The new Tory MP for Plymouth Moor View, Johnny Mercer, made a moving, passionate, and dynamic maiden speech in the Commons in June Hansard 1 June 2015 column 373, 6.54 pm).

He spoke excellently about the insufficiency of mental health provision in Britain and the duty of government, the state, to care for our armed forces veterans and their families. He said he would be actively engaged with these issues. I am onside for this: his argument is civilised and liberal (and, I think, socialist).

Two passages of his speech stand out:

“I want to speak briefly about my two main missions in this Parliament. First, mental health provision in this country remains poor. There are some extremely dogged and determined characters who fight night and day to improve the services offered to those who struggle with mental health problems. Often, those who struggle with mental health problems cannot shout for themselves and suffer in silence because of the ridiculous stigma placed on mental health. That stigma ends in this Parliament. It is not good enough to have sympathy, empathy even, or simply to understand these issues when they affect someone close to us. It is time to get this right and I look forward to starting this crusade in Plymouth.” (column 374)

“I am sorry to report, however, that there remains a great stain on this nation of ours when it comes to conflict. In 2012, we reached a very unwelcome threshold when, tragically, more soldiers and veterans killed themselves than were killed on operational service in defence of the realm. It goes without saying that there are some genuine heroes in our communities and charities up and down this land who work tirelessly night and day to look after and assist those who have found returning to a peaceful life the biggest challenge of all. A great many of these veterans are not only from Afghanistan.

My key point is this: there has been a fundamental misunderstanding by governments of all colours over the years that veterans’ care is a third sector responsibility and that the great British public, in all their wonderful generosity, support our troops well enough, and any new initiative is met with the response, “Well, there must be a charity for that.” That is fundamentally and unequivocally wrong, and I make no apologies for pointing it out to anyone of any rank or position who may be offended by my candour.

I am not a charity and neither were my men. We gave the best years of our lives in defending the privileges, traditions and freedoms that this House and all Members enjoy. It is therefore the duty of this House to look after them and, crucially, their families when they return.” (columns 374-5)

He goes on to talk baldly but movingly about the deaths of two of his soldiers, one from suicide, one in a terrible combat, lance-sergeant Dan Collins and lance-bombadier Mark Chandler. I urge you to read their stories told by Mercer in Hansard, and google them.

Mercer is right. Mental health provision in England, including Cornwall, is poor and must be improved. Mentally ill people in Cornwall, as elsewhere, can end up in a police cell because of poor provision of acute psychiatric beds in mental health places of safety for them. Indeed, my understanding is that such is the lack of suitable psychiatric beds here that some mentally ill people from Cornwall are sent to Manchester for treatment, away from their family and friends and familiar environment. In these circumstances the psychiatrist treating them has to visit them in Manchester. I am with Mercer all the way: “It is not good enough to have sympathy, empathy even, or simply to understand these issues when they affect someone close to us. It is time to get this right”.


HOUSING ISSUES

29 August 2015

I shall set out here over several posts the issues that I think are important in housing in England and then explore my views on these.

1
Selling and reselling council and housing association homes

Right to buy was introduced by the Tories in 1980: council properties were sold to sitting tenants at a discount. The aim was to enable tenants to become home owners and to replace the sold properties with new affordable ones but replacement on a one-to-one basis has not happened. The discounts were raised in 2012 by the Tory Lib Dem government and the present Tory government proposes to extend the right-to-buy to around 1.3 million people in housing association properties.

What has happened is that about 40 percent of former council homes bought by tenants under right-to-buy are not now lived in by the original buyers; the strong indication is that most have been sold on.

Here are the accounts of the investigations in to the reselling of the homes from the Mirror and the GMB in 2013; and Inside Housing magazine this month, along with a supporting article by the Independent. Other newspapers covered the Inside Housing story.

Read this article in the in the Mirror 5 March 2013 by Nick Sommerlad: “Great Tory housing shame: Third of ex-council homes now owned by rich landlords. The son of a former Tory Housing Minister and Mrs Thatcher aide during the peak years of right-to-buy owns at least 40 ex-council property.”

The GMB investigated Wandsworth in south London “Landlords Own 40% Ex Council Houses” (5 March 2013).

Inside Housing magazine 14 August 2015 “Revealed: 40% of ex-council flats now rented privately” and “Right to Buy to Let”

And here’s the Independent 14 August 2015 reporting the Inside Housing investigation “Right to Buy: 40% of homes sold under Government scheme are being let out privately”

Two tables produced by the government offer interesting data about house building and sales in Cornwall.

Table 253 gives the house completion data for Cornwall for 2014/15: 1880 dwellings, private enterprise and local authority and housing association, were completed and of those 400 were for housing associations, none for the council.

Table 685 shows that between 1979/80 and 2013/14 in Cornwall there were 10 275 right-to-buy sales.


Questions

1 Is it desirable to extend home ownership through discounted sales of council/housing association homes to sitting tenants

2 Is it possible and practical to enforce a one-for-one policy, one home sold, one new one built

3 If it isn’t, are the consequences, a net loss of council/association/affordable housing stock, acceptable

4 There is evidence of reselling and subletting: does this matter and, if so, why

5 How could resellling and subletting be prevented if such prevention is considered desirable,

6 Should right-to-buy be abolished

6 What should or can be done about the right-to-buy houses already resold


MK ENTHUSES 4 PERCENT

22 August 2015

Two by-elections in Pendarves ward in Camborne on 20 August for the county and town councils. The Tories won both seats.

How did the self-styled Party for Cornwall do? How popular and relevant is Cornish political nationalism?

Mebyon Kernow (MK), the nationalist party here, got 85 votes cast in the county by-election and 185 in the town by-election; the MK candidates came 5th out of 7 candidates and 4th out of 4 in the respective elections.

How popular and relevant is MK nationalism to people in Cornwall? The Camborne by-elections suggest Not very. Look at it this way: council by-elections generally don’t inspire people to vote and only a third of electors voted in the Pendarves county and town by-elections; but the Party for Cornwall enthused only around 4 percent of th electors to turn out and vote for it. MK nationalism truly seems unimportant to most people in Cornwall.

You can find the 20 August 2015 by-election results here.

Some other mudhook posts about Mebyon Kernow and elections
Mebyon Kernow bites the dust 12 June 2015

The MK smidgeon 20 February 2015

ROTTEN APPLES

18 August 2015

There was an interesting letter in the Independent the other day. The writer, Roddy Keenan, pointed out that fraudulent behaviour in the City is framed as rotten apples not comprehensive or systemic failure. However, fraud by a benefits claimant is framed as “representative of benefit claimants a whole,” an example of widespread abuse. Rotten apples do not call for all-out reform of the City, systemic benefits abuse supports the abolition of the benefits system. Keenan makes an excellent point.

Here’s his letter
– scroll to No ‘rotten apples’ on benefits, Independent 10 August 2015


The Labour leadership election will be decided one the basis of one person-one vote. Each party member – and each £3 supporter – has a vote. Additionally, constituency parties can decide to support a candidate though as they have no vote this is merely declaratory and symbolic. There are six constituencies in Cornwall and each has a Labour party. This is who they have declared for:

Camborne and Redruth: no candidate declared for
North Cornwall: Jeremy Corbyn
St Austell and Newquay: Jeremy Corbyn
St Ives: Jeremy Corbyn
South East Cornwall: Jeremy Corbyn
Truro and Falmouth: Yvette Cooper.

It is clear that activist members of the party in Cornwall are mostly in favour of Corbyn, the leftist candidate.

The actual votes at constituency meetings have not been made public and of course individual members may vote differently from the constituency declaration. The St Ives party facebook website records that it was a close vote and a second vote was necessary; I expect those who did not vote for Corbyn in the constituency will not when they cast their real vote. Michael Foster, the Labour candidate for Camborne and Redruth in the 2015 general election, has publicly declared his support for Liz Kendall as next Labour leader.


The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has just published its estimates of various population groups in the UK for mid-2014.

The estimated total population of Cornwall was 545 335 and of the Isles of Scilly 2280. The total UK population was 64.6 million.



Should the UK remain a member of the EU?

Yes

That’s the question to be asked about our membership of the European Union and my answer.


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