Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New Labour, Newer Leader

The title is a kid of plug for Tom Miller's site, Newer Labour. However, the post is about what is shaping up to be the longest and most tedious leadership battle ever.

I have a pretty good record - I have never backed a winner in the Labour leadership contest. I voted for Gould in 1992, abstained when Benn challenged Smith in 1993 and supported Beckett in 1994.

So, before I put the kiss of death onto anybody else's campaign, I have some thinking to do. I might as well do it out loud.

My basic view is this. I will probably vote for the most viable, most left-wing candidate, as long as there isn't a more viable candidate to the right of Brown.

At present, that means John McDonnell, assuming he gets the necessary 44 MP nominations. If he fails to but Michael Meacher gets in to the vote proper, I suppose I'll back the wacko. Perhaps. I met Meacher once, and he was a pretty nice guy. But the whole 9/11 conspiracy thing is a bit much.

If, for example, Milburn or Clarke enter the fray and seem to be picking up support, I will be forced to support Brown.

I might think about it a bit more deeply, but my essential feeling is that Brown is the best option in reality, but I want to register a protest from the left if it won't jeopardise his candidacy. Of course, if a better option put themselves forward (Hilary Benn anyone?), I'd jump on that bandwagon.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Tesco loses it's license

The local Tesco has just lost it's license to sell alcohol after having been caught selling booze to underage children three times.

On the one hand, it's a good thing. This is clearly a management problem, not a simple mistake, and so it should be the company that suffers.

On the other hand, I'll have to walk further to get me beers!

[update: the Worthing Branch has lost it's appeal, and the appeals for the two Crawley branches are due to be heard in July]

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

They don't like it up 'em!

I posted the previous article on the Maidenbower website here (second post down), as it is a place where you can publicly ask Henry Smith and others questions.

You can see how well Tory Councillors respond to a bit of detailed criticism if you look further on. A mixture of personal attacks, ignoring the question and getting basic facts wrong.

I am still not angry.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Hospital Campaign built on thin air?

When I first heard about the Campaign for Pease Pottage Hospital, I was suspicious, it sounded just like an opportunistic attempt by local Tories to jump onto a bandwagon.

After some time, the campaign has produced a document, which they say backs up their case and anyone who disagrees is clearly just trying to land political blows.

Having now read the extensive (!) 7 page proposal document, I am even more sceptical about the Smith-Maude campaign.

First of all, I spotted at least two spelling mistakes. Now, that may mark me out as a pedant, but they are clear and they are evidence that the document was not properly proof-read. One wonders if any of the numbers are also incorrect.

Next, it is full of assumptions. Firstly, that the acute healthcare spend in Horsham PCT per person is uniformly applied across the other areas covered. Secondly that the percentage of that to be spent at the new hospital would be 75%. Thirdly that the refinancing (what we call interest) rate would be 7%. Fourthly, that East Surrey Hospital will be affected but will still be tenable if it widens it's catchment along the M25 (but no consideration of the knock on effects to the East or West of Redhill) - oh, but if it isn't the new hospital would be able to cope and the people of Redhill and Reigate would be happy.

There are lots of numbers, but some are given as 'of the order of', or 'indicative' (which means that they are not accurate estimates) and others are absolute, despite seemingly having been derived from the earlier estimates. The operating cost is given based on Frimley Park, but no more local hospital 'given their state of turmoil', and because that is a larger hospital it is scaled, but the scaling has not been enumerated. Are there local factors which differentiate this area from Camberley such as housing pressure?

Some startling omissions as well. Nowhere is training mentioned. Nowhere does it refer to Royal College guidelines. Why should it? Because the Royal Colleges suggest that for training to be of sufficient value, a unit must have a decent catchment area, of around the 400-500,000 range. In order to attract employees, a hospital really wants to be recognised by the Royal Colleges, as most doctors want to move up the ranks and gain experience. The proposed 300,000 catchment area might be too small, and this was pretty much the same problem that Crawley Hospital had in the first place. Find me an acute hospital which has lost accreditation from a Royal College and where that service is not under threat (or already gone).

Also, this would not be a PFI hospital, it would be privately managed, rather than being run by the NHS and leased from a PFI vehicle, according to the proposals. Do we have such a hospital in the UK? Would the managers seek to carve out part of the hospitals facilities for lucrative private care? What will the costs be to the NHS of oversight of a privately run hospital? Will the operating company be allowed to make a profit? If it makes a loss, or suffers financial strain, what are the guarantees that services will be maintained?

Bagnall's report was far more detailed, and we were able to see the 'working out'. I supported the Bagnall Plan because it was well considered and the proposal was a viable 776-bed hospital. The C4PPH proposals are, going by a document of seven pages, less grounded in detailed research and less sustainable.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Book Review

Not by me, but by Harry Barnes, Labour ex-MP. He lays into Dawkins' The God Delusion. On Three Score Years and Ten, he explains why he finds the book so disappointing...

Conspiracy Theorist?

From the Labour Humanist, an interesting test for you to take