Tuesday 19 April 2011

Good and Bad Campaigning

This week sees two very different forms of campaigning using the Royal Wedding to gain publicity.

The first (Good Campaigning), Pater Tatchell wants to use the Royal Wedding to high-light marriage inequality, Civil Partnerships do not have all the same benefits as heterosexual marriage (It’s not just the names that are different). This is campaigning in the best tradition, using a public event to high-light a cause or an equality. Not high jacking that event.

The second (Bad example) came to light today. The Muslims Against Crusades (The extremists who staged the poppy-burning stunt on Armistice Day) have applied to protest outside Westminster Abby, during the Royal Wedding. Not to be outdone, The English Defence League (So far Right there is no left) are demanding the right to counter-protest.

Either of these two groups are interested in open debate, they just want to beat us over the head with their views until we give in. In the case of the English Defence League they just seem to be out there to start a punch-up, so much echoing Oswald Mosley’s Black Shirts. Neither of them are campaigning, they’re just bullying.

Peter Tatchell is a real campaigner and has been doing so for decades, though only recently he has got the recognition he deserves, though his style of campaigning has been overshadowed by our medias’ reporting of the likes of The English Defence League and Muslims Against Crusades. If you read our newspapers you’d think they were both huge and influential, rather than the tiny nut-job, fringe groups they actually are.


Thursday 14 April 2011

And Now for Something Very Horrible

This is almost too shocking to believe, yet it is very real.

The Government is thinking about scraping the Equality Act.

They have launched a website called “Red Tape Challenge”, were members of the public can leave suggestions on how to cut bureaucracy. One of the first things under consideration, on that website, is the Equality Act.

I applauded when the Equality Act came into law because, put briefly, it says that anyone providing a public service (Public or Private Sector) cannot refuse someone that service because of that person’s sexuality or perceived sexuality. It’s no longer lawful to say, “We don’t serve queers in here!”

It took away that shadow of prejudice that has hung over my shoulder all my adult life, being turned away because I’m gay. Turned from a hotel, a taxi, medical treatment, the list is almost endless.

Now, the Government wants to take that protection away, because they consider it’s “too much red tape”. My blood boils with anger.

This is a quote from GMFA about how serious this is:
Last week the LGF in Manchester had the Speaker from the House visit. His speech touched upon how organised the religious right is in this country, when it comes to letter writing and letting MPs, Ministers and Civil Servants know about their concerns about equality legislation in favour of LGB&T people. He said that any time positive legislation was put before the House, politicians’ mailbags were full to bursting with constituents encouraged to speak against the gains by some religious organisations and, although politicians generally know that there is a lot of favorable support out there for our inclusion in equality advancement, we as LGB&T communities are often silent.”

The irony is that the Equality Act extended to sexual orientation the protections already enjoyed, in law, by those with religious beliefs.

This Link is where you can leave a message of support for the act and call on the government not to scrap it: http://www.redtapechallenge.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/equalities

This link will give you more details on the act.

Please help keep Britain a fair country.


Wednesday 13 April 2011

Now it’s War, with Bedpans.

Today, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) voted almost unanimously to pass a vote of No Confidence in Andrew Lansley’s (The Minister for Health) handling of the NHS. 98% of the delegates, at the RCN’s conference, voted for the motion.
(I also jumped for joy when I heard this. The RCN is my union, nursing is my profession and the NHS is something I believe passionately in – the alternative is too horrible to consider.)
Lansley is forcing onto the NHS reforms that it doesn’t need and will destroy so much that is good about the NHS. Lansley seems to want to turn the NHS back into some fantasy of the 1950’s were “Doctor Knows Best”, yet ignoring its real needs, to move patient care out of hospitals and into the community. Do we need to go hospital for every medical treatment? Can’t a lot of it be done away from hospital? A lot of it could be, to the benefit of patients and make the NHS more “cost-effective” – healthcare is certainly not cheap.
The RCN is rightly to be concerned about Lansley’s behaviour, he’s been less than honest about it. He’s the first Minister of Health, in eight years, not to address the RCN Conference, instead he’s meeting with a group of 50 nurses to “listen”, he says. In reality, this is an appalling act of disrespect. He refuses to face the RCN to explain his “reforms” and if he wants to “listen” why can’t he listen to the RCN Conference, instead of meeting just a selected few. What’s he afraid of?
Lansley has been less than honest about these reforms:
They were never mentioned in the Tory manifesto, at the last election, therefore there was no debate on them during the election.

There seemed very little consultation on these reforms, certainly no nurses or other allied health professionals were consulted. Only now has the Government announced a review panel to look at this health bill, only three of the panel are nurses.

He wants to introduce more “competition” into who provides NHS services, hospitals competing against community providers and the private section. We’ve had this before, Thatcher’s Internal Market, and it was a disaster and wasted billions of pounds.

The worst conceit is that Lansley claims the reforms are based on his own experience of the NHS, but the reality is very uncomfortable.
In 1992, nineteen years ago, Lansley suffered a stroke. He received terrible treatment, he was dismissed as only has having an ear infection and it was only a CT Scan, at a private hospital, that confirmed he’d had a stroke. It was this experience, and his recovery from that stroke, that he says has caused his “desire” to “reform” the NHS. But there are discrepancies in his story that he isn’t being honest about.
When he suffered that stroke the Tories were in Government and in charge of the NHS. The NHS back then was an organisation that was very underfund, under-resourced and staff morale was very low – I worked in the NHS back then.
The NHS has had a lot of change since then, for good and bad, but it is not the same organisation as when Lansley had his stroke, yet he’s claiming the NHS is disparate for reform. How much does he know about the NHS today, from what he’s said I feel it is very little.
Lansley claims GPs know patient needs best so they should be the ones almost totally in charge of the NHS, but GPs, like all Healthcare Professionals, only know the patients’ needs they see. They’re not involved in sexual health, HIV & AIDS care/prevention, maternity care, elderly care, cancer care, they don’t perform operations, are not involved in Emergency Care, and so on and so on. So can they decide what is best in these areas? I’ve never worked in paediatric care; I couldn’t decide what is needed for a Child Health service.
(My partner, Martin, has only seen his GP once, the four years we have been living here. How can his GP know what Martin’s health needs are?)
Lastly, something else I don’t think Lansley will be listening to:
In 2007 Atos Healthcare (A private healthcare provider) won a ten year contract to run an East London GP Practice. Yesterday it was announced that Atos has pulled out of that contract because it couldn’t provide the services that GP Practice needs. This should be a warning to Lansley, if he opens up more of the NHS to private providers we are going to have more examples like this.
Andrew Lansley says he’s listening, well listen to this.
STOP THESE “REFORMS” NOW, before you totally destroy the NHS.

Sunday 3 April 2011

Mothers This Day

Today is Mothering Sunday, but often now I forget what date it falls on. It has lost it significance since my mother died. Its no longer the date that I have to make sure that I have ordered flowers before, enough days ahead to ensure they are delivered on time. I must not disappoint her, not on Mothering Sunday, I always told myself. But this year marks the tenth anniversary of my mother’s death. Mothering Sunday has lost that panic-to-be-prepared feeling, now it is a date that creeps up on me unexpectedly and leaves me full of memories.

Increasingly, and especially this year, I’ve noticed how mawkish and sentimental people have got over Mothering Sunday. It seemed that Facebook was awash with posts about wonderful everyone’s mother was. The worst I saw was posted by my own sister. She had a facebook message about how good her mother had been and what a wonderful person her mother was, supporting my sister in all her choices. It bared no resemblance to the woman I had known as my mother. As loving as my mother could be she was always very critical, finding the bad even in loved ones.

I feel we do as much a disservice to someone’s memory to whitewash it and paint them as “perfect”, as we do if we only remember them as heartless and cruel. I want to remember the whole person, their faults and their virtues; but my view doesn’t seem popular. now a days it seems that no one nasty dies, the recently deceased are always "loving" and the "life and soul of the party". All memories now HAVE to be the "most wonderful person who every lived", the rose-tinted view has won over.

Below is an essay I wrote about my mother. I wrote it in the days between her death and her funeral. Writing it was one of the ways that helped me come to terms with her death, but most importantly it is one of the ways that I want to remember her.

Those Pictures Mothers Carry Around With Them.

The first time I saw it was when she was visiting me and took out her purse to pay for a purchase. There it was, inside her purse, a picture of me. An old and not very flattering picture of me. It was one of those passport photograph booth pictures, taken years ago. My hair was a different style, short and flat, one I had not had for many years. I was staring fixedly into the camera, no smile on my face. The harsh light making my skin look pale and unhealthy. I wondered why she had chosen that one but I said nothing. Not an easy question to ask.

I have many pictures of her. Ones from her youth, as a bright and happy young woman. Her hair short and dark. Dressed in pale or white summer dresses, ones with wide belts and full skirts. Pictures of her in motherhood, her clothes changing over the years, showing her own slow change in tastes. Pictures of her taken only in the last few years. Pictures of her as the rosy cheeked, white haired grandmother that she grow into. (I have no pictures of her at the end, a tired and ill old woman, nor do I want to remember her as this.)

I don't keep any pictures in my wallet. Even if I did they would surely become lost in the chaos of pieces of paper, some only scraps, cards of paper and the plastics ones I now require, loose coins, my different IDs I must have and all the other things tucked away in there. For me pictures are to be placed in frames and hung upon walls so that all can see them, enjoyed at a glance. Such are my favorite pictures of her. Not hidden away in the dark and clutter of my wallet. (I have heard others say that they carry pictures of their loved ones, their partners or children or parents, with them so they can glance at their likeness whenever they want. I carry around my memories of her, as bright as many photographs, with me in my mind, never to be forgotten).

It was always a wonder to me why she choose a picture of me to carry around with her. I am not her only child, I have both an older brother and sister, but I am her youngest. Maybe that was the reason she choose. I was her youngest child, the last one to leave the nest, after I had gone she was no longer required to be a mother - a role she been for forty years. Maybe there is a special bond between a mother and her youngest child, I do not know, not having any children myself, for if there ever was I am ashamed to admit I never noticed. Why did she choose that picture, of all the ones she had of me, such a harsh and unemotional one, to carry with her. (It is too late now to ask these questions.)

At the end, as she lay there in that bed being cared for by nurses who it had only taken her a few weeks to grow close to, I was unable to ask any but the simplest of questions. I had thought at the end I would be able to ask her all those questions I had been yearning to know the answers to, ones over which I had puzzled and wondered for years, not least about that picture. When the time came all I could ask were those basic questions, "Are you comfortable" and "Is there anything you want". The profound ones forgotten and replaced by the important questions.

As a child I had questioned and questioned her, why this and how that, my search for knowledge. As an adolescent I had distanced myself from her and her rules as I was fighting my own demons in my head. What did she know? Only as an adult, when I had become a professional in my own right, were we able to reach an understanding and peace with each other. I was still her son but now we could talk as equals. 

After it was all ended, the funeral and cremation and final spreading of her ashes, did someone find that picture of me? As my father and my sister were clearing out her handbag, the final act of tidying a life away by disposing of their now unneeded things, did they find her purse? As they emptied the purse did they find that picture of me and what did they make of it. These questions are unimportant; I will forget them and never seek their answers. Instead I will hold those memories I have of her, memories that live outside of pictures.

For Joan Margaret Payne
12-1-30 to 2-5-01