LibLink: Paul Tyler – The Lords are listening, but not to rent-a-mob email campaigns

Over on the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Lib Dem peer Lord (Paul) Tyler has a piece on the (not particularly successful) campaign by 38-Degrees to lobby members of the House of Lords over health reform.

Here’s a sample:

As a peer who received many 38 Degrees-inspired communications in the runup to the debate over the NHS bill, I can say with some confidence that their lack of influence was strongly linked to the unduly polarising approach they took to this issue. They picked the wrong battle, and the wrong argument.

Their battle was essentially on whether to kill the bill off or not, and the Lords just doesn’t do that. We are a revising chamber. And their argument was “if the government’s plans go through unchanged, we could lose our health service for ever”. This is untrue, and peers knew it. Meanwhile, 38 Degrees’ support for the Owen/Hennessy wheeze of shunting the bill into a select committee was misguided, since peers – including 51 of the independent crossbenchers – recognised that this was wrong in principle and flawed in practice.

The Lords has a great many people with something to contribute on this bill. Now that it will be subject to the usual legislative process, they will all have the chance to contribute comprehensively, to table amendments, and to seek genuine, concrete improvements. A select committee is by definition select – small – so many members would have been excluded, and those who were included would have been handpicked by the party whips. In practice, it would also have meant examining the bill far too late for NHS staff who now need it to make progress, notwithstanding their reservations.

You can read the piece in full here.

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12 Comments

  • Grammar Police 26th Oct '11 - 2:12pm

    Must admit, I lost a fair amount of respect for 38 Degrees the minute I saw their ‘view’ on the health reforms – which were published before the reforms themselves . . . I lost a bit more respect for them when they kept banging on about their ‘independent’ legal advice. They took supporters’ hard-earned cash, and paid around £10K of it to campaigning lawyers who were always going to tell them what they wanted to hear (and let’s not mention the BMA’s legal advice that is contrary to 38 Degrees’).

  • Old Codger Chris 26th Oct '11 - 5:43pm

    I don’t think Paul Tyler’s response is at all dismissive.

    As for the Health Secretary abdicating his ultimate responsibility for the NHS, few people in politics (or business or any other field of endeavour) take responsibilty for anything much nowadays – except a success which may be no thanks to them. Apart from Estelle Morris at Education or Lord Carrington way back in 1982 I can’t think of any recent honourable examples.

  • Andrew Suffield 26th Oct '11 - 8:24pm

    I had repeatedly heard/read about breaking up and privatisation,

    Not happening, because LD ministers got the bill changed to explicitly ban it.

    and of the health secretary’s intention to relinquish his ultimate responsibility for the NHS, which I entirely disagree with.

    Not happening, because LD peers got the bill changed to explicitly ban it.

    I had neither read the bill or fully understood all the changes to the NHS proposed by ‘No top down changes to the NHS’ Lansley,

    Perhaps you should. Certainly whoever has been telling you these things has been lying to you.

    Arrogance, deceit and abdication of responsibility = LibDem.

    And perhaps you should rethink this.

  • David Allen 26th Oct '11 - 9:54pm

    Clearly 38 Degrees have caused Paul Tyler embarrassment, and he’s hurting.

    What’s deeply “misguided” is to call large numbers of intelligent and concerned potential voters a “rent-a-mob”. Evidently some people have been so shell-shocked by the catastrophic drop in Lib Dem support that they have lost all sense of how not to impress the public.

  • John Carlisle 27th Oct '11 - 8:17am

    “if the government’s plans go through unchanged, we could lose our health service for ever”. This is untrue, and peers knew it.
    It is not untrue and I wonder if the peers as a whole did know it. Go back to Lansley’s intentions behind the first publication of the bill, before the so-called listening period. It was a privatisation strategy. He is still in place, as is his original intention. You cannot improve a bad thing.
    Have you ever wondered why, when we have one of the best, most efficient health services in the world, it needs this much change? Have you never heard of continuous improvement? Have the LibDems ever acquainted themselves with the fact that the best way to cut costs is to improve quality – not by diktat? Just what is your theory of a how a very large state company is best run. Lansley has one, and it is bad. Why have we not proposed any alternative, instead of trying to repaint the carriages in a runaway train?

  • I don’t like the generalised headline here – it indicates that the Lords are NOT, in fact, listening at all.
    38 Degrees may have got this one wrong, but generalising “Email Rent-a-mob” is unacceptable. I am proud to have contributed my signature to several of AVAAZ’s campaigns, and even though Paul Tyler may have some accurate points about THIS 38 Degree campaign, the headline does him no credit whatsoever.

  • Tony Greaves 27th Oct '11 - 12:34pm

    (1) I thought Paul’s article was rather ill-judged, particularly in its tone. Anyone who has lobbied us will find it rather patronising and arrogant I’m afraid.

    (2) The stuff from 38 degrees on this Bill is however rather over the top.

    (3) The Bill is not yet acceptable in my view (though much better than when Lansley first presented it to the Commmons) and a lot more work is needed in the Lords. As, in spite of the Guardian headline and Stratton stuff, the letter in the Guardian stressed.

    (4) The Lords have not yet made any changes to the Bill. We are early in committee stage and there is a lot of discussion yet to be had in both committee and more importantly at Report.

    Tony Greaves

  • Malcolm Todd 27th Oct '11 - 3:10pm

    @John Carlisle
    “You cannot improve a bad thing.”

    Er – seriously? I think you’ll find that’s exactly what you can do.

  • 4) The Lords *have not yet made any changes to the Bill.* We are early in committee stage and there is a lot of discussion yet to be had in both committee and more importantly at Report.
    Thank you for pointing that out.

    I’d also like to point to an article by Steve Richards in the i newspaper just two weeks ago, where he quotes Lord Owen:
    : “If a pandemic suddenly grips this country we will not be able to accept that the Health Service is managed by the Chairman of the National Health Service Commissioning Board. We will instinctively come back to the Houses of Parliament”. When we do so the Health Secretary will declare that it is nothing to do with him or her.”

    And Lord Darzi:
    “We now have health and well-being boards, clinical commissioning groups, clinical senates, local health watches, the NHS commissioning board, a quality regulator and an economic regulator… At the end of the day, who is responsible for making sure that the NHS saves more lives this year than last? Who is accountable for how its budget is spent? Who will inspire NHS staff to lead the difficult changes?”

    Steve Richards comments:
    .” Unavoidably when huge sums for the NHS are raised centrally the Health Secretary must be responsible. If he or she is responsible there must be levers for him or her to pull, over and above those available to vaguely accountable, largely anonymous non-elected quangos”

    If as Andrew Suffield says, that thanks to the Dems there will be no break ups or privatisations and Lansley will be fully accountable, then I’m obviously not up to date on the latest developments and someone here might like to point me in the direction of where I’ll be able to find his assertions confirmed.

  • Stuart Mitchell 27th Oct '11 - 7:27pm

    Chaz: “If as Andrew Suffield says, that thanks to the Dems there will be no break ups or privatisations and Lansley will be fully accountable, then I’m obviously not up to date on the latest developments and someone here might like to point me in the direction of where I’ll be able to find his assertions confirmed.”

    I would also like Andrew to back up his assertions, since they don’t tally with what I’ve been reading the past couple of days.

    On the subject of Lansley being fully acountable, both the BMA and the House of Lords Constitution Committee have said that the bill as it stands gives no such assurance. It was reported yesterday that the government was indicating that it MIGHT back an amendment by a Tory peer (not, mark you, a Lib Dem one), but this is very different from what Andrew claimed.

    I share people’s annoyance with the tone of the main article. Lib Dems are forever telling us how great it is that the public should be engaging more with politics – until the public doesn’t like something the Lib Dems are doing, in which case said public can be dismissed as a “rent-a-mob”. Thre is nothing extreme about 38-degrees calling for the bill to be scrapped altogether – that is still the position of the BMA. Are the BMA just a rent-a-mob, too?

  • Stuart Mitchell.
    No the BMA are not rent-a-mob, but unfortunately for those of us who are concerned, Lansley has allegedly spent several years, and presumably lots of cash, on producing this bill, which as we know was signed off by Cameron and Clegg who we are given to understand had neither read or understood it’s implications, so there’s little prospect of scrapping it for fear of losing face and being accused of executing yet another Uturn.

    I do think it’s strange that we hear regularly from Govt. that public services should be handed over to the professionals and ‘allow them to do their job’, but when these professionals disagree with Govt. policy they are then described as a ‘vested interest’ and the public who protest are just a mob.

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