Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Jon Williams - Petition To Help To Save The NHS

Aneurin Bevan (above) said of the NHS: "It will survive as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it".

Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham's email dated 24th Nov is running with two petitions - Labour’s "Drop the Bill" and local GP Dr Kailash Chand's "Calls on the Government to drop its Health and Social Care Bill."

Andy Burham says that "In the last few days we have had a major breakthrough - a local GP, Dr Kailash Chand has set up a Government e-petition calling on the Government to drop the Bill.
This is a great opportunity for us to pile the pressure on the Government, and so I want to ask a favour from you. I am asking all people who have signed the Drop the Bill petition to sign the Government e-petition as well. In addition, I am asking you to try to get four of your friends, family and colleagues to sign both petitions as well. We got 20,000 signatures in just a few days on Labour's petition - let's get 100,000 people to sign the Government e-petition."

By my calculations - as of today Dr Kailash Chand e-petition stands at nearly thirteen thousand...so over approx one thousand signatures per day it should take Dec, Jan and Feb to reach the total and maybe force a debate in the House of Commons.

An article by Allyson Pollock
again highlights what a disaster privatising the NHS will be. He states - "The private sector providers too will have extraordinary new rights. The right to fair and equal treatment will no longer be for patients but for the benefit of investors, who will use competition policy and trade law to demand a right of entry and a right to ensure that their services can continue to operate profitably."

And to reinforce the message privatising the NHS is ongoing process happening now - please see the NHS Cuts Route Finder here .

And finally looking for inspiration from James Keir Hardie between 1895 and 1900 he worked to persuade the unions to back the ILP. The future can be found in history books...

"The unity of the working class is the one thing that matters. That can never be a thing of rapid growth. Abstract theories with them count for very little… Socialism supplies the vision and a united working class satisfies the senses as a practical method of attaining its realisation. To attain that unity is, and must be, the first object of all who desire Socialism." (p.4, Francis Johnson, ILP, 1922).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Jon Williams on "NHS Privatisation"

Again worrying developments on the NHS privatisation story, following on from the Hinchingbrooke Hospital take over by Circle Health. It seems there is a connection between Circle Health and one of Andrew Lansley's adviser/s...as mentioned in the KONP film below,

KONP (Keep our NHS Public): a short film about lobbying and the sad story NHS privatisation story called "The Health Industry Lobbying Tour" (scroll down the bottom of the web page) and you will be amazed at the connections between private companies and the Tory party.

Here is another short film highlighting how the NHS is being secretly privatised,
You Tube: NHS Privatisation

The Labour Party has a useful web link http://www.labour.org.uk/dropthebill to sign. It gives the impression if the bill can be dropped - privatisation of the NHS will stop. All the information available indicates this is an ongoing campaign by the Tory party to (secretly) privatise the NHS, whatever the outcome of the Health and Social Care Bill.

Also see http://www.lobbyingtransparency.org/ on the connections between our current / ex MPs, Think Tanks and private companies. Then there is the "Health Industry Lobbying Tour" direct web link http://www.lobbyingtransparency.org/content/view/55/1/

Monday, November 14, 2011

Jon Williams on "Privatisation in the NHS"

The Lords are still discussing the Health and Social Care (privatisation) Bill and we find NHS hospitals are already being privatised, for Hinchingbrooke hospital a process started 2 years ago! The following two articles show lobbying by friends of the Tory party, Circle Health operating at a loss and stating in its prospectus "care may suffer".

Southern Cross is a very recent example of a private company "asset stripping" and then walking away leaving vulnerable people at risk, then letting the Government to sort out the mess. Andy Burnham (Shadow Health Secretary) states "the company by its own admission has doubts about continuity of service and consistency of service".

The opening up of the NHS to private companies seems to have started several years ago, perhaps immediately after the election of the present Government (or perhaps during New Labour's time in Government), certainly we need more activity from the Labour party to highlight these worrying developments and campaigning to stop this privatisation process.


"The first private company to take over an NHS hospital has admitted in a document seen by the Observer that patient care could suffer under its plans to expand its empire and seek profit from the health service."

"Circle, which is backed by City hedge funds run by Crispin Odey and Paul Ruddock, who have donated £790,000 to the Conservative party, admits in its share prospectus to having made losses since it was set up in 2004. The latest accounts show an operating loss of £34.97m as of December 2010."

"Two NHS trusts are considering private sector management options: the Royal National Orthopaedic hospital in London and the Whiston hospital (St Helens) on Merseyside."


"Circle Health's majority shareholder is Circle Holdings, where former Goldman banker Parsa personally holds about 5% of shares and is again chief executive. In terms of who pulls the strings, it is Parsa and his hedge fund pals: end of story."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ken Turton Replies To Ken Curran

The site of the former Sheffield Victoria Station in 1988.

The two Ken's are regulars at our discussion meetings. Below we present Ken Turton's response to
this earlier item by Ken Curran.

Ken Curran's article contains some bright ideas as far as our railways are concerned, but he does not need to pursue the dream of building a massively expensive tunnel under the Pennines. There is a ready-made alternative, which just needs to be reactivated.

Ken is right in saying that continental rolling stock cannot negotiate the present Cross Pennine Railway Lines due to its infrastructure, in general, not being compatible with that of the Continent or America. These overseas' railways can and do move container-type traffic which is the traffic of the future. British Rail suffers from being the first railway in the world to be built. Later railways were able to make improvements, including alterations to their infrastructure.

However, there is hope for the region which Ken draws our attention to. This needs to be based on the now defunct rail link called the "Great Central Railway", known colloquially as the "GCR". This line began life in 1907 and traversed Liverpool Central, Manchester Central, Penistone, Sheffield Victoria, Nottingham, Leicester Central, Rugby, High Wycombe, Marylebone, then Banbury, Reading West and Dover. It divided at Sheffield to Retford, Lincoln, Skegness, Immingham via Gainsboro and Cleethorpes, taking in Grimsby. The main route took in all the North Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire coalfields which travelled north-by-west to Liverpool and Manchester.

The GCR was despised by other railway companies of its time, because it was built with some thought when it adopted the Continental infrastructure and indeed it came to carry continental rolling stock after World War 2. In 1936 it was innovative in planning and in putting into operation modern signalling systems in the Sheffield area intended for a more efficient electrification. Indeed it ran trains by electric traction from Sheffield to Manchester , taking in one in 147 gradients with ease until 1986. That line had two double-line tunnels, built to run continental rolling stock, and for many years did so.

One tunnel, a small one, was at Thurgoland. The second at Woodhead-Dufford was 3 miles and 177 yards long, being concrete lined and lit by electricity throughout. It was laid just after World War 2 and is still in existence today, as is much of the line from Sheffield. But it is used
by walkers and cyclists today. So with some small restoration, the line can be used again. For the bridges and tunnels can easily be cleared for fast running trains.

I have made a recent unsuccessful attempt with South Yorkshire Transport Services (SYTS) to have these restorations undertaken. The fact is that the tunnels of the former GCR line do not need excavating, they are already in situ. The SYTS seemed to me to be unaware of the situation before I brought it to their attention. These bureaucracies seem to me to be rigid in their thinking and nothing can move them. Facts are not important to such thick skinned people. Unfortunately instead, they are relentless in pursuing the unpursuable.

Anyway Ken, the GCR was a railway line that paid its way. This is illustrated by the fact that the Chairman of the GCR was Sir Edgar Watkins who also chaired the first Channel Tunnel Railway Company. The GCR was straight, fast and futuristic and it does not need need much work on it, apart from its re-opening. It would provide a route which would open up Sheffield and its greater area to the North West of Britain, along with the east coast ports and and on to your transcontinental ambitions. Although it has to be said that the Orient Express of yesterday travelled from London to India and China. A route that would also be advantageous to British Industry, if we had one worth its salt.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ken Curran is "Seeking A Way Forward" (Part 2).

Part 2 : Today's Lessons From The 1940s

(For Part 1 see here.)

Labour should use the present crisis to spell out the alternatives for the Democratic Left, as opposed to the laissez-faire and 1930's style so-called solutions of the coalition government. The current government are on a very dangerous road, they have scrapped any genuine commitment towards fulfilling previous promises on climate change policies. All experts in the field recognise time is of the essence if we are to avert the worst of the forecasted consequences. I cannot state strongly enough the urgency for Labour to make a comprehensive case for alternatives to the present mumbo-jumbo which is supposed to address the issues. Labour has a commitment to the pioneers of the Democratic Left. To ignore the need for a truly radical rethink would be tantamount to a betrayal of Democratic Socialism.

Returning to the past, I believe the present leadership has much to learn from the Cabinet and Parliamentary Labour Party of 1945-50. This was a group of well over 300 men and women, largely self made, many having endured the terrors of two world wars.. They had been forged in the crucible of hard times and shaped by the experiences of our industrial heritage. By and large, they were both ordinary and extraordinary people. They had seen all the horrors of war and long years of unemployment and poverty. They had spent years waiting for an opportunity to break with the nightmares and fears of the past. Fear of poverty, ill health, unemployment and wars.

In order to change all of that, they were both prepared and did keep the House of Commons in session, night after night in order to ensure that Labour fulfilled its manifesto promises. The Tories were furious and angry, complaining that they were lacking in sleep through all night sittings. Labour MPs reminded the Tories that millions of workers spent hours working long shifts doing harder work than sitting in a warm and comfortable House of Commons. I use this story to demonstrate the past determination and zeal of Labour to serve the people, although they were saddled with huge debts incurred during six years of war. These men and women were prepared to take big risks to deliver their promises. I believe the debts of the 1939-45 war were only finally settle whilst Tony Blair was Prime Minister.

The economic problems were not the only issues which the 1945 Government had to face. The winter of 1947 was absolutely awful. From late November, serious frosts and bitterly cold winds, followed by driving snow covered Britain several feet deep. Unknown in living memory, rivers and harbours closed. In quite a number of places, the sea froze. Where I lived the Tyne froze. This river was vital to Greater London as the Power Stations all depended on Colliers (coal boats) from the Tyne for supplies. With all the roads and railways under many feet of snow, it was vital for the Colliers to reach London by sea. With supreme effort, mobilisation and organisation, it was achieved. What I have described in terms of getting London supplied is from my personal experience. Yet my stories could be repeated by others of my generation, where their towns and villages were cut off for weeks. Thousands of volunteers were called upon to help troops and other servicemen to help get the country moving. The Government used the special powers available to it, to mobilise the nation. The people responded right across the land and whilst much snow was still on the ground in early May, Britain had got moving long before the snow melted. I only use these stories to demonstrate the sort of problems which the Labour Government of Clem Attlee had to face. Frankly I don't know how the people and government of today would perform in the environment of the 1940s.

In 1989 people celebrated the collapse of communism and the demolition of the Berlin Wall. The right wing press and politicians hailed the event as the triumph of capitalism over both communism and democratic socialism. That so called triumph is proving to be short lived, the events unfolding across the world suggest that capitalism is not really successful. As those of us who regard ourselves as democratic socialists know, our political recipe has not really been on offer, apart perhaps in Scandinavia where it seems more popular than the current Anglo-American model of capitalism.

The problem we are facing is the failure of capitalism. It is failing humanity on many fronts as poverty is spreading across the world. It is failing to tackle climate change. Crops are failing. Workers are thrown out of work. Health is breaking down, even in some of the richer countries. The financial system is both corrupt and out of democratic control or influence. Young people throughout the world are asking whether they have any future and if capitalism can solve these problems. I have no confidence that it can, beyond perhaps finding some short term respite from the chaos, only for it to return with even greater ferocity later. Under these circumstances life will become increasingly intolerable.

Labour has to respond and give people hope that there is a better life to be had under democratic socialism. All of what I write presents a huge challenge to the Labour Party and in particular to our leadership.

In conclusion, I return to the issue of the North-South divide which I covered in Part 1 of my analysis. My final suggestion, fits in with the West to East rail development I proposed, with their opening to European markets. I propose the building of a new Eco-City on the banks of the Humber. In my view, the Humber River Estuary has never been valued and used to its potential. A new Eco-City can produce much of its own power from a combination of water driven turbines, designed to automatically respond to the change in tidal flow. Every building would be insulated with green roofs, plus solar panels. The objective is to create a flagship Green City where new jobs would be created by new thinking and the use of new technology. This proposal linked to a new rail-ferry terminal should certainly begin to counter the trend to the South-East as being the only centre for wealth creation in Britain. My ideas on the West to East rail development and the establishment of a Humber based Eco-City have to be seen as a combined activity, one stimulating the other and building a momentum as it grows. I, therefore, ask that these ideas are seriously considered and used in creating a new Labour Manifesto.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Electoral Registration Problems

The Commons Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform has just published this important report on individual voter registration. It is summerized here by the BBC as well as on the Parliamentary web-site.

An assessment of wider electoral registration problems can be found here.