If there’s one thing politicians need to do above all else is listen. Listen to experts, listen to other opinions irrespective of political allegiance and most importantly of all, listen to the people. Naturally then, I do welcome the pause in the break to the NHS reforms to allow Ministers to listen. Now, I’m not going to go onto the NHS reforms themselves as I’ve mentioned them enough on previous blogs. But, what I will blog about is the listening exercise itself.
After the Royal College of Nurses voted in favour in a vote of no confidence on Andrew Lansley a few days ago, the Health Minister claimed “I’m sorry if what I’m setting out to do hasn’t communicated itself…Listening to the vote this morning, if I’ve not got that message across then I apologise.”. Usually, I welcome apologises. Rather than showing a sign of ‘weakness’ they actually show a sign of humility and maturity. However, this so-called ‘failure to communicate’ is nothing less than patronising. What this is really saying is that we have failed to simplify the argument enough for you to understand, but we are still right and you are completely wrong. This don’t forget was just after 99% of delegates at the Royal College of Nurses conference deciding to vote in favour in a motion of no confidence in Lansley.
If the Health Minister is truly arrogant enough to believe that the Royal College of Nurses are too stupid enough to understand his proposals, he really has another thing coming.
I’ve now returned to Birmingham after a week in which the Coalition managed to look incompetent and shambolic as well as cruel. We’ve had Willetts admitting he is content to see poorer students having to settle for a degree at their local sixth form, rather than enjoying the full university experience; Norman Tebbit joining the near-univeral coalition against the NHS transformation; U-turns on defence spending and health to add to the growing list which includes school sports and buildings, forests, and even the Downing Street cat; and of course Nick Clegg. When he hasn’t been complaining that he is the nation’s ‘punchbag’ or facing criticism from his own son, he has been making some interesting comments about social mobility.
I am not going to slam the Deputy Prime Minister for having had a leg-up from his neighbour (a peer of the realm) in order to get an internship at a bank (it had to be a bank), because I challenge anyone reading this – assuming I have a readership – not to have seized the opportunity in the same way if they were in Nick’s position. A Labour party which wants social justice and equality of opportunity from birth should not be blaming someone for a background thay had no control over, and that even includes Cameron who had someone put a word in from Buck House. However, Clegg’s attempts at addressing the age-old problem of the ‘It’s who you know’ culture were embarrassing, coming at the same time this government is slashing Sure Start centres, EMA, univeristy budgets and allowing socially divisive ’free’ schools to blossom up and down the country.
I spoke to people this week in the valleys who have Masters’ degrees who have spent over a year unemployed – young people with ambition, drive and what should be a promising career ahead of them. I overheard sixth form students on the bus complaining that they had not been accepted for any of their UCAS choices, despite the prediction of 4 As at A-level. I have personally had difficulty finding summer placements when I am not lucky enough to be able to work unpaid for six months in central London. Nick Clegg’s diagnosis was correct, but there is far more to it than setting an example to almost-bankrupt businesses by paying interns at Lib Dem HQ.
We need a new cultural shift in this country, brought about by government, where the disadvantaged are caught as soon as possible and at every stage of their lives are helped to gain the same opportunities as the better off. This should not involve positive discrimination or handouts, but should involve investment in our young people which other European countries manage while they bail out their neighbours, but we seem to think is unaffordable. A national internship scheme or national bursary programme, complementing investment in careers education (which at the moment is dire) to inform young people that they are just as talented and ambitious as the more privileged, and what opportunities are out there for the taking, is desperately needed. The underlying factors, such as affordable transport, need to be subsidised so someone who lives in the middle of nowhere with no ‘contacts’ can get work experience in a city near them.
There are important elections coming up in the devolved nations and local councils in England. Young people should be demanding better from the government and their local councils at the ballot box, and should express their dissatisfaction with the Coalition, which just doesn’t get it.
Apologises for the lack of blogging lately. Been rather busy with essays, football match against BUCF (kinda) and general stuff back up north. Anyway, in that time there have been HUGE events in which I’d like to focus on. The NHS reforms (naturally), Portugal bail-out (naturally again) and University Minister, David Willetts, on Feminism.
First off, all I have to say on the NHS reforms is, thank god! No one wants these reforms. The BMA opposes it, the Lib Dems oppose it, 60% of GPs oppose the reforms and none other than Lord Tebbit opposes the reforms. If your too right-wing for Lord Tebbit, you know your policies have huge issues. Ian Duncan-Smith (IDS) even admitted that waiting times were already rising due to real term cuts to the NHS. Lansley has been hung out to dry by Cameron, lets only hope his reforms can also, permanently.
Now, naturally with the announcement of the bail-out for Portugal, Gideon jumped on the austerity bandwagon to claim that the cuts were right to prevent a similar situation occurring here in the UK. But if you stop, think and compare us, Portugal and other nation-states that have been bailed out you’ll see that this isn’t the case. For one thing, it’s important to note that prior to the bail-out, Portugal had had two austerity measures and three rises in VAT. Similarly, Ireland had been praised by the IMF in 2008 for “courageous” action for its austerity measures in an attempt to deal with its deficit. This naturally says something more about the problems of austerity than the problems of deficit/debt. For another thing, to say that Britain’s economy is anyway similar to Portugal’s/Ireland’s/Greece’s is absolutely ludicrous. We for one have a far, far larger economy than that of those countries, we have far more time to pay back our debts and most plainly of all, we’re not in the Euro so we can devalue our currency raise and lower interest rates. So please Gideon, don’t jump on the scaremongering bandwagon.
Finally, probably the least well known of the issues I’m focusing on is David Willetts’ comments on Feminism. Now, if you’ve been living in a cave the last couple of weeks what he said was that feminism was the “single biggest factor” for the lack of social mobility in Britain, as women who would otherwise have been housewives had taken university places and well-paid jobs that could have gone to ambitious working-class men. Now this is wrong and completely degrading on so many levels. Don’t get me wrong, Labour really didn’t do enough to tackle social mobility while in government. But feminism is in no way the cause of the problem. The true problem is the lack of aspiration from schools and deprived regions of the country to want young people to aim higher and also the problems of money that entail that. These comments also leave a more distasteful message. It is the assumption that women are out there, taking men’s jobs. Willets’ idea that women’s primary place is in the domestic household represents nothing less than a subliminal form of sexism. This is only exacerbated when he went onto excuse his comments with “It is not that I am against feminism,”.
This hasn’t been a good couple of weeks for the coalition.
Missing BULS and bored in your Easter Hols already? Well I can announce that you can now make your very own poster in a ‘No to AV’ style.
(Note, the above poster is nearly enough the same as the real ‘No to AV’ posters)