Posts Tagged ‘ NHS ’

Pink ribbons for swords and the Greens’ view for the world


Time for me to take a short break from revision (phew)…

The Guardian today are running an  article (by Aida Edemariam) on Caroline Lucas, the first Green party member to become a member of parliament. The interview reveals some, perhaps not surprising insights into what it’s like for a new MP in British parliament:

“It felt a huge privilege and an honour. It felt like this was what the Green party had been working for for over 30 years, and here I am walking over the threshold. It felt archaic and out of touch with reality, it felt historic. It felt like the beginning of school.”

The new MPs were shown some of the ropes – the coat-hooks, with their pink ribbons on which to hang swords, the chamber, where they were formally inducted, and which was never meant to hold 650 MPs – in fact, it can’t, and one of the many things they were told was how to secure a seat on the green benches for a day: turn up for 8am prayers, receive a prayer card, and mark a seat with it.

She, like many new MPs, has no office as yet, and, as the lone Green, no whips’ office to help her get one. “I mean, tradition is nice, but we’ve got to have a workable parliament for the 21st century.”

Turn up at 8am to get a prayer card and use it to book a seat? Sounds rife with the potential for childish squabbling, but then, having seen parliamentary debates on television, I suppose that’s not surprising. That there are still ribbons for swords to be held on shows a link to heritage, but surely a little modernisation is in order. As Lucas says, it is the 21st century. In contrast to this is the Green’ manifesto, which is not all about recycling and saving the planet as other political parties would have you believe. This is Edemariam’s interpretation of it:

The Green party is a party of social justice as well as of environmental continence, and it argues that one cannot happen without the other: the manifesto articulates a world in which maximum wages in any corporation can be no higher than 10 times the lowest, the railways will be nationalised and the NHS de-privatised; where most people cycle and ride trains, have decent pensions and are paid a living, as opposed to a minimum wage. Reading it is, in fact, like entering an alternate world, in many ways a very attractive world, if somewhat slow (they would impose a maximum 55 mph on motorways), somewhat earnest and obsessed with detail.

I’m not sure whether I think this is a futuristic vision or an historic one, but maybe I’m being swayed by the 55 mph thing. I’m certainly all for earning a living instead of minimum wage and that the highest wages in a corporation can be no larger than ten times the lowest. I’ve no idea whether that would work, but it certainly sounds neat and proper.

It shall be interesting to see how Lucas fairs – will she be a successful trail blazer for other Greens to follow? Or will she become mired in the daily squabble for a seat?

Comment: Liberal-Conservative coalition government deal


Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

…which surely is a contradiction in terms, right? Anyway, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens next. This is both the first time the Liberals have made it to office and the first time the UK has had a coalition government in decades. Not to mention the all-to-late bowing out of Gordon Brown. Change, with any luck, is afoot.

The Guardian yesterday had a run down of the deal the two parties have made, including the concessions each has had to accept.

Deficit reduction

This is the focus of many people’s attention. The coalition has agreed to cut spending rather than increase taxes and those cuts will include, among other things, tax credits for higher earners (why do they need them anyway?).

Spending review for the NHS/schools and a fairer society

Increased funding for the NHS will go down well, but ‘scrutiny’ of the Trident nuclear defence system may prove to be a mere placatory device for the Liberals.

Tax measures

Increase in personal allowance for income tax is a definite plus for those of us who earn low wages, although the Conservative’s proposal to (frankly) positively discriminate against married couples —albeit hetero- or homosexual— has also made it through the negotiations. This recalls the old “married-man’s tax” of bygone years, reaffirming in some minds the true meaning of the name ‘conservatve’.

Banking reform

This seems to boil down to regulatory reform, the introduction of a banking levy and the encouragement of a competitive economy, all of which will hopefully reverse the damage done by Labour. With a one-year reporting period, it’s going to be a long wait before we see any real change.

Immigration

Another key word in this election, the coalition deal merely states this:

We have agreed that there should be an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants admitted into the UK to live and work. We will consider jointly the mechanism for implementing the limit.

We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes.

At last, some sense. I’m not saying it should be a one-in-one-out system, but you’d think that someone would have considered the idea of a cap before.

Political reform

The parties will bring forward a referendum bill on electoral reform, which includes provision for the introduction of the alternative vote in the event of a positive result in the referendum, as well as for the creation of fewer and more equal sized constituencies. Both parties will whip their parliamentary parties in both houses to support a simple majority referendum on the alternative vote, without prejudice to the positions parties will take during such a referendum.

Voting by proportional representation seems the fairer way to do it, if it’s as simple as you vote for the party you want in and who ever gets the most votes wins. If they don’t ‘pass the post’ they would have to form coalitions such as the one we have now, but it would make voting simple enough for the masses to understand. There may even be a ‘point’ to voting for those that would not normally do so, e.g. Liberal supporters.

Pensions and welfare

Retirement age is rising to 66 by 2016 for men and 2020 for women. This seems unfair in many ways and a long way off for me, but no doubt it’ll come [too] soon enough. A later retirement age reflects the nation’s need for more tax to be paid, but also reflects the modern (and increasing) longevity of the human race. The problem with a set retirement age is that, while some people will be financially/physically/mentally ready for retirement (at any set age), others will not and ageism, while frowned upon heavily in terms of employing new staff, it is still rife.

Education

The best bit? Increasing the possibility for social mobility.

Relations with the EU

No further transfer of sovereignty, defence of the national interest,

We agree that we will approach forthcoming legislation in the area of criminal justice on a case-by-case basis, with a view to maximising our country’s security, protecting Britain’s civil liberties and preserving the integrity of our criminal justice system. Britain will not participate in the establishment of any European public prosecutor.

Oh, and we’re not taking the Euro in this parliament :):-

Civil liberties

Scrapping the ID card scheme, next gen biometric passports and the fingerprinting of kids in school (they were doing this?!), restoration of rights to non-violent protest and safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation all point to a reduction in the ‘big brother state’ we’ve been sidling into for a while now.

Environment

Lots of goodies here, including mandating a national recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles and increasing the target for energy from renewable sources, including marine energy.  The Liberals are permitted to maintain their anti-nuclear power stance without fear of reprieve or triggering another general election.

So…

We live in interesting times, times of change. Hopefully, maybe even possibly, for the better.

Who to vote for in the UK 2010 election


With both the main parties becoming ever more centrist and populist, it’s understandably quite hard to choose who to vote for, particularly if you’ve never voted before or, like me, never paid politics much attention because you find it boring and regard voting as a waste of time because it makes little difference anyway (in other words, no matter who you vote for, the lower & working classes get screwed. This is certainly not relevant to everyone or even everyone I know, but it is relevant to me).

Or so I though until recently. But think: if everyone who thought that their vote makes no difference) or that we are powerless in the face of governmental control) voted, then it is likely that a difference could in fact be made. Just as if all the people who would vote Liberal Democrat if they stood a fart’s chance in hell actually voted Liberal, they may actually get in.

So what to do if you have no clue who to vote for because you think they’re all scheming corrupt bastards out for their own gain, but do want the right to be able to bitch about them for the next four years? The answer is this…

Take the survey on voteforpolicy.org.uk. This website presents you with the six policies of the six major parties (Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Green Party, UK Independence Party, British National Party) that relate to nine areas (crime, democracy, economy, education, environment, Europe, immigration, health/NHS, welfare) without telling you which party you are actually selecting.

In theory this is great because it removes the temptation to:

  • not vote for Gordon Brown/Labour because of his negative press and because the ‘workers’ party’ hasn’t done much for us workers lately or because they are an ‘anti-intellectual’ party.
  • not vote for David Cameron/Conservatives because the Tories are an “old [rich] boys’ club” whose main position besides being pro- the middle and upper classes is opposing Labour regardless of their stance. Incidentally, ‘conserving’ is the opposite of ‘change’ and change is inevitable.
  • not know whether to vote for New Labour or New Conservatives because their policies are designed to be popular and win votes, not to fulfill the political ideology that a lot of people feel we should be voting for (and that were apparent in Old Labour and Old Conservative).
  • not vote for Nick Clegg/LibDems because they never get in anyway
  • not to vote for the Green Party because they’d save the country/planet at the cost of everything else, e.g. the economy.

The results of this survey can be very surprising, even if you think you know what your allegiances are.[Mine came up as 11.11% each for three parties and 22.22% each for the other three, leaving me to fall back on inexpert theories such as: I can’t vote Tory because they’re too backward, I can’t vote Labour because they made a pig’s ear of it this time etc…

Anyway, voteforpolicy.org has a running total of the votes on its home page, the results of which are below, if you’re interested. At the time of writing there were 128,302 completed surveys yielding the following results:

Parties
  1. Green Party     27.62%
  2. Lib Dems     18.01%
  3. Labour     17.42%
  4. Conservatives     16.45%
  5. UKIP     10.82%
  6. BNP     9.69%

Parties & Policies [top 3 of the current leaders only]

Crime: Green Party 31.89%, Conservatives 21.21%, BNP 16.73%

Democracy Lib Dems 28.21%, Green Party 27.78%, Labour 25.40%

Economy: Lib Dems 28.80%, Green Party 23.00%, Labour 16.52%

Education: Green Party 35.68%, Conservatives 24.53%, Lib Dems 17.63%

Environment: Green Party 33.91%, Lib Dems 18.27%, UKIP 14.44%

Europe: Labour 24.80%, Green Party 23.59%, Lib Dems 17.52%

Health / NHS: Green Party 27.12%, Labour 19.43%, BNP17.76%

Immigration: Labour 20.09%, Green Party 19.92%, Conservatives 18.74%

Welfare: Green Party 23.48%, Labour 19.78%, UKIP 16.17%

* The text is coloured here to enable at-a-glance summaries.

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