Politics has quickly returned to routine normality…

Posted on: 23rd January 2020

Conservative MPs again voting to reject sanctuary for child refugees. This is as unsurprising as it is disappointing.

They of course routinely attempt to defend themselves by quoting the numbers of children who’ve successfully been resettled here in recent years. But this is in spite of not because of Conservative Government policy.

As a Save the Children spokesperson said about this vote, “As a country, we have a duty to protect children escaping from war and persecution. Instead the UK will leave them to risk their lives on the dangerous journey to Europe and expose them to exploitation at the hands of traffickers.” Just a month before local Conservatives had donned swanky Christmas pullovers as if they had pulled on halos to proclaim their support for Save the Children.

This week they again rejected a proposal from Lord Alf Dubs, who was himself a child refugee who escaped Nazi Germany. Conservatives said they would in stead “make statements” to Parliament on the subject.

The Bishop of Durham who supported Lord Dubs added, “We want to be known as a country that is welcoming and compassionate and committed to playing our full part”.

The Conservative’s say it is their “intention” to help resettle child refugees fleeing war torn countries, but most people just look at their record. Their infamous use of a “hostile environment” and dog-whistle belligerence towards minority ethnic communities. And their notorious “go home” vans parading through communities with high minority populations, or their shocking ill-treatment of UK citizens, the so-called “Windrush generation” who arrived after WW2 and who were threatened and even forced against their will to leave.

But, it’s not all bad news…

There’s been an encouraging reduction in street homelessness recently. I can confirm this from my own experience as a regular volunteer of the excellent Penzance Street Food Project. We can attest that the numbers of people in need of our service have reduced in recent weeks.

Congratulations must go to Cornwall Council and charity partners like St Petrocs, Coastline housing, Addaction and others.

We’ve had welcome reductions like this before of course, only to then see a disappointing rise within a short time. So, further work is necessary. And the improvement doesn’t mean there are any fewer people living in insecure accommodation or who are uncertain where they will be living within the next week.

The top Doctor’s Association – the BMA – rightly raised “serious concerns” about the policy of early discharge of ill patients at Treliske Hospital last week. They pointed out that the underfunding and pressures on the NHS had resulted in cuts in service and intolerable pressures on emergency services. And that “this has resulted in an understaffed service with inadequate numbers of beds and facilities”.

But this is not a new problem. I remember tackling the NHS Confederation when it produced a policy document entitled “Why we need fewer hospital beds” in 2005. I challenged the wisdom of this policy. Arguing that the NHS should operate with a healthy surplus of hospital beds rather than running under the present practice of hyper-stress levels with in excess of 98% bed occupancy.

So they had been forewarned.