Archive for May, 2008

Today’s Google celebration

Monday, May 12th, 2008

At the weekend I returned to my alma mater, St Thomas’ Hospital in London to re-unite with other survivors of my set who began training together at the Nightingale School.

This is the weekend that is always set aside for such a meeting of the Fellowship because it is the nearest to the birthday, today, of Florence Nightingale who founded the school. It was a joyful and also poignant get-together. Poignant, not just because of the friends who weren’t there and the reuniting with people who see each other rarely but fall into conversation with ease and comfort within about 3 minutes. The other cause is that the school we that nurtured us closed in 1996 when it amalgamated with others at Kings College in the Strand and nursing training was taken away from hospitals. The badge we had to work so hard for and were required to return ‘ultimately’ to the hospital is no longer awarded.

In the central hall, along with the busts of the famous men of St Thomas’ are two display cases with badges returned and the names of the original owners and date of qualifying 1889, 1923, 1948 and more recent. A young workman was sitting on one of the benches and asked me what the “medals” were. I told him about the badge and how long one had to work to win one. He smiled with understanding “Oh yeah” he said. “You mean like McDonald’s”

Now that was fast food for thought.

My 10 pence worth

Monday, May 5th, 2008

I don’t normally do politics on the blog – there are just too many commentators out there and to keep up seems to mean spending a lot of time at the computer – and I am basically a bit lazy about that. But this week has been a real treat for everyone, not only anoraks like me.

There’s been a mass of comment about the implications for the PM, the government, London and the renascent Conservatives. Out of the swirl of opinion, fact, graphs, comment, observation and so on I want to pick a couple of thoughts.

A comment I heard on Radio 4 that the abolishing of the 10p rate of tax for lower earners thus increasing their tax burden is “a poll tax moment” for the Government. In other words, whatever is said to defend the measure, it will always be seen as unfair and that won’t recede from the public consciousness. Gordon Brown had been told what would happen to the tax of the lower paid – indeed, he must have realized himself – but because of the other measures he had put in place for poorer people he refused to budge on it.

Part of the problem is that it affects such a wide range of people. Even if his plan of reimbursement through cold weather payments or family credits were acceptable – and the family tax credit has been bungled horribly so many people wouldn’t think of risking it again – it means that working people are put in the position of petitioning the state for money rather than being able to earn and keep their own.

As well as the impoverished working families, retired people between the ages of 60 – 64 are affected, part-timers (like me) and young people. Many of the so-called “early” retirees are women who retired at the age of 60 as they are entitled and in some cases obliged to do, would be appalled at having to seek out state aid to make up for what they see as a tax raid on their pensions.

Many of the young people, like my son who is a recent graduate starting on the ladder, earn modest salaries but are already bowed down with student debt. They are told to save for a pension and are wondering if they will ever own a property or have enough money for family life. So they aren’t too happy with the Labour government, and nor are their families.

Secondly, if this is a poll tax moment and ends like the real one, then given the pattern of Government over the past couple of decades – long terms in Government with the opposition having to refigure itself – the Labour party is likely to be in opposition for about 10 years. I wonder what goes through the minds of the ambitious and talented younger politicians who have achieved high levels of office at a relatively young age – David Milliband, becoming a very respected Foreign Secretary, Ed Balls and his wife Yvette Cooper, both in cabinet. It must be a difficult call. Wait in opposition (assuming you hang on to your seat) and hope for high office down the line or risk the next generation eclipsing you when the time comes. That’s politics. I don’t worry unduly about them though – I suspect they will be able to find suitable and well remunerated alternative employment should the worse come to the worst.