Paul Holmes asks Health Secretary if he will instruct GPs to get back to work


Portrait of Paul Holmes MP

On the 14th September Paul Holmes insinuated that GPs in Eastleigh haven’t been working

may I emphasise to the Secretary of State the amount of anger there is in Eastleigh about not being able to get a face-to-face appointment with a GP? He stood at the Dispatch Box and encouraged GPs to get back to work. If necessary, and if that uptake has not happened, will he instruct them to get back to work, so we can at least have face-to-face appointments for my constituents?

https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2021-09-14c.809.0&s=speaker%3A25808#g829.4

He referred to the pandemic easing when he publicised his question on social media, and talks about returning to normal on his website. Unfortunately this complacency, when deaths are still averaging 1,000 per week and cases are rising alarmingly in schools, is likely to prolong Covid related issues getting face-to-face appointments. Surgeries and schools are not getting the investment they need to improve ventilation and control the virus, and the government seem to have all but abandoned proportionate public health measures to keep cases down going in to winter.

Three days after Paul’s question in Parliament, four members of staff were injured in an attack on GP surgery in Manchester. The BMA said,

The narrative that GPs are refusing to see patients face-to-face is dangerous and inaccurate and it has to stop. We call on the health secretary to speak up openly and unequivocally in support of general practice…

https://twitter.com/TheBMA/status/1440236346434482184?s=19

Paul hasn’t issued an apology publicly but has apparently said this on an Eastleigh social media group,

Let me make clear from the start that I respect and thank our GPs for the work they do. I am the first to admit that I was called near to last in that statement after two colleagues raised the same issue. I wasn’t expecting to be called and had to quickly speak. It was unwise to say get back to work. I should have said get back to physical appointments more quickly, and I apologise for the implication of the question.

That seems like a pretty weak excuse to me and, while any apology is obviously welcome, it certainly doesn’t go far enough to counter the narrative that GPs are refusing to see patients face-to-face. They are seeing patients, and have been throughout the pandemic. He should be apologising in Parliament and asking the health secretary to condemn the scapegoating of GPs rather than reinforcing the myth that they aren’t working.

It’s also somewhat misleading to just blame the pandemic for the lack of access to GPs. Thanks to the Conservative party, it has been difficult to get appointments for a long time. My own GP practice has had issues and had to merge with other GP practices to survive. While Paul complains about practices merging as if it’s nothing to do with his government, I’d rather they merged than closed completely.

Somewhat strangely for an MP in the ruling party, Paul is apparently campaigning for better access to NHS services. He shouldn’t be campaigning, he should be demanding to know why his government is failing to deliver. The prime minister personally guaranteed 50,000 more GP appointments in the 2019 general election. They would help. Having fuel to get to appointments would also be useful.

Perhaps the 6,000 new doctors are just like the 50,000 new nurses, or the 40 new hospitals. Just another broken promise from Paul and his party. Just keep blaming someone else for the problems.

Advertisement

Product recall


I recently asked my MP, Paul Holmes, whether he would be voting to break the Withdrawal Agreement which he had been elected to deliver. I suspect his reply was similar to most Conservative MPs and it confirms that he has decided to break his election pledge to deliver the Prime Minister’s oven ready deal.

“There has been much speculation about the Government’s commitment to treaty obligations and international law. I believe that some of the commentary has misrepresented the situation.”

It is not speculation that the government intend to break international law, it is a matter of record.

“The end of the Transition Period is fast approaching, and with no agreement yet reached, the Government has proposed a safety net to protect the Union and ensure that the UK’s obligations under the Belfast Agreement are met.”

The end of the Transition Period is fast approaching because the government chose not to extend the deadline, despite it being obvious that the UK will not be ready. The Northern Ireland Protocol is the safety net, which was specifically intended to protect the Belfast Agreement even in the case that no further agreement was reached with the European Union. The Government may have finally understood what it signed up to but however much Paul regrets the Prime Minister signing the Withdrawal Agreement, it is too late. You cannot unilaterally change an agreement between two parties without consequences.

“There is no reason why these provisions should undermine the future relationship negotiations with the EU.”

I wonder if Paul might want to reconsider this risible statement after sleeping on it. Perhaps he has noticed that the EU has begun legal proceedings against the UK.

“Remedying the unintended consequences of the Protocol may breach the Withdrawal Agreement in a limited way but the consequences of inaction could break up the UK. I hope you understand that while I remain fully committed to international law, I have a duty to protect the integrity of the Union – the overriding purpose of this Bill.”

Wow, those are quite some contradictions! If Paul was fully committed to international law, he would vote to uphold it. If he cared about the integrity of the Union, he might start by apologising for his complete lack of scrutiny of the Withdrawal Agreement before it was signed.

Instead of threatening to renege on the fantastic oven ready deal Paul was elected to deliver, the government could still protect the integrity of the Union by reaching a comprehensive deal with the EU which respects the wishes of NI, Scotland, and Wales, which have so far been completely ignored.

Before the election Paul said,

“For me, it is a question of integrity and honesty. I am the only candidate in this election who will deliver on the referendum result and get Brexit done.”

We’re still waiting Paul.

State of the Union


Well.

If there was any doubt about why Paul Holmes was dropped in as the Johnson candidate for Eastleigh, there isn’t any more.

Strangely MPs seemed to be debating an extension to the transition period even though the deadline for extending it has already passed, and Paul’s contribution, which he tweeted about, was similarly detached from reality.

“We are here all over again. The ability of SNP Members to focus on their narrow-minded, party interests at a time of national importance is becoming legendary.”


The SNP has a way to go before they can compete with the Conservative party’s world-beating track record of focusing on narrow-minded party interests.

This is a time of national importance, with a great many more lives at stake as winter approaches. Unfortunately, instead of focusing on improving the government’s handling of the current public health emergency, the Conservative Prime Minister decided to waste time, money, and effort on a self imposed deadline that the country will not be ready for. The oven ready deal seems to have been substituted for a no deal Brexit which is certainly not what the majority of people voted for in Eastleigh, Scotland, or the UK.

“If there was ever a sight that shows why we must protect the Union, it was the vision of a Labour party that could not be bothered to show up, with SNP Members behind those Benches. If the Labour party ever has the opportunity to form the next Government, it will be at the price of a referendum on independence to get the SNP onside. Conservative Members do not back that at all.”

I would be very interested to know why Scotland should even need to ask permission to have an independence referendum, when the UK was able to hold the EU referendum without asking.

“The SNP has not changed much in not respecting referendum results. It lost the 2014 referendum, and yet it pursues that agenda, with no thought to getting on with the day job in Scotland. SNP Members lost the 2016 referendum, but they are now trying by any means necessary to thwart the will of the British people.”


The SNP may or may not have changed much since 2014, but plenty of other things have changed. Most obviously, as a result of the 2016 referendum, the UK has left the EU. (Just to clarify that once more, given the accusations of thwarting, the UK has already left the EU.)

It’s also now very clear what Scotland’s place in the Union is.

“This debate is once again a thinly disguised attempt by SNP Members to undermine democracy—nothing else. The irony of that is not lost on me.”

The current Prime Minister unlawfully shut down parliament in a blatant attempt to undermine democracy—nothing else.

“If they voted for a deal when they were offered one—three times—we would not be here today.”

I’m not even sure what Paul is complaining about here. Is he complaining that, like the current Prime Minister and large numbers of Conservative MPs, the SNP didn’t vote for Theresa May’s bad deal?

We would not be here today if David Cameron hadn’t gambled the country’s, and his party’s, future to settle an internal political argument.

“Knowing them, however, we probably would be.

Like any good Unionist, I read the newspapers north of the border. In these difficult times, we all have to spend a few more hours at home, and humour plays an increasingly important role in making sure that we can all get by, so you can imagine my reaction, Mr Deputy Speaker, when browsing The National, I found the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) was quoted as saying that Scottish taxpayers were “footing the bill” as the UK prepared to leave the EU. Indeed, without a hint of irony, SNP Members are trying to claim that they would somehow save money by being out of the Union and part of the EU, when we know that public spending in Scotland is 17% higher than the UK average. Treasury figures, verified by the House of Commons Library, show that per head of population, Scotland receives £11,200; England, £9,200; and my constituents in Eastleigh, £8,600.”

I’m not entirely convinced putting a border in the Irish Sea is the action of a good Unionist. I seem to remember Theresa May having quite strong views on that before the current PM made a sudden u-turn to sign the EU Withdrawal Agreement at the last minute. (Hopefully Paul stands by the international agreement despite comments from one of the previous Brexit secretaries.)

It seems somewhat ironic to be complaining about SNP Members saying they would save money by being out of the Union, when that’s exactly the claim made on the side of a bus in the EU referendum.

“I will always lobby for resources for my constituency, but I accept that that difference is the price that my constituents pay because we are stronger together—and we are stronger together as one United Kingdom.”

I wonder if Eastleigh constituents accept that is a price is worth paying.

“We are stronger together culturally, with our shared history, and we are stronger together economically. It was this Government who introduced the coronavirus job retention scheme, which has protected the income of 630,000 people in Scotland. It was the Government of the United Kingdom who have supported 146,000 self-employed people through the self-employment support scheme, and it was this Government—the United Kingdom Government—who have provided over £2.7 billion to the Scottish Government for rates relief, small business grants and grants for businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality sector.”

That’s all very nice but it makes no difference if people in Scotland choose independence. It’s not up to Paul or me what people in Scotland want, and I’m sure they would know what they were voting for.

“We need to ensure that we are prepared for Brexit and that our borders are fit for purpose. That investment will help us to maximise the opportunity created by Brexit as we continue to trade with our European partners and to forge new and exciting trade deals across the world.”

Paul seems to be confusing one small part of the ongoing cost of administering a border with more friction, with an actual investment. He is also somewhat vague about what the opportunity created by Brexit is. Eastleigh’s previous MP was unable to explain what the benefits of Brexit were when I asked, and I doubt Paul ever will either.

“While the SNP like to reject referendum results—the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) said that it was a narrow gap, but I do not think that 10% is a narrow gap—I take the expression of my constituents’ will seriously. It is a shame that the SNP do not do that for their constituents. My constituents in Eastleigh voted to leave the European Union, and I will support the Government as we make good on our promise to leave the EU and seize the opportunities presented by global Britain.”

Just to clarify, here’s some of what Eastleigh constituents voted for over the last few years:

  • 2015 – Five years of Mims Davies as MP and David Cameron as PM (something about not wanting chaos if I remember correctly)
  • 2016 – To leave the EU (54% which polling showed had dropped to 49.3% by 2018)
  • 2017 – Five years of Mims Davies as MP and Theresa May as PM (something about being strong and stable)
  • 2019 – Five years of Paul Holmes as MP and Boris Johnson as PM (something about being oven ready)

We’re getting used to being disappointed; we didn’t even get Mims for the full five years! At no point did we vote for any specific Brexit, and certainly not Brexit at any cost.

The Conservative party has never respected the referendum result, or sought to build a consensus on a new relationship with the EU. Instead they have treated the referendum, the UK, and particularly remain voting Scotland with utter contempt.

As for promises, the Prime Minister made very clear promises to EU citizens during the referendum campaign which has not kept. Similarly, Paul Holmes made a commitment to EU citizens in the last election campaign which he has so far not kept either. The way EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU have been treated by the government since the referendum is beyond shameful.

The increasingly likely no deal end to the transition period at the end of the year is nothing like what was on offer in the referendum.

“The SNP should focus on the day job to fix the lack of educational attainment that harms Scottish children; to fix their dire record in government and public service; and to stop the political gimmicks.”

It would be nice if Eastleigh’s MP could focus on his day job instead of complaining about Scottish MPs representing their constituents, or complaining about decisions made by local politicians. There’s a likely second wave of Coronavirus coming, and the country needs to get ready for Brexit at the same time.

“We deliver; they delay.”

This would be funny if the government’s ongoing dither and delay in tackling the Coronavirus pandemic wasn’t causing thousands of unnecessary deaths.

“It is time to get Brexit done, and I will vote against the motion this evening.”

Brexit wasn’t done by last Christmas, and it won’t be done by this Christmas. We have however already left the EU, and there isn’t anything MPs can do to delay the end of the transition period now even if they wanted to. Let’s hope we don’t all come to regret that.

 

MPs can stop a no deal Brexit, but they won’t


There has been much talk of how difficult it will be to stop the new government crashing the UK out of the EU without honouring our international commitments.

As things stand, our new prime minister has declared that he is abandoning the deal the previous government he was part of agreed with the EU at the end of last year, and in particular the commitment we made to a backstop a year before that. All this despite having no mandate to do so, either through a general election or referendum.

There are still likely to be several ways to prevent a no deal outcome and, just to spread a bit of optimism, here’s one which might work.

Alarm signal. Penalty for improper use.

Photo © 2013 Les Chatfield (CC BY 2.0)

Time for parliament to actually take back control; here’s how.

Step 1: Keep Parliament Open

Incredible that this even needs saying but parliament needs to avoid being shut down by the latest PM with totalitarian tendencies.

I’m hoping this is actually borderline paranoia because it would be really really stupid to try and shut parliament out of the most far reaching constitutional change facing the country in my lifetime, especially when its stated position is that no deal is unacceptable.

If you’ve watched the history channel, you know that shutting down parliament doesn’t end well.

Fortunately MPs have already put some measures in place to reduce the chance that the PM will be able to abuse his powers. There is also a CrowdJustice campaign that is taking legal action to prevent parliament being suspended.

Hopefully step one is the easy bit!

Step 2: Vote of No Confidence

Enough trying to seize the order paper for the day, or hijacking legislation, the government is treating parliament and the country with contempt, and it’s time to do something about it.

Unfortunately my understanding is that a vote of no confidence must be tabled by the leader of opposition. (I’m sure it’s not quite that clear cut but he could table one if he could be bothered.)

The problem is he was so keen to start the summer break that he forgot he was meant be tabling a vote of no confidence. You would think he would have set a reminder or something given Labour policy is to have a general election. At least I think that’s their policy, it’s kind of hard to tell.

Anyway, assuming the current leader of the opposition is still unwilling to help, we need a new one. Labour aren’t going to elect a useful leader any time soon, so we need a new official opposition, which is going to require a lot of MPs to put the country before their party, and their careers.

Enough MPs need to switch from their current party to a “National Unity” party for it to be large enough to take over from Labour as the official opposition.

Ideally they would come from all parties, but the majority will need to come from Labour a bit like a supercharged independent group mass resignation. They could even just rename the party formerly known as Change UK (again) if that would help!

Unfortunately step two is where this plan fails. Too many MPs still seem to fail to grasp just how serious thus is, even the ones saying it’s serious. Still, here’s the rest just for fun.

Step 3: Form Government of National Unity

Assuming the no confidence motion is carried, MPs must form a new government of national unity in two weeks to avoid parliament being closed down for a general election. (That would be bad because you know who would still be in charge as the article 50 extension runs out.)

This requires enough MPs to have confidence in the newly formed government of national unity, either with even more MPs moving to the new party, through coalitions, confidence and supply agreements, or a mixture of all these.

Step three also has zero chance of happening. Sorry, this is supposed to be full of British optimism, so onward to the tricky bit!

Step 4: Stop No Deal Brexit

Unlike the post-fact government which has just forced it’s way in to number 10, a government of national unity needs to remember it does not actually have a new mandate and must not therefore over reach.

The most it should do is prevent a no deal Brexit and provide the country the time and space to choose what happens next in a calm and reasonable way.

Remember, Vote Leave’s Boris Johnson pledged that “After we Vote Leave, there won’t be a sudden change that disrupts the economy…. We won’t rush into it. When we do make changes we will make them carefully.” It’s about time we stopped rushing to crash out into a legal limbo at the end of October for no good reason.

There are a few possible options:

  • Pass the WA and get all required legislation through to safely enter the transition period (requires a new session of parliament)
  • Hold a referendum (requires agreement on the question to ask etc. Good luck!)
  • Revoke article 50 (the best way to start over with clear heads)

Note: the first two options will need the EU to agree another extension.

Almost there!

Step 5: Call a General Election

Having prevented a no deal Brexit, we’ll quickly need a new government with a strong mandate to confront the huge political debt left over from the last few years. (Sure, you could have had chaos with Ed Miliband, but that would have been so dull.)

Well I never said it was a good plan, but at least it didn’t involve The Queen! Have you got any better ideas? Someone must have!

Whatever happens next, every MP will be responsible.

Decisions, decisions


I was caught unprepared by an actual parliamentary candidate knocking on the door this evening! Unfortunately I was about to bath the kraken so I didn’t have time to come up with any sensible questions. Still, it’s about time I took an interest in the election…

It’s not long since I last got to vote for an MP and, like last time, I’m undecided. Unfortunately there aren’t as many candidates to choose from this time, with the final list being:

  • Declan Clune (TUSC)
  • Patricia Culligan (UKIP)
  • Mims Davis (Conservative)
  • Ray Hall, Beer (Baccy and Scratchings)
  • Mark Latham (Labour)
  • Ron Meldrum (Green)
  • Mike Thornton (Lib Dem)

There’s more information about all the Eastleigh candidates on YourNextMP, which was handy for finding most of them on twitter. At some point I hope to get round to contacting all the candidates with a few questions and, if I do, I’ll post any responses in case it helps anyone else. The first source of inspiration I’ve spotted is the Open Rights Group general election party manifesto wiki.

Early impressions are:

Hopefully I’ll have more to go on by 7th May! If anyone has any thoughts, including any of the candidates, please leave a comment.

Nothing better to do?


MPs must have finished debating all the important issues recently because now they’re getting all flustered by a European Court of Human Rights ruling that a blanket ban on prisoners voting is unlawful. If the primary purpose of prison is punishment, then I would have thought it would be better to keep inmates slopping out rather than taking their vote away.

The suggestion that keeping the ban on voting for some prisoners while allow others to vote also seems fairly pointless. Why even worry about where to draw the line? If my calculations are right, the entire prison population is less than a single constituency like the Isle of Wight. Even then, it seems optimistic to think that voter turnout in prisons would reach the heady heights of around 65% outside prisons. It looks like only 4% of prisoners even registered to vote in the Republic of Ireland.

Giving prisoners the right to vote is hardy going make any difference to re-offending rates is it? So just give them all a vote and stop whining. I do understand why a lot of people don’t like the idea of prisoners getting votes, but who likes the idea of bankers getting bonuses? And how’s that working out?!

Photo © Andrew Bardwell cc by-sa 2.0

Digital House Arrest


The Digital Economy Bill is exactly the kind of ill-considered law I have come to expect from the current government, however I am very disappointed in the apparent lack of opposition from the other parties.

Today I received a reply from my MP, Chris Huhne, following my email and letter to him about the bill, unfortunately I had already read the same response on the Liberal Democrat Voice before his letter arrived. I appreciate the time he took to reply but the LibDem team will only be getting half a cheer from me, and here’s why.

Chris begins his letter by largely supporting the Digital Economy Bill, stating that many aspects of the bill are vitally important to the UK’s creative industries. Having read the bill, I just don’t believe that. For a start, the bill has very little to do with a digital economy, containing a pick ‘n’ mix of barely related clauses (‘wide ranging’ in politician speak):

Tinkering with Television and Radio Broadcasting Bill

Chris is happy that the bill changes Channel 4’s remit, changes regional news on ITV and plans to make all my analog radios useless. Apart from buying new radios to listen to the same thing, will anyone notice? There’s also some stuff in there on radio licenses and it looks like the days of teletext are numbered.

Are you Really Old Enough to be Playing that Video Game Bill

Chris also supports classification of computer games. Well at least anyone who isn’t old enough will know which games to get hold of to impress their mates.

We are Aware There are Some Problems with Copyright Laws and This is the Best we Could Come up with Bill

The Liberal Democrats support the creative industries, so I’m puzzled that Chris doesn’t even mention the “Extension and regulation of licensing of copyright and performers’ rights” clause. Strangely, some current copyright holders don’t seem too keen to get this kind of support. I’m not surprised given how little respect some creative industries have for copyright already. Public lending also gets a spit and polish for audio books and e-books.

So from my quick flick through, that’s all the vitally important parts of the bill (?) leaving…

Enforcing Copyright Yourself is Just Such a Bore Bill

Before going any further, I should make it absolutely clear that I am not fundamentally opposed to copyright law, and I actually work in an industry where copyright protection is important. That said, I personally think that copyright laws should be an incentive for the creative industries to, well, create new content. I have been concerned for a long time that neither the public nor creative individuals get a particularly fair deal from the current arrangements. As with the law in general, the odds are stacked in favour of people with the most money and this bill only makes matters worse.

Without any new legislation, the creative industries should already be able to take action against illegal downloading using the internet, in the same way they can take action regardless of how the illegal copyright material was obtained. Apparently that’s not good enough, so under the guise of a digital economy bill, they want new powers to protect the old economy.

There are plenty of things the creative industries could do to help themselves. I suggest that first on the list for them to try would be to stop treating their paying customers with such contempt. I hope they’ve already stopped installing dangerous software on my computer without my permission, but how about competing with the pirates to make watching a DVD more enjoyable, or allowing me to watch a DVD I’ve paid for where ever I want to, or not changing your mind after you sold me something? With this kind of behaviour I would expect any changes of the law to include more regulation for the creative industries, not more protection for them. It’s ironic that none of the quarter of a million creative people who’s jobs are allegedly at risk can come up with some better ideas, especially given that they really should have the most to gain from a digital economy.

Access to the internet may not be a fundamental right, but how can you seriously expect to have a digital economy if people are at risk of digital house arrest? As I told Chris Huhne, I don’t believe disconnection is a proportional response even if it did only effect one person, who was proved to have downloaded something illegally beyond reasonable doubt. Would you stop someone leaving their house if they came home from the market with counterfeit jeans? How can we have a digital economy when a single industry has a veto over whether any other industry can do business with their customers over the internet? Access to online government services? No. Online bank account? No. Paperless billing? Think again. Internet shopping? Not any more. Working at home? Time for a holiday. NHS Direct? Please phone… unless you’re using Skype of course. Smart metering? The lights are on but no-one’s home.

This is by no means a full discussion of the issues, but then I’m not in parliament where all of these issues and more should be getting some serious debate. Sadly there’s a chance no one will be able to have that debate in parliament. Oh well, good luck UK plc, you’re going to need it.

Update: A few related posts generated manually to go with the ones WordPress found. (28 March 2010)

Update: A couple of Guardian articles on the Digital Economy Bill (31 March 2010)

Update: A depressing day following the #debill debate, but a found a few more articles along the way. (6 April 2010)

After today’s idiotic debate in parliament, I wonder if more people might be tempted to stand for election to show politicians that they can’t just push whatever they like through parliament when no one is looking. The close of nominations is 4 pm on Tuesday 20 April 2010 and for a coordinated effort there’s a deadline of 12 April 2010 to register a new party. Just a thought.

Update: No big surprise that the bill went through the washup, demonstrating the poor state of the UK democracy along the way. (8 April 2010)

Let’s just hope that candidates get some tough questions on the subject when they’re out campaigning.

Update: The morning after… (9 April 2010)

And finally, someone who will be keeping my vote: TalkTalk!