Friday, 26 February 2016

!0 Myths about leaving the EU

We are better off out - I have no doubt about that.

And I am becoming increasingly concerned about the Remain Fear Brigade who seem to think they have some divine superior knowledge about what is best for our country and who think they are so totally right. It's sheer arrogance!

Even a local Labour councillor - the not-so-nice Cllr Ross has taken to calling people who want to leave - Little Englanders - who do these people think they are?

(As an aside, the left are actually not-so-nice when it comes to you disagreeing with them - which is why they keep trying to highlight the differing views on EU within Tory party - totally hypocritical unless they want to tell me all Labour members are going to vote to remain - don't hold your breath).

So let me start by saying this - sorry to disappoint the all-knowing, all-patronising Remainers - there is no wrong or right - there is no way of truly knowing - there is no way to even find out after the deed, because we will never know how the alternative would've panned out.

There is only opinion, facts and myths alongside beliefs and individual values.

I found this - which reflects a lot of what I've blogged about in the past - the absolute myths, littered with facts that should help you to see - We can have our country back, still allow controlled immigration, still trade (as will be EU's legal requirement under the Lisbon treaty) and still create our own laws.

Here is the link for 10 Myths about Leaving the EU


Thursday, 18 February 2016

Folk Music on the Victor Barge - Ipswich Waterfront 26th Feb

Folk Music on the Victor
The popular series of folk music evenings on the historic Sailing Barge Victor, on Ipswich Waterfront, continues on Friday 26th February. Doors open at 7.30pm and music starts at 8.00pm. Resident band is “Hunt the Wren” welcomes everyone to bring along their own instruments and have a go at performing, joining in with other musicians, or simply relax and enjoy the music.
The cost is £15.00 per person, which includes a hot supper should be purchased in advance from Ipswich Tourist Information Centre. Victor has a cosy heated saloon and a fully licensed, well stocked, bar.
The folk nights are “static” events and the Victor will be moored  at her berth outside the Old Custom House on Ipswich Waterfront.
Tickets and information are available from Ipswich Tourist Information Centre in St Stephen’s Church with details on the Victor’s  2016 events and cruises.  Telephone 01473 258070 or email for further details.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

What's Really going On with the Junior Doctors - Guest post by That's Rich

I read this post because I had so many questions about doctors striking - especially about the one last sticking point which nobody seemed to have made clear. 
I love doctors - surgeons are at the very top of my 'hero' list but in direct proportional measure I loathe union masters.
Having read this it confirmed what i had already believed - that the unions are playing politics and are using the doctors as their little chess pieces - except they're not playing anymore and instead of 'check' the government has now called 'checkmate' and I am 100% behind that move.
And of course, the doctors are not the pawns in all this - WE are - the patient.
This is a long read but it's worth it and there are several useful links. it's rare for me to read a long blog post all the way through but I did on this occasion and with the kind permission of the writer @RichH1337 (twitter account) - I hereby give you the best balanced summary I have seen so far:

Junior doctors and #SaveOurNHS activists – eat a snickers.
I was best man for a junior doctor not long ago – I want what’s best for them as much as anyone else does, but the mind-blowing hyperbole and hypocrisy surrounding this issue helps nobody.
I’m going to put a few things down here which should help bring some order to the chaos.
First things first though, let’s get this out of the way:
No, the Tories don’t hate junior doctors, and no, it’s not an evil conspiracy to privatise the NHS. This is the standard codswallop spouted by the kind of people whose default position is to oppose anything and everything the Tories do. If you find yourself being talked at by someone like this, it’s best to politely make your excuses and go back to the bar. You will gain nothing from the exchange other than globs of spittle in your drink.
Junior doctors have been in the wars plenty of times in recent years – and not just under the Tories. Let’s not forget these headlines from 2008:
So with this in mind, let’s start looking at what’s really going on.
The first thing to note is that there is a broad consensus – including within the BMA – that the current junior doctor contract is unsustainable and needs to be reformed. Have a look at the executive summary of this scoping report by NHS Employers in 2011. Reading that document (read points 1.6 and 1.9 of the executive summary if you’re time-strapped!), it is clear that this isn’t a vanity-project or war on the NHS by the Tories as some people are claiming.
The next thing to remember is that, despite the placards and general hatred thrown his way, Jeremy Hunt is not handling the negotiations. Being someone who knows nothing about medicine, he has quite rightly left it in the hands of NHS Employers with the caveat in place that overall spending is not allowed to increase. NHS Employers describe themselves thus:
“The Department of Health sets the broad framework within which we operate, but it is employers themselves who drive our agenda.
NHS Employers is a not for profit organisation which is part of the NHS Confederation. The NHS Confederation is a charitable company whose charitable aims are ‘the relief of sickness and the preservation and protection of public health’. The charity is governed by a board of trustees who oversee the strategic direction and governance of the organisation.
The NHS Employers’ policy board guides the focus and priorities of our policy work.”
As we’re all aware, talks have broken down a few times, with the BMA balloting for strike action including two days of full walk-outs (removal of all care, including emergency), citing concerns over patient safety, doctor training and pay among other things.
After the first strike, the BMA and NHS Employers started negotiating again, this time including the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) in the discussions. In their own words, they:
“…provide free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law. We support good relationships between employers and employees which underpin business success. But when things go wrong we help by providing conciliation to resolve workplace problems.”
According to this letter from NHS Employers’ Chief Exec Daniel Mortimer dated the 4th Jan 2016, significant progress was made before the BMA withdrew from negotiations again:
“In summary, very good progress has been made to reach agreement or make a substantive offer on 15 of the 16 issues raised in the ACAS process or subsequently by the BMA in the areas of safety and education… One issue does remain outstanding regarding the length of paid rest breaks, but the most material outstanding issue is on pay, which centres on the definition of unsocial hours. In light of that it is extremely surprising that the BMA refused to discuss our latest proposal – including the application of financial penalties – at all during the day today and have now indicated that they will move to strike action. I am disappointed and frustrated that this has been the outcome.”
After this happened, Jeremy Hunt appointed Sir David Dalton, the Chief Executive of Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, to oversee the negotiations.
EDIT: He also sent a letter to the BMA Council Chair Mark Porter, that I have just come across. It essentially just conveys his disappointment at the information he received from Daniel Mortimer that day.
Negotiation continued, under the supervision of ACAS, until 29th January. On the 9th Feb, Sir David made a final offer to the BMA, as outlined in this letter to Jeremy Hunt. Here is an extract from his letter – I have highlighted some particularly interesting passages:
“There has been substantial progress since the end of last year and all significant issues associated with safety and training had largely been addressed before Christmas. Despite the most recent progress and substantial agreement on many elements of the contract, the BMA has refused to compromise on its insistence that the whole of Saturday must be paid at a premium rate. In contrast Employers’ position has moved several times, on each occasion offering more hours attracting premium pay. Regardless of these changes no agreement has been possible. It became clear that the only way to move forward was to make a ‘best and final’ proposal in the hope that this would lead to settlement. Yesterday I asked the BMA to respond to my letter by 3pm today confirming that they would unequivocally recommend this offer to the JDC meeting on 20th February or I would otherwise have no alternative but to conclude that there was no realistic prospect of a negotiated outcome. Regretfully no such assurances have been received. “
The letter also included a list of 20 NHS Trust Chief Executives who agreed that the final offer was:
“…considered ‘fair and reasonable’. They also confirm that the NHS needs certainty on the Junior Doctors’ contract and that a continuation of the dispute, with a stalemate and without clear ending, would be harmful to service continuity, with adverse consequences to patients.”
There has been reporting that this text above was changed after the Chief Executives signed it, but that’s not true, as we can see in this tweet by Andrew Fisher, Chief Executive of Wrightington, Wigan & Leigh NHS. The ‘change of the text’ story is regarding imposition of the contract, not the contract itself.
This is the NHS Employers summary of the new contract, and is essential reading for people who want to talk about this with any kind of knowledge. In addition to showing what the new contract is about, it shows how it has changed since November 2015.
EDIT: NHS Employers have a Q&A section on their website about the new contract. You can find it here.
After receiving that letter from Sir David, Jeremy Hunt decided that the only course of action was to impose the new contract offer on junior doctors without the consent of the BMA, andannounced this in the House of Commons.
The result was a huge backlash against the Health Secretary. Cries rang out declaring that there was an all-out war on the NHS from the Tories, and junior doctors were going to start leaving the country in their thousands as a consequence of the ‘unsafe and unfair’ new contract. At the time of writing, a petition calling for a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Hunt is approaching 300,000 signatures.
I’m not going to lie, this really wound me up. I’ve been following the dispute very closely for a very long time, not least because it directly impacted several good friends of mine, but faced with the intransigence of the BMA, I would have made the exact same decision that Jeremy Hunt has.
It is clear that the original concerns raised by the BMA were valid – which is great, that’s exactly what the BMA are there for. What’s less clear, when you only see what is reported in the media, is that NHS Employers appear to have addressed all of these concerns with the exception of Saturday pay – and on that issue, they moved significantly towards the BMA’s position from their starting position. I see absolutely no reason to assume that NHS Employers and the heads of NHS trusts are lying – they have nothing to gain from it whatsoever.
Media outlets and indignant social-media based self-proclaimed protectors of the NHS are still yelling that patient safety is the sticking point, but this clearly isn’t true, unless paying doctors more for a few hours on a Saturday somehow makes them safer.
The sticking point is that the BMA have not shifted at all on the amount of time that is paid at premium rate on a Saturday.
The BBC reported a graphic that showed the offer from NHS Employers (remember the contract being imposed has an increase of 13.5% on the base rate, not 11%) vs what the BMA demanded:
As you can see, the offers really aren’t that far apart.
So let’s look at this logically, people. Are conditions for junior doctors now so awful that they should leave the country?
Put simply – no. No they’re not. Not least because:
  • They’re well paid – their new starting wage is £27,000 (for perspective, the average UK wage is about £26,500), plus at least 33% extra for anti-social hours worked.
  • Their pension scheme is amazing – people working in the private sector can only dream of a scheme like that, and the 13.5% increase in base rate contributes further to this.
  • They have a high level of job security – they don’t have to worry about redundancy like other workers do.
  • They have guaranteed career progression – they don’t have to worry about being stuck in a dead-end for the rest of their working lives.
  • They have guaranteed pay rises as their responsibilities increase.
  • They are not contractually obliged to remain in the NHS, despite the taxpayer having paid in excess of £250,000 to train them (unlike, for example, Army officers – who definitely don’t get overtime for working on Saturdays!).
  • They can reach eye-wateringly high wages after qualifying as consultants.
So, why are the BMA behaving like this? My theory (which, of course, I can’t prove) is that the BMA is full of hard-Left activists who support Jeremy Corbyn and, seeing him floundering in the polls, are trying to damage the government on his behalf. A base level of research shows that this really isn’t that far-fetched.
theBMA theBMA2
Don’t get me wrong, I think that mistrusting government is healthy. In my mind, government is generally bad at everything it tries to do, so skepticism is a healthy default position. But for me, the same applies to trade unions, particularly considering how politicised they are.
(image borrowed from The Mirror)
How is it possible to be so skeptical of government, yet trust the BMA explicitly? I struggle to trust a union that threatened to withdraw emergency care from patients. What they’re saying is, “do what we say, or people will probably die”. That threat sickens me.
In reality, it seems to me that the BMA have ran out of arguments. I now expect the dispute to become even more emotion-based than it is already. They will try to justify their stance by telling us how great junior doctors are and how much we need them.
It’s beginning already – people on Twitter are talking about being alive because a junior doctor saved them. Well, that’s great, but adds nothing to the discussion whatsoever. Nobody is saying that junior doctors aren’t great or aren’t important, so who are you trying to convince?
I’ll leave you with a few links to, who have been great through all of this.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Prison Reform and why we should all embrace it

I was pleased to see the announcement by my government on prison reform.

I am one of the few people I know (even perhaps the only one!) that thinks prisoners should get the vote - with a caveat that they are being released within the term of that government. I have already published a blog post on this subject.

So this is from central government and concurs with my belief that no-one should be written off and everyone should be given another chance for their mistakes - to benefit them, their families, society as a whole, by reducing future victims, and the taxpayer.

The Prime Minister will today call for wholesale reform of the prison system – to cut reoffending, tackle our deepest social problems and extend life chances.
When prisons are closed off by high walls and barbed wire it can be easy to adopt an out of sight, out of mind attitude. We want this government to be different. When we say we will tackle our deepest social problems and extend life chances, we want there to be no no-go areas. That includes the 121 prisons in our country, where our social problems are most acute and people’s life chances are most absent.
 Our starting point is this: we need prisons. Some people belong in them – punishment is not a dirty word. But we need a prison system that doesn’t see prisoners as simply liabilities to be managed, but instead as potential assets to be harnessed. And the failure of our system today is scandalous. This failure really matters to the public purse, to victims, prison staff and prisoners themselves, who shouldn’t feel that society has totally given up them. So we will create six new ‘reform prisons’ this year, with full autonomy over how they operate and spend their budget. And the prison education system will also be completely transformed with full control being given to reform prison governors, while protecting the £130 million per year budget.
 We need wholesale reform and we can demonstrate that with the right reforms, we can make a lasting difference to people in our society.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Story so Far on EU renegotiations

So, I set my stall out weeks ago.

It doesn't matter what DC brings back, I will be voting to leave, for reasons I've already said but the main ones being:

We will never get this chance again and thanks to David Cameron's promise, we have a real say - but if we leave and don't like it, we will be able to re-enter at a later date. That second chance will not be given to the Staying In option

The EU is a corrupt, socialist experiment that has turned ugly and I don't think it will ever get back on track.

It has now been infiltrated by terrorists and I don't ever want them finding an easy way through to us on EU citizenship.

That said and in the name of fairness the following is what DC has achieved so far and for those that are quite pro-EU but wavering, I would say it's actually good progress - I just can't be persuaded even if he brought home gold and silver.

At the beginning of this process of renegotiating our relationship with Europe, the Prime Minister set out the four areas where Britain wanted to see substantial change, and the draft agreement published today covers that change.

Of course there is still detail to be worked on  – but they are all in the draft document. 

The four areas of change:
1.      Sovereignty
 What we said:
 ·         We would take Britain out of ‘ever closer union’ and get more power for our Parliament, so that we can never become part of any kind of United States of Europe and are permanently protected from any further European political integration.
 What we are delivering:
·         The draft text says that the UK is not committed to ever closer union in Europe.
 ·         It actually goes further and says that ever closer union cannot be used to justify steps towards political integration in Europe.
 ·         In keeping Britain out of ever closer union, we also wanted to strengthen national parliaments. There is now a proposal for a legally binding agreement that our Parliament can, acting with some others in Europe, block unwanted EU laws with a ‘red card’.
 ·     We have secured a new mechanism to ensure that the EU’s commitment to ‘subsidiarity’ – that decisions should be taken at a national level where possible – is fully implemented, with clear proposals to achieve that.

2.      Competitiveness and creating jobs
What we said:
 We would make Europe more competitive, so we create jobs and make working people in Britain more financially secure.
 What we are delivering:
·         A new commitment ensuring that every year the European Commission will review the burden of regulation and every year the European Council can press to repeal measures that impose a disproportionate burden.
 ·         So every year, the EU will review how much red tape it is imposing on business; and if it is too much, we will demand that it is cut.
 ·         There is a specific focus on cutting red tape on small businesses, and for key sectors.

3.    Not a single currency club
What we said:
·         We would get new protections for Britain to ensure that those countries outside the euro cannot be discriminated against under EU rules, so we keep our economy secure.
What we are delivering:
The draft agreement ensures:
 ·         Britain will keep the Pound and never join the Euro.
 ·         Never again will British taxpayers be liable for Eurozone bailouts.
 ·         Never again can British business be discriminated against because they’re not in the Eurozone.
 ·         The British Government and the Bank of England, not Brussels, will keep an eye on the banks so we can continue to keep our taxpayers and savers safe.
 ·         Britain can never be forced to join or be affected by any changes the Eurozone decides to make to support itself.
 The draft also set outs the safeguard that the Prime Minister called for which means Britain can uphold these principles so we can protect our national interest.
 All these changes would be legally binding.

4.      Controlling immigration from Europe
What we said:
·         We would reduce immigration from Europe by cutting the benefits EU migrants get, so we prevent our welfare system acting as a magnet, create a fairer system for people who work here and play by the rules, and put an end to something for nothing.
 What we are delivering:
 ·         A new law to prevent EU migrants working here from sending child benefit overseas at UK rates.
 ·         An emergency brake that will mean people coming to Britain from within the EU will have to wait four years until they have full access to our benefits.
 ·         This brake will take effect directly after the referendum, once the necessary legislation is passed. And the European Commission has said very clearly that Britain qualifies already to use it.

We have already achieved our two other manifesto commitments to control immigration from Europe:
 ·        EU migrants will no longer be able to claim Universal Credit while looking for work.
 ·         And if those coming from the EU haven’t found a job within six months, they can now be required to leave Britain.

AND: five guarantees:
This draft agreement secures five guarantees. We will:
·         Never be part of the Euro.
·         Never be part of the Schengen borderless area.
 ·         Never be part of a European Army.
 ·         Never be forced to bail out the Eurozone with our taxpayers’ money.
 ·         And never be part of a European Superstate.