Thursday 13 December 2018 – Theresa May defeats a vote of no confidence in her leadership

WORK IN PROGRESS…

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Theresa May survived the vote of no confidence in her leadership brought by her own MPs. The vote saw a 100% turnout of the 317 Conservative MPs, with 200 of them voting that they still had confidence in the Prime Minister and 117 voting that they didn’t.  The ballot was held in  secret last night and the final vote was cheered in one of the Commons Committee Rooms from where MPs had gathered to hear the result.  In percentage terms, the Prime Minister secured 58% of the votes against 42% who said they had no confidence in her leadership.  Mrs May therefore carries on as Prime Minister and as leader of the Conservative Party and her leadership cannot be challenged again for at least a year, although it is possible that the Opposition parties in the House of Commons could at some point bring a vote of no confidence in the Government. If this happened, all MPs in the House of Commons from all parties will vote and if the vote goes against the Government a General Election will be called.  The Prime Minister had partly secured success after promising to her fellow Conservative MPs that she would not lead the party into the next General Election.  It seems, judging by the comments from MPs after the vote that few people expected her to lead the Conservatives into the next election, which isn’t due until 2022.

The Prime Minister made a statement outside Downing Street after the vote in which she vowed to deliver the Brexit “people voted for”.  Despite over 40% of her MPs voting against her Mrs May continues to insist that she is listening to her MPs who are opposed to her positioning on Brexit that is.  She said last night: “I have heard what the House of Commons said about the Northern Ireland backstop and, when I got to the European council tomorrow, I will be seeking legal and political assurances that will assuage the concerns that members of parliament have on that issue.”

Sources and further reading:

Brexit: Theresa May to join EU summit after surviving vote – BBC – Thursday 13 December 2018

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Wednesday 12 December 2018 – UK Prime Minister to face vote of no confidence from her own MPs over Brexit

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In a dramatic turn of events in Parliament this morning it has been announced that the 48 letters of support for a vote of no-confidence in the Prime Minister from her own MPs has been achieved and therefore, this evening, she will face a vote of no confidence.  If she loses the vote she will be obligated to trigger a leadership election in which she cannot stand. If she wins the vote she will undoubtedly stay as Prime Minister and would be immune from another challenge for at least a year. If there is a leadership contest the candidates will be scrutinised by their fellow Conservative MPs and whittled down to just two remaining candidates, whose names will then be put to the wider Party membership, as well as the Conservative MPs in parliament, to decide on the winner and the new Prime Minister.  If there are only two candidates in the beginning the vote will go directly to the final vote.  Alternatively, if Mrs May chooses to resign – which she said she won’t – it would automatically trigger the leadership election process. Whatever happens we should know the result before the end of today, Wednesday, with the election process for  a new leader if necessary taking a few weeks at least.

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Theresa May gave a robust and defiant statement on the steps of 10 Downing Street in which she declared that “a leadership election would not change the fundamentals of the negotiation or the Parliamentary arithmetic. Weeks spent tearing ourselves apart will only create more division just as we should be standing together to serve our country. None of that would be in the national interest.”


She also claimed that she was making progress in her talks with EU leaders and vowed to “deliver on the referendum vote and seize the opportunities that lie ahead,” adding that the Conservatives had to build a “country that works for  everyone” and deliver “the Brexit people voted for.”


She added: “I have devoted myself unsparingly to these tasks ever since I became prime minister and I stand ready to finish the job.”


Mrs May  became Prime Minister after winning the leadership election following David Cameron’s resignation in June 2016 after the British public voted to leave the European Union.  The following year, she called a snap General Election expecting to increase the Conservative majority in the House of Commons and strengthen her stance for the Brexit negotiations.  Instead of increasing her majority she lost the narrow majority the Conservatives had unexpectedly gained after the 2015 General Election. She was only able to remain as Prime Minister by joining forces with the repugnant Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland.  Far from strengthening her Brexit hand, the 2017 election weakened it and weakened  her.


All this has wreaked havoc with the UK’s negotiations with the EU over what type of Brexit we will have when we finally leave the European Union.  That is scheduled for the end of March 2019 and yet we still don’t have a final agreement on how the UK will be treated on trade, immigration, borders and everything else once we are outside the EU.  There has been bitter in-fighting among Tory MPs, with many resigning in protest, at the state of the negotiations and there have also been opposing calls for the UK to hold a second referendum as to whether we should leave the EU as the British public were lied to and misled during the 2016 referendum campaign.  Others have called for an extension of the negotiation period beyond March 2019 and others have called for an outright cancellation of Article 50 which is the EU clause governing the withdrawal of a state from the Union.


The result is that the public are sick and tired of hearing about Brexit and the lack of progress or a meaningful statement from all sides in the debate.  We have less than four months before the EU could simply kick us out to fend for ourselves without any negotiated links with the EU.  And in the meantime the politicians continue to argue and the British public are increasingly showing support for Brexit to be cancelled, or for a second referendum, or for an extension to further negotiate the terms of withdrawal.


Common sense at the time of the 2016 Referendum was clearly indicating  that all this confusion over Brexit would happen, but many who voted to Leave were perhaps swept up on the nationalistic propaganda that was put out by the Leave campaign, along with the lies it perpetuated – such as claiming that we could give hundreds of millions to the funding of the NHS if we left the EU.  As for many Remainers, there was complacency and a disbelief that the public would vote to leave the EU.  One thing we can be almost sure about is that regardless of whether Theresa May is ousted as Tory leader, whether there is a second referendum, whether there is a new leader of the Tory Party or whether there is a General Election the confusion and chaos over Brexit will continue unabated.


An even more disturbing thought than May keeping her job tonight is who might replace her if there is a leadership election.  With names such as Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Dominic Raab, Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt, David Davis, Amber Rudd and even Esther McVey and Jacob Rees-Mogg in the running the prospects of whom may be the next Prime Minister perhaps makes Mrs May seem not so bad. As I write this post Mrs May is awaiting the result of the voting and her desperation to remain in office has been reflected by a promise she has made to her MPs that she will stand down before the next General Election if she wins the vote of no confidence.  The next election is not due until 2022.


Reports suggest that all 317 Conservative MPs took part in the vote, including members reinstated to enable them to vote after being suspended for sexual misconduct allegations. More to follow in my blog tomorrow.


Sources and Further Reading:

Tuesday 11 December 2018 – Changes announced for 30th anniversary of Hillsborough Disaster commemorations in April

In just over four months Liverpool will be remembering the 30th anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster in which 96 Liverpool Football Club fans were killed in a crush at the stadium of Sheffield Wednesday.  Liverpool FC were, for the second year running, playing Nottingham Forest at the ground in a semi-final for that year’s Football Association (FA) Cup.  A fatal decision by the police match commander, David Duckenfield, to open a gate outside the Leppings Lane end of the stadium caused an in-rush of hundreds of Liverpool fans keen to get inside before the game started.  Mr Duckenfield was commanding a major match for the first time and in his inexperience he didn’t order the police to close the tunnel that directly faced the gate he had opened.  Had he done this, the fans – as they normally do – would have been directed to two adjacent tunnels leading into the all-standing Leppings Lane section of the stadium.  There was plenty of room at either side of the Leppings Lane end but the Liverpool fans, seeing the tunnel directly ahead of them surged into it, carried along with the enthusiasm to see the match and by the hundreds behind them moving inexorably forward into the tunnel.  The tunnel and this central section, however, was already full to capacity and the surge of more people from behind led to those already in the section being pushed forward with fatal consequences.  By the time the match kicked off at 3pm people were already dying and more would be beyond saving.  Dozens, however, had they received prompt medical treatment, could have survived.

 

The lies and cover-up by the police began almost immediately with David Duckenfield telling the FA representative that the fans had been drunk and had forced the gate open. Duckenfield knew this was a lie as he had directly ordered the gate to be opened – something he only admitted to over 20 years later.  Worse still this lie began to spread via tabloid newspapers and politicians to the dismay of the families of the victims and the survivors of the disaster who from the beginning were telling the media what had really happened.  This developed into a fight-back to expose the truth and achieve justice, something which would take nearly three decades before an independent panel concluded that there was  a cover-up and the fans were blameless and more so when a second inquest into the deaths concluded that the Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed.  The original, flawed, inquests had concluded that their deaths were accidental.  That first inquest had said that the police were at fault but no criminal charges were brought against Duckenfield or anyone else.  That decision was finally reviewed nearly 30 years later and Duckenfield and others will face criminal trials in the coming months – to be held in Preston.


Being 30 years since the disaster we could have expected a particularly large memorial service at one of Liverpool’s cathedrals.  We might have also expected a memorial at Liverpool FC’s Anfield Stadium.  However, fear of prejudicing the trials has forced the Hillsborough Family Support Group to restrict the commemorations to family only and, if there is a memorial at one of the cathedrals there will be no speakers except for the clergy.  After 30 years of suffering and struggle to bring the truth out and secure justice for the 96 victims, it is understandable that the families don’t want to put a spanner in the works with some inadvertent comment at a memorial or on social media.  Margaret Aspinall, who is chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, elaborated on the plans to Liverpool FC’s official website:

As everybody knows, the past two years we’ve been alternating between the two cathedrals, but on the 30th anniversary we’ve got to have a private service in a room at Anfield – not on the Kop – and it will be families only. And people will be wondering: ‘Why is that?’ Because obviously we would have liked all supporters and fans to be there and to be open for everybody.  Unfortunately, we can’t do that at this moment in time, because of proceedings that are going on in Preston. We have to be extra careful and extra vigilant to make sure we don’t make it too big. So that’s why we decided to just have families only.

I’ve had a meeting with the city council and the Mayor, Joe Anderson. The city will be holding a minute’s silence and it will come to a standstill at 3.06 pm [the time the match was stopped on 15 April 1989]. The tunnels will be closed, buses will be stopped, the ferries will be [sounding] their horns and that’s just for one minute at 3.06 pm. They are in discussions, at the moment, holding a service at either the Metropolitan or the Anglican cathedral. They are not sure yet. But [there will be] no media coverage whatsoever. There will be nobody doing any speeches, except for obviously the clergy. But they are still in discussions over that. So the city will be marking it in some way. But [they will be] extra vigilant, extra careful. And can I also add as well, I would be very, very grateful – the families would be very, very grateful – if nothing goes on social media about this, because nobody wants the trial to be held or stopped. So please, be extra vigilant to what’s said and what’s done.

We can’t thank the supporters [enough]. Not just the supporters, but the city as a whole, for all the support we have had over all the years. And I do understand it’s a very important time [for them]. On April 15, it’s obviously very important, in the 30th year, [to remember] the deaths of the 96 and so many people who were injured. But under circumstances that are no fault of our own, we have to be very, very careful. But I’d like to thank all the supporters for what they have done over the years, in supporting the families, and especially the survivors, who are still suffering to this day. So I’d just like to thank them all on behalf of all of us and [to say] please, please do not say anything that can prejudice any trial that is going ahead.

It is pretty scary to think that it is nearly 30 years since the Hillsborough Disaster.  In many ways it feels like yesterday with it being so vivid in the mind as, like many, many others, I remember watching the disaster unfold live on television at home.  I have only attended one the Anfield vigils since the disaster, and that was for the 20th anniversary.  It is sad that it took the families and others all these years to expose the lies and to secure new inquests and now criminal charges against some of those responsible for the cover-up.  Many of the victims of Hillsborough were in their teens in 1989.  Had they survived they’d be closing in on 50.  That really puts into perspective the time that has passed, through which the families have never given in and have continued to force the truth out into the open. The upcoming trials in Preston will hopefully be the final chapter in their long campaigns.

Monday 10 December 2018 – In hospital again!

I was only discharged from my last stay at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital towards the end of October and now I’m back in again, this time with cellulitis in my right leg.  Having been discharged in October my back and leg problems have only intensified and the water retention in my back, legs and girth have started becoming an issue again.  It has become so bad that I have been all but housebound since the end of October, only venturing out in taxis to various hospital and clinic appointments.  In the last week or so even that has become  a problem and it has gotten to the stage where I can barely get in and out of a taxi without difficulty.  I have also been having increasing problems with my balance in the last two weeks and have been falling over quite often.  Last Monday, for instance, I had to go to the Post Office.  I couldn’t get into the taxi without help and out without help, collapsing to the pavement on getting out.  I then struggled to walk the short distance into the Post Office and was close to collapse as my knees began giving way while waiting in the queue to be served.  A guy got me a chair so I could sit down and a kind woman offered to go to the counter for me.  On getting out of the chair to leave the Post Office I fell onto my knees and outside on the pavement my knees gave way completely and I collapsed in a heap on the pavement.  Again, passers-by came to my aid and I sat in a bus stop waiting for a taxi to hail.


The repeated falls have left me covered in cuts and bruises and it is probably one of these that has become infected.  I went to the NHS walk-in centre this afternoon, fully expecting to be admitted to the Royal.  They took one look at my leg and said that it was an IV leg – in other words I would need antibiotics via an IV line as oral tablets wouldn’t do the job on their own.  This means that I would need to be admitted.  The walk-in centre paid for a taxi to take me to the Royal and once there the taxi driver arranged a porter and wheelchair to take me inside.  In the reception of the Acute Medical Unit (AMU) I fell over again when I was asked to walk a short distance to the consultation room.  Unable to get back up off the floor the staff had to use a hoist to literally winch me off the floor.  I was put on a trolley and have been in a side ward off the AMU waiting for a bed to become free.  That could be a while yet as there are several people ahead of me and I’ve already been here some six hours or so.


Two doctors I have seen have already said that I should have started dialysis for my kidneys by now.  The Renal clinic has been holding off starting it for over a year now but with the water retention problem the hospital doctors believe I should be on  dialysis. I am also going to have to accept that I will need carers once I am discharged as living alone and being unable to get out and the constant risk of falling over and not being able to get up again is becoming increasingly grave.  I will also need someone to come to dress my legs as I can no longer get down to do it myself.  In fact, at the moment I can’t even manage to put on socks and shoes and came to the hospital today with just slippers on over bare feet.


I don’t know how long I’m going to be in this time.  One doctor thought the cellulitis looked relatively superficial and should respond well to treatment but if it spreads to the bone – as happened back in 2014 – and becomes more serious I could be in for several weeks. This would, obviously, mean I would be in over Christmas.


I am writing this post on a Windows tablet that I bought specifically to use at the Royal when I am on the four-hour, three-times-a-week, dialysis sessions.  It is the first time I’ve used it in hospital, normally I bring an old Android tablet.  The Windows tablet has a detachable keyboard so I can use it as both a tablet and a small laptop, enabling me to blog from it.

Sunday 28 October 2018 – Forced break from blogging due to ill health

images (1)For anyone who has even noticed that I have not posted to my blog for a while this is due to ill health.  I have been unwell for some months and on 1 October was admitted to the Royal Liverpool University Hospital with a variety of problems.  These included an irregular heart beat, water retention, kidney problems, an infected foot ulcer, water on my lungs and overwhelming back and leg pains whenever I walked or stood for any length of time.   I was in hospital for over three weeks, getting discharged on Thursday with some of the issues resolved and others ongoing as an outpatient.


This was my fourth period as  inpatient in the last year-and-a-half, during which I have been in with pneumonia, a heart attack, and to have a fistula created in my arm in anticipation of beginning renal dialysis.  I thought, with the amount of treatment I was receiving this month in the Royal it would damage my kidneys further and require me to start dialysis.  However, my kidneys have remained stable and at present dialysis is still on hold.  This is good, of course, as regular dialysis is a major and permanent disruption to day-to-day life and will require three dialysis sessions a week at the Royal and possible Broadgreen Hospital, also in Liverpool, with each session (including travel) lasting around 5 and a half hours.

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Photo: The Royal Liverpool University Hospital

My latest health problems, and in particular the pain in the back and legs has left me physically unable to do a great deal.  Walking just a few yards leaves me breathless, in severe pain and literally unable to continue walking.  These problems continue even after my stay in the Royal and have left me partially homebound.  I rarely have the energy or stamina to leave the house and have taken to shopping online and getting taxis to and from hospital and clinic appointments.  My doctors at the Royal seemed to think that the exhaustion and pain would ease with time after my heart problem and water retention was dealt with.  So far it hasn’t.

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Photo: The new Royal, which was meant to be completed by 2017.  However, it’s construction contractor went broke and construction has halted.  A new firm will be appointed but completion is now not expected until 2019 or even 2020.

Sitting down for long periods can also be a problem, causing stiffness in the legs and pain when I stand up.  As a result I have been using my laptop much less than I would normally do, and this includes blogging less.  I posted a short blog linking to the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the party’s annual conference in Liverpool on 26 September, but my last proper blog entry was about Bill Cosby being sentenced, which I posted on 25 September.  Before that I hadn’t posted since the 5 September, except for two short blog entries linking to news articles and videos.


My inability to get out-and-about has also had a major effect on my YouTube channel with the number of posts down dramatically.  Most notably I have not been able to record the visits of cruise ships to the city, with just one such blog back in April.  The cruise ship season ends this month.  I have also missed Liverpool Pride, Manchester Pride and Chester Pride, although I have posted videos of online photos from Manchester and Liverpool Prides.

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I really can’t say when my strength will return – if at all. I am working on the probability that things are not going to improve any time soon and have been making adjustments to cater for that.  However, losing the ability at the moment to record videos around Merseyside and to work on my blog as much as I would like are proving two difficult losses to deal with.  Nevertheless there will still be posts on both my blog and YouTube channel as and when I can.  For the foreseeable future, however, they will be dramatically down in number than previously you would have seen.

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As always when in hospital, I would like to thank all the staff from the doctors and nurses to the porters, cleaners and catering staff.  The NHS is under-funded and overstretched but the hundreds of thousands of people who work for it continue to show their dedication and care for their work and their patients.  In particular, for this stay, I’d like to thank those working in the AMU (3b / heart) and 3a, where I spent most of my three weeks.

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On a final note, the NHS – or National Health Service – was created 70 years ago this year by the post-war Labour government of Clement Attlee.  Despite attacks on its funding and creeping privatisation of services within the NHS, the NHS has survived to this day as an example to the world of free-at-the-point universal healthcare.  It of course has its problems, such as underfunding, shortage of nurses, the restriction of certain highly-expensive medications and treatments,  and waiting lists, but the British public to a huge extent support and love the NHS.  They have demonstrated this repeatedly with protests against degrading the principles of the universal and tax-funded service that famously offers healthcare from cradle to grave with the vast majority of users never paying a penny in up-front costs for their entire lives.  The NHS is funded through general taxation and provides healthcare as and when it is needed and on a basis of what care is required to everyone in the country.  Unlike, say in the United States, no-one goes bankrupt for want of a doctor, and no-one is denied care for want of insurance.


By the way America, who so decry systems such as the NHS, we created the NHS in the late 1940s when Britain was virtually bankrupt – and did so on the principal that the British had fought a War that you decided to join two years after it began and that after defeating fascism the British people deserved universal healthcare to rid the country of the scourge of many diseases, reduced the effects of poverty and the horrors of private healthcare.  You should also know that we used money from the Marshall Plan generously loaned to the devastated European nations, including Britain – but only when you realised that bankrupt European populations could turn to Communism.  The irony is a delight that a healthcare system many Americans called Communist or Socialism was built using money to defeat the spread of Communism and Socialism.  It is also, however, truly depressing to see that 70 years later the United States still has no universal healthcare of its own. We we able to build the NHS while bankrupt, yet you can’t agree on a workable universal healthcare system when you are the richest country in the world!

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USA – Greatest country in the world?  Is it fuck.

Wednesday 26 September 2018 – Jeremy Corbyn speech at Labour Party Conference in Liverpool


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