January 20, 2017

NHS: hand-wringing is easier than action

Everyone agrees the Health Service is broken. The commonest solution is to put more money into an unchanged NHS.

Faced with the challenge of actually suggesting improvements, people fall back on process. Thus the Lib Dems call for a cross-party commission (or in translation, a table at which their deminished party can have a seat). Such a commission would aim for consensus, so its recommendations wouldn't tackle the big problems.

Pundits propose an "independent" body. Independent of any pre-conceived ideas or knowledge? As Sir Humphrey knows, pick the membership of anything like a Royal Commission in order to get the conclusions you want.

Both these routes would lead to a search for a big bang solution for the NHS. They would hear evidence over months if not years, then huddle in private to consider their verdict - more months - then issue a report and wait for a government to consider it. From debate to implementation would take years.

That's comfortable for outsiders but it doesn't get us anywhere anytime soon.

Much less comfortably, we can agree that the hospital service does need major changes, and make some now, address the institutional inertia head on, take some pain. So here are some easy hits.

First, stop paying for translation services. Dr Catja Schnitgen shows how the need for translation can slow things down for everyone. She suggests that entitlement to receive welfare could be made dependent on a willingness to learn English, and concludes
For too long, the British state has bankrolled social exclusion, and one of the results has been to increase the strain on the NHS. The current crisis means we must now take a more radical approach.
Ouch. You can hear the squeals from people who think that we should provide everything free to everyone. Alison Pearson puts the cost of NHS translation services at £64,000 a day - say £22m a year. That's worth saving.

But the point is action. Pilot scheme. Announce that GPs' practices in (say) London and Lancashire will be English speaking practices. If you can't speak English, it's up to you to bring someone with you. To start from 1 July. Review after three months, with the aim of rolling out to the rest of the NHS at the start of 2018.

Next, foreign nationals. Too many working in the NHS see themselves as basking in the altruism of a World Health Service. We can't afford to provide that. Other countries can identify foreign nationals presenting themselves for treatment. So can we. The NHS doesn't seem keen on collecting the money, so bills should be dealt with by private companies paid by results. The hospital or GP practice can use the rest. Six month pilot scheme in London hospitals, and GP practices in another area. Publish league tables.

Both these pilots will meet howls of protest followed by inertia. Make it clear to hospital managers who don't implement them properly that it would be considered gross misconduct by the Trust's chief executive. Yes, more howls.

Like University bosses, hospital trust chiefs pay themselves far too much, at our expense. So this is not just a Department of Health problem, it is a government issue. Compress the scales and the possible annual increases. Probably no one will walk away. Action on this is unlikely from within the management class itself, so ministers, if they have any say in anything at all (can anyone see the point of Jeremy Hunt beyond being a political lightning conductor?) should grip this issue.

While we're on the subject of gripping managements, there are still too many whistleblowers being victimised. Has any manager ever been dismissed for victimising a public spirited whistleblower? Make some examples. Don't say you can't. If you haven't got that power, why not?

Obviously this doesn't begin to be a full analysis of the NHS's problems. But there's too much analysis. Make a start by taking action to tackle areas which are obviously wrong.

Note to UKIP: Campaign for this and you'll be distinctive. Hand-wringing is easier than action.

Emily Thornberry self harms

Emily Thornberry seems intent on self-harm. She doesn't set out to do it. It's born of her recklessness and her conceit.

Last night on Question Time (where she's becoming a regular) she referred to Theresa May's Brexit negotiating positions as "promises".

This is ridiculous. They are opening negotiating positions. We know they are. She knows they are. Yet she deliberately calls them promises. And then off she goes at great length. On and on and on.

And we've stopped listening to you, Emily. You spit words out as if they were machine gun bullets. Yatteryatteryatter you go. Yatteryatteryatter.

We know it's all positioning, that it's all lies. That you consider yourself so far above us, that you can patronise us with those blatant lies.

Spit out your lies all you want, Emily Thornberry. We've stopped listening to you.

January 14, 2017

UKIP should oppose green spending

Jane Merrick has written a silly piece (£) suggesting that Labour is in a death spiral. She proposes that UKIP and the Tories should strike an electoral pact in the two upcoming by-elections, which clearly isn't going to happen.

Commentators underrate how much UKIP is likely to change (hopefully). Early signs are good. Paul Nuttall seems to be building a collegiate leadership, which will be an excellent change. This will allow UKIP to build policies across the board, with spokespeople allowed to talk in public about their areas.

This big change in culture and organisation will take time to become effective, and much longer to become obvious to voters. So if UKIP falls short in Copeland and Stoke (and it didn't do well in this week's two council by-elections), I wouldn't be much disheartened.

UKIP just has to be sure its new ethos becomes effective before Labour's paymasters tire of Corbyn and overthrow him.

It would be good for UKIP to build a critique of mainstream politicians' green obsession - an obsession shared by the government, Labour, the LibDems, and the SNP. The government claims it wants the UK to be a great place to do business. But that's not going to happen if aggressive decarbonisation makes our energy more and more expensive. Two major thrusts of government policy clash here - and the government looks the other way and pretends the contradiction doesn't exist.

Sometimes there has to be compromise between conflicting objectives. Not here. There's no sign that the levels of carbon dioxide we're likely to see will be harmful in themselves, or that they will cause global temperatures to rise too much. The Global Warming Policy Foundation provides useful source material.

And it's not just business that is affected. Domestic energy bills are higher than they need be because of green subsidies. Noisy, ugly, bird chomping wind farms providing intermittent energy are subsidised. Solar energy is subsidised. Hinkley Point is going to be hugely subsidised. We are going to pay for all this, and there is no point to it at all.

It's not as if we have money to spare. Government is still spending more than it collects in taxes. There are calls to spend more on defence, and more on the NHS.

There must be far more to UKIP than Brexit. And on Greenery, UKIP's offer is distinctive.

January 06, 2017

Economists v Michael Fish

Economists are admitting that their forecasts about the economic effect of a Brexit vote were wrong. They are comparing this to Michael Fish's famous mistake about a hurricane.

That's vivid but wrong. Michael Fish forecast that an exceptional event was not going to happen. Economists forecast that it would.

Some of their forecasts were obvious nonsense at the time. We heard that a Brexit vote would damage the world economy. Not just the UK economy, but the world economy. What serious analyst could imagine that for a moment? Even George Osborne, who lied, lied and lied again, didn't push that button.

The economists' predictions weren't evenly spread around the actual outcome. We didn't see a spread of forecasts, some lower, some higher.

Seemingly as one, they forecast dire economic results from a mere Brexit vote. This is bad news for governments and for the rest of us. If government can't rely on the economics trade (surely it no longer qualifies as a profession) to get forecasts roughly right, they are flying blind. Mrs Thatcher took that in her stride. But it's doubtless adding to the dithery panic in No. 10 now.

In any case, the economists' Brexit big guns were firing at the wrong target. It wasn't an economic vote at all. Brexit was about sovereignty and democracy.

January 05, 2017

Aren't you ashamed, Chris Ingall?

Who is Chris Ingall?

He is the officious pipsqueak who tried to stop Brighton swimmers having their Christmas Day sea bathe. The Council closed the beach for the day to halt this tradition.

People were asked to stay on the path or high up on the beach, especially when the sea conditions were rough ... hold children's hands on the beach ... and keep pets on leads and away from the shoreline.

But hurrah:
Dozens of swimmers went for a Christmas Day dip despite efforts to prevent the annual tradition from taking place.

A group of swimmers braved the chilly water on Hove seafront although one said that it was the warmest Christmas Day in recent memory.
The fun bucket that is Chris Ingall should be ashamed after his advice was spurned.

But he probably isn't.

January 04, 2017

UKIP can be the main opposition party

Opposition parties should be opportunist. Attack government mistakes, see what the reactions are, and your policies will start to come together ahead of the next election.

For UKIP this is particularly important. It's won the Brexit battle. It will probably win on immigration too. But that doesn't mean it should fold its tents and steal away. First, because those wars aren't won yet.

Secondly, because UKIP can be the main opposition party. Labour got more votes but their front bench are limiting their appeal by only attacking from a narrow left wing viewpoint. And they're so slow! The Lib Dems got fewer votes than UKIP, and are limiting their appeal by chasing the anti-democratic Remainers next time round.

Never mind that UKIP only has one MP. Even if it had ten, its campaigning focus would be in the country and on social media, rather than in Parliament. So that's not something to dwell on.

UKIP must also broaden its range of issues. The more broadly UKIP campaigns and harries, the sillier lefties will sound when they claim that UKIP supporters are all racist and uneducated.

We don't have affordable government. We don't want to put taxes up, we want to get the cost of government down. When we see daft spending, we should just say: Stop It.

There are so many reasons why government shouldn't be subsidising anaerobic digesters. All subsidies for uneconomic "green energy" should be stopped.

All subsidies for green energy projects which don't even have planning permission should certainly be stopped! That is just incompetent, feeble government. Attack, attack. Nationally, and locally. Let's worry the government.

UKIP can be the main opposition party.

January 03, 2017

Have we seen peak Priti?

Has Priti Patel peaked?

The Mail continues to run examples of aid cash being wasted - the latest are here.

A Conservative comment site has tried to defend her against attacks that she is being captured by her department. Just as she didn't make it into the front line of the Leave campaign, so she shows signs of being overwhelmed by her DfID officials, even publicly adopting their jargon in their defence.

Cameron's sanctimonious commitment to spend 0.7% of GNP on foreign aid is bad for affordable government (we haven't got the money) and bad for the recipient countries. Freed of responsibility to support their poor, governments can spend their income on big cars, palaces, and arms, rather than changes which will help the poor start to support themselves, such as changes to infrastructure and laws and impvements in health. A poor farmer who has some produce to sell cannot compete with free food aid, and comes to rely on the food aid himself. Why shouldn't he?

Trade, not aid. Once we leave the EU's Customs Union, we can cut tariffs on imports from the poorest countries, helping them to earn their way in the world.

There should be no long term aid. This will encourage the governments to grow their own tax bases as the long term aid is withdrawn, and their tax base can only increase if their people are prospering enough to be able to pay more. Then they can decide whether to spend millions on some girl band or unpopular preachy soap series. They could ... Take Back Control.

Within ten years, aid should be limited to disaster relief. This ethical globalisation may hurt our own unskilled poor, which will have to be addressed.

Paul Nuttall, the UKIP leader, has tweeted that we must "look at" the 0.7% requirement. No. It must be abolished. This would be good for recipient countries, it could be good for our social care budget, and it would be distinctive politics, since most establishment politicians support it.

Meanwhile, Priti Patel starts to look like yesterday's woman.

January 02, 2017

Gray May flops again

Theresa May is blaming David Cameron for the New Year's honours list, even though she has been PM since July.

Let's all agree that the list had the stench of moral corruption. Are we seriously expected to believe that, over those months, nobody in No 10 caught a whiff?

They weren't just incompetent:
No fewer than 15 of Theresa May’s former Home Office staff were showered with awards – including an OBE for her ex-principal private secretary and an MBE for a press officer.
Gray May had her hand in the till too.

Now, however, is the glad morning of reform. "The new system could be put in place in time for the Queen’s Birthday honours which take place in the summer."

In other words, reform need take only months. So there was time to do it before.

But Gray May didn't. She connived, and she thinks we won't notice.