The UK: Not a democracy, more a dictatorship by distraction

Governments refusal to debate NHS Bill proves they no longer represent the UK people

11th March 2015; it was to be a day of reckoning for the Conservative government and their increasingly obvious plans to dismantle and privatise the NHS. Parliament was to listen to the 2nd reading of the Green Party’s NHS Reinstatement Bill…….

FOR MORE ON THIS STORY, PLEASE CLICK HERE.

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How YOU can help save the NHS

NHS Reinstatement Bill to be debated in Parliament 11/03/2016

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So we’re in to the 2nd day of the 4th round of industrial action by junior doctors‬. It’s a disgrace that our highly trained and valuable medics have been put in this position by a government intent on breaking their promise that the NHS would be “safe” in their hands. As with Jeremy Hunt’s handling of this entire situation, it was a lie.

When the junior doctors return to work tomorrow, the battle for the future of the NHS will continue, inside the Houses of Parliament. The NHS Reinstatement Bill, which has cross party support, aims to remove our health service away from the prying hands of private contractors and keep it in public hands, ensuring that the most important thing remains patient care, not shareholders bank balances.

MP’s must vote in favour of the bill to ensure this happens, that’s why today I have written to our local MP asking her for support. I ask you please to do the same. You can write to your local MP by entering your postcode at https://www.writetothem.com/.

You can read more information on the NHS Reinstatement Bill at http://www.nhsbill2015.org/

Please help to do what the Conservative government clearly can’t – keep the NHS safe.

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Can we still call ourselves Great Britain?

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Right, I’m coming straight out with it – I’m embarrassed to be British.

A while ago I was staying in a hostel in New Zealand, and I saw a couple – blatantly American – checking in, trying to convince the receptionist they were Canadian. It wasn’t like the couple were going to get banned from staying there or anything, they just wanted it to be made clear – they were from Canada.  I ended up speaking with them a few hours later – nice couple, properly patriotic but at the same time embarrassed by what their country, or rather their President had been doing. It might be prudent to mention at this point that their president at that time was George W. Bush, so you can kind of understand their wishful anonymity, sad as it was to see. It was like watching a lion trying to convince the rest of the zoo he’s a vegetarian – cute but sad.

I’m embarrassed to be British, and for me that’s not cute. I was never the biggest patriot in the world to begin with, but watching the gradual and systematic destruction of our country’s values and ideals has made me realise just how great Britain is, or rather how great it used to be. And I’m not talking about the grand old days of colonialism and how our great nation ruled the seven seas. Our greatness came from our morals and beliefs. Unfortunately we have a group of people running our country who have done nothing but abuse the country’s systems, infrastructure and people, and then lie with the pretext that they are doing this to make the country better, safer and more financially viable. While I include previous governments in this, all the evidence from the Conservative governments recent activities suggests this is far from the case.

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There’s the tax credit cuts – something that David Cameron swore blind before the election wouldn’t happen. It hasn’t – yet – but not for the Tories lack of trying. When you parachute in as many of your honourary peers to vote for the cuts in the House of Lords, and it’s these lords who show they have more in common with the general public than those got voted in to power, then you must know something is wrong.

There’s the government secretly changing the rules – having recently altered their own ministerial code to effectively exempt themselves from international law. This mean that the UK is not obliged to observe any international laws or treaties that would prevent them from using military force in other countries. or even answering to a United Nations investigation believing that tax credit cuts are a human rights violation. This effectively means the government of the United Kingdom answers to no one but itself.

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There’s the recently passed Trade Union bill that will, among other things, greatly restrict the rights of professional individuals and their unions to vote on and participate in industrial action. It is also so draconian as to set back equal opportunities in the workplace, with women workers the most affected by the divisive bill.

There’s the Investgatory Powers Bill, or as it’s become known The “Snoopers Charter”. A piece of legislation drawn up by Theresa May and the Home Office that we are told is there to make us safer, by monitoring all of our personal communications. People are naturally sceptic of this, and the government has been accused legalising invasion of privacy. The act has been further questioned in light of the recent and horrific attacks in Paris by So Called Islamic State, with many noting that “keeping everyone’s online history for a year and passing that to the intelligence service will not make us safer.” Even IT business leaders have said it’s a “bad idea”.

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It will soon be a lot harder to vote the Tories out

There’s also the worry that the game is being rigged. Again, behind closed doors, this government is changing more rules, and this time it’s on how we as a nation vote. If you think they’re doing the sensible thing of scrapping First Past the Post in favour of proportional representation, I’m afraid it’s far more troubling. They are planning to cut the number of British MP’s, presumably under the cloak of streamlining the parliamentary system. This will also change how we register to vote, which has the potential to leave thousands of UK citizens unable to have a voice in an election. Effectively the Conservatives are making it more difficult for those citizens who are more likely to vote against them to vote at all.

Plus there’s proposed changes to the Freedom Of Information act, which will greatly restrict access to vast amounts of important data and will further entrench the government whilst covering up potential scandals. Remember the MP’s expenses story? That was published through gaining FOI. This new act will mean such stories that are well within the remit of public interest will be harder to divulge.

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And finally, my personal (for want of a better word) favourite: the NHS. The UK’s health service has been chipped away at since the 1980’s, and now it looks like rhyming slangs best friend and current Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is packing the whole thing with political dynamite! He wants a 7 day NHS, he wants to reform the NHS, he wants to impose new contracts on junior doctors…..and there’s the final straw. 53,000 doctors, ranging from the “just out of uni” stage to the “about to be a consultant” stage, have said no, with 98% of those balloted (76%) of all junior doctors) saying quite clearly they are “prepared to take part in industrial action” – something that if the previously mentioned Trade Union Bill was currently law would be much more difficult, nay impossible. And before we start saying “how dare junior doctors talk about striking, they have a duty of care”, it’s worth noting that our police force got to this stage back in January 2015, for similar reasons. Plus given that further cuts to the force are on the Tory agenda, I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear of more disquiet from our hard working law enforcers either.

Junior doctors have had enough because the contract being imposed on them – not offered to them – is unsafe, both for them and their patients. Mr. Hunt has said that he wants to negotiate, but has a funny way of showing it; from describing junior doctors as “militant” for balloting on strike action, to offering an 11% pay rise that is actually a 26% pay cut. The health secretary, aided by Conservative media cohorts Daily Mail and The Times, also tried to launch an ill advised smear campaign against British Medical Association leaders, which quickly fell apart (I mean Heaven forbid that medical professionals have interests outside of their career. MP’s would never do that #sarcasm.) There’s one thing you should never do if you’re going to pick a war of words and ideals with people: don’t start one with a group whose very job involves examining and scrutinising hard data and facts. It will win out against lies and spin every time.

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This isn’t another prolonged piece on the state of the NHS and defending junior doctors, because their doing a bang up job themselves. It’s just another piece in a very disturbing puzzle, and while what I’ve written here is by no means a complete picture, it must at least make you question the Conservatives true agenda for the UK.When you see the Prime Minister shaking hands with leaders of countries who have at least questionable records on human rights (China and Saudi Arabia) then you know that what it means to be British has changed for the worse.

Fear and lack of leadership alternatives got the Conservatives in to power, and now that they’re in they are doing everything they can to keep themselves there. They are taking steps to minimise any chance of a response from the public that disagrees with them, whilst making dangerous decisions on our behalf that may not affect us directly now, but may well affect the next generation. It’s not a dictatorship because it’s more than one person, but it’s pretty close.

Like I said, I’m embarrassed to be British.

 

Fear and Loathing in Great Britain: The Real Legacy of David Cameron

4It’s totally normal that when a person is nearing the end of a job, they would want to leave knowing that they had some kind of impact. Barack Obama is clearly thinking of his time in office. I’m sure Zayn Wotisname from that boyband my little girl likes did the same thing. Our illustrious leader, still with four and a half years of premiership left, is clearly doing the same. After all, he said even before the election he would be stepping down after this term in office. He clearly wants to leave the impression on the world stage that he created a “Greater Britain”, yet as I sit here now, I can see David Cameron’s legacy as British Prime Minister will be one of scaremongering, manipulation and segregation (and to a certain degree, swine based debauchery). He believes in a country that cares nothing for its own citizens. He believes in a country more concerned with money than with humanity – a country that he is turning in to a corporate playground with little hideaways for tax evaders. Now you could probably say that this is just the angry rant of some anti-Tory leftie who doesn’t respect the democratic process. You’d be wrong. I accept the result of the General Election. What I deplore is the lies Mr. Cameron told to win that election. I have no problem with the Conservatives. I know many Tories and they are genuinely nice people. What I question is whether the party in power is really a Tory party, or is it like it is in America, with the Republicans being infiltrated by the infamous Tea Party? Now I’m not quite sure what our version of the Tea Party would be called, but I’m pretty sure it would still begin with a ‘T’. Heck maybe it’s UKIP, I don’t know. Either way, if you look at the actions of our six month old government (not the lies we have been told), they do appear to be very similar to a small section of our American counterparts.

2David Cameron’s new Conservative party claims to be the party for working people; that they have the UK citizens best interests at heart. This years Conservative Party Conference seems to suggest otherwise, with every major speech or claim made by a senior Tory minister expertly dissected, derided and more often than not, dis-proven.

1Theresa May stated that we need tighter controls on immigration, repeating the claim she made back in November 2010. It was seen as nothing more than an attempt by the Home Secretary to lay blame on the (apparent) state of the country on people from other countries; people whom, as it has been proven time and again, make more of a contribution to our society than they do a drain. (A full dissection of the Home Secretaries claims, and evidence to the contrary, can be found here). Her speech, whilst trying to make clear that there needs to be a difference between refugees seeking asylum, and “economic migrants”, still left many, including myself, in doubt over David Cameron’s pledge to take 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. This renewed demonisation of migrants, which is “almost devoid of a single factual accuracy”, coupled with the governments increased attacks on the low paid, hard working families, public sector workers and the disabled goes completely against the “cohesive society” soundbite that the Home Secretary coined, with great futility.
imageThis leads neatly in to George Osbourne, as he continued on his austerity journey by announcing he will cut tax credits, despite Mr. Cameron promising before the General Election, that no such cuts would be made. The Chancellor has also gone to great lengths to ignore serious human rights violations as he negotiated trade deals with China recently. A step that even former Tory party chairman Chris Pattem described as “lax” and describing Mr. Osbourne as “very far from traditional Tory instincts”. Showing support for China, as well as Saudi Arabia in a recent back-room deal that saw the worlds dominant oil producer gain a place on the UN Human Rights Council also calls in to question our governments feelings on human rights in this country. This remains a concern as Michael Gove continues to work on repealing the Human Rights Act – a fact that was carefully swept under the Party Conference carpet but is due to progress in the Autumn. It remains to be seen how much the public will find out about this step from the government directly, but I suspect little will be made by them of our links with countries that flaunt human rights to secure multi-million pound trade deals for oil and arms.

1jeremy-huntAnd then there was our trusted Health Secretary and rhyming slangs best friend, Jeremy Hunt. A man who has made no secret of his ambitions to be Tory party leader once Mr. Cameron steps down (Mr. Osbourne and Mrs. May are also considered contenders). A man who treats the country’s health service, its employees and its patients with such contempt you have to wonder if keeping Cameron around as leader a bit longer is the lesser of two evils. Mr. Hunt has had a busy month; from insulting Junior Doctors with an enforced (non-negotiated), unworkable, immoral contract, (a story I will be looking at in greater detail in my next piece) to insulting anyone in this country with a pulse by saying they need to work harder, like the Chinese. I’m all for hard work, but that alone isn’t enough. You need investment as well, plus recognition that there are those that are physically unable to work. What happens to them? This poisonous rhetoric of ‘survival of the fittest’ spouted by Mr. Hunt and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Ian Duncan Smith (or IDS as he’s become known, which doesn’t at all sound like an expensive treatment for infected hemorrhoids) is just another spit in the face for those who struggle, who need help. People who genuinely need a welfare state that is being ripped out from under them. Never mind this being un-British; it’s inhumane.

Then there was the grand finale of the Conservative Party Conference, where David Cameron stood up on stage and performed the biggest work of modern day fiction over seen in a party conference. From describing Jeremy Corbyn as “a threat to national security” by cleverly quoting the new Labour leader but removing any context, (you can see Mr. Corbyn’s full thoughts, in context, here) to proudly declaring that his policies are helping the country’s poor when the opposite has been proven, he has shown nothing but barefaced contempt for the people of this country through twisting facts and figures, or just outright lying to support his own self/friends serving narrative.
imageMr. Cameron has this dream of turning the UK in to a country of “high wage, low tax and low welfare”. In theory this is something that I’m in favour of, well two-thirds anyway. I mean what family doesn’t want more money in their pocket and less to go to the tax man? The thing is that we have tax for a reason; to fund our schools, our hospitals, the upkeep of our roads and waste disposal services etc. This government, as with several before, have gone out of their way to demonise tax when they should be relying on it, championing it. People want more money, obviously, but they also want to live in a country that is kept functioning properly, You only need to look at a survey showing that a vast majority of people in this country would back a tax rise to support the NHS. I honestly do believe that if we could see our tax money in real action, making a difference to our country’s infrastructure instead of just lining politicians pockets, then we would have no real problem with it, but to live in one of the highest taxed countries in the world and to have the problems we have is just plain negligence, It is the reason why we are losing our welfare state and our other vital public services, and it’s clear evidence that the government is not listening to and does not represent the people of the UK.

3There is also the divisive subject of national defense, in particular Trident. Now I totally understand the need to defend your nation’s borders against external threats, but you have to ask if nuclear weapons are really the way to go. Mr. Cameron has gone on record as saying that he would have no problem pushing the button, and that Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to commit to such a stance undermines national security. Be in no doubt, this is scaremongering at it’s best. Firstly, if David Cameron were to press that big red button first he would be nothing more than a highly paid murderer. Secondly if the Trident missiles were to be launched in retaliation it would not have been that much of a deterrent in the first place. We are constantly told that the biggest threat to our national security right now (current Labour leader excepted) is So Called Islamic State. They don’t have nuclear weapons, they have propaganda, ideology. There is more chance of an IS member already in this country getting in to the Trident system to launch the missiles on our own soil than there is of us needing to fire them off to Syria, Iraq or any other middle eastern country our government has a vested interest in. It makes no sense. Trident isn’t a nuclear deterrent, it’s a political one – something our government can shake to make themselves look big in front of other countries.

5It’s the same argument as in America – calls are growing louder for stricter gun controls because of multiple mass shootings this year alone, yet the trigger happy faithful believe such a move will strip them of any defense against ‘the enemy’, constantly invoking their second amendment right to carry fire arms – an amendment that was invoked in 1791 when muskets were the weapon of choice, not semi-automatic rifles. Times have changed, war has changed. I wish I could say war will stop one day, but I can’t honestly say that, simply because we’re so damn good at it. We always find an excuse to pick a fight, and as we all know, nothing drives the economy faster than war. So why would we stop? The way war is fought has changed – much more divisive, much more guerrilla-like than ‘the good old days’ of the Cold War. Trident is irrelevant. Even military spokesmen have said this, saying that funds would have greater effect being used on weapons and equipment for soldiers on the front line, the ones in all the conflicts we have our feet in around the world. We sit here and berate the Americans for their stupid, antiquated, 200-year old guns laws, and yet we have exactly the same problem here with Trident. The governments priorities are totally out of touch with those of the people.
wpid-img_20151007_175119.jpgDavid Cameron’s legacy will speak for itself when the political dust has settled around his tenure as Prime Minister. The facts above will break through the spin and innuendo that this Conservative government relies so heavily upon, but by that time it will be too late. Austerity will have pummeled those already in financial hardship. Our hospitals will be run by profit hungry conglomerates rather than care providing doctors and nurses. Our children will be packed in a hundred to a room because of the 50% reduction of teaching staff.

One of my favourite phrases is this: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”. So what if it’s from Star Trek that’s how it should be. For so many people that’s how it is. You only need to look at the public reaction to the plight of the Syrian refugees to know that in spite of our own problems, when there are others in trouble we step up to help. Even if it’s just to give a terrified kid a stuffed toy, we step up. Sadly, there is the minority who thrive on secrets, lies, under-hand trade deals and ill-gotten gains. Mr. Cameron and his government has taken that powerful line and changed it to something far more sinister, but appropriate for their view of this world – “The wants of the few outweigh the needs of the many”. Maybe that should be the real New Conservative logo. At least then we’d really know where we stand.

The forgotten weapon that could help save the NHS

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It’s been a month now since one Mr. Jeremy Hunt, duly appointed Secretary of Health and best friend to rhyming slang, insulted the country’s entire medical staff. A month since the backlash against lies and innuendo supported by twisted facts and figures. A month since social media seemed to go in to meltdown with demands for his resignation, for the truth about his accusations to be laid bare. After that month, and the dust having settled a little, there are some steps being taken to remedy the situation, even if much of the country are still unaware there is a situation to remedy.
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I’m not here to tell you why we need to save our NHS. I can’t think of another way to say what I have already shouted for my last four articles. Instead I’m more interested in how we are going to save it. If you follow me on social media you’ll have seen me mention a new website www.nhssurvival.org. This website is set up and run by medics and patients, all wanting to preserve the free health care that this country has been lucky to have for the last 70 years. One of its missions is to call for a “Royal Commission on the NHS”, the idea being  it would “allow decisions about the NHS to be made by patients, public and professionals – not politicians”. Now as easy, and as right as it is to lay blame of the state of our health service at the feet of politicians (and lets be honest, almost a little fun) this cannot be the only remedy we should be pursuing to save the NHS.
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I talked in a previous post about the phenomenon of the “worried well” – people subjected to the disinformation by the media and the twisted facts and figures of the politicians, who feel they are more important than the next. It’s a culture of self-preservation and selfishness that has grown around us for decades – a far cry from when the NHS was first created, in the smoking ruins of the UK emerging from World War 2. In 1945 this country had nothing, and yet the people pulled together to look after everyone. Now I’m not exactly the most patriotic person you’ll meet, but if you are wondering why this country is called Great Britain, this is a huge reason! For an entire nation to band together the way it did after such a relentless pummelling is nothing short of heroic, and here we are, almost three quarters of a century later, watching it unravel.
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The only way to combat this systemic issue of an increasingly insular society is with education. An entire generation has grown up thinking that it’s ok to waste the time of the health service (and if you read the news you can add the police and fire departments to that list as well). It’s not ok. There was a time when, if you felt there was something wrong with you, you would talk to a family member or a friend to get some advice, instead of rocking up to your GP’s with a sniffle that could be easily gotten rid off by a few gulps of Lemsip (other cold remedies are also available).

Learning how to take care of yourself should be part of the national curriculum. Knowing how your countrys health service is operated and paid for should be compulsory education. Obviously we have first aid, sex education etc. but it should go further than that. We should be sharing how the NHS actually works, its roots. The National Health Service has it’s place in history lessons, science, physical education, social studies (I’m assuming these still exist in school since I left last century?!) The goverments health and education departments should be working together to help solve this problem that they have, be it directly or indirectly created. There are people out there walking around who still believe doctors work 9-5 Monday to Friday and still have time for a weekly 18 hole round of golf. It’s not their fault, it’s what they’ve heard through the rumour mill. Replace the rumour with facts and the NHS will be in a much better position simply because the people who use it will understand it.

A royal commission is essential to keeping the NHS out of the hands of politicians, many of whom have direct links to private health care firms that stand to make substantial financial gains were the NHS to be privatised. Education will help the doctors and nurses, who face an increased work load partly due to those “worried well”, who will be better informed on how to deal with their symptoms without having to seek medical attention, or if that attention is needed who best to see.
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I’m not a doctor, I’m just someone who is frustrated by the appalling situation within this country regarding its health service. I refuse to believe that the only way we can get away from this selfish insular society and back to that idea of helping each other is to go through another barbaric conflict. We are better than that. We have to be.

Still don’t understand the NHS Crisis? Use The Force!

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Last week, it was so clear to me. My latest rant on the NHS and #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy was written in my head, and I just needed time to type it out of my brain and on to the screen. It was a good rant too, questioning whether the BBC is fit for purpose to be the non-biased un-political news broadcaster it claims to be (SPOILER ALERT: it isn’t!) and how the UK government has used its contacts in finance to help further the privatisation of the NHS, which they still, to this very day, deny is happening.

My wife came home half way through my rant. She was late, dishevelled, exhausted. Just another day at the GP surgery. She’d left home at 7am. It was now close to 9. She’d had no breaks. The food she’d taken with her for the day was still in her bag. I stopped my rant to sit with my wife.

The next night I sat back down, in front of that draft and tried to pick up where I’d left off. I couldn’t. That baton that I’d laid down for myself was glued to the floor. I read through and there were some good links in there; questioning how the BBC could be run impartially when a Tory chosen former Bangkok governor with proven links to the private health industry was the broadcasters’ trust chairman, and had launched an investigation in to the BBC’s coverage of NHS privatisation as being too “liberal”. Better yet when the current BBC chairman, who was already a “business ambassador” of the Prime Minister, was recommended to replace the outgoing chairman was being investigated for involvement with tax avoidance at her job with a multi-national bank. Oh there were lots of other ideas and theories, but that’s all it was; ramblings. Yes, I was linking to sources, but it all felt so…futile. I realised the problem; I sounded like Fox Flippin’ Mulder!!

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Fox Mulder – you know him; main character (played by David Duchovny) in the soon to be revived X-Files TV show. A character that repeatedly shouted to anyone who he thought would listen about government conspiracies, the truth being out there and to trust no 1. My four previous articles had gathered quite the attention, and thanks to the lovely people on social media, have been seen by thousands – and let me tell you this; for someone who gets excited seeing his reader stats go in to double digits, this was quite the coup. The problem with this fifth article was this; for all the attention the previous four had received, I was still talking to people who were missing the point, or who didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. Some don’t even believe that there is a crisis within the NHS. I tried so many ways to explain the whole sordid, complicated affair, but I doubt I really made much difference.

The question was, how could I make this ongoing struggle to save the Health Service more relatable to people who didn’t know or understand, or didn’t want to know or understand. Then, like that flying frisbie in the warm summer sky, it hit me:

“Star Wars” I screamed. “This whole thing is like Star Wars!”

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Now I want to make myself quite clear; comparing a 30 years + cinematic (yes, fictional, I know!) space opera to the very clear and present danger that our NHS faces may come across a little tactless and a bit of a joke, and yes I am trying to be more light-hearted this time. But as those who know me will testify, I take my Star Wars very seriously. Not as seriously as Batman or Superman, granted, but it would have been extremely difficult to link in saving our NHS with the Dark Knight. Plus it would have just resulted in one inevitable conclusion: “I’m Batman”!

If you’re not so good with the entire Star Wars thing, it’s basically a classical good versus evil story where a small group of power hungry individuals are hell bent on lying to all the surrounding planets so they can get in to power and rule over them with increasing disdain for the people. Sound familiar now?! Allow me to break this down for you a little more….

Credit: Huffington Post

Credit: Huffington Post

  • We have our NHS, Star Wars has its “galaxy far, far away”. That’s what this battle is about – saving our “galaxy” from an unwanted authoritarian power who wants to rule for no other reason that personal (and financial) gain.
  • Next we have the all important Force; that mythical power source that connects all living things and can be harnessed by those with the knowledge for good deeds or bad. In our battle that’s the media, and both sides – the dark and the light – are using their skills to the best of their ability.

    Credit: Guardian

    Credit: Guardian

  • The Evil Galactic Empire is too easy; the Conservative government. Using secrecy, lies, manipulation and its well-trained hoard of right-wing dark-side-of-the-Force inclined Stormtroopers to bombard their way in to power and overthrow any resistance that could stop them from destroying the galaxy (and lets be honest, the universe!).
  • The Empire built a battle station – the Death Star; its very presence creating fear, destroying the galaxy one piece at a time. Sounds much like The Health and Social Care Act 2012, which enabled private companies to dismantle and either take control of parts of the NHS, or close them down.
  • Our doctors, nurses and other NHS staff are quite clearly the Jedi Knights. Characters from all corners who sacrificed everything to become powerful and respected keepers of the peace. Now slowly whittled down by being overstretched and under valued, soon to be hunted to the verge of extinction with numbers of potential new recruits getting thinner and thinner.

    Wordpress

    WordPress

  • This presumably means that our equivalent of the SIth Lords would lead us to equate Darth Vader (the biggest, baddest villain in the galaxy) with Jeremy Hunt. This is where the analogy takes a break for a second, simply because Mr. Hunt doesn’t even come close to being as awesome as Lord Vader. Yes, we have since found out that inside that walking iron lung beats the heart of an annoying whiny man-child with “mommy issues”, but this still holds Vader in much higher regard than Mr. Hunt will ever command. It would also imply that his boss Mr. Cameron would be the Emperor, but as I suggested after the results of the 2015 General Election, that role has long since been filled by Rupert Murdoch.
  • The BMA now, finally looks to be vying for the role of the Rebel Alliance. It’s taken them a while to get their act together, but after this weeks announcement that they will not be re-entering negotiations on junior doctors wages (the Sith want to cut them!) the British Medical Association are standing by their Jedi members and are ready to fight.
Credit: Scrubs

Credit: Scrubs

I was explaining this analogy to a friend of mine, and he stopped me with a question: “In all of this, what are you?” I was stumped for a second, not like it was important. I mean I’m sure as heck not a Jedi, nor part of the Rebel Alliance. I’m no prophecy bearing farm boy, or cheeky rogue smuggler, nor am I a coming of age princess (except on Thursdays!). I’m not a walking carpet, nor a beeping doomed droid. That airborne Frisbee hit me again;

“I’m an Ewok”

Leaving the cute and cuddly analogy aside, we’re talking about these seemingly insignificant creatures who have little or no knowledge of the Force, and were happy going about their lives on the vast outskirts of this raging battle and yet have heard of the Galactic Empire and it’s stupid Sith Lords choking their way through the galaxy.

This friend of mine, like me, is a Star Wars nut. We Star Wars nuts have one (of many) grudges against the creator George Lucas. A character so infantile that you want to slap him round the face with a Rankor tale. One that has such a grasp of the English language, and is so badly orientated that he often walks in to and gets locked in places he wishes he hadn’t (public toilets). Yes ladies and gentlemen, Michael Gove is Jar Jar Binks!!

"MEESA GUNA LOCKA IN DA PEE PEE PLACE - BACKA BACKA!!"

“MEESA GUNA LOCKA IN DA PEE PEE PLACE – BACKA BACKA!!”

I’ve been trying to work out where we are in the story right now. I put us somewhere between Episodes III and IV. The reason I say that, is that the evil Empire is in power now. The voices of those persecuted are rising. The rebellion is gearing up. They’re out there on Yavin 4 right now. They’ve got some X-Wing jets and some pilots. Pretty soon you’ll hear the roar of #NHSSurvival. You’re about to see A New Hope!

May the NHS be with you, always

Lightsaber-better-660_0PS. If anyone at Lucasfilm or Disney are reading this, this comparison between our Health Service and your multi-million dollar property is just to highlight a point, so please don’t sue!

An Eloquent Rant: Hashtags, The NHS, and the Desensitised Population

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As I sat down to start writing this, I was surrounded by a storm. A Twitter-Storm, but none the less, mud was flying. On Sunday 2nd August 2015, hot off the heels of #ImInWorkJeremy and #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy, we had #SaySorryHunt; which kind of feels like the Return Of The Jedi of the ongoing NHS Hashtag Wars. I’m not belittling the work of anything that shines a light on Jeremy Hunt’s ongoing attack on the NHS, and the manipulation of the media to create fear and distrust between medic and patient, but I do at the very least question the hashtags target. This is because it is taking aim at one man. Yes, it’s the Health Secretary, the man responsible for running the NHS and also responsible for the ridiculous state it’s in, but Mr. Hunt is a small part of a much larger beast that wants to devour our health service and spit out it’s bones. Mr. Hunt is never going to apologise for his actions because he thinks he’s doing the right thing. Quite clearly he’s not going to change his mind. And even if we get a vote of No Confidence in his abilities as Health Secretary, there will be another to take his place, and continue with the policies that were created within an institution that has been wanting to privatise the NHS for years; the politicians.

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On Sunday morning I was doing my regular patrol of the Twitter-sphere and came across a rather inflammatory tweet from A2DaviesMPa Member of Parliament. Geraint Davies, “Labour & Co-operative MP for Swansea West”, has since deleted this tweet from his feed (and replaced it with another that supposedly has more clarity, but still making general and harmful statements) presumably because of the responses he received from people who actually work as GP’s, and within the rest of the medical community. Now it may well be that the MP thought he was doing his job as a public figure by sharing something that he’d learned, however as someone who has claimed to be a supporter of the NHS in the past, and as someone who has a career in the public spotlight, you would think he would know better than to share a confusing and wholly unsubstantiated statistic with a public that are already in fear and confused by doctors. There is no doctor that I know that would delay a cancer referral because of cost. This is another unsubstantiated, libellous attack on GP’s

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A conversation on Facebook between myself and a colleague.

It is we, the public that are caught in the middle of this of this battle between medic and politician (which, despite what the latter would have you believe, started with their reprehensible behaviour towards the medical profession), and yet many of us don’t know it’s happening . After years of mis and dis-information from certain branches of the media, coupled with Mr. Hunt’s demoralising speeches on “lazy” work-shy doctors, high waiting times, cancer scares etc. the people of this country are either scared and distrusting, or have simply no interest. Even with the “NHS Hashtag Trilogy”, people are still not getting the point of what thousands of medical professionals are trying to say. I’ve had multiple conversations on social media with people trying to understand what it is I, along with thousands of others, have been trying to get at. Lots of people still think that #ImInWorkJeremy and #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy is all about doctors complaining they don’t get paid enough. Of course, that is not the case at all. And it’s so frustrating!

There are also those I spoke to who had no idea what #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy was even about. For all they knew, Jeremy Clarkson had been secretly filmed stumping his toe on a plank of wood and had wondered outside to punch a gibbon! Even people within the media didn’t know what this Twitter trend was on about, and that’s a sobering thought. Jeremy Vine was one of many news presenters that I wrote and tweeted, asking them to explain why this massive online backlash against the Health Secretary wasn’t being reported. To his full credit he was the only one that replied, but as you can tell from the conversation, he had no idea what any of it meant. Once he dug deeper, he seemed to get the picture.

A short conversation between myself and Jeremy Vine, the day before he tweeted a link to my article on #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy

A short conversation between myself and Jeremy Vine, the day before he tweeted a link to my article on #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy

This is what the NHS is up against – the desensitised population. The fact that people still do not the know the plight of the NHS and the damage caused by the Government is not their fault. Despite living in a world so well connected through communication, which should be widening our eyes and ears, we have become an increasingly insular society. We are surrounded by and are connected to multiple sources of information, yet have the ability to choose to read only what we’re interested in. On Twiitter I follow a raft of writers (and now NHS staff), while the person next to me just follows gossip sites giving the latest celebrity gossip. On the BBC app, we can choose what type of news we would like to be informed on, and remove from our feed the ones we don’t care about (not that it matters about the BBC when we’re talking about #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy – their silence on this continues!).

We have our own lives to lead, and our own stresses and strains to deal with in an increasingly frantic world. To quote one person I met today: “why are you worried about the doctors? It’s not like they won’t have a job any more. They’ll probably earn more money “. True, maybe they would, but like we all know, that’s not what this fight is about. It’s about the National Health Service. Keeping free health care for future generations. The fact that people always gravitate towards the money is just another example of the type of society we live in.

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If you replace “rail” with “hospitals”, and “passengers” with “patients”, this will explain precisely what the health service will look like if privatised.

Take the rail industry as a prime example. This once publicly owned transport network went through a complete privatisation programme between 1994 and 1997, and it remains one of the worst performing rail networks in the western world, with continued delays in service and hikes in ticket prices. This is the epitome of privatisation, and the reason why we cannot let this happen to the Health Service. The very nature of private business is to make money through providing a service. There is always a bottom line. Cuts may be made to stay in the black. Shareholders will always come before the service users. In the case of a service that provides medical care and treatment, surely this would be completely unacceptable, as cost cuts would be potentially life threatening to the “customer”. If you’re lucky, maybe you get a private health care company that is financially well off. Maybe they’re able to provide you with services that you hadn’t thought you needed. You may be sold on the idea of this extra treatment, or diagnostic tool, or insurance product, for extra piece of mind. It would be the medical equivalent of PPI’s!

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On 1st April 2013 (the date doubtless ringing alarm bells!), The Health & Social Care Act 2012 came in to force, much to the utter dismay of medical professionals. What the government dressed up as a step to making the Health Service fit for the modern world, was seen by those who actually know and work in the sector as ” the final stage in the systematic dismantling of the NHS […] carried out by stealth” (Doctor Youseff El-Gingihy, Guardian- 30 March 2013). 

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Doctor Youseff El-Gingihy writing in The Guardian, the day before the Health and Social Care Act 2012 came in to force.

One major part of this act was to open up the medical field to competition. In much the same way as the opening up of the country’s telecommunications industry, it allowed private medical firms to swoop in with the promise of a better service than provided by the public one. The idea was apparently that doing this would help drive up health care standards through business competition offering more patient choice. The fact is that even before this act came in to force the “marketisation of the NHS has driven up costs and produced worse results”, thus repeating the failings of the privatisation of the rail network. It was made abundantly clear to those who understood this unknown (to the public) yet enforced legislation, that patient care would inevitably be reduced while “there are huge profits to be made for private healthcare companies”.

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This is what the diligent, hard-working staff at the NHS want to stop, because they know full well it will compromise patient care. Full stop. Yes, their salary is effectively being cut due to unfair contracts being imposed by the Health Secretary, and that’s insulting for the medics and all others with cuts or without pay-rises while politicians at Westminster receive a pay rise. Yes, they work exceedingly long shifts and often unsociable hours, but that’s part of the job. What they despise is two things:

  • The blatant bad-mouthing and lack of respect from politicians and the media who make unsubstantiated, scaremongering claims and accusations based on twisted facts and figures.
  • The thought that they will one day be forced to put the size of a shareholders bank account over the care of a patient.

This insular society we live in has distracted the public from the fact that they are slowly losing their NHS. Free health care will soon be a thing of the past, and many people seem to neither know or care. There’s too many other things to worry about in life, “there will always be doctors”. We’ve had almost 70 years of the NHS, and as time has gone on we have taken it for granted. As time has gone on we have become an increasingly self-important society, where no one has bigger problems than us. This, coupled with the ridiculous scaremongering stories by the press and ill-informed politicians has created the “worried well”, who believe that because they “haven’t stopped sneezing all day” (true story – hay fever!) and because the health service is paid for by their taxes, they deserve to see a doctor more than someone who has chest pain and is in a full on heart attack. We as a society have forgotten to take care of ourselves, of each other. We rely increasingly on professional medical advice for symptoms that are in no way serious, while removing that attention from someone who actually needs it. This is why the NHS is stretched beyond breaking point, and this is why private companies can swoop in and save the day, as long as you have a credit card!

On a personal note I feel it’s time for me to stop talking about this for a bit. Talking people can’t hear a whisper, and yet when you shout at the top of your voice for too long, those people just turn and walk away. No matter what you take from everything I have written on this NHS fiasco, remember this: there is currently an online petition to debate a vote of No Confidence in Jeremy Hunt. Parliament requires a minimum of 100,000 signatures for a debate to be considered. The number is now way past that at over 211,000, and it’s still growing. If nothing else, keep one eye on this. If this Government continues to come back with ridiculous defensive statements based on the same twisted facts and figures that they have fed you for so long, or if they do not even call for a (serious) debate, then you have hard proof (more so!) that this Government does not have your best interests and those of your friends and family at heart.

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