A letter from Andy Burnham to Liberal Democrat members

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I never expected to see the day when I could say, hand on heart, that I was more interested in events at a Lib Dem Spring Conference than the weekend’s football. But life’s full of surprises and that moment has arrived.

It is no over-statement to say that this weekend’s gathering in Gateshead could determine the future of our country’s best-loved institution.

As you prepare for the weekend, I wanted to make a direct appeal to the grassroots members of your party: please stand out against the current direction of reform and stand up for the NHS model we all have been able to depend on and trust for 63 years. Between our two parties, we just about have the power to stop a Bill that will cause it great damage. I also wanted to issue an invitation to those of you who feel the same as us to help us build an alternative vision for an integrated NHS in this century of the ageing society.

I feel sure your President Tim Farron spoke for many Liberal Democrats in saying the Bill should have been dropped. Only three weeks ago, Lady Williams argued that the third part of the Bill, the competition chapters, should be deleted.

If our two parties had worked together on this aim, there’s a fair chance we could have achieved it and mitigated the damage. That’s frustrating. But it’s not too late. Parliament is sleepwalking into the looming disaster for the NHS of this defective Bill entering the Statute Book but it is within your power to stop it.

It is clear that many prominent Liberal Democrats, in private if not in public, consider this Bill to be a dud. I feel certain that the long-term best interests of your Party are better served by acknowledging that and doing something about it, rather than acting out of a misplaced sense of loyalty to the Coalition. In doing so, you would of course be implementing the letter of the Coalition Agreement.

We are disappointed by this week’s events in the Lords. We feel many of your Peers and MPs have let you down. But next week we are giving the Commons a final chance to drop the Bill. Government backbenchers have denied 170,000 people, who signed the Drop the Bill e-petition, the debate they deserve. Labour will correct that by forcing a debate and vote next Tuesday afternoon in the House of Commons. When you see your MPs this weekend, please ask them to put the NHS first and join us in that vote.

I have no doubt that some will read my motive in writing this blog as a tactic for narrow party gain. There’s not much I can do about that, save to say it’s simply not the case. The truth is Labour’s narrow political interests are probably best served by the Coalition simply ploughing on with this disastrous Bill. But, even so, I desperately want them to stop.

I know the NHS can only be preserved for the rest of this century by building a broad consensus that goes beyond any one Party. Nothing matters more to me than protecting the NHS and that is my motivation in making this appeal to you.

We should work together to build a new coalition for the NHS – of patients, professionals and people from all parties who share the same view – to protect it from market forces and the money motive running riot.

Please give that some thought and discuss it in Gateshead this weekend. It’s important as more cross-Party consensus is going to be needed if we are 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.

It probably goes without saying that you didn’t agree with everything Labour did in Government. The NHS isn’t perfect but, by the time we left Government, it was judged one of the world’s best healthcare system with the lowest ever waiting lists and highest ever patient satisfaction. This NHS model which your Party helped conceive isn’t broken. In fact, it’s the envy of the world and the answer, not the barrier, to meeting the challenges of the 21st century.

I know that many Lib Dem activists know in their heart of hearts that this Bill is bad for the NHS. This weekend in Gateshead, please tell that truth to power.

* Andy Burnham is Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Health.

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62 Comments

  • “It probably goes without saying that you didn’t agree with everything Labour did in Government.”

    As someone who is against this Bill can I say that that is a massive understatement. The 2006 Act was a train-wreck, it is the reason so much emphasis is on competition in the first place. There is much to be applauded that has been achieved in the NHS in the last decade, much of it in spite of, not because of Government. The Lib Dems do not need advice from Labour, just to stick to the plans I voted for in their Manifesto of 2010. I didn’t think they were perfect but they were the best on offer from the three main parties.

    I would rather this Bill were scrapped, but supporting Labour on the NHS is not even remotely on the horizon for me…

  • Richard Dean 9th Mar '12 - 10:20am

    Andy Burnham. You say the bill is bad, but you give no explanation of why you think this. You hold out the possibility of a different bill, which will of course attract the same opposition as this one, except from different people. The different bill will, it seems, address the issue of competition, but Shirley WIlliams and recent amendments have sorted this out already. You know that LibDem activists have a big responsibility this time. You know that, if LibDems tell their MPS not to support the bill, the result is that the LibDem party gets fractured, because the MPs are a lot more sensibel than that and will vote for it. You must be joking!

  • “You know that, if LibDems tell their MPS not to support the bill, the result is that the LibDem party gets fractured, because the MPs are a lot more sensibel than that and will vote for it. You must be joking!”

    No – he has our “best” interests at heart.. A fractured Lib Dem Party? Burnham will be crying into his beer.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 9th Mar '12 - 10:43am

    The above responses are totally predictable and totally depressing.

    OK, children, vote for the Tory bill to spite Labour. Never mind the consequences for the future of the NHS or for your own electoral prospects But don’t you think that, just possibly, you might be playing into Labour’s hands? After all, if I were Andy Burnham, and I wanted to see you commit electoral suicide by passing the bill, a letter urging you to do the opposite would be just the thing: remember Brer. Rabbit and the Tar Baby (Please don’t throw me into the briar patch!?

  • We should work together to build a new coalition for the NHS – of patients, professionals and people from all parties who share the same view – to protect it from market forces and the money motive running riot.

    Perhaps you should have thought about this before the PFI initiatives and the costs the people here in Portsmouth are seeing being paid to the provider under the PFI contract:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-13035648

    And the increased costs as part of the PFI contract, that visitors and patients have to pay directly to line the pockets of the private provider:

    http://www.hsj.co.uk/hsj-local/acute-trusts/portsmouth-hospitals-nhs-trust/portsmouth-hospitals-disappointed-in-pfi-partner/5029702.article

    I fully understand and respect your decision to post this article, however I note that there is no substance. You say that:

    It’s important as more cross-Party consensus is going to be needed if we are 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.

    Therefore I ask:

    1. What exact changes do you propose it needs?
    2. What are the costs to the NHS for these changes?
    3. Where will these costs be taken from – From the current funding? Or from additional funding, and if so where will this additional funding be found?
    4. Have you already consulted with the Professional bodies about the changes you would propose, and what is there response?

    I think I would need to have answers to these questions, to make a fully informed and considered judgement.

  • I have voted Lib-Dem since 1997 but cannot support this NHS bill which is the worst in my lifetime. The Doctors,Nurses and patients will never forgive us if we let this pass

  • The LibDems will be truly stuffed if they support this bill.

  • The Tories just want to complete the job where New Labour left off. Yes we should kill the bill, but not in response to a cynical plea from this character. A more detailed mea culpa from Burnham covering why he is u turning himself would be make more interesting reading than this. I’d also be interested to hear his take on how much longer Miliband will last.

  • I am disheartened to read some of the comments.

    It seems to me as though the Liberal Democrats and it’s members are suffering from a gambling addiction.

    Just like a gambler who has got themselves in to so much debt they are constantly needing to chase the previous pound. The Liberals Democrats now fear that they are now so entrenched with the Tories that in order for political survival they are having to support each Tory reforms that are damaging our country.

    That would be fine if you where just gambling on your own political futures, but there is much more at stake here (pun intended)

    Sad thing is though, ask anyone with a gambling addiction and it never really ends well, It’s not till you lose “everything” before you can start rehabilitation.

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Mar '12 - 12:18pm

    Shauny, PFI was a Tory creation. George Osborne might have criticised them as ‘dodgy and ‘discredited, before the last election but he has been no slouch when it comes to sign off billions worth of PFI since the coalition government was formed.

  • Jayne Mansfield – “Shauny, PFI was a Tory creation”

    Maybe – but one enthusastically embraced by Labour, who used it as off-balance sheet finance to spend money without having the honesty to put their spending consequences before the electorate. We are now dealing with the consequences of this attitude.

  • @Jayne Mansfield
    I don’t disagree with your comment, but I think @Tabman has given what my response would have been, in probably a more succinct way than I could probably have managed! :-)

  • Sorry but we’ll take no lecturing on saving the NHS from Labour…..

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Mar '12 - 1:41pm

    @ Shauny, I too agree with that but if PFI was wrong then, it is wrong now.

    There is much that New Labour did to the NHS that I am critical of, the GP contract for a start where doctors were paid enormous sums for doing less and taking less responsibility, ie. no nights and week-end duties.

    I am prepared to listen to Andy Burnham once more, because although in my opinion Labour made some terrible mistakes when reforming the health service, I think that their hearts ( or the hearts of some of them including Burnham) were in the right place. It is an excuse I will proffer about the Liberal Democrats too, if, as I believe these NHS reforms damage rather than improve the NHS.

  • Jayne Mansfield – “I am prepared to listen to Andy Burnham once more, because although in my opinion Labour made some terrible mistakes when reforming the health service, I think that their hearts ( or the hearts of some of them including Burnham) were in the right place.”

    Comments like this make my blood boil.

    Having “their hearts in the right place” does not make it alright. Well-meaning incompetence is worse than useless, because it cannot ever be improved upon. We just get the same cycle of continuous f**k up.

    At least with ruthless efficiency you have the opportunity to make it comapssionate efficiency.

  • Dave Eastham 9th Mar '12 - 1:55pm

    Whilst thoroughly I agree with Gareth Epps reference to the succinct, legendary and legal precedent setting reply, given by Private Eye, to someone who was threatening to sue them at the time. It remains true, that if there is an emergency motion which gets enough support to be debated, then the party has to debate it. I care not a jot Andy Burnham’s motives, partisan or not. The Labour Party have a lot to keep quiet about over the 2006 Act. If this is Andy Burnham’s “sinner repent” moment all well and good. Somehow however, I don’t think so, having heard him defending PFI recently in a public meeting.

    There are three questions that need to be answered.

    1. Does this Bill do what it claims on the tin (“Liberate” the NHS etc. etc. ad nauseum – another Private Eye term)?.
    2. Have the amendments to the Bill corrected reservations Lib Dem had about the Bill, as expressed in the motion at last years Spring Conference?.
    3. Is primary legislation even necessary to reform and democratise the NHS , integrate Health and Social Care , “correct” in some way the 2006 Act and does this Bill do any of that?.

    In my opinion the answer to all three is no. Others may, and do differ but the latest LDV poll suggests an almost 2 to 1 majority of Lib Dem activists are not in favour of continuing to support the HSC Bill.

    If supporting the Bill because Andy Burnham says we should not, is the best some can come up with, then they really do have no good arguments for supporting the HSCB

    Therefore if a motion calling for withdrawal of support is passed this weekend, then the Party’s support for Lansley’s Bill should be withdrawn. Otherwise, there really is no purpose to conference and we all may as well allow the Parliamentary Party to go off and play on their own.

    Simples.

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Mar '12 - 2:15pm

    If this outcomes of the coalition health service bill come back to bite you, you might just be grateful to voters like me, who are prepared to accept that decisions that prove to be wrong were were made in good faith.

    Your party is inflicting the biggest leap into the unknown onto the electorate. It is a leap that is not supported by any of the informed professionals, by academics in social and health care and research , and by patient groups.

    Where is your evidence that there will be greater economy, efficiency and effectiveness?

    It is a moot point whether the Liberal Democrats will prove to have been incompetent or ‘ruthlessly efficient’.

  • @Andrew Hickey

    I am sorry but that is a ridiculous thing to say. Just because Andy Burnham is against the bill means the bill must be right. That is the worse kind of Tribalism ever and should have no place in policies that are so important like these changes being made to the NHS that are going to affect millions of people.

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Mar '12 - 2:21pm

    @ Tabman, Sorry the above was a reply to your post.

  • @Jayne Mansfield – As I said in my initial comment, I do understand and respect why Andy Burnham has posted this piece – However, he states that changes are needed, but yet fails to say what changes. He says that he wants to move away from the ‘money motives’, yet gives no alternative to what it is he would see in place – PFI? PFI-max? Abolishing PFI? I am willing to listen to all suggestions, but I see no suggestions put forward. He is asking for cross-party consensus on formulating a new Bill, yet to reach a consensus you need to put forward ideas to be discussed – How can an informed decision be made, when there are no alternatives placed before you? He is asking for the Bill to be voted down, yet unable to put any ideas or alternatives forward for scrutiny.

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Mar '12 - 3:19pm

    @Shauny, there has been little time to formulate alternatives. This bill was ‘bounced’ on the electorate after the election.

    Perhaps the electorate were kept in the dark about the plans for the NHS for this reason.

    Oh no, I am becoming a conspiracy theorist!

  • Jayne Mansfield – perhaps I misinterpreted your comment. You seemed to imply that it was OK to be incompetent if your heart’s in the right place. I was challenging that assumption – the measure is intention vs outcome.

  • “It’s important as more cross-Party consensus is going to be needed if we are 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.”

    I wholly agree with this comment by Andy Burnham. The NHS is already coming under severe pressure despite massive investment since 1999 and real increases in the health budget during this period of fiscal retrenchment. The heath and social care issues arising from demographic changes that are seeing an exponential rise in lifespans cannot and will not be adequately resolved with any element of permanence, without a high degree of consensus across a broad swathe of the British public. It should be possible to extend the cross-party consensus that exists to some degree, in developing a lasting solution to long term care costs, to a closer integration of health and social care.

    There will be mounting problems in maintaining the quality of NHS services during the course of this parliament whether or not this bill is passed in its current form. It behooves us all to enable a bill that can be supported by a majority of the medical profession and patient organisations alike. Regretably, we are not there yet.

  • As much as I hate the bill, this desperate plea from Burnham is a big miscalculation. Why the hell should the Lib Dems listen to anything Labour have to say on anything? Labour racked up the debts, Labour let the gap between rich and poor grow still further, Labour were planning on cutting NHS funding at the last election, Labour ARE cutting NHS funding in Wales (because Labour cuts aren’t really cuts at all, right?) and Labour took us into Iraq despite the opposition. As a Coalition supporter and Tory, I’m against the bill, but I feel that the last person in the world I’ll take advice off is a Labour shadow minister and I feel like the case to drop the bill has been hindered by Burnham’s article on here. Lib Dems have their own views and if you guys want to vote down the health bill then you will. Wish the leaderships of all 3 parties would stop dictating what everybody should think!!!

  • David Allen 9th Mar '12 - 5:34pm

    “this desperate plea from Burnham is a big miscalculation.”

    ‘Fraid it is’nt. Burnham wants us to ignore his advice, so that he can then score points off us for doing so.

  • Goodbye LibDem and goodbye Our beloved NHS if you allow this bill to be passed.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '12 - 11:36pm

    matt

    It seems to me as though the Liberal Democrats and it’s members are suffering from a gambling addiction.

    Just like a gambler who has got themselves in to so much debt they are constantly needing to chase the previous pound. The Liberals Democrats now fear that they are now so entrenched with the Tories that in order for political survival they are having to support each Tory reforms that are damaging our country.

    I despair when I read such comments, which have been thrown at us continually since the coalition was formed. What would you have preferred Matt? Lansley’s original proposals to go through? You seem to have ignored that here, as elsewhere, Liberal Democrats have worked hard to take out the worst aspects of what the Tories are doing. If there had been no Liberal Democrats in 2010, the Tories would have won a clear majority and all they have proposed would have gone through unchanged. I do not see any Liberal Democrat member arguing the case for accepting Lansley’s original proposals unchanged, which is what you are implying.

    The effect of snide comments such as yours is to weaken the Liberal Democrats in their attempt to deal with the Tories and take out the worst of what they are doing. If everything they do is written off by people like you, they might as well say “why bother?” and stop. If the Tories say to the Liberal Democrats “push too hard, and we’ll pull out of the coalition, and either rule as a minority government or have an election where you are destroyed”, the Liberal Democrats need to be able to point to continuing support in the country to argue that is not the case.

    The Liberal Democrats are not in the position to be able to pick or choose whether to form a coalition with Labour or a coalition with the Tories, there are not enough Labour MPs. They are in a position, being in the coalition, to choose which aspects of Conservative policies they reject, but only so long as the Tories are willing to carry on with the coalition, which they will not be if the LibDems push too hard.

    I have already said that I think the LibDems should oppose this Bill – but there’s a big risk in it, which is that the Conservatives will reply to that opposition by ending the coalition. Deciding where to take the risk and where to build up bargaining strength by letting the Tories get away with it is a finely balanced thing. The balance would be more to the LibDems if they could point to enough outside support which would mean it is too big a risk for the Tories to take,

  • Forget party politics and who is playing who. do what is right. At least lets see what is in the RISK REGISTER they tried to hide before we make any decision if there is nothing to hide at least give us the facts. If we get this wrong we will become unelectable and rightly so. All we need to do is vote for a delay in order to study the FULL RISK REGISTER then vote with our heads for the right reasons.

  • Fatbaldybloke 10th Mar '12 - 5:29am

    I am not a libdem. Neither am I a Tory or Labour supporter. I am a floating voter from Liverpool. My vote has historically changed between Libdem and Labour as I am of an age where conservative policies of the past seem to me to have always been detrimental to my lifestyle.

    At present I am not happy with the libdems getting into bed with the tories and particularly the about turn on tuition fees which has had me thinking I am left with only labour to vote for in future elections (though even they have gone a bit to tory for me since Blair)

    However I care deeply about the NHS. For me this is possibly the libdems final opportunity to redeem themselves and get back into the fray, Please don’t waste it.

  • Geoffrey Payne 10th Mar '12 - 8:12am

    If Andy Burnham is sincere about wanting ‘kill the bill’ I recommend he takes a course on how to win friends and influence people. That patronising first sentence was probably as far as most people got when they read this article.

  • I’m not here as a Labour or Lib Dem supporter, but I saw that this letter had been posted via a news site.

    It always troubles me that people who back these reforms – mostly traditional Conservative Party voters – seem to do so because “well, Labour messed things up didnt they”. There’s a bit of that here too, along with “where are Burnham’s ideas?”.

    If people are debating what they like or dislike about these plans then at least that’s logical, but it scares me that people think that these awful proposals are needed simply because Labour underperformed. And by using an argument that we simply have to reform the NHS (nobody disagrees), it should be acknowledged that hugely damaging and probably irreversable proposals are not reform.

    I dont particularly care for Burnham’s letter, but surely he doesnt have to say what he’d do. Who cares what he’d do to be honest. If you know what we shouldnt do – eg give the vast majority of the NHS budget to groups that arent capable or willing to deal with it, then allow the health service to break down into a vast array of private or publically owned pieces operating with their own interests as first priority – please oppose this.

    There are many people that arent attached to a health professionals union or a political party, that simply cant believe what’s going on here. A broken promise about “no top down reorganisation”, people signing off plans apparently not understanding them, then a horrible process where terrible proposals were simply watered down and tinkered with – not improved. That’s not right.

    I dont agree with some that this issue is political dynamite. The majority of the population isnt ill and in need of the care (and continuity of care) that these plans will destroy and so much of this will be forgotten. But in my opinion many, many people will lose out under the new system and many will have poorer quality of life. That, again, is not right.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    “I have already said that I think the LibDems should oppose this Bill – but there’s a big risk in it, which is that the Conservatives will reply to that opposition by ending the coalition.”

    I am not sure that would happen at all, These NHS reforms where not in the coalition agreement and if the Tories ended the coalition because of that they they would be hammered at an election, more than likely to your parties advantage I would think.

    I am not saying that Liberal Democrats have not worked hard to water down this bill, they have won many concessions, However, They have not won the most important concessions which are going to cause the most damage to the NHS that conference voted for last year.

    We all understand that in a coalition there has to be give and take and “negotiations” and I am sure, most people would agree, when 2 parties are brought together to govern the country with different manifesto’s this is what happens.
    But lets remember, the public where not told about this planned top down reorganisation of the NHS, in fact they where told the opposite. Nobody voted for Lansleys proposals because non of us were aware they existed. Hence the reason I suggest that they where not in the coalition agreement.
    Or maybe Liberal Democrats did know during the negotiations with the Tories on forming a coalition Lansleys secret health reforms and for some unto known reason they thought it best to keep them from becoming public in the coalition agreement ? which if they did, makes things even worse.

    I do not believe that “Had” Liberal democrats won a majority government, they would be brining in these kind of reforms to the NHS, sure, there would be changes as they proposed in their manifesto. But nothing on the level like we are seeing now.
    I would assume that Liberal Democrats would not have brought in these policies, as they would not believe that is what is best for the NHS and the country.
    So on that basis I can not understand why the party would be supporting it,. it is not in the coalition agreement and there is no duty on the party to support it.

    That is why I said what I said in my previous post about the gambling, It is exactly how I see it, and I think the HSC Bill is far to important for Liberal Democrats taking risks like this, to keep favour with the Tories and staying in coalition.

  • Geoffrey Payne: remember it is not in Labour’s interests for us to drop the bill. They have no policies, just opposition to the coalition government. They need us to cling to the NHS bill so that they can point to something (anything!) that they can fall in line behind. Andy Burnham’s job isndonenif no one reads the rest of his post.

    And Labour’s fox is shot if the party decide to vote against the bill in the emergency motions debate tomorrow – their whole local election strategy for May will crumble.

  • Jody Aberdein 10th Mar '12 - 9:44am

    ‘Why the hell should the Lib Dems listen to anything Labour have to say on anything’

    I am a hospital doctor. I haven’t voted labour in a long time. This isn’t about red or yellow or blue, it’s about two things. Firstly whether you’ll be buying insurance to avoid the run down and underfunded half of the NHS in a decades time, and secondly whether you’ll be voted for again. Might I remind you that YouGov last week had you at 8%. That’s EIGHT electorally annihilated percent. Christ, even the Mail is against this. My true blue grandparents in law just handed their tory membership back. Your choice. Make yourselves the heroes of the day please.

  • I want Tories , Labour and Lib Dems and Greens to vote down this bill.Don’t think in Party Political terms Think NHS survival. The Conservatives have Privatisation at the heart of the party.

  • Virtus Invicta 10th Mar '12 - 11:16am

    I am not party political, let me say from the off.
    In my opinion the Liberal Democrat party represents the closest we have today to a balanced, open and honest political standpoint, with integrity still evident. I would not say the same for either of the other two main parties.
    I have been a clinician in the NHS for over twenty years. Neither of the other two main political parties, in my experience, are better than the other when it comes to this nation’s proudest and most treasured achievement of modern times.
    This bill is a disaster for that institution. From what I can decipher, in its original form, it would see the dismantling of the notion of a *national* health service within, at the outside, a generation, and in all probability much, much quicker.
    Even amended it represents the thin end of a wedge that, at some indeterminate time in the not too distant future, will be forced fully home.
    It has also been compiled in haste and the prosess tainted by secrecy.
    The public, the patients, the doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, any number of other professionals and ancilliary staff, the vast, vast majority of whom hold a not dissimilar view to my own, are aware that the true power of this decision rests with your party. The outcome will be the most significant thing that your party’s time in coalition will be measured by.
    Fewer and fewer people are swayed by the financial arguments any more and are beginning to question why there is not the money to meet the challenges of a growing and ageing population yet there appears an endless supply to prop up failing private enterprises and wage wars of aggression overseas.
    I implore you to act to stop this insidious bill reaching the statute books in any form. I fear that, should you not, your party will cease to be the powerful, moderating influence your esteemed predecessors worked so hard to make it, and be so discredited as to fade into obscurity, leaving the other two parties to argue over the spoils.

  • I’m not a LibDem but I’ve always voted LibDem in the past. I see this issue as the do-or-die test of your party.

    On many other issues (and especially further into the past) Mathew Huntbach is absolutely correct: the LibDems have had to play a careful game to moderate Tory bills (and I do appreciate you’ve been doing that) but not push them too far to the point of forcing an election when LibDems will be immensely unpopular for having supported a Tory government.

    However, now, as Coalition (Tory) cuts start to really bite, the Tories need you not just to get the bill through but also to avoid the electoral damage it will cause:

    If you support the bill they can use you as soft cover: “We didn’t do it, the coalition did” and voters will attach a disproportionate amount of blame to your party because of the betrayal: we expect Tories to want to privatise the NHS – but not the LibDems.

    If you oppose the bill and the Tories end the coalition as a result then they will be seen as the ones unable to work as a team for the good of the country and you will be seen as martyrs – sacrificed your power for the sake of our beloved NHS. A massive vote winner in all parts of the country.

    In fact, on this issue the LibDems can threaten the tories with breaking the coalition. And indeed, that’s exactly what you should be doing:

    “Drop the bill or we pull out of government”

    Then, if the Tories don’t drop the bill they will lose the next election: If they try to run a minority government it will be a farce. If they force an election immediately then this issue will be first and foremost in the minds of the electorate: “The Tories broke the government and forced this election on us just because they insist on privatising the NHS, which the LibDems rightly opposed and stood up for our NHS.”

    If Cameron has any sense he will realise that and will drop the bill. At which point, massive cudos for you for having forced him to do that (again, protecting our NHS from those evil Tories). He may even secretly be glad you did because it would give him an excuse to. It is a massive liability for him too.

    As for Andy Burnham, this is a win-win situation for him but you supporting this bill – Labour is the only winner there. That way both Tories and LibDems lose votes.

    As for the bill itself, I am of course totally against it:
    – It is part-privatisation. There’s nothing to debate there. It blatantly and demonstrably is and no amount of ‘promises’ from Nick Clegg or anyone else is going to change that. (I mean: what power does he suppose he has to make such promises? But then, that is the problem: the promises he has made to David Cameron.)
    – The risk assessment is being withheld because it is scathing.
    – The health professionals are practically unanimously against it and are being sidelined in so-called ‘consultations’ about it.
    – And it’s a Tory NHS bill. Tory NHS bill = bad for the NHS. The first law of british politics.

    How any right-minded liberal and/or democrat could support it is beyond me.

  • Dave Eastham 10th Mar '12 - 11:43am

    o.k. My previous draft of this comment is still in “moderation” from 8.11am. I have had a look at it and modified it to remove any words that may have been intemperate in anyway and apologise if they were so. Although I have to say I have seen some rather more robust responses on LDV this week that have passed without comment.

    @ Dave Page at 1.05am
    Agreed Andy Burnham is irrelevant in this; a “sinner” not repenting, as I have previously pointed out. However, I think you are wrong. In all your posts in various threads you have not, as far as I can see, presented any references in support of your position of support for the HSCB., Sorry, this is meant as a genuine comment, not as an insult./reproof in any way. Please reference your evidence (which I may have missed) for your assertion that, “I believe (the HSC Bill) it’ll make the NHS better.”. I of course, don’t agree but I’ve tried to reference my opinion/judgement/contributions as appropriate.

    @ Matthew Huntbach – I don’t think the Tories will be able to collapse he coalition on their own. My reading of the Act regarding dissolution is that it is unlikely they will be able to do so. I think Cameron has his own problems with the euro sceptics in the Tories and we must also remember what the 1922 committee was set up to do to a previous coalition. Of course the “peoples” party could decide to “bring it on” but my reading of the current O.P’s is it would not help ‘em very much. Turkeys and Christmas come to mind. Of course there is no accounting for the “March Hare” tendency of the Labour Party.

    I think it is about time we recognised that this is not a single party Government. The conventions of single party majority government are not really working in a coalition. and disagreement and pluralism is allowed. We should certainly disagree with the HASC bill!

  • I used to support Labour but since the stewardship of Blair and the other Blairites it’s a relief for me now not to support any party. I agree with those LibDems who condemn Labour for introducing PFIs into the NHS, which will saddle us with debt for years to come but surely, despite Nick Clegg’s protestations it is blindingly obvious to anyone who knows anything about the Tory psyche it is their ultimate ambition to privatise EVERY public service. This Bill, no matter how many safeguards are supposedly built into it, will not prevent them from gaining their greatest prize ever i.e. privatisation of the NHS and once it is gone, it’s gone forever, something all our parents and grand parents fought so hard for after the war. The Bill MUST be stopped.

  • This Published today in the British Medical Journal
    “Entitlement to free health services in England will be curtailed by the Health and Social Care Bill currently before parliament. The bill sets out a new statutory framework that would abolish the duty of primary care trusts (PCTs) to secure health services for everyone living in a defined geographical area. New clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will arrange provision of fewer government funded health services and determine the scope of these services independently of the secretary of state for health. They may delegate this decision to commercial companies. The bill also provides for health services to be arranged by local authorities, with provision for new charging powers for services currently provided free through the NHS (clauses 1, 12, 13, 17, and 49), and it will give the secretary of state an extraordinary power to exclude people from the health service. Taken together the measures would facilitate the transition from tax financed healthcare to the mixed financing model of the United States. We provide an analysis of the key legal reforms that will govern policy development and implementation if the bill is enacted.”

    Comment,
    “You may possibly begin to understand why the Royal College of GPs, the Royal College of Physicians, the Faculty of Public Health, the Royal College of Nursing, and the rest, are all against the bill. They believe it will harm patient care. They’re correct.

    I may be biased, since my political affiliation is “floating voter”, but I really don’t think this is an issue on which it’s okay to simply be politically partisan, and worry about whose party is whose. This bill stands out alone as something very important, lifechanging for all of you, and it really does need to be stopped if at all possible. I honestly don’t think you can afford the alternatives.”

    You can find your MP here, and write to them:
    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/

  • Burnham is either playing a great Machiavellian game here, or has completely miscalculated the [lack of] love within the Lib Dems for Labour. If he deliberately wrote this knowing that his comments in opposition might be enough for wavering Lib Dems to vote in favour of the Bill, then he really has put party interest before NHS and country and should be roundly condemned for it. If he genuinely thought that such an appeal would work, then he was simply misguided. He should know better than to attempt to meddle in the decision making process of another party – he would be just as annoyed if a similar letter had appeared on Labour sites when he was in Government.

    On the Bill itself, I don’t really know the detail but I do trust the judgement of the likes of Shirley Williams to know what’s OK and what’s not.

  • Janet Woods 10th Mar '12 - 5:04pm

    The so-called concessions won by the Lib Dems amount to nothing. My heart bleeds that Shirley Williams should have been so conned to believe she had held back the demolition of my NHS. And as for the new act saving money! In Norfolk where I live, one area health authority will be replaced by at least five clinical commissioning groups – with all their Chief Execs and staff. I want my doctor to be my advocate for treatment not my commissioner. As for the private sector -well we’ve seen how well they’ve done in other areas so far! Energy:- prices up, little improvement to the infrastructure; water: – we’ve got a drought in the East, leaking pipes and no emergency plan; telephones:- no decent broadband in rural areas; railways: in a shambles and fares rising; privatisation of council services: shortage of affordable housing, roads in a terrible state. Hundreds of thousands losing their jobs nationwide.
    Finally if hospitals are to take up to 49% private patients to subsidise the cost of the NHS and don’t provide extra beds that’s 49% less beds for NHS patients which means longer waiting times and a second class service. I am of an age to remember pay-beds in the NHS. It wasn’t good then and this won’t be any better.

  • As a doctor and a Lib Dem supporter for many years, let me just point out that this bill is suicide. It’s badly thought out, it will cost a huge amount, it will allow the quiet infiltration of private companies (remember water, gas and the national rail?) and most importantly, it is DEEPLY unpopular amongst the NHS workers.

    The BMA and 5 Royal Colleges including that of Nursing, Midwives, GPs, Surgeons have openly denounced this bill. They all think it’s going to be a disaster. The Royal College of Nursing have even gone as far as to pass a vote of no confidence against the Health Minister.

    You cannot claim a bill is good for the NHS when the vast majority of the people who have spent their lives working in the NHS disagree with it.

    My colleagues and I are absolutely dismayed that they are still trying to push this through. How much more objection will it take before it’s realised that this is a bad idea?!

  • Elliot Bidgood 10th Mar '12 - 7:03pm

    I’m a Labour supporter, but I do like reading Lib Dem Voice for a take on what LD activists think on issues- it’s not usually that far from my own views, and I learn a lot from the debate here. For those of you angry with Andy Burnham or suspicious about his intent, I remind you about one thing he said:

    “I have no doubt that some will read my motive in writing this blog as a tactic for narrow party gain. There’s not much I can do about that, save to say it’s simply not the case. The truth is Labour’s narrow political interests are probably best served by the Coalition simply ploughing on with this disastrous Bill. But, even so, I desperately want them to stop. ”

    He’s not trying to mind-trick Liberal Democrat MPs to vote yes by urging them to vote no. Lib Dem activists may not agree with everything the last Labour government did on the NHS and certainly may not on many other issues (for the record, I don’t either), but the NHS is a sacrosanct issue for Labour, and I know it is for Liberal Democrats as well. The fathers of both of our distinct progressive traditions, liberalism and socialism, founded it in 1948, despite opposition from the conservatives of the day. That’s why every Labour supporter I know is hoping that Lib Dems will kill this bill, because we can’t. It’s what made Burnham write his letter, and it’s making me write this comment. I know some changes need to be made to make the NHS sustainable, but even in it’s amended form this bill is opposed by the BMA and most of the Royal Colleges, even though some of these organisations agree in principle with some its stated aims. The RCGP, whose members will be in charge of commissioning, are now against. It has only about a quarter of the public behind it according to recent polls (with half against and another quarter not knowing enough about this far-reaching bill to decide). Many of it’s only remaining backers are those who will profit from the bill. This bill will unleash more quality shaving and cherry-picking on the system, which are already a problematic aspect of previous New Labour and Conservative market reforms, and lead to an increasingly two-tiered system. It will be less clear who will manage the system, the Health Secretary or otherwise, undercutting accountability. Some services will be, or already are being, phased out in an unaccountable way, and there is a legitimate and real concern that the expansion of private control on this scale will cause a path-dependent effect, whereby further privatisation will be argued for as the only course to correct the problems raised by this bill. Lib Dem MPs may not neccesarily listen to Labour on this and that’s understandable, but I hope and pray they’ll listen to their activists.

  • Paul in Prestwich 10th Mar '12 - 7:15pm

    I feel sad for the Liberal Democrats – I have supported the party off and on over a number of elections but really feel that you have painted yourselves into a corner. You have little option but to support this bill, although the majority of you don’t support it. Your loyalty to Nick Clegg and Shirley Williams is understandable, but support for this bill simply means you have let down a huge number of voters like myself who felt you represented honesty and integrity in politics . I began by saying I felt sorry for the liberal democrats – actually I feel far sadder for the electorate who trusted you, and who you have let down so badly.

  • So it’s going to go through: Kiss goodbye to ‘power’ forever guys. This is (was) your one and only ever chance to show you had a meaningful role to play in British politics – that a vote for you could make a difference for the better.

    You’ll never get another chance: not in this parliament – if ever you do stand up to the Tories it will be too little, too late – and never in a future parliament because you’ll never be voted into this position again. You’ve lost all credibility and trust. As I said before, I expect this of the Tories – I can’t blame them, it’s in their nature – but I didn’t expect this from the LibDems. I’ve always voted LibDem in the past – never again. I’ve never before posted on your website and never will again: There’s no point – you’re history.

    Shame on those who vote for this in either house. It is the death knell of the NHS and the LibDems. A double tragedy for Britain and a historic victory for the Tory party.

  • Matthew HuntbachMar 09 – 11:36 pm…………..I despair when I read such comments, which have been thrown at us continually since the coalition was formed. What would you have preferred Matt? Lansley’s original proposals to go through?………..

    Matthew, on this thread, you have asked others for answers so might I ask you one?

    If the thought of “Lansley’s original proposals” is so terrible why did Nick Clegg (and almost all of our elected MPs) vote in favour of them?
    If it had been left to them we’d already have “Lansley’s original proposals”…

  • Will Millinship 11th Mar '12 - 2:52pm

    Funnily enough, reading the comments to this post (and having skimmed the Rt. Hon Members impassioned plea), I’m erring on the side of supporting the Bill, albeit with further concessions. I’m not convinced that the NHS will continue to exist without reform, and I’m not convinced that the NHS will continue to exist with these specific reforms.

  • Fatbaldybloke 11th Mar '12 - 10:54pm

    Well done on rejecting Shirley Williams’ motion. This could be the start of your climb back onto the political ladder but only if you can make your leader listen to what his party wants. He has been described as being ‘defiant’ though.If you cannot rein him in you may have to drop the ‘democrat’ part of your party name.

  • Foregone Conclusion 12th Mar '12 - 12:44am

    What Gareth Epps said. Labour’s hypocrisy stuck in the throat of even the more sensible and sceptical conference delegates, and it may have swayed the result of the ballot. It almost certainly, along with the Shirley Factor, explains the relatively narrow margin in the seperate vote.

  • I voted Lib Dem in the last election. I wont be voting Lib Dem in the next one that’s for sure. If you choose to ignore the people who voted for you, don’t be surprised when they to choose to ignore you in the next election.

  • Foregone ConclusionMar 12 – 12:44 am……What Gareth Epps said. Labour’s hypocrisy stuck in the throat of even the more sensible and sceptical conference delegates, and it may have swayed the result of the ballot. It almost certainly, along with the Shirley Factor, explains the relatively narrow margin in the seperate vote…….

    So Labour hypocrisy is wrong but the whole coalition hypocrisy of introducing such an unmandated reform is OK? If LibDem ‘sensible and sceptical conference delegates’ were reduced to ‘Ya Boo Sucks’ to Andy Burnham they belong in the playground rather than at conference…..Sometimes I despair of this party’s mindset.

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