October 29, 2011 § Leave a comment
My third blogpost for The Huffington Post states this Government must keep to its rhetoric of being’ the Greenest ever.’
October 16, 2011 § Leave a comment
This is the text of the speech I delivered yesterday, at the Liberal Democrats’ East Midlands regional Conference, in a debate on a motion on the NHS Bill currently going through Parliament:
“I’m speaking in support of the motion and in support of a National Health Service which remains free at the point of use and that isn’t compromised by private providers-whose ultimate aim is profit-making and not the care and well-being of patients.
Now we need a thriving private sector in the country-that helps to create the jobs that will re-boot our economy.
So, I’m not some statist Labour-style nationaliser.
But, we’re not talking about business or industry.
We’re talking about the NHS-people’s lives; life and death.
I believe-as the motion states-that ‘the underlying Conservative agenda is the fragmentation and privatisation of the NHS, with the Secretary of State and the NHS no longer delivering healthcare but simply buying it in the ‘market.”
Now, I pay tribute to the work of Nick Clegg, Paul Burstow and our other Ministers and MPs for the changes they’ve been able to secure since our party made its views clear on the NHS Bill at Spring Conference.
But we need to see further changes.
We certainly need to see-as the motion states-‘the restoration of the duty of the Secretary of State to provide or secure the provision of healthcare services, and the reinstatement of the power of the Secretary of State to delegate his functions to NHS Commissioners and to direct them as necessary.’
If not I believe there’s an accountability gap between politicians and patients.
We can be proud that it is Liberal Democrats in Government-and activists across the country-who are standing up and making their voices heard in support of upholding what’s best about our NHS and why we must never go down the American route of ‘if you can pay for it you’ll be treated, if you can’t then, sorry, tough luck.’
I, particularly, pay tribute to the work of The Social Liberal Forum-of which I’m a Member-and of Dr Evan Harris and Baroness Shirley Williams for leading the charge to uphold these values of universal healthcare, free-at-the-point-of-use, where what matters is the care and treatment you receive and not your ability to pay.
That was the National Health Service envisioned by that great Liberal, William Beveridge, and it’s the National Health Service, this generation of Liberal Democrats will fight to retain.
Labour’s hypocrisy on this-as on tuition fees-is nauseating in its apparent lack of self-awareness and of shame.
They introduced fees when they said they wouldn’t and, let us not forget, did that not due to the compromises of coalition but with a massive Parliamentary majority.
They too, in effect, introduced private competition in the NHS and are now up in arms when the Tories follow their lead.
As our brilliant President, Tim Farron, has said, ‘Labour spent thirteen years in Government behaving like Tories, and a year in a bit now in Opposition behaving like Trots-and deserve to be derided and ridiculed for both.’
I also agree with the motion when it says that: ‘Liberal Democrat MPs and Peers should not be whipped to support Conservative policies that go beyond the Coalition agreement and which have been rejected by our Conference.’
Of course Coalition must mean a certain level of compromise, but we shouldn’t be expected to support what goes beyond the Coalition agreement and what is fundamentally against our principles as a party.’
I say keep the NHS free-at-the-point-of-use and don’t go any further in introducing private competition.’
October 2, 2011 § 6 Comments
If you are a New Labourite, a Labour moderate, your party has now deserted you.
After last week’s lurch to the Left your party is now headed for the electoral buffers, taking on any business that doesn’t meet its unspecified standards (though, apart from a couple of examples, no Minister-interviewed on TV-could seem to name a company that would fall under the title of ‘predators), still not apologising in any kind of meaningful way for leaving the country with-as Liam Byrne famously admitted-‘no money left.’
A party which feels able to easy boo and hiss at the mention of the name of its most succesful and centrist leader is no longer one that can be a home for moderates.
Whatever our problems with Tony Blair (and some of his policies were unforgivable) there’s no doubt that he was a pragmatist and that he at least attempted to govern from the pragmatic centre ground…and-in electoral terms at least-was incredibly successful.
A party which can cheer the likes of Kinnock and Brown-but boo Blair-is a party which is now rusted on its Left-leaning axis.
There is now only one party which is in and represents the radical centre in British politics: The Liberal Democrats.
A party which is economically Liberal on financial matters and socially Liberal on others is, I would argue, the best example of what Mr Blair might once have called ‘The Third Way.’
So, if you’re one of those who is a centrist pragmatist, someone on the centre-left, Labour is clearly no longer for you.
I can assure you, you’ll find a very warm welcome in the Lib Dems.
I look forward to hearing of many defections in the coming weeks, months and years.