10 August 2017
Silly Season Diary of a Corbynista
Ruminations from the allotment
by Don Urquhart
In August Jeremy Corbyn is out campaigning in the marginals and has urged his parliamentary colleagues to do the same. There are a few open goals out there. Will Theresa May pack it in after her Swiss walking tour?
In state schools there are 24,000 teachers without Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). The number is increasing rapidly and is much higher in academies and free schools than in LEA schools. Justine Greening supports QTS as a concept but her predecessors, Morgan and Gove were against. So it’s more evidence of public services being run down. The NHS in England has 80,000 vacancies.
The Immigration Minister, Brandon Lewis, is, oddly enough, coming up with a report on immigration. It will lay down the rules for immigration from the EU. The report is due to be published in September 2018, 6 months before the UK leaves the EU, and the rules will be effective from the day we leave. Surely this is a subject which needs all its aspects debated in parliament as the implications of failure are massive.
The Department of Education reports that academies are spending less per pupil than 4 years ago. While spending on teachers has gone down, back office costs are rising. This is hardly a shock horror revelation for those of us who predicted that the academies were effectively privatisations and, however it was dressed up, a few people would be raking in big money at the pupils’ and taxpayers’ expense.
Anthony Scaramucci would be a fine name for a Bond villain. He criticised the White House Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, for being a leaker and a paranoid schizophrenic. Priebus has been replaced by John Kelly, a military man, who was previously running Homeland Security. The displaced Chief of Staff had been seen as the Republican establishment’s man in The White House, and his demise distances the President still further from the GOP barons. At the same time Kim Jong-Un is crowing about his ability to hit mainland US targets with his missiles. Makes our problems appear trivial.
Liam Fox has gone out of his way to highlight differences in the Cabinet over free movement. He has it as ending in March 2019 while Philip Hammond talks of a transition phase which “must end before the 2022 General Election”. It is not clear to anyone else why the date of the next General Election should also be a key Brexit deadline. Discussions with people in the Labour Party have also unearthed the opinion that the referendum was just advisory. I have this as Remainer wishful thinking but it is a view that is getting plenty of air time.
There are 5,000 fewer mental health nurses than in 2010. The latest £1 billion initiative just applies a sticking plaster over the carnage wrought in the last 7 years. Jeremy Hunt is throwing a dead cat on the table. Some money is better than no money but who really believes that this Health Secretary has the wellbeing of the NHS as a core motivation?
William Hague voted Remain. I was surprised to read this today. I always had him as anti-Europe back when he was in parliament. He is in the news because he is reporting that the world’s great and good did not believe Britain would really be leaving the EU and had repeatedly asked him how the establishment would reverse the decision.
Andrea Albutt is President of the Prison Governors Association. She has written an open letter expressing dismay at the state of our prisons. The main problem appears to be staffing, both quantity and quality. Particularly telling was the comment that they hire the wrong people. Why? Is it that the pay is so poor or the management incapable of weeding out bad applicants? At any event there is no mileage in the government pointing to a brave new future. They have been responsible for the decline in the prison service through incompetence and a conscious austerity policy.
A BBC investigation reveals poor service for citizens suffering mental health problems. They are kept in hospitals because there is inadequate provision for their support in society. Creative solutions are needed. A high proportion of prisoners have mental health issues made worse by prison life in general and the strong likelihood of becoming drug dependent. We don’t support people who struggle, whether it’s from bullying, mental illness or simply bad upbringing. We have to redraw the lines of individual as against state responsibility. The “nanny state” mantra is chanted at the drop of a hat but there has to be a way of intervening.
Robert Mueller is initiating a Grand Jury to determine whether criminal charges should be brought in relation to Donald Trump Junior’s meeting with Russian officials in June 2016. Apparently on his father’s advice he had originally explained the meeting as covering adoption procedures. The Grand Jury can subpoena anyone to testify. What will they find? What laws might have been broken? One suspects that the younger Trump was negotiating the release of Hilary Clinton’s emails into the public domain given that the Russians were suspected of hacking her files.
Nicholas Timothy has just been hired as a columnist by The Telegraph and The Sun. He criticises the Conservatives’ election strategy without being clear about who is to blame or what they should have done differently beyond focussing more on the financial situation. Given also that he and Fiona Hill were responsible for the dire Election Manifesto it is hard to look beyond the two of them as the culprits. Lynton Crosby was reported as taking things over as the election neared but nevertheless I have to think that Timothy’s views will rattle impotently round the echo chambers of Telegraph and Sun readerships.
Dieter Helm, an Oxford professor, has been employed by the government to come up with ways of cutting energy costs. He will report in October. It is the Wild West with the market dominated by a few rapacious companies. British Gas has just raised their electricity tariff by 12.5% arguing that it brings them into line with competitors and that the increased cost is largely down to the government’s climate change policy. So here we are again. A public service being raped by private companies and the government making flimsy gestures to look busy.
Commander Dean Haydon is a senior Scotland Yard officer. He defends the Prevent programme claiming that many people oppose it for political reasons. He points to successes in stopping 150 people from going to Syria to join ISIS or similar. And he denies that it targets Muslim communities. I think its fundamental problem is the counter terrorism focus. Prevent looks at young people and tries to work out whether or not they are likely to turn into terrorists. Were I a young person with a Muslim background I would feel that it is just a crafty authoritarian method of keeping me under observation.
There are 136 Hospital Trusts in England and Wales. The Labour Party sent them all a Freedom of Information request asking about maternity ward closures. 40 Hospital Trusts failed to respond and this might be the most telling statistic. 42 of the 96 that responded reporting ward closure on 382 occasions in 2016. In 2014 the figure was 224. As is the rule the government saw nothing to worry about quoting increases in the number of midwives and a healthy training programme. Convincing, unless your waters have just broken and the maternity ward has the shutters up.
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