gaelic history, clan feuds an all the cliche garbage that ignores nuance when observing Scottish culture from the outside. Scotland was and is still magical and alien and therefore my experience with the Borders was shaped by an absence of difference. One of my latest excursions has been on the Border’s Abbey Way walking from St Boswells to Kelso and then on to Jedburgh. Last week I found myself in Wigtown for the famous book festival.
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The overwhelming feeling I always got from the South of Scotland as a whole was its familiarity. It’s dare I say Englishness. Risking the wrath of many a good Galloway farmer it should be said it’s not such a surprise given the closeness to England. Often borders tend to be struck with historic and ethnic tensions but the South is a place of seeming eternal calm. Those long lost feuds of reiver families gave way during the industrial revolution to trade and cooperation that rarely exists between the North East, Cumbria and other English regions. In this part of the world can be found a solid base of conservative support drawn from farming, generally small town communities that hold a version of liberty close to their breast. David Mundell along with other conservatives have perhaps always had an advantage in this region given the connection land owning and farming have. The Tories utilising economic and psychological feudalism in one reap the favours of communities in the other.
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In the referendum 64.7% voted No in Dumfries and Galloway making it one the regions with the biggest anti-indepedance majority in Scotland. This seems consistent with the strength of Unionism in the region but it would be a mistake to conflate it with the rabid, active unionism found on the West Coast or in sections of Glasgow. Talking at the book fair to a few natives who hail from farming communities there is a general attitude of wanting to be left alone. These are strong small communities with some individuals economical active on their own and isolated. A message of collective hope emanating from the Central Belt would hardly appeal to a group of people whose forbearing tends towards self help, choice, sustainability and the practicality of making sure the produce is tended and in on time. Where many middle aged women create and run small businesses based on craft or countryside goods.
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It is argued that the forces amenable to Independence can take other regions with ease given the right time, strategy and coordination. Yet how can an independent Scotland come to terms with this individualistic and conservative block that isn’t rabid by any means but is cynical of a vision which doesn’t seem to include it or its values. If the Scottish political landscapes transforms into one where the Conservatives are not a viable opposition but a significant party to be parlayed with how does Scotland come to terms with it’s understanding of itself as a whole? Scotland can’t be just the winning side and can’t just be the Glasgow or Dundee crowds high on the octane of collective joy. Even before this, if the independence camp wishes to make any inroads on the constitutional question in the South it has to respect the political culture of the south.
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Any agenda has to start from the premise that getting power to the people of Scotland means power all the way down. Every region, local authority, city, town, village needs to be empowered in way that hasn’t happened even around discussions with independence. For the whole of the South the issue for me has to be broadband and transportation on a massive scale of investment and speed. The celebrations and my excitement about the small extension and reopening of the Borders Railways is stunted by the shocking standard of transport around Dumfries and Galloway. My general rule is if you have to contemplate hiring a couple of steeds and a wagon to get to a book festival then you have a serious problem. Yes one can drive or get a mammoth series of buses and trains part way. But it should not be this way. The South needs to feel loved and connected to the rest of the country in a way that can make an independent Scotland not only viable from their point of view but desirable. Two locals told me that Carlisle is their capital and a city far more relevant when it comes to shopping and business.
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The reopening and the creation of train lines running to the farthest points in Dumfries and Galloway may not make Yessers of many or transform the areas unique form of conservatism. However it would connect the country and reconcile so many who feel stranded in the South and have no way of making their voices heard and therefore must lapse back into a resentful form of cynicism. More and more my mind has switched from the joy of the dream to the responsibility of the dream. If people are to feel more invested in the vision we have then you need to take them with you by gaining an insight in to what makes them tick. Decentralisation, transportation and rural empowerment can do wonders to bind the South closer to the rest of Scotland.
You can follow Robert J Somynne  on twitter at @RobertJSomynne  and at his blog robertsomynne.blogspot.co.uk