Labour fiddles while the government burns the NHS…
Many Labour Party activists and indeed many voters are dismayed at what this government is doing to the National Health Service. A strong emotional bond exists between Labour and the NHS and indeed, between Britain and the NHS. It is often said that everybody, even the bluest-blooded Conservative is a socialist when it comes to the NHS and I think that is broadly speaking true. Apart from the principle at stake this also gives the issue a strategic importance – it is a potential lever to either demoralise the governments support or in some cases win it away.
So, we come to the effective passing of the Health and Social Care Bill with barely a whimper of resistance from the House of Lords. Many Labour activists are rightly angry with the Liberal Democrats for, once again, promising so much but delivering so little. However, they might rightly retort ‘physician heal thyself’ in this case. Let’s leave aside our record in government for the moment – though it is absolutely true that the changes we made paved the way for the latest round of reforms – and focus on our ineffective, weak and simply unacceptable opposition to the bill in question.
Granted, it was important to raise the question of the shocking (but not surprising) rise in unemployment yesterday but not once did Ed Miliband mention the Health and Social Care Bill yesterday at Prime Ministers Questions. Pause for a moment and think. How many times has he? Not many is the answer and even then it has been on small technicalities not the entirety of the proposals.
Why is this? Well the simple reason is that the Labour leadership agrees with the substantive bulk of the reforms enacted. Don’t believe me? Well, if you don’t then ask Andy Burnham who recently offered to support further powers for GP’s in commissioning their own services in exchange for the government dropping the whole bill.
How, he can then in the next breath, have the sheer cheek to complain that the Bill;
basically turns our wonderful NHS into a free market and we will not have that
is a bit beyond me, frankly. This is the problem you see. Our opposition is weak and ineffective because we undermine the principle of the stand we are taking with what we actually say in the breath before the one where we wax lyrical about our heartfelt conviction. This is a problem throughout our narrative – often Ed Miliband will express sentiment that sounds fine and dandy but when you look at the detail of what he advocates it all comes unstuck. Thus, we prove the charge that we are merely opposing something for the sake of opposition essentially true. We were promised a return to a values-driven leadership and policies but sadly, if this latest episode is anything to go by we are a very long way from anything like that – and if this is it then we have the problem that our ‘values’ are as likely to endure as a sandcastle facing the rising tide. It’s all very well blaming others but when we lament the passing of the Health and Social Care Bill we also have to remember that some of the blame lies alot closer to home than many of us would care to admit.
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