• Features,  Journalism,  Politics

    Stories of the Streets

    This article initially appeared in the Guardian in July 2018. ‘Give a homeless person a camera and they will see the city in a different way’ “You’re worth nothing,” Colin’s stepfather used to tell him as a child. Even now, sleeping rough on the streets of Manchester, the words haunt him; as a child he started believing it himself, and is still racked with self-doubt. It’s easier not to think what demons might be plaguing a person sleeping rough. Much simpler to keep walking, pass them by: out of sight, out of mind. It’s the natural response, says Alex Greenhalgh, co-founder of social enterprise People of the Streets. “The norm…

  • Journalism,  News,  Politics

    Corbyn vows fightback

    When Jeremy Corbyn came to address a rally in Mansfield, I caught up with him and interviewed him for the Nottingham Post. It was the first time Corbyn had been in Mansfield since the Labour Party had lost the seat to the Tories – for the first time in a century. Corbyn promised the crowd that the seat would be won back. Jeremy Corbyn vows to win back Mansfield during rally Labour lost the seat for the first time in June Jeremy Corbyn spoke at the rally in Mansfield (Image: Nottingham Post) Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to fight to win back the Mansfield constituency by giving young people the hope…

  • Healthcare,  Journalism,  News,  Politics

    Yes Mr Hunt, this is unacceptable

    One of the few positives to note about Jeremy Hunt’s perennial tenure at the Department of Health, is that he’s actually been there long enough to witness his own policies, and rhetoric, unravel. Take the decision last year to scrap bursaries for student nurses. At the time it was obvious to seemingly everyone outside of the Cabinet that encumbering future nursing students with huge private debts would harm applications and jeopardise recruitment, not free up 10,000 new places as was spun at the time. Now the figures are bearing those warnings out – applications for nursing and midwifery training places for September are down 23% year on year. Of course,…

  • Access to medicines,  Big pharma,  Healthcare,  Journalism,  News,  Politics

    Vaccine “free for all” market

    This article  first appeared on the newstatesman.com in March 2016 Take a look at the World Health Assembly’s action plan on tackling the barriers to global vaccination, and time and time again, the almighty dollar comes up. The resolution, passed by all 193 countries present at the Assembly last summer, raises deep concerns about the “increased financial burden of new vaccines”; that “many low- and middle-income countries may not have the opportunity to access newer and improved vaccines, particularly because of the costs related to the procurement and introduction of these vaccines”; and that “globally immunization coverage has increased only marginally since the late 2000s”. Behind the resolution, on the…

  • Journalism,  Politics

    Why didn’t Cameron give Dan Hodges a peerage?

    “It’s not the professional Labourphobia and ceaseless smearing of the Left that bothers me. It’s the total unwillingness to hold the Conservatives to account”. Andrew Lansley got one, and his Health and Social Care Act has been one of the most catastrophic pieces of legislation in modern politics. It’s been condemned by the medical profession, activists, campaigners, even Conservative MPs, and given the Tories multiple headaches. If it wasn’t for such an indifferent electorate, it might have been much worse. So surely Dan Hodges, who has done more to distract the public from such sins and help the Tories back into power than almost anyone, should have been kicked something?…

  • Journalism,  Politics

    ‘The triumph of Corbynism is the death rattle of New Labour’

    This piece appeared in the New Statesman on August 18th 2015 Perhaps the ultimate tribute to Tony Blair is that his trademark brand of politics, the mastery of style-over-content, is alive and well in the Labour Party. For a while it wasn’t the third way: it was the only way. The ease with which New Labour swaggered onto the top table of the party, and then into Downing Street, was testament to its ability to beguile the left and the right with the same conjuring trick.  How have we come from that dazzling show to this crude spectacle of tearing our own insides out in public? All of Labour’s gory…

  • Healthcare,  Journalism,  News,  Politics

    The quiet exodus of GPs

    This article appeared in the New Statesman in July 2015 George Osborne quietly slipped into his budget some news that the medical staff perhaps dreaded, perhaps didn’t even imagine was possible: the public sector pay freeze will continue. For another four years. I’ll just let that sink in. For months, doctors and nurses have been begging the public and the government to take notice: pressure on the wards is building to dangerous levels. Medical staff are overworked, under-appreciated and underpaid, and now there’s this insult to injury – a further slap in the face from a Chancellor unwilling to reward their graft with a share of the recovery, for which they…

  • Disability,  Healthcare,  Journalism,  Politics

    The blind faith of the right (+what’s left for the left)

    ‘Sanctioned’ by Dani Lafez. Dani’s artwork is for sale here – proceeds go to arthritis research.  The blind faith of the right  (and what’s left for the Left)   Dani is a very poorly lady. Severe rheumatoid arthritis is attacking her spine, she has a snapped lumbar ligament, and last week after a gruelling eight needles were injected into her vertebra, an x-ray revealed that a hoped operation to fuse two of the disks in her back wouldn’t be possible because the surrounding disks have disintegrated too much. At the age of 26 she is facing the rest of her life taking morphine, by 40 she is likely to be…

  • Healthcare,  Journalism,  News,  Politics

    Privatisation is unravelling

    …before our eyes. http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/01/nhs-privatisation-experiment-unravelling-our-eyes As Circle Holdings, the first private firm to manage an NHS hospital, looks to leaving its contract, we have a depressing example of how privatisation can go badly wrong. Hinchingbrooke Hospital is to lose the private firm that runs it. Photo: YouTube screengrab What a difference (less than) a year makes. In a press release back in February last year [3], private healthcare company Circle Holdings spun that it had, “transformed services at Hinchingbrooke”. The hospital, it boasted, “is now secure for the future”. Which would make the news today that it was walking away two years into a 10-year contract to run Hinchingbrooke – the UK’s only…

  • Healthcare,  Journalism,  News,  Politics

    The root of the A&E crisis

    lies far beyond the wards… http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/01/real-root-ae-crisis-lies-far-beyond-wards How restful it must be to be Jeremy Hunt. Lesser health secretaries would regard the NHS’ worst ever A&E performance [3] happening on their watch as a damning indictment. More insecure an operator might take the calling of an urgent summit [4] to discuss the unfolding crisis as a sobering reflection on their own ability. Perish the thought. Outcry from Labour over the alarming figures is merely “an example of the politicisation of the NHS that people find so distressing,” he said, during an urgent question session called today by Labour in the hope of prising some answers from him. Since the figures were…

  • Features,  Healthcare,  Journalism,  Politics

    The marketisation myth

      NHS reform and the hollow marketisation myth http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/10/nhs-reform-and-hollow-marketisation-myth A metamorphosis is taking place; a mutation of the NHS from a public service into a lucrative marketplace. by Benedict Cooper [2] Published 30 October, 2014 – 11:42 When the chief executive of NHS England produces a 39-page, 15,000-word rescue plan [3] for the health service that, a senior doctor later told me, “doesn’t even mention the real problem in the system”, you know something is up. Not that it’s any great surprise. Simon Stevens isn’t likely to agree with my source that the real problem in the NHS is a prevailing ideological dogma that “private is good and public is bad” among top brass, nor that the aggressive marketisation programme currently underway is all based on a myth. The private healthcare man turned NHS-saviour has…

  • Features,  Healthcare,  Journalism,  News,  Politics

    Open Democracy: Our NHS

    I have written various stories for Our NHS, part of Open Democracy, a progressive news site dedicated to preserving democracy and fighting for social justice. These can be viewed here: Labour’s Andy Burnham moves to strike out “Hospital Closure Clause” Benedict Cooper 7 March 2014 Labour confirmed yesterday that it would be staging a last ditch attempt in parliament on Tuesday to strike out the deeply unpopular “Hospital Closure Clause”. Government brushes aside NHS Free Trade Treaty Concerns Benedict Cooper 27 February 2014 MPs raise concerns about the impact the forthcoming trade treaty, TTIP, will have on the NHS – but Minster Without Portfolio Ken Clarke says it will make…

  • Features,  Journalism,  Politics

    Driven to suicide by payday loans

    WHEN DANNY took out his first payday loan he had no idea what a terrible cycle he had just stepped into. A cycle that would see him make repeated suicide attempts as he got deeper and deeper into debt and found himself eventually struggling with a sickening 30 different loans at once. Danny is no stranger to suffering. Growing up family life was so dangerous that at the age of 12 he was taken into care, and placed in the tough new environment of a boy’s care home. “I had nobody there to support me,” he tells me. “I didn’t have much family support. It was me on my own…

  • Journalism,  Politics

    Life between the rock & the hard place

    Update: this piece was featured on the Huffington Post UK, here. The police were on alert. Above hearts-and-minds grins, vigilant eyes followed a disparate procession as it streamed into the community hall on a still, pale evening in May. A week before, almost to the hour, a young soldier’s death had sickened a nation. But he had not bitten the dust of the Helmand desert. Lee Rigby fell on a far more ominous corner of the world, a hard grey London street, mowed down and hacked to death in broad daylight by two men wielding carving knives. Almost as soon as the news had hit, the words ‘terrorism’ and ‘Islamist’…

  • Politics

    One from the archives… ‘Islamophobic Britain’, LeftLion magazine, July 2006

    The tensions in the UK over the past two weeks, and the subsequent backlash against Muslims in Britain is distressing, but, as sobering reading of an article I wrote in 2006 shows, it’s hardly new….     A year on from 7/7 07/07/2006 Ben Cooper examines the effects of 7 July 2005 a year on…   Twelve months ago four young men plunged an entire faith into turmoil. Since the London bombings Islam has been thrust into centre stage to face scrutiny, persecution and rage. Fear, intolerance, extremism, and terrorism are the most lasting images of Islam reflected in the national media, which at times has chosen to ignore the…

  • News,  Politics

    The wet dream is over

    The grey skies over Britain were a fitting tribute to Maggie as she sucked a final helping of Britain’s resources down with her into the darkness. It was a gratuitous day that wrapped up a fortnight of a very modern, cynical type of grief. In reality her death changed nothing: the Lady was long gone, but it said so much more. About the world she has shuffled off, the grey she leaves behind. Those who still revere Thatcher choose only to look at what came before her, the rest of us see what has followed. Tweet

  • Journalism,  Politics

    The protest movement doesn’t have a monopoly on ethics

    Three men stand on a pavement in London looking reluctantly at the scene in front of them. A pile of maybe 20 bulging sacks of waste sit festering at the edge of the Occupy camp off City Road, stewing in the morning sun. Not that these men are dismayed about them being there. It is after all their job to take them away, and a job they do day in day out all around the city. These council workers aren’t annoyed they’re there; it is that once again the protestors have welched on the deal. The agreement is, they told me: we give you the refuse sacks if you load…

  • Journalism,  Politics

    The gap between the rich and poor is widening before our eyes

    It was the usual haughty performance from the Prime Minister at PMQs. Cameron looked delighted at his own ability to deftly avoid questions on child poverty and public sector suffering, as his party and the liberal democrats next to them chortled and brayed at every witty evasion. There were even a few heart-warming jokes about honourable members’ facial hair grown for Movember. Top fun! Has there even been a more potent example of being out of touch? The anger from Ed Miliband and the Labour opposition, an inoculation-strength dose of the real bad blood that has been let all over the UK, was rejected, ignored, mocked, scorned. Tweet