Race equality groups seek big changes to the mental health act to end stereotyping and over-medication

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Sir Simon Wesseley, planning to report on reviewing the mental health act later this year

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While Theresa May is battling to hold her line on Brexit her almost unreported initiative to reform the mental health act is leading to demands for the government to introduce radical reforms for treatment and new rights for patients.

A submission from Race on the  Agenda and the Race Equality Foundation to the review  by Sir Simon Wesseley, set up by Theresa May to look into why so many black Afro Caribbean people were being detained in mental hospitals and the need for changes to the Act. It also comes against a disturbing background of deaths in police custody.

The submission has been backed by the Runnymede Trust;Patrick Vernon OBE, Chair of the Labour Party’s Race Equality Advisory Group, writer Amy Kenyon and Professor Rachel Tribe, of the School of Psychology at the University of East London among others.

NEED FOR BIG CHANGES

The Downing Street interim report  contained many warm words but not a lot of action. It stated: “Experience of people from black African and Caribbean heritage are particularly poor and they are detained more than any other group. Too often this can result in police becoming involved at time of crisis. The causes of this disparity are complex.” The  full report  and details of its members  and terms of reference is available here.

Now the submission to the inquiry proposes major changes to tackle the problem. The link to it is here. The main proposals are:

1. The Mental Health Act (the Act) should set out principles that define human rights, anti-discriminatory practice and a commitment to combat institutional racism.
2. The Act should be amended to include a clause that states explicitly that a diagnosis for a ‘mental disorder’ must take account of the patient’s social and cultural background. And the Act should allow for appeals against diagnoses via a Tribunal, with a panel that includes experts from BAME backgrounds.
3. Patients detained under the Act should be empowered to choose which carers or family members have a say in their care and can support them during an appeals process.
4. A new system of appeal whenever a new diagnosis is applied and/or continued, to a tribunal-like body, with the right of the patient concerned to have legal representation at the hearing.
5. All mental health service providers should be set targets to reduce the use of Community Treatment Orders and minimize racial inequalities in their use. This should be monitored by the Care Quality Commission  during inspections. Specific amendments in relation to supervised treatment in the community should be made to ensure this is statutory.
6. Statutory bodies should be regularly inspected by the CQC or other appropriate body to ensure that training of professionals working in mental health services addresses issues of racial bias and cultural competence.

The  submission  says: “:We were glad to see an emphasis on the urgent need to address the disproportionate number of people from black African and Caribbean backgrounds being detained under the Mental Health Act (MHA).

Equally, we were unsurprised that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) focus group participants highlighted a lack of cultural awareness in staff and a need for culturally appropriate care as paramount. We would express concerns about racism, stigma, stereotyping and overmedication. We hope that these findings will guide and underpin the recommendations made in the final report ”

It is to be hoped that Sir Simon and Theresa May do take action to remedy these many faults in the system. Otherwise it will be another case of political posturing  like help for the ” just about managing” which has so far amounted to warm words and little else.

There were concerns expressed at the recent conference organised by Rota at the University of East London that little would really be done to tackle this. If little happens it will only make matters worse and there is a need for strong campaign to make sure Downing Street does really listen.

Revealed: The next bill for the over 40s: Your social care tax

 

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pic credit: parliament.uk

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Without huge coverage MPs from two influential Parliamentary committees yesterday proposed a new tax system to pay for the burgeoning cost of social care.

The proposal could mean a new hike in national insurance contributions, some redistribution of money going to fund your local council, higher council, inheritance and income tax  and/or abolishing some of the existing universal pension benefits, like the heating allowance or cutting future state pension rises.

Significantly it includes making existing pensioners pay more tax particularly if they are still supplementing their pension by working.

This makes this the first serious policy proposal to deliberately tax people differently depending on their age – and exempting the millennials  at the expense of the elderly. In that it feeds into the current  and my view misconceived debate that millennials are being robbed by wealthy pensioners and the system must be changed to tax pensioners more.

The proposals may well prove to be attractive to the present government which has been trying to create an inter generational wedge between the young and old people – as a sop to the younger generation who have been burdened with huge student loan debts by government policy and can’t afford to buy a home.

No one can deny that the present system for social care is in a mess and is underfunded and it is estimated by the report  using  data from the Institute of Fiscal Studies that spending on  care needs to rise by 3.9 per cent a year just to keep the current severely means tested system which means many cannot get help. It will cost billions more if personal care like the NHS became free at the point of use.

At the moment many people are already paying for care through  local council tax. When people ask where is all the council tax  money  is going – anything from 25 pc to 57pc  is going on social care for the young and old. The average of 37.8 pc according to the report.

The government is also transferring a big tranche of business tax revenue from Whitehall  to the councils and at the same time abolishing grants – but not according to the MPs  earmarking any of this money for social care.

The MPs have done a lot of groundwork – suggesting an independent body should supervise the new earmarked tax-  and have used a citizens assembly to advise them of how they could do it-. The report can be read in full here.

MPs need to tread very carefully over their funding proposals because there is no doubt it could make matters worse for a lot of people.

For a start – and it is picked up by people they consulted – 40 year olds will probably have the expense of  large mortgages, or higher rents, the cost of bringing up children and  may find, if they have had successful careers that they are  paid enough to have to pay back student loans. So they may be even more squeezed.

They have completely ignored the plight of  3.9 million 50s women. – many being forced to work for up to six years – and would now have to pay extra insurance or tax just at the point when they find it difficult to get a highly paid job.

Also by extending national insurance contributions at a higher rate for those who still have a job after turning 65 could well hit people who have taken part time low paid jobs to make ends meet. The MPs also suggest the premium should apply to unearned income and investments held by pensioners – which amounts to a tax on pensioners savings.

The committee talks of  setting an income threshold to make sure some pensioners are exempt – but does not state what this threshold should be.

To my mind there are too many questions  that have not been answered or evaluated for the government to go ahead with this. People should remember that everybody who drew up this report was on an MPs salary of  £77,000 a year, way above many people’s incomes.

Yes we need a debate on how to fund social care – but it shouldn’t be used as part of way to drive a wedge between generations- and we shouldn’t rush into  yet another use for the National Insurance Fund when  they are so many women who have been robbed of a decent pension by the existing system.

 

 

 

 

 

The Downing Street state pension robbery

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I wonder if Mr Plod has a good sense of humour. It is a good photoshop. Pic Credit: Paul Downes @CallmeDownsie

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The mantra  that we cannot afford to pay the 3.9 million  50s women   their pensions until they are 65 and soon 66 is based on the premise that there is no money in the National Insurance Fund. The big question is why?

I have already in a previous report for #Backto60  shown that the accounts of the National Insurance Fund are in fact in surplus. But detractors point out that they soon won’t be if the government hands back £77 billion owed to the women.

But what if we have reached  this situation because the government has raided a fund  which is 91 per cent spent on pensions for other benefits. And what if the Treasury deliberately decided to  undermine the fund by avoiding paying any money into it?

This is what I have found out by investigating the history of this fund.

The original fund was set up in 1911 by Lloyd George and did not cover pensions – but helped pay  medical bills for wage earners and provided  unemployment benefit for  some workers. Employers and employees had to make compulsory contributions.

Pensions were introduced for those over 70  in 1908 and were means tested and supervised by local councillors. People could be disqualified from getting a pension if they had been imprisoned for ten years, weren’t of good character and were drunkards. The money came from general taxation. There is a House of Commons library report about the act here.

The real major changes came under the Attlee government which set up the welfare state. The National Insurance Act, 1946 introduced compulsory NI for all working people except married women. It set the pension age at 60 for women and 65 for men. Pensions, unemployment benefit, sickness benefit and a maternity allowance and death grant were paid out of it. There is a useful summary in the National Archives here. But it was run as a ” pay as you go ” scheme with money topped by the Treasury.

It is the attack on these provisions which began under the Thatcher government in the 1980s that has led to the 50s women losing out.

An excellent report by the House of Commons library describes what happened. It is worth quoting parts in full.

“In each year from 1948 to 1989, the National Insurance Fund received a grant from the
Treasury, known as the Treasury (or Consolidated Fund) Supplement. The origins of the
Supplement lay in the Beveridge Report, which envisaged a tripartite scheme of contributions to the Fund, whereby the Treasury would pay one third of the cost of unemployment benefits and one sixth of the cost of pensions and other benefits. In practice, the level of the Supplement tended to be around 18% of contribution income, a level at which it was fixed by the Social Security Act 1973.

“From 1980, the value of the Supplement began to decline, reflecting partly the growing level of contribution income and partly the constraining of spending on benefits by the abolition of earnings linking of the pension and other long-term benefits and earnings-related supplements to unemployment benefit. By 1988 the Fund’s contribution income exceeded its benefit expenditure, leading to a steady growth in the balance of the Fund (from £5.3bn in April 1986 to £10.4bn in April 1989 ).

In this context, the then Secretary of State for Social Security, John Moore, stated in 1989 that:

“The tripartite principle is already effectively a dead letter. The rationale behind it has
gone, and the Supplement has been shrinking steadily as a proportion of the Fund’s
income from about one-third in 1948. It now stands at only 5%. We consider that there
is now no need for it all. The £26bn of expenditure from the Fund is fully covered by
contributory income and the abolition of the Supplement will have absolutely no effect
on that expenditure”
“The Supplement was abolished by the Social Security Act 1989.”

It was a disaster – the fund which then  had  big surplus – went heading into the red – as it was now being raided for the full cost of unemployment and sickness benefit at a time of high unemployment.

So in 1993 the Major government had to partly retract by reintroducing a Treasury supplement because money in the fund had fallen by a staggering 50 per cent  due  to benefit pay outs as well as pensions. Pensioners were robbed.

But  the government fixed the rules so it was much less generous than the  system they bequeathed from Attlee. As the report says :

“There are a number of differences between the Treasury Grant and the Treasury
Supplement. First, the levels of Treasury Grant are set by reference to benefit expenditure rather than to contribution income. Second, and more significantly, whereas the Treasury Supplement was paid annually, irrespective of whether it was actually needed to finance a particular year’s expenditure, the Treasury Grant is paid at the discretion of the Secretary of State.

“The amount of Grant paid to the Fund was limited to a maximum of 20% of forecast
benefit expenditure in 1993-94, and to a maximum of 17% of forecast benefit expenditure in subsequent years.”

The truth of the matter is that the rules were skewed so the Treasury never had to pay out any money.  From 1989 to 2014 if the Treasury had returned to its original support  under  the Major, Blair and Brown governments, the Tory Liberal coalition and Cameron’s government, billions of pounds would be available now to help pay the 50s women. Instead as we know successive governments ruthlessly decided to solve the problem by raising the pension age.

In top of this the government also amended the benefits that would be paid out from the fund – including some new benefits like paternity benefit for example.

Anyone who believes the changes that happened – both the removal of Treasury contribution to the fund and the subsequent rise in the pension age – was a happy coincidence is deluding themselves. You can see here  in an article in the Daily Express what  George Osborne, the former chancellor, told investors at the Global Investment conference in 2013. Scroll down to the video

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George Osborne speaking at the 2013 Global Investment Conference

He said: “Tackling entitlement costs and the cost of an ageing society is a real challenge for Western democratic societies and in the UK we’ve brought forward the increase in pension age to 66 in this decade; we’ve brought forward the increase to 67 in the next decade and actually because of some reform taken some years ago the female pension age is increasing to 65 as we speak.”

“These changes, when you’re a finance minister, the savings dwarf almost everything else you do.

“They are absolutely enormous savings and they enable you to go on providing a decent retirement income. So you’re not necessarily reducing the entitlement of people who are retired you’re just increasing the age when that entitlement kicks in. ”

“Of course when these were first put into practice these pensions systems life expectations was dramatically less.

“I’ve found it one of the less controversial things we’ve done and probably saved more money than anything else we’ve done.”

Need I say more. The UK has one of the lowest and least generous state pension in the developed world and it has been bought about by making huge savings against 50s women.

 

Fight to save the iconic Gay Hussar

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Gay Hussar restuarant- a fight to save it as it is due to close June 21. Pic Credit: wikipedia

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The news today  that one of London’s iconic restuarants, the Gay Hussar, is closing on June 21  will  be a catalyst for a fight back.

The sad decision was  announced by manager John Wrobel at the end of a very convivial lunch for Old Guardian hacks last week leading to today’s  excellent article in the Observer by  Rebecca Smithers.

Some less kind might say a fitting end for us retired or semi retired reprobates. But  as she writes this has been a regular venue for Left wing plots and meetings between journos and sources. I myself  confess that the odd confidential document might have been slipped into my hands before I left  there after dining on  herrings and soured cream and crispy duck with red cabbage.

The place was also the venue for Michael Foot’s 90th birthday, a superb collection of political cartoons loaned by Martin Rowson featuring the great and not so good and it is not unknown for right wing dissenters to dine there. My previous lunch there was with an independently minded Tory peer.

The wider issue which pushed its closure is globalisation and a fierce policy of raising business rates (rents automatically seem to follow) which is leading to the disappearance of many independent businesses  and their replacement by franchised national chains.

The planned closure of the Gay Hussar follows the disappearance of the Gran Paradiso in Pimlico and Luigis in  Aldwych. And it is not a problem confined to the capital.  My local town, Berkhamsted,  has lost the House of High Tea, a popular cafe which had a eye watering selection of brews for precisely the same reason- a tripling of the rent.

The decision by its conglomerate owners Corus Hotels  appears to have taken place in Kuala Lumpur pushed by the big jump in rent  prompted by the business rate  rise.

However all is far from lost.

John Goodman, the energetic chair of the Goulash Co-operative, is riding to the rescue.

Ina an email sent out to the members of the co-operative last night ( I declare an interest I am a small investor), he says:

” At last our moment has come! The day for which we have all been waiting has unexpectedly arrived.

“We learned a few days ago that Corus, the owners of the Gay Hussar, intend to close the restaurant some time in the near future, despite still having four years to run on the lease, which is held by Corus subsidiary The Restaurant Partnership (TRP). Our understanding is the long suffering and loyal staff, who do so much to make the Gay Hussar what it is, have already met with HR managers.

“As your directors, we immediately called an emergency meeting for Monday 14th May to discuss our action and have been working on it intensively since then.

We understand that Corus/TRP has been in discussion with the landlord and has reached an arrangement for early termination of the lease. This will give the landlord vacant possession and they will therefore be looking for a new tenant.

“Two of our number, including our legal and property advisers, met the landlord’s representatives on 16 May to discuss their intentions. They told us the building was not for sale but they expressed interest in offering us a new lease to continue the operation of the Gay Hussar, albeit in an upgraded form. In such circumstances there are a huge number of questions to be answered, involving finance and the potential operation of the restaurant.”

He ends with a rallying cry:

“In due course, and if our plans make progress in the way we hope, we will re-open the Goulash Co-operative for additional and fresh investment and investors as we anticipate a good deal of interest. We would ask you to alert friends and family to join in this great venture to keep the Gay Hussar and to develop further its enormous potential.”

Let battle commence!

 

 

 

 

 

Taking the 50s women protest to the doors of the Department of Work and Pensions

 

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The protesters outside the DWP under the #One Voice umbrella

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The campaign for justice for the 50s women denied their pensions has come home to the Department of Work and Pensions.

A group representing all shades of opinion demanding redress for the 3.7 million women who have lost out hired an old London bus to protest outside Parliament, Downing Street and Caxton House, the DWP headquarters to drive the message home.

Under the banner #One Voice it included a number of #Waspi groups from London, Chichester, Bognor Regis to name but a few. On board backing the campaign was the Barnet blogger, Theresa Musgrove, who runs the @brokenbarnet  website.

 

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Waspi supporters from London with a banner – the guy in the background is the DWP’s privatised security guard from G4S who was pretty accommodating given it was a surprise visit

The campaign was supported by lawyer Michael Mansfield who wants to bring a legal case against the DWP  presently represented by Guy Opperham, the pensions minister and MP for Hexham,. who is implacably opposed to giving any concessions to anybody.

He appealed for unity among the campaigners – warning that divide and rule between various factions – would mean they could be picked off by ministers.

The 50s women used a battlebus obtained by Angela Taylor to make as much noise as possible particularly in its thrice trip round Parliament Square, causing both tourists and MPs to turn their heads. No doubt the message would have got back to Japan given the number of pictures taken.

The choice of the bus added to the occasion. It was a London RT model – the workhorse of  London Transport for decades – and built pretty much at the same time as many of the 50s women were born.  Reliable, dependable and capable – it was very much symbolic of the women who have been robbed of their pensions.

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The pensions battle bus with Yvette Greenway  who works in association with #BackTo60 with her trusty loudhailer

Of course the government is still saying it will do nothing. A letter sent to Pauline Hinder by the DWP ministerial correspondence unit ( ministers  like Guy Opperham have better things to do than reply to the general public like watching the Eurovision song contest) says :

” The Government has no plans to revisit the policy on women’s State Pension age and does not intend to make further concessions….

And according to the ministers they are striking a blow for equality.

“Changes to the State Pension age put right a long lasting inequality which was based on an outdated rationale that women were dependent on their husband’s incomes.”

Bizarrely this is exactly what many of the 50s women  were dependent on – the minister is just rewriting history to suit himself.

And mindful that the ministry may soon to be taken to court for not telling people about the change they are on the defensive..

“In the years after the 1995 legislation (1995 to 2011) this equalisation was frequently reported in the media and debated at length in Parliament. People were notified with leaflets, an extensive advertising campaign was carried out, and later individual letters were posted out. Throughout this period the Department has been providing individuals with their most up-to-date State Pension age when they have requested a Pension statement.”

And also you aren’t entitled to a pension  and we can’t afford to pay it anyway. We just take your contributions and do what we like with it.

“The National Insurance scheme operates on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis. It is inaccurate to characterise the State Pension as an individual contract where people get out what they pay in. It is today’s contributors who pay for today’s pensioners.

“There is no surplus in the Fund that can simply be drawn upon. The Government Actuary recommends a surplus is kept in the National Insurance fund to cover day to day variations in spend. The surplus is lent to the Government while that happens – it cannot simply be spent again.”

I have a feeling that ministers may not get away with this if people continue to press them – the Conservative government can’t afford to lose 3.7 million votes when it is neck and neck with Labour.

 

Government narrowly defeat plan for new Leveson inquiry after deal with DUP

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Lord Justice Leveson ; Pic courtesy Leveson Inquiry website

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UPDATE: Government defeated the Leveson2  inquiry by nine votes 304-295 . There were five Tory rebels. The nine DUP  MPs supported the government after they were offered a new press watchdog for Northern Ireland. The one independent Northern Ireland MP, Lady Hermon voted with Labour.

Five Tories voted with Labour – they were Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve ( former attorney general), Peter Bone, Philip Hollobone and Crispin Blunt.

One Labour MP John Grogan voted with the government to block Leveson 2.

Parliament will decide today whether a second Leveson inquiry  should go ahead and on new rules that would strengthen the role of press regulator Impress and force compulsory arbitration in libel cases.

Voting in the Commons on both motions is on a knife edge with  literally the decision being made on who turns up and whether very active campaigns by  mainstream media moguls or Hacked Off can convince wavering MPs.

Theresa May has staked her reputation on protecting Murdoch and Dacre from a second Leveson inquiry into malpractices by the media and scrapping the section which would have forced compulsory arbitration. At the Westminster  Correspondents Dinner she promised lobby journalists that ” very good news” was coming to help the media moguls avoid further scrutiny into their practices.

But her failure to control Parliament has put both promises at risk- hence the frenzied campaign  in the media to protect press freedom by media bosses who do not want some of the dark practices subject to forensic examination by Lord Leveson.

There are two motions today – one by former Labour leader Ed Miliband and Tory rebel Kenneth Clarke – aims to reinstate Leveson 2 after a Commons committee overturned a Lords resolution to hold the inquiry.

The second by Tom Watson, Labour deputy’s leader and long time campaigner against the Murdoch press, would implement the changes promised to force compulsory arbitration in libel cases – making court cases very expensive for the media even if they won.

The first motion stands the best chance of passing with guaranteed support from a number of Tory rebels, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the sole Green MP, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish Nationalists. Nobody seems sure how the DUP will vote.

This alliance is however dependent on everybody turning up and solid support among all the groups.

There was signs at the weekend  that media moguls had changed  tactics and were trying to persuade some Labour MPs not to back Ed Miliband’s motion and the one strengthening Impress-and suggesting this would go down very well in the mainstream media who might look favourably on covering some of the issues  these Labour MPs might want to take up. A senior Labour source told me : ” They (the Labour MPs) are trying to curry favour with the mass media”.

Labour whips have been alerted to this but some Labour MPs are playing their cards very close to their chests and trying to hide their proposed support. You can be sure there will be very active work done by Labour this morning to try and root them out.

The other problem  that could scupper a  defeat for the government will be if not all MPs turn up. Here the SNP with 35 MPs are a key group – but not all of them turn up if they have pressing business in Scotland. A  ” no show” by just a few in this group would have a big effect on the vote.

So today’s decision will depend on the capricious nature of MPs in Parliament – and how much priority they put into defeating the government over this issue.

 

 

 

 

Feted in Mayfair but flouted in Nuneaton: The extraordinary Labour local election performance

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Tiffany’s in Bond Street,London now in an area represented by Labour:

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Now I have had time to look further into  Labour’s performance in the local elections a rather extraordinary picture is emerging among the losses and gains made by Labour on the night.

The election has been presented as a boring status quo result but if you drill down into the figures it  shows two rather extraordinary trends – Labour is losing among the UKIP more Brexit minded white working class voters to the Tories but making major progress in some of the most affluent  areas that  stayed Tory strongholds  even under Tony Blair.

Probably one of the most striking results was in Westminster. Now Labour failed to make the huge headway – just  gaining four seats overall though they narrowed the gap between Labour and Tory across the borough to 1.8 per cent. The Tories  held the one seat they had in Pimlico after a defection  last year.

Labour took one  of three seats in the West End ward – covering Mayfair, Soho and Fitzrovia in Central London.  What’s more the person who won – Pancho Lewis- did so with a by-election style rise in votes. In 2014, the party’s candidates received a total of 1,281 votes and this year the figure stood at 2,858 – more than the 2,831 votes for the three Conservatives. This means  that Oxford Circus, Park Lane,Bond Street, Grosvenor Square, the Dorchester hotel, Savile Row, Regents Street and for that matter the editorial offices of Private Eye are represented by a socialist. Since the ward was created in 1978 Labour have never been in sniffing distance.

The Westminster result mirrors  earlier council wins for Labour in the City of London where Labour won its first seat in the Portsoken ward in 2014 and then went on to win five seats -including one in the Barbican – in the next election.

A similar surprising victory for Labour  was in Harrow where Labour increased its majority to seven over the Tories. It was where it was won  that made it surprising.Labour took Harrow on the hill – one of the poshest bits of the borough – that includes Harrow School and a private hospital – not normally natural Labour territory. The Labour candidates put on 1500 votes between them.

And in Barnet amidst the carnage for some of the Labour councillors in Hendon – Labour did make a GAIN  by two votes -ousting a Liberal Democrat in Childs Hill  just north of Golders Green – in a diverse ward that included Jewish, Arab and Somali voters.

And in Redbridge – Labour which made a double digit number of gains – included the new ward of Wanstead Village where homes can go for £750,000 – again not natural Labour territory.

Outside London Labour did amazingly well in Worthing. Worthing has never had a Labour councillor since Harold Wilson’s second victory in 1966. Last year Labour won a seat in a by-election in the centre of the town. Last week it won another  four council seats and came close in a number of others. They also gained three seats from the Conservatives in next door Adur –  better known as Shoreham on Sea -while the Tories took two from UKIP. The MP for Worthing East and Shoreham , Tim Loughton, who has a majority of  5,106 over Labour should be worried.

The reverse can be shown in Nuneaton which if the council had a full election – it seems certain Labour would have lost it to the Tories. Labour lost eight seats – some by big margins- in a result that gave the Tories 51 per cent of the votes on a 32 per cent poll.

Nuneaton is 88.9 per cent white British with a large proportion of pensioners – immigration hardly exists –  the biggest group are Poles -but it had strong support for UKIP. which has transferred to the Tories.The census figures showed it was overwhelmingly Christian with just 12 Jews and 2895 Muslims out of 126,000 people.Nearly two thirds of the population are working class – classified as C2, D or E.

This makes an interesting  dilemma for Labour they are still gaining votes in areas that Tony Blair could not even dream about  but equally they are losing votes in traditional English working class areas where they need support. But Labour  need to progress in both old England and new diverse England to succeed. If there is any post mortem to be had after these elections – this is it.