Posts Tagged ‘Health’

Vox Political: BBC Takes Three Quarters of its Statistics from the Tories

August 13, 2016

Mike also put up a very interesting piece last week, reporting and commenting on an article in the Guardian on a report on the Corporation’s use of statistics by the BBC Trust. The report, Making Sense of Statistics, used the Cardiff School of Journalism to analyse not just its use of stats generally, but also in particularly issues, such as health, the junior doctors’ strike and migration. It found that 73 per cent of the statistics it took from politicians came from the Tories. As a rule, the Beeb does not place these figures in their context, nor does it challenge them.

Mike drily comments that this will surprise no-one, but…

See his article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/10/bbc-impartiality-in-tatters-as-report-reveals-corporation-relies-on-tories-for-statistics/

This is another damning piece of evidence showing the immense, pro-Tory bias at the Corporation. A few years ago, media analysts at Glasgow university showed that Conservative politicians were far more likely to be interviewed and quoted than Labour or the other parties. And Mike and very many other bloggers have also pointed out particularly cases of very obvious bias at the Beeb. One of the most flagrant was when the Beeb edited a question to Alex Salmond by Nick Robinson during the Scots referendum debate. Salmond replied, but this was clearly too much for the BBC, who edited out his answer and then claimed that Salmond had failed to answer. It was a piece of falsification that would have made Goebbels proud. In another example, the BBC decided it was not going to report, at least on air, on a campaign against its bias despite the fact that this had attracted tens of thousands of supporters and was occurring right outside the BBB’s own front door.

The Corporation proudly shows statistics which claim that it overwhelmingly has the support of Britain’s industrialists and governing classes. Of course it has, as it just presents their own views, and regurgitates their own bias towards privatisation, welfare cuts and attacks on the working class and trade unions back at them.

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Radical 80s Anti-War Pop: Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Two Tribes

August 6, 2016

A week or so ago I put I blogged about Sting’s great anti-war song, Russians. Based on a tune by Prokofiev, and with the haunting refrain, ‘Do the Russians love their children too?’, this was Sting’s protest against the new Cold War between America and Russia in which both sides were condemned for their militarism. The video I used here was of a performance the great songster made a few years ago on Russian TV, which shows how far the world has come since I was a schoolboy in the 1980s. Then, Russia and the rest of the former eastern bloc were very much closed off to the West, although as the political climate thawed, the BBC did launch a fascinating series of films on the Soviet Union. This included an edition of antenna on Soviet TV. I was moved to put up the video as a reminder of great pop challenging the horrific spectre of nuclear war by the arms build up in the West and increasing tension between NATO and Russia. There’s been a series of manoeuvres in Estonia, Poland, Romania and the other Baltic states against the possibility of a Russian invasion, despite the fact that the Russians have said that they have no intention of doing any such thing. This follows a book by a NATO general predicting that by May next year, Russia will have invaded Latvia, and our nations will be at war. This should terrify everyone, who grew up in the 1980s and remembers the real threat of nuclear Armageddon then, along with the horrific spoutings of some generals about fighting a ‘limited nuclear war’ in Europe.

Unfortunately, that possibility has just come a step nearer after the statement on Morning Joe, an American news programme hosted by Joe Scarborough, that he had been told by a foreign policy expert that in discussing the subject with Donald Trump, the coiffured clown asked him three times why America hadn’t used nuclear weapons. As I said in my last post, this is a very good argument for keeping the pratt out of the White House, if not the society of decent humans. If you only needed one argument for not wanting to see Trump as president, regardless of the endorsement of violence, the misogyny, the racism and Islamophobia, this would be it. Trump shouldn’t be president, because he’s a threat to all life on Earth.

Sting wasn’t the only pop musician to release a piece in the 1980s against the militaristic posturing between East and West. So too did Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Frankie … were a band that managed to shock the British public with the release of their single, Relax, and the homoerotic imagery of both the song and the accompanying video. It was so shocking, that the Beeb was supposed to have banned. This, of course, had the usual effect of making it massively popular, and it shot to Number 1 in the charts. The band’s frontman, Holly Johnson was gay, as was I think, one of the other band members, but most of them were straight. Bands like Frankie…, and other gay pop stars like Marc Almond, Jimmy Summerville and Boy George helped to challenge the popular prejudice and real hatred there was for gays there still was then, over a decade after gay sex in private between consenting adults had been legalised.

Two Tribes continued their trend of edgy music by presenting the confrontation between East and West as a bare knuckle boxing match between someone, who looked very much like Ronald Reagan, and an opponent, who was clearly based on one of the Russian presidents of the time. I can’t work out quite who the Russia is based on, as he looks a bit like Brezhnev, but not quite, and I can’t remember who Andropov and Chernenko, the last two Soviet presidents before Mikhail Gorbachev, looked like. To my mind, he looks more like Boris Yeltsin, the former mayor of Moscow, who succeeded Gorby as president of Russia. Unlike Gorby, Yeltsin wasn’t a Communist, but a capitalist-in-waiting, who sold off just about everything that wasn’t nailed down. The result was that Russian economy went into meltdown, millions across the former USSR were thrown out of work without any of the welfare safety nets in place in Europe or America, while rampant inflation wiped out people’s savings. Despite his generally pro-Western, pro-capitalist stance, he could also be belligerent. Sometime in his presidency, a Norwegian sounding rocket went off course, and landed somewhere in Russia. Yeltsin appeared on TV pounding his desk and declaring that he had been quite prepared to respond with nukes, if such an event seemed to be an attack on Russia. He was also, like many of the Russia politicos, including Brezhnev, massively corrupt. A lot of the state enterprises he privatised mysteriously ended up in the hands of his cronies, and people, who were prepared to fork over a lot of roubles. He was also a figure of western media amusement, as he appeared to be permanently smashed, unlike his predecessor, who appeared far more temperate and had launched a strong anti-drink campaign. The mass privatisation of the Soviet Economy had a devastating effect on its citizens’ health, which Basu and Stuckler discuss in their book, the Body Economic, on how economic austerity harms people’s physical health. Putin, with his promise of economic stability and national pride, is very much a response to the chaos of the Yeltsin regime. I’ve got a feeling Yeltsin might be dead now, but if anyone needed a good drubbing, it was him, though by the Russian people, who had a better reason to hate him than Ronald Reagan.

Frankie’s Two Tribes shows the violence in the ring escalating, until the audience of other international dignitaries begin fighting amongst themselves, to the consternation of the ringside commentator. The video ends with the Earth itself being blown up, a graphic comment on the real danger of the conflict. The song’s title, Two Tribes, also gives a very cynical take on the conflict. This isn’t about politics, human rights or the effectiveness and justice of economic systems. This is just pure tribalism, the primitive, nationalistic aggression that has haunted humanity since the Stone Age. I can’t say I was ever a fan of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and just about everyone I know is repulsed and disturbed by the Relax video. But Two Tribes is a classic piece of ’80s pop with a very relevant political message, and one that deserves to be given another hearing. Before Trump gets anywhere near the White house, and starts ranting and threatening like Reagan.

The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills

July 16, 2016

Body Economic Pic

By David Stuckler, MPH, PhD, and Sanjay Basu, MD, PhD (New York: Basic Books 2013)

This is another book I picked up in the £3 bookshop in Bristol’s Park Street the other day. Written by two American health researchers, it examines the way economic recessions and austerity affect people’s health from the Great Recession of the 1930s, the Fall of Communism, Greece and Iceland, and today’s recession, which began with the banking collapse in 2008. The authors are medical researchers, whose own experience of poverty and ill health has led them to examine its effect on entire societies. They conclude that while recessions often lead to high – frequently devastatingly high outbreaks of disease and mortality, what is really crucial is the state’s handling of them. In countries which have a strong welfare state, and are determined to invest into getting their citizens back into work, such as Denmark in the 1990s, public health may actually improve. And as public health improves, the economy begins to pick up. In countries where the opposite is true – where the state just cuts, and is intent on dismantling the welfare infrastructure, like Greece and Cameron’s (and May’s) Britain, the result is higher disease and mortality.

As well as giving the impersonal stats, they also illustrate the damaging effects of austerity on public health through personal case studies. These include ‘Olivia’, a little girl, who suffered terrible burns when her unemployed father tried to burn their house down in a drunken rage, and an elderly Greek man, Dimitris Christoulas. Unable to see any way out of his poverty, he publicly shot himself outside the Greek parliament building.

One of the victims of austerity mentioned in the very first pages of the book is Brian McArdle, a severely disabled man, who was nevertheless declared ‘fit for work by ATOS. Basu and Stuckler write

‘”I will never forgive them,” wrote thirteen-year-old Kieran McArdle to the Daily Record, a national newspaper based in Glasgow. “I won’t be able to come to terms with my dad’s death until I get justice for him.”

Kieran’s father, fifty-seven-year-old Brian, had worked as a security guard in Lanarkshire, near Glasgow. The day after Christmas 2011, Brian had a stroke, which left him paralyzed on his left side, blind in one eye, and unable to speak. He could no longer continue working to support his family, so he signed up for disability income from the British government.

That government, in the hands of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron since the 2010 elections, would prove no friend to the McArdles. Cameron claimed that hundreds of thousands of Britons were cheating the government’s disability system. The Department for Work and Pensions begged to differ. It estimated that less than 1 percent of disability benefit funds went to people who were not genuinely disabled.

Still, Cameron proceeded to cut billions of pounds from welfare benefits including support for the disabled. To try to meet Cameron’s targets, the Department for Work and Pensions hired Atos, a private French “systems integration” firm. Atos billed the government £400 million to carry out medical evaluations of people receiving disability benefits.

Kieran’s father was scheduled for an appointment to complete Atos’ battery of “fitness for work” tests. He was nervous. Since his stroke, he had trouble walking, and was worried about how his motorized wheelchair would get up the stairs to his appointment, as he had learned that about a quarter of Atos’s disability evaluations took place in buildings that were not wheelchair accessible. “Even though my dad had another stroke just days before his assessment, he was determined to go,” said Kieran. “He tried his best to walk and talk because he was a very proud man.”

Brian did manage to reach Atos’s evaluation site, and after the evaluation, made his way home. A few weeks later, his family received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions. The family’s Employment and Support Allowance benefits were being stopped. Atos had found Brian “fit for work”. The next day he collapsed and died.

It was hard for us, as public health researchers, to understand the government’s position. The Department for Work and Pensions, after all, considered cheating a relative minor issue. The total sum of disability fraud for “conditions of entitlement” was £2 million, far less than the contract to hire Atos, and the department estimated that greater harm resulted from the accidental underpayment of £70 million each year. But the government’s fiscal ideology had created the impetus for radical cuts. (Pp. 3-4).

I don’t know whether Mr McArdle was one of those, whose deaths has been commemorated by Stilloaks on his blog, or whether his case was one of those which Cameron and aIDS laughed at when they were read out in parliament. But is notable that such cases are coming to the attention of health researchers and medical doctors, and are a cause of serious academic and medical concern.

Stilloaks, Mike, DPAC, the Angry Yorkshireman and very many other disability activists have covered individual cases, and the way the ‘fitness for work’ tests have been fiddled by Atos and now their successors, Maximus, in order to provide the pretext for throwing the vulnerable off benefits. Mike’s called it ‘Chequebook Genocide’. Jeff3, one of the great long-term commenters on this blog, refers to it as the Tories’ Aktion T4 – the Nazi’s extermination of the disabled during the Third Reich. There have been about 490 cases in which people have died of starvation, neglect and despair thanks to be thrown off welfare. And according to mental health profession, about 290,000 or so people have seen their mental health deteriorate – sometimes very severely – due to the stress of these tests.

Books like this show how counterproductive such austerity policies are, as well as their purely destructive effects on human life. But this will not be heeded by the Tories, nor by the baying, right-wing rabble who blindly follow them. They want to grind the poor even further into the dirt, to create an impoverished, desperate working class willing to take on any kind of work, no matter how low-paid, not-paid – think of all the unpaid ‘internships’ – and degrading. All so they cut taxes and give more power to the rich, the bankers, big business and particularly the hedge funds and vulture capitalists.

And so the many are killed, all for the privileged few represented by Theresa May.

Book Review: The Development of the British Welfare State

July 16, 2013

By Michael Sullivan (Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall/Harvester Wheatsheaf 1996)

Sullivan State Book

This is another history of the welfare state, though from the standpoint of narrative history, rather than the documentary approach of From Beveridge to Blair. Sullivan’s book was published in the mid-1990s, but I’ve included it here as much of the material it contains is still relevant today.

The book is divided into three parts. The first deals with the development of the British welfare state from the first Liberal legislation introducing old age pensions and health cover to the crisis in the welfare state in the decades from 1970 to the 1990s.

Part two deals with the individual welfare services – education, health policy and the NHS, the personal social services, post-war housing policy, and social security since the war.

The third part summarises the development and apparent decline of the welfare state, raising questions about it such as whether the welfare consensus was ever real.

Before the Welfare State

Chapter 1: ‘Before the Welfare State, covers the introduction of the first welfare legislation passed by Campbell-Bannerman’s Liberal government of 1906. It has sections on the Embryonic Welfare State, discussing the first old age pensions, Lloyd George’s People’s Budget of 1910, and Liberal Social Insurance; Social Democracy: the Political Source of Reformism?; Marxism and Labourism as Twin Threats to Welfare Statism; Fabianism, Ethical Socialism and Social Democracy, with further sections on Fabianism: Its Appeal for Labour, Fabianism’s Contribution to Labour Thinking and The Contribution of Fabianism Considered; Ethical Socialism: the Heart of Labour Reformism; Tawney’s Ethical Socialism: Labour and Social Policy and Labour Social Democracy: Social Reformism Comes of Age.

The Road to 1945: War, Welfare and the People’s Will

Chapter 2 discusses the war years and the run up to Labour’s 1945 election victory. It has sections on the career of Ernest Beveridge and his proposal for the creation of the welfare state, consensus with the major stakeholders, the government’s reaction to the Beveridge report, the debate over the report and disagreements in cabinet about it, the parliamentary debate on Beveridge, which resulted in 121 MPs voting against the government for its reluctance to implement the report’s proposals, which resulted in Churchill being forced to accept it. The chapter also examines the role of collectivism; the emergence of Labour; Social Policy in War Time, with further sections on health policy, this significance of war-time policy for the social policy of the post-war period; Education Policy; and Conclusion.

The Emergence and Growth of the Welfare State

This deals with the development of the welfare state from its foundation in 1945 to 1969. It has the following sections: the Emergence of the Welfare State; the Economic Context; the Post-War Welfare State; Developing Social Security; Introducing a National Health Service; Labour’s Housing Policy; The Mosaic of Reform and Conservatism; Conservative criticisms of the welfare state; Consolidationists versus radicals; Conservativism and Social Policy 1951-64, which has a section on Convervatives and anti-welfarism; Conservative Responses, including Conservative justifications of the welfare state; Reactions to the Right: the Challenge of Social Democracy, including sections on Titmuss’ defence of the Welfare State, Crosland and the Welfare state and his redefinition of socialism, citizenship and social policy, and the rediscovery of poverty; Emerging Issues and Labour and Social Policy, 1964-9.

The Welfare State in Crisis

This chapter deals with the period from 1970 to 1995. The first section, Farewell to Welfare Statism, has sections, on poverty and labour, challenges to Keynes and Beveridge and Enoch Powell and the ‘Rivers of Blood’ Speech; the 1970s; Labour on the Welfare Crisis; Conservatives and Social Policy; Welfarism and the new Conservatism; the New Conservative Experiment from 1979-1990, with subordinate sections on dealing with unemployment, restrictions on public expenditure, the National Health Service, radical approaches to social policy from 1983 to 1990; Public Resistance to the Dismantlement of the Welfare State; The Major Governments and Social Policy, with sections on whether the 1990 to 1995 administration was a development of Thatcher’s project or its demise, health policy in the Major governments, education policy in the 1990, rethinking the social agenda, and the Major administrations and social policy. The last section in this chapter is an appraisal of the New Conservatism’s Social Policy, including a discussion of its long-term strategy and incremental change.

Post-War Education Policy: Continuity and Change

The has sections on the Labour Government and the Butler Act; The issue of Comprehensives, including sections on the debate within the Labour Party, the movement away from comprehensive education by teacher’s organisations, and the first comprehensive schools; Education and Society, 1951 to 1964, including sections on the squeeze on education spending, and the replacement of the squeeze by increased spending, the continuing debate over comprehensive education in the Labour party, the question of whether there was a resurgence in the Labour Left, or if it was a redefinition of social democracy, evidence from sociological and psychological research, changes in schooling and changing attitude among parents, education and the economy, and the attitude of the Conservative Party; the various reports into education of the 1950s and 1960s; and the Robbins Revolution in the expansion of the higher education.

Education, Retrenchment, Privatisation and Consumers

This chapter deals with the period from 1965 onwards. It has sections on Education Policy and the Labour Governments, 1964-70, including sections on the Labour government and comprehensive education, the unusual method in which this policy was introduced by administrative circular, the way the cabinet was not involved in the introduction of the policy, relations between central and local government, the Labour party and the professionals involved, such as teachers, and the use of the circular to avoid opposition in parliament; Conservatives and Education, 1970-4, with sections on Margaret Thatcher and the comprehensive schools, her ending of free school milk, her initial policies of expanding education; Education Policy during the 1974 to 1979 Labour Governments, with sections on comprehensive schools and the ‘great debate’ on education; and the Thatcher governments and education.

Health Policy and the National Health Service

This chapter covers the post-war period up to the book’s publication. This has sections on the creation of the National Health Service; the period of initial conflict, followed by consolidation, with sections on demand and supply, consolidation, the question of hardening of inequalities and the power of the medical profession; From ad hoc innovation to rational planning, with sections on the 1962 Hospital Place, and financing the National Health Service; the return to the ad hoc approach to reforms, with sections on the 1974 reorganisation of the National Health Service; the question whether the new philosophies actually led to changes in service, with sections on further reorganisation, the Griffiths Report, general management and the marketization of the National Health Service, marketization and the National Health Service: competitive tendering, marketization and health: private practice, private insurance and private facilities, the national health service reforms, the National Health Service and Internal Markets, papering over the cracks in the White Paper, the 1990 National Health Service and Community Care Acts, and where the NHS may go from here. The last section, Making Sense of It All, has further sections on supply and demand and equality. The post-script to this chapter notes the proposed changes by the Labour government at the date the book was written.

Personal Social Services

This chapter begins with a short summary of the post-War social services, including a section on the reorganisation of state social work. There is then further sections on personal social services in the post-War period; the changes in the 1960s, with further sections on the Seebohm report and community development; attempts to fill the gap between aims and resources in the 1970s; the arrival of community social work in the 1980s, with a section on the disappearance of the Barclay Report as it challenged the Neoliberal ideology of the Conservative party; the return of Care in the Community; attempts to explain personal social services policy, including the sections on the Left’s critique, the attack from the Right, and personal social services and the New Conservatism.

Post-War Housing Policy

This begins with Labour’s attempts to end the housing shortage, followed by sections on Macmillan and Housing; the return of the market; the construction of high rise flats; Conservatives and the market; the New Towns; the ‘affluent society’ and housing policy in the 1960s, with sections on demographic change, the reaction to the Rachman scandal, Labour and housing policy from 1964-70, a new ideology and the decision to build more houses, the ending of the construction of high rise flats, and the existence of the homeless poor in the new welfare state; the record of Ted Heath’s Conservative government on housing 1970-4; Labour and Housing, 1974 to 1979; Changing policies to housing during Margaret Thatcher’s three administrations, with sections on the right to buy, the 1988 Housing Act. The last section is a critical summary of Post-War housing policy.

Social Security Since the War

This has sections on the Conservatives and Social Security, 1951-64, with a sections on pensions; Labour, and Poverty and Social Security, with sections on demographic and economic crisis, the rediscovery of poverty, and the Left’s reappraisal; the Heath Government and Social Security, with sections on Keith Joseph and the Family Income Supplement, the expansion of social security, the retrenchment in welfare spending due to the 1973 oil crisis, and the integration of tax and social security; Labour governments and social security policy; the Thatcher Governments and Social Security, with section on the 1976-8 review, her first administration, the 1980 ‘Annus Horribilis’, attacks on ‘scroungers’, the Fowler Review in Mrs. Thatcher’s Second Administration, Income Support, Family Credit, Housing Benefit, Social Fund, SERPS, the promise of radical change, and the 1988 Social Security Act; Emerging Issues, with sections on the preference for means-testing, the retention of work incentives, fraud and abuse, racism against the Black community, the contraction of the role of the state in favour of charities, self-reliance and independence, and the construction of residual welfare state; the 1990s, with sections on workfare and the Tory ‘Bastards’ in Major’s administration. The final section summarises briefly the changes in social security from 1945.

From the Cradle to the Grave: The Beginnings, Development and Demise of the Welfare State?

This final chapter reviews the progress and changes in the welfare state in order to question whether it is at its end. It has the following sections, on whether there was a real welfare consensus, Keyne’s, Beveridge and the origins of the 1945 welfare settlement; Neoliberal and Radical Right hostility to the post-War consensus as ‘backdoor tyranny’, and scepticism on whether the consensus ever existed at all; the question of whether the consensus has been smashed, with sections on the problems of Thatcher’s first administration, and her administrations from 1983 to 1990, the National Health Service, Education, Social Security and Personal Social Services, and Housing; Majorism and Welfare, with sections on social policy spending and his introduction of Thatcherite policies on the family and personal responsibility; continuity and change in the welfare state from 1945 to 1995; Continuity and change, with further sections on the debate over equality, professionals and welfare; further directions in the welfare state, with sections on Labour and the welfare state in the 1990s, Blair’s shift from social class to community, whether the effective re-making of the Labour Party meant the death of social democracy, economic prudence, the acceptance of internal markets in the NHS; New Labours emphasis on social responsibility rather than social rights, opt-out schools, from universalism and selectivism, ineffecitiveness and inefficiency and consumerism in the old welfare state, and Labour and consumer choice.

Each chapter has a chronology and suggestions for further reading.

The book provides a detailed examination of the development of the welfare state over its first fifty years, and the nearly forty years prior to its establishment by Clement Atlee. It covers the political debates and manoeuvring over policy, and includes extracts from the speeches and documents made and compiled by its architects, reformers and adversaries. These can be quite long – the speech by Lloyd George advocating his ‘people’s budget’ is well over a page. It thus provides a good overview of the welfare state’s history, and the changes from state provision to the post-Thatcherite political climate of hostility, privatisation and marketization, and the reliance on charities.