2 February 2023
Dukes and Princes
by Don Urquhart
4 January 2023
The elephant in the room is the systematic sell-off of NHS assets to the private sector. You can never be sure but I am prepared to suggest that staff in private hospitals could equally well be employed in the NHS. Outfits like Spire thrive by charging more than the NHS. You have the benefit of faster service and better food. I would be happy with this if the services to the rest of us met minimum requirements but clearly they don’t. Look at ambulance response times and A&E waits.
5 January 2023
Saturday’s Call the Midwife was set in 1968. Lucille is a Jamaican immigrant, Cyril her husband. On the wireless comes Enoch Powell, an opposition front bencher warning that the black population will soon be in charge. Cut to a group of dockers marching to support Enoch. And of course the wife of one of these dockers is one of Lucille’s patients. She refuses to be treated by her. There is no warm-hearted reconciliation. Lucille is traumatised and we have to await developments. Then yesterday we had lunch with family friends, one of whom asked across the table whether I was planning to write about the boat people. My niece chipped in that they should all be dumped on an island mid-channel. Seemed to gain general approval.
6 January 2023
Newsnight had a special item about Sir Keir Starmer. For a socialist, compared with the Tories he is the lesser of two evils, but as I constantly and boringly repeat “the lesser of two evils is still evil”. I don’t think he will ever impress me. He totally bought into the Labour anti-Semitism scam and used it to discredit his predecessor. His leadership is based on too many lies. I shall not be voting for him under any circumstances.
7 January 2023
The Government’s approach to stopping strikes is taking an absurd turn. They talk of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with the Unions such that a minimum level of service is guaranteed. However the Unions provide no service to the employers and can have no contractual obligation to for example guarantee a certain number of trains per hour. It is a policy born of ignorance. The Government’s true agenda appears to be to have employees believe they will be fired if they strike. The appropriate legal medium for this is the Contract of Employment.
8 January 2023
It infuriates me that people still talk of Corbyn’s failure and anti-Semitism in the Labour Party without referencing the conspiracy of the establishment to remove a politician who was talking of significant taxes on the wealthy to transform the lives of the poor. On Sophy Ridge today Sir Keir Starmer told us again that he would be financing wonderful things by removing non-dom status. Yesterday it was revealed that Roman Abramovich transferred his UK assets out of harm’s way before the anti-oligarch sanctions could bite. Who would have thought?
9 January 2023
On Politics Live there was a shadow minister called Steve Reed who repeated the standard answer to the question how are you going to finance changes to public services. Abolishing non-dom status will in fact achieve very little. Anyone targeted by this measure has a lovely long lead time to find alternative tax arrangements and how much is involved anyway? Like so many statements from Starmer and co. it is designed to elicit a favourable response from those of us who are not stinking rich. But is it practical? As we know Starmer will say and do anything to win power. He has said so himself on numerous occasions.
10 January 2023
Claire Perry O’Neill was a minister in Theresa May’s government. On Question Time in 2018 she enthusiastically denounced Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-Semite. Barry Gardiner reacted with horror. Will he also recoil at the thought of this person now joining the Labour Party having denounced the Conservative Party and all its works? Is this how Starmer hopes to become Prime Minister, by allying himself with turncoat Tories? To socialists this will reinforce the impression that you cannot insert a fag paper between the two major parties.
11 January 2023
I had been patting myself on the back for being halfway through Colm Tóibin’s book “The Magician”, which I had as a biography of Thomas Mann who wrote The Magic Mountain and many other fine works. Trouble is I studied German Literature at University but did not have the first clue about Herr Mann, a Nobel Prize winner. Anyway I had lunch with two friends and was gobsmacked that they had both read The Magician, were able to tell me that it is more a novel than biography and what’s worse one of them reminded me that we had studied a Thomas Mann novel for A Level. Back to the drawing board culturally.
12 January 2023
In PMQ’s a Conservative Prime Minister invoked the ILO (International Labour Organisation) as an authority in the sphere of Labour Relations. The ILO thought it was fine to fire staff for striking and this policy had been adopted in France Spain and Italy. All well and good were it any way true. I hope he will be forced to correct his inaccurate statements to the House but am not holding my breath. Sad to say I suspect that very few MP’s expect accuracy from the Prime Minister, on this or any other topic.
13 January 2023
I am a devotee of Question Time. Each edition throws up its own oddities. Afterwards my side of Twitter is awash with accusations of pro-Government bias but Fiona Bruce is as even-handed as most. Nevertheless the Government Minister Alex Chalk seemed to hog about half of the panel talk time with the other 4 less well-served. Tim Stanley of the Telegraph has a fine turn of phrase even defending the indefensible. Ash Sarkar revealed herself as a Republican on the basis that Prince and Duke were good names for musicians and dogs but not for normal people.
14 January 2023
Jeremy Corbyn’s policies focussed on a transfer of wealth from the richest to the poorest so the Establishment turned on him and still invokes his name as the embodiment of all that is evil. The BBC plays a big part in this exemplified by a recent article on the dire straits of Labour party finances which are described by Iain Martin as the fault of the Corbyn era. Well Corbyn transformed the Party to the largest and richest in Europe. Starmer has lost thousands of members, and paid out hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal costs against the advice of the party’s lawyers.
15 January 2023
Sir Keir Starmer was on Laura Kuenssberg. She didn’t ask him about public school charitable status, wealth taxes or in fact anything close to Establishment hearts. I see the conspiracy rolling on. He might well be acceptable to disaffected Tories but the Conservative Party has a solid 30-35% who will turn out for them at a General Election. The Labour Party will be scrabbling for the rest with the other opposition parties and whatever Socialist party emerges to accommodate the people Starmer has kicked out or alienated.
16 January 2023
With the NHS starved of staff and investment so that hundreds are dying before ambulances can get to them, before the hospitals can unload the ambulances and before they can find staff and a bed to help, the Prime Minister focuses on raw meat for his back-benchers by presenting a bill to ban disruptive demonstrations. Surely he is missing the fact that the laws are already in place but cannot be enforced without the UK looking like a police state or even worse, like the French. He looks more and more like a diminutive rodent caught in the headlights. Surely we don’t have another 2 years of this.
17 January 2023
Between strike reports and doom and gloom about public services Justin Webb told me this morning that Britishvolt, the one electric car battery plant in the UK was on the verge of bankruptcy because they could not find a backer. He threw in also that there were 35 such plants in the EU. That was it, no government minister telling us it was all a misunderstanding and the funding would soon be provided. I ask myself is that really it and recall the 2019 Tory manifesto telling us we would be leading the world in these technologies.
18 January 2023
Can they be prosecuted for running down the Health Service? The money they quote as generous increases in funding is not spent on providing better care, but on agency fees for medical staff who should be NHS employees, on buying exorbitant beds and operations from private hospitals. The NHS funds are spirited away to friends and donors of the Government. And Stephen Barclay, the Health Secretary has the audacity to accuse nurses of seeking pay rises which can only achieved at the expense of patients.
19 January 2023
I guess Rishi Sunak has decided that Nadhim Zahawi is expendable. Anyway BBC’s Newsnight was allowed to run an exposé of his tax affairs which have apparently led to him agreeing to pay £3 million to HMRC to regularise matters. A later item had Kirsty interviewing 7 trainee nurses at University of Surrey. They were enthusiastic about the vocation they had chosen and while they weren’t in it for the money, they supported the Royal College of Nursing strikes. Health Minister Stephen Barclay described their pay claim as unaffordable. His views on the affordability of Zahawi’s tax avoidance are not known.
20 January 2023
Yusuf Islam interviewed Sir Keir Starmer at the World Economic Forum in Davos. It is the annual jamboree for the neo-liberal establishment. As get-togethers go it is the opposite end of the spectrum from the Durham Miners’ Gala which was a comfort zone for the previous leader of the opposition. Starmer was there to assure global investors that the UK would be attractive to them under a Starmer regime. I would be more impressed if he visited picket lines to tell the working class he was also on their side.
21 January 2023
Amanda Pritchard is the COO of NHS England. She tells us that the strikes by nurses and paramedics are putting pressure on the NHS. Her solution is to move more work from NHS facilities to private companies. Call me suspicious but it sounded like a script written many months ago to be published at an appropriate time to demonise the strikers and promote privatisation. I know nothing of Ms Pritchard beyond her job title but the Government loves employees who will present their side of things. I might be doing her an injustice so will keep an eye out for any further words of wisdom she might have for us.
22 January 2023
On Sophy Ridge we were treated to Sharon Graham, the General Secretary of the Unite trade union. She accused Rishi Sunak and Stephen Barclay of lying when they had said they were negotiating pay with the NHS unions. In her view they were in the process of privatising the NHS.
Philosopher Noam Chomsky has described how this works:
That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.
23 January 2023
I arrived in Germany 25 years after Hitler’s demise. My landlady took me on one side to explain that they had had nothing to do with the Nazis. At a family party I heard an Austrian accent and asked its possessor if she had come from Austria. “Nein! Grossdeutschland!”
The parallels are not precise but I suspect that in a couple of years’ time you will struggle to find a Tory who had supported Boris Johnson and virtually none who had voted for Liz Truss. Although there will still be the odd head banger rattling on about taking back control.