Recent Articles

The student ‘protest’ at Cambridge last night was deluded

by Paul Sagar     November 23, 2011 at 8:50 am

Last night I intended to briefly join the protest at Cambridge University against Minister David Willetts. Arriving at the venue at 5.55pm, however, the protest was already over. So I decided to go inside and listen to the advertised speech and debate.

Willetts was introduced – with an explicit appeal for reasonable discussion – and the man himself took the stand.

But as he began speaking, he was immediately interrupted. A single individual – whom I shall not name – began shouting.
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Saturday’s protests and incidents of violence

by Paul Sagar     March 28, 2011 at 2:36 pm

As previously noted, I have no problem per se with political violence.

Its use and justification must be assessed on a case-by-case basis, with reference to myriad factors such as likelihood to succeed, ability to justify harm to victims, long-term advantages gained, greater evils averted, and so on.

But certainly not all instances of political violence fit this model. When the so-called “Black Bloc” of anarchist militants attacked stores on Oxford Street yesterday they were not part of a (para)military organised hierarchy with a leadership exercising strategic-tactical judgement – still less the militant wing of the 250,000 peaceful marchers congregating in Hyde Park.
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BMJ ferociously attacks Tory NHS changes

by Paul Sagar     January 27, 2011 at 10:59 am

The British Medical Journal is running an editorial this about NHS reform, called “Dr Lansley’s Monster”.

It is accompanied by a picture of Frankenstein’s laboratory.

Here are some passsages:

What do you call a government that embarks on the biggest upheaval of the NHS in its 63 year history, at breakneck speed, while simultaneously trying to make unprecedented financial savings? The politically correct answer has got to be: mad.

The scale of ambition should ring alarm bells. Sir David Nicholson, the NHS chief executive, has described the proposals as the biggest change management programme in the world—the only one so large “that you can actually see it from space.” (More ominously, he added that one of the lessons of change management is that “most big change management systems fail.”)

Of the annual 4% efficiency savings expected of the NHS over the next four years, the Commons health select committee said, “The scale of this is without precedent in NHS history; and there is no known example of such a feat being achieved by any other healthcare system in the world.” To pull off either of these challenges would therefore be breathtaking; to believe that you could manage both of them at once is deluded.

Like all the other structural reorganisations of the NHS, this one aims to improve health outcomes. What’s lacking is any coherent account of how these particular reforms will produce the desired effects, a point only underlined by the prime minister’s attempts to justify the reforms earlier this week.

On GP commissioning:

Whatever the eventual outcome, such radical reorganisations adversely affect service performance. As Kieran Walshe wrote, they are “a huge distraction from the real mission of the NHS—to deliver and improve the quality of healthcare” that can absorb a massive amount of managerial and clinical time and effort. Even the earliest days of the transition have proved disruptive, with employees of the doomed primary care trusts and strategic health authorities choosing to jump ship rather than to go down with it.

With an estimated one billion pounds of redundancy money in their pockets, many of the survivors are likely to be employed by the new GP consortiums in much their same roles. It raises the question: if GP commissioning turns out to be simply primary care trust commissioning done by GPs, aren’t there less disruptive routes to this destination?

It ends:

Given their scale, securing these efficiency savings should take priority over the massive upheaval proposed in the new bill. For the time being, we agree with the King’s Fund that those GPs who are successfully involved in practice based commissioning should be given real rather than indicative budgets for some services and their performance monitored closely.

All other proposals should be kept on hold, pending an evaluation of whether this iteration of GP commissioning can bear the responsibility that the new bill seeks to place on it. If it turns out that it can, then the full introduction of the government’s ambitious health reforms will have been delayed a few years. If it can’t, then the country—and its government—will have got off lightly.

When what is essentially the official mouthpiece for British doctors is expressing this kind of alarm at government policy, it indicates that a dispositionally conservative body is very out of step with the present administration.

Which reinforces a point I’ve already made: that this is a government of radicals, led by some most unconservative Conservatives.

Hat-tip to Stuart White

The sheer scale and breadth of Coalition u-turns is staggering

by Paul Sagar     January 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm

The sheer scale and breadth of the present government’s pre-election lying and post-election u-turning is quite something to behold.

Let’s trot through the big ones, that we actually know about.

1. The stupendous Lib Dem betrayal on tuition fees. From categorical pledges to oppose all fee rises, to backing a lifting of the cap to £9,000 a year. Quite spectacular, and utterly impossible to hide.
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WikiLeaks, Swiss banks and the myth of protecting Jewish assets

by Paul Sagar     January 17, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Wikileaks has been handed confidential information by banker Rudolf Elmer, which threatens to reveal Swiss banking complicity in tax evasion and other criminal activity.

Accordingly, Elmer is to go on criminal trial for breaking Swiss bank secrecy laws.

One thing you can expect to hear around the build-up to this case is that Swiss banking secrecy was enacted to protect Jewish assets from the Nazis during the 1930s.
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Edward Woolard doesn’t deserve his sentence

by Paul Sagar     January 14, 2011 at 5:25 pm

18 years old is a strange age. Legally, you’re an adult. But in many ways you’re still a child. Looking back on my own late teenage years, I’m astonished at how immature I really was.

Which brings me to Edward Woolard. There’s no doubt Woolard was an idiot at the precise moment he threw that fire extinguisher off the top of Milbank.

Yet whether he is an idiot through-and-through is a different matter.
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What is the point of joining a political party?

by Paul Sagar     January 3, 2011 at 9:45 am

Just under a year ago I joined the Labour Party. I will not be renewing my membership.

This is not, however, because of some ideological disenchantment. Neither is it due to dissatisfaction with Ed Miliband’s faltering start, or the Party’s lamentable response to the Coalition.

The truth is, I’ve done nothing for Labour since the 2010 General Election. I’ve not even bothered updating my CLP membership since moving to Cambridge. And the basic reason for this is that I intensely dislike political campaigning, and party-political activities.
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Nick Clegg is transforming into an arrogant Tony Blair

by Paul Sagar     December 1, 2010 at 9:37 am

Nick Clegg appears to be descending into a world of fantasy and illusion.

Last week he delivered a seriously confused lecture on how raising university fees and slashing higher education budgets – as well as abolishing the Education Maintenance Allowance – will boost social mobility.

He also had the audacity to suggest that opponents to the Browne review haven’t understood it, because if they did they’d know supporting Browne’s proposals is unquestionably right.
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Cambridge student demo: policeman punched student in the face

by Paul Sagar     November 25, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Yesterday afternoon a spokesman for the prime minister said:

Our position is that people have a right to engage in lawful and peaceful protest, but there is no place for violence or intimidation.

No doubt the PM sincerely believes this, as regards the actions of protestors. More troubling is the extent to which “violence or intimidation” is employed overtly by the police.
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Dead and buried: the fallacy that Iraq was a humanitarian project

by Paul Sagar     October 28, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Saturday’s Wikileaks revelations – of British and American troops in Iraq covering-up civilian deaths whilst systematically ignoring and facilitating torture – have begun to expose the full horrors of a war that long-ago went terribly wrong.

Tuesday’s Guardian revelations – that British troops systematically employed torture methods that violate the Geneva Convention – makes the picture darker still, even if only by adding detail.

One consequence of the latest revelations is that they demonstrate the nonsense-thinking behind the original case and “justification” for war.
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