JK Rowling is right – the Labour leadership race is far from amusing

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Friday 02 September 2016 15:40
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The ‘Harry Potter’ author has been vocal on Twitter about her thoughts on the Labour leadership
The ‘Harry Potter’ author has been vocal on Twitter about her thoughts on the Labour leadership

JK Rowling moans that the Labour contest “IS NOT BLOODY FUNNY”. Does she imagine that some find the attempted coup against the democratically elected leader of the Labour Party amusing? That it is a laughing matter that neoliberal apologists in the PLP have shown far more enthusiasm for discrediting their own leader, the Labour membership and democratic socialism than they ever did for opposing the government?

The only laugh to be had from this sorry debacle is from Owen Smith’s assertion, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that the leadership race is “balanced on a knife edge”.

Bloody funny.

Andy Halewood
Bradford on Avon

Jeremy Hunt is misguided over his NHS plans

Jane Merrick is quite correct to say that Jeremy Hunt is too toxic for the junior doctors’ dispute to be settled while he remains secretary of state. It was astonishing that Theresa May kept him in post in her reshuffle after he has so spectacularly alienated the majority of the medical profession and been an abject failure, but if media reports are true, this may have been because no-one else was willing to take on the job. The fixed smirk and comparing himself to Nye Bevan seem calculated to provoke.

The junior doctors were unwise to vote to reject the offer which the BMA recommended they accept, but for the sake of the NHS the secretary of state should have reconvened talks. His intransigence is as much a factor in perpetuating this dispute as the junior doctors’ militancy.

The constant repetition that he is fulfilling a manifesto promise for a “seven-day NHS” is deeply misleading. There has always been a seven-day NHS for emergency care. Throughout my 35 year career in the NHS, with the last 22 as a consultant, I worked nights and weekends, without compensatory time off in the week. This did not mean sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring, but being “hands on” in the hospital, seeing patients, doing ward rounds, supervising junior doctors until late into the evening, or all night if needed.

If by a “seven-day NHS” the government means it wants elective surgery and out-patient clinics to happen every day, evenings and weekends included, then they are deluding the public if they think that by tweaking the contract of one group of health care workers but not providing any extra resources this can be delivered. As Professor Neena Modi, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said on the BBC’s Today programme, the NHS is barely managing to provide a five-day service because of the shortage of staff and resources.

In my own specialty of paediatrics a quarter of middle grade junior doctor posts are currently unfilled, and consultants are filling all those rota gaps in addition to their own work. This is unsustainable. Many trusts are struggling with huge financial black holes resulting from the extraordinarily difficult task of providing high quality and increasingly complex and expensive care to an ageing population, set against the impending melt-down of adult social care services after local government has been starved of funding.

All the government can promise us is more cuts!

Spreading elective work over seven-days doesn’t just need doctors. Theatre lists and clinics cannot function without the other people that make up the NHS team – porters, cleaners, nurses, laboratory scientists, physiotherapists, and radiographers to name but some. And if these people are going to be working more weekends and evenings then they need time off in the week instead. A seven-day NHS cannot be made by spreading the resources that already struggle to provide five day care ever more thinly. This is the point that junior doctors are trying to get across when they repeatedly talk about patient safety. I believe their fears are genuine, and are justified, and that it is unfair to paint this dispute as being all about pay.

So all this political blathering about a “seven-day NHS” is utter hogwash if the government are not prepared to provide extra resources to the NHS. It will not be created by forcing an unpopular contract onto junior doctors. Hunt has to go and be replaced by someone who really understands, as he seems not to, what delivery of a seven-day NHS really requires.

Dr Heather Smith
Bishop Auckland

In 2005 Jeremy Hunt co-authored a book called Direct Democracy in which he called for the NHS to be dismantled. Eleven years later, he seems to be making a pretty good job of it on his own!

Sarah Pegg
Seaford

What happened to Scotland’s commitment to immigrants?

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is no shrinking violet. How strange, therefore, that she’s been as silent as the grave regarding the 400 child immigrants at Calais who apparently have a legal right to be granted asylum in Great Britain.

In the run-up to the Scottish Referendum, Ms Sturgeon’s predecessor, Alex Salmond, proudly announced: "Scotland welcomes immigrants."

Why, therefore, is Sturgeon not being vocal in offering sanctuary in Scotland for these 400 immigrant children, who, in time, could help repopulate a new independent Scotland?

Andrea Hunt
Datchet

Doctors need to stop playing with patient’s patience

Having worked in the NHS for 44 years, during which time no one ever have me a 14 percent wage rise, perhaps it is time that these people realised that, actually, they not the most important people in the NHS, the patients are. In case they need reminding who “patients” are, these are the people who have contributed large amounts of money towards their education and training with no expectation that these doctors will actually stay within the NHS once they are qualified, but may, as these junior doctors keep reminding us, take those qualifications and skills abroad.

Perhaps now is the time to adopt a new revised training scheme where those wishing to become doctors either pay the full cost of their education or commit to working in the NHS for a period of, say, 10 years if they take educational funding for said training? Using withdrawal of their labour and the threat of potentially taking their skills abroad is not a smart move, the general public will not submit to this type of emotional blackmail.

Janet Sollitt
Address supplied

‘The Wall’ will never happen

Having spent 32 years in US federal service working in such fields as budget, accounting and finance, and contracting, I find Mr Trump’s comments regarding the building a 2,000 mile wall from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico absurd.

Since the US government is not going to fund one cent of the cost and Mexico has promised not to pay one centavo, the question must be asked what private contractor is going to use their corporate resources to start work on a project without some guarantee of payment. Simply following the money trail or the lack of a money trail consigns Mr Trump’s wall to the litterbin of history.

George D. Lewis
Brackley

A letter from the suspended

You report that Jeremy Corbyn will win Labour’s leadership election by 63 per cent to Owen Smith’s 37 per cent. This however is dependent on whether Labour Party staff can prevent enough Jeremy Corbyn supporters from voting (Woman blocked from joining Labour on basis she tweeted support for Greens, Independent 31 August 2016).

We are members and supporters of the Labour Party who have been suspended or barred from voting. It is standard practice not to inform those who are suspended what the reasons are but instead to leak that information to the press.

The Chakrabarti Report called for a “moratorium on the retrospective trawling of members’ social media accounts and past comments”. Yet Labour officials are openly defying this by trawling through peoples’ social media comments in order to find something “incriminating”. This is nothing more than a fishing expedition on behalf of one candidate.

It is one thing to investigate a specific complaint. It is quite another to deliberately target supporters of one candidate in order to change the results of the election. In a parliamentary election that would be considered electoral fraud and the person(s) responsible would be guilty of corrupt electoral practices.

Even when someone has voted, their vote can be fished out of the ballot box and nullified. We call on the Electoral Reform Services to either put an end to these practices or withdraw from administering the ballot.

If Owen Smith were to win an election in these circumstances it would not be accepted by members of the Labour Party.

Tony Greenstein
Jackie Walker
Nana Asante
Clare N Ayton-Edwards
David Brand
John Dunn
Teresa Dyble
Marlene Ellis
Jason Everson
Peter Gates
Andrew Godsell
Andy Gunton
Annette Harrison
Andrew Hardman
Simon Hinds
Allen Lane
Chris Lent
Philip Lewis – Vice Chair, Camden UNISON
Adam Soper
David White

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