Full as a state grammar school
Posted Friday, 28 August 2009 at 11:42
I have returned home from holiday to a diary as full as a state grammar school.
Hmm? Should I have said that? Problem is we MPs can’t say anything these days without being torn apart by the media and criticised for being anything other than a cardboard representative of the people.
Poor Dan Hannan has had a summer of attack, I had a little of it myself, however, as the Times asks this morning, if an MP can’t say what he or she thinks, what’s the point of us?
http;//conservativehome.blogs.com has links to the Times and an article written by Dan himself which asks some serious questions. (links not working!)
I have written before on my blog and Dan makes the point this morning, opinion in the Conservative party is valued – it’s a by product of freedom, our core value.
People like Dan and I know that we may sometimes give David a headache, but he certainly bears no grudge, he loves strong opinions.
Any reports to the contrary are fabricated by the media in search of a story, always quoting anonymous sources which don’t exist. By reporting derisory ‘comments off’ the press are attempting to paint Cameron with the same brush as Brown and create a picture of a messianic man with a bad temper, who has no regard for his MPs and isn’t fit to lead.
That man is Brown, not Cameron. As Dan writes this morning,
‘It is a measure of David Cameron's confidence that he is prepared to tolerate dissenting voices. No one could say the same about Gordon Brown’.
Labours employment legislation responsible for poor standards of care in hospitals
Posted Thursday, 27 August 2009 at 12:55
The Report published this morning by the Patients Association, which highlights the appalling standards of care received by some patients across the UK does not make news for many of us.
Shortly before I became an MP, I visited my own granddad in hospital to find him sat in a hard chair, naked from the waist down and blue from the cold with a freezing untouched plate of food next to him.
The patient in the next bed, Joe, told me he had been sat there since he had been got out of bed that morning – it was 8pm at night and the food had been sat there since midday. Joe had tried to get him back into bed and to give him a drink but had been told off by the nurse; apparently by the same nurse who had hauled my tiny seven stone granddad out of bed by one arm that morning, the finger marks clearly visible.
I approached the nurse’s station with care, the very same nurse’s station I had once sat at when writing my own patient Kardex after a mornings work. I asked would it be possible for someone to help me put my granddad back into bed and to get him a warm drink?
I was met with a ‘couldn’t care less who the hell do you think you are back off now’ stare.
I won’t bother you with the ensuing details; many have similar stories to tell.
Nursing was once a vocation and an easy choice to make. If you were the kind of person who liked to care and look after others, it was a natural career choice.
If an occasional rouge nurse cropped up it was usually picked up and dismissal followed on pretty quickly. Nurses were frequently assessed not only on their knowledge, but also on their attitude towards the patient. If you didn’t remember to put the statement ‘reassure the patient’ at the beginning and end of every exam question, you failed.
A patient’s anxiety, feelings and dignity were at the centre of care delivery at every level. Not anymore. The patient is very definitely at the bottom of the NHS food chain as this mornings report - which really only skims the surface - shows.
Nowadays, if someone who is really not suitable in a caring nursing role is identified, she will be re-trained and counselled however dismissal, is virtually impossible thanks to employment legislation introduced by Labour at the demand of the Trade Unions.
No NHS trust can afford the cost of an ‘unfair dismissal’ court case and therefore nurses are retained regardless of their core personality, which may be one which is far from kind, dedicated or sympathetic. All essential qualities in a nurse.
A lack of compassion and an absence of a caring nature results in the stories the Patients Association quotes in this mornings report.
Employment legislation has become so restrictive over the last twelve years that the kick back has been delivered literally to those who are at their weakest and most vulnerable.
Many complaints are thrown at the NHS. Large waiting lists, post code treatment, withheld drugs, dirty wards amongst others.
Within such a huge organisation as the NHS, repair has to begin at the core. It seems to me that in order to rid the NHS of those not fit to care for the nations sick, a new Conservative Government will need to evaluate employment legislation and practice pretty quickly.
I remember to this day how following an op-day, we would walk around the ward in the middle of the night and sit on sides of beds and talk to awake and worried patients about what was happening to them. What was happening at home? Who was looking after the children? How the family would manage with someone off work sick for a month? Anxieties and worries which kept people awake at night and which a cup of tea, a hand to hold with a few kind words of re-assurance with the odd joke thrown in would chase away.
It is that element of kindness which appears to be missing and which must be regained as an essential quality in the role of a nurse in order for the needs of a patient to once again be at the heart of what the NHS is all about.
Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi
Posted Wednesday, 26 August 2009 at 12:16
I once met a man whose daughter was a stewardess on the fated Pan Am Lockerbie flight.
He was a man whose life had been taken over by the cruel event which had befallen him as he ceaselessly worked and campaigned to bring to justice those who had perpetrated this dreadful act of mass terrorism.
I will never forget how you could actually feel his loss and pain. It was in his eyes, his voice, and I remember thinking to myself - this man will never laugh again.
He was the first person I thought of when I heard that al-Megrahi had been returned to Libya, into the arms of his family, to spend his last months being cared for in the warmth of a hero's welcome.
Having shown no remorse or contrition, the decision to grant his release must surely be the worst decision to have been made by the devolved Scottish Parliament.
As Britons who face the threat of terrorism on a daily basis, the very last thing this country needed was to be perceived as weak when it came to deciding the fate of a mass-murdering terrorist.
This was not an act of compassion - any compassion should have been directed towards those who have lost their loved ones and therefore as a result, to some extent, their own lives which may have been very different if Lockerbie had never occurred.
Those who were left to live their life in the ghost of the Pan Am flight did not want a man who murdered their children, wives, husbands, friends and parents, to spend his last days enjoying the very things they themselves they have been denied since that awful night.
Call me harsh and please forgive me for straying into the realms of religion, however; forgiveness can only be given following the utterance of one single word, sorry. We never heard that. It was never felt or offered.
As I write this, al-Megrahi is making memories. He will be eating and laughing with those he chooses. Exchanging physical affection with those he loves. Talking and conversing with those whose minds he wishes to share.
He can say his goodbyes amend his personal regrets and leave each person he cares for with a hug, a kiss and words they will remember.
He will choose his leaving and what he leaves behind.
This will be his pleasure for as long as he has left to live.
Normalities of life those left behind would have gladly, willingly have given their own lives to have enjoyed and shared for just one more day with their own loved ones who were, by the courtesy of al-Megrahi, violently blown out of the sky.
And so we live in a nation which allows this to happen. We are led by a man who's Government gave us this devolved Parliament and who sickeningly can not condemn with the words which as a father, not as a Prime Minister, should flow from his mouth with ease.
You don't need a spin doctor to tell you what to say if you can imagine how you would feel if a terrorist blew up your daughter.
You just need to be a normal feeling individual who can see right from wrong instantly.
Al-Megrahi has three months to live. He only needed to say one word, he failed, however; he succeeded in exposing once again how hugely inadequate and incapable Gordon Brown is and how it is impossible to be led, without shame by a man who deploys a moral filter.
The Dying Light
Posted Thursday, 20 August 2009 at 09:56
I have just put down the book, The Dying Light, by Henry Porter.
It's a political thriller and I'm a political nerd, so we got along well.
I spotted the book one wet Sunday afternoon, weeks before my holiday, in the window of a little book shop in Moreton-in-Marsh. The bookshop, however, was closed and a quick check on Amazon confirmed that it wasn’t on general release for another week.
And so I was thrilled when a visiting friend arrived at my holiday destination with a signed copy of the book as a gift.
Henry Porter had written a dedication on the inside cover: 'A book for all politicians'.
I laughed. The book is after all a novel and the reason I wanted to take it on holiday with me was in order to relax. And I did, to a degree.
The story line is conspiratorial and intriguing. The plot is built upon the way our society is regulated and monitored by computer data bases and CCTV.
All the way through one does think 'yes, but that could never happen in England': but of course, it could.
All the building blocks are in place. The NHS spine, DNA held and recorded without permission, car movements recorded and journeys held on record for five years, ID cards, CCTV, the list of recording and monitoring the movements of free British citizens goes on and on.
If there's one complaint you hear more than any other it is the fact that our society becomes more 'Orwellian' day by day.
Why do we have more CCTV cameras on our little island than the rest of Europe put together?
If it’s to beat and defeat terrorism then that's fine by me, but what stops information being used in one way, for our safety and greater good, being exploited via other agencies for an entirely different reason?
The book explores this possibility, works that scenario up and tells a very good fictional story, which would also make a great film.
The author’s after word was informative.
The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 enables the Prime Minister, a Minister or the government Chief Whip to dismantle democracy and the rule of law overnight.
This law was passed the year before I became an MP and I was unfamiliar with the extent to which the law entirely removes an individual’s right to freedom, and I doubt any man or woman on the street has a clue.
For that I blame the media. As a journalist the author, who still writes for the Observer and Guardian online, wove into the story line the role a Murdoch-type figure can play during a general election. However, he could have made much more capital of the extent to which the fourth estate sets and manipulates the political agenda. And yet he chose to question the more stoic British characteristic of getting on with life in the face of adversity.
Maybe this character has evolved and is sustained as the result of a diet of occasionally irresponsible, sometimes inaccurate, frequently biased reporting.
Henry, it’s a great book - a work of fiction which, in the absence of a media willing to inform the facts, should be read by everyone, not just politicians.
The Dying Light
After the storm
Posted Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 11:14
Although on holiday in rural Spain and with no access to a computer, I have, via phone calls from journalists, become aware of the kind of summer some of my colleagues are having, or not, as the case may be.
Apparently Alan Duncan is reported to have been filmed having a private conversation, during which he said that MPs are treated like s**t, and has been taken apart by the media.
I smile to myself each time I answer the phone to a newspaper asking to 'have a chat' or ‘talk something through' - as was the case with Toby Helm from the Guardian the other evening as I walked to a seaside restaurant.
These same newspapers are the ones who ridicule and misrepresent the purpose of the Parliamentary recess and paint a picture of MPs taking a three month holiday, which each and every journalist knows simply isn't true.
Although I readily admit to trying to holiday in August, my phone is never switched off and not one day goes past without some part of the day being assigned to work.
I doubt I gave Toby much to quote me on, as with all such 'off the cuff' interviews, my best thoughts came after I had spent five minutes quietly thinking about the points he had raised.
We talked about how a new Parliament is going to look in the aftermath of 'expense gate' and what type of people will become MPs.
Since the day the expenses issue broke, I have held the view that the long term result would be bad for democracy. However, following news regarding the way Alan has been reported, I didn't think it was going to become as bad as it may.
We are on the brink of an historic shift in the way Parliament operates, and the type of person who becomes an MP.
Existing MPs no longer trust the media, in any way. Following the disclosure of Alan's private conversation, they may no longer trust individuals.
The new pernicious rule for MPs to declare hours spent on outside interests will prevent the multi-skilled, clever, articulate, learned individuals who are, by their own obvious track record of achievement, the type of people Parliament desperately needs to attract and retain - from even considering a life as an MP.
Instead we will see the emergence of a new breed of MP: those who will enter Parliament because they are rich, or careerist.
We will witness the opening of a chasm between the electorate and those who legislate.
Everyone will be a loser. The very people Parliament is elected to represent will be as remote from the centre as they have ever been at any time before.
The synergy and commonality between the elected and the governed will be non existent.
The doctors, lawyers, businessmen and women, farmers and academics and all manner of specialists, who interact with life and people outside of Parliament on a daily basis, will no longer bring their worldly experience or legislative know-how to bear when legislation is debated in the House of Commons.
We already have an example of this. There is a reason why many Labour MPs today are ineffective. Many have risen via the career route of the trade unions with little or no experience of the outside world, and it shows; never more so as when they stand and read from pre-prepared notes.
I readily admit to this being a sweeping statement, however, almost every debate of importance in the chamber is lifted to a new level when the type of individuals I have listed above rise to their feet to speak, always without notes, usually loaded with precise facts and undoubtedly with the confidence a life outside Parliament has imbued into the essence of who they are, before they got to Westminster.
The Commons is going to become the dullest place.
Debates will become sterile, and as a result of a creeping ineptitude amongst the new breed of MPs, the civil servants will advance the cause of administrative governance and legislate by the book.
Over time, the Whitehall Mandarin will rise, both in influence and power, resulting in almost ultimate control.
Opportunity for the voice of the individual voter to be heard will become almost extinct.
Maybe I'm a tad out of touch. Maybe the need for the 'commoner' to have a right to have their voice heard in Parliament was an issue of the past and maybe I am just too old fashioned. People may not be bothered about the fact that the mother of all Parliaments will be run by administrators and the wealthy, the majority of whom will relate to very few people outside of Westminster’s walls.
Maybe this is the new politics: MPs to function in name only, the role symbolic, rather than essential.
Whatever the future for democracy is, it’s far from bright, and it’s depressing.
As dedicated knowledgeable MPs flee Westminster they will leave behind those who will simply go to ground, mistrust the media and now, as a result of yesterday, mistrust individuals and pull down the Portcullis.
Parliament is about to move into reverse gear, by about 200 years.
Posted Thursday, 6 August 2009 at 11:10
Don’t ya just love the TUC?
Apparently, at their forthcoming conference, they want to debate a proposal to ban the wearing of high heels in the office.
Can you hear the collective sharp intake of breath and the no noo nooo from all of British office working womankind?
Kirsty Walker from the Daily Mail rang me yesterday (I'm on a beach in Spain) and asked me what I thought about this.
This is roughly what I said:
I'm 5ft 3 and need every inch of my Louboutin heels to look my male colleagues in the eye. If high heels were banned in Westminster, no one would be able to find me.
The TUC need to get real, stop using overtly sexist tactics by discussing women’s stilettos in order to divert attention away from Labour chaos and debate something meaningful: like where has all the money gone?
I awoke this morning to a funny text message from Donata Huggins informing me that I had just been quoted on the Today programme.
So, from a prone position on a sun bed, with a toe dipped in the Med whilst assessing the damage to my pedicure caused by the chlorine in the pool water, I did my bit for all high heel wearing shorties, like myself, and smacked it to the TUC, via the Today programme and the Daily Mail with just a 30 second effort to reach into the beach bag and pick up the phone.
Some days, life is so good
Posted Wednesday, 5 August 2009 at 11:10
Further to the Daily Mail article today:
The 1961 Suicide Act passed by Parliament states that those who aid, abet, counsel or procure someone else’s suicide, can be prosecuted and punished with up to 14 years in jail.
This law is clear and unambiguous.
The Law Lords called for clarification of the existing Law; they did not call for Keir Starmer QC, head of the Crown Prosecution Service, to assume undemocratic legislative powers and create new law.
Clarification of the existing law can only mean one thing: assisting suicide is illegal and prosecutable with up to 14 years in jail.
Keir Starmer cannot change this law without a vote in Parliament. He can only define policy one way and that would be for the law, which has until now been quietly passed over by the authorities, to be paid due attention in each and every case.
He can only provide guidance that the existing law should be adhered to, not altered in its purpose or intent.
If Keir Starmer believes he can introduce policy, which would legalise assisted suicide both abroad and in the UK, without Parliamentary debate with appropriate time for all the arguments for and against to be discussed, and then voted upon, he is very much mistaken.
The Law Lords knew what they were doing, it appears others may not.
If assisted suicide becomes legal, it will be the first step towards state assisted suicide. Not every next of kin is a loved one. In the case of many elderly and disabled, the ‘kin’ is in fact the State.
In the case of someone receiving palliative care or chronic medical care when in hospital or a nursing home: how long would it be before it would become acceptable for a Dr to suggest saving tax payers money and freeing an NHS bed?
How many people in nursing or care homes who feel safe and protected by the law, will feel very vulnerable indeed? How many people who feel a 'burden' will feel as though it will be expected of them to consider suicide as a way out, because they want to make life easier for those to whom they feel a burden?
It is very sad, given the standard of hospice care available in the UK, that some feel the need to take their own life; however, they do. Until now their relatives have never been prosecuted.
The ruling by the Law Lords has placed the Law, which has until now been largely impotent and exploited, but nonetheless a silent barrier against abuse, under the spotlight to be scrutinised.
The outcome may make future prosecutions more not less likely.
The first job of Parliament is to protect the majority and the vulnerable. When weighing the threats posed to such groups by the legalisation of assisted suicide, Parliament could only vote one way.
Sometimes it’s better just to let sleeping dogs lie.
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