Like most people over the last days, I have been anchored to CNN, awaiting the results of the US Presidential election. Pitted against the Pumpkin-headed incumbent, Donald Trump, was the Democratic challenger Joe Biden. The result, according to polls before the election, were indicating a whitewash in favour of Biden, and although the favourite has prevailed, it hasn’t actually played out that way.
Trump, if nothing else, is a fighter. He’ll do anything and say anything to win. He doesn’t see himself as a loser. That moniker is set aside for lesser mortals, not the Don. This time, however, the American public have sounded the final klaxon on Trump’s Presidency, the first time a sitting President hasn’t been re-elected since George H. W. Bush in 1992.
There could be many reasons why the voters kicked Trumpism into the bin. The response to the present Coronavirus pandemic may be chief among them. His playing down of the problem, inactions and flippancy have resulted in over 230,000 American deaths to date. His language when referring to the virus has sometimes bordered on the ridiculous, calling it the ‘kung flu’ on occasions. But as we all know, his language is ‘beautiful’, not!
Over the last years his claims have kept many fact-checkers in work. Biden’s ascendency to the Oval Office must surely put some of those people out of work, adding to the rising unemployment roll in the US because of his policies.
His torrent of posts on social media, such as Twitter, have kept news cycles turning day by day. Often stating inaccuracies, or vindictively abusing opponents. Who, I wonder, will miss those morning Presidential outpourings, beyond Fox News viewers?
Trumps well-known misogyny and racism had been on display well before his shock election win in 2016. You just have to Google Trump’s words and reports churn out unendingly. I remember full well the taped conversation with Billy Bush released just before the election in 2016. How a woman could have voted for him after that, I have no idea. But many did, and probably did this time too.
For a candidate in 2016 he had a long history of racism. Even that didn’t stop him being elected. For a non-American it’s baffling to understand how the man’s past statements didn’t make him unelectable.
And his refusal to admit that Putin’s Russia didn’t meddle in his election victory, despite the assurances of his own officials, still didn’t dent his popularity too much. The idea that an American President would act like that would have the likes of Reagan turning in their graves.
Alongside the things I’ve mentioned above, and I’m by no means an expert on US politics, it will be the shear relentlessness I won’t miss. The last four years have been a whirlwind of Trump, Trump, Trump. Dominating the news cycles day in and day out with his crazy claims of collusion, outlandish behaviour, lies and complete disregard for America, its allies or the rest of the world: it’s been exhausting to watch and hear. Contrary to popular belief, he doesn’t tell it like it is, he tells you what he wants you to believe; that he is beautiful, and that the world is better with him at the helm.
Well, it’s time to breathe a sigh of relief. I can tell you that the world will be shot of Trump in January next year. The time for Trumps nationalism and insularity is over. The divisions in the US caused by Trump and his rhetoric must be healed. Of course, his influence will take time to wain but hopefully a more co-operative world will rise from his defeat. One where countries will work together on trade, climate change, peace and in other areas.
Biden and Kamela Harris, his Vice-President Elect, have to rebuild the trust that both American people and the world have lost under Trump. It’s a tall order. Let’s hope they’re up to it.
‘An enticing communication turns Pero Saric’s world upside down. Spurred on by ‘what might have been’, he finds himself drawn back to his hometown of Sarajevo, a city he hasn’t visited since the civil war that ripped the former Yugoslavia apart. Yet by ‘Going Home’, Pero is forced to confront what lies scattered among the ruins…’R
Get ‘Going Home’ by A. P. Grozdanovic on Kindle or Kindle app now!
Jeremy Corbyn has vacated the building. The slate is now clean!
Politically, we can move forward. No more can the right-wing press and their predominantly foreign paymasters lambast the whole Labour Party as being anti-Semitic, terrorist friendly, or woolly-jumpered pie-in-the-sky fantasists. Corbyn, for good, bad or indifferent has been bludgeoned from every pillar and post from John O’Groats to Land’s End.
The picture of Corbyn as some sort of anti-Christ has forever been imprinted in the nations psyche and judgement on his stewardship of the Labour Party has already been set in stone. The way he has been portrayed will not allow for a renaissance of Corbynism.
You will have your own view on Jeremy Corbyn, but the fact of the matter is that he became unelectable. And that’s it, he’s gone!
With the election of Sir Keir Starmer as the new leader, the Party has a clean slate. The divisions that have rankled over the last five years under Corbyn now have a chance to heal. The Party owes it to itself to come together behind its new leader. And let’s be in no doubt, Starmer’s election mandate is far too big to deny him control of future direction and policy. Factionalism within the Party has to sit this one out, because the sooner Starmer gets down to the real work the better.
His first job is to put a competent Shadow Cabinet together that will hold the Johnson Government to account. For far too long Boris Johnson has got away with bluff and bluster, megaphone politics. Detail is not his forte. His legacy is already written, a disastrous withdrawal from the EU and a catastrophically inept response to Coronavirus. Starmer has to put this man forensically on the spot and force him to explain his every decision. Something his predecessor could never do, no matter how many emails he read from the public.
For me, Starmer has to pin down Johnson on specifics. When are supplies of PPE going to arrive in hospitals and Care Homes? When is testing going to be effective and widespread? When can we see the light at the end of this terrible tunnel? Until these questions, and others, are answered satisfactorily, Starmer needs to keep his distance from the Johnson Government. There should be no pacts, no leg-ups, no help. Just flat-out scrutiny.
It’s Starmer’s job to skewer the myth of Johnson and the Tory’s and put Labour and this country back on the road to recovery.
I’ve just read and reviewed this book on Amazon. It’s definitely worth a look at. My review is below along with a link:
‘This book is excellent! Chris Martin takes you on an inspiring trek through the ups and downs of first writing a book, and then attempting to find a publisher for it. ‘Write to the Bitter End!’ follows several decades of Chris’ adventures in writing, from his early days ‘plotting’ murder mystery plays, through to his whodunit novels focused around a schoolboy detective. The book’s easy, conversational style allows Chris to present informative detail in an engaging, palatable way. The piece is an authentic entry into this market.’
As you will be aware Coronavirus has reached all corners of the world. Many, sadly, have died and many more infected or expected to be in the coming period of time. Europe – where APGrozdanovic resides – currently appears to be the epicentre. Below I have added a link to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) website. It gives you all the latest updates, health tips, travel advice etc. Of course, you will be able to get more local information from your own governments and local authorities.
We wish all our readers and followers good health. Take care and follow the advice of the professionals out there.
In our latest Guest Blog, author Chris Martin presents his new Inky Stevens book, ‘The Case of the Caretaker’s Keys.’ Links to his excellent work can be found at the bottom of the page.
Don’t Get Mad…. Get Stevens!
Book Launch at Adlington Library on Thursday 26th March at 7pm
‘The Case of the Caretaker’s Keys’
Chris Martin has written three Great School Detective novels to date, finally securing a publishing deal with Hogs Back Books in 2017.
‘The Case of the Caretaker’s Keys’ is Inky’s first instalment and Adlington Library is grateful that he asked us to stage his official launch.
This will take place at 6:30pm on Thursday 26th March and Ex-Drama teacher Chris promises to be a lively entertaining speaker. He will be discussing his experiences as a writer as well as introducing his new novel. As he’s aiming to promote Inky in both primary and secondary schools, anyone connected with education is very welcome to attend.
Chris Martin is also one of Britain’s foremost suppliers of fundraising murder mystery plays. In 2005 he uploaded his first whodunit ‘Who Killed the Headmaster?’ to his website, murderplays.com. Customers include drama groups, sports clubs, church groups, libraries, museums, cruise liners, pubs and restaurants, anyone, in fact, interested in using ‘the business of murder’ to raise funds. Living in Adlington, Chris has used many local venues to test out his pieces including, of course, Adlington Library.
Chris gave up teaching in 2013 in order to focus on writing full-length novels. Crime fiction has always been his favourite genre and he decided to combine his talent for writing whodunits with an educational setting and thus create fiction for young readers (the like of which he taught for over 20 years). And so his lead character, ‘Inky Stevens, the Great School Detective’, came into being. Inky’s a student at Blinkton High School, in an isolated coastal town somewhere in the north of Britain. This fact, added to the spooky tone of the novel, gave rise to Chris’ tag line for his book… ‘Oh we do like to scream beside the seaside!’
Many people will have views about how the result of the 2019 General Election came about. Pundits will be trawling over Boris Johnson’s successful campaign, and the failure of Jeremy Corbyn’s and Jo Swinson’s failure to make headway against a fractured governing party in a time of real crisis.
People have had doubts about Jeremy Corbyn from day one of his leadership of the Labour party. His past affiliations to groups have been regurgitated so many times in the press and on social media over these last years, you can’t help thinking that the establishment really didn’t want him to win.
Let’s take one of the accusations about Corbyn head on. At the time he was talking to Sinn Fein in Ireland in front of the camera, Margaret Thatcher’s government were doing exactly the same thing behind closed doors. So, why was he different to Her Majesty’s Government in his attitude and actions to the Northern Irish issue?
Put simply, the press and right-wing commentators have colluded in scuppering the chance of any left-wing leader of the Labour party ever getting elected. I remember Michael Foot being lambasted and lied about in the early eighties very clearly. And following him, Neil Kinnock never stood a chance despite the Tory’s going through hell and high water in power. Not until Labour elected a more right-wing leader in Tony Blair, did the press and powers that-be take note.
Corbyn’s flim-flamery over the subject of the day cost him dearly. Wanting another referendum, but not saying which side of the argument he would stand, allowed his critics to attack him daily. How he thought that policy would bring in Leavers and Remainers, I’ve no idea.
Jo Swinson’s attempt at all-out remain failed dismally, although they did increase their share of the vote. That doesn’t always help in a First-Past-the-Post-Election. Swinson herself lost her seat in Scotland.
The SNP have gained massively in Scotland. A second independence referendum will be called for, and given no matter what the Tory leader says, in the coming years. And the break-up of the Union is most definitely on the cards, especially with Johnson negotiating a Withdrawal Agreement that effectively separates Northern Ireland from the rest of the Union.
I have written about the Tory’s nine years in power elsewhere and about Johnson’s failings. But in saying these things and writing them down in this blog, I can’t help thinking that the Turkeys have voted for Christmas. Clearly, the UK public have voted for more of the following:
These are just a few things that I can illustrate. There are more. The promise of getting Brexit done shouldn’t have been enough for the Tory’s to regain power and dump Labour to its worst performance since 1935.
If it was the Brexit confirmation election, and only time will tell on that one, then the British electorate have a lot of confidence in one issue to correct the ills of this country. I wish them luck!
This post was originally written & posted: 13 Dec 2019
Politicians have for many years manipulated figures or told fibs. We’ve come to expect it. But now, it seems, we’re residing in a world where Stalin would be ashamed.
For years our present Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has peddled truth and mistruth as if they co-exist in the same reality. He has annoyed, vexed and downright sought to besmirch sections of society in ways only an extremist would find acceptable.
Let’s look at some examples of Good Old Boris just being Cheeky-Chappy Boris. Surely there’s no harm in him?
At a Conservative fringe meeting in 2017, Johnson said the following regarding Libya: ‘They have got a brilliant vision to turn Sirte into the next Dubai… The only thing they have got to do is clear the dead bodies away.” Insensitive? Crass, maybe? You decide.
If Boris Johnson is to be elected PM, I would suggest you don’t get put in a foreign prison when you’re innocent. His lack of detail and support has left Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe struggling in an Iranian jail after the authorities lengthened her sentence following loose remarks made by the then Foreign Secretary. Responsible? Maybe not.
Foreign policy obviously isn’t his strong point? When you search Johnson it’s not hard to find gaffe-prone gold! For example, Johnson won a £1,000 prize for a limerick in the Spectator magazine, about the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, having sex with a goat. Not very statesman-like, I would have thought. Or is that just me?
Or maybe this further example of foreign relations not being his strong point might surprise you. In 2007 he likened Hilary Clinton, the Democratic hopeful for President, to a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital.
Further, he thinks that referring to people with ‘Watermelon Smiles’ and ‘Piccaninnies’, or people wearing burkas as looking like ‘letterboxes’ is satirical. Some may not. They may see these comments as unhelpful and offensive. I know which side of the fence I sit on…
His homophobic slurs are well known. His reference to gay men as, ‘tank topped bum boys’ is an absolute disgrace and will not be accepted as right by A. P. Grozdanovic.
In a 1995 article for the Spectator he said, single mothers were raising a generation of ‘ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate children’. Quite a sweeping statement and certainly ill-advised and offensive to the people concerned. Perhaps you’re not one of those people and you’re not bothered. I’ll give you some advice, you should be.
And what about his flagship ‘Let’s Get Brexit Done’ mantra? Well, he still hasn’t got it done, despite getting his Withdrawal Agreement passed in Parliament.
In fact, he has failed at every turn since he was installed as our Prime Minister by a handful of aging Tory members.
And then there is the record of Tory rule over the last nine years, something I have written about previously. Through their policy of austerity, they have butchered the idea of this country as a caring, progressive place to be and head to.
In this election campaign I have watched as he heartlessly waved away pictures of a child lying on a hospital floor; how his party have not just manipulated news but down right lied about things that have happened; promised to sort Brexit out when he has proved time again he isn’t up to the job.
I have been filled with incredulity that this once great country is being led by this patently inadequate Tory Prime Minister, a Brexit Prime Minister who can’t deliver Brexit!
But unlike the loud and proud right-wing press that many of my readers devour and regurgitate daily, I will not be advocating a vote for ALEXANDER BORIS de PFEFFEL JOHNSON. In fact, it will be anyone but Boris!
This post was originally written & uploaded: 11 Dec 2019
The 2019 General Election, the one Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he never wanted but pushed for relentlessly since his elevation to the highest office, is shaping up to be the most divisive and broken in living memory. I don’t think it need take an Oxford Don to work out why. But more of that later…
So, in this election, the 36th after my first punt at choosing this country’s Prime Minister, I find myself with a massive dilemma. That’s because the question I have always asked myself, ‘who do I want to lead this country into the future?’ has changed to, ‘who do I NOT want on the leavers of power for the next five years?’
Experience has always told me where my bread is buttered, and with who. I can tell you this time is no different. And that is still the case with the elephant of Brexit running amok outside the proverbial room.
In today’s world of reckless division, my starting point has to be the governing party. Do I still want them to remain in Downing Street? What have they done in the nine years since moving in? Have they improved the lives of all the people of this country and beyond since winning power? Have they had time to make the improvements they promised?
The overwhelming answer to these questions has to be a big fat ‘no’. I can list some of the reasons below:
Shelter recommend the building of 3.1m new social homes to meet demand. A demand this Party has had no intention of achieving.
That lack of availability in social housing obviously increases homelessness. Between 2013 and 2017 homeless people dying on the streets has more than doubled. That is a frightening statistic for the 5th richest country in the world by GDP.
Food bank parcels are on the increase. In 2009/10, as this Party came to power, 41,000 food packs were distributed. By 2016/17, 1.2 million packs were given out. That is a massive increase and something to be ashamed of.
In employment, some 66% of people languishing on zero-hour contracts want more hours and security in employment. That’s not a lot to ask for.
What about health? The NHS has been under fire for many years. Targets for treating cancer patients after GP referrals haven’t been met for five years. We now have the worst waiting times, over four hours, in A&E since 2004.
According to the Independent, some 17,000 people died while waiting for essential benefits. It’s inconceivable that any government could preside over a more unresponsive or uncaring system of benefit payments.
Police numbers are important to the electorate because they use that as a sign of how safe they feel on the streets. Since the present party came to power in 2010 there has been a cut of some 19,000 police officers. Not exactly the party of law & order, I would suggest.
What about defence? People who obsess about whether the leader of this country would press the nuclear button to annihilate millions forget that the army has systematically fallen in numbers for years. Ironically, they’re generally the very same people who call for the re-introduction of National Service, and the same people who never had to square-bash the parade ground for a day in their life.
These people need to get a grip. Come the day, they will be dead! Finished, just like the Norwegian Blue in the famous Monty Python sketch. Nuclear weapons are not for protection, a deterrent or any such thing. They are a phallic example of the ruling elite’s strength and position. Nothing more, nothing less!
During the years of austerity One Nation Conservatism has been well and truly killed off! This ruling party has succeeded in dividing the country for generations. Principally, their strategy in holding the referendum in 2016, their lack of strategy in dealing with the fall-out of a Leave result, and their continued divisive examples of Leave perpetuate the uncertainty of the stable future we desire for our children and grandchildren. Bland statements like ‘Get Brexit Done’ don’t cut it. Boris Johnson has been regurgitating that one since his arrival at Number 10 and he still hasn’t got it done. And that’s a failure he and his party own alone.
The fawning over of Trump, the man who gets his world view from Fox News and cannot avoid the spectre of impeachment in his own country, is an absolute scandal. The man would sell his own grandmother to get a deal for the Good Ol’ US of A. Britain and its needs would be well down the pecking order.
In saying all the above, I would not presume to tell you how to vote. That is for you and your conscience to live with. I also know the non-dom press barons have been helping you along with that for some time anyway. Their vilification of other leaders has been one of the most depressing parts of modern reporting. I would advise you to look at other reports and seek out the truth before deciding that he or she is this or that, though. Believe me! Reading beyond the headlines is worth it.
But taking the things listed above into consideration and the sense of entitlement this Prime Minister and his cohorts seem to possess, I cannot with all honesty advocate a vote for them.
My cross will land in a different box because I want this country to regain a sense of togetherness, where we can all live with dignity and with the security of a state that cares for everyone. I want us to be able to hold our heads up and say that we did our best for all, not just the favoured few. This governing party has done as much for the few that it can. It’s high time we had a government that does something for the many. Show me the Party that does that, and I’ll show you where my cross will land.
This post was originally written & uploaded: 1 Dec 2019
Boris Johnson has got his Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in place inside two months, something his predecessor in failure only managed in two years. But is it his own deal? Well no, not exactly.
The agreement with the EU that he is asking Parliament to ratify shows very little difference from May’s doomed attempt. Only fifteen core pages have been renegotiated, along with the political non-binding declaration. Eleven pages have been jettisoned. That’s out of nearly six hundred pages! I’m just wondering why negotiators have had to fly back and forward to Brussels when they could have just exchanged texts!
In reality Mop-Top Johnson, who looks as statesman-like as Onslow from Keeping Up Appearances, hasn’t really negotiated a full deal at all, he’s just tinkered around the edges with a pair of nail scissors. Those edges, he’s hoping, will encourage enough MP’s to vote the agreement through.
I suspect he’s on a hiding to nothing.
The DUP have already said they won’t vote for the agreement. Jeremy Corbyn, the Brexiteer in sheep’s clothing, is saying Labour won’t back it. With Jo Swinson’s, Conservative-lite, Liberal Democrats advocating remain come what may, alongside the Greens and the SNP, Johnson hasn’t got a cat in hells chance of winning the vote this coming Saturday.
But as we know by now, Brexit voters will shout from every rooftop that the referendum should be honoured whatever the costs, this tawdry story is going to run and run.
The fact I don’t believe he’ll get it through a Parliament elected after the 2016 referendum, for me, has never been in doubt, but he’ll try anyway. Johnson and his staunch Brexit cabinet will blame everyone under the sun but themselves for the situation the country is in if it is voted down. Chief among them the EU, remain voting MP’s, Remoaner-voices-off. He may even stoop to blaming the Chief Mouser in residence, Larry, if everything goes pear-shaped.
With the passing of the Benn Act, which was introduced to avoid a no deal Brexit and Johnson’s ultra-commitment to leave on the 31 October the two sides are polls apart, and they don’t appear to be getting any closer.
I myself have a view on Brexit, which I try not to push too much here on APGrozdanovic, but it’s imperative that the two sides find a way to come together for the good of the country. To say we have to Get Brexit Done, or to pummel the airwaves with the only way to move forward is a People’s Vote is misreading the mood of the nation.
A recent YouGov poll of polls shows an increased backing for remain, but the country will still be fractured after Brexit is done or not.
What we need is statesmen/women who will move this country forward together, for the benefit of everyone. This has proved elusive for the past two incumbents of 10 Downing Street. And as I have argued before, it’s time for radical thinking. And these politicians have proved time and again that they can’t change their spots. We have to move on, forward, together. If that means an election, give us one. If it means a People’s Vote, give us one. But above all, spare us all this claptrap that the referendum of 2016 unleashed.
This post was originally written & uploaded: 18 Oct 2019
This year’s election is like no other, that’s for sure. With all the competing party’s on top of the traditional two plus one, voters are finding it hard to settle on a clear favourite. The polls are matching the two main party’s at neck and neck consistently. Whilst, the EU bashing UKIP and independent dreaming SNP garner favour in unprecedented numbers. The poor Liberals, traditionally the protest party of choice, have plummeted in popularity during their stint in government.
What has gone wrong for the Tory’s and Labour is hard to establish in this modern electoral nightmare. But one thing is for certain, politics is not that simple anymore.
Austerity has blown consensus out of the water. People who were attached to the old order in politics now look for scapegoats all over the place. For the nationalists it’s Westminster. For UKIP it’s Europe and the influx of migrants. The electorate are not placated by data showing more people working than ever, or wage’s growing for the first time since the downturn. They simply want something different.
Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, blames Cameron and austerity. She keeps banging on about wanting a deal with Labour to lock the Tory’s out of Downing Street. A deal most Scots would relish. But that does nothing for Labour. Accepting a deal in public before the election would simply throw Labour out of Scottish politics too. They would become as irrelevant north of the border as the Conservative party has since Thatcher’s days.
Sturgeon’s priority is to grab as much power as she can, and as quickly as she can, in Westminster. This will enable her to force a new referendum through on independence. It’s important to remember, Sturgeon’s whole raison d’être is the break-up the Union. Her strength north of the border, if the polls are to be believed, will be total after the election. And that divorce will be irresistible if she gets anywhere near the levers of power in London.
The nationalists in Wales are also banking on division too. Leanne Wood has performed well in the debates on TV. Unlike the SNP, Plaid Cymru’s foothold isn’t as comprehensive, but in this era of change, who knows what can happen. Her direct approach to the people of Wales was effective and measured. While I haven’t read the Welsh press, I expect her performances to have gone down well in the Principality.
While Sturgeon and Wood are wedded to independence, UKIP are intent on a breakaway of a different type. Extrication from the EU is in their blood. Total and complete withdrawal from Brussels is Farage’s aim. (I find this unusual coming from a man that has been paid handsomely by the EU for some time.) All the country’s problems appear to be solvable by withdrawing from the EU and introducing an Australian-style points system for entry into the country. I sometimes wonder if his next proposal will be to build a giant wall around the country to stop foreign people coming in.
His brand of popularism is definitely resonating with the public though. Polls for the election are putting them ahead of the Liberal Democrats. Their two MP’s, Carswell & Reckless, both Tory defectors may be added to on May 7. If they are, and they get enough support, Farage may be the man who hands Cameron the keys to Number 10 for another 5 years.
The Liberal Democrats are polling at extremely low figures, vying with UKIP and the Greens. It’s proving to be hard for Nick Clegg to retain any authority after jumping into bed with the Tory’s 5 years ago, and propping Cameron up in the first coalition government in many years. His ditching of a flagship policy like tuition fees hurt him badly. He has never really recovered. There are even murmurs about him losing his seat at the election. Polls come and go. We’ll have to wait on that one.
Labour are struggling to take a lead over the unpopular Tory’s. The memory of the crash still hangs heavily over them from 2008. Brown’s government left a hefty deficit after the necessary bail out of the banks. But there is a new man at the helm and despite popular fights against the press, energy companies and others, Miliband struggles to make a mark. His performances have been good in the televised debates. He will have only gained from the added exposure. Unlike the Tory’s, they’re not setting a date on eventual debt eradication, preferring to reduce it slower and where they can. They have definitely learned from Cameron’s bold intention in 2010 that was never achievable.
Where Labour have failed is to instil in the public mind that it was the banks that caused the crash. Yes, they were in power, and yes, the rules in the banking system were lax. But at the time even the Tory party were insisting on even less restrictive measures.
Cameron’s tenure in Downing Street is one of missed opportunities – unashamedly championing the rich, or in modern parlance, the Wealth Creators. He promised no top down reorganisation of the NHS but did it. He promised to get rid of the deficit. He hasn’t. He promised fairness while cutting taxes for the wealthy and imposing the Bedroom Tax on the poor. He didn’t learn the lessons from Blair on Iraq when he wanted to tackle al Assad in Syria with Obama.
His legacy appears to be a low wage economy. Division between the haves and have-nots. Decimated public services. An increasingly privatised NHS and uncertainty in the jobs market with issues such as zero-hour contracts.
On 7 May the electorate, those that are registered to vote, or can be bothered to, will choose the next government. Many don’t vote at all and that’s the fault of both the electorate and the politicians. People should be engaged in the electoral process and it’s important that politicians give people something to vote for.
For keen observers it will be an interesting time. For a lot of others, it will be business as usual.
It’s now 3 years since the country voted to exit the European Union. Two Prime Ministers – and counting – and we still inhabit the Brexit wasteland. Remaining in, but endlessly sat in the departure lounge.
And what of the two sides?
There seems to be no coming together of the Remain and Leave side of the Brexit argument. In fact, most people, and this is only anecdotal, have simply dug their heels in. They are either Remain (not Remain and Evolve) or Leave (at all costs).
No fan of Theresa May, I think we can all agree she wrecked any chance of a Brexit compromise with her Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union. (Did you read all 500+ pages of the agreement? No? Neither did I!) She satisfied neither side of the Brexit divide. Her whole Premiership will be seen by historians as a complete and utter failure to bring Parliament and the people together.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Leader, seen by many as a Remainer, although I don’t know why, has completely failed to take his party with him on Brexit as well. His policy of constructive ambiguity, whatever that was, has seen the Fourth Estate portray him sitting on a splintered fence leaning towards Remain. I’ve never seen it that way. In all circumstances, Corbyn has re-iterated that the result of the referendum should be honoured. I ask myself, how can that be a Remain position? Where people get confused, and right-wing pundits bellow it from the rooftops, is that he doesn’t advocate a Tory hard Brexit. And to them, that equals Remain. They somehow miss the point that he continually says he will negotiate a better deal if he becomes Prime Minister. Those are not the words of a Remainer. However, he will support a second referendum on what he sees as a bad deal put forward by any Tory government. But that does not make him a supporter of Remain.
Alternatively, we have Farage shouting down BBC microphone’s at every opportunity like some demented Shakespearean tragi-character threatening the wrath of the people if he doesn’t get the Brexit HE wants. Every time the megaphone agitator appears on TV I can’t help thinking, ‘O for another series of classic Spitting Image’. I suspect he’d be sat in Trumps breast pocket while in the other would be ‘Mop-Top’ Johnson, the likely new Tory leader and PM.
And on the other side of the Brexit chasm we have the Liberal Democrats – Conservatives-Lite in another dictionary – fighting for the pro-Remain votes with the Green Party led, inexplicably, by two people. Not forgetting the SNP up there in Scotland. Agitating for an IndyRef2 if they don’t get a People’s Vote to Remain.
Common ground in British politics has been burnt at the Brexit stake.
Whilst here at APGrozdanovic we try to be impartial, it is sometimes hard to pull off that particular trick, of arguing for both sides in such a divisive matter. But here goes, I have readers of all persuasions…
It’s high time for radical thinking.
The country needs our political representatives to speak for us and act in our best interests. Not for their own narrow interest group within a party.
Brexit voters conveniently forget what we were promised during and after the ballot. Note the ambiguity of the £350m we could spend on our NHS emblazoned over a big red bus. John Redwood saying on 17 July 2016, that ‘Getting out of the EU can be quick and easy.’ Or Michael Gove pronouncing on the 1 June 2016 that, ‘We can easily conclude a new settlement with the EU…’ These and other things have proved to be pie-in-the-sky.
On the Remain side, although they lost the referendum, I still don’t think they are putting the case forward well enough for people to re-imagine a world where a new ballot can relieve citizen’s doubts about the EU and the advantages of staying in. The political soundbite ‘Project Fear’ still resonates, no matter how many reports show Brexit impacting on the economy and jobs. For their argument to prevail, they have to step up to the plate and explain better the reason for staying.
In my fictional book, Stalag Britain, about a Brexit that goes catastrophically wrong, I wrote about job losses in various areas and shortages in the health service. The rise of racism. Governments failing. This wasn’t hard for me to imagine and include in my story, so why is it so difficult for others?
I think the time has come to think beyond Brexiteers & Remainers. It’s now an opportunity for a new Prime Minister to be radical. And I don’t mean to raise the flag for one side or the other. Whether it be ‘Mop-Top’ Johnson or ‘Entrepreneur’ Hunt who becomes the next PM, they have to jettison the idea of Brexit on 31 October, pause Article 50, and form a government of national unity. One where people of all sides of the political spectrum, including voters, can work out where we want to go as a country. That may end up in Brexit. It may not. But at least we will have clarity and agreement on the road we are travelling. We have to remember that the future is not ours, it’s our children’s and grandchildren’s. It’s our duty to leave them a prosperous future of opportunity, where doors are open in friendship and not closed because we have cut our nose off to spite our face.
I raise a glass in Hope…
This post was originally written & uploaded: 22 July 2019
Following the first results of the Conservative Party’s leadership race, you wouldn’t have to be a modern-day Nostradamus to see the country is heading yet further towards the Brexit rocks.
The first three candidates to hit the buffers were Harper – who accepted that Brexit couldn’t happen by 31 October, Andrea Leadsom and the ex-TV host, Esther McVey who both stipulated that Halloween will be our leaving date come what may. And today, Nick Hancock, the Health Secretary, dropped out, citing his candidature was about the future, and his party was looking towards a leader for the here and now.
The remaining, I use the term loosely, candidates are Johnson, Hunt, Gove, Stewart, Javid and Dominic Raab, the former Brexit Secretary. We will have to wait until the coming days to find out which two will go forward to fight it out among party members.
My views on the process of choosing a new PM like this can be found elsewhere…
The winner by a fox hunting country mile in the first round of voting was the former London Mayor & Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. Not only was Johnson the clear winner in the vote amongst his fellow Tory MP’s, he is the clear leader with the bookies too.
But party members, and more importantly the wider electorate, should be careful what they wish for. There are just 160,000 Conservative Party members who will choose not just the party leader, but the next Prime Minister of this country.
Johnson’s main selling point to party members and a portion of the electorate is obviously his stance on Brexit. He has announced that we will leave the EU on the 31 October, deal or no deal.
Apart from the fact no one can predict what a no deal Brexit will look like – except people looking into a crystal ball and seeing a land of milk & honey, where Britannia rules the waves and Victoria, in the persona of Gemma Coleman, reigns – this is definitely a leap in the dark.
At present a no-deal Brexit is a perpetual fantasy, and Johnson is a master at the make believe. Just look at the fact check Channel 4 produced. It basically illustrates that what good-old Boris promises, doesn’t actually come to fruition.
Take a look at what he has said or written. Likening Africans to piccaninnies. Writing offensive poems relating to the president of Turkey. But there are a litany of things he has said and done which we should think very carefully about before contemplating allowing this man to hold the keys to 10 Downing Street.
The decision on who runs this country cannot be decided on just one issue, Brexit. This person has to be competent and have a real-world vision on where the country is heading. The new Prime Minister will have to have the gravitas to bring people together after the divisive Brexit referendum. Something that Theresa May failed to do. Boris Johnson has proved he is not that man. He is a small-world Trump-like figure who will sew division for years to come.
This post was originally written & uploaded: 14 June 2019
Since Harold Wilson voluntarily resigned as Labour Prime Minister in 1976, we have had three, and soon to be four leaders of this country who have been forced to throw in the towel.
Margaret Thatcher was toppled in 1990 by her own party due to problems that included the Poll Tax and Europe. Tony Blair’s Labour party had had their fill of their most effective leader after ten years in 2007, replacing him with the Iron Chancellor, Gordon Brown. David Cameron had to resign in 2016 after his ill-fated sojourn into settling the European question for a generation.
And now we have Cameron’s successor, Theresa May, promising to step down as Prime Minister because she has been unable to satisfy the thirst of Brexiteers within her own toxic party. They are now predictably plotting to replace her.
What these leaders all have in common is that they weren’t replaced at the ballot box, but by their own party, who had become exasperated and disillusioned with them. In todays world, where politicians of every persuasion rabbit on about respecting votes at the ballot box, this archaic form of replacing an unpopular leader has now become unacceptable.
Post Brexit referendum, where sovereignty and accountability were heralded as reasons to leave the EU, the British public must have the final say on who resides in Downing Street. It isn’t good enough anymore to allow a cabal of MPs, and party members, to choose who governs this country in our name.
If people want effective democracy in this country, then things have to change. The fixed-term parliamentary act has to be amended. Whilst this was a good addition to democracy, it failed to anticipate that leaders could be jettisoned at any time by their own party. Who in turn could retain power by nominating their own leader and thus Prime Minister without recourse to the electorate.
It’s self-evident our system of government needs an overhaul. If Prime Ministers are to be accountable to voters, then they have to be voted in by the electorate. We may need to move to another system of government all together, perhaps a Presidential format, where voters know who they are getting for a fixed period. Or, simply, a tweak to the present format. Say, if a party wants to sack its leader, then a fresh election is triggered within a short period with their new leader in place.
If the electorate continually accepts that a small group of party members and MP’s can decide this country’s leader, then the public will get what it deserves. And quite honestly it has, for in each case listed above, the Prime Minister has been replaced by an increasingly unpopular successor.
In the modern world, democratic accountability is essential. It’s now time for change.
This post was originally written and uploaded: 19 May 2019
At the time of writing, Theresa May, the Conservative Prime Minister, has lost 1,300 council seats and seen 40 Councils float away into the Brexit wind. She must be up there with the worst Prime Ministers the UK has ever had the misfortune to suffer.
And yet she stills clings on to power. Why? Because her party is riven by division. Take it from me, if there was a credible alternative, the Tory’s would have dumped her long ago. No Boris, please sit down!
During her time in Number 10 Downing Street she has seen 42 government or cabinet ministers resign or be sacked. That must be a record. Just one department, The Department for Exiting the European Union, is on its 3rd Secretary of State. Surely, a poisoned chalice, if ever there was one.
Not only as she failed to live up to the Brexiteers hopes that she’d lead Britain out of the European Union like some modern day Boudica, she has wrought mayhem and suffering along the way.
I can’t recall a Prime Minister calling an election when they have a working majority and then losing it. How calamitous is that? The list of mistakes she’s made along the Brexit route is endless. Among them, triggering Article 50 when she had no need to. That was a clanger of epic proportions. She could have waited to find a consensus first. But no, she had to rush in like some kindergarten kid looking for its next sugar rush.
Take food banks as an example of her governments attitude to the needy. A good snapshot of how people are feeling the pinch in the Cameron/May Austerity Britain. In 2009/10 as the Tory’s came to power the Trussell Trust, the largest distributor of food parcels, handed out 41,000 parcels. In Mays 2016/17, they handed out 1.2m. (Source: Full Fact) Surely a sign things aren’t right?
Homelessness has risen to 320,000 people. (Source: The Big Issue) Put your hands down! I know Europe causes that too. Yeah right! Its policies worked out and rubber stamped in Downing Street, Theresa May’s nice little grace and favour London pad, that determine this disastrous situation. Or is it that picturesque country pile she uses at weekends, Chequers, where she plots another catastrophe? Whichever, I’m sure a few families could squat in there for a while and she wouldn’t notice.
Wages still haven’t reached pre-recession levels despite almost 9 years of Tory rule. (Source: Full Fact) And yet the Conservative Party continually bangs on about putting more money in your pocket and charging you less in taxes. Do me a favour!
What about PIP, the flagship policy to renew the Benefit system. A court ruling found that it was unfair to people with mental health issues. A review of it is estimated to cost £3.7m by 2023. This is under a Tory government that propagates the idea of sound financial management. It beggar’s belief! (Source: BBC)
And zero hours contracts? In 2017 there were 1.8m people estimated to be working contracts that did not guarantee them a minimum number of hours. (Source: Full Fact) In surveys, some say they are happy with the arrangements, but others aren’t. We should be living in a country where people have a choice. Minimum working hours shouldn’t be foisted upon workers.
This government can’t even be trusted with the NHS. With NHS England reporting a shortage of 100,000 staff (Source: The Guardian), how is this government proposing to keep people healthy? I would suggest with Brexit taking all it’s energies up, it hasn’t got a chance.
And let’s not forget about the debacle of the Windrush & Grenfell Tower scandals? All on Mays watch.
Since her elevation to Prime Minister she has nailed her colours to the Brexit flag pole. She wanted to satisfy the 51.9% who voted for Brexit (on a turnout of 72.2%), attempting to side line the rest. But she has failed on Brexit, big-style! Who could succeed with their expectations? Europe was willing to let Britain walk without a deal. It was parliament that stopped the Lemming-style approach of the hard-liners. She can’t even control her own party and coalition.
This country will be well shot of Theresa May once this Brexit fiasco is sorted out, one way or the other. We just have to hope that the next Prime Minister can bring the country together in a way that she has found beyond her capabilities.
This post was originally written and uploaded: 4 May 2019
With medieval streets, Art Nouveau masterpieces and Baroque squares, Prague is a city to behold. The absolute joy of walking around corner after corner and being faced by yet more architectural beauty is amazing. In no other city that I’ve visited has this happened.
From the Old Town Square to the Gothic Charles Bridge, to Jewish Prague and Prague Castle, to Wenceslas Square to St Vitus’s Cathedral, you just marvel at the history and splendour of a city that is becoming more and more popular.
Prague’s distinct areas include, Staré Mêsto, Josefov and Northern Staré Mêsto and Prague Castle & Hradêany, Malá Strana and Nové Mêsto. There are more, but we just visited those.
In Staré Mêsto (The Old Town), you’ll find such delights as the Astronomical Clock. Dating back to the 15thCentury, the clock not only tells the time, it displays the movement of the sun and moon through the signs of the zodiac and the planets around the earth. Get there on the hour and you’ll be accompanied by many others watching the distinctive way it marks the event.
The Municipal House is a prominent Art Nouveau building decorated with figures on all sides. It is an impressive sight. And close by is the Powder Gate, an entrance to the city that dates back to 1475
In the Josefov and Northern Staré Mêsto area, Jewish history is very prominent with its synagogues and museums. It’s quite a sobering experience to visit the synagogues and to be faced with the brutality inflicted on the population by the Nazis. To see the names of the people written on walls of remembrance and to read of their suffering is a reminder that we cannot and must not forget what has happened to the Jewish community through time. The small cemetery is a place for quiet contemplation with grave stones struggling to stand upright, with the horrors to which the city has witnessed, clearly on their shoulders.
If you wish to visit the synagogues and museums (which include the Jewish Museum, Pinkas Synagogue and Spanish Synagogue, to mention just a few) in the area, you can purchase reasonably priced tickets to get in all of them.
If you cross the river using the impressive Gothic Charles Bridge, you’ll reach Malá Strana. Here you will find the beautiful Baroque Church of St. Nicholas and the Palace Gardens. For John Lennon/Beatles fans there is the graffiti-covered wall that people regularly paint over. The Kafka Museum is a must for fans of literature. It tells the story of the city and one of its most famous sons.
On the same side of the river is Prague Castle, which dates back to the 9thCentury, and is quite extraordinary. It covers a substantial area. The Gothic St. Vitus’s Cathedral, which can be seen for miles around, is the centre piece. If you’re fit and able, a climb up the tower, which gives breath-taking views, is a must. A castle visit also includes museums and places to eat and drink, so you can have a rest during your visit – which we did, partaking in Hot Mulled Wine and Apple Strudel.
Going back over the river to Nové Mêsto (New Town) you’ll find the National Museum at the top of Wenceslas Square, an impressive area with shops and restaurants.
The Baroque Cathedral of St. Cyril and St. Methodius is of historical significance because the parachutists who assassinated the Nazi governor, Reinhard Heydrich, hid in the crypt. You’ll find a memorial to them in the crypt itself as well as their story. Their valour in the face of Nazi occupation cannot be underestimated.
Traditional Czech food includes Roasted Pork and Goulash. I can attest to both being excellent. Also, Apple Strudel on the Dessert Menu is popular, and it was with us.
Czech beer never fails. Don’t be put off by the Dark Beer which, despite its appearance, isn’t like British Stout. It’s much lighter. Other traditional lighter Czech beers are excellent too.
In general, English is widely spoken, so ordering food and drink isn’t a problem. But with narrow streets and cobbled, uneven paving, getting around could be difficult for the disabled.
We visited in late March, for four nights. The weather wasn’t great. It was cool with mostly grey skies. We were lucky, no rain fell while we were there.
We stayed at the Mamaison Hotel, Riverside, Prague. Our transport and accommodation were arranged by Heather Reynolds of Travel Counsellors.
I suppose the success of a City Break rests on whether you would visit again. I can say without a doubt, we’d definitely visit Prague again.
The news yesterday that seven Labour MP’s have resigned from the party was no surprise. It had been coming. You only had to listen to Owen Smith, the MP for Pontypridd recently.
Bold statements by the seven included:
The party is, in Luciana Berger’s opinion, ‘institutionally anti-Semitic.’
That any criticism of the leadership, according to Ann Coffey, is met with, ‘abuse and accusations of treachery.’
And that in Mike Gapes view, Jeremy Corbyn ‘would threaten our national security.’
The MP’s statements cannot be swept under the carpet. These are serious allegations that cannot be explained away as just another day in politics. They weren’t made by Westminster hacks or opposing MP’s punching below the belt, they were made by former colleagues of Jeremy Corbyn. People who until yesterday were inside the Labour tent.
The Labour Party now has some big decisions to make. Does it listen, find solutions and act to allay the fears of potential voters? Or does it entrench and attack the leavers? Both ideas are already on the burner.
Tom Watson, the Deputy Leader, has felt the need to call for the seven not to be referred to as Traitors. While John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, has said that Labour has to listen more. The horse it would appear has already bolted on both accounts.
Corbyn has been playing fast and loose with members and voters for some time. The reports about bullying and anti-Semitism are not new. And his handling of Brexit is akin to a Card-Shark but with all the cards on show.
We can only surmise that Jeremy Corbyn is letting his members down with all these reports.
How it got to this stage is anyone’s guess. But if Corbyn wants to be taken seriously as a future Prime Minister, he has to step up to the plate and lead.
We need concrete action by Corbyn that is posted for all to see, that ensures Labour is tackling racism within the party, that it is listening and that it is acting.
Before, we can take Corbyn and the Party as a viable option for government it has to get its own house in order. Until that day passes, Labour will be in opposition for a generation again.
People who believe that Jeremy Corbyn is the sticking point in a Brexit deal miss the point completely. Corbyn is a brexiteer who just happens to go round wearing a woolly hat. He seems to believe that we can have all the benefits of being a member of the EU but without having to carry a membership card. We only have to go back to the referendum when he refused to join the official remain camp to understand his real position.
Today’s letter to Theresa May, from Corbyn, has finally put to bed any notion that he wants Britain to stay in the EU. Afterall, he has said on many occasions that he respects the result of the referendum of 2016. The fact that his party carries the option of a People’s Vote when all else has failed means nothing to Corbyn. He will do his utmost to stop Labour supporting a new referendum.
If May wants his support, though, she must acquiesce to his demands in various areas. He and the rest of the Labour leadership know that to follow his demands, May would be risking the break-up of her own party. (And as we all know, Brexit has always been about keeping the Tory party together.) Close alignment with the customs union and rights and protections are not in the hard-brexiteer handbook, though, so she’d be backing it at her peril. Even though the EU has received the suggestions favourably.
But as mischievous as Corbyn can be in posting his suggestions to May, the real fight is in the Tory party. With the support of her own party and the DUP, May can push her Brexit plan through. If she can convince them of the merits of her deal then there is no need for Corbyn’s support. His place in the Brexit history books would be as a mere footnote.
The problem that May deals with daily is keeping her Tory party together. Now, we find, Corbyn is risking the break-up of his party with his constant enablement of the Brexit cause. Regardless of the form Brexit comes in, and whether you like it or not, he is supporting it with every bone in his body and proves it with his support for the outcome of the referendum and todays demands.
Owen Smith, the Labour MP for Pontypridd, has said he is considering his position in the party following Corbyn’s exercise in oiling the Brexit wheels. More are certain to follow his lead and think carefully whether they want to sit on the same benches as him in Parliament.
Brexit is a political chasm that can’t be closed. And we have the two weakest leaders this country has probably ever had facing each other at the Dispatch Box. With the severity of the issues at hand, both parties and this country deserve better.
Whether you believe in Brexit or not, don’t for one minute think that Jeremy Corbyn will stop it. He is an enabler, despite what his party wants or the press tell you.
Remainers shouldn’t look to Corbyn for help. His back was turned the moment the referendum was called. If you want a People’s Vote look elsewhere. If you want Brexit, he can’t do much worse than May.
Brexit, in all shapes and sizes, looks to be a complete dog’s dinner. It’s hard to look at it any other way.
While we have a government led by the ineffectual Teresa May, leaving the European Union with a good deal looks about as distant a prospect as man landing on Mars.
Since taking over the Tory leadership she has misfired at every turn. She called an early general election (despite fixed term parliaments being a Coalition success) and lost a Commons working majority. She then effectively handed control of Brexit policy to the DUP and the right-wing Brexiteers in her party (not to mention noises off, Farage). And since then she has limped from one Brexit crisis to another.
How humiliating must it have been to have Brexit Secretary, Davis and the blonde mop and dinner party raconteur, Johnson, resign over her Chequers deal. And then have it effectively thrown in the incinerator by European negotiator, Michel Barnier
The vision of Brexit by its champions is one of nirvana. The It’ll Be Alright on The Night Brigade never seem to deliver a coherent picture of life outside the European Union. Yes, they point to better trading deals with countries like the USA. But do we really want to be standing alone in a trade deal with someone like Trump in the White House, slapping tariffs on anything that takes his fancy? By pulling the drawbridge up on Europe, our biggest free trading partner, does that make Britain great again? It’s a big question.
And it’s an even bigger question when time and again reality bites and warnings are delivered as to the what will happen if a cliff-edge no deal wins the day.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (who work towards eradicating poverty in the UK) say families will continue to struggle regardless of a Brexit deal.
In a survey conducted by Odgers Berndtson of a hundred UK business leaders over 50% wanted to stop Brexit altogether.
Jaguar’s boss warns of high job losses with a bad Brexit deal.
Honda’s European boss says the company would lose tens of millions of pounds.
These are obviously selected clips from what the hard Brexiteers would call Project Fear, but when you consider recent polls by Yougov showing public opinion is drifting away from Brexit, things begin to look different. Do people still think that this is the future they want for Britain? Maybe it isn’t.
In a Yougov survey of 2,700 members of Unite, Unison and GMB it showed a clear majority for staying in the EU. This is just over two years since the narrow victory for Vote Leave.
It’s time for Labour to stand up and be counted.
We now have a convincing majority of Labour members who want their party to opt for the so-called People’s Vote. The enthusiasm for this is now charging forward apace.
With all this evidence – business, Union and public opinion – shouting from the rooftops that they want a new vote now the reality of Brexit is knocking at their door, it is incumbent on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party to be the trusted opposition to a catastrophic hard-Tory Brexit.
By changing their policy and supporting a People’s Vote (and writing it in their manifesto), Labour will give people a real choice at the ballot box. Because Brexit is the only game in town. Get that right and you can begin to move on and work towards a better health service, a world class education system and quality employment. The things this government and Brexit has derailed.
This article was originally published on 22 September 2018
Along with religion and politics in general, Brexit has become the subject to avoid among friends.
Everyone and his faithful dog has an opinion. But, unfortunately, no one has the same view.
I predicted before the referendum in 2016 that politicians would try to find a position where-by they could say Britain was out of the European Union, but effectively still be in it. A fudge. And that is exactly what Theresa May has attempted to do.
To say she has divided a nation even more than it already was is an understatement.
No one group enjoys confidence in the deal struck with the EU.
Members within the different groups don’t even agree. From hard Brexiteers who want ‘out means out’ WTO to Leavers who are comfortable with Canada+. We even have Norway+ being bandied around. The devil is in the detail, and whatever the minutia in those suggestions is well beyond this mere person. What is still confusing is what Her Majesty’s Opposition thinks of it all. The more Corbyn talks about his solution for our European future, the more confused I am.
Of course, we have the Remainers who are still clinging to the chance of a People’s Vote. This could either turn the 2016 result on its head or modify the deal so much that many of the benefits we get will stay as they are. Despite many of those benefits being the reason why some people voted to leave in the first place.
From pay-offs to fish. From border control to the establishment of a European army. From elected officials to non-elected officials. Not many agree.
Even the simplicity of the referendum question has been queried.
Did we really mean out, out? Yes we did, I hear people saying steadfastly.
When I voted remain, I meant to stay in with all its faults and under no circumstances do I think the EU needs reform.
Heels are being dug so deep, movement is near impossible. So, would a People’s Vote be worthwhile? That depends what side of the Brexit fence you’re on, of course.
Some people say we should just get on and respect the referendum result. That’s democracy in action. It is. But do you just agree with the opposition after any election? No, you don’t. You fight for change. Just like prominent Brexiteers have been doing for decades. They just weren’t called Brexiteers back in the day. Democracy gives you the ability to disagree and fight for the change you want.
And what about the politicians whose job it is to take care of our wellbeing, our prosperity and our safety. They are as confused as the rest of us. Do they back May or sack May? That is a big question.
But who could take her place? Who can bring the country together?
Take it from me… No one.
The whole debate has fractured this country right down the middle. It has paralysed this government and any future governments for generations. Everything will be seen through the prism of Brexit. Are you a Remainer or a Leaver. Can you trust your traditional party of choice to honour your view on Brexit?
The answer to that is also a big fat No.
Brexit is too big a question. And there is no politician in todays ranks that can bring the population together. The whole electoral system we have has shattered into fragments of differing opinion. Candidates will jettison their party if they don’t get what they want. A party’s traditional broad-church approach to politics has disintegrate over Cameron’s disastrous Brexit legacy.
The agents of change through chaos have won the day.
This has been written before Theresa May’s parliamentary vote is taken on her deal. Reports are saying it’s a dead-duck. Just like her Premiership. Whatever the future holds, People’s Vote, May’s Deal or Brexit means Brexit, the future is as cloudy as a smoking room in Smokesville!
This article was originally published on 10 December 2018
So, what is Walking football? Put simply, it’s a slower version of the game, but just as beautiful. Developed in Chesterfield in 2011 the game has taken on a whole new life of its own. Designed to be played indoors and outdoors, the walking variant has been developed with the over 50’s in mind. Teams over 50, 60 and even 70 are competing throughout the country on a regular basis. Helping to promote cardiovascular fitness, it prohibits both running, sliding tackles and general contact. This helps older participants, both male & female, to continue or restart physical activity in a responsible and safe way. The game is inclusive, fun, energising and social. In the couple of years I have been playing, I have met a great bunch of people from all walks of life. All with differing sporting abilities. But crucially, wanting to maintain or regain a level of fitness through a game loved universally. In Bolton, where I live, there are at least three opportunities to play walking football. At Burnden Park, the original home of Bolton Wanderers Football Club, the games are organised by Third Space Café, a charity led by Guy Hampson which helps people get fit and lead a healthier lifestyle. Bolton Wanderers Community Trust run a session at Bolton Arena. While Bolton Arena put on sessions of their own on various days of the week. As previously noted, all sessions are friendly and inclusive. And all give opportunities to go one step further by competing in various competitions. (Below is a picture of the Bolton Arena side after their triumph in the 2018 Lancashire Cup held in Fleetwood.)
The game is so popular now that there are county and international games organised. Leagues are popping up all the time. Many teams are making trips abroad to participate in tournaments in other countries, meaning the shackles are off when it comes to the growth of the game. The clear message has to be that you’re never too old to participate in healthy activities that make you happy and feel good. May the game continue to grow.
Having a seizure is a very uncomfortable experience. It’s confusing, upsetting, inconvenient, frustrating, embarrassing, and can result in injury.
There isn’t a lot that can be said that is positive about experiencing a seizure, except that you soon find out who cares for you. Those people soon become accessible and helpful.
I developed epilepsy later in life and, if I’m honest, I am still a little miffed it settled on me. Fortunately, I don’t have seizures regularly. I can go years without experiencing one. But it does make you forgetful, that the epilepsy actually exists within you. There are reminders, of course. Like every evening when you pop your tablets out of their foil. Or when the helpful, and informative, Epilepsy News drops through the letter box. But essentially, it does drift into the background of everyday life becoming less important by the day.
And then, with a rabid snarl, the epilepsy attacks with a vengeance. How dare you forget I exist! How dare you take risks with your life and others by driving! Don’t you know a car is a killing machine in the wrong hands?
But of course these questions come to bear after the seizure. For when the seizure hits, for me, the lights simply go out. That is the only description I have. I’m sorry if you want something more lurid or exciting. But I haven’t got anything more, despite the voyeurism of the modern world. All the excitement is experienced by others. People close by might see me stiffen up, fall down, bite my tongue, thrash about, my lips go blue, or my desperate gasps for breath, or the panic of onlookers who haven’t seen a seizure before. But be assured, I’m seeing none of that awful scene. The lights are definitely out.
And then, like a dimmer switch, some minutes later, the light begins to resume – slowly. The ”dimmer switch” is a good description, because as you would turn a light up slowly, I come to understand what has happened. The text book words I often hear are, ”you’re OK”. When I first hear these words, to be honest, I haven’t got a clue why someone is telling me I’m ”OK” or even where I am.
With a groggy head and a body that really has no control of itself, I am generally manoeuvred into an ambulance. Now there are more people telling me I’m ”OK”. Even I’m beginning to get the message.
I’ve never had the compunction to argue at this stage. I don’t really think I care. If anyone was to tell me I’m ”OK” while lifting my wallet, I sense now that would be something I wouldn’t argue about. So putting me in an ambulance with a cheery smile and a cheesy joke that only ambulance staff can get away with isn’t going to be a problem.
What is a problem, and you can only see this on reflection, is that sometimes you are going to be in some very tricky places when a seizure occurs. My first experience was when I was sat down. Sounds fine doesn’t it? If you’re going to have a seizure at least be relaxing on the sofa. Only don’t have a hot cup of coffee in your hand and don’t be at work. One burns and the others raises questions about whether you can continue to fulfil your role at work.
I’ve also experienced a seizure in the shower, trapping myself behind the bathroom door. It’s embarrassing when you realise you were stark naked when someone you’ve known for years was trying to save your life! And the most dangerous of places, driving a car. Thankfully, someone was able to take control of the situation and subsequently avert the worst of fates. So falling down on the carpet does on the whole seem preferable!
The upshot of these periods in life, generally, is a visit to the local hospital, plus to your GP for a chat about medication and lifestyle. You do tend to visit these establishments more than most other people. Once you come to terms with your condition, these visits become routine.
Of course, there are other implications following a seizure. Giving up your driving licence, for example. Thus, relinquishing your freedom of movement. A bus pass can alleviate this, but it’s no replacement for the sheer joy of being able to jump into the car to visit your grandchildren. To use public transport takes time and planning beyond anything needed when you own a car.
There’s also work. There is a sick period to negotiate. When will you be ready to return, especially if the seizure occurred at work? It takes time for the fuzziness to clear, the last time for me at least two weeks. But what happens if your employer raises concerns about your fitness to complete tasks that before were seen as ordinary? What do you do then? The last thing you need is to be seen as either a burden or as a skiver! You just want to be able to return as normal. But oddly, you find yourself talking, explaining, justifying.
In reality you know you can’t talk it away. You can’t explain it. And you know there’s not much point trying to justify it. However you came by your condition, you now have it and it isn’t going to go away. It will always be there lurking in the back of your mind, waiting to explode! Regardless of the medication you take, it will ride roughshod over your life. It doesn’t care where you are or who you are with. It is the devil within you!
But, despite it’s readiness to pounce, it is important to fight the temptation to dwell on your epilepsy. You have to queue up for the bus in the rain. You have to reorganise your work and recognise adjustments might have to be made. It’s important to fight for what is essentially a normal life, even if the style you’re accustomed to has to be modified.
But whatever the epilepsy thinks about you, you are still you! You still like the same tv programmes, the same music, the same holiday destination. You still love the same people and more importantly, the same people still love you.
You might not be able to beat epilepsy, but like everyone else, you can lead a satisfying and successful life with it.
This article has been edited from a previous blog.
First of all, can I thank you for visiting my blog. We all have busy schedules and demands on our time. So, your visit is appreciated. Let me tell you a little about the blog. Quite simply, I will be writing about the many things that interest me, and hopefully you. But maybe, thankfully, not too often. So, you can dip in and out at your leisure. There will also be an opportunity for visitors to read short extracts from my Amazon Kindle books. They are all available on Kindle or Kindle app, and links are included for readers who wish to purchase the stories. A new story, An Invitation to Kill, is now available. Some posts have already been uploaded. A couple from a previous blog (Superwhit) have been added, as some others maybe in the near future. There is a facility to comment and follow. To follow, just click on the icon and you will receive occasional updates.
Happy reading, A.P. Grozdanovic
This post was originally written and uploaded: 3 February 2019
In our first Guest Blog, Aaron David writes about himself and his writing. Links to his excellent work can be found at the bottom of the page.
I hate talking about myself but here goes. I was born at a very early age in 1965. If you look at a map of the UK, there’s a mountain range called The Pennines; often referred to as ‘the backbone of England. On the east side is Yorkshire and on the west is Lancashire. Nestled in the western foothills is Bolton. Bolton is widely thought to be the biggest town (that isn’t a city) in Britain. Someone recently told me it’s the biggest town (that isn’t a city) in Europe. In a few weeks it will probably be the biggest town (that isn’t a city) in the universe. Back then, Bolton was still a mill town, producing and treating cotton and cotton products. Most of the walls were coated in soot and fluffy, filthy cotton waste. I couldn’t and wouldn’t describe my childhood as happy; my parents were not a happy couple and they constantly argued. My Mum was one of the best examples of a human being I’ve ever known, but she had rotten taste in men. The least said about my Dad, the better.
I excelled in school, being alternately known as ‘the brainy one’, and ‘the class clown’. In the seventies, we had grammar schools and the eleven plus exam. The pupils who scored in the top ten percent were offered a place in grammar school. I went to one and have always been and will always be grateful. Aged fifteen, I decided my vocation was photography. I set up a darkroom in the loft and spent as much time and money as I could to become competent. When I left school, I was a professional photographer for nine years. Aged nineteen, I had the tremendous good fortune to meet the prettiest woman I’ve ever seen. Thirty four years later we are still happily married. I became disillusioned and bored with photography and, aged 25 I started a business, installing and repairing burglar alarms. I still own and run the company. In 1993, we had a son, in ‘95 we had a daughter and in ’97 we had another son. My wife worked for social services and did three twenty-four hour shifts per week. Being self employed I would stay home when she was at work and go to work when she came home. It meant we never had to use any kind of childcare. Dear reader, I don’t know if you have children but if you do you’ll know that there’s a lot of time spent waiting; waiting for them to wake up, waiting for feeding time, rocking a cot at 4.00am, etc. In ’97, just before our youngest was born, I decided to use this time to test a theory; I’d always thought maybe I could write but was always busy with other things. I bought an exercise book and pack of ballpoints and set out to write ‘a funny book’. I wasn’t interested in changing anyone’s life, critical acclaim or winning awards, just writing a funny book. The first night I wrote page one. The second night I wrote eight pages. Doing some quick maths, I worked out I’d finish it by Christmas and be able to retire on the royalties by Easter. Sure enough, a mere ten years later, I finished the bloody thing. This was 2007, I didn’t do anything with it until I launched a website in 2009 and published on Amazon in 2010. By 2013, I’d sold six copies and decided I’d better have a go at marketing. I joined social media and made some amazing friends, most notably Ian Hutson, Pat McDonald, Carol E. Wyre, Tony Gilbert, Christoph Fischer and many, many others. Towards the end of 2013 I started writing short stories. I now have a dozen books published (three are compilations) and I’m working on a film script with an American screen writer.
Did I mention I hate talking about myself?
Where do my ideas come from? Ooooh! Sometimes a phrase, a TV program, sometimes something will pop into my head while I’m driving but most often I get ideas late at night; I’m an insomniac and never get to sleep before 3.00 or 4.00am. Something just goes ‘ping’ in the back of my head and the adventure begins. Here’s an example; a couple of years ago I was talking to a friend who owns a small publishing company. He said they were putting together an anthology of horror short stories and did I have anything to contribute. I said it wasn’t my genre but he said if I came up with anything to let him know. That night I was watching the original Jurassic Park films. In the second one (The Lost World) Vince Vaughn is translating for one of the islanders and says they call the island ‘the five deaths’. Ping! My mind wandered off and when it came back I had the nucleus of a story which I called ‘The Six Deaths’ (nothing to do with dinosaurs).
Short stories start with an idea or a few ideas, then it’s just a case of writing them. I choose to be concise; no starter, bread rolls or flower arrangement, just the main course. My short stories are typically five to ten pages long. Just over half of them are sci-fi (I call them ‘skiffies’ in my wacky, northern English way). A novel is a completely different beast; I have an idea of what will happen but once I set about writing, anything can happen. I have to write in solitude; I can’t have anyone in the room with me and normally have the TV or radio on in the background. Thanks to the wonders of technology, my phone has a large screen and has Word and Kindle installed so if I’m waiting in a car park I can carry on with whatever I’m writing. I used it to finish off two short story collections when I was in hospital, following a heart attack in 2016.
Since March of last year I’ve been writing a film script with an American screenwriter. Once that’s finished I have a few short story ideas and I really must crack on with my second novel; I’ve written just under 10,000 words of it.
All aboard and batten down the hatches for a murder-mystery of titanic proportions! The luxury cruise liner ‘the Celebration’ is the pride of the ‘Blue Triangle Shipping Line’, yet she’s sailing on choppy waters… and there’s an iceberg-sized scandal looming over the horizon!
‘Who Killed the Ship’s Captain?’ is set in the passenger lounge of the (fictional) ship ‘the Celebration’. It’s 1912, just 3 months after the sinking of the Titanic, and there’s more trouble brewing out to sea. Edward Pearson, the ship’s captain, is becoming increasingly unpopular. Ever since the disastrous voyage of the company’s rival, he’s had a sinking feeling of his own. Pearson’s become distracted, irritable and argumentative. Something’s clearly on his mind, but what? And more importantly, who would want to kill him? Could it be…?
Elizabeth, his frustrated wife?
Cheerful cabin boy, Jack Bailey?
William Earnshaw, Pearson’s ruthless second-in-command?
Catherine Earnshaw, William’s pushy wife?
Ian Jackson, the ship’s doctor with a ‘complicated’ past. Or…
Pamela Davies, the captain’s (overly) personal secretary.
When the ship docks at Southampton, Inspector Peach from Scotland Yard is called in to sift through the flotsam and jetsam of a disastrous voyage. Life on the ocean wave has never been so turbulent… or as deadly!!
‘Who Killed the Ship’s Captain?’ is a one hour ten minute play for 8 actors- 3 male, 3 female, and 2 of either. Although still a comedy, the piece is murderplays’ most reserved, least frivolous, play, making it a popular choice for more ‘senior’ groups or those simply relishing the opportunity to ‘glam-up for a life on the ocean wave’!
Please CONTACT US to request a FREE copy of Act 1 of this play by clicking the link below:
The following is an extract from Going Home, a short story by A.P. Grozdanovic, that is available on Amazon Kindle…
The message had been straight-forward, ‘Zdravo.Prošlo je dugo vremena.’ – Hello. It’s been a long time. That’s how easy it is to connect these days. Someone you haven’t spoken to for decades can come straight into your home and metaphorically shake you by the hand.
Pero Saric had only joined the social network revolution to promote his business. He had been reluctant to take part in the continuing craze for social media. More fearful of the unknown than excited by the possible. But he had been convinced by the staff, who had said it was too easy an opportunity to raise the profile of the elderly care home he owned. He had relented and signed up. If it made the staff of Easy Living Care Home happy, it was okay by him.
Families, friends and God-knows who, had liked or followed the Profile Page within days. The staff, overseeing the pages for him, were pleased with the response. They had advertised the annual fête the Home was hosting and within hours lots of people had committed to attend and contribute items for sale. The pages had cost nothing to set up and they were paying dividends almost immediately.
Up to the day of the fete the staff had been working long hours to get the place ready. Pero had recognised this, filled in where necessary, and let them finish early where possible. He’d try to make it up to the staff at bonus time. But his attention had been taken away from their efforts and the fête itself on that very morning. Having picked his morning coffee and toast up from the kitchen he settled at his desk to plan for the day ahead. He always started with the days physical correspondence, then incoming email. He had now added the social media aspect of the work to this morning routine and as he was going through his online content, he had noticed the message from Selma Sokolovic. He had neither seen nor heard from Selma, the only girlfriend he’d ever really known, in over twenty-five years. She still lived in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia Herzegovina, formerly part of the Yugoslav Republic – Pero’s birthplace.
Pero had tried to suppress his feelings for his homeland since the Balkan War of the early nineties. The death and destruction, especially the siege of Sarajevo which lasted from 1992 to 1996, bit into Pero’s heart deeply. He’d watched on the news daily how his countrymen had killed neighbours and seized land. His former country had now split into six independent republics. Never had Europe witnessed so much barbarity since the Second World War.
At first, he didn’t know whether to answer or simply ignore the communication. What on earth could Selma want after all these years? He clicked on her profile. Nothing was hidden. Her photos and friends’ list, some of whom he vaguely recognised, were all visible. His staff had told him that it was important for personal social media sites to maintain a sensible security level. The business page didn’t need the same level of filter as they desired visibility. Selma, it appeared, was a little cavalier with her online activities status. Anyone could open her page and see where she had been and who were her friends.
The weeks passed, and then out of the blue, Pero received another message. Again, it was a simple opening line, but this time in English:
‘How are you?’
Pero still didn’t know whether to respond or not. Over lunch he had mentioned this second message to the staff. To a person, they sat bolt upright.
‘Of course you should respond,’ said Gail.
‘What have you got to lose,’ demanded Jane, crunching through a slice of toast.
He had no response to their enthusiasm. What could he lose? He concluded, absolutely nothing.
The following is an extract from Stalag Britain, a short story by A. P. Grozdanovic, that is available on Amazon Kindle…
’On this historic day, the twenty-six of June 2016, the British electorate has spoken,’ the news anchorman declared, ‘and it’s a definitive rebuff to the Remainers. The UK has turned its back on the Prime Minister and the European project. By a margin of 51.9% to 48.1% Brexit is now a reality. For some analysis on what this means, we’ll go over to Darren Reynolds, our Chief Political Correspondent, in Downing Street. So,’ the anchor momentarily paused in thought, ‘what does this mean?’
The camera cut to the reporter in Downing Street.
‘Put quite simply, Michael, no one knows. We can take a wild guess: market turmoil, factory closures, years of renegotiating trade deals, university funding cuts due to the number of foreign students falling. The list of negatives seems endless.
‘But, of course, some will see this as scare-mongering. They say that this is the beginning of a whole new chapter in the relationship we have with the entire world, not just Europe. One where the British people decide for themselves what they want. From trade to immigration, from law to subsidies. And there are champagne corks popping across the country in celebration at this new opportunity.’
‘And what about the Prime Minister?’
The reporter gave a definitive, ‘He’s toast! The Prime Minister staked his whole political career on a referendum that many new he couldn’t win. Polling shows that not only were the electorate voting to leave the EU, they were also voicing their dissatisfaction with the government and its austerity package. Quite simply, he put himself in a no-win situation.’
The camera cut back to the studio.
‘Do I smell the whiff of resignation?’
The camera returned to Downing Street.
‘It’s more a stench than a whiff, Michael. Some say the Prime Minister won’t last the day.’
The camera cut back to the studio.
‘So that’s it, folks. Once Britain triggers its formal intention to leave the EU the countdown begins. Historic times indeed. Goodbye from us.’
The following is an extract from Aftermath, Extreme Measures 2, a short story by A. P. Grozdanovic, that is available on Amazon Kindle…
Maybe this was the happiest day he’d ever encountered in his whole life. He felt at peace. Maybe it was the last place he would like to see before…
Glenn had learned from watching a plethora of action movies that you don’t pull a trigger. You caress it. You squeeze it gently. Contrary to that advice, at this moment he wanted to pull it hard. Hard in the hope that the bullet would come out of the muzzle so fast, with so much explosive power, that it would rip through George Forester’s head and make a real mess of it.
But first, he wanted to see Forester sweat, and to suffer the reality of the situation they both found themselves in. He needed Forester to understand he had no control over his own fate. And to be fair to his captive, he was in serious distress. As Glenn stood over Forester, the last words he heard Forester bleat out like a frightened child he was were, ‘Glenn, no! Don’t! Please!’
He’d let the girl, Anna, go. How young and naive she was, they all were. He couldn’t have kept her any longer. She’d been beside herself. It wasn’t until she’d left that Glenn realised how much he needed a woman’s touch. He’d forgotten how distant he and Elena had become in those last turbulent months. Of course, before he’d let Anna and John McCarthy go, they’d tried to talk him into giving himself up. But it was too late. The dye had been cast.
And at the precise moment Forester was screaming ‘Please!’ Glenn had made peace with what he had done. He didn’t believe he’d chosen this particular path. It had been forced on him.
Glenn was content.
Glenn could guess what was going to happen next. There would be a police marksman out there somewhere just waiting to pick him off. He’d searched desperately through the setting sun, but failed to get a glimpse of the man who would be his executioner. He’d concluded some time earlier that once he made the move to kill Forester he was more than likely signing his own death warrant.
And now the time had come. A calm descended over him. Despite his earlier inclination, he took the advice and slowly squeezed the trigger…
To read more of Aftermath, Extreme Measures 2 visit:
The following is an extract from Extreme Measures, a short story by A. P. Grozdanovic, that is available on Amazon Kindle…
… It wasn’t a secret why Glenn had been called into head office to meet with George Forester, the Principal Officer. Like the rest of the workforce, he knew his fate. He had attended the council meeting in the public hall recently. He had heard the councillors discussing various options, essentially privatisation of the services. They all spoke fluently and with feeling, about the services they were overseeing, typical of the politicians they were.
Glenn couldn’t help feeling that they didn’t give a damn about the staff they employed or the people they supplied a service to. With every weasel-like statement about how hard it had been to sign off on the current proposals, Glenn was inclined to punch each speaker. One by one they clicked the little button at the base of their personal microphone, their light came on, and an amplified rebuttal of claims of council mismanagement and central governments unfair demands ensued. He found it nauseous. Glenn had had his fill well before the meetings conclusion. Holding his tongue ’til the end of the meeting would have stretched his sanity to breaking point. He left early. A stint in the pub with the self-serving union figures didn’t appeal either. For all their good intentions, they got absolutely zip done.
Anna Parkin returned with two plastic cups of water, cold from the fountain outside. One, she placed on the desk, the second she gave to Glenn. Before leaving she said: ‘MrForester will be along presently.’
Glenn took a sip. The sanitised office did nothing to ease his anxious disposition. Knowing what was coming wasn’t always for the best. He could hardly bear to be in the room. He found the place stifling.
The door opened behind him. The athletic purposeful figure of George Forester, the Principal Officer, strode past him without a word. He was tall, his darkhair groomed to an inch of its life and teeth whiter than any toothpaste company could possibly promise. He sat behind the desk, moved the pad to one side and laid a beige, nondescript file on the desk in its place.
‘Glenn. how are you?’ he enquired, exhibiting his usual insincere smile.
Going through the motions had started. They both knew why they were here.
‘Fine, thanks.’ He wasn’t.
‘Let me cut to the chase, Glenn.’ He paused for a second, as if gathering his thoughts. ‘Well, as you know, the outsourcing of the service has been brought forward. The time-frame has been cut dramatically and we have to act. Pressure from those all-knowing people in the clouds, as it were, has forced our hand. Budgets have been constrained. In fact, they’ve been strangled.’
Glenn had the feeling this was a speech recited before a mirror. Forester’s facial expression was, to put it mildly, actor-ly with those sparkling white teeth, as he delivered his script.
‘In the present climate, which is positively Baltic, there’s no room for manoeuvre.’ He took a sip from the cup that had been left for him. ‘The old maxim, that we’re all numbers, has never been more true. In this modern financial nightmare of a job we’re in, we’re all expendable.’
Glenn couldn’t help but cut in, ‘Except I’m not in a nightmare sort of job, financial or otherwise, am I? I work with people, you know, human beings not figures on a piece of paper, and I quite like it.’
‘Yes, you do. That’s what we’re all here for: people, isn’t it?’ Of course, the question was rhetorical. He continued, unabated by Glenn’s interruption. ‘And on that note, I’d like to place on record our gratitude for the work you’ve done over the years. Everyone in the office feels that your dedication has been nothing but first rate. Your work with this particular client group has been an example to us all.’
Glenn took a drink of his water. He wanted to drift off, perhaps into the planetary system this guy resided. Wherever it was, it wasn’t in Glenn’s universe.
‘Before I go over the particulars of the package that’s on offer, Glenn, I’d like to have a short discussion with you. Get to know why we’re at this point.’
‘Go ahead.’ They were still paying. He had no desire to cut the supply of finance prematurely.
Forester opened the folder in front of him, taking a moment to reacquaint himself with its contents.
‘You’ve indicated to your manager that the restructure of the new organisation isn’t for you. Why is that?’
This was all a tick-box exercise. It was no surprise to Glenn. Forester hated being here just as much as he did. Protocol dictated they sit opposite each other today and have a cosy chat, both knowing the inevitable. But human resource manuals wanted questions answered, and for that questions must be asked.
‘There are a few reasons that I could flag up straight away.’
‘And they would be?’ enquired Forester.
‘Roster allocation for one. The new system doesn’t help either the service user or staff. The computer programme you’ve used to concoct this new routine, I presume must tick the required boxes, but it doesn’t for one minute cater for the people we are offering a service to.’
‘An example would be?’ Forester barely looked up.
‘What about when a service user wants to go and do something not identified on the roster? Like six months earlier,’ he added flippantly. Forester didn’t take the bait. ‘Something simple. It’s summer and the weather is nice. He’d like to visit the seaside. There are lots of positives in taking someone to the seaside, you know, besides simple enjoyment. Community presence or promoting positive behaviour. They’re just a couple of the benefits. In the new system there is just no allocation of time. Previously, this would have been paramount. There was flexibility in the system. Not any more. With the cuts staff have been let go and not replaced. How are we supposed to do those sorts of activities on the skeleton level of staff that’s left?’
‘But the system has built-in mechanisms for assessed needs. We have been very careful about this.’
‘You need to go back to the people who write these programmes and allocate the time then, because it just doesn’t work.’
Forester was jotting notes down. This may have been a mere exercise in reality, Glenn knew that, but would Forester check these points out later? He had no idea whether the issues he raised would lead to change.
‘We’re just not serving the people we’re meant to be in the right way.’
Glenn waited for a response. It didn’t come immediately. Forester appeared to be in deep thought. Had he struck a chord? Or was he just swimming against a very strong tide.
‘But we found that under the old system staff were controlling the roster. Essentially, re-writing it to suit themselves not the service. Put simply, it was costing the tax payer a fortune!’
‘You can believe that if you want, but if you think for one minute I, or anyone else, wanted to work those unsociable shifts, you’re wrong.’
‘I’d like to go through that with you some time, if I may.’
‘Show me any roster and I’ll explain the reasons for staff to be present, or not as the case may be. I think if you put a roster alongside a service user activity sheet, you’ll see what was being done with the time available.’
Forester took another sip of water and sneaked a glance at his watch. It appeared he was tiring of the exercise already. ‘Okay. So what else is behind your decision?’
‘How about privatisation, or outsourcing, as you like to refer to it?’
Forester shuffled in his chair.
‘What about it?’
‘It’s not right. It’s going to reduce the service to the service user further and cut staff pay. How can that be good?’
Forester certainly wasn’t comfortable, Glenn could see that but he wasn’t concerned. Sometimes he enjoyed being unpopular.
‘Look, there’s not a lot we can do about it. Savings have to be found. Services can’t be as they were. Everyone has to understand that in the present economic climate things have to change. Budgets can’t be kept at pre-crash levels. The service just wouldn’t be sustainable. We’ve been surfing a financial wave destined to crash on the shore for years.’
‘And you’re happy with that, are you?’
‘It’s not about me being happy or not. It’s about securing the service’s future in whatever form that takes.’
Glenn’s mouth was drying, he took a sip of water. ‘And while all this is going on we’ve all just got to grin and bear it?’
Forester snapped the file shut. He was losing control of the meeting and obviously wasn’t getting anywhere.
‘No one is saying this is easy. No one wants to do this. But, understand,’ he warned, ‘we are faced with stark choices, difficult decisions just have to be made.’
‘Can’t you stand up and refuse?’
‘Refuse to do what? My job? That’s just not realistic, Glenn. Look, I think we should close the meeting; we’re getting nowhere.’ Forester appeared rattled.
He stood, moved around the table and attempted to shake Glenn’s hand. Glenn stood but declined the offer.
From his file, Forester picked out a sheet of paper. ‘You know what’s on offer from Fresh Solutions in Care, the new company. All you have to do is come in and sign this form and you’re still doing the job you love.’
‘Work for a private company? That’s not going to happen,’ he said with some certainty.
‘Well then…Good luck with whatever you choose to do next.’
Glenn turned without a word and left the room. He exited the building without speaking to anyone. He could feel the redness in his face. He was reaching boiling point. If anyone he passed had said anything to him he would surely have bitten their head clean off.