Liddle makes the same mistake as Bryant

20150125_112140In this morning’s Sunday Times columnist Rod Liddle makes the same mistake as Labour’s Chris Bryant in relation to the whole James Blunt, public school, privilege thing.

Bryant’s original language was pretty unpleasant:

… we can’t just have a culture dominated by Eddie Redmayne and James Blunt and their ilk

His comments were somewhat ironic given that he himself is a product of elite public school Cheltenham College, one of the Rugby Group of public schools.

No-one seems to have spotted the silliest part of Bryant’s original comments. He said:

Where are the Albert Finneys and the Glenda Jacksons? They came through a meritocratic system.

Albert Finney attended Salford Grammar School and Glenda Jackson (Labour MP as well as actress) attended West Kirby County Grammar School for Girls so Bryant is dead right about a meritocratic system. But, it is one that has been systematically dismantled and not replaced on any scale until the Coalition came along and allowed Michael Gove to push through his school reforms. The harsh fact is that it is hard to excel without a demanding education and that applies to the Labour party nowadays as much as any other walk of life.

Rod Liddle himself cites John Osborne (public school Belmont College), Richard Burton (Dyffryn Grammar School and Oxford University), Terence Stamp ( Plaistow County Grammar School) and and author David Storey (Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield) as “working-class heroes” making the same mistake as Bryant himself.

There is a pattern here isn’t there? Attainment in any field is often based on a demanding education. Making sure more people get one of those is the main point and the driving force of Gove’s reforms.

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Prison suicide needs to be watched but better than it was in Blair years

The Howard League, an excellent prison reform charity, has been highlighting prison suicide today. Their headline “82 prisoners took their own lives in 2014 “ speaks for itself. Simple, stark, tragic.

It is interesting how this has evolved in the media. You can understand the Guardian going with “Prison suicide rate at highest level since 2007″. The Guardian is nakedly partisan so the spin is to be expected.

The BBC says “Prison suicides in England and Wales at ‘seven-year high’”. Who are they quoting? The Guardian? The original Howard League press release did not make the point explicitly. The BBC is just recycling the Guardian’s line.

What are the real numbers?

You can pull a good history out from here and the latest 2014 figures are in the Howard League press release.

The worst recent 5 years for prison suicide were 1999 (91), 2002 (95), 2003 (95), 2004 (96), 2007 (92). I think we can load those on Tony Blair can’t we?

Average prison suicides 1998 – 2010 inclusive (13 years) = 79

Average prison suicides 2007-2010 inclusive (4 years) =68

Average prison suicides 2011-2014 inclusive (4 years) = 69

On this basis the current Coalition record is better than the Labour record. It is only fractionally worse than the four years immediately preceding the Coalition.

It is perhaps best to look at suicide rate per 1,000 prisoners.

Prison suicide

The suicide rate has ticked up worringly but the rate was higher in 9 out of 13 Labour years when there was more money.

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I am afraid that Harry Leslie Smith is an unreliable historical witness

Today the Labour party has used 91 year old Harry Leslie Smith in its party political broadcast. He is two years younger than my Dad so I do know something of the world he grew up in, albeit second hand. Smith’s story about his sister is heart wrenching but I think he is an unreliable historical witness who is peddling a distorted view of the pre-war world. It was a time of great social change and medical innovation. It is only a shame that these changes did not come to fruition in time to help his sister.

There were four hospitals in Barnsley when he was a boy. In particular there was the Mount Vernon Sanatorium which was acquired by Wakefield and Barnsley Councils in 1915 to be used for tuberculosis patients. So rather than there being “no social health care” there was a local authority run TB sanatorium in Barnsley. I don’t know if his sister went there or to St. Helen hospital which was originally built in 1880 as a purpose-built hospital and adjoined the workhouse. St. Helen provided for the poor, destitute and elderly. St. Helen is now the site of Barnsley Hospital.

It is a terrible shame that he lost his sister so young but TB was incurable until penicillin was widely used (at the end of World War II by the US military and more widely thereafter). Without penicillin the NHS would not have saved his sister either.

The NHS is a wonderful institution but we should get our history right.

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Oxfam’s “research” doesn’t help the poor

Guardian front page 19-1-2015This morning the left-leaning media (which includes the BBC Radio 4 Today programme unfortunately) are all over Oxfam’s “research” into inequality. It is tosh of course.

The fact is that the poor’s wealth is not measured very well (by Credit Suisse from where Oxfam got its base data) and if you owe money – for instance you have just bought a house, you have some personal debt and have a good job and are paying your mortgage – your net worth is small or negative although you might be doing great. You can be poor but on track to accumulate wealth in later life. In fact most people go through a cycle of being poor when young, they accumulate wealth in homes and pensions and then they shed it again in old age. Mixing this data on a global basis is meaningless.

The numbers, which Oxfam clearly does not understand, are dominated at the top end by the price of stocks and shares (equities), which are volatile and cyclical like the prices of most financial assets. You can search Oxfam’s report in vain for any reference to these underlying forces which drive their spurious conclusions.

Oxfam's wealth chart

This picture from Oxfam’s report shows relative wealth of the Top 80 on the Forbes list compared to the bottom 50%.


Not surprisingly perhaps the global equities graph precisely tracks Oxfam’s graph showing the wealth of the world’s 80 richest people whose wealth is typically dominated by equities holdings in companies that they have created themselves.

Going back to Oxfam’s chart it would be nice if a poverty “charity” would explain why the bottom half has got poorer recently (even if they are richer than they were before the earlier part of this century according to the chart). Is it due to appreciation of the Dollar against poorer countries’ currencies? Is it due to poorer people taking on more debt? Does it mean some particular groups have gone backwards? Which ones? Does this research accurately measure poor people’s wealth?

It is one thing Oxfam not understanding what drives extreme wealth but it is inexcusable that Oxfam cannot explain poverty. Oxfam seems to be uninterested. Meanwhile does anyone really believe that Bill Gates and his fellow top 80 are the problem?

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Ealing youth claimant count halves under the Coalition

Apparently Labour don’t want their activists talking about the economy. No wonder. The Coalition’s employment miracle has simply not been talked about enough and in particular the revolution in youth employment that has happened under this government.

Youth claimant count

The youth claimant count in Ealing has halved. It stood at 1,780 in May 2010. The latest figure on the government’s NOMIS database is 850 in November 2014. If you look at the quarterly data going back to May 1994 the November 2014 figure is the lowest for 20 years.

Whether you look at Ealing, London or the whole country, the youth claimant count is below the pre-crash low. We really do need to stay on the road to a stronger economy.

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Local NHS has let us down

New A&E at Northwick Park

The local NHS body that runs Ealing and Northwick Park hospitals has clearly screwed up the implementation of its new £21 million A&E at Northwick Park. It was a mistake to close Hammersmith and Central Middlesex A&Es on 10th September and then open the new A&E as the winter pressure on the NHS was at its height. We have been let down by London North West Healthcare NHS Trust (LNW). The picture over the last few weeks has been clear and disappointing. The recent weekly figures charted below are official NHS statistics.

A&E Performance (All)

Overall North West Hospitals are doing poorly, only managing to get around 85% of patients moved on from A&E within four hours compared to more like 90% for the neighbouring Imperial Trust that manages Charing Cross and St Mary’s, or indeed the England average that is running around 90% compared to a 95% target. The Labour-run Welsh NHS was running at 81% throughout December. You can see the Welsh numbers here.

If you look more carefully at the numbers for Type 1 (major) cases the picture is worse.

A&E Performance (Type 1)

England has been running around 85% over the last 8 weeks. Imperial and Wales at 77% and LNW has been running at an atrocious 64%, dipping to 54% just after the new unit opened.

The local paper on Friday had the headline “A&E waiting times at London North West Healthcare NHS Trust worst in England”. LNW has been one of the worst English hospitals for Type 1 (major) A&E waits for weeks now.

As it happens LNW wasn’t the worst in England the previous week. It was the second worst. Southport And Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust was fractionally worse. I guess second worst isn’t such a good headline.

Labour wannabe Rupa Huq has been quick to pounce. She says:

In Ealing and Acton we saw the price of a Tory-run NHS long before these figures were released. The Tories and Lib Dems are destroying our NHS. I’ve lived here for over 40 years now and I can’t remember a time when so many people talked to me about their fears for our health service and social care in later life.

As a mum I’ve first-hand experience of our health service and with my parents needing adult social care I understand the fear that threats to our local NHS services can bring. Local residents face a big choice in the election this year.

Note just emotional name calling from Huq. She used the word “fear” twice in the same quote. Classy. Not one shred of a policy. No promises to do anything different. Her comments about “the price of a Tory-run NHS” ring a little hollow when you consider the record of the “Labour-run NHS” in Wales. The Welsh record on A&E waits is considerably worse than the English record. In Wales in December almost 2,500 people waited over 12 hours. We are not hearing much from Labour about that.

We know winter is a hard time for the NHS and we also know that the local NHS has cocked up their change programme. What we aren’t hearing from Labour is how it would do anything differently. Until we do they might stop shroud waving and let the doctors get on with it.

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Bogus doctor has no answers

The Labour candidate for the Ealing Central and Acton constituency is on Twitter and facebook this morning trying to use the NHS as a weapon in her campaign to unseat the current Tory MP Angie Bray.

As ever Huq has no answers. We all know that A&Es are under strain in the winter and that our population is ageing (thankfully) and that our behaviour as NHS users is changing. The mustn’t grumble generation is fading away to be replaced by the Boomers who are more demanding. We all dislike the disproportionate effect that local NHS changes have had on Ealing.

But what is Labour’s policy? We get no answers from Labour. Not from Rupa Huq, not Julian Bell, not Onkar Sahota. None of them propose any alternatives. Labour will not reopen any A&Es closed by the NHS and it will not provide any more cash than the current government or a future Conservative one. The £2.5 billion they talk about from the mansion tax is chickenfeed – 2% of current spending, which has already been matched by the Coalition. All three parties will sign up to Stevens’ £8 billion plan (which includes £22 billion of further efficiency savings).

Labour refuses to acknowledge that the closures we have had locally under the Shaping a Healthier Future programme would have happened under a Labour government, being as they are merely the delayed local roll out of Labour’s own £20 billion Nicholson Challenge programme kicked off by Andy Burnham in 2009.

The Labour campaign is built around the simple idea that if they lie big enough, consistently enough then they will win.

In all her literature Huq calls herself Dr but fails to point out that she has a PhD in Cultural Studies. Her thesis was on Youth Culture. You can’t help thinking that she seeks to deceive people about her background. She never refers to herself as a sociology lecturer. Only Dr. What can she be trying to communicate in a campaign where the NHS is going to be the main issue she talks about? This is one of the three silly little lies of her campaign, but more on those another time.

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Sahota’s numbers betray him

Local GP Onkar Sahota is playing his full part in Labour’s efforts to keep the NHS at the centre of its political campaigning in the run-up to the next general election. He “retweeted” this tonight – for non-tweeters that means he highlighted something he found of interest that he had found to his “followers” – his audience.

In retweeting this graphic from Labour Left he is in danger of undermining his own case quite badly. In spite of all Labour’s mendacious talks of Tory cuts the graphic confirms that under the Coalition government NHS spending has been protected in real terms. As much as Labour complains that the Tories do not prioritise the NHS the evidence is that they have. Labour made no such promise in the run up to the 2010 election. The Tories promised increased NHS spending and they have delivered. It is there in the right hand column of Sahota’s chart.

His chart say that NHS spending increased in real terms by 4% a year until 2011. I don’t doubt it. That means NHS spending increased by a factor of 12 in real terms between 1948 and 2011. In other words it has got 12 times bigger. The modern NHS is a very different one to that which was founded after the war. It now consumes 10% of GDP. NHS spending more than doubled under Labour in real terms in the 1997-2010 period.

For me the main take away from the graph is that when our economy is feeling its greatest stress in the post-war period asking a service that has enjoyed real terms growth of 6.5% per annum for 13 years to make do with slightly more isn’t the most unreasonable demand. This will involve some big changes but it is not unreasonable.

As a muli-millionaire GP maybe Sahota has some clues as to how the NHS can manage within its protected budget. If he has, he is not rushing to share. It still boggles my mind quite how venal Sahota is.

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Silent Sharma is useless

I figured I had barely heard from Ealing Southall Labour MP, Virendra Sharma, recently so when I saw that the local Labour types had wheeled him out for a rare trip across the River Brent today I thought I might check up on him.

The website keep track of what MPs do. According to them Sharma has only spoken in 9 debates in the last year which is well below average amongst MPs.

If you look at the list of things he has spoken in three of the nine topics were Kashmir, Tamils and the Golden Temple. So a third of his paltry output was a bit specialist for most people.

The equivalent numbers for the other two Ealing MPs are 27 for Angie Bray and 37 for Stephen Pound. The difference between these two is accounted for by Pound’s role as Shadow Minister, Northern Ireland, compared to Bray being a back bencher. Bray managed to speak 3 times more than Sharma and Pound 4 times more.

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Huq casually using public resources to support her campaign

It is perhaps unfair to call out Labour candidate for Ealing Central and Acton, Rupa Huq, on this issue as this is endemic in Ealing Labour’s bent politics.

On Friday Huq looked characteristically ill-at-ease as she stood beside East Acton councillor Hitesh Tailor and head of East Acton Primary School, Helen Williams. The latter is paid the best part of £100K of public money to run this school and she is wasting her time doing photocalls with election candidates. At least Tailor is elected and represents the ward in which her school is located. Huq has no locus and I really can’t see why she is on the premises. If the head wants to run an event alongside the Unison funded Stars in our schools campaign to thank her support staff I am not sure why she thinks it is appropriate to invite only Labour politicians, and an un-elected one at that.

None of this is new. In January this year, in the run up the local elections, Labour produced a press release (that wasn’t taken up by anyone as I recall) with this picture.


It shows the head of Selbourne Primary School, Barbara Anne Smith, and a senior council education officer, Opal Brown, posing with the three Labour candidates (none were actual councillors at the time) for the Perivale ward. I complained to the council and the press release disappeared from Labour’s website. The officer in charge told me that Brown didn’t know who she was being photographed with! A reminder was issued “on expectations in relation to this” apparently.

It happened again in April when Steven Twigg pulled Huq along to a visit to West Twyford Children’s Centre.

Stephen Twigg tweet

The head Rachel Martin seems to think it is appropriate to broadcast her Labour affiliations but she is not entitled to do it in working hours.

Again I complained to the council and Twigg deleted his tweet. The officer in charge told me “The school has been reminded of the guidance in relation to conduct in the run-up to elections” and he arranged for legal guidance to be re-circulated to all schools as a reminder.

It isn’t just head teachers that are supporting Labour’s political campaigning. The council often does it too. Labour’s Onkar Sahota abused public resources mercilessly in his camapaign for the GLA in 2012. For instance, council leader Julian Bell used his Parliamentary e-mail account to promote Sahota, Labour councillor for Elthorne, Yoel Gordon, used his council e-mail address when he was campaigning for Sahota and Sahota repeatedly got himself in official photographs before he was elected.

Having been caught out misbehaving previously in April Huq should know she is cheating and abusing public funds. It seems she doesn’t care though. Huq is Bell’s preferred candidate as Sahota was. The culture of cheating infects them all.

I decided to name names above after having politely and discretely taken this matter up with council officers twice before. If this embarrasses teachers then my response is they should stop.

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