Grammar Schools and Public Schools

Grammar Schools

So, the government has decided to bring back grammar schools.

The question which should be asked here and isn’t being asked as far as I can tell is ‘How will this be funded?’ are taxes going to be raised, no I don’t think so.

What is most likely to happen is that other local schools will have their budgets cut.

Who benefits from grammar schools?

The wealthy benefit to a much greater extent than those who are not so well off.  It is promoted by the government as a meritocracy where talented children can be helped to flourish whatever their background, but that is not what happens in practice.

What happens around existing grammar schools is that more well off parents get private tutors for their children to give them an advantage in the tests. So the intake is skewed in favour of the rich with a small proportion of children from less well off families who got in because they were exceptionally talented.

But this benefits the grammar school because these children are very easy to teach because of their innate talent and the school can point to them ans say yes we do take in children from poorer families.

Grammar schools are divisive for society, they will not benefit working class people, instead they will benefit middle class families who have enough money to afford private tutors for their children.

Grammar schools will not raise the oveall standards, they will polarise the education system by raising their own standards at the expense of other schools in the area.

The way to raise overall standards is to have a diverse mix of children from all backgrounds in a school.

Public Schools

It seems ridiculous to me that public schools get charitable status.  They are a bastion of elitism in British society offering very expensive courses to educate the children of rich families. There is no way that these institutions should qualify for charitable status!

The very flimsy justification for them getting charitable status is that they occasionally take in exceptionally talented children from poorer backgrounds and give them a free education.

Firstly they don’t do this for very many children, secondly they also benefit in the same way that grammar schools do.  The children have to be very talented to get in and this raises the overall standards for the school.

But the main reason is that it gives them the excuse to get charitable status and this is the main reason they do it, charitable status gives them huge financial advantages.

In my opinion public schools should have their charitable status removed (all of them) because it is not justified.

But nothing will be done.

A great many people with power in the government and in the civil service were educated in public schools and so nothing will be done about this.

As long as the establishment is full of public school alumni it will continue to be a bastion of privilige and elitism in British society.

 

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Is the NHS safe in Conservative hands?

It seems to me that the Conservatives are trying to break the NHS by driving it into debt and reducing the workforce whilst privatising it gradually by the back door with as little publicity as possible.

Of course they don’t want to be seen to be destroying the health service because that would be politically unpopular.  But it is difficult to break the NHS without people realising what you’re doing.

The first thing they did was to decimate community health care and council services.  The people served by these services didn’t go away or stop requiring treatment therefore the burden of treating these people was dumped on the NHS causing already overstretched services to be swamped and budgets to become overspent.

Now Mr Hunt is trying to impose a contract on the junior doctors which will designate weekends as normal working days.  The modest pay increase included in the new contract will be more than offset by the reduction in overtime payments under the new contract, so it’s actually a pay cut.

But for the junior doctors it is not about pay, it is about the drive to fully staffed operation of NHS hospitals seven days a week with no extra staff and no extra funding.  And Mr Hunt says that he isn’t trying to make doctors work longer hours, errr ….  something doesn’t seem to add up there.

The drive to implement a seven day NHS is based on flawed statistics which misrepresent the real situation.  The NHS already works seven days a week.  Routine clinics and services are only run during the week but all the departments and services which are needed are staffed during the weekend.

The much quoted statistic about you being more likely to die if admitted at the weekend than if admitted during the week is deliberately misleading.  Many people are admitted during the week for a variety of reasons, most of which are the result of routine hospital visits.  However the routine services are not run at weekends so if you are admitted at the weekend it is more likely to be the result of an emergency.

People who are admitted as the result of an emergency visit are likely to have more serious problems than those admitted as a result of a routine visit and I would suggest that this is more likely to be the cause of the difference in outcome rather than any deficiency in the care at the weekend.

So why are the Conservatives and in particular Mr Hunt trying to break the NHS?

Is there perhaps some hidden agenda at work here?

Well in 2005 Jeremy Hunt co-authored a book, ‘Direct Democracy: An Agenda for a New Model Party‘.  If we look at the chapter on health we see that the author said on page 78 – “Our ambition should be to break down the barriers between private and public provision, in effect denationalising the provision of health care in Britain”.

I have read a copy of the book although I cannot post any more than a brief excerpt here due to copyright concerns.  It used to be widely available on the web but is disappearing fast as copies available on websites are mysteriously vanishing.  However it is still available in some places.

This book which was co-authored by Jeremy Hunt advocates the de-nationalisation of the NHS and the introduction of an American style insurance scheme were patients pay into their individual pots and decide how to spend it.  This gives grave cause for concern given that Jeremy Hunt is now in charge of the NHS.

Having a seven day NHS is not possible without adequate resources and staff, but if the real reason you’re doing it is in order to break the NHS so you can introduce privatisation as a remedy then it makes perfect sense!

 

The American Presidential Election 2016

2016 is election year and what a horrible choice the American people have before them, they can choose between an egotistical, narcissistic, racist demagogue whose politics seem to change to mould themselves to public sentiment or they could choose a corporate shill who will do what her corporate sponsors want because the money for her election campaign didn’t just have strings attached, it had bloody great chains attached and they will want their moneys worth.

Clinton’s corporate paymasters include media/entertainment companies whose stated aims include an end to net neutrality.

Neither of the candidates is fit to be president in my opinion.

The only one who was worth voting for was Bernie Sanders and his campaign was sabotaged by the Democratic National Committee, a body which was supposed to be neutral but which was in-fact well and truly in the pocket of the Clinton establishment.

Looked at this way perhaps Donald Trump isn’t that bad after all, it’s not that he is a candidate worth voting for it’s just that he isn’t quite as bad as Hilary Clinton.

But I don’t think he even wants to win the election, I think he just started this campaign to boost brand Trump without any intention of winning.

What a choice, heads you loose, tails you loose.

Brexit, what a stupid decision!

“Ever feel like you’ve been cheated?”

John Lydon

As far as I can tell the referendum started out as an internal spat in the upper echelons of the Conservative Party.

Why did the country collectively make such a monumentally stupid decision in the EU referendum?

And now that we have made such a stupid decision, the people who were encouraging us to vote to leave and making such grand promises, 350 million pound per week to spend on the NHS, control over our own borders, control on immigration, etc, etc, these people are just turning away and dropping out.  Even David Cameron has resigned.

The leaders from the leave campaign are all leaving, they don’t want to take responsibility for the mess they have created, they don’t want anything to do with the aftermath because they know that the lies they told us will be exposed as lies.

“Well actually we won’t have 350 million a week to spend on anything, it was a fictitious figure.”

“Well actually we won’t be able to control immigration after all sorry, bit of an over-exaggeration there.”

I think one of the problems was that both sides were running such negative campaigns. Both were claiming disastrous things would happen if you don’t vote the way we want you to vote. The Remain campaign should have focused more on the positive aspects of EU membership and what we were getting for our money.

Things like the Advanced Manufacturing park in Sheffield, that was funded with EU money.  Would it have been funded without EU money?  Well it might have been but only if it was in London!  and therein lies the problem.  There is a metropolitan elite in London which marginalises the rest of the country, if it’s outside London it dosen’t matter.

There are a lot of people outside London who feel marginalised, there are many people who wanted to show the London elite that they can’t ride roughshod over the rest of the country, they wanted to make a difference.

The EU vote wasn’t just a vote to leave the EU it was a big two fingers up at austerity and immigration and at the cozy clique of public school toffs who are running things.  And yes they made their voice heard but what a mess they have created in the process.  Leaving the EU won’t significantly reduce immigration, not if we want to remain part of the single market and if we do leave the single market then we are screwed financially.  Leaving the EU won’t mean an end to austerity, it will actually generate a lot more austerity, you thought you had it bad brother, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

The 350 million pounds a week was a fictitious figure, yes as a top line figure we gave 350 million pounds a week but we were getting most of that back in a rebate so the actual figure was much smaller, and on top of the rebate we also got money for projects like the Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Park, grants for scientific research, subsidies for farmers, etc, etc.

So if you were expecting an increase in funding for the NHS after this vote then think again, the money isn’t there, it never was.  Funding will probably be cut drastically when the value of the pound falls through the floor and we suffer the worst recession in living memory, but at least we got our county back yippee!

Political Manipulation

I feel disenfranchised at this election, I live in a ‘Safe’ Labour constituency. Whatever candidate the Labour party put up, however bad, will get in with an overwhelming majority.

Rupert Murdoch’s vote counts a lot more than mine and he doesn’t even have a vote in this country.

The Sun newspaper is controlled by Rupert Murdoch and its editorial content will broadly reflect his views. If it does not the the puppetmaster gets a new puppet rather quickly.

In Scotland the Sun is telling people to vote SNP but in the rest of the UK the Sun is telling people to vote Tory.

This is because the puppetmaster knows that the Conservatives have no chance of getting many seats in Scotland and he doesn’t want those votes to go to Labour.

I don’t particularly like Labour since they dumped their socialist principles and turned into ‘New Labour’ but given a choice between a Labour government and a Tory government I think a Labour government is less bad.

If we get another Conservative government then over the next five years they will eviscerate the NHS, they will continue to erode (or circumvent) workers rights and to erode tenants rights.

Conservatism and the NHS

When the CON/DEM coalition came to power the NHS was in a fairly good condition. The previous Labour government had increased it’s funding by an average of 5.6% per year, waiting times for surgery were as low as they have ever been.

Jeremy Hunt the current health secretary co-authored a book in 2005 with Michael Gove Douglas Carswell and Greg Clark.  It was called ‘Direct Democracy, An Agenda for a New Model Party’, in this book they state “Our ambition is in effect denationalising healthcare in Britain”.  They also refer to the NHS as ‘a 60 year old mistake’ and ‘a fundamentally broken machine’.  Would you trust this man with the welfare of the NHS?

Margaret Thatcher used to have some strong opinions on the NHS but at least you knew where you stood. Her opinions may have been controversial but they were never hidden. She said exactly what she meant.

Compare this with what is going on today. We now have a Conservative prime minister who has stated that it is not their intention to privatise the health service. He has stated that the Health Service is ‘safe’ in Tory hands. There were posters with a picture of David Cameron with the caption “I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS” and he has even used his disabled son as evidence of his understanding of the value of the NHS.

But the truth of the matter is very different from the spin. The NHS is in the process of being dismantled quietly and insidiously. I know this to be a fact because I work in the NHS and I have seen this process in operation.

This government has put the NHS through the most disastrous re-organisation in its history whilst at the same time cutting it’s funding and privatising large portions of services.

Privatisation

The Conservatives must have hoped that nobody would realise that ‘Outsourcing’ actually means ‘Privatisation’, they must have a very low opinion of the average I.Q. of the general public.

The past few years has seen an unprecedented transfer of NHS services towards the private sector. It is happening in the name of the Tory dogma of ‘Outsourcing’ or ‘Opening services up to competition’, these seemingly innocuous phrases hide a lot of changes which are happening behind the scenes, with as little publicity as the government can manage.

Of course services which have been ‘Opened up to competition’ almost never go back to the NHS because once the service as it existed within the NHS has been dismantled the people and expertise are gone, the equipment has been sold or transferred to other departments, the rooms have either been used for other services or have been rented out to the private company who are now providing the service.

It is very difficult once a service has been privatised to re-instate that service within the NHS and this almost never happens.

The politicians are very patient, many small steps in their desired direction, each one so small as to be imperceptible to the general public can achieve their objective. It works like a ratchet. It is only necessary to ensure that there are no steps in the opposite direction, never going backwards.

Under the new rules all contracts over a certain value must be put out to tender. The existing NHS services are no longer given ‘preferred’ supplier status.

Companies bidding for NHS contracts tend to bid unrealistically low in order to win the contract. They know that once they have won the contract and the ‘in house’ NHS service has been disbanded it would take much more money to re-instate it and in practice this almost never happens. Also they realise that the only competition is now from other private companies.  So once the contract is won and the NHS competition has gone, the next time the contract comes up for renewal the private company tender for the contract will be much more than it was to win the contract in the first place.

The re-Organisation

Andrew Lansley, was the health secretary behind the re-organisation, which came into force in 2013. The changes abolished large numbers of NHS organisations, including all 151 primary care trusts (which provided services such as hospitals, dentists and opticians) and the 10 regional strategic health authorities.

A recent report by ‘The Kings Fund‘ an independent think tank which deals with health related matters said that the changes had been “disastrous” and “distracted” from patient care. The report said that: “A set of policies designed to streamline and simplify the organisation of the NHS ended up having the opposite effect.”

New bodies called clinical commissioning groups were set up to replace the primary care trusts.

These changes may not have been immediately apparent to patients in GP surgeries, but they were described by NHS leaders as “so big you could see them from space”.

The report went on to say that the government’s re-organisation had wasted three years, failed patients and caused financial distress. It adds that the new system is “bewildering in its complexity” and has left a “strategic vacuum” in some areas.

Indeed the changes have brought about a huge deficit in the NHS finances which will have to be dealt with by whatever government emerges after 7th May. But politicians of all shades would rather that this is not mentioned during the election campaign.

Dr Mark Porter, the head of the British Medical Association (BMA) said that the changes were “opposed by patients, the public and NHS staff, but politicians pushed through the changes regardless”.

He added: “This report highlights the damage that has been done to the health service and the major shortcomings of the Act, which distracted attention from rising pressure on services and cost billions to introduce.

“The damage done to the NHS has been profound and intense, but what is needed now is an honest and frank debate over how we can put right what has gone wrong without the need for another unnecessary and costly top-down reorganisation.”


I do not trust the Tories to look after the NHS, I think that if the country is stupid enough to elect a Conservative government on May 7th then the back door privatisation will continue and by the end of the next parliament the NHS will be in a much poorer state than it is today.

Is there anyone out there worth voting for?

Politics today is too full of public school educated white middle aged men, all too busy looking after their own interests or the interests of their cronies. They are isolated and insulated from the views and needs of the great mass of the population. Government has become so London centric it’s as if the south east of England were a different country.

They ought to have started HS2 in Scotland, then it would have a chance to have been finished, as it is it was started in the south east and the further it gets past London the less importan it will be to the coterie in London and the greater the chance that some government minister is going to say “that’s far enough” and stop it in the name of cost savings. I doubt that it will ever reach Sheffield.

I am going to vote in this election but my vote will not make any difference to anyone, I live in a ‘Safe’ Labour constituency. Labour could put up a gibbon and it would get in with a handsome majority (in fact I think that is what they have been doing for the past few elections).

So. What options are available to the voters and are any of them actually worth voting for?

Labour

This used to be a party worth voting for. Unfortunately things have changed, the Labour party has become ‘NEW Labour’ and has betrayed its socialist principles. It is now quite difficult to detect any significant difference between New Labour and the Conservatives.

They ought to have renamed the party ‘Conservative Lite’.

During the last parliament when New Labour were in power they sycophantically fawned before wealth. They glorified the city bankers. They trusted on the banks and the hedge funds and the stock exchange to deliver a financial bonanza but they underestimated the greed of the city so instead of a bonanza they got the biggest financial crash in history.

Labour doesn’t do Conservatism very well.

Liberal Hypocrites Democrats

This also used to be a party worth voting for. But they showed their true colours when they decided to support a minority Conservative government and were so enamoured with the idea of being in power that they dumped their manifesto to become a Conservative adjunct. They were just a side show.

They should have stuck to their principles and reigned in the Conservative extremes, instead of just acting like a doormat.

UKIP

UKIP is a very dangerous party. They are even more right wing and xenophobic than the Conservatives.

Don’t be fooled by Nigel Farage’s friendly demeanour some of the things he has said lead me to believe that if UKIP gained very much power it would be a bad thing for Britain. Like his views that the NHS should be replaced by an insurance backed health scheme, a view which he hastily retracted once he realised how toxic it would be to his campaign. Has he really changed his mind? or is he just saying what he thinks people want to hear in order to get elected?

In my experience people don’t change their views that radically unless they have a very good reason.

The main reason behind UKIP is the idea that Britain should leave the European Union. All those petty rules and regulations which are imposed on us by Brussels, all the money which we send to Europe. The sacrifice of British sovereignty which comes from having a second parliament in Europe. Wouldn’t we be better off without it?

No, I don’t think we would be better off. I think we would be much worse off.

All those petty rules and regulations would still exist within Europe even if we left, if a British company wanted to sell it’s goods within Europe they would still have to comply with those rules and regulations, the only difference would be that we would no longer have any influence over the rules and regulations. We would no longer have the free trade agreements which we currently have so exporting to Europe would be a lot more difficult.

To my mind UKIP is xenophobic to the point of racism.

Conservatives

The Conservatives were never a party worth voting for, at least not unless you were one of the privileged elite. Theirs is the party of people with power, status and wealth and of those who aspire to have power, status and wealth however unachievable those aspirations may be. I hope the country is not stupid enough to vote in another Conservative government. If you elect a Conservative government then you get government ‘of the rich, for the rich, by the rich’.

The Conservatives are currently in the process of destroying the NHS and dismantling the welfare state. The ideology of the Conservative party is to keep wealth and power in the hands of those who have wealth and power and to keep it out of the hands of those who don’t.

Sound-bite phrases like ‘we’re all in it together‘ are just meaningless public relations lies. David Cameron was not sincere when he said that, he has not suffered a day’s financial hardship in his entire life, he has no idea what it’s like to be poor. At least with Margeret Thatcher she said what she meant, David Cameron is a PR man, he doesn’t say what he means, he says what he wants you to hear.

The Tories have demonised the poor whilst praising ‘hard working families’ but in these times of the minimum wage being the ‘going rate’ for many employers the poor and ‘hard working families’ are often the same people. The Tories demonise benefit scroungers as a smoke screen for dismantling the welfare state.

When the CON-DEM coalition first got into power the Tories preached unity and adopted the catchphrase ‘one nation conservatism’. But the reality was that they have practised the politics of division. Social mobility has diminished greatly under this Conservative government.

Developers no longer have to set aside a portion of any new development for cheap affordable homes and so you get estates populated entirely with the same type of people, there is no more integration of people from different cultural, religious and social backgrounds. At the same time housing benefits have been capped, this has had the effect of confining poorer families to the cheapest most run down areas of a city.

The Conservatives are a truly regressive and divisive government, they do not deserve to be re-elected.

The Scottish Nationalist Party

The SNP aren’t putting up any candidates in England but they will have a considerable influence on British politics and I don’t think it will be a positive influence.

The SNP want independence for Scotland, I think that if Scotland did become independent it would be a very bad thing both for Scotland and for the rest of the United Kingdom. But the SNP will keep trying to repeat the referendum until they win independence for Scotland, and once the union is broken it can never be re-forged.

After the referendum Alex Salmond showed no respect for the Scottish voters who voted NO when he said that “they had got it wrong” and that they should “send them homeward to think again…“, but this was their choice and it was their democratic right to vote NO, he should respect that.

I do agree with Mr. Salmond on one point though. Successive governments in Westminster have become so focused on London and the South East of England that they virtually ignore the needs of the rest of the country, this needs to change.

The Green Party

I am going to vote Green in the forthcoming election. This is because they are the least bad of all the available options.

Some of the Green policies however are naïvely optimistic (like the Citizen’s Income Policy which is good and fair and very laudable but would also be very expensive to implement).  Some of the Greens economic policies would be very disruptive and very bad for big business and capitalism in general, this would be a good thing to do in the long term but in the short to medium term it would upset a lot of people, but it does need doing.  Capitalism would sell the long term future of humanity to make a short term profit.

A Green government would make for a much fairer society than with a Conservative government and if they were elected the practicalities of what is possible would soon limit their more unrealistic policies.

All things considered I think a Green government would be the best possible outcome from this election.

But I don’t think it will happen anytime soon.