Don’t bank on it being a good idea…

The run-up to the 2017 General Election has begun, with interesting promises already being made (or in some cases, not being made) by the politicians.

Notable among the pledges is Labour’s proposal to have four new Bank Holidays.  Labour has already trumpeted its commitment to the lower-paid by suggesting an increase in the minimum wage to £10 an hour (which may mean that businesses will lay people off) but let’s look at the economics of these extra holidays…

  • Those workers paid hourly, but working an 8 hour day they will lose four days of pay, or £320.  Thus those with the owrst employment arrangements will be worse off.
  • Those businesses paying a salary will lose four days of production but still have to pay their workers the same.

Have I missed something here, or is this an oxymoronic plan?  What is the point of a holiday you end up paying for, but have to take whether you like it or not?  Of course there is, on top of this, the disruption that will occur in the NHS, which Labour pledges to protect.  Bank Holidays are already a nightmare.  All non-emergency services shut down; no cold surgery, no outpatients.  There will be a rapid increase in waits.  Think about it.  Senior doctors have six weeks leave and two weeks of study leave, which means that at most they work a 44 week year.  Those who have commitments on Mondays lose six this year to Bank Holidays (in England) so are now down to 36 weeks.  Another two weekdays go for Christmas.  Then we are to lose another four days – which is nearly another whole week (OK, they won’t all be Mondays but a week is a week).

Would you trust the originators of this madcap scheme with your money?  Leave aside that they will take even more of it to fund all their other crackpot plans.

I have a rule for plans.  Look at an idea, and work out whether there is anything that could possibly go wrong with it.  Look at every angle; assess the pros, but search for the cons.  In this case it is one big con, in every sense of the word.

 

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Elections, democracy and making the best of it

On 18th April 2017 the Prime Minister indicated that she wished to call a general election.  Today it is likely that she will obtain the two-thirds parliamentary majority that she needs.  It doesn’t seem to matter what decision is taken, or why, but someone will always argue that it is wrong.  In this case Mrs May will be accused of opportunism, given the disarray in the Labour Party, which has agreed to an election even though its prospects are currently grim.  Of course when she became PM Mrs May was pilloried for not holding an immediate election to consolidate her position as an unelected (by the country) leader.  Now people are asking why she needs one; she has a parliamentary majority, after all.

It all comes down to Brexit.  As she put it, the country has decided on Brexit but at Westminster many people are intent on derailing the process.  A larger majority will dispose of any problems with votes.  But it will be interesting to see what the final result will be.  There are numerous imponderables.

  • The process of Brexit has begun, so UKIP is irrelevant; it has achieved its aim, and has no other policy to fall back on.  Where will their votes go in the Brexit-strong areas that were once Labour heartlands?
  • The Liberal Democrats remain Remainers (and remoaners).  Will they pick up votes from the Tories in their Remainer strongholds?
  • The prospect of the present Labour Party leadership making a fist of Brexit negotiations is so alarming that it cannot possibly happen.  Except everyone said that Trump was unelectable in the USA, and look what happened there
  • The Scottish Nationalists have made a great play about Scotland having voted to remain, and threatened another independence referendum so they can make their own way within Europe.  Except they have no money, as the oil revenues they trumpeted as the country’s resources have diminished substantially.  And so the Scots really want another referendum? Probably not.  So if the Scot Nats are remainers, and the Tories are the party of Brexit, where will Scottish votes go?

But the key to this is what democracy means.  The nation voted for Brexit.  OK, so bits of it did not, but in a democracy the minority must abide by the decision of the majority and not threaten to secede.  My household (of two) voted to remain, but we are not currently agitating to set up the Independent Republic of Norman House, Rye, but thinking about how to make Brexit work for the best (or the least bad).  The more divisions there are, the worse the nation’s negotiating position will be.

So my solutions to the questions above are as follows:

  • UKIP voters should vote Conservative so that Brexit will mean Brexit, to coin a phrase
  • People thinking of voting Lib Dem should not prejudice Brexit by undermining Tory MPs, but might consider the Lib Dems in Labour areas if they simply cannot countenance voting Tory
  • Trump at least managed to upset people and obviously was able enough to make lots of money.  It seems that Jeremy Corbyn is simply incompetent.  Also it is clear that he has a very short fuse.  Patience is a virtue, and simply losing one’s temper in public is not a good starting point for diplomacy.  So Labour voters should arrange his defenestration and if they can’t swallow their longstanding devotion to the Labour Party, they should not vote at all
  • I hesitate to advise my friends across the Scottish border how to vote, else the fish lady will come down on me like a ton of bricks.  But I think Scotland would be taking a huge risk in trying to leave the UK – a far greater risk than that of the UK leaving Europe.  So common sense dictates, remain or leave the EU, that they accept the majority decision and work to make it work, rather than bleat from the sidelines.  There are some very able politicians up there, and they would be better inside the tent pissing out than vice-versa.

It’s all rather exciting…

Saying sorry

In medicine people don’t say sorry enough.  Every month there is a new press report of some disaster where there has been a cover-up, a failure of communication, an attempt to move blame, a guilty silence accompanied by a shifting of feet.  It is stupid because it aggravates the situation and leaves those affected more distressed an angry than they would have been otherwise.  A quick and appropriate apology cools the situation as people respect honesty.  The most potent example I have of this is a patient whose sight was severely affected by a prescription change in my department which I (and the patient’s GP) failed to notice.  When the problem came to light she asked what she should do, and I not only apologised but told her to consult a lawyer.  Rather diffidently she asked that, if she did and there was a case, would I continue to see her.  This was trust based on honesty.  Although there was a bit of an argy-bargy over responsibility there was none over liability, and she eventually received a six-figure settlement.  And I continued to see her.

How different Hillsborough would have been if the police had not tried to cover their backs, but admitted their failings.  On an international basis the same rules should apply.  If a civilian airliner is by mistake brought down by a missile, and all aboard perish, and there is incontrovertible evidence of the perpetrator, then that perpetrator will only be despised if they try to dodge the blame, not least if they change their story all the time.  Likewise, if nerve gas is dropped on a civilian target, and there is indisputable evidence of who did it, and equally indisputable evidence of an attempt at a cover-up (with attempted changes of story to try and adjust to emerging facts) no-one could ever trust them again.  So why do they do it?  Holding up your hands may be very painful, but there then is an end to it instead of continuing recriminations which poison things indefinitely.

So, in fact, medicine mirrors the rest of society.  What a pity.