Why Luciana Berger was so wrong to attack Norman Lamb

When you start a fight, you should choose to fight the side who is damaging you or the cause the most. You should also make sure you have the right backing and tools at hand to win the fight.

Luciana Berger has decided to both ignore the current Government’s reneging on spending for mental Health, whilst also choosing to attack Norman Lamb who has done more to put mental health on the political radar than anyone, whilst she has…well…what, exactly?

The point-scoring attempt this week to blame Norman for the continuing crisis in mental health services finally broke the straw that I’ve been carefully balancing for a while now.

For years, and still now, Norman has talked of the outrageous discrimination against people with mental ill health in our health service, due to the way funding was set up to prioritise physical health treatment. Norman and the Liberal Democrats, in coalition, introduced the first ever waiting times and gave “parity of esteem” to physical and mental health within the NHS. They are rarely separate issues anyway.

Norman, the party, I or others involved never once claimed this resolves all the issues with mental health services. There was no claim this was a one-time fix that cured all the problems, nor was there a claim that money thus magically appeared to resolve the funding crises.

What it did do, however, is finally put mental health on the political radar. For decades, charities, campaigners and activists in all parties and – perhaps more important – those of no party have been screaming for politicians to accept mental health services need better support and funding, and that stigma for those with mental ill health need to be allowed to seek help without fear of being turned away or ridiculed. The 1 in 4 statistic is not one I personally promote, as I think it’s 3 or 4 out of 4!

Norman is highly respected in the health service by service providers, users and charities. They quite rightly campaign for more funding, better access to treatment and reducing stigma. They quite rightly challenge all of us in politics, including Norman, to do better and to do it now. Norman and others opened the door, and many are eternally grateful for this. This doesn’t mean the fight is ended – it means the fight gears up.

I value my friendship and professional work with Norman. I advise Luciana to consider strongly that her fellow party members and the public would be best served by her seeking to work with people like Norman (and Alistair Campbell, within Labour) to hold this government to account for reneging on its funding agreements for mental health from the March coalition budget and to seek to improve services and reduce stigma.

Political point-scoring on the NHS must come to an end. Trying to score points on mental health services when you have no real credit to your name yet in the field is disappointing, hurtful and helps nobody. If Luciana truly cares about mental health, she’ll help the fight, not set it back.

Collaboration is needed. Sniping in an attempt to build up your own political career is not.

* Lee has long campaigned on mental health in and out of the Lib Dems, he is the PPC for Birmingham Ladywood and speaks for the Party on Health, in the West Midlands.

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10 Comments

  • I think the poster is making too much of this.

  • Hmm. Over five hundred words alleging Labour point-scoring, no description whatsoever of what the point-scoring behaviour is alleged to be, other than a link to a Huffington Post article. I smelt a rat!

    Having read the HuffPost – and frankly, having started with the guess that it was probably going to be the Lib Dems who were doing the point-scoring – No, it’s more like a minor 50/50 spat. Berger did start the spat, but with an arguably semi-reasonable call to Lamb to defend his time in government, during which mental health deaths rose.

    All cheap stuff, all helps the Tories divide and rule.

  • Harold A. Maio 29th Jan '16 - 10:52am

    –stigma for those with mental ill health

    I am very wary of anyone lending credence to a “stigma”. They have a prejudice to overcome.

  • Lee Dargue ………………………Luciana Berger has decided to both ignore the current Government’s reneging on spending for mental Health, whilst also choosing to attack Norman Lamb who has done more to put mental health on the political radar than anyone, whilst she has…well…what, exactly?………..

    ‘Pots and Kettles’…Perhaps you might read some of Caron’s contributions yesterday regarding Labour…LDV seems to ignore LibDem/Labour co-operation in order to highlight differences ..Complaining, when Labour does the same, rings rather hollow…

  • John Roffey 29th Jan '16 - 1:15pm

    Interesting article on the effects of stress – both physical and mental. Reducing stresses caused by austerity measures should reduce pressure on NHS and of course mental illness. [can’t vouch for AIS!].

    Prevention better than cure!

    “There are numerous emotional and physical disorders that have been linked to stress including depression, anxiety, heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, immune system disturbances that increase susceptibility to infections, a host of viral linked disorders ranging from the common cold and herpes to AIDS and certain cancers, as well as autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. In addition stress can have direct effects on the skin (rashes, hives, atopic dermatitis, the gastrointestinal system (GERD, peptic ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis) and can contribute to insomnia and degenerative neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease. In fact, it’s hard to think of any disease in which stress cannot play an aggravating role or any part of the body that is not affected (see stress effects on the body stress diagram) or. This list will undoubtedly grow as the extensive ramifications of stress are increasingly being appreciated.”

    http://www.stress.org/stress-effects/

  • David , Luciana Berger was not being very friendly in her tweet , there ARE ways of asking things reasonably!

  • David Allen 29th Jan '16 - 5:31pm

    Lorenzo, you’re right, Berger shouldn’t have done that, and Lee Dargue shouldn’t have played political games in return, either. 50/50 I think. Both bad.

  • I think it quite reasonable for opposition MPs to quiz former Ministers about what happened under their regime as opposed to what they were saying. Norman is quite OK also to compare what happened in his regime to what happened under Labour previously. If he was trying to get the Tories to do more while he was in coalition than what actually happened then Norman needs to give chapter and verse.

  • Richard Underhill 20th Feb '16 - 10:18am

    There has been recent publicity which states that ECT is still legal and practiced in the UK, even against the clearly expressed wish of the patient.
    Is this true?
    Does it constitute torture?
    If so, many people would be shocked that this practice continues nowadays, here.
    Will there be a well informed campaign against it?

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