An alternative look at the Copeland By-Election result : Another angry voice.

The mainstream media reaction to the Labour Party loss in the Copeland by-election was utterly predictable. The ubiquitous blame-Corbyn narratives were identical to those scratched together in anticipation of the 2016 Local Election catastrophe that failed to actually materialise.

Of course Jeremy Corbyn isn’t entirely blameless when it comes to the Copeland result, but the mainstream narrative that the blame is essentially his has been well and truly set, and the mindless political rote-learner drones are out in force spewing this simplistic trope as if it’s their own carefully considered opinion rather than something they’re repeating without even bothering to think more deeply about things for themselves.

In this article I’m going to take a quick look at some factors other than Jeremy Corbyn’s competence that influenced the Copeland result, including the really big story that the mainstream press more-or-less ignored in their haste to damn Jeremy Corbyn.

A long-term decline

Copeland had been Labour Party territory for decades, but anyone claiming it was anything but a marginal constituency is dealing in pure political fiction. The Labour high-point in Copeland came in 1997 when Jack Cunningham won the seat with 58% of the vote. Ever since then the Labour Party has been on a downwards trajectory in Copeland. They lost 6.4% of the vote in 2001, another 1.3% in 2005, another 4.5% of the vote in 2010 and yet another 3.7% in 2015.

The 2017 by-election saw yet another decline in the Labour vote share of 4.9%. That’s five elections in a row where Labour lost popularity in Copeland. If Corbyn is to be blamed for this loss, the blame has to be put in its proper context. Corbyn clearly didn’t cause the long-term decline in the Labour vote, but he did fail to reverse it.

Even if …

Even if Corbyn’s Labour had’ve managed to stop the decline in the Labour vote share they would still have lost the Copeland by-election. 42.3% of the vote was enough for Jamie Reed to win in 2015, but it would only have been good enough for second place in the 2017 by-election because the Tory candidate bagged 44.3% of the vote.

The real story

The real story in Copeland is how the Tories managed to leapfrog Labour to such an extent that Labour would still have lost if their vote share remained the same from the 2015 General Election.

The answer is the collapse in the UKIP vote. UKIP’s vote share fell from 15.5% in 2015 to just 6.5% in 2017. This 9% fall in their vote share is almost exactly matched by the Tories 8.5% increase.

The real story is that Ukippers are abandoning their party in droves in order to throw their support behind the Tories now that Theresa May is pushing a rabidly right-wing authoritarian more-UKIP-than-UKIP political agenda.

On the national scale

This drift of Ukippers into the arms of Theresa May’s brand of savagely right-wing authoritarianism is being repeated across the country.  In the run up to the 2016 EU referendum UKIP consistently polled above 15%, within less than a year they’re averaging below 12% and gradually slipping further.

It’s pretty difficult to imagine Ukippers defecting to the Europhile Lib-Dems or to a Labour Party that is far more focused on internal factional squabbling than actually defining a coherent party line on the utter shambles Theresa May is making of Brexit. ‘Kippers are clearly defecting to the Tories because they’re attracted by Theresa May’s more-UKIP-than-UKIP posturing.

Ideological blood brothers

UKIP and the Tories are ideological blood brothers. A look at the UKIP ranks stuffed full of failed, disgraced and defected Tories should be enough to convince anyone of the fact that UKIP are a Tory Trojan Horse of a political party. Then there’s the fact that UKIP is almost totally bankrolled by Tory money too.

UKIP dragging the UK political spectrum way off to the right and then gradually folding themselves back into the Tory party was always inevitable. As the single issue party that no longer actually has a single issue inevitably loses votes, it’s obvious that a Tory government that insists on aping Ukipper anti-European posturing and anti-immigration rhetoric is going to be the main beneficiary.

What now?

If the UKIP vote continues leeching to the Tory party, England is going to end up as a de facto one party state. The Tories already have a considerable electoral advantage, and if they pick up another four or five percentage points from UKIP and succeed in gerrymandering the political boundaries too, there will be virtually no chance of removing them from power for the foreseeable future.

The entrenchment of Tory rule seems inevitable whether Labour is led by Jeremy Corbyn, or by some as-yet-unnamed alternative figure who is somehow more popular and talented than any of the numerous leadership challengers Corbyn has seen off with total ease (Owen Smith, Angela Eagle, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendal).

Even if Labour were unified and promoting consistent and engaging political alternatives they would be facing an uphill challenge given the inevitable leeching of support from UKIP to the Tories, but in their current state it’s looking absolutely futile. Aside from the incessant and incredibly damaging internal bickering there’s also the fact that English Labour Party bigwigs like Sadiq Khan insist on nailing Scottish Labour into their self-made coffin with insulting out-of-touch rhetoric about how the majority of working age Scots are a bunch of racists for daring to want independence from Westminster establishment rule.

Even if the Labour Party were capable of solidarity and strategic competence they’d be facing tough times, but in their current guise they’re totally screwed, and anyone within the Labour Party trying to pin the blame for that solely on Jeremy Corbyn is clearly more guilty than he is.

Corbyn can’t help being a limited and unengaging public speaker. Neither can he help the fact that talent is so thin in the Labour Party ranks that he’s seen off all leadership challengers with total ease. However the internal party critics could have actually tried to help him rather than constantly plotting, backstabbing and briefing against him to the press and then crowing deliriously when Labour actually lose elections!

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NHS accused of covering up huge data loss that put thousands at risk

Exclusive: More than 500,000 pieces of patient data between GPs and hospitals went undelivered between 2011 and 2016

An MRI scan
The mislaid documents, which included screening results and diagnoses, were accidentally left to languish in a warehouse. Photograph: Medical Research Council/Douglas/PA

Thousands of patients are feared to have been harmed after the NHS lost more than half a million pieces of confidential medical correspondence, including test results and treatment plans.

In one of the biggest losses of sensitive clinical information in the NHS’s 69-year history, more than 500,000 pieces of patient data sent between GPs and hospitals went undelivered over the five years from 2011 to 2016.

The mislaid documents, which range from screening results to blood tests to diagnoses, failed to reach their intended recipients because the company meant to ensure their delivery mistakenly stored them in a warehouse.

NHS England has quietly launched an inquiry to discover how many patients have been affected. So far 2,500 cases that require further investigation to discover potential for harm have been identified. The NHS is spending millions of pounds paying doctors to assess the scale of the medical impact.

It is also undertaking a clinical review of patients who have died since the loss of documents was discovered in March 2016 to examine whether delays in material reaching GPs played any part in any patient’s death.

The correspondence included the results of blood and urine tests, and of biopsies and screening tests for diseases including cancer. It also included letters containing details of patients’ visits to hospital, including to oncology clinics and information about what they had been diagnosed with after visiting A&E. Other paperwork that went astray included summaries of the care patients had received while in hospital. Some involved material related to cases of child protection.

In total, 708,000 pieces of correspondence were undelivered. However, 200,000 of these were not clinically relevant as they were temporary change of address forms.

NHS England secretly assembled a 50-strong team of administrators, based in Leeds, to clear up the mess created by NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS), who mislaid the documents. The private company, co-owned by the Department of Health and the French firm Sopra Steria, was working as a kind of internal postal service within the NHS in England until March last year.

The clear-up team is being led by Jill Matthews, the managing director of the primary-care support services arm of NHS England.

Documents detailing the team’s work, seen by the Guardian, reveal it has finally returned the lost material to 7,700 GP surgeries, and assessed how many potential incidents of harm may have occurred at each practice. They show that GP surgeries up and down England have been affected, with some facing a few dozen cases of potential harm arose from missing correspondence.

GPs have so far been paid £2.2m to examine returned correspondence and cross-check it with other material in patients’ medical records, although the internal documents show that some have said that they are too busy to do so and others have asked surgery administrators to do it.

The British Medical Association warned that some patients might have taken extra drugs unnecessarily or had the diagnosis of their illness delayed because of the blunder.

“This is a very serious incident, it should never have happened and it’s an example of what happens when the NHS tries to cut costs by inviting private companies to do work which they don’t do properly, the private company in this case being NHS Shared Business Services,” said Richard Vautrey, chair of the BMA’s GPs committee and a family doctor in Yorkshire.

Read More : The Guardian.

UK faces terror threat from Isis ‘not seen since IRA bombings’ : Guardian.

New terror chief Max Hill warns Isis is planning indiscriminate attacks on civilians in British cities

Members of the Met police’s counter-terror firearms unit.
Members of the Met police’s counter-terror firearms unit. Photograph: Handout/Getty Images

Britain is facing a level of threat from Islamic State militants not seen since the IRA bombings of the 1970s, according to Britain’s new terror chief.

Max Hill, one of the country’s leading terrorism prosecutors, warned that Islamist extremists were planning “indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians” on a scale similar to those staged more than 40 years ago by the IRA.

The warning comes just days after Hill, who helped to convict the failed July 2005 London suicide bombers, was named as the new independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, replacing David Anderson.

Max Hill, the UK’s new independent reviewer of terrorism legislation
Max Hill, the UK’s new independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. Photograph: Home Office/PA

In his first interview since securing the post, Hill said militants were targeting cities and posed “an enormous ongoing risk, which none of us can ignore”.

He told the Sunday Telegraph: “In terms of the threat that’s represented, I think the intensity and the potential frequency of serious plot planning – with a view to indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians of whatever race or colour in metropolitan areas – represents an enormous ongoing risk that none of us can ignore.”

He went on: “So I think there is undoubtedly significant ongoing risk that is at least as great as the threat to London in the 70s.”

Read More : The Guardian.

Supermarket shoppers urged to wash hands before eating – as 9 million “bug-covered” chicken packs are sold each year : Telegraph.

Supermarket shoppers should wash their hands before snacking and feeding children, two of the UK’s leading food safety experts have warned, after it has emerged that 9 million packs of chickens are sold each year with a dangerous dose of deadly bacteria on the outside.

Daily Telegraph investigation has established that the plastic exterior of more than 1 in every 100 raw chickens sold by Britain’s biggest retailers is harbouring a potentially infectious level of camplyobacter.

Campylobacter is the UK’s leading cause of food poisoning with 485,000 recorded cases last year, according to Public Health England.

The Food Standards Agency estimates that the bug causes around 100 deaths a year. Previously the FSA has described the risk of people becoming ill as a result of bacteria on the outside of packaging as “extremely unlikely”.

Instead it has focussed on educating the public about the safe handling and cooking of raw chicken meat. But now food safety experts are now warning that hungry shoppers who eat snacks with their bare hands after picking up plastic packs of raw supermarket chicken are unwittingly putting themselves at risk.

Dr Lisa Ackerley, an independent food hygiene expert, said: “I strongly suspect that many food poisoning cases are from cross contamination, which may involve the spread of bacteria from contaminated hands to mouth as well as via contaminated food.

The routes of transmission could be much wider than people release.  “For example people quite often get hungry in the supermarket and may buy snacks such as crisps to eat on the way home. But if they’ve picked up chicken with bacteria on the outside packaging and licked their fingers they could consume enough bacteria to become ill.”

Read More : The Telegraph.

Poorer children ‘continue to do worse at school’ : Morning Star.

CHILDREN from poorer backgrounds tend to do worse at secondary school than their better-off peers, the government’s Social Mobility Commission reveals in a new report published today.

Even pupils who were high achievers at primary school are eventually overtaken in secondary education by those whose families are more financially comfortable, the report says.

The authors describe the situation as “one of the great injustices” of the education system. They warn that, since 2012, children from low-income families have made less progress year on year than their more affluent counterparts.

Most of the huge gap (88 per cent) in progress stems from differences in achievement between children at the same school, the study found.

Headteachers told the researchers that the prospects for improvement are “bleak” despite a proposed government funding formula.

Social Mobility Commission chair and Labour former cabinet minister Alan Milburn said that both schools and the government have a duty to bridge the divide.

Read More : Morning Star.

Children in UK mental health hospitals ‘not improving’, parents say : Guardian.

Survey finds 54% of parents with children in mental health hospitals say they have not improved and 24% say they are worse

A third of parents polled said they were not consulted about decisions regarding their child’s medication. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

More than half of parents with children in mental health hospitals do not feel their condition has improved as a result of treatment, while nearly a quarter say it has actually deteriorated, according to a survey.

The research was based on responses from 448 parents whose children have been in mental health hospitals in England over the last five years.

The study, carried out by the children’s mental health charity YoungMinds and the National Autistic Society, found that 54% of parents said they had seen no improvement, while 24% said their offspring’s mental health had got worse.

A further 44% revealed they felt unable to challenge decisions about their child’s treatment and a third said they were not consulted about decisions regarding medication.

Sarah Brennan, the chief executive of YoungMinds, said it was deeply alarming that so many parents felt angry and frustrated about their child’s care.

Just more than half of parents surveyed said they lacked confidence their child was receiving the appropriate care and 44% claimed they could not visit their child as often as they would like because of the distance or travel time.

Brennan said: “In the worst cases, young people can be trapped in inappropriate care for years with [their] mental health deteriorating while their parents desperately try to find a way to get them home.”

“That’s why its crucial that young people and their families have clear and enforceable rights that put that young person’s needs at the centre of their care and treatment.”

The two charities have launched a campaign called Always and a petition calling on the government to strengthen and enforce the rights of young people in mental health hospitals.

Read More : The Guardian.

Why a gradual retirement may mean working into your 80s to get the lifestyle enjoyed by previous generations : Daily Mail.

  • Sir Steve Webb said flexible retirement before giving up work may be a ‘mirage’ 
  • Average worker wanting a ‘gold standard’ retirement may have to work until 79 
  • Nearly four million workers are saving at the minimum rates 

Pension savers hoping to retire gradually may be forced to work into their late 70s and beyond to get the lifestyle enjoyed by previous generations, a report warns.

Former pensions minister Sir Steve Webb said the idea of flexible retirement – switching to part-time employment before giving up work entirely – could be just a ‘mirage’ if savers add only minimum amounts to workplace pension pots.

Sir Steve, now a director of pensions firm Royal London, said an average worker wanting a ‘gold standard’ retirement – where income is two-thirds of pre-retirement levels – as well as a gradual cut to their hours, may have to work until they are 79 before they can fully retire.

Pension savers hoping to retire gradually may be forced to work into their late 70s and beyond to get the lifestyle enjoyed by previous generations, a report warns (file photo)

Pension savers hoping to retire gradually may be forced to work into their late 70s and beyond to get the lifestyle enjoyed by previous generations, a report warns (file photo)

Targeting a ‘silver standard’ – where income is around half pre-retirement levels – could mean having to work to the age of 69, Royal London calculated.

The scenarios are based on saving at the legal minimum, taking a state pension as soon as possible and moving to part-time work by halving previous hours.

Royal London said those wanting protection against inflation and support for a widow or widower could be working into their 80s.

Sir Steve said: ‘A flexible retirement is likely to be a mirage for millions of people based on current levels of saving.

‘Those who opt for a gradual retirement … could easily find themselves unable to afford to retire fully until their late 70s or beyond, unless they have built up a significant private pension pot.’

According to Royal London, nearly four million workers are saving at the minimum rates, and ‘cannot hope to ease their way gently into retirement’. The minimum combined contribution from worker and employer will be raised from 2 to 8 per cent of qualifying earnings by April 2019.

But the report added: ‘If we do not want to see a generation of workers who simply cannot afford to retire with a decent living standard … boosting contribution rates beyond the minimum 8 per cent must be addressed as a matter of urgency.’