Tuesday, 20 March 2012

For Cameron to listen on the NHS, Londoners need to send him a message and kick Boris out of City Hall

As the Health and Social Care Bill passes its final hurdle, it's clear that David Cameron is happy to ignore the thousands of health care professionals, the academic experts and hundreds of thousands of members of the public that have opposed the introduction of a set of reforms that no-one voted for.

Today cabinet members banged the table in delight at forcing the law through, thanks in part to a House of Lords with a number of members (one in four of Tory peers) with vested interests in passing a law that will lead to the inexorable privatisation of the National Health Service.

There is one opportunity for at least one part of the country to demonstrate to the Prime Minister their strength of feeling, and that is in London. In Boris Johnson, the Conservative Party have a talismanic figure that they are desperate to see returned to City Hall. On 3 May, voters in the capital go to the polls.

If voters in London signal their opposition to the dismantling of the NHS by kicking Mayor Johnson out of power, they will send a message to David Cameron more powerful than any petition or protest march. It is the best chance of making the voices of the public on this crucial issue heard.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

In three minutes, Cameron demonstrates that he doesn't understand his own Health & Social Care Bill

For those that missed it, a few weeks ago the Prime Minister stood up in the Commons and answered a couple of questions from Ed Miliband on commissioning.

His answer demonstrated that not only does he not understand his own Health & Social Care Bill, but he doesn't even understand the difference between commissioning of health services and delivery. Another demonstration as to why the Government is now in the position it is in.

n.b questions start at c.9 mins onwards.

Monday, 12 March 2012

StandardWatch: bankers, fares and 'barons'

The last couple of issues have seen the Evening Standard continue its effortless impression of a very detailed Tory Central Office press release, with two new articles on why our Mayor is absolutely brilliant at everything and a few on why his opponent is really, really rubbish.

So, we get treated to a ratings agency and a 'financial commentator' lecturing us on why we aren't entitled to vote for lower transport fares. The 'commentator' in question is actually a merchant banker at the brokers BGC, to whom the Telegraph refers as the "man wheeled out often as the sole voice willing to justify the City's existence" during the financial crisis.

Now, there is something utterly baffling in hearing representatives of the City (hugely to blame for the financial crisis) and spokespeople from ratings agencies (so woeful in predicting the crash) lecturing the public on responsibility.

And, there is something quite galling about hearing the very rich and the even richer telling the public that they should have to pay ever higher public transport costs whilst many of the former wouldn't know what the inside of a bus looks like (we could go into the fact that many of these exact same people presume to lecture bus users on why a perfectly good and large bus should be replaced by a very expensive smaller one in the name of outside aesthetics, but we won't do it here).

Nevertheless, the irony of all of this washes right past Sarah Sands and her fellow true-blue travellers at the Standard, and instead we get a typically anti-Ken headline bellowing out at us. Like all good Standard headlines, this one is no doubt sandwiched between a set of articles fawning over the latest party held by the impossibly posh daughter of some impossibly rich daddy and/or a 'lifestyle' piece highlighting the tribulations of some impossibly posh young couple struggling to find a suitably expensive property in central London.

Hang on, you are probably thinking, just the one article in a few days backing Boris? Of course not - for the Standard has to fill its quota of Ken-baiting articles in the absence of the daily ramblings of Andrew Gilligan. So, onto a glowing piece about Boris, proud defender of the defenceless CEOs of large London-based multinationals, hedge funds and stockbrokers.

In this version of the reality, the Standard bemoans the "union barons" funding Ken's campaign "prompting concerns he could be held to ransom by the Tube unions if re-elected".

Never the mind the fact that the significantly larger sums Boris continues to receive from the City (no 'barons' there, of course) might beg the same question as to the willingness of Mayor Johnson to challenge vested interests in the financial sector.

No, never mind that. That would require a sense of proportion, of balance and a basic understanding of the lives of the millions of Londoners that the Evening Standard claims to represent.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Lansley opens another can of worms

The health secretary, Andrew Lansley, has announced he is setting up an independent expert panel to advise the government on the NHS Constitution.

The aim of all of this is unclear, but the fact that the panel includes representatives from a number of private health companies, including Virgin Care, is hardly likely to calm fears that this is yet another route by which Lansley will ensure the fragmentation of the service continues apace.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Even an art auction is a chance for the Standard to attack Ken

The Standard is continuing its daily march back into a Pyongyang-style mouthpiece for the incumbent Mayor, even approvingly reporting on Boris' defence of the hard-done by folks living in properties with seven-figure values.  Yet another example of the Evening Standard demonstrating how far removed from most people's reality it now is.

Today was no different, with an article that managed to turn an art auction for the Livingstone campaign (attended by the usual high profile left-leaning art figures) into an excuse to attack him. Hence an auction that raised £15,000 is reported in such away that allows them to stick the boot into the former mayor by highlighting the difference in the amount of money raised by the most recent one to that raised in a similar auction held in the run up to the last mayoral election.

The fact that the difference in revenue raised between this week's auction and the one held four years previously was down to one particularly valuable Banksy being picked up in 2008 barely gets a passing mention.

Anyway, the Standard is a whisker from repeating its track record in 2008 - only avoiding it through a tad more subtlety. Having true-blue Sarah Sands as acting editor is hardly going to change matters. Maybe later in the year they'll run another 'Sorry' campaign...

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Evening Standard's re-run of 2008

Is it a fair accusation that the Evening Standard is slipping back into its 2008 role as a propaganda sheet for Boris Johnson?

Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so lets have a look at today's Evening Standard web site and see what you think:

The Standard: Fair and Balanced