Love Will Tear the British Union apart…

Nora Connolly 

Image© The Scottish Government

The SNP`s commitment to the principles enshrined in the British post-war settlement appear to be the motivating factor propelling Scotland toward independence. The party which oscillated between the left and the far right during the 1970s is now the party of consensus, promoting a benevolent nationalism whilst campaigning on a progressive social democratic platform. This seems reasonable and persuasive, especially given the SNP propensity to campaign in the poetry of Burns, whilst governing Scotland in the prose of Keynes and Beveridge. Bevan is also close to the SNP leadership’s heart, the Welsh architect of the British NHS. This is then, big tent inclusive nationalism, seemingly devoid of any racial component, anti-English rhetoric or sentiment. After all there is an estimated 400,000 people of English origins living in Scotland with a projected 10% of this cohort supporting the SNP. Of course Scotland is no egalitarian utopia. And while the country may exhibit more social cohesion and solidarity than other parts of the UK, it’s far from perfect and it would be naive to suggest otherwise. If you have ever attended an `Old Firm` game then you will quickly appreciate my point. Read more of this post

Pensions for all and solidarity forever…

Legal Eagle

copyright Professor Megan`s photostream

I am aware that my recent comments concerning social democracy and the golden generation may have been slightly misconstrued. My intention was not to critique those now retired I was actually commending this generation for placing themselves on the right side of the poverty line, a position they and previous generations earned through struggle. I simply wished to highlight the obvious, that future generations who manage to reach the ever distant pensionable age, are going to find themselves in poverty. And we must reflect upon this as social democratic institutions wither on the vine both here and abroad. Quentin Crisp once said that in Britain the “people are cruel but the system kind; while in America the opposite was true”. If we accept this notion, then we need to ask, what happens to the poor in Britain when the system also becomes cruel? Because, I for one am tired of hearing privileged Tories bemoaning the fact that people are simply living too long in this country. We should be rejoicing in this and congratulating some of the social democratic institutions that have made this possible, such as the National Health Service, which is looking increasingly susceptible to privatisation in the future. One thing is for sure; once this privatisation kicks in we will undoubtedly see a drop in longevity levels in the UK, thus allowing the rich to make huge profits while resolving the tiresome problem of the demographic time-bomb. Read more of this post

Politics: A Posh Boys’ Game

Dan Walsh 

Image © conservativeparty

The recent row over Andrew Mitchell’s alleged use of the word ‘pleb’, hot on the heels of a fairly undisguised ‘lurch to the right’ in a Cabinet reshuffle, once again brings up the age old ‘the Tories are a party of public school toffs who will always be the same and value only themselves’ argument. Labour supporters find it immeasurably tempting to give into this, and it can often unhelpfully cloud debate and disguise their own failings. It has to be said though, the Coalition have not been lacking in giving ammunition.

It’s easy to begin to wonder just what goes through the mind of Prime Ministers when making appointments to cabinet. As mentioned above, the statement of intent was clearly to move right in this instance; the appointment of the right-wing and climate change skeptic Owen Paterson as an environment minister and the somehow unsacked Jeremy Hunt, a co-author of a book describing the NHS as a 60-year mistake, as health secretary are perhaps the prime examples. Quoting a previous appointment though, it’s also worth mentioning Theresa May’s selection as equalities minister as well given her history of reportedly holding meetings to attempt to cure people of being gay and a voting record that includes voting against gay adoption and against the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality.

Whatever your views are on homosexuality, the NHS or the climate, it seems sensible to feel that the ministers for these particular areas ought to have two things: a level of expertise in the field and a desire to stand up for the field. The lack of expertise is the one that never fails to amaze. If a musician wanted to hire a guitarist for a recording session, would their attitude be ‘well he can’t play guitar but he’s a good friend so I’ll get him in and he’ll pick it up as he goes along’? And yet that is basically what happens within the Cabinet as the Prime Minister passes around jobs to people who know nothing about the realities of daily life and yet are expected to run the country and a government department dealing with issues and problems that are beyond the expertise of the budding minister.  Read more of this post

Interview with Paul Burstow MP

Mathew Hulbert @HulbertMathew 

Image © Department of Health

Paul Burstow MP has one of the hardest jobs in UK politics, as Minister of State at the Department of Health…and a Lib Dem one at that!

He had to try and sell the largely hated (certainly among Lib Dems) NHS Bill to a sceptical public.

As a visceral opponent of the aforementioned Bill, I wasn’t, it has to be said, Mr Burstow’s biggest fan.

Whilst I continue to disagree with the Health and Social Care Bill-I still believe it is, at least in part, privatisation by the back door-I think maybe I was a little harsh on Mr Burstow himself.

At the recent Social Liberal Forum Conference, held at the Waterloo Campus of King’s College in London, I along with three other bloggers got to interview Mr Burstow.

We had meant to be speaking to Lib Dem Deputy Leader, Simon Hughes MP, but he failed to show and so we were very fortunate that Mr Burstow agreed to stand in at the last minute.

He was very generous with his time.

A colleague started by asking him about Social Care.

“About 90% of what was announced on Wednesday didn’t get any (media) coverage and about 90% will make 100% of the difference,” said Mr Burstow.

“What’s the 90%? The 90% is that we’re completely overturning the principle of the poor law that still applies to social care. We’re establishing, for the first time, that social care in England has a universal aspect to its character, that anyone who has care needs or may need care needs in the future, should have access to reliable and trusted information and advice to plan and prepare’’.

He went on, “That there should be a universal offer of preventative services to stop people needing care in the first place, to help them age healthily. That there should be a responsibility on the Council to ensure there’s a sufficiency and quality of care available in their community, just not the ones that the Government will pay for, but for everyone.”

“Also, Councils do need to work in partnership with the NHS but also with housing. You can’t actually have wellbeing if you only fix the health and the care needs, you’ve got to address the housing needs as well as part of that. So, that’s the big revolutionary sort of change in what we’re proposing.”  Read more of this post

The NHS reform bill is reckless politics

Tom Bailey

Image © UCL Conservative Society

The former Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson, famously called the NHS “the closest thing the English have to a religion.” This oft-quoted truism is once again doing the rounds as the furore over the Health and Social Care Bill boils on despite continuous opposition from almost everyone in the profession and large swathes of the public. Ed Miliband even had a good soundbite in PMQs when, citing supposed (and since refuted) opposition to the reforms from the Tory Reform Group, he hit Cameron with the line that ‘Even the Tories don’t trust the Tories on the NHS.’ Lawson’s judgement remains an apt assessment of how important the NHS is to the British people and the corresponding distrust of creeping privatization into this most popular institution of the welfare state. For an example of this instinctive distrust of marketisation of the NHS, last week’s Question Time saw the American business woman, Julie Meyer, jeered by the audience when she suggested that we should turn it into a ‘trillion pound British healthcare industry.’ Perhaps this response was unsurprising given how America somehow squanders away 16.2% of its GDP on healthcare (as opposed to 9.3% for the UK) and yet leaves around 50 million people, or approximately 16% of its population, without healthcare. However, I want to focus on the bad politics surrounding this bill. I lack sufficient expertise and willpower to dissect or examine the 367 page bill itself.

Firstly, this bill was not democratically mandated. The much cited Coalition agreement set out that the government would ‘stop the top-down reorganisations of the NHS that have got in the way of patient care.’ Further to this, the Tory 2010 manifesto stated that ‘more than three years ago, David Cameron spelled out his priorities in three letters – NHS. Since then, we have consistently fought to protect the values the NHS stands for and have campaigned to defend the NHS from Labour’s cuts and reorganisations.’ Occasionally there has been an attempt by the government to claim it is not top-down but bottom-up change. However, one Tory MP argued that ‘stripping out primary care trusts (PCTs) and strategic health authorities is as top down as it comes.’ Even if certain clauses in manifestos gave hints of coming organizational changes, no radical transformation was openly offered up at the last election by either the Tories or the Lib Dems. Instead, the government is open to accusations of dishonesty and hypocrisy given the record of both the Tories and Lib Dems in critiquing overly zealous top down New Labour reforms of the NHS.

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