Category Archives: Society

Crisis? What crisis? How politicians ignore the existence of food banks

It would be better to incentivise people into work with secure jobs and decent wages than to try to starve them into submission

It’s like Groundhog Day. A report into food bank use is published. There are more people now than there were last year, month, week using them. Many people are referred to food banks due to delays and cuts to their benefits. Of the remaining referrals, a significant number are in low-paid, insecure work.

You might be forgiven for thinking that the UK doesn’t have a food bank problem, so absent have they been from the election debates and manifesto launches of the past few weeks. Yet the sharp rise in the number of people going hungry in our country seems to be an indicator that something has gone horribly wrong.

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Ebola can be transmitted sexually for weeks after recovery – education is crucial

Ebola remains in semen long after it is clear from blood – but international advice won’t prevent its sexual transmission, says an anthropologist in Sierra Leone

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Posted in Africa, Ebola, Education, Gender, Global development professionals network, Impact and effectiveness, Life and style, Schools, Sex, Sex Education, Sierra Leone, Society, Teenage pregnancy, Women, World news, Young people | Comments Off

Election 2015 live: Boris Johnson faces phone-in questions on Call Boris

9.05am BST

Q: Why are you only getting involved in the campaign now?

That’s not true, says Johnson. He says he has been doing plenty of campaigning.

9.03am BST

Boris Johnson is doing his LBC phone-in now.

Q: You are rattled, aren’t you?

9.00am BST

Labour released details of their cancer treatment announcement overnight. Here are the key points. The quotes are from the Labour news release

Labour’s new investment of £150 million each year from 2016/17 in new diagnostic infrastructure will make it possible to do more tests directly in GP surgeries by ensuring key equipment is available in every town.

He will also say that Labour’s new Cancer Treatments Fund, which will be put in place after the Cancer Drugs Fund expires in 2016, will help kick start the urgent replacement of outdated radiotherapy machines. In spite of official NHS guidance saying that machines should be replaced every 10 years, NHS radiotherapy centres have not always been able to do so, with a recent Labour Freedom of Information request revealing that 1 in 5 are older than that.

The NHS England’s Business Plan 2015-2016 was released at 9.24pm on March 27th – Parliament’s last working day before the General Election. It reveals that the NHS does not now expect to meet the cancer target for people to begin treatment within two months of urgent referral this year, with officials saying that the point they expect the NHS will be meeting the target will now be March 2016.

The key cancer target has already become a potent symbol of the Government’s NHS failure after being missed for the first time at the start of 2014. On current trends another 23,000 patients could be waiting longer than two months to start their treatment, impacting on health and chances of survival, as well as causing patients great anxiety.

The NHS needs a real plan with real money right now – not an IOU.

Yesterday I set out our NHS Rescue Plan for our first 100 days, our first Budget and our first year in office. Now I want to set out the next stage of our fully-funded plan, an investment of £150 million a year, every year in the key equipment patients need to get quick access to cancer tests and improve early diagnosis.

8.49am BST

Meanwhile, Nigel Farage has been talking about the deaths of migrants attempting to cross Mediterranean to get to Europe. He has made similar points over the last few days but his language today will have some resonance, saying they should be “taken back to where they come from”.

I am suggesting they should be making sure that those coming in vessels that are not seaworthy are put on vessels that are seaworthy and taken back to where they come from.

There may be some cases where people genuinely need refugee status and if Britain has to give a helping hand and if we have to give, for example, some Christians refugee status, given that with Iraq, Libya there’s almost nowhere for them to go, then fine.

8.47am BST

The LBC Boris Johnson phone-in has been put back again, until 9am.

8.47am BST

And here is today’s Guardian seat projection.

8.41am BST

Here are today’s YouGov GB polling figures.

Update: Cons lead at 1 – Latest YouGov/The Sun results 21st Apr – Con 35%, Lab 34%, LD 7%, UKIP 13%, GRN 5%; APP -11

8.39am BST

Boris Johnson may be running late. His phone-in was due to start at 8.30am, but now it is scheduled for 8.45am.

8.34am BST

Boris Johnson, the Conservative mayor of London, is about to do a phone-in with LBC.

If you haven’t already, do read Robert Booth’s Guardian article about Johnson on the campaign trail. Here’s an excerpt.

The Conservative candidate for Uxbridge and South Ruislip was in the seat Churchill occupied in August 1940 as air force chiefs masterminded the Battle of Britain against Adolf Hitler’s Luftwaffe. The photo opportunity at RAF Uxbridge was part of the Conservative strategy of rolling out Johnson to energise a campaign that otherwise loyal observers such as Margaret Thatcher’s former communications guru Lord Bell have decried as “dreadful, risk averse and boring”.

Johnson’s perceived likeability, deft touch with ordinary people and impression of capability in a crisis have led to voters making him clear favourite to succeed Cameron as party leader and potential prime minister – ahead of Theresa May and George Osborne, according to a YouGov poll last month.

8.29am BST

Good morning. I’m taking over from Mark now.

The Socialist Labour party is launching its manifesto today. Led by Arthur Scargill, the former NUM leader, it standing candidates in some seats in Wales. At a rally last night in Aberavon, where Stephen Kinnock, son of the former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, is Labour’s candidate, Scargill said his party would abolish public schools.

We should abolish all private schools such as Eton, Harrow and Westminster, because they are an elite which gives a better education because of the more money that is pumped into them. We believe all faith schools should be abolished as well because they are a breeding ground for prejudice and intolerance. If Muslims, Buddhist, Catholics or Protestants can go to university together then they can go to school together.

This government and the Labour government before it and the Tory government before that have been taking money from people’s pension funds for years. The mine workers’ pension fund has half of its surplus taken by this government every time there is an actuarial valuation … the government takes half. If they can do it to us, then what’s the difference in us doing the same thing.

8.03am BST

My colleague Frances Perraudin is with the Lib Dems in London, where Nick Clegg is ruling out any further pay cuts for public sector workers if the party is part of the next government.

“You have done your bit to get the country back on track [with pay cuts],” Clegg tells public sector workers.

“We’ve only got two weeks left to stop a right wing coalition gov,” says Clegg.

Asked where the axe would fall now public sector pay cuts have been ruled out, Clegg says he is confident they can find savings elsewhere.

“Grant Shapps says he doesn’t have the time to edit his Wikipedia entry,” says Clegg. “It could have been somebody else like Michael Green.”

7.51am BST

In case you missed this story overnight, it seems that Ed Miliband has developed an unlikely fanbase of smitten teenage girls, after a 17-year-old student declared her admiration for the Labour leader on Twitter and prompted a flood of replies from other young women.

My colleague Rebecca Ratcliffe reports:

A student, known only as Abby, caused a Twitter storm after declaring herself leader of the #milifandom – a group of enthusiastic Ed Miliband admirers. Fandoms are usually reserved for the likes of Justin Bieber and One Direction, but the #milifandom hashtag has been trending, with scores of young females sharing their affection for the leader.

Abby says the Milifandom, which started last week, is “a movement against the distorted media portrayal of Ed”.

@Cameronettes David we know it’s you this isn’t going to work mate

7.41am BST

The Tory party chairman Grant Shapps was just on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, where he responded to the report that Wikipedia has blocked a user account on suspicions that it is being used by Shapps, “or someone acting on his behalf” to edit his own page along with the entries of Tory rivals and political opponents.

Shapps said he didn’t edit Wikipedia and he can prove he didn’t because his diary says he was elsewhere at the times the edits were made.

7.33am BST

As Vintagebeauty has commented below the line, the well-connected Andrew Neil tweeted last night that a major Tory donor told him the party’s campaign was “useless”, believing that David Cameron’s “heart is not in it”.

That prompted this reply from the Times columnist Tim Montgomerie.

@afneil DC has wanted out for a while. He has just wanted to go out on some sort of high and hasn’t been able to find that high.

7.16am BST

Tesco posts £6.38bn loss, biggest in UK retail history

Not strictly politics, but given the sum involved a huge blow for the coalition’s much-trumpeted economic recovery.

Related: Tesco posts £6.38bn loss; Eurozone finance chiefs discuss Greece – business live

7.06am BST

Hello, and welcome to the Guardian’s election live blog. We are bringing you live coverage every day until 7 May – and in all likelihood well beyond – from 7am till late. As always we kick off with our all-you-need-to-know morning briefing, designed for election fans who don’t spend all night watching TV news or all morning scanning the papers and radio.

I’m Mark Smith, starting this morning’s blog, before Andrew Sparrow takes over later on. We’re on Twitter @marksmith174 and@AndrewSparrow, and reading comments below the line, too, should you want to say hello, ask a question or point out anything we should be covering.

TIMES: Law chief faces new onslaught over Janner #tomorrowspaperstoday #BBCPapers

They have managed to combine their warnings of economic chaos after 8 May – the threat of excessive borrowing, leftwing influence and instability – with the threat posed by Scottish nationalism. By uniting Nicola Sturgeon and Ed Miliband in the nation’s mind, the Tories have injected a badly needed new ingredient into their warnings about Miliband. Previously, those warnings were not gaining sufficient traction because Miliband had been outperforming expectations.

As with the SNP surge, a significant cause of Lib Dem decline is deep-rooted cultural aversion to the Tories. Not only is the Tory brand toxic for many voters; it turns out to contaminate parties that get too close, as Labour did in the no camp during the Scottish independence referendum. So the Lib Dems can expect little gratitude for serving as a parliamentary prosthesis where there might once have been a liberal, moderate, pro-European limb on the Conservative party. Nor is there any excitement about their potential role as lobbyists for more liberalism in a Labour administration. But that doesn’t mean their humiliation is good for British politics. The space they occupy would otherwise be vacant.

If neither Mr Cameron nor Mr Miliband were able to put together a viable government, a second election would normally follow; but the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011 complicates matters. It provides for a dissolution of Parliament only when there is a specific vote of no confidence in the government or if two thirds of all MPs vote for an election. This makes the prospect of another early general election less likely. In any case, the parties may have little appetite for one given the expense and the prospect of losing support in a fresh contest.

Without a dissolution we would have a legislature but no government, a bit like Belgium, where the prime minister resigned in April 2010 and no new parliamentary majority could be established for almost two years.

Given the volatile state of British feelings about the nation’s relationship with the EU, it really is extraordinary how little the issue has figured in this election campaign. If the issue is so important, why aren’t Conservatives jumping all over Labour for refusing to offer a referendum? Clearly, their strategists have decided the EU referendum is not the critical issue that will turn this tight election campaign to the Tories. They have to know that the most recent polling shows that more voters want to stay in the EU then leave.

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Posted in Conservatives, Health, Labour, Liberal Democrats, NHS, Politics, Society, UK news, World news | Comments Off

More than a million people have used food banks in past year

Experts warn figures showing a 19% rise year-on-year is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of UK food poverty

More than 1 million people, including rising numbers of low-paid workers, were forced to use food banks in the last 12 months, challenging claims that the dividends of Britain’s economic recovery are being equally shared.

The latest figures from the Trussell Trust, which coordinates a network of food banks in the UK, show a 19% year-on-year increase in food bank users, demonstrating that hunger, debt and poverty are continuing to affect large numbers of low-income families and individuals.

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Posted in Family finances, Food banks, Money, Pay, Poverty, Social exclusion, Society, UK news, Work & careers, World news, Zero-hours contracts | Comments Off

Wisconsin brings in National Guard to help contain bird flu outbreak

Republican governor Scott Walker declares state of emergency because three flocks of poultry have become infected in the past week Continue reading…
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How to save the NHS – by the people who work for it

The NHS is a top election issue – both Labour and the Conservatives promise they would pump in billions to save it. But what do the people on its frontline – the workers who know it best and care for it most – think it needs?

I have been a paramedic for the NHS for 13 years. We are under a lot of pressure; an ambulance crew in my service is often sent out on 10-14 calls a day. Some calls can take an hour, to an hour and a half – and we work 12-hour shifts. The majority of the time we have to work overtime, anything from 20 minutes to several hours.

Make advertising for fast-food outlets less prominent, make healthy foods more visible

Cuts in auxiliary services are really hitting our patients – they need stimulation and their carers need a break

You can’t find the extra people you need because the NHS cut back on the number of student nurses it was training

after birth – this would save money

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Posted in Doctors, Health, Hospitals, NHS, Nursing, Public finance, Public sector cuts, Public services policy, Society, World news | Comments Off

More than 50 arrested at 4/20 pro-cannabis rally in London

Close to 10,000 people attended event in London’s Hyde Park where cannabis could be smelled up to half a mile away

More than 50 people were arrested in connection with a pro-cannabis rally in Hyde Park as the Metropolitan police executed its Total Policing strategy to clear away protesters who had shrouded Speakers’ Corner in sweet-smelling smoke.

The London 4/20 meet-up and protest was due to run until 5pm on Sunday, but by 4.45pm word was sweeping the crowd that “zero tolerance” was about to kick in and officers began entering the crowd to warn people to put out their joints.

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How tobacco firms tried to undermine Muslim countries’ smoking ban

Attempts to tackle sales threat by framing criticism of smoking as fundamentalist fanaticism are outlined in cache of documents from 1970s until late 1990s Continue reading…
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Posted in Business, Health, Islam, Religion, Smoking, Society, Tobacco industry, World Health Organisation, World news | Comments Off

Labour claims study shows Tories back further NHS privatisation

Survey on NHS funding shows one in four Conservative councillors support introducing charges but one Tory quoted calls Labour stunt ‘outrageous’

Labour has released research that claims to expose widespread support for the introduction of NHS charging and privatisation inside the Conservative party.

A survey of Tory councillors who were asked about future funding of the NHS shows that more than a quarter appear to support further charging and privatisation.

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Posted in Business, Conservatives, Doctors, Economic policy, General election 2015, GPs, Health, Labour, NHS, Politics, Privatisation, Society, UK news, World news | Comments Off

Aid spending has hit health and education

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Posted in Aid, austerity, Business, Conservatives, Department for International Development (DfID), Economic policy, Economics, General election 2015, Global development, Politics, Society, World news | Comments Off