Campaign spotlight: Grey pride

Kylie Murray, student and ambassador for Help the Aged and Age Concern's Big Q Campaign

What's the problem?
Older people are not receiving the understanding, compassion, fairness or proper standards of care that are so important. It's time to change this.

How does it affect you?
We're all going to get old one day, but this issue affected my family when my grandfather received abominable care in NHS hospitals and a local authority care home. He died from Clostridium difficile (C. diff) after sloppy nurses didn't wash their hands or even feed him properly: my mum had to do that instead. In the care home, he was abused verbally, physically neglected, and his last weeks were spent suffering needlessly. If this can go on with daily family visitors, I wonder what happens to those with no one to be their advocate. This kind of treatment should be exposed and treated with zero tolerance.

What are you doing about it?
I have become an ambassador for Age Concern and Help the Aged's Big Q campaign because knowledge is power. I hope that by sharing my grandfather's and my family's experience, no one else will have to suffer the distress we did. The Big Q campaign provides a united voice and pushes at the highest levels for sorely needed improvements in care for older people. Old age is something to be enjoyed, not dreaded; about kind treatment, not mistreatment.

How can we get involved?
To share your thoughts on the future of care or to find out more about the Big Q campaign, email, visit Age Concern, or write to us at Campaigns Team, Age Concern and Help the Aged, Astral House, 1268 London Road, London SW16 4ER

This article first appeared in the 02 November 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Mob rule

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No, David Cameron’s speech was not “left wing”

Come on, guys.

There is a strange journalistic phenomenon that occurs when a party leader makes a speech. It is a blend of groupthink, relief, utter certainty, and online backslapping. It happened particularly quickly after David Cameron’s speech to Tory party conference today. A few pundits decided that – because he mentioned, like, diversity and social mobility – this was a centre-left speech. A leftwing speech, even. Or at least a clear grab for the liberal centre ground. And so that’s what everyone now believes. The analysis is decided. The commentary is written. Thank God for that.

Really? It’s quite easy, even as one of those nasty, wicked Tories, to mention that you actually don’t much like racism, and point out that you’d quite like poor children to get jobs, without moving onto Labour's "territory". Which normal person is in favour of discriminating against someone on the basis of race, or blocking opportunity on the basis of class? Of course he’s against that. He’s a politician operating in a liberal democracy. And this isn’t Ukip conference.

Looking at the whole package, it was actually quite a rightwing speech. It was a paean to defence – championing drones, protecting Britain from the evils of the world, and getting all excited about “launching the biggest aircraft carriers in our history”.

It was a festival of flagwaving guff about the British “character”, a celebration of shoehorning our history chronologically onto the curriculum, looking towards a “Greater Britain”, asking for more “national pride”. There was even a Bake Off pun.

He also deployed the illiberal device of inculcating a divide-and-rule fear of the “shadow of extremism – hanging over every single one of us”, informing us that children in UK madrassas are having their “heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate”, and saying Britain shouldn’t be “overwhelmed” with refugees, before quickly changing the subject to ousting Assad. How unashamedly centrist, of you, Mr Prime Minister.

Benefit cuts and a reduction of tax credits will mean the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for “equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of outcome” will be just that – with the outcome pretty bleak for those who end up losing any opportunity that comes with state support. And his excitement about diversity in his cabinet rings a little hollow the day following a tubthumping anti-immigration speech from his Home Secretary.

If this year's Tory conference wins the party votes, it’ll be because of its conservative commitment – not lefty love bombing.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.