Isobal and Henry

Picture of Isobel and Joseph

by Margaret Yip

 I was born in the middle of Clement Attlee’s term as prime minister in 1949. I was the fourth child born to my parents. My mother, Isobal, had been in service before marriage, and my father, Henry, was a miner. After my birth, they went on to have five more children, all born before 1960. 

Henry was born and bred in the small village of Frizington, Cumbria. He was brought up with six siblings: three brothers and three sisters. They all lived in a two-up, two-down terraced house, with an outside loo and washhouse, which my grandparents bought for £200.

They were non-drinkers and non-smokers because they followed the Pentecost religion. My father was employed at the William Pit on the west coast during the war. William Pit suffered a huge disaster in 1947, when over 100 people were killed due to an explosion.

After the Second World war, in 1946, my parents moved to Derby, where one of my dad’s sisters already lived, to seek a better life. Housing was in short supply. My mother, with two young children (and another on the way), lodged with a woman called Sally and her husband Les, while my dad traipsed the roads looking for work.

After a few weeks, my dad had not found a job, so my mother had no choice but to enter the workhouse. History says workhouses ended in 1930, but my mother insisted that she was admitted to a workhouse in 1946. I was born in 1949.

My father continued to tramp about every day, looking for employment. After a few months, my mother had had enough and managed to get a message to him. She declared that he didn’t come and take them from the workhouse, she would return to Cumbria to live with her sister, Tizzy. He came and signed us out of the workhouse.

In a deserted wooden shack Henry had found on his travels up on Breadsall Moor, Derbyshire, we took shelter while he continued to look for work. He was successful after a few weeks, finding employment with The British Ceylonese; a chemical factory in Spondon, which is still operating today.

My father didn’t own any sort of vehicle and there was no public transport either, so l have no idea how he or my mother managed day-to-day living: travelling, shopping, visiting the public baths and attending Pentecostal church. My father, on his day off, wrote letters to newspapers, politicians and even the Prime Minister to inform them of the homeless situation and to petition them for more social housing for the people who needed it, like us. 

My father wrote letters to petition for more social housing

In the 3 – 4 decades after the war, 4 to 5 million new social houses were built, and in the end my parents were successful in obtaining a three-bedroom house in Spondon, with an inside bathroom and a huge garden. This address is on my birth certificate, so I think my father’s letters must have borne fruit pretty quickly. In the next few years, my parents changed houses when my father changed jobs.

But my father’s job at the British Ceylonese factory ended when he contracted a skin disease. Even though by this time we had the marvellous NHS, my parents seldom used it. Henry treated his dermatitis himself by sprinkling potash into the bath water to stop the severe itching. Then he covering the affected areas with homemade ointment and wrapped them in crepe bandages. I can only remember seeing a doctor once as a child. The result was my tonsils being removed. All nine of us children were treated with home remedies. 

While they used the NHS sparingly, my parents did take full advantage of welfare state ‘freebies‘ such as cod liver oil, malt extract, orange juice, and national dried milk. I can’t remember a day as a young child when I missed any of these benefits! We even had free school meals in the school holidays and 2 weeks’ holiday by the seaside. We were given two new outfits, and two pairs of new shoes every year, when my dad was too ill to work. 

During the fifties, we continued as members of the Pentecostal church. We attended bible study on Wednesday evenings as well as Sunday school and evening services. The congregation was made up of Irish, Scottish, Welsh, English, Jamaican, African, and Ceylonese members. I remember fondly the colourful outfits, turbans, and beautiful hats that the ladies wore. Their husbands sported smart suits, silk scarves and polished shoes.

Most of the Pentecostal congregation were brilliant gospel singers, and there was always lots of clapping and joyful piano and guitar music. We were taught to embrace all cultures, creeds, and races through these church services, and all the members socialised outside of the meetings, either visiting each other’s houses or seeing each other at the many conventions. 

My elder sister’s first boyfriend was actually a gentleman she met in the church from Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. Both my parents welcomed him with open arms.

l remember strolling through the Arboretum park with them both after church one Sunday when two men spat at them. There were lots of stares and whispers. At this time in Derby, there was quite a lot of racism, and boarding houses had discriminatory notices in their front windows.

My parents said we should pray for racists and pity their ignorance

I also remember that shops would sometimes refuse to serve Bala, my sister’s boyfriend, when he went to buy us sweets if we were out for a walk. When we told the story at home, my parents said we should pray for those who had treated him this way and pity their ignorance.  

We were settled very comfortably in our home now, which was furnished with very solid, posh furniture that we had bought mostly from jumble sales. After the war, people wanted new light modern furniture. So, solid sideboards, tables, chairs, wardrobes, and beds could be bought for next to nothing. 

During the fifties, l don’t believe a week went by that my father didn’t return home without a couple of men or more, that he hoped to help.

Isobal,”  he would say to my mother. “Make these men a hot dinner. They are traipsing about looking for work and are sorely in need of it.”

One night he arrived home late with an old lady whom he had met at Derby bus station. She was visiting relatives and had missed her last connection. She slept in a bed with me and my sister and had porridge with us for breakfast before she went on her way the next morning. 

Looking back, we had the most marvellous childhood. Church outings, lots of freedom, walks, camp making, gardening, and riding homemade ‘bogeys’. Swearing and bad behaviour were not tolerated in school or at home. Pastor Phillips and his church in Whiston remained the mainstay in our lives, leading us to a visit to Derby to see the evangelist Billy Graham in 1961.

I discovered a new kind of prejudice

Little did l know, this visit would see the end of my family living in Derby. We were suddenly obliged to make our return to the north because of intolerant attitudes toward my 17-year-old, older sister who got pregnant out of wedlock.

I discovered a new kind of prejudice: Cruelly, the church l had been christened in and that spent all my formative years in as a member, decided that my elder sister was to be expelled. They decided that the rest of the family could remain .

“It is her sin. She has to be banished.” The church leaders said.

My parents were so ashamed and disappointed that we returned hastily to the north. Shortly after our return and after we were being settled into a house my uncle owned, l came home from school one day to find two priests from the church across the road. They were enjoying my mother’s tea and cake.

One of the fathers asked my mother to which church we belonged. She replied, “Pentecost“. He then asked me,

“How many brothers and sisters do you have? ,”

l answered: “Eight.”

He turned to the other priest and said: “All these children, and not one a Catholic. What a sin! They will all perish in hell.” The priests’ poisonous comments affected me greatly. I have never forgotten them.

In 1965, when l was 15, my dad became ill. The doctors said it was schizophrenia. He refused treatment. l came home from school one day to disaster. My dad had taken everything out of the house. Everything! He made a huge bonfire in the back garden and burned it all; all the photos and mementos, too. He burnt everything, put his coat on and disappeared. I saw him only once 3 years later. He died, aged 75.

We lead happy lives, now

My five grown-up children

Time has passed. I am a mother and a grandmother. I and my family have enjoyed 60 years of genuine friendships and lead happy lives. But I want to celebrate my mother and father and remember how they struggled and remember the hardships and injustices they faced at a time when there was no NHS and no social housing. I want to remember the damage that was done to my family by religious intolerance.

Now 60 years on, prejudice, racism and hate is once again spiralling out of control and the church is far too silent about it. But there is hope. People like me, following the example of my parents, are speaking out and we are using new platforms like Ars Notoria to do so. We all have to stand up for humanity and confront prejudice and injustice..

My hope for the future is that people always speak out, stand up and be counted. Say enough is enough and stop prejudice. Defend the NHS and social housing and the benefits we deserve and fought for. We don’t want history repeating. As Martin Luther king said,

” It is not the words of our enemies we will remember, but the silence of our friends.”

Margaret Yip

Margaret Yip is a mother of 5, grandmother of 7 and great grandmother of 2. She lives in a small village in Cumbria. She is for social and economic justice, social housing and the NHS and she opposes all forms of prejudice and hatred.

Who controls the Surplus?

The Problem of Surplus and the COVID-19 Pandemic.

‘Can we justify £16bn fortunes when nurses are poorly compensated, care workers are on zero-hour contracts and thousand are homeless?’

by Dr. Pete Stanfield

dirig ancient Assyrian term for surplus (Veenhof, K. R. 1972. E. J. Brill, Leiden)

Since the founding of the first city states, the question, “Who controls the surplus?” has been shrouded in kings, clerics and class. Claims to the riches created in large urban societies have been made and upheld by tiny minorities using religion and differential status, notably including slavery.  As a consequence, radical inequality is the defining feature of post-nomadic society.   Today’s political economy is haunted by the apparently humdrum accounts pressed into Sumerian clay tablets more than 3,000 years ago, recording the city’s inequitable transactions.  The currency may have been beer at that time but paper promises and pixels do not mask our own radically unfair principals of the distribution of wealth within highly developed capitalism.

In the global economy of the 21st century, surplus has become concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer super-rich individuals.   Whether you inherit money or are a self-made entrepreneur, private ownership of the means of production enables you to extract value from a large number of wage labourers and accumulate capital which in turn can be increased to extremes through investment. 

radical inequality is the defining feature of post-nomadic society.

The richest people in the UK have lost £54bn in the first two months of the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, the top ten wealthiest still claim fortunes between £10bn and £16bn for themselves and their families.  These individuals have control of the country’s finance and industries, including household technology, banking, brewing, real estate, media, music, internet, mining and retail. 

Interestingly, most of their fortunes grew rapidly after the financial crisis of 2008 at a time when the vast majority of the population, in particular public employees such as National Health Service workers, were put under severe economic restraint through government policies of ‘austerity’.  The bailing out of the banks through public funds after their recklessly greedy behaviour prior to 2008 was a classic case of privatising profit and publicising debt. Certainly, the tiny class of super-rich individuals has not suffered ‘austerity’. For example, in 2014 the Business Standard indicated that the Hinduja brothers (industry and finance) were worth £11.9bn whereas today the Express and Star states they are worth £16bn. From the same sources, the picture is similar for David and Simon Reuben (property and internet) who were worth £9 billion in 2014 and are now worth £16 billion; Sir Leonard Blavatnik (investment, music and media) who was worth £10bn in 2014 and is now worth £15.78bn; Alisher Usmanov (mining and investment) who was worth 10.65bn in 2014 and is now worth £11.68bn; Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken and Michel de Carvalho (inheritance, brewing and banking) who were worth £6.36bn in 2014 and are now worth £10.3bn; Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster, (property) whose family were worth £8.5bn in 2014 and are now worth £10.29bn. Sir James Dyson, self-made inventor of the bag-less vacuum cleaner, and today the richest individual in the UK, saw his fortune grow by £3.6bn to £16.2bn in the past year alone.

The bailing out of the banks through public funds after their recklessly greedy behaviour prior to 2008 was a classic case of privatising profit and publicising debt.

In 2014 there were 104 billionaires in the UK with a combined wealth of £301bn. Today there are at least 147 billionaires in the UK (Profit – Pakistan Today, 17th May, 2020) with the combined wealth of the thirteen wealthiest individuals standing at about £160bn*. The combined wealth of the top 1,000 wealthiest individuals in the UK today is estimated at £743bn**.  

Due to COVID-19, it is estimated that UK government debt will be £300bn by the end of 2020, partly as a result of paying the wages of private sector workers.  Even 6 years ago, the top hundred wealthiest individuals in the UK could have paid off the whole of this projected debt; today, the top 1,000 wealthiest could pay it off twice over with money to spare.  And yet, five of the top ten billionaires in the UK, including the Hinduja brothers, the Reuben brothers and Sir Leonard Blavatnik, own companies that have benefited hugely from government furlough schemes rather than pay down their immense personal wealth to protect jobs. As of 29th May 2020, the furlough scheme for private workers (not including self-employed) has cost £15bn.  Sir James Dyson alone (whose company hasn’t furloughed workers) has the wealth to cover that cost with more than a billion to spare.

Who controls the surplus?’ ‘We all should!’

There has been at least one major step toward a more balanced distribution of wealth in the UK; the creation of the National Health Service. If we think it strange that the US, the largest capitalist economy on the globe, struggles to create such a universal care system for its citizens based on need rather than the ability to pay*, we should remember that it took decades of work to achieve in the UK and was often vigorously opposed. From the socialist Beatrice Web, who led the Royal Commission on the Poor Law in 1909, through working class reformers such as Dr. Benjamin Moore, who founded the State Medical Association in 1912 which foreshadowed the NHS, to the miner’s son, Aneurin Bevan, the post war Labour Government Health Minister who finally opened the NHS on 5th July 1948, the NHS struggled into existence.  

This great experiment answers, ‘Who controls the surplus?’ with the socialist principle, ‘We all should!’ Cooperative policies that share wealth through the tax system to enable health have been shown to work as a balance to the private ownership of the means of production but in the past decade the balance has swung toward a capitalism that makes a fetish of the so-called ‘market’ as a means to generate wealth for all through job creation and the payment of tax to the treasury, when in fact the market is controlled by a tiny set of individuals who extract value from labour largely for their own benefit. 

While some low paid workers deliberately try to keep their earnings to a minimum to avoid paying tax, the super-rich can afford to pay accountants whose primary role is to minimize their tax burden. Indeed, even in the early years of the NHS, the principles of, ‘free at the point of delivery’ through common taxation was challenged as cost and demand rose and since then the NHS has been through many similar vicissitudes.  Although the Thatcher government continued to support the NHS it privatized most other areas of the economy including energy, water transport and, significantly for the current pandemic, social care.   

Whilst the NHS has been a huge cooperative success and is among the most efficient health services in the industrialised world, spending 30% less then Germany for example, we must not take its existence for granted; for the past decade its financial situation has been under serious threat from laissez-faire capitalism that demonstrates a religious zeal for trapping down government, lowering taxes and reducing public spending (except of course when it is needed to bail out forlorn banks).  The budget for the Department of Health and Social Care in England for 2019/20 is £140.4bn. In the ten years since the 2008 economic crash its budget has grown at an average of 1.4% per annum compared to an average of 3.7% per annum since 1948. There is a new 5-year plan injecting £33.9bn cash (unadjusted for inflation) to the NHS by 2023/24 but the focus is on day-to-day expenditure rather than long term capital investment in equipment and buildings. By comparison the wealth of the richest individuals in the UK has grown between 30% up to more than 50% in the same period.  

[There is an] extreme contrast between the recent de-investment in Health and Social Care and the extraordinary growth of the wealth of a few individuals in the UK since 2008.

This sketch of the extreme contrast between the recent de-investment in Health and Social Care and the extraordinary growth of the wealth of a few individuals in the UK since 2008, makes it a little easier to understand why, in spite of a plethora of research articles demonstrating the urgency to prepare for a global pandemic and ongoing government exercises demonstrating its lack of readiness to deal with such a pandemic, little was in fact prepared for. 

The government did not stock-pile ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE) or body bags because the government’s role was considered to be taking a back seat and allowing the invisible hand of the ‘market’ to look after society; but the market merely allowed capital to accrue to the inventor of a bag-less vacuum cleaner.  What strange values have emerged? The market is clearly driven by profit, not values; profit for its own sake rather than values that protect the health of the majority. Sure, Sir James Dyson offered £20m of his own vast fortune to build ventilators when the government was faced with a shortage but that was far too little far too late.  Instead, the government removed COVID-19, the disease at the heart of the worst global pandemic for 100 years,  from its status as a High Consequence Infectious Disease with the apparent justification that it no longer met the 5 stringent criteria, in particular that the case fatality rate was not high enough. It has been frequently reported in the media that insiders to the Special Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) saw this as a rationalization of the situation where adequate equipment was unavailable so that downgraded PPE recommendations could be issued.

… allowing the invisible hand of the ‘market’ to look after society; but the market merely allowed capital to accrue to the inventor of a bag-less vacuum cleaner. 

The situation with the social care of the elderly has been perhaps more traumatic than that of the NHS.  The privatisation of care homes has led to them being serviced by some of the lowest paid labour in the UK, many of whom are on zero-hours contracts and will have felt compelled to work even if unwell, with the risk of infecting the elderly in their care.  It has also led to a lack of coordination with the NHS and the tragic ‘seeding’ of homes with COVID-19 as elderly patients were returned to care homes from hospital wards. Such coordination is unlikely to be achieved through a heterogeneous private market of care homes; government funding and detailed control through local government would have been the best way to have prevented this tragedy.

The absolute number of COVID-19 related deaths in the UK is the highest in Europe and second only to the US. To date, the UK has recorded 59,537 more deaths than usual since the week ending March 20th. This indicates that COVID-19 has directly or indirectly killed 891 people per million (Financial Times; 28/05/20).  This is second only to Spain which has recently updated its figures at 921 people per million.  Excess deaths compared to similar statistics in other countries is the key statistic in measuring the success of disease control and this is understood by scientists and politicians alike, including the Prime Minister. The UK was fortunate in having plenty of warning about the consequences of COVID-19; it had weeks to get its house in order, but as John Ashworth, the Shadow Secretary for Health has said, the UK government was too slow to stockpile PPE, too slow to get a testing regime in place, too slow to lockdown and too slow to protect care homes (Financial Times; 28/05/20). Why?

the UK government has failed to respond appropriately to COVID-19 because it espouses and practices laissez faire, market capitalism

I believe the UK government has failed to respond appropriately to COVID-19 because it espouses and practices laissez faire, market capitalism; that it idealizes economic freedom and the profit motive in the mistaken belief that it incentivises hard work, entrepreneurialism, competitiveness and creativity.  When it comes to an acute pandemic this belief has been exposed and undermined.  The neo-liberal UK government is now paying billions of pounds in wages to private workers and the self employed.  It has had to get its hands out from under its buttocks and order lenders to offer mortgage holidays, prevent landlords from evicting tenants, and take the homeless off the streets.  The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that just such a more equitable distribution of wealth is possible. It can be possible going forward beyond the pandemic.  Do we need bag-less vacuum cleaners when the NHS is under-funded and lacks basic PPE?  Can we justify £16bn fortunes when nurses are poorly compensated, care workers are on zero-hour contracts and thousand are homeless?

 It is time we moved away from ancient principles of accounting that allow capital to accrue to the few and developed a value oriented economy; one that prioritises core human needs and shares the social product more equitably.  We must continue the struggle to maintain investment in the NHS for the long term and bring other essential services back into public, not private, ownership.  The COVID-19 pandemic has a silver lining; it demonstrates that we do not need a ‘stripped back state (with) its underfunded engines spluttering on the corrosive oil of social inequality’ (Rachel Shabi, Independent 31/05/20). 

We need a cooperative economic model.

We need a cooperative economic model that is not only possible but also essential if we are to face future global challenges such as climate change and indeed a new and more virulent pandemic.  Global inter-connectivity, our increased close interaction with wild species and intensive factory farming of interbred, immune suppressed poultry and pigs makes another pandemic highly likely.  From our knowledge of the 1918 influenza pandemic, the next one could destroy the lives not only of the elderly and vulnerable but also of the young and those in the prime of their lives. Only a cooperative economy, focused on long term goals, with wealth and power more equally distributed through fair taxation and profit sharing will enable us to overcome such a challenge.

*The Walton family in the US, owners of Walmart, are worth £160bn equal to the top 13 wealthiest UK individuals.

**The wealth of the richest group of individuals in the US has grown by a staggering 80% in the past 18 months.  At the same time the wealth gap between the richest and the poorest in the US is at its highest level for 50 years (CNBC 13/02/2020).

Dr. Peter Stanfield

Dr. Peter W. Stanfield was an ordinary post-WW2 working class kid who benefited from reforming policies of the 1945 Labour government which the subsequent Conservative administration largely continued.  He particularly benefited from the socialist education policies of the 1960s and 1970s attending a comprehensive school with facilities and teaching that far outstripped the old-fashioned Grammar school in his area. This offered him a cruise around the Mediterranean at the age of 13, a tour that previously only wealthy families could afford.  A bull-fight in Tarragona, an audience with the Pope, a Greek play in Adelphi, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and the canals of Venice made life back home uninteresting and whetted his appetite for travel and adventure.

After studying at teacher training college he spent 3 years as music teacher in his home town before taking off to Iran, learning to ski in the Elburz mountains and hitch-hiking around the country during the 1978/79 revolution  in a last ditch attempt to visit the great architecture of Shiraz and Isfahan and the ancient ruins of Persepolis. After unsuccessful attempts to settle back in the UK he left for the desert town of Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates, climbing Jebel Hafit in the days before a road led to the top and learning to SCUBA dive in the Indian Ocean. 

Returning to the UK to take a BA in Sociology and English Literature he then left for Kuwait, continued SCUBA diving the tiny Arabian Gulf islands and taking multiple trips to the Red Sea where Romance took him to Copenhagen.  Sailing a wooden yacht from 1918 around Denmark with colleagues led to him building an Inuit kayak from wood and cloth and setting out on 2,000km journey from Copenhagen to the North Cape which he completed in 100 days paddling.  He then spent several years working as a casual ski guide in Norway often skiing alone on Hardangervidda, enjoying the immense freedom of that seeming wilderness. 

A kayak trip on the Urubamba river and Lake Titicaca in Peru went ahead but having lived for board and lodging for years, often relying on the kindness off others for support, Peter made a move to Oman working as a civilian for the Royal Air Force of Oman where he gained a passion for windsurfing, regularly riding the point break in Al-Ashkarah on the eastern coast in the monsoon and climbing the mountain ranges in the winter, twice entering the Majlis Al-Jinn, the second largest dome chamber in the world.  During this time he studied for his Master’s Degree and then returned to Al-Ain teaching in the university for several years and getting married before moving to the Western Region of Abu Dhabi.  Here he continued his adventures with a sailing kayak around the islands, read for his Doctorate in Education and became the father of 3 beautiful daughters.

Peter now lives in Somerset with his family, teaches, walks and cycles the Mendip hills and sails a modest yacht on the Bristol Channel.  He is convinced that without the socialist policies of the 1950s, 60s and early 70s and the inspiring education this enabled, his life may well have taken a far less adventurous trajectory.  This is why he continues to research and write about radically inequality.  Everyone must understand that it is not inevitable. It is a question of power to create equal opportunities; knowing is empowering. 

Down with Lockdown!

What do you do when the cure does you more harm than the disease? You stop taking it.

Controversially, James Tweedie puts forward an argument for lock-down to be lifted.

Will lock-down lead to deaths ?Photo by Anna Shvets on

By James Tweedie, Plymouth, England, Friday May 15 th 2020

The prescribed treatment for the COVID-19 pandemic, a disease without a cure or vaccine, has been the lockdown, a government-enforced shutdown of economic and social life. It has become a sacred cow for opposition parties, academics, the media and some (but not all) trade unions. Anyone who speaks against it is denounced as an apologist for mass murder.
But with the UK and other countries past the peak of infections and deaths, the ill effects of the lockdown are becoming more serious than the virus itself.
The most common justification for these extraordinary emergency measures in the West is to ‘flatten the curve’ of the infection rate to make sure hospitals are not overwhelmed and patients left to die at home.
In most countries this has been achieved. Despite dire predictions by opposition leaders, ex-civil servants, academics and journalists, the British NHS never ran out of intensive care beds or ventilators, and now we’re way past the peak.
True, some countries have so far managed to contain the virus and keep the number of deaths very low. But most of these nations – China, Vietnam, Singapore, North Korea, Cuba – have very different socio-political systems. They are equipped for this in ways the Western liberal democracies are not.

Cuba and the DPRK are isolated from the rest of the world by Western sanctions. New Zealand, often praised in the UK media, is 2,000 miles from the nearest land and has a population of less than 5 million.

The New Crisis

The start of the lockdown saw the NHS switch to crisis mode. Hospitals cleared the decks, discharging as many patients as possible and cancelling all ‘non-urgent’ procedures – everything but emergency life-saving surgery and treatment.
But this is in danger of creating a worse health crisis than the pandemic. Family doctors have stopped seeing patients unless they were literally dying, for fear of catching the virus themselves. Accident and emergency admissions have fallen by more than half as patients are afraid to go to hospital.
Last weekend British Medical Association Chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul warned the NHS would have a waiting list of 7.2 million cases by the autumn as a result of the lockdown. In April Cancer Research UK said referrals to consultants were down by 75 per cent, meaning 2,700 new cancer cases were going undiagnosed every week. Specialist Professor Karol Sikora said that could mean 50,000 extra deaths.
The UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) has already recorded over 50,000 more deaths this year than the same period in 2019, but as of May 14 only 33,614 have been ‘linked’ to coronavirus. In many of those cases the virus was not the sole or even the primary cause of death.

On Wednesday the British Medical Journal reported that of 30,000 deaths in care homes, the new hot-spots of infection, only 10,000 were identified with the virus – and that the rest may be down to the policy of discharging elderly patients from hospital to community care to make way for a wave of COVID-19 admissions that never came.

Suffer the Little Children

The latest cause for middle-class hysteria in the UK has been the government’s announcement that some children will go back to school at the start of June, and that it wants all schoolkids to have at least one month of classes before the summer holidays. It’s kind of amusing to see so many of those who advocate free and compulsory state education now vowing to keep their kids at home when their schools reopen – with some teachers encouraging them. The social-democrats have transformed into libertarians and anarchists. Only 12 per cent of deaths from the virus so far have been among people under the age of 65. Five per cent
were in their fifties, one per cent in their 40s, while the under-40s accounted for less than one per cent of deaths. An overwhelming 95 per cent of fatalities have underlying health conditions – co-morbidities – like heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes. If you’re under 50 and healthy, your chances of dying of COVID-19 are almost nil. In fact the harm of keeping children off school for months outweighs any risks of them returning.
UNICEF warned on Tuesday that the lockdown could kill 1.2 million children worldwide in the next six months due to reductions in routine medical visits and the poverty and malnutrition caused by the economic freeze.

The Bottom Line

The brutal truth is that if people don’t go back to work soon, they won’t have jobs to go back to. Government-guaranteed loans are still just liabilities on employers’ balance sheets and aren’t going to bring back lost custom. The numbers of insolvencies and redundancies are soaring and the middle of the year the UK will officially be in a recession.
An ONS survey of businesses found that three-fifths of those still trading had suffered a loss in revenue, with a quarter saying they had lost half or more of their income. Three-fifths of exporters said overseas orders were down.
Businesspeople aren’t the only ones voicing concern. This week the airline pilots’ union BALPA attacked the government’s plan for two weeks’ quarantine for those arriving in the UK, saying it was an effective ban on tourism that would kill their industry. The National Union of Journalists pointed out that advertising revenue in the business had fallen by 80 per cent since the start of the lockdown, with thousands of workers already laid off. Two-thirds of freelancers told the union they’d lost income.
When side-effects of the cure are worse than the disease, you have to stop taking it. It’s time for the young and healthy to go back to work, school and university and get Britain and the world back on its feet.Down with Lockdown!

What do you do when the cure does you more harm than the disease? You stop taking it.

James Tweedie

James Tweedie was born in Hammersmith, West London, in 1975. He grew up in the shadow of the mushroom cloud in the time of colonial liberation, being taken to Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament  and Anti-Apartheid Movement events by his mother and father respectfully.

James has lived and worked in South Africa and Spain. He has worked as a reporter and the international editor of the Morning Star newspaper, a foreign reporter for the Mail Online, an online journalist for He has appeared as a commentator on BBC Radio 4, RT’s Crosstalk, Turkey’s TRT World and Iran’s Press TV. He currently works for Sputnik.

James maintains an occasional blog (, describing himself as “one of the most deplorable purveyors of fake news about populist strongmen (and women) around the post-truth world.”

How to defeat Covid-19

By Phil Hall

In China the barefoot doctors believed in prevention rather than cure. So how can we make societies like ours more resilient to pandemic infections like Covid-19?

Well, we could advocate for a more humane society. That would make us much more resilient. We could guarantee a fully functioning, well-funded health service free of charge for everyone. To fund this better health service we could increase income tax. How about going back to the 60’s and having a generous tax rate of up to 90% on the highest of high earners? Generous to ordinary people, I mean.

Covid-19 attacks the unhealthy, the impoverished; improve nutrition and make people healthier that way. Ban low quality processed foods from sale. Make sure that only cruelty free animals and animal products are sold: meat, eggs milk and so on. Set higher standards for food production and sale.

How about going back to the 60’s and having a generous tax rate of up to 90% on the highest of high earners? Generous to ordinary people, I mean.

How about exercise to go with it? Encourage people to garden in the cities. Give everyone a country plot of land where they can grow an orchard or vegetables. They used to do this in the Soviet Union. Many people had dachas, little plots of land outside town. In the UK we could increase the supply of allotments.

How about investing heavily in universities and encouraging them to find scientific solutions to diseases. We could focus investment on the most advanced areas of medical research. Make medicine more affordable. Control the big pharmaceutical companies and force them to hand over the recipes for useful drugs over shorter time periods. Give the NHS access cheaper generic drugs.

Why not provide quality, free health education on all aspects of human health and health protection and the prevention of diseases? Why not provide sports facilities for everyone of every age to help them improve their overall health; from bowling greens to football grounds. Give the playgrounds stolen from schools back to the children.

Covid -19 loves crowded spaces. Make public transport spacious, frequent, clean and affordable.

Make us more healthy and disease resistant by encouraging more people to cycle. Build proper, isolated cycle lanes in every British city. Be like Amsterdam. Provide free bicycles for public use. Make the very centres of all cities and towns car free.

Covid -19 loves crowded spaces. Make public transport spacious, frequent, clean and affordable. Encourage trust in politics by ensuring a rigorous democratic selection process before every election so that MPs and local council officials are kept honest and answerable. Make it very difficult for people to have full professional careers as politicians. Increase citizen participation in all political processes.

Bring in the four day week. That would reduce people’s stress and reduce crowding on public transport and in offices and schools. You know it makes sense.

Pensioners are the victims of Covid-19. Provide pensioners and affordable housing. Give pensioners good money so that they can afford to live healthily. Reward all carers generously, especially family members. Ensure a living wage and good working conditions for all employees in the public and private sectors so that people have the leisure time and money they need to eat healthily and exercise. Encourage worker participation on company boards.

Make contingency plans for epidemics and learn from the lessons of previous epidemics in order to mitigate the problems. Buy in sufficient equipment to handles such a crisis and make preparations through the WHO to combat pandemics in a coordinated and effective way in future.

Prevention really is better than cure.


Phil Hall

Phil Hall is a university lecturer working in the Middle East. He is a committed socialist and humanitarian. Phil was born in South Africa where his parents were in the ANC. There, his mother was imprisoned and his father was the first journalist from a national paper to be banned. Phil grew up in East Africa and settled in Kingston-upon-Thames. He has also lived and worked in the Ukraine, Spain and Mexico. Phil has blogged for the Guardian, the Morning Star and several other publications and he has written stories for The London Magazine.


By Paul Halas

Our television has led a charmed life in recent weeks. Every time a Conservative minister appears behind a lectern emblazoned with “Protect the NHS” it’s a miracle the set isn’t smashed by a flying vase.

Abraham Lincoln somehow failed to mention that you can fool most of the people most of the time, but looking at the Tories’ popularity ratings that appears to be the case. Keir Starmer’s less than scintillating opposition could be a factor, but how on earth has a party that has systematically run the NHS into the ground, ignored the 2016 Cygnus Report that warned of our acute unreadiness for a respiratory virus pandemic, and followed such a flawed strategy that we now have the largest number of Covid deaths in Europe, managed to hoodwink so many? The media – with a few noble exceptions – has acted as an uncritical government mouthpiece, repeating misinformation and failing to challenge ministers for a string of failures. We truly deserve better, and regarding the NHS the government really should be held to account.

… [the government] hasn’t just taken a leaf out of Tony Blair’s book in finding a good time to bury bad news, it’s nicked the entire book.

Perhaps the most outrageous aspect of the government’s hypocrisy over “protect the NHS” is the fact that it’s still running it down while the country is in lockdown. In fact it hasn’t just taken a leaf out of Tony Blair’s book in finding a good time to bury bad news, it’s nicked the entire book. In recent weeks ministers have been using special powers to bypass normal tendering and award new contracts to private companies without competition. The Tories’ own rules are being broken!

A string of corporations, many with ties to Tory figures, are getting new business regardless of their suitability or expertise. These include Deloite, Mitie, Boots, Sodexo and Serco, and Covid data processing is now in the hands of an American organisation. All, let’s not forget, at taxpayer’s expense. Dismantling and privatisation continues unabated.

Margaret Thatcher, Nicholas Ridley, Theresa May, George Osborne, Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Jeremy Hunt, Nick Hancock, Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove, to name but a few, have all at various times stated their ideological disapproval of a state welfare system and preference for an insurance-funded private health service instead. A few thousand extra deaths aren’t going to throw that off course.Protect the NHS? They’re having a laugh. Our TV remains in a high risk category.


Paul Halas’s escape from 1970s hippidom was the discovery that he could invent stories. He spent forty years contributing to various Disney magazines and books, as well as a variety of non-Disney comics, books and animated films. His retirement from commercial writing coincided with Jeremy Corbyn becoming the Labour Party leader, which led to five years’ political activism. He left the party two years ago with a heavy heart.

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