UKIP’s official health spokesperson: “I have no experience in health whatsoever”

Louise Bours MEP, UKIP’s health spokesperson, made a startling admission to the Independent in an interview published today. She said:

One thing that irritates me more than anything, and you see so much of it the higher up the political hierarchy you go, that’s it’s full of a load off… people who aren’t particularly honest, let’s put it that way,” says Louise Bours, Ukip MEP for the North-west and the party’s official health spokesperson.

I like people to be straight with me, I don’t like all this…shenanigans in the background, I’d rather people be honest and up-front and I always try to answer things very honestly.

So, honestly, I have no experience in health whatsoever, she says.>

On one of the key battlegrounds of the election, UKIP’s designated spokesperson is basically saying she’s sorry, she doesn’t have a clue.

That might just be ok if the rest of her party could be trusted to have a consistent, coherent policy on the NHS. Farage seems to be confused about future funding of the NHS, making comments favouring a move to an insurance based system. Bours disagrees with him on plain packaging of cigarettes and seems to spend most of the interview apologising for things he’s said.Their policies are a combination of what’s already happening combined with UKIP’s special brand of prejudice.

You don’t have to be an expert in your policy area, I guess.  It’s said that Ross Finnie didn’t know one end of a cow from the other when he became Scotland’s first and best Rural Affairs Minister, a job he held for 8 years. He learned quickly, though. I remember him once telling me in far too much detail about several hundred different varieties of grass.

However,  it does help if you have a well defined, coherent policy development plan which doesn’t involve your leader making it up as he goes along. I won’t have to trust UKIP with my NHS after May because I live in a place where it’s well beyond their grasp. I hope you don’t either.



* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Most Shadow and most Minister when first appointed as Minister DONT have a clue about the Department they take over but most sort of muddle through as good or worse as those who do know the topic for which they speak upon or act as minister

  • From the LibDem website (

    David Laws MP
    Minister for Schools & Cabinet Office

    David Laws has been the MP for Yeovil since 2001.

    He graduated in Economics from King’s College, Cambridge, with Double First Class Honours in Economics and joined JP Morgan’s Treasury Division in 1987. He was a Managing Director at Barclays De Zoete Wedd from 1992 to 1994.

    David left the City to become the Economics Adviser to the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party and in 1997 was appointed as the Party’s Director of Policy. He was elected to Parliament in 2001, succeeding Paddy Ashdown as the Member of Parliament for Yeovil.

    And his experience of education?

    But Caron raises a serious point here – should we expect some level of professional specialisation from politicians?

  • JUF

    Laws is not only lacking experience in education. His experience of winning elections is not extensive.
    Let’s face it, when he first inherited the Yeovil seat any candidate with Paddy’s endorsement would have got elected.
    Which maybe explains why his quasi- Thatcherite influence has been such a disaster for the party’s election chances.
    He just does not understand what ordinary UKvoters actually want.
    His electorally suicidal proposals to mess up the NHS (see his chapter in the Orange Book) is a nightmare that may yet haunt us.

    Let’s just hope his time as education minister does not damage schooling as much his time as a Liberal Democrat MP has damage theparty.

  • John Tracey 24th Jan '15 - 5:33pm

    I can’t see the problem with this. She is just a spokeswoman, but actual Ministers have no idea about their portfolio. She is doing the politics.

  • David Faggiani 24th Jan '15 - 5:58pm

    Yeah, I think it’s probably best that we don’t start attacking UKIP politicians for being honest.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th Jan '15 - 8:21pm

    At least David had been Education Spokesperson for years before he became Schools Minister.

  • Alex Sabine 24th Jan '15 - 8:24pm

    @ Caracatus
    As I recall, David Laws’s main beef with the Lib Dem approach to public services in that period was not that
    Charles Kennedy appointed doctors and teachers, but that whole speeches by those spokesmen would pass
    without a single reference to patients or parents…

  • stuart moran 24th Jan '15 - 9:17pm

    Alex Sabine

    Parent re not the customers for education – children are! My own experience is that parents are particularly poor at making any judgement on schooling and education

    I would be quite happy for those manners to remove their children from school and do better

    As to the point about doctors – can I suggest we have poll to see who is trusted with health policy – doctors to politicians, with special focus on politicians who have money given to them by private health companies?

  • The coalition does not have a coherent policy on the NHS. Or rather it does, but it is the polar opposite of the one they presented to the electorate before the last election. And tis person is willing to state “I disagree with Farage and his ideas of greater privatisation are bad”. Which frankly, none of the current coalition are able or willing to say (have any MPs attacked Farage on his healthcare policies? Anywhere?).

    Of course, Jeremy Hunt is completely qualified to be health secretary because… Well, because the Lib Dems
    all abstained from the vote about his alleged corruption. Y’know, when he allegedly hid behind a tree.

    So what is the Lib dem policy on the NHS? I would genuinely love to know.

  • Stuart – I don’t know if it’s a problem with my iPad but the page is not displaying properly, so I can’t see
    the whole of your comment. Of course children are the ‘customers’ of education, but I would
    have thought it was uncontroversial that (particularly with younger children) it is parents who are
    legally responsible for them and take decisions on their behalf?
    Children are not wards of the state, or has the enthusiasm for the nationalisation of
    parenting reached new heights?
    In any case, Laws’s complaint was that the likes of Evan Harris and Phil Willis rarely focused on the
    users of public services and concentrated too much on the producers, and that Lib Dem policy
    needed to be more consumer and citizen-oriented.

  • Ian Sanderson

    It is not your I-pad. Same problem for me.

  • Jim Hughes 24th Jan ’15 – 10:00pm.
    “…So what is the Lib dem policy on the NHS? ”

    This question may prove to be an unexplored bomb for Liberal Democrat candidates.

    Andrew Marr last Sunday asked Clegg abour his pledge to spend an additional £8 MILLION for the NHS.
    The question was – where will the £8 MILLION come from?
    Our leader said that Danny Alexander would explain. We are still waiting for Danny to do that.
    Danny Alexander’s explanation will hopefully come well before April when our candidates will need to have an answer.

    Clegg and Laws are trying hard to avoid talking about their enthusiasm for a “break up” of the NHS .
    They do not want to be questioned about what sort of insurance funded system they favour.
    (Perhaps the details will be explained by Danny Alexander at some unannounced date in the future?).

    The BBC has been busy harassing Farago this week because of his unusual statements on NHS funding.
    So far the BBC has gone softly, softly on Clegg’s free-market in health ideas.
    Are they just biding their time so as to skewer him in April?

  • Same with my Macbook Pro,

  • Sorry — my last comment should have said £8 BILLION.

    Even Danny could find £8 million.

  • They do, indeed, need to explain in detail how this ‘pledge’ (I’m not sure if it qualifies
    for that, ahem, rather infamous status, or whether it is a mere aspiration) would be
    achieved, and the implications for the rest of pulic spending and the public finances.

    But as I understand it, the proposal is based on assumption that they would simply
    increase the NHS budget in line with the projected growth rate of the economy
    once the deficit (on their limited definition) has been eliminated.

    This is how most governments ‘find the money’. They use the proceeds of economic
    growth to pay for higher public spending. It is only when they want to increase spending
    at a faster rate than the economy as a whole (ie to raise the ratio of public spending
    to GDP) that they need to raise taxes through an actual policy measure.

    This is pretty basic stuff, but most political commentators seem unaware of it.
    All these figures that are being bandied about need to be set against some consistent
    baseline, eg (a) rises in cash terms, (b) rises in real, inflation-adjusted terms, ie relative
    to an assumed ‘flat real’ baseline, or (c) rises in the share of GDP going to the area in
    question (which implies much bigger real spending increases).

    Increasing NHS spending in line with the economy as a whole once the budget is back
    in balance is in itself a perfectly reasonable proposal – in ‘normal’ times.

    The problem is it that Clegg and co have nothing to say about the legacy debt
    problem – they imagine that by 2018 they will have “wiped the slate clean for
    future generations” and British governments can go back to their normal practice.

    The reality is that the debt ratio will barely have stabilised at twice the pre-crisis level,
    and without action to deal with that some poor future government will go into the next
    downturn with precious little room for manoeuvre.

  • Alex Sabine
    Once again I agree with you when you say —
    “…..Clegg and co have nothing to say about the legacy debt
    problem – they imagine that by 2018 they will have “wiped the slate clean for
    future generations” …”

    Clegg has little to say on anything to do with government finance.
    He leaves it all up to Danny.
    Clegg perhaps regards it as a bit vulgar to talk about money in front of the servants.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Jan '15 - 10:43am

    Alex Sabine

    Increasing NHS spending in line with the economy as a whole once the budget is back in balance is in itself a perfectly reasonable proposal – in ‘normal’ times.

    No it is not. Merely increasing NHS spending in line with the economy does not tackle the big issue with the NHS, which is the huge demographic pressure pushing up demand for its services. So if all you do is keep it in line with the growth in the economy, what you actually are doing is making massive cuts in terms of what it can provide.

  • Matthew Huntbach

    I agree with you that simply increasing NHS spending “in line with the economy as a whole” is not as obviously sensible as it appears on a superficial level.

    A major cost for the NHS is the cost of well trained staff. The Coalition Government thinks the way to keep the costs down is to freeze the pay of staff, refuse to follow the decisions of independent pay boards, and increase the workload and stress of medical professionals. Not a sensible way to run a health service!

    Unfortunately Clegg does not “do detail”. He makes grand-standing statements about an extra £8 BILLION, without actually knowing what that really means in terms of the planned funding requirements of the NHS, demographics, increased availability of new (not always expensive) procedures and pharmaceuticals. He blunders ahead making fine-sounding commitments to mental health provision — either ignorant of or wilfully ignoring the year on year cuts imposed on NHS mental health provision during the Coalition years.

    He is the man who said he wanted to “break up the NHS” and replace it with some sort of unspecified Thatcherite private insurance scheme. He has probably made himself very popular with the lobbyists for the private healthcare giants by saying that. His popularity with the voters remains pitifully low.

  • Alex Sabine 29th Jan '15 - 4:44am

    Matthew and JohnTilley:

    The historical average for increases in NHS spending is roughly 4% per annum,
    reflecting its high cost inflation and demographic pressures.
    So you are right that even increasing the NHS budget in line with economic growth
    (say 2.5% per annum) would be a relatively tight settlement, though very genetous
    compared to other government departments.
    My point was that this level of increase could be financed through
    the higher tax receipts associated with economic growth;
    a bigger increase would require tax-raising measures or cuts elsewhere.

    So in terms of Clegg’s pledge/aspiration, in isolation it doesn’t require him to set out
    specific measures to pay for it; it depends what he is proposing for the total public
    expenditure ‘envelope’ and whether he thinks the debt is big enough to look after itself!

    The King’s Fund have produced some impressive analysis of the challenges
    facing the NHS. They are clear that reform and higher productivity are
    essential as well as adequate funding. Simply throwing money at the NHS
    will not solve these problems, so a more mature debate is needed not
    rhetorical grandstanding about ‘selling the NHS’, privatisation and the like.

  • Alex Sabine

    I agree that — “…Simply throwing money at the NHS will not solve these problems, ”

    Although more money would make life less stressful for the hard pressed staff who have to cope day to day with the very real problems of growing demand and growing expectations. They do not have the luxury when they hit a difficult question of saying “Danny Alexander will explain it in due course.”.

    My criticism of Clegg and his grandstanding statements about £8 BILLION extra for the NHS is that it is a meaningless figure lazily plucked out of the air.
    Not only does he not explain where it would come from but he also cannot explain where it would be going to in the NHS.
    This is sloganising in the worst sense of the word.
    I do not expect party leaders to produce detailed solutions or to be able to step into the role of expert and informed managers. Although I do yearn for the days (not so very long ago) when party leaders of all parties were capable of providing some well articulated reasoning for their policies.

    It is clearly not acceptable nor credible for a leader to go on the Andrew Marr programme 100 days out from an election and dodge the question about where the money will come from. Luckily the BBC have not followed up the Clegg answer that Danny Alexander will explain it in the near future.
    We cannot criticise other parties for “reckless” borrowing or “reckless” cuts if our leader persistently avoids giving any explanation of his grand gestures on spending.

    So I echo your words that — ” a more mature debate is needed”
    I agree with you that — ” rhetorical grandstanding” about the NHS is not helpful and I wish that Clegg would stop it.
    However, it seems that he will not stop it, he has done this sort of thing since he first became an MEP and penned superficial columns for The Guardian. Unfortunately, all the evidence is that he does not “do detail” and he is still committed to his dream of a “break up” of the NHS to be replaced by some unspecified private insurance scheme. A policy which the voters find even less attractive than his grandstanding apologies about tuition fees.

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