LibLink | Shirley Williams: Lib Dems should take credit for thwarting Lansley

Shirley Williams, writing today in the Independent, says that the Liberal Democrats can be proud of their influence on NHS reforms:

Liberal Democrats, from our party’s grassroots to its leadership, can be proud of the influence we have exerted to change the Government’s NHS plans. It is clear now that the proposals that will be taken forward are dramatically different to those originally proposed.

The implications of Andrew Lansley’s massive health proposals, setting England’s health system on the path to a market in health care rather than a public service, were very slow to sink in. The complex, extensive and sometimes almost incomprehensible blueprint attracted remarkably little public attention until well into this year.

A handful of committed doctors, nurses and administrators got together to challenge this complacency at the Liberal Democrats’ spring conference in Sheffield. In the next three months of intensive debate and deliberation, there was a remarkable meeting of minds, one that embraced the leading medical organisations representing GPs, nurses and patients, as well as the leading think-tanks such as the Nuffield Foundation and the King’s Fund.

For more on the changes Liberal Democrats want to see, read on.

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This entry was posted in News.


  • “Lib Dems take credit for less liberal reforms of health service.”

  • I put this on another thread, but it seems relevant here

    This is a triumph for the Lib Dems, as opposed to Lib Dem ministers.

    However – the debate on this reform has rather avoided the very big question. Why not cut the NHS? This reform is fundamentally about structure and provision – not financing.

    To be clear, by, ‘cut,’ I do not mean, ‘break up,’ or, ‘privatise.’ I mean why should the NHS be afforded special treatment that implies deeper cuts elsewhere? If the defecit really is that severe a problem, surely the NHS – one of the biggest budgets of them all – should be open to cuts.

  • On the Today programme this morning, right wing ideologue John Redwood pointed out to Norman Lamb that the reforms, as planned, were in the Lib Dem manifesto and that the Lib Dem Cabinet Ministers had approved them.

    I recognise that the views of Lib Dem members are different from Lib Dem ministers so surely Shirley’s argument should be that the party has defeated its own ministers, as well as Lansley? A victory for party democracy and an illustration of the gulf between the leadership and the membership.

  • “Liberal Democrats, from our party’s grassroots to its leadership, can be proud of the influence we have exerted to change the Government’s NHS plans.”

    I would love to agree with this, and certainly Lib Dems such as Shirley can be proud. Firstly, It is a coalition Government, it was a coalition plan. Therefore the leadership, ministers and I’m afraid the MP’s who rubber stamped the Bill through parliament to this stage have very little to be proud of. Those who have the integrity to stand up and say they were wrong I can respect. Those who try to hide behind the Tories and blame Lansley need to look at themselves first. Before the electoral meltdown, and the conference motion they were happy to allow these changes to pass, there were Lib Dem signatures on this Bill. Clegg was happily selling it as a good thing. Look back at the threads on this site.

    I hate the way politicians are scared to admit they were wrong. U-Turns are a good thing, in business they are executed often either due to changing circumstances or because the responsible manager or team just got it wrong. Stubbornly sticking to a course of action despite the circumstances is only seen as a good thing within Westminster.

    Rather than admit the error was a Government one, Clegg is spinning this as a great victory over the Tories.

    Lib Dem Ministers have improved this Bill, but they did so because their grass roots forced them to.

  • John Fraser 13th Jun '11 - 9:14pm

    Isn’t Paul burstows position a little untenable now . Right up to the conference he seemed to be wholeheartedly supporting the reforms.?

  • Emsworthian 13th Jun '11 - 9:34pm

    I think most of us are fed up to the back teeth with this exercise in self-justication.

  • @John Fraser
    “Isn’t Paul burstows position a little untenable now ”

    Only if Clegg’s is as he was equally pro the Bill…

    My personal view is no one needs to lose their job just the Westminster blinkers that make them forget who voted for them. Although a little humility wouldn’t go amiss..

  • Dave Warren 14th Jun '11 - 9:31am

    Lets hope we can have a similar impact on the welfare reforms.

  • Nigel Quinton 14th Jun '11 - 3:46pm

    I don’t usually agree with “g” but I do when he says “A victory for party democracy and an illustration of the gulf between the leadership and the membership”

    I have a great deal of respect for Paul Burstow having listened carefully to him at the last two party conferences and at other LibDem events and I am prepared to put his early enthusiasm to embrace Lansley’s vision as Ministerial inexperience. I can imagine the sandbagging our new minsters received from their Tory colleagues and the civil service was something they were ill prepared for.

    But I think it is profoundly wrong for Nick Clegg to be claiming this as a victory. He should be apologising not just to the country, but to his own party, for having got this so spectacularly wrong last year, and indeed all the way through to Sheffield and beyond. It was gut-wrenching to hear him, after the Sheffield vote and the announcement of the “pause”, continuing to pad round with Cameron and Lansley saying that they all needed to sell the reforms better, rather than acknowledging that he had made a mistake.

  • Daniel Henry 14th Jun '11 - 11:05pm

    John Redwood was wrong.
    Lansley’s plans were definitely NOT in the Lib Dem manifesto.
    Yes, we were planning to scrap half the Department of Health, scrap Strategic Planning Agencies and generally decentralise the NHS, but we weren’t planning to lumber the entire budget upon unaccountable GP consortia and leave the entire thing open to cherry picking by private companies.

    The amendend plans seem to be much closer to our manifesto vision, but it’s still a compromise. I actually think it’s the right kind of compromise, with both sides getting a fair bit of what they wanted. I’d like to see more of this within the coalition. Like someone else said above, I’d like us to have a similar stamp on Welfare reforms.

  • @Daniel Henry

    Of course there was some difference in detail, e.g. GP consortia, but the fundamental plan to break up/decentralise the National Health Service and turn it into a more local service was a common theme. In fact, Clegg has long been on record, before he was even leader, as wanting the NHS to be broken up. It is now clear that such proposals weren’t acceptable to the bulk of Lib Dem members.

    For what it’s worth, I think decentralisation is going to be an absolute disaster for national health strategies, whether diet & exercise advice, or flu vaccination, as a coordinated response now requires a whole new tier of bureaucracy to bring it all together. Confidence wasn’t helped by Lansley’s idiotic cancellation of funding for NHS advertising campaigns, until people started dying as a result.

    Still the NHS is now an albatross around the Coalition’s neck, everything that goes wrong, and it is inevitable that it will, will be blamed on the reorganisation and coalition infighting. Probably a greater failure for Cameron than Clegg, after all the Lib Dems can get rid of Clegg for electoral gain, whereas the ideological purity that satisfies the Tory backbenchers doesn’t appeal to the public.

  • @Steve Weigh

    Only if Clegg’s is as he was equally pro the Bill…

    Steve you took the words right out of my mouth….

    Agreed if people take their blinkers off the deserve a second chance but I have heard nothing from Burstow yet to indicate this .

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