Saturday, 10 March 2012

It's not going to be debated. We're doomed

So Conference is going to debate the Shirley Williams motion in good politburo fashion. I think our party has just committed suicide:(

Friday, 9 March 2012

48 hours to save the NHS, and the Lib Dems.

I know many of my Lib Dem friends dislike Polly Toynbee but I think her article in today's Guardian and their editorial do sum up how important the events in Gateshead over the next 48 hours will be for the future of the NHS and the Lib Dems as a political party.

Toynbee says
Two NHS motions compete at the Lib Dem conference in Gateshead this weekend. Shirley's name is on the one calling for support of the bill that she has so eloquently opposed until now. The other motion, from DrEvan Harris and GP Charles West, seeks to stop it altogether. Shirley's will argue that concessions have effectively removed commercialisation – see her letter. Harris's view, backed by the medical profession, is that the legal duty on commissioners to promote competition remains red in tooth and claw (detailed in his Political Science blog). Will the party rebel as it did before or will her assurances convince? Only half an hour on Sunday has been set aside for this debate, yet that half hour may set the fate of this party, if it abandons this last chance to stop the bill........ 
Plenty of decent Lib Dems went into this coalition, Vince and Shirley among them, but how will they emerge? Claims of minor mitigation are no excuse for all they have voted for. There is a breaking point between a party and supporters that can never be repaired. When, in a year or so, the NHS is in deep disarray with waiting lists soaring, the party will wish it could boast of having voted down the NHS bill in Gateshead this weekend.
The editorial says
 But the party must now recognise that the other side has ratted on the deal that it reasonably thought it had done. There have been worthy advances on public health, but the welcome change of tone on markets was not satisfactorily reflected in the bill. Yes, there was some widening of Monitor's remit, and more recently the restoration of the legal duties on the secretary of state. On closer reading, however, many changes were not what they seemed. Rather like a pompous individual who says "not unlike" when "like" would do, the bill's new mandate for Monitor to "prevent anti-competitive practices" adds syntax without changing the underlying thought. If you doubt the basic continuity, just read the defiant defence of the competitive thrust of the reforms which Mr Lansley recently penned for Health Service Journal; there he compared the nascent market in medicine to that in electronic goods. Lib Dems may half-believe and half-hope that they have changed the design, but the architect himself smiles on with satisfaction as he watches the foundation stones fall into place, exactly where he wants them.....
Delegates may be told that the tweaked bill represents the best deal they could get. Contemptuous Tories, who mutter that with a sixth of the MPs their partners are ripe for cutting down to size, will be thrilled by such talk. The truth is that there were two Lib Dem voters for every threeConservatives in 2010, and the Tories cannot rule alone. If the Lib Dem voice speaks loud and clear, it will count. There may also be claims that it is simply too late say no. Don't believe it. Officials know it's not done until it hits the statute book, so have developed plans B and C. It may even be said that the Lords cannot halt a bill on third reading. In fact, though it has not been done for a while, it is perfectly allowed.

To be clear my first thought in all of this is to protect the NHS but as a life long Liberal I am also concerned by the fate of the party. I do not want an NHS where my GP's first thought is about maximising his profits rather than patient care or my local A&E is run by Halliburton. Although Labour have a lot to answer for in beginning this competition mantra, the NHS over the last few years has reached record levels of satisfaction and is one of the most cost effective health services in the world. If it ain't broke don't fix it. Dr Evan Harris, a former Lib Dem MP has been one of the leaders of the opposition to the bill, he says
...after the so-called "listening exercise", the government made the bill much worse by requiring GPs to promote both choice (and thus competition) and "innovation" above tackling the deep-seated problems of unfair access to healthcare and gross disparities in health outcomes. No Liberal Democrat should support a bill with that order of priority. So while Lib Dem peers have won important concessions, especially in the area of competition law, and while the bill now contains requirements designed to preserve integrated care, it still goes well beyond the coalition agreement...... 
Unless there are more last-minute changes to deliver what the party required, at this weekend's party conference I urge Lib Dems to call for the plug to be pulled on this legislation – for the sake of the NHS.
In a recent poll 57% of Lib Dem members  came out against the Bill and three quarters said it would damage the party's electoral chances, while only 11% of those that voted Lib Dem at the last election support it. Personally I am unaware of any Lib Dem who is in favour of this bill and I know many who are against, a good few of whom will be supporting Winchester Lib Dems motion to ditch the Bill. The membership of the party has been in serious decline over the last year, and many like me have stopped being active. There have been a few high level resignations already, including one of the most knowledgeable and influential figures on the NHS and I am sure that if the party is instrumental in getting this bill on to the statute books many more will resign or sit on their hands. No amount of patronising guff from Clegg or Tim Farron will change that. Going into future elections as the party that saved the NHS or the party that privatised it, will, in my opinion, be the difference between survival or oblivion. 

So my voting colleagues have a total win/win. Vote for the "Withdrawal of the Health & Social Care Bill" to be the emergency motion chosen for debate and then vote for it in the debate, thereby hopefully saving the NHS and the party!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Fawlty Towers or Chelsea Football Club

Two descriptions this morning of Tory controlled Surrey County Council. An ex councillor from Guildford, Chris Ward coined the first witticism and the second was tweeted by the Chertsey Herald. Why? you may ask.

Well they're at it again. When the opposition councillors on SCC want to wind up the front bench (ie the Cabinet) they shout "look behind you," that's where the real opposition lies. Childish I know but...

3 years ago, just before the last SCC elections, Andrew Povey led a palace coup against the then leader Nick Skellett, who had previously stabbed Mr Povey in the back when he was leader. They've got nothing on Macchiavelli these guys. There were wholesale changes to the front bench. Two years on Mr Povey's deputy David Hodges led a revolt that saw him elected as leader, and more wholesale changes. Now less than a year on Mr Hodges has sacked 2 of his closest allies, Cllr Ian Lake and Cllr Denise Saliagopoulos.

 It seems they had started a company called Charterhouse Chancery to offer hospitality during the Olympics

Charterhouse Chancery can arrange packages for visitors to the UK in particular for the London 2012 Olympic Games. The Company is based in Surrey which has excellent connections with London Heathrow and London Gatwick Airports. Surrey's strengths for London 2012 are its proximity to London and the Olympic Park, closeness to Wimbledon for Tennis, it is on the route to the South Coast for the Olympic Sailing and the rowing at Eton Dornay near historic Windsor Castle.

A good bit of Tory enterprise you might say, except that they forgot to declare it as an interest, despite the fact that Mrs Saliogopoulis is Cabinet member with special responsibility for the Olympics and the £750 million of contracts that will be generated in Surrey. Mr Lake said it doesn't matter because the company hasn't traded yet. Hmm.

Full report and interview with Mr Lake on BBC Surrey.

What have the Lib Dems ever done for us?

I am going to publish this without comment (for now). It was published by a senior Lib Dem Mark Pack.

As a matter of fact I'm back.

It's been nearly 2 years since the General Election and my last post. I was pretty despondent after that election and basically withdrew from active politics. I feel betrayed by Nick Clegg and the coalition. It is worth remembering what is in the constitution and the beginning is on every Lib Dems membership card,

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.
I cannot for the life of me understand how any Liberal Democrat could say that what the coalition is doing fits in anyway with this paragraph. I am one of the few who was against the coalition from the beginning but it is becoming more and more clear that grass roots Lib Dems have reached a breaking point.

One of the reasons for resurrecting this blog is that I think we are reaching a critical phase in UK politics. This weekend the Lib Dem conference will try to debate the disastrous NHS bill. It will be a pivotal moment in the history of the party, which may destroy it or revive it. (More in a future post). Next week we will have another Thatcherite budget designed to slash and burn public services and increase unemployment while the deficit continues to grow. In April millions of people will begin to lose benefits in a way that is cruelly designed to inflict most damage on the most vulnerable. In May we will have another round of local elections including the London Mayor. If last May is a guide, the Lib Dems will face another disaster. In the run up to the next election we have Lords' reform, the Scottish referendum and the new constituency boundaries, all with unknown consequences for the political landscape.

As a life long member of the Liberals/LibDems I believe the coalition is an existential threat to the party. I want to collect as much information as possible to provide ammunition to those within the party who want it to survive as a radical 3rd party and not an Orange subset of the Tories. So if you see a story or website that might be of interest please link to it or message me.

I have fought the Tories for most of my adult life so I will be posting about them and the way they are pretty much still "the nasty party."

Finally I will also occasionally post on the environment and transport, two subjects close to my heart.