Tag Archives: politics

Election diary part 7: Complaining about the sea

Busy few days. Visited Porkies cafe in Whitleigh on Friday, which last year became known as ‘Plymouth’s most Brexit cafe’.

Bumped into Arthur Hunt, formerly known as ‘The Janner in the hat’. He had a shouty rant about the Government and the resulting video went a bit viral.

Accusations of bias from both sides. Labour say we’re giving too much coverage to the Tories. Tories say we’re in Labour’s pocket.

A councillor writes a very angry letter to the paper about me. A few years ago it would have sent me into a spiral of anxiety and self-doubt. These days I’m able to laugh it off. Just about.

Told myself I wouldn’t get drawn into a petty rows between the parties. But it wouldn’t be an election campaign without a couple of stories about misleading leaflets.

I had been feeling quite excited about the election. Then I went vox popping in Honicknowle.

Expected to make a piece about the decline of UKIP. Almost everyone I met said they have no interest in politics or are too confused and disillusioned to bother. Made me wonder whether I’m part of the media bubble.

More heated discussions with politicians than usual. I’ve never been very good at conflict. Would always rather play nice and let my writing do the talking than have a row. But now I feel I can give as good as I get.

Politicians are extremely sensitive to any hint of criticism. But we’re not going after vulnerable members of the public who can’t defend themselves. These people put themselves in the firing line and are fair game.

Enjoying the old quote: ‘A politician complaining about the press is like the captain of a ship complaining about the sea’.

Follow The Herald’s election coverage here.

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Election diary day one: Kudos from Krishnan

Hello. My name is Sam and I am a political reporter at the Plymouth Herald in Devon. I usually use this site for my hobby of writing about cricket. But for the next few weeks I’m going to try to keep a General Election diary. Here it comes.

Day one:

Accusations of bias and unfairness from Labour, Tories and independents, all before 9.30am.

Politicians and their press officers are texting and direct messaging me more than usual. Can’t decide whether they are my best friends or sworn enemies. A sure fire sign of election fever.

Went round in circles trying to figure out what the Green Party are playing at. Turns out they offered an ‘alliance deal’ to Labour to defeat Oliver Colvile. Labour eventually said no.

My story got re-tweeted by John Harris from The Guardian and Krishnan Guru-Murthy mentioned it on Channel 4 News.

My phone was going crazy, but I was busy dealing with a two-year-old having a tantrum and a four-month-old vomiting up her dinner.

I tried to tell them I’m a pretty big deal now.

My son thinks I work in a toy shop.

Off on holiday tomorrow. Lord knows what will have happened by the time I return.

Follow The Herald’s election coverage here.

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We need to protect our elderly people

by Luke Bishop

THE old cliché goes ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. But what if something crucially important for all our futures is broken, is acknowledged to be broken and yet we still refuse to do anything about it? Such is the case with adult social care in England, unfair and inconsistent even before the cuts, and now threatening to get very much worse.

Old age should be a blessing. It should be the time when you are rewarded for the hard work you have put into the previous 40 to 50 years. Of course, it can also be a time of steep physical and mental decline, and this should be acknowledged in the way we help the elderly by supporting their ability to care for themselves, whether it be by delivering a meal or helping them wash and bathe. What many face however is an old age fraught with uncertainty, loneliness, isolation and financial ruin.

The main problem about adult social care is that the way of funding and delivering it has not changed significantly since the 1970s. Over that time that time the Cold War has ended, industries privatised, successive governments have come and gone, the internet has changed the world and, most crucially, advances in medical science and healthcare have meant more of us are living for longer. Not one administration, however, has seen fit to change the way in which our vulnerable and elderly are cared for.

As you would expect from a system which hasn’t changed in a generation there are dreadful archaisms. The threshold by which people have to pay for all their care is currently £23,250 in assets – if they have more than this they receive no state support. Bearing in mind that these assets include owned property and pension funds, we are talking about rather modest amounts of money, meaning that only the very poorest of pensioners are exempt. There is also no upper limit for how much they would have to pay towards their care, which means their modest means, all that they had worked for and saved, would be drained off.

There is also little consistency as to what “state support” as provided by the local authority entails. Unlike education, health, or even bin collection, there is scandalously little in the way of statutory requirements when it comes to adult social care. One local authority could provide the bare minimum – a 15-minute session a day to help an elderly person have a quick wash. Another council might provide two hourly sessions (one in the morning, one in the evening) where you are helped with washing and dressing, cooked a meal, helped to go to the toilet and, maybe, you will even be sat down with for a while for a chat. Such blatant inconsistency would be scandalous in education or healthcare.

This system has groaned on for a quarter-of-a-century, but it is so imperative now because of the cuts. As adult social care is not well protected by statute, it remains the largest discretionary area for local authority budgets. In other words, if cuts are to be made, it’s far less of a headache to take it from this area than heavily safeguarded education. The consequences could be that the majority of councils will be providing a poor quality bare minimum.

There’s evidence that councils are even using more underhand methods to shirk their responsibilities by resetting eligibility criteria and refusing to give proper assessments of needs. Some have been successfully challenged, for example, last November two severely disabled adults won a court case against Isle of Wight council in which the Judge ruled the changes to adult social care were unlawful, but there are many less dramatic cases which are harder to challenge.

There could be real human consequences to such negligence. An elderly person who has been unable to secure help bathing might slip and break a hip and end up in hospital, perhaps never to return home or to be discharged out of hospital into a care home. They may have to sell their home and many of their possessions in order to afford the cost of care.

A very clear solution has been offered to this government from the Dilnot Commission, which suggests simple things such as raising the threshold by which people have to pay for care and introducing a cap. This would save many elderly people financial ruin at a time when they should be enjoying the fruits of their labour. It also suggests overall consistency, transparency and ease of use that the piecemeal current system starkly lacks. The costs of implementation are estimated to add £1.7 billion to the social care bill per year, but the long term savings would be inestimably more.

Despite being offered such a strong case and a practical plan for social care which was indeed commissioned by the current administration, the government line has been not particularly committed so far. It rather blandly ‘welcomed’ the proposals while having concerns over the hefty price tag which accompanied it. During Prime Minister’s Questions on January 11 David Cameron stated that “we must do something about the rising costs of domiciliary care, improve the quality of the care that people receive, and address the issue of people having to sell their homes and all their assets to pay for care”. But he added the crucial qualifier that a change in system must be one that the country “could afford”.

The powers of short-termism and political necessity have the ability to seriously scupper these sensible solutions and make them come to naught. In a time when the Conservatives seem ideologically attached to austerity despite the human cost, the price tag attached to change may be anathema to them. However, the long-term savings make the Dilnot proposals worthwhile, and if the government incorporates them into its upcoming social care bill the fact that it helped fix care for the elderly and disabled will be remembered long after the anger over cuts has subsided.

The Conservative MP John Redwood made throw-away comments to the Today programme about the Dilnot proposals being too concerned with protecting children’s inheritance. This is nonsense, it’s about protecting those whose shoulders we stand on, making sure their final years and decades are as comfortable as possible and not one of isolation and misery. The government needs to take on board the simple suggestions and fix a system that has been crying out for change for decades. At least they can’t say they’ve never been told.

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Sexist ads are no laughing matter in Brazil

by Thais Porthilo-Shrimpton

The Brazilian government department for policies for women took action this week against a series of lingerie ads starring supermodel Gisele Bündchen, which it deemed “offensive and sexist”. In the ads, titled Hope Teaches, the model gives her husband bad news such as “honey, I’ve crashed the car” or “honey, I’ve reached the credit card limit … both mine and yours” – first fully dressed (which they teach viewers is wrong), then wearing tiny lingerie (which, according to Hope, is right). Essentially, women are taught to use their charm and sexy lingerie to control their husbands. Sigh.

Former football blogger Lila Salles, 31, a translator from Rio de Janeiro, thinks the ad is quite funny, despite being extremely sexist: “I don’t think calling for it to be banned was the best way of dealing with it. Perhaps another ad with a heartthrob wearing trunks in the same situation would be a nice payback and a more effective response than censoring it.” I agree with Lila, but I agree with the government too.

When Dilma Rousseff, the first-ever woman to become president of Brazil, was elected in October last year I was incredibly proud. For the first time, the country where I grew up officially recognised the value, competence and ability of a womanby choosing her to be its head of state. It was, after all, the country where I grew up being told to refrain from making comments about football (“women had nothing interesting to say about it”) and witnessing men make the most appallingly offensive remarks to and about women. It is the country where other advertisements are generally populated with half-naked attractive women, where women are encouraged to wear almost nothing during carnival, and where they very much struggle in the workplace to have the same opportunities and salaries as their male counterparts.

More importantly, it is the place where recent research figures show at least 43% of women have suffered from domestic violence and where 70 per cent of murder cases where victims are female relate to domestic violence. It was under president Lula da Silva that the department for policies for women was created in 2003. Iriny Lopes, the minister currently in charge of it, was appointed by Rousseff at the beginning of her term in January this year. Lopes drafted the Maria da Penha law five years ago, to offer protection to women who were victims or likely to become victims of domestic violence.

Despite Rousseff not making any statements herself about the calls to ban the ad, Lopes, when notifying the National Council for Advertising Self-regulation – an independent advertising regulatory body with a statutory backstop – of her wish to have the ads banned, she was most certainly echoing the president’s thoughts on the matter. Unfortunately, for a government faced with such horrendous numbers in the fight against violence that specifically affects women, the sexist, belittling message the ad carries is no laughing matter. Couple that with Brazil’s desperate attempts to drop its status as a sex tourism haven, and you have a seriously bleak picture of the situation of many women in that country.

As a stark defender of freedom of speech, I found it harsh that the government called for the ad to be banned, despite understanding their reasons behind it. At the same time, my stomach churns when I think educated Brazilian men and women working for advertising agencies still feel the need to portray our women as being dependent or fearful of their husbands, giving them a “good-humoured” solution to avoid a bollocking. I would like to see less scantily clad women in Brazilian media in general, as I believe that could potentially help us display our other attributes and earn more respect from our society. After all, we can undoubtedly be great journalists, academics, traders, teachers or entrepreneurs without having to don nothing but sexy lingerie to get to where we want.

Interestingly, I talked to 33-year-old lawyer and magistrate Miriam Rodrigues, from Rio de Janeiro, who thinks the ads are not offensive to women. In fact, in her opinion, they just show how easily manipulated some men can be: “To watch Gisele showing clearly that a clever woman can get anything from a man just by behaving in a sexy manner shows a sort of caveman quality that some guys have, and that intelligent women know how to take advantage of it.”

I disagree because, in my opinion, women should never have to undress to make a point, whatever that may be.

This piece first appeared at The Guardian.

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