2019 in Britain:
500 Burger King’s
over 2,000 Food Banks
2019 in Britain:
500 Burger King’s
over 2,000 Food Banks
Essential watching before making your election choice on Thursday. For those of you who can, please circulate as widely as possible.
REMEMBER – VOTING FOR ANYONE BUT TIRELESS NHS CAMPAIGNER CLAIRE WRIGHT WILL BE A VOTE FOR FURTHER KILLING OFF OF THE NHS – AND US:
For info: National Debt under Labour and Tories:
“At Devon County Council yesterday, Tory councillors voted as a block to prevent my motion critical of the fire station closures from being discussed at the meeting. They also voted not to allow the vote to be recorded, to protect themselves from criticism.
The meeting of the Fire Authority which will finalise the closures has been postponed until January 10th, and the proposals which will be put to the Authority will not be published until after the election.
My motion asked the Council to press the Fire Authority to allow county councillors to speak and represent their constituents, which the Authority’s standing orders would not normally allow us to do – the Tories would not even stand up for the right of councillors to represent their constituents.
Make no mistake – the closures will almost certainly go ahead unless voters throw a spanner in the works! ”
Tory parachuted-in candidate described as “straight from Tory central casting” – love it!
“Independent candidate Claire Wright is gaining ground on the Conservatives:
Fake news, the ripping down of posters, an independent candidate with a chance of winning, and a new Conservative candidate helicoptered in from central casting.
The sleepy coastal constituency of East Devon is not at all used to such excitement at election time. This, according to pretty much any expert you choose to listen to, is the only seat in the UK where the independent has a realistic chance of winning a seat in Westminster.
That independent candidate is Claire Wright, currently a local councillor and a lifelong resident of the constituency.
The i politics newsletter cut through the noise
“I am going to win. I can feel it here,” she says raising her hand to her chest.
Her confidence is not entirely misplaced. It is clear that Ms Wright is the only candidate in East Devon that can beat the Conservatives for the first time in 156 years.
Boris Johnson visited an East Devon farm shop in an attempt to give the Conservative candidate a boost.
The Tories are clearly concerned at the momentum building for Ms Wright. So much so that Boris Johnson popped up in a local farm shop to support his candidate on Thursday. The same day Ms Wright gained her own celebrity endorsement from Hugh Grant.
Mr Johnson showed up to extol the virtues of Simon Jupp, who has left his role as an adviser to Dominic Raab in the Treasury in an attempt to retain the constituency for the Conservatives following the retirement of Hugo Swire, who bequeathed him a majority of just over 8,000 to defend.
Third time lucky?
While such a buffer would usually suffice, Ms Wright believes her third attempt at the seat is going to send Jupp back to London with his tail between his legs.
Since her first effort in 2015, Ms Wright has all but wiped out support for the Liberal Democrats, and, after the 2017 election, slashed the Tory majority by a third.
“There’s three key things that are different this time around,” says Ms Wright. “First, the funding has been much easier this time around. We’re not quite at our expenses limit of £16,000, but we’re not far off.
“Second, we’re finding far more people know who I am in this campaign, and, third, more and more of them realise that voting for me as an independent candidate is not a wasted vote. They know what I stand for and they know I can win this.”
During her decade in district and county politics Ms Wright has been a vociferous campaigner for local NHS services, environmental matters and education. Indeed, if you put her manifesto pledges next to those of the Liberal Democrats, then you would be hard pushed to notice much difference.
A ‘final’ Brexit referendum
However, one area where she does move away from the Lib Dems is on Brexit. She advocates a second, and final, referendum on this most divisive of issues.
“In that second referendum, I will campaign to remain,” she says. “Clearly, my opponent is pro-Brexit and there’s a distinct difference in our positions on this and so many other incredibly important issues facing people today. I want to boost our local services, while the government has cut funding to them. I want to keep the smaller hospitals like the one we have here in Exmouth open. The Conservative cuts means they could be forced to close. I want to make huge changes in the way we tackle the climate emergency immediately. The Conservatives don’t.”
While the 54 per cent of voters in the East Devon district opted in favour of Brexit, the Parliamentary constituency map extends a little further to the west and into the suburbs of remain voting Exeter. This means the split between leavers and remainers is almost straight down the middle in the Parliamentary seat.
After an hour talking in the Exmouth ice cream parlour owned by her enthusiastic campaign manager Tony Badcott, she drives up to the Brixington area of this beach-loving community to knock on some doors, trying to convince more voters of her ability to represent them in the Commons.
In previous campaigns Ms Wright had not focused her efforts on such areas because they were considered staunch Tory. However, there does appear to be something of a shift. As she walks from door to door, there are two clear themes. Either people are voting for her, or those that did vote Conservative last time remain undecided. The undecideds are in the clear majority, with several Brexiteers suggesting they will not bother voting.
“I voted for Brexit and for the Tories, but they didn’t get Brexit done,” said one animated voter. “I’m not going to bother voting for any of them. They all just lie, and lie and lie.”
While this is clearly a vote Ms Wright cannot count on, it is an indication of what could be the determining factor in East Devon. The more disgruntled, Brexit-backing Conservative voters stay at home on polling day, the greater her odds of winning will be.
Such a victory would be an extraordinary event, as it would be the first ever victory for an independent candidate that has faced competition from all the main parties. There’s no Remain pact here. The Lib Dems and Green Party candidates are currently refusing to give Ms Wright her blessing, despite the fact that their votes could prove crucial in preventing what they do not want most – a Conservative victory.
A new ‘local newspaper’ appears
During the afternoon’s canvassing a member of Ms Wright’s small army of committed volunteers gets in touch with her, after receiving the first, and probably only, edition of East Devon Future through her letterbox. Only on close inspection, and with the help of some magnification for many, does it become clear this ‘local paper’ is nothing of the kind. It is funded, in fact, by the Conservative and Unionist Party.
“It’s fake news,” says Ms Wright. “It’s a clear attempt to deceive voters.”
Conservative central office has posted this newspaper through voters’ letterboxes.
Just an hour or so later, as darkness begins to fall on her campaigning in Brixington, Ms Wright also learns that one of her large campaign boards had been ripped down by “two men dressed in black”. Things are certainly ramping up with only 12 days of campaigning left.
As for Ms Wright’s Conservative opponent, he appears to have realised tide on the River Exe could be turning against him. At Thursday’s hustings at Exmouth Community College, Mr Jupp could not apologise enough for what the Conservatives have delivered, or, for many in the audience, failed to deliver in a raft of areas such as the NHS, education and the environment.
“I am sorry for that,” he began several answers with, hoping the voters would now trust him to make things better.
Ms Wright says: “It was a surprise to hear him lament the ‘scandal that food banks exist’, that the NHS had been ‘neglected’ and to declare that ‘funding has been far too low for far too long’ in our schools.
“His admission that the Conservatives had been ‘not too friendly toward teachers in the past’ will come as no surprise to the watching teachers at Exmouth Community college. They had to write a begging letter to parents when there was not enough money to buy simple materials.”
While no one i spoke to, other than Ms Wright herself, could say she will win for sure, the pressure is certainly on Mr Jupp to deliver for the current occupant of No.10.
When one member of that hustings audience interrupted him to highlight “the devastation Tory austerity cuts had caused” cracks in the Conservative candidate’s composure began to show.
“Don’t heckle,” Mr Jupp snapped back at the voter. “It’s quite rude.”
You get the feeling there’s a lot more heckling left in this race yet.”
A plea has been made for volunteers to come forward to help children at Budleigh Salterton’s cash-strapped primary school.
“The lack of government funding for schools has intensified the need for members of the Budleigh community to help at St Peter’s.
According to National Education Union website schoolcuts.org.uk
St Peter’s, in Moor Lane, faces a £70,000 shortfall in its budget next year – equating to £243 per pupil.
Classroom assistants, language support, swimming helpers and pupil mentors are among the roles the school, which already has a band of 25 volunteers, is looking to fill.
Headteacher Steve Hitchcock said the financial pressure on the school means volunteering at the school is even more important.
He said: “We are lucky – we do have quite a big army of volunteers already.
“We are looking for people who can help out in school, particularly with younger children and help them with their learning and play.
“We are asking if anyone else in our community would be able to offer a bit of their time each week to help us grow and nurture the pupils at our school.
“Volunteering is definitely something we were doing anyway, but the need has become bigger in the last three or four years.
“Each year, we have lost teaching staff and have not been able to replace them so we rely on volunteers more and more.”
As well as the volunteers who help out at school, members of the PTA have given up their time to raise funds for St Peter’s.
Mr Hitchcock said that without them, the school’s new on-site library would not have been possible.
The school has also asked for financial contributions from parents to help keep the school afloat.
Anyone interested in volunteering will be subject to background checks and Mr Hitchcock said a love of working with children is vital.
He said: “I have done job descriptions to give people an idea of the range of things we are looking for them to do.”
Visit the school website or pop in to the office for more information on how to become a school volunteer.”
Philip Algar is an active campaigner in his local town of Ottery St Mary.
HARD TIMES, HARD LUCK
Austerity, anger and adventure
by Philip Algar
“In his latest book, local author Philip Algar paints a sympathetic picture of the fictional Devon village of Woodfield Magna. Like so many across the country, it is decaying. The young people, lacking local employment, affordable homes and public transport, are moving away. Those who remain, mainly the elderly and financially challenged, are confronted by the closure of local hospitals, libraries, bus routes and social services and by more crime and other challenges reflecting the government’s austerity plan.
The locals discuss serious matters, such as whether the name of the pub should be changed, and lesser topics such as global warming, but their efforts to publicise their plight, on television, reveal a government plot to curb free speech.
One elderly resident, whose pension is lower than it should have been, because of the suspect actions of a very dubious businessman, dubbed the ugly face of capitalism, needs an operation to eliminate constant pain. The NHS will not assist for some time and he cannot afford to use the private sector. He and his friends, trying to help him, become involved in an unlikely adventure that emphasises the problems that millions face and which captures the interest of the entire nation and the attention of the government.
This satirical story, characterised throughout by a sustained and quiet humour, paints an understanding picture of village life and mocks many aspects of contemporary society.”
HARD TIMES, HARD LUCK (ISBN number 978-0-244-53385-4) is available from The Curious Otter Bookshop 10 Mill Street, Ottery St. Mary EX11 1AD price £8.99 or from the author direct on email@example.com at the same price, including postage and packing to UK addresses.
“The Institute for Fiscal Studies is deeply unimpressed at what it deemed a “lack of significant policy action” in the Conservative Party manifesto.
The Tory social care crisis for Britain’s elderly and infirm that Johnson had promised to fix when he became PM did not even get a mention in the manifesto. Johnson had previously claimed that he had a plan ready to sort it out.
The IFS concluded that the manifesto plans meant people expecting relief for Britain’s public services after a decade of austerity would instead see “cuts to their day-to-day budgets of the last decade baked in.”
Economic researchers at the independent think tank calculated that the National Insurance threshold rise to £9,500 that Boris Johnson appeared to have lied or been mistaken about will actually only save most in paid work “less than £2 a week” and highlighted the “notable omission” for any plan to deal with the crisis in social care funding.
Nigel Edwards, chief executive at the Nuffield Trust, an independent health think tank, said he was “bitterly disappointed” to see “unnecessary delay” in tackling the issue of social care.
IFS director Paul Johnson said: “If a single Budget had contained all these tax and spending proposals, we would have been calling it modest.
“As a blueprint for five years in government, the lack of significant policy action is remarkable.”
Main manifesto pledges quickly debunked
Speaking at a launch event in Telford, Boris Johnson reaffirmed his commitment to take the UK out of the EU by the end of January, so they could “forge a new Britain”. “We will get Brexit done and we will end the acrimony and the chaos,” he said.
As well as a flagship promise of 50,000 more nurses for the NHS in England despite Brexit “chaos”, the manifesto included a U-turn restoring maintenance grants for student nurses previously scrapped by the Tories.
Tory sources later acknowledged that about 30,000 of the additional nurses would come from measures to retain existing staff rather than new recruits, and the main Tory manifesto pledge was debunked among other claims by a fact checking service within hours of the launch. Labour called the Tory figures “deceitful.”
Chief executive Will Moy said the Conservative Party could “do more to meet the standards we expect” after investigating its pledges on paving the way for 50,000 new nurses and limiting day-to-day spending increases to only £3 billion, despite promising a litany of public services investment.
The fact checkers also slammed Johnson’s use the the slogan “get Brexit done”, a phrase that appears 22 times in the manifesto including on the cover, when a deal with the European Union could take “years to negotiate”.
“The Brexit process will not be completed by January,” despite what Johnson keeps repeating said the independent organisation.
‘Older people face a triple whammy’
“After a decade of the Conservatives cutting our NHS, police and schools, all Boris Johnson is offering is more of the same: more cuts, more failure, and years more of Brexit uncertainty,” Jeremy Corbyn responded.
He added: “Boris Johnson can’t be trusted. Older people face a triple whammy as he has failed to protect free TV licences for over 75s, refused to grant justice to women unfairly affected by the increase in the state pension age, and not offered a plan or extra money to fix the social care crisis.”
The lacklustre manifesto may be down to Conservative complacency after recent polls. The latest polling released on Sunday, created by Datapraxis using YouGov polling and voter interviews, suggested the Tories were on course to secure their largest Commons majority since 1987 – a majority of almost 50 MPs.
This would mean if Boris Johnson met the public services spending promises in his manifesto the UK would still be looking at a decade of cuts “baked into” our services, according to the IFS analysis.
Boris Johnson’s broken promise to fix Tory social care crisis
Paul Johnson of the IFS’ initial reaction to the Tory manifesto was scathing: “If the Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos were notable for the scale of their ambitions the Conservative one is not. If a single Budget had contained all these tax and spending proposals we would have been calling it modest. As a blueprint for five years in government the lack of significant policy action is remarkable.
“In part that is because the chancellor announced some big spending rises back In September. Other than for health and schools, though, that was a one-off increase. Taken at face value today’s manifesto suggests that for most services, in terms of day-to-day spending, that’s it. Health and school spending will continue to rise. Give or take pennies, other public services, and working age benefits, will see the cuts to their day-to-day budgets of the last decade baked in.”
“One notable omission is any plan for social care. In his first speech as prime minister Boris Johnson promised to ‘fix the crisis in social care once and for all’. After two decades of dither by both parties in government it seems we are no further forward.
“On the tax side the rise in the National Insurance threshold was well trailed. The ambition for it to get to £12,500 may remain, but only the initial rise to £9,500 has been costed and firmly promised. Most in paid work would benefit, but by less than £2 a week. Another £6 billion would need to be found to get to £12,500 by the end of the parliament. Given the pressures on the spending side that is not surprising.”
“Perhaps the biggest, and least welcome, announcement is the ‘triple tax lock’: no increases in rates of income tax, NICs or VAT. That’s a constraint the chancellor may come to regret. It is also part of a fundamentally damaging narrative – that we can have the public services we want, with more money for health and pensions and schools – without paying for them. We can’t.”
School cuts barely reversed
The Conservative manifesto confirmed previous commitments in England to increase school spend in England by £7.1 billion by 2022–23. However, that would leave spend per pupil in real terms after a decade of austerity at the same level as 13 years ago, the IFS explained.
In contrast the IFS found the Labour commitment of a £7.5 billion real terms increase by 2022–23 a 14.6% rise in spending per pupil.
Unlike Labour and the Liberal Democrats the Conservative manifesto refused to extend free, pre-school childcare.
IFS researchers warned that the Conservative manifesto pledges left “little scope for spending increases beyond next year outside of those planned for health and schools.”
In a dire warning the IFS added: “even in 2023–24 day-to-day spending on public services outside of health would still be almost 15 per cent lower in real terms that it was at the start of the 2010s.”
“Failure to recruit enough nurses has left the NHS dependent on less-skilled support staff to plug workforce gaps, analysis by a charity has found.
The Health Foundation claimed there has been a “hollowing out” of the NHS workforce and said the country needs to recruit at least 5,000 international nurses a year until 2023-24 to prevent shortages impacting on patient care.
Although there was the biggest annual increase in overall workforce for a decade between March 2018 and March 2019, this “masks an ongoing shift” in the mix of clinical staff employed by the NHS, the charity said.
While there was 4,500 more nurses recruited in the year – an increase of 1.5% – there was a 2.6% increase in support staff doctors, nurses and midwives (6,500 more), according to the analysis.
Nursing vacancies also reached record levels at 44,000 in the first quarter of 2019 while NHS output – including the number of operations, consultations and diagnostic procedures – grew by 23% between 2010-11 and 2016-17.
“The figures suggest that in some cases, clinical support staff are effectively filling in the gaps left by the widespread shortages of nurses, raising questions of quality and safety,” the report added.
The Health Foundation also said figures show that in response to a “severe drop off” in the supply of EU nurses since 2016, the UK has ramped up its recruitment of nurses from non-EU countries over the last year.
Since the Brexit referendum nurses recruited from EU countries has fallen by 85% – from 6,382 in 2016-17 to 968 in 2018-19.
The charity noted there had still been recruitment from outside the EU in 2018-19 – including 1,791 nurses from India and 3,118 from the Philippines.
A similar trend occurred with doctor recruitment, where there was a fall of 1.6% between March 2018 and March 2019 of permanently employed GPs. The Health Foundation added: “It now appears impossible that the government’s original target of recruiting 5,000 additional GPs by 2020 will be met”.
Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said: “Nursing shortages continue to deepen and are inevitably impacting on the front line.
“Services are being forced to make do with shortfalls of increasingly pressurised nurses and rely on less-skilled support staff to pick up the slack.
She added: “Two obvious solutions to the nurse staffing crisis would be to train more nurses in this country and retain more existing staff. But the UK is struggling to grow the numbers starting nursing degrees, and while there must also be action to address this – for example, by giving nurse students the cost-of-living support they need – it will take time to have a significant impact on the numbers of nurses.”
Charlesworth noted that clinical support staff played an important role but added there appeared to be an unplanned increased recruitment of such staff to fill nursing staff shortages.
The Conservatives have promised 50,000 more nurses if they win the election next month, although 19,000 of those will be retained rather than newly recruited.”