Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Beware the Banana Republic Postal Ballot

Valuable article from Craig Murray that highlights the weaknesses in the postal voting system. These weaknesses could easily be remedied and it raises suspicions that the system is allowed to be so insecure because the main parties are able to use these weaknesses to their advantage.

There can be little doubt that leading Tories were genuinely surprised that they won the last general election - in fact the budget that Osborne had prepared prior to the election was particularly extreme because, should the party manage to remain in power, it would only be in coalition again with the Lib/Dems. The budget was prepared as a negotiating instrument with the expectation of having to tone down many of the measures during coalition discussions.

In the event, much to the surprise of the pollsters, they won outright which does return the focus onto the unsatisfactory postal voting system. The most glaring example of the systems weakness concerns the counting of these votes - as CM explains:

"There is an electoral commission regulation which specifically facilitates postal ballot fraud. Postal ballots must be physically mixed in with other ballots before counting, so that it is impossible to tell if the postal ballot result differs markedly from the voting in person result. I can quite understand why they must be counted at the same time as other ballots, but physically mixed in?"

Clearly, not counting these votes separately does remove the obvious check on compatibility with the votes cast at polling stations. Suspicions must be further raised because, as far as I am aware, unlike previous years the percentage of votes cast through the postal voting system at each constituency has not been published. Leaving the possibility that in the fifty marginals that were to determine the overall result of the election - that the postal voting system was used to fix the result of the election and that the Tories should not be in government - at least not without a coalition partner.

This weakness may provide some comfort for those who want the 'Remain' campaign to be successful at the EU Referendum for it is likely that the 'Leave' campaigners will have to win by 5 - 10% to counteract the potential for corrupt postal votes.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

NHS is being set up for privatisation.

Polly Toynbee, in the Guardian, suggests that:

"Senior NHS managers regard Hunt as a dead man walking, who will be gone in the post-referendum reshuffle. But Cameron is as much to blame for this calamity, so will the next minister sent in continue this pointless confrontation? What the NHS needs is someone to navigate gently through these multiple crises, stop provoking staff and be willing to arm-wrestle new money out of the Treasury. God forbid the NHS will be inflicted with another eager politician hoping to make their name with yet another Big New NHS Idea."

This may be the view of 'Senior NHS managers', however, it seems likely that a much darker plot is afoot. By virtually any standards - the management of the NHS by the Tories has been appalling - most of the problems the service is experiencing could have been foreseen and measures taken to at least limit the difficulties. However, the worse the problems get - the more likely the public will accept greater privatisation of the service [if this is apparently the only way to get a reliable service] and the junior doctors are playing into Cameron/Osborne/Hunt's plans by taking strike action.

At an expected cost of £117 billion this financial year - the most profitable aspects of the service are already being privatised at every opportunity. Healthcare, after all, has the potential to provide immense profits for those in the business of supplying these services - for in the main, an unattended health problem will make the life of the sufferer very unpleasant and - whereas someone on an average income is able to cut back on most expenditure by one means or another - a health problem is seen as essential to correct. Make no mistake - an administration that is prepared to bomb Libya to remove Gaddafi - leading to tens of thousands of deaths - will be unconcerned if a few hundred or thousand should die as a result of a doctors strike.

This privatisation might be seen as a temporary problem that can be reversed by a left of centre administration sometime in the future - however this will become prohibitively expensive if TTIP is ratified before such an administration is in place - and this seems all but certain. Assuming the EU Referendum results in our remaining in the EU - which is most likely - TTIP will be ratified before this administration's term ends in 2020 and under this agreement, even in its mildest form, corporations whose contracts for healthcare that are terminated will be able to sue - not just for costs incurred plus reasonable damages - but for decades of anticipated profits ahead.

Many are under the impression that the NHS is excluded from the TTIP negotiations - however, this article in the Independent 'It's not Jeremy Hunt imposing a junior doctors' contract that will destroy the NHS – it's TTIP' explains how this is not the case. In fact the chances of the NHS surviving once this trade deal is ratified are quite remote - apart from those services where an acceptable outcome is virtually impossible to define [like mental health issues] and, with luck, a very basic service for those who cannot afford the cost of a healthcare plan. This will lead to many with curable conditions having to endure their effects indefinitely.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Perfectly Choreographed President

Although the view taken generally by the mainstream media is that Obama's comments, yesterday, on Brexit was a 'game changer' - it was no doubt a calculated risk for him to say that if we leave the EU we will 'be at the end of the queue' with regard to completing a new trade deal with the US. This was clearly a threat and - however well delivered and albeit inside a very velvety glove - Brits are a stubborn people who do not like to be threatened. Also, it is well known that he is coming to the end of his presidency - so is unlikely to feature in any decision concerning a future trade deal between the two nations.

What is perhaps more to the point is that, although Brexit is now dominating the political landscape, greater focus is being put on TTIP [a transatlantic trade deal that has been in preparation for the last few years] might not be as advantageous the UK and EU as first proclaimed. In fact, although it has been trailed as a deal that should increase the GDP of both the EU and the US by up to 6% - there is the very great danger that it will predominately favour the US global corporations, and those of the EU to a lesser extent, at the expense of small and medium sized businesses in the UK and EU which will continue to be hoovered up by these global giants - should they have developed a product or service that has worldwide appeal. 

The greatest fear for most is that, depending on the final wording of the deal, the NHS will be left unprotected from being further privatised by the US giant medical corporations as former health minister David Owen explains in this article from the Guardian. This may seem trifling, however, if the wider ramifications of the deal are realised. If they are these corporations - from all sectors - will be in a position to sue national governments if any legislation they pass should restrict their potential for making profits - based on the legislation previously in place. Such actions will not be limited to losses from investment - but also for anticipated profits for decades to come.

Obama's choreographers managed their President's actions and appearances perfectly - so that they included all of the currently most cherished features by the people in the UK - the Queen, her 90th birthday, her long life and devotion to duty, toddler George, William, Kate and Harry [Charles was nowhere to be seen]. His most powerful comment, concerning the US soldiers buried here from two world wars, was by most measures below the belt - since Brexit and the related discussions concern trade - and whether or not we are part of the EU is unlikely to change whatever defence arrangements are currently in place.  

Obama and the US global giants want the UK part of the EU so that the benefits they are greedily anticipating from TTIP are not diminished by a smaller EU and so that their top executives can use London as their base in the EU - where English is spoken and where the most desirable properties are valuable and in localities where the poor and lowly have now been eradicated.

Friday, 22 April 2016

The Queen's Birthday

There seems to be a general agreement that Jeremy Corbyn's reply, to David Cameron's tribute to the Queen in the Commons yesterday, was appropriate for both Royalists and Republicans. Paying tribute to the Queen, as someone who has worked hard and devoted her life to serving the nation and it's people throughout her time as the monarch, is clearly true and few can disagree with his tribute since it would apply to anyone who with decent values who had followed her example.

Whether the nation would have been better off as a Republic during the past sixty five years is impossible to judge - although it is fair to say, if we compare the voting turnout of the French to ours, that retaining a monarchy does appear to reinforce the concept of a ruling elite even when a democracy.

At the time that Blair took office in 1997 the Royals were under some pressure - primarily because of the national division caused by the divorce of Charles and Diana and her untimely death. This harsh judgement of the monarchy in many quarters was demonstrated by the failure of Labour to replace the Royal Yacht Britannia - which did not seem such a harsh decision at the time - even though by most calculations this would have been a good investment.

As the memory of Diana has faded over time, the Royals - particularly the Queen, William and Kate along with their children - have successfully made the institution popular once again. However, whether this popularity has been greatly magnified by events since then - which have demonstrated the dark natures of many of those from our political class [those who would most likely replace the monarchy as President if we became a Republic] is difficult to say. The behaviour of these, along with the many billionaires who have materialised since the advent of the internet, has demonstrated the very high standards of the Queen has set and maintained throughout her reign.

One of the key points that was made during the 'Royally approved' TV programs about the Queen was the subtlety she applies to her role in government. She does not seek to tell the premier of the day what he should or shouldn't do - she just asks questions and remarks on previous similar events from the past - knowing that the present incumbent will consider what she has said in relation to the new situation that has arisen.

She also tends to arrange visits or send invitations to various individuals or groups to indicate her views on issues current to the time. Perhaps we can conclude, judging by the nature of the programs that related to her 90th birthday - that the issue that concern her  and her advisors most at present is the decline of the family. This has been cause in the main, without doubt, by the pressure this government and the Coalition have put on mothers to return to work before their children have started school. 

Given that there are unemployed wanting work and many others who would wish for significantly more hours work each week - encouraging mothers to be separated from their children before either are ready does appear to be particularly cruel when the most obvious conclusion is that this is only done to increase to competition for jobs and thereby keep wages to a minimum to enable global corporations to maximise their profits at a time when the wealth gap between the richest and poorest, globally is widening exponentially.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016


Brexit is necessary to protect NHS from TTIP, says David Owen

In this article from the Guardian, Former health secretary David Owen warns that TTIP will lead to further privatisation of the NHS:

"Lord Owen, who was health secretary for Labour in the mid-1970s before co-founding the SDP, said it would be impossible to take the NHS back to its original purpose unless the UK votes to leave in the June referendum.

Speaking to the Guardian, Owen said the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US could put the NHS in “serious danger” unless there are more special protections to exclude the health service from the terms of the deal."

The full article can be read here.