Drugs, Brexit Divorce Bill, Elections and Musings

I had not realised that it has been over a month since my last wittering. Many of you will be thankful for the silence especially my own son who’s has managed to embed himself into a political party and start campaigning in the UK’s latest election. I’ll get to that in a moment first lets talk NHS and drugs!

NHS

In the never ending debate about NHS spending in the UK – read across to other countries – let’s get a fact out from http://www.nhshistory.net/parlymoney.pdf

In 1950/51 spending amounted to £11.7 billion in 2010/11 prices, or 3.5% of
GDP. By 2010/11, spending had increased more than tenfold in real terms to reach £121bn, or 8.2% of GDP.
Although it has risen consistently over the period, spending has accelerated in recent years.
Between 1999/00 and 2009/10, real-terms expenditure rose by 92%

The Kings Fund has this for NHS in England in dismissing yet another politicians claim of how big an increase the NHS had received each year

Graph showing annual percentage change in real NHS spending

i.e. there has been a real terms increase in NHS spending in England since the 70s with 3 exceptions – so much for NHS cuts. The counter to that argument is that NHS costs have also increased ahead of regular inflation during this period and that is true in particular costs for new treatments i.e. drugs and they are treating more patients due to larger population size, but this is a pot % of a bigger pot as GDP has grown in the same period. There are within the numbers huge variations of what the money has been spent on – a new hospital, pay for cleaners, more doctors and nurses, radiographers, LGBT diagnosis, car parking executives, etc? But lets stick to Drugs.

Drugs

The drug market has recently been in the news with the perceived failure (in economic terms against improved life expectancy) of the UK’s National Cancer Fund. This was set up with the best intentions of funding nationally treatment that local health authorities could not afford. Thus transferring large amounts of money for very expensive drugs produced by pharmaceutical companies. Not surprisingly the results have not been as good collectively as everyone hoped. Some individuals have had very successful treatment, unfortunately most have not. This brings us to the bigger picture of drug companies, cures and such issues of the slow failure of antibiotics (due to over prescription and misuse).

Drug companies are not investing in research to replace antibiotics because there is no money in it for them. There is no money in any drug that produces a cure. What drug companies want is a population that is kept well enough to earn a living thus to pay for drugs that do not cure but keep the customer well. There is no cure for diabetes just a lifetime of insulin injections, blood tests and monitoring. Vaccines cure or prevent treatment is designed not to cure. The only answer to this problem is to either persuade leopards to change spots i.e. drug companies to work for the interests of the patient rather than shareholders or Government to be socially responsible. I have quoted before one terrorism incident provokes millions of tax money spent. Thousands of antibiotic deaths and risks of death provokes barely a whisper.

Brexit

Just a brief word on Brexit divorce bill for my European colleagues. Yes there will be a cost for commitments beyond Brexit date. the liabilities, but there is also a share of assets. Therefore, I presume the UK will be paid its percentage share of buildings, systems, IPR, stored wine, butter, grain, computer systems etc. Of course it appears that the rest of the EU want the UK to pay maintenance for the rest of the EU countries lives, like a distraught spouse who wants to stay in the family house and not work for a living.

UK Election

Both the elements above are key UK election issues. I know my pleads will land on deaf ears (or blind readers) but can we have proper facts. If a cut is claimed (See NHS) above please have the Oxford English Dictionary refine what the word cut actually means. I thought after Trump alternative facts might go on the back seat but no such luck. To add to NHS lets look at Education

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.XPD.TOTL.GD.ZS?locations=GB

The graph on that link shows a less than 1% reduction in Education spending as % of GDP between 2010 and 2015 since reversed and trending back upwards. This is in turn with a growing GDP i.e. higher % of higher total pot. Again internal inflation may reduce value of increase but it is not a cut. Spending per pupil – another measure may be down overall but that is because we have far more pupils than before due to net population increase, thanks to birth rates, lower death rates and better health care. Immigration may also have an impact but where more children come from is less important than the fact that there are more children living longer – I have covered this before. Normally we talk about age and long life pushing the population numbers up but higher birth rates and lower infant mortality do the same then 70+ years later add to the aging population. Just one example not in my local area and not a hotbed of immigration (unlike London), Somerset County Council had an increase in pupil numbers of 0.8% just between 2014 and 2015. This amounted to 521 pupils i.e. a decent sized primary school capacity needed. Have you noticed all the new schools being built, and the sewage systems, the roads the hospitals the…. You get my drift

I could also hope that people not actually standing in the election but in political parties might shut up for ten seconds so we can view the actual candidates – already a forlorn hope. Farage, Blair, Osbourne, Sturgeon I mean you. We then have the endless comments about voting for May, Crobyn, Farrow etc (other candidates are available) We do not have a presidency. For any one of these they first have to get elected by their area’s constituents. None of these people are standing where I live so I cannot vote for any of them. I can only vote for candidates standing in the area I am registered to vote. I continue to see commentators, media and the general public asked who they will vote for with the answer one of the leaders. All of these discussions are not in the the respective constituencies. Why is this question even asked?

Once elected as an MP, then ,if they manage to be the current leader of the largest political party (or other grouping), in the UK’s parliament, you may be asked by the monarch to form a government. If the numbers do not add up (326 MPS) you may still be asked if with other partners you can form a government as happened from 2010-2015. Sorry regional governments that’s why you still have national elections not regional ones Ms Sturgeon please take note, if you want a say on UK politics please stand as an MP and be accountable to your constituents to the UK Parliament otherwise please stick to running the bits of Scotland devolved to the Scottish Parliament. This specifically does not include foreign affairs, defence, security etc.

France

Of course by the time the UK goes to its national poll (we have local elections before that) France will have a new President. On current polls (can we believe any of them?) the likely winner on 7th May will be Emmanuel Macron and not Marine Le Pen. Here unlike UK they are voting for an individual. The whole EU leadership seems to be behind Macron as he is seen as pro-EU and business. Of course I am certain that no EU funds have been used to support any of the candidates apart from the funding all candidates in France receive from the EU – what you did not know that the EU funds political parties?

http://www.welcomeurope.com/european-funds/funding-of-political-parties-foundations-european-level-180+80.html#tab=onglet_details

It Almost Makes Sense

In the UK there are major restrictions on funding of political parties, hence potential prosecutions over expenses in the 2015 election, meanwhile the EU funds all sorts of groups and clearly the UK currently pays (via its net contributions) for this. Perhaps this is the real reason the EU wants funding to continue post Brexit. All those political parties and institutions are dependent on it just like a drug company wanting unwell patients that are never cured.

Not An Election Post

Aside

I was making a major effort not to write about the election. With this I have just failed – sorry.

First rant on the way is about coverage. This is a vote for MPs standing in 650 constituencies across the UK. The MP once elected is supposed to represent all the constituents not just the minority that actually voted for the individual, whatever the rosette.

Second rant concerns who we can vote for. I cannot vote for David Cameron, Ed Milliband, Nigel Farage, Nick Clegg or any of the other party leaders. They are not standing in the constituency in which I live. They are not standing against each other either. The constant portrayal by the media of the battle between them is factually and practically wrong. Another reason why the TV debates were farcical. Yes, as leaders of their parties they may be involved, if re-elected by their constituencies, with one exception for one leader. Nicola Sturgeon is not actually standing for Westminster but she seems to be the only focus of much of the coverage. She is so convinced that she knows what is right for the UK she has decided to stay as an MSP. This fact has not even received any coverage – democratic deficit anyone? Her former boss Alex Salmond is standing (after allegedly retiring) this reminds me of Putin becoming Prime Minister so that he could comply with re-election rules in Russia before returning as President. Is there something the SNP is not telling us.

It was supposed to be a six week campaign leading up to the vote on the 7th May but thanks to the new fixed terms it seems we have gone straight from the Scottish referendum into the General election. As I have previously covered, when discussing the referendum, the media seem to be totally focused on the role of the SNP and the likely results in Scotland deciding what the rest of the United Kingdom should do. Whereas in the referendum we had over 6% of the electorate deciding whether to breakup the UK we now have the potential for the similar 5% deciding who governs. The lower percentage is due to the 16 and 17 year-olds who could vote in the referendum but cannot vote in the General Election.

At the end of the 2010 election we had the Liberal Democrats forming a formal coalition with the Conservatives who were by far the largest party and had the largest share of the UK vote. The Conservatives missed out on forming a non coalition government by 23 MPs. The SNP in its public statements has already ruled out any support for a Conservative led government (although in the Scottish Parliament the SNP has in the past relied on Conservative support). The public statements have been made by Nicola Sturgeon the SNP leader who is not even standing in the election! She next stands for election in 2016 in the Scottish Parliamentary elections. Therefore she is saying that regardless of the result in the rest of the UK she will not support potentially the largest democratic vote.

Of course combined with Labour the share of the vote may well exceed that of the Conservatives, but previous results have shown this not to be the case. Boundary changes were supposed to correct the anomaly. Scotland’s 5% of voters 9% of population equates in Westminster MPs to 9% of MPs (59 out of 650). Polls seem to indicate that the SNP may win over forty of these, predominantly from Labour. As with public sector spending per head Scotland seems to be batting above its position. UKIP proposes to change this position by reforming the Barnet formula for devolved spending. Of course UKIP may have some MPs itself to support or otherwise any planned coalition.

Meanwhile the polls tell us it is too close to call but that some informal or formal arrangement nay have to exist. Labour has said no to any formal coalition with SNP. Liberal Democrats have said they will work with anyone depending on the results. The Conservatives only talk about overall majorities. If the Conservatives do have an overall majority will the SNP respect the democratic decision of the majority of the voting population?

Enough politics I have books to write!

Ramblings on a Referendum

IMG_0169 I’ve just returned from a week in Las Palmas in The Canary Islands of Spain, don’t worry this is not trip advisor. Away from the UK my wife and I missed the Scottish referendum election and much of the ongoing horrors in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine alongside the Ebola crisis. Not that these events have gone away, even the referendum will have ramifications for months in the UK as the politicians will decide which of the bribes they proposed to the Scottish electorate will be fulfilled – oh and England, Wales and Northern Ireland may get some constitutional change too. How generous, although the argument now seems to be either: from Labour on what the impact will be on reducing the ability of Scottish Labour MPs to vote on English matters; the Conservatives need something to continue their fight with  UKIP.
Meanwhile another group of MPs continue to receive their salaries and benefits of MPs without ever attending Parliament or taking up their seats. Sinn Féin step forward no news there.

As I discussed in a previous post the whole referendum process for Scotland was anything but democratic for the rest of the UK in the end 55% of those voting which was 85.5% (thanks for bothering, but what happened to the other 15%) of the 4.3m, or 3.6m decided the future of 64m. We had the unedifying view of all the main political parties disappearing to Scotland with vague promises on DevoMax which they had all decided previously should not have been on the ballot. Promises put forward by Gordon Brown, so we can all believe those!. I think the SNP were right to describe this as a pointless halfway house if Scotland really wanted control it had to vote yes. Further devolved powers do not make us more united. Of course the independence movement failed to mention the real problem – with so much legislation decided by Brussels or other treaty obligations even an independent Scotland would not have had that much control just like Westminster does not. That was if the EU (Spain may well have vetoed), NATO (would take defence commitments) and the UN (they will take anyone) accepted applications. What about the World Bank, IMF, World Health Organisation these international institutions are all part of legislative and economic power base of the world. Would an independent Scotland have joined the European Space Agency? Perhaps it was this and the currency uncertainties that tipped the balance in favour on a no. Who knows perhaps it was the colour of the flag that appealed.

The Liberal Democrats (remember them they are still in the Coalition) have proposed a federal organisation of the UK as part of the reform. My son who has studied this stuff likes the idea. If it creates another layer of bureaucracy which the previous Labour regional assembly proposals did then I would be against. Labour wants to follow the example of London for more power to big cities but then what about those of us that do not live in big cities? Whatever happens Parliamentary reform is long overdue we should have far fewer MPs given the devolved powers already and even fewer in the Lords. Perhaps 500 MPs with devolved powers to regional parliaments and 250 in the Lords – elected please.

Meanwhile the Pope thinks World War 3 is effectively under way due to the conflicts throughout the world. Not quite; however brutal and the number of conflicts. Clearly it makes no difference to the victims whether the Pope thinks it’s a World War or not but human history is full of mostly unreported conflict. The battles in Africa seem never ending mostly based on tribal divisions made worse by the colonial false borders. There seems no easy resolution of the Syria conflict without supporting Assad, the very man the Western powers (and others) wanted removed, in order to defeat the allegedly bigger threat of ISIS, IS or ISL.

The appalling beheading on video of hostages adds to the fear element in the West allowing/forcing the politicians to act as if that one death is worse than the death from Ebola, Malaria, AIDS, or cancer. Horrific yes but so is a bomb from a coalition aircraft or a shell from an ISIS fighter. Remember those wonderful pictures of precision bombing. Someone’s son, brother, father, daughter, sister or mother has just been publicly killed. No squeamishness from western media in showing that video, but of course the victims are not journalists or aid workers. Not that we know who was in the vehicle or building alongside the fighter. The famous unverified reports beloved of BBC speak especially when dealing with sensitive subjects, must not get in trouble with the government when the next license fee discussion is under way even to the point of not reporting a story about a famous tennis player in case his view influences (only during voting day) the Scottish Referendum – really? The BBC’s efforts not to fall foul or the Electoral Commission are sometimes laughable, just like the promises of constitutional reform which we will now have to sit through.