Archives for January 2011

Politicos by Roz


Here’s what others have to say…

Today’s picks…

The broken heart of capitalism…Peston’s Picks

Wall of silence from five news organisations…Press Gazette

Are there any great speeches anymore? …Alastair Campbell

The numerical filibustering of a Labour Lord…Westminster Blog

Sleepover in the Lords as AV battle continues…Gary Gibbon

The inflation crisis deepens…Coffee House

Assault weapons ban…Huffington Post


How to Save the NHS

Every political party believes that it has the answer to the NHS’s problems. The poor old NHS is never left alone. Policy change after policy change has only ever resulted in higher costs and greater confusion. Isn’t it about time we looked at ways that we could help to reduce the cost burden? Shouldn’t we have a far more responsible attitude towards our beloved NHS? Instead of vainly searching for elusive cost savings and quality improvements, isn’t it time we started to think of ways to make our National Health Service into a true National Health Service rather than what it’s become, a National Illness Service?  Don’t we need to start to consider how our behaviour impacts on the cost of the NHS? Shouldn’t the NHS put much more emphasis on prevention rather than cure?

Every year we demand more and more from the NHS. Somehow it manages to absorb everything we throw at it. We’re living longer, so it has to deal with more age-related diseases. We demand the very latest medical treatments, and it delivers. We treat our bodies with scant disregard, and when they succumb to our lack of proper attention, the NHS picks up the pieces. Little wonder that it has little time to pay attention to prevention.

The time has come for prevention to become a major focus for the NHS. Why? Because every year the NHS has to spend more and more of its time and precious resources on diseases that are entirely preventable.  Take obesity, for example. Obesity is directly related to an increase in heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. This year, obesity-related diseases will cost the NHS £5 billion. With 60% of men and 40% of women forecast to be obese by 2050, this cost is set to escalate to such a degree that the NHS will be unable to deliver the level of health care we have come to expect without there being a huge, and probably unacceptable, increase in taxation.

So far, any interventions to try and influence people’s eating and lifestyle habits have failed. The obesity crisis is actually getting worse, not better. There is a reason. Obesity has become socially contagious.  What does this mean?  Research has shown that having a friend, sibling or spouse who is overweight or obese raises a person’s risk of being overweight or obese too. A sense of what constitutes an acceptable body weight passes from one person to the next. You are 60% more likely to be overweight or obese if you have a friend who is overweight or obese. Obese parents are nearly 40% more likely to have obese children.  It is now socially acceptable to be overweight or obese. It means that within communities the social norm has changed.

So how could any preventative intervention, either by or for the NHS, reduce the levels of obesity? For some time it has been widely accepted that diets deliver only short-term, temporary weight loss. 95% of people who go on diets never achieve permanent weight loss. What is now understood is that that behaviour change is the best way to lose weight permanently. Learning new eating and lifestyle habits is the simplest and most effective way of changing behaviour.

Behaviour change is not something that can be achieved by going on a 12- week course. Successful behaviour change comes from a combination of two things: learning new eating and lifestyle habits and support: support when making change, and having made change, support to prevent relapse and to allow the process of learning to continue.

There is a new opportunity to make a real and lasting difference to the levels of obesity which could save the NHS £billions. It lies in the fact that obesity, although still an individual problem, now has a new, social dimension. This opens up the possibility for the problem to be addressed in a totally new way.

How?  By providing the structure and support within communities for like-minded people who want to lose weight permanently, to organise themselves into mutually supportive groups. By providing these groups with a behaviour change programme and a specially trained team who will give them the support and guidance they need to succeed in losing weight permanently. This makes the community the ‘driver’ for change. If obesity can become socially contagious, being slim can become socially contagious too.

What this programme does is to tap into the power, energy and enthusiasm a community generates when it has a shared goal with a clear benefit. It provides the support and the structure people need to lose weight and then to manage and maintain their weight.  It will also provide long-term support to prevent relapse and help individuals and their families enjoy a slim, healthy lifestyle.

The great advantage of a community-led programme is that it is relatively inexpensive. The savings to the NHS could be huge. It also has the potential to make ‘slim’ the new social norm and to set obesity levels on a downward path.

If we don’t want the NHS to be paralysed by escalating costs, unable to deliver the health care we need, it has to invest in prevention. We cannot allow preventable diseases to hijack precious resources. We all have a responsibility to minimise the burden on the NHS. As individuals we may find this difficult, but as a community, we have the power to make a difference, both to ourselves and to the NHS.


Here’s what others have to say…

Today’s picks…

Bringing the bankers to heel must start here, right now…Will Hutton

Life under occupation…jfjfp

What changes will we make after the Giffords shooting? …Huffington Post

How’s it going right for Ed Milliband? …Coffee House

Why did Putin choose BP? …Peston’s Picks

Berlusconi’s jailbait ruby…Guido Fawkes

A successful Jasmine revolution, but what next for Tunisia? … New Statesman

The Pope and the dictator…Nick Cohen

AV campaign gathers momentum…Left Foot Forward


Daniel Ellsberg and Julian Assange

This is a fascinating discussion between Daniel Ellsberg and Julian Assange at the Frontline Club last October. To have asked these two to speak on the same platform was an inspired decision. The result reveals much about the motives of both men and gives a fresh perspective to the Wikileaks revelations and the effect they might have on bringing about better government.

In 1971 when Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers, documents showing the American people had been deceived about Vietnam, Richard Nixon created an extra-legal, clandestine force to retaliate. The Plumbers’ break-in into Ellsberg’s psychoanalyst’s office in search of information with which to smear him contributed to Nixon’s downfall. At his trial, Ellsberg faced charges under the Espionage Act 1917, which if rumours are true, is the Act the US are currently exploring as a means of prosecuting Julian Assange. Ellsberg’s trail was dismissed in 1973 on the grounds of government misconduct against him which led to the convictions of several White House aides and figured in the impeachment proceedings of Nixon.

It was subsequently revealed that there had been plans to ‘incapacitate’ Ellsberg, a decision which was not carried out, but had been sanctioned at presidential level. The sexual misconduct charges against Julian Assange have all the hallmarks of having been ‘arranged’. He will probably face many similar ‘hurdles’ in the future. I’m sure his legal team will be on high alert for any ‘government misconduct’.

The action taken against Daniel Ellsberg may have been extreme, but we need to be on our guard about what is said and done in our name. Ellsberg and Assange check the behaviour of the ‘establishment’ and heighten our awareness. No bad thing. 

The Frontline Club. This was originally formed by a group of freelance cameramen who specialised in reporting war for television. It was turned into a club for those who believe in independent journalism by Vaughn Smith. Julian Assange is currently staying with Vaughn Smith whilst on bail.


Here’s what others have to say…

Today’s picks…

Ofcom says News Corp’s Sky bid should go to Competition Commission…Peston’s Picks

George Osborne should concentrate on his own job, not on other people’s…Guardian

Chinese Health Check…Gary Gibbon

Gaza youth breaks out…jfjfp

King’s inflation nation…Coffee House

Obama Arizona speech and video…Huffington Post

Innovation but no politics…From Poverty to Power


Apalin’ Palin uses Arizona to grab the headlines

Well, the lady’s got chutzpah! But her carefully scripted, presidential style address pushes the bounds of decency a tad too far.
This saccharine twaddle will no doubt keep her in the headlines for a good week. The Sarah Palin money making machine will be churning the bucks. Let’s hope this is her only ambition. President Palin will have me dialling Dignitas.

Sarah Palin: “America’s Enduring Strength” from Sarah Palin on Vimeo.


Here’s what others have to say…

Today’s picks…

Bob Diamond: No Apologies. No Restraint. No Shame…Independent

Jailed phone-hacker’s rising legal bills trigger speculation…Guardian

The Spooking of America…Snowblog

Clegg: time to air our differences…Coffee House

Illsley on expenses – in his own words…Nick Robinson

Labour a shoo-in at Oldham and Saddleworth…Peter Kelner YouGov

Bankers get away with it – and Clegg says coalition working too well…Alastair Campbell


Odour! Odour!

A scandal is brewing. The stench is unmistakeable. The Prime Minister is involved, Rupert Murdoch is involved, the Met is involved and our dear beloved MPs are in the mix too.

After Goodman and Mulcaire were sent to pokey, Max Clifford and Gordon Taylor were paid off and the Met had mysteriously ‘lost interest’, I’m sure Murdoch felt the phone tapping scandal had gone away, or was at least containable.  That all changed when last week Ian Edmondson, a senior editor at the News of the World, was suspended following allegations of complicity.

What is now emerging is the sheer number of people who have been victims of hacking by the News of the World and by implication the number of people who must have been aware of what was going on or who were actually involved. For the government press secretary, and NoW editor at the time the scandal broke, Andy Coulson to deny he knew anything about what was going on is now stretching the bounds of credibility too far – or he is the stupidest, most detached editor in the history of ‘Fleet Street’.

By protecting Coulson, David Cameron is showing seriously bad judgement. By not distancing himself from Coulson he risks being drawn into the whole affair. But why would he do that? Because he is scared stiff of offending Murdoch. This whole episode shows us how beholden he and his coalition are to News International and to the whims of Murdoch himself. It illustrates only too well how political decisions are being distorted by the alliance between our politicians and the media, and News International in particular.

The fact that Murdoch must have sanctioned the out of court ‘hush money’ which has been paid to prevent the phone hacking scandal reaching the courts should be more than enough to rule him out from obtaining the remainder of BSkyB shares.  We should also insist that the number of titles he controls be reduced and his cross media ownership questioned.

But what of the Met, why did they lose interest in the case? Murdoch had to keep his executives clear of the courts because they would have to testify under oath. Did he cross a few palms with silver? Has he got something on some senior police officers? He must have done something. And why have the Met been obstructing the release of documents to the lawyers of victims of the phone hacking who are trying to obtain redress? There are some serious questions that need answered.

And then there are our dearly beloved MPs. Poor quivering little beasties who have been terrified into silence by News International. Not a single one prepared to stand up to the Mighty Murdoch. They are guilty of doing nothing and saying nothing: a truly pathetic spectacle.

A major scandal is on the horizon. How David Cameron reacts to will be revealing about so very many things. Time to sit back and watch: it’s going to get very smelly. Nobody is going to come up smelling of roses in this one.


Here’s what others have to say…

Today’s picks…

Rotten Boroughs Awards 2010…Private Eye

Tucson’s message to Britain…Snowblog

Time for the right wing US prophets of hate to change their tune…Alastair Campbell

Are David Cameron’s supermarket jobs just a PR exercise? …Westminster Blog

The coalition’s benefit cuts: the pain to come…New Statesman

Johnson running out of his nine lives…Coffee House

Palin: shooting nothing to do with me…Huffington Post