Monthly Archives: November 2015

Tories block first aid training

Labour MP Teresa Pearce introduced a private members bill on Friday to ensure that all children get basic first aid training in school. The idea is to save lives by ensuring that everyone knows basic skills like CPR, and the bill has cross party support as well as the backing of the British Heart Foundation , the British Red Cross, and St John Ambulance. However, Tory bill slayer Philip Davies has done his usual evil job and blocked yet another potentially useful proposal. Mwhahaha.

Mr. Davies, has so far prevented carers from getting free parking at hospitals, protected landlords from being required to have safe accommodation, stopped any discussion about ending the use of animals in circus acts, stopped landlords (of which he is one) from having to provide smoke alarms, and tried his damnedest to block aid spending commitments. His tactic is the the use of filibustering, where he talks for so long that MPs don’t get the opportunity to vote on a bill. This undemocratic procedure allows evil doers like Mr. Davies to prevent parliament from even being able to debate being able to help people, and Mr. Davies is undoubtedly the master of it.

More comically, one of the reasons that Mr. Davies gave for not wanting kids to learn first aid is that he was taught first aid at school and he can’t remember any of it. On the same basis, we assume he would block any attempt to teach kids how to be a decent human being.

Government report confirms Tories have abolished justice

The Justice select committee has yesterday confirmed how evil the former Justice Secretary Chris Grayling really was. Grayling was the MP who was responsible for, amongst other atrocities, introducing the criminal court charge. This charge, which at first glance appears disappointingly un-evil, is about getting anyone taken to court to pay for being prosecuted. The charges that they pay vary from £150 to £1200, depending not on their ability to pay, but on whether or not they plead guilty, and are payable before any victim compensation.

The report confirms that Grayling has achieved a number of evil things with his charge;

1) Innocent people are pleading guilty just to avoid paying the maximum charge. If you plead guilty you only pay £150, but if you are innocent and are found guilty, you can be forced to pay up to £1200. And while you may think that our justice system is good enough to not convict the innocent, any lawyer will tell you that there are one or two magistrates who will convict despite a lack of evidence. For that very reason, anyone is entitled to appeal their case to the crown court, but that costs money. If you are on benefits and ,for example, accused of shoplifting something that you paid for, you literally can’t afford to take the risk of going to trial any more.

2) Victims are being denied compensation because of the charge. Normally, the amount that a defendant can pay is means tested, and the order in which money is prioritized if the defendant can’t pay everything is Compensation; Victim Surcharge; Fine; Costs. However, the court charge has been bumped to the front of the queue and is not means tested. Since 80% of people in court are on some sort of benefit, this means that the court charge often accounts for more than they can ever pay, and victims get no compensation at all. For example a rape victim in south London who got no compensation at all because there was no realistic prospect that the rapist would ever be able to even pay off the £900 court charge.

3) Judges have no discretion over the size of the charge, making it grossly disproportionate for some crimes. For example, a woman who hadn’t eaten for days stole 4 mars bars (worth 75p). She hadn’t eaten for days because she had no money at all, but was still charged the £150 court fee. And when she can’t pay it, she’ll be sent to prison (where at least she’ll be fed).

4) Far from being a money generating scheme, the charge is costing the taxpayer a small fortune. In 2015–16, the net loss is estimated to be between £10 and £20 million. That is due to the large cost of chasing unpayable charges, and then re-trying and imprisoning people who have no prospect of paying them. It is estimated that by 2020, this will have cost the country £1.2 billion.

5) 50 of the most sympathetic Magistrates have resigned at the injustice of the charge. One was even sacked for offering to pay the fine for a penniless refugee. Lawyers, judges and the public are losing faith in the justice system as a result of this charge.

You can find the full report here, which we assume was written to applaud yet another successful evil endeavour. Mwhahaha.

Best not get ill any time soon

With a near unanimous majority, reminiscent of a North Korean election, an unheard of 98% of junior doctors have voted to go on strike over changes to pay and conditions being forced on them by Jeremy Hunt. Mr Hunt, the Health Secretary who was most likely to have had an unprintable nickname at his boarding school, wants junior doctors to work more unsociable hours, and to do so for less money. And the way he has treated the doctors during negotiations has wound them up so much that they have voted to not even cover emergency cases – serious strike action that has never been seen in the NHS’s history.

Thinking it’s not a problem because it’s only junior doctors? Well, think again. Junior Doctors are pretty much anyone who hasn’t reached consultant stage, which can take over 10 years after leaving medical school. There are 55,000 of them in England – over 1/3 of the total number of doctors. They are key to everything that goes on in the NHS.

Jeremy Hunt has also been playing games with the truth, talking about the need for a 7 day NHS. He bases this on a study which showed a correlation with admission day and subsequent death, even though the study explicitly said that there was no causation shown (and indeed it’s pretty easy to see why this might be – routine admissions happen mid week, while it tends to only be emergency admissions at the weekend, which are likely to be more serious). He also has been making vocal noises about doctors not being allowed to opt out of working weekends. But at the moment only consultants can opt out of non-emergency work at the weekend, and most of them don’t. To even imply that doctors’ unwillingness to put the hours in was causing patient deaths was, if not evil, certainly a rather stupid opening position.

Unfortunately the NHS has already been run in to the ground by the Tories. We rank 14th out of 33 in Europe for health care, compared to 11th just a few years ago. Waiting times are up, with a significantly increased number of people not being seen within 18 weeks of being referred to a consultant. The government has already forced the NHS budget down by £22bn, but recently agreed to give an extra £8bn over the next 6 years – barely covering inflation. Parts of the NHS have been privatized, with hospitals being run by private companies, although the first private company to manage a hospital has pulled out of their contract. Perhaps because running emergency care is much harder and less profitable than the routine medical treatment that private hospitals are used to doing, with the backup of the NHS in case something goes wrong. Doctors tend to care quite a lot about the state of the NHS, so that’s just adding to their anger.

Given his unmatched ability to antagonize a generally cooperative workforce, who by and large just want to get on with their jobs, it seems that Mr. Hunt is the most evil choice for health secretary that David Cameron could have made

We aren’t ready for a war on terror

The events of last Friday in Paris have shocked the western world, and led to demands that something be done. So is the UK in a position to fight a war on terror, or have the evil doings of the Tory party left us unable to cope with such a threat?

Why did ISIS attack Paris?

ISIS have long worked on recruiting supporters by demonizing the West. It was an easy picture to paint – the US and UK roll in to Afghanistan and Iraq, bomb and shoot a load of people and then go home. But the Syrian crisis actually turned that around. The world saw Europe welcome refugees with open arms, and they began to realize that not all westerners are bad. Recruiting numbers were right down, and that was a problem for ISIS. The UK was a notable exception to this, with David Cameron refusing to take our share of refugees, and doing nothing at all to cut ISIS recruitment.

Earlier this month, ISIS bombed a Russian plane headed from Egypt to Russia. As a result, Putin increased his bombing in Syria. World leaders quite rightly condemned this, with David Cameron saying that Russia’s actions would lead to further radicalisation and terrorism. And he’s right – the Pentagon’s Defence Science Board have stated that bombing only makes things worse, and “Historical data show a strong correlation between US involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States.”. Yet David Cameron is pushing for us to bomb Syria, thus increasing ISIS recruiting and terrorist attacks. This is arguably exactly what ISIS were trying to achieve.

How do we stop terrorists?

The government say that we need increased surveillance to stop terrorists. There is no doubt that if we could see what everyone is doing all of the time, and had the resources to monitor it all, it would be harder for terrorists. But the government’s proposals to spy on web traffic is not going to achieve that. France already has laws like the ones Theresa May proposes, and it didn’t stop the attacks in Paris. There are rumours that the attacks in Paris were coordinated over video game chats, which are not part of the surveillance bill, so the terrorists are already ahead of the proposals. Mrs. May wants to accelerate the bill in light of the Paris attacks, but in reality it will only help the government to spy on us, not on terrorists.

More plausible is an increase in manpower to actually track, monitor and stop terrorists. That manpower needs to come in three forms – the secret services, the border agency, and the police.

David Cameron has just promised to increase the number of spies at at MI5, MI6 and GCHQ by 2,000 (a 15% increase). That’s a good start, but it barely offsets the numbers cut by Orborne’s war on spending over the past 6 years.

The border agency are tasked with making sure that only the right people and things come into this country. Yes Osborne has slashed their budgets too. It is claimed that the border agency is struggling to keep up with basic tasks like checking passports at airports, and no longer has the manpower to effectively tackle smuggling, either of people, drugs, arms or anything else.

The police are key to stopping terrorism at home too. They are the first line of defence against suspicious activity, and they are the first responders when something is reported. However, deep spending cuts to the police are so bad that 7 PCCs (5 of whom are Tories) have taken the government to court, claiming that the latest round of cuts leaves them unable to do their jobs.

The armed forces

Whilst bombing indiscriminately is not a good idea, there is plenty that the armed forces can do to stop terrorism. For example, enforcing a no fly zone over Syria can help the local government stabilize and sort it’s own problems out. Troops on the ground offering humanitarian aid gives a very positive image that reduces radicalization. But the number of army personnel has been cut by 20% since 2010 (you could fit every soldier in Wembley with room to spare), RAF flights are down 40%, and the Royal Navy has just 19 warships left.

Instead of spending on people, we are pinning our defence hopes on the £167bn trident replacement. But the enemy that we face today can’t be beaten or deterred with a nuclear bomb.

Conclusion

Unfortunately the harsh budget cuts over the past 6 years have left the country in a position where it is unable to defend itself, unwilling to take humanitarian actions that have been proven to reduce terrorism and our preferred response (bombing people) is akin to poking a hornets’ nest with a stick. Mwhahaha.

Are fitness to work tests killing people?

Researchers from Oxford and Liverpool universities have been looking at the impact of the tougher fitness to work tests introduced by the Conservative party. These are the tests run by Atos, who employed unsuitable staff to rush through interviews to force sick people back to work. The sorts of interviews that result in 60% of disabled people being made worse by the tests alone. In fact even Atos felt it wasn’t appropriate and stopped running the scheme, being replaced by Maximus earlier this year (who are ideal for the role, despite numerous allegations of shady dealings and fraud).

So what was the results of the study? Between 2010 and 2013, when Iain Duncan Smith introduced harsher tests, an additional 590 people committed suicide, and 279,000 extra cases of mental health problems were reported and 725,000 more prescriptions for antidepressants were issued.

The increase in suicides alone is not massive – a 3% increase. And the study shows a correlation, not a causation. However, the researches claim to have corrected for the generally poor economic trends, and compared rates of health assessments in different areas to pick out the changes that are linked to the fitness for work assessments. If they are correct, IDS’s plans were indeed evil. Mwhahaha.