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Posts Tagged ‘coalition government’

Televised Debates for the 2015 General Election: Shouldn’t we hear from all those who could have power after 7th May, rather than just those who have won an Election before?

January 12, 2015 Leave a comment

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Just a week ago, the odds on Ofcom giving David Cameron an excuse not to enter the pre-General Election TV debates may well have looked pretty remote. Seven days on; one pull of the Green flush in the rules-room of the communications regulator and to some people, that is exactly what seems to have happened.

But however hard the PM might argue the moral justification of his apparent support for the Greens, few are buying into the apparent magnanimity of this gesture, even if for other reasons, he may unwittingly have a significant point.

The reasoning behind the decision to preclude the Greens and the smaller Parties has been based upon polling and previous electoral performance. It is a decision that would work favourably well if we were all looking to maintain the status quo, and only concentrate on the ‘establishment’, which itself now apparently includes UKIP, a Party that will arguably be assisted in fighting this Parliamentary Election on the basis of their electoral successes in Europe alone.

Polling does indeed seem to have become a science and dismissing this branch of statistics and the benefits of its use would be foolish however you might feel about it. However, polling is based upon people’s responses to questions regarding information that those people have about a situation, circumstances or what they are experiencing at that exact moment in time. It is little more than a snapshot and not one which can accurately predict how those same people would behave or react if they are given what they genuinely consider to be different options, or they find themselves having had an experience following the poll which would change their mind about the choices that they have.

All well and good if you are a ‘national-election-winning’ political party. But we are reaching the end of a 5 year Coalition Government, which came into being simply because none of the Parties running in 2010 with a chance of winning offered a platform which gained a decisive response from the public.

So when polling itself suggests that we are on course for the same, or perhaps an even greater dispersal of Parliamentary Seats amongst Parties, should it only be those same Parties, that by default then become the predominant members of the planned political telethon which could well influence the outcomes for our future?

The elephant in the room that political expedience fails to recognise was that in 2010, people didn’t feel convinced by the choices that they had. Voters didn’t anticipate a ‘hung parliament’ and very few would have been hoping for the final outcome, even if those who follow politics more closely will have seriously considered its probability as an outcome.

Whilst the Liberal Democrats paint this as being a choice, the unintended selection of indecisive Government burdened by compromise, arguably just because it suits the interests of the Political Parties who have most to gain, doesn’t really reflect upon putting the best interests of the Voting Electorate first.

Further compounding the ineptness and arguably self-serving nature of the decision by then introducing minimum 5 year Parliamentary Terms has not exactly given anybody else the feeling of legitimacy that was obviously intended either.

People want change. Voters want choice. The Electorate wants to see and understand the differences between ALL of the choices that are on offer.

With this in mind, it would perhaps be the case that the fairest way to select candidates for a televised debate would be to wait and see how many candidates have been accepted to represent each Party within Constituencies, and then in turn whether the number seeking election could form a majority Government if they were all elected.

In 1992, the Natural Law Party gained national exposure by fielding enough candidates across the Country to trigger access to Election Broadcasts. Yogic Flying may well have added an element of intrigue for some and outright comedy for others. But it certainly gave a televised forum to a Party that at the time could have painted a very different picture of Nineties Britain if they had collectively been elected to a position where they either held, or could influence power.

It’s a bit of a stretch in terms of what we might consider a likely outcome to view small Parties as contenders to form a majority Government on May 8th. But on the other side of this two-edged electoral sword, UKIP were of course never supposed to have won 2 Seats last Autumn, and the numerical requirement to get David Cameron or Labour‘s Ed Milliband in to No. 10 could turn out to be a lot less than the 57 Seats that the Lib Dems added to the Conservatives biggest-party-with minority-status last time around.

The truth of the peculiar political reality which may follow this General Election is more likely to rest in the hands of Nigel Farage (UKIP), Alex Salmond (SNP), Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru), Natalie Bennett (The Greens) or perhaps even them all, than it is with the existing mainstream Parties who are not even trying to sound different in the way that some of their smaller competitors certainly are.

On this basis alone, and knowing the havoc that could be inflicted by the trade-offs that might include a black and white, in-out referendum on Europe; greater steps towards the independence of Scotland, or even the scrapping of the Nuclear Deterrent at a time when World stability is far from secure, should we not really have the opportunity to listen to what the potential kingmakers really have to say?

image: theguardian.com

 

Explaining the Deficit: Let’s call it the Overspend instead…

December 22, 2014 Leave a comment

Red-HerringYou are probably feeling quite fed up with politics, politicians and all the talk of May 2015. If not, the chances are you may be one of those planning to run in the General Election.

Wherever you look, the Parties are sounding off in what they are calling the ‘long campaign’ which runs from now until April, and the Deficit is something we are already hearing a lot about.

But when a Westminster politician starts talking about Deficit reduction, or making statements that indicate they ‘plan’ to reduce the Deficit to zero by the year XYZ, you may be one of the many people left wondering what they are actually talking about and what it really means.

You might not be sure what the Deficit is. You may not understand the difference between the Deficit and the National Debt. But whatever question you may have, don’t worry. Even MP’s have struggled to explain the difference when they have been asked to do so.

Giving new names to existing products, services or methods of working isn’t a new idea. In fact, it’s not just Westminster politicians who use new names to sell their ideas and many of the new products you buy will just be a re-hash of an old idea using new words to describe something differently; just so it sounds like something better.

Selling is one thing. Misleading us another. The term Deficit is perhaps one of the biggest red herrings that Westminster has created, and especially so when they use it to draw attention away from the spiraling National Debt.

So what is the Deficit?

Perhaps the easiest way to picture the Deficit is to think about the Government as a person. A person who earns money and then spends that money on house-keeping and all the things that it might need.

Where we might run a home, the Government’s house is the whole of the UK.

Where we might spend our money on food, the mortgage or rent, clothes, transport, paying back loans and maybe going out, the Government’s housekeeping bill is public services such as the NHS, the Police, Armed Forces, Education, Transport and Local Government.

Whereas we would do a ‘job’ to earn a salary or perhaps an hourly rate of pay, the Government ‘earns’ its money through Income Tax (PAYE), National Insurance, VAT and all the other types of Taxation which we all pay.

Whilst most of us can only earn what our employer agrees to pay us, every year, the Government sets itself a Budget for all the money it will spend on public services. The Budget should ideally not be more that what the Government has ‘earned’ or will ‘earn’ from Taxes during the year that the money will be spent.

When a Government decides that it wants to spend more in a Budget for a year than it will ‘earn’, it has two choices. The Government can raise Taxes so that it has more income than it did before, or it can borrow on top of what it has earned and ‘overspend’ – even though we are normally told that they are spending within Budget.

The difference, value or balance between what the Government ‘earns’ and what it has planned or does actually spend in its Budget, is what Westminster politicians call the Deficit.

Each Budget Deficit – or the Deficit for that year, is what we would call a loan*.

The Government pays interest on that loan*, and this interest – and the money which has to be paid back each year is then added to the housekeeping bill for the term or lifetime of the loan.

When the outstanding balance of the loan* and interest for the year isn’t paid off, it becomes the National Debt and every unpaid Deficit or overspend for each year is added to this.

Surplus

Another term you may hear used by Westminster politicians in the coming months as one of their ‘aims’ is ‘Budget surplus’ or just ‘surplus’.

A surplus in this sense would be the sum of money left over if the Government did not use all of the money it ‘earned’ from Taxes in a year and then had some left over.

Reaching a surplus would be the only point that the Government could then begin reducing the National Debt.

The Conservative Chancellor, George Osborne is suggesting that this will be achieved by 2020 if the Conservative Party are elected with the majority of seats in Parliament in May. Being in Government with a majority and not as part of a Coalition as they have been since 2010, will allow them to make even more cuts to public services than they have so far and this is how the Conservatives plan to reach a point where they have a surplus.

Whether you support the plans that any of the Political Parties have or not, the fact is that this Coalition Government and the Labour Government before it have both had an annual Deficit or have overspent each and every year for a long time.

We wouldn’t be able or allowed to spend money like this ourselves unless we had savings to fall back on, and neither would the Westminster politicians if they were dealing with their own finances.

 

* The way that the Government ‘borrows’ money is not normally the same as going to a bank and asking for a loan. To borrow money or ‘raise funds’, the Government usually sells bonds, which banks, other financial organizations and sometimes even other Countries buy on the basis that they will get the value of the bond returned to them at the end of the lifetime of the bond – probably 3 or 4 years, and that they will receive a fee or fixed amount of interest on top of that for the period too.

When a bond comes to the end of its lifetime and the Government is unable to pay off the balance or value of that bond and its interest because there is not a Budget surplus, the Government then sells more bonds to cover the cost of doing so.

 Image: Source unknown

 

Politicians and Political Parties should never automatically assume the respect of the people, nor that when they do, it equates to silence…

November 19, 2014 Leave a comment

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Getting a true glimpse of the true nature of the respect that our politicians have for us isn’t an everyday event by any means. Yet recently, we have been treated to a series of insights in to the way we are all viewed by the people who either do, or soon hope to govern us. It doesn’t make particularly happy reading.

The fairytale halving of the £1.7 Billion bill from the EU and the Parliamentary vote on the European Arrest Warrant that never was, were both perhaps very telling of the way the current Coalition Government does its business. But it was the comments from the Labour Party following Ed Milliband’s workout with Myleene Klass on the ITV’s ‘The Agenda’ on Monday night which may have represented the lifting of a much bigger stone.

Watching the programme made good viewing. We rarely get the opportunity to see the kind of challenge which Myleene made, telling Ed why Labour’s Mansion Tax Policy isn’t going to work and effectively showing the whole idea up for the hollow, headline-grabbing and socially-divisive-pigeon-holing stunt that it is.

Apparently unable to deal with the broadside at the time, Tuesday morning not only saw a belated attempt by Ed to try and turn it around with a parody relating to Ms Klass’s time in the Band Hear’Say; it also brought comments from the Party suggesting that she had failed to show Mr Milliband respect, and also tweets from a Labour MP apparently suggesting that she should leave the Country.

All well and good to demand respect if you have actually earned it. But these guys all seem to think that being an MP is qualification in itself. Isn’t it right that we should have the right to question what they do?

The fact is that the UK is in the perilous state that it is right now, in no small part because of the inability of Party-affiliated MP’s to safely ask the kinds of questions or make points of this nature without fear of reprisal from their Political Parties.

Ed Milliband may well walk in to 10 Downing Street as the next Prime Minister in less than six months time. But if Labour will not accept the legitimacy of questions which show the lack of thought and consideration which has obviously gone into their policies now, what hope will there be for us all when they start to enact them?

image: itv.com

Change is what we need; not revolution. And it’s all about getting the basics right…

November 13, 2014 Leave a comment

images-13For all politicians, the opportunity genuinely exists to revise and create new polices which will work for the benefit of all. It’s not an option which is restricted to Ed Milliband and Nigel Farage who both hope to have very different roles in power from May; but one which even the Coalition Government could begin to embrace right now.

Sounds quite a stretch when you think about it though. Tribal politics and the media chasing political circus that Westminster has become, has, after all created a cynical and disenfranchised electorate; one which in the majority experiences little each day, to make it feel that the system actually relates to any of us in any way.

Perhaps without even knowing they do it much of the time, even the most modest members of the political classes somehow succeed in exploiting this very real perception to their benefit, using the media and disingenuous rhetoric they employ to leave individuals and families feeling as if they are themselves alone in going through what for many has become a very trying experience.

It wouldn’t be so bad. But being left feeling guilty because you cannot afford to buy food; to pay bills; to buy clothes; to pay for transport or because you are having some other form of negative experience of life which you really shouldn’t be have in 21st Century democratic Britain is certainly in no way fair.

It is certainly not what you would call right in an age when equality has for a long time been sold to us as a given.

Its not what you expect when successive political generations have told us all that they, and only they, possess the holy grail to putting everyone first.

When you have Government after Government run by people whose only true priority is to gain or retain power, it stands to reason that many people do not see or feel that the electoral system is working for them.

Ignoring elections, or throwing support in the direction of a new Party which is at the very least attempting to sound like it is in touch with the issues that people are facing, then for many becomes an attractive proposition indeed.

Regrettably, such a political environment like the one we are experiencing today provides a wholly fertile seedbed for popular voices advocating seismic change of a kind that would be more akin to opening the Pandora’s box which accompanies public unrest, rather than heralding the arrival of some new and golden age. However well intended, Russell Brand’s recent political outbursts and the publication of his book Revolution are in reality little more than an aspirational touch paper of anarchy – based on the views and interpretations of many other Writers – promoting the release of one terrible genie that any sensible person – however frustrated with the system they might be – really does not want to see let out of it’s bottle.

images-12Overnight change – which is essentially what revolution is, doesn’t usually end well. It is more likely to lead to a situation far worse than most will have experienced before, and one which will probably be a lot harder to change.

We have to work to make what we have better, rather than breaking up the workable framework that already exists; throwing it all in the air and then leaving it all to pure chance to see – and then experience where the unconnected pieces will then all fall.

It is top to bottom reform and change that are essential across public services and all areas of Government Policy, before people are in any way likely to feel they are being treated fairly.

This will not come about by continuing to base arguments and disquiet on wealth or demographic class, and whilst advocates of wealth redistribution may find an audience which is very receptive to the idea that either taxing or simply stripping wealth from the rich, and sharing it out equally amongst the poor may give them all a much better life; this idea is indeed as illusory as the money is itself.

Non-earned wealth will in most cases disappear just as quickly as it arrives – if not through private spending, then through the exponential and inflationary economic changes which would almost certainly accompany the instantaneous arrival of so much personal wealth.

The aim of solving the problems of breadline Britain or the cost of living crisis will no better be served by penalising the potential of high earnings, than it will be by enacting an unsustainable rate for the Minimum or Living Wage.

Such solutions may provide a temporary fix, and give a moment of perceived justice to many. But those with money will soon move away or lose the incentive to keep earning – whether they are companies or individuals; whilst those who have found themselves with more money in the bank at the end of one month, will soon lose it the next when employers and the suppliers of all the goods and services that they think they can now afford put their prices up to support the rises in wages that they have themselves had to pay.

No. Dealing with problems in isolation simply does not and will not work, because by attempting to solve one problem in this way, the process soon leads to the creation of many more – if it doesn’t just make the original one a whole lot worse for those who are experiencing it.

To build a better life for all, getting the basics right is the very first step. It is about reviving, living and promoting a sense of ethical balance and consideration for all.

This will most likely be achieved by ensuring that at the most fundamental level, adults can afford to feed, clothe, and house themselves – and any dependents that they may have – to a minimum and workable standard. A benchmark level which cannot be subjected to the influence of any third party.

Working to address the many issues that require policy changes will not be simple. But Politicians are elected with the expectation that they can deal with complexities on behalf of the people they represent, and if they have taken their election that seriously, this is exactly what they should now do.

The possibilities for solutions are probably endless. But solutions are indeed possible if the needs, benefits and consequences for everyone are considered properly.

If politicians genuinely want to help and provide a level-playing field where there is opportunity for all, why are they not looking at policy areas that have the potential to make an immediate difference. Examples might be:

Releasing the restrictions placed on employers AND employees through Legislation such as the European Working Time Directive: The days when legitimate business thrived on the unbridled exploitation of the working classes have long since passed and we today have some of the most restrictive working practices on the planet. If everyone in the workplace was completely happy, furthering and maintaining the cause of such horrific levels of bureaucracy would make sense. But many people want the opportunity to work beyond the requirements of their contracts of employment, whilst employers would benefit greatly from increased input and flexibility from existing – and often more experienced staff. The real key to ensuring fairness is simply allow workers to do additional work when THEY want to, or just as they have formally agreed. Employers have to be trusted not to embrace unsafe working practices and the nanny state has gone too far in basing industry-wide restrictions on the behaviour of the unscrupulous few, or upon idealistic views of bureaucrats of how business actually works. Imposing business-breaking fines – and being seen to do so, would be a far more effective way of encouraging good working practices and management, rather than allowing officials with no business experience to attempt to direct industry professionals on how they can staff their business.

Stopping the escalation of property prices:The UK is culturally obsessed with property and its financial value in a way that few other Countries are. Prices have continued to inflate at dangerous levels which keeps borrowing artificially high, and makes rental prices equally excessive for entrants to the markets who have to rent, but desperately want the opportunity to own. Government could and arguably should step in to regulate the property industry and introduce policies which keep prices as they realistically can. The potential need for a resetting of property values is very real, and whilst Government behaves as if the answer to all problems is to build, build, build, while prices keep on going up (When do you ever see new developments come on to the market with prices that are lower than the local comparative market?), Politicians are never going to solve the housing problem or the massive drain that property prices has become for young people entering the market. Putting this problem off until tomorrow has long been the way; but tomorrow may already be here!

Working with Utility companies to keep prices manageable: The term ‘utility company’ has been a misnomer since privatisation, when the priority switched from the supply of services that are essentially supposed to be for the public good, to shareholders who will almost always be looking for a profit. No man can serve two masters, and the monopolistic strength of these companies has equipped them with the ability to write their own ticket, whilst ensuring their profits are secure. In the absence of Government regaining ownership, it should nonetheless step in to cap profits, or at the very least buy supplies direct for those who qualify at rates which reflect the wholesale purchasing power that the Government could and arguably should have on our behalf.

Buying services and goods direct from suppliers for those on benefits and low incomes or using smart card technology to deliver just the same: A massive opportunity exists for Government to step in and buy products and services on behalf of those on low-incomes and on benefits. Without the need to provide subsidies, Government could easily realise all the benefits of procuring food, fuel and essential goods as a significant bulk-buyer, just as big companies like supermarkets already do. The immediate concern that would be raised by the implementation processes such as administration, distribution and monitoring could be easily overcome through the use of IT, and whilst we hear horror stories about the stupendous cost of government-wide software implementation projects, the technology already exists to provide such a system through the use of personal smart cards, without big business profiteering, or the end user having to collect goods from anywhere other than the stores that they already use.

Creating a ‘retail’ arm to the Bank of England: Provide full current account services and not-for-profit based lending for pay-day-loans and to support small business – just seeking to return the operating costs for the benefit of everyone.

Lining up what are just a handful of suggestions makes it sound simple. But nobody would have unrealistic expectations for delivery from a Government that communicates with the public using openness, honesty and respect.

People do know that they deserve something better than what they currently have, and the time has come for a kind of Government which actually gets the basics right, rather than just talking about it before the usual grandstanding begins.

Whether income for those on low incomes comes from earnings or in-kind from benefits, there exists a cultural expectation for British Government to ensure a Basic Standard of Living.

Whatever the Political Party in Government might be, it is time for the philosophies, protectionist policies and ideas which benefit only the few to be binned and replaced with delivering something better as the priority for all.

When Government has these basics right, the many dominoes which stand beyond will very quickly begin to fall.

 

 top image – imgarcade.com

Annuities: Has another election winning time-bomb been lit that will devastate the futures of normal people just so a Political Party can get back into power?

March 23, 2014 Leave a comment

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Read the latest opinion polls and it is easy to conclude that George Osborne’s 2014 Budget has had the result that he was looking for.

With both next year’s General Election and perhaps more importantly, this year’s European Elections firmly affixed in his mind, it was certain that polices would materialise which were likely to incentivise voters in the short term and once again take attention away from what will happen as a result in the long.

However, the steps to remove an obligation to invest at least some of a pension pay-outs on annuities may take this quick fix and opiate-like vote winner into an entirely different league when it comes to rolling over the problems facing the current Government in to the difficulties which will almost certainly be faced by normal and everyday people in the future.

Pensions are a hateful topic for most people simply because the funds within them are untouchable. To struggling wage earners, reading an annual statement from their provider and seeing how funds can be growing at a healthy rate, can certainly be a torment. It often gives that siren-esque gremlin on their shoulder the perfect opportunity to preach a tale of how much better that sum of money would serve them if it were in their own hands right now.

As many already know, the realities of long-term money management requires a lifetime without financial challenges at best, not to mention the most exquisite forms of discipline at a very personal level . This is why pensions – and until this week annuities, have been safely kept out of reach. Temptation and therefore all the basic requirements and influences that come with living a life today are or have been safely kept at bay, without any of those threats being responsible for the potential hells that may without them come from many of our own tomorrows.

Removing the obligation upon retirees to ‘buy’ an annuity will naturally – and very understandably – be perceived as a massive gain for many. The caricatures of OAPS in Ferraris may in practice turn out to be anything but unreal once the Policy comes into effect.

But when people have experienced a lifetime of financial prudence and responsibility, exchanging this and the future they have banked on for what is arguably little more than a lottery win situation could turn out to be very costly indeed.

Windfalls are by their very nature difficult for almost everyone to deal with in a reasoned way because they are naturally habit-breaking in the extreme. Having large ‘disposable’ sums of cash suddenly available can seriously skew a person’s view of the world on what might actually be a very temporary basis indeed and a study of the effects of sizable cash wins on real-world people may have served the people behind this plan very well.

This really doesn’t seem like a policy which has the best interests of the retirees in mind and especially so when you consider the state of the Country’s finances and the most recent comments suggesting that the State Retirement Age with have moved to 70 by the year 2040. Hardly comforting news if you have no annuity to top up an insufficient State Pension and therefore are left with the glaring possibility that you will have to continue working until you literally drop.

With life expectancy rates going up all the time, what sort of desperate circumstances are people reaching pensionable age from next year now going to have to face, long after the Coalition Government knows the result of the 2015 General Election or Mr Osborne’s tenure in No. 11 Downing Street has well and truly ended?

Annuities may indeed have become yet another product or service which serves the interests of those making profit before it ever will the customer. This however, doesn’t mean that an approach to savings and income of this kind still doesn’t have its place. In fact, you might argue that similar products have a much bigger role to play with the State’s ability to support even our existing OAP’s dwindling almost by the hour.

Hardly a prudent or considered form of policy making on behalf of those who are falling over themselves to look after their own elect-ability today at the expense of everyone else’s tomorrows, is it?

image thanks to http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Self-serving politicians and the whiff of ‘fingers in the till’ remind us regularly how little credibility they actually have. But we are creatures of habit and nothing will change until we all agree that we have reached a place called stop…

December 17, 2013 Leave a comment

downloadCredibility or rather the lack of it forms part of one of today’s greatest paradoxes. Many politicians simply seem to have none, but still they keep on getting elected.

No matter what the level of Government; no matter what they all do, we are still stuck with a majority of politicians who identify and remain sitting within a Party Political system which seems utterly immune from the harm that any form of self-serving action can visit upon it.

Even Members of the Lords have apparently now been rumbled taking full advantage of the current Allowances system and whilst this may be Legal, we really must begin to ask if anyone who can be considered to be ‘on the take’ in public office should really be there in the first place.

Actually, we do ask this question and probably often too. But the lack of any real will to consider anything other than the default political options that we have now had for so long, has so far rendered useless any meaningful opportunity for change. Meanwhile, we all continue to bitch and grow even more angry with what we have given ourselves, despite knowing that the gap between our realities and those of the people who we elect to represent us in Westminster is a very wide one indeed.

So what is it going to take to really bring about the change that we so badly need in British Politics; The change that will see us all taking the steps that we must for something better?

Like many others, I sat and watched the Paxman – Brand Interview a few weeks ago, well knowing that Russell Brand speaks many truths about the injustices within the ‘system’. He should indeed be applauded for using the platforms that he currently has to give a voice to the so-far silent discontent that grows each day.

But with this form of dialogue should also come a word of warning that voting none of the above in its most literal form is a choice for us all just the same. A choice that places even more emphasis on the views of the diminishing number of voters who will no doubt be those more inclined to vote for more of the same, come rain or shine.

Equally foolish would be the act of putting any real hope on alternative political philosophies as being the key to a better future. It is after all the constant and continuing battle between one set of political ideologies with those of others which keep leaving the needs and genuine consideration for the majority of Voters ignored.

It is quite certain that nothing good will come from adopting even more severe forms of socialist theory like the concept of wealth redistribution in its purest form as a practical way forward for us all. Real change does after all not manifest itself through the process of coercion – as has already been well proven by the rise and fall of Communism.

Genuine change will only come about by changing the way that we approach things and if Politics has to change so that we can all have something better; it is all of us who will have to change the way that we approach Politics as a necessary step to realising that change. The question of course is how?

To be fair, if any politician possessed such an ability to change our minds through speaking alone, the political landscape would not even look remotely as diverse as it does today, and it is perhaps in that fact that the greatest truth about change does lie.

The surety is that whether seen or unseen, political change will dictate its arrival at a time of its own choosing. It is likely to be a process of change that will itself begin with an event or events that will either be or have the potential to be life-changing for enough people, that a critical mass is achieved and enough of the right politicians are elected and in place to drive forward and see all the necessary changes in to being that we know will be needed right the way through to completion.

In terms of where we are right now, we should recognise that our current political options represent a status quo or a decision not to embrace change.

Both as humans and as a population, we have an inherent dislike and mistrust of conscious change, and this is why new fashions and trends may continually leave us with the feeling that they were somehow always there. Basically, because we didn’t realise that we were making a choice.

Change of the kind that will place us on the road to delivering something better for us all wont however be something that sneaks up on us in the same way that changes for worse often seem to do. It will take a conscious choice on the part of many after they have first recognised that need for change itself. It will require a leap of faith which will go way beyond the call of fashion, popularity or personal gain and one where as a majority, we have realised that in terms of how things already work, we have come to a place called stop.

Many of us are of course desperate for change right now, as Mr Brand has recognised. But somehow;

  • Extortionate rises in the prices of everything that are essential to live are still at a stage where they are considered sustainable.
  • Convoluted supply chains that add ridiculous and unnecessary margins to the cost of food go unchecked, but we are left with no choice but to buy.
  • Psychopathic bankers wreak worldwide havoc with little more than profit margins in mind, but go unpunished because of the stranglehold they have on the lives of everyone else.
  • Ministers treat the spiralling national debt like a subject not worthy of debate, but sing like songbirds when they predict a zero deficit or point where we will ‘break even’ in just a few years time.
  • Overstretched, but already overfunded public services collapse, because nobody who can be, is being responsible about driving reform.
  • And somehow, just about every decision is made on the basis of ‘what’s in it for me’, rather than what will be the benefits of us doing this for everyone else.

And so we are not there yet and it would be a good guess that stories like those of the metaphorical pigs with their heads in the troughs are here to stay, for at least a whiney bit longer. But when change does come, we can be sure that popularity will not be the driver. It won’t be those who obsess about themselves who will be in the best situation to lead, guide and drive. And it won’t be led by politicians who fear nothing more than the date of the next election.

Change will come, and it’s pretty certain that if you have read this far, you will recognise it when it does. However, it might not look how you currently think.

Image thanks to http://www.theguardian.com

NHS and the predicted £30 Billion deficit: It’s time for change, but change is about much more than simply saving money

A NHS sign is seen in the grounds of St Thomas' Hospital in London

You can’t really help but admire the audacity of Sir David Nicholson, the outgoing head of the NHS, for his latest attempt to sidestep and cover the tracks of his questionable tenure by shining a light on what could become a £30 Billion deficit within the NHS.

His failure to fall on his sword over the Stafford Hospital outrage was beyond what many will agree as being in good taste and was compounded yet further by his indignant refusal to accept any form of responsibility, despite being the Executive Officer at the very top of the tree and arguably placed within the one position where there simply is nowhere to run or hide when it comes to carrying the can for mismanagement on what appears to have been an unprecedented scale.

The most regrettable facet of this latest twist is that the lack of respect which Nicholson holds with people now will surely deflect attention away from the cold reality of his message, which in a perhaps more capable set of hands would have not only been brought to public attention much sooner, but effectively acted upon too.

Many of us already realise and understand just how serious the problems throughout the NHS actually are. In local politics, where we closely scrutinize the real-world impact of ward and department closures; the centralisation of services, and the amalgamation of GP’s practices into so called ‘community hospitals’, there has been little doubt for us all of the real purpose of such changes for a considerable time.

Cost aside, the principles upon which the National Health Service were created and the application of universal care are still however very much valid even today.

But it is the continued compromise of those very principles at their heart which has led to the seemingly insurmountable financial and management problems that we face today.

These were principles that were intended to prioritise the care of the end-user; not the interests of managers, union leaders and politicians, who have all had something to gain at various points by moving those priorities elsewhere; often at everyone else’s cost.

Any commercially run business or ethical organisation is created and run to efficiently provide a particular product or service to its customers. It is not created or subsequently evolved to disable itself by prioritising the working conditions of its workforce and certainly not run for the benefit of harvesting statistics as part of some politically expedient mind warp which is simply designed to spread the message that things are running far better than they actually are.

Tragically, this is pretty much in a nutshell what the NHS represents today and evidence would suggest that people are dying needlessly as a result of it.

It’s not as if health professionals are oblivious to the realities of the situation either. Talking to a career nurse only a few weeks ago who freely admitted that she had been a lifelong socialist and Labour Voter, even I have to admit to my surprise when she clearly told me ‘Adam, I love the idea of socialism and what it stands for; but in my experience, it simply doesn’t work’.

Herein lies the greatest problem with the NHS; Its culture.

The culture within the NHS is the base issue which much be faced, understood and addressed if the Organisation as we have known it and the services that it provides are to be saved and our society is to be protected from the arrival of either tiered health provision across the board or UK-wide service which is only made available to those who can pay as they use.

Right now, we are all witnessing the preferred method of dealing – or I should say – avoiding reform throughout the NHS, NGO’s and the tiers of Government, which presents itself in the form of privatisation. Privatisation of any Government funded service has arguably become nothing more than avoidance of the need for reform at its worst because services are never the same when profit is the master. Furthermore, recreating public-run services once they are lost will be a whole lot harder than the reform which most Politicians already seem to see as impossible.

The only way we will keep and maintain the NHS as we have known and appreciated it in terms of what it offers the public will be the result of transformation and change which must begin with Government and work its way right the way through.

The NHS is strangled by the culture of workers’ rights, tiers of managers who barely understand what practical patient care is, Europe and the rise of the blame culture, where practitioners are increasingly forced to consider the bureaucratic pathways to treatment first, before addressing the urgencies and acuteness of clinical need. Ironically, such delays may of course be little hindrance to treatment for the people who will be looking for an opportunity to sue them either.

Government must act now to change and support the whole working culture of the NHS and put patient care back at the forefront of everything they do, rather than putting everyone else and the profit hungry ambulance chasers first.

It’s not an easy job by any means and most of us do appreciate that. But Governments get elected to take responsibility for big problems just like these; not so they can talk up the delivery of results when what they seem to be doing is looking for the easiest way out of problems they just aren’t responsible enough to face.

The patients of today and tomorrow don’t care about statistics or the money that providing treatment costs.

What they do care about is trusting that they can rely on getting medical help when they need it; where they need it and without worrying whether or not they qualify for it. Every day, the number of people who simply don’t have that trust are growing rapidly, and each new day is a sorrier one than the day before.

If Government keeps treating the problems in the NHS as if they all revolve around money, the cost of running the service will probably lead to its end.

It’s time for change throughout the NHS. But real change is about much more than simply saving money.

image thanks to http://www.channel4.com

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