Categories
Politics

This is what happens when those in charge have absolutely no concept of the society they are governing.

This bank holiday weekend has been one to undoubtably forget over at Tory HQ. The news emerged on Saturday morning that the prime minister’s most trusted advisor, or more accurately, conspirer, broke the lockdown laws he was prominent architect of. The country has since reacted in a more united sense than they have in the last 5 years, when he again orchestrated a methodically intense culture war which has dived the country left to right, young to old, more-so than ever before in living memory.

It is as if the entire frustration of 9 weeks of mourning, disruption and irritation has been channelled into cummings, and he has rightfully been the focus of concentrated and prominent attention. Every major paper has led with an image of cummings this weekend, he has been trending on twitter for at least 48 hours and the subject to intense harassment from that campaign vehicle and a whole host of journalists who have camped outside of his ritzy London address. 

Boris and his cabinet (who championed Brexit with their impetus on the will of the people) have scrambled desperately to defend an unelected bureaucratic aid before supporting the will of the people. We cannot underestimate this; this is but one further example in a long line of Tories backing Tories and putting party politics above the country. Cummings moving freely sets a precedent for the rest of us, the end of lockdown. Cameron put the party first in 2015, and we’re still paying the price for it. Johnson, in defending Cummings is doing the same, but this time it’s as literal as a matter of life or death.

The hypocrisy of the government is unambiguous, they have enforced one law on the society they represent and followed another for themselves. In doing so, they have, at least for now, at least for this very fleeting moment, unified a country they so wilfully separated in a bitter culture war for half a decade, the only issue for them, is that we are now unified in our complete disparagement of our leaders.

But this is what happens when those in charge have absolutely no concept of the society they are governing. Take Boris Johnson, a public-school boy, Eton no less, Oxford alumni and a net worth of approximately £1.6m; he’s never in his life had to want for anything, he’s never experienced the poverty that 22% of UK residents experience on a day-to-day basis. Johnson’s upbringing is one of privilege and academia, he has never gained the invaluable life-experience of basic management which so many of us succumb to on a daily basis; of time-management in avoiding traffic on the way to work, of money management in ensuring you have enough money to pay your bills each month, or of parental management in ensuring you do best by your children.

Johnson’s naivety in the face of the great British public can be so amply personified by his tirade of waffling books, quotes and articles before his premiership. In 2005, in an article for the Daily Telegraph, Johnson called the poorest 20% of society: ‘chavs, losers, burglars and drug addicts.’ In 1995, Johnson also wrote that working-class men are ‘likely to be drunk, criminal, aimless, feckless and hopeless’. Just last year, Johnson Sr. went on national television to say the majority of the country were too dumb to spell Pinocchio (thank god for spell check).

The majority of the current cabinet have come from extreme privilege: 69% of whom were privately educated, compared with 6.5% of the population, the highest number since John Major’s cabinet. 50% are Oxbridge graduates, too, contrasted with 1% of the general population. How can a cabinet which does not accurately understand nor represent this society, have their best interests in mind?  

Dominic Raab, Priti Patel, Rishi Sunak and Matt Hancock have all consistently voted against welfare benefits, against paying higher benefits over longer periods to those unable to work due to illness or disability and consistently voted against money to help create jobs for young people.

In 2013, Michael Gove hinted at the idea that poor people were to blame for food banks, claiming families only needed them due to a ‘failure to manage their finances’

Leader of the commons, Jacob Rees-mogg, once used the word ‘floccinaucinihilipilification’ in open parliamentary debate, (a word seemingly only understood by Etonian peers) in itself grotesquely arrogant. Mogg has such a high disdain and condescension for the country he serves, that he once claimed that the deceased victims of the Grenfell disaster died because of their own lack of ‘common sense’. 

If Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Cummings in Brexit: the uncivil war is even remotely accurate, the Cummings really is the career psychopath David Cameron Labelled him as. In 2017, he even admitted in plain English that Tory MPs do not care about poor people or the NHS, citing his own vast experience with them as evidence for his claims.

‘Caring for your wife and child is not a crime’, Tweeted Gove in defence of Cumming’s actions this weekend. The irony of this is palpable, some 5 days after passing a momentous immigration bill which will quite literally criminalise immigrants from abroad for caring for their families and seeking a better life upon our shores. 

This government must learn about the people they serve, they must understand what goes on in working class households and they must, above all, stop thinking they are above the law and better than us all. 

Categories
Politics

The Dangerous Numbers Behind the UKS Nursing Shortages… As Warned Over the Past 5 Years

We are fighting a war against an invisible enemy, as Boris Johnson so Churchillianly expressed, but what he didn’t mention, is that we don’t have the foot soldiers to fight it. 

Time after time throughout this pandemic, the Great British public has taken to their doorsteps with pots and pans, their TikToks for their dances, their Instagram for their runs and their gardens to complete fund-raisers to show support for our brave NHS workers. Such support is humbling and heartwarming. But, in the week that the Government promises a £60,000 cushion to bereaved families, does it feel a little like a gross oversight into what Tory HQ has done to our sacred NHS over the past decade?

A little over 4 months ago, my Girlfriend was admitted to hospital with border-line sepsis, she had to spend 4 nights in Stoke Royal, one of the largest hospitals in the UK. During her time in hospital, she was told she needed to remain on a drip with essential anti-biotics for the entire duration of her stay. Upon changing wards, she was left off it for 7 hours while only 3 nurses covered 5 wards, approximately 25 beds. The nurses were overwhelmed, unable to keep up and unable to offer the incredible service that Nay Bevan envisioned some 75 years ago. This was before the pandemic, but certainly not the first experience of an utterly underfunded National Health System.

Fast forward to today, a world away from the freedom of January; every evening at 5 o’clock, the Health Secretary or whichever Johnson stand-in can face the media, addresses the nation to deflect questions about the approach to this pandemic. The truth is, the warnings of under-funding have been there for years, we just didn’t listen quite as well until it was completely and totally forced into the forefront of daily conversation over the past 6 weeks. Austerity felt, to some, like an over-politicised campaign term from the left to bring down the Tories, but now we can all see first-hand, a National Health Service on the brink.

In 2017, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) surveyed 30,000 nurses across the UK about job satisfaction and quality of patient care during shifts. The results were, as they put it ‘Shocking’, they showed ‘nursing staff in every setting across the UK in crisis’. The report published on the back of this survey, entitled ‘Nursing Against the Odds’ detailed over 50% of nurses reporting their shift not-staffed to the level planned, over a third were leaving care undone due to lack of time, and two-thirds working un-paid overtime regularly. 

The report was frank, it warned drastically that lives were at risk if untrained support staff were on call, and not registered nurses, who’s overall number on duty in the survey was down 4% on the number in 2009. To further empathize the point, the survey was conducted in May, well outside of the typical winter-boom in hospital admissions. It concluded “Short-sighted cost-saving measures and lack of funding have been demonstrated to be significant factors in the issues described”.

The Nursing Against the odds Survey was conducted 1 year after ‘Exercise Cygnus’; the then-little-known study into how our country would cope with a pandemic; the result showed the countries health service would collapse. The report was kicked into the grass until brought to the public’s attention this year and shows clearly that the government willingly ignored a decisive study about the state of our Health Service.

The RCN pleaded again for funding in 2018, with acting Chief Executive Dame Donna Kinnair

Saying “The answer to the problems [facing nurses] is a comprehensive workforce plan focused on recruitment and retention that links population need to staff numbers.” Kinnairs evaluation still rings true today. In the ten years of conservative power, we’ve seen a 1% increase in nurses, contrasted with a 6.9% increase in population. We now have approximately 7.8 nurses per 1,000 people. For comparison, Germany has 12.85, USA 11.61 and France, 10.46. We have a similar rate to Lithuania and Czech Republic.[1], our GDP is 53 times the size of Lithuania. 

Prior to all of this – In 2016, the government took one of the most drastic decisions in the nursing-shortage saga. They opted to remove the Student bursary to supposedly increase the number of nursing places available. The then-existing NHS Bursary scheme limited the number of student nurses to 20,000, which couldn’t be increased because of the government policy of austerity, thus, as Tories do best, they lumped the burden of student fees onto the student, in theory increasing the available intake. The following year, applications to nursing related subjects was down 23%[2]. The overall intake now is 8% down on the 2016 number.

In the December 2019 election, Labour reported we’d lost 200,000 nurses in the decade of tory Austerity. As is uniform with all party ‘facts’ this must be taken with a pinch of salt, (figures include deaths and retirements) but it does bare some truths. It highlights that not only are we not attracting new nurses, but the nurses we’ve got are quitting in record numbers. 97,000 nurses left their positions voluntarily in the time period given, citing things such as poor-work life balance (up 163% to 18,013 in 2018) and health reasons (up 99% to 4,234 in 2018). In 2018 alone, 27% more nurses quit the NHS than in 2010. The bottom line – more nurses were and are leaving the NHS than joining it. 

Since 2010, the Conservative government has strangled spending in the NHS, resulting in a reduction in nursing numbers, student nurses, quality of care and quality of life for the nurses themselves. Over the past 5 years, The Royal College of Nursing has pleaded with the government to pour resources into the NHS to stop a potentially catastrophic long-term issues, those calls fell on deaf ears. Today, we face the largest health crisis in a generation, one in which we are woefully underprepared for.  


[1] https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/resource/the-nhs-workforce-in-numbers#7-how-do-we-compare-to-other-countries

[2] https://www.health.org.uk/blogs/general-election-2017-why-were-nurse-bursaries-removed

Categories
Uncategorized

Is the Great British Public tiring of this Government already?

With the growing sensibility of the wind-up-merchant Piers Morgan, and the growing insensibility of our government, which so successfully won the Battle of Brexit, has the very electorate who took to the ballet box in their millions to settle the debate once in for all less than 6 months ago, suddenly awoken to an unsettling realization on the general incompetence of this government?

Our embarrassingly sluggish response to the pandemic is well documented. When most of Europe set out to contain, prevent and ultimately distinguish this morbid disease, our prime minister was still twiddling his thumbs, and the thumbs of the corona virus patients he so pridefully greeted. 

The record will remain clear, Cummings ‘herd immunity’ policy has cost thousands of lives and will cost thousands more. Our Government seems to have only been Trumped by Trump himself in the weary attempt to contain the disease. 

What has become evident, more and more so throughout this bitter battle, is that our problem wasn’t just our reaction, but the country as a whole was disgracefully ill-prepared. If the record-number of homeless lining the street wasn’t a vehement poster-boy for the decade long fight against austerity. An all-encompassing global pandemic has painfully highlighted a country on the brink. So has this appalling reaction to an appalling crisis re-shaped the conversation and offered a new enlightenment against the one-slogan, one-nation tory? 

I opened this article with a nod to a certain Piers Morgan, a brilliant journalist who’s paved a spectacular career. But what Piers does with great conviction, is side with the populist, belittle the marginalized and play on the self-proclaimed title of the ‘most hated man in Britain’ (completely untrue). 

The atmosphere in this crisis seems different, however, Piers has gained praise from Remainers and Brexiters, left and right alike – His brilliant interview with Matt Hancock left the Health Secretary looking bewildered, out-of-touch and exposed a selfish hypocrisy in relation to pay cuts for premier league footballers. A screenshot of his interview with Faversham MP Helen Whately should be popped in the dictionary alongside the word ‘Car-crash’. She bluffed, massively when challenged on her voting to retain the pay cap for NHS nurses. 

Piers has gone from being the shameful antagonistic denouncer of the trans community, to the gleeful challenger of our flailing government. Piers blows in the wind, he is a journalist who sides with the popular opinion of the time, albeit even if the popular opinion is one better left behind closed doors (the anti-LGBTQ tirade).

One need only look at the traction some are getting online in contrasting war hero Tom Moore’s valiant fund raising with Sam Smiths clear phycological battle in quarantine to understand the shamefully popular anti-LGBTQ sentiment.  So if Morgan is adopting a pressingly impatient attitude at our government, is the tide truly turning? Is the very electorate which took to the ballot with such vivacious optimism in December losing faith in the Brexiter-in-Chief?

The fund raising of Tom Moore offers one of the most heartwarming stories of this entire crisis. Moore’s effort, alongside the army of instagrammers completing their 555 (Run 5k, donate 5 pounds and nominate 5 others), the thousands who answered the governments call for volunteers and the countless others giving up time and money to help the cause have all been humbling and warming. But, beneath all of this selfless giving, an undertone of discontent appears to be fostering – why are we donating to the NHS at all? After all, the NHS is a government funded institution, not a charity?  It shouldn’t be down to a 99 year old man to raise money to give our brave frontline workers vital PPE.

The outrageous shortages in PPE, which Hancock has since flirted with the proposal of shifting the blame on to NHS staffs in-efficient misuse rather than the failure to actually buy enough of the stuff, seems to be what our fund-raising is for. Which quote obviously, is on obscene shortcoming in government funding.

Hopefully, our valiant efforts as a nation can help fill the gap left by the government’s frivolous decade of austerity, which we are oh-so-happy to help with in this moment of national crisis. However, questions are being raised about the necessity of this in the long run, have the Tories gone too far in strangling our public services? Why in a nation of 54 billionaires, of powerful lobbyists controlling governmental interests, do we, the working class, have to raise money for our already tax-funded National Health Service?

Labour famously claimed we’d lost 200,000 nurses in the decade of Tory power, a bold statement, not entirely amiss. Since 2010, we’ve seen a 1% increase in nurses, contrasted with a 6.9% increase in population, we now have approximately 7.8 nurses per 1,000 people. For comparison, Germany has 12.85, USA 11.61 and France, 10.46. We have a similar rate to Lithuania and Czech Republic.[1] Where we the public can (but shouldn’t have to) raise money for PPE, hiring staff is a far longer term and worrying prospect. Training nurses or doctors takes time and money, keeping them takes even more. 

The fact is, job satisfaction for these nurses is at an all-time low, people are literally losing their lives in the heat of battle, a battle which has no end, even before Covid, nurses, doctors and hospital staff have all been underpaid and underappreciated. In 2016, the bursary for student nurses was removed, resulting in a 8% decrease in student nurses, a figure the Royal college of nursing said will would and is leaving us destitute, now and in the future. In late 2019, it was estimated there was 40,000 nursing vacancies. Our country is awaking to the very prospect that we don’t have enough foot soldiers to fight this battle, and somewhere, somehow, we need reinforcements.

Ironically, those reinforcements would have been, and still are reluctantly available from the EU. During the fight for Brexit, the leave campaign engineered a new-found nationalism in the Britain of days gone by. The campaign played on nostalgia and leaned on the older demographics yearning for a simpler time, put plainly, they played on our age-old relationship with empire. So many bought into the idea that ‘we’ve stood alone before, we’ll do it again’ or ‘we conquered the world, not the EU’ but again, what seems to have been realised through the eyes of Coronavirus, is that we really can’t go it alone. Of our overseas nurse registrations in the decade of Tories, 38,564 have come from the EU with only 11,399 from elsewhere. How do we propose to make up these numbers? We rely on our brothers and sisters on the continent once again. 

The ongoing ventilator crisis too seemed to have an obvious and plentiful solution earlier in the pandemic, but alas… emails, the cyber Achilles-heal which costs election victories and, seemingly, lives. 

Another indicator of the dwindling support of this government stems from the sales of the Sun Newspaper. The famously unpleasant, inconspicuous, hate-mongering rag has seen a huge decline in sales, leading to Executive editor Dan Wootton’s shameless beg on twitter, where he claims ‘A paper costs less than a cup of coffee’ let’s hope coffee sales have gone up. Declining sales offer an understanding into the mindset of the public, people don’t want a full-page spread demanding we clap for our prime minister, when hundreds are dying each. To any who have lost loved ones, this is a disgraceful oversite, one typical of the Sun’s heartless reporting.

That’s not to say Boris’s image has faltered, he seems to be the only Tory who has maintained his image. The Rockstar politician, Churchillian in his exuberant Britishness, he has been in the Trenches fighting the disease firsthand. He has embodied the very words his idol so famously inspired with ‘We will never surrender’, but his reliance on his babbling sidekicks looks costly. Perhaps, as Britain did in 1945, this war time character will be ousted for the social reforms so desperately needed to reshape our society for the better.

Finally, the biggest problem facing us is that the enemy is entirely invisible, we don’t have a clue how many are infected because we don’t have near enough tests available. But again, where did we turn when we couldn’t meet demand? We sent our tests to Germay, to the EU, to help. We can’t do it alone, the first great test of our independent nation as dramatically failed, and the public are beginning to open their eyes.