“We’re talking about the NHS-people’s lives; life and death”

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.’

“This is the most phenomenal opportunity,” says Simon Hughes

February 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

Me with Bill Newton Dunn MEP at regional conference.

(Note: Sorry, have been meaning to post this all week, but have been just so busy it’s had to wait until now. Further to that, my blogging may be patchy for the next weeks-as a result of me campaigning all-out to be elected. Thanks.)

On Saturday (February 18th) I was fortunate to attend the East Midlands regional Spring Conference, which this year was held at Brooke Weston City Technology College in Corby, Northants.

It was a great day; wonderful to meet colleagues I haven’t seen in a while and an opportunity to meet some of my fellow Lib Dems for the first time.

It was only my second regional conference and it was made extra special by getting the chance to see and hear Simon Hughes, our Party’s Deputy Leader, in person.

Simon has long since been a hero of mine and one of my favourite Lib Dem MP’s.

Here’s some of the highlights of what he had to say:

* We’re at an important time internationally-new opportunities for the Middle East and North Africa.

* There’s been positive murmurs from the Government, re Europe-because Lib Dems are part of the Government.

* It’s great to have a Deputy Prime Minister that speaks so many foreign languages; it means, for example, that when Nick goes to Spain and gives a speech in Spanish, people really connect with him.

* Domestically, we’ve had a difficult first nine months; but so would have any Government. Labour would have had to make cuts.

* A minority Tory Government would have been a disaster and led, after a General Election which would have come shortly after, more than likely, to a majority Tory Government.

* Our achievements:

* Fair Taxes; pension link to earnings, increase in Capital Gains Tax, Banking levy/Banking Commission.

* A fair start for pupils/the Pupil Premium; schools budget protected.

* Political reform; the AV referendum-never before have been given a chance to vote on our voting system for the election of MP’s to Westminster.

* The ‘No’ campaign are bringing out all of the ‘old dinosaurs,’ the likes of Margaret Beckett and Lord John Prescott.

* Be passionate about Fairer Votes.

* After 100 years, 80% of the House of Lords will be elected-and by PR too!

* The Civil Liberties agenda.

* The Green agenda-we want to move to a more sustainable economy.

* We must support manufacturing.

* Of course there’s also been Bills we didn’t like, including on tuition fees and parts of the NHS Bill.

* On Welfare we need to give everyone an incentive to work.

* On the horizon, a universal pension and a universal tax system.

* Civil ceremonies can now take place in Churches.

* A great backdown on plans to sell off our forests.

* We must remind people that we’re paying off £120million per day on just the interest of the national debt.

* On FE, Simon is advising the Govt, re scholarship’s to university for kids from poorer backgrounds.

* And a better replacement for EMA hopefully.

* Summing up, for the first time, we can influence national Government policy.

* This is the most phenomenal opportunity, we need to be much more positive and bullish.

After he spoke Simon took questions and I was lucky enough to be called by Regional Chair Michael Mullaney.

I asked Mr Hughes the following: “I’m Mathew Hulbert, from Hinckley and Bosworth and a member of ‘Fairer Votes Leicestershire. I’d like to ask about the AV campaign. It was great to see Nick, yesterday, give his speech on why people need to vote yes. Then we saw David Cameron spouting utter nonsense for the ‘No’ lobby…can we, from Nick downwards, point out what rubbish Cameron is saying, and the BBC have decided they’re not going to use the phrase ‘voting reform’ because it sounds too positive, what can we do about this?”

I quote it verbatim, as this was the first time I’ve spoken on the conference floor of any political party conference of any kind, so a historic moment.

Simon said to me that it’s difficult for Clegg to come out and say Cameron is talking nonsense, but that Lib Dems will be using every opportunity to explain why people should support a change in the voting system, but also that this campaign must not be led by politicians, but by people.

On the BBC, Simon told me that Auntie does, indeed, have to be careful to ensure it remains impartial on these matters.

Later in the day, I asked Michael Payne, East Midlands Co-Ordinator of the ‘Yes to Fairer Votes’ campaign, who addressed conference, his take on the BBC situation re AV, and he said we must be strong and resolute to the BBC about why not using the phrase ‘voting reform’ is wrong and to challenge BBC presenters when they appear to give misinformed questions/comments on AV.

Also at conference was the Lib Dem MEP for the East Midlands, Bill Newton Dunn, who updated us on all things Europe and who I was fortunate to have my photo taken with (see pic above.)

All in all a great day for the regional conference, especially hearing from Simon Hughes who sent us off campaigning in renewed good heart, proud of our party, and hopeful of successes still to come.

An encouraging loss…and hope for the future

December 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

AT the recent Liberal Democrat East Midlands conference, held in Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, (my first party conference of any kind) I entered the race to join the regional party executive, in the role of Newsletter Editor.

Being very new to the party my hopes weren’t high as I’m not yet that well-known outside of Hinckley and Bosworth in Lib Dem circles, but-as Dale Winton often rightly points out on a Saturday night-you have to be ‘in it to win it’ and so I entered.

With there being a number of people going for the position there was an election, so I had to enter a piece of ‘artwork’ (as they call it)…basically an A5 poster explaining who I was and why I wanted to do that role.

They were then sent out to those Lib Dem reps with a vote and I eagerly anticipated the result.

Well, it came last night via e-mail and though, as expected, I was beaten I acquitted myself more than well.

The result was:

Mathew Hulbert 20

Helen Smith 29

Many congratulations to Helen, who I’m sure will do a first-rate job.

Many thanks to everyone who voted for me, wherever they may live across our beloved region.

It was great fun to enter and the result has given me renewed confidence to, hopefully, enter future internal party elections.

I love this party and hope to serve it in whatever way I can.

The Government should change its mind on tuition fees

November 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

I support an overwhelming majority of what this Coalition Government-and especially the Lib Dem Ministers within in-are doing and achieving.

This Coalition Government is right for Britain.

However, on one of the few issues I disagree with Coalition policy on, I feel I just have to speak out.

And that is tuition fees-as I’ve blogged here before about it, I won’t repeat what I’ve already said.

The purpose of this post is to let you guys know that on Saturday at regional conference I voted for a motion which called for a change in current policy, which is to allow tuition fees to rise much higher, and to abide by what remains Lib Dem policy (as opposed to Coalition Government policy) which is to oppose any rise in tuition fees and, in time, to abolish fees all together.

The motion I supported went on further to call on Ministers to re-examine the Dearing Report into higher education funding and to ensure that ‘graduated and prospective undergraduates, especially the poorest, are not disadvantaged or dissuaded from achieving their degree.

I await to see where the Government will place a cap on fees before I make a further judgement on Coalition policy.

I really want to support Coalition policies , but I must also stick up for working class and middle income families whose young people are not going to want to go to Uni for fear of racking up huge debts.

This debate is a great reminder, however, that the Lib Dems as a party is an independent party and has a number of policy positions not currently being put forward by the leadership.

I understand that, of course. Partnership means compromise.

But those of us not bound by collective responsibility can, do and are calling for a reversal to Coalition policy.

It is the only fair thing to do.

Reflections from East Midlands regional conference

November 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

On Saturday I had the great pleasure of attending my first Lib Dem conference; the East Midlands regional conference, held at the Festival Hall in Kirby-in-Ashfield in Nottinghamshire.

I went along with Cllr Stuart Bray (Leader of Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council), Cllr David Bill (Deputy Leader of HBBC), and Michael Mullaney (PPC, Bosworth.)

It was great to have the chance to meet so many other Lib Dems from across the region and to hear of the great work going on in their areas.

Though, with Paul Holmes’ loss in Chesterfield in May, the East Midlands currently has no Lib Dem UK Parliamentary representation, there is-as Michael (outgoing regional Chairman) pointed out, plenty of reasons for us not only to not be downhearted, but indeed to be optimistic for future electoral success.

In Ashfield, our hosts for this conference, Cllr Jason Zadrozny…who gave an excellent welcoming speech yesterday…achieved a massive 17.2% swing to the Lib Dems, the second biggest swing to our party in the entire country, coming within a whisker of what was once a safe Labour seat.

In my own area of Hinckley and Bosworth our candidate Michael Mullaney and the rest of our wonderful team got the biggest swing against any Tory MP in the country (6%) and the 9th biggest vote rise in the country, out of 631 seats!

Another wonderful achievement is that the Lib Dems more than trebled its second places in the region from 5 to eighteen.

This places us in a great position for the next election.

If, as Cllr Stuart Bray pointed out in his remarks to regional conference on Saturday, we continue to work hard for local people in the communities we represent (or seek to represent) we have a good chance of retaining seats we have in local government and gaining more next May.

The fight back, then, starts here!

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