Give it up for Lent

Source: Give it up for Lent

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Give it up for Lent

You don’t have to be religious to enter into the spirit of Lent however, you might baulk at the idea of spending forty days and nights alone in the wilderness being tempted by The Devil. Much easier to endure a stag or hen weekend in Amsterdam or Talin depending on your budget. However, this is not what Lent was devised for and believe me, it is just as much a social construct as the wearing of sack-cloth and self-flagellation once were [ and still are in some circles ]. Lent is a time of self-sacrifice and preparation during which we anticipate the arrival of Easter and not because Cadbury’s creme eggs, delicious as they are, will be back in the shops. I was baptized into the Roman Catholic church for which I will always be grateful therefore, it all makes sense to me. However, I never understood why my cousin was shipped off to the Magdalene launderies where she remained for the best part of a year but that’s another story.

The choice of what you “Give up” for Lent is entirely up to the individual but bear in mind that it should bring benefits, if not to yourself then to others. You might want to refrain from eating chocolate for the period thereby forgoing a pleasure, or, you may wish to volunteer some of your time to help others. The current trend for volunteering however, seems to be followed by the same people who offer their services free of charge whatever the season so I’m not sure whether the arrival of Lent makes any difference to this group. Much better perhaps to give something up and donate the money saved to some worthwhile cause as we used to do back in our schooldays. I read somewhere that the Prime Minister, Teresa May has given up eating her favourite flavour of crisps for Lent. However, it didn’t say whether she was donating the money saved to any cause nor did it mention that there are numerous other flavours of crisps she could eat instead. I suspect, based on the fact that PM May has recently authorised the cutting of benefits to the most vulnerable that she won’t be giving much thought to those who are far worse off than herself. Has she even thought to give those crisps to her local food bank? I doubt it.

So, the period of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday which is the day after Shrove Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras [ Fat Tuesday] or Pancake day. Traditionally, on that day you ate up all your eggs and flour by making pancakes before beginning your fast. According to the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent his Lent in the desert where he went for forty days and forty nights alone without food or water whilst he battled with his inner demons, or, The Devil if you prefer. Personally, I suspect that Jesus was like the Bear Grylls of his day and was well good at survival techniques and, being in a desert, there would have been cacti that he could draw water from and insects that he could nibble. It would not be my kind of retreat but it seems to work extremely well for prophets. Talking of which but in a different sense altogether, Lent is the ideal time for charities to get their begging bowls out. Not wishing to appear uncharitable, I do give regular sums to my own chosen charity however, as soon as the daffodils appear the entire world of charitable causes start up their campaigns.

I’ve worked for three charities so I have some insight into how they operate and frankly, there is hardly any difference between a charitable organisation and a Footsie 100 company. Having forged a career for myself working in both camps I know which of the two I would trust the most and the name doesn’t begin with the letter C. In many ways the charity sector has become another arm of government with the same rules applying as when successive Liberal governments applied the infamous “Poor Laws” to the sick and destitute better known as the deserving and the undeserving poor. The first nineteenth Century Tory government abolished the Poor Law and replaced it with a form of Welfare entitlements, the thinking being that if people were left destitute then social unrest and disorder would follow. Unfortunately, in more recent times with most Tories adopting Neo-Liberal thinking, the government has reverted back to the days when the poor were held solely responsible for their own misfortune and left to rot, literally. Consider for example, the case of a man or woman living in an area of high unemployment being punished for not having applied for fourteen jobs over the past two weeks when there were probably no more than three or four vacancies being advertised in the area during the same period. He or she is punished by having their benefits stopped simply because they lacked the creative ability to invent jobs that never existed in the first place. Clearly, they could use a few lessons from the likes of Tory MP Grant Shapps.

Politicians however, especially those who sit on the government’s back benches appear to have no problem getting jobs, some of them have up to six at any one time, most of which they did not have to apply for. Now, call me cynical but isn’t being a member of parliament [ MP] meant to be a full-time occupation? I can understand how someone might do a bit of gardening on the side, say for an elderly constituent but these extra jobs I am reading about are not the odd hour here and there, they are extremely demanding albeit well-paid jobs that most of us dream about. Now, for a long time there was a lack of women prepared to enter into the male dominated bastion known as Westminster mainly because of the long and irregular hours that MPs kept. It wasn’t unusual for members to arrive at their offices by 9:30 am and still be in the building as Big Ben chimed midnight. Whether they were working or not is another matter but the hours they kept were not compliant with what we now think of as being child or family friendly occupations. You can’t just do a few hours between the daily school run or work from home.  However, women have broken through into parliament and we are all better for it. Should this imply that MPs are now able to manage their time better and take on those extra highly lucrative jobs? Again, I doubt it.

It seems to me that there remains the same old cabal of male shits lording it up over the rest of us and giving those who put them where they are, the middle finger at every opportunity. And it’s not just the men, there are women MPs including our Prime Minister who find it amusing to knock those less fortunate than themselves. The person most favoured by the knockers on both sides of the house being the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, who has taken it upon himself to be the voice of both the dispossessed and the disenfranchised. Only a few days ago, Teresa May in response to Corbyn’s criticism of  the governments’ plan to fund more selective education at the expense of mainstream schools delivered a personal attack on the Labour leader whose own son had been educated in the private sector. Mrs May chose to ignore the well known fact * that the young Corbyn had been sent to a private school against his father’s wishes and that Jeremy has always campaigned for equal opportunities in all aspects of society. Grammar schools may well be a panacea for all that is wrong in our education system but unless the government funds sufficient numbers of places to accommodate all those who meet the basic requirements of a Grammar School education then they will only further corrupt the existing system. [ *Jeremy Corbyn felt so strongly about this that he divorced the mother of his child when she insisted that he attend a private school. ]

I suppose that it might appear that I started by talking about Lent and ended up discussing the behaviour of our politicians and the current state of education. Well, before you accuse me of going off at a tangent, may I remind you that for most of us and certainly for myself, school was were we first became aware of  Lent with all it’s rituals and meanings. In fact, the classroom is where we learn about most things but especially, because we are removed from the safety of our own home environment where mummy or daddy can fill our heads with all kinds of nonsense, we mainly learn to socialise with other people, some of whom can be a bit scary. Now, I have friends of all faiths and some who laugh at the very idea that there might be a supreme being, creator and ruler of the universe, all of whom I treat with equal respect. I don’t subscribe to the creation myths found in Genesis and the Quran [Koran] either and yet I consider myself to be a Christian principally because of how I live my life. However, it really doesn’t matter what my friends choose to believe but I draw the line at those who claim their religious identity to be Klingon – they are just weird. Which brings me back to Teresa May  our erstwhile Prime Minister [PM]. I’m not implying that Mrs May is odd but I find her extremely difficult to fathom out. She reminds me of Gordon Brown who also assumed office without having to appeal to the nation and whose only legacy was to reintroduce the word “Robust” into everyday usage.

Mrs May is the daughter of a vicar and as far as I am aware, an only child, so what went wrong? Did her parents not instill in her the same Christian values that the Catholic nuns and priests instilled in me at an early age? Clearly not, otherwise she wouldn’t think giving up her favourite flavour of crisps for Lent that much of a sacrifice. In October 2015 before she became PM she inferred that high levels of immigration made it impossible to build a cohesive society a fact that I tend to agree with however, not as much as I blame high levels of social inequality, lack of social housing and tax avoidance on a massive scale by her government’s friends and supporters. It seems that those who have the most to give don’t want to part with a penny if they can possibly avoid it. Both economic and technological  progress has ensured that those at the lower end of society will find it increasingly harder to move upwards unless the government enables them by introducing the kind of policies that politicians such as Jeremy Corbyn espouse. Never mind if Corbyn is left-wing, Marxist or Klingon, his demands for Britain to adopt a more compassionate stance towards the downtrodden suggests a return to a State that was once much more benevolent than it has since become. I consider the teachings of Jesus Christ and Karl Marx to be entirely compatible, you just have to read them to understand that Socialism and Christianity are bed-fellows. Both Marx and his colleague Frederick Engels knew that it was not bloody revolutions that swept away the past but liberalization so perhaps rather than give up the crisps, Mrs May could go off into the wilderness and contemplate on this.

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The Musical Map of Great Britain – 1964 – 1969

With the benefit of hindsight, the opinion expressed by Mike Smith of Decca Records that there was no future for guitar groups in Britain was so far off the mark as to suggest that here was a man w…

Source: The Musical Map of Great Britain – 1964 – 1969

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The musical map of Great Britain – 1948 – 1963

Post-War Britain [ 1948 – 56 ] was far from cool however, it was the place to be for thousands of immigrants who moved here from the British colonies to take up residence in our fair country.…

Source: The musical map of Great Britain – 1948 – 1963

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Snowflake Generation

I may have mentioned before that I am an avid book reader getting through, on average, two books a week, so finding something new is a bit of a challenge. I will read some titles more than once providing there has been a long gap between reads however, I recently came across this reader’s review that made me dash out and buy the book he or she was raving about; This book made me want to rip my clothes off and run round the posh bits of North London shouting F*** Off the lot of you. It was a book about a new social phenomenon, The Snowflake Generation which I also found really interesting albeit not enough to make me want to run around naked in North Beverley. However, the book does manage to strip away many of the misconceptions surrounding the proliferation of new ideas and attitudes belonging almost exclusively to the under twenty-fives. This is a generation that should be enjoying the best living standards in the Western World, the most opportunities and so on but instead, finds itself marginalized and insecure. And sadly, none of this is their doing.

I fully appreciate that the term Snowflake is generally thought of as a derogatory term but I am fascinated by it all the same and because it’s only recently emerged I think there’s time to rehabilitate it. Incidentally, the term first emerged on American campuses a few years ago as a means of criticizing the hypersensitivity of a younger generation and as with most Western ideas found its’ way over to the UK. Collins have named Generation Snowflake as their word of the year [2016] and just like its predecessor Omnishambles its’ meaning will become all too obvious as time moves on. The term Millenniums is also used for this generation however, the Snowflakes are much younger which makes a huge difference. Basically, the phrase sums up a particular group of young adults who came of age in this decade [ 2010 0nwards] who are perceived to be more prone to taking offense and less resilient than previous generations. A bit soft in other words. Much of the blame, if that is the correct term, is said to lie with over-protective parenting and the rise of Self-esteem culture.

There’s nothing wrong with encouraging young people to feel good about themselves but insisting that they write down ten amazing things about themselves every morning might be going a bit too far. Why not get the little darlings to write down ten amazing things about somebody else instead? And it’s all very well insisting that they can each reach for the stars as long as they point out that they will need a vehicle to get there and it will have to be in good working order if they are to survive the trip. It’s the same when mixing with other people, it’s unrealistic to believe that we can all get along fine just as long as we all mind our Ps and Qs and become incredibly politically correct. Claire Fox, founder of the libertarian think tank – The Institute of Ideas commented in the Evening Standard last May that The fear of giving offence is killing democracy and stifles truth. I found her words chilling and was reminded of George Orwell’s 1984 and the Thought Police. We should be able to discuss/debate that which we find unfamiliar, difficult to comprehend or downright strange without resorting to insults. That is not only how we learn but how we learn to get along.

According to their critics, most Snowflakes simply become distressed by ideas that run contrary to their own world views and sadly, many suffer from  poor mental health because of it. This is most evident in the many accounts of on-line bullying via Social media platforms. Some critics say that we are now in a New Puritan Age  where certain people crave victimhood, seek offence in all that they see and then demand apologies along with compensation. However, there is one group of  Millenniums / Snowflakes that appear to contradict everything that has been levelled at them so far and they are the contestants on the BBC television programme The Apprentice. For anyone who has not seen the programme, this is a game show where a bunch of the most odious individuals get to tease and humiliate a posse of naive young people who will do anything for the chance of becoming Lord Sugar’s apprentice, whatever that entails. The torture goes on for about twelve weeks before those viewers who stick with the show are put out of their misery and an apprentice is chosen. Clearly, those millenniums taking part in the show are not particularly thin-skinned, overly-sensitive or unable to cope with anyone disagreeing with them which is kind of encouraging but in a depressing way.

The Snowflakes and the Millenniums have their champions. People such as Richard Brooks, NUS Vice President for union development, totally refutes that Generation Snowflake is a homogeneous mass of selfie-taking, free-speech quashing, entitled, politically correct types, which is fine, they need defending. However, whilst I certainly do not believe young people are over-sensitive for wanting to do something about racism and sexism, I do believe that in their efforts to curb free speech they simply maintain the status quo. The term, Snowflake Generation emerged in America at a time when an earlier generation, The Baby Boomers [ born post 1945] were becoming tired of political correctness not because they didn’t agree with it in principle but because it was getting out of hand. Ordinary people were finding themselves being over-looked simply because there was no label that could be attached to them, they were too ordinary. They weren’t People of colour, they were not unhappy with their gender identities, they were not Gay and by and large, they had nothing against those that were.

A study / survey of college students carried out in the USA during President Obama’s second stay in office discovered that only 40% of students were able to empathize with people whose life experiences differed from their own. It was very much the vindication that the Me Generation was finally established and then, of course, each generation must have its’ own conscience so why not adopt the most Neo-Liberal one going? I started off by saying that Snowflake Generation is not responsible for its’ creation therefore we should not dismiss it out of hand. Each generation is the product of its’ environment and however much we might feel that we act only in their best interests, we are often mistaken. We are the ones who made the Snowflake Generation what it is, the ones who gave it special status and then turned our backs on it leaving it burdened with student debt, unable to buy or rent homes, having to take insecure jobs and so on. Ironically, another word that emerged as a favourite newcomer in 2016 was Hygge, a Norwegian word that basically means to find happiness in the ordinary. Perhaps if the generation who gave birth to the Snowflakes had concentrated more on teaching their offspring about the value of Hygge then they might have produced a much happier, more secure generation.



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This Septic Isle

The late Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spen was a person who believed in love – the Big one, not just loving your friends and family but everyone she ever came into contact with and many others that she simply read about and wanted to reach out to.  Jo Cox believed in fighting for a better world and a more just society. As human beings go, she was clearly,  one of the very best but unfortunately, Jo is no longer with us. Six months ago, one of her constituents, Thomas Mair took it upon himself to kill the MP and sadly, succeeded. Whatever prompted the killer to do such a shocking thing will probably never be known but it has been suggested that Mair was motivated by racial hatred. An overly simple albeit most possibly, correct assumption by the UK media. However, as a former practitioner and outreach worker myself, I am only too aware of the difficulties faced by those who work in our communities  be they police officers, social workers or, as in this case, a democratically elected representative of the people going about their business. As professionals, we Risk-assess, adopt Lone-Working policies and generally, do everything we possibly can to keep ourselves safe. However, mistakes are made and the consequences are often tragically sad.

Sixty miles away from the former mill town of Birstall in the semi-rural idyll often cited as being one of most desirable places in the UK to live, a local Tory Councillor was so unmoved by the tragic events of  June 16th that in response to a social media fundraising campaign in memory of the MP commented “I’ve just donated the steam of my piss!” The same Councillor, Dominic Peacock, later posted “I am sick and tired of this woman’s [Jo Cox] death being used against the Brexit cause.” [it happened a week before the EU referendum] The local Conservative Party [Beverley and Holderness branch] obviously took issue with their member and expelled him from the party for two years. This period was arrived at, according to the association’s chairman Christopher Coulter, to allow Mr Peacock back into the party in time for him to seek re-election  in 2019. So that’s him sorted then except that, Councillor Peacock remains a member of  both, East Riding Council and Beverley Town Council. Apparently, none of the authorities mentioned can legally remove Cllr Peacock from any of his elected roles however, I suspect that the Conservative Party are within their rights to permanently expel him from the party. The latest news suggests that they have extended his ban to four years.

I wonder what it was that motivated Cllr Peacock to publish his comments on Facebook? It’s bad enough to know that he holds such evil contempt f0r others but to let it be known in such a way is inexplicable. Peacock claims to regret it now but surely, it was a similar impulse to that which prompted Thomas Mair’s actions back in June? Some people carry hatred around with them just as you or I might never leave the house without ensuring we have a few quid in our pocket should we need it. Of course, in the wider sense, hatred is not only endemic within our communities but also uniquely human. Some might argue that we only attack when we feel threatened but that’s not strictly true is it? Individuals, Communities and Countries have waged war against each other for centuries simply because they lacked the ability to resolve their differences peacefully. Perhaps Thomas Mair lacked the necessary skills to explain why he found the policies of his local MP so objectionable but I suspect that Cllr Peacock is rather more sagacious than the former gardener. And how much better would it have been had Mair’s alleged, extreme views been made public and acted upon before that fateful day in June? Clearly there are individuals living among us who seek to harm others for no other reason than that they hold views which don’t tally with their own.  Perhaps in our efforts to remain tolerant we are allowing this kind of hatred to fester and grow?

It was reported that following the death of Jo Cox, there were over 50 thousand tweets congratulating her killer, many of them calling him a hero. However, we should not assume that Mair acted on behalf of  any political association, fringe or otherwise. He was, IMHO, someone who had become so absorbed in Far-Right, Nazi-Style propaganda that it was only a matter of time before he did something outrageous. Killing Jo Cox was a political action but of the most personal kind. Mair planned to kill his MP because he, Thomas Mair, wanted her dead.  Subsequently, the by-election to appoint Jo Cox’s successor was won by the former actress, Tracy Brabin standing as the Labour candidate with very much the same mandate as her predecessor.  Considering that none of the other four main political parties took any part in the election, it wasn’t a surprising result. What did surprise me though, was the low turn-out [25%] and the number of extremist groups masquerading as political organs who did take part in the process. Where were the local people who Jo Cox had worked so hard for during her short tenure as their MP? We can only hope that they will continue to build upon the foundations that Jo Cox managed to cement in place before she had to leave them. However, in other communities across Britain the poison continues to spread. The MP  Anna Soubry, member for Broxtree in Nottinghamshire was recently targeted on social media with hate messages, the most heinous calling for someone to “Jo Cox her”. The latest news is that a 25 year old man has been arrested in connection with this comment but as yet, no further action has been taken.

Footnote: I have not used any pictures of any individuals mentioned, mainly out of respect but in Dominic Peacock’s case because I cannot bare to look at his ugly mug.

Update: We are almost two weeks into January 2017 and Peacock has still not resigned!

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A Divided Party is unelectable.

I’m really pleased that I decided not to attend this years Labour Party Conference because I would have left it feeling even more disappointed with the party than I was before I arrived which is a shame because I thought it would be a good one. The previous year had not been that great with key figures in the party appearing not to be  singing from the same hymn sheet however, reports of the 2016 gathering sound like something out of Game of Thrones. Critics from all sides of the political spectrum described the Labour conference in Liverpool as having the mood of a funeral. The Times journalist and Tory supporter, Matthew Paris however, disagreed with this analogy, commenting that funerals have focus, certainty and dignity none of which were evident at the Labour conference. From all reports, it sounds like there were two political parties in the conference hall, both calling themselves Labour. I even suspect that the Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, has assumed the higher rank for one of the two groups and is more obviously attempting to split the party by aiming his criticism of Corbyn and his supporters more forcefully at those on the left of the party. However, it is all very well calling out for supporters to embrace Tony Blair’s achievements when they amount to very little domestically and yet overwhelmingly catastrophic outside of the UK. Ordinary people, those that the PLP  appear to neither recognise nor understand, are reminded every time they turn on their televisions or radios of Blair’s legacy and they are not likely to be singing his praises.

Another fierce critic of Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, Sadiq Khan, made no attempt at the conference to hide his dislike of the elected Labour leader when he dismissed his appointment using the common phrase, “yeah, whatever!” In my opinion, Khan comes across as a very arrogant individual who believes himself to be more important than he actually is. Sure, he is the elected Mayor of London but outside of the capital, he means almost nothing to any of us and if I’m allowed to say it without being ejected from the party, Zac Goldsmith was the better candidate for the job by far. Apart from Mr Khan, there are so many individuals in the party now who consider themselves to be  more significant than they actually are, people such as Rachel Reeves and Jess Phillips, that even lightweights such as Liz Kendall have gained more credibility since Corbyn became party leader than she had prior to his appointment. However, regardless of what goes on behind the doors of Westminster the only thing left for me to decide is whether to remain a member of a party that is actually two parties or do what so many people choose to do and simply ignore politics altogether. However, for a former Politics student, someone who has been active in local politics over the past forty years, that is much easier said than done. So what has gone wrong for me?

I began supporting the Labour Party when Harold Wilson was the leader and subsequently Prime Minister although I was too young to vote for him until 1970. Wilson’s achievements as party leader make Blair’s appear minuscule by comparison. He brought Labour back into government after thirteen years in the wilderness and he kept British armed forces out of the Vietnam conflict. To his eternal credit, Wilson never once said “How high” whenever his American counterpart said “Jump”.  However, whilst never claiming to be a socialist, Wilson always believed that Labour was the natural government for Britain which I interpreted as meaning that only a Labour government would place the interests of ordinary people above those of  the rich and powerful. This is not to imply that Wilson or any other Labour PM could not engage successfully with all sections of society but that the welfare of the lower classes would always be of paramount importance as the Rich can look after themselves [ and do so ] whereas the majority largely depend on a democratically elected government for their welfare.  In some respects that is also what Corbyn believes and is why I support him. However, whilst I remain what can best be described as a “moderate” I am above all, a pragmatist therefore, I prefer facts to theories. I like the fact that since Corbyn first became leader of the Labour Party, membership has risen by over 300,000 but I dislike the theory [ put forward by Corbyn’s enemies ] that many of these new members are either mis-guided, politically naive or trots. However, disregarding what  the Parliamentary Labour Party [PLP] thinks of the new members, they have been more than happy to take their money without giving them anything in return.

It was a disgrace not to allow new members to vote in the re-election  of Jeremy Corbyn as leader regardless of the fact that he was certain to win with an increased share of the vote. The entire leadership challenge was a total fiasco from start to finish anyway with the sole challenger, Owen Smith coming a respectable second, once the ABC  [ Anyone but Corbyn ] vote had been counted. However, I suspect that even a glove puppet would have done as well as Smith. Sorry if I’m theorising now but you see my point. The biggest problem with the Labour Party is it’s inability to look at the facts. It refuses to believe that the general public want to see an effective opposition, one that doesn’t simply offer a slightly less Right-Wing approach to government than The Tories, before they ever consider voting  them into power. The PLP keep on about Power being the only thing worth chasing but what about representing the people who voted in those Labour members of parliament, do they not matter now that they’ve got the jobs? They have to be careful though, Ed Balls forgot about his constituents long enough to lose his seat in the 2015 general election and his wasn’t the only safe seat to disappear. Goole was a safe Labour seat for years but it was lost in 2010 to a hard-working Tory and I suspect that it will remain in Andrew Percy’s hands for a long time to come.  Labour will never accept the fact that in this era of uncertainty, ordinary people are less likely to concern themselves over things that they largely feel, is beyond their control. Far too many people don’t bother to vote for any party because they believe all politicians to be the same therefore, on a low voter turn-out the most recognisable candidate is likely to triumph.

The obvious exception to this theory was the recent referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union [ the E.U.]. On this occasion, voter turn-out was much greater than at any other time because ordinary people felt that their views would actually go on record, it was a simple Yes No question and the people’s voice would be heard loud and clear. However, as soon as the result was announced, the “remainers” began screaming for a re-match whilst simultaneously rubbishing those who had voted for Britain to leave the EU. Remainers in the PLP even went as far as to blame Jeremy Corbyn for not leading a strong enough campaign in favour of remaining when in fact, it was Alan Johnson MP who was put in charge of Labour’s campaign. If anyone was to blame, it was Johnson not Corbyn. However, it appears that public opinion has still not been embraced by any of our political parties. Corbyn, post-conference has stated that Labour policy will be to retain “Open Borders” with Europe – the very thing that the majority voted against. No one is saying that we should bar foreign nationals from entering into the country but that every application to visit should be treated the same. In other words, if an employer feels the need to bring workers in from either European or Non-European countries then that employer should be made responsible for their welfare whilst they are here. The employer should also have to apply for the necessary permissions and be responsible for their workers return at the end of their stay. People from outside the EU are currently subject to harsh and often, highly subjective scrutiny when they apply for permission to enter Britain. Many of these applicants simply wish to join their families who are already living here but as many as four out of five applicants are refused entry. I don’t know where you stand on immigration but you must agree that the current system is grossly unfair.

Elsewhere in Corbyn’s embryonic Labour manifesto there are suggestions that he will connect with the general public in several areas, especially in his support for the National Health Service. I believe it to be a mistake simply to say that there will be no more privatisation because in many ways, the NHS has benefited by inviting private investment into the service ever since it began in 1948. However, the services I am referring to are neither clinical nor administrative, the NHS must retain control of  the core functions which underpin the purpose of a public health service. In  other areas such as facilities management including general maintenance, transport, shops and restaurants where both visitors and patients can purchase items, cash machines, garden areas etc. the private sector can easily co-exist within the NHS as well as provide additional revenue.  At Addenbrooke Hospital in Cambridge where I visit occasionally, they even have a travel agency, a dry cleaners and a “pop up” shop for local artisans to sell their wares. At Salford Royal, they have a very busy M&S Foodhall which is popular with both staff and patients! They also have the most fairly-priced visitor car-parks of any hospital I have ever visited.

Whilst I guarantee that there will be huge criticism of many, in not all of my suggestions, mainly coming from the Trade Unions, I was surprised at the GMB union’s reaction towards Corbyn’s pledge to scrap Fracking. [ They want it simply because it could mean more jobs for their members. ]  Does this suggest that GMB members are all city-dwellers who neither care about the countryside nor show any interest in the experiences of fracking outside of the UK. It was only a short time ago when Blackpool suffered a small earthquake thought to be the result of nearby fracking and almost all reports of fracking in the USA have been negative so far. Again, in The Times, there is  support for Fracking, Shale is good for the economy. Government should help promote its extraction. it demands. However, when a right wing voice claims something is good for the economy what they are really saying is, here is something else we can make a lot of money out of. [“we”is not to be interpreted as everybody] Scientists on the other hand, are well aware of the dangers associated with Fracking.

The other big fall out on both policy and possibly, Corbyn’s friendships was the apparent decision by Jeremy to agree with the renewal of Trident. Shadow Defence Minister, Clive Lewis, a rising star in the party and an ex-soldier was quickly replaced by Nia Griffiths who went to school in Hull, was elected following an all woman short-list and was later found guilty of overclaiming her MPs expenses. Now, I’m not implying that she doesn’t deserve to be an MP but I fail to see how she qualifies for the post of Shadow Defence Minister.  Lewis feels, quite rightly, that the priority of the current government and any future administration is to strengthen our conventional armed forces rather than spend money on a defence system which, if ever deployed would eliminate ourselves, our enemies and millions of innocent people. If the thought confuses you then I suggest reading Neville Shute’s book, On The Beach, it was written in the 1950s but has remained entirely relevant ever since and perhaps, even more so today. I believe that Corbyn has been under pressure from the trade unions to change his position on Trident which, considering that he has long been an opponent to it’s renewal, speaks volumes. Another politician that was taking part in a radio debate  recently, argued that if  the over-riding reason for renewing Trident was to protect jobs then we might as well all pack up, go home and button down the hatches. He was right, why do we put jobs before lives?

The government can help create jobs in almost any way possible if it has the will to do so but not when it means building weapons of mass destruction. Remember Tony Blair? He brought the nation to its’ feet demanding that we punish those responsible for having “weapons of mass destruction” however, we failed to find Saddam Hussain’s WOMDs whilst our own sit quietly undisturbed in a Scottish Loch for all to see.Talking about jobs albeit indirectly, leads me to the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell and his views on pay and the economy. John says that we shouldn’t be ashamed to call ourselves socialists and I don’t however, I found the scenes of Jeremy, John and their supporters singing “The Red Flag” at the end of the Labour Conference extremely off-putting. There is no doubt in my mind that McDonnell’s credibility will have been tainted by this unnecessary display. Neil Kinnoch, the ex party leader who knows more about defeat than any other Labour leader, along with the late Michael Foot, were often seen in similar situations and they both suffered as a result. John McDonnell however, has impressed me a great deal since he became a member of Corbyn’s cabinet and I sincerely hope he doesn’t follow Foot and Kinnoch into political obscurity.

John’s ideas originate from very secure sources, people who understand not only how the current economic system works but how an alternative system could work better and for everybody not only for the better off. Critics will say that McDonnell’s ideas are ill thought-out, idealistic or plain daft but that’s not the point. Anyone reading a political memoir or biography will come across numerous examples whereby the Prime Minister or another senior minister will come up with an idea which s/he then hands over to a small group of government insiders [policy makers] in order to develop. Once the “idea” has been fleshed out, it returns to the originator who, once satisfied with it, presents it to Parliament in the form of a “green” paper which if agreed by “the house” becomes a “white paper” and subsequently, Government Policy. John says that there will be no more “Phillip Greens under Labour” which we hope will be the case however, you have to blame the government for allowing people like Green to flourish in the first place and whether a Labour government would be any different is impossible to say. One thing McDonnell must not do is over-tax businesses and job creators. He says that he will increase the national minimum wage [NMW] to more than £10 an hour however, it doesn’t matter how high the NMW goes up if there are no jobs to be had. And, who can say what the NMW should be when or if ever, Labour return to government?

Another “idea”, this time coming from Corbyn is to have zero unemployment. This is a non-starter, you can never have full employment, there has never been full employment anywhere in the world. Why doesn’t Jeremy simply lower his sights and aim for something which is  achievable such as unemployment running at below one percent? And going back to Labour’s pledge to keep the Open Borders policy despite Britain not being a member of the EU, how will our jobs market accommodate both our indigenous workers/job hunters as well as those crossing over from mainland Europe? Are we also to believe that a Labour government led by Corbyn will collect sufficient taxes from all those workers to fund the abolition of student tuition fees at a time when our universities are awash with students, many of whom will never put their learning to good use. I’m not wishing to deter people from going to university if that’s what really appeals to them but we all know that since Blair opened the floodgates, going to uni has become a more desirable alternative to going on the dole. What Blair should have done, what his successors promised to do and what Labour, whether in opposition or government, should be doing is widening opportunities for school leavers beyond going to university. It would be madness to introduce free Higher Education for all now that we have reached a situation whereby fifty percent of school-leavers are going to university. By all means allow them to make this choice but introduce a Graduate Tax in order to pay for it rather than dump the entire cost on the nation.

So where do we go from here, not back to the drawing board surely? However, what really matters is where do our young people go, those setting out in this terrible, uncertain world they/we inhabit. In the 1980’s I discovered that Post-modernity is an era personified by risk. Unlike the Modern era which some of us and certainly our parents lived through, very little could ever be taken for granted again. Some commentators remarked that the most significant aspects of the Post-Modern area was the absence of certainty in our lives and the constantly evolving demands of Change. People could no longer rely upon secure employment and with new, smaller, more flexible industries replacing the huge factories that had traditionally offered mass employment, thousand of jobs were lost. Eventually, Margaret Thatcher drove the nails into Modernity’s coffin lid when she ordered the closure of the pits and sold off Britain’s utilities to the highest bidders so that we are now importing coal, gas and electricity at an enormous cost to consumers.

Tony Blair chose to ignore the damage that his predecessor had done and subsequent Conservative governments have simply upped the anti by placing even greater burdens on the vulnerable. Corbyn claims that since becoming leader of the Labour Party they have managed to curb some of the  governments attacks on the poor. He claims victory in the fight to retain welfare benefits, in particular, Family Tax Credits [FTC] and Personal Independence Payment [PIP]. However, my own experience as a Welfare Rights Worker and Advocate disputes Corbyn’s victory claim in this area and if anything, the already poor  treatment of  people claiming PIP or FTC by the Department of Work and Pensions has grown worse over the past year. I can only assume that Corbyn is either deluded or his cabinet, such as it is, is not fully informed. Elsewhere in the Labour Party but not in Jeremy’s group, there are MPs such as Rachael Reeves who feel that the Tories haven’t gone far enough in their Welfare reforms and who, I suspect, would have the poor and sick moved into some kind of modern day Gulag hidden away from  the decent hard-working people she prefers. And that’s where I will leave it. My mind is now made up. I don’t want to be a member of a party that is, in effect two parties, neither of which has anything in common with the other. I’m not sure whether it is mutual but one of the two parties has no respect for the other and therefore, has no respect for moderate members like myself  who sit in the middle whilst leaning towards the left.

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