No Excuses. Our Health Staff Deserve Better Than This.

By Kelly Grehan

The anger is growing in me.

Our front line workers are dying: doctors, nurses, health care assistance.

This seems to be treated as inconsequential.

Last week, while giving the Daily Covid 19 briefing, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said “Four doctors have died and some nurses.”

Some nurses?

Yesterday he was asked to specify how many nurses have died.  He referred the question to the Chief Nursing Officer, who failed to give an answer either.

Today we were told 19 NHS staff have died. This was seemingly announced only after an outcry that they didn’t know yesterday.  Health charities have already disputed the accuracy of this figure.

Four weeks into this crisis health staff are still without adequate personal protective equipment. How can we be expecting them to step into what is essentially a battlefield without protective equipment?

Rather than apologising for this, or maybe even sorting it out, Matt Hancock took the opportunity yesterday  to ask NHS workers to treat PPE like a “precious resource.” Anyone who has ever worked in a radicalised environment knows this is counter to anything they have ever been told. PPE (gloves, aprons etc) are to be used for one task and one patient then thrown away. That’s its very point: to be used once and thrown away. 

You know what should be treated like a ‘precious resource ‘ Mr Hancock? 

Our NHS staff.

But that’s never been the case. 

For too long we – as a society – have failed to appreciate the work of our health workers.  We have ignored the physical and mental impact that looking after sick people has on people.  

Nurses have always received strange treatment in the UK. People call them ‘angels.’ But have been content to let them receive terrible pay and conditions. Other NHS jobs like portering or cleaning were largely seen as unimportant.

Only a few weeks ago we were told that health care assistants, and numerous other hospital workers  were among the ‘unskilled workers’ whom we did not need to include in the immigration system. Here we are relying on these same ‘unskilled’ workers to manage the front line in the worse health epidemic we have ever seen.

In 2016 junior doctors were described as “money grabbing” and ”selfish” by parts of the press when they took strike action over changes to their contract.

Let us remember these same doctors are now being forced to make decisions over who gets life saving equipment.

Why do we have a nursing shortage? Maybe because of the contemptuous manner nurses are treated.

According to CV Library the average nurse salary is £25,578 within the UK. Below the average salary in the country which is £28,677. Nurses study for 3 years and work in an incredibly demanding environment.

Until 2016-17 students doing a first degree in nursing received a bursary from the government worth up to £16,454 a year to help boost the NHS’s supply of “homegrown” nurses. That included payment of a student’s tuition fees of up to £9,000 and a maintenance grant of £1,000, neither of which were means-tested. In 2017 this was scrapped in a reckless move, announced by George Osborne. It was to be reinstated this year. I wonder how many potential nurses were financially unable to train in that time.

At the beginning of this year we had 43,000 nursing vacancies in England.

In June 2017 Conservative MPs cheered as they voted down a bid to scrap the 1% pay-rise cap for NHS nurses.  Every Tory MP except one voted against Labour’s motion, which came during Theresa May’s stint as prime minister.

I’ll just repeat that. THEY CHEERED. 

That’s the contempt they held NHS staff in.

And if we want to sum up the scale of NHS neglect these figures surely sum it up:

The European average for the number of critical care beds per 100,000  is 11.5, while the figure in Germany is 29.2, according to a widely-quoted academic study here dating back to 2012 which doctors said was still valid. Britain has 6.6. 

This can only mean that our health staff are now working in situations akin to a war zone – a lack of staff, equipment and protective equipment.

We simply must not tolerate the treatment our NHS staff endure anymore.

I want every health care professional given full protective equipment now. If it’s not there I want to know why not.

For every nurse (or other care professional) that dies I want to hear their name, I want their sacrifice acknowledged and honoured by this country. I want to know their family will be provided for by the state.

When this is over I want their names on memorial stones and I want the health secretary to know how many of them there are and to say their names out loud.

I want every single job in the health sector recognised as a skilled one. Porters, cleaners, doctors, physios, occupational therapists, radiographers, midwives –  every single one. I want their terms and conditions to reflect this.

 No excuses. 

We Should Not Be Having To Fight For Access To Abortion In The Middle Of a Crisis. But Here We Are

Kelly Grehan

The covid 19 crisis has transformed so much of our lives in such a short space of time. We need to ensure access to all areas of healthcare remains accessible. Having an abortion is a medical procedure which should be easily accessible on demand.

In the next 13 weeks as the COVID 19 peaks, 44,000 women will need an Early Medical Abortion. Many of the women needing them will be those with underlying health issues who have already been told to self isolate. All of us must avoid unnecessary journeys, we are told.

As with everything at the moment, services are being impacted upon by staff absences.  A quarter of abortion clinics run by bpas have closed because of staff isolating, so anyone  wanting to access an abortion may have to travel further than usual. We also know that usual practicalities – including childcare are much harder at the moment.

There is now a real danger that women will not be able to access abortion services.

On Monday the Department of Health and Social Care issued guidance, inline with The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, The Royal College of Midwives and the British Society of Abortion Care Providers, making  recommendations to introduce a safe & effective, temporary telemedicine service for women seeking terminations. Later that day it was retracted. No reason was given.

Just to be clear what we are talking about, an early abortion involves taking two forms of medicine.  The first medicine ends the pregnancy by blocking the hormone progesterone. Without progesterone, the lining of the uterus breaks down and the pregnancy cannot continue.  The second medicine makes the womb contract, causing cramping, bleeding and the loss of the pregnancy similar to a miscarriage.

In medical terms this is a relatively simple procedure. So why is being denied to women now?  It is hard to see this as anything other than an attack on Women’s healthcare – at a time when many women are already suffering.

Dr Jonathan Lord, co-chair of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) Abortion Taskforce and British Society of Abortion Care Providers (BSACP) made these comments 

“It seems extraordinary how government advice is, quite rightly, to isolate in order to contain the spread of the virus – unless you are a woman requiring essential health care, in which case the Government will force you to go on a completely unnecessary journey to a crowded clinic or hospital.   I simply cannot understand why the Government is behaving in such a cruel and reckless manner towards women’s health.”

Is there reason to fear that we will see a roll back of our much fought for rights in the months ahead?

 In Texas, abortion services have been haulted in a move by the Governor to suspend “surgeries and procedures that are not immediately, medically necessary.”

Women seeking terminations need compassion, now more than others. I implore   Matt Handcock to listen to clinical experts regarding terminations and women’s reproductive health during this crisis and reverse his decision.

It’s Been A Terrible Week – But There Are Reasons For Hope

Kelly Grehan

As we all know the last seven days have been a week like no other.  Our way of life has been transformed. Amongst our new found hardships, shock and anxiety we are grieving the loss of things we were looking forward to – things like holidays, weddings, seeing our children attend proms and other rights of passage.  

Almost without exception we are all grieving the loss of things we never expected to miss – many of them things we always thought we never really liked.  Things like school – even taking exams, travelling on public transport, sitting next to people in meetings and driving our kids to hang around with their friends.

Most of us are anxious.  We are worried about money, health, family and we what worry what tomorrow will bring,

We are all missing people too.  I’m missing my baby nephew, I’m missing my friends  and the adventures I was expecting to have at the now cancelled 40th birthday parties I was expecting to attend this year.  Most of us have had emotional phone conversations with friends and relatives whom we would usually see regularly. Usually we might nip round to see a friend who was upset – give them a hug, make them a cup of tea.  Now we simply must not do that. I rang my grandparents today – to wish my Nan a happy mother’s day and realised as I hung up that I have no idea if and when I will see them again.  

It is ironic that after a decade where we have feared for the consequences on our children for lacking human contact as they were  spending too much time on their electronic devices we are now grateful they have them – as they face spending months with this being their only contact  with the friends they used to see every day.

Tomorrow, my children, like many others, will begin their first day of homeschooling.  Two weeks ago the idea that they would be learning from home would have seemed propostuous to me – I had always taken pride in their high school attendance, worried about the impact on their education and development of social skills if they were away and believed passionately in the need for them to spend time outside, with people from different backgrounds and to hear try new things. Now I don’t know when they will see any other humans in person other than each other, me and my husband and none of us know when we will visit a new place.  

 These are indeed dark times.  But I truly believe there are reasons for optimism.  

For as long as I can remember Britain has been known as a ‘selfish society.’  Headlines decried the fact people did not know their neighbours, did not do things for others.  We wasted food, we threw things away that worked perfectly well and inequality and a lack of things in common seemed to have bread a lack of empathy.

But this week, none of those things seemed to be true anymore.  Yes there are idiots hoarding toilet rolls and refusing to give up their rights to go to the pub.  But most people I know have condemned this and are disgusted by that behaviour. What I have seen this week could be described as a rebirth or reignition of true community spirit.  People are genuinely concerned for neighbours – often people they barely know the name of and are ensuring they are looked after. People are going through their cupboards and ensuring that, rather than waste food they pass it on to someone else and people are facing several journeys to shops to get shopping for neighbours whose health precludes them from making the journey themselves.  

There is conversation everywhere expressing concern for others. I have not heard a single voice of descent about the Chancellor’s measures to protect workers and have universal approval for the measures to include self employed.  I’ve never known such consensus on government policy before. Online forums – so often a place for vitriol are now filled with expressions of concern for others and offers of help for others along with thanks for health staff.

This illness seems to strike across the social divide.  For the first time in my lifetime I really feel that everyone feels we are in this together and that they must be part of the fight to save lives.  

As awful as everything is, I feel proud of my community and I hope the support and solidarity we are providing to each other last long after this wretched virus is eradicated.

Privilege and Panic

Kelly Grehan

I’ve never felt privileged like I felt this morning.  

I woke up this morning, sent my kids to school and my husband and I both settled down to a day home working.  No one in our household has any history of illness, indeed both my boys have impeccable school attendance records.  If I were to need to be off work I would get full sick pay, we could continue to pay our mortgage.

That’s not to say I am not experiencing moments of panic and horror at what is happening, but, for us, there is an unreal quality to it.  The biggest danger to us personally is for the four of us to end up stuck indoors together for two weeks and for our holiday to be cancelled.  

Our lifestyle – caused mostly by luck with health and circumstances – has shielded us from the horrors that now face many of our friends and neighbours.  We can, more of less sit back and follow the government advice and know that no difficult decisions await us.

I am painfully aware that, had this crisis occurred five years earlier, when my mum was suffering what turned out to be a terminal illness every action we took would have taken on a critical concern as any of us contracting the illness could have shortened my mum’s life and meant we could have been bared from seeing her – a thought so heartbreaking it’s hard to bear.  Then there is the thought of how my aunt, sister and I would have looked after my nan, who lived in sheltered accommodation had we been forced to self isolate when she was alive. In either circumstances we would have had to arrange our lives in an effort to try to stop us contracting the virus because the consequences of getting it would have been so awful. That would have meant keeping the kids off school, so not working and then all the financial and practical implications that would bring.

And, it is with heartbreak I watch friends now consumed with fear as they worry if decisions they are making are putting themselves or their families at risk.  I see people – who this time last week were making a decent living – not knowing if they will have jobs this time tomorrow or if their company can survive this week.  I cannot imagine the weight of trying to decide whether to stay off work because you have coughed a few times – knowing that doing so will mean you don’t get paid for at least 2 weeks and going to work means you might endanger others.

I see friends who cannot visit the parents who live in care homes and others cancelling long looked forward to trips to see family abroad or far away. I worry for  mums of disabled children fretting because they cannot get the larger nappy sizes they need or the specialist wipes they relied upon.

Never has life seemed as fragile or as unpredictable as it does now.Try as we might there is little we can but carry on.  I sent my love and admiration at everyone doing their best through these difficult times.

COVID-19: What It Means For My Family As A Young, But Vulnerable Group By Lisa Mulholland

The media is saturated with scientific talk, statistics and projections regarding the Coronavirus COVID-19. It’s enough to give any reasonable person some anxiety at least.

The panic buying of hand sanitizer, toilet roll, cleaning products, tinned foods is out of control, with queues outside of shops before they open. Which is a major inconvenience for me as someone who needs these products in abundance due to being a carer for my 6 year old who is disabled and incontinent who myself has diabetes and needs to test my blood sugar levels when out and about.

We are constantly hearing about other countries going on lockdown. Which becomes scarier when it becomes our European neighbours; Italy, France, Spain, Ireland … as the fear intensifies we look to our leaders and the authorities for reassurance.

But instead we get the complete opposite.

Boris Johnson said “ Many of YOUR loved ones will die before their time”…..

I mean, have you ever heard anything like this?

Then he went on to discuss herd immunity. As if the numbers and statistics of the people that are going to die are just that. But the vulnerable and the elderly are real people.

And right now, I , along with millions more, feel like my life doesn’t really matter. I have diabetes, several heart conditions, a disability ( Ehlers Danlos Syndrome) that can sometimes trigger autoimmune responses called mast cell activation disorder and I have 3 children that have various disabilities.

I am considered a ‘high risk group’ when it comes to most things. I have routine flu jabs, I have medical exemption from prescription charges, but I do not know whether I am a high risk group for this new virus.

I have received zero instruction. Zero advice.

When I search for the advice ( as of today , this could change very quickly) it is very flimsy indeed. I kind of feel like the decision is being left up to me about how to proceed. I am not a medical expert and I think we as a nation, especially the vulnerable groups should be given more direction.

If I get a basic cold, my body can do really strange things. My mast cells( the cells that detect a threat or a virus and are meant to protect us) go into overdrive and start attacking everything. Once I had dry eyes, I rubbed it slightly. Within an hour I couldn’t see out of my left eye. I went to my GP who sent me to the emergency eye department. After a series of tests they said my body had gone into overdrive and given me an ulcer on my cornea! I didn’t even know this was possible. But this is how strange my condition is.

What could an unknown virus do?

Let alone the impact on the diabetes or my heart…

My 6 year old has autism, global delay and suspected epilepsy and he goes to a specialist school where some of the children have conditions like cystic fibrosis that mean they’re on oxygen tanks/ tube fed. Most of the children there (700 of them as it is from age 2-19) will have underlying health issues. They’ve not sent out any information as yet because our leadership, our government have clearly not thought about them in their containment or delay ‘strategy’.

And when the media states this virus doesn’t affect children, do they mean all children? My children have the same condition as me. My 10 year old gets a cold and then the next minute he has an infected hand or limb. What would be the implications for him?

Or did they think about them and decide that they are one of the “many loved ones” that we will “lose”.

My eldest autistic son’s specialist school has children with autism but a lot of them have comorbid underlying health issues and they have taken matters into their own hands advising us to keep the children home if they are anxious or have underlying health conditions. They said they won’t mark any absences during this period.

Part of me wants to be safe, then another part of me thinks if this is going to go on for months then I’m not sure what to do. Do I send them in now before the real danger hits? Or has it already hit but we don’t know because we aren’t routinely testing? These are rhetorical questions but the governments’ lack of direction is shocking and dangerous.

We are people and we have value. We matter and we want guidance now.

Battle Weary Reflections On International Women’s Day

Kelly Grehan

This week we have had to face the fact, once again that the next President of The US will not be a woman. I cannot see a likelihood of Donald Trump – misogynist and sexual assaulter of women – losing the US election and that can only mean that a sizable number of voters in America do not find his behaviour towards women problematic – never mind reprehensible. Then there is the depressing rhetoric from some who explain they failed to support Warren because she is ‘school-marm-ish’ – what that means and why it would be a negative trait in a president I’ve no idea.

Warren, herself described the “trap” of gender for female candidates
“If you say, ‘Yeah, there was sexism in this race,’ everyone says, ‘Whiner!’” Ms. Warren said. “If you say, ‘No, there was no sexism,’ about a bazillion women think, ‘What planet do you live on?’”
Then there is situation in my own Party. I’ve nothing against Keir Starmer being Labour Party leader, but I find it depressing that we will have two leaders called ‘Keir’ before we will have a female leader. My chosen candidate Lisa Nandy summed things up this week when she responded to being asked if she thought the women had had a tougher time in the leadership contest, Lisa Nandy responded that she had not ‘seen an article about Keir’s shoes yet.’’

People keep telling me things are improving. But are they really? The number of female heads of government is lower today than five years ago with only 10 women in such positions in 193 countries,

This week a UN Report, looking at 75 countries, found that not one had acheived gender equality. 91% of men and 86% of women hold at least one bias against women in relation to politics, economics, education, violence or reproductive rights.

Globally, close to 50% of men said they had more right to a job than women. Almost a third thought it was acceptable for men to hit their partners. About half of the world’s men and women feel that men make better political leaders.

How do we start to combat this? We have had countless terrible male leaders which surely proves tosterone is not a bonus for a leader. We have had decades of feminism now, decades of campaigning for equality, of women proving (to use a phrase) that anything a man can do we can do bleeding.

But still here we are, fighting for a world where our daughters can walk home in their school uniform without men harassing them, where we can do our jobs without comment on our clothing and where when we say we have been sexually assaulted no one passes judgement on why we were alone/drunk/flirting/wearing a low cut top/dancing/etc.

Sometimes it is so exhausting fighting these battles over and over again. We think we are making progress and then we find ourselves in a world where Donald Trump is likely to serving a second term as President. But what choice do we have but to fight on? If we accept the world as it it we will never change it.

So for now, all I can do is heed Elizabeth Warren’s advice
‘’Choose to fight only righteous fights, because then when things get tough — and they will — you will know that there is only one option ahead of you: Nevertheless, you must persist.’’

The Kingdom and The Lost Prince By Kelly Grehan

Once Upon A Time there was a Prince who was deeply unhappy.  Although he lived in a beautiful palace and had all the riches a person could dream of, his life had been marred by the terribly unhappy marriage of his parents –  a relationship that when it ended had threatened the whole stability of the Kingdom.  

Then the Prince’s mother had died in a terrible accident, which left the Prince traumatised.  This is another event which threatened the stability of the Kingdom, but, perhaps more importantly left the Prince, who was not yet even a teenager, angry and lost.

Years passed.  The Prince sought solace for his pain in many ways, but none helped. Then one day he met a woman who made his heart sing. Finally he had found the happiness he longed for.  

The Prince thought the Palace and all the Kingdom would rejoice at his happiness, but alas, he was wrong.  

People criticised his true love for her previous successful career as an actress, made mention of her mother being a lone parent whilst sympathising with the father who had left her as an infant.  

Unflattering pieces were written about his love which contrasted sharply with the pieces written about the Prince’s brother’s wife when she had done exactly the same thing – actions ranging from editing a magazine to cuddling their baby bumps.  It sometimes seemed that people were angry that the Prince had chosen a woman who refused to ‘know her place.’

The Prince and his true love decided to leave the Kingdom and embark on adventures where they, and their much loved baby son, could be free from those who felt ill towards them.

It was then that the trouble really seemed to start.  

Immediately the people who delivered the news to the Kingdom began writing about how evil the Prince’s love was – how she had committed such crimes as ‘taking him away from his family’ which confused the Prince because his love had given up her home and much loved career and moved far far away from her own mother when she agreed to marry him.  

Others accused her of sorcery – controlling the Prince… which was strange as others had sought to tell the Prince what to do all his life – including a particularly traumatic occasion where – as a 12 year old, he had been made to walk behind his mother’s coffin in a parade watched by millions of spectators and even more so all around the world.  

Others alluded to his wife being greedy which was particularly odd as when she had married the Prince his love had her own fortune.  

 Then there were those that said ‘they did not like the look of her.’ This further confused the Prince as to what this could possibly mean.  What, wondered the Prince, was it about his beautiful love that made some people feel this way?

The Prince was puzzled as none of these people seemed able to give an exaplantion…..

 

Others advised the Prince and his love that they they should tolerate the comments about their love, their child, her family and their life as it was ‘part of the job.’ This made the Prince feel very sad as he has never wanted the job of being a Prince and he felt that, had his mother not been a Princess, she would still be alive today.

Also many people accused him of not having a job which also made him sad as he has wanted a career in the military but this too, had been proven impossible as his presence would cause danger to others as people who previous accused him of laziness gave away details of his regiments whereabouts.

 

The Prince was bereft at the lack of compassion for him, his beautiful wife and their baby son.  He longed for a Kingdom or even just a land where they would be welcomed and understood.  

He felt sad that his own Kingdom had not been able to do this for him – particularly as the Kingdom had always claimed to be an open place which would welcome all.

The Prince made the brave decision to put his love first, not wanting her to meet the terrible fate that his mother had.

And then.

The Prince was lost to the Kingdom forever…

 

 

 

 

The Roaring 1920s Is A Myth. I Fear The Same Problems Await Us In The 2020s. By Kelly Grehan

Headlines about a ‘return to the roaring 20s’ have started to appear in newspapers, inevitably accompanied by black and white photos of flapper girls with bobbed haircuts and wearing pearls.

While there can be no doubt that some 1920s Brits were able to enjoy a life akin to that described in The Great Gatsby – visiting  nightclubs and drinking cocktails in haute couture clothing, for most survival was the main pursuit.

With a generation of young men lost in The Great War and many more returning home to squalid housing, no health care and an expectation they should never discuss or demonstrate any ongoing suffering from the horrors they had endured, life was grim.

Whilst the  Education Act of 1921 did, at least, raise the school leaving age to 14, schooling standards remained low. In the country, pupils at some schools were still practising writing with a tray of sand and a stick, progressing to a slate and chalk as they became more proficient. Classes were large, learning was by rote and books were shared between groups of pupils, as books and paper were expensive.

Coal reserves had been depleted during the War and Britain was importing more coal than it was mining. A lack of investment in the new industrial techniques led to a period of depression, deflation and decline in the UK’s economy.

By the mid 1920s unemployment had risen to over 2 million!

Wages were low, rents were high and there was little or no job protection. Industrial action persisted, culminating in 1926 in The Great Strike.  It was called by the TUC in protest against mine owners who were using strong-arm tactics to force their workers to accept longer work hours for less take-home pay.

In pre welfare state and NHS Britain poverty and desperation were common, as was premature death and despair. So it’s interesting that photos of well dressed women dancing the Charleston are the defining image of the era. I wonder, if this is because history is, of course, written by the winners. The winners of any non war era are, inevitably those who enjoy power and wealth.  

Talk of a new “roaring twenties” era strikes me as ludicrous in a country where 320,000 people are homeless (Shelter).

14 million people, including 4 million adults who are in employment, are in poverty (Joseph Rowntree Foundation) and schools are £2 billion worse off than in 2015 (Schoolcuts.org.uk). Other problems appear to be returning, for example infant mortality rates have risen for the last four years in England (British Medical Journal).

Studies appear to be indicating that unsurprisingly, poverty is a factor.

For some, of course, this is a golden era. Britain’s total wealth grew by 13% in the two years to 2018 to reach a record £14.6tn, with wealth among the richest 10% of households increasing almost four times faster than those of the poorest 10%.  

I don’t begrudge anyone their wealth BUT I am seriously fearful of what the future holds for a country where work no longer provides a route out of poverty,homelessness is a reality for many people and access to a good education is seriously under threat.

I also wonder if those taking about the good times being here are aware of just how much suffering and strain there is in this country, and whether in the future people will look back of photos of  wealthy people celebrating and will think they are typical of this era

Project Hope By I.R Sandford

I’ve never really been one for discussing politics with members of the public face-to-face. During the last election campaign, I spent a day helping out the local Labour Party but that’s about all I have ever done, though anyone who knows me, knows how frequently I post about politics on Facebook.

I am well aware of the fact that posting about politics on Facebook is a bit like shouting in a box – not many people are likely to hear you and those that are listening tend to be those already in your social circle and many will broadly agree with your politics anyway. So, to try and counter this limitation, I have decided to try a different tact and actually engage with people face-to-face. Sometimes it might be a conversation with a colleague, sometimes it might be an opportunity that presents itself in everyday life.

I have to say that my actions haven’t really got me very far. The most common argument that I have encountered was “what’s the point of voting? They’re all the bloody same.”

Once a guy I was talking to, a taxi driver, used this argument, claiming that all politicians were corrupt and only in it for themselves. When I tried to counter him by telling him that Jeremy Corbyn was different and that he had one of the lowest expenses claims of all MP, he replied that he was a ‘mug’ for not claiming more. “You can’t have it both ways”, I thought to myself, “you’re either complicit in corruption or you stand against it”, but there seemed little point in arguing this point. The taxi driver’s argument, like those of everyone else who claims that they are ‘all the bloody same’ shows that they haven’t really been paying attention to this election.

Until recently, you couldn’t really blame people for saying “they’re all the bloody same”.

I’ve spoken these words myself more than once before. I had utterly given up on following politics – it just depressed me. New Labour had essentially become ‘Tory-lite’, as it moved away from its traditional working-class roots to more central ground.

However, over the past few years, since Jeremy Corbyn became leader, The Labour Party has transformed itself into a political party more attuned to their working-class roots. The Conservatives, on the other hand, have moved further to the right and seek only serve the interests of themselves and their billionaire backers. The Conservatives are bankrolled by billionaires, supported and protected by a media owned by billionaire.

As Labour’s Barry Gardiner said of Boris Johnson – “This is not a One Nation Prime Minister. This is a 1% of the nation Prime Minister.”

After nearly ten years of Conservative power, it feels as if we are no-longer moving forward, that all progress has stopped and that we are slipping rapidly backwards.

Recent data from UNICEF shows that the UK has dropped dramatically in the global rankings for child rights within a year – falling from 11th to 156th, whilst the charity Action for Children recently estimated that nearly 1 million children under the age of 11 will spend Christmas this year without a warm home or fresh food.

Meanwhile, it was reported earlier this year that £3.5 million given by the EU to help alleviate child poverty and homelessness in the UK is in danger of being lost, due to our government failing to use this money. Food Bank use has skyrocketed in the UK over the past ten years, with one recent article pointing out that the UK now has more food banks than McDonald’s branches.

Life for people with disabilities has also got harder over the past decade, due to the government’s cruel austerity measures. It was reported earlier this year that more than 17,000 sick and disabled people have died while waiting for welfare benefits.

This level of fatality should not be unacceptable in one of the richest nations in the world.

I recently read an article about a 58 year old Kevin Donnellon, who was born with no limbs, and has needlessly had to complete an “intrusive” 24-page DWP booklet 3 times this year, in order to keep receiving benefits “It’s not like my arms and legs have grown,” he remarks, highlighting the absurdity of this process.

Just a few years ago the UK was a torchbearer for disability rights, now it feels as if we are heading back to the days of workhouses.

A few days ago, Sally-Ann Hart, the Conservative candidate for Hastings and Rye remarked that people with learning difficulties should be paid less than the minimum wage because they do not understand money.

This exploitative attitude toward people with disabilities reminds me of a story somebody once told me about their experience of working with people with disabilities in the 1970s. In those days, the people that she supported were working in a match factory where they all suffered from burns on their fingers. It concerns me that we are slipping back to these days, or perhaps even further back in time. With Victorian attitudes still prevalent amongst the Tories, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the reintroduction of workhouses of the kind we had in the 19th Century.

This isn’t progress. 

The ‘Oven-ready’ Brexit, that Boris Johnson is offering has been revealed to be nothing more than a farce. Like the chlorinated chicken we will soon be expected to eat – it comes without a health warning. As the leaked documents highlight, Boris Johnson’s promises to protect our NHS from a trade deal has been revealed to be yet another lie. 

The leaked papers show that the US wants sweeping liberalisation, based on a so-called ‘negative list’ – unless you specifically list it, assume it will be opened up to US corporate penetration.

As one commentator remarked “Far from taking back control, Britain has clearly entered into a relationship where we hold none of the cards”. 

I’ve heard it said, many times that all politicians are liars, and with good reason, but there was a time when the lifespan of a lie at least lasted until after the election. These days the lifespan of a lie is much shorter in the minds of some, but linger in the minds of others. Many of you may have heard the joke or seen the meme about how we are breeding a strain of fact-resistant humans, but the truth is we are all creatures of habit and tend to stick rigidly to our beliefs.

Brexit, and those avidly devoted to its cause is a case in point.

Before continuing, I should state that I voted to remain in the EU back in 2016, although I did consider voting leave at the time. The whole shit-show Brexit has become demonstrates to me that it was an ill-conceived idea in the first place. It’s all very well saying ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and ‘Leave means Leave’, but you wouldn’t ‘leave’ your house without having some destination in mind, why would you leave a trade pact with your closest neighbours without having some realistic idea of what you want instead?

Many of those seeking to leave the EU seem to think that the spectacle we have seen over the last few years have been delaying tactics by those who don’t really believe in the cause, but this seems a rather weak argument.

What seems clear to me, is that the term Brexit itself is very vague and is ultimately meaningless.

Yes, you can say that it means the UK leaving the EU, but what has become obvious is that there is more than one way to go about doing this. Various options have been laid out in parliament, but none have been accepted because nobody has been able to agree on what the alternative to being in the EU should be.

The endless embarrassing mess that the nation has dragged itself through over the past few years, could have been avoided if we had gone into the referendum with what Brexit was supposed to look like. It was all very well for Nigel Farage and the like to promote Brexit, but with no real power to make real on the promises that were made, how could anybody be expected to achieve something workable?

There are many Brexiteers that choose not to believe the grim forecasts for Britain’s future when we leave the EU, but I would take the word over experts over the groundless optimism offered by Brexiteers.

We have had warnings of a 500% rise in customs processing from the boss of one of the UK’s largest customs brokers, warnings of civil unrest and food shortages from local councils, warnings about shortages of medicine from medical experts and, warnings that Brexit will damage the economy from the Bank of England, but all these expert opinions are dismissed as ‘scaremongering’ by people with no-expertise in these fields.

They dismiss these expert warnings as being ‘project fear’, but I can’t honestly see anything to be optimistic about – especially if we were to make a deal with Donald Trump.

Of all the tactics used by the Leave faction, the use of language has been the most effective.

I have already talked about the term ‘Brexit’ itself – a word that uses a great economy of letters that makes it sound catchy, but when you strip it back, its meaning is ultimately vague. Perhaps the cleverest use of language by the Leave camp, however, is the idea of ‘Project Fear’ – the very idea that any argument that portrays the Brexit as being a bad idea is shown to be a conspiracy, by those who disagree with them.

In truth, the very forces that helped to shape the nations consciousness during the referendum campaign was the ‘real project fear’.

The poster showing the huge crowd of dark faces supposedly walking toward our nation, the targeted Facebook ads that peddled lies about Turkey and Syria joining the EU, the continued drip drip of the “fake-news” memes from Britain First and the misinformation printed in the right-wing press each day – This is the real project fear.

During the referendum, it was noted that there was a spike in hate crime, and given the hysteria that seemed to be breaking out Nationally the tragic murder of the MP Jo Cox by a right-wing extremist could have been predicted.

Fear is like a virus – those with the resolve to fight it off can resist it, but those whose resolve is weak can become infected.

Those who have fallen on hard times due to the Conservatives austerity measures, those marginalised by society because they are at odds with the changing rules of polite social conduct, proclaiming “Its political correctness gone mad” and those who are growing older and are suspicious of the rapidly changing world – these are the people that are most vulnerable to the effects of fear.

You can be infected by this fear and be oblivious to the fact.

It’s like having a cold for so long that you forget that it is there, fogging your senses and making you feel run down and groggy. 

Fear is like a ghost that whispers in your ear.

It haunts you when you walk down the street at night and hear nothing but voices in an unfamiliar tongue.

It tells you that the bag left by the bench is a bomb and that the loud crash of a falling sign in a shopping mall is a terrorist attack or that the face behind the niqab is the face of evil.

Boris Johnson and the Conservatives seek to manipulate people’s fears of terrorism and this has been extremely effective, but I suspect that many of them are haunted by the same fears that they’re projecting outwards.

I read recently about an unearthed Boris Johnson article in which he said that he would ‘turn-tail’ if he encountered a group of black youths in a park. The article indicated that this was evidence of his racist attitude, but I read this more of a sign of his fear of that what he is unable to understand. Granted, it is this kind of reaction that promotes ignorance, racism and bigotry, but I also recognise in this response, a human being who is scared. Though I am able to feel this empathy for him, I don’t think this is enough to forgive him however, for it is this fear and ignorance that also makes Boris Johnson so dangerous.

The spectre of fear whispers that the world is changing too fast and that the old days were better.

Maybe this is so, but change is inevitable.

Like King Cnut’s futile attempts to stop the tide – nobody is able to prevent what will come to be. I remember speaking to a successful business man a few years ago who was a keen UKIP supporter. He fondly recalled his youth knocking about London’s West End in the 1950s and how he knew everyone. The population of London at that time would have been much lower than it is today, and it would have been possible to know many people. He then described how much the area had changed since those times – so many foreign faces. It is doubtful though, that he was ever took the time to talk to these people. Had he done, so he may have found that he had more in common with these people than he thought.

Most people essentially want the same things as us – work, security, family, but fear whispers that we shouldn’t mix with other cultures. 

Statistics show that many of the places with the highest percent of leave voters during the referendum were in places where immigration levels were actually quite low.

This suggests that those who fear immigration most are those who have had the least experience of interacting with others from ethnic groups.

Here, in Gravesend, Kent, the pattern was different. Gravesend has had a large Sikh community for years and according to 2015 data released by the Office of National Statistics, has the highest percentage in the country of people born outside the UK, yet Gravesend voted overwhelming in favour of leaving the EU.

Though I do not know the exact reasons for why so many people voted leave locally, I suspect that this may be to do with immigration. Much has changed in the town over the past 20 years or so, as the London sprawl has spread out. The population has grown – bringing in greater ethnic diversity. Having been to university I am no stranger to socialising with people from many ethnic backgrounds and had made friends from all over the world.

I welcomed this influx into Gravesend, as I felt it might make the town a more colourful and cosmopolitan place, but others are not so convinced. At the time of the Office of National Statistic’s report, the local Conservative MP, Adam Holloway, expressed his concerns. “In Gravesend I have noticed huge changes over the last 10 years with people arriving from all over the world as well as the European Union. The UK has thrived on immigration, but when is enough, enough?”

Whilst I do not see this rise in non-UK born citizens as an issue, I do understand how this rapid change may cause concern to some, especially amongst older generations, who tend to be those most resistant to change.

However, are these concerns really justified, or is it just fear whispering in people’s ears?

Fear shouts out from the news-stands every day – it tells us that the immigrants are the ones who are taking our homes, our jobs, our money.

It tells us that we are being Islamified, that we have to adopt Sharia Law, that mistletoe is being banned, that the word Easter is being removed from Easter Eggs and that our traditions are being eroded away. When you dig beneath the surface though, these stories turn out to be mostly untrue. 

The media plays on our fears for the loss of our traditions and we accept what they tell us is the truth.

Traditions are important. We cling on to traditions because they give us a sense of identity. We believe we are who we are because we live in the same way our ancestors lived.

However, is this really the case?

Life has changed so much in the UK over the past few hundred years, as we have become increasingly urbanised. Amongst other things, we have experienced the industrial revolution and two world wars that have reshaped much of the world, affecting the way in which we live our lives, from the way that we travel through to the food that we eat.

As we grow older, it is easy to convince ourselves that the time that we grew-up in were halcyon days, but this is merely an illusion – Time moves forever onwards and traditions change. As I approach half a centry in age, I too look back with a fondness for the past and a sadness at its passing, but I am also aware that I cannot change things and there is little point in trying.

I have studied the history of science and I am well aware that new ideas often taken years to gain acceptance. Ideas, like Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, were once seen as radical and were not accepted overnight. When these ideas were finally accepted, it wasn’t necessarily because those who supported his ideas had better scientific evidence – it was mostly because the old-guard had passed away and the new blood coming through were more open to the new way of viewing things.

The historian of science Thomas Kuhn put forward the idea that science goes through periodic ‘paradigm shifts’, which he defines as “universally recognized scientific achievements that, for a time, provide model problems and solutions for a community of practitioners”.

Darwin’s theory, for example relied on the earlier work of Geologist James Hutton (another scientist whose theories challenged the accepted view). Hutton was the first person to calculate the true age of the Earth. Without, this advancement, Darwin would not have been able to envisage the length of time needed for evolution to occur. Analogous to the concept of ‘paradigm shifts’ is the idea from German philosophy of each time period having a ‘zeitgeist’, or ‘spirit of the age’ that dominates its characteristics.

I mention these ideas here because they are relevant to what is happening in the UK today.

As was noted during the last general election, there is a clear voting pattern, with young people tending to favour The Labour Party whilst the old tend to favour The Conservatives. It has been recognised that support for the Tories drops away by 2% each year as their core support from older generations pass away. Whilst this gradual slip away from the Conservative past should be welcome news to many on the left, I can’t help but look on this creeping change in the demographics with a sense of sadness.

I distinctly remember a TV show from my childhood called “The Good Old Days”. The programme was a recreation of the MusicHall entertainment from the days of the British Empire. I didn’t like the show – it was too old-fashioned. It was always one of those programmes that we would switch over. However, when I look back on this TV show, I also feel a sense of sadness. It had clearly been intended to entertain the older generation, but as these people passed away the show had lost its relevance and was cancelled in 1983. Now we are seeing the gradual disappearance of the generations that followed them as WWII and the last days of the British Empire disappear from living memory.

The shockwave caused by WWII, sent ripples that have stretched across the past seventy years or so and are only now beginning to subside.

We are not the same people that we once were, and though we may mourn the passing of what went before, we cannot resurrect the past. The memories of the Empire are finally disappearing with the sunset, and with them the attitude of superiority that colonialism promoted.

I wonder sometimes if the recent rise in the popular far-right is just is just the agonal gasps of the passing of the old zeitgeist. The racist, misogynistic, homophobic attitudes of our ancestors is dying out. Young people, on the whole, tend to be more open-minded and accepting of ethnicity. They also tend to have a more fluid understanding of gender and sexuality. This is in stark contrast to the older worldview, and this frightens the older generations.

The young are still hopeful, they see Labour’s manifesto as offering them the kind of chances that have been denied to them at a time where social mobilisation has practically drawn to a stand-still.

Older people, do not seem to recognise that life is not as easy for young people as it was for them, when unemployment levels were as low as 3%. I have seen many attempts to promote Labour’s manifesto as a fairy-tale for gullible students, but when the policy has the backing of 163 economists and academics that recognise the need for “a serious injection of public investment” it can’t be that far fetched.

Labour’s manifesto offers hope, whilst the Conservatives talk of nothing but ‘getting Brexit done’, which, from the sounds of the leaked trade talks, is nothing more than the selling off of what is left of our nation’s assets. Whether it be through the gradual selling off of our NHS or allowing the dangerous practice of fracking, the UK is up for sale – This is not the sovereignty that Brexit promised us, this is where ‘project fear’ takes us.

Labour’s manifesto, on the other hand, can be looked on as ‘project hope’.

Labour are promising to build thousands of new homes, they are promising to renationalise key industries, to properly fund the NHS and to introduce a National Care Service. These policies and others are aimed at making life better for you, not the Billionaires that fund the Conservatives or the newspapers that would have you vote against your own interests.

A vote for Labour is a vote for hope. A chance to step away from the narrative of fear that has dominated the last decade.

Over the past few months politics has been more and more depressing as the no-deal Brexit loomed over us. It felt to me that our nation was doomed as we have sunk further and further into the Brexit mess.

Now there is an election, there is a chance for hope. Should Labour win, I have every faith that Jeremy Corbyn will stick to his word and will negotiate a deal with the EU that protects workers’ rights and our economic stability. Should he manage this, and such a deal should win in a second referendum, I would be more than happy to accept this eventually. Better that, than to live a life eating substandard US food, before eventually dying penniless from a curable disease because I couldn’t afford my medication.

You might like to kid yourself, that this couldn’t happen here, but what proof can you offer me that it won’t?

When you go to the polling station this Thursday, do not dwell on your fears – look to the future with hope.

When you enter the polling booth do not cling on to a fading past. Do not vote because you fear the passing of our traditions. Vote for the needs of future generations, not your own, but above all vote for the party that offers hope, not for those who have shrouded you in fear.

Why The Similarity In These Headlines Could Be A Good Thing For Labour By Lisa Mulholland

The election is less than 3 weeks away.

Labour are significantly behind in the polls and the mainstream media are doing their usual tactics of ridiculing Corbyn, and painting the tories in a glorious light; despite two disastrous performances by Johnson on the leaders debates. Not to mention a week full of fake news skulduggery by the tories.

It’s enough to make you want to give up hope.

9 years of austerity, services stretched to beyond their limit, with the final nail in the privatisation coffin of the NHS hanging over us.

The U.K. electorate should be fired up. We should be ready to kick the tories out. In normal times we probably would be. But in the last 4 years have seen an extraordinary rollercoaster. We are now on our third election, not to mention the big referendum, and third Prime Minister. The public are saturated with politics.

A December election is unusual, and inconvenient.

The media are resorting to hostile tactics.

They call Corbyn a ‘Marxist’, a ‘terrorist sympathiser’, a ‘Russian spy’. The list is endless and the media are relentless.

Here we have a radical Labour manifesto published yesterday. Built on hope. The light at the end of this dark political tunnel. It speaks of ambitious but realistic plans of not just ending austerity but of smashing it to pieces with large investment and nationalisation in public services.

Surely this is what people want? But the media have convinced people that it’s laughable and ‘communist.’ And they can vote for ‘ anyone but Corbyn’. He’s so weak and unelectable, so much s that the BBC has to mute the chants of his supporters outside the studios tonight…

I have really felt like giving up hope. 2017 offered a glimmer of something but the constant media smears and the headbanging frustration of Brexit has worn me down.

I told myself not to get my hopes up with this election. And just to hide away from all coverage of the election.

But then I remembered something. I spotted an old newspaper front page and it reminded me that isn’t the first time a potential Labour government proposed something radical, and it’s not the first time the media laughed it off.

It happened right before Labour were elected on a landslide and started the construction of the very “socialist, radical” idea of the NHS and welfare state. The media states that people were terrified of the prospect of the NHS, as it would “bankrupt us”, “never work”, and that state ownership would mean “controlling everything we do”.

Does this sound familiar?

The similarities don’t end there.

The Labour government of 1945 with its’ Keynesian economics and The Beveridge Report of 1942, painted a picture of radical change to post-war Britain. It set out plans for the Welfare State, something which the Tories clearly opposed, favouring instead austerity over grand public spending. This, even after 14 years of events starting with the Great Depression of 1931, austerity and a World War that plunged many of the poor into even worse conditions, proves that the Tories were out of touch then with the public desire for a change and are still out of touch now, over 70 years later. Back then the media called them ‘ gestapos’, ‘ socialists’ and opposed Labour’s plans at every single opportunity.

A similar turn of events has happened in recent times with the Global Crash of 2008 and subsequent recession led to the conservatives excuse for the introduction of crippling austerity in 2010.

Since then homelessness has doubled, use of food banks increased daily, wages stagnated and many public services are in crisis, National Debt has increased to the trillions and we still have a deficit, with Tory deadlines to clear it off being extended and extended.

Following the immediate aftermath of the 2008 Crash, Keynesian economics was brought up again with many saying that if it had been followed throughout the last 40 years, the Crash could have been avoided.

But it was caused by the over inflation and free market economics, much like 1931. Keynesian economics would have controlled the over inflation that preceded the 2008 crash and would have opposed austerity measures that followed. Keynesianism works on the belief that economic demand determines economic output, in other words the more the public are willing and able to spend, the better the economy will perform; which is the opposite of Neoliberalism.

Today we see that austerity has not reduced the debt. The UN even called austerity a political choice and found it to be ‘ cruel’ and yet the government were quite happy to continue with it while spending generously when it suited them with the £1 billion DUP deal, and promoting a Halloween Brexit that never happened. So how long can the notion of austerity and neoliberalism limp on for?

After the rollercoaster year we have had in UK politics, with Brexit looming and then delayed, we now have the manifesto of hope and an opportunity to implement it . With its vision of an end to austerity; a universal social care system, free education for adults and grand ideas of reinvestment into public services we are being given that glimmer of hope in the same way that the Beveridge Report of 1942 probably gave the public all those years ago.

The creation of NHS and the Welfare State provided an antidote to years of austerity and changed the social and economic landscape of the UK for the better, and I’m certain that if given the chance, Corbyn’s vision would do the same for generations to come.

So, what comes next? Are we heading for a similar fate we did all those years ago when Labour were ridiculed by the press and then shocked them with a landslide.

At face value when I look around me I think ‘no chance’. How can we ever come up against that amount of hostility.

But the optimist in me however, would like to think that we are on the brink of a radical change for the better, not just with this election but for the future to come and that it is only matter of time before Neoliberalism is finally exposed for what it really is – greed under the guise of economic philosophy.

And maybe, just maybe we could take the right path at this enormous crossroads.