Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Letter 119: God bless the EU for offering the Coalition help clearing up the deprivation that it's causing.

"Dear Dave AND Nick,
I read this evening that you've rejected access to a £2.5billion European Union fund to subsidise that Coalition policy success story - the rapid escalation of the foodbank. Why refuse help? Anti EU ideology, or something a little more difficult to admit? Hey - you're embarrassed! Surely not? You're right, it's ridiculous that wealthy old UK is being offered European Aid to the Most Deprived.  It's the State, instructed by the Government of the day, that should be looking after it's people.... Unless of course that Government's ideological plans to reduce the Benefits safety net are so harsh, that alarming numbers in the UK now find themselves in deprivation and our european neighbours have started to notice. 
Gosh, how shameful. Someone's called the social worker in on the middle class family, and rightly so. 
Yours, etc
P.S. Nick,
If you want people to think you're not tainted by all this unpleasantness, ask Danny Alexander to forgo any future photo ops opening new foodbanks. Especially when he's claimed over £8500 of taxpayer's money between 2011 and 2013 for his own children's travel.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Letter 118: The Tory led Coalition bring Dickens to life with fuel & food poverty at an alarming high

"Ff's sake! As in fuel and food that is. It would appear that the UK is starting to live Dickens as well as watch it at Christmas. Zero hours, the bedroom tax, falling wagesincreased personal debt and for the first time since the Second World War, the British Red Cross launches a campaign asking for food donations for the UK needy. We are the only G8 country where the Red Cross is providing emergency food aid in 2013. Are you as alarmed as the voters and charities yet? You're probably still holding onto the idea of an economic recovery that as Ken Clarke noted, nearly all of us have yet to experience. It's hard to see what people struggling to make ends meet should focus on; having £50 back from the Big 6 or the fact that £50 is still less than half of the increase imposed last month.
It doesn't quite add up does it? A country as affluent as ours where there's an estimated 5 million Britons living in extreme poverty while the City enjoys a boom in pay and bonuses. A measly £50 per year off fuel bills for us and £6000 for some MPs heating expenses while energy companies get to keep their profits. And a Prime Minister at the Lord Mayor's Banquet, having tucked into a champagne reception, starter, fish course, fillet of beef (all with accompanying wine), dessert, coffee and a choice of dessert wine, port, brandy or whisky then stands up to tell people: "We need to do more with less. Not just now, but permanently" Tell me, who actually is the "we" in all this?

 Yours, writing with the heating off,"

Monday, 2 December 2013

Letter 117: By erasing their pre-election pledges from the internet the Tories undermine democracy

Dear Dave,
Sorry not to have been in touch recently... I've been in the library! The British Library. SO much to see, you really ought to visit. I've always thought it was an amazing place, but now that I've learned they've archived so many of those speeches that the Conservative Party have attempted to delete, it's my favourite destination. I might even spend my next holiday there, looking at pre-election pledges and celebrating democracy, transparency, accountability and people power. Isn't it reassuring that even when your Party doesn't back your promise to be the "most transparent government ever"or your intention to "fix broken politics", the British Library is there, working hard to make sure we don't live in a Brave New World?

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Letter 116: So David Cameron's a feminist now? It's just a token of his General Election affectation

"Dear Dave, 
Thank you for your reply to my letter on Joan's half million. Apologies for not yet replying, but I've been taking my time to think over your letter. And then today, just as I was about to put pen to paper, I heard the good news. All I can say is HURRAH! You're a feminist now? How does this manifest? Let me count the ways...
Cuts to Legal Aid... cuts to Working Tax Credit and SureStart... changes to Child Benefit... the scrapping of your equality duty ... cuts to the Public Sector and now cuts to Housing Benefits for under 25s on top of the trebling of tuition fees. Did you realise that 44% of under 25 Housing Benefit recipients are single mums? 
Hold on...I'm not sure I like your kind of feminism. Frankly, it lacks integrity and feels a bit... unequal. You know, it might be worth computing that, as dogs aren't just for Christmas, neither is feminism just for party political conferences and General Elections.
Yours, etc"

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Letter 115: It's not the NHS that's failing the elderly, Jeremy Hunt.

"Dear Dave, 
Naughty Jeremy! Trying to distract us from cuts to the NHS and the increasing concerns about the A&E crisis. But well done to RCGP for challenging him, pointing out there's no evidence that the NHS is failing the elderly. You know what might fail the elderly though? Privatising £1billion worth of their health and social care provision in Cambridgeshire. What IS it with your desire to sell everything off? Apparently the BMA are very worried about the unfair advantage some of these large non-NHS providers might have. Is it true that quite a few of those tendering have already had problems with their outsourcing already? What concerns me (and should concern both Jeremy and yourself), is that the duty of a private company is to make as much profit as possible for it's shareholders. Let's hope your outsourcing doesn't mean you have to kiss "patients first and foremost" bye bye.

With best wishes, etc"

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Number 10 replies to my letter on #Joanshalfmillion

Looks like a nerve was touched....

"Dear Ms O'Donoghue
I am writing to you on behalf of the Prime Minister to thank you for your recent correspondence, regarding the will of Ms Joan Edwards.
The solicitors for the deceased, acting as executors, informed the Conservative Party that it was a beneficiary of the will. However to put matters beyond doubt, we have decided to pass the money on to the Treasury.
As with all donations to the Exchequer, the money will be used to reduce the national debt
Yours etc"

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Letter 114 If the Coalition confuse a gift to the nation with Party donation it's time to overhaul Party Political funding

Dear Dave and Nick,
Well, it would appear we have reached a new low on the issue of political party funding, gentlemen. Where in Joan Edward's will did she say that you should carve up her bequeathed money for the benefit of the Tory and Lib Dem Parties?
You BOTH campaigned at the last General Election on a cleaner politics ticket. Your interpretation of this money as a Party donation is a perfect example of why we need to overhaul Party Political funding. 
Now might be a very good time to get your chequebooks out; that money was a gift to the nation, not your Party coffers. Only a cad would see it any other way.

Yours etc,
PS Stuck for ideas where the money SHOULD go? Try these: Shelter, Help for Heroes, NSPCC, Oxfam, Help theAged, Make a Wish Foundation, Lucy Faithful Foundation, CAB, Unemployment Centres, Youth Centres, NACRO, a community grants pot, Credit Unions, training nurses...

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Letter 113: Housing crisis & housing bubble, potentially fuelled by Help to Buy

"Dear Dave,
Do you like camping? All that fresh air, sitting out under the stars, greeting the dawn - kind of romantic. Unless of course, you don't get to go home. Then the damp and no real access to home comforts start to get a bit tedious. Well, more than tedious, pretty soul destroying, I would imagine. Which brings us to an awful story I came across whilst catching up on the UK's current housing crisis. It's hard to believe, but there are homeless people in Stockport who are reduced to living in caves. How disgraceful in a country as rich as ours. Someone ought to do something to help them, however difficult it is right now, with homelessness reaching a five year high. Just not a Help-to-Buy scheme, eh? That would be madness, in so many ways. And let's not count the ways, seeing as Graeme Leach, Albert Edwards, Vince Cable and Fitch Ratings have been so eloquent in their condemnation. Surely the real problem we have is the number of houses there actually are, rather than the difficulty people find in buying one (or two).  

Yours, etc

PS, One final query: how do you think the re emergence of sub prime mortgages (in the wake of your Funding for Lending scheme) will help the homeless, housing market and taxpayer?"

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Letter 112: Cameron and Lynton Crosby's Lobbying Row Upstages the Royal Birth

"Dear Dave,
I have not watched the Andrew Marr interview this week, where you were repeatedly questioned about Lynton Crosby and plain packaging, but I have been reading the papers. Despite good news of royal births and the questionable changes to the internet proposed by you, the lobbying issue hasn't really gone away. There, Lynton and yourself are, standing centre stage, issuing denials (or not, as the case may be) while Sheila Gunn, former spin doctor to John Major expresses the opinion that all is not what it seems. Very confusingTo make matters worse, it's been uncovered that Mr Crosby has also advised private healthcare providers on the best ways to exploit perceived failings in the NHS. And what's this about his connections to lobbying on behalf of the fracking industry?

As I have previously mentioned, you have been described  as:
"A man who has made transparency not just a political philosophy but a personal credo over the last few years", but I remain unconvinced. If what I've read is true, your plans for a register of lobbyists would allow Lynton Crosby to keep his clients secret.
So how about you put your money where your mouth is? In honour of that transparency you claim to cherish, and in order that we can rule out any conflict of interest, might now be a good time to
publish your Australian strategist's FULL client list?
With best wishes, etc"

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Letter 111:Privatisation and NHS; lock everything up, the Tories are in charge.

"Dear Dave,
So you've finally done it, sold off our NHS plasma supplier (or 80% of it) and sneaked the announcement out just as Parliament went into recess. So much once again for transparency and for "no decision about me without me". 
Is this how you think the trust of voters is earned? By selling such a precious, integral service to Bain Capital, a US private equity firm co-founded by Mit Romney  which has a reputation for aggressive asset stripping? According to Dr Lucy Reynolds who works at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, your deal undervalued the company. Earlier this year she wrote an academic paper strongly arguing against the sale of PRUK. She has said:
"Plasma supplies have a long record of being operated on a not for profit basis, using voluntary donors where all the necessary checks take place. The difference with a commercial firm is that they will want to have as many donors as possible and be looking to secure large profits first and foremost.This amounts to the government abandoning UK blood products users to the tender mercies of the cheapest supplier."

Is she correct in saying that there isn't any mechanism to protect the interests of UK users from harm caused by the change of ownership?  Did Lord Owen's advice mean nothing to you
Of course, this is entirely predictable. Your Government scapegoats doctors and nurses on a weekly basis for funding and organisational failures within the NHS. Isn't that also an attempt to undermine public confidence, running down the service so it can be outsourced or privatised more easily? The orthodoxy that Tories can never get ahead of Labour on the NHS has too many strands to it, to be simply brushed away by Jeremy Hunt using Sir Bruce Keogh's review as a political football, attempting to smear both the Opposition and the NHS in Parliament this week. But there's too much distrust for Jeremy to scapegoat away, full stop. Voters love the NHS and with good reason, so to trust the Tories with it seems idiotic, especially when 13% of your Party funding comes from the Private Health sector. Or when so many Tory MPs stand to gain financially from the outsourcing of NHS services to the private sector. If you factor in A&E waiting times, the possible unsustainability of the NHS 111 service, and the expansion of privatised services in NHS hospitals, it's clear: 
        Much, much louder.
Yours, etc"

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Letter 110: Transparency, gone up in a puff of smoke

Dear Dave,
Dearie me. First Andy Coulson, now Lynton Crosby. Pure coincidence I'm sure, but once again, it does appear that money talks for your Conservative led government. How worrying that the interests of big business takes priority over the health of our children.Whatever happened to your pre election promise of cleaning up politics?Transparently, it's disappearing like a puff of smoke... 
Yours, etc

List of ingredients found in cigarettes:
Acetone (solvent)
Methanol (used as rocket fuel)
Naphtalene (moth repellant)
Nicotine (used as a herbicide and insecticide)
*Cadmium (used in batteries)
Vinyl chloride (used in plastic materials)
Carbon monoxide (found in exhaust fumes)
Cyanhydric acid (was used in gas chambers)
Ammoniac (detergent)
Toluane (industrial solvent)
Arsenic (lethal poison)
*Polonium 210 (a radioactive element)
DDT (insecticide)

*known carcinogenic substances "

Friday, 12 July 2013

Letter 109: MPs salaries, even without a rise are an embarrassment of riches.

"Dear Dave, 
Ever shopped in Iceland? Aldi? Scoured the supermarket's reduced aisle, not because it's fun to nab a bargain, but because you were down to your last quid, days before the next paycheque? Or have you visited a food bank because Sam had to forgo breakfast, dinner or supper (or even all three) so that your children had enough to eat? No... that would be silly, your wife earns a very good income as do you. 

I can see IPSA's suggestion that MPs salaries should increase by 11% is more than a little embarrassingespecially when you realise that in the three months since your Government's welfare changes took place the number of people being fed by foodbanks has increased by 200%. Are subsidised forks ever put down in Westminster long enough to consider that there may come a time when people will have had enough of the inequality? In just one foodbank, (Sparkhill, Birmingham), ONE TON of food is required by the desperate PER week, some of whom are working people, referred for food parcels because their wages cannot meet family need. Not surprising, with food costs up 27%, gas/electricity up 15% and wages rising at only 1%. Maybe in George's spirit of  "all being in this together", MPs would like to share their £5.7m taxpayer bankrolled "hardship fund" with some of these families?
What to do though and which to tackle first? PR, posturing, or public concern? I have watched with wry amusement as MPs, yourself included, speak of personal discomfort accepting an 11% pay increase in such hard economic times. But you miss the point, made most ably in this article:
which I suggest you read, despite how much it may make you squirm.Why not print it off and nail it to one of Westminster's many subsidised dining rooms walls for the hell of it? Then MPs can see what voters know. Your pay does not need to be increased, and noble suggestions to manage within the current system ring very hollow. Most people rightly feel that the gravy currently flowing freely on the Parliamentary train should be most definitely rationed, rather than rationalised as IPSA suggests. MP's salaries, even without a rise, are an embarrassment of riches, especially as foodbanks mushroom on your watch in a way even Labour can't take credit for. 
Yours, etc" 

Monday, 24 June 2013

Letter 108: Does money from Tax Havens shore up the Tory party?

"Dear Dave,
I've read somewhere that nearly three quarters of top Tory donors are linked to tax havens. Is that true? How disappointing for tax paying voters if so. Have your donors not heard that you've been incredibly busy this week promoting "the Three Ts" at the G8? Maybe they don't care. Will you MAKE them care, telling them you don't want their donation unless they stop using tax havens? Or maybe you could point out that there'd be no need for those unpopular austerity measures - if only everyone would pay their taxes evaded or avoided. In full. Here. Without resort to creative accounting.

And if that doesn't work, George and yourself could always point out that though using and benefitting from tax havens is legal, it's hardly ethical....

With best wishes, etc"

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Letter 107: Though Dave says NHS is safe in his hands, he made no promises about your confidential records...

"Dear Dave,
Is nothing sacred?
I don't recall giving consent for my confidential NHS records to be sold to private healthcare companies. When did you ask me for it?
You'll be telling me next that private companies will be making their shareholders richer on the back of blood donation... Oh! Wait a minute - looks like they will as long as the NHS is safe in your hands.
It's worth remembering that you may find by introducing a profit motive, blood donors might dry up. Surely that's not just bad for shareholders, it's bad for patients too? I'm not sure I'd want that on my conscience...
Yours, etc"

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Letter 106: Toxic, how the Nasty Party froths on Europe & gay marriage, ignoring how Welfare Reforms burn

"Dear Dave,
Sorry to see the Tory Party infighting has become so relentless of late. Well if I'm honest, like most reasonable people, I'm not so much sorry as bored witless watching your Party eat itself as it kowtows to Ukip on Europe or resists equality and same sex marriage. It's mystifying that backbenchers are unable to concentrate on issues that voters really worry about, such as the Economy, inflation and unemployment. Surely that's what they are paid to do after all!
Talking of something really worrying, is this true? That your Spare Room Subsidy/ Bedroom Tax is costing taxpayers more as demand for emergency handouts has increased by 338%? How long has it been in place now, six weeks? Wow! That suggests quite a DWP cock up. Why aren't your backbenchers focussing on that?
With best wishes, etc.
P.s. If that's not bad enough, it looks like Welfare Reform is also costing more than Iain Duncan Smith anticipated. Since you came into office, the Taxpayer has had to fork out nearly £500 million to cope with more than 1.2 million appeal cases for disability and unemployment allowances. With costs forecast to hit nearly £1 billion by the end of this Parliament, maybe it's not just the Bedroom Tax that looks like a false economy...."

Monday, 13 May 2013

Letter 105: Maybe the Coalition believe dishonesty is the best policy?

"Dear Dave,
As you are so keen to establish that yours is a Government of transparency and morality, I thought you might want to address some disappointingly poor standards within your Cabinet of late. In the last few days, not one, but two of your Ministers have been caught out either being deliberately misleading or "economical with the truth", when arguing in favour of policies that they need the public to get behind. That's not just embarrassing, it's also very troubling.
Maybe at your next Cabinet meeting you might like to discuss the following: 
What does it say about the Secretary for Education when he demands rigour of teachers but not of himself? What kind of example is he setting pupils? It takes one to know one on making false Benefit claims. How credible is Ian Duncan Smith's Benefit cap when he needs to rely on dishonesty to back it up? And where the Jiminy Cricket is your Cabinet's moral compass taking you?

With best wishes, etc"

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Letter 104: Some sensible solutions for the UK housing crisis

"Dear Dave and Nick,
My daughter Bern, writes to you weekly. However, she has been in hospital recently and she asked me if I could to write to you in her stead. As I have 30 years of working for the community I'd like to concentrate on some of the news that has come out in the last few weeks in relation to housing issues in Liverpool and elsewhere.

First, some history; in the 1980s Liverpool City Council built new houses with money borrowed from Japanese banks. The Thatcher government decided that this would never happen again, and they decreed that from then on, all monies for house building would be given to the Housing Corporation, and in 1987, 47 Councillors were expelled.(Google 47 Liverpool Councillors for information).

It would appear that in Liverpool the wheel is turning full circle. With 70% of all housing in the lowest  council tax band there, before his successful election Mayor Joe Anderson's Manifesto included a promise to build 5,000 new houses with a large number of Brownfield sites earmarked for the project. ( Compare this to the situation in some boroughs in London which are being forced to decamp whole families away from neighbours, jobs, schools etcetera, I understand even as far away as Stoke on Trent due to the twin evil of high rents and the bedroom tax. 

In another development, the Mayor is also offering a pilot scheme, where the people of Liverpool can make application to buy a house for one pound. The successful bidder will be expected to take on a house in a run down area, bring it up to a good standard, and will be required to live in the house for three years. Initially it only covers 20 properties, but can be developed further ( Mayor Anderson cannot take all the credit for this project, as it has already been tried in Stoke on Trent, but for derelict houses there (

My question to you is, why, (with the cost of borrowing lower than it has been for many years) your government is not taking the opportunity to borrow monies at this rate to build the new houses that are so desperately needed (not only in London) in order to alleviate the extremely serious shortage of affordable housing  all around the country?

Allies to that, you may give serious consideration to dealing with the issue of high rents in the (private) housing sector

Yours sincerely, etc"

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Letter 103: On £10 million, unemployment, minimum wage & funerals for the rich and poor

With everyone in the Cabinet attending Baroness Thatcher's funeral, you might have missed the news  that unemployment figures are up by 70,000 today, hitting 2.56 million. Ouch! Couple that with pay rises for those IN work raised by just 1%, plus inflation running at 2.8% and people on lower incomes are experiencing a further squeeze in living standards. Do you think that could be why one in four were opposed to taxpayers footing the bill for such a lavish funeral? Or is it as the Bishop of Grantham said "asking for trouble" to spend close to £10 million on such pomp and ceremony when Margaret Thatcher's legacy is still considered to be so divisive? No-one would begrudge a significant politician their dignified farewell, but it does seem quite outrageous to spend so much on one person, Prime Minister or no, especially when there has been such a sharp rise in pauper's funerals. Embarrassingly your Government rejects nearly half of the applications for funeral payments. Did you know that £10 million could buy 11,111 public health funerals?

Maybe it's best to think about something else until you publish the breakdown of the cost for today...

How about we imagine all the luxuries that my daughter will be splashing out on with that extra 12p an hour she'll receive if she's still on the Minimum Wage in October? I can't say it's what either of us hoped for as she diligently worked her way through GCSEs, A levels and good degree at a prestigious Russell Group uni...

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Letter 102: Welfare reform will brew a perfect storm of misery

"Dear Dave and Nick,
What terrible weather we've been having. And hasn't it been a turbulent week for your welfare reforms? Described by housing experts as creating"the perfect storm", there is a widely held fear that your policies will result in vulnerable and blameless people becoming destitute.

I'm curious...have you ever worked with people living on benefits or in poverty, Dave? I mean worked alongside, as opposed to through the prism of a spread sheet, think tank or SpAd? I have - and shock horror - some of my friends and family members are poor and/or on benefits. 
Maybe like me, one of you will have worked with families where one or more adults turns out to be disturbingly dysfunctional? No? Well, it's been my experience that the need and receipt of benefits does not cause dysfunction. But, what would I know? Maybe my opinion, having worked in Social Services, is less valuable than that of the man booed by 80,000 people in a Paralympic stadium... 

Talking of which, was it "the cynical act of a desperate chancellor" or just crude political opportunism that to link Mick Philpott's terrible behaviour with your need to cut benefits? Bad enough having the strivers v shirkers rhetoric being ramped up by ministers cutting through the Easter break in concerted defence your reforms; but to use the tragedy of the deaths of six innocent children for political gain, by either a newspaper or such a senior Minister as George (with your backing I now see) is frankly beyond the pale. It is in my opinion not only dishonest, but socially irresponsible to encourage misinterpretation and attempt to capitalise on public anger. 

And "bedroom blockers" Nick  - was that article written with your approval? Dearie me, you may want to distance yourself from the distasteful use of the Philpott tragedy, but the direction that both sides of Coalition are willing to take the debate, appears to reinforce prejudice against people caught in a system of politician's making. Have a look at your LibDem constitution. Do you detect some dissonance? 

On one thing though, George is right: there is a need for a proper debate on Welfare spending. Only this time instead of ambushing the deaths of six kids at the hands of their dangerously abusive father, how about you look at the real issues? Spare room subsidy? Surely you mean landlord subsidy? The shortage of appropriate social housing, combined with lack of rent control, means far too much money goes on extortionate private rents. You could introduce a private rent control, build more social housing, reducing the homeless number, under occupancy and Welfare costs all at the same time.

Striver or skiver? You talk of "lifestyle choice" deliberately ignoring there are not enough full time jobs. Many are very badly paid, resulting in people being forced to rely on benefits to survive. If you brought in a living wage, Welfare costs would again be reduced - plus taxpayers would no longer subsidising the inadequate wages that you allow unscrupulous employers to offer. 

Were you really brave, we could take an honest look at how Welfare breaks down. At 42.3% of the total, OAPs count for a huge chunk of taxpayer's money. Your unerring protection of pensioners would be commendable were it not that older people are more likely to vote Conservative.

Philpott aside, let's look at two people claiming taxpayer's money who might open themselves to further scrutiny:
Firstly Iain Duncan Smith. If as he says, he can live on £53 per week, why then are his expense claims  alone an average of £105,305 per yr over an eight year period?

Secondly, George could explain why he claimed expenses for a paddock which had no horse. Was he considering riding to Westminster? And what is his understanding of the eligibility requirements for disabled parking? Are the rules different for those who make them?

Yours, etc "

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Letter 101: Will David Cameron personally benefit from the 50p tax rate cut?

"Dear Dave,
Big day tomorrow, Budget Day. You'll be understandably nervous... How about we take your mind off it for a few minutes? How about I ask you a question or two about PMQs? You could you help me with something I am struggling with. Namely: what is PMQs actually for? My understanding (forgive me if I'm wrong) is that you are called on a weekly basis, to answer questions put to you by all sides of the House. That is supposed to be what happens, isn't it?
Why then are you so coy? For a man supposedly keen on transparency, week after week you duck and wriggle, avoiding directly answering uncomfortable questions. So what is the point of PMQs? One question I've noticed you continually avoid answering directly and openly is:

Yes or no? That's what voters really want to know. Your evasive answer that you intend to pay all taxes owed is not enough - it seems like another dive. So please, no more sophistry, we are nearly at April and it's time for a straight answer to a simple question:

Best wishes, etc"

Friday, 15 March 2013

Letter 100: Red Nose Day and Cameron: let them eat cake

"Dear Dave,
Has anyone in your PR team realised yet the irony of your involvement in Red Nose Day? The need for you to focus on changing direction (welfare reform, plans for growth, austerity, bank bonuses) as opposed to One Direction, for example? Or your wife even, photographed baking cakes as part of the Comic Relief Bake Off, when food banks are applying for grants from Red Nose. Maybe it will all be recorded in the Defra inquiry commissioned  because Government officials are so concerned about the increase of food banks, soup kitchens and school breakfast clubs.
Maybe you should cut out the middleman and take her cakes round to the food bank closest to your lovely kitchen.

With best wishes, etc"

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Letter 99: @Loftspace Writes to Dave about Lewisham Hospital A&E and Maternity Units

@Loftspace and I both had our children at or with the support of Lewisham Hospital, so it was with great appreciation that I travelled up to London recently to join the march in protest against the closure of the A&E and Maternity units there. As a guest on DearDavenandNick,@Loftspace has now written to Dave to tell him how she feels about Coalition plans for her family's hospital:

"Dear Dave
Today's my birthday; I really should be enjoying my gift, a spa day. But I need to write to you about Lewisham Hospital. Just over a year ago my son was born at their birth centre. The care we received couldn't be rivalled. As I cradled my newborn and marvelled at his miraculous journey I was humbled by the passion and dedication of my midwife. I couldn't believe my luck, having such a fantastic facility on my doorstep.
But you Dave, to my dismay, your Governments henchman wants to all but close Lewisham's A&E and Maternity units and deny 750,000 residents access to emergency care. And more than 4,000 expectant mothers a decent birth. Instead you expect them to trek to another hospital, one that is understaffed, resourced and struggling. Mad, isn't it? Surely there's been some mistake. Maybe you're planning to install bunk beds, because the alternative is Dickensian: women giving birth in the streets of South London. 
Dave you promised not to close any hospitals if the people support keeping them. I guess you've confused the people of Lewisham taking to the streets twice, to peacefully protest to save their hospital as support for your crackpot closures.
Sorry, I know how muddled you must get, what with all your U-turns. You must be dizzy Dave? 

Best wishes


 p.s. Talking of U-turns, looks like your NHS-privatisation-by-the-back-door plan has hit the skids. Section 75 regs being rewritten. Don't worry, there are at least 240,000 people who signed the petition asking  for its withdrawal who have your back. Best read the small print this time."

Letter 98: Jakey writes to Dave about the NHS, mediocrity and competition

As I said in my last letter to Dave, I'll be laid up for a while following an operation. I've been told to take it easy if I want to make a speedy recovery, so I've enlisted the help of a few respected people to stop Dave connect with what the electorate, rather than than think tanks and the Cabinet think. Here's the first letter sent to him :

"A word-processing programme;
Edge of the Big Society.

8th March 2013

Dear Dave

I know Bern O'Donoghue wrote to you last week to tell you that she was just going into hospital and that “some friends” would be taking over the letters for while. I'm one of those friends

Like Bern, I've recently been in a NHS hospital. I had an accident and was quite badly injured. I was looked after really well and met with nothing but real care and compassion. Despite all the horrible things we've been hearing about Mid-Staffs and despite all your government's efforts to force 'compulsive competitive markets' on the NHS, I really believe that pretty well all its staff  want to care for their patients and respect their dignity. They didn't go into clinical care to make a lot of money, to skive, shirk or give poor value. The people who looked after me were working really hard with unfailing good grace.  They don't do this be part of a market making profits for other people either. (And by the way, quite a lot of those standing to profit seem to sit behind or alongside you on the green benches.)

And now we've got Jeremy Hunt, your Health Secretary, attacking “mediocre hospitals” who “cruise along” rather than “striving for world class levels of excellence”. Don't you think that there might be something a little shaky about those levels being set by politicians? 

Despite your promise of no more “top-down re-organisation”, the Coalition has plugged into the same stream of targets, directives and commercial re-orientation as previous governments. You've also reduced nurse numbers by 5000. Isn't is likely that all this combines to distract and divert front line staff from their core functions?

So I hope you'll find time to reflect on the recommendation from Robert Francis' report that  there should be “a common patient centred culture which produces at the very least the fundamental standards of care to which we are all entitled, at the same time as celebrating and supporting the provision of excellence in healthcare.” Enabling those basics seems to make a good deal more sense than pushing hyperbole about trying to be the best at everything.

Hope you keep well,

Best wishes, 
Jakey (Bern's friend.)"

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Letter 97: NHS Privatisation and Handing over to some friends

"Dear Dave,
I really shouldn't be writing to you right now. I should be getting my bag ready, but I want to let you know I'm going into hospital and I might not be well enough to write. Don't worry though, I've asked  a few friends to get in touch with you, over the next few weeks.
And don't think I'll be taking it easy - I'll be watching from my NHS bed, especially since I've heard  about your sneaky plan to extend competition and force"compulsory competitive markets" on the NHS.
I'm sorry that that I haven't had time to draw you a picture. I did have time though to sign the 38 Degrees petition requesting a full debate and vote on your plans in both Houses of Parliament. After all, it's not as if you have a mandate for selling off our precious NHS - imagine how well that would have gone doen at the last General Election!
With best wishes, etc
p.s.Wow, so far 186,024 signatures on the petition! We really do love out NHS, don't we? Actually that number has just gone up again, quite alot..."

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Letter 96: UK AAA rating is lost and George will start the blame game

"Dear Dave,
So we've lost our AAA rating - the prize by which George dared his critics to judge his economic policy. Blame Labour. Blame Nick Clegg. Blame the snow, blame the rain, blame the leaves. It's too hot, it's too cold, blame the disabled, blame the unemployed, blame the shirkers,blame the fecund, blame the civil servants, blame the Euro, blame the immigrants, blame the teachers, blame the nurses, blame the poor. Go on. Blame anyone and anything except what we all know - your austerity measures are the problem.  

Plan A is not working. Seriously, what's it going to take for you to change direction

With best wishes, etc"

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Letter 95:Workfare, whether geology or shelf stacking, should pay properly

Dear Dave,
Is Iain Duncan Smith well? I ask because I saw him on the Marr Show this morning on BBC 1. He was Sranty, I thought he must be either unwell - or afraid.
I've heard his salary is £134, 565 and his expenses average £102,000 per year over a ten year period. He said that "most young people love this programme" when asked about Cait Reilly's successful court challenge. Imagine how much more they'd love it if they were remunerated properly
With best wishes, etc" 

Friday, 15 February 2013

Letter 94: Work Programme and Work Experience, shredded.

"Dear Dave,
There has been so much in the news this week about 
it must have been quite disheartening for you. Good for you, having Maria Miller on Question Time, extolling their virtues and benefits. But I'm not sure that would be enough to convince the public (or me and my daughters).
Here's an idea...
What about you publish  a list of all the Coalition MPs who have encouraged their unemployed offspring into Work Experience at Poundland so they can get a head start?

Best wishes, etc"

Friday, 8 February 2013

Letter 93: If Gove can admit his mistake, what about the rest of the Cabinet?

"Dear Dave,
Fair play to the man. If Gove can admit his mistake and shelve the English Baccalaureate, surely you can shelve the top down reorganisation of the NHS, the bedroom tax, the Work Programme, your current welfare reform and Plan A. After all, every single one of these policies have been criticised by experts in the field and if Michael Gove can man up, do a u turn and survive political embarrassment, surely others in the Cabinet can so do too. And let's be honest, that's one MUTHA of a borrowing figure George has managed to grow for  us

Britain will have borrowed £64 billion more than expected by the time of the next General Election

(Sorry but there's no way of making that look pretty)
Best wishes, etc"


Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Letter 92: The Work Programme. It's not the claimants who are the "lying thieving bastards"

"Who does Government work for? The electorate, or politicians? The answer lies in today's vote on whether or not to redraw the parliamentary boundaries before the next general election. Whom would this have served best? The Conservative party of course, remembering that at the last election you were 19 seats short of gaining an overall majority. If it's it true that there are currently approximately six million people missing from the electoral register, surely it's more appropriate to focus on people having a vote before redrawing any boundaries favouring your Party? Ah, but silly me, partisan politics doesn't work like that does it?
Never mind, now the voting is lost and over, might we move back to important issues? It is said that the moral test of any society is how it treats the weakest members. If "Panorama The Great Disability Scam?" is anything to go by, British society is in a very bad way. In office, as Coalition, you work for us and I am ashamed of what you are doing to vulnerable disabled people under the guise of finding them work.  
Please - stop telling us that this payment by results system is working. Like the assessment process itself, it is deeply flawed. 
Please - stop private companies taking public money for poor performance. Was A4e not enough?
Please  - do something NOW to stop the bullying of sick and vulnerable people. Anyone with a shred of decency can see that a culture where claimants are nicknamed "LTBs" or "Lying Thieving Bastards" is one which needs serious overhaul. Problem is, employees of private companies who use this kind of language take their orders and their cue from Ministers at DWP, which suggests that it's there the problem lies.
The sick are not scroungers. They are SICK, often having complex needs and unpredictable days of good and poor health - which your Programme seems to deliberately ignore. Such health patterns and the fact that employers are often unwilling to employ disabled people makes them hard to place NOT fraudsters. The use of an overly harsh system to harass ill people is making many of them sicker - and worse. This is both cruel and unfair - and starting to feel like your policies are driven by ideological zeal rather than a desire to help, as you claim.

You might not be hearing this enough, so I need to make it plain:
What you are doing is wrong. You do not have this voter's blessing to put people, obviously too unwell to work, through such bullying. These people deserve our respect and support. They also have a morally justified right expect and receive protection, appropriate care and decent benefits from the State.

I hope you remember that sick people vote, as do their carers, families and friends. And that many of the not-yet-disabled are as sickened as I, to see these people being victimised.

With best wishes, etc

* Parking: a practice used by private firms employed by the DWP to run the Work Programme  (allegedly) to keep the hardest to employ on the books, thus allowing firms to still claim they are being worked with and collect a generous fee for doing so. Out of the 68,000 ESA claimants put on the Work Programme so far, just 1,000 have found a job lasting three months or more. It would appear that you are looking in the wrong place for fraud in the benefit system, Dave."

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Letter 91: The Historic Speech & Dave's In/Out Referendum Are Just Too Iffy

"Dear Dave,
Is it terribly disappointing to hear that I didn't tune in to your historic speech this morning? I just couldn't bear it, after the interviews and articles and speculation. So much of it had already been fed to us over the past few weeks, there didn't seem much point. And besides, you weren't really making it for me, were you? (Heck, most of us realised a long time ago that despite all that talk of "national interest" and "giving the British people a choice", you really were only speaking to your own party and UKIP today).
Don't get me wrong - a discussion about the EU and our role within it is important, but right now your call for one seems neither genuine nor necessary. And crude attempts at blackmail won't help our standing at all.
 I heard you speak last Monday on the Today programme, about why and when you'd be calling for a referendum and that was enough for me. You see, though I listened really carefully, I was left feeling very confused as to what your position really was. Thank goodness for Nick Robinson; two minutes and he'd cut through all that sophistry. He said that what YOU were really saying was that you've ruled out an in/out referendum for the UK and the EU for the present. In fact he was right, because now I see the date you've given for it taking place is... 2017.
Hang on though, that would only happen IF you won the next general election without the Lib Dems. I see what you're doing there - a little bit sneaky, Dave. Surely people should see your full term before they decide to vote for you? After all, surely you want to be judged on getting down the National Debt, reducing the deficitbringing overseas business here to get the economy moving and making the UK a fairer better place for all, don't you?
Anyway, back to the IFsIF the Conservatives won the next general election, IF you can persuade the other EU countries, particularly Germany, that they need or want treaty change, IF Britain can get what it wants in negotiations and IF you can win a referendum, then there WILL be a referendum. This would suggest that what you are really saying is :

'We'll have a referendum in 2017, possibly, but only in certain circumstances.'

Which anyone with half a brain would see as probably not happening, as there are just too may IFs, aren't there? And why I couldn't be bothered to tune in at 8.00 am this morning. It all felt a bit too much like trying to work out which cup the ball was under for 50p on the High Street. And to be brutal, you've made lots of promises in the last two years and broken them, so why should having a proper referendum and grown up debate (which I suspect you'll promise with all your heart) be any different?
If I'm honest, I don't understand why you gave the speech at all. It seems like you have a very unpleasant party spat on your hands, rather than something the rest of the country cares about. Couldn't you have sorted it out at Party headquarters? Then you could have focussed on areas of REAL national interest, such as those 200,000 extra children who will be forced into poverty as a result of your changes to tax credits and benefits. Or the damage to social cohesion that your new bedroom tax will bring. (Has Lord Freud really got EIGHT bedrooms? Nice to know he understands the problem).
If these issues don't interest you, how about you address the inequality of your austerity measures? Are you aware that of the £18.9 billion worth of cuts announced in the Coalition's emergency Budget of 2010, £13.2 billion, or 70% is coming from women's incomes? Or that, in 17 NHS hospitals, due to cuts there are now dangerously low levels of nursing staff? Or that for the sixth month in a row, Government borrowing has increased? Now these problems are of interest to us all, not just your party Eurosceptics. And if you want a real referendum to hear the nation's voice, try calling one on the top down reorganisation of our NHS you're engineering. That would be more useful right now.

Best wishes, etc"