The 2017 General Election shows why we need PR.

The argument for proportional representation has never been stronger. Something that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour needs to revisit and take onboard.

The system is horribly skewed against smaller parties. It takes about twice as much work according to this to get a Lib Dem MP, and over TEN TIMES as much work to get a Green MP.

The SNP breaks the trend below – but then the Scottish system already has PR.

votes-per-mp-2017

Chart: number of votes per MP, 2017 UK General Election.

Con:  13,669,883 votes gave 318 MPs or 42,987 votes per MP.

Lab:  12,878,460 votes gave 262 MPs or 49,154  votes per MP.

SNP:  977,569 gave  35 MPs or 27,930 votes per MP.

Lib Dem:  2,371,910 gave 12 MPs = 197,659 votes per MP.

Green:  525,435 gave 1  MP.  Proving the point.

 

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Grenfell Tower Massacre

UPDATE: Tue 27.6.17 – It’s announced that 95 tower blocks have failed inspection of their cladding post-Grenfell. Tower block fire safety is TOTALLY BROKEN in Britain. In case anyone thinks this should let K&C council off the hook, there are plenty of fire and safety inspections of Grenfell which don’t appear to have been meaningful and essentially seem to have just been a rubber-stamping exercise. This lack of oversight, wherever it occurred, has been instrumental in maybe the deaths of 150 people.

You don’t hear the word massacre used to describe deaths by fire. Massacre is a word that conjures up a heavily armed force surrounding and destroying a much smaller force, even large groups of defenceless civilians.

But for the Grenfell Tower fire of 14 June 2017 it is appropriate. Time after time, Grenfell residents warned about the dangers of the building. The lighting system, the power surges destroying appliances, the use of cladding to prettify the building, rather than address a variety of safety concerns.

The building management organisation, KCTMO and Kensington & Chelsea borough council, rarely addressed these concerns, didn’t do so in a timely manner, and often tried to shift the blame. They even went so far as to single our particular residents and issue them with solicitors letters to desist their criticism.

This is hardly what Britain expects from its richest borough with some of the worlds most valuable real estate. And that’s without considering the aftermath of rehousing residents, trying to rehouse them elsewhere, even hundreds of miles away, or seeing to the needs of 5 other tower blocks who were DEPENDENT on Grenfell basement boilers for their gas and hot water!

The first scandal is the scale of the fire itself. It shouldn’t have happened. Fire experts are saying this. Yet what happened was that a most flammable kind of insulating cladding was added to the building. This acted both as a chimney and as an accelerant. It also gave off a cyanide-based gas – as if the usual smoke from a house fire which most casualties die of, wasn’t enough. This is why building codes and fire regulations are important – if you get rid of them people die.

The second scandal is the way the numbers of casualties were handled. Residents in the area were outraged that the figures being given were so small. Even now, the official figure of 79 is far off being satisfactory. The impression people are left with is an officialdom and media deliberately playing down the death toll. Some people even suspected an official DA-notice to prevent the media publishing it. The effect is that the final death toll, which may be in the hundreds, and certainly likely to be triple figures, just does not honour those who died or the scale of the tragedy. Or massacre. Sure the police are playing it safe, but there are different more respectful forms of words that you can use rather than the drip-drip approach of only releasing minimum figures and effectively saying, there’s 79 dead bodies we’ve got but it’s going to take the rest of the year to find other remains!

The cladding – this is the number one reason people died. Despite what the chancellor said, this turns out not to have been illegal in Britain, nor apparently even to clad a building in it to the height that Grenfell Tower was. This is unconscionable! But the way it happened, going back to the Blair years, helps tell us how rotten UK politics is at the moment.

Keith Hill, Housing Minister under Tony Blair, in 2005 abolished annual local Fire Service inspections for tower blocks and other public buildings as part of the liberation from red tape and to save landlords money. In addition, many architects now are familiar with NOT having to install alarms in blocks of flats as part of the so-called stay put policy.

Words have no impact as a commentary. The continued assault on regulations, the defeated vote to make homes fit for human habitation, the running down of emergency services capabilities, the lessening of planning requirements, the apparent faking of safety certificates – if organisations were truly able to be held responsible for killing then we would have murder most foul by governments Labour, Lib Dem and Tory, and add in the council and a number of involved contractors too.

The fridge freezer – Hotpoint is in danger of being one of the scapegoats for Grenfell. Fridge freezers have been implicated in fires before, however the model in question has never been previously subject to recall in its 10 years. The articles concerned also DO NOT cover the large number of power surges the building had and the dozens of electrical goods that were wiped out, including exploding, because of these. The power surges often happened late at night. Essentially though, it doesn’t matter much what caused the fire. What is essentially is how what is supposed to be a local fire and compartmentalised

Criminal investigations are ongoing. But it’s likely that the waters are so muddy that , with regulation requirements and planning laws being so lax, there might not even be a fine by the end of it. What should happen of course, is that this cladding product is made illegal and stripped from every building – as councils will be doing now, hopefully everywhere. The trouble is, going back decades, this product would once have been illegal, but the laws were changed, and now likely 150  or so people are dead. And let’s not think this is an assault on industry either. The Fire Resistant equivalent cladding for Grenfell Tower would have cost £5000 – for the whole tower.

Oh, and sprinklers, mandatory in every highrise. You know, in 2017, with a supposed UK hot on health and safety, who would have thought there’d be a highrise without one!?

Now that’s what I call democracy…

On June 8th, the Green Party scored 1.6% of the vote nationally. In a fair system this would mean 10 Green MPs. But who would they be?

Top Ten Green MPs 2017 election

caroline
1. (Dr) Caroline Lucas, Brighton Pavilion – MP since 2010, former MEP for SW region.
2. Vix Lowthion, Isle of Wight – lecturer in Geology, Geography and History.
3. (Dr) Molly Scott Cato, Bristol West – currently MEP for SW, former Professor of Economics.
4. Natalie Bennett, Sheffield Central – former Green leader.
5. Andy Brown, Skipton and Ripon – retired, former deputy head of Keighley College.
6. Caroline Russell, Islington North – up against Jeremy Corbyn (who won with 73%).
7. Jonathan Essex, Reigate – Green councillor and chartered civil engineer working in international development.
8. Sian Berry , Holborn & St Pancras, former London mayor candidate, former Green Principal Speaker .
9. Larry Sanders, Oxford East – brother of Bernie Sanders, American left Democratic candidate with Hillary Clinton.
10. Andrew Cooper, Huddersfield – Green Party Energy spokesperson, former lead candidate Y&H Euro elections 2014.

But we didn’t get 10 MPs, we only got one. Why? Because FPTP (First past the post) is geographical, ONLY the winner’s votes count in a constituency. Here are the total national votes per elected MP based on this flawed, outdated, unrepresentative, undemocratic electoral system :

Green 523,269
LibDem 193,952
Lab 49,136
Con 43,075
PC 41,166
SF 34,130
SNP 27,930
DUP 29,231
UKIP – over 500,000. No MP.

This means it is TEN TIMES HARDER for people to successfully vote Green, or Ukip, than for Labour or the Tory voters, who require only 50,000 votes per MP.

But what’s more, in a fairer Proportional Voting system, (used in London, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, the unions, inside most political parties), or such as the Euro elections, Greens score 8% – which would give the country 52 Green MPs.

HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN??
Our elections are geographical. Someone can win with 25,000 votes in a constituency by coming first. All the other candidates’ votes are disregarded. But it you add them up and then divide their total by the number of MPs they get, then you get the figures above. Over 500,000 people voted Green but because they are spread around the country, only Caroline Lucas got it in Brighton. Similarly Ukip, but no MP. Labour and Tory are strong in many areas so they can win a MP for near 50,000 votes.

WANT TO CHANGE THIS? Call for Electoral Reform here.

Labour – welcome back.

Labour – welcome back!

No really, it’s been a while.

Love, the Green Party.

The Draft Manifesto is a welcome change from the neoliberal exploitation we’ve become used to since Thatcher. Tony Benn’s favourite quote from Thatcher was her response to the question of her greatest achievement… Tony Blair, she said…

Gone is the Labour of PFI (private loans brought in for public services, ramped up astronomically by New Labour, especially for the NHS), austerity (brought in by Labour after the banks held us to ransom and Labour paid it, caving to financial incompetence), tuition fees (brought in by Labour, paving the way for what’s effectively private universities paid for by students now).

Here it is: Labour_draft_manifesto_110517

Standout points for me include scrapping tuition fees, raising spending on the NHS – vital after years of chronic underfunding; the commitment to renewables, £10 minimum wage (surpassing out £10 ph 2015 promise for 2020); the company wage ratio of 20 to 1 for firms that want to do government business. The Green Party’s is 10 to 1 for all businesses – but a great start with government leading the way. That will confuse the A4E’s of this world – nothing they don’t deserve. It will begin to help Britain approach the level of social democracy enjoyed by the Scandinavian countries. A Clean Air Act, ban on neonicotinoids, Blue Belts for the seas, a million trees, and a good start on animal welfare, ceasing the badger cull, maintaining the fox hunting ban.

It’s particularly welcome because we’ve campaigned for social justice strongly since 2010 – not prepared to see rises in poverty, or disabled people die because of  %*£$^&! ATOS testing brought in by Blair’s Labour or energy companies put prices up so regularly that older people have to choose between heating and eating and die in their tens of  thousands in a cold winter.

And, we hope, an end to imperial adventures like Iraq.. Instead, it promises to:

  • have Britain honouring its international treaties and
  • ‘strain every sinew’ to be a peacemaker for Syria.
  • suspend arms deals with Saudi Arabia. Boom.
  • Trident’s there though (not Boom, ever)
  • Two state solution for Israel and Palestine

The raft of social justice policies is very welcome – stopping upward wealth migration – at last! And pledging to I like the New Investment Bank idea – building on our longstanding Green Investment Bank.

Plenty more. 45 pages. good stuff. Look forward to the finished version.

But you know the best thing?

Labour’s just challenged the most progressive party in the country – US.

You won’t believe what happens next.

The Bohemian Rhapsody Citizenship Test

(This blog appears a day later than planned). The Prime Minister proposed, a while ago, that foreigners take an oath for those who want to come to live and work in Britain.

Such an oath is designed to affirm a commitment to British values. There is a problem with this though: British values  remain somewhat elusive for a number of reasons.

Despite the mainstream media’s best efforts, many Britons, and many a foreigner moreso, are further aware that we have, shall we say, a bit of a history. This helps explain how we tend to stick to safe examples like World War Two – again without too many details.

To our disadvantage, because the vast majority of us have not been to public school, we have not been imbued with the automatic sense of privilege and understanding of what British values are, otherwise, we, like they, would be the embodiment of it.

But having a certain amount of insight and history as a nation, those moments of furiously waving the Union Jack around or planting flagpoles in our gardens, are few and far between.

The issue of immigration is a vexed one. Although the entire world population could possibly stand on the Isle of Wight, that doesn’t mean that they should, nor that they should come here to practise.

Nevertheless, there is no denying historically, that we have greatly benefitted from immigrant labour, whether in transport or the NHS and many other fields, and there’s every reason to believe we will continue to do so.

Due to its relentless pursuit by a largely rightwing mainstream media, immigration has too often been the top, or near top, issue in people’s minds at election times. This is almost universally presented as a negative for British society and so there is a major populist bridge to be crossed in order for people to appreciate a certain amount of immigration and to see this in a positive way.

Existing ideas of some points system, or yet more forms to fill in, or even an American style hand-on-heart oath before the Union Jack, are unlikely to satisfy this. Many would rightly ask, What good does that do? Scotland would scoff at this for a start.

So we need, preferably, a method to bridge this gap and quickly and clearly show a certain amount of worth on the part of the immigrant in question. It should have the value of being something popular and populist and be close to unassailable in its sense of a goal scored for those who pass the test.

It would have to be of such a fitting challenge, that the average pub devotee would be satisfied and say, That’s a hard challenge. If they pull it off, then yeah citizenship should be on offer. But it should be tough.

We propose, therefore, that a song be used for this purpose and that the song be the rock classic Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.

Existing routes to citizenship can still be maintained but fastracking could be offered to those prepared to take the musical challenge.

Any average pub devotee would agree that a hard song, in English, would show a certain amount of commitment to our culture.

It could further be agreed to be videoed, for extra advantage, at the discretion of the judges.

The adjudicating panel, it is proposed, would be of three average Britons, to be selected online from those nominated within given areas.

We propose that would-be citizens sing Bohemian Rhapsody to three judges. This sounds a bit X-Factor but it doesn’t have to be recorded, unless the applicant wishes so, for a certain amount of allowance from the judges, and can remain private.

The judges would assess the level of performance of the applicant and award or deny citizenship accordingly.

The choice of Queen, of course, goes way back in British history, to the 1970s. Rumour had it at the time, and arguably since, that any given cassette tape left in a car player would morph, over time, into Queen’s Greatest Hits.

It’s further only right that Bohemian Rhapsody be recognised as predominantly a male song, but this may in turn also reflect the extent to which resistance to immigrants is led by male citizens.

The Rhapsody, indeed, is a challenge. Long term effects would be to introduce the applicant to a large amount of British culture, including humour and Pythonesque wackiness, as well as the ability to fit themselves to the challenging lyrics.

Controversially, “Put a gun against his head, pulled the trigger” – this warns and allows applicants to appreciate a certain amount of bullishness present in UK culture. In addition, because of this infrequently acknowledged threat, it would not be appropriate to introduce the general ownership of guns, as favoured in some political circles. This would unconscionably be asking for trouble.

It is hoped, being a challenging task, a renewed amount of respect for new citizens may be expected among existing Britons. Indeed new citizens may be sought after for karaokes and for parties in the interests of impressing those present.

Equally a female option should be made available, and we recommend Best Friends from the same CD. This song is often under-rated but may appeal appropriately to the female spirit and would be good to be heard nationally on a regular basis.

Queen, of course, has royal overtones, of instant value reflecting British attachment to the Royal Family. The supergroup, also, was fronted by a raving but macho queen who shot to great fame across the country, and is still highly regarded by the generation most likely to form the judges panel. Some applicants may find it difficult to sing in such circumstance; this will be to their disadvantage.

Similarly, “Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me”, would likely be unacceptable to fundamentalists to voice. In which case, tough.

In order not to be accused of cantorism, special dispensation may be offered to those who cannot sing, but who may be able to play rock guitar to the required standard, again at the judges’ discretion.

The citizenship challenge would underscore for applicants how much rock music and performance play in British life. TV shows like Britain’s Got Talent and X-Factor are remarkably popular and thus the culture made more accessible for those who pass the ordeal.

Accomplishments such as this would ensure that Britain does indeed have talent for a generation to come.

Other dispensations may include reciting, accurately and with feeling, certain scenes from British culture, such as excerpts from the Life of Brian, the Monty Python Parrot Sketch, or chosen texts from Blackadder, all at the judges’ discretion.

The benefits of this challenge cannot be over-stated as it will revolutionise how immigrants are viewed by citizens and equally disempower a vicious rightwing media and their camp.

We feel sure it will be readily appreciated how valuable this will be for the country as a whole, unifying and building for a brighter future.

What Alan Johnson’s fluoride ‘Conversation’ won’t tell you.

Alan Johnson and the fluoridators have a problem. There are two famous fluoride reports. Both DON’T SAY fluoride is categorically good for children’s teeth – which is what Johnson & Co are saying.

I was on BBC Humberside this morning to talk fluoride. As I sat down with the presenter, Stuck in the Middle With You was playing. We greeted each other and chatted about the subject before air. Alan Johnson’s piece had said fluoride is not toxic. So I mentioned the toxicity of what they use to fluoridate (HFSA, hexafluorosilicic acid).

He hit the keyboard and searched HFSA – and got the American Heart Foundation! I suggested he add LD50 to the search. (Lethal Dose 50 is the measure for how much of a substance needs to be ingested before it would kill half the subjects. It’s usually done on guinea pigs and rats. The results differ a lot, but that’s another issue. Wiki gives 430mg / kg for rats. So if I’m 76 kilos, 430mg x76=32680, or 33 grams. Ie, an ounce might kill me, presuming I’m about as susceptible as a rat).

Alan Johnson and the fluoridators have a problem. There are two famous fluoride reports. Both DON’T SAY fluoride is categorically good for children’s teeth – which is what Johnson & Co are saying.

The York Review (CRD, 2000) looked at over 700 studies on fluoridated water supplies. In brief it said the evidence isn’t good enough to conclude that fluoridation works. That’s 17 years ago now!

The Cochrane Report (2015) looked at 20 fluoridation studies – these showed substantial benefit for children. But – they make sure to tell us 70% of those studies happened pre-1975 and deliberately note:  These results are based predominantly on old studies and may not be applicable today.

This is important because over ALL this time, dental health has IMPROVED EVERYWHERE – the world, Europe’s countries, our region, and Hull itself – REGARDLESS of whether an area is fluoridated or not! Only 10% of Britain is fluoridated – all in England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all rejected it.  Despite a number of countries fluoridating – most of the world doesn’t, usually having deliberately decided not to, maybe 95%.

We’re trying to be really respectful of the science here – and what these two reports say has to be acknowledged before proper debate can take place.

Sunday’s ‘debate’ led by Alan Johnson MP, isn’t a debate. It’s even advertised as a “Conversation”. There’s an important difference – none of us were invited. There are plenty of dissenting scientists around the country. Prof Stephen Peckham is one – University of Kent, and his recent research showed a link between a high incidence of hypothyroidism in a fluoridated area (West Midlands), compared to a non-fluoridated area. On dental health, you can cherry-pick data to show whichever side of the argument you want. The York Review shows us that the case FOR is NOT proven. The Cochrane Report says the good evidence is 40 years and more older and may not apply now. We agree.

(Among the dental professionals speaking, is Dr John Beal. It hasn’t been mentioned yet but he is also the Chair of the BFS, the British Fluoridation Society. He has been since 1991. )

Recent figures (graph below) used to shock and horrify us include the 43% claim for Hull’s toddler teeth having cavities. But if you look at the figures, you can first see that Hull and other authorities are much of a muchness in the poorer half of the region when it comes to dental health. You should also muse about whether it’s actually a lot more or lot less (more likely) than 43%. The error bars at the top of each bar indicate where the real number probably lies. 43% is only the middle value. So the data is not accurate enough, and may well be lower anyway.

epi-yh-08-12-percent

Below (blog) you will find data for recent hospital extractions across the country. In this region, Hull does particularly well. The Hull Dental Needs document gives figures for Hull and comparable towns (p.53) for 0-19 years hospital admissions for teeth extraction. According to their own figures, 100% fluoridated Wolverhampton (pop. 250k) is over 2x as high as Hull per 100,000 of the population. And Wolverhampton has been fluoridated since the 60s.

An recent  article in the Birmingham Mail noted there were 1,464 hospital admissions for teeth extractions for children in 2015/16, in one of the three health authorities in the city. This was up from 795 in 2014/15. This in Birmingham (pop. 1m) which has been fluoridated since 1962.

There isn’t enough good evidence that fluoridation would be effective today. Dental health is improving anyway. There are other things we can do.

Finally, the one chart that makes the case. Dramatic improvements in dental health everywhere since the 70s, with fluoride making no difference.

fluoride-who-dmft

Hospital Dental Extractions 2016

In 2015-2016, there were 187 hospital dental extractions in Hull – and 169 in the East Riding. The righthand table here shows the % of the age population that have hospital extractions. Here you can see Hull is the lowest in the region.

Hospital Dental Extractinos 2016, FCEs

If we focus on extractions primarily for caries (bad teeth), we get lower figures. You can see again that Hull scores well in the region. (The * means 6 or less extractions).

Hospital Dental Extractions, Caries 2016, FCEs

If we look at older figures, we can see, there were 220 extractions (for caries??) 3 years ago. If we use this figure, by 2016 there are 15% fewer extractions, a regular 5% a year improvement (without any fluoridation, of course).

Hospital Dental Extractions 2012-13