The Independent: Lib Dems should “make peace and move on” from the Health Bill

Today’s Independent has an editorial with some friendly advice for the Liberal Democrats. The paper praises the party for the amendments made to the Health and Social Care Bill but advises that it’s now time to “make peace and move on” by passing the Bill:

With the Liberal Democrats in Gateshead for their spring conference this weekend, NHS reform is once again top of the agenda. And once again grassroots activists are threatening rebellion. It would be a mistake – for the NHS and also for the party. It is time to make peace and move on.

Last year’s conference was a seminal moment for the Health and Social Care Bill. Outspoken Liberal Democrat opposition, led by Baroness Williams, forced the Government to rethink key parts of the package. Despite another 140-odd modifications since, however, swathes of the party are still unhappy. Even Nick Clegg’s carefully choreographed recent amendments – introduced with the backing of Lady Williams, no less – have not proved conclusive. And although a final decision will not be made until tonight, in all likelihood delegates will debate at least one of two emergency motions on the subject tomorrow morning.

It is a testing moment for the Liberal Democrats. For all the upbeat talk from Mr Clegg – with his call for the party to “tear off that rear-view mirror” and “get on with the job” – he has real concerns that party members could vote to veto the legislation altogether, and real problems if they do. Yesterday’s tribunal ruling that the Government must publish their officials’ gloves-off risk assessment of the reforms will only be grist to the mill of its opponents. Even so, it would be reckless for the Liberal Democrats to withdraw their support now.

And it’s on tax policy where the paper thinks the party should direct its focus:

As the Budget approaches, the Liberal Democrats have another, more tangible, opportunity to make their presence count: tax. With the Chancellor casting around for ways to boost growth, what better than to trade an agreement to abolish the 50p top rate for expedited plans to raise the income tax threshold? And, to pay for the scheme, there are two other Liberal Democrat favourites – a mansion tax and reduced top-rate pension relief.

It is never easy to prove the counter-intuitive, to demonstrate with certainty that a situation would otherwise be worse. That was always going to be the challenge for the Liberal Democrats in coalition. Tax is an opportunity to prove their progressive worth. Voting down the NHS reforms is not.

You can read the full piece here.

* Nick Thornsby is Thursday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs here.

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7 Comments

  • Classic Independent. only interested in ‘power politics’ rather than the issues at hand. They should rename the paper ‘Geeks Gazette’?

    So the NHS can be thrown into years of highly-costly turmoiil to no sensible purpose just so that political commentators only have to deal with one issue at a time? :-(

  • Stuart Mitchell 10th Mar '12 - 12:13pm

    Elsewhere in the editorial, the writer claims that the bill will “cut bureaucracy”. Yet many doctors, including Sam Everington who I quoted yesterday, have said that the bill will massdively INCREASE bureaucracy.

    So who to believe – one of the most respected and innovative GPs in the country, or an anonymous jouranlist?

  • NHS, NHS, NHS from now to 2015.

  • the Libdems must vote to scrap this dreadful bill, which the govenment has no mandate for. The arguments that the reforms will cut bureaucracy are risible, as investigative journalist David Hencke shows with this leaked document:
    http://davidhencke.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/revealed-lansleys-simply-crazy-commissioning-guide-for-your-operation/

    Bureaucracy will increase, accountability will decrease and privatisation – because that is what this bill is about – will be given a new lease of life. You do know that if the Libdem conference supports this bill it will be finished as a political force, don’t you?

    I’m not a LibDem, but I have many friends who are, and they know that the bill stinks, its consequences will be dire and the electorate will blame them when it goes wrong, as it inevitably will.

    Do the right thing. Vote against this awful bill

  • Tony Greaves 10th Mar '12 - 12:53pm

    The Bill not only increases bureaucracy (as well as leading inevitably to more commercialisation) it makes the Health Service more top-down not less as most major decisions wil be made by the National Commissioning Body and their regional and local offices. Worse than PCTs because no public meetings or minutes or direct public involvement of any kind in their decision-making.

    Remember that the Indy’s editorial line on economic policy and pubic services is (and has always been) right-wing free market stuff.

    Tony Greaves
    (one of the few people who has actually got a copy of the Bill and read it).

  • Paul Catherall 10th Mar '12 - 3:52pm

    The tears and anguish of the LibDem party over this bill could be for nothing, because in 2015 we could easily see a Labour government walk in and repeal the Bill before it could even be properly enacted… and what would have been acheived then, simply put, a LibDem parliamentary wipeout in 2015… for nothing.

    The NHS is the biggest national organisation in the world, it took many governments to reform under Labour (e.g. agenda for change), and such reform needs the support of the practitioners over many years.

    The coalition ministers need to reflect that they are acting without an electoral mandate and against the judgement of NHS practitioners, but more importantly, they are trying to dismantle a great British institution, I really don’t think they have either the sector support or the operational competence to acheive this in only 2-3 years.

  • I just don’t see the electorate forgiving the LibDems if they vote for the dreadful NHS bill. And for some of us, it is the final straw. I just wish I hadn’t wasted all that time writing Focus leaflets and stomping the streets.

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