Posts Tagged ‘Independent View’
The Guardian usually arrives on the hen-cleaning early shift tucked neatly into Jack’s pocket. It receives less attention at the brew-break than was once the case. Then known by all as the Grauniad, because of its penchant for spelling errors, it used to provide the basis for a wager based on who could spot the most. Today it was unfolded as we read its front page about the Prince of Wales, and I noticed that somewhere called Chin is expanding its nuclear armoury, clearly old habits die hard!
Anyway it appears that unknown to most, Charles is part of a “secretive constitutional loophole” which gives him the right to veto legislation. Since 2005, ministers from six departments have had to seek his consent to draft bills on everything from road safety to gambling and the London Olympics. Neither the government nor Clarence House will reveal what, if any, alterations to legislation Charles has requested, or exactly why he was asked to grant consent to such a wide range of laws.
In the last two parliamentary sessions the Prince has been asked to consent to draft bills on wreck removals and co-operative societies, a freedom of information request to the House of Commons has revealed. Between 2007-9 he was consulted on bills relating to coroners, economic development and construction, marine and coastal access, housing and regeneration, energy and planning.
All very odd. But a threat to democracy? Hardly. At least Charles can be relied upon to give an honest independent view which is more than can be said for the unelected Lords which is packed with toadies of successive Prime Ministers, and even includes more than one who has spent time at “Her Majesty’s pleasure’. And it is no more undemocratic than the ‘Witney set’ which, until the Murdoch explosion, was clearly pulling David Cameron’s strings. And you can look at the Werrity affair…I won’t go on, suffice to say that there is probably no one out there who believes that democracy actually exists at all.
Of course any mention of the Royals brings out, from under the stones, the supporters of ‘Republic’, the proponents of an elected head of state. Its director, Graham Smith, was quick to say that the secret power afforded to Charles is “an affront to democrtic values”. Hmm, he clearly has more trust in the existance of such a thing than the rest of us. As for an elected leader, one wonders who he has in mind. Blair perhaps since he collects highly paid jobs with the same enthusiasm that others collect stamps. Boris perhaps? Eddie the Eagle? Graham Smith?
By coincidence all this hit the headlines on the day that a report from the public administration select committee was published. It accuses the coalition government of maintaining pointless ministerial jobs to maintain influence over crucial parliamentary votes. It claims that David Cameron’s government is “patronage-driven” and is spending vast amounts of public money to buy loyalty. It reports that the coalition is failing to cut senior jobs despite its pledge to slash Whitehall costs.
Brenard Jenkins, the Conservatiuce chair of the committee, says that the government’s response that the ministerial number of jobs are “under review” is political code for “their refusal to engage with this committee”. He went on to claim that the number of ministers in the Commons is at its “absolute limit”. And there are more aides than is necessary. This proliferation of appointments is “more about exercising patronage over MPs, and thus being able to influence debates and votes, than it is about efficiency and accountability” added Mr Jenkin.
There are now 121 MPs on the “payroll vote” as ministers and their aides who are obliged to vote with the government or resign. The committee says that the payroll should be slashed by more than sixty. It also calls for the end to the appointment of unpaid ministers to circumvent legal limits on the size of government. Far from reducing government costs the Prime Minister is increasing them. And last week’s rebellion on the EU referendum is likely to herald yet more appointments as a means of silencing the Eurosceptics. There will soon be more Chiefs than Indians in the cloistered court of Kings David and Nick!
The theory behind our democratic system is that the country is ruled by independently-minded individuals elected by the people, each approaching legislation with his or her sole influence being the views of constituents. No string-pullers, no ‘donors’, no rich hangers-on. It is of course a fairy story as one corrupt government follows another.
If we enjoyed true democracy the outrage about Charles would be justified. As thing are I for one welcome the thought that there is at least one in authority who is not in the pay, or grip, of shadowy figures that never seem to come to the Gruaniad’s attention!
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY; ” For all their faults, Thatcher and Blair were respected not for their bossiness but because of their principles and vision (whether you agreed with them or not). Cameron is not in their league. He’s got one vision; that the nation requires the services of David William Donald Cameron as Prime Minister. For years I thought Cameron was likeable but with two major defects – no credible programme to bolster the country’s fortunes and being a rich toff with no idea how most people live. It’s true that those were, and are, big defects. But increasingly, another one is coming into view. Bluntly, Camerion has a nasty streak. When the going gets tough, he has no answers – just insults and bullying”. Speaker’s wife Sally Bercow in her Sunday Star column dated 30th October 2011.
Several of today’s front pages feature Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, watching the procession of the Order of the Garter. She is smiling at the processing Duke and the captions tell us that it brought a glow to his cheeks. Ah, those were the days. When Albert’s better half arrived at the allotments yesterday in search of her house key, which our pal had inadvertently brought with him, her look certainly brought a glow to his but the days of welcoming smiles are but a distant memory. But at least it’s nice to see a pretty face instead of leering politicians on the headlines.
For us at least the big story was the report of the ‘NHS Future Forum’ which was set up by the prime minister. Its task was to re-examine Lansley’s bill and to listen to all the dissenting voices. It is no coincidence that its findings match precisely that the changes recommended match exactly those outlined by David Cameron in a speech a week ago. Lib Dem MPs were quick to point out that they also match precisely the changes outlined to them by Nick Clegg over the past fortnight. It is probably no coincidence either that the membership of the panel largely comprised clinicians and others whose r ed-carpetvisits to Downing Street were reported on the this Blog some weeks ago.
It suited both Cameron and Clegg to involve an ‘independent’ body to help them convince health professionals and the public that the government was genuinely listening during the unprecedented “pause” to the Health and Social Care Bill. They had already realised that the Lansley proposals represented a toxic issue for both parties and polls were telling them that the Tories were in danger of losing their hard-won trust on health. For his part Clegg was in real danger of being deserted by his MPs.
So they decided what needed to go, notably the scrapping of a compulsory start date. And now at least those with rather short memories may believe that we have an independent view and a government willing to jettison its own plans. But there is a problem.
What most see as a puppet panel has published a mish-mash of its own findings and those of the two leaders. Yes, the effect is to torpedo Lansley’s nonsense, but the result is a mess. How can a start staggered across the country over many years possibly work? How can any of the ideas be implemented at a time when the NHS is facing unprecedented efficiency savings of £20 billion?
There are some new points in the report but they are trivial. For example, hospitals are to hold their Board meetings in public and to publish minutes. Foundation Trusts already do this and they comprise the vast majority. And anyone who imagines that discussions at Board public meetings are not neutured is living in cloud-cuckoo-land. Patients are to be offered a complaints system, another existing feature of all hospital Trusts. There is to be a new citizen’s panel, a poor substitute for the area by area Community Councils abolished by Blair. Frankly none of it has any bearing on the real issue, the privatisation of much NHS routine work and the impact this will have on the viability of every hospital.
And on that there are just weazel words. One would have be naive in the extreme not to realise that once the Bill is passed that will begin to happen at a rapid rate. Lansley will have lost the battle but won the war. The shadow Health Secretary is clearly a little out of touch for he welcomes the report as “a demolition job”. It is not, it is a fix the like of which Mr Blatter would be proud. Only a statement confirming absolutely that no hospital work will be outsourced would avoid armageddon.
The irony is that all this mayhem and spin will not save the coalition from unpopularity. Over the coming year there will be massive cuts to services compounded by costly chaos. The public will feel the weight of these for word on healthcare problems travels fast. No one will be able to distinguish between the reforms and the cuts. All they will know is that they cannot have their operations quickly, yet we can afford to spend millions each day on bombing Libya.
Who they can turn to is another matter for Blair’s attempted privatisation still rankles with many. If Labour really wishes to win out it must be very precise about the use of the private sector, even down to specifying exactly which services, if any, it would be allowed to meddle in. Otherwise those who rely on, and care for, the NHS have only one course of action open to them.
And that will be to support the protest movement headed by ’38 Degrees’ and the British Medical Association whose head, Dr Hamish Hamilton, yesterday said that there might have to be more negotiations.
It was a nice try prime minister. But the problem is that we are all very aware of the art of spin-doctors these days and, to quote an old pal of mine, we didn’t come down with the rain!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Wet Wet Wet 2. Unchained 3. My Sweet Lord 4. Wooden Heart 5. Maggie May 6. Frankie Lane 7. Gary Jules (Mad World) 8. Ticket to Ride 9. Peter Cetera 10. Herbert Kretzmer