Press Watch 29/10/19

With an election on the way, the Tories will be determined to fix the nation’s collective attention on matters European. It would suit them well to avoid any focus at all on domestic matters since their policies, properly examined, would command little support. A range of such matters are to be found in today’s newspapers.

First: the NHS

The Times reports that Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board in north Wales has been in special measures for four years, recording a deficit of £41.3 million in June.

The board then appointed an “interim recovery director” who will earn £360,990 over nine months, equating to £1,990 a day or £40,000 a month. His brief is to find cost savings. One proposal is to cut pay for nurses’ work breaks.

Extraordinarily, Burns has been permitted to work from his home in Marbella on the Spanish Costa del Sol one day a week. He was named as Philip Burns and is employed through the Hunter Healthcare consultancy. His salary is larger than that of the chief executive of the health board and, indeed of the Welsh government’s health minister.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, it was also revealed that four other management consultants were earning large amounts for temporary contracts, ranging from £715 to £1,380 a day. In each case, the money was paid to limited companies.

It is surely scandalous that one proposed economy which was proposed to help with the deficit was that nurses should not be paid for their breaks on long shifts (which last up to 12 hours).

This attack on the very people who provide full-time care would save £25,000 a month.

But eagle-eyed readers with even limited mathematical skills will note that this ugly way of saving by cutting pay to nurses would save only just over half the salary paid to Mr Burns. In other words, you could make twice the economies by getting rid of the consultant.

But the real villain of the whole story is surely the Prime Minister, his Cabinet, and most right-wing Tories who quietly hate the NHS and who are killing it daily with cuts. Their long-term intentions are clear in the flawed Brexit deal, as shown by revelations on the extent of talks with American pharmaceutical companies seeking to exploit the NHS.

Second: Criminal Justice

Last week the nation heard about the death of 39 migrants in the back of a lorry. Yesterday the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, announced that the government would respond. “I can confirm the Border Force are … increasing their presence in Purfleet,” she told the House of Commons. “They too are working alongside Essex police to get further information regarding this incident.” She added: “As of today, I have received agreement from the Belgian authorities to deploy extra UK immigration enforcement officers to Zeebrugge.”

Patel, a hardliner on immigration, said the reasons for illegal immigration were “broad and complex” and the rise in global migration and organised criminality was one of the most pressing international issues. “It is clear we and all our partners must enhance our response,” she said. “All areas of government have a role to play, whether it’s in strengthening our borders and eliminating the pull factors in this country or addressing many of the root causes to suppress demand for illegal immigration.” (Guardian)

Two immediate thoughts spring to mind.

The first is that the particular form of hard-line Brexit which the present government plans will make cooperation on matters of international crime with our European neighbours harder to organise.

The second is, who was it who cut the police and border forces in the first place? We would invite readers to respond with their answers on a postcard, but readers of Scarlet Standard know the truth which lies behind the cuts.

Third: Education Policy

Tory-controlled Kent County Council has sought to flout its own rules which ban opening new grammar schools. They are using what they think is a cunning ruse, but it is in fact so transparent as to be laughable.

The Times reports that Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys is to open a type of satellite operation or annexe. But the so-called extension to Tunbridge Wells Grammar will be in Sevenoaks with three forms of 30 pupils in Year 7 and would eventually grow to a unit of 630 pupils. The existing school has more than 1,200 pupils.

The council is citing demographic pressures for its policy of allowing existing grammar schools to ‘expand’. The Times says that the council’s move follows the successful opening of a £19 million satellite of Weald of Kent girls’ grammar in 2017. The offshoot, for 450 pupils, is also in Sevenoaks, ten miles from the original school in Tonbridge. The new Tunbridge Wells boys’ grammar satellite will be on the same site as the Weald of Kent girls’ grammar. The plans point out that the site is already approved for educational use so will not require planning permission, and already has new buildings with spare capacity. This suggests that the satellite will go ahead with few difficulties.

Scarlet Standard stands for universal provision of the highest standards, properly funded, for every single person in our country. Time and again polls show that the segregation of young people - reinforcing the class nature of our country, and leading to the majority being treated as unsuccessful at the age of 11 - has little support in the country. Even Theresa May, who openly advocated selective education, dared not make any advances in this matter during her tenure as Prime Minister.

And so we get a glimpse in today’s papers of the kind of actions and policies taken by Conservative politicians which they will try to hide in the election in a blitz of Euro-fanaticism. It is essential that Labour ensures that the ugly truth of modern-day Toryism is revealed in all its gory detail.

A new country is possible. Inclusive, egalitarian, internationalist, democratic and based on the solid British value of social justice.

We must fight for it.

Press Watch is a look at the day's news by Labour MPs.

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