A party divided by ?


What exactly is it that the 4.5% MPs* disagree with Jeremy Corbyn about?   I mean which of his domestic policies?   I have to say that for all their daily media attacks, I’m still none the wiser but I defy them to disagree in principal with Jeremy Corbyn’s speech… otherwise, why on earth did they join the LP and not the Conservatives?


Liverpool July 2015

(What’s more Jeremy Corbyn is the sort of human being who’ll retweet about a missing cat)

4.5% MPs refers to those MPs who supported Liz Kendall’s candidature for the leadership – 4.5% is the % of the membership who voted for her.

Doesn’t anyone remember ‘The Power of Nightmares’?


The Power of Nightmares, subtitled The Rise of the Politics of Fear, written and produced by Adam Curtis, was a BBC documentary film series broadcast in 2004.

The films compare the rise of the American Neo-Conservative movement and the radical Islamist movement, making comparisons on their origins and noting strong similarities between the two. More controversially, it argues that the threat of radical Islamism as a massive, sinister organised force of destruction, specifically in the form of al-Qaeda, is in fact a myth perpetrated by politicians in many countries—and particularly American Neo-Conservatives—in an attempt to unite and inspire their people following the failure of earlier, more utopian ideologies.

Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed charts the similar processes operating in the current instalment of the so-called ‘War on Terror’ – the threat of ISIS.  His article (16.11.15), posted on openDemocracy, is an extremely important read given the UK Government’s determination to get involved in the bombing.   As Nafeez warns of the intention behind the latest spate of atrocities which culminated in Paris:

The goal, of course, is to inflict trauma, fear, paranoia, suspicion, panic and terror – but there is a particularly twisted logic as part of this continuum of violence, which is to draw the western world into an apocalyptic civilizational Armageddon with ‘Islam.’

Below, I copy and paste Nafeez’ conclusion to ‘ISIS want to destroy the ‘grey zone’.  Here’s how we defend it’, but I recommend that you read the piece in its entirety:

All this calls for a complete re-think of our approach to terrorism. We require, urgently, an international public inquiry into the colossal failure of the strategies deployed in the ‘war on terror.’

How has over $5 trillion succeeded only in permitting an extremist terror-state, to conquer a third of Iraq and Syria, while carrying out a series of assaults on cities across the region and in the heart of Europe?

The re-assessment must accompany concrete measures, now.

First and foremost, our alliances with terror-sponsoring dictatorships across the Muslim world must end. All the talk of making difficult decisions is meaningless if we would rather sacrifice civil liberties instead of sacrificing profit-oriented investments in brutal autocracies like Saudi Arabia, which have exploited western dependence on its oil resources to export Islamist extremism around the world.

Addressing those alliances means taking decisive action to enforce punitive measures in terms of the financing of Islamist militants, the facilitation of black-market ISIS oil sales, and the export of narrow extremist ideologies. Without this, military experts can give as much lip-service to ‘draining the swamp’ as they like – it means nothing if we think draining it means using a few buckets to fling out the mud while our allies pour gallons back in.

Secondly, in Syria, efforts to find a political resolution to the conflict must ramp up. So far, neither the US nor Russia, driven by their own narrow geopolitical concerns, have done very much to destroy ISIS strongholds. The gung-ho entry of Russia into the conflict has only served to unify the most extreme jihadists and vindicate ISIS’s victim-bating claim to be a ‘David’ fighting the ‘Goliath’ of a homogenous “kafir” (infidel) crusader-axis.

Every military escalation has been followed by a further escalation, because ISIS itself was incubated in the militarized nightmare of occupied Iraq and Assad-bombed Syria.

Thirdly, and relatedly, all military support to all actors in the Syria conflict must end. Western powers can pressurise their Gulf and Turkish state allies to end support to rebel groups, which is now so out of control that there is no longer any prospect of preventing such support from being diverted to ISIS; while Russia and Iran can withdraw their aid to Assad’s bankrupt regime. If Russia and France genuinely wish to avoid further blowback against their own citizens, they would throw their weight behind such measures with a view to force regional actors to come to the negotiating table.

Fourthly, it must be recognized that contrary to the exhortations of fanatics like Douglas Murray, talk of ‘solidarity’ is not merely empty sloganeering. The imperative now is for citizens around the world to work together to safeguard what ISIS calls the “grey zone” – the arena of co-existence where people of all faith and none remain unified on the simple principles of our common humanity. Despite the protestations of extremists, the reality is that the vast majority of secular humanists and religious believers accept and embrace this heritage of mutual acceptance.

But safeguarding the “grey zone” means more than bandying about the word ‘solidarity’ – it means enacting citizen-solidarity by firmly rejecting efforts by both ISIS and the far-right to exploit terrorism as a way to transform our societies into militarized police-states where dissent is demonized, the Other is feared, and mutual paranoia is the name of the game. That, in turn, means working together to advance and innovate the institutions, checks and balances, and accountability necessary to maintain and improve the framework of free, open and diverse societies.

It is not just ISIS that would benefit from a dangerous shift to the contrary.

Incumbent political elites keen to avoid accountability for a decade and a half of failure will use heightened public anxiety to push through more of the same. They will seek to avoid hard questions about past failures, while casting suspicion everywhere except the state itself, with a view to continue business-as-usual. And in similar vein, the military-industrial complex, whose profits have come to depend symbiotically on perpetual war, wants to avoid awkward questions about lack of transparency and corrupt relationships with governments. They would much rather keep the trillion-dollar gravy train flowing out of the public purse.

Milan Kundera — ‘The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting’

Let’s not forget that we were swept into the invasion of Iraq on false pretences, with disastrous results for the peoples of the region.  Let’s fight even harder to stop the political elites in their gung-ho desire to bomb.  Let’s argue for the alternatives suggested by Nafeez Ahmed.  Jeremy Corbyn is certainly on board… but it seems that some of the Parliamentary Labour Party, like Mike Gapes and John Woodcock, are minded to vote with David Cameron and the Conservatives.  It is up to the LP membership and all right-minded people to challenge their decision, and so block Cameron’s futile plan to bomb a solution on the Middle East.


Further recommended:

Welcome to the 21st century – The Crisis of Civilisation Nafeez Ahmed’s 2011 “Crisis of civilization” film  (80 minutes)

The Power of Nightmares  Adam Curtice’s three part BBC documentary


Don’t want the Government to let the NHS die?


Don’t want the Government to let the NHS die?  Here’s one crucial thing you can do right now – Caroline Molloy – first posted 13.11.15

The government is setting out what it will tell the NHS to do for the next five years (the ‘mandate’) – and there are lots of worrying signals. Here’s ourNHS/openDemocracy‘s response – you’ve until the 23rd November if you’d like to respond, too.

You probably won’t have noticed, but you’ve got just ten days to comment on the only bit of democracy left in the NHS. It’s the NHS mandate – ie, what the government tells the NHS to do for the next 5 years.

Pretty important, huh? 

As the introduction to the mandate consultation explains:

“The mandate to NHS England sets the Government’s objectives for NHS England, as well as its budget. In doing so, the mandate sets direction for the NHS, and helps ensure the NHS is accountable to Parliament and the public… This consultation document sets out, at a high level, how the Government proposes to set the mandate to NHS England for this Parliament.”

The mandate is what Jeremy Hunt talks about whenever he’s accused of no longer having any proper responsibility or political accountability for securing a comprehensive NHS service, since the 2012 Act.

At the end of October, the Department of Health quietly put the mandate aims and objectives out to consultation for 4 weeks, with a deadline of 23 November. Local HealthWatch organisations have stated that they only became aware of the consultation on 11 November, although since this article was first published, HealthWatch England (the national body that is supposed to give patients a voice in the NHS) have asked OurNHS to point out that they did take some steps to publicise it to those groups prior to that date (see editors note below). 

Do have a read through here, and think about submitting your own response

Here’s what OurNHS has just submitted. I’ve written a fair few consultation responses in my life, and this is probably the grumpiest I’ve ever done. So do feel free to use any of this – but you may wish to tone down the grumpiness and make your response more formal!

Bear in mind, ‘high level’, in this context, means the government’s document contains lots of vague, aspirational sounding stuff – so you have to read through it carefully for clues about what kind of policies it might open the door to…

OurNHS’s response to the NHS mandate consultation

  1. It is very worrying that the word ‘comprehensive‘ doesn’t appear in the document once, which seems a pretty major omission given this document is supposed to summarise what our NHS will do in future…
  2. It is worrying – particularly given the current fraught relationship between government and NHS staff, and the exodus of the skilled staffthat are the backbone of the NHS – that the document mentions ‘staff’ only once (in the context of a commitment to continue the flawed friends and family test) – and doesn’t mention doctors or nurses once.
  3. It is worrying that the document does not say anything that would rule out an increase in health co-payments (ie patient charges), given that voices within government such as health minister Lord Prior have been floating the consideration of such charges.It does state that the mandate will focus on “the changes needed to ensure that free healthcare is always there whenever people need it most.” But hang on – why do we need that last word, ‘most’? Are we creating a mandate for unelected people to decide when people need free healthcare ‘most’ – and when we may be charged for previously free healthcare?
  4. It is worrying the document does not say anything that would rule out large groups of people being prevented from accessing NHS serviceson account of (clinically unrelated) lifestyle choices/diseases, as Devon attempted to dolast year. Government ministers criticised Devon – Eric Pickles said the plan was “not the kind of Britain I recognise” – but if these are not to be crocodile tears, government needs to make sure no other cash-strapped local health bosses try the same plan. 
  5. It is worrying that the document commits the NHS to ‘maximise income’, without saying how, exactly. NHS hospitals are already increasing their private patients, meaning fewer beds and longer waits for people without means to pay. The mandate should not be encouraging this practice – the supposed safeguards we were promised in 2012 are clearly insufficient.
  6. As for setting the NHS an objective to ‘minimise costs’ – well, there isn’t an NHS hospital in the land that is not already desperately trying to do that! Indeed, as hospitals’ duties to provide mandatory services are whittled away, and again in the absence of an overarching duty to provide comprehensive health services across England, we are told by governors that many hospitals are discussing how they can shed unprofitable procedures and patients. This must be stopped – not encouraged.
  7. It is worrying that there is no commitment to sufficient funding through the fairest and most efficient system (which the evidence shows, is public funding through progressive taxation). 

Of course, we recognise that this gaping hole is inherent in the ‘mandate’ system set out in the 2012 Act, with its greatly narrowed political accountability. We want to put on record how unsatisfactory it is, to be ‘consulted’ on a document that is separated from the political and financial settlement in this way, and which blithely states we have to wait for the Spending Review to see if any of the commitments are actually deliverable. 

  1. We also feel concerned about the heavy emphasis on self-care/self-management of patients own care. Given the lack of commitment to proper funding and a comprehensive system, we fear this opens the door to excusing reductions in the amount of care patients are entitled to receive on the NHS.
  2. We also feel particularly concerned about the related heavy emphasis on so called ‘person-centred’ care without any proper explanation of what this nice sounding buzzword means, beyond patients being “empowered” to “make meaningful choices”. We fear that – given Simon Stevens commitment to rolling out personal health budgets to millions– ‘person-centred’ may be interpreted as treating patients as consumers, shopping around with their personal health budgets. Such a system we see as little different to the Thatcherite voucher schemes of old, and similarly likely to lead to cost caps for patients and devastated budgets/planning for NHS providers. There is a paucity of independent evidence for the benefits of personal health budgets, per se – and some evidence that they are dangerous even at an individual, short-term sweetened level.
  3. It is also worrying that the proposed mandate green-lights the continued merging of NHS and local authority spend. The impacts of expenditure through this route to date have not been sufficiently assessed, and the Public Accounts Committee foundmuch money had been wasted. We also have serious concerns about the pace of, and lack of accountability of, the delivery of some of this merging of expenditure, through devolution, vanguards, ‘success regimes’, and personal budget roll-out. The mandate is worryingly silent on the implications of all of these – despite the fact the Kings Fund has just raised serious concerns that the NHS cannot cope with devolutionon top of its other challenges.
  4. It is very worrying that there is a green light given to a vague commitment to ‘harness digital and online technology‘. This is misleadingly implied to be mostly about patient access to records online. In fact there is a mushrooming of initiatives (and expenditure) where not just admin, but patient careis increasingly delivered through digital means. Once again, there is a paucity of evidence for the benefits of much of this ‘digital health’ and a surplus of magical thinking about its benefits.

For example, NHS England’s recent submission to the Department of Health for the spending review (as reported in Digital Health) was full of claims that remote monitoring equipment “has the potential” to reduce length of stay, and that in primary care tele/web consultation “may lead to substantial benefits” (my emphasis). The summary of the Department of Health’s submission (in a heavily McKinsey influenced presentation) also states that “While it is envisaged that data transparency may (my emphasis) have benefits for patient care direct evidence for economic impact has not been found.” And in primary prevention it admits that there is “relative scarcity of longitudinal studies linking digital programmes to encourage healthy living to long term impact”. In integrated care and screening it admitted the evidence for telehealth was “mixed”. 

  1. Indeed it is very worrying indeed that the word ‘evidence’ doesn’t appear in this document about what should drive the NHS – not once.

The Kings Fund have raised similar concerns, particularly in relation to mental health, where they said this week that ‘trusts have embarked on large-scale transformation programmes aimed at shifting demand away from acute services towards recovery-based care and self-management. This has seen a move away from evidence-based services in favour of care pathways and models of care for which the evidence is often limited. There has also been little formal evaluation of the impact of these changes.’ The Kings Fund characterised this as a ‘leap in the dark’ approach with highly deleterious consequences for the quality of patient care.

We need a mandate that stops the toys for boys / creative destruction / disruptors and heretics / leap in the dark approach, and returns to a proper, evidence-based approach to health care improvements. 

Lastly, we have an allergic reaction to phrases like this:

“We propose to set an objective for NHS England to support the transformation of out-of-hospital care using whole system approaches to ensure people get the right care in the right place at the right time.”

Banalities do not improve un-evidenced policies.

In summary, our view is that the mandate’s aims and objectives need to be driven by the NHS values the public understand (and hold dear).

These are not buzzwords like ‘transformation’, but values that actually mean something to patients – a service that is comprehensive, universal, staffed with sufficient skilled and properly rewarded staff, run ethically, and underpinned by proper evidence. 

 Like this piece? Please donate to OurNHS here to help keep us producing the NHS stories that matter. Thank you.

Editors note: HealthWatch England have asked us to clarify that they “contacted local HealthWatch groups to let them know that the consultation was coming” on 14 October, adding “though we had not ourselves been informed of a specific date at that time”. OurNHS understands this took the form of a brief mention in a newsletter. HealthWatch England also advise that “when the consultation was launched on 29 October we retweeted it and this was retweeted by a number of local HealthWatch” and that they also sent a tweet and a message on their internal “Yammer” network “to provide some advice on how local HealthWatch could promote this Department of Health consultation”.

This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. If you have any queries about republishing please contact us. Please check individual images for licensing details.

The Tories would rather you didn’t vote because…


Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 23.36.23


Last date to register online is Monday 16th November 2015

On 19 November 2015, local authorities will close their electoral registers so 16 November 2015 is the last day to register online.  It is easy to register to vote.  It takes less than 5 minutes but you’ll need your national insurance number. You can find out more and register by visiting www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

Why is it important?

The Conservative government is in a rush to change the constituency boundaries. It wants to ensure that the 2020 general election is fought over 600 seats, fifty fewer than the present allocation.

To achieve this, the government plans to use the electoral roll as it stands on 1 December 2015. The numbers on the roll will determine the size and shape of voters’ constituencies.

But millions of people are not on the electoral roll. This means that we are in danger of an electoral map of the UK that does not represent the people who live here.

We need to stop this. The best way to do so is to register to vote.

Why are millions missing?

Last year, the UK moved from the old household survey method of electoral registration to a new method of individual registration.

More time is needed to make Individual Electoral Registration (IER) work because millions of people are dropping off the electoral register.

Some 10 million citizens may not be counted when the government redraws constituency boundaries from April 2016.

Efforts to continue to find the missing millions were meant to carry on until 2016. However, on 16 July 16 2015, just before summer recess, the government moved the date forward to 1 December 2015. 

Stop the rush, democracy is at risk

Because of the hurried changes and because millions could lose their vote, the government has been advised to slow down and get this right.

The Electoral Commission said than an additional year was needed to allow the new system of IER to function.

The government rejected this advice and is pressing on with its plans to close the voter roll in December 2015, one year earlier than originally planned, and move to redraw the boundaries on that basis.

From December 2015, those people that local authorities have not been able to match with tax or benefit records and who have not re-registered and provided a National Insurance number will be taken off the electoral register. 

The missing millions matter

The new register will form the basis of the parliamentary constituency boundary review that the Conservative government wants in place before the 2020 election. Reducing the number of seats and redrawing the boundaries both favour the Conservatives.

The registers with the largest predicted drop off tend to be in large urban areas with a high incidence of multiple occupancy housing, regular home movers and large numbers of historically low propensity registering voters.

The 2016 boundary review will mean:

  • 31 constituencies could go in England
  • 7 in Scotland
  • 10 in Wales; and
  • 2 in Northern Ireland

The danger is that the UK will end up with a distorted electoral map in which urban areas and low propensity voters are under-represented.

According to IPSOS Mori, if the proposed boundary changes go ahead, Labour will need to ensure it has at least a 13 per cent lead over the Conservatives to stand any chance of winning the election (October 2015). 

Make sure you don’t lose out 

It is estimated that there are around 10 million eligible voters not on the electoral register. 

Dismantling constituencies on the basis of a voter roll that is not reflective of the real constituency population is a danger to democracy.

  • 23% of Hackney voters could drop off the electoral register in December
  • Birmingham could lose 7.7% of its electorate
  • Glasgow loses 67,225 voters, Birmingham loses 56,645
  • Cambridge loses 17% of its electors and that’s before an expected heavy drop off of students in the new college year
  • Six of the eight biggest drop-offs are in London, which overall loses as many as 415,013
  • London loses up to 6.9% of its voters while the South West only loses 2.8%, East of England 2.9% and the South East 3.5%.
  • Scotland is the next worst affected region, losing 5.5% of its voters.

The Boundary Commission is scheduled to start work on redrawing the constituency map of the UK, down from 650 to 600 seats, in April 2016. Under their rules, seats will be reallocated away from areas with high numbers of unverified voters who are typically young people, renters, certain ethnic minorities and students.

The situation is particularly bleak for young voters. Students now have to register individually. Electoral Commission data shows that the number of voters aged 17 dropped significantly with the introduction of IER in 2014. 

And the missing voters are not evenly distributed across the country – there are in the region of 120 local authorities that will see a fall in the number of registered voters in excess of the average of 4%.


Why is it important?

It’s not – if you are part of this Conservative government because it makes it harder for Labour to win in 2020.  If the Boundary Review goes ahead as planned, the House of Commons will have fewer MPs than at any point since 1800.  It is estimated that of the 50 cancelled constituencies, more than 30 are Labour held and of the remaining 600 seats, many will become much harder for Labour to win.  In the US, this is known as gerrymandering.  It doesn’t matter whether you think that you’re already registered – make sure by doing it again online before Monday!  And make sure that your friends, family and 16/17y olds register as well.

The very design of neoliberal principles is a direct attack on democracy and worker’s rights.