Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

Burying bad news ? Theresa May needs to be grateful to Ken Clarke

Home Secretary, Theresa May

Home Secretary Theresa May was given an extremely tough time by the Police Federation

I arrived home this evening having heard the radio (BBC 5 Live) spouting almost non stop about Ken Clarke’s comments regarding rape and sentencing this morning, and also about the Queen’s state visit to Ireland. There was it seemed very little other news – even the prospect of justice regarding the murder of Stephen Lawrence seemed to be a minor issue.

However on arriving home I found the television tuned to Sky News – airing a story which I hadn’t known about at all up to now. It was showing footage of  Home Secretary Theresa May at the Police Federation conference, and unflinchingly gave us vivid coverage of her getting what can best be described as “a proper mauling” – delegate after delegate queued up to offer difficult and critical questions, all of which were supported from the platform. The chair introduced a clip from the officer blinded by Raoul Moat, who asked “Am I worth £35,000 ?”, and was asked before she took the podium “Home secretary, can you sleep at night ?”

As she stepped up there was no applause, there was nothing, just a deafening silence, which continued throughout the speech, and after it.

This was huge news, well covered by Sky News.

Coming to the computer a few hours later though it seems that Sky have removed the story almost entirely from their headlines,  and the story when it is covered now only contains video of  Theresa May’s speech  Govt Police Cuts Are ‘Revenge’, Not Reform – the report does contain some description of the anger on display – but it lacks the stark reality which was presented on the earlier broadcast clip.

Undeterred I turned to BBC News where once again I find that the story has slipped down out of the headlines altogether. A quick search found the clip – which was again reduced to only the Home Secretary’s speech. After some exploring I eventually found this – which does cover the story in greater detail Home secretary refuses to back down on police cuts . I think it’s fair to say though that the casual reader would not be likely to find this clip easily.

I have to say that I find it very worrying that the two major television news outlets in the country choose not to report this as a major news item – and in Sky’s case appear to be back pedalling rather quickly.

For a great many years the Conservative party have been seen, and have tried to encourage the view of themselves, as the “party of law and order” – The Police Federation, similarly has been more or less unique in being a Conservative supporting trades union.

That the NUT should pass votes of no confidence in Education Secretary Michael Gove, is newsworthy – but is true to form – one wouldn’t particularly expect anything else (and yes I’m an NUT member) – but for the Police Federation to put Theresa May through the mincer like they did today, is not far short of Hell freezing over.

It’s a highly significant story which should in all usual circumstances be dominating the headlines.

However Ken Clarke has been shooting his daft gob off, and the Queen’s down the brewery knocking back the Guinness.

There is a more nuanced report of the activities at the Police Federation conference here in the Guardian : Police greet Theresa May’s speech with complete silence  – I confess that I’d feel more comfortable had this article been in the Telegraph – who could only manage a clip of her speech – complete with the usual rubbish about “the mess that Labour left us” Theresa May: police cuts have to be made . Hopefully they’ll add to this as time passes. Print though does not have the impact of TV pictures – and the ones earlier on Sky really were quite remarkable. Such a shame I can’t find them any more.

So Theresa May comes away relatively unscathed.

I guess it’s an ill wind indeed that blows no good at all for this Government.

May 18, 2011 Posted by | news, politics | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Should it be “big society” or “big government” that ensures emergency services in major incidents ?

air ambulance 07

Can the Big Society run the Air Ambulance service ? Or will a ride in a volunteer's van be nearly as good ?

Last week the inquest for the victims of the 7/7 London bombings completed its deliberations and published its report.

Nine recommendations were made – the final one of which concerned the air ambulance service which was so vital on the day of the attacks. The coroner called for a review of the level of cover the London Air Ambulance is able to provide and its funding.  She went on to note the reliance of the service on volunteers    (source Guardian : July 7 inquest: coroner’s recommendations )

“I am concerned that London, a major global capital, host to the Olympics in 2012 and a prime terrorist target, should find itself dependent upon corporate funding and charitable donations, and upon professional volunteers giving up their limited free time in order to provide life-saving emergency medical care. It is equally concerning that the capability to provide such care is limited.”

It’s difficult to disagree with the implications of that observation – and I feel sure that the London authorities and the national Government, will ensure that the recommendation is addressed.

The reason I point this out though is because it offers in very stark terms, the problems with David Cameron’sBig Society” idea.

I’m certainly not being facetious when I say that I feel that it’s very laudable that Mr Cameron should seek to promote community empowerment, and the notion of people working together – freely and voluntarily – to promote the common good of their local neighbourhoods. Volunteers are a powerful force, and the act of volunteering is one which can provide enormous benefit for the individual as well.

What I disagree with is the underlying Conservative philosophy that the big society is needed because big Government is not. The notion that Government is not and should not be involved in the minutiae of daily life, because our society should be big enough and strong enough to let people run their own communities and lives.

It sounds very noble – in fact it sounds almost socialist – but be under no illusions – what it really means is starving essential services like the London Air Ambulance of public money, and public accountability – and leaving them to the vagaries of charitable donations, and voluntary help.

I feel that the terrible events of 7/7/2005 tell us so many things.

One of them is that some services are so important that they can not be left to chance – they require a Government that is strong enough and big enough to ensure that they are provided effectively.

May 10, 2011 Posted by | news, politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Public Sector workers better off ? Pull the other one !

This morning saw the publication of a paper “Public and private sector terms, conditions and the issue of fairness” by right wing think tank Policy Exchange.

The sound byte from this paper is essentially that Public Sector pay is now significantly outstripping that in the private sector to the point where it is becoming unfair and reaches the conclusion that “significant reforms will need to be made to limit job losses in the public sector and to achieve equity and fairness in the labour market.”

There’s a fairly comprehensive debunking of the paper on the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog by Richard Seymour* “Public sector pay – the myths exposed”, but for myself I’m not even going to bother checking the methodology of the research, or fisking the report.

No – as someone who has spent most of his life working in the public sector, there are some truths which I hold to be self evident :

I’ve been a highly qualified teacher for some time – on occasion I’ve been also a highly paid one. I’ve never been paid what could really be considered a low salary since I qualified with first class honours in 1989.

I have however found that on several occasions friends and acquaintances with similar qualifications working in the private sector have earned considerably more than me – not just a thousand or two a year – but sometimes double or three times the salary that I earned. Almost all of them have suffered periods when their salary has dropped – not just frozen – but drastically reduced – because most have suffered unemployment on one or more occasions.

It’s become clear to me that the cycle of “boom and bust” is something which affects the private sector more than the public. When times are good, the rewards are great, and the hardworking and the successful reap the rewards in fistfuls. Meanwhile, the public sector plod along with below inflation rises – without bonuses and with seemingly uncompetitive salaries.

When the lean times come though the public sector still plod along, they get low pay increases, sometimes pay freezes but they are far more likely to keep their jobs, far less likely to actually suffer a loss of salary, and generally are protected from the ravages of the storm. The private sector meanwhile get pay cuts, lost bonuses and lost jobs – fairly quickly.

So over a cycle of several years it all tends to even out. For those brave enough to take the risks it more than evens out for the private sector big wheels – as they can make enough in the years of plenty to enable them to “buy low” in the lean years.

What Policy Exchange are asking for then is “an end to boom and bust” – which surprised me a little.

Perhaps they should employ Gordon Brown as chancellor

Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown wanted an end to boom and bust - Do Policy Exchange want the same ?

( There is a flip side to this however – during the past 12 months I’ve gone from earning c. £79k per year, to struggling to gain a permanent contract on around half that – I’d say that this is generally the exception rather than the rule – but does prove that public sector workers are certainly not immune to economic tribulation )

*Some of the more diligent of my readers may well have noticed that the Richard Seymour who did the blog isn’t the same one which WordPress has automatically linked to – thought I’d leave it anyway as it’s mildly amusing !

May 9, 2011 Posted by | idle banter, news, politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Base, common & popular

Tony Blair & Margaret Thatcher - Royal London ...

Blair & Thatcher visit the wax works - Image by Alanna@VanIsle via Flickr

There have been a flurry of rumours on Twitter and on the internet more generally that former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died, or is about to.

All so far have proved to be false, but have already shown that there are many – particularly within the Labour fold, that will almost literally dance for joy when she finally does pop her clogs.

I’ve despised her for many years. I won’t be dancing on her grave though – displays of joy at the demise of other human beings only serve to upset people further, and such displays will only weaken the public opinion of Labour.

Many on the left see Margaret Thatcher as possibly the most despised figure in politics in recent memory. She’s certainly the one I despise the most.

We should beware of deluding ourselves though. The real reason why so many people dislike her, is actually because so many more people thought that she was the best thing since sliced bread.

It’s also common place amongst certain Labour supporters to decry Tony Blair as some kind of demon as well.

Perhaps some people think he is. Most do not.

You’ll often hear people say that “Everybody hates Manchester United”

Why ? It’s because they’ve been the most consistently well supported, and most successful club of recent years. It’s because they’re so popular with so many, that they are so unpopular with a few. (And I’m certainly no Manchester United supporter)

The most popular, and the most significant post-war  Prime Ministers have without a doubt been Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.

Whether you like them or not, it is an inescapable truth that there are many millions who did – and probably still do.

So I’m just saying !

May 9, 2011 Posted by | blogs, idle banter, politics, twitter | , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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