Author Archives: Robin Stafford

Health Podcast – The Elephant in the Room

It’s pretty clear that the NHS is at the top of most voters’ priorities, with big concerns about access to GPs, lengthy waiting lists, and a sense that it has been starved of funds and resources.  To add to the NHS’s problems, the country has very poor levels of health with an ageing population, which are big drivers of demand on the NHS.  It is sometimes described as a national sickness rather than a health service. This has much wider economic and social impacts, not least in the number of people unable to work because of health issues.

Many different factors cause ill health and most lie outside the NHS itself.  Diet, exercise, housing, and poverty are just a few examples. The reports by Sir Michael Marmot go into the detail.  This makes ill health a particular challenge to tackle, but unless we tackle it, demand on the NHS will grow unmanageably along with the costs.

To discuss these issues, Green Book Pod is back with another episode in our series on key issues for the Liberal Democrats, now available on Lib Dem Podcast and on YouTube.

Chairing the session is Norman Lamb, who was a LibDem MP and a health minister.  He now chairs the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust and co-chairs the Health Devolution Commission.

Bringing a perspective from inside the NHS, Wendy Taylor was an oncology consultant.  She is also a LibDem councillor in Newcastle City and is currently the chair of the Health and Social Care Committee.

Roy Lilley and Ed Smith are collaborating on a book about the subject, which they refer to as the ‘elephant in the room’, and last year published 200 Questions for the Future of the NHS.  Roy is a health policy analyst, writer, broadcaster and commentator on NHS. He has been the vice chairman of a health authority and chair of an NHS trust, and has taught at both Imperial College and Nottingham University.  Ed Smith was the chair of NHS Improvement, and deputy chair of NHS England.  He now supports a number of health organisations along with other advisory roles in the UK health economy.

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Artificial intelligence – golden opportunity or massive threat?

You can hardly read the news, listen to the radio or scan your preferred social media without hearing about AI.  Or experiencing it in practice, whether you are aware of it or not.  

On the one hand, it is seen as offering huge potential to transform business and other organisations, reducing costs and creating entirely new capabilities.  

On the downside we hear of threats to democracy with a surge in fake videos and information; the potential for mass job losses as AI systems replace employees to reduce costs; at the extreme, dire tales of AI systems taking over humanity altogether.  

One important concern is the concentration of AI development in too few powerful hands and the struggle of governments and international bodies to regulate them.  

To discuss these issues, Green Book Pod is back with another episode in our series of discussions on key issues for the Liberal Democrats, now available on Lib Dem Podcast and on YouTube.

In this podcast we try to provide a balanced view and to give a sense of what you need to know, and perhaps what you do and do not need to be concerned about.  That includes what to be looking for both from governments and business, and how to balance the need for regulation with desirable innovation.

Podcast Guests

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Green Book Pod….It’s the Economy…

The response to our first Green Book podcast was hugely encouraging.  We’re now working on the second in the series, looking at the climate emergency, focused on the challenge of net zero, and asking how the Lib Dems can recover our leading position on the environment.  That will go live later this month.

First, though, what did we learn for the debate on the economy?  We began here because concerns about the economy, be they low paid jobs, insecurity or our apparent inability to fund decent public services and infrastructure, are at the top of most people’s concerns. 

The lack of investment, both public and private, that has led to this situation is well known. However, the standard answer has been ‘but there is no money’ – the excuse for the austerity of the last 13 years – which has only made things worse while debts, both personal and public, have actually got bigger.  

In the podcast, we set out to start a fresh debate and to come up with innovative and distinctive ideas and new ways of thinking about political economy. The podcast looked at what has been done differently elsewhere, in particular in the USA where Biden is turning the economic approach of the last 20-30 years upside down, and then asked where the money might come from.

We had three great guests:

Vicky Pryce is a very well-known economics commentator, regularly on TV, radio and in the media. 

Max von Thun was economic advisor to the party when Vince Cable was leader and is now the European director for the US based Open Markets Institute.  

Richard Murphy is one of the creators of the original Green New Deal and also the tax justice movement, whilst being a very active blogger on political economy.

Overall, the panel felt that just ‘leaving it to the market’ with the cuts to state expenditure and investment have left us with failing infrastructure and public services, and with an unproductive economy.  Brexit and Covid have made problems that were already there much worse.  This needs the state to take more of a lead with a very different economic narrative along the lines that we are seeing in the USA and the EU.  This especially applies to infrastructure and the investment needed to tackle climate change where the state can take a lead to stimulate private sector investment.  

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The Green Book returns – the podcast goes live

As trailed here, the team who gave us the Green Book some 10 years ago is launching a new podcast series, starting with an episode on the economy.

This is hugely important as concerns about the economy, be they low paid jobs, insecurity or our apparent inability to fund decent public services and infrastructure, are at the top of most people’s concerns.

We’re all well aware of the lack of investment in this country, both public and private which has led to this situation. However, the standard answer from most of our politicians has been ‘but there is no money’ – the excuse for the austerity of the last 13 years – which has only made things worse.  Meanwhile our debts, both personal and public, have just got bigger.

What’s needed is a different approach and a new way of thinking about political economy. So in this episode of Green Book Pod, we look at what has been done differently elsewhere, in particular in the USA where Biden is turning the economic approach of the last 20-30 years upside down, and we ask where the money might come from.

Joining us are three great guests:

Vicky Pryce who is a very well-known economics commentator, regularly on TV, radio and in the media. She is the Chief Economic Adviser at the Centre for Economics and Business Research and was joint head of the Government’s Economic Service.

Max von Thun was economic advisor to the party when Vince Cable was leader and is now the European director for the US based Open Markets Institute.  He brings good insights into what is happening in the US with Bidenomics, which is a real challenge to the economic assumptions of the last 20-30 years.

Richard Murphy who was one of the creators of the original Green New Deal and also the tax justice movement. He is a very active blogger on political economy, and has thought long and hard about government funding and where the money could come from.

Chairing the session is me,  Robin Stafford.  I have been supporting the party on economic matters over the last 5-6 years.

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