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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