MAY-be not the best choice for Prime Minister

Much to the dismay of many, including people with disabilities and the vulnerable, the British Conservative party has settled its leadership contest. They managed that when of one of the only two remaining candidates withdrew.

Now only Theresa May remains. She is already the party leader and at some point on Wednesday afternoon the UK should have a new prime minister.

theresa may.And, while current Prime Minister David Cameron had said that he would be prepared to continue until September, he now finds he is surplus to requirements- He plans to formally tender his resignation to the Queen after Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

Then the Queen will send for Mrs May and ask her to form a government. The UK’s second female prime minister will then set about putting together her first cabinet and it will be interesting to see who is IN, who is OUT and who manages to stay put.

So far, in her speeches, Mrs May has portrayed herself as a caring one-nation Conservative who cares about the poor and vulnerable but, before we get too carried away, let’s take a look at her voting record on welfare and benefits.

  • Generally voted for reducing housing benefit for social tenants deemed to have excess bedrooms (which opponents describe as the ‘bedroom tax’).

My verdict: UNCARING.

  • Consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices.

My verdict: UNCARING.

  • Generally voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability.

My verdict: UNCARING.

  • Generally voted for making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council taxand reducing the amount spent on such support.

My verdict: UNCARING.

  • Generally voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits.

My verdict: UNCARING.

  • Generally voted against spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed.

My verdict: UNCARING.

It seems that Britain has just swapped one uncaring Tory for another.

 

MSNT strapline copy

Cameron protects NHS, Corbyn says not enough

nhs ttip protest_edited

Accused of failing to include, in the Queen’s Speech, any mention of protection for the National Health Service (NHS) from the forthcoming and controversial European/American TTIP trade deal, UK prime minister David Cameron has agreed to an amendment on legislation before the House of Commons.

The move is to fend off the risk of the Queen’s Speech vote being lost as a significant number of  his own party had already indicated their intention to rebel because the speech did not include a commitment to the NHS.

The amendment is designed to protect the NHS from the terms of the deal but leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn has warned that there are still many risks to be tackled.

“I would personally go much further because my concerns about TTIP are not just about the effect on public services but also the principle of investor protection that goes within TTIP – planned rules which would in effect almost enfranchise global corporations at the expense of national governments.

“This protection of the NHS is an important step but it’s not the whole step,” he said.

What is the TTIP? It is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. It aims to create a free-trade agreement between the EU member states and the USA.  Boosting the economy is seen as particularly important after the economic crisis but this major issue also has long-term policy implications.

Opinions are sharply divided on both sides of the Atlantic where the debate about the pros and cons of the TTIP remains well entrenched. Many groups are campaigning against this agreement, trying to force decision-makers to change it.

So, let’s take a quick look at the arguments on both sides.

The main advantages that the TTIP may bring to the US and EU are that it will:

  • Boost the US and EU economies;
  • Create new business and trade opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic;
  • Provide an opportunity to set common standards and similar regulations that may facilitate the action of companies;
  • Remove of some market barriers and promote the free-market;
  • As a consequence of the removal of tariffs, reduce consumer prices of many products.

But, unsurprisingly, opponents view things differently. They warn that:

  • The new common standards will probably be lower than those previously existing (mainly in Europe);
  • The new investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) procedures may infringe principles of sovereignty and, in cases, go against the democratic rules of countries;
  • Since companies may sue governments and officials, the latter may become more cautious and bureaucratic to avoid legal troubles;
  • The lack of transparency during the process of negotiations reduces accountability and the capacity of citizens to understand its potential impact;
  • In some regions, where the industry is less competitive, many jobs may be lost.

 

Don’t be fooled by government’s callous weasel words – disability benefits cuts are still planned

Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb.

Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb.

Mystery still surrounds the fate of the threatened cuts to the UK’s Personal Independence Payment paid to people with disabilities. including Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, blindness and mental illnesses.

Just look at the timetable:

March 11, Justin Tomlinson, Disabilities Minister in the Department of Work and Pensions, officially announced plans to make changes, to make cuts, to Personal Independence Payment.

March 16, in his budget speech, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne gave details of the cuts the government was proposing.

Following the budget, and for a further two days, uproar ensued. Not just protests from those likely to be affected but from disability charities too. And the government, which has a majority of just 17, suddenly found itself facing almost certain defeat in the House of Commons when around 20 of its own MPs said they would oppose the move.

Back-peddling was the order of the day, publicly hinted at by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan on BBC Question Time, when she said that the proposed cut was only ‘a suggestion’; with the Chancellor saying that he would look again to get things right.

March 18 saw Iain Duncan Smith resign as Work and Pensions Secretary, calling the planned cuts ‘a compromise too far’.

Prime Minister David Cameron, in his reply to Duncan Smith’s resignation letter, said “Today we agreed not to proceed with the policies in their current form and instead to work together to get these policies right over the coming months.”

Look at that closely, read it carefully. The Prime Minister did NOT say that those policies, the cuts, won’t happen. What he did say was that they would not go ahead in their ‘current form’ and that the policy would be got ‘right’ in the coming months.

Then, yesterday March 19, Stephen Crabb was promoted from being Welsh Secretary to take over at Work and Pensions. And, on his first day in his new post, he said the cuts to disability benefits will “not be going ahead.”

Well, actually, no he didn’t! Let’s look at it carefully.

These are the words that the new Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb really said: “We’re not going to be going ahead with these cuts to disability benefits that were proposed on budget day.

“The prime minister has confirmed that himself. I was very clear when I discussed the offer of the job this morning we were not going to go ahead with the cuts that were proposed.”

Sounds good, right? Well, err, no. The key words in the first sentence are ‘that were proposed on budget day’. Similarly, two sentences later the telling words are ‘that were proposed’.

Now, call me a cynic if you like but I have worked as a journalist, spent time in public relations and been around politicians long enough to recognise this for what it is – the use of prepared phrases, or callous weasel words, designed to trick us into thinking the cuts won’t happen.

The government is just trying to buy time to find a way to get them through in another form and without rebellion from within their own MPs.

Trust me, despite what we are being led to believe, the cuts are still very much on the table.

HSCT, sunshine, MS and other musings

gwen higgsbernie sandersHCdavid cameron_edited Gwen Higgs, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and David Cameron

Gwen’s story, warts and all

HSCT, stem cell therapy, and its use to treat multiple sclerosis patients has been on television, in publications and even this blog during the second half of January. In just a couple of days, or so, I shall be bringing you the story of Gwen Higgs from diagnoses, through her battle against both MS and her neurologist, her treatment in Russia, and how she is today.

It is an honest story that does not gloss over her struggles or her embarrassment. Be sure not to miss out.

So this is winter?

Weather here in the south of Spain continues to be most pleasant. In the last two days, Lisa and I have enjoyed lunch outdoors on the terrace while we soaked up the sun;  so good for my Vitamin D.

Forecasts for Thursday and Friday don’t look as good with highs of only 12° and 14°C/ 54° and 57°F respectively – but warmer weather should return on Saturday.

I am still not really acclimatised yet but certainly enjoying the sunshine in which it is hot enough to sunbathe. It just seems ridiculous to be able to do that in the so-called winter months of January and February.

Back to Malaga

Our car was collected today and taken back to the automatic gearbox specialist in Malaga but, this time, they brought us a courtesy car. So there is no need now to rely on neighbours’ goodwill to take us shopping and what not.

Six coin tosses decide Iowa Democratic winner

So six of the Iowa State Democratic party delegates as elected by the caucus were decided by coin tosses as both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders achieved equal votes in six of the areas being counted.

Now if six dead heats aren’t coincidental enough, the fact that Hillary won all six coin tosses is just too much for me. Don’t worry, I am sure conspiracy theories will soon arise.

In Iowa, Sanders won 21 of the delegates without a coin toss; Hillary gained 22 INCLUDING all six dead heats decided by the flip of a coin. Now tell me that Hillary won in Iowa. If just one toss had gone to Sanders, then he would have won 22-21. Enough said.

UK Euro battle lines were drawn early

On the eastern side of the Atlantic, UK Prime Minister David Cameron is hailing the outcome of his negotiations with Europe as successful. Whether they are, or aren’t, is another matter.

What everybody needs to realise, however, is that the ‘stay’ and ‘leave’ campaigns for the UK’s promised referendum on membership of the European Union were already decided before the results of the renegotiation were known.

Those determined to stay, and those determined to leave, had declared their positions and would be campaigning for victory in the referendum. In reality, the renegotiations did not matter at all.