Labour leadership: Stormin’ Corbyn winning the new battle of Berkhamsted

BERKHAMSTED CASTLE pPc Credit:geograph-org-uk

BERKHAMSTED CASTLE
Pic Credit:geograph-org-uk

Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire is not known as a centre of left wing radicalism. It has had only two revolutionary moments in its 1000 year history . They were the capitulation of the English to William the Conqueror in 1066 at Berkhamsted Castle and the Battle of Berkhamsted Common in 1866.

The latter was a remarkable story, A wealthy MP, Augustus Smith, was furious that a local landowner had enclosed common land above the town. So rather than just protest he took direct action. As a book, The Short History of Berkhamsted reveals he hired ” a miniature army of Cockney” toughs” and Irish labourers and charted a special train to convey them from Euston to Tring at the dead of night.”

These 120 men armed with crowbars tore down the iron railings overnight and the next day a newspaper reported ” “In carriages, gigs, dogcarts and on foot, gentry, shopkeepers, husbandmen, women and children at once tested the reality of what they saw by strolling over and squatting on the Common and taking away morsels of gorse to prove, as they said) the place was their own again.”

An Act of Parliament later guaranteed the freedom of the Common and Lord Brownlow who had tried to enclose it gave up.

Fast forward to 2015 and another extraordinary revolution seems to be taking place in the town if not the country..At a barbecue organised by the Berkhamsted and Tring branch of South West Herts Labour Party, members are talking about voting for Jeremy Corbyn.

Jeremy Corbyn Mp, popular with Berkhamsted Labour members

Jeremy Corbyn Mp, popular with   Berkhamsted Labour members

Now Jeremy has not had to bring in Cockney ” toughies” or Irish labourers to prove his point ( though they are many still in his Islington North constituency) but merely appear at local hustings with either other candidates or their representatives.

Both new members of the party and long-standing members are saying they are fed up with Labour apologising for what it stands for and don’t know what the other candidates for the leadership want to do. One lumped Andy Burnham,Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall into the same mould. She described them as vanilla – bland and tasteless with no ideological view of society.

They contrasted this with Corbyn who at least knows what he believes, doesn’t apologise for being a member of the Labour Party and would take the fight to the Tories and revamp the organisation. I saw no sign of entryism ( which the Sunday Times suggests) here among the new members – after all Chorleywood was never a bastion of the Militant Tendency even in its heyday. And John Mann MP is ridiculed for wanting to halt the election.

Angela Eagle Benefiting  from Yvette Cooper's pro women campaign.. Pic credit: The Guardian

Angela Eagle Benefiting from Yvette Cooper’s pro women campaign.. Pic credit: The Guardian

This doesn’t mean that the people  who are going to vote for Corbyn agree with every single policy he stands for – but they seem to want something different from the present, in their words, uninspired rivals. The only pause for thought is whether this will split the party – but the history of the SDP suggests otherwise. And Yvette Cooper’s point about Labour being a club for the boys has made some impact  but not in the way she wants..It has caused people to think of voting for Angela Eagle as deputy to  gender balance their vote for Corbyn. I shall still plump for Tom Watson.

I sense rather like in the run up to the general election in Scotland that something big is happening and is becoming unstoppable. Already neighbouring Hemel Hempstead constituency party has decided to endorse Corbyn and it looked like that grassroots Labour members have suddenly decided they are fed up with the status quo and wants something different..

The impact if Corbyn wins will be game changing. Defeated Labour candidates in some areas are taking the opposite view as this article in The Guardian shows. They see that Labour didn’t take into account the views of working class voters hating scroungers and more immigration. I hear this too from the working class carers who assist my disabled wife. But don’t they realise what these voters want is NO immigration ( Britain is full that’s why public services are bad, they tell me) .They want a ban on foreigners holding British jobs and the ABOLITION of benefits for scroungers. Are Will Straw and Jessica Asato going to stand on a Labour platform banning anybody from abroad working in Britain and the abolition of large swathes of welfare to get their vote? I would be surprised – it would make an interesting article in Left Foot Forward.

Would Will Straw really campaign to stop foreigners getting British jobs to get working class votes?

Would Will Straw really campaign to stop foreigners getting British jobs to get working class votes?

No, Labour has to decide where it stands on all this and then campaign and educate people that it is cuts in public services not more immigrants that is causing a lot of the problem. That is why I am still deciding whether I should take the plunge and back Corbyn or stick with either Cooper or Burnham.

Ever play bingo, go to the pub,do shopping: no patient transport for you

Campaigners for better patient transport at transportforall assembly in London on October 7 pic credit: Christa Holka

Campaigners for better patient transport at transportforall assembly in London on October 7 pic credit: Christa Holka

A damning report, Sick of Waiting  by the transportforall, the excellent body campaigning for disabled people to have proper access to transport across the capital, reveals what everybody thought but nobody knew: disabled people have a lousy patient transport service in London.

As I report in this week’s Tribune magazine a survey of 200 disabled patients found that 37 per cent had missed an appointment due to failures by patient transport and almost half had arrived late for appointments over the past two years. Nearly all of this, as the report shows, was provided by newly privatised services.

A staggering 90 per cent had never been told that they could be eligible for financial help to get to hospital under the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme while more than half were never told about patient transport when they booked an appointment.

But the health trust that really took the biscuit was Hillingdon Hospital Trust.Not only did they provide one of the worst personal examples of being ultra unhelpful – but they revealed that they had a questionnaire to weed out those they did not want to provide patient transport.

The personal case involved Robin who had previously been taken to hospital by a brother and Hillingdon expected this to continue. But the brother had moved to Spain. And guess what, Hillingdon expected him to come back and take her ( no doubt quoting cheap flights by easyjet – I made that latter point up!)

But the most extraordinary example was the disclosure through a freedom of information request was a questionnaire used by Hillingdon to assess whether people should get patient transport in the first place.

This included the questions ” Do you go shopping?” and “do you ever (my emphasis) go to the pub/cinema/ bingo? ”

I put this to the press office of Hillingdon and they replied: “The Trust does not discriminate against any of its patients. On occasion – for example where someone is very clearly able-bodied – the hospital’s transport team will ask people how they usually get around.

“This is to see if they are capable of getting to and from hospital without using patient transport as we want to ensure this valuable resource is available for those that really need it. This is in line with guidance from the Department of Health.”

I then sent back their own response to the FOI which listed the questionnaire they gave to ALL patients requiring transport. And the press office admitted they didn’t even know about it when they replied disclaiming the story.

They promised the transport manager would respond. And then they found he had taken leave of absence. So might I if a pesky journo was asking embarrassing questions about a dodgy practice.

Perhaps Hillingdon is overrun with bingo playing, binge drinking, shopaholics all demanding hospital appointments, but I very much doubt it.

Of course not all trusts were as bad as Hillingdon. The report praised Guys and St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust for its excellently managed patient transport service and the Royal Marsden came out well.

But far too many didn’t and some of the stories of the way disabled people were treated were callous and heart breaking.

Transportforall is laying down a new patients charter, demanding minimum standards, minimum waiting times and real transparency about the services provided by the private  and public sectors. Nor is this confined to London. The report cites problems in Kent, Manchester,Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, Coventry, Somerset, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Leeds and Suffolk..

It is time this issue went right up the political agenda. As the report says:” a national solution is needed”.

What about it, Jeremy Hunt and Andy Burnham?

 

 

 

Andy Burnham becomes first shadow cabinet minister to back child sex abuse inquiry

Andy Burnham: backing an inquiry pic credit:Wikipedia

Andy Burnham: backing an inquiry pic credit:Wikipedia

Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, has become the first member of Ed Miliband’s shadow Cabinet to back an over arching inquiry into child sexual abuse.

Over the weekend he was joined by Hilary Benn, the shadow communities secretary and Emily Thornberry, shadow attorney general. With others this brings the number of MPs backing the inquiry  to 118. Impetus for the inquiry has been heightened following the latest sickening disclosures about Jimmy Savile’s predatory behaviour from Broadmoor secure hospital to other 27 other NHS trusts.

Andy Burnham made his views very clear when he was challenging Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, over the publication of the Savile investigations in Parliament yesterday as well as confirming to Tim Loughton, one of the Mps and former children’s minister, that he was supporting his letter to Theresa May, the home secretary, calling for the inquiry. There is a  full report by my colleague Alex Varley-Winter on the Exaro website with an up to date list of names.

There next question is whether more of the Shadow Cabinet will back the idea.

 

 

Loving care at Gossoms End: An unsung NHS success story

The view of Gossoms End garden from the terrace of the dining room. A good NHS facility

The view of Gossoms End garden from the terrace of the dining room. A good NHS facility

The  NHS is taking a beating from the press and media at the moment – just at the point  Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, wants to open it up to the private sector. Here is a rather heart warming story of why it is still very good. Not everybody is being neglected by uncaring nurses and health professionals.

The entrance to Gossoms End Community Hospital.| Pic courtesy: NHS Herts

The entrance to Gossoms End Community Hospital.| Pic courtesy: NHS Herts

Unless you live in the Chilterns town of Berkhamsted you probably will never have heard of Gossoms  End Community Hospital named after an ancient hamlet adjoining the town.

This unsung place is providing excellent physiotherapy for my wife, Margaret, who is recovering from a stroke after a rather dramatic rescue by air ambulance from the Isles of Scilly – see my earlier blog  at David Hencke.

What is particularly good is that some one has properly planned this facility so that stroke victims and people recovering from serious injuries can get proper physiotherapy and nursing care in a decent environment. The hospital unlike Watford, the main accident and emergency hospital for West Herts, is under no pressure to throw people out at the earliest opportunity. The cost of running it is much less than using a ward in acute hospital.

But the real key is that this is a nurse and physiotherapy led unit – with a weekly visit from a consultant and a doctor on call. The result is that the driving force  behind the care is to find the most suitable  rehab treatment for the individual patient.

Also if there is an emergency – my wife was discovered to have two new blood clots on her lungs – the patient can be taken for urgent medical care at Watford General Hospital. In her case suspicions by the doctor at Gossoms End led her to being scanned and then treated at Watford and she was able to go back to Gossoms End for  rehab after five days.

There are other human qualities. It is small – just 20 beds – some patients like my wife have their own room.The food is home cooked on the premises, there is a cheery dining room overlooking a small park. There is a terrace and gardens outside. It also does out-patient physiotherapy,  has a GP surgery attached and is surrounded by sheltered housing. Even two private retirement developments are now located near this hospital. My sister-in-law , who is a community nurse, was so impressed that she thought it might be a private facility. But it is not. Indeed it has just had a £200,000 refurbishment ( see http://www.hertfordshire.nhs.uk/news-and-events/press-releases/2010-press-releases/208-refurbishment-at-gossoms-end-complete.html).

Berkhamsted is extremely lucky to have this facility. From what I can see there are other such places – but no national directory of how many there are. It seems this provision is very hit and miss.

Yet at the same time the coalition and Labour are supposed to be planning major changes to help Britain’s elderly population by concentrating funds to keep them fit and healthy and provide proper support. I challenge  Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat minister responsible for social care, and Andy Burnham, Labour ‘s shadow health secretary, to visit Gossoms End and see how the unsung part of the NHS is working. They need to listen, learn and then act. So far the pair of them are ignoring my emails.Perhaps the minister and the opposition health spokesman aren’t bovvered.

My receovering wife, Margaret; my daughter, anne, and grandchildren Tegan, Leon,Ryan and Daryan on the terrace at Gossoms End

My recovering wife, Margaret; my daughter, Anne, and grandchildren Tegan, Leon,Ryan and Daryan on the terrace at Gossoms End

PS Many thanks to all those who sent Margaret get  well cards, messages of support and  have taken the time to come and visit her. You  have all been very kind and caring.