"The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it"
Aneurin Bevan

Monday, 20 September 2010

Do LibDem hearts still beat on the left?

This is the title of a post over at Next Left. Here Sunder Katwala provides a write up of a fringe meeting at the LidDem conference. One comment from Norman Lamb piqued me.

Remember that when the whole "Death Tax" argument flared up, it was Lamb who was most effective in pointing out that the Conservatives were talking nonsense. Lansley had called Burnham's social care plans a "Death Tax" and gave as an alternative an unworkable, underfunded, optional scheme. Burnham went to pieces showing that he was completely unable to attack an unworkable policy when it was presented by a bully like Lansley. Lamb, however, was calm and thoughtful and pointed out with great effect that Lansley's plans could not work. Lambs attacked panicked Lansley into providing more policy details on the hoof and consequently killed Lansley's argument.

Here is the quote from Lamb:

"It is a Coalition of independent parties. It is not a pact."
But this is not what has happened. The LibDems have been subsumed in government. Even their greatest "achievement", the raising of the income tax allowance, was not a unique LibDem policy. David Cameron said before the election that he wanted to do this, but it was too expensive and so was not a priority for him. In other words, the policy that was implemented was not a LibDem policy, it was a Tory policy.

Then we have that worthless rag the "Coalition Agreement", the Conservative government are simply not following it, and the LibDems are unable to do anything about it. (Like everything in this government there is no accountability.) In the CA there is a LibDem policy that PCTs (Primary Care Trusts, the organisation that allocates NHS funding locally) should be replaced with elected Health Boards. However, the Conservative government are not doing this, instead, they are replacing PCTs with semi-autonomous, self appointed GP Commissioning Boards. In other words, the very worst of the PCTs (that they are appointed and face-less) are being spun as the strengths of the new system. So what happened to the LibDem "moderating influence"? Lansley (who Lamb locked horns with effectively at the election) simply said "we had a look at elected Health Boards and decided that they would not work" and instead went back to his original idea, another policy that has not been tested and (according to most GPs) will not work.

The coalition is still in its honeymoon. In a years time LidDems will be weeping about what little influence they have had. If Lamb, or more significantly, Clegg, was true to his word he would stick rigidly to the Coalition Agreement and not allow a millimetre of deviation (I think someone else said something similar recently), because once the CA is seen as being optional the Tories will simply make no attempt to follow it, nor try to accommodate Libdem policies.

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