Posts Tagged ‘Lib Dem Conference’
Bert the Weather God must be as angry as a Sunderland supporter or a pie-less Eric Pickles if this morning’s precipitation is any indication. We codgers have never served on one of those tossing trawlers so often portrayed on TV, but we felt empathy as we splashed about in our oilskins this morning. Cleaning out the hundred or so chickens was not a calming experience and their determination to leap on to every tray of muck made it even less so.
But even in our grumpier than usual mood we were probably ahead of slick Nick Clegg in the happiness league table. This morning a YouGov survey reveals that 59% of all those who voted Lib Dem at the last election believe that the party has got worse, with only 9% seeing it as having improved. To add to the young actor’s woes over a third of Labour voters say they will only contemplate a coalition if he is replaced as Lib Dem leader.
Throw in the fact that Uncle Vince Cable is making clear his distaste for what he sees as Clegg’s “phoney” economic debate at the annual conference, and the picture is near complete. Clearly there are those who are less than enamoured with the idea of jumping into bed with the most handsome opponent and to hell with principles. Not too surprising given that LibDems have traditionally been hostile to nuclear power, ‘unfair’ voting, badger culls , EU referendums, student fees and the user of state power to infringe personal liberty on porn or sexuality.
But another poll out today does offer a crumb of comfort for Mr Clegg. The Resolution Foundation asked people to choose the issue that they see as the one most likely to influence the way they vote. The majority chose a reduction in household bills as a means of improving living standards. At first glance the outcome is not overly reassuring for the party of Lloyd George, who must be spinning in his Welsh grave. Only 3% see the Lib Dems as having any worthwhile ideas. But a second glance reveals that only 7% and 5%% see the Tories or Labour respectively as having a clue either.
The other key question asked which party has the best ideas to bring wages into line with economic growth. Again the Lib Dems came last with only 4%, but again the Tories and Labour fared little better with 6% and 11%.
Some weeks ago we reported on the annual national attitude survey. This suggested a sharp reduction in the number of people identifying with any political party. Today we see this writ large. It is not just slick Nick and his disparate crew that have lost the trust of the people, to a considerable extent they all have with the possible exception of Ukip who seem to be spared the searching lights of the pollsters.
Despite the view of some experts that the Lib Dems will hang on to the seats they hold and thus be able to flash their garters at eager suitors, we still predict that after the election Nick will be able to hold his conferences in a telephone kiosk. That would leave us at the mercy of posh Dave or shy Ed. Not a thrilling prospect is it?
Perhaps it is time for Lib Dem President Tim Farron and Uncle Vince to make their move. The former has let it be known that he likes shy Ed, the latter is the only senior politician on offer who has worked as others work.
But they shouldn’t hide in the shadows for too long, for right now it looks very much as if the imaginary ballot paper box headed none of the above will be a clear winner!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” For a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle!”….Winston Churchill
Let no one convince you that the last Lib Demmer has emigrated to Greece, we have one amongst us on the allotments. Phil spends his days caring for his chickens, and following the fortunes of the party that emerged from the benign roots of his beloved Jo Grimond’s Liberals. This morning he reappeared after his soggy week in Brighton, where he joined the ever-shrinking faithful band of party members. He enjoyed the traditional defeats imposed on the leadership and rounded it all off by taking in the final hooray from Nick Clegg.
We codgers were in good humour mainly thanks to Judge Michael Pert, who yesterday made clear that burglars attacked by their victims will receive no sympathy. At last we learn of someone in the judiciary with an inclination to consider the victims. The result was we were in indulgent mood and happy to listen to Phil’s account of life before death on the south coast.
The man who once triggered a national craze for sweaters proclaiming ‘I agree with Nick’ was welcomed on to the stage by one of our local MPs, Tim Farron. He cried that the speaker is “the biggest chart sensation to come out of Sheffield since the Human League. What about Pulp or Arctic Monkeys? Never mind, it was a reference to the pop version of Nick’s infamous apology and the man himself ran out, boy-band hair looking rakish.
The lectern, emblazoned with the not-quite-rock-anthem motto “fairer tax in tough times” had been moved to the middle of the room, an astute decision given that the audience was rather thin on the ground. However, the result was that Phil and fifty others faced the great man’s back throughout his tirade. But his suit was, Phil assures us, immaculate.
As was his delivery, one thing that Nick Clegg can do well is rant eloquently. That tends to hide the fact that his content tends to be a little thin these days. It was a speech about journeys, Phil lost count of how many but the drift was that the Lib Dems are on one. Nick insisted that it is a journey to freedom, to government, “two journeys linked”. He presumably knew what it meant but to many it sounded like the kind of thing they announce when your train is late.
Such substance as there was centered around the economy. As if reading the text of a Cameron address, young Nick insisted that there would be no turning back. But the Lib Dems will insist on “fairer taxes”. “The system must be tilted in favour of those on middle and low earnings”, he cried. He simply ignores what the Institute for Fiscal Stuies always says; the raising of personal allowances gives the bottom third nothing, the middle only a little, while the main gainers are the richest third. Worse, universal credits will wipe out most of that little gain by the middle. Which is probably why he was able to “wring these concessions out of Osborne”.
But Phil’s reflections are focussed on two rather startling developments. The first was the announcement of the recall of Paddy ‘pants-down’ Ashdown, a man still revered by Lib Demmers and ladies in equal measure. Yes, the Lib Dem revival is to be led by Baron Ashdown of Norton-cum-Hamdon thus ensuring that the Tories cannot use the pleb label when the chips go down.
The other shock was Clegg’s decision to enhance his reputation as a ‘boat-burner, a nickname well used in Lib Dem circles. He launched a vitriolic attack on the Labour Party. Even our dear leader has ended the oft-repeated claim that the entire economic crisis was caused by Grumpy Gordon. But young Nick wheeled it out with a vengeance and laced it with a tirade of insults. If people want to support a party of no-hopers, of people liivng in the past, of corruption unlimited, they have a clear offering. They should join the Ed Miliband lot!
He did also attack the Tory right wing, notably Liam Fox, but that piece of the script was aimed at helping his rose garden buddy. In effect he was pouring petrol on to his boat-burning, he was ensuring that there will be no deal with Labour should the next election produce another stalemate.
So it all boils down to a simple scenario. Every poll suggests that come the election, if Clegg is still at the helm, the Lib Dems will be decimated. In the unlikely event that the Conservatives have resolved our economic woes they will get the credit. If they fail the Lib Dems will land most of the blame. Either way there will be a straight fight between left(ish) and right. If any third party is needed for coalition it will not be the Lib Dems.
Boat-burning is a dangerous game if your boat is heading for an iceberg!
According to the Met Office we have had the equivalent of a month’s rain in the past 24-hours. As we slithered about in ankle-deep mud this morning we had no difficulty in believing that. Someone suggested we forsake hen-keeping in favour of mud-wrestling, but whether the sight of a topless Albert caked in slime would appeal to those who patronise such events is open to considerable doubt.
And considerable doubt must surely be the mindset of the hard-core Lib Demmers who are braving the elements in Brighton. New polls show that Nick Clegg’s apology over tuition fees has misfired badly, 80% say that they are now even less likely to listen to what he has to say. Even worse, the party now trails the Conservatives by 17% with the less than dashing Ed Miliband 10% ahead of the Old Etonians.
But for one delegate all is not lost. Uncle Vince Cable has been given a poll of his own by ICM. It reveals that were he to be the Lib Dem leader the party’s share of the vote would be nudging 20%, and all of the present MPs would be safe. Small wonder the old boy appeared to be enjoying himself. He demonstrated once again his ability to show loyalty to the coalition whilst making clear his disdain for the other half of it.
Having suggested that the Boris versus Dave rivalry dates back to a pillow-fight in an Eton dorm, he then apologised for joking about social class before remarking that as a “mere pleb” he simply couldn’t resist it. Uncle is not quite the innocent he portrays, this was a clear attempt to exploit the Mitchell affair, living proof of the view the rich boys hold of the rest of us. He realises that the row surrounding the foul-mouthed abuse dished out by the Tory chief whip can only work to the Lib Dem advantage. Yet another poll had shown that almost 80% believe the police version – pleb was the word used. Frankly, were the police involved in fabricating evidence it would not have occurred to them to use the word pleb!
The reality of the Lib Dem conference is that there is no reality. We heard the usual promises about taxing the wealthy and tackling tax-avoidance, but even the most optimistic Brighton drowned-rat knows that the chance of the Conservatives agreeing to any such thing is equivalent to young Nick being re-elected in Sheffield. There has been no growth in the economy over the past 18 months and as a result the deficit is rising, not falling. Uncle Vince found a way of attacking Osborne’s strategy whilst praising him for his determination. Not bad for a mere pleb!
We codgers take a great interest in the machinations of Uncle Vince, not because we have firm political allegiances but because we have a sneaking admiration for crafty cockneys. As a result we imagine that we can follow his drift. Yesterday, having taken various venomous swipes at his Tory partners – he also referred to them as “headbangers” and “backswoodsmen” – he pretended to answer his mobile by saying “Not now Ed, I’m performing”. That was his way of underlining his good relationship with the Labour lot. And he stressed that the next election will again call for a coalition!
Icarus Clegg has flown too close to our dear leader and is badly scorched in the eyes of the Labour heirarchy, pleb Cable is potentially one of them. Our crafty hero had a good day yesterday. Read between the widely-spaced lines and he was saying that he is loyally doing his best for the economy but has little time for the rich boys. He was saying that he is loyally doing his best for Clegg but fears the worst for the party. He was saying that the Lib Dems could work well with Labour, to whom only he is acceptable.
There is one weakness in our favourite pleb’s plan. The government is falling apart and its support is plummeting. With Icarus at its head the Lib Dem party will crashland. Given that likely scenario there will be no coalition and Uncle Vince will fade away in true Liberal fashion.
Then again, the party may just have enough sense to change leaders before the election. Then the plebs might rally to a cause not finally lost!
One of the less pleasant aspects of hen-keeping is the sight of a mob pecking a wounded colleague. When we let the squawking mob out this morning we immediately noticed what appeared to be an avian version of ‘kettling’. Albert waded in, arms flying in all directions, and discovered an injured creature in the centre of the crowd. Even as he picked it up, a dozen or so hens were still attempting to get in one last peck. We were just in time, and the isolation coop is now occupied.
After witnessing this less than appetising spectacle, we slouched over to the clubhouse for a brew and out came the papers, and learned that jack-the-lad Clegg is being pecked too. We have almost given up hope on the NHS, we know enough to know exactly what is going to happen once Lansley’s Bill kicks in. And we don’t have private health insurance. Time and again we have scratched our heads at the antics of the Lib Dem leadership in supporting privatisation, of course we understand the Tory position.
But suddenly we realise that it is not the Lib Dems who support the Bill that will ruin the health service, it is Nick Clegg. Yesterday the distinction became clear when the party conference refused to endorse the bill. By a majority of 314 to 270 party members rejected a call for the party’s peers to vote in favour at the third reading. Speaker after speaker attacked the leadership’s support for Lansley, it was only the backing of the revered Shirley Williams that saved Clegg from total humiliation.
A typical attack came from a former MP, Martin Tod. He warned; This is worse than tuition fees. We are told that stopping the bill is an incredibly hard thing to do, but last year Nick talked about not doing the easy thing, but doing the right thing. This bill is not about Labour or Tories, it is about doing the right thing for the NHS”. Another former MP, David Rendel, urged delegates to consider first the doctors and nurses in the NHS. A succession of delegates then, in effect, accused Clegg of playing politics with the NHS, of betraying what the party stands for.
Of course Clegg was quick to indicate that the party vote will make no difference. But one suspects that he is wrong. It may not torpedo Lansley and his private sector friends, but it may well torpedo Clegg. He makes much of his personal closeness to David Cameron, and there is little doubt that the two men have become a unit. And therein may lie Clegg’s lifeboat.
Vince Cable is making clear his ambition to take over, to break from the coalition and to make the Lib Dems electable. Now he has the activists on his side. If Clegg decides to cross the floor of the House he won’t be the first Liberal to do so. No names, no Churchills!
A miracle has happened! It wasn’t pouring down when we cleaned out the hens and the mud this morning, in fact we could even see patches of blue sky. But we were still downcast for the hoped for miracle of the privatisation of the NHS being stopped by the House of Lords didn’t happen. The attempt by David Owen to subject the legislation to deeper scrutiny drew the support of 262 peers, but the motion was defeated by 68. The reason was the decison of 80 Lib Dems to vote against!
They did so having been pressed by Nick Clegg to support his stance, this despite the Lib Dem conference having voted otherwise and national polls showing great opposition on the part of the vast majority of those who voted Lib Dem at the general election. Clearly he is still besotted by his right to sit at Cameron’s right hand in the Commons!
The effect of this latest betrayal of all that he promised during the elction campaign is that Clegg has aligned his party to the Conservatives. If the reaction of those amongst my allotment pals who voted Lib Dem is any indication, the other effect will be the total annihilation of the party come the next election. The message is now clear – if you favour Conservative policies vote Conservative, if you oppose them vote Labour. The Lib Dems have ceased to exist in ideological form.
The right wing press has this morning seized on reports of neglect of the elderly at some NHS hospitals as justification for Lansley’s bill. It is nothing of the sort. As it has shown only this week in Cumbria the NHS regulator, Monitor, has powers to deal with such unacceptable performances. It can, and has, put in a new management team with absolute authority to make whatever changes are necessary. Incidentally the Daily Mail claim that one in five hospitals were found wanting is somewhat dubious since only the 100 lowest rated were inspected!
The idea that bringing in the private sector will in some mysterious way ensure good treatment of the elderly reminds us of the recent revelations of the treatment afforded to residents in the care of Southern Cross homes. Once our elderly and vulnerable are bundled off into the avaricious grasp of for-profit companies the monitoring of their care becomes far more difficult, more obscure.
No one denies that those hospitals which fall short must be brought up to the stnadard of the majority of excellent NHS centres. No one denies that bureaucracy must be minimised. What millions reject is the introduction of private providers who will ‘cherry-pick’ the easier and more lucrative services, leaving NHS hospitals with the impossible task of balancing the books or of funding critical care in such fields as cancer, coronary or emergency medicine.
Several years ago the Labour government under Blair attempted to transfer outpatients services in the North West to a South African company called Netcare. When it became apparent that the effect of this would be to render insolvent the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals there was a massive public outcry. Led by Lindsay Hoyle, now Deputy Speaker, thousands took to the streets. A police presence was needed to control what followed and in due course the government backed down. Had they not done so, Lancashire would by now be quite the wrong place to be if you or yours were unfortunate enough to need emergency care.
So I am not making a political point when I say that the coalition are heading the NHS toward its destruction. Already there have been mass redundancies, already waiting times are doubling, already there are many advertisments for private medical insurance. Hopefully the chaos caused by Lansley’s incompetent handling of the bill will subside, but what will be left is a service of postcode medicine and preferential treatment for those who can afford it.
It would be wrong to blame right-wing conservatives such as Lansley and Liam Fox for all that is happening for their preference for private initiatives was clear for all to see. But Clegg and his henchmen supposedly stood for something quite different. As their president has made clear, they recognise that the profit motive and acute medicine make poor bedfellows. Like many of the politically uncommitted they see social injustice writ large in the American model and its giant private healthcare providers, some of whom are already being brought in to provide the commissioning services that GPs clearly are not equipped to handle.
Yesterday Clegg delivered his final death sentence on the national service that has meant a great deal to so many for so long. Serious illness is stressful enough without the added burden of worrying about finding the cash for good treatment. Our society will never feel the same again and for that we can thank the Lib Dems for selling their own principles for the illusion of power.
The ’38 Degrees’ protest organisation has mustered millions of signatures for its petition opposing Lansley. This week it raised £75,000 in four days to fund a special campaign aimed at members of the Lords. Sadly it underestimated just how far a Judas will go!
Interestingly immediately after the result of the vote was known the President of the Royal College of GPs sent an email urging 38 Degrees to carry on the fight. So much for Lansley’s claim to have clinical support! OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S MIDWEEK QUIZ; 1. Broadcasting House 2. Cable News Network 3. Radio Times 4. Reuters 5. Private Eye 6. Aberdeen 7. Advertising 8. Which? 9. Fred Basset 10. China
I remember holding a straw-poll just after the general election. It was a fine day and a fair number of allotment holders had gathered in the ‘shed’, there was much talk about the negotiations being carried out by the Lib Dems with both Cameron and Grumpy Gordon. Over a third of us had voted Lib Dem and there was a good deal of speculation as to what Clegg – who had bewitched many of us with his TV debate performances – would do.
The course of action favoured by most of his new disciples was that he should opt for allowing the Conservatives to form a minority government with the promise of support so long as its policies were acceptable to the Lib Dems. This would enable the risen stars to act in the national interest whilst leaving them free to maintain their own identity. Even better, they would have retained the right to force a general election on any issue on which they had widespread public support. The result could easily have been a triumph and the first Liberal government in living memory.
But the lure of high office took Clegg along another path. He entered into a marriage of non-equals, and the latest Mori poll tells us that should an election take place now, almost two-thirds of those who voted Lib Dem would no longer do so. In fact a straw poll on the allotments yesterday showed no one willing to contemplate any alternative to the two traditional giants. Tim Farron, the president, said at the Lib Dem conference that “without the Lib Dem influence the Conservative dominated government would have been a “nightmare”. He missed the point which is that without the Lib Dems there would be no Tory-led government.
In reality the Lib Dems have excercised little restraint. The Tories’ ideological prescription for down-sizing the state and pushing ahead with its neoliberal agenda means that the NHS and the welfare state are seriously at risk. The Tories are using the opportunity of the financial crisis to transfer taxpayer’s money from the state to the private sector, not because it is more effective, but because that is what their ideology demands. The Lib Dems have made it possible for the Tories to do pretty much everything they dreamed of doing, with just a little bit of tweaking at the edges as a sop to their junior partners.
On the NHS for example, every expert in the land is warning of its imminent demise and privatisation. The concessions supposedly wrung out of Lansley by the Lib Dems make no difference whatsoever to the thrust of the bill. Had the Lib Dems retained an independent status it would never have seen the light of day.
It is difficult to see how the party that, for a few short weeks, Nick Clegg took to the brink of electoral success can survive at all from the mess that he has created. If, as we all hope, the government succeeds in its economic policy, the credit will go to Cameron and Osborne. Should it fail, the blame will almost certainly be placed at the hands of people such as Alexander and Cable.
In fact any successes will not be shared. Cameron has reasonably claimed success over the intervention in Libya. Do you recall any of his TV appearances on this ever including a mention of Clegg? On Europe, Cameron has undoubtedly been grateful for the option to point at Lib Dem opposition to demands from the right of his party for a referendum and a withdrawal from the Human Rights Act. He is able to tell his right-wing supporters what they want to hear without actually doing anything, thus avoiding a damaging split with the pro-European Tory wing.
Nick Clegg likes to invoke as a comparison the coalition that served the country so well in World War 11. It is pure nonsense. The marriage then was one of equals and so great was the external threat that the nation recoiled from political dogma. There were no ideological debates to be had, Corporal Hitler saw to that.
Nick Clegg’s big address at the Lib Dem conference was every bit as well acted as we have come to expect. He was reading ftrom an autocue and yet still managed to convey the impression of someone sincerely pausing for thought, of someone reaching into his very soul to find the truth. But even in that he did make one huge error.
He chose to launch the bitterest possible personalised attack on Miliband, Ball and others. He publicly burned his boats so far as any possible liaison with Labour is concerned should there be another hung parliament. Perhaps it doesn’t matter, since the possibility of one becomes more remote by the day.
Who knows who will emerge from the next election for both Conservative and Labour parties are less than impressive. But the odds are that one of them will. People will regard a vote for the Lib Dems as one for the Tories. The inevitable outcome will surely be a total redistribution of that impressive Lib Dem vote on a pro or anti Conservative basis.
I take no pleasure in believing this. Just for a fleeting time I, and millions like me, thought we were witnessing the birth of a new age in British politics. We were transfixed by the relatively unknown Clegg. Alas, he lives in cloud-cuckoo land!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S MIDWEEK QUIZ; 1. Hertfordshire 2. A miller 3. Frank Morgan 4. Andy 5. Rome 6. Canada 7. Michael Bentine 8. Nijinsky 9. Grass 10. As a Tomato
In his ‘A Time for Greatness’, the American poet and writer Herbert Agar wrote in 1942 of the “truth that makes man free”. But he went on to add that the truth is something that “men prefer not to hear”. I sometimes wonder if our politicians are his latter-day disciples for they give every apearance of fearing the outcome of setting us free and, to a man, continue to feed us speeches comprising platitudes laced with a fair mixture of downright lies.
Yesterday it was the turn of Uncle Vince Cable. We are, intoned our hero, in the economic equivalent of a war. He proceeded to tell us that only grey skies lie ahead and drew a comparison with that previous coalition. It was somewhat misleading given that the nation was united then, and Churchill told us the grim truth but always ended with a rallying cry. In other words the then leader seperated the truth from the pure rhetoric. Now the two are mixed and few can distinguish between the two.
A good example was the usual Cable onslaught on the fat-cats and bankers. On the former the Business Secretary declared that pay and bonuses will in future be restrained by employees serving on remuneration committees. He forgot to mention that there is no earthly chance of this actually becoming law and that, even if it did, the pension and investment bodies hold at least 80% of the controls of all large public companies.
He went on to announce his plans to implement the Vickers recommendation that a ‘firewall’ be built between the banking and ‘casino’ arms of our big banks. He forgot to mention that the government has made clear that implementation will not take place before 2018, by which time any new crisis will have arrived. He also beat the drum on the need to be resolute and not change the Osborne austerity package.
On this one he was subsequently contradicted by his wife! Interviewed on air, together with other delegates to the Lib Dem conference, she remarked that many government departments had wrongly front-loaded all cuts into the first year. They should, she insisted, have been spread over the five years of the coalition’s life thus avoiding the present crash in consumer purchasing. Clearly that is the real truth, and had he said that his credibility would have been enhanced. Meantime, the Cable family breakfast may have been a little fraught.
But it would be unfair to lable Cable as the one peddlar in falsehoods for they all do it. Only last week Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Minister, made great play of the fact that most of those charged in connection with the recent riots were already known to the police. Proof positive, he claimed, that prison does not work for they have already been there. Pure nonsense. The fact that those arrested as a result of CCTV pictures were mainly known to the police was clearly due to the fact that they are the people most likely to be recognised by the team of officers matching faces to records of convicted criminals. Who is the police most likely to recognise on a video? Yes, someone who is a previous offender. The truth is that only a tiny percentage of those involved have been caught and no one has the faintest idea as to the identity of the unapprehended majority.
Since coalition ministers are so keen on drawing a comparison between themselves and the World War 11 version they should perhaps resolve to begin to emulate its practices. When revealing all was not in the national interest Churchill, Attlee and the rest told us so. Otherwise they told the truth.
The big difference to today is illustrated by the fact that Osborne, Uncle Vince and all insist that we are all in this new ‘war’ together. However by their reluctance to penalise the rich to the same extent as the poor they constantly demonstrate that even they don’t believe it to be true.
Of course the biggest overriding problem today is that even were all the parties to sack their armies of spin-doctors and to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth we still wouldn’t believe them. Habits die hard and no one expects the truth. The challenge facing this government, and its successors ,is that the deeds of Blair over Iraq, Cameron over the Murdochs, and MPs over expenses, has bred cynicism thoughout the land.
Short of the return of a mass of independents wearing white suits and answering to the name of Martin Bell it is hard to imagine how this state of the nation will ever change. The truth is indeed as rare as hens teeth and we chicken-men can assure you that they simply do not exist!
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR THE MIDWEEK QUIZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Easy access to the best available health care is important to we old codgers of the allotments. But our concerns at what Andrew Lansley is proposing to do to the NHS extends far beyond the needs of an ageing group, we all fear that, whatever he says, the underlying intention of his ‘reforms’ is a two tier service in which the rich fair well and everyone else suffers. For some time now most of us have been regular visitors to the ’38 Degrees’ website where the protest organisation has attracted almost one million signatures in support of its petition demanding changes to the proposals. In this ’38 Degrees’ has had backing from the British Medical Association.
A few weeks ago an appeal for funding for a legal study of the plans raised sufficient cash for ’38 Degrees’ to engage two top legal experts to examine the small print of the bill which goes befiore parliament shortly. Yesterday their findings were published and one can only conclude that it is as well we didn’t rely on the apparent safeguards provided by Nick Clegg who, under pressure from the Lib Dem conference, had promised to stop any potentially damaging aspects of Lansley’s bill. It seems that the promise was as reliable as the one Clegg gave on tuition fees!
The two barristers, Stephen Cragg QC and Rebecca Haynes QC, make clear that the bill could pave the way for a shift towards a USA-style health care system where private companies profit at the expense of patient care. They particularly stress the implications of Lansley’s plan to remove his duty to provide our healthcare. A new ‘hands-off clause’ removes the government’s power to oversee local commissioning consortia and to guarantee the same level of service wherever we live. The outcome, warn the Barristers, will be huge increases in ‘postcode lotteries’ and less ways for citizens to hold the government to account.
Even more worrying is their verdict on the clauses concerning competition. The NHS will be subject to UK and EU competition law, and the reach of procurement will extend across all NHS Commissioners. Private health care providers will be entitled to take NHS commissiong groups to court if they don’t win contracts. Scarce public money will be tied up in legal wrangles instead of hospital beds. The door will be open for the private (largely American) healthcare companies to challenge for every NHS service. They will only need to win the volume treatments to render every hospital insolvent.
The third point made by the Barristers is that every UK hospital will be free to increase the number of private beds to whatever level they wish. They will be encouraged to liaise with the private sector with a view to maximising profit. And the more private beds, the fewer public ones and the longer the waiting times to occupy them.
Like the rest of us MPs tend to skip the small print. Like us they have probably been reassured by Cameron and Clegg’s double act of deception. But it is now clear that if they pass this bill the NHS as we know it is finished. Lansley is obsessed with the American model. Yes, he is right to cliam that the private companies there provide excellent and comprehensive treatment, what he doesn’t mention is that for the majority of the population, who cannot afford private insurance or fees, the level of care is appalling.
The NHS has improved immeasurably in recent years. But that is beside the point which is that everyone is entitled to the same level of service and money allocated is not drained off to pay shareholders.
The final death sentence for the NHS now rests in the hands of MPs and hundreds of thousands of emails are winging their way thanks to the facility provided by ’38 Degrees’. If, despite the new legal warnings, they decide to back Cameron, Clegg and Lansley a new dark age will dawn in which your chance of recovery from illness rests entirely on the depth of your pocket or purse!
TEST YOUR GENERAL KNOWLEDGE WITH TODAY’S MIDWEEK QUIZ!
1. Mica Paris and who replaced Trinny & Susannah on “What Not to Wear”? 2. Which famous survey started in 1086? 3. From which musical does the song ”One” come? 4. Ronald Reagan was in which political party? 5. Which Stephen directed the movie “Billy Elliot”? 6. In the Bible, what was the prophet Elijah carried up to heaven in? 7. What nationality was Casanova? 8. What was Al Jolson’s most famous line? 9. If a substance is oleaginous what does it mainly contain? 10. Which General led the junta in the 1982 seizure of the Falklands?
Whilst there was no danger of heat-exhaustion, the sun served to make our chicken-tending a pleasant experience this morning. Yesterday evening Professor Brian Cox, the new rising star of the Beeb, warned that the sun will ultimately self-destruct. There have been times of late when we thought that it already had! And the Lib Dem leadership certainly has!
Over the weekend I watched Nick Clegg trying to talk his way out of trouble at the Lib Dem spring conference in Sheffield. In fact he dug himself even deeper into the hole he has created. The delicate task of working with another party without sounding like its obedient echo has eluded him and his fellow Lib Dem ministers. He now has to buck up sufficient courage to face up to Cameron and Lansley whose chaotic and ultimately destructive plans to reform the NHS have drawn condemnation from the British Medical Association and the public at large.
Led by the former darling of the centre-left Shirley Williams who described the Lansley plan as “stealth privatisation”, the conference passed almost unanimously a motion demanding more accountability and openness in commissioning, a rejection of the marketisation of the health service and safeguards against cherry-picking by private sector providers. Clegg is a consumate actor and responded by saying just what his party faithful demanded, he agrees and no government of which he is a part will be allowed to do these things. Now he has to deliver and an indication of just how unlikely that is came within an hour when Downing Street issued a statement. It said that this is not about significant changes but merely about ” reassuring people with minor changes to the language of the bill”. Oh no it isn’t. If the Conservatives bully Clegg into going along with that, he will find himself thrown out of the Lib Dem leadership.
As is his habit young Nick told the conference that the general alarm was all down to Labour’s tales of woe. Wrong again. Tomorrow he may realise just how far from the truth that is for the BMA is due to hold its first emergency conference for many years, and the likelihood is that doctors will withdraw their cooperation. Their leader has already warned that the Lansley plan will take our health care back to that of the 1930s.
And another non-Labour voice is gearing up. 38 Degrees, the national protest movement that led the rebellion against the Forests sell-off is now collecting signatures on its website. When it asked its members to decide what issue should follow the forests, the NHS was overwhelmingly nominated. People believed that the plan has nothing to do with the deficit and everything to do with Lnasley’s determination to turn the NHS into a market-place in which the NHS is reduced to dealing with acute cases.
Clearly if the medical profession blocks the plan it cannot proceed. If it doesn’t, the potential ability of the Lib Dem block within the coalition to refuse to pass the bill is the only immediate hope of saving the NHS. Perhaps Nick Clegg should study a poll published today. Across Europe there is a sudden distrust of government. We are not at the top of the distrust league but are getting there. Right now distrust of politicians exceeds trust by a massive 66 per cent. And only 12 per cent of Brits believe that our politicians are honest.
Is it any wonder? The NHS reforms were not mentioned in either the manifestos or the coalition agreement. The medical profession is united in its concern that patients will suffer and the Lib Dem party at large is totally opposed. Yet Clegg on Saturday was prepared to lie and turn intellectual somersaults in an attempt to mislead the British people!
QUOTES FOR TODAY; “I always sit in the tail end of a plane, always, ‘cos you never hear of a plane backing into a mountain”….Tommy Cooper “The ship is sinking. We must try to save it. Help me get it into the lifeboat!”….Spike Milligan “Why not give your son a motorbike for his last birthday?”….Colin Bowles “Try flying on a plane with a restless baby if you want a sense of what it must have been like to be a leper in the 14th century”…..Nora Ephron “I don’t answer the phone because I have this feeling that there is going to be someone on the other end”…..Fred Couples “Brass bands are all very well in their place – outdoors and several miles away”…..Thomas Beecham “A harpsichord sounds like two skeletons copulating on a tin roof”…..Thomas Beecham “I would like to marry a nice, domesticated homosexual guy who has a fetish for wiping down Formica and different vacuum-cleaner attachments”…..Jenny Eclair
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. ‘Blazing Saddles’ 2. Argentina
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. In which sport was Harvey Smith once famous? 2. Which country was once led by Lee Kuan Yew?
The chickens were in a particularly quarrelsome mood this morning and after one altercation of Lib Dem conference proportions, as the corn was scattered, one drew blood. When that happens quick isolation of the victim is called for before the entire flock weighs in. Given the chance, hens will indulge in cannabilism and at such times they are somewhat different to the images portrayed on Easter cards. And we share the experience of nurses in an NHS A & E department in that the response to an application of antiseptic is a well aimed peck. Having kept hens all my days I still cannot relate to those who claim that their chooks are lovely little Nick Cleggs. But then we Brits are a soft touch and forgive everything.
We certainly do in the case of squatters. In fact their occupation of other people’s property is not illegal and shifting them involves an enormous amount of court action and costs. Today’s headlines feature a classic example. St Mary’s Primary School in Wimbledon was looking forward to converting the adjacent building into much needed extra classrooms and work was about to begin when a group of migrants occupied the place. They arrived with a van laden with furniture, hi-fi equipment, washing machine and a television. They expressed themselves as delighted since in their countries “everything is private and we would never dream of entering someone’s property there”. Their spokesman, Ole Terve, added that were they to do so they would be “arrested, or worse”. He and his fellow squatters are unemployed and hail from Latvia and Lithuania.
Mr Terve went on to explain that they like the laws of England. “There is more freedom here and we can live for free and save money for things like travelling”. They may soon be travelling again for Merton Council has obtained a court order, although there is no sign of it being obeyed. Indeed another member of the group complained at some of the windows being boarded up and called for the boards to be removed to “provide more light and fresh air”. But things are not that bad since they have free access to water, gas and electricity since to cut those off would be an infringement of their human rights.
Meanwhile down the road in Essex, Travellers have established a huge illegal site at Cray’s Hill. This week they received a visit from the new EU Committee for the Protection of Minorities, the leader of which is Lidija Basta Fleiner who hails from Serbia, hardly the perfect example for inter-ethnic harmony. The committee did not visit local residents yet is said to be planning a report supporting the Travellers right to stay. The whole thing came as a surprise to me since I hadn’t realised that this is yet another area of our lives now controlled from Brussels.
In this case eviction can be authorised, the Council having offered housing. But encouraged by their new EU friends the large encampment is not for moving and police estimate that the cost of handling the violence would run to many millions. Restoring the environment afterwards would cost even more for no rates are paid yet rubbish is dumped over a wide area.
I may be wrong but I imagine that right across the EU, including Ireland, groups of the work- shy gather to consider their alternatives to earning a living as most of us have to. Within minutes someone probably says ” Lets head for the UK. No need to work, we can get good benefit payments and simply taking possession of empty property or land is not a criminal offence”
It is easy to believe that we will one day become the repository for every unemployed person in Europe and beyond. I guess one can see it in one of two ways. Either we should be proud to be the kindest people in the Union, or we should rage at the fact that we are a soft touch at a time when many here are suffering the fate of a thousand cuts.
QUOTES FOR TODAY; “When I get a lot of tension and headaches I do what it says on the Aspirin bottle. I take two and keep away from children”….Roseanne “Some tortures are physical and some are mental but the one that is both is dental”……Ogden Nash “I went to the dentist and he said say Aaah. I asked why. He said ‘my dog has died”….Tommy Cooper “She had so much bridgework, every time I kissed her I had to pay a toll”…..Lou Costello “I have a crush on my dentist. He said ‘You have a cavity’. I said’ I know, and I’d like you to fill it’ “…..Caroline Rhea “Laughter is the best medicine. Unlesss you have VD in which case penicillin’s probably a better bet”……Bob Monkhouse ” I’ll take a drugs test when George W Bush takes an IQ test”……Dick Flanagan “The wine tasted like a urine sample from someone who is gravely ill”……FRank Muir “Whenever someone asks me if I want water with my Scotch, I say I’m thirsty, not dirty”…..Joe E Lewis
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Tommy Docherty 2. The Food Programme
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1.Which was Mel Brook’s spoof Western? 2 Where were the 1978 soccer World Cup finals staged?
Those of us in the allotment shed that give attention to such things watched the Clegg performance at the Lib Dem conference. In Doctor Who the death of the Time Lord always happens in a blaze of sparkling lights and as they dim we meet the new all conquering hero. If it hadn’t been for the fact that former Doctors never return, it would have been a perfect metaphor for what happened at Liverpool. On to the stage strode Jacks’-the-Lad Nick and, as the polite applause at the end of his turn rippled, off went Tony Blair. The reincarnation was splendidly staged, so much so that Albert, surely the last living member of the TB fan club, chortled with delight. He lives, he lives cried our colleague.
We had earlier been reassured that Mr Cameron had approved the text but we had no hint as to who wrote it. Perhaps script-writers transfer in the way of Premiership footballers. Or perhaps they plagiarise. Either way the same phrases were there, the same persuasive grin, the same jokes and the same references to living creatures. The latter was if anything one up on Blair for young Nick managed to mention Carp, Ostrich and Duck within two sentences. Hopefully the political equivalent to the International Cricket Council will be checking out bets placed with bookmakers!
There too were the many references to our souls. Alistair Campbell once ruled that ‘we do not do God’ but he isn’t around now and Tony/Nick did his best to have us dwell on the eternal, which is probably the time it will take for the national debt to be cleared despite his promise of five years, a forecast strangely at odds with those of the Governor of the Bank of England. And then we had ‘stick with me and create a better society’, change the word better to safer and you have the Iraq approach to perfection.
Even great and reincarnated men make mistakes and Tony/Nick dropped a clanger loud enough to rock the Liver Birds when he roared that another five years of Labour would have finished Britain off. Surely it was him, or the Nick part of him, that made so much effort to persuade Grumpy Gordon and the Milliband family to join him in a coalition. Then again the advantage of being born again is that you can disown those bits of your former life that no longer resonate. Perhaps the other mistake came under the ‘ sins of omission’ category.
The cuts will be tough but people will thank us said our man. Not the redunadant masses in Liverpool surely? But he failed to mention the revelation that no fewer than 9000 public sector employees earn more than the Prime Minister. Since the PM is in effect the chief executive something needs to be done. Had Nick/Tony announced that all of them will, at a stroke, receive pay cuts down to PM level we all might have applauded. But he contented himself with promising that debt collectors will use lie-detectors to ensure that they pay their taxes. Sadly, as with many of his utterances, our hero failed to explain how this will actually be organised and we were left with images of cybermen marching them off to the back of the nearest Oxfam shop where a concealed mobile torture chamber will await.
Stick with me and save your souls boomed – piped really – Tony /Nick. A lot of the Lib Dems are renowned for their hearing problems and none more so than Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock. He spoiled the party somewhat by claiming that ‘the leadership is ignoring the wider party and creating a dictatorship’. How else does he imagine that important people such as the head of Ambrosia Council are going to be persuaded to have wires attached to their vital parts? Even worse the whole conferenec voted overwhelmingly against the coalition plan for ‘free’ schools. Anxious not to incur the wrath of Dad Cameron Tony/Nick made no mention of that considerable rebuff.
As we switched the set off and returned to our ferrets we wondered how this peculiar tale will end. Perhaps there will be another reincarnation at which Tony/Nick will morph into Cameron. It would be logical for therein surely lies the only possible destination of the once proud Liberals.
WHAT NEXT FOR CRICKET?
It was obvious that Pakistan were making a real effort in yesterday’s penultimate one day international against England. When they concentrate on cricket they are a very good team, a good deal better than England. In fairness it may well have been the case that England went on to the field somewhat unnerved.
Just a hour before they did so there had been a brawl in the nets, something Strauss and company probably lack expertise in. And they had considered long and hard the option of refusing to play after the Pakistan chairman accused them of deliberately cheating in the previous game, a claim that he apparently based on the word of Indian bookmakers.
In truth the whole series has descended into terrible farce and no one believes anything they see out on the field. The very least England should do is demand absolute proof that the visitors have cleaned up their act and establised self understanding before they ever agree to play them again. Meantime they are going to sue them for defamation so the farce is not over yet!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. A meteorite 2. Moorgate
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. In which TV series did Fiona Fullerton play a trainee nurse? 2. Whose autobiography was called ‘The Naked Civil Servant’?