Posts Tagged ‘Covid 19’

Covid has put the NHS front and centre. But Labour needs to beware, 2019 showed that support for the NHS does not equal votes for Labour

12/06/2020, 09:45:56 PM

by David Talbot

On the morning after consigning the Labour Party to a fourth and devastating general election defeat, the Prime Minister addressed the nation from the steps of Downing Street. In the early glow of election victory, Boris Johnson informed the party faithful and, more importantly, the millions of converted Labour voters that the “NHS is this One Nation government’s top priority”.

Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party had tried awfully hard during the preceding six weeks to make the NHS the central focus of the election. Chants of “not for sale!” reverberated around campaign rallies as a dossier exposing the “secret agenda” to sell off the NHS to US corporations was thrust into the heart of the campaign.

It was easy to understand Labour’s desire to move the debate from the Conservatives’ favoured ground of Brexit, and its pithy slogan, to the one policy area the party led on. Indeed, at the start of the campaign, the NHS was cited by more (60%) of the population than Brexit (56%) as the most important issue facing the nation. 68% of Labour’s 2017 voters also named the NHS as their number one priority, and Labour retained a lead, albeit small, on the party best placed to protect the health service.

The NHS was not only an important election issue, but it united a party which was allergic about talking about Brexit and acted as a galvanising vehicle for activists to campaign upon, whilst gnawing at the Conservative’s traditional Achilles’ heel.

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Social care funding equivalent to 176,000 places for over-65s is about to be cut. In what world is this the right response to Covid?

28/05/2020, 01:21:49 PM

by Joanne Harding

Being appointed Executive Member for Adult Social Care at Trafford Council was one of the proudest achievements of my life. However, it is more than a role: it is personal.

In March 2019 I submitted a motion to Council, asking Trafford to adopt in full the recommendations of the Unison Ethical Care Charter.

As I delivered my speech, I held a photograph of my gran, Annie.

Annie was political, tiny and formidable, and I loved her.

She was an important influence on my life, and I wouldn’t be the woman I am now without having her advice and guidance.

I watched as she was ravaged by dementia: there was confusion; inability to recognise any of us; wandering and putting herself at risk, not able to feed and clothe herself; and needing assistance with the most personal of care.

I saw carers come and go, different ones trying to coax her to eat and drink.

I watched as they watched the clock. Knowing they had limited time to care for her, before they had to head off to the next person needing their support.

I watched as she sat motionless and lifeless, slumped in a chair, as she eventually had to be moved to nursing care.

The woman I knew as fiercely independent was now totally dependent on others to look after her. I remember feeling horrified and terrified in equal measures, every time I went to visit her at the care home that was just too poorly equipped to really care for my lovely gran.

Fast forward to 2020 and here we are in the middle of a global pandemic, with care homes on everyone’s lips.

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Five questions to determine the next general election

16/05/2020, 10:48:56 PM

by Jonathan Todd

It is not a sprint to the next general election. Nor a marathon. It is more like 800 metres.

You cannot win it in the opening straight, but you can lose it. Every step counts. And – as Covid-19 has painfully illustrated – new obstacles can appear from nowhere.

Here are five questions to help comprehend this 800-metre random assault course:

1) What will the UK economy be like in 2023/2024?

Sir Charles Bean, a member of the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR), has referred to it being “not implausible” that for as long as the lockdown is in force, economic activity will be reduced “by somewhere between a quarter and a third”, and that a three-month lockdown “would knock something like 6-8 percentage points off annual GDP”.

Two months into the lockdown, however, it does not seem likely that all economic activity will return to pre-lockdown levels a month from now. Therefore, the annual contraction in GDP seems likely to exceed 8%.

Perhaps significantly so if a second wave necessitates a return to lockdown and/or the government fail to deliver a track, trace, and isolate system effective enough to enable more economic activity alongside suppression of a second wave.

Even after two months of lockdown, there are still thought to be around 3500 new cases each day. But where are these? Who have they interacted with? Are the sufferers and all of those that they have interacted with in isolation?

It is a massive task to constantly stay on top of these questions. More so than challenges that the government have struggled to overcome, e.g. delivering adequate PPE and tests.

2020 brings depression-era economics, an ongoing and uncontrolled public health crisis, and the rupturing of around 40 trade agreements with over 70 countries. All of which will create a big hole in public finances.

If the Tories respond to this with the “medicine” of the past decade (austerity), our economic and social problems will deepen. There have been worrying signs that this may be where we are headed.

A dozen years after the global financial crisis, we still live in a world of very low interest rates. Instead of austerity, government must listen to this market signal and seize this opportunity.

2) How will the government be perceived to have performed on the economy?

While the economy recovered after our exit from the ERM, the then Tory government’s reputation for economic competence did not.

Even if today’s government were to leverage very low interest rates to drive an investment boom, their standing on economic competence may be poor if they are blamed – as was the case with the ERM – for having caused the calamity from which we are recovering.

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Starmer seeks to cheer miserabilist Labour

14/05/2020, 10:26:53 PM

by David Talbot

One of the many dangers for Labour following its devastating 2019 general election defeat was that, if the pattern from the previous three election defeats were a guide, rather than learning the wrong lessons, it would learn no lessons at all.

The seemingly one constant for the Labour Party since 2010, though, has been its unerring miserabilism. It has relentlessly lectured the country that its future is bleak, its prospects poor and its decision to return four Conservative-led governments wretched.

“The trouble with Ed [Miliband] is that he is just too miserable” so uttered a Shadow Cabinet member in 2015, shortly before the party went down to a second resounding defeat. Miliband had much to say about the travails of the previous five years, attacking austerity, most notably, but his introspection, subdued and ultimately quite gloomy outlook was bettered by Cameron’s innate optimism.

Jeremy Corbyn’s torrent of miserabilism sums up the party’s recent woes. Labour has won, all too rarely in its history, when it has been optimistic about the country it seeks to govern, when it inspires people, understands and enables their aspiration, and when it projects confidence both for now and the future.

The hectoring over austerity, the sheer angst and self-pitying on Brexit, this miserabilist tendency that exudes from the party’s rhetoric, tone and policies has whittled it down to its core. If now is not the time to ask whether this doom-laden strategy has been effective or not, then surely when is?

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We have wasted a decade. We cannot afford to waste another

20/04/2020, 10:30:57 PM

by Jonathan Todd

We have wasted a decade.

All my son’s life, twice my daughter’s life, a quarter of my life. Lived since the last Labour prime minister – as David Talbot has recalled for Uncut – launched a general election campaign in a Labour seat in the home counties, which now has a 17,000 Tory majority.

Wasted by Labour, the UK, the world.

We are all in this together. I want to believe it now when I see it on the t-shirts of Tesco workers. I never did from David Cameron.

Fixing the roof when the sun is shining. That is what the Conservatives said Labour did not do.

The Sunday Times casts severe doubt on the extent to which Boris Johnson was on top of NHS capacity and pandemic preparedness. Sadly, this is not the only roof unfixed in our decade of austerity.

“The world is on fire, from the Amazon to California, from Australia to the Siberian Artic,” begin Christina Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac in their book on our climate crisis, as its impacts begin to ominously manifest. “The red wall” submerges under Tory MPs and flood waters.

As Prospect illustrate, child poverty in the UK, after falling under the last Labour government, has returned to a similar level to what it was two decades ago, when Tony Blair said it would be eliminated in 20 years.

Austerity, we were told, was the price to be paid to ease the burden on future generations. Trapped in poverty and destined to confront catastrophic climate change do not expect gratitude.

There are footballers whose transfer value rises when they are injured. What they bring to their teams becomes more apparent in their absence. Gordon Brown is that footballer in the politics of the last decade.

Brown’s defiant listing of Labour achievements at conference 2009 is now proudly replayed. It can be forgotten that the prime minister went into that conference under threat of potential challenge from David Miliband. To whom the camera cuts half-way through Brown’s listing, as if to say, who are you trying to kid?

As today’s world leaders fall short of the coordination that Brown helped to bring about in the 2008/9 financial crisis, we ask the same of them.

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A warning from 2008: Do not assume Corona leads to a new progressive moment

08/04/2020, 10:03:58 AM

by Jake Richards

Keir Starmer has been elected leader of the Labour Party amidst crisis. His priority, rightly, is to show that the country now has a credible and coherent Leader of the Opposition who is willing to work with the Government during the outbreak of Covid-19. However, Starmer and the newly appointed Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds, will already be beginning to assess how the crisis will affect the broader political environment.

It is tempting to assume the zeitgeist of the corona outbreak will be progressive. A Conservative government has embraced the most interventionist state economic programme since the war, essentially nationalising a closed-down economy, whilst rough sleeping has been wiped out and hospitals created seemingly overnight. Images and videos of the public applauding our NHS workers have gone viral. A new appreciation for ‘key workers’ in the ‘real economy’ — rubbish collectors, those in the food supply chain, delivery drivers — has emerged. The sense of community spirit combined with the anger at examples of scurrilous businesses taking advantage of taxpayers or employees is more evidence that this is a ‘moment of the left’.

Already, articles by left-wing thinkers are heralding ‘capitalism’s gravest challenge’, the transformation of the private sector and a new popular outcry for ‘big government’.

There was a similar sense after the 2008 financial crash and government intervention around the world ended an ideological reverence to self-correcting markets. In the 12 years since, the Conservatives have won four General Elections, the UK has left the European Union, and in America, India, Brazil and Russia (and elsewhere) we have witnessed the rise of a nationalist populism many thought was confined to the 20th Century. Indeed, although the immediate response to Covid-19 has been statist in a progressive sense, it is easy to envisage a reactionary, isolationist response developing in relation to our borders and trade soon developing.

Whilst a new active state during the crisis offers Labour an array of policy options, the new leader should proceed with caution. Labour has just suffered a devastating defeat on a platform arguing for a massively expanded Government — with nationalisation of key industries, free broadband for all and the development of a universal basic income. Focus groups and polling undertaken after the election revealed voters simply did not believe many of Labour’s policies (however popular on paper) were realistic or welcome as a package. The unpopularity of a universal basic income was striking — suggesting a deep reverence to personal responsibility and work, and a suspicion of ‘free handouts’.

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The first step on a long road for Labour

05/04/2020, 10:25:35 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Saturday was a tremendous day for Labour. Having been knighted for services to law and criminal justice, Keir Starmer brings more impressive professional experience than perhaps any previous Labour leader. He is a serious figure for serious times. Winning on the first round with over 56% of the vote gives him a strong personal mandate.

Angela Rayner has great potential as the new deputy leader. Other deputy and leadership candidates – Lisa Nandy, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Ian Murray – emerge with credit and higher profiles. The many talents on the Labour backbenches will be brought to the frontbenches.

Candidates backed by Progress and Labour First swept the board in the NEC elections – congratulations to Johanna Baxter and Gurinder Singh Josan. The party machine can be remade in Starmer’s image.

But challenges confronting Labour remain vast: fewer MPs than at any time since 1935 and an unprecedented context of national peril.

When shortages of tests, PPE and ventilators mean people die, the new political currency is thought to be competency. Less than a week after testing positive for Covid-19, Matt Hancock appeared in public to open an emergency health facility with many people around him not observing social distancing rules. While Hancock is considered one of the government’s more competent members, this visual communicates something else.

Whereas competency might imply a politics of cool rationality, we live in a country where 5G towers are set on fire. Because, deaf to the protestations of those that told us we’d had enough of experts, they are somehow supposed to spread Covid-19.

With emotions running high, the ability to mould how people feel remains politically central. Competency means using Gantt charts to get the right stuff in the right place at the right time. That is politically necessary but insufficient. We also now seek connection with newly treasured emotions: reassurance, reliability and hope.

Speaking to the nation on Sunday evening, the Queen summons these feelings for many much more effectively than Keir Starmer – who, for all his attributes, is the leader of a deeply mistrusted party. While Starmer enjoys a reputation for competency, he confronts the formidable challenge of moving Labour beyond associations with extremism and anti-British sentiments to find new emotional connection with an anxious public.

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Covid dispatch from Madrid

26/03/2020, 02:40:38 PM

by Malcolm Kennedy

Madrid, March 25, 2020

I gaze out of the window at a clear blue sky and feel cheered up.

Watching the TV brings me back down to earth as I receive the news that the total of deaths in Spain has reached 3,434. It has risen inexorably since I arrived on February 6th to spend some time with my Spanish wife and celebrate the birthdays of her son and our friend, Gertrud.

Little did we know that come Gertrud’s birthday we would be forbidden to travel and would largely be confined to our apartment.

For over a week, now, my only ventures out of the apartment have been to put out the rubbish and go to the local supermarkets and pharmacy. Every trip out feels extremely stressful in a bustling city which has now ground to a halt.

Normally Madrid is a vibrant place with bars full, people lunching on the many terraces and tourists visiting the many cultural attractions. Around the corner from us, the teeming transport interchange for buses, coaches and the Metro in Avenida de América has died. The line of taxis is stationary and unused.

Shocking news emerges of a major ice rink being commandeered as a temporary morgue while the major exhibition centre IFEMA is transformed into a hospital.

We are in the middle of a storm and the restrictions are wisely draconian.

From afar, the lockdown in the UK seems like a half-hearted response.

I have been very impressed by PSOE President Pedro Sanchez and his government. The communication of facts, how problems are being addressed and the use of experts appears on a different level to my experience in the UK.

Well, at least, in the past decade.

There was a time when I could be proud of our country’s leaders. Pedro Sanchez and his government are making me similarly proud.

Life has been put on hold. My flight to the UK on the 23rd was cancelled. My flight back to Spain on the 8th for Holy Week obviously is useless even if it became possible.

Anyway, Holy Week has been cancelled during this unholy crisis. In a Catholic country like Spain this is unprecedented. On top of all the religious processions being cancelled the annual exodus to the Costas has been put on hold. The damage to the hospitality industry of this and the other measures is simply incalculable.

What have I learned apart from a reinforcement of John Lennon’s dictum that “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”?

Well, I hope we have all learned the importance of good political leadership and the importance of experts and science. Above all I hope we have learned the importance of health workers, shop workers, rubbish disposal workers and all those in the frontline who are helping us get through all this.

Hasta la vista.

Malcolm Kennedy is a member of Liverpool City Council. He tweets @CllrKennedy

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