So 2021 is a New Year but which year? Are we on the precipice of a new dawn of enlightenment, a golden age of discovery, free trade and glories on the high seas? Well, one Tory MP and former Conservative leader, Iain Duncan Smith, has virtually suggested a return to piracy and world domination!
“I just wish I was 21 again, frankly, because my goodness what prospects lie ahead of us for young people now. To be out there buccaneering, trading, dominating the world again…” – IDS
Meanwhile in America, 2021 begins with a stuck record as Donald Trump is still tweeting out MAGA like he’s original and not on the way out.
That makes Donald Trump the great pretender and lifting slogans out of 1950s and 1970s Britain. Fortunately, it’s only 18 days till America gets to play a new record.
Sadly, the UK is also changing its tune and has just fulfilled the 1975 EEC and 2016 EU membership referenda by Leaving the EU.
Back in 1975, 2/3 voted Remain – 90% of Tory MPs, the Liberals and most of the N Ireland parties. The SNP, Plaid Cymru, Communists, DUP, SF and NF voted Leave – it’s worrying how many National Front policies are close to those at the heart of this government again. The Labour Party was split with its left-wing and a majority of unions backing Leave, as did 2/3 of its membership at conference, whilst the MPs were 50/50 and a majority of the then shadow cabinet and leadership were in favour of Remain.
It’s fascinating how things change or revert, or don’t change at all. My biggest fear is that 2021 will be an age of continued polarised conflict, a nation and self-first attitude that imposed constraints on immigration and refugees, that attempts to go it alone rather than work it out together. Covid has exacerbated this for many nations too, and yet what we forget is that, along with climate change, it also reminds us that we are all in this together, I guess that’s up to us, as much individually, as nationally, certainly I now spend more time in the borderless land of Zoom now than worrying about sovereignty, control or borders.
I’m glad Boris Johnson is healthy again so I feel no remorse in criticising him and past Tory governments’ health policies. The NHS would not have needed a “human shield” or been “overwhelmed” (as per Pope Bojo’s Easter address) had it not been underfunded for a decade or been a political football kicked about during Brexit and elections. Our “greatest national asset” deserved treasuring and resourcing in the good times so that during the bad, the human shield could use it rather than be used by it!
We have 5x fewer hospital beds per capita than Japan and South Korea – some of the countries best handling Coronavirus, 3x fewer than Russia or Germany, 6x fewer ICU beds than Germany, 3x fewer ventilators than Russia.
We have the 4th highest bed occupancy rate of 41 nations, with typically less than 5-15% capacity left for crises. The NHS is overwhelmed.
“The number of hospital beds for general and acute care has fallen by 34 per cent since 1987/88, the bulk of this fall due to closures of beds for the long-term care of older people.” – King’s Fund Data
That’s the very group Covid-19 is affecting the most.
“In 2018/19, overnight general and acute bed occupancy averaged 90.2 per cent, and regularly exceeded 95 per cent in winter, well above the level many consider safe.” – King’s Fund Data
Out of 53 nations in the WHO greater European area, only Georgia and Andorra had fewer acute hospital beds per capita than the UK!
People shouldn’t be a human shield – and NHS staff should be properly shielded with decent PPE. A Human Shield is the language of terrorism. Underfunding the NHS is economic and political policy domestic terrorism! It’s an act of national vandalism and misguided austerity ideology. It’s not just hindsight saying this, doctors and nurses bodies, non-right wing parties, patient user groups, have been saying this for years. It’s too late to listen now.
Boris Johnson has used the rhetoric of Churchill and termed Covid a “national battle”. The language of warfare is about right, only the war is on our NHS. Stay Home, yes. Protect Our NHS, Save Lives, YES. But the latter should have been being done through Government policy the last decade. Invest in healthcare and its professionals, pay nurses, recruit doctors, appreciate foreign staff, build new hospitals, support mental health – that will Protect Our NHS and Save Lives, pandemic or not!
Three elections in four years have made a mockery of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (2011) and seen a Brexit Referendum (2016) be all but forgotten this general election campaign despite it being the reason for its being called. Tired of Brexit people have focused on the NHS, the Police, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, the trustworthiness of the leaders and other politicians who more often than not are no shows, empty-chaired, or downright refuse to engage with the electorate or debates. Trust and truth are the two casualties of this election and we may never get them back.
Brexit began this all with big lies on the side of a bus, Whoppers even! Now the lies are everywhere and nobody knows what to believe.
Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics
Policing numbers, nurses, the NHS, new hospitals, fast or free nationalised broadband, 2 billion trees, Brexit will be brilliant or Brexit will be a disaster, crime will go up or down – which numbers can be trusted? An unprecedented number of candidates have had to drop out for things they are saying or said in the past about women, Jews, Muslims, their own colleagues and parties – indeed it is unheard of for so many MPs to be switching allegiances, standing as independents or saying to vote against their own leaders or party positions.
I trained in Economics and Statistics at UCL but it may as well have been Politics, Philosophy and Economics for the misuse of statistics has become a political art. Another reason I chose a BSc over a BA was thinking that one was a science and the other a dark art. These days it is pure artifice with Dominic Cummings dropping dead cats to the gullible or worse still, complicit media.
As fast as a politician is caught in the act of lying or showing no care the spin machine drops a distraction – or dead cat news story. Deadcatting aims to divert discussion away from a more politically damaging topic and has been happening almost daily this campaign.
“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” – Winston Churchill
No segue intended here but Adolf Hitler, in Mein Kampf, wrote that:
“in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie…” – Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X (1925)
It is said that Joseph Goebbels was the proponent of telling a lie so big enough and repeating it that people would eventually and inevitably come to believe in it – so long as the State can shield the people from the political and economic consequences of the lie. (Brexit anyone?) Truth, therefore, becomes the greatest enemy of the State and a Ministry of Truth is required to perpetuate the lie and counter the truth.
In fact, Goebbels proposed that Churchill was the big liar and had a Lügenfabrik or “lie factory”.
“The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.” – Joseph Goebbels (1941)
In the USA, JFK also pointed out the potency of repeating lies till they become ingrained as myth masquerading as truth.
“No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as the truth.” – John F. Kennedy
The slow news outlet Tortoise has called them “big little lies” this General Election 2019 campaign.
“of 95 claims that were fact-checked during the election campaign, 77 turned out to be untrue.” – Tortoise
Tell the Truth
“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” – George Orwell
“Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” – George Orwell
Recent analysis has found that 88% of online ads posted recently by the Conservatives contained content that had already been deemed misleading or false by a third party factchecker, Full Fact. That number for the opposition? 0%.
“And at Christmas you tell the truth” was the Love Actually prompt card that Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson couldn’t in any sincerity include in their spin on the Richard Curtis film Love Actually (2003), because, you know, lies…not only that but this dead cat is a copy cat of Labour MP Dr Rosena Allin-Khan’s parody video from 3 weeks ago.
If Boris Johnson wins the #GE2019 it will be on an unprecedented foundation of lies and “truth avoidance”. The Brexit Referendum was founded on untruths and whoppers on the side of a bus. So too this election. Speak truth to power and take a stand #NotMyGovernment!
Well, the “meaningful” Brexitvote happened but didn’t seem to mean anything. The worst Government defeat in modern history by a margin of 230 votes and an unheard of stubborn clinging to power, despite a No Confidence vote. The previous worst was 95 years ago in 1924. On most occasions, resignations and lost elections followed. Momentous. Since Parliament cannot agree and only 25% of the population (admittedly, 52% of the electorate that voted) wanted it and even they are split on Deal/NoDeal, now is the time to delay or rescind Article 50.
“It’s a weird state of affairs. No-deal and People’s Vote are the two obvious options which hang over everything, but neither the prime minister nor the leader of the opposition are prepared to countenance either of them.” – Ian Dunt,Politics.co.uk
Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom are stubbornly standing their ground. Plan B = Plan A till you’re blue in the face. They knew the Brexit vote would fail yet wasted 5 weeks delaying it. They have no “political empathy” said one journalist. 70 days from disaster and we haven’t a clue. No deal and Remain are both political suicide for whoever makes that happen but history could record them later as a hero or a villain.
It’s astonishing that after the largest 230 seat Government defeat people retire to party political lines and this current leadership (if it can be called that) is shored up to go on and on with flogging the same dead horse deal. It’s almost national unity Government time. This Brexit political war must end.
“We’re going to have to chuck the party politics out, junk it, frankly and work together in the national interest to come to a solution.” – Chuka Umunna , Labour MP
Though I’m personally in favour of Remain still and actively want Article 50 abandoned or extended and Brexit cancelled, Labour can’t defeat the political maths of Tory+DUP, and so we drag on till exit EU day on 29 March because nobody will fall on their political sword for the sake of the UK bigger picture.
If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?
Brexit may have won the first People’s Vote aka EU Referendum but no actual exit strategy commands a majority in Parliament or the country. Somebody needs to stand up and be honest about this, commit political hari-kari, and say it can’t be done.
We need to get past this Brexit hangover and get back to work, sorting out housing, homelessness, knife crime, Universal Credit, NHS and Care recruitment, police funding, trains, 5G, fibre to the premises for all. The cost of doing business within the EU is small change compared to Brexit’s waste of time & money.
Multiple economic forecasts say we will be worse off because of Brexit with much slower growth. The IMF, OBR, UK Gov, BoE, NIESR, BCC, Capital Economics, EY and more. The Bank of England’s Quantitative Easing (QE), consumer credit rise, and low-interest rates are currently insulating us from the Brexit effect. We are in Balance of Payment trade deficit despite the crashed Pound (at airports we are virtually on a par with the Euro now!). We net export in services, not goods.
This is the modern globalised world now, we are not a net industrial producer anymore, we don’t have the economies of scale or labour costs. Imagining that Brexit will make Britain productive again in traditional industries is like Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again. A recent report from Standard Chartered has Japan 9th, Germany 10th, and the UK outside of the top ten GDP nations by 2030. Only as a bloc will EU nations be able to trade on equal terms with India, Brazil, China etc.
It’s the issue of hundreds of Japanese companies invested in the UK, in part to access the EU market. There are 190,000 direct and another 650,000 indirect jobs in the UK dependant upon car manufacturing for instance.
“There is no Brexit dividend for our industry” – SMMT
We have a non-reproducing working population (replacement fertility rate of 1.8, required 2.1), we need sub £30k (the new immigration minimum) EU and international workers. We have labour shortages in the care sector, NHS etc. Who will pick fruit, wash dishes, wipe bums, change catheters, serve tables, hand wrap millions of pigs in blankets for Christmas? UK workers alone, or even at all?
The war of words, or even war of the worldviews, continues apace over Britain’s relationship with Europe. The Battle of Brexit has already seen Dunkirkesque fishing fleets with Bob Geldof and Nigel Farage traversing the Thames and shouting at each other! Rather than resigning ourselves to the inevitable the Blitz spirit of Remainers has been to stubbornly resist Brexit whilst a small number of Leavers have threatened Guy Fawkesesque revolution if it doesn’t proceed as planned. ‘Planned’ is probably too strong a word for the most disorderly unplanned unmitigated disaster of an attempt to pull out of the EU that might see rebuilding UK supply and trade options more like a Scrapheap Challenge looking for parts here and there rather than being content in the existing roadworthy vehicle.
Tory MP and former International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, has actually suggested using possible Irish food shortages post-Brexit as a threat to get a better deal. She’s clearly not read, “How to win friends and influence people”.
Additionally, the Government is preparing for mass immigration following a No Deal scenario. Yes, immigration! As the free movement of ex-pats, mostly of retirement age, seek to return to the UK if reciprocal EU residence rights are not agreed. Over a million people could return putting pressure on the NHS, taking our jobs, applying for benefits – oh wait wasn’t that the Leave argument? But these ‘foreigners’ all speak English and we can’t tell them to “Go Home” as the UK is their ‘home’ (as it is for all those who have settled here).
The false stereotypes of Britishness and ‘foreignness’ are aptly illustrated in the recent revelation by star spinner – not political but cricket, Moeen Ali that he had a white British grandmother called Betty Cox. Birmingham-born Ali could not be more British in terms of cricket, but the chess-playing all-rounder also acknowledges his Pakistani heritage – something that down-under he was taunted about when called ‘Osama’ by Australian sledgers.
As part of her charm offensive (either an oxymoron or a transposition of ‘offensive charm’) D-Day Theresa has dispatched 30 Tory MPs around the country to persuade people to adopt her T-for-Terrible Brexit Deal rather than N-for-Nobody wants it No Deal. The deal is heading for defeat and two words that should not be attached to Tory door-knocking, “charm offensive”, are only going to piss off the public – who can’t even vote on the Parliamentary debate.
Better a Dunkirk spirit of knowing when to retreat from a bad situation. May is too stubborn and fighting for her own survival which she sees as contingent upon showing strength and resolve, whereas true leadership also knows how to lead a hasty retreat from a mistake unlike the Charge of the Light Brigade disaster ahead of us.
“I knew Winston Churchill, I worked with him, I stayed with him at his home at Chartwell and I have read his speeches many times. I can assure you that Winston Churchill was no Euro-sceptic.” – Former Prime Minister, Edward Heath, 1996
Whilst we tread choppy waters on our quitting of the EU or even quitting the process of leaving so we remain, keeping up? UKIP are quitting their party – founded to quit the EU – in droves. The latest UKwitters include David Coburn and Paul Nuttall who join Nigel Farage, Suzanne Evans and others in quitting UKIP.
UKIP membership of around 23,000 is now half its 46,000 peak just prior to the EU Referendum. That such a small party – and an increasingly right-wing one at that, has influenced a generational change in our relationship with Europe is a testament to the ongoing divide between Eurosceptics and Europhile “citizens of Europe”.
It’s ironic that UKIP is collapsing after bringing about the Brexit vote by striking fear into the hearts of Tories and David Cameron that their voter base was quitting to join UKIP. For its members to be now calling it too extremist with Tommy Robinson, riddled with Islamophobia and thuggery, makes one wonder why the Tories were so afraid of an extremist minority. Had David Cameron just waited it would have imploded anyway like the BNP or EDL and Brexit needn’t have happened.
Indeed, a UKIP tweet now has 39,000 votes in their own echo-chamber (but being tweeted widely now) showing 32% support for No Deal Brexit but 66% support for No Brexit!
If the British People were forced to vote on Leaving the EU again how would you vote? Retweet for a good sample size please.
Current polling “suggests that people continue to prefer remaining in the EU to the deal (Remain 46%(+3), Leave with the deal 37%(+3)) and that in a choice between the deal or leaving without one, they’d go for no deal (No deal 41%(+7), deal 35%(+3)). This leaves us in a bit of a quandary. People narrowly approve of the deal and think MPs should approve it… but they also prefer both of the two obvious alternatives to the deal. For the record, the poll also finds people in favour of a new referendum on the deal by 48% to 34%.”
“This week it is Parliament that will take back control. We have mixed oil and water by imposing on our Parliamentary system a referendum result. And, of course, Parliament must respect that. It is now for the House of Commons to decide how to proceed in the light of all that has happened…” – Andrew Mitchell MP
Even Brexiteers believe in the sovereignty of Parliament, or should do at least, it is democratically elected and sovereign, more so than the Queen or EU. So, what Parliament does next is critical. It is clear, though, that Parliament is overwhelmingly against a bad Deal that they cannot sell to their constituencies.
Tuesday’s “meaningful vote” is Parliamentary Democracy over Plebiscite Referendum – which was something of a meaningless vote, given the lies and gross simplicity without understanding context or consequences, and only offered for political expediency by Cameron to stave off votes leaching to UKIP who are now falling apart anyway.
When the DUP and Labour combine forces to elicit the full text of the Government’s legal advice surrounding the Brexit deal you know the traditional Left and Right sides of politics or Parliament’s chamber have been traversed. When UKIP and Tommy Robinson plan to march against Brexit – at least in its current form, you know that those that pushed for it don’t want what is on offer. When Leavers and Remainers are both calling the deal illegal you know the whole omnishambles is unravelling.
Then we have the Brexit TV debate on BBC or is it ITV, with Leaver Corbyn having to speak against Brexit and Remainer May, for it. They are not the only two voices we should be hearing from, and they are far from the best. Where are NI or Scottish voices, LibDem or Plaid Cymru?
Theresa May is adamant that it is her deal or no deal. Occasionally, she suggests the possibility of a third option and then retracts it. Liam Fox, meanwhile, openly voices it:
“As leave supporters, the choice we face isn’t between the deal the Prime Minister has reached or a deal we might like to reach. The choice is between this deal and the very real risk of no Brexit.” – Liam Fox
This is such a poor deal of limited EU withdrawal and complete loss of influence in the name of a pseudo-Brexit that for arch-Leavers to even consider voting for it must be an indication that both this Government and Brexit itself are in dire danger of collapsing.
Whilst the ERG’s Rees-Mogg and pals can’t add up to 48 and wrote their letters of ‘No Confidence’ prematurely, Parliament itself can call a No Confidence motion under the Fixed Terms Parliament Act:
“If a motion of no confidence is passed or there is a failed vote of confidence, there is a 14-day period in which to pass an act of confidence in a new government. If no such vote is passed, a new election must be held, probably a mere 17 working days later.” – Institute for Government
Wahay! I say, as a biased-against-Brexit Remainer and non-Tory but who, nonetheless, is keen to heal the divide and find a way to work out why our differences of opinion have become so polarised. Surely the far right is not that prevalent in British politics, and for Lexit socialists to ally with them against the EU proves that new alliances have been formed but which sacrifice so much more in the name of new forms of seemingly ‘acceptable’ nationalism.
National socialism has twice before become fascist extremism, I can’t see that happening here in the land of moderation, I mean we are not rioting on the streets against petrol duty like the French. Labour may be a mess of confusion on Brexit but their moral ambiguity is not as bad as the Tory willingness to ally with the DUP to keep themselves in power or create hostile environments around immigration, welfare, or mental health. A majority of Labour voters supported Remain but its leaders can’t bring themselves to come all out to stop Brexit. The Tories are overtly right-wing but actually called the EU Referendum to stem the tide of voter defections to UKIP and the far right and also can’t bring themselves to descend into further right extremism. Many find ‘no deal’ unpalatable.
These are all minority views, however loud and briefly magnified into an ill-considered 52-48% yes/no vote that actually doesn’t reflect the true views of the majority who were content with the status quo and might have answered differently to a more nuanced question.
The United Kingdom, whatever happens next, will forever now be the Disunited Kingdom. It’s as if we have entered a new age of Civil War or Wars of the Roses that will haunt our history for some time to come. Ironically, the EU came about as a means to bring about peace and ensure an end to warring nation states.
Instead, the state of the nation is of one at war with itself, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, to the point of decapitating all other political, social and economic needs. Housing, health, homelessness, have all gone by the wayside as we apoplectically remain beside ourselves, obsessed with Brexit.
There is no salve, no solution, that will satisfy both sides, especially, when the sides are now three and not two. We have Hard Brexit, Bad Brexit, and No Brexit – all as available choices, and none of which will satisfy half the country.
“One cabinet minister is privately predicting that we are heading for the ‘gravest constitutional crisis’ in our history. This is hyperbole; the 17th century had several that were far worse.” – The Spectator
Brexit was all along a politically motivated idea that nobody really wanted in sufficient numbers. Instead, Cameron’s cowardice and short-term opportunism have aggravated what was a political sore into an open wound that will remain infected for some time to come. The only option is surgery but whether that is to cut ourselves off from Europe completely or to remove the option of Brexit entirely, the healing to democracy and nation may be unrecoverable.
Six years to the day after the 1500 v 200 EDL counter demo and the fine welcoming city of Norwich has another small demo, Norwich Against Fascists! Counter demonstration! “There are many many more of us than you” was being chanted by 750 anti-racists and Remainers (mostly) and 50Unity UK pro-Leave Brexiteers shouting back the same and “More of us voted Leave than you” and “you lost”!
The atmosphere was mostly good-natured, carnival-like with drums, whistles, chanting, occasional discussion and the odd rant. One masked protester was led away, possibly anarchist/anti-Fa, certainly a scarf covering their face but there was no violence.
The police, some 30-40 or so, created a thin blue, well hi-vis yellow line, to keep the sides apart, sadly also blocking the dialogue, the lack of which has left us in Brexit impasse land. Initially, kept to opposing pavements, and allowing the traffic to pass, the police eventually surrendered to the sheer size of the counter-protest and even re-drew the line in the centre of St Peter’s Street.
After an hour, they also mostly gave-in to allowing people to cross the street and engage with each other. At times, it was clear some of the police were struggling to keep their serious and professional faces on given the number of humorous moments.
Even the police giggled when Lab Cllr Jess Barnard started playing Benny Hill over the megaphone! Rather ironically, similar chants were echoed on each side of the street:
“Whose streets, our streets”, “No to racism, No to Nazis, no to fascism” “You’re the racists”, “No, you’re the racists!”
Towards the end, it was almost comical as the Remainers remained and the Leavers left, leaving perhaps a dozen Brexiteers facing still hundreds of anti-racists. The larger crowd refusing to depart until their counter-demo had fully seen off the other side. Police remained on site waiting for one side to completely depart but were frustrated when the larger crowd decided to cross the street and swamp the “drain the swamp” protesters. A few of the latter repaid the gesture and also switched sides leading to hilarity and confusion.
At the close, some 2-3 hours later, several protesters shook hands after dialogue, others persisted in their polarised positions.
The Unity UK Leave contingent tried to convince me that their side of the street was more diverse than the Remainers/anti-racists, but that was hard to accept seeing as how they were 99.9% white, and 75% older people, some dressed in 1950s fashion, a time they perhaps wanted to send Britain back to.
I had conversations with perhaps half-a-dozen of the pro-Brexiteers including a passionate but polite chap called Joe, an older woman whom we both agreed were opposed to Theresa May, and several others willing to dialogue. Nothing will change without conversation, communication and, probably, compromise about our beliefs.
* Alleged roots in Ancient Sparta, Plato, and Rome
* Totalitarian belief in the State, order and its Ruler
* Ultranationalism, monolithic unity, racial purity (esp. anti-Semitism, anti-immigration) and ableist idealism
* Ironically, Italian and German fascism both grew out of national socialism but opposed international socialism and communism yet share common antipathy towards liberalism, capitalism, and the individual instead favouring the Party and the State
* Militant strength, masculinity, patriotic rebirth and revolution
* Authoritarian pseudo-democracy, cultic hero worship, national power (Maurice Barrès)
Both sides were a bit confused by the use of the word fascist, both calling each other it. The word really defines those who are totalitarian, anti-democratic and ultranationalist. Along with Nazis – despite the odd mocking salute, it’s a word that didn’t really describe anyone there. One of the Leavers complained about being called a “Nazi” saying “I have an Indian wife”.
Poignant, as it was, across from the city’s War Memorial, the day before armistice day, when we remember standing up to aggression, conquest, fascism, hate, imperialistic ultranationalism, and ultimately, cultural xenophobia in two world wars.
We need to stop fighting and start uniting, build better and common futures, that was why the EU was born, for peace and prosperity, and to end wars.
Trump’s improving national 41-47% and among Republicans 90% approval ratings suggest he may even get a second term! Right now, he is comparable to Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Obama in his ratings and that’s with what ought to be a ratings-dive-inducing separation of children from their parents at immigration assessment and removal centres, and being hapless in their attempts to reunite those families.
Shockingly, many people agreed with him. It’s not just Trump we’re dealing with, he’s tuned in to a generally right-wing working class feeling among many that they are losing their white culture, that their jobs and housing are under threat from immigration. I mean 53% of US women voted for a misogynist President.
That Donald Trump chose to do an interview with Britain’s leading political media, sorry, I mean the Sun, shows the level he is at and aiming at – and sadly it works, that’s why he got elected. Instead of appealing to people’s higher instincts, he’s appealed to the lowest base instincts of fear and self-serving protectionism. That was how Hitler got elected – democratically. Fintan O’Toole in the Irish Times calls it a “trial run for fascism”. It’s happening in Italy with its Roma census and in Hungary criminalising aid to migrants, testing the market to see how much xenophobia they can get away with.
Now I’m not really comparing Donald Trump to Hitler, however, my issues with Trump are that he is part of the past. He is a throwback, part of the resistance to progressive social and global change. He has halted and, in some instances, rolled back LGBT rights in the US, he is anti-environmental protections, he has stereotyped, ostracised and scapegoated everyone from Mexicans to Muslims. He has joked about pussy-grabbing, and dating his own daughter. He wants to make abortion illegal and to punish the women having them. If this man is the so-called Western “Leader of the Free World” then it’s a different century he’s living in, rebooting a cold war and the language of nuclear war, including the sexist values of the 1940s and 50s.
He has taken America back decades in terms of internal and external foreign relations, with Muslims in general, and people who are or were immigrants. Whilst Trump, Putin and Kim Jong Un may appear to be friends now, his Twitter foreign policy pronouncements that involve bragging about the size of his… erm, nuclear button, are lunacy not diplomacy. This is not the Obama and West Wing White House we grew to love but One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
A friend pointed out that in psychology terms a cognitive bias called the Dunning–Kruger effect, where people of low ability have illusory superiority and mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is, seems to be affecting Trump’s beliefs in his own genius, something he reiterated this week: “I am a very stable genius”… “I am more popular than Abraham Lincoln” (there wasn’t polling in his day!), “I feel unwelcome in London” but “the people of the UK love me“… His favourite words this week are “Very”, “Amazing”, “Strong”, and especially “Great”.
Steve Reicher, Professor of Social Psychology, at the University of St Andrews says:
“To be contemptuous of Trump denies his power and diminishes him. Contempt and derision are excellent mobilisers of collective action. So… use satire and wit… Create a carnival of resistance. Reaffirm core values of humanity over inhumanity, inclusion over exclusion, hope over hate”
It’s time to dump the Trump before Western diplomacy and values retreat any further into the dark ages where hate and lies are legitimised, Islamophobia is rife, racism and xenophobic nationalism become ingrained once again.
“the toxic ideologies of ‘Trumpism’ are flourishing around the world” – Caroline Lucas
He has bragged that he has property everywhere in UK, that people love him and think him great. That an “honest” UK poll would show that Brits love him. The pro-Trump demo, not surprisingly being co-promoted with “Free Tommy Robinson”, had 700 down to go, compared to the 70,000 for the anti-Trump one, at which three times that showed up, whereas pro-Trump saw just a few dozen!
The level of Donald’s denial is despotic and delusional. For him MAGA is more like Make Trump Great Again – the alternative reality TV show. Better to see him as a participant on The Apprentice – special President’s edition, and collectively say “You’re FIRED!”
This month saw World Mental Health Day. For the other 364 days of the year, we are forgotten. Austerity Britain has affected mental health services more than most. Despite promises to ringfence the NHS and bring parity between physical and mental health, this has not happened. Instead, beds have been cut, jobs have not kept pace with population growth, and my own trust, NSFT, has been placed back into special measures again, after being the first mental health trust in the country to be sanctioned in this way by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in February 2015.
Mental health awareness and NHS service provision improvements are sorely needed as referrals have risen 20% in Norfolk and Suffolk, but staffing and beds have been cut. Complaints, locally, have risen from 430 to 592, 2013-16. The latest CQC report criticised inadequate staff and bed levels but praised staff the caring attitudes of staff as ‘good’.
2010-20 will be the most austere decade in NHS history
2010-17 UK population rose 5%, mental health staff up 0.87%
2011-14 33% rise in Police cases with mental health component
2010-13 56% rise in self-harm and suicide
Mental health at work costs UK economy up to £99bn
Entitlement to be seen <18 weeks applies to mental health too
A week ago, BBC Radio Norfolk ran a mental health week focus with Stephen Bumfrey featuring it each afternoon, and coming together with Nick Conrad, Sue Tebble and myself, on Friday 20th, for an hour-long special. (iPlayer episode – 2hr 32m in)
“overall if you look across the country there is a good record of actually being able to move trusts out of special measures” – Theresa May
This makes the failure to resolve the local NSFT crisis all the poorer. Patients, or the politically correct – ‘service users’, have complimented the staff but criticised the system, waits, and other failures. Patient deaths and out of hospital suicides have increased whilst beds and budgets have been cut. Hundreds of patients were sent out of county owing to the lack of beds, up to 225 miles away!
In 2012/13 the trust reported 53 unexpected deaths, 105 in 2013/14 and 14/15, 139 deaths, rising again in 15/16 to 158, and 140 in just 9 months of 16/17. When standardised for age it is above the average for England. The figures have risen across all regions during NHS austerity under this government, from 47 per 1,000 to 59 in England – up 25%, but from 44 to 66, a rise of 50% in Norfolk & Suffolk.
Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has boasted that provision for mental health has “got better” and that he has increased staffing by 30,000 posts. The reality of the lie, and statistics do indeed damn him, is that 4,100 mental health nurses, 4,596 mental health trust beds, have been cut, and just 692 extra staff employed – an increase of just 0.87% over seven years, despite population growth of 5% during that time – so, in other words, a cut!
“Although NHS funding is rising in real terms, current plans mean that 2009/10 to 2020/21 will be the most austere decade in NHS history. Total spending on the NHS in England increased by an average of 1.2% a year under the 2010-15 coalition government (0.9% for the UK), and is set to increase at the same rate under the current Conservative government. Between 2009/10 and 2015/16, spending increased from £109.1bn to £119.0bn and is planned to rise to £123.2bn in 2020/21. This growth rate of around 1% is below the historical average for the UK of 3.7% per year.” – The Health Foundation
Norfolk has a pioneering mental health within Police HQ service, but nationally, there has been a 33% increase in cases with a mental health component 2011-14. As much as 40% of Police time is spent dealing with mental health-related issues.
Eighteen Weeks, as if!
Under the NHS constitutional pledge, patients have a right to be treated within 18 weeks of referral, including mental health.
“the new waiting time standards will be as follows: 75% of people referred for talking therapies for treatment of common mental health problems like depression and anxiety will start their treatment within 6 weeks and 95% will start within 18 weeks.” Pledge of 2014 to be delivered by April 2016.
Yet, the wait for some treatments can be more like 18 months. Just try requesting something more complex than CBT or other less time-limited ‘quick-fix’ therapies. IAPT referrals seen within 6 weeks were apparently 93-96% in Norfolk and Suffolk.
My personal experience, and that of several friends, has been of much longer waits. Calling the acute care line at weekends can result in complete ignorance or lack of access to your medical records. Support lines have historically been cut. People fall between the cracks, and I know too many people no longer with us due to mental health funding and systemic failures.
Discovery or Recovery
Discharge centred mental health, is solution based, with as much an an economic imperative as a wellbeing focus.
“securing a minimum of 50 per cent recovery rate from treatment” – NHS
Mental health in Norfolk has a Recovery College, a course-based approach to improving wellbeing. I prefer to see it as a discovery-centric way of improving self-management with community support. Some mental health issues do not just resolve, yet the NHS insists on “developing a recovery culture” (p13) in mental health which fails those with long term or lifetime conditions.
74% of NSFT patients represented with mental illness symptoms within 6 months, compared to a national figure of 63% (2015 data).
IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) approaches such as CBT serve best those with mild to moderate conditions, whereas moderate to severe need additional and more specialised help, as e.g., with OCD.
Between 2010-13, there was a 56% rise in self-harm and suicide across 52 NHS mental health trusts. It has been suggested that the over-capacity of up to 138% and staffing cuts has increased the risk of incidents.
I find the language, even if it has a clinical meaning, and the reality of response to people at risk of suicide, horrifying. The provision of “low level psychiatric support” was referenced in a Norfolk and Suffolk response it its higher than average suicide rate:
“There is a gap between the Wellbeing Service, the counsellors employed by GP practices and what is on offer via the mainstream mental health services. Suicide rate in Norfolk & Suffolk is high. GP referrals to MH are only accepted 20% of the time. GPs are left to manage risk the rest of the time.” – NSFT, pp11-12
The apparent aim is a “reduction in referrals to mainstream mental
health services by offering more low level psychiatric support in primary care.”
Care not Cuts
What worries me, is the low level of funding, of staff, of beds, and the cure rather than care attitude of the system. In contrast, the caring attitude of the staff is to be praised, and they need additional in-work support themselves to be able to deliver services under such tight austerity conditions.
A year on from the EU Referendum and Brexit Britain remains as divided as ever – inflation is up, nurses are down, hate crime is up, wages remain down, banks like HSBC, Barclays, Nomura are moving staff to Dublin and Frankfurt. With 2 years, at least, to go of this 3-10 year once-in-a-half-century change, one consensus is emerging – Britain, on the whole, is against “Hard Brexit“. Where is Theresa May steering Britannia, towards exactly that! What is Jeremy Corbyn doing? In words, he is against a hard Brexit, but in action, he is facilitating it, as more Shadow Cabinet MPs take a stand against Brexit, in favour of their Remain constituencies. Indeed, a new political party is needed, and is forming, to block Brexit or campaign for early re-entry, for it is clear that in a few years, if not now, the majority will swing once more in favour of EU membership, as a majority of people under 45, businesses, and Londoners – the engine of economic Britain’s prosperity, already desire.
Latest Polling Statistics
85% of youth want to remain in EU
80% of Londoners want to maintain the same rights
66% think “No Deal” would be a “Bad Deal”
60% of Britons now want to stay EU citizens
58% are against leaving the EU without a deal
55% are in favour of a “soft” Brexit
55% think a coalition of parties should negotiate with EU
51% would now vote remain, against 49% for leave
48% are in favour and 43% against a referendum on EU deal
45% think Leaving is wrong decision, 44% the right decision
44% more people think we should fight to Remain in EU than 2 weeks ago (36% v 25%)
37% have confidence in the PM’s ability to negotiate Brexit
31% expect a poor deal, 26% a good EU deal & 15% no deal
22% think that the government is doing a good job on Brexit
37% of the UK (those who voted Leave) have made this BrexitShambles happen, but perhaps the fault lies with 100% of the Tory decision makers who created the situation and the naively simple “Yes/No” referendum when it is clear that people had more complex questions they wanted answering, i.e., immigration, sovereignty, trade, justice, education, arts/science/cultural exchange, reciprocal EU rights etc.
Rights of EU Citizens living in the UK
“73% of voters would like either to protect or extend the rights that current citizens from other EU countries have to vote in the UK; 48% wanted to see the right to vote extended from local elections to general elections, while 25% wished to keep the status quo. Only 10% supported the government’s position of withdrawing EU citizens’ right to vote in local elections.” – The Guardian
The Brexit Gamble
Brexit remains a gamble, and one we are losing. We are bargaining with our citizens, youth, businesses, and EU workers. The tide is turning towards remaining or at least avoiding Hard Brexit. If not now, then in 5-10 years, the increasing youth vote and decreasing elderly vote would ensure a majority want EU membership. A short term decision last year to avoid Tory votes being lost to UKIP will have lasting repercussions on people at the beginnings of their educational, cultural, and economic working lives. We need to think about the future, not the past.