Thursday 26 September 2019

Austerity Britain is no country, Rochdale no town and Yorkshire no county for and old Egg Trader called Peter Jordan

Rochdale, a town of  96,000 inhabitants in Greater Manchester, sits in the foothills of the South Pennines on the River Roch. It has a long history and was first recorded with an entry in the Domesday Book of 1086 under 'Recedham Manor.' By 1251, Rochdale had become important enough to have been granted a Royal charter and flourished into a centre of northern England's woollen trade.

In the Middle Ages it started life as a market town when weekly markets were held from 1250 when Edmund de Lacy obtained a grant for a market and an annual fair. At that time the market was held outside the parish church where there was an 'Orator's Corner.'

Rochdale rose to prominence in the 19th century as a mill town and centre for textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution and is the birthplace of the modern Co-operative Movement. The Rochdale Pioneers' shop was the precursor to The Co-operative Group, the largest consumer co-operative in the world.

Peter Jordan, who is 76 years old has worked at the market for years and known affectionately as "The Egg Man”, had been hoping to pass on his stall to future Jordan generations. This is not to be because  last week the local authority said the market, which is in its third location in five years, is no longer “financially viable” and will be closed next month.

Peter's grandfather first began selling his produce from his 768 year old farm in 1919 and next month the family would have celebrated their 100th anniversary as Rochdale market traders.

For Peter's fellow traders, who say they have been moved "from pillar to post,” this news of the closure of the ancient market  was death knell for their livelihood. The official letter told them they were being given four weeks’ notice to vacate their plots, with the last day of trading on Monday 14 October. The council says it was not contractually obliged to give any notice but wanted to give traders time 'to make alternative arrangements.'

Peter believes that the market is as relevant today as it was in the 1950s when as a teenager he started helping his father and said : “I have the same people coming every week, sometimes twice a week, to buy their eggs. They want fresh produce and don’t want to get everything from supermarkets.”

Fully in step with mean-spirited Austerity Britain and without a shred of reverence for Rochdale's long history a council spokesperson said : “Ultimately we can’t use public money to subsidise the market indefinitely when it is losing money month after month. We will help any trader who wishes to relocate.”

Peter said : "They think they can kick us out as if it means nothing to the town, but it means a lot to the town. But it's people in offices dictating the wishes of the people of Rochdale, so we will have to wait and see."

"A nation which forgets its past has no future."

Sunday 22 September 2019

Brexit Britain is a country graced by the soaring oratory of a Senior Lawyer called Aiden O'Neill

At the age of 59, Aidan O'Neill is scarce 'old' . As a lawyer on top of his game he was appointed Queen's Counsel in England and Wales in 2017 and in fact holds rare 'double silk' status, having became a Scottish QC in 1999.

He was in the news this week because of his combative closing comments, before the 11 Justices of the Supreme Court hearing the prorogation case to reject legal arguments advanced by the Boris Johnson Government that the courts do not have the power to intervene in his decision to prorogue parliament for five weeks.

His speech was delivered in the afternoon of the second day of the emergency hearing at Britain's highest court into whether the Prime Minister’s advice to the Queen, to suspend debates at a time of a national constitutional crisis over Brexit, was lawful.

In contrast with other lawyers who addressed the Supreme Court this week through detailed reference to past cases and subsections of law, QC O’Neill adopted a centuries-long historical perspective and an emotive approach to the nature of Britain's constitution.

His speech, which approached two hours in length, was rich in metaphors. For example, in making the point that the Court represented all four nations in Britain he said : "This Court is very conscious of the symbolism of its creation. I look down at the carpet, it notices what is being said. Symbols speak. Emblems are there for a reason and what we have before us is a Court which picks up four national emblems : a flax, a thistle, a rose and a leek, embraced in an omega - the last instance, embraced in a matrix and presumably, that imagery, that iconography is telling us that the Court cherishes, protects and nourishes the four traditions that together make up this Union. This Court will be well aware that we live in a union state. We don't describe this as a 'union state' but 'a state of nations.'"

He referred to a statue of Nelson Mandela outside the Court as "a reminder of civil resistance against unjust regimes and also a reminder of the triumph of truth and reconciliation, the reinstatement of the rule of law and enlistment of a properly constitutional court."

"Immediately outside the Court is a statue of Abraham Lincoln who, at a time of great constitutional crisis in his own nation, when it was questioning its fundamental identity said : "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies, though passion may have strained, it must not break our bands of affection touched as surely by the better angels of our nature."

"Those are the images, those are the matters, that is the backdrop against which this Court is determining the issues before it."

Thirty five minutes into his presentation he made the point that the Johnson Government was accountable to Parliament and Parliament was accountable to the people and the to say that the Government is accountable to the people is government by populism. "In the present case the Prime Minister's power to prorogue Parliament has had this intent and effect of impeding Parliament of holding the Government to account at a time when the Government is taking decisions which will have constitutional and irrevocable impact for our country.That fundamentally alters the balance of our constitution. That cannot be a lawful use of the power of prerogative."

His opponent sitting next to him, Sir James Eadie, provided excellent entertainment with his repertoire of body language which ran from boredom to what appeared to be despair. At one point he covered his eyes with his fingers and mute QC O'Neill by sticking his thumb in his ear and at another exercised a barely concealed yawn.

The QC urged the 11 Justices not to make this a “Dred Scott moment,” referring to the landmark 1857 US Supreme Court case that affirmed slave owners rights and paved the way to the American Civil War and “Instead stand up for the truth, stand up for reason, stand up for unity in diversity, stand up for Parliament, stand up for democracy by dismissing this government’s appeal and uphold a constitution governed by laws and not the passing whims of men. What we’ve got here is the Mother of Parliaments being shut down by the Father of Lies.”

His “father of lies” was a Bible reference to the devil, as Jesus in the Gospel of John says of him: “When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

QC O’Neill finished with  : “Lies have consequences but the truth will set us free. Rather than allowing lies to triumph, listen to the angels of your better nature and rule that this prorogation is unlawful and an abuse of power which has been entrusted to the Government. This Government is showing itself unworthy of our trust as it uses the powers of its office in a manner that is corrosive of the constitution and destructive of the system of parliamentary representative democracy on which our union polity is founded.

Enough is enough. Dismiss this appeal and let them know that that’s what truth speaking to power sounds like.”

Sunday 8 September 2019

Brexit Britain is a country with a Conservative Party which is no longer a home for two old Tory politicians called Ken Clarke and Nicholas Soames

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Born in the first summer of the Second World War in 1940, Ken Clarke is 79 years old and has been in politics for most of his life. In fact, he first became a Conservative Member of Parliament at the age of 29, fifty years ago. Earlier this week he joined 20 other rebel Conservative MPs to vote against his own Conservative Government led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Effectively, they helped block Johnson's "No Deal" Brexit plan from proceeding on 31 October. Subsequently, all 21 were told that they were no longer they were members of the Conservative Parliamentary Party and would be barred from putting themselves forward as Conservative candidates in a future general election.

In one fell swoop Prime Minister Johnson had put an end to Ken's 50 year career as a a professional politician. He is well-respected and is currently Father of the House and had held all the great offices of state under Prime Ministers Heath, Thatcher, Major and Cameron having served as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary, Justice Secretary, Health Secretary and Education Secretary.

Interviewed after his ejection he said that he no longer recognised the present Conservative Party, referring to it as "the Brexit party, rebadged". Referring to Prime Minister Johnson he said :"It’s been taken over by a rather knockabout sort of character, who’s got this bizarre crash-it-through philosophy … a Cabinet which is the most right-wing Cabinet any Conservative Party has ever produced."

Interviewed in the Observer today he reflected that he first became a Conservative MP when Boris Johnson was “a small toddler” and before he was born first came in Tory politics. He first attended a Conservative party conference as a student in 1962, where he supported Harold Macmillan’s application to join the Common Market against the fierce opposition of the imperialist wing of the Tory party and recalled : “I was one of the students who was going around wearing a ‘Yes’ badge.” Asked if he were a 20-year old student again would he make a different choice he said : “In its present state, I would not join the Conservative party. I would not follow Boris Johnson in this wild, rightwing nationalist stuff. The party wasn’t like that when I joined.”

Another Tory grandee and one of the 21, is the 71 year old Sir Nicholas Soames, who has served as an MP from the age of 35 in 1983. He hadn't risen as high as Ken in Government, but he had been a former Conservative Defence Minister and the grandson of Winston Churchill and he admitted that he, unlike Ken, had shed a tear this week when he was told that he had lost the Conservative whip for rebelling over a no-deal Brexit after 37 years as an MP : “I did blub actually, it was a sad moment. I was very emotional. I don’t want to end like this particularly as I am so far from being a serial rebel.” 

He told 'The Times' : “I am worried about the Tory party because . . . give or take the odd spasm we have always been seen as pragmatic, sensible, good at our job, sane, reasonable and having the interests of the whole country and now it is beginning to look like a Brexit sect.”

“My anxiety is that the Party which I joined 40 years ago was humane, principled, serious, decent, understanding, always One Nation Conservatives.” Now, “I have colleagues in my party who I look at and think I have nothing in common with them at all and they look at me and think they have nothing in common with me”.

He told the House of Commons : ‘I’m truly very sad that it should end in this way and it is my most fervent hope that this house will rediscover the spirit of compromise, humility and understanding that will enable us finally to push ahead with the vital work in the interests of the whole country that has inevitably had to be so sadly neglected whilst we have devoted so much time to wrestling with Brexit’

Friday 6 September 2019

Brexit-obsessed Britain is a country with a nation called England where old men in need of social care are lost in a "sea of inertia"

Britain in 2019 is a country where the failure of funding to keep pace with rising demand created by more and more old men and women living longer and longer, can be explained by the fact that nearly £8bn has been cut from Council Adult Social Care Budgets since 2010, which has meant that 1.4 million old man and women went without help, which means they no longer get help with basic activities such as :

* getting out of bed
* washing
* going to the toilet

In its Report 'Care in Crisis', the charity, 'Age UK', said services for older and sick and disabled people were 'under extreme duress' and unable to respond to rapidly growing need : 'Growing levels of desperation described by those individuals, families and professionals on the sharp end bear testament to a system working at full pelt, stretched to its limit and still failing people left, right and centre.'

It also highlighted fears that the market for residential care in England in many areas was failing, with half of councils witnessing the closure of domestic home care providers in their area in the past year and a third seeing residential care homes shut down.

Age UK’s Charity Director, Caroline Abrahams said the Report painted a “frightening” picture of what might happen to social care unless the Government intervened decisively to lift massive pressure on local authority social care budgets. “When you strip out the complexity the story is really very simple: demand is going up but funding and supply are going down, leaving increasing numbers of older people to fend for themselves, rely on loved ones if that’s an option for them, or pay through the nose via a hefty stealth tax without which many care homes would not stay afloat.” 

The Report is the latest in a string of recent reports highlighting the fragility of the social care system in the face of massive underfunding. The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said in June that the system was adrift "in a sea of inertia” as Brexit dominated Government Ministers’ energy and attention.

Again, will heed be paid to the cross-party Lords Committee, including two former Chancellors, which in July called for an immediate £8bn investment to tackle the long-neglected “national scandal” of social care which had left more than a million vulnerable older people without proper support ?

And should heed be paid to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who said in July that he had a “clear plan” to fix the social care crisis ?  In fact, subsequent reports suggest that, having shelved the long-delayed social care green paper commissioned by his predecessor, Theresa May, his own blueprint was unlikely to be published before the end of the year.

The fact is that social care services in some areas of England are so fragile that they face complete collapse next year and inestimable hardship to old men and women unless the Government commits substantial extra investment

Should old men and women in England best take heart when s Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said : “We have given local authorities access to nearly £4bn more dedicated funding for adult social care this year, and a further £410m is available for adults and children’s services. The Prime Minister is committed to fixing the social care system and we will outline proposals in due course.” ?

Tuesday 3 September 2019

Britain, awash with 'casual ageism', is no country for old men

SunLife Insurance Company has recently published the result of its consumer research of 4,000 men and women in Britain with a Report entitled 'Ageist Britain ?'

It made the point that if you type phrases like ‘old fart’ and bitter old man’ into Twitter and you’ll see they’re used thousands of times a week and casual ageism is part of our everyday language. It’s so ingrained that many ageist remarks are often overlooked, missed or simply accepted. In fact, ‘ageist’ language, however casual, can have a huge impact on our perception of later life for men and women and the way we treat people we meet and it perpetuates the myth that life for older men and women must be worse than before it.

Some statistics :

• over a third of Brits (34%) admit that they have at some time discriminated against people because of their age.

• almost half of Brits in their thirties (48%) admitted to having been ageist at some point.

• more than two thirds (68%) of over 50s say the ageism apparent in everyday life has made
them feel less valued.

• almost 1 in 3 Brits have experienced age discrimination at work, 1 in 10 on public transport and 1 in 7 while shopping.

• Southampton is the most ageist city in Britain with  46% of residents admitting to being ageist whereas Bristol the least ageist with only 20% admitting to being ageist.

• a fifth don’t believe that Britain is a good place for older people to live and 31% say they believe ageism is a bigger problem today than three years ago.

Ageist phrases directed at old men :

• Old fogey
• Old codger
• Old goat
• Old fuddy-duddy

• Decrepit old man
• Drive like an old man
• Grumpy old man
• Cranky old man
• Miserable old man

• Past it
• Over the hill
• Senile
• Out of touch
• Having a senior moment
• Silly old fool
• You can’t teach an old dog new tricks
• Ancient

Common terms that we think aren’t ageist, but are:

• Looks good, for his age
• Gentlemen of a certain age

Over a 7 day period ageist phrases were used on social media channels including Twitter and blogs 2,400 times and 125,684 casually ageist terms are used each year on social media.

 ‘old fart’ is used 436 times a week
• ‘bitter old man/woman’ 253 times a week
• ‘little old lady/man’ 308 times a week
• ‘grumpy old man/woman’ 168 times a week
• ‘ladies/gentlemen of a certain age’ 140 times a week

As a result of ageist behaviour directed at them, men and women in their sixties are most likely to feel :

• ‘less valued’ 73%
• ‘self-conscious’ 52%
• 'alienated’ 53%
• ‘unhappy’ 62%

Emma Twyning at the 'Centre for Ageing Better' welcomed the Report and said : “These subtle, but damaging messages, are everywhere, from the TV shows we watch featuring “doddery but dear” characters and the “anti-ageing” face creams we buy, to the constant media reports about the “burden” of our ageing population. The evidence suggests that this ageist societal narrative negatively impacts on our personal experiences of ageing and perhaps even our health and well being.”

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK, said : “Ageism must become as unacceptable as every other form of discrimination.”

Shelley Hopkinson, Public Affairs Manager at 'Independent Age', agreed, adding : “Part of the problem is that people often don’t even realise that the language they’re using can be ageist or cause offence”.