Posted in achievement, Change, Commitment, Debate, Development, Liberation, Modern society, Politics, Thoughts, Uncategorized

So We Left

I have decided to write a post concerning the UK’s decision to leave the EU and why, against the astonishment of my own husband and some friends, I decided to vote Leave.

The Brexit camp have been accused of right-wing prejudice, racism and divisiveness, and indeed there will be some who have these motives; a kind of selfishness against humanity of which there is no dignity. However, I wish to defend myself and others here who have been branded by this one brush of darkness.

I am a humanitarian and centre – left in politics. I volunteer for an NGO, am an environmentalist and against neo-liberalist policies. I have never voted for UKIP, nor even the Tories in the last three elections.It has been breathtaking to read the strength of feeling in this debate, some of which has been nasty and potentially patronising, because we dare to ask for controlled and responsible immigration and to take back control of our own destiny.

Decent people with passionate feelings and concerns, as to why we should have stayed have vented this anger;that by denying the Brussels State Machine of Federalism we should be denying the very heart of compassion, love and care for which the majority of people are aligned to. But let’s get to the heart of this debate and why people decided to vote Brexit with three words: beaucocracy , globalisation and immigration.

1) I think we can all agree, that the then Common Market back in the seventies was about free-trade. It wasn’t about stopping another World War, ( NATO was largely formed for that purpose.) Neither was it about creating a single currency, with ever greater political integration. Along with the trade agreements came rules and regulations, and as the years wore on the rules became longer, with more red tape and countless counter clauses and more strangulation with it.

Recently, I drove past some old orchards in Suffolk. My Dad told me that when we joined the EU, the orchards along with the apples were dug up and destroyed. Why? Because we had to accept the French Golden Delicious imports instead. We weren’t allowed these apples grown for years on our own soil anymore.

The same can be said with the decimation of our fishing industry with the Agricultural and Fishing policies, enforced quotas and a sharing of maritime waters.  Lowestoft, my home town, was a thriving fishing community, now this is all but dead. No wonder then, that as early as 1975, people were uneasy and we had a re-think to stay. However, we were in the grip of a recession ( The Three Day Week loomed large in people’s minds),so we decided It was best to hang -on -in- there and stay and hope for the best.

2) You have to ask the question. Why when one country decides to leave a club of traders should there be so much fury, economic blackmail, worry and anxiety? This is of course tied into globalisation. This leads to one pivotal question. Has the EU become so powerful that to dare leave it creates such a horrific reaction of market forces of doom and despair? Of stock market collapses, shoring up of the pound against the Euro and economic fall-out. Should one institution ( comprised of now 28 nations) hold that much dominance, that much power in the world? To want to trade more freely with the rest of the world comes a robust no, like you have no right to ask. How dare you! That the cost is so high no one dares to do it because of your pension fund. Market forces and capitalism at its worst is what springs to mind here.

When Greece was at the mercy of the EU, after it elected a government to address its virtual bankruptcy and collapsing Euro, what happened next?  The newly elected Prime Minster wad told by Merkel this is what you will comply with, or you won’t get your bailout and you will go bankrupt. How many days did they have to shut their banks for, nearly a week? Where was their democracy in all of this? The Greek government wanted a different way, whether that way was right or wrong is not the issue here, but to not have any control was, and still is. Thank God, we did not join the Euro in 1992. That situation could well have been us.

Therefore, You can not wonder why comments were raised about Germany winning the war, by the back door. This is not working together for the common good of man. This felt like a dictatorial superstate. I didn’t like it one bit.

3) Now, let’s talk about immigration and let’s start with Gt Yarmouth. 71.5% of the town voted to leave. Yarmouth has a large immigrant population, run down, depressed and poor. Like Thetford and Boston of which the later had the highest vote to leave of 75.6%, It has a high non-British- born population. Ok, nothing wrong with people’s from other countries coming to live and work here in principle ,but I do have a problem with Gt Yarmouth and Boston for two good reasons which is repeated, especially in inner cities.

Firstly, the creation of ethnic ghettos where you walk the street after nine at your peril. The English man just does not do this there. This is repeated in Luton, Northampton and Bedford, ( that I know of ) because my brother and parents have either worked or lived close to these areas. They have been exposed to it. This is not a racist statement, this is a simply a fact.

An example of this being that my Mother was told by my Dad to keep her eyes down and walk quickly past a gang of East European men raiding cars in broad daylight in Gt Yarmouth. No one did anything for fear they would get a knife in their back. Ok, we can’t say this one action reflects the majority’s behaviour by  these ethnic group. I work with some of these people and they are great but you can see why society is sick and tired of unremitting, unrelenting immigration, given this situation and why right- wing factions seize upon this example.

These passions continue to run high when welfare benefits are sent back home to renovate a house in Romania ( in a documentary last week) or child benefit.  This is against a backdrop of our own homelessness – a national disgrace of which over 300,000 are left on the street or in hostels and savage disability benefit cuts. Mr Cameron wanted to stop much of this welfare going abroad but most of you will know the outcome of his renegotiations on this issue. Mr Brussels said once again,no.

Secondly,  today I learned of an individual having no district nursing cover at their surgery. An A/E department recently asking for only life-threatening injuries to come in because services were at breaking point. Are you seriously suggesting those of you in the Remain camp that we continue to have unlimited free-movements of labour, across 28 member states, not even addressing the huge refugee crisis ( another topic entirely) given the resources we have in schools, hospitals, surgery and housing? Ok, this is a government funding issue, yes it is, but we still don’t have the infrastructure whose ever fault it is. I want to see controlled immigration and I resent being called a racist for it.

To conclude: no, I am not a brain-dead, bigot, nit-wit having a fit of madness to vote leave. I have read widely on this subject. I have given consent based on informed information to the best of my knowledge. I have listened to both sides, even read a whole book about it.

Ultimately, I don’t wish to be part a United States of Europe, at Brussels’ mercy, of seeing TTIP ( sanctioned by the EU ) to erode our already precarious NHS. I don’t want to pay my hard earned taxes to shore up Brussels, their sub committees, beaucocracy, for MEP expenses, etc,etc. I don’t want to see exploitation of migrant workers on low wages, living in container blocks like battery farm hens, such as those in our Eastern ports. I don’t want to see depressed wages for the rest of us as a result.

Yesterday, contrary to feeling ashamed, I was proud to be British. To stand up, be counted and have courage against the hysteria and the scare-mongering. I am European, want to trade with Europe, be friends with Europe, work together with Europe against war, climate change, famine and disaster. I just don’t want to be a part of a federalist super state. For that I am maligned and chastised today by those in the Remain camp.

If we in the Leave side are so wrong and the EU is such a sound institution, then why have we got a domino effect rippling across the continent after 24hrs. France, Denmark and Holland are asking for the vote too. We dared to question. We stood up for the true meaning of liberty, equality, fraternity. Yes, there will be extreme right-wing factions seizing the chance to promote their dangerous ideology but in reality it is going to be the Common Man, the Working Man, without an extreme political agenda that will seize the day and have the deciding vote.
Make no mistake, the EU will change as a result of this vote, it has to. PIty Brussels never gave us a chance to change it from the inside. It will change and secure its future because we Brexits were brave enough, against the tidal flood of criticism, to vote for a new path. The British vote was the catalyst. Perhaps then, for once in a very long time we can say, that this may not be defined as our finest hour ( I am not comparing myself to Churchill) but it certainly wasn’t the darkest one by a long shot.

Go on Britain, let’s come together and make this work!

Posted in achievement, Change, Commitment, Debate, Development, goals, Government, Health, Human Rights, Learning, Modern society, Politics, Psychology, Skills, Thoughts

The End Of My Nursing Days.

In my twilight days of nursing there saw an introduction of a laptop computer. We all had one provided and training on how to use it. Those days had seen our area of work extend and staffing cut. The laptop had one very important function: to record data. This is what we all had to do. My area of work was then in the community, so I travelled a lot, covering many miles sometimes between two surgeries caseloads and in all weathers.

Every detail and work entry had to be recorded on a system called System One. So that meant that every phone call, procedure, paper work, (EG, if it involved an referral or assessment), was logged. This had to be done for every patient visited. The time we took to do each thing and how long it took to get from one patient to the next. This was logged in our work dairies and then onto System One. You still had all the patients personal records of care to do in the home as well, I might add. This was asked for to help see where the workload was, for accurate records of patients, and to prioritise resources.

You can imagine that this was a lot of work and when we could not get it done in the days schedule, it had to be taken home to do it. We were all given the appropriate connections to the data base to get this done. At the same time, my e-mail box was forever getting fuller. New policies, training, forms, referrals and memos. I personally was finding it harder to keep up. Sometimes, my brain was a fog and the effort to juggle the balls was becoming harder. My own personal stress levels went up and I felt vulnerable. Vulnerable that I would miss something, forget something. I had a note book and wrote everything I needed to do down so everyone got seen, every task and communication done. My tick list was ticked off at the end of the day and shredded. I worked incredibly hard but the passion and the enjoyment went to a very low point.

It was like being a hamster on a wheel. The harder you ran, the harder the wheel turned and it just went round and round, always to the same place, never to finish. Because the hamster was always running and the wheel just ended up at the same point for you to run all over again. It felt like you were getting no-where.

Sometimes, a ray of energy would emerge. A really excellent job was done, you had made a difference to someone’s life and job satisfaction prevailed. You were happy and pleased and felt it was all worthwhile. But, like the hamster, the next day you were back to just running, eventually you burn out and that is what happened to me.

In the end, I had had enough. I had done all that I could do. I knew that there was no end in site to any of it, if anything it was going to get worse, and I have been told that since then it has got worse and I am well out of it.

But I took 28 years of care with me and it was brave decision but I just said no-more. I thought, as it had been my identity all my working life, it would be hard to let go. But it hasn’t been. Now, my new life working in a school as a teaching assistant has made me so happy, opened up so many new doors. I have never looked back. I go to work each day never having the dread or the worry. There is no stress and if there is it is very minimal.

I had some wonderful times, happy memories, really dark days, sadness and some regrets. But I did something worthwhile and I did it well and for that I am proud. I have written these blogs to defend my former profession. I could not just sit back and let the recent press hound us in such a way, without trying to defend those still brave enough to work in nursing.

I would say to the general public one thing. Come and do a shift. Put a uniform on for a day and live it with us. See what it is like. I am not defending shabby care, hostility and I am not minimising the pain that bad care has caused to families. I feel ashamed that such cases have existed. But the general public just has to know how hard and almost inhuman it is to be asked to just keep going, like we are now asked to do in such work conditions. This is the vital message I want to convey to any reader out there.

Later this week: a summary of what has gone wrong, given what I have discussed here and what can be done now if at all?

Posted in Change, Debate, goals, Government, Health, History, Human Rights, Ideas, Modern society, Politics, Skills, Thoughts

Government Policy And The NHS.

When something is going wrong in a system of work,fingers naturally will often point to the management structure. Senior staff can be questioned, managers decisions criticized.in this case with the NHS, the biggest manager and where the buck totally stops, is with the Government of the day. They have the overall say in how our NHS is run.

I am no expert here on figures and am not a statistician . What I can say can only be based on what I have seen for myself and read in the media. So let’s take the Mid Staffordshire case. The horrific situation of systematic failings in care was largely created by a catalyst of cost cutting and the relentless drive towards becoming a Foundation Hospital. In order to become that,(foundation status means more self-governing) the hospital had to slash debt, have improved performance targets and be seen to be keeping on track, not only in budget but what it could show on paper to be improvements, efficiency and throughput.

In-fact, this objective is part of every hospital up and down this country. Along with this, the Private Finance Initative called PFI’s was introduced by the last labour government and its impact have made the present situation even worse. PFI’s are loans to hospitals to rebuild, improve and to makeover old hospitals into shiny, spanking new ones. However, many of us will know the outcomes of hospitals struggling to pay off these loans. They have been left with huge debts and deficits.

Then, on top of that, we have fines if certain targets are not met. If a patient goes over a four hour waiting time to be discharged from the Accident Emergency Department to a ward, transferred to another unit or sent home, the hospital is fined. If an ambulance does not deliver and dispatch a patient in a certain time span, it is fined. This is all supposed to be about improvements in performance, get the stick of financial punishment out, and somehow magically results will be produced forthwith. But what has happened? As wards shrink in size, as hospitals slash inpatients beds and staff to save money, there results in a chaotic rush of bed juggling, and the frantic efforts to free up beds against fewer manpower resources. If a patient is discharged and then that patient is what we would term a “bouncer”, that is to say they are re-admitted within a certain time frame,the hospital gets… you guessed it, a fine!

How are hospitals suppose to stay on track budget wise if all they are threatened with is fines? This is government policy now and it is doing nothing to help patients with their care.Infact, this only creates more pressure to treat a patient as a price tag, a unit, a juggling ball on a bed; and leads to what we have heard about bed moving in the middle of the night, against the tide of complaints of sleep deprived patients on wards. It’s like musical beds. Patients become little more than another stat to be got through the system as quick as possible. Now we have jobs purely for bed managers and early discharge assessors and the term, the “bed- blocker” comes to my mind. This is when someone is stuck in the system with no outlying community bed to go to ( because they have been either cut or closed) but they can’t go home either.

Never has the pressure for beds and timed targets been so great as it is now; with increased population, sicker older people, increased expectations of the population to be seen and treated and the changes in GP’s out of hours care. Literally hospitals are fit to bust…..

I leave you with a question. How can these government-led poliices be conducive to quality total patient care? And the nurses, as well as other NHS staff, are caught right in the middle of it. I tell you something: it makes for a hell of a lot of stress. It does nothing to help health-care professionals, with their own mental health, who are suppose to be angels or compassion, care and tranquillity, when really they are tearing their hair out, to give this essence of care that is talked about….

Tomorrow: An example of the crazy burden of data collection and why ultimately I left NHS Nursing.

Posted in Change, Debate, Development, Government, Health, History, Modern society, Politics, Psychology, Religion, Skills, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Good Leadership Skills Within the NHS: Are They There Or Not?

During my nursing career of 28 years within the NHS, I worked with only three exceptional leaders of people. Two of those leaders worked together in the same unit. One was senior to the other and both worked in harmony together. It was some of the golden days of my NHS life.

When you have a good boss, it shows through and through. You feel valued, invested in and your opinions matter. There is a fairness and compassion within that person. They are interested in people, usually are highly skilled and experienced in their field and have a humane and caring character. They have disciple within themselves and enhance and encourage that in the workplace. The atmosphere in the place of work is happy, standards are high and efficiency prevails. When you are asked to perhaps stay late, or to help in a crisis of staffing, you will come forward because you invest in your workplace, in return for how you are treated. Well, that was how it was for me anyway. 

Sadly, overall leadership within the NHS is poor in my opinion. There are good leaders in the NHS of course and these ones stand out. However, a good leader is often challenged by higher management, if they are not a “yes man” and not always popular with that seniority. In the end these people leave and go on to other positions, leaving the vacuum and the loss behind. Poorer management often comes in as a result and then staff leaves and recruitment/retention gets harder. Moral goes down: stress goes up.

I think one of the problems for nursing is a lack of experience in leadership. Historically, to become a ward sister, at one time, you needed to be qualified for five years.

This is now a dreadful statement to make but I have heard someone say once, that nurses are like “painters and decorators”, you climb the ladder so fast that you scarcely come into contact with any patients. This is a simplistic and rather brash view, but the point here is that, I personally feel that the quality of those in charge, in terms of interpersonal skills with people, CAN be lacking. There just isn’t that core backbone of personal standards, discipline and integrity that there once was.

Then at the heart of the matter, combine these factors with nurses who do not feel listened to by higher management. They feel dis-empowered, that no-one really cares and that they are just a number, easily dispensed with and easy to replace. Challenge anything with anyone who is in a higher position than you and you will often come out worse. Employees can easily feel start to feel vulnerable. Conflicts and bullying are present in the NHS, just as they can be in any large employing organisation. Staff feel threatened and gagged if they dare to speak out. Confidentiality clauses are cited as a means of fear to shut people up for fear of losing their jobs or being frog-marched up to the NMC ( Nursing, Midwifery Council) professional conduct committe. Nurses are in a terrible dilemma if they feel standards are being compromised, yet have no confidence in any leader to talk to or simply feel too afraid. They trust no one. Both the Royal College of Nursing and the NMC have issued guidelines on how to whistle-blow professionally but too few are still prepared to blow that whistle at a local level with a mortgage to pay.  

Finally, it is in my view that the NHS also operate within a very rigid and hierarchical structure. Everyone knows their place in the pecking order from cleaner, to porter, from nurses to doctor and consultants. There is less snobbery now between those at the top of the management tree to those at the bottom; and nurses are no longer seen merely as doctor’s hand-maidens due to their increased technical and skilled roles. Thankfully, there has been this shift ( enhanced by our increasing number of graduate nurses) but both leadership qualities and this persistent hierarchy remains an issue……

On Monday: Management decisions at the very top- Government policy. How PFI’s and the obsession for targets and figures are critically wounding our NHS.

 

 

 

Posted in Change, Debate, Government, Health, History, Ideas, Modern society, Politics, Skills, Thoughts

The Role of the Qualified Nurse. Past and present

When I qualified I remember what was then called ” task-orientation.” We started in bay one and went, in two teams, up and down the ward with our care and our trolleys. With aprons on, we washed and turned, fed and hydrated our patients. Every chart was filled in, everyone seen, mobilised, toileted. Dressings were done,medication was given and when that was finished we went off to separate breaks ( one team at a time) and then came back and started it all over again.The ward sisters -there were two of them had an eye on everything. Nothing was missed and woe betide you if it was missed. The ward sister was the heart and the nucleus of everything. Doctors went to her, everyone went to her. She often took the phone calls. She managed everything. I was lucky as I was on a strict but excellent ward in terms of care. There was no shortages of nurses wanting to work on this ward.

However, task orientation was criticised. It was not giving personalised, individual care. People were not a set of tasks but with unique and differing needs. The regular “Kardex”, as it was called then, of writing up the care was changed. Up to this point it had been short and concise. An idea from America came to our NHS,it was shaped on the Roper’s Model of Care:it was called the Nursing Process. This was the first of the mountain of paper that emerged.It meant that all patients had to have an individual care plans for every activity of living. These were first hand written and then when I left nursing they were typed photocopies and had become little more than tick-boxes, another task in my opinion.

Then something else happened which changed our role. Doctors were working sometimes 80 hrs a week, being on call etc and this was rightly considered too much, something had to be done. With this concern came an increase in technological advances in care. Patients who might have died now lived with advancing medicines, diagnosis and procedures. Slowly, the nurse practitioner would be born out of all of this. However, in the mean time sisters were becoming bleep holders, budget holders and bed managers. Staff nurses became clinical shift leaders and I was told to take my apron off and start running the ward instead. There were still qualified nurses and nursing auxilaries doing the care, but what was once undertaken in a higher dependency unit was now becoming mainstream on the wards. This was very marked for me when I returned to acute nursing after working for four years in elderly care rehabilitation. The work load even by then was becoming more stressful.

So registered nurses paper-work increased, more advanced skill became the norm, including venepuncture, cannulation, IVI drug administration to name a few. Hotel workers replaced nurses both qualified and unqualified in giving out meals and drinks. The nurse mentor was born and he/she was now responsible not only for patients but for students as well. This was all happening when I left acute hospital nursing in 1993. I left and went into community after a particular night when one visitor came up to me and said:

” Hello again, there are two things I observe about you. One is that you are always here and two you are always writing out bits of paper.”
It is now 2013 -20 years has passed since then.

Now multiply what I have said a few times more, as demand for services, changing clinical roles, paper, stats, sicker older people, European Economic Community patients needing care, cuts in resources, cuts in staff and you can begin to see why we are in the current crisis situation. Also, crucially from the very top of the decision-making tree, our government and senior NHS management, who increasingly see patients as a entity of profit-making and not focusing on them first as someone needing care. No wonder the Government is stating that it is costing just all too much and auctioning the whole care parcel out to who ever can give the best price…..

Tomorrow: Let’s start to look at leadership within the NHS.

Posted in Change, Debate, goals, Home, Law, Modern society, Politics, Skills, Thoughts, Uncategorized

The Living Wage

Good morning.

I am no politician and I am no business women either but today I want to talk about something that seems so obvious to me that concerns both.
From today, changes are taking place that will many affect many people in relation to their incomes and standards of living. For many, these changes will bring even more hardship, stress and unhappiness for many people having to rely on the State to help them live in terms of income.

The government think these cuts are fair, as they don’t want to continue a culture where being trapped in the Welfare State ensnare people into poverty. Apparently, a crucial factor to be out of poverty is to be out of its benefits culture, to be independent and to be free. Plus it argues, the welfare budget has to be chopped due to enormous spiralling costs which the ordinary tax payer can’t be expected to pay. In a way they are saying, do the maths and the sums don’t add up. You could say that is reasonable.

Well, I am not a mathematician either but to me one of the key answers is to create wealth and my simple formula goes something like this.

If you pay people a wage that they can actually live on, then they can pay their own council tax, rent or mortgage. They can go to the shops and spend a little on consumer goods. This means that business benefits from their spending. Tax is generated from their shopping with VAT and businesses may start to see a little more profit on their spread sheets. This means businesses who are struggling may struggle less, which means they can pay their bank or their creditors the money they owe. Meanwhile, the government who have generated more income tax by higher wages have more in the treasury pot to play with and can start to look at its own debt and spending needs. Businesses productivity is increased and the need for new jobs. More jobs, more income tax and so forth. The spiral goes on.

In the meantime, people start to feel a bit  happier, can begin to feed themselves properly- buy less horse meet at a £1 for eight burgers and actually start to feel better; loosing some weight may be (obesity epidemic, major health crisis) and eating a few fresh fruit and vegetables. Children can actually go to school with breakfast inside them perhaps and be more productive in the classroom. Existing health-conditions caused by stress ( I don’t know of any chronic disability not affected by stress) may actually ease a little.The country feels more upbeat and the Government of the day may not be seen as quite the Mr Nasty anymore. I could go on and, anyway, many people are saying this already, nothing new here really.

Ah, you say, but there is a problem and I know exactly what you are going to say. Businesses can’t afford the cost of paying people a living wage. Yes, for many small businesses this is true. My own brother, only last week, has had to let his 15 year old shop business go under because of an inflated renewal of a shop lease he could not pay. less people not coming into his shop to buy greetings cards. His lease holder, unfortunately, could not be sensible enough to give my brother a fair deal given his dwindling takings. He just wanted an ever huger slice of money from rent ( typical property owner!!??). My brother could not give him that rise of double the rent. Now there is another empty shop in the high street somewhere and both people have lost out. He and his wife are another two statistics about to “sign on” and get £111 a week as a couple. He is not one of the so called scroungers either. he has worked all his life and is in his late fifties.

So yes, from his conversations, I know how hard it is to give people a living wage who are in business. But he tells me that not only this government but the last government too taxed small businesses to death and to help them we need to give them a break. This government needs to help ease the burden that small companies face. 

Now to wealth distribution: there are big companies with massive profits. Tesco is one such company, along with other supermarket chains, and we all know how little their workers get, with fewer full-time paid jobs to go with it. Could the government not legislate that for those companies, with an turn over of X billions, that they should see less profit for the few at the top and more wealth distribution for the workers at the bottom? Ah, but that would squash a free-market enterprise! Big money would take off oversees. Well, we have to put people first before big money I am afraid. Simple as that!

This all seems, perhaps, a bit of an Utopian and simplistic view or perhaps rather a socialist position. Well, I am not a socialist, in fact that is the scary bit. I don’t know whether I really trust in any of the main stream parties anymore, there lies the danger. When there is discontent extremism can flourish. I am not saying we are going to have a revolution but this is where more extreme parties can take a hold. Recent By-election results? I think you get it.

So don’t be a April Fool Mr Government. If you want any chance of surviving- currently you are on life support, then start having an agenda to start paying people a real living wage. Don’t try and tell us that by taking us off Welfare, that the very nature of that decision will makes us suddenly not poor anymore because we are not in receipt of it( Yesterday’s BBC news). People on the minimum wage are poor and they can work 80 hours a week and will still be poor, especially if they are on their own with children. I know them, I speak with them. People who can’t genuinely work because of disability can’t work. Don’t take away the main life- line they have had. We are supposed to be a fair and civilized society arent’t we? Nothing civilized or fair about this is there!! Wake up and start listening to the people who voted you in. We can easily vote you OUT!

 

Posted in achievement, Change, Debate, History, Ideas, Learning, Liberation, Modern society, Politics, Role of women, Skills, Thoughts, Time, Uncategorized, Women

Titanic disaster: class division and inequality. One hundred years on has anything really changed?

This is my 100th blog post on WordPress and the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic on her maiden voyage. To commemorate both of these anniversaries, I decided to write this blog around the theme of this maritime disaster. A topic that still ievokes passion today, as it did back then in the previous century. It is the subject of class: social class and the huge inequality between rich and poor. The divide of wealth against poverty, privilege against opportunity, social fortune against hardship.

In the cold, iceberg littered waters in the North Atlantic sea, approx 1,500 people perished on the night of the 14th/15th April, 1912. At 11.40 pm, an iceberg blew five of the 16 compartments, the design of which was to prevent the ship from sinking. Had there been one less damaged, the ship would have stayed afloat. The sinking was cruel and quick. At just before 02.20am, the ship cracked in two, against the opposing forces of water pressure, against the lean of the ship.  The odds of dying were very much marked by where, depending on which class of deck you travelled. The lack of lifeboats, their half filled capacity and lack of organisation in the evacuation meant that less than a third on board survived. No truly accurate figures are known of how many survived, given the ship’s passenger logging system at the time. And paradoxically, whether you were a woman or a child for once did have an advantage. Against the tide of the women in the suffragette movement who were risking their lives and freedom in another way to gain the vote and a voice. Men being a dominant force in an unequal society towards being female was centuries old. However, being a women not a man, for once, was a huge advantage that night.

I have been following the ITV1 series of Titanic, the focus of which has been the stark snobbery and deep class division and segregation of those who had, against those who had little or nothing.This rigid British society was based on the have and have-nots and men versus women. The rich and the poor, the titled and the unknown. The pecking order of who was who, the hypocrisy of the people of the time. Even the hierarchy of the servants in first class, to second, from second to third. The locking of the ship’s deck doors so the rich did not have to mingle with the poorer travellers. This factor alone was a disaster for those in 3rd class who may have survived. The ship’s church service, the only time that these second and third class passengers could venture upstairs and worship together-obviously God did not mind such integration on that occasion. And God’s people allowed that!

When it came to the lifeboats, it was women and children first, but class was a central factor. You needed to be a first-class traveller and female on that night. Only three percent of first-class women died compared to 54% of third-class women. 92% of second- class men perished and 84% of third. You can see here the account of the disaster, how and why and who survived from which class.  At the time, there was public outrage at what happened but also the fact that the poor died in the highest numbers. Sweeping changes were made in maritime law which still exist today.The question I asked myself before writing this blog was, has anything really changed with inequality and class division? Hence, I started to pursue this question and wish to share my thoughts.

The start of the 20th century saw a tide of rebellion against inequality, privilege, and class division. I have already mentioned the suffragette movement in the UK, and in Russia the autocratic monarchy in 1912 was about to lose its grip in a furious revolution in 1917. A country, inspired by Lenin’s leadership ousted the old guard of plenty, in supposed favour of the peasants in the field scrapping a living from the soil.

Karl Max had a vision and he writes :

”  A classless society is the ultimate condition of social organisation expected to occur when true communism is achieved.”

Everyone being equal and all the same? We will mention this briefly later.

When we talk of a classless society, another more recent political figure immediately popped to mind. This is what another person said:

“We will have to make changes so that across the whole country we have a genuinely classless society so that people, according to their ability or good fortune, can rise to what ever position.”

John Major, 24th Nov 1990: Prime Minister of the Conservative Party, 1990-1997.

He went on further to say he wanted to see a country at ease with itself.

In 2011, we hardly saw a country at ease with itself, as riots saw a nation’s confidence in pride, law and self-respect take a battering as strong as the iceberg that hit the Titanic. Nights of rioting left the police force, the politicians, the think-tanks and ordinary people wonder what had befallen this country. Many causes were blamed but one central fact was stated. It was the disadvantaged and disenfranchised members of society who felt they had nothing to lose, because they felt they had nothing and no future. So they took what they could get and hang the consequences for a few fleeting nights.

I passionately believe in education and a skills base as a means of self-advancement. As a child of one low-wage earner in a manual job, with an outside toilet and a tin bath as a means of washing, I strove to become something better through hard work at school and by going on to further education. I trained in a profession, the nursing profession and this had led me to break free from very low-wages become a home owner, something my parents have never done. I have attended University and embraced higher education. I am very thankful never to have known unemployment, well, only for four days just recently, at my own volition, and have never had to sign on and collect any state benefit. I am perhaps a true example of the John Major vision?

But in 2012 what is the reality? Another Tory government in coalition with the Lib,Dems but John Major’s words seem hollow somehow. Tuition fees which have recently trebled from £3,000 to £9,000, per year, has brought debate about how the poor can finance a University education. Headlines from The Telegraph, 30th Jan 2012″ Thousands give up on University because of tuition fees.” My own daughter is wary about taking on such debt but knows if she has any chance at all of a future that pays anything she sees little alternative. Youth unemployment is at its highest in the 16-19 age group. A recent BBC, Panorama programme looked at the Government’s apprenticeship programme and found poorly organised skill provision, courses that were virtually worthless and Government contracts which saw a few companies make a lot of money but left the young still largely unemployed and no better off.

Along side this subject, I wanted to dig deeper into the data about how much wealth people really had. I turned to the Institute of Fiscal Studies Paper, “Poverty and Inequality in the UK 2011.” This is a brief summary of some of the points found:

  • UK income distribution 2009-2010. 65% of households having an income below the national mean of £517 per week.( Based on a couple with no children).
  • 1.4 million individuals out of a private household have an income of above £1,500 per week.
  • Late 1990’s saw a boom in income in the top 1% of earners due to the financial boom at the time.
  • Poverty of working age adults without children is at its highest since the start of the institutes data from 1961.
  • There has been growth across much of the income distribution with the highest at the very top and relatively vigorous growth at the bottom of the income bracket. However, this income rise in the lower group was due to increases in benefits and tax-credits seen over this time period. ( Note, not because of decent wages).

In conclusion: The report states, beyond 2010, it is acknowledged that the proposed deep cuts to welfare and tax credits are likely to increase inequality year on year. This is where we are now. We know too well how much this is hurting many people and there are not enough words left for me to keep this blog relatively contained to dwell upon the misery and unfairness this is causing.

So what do I make of all of this to sum up the question I set myself. Can there be true class equality? I would like to think so but history tells me otherwise. Take Communism, as one example, I mentioned. The ethos of everyone being the same. In the present time, we have a call of the Republican movement to abolish the UK monarchy. Whether it was Lenin or now Putin, Obama or the Queen, they all reside in large presidential or palaces of residence. They all have advantage and privilege. There is so such thing as true Communism, based on all having the same. For us back in the UK, we could argue that we would pay less tax to not keep a Queen. However a new governing body would still be living in style whilst we live in our ex council houses or semi-detached properties. No, there will always be class division as unfair as it seems. But what I would like to see is where there is more wealth distribution and greater opportunities. Less of the I have it all and you have little: a more equal society. OK, we are not back in 1912 when you worked or starved, you paid a medical bill or you might die. There have been great advances in the lives of people, both socially, medically and financially. If we were in the Titanic tonight we would all have an equal chance of surviving, or would we? So indeed, you could call that social progress, fairness and humanity. However, we can acknowledge that class still exist and inequality flourishes. And I personally can see no legislation or sweeping reform, that occurred after the Titanic disaster in maritime law, to prevent that tide from turning.

This is my own conclusion but you might disagree. You also might think there is another way of creating a more equal society. I welcome your comments and thank you for reading. Personally, I have very much enjoyed researching and writing my 100th blog on this 100th anniversary of the Titanic disater. And it seemed fitting that I should mark it in this way with this important subject.

Posted in Change, Debate, families, Home, Human Rights, Law, Modern society, Politics, Thoughts

What’s the alternative to our main three political parties?

George Galloway’s 10,000 runaway majority in Bradford West for his new Respect party should come as hardly any surprise.  News coverage informed us that Labour were dismayed by this victory given the Coalition present unpopularity and current policy making. George choose to seize the discontent felt by many members of British Society, by creating what he felt to be an alternative to the political autocracy currently being displayed by the Tory Government. His party’s name Respect speaks volumes about how people want to be treated by those they elected.

I had great hopes for this Government when first elected. I was pleased to see at last the Lib-Dems have some chance to finally be involved in central decision-making politics; hoping its softer central stance would tame any extreme more right-wing views of previous Tory administrations. I had sympathy in what they had to do. Labour had left us billions in debt. My brother, a small business man, said to me recently as he understood it, that Gordon Brown was borrowing £420 million a day to keep us all going?. In-appropriate taking on of American debt, non-regulation of banks and greedy speculators had left much of the developed world in a huge debt crisis. Greece which has spent millions on their Olympic Games had virtually bankrupted themselves and Ireland, Spain and Italy were all struggling keeping up with the Euro. Thank goodness we never joined into that system which is still far from stable.

So I knew there would be have to be cuts and it would be hard and it would be unpleasant and probably very necessary. However, what I don’t like is the whole way in which this Government is completely ignoring its own people by not listening to anyone or anybody. Laws and bills being pushed through against a tide of legitimate concern. The Health and Social Care bill, the biggest NHS shake up in years is one such example. Why, when to make this legislation have any chance of being accepted at all and for it to work, do you have every major representative of the NHS shut out from its consultation. This is absolute nonsense and totally bonkers. On a local level, we are seeing Government policy giving us an incinerator nobody wants, closing local schools and Post-offices, the later being made ready for a nother privatisation. This country will have nothing left of what it owns at this rate. Our voices protest loudly and yet no-one listens. Democracy. What democracy. it doesn’t feel that way.

However, It is also the total arrogance and the most worrying of all, a right-wing autocratic element which is now making headlines such as “This is what happened in China/Iran”! Proposed laws in the name of security and antiterrorism is now being unveiled on our right to personal privacy by proposed snooping on internet conversations, texts, phone calls and e-mails. And to cap it all the astonishing hypocrisy of such a decision, given that both the Conservatives and the Lib-Dems opposed a move in 2006, when the then Labour government tried to introduce the same legislation and failed because the internet companies would not bear the cost of the set-up.

And why are we so concerned about terrorism? Well, we have not helped our selves very much have we? Being the USA’s little friend and going into countries of which there was no UN mandate for- Iraq. You wait for Iran to kick off. We have seen nothing yet. America will want to tie us in to that nuclear quarrel. We really will be in trouble then. And then I hear today that we are having to spend billions on security to get us safely through the Olympics. We can’t afford the Olympics. Look at what has happened to Greece. They could not afford it either and look what has happened to them. Thinking of all the billions that could have been spent helping getting us out of this financial trillions of debt we are in, instead of waging war and hosting the Olympics. Bonkers to me. Do the Swiss bid for the Olympics or get involved in costly wars, or belong to the EU? No, they have more sense and they are rich enough to stand on their own two feet. OK, ok I know full well the Swiss are rich due to banking but I have a point.

Then we have a corrupt Government being exposed. Cash for Access and  ????influence in some decision-making , if the sum is large enough has been exposed this last week. The same old rhetoric when something exposed:

“let’s have a full internal enquiry on the subject”.

We know what crap that is in reality. Things go underground and the same old cogs go on. No wonder people are saying why bother voting, This governement is full of its own sh..t.

People are hurting over welfare, tax credit cuts and changes to the law regarding claiming benefits. OK, I am not for people at all NOT trying to make an honest living, and the Welfare Bill does have to be manged more efficiently and to be looked at- as it takes a third of all British Tax Payers money. However, it feels like a sledge-hammer for all. Housing benefit being cut completely when someone is trying to work, but not being employed enough hours to stand on their own two feet. The need to do Workfare and to get your stamp paid, even when you have manged to get a part-time job. This means that you have to be available for full-time work, or your right to sign on and receive what little help there is is denied you. People having a dire choice. Stop the work you have manged to secure to go on some scheme which guarantees you nothing of any certain long-term employment, if you want benefit. What nonsense is that!! Well, I suppose it drives the unemployment figures down????????????

So what is my point? My point is, that people like myself are saying none of the three main parties have delivered within the last 10-15 years. Do we bother to even vote and for whom? I chuckled when I read a tweet comment about the Lib-Dems. “Go back to your consistencies and prepare for vapourisation” it said. How true. The Lib-Dems are finished and Nick Clegg will go after the next election. Ed Milliand, he seems a nice guy but I would have prefered to see David in the top slot. Ed is too governed by the Unions that brought him to power. The Greens, a nice bunch too but no one sees them as a credible alternative yet, and there are still not enough people out there ” green enough” to give a stuff about the environment and a more sustainable Britain.

So we see George Galloway tapping into part of real Britain, the ethic minorities who reside in many cities in vast numbers. I don’t know anything about him or his polices. I know he has shaken hands with Saddam Hussein, OK, that’s very dubious to say the least, but he has done something to capture the imagination of many people with this recent by-election victory. That for me is the worrying thing. Are we about to entre a phase where new and possibly extreme parties start to gain ground? The BNP and so forth.

There is enough political and social material out there to make people boil over with resentment and anger for all sorts of reasons. The riots may have been opportunistic theft, lawlessness and no respect for the law or fearful of its consequences. Interesting that word respect. Perhaps, that is why George Galloway choose that name for this party. There is no respect for Government any more. I certainly feel that way and suggest many others feel the same.

And sadly we know it’s going to get a lot worse. Be very afraid. I am quite frankly!

( PS, Dear Goverment- do take a read, you are never going to be re-elected next time. Have you got that? And if you want to be,time to start listening now)

Posted in achievement, Change, Climate Change, Debate, Environment, Learning, Modern society, Politics, Thoughts, Uncategorized

An Evening with a Speaker

Yesterday evening was very exciting. I nearly didn’t go. It had been a surprising up-hill week in someways. It shouldn’t have been. I had only been working since Wednesday. But that was the problem. Having enjoyed a lovely long weekend, I just could not get back into work.

Anyway, I decided to go with Mr E  to see Jonathan Neale, a climate change speaker ( author of Stop Global Warming, Change the World) who was speaking at the old Quaker’s Meeting House in King’s Lynn. It was bit of a dash, the tea dishes had been cleared five minutes before heading out the door. Boy, it was worth it.

Jonathan spoke with a clear American accent, a voice of  mighty expertise dripping from his lips. He spoke with passion. He held us and interested us. He spoke with such an insightful view. The little meeting house was packed. He did not drag on – 25 mins in total, but we could have listened to him all night. Question time next. I was not shy in the least. I held up my hand and asked.

” Given that you state that 40% of carbon dioxide is absorbed by plant-life and oceans, as examples, how will  this figure be affected by the Indonesian rain forests and those of Brazil being chopped down at an ever alarming rate? Surely, this figure will be reduced, say over the next 10-20 years? ”

We gave him all our questions, on mass and he selected a few to answer. Mine was the first to be answered. His answer surprised me. Yes, it would be noticeable but not to the extent I had thought: interesting.

Afterwards was just as good as the event itself. Drinking tea, some of us, me right up there in the group, gathered around him and talked some more. Two other guys, I and the speaker, talked about population expansion and it strayed into women’s issues. I also spoke to an ex-teacher who had taught in Zambia. Our conversation was mixed around Charcoal holding in Carbon Dioxide and his thoughts over girls education. He had taught environmental science.

And, if that wasn’t enough, I also learnt the history of the Friends building by someone before the meeting. I was eager to impart this information to my dear friend Geoff who loves Listed buildings, of which the Friends Meeting House is grade II listed, C16- 17th and has stones within it from the old priory. It used to be a pub called The Old Hulk.

What a night it was. From that meeting I met a Humanist and I hope to attend a Humanist meeting on the 24th June, all about global education.

This may float very few people’s boats. But crazy or not, it’s certainly floated mine all the way down the  Quay where the Friends house is situated nearby.

A great evening. And Mr E got a lot out of it too. But that’s his tale and not mine.

Posted in achievement, Change, Debate, Modern society, Politics, Skills, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Qualified for the Job?

This week has seen Barack Obama’s success in securing the position of 44th President of the United States of America. Our new President-elect is now in a transition phase from senator to President, formally taking this office in January 2009. I for one welcome the change. Sorry folks, to those of you living in the USA and who voted for G.W Bush, but my thoughts and views of this man have been little more than thinking he was a wooden, power hungry clown; as I see him strutting off his planes and doing that power walk, arms marching out to the sides. It is widely now considered and accepted that his presidency has been disastrous, not only for those people who elected him but for the whole world’s stage.

But this short blog is not to discuss him but ask an important question. What actual qualifications do a man or women need to have to become a President of any country? For my occupation, I had to train three years to acquire the skills and knowledge to become a registered nurse. A teacher has to spend three years obtaining a degree and then a further year securing a post-grad teaching qualification. Doctors, architects, vets and pilots spend much longer obtaining their tickets to practice. Why? Because these positions are very important ones concerning the education of our young minds, the healing and care of the sick and the safety of people and buildings.

Now back to the president’s post: As I understand it, the senators from each party choose two senators to stand for that party in the race to the White House. We see two candidates then fighting it out for the people’s vote. ie: such as we saw with Hiliary Clinton and Barack Obama. (Please I am open to any correction, I am no authority on this process at all). Then once we have one candidate from each side (Democrat V Republican) the battle ground to succeed to the top slot really begins. All I am asking is, how can be measure what these candidates can really do and how good are they in all aspects of this huge position that is required of them? One of these people will, once elected, hold the black box ready to give the nod if a nuclear strike should be made. Pretty important stuff being one of the most powerful people on the planet.

A few thoughts to leave you with. Ronald Regan was an actor before his presidency. Sarah Plain has been criticisied on Fox news for thinking that Africa was a country, not a continent and not knowing what Nafta, (North American Free Trade Agreement) stood for. Also for not knowing the two other countries that make up this trade organisation, excluding the USA as the third. By-the-way the answer is Canada and Mexico. Arnold schwarzenegger is the Governor of California, and I understand a good one, but he was once the Terminator in the well-known action movie.

Can you see my point? Discuss!