Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Unruly Dog - The Spokesman 121

William Hague, the UK Foreign Secretary, couldn’t bring himself to utter Edward Snowden’s name, when he made an urgent statement to the House of Commons on 10 June 2013. This was in the wake of Snowden’s revelations about ‘Prism’, the US National Security Agency’s covert and extensive surveillance operation, which has been ongoing since 2007. Mr Hague wasn’t going to comment on ‘leaks’, as he repeatedly told the House. This rather put the Foreign Secretary 'behind the curve' in the debate that followed, excerpts from which are reproduced in this number of The Spokesman. Some of his comments to the House have been called into question by subsequent developments. We publish some of the seminal texts of this developing story.


The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation was established in 1963. In this, our fiftieth anniversary year, we take stock a little. What was happening then? What pre-occupied Russell? What was the peace movement doing?



Against the Public Interest - Edward Snowden

Don't be vague - William Hague MP et al

Prism and GCHQ - Sylvie Guillaume MEP and Jan Philipp Albrecht MEP

'A dog in this fight' - Tony Simpson

'Dog' - Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The Kill Chain - Bruce Gagnon

Prayer for the Year's Turning - E P Thompson


The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation Fifty Years On

Must hate and death return? - Bertrand Russell

Appeal to the American Conscience - Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell and Industrial Democracy - Ken Coates

CND and Greece - Peggy Duff


Peace in our way - Tony Simpson

Peace in Kurdistan? - Vicki Sentas

Reviews: Nigel Potter, Michael Barratt Brown, Lucia Sweet, Theodore N Iliadis, John Daniels, Stan Newens, Anthony Lane, Tate

ISBN: 978 0 85124 8264
Price: £6.00

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Friday, July 19, 2013

NHS care squeezed by contrived financial crisis

July 18 2013

by Mike Marqusee


The financial crisis threatening jobs and services at the Barts and London Trust hospitals is a scandal and a tragedy – because it is entirely contrived.
Among the main causes of the £2 million per week deficit are “non-delivery of planned cost improvement programme schemes.” In other words, the Trust has been unable to implement the spending cuts it is required to make as part of the NHS-wide £20 billion “efficiency savings” programme.

It’s not that the Trust hasn’t been trying to meet its “savings” targets or that staff have been wanton with resources; it’s that those targets cannot be met without compromising patient care. It’s a paper exercise that is inevitably disjointed from the realities of service provision.

The Guardian notes that “Attempts to cut wage costs are failing because vacancies are having to be filled by agency staff.” What could better illustrate the irrationality of the NHS financial squeeze? Patient needs are non-negotiable; the demand does not fluctuate according to the economic cycle and therefore the supply has to be consistent and continuous. This cannot be done within the “business” model embraced by the Barts bosses. (And the only serious error I’ve suffered in my treatment at Barts was the fault of an agency nurse on a night shift who didn’t understand how to use a new piece of equipment).

The same point applies to the problem of escalating A & E costs. The hospitals are pushing hard for people not to resort to A & E unless it’s absolutely necessary, but in the end A & E demand is out of the hands of the hospitals that have to meet it. Demanding an arbitrary level of savings from A&E is tantamount to demanding an arbitrary cap on A&E demand, which is not possible, unless you’re simply going to deny treatment to people who need it.

The Guardian article notes that the Trust is avoiding mentioning the elephant in the room: the massive PFI re-building programme that costs the Trust some hundred million a year in repayments. These, it appears, can never be renegotiated or re-scheduled.

Muddying the waters is the news that the Barts Trust hospitals are to face inspection as a result of “serious patient safety incidents … poor patient confidence and trust in its nurses; long waits for urgent cancer treatment; excessive rates of Caesarean section births; and too many emergency re-admissions.” Redressing any of these shortcomings will require more, not less, money; and the proposed cuts in staff and departmental spending will surely exacerbate existing problems. But here’s where the current spate of negative stories about NHS treatment plays a dubious political role. Not because the stories are untrue or insignificant (they are neither), but because they are the effects, not the cause, of the NHS crisis.

My own care at Barts over the last six years has been superb. With a few exceptions, nurses, doctors, technicians, receptionists have been expert, efficient, caring, responsive. But it’s quite obviously a service under enormous and mounting pressures. I regularly attend the weekly haem-oncology clinic which is always packed with patients. There’s usually a delay of 40 minutes or more between appointment times and actually being seen by a doctor. Patients accept this because when you do see a doctor, you get as much time and attention as is needed. I’ve never felt rushed or cut short; whatever issues I have at that moment are dealt with in full. This can sometimes take as much as an hour of the doctor’s time – which means people behind me in the queue wait longer. And of course the costs to the Trust rise. So it’s not inefficiency but efficiency – if the measure is to be patient care – that’s making Barts financially “unviable”.

Now there will be pressure on staff to process patients more quickly. At the same time, there will be fewer staff to deliver the service.

The Trust says it wants to reduce “emergency re-admissions”; that will mean staff erring on the side of not re-admitting patients, and thus exercising less caution, less diligence, in ensuring necessary care is provided.

I hope staff at Barts resist this attack on their jobs and on the essential, life-sustaining services they provide. It’s often seemed to me that Barts survives on their good will alone. They’ve already been hammered by a steady fall in real wages and there is a sad fatalism among most, not helped by the patchiness of the union presence across the Trust. What’s vital is that they understand that what’s happening now is not about failings at Barts; it’s a manifestation of the general crisis in the NHS, a crisis brought about by cuts, fragmentation and privatisation, and one that can only be addressed through a mass movement that forces a radical redirection in government policy.

Mike Marqusee
(Barts patient)

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

agit8: a Found Film

"agit8" was a live event held at the Tate Modern on the Southbank from the 11th June - 13th June, just ahead of the G8 summit, with the aim of inspiring the next generation of activists to 'get on their soapboxes' and pressurize the G8 to take action to help eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.

We spent six weeks working directly with Richard Curtis and ONE to conceive and create 30 minutes of original content, which was projected on to the facade of the Tate Modern. The final product is part art installation, part documentary film and it involved working with a range of techniques and mixed media - incorporating music, speech, video, animation and motion graphics.

Once we had the rough concept sketched out, the team went about enlisting some of the biggest names in music today, as well as actors such as Colin Firth and Chiwetel Ejiofor, to contribute protest songs and speeches that were then woven into the film. We also commissioned a number of artists, illustrators and animators to create individual pieces of work to bring particular aspects of the story to life. The finished film takes a kaleidoscopic tour through some of the biggest protest movements of the last 100 years – from Civil Rights, Apartheid and Occupy, right the way up to the most pressing issue of our times : Extreme Poverty.

Global Creative Director, ONE Campaign: Roxane Philson
Writer and Executive Producer: Richard Curtis
Production Company: FOUND

The film can be watched via the Found website.



Colin Firth's introduction to The People Speak: Voices that changed Britain can be found in The Spokesman 119, The Kurdish Question in Turkey.

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