'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A Price Worth Paying?

Here's yesterday's piece in the New Statesman. Do pop over if you'd like to see the comments. Generally speaking - they didn't like it. Especially one Owen Jones..Oh dear...

And of course, if you are a Lib Dem MP or Peer, do have a read. I wrote it for you. Everyone else - do feel free to send it to a Lib Dem MP or Peer...

There appears to be some confusion as to what the Lib Dem members were saying about The Health and Social Care Bill at Spring Conference over the weekend. Let me attempt to clarify things.

In short we are asking our MPs and Peers to decide if the cost of passing the Health and Social Care Bill is a price worth paying.

We don't like this bill. We trust our Conservative coalition partners on the NHS about as far as we can throw them. Our peers have done a tremendous job at amending the bill but it still has a very bad smell hanging around it. Even Nick made clear in his speech to conference that "this isn't a Liberal Democrat bill".

Nonetheless, there are some good things in the bill. No one pretends the NHS is perfect. Even Andy Burnham - who wrote an open letter to all Lib Dem members last week - says there is work to do to "enable the NHS to make some of the difficult service changes it needs to make to have a care model ready for the challenges of this century".

But everyone in the party does agree on one thing. Somehow - oh, how has this been allowed to happen - we have been manoeuvred into a position whereby if the bill passes, in the eyes of the electorate the responsibility for it will lie with us. And even if in the long term it turns out that supporters of the bill are right and the NHS improves through the passing of this bill, we wont get any of the credit, and we will get still get hammered by the voters for passing it. The cost of allowing this legislation comes with a heavy price tag for the Lib Dems.

So here is the question our Parliamentarians need to consider. It is perhaps a fairly obvious question - but in the midst of negotiations both around the bill and within the party, it is one that hasn't been asked enough.

Are you absolutely convinced that passing this bill will improve all patient outcomes in the NHS?
If you are - and I'm duty bound to point out this means you believe you know better than just about every professional healthcare body in the country - then you must pass this bill, no matter what the electoral cost to the party. It may mean another 80 years of electoral oblivion but if that's what you believe, you should put the NHS before the party.

But if you're not sure (and until the Risk Register is published, how can you be?), then is the cost of passing, as Nick calls it, the Conservatives' Health and Social Care Bill a price worth paying?

The members have done their bit and been clear that they don't think that it is.

But it's up to you now.


  1. When you go into coalition with a larger party you find you have to agree to policies and actions that you dont like. It may hurt you at the ballot box. But you accept that - if you have principles. As for Labour: the idea that the NHS was (or would be) safe in their hands is a sad delusion.

  2. Michael - surely that's the point of coalition agreements? You work out what you're signing up to up front? It's no coincidence that it's the areas that contradict the coalition agreement that have caused most pain - because we had agreed to something else - and precisely because there was no need or political logic to "agree to policies and actions that (we) didn't like"

  3. Martin, you beat me to it.

    Michael, there's nothing in the coalition agreement ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8677933.stm ) to cover these changes so why on earth are we supporting them?

    Funnily enough, there is an argument that says if we are convinced that the Bill is a good one, we should support it no matter the cost at the ballot box. The problem here is - the majority of the membership don't think this bill is a good one...