My nurses paralysed me for life because they thought I was drunk: Paralympian’s account of how a swimming pool accident turned to tragedy when hospital staff botched her treatment… then dropped her
She is the unlikely pin-up of Murderball, or to give it its proper name, wheelchair rugby – the fast, furious and uncompromisingly brutal sport that was the huge hit of last year’s Paralympics.
But now Kylie Grimes, the only woman in the British team in possibly the most terrifying of Paralympic sports, has accepted a multi-million-pound settlement from the hospital she blames for her life-shattering injuries.
A condition of the out-of-court deal was that the sum involved should never be made public. ‘But let’s just say I will be provided for throughout my life in terms of equipment, a carer and so on,’ 25-year-old Kylie told The Mail on Sunday. ‘Maybe I could have got more if I’d taken them to court, but I’m not greedy and I wanted to move on with my life. I’m 85 per cent paralysed and that’s how I’m going to remain for the rest of my life.’
Kylie has no feeling or mobility in her body below her breastbone although with only partial paralysis in her hands and arms, she can manoeuvre a wheelchair.
Yet this remarkable young woman has never shed a tear over her plight. Instead, her rage and frustration is reserved for the staff at Frimley Park Hospital – not far from her home in Farnham, Surrey – whose treatment exacerbated her spinal injuries.
Speaking for the first time about the accident, she recalled it was a warm Friday evening in August 2006 when she went out with a group of friends and then on to her friend Katie Hawkins’s house near her own home.
‘Her parents were away on holiday,’ she said. ‘There must have been a dozen people there, maybe more. We sat around in the garden and then someone suggested a swim in the indoor pool. It was about 1am. I stayed in the shallow end, lying in the water with my feet on the side of the pool and chatting. In time, I got out to change my wet clothes.
‘But instead, on impulse, I walked back into the room, dived into the pool and that’s when it happened. It wasn’t the shallow end, but the dive was badly misjudged. My head hit the bottom of the pool and I felt something snap at the back of my neck. I knew something bad had happened. I was conscious throughout.’
Able to push herself off the bottom of the pool, Kylie broke to the surface. ‘I shouted to my friend Scarlett to grab me. She could tell from my voice that something was wrong. I got her to lie me flat on the side of the pool. “And, whatever you do,” I said, “do not let me move my head.”
‘I was taught first aid at the stables where I kept my horses and I’ve seen a number of nasty accidents. That’s why I knew I had to keep my neck as still as possible. The pain in my neck was unbearable. I also had sharp pins and needles in my right foot, as if it had gone to sleep. I knew I had to get to hospital so I said that someone should call an ambulance.’
It was almost an hour before the paramedics arrived. ‘They couldn’t have been more professional or sympathetic. They listened to what I had to say and then got me on a board with my head in a collar and brace. Frimley Park Hospital was only about 12 miles away but they had to drive slowly so that my neck wasn’t jolted.’
She was put in an A&E side-room. ‘No one came to see me for quite a little while and I was slipping in and out of consciousness before being taken for an X-ray. When I came round, Mum was there.
‘She was trying to find out exactly what had happened. At first, she was told that I’d had a stroke. But I was 18. I’d heard my neck snap as I hit the bottom of the pool so it didn’t seem very likely. Then they told me the X-ray was clear but I didn’t believe them so I asked to see it. They wouldn’t let me. In fact, they were quite stroppy about it. This wasn’t adding up. I felt I wasn’t being taken seriously.’
It quickly became clear the staff had decided Kylie was a Friday night drunken teenager. ‘A succession of people – including a doctor and nurses – came to see me, but they were all saying something different and they didn’t seem to be communicating with each other. Then one of them said that, as the X-ray was clear, the brace could be removed and I could sit up. I started panicking. I shouted, “No, no, no. That’s wrong. You mustn’t move me.”
‘I was stressed and getting quite loud – and that seemed to convince them I’d had too much to drink. I said, “Excuse me, you don’t know me. I’m not drunk. Why don’t you do a blood test and that will prove it?” But the insults kept coming. The next thing, they were accusing me of having taken drugs. I told them I’d never taken drugs in my life but they’d made up their minds. I was getting more and more frustrated and Mum was really upset. But they just wouldn’t listen to me or her or do another scan which I repeatedly asked for.’
As Kylie was still in her wet clothes, her temperature had fallen. ‘That’s when I was told I needed to walk around to help improve my circulation. I knew what they were saying was wrong. That I could do myself more damage. I pleaded with them.’
Two male members of staff grabbed Kylie, one under each armpit, forcing her to sit up. ‘I was crying out, “No way! No way!” Then I passed out and fell off the side of the bed. I blacked out as I hit the floor and that’s the last thing I remember.
‘I was lifted by hoist back on to the bed and left there without a neck brace and with the bed’s back rest slightly raised. In time, I fell asleep with my neck at a funny angle to my head. It lolled to one side because I couldn’t control it.’
It wasn’t until 9am that a consultant came to see Kylie. ‘When he found out what had happened, he apologised for the way I’d been treated. He confirmed that I’d broken my neck and that I was being transferred straightaway to a spinal injuries centre at Stanmore [40 miles away].
‘I was angry. I couldn’t believe that no one had listened to me. The paramedics had told them I had a serious head injury. Anyway, even if I had been drunk – and I most emphatically wasn’t – they should still have taken my injury seriously.
‘When I was first tested at the hospital, I could wiggle my left toes, I still had feeling in my left leg and in the core of my body when they tested me for reflexes. I could even move my right toes and hold a cup in my left hand. But, after they made me sit up and I then fainted and hit the floor, all that feeling went away.’
Her reaction was extraordinarily bold. ‘Later, I told a psychotherapist – and I meant it – that I had no negative feelings about having a spinal injury. I wanted to look to the future and find out what I could do. Hand on heart, I never felt: Why me? I never reflected on the things I used to be able to do but were now not possible. I did miss my horses and that I’d never be able to ride again but I was all about looking forward.’
If she is astonishingly sanguine about the turn her life has taken, she doesn’t feel the same about the way she was treated at Frimley Park Hospital. ‘That’s the one reason I used to have monthly therapy sessions: I kept having the same nightmare. In my dreams, I’d relive the moment when I fell to the floor off the side of the bed. Then I’d wake up with the terrors. It panicked me. I’d wake up screaming.’
Her anger gave her the strength to pursue a claim for compensation through the courts. Initially, she sued Katie’s father, David (the owner of the pool), and the local health authority. The total claim was for £6 million – the lion’s share to come from the hospital.
‘It was a three-way battle between me, David Hawkins and Frimley Park. I didn’t feel comfortable about suing my friend’s father but I was advised I had to eliminate him from the case before I could turn my full attention to the health authority.’
The judge ruled against Kylie in the claim against David Hawkins – on the grounds he wasn’t there at the time of the accident and that Kylie was an adult able to make her own choices.
‘The hospital blamed my injuries solely on the diving accident which clearly wasn’t the case. The tests they’d done on my reflexes when I’d first been admitted to A&E proved that blacking out and falling to the floor must also have contributed to how I am now.’
The second case against the hospital never got to court. She said: ‘It was settled in my favour a few weeks ago – it was like a heavy weight being lifted from my shoulders.’
Kylie first became interested in wheelchair rugby while in Stanmore’s Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. ‘I went to watch some players training in the gym and knew this was something I wanted to do,’ she said. ‘It’s a full-on contact sport. It’s fast, furious and loud. That would have put off a lot of people. Not me. I liked the idea I’d be playing with people all of whom had some form of disability in all four limbs just like me.’
She’s one of only a tiny number of female players. ‘But none of the men treats me any differently,’ she says. ‘There’s only chair contact although you do occasionally get an elbow in the face and I’ve been knocked out of my chair on a couple of occasions. People sometimes ask if I’m ever worried about getting hurt, to which I always reply, “Well, I’ve broken my neck. It can’t be worse than that.”
‘I’ll never be as strong as a man but I’m a good tactician. Being a girl, I think I’m cleverer than the boys.’
Kylie began training with Team GB in the summer of 2011. ‘I’ll never forget the phone call telling me I was in the team for London 2012. I was overwhelmed. Now my big ambition is to be picked for the team going to Rio for the 2016 Paralympics.’ There are also the European Championships later this year.
‘I’m not a great one for speculating about the future. What’s the point? If life’s taught me anything it’s that you don’t know what’s round the next corner.’ Does she never think about having a family of her own one day? She shakes her head. ‘I love being an auntie to my sister’s little boy but I’ve never had maternal feelings.’
What about romance? ‘Oh, I could never have a relationship with one of my team-mates. Anyway, I don’t think it would be allowed. When you’re with them all the time, it’s like being surrounded by lots and lots of annoying little brothers.’
If she prefers not to ponder the future, she’s equally as uninterested in dwelling on the past. ‘I will say this. I don’t regard the accident as the worst thing that happened to me. But the way the hospital dealt with me is what made August 4, 2006, the worst night of my life.’
Surgeon banned by children’s hospital in deaths scandal: Watchdog told of ‘excess’ mortality rates at cardiac unit two years ago
A senior surgeon has been banned from operating at a children’s heart unit facing closure after it was condemned for excessive death rates.
The consultant surgeon at Leeds Children’s Hospital last week agreed not to conduct any more procedures until concerns raised about ‘aspects of his practice’ were investigated.
The hospital, already earmarked to lose its cardiac surgery department under an NHS review, last night refused to name the surgeon – one of only four in the cardiac department – and had released no public information about his agreement to cease surgery until contacted by The Mail on Sunday. A spokesman said it had a ‘duty as an employer’ not to name the surgeon.
Last year, the Children’s Heart Federation said it had ‘major concerns’ about standards of care at Leeds, claiming some babies had been sent home to die and called for an investigation following feedback from parents.
The safety of children’s heart surgery at Leeds was also raised two years ago with the Care Quality Commission health watchdog when a report found there had been 20 ‘excess’ or unexpected deaths over eight years to 2008.
Hospital bosses stressed the new concerns were not related to mortality or morbidity figures or the row over transferring patients. But they admitted the consultant was already under an earlier restriction from carrying out certain procedures.
In a statement, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said: ‘A surgeon in our paediatric cardiac team has agreed not to carry out operations until we have completed an assessment of aspects of his surgical practice. He has been subject to a specific restriction on his practice over a period of time and we review the position on a regular basis.
‘This professional review is being carried out within the trust. It is viewed as best practice and is part of running a safe service.’
Leeds is one of three children’s heart units to be closed after a review in the wake of the Bristol heart scandal in the Nineties in which 35 babies died and dozens more were left brain-damaged. It sparked a sea change in the way mortality rates in hospitals are monitored, especially in cardiac care.
In recent months, a huge legal campaign, backed by publicity, has been mounted to keep heart surgery at Leeds following last year’s Safe and Sustainable NHS review, which recommended all surgery be transferred to better-equipped Newcastle.
The campaign won the first round of a High Court judicial review, which found parts of the NHS consultation had been ‘flawed’. The NHS vowed to continue the closure plans, though another court hearing is due this week.
Last night there were calls for operations at Leeds to be suspended to protect children from sub-standard surgery. One leading paediatric cardiologist said: ‘We don’t want another Bristol where all those children lost their lives. There should be decisive action as there was when there similar problems at Oxford in 2010. Then they just stopped doing surgery and it never resumed.’
A senior expert on children’s heart surgery last night said Leeds General Infirmary ‘ought to put the safety of children first’.
He said: ‘When we were looking at the reorganisation of children’s heart surgery nationally, Leeds was bottom of the table. If there have been two incidents where surgeons have had stop performing certain operations, it would suggest there are serious issues that need addressing.
‘Our number one priority has to be the children needing heart surgery. And they should be getting the best care possible, however far they have to travel to get it.’
The adviser, who worked for former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, said: ‘We have been trying to reorganise children’s heart surgery for four years and are still unable to implement our plans because of campaigns like the one in Leeds. Based on the inspection reports of the various centres, Leeds did not do very well. The case for keeping paediatric surgery at Leeds is an emotional one.
‘One can understand support for a local centre, where some children have done well, but overall, looking at the interests of all patients, Leeds does not meet the standard.
‘On clinical outcomes, they are misguided. What the campaigners have to think about is all results, not individual personal experiences.’
The reorganisation of paediatric heart surgery has been delayed for many years following publication of the Kennedy Report into the Bristol Heart Babies scandal.
Although that report led to the raising of standards, the spread of services over 14 centres is thought to have resulted in children being at risk from surgeons inexperienced in certain types of surgery. Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS Medical Director, said five years ago it would be a ‘stain on the profession’ if paediatric heart surgery wasn’t reorganised.
They put my mum on the death pathway but didn’t tell me, says Toyah: Singer tells how she only found out when overhearing a hospice nurse
She made the decision to move her mother into a hospice to ensure she spent her last days in as much comfort as possible. But singer Toyah Willcox was horrified to discover that 81-year-old Barbara, who was battling cancer, had been placed on the controversial Liverpool Care Pathway without her permission.
Miss Willcox spoke of her shock when she overheard a nurse tell her mother: ‘It’s alright Barbara, the end is near.’
The star discovered that the hospice had been preparing to place her mother on the ‘end of life care’ system.
The LCP typically involves removing the tubes providing a patient with fluids and nutrition and giving them sedative drugs.
She said: ‘For me it was not something I wanted my mother to be told about without me being there to support her. ‘I was not asked or referred to about her last days, so the decision to put her on the LCP was not one I was party to.
‘What unsettles me about the Liverpool Care Pathway is that my mother was told about it whilst she was alone. I shed tears thinking how fearful she must have been at that moment.’
Miss Willcox told nurses that she and her family wanted to manage their mother’s death in their own way.
Hours after the conversation Mrs Willcox became unconscious, and for the next four days her daughter nursed her. She eventually died in her sleep in September 2011 – a week after being admitted to St Richard’s Hospice in Worcester.
Her death marked the end of the complicated relationship between the singer and her mother.
She said: ‘I would have liked to have been friends with my mother. But my memories of her are not particularly happy ones. ‘She actively didn’t like her family and she would say that to us.
‘So she would be quite cruel to us and I think she realised that in the end. She realised that it was wrong.’
Miss Willcox, who chose never to have children, believes the time she spent caring for her mother finally allowed them to bond.
She said: ‘I nursed her for her last two years which was really tough.
‘When she was unconscious I said a lot of what I wanted to say and I’m sure she could hear me. It was the only time I could tell her I loved her . ‘I could never say that to her when she was awake because she wouldn’t have it.
‘They put her on the Liverpool Pathway and she screamed for me. I held her until she died. It was the only time she allowed me to hold her.’
Miss Willcox, often described as the high priestess of punk revealed that she and her husband musician Robert Fripp had found an unusual way of dealing with the loss.
She said: ‘We mime picking the phone up, dialling, and it’s how we deal with it. ‘I say: “Hi Mum, I’m in Bromley, we are in front of 500 women, say hello to Mum. I’m having a lovely time.”’
The singer, whose career has spanned three decades, has released 13 top-40 singles and recorded 20 albums. She is best known for the hits It’s a Mystery, Thunder in the Mountains and I Want To Be Free.
Yesterday a spokesman for St Richard’s Hospice said: ‘We have not received any comments from family members directly. ‘And we do not comment on individual cases.
‘We support the appropriate use of the Liverpool Care Pathway and make it clear that it is not in any way about ending life, but rather about supporting the delivery of excellent end of life care.’
Now it’s the end of the school exchange trip: British pupils banned from foreign homes even though there’s NO evidence of abuse
Hundreds of schools across the country have banned pupils from staying with families on exchange trips abroad because of child protection fears.
British pupils can still visit the home of a French, German or Spanish student, but many are not allowed to stay there overnight. Instead they must stay in hotels or hostels.
And when school parties from abroad arrive in Britain, those students also have to stay in hotels, hostels or halls of residence.
Last week, Ceredigion County Council in mid-Wales became the latest authority to ban its exchange students staying with families while on visits abroad, although officials denied the move had been triggered by any specific incident.
‘This decision was based on safeguarding children and ensuring their safety,’ the council said in a statement.
‘Despite undertaking Criminal Records Bureau checks and utilising family agreements, there was still an unknown element to such arrangements.’
Haydn Davey, headmaster of the 1,300-pupil Penglais comprehensive in Aberystwyth, said: ‘We usually send six to eight people to Japan and about 25 or 30 to Germany every year but there will be fewer trips in future. They are going to be difficult to organise.’
Language teachers are dismayed by the trend as there is no evidence that any child has been abused or molested in a family home during a visit.
Duncan Byrne, deputy head at Cheltenham College and a former chairman of the Independent Schools Modern Languages Association, said: ‘There is a fear of legal action being taken against teachers.
‘Instead, schools are now running sanitised trips where they take 30 children to a chateau in France where they lay on the French experience with some croissants.
‘But pupils are not being immersed in the culture and it’s not the same experience as living with a host family.
‘We must not let excessive caution deny pupils valuable life and learning experiences. Schools have got to stand up for what they believe in and find a way to overcome this.’
The decline of exchange trips has caused such concern in Parliament that Pat Glass, acting chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee, is to propose an inquiry on the issue.
‘There is lots of evidence on how important these visits are for language learning,’ said Ms Glass. ‘It is a case of striking the right balance instead of wrapping pupils in cotton wool.’
A Department for Education spokesman said it was the responsibility of individual head teachers to agree exchange visits which can be ‘very beneficial for children and their language learning.’
Sweet! Just in time for Easter, scientists find chocolate cuts risk of stroke — but only if you’re lying down
A lot of maybes below
Just in time for Easter, it’s the news chocolate lovers have dreamt of – official confirmation that their favourite guilty pleasure can be good for you.
New research shows that eating just a single chocolate bar has a direct effect on the brain and may cut the risk of stroke.
Previous research has shown eating dark chocolate in moderation could be good for you. But the latest study, in the journal Neurology, shows for the first time how chocolate affects blood vessels.
Researchers at Glasgow University measured the speed of blood flowing through the biggest artery in the brain while subjects ate chocolate lying down.
They found that the chocolate had an effect on carbon dioxide levels which affected blood vessels, improved blood flow and, in turn, impacted on brain cells.
Professor Matthew Walters, who led the study, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Consumption of a normal chocolate bar was associated with a change in stiffness of the blood vessels. ‘Our data is consistent with a direct effect of chocolate on the brain blood vessels.
‘It raises the possibility that there is a direct effect of some component of the chocolate on blood vessels. This is plausible because of the flavonoid molecules contained in chocolate.
‘We think a reduction in stroke risk may be caused by chocolate changing how brain blood vessels behave.’
The beneficial flavonoids, found in the cacao plant and others, are antioxidants that contribute to the prevention of heart disease.
However, chocolate also has a high sugar and fat content which can cause obesity – a definite risk factor for strokes.
Tom Solomon, professor of neurology at Liverpool University, said: ‘We have to take the findings with caution.’
Global Warming Policy Foundation Accepts Royal Society Offer For Meeting
It is worth going to the original of the press release below and reading the letters linked there. Sir Paul is an angry man and makes some ill-founded assertions — which Lord Lawson refutes in his letter. Warmists have good reason to be angry, of course. Reality is very unkind to them. It will be interesting to see if the offered meeting happens. I predict not. The GWPF would just have to put up the formidably well-informed Lord Monckton as a questioner and any Warmist would run a mile — JR
London, 25 March: On behalf of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Lord Lawson has accepted an offer by Sir Paul Nurse, the President of the Royal Society, who has offered to arrange a meeting between the GWPF and climate scientists.
In a recent letter to Lord Lawson, the GWPF chairman, Sir Paul suggested that the Foundation needed more mainstream and expert climate science advice and offered that the Royal Society “would be happy to put the GWPF in touch with people who can offer the Foundation informed scientific advice.”
In his response, Lord Lawson writes that he is “happy to accept your offer to arrange a meeting and look forward to hearing from you about this.”
“I hope this marks the start of a more productive dialogue with the Royal Society,” said Dr Benny Peiser, the Director of the GWPF.
Letter By Sir Paul Nurse to Lord Lawson
Letter By Lord Lawson to Sir Paul Nurse
see also: Lord Lawson’s initial letter to Sir Paul Nurse
Challenge to John Beddington’s Climate Alarm
The UK Government’s chief scientist has warned time delays in the climate system means that greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere now will determine the weather the world experiences for the next 25 years. The head of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), however, said he is sceptical about anyone being able to predict what the weather would be like in the future
Sir John Beddington said climate change is one of the things he has been trying to bring to the Government’s attention but believes it is not talked about enough. He also noted the climate and weather we’re experiencing now comes from greenhouse gases that were in the atmosphere 25 years ago.
He said the international community’s failure to agree binding targets for cutting carbon emissions meant problems were being stored up for the future. He told BBC Radio 4: “They may reach agreement and they may start to reduce greenhouse gases in the next five years, or it may be a little longer. But they are still climbing and when that increase is reversed, we will be left with the weather and the climate for the next 25 years from whenever that happens.”
Sir John added: “You can think about mechanisms… carbon dioxide, carbon capture and storage, those things are very withdoing. But I kind of emphasise more on the time delays. I think the key here is this is sort of a simplistic way of thinking about it, that’s a nice indicator. But there are other things going on. For example, one of the results of the climate analyses is saying we do except more variability and we are seeing more variability… The Arctic is likely to be warming more than other parts of the planet. So I think that the issue in a sense needs to be taken out of a very simple, simplistic thing.”
He said the world faces huge problems of food, water and energy security as global population increases, which will be inevitable in the near future.
The head of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), however, said he is sceptical about anyone being able predict what the climate would be like in the future.
Director Benny Peiser said: “No one knows whether next winter will be warm or cold or average, no one knows whether next summer will be hot or wet or dry. It’s very, very difficult to make long-term predictions and therefore, I remain rather sceptical about the reliability and accuracy of these kind of speculation. They are pure speculation, they are not based on any hard facts, it’s an assumption.”
Dr Peiser added setting an international target would be the only way to limit emissions. However, he said that would not happen as it would mean countries like China and India would have to stop exploiting fossil fuels.
“It would mean to stop their economic growth and development. They can’t afford that. The negotiations have been going on for 20 years and they have been against it. So just because John Beddington says Government should take action doesn’t mean anything for them. It’s business as usual… They are using cheap energy because it’s the only way to develop”, he said.
He suggested Governments need to spend more money on preparing for extreme weather conditions and be more resilient.
“The only realistic and pragmatic approach to the issue of climate change and extreme weather events like droughts or flooding is to make countries throughout the world more resilient so that they can cope better. If you can heat your home in the cold winter, then that’s not a big problem. If you can cool your home in a hot summer, then that’s not a problem. If you have houses that can withstand storms, then we don’t have a problem.
Warmist loses a bet
Oliver Letwin, David Cameron’s chief policy adviser, has conceded defeat in a £100 climate policy bet with Nigel Lawson which they had agreed four and a half years ago.
Towards the end of a climate debate between the two Conservative heavy-weights in the July 2008 issue of Standpoint, the following exchange took place:
Oliver Letwin: Nigel can’t know whether there is going to be a successor to Kyoto.
Nigel Lawson: Well, look, there’ll be an international agreement in the sense that there will be platitudes. The acid test is: will there be an agreement to have binding cutbacks for all participants on their carbon emissions? Instead of arguing about it, we could have a wager on it.
Oliver Lewtin: I’d be very happy to have a wager, and I offer you a £100 bet that before either of us is dead, whichever is the first — our estates can pay — we will see a very substantial agreement on carbon reduction.
Nigel Lawson: But I don’t think I want the bet to be “in my lifetime” because I’d like to get the £100. I’m sorry it’s such a modest amount you’re prepared to wager — it shows how unconfident you are — but I would like to be able to collect before I die. So I think we should say “by the time Kyoto runs out”, because there is meant to be no hiatus; there is meant to be a successor to Kyoto. So “by 2012 we will have the agreement” — maybe I’ll die before then, of course —but 2012 is the acid test.
Oliver Letwin: On the same basis, Nigel, I’m perfectly willing to take that bet too. The reason I’m willing to take the bet is that I know that the only way it can be made to happen is if we try to make it happen and if we build up the moral authority to make it happen by taking the steps ourselves.
The original Kyoto agreement which set binding CO2 emissions targets for 37 developed nations only ran out on the 31st of December 2012. There has been no new international agreement on CO2 emissions reduction, let alone a ‘substantial’ one. In the meantime, Canada, Russia and New Zealand have officially abandoned the Kyoto Protocol while Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan have threatened to abandon it as well.
Oliver Letwin has now conceded that Lawson has won the bet.
Lord Lawson comments:
“I made the bet because I knew I would win. It has always been blindingly obvious that the positions of Europe, the United States and China were much too far apart for a truly global successor to Kyoto to be negotiable.”
“Oliver Letwin is one of the nicest people in politics, and one of the cleverest. It is, however, disconcerting that UK climate change policy – which makes no conceivable sense in the absence of a binding global agreement – has been based on the advice of someone so totally divorced from any understanding of practical realities.”
New immigrants to Britain told: You must pay to see a GP – and will move to the back of the queue for council homes
Immigrants will be forced to pay to visit a GP and be banned from getting council houses for up to five years after they settle in Britain.
The moves, to be signalled by David Cameron this week, mark a new hardline stance on immigration aimed at reviving Tory fortunes.
The Prime Minister intends to introduce legislation on both issues in the next few months, despite the likelihood of strong opposition from Labour MPs.
The measures are to be rushed through to stop Bulgarians and Romanians being allowed free access to the UK next January.
A senior source said: ‘The PM wants the immigration system to back people who work hard and do the right thing. He is determined to bring an end to the situation where people can come to the UK and get benefits and public services without putting anything in.
‘He is opposed to the “something for nothing” culture of some people who come here from abroad and jump the housing queue of deserving local families who have lived in an area for years and paid taxes.
‘We want to remove any expectation that new migrants can expect the taxpayer to give them a home on arrival.’
Earlier this month, Nick Clegg chaired a Home Affairs Cabinet Committee to examine plans to deter EU migrants from coming to Britain by slashing benefits without breaching discrimination laws.
They examined options to restrict access to housing and welfare, and introducing an ‘entitlement card’ for all EU citizens.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is also looking at proposals to restrict access to services by introducing a tighter ‘habitual residency test’.
At the same time, the Home Office has been examining ways to bar migrants from Romania and Bulgaria from using NHS hospitals if they come to Britain without a job.
People who have lived in the UK for the past year can get free treatment at hospitals, while those who are here for a shorter time are charged.
However, foreign patients can use GPs’ surgeries without charge.
The Government review has looked at whether the system applied by hospitals should be extended to GPs.
Doctors’ leaders have suggested that Ministers should introduce a system under which patients who cannot provide proof of residence have to pay for treatment.
However, the British Medical Association has advised its members not to make any checks on residency because ‘there is no obligation on them to do so’ – and it could leave them open to allegations of discrimination.
They have called on ‘other bodies’ within the health service to make judgments about someone’s eligibility for care to avoid putting doctors in a difficult position.
GP practices have been placed under a growing burden by the requirement to provide free emergency treatment and immediate necessary treatment for up to 14 days to any person within their practice area.
EU citizens from outside the UK have the same rights to free NHS treatment as British residents when they take up residence here, either as temporary migrant workers or as permanent residents.
At the same time, nearly one in ten council houses and ‘social housing’ go to foreign nationals, a 30 per cent rise in four years.
The new rules are intended to force town halls to introduce a ‘local residency test’ before letting families join the list for a council home.
They will have to wait a minimum of two and a maximum of five years to join the list, depending on the availability of houses.
Local authorities are currently free to impose such restrictions, but many choose not to.
Three cheers for the Scottish football fans fighting back
How Scottish football fans are resisting the state’s violent clampdown on their speech and behaviour
Last Saturday, around 200 supporters of one of Glasgow’s two big football clubs, Celtic, attempted to march along Glasgow’s Gallowgate to Celtic Park before the game against Aberdeen, in protest against police harassment and victimisation. Within seconds, they were met by a massive force of Strathclyde Police, more than 200 officers dressed in yellow fluorescent jackets, with batons drawn. This force was supported by 30 police vans, scores of other vehicles, mounted police on horseback, dog units, a police helicopter and a camera surveillance team.
As police waded into the crowd, making 13 arrests, they knocked several young fans, and at least one elderly fan, to the ground. In one video clip, posted on YouTube, four burly officers can be seen forcing a young fan flat on his stomach with his face pushed into a puddle. As passing fans tried to film this brutal treatment, they were threatened with arrest for daring to film police action. Unfortunately for Strathclyde Police, videos of Saturday’s protest have nonetheless been posted on social-media sites, showing various incidents of ill-treatment.
The supporters targeted at the weekend are members of the Green Brigade (GB), a noisy, radical and pro-Irish republican section of the Celtic fanbase. Their refusal to stop singing pro-IRA songs, which some people find offensive, has earned them enemies in high places. They are despised by Scotland’s SNP government. GB had announced that it intended to march against police harassment and the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act 2012, which restricts what fans can sing, shout and do at games. But before they could set off, police moved in to stop them in a military-style operation. The latest examples of police brutality come on the back of lawyers claiming that many fans have been mistreated under the new football legislation.
Strathclyde Police regularly treat Celtic fans, and GB in particular, as scum. However, the police are not used to having to defend or account for their actions in the media. In this respect, their behaviour on Saturday backfired badly. One of Scotland’s leading legal figures, Brian McConnachie QC, publicly condemned the police, even talking of a ‘police state’. He also cast doubt on the police’s official version of events, pointing out that the huge numbers of officers who arrived on the scene armed with cameras, batons, a helicopter and dogs were clearly not, as the police had claimed, just spontaneously responding to reports of a large gathering.
McConnachie was right to challenge the police’s ludicrous version of events. This was a premeditated act of police intimidation. Responding to the police attack, a Labour member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), Neil Findlay, noted: ‘As predicted in parliament, the Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill is being used to criminalise working-class young men, with Old Firm [Celtic and Rangers] fans singled out.’ Another Labour MSP, Michael McMahon, ridiculed the police. He highlighted the irony of football fans marching against police harassment and then being met by the very victimisation and heavy-handed treatment that they were complaining of. MSP Hugh Henry accused the SNP justice minister, Kenny MacAskill, of introducing legislation that was being used to harass Celtic and Rangers fans on a daily basis.
For over a year now, I have documented incidents of police harassment of Celtic fans. One year on from the introduction of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, it is clear that those in power feel increasingly emboldened in their targeting and harassment of supporters. We have seen dawn raids and arrests of teenage fans, while other fans have been stopped at airports or questioned at their place of work. Social gatherings have been broken up or threatened, as the authorities have mounted all-out assaults on any resistance to the new law.
GB has borne the brunt of this intimidation because its members refuse to be told what they can and cannot sing. They are loathed by SNP politicians and police alike, precisely because they refuse to comply with the latest diktat on how fans should behave at a football match. Ironically, the very thing that makes GB seem dangerous to the authorities is the same thing that makes them attractive to growing numbers of fans: a sense of resistance and a refusal to be treated like naughty schoolchildren.
The emboldened and intolerant authorities are now being put on the backfoot. Alongside GB’s fightback, an umbrella group called Fans Against Criminalisation (FAC) is coordinating a series of public protests, the biggest of which will be a mass rally at George Square in Glasgow in early April. FAC says ‘the horrific scenes on Saturday represent a ratcheting up of the assault on the civil liberties (and bodies) of Celtic fans…’
People who care about freedom, and the basic right to attend a football match without being hassled by the police, should support the fightback by groups like GB and FAC. They are showing fans everywhere that it is possible to organise against authoritarian policing. They are a reminder that that we do not have to accept censorship of our songs or seek approval for the banners we wave. Over-the-top policing and petty restrictions on our behaviour are not natural; they are not just everyday things that we should accept as fate. They are things that we can, and should, overthrow.