Has The Tory Party’s Obsession With Europe Ruined Our Country?

With less than two months to go before the UK leaves the European Union (EU), the Tory party are still fighting like rats in a sack, over our exact terms of leaving the bloc. But it wasn’t always this way.

In 1946, Sir Winston Churchill, leader of the Tory party, and freshly ejected from the office of Prime Minister after World War 2, delivered his famous speech in Zurich calling for the creation of “a United States of Europe”. As Churchill urged a Franco-German partnership to lead his vision of a new Europe, he declared that Great Britain and the British Commonwealth, along with the US and USSR, should be “friends and sponsors” of the project. He did not talk of the UK becoming a member itself, though.

In 1961, Harold Macmillan, Tory party leader and Prime Minister, made a formal application to join the European Economic Community (EEC), as the EU was known in those days. The application was unsuccessful, mainly because the French President, Charles de Gaulle, was vehemently against Britain joining.

Finally, in 1973, Ted Heath, Tory party leader and Prime Minister, took us into the EEC, without a referendum either. That came in 1975 after Heath was replaced by Harold Wilson, the Labour party leader, as Prime Minister.

There were always some Tories, who were against joining the EEC, but the trouble really began in the 1980s. By this time Margaret Thatcher was Tory party leader and Prime Minister, and she managed to give the impression of being anti-EU, particularly by getting an increase in the UK’s rebate from the EU. But she was also the main architect of the European Single Market, which her admirers in the Tory party rail against now.

It is true that Thatcher was against greater political union though and famously said in a speech in the House of Commons in 1990:

The President of the Commission, Mr. Delors, said at a press conference the other day that he wanted the European Parliament to be the democratic body of the Community, he wanted the Commission to be the Executive and he wanted the Council of Ministers to be the Senate. No. No. No.

Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister later that year, after a leadership challenge by the very Europhile Michael Heseltine, when most of her Cabinet said they thought she should go, mainly due to the controversial ‘poll tax’ proposals. The right of the party blamed the more liberal wing who happened also to be pro-EU.

John Major who took over as party leader and Prime Minister, had all kinds of trouble from Tory MPs on the right, and mainly about Europe, and especially The Maastricht Treaty which he signed in 1992, which expanded the political union aspect of the EU. Major dubbed his Tory MP opponents as ‘the bastards,’ but my favourite quote at the time from Major was about one of those ‘the bastards’ Bill Cash, who is still an MP today. Major said that whenever he heard Cash’s name mentioned, the sound of white coats flapping came to his mind.

After a change to the election process for Tory leader, allowing the membership, which has become increasingly anti-EU, a final say in the election, every Tory party leader has by necessity been a Eurosceptic. David Cameron, only became the leader in 2005 by affecting Euroscepticism, although as time has revealed this was really not the case. Cameron was forced into the promise of holding a referendum if the party won power again, but he didn’t think he would have to act on this, as his coalition partners in government from 2010, the Lib Dems would block it. Surprisingly, Cameron won a majority for the Tories in 2015 and had to follow through on his promise. Of course, the referendum in 2017 went the way of the UK leaving the EU, narrowly.

It should be noted that at the time there was no clamour for a referendum on our membership of the EU amongst the public at large, only in the Tory party. Yes, UKIP were starting to take votes of Tory candidates, but they never won a single seat in Parliament, other than Tory MPs who defected to them. Then UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, tried and failed seven times to get elected to Parliament.

And here we are today. A country now bitterly divided, where supermarkets expect to run out food, hospitals run out of medicines, companies relocating out of the UK and taking jobs with them, where plans have been prepared for martial law (which has never happened before in the UK in modern history, even during World War 2), and for the Queen to be evacuated from London, should largescale civil unrest materialise after a ‘no deal Brexit.’

So much for the Tories being the ‘natural party of government’ in the UK, their obsession, nay fetishism about Europe threatens to ruin the country and its international standing. When this all goes tits up, as it surely must, I just hope people remember who was responsible for this whole fiasco.

We Must Treat Immigrants As Our Friends And Not Just Humans.

Racism and xenophobia have infected British politics. The sight of politicians stoking up fear against immigrants no longer seems to shock us; quite frankly, it’s come to be expected. In the same way that hate crime increased in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, so too has hate-filled bigotry infected British politics. It is now considered appropriate for Theresa May to claim EU migrants have “jumped the queue”; charging them £65 for settled status after Brexit. It is now customary for Sajid Javid to deny asylum seekers refuge in the UK. The sight of Tommy Robinson (now an advisor for UKIP) spewing hate on our TV screens has become routine. Anti-immigration rhetoric has become normalised; the Far Right has desensitised us from their bigotry. Their brand of bitter, racist, ugly populism has invaded British politics.

By pandering to the Far Right, the Tories have failed to acknowledge the fact that immigration has been a force for good in this country. Their hard work has greatly contributed to the British economy; on average, contributing £78000 to the Exchequer. EU nationals make up 63000 of all NHS staff, 5000 of all teachers and 92000 of all care workers in our desperately underfunded social care system. Half a million are also employed in low-skilled work across the UK. In all cases, immigrants give more than they take. While the Right may claim that they undercut wages and overstretch our public services (even suggesting they deny the opportunity for young Brits to train as doctors), in reality, they spend money, pay taxes and tend to use the NHS less than most Britons.

However, the fact is many of these types of justifications of the value immigration miss the point entirely. Immigrants are all too often described in economic terms; as robots that work in the country, pay taxes and contribute to our economy. What is less often emphasised is their role as friends, neighbours, colleagues and classmates. By reducing their value solely to their economic output, we ignore the vast contributions made by immigrants in transforming Britain into a multicultural, diverse society. Growing up in East London, I was exposed to a vast array of different cultures and learnt so much from my continental peers whether it be how to say “hello” and “thank you” in Polish, or observing Jumu’ah on a Friday with my Muslim friends. They taught me what it meant to be British: tolerant, inclusive and accepting.

Immigration broadens the mind, much in the same way as travelling does; it is no coincidence that nearly all major cities in the UK with higher levels of immigration chose to back Remain in the EU referendum.

The de-humanisation of immigrants in this country has been shameful; seeing them scapegoated for the crimes of the rich has been heart-breaking. Immigration has not fuelled populism, austerity has. The backlash the political classes are now experiencing in response to austerity politics has been redirected towards immigrants; rather than the politicians who underfund our public services, cause stagnating wages and unemployment. The right-wing press has conned us into blaming immigrants for the plight of the working classes. By directing anger at immigrants and brainwashing society into fighting against the enemy within, the politicians are let off the hook.

Why have the ruling classes done this? The answer is simple: to protect their privileged status by segregating the working class; leaving them unable to organise coordinated opposition to this rigged economic system. The white working class and immigrants have much more in common than many Britons would care to admit. Immigrants and ethnic minorities are twice as likely to experience poverty as white groups. Both groups have suffered heavily under austerity. At a time of immense social upheaval and protest (Brexit), the ruling class has employed divide and conquer tactics to subdue the lower classes. Anti-immigration rhetoric has thus been allowed to run riot in our mainstream media.

The effects of this scape-goating have been hard to stomach. Hate crime has increased by 17% since the Brexit vote. The viral video of a Syrian refugee getting bullied in a school in Huddersfield is part of a much wider problem. What shocked me most about this video was the fact that not one child stepped in to defend the poor boy, showing the extent to which years of anti-immigration rhetoric had de-humanised him in the eyes of his peers.

The damning by-products of Boris Johnson’s burka comments and Nigel Farage’s “Breaking Point” poster have been made clear. The mainstream media were rightfully shocked and appalled at the depravity of these comments, however, the fact remains that they were given air-time and national coverage. All this does is normalise hatred, treating it as acceptable political jargon: if the politicians are doing it, why can’t everyone? Historians of the future will be damning in their judgements of these politicians and the role they played in transforming Britain from a safe place for migrants to one in which they face hostility.

There has been a political failure to champion immigration as a force for good in this country. As Sir Oliver Letwin rightfully claimed the main parties had “made a terrible mistake” in failing to argue, with commitment and resolve, “that properly controlled migration enriches the country in every sense”. It is the job of progressive politicians on the left to champion the case for immigration. Although this would likely prove electorally unpopular in the current climate, it is vital if we are to alter people’s perceptions and prejudices.

It may seem patronising to champion the contribution of immigrants to this country, but the truth is, many people simply have not experienced these benefits. Those of us that have grown up with immigrants have a duty to educate. Those who have limited experience of immigration are more susceptible to the lies and deception of the right-wing press. By failing to stand up to bigotry, we legitimise it. If we fail to do so, who is going to stand up and defend the rights of immigrants? Clearly, it won’t be our morally corrupt politicians.

There are, however, reasons to be optimistic. The future of British politics is looking bright for immigrants. 32% of MYPs in the UK Youth Parliament are from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. In time, British society will be governed by people who reflect our multicultural society. People who will stand up to bigotry in all its forms and reverse the worrying trends we see infecting British politics today. People who have grown up with immigrants, from a vast array of countries, who will treat them not just as humans but as friends.

 

The People’s Vote campaign needs Labour, and to serve the country Labour should finally back a PV

Throughout the Brexit negotiations, Labour’s frontbench has continuously appeared ambiguous, sitting on the fence when asked about what they’d do as an opposition to the Tories. By doing so, they’ve managed to hold on to their Leave and Remain voters throughout the negotiating period.

But has it all been worth it when it comes down to the wire?

Whether it was Keir Starmer who has pushed for the opportunity of a second referendum, or Dianne Abbott ruling out any sort of referendum, Labour’s shadow cabinet has seriously harmed the People’s Vote campaign. As a result, there is little chance that any sort of integrity can be found on Brexit.

Let’s remind ourselves of why the People’s Vote has been campaigning for another referendum. Firstly, they argue that democracy did not stop after June 2016, meaning the people are still allowed to have their say, particularly as polls have shown that the nation’s attitudes are gradually changing towards a larger Remain majority. Secondly, and more importantly, they argue that the June 2016 referendum was based on lies and corruption, pushing the electorate to vote for promises which have not been delivered.

Alternatively, Labour are now considering another referendum as a ‘last resort’ option to break the Brexit deadlock, and it is this discourse that will seriously harm the integrity of a second referendum.

Why? Because it defeats the purpose of a “People’s Vote”. A second referendum has not been campaigned for because we would need to go back to square one. Instead, A second referendum has been campaigned for because of the corruption of the first referendum. Labour will be ignoring the vital messages of the carefully constructed People’s Vote campaign.

Vital they were. By going back to square one, Labour will alienate all those who voted Leave in June 2016, angry at the thought that their vote didn’t count the first time around.

Where does this leave us? With a second referendum with no integrity. The Murdoch monopoly alongside another carefully constructed Leave campaign will continue to spout anti-establishment messages, calling for the people to rise against the elite who believe they know better.

Will we ever get a decision based on fact and change for the greater good rather than based on anti-establishment messages?

Labour’s shadow cabinet will seriously damage the People’s Vote campaign, and it’s all down to the political games of survival which Labour and the Conservatives have been playing.

By remaining ambivalent, Labour has remained relevant. Yet, this has also left Labour stuck in a rut after the intrinsic route which has been taken after the defeat of May’s deal. By playing with tactics, members of Labour’s frontbench are missing the point. Why are their decisions being made for the sake of the party over the needs of the people? How can they ignore the fact that the people’s needs will not be met from the promises of the June 2016 campaign?

By remaining ambivalent, Labour’s frontbench has missed a clear chance at reinstating political integrity. By ignoring the messaging of the People’s Vote, Corbyn is taking us back to square one and missing the opportunity to give Britain a credible future.

Boris Johnson Cleared Of Breaking Party Rules Over Burka Comments

 

Conservative Party MP and ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been cleared by a party disciplinary panel following comments he made in a column for the Telegraph in August regarding Burkas.

The disciplinary panel, which was led by an independent investigator, was tasked with deciding whether the numerous complaints weighed against the MP over his views and comments on Islam, and more specifically, female Muslim headwear, was serious enough to warrant disciplinary action.

Complaints were filed against Johnson by several of his fellow party members, including Lord Sheikh, the founder of the Conservative Muslim Forum, and one of the only Muslim members of the House of Lords.

However, at the time, a number of other public figures came to Johnson’s aid, including Mr Bean star Rowan Atkinson, who wrote a letter to the Times saying he should only ‘apologise for a bad joke’.

The complaints came following a column made in The Daily Telegraph by Johnson in response to a law passed in Denmark that banned Burkas in August, that compared Muslim women wearing the Burka to ‘Bank Robbers’, and calls the headwear ‘Oppressive and ridiculous’

Johnson likened women wearing Burkas to ‘letterboxes’, mentioned that it was perfectly ok for the MP to demand women take off the headwear to address him in a medical setting and that schools and Universities should treat women coming to their facilities in a Burka to someone coming ‘dressed as a bank robber’.

The Conservative Party Code of Conduct, Displayed on their official website, mentions that MPs cannot use their positions to bully, abuse or unlawfully discriminate against others. However, the panel decided that this rule does not override Johnson’s rights to express his opinions in the newspaper, despite regarding the language in the article as ‘provocative’, but also adding that it was ‘unwise’ to censor his language or his use of ‘satire’ to emphasise his views.

Many have accused Johnson’s article of giving legitimate support for extreme Islamophobic views, in a term known as ‘dog-whistling’ to the Far-right. Lady Sayeeda Warsi, a member of the House of Lords, tweeted in August that Johnson’s article served as a ‘dog-whistle’ to Islamophobic elements in the Conservative party and that the party wasn’t doing enough to deal with it.

Recent statistics from the Office of National Statistics show that hate crime rates have continued to increase exponentially in recent years and have doubled since 2012 up to almost 95,000 offences between 2017 and early 2018, and the percentage change in hate crimes based on religion has increased by 40% between 2016 and 2017.

One explanation for this rise could be the slow creep of far-right intolerance into mainstream party politics, catalysed by the EU referendum and resulting discourse on immigration. Many in mainstream political parties may have taken the opportunity to introduce adherence to their more radical voters through disguised conversation on what the ‘British Identity’ is. The recent panel findings have shown that the ‘guardians of British civility’ in the Conservative party are more than complacent in allowing ‘dog-whistling’ to the far-right by their more outspoken members.

 

The arguments for Brexit: Explained

It wouldn’t be hyperbole to call Brexit among the most divisive political votes in history. Whether Brexit will be positive or negative for the UK still divides the opinions of most of the 70 million inhabitants of the UK. The main consensus amongst progressives is that Brexit will mostly be negative; both politically, socially and most importantly, economically. But then why did more than half of the UK vote in favour of it? In this article I intend to explore some of the main underlying points in favour of Brexit, and evaluate the grounds for their support.

One of the most salient arguments brought forward by Brexit supporters is the bureaucratic nature of the European Parliament. Supporters believe that Brexit would return power to the government, and by association, the British people. This idea appears particularly unfounded as all ministers of the European Union are elected from their respective national government. The United Kingdom itself hold regional elections to decide it’s MEPs, however, that isn’t to say these elected MEPs won’t act in the interests of their home country or even the local communities that elected them. In 2015, many of the elected MEPs for the UK, notably those of the United Kingdom Independence Party, refrained from adhering to parliamentary conduct in protest at the European Union. However, this issue isn’t unique to the European Union and has existed virtually as long as democratic institutions have.

The ability to take control of laws and policy

One of the main requirements of being a member state in the Eurozone (the free, single-market of the European Union that allows the free movement of goods and people across Europe) is to adhere to the European Court of Justice. The European Court of Justice is the main law-making entity in Europe and ensures that all EU countries abide by the laws set down by the European Union. Currently, it is comprised of one judge from each EU member state and 11 advocates for the Union itself. The main argument of pro-Brexit politicians is that the European Court of Justice takes away the ability for the UK government to manage its own laws and gives power to the EU and away from UK citizens.

Whilst this is true to some extent, the European Court of Justice also provides several opportunities for UK citizens to control the UK government through the Court. The most notable example of this is through the European Court of Human Rights, which forms a Court of law above the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court, that theoretically each EU member state must adhere to the ruling of. The European Court of Human Rights provides another avenue for citizens who think the government, or justice system, has wronged them to seek legal help.

However, the usefulness of the European Court of Human Rights in managing the UK government is itself questionable. The UK government has failed to adhere to guidelines and rulings made by the Court. The most prolific example of this came in the decision in 2003 to introduce the Imprisonment for Public Protection Sentences (also known as indeterminate prison sentences), which allowed judges to instil no fixed term limits when convicting criminals to be imprisoned if they are deemed to be violent or a danger to the public, even for crimes that would originally only confer a 1-2 year sentence. While the UK government did abolish the handing out of Indeterminate Prison Sentences in 2012 after a European Court of Human Rights ruling that it was in breach of human rights, the abolition didn’t comply with the recommendations to revoke the current indeterminate sentences handed to over 3,500 prisoners in the UK who were currently serving no fixed prison sentence term. To this day several hundred IPP prisoners are still trapped in custody, some for crimes that would otherwise have seen them walking free decades earlier.

Our continued place in the European Single-Market would ensure that we were still required to adhere to all laws created by the European Court of Justice, however without having a UK-representative on the Court itself. This means any deal involving membership of the single-market would result in still having to abide by EU law.

Trade and the Membership Fee

In 2016, the year following the Brexit vote, the UK paid over £13 billion  to the European Union for membership, a tariff that must be paid by all member states. While this is considerably less than the ‘£250 million a week’ fee ,famously mentions by the Vote-leave ‘Battle Bus’ during the vote, it is still a considerable fraction of UK GDP.

We must however consider that a sizeable number of this is given back to the UK, of around £4.5 billion each year. This is mostly given in the form of grants to research projects, and the UK’s many tourist attractions and national landmarks. The biggest recipient of the money in terms of geographical areas of the UK is Cornwall, due its huge international tourism spots.

The case for a financial reason to leave the EU is also further complicated by how it is almost completely impossible to even estimate the amount of money the UK makes each year from free-trade, free-movement, and other various services discounted by EU membership, such as a relaxation to the Rules of Origin restrictions relaxed on products within the EU. This has been hotly contested by lobbyists, policymakers and analysts since long before the Brexit vote, possibly even since the UK has been in the European Union itself.  The lack of consensus and ambiguities on what exactly makes the UK the most money from being a member of the EU makes this point one of the most difficult to disrepute.

Whether trade would be better or worse off without the European Union is also a very hotly contested topic. Brexit supporters argue that the European Union decides the trade regulations and partners for its members, denying the UK the ability to manage its own trade and determine its own trade partners. Yet this argument fails to understand the very reason why the European Union was created in such a way in the first place. The European Union was designed to have the single market to ensure European Countries would have larger bargaining power with the new world-superpowers seen rising in the far-east and the United States. These large powers are forced to do business with the entirety of Europe, as opposed to being able to strong-arm smaller and economically weak individual European countries (such as the tactics employed by the Trump Administration in recent years with Mexico and Canada) into deals that would only benefit the larger powers.

As argued by Brexiteers, the United Kingdom, boasting the 5th largest world economy, can gather the economic power needed to ensure fair trade deals are made with other superpowers, most notably by gaining the backing of the United States through a ‘special relationship’ that favours US-UK trade. But yet again, this argument is too simplistic when compared to reality. It is true that the UK has the 5th largest GDP of any country in the world, but the relative difference in GDP between the UK and the two largest economies, China and the United States, is immense. The International monetary fund found in 2017 that the United States had a national GDP 10 times higher than the UK.

This is also further complicated by the role the United Kingdom plays as the only fully English-Speaking country to reside in the European Union. The United Kingdom is often regarded as the ‘gateway to Europe’, and has developed a vast financial economy off the ability for the United States and far Eastern investment firms and banks to do business in the UK and make use of its easy access to the Single-Market.

It is questionable whether the UK would be able to sufficiently make use of its economy to stand on its own feet without the need of the European Union. There may also be a legacy of nostalgia towards the days of the old British Empire and the United Kingdom’s ability to stand as a world power. The reality is the UK has yet to prove such a feat is possible after so many years sheltered in the Single-Market.

Immigration

Immigration is by far the most contentious issue in the Brexit debate. There is a general assumption that the Pro-Brexit argument in terms of immigration, is that the free movement of workers between European countries has contributed to a huge rise in low-skilled migrants into the UK. This argument was somewhat hijacked during the Brexit vote considering the Migrant Crisis, where there was a flood of refugees from conflicts with Islamic State and the Syrian Civil war moving across the Mediterranean and into the European Union through Italy. Another issue backing the immigration argument for Brexit is that the flood of migrant workers from countries that give lower salaries for the same jobs (such as Eastern European countries that often make use of their lower economies to provide less pay for low-skilled and skilled workers), move to the United Kingdom and take the jobs of UK nationals.

According to data from the office of national statistics for September 2018, there are currently 2.25 million non-UK EU nationals, compared to 1.24 million non-UK nationals from outside the EU working in the United Kingdom. However, only 881,000 of the EU nationals working in the UK are from Eastern European countries, and the number of Eastern European Migrants in the UK has been steadily decreasing since September 2016, where it peaked at just over 1 million workers. The United Kingdom has seen relatively steady increases in the number of UK nationals working in the UK over recent years.

Another issue, particularly around the ‘Migrant Crisis’, is that even though part of the argument in favour of Brexit included discussion on whether the European Union would force the United Kingdom to ‘share the load’ of refugees from the Middle East, the agreement to bring refugees into the UK wasn’t decided by the EU, but instead by a joint agreement between France and the UK. In that situation, the United Kingdom did have control over its borders and instead chose to let migrants in. A further issue with the Immigrant Brexit argument is that leaving the European Union might make it more difficult for the United Kingdom to deport illegal immigrants, as currently, EU law allows for quick deportation of illegal immigrants either to other European Union countries, or countries close to the European Union.

Similarly, under directive 2004/38 of the European Union, specifically article 28, member-states do have a certain amount of discretion to avoid the abuse of freedom of movement, notably to ‘guard against the abuse of rights or from fraud’ to ‘adopt necessary measures’ which can include deportation. EU law already allows for migrants who abuse the freedom of movement to be sent back to their home country.

Brexit will fundamentally change the United Kingdom, in terms of its economic make-up, its ability to control policy, it’s government’s accountability, and the United Kingdom’s place on the world stage. Whether this change will be overall positive, negative or could even be considered as anything beyond ‘complicated’ is a topic that will be debated for many decades to come. The arguments in favour of Brexit, while mostly being simplistic in their depiction of very complex political and financial situations, do reflect genuine dissatisfaction with the United Kingdom, neoliberal policies and institutions such as the European Union.

320,000 people homeless in Britain: Number of homelessness doubled under Conservative Government

 

December is starting to get cold; it’s dark in the morning when I leave for work and often dark the evening. That darkness is now a constant in my life but so to also is Wayne, the homeless man who sits outside the Tesco I pass on my way to work. He’s not from Manchester originally and has been living rough in the city for the last year. Wayne is one of about 20 people gathered around the Northern Quarter area of Manchester; scattered outside Greggs or Spar, in doorways and alleys, sometimes sleeping and sometimes high but always looking up at the people passing by. Statistics, numbers, hard data, these are solid things that people use to find meaning and make sense of this world. Much of the basis of modern society is built around numbers and our use of them. But to tell you that up until this year the National Office of Statistics didn’t record the annual deaths of homeless people in this country is a damning shame. Indeed it took an investigation by the Manchester Evening News and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism to force the agency into finally recording these deaths. Later this month those statistics will be published in full but so far because of the independent investigations, we know that in the last 12 months 449 people have died on the streets of England. Of those, 14 of died on the streets of Manchester and those are the ones who have been counted. We know that members of the homeless community who die in hospitals or in temporary accommodation aren’t listed in these figures.

To hit you with a couple more stats, as of this moment there are currently 320,000 people homeless in this country, this figure rises by the month and has doubled in the last 5 years (Tory coincidence I think not). Of those 120,000 are children, a generation growing up in unstable housing and poverty. We know that now 1 in every 200 people in Britain is homeless or stuck in temporary accommodation. Manchester is not even close to being the worst municipality in the country for homelessness but it is number 1 in the North of England. In Manchester, we currently have 4,000 people homeless and around 100 or so sleeping rough in the city centre any given night. This works out to another lovely statistic of 1 in every 135 Mancunians being homeless. Newham in east London is currently the worst borough in the country with 1 in every 24 in housing insecurity and 75 sleeping rough. For me the reality of this problem is startling, I moved away in 2014 to live and work Canada and upon moving back last year what I saw on the streets of Britain reminded me more of the tent cities that were prevalent across North America. It feels like it has happened so quickly but we all saw this coming. In a perfect storm scenario, years of successive squeezes on vital support services and endless cuts have exposed the vulnerable in our society and many are simply being forgotten about. A person dies every month on the streets in Manchester and while expensive flats and condos are being put up by the day, many more lie destitute in unsafe temporary housing and hostels. Needless to say, little help has been forthcoming from the Government. It was announced this week that life expectancy for the poorest in our country is dropping and we haven’t even seen the full rollout of Universal Credit and the £5bn more in cuts to the welfare state, austerity is over in all but name.

The Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham has been particularly vocal in his pledges to end homelessness and he seems to be doing all that he can. He currently donates a cut of his wage every month and has set up the Bed Every Night initiative. This scheme aims to provide a bed, a hot meal and support for anyone sleeping rough on the streets of Greater Manchester between November 2018 and March 2019.  It is a scheme that should be rolled out all over the country, one that will definitely help those currently on the streets and stop a great number dying of exposure this winter. However it does have its caveats, it is only open to those from Greater Manchester, which is understandable from a funding perspective, as you don’t want to attract other cities homeless. However, a number of the homeless community on our streets are from elsewhere in the country and therefore aren’t eligible. My friend Wayne is one of those and while he spoke positively of the Mayor and all he is doing for the community he hasn’t seen many changes in the last few months that directly benefit him but he is hopeful for the New Year. The council is certainly in a tough position trying to figure out how it helps keep those who aren’t eligible safe this winter.

 

What do we need? We need more shelters for those who are currently sleeping rough, especially emergency shelters for the nights that are particularly cold. We need more social housing and better temporary housing, not rat infested dirty flats that are packed full to bursting. Social housing also needs to be a percentage of every flat building in the city and I would push for an overall cap on rents. People who are getting back into society need to feel a part of it, not away from everyone in a decaying old building with others also struggling. We need an end to Universal Credit and a reversal of every cut to major frontline services with proper investment being put into social care and the police force. We need to end the culture of demonising those of us who have fallen on hard times and those who end up on the streets. We need to change our attitude as a society, to become open and warm again and not push to the fringes, those among us that need the most help. Finally, we need to all do better, to remind our friends of poverty and let those in power know how unhappy we are.

Most of us are one paycheque away from being in a similar position to those that died on our streets this past year. It could happen to anyone and the only way to solve this crisis is to demand that the Government and local council leaders do more to help those most vulnerable in our communities.

Homelessness won’t go away, it is a national crisis that needs our full attention.

NHS Leaders Forced To Delay Publication of Long Term Plan Amid Brexit Chaos

 

NHS bosses have been forced to delay the publication of the health service’s most important document as of yet; the long-term plan. The document elaborates how the NHS plans to spend the introduced £20.5bn budget increase in the next few years. It was due to be published in the week commencing the 17th December 2018 as  Theresa May committed to increasing the NHS’s budget by £20.5bn a year, by 2023-24. The Prime Minister told NHS England to produce a plan, however, this publication of document has been postponed until January 2019.

The chaos surrounding Brexit at the moment hinders ministers to consider the plan in its entire depth. Nonetheless, ministers have been warned that the £20bn will not be sufficient to pay for all the improvements they would like to see as there are many issues within the NHS that needs to be improved. One common problem would be the lack of staff which leads to further issues in providing a public health service. It has been reported that thousands of nurses and other health professionals have quit the NHS mental health service with two thousand mental health staff leaving a month, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). Services are struggling to cope with an increase of individuals seeking help for mental health such as anxiety, and other disorders and a lack of staff to provide an efficient service.

In addition, patients are continuously unhappy with the long waiting list and the A&Es being overcrowded on an annual basis.  Jonathan Ashworth MP, the Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary said:

“This is a government dismally paralysed by the ongoing Tory civil war over the Brexit shambles. It will be an utterly embarrassing failure of leadership if the health secretary can’t get an NHS plan published because of the ongoing squabbling”.

 

Final Comment from Editor- Heidi Boahen

The NHS has been heavily criticised for the inefficient service it has been providing the public. Criticism of the waiting lists getting longer, not being able to get an appointment in a short period of time,  staff shortages and the poor quality of services, to name a few criticisms. It is, therefore, fair to say that we need urgent action now and the delay in publishing this important document simply because the government cannot decide on who should be their leader and cannot internally agree on a Brexit deal is unfair. This government is unable to take anything forward at the moment. Other departments should not be put on a backburner. Brexit should not be the be-all and end-all for this country. We have to move on.

The NHS spending document is set to be published in January.

UK Government Blocks SNP Paying Settled Status Fees For Public Sector Workers

Nicola Sturgeon, Leader of SNP has stated that the UK Government will not allow Holyrood ministers to pay the £65 settlement status fees for European citizens who are working in Scotland’s public services.

The First Minister said at the Health and Social Care Scotland conference in Glasgow that the UK Conservative Government will not allow third-party payments, which forces EU citizens to pay the fee upfront. This comes as a surprise as the First Minister has already promised her government would cover the cost for EU public-sector and NHS workers living in Scotland.

Circa 13,000 EU nationals currently work in the health and social care sector in Scotland. However, reports have indicated that there is already a drop in job applications for the health sector.

The Home Office spokesman stated: “The EU Settlement Scheme will make it simple and straightforward for EU citizens to get the status they need”.

Editor’s final comment- Heidi Boahen

This hostile environment created by Theresa May herself and her party have put many European citizens living in the UK in fear. It almost seems as if the current Government wants to purposely put barriers in place which consequently forces Europeans to leave the UK. We are already seeing a number of Europeans leave the UK and it is no surprise as new policies do not seem welcoming. Nurses, Doctors and other NHS staffs should be valued and protected at all times. It is simply unfair for Europeans who have lived in the UK for a long time to have to pay a fee to prove their right to be in this country. As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, it has to shift their focus on uniting the United Kingdom and not segregate the British nation further with hostile policies.

Labour will call for a Vote of No Confidence if May loses Brexit vote

Sunday 2nd December

Sir Keir Stammer has called for a Vote of No Confidence if May loses her vote in the House of Commons on the EU withdrawal agreement. In an interview with Sky News this morning, the Shadow Brexit Secretary outlined the technicalities of the Fixed Term Parliament Act. Under the Act, a general election is called precisely every 5 years, however if a Government loses a vote of no confidence it has 14 days to pass a second motion, otherwise Parliament is dissolved and an election is called.

Although, it looks unlikely that Mrs May will get her Brexit deal through parliament, she is still well supported amongst Tory MP’s, as they fear Jeremy Corbyn being elected into Government. This is evidenced in the coup that was organised by the ERG, which failed to materialise.

The Legal Advice Row

Mrs May, may quite have bigger things to worry about, however. Around a month ago, parliament passed a motion which would have seen the government have to reveal the legal advice that the Attorney General had provided Mrs May and Co. on Brexit.

It has since been confirmed though, that Geofrrey Cox will only reveal redacted and amended statements.

This has drawn severe criticism from various political parties and actors, including the DUP, who have accused Mrs May of having something to hide. Keir Stammer added that not publishing the legal advice in full, would mean that Labour would have no option but to start proceedings for contempt of parliament.

Analysis by Editor – Seb Chromiak

Labour tacticians must be very careful when calling a Vote of No Confidence, it was one thing undermining a crippled Government, but it is another if she survives the vote.

What Labour risk is strengthening Mrs May at the helm, as there is no majority for a VONC. No doubt, a crisis of some sorts is on the horizon for this Tory government if they lose the Brexit vote. Mrs May has been under intense scrutiny for weeks now, calling a VONC would give an opportunity to the Main Stream Media to shift the attention onto Jeremy Corbyn. This would undermine the cunning work his party has done.

Call me cautious, but on Brexit, Labour have played the game fantastically well, and in this very paper, we have on many occasions called for Jeremy to finally put the Tory’s to the sword.

Now, may not be the time.

Matt Hancock Accused Of Breaking Ministerial Code

The Labour Party has written to Theresa May demanding an investigation after it has been revealed Health Secretary Matt Hancock has potentially broken ministerial code. The Conservative MP has been representing West Suffolk since 2010 and was appointed Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in 2018. Matt Hancock has been accused of breaking ministerial code by endorsing a private healthcare company.

An interview with the MP of West Suffolk appeared in the Evening Standard which also had financial support from a firm called Babylon. The article was published on Tuesday and featured the Babylon logo and stated that the firm was the newspaper’s partner.

Hancock has shown admiration for the company’s GP at Hand app, which allows users to have visual consultations with doctors via their smartphone. He was quoted “this technology allows more resources for the people visiting GPs directly”.

Justin Madders MP, Shadow Health Minister has stated that Hancock repeatedly promoted the app and the company and has therefore breached a vital section of the Ministerial code. He has been accused of breaching sections 7.12 and 7.13 of the ministerial code. The code states that ministers should not ‘normally accept invitations to act as patrons of, or otherwise offer support to, pressure groups, or organisations dependent in whole or in part on government funding’.

A final comment- From Editor- Heidi Boahen

As an MP, it is his duty to represent his constituency and as a Secretary for Health and Social Care, it is Hancock’s duty to not only do what is best for his department but to also follow Miniserial codes by all means.

It has been stated that Matt Hancock was not aware that Babylon would sponsor the article which could be a possibility as a representative from the Evening Standard has stated that Matt Hancock was approached for an interview, and he agreed. However, this issue requires further investigation by the Prime Minister. If the Department of Health and Social Care is working towards a tech ecosystem within the NHS then this has to be done in such a way that it follows guidelines and codes.