Category: Tories

Bad picker

What is it with David Cameron and appointments? Back in March 2012 I made the point that he keeps phoning a friend, and getting back the name of a good criminal, bungler, or crank.

We’ve had Steve Hilton and his brilliant ideas, before he failed-up into a better paid gig in California. He recommended Emma Harrison and A4e, before they ended up being prosecuted for fraud. Rohan Silva did some trendy dad stuff and failed-up into a better paying gig with a VC fund. Michael Gove recommended both Andy Coulson, before he was convicted, and that eugenics nutter he made an education SPAD. Cameron made Liam Fox defence secretary, and he brought with him the incredible fraud-cum-security-vortex Adam Werritty as a defence SPAD. His government needed someone of absolutely unimpeachable integrity to lead an inquiry into paedophile networks. They found somebody who was conflicted-out because they were related to the prime suspect, and then they replaced her with somebody who was conflicted-out because she was a personal friend of the prime suspect. If I’ve missed anyone, please add in the comments.

Boris Johnson’s appointments are, if anything, worse. And the wankercade twats on. Now it’s the trade minister. You might say it’s quite possible that the CEO of HSBC wouldn’t have any detailed knowledge of individual client accounts in the Geneva branch, but Stephen Green was actually on the board of the HSBC private bank in Switzerland, HSBC Private Banking Holdings (Suisse) SA, at the relevant time.

a short post about candidate selection

A list of constituencies the Tories have written off as lost has been leaked. Here are the first three candidates.

Ben Adams – Stoke-on-Trent North
Bim Afolami – Lewisham Deptford
Festus Akinbusoye – West Ham

I don’t think we need look very far for an explanation?

most cash looks pretty flat to me

We were talking about glib cliché solutions. Here, we have the prime minister.

“No-one wants their child to go to a failing school and no-one wants to them to go to a coasting school either,” said Mr Cameron.

“‘Just enough’ is not good enough. That means no more sink schools and no more ‘bog standard’ schools either.

Blah, the same old crap they all come out with ever since Chris “probably wouldn’t get away with that these days” Woodhead invented incompetent teachers all those years ago. The BBC initially trailed the story as “Cameron’s war on mediocrity” before presumably realising they were about to kill satire. The actual content here seems to be the invention of a new category, “coasting schools”, that might be gifted to landlords (that’s “academies”).

Also, this:

Setting out his party’s education policy, the prime minister said funding per pupil would not be cut and would provide a further £7bn for places for rising numbers of pupils….On funding, the prime minister promised to protect “flat cash” per pupil spending, which would not increase in line with inflation.

That is to say, it’s a cut. It’s not a cut, it’s flat cash. Sorry. A community charge. Sorry. A spare room subsidy. Sorry. It’s not a cupboard, it’s a small room!

Just the man for a war on mediocrity.

You thought London mayoral candidates couldn’t get worse

Did you think Boris Johnson sucked? Try Ivan Massow, doyen of hipster Toryism (he was the nice version of Michael Portillo before Michael Portillo was the nice version of Michael Portillo) and prospective candidate for mayor of London.

Somehow, the mayoralty has become a strange attractor for people who combine vacuous celebrity and a particular kind of dilettante obsession with pet projects. You take the guy from the pub who has a dossier on reviving TSR-2 and merge in Him Off The Telly. Johnson is exhibit A, but Labour offered Alan Sugar at one point. Ken Livingstone had a distinct celebrity twat side. The Lib Dems had Brian the Amazing Pot-Smoking Copper. Those were the serious options.

The Blairite project to create directly elected mayors was interesting, looking back. A big idea of theirs was that political participation was an end in itself. The public had to be encouraged to take part. Another, bigger idea of theirs was that the public should be kept away from anything important.

A prospective mayor of London wasn’t meant to be able to control the railways or the schools or the police, for example, although this changed in practice. The two propositions – the public should participate, but their choices should be restricted – are of course conflicting. Why participate, if there’s nothing in it?

Mayors were meant to fix this by increasing the horse-race element of local politics and by attracting a different kind of candidate. Big celebrity personalities would battle it out, thus getting attention and also sidelining the structures of real political participation. Councillors are rarely celebrities.

The first winner was a proper politician, Ken Livingstone, but this was driven by historical reasons, and after all you weren’t meant to be allowed to vote for him. Once the new system bedded in, it seems to have worked in the opposite sense to that intended. Rather than driving participation, the first real celebrity mayor has won largely because he has reduced it. It’s a form of negative marketing – if Boris Johnson is in it, it can’t be serious. But, of course, it is.

So Massow. Like Boris, he’s a slightly shocking Tory but a Tory all the same. Like Boris, he has a pet project involving massive state-funded construction in the Thames Estuary. He’s commissioned architectural drawings to coo over, today’s easy buy-in to the appearance of seriousness.

This time, though, it’s worse. Boris Johnson wanted an airport; J.G. Ballard would have said, a shrine to the limitless possibilities only the sky can offer. Massow wants: a prison. A super-Titan prison on an island, with special river boats ferrying to the courts. Johnson’s project has the optimism of grandiosity; Massow’s is a massive monument to meanspiritedness.

Of course, the island jail is because the Americans have them, rather like the mayors. The river boats are interesting too, though. It’s a classic Tory pet project – Boris promised more of them back in the day, and all sorts of people like to propose it, but nobody who has studied it in any detail thinks it will ever be a serious transport solution.

But why, why do we need a giant prison in the estuary? Simple; yer man wants to bulldoze the others and give the sites to property developers. This will apparently solve the housing crisis. He knows this because a nick in Oxford has been turned into:

wonderful housing, funky bars and a huge shopping mall

This is, of course, the aim of all urban life, especially the mall bit. It turns out that there is no housing in the development:

Wait a moment, though, this sounds familiar. A prison turned into a posh hotel? Hadn’t I heard of something like that before, in Germany? The worst of this isn’t that it’s shameless hipster urbanism, it’s that it’s not even hip, it’s dated, obvious, and suiviste.

Pushing on, yer man has also apparently read a book about the General Strike of 1926 and wants a reserve of volunteer tube drivers to kill the RMT.

What gets me here is the triple-point, the apex, between the utter shallowness of the thinking, the vicious aggression (monster prisons, comedy GB75), and the desperate haste to press your money on horrible property sharks.

It’s also the representativeness of it. Massow’s putative mayoralty, hell, Massow himself, is a fine example of what this guy calls Fucking London, a collection of clichéd icons and mini-oligarch investment properties, boasting about a tolerance extended only to the rich, desperate to eliminate anything like a civic life, soaking in PR bullshit. And of course, it’s not just the Tories.

Let’s kill this before it lays eggs. I note that among other awful himoff options and borough nutters, Sol Campbell wants to be Tory candidate. I far prefer him – he’s a bloke from Tottenham who made enough money to drive a different Maserati every day and that’s basically it. He has about as many principles as a man who played for both Spurs and Arsenal would have, but at least he doesn’t want to build a prison island in the Thames and name it after himself. Perhaps there’s a crack for a spoiler campaign here. Labour for Sol. An asymmetric, nonlinear threat demands such a response.

Although. Apparently he has some “ideas”.

#iwaswrong – public sector co-op edition

Here’s a brutal sickburn on the journos, wanktankers, and pols who were taken in by the privatisers of Hinchingbrooke Hospital, who have now done a bunk ahead of the inspectors after the place turned out to be a sinister deathtrap run by Nurse Ratchet:

We heard the staff member say to the patient ‘don’t misbehave, you know what happens when you misbehave

With a little help from the Dnepropretovsk No.1 Nail Factory:

Circle loudly proclaimed its rapid improvement in the key ‘4 hour A&E waiting time’ target as evidence that privatisation had quickly turned Hinchingbrooke around’.

But the CQC discovered the hospital kept patients waiting too long in ambulances before they were allowed into A&E. And after they were seen in A&E, they then waited far too long – up to 12 hours – to be admitted to hospital

Obviously this is all terrible, and I strongly recommend you read the whole of both links and then, uh, occupy everything. But the point I want to make is a different one. Here goes:

Circle likes to present itself as the John Lewis of healthcare, run by its staff. The Sun; the Times; the Mail; even the Financial Times have indulged it, the latter calling Circle “a John Lewis-style partnership.”

It isn’t true. Power rests with the majority shareholder, Jersey-based Circle Holdings, owned by six venture capital and hedge funds (whose founders have, entirely coincidentally, donated fortunes to the Tories).

Yet nearly all of Circle’s victims reported that the key to its success was the empowerment of its staff. “Hinchingbrooke has become a model hospital in which clinical staff make decisions,” wrote columnist Alex Massie. But a survey showed that staff actually “felt bullied and harassed by managers.”

Circle wanted everyone to know about ‘stop the line.’ Moore duly reported that staff were “encouraged” to use it. “Someone stops the line in Hinchingbrooke most days” – although not, apparently, on the days when the Care Quality Commission was there. According to the Commission’s report:

“Staff told us that they had been actively discouraged by managers from calling a ‘stop the line.’ When we found a significant failing the matron was unwilling to call ‘stop the line.’ Even during the discussion of this issue with the CEO, it was the Care Quality Commission who called a ‘stop the line,’ not the Trust.”

TOYOTA PRODUKSHUN, YR DOIN IT RONG. But the person who is wrong here is me. Back in 2007-ish, I thought the idea of public services as co-ops was a great one. So did a lot of other people in the blogosphere, notably Chris Dillow. I was wrong and so are they.

Someone who was right, by the way, was international bankster and Camden glitterato Daniel Davies. We were talking about this outside the Crown & Goose pub in Camden Town one evening that summer, a lovely evening, the sort that would pass for one of those summer evenings before the lights went out across Europe. In a sense, of course, it was, even with the crow eating chips by my beer-stained desert boots and the diesel fumes. It was 2007.

Anyway, he put forward a scenario for its failure of such gruesome horror and dreadful plausibility – call it Project Cthulhu Cupcake – that when we left the pub, we agreed never to disclose any of its contents in case we gave someone the wrong idea. As the deal is still in force and the Tories are still in office, I am not going to say anything more about it except that D^2 was right.

a high-entropy node in the network of networks

What is it that’s changed in the paedophile inquiry? We’re now looking at a triple murder inquiry and the police seem to be taking it deadly seriously. I have a theory. North Yorkshire police just apologised for denying for years that they ever suspected Jimmy Savile or his associate, Peter Jaconelli. In fact, they investigated but nothing ever happened and for years they claimed there were no files.

This is important because Jaconelli was a significant figure, as mayor of Scarborough, borough councillor, county councillor, and chairman of the Yorkshire & Humberside Conservative party. I suspect, but I don’t know, that he might also have been the local Conservative Association chairman at some point.

On the other hand, he owned most of Scarborough, specifically the ice-cream business, slot machines, restaurants, and venues. How Savile might have known the owner of a high traffic seaside venue ought to be obvious. This is part of what I meant with this post. So it looks like Jaconelli was the intersection between Savile’s northern/showbiz circle, and the southern/political one.

Now the Tories are historically a decentralised organisation, much more so at the time, and he would had a lot of influence over candidate selection, most of all on his own personal patch. It is a matter of record that the man who is alleged to have received Geoffrey Dicks’ dossier in 1981 before it went missing was MP for Cleveland and Whitby, a constituency split off from Scarborough, between 1974 and 1983.

Dicks, of course, was a Yorkshire Tory himself, from Huddersfield West. If by chance the document was treated as a party matter, keeping it out of the civil service’s hands, that might explain where it ended up.

#burybadnews extra: the impact has been cancelled

Bonus extra #burybadnews at the Care Quality Commission:

The impact of the economic downturn on the quality of health and social care has been cancelled.

Well, there’s some good news! Wait. The CQC has cancelled its study into the impact of the economic downturn, not the impact itself.

Thanks to Tony Bovaird on twitter.

Also, I counted up the stories by department and here are the results.

Screenshot from 2014-09-21 17:37:29

Who knew Jeremy Hunt or rather his SPAD Sue Beeby was such a devious bastard? That’s right; everybody. Also, on this measure Alex Salmond’s Scotgov and Eric Pickles’ DCLG are equally slimy, which is kind of my point.

making TV programmes to make policy to go on TV with

Here is a horrible piece of work. Tory MP Charlotte Leslie in the Grauniad says stuff.

But Norman Warner is “brave” in a good way, though I disagree with him. Lord Warner, the former Labour health minister, has suggested that if we are to preserve our NHS, we should charge a £10 “membership fee” to help pay for it.

Despite suggesting an answer I cannot agree with, he is responding to the right question – a question so taboo that almost no other politician has had the courage to tackle it. There are other answers apart from his – I for one am loth to jettison the NHS being “free at the point of use” – and we must debate them.

First up, anyone who says no other politician has had the courage to discuss something is usually lying.

Second, Warner is full of shit. Who’s to pay this tenner? How much money would that be? Citizens? Workers? In the UK, or England, or what? If it’s the UK workforce, about 44 million people, that would be about 0.34% of the total UK-wide spend. That’s not going to save anything. Maybe he has some sort of squashy notion of “ownership” or some such, but it’s hard to think of anything the political nation is as attached to as the NHS. Further, we already pay an NHS membership fee: it’s called National Insurance, and you know, Gordon Brown tried putting that up to help the NHS and it worked! It’s even broken out on your pay slip so you can see it.

Roll the tape on.

The question we are all frantically evading is how on Earth we continue to fund an NHS that was devised for a much smaller population, with vastly different expectations, at a time of far more limited and less expensive medical possibilities, and when we died much younger.

A much smaller population? It wasn’t just devised for a much smaller population, it was devised for a much smaller economy, too. Between 1951 and 2008, i.e. pretty close to the first 60 years of the NHS and because I’m being quick, the UK added 9 million people, about 20%. In roughly the same period of time, the UK gross domestic product at 2000 prices more than quadrupled. The population is 20% bigger, but four times as rich. Here’s a chart, per capita, allowing for inflation. What is this drivel?

As always with this sort of stuff, the problem seems ridiculously puny. Apparently too many people go to A&E, when they really ought to see their GP.

Dispatches exposes the unsustainable number of us who go to A&E who simply don’t need to, hindering the genuinely needy from accessing care. There are many reasons – inadequate information and triaging systems, the fact people see A&E as the “safe” option, and that getting a GP appointment can be so tortuous.

And some people miss appointments with their GPs. The monsters.

Patients miss 12m GP appointments every year, at a cost of £160m. An NHS free at the point of use is one thing but can we afford it to be free at the point of “no use”? Could we charge for misuse of the NHS – perhaps £10 for a missed GP appointment?

That would be 0.13% of the UK-wide spend. Perhaps the 12m numberoid is England-only, in which case it’s a whole 0.15%.

But apparently too many people are going to see their GPs, too.

There is a second problem: GP clinics are also clogged up with people who do not need to be there.

The problem is that everyone’s gone soft, and needs a dose of Donner Party conservatism, it seems.

Most of us have never been near the ubiquitous grief and suffering that our war-ravaged grandparents endured. Instead we have been told that we “deserve” things (we are seldom told exactly what we have done to deserve them), so as a generation we generally expect them, and now. Our lifestyle has broadly made us less stoical, less self-sufficient and more demanding than “Generation NHS” – our grandparents.

Really? The people who pretty much by definition were the most committed to the NHS, and who also by definition used the most of its resources?

Anyway, what we need is a good solid nudge to get us back on track.

Perhaps we should be issued with receipts for the cost of our GP or A&E appointment? This will not fill the funding gap, but it may trigger a behavioural change and remind us that the NHS is far from free.

If people were handed scary bills, maybe they might not go to the doctor, or to A&E. This would have done the following patient so much good:

A GP colleague who still practises often tells of how an octogenarian came into his surgery, dressed up for his appointment, with crushing chest pain and began, “I am so sorry to take up your time, doctor”. He was rushed to hospital. The very next patient was a girl in her early 20s, still in pyjamas, who announced she had a sore throat and what was the doctor going to do about it?

You bet. This par may sound over perfect, but there’s a good reason for this. Charlotte Leslie is responding to a TV programme.

Channel 4’s Dispatches tonight tackles one uncomfortable aspect of this challenge head-on.

TV programmes, whether fictional or factual, are films. Films are edited to create a dramatic narrative. Cutting patient 1 into patient 2 makes story. Story is watched. And she ought to know, because it is her own TV show she is spruiking!

So in Dispatches, I put my money where my mouth is and ask some of the questions that doctors are asking but which politicians concerned about elections studiously ignore.

Charlotte Leslie is the Conservative MP for Bristol North West, therefore, a politician. Spare us the shtick with the white coat, already. We could go on; she wants to bill anyone who turns up drunk at A&E, unless they have a drinking problem or are actually ill. That doesn’t sound very workable, and anyway, surely those people can’t cost much because they don’t use any actual treatment, and she even says 50% of A&E patients don’t actually need any treatment.

More importantly, what the fuck is Dispatches, which I can remember doing journalism, up to here? Leslie is an active politician in the run-in to a general election. As such, her party gets its whack of election broadcasts. Nothing more. But here we have a massive, prime-time, hour-long slab of Tory access. And it’s not an isolated incident.

Channel 4 invented “Benefits Street”, and then Iain Duncan Smith cited it as evidence to a parliamentary committee as if it was the real world. Faisal Islam sucks up to Wonga and Create Streets. Now, having created “White” Dee as a sort of poverty starlet, Channel 4 has managed to get her a slot at the Conservative Party conference.

I confidently predict that like everyone who’s done the Tories’ utterly cynical bit of urban slot (see here), she will end up telling the Guardian Society supplement how they let her down in 18 months’ time. Even the Lib Dems do it these days and Jesus Christ, just look at how.

But there is something genuinely new here. We’ve had pols taking their cue from TV. We’ve had pols trying to bully the TV. We’ve had pols apparently convinced that TV is real. Now, for the first time, we have a pol who made their own TV show, who is also convinced that it is real. Channel 4 is hopelessly lost since some time in the second quarter of 2000, but at least it is worth complaining that the Guardian is part of the PR beatup.

Q2 2000, you ask? Yup. Work requires that I know the OFCOM Communications Market Report backwards and forwards.

itsyou

People who watch more TV than I do tell me something interesting happened on C4 then.

Tories and thugs (#Savile warning)

The Leeds post on Savile required subtlety; it dealt with things like culture and class that only work that way. So what about Broadmoor, the asylum where the Tories put the psychopath in charge? Well, Leeds was about the things nobody was willing to say. As we will shortly see, Broadmoor was about precisely the things people said right out there in the open. The report is here.

If you followed mainstream media or indeed this blog, you’ll know that the minister responsible for putting Savile in charge of Broadmoor Special Hospital was none other than Edwina Currie. Here’s what she has to say for herself, at paragraph 7.14 of the report.

“He’d had a look at everything he could use to blackmail the Prison Officers’ Association…I thought it was a pretty classy piece of operation. He knew how to pin people to the wall and get from them what he wanted

She wasn’t wrong.

What was it Currie was talking about? Well, Savile claimed per paragraph 7.13 to have discovered that the Broadmoor staff were fiddling their overtime, that some people who weren’t working there had managed to keep tied accommodation, and that some £5 million was missing from a construction project. The reference to blackmail is that he proposed to leak this to a newspaper if the POA didn’t cooperate.

As the report says, the corollary of this is that he, Currie, and senior civil servants were willing to accept the alleged fraud in exchange for cooperation. As it doesn’t say, quite, the government in the person of Currie was also OK with using Savile’s gangster tactics as well as putting up with the illegality. Currie thought this “classy”.

The motive was, per paragraph 7.13, as follows. It is what you might guess.

He intended to bring the POA to heel

In 7.14, Currie says:

The principal question was “how can [the government] break the hold the POA has on the hospital

She also (reference 7.20) says:

a racket run by the union was like manna from heaven

In a brief for ministers dated February 1989, reference 7.19, we get this:

As a direct result of Mr Savile’s determined and at times ruthless leadership, 15 militant senior nurse managers are set to leave the hospital

It seems only surprising they were not found in a ditch in Guatemala, going by the style and tone here.

But, you say – a racket run by the union is still a racket. The report repeatedly points to the fact that many Broadmoor staff lived in tied accommodation as a reason why Savile got away with it. They were scared of being evicted. The racket didn’t end – he muscled in on it. Clearly, he provided some service and that service was putting the fear of God into people who were after all just in a union. It’s normal. It was the thuggery that impressed so much.

By the way, in fact he made a pass at the minister herself; an annexe to the document contains a civil service note of the meeting in which she says he tends to kiss right on the mouth. We’ll break here to pass round the brain-bleach.

If the convulsions have passed, we’ll continue. One of the big issues in Broadmoor and in the NHS at the time was the emergence of “management” as a thing as opposed to “administration”. “General managers” were appearing and gaining influence as a new profession. In Leeds, this was almost certainly a good thing. Professionalisation removed niches in which the roots of his tolerance lay. Access was reviewed. Policies were drawn up for things like protecting patients from abusers. The dual hierarchy of consultants and nurses, neither of whom necessarily took responsibility for basic security, was subordinated to management.

In Broadmoor, though, Savile was the agent of the rise of the manager. His appointment occurred in the context of efforts to create a management structure for the special hospitals. DHSS officials who believed strongly in “entrepreneurs” were instrumental in appointing him. The launch of playing-at-shops internal markets was closely bound up with it. The man who pressed the button, Cliff Graham, did so over the summer while key civil servants were on leave, ministers were out of the country, and Edwina Currie, bless her heart, was “covering but doing most of it from Yorkshire”. Graham acted, and then informed the minister when the damage was done. It is surely interesting that the report quotes another civil servant describing him as “a thug”. Graham has since died.

I didn’t know, before reading the report, that Broadmoor played an important role in the foundation of the POA. As such, it was perhaps a sort of carceral Yorkshire coalfield. The changes going on there were socially complex. Part of the story was the movement towards a less vicious form of psychiatry, which implied that the role of the staff would be more therapeutic and less punitive or security oriented. This is clearly a good thing. However, an important social aspect of this was that it meant that they would cease to be a trade, organised in the POA, and become a profession with a chartered institute, the Royal College of Nursing.

I don’t know, but I’m guessing that the transition from a blue-collar ex-services culture to a pink-collar one probably came with a pay cut and not much future for non-graduates. Which would be why they wanted Savile and his merry gang from Leeds. Tellingly, the report says the most prison-minded old guard types were also the most successful at keeping him out of their wards – they weren’t likely to be bullied.

Which leaves us with a question I left hanging. Which newspaper was that again? It was, of course, the Sun. It goes without saying, really. And not much changed. Here’s David Hencke:

Matthew [D’Ancona] describes his [George Osborne’s] view of Coulson as ”a street fighter who could take the battle to Labour and win in a media knife-fight.”

But Cameron comes over as besotted with Coulson. According to [D’Ancona] ” Cameron..was awestruck by his communications director, whom he privately described in lyrical language.”

” He treated Coulson as a red top shaman, a source of secret knowledge about the world of tabloids, Essex and kitchen- table politics..

Still far too keen on anyone who came across as: a thug.

DEMOLISH ALL THE THINGS.

I fucking told you. Eric Pickles has signed up for the deeply dodgy Create Streets agenda, on the basis of a report drawn up by a bunch of estate agents. On which planet isn’t this an outrageous conflict of interest?

Also, he wants to get rid of terribad concrete towers through….system building.

But Mr Pickles said he was keen to stop any more 1960s-style tower blocks, which he dismissed as “concrete carbuncles”.

Mr Pickles was today visiting Rainham, Kent, to promote affordable homes from new “offsite” construction techniques, billed as a modern successor to post-war pre-fabricated housing.

Meanwhile, I didn’t see any response from this event, bunch of plastic gangsters that you are.