Picking Losers

Clean hospitals? What a novel idea

Yesterday Gordon Brown made one of the most ground breaking, novel, ingenious, brilliant promises any politician has ever made.  The saviour of the NHS promised us clean hospitals for all.  Yes, that's right - while the rest us having been trying to work out what the most basic, obvious thing a hospital should be, Brown put his finger on it by making the pledge that we will no longer have to suffer from catching disease and viruses from the one place we go to get rid of them. 

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Darling u-turns

Apparently “No government should ever be in the business of protecting executives who make the wrong call or bad decisions,” or so said Alastair Darling at the opening of yesterday's conference. But isn't this exactly what he did little over a weeks ago with Northern Rock?

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Review of the Papers, Monday 24 September

Government

  • Executives at high-profile companies cannot rely on being bailed out of emergencies by the government - in spite of the precedent set by the state's help for Northern Rock savers - Alistair Darling warned on Sunday. "No government should ever be in the business of protecting executives who make the wrong call or bad decisions," the chancellor told the opening day of the Labour party conference. The remarks will be seen as a warning to the embattled Northern Rock board that ministers will not shield it from shareholders seeking retribution by removing directors from their posts. But Mr Darling's comments are understood to have been intended more broadly to signal that the state will not act as some form of safety net for private sector companies, in spite of the unlimited government guarantee given for Northern Rock deposits. Proposals to improve significantly the deposit protection scheme in the wake of the Northern Rock crisis - increasing the upper limit to about £100,000 and introducing a US-style insurance system to allow fast payouts - would "strengthen protection for ordinary savers", Mr Darling said. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6553cb30-6a17-11dc-a571-0000779fd2ac.html
  • Gordon Brown will set out his vision of another decade of Labour government today and leave the door wide open to an autumn general election. With election fever gripping the Labour Party at its Bournemouth conference, Mr Brown and his closest supporters have been deliberately keeping the prospect of an early poll hanging over this week's gathering and next week's Conservative conference. Labour MPs in marginal seats are said to be telling the whips that Mr Brown should capitalise on his strong standing and go for broke. The speculation was fuelled further last night as an Ipsos-MORI poll for The Sun gave Labour an eight-point lead with a rating of 42 per cent, equalling the highest in any poll since Mr Brown became leader. The Conservatives were on 34 per cent and Liberal Democrats on 14 per cent. David Cameron has put the Tories on alert for an election even though some strategists think that Mr Brown's natural caution will stand in the way. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article2518149.ece
  • Gordon Brown yesterday promised a deep clean of NHS hospitals, modelled on US experience, as part of a new drive to rid hospitals of MRSA and win back voters and patients disillusioned with the health service. He also promised that the initial findings of Lord Darzi's review of the NHS will be published shortly, promising a more personalised service and longer GP opening hours. http://politics.guardian.co.uk/labour2007/story/0,,2175639,00.html

Conservatives

  • David Cameron will trigger a revolt with his party activists by imposing "A-list" candidates on constituencies that have not already chosen should Gordon Brown call an election next month, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.Dozens of associations have yet to selected their candidates - including some in key marginal seats which the Conservatives have to win to deprive Labour of an overall majority, such as Rochester in Kent. Local associations jealously guard their independence and will resist any move by Conservative Central Office to impose candidates from Mr Cameron's A-list which was devised to help more women, ethnic minority, and gay candidates secure winnable seats. However, The Daily Telegraph understands that if the Prime Minister goes to the country within the next fortnight, those constituencies without a candidate will have one from the A-list imposed upon them. One senior party strategist said: "Our strategy is to try to stop Brown calling an early election. We are throwing everything into that. If it comes we will be ready. We will parachute A-list candidates into some of the seats. There will be a bit of a row with the voluntary party, but time will be of the essence." http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/09/24/ntory124.xml

Review of the Papers, Friday 21 September

British ministers are refusing to cooperate with the US criminal investigation into allegations of corruption against BAE, Britain's biggest arms company, the Guardian can disclose. More than two months after an official request for mutual legal assistance (MLA) was received from Washington, the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, has not yet allowed it to be acted upon. The US investigators believe the British are being obstructive.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/baefiles/story/0,,2173947,00.html

 

Review of the Papers, Thursday 20 September

Government

  • The first comprehensive official analysis of the impact of migration on public services and British life will be published next month, Liam Byrne, the immigration minister, promised yesterday. The study, by the Migration Impacts Forum, is expected to identify where public services, including housing, health, education and policing, are struggling to cope. It is also expected to publish a report on challenges to community cohesion prepared by Rodney Green, chief executive of Leicester city council, which has been projected to become Europe's first city with a non-white majority population within three years. http://www.guardian.co.uk/immigration/story/0,,2172825,00.html
  • An academic observer of Britain's nuclear consultation has said that information given to the public was biased and incomplete, casting fresh doubt on whether the the government has followed a court ruling to present both sides of the argument. Paul Dorfman, senior research fellow at the National Centre for Involvement at the University of Warwick, said the exercise 12 days ago in nine cities around Britain was designed to come up with a popular mandate to proceed with nuclear power. "Partial information was rammed down the public's throat. It was totally impractical for people to make a rational decision based on the information they were fed. The way it was put together was designed so that a particular view would emerge," said Dr Dorfman, who has convened an academic group who will report next month on the process. The consultation suggested that 45% of the public is in favour of nuclear power, and 23% against - very different from most polls in the last 20 years. http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/news/story/0,,2173018,00.html

Lib Dems

  • Shoppers could pay a tax every time they get a plastic bag under controversial "green" plans approved by the Liberal Democrats. Grassroots delegates at the party's annual conference in Brighton urged party bosses to consider an Irish-style tax on plastic bags. Dublin introduced a plastic bag levy five years ago to end the litter menace generated by the bags. Lib Dems have put the fight against global warming centre-stage at their week-long conference, which has the slogan: The Environment - Action Now. But the new tax move, announced during a debate on packaging, came in the face of warnings that the levy would actually worsen carbon emissions. Jo Swinson, the Lib Dem MP leading a campaign against excess packaging, said that the tax could simply lead to shoppers switching to other bags and actually lead to more pollution. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2007/09/19/ealib119.xml

That NHS upgrade system - it's not very good, is it?

Security breach on Government's £12bn upgrade computer system shocker!  So the new computer system in the NHS isn't a tight as Fort Knox or even as secure as the flies on John Prescott's trousers it turns out.  What a surprise.  Amusingly, it was a celebrity whose details have been pried upon by some geek locked away in his bedroom somewhere, no doubt, with the hope of making a few quid out of the News of the World.  Unfortunately they didn't name the celebrity involved, though it was in the North West region and probably someone with a sort after medical history...

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Not worth the paper they are signed upon

The Times is reporting that town halls would be forced to take action over petitions with more than 200 signatures under new proposals to devolve power to voters. This is Hazel Blears' big idea for making councils act on demand of the power of the people. This is straight out of "The Big Book of Stupid Political Ideas" (foreword by some unknown Lib Dem - probably their leader). Blears has obviously given this "giving democracy back to the people" idea a lot of thought. Even the figure of 200 signatures isn't entirely arbitrary.

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Review of the Papers, Wednesday 19 September

Government

  • Town halls would be forced to take action over petitions with more than 200 signatures under new proposals to devolve power to voters. Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, is to publish a consultation paper detailing new rights to trigger changes in council policy. This could include issues such as tackling antisocial behaviour, improving street lighting or rubbish collection, or installing more CCTV cameras. Ms Blears told The Times that if petitions had more than 200 or 300 signatures councils would be required to respond, either by changing policy or giving a full explanation of why the request was turned down. It was vital to get the balance right, Ms Blears said. If statutory bodies had a duty to respond to a petition there had to be a sensible threshold for the number of backers. "If the number was too low, say about 25, a small group of people could waste the council's time. But if the number was too high, at around 500, it might be difficult to get enough signatures for an important issue." Ms Blears said she also wanted to consult about the type of response that a petition would trigger. "I'm not suggesting an automatic change of policy - democracy defined by Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells is no democracy at all. But . . . there's a very strong case for the council to take a hard look at their policy." http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article2484959.ece
  • The case of a celebrity whose medical records were illicitly viewed by more than 50 members of an NHS hospital's staff raised doubts yesterday about the security of the government's £12.4bn scheme to upgrade the NHS's IT systems. The prying was revealed in board papers for North Tees primary care trust as a warning to managers to tighten procedures requiring doctors and nurses to log on individually before being allowed access to sensitive personal material. The trust did not name the celebrity whose privacy was invaded and said the episode did not occur at any of its local hospitals. But the infringement will ring alarm bells among famous people who would be appalled at the possibility of intimate medical matters leaking to the media. MPs raised the issue of security in a report published last week on progress on the NHS Connecting for Health project, which includes plans for GPs to upload the medical records of more than 50 million patients in England on to a national electronic database. The initial aim is to make a summary of each patient's medical notes available to hospital staff or paramedics treating the patient in an emergency. The government has said that systems for accessing patient records online are secure. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2172039,00.html

Lib Dems

  • Companies should face fines if they fail to meet new legal targets for cutting the huge amount of packaging that is creating vast amounts of waste, Liberal Democrats will say today. They will also call for a new scheme to ask customers to pay a refundable deposit if they take a plastic carrier bag and demand a new national body to be established to help trading standards prosecute firms who flout guidelines on packaging. A motion to be debated by the party conference in Brighton this morning praises The Independent for mounting its campaign against waste to bear down on the waste created by excessive packaging. It calls for legislation to require all large supermarkets to have waste bins to allow customers to throw away packaging before they leave the store and asks Ministers to encourage schemes such as that in the town of Modbury, Devon, where retailers have imposed a voluntary moratorium on carrier bags. The party is also calling for the law to be simplified to make it easier to police. http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article2976666.ece

Judges to be formally assessed

What is the best way to improve the performance of our judges?  Well in typical New Labour fashion it seems the answer is to set target levels and dumb down.  It is being reported that judges’ performance in court could well be monitored by some sort of assessor who will look out for a judge’s performance on handling a court, showing authority, communicating and resolving issues and managing time and workloads, in the plans under discussion.  They will then be formally appraised how well they listen; whether they communicate clearly without using legal jargon and on the general handling of

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Teach them to learn, not teach

Education, education, education.  I wonder how many blog entries I have started with those three words over the past year?  Incredible as it is to believe, but it was education that was the single biggest issue the Labour government was going to all about way back in 1997.  Shame they have done nothing of any good in this area whatsoever.  It is only recently, however, that people have really started to cotton on to this.  Usually the "exams are getting easier" stories last for about two weeks in August.  These days they just rumble on and on and on.  But what should we really do

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We are all part of Northern Rock

I had no idea, until today, that I was an investor in Northern Rock and therefore liable for its risk.  Apparently, I am however.  You see, thanks to their stupidity and over "generous" mortgage lending their books have gone a little bit unbalanced.  Now, if my books were unbalanced and I had failed to keep up my re-mortgage payments with Northern Rock they would, rightly, have got a little upset.  As it happens they have been the less than frugal ones and now are facing serious financi

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