OurKingdom https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/3031/all en Superheroes alert UK voters to attack on legal aid https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/gemma-blythe/superheroes-alert-uk-voters-to-attack-on-legal-aid <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Actors, comedians and film-makers raise awareness of devastating cuts.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/jcMJNsbeR4Jvbv6S_e_QjyFzOquQCqw6WvcSv7dobh4/mtime:1427470089/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/unnamed_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/nQKJKxrXTyw2Ob6n1u6Ro_MXp_mrxPlvRZxAy93kOu4/mtime:1427468859/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/unnamed_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span>In Britain today, a </span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/who-is-that-man-in-lord-chancellors-seat">former PR man</a><span> with no legal training is both Lord Chancellor (obliged to uphold the rule of law) and Justice Secretary, making drastic cuts to legal aid.</span></p> <p>On April Fools Day, Chris Grayling’s 53rd birthday, The Guardian will launch a new animated film —&nbsp;<a href="http://www.legalaidteam.com">Legal Aid Team</a> —&nbsp;to raise awareness of his government’s attack on access to justice.</p> <p>Maxine Peake, Joanna Lumley, Sally Hawkins, Simon Callow and Kevin Eldon are among actors and comedians whose voices feature in the film, made by <a href="http://www.fatratfilms.co.uk">Fat Rat Films</a>.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>“Most people in the UK understand the importance of a functioning national health service,” says Fred Grace of Fat Rat Films. “They understand that, at any point, they could require its services. Can the same be said of legal aid? No it cannot.”</p> <p>He says: “We do not have the same concept of ‘it could happen to me’. The narrative that has been propagated by its opponents is that legal aid is a tool for the radical left wing, a prop for terrorists and bogus asylum seekers, a way of making rich lawyers richer. Articles have been written that refute these allegations, but they do not carry enough of a counter narrative. In short they are boring...</p> <p>“What we need is a new tactic; satire and comedy, a lightness of touch for such a serious issue. We need to make people laugh so they are open to learning and will share this idea with their friends. So we present to you Legal Aid Team!”</p> <p>The film opens in 1949, with Clement Atlee launching Legal Aid and conveys the devastation of the cuts through an animated superhero adventure.&nbsp;</p> <p>If you want to help spread the word, please use the hashtag #legalaidteam, follow the Legal Aid Team on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/legalaidteam">Facebook</a> and <a href="http://www.twitter.com/legalaidteam">Twitter</a>, and look out for the video release. </p><p> If you want to <a href="http://www.legalaidteam.com/fund-the-project/">contribute to the project</a>, the Legal Aid Team will credit you on their website once the film goes live.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/gemma-blythe/defending-rule-of-law-against-uk-government%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98slash-and-burn%E2%80%99">Defending the rule of law against the UK government’s ‘slash and burn’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/melanie-newman/legal-aid-cuts-punish-poorest-tenants">Legal aid cuts punish poorest tenants</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/james-davies/uk-government-tries-to-hide-chaos-caused-by-legal-aid-cuts">UK government tries to hide the chaos caused by legal aid cuts</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/one-man-two-guvnors-conflict-at-heart-of-british-justice">One Man, Two Guvnors: the conflict at the heart of British justice</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom OurKingdom Care and justice The attack on legal aid Shine A Light Gemma Blythe Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:52:01 +0000 Gemma Blythe 91602 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Does Britain have a free press? https://www.opendemocracy.net/peter-oborne/does-britain-have-free-press <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/54DeIEesyMufvP8kbpm7Ivj3dEVX3UrZptmZ0AcglFQ/mtime:1427445912/files/oborne554.JPG" alt="" hspace="5" width="80" align="left" />Not quite. Here’s one thing you can do about it.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/rsz_1telefinal.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/rsz_1telefinal.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="325" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In Britain, it is often asserted that we have a free press. This is not completely true. There are numerous subjects which national newspapers and broadcasters either ignore or devote token attention. </p><p dir="ltr">Sometimes the reason for this is sinister – for instance the conspiracy of silence over phone hacking. More often, editors decide that certain important issues will not command the attention of a wide readership. This is why it is so hard to get stories about oppression, exploitation, abuse of human rights or Islamophobia into any newspaper. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Hence the importance of openDemocracy – and why we need to <a href="https://www.justgiving.com/keep-journalism-free">support its vital work</a>.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has published many articles of mine over the years. It fills me with confidence because the editors are very careful and honest people. They work with writers to make sure that our journalism is fair and solidly based. That is why I offered my long article on the closure of Muslim bank accounts by HSBC to openDemocracy, when I could not get it published in the Daily Telegraph last autumn. It was the obvious choice when I wanted to set out the reasons for my resignation from the Daily Telegraph in February. </p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has a track record of raising complicated and important subjects, which are ignored by mainstream media outlets. <strong>This is why I am proud to be associated with openDemocracy, and why I want you to be too. </strong></p><p dir="ltr">Its editors are motivated by a love for the truth, and work incredibly hard for very little. Rightly, they want to bring it to an even wider audience. Naturally, this costs money. <strong>So today I’m urging you with all my heart to <a href="https://www.justgiving.com/keep-journalism-free">support this noble institution</a>. </strong>Let’s strengthen openDemocracy so that it keeps holding power to account for many years to come.</p><p dir="ltr">I am giving it £100. <strong>Please match me if you can, or <a href="https://www.justgiving.com/keep-journalism-free">give what you can afford here</a> </strong>- and share this with anyone who might be able to do the same.</p><p dir="ltr">With thanks,</p><p dir="ltr">Peter Oborne</p><p dir="ltr"><span><strong>How to donate</strong></span></p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span><a href="https://www.justgiving.com/keep-journalism-free">Click here</a> to donate via JustGiving, or send</span><span> a <span class="il">text</span> message&nbsp;to</span><span>&nbsp;the number 70072 (quoting the code OPDE65 and the amount&nbsp;</span><span><span class="il">donated</span>). Or you can</span><span>&nbsp;send a cheque made out to the Open Trust to: openDemocracy, 18 Ashwin Street, London E8 3DL. Thank you for your support.</span></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/peter-oborne/why-i-have-resigned-from-telegraph">Why I have resigned from the Telegraph</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/eic-blog/mary-fitzgerald/bad-business">Bad business</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/aidan-white/journalism-for-sale-can-media-overcome-corruption-now-threatening-newsroom">Journalism for sale: can media overcome the corruption now threatening the newsroom? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/peter-oborne-alex-delmarmorgan/uncaging-charity-commission">Uncaging the Charity Commission</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/peter-oborne/hypocrites-have-jumped-aboard-magna-carta-bandwagon">The hypocrites have jumped aboard the Magna Carta bandwagon</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/alex-delmarmorgan-peter-oborne/open-for-business">Open for business?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mary-fitzgerald/help-set-journalism-free">Help set journalism free</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom Peter Oborne Fri, 27 Mar 2015 08:41:09 +0000 Peter Oborne 91589 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Integration: different logics and local factors https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/steve-garner/integration-different-logics-and-local-factors <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Common misconceptions and confusions in the debate on 'integration'.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/bkDb0797-Gj9IzdbiN1zBTE6ezIggXcL5SoJ3GEPzjU/mtime:1427302351/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/southall.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/NbT2g2v_3AU_LY6lPqTLZg8NN3D_0VYyo6PDRAT9994/mtime:1427302303/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/southall.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/jo.sau. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>How people envisage integration and its opposite lies at the heart of the immigration discussion in this country. It is the pivot between immigration and national belonging. The big story about integration changed dramatically in the aftermath of the London bombings. Since 2005, multiculturalism has been deemed a failure in many quarters. Policy, goes the argument, has encouraged groups of people to lead separate lives and not become part of the national community. So this is the backdrop to how our <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/steve-garner/what-is-this-political-space-we-call-%27immigration%27">interviewees</a>, in areas that have below average proportions of BME residents, talk about integration (1). I will present two aspects of the way this integration frame is constructed, with different logics applied to different people, and one example of how these logics sometimes come apart.</p> <p><strong>Who is integrating into what, and what is at stake in the integration frame? </strong></p> <p>Maybe we assume that incoming migrants are the only people to whom the need to be integrated applies. However, many white UK people we and other researchers have interviewed are keenly aware that <a href="http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/Bradford-participation-community-summary.pdf">they live in areas</a> not fully integrated into the local economy, and feel that local and central government do not consider them as important as people living elsewhere. It is also worth noting that it is usually the poorer neighbourhoods where migrants first live, so the pressure to cope with change is disproportionately placed on people living in such areas. </p> <p>With that caveat, one function of the concept of integration is to temporarily suspend distinctions within the white UK group, and focus attention on the perceived distance between this group and all the others. Most people say they want migrants to assimilate to local norms, but the overwhelming impression they have is that there is one-way traffic moving in the opposite direction. Integration is a crossover point of the frames through which people understand immigration.</p> <p>What form does this traffic take? From the other frames indicated in the previous article, people are certain there is a transfer of a variety of resources (e.g. housing, employment, space and cultural recognition) from white UK to ethnic minorities; a different set of rules for each group; and the development of an all-encompassing political correctness that both justifies this transfer and casts all criticism as racist. </p> <p>The statistics available do not show such a transfer between white UK and BME populations, rather an overall polarisation of wealth and life chances between the majority and a small minority. Moreover, although educational attainment is one area where <em>some</em> BME groups now consistently do better than white UK counterparts <em>at some levels</em>, <a href="http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/poverty-ethnicity-education-full.pdf">poverty</a> is the largest single explanatory factor in educational attainment. This is not an argument to say ‘race’ is irrelevant, but rather to point out that socioeconomic status (and gender) are also relevant, yet the transfer of resources envisaged by so many of our respondents gets reduced to being at a disadvantage because of white UK ethnicity. </p> <p>So how do people discuss others becoming part of British society? The process is discussed as having a variety of markers: clothing, language, manners, residential patterns, and social interactions. The key logic applied is revealed in Jack’s positive evaluation of his friend, who: ‘is going up to Liverpool on a stag weekend that he's organised because he's a passionate Everton fan. He's a second-generation Asian, but you just wouldn't know it because he's a Scouser. And he waves the flag for England for the cricket. I play cricket with him. That's my kind of immigrant’.</p> <p>Yet this good integrator/immigrant is already British: it was his parents who immigrated and had to integrate. The logic of integration is frequently applied to people who are already part of what there is to integrate into. Indeed, one of the major findings is that our sample usually think of ethnic minority people primarily as groups, without distinctions as to whether people are British, migrants, students, etc. They also see them as acting collectively because of culture (unless they know specific individuals), a logic that is not applied to other white UK people, who are individuals.</p> <p><strong>Space and Place</strong></p> <p>Segregation is the opposite of integration, and serves to exemplify the ‘cultural’ logic applied to ethnic minorities. People sometimes gave place names as summaries for segregation.</p> <p>‘The idea of, you know, great swathes of people in Bradford, or Southall, or Birmingham, or Bristol, or wherever, not speaking English is absurd, if you're going to have integration. Otherwise, you do have cultural and racial ghettos, which is no good to anybody’ (Martin, Bristol).</p> <p>Indeed, in the project where we had a 50/50 balance of middle and working class interviewees [2], while the theme of segregation was present in both sets of interviews, members of the middle-class sample used the term ‘ghettos’. Areas in cities where our interviewees live, or in other cities that they had heard of, come to symbolise a non-British space. Importantly, this frame casts minorities as self-segregating, granting them the agency to decide not to live elsewhere. </p> <p>Minorities are seen as <em>self</em>-segregating entirely because of cultural reasons, while white UK people are not, as if the usual logic of economics does not apply to the housing choices made by BME people. Whereas the clearest case for self-segregation could be made for the very wealthy living in places that are financially unattainable for most. Elite ghettos? We seldom frame descriptions of residential patterns in these terms. Moreover, BME people deemed to be swamping are not distinguished in this discourse by status: British, EU national, student, non-EU national (as they are in immigration law). Is it possible for British nationals to ‘swamp’ a residential area in Britain? Places like Bradford, Easton (Bristol), Haringey, Birmingham, are both physical and figurative spaces into which our interviewees read narratives of invasion and displacement. The population figures for these areas usually show white majorities or that no group has a majority. Indeed <a href="http://www.policypress.co.uk/display.asp?K=9781847420077">Simpson and Finney</a> provide a wealth of data showing actual patterns of population distribution and access to resources. However the assumption underpinning the claims of being taken over is that a high proportion of BME residents is a problem in and of itself. It is hard to envisage successful integration in that framing.</p> <p><strong>The Local and the Personal </strong></p> <p>However, in the eyes of our white UK interviewees (as in those interviewed by <a href="http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/2230-deprivation-cohesion-immigration.pdf">Mary Hickman’s team</a>), local history is also significant. The assumptions about who is part of the community and who has to integrate do not always follow colour lines. In Thetford for example, people on the estate where the research was carried out saw newly-arrived Polish and Portuguese migrants as the threats, whereas the local African-Caribbean and Asian families with long residence were identified as being part of the ‘we’ feeling threatened. Similarly, during our fieldwork in various parts of Bristol, local African-Caribbean or Asian people seldom featured in the conversations, which usually identified Somalis, or Eastern European migrants as outsiders. It is interesting to note that despite this, the figure of the non-integrating Muslim was still the one people plucked out first as an example of lack of integration.</p> <p>One element of this frame marking the discussions about integration is the distinction made between individuals and groups. People’s networks of friends, family and intimacy were important factors in how they engaged with the frames. A minority, with more extensive knowledge of black and Asian people accrued through friendships and other intimacies, saw negative attitudes toward immigrants as unfounded, and pointed to Britain’s history of involvement with former colonies as continuing into the present. Individuals known to our interviewees are held up as good integrators vis-à-vis the bad, who are always groups rather than individuals. Indeed, the capacity to see one’s own group as a set of diverse individuals and other people as always a group is a distinctive feature holding together the integration discourse: those people don’t want to integrate; they don’t make an effort; they stick with each other, etc. Non-integration is thus viewed as a choice made on the back of a <em>cultural</em> trait.</p> <p><strong>Conclusions</strong></p> <p>Many of the structural elements of the social world migrants inhabit (such as economic development, property prices, etc.) are out of their hands, as it is for most people. Yet the group that never has to integrate (at least not culturally) sees the move from outsider to insider as a choice of commitment, not seeing the structural limits for new migrants. Indeed a different set of logics is used on BME people: they are usually the integrators, even if they are British (unless locally known to our interviewees); they choose residential self-segregation; they are always a group; and an individual’s behaviour reflects group culture. </p> <p>Moreover, the big political and media discussions of the day revolve around criticisms of multiculturalism and problems posed by the putative failure of Muslims to integrate. It is hardly surprising that the interviewees deploy similar frames in sifting the information available. When this gets bound up with the idea that resources are being transferred to those with a lesser claim on national belonging, the assumptions generate the conditions of backlash we now see expressed in a variety of identifications: with political parties and movements, with individuals, and social media campaigns.</p> <p>I think the way the idea of integration is crosscut by the unfairness and pc-gone-mad <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/steve-garner/what-is-this-political-space-we-call-%27immigration%27">frames</a> poses a major issue for democratic politics, especially when the nation within which we operate means different things to different people. I shall explore that further in the last article, where we will examine claims to the nation, and how the politics of immigration impact on the way we do democracy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Notes</strong></p> <p>[1] In only one of the projects did we have questions including the word ‘integration’. The rest is how people chose to answer broader questions about their communities and immigration in general.</p> <p>[2] ESRC RES-148-25-003. See <a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745327488&amp;">Clarke and Garner (2010) White Identities (Pluto Press)</a> </p> <p><a href="http://bit.ly/17J7gas"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/PN_Editorial_620px-1.png" alt="PN" width="460" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/steve-garner/what-is-this-political-space-we-call-%27immigration%27">What is this political space we call &#039;immigration&#039;?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom OurKingdom Unearthing Europe CCIG UK Election 2015 Steve Garner Fri, 27 Mar 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Steve Garner 91526 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Localism: a case of old friends re-united? https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/laird-ryan/localism-case-of-old-friends-reunited <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Looking at a set of recent planning outcomes across England: it’s clear that the localism agenda hasn’t tipped the balance in favour of grassroots communities. The same old names keep cropping up.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/fxXh2UBe0KH2IJ2ezRggyxK46xrp6pZZvh0lAnpGS4U/mtime:1427418297/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/fr4eidns.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/dvUxnF_fVep87WFjN319__GVZUl6maCjpr3URmBMddQ/mtime:1427410762/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/fr4eidns.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/Ewan-M</span></span></span></p><p>The Localism Act 2011 was originally <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/8194542/Decentralisation-and-Localism-Bill-the-key-points.html">introduced</a> in Parliament as the <em>Decentralisation</em> and Localism Bill (note the italics). Clearly, something major got lost in the process. Perhaps this explains why, despite the Chancellor’s persistent claims – most recently in <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/chancellor-george-osbornes-budget-2015-speech">his 2015 Budget speech</a> - that unprecedented powers are being given away to localities, and satisfaction with local authorities and public services in general has never been higher; the reality’s less positive.</p> <p>In our relentless trawl of press reports, government websites and blogs, LocalismWatch has found little evidence that the 2011 Act has sidelined the Westminster village and put local people in the driving seat. The same conflicts, the same outcomes, indeed the same faces, keep showing up. If anything, it suggests that, far from being marginalised, the powerful and well-connected are using (or sidestepping) the new legislation to entrench their interests at the expense of grassroots communities. Equally, where local councils and people are seen to be doing something new and positive, the chances are that it’s despite - not because of - the government’s localism agenda. Let’s look at some recent examples.</p> <p><strong>Hands across the sea? Localism, Barnet-style</strong></p> <p>Our old friends in LB Barnet are still at it. They and their development partners, Barratt Metropolitan, have served Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) on the entire West Hendon community to make way for 2,000 new flats. Barratt Metropolitan and the council told a recent <a href="http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/11737164._You_are_displacing_a_whole_community___Public_inquiry_into_West_Hendon_Estate_starts/">public inquiry</a> that the orders were necessary, because it was “unlikely” they could acquire the properties “within a reasonable timescale” otherwise. They also claimed that the CPOs were “in the public interest”. The proposed clearances were “critical” to West Hendon, as the area would “benefit from additional spending power” from people moving into the new homes. Back in 2002, the council balloted residents on the scheme, and 75% were in favour. But a lot’s changed since then.</p> <p>At the inquiry, a local leaseholder, Kalim Khalick, <a href="http://wwwbrokenbarnet.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/a-concept-of-place-making-and-promotion.html">questioned</a> the scheme’s economic benefits: “There aren’t enough jobs already. Shifting in another 1,500 families is going to decrease the chances of people in the local area getting jobs.” West Hendon councillor Devra Kay asked when the promised new schools and health facilities would be ready. She also asked if the fact no secure tenancies had been given to people on the estate since the 2002 ballot was deliberate on LB Barnet’s part. Another local resident said: “You are displacing a whole community. You make it like you are building for us, but it’s for the private sector. All of a sudden I have lost all my neighbours. Yes, it’s going to be beautiful, but no one I know will live there. The social landscape will have changed.” </p> <p>Dan Knowles, a consultant speaking for local tenants, <a href="http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/11737164._You_are_displacing_a_whole_community___Public_inquiry_into_West_Hendon_Estate_starts/?ref=mr">asked</a> if a more recent ballot would have been similar to the one in 2002: he was concerned that that the council was using 15 year-old statistics to “justify” current resident support. Knowles added: “Considering the scheme contained a number of pledges no longer on offer, and approximately three times as many new build properties, would it be fair to suggest public opinion would not be in the council’s favour?”</p> <p>Martin Cowie, LB Barnet’s assistant planning director, told the inquiry that the estate’s current condition was “not sustainable” into the long term. Some of the original promises made to the tenants have now been dropped – including rehousing everyone on the same site – due to the “drastic and unforeseen economic downturn of the late 2000s”. But Mr Cowie insisted: “Most of the pledges remain the same and will be met.” (It should be noted that the council’s entire physical planning service has now been <a href="http://www.planningresource.co.uk/article/1227271/--running-planning-services-joint-venture">outsourced</a> to Capita, giving rise to concerns about its commitment to defend resident interests against developers at inquiries such as this.)</p> <p>Elsewhere in Barnet, Russell Brand led an activists’ sleepover in the Sweets Way estate, Whetstone. They’re protesting against Annington Property Ltd, who own land and houses there and <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/mar/19/sleepover-protest-led-by-russell-brand-draws-150-to-sweets-way-estate">moved tenants out</a> to make way for a private residential redevelopment. </p> <p>A spokesman for Annington said: “It is regrettable when homes need to be demolished, but [our] decision to redevelop the estate will see an increase in the number of homes by more than 100%, from 142 to 288, and the inclusion of 20% affordable homes will see a minimum of 59 created where there were none before. Annington has begun court proceedings for a possession order so that it can evict the squatters. These properties have long been earmarked for demolition and Annington advised tenants of this back in 2012. Annington wrote again to tenants last July to ensure that they were all aware of the need to vacate the properties in January 2015.” </p> <p>It’s since been <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/mar/20/guy-hands-linked-to-sweets-way-estate-evictions">revealed</a> that Annington has been bought by Terra Firma, a property business controlled by Guy Hands, a tax exile and one of Britain’s top private equity investors: he’s also rather well connected. William Hague was best man at Hands’ wedding.</p> <p><strong>Is Westminster stretching the boundaries of localism? </strong></p> <p>Another London Borough under fire for its housing policy is Westminster. LB Barking and Dagenham has accused it of buying up houses in its area as a means of clearing out some of the wealthier borough’s poorest residents. It is <a href="http://www.barkinganddagenhampost.co.uk/news/council_leader_slams_westminster_for_treating_barking_and_dagenham_as_a_convenience_1_3952932">reported</a> that Westminster has spent £6million on 34 homes across Barking and Dagenham and three other north east London boroughs, with another £9m earmarked to expand its portfolio.</p> <p>Barking and Dagenham council leader Darren Rodwell says this is adding to pressures on local services, and feels that his borough is being “treated as a convenience”. To him, Westminster’s policy is “social cleansing” and an “affront to residents”. Not only are local people being deprived of housing, the borough’s education provision is suffering: “We’re building two schools a year,” says Rodwell, “They’ve got 250 school places vacant. They should be building in their own borough.”</p> <p>As we noted <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/laird-ryan/localism-tale-of-gvas-grandees-and-guardian-but-not-much-greenery">previously</a>, Westminster contains some of Britain’s wealthiest neighbourhoods: but, by virtue of the same fact, it’s also home to many of its lowest-paid families. And it draws in disproportionately large numbers of homeless people. By law, all councils must make provision for those without a roof over their head. It’s also the law that councils can only keep vulnerable households in short-term accommodation like B&amp;Bs for a maximum of 6 weeks before finding longer-term arrangements. In 2013, it was reported that Westminster was <a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/welfare-cuts-leave-councils-with-huge-bill-to-put-families-in-hotels-9772401.html">spending around £48m</a> providing temporary homeless accommodation, and was scheduled to go <a href="http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2013/06/25/westminster-buys-houses-outside-london-to-cope-with-steep-rise-in-homeless/">£6m over budget</a> by March 2014: even then, it was failing to meet legal requirements. </p> <p>A year ago, Westminster said that it had plans to build 500 affordable units. Over a <a href="http://akashictimes.co.uk/homeless-levels-hitting-crisis-point-in-westminster-dont-think-i-published-this-may-have-forgotten-at-the-time-dated-7-august/">third of its 22,000 council houses have been sold</a> since Right to Buy began in the 1980s: much of this sold-off stock is now held by buy-to-let investors. It would be malicious speculation to link Westminster’s £6m shortfall in meeting its homeless obligations to the identical sum spent in buying outer London properties. Yet those of us with longer memories will recall that Westminster has an unfortunate track record in re-profiling neighbourhoods for motivations that could be construed as political. The faces may have changed, but the shadow of the 1980s ‘<a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3867387.stm">homes for votes</a>’ scandal, which forced Westminster’s then leader Lady Porter out of office, seems not to have entirely disappeared.</p> <p><strong>More old friends: this time, it’s Gladman Developments</strong></p> <p>Current <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/6077/2116950.pdf">national planning guidance</a> requires councils to provide for a 5 year supply of housing land in their local plans. But as LocalismWatch has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/laird-ryan/who-really-runs-our-neighbourhoods">shown</a>, it’s not easy for a council to prove exactly what this “5 year supply” means in its particular area. Housing demand varies from place to place, for many social, economic and environmental reasons. Well-resourced development companies regularly challenge the evidence on which cash-strapped councils base their plans, and this may result in these plans being thrown out at inquiry. Government’s guidance has skewed planning outcomes, so that if a council’s plan is out-of-date or isn’t yet in place, there’s a presumption that applications for ‘sustainable development’ should be approved. </p><p>Darlington Council has recently seen a planning inspector dismiss its five-year housing supply figures and housing policy as ‘out of date’ at an inquiry brought by Gladman Developments, who <a href="http://www.darlingtonandstocktontimes.co.uk/news/11745168.Darlington_council_leader_defends_planning_officers_after_housing_policy_is_overturned_by_government_inspector/">won an appeal</a> to build 250 houses on a local greenfield site. The <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/laird-ryan/who-really-runs-our-neighbourhoods">predatory activities</a> of this property company have been widely reported in LocalismWatch and elsewhere. Council leader Bill Dixon said Gladman won 97% of its appeals because it had the money to spend on lawyers while local authorities did not and “central government policy was stacked in favour of development.”</p> <p>He added: “We’ve got a problem with housing in Darlington which is why we launched the Local Plan and unfortunately they’ve spotted a weakness in it. The data involved are very subjective. Gladman put some figures before the inspector and ignored others and it was only when the appeal began that officers knew what they were going to act on.” Cllr Nixon acknowledged that other developers might well use the inspector’s decision as a precedent for making further applications.</p> <p>Cllr Heather Scott, leader of Darlington’s Conservative group, said: “There is a catalogue of things that have gone wrong, [due to the] Local Plan, which the inspector has said is not up to date.” Council officers told her that they had not grasped the details of certain legal changes ahead of the appeal, and Gladman had exploited this. Cllr Scott added: “To us, it looks as though it’s been totally messed up. They were so sure that the figures they had were right and someone has come in and torn it to shreds. I think they were overconfident in themselves.” </p> <p>What makes it all the more difficult for Darlington is that another planning inspector has <a href="http://www.darlingtonaycliffesedgefieldadvertiser.co.uk/news/11801308.Inspector_slams_council_s_multi_billion_pound_blueprint_for_future_of_County_Durham/">rejected</a> Durham County Council’s strategic bid to make the wider area an ‘economic powerhouse’. Harold Stephens said that the 20-year County Durham Plan (CDP) contains proposals which are “unrealistic, flawed, not justified, deliverable or environmentally acceptable and unsound.” These include a projected 31,400 new homes, 500 hectares of employment land and 9,500sq metres of retail space, with the aim of creating 30,000 jobs across the county by 2030.</p> <p>The inspector concluded: “I am fully aware of the council’s ambition to adopt a Local Plan for County Durham as soon as practicable and to avoid unnecessary delays to examination. However, it is not in the best interests of planning or plan-making to recommend an unsound plan for adoption, which would clearly run the risk of subsequent legal challenge. Consequently, I would ask the council to carefully consider the implications of these interim views before advising me on the preferred course of action.”</p> <p><strong>Fracking: negative energy, different approaches</strong></p> <p>Whereas the Localism Act is supposedly about transferring powers from the centre to local communities, the government’s new infrastructure laws openly strip away many long-held powers of private individuals and localities, while consolidating the control of Whitehall and its friends. The Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 and the Infrastructure Act 2015 have been designed by the Coalition to make it easier, quicker and simpler to ‘<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/infrastructure-act-will-get-britain-building">get Britain building</a>’. They cover a very wide range of themes, from strategic transport to mineral extraction.</p> <p>On the one hand, they offer local people tiny carrots, such as being able to buy shares in renewable energy projects. But these are dwarfed by the giant stick of central government’s new powers. Ministers can now steamroller high-speed rail and shale gas extraction (fracking) proposals by removing local communities’ and councils’ legal rights to scrutinise and contest them.&nbsp; They also give the promoters of such schemes the right to prospect and drill under private properties without their owners’ consent. In January, as the Infrastructure Bill was going through its final stages, Parliament <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-30993915">rejected</a> Labour moves for a moratorium on further fracking proposals, pending an assessment on its environmental impact: the government, however, agreed to an ”outright ban” in National Parks.</p> <p>Like the property industry, many of fracking’s top promoters are senior parliamentarians, close to the government: ex-Tory Minister <a href="http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/fracking-lord-howell-george-osbornes-3536842">Lord Howell</a>, who has famously pushed for fracking to commence in the “remote and desolate” North East and North West, is George Osborne’s father-in-law. And <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Browne,_Baron_Browne_of_Madingley">Lord Browne</a>, who as BP’s CEO from 1995 to 2007 was responsible for a “ruthless” international <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1291663/Return-Lord-Oil-Slick-Why-Cameron-handed-Lord-Browne-key-job.html">programme of cost-cutting</a> that compromised safety, currently combines his role as a government adviser with the chairmanship of shale gas driller Cuadrilla Resources.</p> <p><a href="http://www.cuadrillaresources.com/">Cuadrilla</a> has applied to begin fracking operations in Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood, near Blackpool. But planning officers at Lancashire County Council have recommended rejection of these proposals, on noise and traffic grounds. Cuadrilla therefore asked the council to <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-31007062">defer a decision</a>, giving the company time to assemble additional technical information and consult local communities.</p> <p>Councillors voted at the end of January to defer matters for an eight-week period. They agreed that <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-31153789">a decision would be made on 30 April</a>, following “consultation with regulators and the public”. A Cuadrilla spokesman said this would allow locals to “properly review the additional information” it would provide. Friends of the Earth campaigner Helen Rimmer pointed out that the company "had several months to present their case, which Lancashire's planning officers have found to be unacceptable.” She urged councillors to throw out the application, as: “Failure to do so will leave Lancashire as the UK's guinea pig for this unnecessary and polluting technology.”</p> <p>Cuadrilla are also active in West Sussex. Last July, the county council turned down <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/22/west-sussex-county-council-turns-down-shale-gas-exploration-bid">an application by Celtique Energy</a> for oil and gas exploration on a site just outside the South Downs National Park. In addition to the likely disruption, the applicant had not, in the council’s view, shown that the affected area was the ‘best option site’ for extraction. However, this does not mean that West Sussex has ruled out the possibility of shale gas extraction: they agreed to a proposal by Cuadrilla to carry out testing at Balcombe. Although Cuadrilla <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-25861354">said</a> in January 2014 that they would “not be fracking at Balcombe, now or in the future”, on geological grounds, local residents did not believe the company and launched a legal challenge. In December 2014, they <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-30345485">lost a High Court bid</a> to block these tests.</p> <p>Ceredigion Council, however, has no such qualms about rejecting fracking. Following a local petition, it <a href="http://www.carmarthenjournal.co.uk/Countyfirst-frack-free-council-agree-ban/story-25970570-detail/story.html">agreed to a ban</a>, and is the first Welsh local authority to do so. Cllr Alun Williams, who proposed the vote, said: “We have no viable sources of coal, shale or gas beneath us. For several years we have led, and made good progress, on energy conservation and renewable energy. So declaring Ceredigion a frack-free council underlines our well-established policy on energy. And, just as importantly, it demonstrates our willingness to listen to and respond positively to the expressed views of our residents.”</p> <p><strong>But there’s positive energy too . . .</strong></p> <p>Cornwall is the first council in the country to prioritise community-owned renewable energy. Local residents are being asked to share their views on a <a href="http://www.cornwall.gov.uk/environment-and-planning/planning/minerals-waste-and-renewable-energy/renewable-energy/renewable-energy-supplementary-planning-document/">draft supplementary planning document</a> (SPD) that will provide guidance on how renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, wave, geothermal and biomass, can be deployed without harming the county’s environment and heritage. It also provides an explanation of community ownership and highlights the importance of good community engagement before planning applications are submitted. Interestingly, the motivation behind this initiative isn’t due to the Localism or Infrastructure Acts. SPDs, which help clarify or support a council’s local development framework, are published under regulations to the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 –enacted six years before the Coalition came to power.</p> <p>Once adopted, the SPD will become part of Cornwall’s local development framework and be taken into account when determining renewable energy planning applications there. <a href="http://cities-today.com/2015/02/cornwall-council-becomes-first-uk-prioritise-community-owned-renewable-energy/">In the council’s view</a>, this is a vital step forward in building a local energy market for Cornwall and should help raise the debate on a national level. “Community engagement is at the core of everything the Council does,” said Edwina Hannaford, Cornwall’s Cabinet Member for Planning. “The Council recently completed a budget setting exercise which included a two month long consultation consisting of 19 public meetings, 79 online public conversations and a web-based news release, which received over 8,500 hits.” </p> <p><strong>Localism costs, but who’s paying and who’s benefitting?</strong></p> <p>Nottingham City Council is <a href="http://www.insidermedia.com/insider/midlands/135255-/">buying back</a> the Homes and Community Agency’s 50% stake in Blueprint, a loss-making public-private partnership responsible for local regeneration projects.&nbsp; These include a new science park, ‘sustainable’ homes and workspaces. The other stakeholders include Igloo Regeneration and the investment arm of insurance giant Aviva. The announcement, though, wasn’t made in Nottingham, but in Cannes, where council representatives were attending MIPM, the world’s largest property sector jamboree. Further evidence that localism’s more about creating profitmaking- opportunities for offshore investors and the transfer of risk, rather than real powers, from the centre?</p> <p><strong>When you’re in a hole . . .</strong></p> <p>We’ve previously highlighted imaginative and not-so-imaginative approaches by councils to the growing curse of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/laird-ryan/is-general-power-of-competence-helping-grassroots-communities">potholes</a>. And we’ve also drawn attention to the untapped potential of mobile phone technology in helping people make their local areas better places to be. CTC, the national cycling charity, has brought these two strands together by creating ‘<a href="http://www.fillthathole.org.uk/">Fill that Hole</a>’, a free app that allows users to take a picture of the pothole and report it from the kerbside. The app then sends that data to the local council’s highways teams. It also allows users to rate a council’s performance in carrying out repairs. The <a href="http://www.fillthathole.org.uk/league-table">results</a> vary widely among the 214 authorities, from 100% in Islington, Stockton-on-Tees, Redbridge and Hartlepool, to zero in Blaenau Gwent. </p> <p>At the start of February, Cumbria County Council <a href="http://www.cumbria.gov.uk/news/2015/february/02_02_2015-140856.asp">reported</a> that it ranked 14th in the national league table. Councillor Keith Little, its Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “This app will help us to target our spending to the priority areas, quickly. People use their smartphones more and more these days and we are embracing this culture shift by endorsing ‘Fill That Hole’. We are hard at work tackling potholes every day and I encourage people to download the app and report any potholes they see. After all, if we don’t know about them we can’t fill them!” </p> <p>Maybe Cumbria has tumbled into a hole of its own making: when LocalismWatch checked the Fill that Hole league table on 22 March, the county was <a href="http://www.fillthathole.org.uk/league-table">a sorry 52nd</a> in the standings, having filled in a mere 41% of potholes reported via the app.</p> <p>If there’s a clear message to be drawn from this selection of news and views, it’s that localism, as conceived by the Coalition, is riven with contradictions. People at the centre, who feel they’re born to rule, will almost inevitably have a top-down approach to policy-making. As localism is an inherently bottom-up form of working, the government have surreptitiously pulled back on their previous commitments. Their policies and programmes loudly talk the talk of community empowerment. But when local communities campaign for fair and just planning and housing outcomes, it’s still the <a href="http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9306892/tough-luck-old-boys/">chumocracy</a> who hold sway.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><strong>This article is part of the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/localismwatch">LocalismWatch series</a>. </strong></em></p> OurKingdom OurKingdom Opinion Resources LocalismWatch Laird Ryan Fri, 27 Mar 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Laird Ryan 91528 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Real Media GB takes on billionaire-owned consent manufacturing industry https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/steve-rushton/real-media-gb-takes-on-billionaireowned-consent-manufacturing-industry <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A week of actions calling attention to the control of media by elite interests.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The Real Media week of actions draws attention to the domination that the 1% have on information. </p> <ul><li>- Between 70-80% of UK print media is controlled by 5 ultra-wealthy media moguls:&nbsp; Rupert Murdoch, Viscount Rothermere (Jonathan Harmsworth), Richard Desmond and David and Frederick Barclay. </li><li>- Academia is subverted through its dependence on corporate sponsorship and control</li><li>- Advertising infects the popular consciousness, the public face a barrage of messages to consume and to control the way they think</li><li>- Corporate media plays a pivotal role in pushing an unjust and unsustainable system</li></ul> <p>Knowledge is power is a common phrase. But further insight comes from considering how power controls knowledge. The way billionaires manufacture news and supposed ‘facts’ is a central theme within the <a href="https://twitter.com/realmediag">Real Media</a> campaign’s week of actions. Just as UK UNCUT drew attention to corporate tax evasion and Occupy drew focus on inequality, it seems crucial to publicise the 1%’s media supremacy. </p> <p>This week was Anti-Daily Mail week, the Real Media team created fake newspapers, front covers and spoof videos, giving each day a specific theme of corporate corruption. It also teamed up with campaigners and activists who are also taking on the establishment.</p> <p>Kam Sandhu, organiser with the Real Media collective, explains why the Daily Mail was chosen as key focus. </p> <p>"The Daily Mail is the one of the most vile, unapologetic and nasty mouthpieces of the corporate-controlled press. It hates everyone. The paper pushes out click-bait bile to divide, rule and distract people.” </p> <p>Next week, the Real Media campaign will continue with Occupy Rupert Murdoch. In April, Real Media will launch a website that aggregates critical and independent news and launches readers onto the hundreds (if not thousands) of media alternatives.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/8hAOJVMlUeJ8jzNP9HU22mI0tdsojNDp4qBC1tEWz2c/mtime:1427418297/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/rushton1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/2QpsfUb215r_E7caY6fA6__ViZwIJbnPoMwgs_-noYc/mtime:1427373920/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/rushton1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="651" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p><strong>Billionaires control our democracy</strong></p> <p>The week kicked off with distributing 20,000 fake Daily Mails. The Morning Star front page asserted it’s time to “<a href="http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-4a5a-End-monopoly-of-press-toffs">End Monopoly of Press Toffs</a>”. A crucial example of press bias is how whistle-blower Mr Ethical’s allegations of systemic fraud against HSBC go untold. </p> <p>The Real Media campaign highlighted Nafeez Ahmed’s article Death, Drugs and HSBC, which details the scale of the fraud. It also explains the media’s vested interest to suppress the news. As <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/.../peter-oborne/why-i-have-resigned-fr...">Peter Oborne</a> also revealed in Open Democracy, HSBC (like other corporations) have huge advertising budgets with newspapers: leverage to silence negative stories. </p> <p>Ahmed’s article also pin-points how the ‘supposedly progressive’ Guardian has the largest HSBC sponsorship, which in the past may have limited its reporting on the bank although its recent work on exposing the bank was very robust. Additionally, the BBC silence looks all the more unhealthy considering the Chair of the BBC Trust, Rona Fairhead, is paid nearly £500,000 by her other employee: HSBC. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/a0p-8n1ifhfctU7i38LNkeREd8AMYs491AbsTUVy7KM/mtime:1427418297/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/rushton2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/t4lTaJtzgfsOKWvyITjBKfahd45MX3LJyXznMtGACgA/mtime:1427373954/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/rushton2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="173" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p><strong>Climate Change is happening, manmade and preventable</strong></p> <p>In alliance with Talk Fracking and Grow Heathrow, on Tuesday Real Media highlighted how corporate message enables ecological destruction. A key example is the <a href="http://www.salfordstar.com/article.asp?id=2645">chemical leak at IGas’ Barton Moss fracking site</a> reported by the Salford Star and other independent news platforms. Even after Real Media sent hundreds of members of the ‘mainstream press’ this news, it still ignores this serious issue. </p> <p>Corporate climate denial was also a key theme of the day. <a href="http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2013/10/three-graphs-breaking-down-uk-newspaper-coverage-of-the-ipcc%E2%80%99s-big-report/">Carbon Brief</a> explain in detail how the Daily Mail reacts to the International Panel on Climate Change reports, giving misleading headlines such as “How Scientists Keep Changing Their Tune” and “Met Office Global Warming Figures ‘Are Fatally Flawed’”. <br /> <br /> </p> <p>The climate denial trend is international: in the US, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2013/oct/11/climate-change-political-media-ipcc-coverage">Murdoch</a>-owned Fox News gives 69% airtime to climate deniers, when the proportion of doubters within scientists is a mere 3%. No wonder, as Murdoch also has <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/09/06/312039/rupert-murdoch-and-dick-cheney-back-an-oil-shale-company-with-faulty-wells-were-shocked/">direct interests in fracking</a>, which should stay in the ground to stop climate change. <br /> <br /> <span></span></p> <p>Asserting fracking is dangerous and unnecessary, on Tuesday campaigners Talk Fracking coordinated 10 protests in universities across the country to launch its <a href="http://www.talkfracking.org/news/frackademicsblog/">Frackademics Report</a>. It details how the case to frack Britain is based on academics funded by the industry and does not deserve to be called science. </p> <p>In another stunt, a group of polar bears protested against the multimillion-pound advertising campaign for Heathrow’s third runway, calling investment into aviation industry “plane stupid.” The bears visited architect Norman Foster’s headquarters, who has involvement in new runways at Heathrow and Atenco airport, Mexico City. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/0qoJO2qcGc6PM8TwJfqdbWEEPsKXxhrX25784U_O4_s/mtime:1427418298/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/rushton3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Gdh8KGuFq9wS1oR4uIDSqqE7YPq_5K5RTEGJ8yaAnAg/mtime:1427374005/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/rushton3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Across Britain the British public is currently under a barrage of adverts saying we need to expand Heathrow (and encourage more air travel), coupled with corporate-led climate denial and corrupted academia. This is a PR attempt on multiples fronts to engineer what people think, to suit the interests of trans-national capital.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>The greatest wealth gap ever and it’s getting worse</strong></p> <p>Wednesday was budget day, coinciding with Blockupy protests against the ECB in Frankfurt. Both the ECB and George Osborne’s economic plan are central global pillars of austerity which are devastating societies. Although if you read swathes of the press, you may be led to believe our economic problems are caused by vulnerable or minority groups.</p> <p>Real Media combined with Debt Resistance UK who paid a visit to Goldman Sachs London HQ, with the message “1% your turn to pay.” </p> <p>Reflecting on the media’s obsession with the violent scenes from Frankfurt, Fanny Mailinen in Red Pepper pointed out how the corporate media ignores the silent <a href="http://r.duckduckgo.com/l/?kh=-1&amp;uddg=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.redpepper.org.uk%2Freporting-violence-at-protests-hides-everyday-violence-by-austerity%2F">violence of austerity</a>. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/H7OS92FjdU6k_gnvpmtiLdjiVgf7t4GAPKhXmvC09S8/mtime:1427418298/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/rushton4.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/6ItaGP-LkZA_jhfCR3jqFFFlyLhEiRONfTn-A1l-xJo/mtime:1427374031/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/rushton4.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p><strong>End Privatisation of the NHS now!</strong></p> <p>On Thursday the theme was privatisation, focusing on how the government has just announced the biggest sell-off of the NHS. But the corporate owned media has been committed to a slightly more trivial matter: Jeremy Clarkson. </p> <p>It is no wonder a press controlled by billionaires mainly ignores free trade agreements like <a href="http://r.duckduckgo.com/l/?kh=-1&amp;uddg=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.occupy.com%2Farticle%2Fuk-stages-nationwide-day-action-against-vampire-transatlantic-trade-treaty">TTIP</a> and dodgy <a href="http://newint.org/blog/2013/05/15/pfi-schools-hospitals/">PFI deals</a>. For your average person on the street these threaten their vital public services, democracy and rights: for billionaires these are mechanisms to extract even more wealth. </p> <p>Each day the DailyWail corrections department was busy, remaking front covers as if it were not owned by Lord Rothermere. Correcting Tabloids fronts was also spreading, with Channel Four News’ <a href="http://blogs.channel4.com/paul-mason-blog/stories-missed-sun?123">Paul Mason</a> getting in on the act.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/QBtBgzZSqDs_wdDswubJSBRvQHmEhL2TmJPHzPaOyrI/mtime:1427418298/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/rushton5.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/voZIyB5WyUYdEQIJqZMJsqGWulhdIwHaaflhdvWAth4/mtime:1427374059/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/rushton5.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="592" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p><strong>Funding both sides of the War on Terror:<br /> Everyone loses except the British Arms industry </strong></p> <p>The Real Media campaign on Friday pointed out how Britain gave weapons and training to the forces that became <a href="https://www.contributoria.com/issue/2015-03/54a809d191e4fdad4600023b">ISIS</a>, just as it had done before for the Mujahedeen and Saddam Hussein before fighting them. </p> <p>Real Media asserts Britain’s foreign policy is about selling oil and securing oil, arming regimes without regard for their human rights abuses. In turn, Britain will commit human rights abuses and fight illegal wars. 12 years ago began the invasion of Iraq. The Real Media campaign points out how this is all enabled by a corporate media, with vested interests in keeping the oil and weapons business continuing. </p> <p><strong>Defend the Right to Protest: No racism</strong></p> <p>The final day of the Anti-Daily Mail Week coincided with UN anti-racism day. Real Media offered its solidarity with the London Black Revs in their protest against racialised gentrification. A story lacking coverage even amongst the critical media.</p> <p>The campaign also asserted that we need a media that represents <a href="http://www.newleftproject.org/.../media_diversified_an_interview_with_saman">BME</a> and all groups of society, both in output and the journalists and editors reporting news. Additionally, it asserted that the media’s jobs is not to ridicule protests and people critical of the system. After all, in a functioning democracy the press should act as critical voice, representing the people, not a mouthpiece for billionaires to tell people want they want them to think. </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p id="docs-internal-guid-cfad76fc-561f-efbc-64a4-8a25dff56dac" dir="ltr"><strong><em><span>OurKingdom doesn’t have a billionaire proprietor telling us what to write - we rely on donations from readers like you. </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><span>Please support us</span></a><span> if you can.</span></em></strong></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> OurKingdom OurKingdom Steve Rushton Fri, 27 Mar 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Steve Rushton 91551 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Just how badly does the UK protect victims of trafficking? https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/jenny-mccall/just-how-badly-does-uk-protect-victims-of-trafficking <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The government claims its Modern Slavery Bill, that passed into law today, is proof that it cares about victims. So why are anti-trafficking processes letting victims down?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/LIrqoGXyumQcu-UDGYyvo1pokB1t5Kww-lk46OZBo0E/mtime:1427187582/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/trafflondon_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/LeI1uThYqjdM9C650k9YWy95fmEPWfNwcnkXyDpPr44/mtime:1427055640/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/trafflondon_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="168" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Anti Slavery Day, October 2012, London (Flickr)</span></span></span></p><p><span>One day last September a 16 year old girl arrived at Heathrow airport accompanied by a British woman. The girl was travelling on a United States passport but she’d left there when she was two and was now living in an African country.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Suspicious of the relationship between the pair, Border staff detained the child and let the woman continue on her travels.&nbsp;</p> <p><span>Whenever Border staff suspect that a child may be a victim of trafficking, they are supposed to inform the police and Children’s Services straight away.</span></p> <p>That didn’t happen.</p> <p>Instead, officials sent instructions for the girl to be flown to the US, even though she’d left there 14 years ago and didn’t speak English. The US Department for Homeland security was informed that the child would be returning.&nbsp;</p> <p>The girl was escorted to a holding room to wait for her flight and then taken out again for boarding. Then there was a ticketing glitch, so she was returned to the holding room.</p> <p>It took officials 16 hours after the girl was first detained to inform the National Referral Mechanism, the system that exists to identify and protect potential victims of trafficking.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Still, the order to send her to the US remained in place until, at last, officials acknowledged the girl’s request not to be sent there. It was another 34 hours before she was picked up by a social worker.&nbsp;</p> <p><span>Later, the Home Office found reasonable grounds to believe the girl was a victim of trafficking and she was temporarily admitted to the UK.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>This case came to light only because prison inspectors happened to make a surprise inspection of&nbsp;Heathrow&nbsp;Airport’s holding facilities on 30th September 2014. The details emerged two weeks ago in <a href="http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/inspections/heathrow-airport-terminal-1-short-term-holding-facility/#.VRQgh7rBf0c">a report&nbsp;published here</a>. &nbsp;</p> <p>The Prisons Inspectorate said: “The attempted removal to the US, the delay in placing the child in social services care and delay in referring her to the national referral mechanism indicated a lack of focus on&nbsp;promoting the child’s best interests and welfare.”</p> <p>You can say that again.&nbsp;The UK’s systems for protecting victims of trafficking &nbsp;—&nbsp;adults as well as children —&nbsp;aren’t up to the task. So how is the system supposed to work?</p><h2><span>Mind the gap</span></h2> <p>The National Referral Mechanism&nbsp;was&nbsp;introduced in 2009 to identify&nbsp;and support trafficking victims.&nbsp;Government&nbsp;and agencies such as the police, social workers or charities like the <a href="http://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/">Salvation Army</a>, who may come into contact with a victim of trafficking are known as “first responders”. They refer individuals to one of two decision makers, known as Competent Authorities, which&nbsp;currently&nbsp;are&nbsp;the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/home-office">UK&nbsp;Visa and Immigration service</a> (UKVI)&nbsp;and the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/about-us/what-we-do/specialist-capabilities/uk-human-trafficking-centre">UK Human Trafficking centre&nbsp;</a>(UKHTC).&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Once the victim is identified and referred, the Competent Authority has up to 45 days&nbsp;to determine whether the person was trafficked or not.&nbsp;During this time the person is provided with accommodation.</p> <p>When a decision has been made, an adult has 48 hours to leave&nbsp;the accommodation provided for them if it’s found that they have not been trafficked and 14 days to leave if it is found they have been trafficked.&nbsp;In either case adults get no further assistance and they may start a claim for asylum.</p><p>Children are accommodated by Local Authority Children’s Services. Many disappear, according to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/report-from-the-joint-inquiry-into-children-who-go-missing-from-care">a shocking report</a>&nbsp;by the&nbsp;all-party parliamentary group for runaway and missing children and adults, published in 2012&nbsp;(<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/175563/Report_-_children_who_go_missing_from_care.pdf">PDF here</a>). The group noted:</p><blockquote><p><span>“</span>Trafficked children from abroad are particularly being let down and their needs ignored because the authorities view child trafficking as an immigration control issue. Hundreds of them disappear from care every year, many within 48 hours and often before being registered with children’s services. The majority of these children are never found again.”&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p><a href="http://unitedkingdom.iom.int/">The International Organisation for Migration (IOM)</a> reported that the majority of re-trafficking cases involves minors under the age of 25.&nbsp;</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.antislavery.org/english/what_we_do/trafficking/anti_trafficking_monitoring_group.aspx">Anti Trafficking Monitoring Group</a>&nbsp; brings together&nbsp;human rights organisations including the <a href="http://www.helenbamber.org/">Helen&nbsp;Bamber Foundation</a> and <a href="http://www.ecpat.org.uk/">ECPAT UK</a> whose work involves combating human trafficking.&nbsp;They reviewed the National Referral Mechanism’s first five years’ work and exposed multiple flaws in their report last year. <a href="http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20141202113128/https:/nrm.homeoffice.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/ATMG.pdf">(You can access the&nbsp;PDF&nbsp;here). </a>&nbsp;</p><p>They found evidence of prejudice towards applicants from outside the European Union and towards child victims of trafficking, and identified a culture of disbelief against non-EU victims.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/cP1U5pH4trYJZtb1Qe1lm-6JAVHqLtOfsLgUHHZc5VI/mtime:1427389212/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/traffhome.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/olly92Wt7w_j5p2dKizbWs5zOZIJ_5RQH51H69iCIl8/mtime:1427055130/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/traffhome.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Home Office may ignore or dismiss evidence of trafficking. (Womens eNews 2009, Flickr) </span></span></span></p> <p>The Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group’s report includes quotes from asylum interviews that provide examples of trafficking scenarios which were not acted upon by the&nbsp;UKVI&nbsp;staff at the Home Office. Here<span>’s</span><span>&nbsp;one:</span></p> <blockquote><p>“He told me I had to work on the streets. I worked ... he threatened me [with] what would happen to me if I ever left. I told [him] that I didn’t want to do this. That it was against my will.”</p></blockquote> <p>Here<span>’s</span><span>&nbsp;another:</span></p><blockquote><p>“I have been working as a sex worker since I arrived in the UK four years ago. I did not pay any rent to the lady so she said I will have to sleep with these men.”</p></blockquote> <p>A Home Office staff member told one child victim of trafficking who was from outside the EU: </p> <blockquote><p>“Your account of escaping when your employer left the doors unlocked but actually open is considered inconsistent with your account of their previous behaviour where they kept the doors locked, wholly restricted your freedom and controlled your actions.”</p></blockquote> <p>Another victim, known as&nbsp;YP,&nbsp;was 16 years old when she was trafficked into the UK. She had been told that she would be able to go to school. Instead she was beaten and forced to work for her traffickers.</p> <p><span>She escaped. Social services referred her case to the National Referral Mechanism. The decision was negative. But the judge in her asylum case decided that she had in fact been a victim of trafficking. She was later awarded £54,000 in damages.</span></p> <p>The Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group found that out of 299 referrals made in 2012 to the UK human trafficking centre, 80 per cent of their decisions said that the person had in fact been a victim of trafficking. For the&nbsp;UKVI&nbsp;it was less than 20 per cent.</p> <p>According to&nbsp;National Crime Agency <a href="http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/publications/139-national-referral-mechanism-statistics-2013/file">figures</a>&nbsp;the National Referral Mechanism received 1746 applications&nbsp;from potential victims of trafficking, from EU and&nbsp;non-EU countries in 2013. Of all the applicants, 559 received a positive response, and 400 of them were EU victims.</p> <p><span>I asked the Home Office to explain the apparent bias against non-EU victims. A spokesperson said: “non-EU victims of trafficking tend to be found in more exploitative conditions compared to EU.”</span></p> <p>There is a more likely reason. A ‘positive’ decision on the trafficking claim may lead to leave to remain. Since the Home Office is also the gatekeeper of immigration decisions, there is a clear conflict. In EU cases there is no immigration decision to make. </p> <p>“How can you have an organisation making decisions on a victim of trafficking when they have a performance indicator that marks them on how many people they get to leave the country?” asked Huw Watkins, a former Detective Inspector, Gwent Police, in a <a href="http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/publications/it-happens-here-equipping-the-united-kingdom-to-fight-modern-slavery">Centre for Social Justice, report in 2013</a>.&nbsp; (The Helen Bamber Foundation’s David Rhys Jones reviewed <em>that</em> report <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/david-rhys-jones/is-she-victim-or-illegal-immigrant-uk-border-agency-decides">here on OurKingdom</a>.)&nbsp;</p> <h2>Fail again, fail better</h2> <p>In April last year Home Secretary Theresa May ordered the Home Office to review the National Referral Mechanism.</p> <p>They&nbsp;published a report&nbsp;in November, proposing to put the Home Office in charge of the entire National Referral Mechanism, and take the UKVI out of&nbsp;the&nbsp;process, replacing them with a panel of decision makers. They also proposed to run an awareness programme to public and professionals&nbsp;to enhance recognition of human trafficking and to improve data collection plus provide support based on the assessment of the individual victims’ needs.</p> <p>Advocates for people who have been trafficked aren’t impressed.</p> <p>Mike&nbsp;Emberson, of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.medaille.co.uk/">Medaille Trust,</a> which provides shelter for victims of trafficking, reckons the Home Office is just giving more “jobs for the boys”. </p><p>He told me:&nbsp;<span>“Replacing&nbsp;UKVI and UKHTC&nbsp;with this multi-agency panel is not going to work. A victim normally appears unannounced, requiring a decision to be made as soon as possible. Assembling a panel, issuing paperwork etc. is going to turn this into a hugely bureaucratic process that will take months to resolve, as with all civil service endeavours we will have a lot of process with little outcome.”</span></p> <p>The Home Office plan to have only statutory bodies referring victims of trafficking excludes specialist charities who understand this work, and leaves it instead to police officers and social workers, some of whom do not know what the National Referral Mechanism is.</p> <p>Chloe Setter from&nbsp;ECPAT, said: “We train frontline&nbsp;professionals, with many of them unaware the system exists to help identify victims of trafficking.”</p> <p>Tatiana&nbsp;Jardan, from&nbsp;<a href="http://www.humantraffickingfoundation.org/">Human&nbsp;Trafficking Foundation</a>, said: “The recommendations don’t go beyond the 45 days; it is like re-shuffling chairs inside a room. They may improve the current situation but the problem of life beyond the shelter has not been tackled. Victims will face the problems of no support from the government.”</p> <p>Last July&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/people/karen-bradley">Karen Bradley</a>, the minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime, told the House of Commons: “The current UK Government policy goes further than the European Convention on Action against Trafficking obligations by providing a minimum of 45 days’ support once a Reasonable Grounds decision is made.”</p> <p>Each year 150 people leave&nbsp;Medaille&nbsp;Trust’s&nbsp;six&nbsp;safe houses.&nbsp;<span>Mike&nbsp;Emberson told me:&nbsp;“We may know what happens to five per cent of the people who leave our shelters each year. There is no tracking of where they go or end up from the government.”</span></p> <p>Some of these people could end up living homeless, involved in the sex trade or return to their trafficker.</p><p>Some things are getting better. Speaking today as the government<span>’s&nbsp;</span><span>bill passed into law, <a href="http://blogs.unicef.org.uk/2015/03/26/modern-slavery-bill-becomes-law-unicef-uk-statement/">Unicef UK's executive director David Bull</a> said:&nbsp;</span><span>“</span><span>We welcome the fact that the Modern Slavery Act includes a defence for child victims against prosecution for crimes committed directly as a consequence of their trafficking.</span><span>”</span></p><p><span>However, he said:&nbsp;</span><span>“W</span><span>e believe there is still more work to be done to ensure trafficked children are not at risk of being wrongfully prosecuted and even sentenced for these acts. Our work does not stop here.</span><span>”</span></p> <h2>Sarah’s story</h2> <p>Lately I met Sarah (not her real name), a young women from Ghana, who came to the UK hoping to make a new life.</p> <p><span>Her room at the shelter is cosy, filled with pictures of her family from back home in Ghana, and some photos of Sarah with other girls from the shelter. She starts by telling me about why she moved to the UK and how she was hoping to start a new life while supporting her parents back home.</span></p> <p>Living with her aunt in London Sarah was subjected to daily beatings and forced to work for no pay.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I needed someone to fund me when I first came to the UK, I wanted help,” she told me. “For six years my aunt beat me and would tell my family back home a different story.”</p> <p>Sarah mentioned nothing of this to her family in Ghana; she didn’t want to upset them:&nbsp;<span>“A friend of mine helped me escape and took me to the authorities. I just didn’t want to go back to that house,” she said.</span></p> <p><span>Sarah was placed into the specialist care of the Medaille Trust.&nbsp;</span><span>She has been waiting for more than a year while the Home Office&nbsp;determines whether or not she is a victim of trafficking.</span></p> <p><span>If the decision goes against her she will have to leave the shelter within&nbsp;</span><span>48 hours and find her own accommodation.</span></p> <p><span>If she is identified as a victim of trafficking, she will have to start an&nbsp;asylum claim in order to put a roof over her head.</span></p> <p>For now, her life is on hold.</p><hr /><p class="paddingtonpresslist"><strong><em>Think this piece matters? Please donate to OurKingdom </em></strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><strong><em>here </em></strong></a><strong><em>to help keep us producing independent journalism. Thank you.</em></strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Some references</strong></h2> <span>The National Referral Mechanism: A Five year Review. A report by the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group for the Joint Committee on the Modern Slavery Bill, February 2014</span> <p>Report on an unannounced inspection of the short-term holding facility at Heathrow Airport Terminal 1, by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, inspection 30 September 2014, published March 2015.</p><p>It Happens Here: Equipping the United Kingdom to fight modern slavery, Centre for Social Justice, 2013</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/david-rhys-jones/when-youve-been-tortured-does-it-matter-who-your-torturer-was">When you&#039;ve been tortured does it matter who your torturer was?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/david-rhys-jones/what-stops-uk-protecting-victims-of-trafficking">What stops the UK protecting victims of trafficking?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/david-rhys-jones/is-she-victim-or-illegal-immigrant-uk-border-agency-decides">Is she a victim or an illegal immigrant? The UK Border Agency decides</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/david-rhys-jones/inspectors-condemn-uk%E2%80%99s-detention-of-torture-survivors-and-victims-of-tr">Inspectors condemn UK’s detention of torture survivors and victims of trafficking</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom OurKingdom Care and justice The attack on legal aid Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Jenny McCall Thu, 26 Mar 2015 17:37:59 +0000 Jenny McCall 91449 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Cameron's biggest broken promise on the NHS https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/cameron%27s-biggest-broken-promise-on-nhs <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Virgin Care has won a £280m contract to run NHS healthcare for frail and chronically ill people in the Midlands, it was revealed today.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/5FyEY80wl7HWE-x6IZSjHlXVwrnn3m4goq7vpN2E1Qk/mtime:1427386161/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/virgin.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/1uMc_scoplWACMnpehMaQ2azGYj1dWbZ25CohzYYG7s/mtime:1427385744/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/virgin.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em>Image: Protect our NHS and People's NHS supporters protesting against Virgin last weekend</em></p><p class="MsoNormal">Virgin Care have won a £280 million contract to run NHS healthcare in East Staffordshire, it was <a href="http://www.hsj.co.uk/news/revealed-virgin-handed-280m-staffordshire-contract/5083675.article">revealed </a>today. Virgin will now provide (or sub-contract to other providers of its choice) healthcare services for 6,000 frail elderly people and around 38,000 people with long term conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.</p><p class="MsoNormal">The decision - along with <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/mar/12/nhs-agrees-largest-ever-privatisation-deal-to-tackle-backlog">other big pre-election privatisations</a> - appears to contract David Cameron's pledge in November 2014, when he told the BBC "It's our National Health Service. <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30073357">It's in the public sector, it will stay in the public sector</a>. That's not going to change."</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>In fact there is evidence that despite government denials, the pace of NHS privatisation is accelerating. Commenting on the latest Virgin takeover, Clive Peedell, leader of the National Health Action Party, told OurNHS:</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>"This is yet more evidence of the increasing privatisation of the NHS which adds weight to the findings of a recent BMJ <a href="http://www.bmj.com/content/350/bmj.h875">editorial</a>, which quoted research from Oxford Economics showing that in the first 3 years of the coalition, the value of outsourcing had increased from £6.9bn in 2010 to £12.2bn, equivalent to 10% of the NHS budget."</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Local health commissioners, East Staffordshire CCG, explained the decision, telling the Health Services Journal that </span><span>without the contract it would be unsustainable by 2018 and overspend its allocation from NHS England by £10m.</span><span>&nbsp;The decision follows a KPMG report highlighting the ‘distressed local health economy’.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Quite how Virgin will deliver the service cheaper than the NHS is unclear.</span> </p><p class="MsoNormal">Although separate from the £1.2 billion contracts to deliver cancer and end of life care across the rest of Staffordshire, details of which were <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/leak-reveals-worrying-truth-behind-biggest-nhs-privatisation-yet">leaked to openDemocracy last week</a> (the larger part of which, Virgin is also bidding for), the contract is another of the new ‘prime provider’ contracts. As we exposed last week, the ‘prime provider’ model typically allows the winning company a remarkable amount of leeway to choose what services will be continue to be provided to patients, to what standards (using a vague ‘outcome-based’ model), and whether it provides these services directly or sub-contracts them to other organisations of its choice. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Of today’s deal, leading trade publication Health Services Journal reported “<span>The group said Virgin Care will coordinate services across providers to deliver agreed outcomes, although it has not published what these outcomes are.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal">Virgin already operates 30 primary care services across England (often hidden under the NHS logo) <span>including GP practices, GP out of hours services, walk-in centres, urgent care centres (UCCs) and minor injury units (MIUs). Their ‘Urgent Care Clinic’ in Croydon was last year <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/04/nhs-watchdog-virgin-care-croydon-hospital">criticised</a> by official inspectors for putting patients at risk by using receptionists with minimal medical training to assess how unwell arrivals were.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal">Campaigners have already voiced concerns about what the privatisation announced today will mean for frail elderly patients in East Staffordshire .</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Richard Murphy, who has just released a report with Unite the Union on the tax avoidance activities of companies like Virgin and other private firms bidding for NHS work, told OurNHS today:</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>“</span><span>There can only be one reason for doing this, which is that it is believed that despite the fact that Virgin will want a reward for its work they can deliver the service cheaper than the NHS can. </span><span>That is only possible if services, wages or quality are cut. There is no other option…the NHS is as efficient as any large, complex organisation dealing with polysymptomatic health problems can be. It is only by pretending that the complexity will disappear that Virgin can claim otherwise.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>"That's a fraud on the people of East Staffs just as much as the use of tax haven based structures is a fraud on all the rest of us.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The issue of tax avoidance by private firms taking over parts of the NHS is also becoming increasingly sensitive as the scale of the NHS financial crisis mounts.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Unite’s <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/mar/21/ow-lucrative--deals-go-to-firms-that-use-tax-havens">research </a>reveals how Virgin uses 13 intermediate holding companies to distance the firm’s healthcare division from its parent company, based in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite, commented:&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>“Despite the NHS being under huge financial strain the Coalition government is behaving like an accomplice to private companies with tax avoidance structures in place.”</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Today the Kings Fund released a </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/mar/26/patient-care-deteriorate-nhs-2bn-deficit-kings-fund-thinktank">report</a><span> showing how waiting times are at their highest for years and criticising all parties for not showing how they would plug the £2bn NHS funding deficit the Kings Fund has identified.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em><strong><span>Like this piece? Please donate to OurNHS&nbsp;</span></strong></em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/donate" target="_blank"><strong><span>here&nbsp;</span></strong></a><em><strong><span>to help keep us producing the NHS stories that matter.&nbsp;Thank you.</span></strong></em><strong><em><span></span></em></strong></p> ourNHS OurKingdom ourNHS Caroline Molloy Thu, 26 Mar 2015 15:52:36 +0000 Caroline Molloy 91558 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The 'ninja' NHS privatisers you've never heard of... https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/tamasin-cave/%27ninja%27-nhs-privatisers-you%27ve-never-heard-of <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Meet the shadowy team at the heart of many of the most controversial NHS privatisations to date, including the Staffordshire deal leaked last week to openDemocracy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="BodyA"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/BJ1PLNjldrCUlihKlcsSpIhp0zLtrAf3_NINZKWHp-Y/mtime:1427381328/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Ninja_The_Last_Thing_You_See.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/X8PCOJqnBZqFQDGGeFcThuNbzJDXDg4X9WcvhQ_DmqM/mtime:1427380983/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Ninja_The_Last_Thing_You_See.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="BodyA"><em>Image: Wikipedia</em></p><p class="BodyA"><span>”Despite our warnings about the risks... no one has been held accountable for the consequences.”</span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>That was the <a href="http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-accounts-committee/news/report-circle-withdrawal-from-hinchingbrooke-hospital/"><span class="Hyperlink1"><span>fierce criticism</span></span></a> last week from watchdog Margaret Hodge MP and her Public Accounts Committee of the failed flagship privatisation of Hinchingbrooke hospital.</span></p><p class="BodyA"><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/hinchingbrooke-why-did-england%27s-privatised-hospital-deal-really-collapse">No-one can hold Circle Holdings accountable.</a> On the day inspectors gave the hospital they were running, the worst rating for ‘caring’ of any hospital in the country, the firm announced they were giving up and walking away, three years into the ten year contract.</p><p class="BodyA"><span>The Committee concluded that the deal was an <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-31928130"><span class="Hyperlink1"><span>expensive experiment that left taxpayers to pick up the bill</span></span></a>. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>But who cooked this deal up in the first place? And have they learnt their lesson?</span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>Step forward, the Strategic Projects Team (SPT), a shadowy organisation initially set up within the NHS to design the Hinchingbrooke deal.</span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>And no, they don’t seem to be in apologetic mood.</span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>”Change is a combat sport.” </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>So said Strategic Project Team co-founder, Stephen Dunn, at this week’s SPT anniversary celebration. For six years, these ‘change-makers’ have been, <a href="http://www.thestrategicprojectsteam.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/National-Health-Executive_change-management.pdf"><span class="Hyperlink1"><span>in their words</span></span></a>, ”supporting the brave” and ”encouraging the timid” </span><span>to reform health services and hand them over to the private sector.</span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>That’s to say, roaming around England’s health service looking for things to privatise.</span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>‘Change from within’ is SPT’s tag line. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>Today, though, SPT is having trouble defending its record, which may explain why they are in fighting mode. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>The list of failed projects is growing. On the back of Hinchingbrooke, SPT started open competitions to ‘franchise out’ the running of both George Elliot Hospital in Nuneaton, and the Weston in Weston-super-Mare, with companies like Care UK and Circle throwing their hats into the ring. Both projects resulted in </span><span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/shock-uturn-as-selloff-of-george-eliot-hospital-cancelled"><span class="Hyperlink1"><span>expensive U-turns</span></span></a></span><span> with the planned sell-offs being abandoned - but only after a million pounds had been spent on administering the process, in George Eliot’s case. The SPT was also behind the beleaguered privatisation of pathology services around the country; and the </span><span><a href="http://www.hsj.co.uk/comment/end-game/end-game-ae-pressures-in-plane-english/5078185.article#.VQmfwb-X4lI"><span class="Hyperlink1"><span>friends and family test</span></span></a></span><span>, designed by MacPherson and Dunn, rolled out across the NHS at huge cost, and slammed as ‘inappropriate’, ‘unreliable’ and highly questionable as a measure of patient experience. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>When not trying to flog hospitals off - of which more later - SPT has also been ‘intervening’ in hospitals, as in Bedford, which has recently lost services to both Circle and US health giant, UnitedHealth.</span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>SPT appear not to have spent any time reflecting on the aborted privatisations of Hinchingbrooke and elsewhere, their costs, or consequences. As a speaker from SPT’s law firm and last night’s hosts, Wragge &amp; Co, said: ‘Business doesn’t research things to death’. If it doesn’t work, bin it, move on.</span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>SPT is a big fan of the world of business. It talks of creating a ‘customer-centric’ (not ‘patient-centric’) NHS. They call healthcare a ‘distressed purchase’.</span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>But who are SPT, and who are they answerable to? The Team </span><span>was originally set up by senior NHS officials in the East of England, a pioneer region when it comes to private sector involvement in the NHS (and coincidentally home to Andrew Lansley’s Cambridge constituency). They provided the “air cover” for </span><span><a href="http://www.strategicprojectseoe.co.uk/uploads/NHE%20p21.pdf"><span class="Hyperlink1"><span>SPT’s controversial operation</span></span></a></span><span>. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>SPT’s other </span><span><a href="http://www.strategicprojectseoe.co.uk/uploads/NHE%20p21.pdf"><span class="Hyperlink1"><span>co-founders</span></span></a></span><span> are Sir Neil McKay, now with healthcare industry consultants, </span><span><a href="http://integratingcare.org/who_we_are.php"><span class="Hyperlink1"><span>GE Healthcare Finnamore</span></span></a></span><span>, although at the same time still advising a ‘local NHS body in the Midlands’; and Andrew MacPherson, current SPT managing director. MacPherson’s background is in customer services in the transport business. His experience of the NHS prior to running SPT was as a non-exec director of his local hospital. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>Dunn has since moved on to the Trust Development Authority, where he helped decide the fate of many other small hospitals like Hinchingbrooke. More recently, he was given his own one to run, <a href="http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/bury_st_edmunds_dr_stephen_dunn_is_appointed_new_chief_executive_at_west_suffolk_hospital_1_3719377">his local hospital in West Suffolk</a>, where he says he is ‘very keen to see if we can create a Kaiser Permanente-type organisation’, referring to the US health insurer’s model.</span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>Exactly who the Strategic Projects Team answers to today is unclear. </span><span>In one email released under Freedom of Information (FOI) law, MacPherson casually asks a colleague in NHS HQ for ‘insight as to where we might do the most good during 14/15?’, which suggests perhaps that SPT has little in the way of official remit. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>SPT’s intent is clear, however, from a </span><span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/spt Contract Schedule091213 (2).pdf">‘commercial in confidence list’</a> of its activity. NHS bosses twice tried to block the release of this list under FOI law, but it reveals the extent to which community services around the country have had the SPT treatment: the NHS in Coventry &amp; Warwickshire, Huddersfield, Cheshire, and Cambridge &amp; Peterborough have all employed SPT’s services. The latter spent £220k on SPT in 2013-14 to help it open up older people’s services to the private sector, according to figures released under FOI. Companies that bid for the £800m Cambridge &amp; Peterborough contract included: Circle, Capita, </span><span>Care UK, UnitedHealth, Interserve and Virgin Care. (Virgin Care’s ‘senior relationship manager’ was at last night’s birthday bash). </span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>The SPT - which claims to specialise in <a href="http://www.thestrategicprojectsteam.co.uk/about-us/">‘major change initiatives’</a> - has also been involved in Staffordshire for several years, the list reveals. Staffordshire faces cuts to hospital beds across the county and the downgrading of one of its hospitals, as recommended by KPMG in its recently leaked review of Staffordshire’s ‘distressed’ health economy.</span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>According to its confidential activity log, SPT has made multiple interventions in the area’s hospitals, its community services - and in the redesign of Staffordshire’s cancer and end-of-life services. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>And now, these are big contracts up for grabs, with <a href="http://www.healthinvestor.co.uk/ShowArticle.aspx?ID=3243">SPT running the bidding process</a>. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>It was SPT who produced the ‘Memorandum of Information’ - leaked to OurNHS this month - which set out some of the details for the £687m cancer care contract. It shows that most of the elements of the contract’s design, such as standards and targets, will unusually be decided after the contract has been awarded. Also, there doesn’t appear to be any provision for a break clause for the NHS to get out of the ten-year contract if it doesn’t work out. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>Perhaps the most concerning thing about the plans as drafted, though, is their lack of accountability. The Kings Fund described such plans as "a risk to take with taxpayers’ money”, which has a certain resonance in light of the Hinchingbrooke debacle. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>Companies shortlisted for the huge cancer contract are UnitedHealth, Interserve and CSC Computer Sciences (which also appears to be <a href="http://www.england.nhs.uk/lpf/itt/">a ‘supply chain partner’ of UnitedHealth</a>). The same three companies have also thrown their hat into the ring for the <a href="http://www.healthinvestor.co.uk/ShowArticle.aspx?ID=3632">£535m palliative care contract</a>, along with Health Management Ltd (a subsidiary of US outsourcing firm, Maximus) and Virgin Care. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>SPT’s role in pushing through such radical reforms is not only in advising its NHS colleagues. It also ‘<a href="http://www.strategicprojectseoe.co.uk/uploads/files/SEPT%20acquires%20BLPT%20(23%20March%2010).pdf">works closely</a>’ with the healthcare marketplace. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>This week’s birthday bash, for example, was aimed at ‘senior&nbsp;NHS and&nbsp;independent sector healthcare leaders’. SPT says it has provided a ‘forum’ for private healthcare companies to influence the direction of the NHS. This includes discussions on making it easier for them to enter the NHS market. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>Two groups appear to have </span><a href="http://www.strategicprojectseoe.co.uk/uploads/files/LOW%20RES%209928_MAE%20SPT%20Marketing%20Brochure%20update%20v2.pdf">driven SPT’s ‘commercial engagement’</a><span>: a cooperation and competition panel, and a commercial advisory board. The latter is referred to as a ‘unique interface’ between NHS executives and the independent sector, and in typical MacPherson management-speak, as ‘</span><a href="http://www.strategicprojectseoe.co.uk/newsletters/sptu_feb13/">a catalyst for shared learning in healthcare strategy</a><span>’.</span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>A </span><a href="https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/9241159/brochure-which-accompanies-nhs-midlands-and-easts-aqp/9">publication</a><span> by SPT’s parent body provides more detail. The 15-20-strong commercial advisory board, it says, regularly brings together ‘existing and potential future providers’ of healthcare from all sectors (public, private and voluntary) to discuss NHS reform and ‘market issues’. Topics include the NHS’s approach to procurement, ‘lowering barriers to market entry’ and introducing more ‘innovative’ ways of commissioning care.</span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>It is not known whether the groups are still active: opportunities for continuing the advisory board were <a href="http://www.strategicprojectseoe.co.uk/newsletters/sptu_feb13/">under discussion</a> in 2013. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>But SPT has a new set of associations these days. Since </span><span>early 2013, when the NHS organisation that established SPT was dissolved, SPT has been ‘hosted’ by another NHS organisation -the equally ‘commercially-minded’ Greater East Midlands commissioning support unit (GEM) (though SPT maintains its offices in Cambridge and inside NHS England’s London HQ).</span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>The East Midland organisation certainly talks SPT’s language. According to GEM’s chief executive, John Parkes, organisations like his can ‘<a href="http://uk.sodexo.com/uken/Images/The-Power-of-Partnership336-745600.pdf">provide access to... a £70bn market’</a>. They ‘know local decision makers’ and can ‘create opportunities’, he says (writing in a publication for outsourcing giant Sodexo, which now runs many English pathology services). </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>But who are GEM? They are one of a number of organisations, both private and public, which provide services to the GP groups that hold most of the NHS budget. From HR, PR and IT support, to analysing population data, negotiating contracts and redesigning services, in many places these ‘commissioning support providers’ appear to be essentially taking over the process of planning health services in the NHS, and so determining how and where the NHS budget goes.</span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>The government’s recent NHS reforms created a market in these ‘commissioning support’ services. Organisations like GEM compete with commercial operators such as Capita, and a consortium led by UnitedHealth (that includes KPMG, CSC Computer Sciences, BT and others). </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>But the relationships are entangled. UnitedHealth, KPMG, Capita, and GE Healthcare Finnamore (where SPT founder Neil McKay now works) are also ‘<a href="http://www.ardengemcsu.nhs.uk/about-us/our-partners">strategic partners’ of GEM</a>, providing a range of commissioning services to GEM’s GP clients. KPMG, for example, was being paid over a quarter of a million pounds </span><span>a month</span><span> through GEM for services, including the development of a ‘commercial strategy’, and the provision of an interim chief operating officer, according to figures the NHS recently reluctantly released.Payments by GEM were also <a href="https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/nhs_spending_on_kpmg_and_united#incoming-599528">indirectly made to UnitedHealth</a>, via a company sub-contracted by KPMG, although it’s not known what for.</span><span> </span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>SPT CEO, MacPherson sees GEM as providing a ‘<a href="https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/nhs_spending_on_kpmg_and_united#incoming-599528">fertile environment’</a> for his team to build new partnerships. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>It perhaps wants to keep its distance from some of GEM’s other partners, though. With UnitedHealth bidding to run Staffordshire’s cancer and end-of-life services, and SPT running the bidding process (not to mention KPMG helping to reconfigure Staffordshire’s health services), the situation looks pretty cosy.</span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>The Strategic Project Team insists that it is ”committed to the ethos and values of the NHS”. Its work, though, betrays a prejudice towards market solutions and the private sector. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>It prides itself on ”breaking new ground”, on ”meeting difficult challenges head on” and on delivering a series of ‘firsts’ in the NHS. Yet, little of what it does appears driven by evidence of what works. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>One innovative way of commissioning care currently being championed by SPT is the ‘integration’ of services. In very simple terms, ‘integration’ is sold as a way of improving standards and reducing costs by changing the way healthcare is planned and purchased (or commissioned), so that services are more joined up. (Which sounds like common sense, but treat with caution: The National Audit Office described plans to save money through better integration as being based more on ‘optimism rather than evidence). </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>Both the Cambridge &amp; Peterborough, and Staffordshire contracts are so-called ‘integration’ projects. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>In 2014 SPT’s commercial director, Martin Peat, outlined what SPT saw as the main drivers of this innovative approach to commissioning. ‘Improved services for patients’ comes in at number two on his list. Reduced costs is fifth. <a href="http://www.slideshare.net/AlexisMay/colin-cram-open-forum-events-open-forum-events-nhs-commissioning-and-procurement-conference">Number 1 on his list of what’s fueling integration, though, is: ‘The market’</a>. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>Which begs the question: is SPT’s focus on the ‘integration’ experiment, the result of discussions with private sector companies that stand to benefit?</span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>The truth is SPT is itself a failed experiment. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>Yet if this week’s event is anything to go by, the team fully intends to continue to push its ‘change strategies’ in the NHS and provide the private sector with bigger entry points, all seemingly without any oversight. </span></p><p class="BodyA"><span>MacPherson’s aim, he told a ‘Nudge’ conference in 2013, is to</span><span> ‘revolutionise aggressively the world’s fifth largest employer.’ </span></p><p><span>Unfortunately, at the moment nothing except perhaps confusion is standing in their way.</span></p><p><span>&nbsp;</span><em><strong><span>Like this piece? Please donate to OurNHS&nbsp;</span></strong></em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/donate" target="_blank"><strong><span>here&nbsp;</span></strong></a><em><strong><span>to help keep us producing the NHS stories that matter.&nbsp;Thank you.</span></strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/leak-reveals-worrying-truth-behind-biggest-nhs-privatisation-yet">Leak reveals worrying truth behind the biggest NHS privatisation yet</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/hinchingbrooke-why-did-england%27s-privatised-hospital-deal-really-collapse">Hinchingbrooke - why did England&#039;s privatised hospital deal REALLY collapse?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/shock-uturn-as-selloff-of-george-eliot-hospital-cancelled">Shock U-turn as sell-off of George Eliot hospital cancelled</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> ourNHS OurKingdom ourNHS Privatising our NHS Tamasin Cave Thu, 26 Mar 2015 14:43:14 +0000 Tamasin Cave 91554 at https://www.opendemocracy.net New parliamentary report on TTIP highlights its dangers https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/polly-jones/new-parliamentary-report-on-ttip-highlights-its-dangers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The public oppose it , no one is allowed to see the text of the agreement, but big business are very much in favour. Democratic rights stand to be trumped by corporate demands.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/LUv0d7PyUD3F90mWwIkzMG0tjqmw0p3DQIRQowqKLaU/mtime:1427372916/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/ttip.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/59nu5o-bFp2TfiYg8C4P_JwRELts2nncGwCMn34Z8-w/mtime:1427372891/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/ttip.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/campact</span></span></span></p><p>With just a few days left before Parliament dissolves ahead of the general election, a flurry of select committees are publishing reports on inquiries which have been held in recent months. Among them is the Business Innovation and Skills Select Committee’s report on the Transatlantic Trade and investment Partnership (TTIP), published yesterday.</p> <p>I gave evidence to the TTIP inquiry on behalf of Global Justice Now.</p> <p>TTIP is an ambitious neoliberal trade agreement being negotiated between the EU and USA. Its purpose is to create new trading opportunities for EU and US business by reducing tariffs, removing unnecessary regulation, liberalising some sectors and giving new protection for investors. The controversy around TTIP is about what regulation is deemed unnecessary, which sectors will be liberalised and that business will benefit at the expense of governments.</p> <p>The gravity of these concerns has ignited a furious public campaign on TTIP from trade unions, environmental organisations, international development groups and NHS campaigners, united in their call for the negotiations to stop.</p> <p>The findings of the BIS select committee report vindicate the public’s concerns.</p> <p>Many of the arguments for TTIP rest on the benefits it will bring to the UK, European and US economy, often breaking this down to a £400 benefit to every UK family every year. The economic models used to churn out these figures are fundamentally flawed (<a href="http://blog.policy.manchester.ac.uk/featured/2013/12/the-false-promise-of-eu-us-trade-talks/">http://blog.policy.manchester.ac.uk/featured/2013/12/the-false-promise-of-eu-us-trade-talks/</a>) and present a best case scenario which would not deliver any benefits until 2027 and then only £2 per person a week - equivalent to a packet of fishfingers.</p> <p>The 11 MPs from across the political spectrum find that “it is impossible at this stage to quantify those benefits in any meaningful way”. They are critical of the figures the UK government uses to promote TTIP and instruct it to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the likely economic benefits of various possible outcomes on TTIP. </p> <p>Without this evidence, there can be no case for TTIP.</p> <p>The report goes further to call for a sector by sector analysis of the potential benefits and risks of TTIP. There was an audible gasp from MPs when Sean McGuire of the CBI gave evidence in the inquiry and admitted that the CBI was arguing that TTIP would be good for British business without having undertaken a sector by sector analysis of its impact.</p> <p>Proposed new rules to protect businesses investing abroad are one of the most controversial proposals in TTIP. These are the rules that have been used by Philip Morris to sue the Australian government for the negative impact on its profits as a result of introducing plain packaging on tobacco products as part of measure to protect public health.</p> <p>Many civil society groups, including Global Justice Now, have argued that there is no need for these additional rules in TTIP because the EU and US already have robust judicial systems. Including new investment rules (known as Investor State Dispute Settlement) is hugely beneficial to business at the expense of governments – and the taxpayer.</p> <p>This is backed up by <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/260380/bis-13-1284-costs-and-benefits-of-an-eu-usa-investment-protection-treaty.pdf">research from 2013</a> commissioned by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills itself which found that “an EU-US investment treaty that does contain ISDS is likely to have few or no benefits to the UK, while having meaningful economic and political costs”.</p> <p>Perhaps the most significant conclusion of the BIS select committee is that they “do not believe that the case has yet been made for ISDS clauses in TTIP”. This echoes the conclusion of Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee, from just a couple of weeks ago, which said that “a compelling case for the inclusion of an ISDS in TTIP has not yet been made". With 97% of the public who completed the European Commission’s consultation on ISDS also saying they do not want ISDS in TTIP, the UK Government’s current pro-ISDS position seems increasingly untenable.</p> <p>The report nods towards the political pressure to include ISDS in TTIP by suggesting possible modifications should ISDS be included. In particular, the committee asks for a “loser pays principle” to protect states from frivolous claims by business.</p> <p>The committee also acknowledges the huge public concern about the impact of TTIP on the NHS and other public services, in particular by campaign group 38 degrees. While they report the reassurances that public services will be unaffected by TTIP, without being able to see the text of the negotiations, they ask the government to make an unequivocal public statement that public services are protected at present as well as the right to expand them in the future. It would be stronger if the report went further and asked about the cost associated with expanding public services in the future, under TTIP rules. However, this broad clarity from the UK government is something we have been calling for since TTIP negotiations were launched. It is one thing for the TTIP negotiations to enable EU governments to liberalise public services though TTIP. But it is the decision of each national government to decide which public services will be covered or excluded from TTIP. </p> <p>With 6 weeks until the general election, the big question is what the position of the UK government will be on TTIP after the 7 May? The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats remain committed to TTIP and ISDS of some sort. The Green Party and Plaid Cymru oppose TTIP in its entirety. The Labour Party will only support a deal on TTIP if ISDS and public services are taken out, and standards are raised and not lowered. The SNP wants to see the NHS excluded from TTIP.</p> <p>The first indication may be the government’s official response to this report by the BIS select committee, usually expected within 2 months. </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em><span>If you liked this article, you can support us with </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><span>£3 a month</span></a><span> so that we can keep producing independent journalism. </span></em></strong></p> OurKingdom OurKingdom TTIP Polly Jones Thu, 26 Mar 2015 12:26:17 +0000 Polly Jones 91549 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Lies, damn lies and hunting polls https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/tim-bonner/lies-damn-lies-and-hunting-polls <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Whether the public support or oppose the hunting ban seems to depend very much on which question is asked, and who's asking the question.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/n7K7VRSwUUdFaKs-ac9O8MnlALByQW-tfOC-hEOt6z8/mtime:1427331937/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/foxhn.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/af1cnYJHahjpOpJLssgMDzxH-fPQTNVqp7YuPVQ8tdU/mtime:1427301418/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/foxhn.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/beaucon. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p class="Body">In December last year the anti-hunting charity the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) commissioned its seasonal poll from Ipsos MORI. The <a href="https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3499/Hunting-Poll-2014.aspx">results</a> were predictable to those of us who follow such 'research' and LACS subsequently produced its traditional Boxing Day press release claiming '80% of the British public are in favour of keeping the ban on fox hunting'. Those numbers looked a little odd beside the reports of hundreds of thousands of people supporting their local hunts, but surely showed that everyone else must hate those nasty foxhunters.</p> <p class="Body">In January however, another polling company, YouGov, decided to ask a question about hunting in anticipation of the tenth anniversary of the Hunting Act on 18th February. <a href="https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/01/09/british-people-still-support-fox-hunting-ban/">That poll</a> reported that 51% of people "support the ban on fox hunting with hounds". The research was not commissioned by anyone, but according to YouGov was asked "purely for the interest of our (website) readers".</p> <p class="Body">We hear a lot about 'rogue' polls and statistical range these days, but a 29% polling difference on the same issue a month apart is some anomaly. How on earth can this have happened?</p> <p class="Body">The story goes back into the 1990's and the increasing reliance of the anti-hunting movement on public opinion polling to make the case for a ban on hunting. LACS, with its partners IFAW and the RSPCA, found a willing helper in the form of Robert Worcester, founder and Chairman of the dominant market research company MORI. Worcester was happy to appear at LACS meetings, and LACS press releases invited interested parties to contact him directly about polling commissioned for anti-hunting groups. The message was simple: an overwhelming majority of the public supported a ban on hunting, and as the other arguments for prohibition fell away public opinion became more and more important to its advocates.</p> <p class="Body">From the start MORI polling often showed significantly more support for a ban on hunting than research carried out by other companies and as a polling war developed around impending legislation that difference became potentially critical. When the Government introduced an 'Options Bill' including a 'middle way' proposal to license hunting, polls commissioned by the Countryside Alliance started to show well under half the population supporting a total ban on hunting. The Advertising Standards Authority were even dragged in and told us that on the basis of one poll we ran we could say that 59% of people did not want hunting banned, but not that 59% of people had said 'keep hunting'.</p> <p class="Body">By 2003, however, MORI <a href="https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/796/Most-Say-Hunting-Should-Not-Be-Legal.aspx">research</a> was claiming that "69% of the public think fox hunting should not be legal". Eventually the absurd debate concluded with the passing of the Hunting Act, but the polling war was not over. Critically, in 2005, a few days before the Hunting Act came into force, MORI ran a poll for someone other than LACS. The <a href="https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/416/Attitudes-To-The-Hunting-Ban.aspx">research</a>, for the BBC programme Countryfile, concluded that there was no overall majority of support for the ban with just 47% of people saying that they 'personally supported a ban on hunting with dogs'. MORI polling for LACS, however, continued to show ever greater support for a ban which by October 2009 had reached 75%. </p> <p class="Body">At this point a cross party group of parliamentarians stepped in to raise the anomaly with the industry regulator, the Market Research Society (MRS), and in particular to challenge the extremely dubious preamble and question being used by MORI (now Ipsos MORI) when it polled for LACS, which they argued clearly breached the MRS Code of Conduct.</p> <p class="Body">To the MPs and peers the reason that the polling for the BBC and the polling for LACS varied so widely was obvious. The Ipsos MORI poll for BBC Countryfile which found 47% of people supported a ban on hunting asked:</p> <blockquote><p class="Body"><em>Now a question about hunting with dogs (that is, fox hunting, deer hunting, hare coursing, hare hunting and mink hunting)</em><em>…</em><em>As you may know, a ban on hunting with dogs is due to come into force in England and Wales, subject to a legal challenge.</em></p><p class="Body"><em><br /></em></p><p class="Body"><em>To what extent do you personally support or oppose a ban on hunting with dogs in England and Wales?</em></p></blockquote> <p class="Body">Whereas the MORI poll for LACS which found that 75% of people supported a ban on fox hunting asked:</p> <blockquote><p class="Body"><em>Now a question about sports where animals are set on other animals to fight or </em><em>kill them. </em><em>These activities are currently illegal in the United Kingdom:</em></p><p class="Body"><em><br /></em></p><p class="Body"><em>Dog Fighting, </em><em>Badger Baiting, </em><em>Fox Hunting, </em><em>Deer Hunting, </em><em>Hare Hunting &amp; </em><em>Coursing</em></p><p class="Body"><em><br /></em></p><p class="Body"><em>For each one I read out, please tell me whether you think it should or </em><em>should not be made legal again.</em></p></blockquote> <p class="Body">The parliamentarians argued that the description of hunting in this poll, and the inclusion of fighting and baiting activities unrelated to hunting were designed to prejudice the respondents' attitude towards hunting and to influence the subsequent answers. They further pointed out that the effect of the preamble and question were evidenced by the earlier MORI poll for the BBC which had not included such pejorative content and reported a very different response.</p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/fM-9jX3U1DPGU6Nv8bbGu9kwcuSmmyEw-cQY-jx2V3s/mtime:1427331970/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/foxes.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/MH-4o5cz3fBZsFnVNXQrEgndwpHGw4n7TS21fpEFhFE/mtime:1426156015/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/foxes.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p> The MRS Standards Board initially rejected the complaint, which frankly was no surprise given that the founding Chairman and current 'ambassador' of the MRS is the architect of the very polling strategy being complained of. However, when the parliamentarians took their case to the MRS's 'Reviewer of Complaints', an independent lawyer, something extraordinary happened. The Reviewer savaged the initial response saying:</p> <blockquote><p class="Body"><em>"</em><em><span>I have considered carefully the Minutes and papers from the Investigations Committee and the Standards Board and the reasons given for the decision in respect of the involvement of alleged unrelated activities. In the form set out the line of reasoning is far from clear.</span><span> </span></em><em><span>No attempt seems to have been made to address the substance of the Complaint, namely that the nature of the activities of badger baiting and dog fighting were inherently different to hunting.</span>"</em> </p></blockquote> <p class="Body">and</p> <blockquote><p class="Body"><em>"</em><em><span>The comparison of the 2003, 2005 and 2009 polls does seem to me to be a valid issue. The substance of what was being addressed was substantially the same and what was at variance was the format</span>"</em></p></blockquote> <p class="Body">The MRS was unabashed, however, and rejected its own Reviewer's criticisms out of hand without any serious attempt to address them, or the substance of the original complaint.</p> <p class="Body">The MRS's failure to act did not just effect that <a href="https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2479/Public-Opinion-on-Hunting.aspx">2009 poll</a> and what had come before. It also signalled a free-for-all in which LACS and Ipsos MORI have become ever more brazen. The current claims for support for the ban on hunting have grown ever higher, to 80%, but when the 'research' is making direct comparisons between hunting and dog fighting to 15 year olds and recording their opinion, as the December 2014 Ipsos MORI poll did, that is not really surprising.</p> <p class="Body">Then in January YouGov asked a straight question <em>'</em><em><span>Do you support or oppose the ban on fox hunting with hounds?</span>'</em> and got a straight answer, which has once again laid bare the strange results of polls commissioned by LACS with Ipsos MORI. However, with a cowering regulator and seemingly no concern from either the charity or the research company about their reputations it would seem nothing is likely to change.</p> <p class="Body">You may think this does not matter: that it is only hunting, or that you don't like fox hunters, but I would suggest that this story sets a very dangerous precedent. With opinion polls exerting increasing influence on politicians over almost every issue the ability to trust the numbers presented by campaigners and politicians is critical. You might not care about hunting, but can you trust polling on issues that do matter to you?</p> OurKingdom OurKingdom Tim Bonner Thu, 26 Mar 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Tim Bonner 91221 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Holding MPs to account: a Truro experiment https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/gavin-barker/holding-mps-to-account-truro-experiment <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>To hold our MPs to account we need to know what they promised to do before they were elected. We also need to have a clearer sense of what we expect them to do. How can we achieve these aims? </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>I want to share with others one approach to re-imagining democracy which may or may not work. It is small scale, experimental &nbsp;and with no certainty of success but even its shortcomings and failures &nbsp;will, I hope, afford some useful learning lessons for all of us.</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>It attempts to tackle two issues relating to representative democracy. The first is the absence of any clear, independent record of what candidates actually say and commit to. Cast your mind back to the last election and try Googling an issue of concern – can you find anything? &nbsp;There may be scattered references in local newspapers or on defunct blogs &nbsp;but the most important content has likely been deleted or removed, probably soon after the 2010 election ended. What your MP said then might be a &nbsp;source of some embarrassment now – or worse! But it is too late, the information has been deleted.</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>Nor can you look to&nbsp;manifestos or speeches by our political leaders kept on party websites dating back to 2010; as is all too clear from David Cameron’s early speeches and promises of ‘no top down reform of the NHS’, speeches are&nbsp;taken down if they later &nbsp;prove to be too contentious and we are then left with quotes and extracts from second hand sources.</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>In an age of ‘information deluge’ that is an astonishing omission. With no clear independent record of what our local parliamentary candidates say, how can we effectively call our representatives to account?</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>The answer I suggest, is only if we take on that task ourselves. </span><a href="http://truroandfalmouth.com/"><span><span>What we have tried to do in Truro</span></span></a><span> is to create an election website which sets out some key issues and asks all parliamentary candidates for a detailed written response <em>in their own words</em>. That gets round the problem of hustings events where a candidate – now MP – &nbsp;later claims that they have been misquoted, quoted out of context or that the record of the event is incomplete.</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>The second is to tackle head on an overcentralised party machine that positions candidates as outposts of Party HQ. Even those with genuine regard for constituents' concerns have little wriggle room to take an independent stance. They are foot soldiers answerable to the party whip, not our elected representatives. It will take time to break this stranglehold but I suggest a first step is for constituents to come together and start to develop their own pledge, set of proposals or even their own manifesto. That is a tall order and one that requires far more time than is available now. Instead, what we have tried to do is avoid open ended questions that invite a speech rather than an answer. We have set out our own manifesto proposal on – in this instance – Climate Change and the NHS. We have then invited candidates to either publicly commit to our pledges. Whether or not they do, they are invited to give &nbsp;a detailed answer which stands as their definitive position on the issues.</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>Their answers will then be posted on the election website for &nbsp;public scrutiny and comment and by doing so, we hope to encourage sustained informed conversations with candidates as well as between members of the public. This goes beyond ephemeral petition initiatives that fail to engage and are often quickly forgotten. We intend to forward comments to candidates on a regular basis and encourage them to reply to constituents concerns directly.</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>By taking this approach we are&nbsp; also making the point to candidates that they are there to listen to their constituents, not we them; they are there to represent <em>us</em>, not their party. That may require some head scratching by party apparatchiks who seek to ‘sell’ a message rather than engage in dialogue. Yet the more we, as constituents, start to take charge and re-frame the election on our own terms, the less likely we will be treated as passive consumers of party manifestos written in Westminster by a political class who know little about the lives of those they claim to speak for, and care even less.</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>Whatever the outcome of this experiment, I firmly believe that &nbsp;the first step towards &nbsp;any re-invigorated democracy must&nbsp;be to break the stranglehold of an over-centralised party systems that conduct elections as marketing campaigns; in effect&nbsp; tightly controlled spectacles, managed by rival teams of PR professionals who select and present a small range of issues deemed ‘safe’. That can only happen if there are thousands of ‘assemblies for democracy’, thousands of conversations happening at the grassroots level where local people start to shape their own manifesto, town charter or pledge campaign. In other words they become active participants in shaping the political agenda and by inference, their own future.</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>There are risks. If assemblies for democracy are adopted on a wide scale, expect chaos, confusion and much contradiction in the early stages, &nbsp;not least because we will all have to relearn the political and democratic skills of active listening, &nbsp;finding common ground, engaging with sometimes complex issues &nbsp;and forging a consensus with those whose values and outlook we initially reject as ‘not ours’. For if we are to truly win back real democracy, we must first practise among ourselves.</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>A re-invigorated democracy from the grassroots up will &nbsp;not replace the party system but it will act as a centrifugal force that pulls power away from Westminster and makes parties much more porous, open and democratic; that&nbsp;process will also mean dispensing with focus groups and marketing &nbsp;professionals and instead returning&nbsp;to a grassroots party activism which interfaces with <a href="http://assembliesfordemocracy.org/2015/02/10/a-re-invigorated-democracy/#more-307"><span><span>Assemblies for Democracy</span></span></a>&nbsp;and other related initiatives and in doing so, captures the real voice of the people.</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>I will end with one other website I created – </span><a href="https://manifesto2015.wordpress.com/"><span><span>a mock election website called 'Anytown</span></span></a><span>'. It is roughly the direction I would like to go in although others I am working with are understandably more sceptical; &nbsp;it &nbsp;is incomplete and rather simplistic, but it does sketch out some possibilities of how a town, a village, a city or a constituency might approach electioneering in the future, one that &nbsp;moves beyond restricted party manifestos and widens to include the voice of the voluntary sector, freed from undemocratic gagging laws and bullying government ministers.</span></p><p><span>This article was first published at <a href="http://assembliesfordemocracy.org/2015/02/10/a-re-invigorated-democracy/#more-307"><em><strong>Assemblies for Democracy</strong></em></a>.<br /></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/-8xrM8zJ-PI-idO0oxwLDVfX3tT9TQ-KiO4znX23lZo/mtime:1421864577/files/Great%20Charter%20Convention%20%281%29.jpg" alt="" width="140" /></a> </p><p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention">The Great Charter Convention</a> – an open, public debate on where arbitrary power lies in the UK today and how we should contest and contain it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Gavin Barker is based in Truro and a participant&nbsp;in&nbsp;<a href="http://assembliesfordemocracy.org/2015/02/10/a-re-invigorated-democracy/#more-307">Assemblies for Democracy</a>. </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/paul-feldman/reimagining-democracy-peoples%27-assemblies">Re-imagining democracy - peoples&#039; assemblies</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> OurKingdom OurKingdom Great Charter Convention Building it: campaigns and movements Rethinking representation Gavin Barker Thu, 26 Mar 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Gavin Barker 91342 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Devolution in the North of England: time to bring the people into the debate? https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/arianna-giovannini/devolution-in-north-of-england-time-to-bring-people-into-debate <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The referendum in Scotland is creating impetus&nbsp;for a redistribution of power within England. But&nbsp;who will determine the shape of this - Westminster, local elites or local citizens? </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span> </span><span><span>In the wake of the Scottish independence referendum, the ‘English Question’ has gained new political traction, emerging as one of the most crucial issues underpinning the debate on the future of the Union. In spite of its result, the Scottish vote has certainly shed light, with a renewed emphasis, on the presence of a growing democratic deficit across and within the </span><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span><span>nations of the UK, and in particular in England. This, in turn, has triggered a new interest both within political elites and the wider society on the role and place that England should have in the context of an increasingly decentralised UK.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>For the for the first time,</span><em><span> all</span></em><span> the main traditional parties have overtly embraced the narrative of the English Question – putting it at the core of their political discourse, and offering alternative ways to address it. The Conservatives have proposed the introduction of ‘</span></span><a href="https://www.conservatives.com/~/media/Files/Downloadable%20Files/THE_FUTURE_FOR_ENGLAND.ashx"><span><span><span>English Votes for English Laws</span></span></span></a><span><span>’ as a means to tackle the West Lothian Question. At the same time, they have also sketched a ‘new regional agenda’ for England, advocating devolution to create a ‘</span></span><a href="http://press.conservatives.com/post/98719492085/george-osborne-speech-to-conservative-party"><span><span><span>Northern Powerhouse</span></span></span></a><span><span>’ to boost economic development in the north of England and also proposing the introduction of directly </span></span><a href="http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9459912/george-osborne-interview-smaller-government-is-not-enough/"><span><span><span>elected mayors in northern cities such as Manchester</span></span></span></a><span><span> (with others to follow) if the party wins the 2015 general election. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>Meanwhile, the </span></span><a href="http://b.3cdn.net/labouruk/3045a507f6e7c957b9_wam6i6611.pdf"><span><span><span>Labour party</span></span></span></a><span><span> has argued that there is need for a ‘constitutional convention’ to consider the future governance of England within the context of the UK more widely. However, the party has also reiterated its belief in City Regions, a policy first mooted in the wake of the 2004 North-East regional assembly referendum defeat – stating that it will pass an ‘English Devolution Act’ if elected into government, giving more powers to City and also County regions, and replacing the House of Lords with an elected Senate of the Nations and regions to work as a forum for regional representation. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>On the other hand, the Liberal Democrats are showing a commitment to devolve greater powers to the local level, as reflected in their support for a </span></span><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31739267"><span><span><span>Cornish Assembly</span></span></span></a><span><span>, and through the ‘</span></span><a href="http://www.libdems.org.uk/northern_futures_project"><span><span><span>Northern Futures</span></span></span></a><span><span>’ project. And yet, the growing popularity of minority parties in England indicates the emergence of a more complex political landscape. The rapid rise of UKIP in the European elections as well as in by-elections across England shows how the party has the </span></span><a href="http://www.ippr.org/publications/england-and-its-two-unions-the-anatomy-of-a-nation-and-its-discontents"><span><span><span>potential to become a </span><em><span>de facto</span></em><span> English nationalist force</span></span></span></a><span><span>, likely to exploit any grievance within the devolution debate to present England as the ‘victim’ nation of the Union.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>Interestingly, however, this time round mainstream parties are not the only actors trying to influence the agenda on English devolution – as shown by the recent growth of new regionalist parties, especially in the North of England. English regionalist parties may not be an entirety new phenomenon. The </span></span><a href="http://www.regionalist.net/"><span><span><span>Wessex Regionalists</span></span></span></a><span><span> have been around for a while; and, despite its claim that Cornwall is not a region but a nation, </span></span><a href="https://www.mebyonkernow.org/"><span><span><span>Mebyon Kernow</span></span></span></a><span><span> is in practice ‘regionalist’ in its approach, as reflected in its support for a Cornish Assembly, rather than full independence. What is certainly new, though, is the emergence of regionalist parties in the North of England, i.e. </span></span><a href="http://www.yorkshirefirst.org.uk/"><span><span><span>Yorkshire First</span></span></span></a><span><span>, the </span></span><a href="http://www.thenortheastparty.org.uk/"><span><span><span>North East Party</span></span></span></a><span><span>, and the </span></span><a href="http://www.campaignforthenorth.com/"><span><span><span>Campaign for the North</span></span></span></a><span><span>. These parties share common regional devolution claims, arguing for the establishment of a Yorkshire Parliament, a North East Assembly and a pan-Northern Assembly respectively. They also seek to politicise regional identities, taking inspiration from the example of Scotland. In spite of having been formed just over the past year and a half, they will all fight the May 2015 general election, fielding candidates across the North of England. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>Although </span></span><a href="http://www.ippr.org/publications/england-and-its-two-unions-the-anatomy-of-a-nation-and-its-discontents"><span><span><span>the public </span><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span><span>long showed a lack of interest</span></span></span></a><span><span> on issues of decentralisation for England, this trend too seems to be reversing. Sensing the strength and traction of devolutionist agendas in contemporary politics, and their growing resonance amongst the public, the BBC ran a series of programmes exploring the issues involved in the autumn of 2014. Similarly, regional newspapers have also focused on issues of regionalism and decentralisation, as illustrated for example by the </span></span><a href="http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/community/time-for-mps-to-start-flying-the-flag-for-god-s-own-county-1-7158261"><span><em><span><span>Yorkshire Post’s</span></span></em><span><span> recent publication of a ‘Yorkshire Manifesto’</span></span></span></a><span><span> in view of the 2015 general election.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>All these points clearly illustrate the saliency not only of the English Question in general, but also of its </span><em><span>regional permutations </span></em><span>— pointing towards a form of ‘new regionalism’ which seems to be taking a particularly Northern flavour. The regions of the North, in fact, are at the forefront of the current debate on the future of territorial governance and decentralisation in England. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>The key themes and questions underpinning the narrative of this nascent ‘Northern regionalism’ were unpacked and discussed at length in a symposium held at the University of Huddersfield (co-sponsored by the </span></span><a href="http://www.hud.ac.uk/research/researchcentres/criss/"><span><span><span>Centre for Research in the Social Sciences</span></span></span></a><span><span> and the </span></span><a href="http://www.psa.ac.uk/events/decentralisation-and-future-yorkshire"><span><span><span>Political Studies Association</span></span></span></a><span><span> and organised by the </span></span><a href="http://www.psasgb.co.uk/"><span><span><span>Britishness Specialist Group</span></span></span></a><span><span>) on the 13</span><span>th</span><span> of February: ‘</span></span><a href="https://www.hud.ac.uk/news/2015/february/decentralisationandthefutureofyorkshire.php"><span><span><span>Decentralisation and the Future of Yorkshire</span></span></span></a><span><span>’. Although, as its title suggests, the event focussed on the specific case of Yorkshire, the debate gave rise to a number of important reflections that apply to the whole North of England, and can also serve as a basis to put the wider English Question in perspective.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>One of the key issues at stake concerns the need to extend discussion on English devolution beyond the ‘closed circle’ of Westminster and mainstream party politics – opening up to local and regional stakeholders, and giving voice to the grassroots. Put simply, none of the plans proposed by the mainstream parties can succeed if they are not accepted ‘from the bottom’. This links to another very important and yet often underestimated point, i.e. that regional </span></span><a href="http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/debate/columnists/ed-cox-devolution-for-the-north-must-go-all-the-way-1-7106337"><span><span><span>devolution in the North of England should not just be about reviving economies</span></span></span></a><span><span>, so as to address the North-South divide, but also about </span><em><span>improving democracy</span></em><span>. For the most part, the underlying message in the current regional and city regional agenda seems to be that devolution will lead to economic renewal for the regions ‘lagging behind’. And yet, this is only one side of the coin – because to really flourish regional economies need to be nurtured from the bottom, through a system of governance which is ultimately accountable to the people, and not only to Westminster. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>From this angle, the regionalist parties that are emerging in the North of England have a great potential, especially if they succeed in joining forces with civil society organisation and movements, mobilising grassroots support and pushing for the creation of some form of ‘Northern Constitutional Convention’ capable of influencing decision and policy-making at the centre. In this sense, there is a great deal that can be learnt from Scotland, and in particular from the experience of the Scottish Constitutional Convention. The most obvious one is that effective regional devolution requires concerted efforts from the centre </span><em><span>and</span></em><span> from the bottom, so as to engage in a constructive dialogue on how to build a more democratic and accountable system of governance that can ultimately improve people’s life. In a social climate characterised by increasing levels of political disenfranchisement, the example of Scotland shows that accountable decentralisation can be an effective way to restore the relationship between the public and the wider political system – bringing decision and policy-making closer to people and, in this way, putting people back into politics. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>But concerted discussion is also needed to establish the level(s) at which powers should be devolved, and to develop a constructive relationship between different layers of government. One of the most striking aspects in the current debate on devolution in the North of England is that the main actors (local governments, leaders’ boards, political parties, business organisations, etc.) seem to work in isolation – each devising their own plans, often irrespective (or wary) of the positions of the others. This climate of ‘mutual suspicion’ hinders decentralisation from within, and should be changed so as to transform the current competing discourses of city-regions, regions, elected mayors and local authorities into a ‘virtuous narrative’ able to inform a consistent and non-redundant new regional architecture.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>Finally, looking north of the border offers also insights on the potential implicit in the politicisation of regional identities – especially in regions such as Yorkshire and the North East, with a long tradition of cultural, political and historical distinctiveness. After all regions, like nations, are imagined communities too (although ‘thinner’ and less bound to the concept of self-determination). Hence, they can be constructed, exploiting shared regional traits and values and </span><em><span>forging</span></em><span> a community that simulates the archetypical principle for political organisation, i.e. kinship. However, as Scotland shows us, such a process does not necessarily have to be founded on ethnic principles, which could lead to some form of ‘exclusive’ political identity/ community. On the contrary, regional identities in the North of England could be mobilised as part of an </span><em><span>inclusive</span></em><span> political project that seeks to nurture shared civic and democratic values and bonds – a plan that ‘speaks to the people’ and aims at actively involve them in the construction of a better future for their region. This could provide the foundations to build a notion of the North as a coherent and meaningful political space – and is perhaps one of the greatest challenges ahead.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>Thus, whether regional devolution in the North of England will succeed or fall may well hinge on the ability to generate ‘democratic momentum’, creating a clear, bold, confident and concerted vision for the future. However, the story of the Scottish Constitutional Convention also tells us that such a process will take time, and cannot be rushed or accomplished overnight. In this sense, the following months and the results and effects of the imminent general election (as well as the way in which both regionalist and mainstream parties will react to these) will be crucial in shaping the path ahead.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/-8xrM8zJ-PI-idO0oxwLDVfX3tT9TQ-KiO4znX23lZo/mtime:1421864577/files/Great%20Charter%20Convention%20%281%29.jpg" alt="" width="140" /></a> </p><p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention">The Great Charter Convention</a> – an open, public debate on where arbitrary power lies in the UK today and how we should contest and contain it.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> OurKingdom OurKingdom Great Charter Convention A constitutional convention Power where? Nations, regions, cities Building it: campaigns and movements Rethinking representation Arianna Giovannini Thu, 26 Mar 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Arianna Giovannini 91420 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What you can do for your democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/graham-allen/what-you-can-do-for-your-democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Last week saw the launch of the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee’s <em><a href="http://goo.gl/VneU3y" target="_blank">The UK Constitution</a></em> – a pocket-sized, written constitution for the UK. Here's what you can do.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Our democracy is not fit for purpose and voter disengagement is at its highest with more people not voting at the last election than voted for the two main parties. A radical package of reform is essential, including letting electors know the Rule Book of our democracy. Last week saw the launch of the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee’s <em><a href="http://goo.gl/VneU3y" target="_blank">The UK Constitution</a></em> – a pocket-sized, written constitution for the UK.</p> <p>The launch of the pocket UK constitution marks a further opportunity for you to tell Parliament about your views on our democracy and its future. The document briefly sets out our current democratic arrangements, and provides options for possible reform including devolution to independent local government in England, the election of the Second Chamber, and letting people vote directly for the Prime Minister.</p> <p>This work follows on from our major project which examined whether or not the UK constitution should be codified and, if so, what it might contain. This inquiry ran for four years, and was informed by a unique collaboration with a team from King’s College London lead by Professor Robert Blackburn.</p> <p>Our report <em><a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmpolcon/463/463.pdf" target="_blank">A new Magna Carta?</a> </em>was published in June 2014. It set out three alternative blueprints for possible codification of our constitution: a constitutional code, a consolidation statute, and a written constitution. </p> <p>A major consultation exercise followed publication of the report and during the six months between June 2014 and 1 January 2015 we received over 3,000 responses in a variety of forms ranging from traditional written submissions to the Committee, to survey responses, to social media. We recently published a <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmpolcon/599/599.pdf" target="_blank">summary of our consultation</a>, which identifies the main themes emerging from the consultation.</p> <p>The response to the consultation was impressive and a clear demonstration that the public care deeply about our current and future democratic arrangements, and <em>A new Magna Carta? </em>remains an invaluable tool for examining and discussing whether and how we might adopt a written constitution for the UK. But the conversation cannot stop there.</p> <p>In the year of both the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and an unpredictable and uncertain general election, the launch of our pocket UK constitution marks an opportunity to tell Parliament what you think and to get your views on record. </p> <p>There is now cross-party commitment to the establishment of a Constitutional Convention in the new Parliament. We don’t yet know what form that will take, or what its terms of reference may be. But we do know that these issues need to be discussed, and this is an opportunity to help shape the agenda for the future. </p> <p>Constitutions are about power: where it is located, who can exercise it, and how it is controlled. We cannot be complacent about our democratic arrangements, and it’s vital that we think about and discuss where we are now and where we might be going. </p> <p>Here’s how you can take part in this conversation:</p> <ul><li>- Email your views to the Committee: <a href="mailto:pcrc@parliament.uk" target="_blank">pcrc@parliament.uk</a></li><li>- Take our <a href="http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/150290KVDWR" target="_blank">short survey</a></li><li>- Use #UKconstitution on social media</li></ul> <p>If we are to continue to be a democracy we need to radically reshape our institutions so that power rests with a plurality of elected institutions not with an over centralised, unelected power elite in Whitehall, the media and the Prime ministership.</p> OurKingdom OurKingdom A written constitution? A constitutional convention Great Charter Convention Building it: campaigns and movements Graham Allen Wed, 25 Mar 2015 14:45:51 +0000 Graham Allen 91529 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Wanted: A Magna Carta for the 21st Century https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/paul-feldman/wanted-magna-carta-for-21st-century <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>To protect and renew the rule of law we need to re-imagine our democracy. This Spring's <a href="http://assembliesfordemocracy.org/">Assemblies for Democracy</a> have a vital role to play. </p> </div> </div> </div> The attacks on the rule of law and access to justice – two key principles of the Magna Carta – by successive governments should lead us to rethink the existing relationship between the state and citizens and then to reimagine democracy.<div class="entry-content"><p>Eventually, everyone came to enjoy the rights enshrined in the constitutional settlement between King John and powerful barons signed at Runnymede 800 years ago. This was no smooth process, however. The mass of the people had to struggle over many centuries for the rule of law – as opposed to the unbridled power of the state – to apply to them and their activities.</p><p>The Great Revolt of 1381 was as much against arbitrary power as privilege. In the English Revolution, the Levellers and Diggers fought for a constitutional settlement that would benefit the majority. The 1647 <a href="http://www.constitution.org/lev/eng_lev_07.htm" target="_blank"><span><span>Agreement of the People</span></span></a> put forward by the Levellers at the Putney Debates declared:</p><blockquote><p>“That in all laws made or to be made, every person may be bound alike; and that no tenure, estate, charter, degree, birth, or place do confer any exemption from the ordinary course of legal proceedings whereunto others are subjected.”</p></blockquote><p>The Levellers were saying that the wealthy were evading the law while other sections felt its full weight. At Putney, Colonel Rainsborough sided with the Levellers’ demand for the right to vote for all “free men”, saying: “…I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest he; and therefore truly, Sir, I think it’s clear, that every man that is to live under a government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that government.”</p><p>Oliver Cromwell and the leadership of the New Model Army defeated the Levellers’ demands and agitators like John Lilburne were arrested for their views. He relied on sympathetic juries for his freedom, speaking for himself in the courts.</p><p>In the 18th century, radical reformers like Tom Paine resisted arbitrary arrest and censorship. He was driven into exile. In the 1830s, trade unionists were hanged or&nbsp;packed off to Australia for defending their right to organise collectively. It is worth noting that only in the 1830s were defence lawyers allowed to represent defendants in criminal cases.</p><p>As an insistence on the rule of law applied to all developed into the struggle for democracy and access to power itself, a long line of campaigns stepped up to the plate, like the Chartists, Suffragettes, political reformers, trade unionists and socialists and anti-colonial movements.</p><p>Underlying the eight centuries since Magna Carta is, therefore, an ebb and flow struggle between the state, its institutions and the “common people”. &nbsp;As <a href="http://ukconstitutionallaw.org/2013/03/30/conor-gearty-the-important-inconvenience-of-the-rule-of-law/" target="_blank"><span><span>Conor Gearty&nbsp;</span></span></a>Professor of Human Rights Law at LSE&nbsp;says:</p><blockquote><p>Successive governments and the Tories in particular have long had a problem with the rule of law.&nbsp; It seriously inhibits the security services in their desire to take national security wholly back – Cold War style – into the realm of the executive.&nbsp; It also inconveniently stands against the populist manoeuvring favoured by the dark side of both main Parties.</p></blockquote><p>In the previous parliament, plans were brought forward to detain alleged terror suspects for up to 90 days without charge. This was reduced to 28 days when New Labour’s plans were rejected. Though down to 14 days at present, this is still the longest period of pre-charge detention of any comparable state.</p><p>Control orders that amount to house arrest on foreign nationals against whom there is insufficient evidence to charge them with an offence, were introduced by New Labour and reintroduced in a new form by the ConDem home secretary in 2011.&nbsp; Then there is the Special Immigration Appeals Commission that deals with appeals from persons deported by the Home Secretary under various powers. An appellant is represented to by a special advocate who is a person vetted by the Security Service. Evidence is heard in secret.</p><p>None of these state actions can be said to be compatible with the rule of law.</p><p>The present government has used austerity to justify draconian <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/gemma-blythe/defending-rule-of-law-against-uk-government%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98slash-and-burn%E2%80%99" target="_blank"><span><span>legal aid cuts and restrictions</span></span></a> which undermine access to justice in a variety of ways for people without independent means, which is about most of society. One of the consequences is that <a href="http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/reforms-judicial-review-proceedings-become-law/policy-and-politics/article/1334166" target="_blank"><span><span>judicial reviews</span></span></a> of state decisions are much more difficult to launch.</p><p>One of Britain’s most senior judges launched a scathing attack on cuts to legal aid after a couple with learning disabilities were not provided with a lawyer to fight the forced adoption of their two-year-old son. Sir James Munby, the most senior family court judge in England and Wales<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/judge-attacks-legal-aid-cuts-as-couple-fight-to-keep-their-son-9832067.html"><span><span>, said it was “unthinkable”</span></span></a> that the parents should have to face the local authority’s application without proper representation after they were denied legal aid because the father earned £34.64 too much.</p><p>He added that the state had “declined all responsibility for ensuring that the parents are able to participate effectively in the proceedings it has brought to the goodwill of the legal profession”. “This is, it might be thought, both unprincipled and unconscionable,” the judge concluded.</p><p>The Tories had planned to hold some anti-terror trials in total secrecy until their plans were struck down by the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27806814" target="_blank"><span><span>Court of Appeal</span></span></a>. No doubt a future government will try again. A recent <a href="http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2015/01/19/european-parliament-criticises-uk-courts-secret-evidence/" target="_blank"><span><span>report</span></span></a> for the European Parliament on the use of secret evidence in trials singled out the UK. Secret evidence was considered a threat to the “rule of EU law”.</p><p>Legality is secondary when it comes to mass surveillance. Senior security official Charles Farr says searches on Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as emails to or from non-British citizens abroad, could be monitored legally by the security services without obtaining an individual warrant because they were deemed to be external communications.</p><p>In February, the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/feb/06/gchq-mass-internet-surveillance-unlawful-court-nsa" target="_blank"><span><em><span>Guardian</span></em><span> reported</span></span></a> that the regime that governs the sharing between Britain and the US of electronic communications intercepted in bulk was unlawful until last year. Ironically, the ruling was made by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal which deliberates in secret. Kafka, eat your heart out!</p><p>OpenDemocracy’s Anthony Barnett, last month joined a march from Runnymede in protest at the “Global Law Summit” conference taking place in London, ostensibly to mark Magna Carta’s anniversary. Barnett <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/02/eve-magna-carta-s-800th-birthday-british-legal-system-being-ripped-apart" target="_blank"><span><span>described it</span></span></a> as “a monstrous jamboree of corporate law, tax avoidance, networking and global business”.</p><blockquote><p>&nbsp;He added: “The corporations have stolen our political parties, they are stealing our media, they are robbing us of our government, they are suborning the law and now they are stealing our history, making it a plaything for networking.”</p></blockquote><p>Barnett is right. Actually,&nbsp; the modern state could fairly be described as a market state. Many of its functions are outsourced or privatised. The state, always essentially capitalist but compelled in the post-war period to play a moderating role, has bared its teeth in the globalisation period. Now the state is openly partisan for the 1% and can count on the support of the mainstream parties to maintain the status quo.</p><p>Thus the centuries-long struggle for the rule of law and access to justice today poses a new kind of challenge. The erosion of Magna Carta gathers pace as the state places the “defence of the realm” top of its agenda in a kind of reflex action aimed at maintaining existing power relations.</p><p>The 800<span>th</span> anniversary of Britain’s first written constitutional settlement is as good a time as any to re-imagine democracy – not just in terms of government and state but also in relation to the economy, finance, land and the environment. The majority want to end austerity, tackle climate change, deal seriously with inequality, provide affordable housing and decent care for people in older age.</p><p>For that to become a reality, the limited, declining forms of democracy at present have to give way to a system where people themselves decide what’s best for their communities, towns and workplaces. In place of corporatocracy we want a real democracy, where the rule of law is absolute and access to justice is there for all.</p><p>Making the transition to a 21<span>st</span> century democracy founded on a 21<span>st</span> century Magna Carta is what <a href="http://assembliesfordemocracy.org/">Assemblies for Democracy</a> are all about.</p><p>This article was first published at <strong><em><a href="http://assembliesfordemocracy.org/">Assemblies for Democracy</a></em></strong>.</p></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/-8xrM8zJ-PI-idO0oxwLDVfX3tT9TQ-KiO4znX23lZo/mtime:1421864577/files/Great%20Charter%20Convention%20%281%29.jpg" alt="" width="140" /></a> </p><p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention">The Great Charter Convention</a> – an open, public debate on where arbitrary power lies in the UK today and how we should contest and contain it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/paul-feldman/reimagining-democracy-peoples%27-assemblies">Re-imagining democracy - peoples&#039; assemblies</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> OurKingdom OurKingdom A constitutional convention Great Charter Convention History Building it: campaigns and movements Rethinking representation Paul Feldman Wed, 25 Mar 2015 12:45:09 +0000 Paul Feldman 91443 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Assembling for democracy: part 2, the Chartists and us https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/peter-evans/assembling-for-democracy-part-2-chartists-and-us <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Democracy arrived in the UK thanks to popular movements which pressured a reluctant Parliament into democratic change. Part 2 of this article picks up the story beginning with the Chartists. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span> </span><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/525802/CHARTER.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/525802/CHARTER.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="317" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></span></p><p><span>The Reform Act was not met with universal acclaim in 1832. The majority of people were still excluded from the franchise, and indeed they were so dissatisfied with this situation that they soon mobilised the largest mass movement in British history in response. This was the Chartist movement, named after their 1838 People’s Charter, which was the most famous iteration of their many petitions. It demanded the “Six Points”, still taught in schools today:</span></p><p><span> </span></p><ol><li><p><span>A vote for every man over 21 years of age.</span></p></li><li><p><span>Secret ballot (instead of the system for voting in public).</span></p></li><li><p><span>MPs do not have to own property.</span></p></li><li><p><span>MPs will be paid.</span></p></li><li><p><span>Equal voting constituencies.</span></p></li><li><p><span>An election every year for Parliament.</span></p></li></ol><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>Albeit that suffrage has now been extended to women as well as men, and over the age of 18 rather than 21, five out of six of these demands are foundational to British democracy. In the 1830s however, Parliament’s response was to accuse the Chartists of sedition, and they fought the People’s Charter every step of the way. Indeed the Chartists are conventionally understood to have failed, as they did not achieve their demands at the time.</span></span></p><p><span><span><span>Chartism was the logical direction for Victorian Radicals to take after the Great Reform Act. Radicals had coalesced around the cause of Parliamentary reform, taking their name from their collective desire that such reform </span><em><span>be</span></em><span> radical, and the Chartists’ aim remained </span></span><span>securing meaningful representation for the people in Parliament via Universal Manhood Suffrage. The Chartist movement was also a response to a new criticism however: that under the existing system MPs could largely ignore their constituents. This was because once elected, MPs and governments were safely entrenched in office, and therefore free to pass whatever unpopular and unwanted legislation they liked (such as the hated Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834). Furthermore, with the the two-party system already in evidence (albeit being reformulated, as it sometimes is, from Whig vs. Tory to Liberal vs. Conservative), the Chartists also argued that the only viable option the system offered was to let the other lot in – whereupon the whole process of unaccountable law-making, let alone corruption, could simply be repeated.</span></span></p><p><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span><span>Given that these two problems remain with us (I am yet to be convinced that our system will no longer be dominated by two major parties), we could perhaps stand to learn something from Chartist views of democracy. Their alternative vision, proposed as a solution to these problems, was that MPs should be delegates rather than simply representatives. </span><span><span>This would require that MPs could actually be held to account directly by the people who elected them. In short, it required that MPs could be recalled by their constituents. We should not underestimate how radical this idea was, and remains. In 1993, the historian Miles Taylor wrote that ‘Arguably, the greatest threat posed by the Chartists in constitutional terms, was not universal suffrage, but the mandatory theory of representation’.</span><a name="_ftnref1"></a><span> This claim stacks up – given the power to compel Parliamentarians to submit to their instructions, and to relieve them of their positions if they failed to do so, people would undoubtedly exercise it.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>This idea frightens most parliamentarians – only last October Parliament </span></span><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/caroline-lucas/recall-bill-parliament_b_6094886.html"><span><span>shot down</span></span></a><span><span><span> an attempt to work towards creating genuine accountability of MPs by rejecting a proposal that the right to recall should be exercised by the constituents of the relevant MP. Instead, they plumped for a version of recall controlled by themselves. After all, if it makes perfect sense that the banks know their business best and must therefore regulate themselves (with such memorable results for the rest of us), this logic must surely also hold for Parliament also! The people </span><em><span>couldn’t possibly</span></em><span> be trusted with the role of judging the performance of their representatives outside of the election cycle! After all, as my MP wrote to me at the time, real recall might expose MPs to </span><em><span>politically motivated</span></em><span> </span><em><span>attack!</span></em><span> (What else would it be for?)</span></span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span><span>Mark this well, because it is the perennial cry of those who support the exclusion and disenfranchisement of the majority to argue that the people are too ignorant, too stupid, too lacking in reasoned maturity, to make decisions. It is the perennial cry of opponents of democracy that people cannot be trusted with power. Yet there is only one alternative to this – that the people must therefore have someone else to exercise power for them. But without meaningful power ourselves, all we can do is trust that those with power exercise it properly on our behalf – and, as we are increasingly aware these days, without meaningful mechanisms by which to hold our representatives to account, </span><em><span>precisely because we lack meaningful power of our own</span></em><span>, that trust is frequently broken.</span></span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span><span>The majority, it is said, should trust a minority class of representatives to exercise authority over them. Now, historically this was argued on the basis that </span><em><span>only this elite</span></em><span> had the wisdom, independence of mind and character, and removal from petty sectional interests, to both know and pursue the common good. This minority, furthermore, must supposedly be given </span><em><span>inalienable</span></em><span> power, power that cannot be taken away from them, lest the ignorant mob seize hold of it. We are never allowed to have the power we give those representatives back. We can only ever transfer it, at certain allotted times, to another minority – and when they get in we’re just supposed to trust them as well. The “tyranny of the majority” by contrast would apparently create endless dissension. The people don’t know what they want, and so they must be told. In other words, power should not reside with the people, but with only a </span><em><span>subset of those people</span></em><span> – and they’ll see us right, don’t worry.</span></span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>This is the line that has been spun out to the disenfranchised in Britain since at least the Putney Debates in 1647, when Cromwell and his generals were contested by the Levellers, who represented the opinion of the ordinary soldiers in the New Model Army. The generals prevailed, and property requirements for voting remained. When the Diggers decided they had had enough of being led, and attempted to take matters into their own hands in an attempt to build a new egalitarian society, they were ruthlessly suppressed.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>This was also the line spun out to those denied the vote before 1928; and since 1928 it has been the line spun out to us as to why we need to concentrate power – to vest it in hierarchies, leave it to the experts, and limit people’s participation to penning an occasional “X” in a box. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>The argument that the people cannot be trusted was also the line spun out to the colonised peoples of Britain’s empire. The natives were supposedly too immature to be trusted to govern themselves; apparently needed the guidance of British elites to become civilized; and would supposedly be granted independence when they had “matured”. To that end the Empire claimed to be educating the natives to govern themselves – yet in Africa black people were excluded from joining the central colonial state, and until such a time as Britain could no longer sustain the effort required, rebellions were ruthlessly crushed.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>Independence for the colonies was only gained in the aftermath of the Second World War, when maintaining the Empire became untenable. India and Pakistan for example broke away as soon as Britain lacked the material power and domestic political will to reassert control. Nationalist movements sprung up all over the Empire during the 1940s-50s. When the British government’s proposals to “democratise” Ghana in 1949 restricted the vote by including property qualifications for example, a People’s Assembly was founded in response with mass support, pushing for Universal Suffrage. The rejection of this movement led to the civil disobedience, boycotts, and strikes that resulted in independence. Though America’s role and the Cold War context can’t be ignored, decolonisation was in large part driven by pressure for change “from below”, exercised by nationalist movements – and whilst independence may not have turned out not to be all it seemed, the processes that achieved it remain testament to what people can achieve when they organise to demand democratic change.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span><span>But what about Britain? </span></span><span>We all know how the people mobilised to defend democracy against foreign aggression in the Second World War, and, if the current government’s recent bout of propaganda is to be believed, the First as well. But if the First World War was a crusade for democracy then it was certainly a strange one. Legislation for Universal male Suffrage in Britain was only granted </span><em><span>after </span></em><span>the war (the legislation passed in 1917), and even then it was not extended to all women until 1928. In the rhetoric of the time, Parliament was quick to claim that Universal Suffrage was a reward for the sacrifice and ability displayed by the disenfranchised during the war – a coming of age demonstrating their newfound maturity. But this actually just gives the lie to Parliament’s longstanding position on the franchise before the war, which was that it should be limited precisely because the people could not be trusted with it. In reality, Universal male Suffrage was given lest the people demand something more, and it would not have been gained without the war. It is no coincidence that the vote was granted after the people had become empowered by their experience of mass organisation, and disillusioned by a system in which their predetermined role was to be used as cannon fodder. One only has to consider how quickly the Army was demobilised (in 1815 and 1945 as well) to see how wary the government was.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>Yet last year, on the 100</span><span>th</span><span> anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, we were sold the story of how people willingly laid down their lives for democracy – in fact, a democracy that did not yet exist at the start of the war, and which was reluctantly conceded as its result. It also makes a curious crusade for democracy that ended up extending imperial authority, Britain gaining conquered territories in Iraq, Transjordan, Tanzania, Namibia, and a number of islands in the Pacific from Germany. Technically these were governed as “mandates”, but just as with Britain’s other colonies, the justification was that these areas required British rule until such a time as they could be trusted with independence – which, as we have seen, was only gained when power was reclaimed by organised movements. It was the same in Britain.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>Before 1918 a common argument in favour of denying disenfranchised people the vote was that they lacked the maturity to be trusted with it. It was said that dependents such as women, children, servants, and men without independent property of their own, would be too easily swayed to vote by the people that they were dependent upon. This meant therefore that they could not be trusted to make impartial judgements, and so could not be entrusted with deciding the common good. Yet under this system dependents were claimed to have “virtual” representation – women and servants explicitly being said to be represented by the votes of their husbands/masters acting in their role as head of household (indeed this conceptualisation of the vote was why many women supported the Chartist demands for </span><em><span>Manhood</span></em><span> Suffrage). However, under this system of “virtual” representation, people were clearly being denied the vote on the basis that they would be too easily influenced by the people they depended on, at the same time that they were said to be represented by the vote of that very person!</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>Though naïvely optimistic to the point of utopianism, virtual representation has ever been used cynically as a smokescreen to obscure and excuse disenfranchisement. But the real intention seems clear enough – the far more numerous class of “dependents” in Britain were excluded, not only from exercising their own votes, but also by being folded into the single vote of their masters. It didn’t matter if you had one dependent or fifty, they were all subsumed into a single vote. Thus virtual representation was exclusive and disenfranchising.</span><a name="_ftnref2"></a><span> This glaring absurdity was only put to an end, at least formally, in 1928.</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>But what glaring inconsistencies have persisted since then?</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>&nbsp;</span><span>I would argue that virtual representation is still in force – albeit via a different means – in that those who do not successfully elect an MP in their constituency give completely dead votes. Under our system of electing MPs, 49% of a given seat may vote for one candidate, but if 49.01% voted for another, then that group will win the seat. All of the votes except those for the winner of each seat count for absolutely nothing. In 2010, MPs were usually elected with around 30-50% of the vote in their constituency (47.7% mean average), and about 2/3rds won with less than 50% of votes. By this means the majority of the electorate is essentially disenfranchised. After factoring in turnout (65% in 2010), only 31% of the electorate actually chose our current MPs, who are supposed to represent everyone. The remainder of the electorate are apparently represented well enough by these candidates, presumably on the same basis as argued historically, that they have the ability to rise above petty interests and represent us all. But if this were really the case, why would it even matter who we voted for at all? Presumably anyone would do! By this means the majority of the electorate is essentially disenfranchised, because their vote for a local representative is statistically most likely to count for nothing at all in a Parliament that is organised at a national scale.</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>In these contexts, is it any wonder that they renege on their manifesto pledges? MPs of course claim that they need to be given latitude by their constituents in order that they can make up their own minds about the issues that face them, especially if the situation changes in the future. This </span><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span><span>sounds plausible, except that in the vast majority of cases, MPs voting decisions are given to them by their leaderships via the Party whips – and going against the whip can have serious consequences for one’s political career. After all, the future of their career and job depends a lot more on the Party’s good will than that of the electorate. If such MPs displease their leaders, they can simply be deselected as candidates at the next election – a power which has shifted from local parties to central leaderships over the past two decades. Then there’s the carrot and stick of being offered or denied public office on the basis of voting behaviour. Thus the average backbenchers in the main parties “toe the party line”. Rather than subordinate themselves to the people they represent – rather than actually act as representatives – such MPs sell themselves the Party system of rewards and punishments.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>Of course, the constituents of a deselected or hamstrung MP’s constituents could always return them to Parliament again, but how many people really vote on that basis? Most people vote along national lines of party or leader – Conservative or Labour, Cameron or Miliband - and indeed are </span><em><span>encouraged </span></em><span>to do so. There is a fundamental disconnect between the way many voters conceive their vote, and the reality of voting in Britain.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>Historically, the rhetoric around the franchise – concomitant to denying it to “dependents” – revolved around notions of “manly independence”, which most people were said to lack. MPs, and the limited electorate were supposed to enshrine these qualities, which included the abilities to have reasoned impartiality, and to be able make one’s own mind up (which was, after all, why dependents were denied the vote). But have you ever seen such a timid lackey as an MP who slavishly “toes the party line”? Such MPs are dependents, but cannot be bound to what their constituents tell them to do, because they are already spoken for. This is the real objection to real recall: MPs must be free from having us tell them what to do, because they must remain free to be told what to do by their Party leaders! Whipped is a good word for it!</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>The people of this country have again been left facing the fact that they have no meaningful methods of exerting pressure on Parliament. But all this means is that we must therefore begin again the process of building such pressure. This is simply part of the cyclical history of British politics. </span><span><span>The Blanketeers and the Chartists are often said to have been unsuccessful, but this is untrue. To see their success you have to know not only where to look, but how to look – without the context of the pressure created by organisations of people dedicated to achieving democracy in this country, one would be liable to believe that radical reform and meaningful democratic power was given to us out of the kindness of politicians’ hearts, or handed out as some kind of reward. It wasn’t, and at each step Parliament gave the least ground it could. It was only by assembling for democracy that changes were made to happen.</span></span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span><span>Today, we don’t even have a representative democracy. </span></span><span>That is not what the system was originally constructed for, nor what it has become. Today we, like the Scottish martyrs, are faced with a government more interested in gagging acts than addressing corruption. Like the Blanketeers our role (at least between elections) is essentially limited to petitions. Like the Chartists, we are still unable to really hold MPs to account between elections, and our choice during them is severely limited by the realities of the system. Like the Suffragettes and Suffragists, we’re also still faced with a system based on virtual representation, whereby the choice of a minority whose votes matter are said to be good enough to represent everyone. Finally, like all of them, we’re asked simply to trust those with power, whilst being told that we ourselves cannot be trusted with power, lest we abuse it. In times such as these!</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span><span>The time to organise has come again. It doesn’t matter if you have a lot of time and energy to contribute to such a movement, or a little. What matters is that we collectively commit to building a democratic movement, driven “from below” by people power. That we not only cast our vote as an “X” in a box, as we are allowed to do once every five years, but act in favour of a genuinely alternative politics – that we establish a different way of doing things that will place power in </span><em><span>our</span></em><span> hands.</span></span></span></p><p><span> </span><br /><span><span> </span></span></p><hr size="1" /><p><span> </span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><div><div id="ftn1"><span> </span><p><a name="_ftn1"></a><span><span> </span><span><span>M. Taylor, ‘The Six Points’ in O. Ashton, et al. (eds.), </span><em><span>The Chartist Legacy</span></em><span>, (Merlin Press 1999), 2.</span></span></span></p><span> </span></div><span> </span><div id="ftn2"><span> </span><p><a name="_ftn2"></a><span> A theory of virtual representation was also put forward as an argument against giving the Thirteen Colonies representation in Parliament, on the basis that MPs inherently represented their interests already.</span></p><span> </span></div><span> </span></div><p><span> </span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/-8xrM8zJ-PI-idO0oxwLDVfX3tT9TQ-KiO4znX23lZo/mtime:1421864577/files/Great%20Charter%20Convention%20%281%29.jpg" alt="" width="140" /></a> </p><p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention">The Great Charter Convention</a> – an open, public debate on where arbitrary power lies in the UK today and how we should contest and contain it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/paul-feldman/reimagining-democracy-peoples%27-assemblies">Re-imagining democracy - peoples&#039; assemblies</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/peter-linebaugh/homo-liber-homo-idioticus">Homo liber, homo idioticus</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/peter-evans/assembling-for-democracy-part-1-learning-from-blanketeers">Assembling for democracy: part 1, learning from the Blanketeers</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> OurKingdom OurKingdom A constitutional convention Great Charter Convention History Building it: campaigns and movements Rethinking representation Peter Evans Wed, 25 Mar 2015 12:43:55 +0000 Peter Evans 91442 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Are the Tories applying a scorched earth strategy to the NHS? https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/jacky-davis/are-tories-applying-scorched-earth-strategy-to-nhs <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Tories now seem not to care what we think of their NHS policies. Last election, it was all very different - a <a href="http://www.merlinpress.co.uk/acatalog/NHS-FOR-SALE.html">new book</a> highlights how promises were made - then broken.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/R1ZM2W_HDXoHLovoGSnAZiS0XZTsHYOWs-4QteT4TSo/mtime:1427283717/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/nhs%20for%20sale%202%20pic_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/4YMxiT7NrLjhjXW27kgCtNC7OpJAQU3qoT1mR6YhAqA/mtime:1427283695/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/nhs%20for%20sale%202%20pic_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="348" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Forty-two days til the election and worrying news about the NHS is arriving daily. It seems the Tories, fearful of losing in May, are determined to put their final mark on the NHS by hitting it with every bit of scorched earth policy they can think of.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal">The biggest surprise they’ve sprung in the last few weeks is ‘DevoManc’ - £6 billion worth of health and social care budgets signed over to 10 local councils in Greater Manchester. The move is viewed with<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/david-wrigley/is-%27devomanc%27-beginning-of-end-of-national-health-service"> suspicion and trepidation</a> by most health commentators and campaigners – if for no other reason than that anything George Osborne is signing off with a big grin on his face is bound to be bad news. </p><p class="MsoNormal">And just weeks before the election <span>the NHS<span>&nbsp;</span>signs a contract for £780m - the biggest-ever privatisation of its services - to help hospitals tackle the growing backlog of patients waiting for surgery and tests. The contract includes 3 companies – <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/hinchingbrooke-why-did-england%27s-privatised-hospital-deal-really-collapse">Circle</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/leak-reveals-worrying-truth-behind-biggest-nhs-privatisation-yet">Vanguard </a>and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/suresh-chauhan/privatised-nhs-call-centres-are-causing-ae-crisis">Care UK</a> - who have already been heavily criticised for the poor care they delivered to NHS patients. Half of the private firms involved have links to the Tories. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>And now OurNHS openDemocracy have <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/leak-reveals-worrying-truth-behind-biggest-nhs-privatisation-yet">leaked </a>the details of the massive £1.2 billion contract lined up for cancer and end of life services in Staffs. </span>The <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/kate-godfrey/faqs-staffordshire-cancer-privatisation">contents </a>of the previously closely guarded plans have shocked health campaigners. It’s ‘no more than a blank cheque for whichever private firm is most ruthlessly willing to cut costs to shore up their own profits’, says John Lister of Health Emergency. No wonder there was no proper public consultation, only ‘weak engagements led by patient champions’. The public didn’t vote for a privatised NHS, doesn’t want it, and the politicians know it.</p><p class="MsoNormal">At this stage it looks as though the Coalition simply don’t care what we think about their shabby treatment of the NHS. But they were more careful when they came into power. Granted they broke promise after promise – infamously Cameron had promised no more top down reorganisations, and had featured on billboards above the slogan ‘We will cut the deficit not the NHS’. </p><p class="MsoNormal">But even while going back on their word they understood they had to persuade us that what they were doing – breaking up the NHS and paving the way for the private sector - was justified. So they created myths about the NHS and about Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act, and sold them to an uncritical media. These myths - and outright lies - have become part received wisdom for many. There is plenty of evidence to disprove them, but we need a positive and concerted effort to dislodge them from the public consciousness.</p><p class="MsoNormal">It was the persistence of these myths and lies – zombie claims that continue to stalk the land long after they should have been killed off – that drove us to write our new book ‘NHS For Sale – Myths, Lies and Deception’. </p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Our book tackles the big lie that was necessary to justify sweeping changes - that the NHS was a poor service and was letting patients down while costing too much money, hopelessly ‘inefficient and unaffordable’. In fact the NHS is <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/james-lazou/cameron-is-wrecking-our-worldbeating-health-system">one of the most cost effective health services in the world</a>. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The book destroys the myth that the private sector delivers better and cheaper care than the public sector. And it evidences how, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/clive-peedell/cameron-lied-to-country-says-clive-peedell">contrary to their increasingly strident claims</a>, the government’s actions <em>are</em> resulting in the privatisation of the NHS. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>It argues that far from giving GPs the power, the Act means they now have less money, more responsibility and all of the blame. Contrary to what Lansley promised, patients and communities now have less choice and voice, and indeed doctors and patients are all worse off as a result of the ‘reforms’. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/billions-of-wasted-nhs-cash-noone-wants-to-mention">The Act has resulted in more bureaucracy, higher costs, more waste</a> and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/roger-kline/will-private-sector-secrecy-stop-nhs-becoming-more-open">less transparency</a> in the NHS.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>It dissects claims about government funding of the NHS and shows them to be a sham, detailing the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/carl-walker/four-reasons-nick-clegg-is-no-mental-health-saviour">cuts and closures</a> that have taken place. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The market has no place in delivering health care, squandering scarce money and clinical time and destabilising those vital NHS services that the private sector has no interest in delivering. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>It is<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/new-law-proposed-to-stop-nhs-becoming-simply-memory"> time to abolish the ‘purchaser provider split’</a> which divides the NHS into those that hold the purse strings and those who provide the healthcare - and allows private firms to muscle in on both sides of the split. This split was introduced under Thatcher and labelled ‘a failed experiment’ by the Health Select Committee.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span></span><span>We hope that as many as possible will read it before they cast their vote on May 7</span>th<span>. After 5 years of lies and cover ups voters need the full facts to allow them to make up their minds about the Coalition record on the NHS. We intend that this book will come to their aid.</span></p><p><em><strong><span>Like this piece? Please donate to OurNHS&nbsp;</span></strong></em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/donate" target="_blank"><strong><span>here&nbsp;</span></strong></a><em><strong><span>to help keep us producing the NHS stories that matter.&nbsp;Thank you.</span></strong></em><span>&nbsp;</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/leak-reveals-worrying-truth-behind-biggest-nhs-privatisation-yet">Leak reveals worrying truth behind the biggest NHS privatisation yet</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/clive-peedell/cameron-lied-to-country-says-clive-peedell">&quot;Cameron lied to the country&quot;, says Clive Peedell</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/oliver-huitson/how-bbc-betrayed-nhs-exclusive-report-on-two-years-of-censorship-and-distorti">How the BBC betrayed the NHS: an exclusive report on two years of censorship and distortion </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> ourNHS OurKingdom ourNHS Privatising our NHS Conservatives Jacky Davis Wed, 25 Mar 2015 09:15:23 +0000 Jacky Davis 91519 at https://www.opendemocracy.net High-tech isn't enough: Britain needs to stop pricing its low-tech goods out of the world https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-mills/hightech-isn%27t-enough-britain-needs-to-stop-pricing-its-lowtech-goods-out-of-w <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The new book <em>Progressive Capitalism in Britain</em> encourages a narrow focus on high-tech exports. Instead, Britain must allow its medium and low tech exports flourish too.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/1114699_9da0afe2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/1114699_9da0afe2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="399" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>© Copyright <a title="View profile" rel="creator" href="http://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/3176">Hugh Venables</a> and licensed for <a href="http://www.geograph.org.uk/reuse.php?id=1114699">reuse</a> under this <a class="nowrap" title="Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Licence" rel="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">Creative Commons Licence</a>.</em></p><p><em>Progressive Capitalism in Britain</em> summarises much of the progressive thinking which is currently taking place in the UK on how we should try to shape our economy over the coming years. How should we get it to perform both better and more fairly? How is an economy which suffers particularly from both static productivity and a large structural balance of payments deficit to be galvanised into delivering higher living standards not just for those who are already well off but across the board?</p> <p>The answers provided are familiar. We need to reform our financial and governmental institutions to make them better at supporting high tech industry. There needs to be much more of a focus on our vocational educational system. Companies need to take a longer term view. Financial services need to be better geared to supporting industry rather than the housing market. The crucial issue, however, is whether changes along these lines, however desirable they may be in themselves, will make any real difference to our economic prospects.</p> <p>First, does it really make sense to see the future in high rather than medium and low tech manufacturing? It is true that a lot of our industry which sells abroad is high tech but this is largely because its output is both not generally very price sensitive and – partly for this reason – difficult but not impossible to attack from much lower cost base economies. This is why it has survived while industries which are more vulnerable have all gone under as the proportion of our GDP coming from manufacturing has gone down from about a third as late as 1970 to barely 10% now. The problem with relying on high tech is then twofold. First there will never be enough of it even in the best of circumstances and second, just because it is more difficult to attack, it does not mean that it is not vulnerable to lower cost competition. Relying on high tech thus poses both a short and a longer term problem of vulnerability.</p> <p>If this is true, however, it leads to a very awkward conclusion. We are never going to be able to pay our way in the world unless we can also compete - at least on import substitution if not always on exports – with enough low and medium tech manufacturing, so that we can get the proportion of GDP coming from manufacturing as a whole up to about 15% of GDP. Without this, we will never stop the balance of payments being a heavy disinflationary burden. For this rebalancing to be achieved, we will, however, need to be competitive across a much wider range of manufacturing output than we have at the moment. For this to happen, we need a far lower exchange rate – a factor not mentioned anywhere in <em>Progressive Capitalism in Britain.</em></p> <p>The fact that the cost base in the UK – all the components of cost in sterling that are charged out to the rest of the world via the exchange rate – is so high also bears very heavily on another of the issues raised in the booklet. The main reason why we have so many people on low wages is that, via our over-valued currency, we try to charge out our labour costs at a higher price than the rest of the world is prepared to pay. This and the extreme difficulty of making any money out of manufacturing for export means that investment in the potentially most productive part of our economy is exceptionally low, making it impossible to price ourselves back into the market by increasing output per head. &nbsp;This is why we are currently locked into a vicious spiral of pitifully low levels of investment, static productivity and low wages.</p> <p>The solution advanced in <em>Progressive Capitalism in Britain</em> is to concentrate resources on increasing the education and skill levels in the UK labour force. Other things being equal, of course the higher the qualifications that the workforce has, the better, but many jobs which are well worth doing – especially outside high tech industries - do not require either high levels of education or training. More important are workforces which are punctual and reliable - qualities available across all socio-economic groups. Higher productivity can then come from investment in labour saving machinery rather than enhanced brainpower. &nbsp;The danger in concentrating on higher and higher skill levels, which are actually only appropriate for quite a narrow range of jobs especially outside high tech industries, is that far too many people get left out because there are too few employment opportunities in the sorts of activities where very high skill levels count. </p> <p>This analysis suggests that – leaving aside whatever else is done on the supply side to improve the competitiveness of the UK economy - concentrating resources on high tech and better education and training is going to be much less effective at getting the UK to pay its way in the world than making the whole economy more competitive by going for a much lower exchange rate. This is not a perception which is widely shared, but as long as all the available intellectual horse-power is deployed into advocating plying resources into too narrow and vulnerable a sector of our economy, we will go on losing ground in world markets, the balance of payments will be a constraint on expanding the economy and living standards and job opportunities will stagnate. This is surely not what the authors of <em>Progressive Capitalism in Britain</em> want to see happening.</p> <p><em><strong>John Mills is a funder of openDemocracy.</strong></em></p> OurKingdom OurKingdom There is an Alternative John Mills Wed, 25 Mar 2015 00:11:11 +0000 John Mills 91489 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Listening and learning from people living with dementia https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/jonathan-tomlinson/listening-and-learning-from-people-living-with-dementia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Good care is less to do with 'doctoring', drugs and technology, and more to do with compassion, continuity, and asking the right questions.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Earlier this month, I was invited to Elizabeth Bartlett’s house in Salisbury. Funded by Wiltshire council, she holds weekly experiential memory support groups for people with dementia and their carers. We were warmly invited with tea, coffee and biscuits and then divided into two groups, one – for the people with dementia facilitated by Elizabeth and one for the carers, facilitated by her husband John. I spent 45 minutes with each group. They meet to share their experiences of living with dementia and living with people with dementia.</span></p><p><span>I was invited partly because my parents have been going to the group for the last few months and finding it incredibly supportive, but also because of my enduring professional and recent academic interest in the relationships between doctors and patients. The carers especially, were hoping that I would be able to share their concerns and experiences with other GPs and medical students.</span></p><p><strong><span>Context matters.</span></strong><span></span></p><p><span>Patients, on the whole, are afraid to criticise their own GP in person. Too much hinges on good relations, and rather than confront each other when things go badly, they tend to go elsewhere. There are of course, exceptions. All GPs, myself included get complaints and not infrequently, doctors and their patients fall out for a while and get back together again. I bring this up because one of my first impressions was that we had the kind of frank conversations that I probably would not have had with my own patients or even patients from my own surgery or even perhaps in a healthcare setting. Being in Elizabeth’s home and being in groups, which had a self-evident camaraderie gave their members greater confidence to speak out, uncovered shared experiences and changed the balance of power.</span></p><p><span>It mattered also that I was there to listen to the groups talk about their experiences. I wasn’t there to give advice, make a referral, review their medication, or<span>&nbsp;</span></span><em><span>do</span></em><span> anything. I was conscious of the importance of listening and Dr Iona Heath’s remarkable essay,<span>&nbsp;</span></span><a href="http://www.henw.org/index.php/archief/volledig/id5169-the-art-of-doing-nothing.html"><em><span>The Art of Doing Nothing</span></em></a><em><span>.</span></em><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span><span>This morning I read through my medical students’ learning objectives and realised that even from the second year at medical school there is more emphasis on the advice they’re expected to give patients than the depth of understanding they’re expected to gain about their experiences. I’ve been<span>&nbsp;</span></span><a title="Everyday ethics" href="https://abetternhs.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/everyday-ethics-2/"><span>trying hard to subvert this</span></a><span>, but students are understandably focused on stuff they expect to be examined on.</span></p><p><strong><span>Getting lost.</span></strong><span></span></p><p><span>I began with the dementia group. One of the new members said that after she had passed the GP’s dementia test her daughter complained, ‘but mum, that’s because you’re so competitive!” I remember my father’s delight at passing the more sophisticated<span>&nbsp;</span></span><a href="http://www.stvincents.ie/dynamic/File/Addenbrookes_guide.pdf"><span>Adenbrooke’s dementia score</span></a><span>. I wondered whether he might have been diagnosed earlier if the psychologist had come over for a family meal or sent him out with a shopping list. We would have happily cooked or suggested some groceries.</span></p><p><span>Both the dementia group and the carers said that getting lost was one of the first things they noticed. One of the carers told us that her husband got lost and wandered into a hotel in Salisbury where the staff made him a cup of tea and offered to get a taxi to take him home. When he could not remember where he lived the hotel staff asked the taxi driver to drive him around until he recognised his home, which, before long, he did. His very grateful wife offered to pay the taxi driver but he told her he had already been paid by the hotel and it had been a pleasure to help. Getting lost, and having trouble with shopping lists, was often apparent before problems with memory or confusion.</span></p><p><span>Familiar tasks and familiar places may be much easier and mask dementia. The brother of one of the group who has a rare form of early-onset dementia was working as a GP when he was diagnosed with dementia. He was still competent in his work and loved by his patients but had to retire. Many of his patients protested and said they didn’t care!</span></p><p><strong><span>The importance of a diagnosis and fears about screening.</span></strong><span></span></p><p><span>Everyone, in both groups agreed that a diagnosis helped a great deal. For most, but not all, the relief exceed the anxiety about prognosis, but for those with an earlier onset dementia, for example<span>&nbsp;</span></span><a href="http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?categoryID=200171&amp;documentID=167&amp;gclid=CjwKEAjw876oBRCYr86w6KGfpkgSJAACIidwU44KP4EqpqCjYm0iL1z2_z_HmYZKxCWwuRV2R0al3RoCcSrw_wcB"><span>Pick’s disease</span></a><span>, it was a great worry. Some of the carers and those with dementia had been upset by GPs that had dismissed or tried to normalise their concerns as forgetfulness. One carer recalled their GP saying, “Oh my father’s like that, it’s just old age’. They were equally disturbed by the thought of unsolicited<span>&nbsp;</span></span><a href="http://www.dcscience.net/2014/03/10/on-the-hazards-of-significance-testing-part-1-screening/"><span>dementia screening</span></a><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span><span>and thought that older people had been afraid that their GP might use any opportunity to diagnose them with dementia. They were, on the whole, relieved that the planned NHS screening programme had been dropped but felt strongly that someone coming to their GP with concerns about dementia should be taken seriously. Doctors, like everyone else, are value-laden and some believe that forgetfulness is normal or that trying to diagnose dementia in its early stages is futile or impossible. I think I’ve thought like that myself. Both groups and I confessed many GPs, shared concerns that even the most sophisticated tests for dementia can be unreliable but it shouldn’t stop us trying to find what’s causing worrying symptoms. Time, attention and re-testing are all important. Those with dementia, whose symptoms were incredibly diverse, wanted me to know that dementia wasn’t just forgetfulness. “We’re all different”, they said, almost in unison. It is often said that<span>&nbsp;</span></span><em><span>if you’ve met just one person with dementia, you’ve met just one person with dementia.</span></em><span></span></p><p><strong><span>Better relations between doctors, patients and carers.</span></strong><span></span></p><p><span>We talked in both groups about how to improve relations with GPs and I told them that I have found Atul Gawande’s questions from his new book,<span>&nbsp;</span></span><a href="http://atulgawande.com/book/being-mortal/"><span>Being Mortal</span></a><span>, slightly modified,<span>&nbsp;</span></span><em><span>incredibly useful.</span></em><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span><span>They make other discussions about care so much easier.<br /> (1)<span>&nbsp;</span></span><em><span>What is your understanding of your health or condition?</span></em><span><br /> (2)<span>&nbsp;</span></span><em><span>What matters to you?</span></em><span><span> </span></span><span>Examples might be, staying at home, staying out of hospital or a nursing home, Staying alive long-enough to see your children marry or your grandchildren graduate, Being able to see your friends, Having the trip of a lifetime, Keeping your interests going as long as possible.<br /> (3)<span>&nbsp;</span></span><em><span>What are your fears?</span></em><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span><span>Examples might be; being in pain, getting lost, not getting to the toilet in time, falling over, being alone, dying, not recognising your spouse/ children etc.<br /> (4)<span>&nbsp;</span></span><em><span>What trade-offs are you are willing to make and not willing to make?&nbsp;</span></em><span>For example will you do anything to live longer? Take any amount of medication? Spend any amount of money? Take any risks? Where might you draw the line and why?</span></p><p><span>I think after speaking to the carers today that they are useful questions for a carer to ask the person they care for and to ask themselves. I think doctors should ask them too. I’ve written a blog about how to make sense of risk and what to ask (or tell) your doctor<span>&nbsp;</span></span><a href="https://abetternhs.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/making-it-up-as-we-go-along/"><span>here</span></a><span>. In it I suggest that if your doctor doesn’t think to ask these questions it would be really helpful (from my GP perspective) if someone came along to tell me what they thought about them.</span></p><p><span>I think it’s important to let the person who is affected to answer them. Apart from the obvious fact that it’s their life we’re talking about, it is also, on the whole, much harder for families to let go. In Gawande’s book he notes that about 2/3 of patients with cancer are willing to undergo treatment they don’t want, if their families want them to. In neurosurgeon Henry Marsh’s incredible book,<span>&nbsp;</span></span><a href="http://blogs.bmj.com/medical-humanities/2015/02/10/the-reading-room-a-review-of-henry-marshs-do-no-harm/"><span>Do No Harm</span></a><span>, he gives an example of a young man with a serious brain injury with little hope of survival. He explains that you can ask the family the same question in one of two ways, “What would you like us to do?” or “What do you think your son/husband/brother would want us to do?” The way the first question is phrased you’re asking, “Do you love him enough to care for him after we’ve operated and he’s severely disabled with no hope of recovery?” The second question lifts that burden of responsibility, yet you can love him still.</span></p><p><strong><span>Thinking about care and carers.</span></strong><span></span></p><p><span>I think the physical, social, economic, emotional etc. burdens of responsibility on care-givers – who are mostly women, unpaid and under-supported, are enormous and without a doubt under-appreciated. The<span>&nbsp;</span></span><a href="https://abetternhs.wordpress.com/2013/11/23/burden/"><span>emotional labour of caring</span></a><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span><span>for someone with dementia can be enormous. Psychiatrist/ anthropologist Arthur Kleinman writes beautifully about the nature and<span>&nbsp;</span></span><a href="http://harvardmagazine.com/2010/07/on-caregiving"><span>moral responsibility of caring</span></a><span class="MsoHyperlink"><span> </span></span><span>for his wife with dementia,</span></p><p><em><span>My own experience of being the primary caregiver for my wife, on account of her neurodegenerative disorder, convinces me yet further that caregiving has much less to do with doctoring than the general public realizes or than medical educators are willing to acknowledge.</span></em></p><p><span>The conversations reminded me that I don’t think I am very good at thinking about care. A doctor’s work is mostly diagnosis and treatment, but surprisingly little involves care. One can be caring, but the physical work of care goes on out of sight of many, perhaps most doctors. Kleinman explains that from his experience he has learned that it’s almost impossible to appreciate what goes on if you’re not physically and emotionally involved in giving care yourself. In GP Dr Margaret McCartney’s book,<span>&nbsp;</span></span><a href="http://margaretmccartney.com/2014/11/28/living-with-dying-finding-care-and-compassion-at-the-end-of-life/" target="_blank"><span>Living with Dying</span></a><span>, she describes how the emphasis – driven by healthy young men in policy, politics and research, is driven towards drugs and technology, which diverts resources and attention away from the immediately necessary human support that people need. </span></p><p><span>The carers reminded me of how important it is that GPs care about the carers and one of them told me about someone she knew who committed suicide because of the stress of looking after someone with dementia. I was ashamed recently when a podiatrist from the local foot clinic wrote to tell me that the daughter of one of my patients with dementia cried at his appointment as she talked about how stressed she was. Even though I’d seen her with her father many times before, I really hadn’t paid enough attention to how she was coping. I called her and we met later the same day and I listened to how she struggled to cope. I don’t think I did anything much beyond listen sympathetically, but I am sure that it helped that I knew what she was going through. It’s important for GPs not to take what patients and carers say at face-value. They want to put on a brave face and want desperately to be seen as coping. As a GP I’d want to validate that but not miss the fact that they really might need help.</span></p><p><strong><span>Continuity of care.</span></strong><span></span></p><p><span>An issue that was shared between people with dementia and their carers was the importance of<span>&nbsp;</span></span><a href="https://abetternhs.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/continuity-of-care-needed-now-more-than-ever/"><span>continuity of care</span></a><span>. It was at least as important for the carers as it was for the people with dementia, because it mattered so much that the professionals involved knew something of the context in which they were living and caring with dementia. In<span>&nbsp;</span></span><a href="http://www.lawsonpractice.nhs.uk/" target="_blank"><span>my own practice</span></a><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span><span>of 12 part-time doctors and over 13 thousand patients we have, by hard work and determination increased the proportion of appointments where a patient sees their own doctor, from 50% to 80% in 2 years. If we can do it, so can other surgeries. We prioritise people who have long term-conditions for whom it matters most, but try to make it happen for everyone.</span></p><p><span>Having a group of people with different experiences and different GPs allowed me to hear about how experiences shared and diverged, about good and bad. It’s easy for me, or any health-professional to assume that our way of working is typical, or that we know about patient experiences because we know our own patients, but this showed me how limited my own perspective can be.</span></p><p><span>Stepping out of my surgery and into Elizabeth’s house has taught me a lot about how living with dementia affects people and families, and about the importance of context, power and relationships and the nature of care. It was obvious that for those people living with dementia, like my parents, the group is incredibly supportive and I can easily imagine how much groups like this could help carers and people who are cared for, for whom<span>&nbsp;</span></span><a href="https://abetternhs.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/loneliness/"><span>loneliness</span></a><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span><span>and isolation can massively add to their work.</span></p><p><span>I think that health professionals in training and in practice could learn some profoundly valuable lessons from taking a seat among those we are here to serve, and listening to their concerns and their experiences.</span></p><p><span><em>This piece is cross-posted from Jonathan Tomlinson's blog, <a href="https://abetternhs.wordpress.com/">A Better NHS</a>.</em></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/shibley-rahman/treat-your-own-dementia-essex-patients-told">Treat your own dementia, Essex patients told</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/elena-blackmore-paul-chilton/nhs-speak-and-failure-of-care-in-englands-hospitals">NHS-speak and the failure of care in England&#039;s hospitals</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> ourNHS OurKingdom ourNHS Jonathan Tomlinson Tue, 24 Mar 2015 12:53:08 +0000 Jonathan Tomlinson 91495 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Assembling for democracy: part 1, learning from the Blanketeers https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/peter-evans/assembling-for-democracy-part-1-learning-from-blanketeers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As <a href="http://assembliesfordemocracy.org/">Assemblies for Democracy</a> prepare to meet this Spring in London, Manchester and Glasgow, it is time to look again at the&nbsp;history of popular assembly in the struggle for democracy in Britain.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span> </span><span>Throughout Britain's history her people have had to organise and assemble to fight for meaningful democracy. Blanketeers, Chartists, and Radicals; trade unions and the labour movement; suffragists and suffragettes – all of these movements over the past 200 years emerged as the people of this country recognised that they were being denied a political voice, and excluded from exercising meaningful political power.</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>In 1793 a Convention was organised at Edinburgh called ‘The British Convention of the Delegates of the People associated to obtain Universal Suffrage and Annual Parliaments’ – an assembly for democracy. As its title declared, its purpose was to discuss how best to achieve Universal Suffrage in this country (albeit to be exercised by males on behalf of family units).[1]</span><a name="_ftnref1"></a><span> It was quickly shut down by the government, and the participants were arrested and put on trial for sedition (seeking to overthrow the government). They were show trials. In the case of Joseph Gerrald, for example, the case was presided over by a judge candid in expressing his belief that calling for universal male suffrage constituted sedition, or worse. The jury was hand-picked: each one a member of a group that had already publicly denounced Gerrald for his political views.[2]</span><a name="_ftnref2"></a><span> Needless to say he was found guilty, and sentenced to 15 years ‘transportation’, i.e. exile, to New South Wales, where he died from tuberculosis. Along with the other ‘Scottish martyrs’ he&nbsp;became the example the government wanted – evidence of the consequences of seeking democratic reform for political empowerment.</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>22 years later, Britain’s people celebrated the final end of the long wars with France – first revolutionary, then Napoleonic – that had begun in the year of Gerrald’s trial. Patriotic sentiments ran high in 1815, and spontaneous celebrations broke out across the country. Unlike the war years, these festival occasions were no longer empty affairs haunted by the sound of recruiter’s drums.[3]</span><a name="_ftnref3"></a><span> But this elation was not to last. The mood of the people changed rapidly as the economy slumped, a problem exacerbated by the rapid demobilisation of 300,000 soldiers and sailors, who inevitably saturated Britain’s labour markets. The burden of taxation imposed by the war was not lessened either, and Britain’s taxpayers were left to pay off a massive national debt of £834,000,000 – more than 250% of GDP (ours, by contrast, was 90.6% of GDP in 2013).</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>In 1816, furthermore, the government was forced to repeal Income Tax after failing to legislate for its continuation, so the means of paying down this debt was shifted to indirect taxes, including on a wide range consumer goods such as bread (via the Corn Laws introduced in the 1815 Importation Act). The burden of repayment therefore fell most heavily on the poor – who had, of course, already disproportionately born the burden of providing manpower for the wars, yet were the least likely to reap any benefit from its prosecution. On top of all this, the summer of 1816 was disastrous, heavy rains and a terrible harvest causing widespread deprivation and poverty. In this context, the people called on the government to alleviate their burden. Their appeals fell on deaf ears – when the people submitted numerous petitions for reform gathered from across the country, Parliament rejected them out of hand and refused to acknowledge them – mostly on technical grounds of incorrect language or procedure.[4]</span><a name="_ftnref4"></a><span> They simply weren’t interested. A proposed Universal Manhood Suffrage bill went nowhere. The people therefore turned to petitioning the Crown, an act of ‘remonstrance’, and a declaration that the people were nearing the end of their tether. According to the constitutional customs at the time, this could form part of establishing the right to armed resistance. However, given the restrictive legislation against political organisation at the time, this was essentially the only constructive option open to them.[5]</span><a name="_ftnref5"></a></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>One of the most prominent of these attempts to petition the Crown was conducted by a group in Manchester who came to be known as the ‘Blanketeers’. They gained this name since all they would carry with them on a long march to London to deliver their petition would be blankets packed with food, although it also referred to the fact that most of them were textile workers. They were careful not to appear like violent revolutionaries – their march was to be organised into bands of no more than ten, so as to be sure not to violate the Seditious Meetings Act of 1795. Conceived in desperation, the Blanketeers hoped sheer weight of numbers would be sufficient to impress the Prince Regent of the severity of their plight. The government’s response though was to suspend </span><em><span>habeas corpus</span></em><span> and arrest the leaders who had emerged from the movement, or else force them into hiding. This included those who had advised against the march, such as Samuel Bamford. But new leaders simply sprang up to replace the old, such as the 18 year old machinist John Bagguley, who quickly found he was well suited to being an orator. The people were determined to go.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>On the 10</span><span>th</span><span> of March around 5,000 marchers assembled, with some 20,000 more people gathering to see them off. But the march was abortive from the start. The Riot Act was read, and the marchers broken up by the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry. A small group of around 300 managed to get away and leave Manchester, but they were intercepted, attacked, and arrested later that day. In truth the march was never likely to succeed. The government was keen to prevent organised activity by the people, and the movement had been infiltrated with spies from the beginning. Furthermore, in response to rioting in London, but also the tangible threat that mass meetings might be held there to coincide with the march, the government had drafted in special constables, and even put the army on alert. </span><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span><span>But this did not deter the Blanketeers from trying. Indeed we know from accounts of their meetings that they were well aware of the spies, and the government’s use of </span><em><span>agents-provocateur </span></em><span>to provoke rash acts of violence that would discredit the movement. They pushed on regardless.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>The intention of the march was to attempt to compel the Crown, as King John had been compelled to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, and as – the Blanketeers believed – the Peasant’s Revolt had similarly compelled Richard II to accept their demands in 1381 (at least before Richard betrayed and killed their leaders Wat Tyler and John Ball). Now, in reality the Peasant’s Revolt was a bloodier affair than the Blanketeers believed, but their understanding of it was as a forceful, yet ultimately peaceful march, and it was this that informed their approach. The Blanketeers’ conception of it, as Bagguley once declared to the crowd, was that ‘In the reign of Richard II about 40,000 men went to London to demand their rights of the King; and he granted them their rights and they went home again’.[6]</span><a name="_ftnref6"></a><span> The march was thus conceived much like many other peaceful marches in history, such as the National Hunger Marches in 1932, or the American civil rights movement’s March on Washington in 1963.</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>The failure of the Blanketeers’ march was followed by a series of abortive – and, with the benefit of hindsight, ill-judged uprisings – a number of which were directly instigated by government agents. One spy going by the name ‘Oliver’ for example was instrumental in orchestrating infamous events at Pentridge near Sheffield, and Folley Hall near Huddersfield. These violent, government orchestrated risings, involving only a few hundred people, were doubtless intended to demonstrate the futility of pushing for democratic change, and to discredit advocates of radical reform by associating them with indiscriminate violence and treason. But, even in the face of these failures and attempts to sabotage the movement, people refused to stop agitating and pressuring for democratic reform – people continued to assemble to discuss how best to mobilise in pursuit of their democratic aims.</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span>The Blanketeers organised themselves not because the chances of immediate success were high, but because their statement needed to be made. Efforts towards a sustained pressure for reform needed to be built. As the pre-eminent historian of this era of reform politics, Robert Poole, has argued: ‘The reform movement of 1817 may seem to have gone off in all directions like a cheap box of fireworks’, but the march had been part of a coherent push for reform on the part of this self-organising upsurge of the people, whereby ‘Radicals used mass petitioning on a national scale, backed by the threat of assembled numbers’. And assembled numbers there were – one government spy, William Chippendale (based in Oldham), writing in 1816 for example that ‘There is not a Village or Hamlet or Fold of Houses anywhere but has its periodical Meeting &amp; Committee…. The Activity of these People is to me most astonishing’.[7]</span><a name="_ftnref7"></a><span> But what was the great threat that the demands of the Blanketeers constituted to the order and stability of British society? What did these supposed firebrands want? Well, the opening of their petition reads as follows:</span></p><p><span> </span></p><blockquote><p><span>That your Petitioners have full and immovable conviction, a conviction which they believe to be universal throughout the Kingdom, that your Honourable House doth not, in any constitutional or rational sense, represent the Nation: That when all the People cease to be represented, the Constitution is subverted.[8]</span><a name="_ftnref8"></a></p></blockquote><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>They wanted representation – the fundamental basis of Britain’s political system since the Great Reform Act of 1832 – and they wanted it for </span><em><span>all</span></em><span> the people (which was only achieved in 1928, with the extension of universal suffrage to all women over the age of 21).</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>The Blanketeers March may seem a far-fetched attempt to us, after all it did at the time, but we should always remember that in the end it actually </span><em><span>was</span></em><span> royal intervention,</span><em><span> forced by popular pressure</span></em><span> that forced the House of Lords to accede to the Reform Act in 1832. The policy of pressuring the crown to force a concession from Parliament actually succeeded, as, after a Whig landslide in the Commons, the king was compelled to create a sufficient amount of new peers in the Lords to allow the Act to pass. These events were a direct response to popular discontent. After all, when the Lords rejected the second reform bill in October 1831, riots broke out across the country, and the authorities even lost control of Bristol, Derby, and Nottingham![9]</span></span><a name="_ftnref9"></a><span> This situation simply would not have been possible without earlier efforts to organise and mobilise people such as Blanketeers attempted. Remember this point the next time you see some smug political commentator tell you that political reality dictates we only seek measures which could pass Parliament today, and that seeking anything else is an unrealistic fantasy.</span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>Our history of popular movements pressuring Parliament into democratic change could end here. We could recount, as many have before, a complacent tale of how a long process started with the Great Reform Act of 1832, by which British democracy gradually emerged under Parliament’s leadership. A story culminating triumphantly in the Reform Acts of 1918 and 1928 – with the granting of Universal Suffrage for men and women respectively – by way of the Second and Third Reform Acts, 1867 and 1884, which had extended the franchise to greater numbers of men. A story of the triumph of a reforming Parliament and its champions, as they steered Britain on a slow and steady journey towards Britain becoming a “mature” democracy (and therefore a society with little need for further democratisation). But it is an outright lie to tell this story, to say that 1832 inaugurated such a process, if we are to say that it was led by Parliament and middle class intellectuals, and that democratic power was given as a gift to the people, </span><span><span>or perhaps reward , as they demonstrated their maturity and worthiness for the franchise</span></span><span>. It wasn’t. It was taken. In reality, Parliaments opposed to reform were repeatedly made to </span><em><span>concede</span></em><span> power, just as it had been in 1832. Britain’s process of democratisation has been slow precisely because Parliament has </span><em><span>not</span></em><span> taken a leading role in promoting it. If they had ever </span><em><span>really</span></em><span> been champions of democracy, they could have made the changes overnight.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span><span>The Blanketeers and the Chartists are often said to have been unsuccessful, but this is untrue. To see their success you have to know not only where to look, but how to look. Without knowledge of the context of the pressure created by organisations of people dedicated to achieving democracy in this country, one would be liable to believe that radical reform and meaningful democratic power was given to us out of the kindness of politicians’ hearts, or handed out as some kind of reward. It wasn’t, and at each step Parliament gave the least ground it could. It was only by assembling for democracy that people made change happen. </span></span><span>That the process stopped in 1928 is not evidence of us having arrived at some ideal final destination of becoming a “mature democracy”, but rather that there was not really any more ground to be given on that front, and so people moved on to other demands.[10]</span></span><a name="_ftnref10"></a><span> There’s a reason the Welfare State was constructed after all, and it had nothing to do with Britain somehow arriving at a predefined destination of being a “mature” democracy, but everything to do with the balance of power. After all, real power is never given, but taken. </span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>It took sustained pressure from popular democratic movements to wrest power, by degrees, from the hands of elites in the 19</span><span>th</span><span> and 20</span><span>th</span><span> centuries. Recent years have undoubtedly seen a reversal of this process, but, historically speaking, this means only that the time has come to renew it once more. This process is, and ever will be, a tug-of-war, not some easy ramble up a gradual slope of reform to some idyllic final summit where we can say we have no further need to strive for democracy, and can entrust its functioning to someone else. Democracy is a process, it lies in the doing. Properly understood, it means taking charge of our own affairs – and this, as previous generations did before us, is what we must now learn to do again.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><div>Notes:<br /><span><span> <hr size="1" /></span><span> </span></span><div id="ftn1"><span> </span><p><a name="_ftn1"></a><span> [1] The present concept of voting as being exercised by individuals on their own behalf did not emerge as the guiding principle in the British system until the early-twentieth century, when it supplanted the notion that dependents such as women, servants, and children, were represented by the votes of those they were dependent upon. This was a concept of ‘virtual representation’ – the idea that certain people did not need the ability to elect their own MPs, as MPs already represented everyone. Rejecting the application of this concept to the Thirteen Colonies was an important part of the American Revolution and the slogan “no taxation without representation”.</span></p><span> </span></div><span> </span><div id="ftn2"><span> </span><p><a name="_ftn2"></a><span><span> [2] J. Epstein, ‘Our real constitution’ in J. Vernon (ed.), </span><em><span>Re-reading the constitution</span></em><span>, (Cambridge 1993), 22-51.</span></span></p><span> </span></div><span> </span><div id="ftn3"><span> </span><p><a name="_ftn3"></a><span><span> [3] See R. Poole, ‘The March to Peterloo’, </span><em><span>Past &amp; Present </span></em><span>192 (2006), 109-154.</span></span></p><span> </span></div><span> </span><div id="ftn4"><span> </span><p><a name="_ftn4"></a><span><span> [4] R. Poole, ‘French Revolution or Peasants’ Revolt?’, </span><em><span>Labour History Review </span></em><span>74.1 (2009), 109-54. The account of the Blanketeers given here is taken from Poole’s work.</span></span></p><span> </span></div><span> </span><div id="ftn5"><span> </span><p><a name="_ftn5"></a><span> [5] The Seditious Meetings Act (1795) had banned groups over the size of 50 from assembling together, and also national political organisations – which included those organised through meetings attended by regional delegates, as well as by correspondence. Freedom of speech meanwhile was limited both by the Stamp Act (a levy on newspapers which priced most consumers out of the market), and laws against the vaguely defined crime of “seditious libel”.</span></p><span> </span></div><span> </span><div id="ftn6"><span> </span><p><a name="_ftn6"></a><span> [6] ibid., 7.</span></p><span> </span></div><span> </span><div id="ftn7"><span> </span><p><a name="_ftn7"></a><span><span> [7] HO42/153, fol. 371, Chippendale to Fletcher, 4 September 1816; ‘Documents Concerning the Formation of Hampden Clubs 1816-17’, Manchester Central Library (MCL), MS f.363.D1. Cited from R. Poole, ‘French Revolution or Peasants’ Revolt?’, </span><em><span>Labour History Review </span></em><span>74.1 (2009), 8-9.</span></span></p><span> </span></div><span> </span><div id="ftn8"><span> </span><p><a name="_ftn8"></a><span><span> [8] R. Poole, ‘French Revolution or Peasants’ Revolt?’, </span><em><span>Labour History Review </span></em><span>74.1 (2009), 10-1.</span></span></p><span> </span></div><span> </span><div id="ftn9"><span> </span><p><a name="_ftn9"></a><span><span> [9] E. Evans, ‘A British Revolution in the 19th Century?’, </span><em><span>BBC History</span></em><span> (2011), </span></span><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/revolution_01.shtml"><span><span>http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/revolution_01.shtml</span></span></a><span> (accessed 29/1/15).</span></p><span> </span></div><span> </span><div id="ftn10"><span> </span><p><a name="_ftn10"></a><span><span> [10] One area franchise extension could still be pushed would be to lower the voting age, but this has only recently started to gain any real popularity. Another aspect which was successfully pushed historically was to fully establish the principle of ‘one person one vote’ with the 1948 Representation of the People Act, which abolished university constituencies, and the right of graduates from relevant institutions to have two votes. However, this was not a process of </span><em><span>extending</span></em><span> the franchise, but rather a rationalisation of the system in accordance with its new principle of organisation.</span></span></p><span> </span><p><span>&nbsp;</span></p><span> </span></div><span> </span></div><p><span> </span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/-8xrM8zJ-PI-idO0oxwLDVfX3tT9TQ-KiO4znX23lZo/mtime:1421864577/files/Great%20Charter%20Convention%20%281%29.jpg" alt="" width="140" /></a> </p><p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention">The Great Charter Convention</a> – an open, public debate on where arbitrary power lies in the UK today and how we should contest and contain it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><span><span><br /></span></span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-anoth-sidebox"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/paul-feldman/reimagining-democracy-peoples%27-assemblies">Re-imagining democracy - peoples&#039; assemblies</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/peter-linebaugh/homo-liber-homo-idioticus">Homo liber, homo idioticus</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/peter-evans/assembling-for-democracy-part-2-chartists-and-us">Assembling for democracy: part 2, the Chartists and us</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> OurKingdom OurKingdom A constitutional convention Great Charter Convention History Building it: campaigns and movements Rethinking representation Peter Evans Tue, 24 Mar 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Peter Evans 91329 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Mail - irresponsible comment undermines everything of value https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/geoffrey-heptonstall/mail-irresponsible-comment-undermines-everything-of-value <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A relentless tide, year after year, of irresponsible comment from the <em>Daily</em> <em>Mail</em> especially is incompatible with the ideals of commonwealth within civil society. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/reeded.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/reeded.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="208" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Don’t you love the <em>Daily</em> <em>Mail</em>? There was a headline recently about ‘Red Ed’s threat to the NHS.’ The loony left is planning to destroy a revered British institution. For centuries the NHS has been there. Revered by Alfred the Great, enshrined in Magna Carta, the NHS has guaranteed care to countless generations saved from disability, beggary and early death. Its standard was raised at Agincourt and Trafalgar. It was there to succour the needy in the Depression and the War. And now it is under threat from the crypto-communist hate-mongers who lurk in the shadows. </p> <p>Or, have I got that wrong? Wasn’t it Aneurin Bevan in the late Forties who saw it through against the bitter opposition of a powerful reactionary rump led by the flabby jowls of Dr Hill of the BMA?&nbsp; Despite Hill and his ilk, wasn’t there a successful promise of care ‘from the cradle to the grave’? Wasn’t there something called the Welfare State? Wasn’t it the acknowledged inspiration of health and social care policies internationally, ranging from LBJ’S Great Society to Nyerere’s Arusha Declaration? </p> <p>I grew up in the largest Tory constituency in England. It was prosperous enough to boast that it came through the Depression unscathed. I don’t recall anyone ever saying a word against the health and welfare policies. I was born in the shadow of a geriatric hospital in whose grounds in infancy we played among the well-cared-for elderly. From the beginning I learned the promise was that if things went wrong in life none of us would fall in the gutter. </p> <p>The generosity of society enabled a generation to experiment with new ways of thinking and feeling. Not everyone approved, but on the whole there was a benevolence, a tolerance that seemed to be creating something truly progressive. A period roughly 1963 – 1975 was the time to grow up. Unless, of course, you were waiting for narrow-minded mediocrities to take their revenge. </p> <p>Otherwise the NHS was the one aspect of socialism everyone could accept. Oh, and other welfare policies of course. And national parks. And British Rail. And the utilities. And race relations laws. And the Equal Pay Act. And a liberalising of divorce law. An end to capital punishment. Free education. And so much paid for with the timely withdrawal from empire. There was agreement on essentials, shared values barely questioned.</p> <p>Of course people didn’t like scruffy students protesting about Viet-Nam, but they were grateful that Harold Wilson kept Britain out of that morass. In fact, people were grateful to Harold Wilson even if he was too left for the right and too right for the left. The electorate were grateful enough to Wilson to enable him to win four elections, a record unsurpassed by anyone and equalled only by Gladstone. </p> <p>The Labour myth of 1945 does not compare with the actuality of Labour under Wilson. When he retired in 1976 most of British manufacturing was in public control. The wealth of the nation was owned by the nation. The health, welfare, education, transport and arts resources were within the public domain and publically owned. Liberty allowed people who had the means to withdraw. But as a general rule society was owned by society. The governing principle was collective responsibility tempered by civil liberty. It was a principle challenged only by reactionary fantasists. </p> <p>The freedom to experiment extended to workers’ co-operatives, to community newspapers and street theatre. Labour wasn’t in the cultural vanguard, but it was benign in its encouragement. History is now re-written in media orthodoxy, but that’s how it really was.</p> <p>A brief attempt in 1970 by Edward Heath [not the generous, jovial liberal of later years] to reverse the natural course of events failed disastrously. Public support for striking coalminers proved more powerful than the government. The remainder of the decade witnessed further socialization, with an official role for organized labour within the constitutional framework. Citizens who did not consider themselves socialist in principle favoured in practice many aspects of socialized culture, above all the NHS. How often you would hear people say, ‘I’m not a socialist, but I do agree with…’</p> <p>We still have an organization by the name of the NHS. It is governed by managerial culture, and administered by philistine corporatists with Management ‘degrees’. The hierarchic structure is no longer one of merit but of power. Our public heath provision is ours no more. With the demonstrably false notion that commercial principles are more efficient and more accountable, health care is being sold to business. It is only a matter of time before care of any quality will no longer be available as a citizen’s right.</p> <p>I do not see the <em>Daily</em> <em>Mail</em> complaining about this. I do not see its concern that principles of civic responsibility that date back to T.H. Green have all but vanished in a series of coup d’états masquerading as the democratic process. Thatcher had no mandate in 1979 for privatisation. This government had no mandate in 2010 to undermine the social fabric so that the collective principle subsides. New Labour was elected on principles of social justice and equality, even though the reality was a betrayal. Thatcher’s electoral appeal was to a minority, and in percentage terms unremarkable. The free market as a social principle has never commanded majority support in this country in living memory. But I do not see the <em>Daily</em> <em>Mail</em> saying so.</p> <p>The press has a duty to tell the truth. It has a right to comment as it wishes, although the understanding is that the comment will be responsible and intelligent. The press has no right to present comment as objective truth. Claims to be ‘a free press in a free society’ mask the strategy of capital to manipulate prejudice and fear. In the name of freedom the elderly are dying in squalor, and the young are denied opportunities. But the headline is of the drug-crazed teenager who robs a pensioner. Better if the victim is a war hero and the robber is black. But pensioners and war heroes and teenagers are being robbed every day in every way. But I don’t see a story in the <em>Daily</em> <em>Mail</em> and its ilk about that. </p> <p>Or, rather, if there is a story about deprivation it’s all the fault of the so-called experts and the interfering do-gooders controlled by left-wing intellectual parasites who hate Britain. Those of us who love Britain are especially proud of its ability to defend itself. Think of the roll-call of national heroes fighting whatever menaces our shores. </p> <p>And of course there is the Enemy Within. The danger has not abated. It has gone underground. They intend to take away all you have earned, all you have laboured for and saved and hoped for over the years. You’re not one of the privileged. You’ve earned every penny you have. And they want to take it away from you in order to fund one of their madcap schemes that serve only to wreck a once-proud country. They, of course, will be immune because they come from rich, privileged backgrounds so they don’t know the hardships you’ve endured. While they were lounging about reading books you were slicing bacon or polishing someone else’s furniture. You may not be clever but you know what’s what.</p> <p>And if it’s a fight they want then it’s a fight they’ll get. We can take on the idlers, the scroungers, the undesirables, and the riff-raff who come to our shores and take all we have and give nothing in return. Never mind, Cameron and Clegg pussyfooting. It is drastic action the situation needs. And if that means someone gets hurt, then so be it. I, for one, am prepared to give as good as I get. We’ve all taken enough. Never mind what all the wishy-washy liberals at Lambeth Palace say. We say Fight the Good Fight. Save our country from Red Ed before it’s too late. And if that means more drastic cuts, well so be it. The spirit of the Blitz will save us once again…. </p> <p>Postscript a generation later: Wandering among the ruins, the ragged children beg. Thank heavens for a free press in a free country.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em><span>If you liked this article, you can support us with </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><span>£3 a month</span></a><span> so that we can keep producing independent journalism. </span></em></strong></p> OurKingdom OurKingdom ourNHS Geoffrey Heptonstall Tue, 24 Mar 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Geoffrey Heptonstall 91468 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The election debates: winners and losers? https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/david-elstein/election-debates-winners-and-losers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The broadcasters appear to have settled on a format for the UK election debates. But who won and who lost in this stand-off?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-right"><img src="//dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/IBEJ4KQbcU8MO2ey98vtLz8n5hk-yHho6Fuo6ABY9I0/mtime:1427129740/files/572557994_e6d5f04ce8_z.jpg " alt="" width="460" /><br /><span class="image-caption"> </span><em> The BBC's TC1 Television Studio, site of the 2010 election debate. Image: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/belowred/572557994/" target="_blank">Nick Garrod </a>/ Flickr </em></p> <p><span>The broadcasters - ITV, the BBC, Channel 4 and Sky News - started with three proposed debates: a 2/3/4 format, in which there would have been Cameron v Miliband, Cameron v Miliband v Clegg, and Cameron v Miliband v Clegg v Farage, all to take place between 2 and 30 April.</span></p> <p>Everyone except Cameron said yes to that (the Greens, Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Democratic Unionists seemed resigned to their non-appearance).</p> <p>Cameron’s first position was that he did not want to debate inside the period from the dissolution of Parliament (scheduled for 2 April) and polling day (7 May), that he would only do one debate (implicitly the multi-leader one, as his advisors confirmed his unwillingness to go head-to-head with Miliband), and that he could not understand the exclusion of the Green Party, given that it was polling at the same level as the LibDems.</p> <p>Somewhat surprisingly, the broadcasters then dumped 2/3/4 in favour of 2/7/7 (expanding the 4-way, twice, to include not just the Greens but also the SNP and Plaid Cymru), all still within Cameron’s excluded period. But if this flip was designed to induce Cameron to commit to more than one debate, it failed pretty quickly (whilst infuriating UKIP – who were edged out of a promised 4-way – and puzzling the DUP – why should the SNP and PC be there, but not us?).</p> <p>Cameron declined everything other than one of the 7-ways, and asked for it to be moved forward to March. All the other parties criticised his “intransigence”, even Clegg (who had now lost a promised 3-way debate as originally proposed). The newly-invited parties churlishly ignored the fact that only Cameron’s “intransigence” had delivered their participation, and joined the chorus of condemnation. Two Tory peers - Lords Grade and Dobbs- wrote newspaper articles criticising the broadcasters and the BBC in particular for briefing their intention of replacing Cameron with an empty chair if he declined the package.</p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/david-elstein/%E2%80%98election-debates%E2%80%99-debate-is-legislation-answer" target="_blank">In my last post I predicted that Cameron would succeed in avoiding a head-to-head with Miliband</a>, and that the strongest likelihood was for there to be just two debates. The final version of the broadcaster deal confirms that expectation: indeed, only one of the debates will include Cameron, and although it will be broadcast by ITV on 2 April after all - and not in March as he had insisted - this is a very minor concession on his part.</p> <p>A second debate will have just five participants but without Cameron or Clegg. The briefings from various interested parties as to how this curious format was devised are not compatible with each other. The notion that Cameron 'forced' Clegg not to participate (on the grounds that he could not be allowed to 'represent' the coalition government) does not ring true: Clegg could surely have ignored such a protest. That two non-debate televised events have been added to the package perhaps provides a clue: Clegg will now be one of three leaders interviewed separately before the same BBC Question Time audience (and then subject to questioning by the audience), a week before polling day, so restoring the appearance of a 3-way (and thoroughly annoying Farage, as the 4-way has not been restored).</p> <p>This allows the second actual debate to be billed as 'the opposition parties', so avoiding the embarrassment of invoking an 'empty chair' for the Prime Minister. This was something the BBC had been urged to do as a way of “standing up” to Cameron’s refusals, but which carried heavy risk if the Tories then went on to win the election. Why Miliband’s advisors would have allowed him to appear in such a format (the “night of the nobodies”, as the Tories have dubbed it) is a mystery: perhaps his rhetoric about “anytime, anywhere” trapped him. This event seems unlikely to win much audience for the BBC on 16 April.</p> <p>The whole sequence will kick off this Thursday with a 2-way version of the 3-way format which had been scheduled for 30 April: Miliband and Cameron will be separately interviewed (who goes first has yet to be revealed). Channel 4 and Sky News will both broadcast this live. So Cameron has succeeded in pulling this encounter forward to before the five weeks of the campaign, and in avoiding a direct debate, whilst agreeing to two TV events over and above the one he originally agreed to do. If this were a tennis match, it would be scored as a comfortable straight sets win for Cameron. </p> <p>What of the BBC? What might have turned into an unpleasant confrontation with Downing Street has been successfully finessed, with only light bruising on each side. Even so, the BBC looks much more vulnerable to a Conservative victory on 7 May&nbsp;than a Labour one. Although Labour has supported the move towards decriminalisation of the licence fee, it would be much less likely to overturn the recent Lords amendment to the Deregulation Bill (whereby such decriminalisation was postponed to 2017) than would the Tories.</p> <p>The continuing success of the BBC in terms of audience share and share of news consumption, despite <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/our_work/strategy/licence_fee/2010_settlement.html" target="_blank">the seemingly punitive licence fee settlement of October 2010</a>, makes any hope of an increase in the licence fee after the election seem remote. <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/speeches/2015/tony-hall-bbc-internet-era" target="_blank">Tony Hall’s call for the iPlayer to be covered by the licence fee</a> is bound to run into the objection that access to the iPlayer is easy to monetize, Netflix-style. Closing BBC3 – if the BBC Trust gives its approval – will save little in the way of cash, and impress few politicians as a demonstration of financial pressures (especially as it will be replaced by <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/david-elstein/lose-licence-fee-abolish-trust" target="_blank">a +1 channel for BBC1</a>, which will generate audience share but not a single new programme).</p> <p>Yet the march of changing audience behaviour is inexorable. Last year, for the first time, <a href="http://informitv.com/2015/02/01/fall-in-united-kingdom-television-homes/" target="_blank">the number of TV homes (and therefore homes liable to pay the licence fee) declined by several hundred thousand</a>. There are now nearly a million homes which have broadband access to video content, but do not have a conventional television. Netflix subscribers are rapidly increasing in number (<a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/netflix-3-million-uk-subscribers-724558" target="_blank">well over 3 million already</a>), and video downloads of the iPlayer on to tablets and smart phones are growing exponentially. Last year, <a href="http://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2015/03/02/iplayer-mobile-tablet-requests-level-with-tv/" target="_blank">nearly half all video downloads from the iPlayer were to mobile devices</a> – next year, the proportion will be higher still. All the increase in iPlayer downloads is coming from mobile. Only a charging mechanism for the iPlayer can prevent the BBC’s revenue stream being cannibalised by the viewing connection most popular with the public, at the expense of licensed TVs.</p> <p>The kinds of long-term replacements for the licence fee canvassed by <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/david-elstein/lose-licence-fee-abolish-trust" target="_blank">the recent House of Commons report </a>will not arrive in time – if at all – to save the BBC for the first time in its history from actually suffering a revenue decline. There will be little time between the election and the expiry of the present Charter for the BBC to refine a survival plan and sell it to Whitehall. This year will be crucial.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/david-elstein/leader-debates-cameron%E2%80%99s-calculations">Leader debates: Cameron’s calculations</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> OurBeeb OurBeeb OurKingdom Democracy and government David Elstein Mon, 23 Mar 2015 17:43:28 +0000 David Elstein 91477 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is Nigel Farage talking bollocks about the NHS? https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/john-lamport/is-nigel-farage-talking-bollocks-about-nhs <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Nigel Farage is using his experience of testicular cancer to condemn the NHS. A fellow survivor - now a doctor - takes the UKIP leader to task.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/1RqXja1x3ZFVMLvhntUmLJxrrA3LxTWc7PgMlOFbyRw/mtime:1427102521/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Nigel_Farage_of_UKIP.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/-kNAjPFK6MepPvlmoNN-J02dDJnS3LLM66eHvzO4FWQ/mtime:1427102361/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Nigel_Farage_of_UKIP.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Wikipedia</em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>I don't have much in common with Nigel&nbsp;Farage, but we do share one thing. Literally. We each lost a testicle to cancer - and we probably both hear the same jokes about it too.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>There the similarity ends. My gratitude to the NHS for saving my life led me to become a doctor. <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/mar/14/nigel-farage-nhs-negligence-over-testicular-cancer-almost-killed-me">His anger at it for “nearly killing”</a> him led to a lifelong disdain – except for emergencies, since it twice saved his life. Now he is <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/nigel-farage/11466515/Nigel-Farage-Cancer-a-lemon-sized-testicle-and-how-the-NHS-failed-me.html">arguing you're better off going private</a>. As a doctor, I’d say his diagnosis is dead wrong.</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Nigel&nbsp;Farage&nbsp;likes a good debate I’m told, so here’s my offer. Head-to-head, one-ball to one-ball, let’s really hammer out what Nigel is selling the British public and why it's bollocks.</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>He, a City broker, had consulted a doctor within days of warning signs; his testicular cancer had not spread. I was a 16-year-old schoolboy, busy with GCSE revision, who hesitated too long before seeing mine.</span><span>&nbsp;It had spread, and I needed chemotherapy. Nine months of vomiting, nausea, sleeplessness, and constant mouth/throat ulcers later, I had lost four stone and the nerve endings in my hands and feet. My lungs, kidneys, immune system and heart are permanently damaged. I didn't even notice when my hair fell out.&nbsp;But we are both the lucky ones. I saw friends on the ward, lads younger than Nigel, die.</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Nigel has twice told the story of his cancer in print, four years apart and significantly different in detail. I can't pronounce on his case but I do know his amateur self-diagnosis – “All they had had to do that first night in A&amp;E was to have me referred for a scan” – is bollocks. A painful swollen testicle fits at least four other conditions better than cancer. Testicular torsion – which fits the description he gives – can kill within hours; if sent for a scan he could have died. (For the chaps out there who might be worried yourselves, check out <a href="//www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/878.aspx">NHS Choices for more information</a>).</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>He was instead sent for immediate surgery, where the cancer might have been detected then and there. But the operation was halted – in his latest account – by an “Indian doctor” who wrote it off as an infection. His first account, strangely,&nbsp;called down blessings on the head of the “Indian consultant” who eliminated torsion as a cause and prescribed antibiotics for the next most likely diagnosis – infection. Again, nothing I would argue with as a doctor.</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Farage&nbsp;says the NHS then fobbed him off for “the best part of two months” – yet he was referred to a consultant the very same day when he went back to his GP. I'm puzzled, too, that the mysterious consultant who told him to keep taking the tablets doesn't appear in&nbsp;Farage's first account, but I do know he was fully entitled to a second opinion on the NHS if he wasn't satisfied.</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Still, I'm glad his Harley Street oncologist gave him the excellent service – as he was also giving his NHS patients at the time, though&nbsp;Farage&nbsp;never mentions them. (Ironically, the oncologist later resigned from NHS work amid the previous Tory government’s funding cuts!)&nbsp;Farage&nbsp;was also fortunate to have a leading NHS consultant from nearby Guy’s and St Thomas's as his surgeon.</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Neither staff nor patients are robots: the NHS sees a million patients every 36 hours so mistakes will happen, but they also happen in privatised systems that cost far more and exclude more people. Personally, knowing all that I do about private healthcare, I'd feel safer in an NHS hospital. That's where the private patient ends up anyway, brought by NHS ambulance, if complications arise.&nbsp;</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Nigel&nbsp;Farage&nbsp;is using a single, poorly understood, muddled anecdote from almost 30 years ago – when testicular cancer survival rates were far lower than today’s 98% – to trash the healthcare system which the Commonwealth Fund ranks as the best and most cost effective in the world. So politically and economically, as well as personally, he's talking bollocks.&nbsp;</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>While it’s great that many thousands of NHS patients share&nbsp;Farage's happy-ending story - even though they weren't City brokers with access to private insurance - what worries me is how hard he works now to ensure this won’t continue. We'll all pay in for the emergency NHS that saved him when he stepped off the pavement drunk (by his own admission) into the path of a passing car and again when his plane crashed. But cancer? It’ll be costly private insurance for the likes of him; whatever the government feels it can spare divided between the rest of us.</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>UKIP’s health spokesperson is a personable young woman, previously an actor in Peak Practice and other prime time shows. She offers us reassurance that UKIP would sustain our NHS. But&nbsp;it turns out this will be funded by a mythical exit from the EU, and a mythical saving of billions of pounds from industrial-scale health tourism which simply doesn't exist.</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Meanwhile&nbsp;Farage&nbsp;openly says the future of the NHS lies in an insurance-based system, and his deputy </span><span>‎</span><span>Paul</span><span>&nbsp;</span><span>Nuttall is on film calling the NHS, </span><span>“</span><span>A monolithic hangover from days gone by".</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Farage&nbsp;is either ignorant or cynical in praising private insurance/co-payment in France and the Netherlands. Is he not aware that the French pay 30% more per head for their healthcare and the Dutch almost 60% more? Privatisation pushes costs up not down. It boosts demand and, as McKinsey's report on spiralling costs in the Dutch system explains: “Whether a (perhaps more expensive) treatment really is worthwhile and will lead to extra health benefits is no longer always the predominant factor when deciding whether or not to deliver it.”</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>If he really cared,&nbsp;Farage&nbsp;would back the NHS Reinstatement Bill; his two Tory MPs would apologise for the disastrous 2012 Health &amp; Social Care Act; his deputy Paul Nuttall would applaud immigrants for keeping our NHS going. And he would back his funding pledges with real rather than mythical money.</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Of course the NHS does not have the resources it needs – of all the G7 nations, the UK spends the least of GDP on healthcare. With barely a quarter of the MRI units that Greece has and less than half the CT scanners of Portugal, its cancer diagnostic services struggle, with targets missed for the whole of 2014. Major units' A&amp;E targets haven't been met since 2013. Our scarce hospital beds have been halved in the last 30 years. We have lost doctors, we have lost nurses – and because of that we have lost patients.</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>When the NHS emerged</span><span>&nbsp;as a key issue in this election, all the major parties clasped it to their bosom quoting all sorts of figures – a few billion here, an unfunded target there – to show their love. Yet their policies point to further privatisation, the additional bureaucracy that entails, and below-inflation budget increases.&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span></span><span>I’m standing for the National Health Action Party because it is committed to a fully-funded, publicly-provided and publicly-accountable NHS, free at the point of need. We'd scrap the market, halt privatisation, unwind PFI deals, and stop the waste</span><span>‎</span><span> on locums and management consultants. There are billions to be saved. And we won't shy away from asking for more money either. We think the British public understand the value they get from their NHS and will back a penny rise in income tax.</span></p><p><span></span><span>We've got the balls to do it. Sadly&nbsp;Farage&nbsp;and his party don't.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em><strong><span>Like this piece? Please donate to OurNHS&nbsp;</span></strong></em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/donate" target="_blank"><strong><span>here&nbsp;</span></strong></a><em><strong><span>to help keep us producing the NHS stories that matter.&nbsp;Thank you.</span></strong></em><strong><em><span></span></em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/clive-peedell/outsourcing-cancer-care-biggest-and-most-reckless-nhs-privatisation-yet">Outsourcing cancer care - the biggest and most reckless NHS privatisation yet?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/peter-pannier/it-won%27t-be-reds-blues-purples-greens-or-yellows-who%27ll-save-england%27s-nhs-it-w">It won&#039;t be the reds, blues, purples, greens or yellows who&#039;ll save England&#039;s NHS - it will be us</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/leak-reveals-worrying-truth-behind-biggest-nhs-privatisation-yet">Leak reveals worrying truth behind the biggest NHS privatisation yet</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> ourNHS OurKingdom ourNHS John Lamport Mon, 23 Mar 2015 09:21:07 +0000 John Lamport 91464 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Social Science Inc https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-holmwood/social-science-inc <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The neoliberal approach to higher education is turning social science academics into brand managers and commercial researchers.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/AZJZGUM1-vg392SGis2vkK60jUcHQfKRYMy_bLHM1G0/mtime:1426944511/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/book.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/cvhqkBHi4gNvScJxO10q6826qnsKF_jCzIsYhr7U5Os/mtime:1426872047/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/book.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/JonathanCohen. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The ‘politics of austerity’ in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008 and the election of the Conservative-led coalition government in 2010 produced drastic cuts to public spending. It has involved the re-assertion of neo-liberal policies whose application to the financial sector had created the crisis in the first place. One consequence is the <a href="http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n20/stefan-collini/sold-out">dismantling of public higher education in England</a>, with the removal of all direct funding of undergraduate degree programmes in arts, humanities and the social sciences and the creation of a supposed ‘level-playing field’ to allow for-profit providers to compete for students. </p> <p>This has led to the dramatic attenuation of the democratic functions of universities and consolidated the growth of a neo-liberal knowledge regime marked by increased managerialism, the growth of an ‘audit culture’ and performance management of teaching and research. In a new competitive environment, the university is seen by its managers as a ’brand’ to be promoted and protected. For the most part, attention has been on the consequences for teaching – the transformation of <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/31384/11-944-higher-education-students-at-heart-of-system.pdf">students into consumers</a> – and the external assessment of research: <a href="http://www.uk.sagepub.com/books/Book244105">game-playing in the REF</a> and the displacement of the substance of research into the maximisation of scores on performance indicators of ‘excellence’ and ‘impact’.&nbsp; </p> <p>But something else is now emerging as part of this neo-liberal knowledge regime, namely, the ‘brand management’ and incorporation of social science itself. This is evident in a recent report, <a href="http://campaignforsocialscience.org.uk/businessofpeople/"><em>The Business of People</em>,</a> produced by the Campaign for Social Sciences. The Campaign was initiated by the Academy of Social Sciences, which is made up of 1000 fellows and 47 member learned societies (part of what the report calls the “soft power” of Britain), in turn encompassing 90,000 social scientists. Just how does it represent the social sciences and whose values does it promote?</p> <p>The report is overwhelmingly instrumental and designed to appeal to the “Treasury, ministers, MPs and policy makers” (Foreword). Its focus on policymakers and practitioners is unremitting: “Advancing and applying science depends on profits, policies, markets, organisations and attitudes” (Executive summary). The attitudes of the public, on the other hand, are presented as potential obstacles to policy objectives. For example, it argues that “study of public values and attitudes is vital, too, especially when innovation prompts uncertainties and concerns, as with genetically modified crops or shale gas extraction” (page 6). And it warns that “without a better grasp of <em>people</em>, technological advances may be frustrated, or blocked, and fail to realise their potential” (page 5).</p> <p>The report emphasises interdisciplinary approaches and returns frequently to this topic. In a separate comment in response to criticisms of the report, the Director of the Campaign <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2015/mar/12/social-scientists-shouldnt-shy-away-from-political-debates">has stated</a> that the report does not specify particular modes of interdisciplinarity, but that they could include “critical sociologists working with anthropologists, philosophers working with synthetic biologists, educationalist working with neuroscientists, or historians working with political scientists.” In nearly all instances, however, what is emphasised is links across the social sciences, natural sciences and engineering, or across bio-sciences and social sciences. Indeed, its call for a 10% increase in funding in real terms is specifically attached to interdisciplinary research in social sciences, natural sciences and engineering. Only one reference is made to the humanities, but, once again, it is the indispensability of cross-disciplinary, <em>problem-focussed </em>research (page 7) that is stressed, as it is in all cases. Towards the end of the report it seems to belie this dominant emphasis by defining the social sciences as “disciplined curiosity”, but immediately this is qualified as “<em>applied</em> curiosity”.</p> <p>The language of the report is a particularly narrow version of the <a href="http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/ke/impacts/">‘impact agenda’</a> where all publicly-funded research is to have users in mind, with commercial beneficiaries, policy-makers and practitioners foremost. Researchers are recommended to engage with potential users at the earliest stages of research, including that of its design and seek to maximise its subsequent impact with them. This is what makes research <em>problem-focussed</em>, where just what constitutes a problem should be co-defined with users.</p> <p>This undermines both the critical functions of research and its independence. Research councils like the ESRC are increasingly setting research priorities determined by the Department for Business, Innovation and Science that provides its block grant of funding – for example, on ‘big data’ or the application of neuroscience to social problems. This is also evident in steered calls for grant applications and also specific co-funding of projects like the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/what-works-network">‘What Works Centres’</a>. ‘Independence’ has become narrowed to mean simply that research bids are peer-reviewed only from the perspective of their ‘academic excellence’. However, the latter includes review of their ‘pathways to impact’ and, for ‘large grants’ and ‘centres’ bids, this will include user representatives. Where government is a user, this may involve a representative from the Department for Business, Innovation and Science on the evaluation panel, as in the case of the <a href="http://www.nemode.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/centres-and-large-grants-2014_call-spec_tcm8-30602.pdf">recent call</a> for research on the future of higher education, among other steers.</p> <p>At the same time, under the dictates of audit culture and its performance indicators, individual universities are increasingly matching these research priorities to their own research strategies. The pursuit of knowledge is replaced by the pursuit of grants. With individual academics and departments evaluated according to their grant capture, this has increased the number of applications made for funding, thereby creating various measures of demand management. Research is shaped and managed by universities and research councils, alike, and all are converging on the same problems and topics as the ESRC steers. This is so notwithstanding the ESRC’s <a href="http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/esrc-fine-tuning-is-nothing-for-fledgling-scholars-to-fear/2019150.article">continuing commitment to ‘responsive mode’ funding</a> – university research strategies constrain the responses of their staff within their own similar research priorities. This bureaucratisation of research is accompanied by the language of ‘innovation’, ‘transformation’ and ‘disruption’ - familiar tropes of neo-liberal discourse - but rather belied by the nature of how research agendas are set. What is preferred is research directed at behaviours, rather than at social structures.</p> <p>What is striking about the report is that it comes in the wake of the publication of Thomas Piketty’s <a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674430006"><em>Capital in the Twenty-First Century</em></a> documenting the rise in inequality in Western countries over the last decades. This found its way into the mainstream media, as well as in reports by agencies such as OECD. Yet structured social inequality is not mentioned at all in the report, nor is race and ethnicity, or any other research on social structure. These profoundly affect the circumstances of people’s lives, yet all the report has to say about them are their derived consequences in terms of people’s attitudes and behaviours and how those may be a problem for policy makers and practitioners in attaining their objectives. </p> <p>Sometimes the report refers to social divisions and social structures by coded references to the ‘context’ of policy and practice. They are also implied by the report’s concern that investments in social science data, such as the birth cohort study and longitudinal studies, should be maintained. These are an important source of information about social structures and the report also seeks increased investment in big data and administrative data, including the recommendation of a “statutory presumption in sharing de-identified public (administrative) data for research processes”. </p> <p>Yet while the commercial significance of big data is stressed throughout the report, it is silent about the fact that commercial interest in such data includes the evaluation of policy and performance (including that of academics themselves through academic analytics and the possible metricisation of the REF), where the ‘mixed data sets’ and ‘algorithms’ associated with commercial applied data science become proprietary products and, therefore, not themselves available for critical scrutiny. The report says nothing about the critical functions of social science at the same time as it opens the door to the privatisation and commercialisation of those critical functions. </p> <p>Occasionally in the report, the façade cracks and the real substance of what is at issue in this and any election can be glimpsed. Thus, it remarks that, “growth is not given or necessarily consensual” and goes on to say that “choices must be made, about the balance of public and private, taxation and spending, freedom and constraint and about where and to whose benefit. Social science supplies context and helps us locate ourselves” (page 8). Precious little, however, is said about how social science addresses context, or how sustained research on context could be consistent with the impact agenda or the report’s own problem-focussed orientation. Nor does the report locate its own plea for funding in the “balance of public and private, taxation and spending.”</p> <p>Within sociology, this raises a familiar question asked by Becker back in the 1960s: ‘<a href="http://www.sfu.ca/~palys/Becker1967-WhoseSideAreWeOn.pdf">whose side are we on?</a>’ His was not an argument for partisan social science, but rather involved the observation that any social science that took seriously the circumstances and attitudes of the disadvantaged would be seen as partisan, simply by virtue of accounting for their views. As Becker observed, a social science that addressed the interests of those in subordinate positions would also appear unrespectable and partisan, while that which addressed the powerful would appear respectable and cloaked in ‘objectivity’. However, it was an ‘objectivity’ that derived simply from the naturalisation of power relations, not from being outside them.</p> <p>In this context, both the report and the associated Campaign for the Social Sciences are not simply naïve; they are also calculating and hierarchical. The report presents itself as the protector of social science and the promoter of its interests at the same time as it presents a partial picture of them and displaces the commitments of those it enjoins to show solidarity. Critics like myself are accused of <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2015/mar/12/social-scientists-shouldnt-shy-away-from-political-debates">risking the future funding of the social sciences</a> by our ‘divisiveness’ and, thereby, also risking the futures of early career researchers. This pressure is similar to managerial pressure within the university not to disrupt the ‘brand’. Suppose the government does not accept the claim for extra funding, it is likely, nonetheless, to accept the steer toward interdisciplinary research across the social sciences, natural sciences and engineering, and the emphasis on behavioural change. And this will have consequences for the careers of social scientists that do not share these orientations.</p> <p>Were the situation not so serious, it might be thought of as a version of Fawlty Towers, where, in the run up to an election, social scientists are told: ‘don’t mention the politics’. But, if there are ‘choices’ about the public and the private, and about taxation and spending, to be made, we should remember that ‘choices’ can arise without them necessarily being put to the electorate. Indeed, this is, for elites, the preferred way to proceed.&nbsp; So, after the last election, direct public funding of undergraduate degree programmes was removed and replaced by fees, despite not being put to the electorate. An 82% cut in public spending was achieved at the same time as greater revenue for universities was raised from student indebtedness. Yet, successive <a href="http://www.natcen.ac.uk/our-research/research/british-social-attitudes/">British Social Attitudes reports</a> have showed the public both to be opposed to student debt (at levels lower than was subsequently introduced) and to believe that university education is about far more than instrumental purposes. The only decline in support for publicly-funded higher education is among those with graduate-level qualifications (themselves the beneficiaries of the previous system). </p> <p>Just as university leaders have been willing to compromise the values of higher education in return for money from student fees, so the authors of <em>The Business of People</em> are willing to compromise the values of social science for money. Should we be surprised that the transformation of the university under neo-liberal policies of marketisation should also have their impact on the configuration of its disciplines? We shouldn’t be: funding comes at a price. Nevertheless in the pursuit of public money, shouldn’t there be more critical attention devoted in social science research to those issues that plague our societies rather than those which have been mobilised to accommodate the interests of elites?</p> <p class="normal">&nbsp;</p><p><em>This article is part of the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/liberalism-in-neoliberal-world/liberalism-and-education#0">Education strand</a> of the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/liberalism-in-neoliberal-world">Liberalism in neoliberal times</a> series that OurKingdom is running in partnership with Goldsmiths, supported by the Department of Sociology. You can read Gholam Khiabany's introduction to the whole series <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/gholam-khiabany/new-series-liberalism-in-neoliberal-times-dimensions-contradictions-limit">here</a>.</em></p><p style="background-color: #ededed; padding: 15px 0 15px 15px; border: 1px dotted #000;"><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/liberalism-in-neoliberal-world"><img style="float: right; margin-top: -25px; margin-left: 5px;" src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Sx7XTdv-1a4C8PuvD9XzeKHoCKhAIJ9Z8UA_YLJzMdE/mtime:1407839721/files/JusticeNoBlindfold.png" alt="Liberalism in neo-liberal times logo" /></a><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/liberalism-in-neoliberal-world"><em>Liberalism in neo-liberal times</em></a> - an OurKingdom partnership with Goldsmiths, University of London </p> OurKingdom OurKingdom Liberalism and education Liberalism in a neo-liberal world John Holmwood Mon, 23 Mar 2015 00:11:11 +0000 John Holmwood 91421 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What is this political space we call 'immigration'? https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/steve-garner/what-is-this-political-space-we-call-%27immigration%27 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG ></o> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p><p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning ></w> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas ></w> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables ></w> <w:SnapToGridInCell ></w> <w:WrapTextWithPunct ></w> <w:UseAsianBreakRules ></w> <w:DontGrowAutofit ></w> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if !mso]><object classid="clsid:38481807-CA0E-42D2-BF39-B33AF135CC4D" id=ieooui></object> <mce:style><! st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } --> <!--[endif] --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --> <!--[endif] -->Four frames white people in the UK use to understand immigration.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/0dAH2pZpbYuSS7Ro6d3GcSoKp7ksNiDYR6e0SGB76_g/mtime:1427032207/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/immig.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/9zGJCxHh6GOVVcCT6UlbetCy_QcQF84NwCeosokqBmg/mtime:1426873570/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/immig.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/Icars. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Immigration is a flypaper issue: all kinds of anxieties about a variety of problems get stuck to it. The people I have been listening to in interview-based research projects over the past decade[1] use it as a device through which to express losing their place in the world, being abandoned by government to their struggles over dwindling, stigmatised social housing, employment, and the ways they now<em> perceive themselves</em> to be at a disadvantage relative to migrants and other ethnic minorities. I have placed ‘perceived’ in italics: perception is everything. Statistics do not support these claims of ethnic disadvantage. Indeed, to take just one figure from many, Black and Minority Ethnic households were, prior to the 2008 recession, 40% more likely to be in income poverty (i.e. with incomes below the poverty line) than white UK ones (<a href="http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/2006-ethnicity-poverty-uk.pdf">Platt, 2007</a>). Moreover, despite the frequent assertion that immigration has a set of negative impacts on employment, housing and other resources, my starting point is that immigration is neither the sole nor the direct cause of these outcomes. In this set of three articles, I’m going to move from how people read immigration, to the role of integration in the immigration discussion, and finish with some ideas on the future of immigration as a political topic. </p> <p>After researching how white UK people in provincial English towns talk about <a href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9781138851726/">social identities and entitlement</a> [2] in a set of projects spanning 2005-2011, one conclusion is that the ‘immigration’ people talk about does not correspond to the nuts and bolts of immigration policy; the number of people actually entering and leaving Britain; who actually claims benefit; who pays taxes; or how to fill gaps in the labour force. People instead tend to understand ‘immigration’ through a set of overlapping frames. These are shaped simultaneously around nation, ‘race’ and class (among other things), and I use the term ‘discourse’ below as a shorthand to describe the contents of, and set of parameters to, the ways in which ‘immigration’ is discussed in the broadest sense.</p> <p><em>‘Immigration’ as a sticky political space</em></p> <p>Imagining ‘immigration’ as a sticky and amorphous political space rather than a very focussed topic is a more fruitful way to proceed. The idea of stickiness comes from the work of <a href="http://tonyrivera.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/The-Organisation-of-Hate.pdf">Sarah Ahmed</a>, who suggests that emotions and ideas become stuck to bodies in the development of discourse about identities. The ‘immigration’ that people discursively construct lies some distance from the arcane arguments about border-crossing regulations and statistical impacts on the economy that engage policy-making circles. This is partly a reflection of information circulated in the public domain. The minutiae of immigration policy (a highly specialist and dynamic area) are not what most people engage with. For many, it is newspaper, television and radio news headlines (such as <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31638174">gross figures for net immigration in a 12-month period</a>) with no explanation of contexts provided, conversations and social media threads.</p> <p><em>Four frames</em></p> <p>Out of the more than 400 semi-structured interviews that comprise the data for the projects have emerged a set of patterns about the way people talk about identity. ‘Frames’ are drawn from the work of <a href="https://nellalou.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/83646510-erving-goffman-frame-analysis-an-essay-on-the-organization-of-experience-1974.pdf">Erving Goffman</a>. When confronted with social situations, he argues, we do not invent a set of guidelines for how to understand it, or how we should behave, but instead fit information into guidelines into which we already have been socialised. This principle has been developed in communications theory about how the <a href="http://www.infoamerica.org/documentos_pdf/mccombs01.pdf">media sets agendas</a>. </p> <p>Discourses can be conceptualised as containing several competing and / or overlapping frames. An example would be the frames used in exchanges regarding media freedoms after the Charlie Hebdo murders, which <a href="http://www.spectator.co.uk/the-week/leading-article/9410492/the-attack-on-charlie-hebdo-is-an-attack-on-freedom/">reproduced</a> and <a href="http://www.refinery29.com/the-paris-shooting-is-a-tragedy-but-i-still-don-t-support-charlie-hebdo">challenged</a> arguments about the meaning of those events. I should emphasise that there are more frames out there than four, but I am working here only with what emerged as the most frequently recurring patterns in our interviews. They also overlap to some extent, so they are distinguished neatly only for analytical purposes.</p> <p>The four frames are: unfairness, political correctness gone mad, integration and repressed Englishness. This is how their logics run for the people who use them:</p> <p><em>Unfairness</em></p> <p>‘… if I wanted to go out and get a house or get a flat, I would be put further down the list for someone that is not a British citizen to say, someone that has come over into the country. They get everything handed to them and it’s people that have been living in this country since they were born that are not getting the same benefits as other people in this country’ (Adam, Bristol).</p> <p>The policy theme of ‘fairness’ was adopted by <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron/8046342/David-Camerons-Conservative-conference-speech-in-full.html">the Conservatives</a> in 2010. Most of our respondents would probably see this as reflecting some of their concerns. They see the ‘equality agenda’ as having long outlived its usefulness. Ethnic minorities are now advantaged in the country’s resource allocation, runs the logic, so why are there still special benefits for them? Claims of ‘unfairness’ suppose that the order of ‘fair’ entitlement has been overturned. The notion of ‘fairness’ would therefore involve returning to a pre-‘equality’ era logic, where membership of the nation and local community through bloodlines is a principal determinant of access. Even then however, there are other individual white UK people who are ‘playing the system’ in various ways, to get resources to which they should not be entitled.</p> <p><em>Political-Correctness-Gone-Mad</em></p> <p>Central to all the discussions of unfairness and political correctness (PC) is the State, as distributor and adjudicator. This frame assumes that ideological support for equality and the self-defeating elite-led project of multiculturalism is excessive, systemic and resistant to questioning. The allocation of material resources seen as unfair is thus enabled and perpetuated by PC: not as an aberration, but as business as usual. </p> <p>‘I’m apprehensive about, I mean, the whole political correctness thing. And I mean, we’ve got a tradition of being a nation that welcomes refugees and that kind of thing, but because of the situation that we have at the moment and the, you know, influx of asylum seekers, there does seem to be such an emphasis on not offending certain races and religions that maybe we’re in danger of losing, not losing, but not helping the indigenous people and indigenous traditions….’&nbsp; (Sally-Ann, Plymouth).</p> <p>In these zero-sum scenarios, there is a statement of distance from political and cultural elite who produce pc (underlining the speaker’s ordinariness and common sense); and the victimhood of the abandoned white indigenous subject. PC is thus the legitimising ideological system accompanying the ethnic reallocation of material and cultural power.</p> <p><em>Integration</em></p> <p>Integration is the discursive pivot between immigration and nation. It is an intensely contested idea. The majority of interviewees posited ‘assimilation’ (one-way movement) rather than a two-way street: and see the white UK group as the ones giving things up without reciprocal actions. The process of integration is constructed as a simple matter of choice on the part of an incoming migrant, while this ‘migrant’ status is often stretched to cover people who are not migrants but the children or grandchildren of migrants. Failure to integrate is expressed through clothes, language and self-segregation. There will be much more on integration in the next article as it is the crossover point of the four frames and has so many implications for the direction this discussion will take.</p> <p><em>Repressed Englishness </em></p> <p>People in general appear deeply ambivalent about Britishness. <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2007/feb/27/immigrationpolicy.race">Politicians seem much keener than the governed</a>. Our interviewees say ‘anyone’ can access Britishness, including ‘the non-British who are now British’, as one of them succinctly puts it. Moreover, there is a noticeable frustration with the perceived lack of space available for celebrating English identity compared to the other UK nations. I interpret this trend as a retreat towards Englishness because it represents something smaller and more exclusive, rather than a sprawling open space that migrants can be part of if they live her long enough. Indeed, the perception of Englishness as ‘whiter’ and Britishness as a more diverse space seems shared by BME groups, which we will look at more closely next time.</p> <p><em>Conclusion: The ‘beleaguered nation’ </em></p> <p>So this political space of immigration is set in a ‘beleaguered nation’. There are indeed plenty of reasons for people to feel beleaguered and abandoned, at a moment of <a href="http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/ampp3d/inequality-uk-only-g7-country-4436455">widening inequalities</a>, when the implications of ‘austerity’ as a set of economic principles become more widely felt, and people’s political engagements become simultaneously more local, more global and less linked to formal party politics. However, the significant role of the immigration frames noted here is to provide a convincing way of making social transformation intelligible. These frames provide a means of articulating social change as trauma, enabling a number of deleterious impacts to thus be traced back to immigration exclusively, as if these outcomes were mono-causal. Immigration in this discourse thus unequivocally ‘equals’ unemployment; housing shortages; health service issues and overcrowded schools. Yet broader, long-term structural problems generated without the contribution of newly-arrived immigrants are covered over in this narrative. Moreover, immigration talk ‘racialises’ the topic. It first ignores the patterns of discrimination that still exist and claims that white UK people are disadvantaged because they are white. Second, it develops ideas that groups of people are entirely culturally and geographically distinct from one another, instead of mixed in complicated relationships to place, power, and history. My interpretation is these justifiable feelings of frustration and abandonment are not derived from immigration per se, but from the discourse on ‘immigration’: a distinction that means the consequent concerns may well be impervious to attempts to address them using statistics, and / or accusations of racism. Such efforts will probably have perverse effects. &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Notes</strong></p> <p>[1] This data was generated in a series of qualitative interview-based projects based in Birmingham, Bristol, Milton Keynes, Plymouth and Runcorn / Widnes, and Thetford whose field work was carried out in the 2005-2011 period. I was PI, joint PI or a research team member on these projects. &nbsp;Alphabetically, by surname, the members of those research teams are; Pheobe Beedell, Gargi Bhattacharyya, Simon Clarke, James Cowles, Rosie Gilmour, Paul Hoggett, Ajmal Hussain, Barbara Lung, Marina Stott and Hen Wilkinson. This article’s arguments in no way imply that any of my colleagues share my position.</p> <p>[2] Publications from these projects include: Clarke, S. and Garner, S. (2010) <em>White Identities: a critical sociological approach </em>London: Pluto Press; Garner, S. (2012) ‘A Moral Economy of Whiteness: Behaviours, belonging and Britishness’ <em>Ethnicities</em> 12(4): 445–464; Bhattacharyya, G., Cowles, J., Garner, S., and Hussain, A. (2011) <a href="http://www.socresonline.org.uk/17/1/11.html">Communities, Centres, Connections, Disconnections: Some Reflections on the Riots in Birmingham</a> <em>Sociological Research Online</em>, 17 (1) 11; Garner, S. (2010) ‘<a href="http://www.sens-public.org/spip.php?article729">The Entitled Nation: how people make themselves white in contemporary England</a>’, <em>Sens Public</em>; Simon Clarke, Steve Garner and Rosie Gilmour (2009) ‘Imagining the ‘Other’/Figuring Encounter: White English Middle-Class and Working-Class Identifications’, pp. 139-156, in M. Wetherell (ed.) <em>Identity in the 21st Century</em> London: Palgrave. I would also point readers toward Paul Hoggett, Hen Wilkinson and Pheobe Beedell’s (2013) ‘Fairness and the Politics of Resentment’ <em>Journal of Social Policy</em>, 42(03): 567-585.</p> <p><a href="http://bit.ly/17J7gas"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/PN_Editorial_620px-1.png" alt="PN" width="460" /></a></p> OurKingdom OurKingdom Unearthing Europe CCIG UK Election 2015 Steve Garner Mon, 23 Mar 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Steve Garner 91422 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'Pinkoes and Traitors': a tunnel vision of broadcasting history https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/david-elstein/%27pinkoes-and-traitors%27-tunnel-vision-of-broadcasting-history <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Jean Seaton’s latest history of the BBC is mired by typos, inconsistencies and factual errors. Far from incidental, this is symptomatic of a broader carelessness that ultimately undermines her analysis.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/eTfFF_lpElSwHNk-GbtmMQDfBdOdV8zN_3jAghMPc68/mtime:1426862866/files/pinkoes%20and%20traitors.jpg" alt="" width="200" /></p><p><strong><em>Pinkoes and Traitors – the BBC and the nation 1974-1987</em> by Jean Seaton, Profile Books, 326pp, £30</strong></p><p>Asa Briggs was 74 when OUP published the fifth volume of his <em><a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/History-Broadcasting-United-Kingdom-vol/dp/019215964X/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1426864570&amp;sr=8-4&amp;keywords=history+of+broadcasting+in+the+united+kingdom" target="_blank">History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom</a></em>. As ITV does not make an appearance until the fifth book, essentially these volumes are a history of the BBC, and to take the story forward, the BBC appointed Jean Seaton, Professor of Media History at Westminster University. </p> <p>Seaton’s new book <em>Pinkoes and Traitors: the BBC and the nation 1974-1987</em>, dedicated to Briggs, now in his 94th year, appears 28 years after the last year it covers, and has been at least a dozen years in preparation. Compared to the 1200 pages of volume five, which appeared just five years after the last year it covered, Seaton’s text is a mere 326 pages in length (though she assures me it was three times longer before the lawyers got at it). There is a new publisher (Profile Books). Presumably, another new author will be needed to bring the story anywhere near up to date.</p> <p>Curiously, almost the same ground was covered in Michael Leapman’s journalistic <em><a href="http://www.lrb.co.uk/v08/n14/john-gau/the-elstree-story" target="_blank">The Last Days of the Beeb</a></em>, (340 pages in the 1987 Coronet edition). He interviewed over 100 providers of information (unnamed, to protect confidentiality). Seaton names some 300 interviewees (I am one of them). Oddly, both authors kick off with an anecdote about Patricia Hodgson, now chair of Ofcom, then a rising executive within the BBC.</p> <p>Seaton recounts an encounter between Hodgson and Margaret Thatcher at a Bow Group dinner Hodgson had organised in 1976 for all living Conservative leaders: both women arrived wearing cream silk – “you said you’d be wearing blue!” protested the new Tory leader. &nbsp;She sulked, ate nothing, but later sent Hodgson a typical Thatcher letter of apology for her bad behaviour.</p> <p>Leapman recounts the day the BBC Board of Governors sacked Director-General Alasdair Milne. Hodgson – by then BBC Secretary – had approached Milne, amongst a group of colleagues waiting to join the Governors for lunch, saying “Alasdair, the chairman and vice-chairman want to see you”. Milne was struck by her using his first name in such a public forum: she always addressed him as DG. Within a few minutes, he realised that she already knew he was no longer DG. </p> <p>Seaton understandably leaves the 1987 defenestration of Milne to the latter part of her book, but otherwise she has opted for themes rather than chronology: the Thatcher relationship, money, Northern Ireland, arts, drama, light entertainment, Ethiopia, monarchy, the Falklands war, Attenborough, women in the BBC and vetting. </p> <p>This means a dozen essays of about 25-pages each, some more shapely than others. The story of how an 8-minute Michael Buerk news story from Ethiopia in 1984 led to a huge outpouring of public generosity, through the 1985 Live Aid concert organised by Bob Geldof and subsequent events like Comic Relief, and how an item on her consumer show <em>That’s Life</em> motivated Esther Rantzen to launch the ChildLine charity (now run by the NSPCC), is told with the skill one would expect of an author who passionately believes that, at its best, the BBC offers the nation so much more than just programme content. Yet even here she says “nobody had ever run a telethon before” – as if the telethons every year on ITV since 1980 had never happened.</p> <p>A similar chapter about the creation of <em>Life on Earth</em> unfortunately tips over from history into hagiography (“by the seventh episode, more or less the entire nation sat down to watch it”). Excellent as that series was, and brilliant as David Attenborough’s contribution to television has been, its breakthrough status in Seaton’s eyes begs a number of questions. Was it really ahead of Bronowski’s <em>The Ascent of Man</em> in intellectual terms? Its supposedly innovative employment of a “full-time organiser” must have puzzled Liz Sutherland, who had sat at the heart of the Thames TV series <em>The World at War</em> seven years earlier, wrestling with the logistics of producing twice as many episodes as <em>Life on Earth</em>, involving archive politics in a dozen countries. <em>The World at War</em> cost much more than <em>Life on Earth</em>, yet did not require “the independent means provided by the licence fee” to finance it.</p> <p>Part of Seaton’s problem is that she is almost completely uninterested in what was happening outside the BBC, such that whatever information she does provide on ITV, for instance, is of doubtful reliability. Indeed, one of the authors of the most recent volume of the history of ITV, Paul Bonner, is referred to as the “late historian of ITV” (he seemed pretty lively at the BBC launch party for the <em>Pinkoes and Traitors</em>): by contrast with her book, the ITV volumes are largely free of error and commendably objective.</p> <p>Seaton believes she has something of a scoop (“perhaps the most remarkable fact”) in her chapter on the monarchy, in revealing that the BBC outside broadcast unit attending the rehearsal of the Charles and Di marriage never disclosed at the time that she had been in tears. This “omerta” she attributes to “an ethic of responsibility” at BBC OBs – “The BBC, having been given access to the rehearsal because they were utterly trusted, repaid it as a matter of honour”. It seems not to have occurred to Seaton that the ITV OB crew would also have attended the rehearsal. Indeed, the wedding day itself she describes as a “wonderfully crafted piece of state and BBC drama” (what were the 8 million viewers tuned in to ITV watching?). </p> <p>But so one-eyed and peculiar is her judgement that “It’s a Royal Knockout" appears as a section heading in the monarchy chapter, whilst the programme itself, with its vast audience and horribly embarrassing impact on the royal family and the BBC alike, is not mentioned.&nbsp; </p> <p>At one point, Seaton contrasts Reith’s “honourable” invigilation of Edward VIII’s abdication speech (to ensure no deviation from an agreed script, thereby “protecting the constitution”, whatever the “constitution” may be) with Panorama’s Princess Diana interview, “which permitted her to challenge the monarchy without the usual rules of balance or questioning” (as if Martin Bashir was not actually there during the interview!). She concludes this dotty section with the even more bizarre statement that “the political nuances of the abdication would not be made widely public until a 1978 BBC Drama series on Edward and Mrs Simpson”.</p> <p>Putting aside the startling assumption from a history professor that only a TV series, 38 years afterwards, could tell the public the truth about the abdication, she seems to have forgotten that <em>Edward and Mrs Simpson</em> was, of course, an ITV series (it won the best drama series BAFTA for Thames TV). </p> <p>This is not the worst of Seaton’s misattributions. <em>Death of a Princess</em> is credited to Channel 4 (which did not even exist when it was transmitted) rather than ITV. G. F. Newman’s classic drama <em>Law And Order</em> is credited to Jim Allen. In a lengthy section revealing the subtle correspondence with David Cornwell (John Le Carre) that induced Alec Guinness to accept the part of Smiley in <em>Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy</em>, she twice mangles the names of the adaptor and director – Arthur Hopcraft becomes Hopcroft and John Irvin becomes Irving. </p> <p>Elsewhere, Tom Bower becomes Bowyer, Sally Doganis becomes Jane, Tim Eggar becomes Tom, Austen Kark becomes Austin, Stewart Purvis becomes Stuart, as does Stewart Parker, Mark Damazer becomes Damazar (twice), Phillip Whitehead is reduced to Philip (twice), Grahame C Greene is abbreviated to Green, Ronnie Stonham is repeatedly expanded to Stoneham, David McKittrick becomes McKitterick, Bryce McCririck becomes McCrirrick, Pat Loughrey becomes Loughery, Deryck Cooke becomes Derek, as does Derrick Amoore, Christopher Andrew becomes Andrews, Sara Nathan becomes Sarah, Giles Oakley becomes Oakely, Mark Tully becomes Tulley, and even her close colleague at the University of Westminster, Steven Barnett, becomes Stephen. Daithi O’Conaill (the Irish version of the IRA leader’s English name of David O’Connell) becomes the hybrid Daithi O’Connell. Two of those whose names are mis-spelled are amongst the twelve people thanked for reading drafts of the book.</p> <p>In the same vein, “Howards’ Way” becomes “Howard’s Way”, “Gardener’s Question Time” becomes “Gardeners’ Question Time”, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” becomes “The Hitch Hiker’s Guide”, “The Mousetrap” becomes “The Mouse Trap” and – inevitably – “The Thorn Birds” becomes “The Thornbirds”. The militant technicians’ union ACTT is dyslexically rendered ACCT, and Timothy Garton Ash becomes Garton-Ash. </p> <p>We are told that studio-based drama won no awards after 1970, yet <em>I, Claudius</em> won four BAFTAs in 1977 and 1978 (Seaton claims 13 episodes for that series: there were 12). We are told that Alan Bleasdale did not work for the BBC for “several decades” after the fiasco of <em>The Monocled Mutineer</em>: two, in fact. And although that drama receives some attention, the <em>Panorama</em> Carrickmore episode is ignored, and <em>Yesterday’s Men</em> is mentioned only in passing, even though the first – untransmitted, but no less infuriating for Mrs Thatcher in its filming of an IRA road-block – had poisoned relations with the Tories, just as the second had with Labour. Serious students of the period need to consult Leapman.</p> <p>Titles are another Seaton blind spot. Anna Home is described variously as “director of children’s programming” and “head of Children’s programming” when she was actually “Head of BBC Children’s Television Programmes”. Paul Fox, Director of Programmes and then Managing Director at Yorkshire TV, is loosely titled a “director”, as is John Tusa, Managing Director of the BBC World Service, three times. Humphrey Burton was Head of Music and Arts, not “television head of Arts” (and how Alan Yentob, “at his enabling best”, but actually a junior producer at the time, could have been responsible for bringing “Burton back into the BBC” is unexplained). Aubrey Singer was Head of Television Features (not Science) and Alasdair Milne Managing Director (not “head”, or elsewhere “controller”) of Television when they commissioned <em>Life on Earth</em>. And Harold Lever’s third wife was a Lebanese heiress, but not a princess.</p> <p>Colin Shaw is credited with setting up the “Television Complaints Council”: by which Seaton presumably means the Broadcasting Standards Council. Sydney (not “Sidney”) Newman, a Canadian not an American, worked at ABC, not ATV, before joining the BBC. It was the Richard Dimbleby lecture, not the Reith Lectures, which E P Thompson was disinvited from delivering; and it was in 1981, not 1980. The IRA hunger strikes were also in 1981 (not 1982). </p> <p>How much do these details matter? To the lay reader, very little in themselves; but they are indicators of a broader carelessness, and once we encounter substantial issues, Seaton’s inaccuracies demonstrate a degree of casualness – or perhaps even ignorance – which is quite disturbing.</p> <p>Two major public inquiries into broadcasting – the last two ever undertaken – dominated the years at the beginning and end of her chosen period. These were chaired by Lord Annan (who reported in 1977) and Sir Alan Peacock (who reported in 1986). Seaton devotes a paragraph and a couple of asides to the first, and two pages to the second: both are almost comically misrepresented.</p> <p>Annan took a vast weight of evidence – seventeen stone of it, he calculated – and much was highly critical of the BBC. In line with previous such reports (Beveridge and Pilkington), Annan took the view that services supplied by the BBC should be funded by those who received them: radio by a radio licence, TV by a TV licence, colour TV by a colour TV licence. However, the cost of collecting the radio licence had, by 1971, outrun the revenue generated: from then on, television would have to pay for all radio, which led Annan to oppose the BBC local radio project, as not all licence payers would be able to benefit.</p> <p>The BBC was able to block that recommendation (thereby severely limiting the viability of local commercial radio), as well as the call from a large minority of the Annan Committee (six out of sixteen) for BBC radio and television to be split. So large a single power bloc, straddling two media, said the six, was contrary to the interests of pluralism; and also resulted in the BBC constantly being on the defensive. The job of Director-General, they said, “was an impossible one, paralyzed by the over-riding need for consistency, chief executive, editor-in-chief and resident theologian, pope and emperor in one, interpreting and executing one indivisible Corporation”.</p> <p>The Committee as a whole was scathing about the “caution, lack of direction, touchiness and unsteadiness in the BBC’s current affairs output...the BBC today sees itself as beleaguered, pressurised, lobbied and compelled to lobby...the BBC seems to us to have shown some loss of nerve which is partly the cause and partly the result of the barrage of criticism...its sense of direction has weakened.”</p> <p>Almost none of this is referred to in Seaton’s book. Instead, she claims that the new Conservative government, elected in 1979, implemented Annan’s recommendations for the fourth channel, as designed by Anthony Smith. It is certainly true that Smith’s idea for a National Television Foundation was adopted by Annan, lightly re-touched as the Open Broadcasting Authority. But before the election the Tories rejected the OBA as a wholly unrealistic project, in favour of an ITV2. Then, after the election, Home Secretary Willie Whitelaw (advised by his minister of state, Leon Brittan) shifted away from ITV2 towards the independent commissioning service with which we are now so familiar. This closely followed a structure actually submitted to Annan, but explicitly rejected by him. Perhaps in 30 years’ time, historians like Seaton will enthusiastically cheer the coalition’s adoption of a brave LibDem manifesto proposal to treble university fees.</p> <p>In some ways, the treatment of Peacock is odder. Twice we are told that Peter Jay was an important member of the Peacock Committee, who needed careful lobbying by the BBC: actually, he was not a member at all (whether that was the BBC’s error, or just Seaton’s, is not immediately evident). </p> <p>The impression is given that Peacock was decisively influenced by a paper commissioned by the BBC, demonstrating that replacing the licence fee with advertising would reduce overall advertising expenditure (so bankrupting ITV and Channel 4 whilst barely sustaining the BBC). In fact, Peacock and his fellow economist on the Committee, Samuel Brittan, needed little prompting to see the risks in switching the BBC to advertising: and papers from ITV and the advertising industry had already made the case. As Peacock told the official history of ITV (volume 5, published 17 years ago) the BBC paper was “interesting, but seemed to us not to be getting to the central issue” (so much for Seaton’s claim that it “convinced the Committee”). Puzzling through the Seaton version of broadcasting history is rather like trying to figure out the plot of <em>Hamlet</em> by reading <em>Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead</em>. </p> <p>You will find barely half a page in Seaton dealing with the fact that the BBC had spent the first half of the 1980s nurturing a satellite broadcasting project to be funded by subscription; and no mention that BBC chairman Stuart Young had called for the licence fee to be charged on a per set basis (only really achievable by a switch to subscription), or that the BBC’s official evidence to Peacock had described subscription as the most attractive way of funding the BBC, once technology allowed its adoption. </p> <p>After the brief and inaccurate account of the failed BBC satellite venture (try Leapman’s 30 pages on the subject), Seaton ventures the foolish throwaway remark that “Sky had legislation written later to help it launch its service” (a misapprehension she shares with many a media academic – and in the same vein, irrelevantly, she claims the ending of the Fairness Doctrine in US broadcasting in 1987 “wrecked the mighty machines of American news, CBS, NBC, and responsible broadcast news across the USA”, which will come as something of a surprise for CBS and NBC, not to mention ABC and CNN). </p> <p>Far from consigning subscription to the “long-term”, as Seaton says, Peacock called for all television sets manufactured from 1988 onwards to include a socket that would enable them to accommodate a plug-in device, so that multi-channel offerings and subscription funding could be deployed as soon as they became available. </p> <p>That the BBC has managed to evade that prospect – and, indeed, sabotage it – is an (untold) story in itself. As for Seaton’s lauding of index-linking of the licence fee (Peacock’s medium-term solution to the problem of constant politicisation of financial negotiations), the BBC sharply and repeatedly criticized the idea for failing to take account of “industry inflation”.</p> <p>Peacock’s major recommendations – auctioning of ITV franchises, allowing Channel 4 to sell its own airtime, and giving substantial access to independent producers across the industry – are all ignored, even though the last in particular was to have substantial implications for the BBC, right up to the present day, as Tony Hall wrestles with the conundrum of how to spin off but still retain the BBC’s production division, so as to allow it at last to maximize its programme-making potential. </p> <p>A supposed strength of Seaton’s book – access to BBC and official files – turns out to be something of a weakness. Footnotes are often bland reference numbers, with no sense of context. Contradictory remarks in passing about the World Service offer no footnotes at all. Apparently, the Treasury thought of cutting the grant-in-aid to the World Service in 1974 “so that the BBC does not have a surplus to play with” – yet three pages earlier Seaton tells us that the licence fee was subsidizing the World Service. “Foreign news costs quadrupled in six months” – an astonishing claim – but which six months, in which year?&nbsp; </p> <p>We are told of “an absurd Labour plan (from young female Turks at the centre of government) to reduce the World Service to an anti-communist propaganda rump” – but with no footnote, no date and no reference. Yet the 1978 Labour plan to create three BBC management boards, with half the members appointed by the Home Office (which would have seriously compromised BBC independence and was only thwarted by the election of Thatcher) goes unmentioned. Apparently, “the evidence shows that Labour considered an extraordinary intervention in the ownership of commercial TV to make it more compliant”: but again we are offered no reference, no date, and no specifics.</p> <p>The only Labour attempt at interference in ITV that Seaton identifies is hard to take seriously (though she insisted to me that a civil service minute supports her claim). Apparently, Roy Mason, as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, having threatened the BBC Governors with permanent freezing of the licence fee unless it reported the Ulster crisis as he would want it to, belatedly decided to put pressure on Thames TV, whose reporting on that crisis had been throughout the five years of Mason’s incumbency consistently more incisive than the BBC’s. His chosen medium, says Seaton, was the newly appointed chairman of Thames, Lord Barnetson. As it happens, his chairmanship at Thames and Mason’s role in Northern Ireland barely overlapped in time.</p> <p>It is true that Barnetson had also served on the board of BET, parent of the minority shareholder in Thames, Rediffusion; and it was reportedly a shareholder in Rediffusion, “unhappy about Thames TV’s current exploits in Northern Ireland”, who offered to use his influence. However, as Rediffusion had no say in Thames programming (the majority shareholder Thorn-EMI controlled the company), this was a fairly daft route to adopt.</p> <p>I was responsible (with reporter Peter Taylor) for most of Thames’ coverage of Northern Ireland through the 1970s, and we certainly encountered plenty of pressure from our regulator, the IBA (two programmes failed to make it to air as a result). But I never heard a word of complaint from the board, and never met or spoke to Barnetson. I suggested to Seaton that this might be an example of a civil servant mischievously writing a minute for the future embarrassment of his boss: absolutely not, she insisted – indeed, she continued, Peter Taylor was fired in 1980. In actual fact, he wasn’t fired at all: he was recruited by Panorama – arguably the most important transfer of journalistic talent from ITV to the BBC in the last 25 years.</p> <p>At one point, Seaton claims that workers at Thames TV “would ask for steak at lunch, and when asked how they wanted it would answer ‘raw’ and take it home for supper”: no footnote, no reference, and for someone like me who worked at Thames for twenty years, frankly nonsense.</p> <p>Seaton’s inability to stand back from what her informants tell her allows her to take seriously Sir Denis Forman’s remark that, within ITV, “Thames was the big security worry”. In fact, Thames – unlike Forman’s Granada – never employed Trots or former Trots in its current affairs programmes: the proudly radical World In Action team would have been most disappointed to hear such a comment from their boss.</p> <p>As for the BBC’s coverage of Northern Ireland in the 1970s (as in the 1960s), Seaton adopts a curious formulation for its inadequacies: “the Corporation’s apparent (<em>sic</em>) one-sidedness came from its constitutional (<em>sic</em>) obligation not to question the political settlement in the North”. It is probably coincidental that the BBC was first established in the year that the UK was created (“the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”, marking the exit of Ireland south of the border). But the notion that the BBC was somehow obliged to abandon its duty to truthful reporting of the Ulster conflict as a result begs many questions. Another formulation in the same vein is the statement that “at the start, the BBC was unthinkingly on the side of order (<em>sic</em>) in Northern Ireland”.</p> <p>Seaton refers to “the BBC’s persistent reporting of official use of force in interrogations”, which, though “much disputed by government, was later shown to be accurate”, citing a document dated 1976. To the best of my knowledge, the most significant such BBC “reporting” came when “Nationwide” in London ran lengthy extracts from the <em>This Week</em> account of these interrogations, timed to coincide with publication of a 1978 Amnesty International report on the issue. The footage had surreptitiously been handed over by Thames journalists after the IBA had blocked transmission of <em>This Week </em>the previous evening.</p> <p>Bewilderingly, Seaton refers to a “programme” mounted in London, after the 1974 election had scuppered power-sharing in Northern Ireland, in which “Jonathan Dimbleby launched an attack on the way the Corporation had ignored the history of Northern Ireland. In response, Robert Kee’s great series, <em>The History of Ireland</em>, was commissioned”. Kee’s series was not actually commissioned till five years later; but in 1974 itself, <em>This Week</em> (the programme for which Dimbleby worked) mounted a 90-minute network programme entitled <em>Five Long Years</em>, which traced the roots and the course of the conflict up to that point. It was thereafter regularly used as a training film for soldiers posted to Ulster. Seaton seems oblivious to this.</p> <p>Seaton’s most revelatory material is reserved till near the end of the book, and actually deals with the extraordinary early days of the BBC and its involvement in staff vetting by the security services. It transpires that the Controller of Programmes Reith appointed in 1933, Colonel Alan Dawnay, had half his salary paid by the War Office, and spent his time vetting every single officer in the BBC. Later, the proportion dropped to about 40% of entrants, with a run rate of some 1,400 a year (I assume I was amongst them). </p> <p>Seaton reveals that this vetting was substantially at the BBC’s request, starting with anxiety over the security issues connected with transmitters, and later related to possible Communist infiltration. Few people were actually rejected, but many were refused staff employment or promotions, and personnel files with designations rather resembling Christmas trees abounded, until the practice was abandoned in 1984 (the irony attracts no comment). &nbsp;</p> <p>The absence of references frustrates any attempt to verify the improbable story of how Phillip Whitehead, whilst a Labour backbencher, not only “insisted that the chairman of Channel 4 had to be a Privy Councillor, in order to deal with security”, but secured this demand (how and why?) in the appointment of Edmund Dell, who duly became the nemesis of Phillip’s close friend, Jeremy Isaacs, the channel’s first chief executive. </p> <p>Even a bibliography is missing. In the notes we are told that one can be found at <a href="bbc.co.uk/historyofthebbc#bbc.co.uk/historyofthebbc">bbc.co.uk/historyofthebbc</a>, but that website has no trace of the book, the author or the promised bibliography.</p> <p>Amusingly, Seaton at one point dismisses R. H. Coase as “a great economist but a very bad historian” for assuming that the BBC saw off the threat of commercial cable stations in the 1930s because it insisted on its monopoly status (which indeed it did, for many decades), rather than because it suited Whitehall concerns about security.</p> <p>Jean Seaton is a popular figure in academia and on public platforms, serving as a persuasive non-BBC voice supporting public service broadcasting, the BBC and the licence fee. Threaded through her book are regular invocations of how the BBC’s many connections with “the nation” of her title enable it to rise above the status of a mere broadcaster.&nbsp; </p> <p>Her prose is richly different – BBC executives “libate” Mrs Thatcher, a generation of smart women go “thundering” through the BBC of this period. Her references to her late husband, Ben Pimlott, and her children (with their “vaunting lives” and “large, decent, thrilling stories”) are typically heart on sleeve.</p> <p>Yet surely what we need from a professor of media history is a degree of accuracy, respect for the facts, ability to check detail, detachment and sound judgement, all of which <em>Pinkoes and Traitors</em> so lamentably lacks. Let us hope her successor as BBC historian serves us better.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/media-publicservice/article_68.jsp">Public broadcasting: imperfect but essential</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/media-journalismwar/numbers_2902.jsp">The numbers game: death, media, and the public</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/david-elstein/evening-with-iron-lady">An evening with the Iron Lady</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> OurBeeb OurBeeb OurKingdom Civil society Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics David Elstein Fri, 20 Mar 2015 14:49:17 +0000 David Elstein 91416 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Uncaging the Charity Commission https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/peter-oborne-alex-delmarmorgan/uncaging-charity-commission <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The regulator’s unprecedented moves to block funds to the Muslim advocacy group Cage raises troubling questions for public debate in Britain.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/aVgd3gT-0mhkD3kASgoA7gFCVOjDY-suIUhl5zxSO_M/mtime:1426861865/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/gitom.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/5Tt7J2FjgpJupU9Kd-OeE_5-P8kDXwvfQ1qRRoZbNek/mtime:1426859434/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/gitom.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="290" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/Shrieking Tree. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>There are over 164,000 registered charities in England and Wales, with a combined annual turnover of over £64bn. The best known, such as Oxfam, have become giant organisations, with trading activities that are generally run as separate businesses. Three quarters have an annual income of less than £100,000, and many are micro-organisations relying on a handful of volunteers. One worthy example is the National Exotic Hedgehog Rescue Service (“We specialize in African Pygmy Hedgehogs, Long-eared Hedgehogs, Lesser Tenrecs, Greater Tenrecs and Common Tenrecs, although we will take in any spiny/prickly creature”).</p> <p>The Charity Commission for England and Wales has a giant task simply in keeping track of so many different organisations of such varied size and motives, with activities in every corner of the world. Simply by maintaining a central register of them all, with names of officers, records of their activity and (except for the very smallest) published accounts, the Commission performs an essential task of public scrutiny and helps to weed out the criminal and the incompetent.</p> <p>Historically, the Commission has always been cautious in saying what a charity ought to mean and what activities it should support or promote, leaving that job for parliament and the courts. Parliament’s first effort came as far back as the Charitable Uses Act of 1601. But it was the Charities Act 2006, finally brought into law by none other than Ed Miliband, then a Cabinet Office minister, that dealt the Charity Commission a hospital pass. It established 13 separate grounds for any organisation to claim that it had a “charitable purpose”. But it also said that none of these purposes in themselves were enough for an organisation to qualify as a charity. It also had to show that it had to provide a “public benefit”. This slightly nebulous concept has been around in the law since 1601, but parliament has never tried to define it. It declined the opportunity in 2006, under Labour, and then in 2011, under the current coalition, when charity law was consolidated.</p> <p>The Commission, understandably, declined to undertake a task that parliament had funked. It did not try to invent its own definitions of public benefit but preferred to rely on established case law. This was especially true of religious charities. In recent years, it has been urged to exclude some religious groups from charitable status because they are prejudiced against women or gay people and on other grounds of public policy – such as promoting Creationism as a scientific theory, or imposing unreasonable restrictions on the lifestyle choices of their members, or inducing them to part with money or property with the promise of heaven or the fear of hell. The Commission declined all these pressures. Only one religious group – the tiny Christian sect known as the Exclusive Brethren – failed the public benefit test, not because of what they believed but because their organisation was deemed to have limited engagement with the wider public. Even in this instance, the commission eventually gave in and the group won charitable status last year. </p> <p>Please excuse this long preamble, but it sets a context for what appears to be happening now.</p> <p>Under its new chairman William Shawcross, the commission seems to have abandoned its caution. Shawcross is a celebrated author and historian, once identified with the left, now with the right, who has never shied from controversy. It was during his previous job as a director of the Henry Jackson Society that he reportedly said: “Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future. I think all European countries have vastly, very quickly growing Islamic populations.”</p> <p>It is understandable that some Muslim charities feel aggrieved at his appointment. More importantly, though, under his leadership the commission shows signs of turning itself into a political regulator as well as a charitable one.</p> <h2><strong>‘Never, no matter what the circumstances’</strong></h2> <p>The commission has now very publicly turned against the organisation known as Cage, which campaigns for fair trials and just treatment for suspected and convicted terrorists. Cage is not a charity and is therefore not subject to the commission, but it has received funding from two organisations, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and The Roddick Foundation - though the latter hasn’t given money to Cage since 2012. The commission virtually ordered the two trusts to cease funding and, in a move we believe to be unprecedented, it told them that they must never fund Cage again, no matter what the future circumstances.</p> <p>Indeed, the Charity Commission has gone further. We can reveal that the regulator has sent either letters or emails to at least three other Muslim charities (there could be more) pressurising them not to fund Cage. The groups that received the threats asked not be named. The letter states: “Statements made recently by Cage, and the public reaction to them, raise clear questions for a charity considering funding its activities, or associating with it, as to how they could comply with their legal duties as charity trustees. It would be difficult to envisage there not being significant reputational damage to any charity intending to work with the organisation.”</p> <p>The commission also asks the charities to clarify their links to Cage, and to make clear past and future funding plans and any events planned with the advocacy group. </p> <p>The Charity Commission confirmed that it has contacted a number of groups where there are “current or historic links between these charities and Cage”.</p> <p>It added: “As the Commission’s enquiries are ongoing it is not appropriate to comment further – particularly as there is no indication, at this time, that any of these relationships are financial or that the Commission has determined that any of the charities have acted inappropriately...It is part of our normal practice to contact and correspond with charities where we have identified concerns or where we require information to ascertain whether any concerns exist.”</p> <p>For its part, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT) has cried foul. In a message to supporters, it said that it is concerned by “unprecedented regulatory pressure” and that it doesn’t see that “this style of regulatory intervention is proportionate or warranted”.</p> <p>A letter in <em>The Times</em> earlier in the month signed by around 200 prominent figures, including the actresses Vanessa Redgrave and Joanna Lumley, and former Labour leader Lord Kinnock, decried the regulatory pressure JRCT had come under and said charities should be free to “pursue their objectives within the law”.</p> <p>The Association of Charitable Foundations, a large membership group which supports grant-making bodies in the UK, said it is meeting with the commission in a few weeks to voice concern over its action.</p> <h2><strong>Why?</strong></h2> <p>The commission did not give any grounds for its judgment in the long explanatory statement it published on its website on March 6. It did not say: “Cage has no charitable purposes and provides no public benefit, and never will do.” Such an assertion would have been unsustainable. The promotion of human rights is one of the charitable purposes explicitly mentioned in the 2006 Act, and that includes human rights for thoroughly unpopular people – suspected terrorists and even convicted ones. It is of clear public benefit that anyone’s human rights are protected, anywhere in the world, because that strengthens everyone else’s human rights.</p> <p>The commission did not say: “Yes, indeed, Cage<strong><em> </em></strong>does do some work to promote human rights but its real purposes are much more sinister. It exists to promote religious hatred and to support war and terrorism by Islamic extremists.” Had it said this, it would almost certainly have been forced to defend such a judgement in court.</p> <p>The commission did say this: “Public statements by Cage officials heightened concerns about the use of charitable funds to support their activities. In our view, those statements increased the threat to public trust and confidence in charity and raised clear questions for a charity considering funding Cage’s activities as to how the trustees of those charities could comply with their legal duties as charity trustees.”</p> <p>Cage officials certainly made a whole series of statements that the great majority of public opinion regarded as foolish or noxious. Most glaring was Cage research director Asim Qureshi’s failure in a press conference last month to explicitly condemn Isis or Mohammed Emwazi, believed to be the executioner Jihadi John who appears in the gruesome beheading videos of western hostages. </p> <p>Another was Qureshi’s favourable description of the young Emwazi, even though the context makes it clear that he was praising the Emwazi he knew several years ago, not the &nbsp;“Jihadi John” who has been responsible for the deaths of his fellow countrymen. </p> <p>Qureshi also blamed MI5 for playing a part in radicalising him, which prompted the full wrath of the government. Cage’s claim that Emwazi was going on safari to Tanzania in 2009 and not (as the security services suspect) planning to join the Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab in Somalia is also extremely perplexing.</p> <p>Qureshi damaged himself and Cage even further in a subsequent interview with Andrew Neil, when he refused to distance himself from suggestions that he agreed with the so-called “Islamic concept” of stoning adulterers to death. In Qureshi’s logic, some Islamic scholars believe that stoning is sanctioned by Sharia law, created by the Prophet, and that to condemn it would be to condemn the Prophet himself and the entire Islamic faith. His position is nevertheless ultra-conservative and one not shared by the majority of British Muslims.</p> <p>There was also a well-researched investigation of Cage by the journalist Andrew Gilligan. This showed Cage had defended two convicted terrorists who had joined an Al Qaeda-linked group in Syria and who the judge described as “dangerous”. The group also dismissed western coverage of Boko Haram as “demonising Islam” and defended the extremist Islamic preacher Anjem Choudary’s al-Muhajiroun group, which famously supported the 9/11 attacks. </p> <p>There are many other positions that Cage has taken, and accusations it faces, that many would find odious. One may reject, even despise, all of these positions by Cage and still be disturbed by the Charity commission’s action against it, and the chosen grounds.</p> <h2><strong>A punishment for unpopularity?</strong></h2> <p>In the most recent legislation, parliament certainly gave the commission the duty of maintaining public trust and confidence in charities in general. But this was another hospital pass because it gave the commission no guidance on how to do this. It did provide it with enforcement powers over charities, but broadly speaking these are directed against administrative failures, wilful misrepresentation, fraud or financial recklessness and mismanagement.</p> <p>Parliament has never asked the commission to punish organisations for saying stupid things or wildly unpopular things. Nor has it asked the commission to intervene every time the trustees or officers of a charity made a bad decision. If parliament ever did that, the commission would be overwhelmed with demands to act. Charities typically attract passionate and argumentative people, who often object fiercely to decisions by their management. Rightly, the commission stands aside from such arguments, as do the courts, unless a decision is made in bad faith, or with improper procedures, or is so bad that no reasonable person in a position of trust could possibly have reached it. The commission has not asserted any of those grounds for acting against the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust or The Roddick Foundation in their support for Cage.</p> <p>If the commission chairman William Shawcross has decreed a new approach, he is perfectly within his rights. Since parliament has repeatedly ducked its responsibilities to say what charity ought to mean, perhaps we need a more assertive and proactive commission.</p> <p>However, it is vital that the commission applies such an approach consistently and universally – and gives every group in our society confidence that it has done so. To be blunt, this confidence does not exist among Muslim communities. They have noted recent research by think tanks such as the Overseas Development Institute and <a href="http://www.demos.co.uk/publications/uncharitablebehaviour">Demos</a> that there seems to be an increasing bias against Islamic organisations. </p> <p>Moreover, the commission must not confuse its task of protecting public confidence in charities with protecting them from being unpopular. &nbsp;</p><p> The commission perhaps deserves sympathy, because parliament has defined its duties poorly. Nevertheless it needs to explain why it has acted in the way it has, and show that its actions have been lawful. It cannot take what appears to be unprecedented action against dubious or unpopular organisations without giving a clear account of what it has done, why it has done it, and which specific rules compelled them to act or have been breached. At the moment all this is worryingly unclear.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/peter-oborne/why-i-have-resigned-from-telegraph">Why I have resigned from the Telegraph</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom OurKingdom Alex Delmar-Morgan Peter Oborne Fri, 20 Mar 2015 13:45:39 +0000 Alex Delmar-Morgan and Peter Oborne 91415 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A post-broadcast BBC: time for the public to speak? https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/dan-hind/postbroadcast-bbc-time-for-public-to-speak <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>‘Digital public space’ is an inspiring vision of the future of the BBC. Its full realisation, however, demands greater public input in the allocation of the corporation’s resources.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-right"><img src="//dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/oNWQWMPEVWb6hikZIvu77SWlI8OTB925J-UUeK_K4wE/mtime:1426849845/files/7520145106_fbce169566_z.jpg " alt="" width="460" /><br /><span class="image-caption"> </span><em> Antennae at the old Television Centre, White City (2012). Image: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/rogersg/7520145106/in/photolist-cswH9f-6ETg1-bEjLU5-4ZvMLY-NQQS7-51noaJ-mSKko-mX2Bb-55ubjt-myvQ7W-8Ed2mN-djjwVC-84so89-2goHuG-djkci6-djjEKF-7hwpoR-2gmNgu-myu4mg-mXDP9-4w7c87-bEjYWd-myvRHS-4w7dqS-5ZcSfK-Jj2a5-ukS9J-8N4iYm-gcmgBw-qkXXax-7Akqv3-awh18w-mh2GLg-9MtwJy-phg1q4-74p3sr-9cz57s-E7fbx-fQ3JWJ-meeVXu-po2tv9-p8z6wN-p8zuuk-pq4xue-4TzXon-p8z369-p8yUBG-po2hB5-pq2Dqd-9M8hqy" target="_blank">George Rex</a></em></p><p>In <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/tony-ageh/bbc-licence-fee-and-digital-public-space">his recent piece for openDemocracy</a>, Tony Ageh sets out a vision for the BBC in which the organization becomes a core part of a ‘Digital Public Space’. This he describes as "a secure and universally accessible public sphere through which every person, regardless of age or income, ability or disability, can gain access to an ever growing library of permanently available media and data held on our behalf by our enduring institutions." This Digital Public Space is bigger than the BBC. It includes museums and libraries, other public service media and public archives. </p> <p>Ageh looks to the BBC’s longstanding, if unsung, role as "a world class engineering organisation pushing the boundaries on behalf of the population of the UK and the whole of industry." While the BBC is most visible as a producer of television content, it is also a solver of problems.</p> <p>As we move from a media system dominated by broadcast to one in which digital technology reigns supreme, the BBC should, Ageh argues, continue to push technical boundaries and establish standards from which both the private and the public sector will benefit. This BBC for a digital age will guarantee public access to "a protected allocation of bandwidth for every citizen", manage the vast digital archives of the ‘Digital Public Space’, and offer "innovative products and services that allow people to access, contribute to and communicate with the public and cultural sectors."</p> <p>Ageh’s ‘Digital Public Space’ is attractive, inspiring even. Those who want to see public service provision survive post-broadcast would be well advised to study his proposals carefully. They come from an understanding of the deep structure of the BBC as a site of collaboration for brilliant technicians. There is sentiment here, love even, but no sentimentality. </p> <p>The reformation of the BBC along the lines Ageh sets out would make the BBC better suited to the needs of a modern democracy. The BBC’s origins, remember, lie in final decades of the British Empire. Its founders and managers had no problem with the idea that they knew better than their audiences what was good for them. In cultural terms there is something to this paternalism. Lives have been transformed – are being transformed – by programmes that catch a thread on the listener or viewer and unspool into a new, less restricted, take on life. Sometimes we don’t know much about art, and we don’t know what we like. I have a slight sense that we are ready and able to participate more in the cultural life of the country than our mandarins think, but I leave it to others to discuss.</p> <p>At any event, in news and current affairs the top-down approach has been much less successful. The BBC’s managers have taken their cues from politicians and from senior figures in finance and business. Journalists have either accepted the terms of this elite consensus or failed to prosper. As a result, the BBC has given audiences a version of public life that is at best radically incomplete and at worst downright misleading.</p> <p>While reporting of the day-to-day is professional and measured, the BBC cannot speak sensibly about matters where powerful interests favour nonsense. Though the BBC spends around £4 billion a year most of its audience still haven’t got the first idea how the economy works, or where that £4 billion ultimately comes from. Money is a mystery and where there is mystery there is unaccountable, unforgiveable power. We cannot separate the drift to bankocracy from the BBC’s persistent failure to describe the nature of finance and its role in the UK.</p> <p>It isn’t only the domestic political economy that escapes effective scrutiny. The BBC’s coverage of foreign policy in general and the so-called war on terror in particular is deeply weird. To take one example, the British state’s extensive collaboration with Islamist groups – the Saudi royal family, above all – passes more or less unremarked in an atmosphere of growing hysteria about ‘domestic extremism’. Meanwhile the BBC finds it impossible to tell its audiences that the UK is the most important offshore centre in the world and hence a key enabler of criminal behaviour elsewhere.</p> <p>At times – in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, for example, or during the collapse of the financial sector – this inability to discover and state the truth becomes too obvious to ignore. But for the most part these highly consequential failings pass us by, diluted by the plausibility of the rest of the offering. When Churchill said that the truth must have a bodyguard of lies he was only being half-honest. If it is to survive, every lie needs a bodyguard of true claims.</p> <p>But we are left with a persistent sense that the world is much stranger and more complicated, much more menacing, too, than the BBC can consistently acknowledge. For all the criticism that broadcasters and newspaper journalists level at people they call conspiracy theorists, the standard tropes of the paranoid imagination come closer to the truth of contemporary reality than the baseline assumptions found in the mainstream. The security services do protect elite criminals. The financial sector does dominate the political class through a sales effort that borders on the uncanny. The state does aspire to perfect real time surveillance of everything that matters, to what American planners call ‘information dominance’. We repeatedly learn in retrospect that key elements of our shared life have been a blood-spattered funhouse while being told that lessons have been learned, new guidelines are in place, and that it is time to move on.</p> <p>None of this should be taken as a criticism of individual employees at the BBC. We are all vulnerable and we are all eager to find some measure of security in increasingly fraught times. The BBC is organized so that journalists who want to remain employed must internalise the demands of senior managers who are themselves supremely sensitive to Westminster-Whitehall and the City of London. Devil-may-care anti-authoritarianism is a lot easier when your pension isn’t at risk.</p> <p>Nor do I want to belittle the efforts individuals and departments make to keep faith with their audiences. BBC news and current affairs is, in many respects, far better than anything else that is widely available. But, still, the exorbitantly rewarded lord it over the people who make the programmes and deliver the engineering breakthroughs. The result is a general bias against understanding. Not so much ‘no bishops, no kings’, more ‘no bullshit, no bonuses.’ </p> <p>We can imagine an alternative structure for BBC news and current affairs, in which the people who pay for the BBC, the citizenry, are able to direct some share of the money they contribute to journalistic endeavours they support. The public could channel funds to existing publishers or individual journalists. Or we might allocate money to specific projects, on condition that a threshold was reached. The BBC’s online platform would make universal and egalitarian the kinds of activity we currently associate with private sites like <a href="https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1214603821/parisite-diy-skatepark?ref=hero">Kickstarter</a> or <a href="https://www.patreon.com/">Patreon</a>. </p> <p>A digital platform of this kind would allow the public to discuss options and distribute money as part of an ongoing conversation about what we now know (or suspect) and what we want to know. Both the discovery and the dissemination of new knowledge would take on a degree of transparency as hunches about what interests the public (or about what the boss wants the public to be interested in) are progressively supplemented by clear indications from the public. If we want more celebrity gossip and lifestyle features, then public service provision will reflect that. If we <em>really</em> want more serious analysis of how society currently operates and how it might be reformed, then that too will feed into what the BBC does.</p> <p>The creation of such a platform is fraught with practical difficulties. It will need to be robustly confidential. It will have to develop over time, to take into account the public’s (currently unknown) appetite and aptitude for this kind of participation. The funding of new investigations will have to dovetail somehow with the BBC’s provision of news and factual content. The platform’s structure and its relationship with the organization will itself have to remain a matter of general deliberation. All this amounts to an engineering challenge as consequential as any the BBC has tackled in the past.</p> <p>The ‘Digital Public Space’ Ageh describes offers us a post-broadcast rationale for the BBC that does justice to the best of its institutional achievements. It is also a point of departure for those who want to build a system of communications in which the facts of the matter in news reporting take on a sovereign weight in editorial decision-making, where spirited and self-confident professionalism becomes the honest servant of the public interest publicly discovered. As such it will not recommend itself to those who currently control journalism.</p> <p>Will the rest of us organize to create a media system where our best approximation of the truth matters more than the wishful thinking and fabrications of oligarchs? The BBC's charter renewal is due at the end of next year, whether we act or not. Ageh proposes guaranteed broadband access as part of an expansive digital public space. Combine that with a guaranteed role for the public in the national conversation and we have a platform that might secure mass support, if we organise and argue for it.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/tony-ageh/bbc-licence-fee-and-digital-public-space">The BBC, the licence fee and the digital public space</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/tony-ageh/its-more-complicated-than-you-think">It&#039;s more complicated than you think</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/tony-ageh-bill-thompson-brian-eno-kamila-shamsie/ourbeeb-forum-session-4-creativity-culture-">OurBeeb forum session 4: creativity, culture and digital public space</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/dan-hind/bbc-above-reproach-or-beyond-reach">The BBC: above reproach, or beyond reach?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurBeeb OurBeeb OurKingdom Dan Hind Fri, 20 Mar 2015 10:52:37 +0000 Dan Hind 91411 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How to re-energise democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/temi-ogunye/how-to-reenergise-democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As we approach the general election, how&nbsp;can we&nbsp;make democracy real and vivid to citizens who do not feel part of the political process?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="p1">We’re drawing ever nearer to&nbsp;what is likely to be one of the most closely fought and unpredictable general elections in some time. A key issue for Citizens Advice is ensuring that as many of our clients as possible are registered to vote and&nbsp;turn out on 7 May. This is one of the reasons why I have spent some time making&nbsp;various democracy-related visits in south London. In its own way, each visit taught or reminded me of an important lesson in how to make democracy real and vivid for citizens.</p><h2 class="p1">Tailor your message to your audience</h2><p class="p1">My first visit was to Streatham Citizens Advice Bureau, where I met dedicated staff and volunteers and explained to them some of the work we will be doing on voter registration and democratic engagement in the run-up to the election. I was there as they opened up the bureau to the many people waiting in the rain for help solving their problems. As they poured into the waiting area I thought that this captive audience of citizens, many of whom belong to the groups who are most unlikely to be registered, provided the perfect opportunity to extol the virtues of voter registration and democratic engagement. How wrong I was.</p><p class="p1">When I introduced myself and said I was from Citizens Advice, clients thought I might have something useful and important to say. But as soon as I started speaking about the importance of voting, most of them switched off. This is only partly to due to a lack of rhetorical flair on my part. It is also because these people had come to bureau to get their problems solved and they couldn’t see how my contribution was helping in that regard. It may also be that many of those&nbsp;people in the waiting room&nbsp;lacked the psychological bandwidth to focus on many things other than their problems, let alone something as distant and abstract as ‘the importance of voting’.</p><p class="p1">The lesson here is that if we want people to recognise the importance of voting, we have to make it less distant and abstract and more directly relevant to their lives. We have to show how voting can allow people&nbsp;to have an impact on things that they care about. Part of this is about campaigning to ensure that those we vote for act on the important issues that matter to our clients. But it is also about tailoring the message to our audience. This requires data on the profile of and issues faced by our clients locally. One of the most powerful things about Citizens Advice is that we have this real-time data at our fingertips.</p><h2 class="p1">Reset the default</h2><p class="p1">My second visit was to the Citizens Advice Customer Centre situated in a Lambeth Council building called Olive Morris House. I spoke to the Citizens Advice volunteers there who explained to me how they helped to answer questions and provide information to citizens in a way that the council staff were simply too busy to. They were effectively humanising what was otherwise be a cold and transactional environment.</p><p class="p1">I noticed that there were public computers in the building and it occurred to me that these offered the perfect opportunity for citizens to register to vote. Again, may of the people waiting to be seen were members of groups most likely to be missing from the register, but there was no prompt inviting them to register in the available computers. This seemed like an absolute no-brainer, though after a <a class="broken_link" href="https://twitter.com/temiogunye/status/570913378711019520"><span><span>Twitter conversation with Lambeth Council</span></span></a> I now understand that posters and other voter registration literature is on its way.</p><p class="p1">Another easy win here would be to reset the default home page for all public council computers to <a href="http://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote"><span class="s1"><span><span>www.gov.uk/register-to-vote</span></span></span></a>. This would mean that every member of the public who used a council building would immediately be reminded to register. Given that their very presence in the building presumes an interaction with the state this, again, seems like a no-brainer.</p><h2 class="p1">Take democracy to the people</h2><p class="p1">My final visit was to the launch of the <a href="http://www.obv.org.uk/"><span class="s1"><span><span>Operation Black Vote</span></span></span></a> voter registration campaign in Brixton. The campaign will involve a bright orange bus – called the OBV eXpress – kitted out with computers touring the country to visit areas with a high black and ethnic minority population to persuade and enable the people there to register to vote. This is a fantastic idea and we hope that those bureaux in the areas the bus it visiting will be able to direct clients to the bus to register.</p><p class="p1">It is commonly said that people are losing faith in politics and democracy. It is not obvious to me that this is the case. It might simply be that people are losing faith with the way that formal politics and democracy is done at the moment, because it hasn’t kept pace with the modern world and fails to reflect real people’s lives. The reason that the OBV eXpress is so&nbsp;striking is that it doesn’t ask what the people should be doing to reconnect with politics, but asks what politics can do to reconnect with the people. Their answer happens to be to ‘drive a bright orange bus to where the people live’, but other answers are possible. The real point is that more people involved in politics and democracy need to start by asking the right questions.</p><p class="p1">This article was first published at <a href="https://blogs.citizensadvice.org.uk/blog/how-to-re-energise-democracy/"><strong><em>Citizens' Advice's blog</em></strong></a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/-8xrM8zJ-PI-idO0oxwLDVfX3tT9TQ-KiO4znX23lZo/mtime:1421864577/files/Great%20Charter%20Convention%20%281%29.jpg" alt="" width="140" /></a> </p><p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention">The Great Charter Convention</a> – an open, public debate on where arbitrary power lies in the UK today and how we should contest and contain it.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> OurKingdom OurKingdom Great Charter Convention Building it: campaigns and movements Rethinking representation Temi Ogunye Fri, 20 Mar 2015 08:42:19 +0000 Temi Ogunye 91241 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Female representation: progress and pitfalls https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/edward-molloy/female-representation-progress-and-pitfalls <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The next election will likely see a slight increase in female representation in parliament - but not nearly enough.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/woI7wrM_1I9JNqMJr3m_mD9GtglgpknWOEihOQxEc8k/mtime:1426683249/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nancy_Viscountess_Astor_by_John_Singer_Sargent.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/dOhN5snCkh9ZMDm-gAYi4RUxWwaCaUvI9Asesqq4G-Y/mtime:1426682301/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nancy_Viscountess_Astor_by_John_Singer_Sargent.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="682" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Nancy Astor, the first female MP, by John Singer Sargent/Wikimedia</span></span></span></p><p>The next Parliament looks set to have the highest number of female MPs since women were first allowed to stand for election in 1918. </p><p>In a new report, <a href="http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/women-in-westminster">the Electoral Reform Society has projected that 29.5% of MPs will be women following May’s general election</a>. It’s an important advance, but it still falls far short of the parity necessary if the House Commons is to be truly representative of the electorate. After all, it is over 95 years after the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act was passed, which first allowed women to become MPs. The pace of change has been far too slow. </p> <p>The increase at this general election is encouraging though, particularly compared to the <a href="http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/sn01250.pdf">snail-like pace of change in female representation throughout the 20th century</a>. Until the 1990s, the percentage of female representatives languished in the single digits. The need to increase women’s representation is slowly being recognised by the political parties. But change isn’t quick enough – we can’t wait decades for equality. And in an age of increasing disenchantment with the status quo, people are questioning the ability of parliament to represent them.</p> <p>There are also concerns about consolidating the gains that are being made. After the much-lauded increase of female representation in 1997, the number of women MPs actually fell in the following election. This illustrates the danger of thinking that a more equitable gender balance in one election means it will be maintained in the next; the quest for gender equality must continue to be pursued until full parity has been achieved. </p> <p>One thing that is still holding women back in Westminster is our electoral system. Of incumbent MPs elected in 2001 or before who are standing again in 2015, under 15% are women; this figure drops to 11% of those who were elected in 1987 or before. These male ‘seat blockers’ – bolstered by our majoritarian First Past the Post electoral system – will remain effectively unchallenged unless we get a fairer voting system. Parties also need to open up their selection processes for the mostly-male MPs who have held their seat for decades. </p> <p>Nonetheless, the arrival of 44 more female MPs in Westminster in May would be an important step in the pursuit of equality, and it is the result of unflagging efforts to realise the goal of a truly representative parliament. </p> <p>But there is little room for complacency: the presence of female representatives needs to be copper-fastened into the make-up of our representative institutions – and our voting system. After all, even with the predicted increase in female parliamentarians in May, more than 70% of the MPs will still be men. We can’t allow this to become the new ‘glass ceiling’ for women in Parliament. Let’s reform the system so that the progress we see this May will continue in 2020 and the years to come.</p> <p><a href="http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/women-in-westminster"><em>Read about the ERS’s new report, Women in Westminster</em></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ray-filar/uk-power-of-women%E2%80%99s-vote">UK: the power of the women’s vote</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom OurKingdom Great Charter Convention Rethinking representation Edward Molloy Fri, 20 Mar 2015 08:40:14 +0000 Edward Molloy 91361 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Renationalisation: the Argentine case shows it can be done https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/javier-lewkowicz/renationalisation-argentine-case-shows-it-can-be-done <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Argentina has completed multiple, successful renationalisations in the past decade. It can be done... when the political will is there.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/4MC0lnbuRSXsUNIM8ILiJ-vXkAT2vvVEeXrjwgg0EK8/mtime:1426702785/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/kirchner.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/asQx00i4HEODeUZo_7JOzjiN0U0rbpym3LHQRTmd48M/mtime:1426689060/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/kirchner.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>President Kirchner. Flickr/Ministerio de Cultura de la Nacion</span></span></span></p><p>Many South American countries are currently going through a period of so-called post neo-liberalism, a quest to re-establish the state as the principal mechanism of social integration. The path chosen, however, has varied in many respects, one of which is exemplified by nationalisation. Argentina, Venezuela and Bolivia all deployed measures to change company ownership, but each country’s policy was based on its own particular rationale. Venezuela directly expropriated and nationalised hundreds of private businesses that had not been previously privatised, the impetus to do so having been very weak during the 1990s. Bolivia undertook nationalisation of strategic sectors, most importantly hydrocarbons and telecommunications, a policy Evo Morales had anticipated during in his presidential campaign. It also took over four power companies and a metallurgy plant. Brazil, Ecuador and Uruguay, on the other hand, reasserted state control in the economy but not through significant nationalisation. </p> <p>Argentina’s case is noteworthy in this regard. It begins back in the early 90s with the Freudian slip of erstwhile Minister of Public Works Roberto Dromi, who, on unveiling his privatisation plan, famously declared that nothing that should belong to the state would remain in state hands. So began the sale of an unprecedented number of state-owned assets. Radio, television, telephone, tolls, roads and railways, and the national airline passed into private hands along with steel, petrochemicals, shipbuilding, electricity and hydroelectric plants, oil and gas, mortgage lending, and social security. Not for nothing was the country considered the IMF’s top student. The neoliberal explosion of 2001 inaugurated a new period, in which private enterprises were not renationalised across the board but on a case-by-case basis. For the most part, this occurred in response to poor management that jeopardized the businesses in question and sometimes, in a more indirect manner, the nation’s socio-economic stability. </p> <p>In November 2003, the newly minted government of President Néstor Kirchner tackled the first transfer of a private company back to the public sector. Argentina’s postal service, which had been in the hands of the Macri group, was nationalised in response to mounting unpaid license fees and the discovery that the severance pay of 3,000 laid-off workers had been recorded in the company books as an investment. The radio spectrum was nationalised a few months later after its owners defaulted on a promised $300 million investment. &nbsp;The two moves were decisive because the country was still recovering from an economic crisis and the government needed to send a confident message that it was determined to initiate policy.</p> <p>But the icing on the cake came in 2006 when, after years of corporate neglect, Aguas Argentinas, the water supply and sanitation system run by the French group Suez, allowed contaminated water to be distributed throughout the southwest region of Buenos Aires. The government seized the opportunity to shift water management to state-owned Aysa, and from that moment on progress was dramatic. Where there were 3 million inhabitants without access to potable water in metropolitan Buenos Aires in 2006, the company now aims to achieve 100 percent coverage by the end of this year and complete sewage coverage by 2019. </p> <p>In addition to public service industries, the state recovered control in 2007 of both the Tandanor shipyards—the privatization of which was a scandal because the owners never honoured the contract they agreed to—and the aircraft manufacturer Fábrica Militar de Aviones. The latter was purchased for 67 million pesos from Lockheed Martin in order to create a new entity under the name Fábrica Argentina de Aviones and the control of the Ministry of Defence. </p> <p>Still, the four most important cases of renationalisation took place later, during the successive mandates of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (CFK) between 2008-2011 and 2011-2015, namely Aerolíneas Argentinas, the pension fund, the national oil company, and the railway. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Aerolíneas Argentinas</strong></p> <p>On December 10, 2007, CFK replaced her husband Néstor Kirchner as President.&nbsp; Barely six months later, she unveiled her bill to expropriate the flagship Aerolíneas Argentinas for failing to pay its employees and its suppliers, which had left it facing imminent closure. Sale of the airline in the early 90s to the Spanish Marsans group had marked the beginning of a series of privatisations and was emblematic of the practice of asset stripping. In 1990, for example, the company owned 28 planes and rented one. By 2008, it had only two international-class aircraft, a handful of domestic planes, and a rental fleet of 30. Its offices in Rome, Paris, New York, Miami, Madrid, Bogotá, Lima, and Caracas were transferred to Spanish hands. The airline had boasted three flight simulators used to train personnel—the only Latin American company with access to such technology—and they all were swallowed up by Iberia, along with lucrative routes to the Netherlands, France, Germany, England and Switzerland and the airline’s data processing network and reservations system. </p> <p>In 2008, the airline’s assets were in the red by some $1.2 billion. The Tribunal of Accounts of the Nation evaluated the company as having negative net worth, so for legal reasons the Argentine government paid a symbolic amount of one peso to represent compensation for expropriation. Marsans in turn filed a 1.2 billion-dollar claim with the ICSID tribunal, the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_arbitration">international arbitration</a> institution operating under the auspices of the World Bank. </p> <p><strong>Pension funds </strong></p> <p>That same year the social security system was nationalised; it was one of the most strategic measures undertaken by the Kirchner government. Although the nationalisation took place against the backdrop of the global financial crisis, it is significant because it was not a response to an urgent domestic issue. It consisted in transferring pensions from a privately funded corporation to a framework of intergenerational liability in which actively employed workers subsidize passive ones. This is how it operates insofar as cash flow is concerned, but another key element is capital. The previous retirement and pension fund administrators (AFJP in Spanish) managed—charging enormous commissions in return—substantial assets derived from the contributions of workers who, in effect, were financing their own retirement. In December 2008, this capital was worth some $23.347 billion; today it is called the Sustainability Guarantee Fund (FGS in Spanish) and is worth $54.534 billion, as measured by the official exchange rate.</p> <p>Much of FGS is invested in the shares of the country’s most important companies. After the renationalisation, the government invoked its shareholder rights and nominated many directors to the boards of these firms, something that the local elites have never forgiven it. AFJP had also invested heavily in public securities; as a result, some of the debt passed directly from private to state hands. Meanwhile, the government modified the investment strategy to focus on domestic companies and infrastructure funds, at times acting much like a development bank. </p> <p>More important still, by recovering the pension fund, the state was able to tap into the substantial fiscal resources that stemmed from the contributions of active salaried workers and the profitability of the FGS. In this way, the government financed its Universal Allocation per Child, an employment insurance program that provides monthly benefits per child to unemployed workers and those without access to benefits under the registered employment plan known as the “Family Allowance.” The FGS funds were also used to establish <em>Pro.Cre.Ar.</em>, a program that helps subsidize home buying and <em>Prog.R.Es.Ar.</em>, a stimulus plan that targets young people between the ages of 18 and 24 who are neither working nor in school and helps them complete their studies from primary school to university. </p> <p>Finally, nationalising the retirement program enabled the government to strengthen social security, which covers close to 95 percent of those of retirement age. This in turn has produced a “flattening” of the retirement pyramid, which means there are more people receiving minimum pension benefits. In other words, having been nationalised, the system has gained a redistributive bias that operates at the expense of high-income earners and the financial system and in favour of poorer pensioners. Many complaints were filed by former AFJP members who tried to lock in the benefits earned under the privately funded system, but these were dismissed in court. At the same time, there have been several judgements in favour of retirees who are hoping that their benefits turn out to be higher than the basic minimum. </p> <p><strong>YPF</strong></p> <p>On May 3, 2012, the Kirchner government took the most controversial of its renationalisation decisions and announced it was taking over the oil company YPF, the country’s largest privately owned corporation, by expropriating 51 percent of the shares held by Spanish energy giant Repsol. The move came after a flurry of divestment by the company, which brought Argentina’s energy trade deficit to unimaginably low levels and set the course for an economy plagued by a severe shortage of dollars, a situation that continues to this day. The numbers speak for themselves: the balance of exports and imports in the energy sector was $4.104 billion in 2007, $3.514 billion in 2008, $3.830 in 2009, $1.759 in 2010, and -$3.114 billion in 2011 when the decision to expropriate YPF was taken.</p> <p>The decline in the energy sector was the result of Repsol’s policy of maximizing earnings: it made money in Argentina by exploiting mature oil fields and selling gasoline and then investing the profits in exploration in other parts of the world. So, oil and gas reserves decreased continuously while company profits and the dividends it paid out increased. From the time Repsol acquired YPF in 1998 until the end of 2011, oil reserves dropped by 54 percent; and gas reserves, by 97 percent. This did not happen overnight. The practice took place quietly over time such that the Kirchner government itself was a silent observer, a fact that underscores the serious lacunae in its regulatory policy. </p> <p>Unlike the case of Aerolíneas or the AFJP, the government agreed in February 2014 to pay compensation to Repsol. &nbsp;Some $4.670 billion was transferred using a variety of financial instruments within the framework of an overall strategy on the part of the state to align itself with international markets. In exchange, Repsol withdrew the pending case against Argentina, which it had filed with the ICSID. </p> <p>Today, YPF is spearheading an effort to recover the country’s energy self-sufficiency with the exploitation of the unconventional Vaca Muerta field in the Neuquén basin. It is estimated that it will take at least five years before the country can regain its balance of trade in the energy sector. </p> <p><strong>Railway</strong></p> <p>At the opening of the legislative session on March 1, the President announced a measure that, for the moment, is the latest salvo in the Kirchner renationalisation arsenal: the railway. The story goes back to February 22, 2012, when, at 8:30 in the morning, a commuter train, unable to brake, slammed into the buffer stops of the Once de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires railway station. 51 people died, and more than 702 were injured. </p> <p>The tragedy drew attention, once again, to a lack of government oversight with respect to private companies that had been awarded rail contracts in the 90s. Thanks to a generous subsidy, rail passengers paid low fees and the operating companies received money from the state without any obligation to invest or even adequately maintain cars and lines. The Once accident was the most recent and most serious in a string of mainly small-scale accidents. </p> <p>The disaster provoked a radical change in the government’s rail strategy, and it soon began to rescind contracts and replace private operators. It also led an ambitious investment initiative that turned the railway into a political asset - so much so that Transportation Minister Florencio Randazzo has become one of several presidential hopefuls for the October 2015 elections. The state paid $1.2 billion to China for the renovation of urban passenger trains. The latest news on this topic is that the government has now reclaimed the last of the lines awarded to private operators. It plans to place the entire rail system under the banner of the newly rehabilitated state-run Ferrocarriles Argentinos.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><strong>This article is part of our <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/modernise-deprivatise">Modernise: de-privatise</a> series. Translation by Victoria E. Robertson.</strong></em></p> OurKingdom OurKingdom Modernise: de-privatise Javier Lewkowicz Fri, 20 Mar 2015 08:27:04 +0000 Javier Lewkowicz 91364 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The tartan tsunami and how It will change Scotland and the UK for good https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/gerry-hassan/tartan-tsunami-and-how-it-will-change-scotland-and-uk-for-good <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As Britain faces a general election, it's clearer than ever that Scotland is a completely different country.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/EBBtddxrwym5nPHRtp_cHniyDPiwFC7wYjVQKAJ7_aY/mtime:1426810178/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Conservative-poster-ed-mi-008.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/zzO9H3u2t91dxY4ACD4ZQltyCcFcr1Z8xu26YIzxBrA/mtime:1426772355/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Conservative-poster-ed-mi-008.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>The UK general election campaign is upon us – struggling to make sense of the state of the country and how its institutions and politics are seen. </p> <p>Underneath all the political rhetoric and exchange we are about to witness is tangible anxiety and unsureness about who ‘we’ are and the very existence, or not, of a ‘we’ in terms of connection, culture and collective memories - which can be found equally on both left and right.</p> <p>Scotland has become one of the key reference points of this election: continually cited by the Westminster class and media, but seldom if ever understood. It wasn’t meant to be like this. The indyref was won 55:45 for the union. The issue was supposedly in David Cameron’s words ‘settled’, Alex Salmond seen off the political stage and the SNP juggernaut checked, if not stopped.</p> <p>Scotland is at a seismic moment with huge implications and long-term repercussions not just for Scotland but the UK – as what increasingly looks like a tartan tsunami could sweep away scores of Labour once impregnable bastions north of the border.</p> <p>Viewed from Scotland, so much has changed and shifted that it is almost impossible to convey - politics, society and attitudes, but more critically how things are perceived, felt and what is now deemed possible or not. The reference points in Scottish politics and public life have dramatically changed. This extends way beyond the SNP’s massive influx of members, away to hit 100,000 in the next couple of weeks, or the flatlining of the Scottish Labour Party. </p><p>Society feels different. The referendum has produced a dramatically different political landscape which is disguised by many of the institutions, players and language being the same as before. An impressive 76% of Scots say they intend to vote in the general election compared to 63% in England; the figures for 18-19 years are even more pronounced: 65% in Scotland, 34% in England. 85% of Yes supporters plan to vote SNP in May, whereas No supporters divide 44% Labour 36% Conservative 7% SNP and 7% Lib Dem. </p> <p>Every single Scottish opinion poll for Westminster since the indyref has put the SNP significantly ahead of Labour – sometimes by huge margins. SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has a 62% approval rating; Jim Murphy, Scottish Labour leader is struggling and has seen his approval ratings fall from 33% in February to 26% in March. </p> <p>The national swing projections point to the possibility of the SNP winning 40-50 seats. The individual Ashcroft constituency polls paint a similar picture – and one of Labour and Lib Dem wipeout north of the border (the Lib Dems holding 11 of Scotland’s 59 seats in May 2010). All of this points, Peter Kellner said, to a watershed – ‘a once-dominant party condemned by voters – its leader rejected, its remaining supporters lukewarm’ and facing ‘a popular, fresh-faced rival’, evoking the spirit and scale of change of 1997 (1). </p> <p>One of the principal obstacles to this SNP induced tartan tsunami could be the electoral geography of Scotland and absence of Labour-SNP marginals. Thus, the SNP need a big swing to win big in seats: a 10% swing from Labour to SNP would only produce two SNP gains, a 15% swing 19 gains, and a 22% swing 36 gains. </p> <p>Suddenly Westminster has had to confront its own mortality and the potential impact of the SNP post-election. Both the Labour and Tory parties faced with their own limited box office appeals have traded the supposed insults and threats of ‘Vote SNP Get the Tories’ and ‘Vote SNP Get Labour.’</p> <p>The Tories in particular have made major political capital out of this. There was the poster of a gigantic Alex Salmond with a minuscule Ed Miliband in his coat pocket. Cameron’s language has set out to diminish and humiliate Miliband as ‘weak and despicable’ and being prepared to ‘crawl to power in Alex Salmond’s pocket.’ </p> <p>Tory strategy has been to hurt Labour on two interconnected fronts. Firstly, they aim to weaken them in England scaring voters with the spectre of a Nationalist threat having influence at Westminster. Secondly, they talk up the SNP in Scotland to further undermine Labour. Both increase the prospect of Cameron remaining in Downing Street after the election. This is smart short-term electoral tactics, but one far removed from the pro-union message in the indyref.</p> <p>Labour has been transfixed by the Tory use of the Labour-SNP deal/no deal – knowing that ruling out or in the possibility would each carry with it a sizeable price. Under severe political pressure from worried Scottish Labour MPs Ed Miliband this week ruled out a ‘coalition’ with the SNP; something the Nationalists had already said was ‘highly unlikely.’</p><p><strong> </strong></p><p><strong>The Labour-SNP fetishisation of micro-differences (minus the constitution) </strong></p> <p>Where does this take us beyond the political rhetoric? Beneath this the differences between Labour and SNP are less than first appear, but magnified by language, tribalism and intense electoral competition. </p> <p>A British Election Survey at the end of last year showed that SNP voters thought they were the most left-wing of Scotland’s mainstream parties and their party the most left-wing with Labour as significantly to their right; while Labour voters thought the same of themselves and their party, and placed the SNP to their right. </p> <p>Both sets of voters maximised the difference between the two in terms of where they thought they and their parties stood. But comparing Labour and SNP voter self-perceptions of themselves and their party put each in the same place on the political spectrum. This is the fetishisation of micro-difference, one not unique to Labour and SNP, but just taken to a grotesque level by both.</p> <p>Post-election the SNP are going to have to deal with success and a much larger Westminster group. If it finds itself in a ‘kingmaker’ role in a hung Parliament it will have its every move forensically scrutinised. In a similar position in the October 1974-79 Parliament (which for a large part of the time had a minority Labour Government), the SNP’s parliamentary votes caused intense political controversy.</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB">The SNP have to develop a new raison d'être as it becomes more difficult to pose as simultaneously both insurgents and incumbents north of the border as they morph into the new political establishment. They have to find a rationale for the party between what increasingly looks likely to be two independence referendums – with the second if it occurs unlikely to be just one or two years away. </p><p>Historically the SNP has seen its role as to articulate and defend Scottish interests (plural) and what is seen as ‘the Scottish interest’ (singular) with all this implies. The latter wordage has resonance particularly in relation to how Scottish politics has approached Westminster and the UK. One problem with this is that it has traditionally embodied a defensive politics, based on the power of the Scottish lobby, corporatisted interests, and pork-barrel politics. This after all was the glue which held together Labour Scotland for so long.</p><p>All of this has less Westminster traction as devolution evolves. For example, future Scottish devolution of income tax could lead to Scots MPs not voting on the income tax provisions of the UK Budget.</p><p><span>The not so strange death of Labour Scotland</span></p><p>Scottish Labour face even more difficult pressures. Jim Murphy, despite three and a half months of hyperactive leadership and pronouncements, seems to have made little positive impact on the political weather.</p><p>Murphy has been playing frantic catch-up – making dozens of policy announcements, continually talking about his love of football, and even revising his own policy stands as leader. For example, one policy of ‘1,000 more nurses than the SNP’ proclaimed by Murphy in January was controversially publicised with the Scottish Labour tweet that it would be funded by a UK mansion tax of which ‘95% will be levied in the South East of UK.’ By March, without any fanfare, this became simply ‘1,000 more nurses.’</p><p>There has been no discernible ‘Murphy bounce’. Not all of this can be laid at his door; and goes deeper than Labour’s alliance with the Tories in the ‘Better Together’ alliance in the referendum. There are long, historical causes for Labour’s decline and predicament: one being the character and culture of how Labour administered and ran Scotland for decades, another being the absence of any positive agenda of what the party should do under devolution.</p><p>The party is in a state of shock and denial. Labour MP Douglas Alexander this week <a href="http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2015/03/17/labour-blames-conspiracy-theories-for-scottish-collapse">blamed ‘conspiracy theories’</a> on social media for why Labour has ended up where it is. He cited, at a Labour List event, the experience of speaking to a woman in a supermarket who said ‘I’m never going to vote Labour again’ and that the referendum had been ‘a conspiracy’ because ‘everyone I know voted Yes’. That’s the kind of short straws Labour’s senior figures grasp at in public.</p><p><span>Whatever happened to the centre-left case for the union?</span></p><p>A fundamental problem for Labour and pro-union opinion in Scotland is not just the overall decline of unionism but also the retreat of any sense of progressive unionism. Labour’s lack of surefootedness in the present day Scotland is illustrated by some of Jim Murphy’s statements since becoming leader. He has said on many occasions that he is ‘not a unionist’ (a label which still has certain religious and sectarian connotations in parts of the West of Scotland).</p><p>Even more revealing, Murphy has several times, despite being a career Westminster politician, tried to distance himself from the institution. He has risibly stated that ‘I’m not a Westminster politician’, trying to make the distinction that he is a Scottish politician who just <a href="https://www.holyrood.com/articles/inside-politics/jim-murphy-interview">happens to sit in Westminster</a>. Such is the way the British political system is now seen in large parts of Scotland and the UK.</p><p>Labour used to be able to tell a convincing story in Scotland which presented the positive case and benefits of the union and set out an enlightened, benevolent and progressive unionism. This has become problematic over time. Under the Thatcher and Major Governments Scottish Labour adapted to a quasi-nationalist language which defined 1980s Scotland. Subsequently, in the early years of devolution Labour adopted an abrasive unionist message – ‘Divorce is an Expensive Business’ – which jarred with many voters, even if in the short-term it had some effect.</p><p>Labour’s unionism was always different from Tory unionism. It was instrumental and about the union as a means to an end, not an end in itself. As the UK has become less progressive and more unequal, Labour’s unionism has morphed to being an end in itself and an intrinsic politics. This fundamental shift is anathema to a progressive, centre-left party and one Labour seems to have barely any understanding of.</p><p>Is the union then just over or facing an uncertain time and future as it heads for the rocks and possibly divorce courts? How has this come about so quickly from the ‘glad, confident new morning’ of 1997 and the hyperbole of the ‘New Britain, New Labour’ era? This was an era where Gordon Brown and Douglas Alexander acclaimed the union as ‘a partnership for social justice’ and ‘the greatest multi-national union in human history.’ The trouble was they believed their own hollow rhetoric which grew in inverse proportion to the state of the union, while in typical Labour fashion, despite copious speeches and Smith Institute pamphlets, no detailed definition of social justice was ever offered.</p><p>One analogy about the state of union <a href="http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2015/03/night-of-the-long-claymores-the-snp-are-poised-for-a-historic-momentous-victory/">made by writer Alex Massie</a> and others is to see the coming SNP wave at Westminster as a 1918 moment. This is a reference to the election of 73 Sinn Fein MPs at that contest: a precursor to Irish independence. Massie observed, looking back to 1918, that, ‘We’ve not seen anything like this’ since then, and continued with foreboding: ‘And you will remember what happened after that’.</p><p>The comparison is a powerful, but ultimately false one. For a start, Scotland and Ireland’s place and history in the union has been very different: Ireland was conquered, Scotland wasn’t and became a ‘junior partner’ in the British imperial project. Their societies and economies equally have reflected very different stages and paths of development.</p><p>Even more pertinent for today, the nature of Sinn Fein in 1918 and the SNP in 2015 could not be starker. Sinn Fein ran on an abstentionist ticket in 1918 and once elected set up a Dáil in Dublin. One of the fear factors of the Westminster class with the SNP is the exact opposite: that the expanded Nationalist group will take their seats and make their presence felt.</p><p>Westminster insiders seem to be intent on belatedly attempting to stigmatise the SNP as motivated by wanting to ‘break up our country’ (Cameron’s words) – when everyone knows the SNP’s pro-independence stand. The 2015 Westminster election isn’t going to end or validate the union in Scotland – that was decided for the time being in last year’s indyref.</p><p>A more apt comparison would be the role of the Irish Nationalist Party who are most associated with the leadership of Charles Stewart Parnell and who between 1885-1910 elected between 70-80 MPs at each contest, and played a high profile and influential role at Westminster.</p><p>This has some common ground with today’s emerging political situation. The Irish Nationalists were seen by many as part of the Gladstonian anti-Tory progressive (and informal) coalition: one which was informed by an incremental politics of self-government. Inappropriate comparisons with 1918 underline the confusion and denial at the heart of unionism, air of fin de siècle decline and the passing of an era of Britishness.</p><p>Large parts of pro-union opinion are in a state of shock and confusion. English unionism is in a bad place, part denial and part anger about where the union is and what has happened to it. There is a lack of understanding about how things have come to this impasse – with indignation and rage directed at a number of targets from Labour’s devolution plans of 1997-99 to the SNP and wider Scottish independence movement.</p><p>Scottish pro-union opinion – despite winning a majority in the recent referendum – acts and feels that it lost if not the vote, then the debate and aftermath. In Scotland, this often expresses itself in a bitter and heartfelt cry about the current mood of Scotland and complete misreading of the public mood and pro-independence opinion. In a typical example in ‘The Guardian’ this week <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/mar/16/english-identity-serves-no-purpose">a letter from Aberdeen</a> complained of ‘nationalists still smarting from ancient battles lost, and deep-seated inferiority complexes leading to selective racism, namely Anglophobia’.</p><p>Then there are the London Scottish class of commentators and opinion formers – such as Fraser Nelson, Hugo Rifkind and Iain Martin. Their take on the union contains emotional and elegiac elements, filled with sadness, detachment and an over-romanticisation of a union which is in both the political, and their personal, past.</p><p>There is a mourning for the passing of a Britain and Scotland which no longer exist. The palpable feeling that Scotland has been ‘lost’ to the union, which for some has connotations of proprietorial ownership, and that the country has been utterly and irreversibly changed is painful for some. This is cause for dismissal and celebration in many pro-independence voices, but it should be heard and acknowledged.</p><p>In the indyref many pro-union people asked warily, ‘what happens if I wake up on September 19th in a different country?’ One answer was of course that a different country was already here, and was being made and remade in the independence debate. What that response didn’t recognise was the existential depth of that observation, one which is about profound grieving almost amounting for some to a family death. There has to be an emotional intelligence to this dimension, irrespective of whether people are pro or anti-independence.</p><p>There is a missing story of British popular unionism which is being filled by confusion, anxiety and xenophobia – one articulation of which can be seen in the rise of UKIP English nationalism – which has become increasingly irritable not just about Europe and immigration, but Scotland and Scottish nationalism.</p><p>‘The Times’ writer and former Tory MP Matthew Parris <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/article4381659.ece">said recently</a> that, ‘The union died last year during the Scottish independence campaign.’ He continued with an audible sense of regret, ‘The union is over; the general election will confirm it’.</p><p>May 2015 will not be as black and white as Parris writes. The above says much about the pessimism and dislocation of part of English elite political opinion: one which has had its way for so long and now feels the ground move under their feet. The forthcoming election is part of a longer set of changes and transformation, and one more staging post in Scotland’s political development, growing autonomy and detachment from the rest of the UK.</p><p>Scotland is marking out a direction and territory of its own. This is increasingly defined by a <em>de jure</em> independence – what <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Independence-Scottish-Mind-Narratives-Public/dp/1137414138/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1426698548&amp;sr=1-5&amp;keywords=gerry+hassan">I have described as</a> an ‘independence of the Scottish mind’ – whereby Scottish politics, public life and the public sphere act in an increasingly autonomous and distinct way as if Scotland were independent in how it thinks, acts and sees itself. One illustration of this is an Edinburgh University study this week which showed that 69% of Scots believe it is inevitable that <a href="http://www.thenational.scot/news/scotland-will-be-independent-one-day-say-70-of-scots.1078">Scotland will be independent</a>.</p><p>Scotland is not going back to normal service now or anytime post-May general election. The same of course is true of UK politics. The difference is with the UK that statement underlines the sense of doubt, fatalism and fear over the future which characterises the dynamic of Westminster politics. Whereas north of the border, for all the political imperfections, there is a genuine sense of optimism, hope and belief that a better collective future can be created – qualities singularly missing from British politics.</p><p>Scotland is continuing on its ‘revolution of the normal’ and its desire to be progressive, democratic and European: mainstream sentiments but ones increasingly at odds with the direction of British politics.</p> <ol><li><p>Peter Kellner, ‘Little time left for party to prevent an SNP landslide’, <em>The Times Scotland Edition</em>, March 13th 2015.</p> </li></ol> OurKingdom OurKingdom Great Charter Convention Power where? Nations, regions, cities Gerry Hassan Fri, 20 Mar 2015 00:00:03 +0000 Gerry Hassan 91388 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Soft power and freedom under the Coalition https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/emma-bell/soft-power-and-freedom-under-coalition <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Coalition’s conception of “freedom” has little to do with empowering individuals and local communities. Instead, it means enhancing corporate power by “liberating” services from public control.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/eL7gT3KEKw-tS0LXMJVDAMP59-oSt2RGLn7E2lXVK-8/mtime:1426173073/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555395/5563512395_401330c908_z.jpg" alt="Image of TUC march in London" title="Meet your big socieyt" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Freedom for whom? Flickr/Chris Beckett. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>As a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/caroline-slocock/big-society-passing-of-cameron%27s-dream">recent report&nbsp;</a>by the think tank&nbsp;<em>Civil Exchange&nbsp;</em>demonstrated, the Coalition has failed to deliver its promise to empower civil society. It has instead&nbsp;pursued policies which have&nbsp;<em>extended</em>&nbsp;the power and the reach of the state, resulting in liberal authoritarianism. Policies have not been overtly authoritarian, but have instead sought to engineer change via more subtle means, often using the private sector as an instrument of “soft power”. Although the term “soft power” is generally only used to refer to states’ exercise of power abroad, as a way of extending cultural and economic influence without the use of military intervention, the term may also be understood as the exercise of state power at home through more subtle means than those deployed by classically authoritarian governments. Used in this sense, “soft power” is more diffuse, exercised via the intermediary of a number of different state and non-state actors. It is less overtly coercive, and tends to be dressed in the language of liberalism and individual empowerment.</p> <p>Under the Coalition the discourse of empowerment has been used to justify coercive, centrally-directed policies: the liberal discourse of localism has masked the continued directive power of the central state and the privileging of corporate over local power; liberal “compassionate” conservative social policies have masked the degree of state and corporate coercion of vulnerable populations; illiberal anti-terror and pre-crime measures have been disguised in the liberal discourse of security whereby the state’s primary role is seen as protecting the individual from external threats; the politics of austerity which hurts individual citizens has been justified by the liberal discourse of the free market; and new imperialistic measures extending both state and corporate power have been dressed in the liberal language of international aid and development.</p> <h2><strong>The real coalition in power</strong></h2> <p>The failure of such apparently “liberal” policies to empower individuals and local communities can largely be understood by the Coalition government’s extraordinarily narrow conception of the notion of freedom. It was conceived in essentially negative terms as freedom&nbsp;<em>from&nbsp;</em>the state to take responsibility for tackling local problems, finding employment, fighting crime and tackling the deficit. Many people who were regarded as lacking in responsibility were to be&nbsp;<em>made&nbsp;</em>free, often via coercion. Welfare claimants, for example, are subjected to extremely&nbsp;<a href="http://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=1759&amp;qid=201657">harsh financial penalties which now exceed the number of fines handed down by criminal courts</a>.</p> <p>Yet, the state did not act alone. The private sector was recruited as a trusted ally, granted powers to determine access to the basic rights of citizenship such as welfare, to “manage” offenders both in prison and in the community, and to spread “soft power” abroad. In education and healthcare, the private sector has been allowed to extend its reach and benefit from new markets; under the&nbsp;<em>Localism Act</em>, local authorities have been encouraged to provide “clients” for the private rented sector and to ensure that its interests are protected when it comes to planning&nbsp;and development. It might be suggested that the real coalition in power is actually that which now exists between government and private corporations. Indeed, the power of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/tamasin-cave/more-than-lobby-finance-in-uk">the private lobbying industry and the revolving door that exists between government and the financial sector</a>&nbsp;in particular ensures that the private sector is now intimately involved in the policy-making process. &nbsp;</p> <p>It is often thought that an increase in the role of the private sector automatically equates with a decrease in state power. Yet, rather than regarding the trend towards involving a greater multiplicity of actors in governance as diminishing the power of the state, as the neoliberal reformers of the 1980s and 1990s had hoped, it would be more appropriate to regard this trend as having led to a situation whereby the state remains largely in control of an increasingly complex structure of partnerships and networks. </p> <p>The “Big Society” should not therefore be understood as merely a smokescreen for privatisation, even if the private sector was the main beneficiary of the policy. It was about governing more effectively. Even if local communities are not genuinely empowered, the discourse of "localism"&nbsp;at least makes them appear to be more responsible for fixing the social problems associated with “broken society”. The government can claim to have given them a range of tools to improve their local schools and get involved in local democracy, for example. This is presented as preferable to solutions imposed from central government. Who could be opposed to getting local communities involved in repairing the “broken society” – surely social problems need “social” solutions, developed by and for local communities?</p> <p>Yet, the failure to genuinely empower local communities, whilst increasing the power of the private sector, has serious consequences for democracy. Unlike elected representatives, private companies are not (in theory at least) accountable to the people. This is particularly problematic, given that they have taken over many state functions, notably with regard to public service delivery. Individual citizens have no direct way of holding them to account: they can only be held to account by the government. </p> <h2><strong>A new concept of community</strong></h2> <p>Yet,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmpubacc/777/777.pdf?utm_source=rss&amp;utm_medium=rss&amp;utm_campaign=contracting-out-public-services-to-the-private">government does a poor job of overseeing the contracts of its service providers</a>. This does not mean that it is weak, however. The real loss of power has been that of ordinary citizens. Whilst it is clear that citizen power has always been limited, at least in the more recent past government’s primary role was to protect the citizenry by guaranteeing minimum social and economic security and providing public services. Today, its main efforts are directed at enhancing the opportunities of the private sector for capital accumulation by “liberating” these services from public control and “freeing” the people from the state by granting them greater market choice in services. </p> <p>In doing so, it assumes an extremely interventionist role in economic policy, putting in place&nbsp;<a href="http://www.renewal.org.uk/articles/the-british-corporate-welfare-state/">favourable fiscal regimes</a>&nbsp;and setting up the regulatory structures necessary to oversee the process of market liberalisation. Yet, it is also obliged to assume an extremely interventionist role vis-à-vis the people who are to be persuaded that these reforms are in their best interests.</p> <p>In order to counter such trends and revive democracy, it is necessary to respond to sentiments of disempowerment and marginalisation from mainstream political processes. There must be collective mobilisation for freedom. Yet, “community”, at least as it is often commonly understood, is not the starting point. In New Labour’s communitarianism or the Coalition’s “Big Society”, communities were often imagined as being tied together by common values, meaning that those who were deemed not to share those same values – the immigrant, the “problem family”, the welfare “scrounger” – often found themselves excluded and citizens pitted against each other rather than able to work together. The idea of a genuinely new politics means encouraging a new pluralist concept of community and tapping into existing popular movements to create genuine “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/mike-aitken/communities-of-resistance-resistance-is-not-futile">communities of resistance</a>”.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/blog/ourkingdom/clare-coatman/2009/10/06/liberty-and-the-tories">Liberty and the Tories</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/joe-guinan-thomas-m-hanna/privatisation-very-british-disease">Privatisation, a very British disease</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/mike-aitken/communities-of-resistance-resistance-is-not-futile">Communities of resistance: resistance is not futile</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> OurKingdom OurKingdom Civil society Opinion LocalismWatch Rights Liberties Corporate state Conservative Party Emma Bell Thu, 19 Mar 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Emma Bell 91215 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Citizens' assemblies as a republican political practice https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grant/citizens%27-assemblies-as-republican-political-practice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Do citizens conventions and assemblies offer a way of giving&nbsp;republican political ideals a&nbsp;practical expression? </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>A republican revival in political theory has been underway for three decades, but arguably has produced no institutional change for its efforts. Even today when governments everywhere talk about engaging with the public, such exercises often amount to nothing but pseudo-listening events that have no chance of affecting policy. In this light, the invention of “citizens’ assemblies” (CAs) stands out as a development in deliberative democracy worth discussing. Different versions of citizens’ assemblies have been used at the provincial level in Canada (<a href="http://www.citizensassembly.gov.on.ca/en-CA/About.html"><span><span>British Columbia</span></span></a> in 2004 and <a href="http://www.citizensassembly.gov.on.ca/"><span><span>Ontario</span></span></a> in 2006-07), the Netherlands (2006), <a href="http://www.newdemocracy.com.au/library/case-studies/104-the-australian-citizens-parliament-2009"><span><span>Australia</span></span></a> (2009), <a href="http://www.dw.de/iceland-votes-for-citizen-assembly-to-draft-new-constitution/a-6274235"><span><span>Iceland</span></span></a> (2010), and, and in some <a href="http://www.oregon.gov/circ/pages/index.aspx"><span><span>American</span></span></a> states. Because these are liberal democratic countries, we should expect CAs to be thoroughly liberal themselves. Instead, CAs look decidedly republican in character in terms of their consequences for political representation, liberty and citizenship. If republicans show that CA practices embody many of their theoretical positions, then the CA model can stand as a ready-made institution ready to challenge liberal orthodoxies.</p><div class="pf-content"><p>A citizens’ assembly is an independent and nearly-random body of citizens that are brought together to deliberate about an issue of significant public importance (in Canada, CAs were used to recommend new electoral systems). CAs engage in an extensive learning phase, followed by public consultation on the part of CA members, leading to a final recommendation. All told, the Canadian CAs met roughly even second week for the better part of one year before producing their recommendations that were decided on by referenda.</p><p>These features of CAs are supported by some assumptions that deserve mentioning. The lottery system starts by sending invitations to random members of the public; those who wish to participate opt into a lottery process involving various control criteria (age, sex, language, electoral riding, etc.). The lottery system was used in republics like ancient Athens and Italian city-states, and it survives in today’s jury systems. Lottery does away with the ability of power cliques to determine outcomes, while certain selection controls mean that the composition of CAs is more egalitarian and inclusive than our elected bodies. Importantly, CAs presume that citizens are capable of grasping complex issues so long as they are provided with the necessary time and information to do so.</p><p>Obviously representative democracies depend heavily on successful systems of representation. The liberal ideal is that electoral representation achieves two aims: it connects the public to government, and the threat of electoral defeat keeps representatives true to the interests of their constituents. This is “responsive representation.” In reality, election cycles distort commitments to judicious, long-term decision-making, while representatives are increasingly beholden to the interests of the powerful (lobbyists, corporate business, the banking industry, and the wealthy in general).</p><p>An important republican feature of citizens’ assemblies emerges here. Contrary to liberal legislatures, a CA’s status as a citizen body capable of contributing to the common good depends on being <em>free from</em> electoral representation. If our usual systems of representation have been compromised – and embarrassingly low levels of trust in elected officials indicate this has occurred – then sidelining political parties and powerful interests from certain policy issues seems appropriate (think of financial industry regulations or MP’s spending, for example). CAs offer a kind of “indicative representation,” where the status of its members means that you and I, as part of the mass public, can more readily expect that we share in the mindset of the CA. For republican theory, indicative representation engages in a process of democratic will formation that is superior to the assumption of liberal responsive representation that such a will somehow already exists.</p><p>The question of how CAs contribute to a country’s overall system of liberty involves an extended investigation into various ways that liberty is achieved. The most straightforward summary involves the following comparisons between three kinds of liberty. “Negative liberty” is a favourite of liberals such as Isaiah Berlin. Here liberty means an absence of interference; the fewer impediments I face – especially from the state – the more freedom I enjoy. Proponents of “positive liberty,” such as Charles Taylor, argue that freedom requires more than non-interference; it requires that we have actual capacities to pursue meaningful ends that make life worth living (and the state may well need to help people toward such goals). Advocates of republican liberty, such as Phillip Pettit and Quentin Skinner, do not share uniform views, but a general republican position is this: freedom cannot be based on dependence. If you depend on the state not to interfere with you (negative liberty) or to guide your life appropriately (positive liberty) then your liberty has been left to the arbitrary whims of a far greater power.</p><p>If used appropriately, CAs can contribute to a republican system of liberty by acting as a countervailing power at a systems level. The liberty of average citizens depends far too much on organizations and interests that are beyond their control. This is reflected in long-standing discussions about centralised and decentralised authority that only think about the vertical alignment of politics. CAs promote an axial turn to horizontal politics that aims to recast the relationship of political power between government and citizens.</p><p>What countervailing powers could CAs hold beyond the recommendation functions they have performed to date? Various suggestions include a review function of court decisions, or the ability to return laws to lawmakers for reform; an agenda-setting power for future CA topics or for national referenda; and a commitment to making CAs truly of the people by controlling participant membership by socio-economic class.</p><p>Perhaps the most audacious suggestions have to do with the persistence of government institutions that still depend on cronyism and hereditary membership. From the republican perspective, democratic freedom would be enhanced dramatically by transforming the British House of Lords and the Canadian Senate into citizens’ assemblies.</p><p>Finally, liberal and republican theorists tend to have competing notions of citizenship. In short, liberals see citizenship as conferring status while demanding little in return other than lawful behaviour and the willingness to serve on juries. There is no conspicuous burden on individuals. Republican theorists like Skinner recast citizenship as a practice rather than a status. While liberals pay lip-service to participatory self-rule, it is republicans who demand that individuals be politically active, with social duty trumping the right to opt out and stay at home. When this activity does not take place, the republican view is that we cease to be citizens and instead become subjects with laws that are imposed upon us.</p><p>The operational success of CAs requires that its members assume a republican approach to citizenship.&nbsp; CAs provide a new kind of public space for people to engage in collective governance. The thousands of people who put their names forth for the Canadian electoral CAs show that political apathy is not a natural condition. But this also indicates that opportunities for active citizenship must be provided; people will meet a heavier burden – if they are called forth directly to do so.</p><p>It seems, then, that the practices of citizens’ assemblies have a strong republican provenance, especially when compared to liberal theory. The revival of republican theory is in need of institutional innovations to support its agenda, and CAs seem ready-made to attract republican support.</p><p>This article was first published at <em><strong><a href="http://www.democraticaudit.com/?p=11313">Democratic Audit</a></strong></em>.</p></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/-8xrM8zJ-PI-idO0oxwLDVfX3tT9TQ-KiO4znX23lZo/mtime:1421864577/files/Great%20Charter%20Convention%20%281%29.jpg" alt="" width="140" /></a> </p><p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention">The Great Charter Convention</a> – an open, public debate on where arbitrary power lies in the UK today and how we should contest and contain it.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> OurKingdom OurKingdom Great Charter Convention A constitutional convention Rethinking representation John Grant Thu, 19 Mar 2015 00:11:11 +0000 John Grant 91231 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Osborne mostly 'forgets' to mention NHS - but the devil's in the detail https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/osborne-mostly-%27forgets%27-to-mention-nhs-but-devil%27s-in-detail <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There were little bits of extra 'NHS' cash on offer in today's budget - but who will get them?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/ONP7bbRIG60r8CW2Uy4qFd5wAAYNzV8ujUkXNLhR__0/mtime:1426690881/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/red%20box_0_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/f3NK64xlrKW4EIvHxZEvBsj8UV4Q5FHXFgm_Fu4m2E0/mtime:1426690742/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/red%20box_0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>In a highly political pre-election </span><a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/chancellor-george-osbornes-budget-2015-speech">Budget speech</a><span>, Chancellor George Osborne was pretty quiet about the NHS - no doubt following Tory spin doctor </span><a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/06/why-tories-have-stopped-talking-about-nhs">Lynton Crosby’s advice</a><span>. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Ed Miliband called it 'the secret plan to cut the NHS that dare not speak its name'.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>There were, however, a few significant announcements of extra funding - but unfortunately, mostly likely to go not to the NHS, but rather to the growing number of companies and social enterprises feeding off it.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Voters' top concern is that the NHS is struggling, saddled as it is with a hugely <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/billions-of-wasted-nhs-cash-noone-wants-to-mention">costly market infrastucture</a> and PFI debts, and old people spending <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/what%27s-really-causing-ae-crisis-and-how-can-we-fix-it">hours in A&amp;E and on hospital trolleys</a> as a result. &nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>So if Osborne wants to be considered a possible successor to David Cameron, he has to be seen to do something bold, aside from the £2.7bn of not-really-enough and not-entirely-'new' money he announced in his <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/osborne-lays-out-path-to-broken-nhs-funding-promises">autumn statement</a>. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>He pre-announced this 'something bold' a couple of weeks ago. As he reminded us today, rather than boost squeezed health and social care budgets, he’s <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/david-wrigley/is-%27devomanc%27-beginning-of-end-of-national-health-service">thrown £6bn of them in the same pot together</a> and will let the yet to be elected Manchester Mayor bear the responsibility for the results. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Osborne’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ also includes £20m for the<span>&nbsp;Health North initiative between teaching hospitals and universities to ‘promote innovation through analysis of data on the effectiveness of different drugs, treatments and health pathways’. </span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Good news on the face of it, but local hospital campaigners fear such moves are part of the over-centralisation of hospital provision, as Foundation Trusts are encouraged to innovate with commercial partners, but smaller NHS District General Hospitals are <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ournhs/andy-cowper/starving-england%27s-hospitals-of-cash-is-%27hogwhimperingly-stupid%27">systematically squeezed of funds</a> and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ournhs/shibley-rahman/close-smaller-hospitals-in-haste-repent-at-leisure">downgraded to a lower tier of service</a>.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>The Lib Dems have <a href="http://www.libdems.org.uk/childrens-mental-health-to-get-1_25-billion-boost">claimed</a> as their contribution to the Budget, Osborne’s announcement of £1.25bn “funding for a major expansion of mental health services for children”, including £1bn “to start new access standards which will see over 110,000 more children cared for over the next parliament”. But it’s not quite clear who will be providing all this extra capacity. New Labour used 'access standards' (ie waiting lists) as the justification for handing elective operations over to Independent Treatment Centres, even though many pointed out they could have achieved the same results more cheaply within the NHS. It’s worth noting that <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ournhs/andrew-causon/nhs-libdems-undesirable-contact-man">a key Lib Dem party donor is private mental health provider Alpha</a>, who have been heavily criticised by the inspectors for the treatment of young people in their facilities. </span></p> <p><span>There’s also money to for the ‘<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/gps-fit-for-work-will-help-patients">Fit to Work</a>’ programme (where <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-29815425">ATOS replacement Maximus</a> are also taking over renewing sick notes from GPs). This new cash will ‘support’ 40,000 people with mental health conditions back into work, by ‘offering’ them “Day 1 access to online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)”. It will also be used to move ‘back to work’ therapists into job centres.</span></p> <p><span>The budget also gives funding for various investigations. Could home improvements could keep people out of hospital? Could ‘social investment’ (ie, private finance) ‘support troubled individuals struggling with homelessness, addiction and mental health’. There will be also be a healthcare ‘enterprise zone’ (whatever that is) in Mersey Waters.</span></p> <p><span>Most worrying for the NHS is what Osborne didn’t say. He didn’t promise to get rid of the private companies who are causing what Ed Miliband today rightly calls a 'gaping hole' in the NHS budget, of course. He didn’t promise to end the accounting trick attempting to massage borrowing and spending figures through the use of the Private Finance Initiative which yesterday <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ournhs/john-lister/bart%E2%80%99s-flagship-hits-rocks-of-pfi">drove the largest health trust in the country, Barts, into ‘special measures’</a>. </span></p> <p><span>Don’t worry though, because there’s a £40m for rolling out ‘Internet of Things technologies in healthcare and social care, and Smart Cities’. In normal language, that’s mostly medical ‘apps’ that claim to be able to replace your need for a hospital bed or a doctor with a phone…</span></p> <p><span>And there’s a doubling of funding of support to UKTI, who help UK health and social care companies sell their services to China (most of the beneficiaries so far have been the private care home sector).</span></p> <p><span>And - as the budget statement reminds us - Lord Carter (social care baron, architect of pathology privatisation, and director of various insurance companies) has been put in charge of an overarching cuts review, or as Osborne puts it, ‘undertaking action help the NHS achieve its efficiency aspiration’. </span></p> <p><span>So that’s alright then!</span></p><p><span>&nbsp;</span><em><strong><span>Like this piece? Please donate to OurNHS&nbsp;</span></strong></em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/donate" target="_blank"><strong><span>here&nbsp;</span></strong></a><em><strong><span>to help keep us producing the NHS stories that matter.&nbsp;Thank you.</span></strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/osborne-lays-out-path-to-broken-nhs-funding-promises">Osborne lays out path to broken NHS funding promises </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/andy-cowper/starving-england%27s-hospitals-of-cash-is-%27hogwhimperingly-stupid%27">Starving England&#039;s hospitals of cash is &#039;hog-whimperingly stupid&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/david-wrigley/is-%27devomanc%27-beginning-of-end-of-national-health-service">Is &#039;DevoManc&#039; the beginning of the end of the NATIONAL Health Service?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/what%27s-really-causing-ae-crisis-and-how-can-we-fix-it">What&#039;s really causing the A&amp;E crisis - and how can we fix it? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> ourNHS OurKingdom ourNHS Caroline Molloy Wed, 18 Mar 2015 14:55:46 +0000 Caroline Molloy 91365 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Bart’s: a flagship hits the rocks of PFI https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/john-lister/bart%E2%80%99s-flagship-hits-rocks-of-pfi <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The biggest health trust in England - the PFI-indebted Barts - has been put into 'special measures' after inspectors found it was running dangerously short-staffed and overcrowded hospitals. What does this mean for the future of East London's hopsitals?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/ndslZ15BlMjvIJTwixleq6Uyi13eFJnl1fdCihqze8s/mtime:1426680851/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/whipps%20cross.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/ro1M9bKYziJ8No_HbfzpgYlC6vZOpgm5-PLHxIUyePU/mtime:1426680788/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/whipps%20cross.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal">B<span>art’s Health - the biggest health trust in England - has been placed in ‘special measures’, it was announced yesterday. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>After a damning Care Quality Commission report highlighting short-staffing and bullying at its Whipps Cross Hospital site the giant Trust has been labelled as faiilng and handed over to - no doubt - yet more hordes of costly management consultants who know nothing and care less about the NHS, but merely seek ways of slashing spending to put the books in balance.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><span>The internationally known trust has a turnover of £1.2 billion a year.&nbsp;</span><span>But since the beginning of January it has lost its Finance Director, its chief nurse, its chief executive and its Chair.&nbsp;</span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The Trust is deep in debt, sinking deeper, with projected deficits for 2014-15 rocketing upwards from £43m at the end of December to £93m, according to its February board papers – or even as much as £100 million, according to the </span><em><a href="http://www.hsj.co.uk/hsj-local/acute-trusts/barts-health-nhs-trust/barts-deficit-doubles-to-93m/5081842.article">Health Service Journal</a></em><span>. It’s struggling to recruit and retain nursing and other staff – and in the meantime is spending more than any other English trust on agency staff.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The financial problem has been a ticking time-bomb beneath the surface ever since the then Bart’s and the London Hospital Trust was given the go-ahead in 2006 to sign up for the costly £1.1 billion scheme to redevelop both Bart’s and the Royal London, financed under the ruinously expensive Private Finance Initiative (PFI). Believe it or not, the £1.1 billion scheme was in fact a </span><a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1403271/">scaled down version of the original plan</a><span>, which had mushroomed in size to a staggering £1.9 billion.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal">Patricia Hewitt - who had rejected the £1.9 billion plan - gave the nod to a plan which would <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1512102/Hospital-to-mothball-250-beds.html">mothball 250 beds</a> – 20 percent of the planned capacity. Three floors of the new buildings were to be built, only to be “shelled” (left empty) to reduce the cost. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Like other, smaller PFI schemes, the actual cost to the Trust would not be £1.1 billion, but much more, with a legally-binding contract stipulating inflation-linked instalments, rising every year, for the next 35 years. The “unitary charge” payments for both the building and for non-clinical support services started high at £109m per year – and keep on rising, regardless of how much revenue is flowing into the Trust.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Treasury figures show that the PFI development eventually cost £1.15 billion: so far £675m has been paid back, but another 33 years of payments to come will cost at the very least £6.5 <em>billion</em> more to 2048. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Of course the contract was signed back in the midst of Labour’s year on year increases in NHS funding, when it seemed that the good times might go on for ever. But in the aftermath of the banking crash and the abrupt turn to public sector austerity to pay for the bank bail-out, the unitary charges that would have to be paid began to seem much less manageable. So as the new buildings came into service in 2012, the Trust which included two major hospitals in London’s East End – the historic St Bartholomews (Barts) Hospital itself in Smithfield, and the newly rebuilt Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. And it took over two busy general hospitals further out in <a href="http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130513202829/http:/www.ccpanel.org.uk/cases/Merger_of_Barts_and_The_London_NHS_Trust_Newham_University_Hospital_NHS_Trust_and_Whipps_Cross_University_Hospital_NHS_Trust.html">Newham and Whipps Cross</a>. </p><p class="MsoNormal">The inclusion of the combined turnover of £413m from these two hospitals effectively expanded the enlarged Barts Health’s &nbsp;total revenue by over 50%, and brought in the prospect of more income to the Trust from Waltham Forest and Newham. Immediately, therefore, the PFI payments appeared to reduce as a proportion of trust turnover, from 16% of Bart’s and the London, to a less scary but still unaffordable 11% of the Barts Health budget.</p><p class="MsoNormal">But under the pressure of the longest-ever freeze on NHS spending, which could continue at least until 2021, and <a href="http://www.eastlondon.nhs.uk/About-Us/Trust-Board-Meetings/Trust-Board-Meetings-2014-docs/November-2014/11a-TBD-2014-11-06-TSCL-Presentation.pdf">plans by Clinical Commissioning Groups</a> for even more massive savings in the next few years, Barts financial plight has steadily worsened. </p><p class="MsoNormal">The Trust has been left with no leeway to deal with future financial pressures. The tariff price paid for each treatment delivered to patients is being cut by up to 4% each year. The local Commissioning Groups attempt crude ways of limiting the numbers seeking hospital treatment , including imposing hefty fines on Trusts – like Barts Health – which ended up treating more than the planned numbers of A&amp;E patients, or where patients wait beyond the target time in A&amp;E </p><p class="MsoNormal">Since 2010, the start of the longest-ever freeze in real terms spending on the NHS, the plight of Barts Health has worsened. The quest for cost savings has driven managers into short-sighted moves, such as <a href="http://www.peoplesinquiry.org.uk/pdf/PE-NELondonmaternity%20issues.pdf">downbanding experienced nursing staff</a>, cutting services and quality of care. And impatient managers, trying to dragoon staff into working harder for less, and fearful that they might face angry local reaction if their cash-saving plans were publicly known, cracked down on any sign of dissent. </p><p class="MsoNormal">The bulk of the cuts could be expected to fall on Whipps Cross and Newham, since these sites are predominantly NHS owned, allowing buildings to be closed or land to be sold off, whereas any cuts in service in the new hospitals would still leave the steadily rising unitary PFI charge to be paid.</p><p class="MsoNormal">In the summer of 2013 UNISON Whipps Cross branch chair Charlotte Monro, with 26 years of unblemished service to the NHS, told the council’s scrutiny committee of her fears for older people’s services. She was <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/07/climate-of-diktat-and-fear-nhs">suspended and then sacked</a> on trumped-up allegations: the tribunal case over her sacking is still dragging on. </p><p class="MsoNormal">But more stories of bullying and intimidation of staff at Whipps Cross and elsewhere in the Trust have continued. Last year Barts Health commissioned a review by Professor Duncan Lewis. His highly critical report, presented to the Board last November, identified bullying and race discrimination as key issues, and no apparent action against guilty managers. </p><p class="MsoNormal">But not enough has changed on the ground. Staff fears of speaking out were a factor in the critical CQC reports. At the February 2015 <a href="http://www.bartshealth.nhs.uk/media/261739/150204%20Barts%20Health%20NHS%20Trust%20Board%20papers%20-%20Part%201.pdf">board meeting</a>, the (now resigned) Chief Executive Peter Morris, who has clearly not recognised the impact of his Trust’s dismissal of Ms Monro, said: </p><p class="MsoNormal">“It was […] very concerning to hear from the CQC that some staff were afraid to speak to them for fear of 'repercussions'. This echoes from earlier inspections where some staff had reported fears about raising concerns. “</p><p class="MsoNormal">There always was a supreme irony in building one of the world’s most extravagant and costly hospitals in one of the most deprived boroughs in England. Now as the need for healthcare continues to increase, the Trust’s future is increasingly bleak. </p><p class="MsoNormal">The East London Clinical Commissioning Groups have drawn up a strategy <a href="http://nelcsu.nhs.sitekit.net/TransformingServices/downloads/caseforchange/TSCLFullDocumentwithappendices%20080814.pdf">“Transforming Services, Changing Lives”</a>. It starts from the need for the CCGs to make savings of £128m over five years – but notes that local NHS trusts are facing much bigger proportional savings targets totalling £434m, of which £324m has to come from Barts Health.</p><p class="MsoNormal">The plan envisages this requiring more “productivity” increases, alongside cuts, closures and sale of hospital sites – and this inevitably means cuts and closures in Whipps Cross, Newham and the London Chest Hospital:</p><p class="MsoNormal">“Of the £324m of savings required, it is estimated that approximately £200m could be achieved through productivity improvements, and a further £38m through better recovery of income. […] Better productivity will not achieve all the savings required, so there will be a need to make savings from other initiatives such as reconfiguration of services and rationalisation of estates.” (p54)</p><p class="MsoNormal">In desperation the Barts Health board has been splashing out £500,000 per month on management consultants – <a href="http://www.hsj.co.uk/hsj-local/acute-trusts/barts-health-nhs-trust/exclusive-barts-health-turnaround-consultancy-spend-revealed/5078275.article">£7m in the 14 months to December</a>, including £4.85m <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/peterborough-hospital-nhs-and-britains-privatisation-racket">to PwC, the accountants who gave the nod to the equally disastrous Peterborough Hospital PFI scheme</a> (they were then invited back to mop up the mess there, too). </p><p class="MsoNormal">As Barts’ deficits keep mounting up and the pressures on the Trust keep growing, many will feel that this is throwing good money after bad.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Coming after this sorry record of failure, it’s not at all clear what “special measures” could achieve to allow the trust to escape from the bottomless pit of PFI. The proposals to strengthen management at Whipps Cross suggests one way forward might be unpicking the merger.</p><p><span>At the end of the day the only way out for Barts is for government to step in and force a renegotiation of the PFI contract to reduce payments to a fair and affordable level, or a debt-laden flagship hospital project could soon drag down health services for over a million Londoners.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em><strong><span>Like this piece? Please donate to OurNHS&nbsp;</span></strong></em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/donate" target="_blank"><strong><span>here&nbsp;</span></strong></a><em><strong><span>to help keep us producing the NHS stories that matter.&nbsp;Thank you.</span></strong></em><strong><em><span>&nbsp;</span></em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/peterborough-hospital-nhs-and-britains-privatisation-racket">Peterborough Hospital, the NHS and Britain&#039;s privatisation racket</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/joel-benjamin/seven-things-everyone-should-know-about-private-finance-initiative">Seven things everyone should know about the Private Finance Initiative</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/what%27s-really-causing-ae-crisis-and-how-can-we-fix-it">What&#039;s really causing the A&amp;E crisis - and how can we fix it? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> ourNHS OurKingdom ourNHS PFI John Lister Wed, 18 Mar 2015 12:10:06 +0000 John Lister 91359 at https://www.opendemocracy.net