Will you put two fingers up to the political "robocallers"?

How to avoid telephone tactics in the run-up to the general election.

While you may seek cheap thrills from telling political campaigners exactly what you think of their parties, you've got no such capacity when you're hit with a so-called "robocall".

The Labour Party found itself in hot water recently when the Information Commissioner's Office said it had breached privacy rules by making unsolicited automated "robocalls" -- voiced by the Coronation Street star Liz Dawn -- to 495,000 people. But the Lib Dems, the Tories and the SNP have used the gimmick, too.

In the run-up to the election, it's likely these and other telephonic tactics will be on the increase.

But fear not, because help is at hand for those who prefer not to receive their campaigning, unsolicited, down the dog and bone. A new website has been set up by the inventor Steve Smith, who made TV history on Dragon's Den last summer when he received offers from all five Dragons on the show for his trueCall nuisance-call-blocking device.

He's set up thepoliticalcallregister.co.uk. If you register on this site, Smith promises to send your details to the main political parties, asking them not to contact you by phone. If they persist, he's pledges, he will name and shame the culprits.

"This is a growing problem and the parties that do it are worse than cowboy telemarketers," Smith said. "These calls can be made for a penny each, so the politicians can very cheaply flood the country with calls. It is extremely intrusive."

Not everyone will be signing up for the service, mind. Smith's company carried out its own research with MORI in October 2008 and found that although most voters would not be happy if a political party rang them and played a recorded message, a sizable 25 per cent clearly quite like the sound of a political robot's voice.

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Jason Stamper is editor of Computer Business Review

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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.