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.


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.


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 April 2017 – Labour continues to focus on public services, promising a pay rise for nurses and steps to protect the NHS & other election news


While the Prime Minister continues to ask the electorate to “strenghten her hand” for the Brexit negotiations by voting Conservative at the 8 June General Election, the Labour Party and it’s leader Jeremy Corbyn continue to attempt to hold the Government to account on its record on delivering public services, today focusing on the National Health Service (NHS). With pledges to give “overworked” nurses a pay rise and to “end Tory privatising” aspects of the NHS. These policies are bound to go down well with the electorate – with the NHS traditionally seen as Labour’s strongest policy front.


Jomathan Ashworth, the Labour shadow Health Secretary said NHS staff had been undervalued and that NHS workers have been “ignored and insulted” by the Conservative Government. A “big” pay rise for staff in the NHS, he said, would be paid for by raising corporation tax. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the Tories, under George Osborne as Chancellor of the Exchequer, had repeatedly cut corporation tax for businesses and that the rises he proposes would  end years of NHS staff being undervalued, overworked and underpaid. Not wanting to pre-empt the upcoming Labour election manifesto, he did not specify by how much the pay rise would be or by how much corporation tax would rise. He did say that the pay rise would take into account the cost of living and that the situation in the NHS was “getting worse” as a result of pay levels and inadequate staffing levels. Ashworth argued that Theresa May’s claims on how much the Government is giving the NHS is a lie and that Labour “will give the NHS the funding it needs.”


Labour will lift the 1% pay cap on NHS rises and will base wages on the results of collective bargaining and the findings of  independent pay review bodies. Speaking at a Unison conference in Liverpool, Mr Ashworth said:


“Our NHS staff are the very pride of Britain. Yet they are ignored, insulted, undervalued, overworked and underpaid by this Tory government. Not any more. Enough is enough.


“NHS staff have been taken for granted for too long by the Conservatives. Cuts to pay and training mean hard-working staff are being forced from NHS professions and young people are being put off before they have even started. Now Brexit threatens the ability of health employers to recruit from overseas.”


Mr Ashworth also promised that Labour would “end Tory privatisation”  of the NHS by reversing all Conservative attempts to allow private providers into the NHS. He also said that a Labour Government would introduce legislation that would make it necessary for staffing levels in the NHS to take account of patient safety and will examine whether staffing levels in some areas of the NHS need to have legally-binding patient to staff ratios. He argued that “Tory mismanagement” had left parts of the NHS “dangerously understaffed.”


According to the Independent, the Labour plan will be a three-point one:


1.  Increase NHS pay to a “sustainable level”, with awards made through “collective bargaining and the evidence of independent pay review bodies”.


2. Legislate for safe staffing – to “ensure that patient safety always takes priority over financial considerations when staffing levels are being set”.


3. Fully fund education for health professions – by reversing cuts to funding and other support for students taking health-related degrees.


Also speaking on Today, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt argued that it was too expensive to pay NHS staff more: “I would certainly agree  NHS staff do a brilliant job and we would certainly like to pay them more than we are able to at the moment but we have had to face a very difficult period financially.” When challenged about his own pay rise as an MP – which, of course, MPs themselves vote on raising, he argued that as a Minister he had taken a pay cut:


“Ministers have actually given themselves a pay cut – that’s the only pay we have control over. I have accepted my pay rise as an MP and my pay cut as a minister and that’s the point: all ministers have done because we recognise we have to set an example.”


Mr Hunt then tried to deflect the debate back to what the Government wants to focus on – Brexit – arguing that the NHS would only be ‘’strong” if Theresa May is elected again to implement Brexit. Yet again the Government is trying to keep the issue of this election focused on Brexit, and not let the electorate dwell on the fact that 1.3 million NHS workers are to receive a pay rise of just 1%, which in many cases is barely a rise of £5.00 per week. This means that for six consecutive years under the Conservatives and previously a Conservative-led Coalition, NHS pay rises have been well below the cost of living, with inflation currently at 3.2%.


Meanwhile, a Conservative health minister Philip Dunne said that the Conservatives had “protected and increased the NHS budget and got thousands more staff in hospitals,” and continued: “That’s at risk with Jeremy Corbyn’s nonsensical economic policies that would mean less money for the NHS,”


The Lib Dem health spokesman agreed with the Labour plan to lift the 1% pay cap on NHS pay, arguing:


“In effect we are asking very many staff across the NHS to just, year on year, take a pay cut in real terms in order to sustain our NHS. And I don’t think that’s acceptable. I think ultimately it’s dangerous. We are seeing widespread vacancies … Actually people will vote with their feet and leave if you don’t maintain wages at least in real terms.”


He said that their manifesto would explain how they would do the same, but said that reversing corporation tax cuts to pay for it was not credible:


“The problem with the Labour position is their proposal just isn’t credible … The money from corporation tax increase has been spent about 10 times over.”


This is an age-old political problem – or tactic if you like – where parties working out their funding pledges for election manifestos are prone to use the same source more than once. Mr Lamb is claiming that Labour has pledge to raise corporation tax for ten separate uses:


1. Bringing back the education maintenance allowance and university maintenance grants;

2. Paying for additional teachers, nurses and police;

3. Funding social care;

4. Extending pension credit to support women affected by the change to the state pension;

5. Paying for an efficient post office, good public transport, and fast and comprehensive broadband for small businesses;

6. Supporting the pensions triple lock and investing in social care;

7. Funding public sector pay rises;

8. Investing in the UK steel sector;

9. Reversing cuts to disability benefits; and

10. Reversing the cuts to the adult skills budget.


I guess we will have to wait for the Labour manifesto to be published to see just which, if any, of these are funded by a rise in corporation tax.

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn face off at the final PMQs of this Parliament


Possibly for the last time, the Prime Minister Theresa May faced the leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn across the dispatch boxes in the House of Commons. This was the last Prime Minister’s Questions of this Parliament, with the Parliament dissolution next week. With the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, giving retiring MPs the chance to answer a final question, it was also thought to be the longest PMQs at nearly one hour long.  Naturally it was a chance for opposing MPs to sling insults back and forth ahead of the snap election six weeks from tomorrow.


Jeremy Corbyn said of the impending election: “The election on 8 June is a choice…between a Conservative government for the few and a Labour government that will stand up for all of our people.” He also said that a Tory victory would lead to a  “chaotic Brexit”  and said the Tories were “strong against the weak and weak against the strong”.


Meanwhile the Prime Minister repeated her “strong and stable” claim her leadership would bring to the Government and the country and took the opportunity to attack Mr Corbyn, speaking of what she says is  his: “refusal to say he would strike against terrorism, to commit to our nuclear deterrent and to control our borders […] Every vote for him is a vote to weaken our economy. Every vote for me is a vote for a strong economy with the benefits felt by everyone across the country.”


Tim Farron, the Lib Dem leader, used his opportunity presented by the Speaker to say of Theresa May: “20 years ago she berated the Conservative Party for being the nasty party, but her party has never been nastier”. He also said that the Labour Party was the most incompetent opposition in history.


The biggest issue raised at PMQs was pensions and, in particular, the so-called triple-lock that was introduced by the Coalition Government in 2010 and guarantees that pensions rise by the same as average earnings, the consumer price index, or 2.5%, whichever is the highest. Many opposed this during the last seven years because it was protecting pensioners from austerity, and as a consequence the rest of us suffered even more. Others, including many MPs simply feel it is unaffordable or unsustainable to keep the triple lock. Jeremy Corbyn has already pledged to keep the triple lock but the Prime Minister has repeatedly refused to confirm or deny it will be retained.  When asked by SNP MP Angus Robertson at PMQs today: “Will the PM give a clear and unambiguous commitment to maintaining the triple lock on the state pension?” she again refused to guarantee the triple lock and simply said that “pensioners’ incomes” would  continue to increase under a Conservative Government. Mr Robertson bemoaned that she couldn’t answer a “simple question,” and “the only reason they will not guarantee it is because they want to cut pensions”.

Debates seem even more unlikely as Jeremy Corbyn refuses to take part without the PM


Also at today’s PMQs Jeremy Corbyn confirmed that unless Mrs May takes part in a televised leaders’ debate he won’t take part either. A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said it was extraordinary that Mrs May wouldn’t debate the leader of the “only other possible government.” Like the Prime Minister, Mr Corbyn is willing to appear individually on other shows if the debates don’t take place, but his spokesman explained:


“If you’re talking about a debate about the possible outcomes of the general election, you’re talking about Labour and the Conservatives first and foremost, so to have a debate among the opposition parties doesn’t meet that objective at all.


“We’ve made clear that this election is a choice between a Conservative government or a Labour government; there is no other possible outcome, and it’s extraordinary that the prime minister feels unable to face a television debate with the leader of the only other possible government that could come out of this election.


“It’s a sign of weakness, not of strength, and we are continuing to press to have those debates, and to have a head-to-head with Theresa May, and we are confident that if the British public gets to see that debate, with Theresa May having to face Jeremy Corbyn in a direct debate, they would respond to Labour’s message, and that’s one of the reasons they’re running scared.”


I feel this is a mistake by Mr Corbyn as it takes the pressure off the Prime Minister to appear. I think he should have kept up the pressure till the end and appeared on the debates himself, even if Mrs May doesn’t. I agree that the Prime Minister is running scared from debating in person Mr Corbyn as she realises that if she does he will bring up domestic issues such as the NHS, public services, schools, and the economy which the Prime Minister wishes to avoid. It is in Labour’s interest to get their message across “in our own voice” as the party says itself.  Being so far behind in the polls it is essential that people hear what Labour has to offer. Many of their policies are popular but the electorate need to be convinced and debates were an ideal way for this to happen. On this issue, the Labour spokesman said:


“We are confident that we can win this election, and we’re fighting for every seat, and we’re confident that once Labour’s message is clearly heard and there is a chance for the public to hear policies that many of them won’t have heard before, but which are extremely popular, and we know to be so, that will have cut-through, and Labour support will increase.”


“The politics and the polling is actually quite complex and quite varied across different countries, and I don’t think it’s just a technical issue to do with the polling companies that we’re in; I think it’s to do with the volatile and fluid political situation, with much more fragmentation.”


As for the Prime Minister, she can now continue to ignore the debates and carry on with keeping on message – i.e. to talk about Brexit and how a Tory Government after 8 June will ensure that Brexit is carried through – at least how she wants it to be carried through. Her oft-repeated election slogan of a “strong and stable” Government got plenty of airing by the Prime Minister at PMQs today.

Further reading:


  • If ever there was a time to vote Labour, it is now – READ MORE (


  • Labour promises to abolish NHS staff pay cap – READ MORE (


  • Tim Farron sacks Lib Dem candidate for ‘offensive and antisemitic’ remarks – READ MORE (


  • David Cameron: Brexit vote ended a ‘poisoning’ of UK politics – READ MORE (


  • The Guardian view on the last PMQs: now the unnecessary election – READ MORE (

Saturday 25 June 2016 – Backtracking on promises made by Brexit campaigners

It hasn’t taken long for politicians who supported the UK leaving the European Union (EU) to begin to backtrack on promises they made in order to secure a victory in yesterday’s referendum.  The three which have so far come to light are:




A key message from the Leave campaign, particularly by the leader of the UKIP, Nigel Farage, was that the 350 million a week that we currently pay into the EU will be used to invest in the NHS. Clearly this was never going to happen. Firstly, we may pay that amount into the EU but millions automatically comes back to the UK in rebates and millions more in various aid programmes and support packages for the UK. In reality we could only expect to save 190 million a week. Even that amount is unlikely ever to reach the NHS. Nigel Farage went on Good Morning Britain  yesterday and told the viewers that this promise was a “mistake”.  When asked if he could guarantee that the money would go to the NHS he simply said: “No I can’t,”  and claimed that he would never had made that claim, blaming it on the official Leave campaign. (video) He may never have directly made that claim but he propagated the myth that the Leave campaign plastered on  billboards and campaign buses – giving a clear implication that the money would fund the NHS. He then tried to suggest that we now have a 10 billion pound “featherbed, that will be free money that we can spend on  the NHS, on schools, on whatever it is.”  It seems to me that any money saved will just disappear in compensating for the economic damages that may occur after Brexit, or will simply be used for tax cuts for the better-off or used to bring down the deficit. 


Does anyone believe that right-wing politicians of the ilk of Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove – who all supported Brexit – have any interest in increasing public spending when they have been supporting austerity for the last six years? I’ve never believed that Nigel Farage or his like have any desire to invest in the NHS in particular. Most are ideologically opposed to the NHS and would undoubtedly continue the trend of recent Conservative Governments to cut-back on NHS funding and to encourage and allow privatisation of support services – privatising the NHS by stealth through the back door. I found the 350 million a week claim especially repugnant as it played on many people’s genuine desire to see the NHS strengthened. How many of those who voted to Leave the EU did so believing that it would benefit the NHS? Shameful exploitation and manipulation of people’s concerns.




A particular nasty element of the Leave campaign has been the hostility towards immigration, especially immigration from Eastern Europe and outside of the European Union.  Threats were bandied around that 77 million people from Turkey could flood into the country if it was allowed to join the EU – ignoring the fact that Turkey is in no position to be joining the EU anytime soon and even if it did, does anyone believe that the entire population of 77 million would move to the UK or elsewhere in the EU?  Voting for Brexit was held up as an answer to people’s concerns that immigration is placing a strain on the UK’s public services, schools, the NHS and the welfare system – ignoring the fact that any strain that does exist has been exasperated by continuing austerity cuts in our public services. The Leave campaign argued that voting for Brexit would allow the UK to take back control of its borders – by implication suggesting that the borders would be closed and immigration would cease or at least dramatically fall.  More disturbingly, the genuine concerns of many Britons over immigration has been hijacked by the racists of UKIP and racists around the UK to justify a Brexit vote. For many, Brexit had become a single issue referendum, and that issue was immigration.


Tory MEP Daniel Harron made it clear to the BBC News this morning that immigration is far from over or far from even being reduced dramatically:

“People are grown up and they understand this isn’t something that can happen tomorrow. No one has ever suggested there is going to be no immigration. There will be EU nationals watching this programme now and I want to underline – no one has suggested any change in their status. In terms of migration from the EU the one thing we can do as a result is we will no longer be citizens of the European Union. If people watching think that they have voted and there is now going to be zero immigration from the EU they are going to be disappointed. Of course there is still going to be immigration. There are still going to be people coming here to work and you will look in vain for anything the Leave campaign said at any point that suggested there would be any kind of border closure or pulling up of the drawbridge.”

Yet another myth about the benefits of Brexit is unwinding before the vote is even two days old.




In order to begin withdrawal negotiations with the EU the British Government has to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This tells the rest of the EU that we wish to leave the Union and begins the process. In the history of the no country has ever invoked Article 50. Until we invoke the Article the Brexit vote remains a non-binding decision. In theory the Government can ignore it and unless they invoke Article 50 we simply continue as full members of the EU. Of course, this is not going to happen. The Government will invoke the Article and once it has done the process is irreversible unless the 27 remaining members of the EU agree to cancel it – which, again, is not going to happen.  When David Cameron announced he was resigning in October he suggested that the Article wouldn’t be invoked until the new Prime Minister was in place. This goes completely against what the Brexit campaigners were saying before the vote – that they would march to Brussels and invoke Article 50 right away. This morning, in a classic politician backtracking speech, Brexit supporter Dr Liam Fox said:

“A lot of things were said in advance of this referendum that we might want to think about again and that (invoking article 50) is one of them. I think that it doesn’t make any sense to trigger article 50 without having a period of reflection first, for the Cabinet to determine exactly what it is that we’re going to be seeking and in what timescale. And then you have to also consider what is happening with the French elections and the German elections next year and the implications that that might have for them. So a period of calm, a period of reflection, to let it all sink in and to work through what the actual technicalities are.”

This idea of a period of reflection and calm is already causing concern. Other EU nations are wanting the UK to get on with withdrawal negotiations. This isn’t out of a desire to be rid of us, but is to bring the matter to a close as quickly as possible to prevent a growing uncertainty over the future. This uncertainty is dangerous to the stability of economies of not only the UK and Europe, but in the world beyond.  If we don’t invoke Article 50 until October, for instance, it could then take another two years to conclude the negotiations to withdraw meaning that we wouldn’t actually withdraw from the Union until close to Christmas 2018.  In that time we will have a growing sense of frustration among Brexit supporters and growing economic instability. The decision has been made to leave, for good or worse. We now need to get on with it and secure the best deal with the rest of the EU. The longer we leave it the more potential damage will be caused and the more hostile the rest of the EU is likely to become at our procrastination.