Collective Irresponsibility

Hazel BlearsUp and down the country, Labour MPs are quaking as NHS cuts begin to bite and public pressure groups join opposition parties in protesting against them. Except, I suppose, in those cases where they manage to lead discontent against the government themselves. And I can imagine how the Bob Marshall-Andrewses of this world could make a legitimate case for having opposed the Government’s reforms from the start. It’s harder to understand how loyalists, like Andrew Smith MP, in my backyard, can oppose NHS cuts when they voted for Labours reforms and never raised a finger against the macro-policy that now comes home to roost in their constituency.

But the prize for audacity now goes to Salford MP (and – what a coincidence! – Deputy Leadership contender) Hazel Blears, who’s got her ten minutes of post-Christmas coverage by protesting against the closure of facilities at Hope Hospital, in her constituency. I’m less struck by her disloyalty to her own government, than by the fact that as a cabinet minister she accepts collective responsibility for that government’s policy. She may not agree with everything it ever does, but if she can tolerate the NHS cuts policy well enough to stay in the cabinet, it is sad she cannot now tolerate its effects in her own area. Her own spokesman probably hit the nail on the head when he said, “[s]he intends to campaign against it – it is a very hot issue locally.”

I’d have more respect for Labour cabinet ministers – who often, I’m sure, do believe their own policies are good ideas – if they actually stood up for them in public. By suggesting there’s one rule for her constituency and and another for the rest of us, she expresses more contempt than if she’d stuck to her convictions over “re-structuring” NHS services. As a cabinet minister she has a choice: back the whole policy, including its local effects, or oppose the whole policy, including its local effects. Picking and choosing is rank opportunism.

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  • In search of adventure,,1979203,00.html

    Always amuses me that the Guardian is forever having a pop at the Lib Dems/Ming.

  • Antony Hook Antony Hook 28th Dec '06 - 8:23pm

    It’s not a hugely critical article and the statement at the end that over the next year the party needs to take some risks is probably right.

  • More to the point than the Deputy Leadership contest is that Blears is having a potentially tricky selection battle in Salford following boundary changes.

  • This seems worth keeping on file for the next time Labour trots out its tired old line about the Lib Dems: that we say one thing in one place, and the opposite elsewhere. That’s always been an inaccurate caricature of Lib Dem campaigning; but a cabinet minister pretending to be opposing the direct results of a policy she has voted for is a clear example of rank hypocrisy.

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