Friday, 22 April 2011

'Four Key Platitudes' Competition: and yet more bad consultation

If it weren’t so tragic you’d have to laugh. Following Cameraman’s skin-crawling comments about his ‘discomfort’ at the level of immigration and language skills – as he blithely cuts ESOL funding and other means of supporting people into work – he just had to speak his mind about Incapacity Benefit and the ‘fault’ of those unable to work because of obesity, drug and alcohol abuse. Apparently this benefit should only be paid to those unable to work ‘through no fault of their own’. Since this pronouncement we have heard stories from addicts who had been through the care system because of parental abuse, and had never found peace of mind; a consequence of society’s failure to protect the vulnerable. Is that their fault? How about someone who suffered a work accident after a moment of carelessness? Is that their fault? Should we withdraw benefits – or even medical care – from those with cancer who may have led an unhealthy lifestyle? Would that be their fault too?

Cameron has put his listening face on and is working on these questions, hoping to address the issues after the Easter break with four key platitudes:

1 –
2 –
3 –
4 -

He's a busy man so help him out and send your suggestions direct to me or via Comments and I will forward them.

When my children were little I became adept at quick-fire loaded questions to overcome potential conflict points, such as ‘Shall we use green or pink shampoo today?’, sidestepping the hair-wash debate entirely.

Little did I know that such simplistic issue avoidance techniques would be used so flagrantly in the weird world of local politics. Full Council last Wednesday was a case in point. We were debating a Motion that challenged the progress of a very poorly run consultation about a new secondary school. We need this school. Generations of local children have been unable to attend secondary school in the borough, sentenced to travel long and exhausting distances or attend failing schools nearby. The debate was raging when I joined the Council in 2006. The Tories were adamant we did not need one, then experienced a Road to Damascus conversion promptly followed by taking all the credit. Of course.

It is very clear they want the school on a totally inappropriate but relatively cheap site in the middle of a housing estate, destroying precious green space into the bargain. The consultation that has ensued is barely worth the name. Letters were not delivered, petitions were ignored, Cabinet Members refused to meet residents, Council officers cracked under the strain. So in the midst of this debate, what do our ‘leading’ Tories say: ‘Don’t you want our children to have a good education?’.

This of course was a loaded question. The implication is clear: if we want our children to be educated we must shut up and accept what we are so graciously given. Cabinet Members know what is best for the little people.

Wornington Green was a similar case. In the face of huge opposition to the proposed plans, landlord Kensington Housing Trust conducted a survey. After a very mixed bag of responses the ‘result’ was based on the answers to a single [heavily loaded] question: Answer yes or no: ‘I have concerns about the regeneration, but I think on the whole it is for the best’. Out of nearly 2,000 residents they asked 269. Of that group, 153 said ‘yes’ to that loaded question. This was judged to be overwhelming support for the development in precisely the form it was being offered - which was entirely fallacious.

While we will continue to fight tooth and nail to support our residents, we will also have to up our game to challenge weak debate, dodgy consultations and bad maths.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Fake consultation, stinky stats and horrible holidays

The new leather of the £4,000 replica budget briefcase stank as much as its contents
Gideon Osborne’s ‘Budget for [non] Growth’ was quickly overshadowed by ‘Worse-Off Wednesday’ last week, which confirmed that virtually every demographic group, from pensioners to single people to lone parents and working couples with children, could lose up to £3,900 a year from tax and benefit changes. That's social mobility utterly f**ked then.

The worst hit will be poor families living in London; our neighbours Mr Cameraman. Let’s see if you dare ever again to parade your well-nourished children down Golborne Road for photo-ops.

Equally cynical is Cameraman’s ‘genuine chance’ for the hoi polloi to comment on NHS proposals. When the PM uses words like ‘genuine’ you know we are in for a period of unmitigated spin when, with whipping boy Andrew Lansley, he will trawl the country in his shirtsleeves with his best ‘genuine’ face plastered on. Time to ease up on the Restylane now, a few natural worry lines might help the cause. But however ‘sincere’ a face he may conjure up, we know it’s only a chance to ‘build consensus’ or ‘explain it better’; nothing anyone will do or say will shift this pig-headed creature from his hell-bent course towards economic meltdown and social destruction.

Also in ‘listening mode’ with earplugs in is K&C Council, blithely pretending to consult on the tri-borough working arrangement while it is already under way, despite the inevitability of some ‘savings’ ending up costing more. Not to mention 100s of redundancies- that's actual people, people we know, losing their livelihoods.

Here are the so-called results of a tri-borough survey reported in a press release:
Nearly 80% of residents in Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea support the idea of their three councils sharing some services.

Whoa there, nearly 80% of residents? But then ...

Around 1,500 residents took part in a telephone survey with 34% saying that there should be some sharing of services, while 43% said the authorities should share as much as possible. Only 13% of people were opposed to sharing services.

OK - 1,500 BT customers out of 600,000 residents, that’s 0.25%, so not a great sample ... but then:

At least one in three residents (35%) expect the quality of services to improve, 29% think there will be no impact on quality and 27% think the quality of services will suffer.

So, a three-way split and nearly a third think services will suffer! However, K&C Leader Cockell isn’t shy to air his own conclusions:-

"People recognise that we should reduce as much back office and management cost across our three councils as possible so that a higher proportion of money that we do have goes to the frontline."

This is all rubbish of course as there will be frontline cuts, and this will all be backed up by the unimpeachable Residents’ Panel Council Tax Consultation Summary Results - yet more stinky statistics. Various leading questions produce mind-boggling conclusions such as: ‘There is a general shift against spending more and in favour of spending less, although there is still a net preference in 2010 for spending more’.

Yes, you read it right, the slight shift away from spending more is highlighted though a majority still want the Council to spend more. See what they did there? And the most valued service of all, according to these tortured statistics, is still undeniably ‘SPENDING ON OLDER PEOPLE’. Gentlemen take note: 42% of K&C ressies value this above all others and it is almost double the next preference which is Schools at 25% ... but even this undeniable truth won’t stop them closing EPICS, the much-valued day centre caring for 700 older people and those with dementia.

So, how will K&C Cabinet Members spin themselves out of that embarrassment? Be photographed helping some old dear onto public transport? I can well imagine they would stoop that low to show they are ‘sharing the pain’.

Are Moylan and Cockell going on a Summer Holiday or looking for an old lady to help?

Or maybe they should take the PM’s example with a quick trip to Granada on Ryanair? Hm, hardly a self-sacrifice as SamCam was bribed to go with the promise of an intimate birthday party for 100 close family and friends and a diamond bracelet whose modesty is entirely in tune with the times. No wonder they call him Homer at No 10; always messing up then having to make amends.
By the way they had a rotten time in Granada.

Monday, 4 April 2011

In-breeding, April Fools and the Opinion of Dinosaurs

Willetts: so wrong on so many levels

One of the dangers of humans breeding within close-knit social and genetic circles is that recessive genes recur more regularly and this produces a weak gene pool resulting in more frequent cases of idiocy. This has become especially apparent recently when certain sections of society are given authority beyond their capabilities and end up talking complete and utter rubbish.

'Damn those women graduates taking my job'

Thus David Willetts, our UNIVERSITY MINISTER no less, has stated that ‘opening up’ education to women and other undesirables has led to well-educated women stealing jobs from lesser educated men. He concludes: ‘women who would otherwise have been HOUSEWIVES have taken .. jobs [from] working class men’. Not only that but the deluded creatures apparently seek out those of similar minds leading to ‘assortative mating’(god forbid that any of those with similar minds might be ‘working class men’ whatever that means nowadays).

The depth and breadth of his ignorance is so gobsmackingly awful that I am lost for words. What am I to tell my intelligent and assertive daughters if they wish to be the 10th and 11th family members to study at UCL, and to become the 4th and 5th Professors? ‘Sorry darling you must be content to be a WAG, find a man rich enough to keep you and your children in comfort and learn to iron socks’? I did run this past my youngest and she retorted with a choice selection of Chaucerian expletives that was impressive and in the circumstances totally acceptable.

Like thousands of mothers I have brought up my children pretty much alone. They are hard-working, honest and lovely human beings cooking my Mother’s Day dinner as I write. The blind ignorance and stupidity of David Willetts and of many currently running our country DOWN is clear for all to see and an insult to me and my children.

This reminds me of an episode at K&C Council when I was asked to promote the role of Councillor. I said I was willing but would have to state how difficult I'd found it as a single parent, that without my son home on gap year I would never have got through the election, that the childcare allowance and arrangement at K&C had NEVER been tested (ie used) and that I had been advised (with kind intent) never to mention childcare problems in public. The outraged comments from fellow Cllrs, both positive and negative, to my ‘coming out’ as a struggling single parent was mind-boggling. I had support from some very unexpected quarters, while Leader Cockell countered negative comments thus: ‘The opinions of dinosaurs are not necessarily those of the Council’.

Catholic journalist Cristina Odone agrees with Willetts: ‘feminists – or at least THE KIND THAT HAVE GAINED THE UPPER HAND IN THIS VARIED MOVEMENT [my caps] – have undermined working class men...’. This same woman stated a while back that the modern family should be modelled on ‘the ideal family .. long ago, that in a stable in Bethlehem blablabla’. She is one confused woman. Mary was a very young unmarried pregnant teenager whose child of questionable parentage was born in a shed with no medical assistance and brought up by step-father Joseph. An inauspicious start in life, but they made a reasonable job of it.

April Fools Day was a great laugh this year. At this rate the government’s upcoming social mobility plans will be pretty well side-splitting.