Issue 176: 2018 11 01: Diary of a Corbynista

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1 November 2018

Diary of a Corbynista

Chancellors in the news

by Don Urquhart

Mug shot of Don Urquhart25 October

On October 28th the state of Hessen goes to the polls.  It is widely expected that the Green Party will perform well.  Frau Merkel’s CDU is due for another bloody nose.

Meanwhile M. Macron is skimming the barrel bottom of French public opinion with an approval rating of 29%.

Robert Zaretsky in Foreign Policy:

The man who has referred to himself as Jupiter insists, despite political realities to the contrary, that the planets are realigning in a way that will lead his forces of light to victory against the forces of darkness.

So not only Mr. Trump has too big an idea of himself, although his approval ratings are on the up.  He and M. Macron make Mrs May appear humble and rational – a major achievement.

Change is in the air.  I find myself looking back to the extraordinary few weeks in October/November 1963 that saw Kennedy assassinated, and Macmillan resigning, then Khrushchev being removed a few months later.

26 October

Yesterday the government published the quarterly Safety in Custody report.

The main findings are:

There were 325 deaths in prison custody in the 12 months to September 2018, up 8% from the previous year.  Of these, 5 were homicides, up from 3 incidents in the previous year.  There were 87 self-inflicted deaths, up from 78 in the previous year.

There were 49,565 incidents of selfharm, up 20% from the previous year. The number of self-harming individuals increased by 10% to 12,142. Quarterly self-harm incidents rose by 13% to 13,662 incidents.

There were 32,559 assault incidents in the 12 months to June 2018, up 20% from the previous year.  In the 12 months to June 2018, there were 3,951 serious assaults, up 7% from the previous year.

There were 23,448 prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in the 12 months to June 2018, up 19% from the previous year

There were 9,485 assaults on staff in the 12 months to June 2018, up 27% from the previous year.

The National Chair of the Prison Officers Association (POA), Mark Fairhurst stated:

These latest set of statistics vindicate the actions of POA members who protect their health and safety at work.  In the most hostile and violent workplace in Western Europe I find it abhorrent that some Governors attempt to carry on as normal despite their jails being inherently violent.  If the employer listened to the POA instead of attempting to injunct us our prisons could become places of rehabilitation instead of the war zones they currently are. 

As with the NHS, as with the schools, as with the police, as with every public service, here’s the result of 8 years of underfunding and abdication.

27 October

It is now 8 weeks since I requested copies of the Crossrail Board Meeting Minutes.  4 weeks ago TFL told me they were working out how much of the minutes were commercially sensitive.  Yesterday they told me the same thing.  Here’s what I replied:

Dear XXX,

Thank you for getting in touch.  Can you give me an idea of when I can expect to receive the information I requested less the bits you consider commercially-sensitive?

Yours sincerely,

Don Urquhart

28 October

Before the 2017 General Election the leaders of the Chipping Barnet Labour Party regarded the seat as unwinnable and urged members to campaign instead for Joan Ryan in Enfield North.  The rank and file disagreed and mounted an energetic campaign.   The Tory majority was slashed to 353.

I have been to a few meetings and have been impressed by the open democratic processes.  We are now in the middle of a selection process for a parliamentary candidate.

For a couple of weeks we have been flooded with leaflets and emails from the two front runners.  Today there was a hustings attended by around 100 people with an average age around 55 (very few under 30).  As we went in we were invited to write down questions which were put in a box.  May Shafi was ill and could not attend so we were addressed only by Emma Whysall and Holly Kal-Weiss.  Each gave us a 10 minute sell followed by 12 questions selected randomly by the meeting chairman.  Then a 2 minute summary by each and that was it.  I believe that either could topple Theresa Villiers but unless something changes before November 20th I will vote for Holly.  Here’s why:

Emma is at best a lukewarm supporter of Jeremy Corbyn.  After all she campaigned for Joan Ryan last year.  I wrote to her then asking why she did not mention Jeremy Corbyn in her leaflet.  Holly joined the party in 2015 because of Corbyn.

Emma is the candidate of the CLP establishment and while I am sure they are fine people, there is no excuse in my mind for diverting Barnet people to back Joan Ryan, who was and is virulently anti-Corbyn.

Holly was more factual and detailed about what she had done and what she would do.

Holly has lived in Barnet for 25 years.  Emma is a North Londoner but perhaps more Muswell Hill than Barnet.

29 October

It has been trailed that Hammond’s budget today will promise extra funds for Universal Credit.  It’s not clear whether the new money will go on benefits or improving the process.  A whistleblower went on Sky News to describe the training he received, including coaching on how to get claimants off the phone with a mixture of mumbo jumbo and suggestions of who else they could phone.  So some work on the process would be good.

The DWP’s constructive response:

These claims are completely false.

We take the training of our call handling staff extremely seriously to ensure they are prepared to handle a range of enquiries, regardless of how long they might take – there is no policy to get callers off the phones.

30 October

But I recognise that school budgets often do not stretch to that extra bit of kit that would make such a difference.

So today I am announcing a £400m in-year bonus to help our schools buy the little extras they need…

…a one-off capital payment directly to schools…

… averaging £10,000 per primary school and £50,000 per Secondary School.

Thus Mr Hammond in his budget speech.

Yesterday I met up with Yvonne who teaches in a local primary, where they have just been told to come up with a plan to clear a £100,000 deficit.  They are already at the bone with teachers being replaced by classroom assistants and special needs obliterated.

31 October

For many people the highlight of the 2012 Olympics was the Opening Ceremony or some outstanding sporting performance, but for me it was George Osborne’s face when he was roundly booed after being announced as the medal presenter for the Paralympics T78 400m.

Yesterday was Evan Davis’ last as Newsnight presenter and he chose to mark it by interviewing the former Chancellor.

It was an easy ride for the Evening Standard editor and Black Rock Consultant who was perhaps positioning himself as the comeback kid with so little competition out there.

Evan then showed how off the pace he and his interviewee are when he suggested that Osborne and panellist Polly Toynbee were political soul mates.

I would guess that you are now closer to Polly Toynbee’s politics than to 2/3 of Tory members.

Ms Toynbee was not amused:

That is utterly unthinkable.  This man has done so much harm and damage to this country.  He has been the most right wing chancellor we’ve ever had.  If you look at yesterday’s budget, if you look at the cuts that are still to come to say nothing of what he has done before, even if you accept his economic argument which I don’t because he made the recession deeper by such extreme austerity.  If you look at the billions he has taken from the poorest in benefits, then abused them with endless talk about people with their blinds down trying to make people hate anyone on benefits despite the fact that the great majority as you well know are in work ….  Your treatment of the poorest is despicable and I want to be in no way associated…




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