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01 January 2017

Close Encounter with the NHS

An Appreciation of the NHS in Malton & Scarborough.
For most of my life my heart and I have been on good terms. It has faithfully pumped its way through life’s journey without complaint or incident. A few days before Christmas it ruined its reputation having suddenly realised I’d just had a 79th Birthday. It didn’t like it. Sitting in front of a troublesome computer one day, my heart decided to remind me of my age by starting a hundred-metre sprint all on its own, leaving me feeling light-headed and decidedly unwell. I was thankful at least for the fact that I was experiencing no pain.

I got myself home and my wife got out her faithful blood pressure machine from which we discovered my blood pressure (normally good) was through the roof, and my pulse rate was 135 per minute. That didn’t sound (or feel) like a good scenario.

Malton Hospital
My wife drove me to Malton Hospital – a small local hospital just 8 miles away – where they have a walk-in centre. I was seen immediately by a Nurse Practitioner who started a series of tests. There was a “safety-first” kind of assumption that I had had, or was having, or would have, a heart attack, and with the attendant danger of a stroke. Soluble aspirin and a GTN spray under the tongue were administered.

She decided I should be in a bigger hospital, either York or Scarborough. There had been reports of a serious incident on the main road to York so it was off to the seaside for me, and an ambulance was ordered. It arrived quite soon. I was trundled into the back of it and hitched up to monitors. This was but a short visit to Malton Hospital, but within five minutes of my giving the receptionist my details and reason for being there I had been seen by an attentive Nurse Practitioner, a provisional diagnosis made, early treatment administered, and my next destination organised.

The Ambulance

The three paramedics were caring, good-humoured, and meticulous about what they were doing. I couldn’t have asked for more care and attention. This was my first experience of an emergency ambulance, and whilst the equipment and the medical treatment afforded was beyond reproach, the experience of lying on one’s back, seeing nothing of the outside except the sky through a roof light whilst negotiating corners, roundabouts, speed bumps, stops and starts, provided a less-than-ideal travelling experience. I asked the lady attending to me how many patients they had to treat for travel sickness. She replied, “Quite a lot!”

At some stage on the journey, with my heart still sprinting and my blood pressure high, we pulled off the road so that an injection could be administered. Approaching Scarborough we came up against heavy traffic with little movement. My paramedic looked at the traffic stretching out in front of the ambulance and said to the driver, “Let’s do this properly”. The driver flicked a switch and an electronic voice came from the dashboard .. “999 Mode engaged”. I heard the sirens start, and saw glimpses of flashing blue light reflecting off surfaces. Suddenly we were moving quite fast, and before long we’d arrived outside Scarborough Hospital’s Accident & Emergency Department, and I was being trundled into the corridor leading to the A & E cubicles.

Scarborough Hospital
As we have (sadly) come to expect these days, there was a queue of trolley-bound patients along the corridor (though it was good to see the queue was not too long). Nevertheless, after the paramedic had had a word with a staff member I was told we were jumping the queue. I found myself in a cubicle, cannula inserted, drip connected, pads and wires slapped all over my chest, all plugged into a monitor; temperature and blood pressure taken; a junior doctor sitting herself down beside me asking for personal details and the symptoms that had led me to my current position.

Another junior doctor came along and asked me a series of questions clearly designed to see whether there had been any impairment to my brain functions:
 
“Remember this address .. 42 West Street, then please answer some questions ..”
 
What’s your date of birth? What’s your name? When did the 2nd World War end? Can you count from 20 down to zero? What’s the name of this hospital? Roughly what time of day do you think it is? What was that address I asked you to remember?
 
“42 West Street”. Sighs of relief .. especially from me!
 
After about an hour of monitoring and observation I was transferred to the Coronary Care Unit and placed in a ward of four beds. I was offered a set of pyjamas, but by this time, my wife, who had returned home from Malton and picked up all the stuff I would need, provided the necessary attire. A nurse re-wired me to a monitor by the bed and remarked, “Oh I can see why you’re here” as the heart monitor began registering about 130 beats per minute.

Now, as to the little problem of one’s personal bodily functions and their needs I was quite happy to pull the curtain around my bed and use one of the bottles provided, but for a more serious need – which was beginning to exercise my mind – I would insist on getting out of bed, unplugging myself, and walking a short distance down the corridor. This provided grounds for serious concern for the nurse assigned to my care; she was perfectly charming but adamant that anything could happen in the toilet and there’d be no monitor to say why! She was clearly very worried, and I could see the litigation papers in her eyes, but I had to insist as politely as I could, even offering to sign a disclaimer, that I had my wits about me and knew what I was doing. I reminded her there was a nice big emergency pull-switch in there, and in any case I would rather die in the toilet than use a bed-pan!

I was happy to note that my heart rate eventually slowed down to about 80, but by the time I’d returned from a call of nature and plugged myself back in again, it was back to about 110.

During the periods when I felt well enough I laid there and enjoyed the banter between the three other men in the room. They had more serious conditions than mine but were cheerful and kept themselves entertained with their own little stories. The four of us passed some of the time watching each other’s heart monitors, with their pulse rate displays fluctuating between 55 and 125. It was more exciting than watching TV.

I was seen by a very pleasant Cardiac Consultant who shook my hand and introduced himself. He said I was presenting something of a challenge, because my heart appeared to be beating normally .. just too damned fast! Moreover I had no pain. It soon became clear I was to be there overnight, with further assessments in the morning, after blood tests and a chest x-ray.

A lady came round with a menu sheet so I could choose my evening meal. It was a good selection.
The staff became used to the idea that from time to time I was going to unplug myself from the monitors and take a walk along the corridor, then plug myself back into the mothership on my return to the ward.

After a night’s sleep interrupted several times for injections, blood samples, temperature and blood pressure checks, I was provided with hot water, flannels, soap, towels, toothbrush and toothpaste. Breakfast was brought in later, consisting of cereals, toast, marmalade and other spreads, and a choice of tea or coffee. Strangely, a “Full English” fry-up was not on offer!

After another day, and a second night of tests and observation, a second (equally pleasant) heart Consultant had concluded that I had suffered the symptoms of Angina (something caused through age-related hardening of the arteries, or clogging of same, and not always causing pain) and I would probably be allowed home late afternoon of the third day with appropriate medication, but subject only to my passing a physical test on a treadmill. By this time my heart rate was at a more respectable level.

In due course I was taken to the physio room and I was wired up to two computers and invited on to a treadmill which would put me through three stages of exercise over a period of about nine minutes. I started three minutes of easy strolling on the level, then an inclined walk at a faster rate for another three minutes, concluding with a very fast walk “uphill” for another three minutes. I didn’t fall over and I passed with flying colours. My Consultant came in to check the results, and told me I could go home, armed with a shed load of medication, and he would arrange to see me again in Malton Hospital in a couple of months’ time.
Food

Apart from breakfast, the menu choices were surprisingly extensive. The food was of good quality, tasty, well cooked, and hot. (Well, apart from the salad dishes!) I’ve had much worse in some cafés.

Hygiene
Hygiene was exemplary. There were dispensers of anti-bacterial foam at the end of every bed, and in every doorway. Each morning, two or three very cheerful ladies (one of them singing enthusiastically) completely stripped the beds, disinfected the mattresses (top, underside, sides and ends) then all handrails etc., then re-made the beds with fresh sheets and pillow-cases. (The beds themselves were hi-tech with press-buttons to lower or raise them, raise or lower one end at a time, or indeed convert them into a giant chair.) After all this the floors were cleaned.

The Staff
Where do I start? From Consultants, Junior Doctors, Nurses, Health Care Assistants, to Catering and Cleaning, I encountered nothing but harmonious efficiency, good humour, kindness and compassion.

On my last night they brought in an elderly man who was a severe dementia case. He was constantly distressed, constantly on the move, talking nonsense, and trying to get out of bed. Watching three nurses attend to him was a master-class in good humour and kindness, demonstrated most eloquently by one nurse who was left standing at his bedside for about an hour, holding his hand, talking to him, calming him, and keeping him in the bed rather than out of it. Later another nurse
marched in and cheerily announced to the rest of us that it looked like being a long night, before handing round blindfolds and ear plugs!

I hate applying ethnic labels to people, but sadly it appears to be how the world wants to work. For example, how relevant is it that the nurse calming down the poor old guy with dementia was black? How relevant is it that the two junior doctors who first saw me in A & E appeared to be Chinese? How relevant is it that one of our ward nurses (all of whom appeared to work long shifts) might have been from the Philippines? How relevant is it that one of my heart Consultants might have been a Pakistani or an Indian? How relevant is that other nurses and doctors were just Yorkshire lads and lasses (or to coin a phrase used on survey forms, White British?)

You see, I’m using phrases like “appeared to be”, and “might have been” because really I don’t feel the need to find out. They just made up a brilliant kaleidoscope of multi-ethnicity: colleagues working together with smiles on their faces, and treating their patients like human beings in a manner that human beings normally like being treated.

So, the only relevance of their ethnicity was simply this: what I experienced was a microcosm of the way the World Outside ought to be! Should any members of such prejudiced groups as the British National Party, or Britain First or perhaps the more extreme members of UKIP fall ill and be thrust into the care of somewhere like Scarborough Hospital, they might just stop banging on so much about immigration! Or am I being naïve?

My final thought is in regard to the NHS itself. There are two opposing extreme views: (1) it is the ‘envy of the world’ .. in which case one might be forgiven for wondering why the rest of the world hasn’t copied it .. or (2) it is a bloated, inefficient, badly managed bureaucracy, in need of privatisation. But as usual, nothing is that black or white (except perhaps black and white), and although we all know of examples of some dreadful NHS hospitals, they are a minority. I am just grateful that having paid my taxes throughout my life I have always been able to receive good medical care as and when needed, free at the point of delivery.

So, I’m grateful to Malton Hospital, Yorkshire Ambulance Service, & Scarborough Hospital.

©Lionel Beck
29 Dec 2016

29 November 2016

The Insane Politics of 2016



A Year Best Forgotten?

If only it were that simple. We could try to forget, but the downside would be that much of the insanity would just carry on unchecked. We owe it to ourselves and to those who follow us to keep the year’s events in mind, think about them, and endeavour to make 2017 a little less like more of the same.

It was a year of political upheavals, which could be variously described as  surprising, scary, unpleasant, incredible, and (for some people with whom I have little understanding) actually exciting.
The values of our democratic social & liberal society in Britain, Europe and the USA were severely strained by an upsurge of extremist politics from both ends of the political spectrum.

Forgive this slight digression, but on the matter of the political spectrum, I don’t like the simplistic view of right and left being represented as a straight line with Socialists and Communists at one end, and Nationalists and Fascists at the other.

In practice, this “straight” line is part of a circle’s circumference; Left & Right bend round in each direction becoming more extreme in each direction, resulting in completion of the circle. Where Left & Right join, we find that the two political credos are almost indistinguishable from each other. These extreme “ends” have things in common: a tendency towards dictatorship, totalitarianism, populism, racism, Media control, loss of individual liberty and the denial of human rights. (Think Joseph Stalin & Adolph Hitler. Think Fidel Castro & General Pinochet. In both pairings, they had so much in common, didn’t they?) This is what I mean ..


The European Union

Nigel Farage
Nigel Farage
In the UK things began to get nasty when the Conservative Government led by David Cameron promised a referendum on whether or not Britain should remain a member of the European Union. The only reason he did this was to paper over the cracks within his own Party. Some wanted to leave and others wanted to remain, and those that wanted to leave were making a nuisance of themselves. Fuel was poured on to the burning embers of Conservative resentment by the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) led by a charismatic, ego-driven popinjay called Nigel Farage. Farage and his cohorts were initially perceived as a threat mainly to the Conservatives, and one or two prominent Conservatives actually jumped ship and joined UKIP. In reality, though UKIP was managing to pick up votes from the “working classes” (ex-Labour voters) across large swathes of the North of England.

UKIP’s principal message was that we should “take back control”. That meant taking back control of our borders and clamping down on immigration, and taking back control of the sovereignty of Parliament, so that instead of being bound by common laws dreamed up in Brussels by unelected bureaucrats (some of whom were of course British) to be rubber-stamped by an ineffectual European Parliament, we would “make our own laws”. There was merit in some of the arguments, but then on the other hand some very useful Europe-wide laws had come out of the EU, e.g., on working time, working conditions, air and water quality, coastal waters quality, food labelling, measures dealing with climate change, common access to health care, freedom of travel, freedom to find work, and so on.

Free movement of people was a cornerstone of the EU credo, which gave us all huge advantages in terms of being able to find work in any European country, and being able travel freely and without hindrance on holidays. On the downside – hugely exploited by UKIP and others – there was an uncontrollable influx of immigrants, some of whom were very useful to us (especially scientists, nurses, doctors, engineers, etc.) but many who were not (unskilled, unemployed, receivers of benefits etc.) This latter group fuelled a feeling of resentment among much of the UK population, encouraged by Farage’s gratuitous comments about hearing foreign languages being spoken on trains being unpleasant.

Unfortunately successive UK governments (in particular Labour ones) had until recently stuck to an ideological belief system that refused to recognise that immigration could ever be a problem and actively encouraged hundreds of thousands of people to come into the country without regard to their skills, their ability to seek work, or even their ability to speak the language. Discussion of any social problems was deemed to be “racist” and was shut down before it could gain traction.

In my opinion, the UK government should have had the courage to stand up to the EU and take whatever measures were necessary in the national interest. (Other countries seemed to have no qualms about bending the rules in the national interest.) I believe the EU would have huffed and puffed and even tried  legal action, but it wouldn’t have mattered. They would have caved in to our demands in the interest of maintaining the EU as an ongoing entity.

But no, UKIP were stirring up hatred for the EU, Nigel Farage was insulting people right, left and centre in the European Parliament, and they were putting the wind up the Conservatives, especially when at the last elections for the European Parliament they managed to send a large contingent of UKIP MEPs to Brussels.

David Cameron
David Cameron
And so, David Cameron embarked upon an ill-fated referendum which he was convinced he was going to win, i.e., the British public would vote to remain in the EU. Indeed he was stupid enough to give the Civil Service specific instructions not to prepare a “Plan B”!

The downright lies and pure fantasy that rained down upon us from both the Remain and Leave campaigns swamped anything resembling truly informative dialogue and we were standing up to our knees in stinking controversy. Both sides were taking us all for fools. None of them wanted to ‘confuse us with the facts’.

We had a binary choice, IN or OUT. The appeal to naked nationalism by UKIP and the renegade Tories known as “Brexiteers” had more effect than any positive arguments in favour of European co-operation, free trade, and partnership, and the country voted NO to the EU. But .. only just, and the closeness of the vote meant that bad feeling from one half of the population against the other was rife, and even families were divided (mine included). Paradoxically, whilst I voted to remain in the EU I would have been much happier if the vote to leave had been overwhelming and beyond argument. 52% / 48% is not a good place to be.

Theresa May
Theresa May
David Cameron resigned (he had little other option) and the Tories appointed Theresa May as their new Leader, and hence, Prime Minister. She (a closet “Remainer” we were led to believe) is now left with the unenviable task of taking us out of Europe, for which Cameron had made no contingency plans!

 

Hate Crimes

The worst aspect of the EU referendum campaign and its result was the subsequent manifestation of something in the British character that, frankly, some of us would prefer to deny exists, namely  hate and intolerance. I suppose there has always been plenty of that around but the unwritten rules of society managed to keep it well under wraps until the Internet, and Social Media, provided a ready outlet for sociopaths, racists, anti-semites and various other varieties of swamp life.


Jo Cox
The late Jo Cox
In the weeks and months following the referendum there were hundreds of incidents of immigrants being abused. Of course many were not actually immigrants, having been born in this country, but – hey! – if you’ve got a brown or black face and speak with an unusual accent, then you’re an immigrant. At the milder end of the hate spectrum one idiot walked into a Polish food shop and told the owner to “Go home! We’re out of the EU now and you’re not wanted.” At the disgustingly extreme end of the hate spectrum, a widely loved and respected (pro-EU) Labour MP, Jo Cox, was shot and stabbed right outside her constituency office by a man shouting “Britain first!” Jo Cox was murdered in broad daylight in front of dozens of witnesses, and her killer just walked off down the road as if nothing unusual had occurred. It didn’t take the Police long to collar him, and I’m pleased to say that he is now behind bars for life, (and in this instance, life means life).

What have we become? It is totally insane.

 

Party Fortunes

The Labour Party

Ed Miliband
Ed Miliband
Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg
Meanwhile, something else very interesting was happening. In the previous year's General Election the voters kicked out the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition, leaving us with a Conservative majority government. The Labour Party performed miserably. This resulted in the resignation of both David Miliband as Labour Leader, and Nick Clegg as Liberal Democrat Leader.



Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn
The Labour Party MPs put forward four just-about-plausible leadership candidates that one might describe as being on the centre-left or social democratic area of the political spectrum, and then some wag suggested Jeremy Corbyn should be nominated to balance the field. Everyone thought he would be a joke candidate because he was so far “left” that he was nearly falling over the cliff, (or - using my preferred circular analogy – whizzing round that circle towards the totalitarian point) but surprise, surprise, he amassed a huge following amongst thousands of young Socialist, Communist, Trotskyist, and Marxist activists who were signing up as Members of the Labour Party like there was no tomorrow, for the express purpose of voting in the leadership election. Jeremy Corbyn (a decent enough man, it has to be said) was a master of street campaigning and political rallies, and his support grew to such a point that, come the leadership election, he won it by a landslide; and so a man who had devoted about 30 years of his life in Parliament railing against his own Party (even when they were in government) now found himself leading it!

The result was that most of the Parliamentary Party vowed not to work with him, whilst in contrast the support of the Party membership outside of Parliament were placing him on a huge pedestal that might as well have had a brass plaque attached with the somewhat appropriate initials .. JC.

By the time we had entered the insane year of 2016 JC was being subjected to parliamentary pressure to resign, and a couple of Labour MPs challenged him to another leadership contest. Again this meant another vote by the Party Membership outside Parliament, and again the membership defied the Parliamentary Labour Party and elected him for a second time. Even the Labour Party in Parliament was not stupid enough to resist him again. Most of the “big beasts” disappeared from the Shadow Cabinet and were replaced by people nobody had ever heard of. Tony Blair’s social democratic “New Labour” had reverted to pure socialism.

 

The Liberal Democrats

This Party, which has honourable social reforming roots going back to William Gladstone and David Lloyd-George, had been reduced to 6 MPs at the end of World War II, (when Labour won a landslide victory) and it then spent the rest of the 20th century and the early part of this century slowly building up its popularity again, to the point where it could boast more than 60 MPs. This put them in a powerful position when, at the 2010 General Election, no single Party got sufficient votes to form a government with a working majority. The outgoing Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown made half-hearted attempts to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats but the arithmetic didn’t really add up. On the other hand if the Conservatives could form such a coalition the figures would add up. And so the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government came into being in 2010. We were in middle of a major financial crisis and some kind of stable government was urgently required.

The Coalition achieved some notable successes, namely bringing back the nation’s finances under control, increasing cash for education, increasing nursery places for pre-school children and assistance for mothers, and most significantly raising the personal tax allowance which helped the middle and low earners. 

The Liberal Democrats were a driving force behind many of the reforms of that Coalition, but their leader Nick Clegg had made one huge mistake leading up to the 2010 General Election: he had campaigned vociferously against University tuition fees and vowed to abolish them. No doubt he didn’t expect to be in government when he made that commitment, but on that basis he garnered a huge following. So, when in government his commitment was swallowed by the inevitable gaping hole of coalition compromises, and tuition fees were increased rather than abolished, the Liberal Democrats credibility and popularity stalled and plummeted to earth in an uncontrollable spin. 

Consequently the 2015 General Election saw their MPs reduced to a miserable EIGHT. They were almost back to 1945! Their place as a Third Party force to be reckoned with was taken over by about 50 Scottish Nationalists MPs (who, by the way, virtually wiped out the Scottish Labour Party).

Tim Farron
Tim Farron
Norman Lamb
Norman Lamb
The Liberal Democrats also had to elect a new Leader and had the choice of Norman Lamb and Tim Farron. Continuing my penchant for always voting for the losing side, I voted for Normal Lamb and got Tim Farron! Tim Farron is a decent guy, and has one advantage over the Conservative and Labour Leaders .. he has genuine  “working class” roots. But I cannot in all honestly describe the Leader of the Party I support as a “political heavyweight”. Norman Lamb, in contrast, is more mature and experienced, and served as a respected Health Minister in the Coalition Government, gaining a good reputation for fighting the corner of those challenged by mental illness. So .. voted for Leader Lamb, got Tiny Tim. I live with it; it’s democracy.

The Conservative Party

There is very little to add about the Party now in government, except to say that they are now faced with delivering the “Brexit” that Britain voted for, using a plan that is either non-existent, or if it does exist is not being shared with the rest of us.

(I say “Britain”, but interestingly most of Scotland voted to remain, thus providing even more opportunity for constitutional crisis. Paradoxically, although Scotland had voted to remain part of the UK a couple of years ago, the Nationalists who had complained about being ruled by a distant London are apparently content to be ruled by an even more distant Brussels!)

 

UKIP

In 2015, this Party, under Farage’s dynamic leadership, started sucking up millions of votes (many of them from Labour strongholds) but because of the injustices of Britain’s “first past the post” system, the votes, being spread around many constituencies up and down the land, only one MP was elected. They did much better at the European Parliament elections because they are run on a proportional representation system.

Although they produced a manifesto for government, their over-arching reason for existence was to get Britain out of the EU, and in this they succeeded. Ever since the referendum people have been understandably asking, “What is UKIP  for now?”

Paul Nuttall
Paul Nuttall
The Party descended into a period of infighting and navel gazing, not to mention an outbreak of Tweets between members and officials, the resignation of Nigel Farage (“I want my life back”), a leadership contender who failed to get his papers submitted in time, a fist fight between him and another UKIP Member of the European Parliament, a new leader (Diane James) who completed just 18 days of service before resigning, resulting in a third leadership election in which Paul Nuttall became Leader. He said the Party had become a jig-saw puzzle that had been tipped on to the floor. Under his leadership the UKIP jig-saw would be put back together.

Meanwhile, in the USA ...

As President Barak Obama (Democrat) limped towards the end of his second term, no doubt exhausted by continual criticism and sometimes racist abuse by Republicans about his inability to achieve anything. This was high hypocrisy since the Republican Party had control of both Houses of Congress and thus went out of its way to block anything the President tried to do.
Donald Trump
Donald Trump
Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton
With Presidential elections coming up in November of 2016, the Republicans and Democrats went about the usual process of selecting their candidate through Primary Elections. The Republicans put a ridiculously high number of candidates forward (most of them carrying little weight), one of which was Donald Trump an egocentric billionaire businessman and TV reality star, regarded by many as a joke candidate. Meanwhile the Democrats settled on only two candidates, one of which was Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders who .. wait for it .. described himself as a Socialist !
Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders


I’d always thought the term “American Socialist” was an oxymoron, but I was wrong. Bernie Sanders started accumulating mass support, similar in some ways to what Jeremy Corbyn had done in the UK. Nevertheless, it was not enough to stop Hillary Clinton being adopted as Candidate for President. She was a flawed candidate, not only representing the East Coast/West Coast liberal establishment, but also mired in controversy over the use of a private email server, allegedly putting national security at risk. The Republicans, against all odds, also settled on a flawed candidate, i.e., Donald Trump, who set about insulting and abusing women, the disabled, Mexicans, Muslims, and of course Hillary Clinton (“Crooked Hillary”. “Lock her up.” ) At one rally he also encouraged his supporters to deal with a protester by punching him in the face.

Trump’s businesses were many and varied, as were his bankruptcies, debts and tax evasion schemes. During the campaign a video recording was unearthed in which we watched and heard him boasting to a TV producer that he could grope women in the genital area and get away with it. I think his actual words were “Grab them by the Pussy”. Future presidential material??

Considering the huge size and population of the USA it was somewhat surprising to those of us living on this side of the pond that these two people were the best they could come up with to be leader of the “free world”.

Against all odds Trump actually became President-Elect, and just as the “Brexit” phenomenon in Britain produced all sorts of swamp life, a lot of Americans started getting nasty and abusive with immigrants. Trump claimed he stood for the forgotten unemployed, and the working poor, neglecting to mention that he himself (living in gilded opulence) was a product of, and a beneficiary of  the Corporate world of global capitalism that was mainly responsible for the existence of those forgotten poor in the first place. 

Having spent the entire campaign that was calculated to cause serious divisions throughout American society, on finally becoming President-Elect, Trump announced, in all seriousness, that he intended to unite the country.

They sucked it all up, and yelled “Make America Great Again”. (By the way, when did America stop being “great”, and what is meant by “great”? Nobody seems to know.)

Trump and Farage
Self-appointed champions of Blue-collar Workers
He found common cause with our own Nigel Farage, who spoke at a couple of Trump’s rallies. What a jolly picture they made standing together in Trump Tower, two egomaniacs. Trump is going to make America great again, and UKIP’s new leader Paul Nuttall said in his victory speech that he was going to put the “Great” back into Britain again.

All great populist stuff, but totally insane (and dangerous).

Worse still, similar stuff has been stirring in Europe, with far-right Parties in the ascendant in Holland, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Italy – all exacerbated by waves of Middle Eastern and North African immigrants fleeing civil wars and/or religious persecution, seeking refuge in a Europe starting to collapse under the weight of alien social customs and consequent widespread resentment.

All deeply troubling.

I’m at the fag-end of my life, and I could perhaps say I don’t give a flying f*ck, but I worry about the future my grandson will inherit. So should you.

If this isn’t the time for Liberals to stand up for liberal values, democracy and human decency, I don’t know when is!

©Lionel Beck - 2016