Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dear Jane, Jacqui and Nancy

The world's capitalist system is on its knees. We believe that now is the time for you to denounce privatisation of our care and health services and stop this from happening. Privatisation of the health and care industries has had cross party political support over the past twenty years or so. We have seen privatisation of home care work, 'consultancy', training programmes, capital projects, GP services and the Expert Patient Programme to name a few. Wherever large companies think they can make a fast buck they swoop like vultures.

This privatisation has had a disastrous impact on the NHS. Services like privatised home care and the Expert Patient Programme are fragmented and not as effectively regulated. We argue that people have prematurely died and suffered as a result of this. And this is likely to get much worse, as money is cut from privatised budgets following the sweeping cuts to borrowing banks are making and will continue to make for the foreseeable future.

The drive to divide the NHS - which you have led - must stop. Even calling the different parts of the organisation 'divisions' is divisive. That's what the word means. You have ground down the 'provider' side so that 'commissioners' feel superior to 'providers'. 'Providers' is a very degrading term for people working so hard for the health and wellbeing of the nation. You have made these people (the nurses, doctors, hospital workers) feel inferior. The free markets don't work. They are failing. This approach works even less in health and social care - these are peoples lives we are talking about - not just a fast buck. Please stop the current push to privatise the NHS. Stop the 'Alternative Provider Organisation'. You are wrong - this will not be an improvement. Takeover the running of all your privatised elements - like consultants and cleaning. This is more democratic - as publicly elected Governors like myself and experienced managers, not to mention the local authority, like yourselves are better managers and motivators than the profit crazed capitalists.

The history of 'Keep Hackney NHS Public' is one we are proud of, although unfortunately its establishment, like many organisations and events was a reaction to political events. You probably remember a letter from the then, Sir Nigel Crisp (now Lord Crisp of course - sworn to secrecy on what happened then) to yourselves in July 2005 telling you to make cuts of 15%, in support of 'commissioning a patient led NHS'. We vigorously opposed this and immediately formed a political organisation which united trade unions, patients and the local community, linked to the national 'Keep our NHS Public'. In due course, Tony Blair and Patricia Hewitt who were the probable architects of the debacle were deposed, after I might say substantial lobbying from ourselves. The cuts as you know, were returned on the NHS balance sheets as a surplus. So just over two years ago, before Alan Johnson became Health Secretary, the NHS was facing a £2bn deficit. Now it is £2bn surplus. The local NHS has an extra £23m to spend. As a result of all this success I was elected public Governor of the Homerton in September 2007, Gill George was elected national executive member of UNITE last year.

We stand united, proud of our short past and we implore upon you to stop privatisation, bring back in-house outsourced services - such as cleaning at the Homerton and privatised home care services, stop your misguided 'APO' plans, and give your staff the appropriate pay rise - in line with inflation so that staff are not effectively getting a pay cut.

Keep Hackney NHS Public

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bankrupting the banks

Looking at our bank accounts it would be absolutely great - as they make red marker pen seem rather pink - if the banks went bust. Of course they wouldn't get their money that we owe them. The problem is is that the NHS - automatically unprofitable de facto - employs the most caring and transparent people - people who want it to continue and provide a better life not for themselves but for others. The banks on the other hand employ greedy manipulative philistines, who endevour to pull fast ones on their own children and grandchildren whenever they can. Consequently the world governments couldn't give a flying hoot if myself, my friends and family go bankrupt. But if I were a billionaire selfish prat they would.

Anyway I'm taking up running - not only running up large debts in running gear (amazing how much you can spend on clothing technology) to help the banks go bankrupt, but running to keep myself in tip top shape ready for armaggedon.

I told husband we couldn't afford to join the gym at the moment. Anyway he ignored me. I'm trying to see this as a personal mission to bring down Natwest. The problem is our joint account is with the Co-op, of course deliberately joined because they're supposed to be nice. This is part of the problem with a marxist revolution, even the nice people you have to stick up against the wall. Or alternatively take them to your gym with your guest pass.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Marxism Today

I've just been doing what is normally my least favourite activity, listening to 'The Today Programme' on Radio Four. They just said 'They say a week's a long time in politics. but a few hours are a long time in the global financial markets'. True, and true to their right wing form even Jonathan Sachs, chief rabbi was defending capitalism on Thought for the day, claiming that some school scheme he'd inspired had implemented morality in the stock markets. But it hasn't has it Jonny boy?

Revolutionary socialists, like myself (I wasn't particularly yesterday but people can change) start acting frenetically and happily when global economic apocalyspse comes home to roost. I almost bought the Daily Mail yesterday - a front page headline of a photo with beardie Richard Branson 'IN DEFENCE OF CAPITALISM'. When even the Daily Mail is having headlines like that you it's enough to make you skip along Fleet Street. Capitalism needs defending.

The political system has done nothing but anger me. It's a political system based on a corrupt economic system. Especially now, today. The whole of my adult life I have done virtually nothing else but try to tell people about the perils of privatisation - particularly of social services and health care. When a 'Labour' social services committee implemented cuts to social services, implemented charges for older and disabled people's care - I led a rally of older people to that committee. When a local authority privatised housing benefit services, I led a deputation of people who explained how the most needy were being made homeless. And when the 'Labour' government (ok, Tony Blair and Patricia Hewitt) cut the NHS budget by 15% and tried to privatise it, I led the work and was a founder member of 'Keep Our NHS Public'. I lobbied my MP with another individual - not for my own job but for the thousands of patients and staff members who would lose their services and jobs.

Today I am an employee of a privatised care company - listed on the stock market I believe. I work in Leeds, the company's HQ is in Birmingham. We get paid about £6 per hour. But not paid any travel time. My average monthly salary for a day's work a week is £32. It works out at about £4 an hour - and is actually life saving work. When the markets dictate - as they have done - people are sacrificed for money. Every minute when I care for these people I can see that. My labour is not valued appropriately - as keeping quite old and disabled people alive is not profitable. And when profits go down, companies do not give themselves up for nationalisation because they think they're unethical. No, they make cuts. That means job losses.

This is much, much more major than the Iraq War. This is because already a billion people are starving -the food crisis caused by the bio-fuels nightmare and climate change has overturned 10 years of economic growth. The decrease in demand in the economy from the corrupt, unregulated gambling of billionaires will cause a global economic meltdown. This will affect more people than the Iraq War as it is truly international - more so because of globalisation than the Great depression. What we need is grassroots action. Trade Unions acting with pressure groups and the community. Jobs must be saved. Care and health companies need urgent nationalisation. International Socialism needs to lift its head again and rise to the challenge of uniting green and red all over the world. The Labour Party needs to reinstate Clause 4. Attacks on immigrants must stop. Xenophobia needs to be illegal. Borders need to be brought down so people can move to where the work is. Local government needs to be given proper power and not be allowed to privatise services.

It is not ethical to make profit out of misery, disease and destitution.

Trotsky rocks

Friday, September 12, 2008

Paradise on Earth

We are now in Bali. It is AMAZING. Plenty of emphasis on the Zing there. To be honest haven't yet ventured out of the Villa which makes Buckingham Palace look like a substandard nineteenth century squat. Every detail you could possibly think of has been thought of, and more. The 'day bed' on which I am now typing is about ten foot by ten foot with its own electricity supply, fan and cushions. Overlooking the pool which is currently glowing from the clever blue lighting. And to my left is our room, or suite of rooms. Bedroom two foot from the pool, with its own dressing room and outside double showers and bathroom. A garbath.

There are a few firsts which summarise this well:
1) The closest I have ever stayed to a pool
2) The best reflexology and foot massage ever had - and cheapest
3) The most cleverly designed holiday accommodation I've ever stayed in - open plan dining and living room overlooking the pool - no walls. Upstairs air conditioned media room and gym and upstairs living room. Rooms with their own dressing rooms and outside bathrooms
4) The best landscaping at any place I've ever stayed - tropical garden planting that puts Diermid Gavin to shame
5) showing off a brilliant sparkly manicure - and pedicure
6) The most brilliantly named villa Windu Sari - translated as 'Paradise in a Point in Time'. Couldn't be more apt.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Grooming in Hong Kong

Yes, we are here in Hong Kong, for the second wedding of the century - brother in law to his fiancee. It's on Saturday in Bali. We're flying there tomorrow for five days. So far we've eaten out in most countries of the southern hemisphere (or restaurants selling their food anyway). My geography is not up to scratch but: That's Taiwan, Australia, Japan, Argentina, Korea, china - tea only, and Chinese buffet.

Yesterday was Hub Hub's birthday. He got a programmable universal remote control. It's what he wanted. He had a gorgeous cake at dinner - the best Tiramisu I've ever tasted and at lunchtime they took us up to the revolving restaurant - that was incredible. 62nd floor. Highest I've ever been. Double Decker buses like ants. And you don't want to miss a second.

It's amazing - a shopper's paradise. There is no VAT. There is barely any tax apparently. High rise flats don't seem to have had the negative press that they've had in the UK - every building is a skyscraper. Essentially it's unbridled capitalism - and it seems to work, for us and the eight million others or so. Except there is limited democracy, but as long as there's food on the table then people don't (allegedly) mind. One picture which sticks in my mind is the 'Legislative Council' building - our Houses of Parliament. It is smaller than Hackney Town Hall. It is the only 1910 building still standing in Hong Kong - we know because we bought a panoramic photo from 1910. What is astounding is that this tiny two storey colonial style outpost building is there, overlooking the harbour, and then right next to it is the 'Bank of China' or equivalent - all 82 floors of it - and the same on each side. It is like a pin head in a load of pens. Even more incredible is that in about two months time, this 'Legco' building will no longer overlook the harbour. Because they are filling in that bit of the harbour and building more bank offices. I was laughing about this, imagining if someone wanted to fill in the Thames in front of the House of Commons and build an office block. It does sum it up though - minimal governance and regulation, with money (investment) everywhere you look.

The most striking cultural experience has been seeing the thousands of Filipino maids celebrating their Sundays in 'Central'. They have little picnics in groups - on the balustrades, sitting on the tiles at the bus station. In fact sitting anywhere and everywhere they can. We were walking through on our way to somewhere else. Not a single male face as far as you could see. In one way it is quite unsettling. These people working thousands of miles from home - every one separated from their husband or boyfriend, just to earn a bit of money to send back. Not able to afford a meal out, not even 'congi' the local porridge. Just there, sitting on sheets on the concrete, playing with beads, with other women they know. On the other hand though, it is quite uplifting. They aren't crack addicts or doped up to their eyeballs,getting drunk. All you can hear is quiet chatter as they enjoy their only day off with all their friends, playing parlour games and taking advantage of the spotless infrastructure. Even in the most challenging circumstances, the human spirit can get us through.

The best scene though was when we met the bride to be - she was finishing work early on Monday at lunchtime. We all went to meet her to go for lunch. The look of joy on her face as she met the man, and they embraced. I felt very privileged indeed just to be here and see that.