Archive for September, 2012

Sustained quality in Journalism

September 30, 2012 Leave a comment
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£1m carve-up: Tories rake in donations from fatcats hoping to cash in on NHS privatisation

September 29, 2012 Leave a comment

The Mirror 29 Sep 2012 00:00

£1m carve-up: Tories rake in donations from fatcats hoping to cash in on NHS privatisation

Shareholders in the company Circle Health – the first private firm to take over an NHS hospital – have given the Conservatives over £1.4m

The Tory Party has raked in more than £1million in donations from City executives set to make a fortune from its plans to privatise large swathes of the NHS.

We can today reveal fatcat shareholders in the company Circle Health – the first private firm to take over an NHS hospital – have given the Conservatives over £1.4million.

Our research also shows that overall David Cameron’s party has been given more than £10million from those with links to private health.

Labour yesterday said the donations, made since 2001, lifted the lid on the cosy relationship.

And it accused the Tories of “carving up” the NHS for their wealthy chums in big business.

The revelations come days after new Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt shortlisted Circle Health’s spin chief Christina Linnet to be his new media boss.

She previously worked for former Conservative Health Secretary Andrew Lansley before the Tories came to power.

Official records also show Tory MP Mark Simmonds is paid £50,000 a year by Circle for 10 hours’ work a month.

The links between private health companies and the Conservative Party became a matter of public debate after Circle was last year handed a 10-year contract worth £1.2billion to take over the failing Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridgeshire.

Its directors think the contract is the first of many – and have set out business plans to clinch NHS bids worth more than £8billion.

The company’s controversial takeover of the hospital came despite admissions in a document released to the stock exchange that patient care could suffer.

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham yesterday attacked the relationship between profit-making private health companies and the Government.He said: “The Great NHS Carve-Up is well under way and it probably won’t surprise anyone to learn that friends of the Tory Party are doing very nicely out of it. But, even so, people will be taken aback by the sheer extent and intimacy of the links between Circle Health and the Conservative Party.

“It doesn’t look or smell at all good given Circle’s success and high profile under this Government.

“It leaves the Prime Minister with serious questions to answer.

“He should publish a list of all contact between his Government and Circle so people can judge whether it is appropriate.”

The donations to the Tories – from those linked to the takeover of Hinchingbrooke hospital – came from four City execs in giant investment companies that have large stakes in Circle.

The firm’s leading shareholders are Lansdowne Partners, Invesco Perpetual, BlueCrest and Odey Asset Management.

Lansdowne Partners holds a 29% stake, Invesco Perpetual 21.9%, Odey Asset Management 21.1% and BlueCrest Capital 7.1%.

The boss of Lansdowne Partners, Sir Paul Ruddock, has donated £630,000.

The CEO of Odey Asset Management Crispin Odey has given £242,000, Sir Martyn Arbib of Invesco Perpetual £413,000 and BlueCrest founder Michael Platt £125,000.

The companies said there was no link between the donations to the Tories – made privately by individuals and not by the firms – and each company’s business investments.

Lansdowne Partners said its chief executive Sir Paul did not decide which companies his firm invested in.

And BlueCrest insisted any donation from Mr Platt had no bearing on its business investments.

The Tories said the original decision to give a private firm the chance to run Hitchingbrooke hospital was made by Labour in March 2010.

A spokesman added: “All donations to the Conservative Party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with Electoral Commission rules.”

Labour calls for review of sickness benefits assessment

September 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Finally some movement from a member of the Shadow cabinet with responsibility for the DWP remit,,,,




The root of Europe’s riots

September 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Throughout the 1980s and 90s, when many developing countries were in crisis and borrowing money from the International Monetary Fund, waves of protests in those countries became known as the “IMF riots”. They were so called because they were sparked by the fund’s structural adjustment programmes, which imposed austerity, privatisation and deregulation.

The IMF complained that calling these riots thus was unfair, as it had not caused the crises and was only prescribing a medicine, but this was largely self-serving. Many of the crises had actually been caused by the asset bubbles built up following IMF-recommended financial deregulation. Moreover, those rioters were not just expressing general discontent but reacting against the austerity measures that directly threatened their livelihoods, such as cuts in subsidies to basic commodities such as food and water, and cuts in already meagre welfare payments.

The IMF programme, in other words, met such resistance because its designers had forgotten that behind the numbers they were crunching were real people. These criticisms, as well as the ineffectiveness of its economic programme, became so damaging that the IMF has made a lot of changes in the past decade or so. It has become more cautious in pushing for financial deregulation and austerity programmes, renamed its structural adjustment programmes as poverty reduction programmes, and has even (marginally) increased the voting shares of the developing countries in its decision-making.

Given these recent changes in the IMF, it is ironic to see the European governments inflicting an old-IMF-style programme on their own populations. It is one thing to tell the citizens of some faraway country to go to hell but it is another to do the same to your own citizens, who are supposedly your ultimate sovereigns. Indeed, the European governments are out-IMF-ing the IMF in its austerity drive so much that now the fund itself frequently issues the warning that Europe is going too far, too fast.

The threat to livelihoods has reached such a dimension that renewed bouts of rioting are now rocking Greece, Spain and even the usually quieter Portugal. In the case of Spain, its national integrity is threatened by the separatist demand made by the Catalan nationalists, who think the austerity policy is unfairly reducing the region’s autonomy.

Even if these and other European countries (for other countries have not been free of protests against austerity programmes, such as Britain’s university fees riot and the protests by Italy’s “recession widows”) survive this social unrest through a mixture of heavy-handed policing and political delaying tactics, recent events raise a very serious question about the nature of European politics.

What has been happening in Europe – and indeed the US in a more muted and dispersed form – is nothing short of a complete rewriting of the implicit social contracts that have existed since the end of the second world war. In these contracts, renewed legitimacy was bestowed on the capitalist system, once totally discredited following the great depression. In return it provided a welfare state that guarantees minimum provision for all those burdens that most citizens have to contend with throughout their lives – childcare, education, health, unemployment, disability and old age.

Of course there is nothing sacrosanct about any of the details of these social contracts. Indeed, the contracts have been modified on the margins all the time. However, the rewriting in many European countries is an unprecedented one. It is not simply that the scope and the speed of the cuts are unusually large. It is more that the rewriting is being done through the back door.

Instead of it being explicitly cast as a rewriting of the social contract, changing people’s entitlements and changing the way the society establishes its legitimacy, the dismembering of the welfare state is presented as a technocratic exercise of “balancing the books”. Democracy is neutered in the process and the protests against the cuts are dismissed. The description of the externally imposed Greek and Italian governments as “technocratic” is the ultimate proof of the attempt to make the radical rewriting of the social contract more acceptable by pretending that it isn’t really a political change.

The danger is not only that these austerity measures are killing the European economies but also that they threaten the very legitimacy of European democracies – not just directly by threatening the livelihoods of so many people and pushing the economy into a downward spiral, but also indirectly by undermining the legitimacy of the political system through this backdoor rewriting of the social contract. Especially if they are going to have to go through long tunnels of economic difficulties in coming years, and in the context of global shifts in economic power balance and of severe environmental challenges, European countries can ill afford to have the legitimacy of their political systems damaged in this way.

Latest Mental Health Foundation Newsletter

September 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Campaign launched to prevent suicide

Each year in the UK, twice as many people die by suicide than lose their lives in road traffic accidents.

U Can Cope is a film that promotes the messages that anyone can experience suicidal thoughts, there is always hope and there is always somewhere to find help. Please share the film to spread these extremely important messages.

Launched on World Suicide Prevention Day earlier this month, the film was produced in collaboration with the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Connecting with People and other professional and voluntary organisations.

Paul Bristow, Head of Communications

Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival
Our sixth annual Mental Health Arts & Film Festival takes place across Scotland from 1-25 October.

This year’s theme ‘walk in my shoes’ celebrates diversity and understanding, reflected in the wide range of events that make up the programme of film, theatre, music, dance, comedy, literature and visual arts.

Now the biggest festival of its kind in Europe with hundreds of events each year, the full programme of events is now available.

Build your resilience to depression
Depression: a Global Crisis is the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day on 10 October.

Depression can affect anyone and is predicted to be the leading cause of global disability burden by 2030, according to the World Health Organisation.

We want everyone to look after their mental wellbeing and increase their resilience to common problems such as depression. You can start now by finding out ten easy ways to look after your mental health or by downloading our free booklet.

Talking is good for you!
Join us to mark World Mental Health Day by holding a Tea & Talk fundraising event.

Spending time with other people and talking about your feelings is good for your mental health.

All you need to do is get together a group of friends, family or colleagues then have a cuppa, a natter and ask them to make a donation.

You can access lots of free resources for your event including a quiz to get you talking about mental health.

How do you feel?
We’ve been working hard for many years to reduce the stigma and discrimination linked to mental health. We believe people are becoming more comfortable talking about common mental health problems such as depression.

But we’d really value your opinion on this and we’d like to know are you comfortable talking about depression? Tell us by replying to this email with Yes or No as the subject line or email us at In return for sharing your view you’ll be entered into a draw to win a copy of The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook.

Your feedback will help us to know what’s important to our supporters and inform our future priorities. We will share the results with you in next month’s newsletter. We won’t share your feedback with any other organisation or use it for any other purpose.

Win great prizes and support mental health
There’s still time to enter our raffle to help raise funds to support our work. 

We’ve got some great prizes up for grabs including a year’s supply of cake and signed Franz Ferdinand albums.

Find out more about how to enter and the prizes you could win or reply to this email for more information.

The draw takes place on 31 October so don’t wait too long to enter!

How to improve access to psychological therapies?
Only a fraction of the millions of people suffering from mental illness have access to treatments, according to a report from the London School of Economics.

Our Head of Policy, Simon Lawton-Smith, has written a blog about current psychological therapy provision and our campaign to increase this.

Tom Greatrix, The Daily Record: Disabled need help but Atos is failing them in the worst way possible

September 28, 2012 1 comment

Disabled need help but Atos is failing them in the worst way possible

TOM GREATREX, MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, says Atos is making patients feel punished for being ill.

I AM not surprised that the Daily Record’s exposure of the failings of Atos has had such a strong response from people across Britain.

I have been campaigning about this chaotic process for nearly two years, and know from my own surgeries just how much anger and frustration there is about the assessments.

The principle of checking whether someone is fit for work is a sound one. The benefits of work are clear, not just to the individual’s health, social and family life, but for wider society too.

So people who can work should be helped to work. But those who can’t should not be hounded by a process that is not working properly.

Like many of the cases the Record has reported over the past few days, I have heard from constituents who have found themselves unable to work but trapped in a chaotic system of assessment, appeal and

It is not their fault, but they feel like they are being punished for being ill.

The test as it stands fails to properly take into account the complex circumstances of those with Parkinson’s disease, mental health problems or patients recovering from cancer. People are left concerned, confused
and anxious about their own experience.

When the Labour government introduced an assessment, it was designed to help people get back to work. The Tory-LibDem Government have turned it into a chaotic mess.

They renegotiated the contract, ignored the trials and accelerated people moving from incapacity benefit without fixing the problems.

The resulting chaos of delays in assessment, triple booking appointments, a backlog of appeals and thousands of those decisions being overturned is down to the Government’s failure to get a grip of this mess.

As well as wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, behind every statistic is somebody whose life has been made a misery through no fault of their own.

The system must be changed to work for those who need support at a time in their lives when they are vulnerable, as well as those whose taxes are paying for it.

The process was designed to help, not hound, those unable to work.

At the moment, it is failing the sick and disabled in the most shameful way imaginable.

Sophie Lancaster radio drama adapted for stage

September 28, 2012 Leave a comment
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