Monday 20 February 2017

The Minister’s New Clothes | A completely unbelievable short story. . .

There is a woman, a minister, the head of a government, well known to all of us who is extremely fond of new and expensive clothes. So much so that a considerable amount of the money she earns is spent on dresses, trouser suits, shirts and jumpers, not to mention very large necklaces and fancy shoes. Now, any woman, every woman, should be allowed to wear whatever she likes, without censure or comment, and as the men the woman works with are also well-dressed it is something of a sexist double-standard to single her out. But, given the woman’s powerful role, and the fact that many of those she supposedly represents are doing less than just about managing, that she is rarely seen in the same over-priced outfit twice seems more than a little tasteless. And yet, the woman seems oblivious to the impression she is giving, even agreeing to be featured in various publications to showcase her style and fashion sense.

Although everyone, including the woman and the ministers who work with her, pretend that the members of the government are the ones running the country in reality they and their actions are manipulated by a small number of rich and powerful others; the big business owners, the media barons and others generally referred to as the 1%. These people, many of them white, able-bodied men, have greater access to and control of, both the capitalist means of production and the right wing ideological apparatus that is the mainstream media. They are therefore, responsible not only for the continued exploitation of the many, but also the ongoing skewed political socialisation of the masses. Such is their hunger for power and money this small, unrepresentative group will do anything they can to maintain their position and influence. The women's love of garments and accessories is valuable to them, in their plan to retain their status as the privileged few, willing as she is to wear their gift of a cloak woven together with threads made up of whopping great rancid lies.   

Her responsibility for the policies of the land means that the woman has to justify her decisions to her government, the ministers that challenge and oppose her, and more generally to us, the everyday folk in society. In a time honoured tradition, one afternoon each week the woman is posed a series of questions by the opposition ministers. Serious issues are raised and flaws in her plans and practices often highlighted and as such the event should, one would think, be conducted with solemnity and judged in terms of the substance of the points that are aired and the answers that are given (or not). Sadly though over the years this encounter has become more like a pantomime than a parliamentary debate with the jeerers and smearers, jesters and charlatans attempting to drown out the sincere interrogation. 'Oh Yes It Is', and 'Oh No It Isn't', are common taunts and given that some on the opposite benches seem unclear to whom their loyalty should lie, 'S/He's Behind You', is increasingly shouted in warning to the man who asks the lion's share of the questions. The woman herself, has little respect for the questions or for those that ask them and leads her ministers in insulting and abusing the opposition. The harshest and most vitriolic comments are reserved for the key questioner, a man who cares little about his own presentation of self, little about the clothes he wears, except that is for his collection of ties in deepest red. So warped has the system become that the nastier, more aggressive, more personal, more insulting the attack, and the thicker the woman's cloak of lies becomes, the more support she is given from those that control her, reflected in the representation of her by the 1% funded media. Thus, despite the woman's obvious lack of compassion for the many, coupled with much evidence of her bad judgements in terms of present national crises and future local and global concerns, her own particular toxic charisma becomes stronger and more positive in mainstream narratives.

The cloak, unlike the woman's other clothes, is not made of luxurious cloth in vibrant colours. Rather it is a dark despicable thing, dripping in filthy falsehood, greasy from backroom bargaining and grimy deals. Yet, the cloak remains invisible to many people who are unable to see it and the woman who wears it in all their true horror. Terrifyingly this means that the woman is trusted with what she ought not to be and believed even when it should be obvious that her words are nothing but hollow spin. On the few occasions when the cloak slips and the woman and her ministers are exposed for what they truly are the woman, aided again by the forces that protect her, creates a diversion, a moral panic, in order to deflect attention away from both her words and her actions. Once again the focus is often the man who leads the opposition; his arguments for peace claimed as both unsafe and unpatriotic, his efforts for those most vulnerable and alienated defined as old fashioned and unworkable. Additionally, (and yet more evidence that the woman's claim that she is working for a shared society for all is just another meaningless sound bite) attention is also diverted towards those whose identities, experiences, life-chances and choices do not fit that of the so-called, narrowly defined ideal type. Through the use of simplistic stereotypes just about everyone is labelled as other, stigmatised as abnormal and or dangerous, defined as undeserving. Those affected include (not least): the employed who fight for their rights, the unemployed for their drain on the system, the homeless for littering the streets; the old for their outdated views and lack of sympathy for the young, the young for their weakness and lack of resilience, those at midlife for their lack of care and attention for both the old and the young; the experts for their pomposity; anyone from man or woman in the street (or online) to celebrity who dares to offer a critique. But perhaps the greatest identification and demonisation of otherhood is directed at those defined as unworthy stranger; the immigrant and the refugee. We are told again and again that these people are simultaneously taking all our jobs and using up all our resources when in actuality considerations of a day without them clearly shows their invaluable input into the healthy, safe, effective daily lives of all.  So neighbour is pitted against neighbour and the tension and fear that this encourages successfully shifts the responsibility away from those who most deserve it. It is not the woman, the government, or the 1%, who take the blame for the inequalities and injustices in society but rather similar others who are equally, if not more, oppressed, powerless and vulnerable.

There are some, thankfully, who are able to see the cloak, the woman, and her supporters, for what they are. There are some, to whom we should all be grateful, who are working hard to ensure that more of us can see this too. There are some, despite continued misrepresentation and abuse, who continue to challenge fear and hate and insist on the need for hope and love.

There are some . . . 

Tuesday 14 February 2017

Happy Valentine's Day | Surveillance, Bullies, Xenophobia and more, so much more

An article I read this morning suggests that Valentine’s Day has its origins in the Roman feast of Lupercalia. From the 13th to the 15th of February the celebration included animal sacrifice, nakedness, drinking, sexual activity and the whipping of women (in the belief that this would increase their fertility). Following a number of developments and changes Valentine's Day is now a more intimate, romantic event for many. It's big business too:  

According to market research firm IBIS World, Valentine's Day sales reached $17.6 billion last year; this year's sales are expected to total $18.6 billion. Well that's ok then.

I'm sure many of us would agree that the world is a pretty dark place at the moment and we all need to find pockets of joy and celebration to get us through. For in just the last couple of days we have been reminded (not least) of: 

The need for those of us in the UK to keep fighting for the NHS, to keep exposing the government’s cuts and deals. Just released plans highlight proposed or likely closure of 19 hospitals, including five major acute hospitals by 2021. This will mean the closure of 2,000+ beds in acute and community hospitals and the loss of nearly 3,000 jobs to create a ‘smaller, more agile’ workforce.

- Further evidence that the now teeth-grinding phrase 'the will of the people' is only relevant when politically useful. Today we are told: 

HM Government believes the President of the United States should be extended the full courtesy of a State Visit. We look forward to welcoming President Trump once dates and arrangements are finalised.

HM Government recognises the strong views expressed by the many signatories of this petition, but does not support this petition.

During her visit to the United States on 27 January 2017, the Prime Minister, on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen, invited President Trump for a State Visit to the UK later this year. The invitation was accepted. This invitation reflects the importance of the relationship between the United States of America and the United Kingdom. At this stage, final dates have not yet been agreed for the State Visit.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

     - The evidence suggesting that we have much, much more than a visit by Donald Trump to worry about. Just a few things here, there are more:

The Investigatory Powers Act which received Royal Assent on the 29th November 2016 means that Britain is the most advanced surveillance state in the democratic (I typed demoncratic at first, seems more appropriate somehow) world, as the government now has unrestricted access to everyone’s personal information and internet browsing history.


The Calais Wall built to keep refugees out of Britain. The four-metre-high wall, which separates the refugee camp from passing traffic, was completed in December, cost £2.3 million and was funded by the taxpayer.  Add to this the government’s U-turn on the Dubs amendment which committed the UK to help the most vulnerable unaccompanied children in Europe and Home Office confirmation that it has placed a temporary halt on accepting refugee children with disabilities.

The proposed overhaul of existing secrecy legislation aimed at whistleblowers and journalists with a maximum prison sentence increase from two to 14 years and a redefinition of espionage to include obtaining sensitive information, as well as passing it on.

- That, sadly, oh so very sadly, some people care little about anyone else’s rights, needs or comforts. And indeed appear interested only in their own entertainment. Tim Loughton MP - a Conservative who voted for the bedroom tax; for reductions in welfare spending, including for sick, disabled people, people unable to work; against laws promoting human rights; against legal aid being available for sick, disabled and dying people appealing wrong welfare decisions - tweeted on Sunday evening:  Just had a great night at the BAFTAS apart from the usual predictable drivel from Ken Loach in his own La La Land.

Loach accepting the award for Outstanding British Film said:

Thank you to the academy for endorsing the truth of what the film says, which hundreds of thousands of people in this country know, and that is that the most vulnerable and the poorest people are treated by this government with a callous brutality that is disgraceful. It’s a brutality that extends to keeping out refugee children that we promised to help and that’s a disgrace too.

But films can do many things. They can entertain, they can terrify, they can take us to worlds of the imagination, they can make us laugh, and they can tell us something about the real world we live in. And in that real world – it’s a bit early for a political speech, I’m sorry – but in that real world it’s getting darker, as we know. And in the struggle that’s coming between the rich and the powerful, the wealthy and the privileged, and the big corporations and the politicians who speak for them on the one hand, and the rest of us on the other, then film-makers – and we’re all film-makers here – the film-makers know which side they are on. And despite the glitz and glamour of occasions like this, we’re with the people.

In their coverage of the awards the BBC TV news following BAFTA failed to even mention Loach and the award, let alone his speech. Never mind for many have shared it online since and here it is again.

The evidence to suggest that Tim Loughton is not a one-off. Although Loach has received much support and praise for his approach there are many others (including politicians) who seem to have forgotten that film, drama, art, literature and the like has always been a way of ‘doing politics’. Like Loughton many of these people are criticising Loach for ‘spoiling’ their Sunday evening viewing. 

As I was watching this particular twitter drama unfold the following came up on my Twitter feed. No words for this, just a feeling of despair. . .

     - The confirmation (as if we needed it) that sexism, racism and the especially nasty mix of the two as it plays out in misogynoir (misogyny directed towards Black women where race and gender both play roles in bias) is alive and kicking. That we even have to have a discussion about whether or not Diane Abbott MP was abused and insulted, in person and in a text exchange with a friend, by David Davis MP, is horrifying.

I have worked in organisations were the culture has been bullish and bullying. If senior individuals treat others badly this gives permission for everyone (unless they resist the pressure) to behave badly too. This is what, I think, is happening in both Theresa May’s government and society more generally, with examples of mistreatment (some of which I've considered here) just as bad as at the feast of Lupercalia.

A poem to end; befitting of the date:

 Roses are red, 
 Violets are blue. 
 I’ve had enough, 
 And I hope so have you.

Friday 3 February 2017

Of Hugs and Hope | Today’s Bit of Positive Thinking

What happens when humans hug
I posted this picture (from @RealBanksy on twitter) on my Facebook timeline a couple of days ago. It didn’t attract many likes. I was disappointed as in these turbulent, and often frightening, times this image feels, to me, like a beautiful symbol of love and hope. My writing at the moment is going through what could be called a dark phase. Like others I’m anxious and angry about the injustices and inequalities that dominated 2016 and continue into 2017. In my latest piece (Finding Tory OR Whoops There Goes Our NHS (and our social care, our jobs, our human rights and so on and so on and so on) | Everyday Life in a Secret, Sneaky Society) which I finished, and posted on this blog earlier today (I hope you decide to read it) my focus was cuts, misinformation (and lies), distraction and the need to keep fighting. I have decided that - not least for the sake of my health, my head and my heart – that sometimes I need to focus on, and write about issues and experiences, that make me feel happier and, at least a little, positive.

Despite recent evidence to the contrary I don’t just spend all of my time obsessing about P/politics. Having left full time university work at the end of 2014 I now work freelance and in the last 15 days I have travelled from my home in south Cornwall to Aberdeen, Bath, Coventry and Plymouth. Next week I’ll be in Belfast and Greenwich. I have moderated undergraduate coursework, finished the first draft of a collaboratively written academic article, done some administration for a journal I co-edit, reviewed a book proposal, examined three PhDs and attended several meetings. I feel lucky to have such interesting work, I am privileged to work with so many engaging people. On Monday of this week I helped a friend plan a funeral (I’m also a qualified Civil Celebrant) for a friend of his and I attended an information evening for a charity that provides support to people in emotional need. I hope to be accepted as a volunteer. In the last couple of weeks a couple of people have been rude to me, but many others have smiled at me, or kissed me, or shown me a kindness. At the weekend (see Grief and Loss, Emotional and Material Concerns | Part Memoir, Part Rant (also this blog)) a dear friend drove me to the graveyard where my parents are buried close to the anniversary dates of both of their deaths. Yesterday the same friend and I went to the cinema. We chatted before and after the film and laughed and cried a little during the showing. A few days ago I spent a delicious couple of hours chatting to another lovely friend whilst her five week old daughter slept and gently snorted on my right shoulder. On Twitter and Facebook supportive words from new and long established friends have made me smile and given me confidence. On trains and in shops greetings and brief exchanges have brightened my day. I am warmed by and grateful for such experiences and encounters. 

During my mum’s final illness at the turn of 2011/2012 I wrote a short story entitled Normal Hugs. It was one of my first attempts at fiction and I make no claims to quality. This week though I’ve found myself thinking about it again and include some excerpts here:  

As she drives away from the school Liz finds herself thinking back to an article she read in the paper a few days ago. A normal hug lasts just about three seconds apparently. Any less and it’s not really a hug, doesn’t convey the right amount of affection or concern; any more and the recipient, if not the giver, of the hug begins to feel uncomfortable. She has always hated the word normal and makes it a personal quest to challenge the norm when she can….

… a coffee with her friend Gill in town. An event bound to cheer her up. Sipping a skinny cappuccino at Belle’s whilst she waits, having arrived 15 minutes before she knows Gill will, Liz finds herself watching the other cafĂ© dwellers. There are several rendezvous. A couple of men in suits shake hands, hitch up their trousers and huddle over espressos and a laptop. Two sets of 30 and 40 something women kiss, hug (for just less than three seconds Liz estimates) and settle over their various milky coffees to chat. An older woman rises to greet a younger woman and an almost school age child. These intergenerational greetings she finds the most interesting: a hug for the woman, ‘normal’ again (Liz imagines the single quotation marks in her head) but a tight squeeze and a rain of kisses for the girl which make her squeal with delight....

Her shift [as a librarian] passes quickly and as ever is full of variety. She does a stint on the desk, talks to several regulars, gives recommendations to readers from a number of generations and spends some time cataloguing. There is plenty of time for her hug research also and she is struck by just how common hugging is. As in the coffee shop and the gym women are more likely to be both the givers and recipients of hugs. She wonders when it became so commonplace, when close physical contact became so popular in a country whose inhabitants have a reputation for being stiff and undemonstrative. She concludes that perhaps it is the result of North American influences and a shadowing of behaviours in movies and television programmes. Whatever, she decides she likes to see and experience it as a form of greeting, of farewell or of spontaneous affection. She is the happy recipient of a few hugs herself during the afternoon. The first is from a woman, a new visitor to the library, who tried the three bookshops in town first. The talking book she wants is available for loan from the library and when Liz finds it for her the woman smiles brightly and briefly clasps her to her chest. Following the three pm story book session a couple of the pre-schoolers thank Liz with hugs as does one of their mothers who is herself an old friend….

I appreciate, of course I do, that such connection can be unwanted and/or used to manipulate. Later in the story I wrote:

Driving home she passes the railway station and stopped in traffic she sees an advert for various railcards all promising a percentage cost off hugs to the lucky owner. How strange that she should see this today of all days. Again, as on the birthday cards she saw earlier, there are figures frozen in a perpetual clinch. But this time it is people caught by the click of a camera rather than sweet and slightly sickly images drawn by Hallmark, and similar, employees. There are parents and their children, grandparents and grandchildren, friends, lovers. She realises of course that these images are as staged as the ones on greetings cards and that the depicted adults and children are likely to be actors, paid for their time….

I know too that such behaviour is not a panacea for the social, material and political unfairness, oppression and horror in our society and more globally. I know that hugging a Fascist isn’t the solution, or even something that we might want to risk. But, small acts of kindness, small displays of affection can help us all, whether accompanied or not by physical touch, whether face-to-face or through other forms of communication.

Here’s to more of it. And although I’m not suggesting that we should wait for it before we act Random Acts of Kindness Week begins on February the 12th

Finding Tory OR Whoops There Goes Our NHS (and our social care, our jobs, our human rights and so on and so on and so on) | Everyday Life in a Secret, Sneaky Society

I’ve been trying to write this piece for quite a while.  I can, I think, be forgiven for my procrastination given the current fast pace of political activity, change, response and reaction.  But it’s not only the dynamics and scale of the issue(s) that has hindered me but also the horror, the increasingly unbelievable farce of it all. The first of my concerns - Finding Tory – may appear odd given that at one level the government and the impact of their policies and practices is everywhere.  But, shockingly much of what they are doing as in Whoops There Goes Our NHS etc. takes place quietly, sneakily, with little fanfare and (often) little reaction.

In my last post (Grief and Loss, Emotional and Material Concerns | Part Memoir, Part Rant) I wrote of the recently announced cuts to financial bereavement support and how these will significantly negatively impact on the lives of widowed parents with young children. In the last couple of days we have also heard from the Resolution Foundation who argue that by 2020 the inequality gap will be wider still and the living standards for the poorest half of households will be worse than since the early years of Margaret Thatcher’s 1979-90 government:

The prediction that inequality is set to start rising again is based on the thinktank’s forecast that while incomes will fall for the poorer half of households they will rise by about 5% for the richest fifth over the next four years.

The foundation blames the upcoming living standards squeeze on a combination of stagnating pay, rising inflation and the rollout of more than £12bn of welfare cuts. It emphasised that the pound’s weakness since the Brexit vote and other economic factors such as flat productivity growth were only part of the picture. The unequal nature of the squeeze would be the result of government policy on tax and benefits.

Add to this the government plans to drastically cut 1 in 10 job centres (which will impact on and further increase the numbers of unemployed people); the suggestion that families need to take more responsibility for the care of the elderly (as a childless woman I might well be writing more about this in the future); the increase in homelessness, the fact that people with disabilities are having to crowdfund for essential equipment; the poor conditions (for all concerned) in prison and the rising number of deaths amongst those in custody . . . . 

This frightening and long-reaching list of cuts, cuts, cuts, and the way they are both managed and reported, highlights a sad and seamless connection between 2016 and 2017. In December for example:

·        The government imposed a rise of £250 a year (applicable from autumn 2017) tuition fees. This will affect over half a million students. The increase was not announced, rather the information was put straight onto the website. 

·        The new Governance Code on Public Appointments gives government ministers greater power over who runs public bodies, including the BBC, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission.

·        Despite increases in the number of children living in poverty the government has merged the Child Poverty Unit with the DWP.

For more detail on these, and other policies and practices that should concern us all, see Steve Topple’s piece here: Overall, as Mr Topple candidly puts it ‘While you were enjoying your turkey, the Tories repeatedly stuffed us all’. For anyone who wants to keep up to date with issues and experiences not being reported in the main stream media (MSM) it's definitely worth following Steve on @MrTopple. 

Many of the Conservative government induced bad news stories that have hit the MSM have done so whilst we have been looking elsewhere. For the last couple of weeks the distraction has been both Brexit and Trump; what I’ve come to think of as BREXUMP. These issues are important not least because they expose other horrors. In the week after our PM Theresa May tells us that meeting President Trump is the biggest statement she can make about women’s equality and then hand-in-hand with said president ‘reassures’ us of US/UK special relationship it is both interesting and frightening to reflect on a couple of the Republican’s and the Conservatives’ newest policies. Early into his presidency Trump signed an executive order defunding any international development groups which give women or girls overseas advice on abortion and passed the Hyde Amendment (a clause that bans any federal money from helping to fund abortions) into law. Compare this to a development closer to home: whilst we were all focused on the new president’s inauguration the UK government pressed ahead with, amongst other things (see below), its previous proposal that women whose third child is born following a sexual assault should be forced to provide evidence of the rape or risk losing tax credits. 

But not to worry for in her first speech of the year Theresa May assured us of her commitment to a ‘shared society’.  Reiterating points already made in her 2016 Conservative Conference Speech she spoke of ‘burning injustices’ and healing divisions between ‘a more prosperous older generation and a struggling younger generation’ and  ‘between the wealth of London and the rest of the country’ between the rich, the successful and the powerful, and their fellow (not so rich, successful or powerful) citizens. 

Mixed Media 'No such thing as society' (London artist]
Having all ridden on the Tory unmerry-go-round of ‘no such thing as society’ (Thatcher 1987); ‘classless society’ (Major 1991); ‘responsible society’ (Hauge 2001); and ‘big society’ (Cameron 2005) we have begun to reflect on this latest Tory soundbite. Not a shared society but a scared society or a shred society say some. To me, the examples above (plus the many others I could have cited including tax breaks for the highest earners whilst public section pay remains frozen: a reduction in spending on mental health services and more and more) suggest that secret society or sneaky society are much more appropriate descriptors. 

The mounting evidence of secrets and lies concerning issues as wide ranging as knowledge of Trident misadventures and justice for Hillsburgh support such terms. As do the incredulous claims of ‘crisis what crisis’ and much evidence of absolute waffle, rather than straight talking. For an example, see this from a speech May delivered in's Trump's company: 

I have been listening to the president and the president has been listening to me. That’s the point of having a conversation and a dialogue ....

There will be times when we disagree and issues on which we disagree. 

If all of this is not enough to scare us about what might be next there's also the government’s support for plans to dictate who we can vote for (Labour seats are over-represented in proposed constituency boundary changes) and who can vote (only those with an ID card, only those who can speak English or Welsh) all whilst the Conservatives are under investigation for election fraud. 

I am shocked over and over again that the murmurs of discontent aren't building to a cacophony of rage. OK, so apparently Amazon has sold out of copies of Orwell’s Nineteen Eight-Four (and there’s a clever meme of a battered copy of Twenty Seventeen doing the rounds) and more of us are active on our tablets and phones, even on the streets, in ways we haven’t been for a while, or ever. BUT, we all need to do more to expose the secrets and to fight for a society that’s safe for us all to live in. We need real change in society not visionary buzz phrases. I appreciate that it’s hard to keep on top of everything for increasingly it feels like a 24/7 task to cut through the rubbish and the noise. Within this maze of competing stories and racket of anxious and angry voices it’s comforting to find someone to blame. And the Right and many members of the so called ‘moderate’ Left, well supported by the MSM, have found their scapegoat. . . LOOK AT CORBYN, BLAME CORBYN they tell us. But before accepting the smears and perpetuating the negative views we should ALL ask why? Has this man spent his nearly three and a half decades as an MP feathering his own nest rather than fighting for his constituents and for others both at home and abroad?; has he argued for war and for cuts, rather than for peace and compassion?; did he promise us £350 million a week for the NHS if we voted to leave the EU?; did he orchestrate a leadership challenge so that we wasted a summer focused on internal Labour Party struggles when we should have been fighting the Tories? NO, NO, NO he did not. But he does sometimes stumble over his words a little and on occasion he has a problem with his collar and tie. What a bastard!  

One of the most frustrating and frightening aspects of this particular distraction is that others on the Left cannot see, or do not care about, the hypocrisy of claiming that ‘we have more in common than that which divides us’ whilst at the same time engaging in very public personal, unconstructive attacks (on Corbyn and those that work closely with him or support him) often based on unproved or disproved ‘facts’. These people should know better. They (often) do know better. As my writing gets more critical I appreciate I’m flirting with a future LP suspension. So be it. More of us need to add our voices to others that are already speaking out about the irony of those that seem more intent on (re)gaining personal rather than governmental position and power whilst arguing that for the current leadership governmental power is impossible. Here I agree, as I often do, with Roger C. Thus: ‘Simple test, if you’re a labour MP and you’re not opposing the Tories then you’re not doing your job. If you’re a Labour MP and you’re attacking your own party you’re doing the Tories’ job’. In fact I’d go a little further and add: . . . if you’re a Labour MP, or Labour Party member or supporter, and you’re attacking your own party you're doing the Tories job. 

Whilst we continue to be encourage to look elsewhere the NHS is still in crisis. To add to the list of others who have been blamed (including the elderly, inappropriate A and E attendees, junior doctors, GPs) we have recently been told (again) that this is the fault of health tourists. Another lie for in reality this accounts for something between 0.25% and 0.50% of NHS spend. Theresa May insisted this week that our NHS is ‘not for sale’. And yet it seems that everyday we see more evidence to the contrary. The day of Trump’s inauguration was a busy day for the Tories as another of their actions was to advertise a contract valued at £515.0 million designed to recruit transport services to help ease mounting transport problems in the NHS. This includes public and private sector bodies even though previous such contracts have been unsuccessful in terms of reliability and regulation: 

The Private Ambulance Service in Essex claims  that “all staff are trained to the relevant standards required”. But some staff told the BBC they only had an hour's training to drive using blue emergency lights.  

In April 2016, The Guardian reported that “hundreds of patients [in south east England] including people with cancer and kidney failure… missed important appointments for treatment”. This was because the privately-run transport service was so unreliable. Some elderly patients waited more than five hours for an ambulance and many patients were left stranded at hospital due to [the] shambolic service.

We need to pay MORE attention to all this and to the many other examples of injustice and discrimination. We need to cut through the noise and challenge the misrepresentations. We need to take care not to get too distracted. We need to focus and we need to fight.