TACTICAL VOTING? BENEFITS OF SINCERE VOTING.

TACTICAL VOTING? NO. SINCERE VOTING?  YES!

I decided to do a bit of research on tactical voting and discovered that there is a huge amount of research. One article tipped up at 51 pages and much of that was taken up with complex arithmetical formula.

I also discovered that there is a term called “sincere voting” and lots of research (complete with mathematical formulae) on that too.

What did I conclude? There are masses of people who seem to be deluded enough to cast a sincere vote for Lib Dem’s on the basis that they will stop Brexit. They won’t.

There are others who feel compelled to vote Lib Dem, on the basis that it will stop the Tories. It won’t and if there is a choice it will be the Tories with whom they will enter into coalition. I would advise you check their record and think again.

HOWEVER:

If Labour’s vote falls away, due to tactical voting, who will hear the real desperation for an end to a Labour that echoes rather than carves out a new path?  If the vote does not demonstrate the sincere support for a change of direction then there will be backlash. This may be our last chance to get a Labour party that works for all and does not consign the bottom 30% to electoral isolation.

Secondly voting tactically only really works if you have solid evidence of other people’s voting intentions. With the shock outcomes of TRUMP & BREXIT and even the last Conservative Win [i]  I would say we are not on terra firma.  The biased media and the polls are both misleading. These are invariably owned by the right wing and questions can be framed to skew the outcomes.

IN CONCLUSION:

It is my very FIRM view that it is both SINCERE & TACTICAL to vote for the Labour Party we are seeing now.  This might be our last chance.

p.s. I should add that I am very conscious that this post is written from an English perspective. It saddens me every day that we in the North of England are also plagued with the imposition of endless Tory Governments which has bedevilled Scotland.  If we could ever have got it together for a progressive alliance of SNP, Greens and Labour I would have been content with that.  I do not regard the Liberal Democrats as progressive elements of our electoral system.

[i] #TORYELECTIONFRAUD NOT WITHSTANDNG.

Press release 9/1/2017

Excellent blog on the threat facing University Staff and Students and the entire future of Higher Education in the UK. First they came for the Teachers, the Doctors, the Lawyers. Who else?

The Convention for Higher Education

Students and staff speak out as the Lords prepare to challenge Jo Johnson over his Higher Education and Research Bill

Universities return to teaching this week, but lecturers, students and researchers face an uncertain future. The Government is pushing ahead with its Higher Education and Research Bill, currently in the House of Lords. A cross-bench alliance of Lords are organising a major revolt over the bill.

What is going on? Why does this matter?

Professor John Holmwood, a sociologist at the University of Nottingham who set up the Campaign for the Public University and is a founding member of the Convention for Higher Education, explained:

“The HE Bill is a deliberate attempt to remove all the checks and balances that protect university teaching standards – and thus the quality of student degrees – in the Higher Education sector.

“A student at a UK university knows that their degree programme…

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HOMELESSNESS : Fifty years on from Cathy Come Home

FeaturedHOMELESSNESS :  Fifty years on from Cathy Come Home

 

I walk home through Bradford. A ten minute walk to the train station. Here are just a few stories from the people I meet. It is by no means exhaustive. By the time I reach the train station I have nothing left to give.  This does not reflect well on me. I just don’t have any more resources (emotional or financial) to make much of a difference.  This is one street.

In a week in which a man in his thirties froze to death on the streets of Birmingham. I did a quick search on Homeless deaths due to the cold. It turned up many results and reflects a global disregard for our fellow citizens.  Do a quick search it is instructive but utterly heartbreaking.

But let us just start with the local.

Meeting obligations whilst homeless:  Sanctions.

Marek. He was a chef. He emigrated here. He speaks three languages. One of them is Russian. He was orphaned at 18 and was ostracised as a Russian speaker in his country.  Lost his home due to financial troubles . Very soon lost his job due to struggling to keep up with his obligations. I have not seen him for a while and hope this is a good sign. Fear it is not.

Joanne.  I have not seen Joanne for about three months.  She has been sanctioned (again) for failing to meet her DWP appointments. Her life is chaotic. She did not even make her hospital appointments after her abnormal smear. She had a head injury and did not even go back to get her stitches taken out. She talks with great love about her grandparents who looked after her. They died in their sixties.

Last news I had about her was that she had been curfewed ( I kid you not). How do you curfew someone who is homeless ? Turns out  it’s OK to curfew someone to a squat.

Joanne was a great support to me when dealing with my sisters terminal illness. She was also a support to me when it looked like I had the same. It was not one-sided. Whatever her demons her hugs kept me going. I miss her.

Life expectancy

Ian: He has a tumour which affected his speech. Guessing he is in his thirties.  He was waiting for tests to find out if it was cancerous. This was not enough to get him accommodation. He went from the street to his hospital appointments. One bright spot is that it is benign and he hopes for surgery in the new year. NHS permitting.

Neil: He is Ian’s friend. They look out for each other. Neil has sciatica. He is on the streets with a walking stick.  This has been his life for six years. Neil has lost two friends recently and worries about who is next. Average life expectancy, if you live on the streets, is 46.

Homelessness Fit For Heroes

The veteran. He served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was discharged from the army  with a fairly paltry sum. He suffers  from PTSD. He ran through his money quickly. Could not hold down a job. Turned to gambling. Lost everything. Veterans are disproportionately represented in the homeless community. Homelessness Fit For Heroes. Not a great slogan for recruitment but an honest  assessment of what you might face.

Can we do better?

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the people I meet.  Note this is one street. I repeat . One street.  Furthermore this is only rough sleepers. There are many more whose homeless status is masked because they are sofa surfing or in temporary accommodation.

To simply characterise this as a consequence of the rise of feckless behaviour is a lazy, toxic and cruel distortion of reality. (Though no doubt this affords some comfort to the architects of the failed housing policy).

 What Finland did.

It was recognised that in order to resolve street homelessness a paradigm shift was required. Finland brought in the concept of Housing First. Nobody can be expected to resolve any issues whilst dealing with the daily challenges of being homeless. Get people a home first. Then tackle the “why”. Result. Rough sleeping all but eradicated.

Cathy is still without a home. 50 years on!

NHS : SAFE IN WHO’S HANDS?

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The death knell for our NHS is sounding and action needs to be taken before it is too late.  In the 1980’s we had constant media coverage of the consequences of a cash strapped NHS which helped rein in the worst excesses of Tory cuts. Margaret Thatcher backed off. We need to ensure we stop the next onslaught in its tracks.

Tactics deployed rarely amount to a public pronouncement of intent.  The government lacks the mandate for full frontal assault, even from conservative voters, so is not attempted. Instead the acronym laden, shape shifting, assault is hard to follow, it is a world of smoke and mirrors. Nevertheless it is happening. Right now.

American style health insurance companies are circling.

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Standard practice to move to privatisation is to squeeze funding, demoralise staff, engineer a degraded service and then shift the blame to the service. This is the current tactic.

On funding. It is estimated that , to keep pace with our demographic challenges, we need between 4 -5% increased allocation annually. Since 2008 the NHS has been allocated 0.9%. (David Wrigley). This is the defund bit. Danes, Swedes, French and Germans all spend more.

The demoralisation of staff takes the form of capped pay and, for Junior doctors, the eventual imposition of a contract that triggered 98% support for strike action. This was unprecedented  and yet media coverage, of the 98% , was decidedly muted.  In addition staffing levels see a ratio of 2.8 doctors per 1000 people , compared to a EU average of 3.4 , with 4 per 1000 provided in Germany.  Unsurprisingly stress has sky rocketed seeing early retirement rates peaking and junior doctors moving abroad. Available beds are  reduced.

Factor in the decimation of social care with 40% cuts to Local Authority. No wonder the service is creaking under the strain.

The cuts are forcing hospital trusts to think the unthinkable. The closure of hospitals is proposed amidst arguments that concentrating services is necessary.   I suspect there is merit in some specialisation but this is being used to remove necessary, and accessible, services which need to be proximate to the people they serve.

As Harry Smith  ( Harry’s Last Stand) expressed it:

“Now, a nation that once had the courage to refigure society, to create the NHS and the modern welfare state, elects governments that are in lock-step with big business whose overriding pursuit is profit for the few at the expense of the many”.

We are already hearing talk of health insurance, moves to co-payment  and more procedures being defined as “of limited clinical value”.  This could be cataracts or hip replacements. Who will access these in the future? Those who can pay?

Simon Stevens is the head of NHS England. Check out his background. Does he really embrace the ethos of the NHS or is he fatally compromised?

This is what Sustainable Transformation Plans are about. Better known as Slash, Trash & Privatisation.  The only way they can prosecute these plans, in the teeth of public opposition, is by sleight of hand. Smoke & Mirrors to open up the NHS to private health insurance companies.

It’s not over yet.

4th March 2017. March in defence of the NHS. We need to scare the government off. Be there. It’s in London there will be coaches. Keep an eye out.

I am indebted to Keep our NHS public (Leeds) for its conference on campaigning with the excellent speakers : John Lister and David Wrigley.  I was out campaigning today for #careforournhs. I took my copy of NHS for Sale with me. Full of sticky notes for things I wanted to get across. Until it’s you. Until it’s yours. You will not “know” but empathy is not dead. You good people can imagine.

The time for solidarity is now. With our doctors, nurses, practitioners of all descriptions.

Also those people who NEED this: Free at the point of NEED

 

 

DEATH OF A LABOUR VOTER

I have voted for Labour all my life. (Loyalty)

In 2015 when I was canvassed I surprised myself , and the poor labour foot soldier, by the vehemence of my proclamation that this was the last time they could take my vote for granted. I was tired of voting with a peg on my nose.  I rattled off a litany of complaints about the lacklustre, timid, campaigns of recent times.  We were living under the most toxic government of my lifetime but seemed cognitively captured by the language of “austerity” and “difficult choices”.  Rather than leading and shaping opinion we were assuming we had to constantly echo the language of the Tories by constantly referencing “hard working” . To me this carries with it the implication that we were overrun with lazy and feckless scroungers as so many natural Labour voters are villifed  by the Tory party.  Workers versus shirkers had entered the lexicon of the party of the working class! We had accepted the marketisation of education and the NHS, extended PFI, and been relaxed about growing inequality. Where was Labour?

I was not surprised when we lost. If I was struggling how many more voters were we alienating?

So  I decided I could not vote Labour again. 

I was out. I had bought into the myth that we had to appeal to Tory voters, in the south of England, to get power, one too many times.  It had not worked. Now I was faced with a party I no longer recognised. It looked as though Labour had finally left me,  and I no longer had a political home.  Then, by chance, I found out about a rally in Bradford with a little known MP who had been allowed onto the ballot for the Labour Leadership. I was running late so needed a taxi. There was a massive queue so I was sure I would not make it. This was a queue with a difference though. All were there for the same reason so I shared a taxi with a father and his 18 year old daughter. I was late but that was ok because the turnout was so huge that the venue had to be moved outside, to accommodate the numbers. I  listened to the speeches and, for the first time in years, I  could see the point of voting Labour, not just to stop the Tories, but as a positive choice. This was not just about Corbyn but the other speakers and the energy and reaction from the crowd. Not one man. A collective roar from the disenfranchised.

Three days later.  Dead people can’t vote. 

On the Monday I was diagnosed with three brain tumours.  (Now Jeremy gets blamed for a lot of things but, trust me, that is not where I am going😆😉).  My sister got the same diagnosis in October 2013. They were secondary brain metastasis. She died on Boxing Day 2014. I fully expected this would be my path.  So I had to get down to business. My sons needed a better future. It takes a village to raise a child, they say, it also takes a decent politics. This was my aim. To leave my boys in a better world.

I spent a summer of tests in our wonderful NHS. I took the book NHS for sale (Davis, Wrigley et al) with me to all my appointments and had some fantastic conversations with the NHS staff who were the embodiment of all that I hold dear about the NHS. My passion and commitment to these Labour values carried me through. I expected my time to be limited so no way was I having the ignominy and shame of dying with only 4 Twitter followers😉. As I was on steroids and hardly sleeping (every cloud) I followed the defeat of Stephen Harper in the Canadian elections and reawakened my dormant activist. I tweeted obsessively.

I attended rallies in Manchester , got involved in political Facebook groups. Talked politics during my lumbar puncture and marched for junior doctors.  On the morning of the Labour leadership election I was too tense so went to a Refugees welcome march in Leeds. Jeremy Corbyn won.  We won. A week later I got the news that I did not have brain tumours or cancer.  Tumours now lesions. I was out of the darkest of woods.

So what does an entryist look like?

I joined labour. I got active and pounded the streets leafleting and campaigning. I met many good people thirsty for change. Also those that had been the bedrock of the local party and ,though kind and welcoming, inevitably they had some residual concern about who we were. Just for the record I am not a rabid, foaming at the mouth extremist. I am not secretly channelling Derek Hatton and the only thing I know about Trotsky is a line in a Stranglers song.  I would also add that it is a perfectly valid lament ,from longstanding members, that if we had turned up earlier we may have made a difference. I for one accept the validity of that criticism.

So here we are again

Best to gloss over the last year? I joined labour. Attended branch and constituency meetings. Met some great people. I am in it for the long haul. I feel full of energy and hope. There are massive challenges that face us and they are not the battles of the 1980’s.  The world is not as it was in 1997. PLP need to really see who we are and accept some humility for two lost elections. We re/joiners also need to accept some responsibility and work with, and for, people that loyally stayed.

So tell you what. You show me your loyalty and I will show you mine! 😉😉 Deal?

 

ACADEMY STATUS

At the point of exercising the, much vaunted, “Parental Choice” in school selection we opted for a local school that our son could walk to.  Two schools met that criteria.  Both held open evenings.

The first was alienating and off-putting.  Learning technology was very much centre stage.The school’s pitch was how they would prepare our son for an insecure Labour force and global competition.  Hardly inspiring stuff.  Effectively their USP was:”We will prepare your child as cannon fodder for an increasingly harsh model of capitalism”. The second  school “pitch” was more rounded, child-centred and altogether more inspiring. We selected (fell for?) the latter’s marketing strategy.

Our son was due to start school in the Autumn.Before he starts the school becomes an Academy. I don’t believe there was any parental consultation or, perhaps, just not with “prospective” parents.  However it did not involve a sponsor so we were not too disturbed at the prospect.  We imagined that the school had felt compelled to make a pragmatic choice to secure funding for the school.

Unfortunately that was not to be the end of the tale. In circumstances ,not clear to me, the head teacher left during  the 13/14 Academic year.  Interim arrangements were made.This leadership team was in place for the next Ofsted inspection. The school was then rated “inadequate” which allows a sponsor to be imposed.  For more on this simply search “forced academies” you will find lots of articles dating back 5 and more years.

So who was our Knight in Shining Armour?  The Charitable Arm of a multi-national construction company. Interserve Plc.  Makes sense. I have long lamented the deficiency of expertise, in teaching, which could be readily remedied with some added expertise from the academic discipline of construction. I have lost count of the number of times I have echoed the refrain “oh if only we had access to the skills and expertise of a multi-billion dollar company with interests in  construction and facilities management”. Well now we do.

So what is in it for them?

Here is where it gets interesting.  Direct quote from their financial statement. “The assets ,liabilities and operations of Crawshaw Academy”  were acquired ” from Crawshaw Academy Trust for £nil consideration on 1st September 2014″  That is right. zero, nada, nothing.

Never mind, surely the entrepreneurial, risk taking private sector will energise the moribund state run school? Well not so much of the risk-taking. The liability of the Trustees to any losses is limited to £10.  Seems that , yet again, the state are losing the assets but retaining the risk. This is one type of “nationalisation” that  seems to be totally acceptable to the privatising Tory government.

It is made clear that “transactions may take place with organisations in which the trustee has an interest”.The articles of association (6.2) also set out  restrictions on profit making but sets out a number of ways that members of the company can “benefit” presumably financially. In the Master funding agreement clause 4.27 makes it clear that any disposal of assets/free hold land must have the permission of the secretary of state. Clause 4.30 cries out for more scrutiny. This paragraph set out the conditions on whether or not any assets could be sold and where the proceeds can go.

Parental Involvement.  In the Articles of Association at clause 53. “There shall be a minimum of two Parent Directors unless there are local governing bodies which include at least two parent members”.   I have checked the governance structure on the school website and there is a Local Advisory Board which provides for 3 parent members.  I go to check the Local Advisory Board. There is a link entitled Election of Parent Members to the Local Advisory Board.  I click on that.  “The Local Advisory Board is currently suspended”. I can find a new body which seems to have just one Parent, as the Chair. Minutes of February 2016 suggest another body is to be established and this will have two parent governors allocated (voted for?) . I will watch with interest.

Curriculum and length of school year are now in the hands of the Trust.  Teachers pay and conditions are to be determined by the Trust.  Clause 2A in the supplementary agreement sets out that the Trust may “employ anyone it believes is suitably qualified or otherwise eligible to plan and prepare lessons and courses for pupils,  teach pupils and assess and report on pupils’ development progress and attainment”. So not required to employ qualified teachers.

Not to worry there must be a reasonable process for terminating the agreement if certain standards are not met. Indeed there is. Clause 5a in the Supplementary Funding agreement. “Either party may give at least 7 Academy Financial Years notice to terminate this agreement”. Longer than the life of a Parliament.

When checking this site previously I found copies of 5 letters detailing payments of £500 per day,for 1 days work a month, to be paid to the “employer” of a number of the governors. £2500 a month.  I can’t locate these letters on the current website but I have copies which I will revisit and I will “follow the money”.

All of this information is in the public domain. I have picked out the salient points, for me, but I am guessing an accountant could do a better job of interrogating the financial statements.  A lawyer would also better decode the meaning of the numerous documents setting out governance arrangements.

Feel free to have a look: http://interserve-academies-trust.sites.interserve.com/who-we-are/governance-compliance/

I should point out that the teachers have my wholehearted support and I have not found them deficient in my dealings with the school. My worry is as much for teachers’ professional status, pay and conditions, as it is for my children.

Fast forward to 2016. All schools are to have forced Academy Status.  Finally laying bare the farce that is “parental choice”.