While the election results are being picked over, the main question will probably be “why didn’t Keir Starmer do better?” The Labour Party is finding people who “invested” in the sunny uplands of Brexit are unwilling to believe the benefits promised won’t appear. So just like problem gamblers, they will keep faith until a reckoning happens. Until then, they will await the big win, to pay off all the emotion and financial support they have given. No one wants to look like they have been taken for a fool.
If anyone can coherently explain to the rest of us why the solidly Labour residents of Hartlepool have just voted in a Tory, I am sure we would be very grateful.
A sleazy government, the head of which blustered and postured his way through the coronavirus crisis to catastrophic and lethal effect; a government largely comprising rich people who went to public school; demonstrably true examples of them awarding their rich mates contracts they could not fulfil, thus wasting billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money; an 11-year period of Tory government during which they have shown no interest whatsoever in places such as Hartlepool except when they can win their votes.
It is a mystery to many why the rest of us now seem to be saddled for evermore with a Tory government thanks to voters like these loyalty-switching residents in, of all things, deprived areas. I have great sympathy with their feelings of neglect, but I fear they are in for a massive disappointment if they think the Tories are the party that has their interests at heart.
Perhaps it’s just a battle of the hair. People like Johnson’s unruly blond mop, and they don’t like Starmer’s rigidly controlled do. I can’t think of a better explanation.
Looks like it’s curtains for Sir Keir not Boris.
Dr John Doherty
Ships and giggles
Obviously only a fool would have ever believed that the NHS was going to be £350m a week better off as a consequence of Brexit but, just for the sake of comparison, I wonder how much it costs to send two gunboats out to intercept fishing vessels off the coast of France?
What should we call this latest fracas with the French around Jersey? I propose “The War of Johnson’s Codpiece”.
Where is my tax going?
I’d be very happy to see my income tax rate rise by a penny or two to increase funds for the NHS (Raise income tax by 1p to secure future of NHS, experts tell government, 6 May) but what, if any, guarantee would I be given that my money would be ring-fenced for that purpose? I would certainly not want it to contribute in any way to other government projects.
Right teams, wrong venue
Great to see two English football teams in the Champions League final. Not so great that it is being held in Istanbul.
The argument about venues has been around for years and the pros and cons are understood and seen as the price for European inclusivity. Fair enough. However, this year we have the pandemic to contend with and on this occasion it would surely make sense to play the final in the UK. Even if fan attendance is limited, it would surely be better to play here rather than traipse over to Turkey?
There would be costs of course but we are talking about two of the richest clubs in the world which, after the Super League debacle, might feel they could contribute as a way of doing something positive for the fans.
It has sadly become apparent that a small number of those who have been administered Covid-19 vaccines have suffered serious side effects, such as a rare type of blood clot.
Reported side effects remain extremely rare and do not diminish the importance of licensed vaccines in protecting against a very dangerous disease. However, the occurrence of side effects raises the urgent issue of looking after those of us who suffer adverse effects and whose life has been significantly impacted as a result. Unfortunately, current safeguards are not up to the task and are already failing those in need.
In preparation for its unprecedented mass-rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, the UK government announced last year that victims of serious side effects would be entitled to compensation from the scheme for harm caused by vaccines, the Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme. But this scheme is quite simply not fit for purpose and is causing further distress for victims and their families. The current scheme’s severe disablement threshold entails the proof of 60 per cent disability of victims, which is too high and not always well-adapted to potential vaccine-damage injuries, such as neurological conditions.
Meanwhile, its one-off payment of £120,000 is woefully inadequate and cannot compensate families for the long-term financial and emotional impacts of serious life-changing injuries or death. It is also well below court awards for similar harm, particularly as the latter also provides redress for financial loss such as lost income.
Victims of Covid-19 vaccines side effects require and deserve proper support from society in their time of need. There is a strong ethical argument in favour of caring for people, who have suffered side effects while doing the right thing in taking Covid vaccines, not only to protect themselves, but also to avoid harm to others and to protect health systems from becoming overwhelmed.
This moral duty is particularly apparent in the case of the young adults, some of whom have been working in frontline health and care roles. This age group is least likely to suffer serious outcomes from an actual Covid-19 infection but is more likely to suffer from the rare blood clots caused by the AstraZeneca vaccine. Members of it are also most likely to have families to support and yet their lives have been completely changed by the injuries they have suffered.
Worryingly, failing victims now can also undermine long-term confidence in the Covid vaccination programme, which is likely to become seasonal. Experience with mass vaccine rollouts over the past 70 years highlights the importance of taking care of side-effect victims and their families in a rapid and fair way. When 200 US children suffered from paralysis and 10 died after accidentally being vaccinated with a live polio strain in 1955, families had to fight for appropriate compensation. The result was public distrust in vaccine standards, financially crippling lawsuits for manufacturers, significant emotional burdens for many families, and the passage of the 1986 US National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
The UK’s own scheme of lump sum payments originated in 1979 as a result of long-standing lobbying by disability organisations and families of victims as well as government attempts to reverse declining vaccine rates against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. However, the effectiveness of the British scheme was already in doubt before the current mass rollout.
Only last July, Baroness Cumberlege made thoughtful and sensible proposals about compensation in a very well-received independent review of medicines and medical device safety. In November, we argued that Covid-19 vaccines are the ideal opportunity to implement those provisions by replacing the Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme with a tailor-made fair and equitable scheme providing swift support to those who are in need after having been vaccinated.
The time to do this before vaccines were rolled out may be over, but the opportunity to help those of us who have been harmed doing the right thing is not.
Duncan Fairgrieve, British Institute of International and Comparative Law
Søren Holm, professor of Bioethics, University of Manchester
Geraint Howells, professor of Commercial Law, NUI Galway/ University of Manchester.
Dr Claas Kirchhelle, lecturer in History of Medicine, University College Dublin/University of Oxford
Dr Samantha Vanderslott, University of Oxford
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