Today is day 1 of my holiday. I am sitting writing the blog at the House in Scotland. Its dark, but the early morning sky is already showing signs of the days awakening. I have been looking forward to the weeks break, and to be frank, I was ready for it too. The last week was a real mixture in terms of issues, news and points to ponder. For example, Tony Blair, former Labour Prime Minster was named as being one of the top gay icons of the last 30 years by Gay Times. The German National Ethics Council voted to end the criminalisation of incest between siblings (the Max Planck Institute estimates that 2 - 4% of Germans have had an incestuous experience), and the week was also dominated by the aftermath of the resounding No vote in the Scottish Independent Referendum.
UK Political Party Conference Season of course, which doesn't help. Yesterday UKIP, who the Guardian newspaper described as having a 'raw energy' that is missing from the main establishment parties, finished their conference. As well as the demands to leave the EU (we love Europe, but not the EU) scrapping tax for those on the minimum wage, there were calls for a revival of the coal mining industry, a better deal for ex-servicemen and women, and for NHS nurses. I am sure it pure coincidence but the UKIP conference was held in Doncaster, the Labour leader, Ed Miliband's parliamentary constituency.
Labour Party Conference, held in Manchester, thankfully without the 'ring of steel' that protected the Conservative conference when that was held in Manchester last year. Like UKIP, the Labour Party was also setting out their plans for the NHS. It was a £2.5bn 'time to care' fund which could result in 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs, 5,000 more care workers and 3,000 more midwives by 2020. It’s an interesting ambition. Currently the NHS educates and trains some 22,000 nurses a year. Universities are currently calling for a major review of the funding model underpinning the education for health care professionals. The current model is not financially viable. It’s likely that to get 20,000 additional nurses the UK will once again have to go out to other countries and recruit overseas nurses, with all the potential impact that has for their own health care systems. To become a GP will take 5 years for a medical degree, 2 years of foundation general clinical practice and 3 years specialist GP training = 10 years.
So we shall have to see what they are able to do – of course Labour need to win the next General Election first. The Conservative Party have gone to Birmingham for their conference. The Council Tax payers of Birmingham will be pleased to know that this has cost them a mere £1.48m. The conference is due to start later on today. Like UKIP and Labour, it’s likely that EU (in particular the Court of Human Rights) will feature, as will the NHS, and post the Scotland question, the possibilities for greater devolution and independence for other regions across the UK.
Liberal Democrats are due to hold their party later on in October – in Glasgow (an independent Scotland Yes stronghold) which is about all I can tell you about their conference. I did read of the recent study undertaken by psychologists in the US who suggested that Liberal Democrat party members are a much unhappier than Conservatives. The paper was published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Applied Psychology, so it must be right.
And last week we heard the sad news of the death of a fabulous character whose life was jammed packed full of differences, contradictions, excitement, great highs and lows and above all else, chickens. Deborah Cavendish, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire died aged 94. Visiting her wonderful home (Chatsworth House) and reading her books gives you a glimpse of her life, but I would have really liked to have met her.
One of her sisters married Oswald Mosley; another renounced her privileged background, becoming a communist before eventually becoming a civil rights activist in the US: sister Pam, lived a quiet life in the countryside, and brother Tom was seldom mentioned. Deborah herself published her memoirs in 2010 (Wait for Me) – it’s a great read and full of detail. Her Father didn't send her to school because he disapproved of over educating girls and he thought that hockey would make their ankles fat. She was close to JF Kennedy, was a familiar of Churchill, attended the UKs Queen’s coronation, and apparently had tea with Hitler when she was a teenager. Her husband struggled with alcohol misuse. She is reported as being very relaxed about her husband’s many infidelities saying that 'although he could be difficult at times, he was never boring'. However, her overwhelming interest, right from a young age, was chickens. In my eyes, as the No 1 contender for having the worlds greatest collection of all things chickens (Guinness Book great) she was special. So carry on politicians one and all, me, I am getting off the merry-go-around for a week, and intend to sit in my garden in the House in Scotland and re-read Deborah’s books.