Saturday, 25 April 2015

Letter 153: Dear Dave and Nick, here's an invitation to a Private View

'Dear Dave and Nick,
The general election is fast approaching and I for one am mighty pleased it's just around the corner. Since 2010 I've written over 150 letters to you about the social impact of your government's policies, because too often it's seemed as if you've been driven by ideology and Party interest rather than the needs of society and ordinary voters. 
 As it’s so easy for people to forget what has happened between one election day and the next, I have copied every letter I've sent to you, in order that they can be exhibited before polling day. I've made a website featuring them, which has been viewed over 83,000 times, but now I think it's time to actually display them all in one place; a timeline of letters may help jog all our memories now that you, dear politicians, are offering sweeteners and making unrealistic promises.
The exhibition will run for a week, from Saturday 2nd - Friday 8th May 2015 (11am - 6pm) in our gallery at Blank Studios, 108 North St and I'd like to invite you to attend a Private View on Sunday 3rd May, between 3pm and 6pm. I realise you're probably quite busy, but I do hope you'll be able to come and join us. I look forward to hearing from you.

With very best wishes, etc'

Friday, 24 April 2015

Letter 152: Dave is stupid to keep us in the dark on £30 billion spending cuts

'Dear Dave,
Do you think voters are stupid? 13 days away from the general election and are you wasting time on English votes for English laws? Do you not understand that people are fed up that so close to polling day  and you are still keeping us in the dark on the real issues? The IFS has clearly said that future Tory plans are based on "substantial and almost entirely unspecified spending cuts and tax increases" and could involve "further real cuts to unprotected departments of around £30 billion". Let's not forget too, that last month, Sir Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office accused you of having no idea of the impact of the cuts in your FIRST term. 

Why would anyone vote for you in May 2015 if you're not even honest enough to admit where you've decided to impose harsher spending cuts? 

Yours etc'

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Letter 151: Manifestos, money trees and Right to Buy

'Dear Dave,
Manifesto week, eugh! Am I glad to see the back of it. Never have so many trees been sacrificed for so little returnDon't you just hate it when politicians make unfunded promises? 
 I've delayed getting in touch as I was holding out for clear idea of where all the money is coming from for your lovely election promises (evidently, the track record just isn't enough to reassure most of us or you'd be polling higher). Worryingly, George failed to enlighten us 15 times chatting to Andrew Marr; you chose to absent yourself from the election debate on tv on Thursday and then gave nothing away yourself in that animated and tetchy interview, again on the Marr Show. So, money tree or projected growth it is. And like my drawing, both appear too sketchy to be taken seriously.
By the way while we are on election promises, why complain that people think you're the Party of the rich if you announce plans that benefit high earners disproportionately? Raising the inheritance tax threshold on family homes to £1,000,000 may please your core voters but won't do anything for your reputation with the rest of us. Nor will extending Right to Buy. Announcing a plan to sell off much needed housing stock at huge discount in the run up to an election looks like the work of a spiv, especially when home ownership has nothing to do with sorting out the UK's chronic housing crisis in the first place . According to the IFS, extending Right to Buy will actually contribute to higher rents, homelessness and a higher Housing Benefit bill. Almost as embarrassing to read as the letter recently leaked (and written in 2013) by your Housing Minister Kris Hopkins, to Tessa Munt. In it he admitted that, "Any increase to the discount available under the (right to buy) would only be possible through upfront central government subsidy, potentially incurring a higher liability for the public purse". You'd have been told that was a risk before including the policy in your manifesto, surely?

Yours etc'

Friday, 10 April 2015

Letter 150: Concerned about the NHS? Doctors advise using your vote to make it better.

'Dear Dave,

These days the NHS is never far from the news and sadly, for all the wrong reasons. Back in January this year, Rob Galloway wrote about his concerns and now this week, over 140 leading health professionals contact The Guardian to outline with damning clarity how your Coalition government has failed to keep it's NHS pledges, underfunding the service, leaving it more fragmented and less able to perform it's role than at any time in NHS history.
And what does your NHS protector, Jeremy Hunt do? Does hake a deep breath and face up to the mess your top down reorganisation has produced? No. Instead, he tries to cobble together a lame countering letter in an attempt to spin away the fact that your government's policies have undermined and weakened our National Health Service. And you wonder why we don't trust you with it?  

Yours, etc'

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Letter 149: How low can Dave go to distract voters from the real issues?

'Dear Dave, 
Election time or not, you've got to have standards you know. Comments like Michael Fallon's on Ed Miliband and Trident pollute the political process and smack of desperation in your camp. How about trying to win with truth and reasoned argument - the polls will love you for it and god knows the electorate deserve better campaigning than you're currently offering. Mind you, is the reasoning in Central Office that while we're all thinking about your backstabbing myth, at least voters will be distracted from non-doms and news out today that NHS hospital waiting times are the worst in seven years? I have to tell you, it hasn't worked.

Yours etc,'

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Letter 148: How to buy a meeting with a Minister

'Dear Dave,

Hooray! Today is the last PMQs before you break for the general election campaign trail. There must be a tremendous sense of relief throughout the House and probably a real end of term atmosphere, a little like you see in schools. Why not break with the Punch and Judy tradition then and do as teachers up and down the land do when their charges have been working too hard? Why not show a film as a little treat? The one I'd recommend to you all is a new release "Dispatches: How to Buy a Meeting With A Minister" And the beauty of it is, it's really educational.

Yours, etc'

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Letter 147: From redbox to ballot box, everyday the Tories fail to talk about the economy is a wasted day.

'Dear Dave,
Forty five days to go 'til election day and since last Wednesday I've been thinking a great deal about the Budget, described by many as George's most politically motivated to date. The bribes and jibes were predictable enough, so weren't of particular interest. What was of more consequence though (and which has been so difficult to find), is evidence of your Chancellor's competent consistent management of the economy. He does however, deserve some credit. Let us count the ways...
Since 2010 we've had the weakest economic recovery in the last two hundred years and there's no doubt at all George most certainly had a hand in thatHe inherited a debt of £760 billion from that pesky Labour Party in 2010 and by 2014, George managed to reduce it to £1,260 billion - and all without having a financial crisis of his own to play with. Awe-inspiring.
Child poverty down? Inequality down? Not quite. Georg's self-deceit is as remarkable as the number of people living in poverty in the UK today (of which there are about 13 million, half of those in working families). Shout loud, shout proud that the UK is second only to Estonia in the European fuel poverty league.
Should he congratulate himself privately on his economic triumphs of a 59% rise in working people claiming housing benefit, or 1.4 million people on zero hours contracts, or even on the astounding million using foodbanks ? Probably not. He's too busy defending the "unprecedented" cuts he still intends to impose if re-elected.
Just a moment... check with Lynton and see if you're still focussing your election strategy on the economy. After all, George wants us to judge him on his record and as Anthony Hilton of The Evening Standard said recently:
"It takes nerve for a political party to ask the country to re-elect it on the basis of its economic competence, when it knows perfectly well that the majority of people it is asking to vote have become worse off under its rule"

Yours, etc'

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Letter 146: The poor will never get Stinking Rich on minimum wage peanuts

'Dear Dave, 
Today, fifty days before the general election, rather than spinning your increase to the minimum wage, why not be refreshingly honest and just post people on low earnings a few peanuts with an apology? After all, George hasn't kept his promise to bring in a minimum wage of £7 by the end of this parliament, has he?

Talking of apologies and honesty... Grant Shapps, now there's a tricky one. He's getting a lot of media attention and with good cause. Reading all that stuff about LBC interviews, over-firm denials this and Stinking Rich that, multiple identities, mysterious testimonials and threats to a constituent using a law firm retained by the Tory Party, all I could think was, having the Party Chairman carry on in this manner does not reflect at all well on the Conservatives, especially at election time.

With Grant's behaviour laid out so embarrassingly in the press, aren't you concerned that that people will question your judgement when you profess such fulsome confidence in him? I doubt I'm the only voter who is asking, where's the integrity?

Yours, etc'

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Letter 145: How can the Tories be "warriors for the dispossessed" while denying legal aid to the vulnerable?

'Dear Dave,

Day 53 of the election countdown and so far this week, apart form the ugly spats at PMQs , we've witnessed the Party leader's wives (and unedifyingly, the Chief Whip's), transformed into political handbags; accessories on the still unofficial campaign trail. It's enough to put you off your supper, whether or not it's in the smaller kitchen.
Keeping to the domestic, do you not think you should mute Michael Gove's rallying cry for the Conservatives to be "warriors for the dispossessed"? His idea of fighting for social justice for "the vulnerable and the voiceless" is an interesting one, but surely quite pointless when you realise that thanks to your coalition government, 40% of victims who've suffered domestic violence no longer satisfy the criteria for legal aid?

Yours, etc'

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Letter 144: Shambolic Universal Credit and suffering little children.

'Dear Dave,
Fifty eight days to the general election and counting, my head was swirling with questions last night as I watched Channel 4's Dispatches programme about Universal Credit. Questions such as: has Iain Duncan Smith
 lied to Parliament about Universal Credit? If so, should he be made to explain himself? At the very least, he should surely be investigated by Trading Standards for his shameful misrepresentation of the efficacy of his flagship policy? 

He doesn't exactly have the golden touch does he? There seems to be increasing alarm about the reforms he's masterminded. I've read somewhere that he's a devout Christian, but maybe he's misunderstood the Scriptures. 100,000 children going hungry due to their parents benefits being cut orsanctioned, now that's just criminal, isn't it?
Have a word, won't you - after all, we all know Jesus said "Suffer the little children", but I doubt He meant for your DWP to take Him literally...

Yours, etc'

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Letter 143: Dave might have one last way to escape the televised Leaders debates...

'Dear Dave,
I feel for you, I really do and can see you need some help. Obviously you don't want to do the TV debates and even a fool can see that all those feeble excuses from the SpAds have just made matters worse
So I have one last idea, which might work. Why not get Lynton to forge your Mum's signature on a letter like this:

                                                                                           March 2015
Dear BBC, ITV, C4 and Sky

Please would you excuse David from the TV debates as he is a sensitive boy who isn't able to defend his policies. 
                          Yours with best wishes,

                          Dave's Mum

Yours, etc' 

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Letter 142: Cuts to agencies dealing with child sexual abuse. Time for Cameron to also be held accountable for wilful neglect?

'Dear Dave,
Yesterday, sixty four days before the general election (I know, your timing looks very cynical) you demanded a change in culture in dealing with the sexual abuse of children, homing in on what you describe as the 'wilful neglect' of professionals dealing with it. I was struck by your insistence that if professionals fail, there should be consequences and I couldn't help wondering if we need to take that approach with those much higher in the accountability chain. Shouldn't politicians cutting resources for the overstretched social services, police and CEOP also be held accountable and punished for the consequences of their 'wilful neglect'?
Yours, etc'

Friday, 27 February 2015

Letter 141: Ava Jolliffe experiences DWP's compassionate conservatism firsthand

"Dear Dave,

This morning, sixty eight days before the General Election, I read in the national press about Ava Jolliffe, the eight-year-old blind, deaf, mute, wheelchair user (her mother's words, not mine), who has had her DLA withdrawn. Ah me, if only Ava and all those like her, was as important to you and your Party as the wealthy ring fenced pensioner....

Yours with best wishes, etc"

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Letter 140: David Cameron's election campaign; weak against the strong, strong against the weak

"Dear Dave
Whoo! Quite a rollercoaster of a week you've had - it's made a few of us nauseous watching. Who is channelling Marie Antoinette at Tory central office? And what a brave PR stunt, auctioning off luxury villas for the wealthy at the same time as signed copies of budget speeches outlining austerity for plebs at the illustrious Black and White Ball!

Then the next day, there was that strange speech you gave to business leaders urging them to give employees a pay rise. Have you forgotten that for the last five years, your own decision has been to freeze wages for public sector workers?  Or that, so it would appear unemployment has decreased, you've deliberately encouraged an environment in which short term contracts and zero hours are the norm, forcing people to accept working hours and rates of pay that are impossible to live off without recourse to benefits; for which claimants are then pilloried for needing. Come clean; if you really believed in employees having a pay rise and 'making work pay', you'd legislate for a Living Wage.

Is hawking for votes also why you've announced your intention to explore cutting sickness benefits for those who are obese or suffering from addiction issues? Strange that at the same time you're protecting universal credit for OAPs, regardless of their lifestyle or health issues. What's all that about, another expression of compassionate conservatism, or a nostalgic yearning for the return to Victorian values?

You might have to rethink your plans though, Dave. So far it would appear that the Tory campaigning consists of rich people telling middle class people to blame poor people for the greed and wrongdoing of a handful of rich people. Very ugly. Do tell us now if next stage of your reforms include an introduction of the workhouse for the undeserving poor. 

Though you may feel the end justifies the means, it doesn't, especially round complex issues such as addiction and mental health. People do not pull themselves together to tidily suit a political agenda. We'd all be better off, you morally, us financially and socially, if you chose to chase after those billions of pounds of uncollected tax that are owed instead - or is that likely to affect your core vote in an unhealthy way?

Yours, etc"

Monday, 9 February 2015

Letter 139: Here, kitty kitty... fatcat donors are always welcome at the Conservative Black and White Ball

"Dear Dave,
So tonight it's your big fundraiser bash, the Black and White Ball. The big event in the run up to the 2015 general election, where though you will be addressing 'the big donor culture', unfortunately for the rest of us, not in the way you suggested when Leader of the Opposition. But then again, wasn't it you that also promised:

"Our economy, our society, welfare, schools all reformed, all rebuilt with one aim, one mission in mind - to make this country at long last and for the first time ever a land of opportunity for all"
 And look where that's got us eh? 

Let's face it, that Facebook page and the 2015 election aren't going to pay for themselves, are they? Do you not see the irony though, for a Party promising transparent politics, yet again the Tories seem to be excessively secretive about who will be bankrolling you? If there's nothing to hide, why be so coy about who'll be there? If there's no connection between Party donation and cash for access to Ministers, why not show us your seating plans? I dare you,  let those hard working families you love so much put their noses to the window and see who's eating from your table (or lap). Then we might give a little wave to Henry Angest. Is it true that before the last general election Everyday Loans, (the high-cost credit company he controls) gave the Conservative Party a £5 million overdraft facility at an interest rate of just 3.5%. How did you get a better rate than the rest of us? (74.8% if you're asking) 

No doubt you're aware that you've been accused of cynically trying to buy the election several times already, most recently by Mark Littlewood in relation to pensioner bonds. Let's not forget either, that sneaky change in the law in December 2014, which seems to have bypassed the democratic process, to bring about a 23% increase in campaign spending. I heard it was passed without parliamentary debate - seriously, shame on you. (One has to wonder if that's a misuse of the legislative process). 

When you rolled out your austerity plans for, let's face it - those less likely to vote for you, I did say to a friend to put a tenner on the possibility you'd top said miserable time for the scapegoats with tax cuts for the better off, just before the General Election. Sadly, you've proved me right. Yet again, "cuts for the poor, so the rich can have more" strategy seems just too irresistible to you. But note - such policies impoverish ALL of society. Wilful blindness of the effects of Coalition policy on the most vulnerable in our country and a morally bankrupt disregard for just how frayed our social fabric has become is not just a financial issue; it's an ethical one, which any politician who calls himself compassionate must surely find impossible to justify and totally repugnant.

Yours etc" 

Monday, 26 January 2015

Letter 138: Lynton & the SpAds think the PM's not up to GE15 televised debates

'Dear Dave,
I was reading the Guardian last night and came across yet another article on your reluctance to take part in the televised election debates. Is it true that your aides think that the last tv debates were such a disaster for you they're now doing their utmost to keep you out of the 2015 ones? Tricky if it is true, because according to an independent ICM poll, the public think you're not up to much if you take your aides advice and stay away. The suggestion is, voters will punish anyone who chickens out of taking part. Have you heard that there's a call for non attenders to be refused the chance to air party political broadcasts? That seems fair - after all, you're constantly saying you're the man for the job and if you don't take the chance to prove it, your Party's election broadcasts would seem little more than propaganda you're unable to back up

 But that can't be true surely? What have you got to hide? This could be THE chance for you to stand by your pre election words of 2010: 

"I want to, if I'm elected, take the whole country with me, I don't want to leave anyone behind. The test of a good society is that you look after the elderly, the frail, the vulnerable, the poorest in our society. And that test is even more important in difficult times, when the difficult decisions have to be taken, that it is in better times."

Some have said that you might be too far outside your comfort zone. After all, PMQs is such a different kettle of fish; backbenchers behind you, cheering on the appearance of Flashman whenever a difficult issue surfaces, while week after week so many voters tune in, craving a direct answer to a direct question only to be disappointed. The electorate want to see how you stand up to scrutiny and if you could openly defend your current policies and future plans without the protective shield of the House of Commons panto, Lynton and the SpAds.
 Think about it: a televised debate would be the ideal opportunity to explore why there seem to be bigger cuts imposed on deprived areas than affluent areas. Did you know that Britain is the only G7 country with wider inequality than at the turn of the century? Maybe the TV debate could dig deeper into the privatisation , cuts and crisis in the NHS , or discuss whether people (including those with mental health issues) are being bullied off benefits... or explore the full effect of food bank poverty and how tax and benefit changes have hit low income families, or look at whether or not in terms of finances, the DfE is meeting the requirements of Parliament  for a bit of light relief.

Blimes, so much to talk about Dave - and that's just off the top of my head! You really ought to be there - otherwise all these difficult issues will be discussed and you won't be able to put the record straight... Unless of course an empty chair says it all for you?

Yours, etc'

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Letter 137: What happens when ideology & self interest are put before patients? An A&E crisis of course.

'Dear Dave and Nick,
As an asthmatic who recently had an emergency admission to A&E, I naturally have great admiration for the doctors and nurses who choose to work there. I could talk as a patient about my concerns regarding the news of the current crisis, but sometimes I think it's best to leave it to the people who are there day in and day out. You may have seen the following letter before, but I know that you have a tendency to ignore unpalatable truths when they don't back up Coalition policy, so forgive me if I place it under your noses once again. After all, you both declare your commitment to the NHS. And no doubt, as the election races towards us, you'll both make promises and present figures to attract votes. Before you do, re-read this letter to remind yourselves of the facts:

7th January 2015
Dear Mr Cameron and Mr Hunt
As someone who works in A&E, I hear with interest that you have sad that things in A&E are just busy and we are performing well and not in a crisis.
I though would disagree. Maybe it is just your sense of reality, which has made you say this or perhaps a lack of comprehension of the words busy V crisis.
Is it not a crisis that up and down the country thousands and thousands of patients are being looked after in corridors because there are no free cubicles for them to be seen in?
Is it not a crisis that many hospitals are declaring major incidents ( to just cope with normal winter pressures) and some are having tents built in their car parks? 
Is it not a crisis that patients who need discharging from hospital can't because social services can't cope with the demand? This mean there are no free beds for the patient to go to and so they stay in A&E for hours upon hours.
Is it not a crisis when thousands of patients are having their operations cancelled because there are no beds for them to get into?
Is it not a crisis when everyday A&E staff up and down the country think it is a good shift if we get a cup of tea, no member of staff is in tears and no-one dies in the corridor on our watch? ( As opposed to deliver the standard and dignity of care we wish).
Or are you saying it is not a crisis because you don't want to admit the real problem and you are a tad embarrassed by your mistakes? Because when you came to power you promised to invest in the NHS and not reorganise it. But actually you lied.
Health and social care are inextricably linked and you stripped money away from social care whilst still finding the money for tax cuts for millionaires. But worse still, instead of trying to modernise and improve the NHS ( which it needs) and working to prevent an absolutely predictable crisis, you spent the time and billions of wasted pounds on an ideological drive to increase the role of the private sector in the NHS, which has just put profits before patients.
The reality is that the crisis ( yes it is a crisis not just busy) in the NHS, is shown in the corridors of the A&E departments.
And if you don't believe me, please join the thousands of A&E staff up and down the country whom are all going through the same problems.
Then reality might kick in; seeing people in their 90s lying in a corridor as there is no bed to go to, patients who need to go to intensive care staying for hours upon hours in A&E whilst their condition deteriorates, ambulance staff not being able to get to 999 calls because they are waiting to get their current patients into A&E, nurses not having time to care for patients - just provide treatment, and for consultants on the shop floor trying to create order and safety in a chaotic environment.
We are so lucky to have the training and skills to do the job - but we just need you to make it possible for us to perform the job we love to appropriate standards.
It may be hard for all of us who work in A&E, but it is nothing compared to what our patients have to endure. But amazingly it is them who keep us going  - with humor and goodwill and not complaining about us despite everything going on, along with a diabetic inducing amount of chocolate being bought for us.
Mr Hunt and Cameron - I also want to ask you why you think we are performing well? You say it is because around 85-95% of patients get seen and discharged or admitted within 4 hours ( still the worst figures since we started recording this data).
But that hides the reality. It is easy to boost this percentage with easy patients with cuts and colds and minor injuries but what about the care for patients who are genuinely sick - the ones who need admission. How quickly to they get seen and admitted? That is the figure that should be made available but isn't. I don't know what the numbers are, but from recent experience from up and down the country, I doubt that at the moment half of patients who get admitted do so within 4 hours of when they arrive; remember delayed admission leads to worse outcomes. Please start releasing this important figure as it will give a much better barometer for how the NHS is doing.
So Mr Hunt and Mr Cameron - come down to any A&E and see the crisis/'just busy' and when you do so, listen to the staff who can explain what needs to be done, as opposed to listen to your political advisers.
In A&Es throughout the country, we are buckling under the strain and it is only because of everyone's hard work and dedication that patient care is being maintained to the extent it is and morale hasn't yet cracked.
It feels that we in the NHS ( from porters, to managers, to nurses, to support staff, to paramedics, to hospital doctors and GPs) are lions being led by donkeys. We are facing 1930s public sector cuts driven by politicians with the mentality of World War One generals.
So in summary - please Cameron and Hunt, stop thinking about your political ideology and start thinking about our patients, Remember the NHS was set up after World War Two during a period of unprecedented austerity - stop destroying it under the name of austerity.

Rob Galloway
(A&E Consultant)

P.s. it must be quite easy going on question time and the likes debating fellow politicians and public figures who everyone knows have their own agenda. But the shop floor workers in the NHS have only one agenda - our patient care: so the debate may not be quite so easy with us, I would love to debate with you about the NHS crisis and offer some solutions. Are you up for it?"

There's too much in this Consultant's letter to refute or explain away with statistics re-framed, or blamed on the previous government. You have both asked to be judged on your achievements. What will it take for you to put patients before ideology and self interest?

Yours, etc '