The medical profession’s lethal arrogance over the Liverpool Care Pathway
Step by grudging step – and led by this paper – official Britain has begun to wake up to the scandal of the Liverpool Care Pathway.
The LCP is intended to ease the final hours of patients who are close to death and to spare them the suffering associated with invasive treatment.
Numerous relatives have claimed, however, that their loved ones were put on the Pathway – which involves the withdrawal of food and fluids as well as medical treatment – without their consent.
Far worse, they claimed that some of these patients were not in fact dying when they were put on the Pathway, but were then starved and dehydrated to death as a result.
On Saturday, for example, the Mail told the story of 82-year-old Patricia Greenwood, who was put on the Liverpool Care Pathway by doctors in Blackpool, who removed all her feeding tubes and drips.
But then her family defied orders and gave her water, which sparked the beginning of a remarkable recovery. Now she is planning to go on a world cruise.
The controversy over the LCP was given fresh impetus in the summer when a group of doctors, led by neurologist Professor Patrick Pullicino from the University of Kent, claimed that death on the LCP was a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ and a form of backdoor euthanasia, being used to get rid of difficult patients and to free hospital beds.
As such claims mounted, the reaction by the medical establishment was to dismiss them out of hand.
In the past few days, however, the story has suddenly changed. The Association for Palliative Medicine, which had hitherto said there was no problem with the LCP, abruptly turned on a sixpence and said it was launching an inquiry into it.
The next day, the NHS announced it would lead its own investigation into the Pathway by talking to relatives and clinicians, and looking at complaints.
Someone somewhere seems finally to have realised that there is indeed a significant problem here.
Since I first wrote about this just over two weeks ago, the reaction to my article has been an education in itself. For I received two kinds of messages.
The first, from still-distraught relatives, was a steady stream of harrowing accounts of what happened when their loved ones were inappropriately, as they believed, put on to the Pathway.
Of course there are occasions when, through either their own distress or the complexity of the situation, relatives may fail to grasp that their mother or father is indeed close to death, and may therefore genuinely misunderstand that to continue to administer food or treatment in those circumstances would be inhumane.
But most of the accounts I received contained deeply alarming details which simply cannot be brushed aside.
One woman, for example, wrote that her father suffered a severe stroke caused by a blood clot in his brain. ‘All fluids were removed from him and we were told he was in the final phase of his life,’ she wrote.
‘All we were told was that there was no hope for him; it was a matter of time before he died. Eight days later, he opened his eyes and proved everyone wrong by pulling round. Two years on from this he is back at home, although in a wheelchair and with some loss of speech.’
Another woman’s 85-year-old mother was admitted to hospital with an infected gall bladder. The following day doctors told her, to her shock, that her mother was gravely ill and had no chance of survival.
The doctors, who included three consultants, told her that if she did not agree to the Pathway she would be adding to her mother’s distress and misery. She signed the form – only to be horrified subsequently to find her mother highly disorientated, agitated and distressed from lack of fluids and treatment.
‘I compelled the nursing staff to restore hydration and medications, or take full responsibility for the outcome if they failed to. I also took matters into my own hands by feeding her natural yogurt, soft foods and spooning water into her – something which was to continue until she was released three days later, having been restored to full health, cracking jokes and saying goodbye to those who were unfortunately left probably to suffer the same fate.
‘A year has since passed. My mother has a robust appetite and has never succumbed to the “impending doom” I was led to believe she could not escape.’
The stories continue in the same vein.
Another woman’s father was in a nursing home waiting for surgery to amputate his legs following complications from cancer.
The man’s daughter was called by a nurse who told her that her father was on the Pathway, and who then overrode her objections to that decision. Distraught, the daughter wrote to her father’s surgeon begging him to intervene to save her father’s life – which he did.
‘Dad had his amputation and has made a good recovery. I visited him today; he was sitting up asking for sweets. We talked about him coming to us for the Christmas hols. It really could have been a different story. He’s my dad, he is 83 and has a right to choose to live.’
A number of relatives who wrote to me believe their loved ones were killed by the withdrawal of food, fluids and treatment on the Pathway. Their anguish is acute.
‘Whilst trying to have a balanced view on the overall care of my father,’ wrote one woman, ‘the desperate fear and anguish on his face as staff talked about his imminent death in front of him will never be forgotten. I remain devastated that we could not help him. I feel that the LCP is unethical and in my father’s case was illegal.’
If it is hard to believe such systematic abuse could possibly be taking place in our hospitals and care homes, the second kind of message I received furnished all-too-chilling reinforcement.
These were from doctors, nurses and other NHS staff. They did not wish to examine any of the evidence. Facts seemed to be totally irrelevant.
They simply knew for a certainty that all the claims made by relatives – and by Professor Pullicino and his colleagues – were totally untrue, because apparently medical staff like them only ever have their patients’ best interests at heart.
Many were incandescent with rage that I had publicised concerns that patients who were not dying were being starved and dehydrated to death. Several accused me of deliberately sensationalising the issue in order to sell newspapers, and that to that cynical end I had set out to terrify dying patients and their relatives.
One doctor wrote: ‘You are a disgrace. Your attitude towards journalism is deliberately inflammatory, and you peddle misinformation and prejudice even though you should know better.
‘I sincerely hope that when you find yourself lying in an NHS hospital on your deathbed, that the LCP is used to ease your suffering as humanely as possible. Let us hope you aren’t judged for writing this stupid tirade by those who have the misfortune to look after you.’
Someone who described himself as an ‘NHS palliative care worker’ wrote: ‘I believe that a boost in your journalistic profile was behind the article, and the style in which the article was written was intentionally emotive and can have no real aim to discuss or analyse the use of this Pathway.’
Like parrots, these medical staff listed the virtues of the Pathway in treating the dying, and told me that what I had written could not possibly be true.
This was to miss the point by a mile. I had already written that, when someone was truly dying, withdrawing food or treatment was merely long-acknowledged good medical practice. And if that was all the LCP was doing, that was fine.
The concern, however, is that it is often being applied to patients who are not dying – but who then die as a result. To avoid any misunderstanding, I clarified this vital distinction still further in a subsequent piece on the Mail’s website.
But the angry medical staff simply refused to accept that the LCP was ever being used on patients who were not dying, and as a result was killing them. They dismissed all such claims as odious and with no substance at all.
Yet how could they know? The answer was as chilling as it was high-handed: only doctors could tell who was dying. One doctor wrote: ‘Neither you nor patients’ relatives are trained to recognise dying, and are thus not qualified to comment on the process.’
Another wrote: ‘I am trained in this area and work in this area every day caring for the dying and their families. You are a sensationalist journalist looking for a story to sell your newspapers.’
The arrogance of such doctors was truly monumental. Account after account by aghast relatives was swept aside without a second glance; such witnesses were dismissed as too emotional or too stupid to understand what apparently only the doctors could know.
The most vicious accusation these medics hurled my way was that articles such as mine would so terrify the dying and their relatives that they would view doctors as killers and refuse to accept their medical advice.
I entirely share the concern about the erosion of trust in doctors, and the baleful effects of such suspicion. But if trust has been eroded, it is because so many people believe that elderly patients are being starved and dehydrated to death.
A proper ethical response is surely to investigate such concerns, not use emotional blackmail to suppress them.
And it is no use medical professionals hiding behind the undoubted examples of good practice in care for the dying. The context for these growing claims of abuse is the well-documented and shocking neglect or ill-treatment of so many elderly people in NHS hospitals or care homes.
What my correspondence has illuminated is the compelling evidence of abuse of the LCP – and the all-too-revealing arrogance of the furious NHS staff who deny it all: confirmation of the disturbing attitudes about which the relatives gave such vivid testimony.
It is essential that this thick carapace of professional obfuscation is swept aside if the truth is ever to be established about the Liverpool Care Pathway.
Angry mother attacks bungling doctors who told her daughter’s broken arm was only a bruise
An immediate X-ray would once have been automatic for this
An angry mother has hit out at doctors who failed to realise that here two-year old daughter had a broken arm and sent her home saying it was just a bruise.
Joanne Hollins-Cooper, 31, took two-year-old Jessica to the NHS walk-in centre in Stoke-on-Trent after her daughter had a nasty fall at home last month.
Doctors examined the arm and diagnosed it as just a bruise and advised her to give her daughter Calpol.
After three days of no improvement in Jessica’s arm the worried mum took her to A&E at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire for a second opinion. The young toddler underwent a series of x-rays which showed that she had shattered her arm in two places either side of her elbow.
Speaking on Sunday Joanne fumed: ‘Jessica was playing at home and running around, like every toddler does. ‘Before I knew it, she had tripped over and fallen down awkwardly. I tried to have a look but she was crying out in pain every time I touched it.
‘I was told nothing was broken and it was just badly bruised. ‘She advised us to have some rest for a couple of days and to give Jessica some Calpol for the pain. ‘At the time, I thought ‘they know better than me’ so I believed her when she said it wasn’t broken. ‘Obviously, Jessica was very grumpy but I just put it down to her arm being sore.
‘I just cried because I felt so guilty that she had been walking around with a broken arm for all that time. ‘I had done what I thought was best and trusted the professionals.’
Little Jessica had her arm in plaster for two weeks but at a further appointment, doctors found there was still a small fracture. She is due to go back for a further check-up in three weeks time.
Meanwhile, the family, from Weston Coyney, Staffs., have lodged a formal complaint with the walk-in centre after
Joanne revealed they still haven’t apologised for their error. She added: ‘They have not apologised to me but I have been told they are investigating.
‘I am very angry. ‘We are told to use walk-in centres rather than A&E to ease the pressure on the hospital – but look what happens when you do.’
Dr Russell Kelsey, regional medical director for Harmoni, who run the centre of behalf of the NHS, said: ‘As the largest provider of out-of-hours urgent care in the country, we pride ourselves on offering the highest levels of patient care and satisfaction.
‘Any patient concern with our service is treated very seriously. ‘We are in the process of investigating this complaint and as soon as those investigations are concluded, we will share our findings with the mother.’
British drama teacher facing dismissal after she is convicted of hitting pupil, 13, with folder for talking in class
A drama teacher could be sacked after being convicted for smacking a 13-year-old boy in the head with a folder because he was talking in class. Vanessa Greening, 49, lost her temper with the child as he watched other pupils perform at a high school in Tipton, in the West Midlands.
A court heard Greening flipped and slammed the folder she was holding into the schoolboy’s head after hearing someone speak during the performance.
Greening from Bearwood, Birmingham, was sentenced to a six-month community order at Sandwell Magistrates Court on Friday last week after being found guilty of common assault.
The young victim, who was sat next to his teacher at Alexandra High School, had admitted speaking when he shouldn’t, but claimed when Greening lashed out with the binder he hadn’t said a word.
She was hauled before magistrates after parents of the pupil complained to teachers who then contacted the police.
Greening, who turned up to court clutching a folder, now faces the sack following a career in the classroom spanning 30 years.
Prosecuting, Kelly Crowe said: ‘Whilst they were watching the group do the piece of work, someone spoke, and the defendant who had a folder in her hand slammed it once to his head.’
The court heard the boy was shocked but uninjured and later told police ‘it didn’t hurt’.
JPs were also told Greening, who had pleaded not guilty, had been previously reprimanded for her conduct.
Defending Laura Culley said she didn’t accept that the incident happened ‘intentionally or otherwise.’
Following the case, headteacher Ian Binnie did not confirm whether Greening would lose her job or not.
Headteacher Ian Binnie said in a statement: ‘The school reported the allegations made to the police and worked closely with them during their investigation. ‘I am aware of the verdict but I am unable to comment further at the moment as the school’s disciplinary procedures are underway.’
British teachers off school for “training” are caught at wedding: Head accused of lying in letter to parents
When father-of-two Kamal Hussain received a letter from school saying classes would be ending early for staff development, he duly arranged for his children to have the afternoon off.
But he became suspicious when he spotted three teachers in smart clothing driving past him when they were meant to be at school for the ‘inset’ (which stands for ‘in-service training’) afternoon.
Calling in at the deserted school, he was told by a cleaner that the head and teachers had gone to a colleague’s wedding. A furious Mr Hussain then drove to the wedding venue and confronted the head, who he says was sitting with 23 of her staff.
Mr Hussain yesterday lambasted head Gillian Pursey, for sending a ‘blatant lie’ in an official letter to parents. He said: ‘I was just so angry and furious. I teach my children not to lie – what sort of example does that set? ‘I’ve lost my trust and confidence in them and I’m going to look to move my children elsewhere.’
He called for an inquiry into the matter, saying pupils had lost hundreds of hours of teaching between them.
Mrs Pursey, 51, head of St Hilda’s Primary School, Oldham, sent a letter saying classes would end at 2pm on Tuesday, October 30, instead of 3.30pm, for ‘staff development’. Teachers are entitled up to five days at school without pupils present so they can carry out administrative tasks or training.
However, Mr Hussain, 35, who had recently been refused time off for his own children to attend a family wedding, found Mrs Pursey and up to 23 of her staff sitting down for a meal at a colleague’s wedding. When he confronted Mrs Pursey at her table, she claimed the teachers had been given time off to ‘do research’, adding she had the governors’ permission.
Mr Hussain added: ‘But to my understanding the governors don’t have the real authority to put in jeopardy the education of 500 pupils.’
Last night Mrs Pursey said: ‘Staff were given that hour and a half of staff development time to research things for the school’s golden jubilee celebrations. ‘They could do that research on or off site, and whenever they liked. Some decided to do it straight away, and others decided to do it after the wedding. ‘It was all agreed with the school governors and is all above board.’
An Oldham Council spokesman said: ‘This is an interim management issue for the school and no action will be taken.’
Disruptive under-fives ‘blacklisted by British schools’ who are also judging parents by their jobs
If schools were allowed effective discipline options, they wouldn’t need to do this
HEAD teachers are screening out unwanted pupils by trawling nurseries for disruptive children and blacklisting them, it was claimed yesterday. They are also accused of judging parents on their jobs and trying to dissuade those in lowlier roles from making an application.
A primary head lifted the lid on ploys he claims some fellow schools are using to weed out poorly-behaved or low-achieving pupils. Nigel Utton said one headmistress checks nurseries for disruptive pupils and puts their names on Post-It notes in her office. She then tries to ensure they don’t get places by giving their parents ‘a bad view’ of the school.
He claimed a second head told a lorry driver that sending his son to the school would be similar to forcing him to work as a brain surgeon.
According to Mr Utton, head of Bromstone Primary, Broadstairs, Kent, the vast majority of schools, both primary and secondary, are using subtle techniques to engineer their intakes.
He called on Ofsted and the Government to crack down on the practices and reward schools which do well with a broad intake of pupils.
His remarks received support from Children’s Commissioner Maggie Atkinson, who is conducting an inquiry into ways that schools illegally ‘exclude’ pupils by asking them to leave without formally suspending or expelling them. She condemned schools which ‘pull up the drawbridge’ and ‘let children fail’.
Speaking at a seminar in central London staged by Westminster Education Forum, Mr Utton warned that pressure on schools to maintain test results was driving some to use dubious methods to keep out pupils considered disruptive or difficult.
‘This is what some of my colleagues do across the country,’ he said. ‘Basically they don’t let them in. And there are different ways of not letting them in.
‘One head teacher I know of puts Post-It notes on her wall. ‘She goes round the nurseries finding out which are the disruptive children and puts their names up on her wall, and those children don’t get into her school.’ This head’s school had been judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, he said.
The school must abide by national rules on fair admissions so the head tries to stop them applying in the first place.
Mr Utton, who said his own school took pupils with a range of needs and abilities, claimed that another common ruse was to ‘alienate’ parents at open days or show-rounds. ‘When a parent comes and looks round your school, you are rude to them so they don’t go to your school, they go to the school down the road.’
Some heads attempted to ‘signpost’ families to other local schools, claiming they would be more suitable for their children.
A further strategy was to ‘denigrate’ parents according to their jobs. ‘A parent was sent to me, a lorry driver. He was told by the head teacher of an outstanding school, “your child coming to our school would be an equivalent of asking you to be a brain surgeon”,’ he said. ‘This is a real example from this year. The kid came to my school.’
He added: ‘Once the children are in, if they are kids you don’t like, there are ways of getting rid of them.’
He also hit out at the trend for children with behavioural problems to be ‘drugged’ with Ritalin.
Rosi Jordon, deputy head of Chessbrook, a unit for expelled pupils in Hertfordshire, said schools felt under pressure to ‘get shot’ of some children ‘at all costs’ to boost their league table positions.
She told the seminar that schools were increasingly aware that pupils who fail to meet exam benchmarks can knock ‘half a per cent’ of the school’s overall score.
‘I know of one head teacher who will say, “Leave your personal problems at the school gate. When you are in here, you are doing your work, and I do not want to know anything of what happens personally with you”,’ she said. ‘”You can only be here if you are performing for us, and if you’re not – go”.’
Lonely leftists vs fantasy fascists
Why, when the far right is falling apart, do leftists keep on scaremongering about these ‘bloody nasty people’? BOOK REVIEW of Bloody Nasty People: The Rise of Britain’s Far Right by Daniel Trilling
In the conclusion to his book Bloody Nasty People: The Rise of Britain’s Far Right, Daniel Trilling lists ‘10 myths about Britain’s far right’, and begins first and foremost with the ‘myth’ that ‘the threat has passed’. His attempt to puncture this myth is lame – the British National Party (BNP), he acknowledges, is now a ‘failed project’. It has been all but wiped out in elections and is riddled with internal divisions. All he can do is point to the English Defence League’s (EDL’s) declaration of support for the recently formed British Freedom Party (BFP) in April this year as evidence of a ‘new vehicle’ for the far right.
Unfortunately for Trilling, EDL leader Tommy Robinson has already quit the BFP and currently languishes in jail, accused of entering the US under a false identity. The EDL itself is now having problems mobilising more than a couple of hundred people for a demo and its central Facebook page, with its 79,000 ‘supporters’ that Trilling cites as evidence of its ascendancy, has shut down.
A reader of Trilling’s book may then be puzzled. Why is a left-wing journalist dedicating his time to writing a book subtitled ‘the rise of the far right’ at a time when the far right in Britain is in no way on the rise? The only way Trilling’s subtitle is accurate is if you see it as giving a historical account of the rise of the BNP following the collapse of the National Front. But Trilling is no historian. A far more interesting phenomenon to discuss at the moment would be the decline of far-right groups in the UK at present and their failure to gain significant purchase with the public.
But this is not the story Trilling wants to tell. It seems only too important to him that the spectre of the far right remains. Indeed, his use of the word ‘vehicle’ to describe the need for the emergence of the EDL after the collapse of the BNP is telling. Often in the book, he makes it sound like an evil fascist entity plagues Britain through the ages, continually changing form, looking for new host bodies through which to infect cultural and political life. ‘The EDL’, he says, in one revealing sentence, ‘is further evidence of how the far right has had to accommodate to the reality of modern Britain’. He writes repeatedly about how the EDL has strategic and tactical advantages over the BNP, as if its emergence was a manoeuvre by a great Lord of the Rings Sauron-like figure who has commanded the dark forces of Britain’s right-wing extremes since time immemorial.
From the outset of the book, however, Trilling fails to define his terms. He is nervous about using the term ‘fascism’ and opts instead for what he calls the more neutral catch-all term the ‘far right’. Where he does attempt to define fascism, he chooses a quote from US historian Robert Paxton, who said ‘fascism is a system of political authority and social order intended to reinforce the unity, energy and purity of communities in which liberal democracy stands accused of producing division and decline’.
According to this definition, then, the possibility of fascism lurks among any communities that are critical of liberal democracy. Wary of the idea of multiculturalism? Concerned about the intolerance of Tony Blair’s rallying call to ‘liberate Britain from the old class divisions, old structures, old prejudices, old ways of working and doing things that will not do in this world of change’? According to Trilling – who comes across as a great cheerleader for a New Labour-esque vision of multicultural Britain – to have such concerns is seemingly to be on the path towards fascism.
“Trilling’s tilting at ‘fascist’ windmills reeks of a certain desperation that is shared by many on the traditional left”
Despite noting that the EDL’s Tommy Robinson became disillusioned with the BNP because his black friends weren’t able to join, and that the EDL is a big supporter of Israel and had Asian spokespeople, Trilling is keen to highlight common threads between the two groups. He cites the findings of a survey of EDL sympathisers that reveals what he believes to be the tell-tale ‘familiar factors’ of far-right thinking. These sympathisers share ‘pessimism about the UK’s future, worries about immigration and joblessness… mixed by a proactive pride in Britain, British history and British values’.
The extent to which, during a double-dip recession, concerns about the future of the UK or joblessness might be perfectly legitimate isn’t explored. And any questioning of immigration policy is portrayed as sign of wrongheadedness. It seems that Trilling would have been right alongside Gordon Brown when, in the run-up to the 2010 UK General Election, he generated a furore by branding Rochdale pensioner Gillian Duffy a ‘bigoted woman’ for raising issues of immigration and joblessness. If we accept Trilling’s understanding of far-right thinking, Duffy must have been infected by fascism. Certainly he is keen to bash historian David Starkey for ‘willingly repeating’ on the BBC’s Newsnight the BNP’s ‘mainline of propaganda – that Britain was being undermined from within by racial mixing and an undeserving poor’.
For someone adept at making the most tenuous links to fascism, however, Trilling seems blind to the more authoritarian tendencies of left-wing activists and the state. He has no words of criticism for the erosion of free speech that comes with ‘no platform’ policies, or the censorious nature of campaigners who tried to prevent the BBC from airing an edition of its topical debate programme Question Time featuring BNP leader Nick Griffin in 2009 – despite the fact that Griffin was an elected member of the European Parliament (MEP).
In a bizarre, Orwellian moment, Trilling attempts to rewrite history to suggest that the EDL was prevented from protesting outside a mosque in Tower Hamlets last year due to the actions of Unite Against Fascism activists ‘blocking the road, joined by several thousand local residents’. More importantly, the UK Home Office had slapped a ban on the EDL marching in the borough, enforced by an almost-unprecedented mobilisation of police officers from across the country who significantly outnumbered the EDL’s marchers (see The Battle of Cable Street it wasn’t). No matter how you spin it, these ‘jubilant’ anti-fascist protesters were in reality cheering the actions of the state clamping down on the freedom to assemble – the only way they were responsible for preventing the EDL march was to the extent that they lobbied the state to ban the demonstration beforehand.
Trilling’s blinkered account of the triumph of the anti-fascist left over the far right, coupled with his continual refrain – against all the evidence – that the far right is still in the ascendancy, reveals far more about his own outlook than about reality. Trilling’s tilting at ‘fascist’ windmills reeks of a certain desperation that is shared by many on the traditional left. Devoid of any sense of what they are for, left-wing campaigners seek to gain a sense of purpose by saying what they are against: cuts, naturally, but more than anything, fascists.
After the resounding electoral defeats of the BNP, the emergence of the EDL was a wet dream for directionless lefties. Now the EDL is on the wane, all left-wing activists can cling to is the idea of the persistence of an amorphous blob of ‘bloody nasty people’, who will flock to the dark forces of fascism should the correct ‘vehicle’ appear. You would have to be a Bloody Naive Person to believe such baseless scaremongering.
Police tell Morris Dancers to down sticks and hankies after complaints the traditional routine was ‘offensive’
A group of Morris Dancers were ordered to stop performing in the middle of a routine after police received a complaint that their dancing was ‘offensive’.
The 15-strong group of English folk dancers from the respected Wild Hunt Bedlam Morris troupe were told to ‘stop making a din’ during a performance outside The White Lion pub in Warlingham, Surrey.
The folk dancers were performing in spooky costumes for a free Halloween show outside the 15th century pub to an audience of around 30 customers, but were cut short after just six dances.
The group had planned at least 10 other dances, but were interrupted by two police officers who told them to ‘down’ their handkerchiefs and sticks and ‘move on’ as they were causing a noise nuisance.
Despite pleading with the officers to continue their routine – which includes songs like Thor’s Hammer, Maiden Castle and Half a Farthing Candle, they were told to leave in the ‘interest of community relations’ last Tuesday.
Morris dancer David Young, who has been dancing with the troupe for the past seven years, said he was disgusted that folk dancers were treated ‘like yobs’. The 69-year-old said: ‘We did six dances and then, at about 9pm, we went in to have a drink before going back out to perform again. ‘The next thing we know, two policemen arrived. They said, in the interest of “community relations”, we think you should stop dancing.’
He told the Croydon Advertiser newspaper: ‘You would think the police would have let us carry on. ‘It’s the first time we’ve encountered anything like it. ‘We felt treated like yobs. But we’ve got ex-oil executives, business owners and a school secretary in our group.
‘We just feel aggrieved that something that has such a long history in the country, at a time when it is hard to keep the old traditions alive, should not be allowed.’
The respected troupe, which perform in masks and flamboyant costumes, performed at the Tower of London’s Ceremony of the Keys – a 700-year-old tradition in which the tower is locked up for the night – in September this year to celebrate the group’s 21st anniversary.
Martin Saunders, 54, who was watching the dancing last Tuesday, said he was ‘appalled’ when they were ordered to stop. He said: ‘The police came along while the Morris dancers were on a break and told them to move on as they were upsetting neighbours with their offensive dance routine.
‘The police officers were a little shame-faced about it all, but really they should have just ignored it and let the dancing continue – it was only just after 9pm.’
One pub worker, who asked not to be named, said: ‘The police came because they got a complaint from a neighbour. ‘I think everyone was a bit surprised really. Morris dancers have been dancing around in the area for years.’
A Surrey Police spokesman said: ‘We received a report from a member of the public about noisy revellers outside the White Lion pub in Warlingham. ‘A neighbourhood police officer attended and spoke to a group.
‘The noise had already stopped and no formal allegations were made and the group left the area without incident.’
In August last year a group of Morris dancers from the Slubbing Billys troupe were booted out of the Swan and Three Cygnets pub in Durham after a barmaid said the bells on their shoes broke the bar’s music ban.
British parish council scraps Christmas lights switch on over health and safety fears villagers may overcrowd the green
Parish councillors have pulled the plug on a Christmas lights switch on ceremony in a decision described as ‘health and safety gone berserk’. The event, which usually attracts several hundred people every year, was axed by councillors in Bishop’s Cleeve, Gloucestershire who feared the village green would become overcrowded. Instead, the lights will be quietly switched without fanfare.
Peter Badham, vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce, said the decision was ‘health and safety gone berserk’. He said: ‘We’re talking about responsible adults bringing children to a community event and nothing more than that. I think it’s a perfect location.
‘In terms of space, we’ve looked at it and we think there’s more than enough room for everybody to come and have a great time. ‘There is nowhere else to go now. The parish council has really let the community down.’
In previous years, the ceremony has been held in a local supermarket car park with Santa’s grotto inside the community centre but this year the Bishop’s Cleeve Parish Council withdrew permission for the use of the centre because organisers failed to ‘sign in’ everyone who entered the building.
To resolve the issue, the chamber, which has organised the switch on for the last 11 years, suggested the event be held on the village green. But the parish council blocked those plans on health and safety grounds.
Chair of the parish council, Peter Lightfoot said: ‘The plans we voted against were using our little green area. The key reason for that is it’s quite a small area and normally we get hundreds to the light switch on.
‘I think the problem is that they approached us with about four weeks to go and essentially held a gun to our head and said “either you let us use the green or it won’t happen”.
‘We just can’t see how they could fit it on that particular piece of land. ‘We’re in favour of the lights. We’re just not in favour of holding it on the parish green.’
Concerns were also raised about event licences, the lack of stewards, the weight of the fairground roundabout, notices for road closures, adequate risk assessment and insurance to parish council property.
Mr Lightfoot said of the plans: ‘We are concerned as we have dry-stone walls, a fountain and a rockery and an adjacent main road. Our concern is that it is just totally unsafe and unsuitable.
Mr Badham said: ‘If the parish council doesn’t want to co-operate, then we will just turn the lights on without the event.
‘The council is supposed to be working with the community, not having all this in-fighting. ‘They have also given us nothing in terms of cash.
‘It’s truly a highlight of the year in the village – it’s a delightful event. ‘It’s all about the community, it’s all about the children and for those children who come, it’s absolutely wonderful and marks the start of Christmas.’
Health and safety guidelines for public events state that organisers need to have crowd management, planning for emergencies and event stewards.
The One-Sided Equation Trick
Drinks industry correspondent Phil Mellows has written a very good piece explaining how the debate about alcohol has departed from proper cost/benefit analysis, and instead become a political numbers game. It’s worth reading in full, but this particular observation jumped out of the page.
One of the odd things that always struck me about the Sheffield modelling study, on which claims for the potential efficacy of minimum unit pricing is almost exclusively based, is the compulsive costing of everything, and it attracts particular attention from Makela.
To take the most staggering example, Makela points out you can’t calculate the cost to society of people with alcohol problems becoming unemployed because someone else comes off the dole and takes the job. There’s a heavy loss to the individual but no loss to society.
Yet in the Sheffield modelling no less than 75% of society’s gain from a 40p minimum price comes from a fictitious reduction in unemployment.
Perhaps minimum pricing will work. Perhaps there is an ethical case for it. But spurious cost savings aren’t going to convince me.
He’s right, of course. Public health is in the habit of grabbing any kind of dubious statistic to suit whichever cause they are advocating for at any one time, so it isn’t surprising to know that Sheffield Uni are engaging in the time-honoured practice of the one-sided equation. There’s more about their flawed ‘science’ here, and a little bit about their incompetence here.
“Spurious cost savings” is a very good description, especially since we’ve seen the same in reverse from the tobacco control lobby.
You see, while Sheffield are declaring that loss of earnings is a total disaster for the country, Policy Exchange in 2010 were pulling all manner of contortions to discount the same in their appalling “Cough Up” report. As I mentioned at the time.
Page 16 concludes that all these smokers giving up, while deletorious to the tobacco industry, will have an impact on the economy of £nil as the money will be spent elsewhere (the economic ‘free lunch’, benefits without corresponding cost). Conversely, however, the cost of cleaning up cigarette litter is valued at £342m with no reasonable assumption that the streets will still need to be swept anyway (unless there are dedicated fag butt sweepers paid £342m pa that I didn’t know about).
You see, both cannot possibly be correct at the same time. What we are seeing is the one-sided equation when it suits them, and a two-sided one when that is the better option for their pre-conceived conclusion. Either Sheffield bods are negligent in not acknowledging that unemployment will lead to societal opportunities elsewhere, or Policy Exchange were negligent in stating that opportunities will occur elsewhere (while also stating that they, err, wouldn’t).
Furthermore, Policy Exchange discounted profits made outside the UK – despite the fact that they are taxed here – and also ignored indirect costs (presumably because they didn’t fit the agenda) in some places but included them in others.
It all points to the one conclusion, though. Public health will twist statistics to their own advantage, including or not including whatever they believe will gull politicians in favour of their case.
They’re not interested in impartial analysis – never have been – just what statistical lies they can get away with.
If it were truly about health, they’d be honest, scrupulous and consistent in their methodology. The fact they aren’t, proves that it isn’t.