Monthly Archives: October 2013

Invitation to Windlesham Society Meet & Greet 16 Nov


I’m looking forward to attending the Windlesham Society’s event on 16 Nov in my capacity as the Society’s Planning Officer. Everyone is welcome to come along and you can raise any planning issues, or anything else, with me, and the other committee members.

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Teachers are heroes – support their strike today


Teaching is one of the most important professions in this country. Teachers are dedicated to giving the nation’s children the best possible start in life. What could be more important than that?

Today, teachers in Surrey Heath and in many other areas are striking and schools are closed. They are doing that as a last resort to protect their profession and their pupils.

Both of my parents were teachers so I know how hard they work, both at school and at home in the evenings and at weekends. Teachers have to prepare lessons and mark pupils’ work for hours and hours every week. They meet parents and treat every child as special and worthy of the best education they can provide. Teachers need to have graduated from university then complete a postgraduate course in teaching followed by a long probation period. They choose to go into teaching when they could earn more and have less stress by going into other jobs. The rest of us should be very grateful that they are prepared to make this sacrifice for the nation’s children.

The MP for Surrey Heath, Michael Gove, is also the Education Secretary. He has been attacking teachers and the education system since he took office. He proposes lower pay and much lower pensions for teachers, along with even higher workloads. He has allowed unqualified teachers into state schools which has endangered children such as at the Al-Medinah Free School. He has created the school places crisis where parents, including in Surrey Heath, can’t get their children into any of their preferred schools.

Teachers are heroes and striking is their last resort. This is their hour of need. I’m supporting them today, please show your support too.

Freedom of Information Act Reveals Shocking Increase in Waiting Times at Frimley Park Hospital


Press Statement 15 October 2013 – For Immediate Release

 

Freedom of Information Act Reveals Shocking Increase in Waiting Times at Frimley Park Hospital

 

A recent Freedom of Information Act request [see note 1] has revealed that waiting times at Frimley Park Hospital’s A&E department have shot up since the general election. The request was made by well-known local NHS campaigner Richard Wilson [see note 2].

 

The data supplied by Frimley Park Hospital Trust shows that in some months before the election as few as 1% of patients had to wait over 4 hours, compared with as many as 6.7% this year. Also, the typical waiting time before 2010 was often less than 2 hours. By 2013 most people were waiting over 3 hours in many months, an increase of over 50%.

 

Richard Wilson said, “The whole of the country is suffering a crisis in A&E and Surrey Heath is no exception, as this information from Frimley Park Hospital shows. This is a direct result of government policy. The Tory-LibDem Coalition have conducted a massive top-down reorganisation of the NHS. They are allowing ‘any willing provider’ to bid for NHS contracts. This is fragmenting and privatising the NHS which is Britain’s best-loved institution.”

 

On the situation in Surrey Heath, Richard Wilson said, “In Surrey Heath some doctors’ surgeries still use premium phone numbers despite this being banned in the NHS. This deters people from visiting their GP and makes it more likely they will have to use A&E. The out-of-hours GP service and NHS 111 phone number, which are both contracted out, cannot cope. Frimley Park Hospital is highly regarded by local people but, with these additional burdens, this winter could see its A&E department reach breaking point.”

 

Ends

 

Note 1: The data is available here: http://wilsonrichard.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/ae-wait-times.pdf

Note 2: Richard Wilson is a community activist living in Windlesham. He is 41 years old and works as an airline pilot. He was the Labour Party candidate for Bagshot, Windlesham & Chobham division of Surrey County Council on 2 May 2013. More information is here http://wilsonrichard.com/about/ or on 01276 479658 or 07939 273229 or richard_wilson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @windleshamrich

Waiting Times Crisis Hits Frimley Park Hospital


I have recently received this information by using the Freedom of Information Act: A&E Wait Times. It reveals a shocking increase in waiting times at A&E at Frimley Park Hospital. The typical time a patient can expect to wait to be seen has risen by over 50%, from under 2 hours to over 3 hours, since the Tory-LibDem Coalition came to power in 2010 and started a massive top-down reorganisation of the NHS. They botched the introduction of the new NHS 111 phone number which left people with no alternative but to go to A&E. Out-of-hours GP services, which are contracted out, also cannot cope.

The funds wasted on private contractors and unnecessary structural change could have been invested in improving accident and emergency care. Instead we now have a crisis across the county, including at Frimley Park Hospital which is highly regarded by local people and its deteriorating performance will be a great concern to residents nearby. Frimley Park Hospital serves Surrey Heath, the parliamentary constituency of Michael Gove the Education Secretary and Tory leadership hopeful, and Farnham, which is part of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s constituency. Gove’s and Hunt’s constituents will now be wondering how their hospital can cope through this winter when demand on A&E will increase.

In Surrey Heath some GP surgeries still use premium rate phone numbers despite it being forbidden for years. Even the local doctors’ group admits this deters people from using their GP and makes it more likely they will go to A&E. Regular readers will remember that I have been campaigning against this practice for some time.

The neglect of the NHS since the election in 2010 has been worsened by the Tory-LibDem Health and Social Care Act which allows “any willing provider” to bid for NHS work. This is fragmenting and privatising the NHS. Staff are demoralised and patients suffering.

Labour has pledged to repeal the Act but our work will not end there. As always, when a Labour government comes to power they have to clean up the mess that the Conservatives have made of the NHS. In 2015, Jeremy Hunt’s mess will be the biggest one yet. In 1997, Labour had to clear up after Thatcher and Major who had patients waiting on trolleys in corridors thanks to their chronic under-funding. By 2015 the situation could be even worse.

Even here, in Surrey Heath, the percentage of people waiting over 4 hours at A&E has jumped from 1% to 6.7%. The National Health Service is Britain’s best-loved institution. This winter people across the country will realise you can’t trust David Cameron with the NHS.

Local Campaigner Challenges Michael Gove on ‘Gagging Bill’


Press Statement – For Immediate Release

 

Local Campaigner Challenges Michael Gove on ‘Gagging Bill’

 

Well-known local community campaigner, Richard Wilson, challenged top debater and Conservative MP, Michael Gove, to defend the so-called Gagging Bill [see Note 1] which is being rushed through Parliament at the moment [see Note 2]. In a 20 minute meeting on 4 October the two men debated the effect that the Bill will have on charities and non-party political groups including Oxfam, 38 Degrees, The Countryside Alliance, The Royal British Legion, anti-racist groups and even small village societies.[see Note 3]

 

The Bill proposes reducing the amount non-party campaigning groups can spend from 5% to 2% of the limit for political parties. Also, the threshold annual spending where groups will have to register with the Electoral Commission is being halved to £5,000. The non-party groups and charities will have to include staff time in their costs too, which political parties don’t.

 

Richard Wilson said, “This Bill will tie up small local groups in red tape if they attempt to campaign on important local issues which might crop up in a future election. For example, if a village society asked candidates to sign a charter to protect the Green Belt they would be influencing an election and therefore regulated by this unnecessary law. I explained to Michael Gove that people want to have their voices heard on issues which matter to them and this law would have a chilling effect on democracy. Mr Gove said that people could join political parties if they want to have their say. I believe he is out of touch to suggest this. Many people are cynical about political parties and want to campaign on individual issues which this Bill would prevent.”

 

He continued, “If this Bill is passed in its current form then the only people who will be allowed to comment on important issues in the year before an election will be the big political parties and big newspapers like the Daily Mail. After the smear stories in the Mail recently I think most people will not welcome this.”

 

The meeting ended with the pair disagreeing on the Bill but Mr Gove did agree to tell his cabinet colleague Andrew Lansley, the Leader of the House, that he had received a strong representation from a constituent opposing the Bill. Demonstrations are scheduled outside the Houses of Parliament next week when the Bill will be debated in the House of Commons.

 

Ends

 

Note 1: The Gagging Bill is short for the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill 2013-2014. Part 2 of the Bill concerns non-party campaign groups and charities.

Note 2: The Bill was announced at the start of the summer recess and has already reached Report stage on 8 & 9 October 2013.

Note 3: The meeting took place at Michael Gove’s constituency office in Windlesham.

 

Richard Wilson is a community activist living in Windlesham. He is 41 years old and works as an airline pilot. He was the Labour Party candidate for Bagshot, Windlesham & Chobham division of Surrey County Council on 2 May 2013. More information is here http://wilsonrichard.com/about/ or on 01276 479658 or 07939 273229 or richard_wilson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @windleshamrich

What I told Michael Gove about the Gagging Bill


Yesterday, I finally had my chance to meet my MP, Michael Gove, and tell him about my concerns about the Gagging Bill. Its full name is the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill 2013-2014.

I had been trying to speak to Mr Gove about this for a month. When I turned up at his office on spec a few weeks ago I was bundled out the door violently. Anyway, this time I was successful in meeting him and although we were only allocated ten minutes, he actually gave me about 20 minutes of his time. Here is a two-minute clip outlining my intentions before the meeting:

When I arrived at the office I rang the doorbell and Mr Gove’s secretary opened it but wouldn’t let me in until I promised not to film. There are no signs saying filming is prohibited and none of the correspondence I have received from Mr Gove’s office mentions that he is camera-shy. I had brought my camcorder but I have to play by their rules, so I promised not to use it inside the office.

I only had to wait for a few minutes before going in to meet Mr Gove. In the waiting room there were large pictures of Conservative politicians on the walls. The most striking one was of a young William Hague. Sitting under his gaze was an uncomfortable experience for me!

When my turn came, I was allowed in to see Mr Gove in the company of two of his staff who took notes during the meeting. We were also under CCTV. The chief researcher started by asking me to promise I wasn’t recording the meeting. I promised again and turned to Mr Gove to ask if it would be a problem if I did record it. He said it would be. This surprised me because it makes it look like they have something to hide.

Rather than repeat what was said, I’ll post the video I recorded immediately after the meeting here:

It was good to meet Michael Gove and have the chance to speak to him a length. He doesn’t agree with me that non-party campaign groups are a vital part of our democracy nowadays, so I doubt he’ll press his cabinet colleague Andrew Lansley, to drop part 2 of the Bill as I requested. At the end of the meeting I pointed out that the House of Lords will undoubtably amend this part of the Bill anyway.

Mr Gove believes that if you want to have your voice heard you should join a political party. One way I could keep important issues like the NHS, the cost of living crisis and the environment on the public agenda locally is to attempt to be selected as a parliamentary candidate and stand against Mr Gove in 2015. I’m undecided on whether to do this but it seems Mr Gove is pushing me towards this.

Right wing press smear Ed Miliband’s late father


The most practical kind of politics is the politics of decency. – Theodore Roosevelt

In the last few days the Daily Mail newspaper has published articles and an editorial smearing Ralph Miliband, the late father of Labour leader Ed Miliband. They claim he “hated Britain” and was “evil”. In reality Ralph Miliband loved Britain and served in the Royal Navy during the war.

The Daily Mail complained about people not showing respect for the dead earlier this year. Now they smear a man who died 19 years ago.

These are the men who "hated Britain"

These are the men who “hated Britain”

In 1938, after Hitler had opened concentration camps in Nazi Germany, the Daily Mail was supporting fascists in Britain and Germany. The then proprietor, Lord Rothermere, the great grand father the Daily Mail’s current chairman, met with Hitler and publicly supported him up until just a few months before the start of the war.

The Mail’s attack on Ed Miliband by smearing his late father is an extraordinary new low for the right wing press. It makes me wonder what they will get up to in the next 18 months. Despicable though this is, the Tories know that negative, cynical campaigning works. David Cameron refused to condemn the Mail’s attacks and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt joined in today. It is clearly a coordinated attack and, it seems, the coordinator must be Australian Lynton Crosby, Cameron’s campaign supremo. This is going to get worse and worse in the run up to the general election.

Negative politics damages our country and its people. I’ve been subjected to personal abuse (like this and this and this), swearing, threats and even an assault by political opponents in Surrey Heath. The newspaper that said “Hurrah for the black shirts” would approve of these thugs too, no doubt. Social media is used as a weapon here by Tory councillors to abuse anyone who dares to question or analyse council policy. Local democracy is under threat too.

Ed Miliband has called for decency in British politics. This is much needed at every level. Heroes like Ralph Miliband fought to save our democracy, we mustn’t hand it over to unaccountable powers who smear and abuse. Let’s call them out whenever and wherever they cross the line.

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