by Prue Bray on 13 March, 2012
Usually I use this site for local issues. For once I am going to post about something national.
Last weekend was the Lib Dem Spring Conference. At that Conference we debated the NHS bill (though we did not debate dropping it)- and voted against calling on Lib Dem peers to back its third reading. I am on the side of killing the bill, and starting again. I was lucky enough to be called in the debate on Sunday morning. This is what I said:
“Conference, Lib Dems in parliament have done a tremendous job in working through Lansley´s bill line by line. They have worked hard to remove the worst aspects of the original proposals. It is still not what we would have ideally wanted but a lot has been achieved.
We are extremely good as a party at doing that donkey work sorting out details of legislation. But we are not so good as a party at recognising that we need to lift our heads out of the detail occasionally. As this bill has gone through we have not been paying enough attention to the political context. And we have not been paying enough attention to communicating what we are doing.
At this point few people in the wider world understand what is actually in the bill, and virtually nobody trusts it. And it has lost the support of the health professionals. That´s why I personally think it would be better to ditch this bill and start again, difficult though that would be.
Well, we are not debating that. But with what we are debating we do have an opportunity to do some of the communicating we have been missing before. We can send out some simple messages about the bill, messages which make it clear where the Lib Dems stand on the NHS.
Message 1: Let´s make sure people know it was Labour who decided to pay private companies at a premium rate for carrying out operations and it was Labour´s system which has led to companies being paid for operations whether they carried them out or not. It´s a disgrace and it´s one of the things Lib Dems have been working to put right, through changes to this bill.
Message 2: this is a Conservative bill, not a Lib Dem bill. It would not have been our choice. We have done a vast amount to change it. Without the Lib Dems– and without the influence Lib Dems have had as part of the government – this bill would be far worse.
And finally, message 3: whether we think the NHS bill should be dropped or whether we think it can be made fit for purpose, all Lib Dems are united by our belief in a comprehensive national health service accessible to all and free at the point of delivery. That´s what we have been fighting for and that´s what we will go on fighting for.”
So tell me, what do you think?4 Comments