Its the first full Partly Political Broadcast Podcast! This week features some thoughts on the recent votes against moves to ensure rented accommodation is suitable for human habitation, and Tiernan’s views on Jeremy Corbyn’s Trident stance. Plus we talk to junior doctor Keir Shiels about the recent strikes, why they are happening and why you can’t stop working in the middle of an operation just because your shift is up.
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Home Secretary Theresa May’s plan to deport non-EU citizens earning under £35,000 a year.
Petition to ban Donald Trump from the UK
Jeremy Corbyn calling his cat ‘El Gato’.
Housing – Conservatives vote against landlords needing to make homes fit for human habitation
Trident – Jeremy Corbyn said he wants to keep Trident but remove it’s weapons.
Junior Doctor Keir Shiels on the Junior Doctor’s strike and issues with the proposed contract from the Department Of Health
Best term used for Donald Trump:
‘Bag of bluster with a wig on it’
Hello and welcome to the first ever Partly Political Broadcast Podcast or the ParPolBroPod which no one will ever call it. I’m Tiernan Douieb because sometimes names work like that, and this is number one of hopefully many regular satirical podcasts where I’ll be looking at the past week of UK political news and asking important questions like ‘Rather than David Cameron demand that Muslim woman learn English or be deported, wouldn’t it be more in line with British values for anyone who doesn’t speak the language of the country they live in to just shout and point at things they want?’
Home Secretary Theresa May a woman who’s constantly haunted by all those Dalmatians she had killed, has been urged to rethink her latest policy. Stating that anyone from a non-EU country living in the UK must earn over £35,000 a year or they’ll be denied settlement, you can see why. With the possibility of the UK leaving the EU after the referendum and the average wage in the UK being £26 and a half thousand a year, that could be most of the population having to piss off and leave then.
MPs in the House of Commons debated whether or not to ban bag of bluster with a wig on it, Donald Trump from entering the UK after his inflammatory comments about banning Muslims from entering America. Of course discriminating against someone because they want to discriminate against someone is pointless and what we should do is welcome Trump to the UK and point out how wrong he is, on television debate shows, or chat shows or panel shows and all make fun of him and mock him and laugh at just how stupid he is. That’d definitely work. Or….oh god. He could become London mayor couldn’t he?
And in an interview with the Independent, Labour Leader and fashion inspiration for geography teachers everywhere Jeremy Corbyn made another faux pas turning yet more supporters against him by saying his pet cat doesn’t have a name, he just refers to him as ‘El Gato’ which is Spanish for cat. As we all know Spanish cats something something threat to something bring down democracy something. Honestly though, how can you not name a cat? There’s so many good names for cats. Brad Kitt, JRR Tollkitten, Derek, it’s endless. C’mon Jezza! You could at least least have gone for Chairman Meow!
Your home can be many things. Wherever you lay your hat, on the range or wherever your heart is, though you’re advised to take that with you even when you pop out. Thanks to a Conservative majority vote of 312 to 219 against, as of January 12th landlords of rented homes in Britain no longer have to ensure that they are suitable for human habitation. I know that’s what you’ve all been waiting for right? You’ve been looking at the dire housing situation saying, the only thing that’d really help all of this is if there were entire home that can’t actually have any human beings in at all. Or they can, but only if they’re budding biologists who can’t wait to spend over the odds to find a new strain of penicillin. The very least you’d expect from a home is that you can live it, otherwise it’s a shed. Or the beginnings of a horror story. Or as I’ve been told several times, M&M World, and no, not even if I bring a sleeping bag.
As I often say, it’s not a housing bubble, because bubbles are meant to be fun. Back in October David Cameron pledged to turned ‘generation rent’ into ‘generation buy’ although it does now seem he was spelling that B-Y-E. In London you’d need a salary of £140k just to buy an averagely-priced flat, and with ‘affordable housing’ now meaning it’s still 80% of market value, the term really seems to just mean ‘weekend sale price for millionaires’. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors says house prices will rise up to 25% in the next five years, which means right now, there’s probably a house earning more than you, and it doesn’t even have to commute anywhere or make small talk with boring Chris by the water cooler.
So generation rent is definitely going to stick around, and with rent increasing by 4.6% in the last year, it’d be helpful if landlords at least had the incentive to make sure the homes they let out didn’t look like an HR Giger nightmare. But now, thanks to the entirely Conservative majority, they won’t have to. It’d be churlish to say there was a more sinister reason behind this vote without any evidence, but luckily there’s tons of evidence and it says that 39% of Tory MPs are also landlords. Which explains why they keep banging on about being the party of home ownership. David Cameron reportedly has earned over £500,000 since 2010 by renting out his luxury home in Notting Hill. Well he does believe in working hard, and there’s nothing more hard working than letting someone else pay you extortionate amounts of money to live in a place you already own. I feel tired just imagining all that sitting and not thinking about it that he’d have to do.
26% of SNP MPs and 22% of Labour MPs are also landlords and you wonder if Parliament will ever provide policies for proper tenants rights if there’s so much personal interest at stake. Instead you could end up finding the only place left to rent is a glorified portaloo and to make it far worse, you have to call David Cameron to see if you can put a picture up. Urgh. Recently Dave said he was worried his children will struggle to get on the property ladder. He could well be right, but only because by the time they’re adults the ladder will be completely gone and there’ll just be a Skypad accessed only by private helicopter.
Doctors. Everyone loves doctors don’t they? Except for Doom, Death and Fox. Apart from those three, doctors are a proper staple of society aren’t they? Selflessly saving lives and helping start basic joke formats. If any of you have ever tried to asked Google to diagnose a health problem, you’ll know that the opinion of a professional doctor is an irreplaceable, trusted and important thing. Which is why it seems odd that when it comes to how doctors should do their job, the Department of Health seem to prefer their own facts, figures and unfun fan fiction to the views of the British Medical Association.
Last week, the first UK junior doctor’s strike for 40 years took place. After months of attempted negotiations with the Department of Health and everyone’s least favourite startled stoat impersonator Jeremy Hunt, 98% of the BMA’s members voted to take action against proposed contract changes. Surely if that many doctors prescribe a solution, it can’t be wrong?
Around 16,000 doctors are reported to have protested all over the over country and next strike is set to be for 48 hours on January 26th, unless some sort of agreement can be made.
So what does the proposed contract mean? Are patients actually at risk if junior doctors go on strike? And most importantly, just what exactly is a junior doctor? Is it like a Muppet Baby, where it’s a tiny child version of a doctor who has a toy stethoscope and says things like ‘I prescribe more jelly beans.’
Who better to answer these questions and explain exactly what the strike is all about, than Keir Shiels, a man who is such a professional junior doctor that he featured on BBC3’s Junior Doctors: Your Life In Their Hands. Keir currently a paediatric registrar at Whipps Cross Hospital and he very kindly spoke to me on one of his rare days off.
This was recorded over an occasionally dodgy skype line so sorry for any weird noises. I promise it’s not my stomach.
Cut straight to ‘What is a junior doctor?’
Tiernan Douieb: I’m going to ask you a really stupid question but what is a junior doctor because it’s not just a, sort of, you know, a child version of a normal doctor, is it?
Keir Shiels: No, I don’t think that is a stupid question, actually, because I think it’s oddly something that a lot of people don’t realise the answer to. ‘Junior doctor’ is a term that is simply used to mean any doctor at all who’s not at the highest level of seniority possible, which is consultant. It’s an umbrella term that’s used to include several grades of doctors, so, what we would call foundation-level doctors, who are in their first 2 years of clinical practice. Senior house officers, who are in the following two to three years of practice, and then junior and senior registrars all together who are all on this, kind of, conveyor belt trying to become specialist consultants or GPs. So, anybody who’s under one of those headings is under the umbrella term of ‘junior doctors’ or doctors in training placements, which is very different from being a student.
TD: Yes, that’s what I was going to say. I mean, you’ve been working for years, haven’t you, as a doctor?
KS: Yes. So, I’ve been working for 7 years now as a doctor and I’m a paediatric registrar, which means that it’s my job to take the baby that’s been born three months prematurely and put them on whatever sort of life-supporting equipment that they need in order to try and maintain their life while their body is growing into that of a normal baby. That’s, kind of, my job.
TD: Right, which is an incredibly important job and probably quite stressful at times, I would presume.
KS: Yes, yes it is, especially when things happen at four o’clock in the morning and, you know, there’s not necessarily the volume of people around to help you as there is during the day.
TD: Sure. Well, that was the next thing I was going to ask. Your current working hours, I mean, I follow you on Twitter and I see you don’t tweet at work but you do often say, ‘I’ve got the nightshift tonight,’ or I see that you post things like that before you go to work. You work weekends and evenings already, don’t you?
KS: That’s right. So, I work two weekends every seven, and one of those weekends every seven will be from 8:30am until 9:30pm. The other weekend of those 7 will be from 8:30pm until 9:3am. So, 2 weekends out of every 7, I am one of 2 doctors who are on call for paediatrics in my hospital. That’s because there are 7 people on the rota and we just run through a rolling programme so that everybody has to cover the weekends at some point.
TD: Okay. And just 2 doctors for that whole period? How many, sort of, patients are you dealing with in that time? I’m guessing it can range from few to many?
KS: There’ll be up to 30 patients on the ward itself, and then, obviously, depending on whether you’re a paediatrician who’s dealing with children and patients in A&E or whether you’re dealing with babies and deliveries on the neonatal unit, you’ll have patients who aren’t actually on your ward but are in another department as well. So, yes, somewhere between 20 and 40 patients a night.
TD: Right. That’s quite a lot for just 2 people to be in charge of.
KS: Yes. So, there won’t be 2 doctors, there will 2 two doctors at my level, which is registrar, and there will also be senior house officers who are slightly more junior trainee doctors who will be there as well. So, there will be 3 people looking after those patients but I would be the only person at my level, and I would be the most senior person on the floor looking after them.
TD: Wow, okay. What I wanted to ask you about, this new junior doctor contract, which seems to be based partly on Jeremy Hunt assuming there’s no weekend cover at all in hospitals. I’ve been to hospital on a weekend, I was pretty sure it was open and people were there.
KS: You never just see the caretaker sweeping behind the door just shaking his head at people trying to get in, do you?
TD: No, there’s never the little sign on the glass doors saying ‘Closed. Back on Monday.’
KS: ‘Closed for staff training’, that would be lovely.
TD: Yes, that would be nice, wouldn’t it?
KS: I think the problem is that there are lots small issues under this contract that don’t come under one big heading, so it’s really difficult to say, ‘This is about not being paid enough,’ or, ‘This is about not being valued.’ The junior doctors contract at the moment is up for negotiation and that, kind of, determines our pay and conditions. At the moment, we are paid a certain salary, which is for our Monday to Friday, seven in the morning to seven in the evening work, and any hours that we do on top of that, weekends, nightshifts, late evenings, are, kind of, totalled up and the powers that be work out what proportion of our time at work is social time and what proportion is antisocial time. Based on that, we get a supplement on top of our basic salary. So, I work a very antisocial rota. My basic salary for sticking babies on life support machines is £36,000 a year, and, on top of that, because I work lots of antisocial hours, I get an additional 40%. So, that takes my salary up. Now, what he wants to do, he wants to remove this banding process entirely, redefine what normal working hours are to seven in the morning to 10:00pm Monday to Saturday.
TD: Right, because that’s what normal people work all the time, obviously.
KS: Yes. Then he wants to, kind of, give us additional payments based on the number of shifts outside of those or the hours of the shifts that we’re working outside those 7:00am ‘til 10:00pm Monday to Saturday. Now, that’s part of it. The other part of it is that, at the moment, doctors don’t just work the hours that they’re rota-ed for. If it hits 5 o’clock and you’re halfway through an operation, you can’t just put tools down and come back and pick it up the following morning. So, there is a system in place to ensure that, regardless of how many hours you are rota-ed for, you are paid for the number hour that you actually work.
TD: Yes. Which, to be fair, is perfectly reasonable, isn’t it?
TD: That’s what you should do. That’s what most people would expect in their normal day-to-day jobs.
KS: And that’s important as safeguards because if you’re working as an anaesthetist and a surgeon, say, and you can get through 6 big operations a day and you’re always being asked to do 8 operations a day, then you can turn round to the hospital and say, ‘Hang on, you’re giving me an amount of work that’s not compatible with my rota. These are all sick people so obviously I’m going to look after them but I’m working a different number of hours from the hours that you say I am.’ And there’s a compensation mechanism in place for that that penalises hospitals for overworking you, so they have to pay a financial penalty if they get you to work ridiculous hours, or if somebody phones in sick for the nightshift and you’re asked to work through the night for no extra money, there is a compensation mechanism for that. That entire system is under threat. Jeremy Hunt says that he’s going to be asking us to work fewer hours under the contract but it’s not about the number of hours that you are rota-ed to work, it’s about the number of hours that you have to work.
TD: Yes. I mean, he can’t state that it’s fewer hours. You wouldn’t be able to specify that those are fewer hours each time when you don’t know how many patients you’re getting in or what the situations are.
TD: That’s an impossible thing to be able to state.
KS: What’s he’s trying to say in the contract is, ‘We don’t want doctors working long hours because you get tired so we’re going to rota you for fewer hours,’ and what we’re saying is, ‘That’s all very well but if our hospital asks us to work beyond those hours, what incentive is there for the hospital not to do that?’ At the moment, he’s not come up with a safe enough answer for our compliance with this new contract.
TD: Is there a safe enough answer that you would prefer? Is there one that you would like or members of the BMA would be aiming for? Part of me, listening to you talk then, part of me thinks isn’t the overall issue that the NHS could do with more funding in order to have more doctors and more staff in the first place?
KS: Yes, I know. The thing is, the BMA has tried to be reasonable in that, you know, the BMA’s demands are not instantly to have 50 new doctors in every hospital because that’s not possible. So, what the BMA has said is that we, as a group of doctors, we understand there’s not a lot of money out there and that the cost of this new contract should be neutral. We’re not asking for more money, we’re not asking for, kind of, higher salary bills to be paid to more doctors. We get that it’s a difficult situation. Yes, we do want more resources and we do want more doctors and we do need more nurses and sonographers and occupational therapists and physiotherapists and pharmacists and porters and cleaners and laboratory staff working at the weekends, and people working in the staff canteen at night would be a nice thing so you can actually eat but, you know, that’s a luxury. So, we’re at a point at point where we’ve tried to, kind of, say, ‘Look, we understand that the reasonable demand of ‘lets have some more staff, please’ is actually not affordable.’ What we just don’t want is to be asked to spread a 5-day working week 7 ‘til 7 over 6 days 7 ‘til 10 because that’s going to mean that, you know, either we’re going to be working more hours or there are going to be fewer of us on the shop floor at any one time.
TD: Either way, that’s going to be incredibly stressful for you and not make your job any easier and, as you say, it’s not particularly safeguarding patients either if you’re overworked and overtired in any way.
KS: I don’t think it’s an unreasonable thing to be opposed to. I just think that the problem is that explaining it actually takes more than a 5-word sound bite. The tragedy of it is that what he is aiming to do of, kind of, improve the amount of service that is available at the weekends is something that doctors have been going on about for ages. We’d love it if we had a better service at the weekend but this, kind of, mantra of 7-day service is just so demeaning to those of us who work 7 days a week.
TD: Yes, because it’s assuming that you’re not there. I sometimes wonder if Jeremy Hunt’s ever been in a hospital at all but I definitely wonder if he’s ever been in one on a weekend, it seems very bizarre that he’s just constantly driving that home despite people pointing out that this is not true. But, I mean, he’s similarly also pointed out that more people are likely to die on a weekend or, you know, rates of people dying from strokes are on a weekend.
KS: This is another thing that, kind of, starts annoying doctors because, again, ‘you are more likely to die at a weekend’ is a pithy single-sentence sound bite that takes minutes of explanation to undo. The fact is that if you are admitted to hospital on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday, you have a higher 30-day mortality likelihood than if you are admitted on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. And there are some reasons for that are possibly to do with the amount of investigations and skillsets that are available at the weekend, possibly. For example, if you’re brought into hospital on a Friday because your appendix has burst, you don’t have to wait until Monday to get your operation, you get your operation there and then. The sort of things that people present with that are life-threatening 7 days a week get treated and dealt with 7 days a week. Now, if you turned up to hospital on a Saturday with a, I don’t know, let’s say you hit your finger with a hammer and your fingernail was falling off and you had a nasty nail bed injury.
TD: That’s my standard weekend accident.
KS: Exactly. That sort of DIY accident, it’s such a routine thing that can be put right on a routine list that you wouldn’t admit that patient on a Saturday, you’ll wait until Monday. So, all of the things that can kill you still come into hospital on a Saturday, and all of the things that can’t kill you wait until Monday. So, when you look at the proportion of people coming on a Saturday who die versus the proportion of people who come in on a Monday who die, the proportion is higher not because the skillset and the people aren’t around, it’s because it’s not diluted by all of the routine stuff that would also come in on a weekday. That’s the thing that’s very difficult to explain to people in a single sentence, whereas ‘if you’re admitted to hospital on a Saturday, you’re more likely to die’ is just really easy to believe and really easy to understand. I feel angry now.
TD: I can hear it in your voice. And the number we’re talking about are really important numbers as well because we’re talking about the difference between 1% and 1.2%, which is billed by Jeremy Hunt as a 20% increase, because it is. But you notice when they put up interest rates, interest rates never go up by 100% from 0.25% to 0.5%, they go up by a quarter of 1%, and it’s all about the way that number are used descriptively in order to push forward a political agenda, which is just unfair.
TD: And, obviously, now there are lots of people that might need to go into hospital on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday that haven’t been going in because they fear that they won’t-,
KS: The greatest danger about is this is that, at the moment, it’s not true. The real worry is that if people start holding onto their symptoms over the weekend until they only go to the hospital at the weekend when they’re in absolute extreme situations, then that statistic’s going to start becoming true, and we’ll end up in a situation where, unfortunately, the political mantra ends up creating the truth rather than vice versa.
TD: It’d be interesting to see how Jeremy Hunt deals with, say, lots of people who are holding off going on the weekend all dying on a Tuesday and suddenly changing the statistics.
KS: Of course, the day of the week that you’re most likely to die in a hospital is actually a Wednesday.
TD: A Wednesday? Okay.
KS: That’s when you’re most likely to die, it’s not when you’re most likely to be admitted and, kind of, then die, it’s just a quirk of statistics that that is true.
TD: Well, that’s a good tip anyway. So, what’s going to happen now, once this podcast goes out, everyone will flood you on weekends and not turn up on a Wednesday and we’ll have a similar seesaw-like problem. There’s not a definite solution at the moment, and, I suppose, as we know, the problem is that Jeremy Hunt’s not even really sitting round the table and talking about this. I saw today that he’s saying that he may just push ahead with his contract without further talks, he’s calling it the ‘nuclear option’, which is a worrying phrase.
KS: It just undermines the need for any negotiation at all. I mean, if you’re going to sit around a table and say, ‘I’ve got the power to push this through anyway, and just keep saying that until somebody bends over then our options are suck it up, moan and suck it up or try to do something about it. Unfortunately, when somebody’s saying, ‘We’ll just do this anyway,’ and you think it’s unsafe, the only option that you’ve got is, kind of, our nuclear option, which is to stand outside the hospital and refuse to go into work. There are 3 strikes that have been scheduled, one which was emergency cover only on a Tuesday, which, of course, because there are more people in the hospital on a Tuesday anyway so it’s a better than weekend service on a Tuesday was our first port of call where people were still able to get in touch with social workers and get echocardiograms and all sorts. The next stage is to do that over a longer period, so emergency cover only on a Wednesday and Thursday together. Then, after that, February 10th, the idea that no junior doctors will be at work, but, of course, all of the staff grade doctors and consultants will still be in work.
TD: So, at no point, again, to follow along the lines of headlines, at no point is a patient particularly under risk from a strike because there will be cover, there’s always emergency cover or there are always staff doctors.
KS: Yes. They may end up having their blood test taken by someone who hasn’t physically done a blood test for 5 years but has done hundreds, thousands, if not tens of thousands of them before in their lifetime. They’re not going to be in a situation where the only person in the hospital who could have treated them is not there to treat them. There will neurologists and urologists and pathologists and dermatologists and plastic surgeons and neurosurgeons and A&E specialists and anaesthetists in the hospital working and making people better, there just won’t be any junior doctors filling in the paperwork after them.
TD: Okay, so the paperwork may be slightly delayed, at worst.
KS: It is going to be a better-staffed hospital than it would be on a general Saturday. Now, if Jeremy Hunt feels that a staffing level of 3 times what is usually there on a weekend is dangerous then he needs to sort out a lot more than simply weekend cover by spreading the current number of doctors thinner.
TD: Yes, he’ll need 3 times the amount for every day of the week, which returns to the point of underfunding and understaffing in the first place.
KS: Of course. Then, of course, he’s got the temerity to tell us that we’re getting a pay rise. He’s giving us a pay rise but we’re going to be paid the same amount of money. The tragedy of it all is though, actually, as much as I don’t like the way he’s going about this, I actually think that what he is doing, what he’s trying to do is not born out of viciousness or, kind of, malice or a determination to privatise the health service. I genuinely think that he wants to do something good but he’s just doing it in the most ham-fisted and authoritarian way possible. I think his aims are relatively noble but he’s just going about it completely the wrong way.
TD: Right, but if they were really noble, surely he’d seek advice and listen to what the professionals in the job are saying.
KS: I think the problem is that the Conservative Party in particular is used to dealing with union-lead industrial actions in a certain way, sometimes because they’ve been reasonable, sometimes because they’ve been unreasonable, sometimes because the action has been quite militant, and as such, any union dispute has got this reputation within the Conservative administration that it has to be pushed down that this is the new miners’ strike. They don’t see the BMA for what it is. Up until 6 months ago, there is no profession that had more contempt for its trade union than medics, there was no more conservative profession, no more anti-union profession than medics, and it’s just completely turned us around because the BMA have actually been representing us very well and very fairly.
TD: I think I read it’s 153,000 BMA members but not everyone has yet joined.
KS: The problem is that, obviously, there are lots of BMA members who are not junior doctors, there are BMA members who are consultants, who are staff-grade doctors, who are medical students, there will be lots of doctors as well who are not BMA members. Now, it’s not like teaching where there are multiple unions that you can be part of and you can stick your colours to a particular political style, there is only the BMA that represents doctors, and, so far, people have either been members or not been members. Membership has increased hugely over the last 6 months, apparently.
TD: That’s interesting. Clearly people are worried. I mean, I remember reports last year saying how many young doctors are choosing to work abroad instead and are leaving so there’s obviously, and I know this has been felt for a few years, this worry about what is happening to the NHS and the general structure of staffing and things. I suppose, worst case scenario, if Hunt does just push this through, what do you think might happen or what do think the feeling’s going to be?
KS: I don’t know. I think it’s going to very much depend on which sort of specialty you’re in. There are some specialties, like, say, pathology, microbiology, clinical chemistry, dermatology, where some people will probably suck up a little bit more extra work for a little bit of extra money.
TD: I’m guessing they’re not people who are already working weekends and late hours anyway.
KS: Yes. People who are intensive care, neonatology and A&E who are already working very antisocial hours who are going to see their hours probably unchanged but their remuneration for those hours go down because they’re no longer considered antisocial because, if you finish work at 1:00am, that’s considered a dayshift by the government.
TD: It’s just absolutely crazy. I mean, to be fair, I’m a stand-up, that probably is my dayshift, but for most other people, what a ludicrous idea, isn’t it?
KS: The government feels that unless you’re working for 3 consecutive hours past 11:00pm, you can’t classify that as a nightshift. So, if you finish at one o’clock in the morning, you’re officially doing just a normal dayshift. So, it’s all of this, sort of, petty little stuff that all mounts up to a feeling of just not being valued, really. Certainly, I’ve done jobs where I’ve been working every other weekend for no extra pay than I’ve got now working 2 out of 7 weekends. The system does need to change but I think it just needs to change in a bit more of a positive way really.
TD: With all the kind of symptoms that Jeremy Hunt has been expressing with his unable to communicate with people, his inability to hear various things, would sort of diagnosis would you give him for his condition?
KS: That’s a very interesting question. If you want a perfect example of how professional doctors are as a body, there are 50,000 people that think Jeremy Hunt is approaching this in a very bizarre and illogical way. It only takes 2 doctors to section somebody and none of us have, none of us have sectioned Jeremy Hunt, and that is a hallmark of our professionalism, that it only takes 2 out of the 50,000 of us to do it and yet we haven’t done that.
Mega thanks to Keir Shiels. If you’d like more insights from him, Keir is on twitter @keirshiels, or at his website www.keirshiels.com. Since I spoke to Keir last week David Cameron has also backed Jeremy Hunt’s comments on patient care at weekends and strike risks to patients, even though as Keir said himself, they are nonsense. I almost wonder if junior doctors might have a better chance if they too invent their own fiction. Such as saying if the government don’t start respecting their profession they’ll all vanish except one, and Jeremy Hunt will have to hope that his confidence in homeopathy means everyone that doctor touches will retain a faint memory of how to do surgery.
There have also been rumours that Hunt will be sacked in the next reshuffle which would be great, but these same rumours suggest he could be replaced by Boris Johnson who’s only real medical experience is watching an ambulance cart away that child he rugby tackled.
Trident, the weapon of Neptune, the god of the sea and also the UK’s nuclear weapon carrying submarines. Which like Neptune’s three pronged stick are exceedingly out of date, but somehow still seem to be poking the Labour party right where it hurts. Speaking to Andrew Marr last Sunday, Jeremy Corbyn slightly changed his completely anti-Trident stance by saying that he would deploy new Vanguard submarines, but he’d deploy them without nuclear warheads attached. Now, before I continue, I’d like to point out that I see no point in renewing the UK’s 4 Trident submarines. Aside from Corbyn’s main reason for his statement, which is to keep people in their jobs, I can’t see an obvious argument to keep them.
Firstly, there’s the cost. Renewing the program could cost anywhere between £20bn and £100bn which instead of whacking great weapons critics say could be used to fund amongst other things A&E departments for 40 years, employ 150,000 new nurses, 1.5m affordable homes or 30,000 new primary schools. You try fitting that lot in a submarine. I’ve seen Das Boot. It’d get pretty cramped pretty damn quickly.
Then there’s whether or not we actually need them anymore. The Ministry of Defence say that Trident is still a nuclear deterrent because it’s very existence stops us being attacked by nuclear weapons. Even though if we were fired on, our nukes wouldn’t just cancel out their nukes. Instead we’d all die, then our Trident nukes would fire and kill other people and more people would be dead. So not really deterring anything. It’s like me being sent my tax bill, paying it then afterwards killing a tax collector as a ‘deterrent’. As of last year, we had 225 nuclear weapons, which is a lot. But the USA have 8000 and Russia have 7300 so if Putin gets angry of say Donald Trump hits a red button because he thinks it looks shiny, ours really won’t do much to save us. Which is a mute point anyway because the weapons are serviced in the US so we need them on our side to ensure it’s all working fine anyway.
There’s currently 25-non nuclear NATO states and many, many other countries around the world without them, and they don’t seem hugely threatened. The UK has signed The International Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which means we are meant to ‘negotiate in good faith’ towards the complete disarmament of nuclear weapons. I suppose we have good faith that it’s a pretty vague treaty and if anyone complains we can blow them up yeah?
Some say Trident is pointless now as it could be rendered obsolete by hackers or underwater drones or the Terminator. Sorry, got carried away there. They just aren’t of much use against modern threats like cyber or terror attacks and so ultimately, aside from giving a load of fish a conversational starting point, what’s the use?
But it would mean 15,000 jobs would be lost, and at the moment the country doesn’t have the infrastructure to support those workers in other industries even though it’d be great for their skills to be used for non-weapons methods. So it’s not an easy decision. Unless you really like big bloody weapons and don’t like hospitals. Though I suppose one point of view usually leads to the other.
But still, Jeremy Corbyn trying to please everyone by having the subs without weapons seems completely bonkers when that’s all the submarines are for. Better to actually renew them or not have them at all. You wouldn’t have a cob without the corn on it would you? You might say that’s a rubbish analogy but I did nearly choke on sweet corn once so it’s pretty dangerous stuff. Sadly it looks like Trident will remain sitting duck in the water just wasting money for the near future. The only thing it’s threatening to blow up is further tensions amongst Labour party members.
That is the end of this week’s Partly Political Broadcast. Thank you very much once again for downloading. This was the very first episode and so I’d really like this to become a regular thing. If you have any thoughts on what you liked about it, didn’t like about it, should we have more of things, less of things, should I scrap the entire show, could I release just one hour of piercing silence? Anything like that, please drop us a line firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @parpolbro. All that stuff is incredibly useful. I also edit this entire show by myself and I really haven’t got a clue what I’m doing so any tips, send them over.
Before I go I’d like to give a big thanks to Keir Shiels who was the guest on this week’s show and wish him all the best with the junior doctor strikes and negotiations. I’d like to thank my brother the last Skeptik for letting me totally use all his music throughout the podcast, James Hingley for managing to get this up on the website in time, Stuart Goldsmith and the Comedian’s Comedian podcast for giving me tons and tons of tips on how to do this. And lastly a big thank you to all the politicians in the UK for regular producing so much fodder that it makes making this podcast so much easier.
See you next time!