Wednesday 28 February 2018

Matthew Offord MP speaks against Opt Out organ donation

Image result for Matthew Offord
Matthew Offord MP
I thought that voters in Hendon Constituency should be aware of the fact that our local MP, Matthew Offord has spoken in Parliament against the scheme for "Opt Out" organ donation in a parliamentary debate. I must say that I am totally in favour of this scheme. My Sister in Law's niece died awaiting a heart/lung transplant for Cystic Fibrosis. I know three other people who have had life saving transplants, often having waited months or years for donations. 
If people have strong views they will opt out, which is a basic human right. If they don't, then thousands of lives in the UK will be saved, thousands will be spared grief and pain. If people have strong religious views that forbid them from participating, then they will not be required to participate. It would spare families the pain of "having to decide" and often having to guess what a relative would have wished. As far as I am concerned, you can use the lot if I die unexpectedly. If I can help someone else, that is my civic duty. Here is Mr Offords speech in full (source - )
"I congratulate Mr Robinson on promoting the Bill, and I know that it will make progress today. As many people have said, 80% of British society support organ donation, but 20% do not. I want to speak on behalf of that 20% to ensure that they are carried along with the debate, rather than left behind.
A gentleman in my constituencyVijay Patel (editor note - This link is for the wrong Vijay Patel), was recently unnecessarily killed, and his family took great comfort from the fact that his organs were used to help other people. For me, that is such a gift, and I commend anyone who donates, and their families, for allowing the donation to take place. Many people prepare themselves to be organ donors after they die, and their families are an integral part of that process. Within that wider framework, the crucial role of the donor’s family must be understood, because their role regarding the ownership of the body after a person dies, and their duties towards it, is a central aspect of the grieving process.
There has recently been a lot of concern about a north London coroner who refused to release bodies, which is causing a great deal of concern to my constituents. It therefore follows logically that the family must be involved in organ donation, and I believe that their consent is paramount at the crucial time. Those families need reassurance along their pathway towards consent.
It has been said that there are religious differences on donation, but that is incorrect. Both Islam and Judaism allow organ transplants from live and deceased patients in order to continue and save lives. One factor that perhaps some are not aware of, and that might influence the decision-making process of some families, is how the point of death is decided. Some people regard death as defined by cardiovascular criteria, which is when the heart ceases to function. Others use cessation of brain function—brain stem death—as their criterion. Those two distinctions sometimes make people uncomfortable with donation.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recognised both definitions of death when it formulated the NICE guidelines that explain how healthcare professionals should support a bereaved family when discussing organ donation. There is one pathway for those who accept only cardiovascular death, and another for those who accept brain stem death. As a result, families are helped to understand how they might be able to combine deceased organ donation in a way that does not interfere with some religious traditions.
Enabling someone accessible to guide a family through the donation process is a humane, sensible and constructive proposal. A properly trained and resourced transplant co-ordinator should be able to do that, as it is the most important way in which families can be supported at a terrible time in their lives. In practice, however, under the system proposed, there would be less institutional incentive for health services to employ such people.
The Government are aware of the issues around transplantation, and they cannot plead ignorance in that our religious communities are being unresponsive to human need. In 2013, leading Muslim and Jewish groups wrote jointly to the Government suggesting a way forward in which an enhanced and improved opt-in system could be introduced that would alleviate their concerns. Improvements would include a Government-backed statement that Jews and Muslims could sign, which would enable them to donate organs in a manner compatible with their beliefs. If that approach were to be adopted, it would enable the two communities to be even more supportive of an opt-in system than they have been in the past. That proposal has been raised on several occasions, but I am afraid it has been ignored. The hon. Member for Coventry North West mentioned former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, who he said opposed such measures. As I understand it, however, the current Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Mirvis, is in favour of the proposal I have just outlined.
Life, and indeed death, has changed for many people. More people want, understandably, to spend their final months at home. If they die at home, organ donation is much less likely. Healthcare professionals who need to secure consent for donation must have a conversation with organ donors, and their loved ones, about why they are best placed to give the gift of life if they remain in hospital. That conversation is a natural feature of an opt-in service. Under an opt-out service, there will be little incentive to have that complex discussion with potential donors and their families. The result could be that patients might drift to spend their last months in hospital."

The Wednesday poem #40 - The Ballad of Kevin Barry

The Ballad of Kevin Barry
Early on a Sunday morning high upon the gallows tree
Kevin Barry gave his young life for the cause of liberty
Just a lad of eighteen summers yet there’s no-one can deny
As he walked to death that morning he proudly held his head on high

Just before he faced the hangman in his dreary prison cell
British soldiers tortured Barry because he would not tell
The names of his brave comrades and other things they wished to know
Turn informer or we’ll kill you Kevin Barry answered no

Calmly standing to attention as he bade his last farewell
To his broken hearted mother whose sad grief no-one can tell
For the cause he proudly cherished this sad parting had to be
Then to the death went proudly smiling that his country might be free

Another martyr for old Ireland another murder for the crown
Whose cruel laws may crush the Irish but can’t keep their spirit down

Lads like Barry are not cowards from their foes they will not fly
Lads like Barry will free Ireland for her cause they’ll fight and die


Yesterday, the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson stated that a hard Irish border would be no different to the boundary between Camden and Islington. It beggars belief that the man in charge of foreign policy in the UK could be so stupid.

Thousands died in the troubles. My Grandfathers cousin was Irish Rebel Kevin Barry. Leonard Cohen chose to commemorate him in this notable appearance on his 1972 tour of Israel. To make such glib comments about a conflict that ruined generations of lives in Ireland is beyond contempt.

I honestly thought we'd moved beyond the Irish troubles and that songs such as the Ballad of Kevin Barry were consigned to the "Irish History" section of the music library.

Whatever your views on #Brexit, I don't believe that anyone wants to see a return to the Troubles. The reason that the bombing, the shootings, the abductions and the terror stopped is because the border disappeared and there was no logical reason to keep killing each other.

The Irish border is perhaps the biggest challenge to those trying to implement Brexit. To trivialise it in the way Boris has simply makes the case that he hasn't got a grasp on reality or the issues. I am proud to be British, I cheer the English football team, but I also am proud of my Irish and Australian roots. Like many Londoners I am a complete mash up of different backgrounds and heritages. I am an avid reader of history and Irish history is one that delivers dire warnings. We have had a couple of decades of peace. Whatever transpires as a result of Brexit and the Irish border, it would be criminal to throw it all away. I implore Theresa May to move Boris to a role more in keeping with his talents (Minister for Whelk Stalls) and to get a Foreign secretary who at least has a grip on the history of Great Britains most dangerous political problem. It is always worth having a bit of Leonard Cohen on a freezing Wednesday, so if nothing else I hope you enjoy the work of this genius.

Tuesday 27 February 2018

Three reasons to vote Green in the Barnet Council Elections in May

As regular readers of this blog will know, there are elections for Barnet Council on the 3rd May. Currently there are 32 Conservative Councillors, 30 Labour Councillors and one Lib Dem Councillor. The Barnet Eye has been looking at what the Green party are up to in the Borough and why you may wish to vote for them. Lets start with a round up of what the "Big" Parties are doing, so we can see why an alternative may be appealing.

The Labour Party are targetting Hale ward as they only need to win two more seats to take control of the Council. Twitter is awash with pictures of Tory and Labour teams trudging around Hale Ward. Here are a couple of my favourite tweets from these teams. Lets start with the Tories.

Now this is quite hilarious. Currently the Tories have two councillors in Hale Ward. One of them, Tom Davey works for a Tobacco company and has got a new. plumb job with his company, doing his bit for public health, so he is standing down. The other councillor is Hugh Rayner. Hugh is a nice chap, I get on well with Hugh, but he's decided that he's had enough of Hale (well it is very marginal) so he's moving to the next door ward of Edgware, where he believes he's got a nice, comfy safe seat. Sadly Hugh is nowhere to be seen canvassing in his own current ward. In fact the Tories are so desperate that they need to get MP's to drive up from Sutton to make up the numbers. I am sure that Paul Scully MP is highly interested in the affairs of Hale Ward and deeply committed to ensuring it gets it's Xmas Trees taken away promptly and its potholes mended.

As for Labour.......

I was quite amused by this. As Barnet residents well know, there are three candidates per ward. Labour currently have one councillor in Hale Ward. A gleeful Tory told me that they are referring to the current Labour councillor as "The Invisible Woman" and are drawing attention to her attendance record at Council meetings.

I have been reliably informed that the Green Party are seeing Hale as a fantastic opportunity. The voters are clearly split in their allegiances. The Greens organised a noisy stunt in Mill Hill Broadway a couple of weeks ago to bolster this campaign in Hale Ward  (Adele Ward has since informed me that the event was not set up by Barnet Greens and was a cross party event and that despite the Youtube page saying that it showed "Barnet Green Party with Spoof Boris and the Number 10 Vigil campaigners singing in the wind and rain in Mill Hill." They were not actually campaigning and that Hale is not on their list of targets - The Barnet Eye would humbly suggest that if they are posting cross party events on Youtube and Twitter, they label them as such)

I was intrigued to find out what the Barnet Green Party had to offer the voters of Hale ward. I had a look at their website, to find out their local agenda and policies. The Greens are well known for being good at picking up on local issues. To my surprise, there is no tab for policies or local issues. I thought I'd do a trawl of twitter to see what they had to say. I am pleased to report that I liked what I saw! I thought I'd share some of them. Here, in tweets, are three great reasons to vote Green in Hale ward in May.

1. The Greens like dogs. My mum always told me not to trust people who don't like dogs. Therefore the Greens must by highly trustworthy!

2. The Barnet Greens are against air pollution. So am I, so what better reason to like them

3. The Greens have come up with lots of policies that the other parties have nicked.

It is unquestionably true that the Green party are a fantastic pressure group and put policies on the table that the main parties wouldn't touch with a bargepole. As the third tweet notes, their manifesto's are regularly looted by the larger parties. Who could forget the David Camerons bizarre trip to the North Pole with a team of huskies (he clearly likes dogs, so he was deffo trustworthy) to promote his green credentials.

But having accepted that the Greens are a force for good in the world, does that mean we should consider voting for them in the Council elections in May? Well it does appear that, following on from Camerons Husky trip, the Barnet Tories would love you to vote Green. A tweet from leading Barnet Green Candidate Adele Ward yesterday revealed that the Tories have been sharing information and giving her campaigning tips in previous elections.

Why would the Barnet Tories step in to help a rival party? As Adele reveals the Tories have huge resources and a fantastic database of voters. What possible reason could there be for the Tories to want the Barnet Green party to do well?

Sadly the answer is easy to see. Have a look at the results for the last general election in Chipping Barnet

Chipping Barnet Parliamentary Constituency

Number of votes recorded
Green Party
Marisha Priyanka
Liberal Democrat
Theresa Anne
The Conservative Party Candidate
25679 (elected)
Emma Felicity Maude
Labour Party

As you can see the answers are there in black and white. The Tories had a wafer thin majority. It is highly likely that the vast majority of Green voters in Chipping Barnet would have voted for Jeremy Corbyn's Labour if the Greens had not been running. In short, the 2.5% of the vote that the Green party siphoned off from Labour was the difference between a Tory and Labour party win.

If you look at the results of the Barnet Council elections in 2014, a pattern emerges

A simple analysis shows that despite having a tiny percentage of the vote, this had a devastating effect on the results.

In Brunswick Park ward, if James Rowe had picked up 80 of the 499 votes the Green Candidate got, then Labour would have won and the Council would have been hung
Brunswick Park (3 seats)[6]
LabourKathy Levine1,951
LabourAndreas Ioannidis1,944
ConservativeLisa Rutter1,899
ConservativeAndreas Tambourides1,876
LabourJames Rowe1,820
ConservativeAntonis Savvides1,742
GreenHoward Javes499
In Childs Hill, split between Jack Cohen of the Lib Dems and the Tories, the 501 Green votes could have delivered one more Lib Dem Councillor, which again would have resulted in a hung council

Childs Hill (3 seats)[6]
ConservativeShimon Ryde1,544
ConservativePeter Zinkin1,536
Liberal DemocratJack Cohen1,509
ConservativeRohit Grover1,500
LabourAndrew Smith1,463
LabourAde Ajakaiye1,408
LabourNila Patel1,381
Liberal DemocratCharlotte Henry1,222
Liberal DemocratJonathan Davies1,198
GreenFrancesco Marasco501
In Hale ward, the 536 Green votes would have delivered two more Labour Councillors and given Labour an outright win.

Hale (3 seats)[6]
ConservativeTom Davey2,178
ConservativeHugh Rayner2,155
LabourKitty Lyons2,019
ConservativeElliot Simberg2,010
LabourPierre Jeanmaire1,994
LabourRoger Lyons1,870
GreenNicolas Ceasar536

In High Barnet, a strong Green show denied Labour one seat, which would have resulted in a hung council
High Barnet (3 seats)[6]
ConservativeWendy Prentice2,171
ConservativeDavid Longstaff2,161
ConservativeBridget Perry2,152
LabourPhil Harding1,209
LabourMarianne Haylett1,188
LabourPaul Levine1,052
GreenPhil Fletcher973
GreenA. M. Poppy922
Liberal DemocratDuncan MacDonald859
GreenValerie Lawson828
Liberal DemocratSean Hooker705
Liberal DemocratJane Gibson631
Total votes14,851
Whatever you may think of the Green Party and their policies and I am very sympathetic to many of them, the case is unarguable. There were four wards in 2014 where the Green party votes clearly influenced the outcome in favour of the Conservatives.  Any in any one of these wards, a single opposition victory would have changed the whole nature of the last four years in Barnet politics.

It could not be clearer why the Conservatives are assisting the Green Party. The reason why the Tories are so successful at elections is because they are masters of the "divide and rule" strategy. Of course we live in a democracy and it is right and proper that the Green Party run candidates wherever they want.  If the Tories want to help them and NO LAWS OR RULES are being broken, that is really an issue for the Greens and The Conservative party.

As far as I am concerned, the issue for those of us who don't want to see a Conservative regime returned to Barnet Town Hall in May, those of us who care about Green Belt Erosion, those of us who want the Council to persue policies that reduce air pollution and those of us who want the Council to actively promote renewable and clean energy, is that a vote for the Green party is effectively a back door vote for the Conservatives. Before Adele Ward spilled the beans, I would have doubted that the Tories would have been so bare faced in their pursuit of power.

You may wonder how the Tories would have helped the Greens? Well the tweet clearly states they shared information on voters intentions. The large parties spend a lot of time canvassing voters and learning how they are likely to vote. They use this to ensure that they deliver the appropriate message on the doorstep and don't waste too much time speaking to people who will never vote for them. If a Tory canvasser knocks on the door and someone says "I'm Labour" then they would mark them as such. If someone says "I don't vote Tory" then that is slightly different. Passing that information onto the Greens means that the much smaller Green canvassing teams can work more effectively.

As to "advice on campaigning techniques", the Conservatives would doubtless be telling the Green party activists to target what they have identified as seats where a Tory opponent voter has softened.

A good example of this is High Barnet, where the Green candidates got their highest vote in Barnet in 2014. The picture was very different in 2010, so lets compare.

High Barnet (3 seats)[6]
ConservativeWendy Prentice3,499
ConservativeBridget Perry3,469
ConservativeDavid Longstaff3,290
Liberal DemocratDuncan MacDonald2,505
Liberal DemocratSean Hooker2,436
Liberal DemocratJonty Stern1,928
LabourSue Russell1,238
LabourPhilip Harding1,233
LabourErach Amaria1,136
GreenMaggie Curati661
GreenRichard Hewison578
GreenTim Riley421

In 2010, Duncan MacDonald and Sean Hooker of the Lib Dems secured a total that would have easily won in 2014. As the Lib Dems were badly hit by their alliance with the Tories in the Coalition between 2010 and 2015, both Labour and the Greens sought to attack the Lib Dem vote. The Greens were telling votes that the Lib Dems were finished and they were now the credible opposition. This is born out by the fact that it was one of the few seats that the Greens ran three candidates.

Sadly the great Green victory in the 2014 Battle of Barnet, simply resulted in a three way split allowing the Tories to march in. The Phyrric victory the Greens achieved was to come third and ensure that the Conservatives won.

The lesson from this is quite simple. The Tories are not supporting the Green Party in Barnet out of the goodness of their heart. They are supporting them because it is good for their own vote. The Greens are happy to be helped, not because they want too advance the progressive agenda in Barnet. They are happy to receive help because their personal vanity means they want to be able to say they've "done well". If they were serious about politics, their website would have a strong local agenda. If any Green party activist tells you they have a chance of winning any seat in Barnet, they are not telling the truth. If any Green party activist tells you they are an alternative to Labour or the Lib Dems in your local ward, they are not telling the truth, because they have no chance of winning. If you believe in the Green Party, it's fine principles and its agenda, and you dislike all of the other parties then yes you should vote for them. If you are voting Green because you think that it will help advance the Green agenda in Barnet, then think again. The Barnet Tories clearly see the Greens as a Fifth Column of "Useful Idiots" who help them win elections.

When the election results are released after the Council elections in May, I for one, hope that I don't wake up to the same result as we saw in 2014. I hope there are not four wards where the Tories hung on to power due to their friends in the Green party.

I have one final question. I believe in openness and honesty in Politics. I trust the Greens do. Adele Ward has behaved in a commendable and honest fashion in revealing that the Torys have been helping her. I think we now need a full and frank disclosure from all of the Barnet Green candidates, past and present, to reveal exactly who has been helped, how they have been helped and what the financial ramifications are of such help.  There are two serious matters to consider. There are strict limits on how much parties can spend on Election campaigns. My questions are as follows:-

1. Have the Barnet Conservatives properly declared the value of the assistance supplied to the Greens in previous elections in their financial returns.
2. Have the Barnet Green Party properly declared the value of the assistance that the Tories have supplied them in their previous election returns.

This is a serious matter and these questions need a proper answer.