Whatever you do, look after yourself

The recurrent theme in the Sundays today is one of caring past and present: does IDS care about those in his benefit cuts line of fire, do we care enough about our old people, how on Earth was Stafford allowed to happen….. a lot of trees have been used to create this gradually dwindling physical sector’s output today. But there isn’t much wood in sight.

The Observer (not a Coalition fan, and still displaying the fury of a woman scorned by Slick Nick Clegg) has a reasonable story – based on new charity data – showing that Iain Duncan-Smith’s benefits reform is somewhat lacking on the targeting dimension. It points out that those who will tend to lose out in the name of ‘fairness’, include 40,000 soldiers, 300,000 nurses, 150,000 nursery and primary school teachers, 510,000 cashiers, 44,000 electricians and 1.14 million ‘secretaries and administration assistants’.

The problem as ever with the Rusbridger Gleaner is that, in exactly the same way that the Dacre Mail looks for Croatian immigrant Dads with 37 children, three wives, and a string of paedophilia offences, so too Big G chooses a divorced nurse with multiple sclerosis and two children to bring up, but no money for childcare. They both tug at the heart, but almost certainly neither are typical. In this sense, both papers behave more and more like hysterical tabloids, still sniffily denying that they’re in that game.

The Mail on Sunday itself leads with the tale of transport minister Simon Burns spending eighty grand of our money on a daily chauffeur to take him from Chelmsford to London. Commendably for once, the Mail is very anti-troughing, and points out that while commuters are facing yet more rail price increases, Simple Simon is being driven just 35 miles at a cost of £400 a day.

Burns isn’t coming out of this very well so far. First up, he fibs about needing the car to comply with secrecy guidelines when reading official documents – but then then Civil Servants say rubbish, he’s allowed to travel by train. Then he tries to say it’s really just a pool car….but “a senior Whitehall source” ducks the minister in the excretia once more by observing that “his Avensis always seems to be on the A12 to or from Essex: the reality is that Mr Burns has effectively commandeered it”.

So this is good stuff on the surface. But then the Mail spoils it by giving George Osborne a page to himself so he can spout more “all in this together” bollocks:

This week my family will not receive the child benefit we’ve been getting every week since our children were born. Any household where at least one member is earning more than £60,000 will be in a similar position.

True, true. But our Squeakiest ever Chancellor omits to mention that he has draper-derived capital worth well beyond the wildest dreams of most folks, no mortgages, and an official car. My elder daughter with brand new baby and bloke at home playing house-husband is indeed in a ‘similar position’ taxwise, but a tricky one money-wise given her rail fares just went up, and hubby would have to earn a humungous amount to pay for decent childcare.

It’s all insultingly simplistic stuff. But then back comes the MoS with another ‘do they care’ story. Once again it’s a worthwhile dig at the State’s lack of respect; and once again, it may be misleading. It seems a new NHS survey ‘shows’ that vulnerable care patients say they feel at risk from abuse, are allowed to go hungry, and are often left unwashed. Further, one in three adults who are in residential care fear abuse or physical harm – and some say they receive so little food and drink, their health is suffering.

I have just come out the end of a long tunnel called Parents in Care Home. The first thing one learns (especially as a former market researcher) is that one can’t trust anything the average person over eighty says. Asked if they’d prefer to be at home, over 90% of care home residents say yes they would, but they’d blow themselves and their neighbours up within a week. Several times I have pitched up to see my late Mum in a double room (with Dad temporarily in the loo), asked where he was and been told, “Oooh, he’s dead luvvie. Been dead for years”. In walked dad five minutes later, and without missing a beat Mum would say “Here’s your father now, son”.

Neither of my parents were batty until right at the end, but along the way they both imagined victimisation that didn’t exist. Dad told me the food was “inedible”, but I ate lunch there a couple of times and thought it was actually quite good. Mum thought that the Home was trying to split them up. Both said the nurses were “not very nice” – by which they meant, “impertinent”. Old people are rarely gracious, and often mendacious.

Finally, the thing to remember here is that my folks were in the private sector, it cost a lot of money, and trust me, the Ritz it wasn’t. So the Mail was on much safer ground when it noted that ‘Charities claimed last night the survey showed the system was in  ‘massive crisis’ and warned that the problems could get even worse as cash-strapped local authorities targeted care budgets for further cuts’. In this sense the paper is right on the money: we are heading for a colossal crisis, and doctors, researchers, Sir Humphreys and politicians alike are in complete denial about the size of it.

I mention the private care thing mainly because it is habitual right-wing press behaviour to suggest that ‘things would be better’ under a privatised care system. Not only is there no evidence for that at all, the commercial dimension of private aged care is already being revealed as riddled with short cuts, abuse, unmotivated staff, and poor conditions. Taking another tack, the Sunday Telegraph  looks for some Labour-bashing by delving back into the past. Unable credibly to argue that things would be either better or affordable in a future privatised health service, the Sarkistas give us a less than gentle reminder of life under New Labour’s gesture policies.

The target is an excellent one: Stafford Hospital. The Telegraph has been leaked a copy of the long-awaited Francis Report into why 1,200 people died needlessly in appalling conditions there, revealing that it ‘will call for an overhaul of regulation to ensure poor managers are weeded out, and better training for nurses and healthcare assistants’. In fact this is complete woffle and tosh. The patients died there because a culture nastier than any carefully grown lab virus was allowed to become dominant  – a culture in which doctors falsified death certificates, people lay on A&E trolleys for hours until they expired from dehydration, mental patients pitched up and wandered about ignored, and coroners covered up incompetence on an industrial scale.

The ‘management’ in turn lied to the media, the Minister Andy Burnham approved the hospital’s application for NHS Trust status, and spin doctors worked 24/7 to smear complainants and rubbish accounts of abusive incompetence. But none of this stops the Torygraph from observing that ‘The chairman, Robert Francis QC, is set to deliver a damning verdict on the whole of the health service. He will warn of a “culture of fear” from Whitehall down to the wards, in which pressure is heaped on staff to put management demands before patients’.

The agenda is very clear again: the NHS is a heap of crap, and needs privatising. The ever-dissembling Jeremy Frunt-Bottomley is quickly in evidence at the start of the piece, protesting that the events at Stafford, and a series of failings at other hospitals, represented “the most shocking betrayal of NHS founding values in its history”. This would come much better from a bloke who hadn’t said (and authored a report in similar vein arguing) just four years ago that the NHS should be blown up and erased from history as one of Britain’s greatest mistakes. There are myriad faults and profound problems in the NHS, but Mr Taiping-Errah’s slithery hypocrisy on the issue is beneath whatever comes beneath contempt. Disgust perhaps. The surface, definitely.

*unt too gets his own microphone elsewhere in the Telegraph, calling the NHS failings of recent years “simply not worthy of a civilised society” in which – it seems – the donors and drivers of healthcare will be people like Richard Branson, and the tumescent insurance companies hanging around the stage door of this appalling farce. That same civilised society will in turn (one assumes) be one in which his cousin Virginia Bottomley would get all her private health-sector mates lined up to bid 57p for the hospital infrastructure left when Lansley’s pernicious hospital budget ‘strategy’ has finally rendered most of them insolvent.

Anyway, it’s just another Sunday in which 3-D bollocks are there for all to see, and the big issues – NHS mutuality, the dependency culture of Stafford as a town, and what to do about longer life-spans – are nowhere to be seen at all. Elsewhere, the Sun reports that David Cameron wants to serve in No 10 until 2020, proof positive yet again that most comedic narratives are based on the difference between human aspiration and likely achievement. The Mirror goes ‘inside on the sleazy world of internet sperm’ to reveal that some bloke has ‘fathered six children in this way’, but his name wasn’t Seaman Staines. The Sunday Express says the private equity division of RBS has expressed an interest in acquiring struggling bed retailer Dreams, but has no plans to rebrand it Nightmares in honour of 659 scammed SME customers.

And finally, as Alistair Burnett used to say, the Sunday Sport (tagline these days, ‘The world’s funniest newspaper’) guarantees 100% inaccuracy in its coverage of enhanced man-boobs, sitings of Bin Laden at the January sales, and Abu Hamza’s bumhole becoming ‘a bullseye for sex-starved lags who have placed a bounty on the strict Muslim’s war-ravaged arse cherry’. Peculiarity predictably beyond belief is nevertheless trumped for sheer idiotic banality by the one vaguely true feature on board the SS, Ten Things you never knew about 2013. It begins with ‘2013 will be the first year to be denoted by four different digits (ie 2, 0, 1 and 3) since 1987’ and closes on ‘Phones which you will be able to roll up like paper will become available. Which will make it all the easier for you to shove one up a loud commuter’s arse when they blether’. Beware: the unfunnily illiterate barbarians are at the gate.

Last night at The Slog: Labour still seeks the triumph of statutes over Star Bars