Voter apathy due to sheer frustration
Sep 14 2009 by Sarah Bull, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
CLR Khizar Iqbal and Kirklees NHS Chief Executive Mike Potts voice concern (Examiner, September 7) over public apathy about proposed NHS changes in north Kirklees and Mr Potts talks of a desire to “know what patients and local residents think.’’
Gentlemen, you must ask yourselves this question. Is the non-attendance of the public at this ‘consultation’ due to apathy or is it because people have decided that the exercise is most likely a sham?
Perhaps the good people of Dewsbury have heard of the ‘consultation’ held by the NHS with their Huddersfield neighbours regarding the transfer of specialist maternity services to Halifax and the subsequent disregard of public opinion on this.
Public ‘consultations’ are too often mere tokenism, a cynical ploy to deceive people into thinking that their views really count when the ‘experts’ will do their own thing in any case.
Indeed, I would develop this point further.
Politicians are wont to decry consistently low election turnouts as indicating voter apathy.
Nonsense! They reflect voter frustration at a political class increasingly divorced from any understanding of the everyday lives of their constituents.
Brussels and Westminster are prime examples of this, but town halls up and down the country – not least here in Kirklees – are by no means blameless.
Many residents of Ashbrow ward have expressed their exasperation to me, especially about planning decisions where objections by local people seem to carry little or no weight.
At the very least, they have little confidence in any ‘consultation’ process. In many cases they are losing faith in local democracy and I find it hard to blame them.
Their threatened withdrawal from elections stems not from apathy but from disillusionment with the reality.
The politicians and the ‘professional experts’ are the ones who don’t care about democracy, not the voters.
Wrong kind of U-turn
I AM writing on behalf of the Huddersfield branch of the Socialist Party and, I believe, on behalf of a great many people, politically aligned or otherwise, across the United Kingdom.
We are deeply disturbed by the fact that the Royal British Legion has recently made a U-turn over its decision to refuse to accept a donation from local British National Party activist Rachel Firth. Ms Firth spent 24 hours in a cardboard box in order to highlight the problems which ex-servicemen and women face when seeking housing.
According to the reports in the Huddersfield Examiner, the Royal British Legion initially refused to accept the donation on account of it being a politically-motivated donation where the money raised was to be split between both the RBL and the BNP.
According to a report on August 29, this sensible decision was overturned and now the RBL is happy to accept the donation.
The Royal British Legion undertakes a wealth of vital work in supporting ex-servicemen and women past and present. It offers a wide range of services to individual men and women associated with conflicts past and present and their families.
It also keeps alive the memories of the sacrifices and sufferings associated with such armed conflict. The most poignant symbol of such sacrifice is, of course, the poppy.
The Poppy Appeal ought never to be used for political gain. The RBL fully recognises this and it was, I believe, in this spirit that an open letter was sent by the RBL to BNP leader Nick Griffin dated July 7, 2009. In this letter it was requested that Mr Griffin refrain from hijacking the poppy for his narrow and offensive political purposes.
It reads: “For nearly 90 years The Royal British Legion has pursued a policy of being scrupulously above the party political fray. It is vital that everyone – the media, the public and our beneficiaries – know that we will not allow our independence to be undermined or our reputation impaired by being closely associated with any one political party. This is more important now than ever.
“On May 27 the National Chairman of The Royal British Legion wrote to you privately requesting that you desist from wearing the poppy or any other emblem that might be associated with the Legion at any of your public appearances during the European Parliamentary election campaign.
“He appealed to your sense of honour, but you have responded by continuing to wear the poppy. So now we’re no longer asking you privately.
“Stop it, Mr Griffin. Just stop it.’’
We fully endorse such sentiments and would urge the RBL to maintain this bold and principled stance.
However, this position seems completely at odds with what is currently happening in Huddersfield. Local BNP activist and Poppy Appeal organiser (Golcar Branch) Robert Walker is quoted in the Huddersfield Examiner as saying he would happily accept Ms Firth’s money.
The argument appears to be that while the RBL does not accept joint fundraisers, the situation with Ms Firth was deemed to be somehow different on account of the point that she was raising the money independently and then dividing the money between her two favourite causes.
We would like to take this opportunity to assure you that no such dichotomy exists.
Ms Firth is evidently raising the money by attempting to convince well-meaning members of the public that the interests of the RBL and the BNP in wishing to promote housing for ex-servicemen and women are essentially the same interests. This cannot possibly be the case. Although there is a housing crisis in the UK, it affects a wide cross section of society.
To somehow suggest that the ex-service personnel are unfairly discriminated against in favour of other groups is both crass and untrue.
Clearly there can be no similarity between the views and interests of the Royal British Legion and those of the BNP. Yet by accepting Ms Firth’s donation, this is exactly the message you are allowing to be sent out.
We beseech the RBL to calmly reconsider its position in this matter. Making a clear stand against people such as Ms Firth and Mr Walker would send a wonderfully positive message that the RBL is and will remain an inclusive organisation firmly committed to true British values of tolerance, decency, a love of democracy and a genuine respect for other cultures and backgrounds.
Huddersfield Socialist Party
British Legion confusion
ONE has to admire the tenacity of the spokesman for the Royal British Legion in his determination to stand by the revised decision to accept a donation from a member of the BNP (Examiner, September 12).
However, the necessity to hold two conflicting positions simultaneously creates a certain level of bemusement.
In brief, a woman – a member of the BNP – spends 24 hours in a box and seeks donations. Half the money raised is to go to the BNP and half to the RBL.
There is an assurance that the latter donation will not be used for “partisan political activity.’’
This is emphasised by the RBL spokesman stating unequivocally “we do not accept donations made for political PR purposes.’’
So what happens next?
Unsurprisingly, despite assurances from Ms Firth that the two donations would not be connected, the whole event including the dual donation receives national publicity on the BNPwebsite, firmly interlinking the BNP with the RBL.
How can the RBL now regretfully acknowledge that, contrary to its non-political policy, it has been identified with a specific party yet remain determined to keep the money?
Isn’t there a proverb about needing a long spoon to sup with the devil?
Two hours to help lives
THIS year sees the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign mark its 50th anniversary.
Over the past five years I have had the honour of being the president of this wonderful charity which plays a vital role in supporting the 60,000 people across the UK affected by a muscle-wasting disease.
I was lucky enough that my muscles allowed me to play tennis and gave me a career that I loved so helping people who can’t use their muscles because of this devastating condition is a cause very close to my heart.
Volunteer support has always been crucial to the charity and I’m now urging local residents to help by giving just two hours of their time on Friday, September 25 or Saturday, September 26 to collect donations at their local Tesco store.
As Tesco Charity of the Year 2009, the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign is aiming to raise £3m to provide vital specialist equipment such as powered wheelchairs and electric beds for the 8,000 children in the UK who have a muscle-wasting disease.
There are 8,760 hours in the year and I’m asking for you to spare just two to help us make a huge difference to the lives of many children in your area.
If you think you can spare the time, please contact Laura White at the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign on 020 7803 2856 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sue Barker, MBE
The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign
Claim benefits now
A GOVERNMENT green paper intended to kick-start a debate on how to provide and pay for the care and support of the rapidly growing population of older people could include a proposal to convert Attendance Allowance into discretionary social care grants.
Ministers have said that “any changes that may emerge will not affect existing benefit recipients’’ but they have made similar empty promises in the past. Similar ‘assurances’ have been given that Disability Living Allowance (DLA) will not be included in any proposals.
The proposals may never become law, but if you have been putting off a claim for DLA or Attendance Allowance now would seem a good time to take the plunge and make your application.
Benefit Information Services offers a free assessment to help you decide if you could qualify for either of these allowances. For more details telephone 0845 6120 474.
Director, Benefit Information Services