The Battle for the NHS

The past few weeks have seen politicians entrench themselves in their position (or on the fence in the Liberal Democrat case) over the NHS reform plans.

The details are minute and often tedious: at a disgustingly simplified level Cameron wants more private sector involvement in the service while the Labour Party is naturally opposed to what seems an attack on a British institution.

While it may be disgustingly simplified, this is the level at which this argument is not uncommonly presented. Various pressure groups have been campaigning with their mission simply to stop the tory cuts. While they are right to campaign, the battle doesn’t seem to be defined in the grounds of the NHS- rather a residing distaste for the last election.

Campaigning against these and any cuts must remain intellectual- saying no repeatedly in an argument is far less effective than making reasoned debate. The anti-cut lobby must make some concessions- money is needed to be cut, and it cannot be done comfortably anywhere.

Labour can continue to criticise, but they still haven’t made a coherent portrayal of how they would be dealing with the necessary cuts.

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Keeping Things in Perspective

Yesterday’s education white paper caused a huge amount of angst among students, campaigners, and the public alike.

However, before we default to the typical blind hatred of what must be another upper class aiding Tory policy it would only be sensible to actually examine it:

‘Teenagers from the wealthiest families would be able to pay for extra places at the most competitive universities under government proposals that could allow institutions to charge some British students the same high fees as overseas undergraduates.

Candidates who take up the extra places would not be eligible for publicly funded loans to pay tuition fees or living costs, limiting this option to all but the most privileged households who could pay fees up front.

Under the plans, the extra students may be charged as much as international undergraduates. At the most competitive universities, these students face fees ranging from £12,000 a year for arts subjects to £18,000 for sciences and more than £28,000 for medicine. Applicants would be required to meet the course entry requirements.’

    The Guardian 09/05/11

Let’s unpick some key details then.

‘Candidates who take up the extra places would not be eligible for publicly funded loans’

These wealthy students would have to pay as they learnt, and could not apply for financial help. Although this scheme would only be of advantage to higher earning families directly- increasing their chance of a place- it would also mean that more financial help was there for the truly needy. The people who pay for a new place to be created would indirectly be allowing a less advantaged person a place as well.

‘Under the plans, the extra students may be charged as much as international undergraduates. At the most competitive universities, these students face fees ranging from £12,000 a year for arts subjects to £18,000 for sciences and more than £28,000 for medicine.’

At a price this high, the option would be seldom used and serve little real merit to the extremely rich- they are effectively taxing themselves by exposing themselves to higher course fees. Granted, they have an increased chance, but they would also be aiding the general public.

Critically:

‘Applicants would be required to meet the course entry requirements’

This is crucial in this issue. These students are not creating an otherwise unattainable place. They could go down the state support root, using taxpayer’s money, but this white paper is attempting to avoid that.

At the crux of the matter, we must remember that the country does essentially have a Conservative government, who are liable (and elected) to make right-wing decisions. If we criticise every policy proposal without thought, then we devalue our voice when we genuinely have need to make it heard. Through the gritted teeth of a socialist, I say let this one be, it serves us some advantages anyway, and begin to target our criticism on anything that threatens our Health Service or Education at a realistic and tangible level.

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The Parting of the ‘Other 3’

4 days later, and three leaders resigned. Annabel Goldie (Scottish Conservative), Iain Gray (Scottish Labour) and Tavish Scott (Scottish Liberal Democrats) have all announced they will step down from their leaderships of their respective parties.

Annabel Goldie

  • Leader since 2005
  • Saw a loss of 2 seats (10% Loss)

Goldie today announced that due to her party’s disappointing performance she will be replaced as soon as the party can elect a new leader.

“There are four years until the next UK general election, and five years until the next Holyrood contest.

I want my successor to have the maximum time for him or her to shape the party and its policies and to lead the opposition at Holyrood.”

Although the Conservatives loss was minimal in comparison to the other two parties’, it is the first drop in two Scottish elections, and is most likely a signal that even Scottish Conservative supporters have been taken aback by the scale of the Westminster cuts.

The new leader will be announced this year, and will have the tough job of steering a party with very minimal influence in Scottish politics, but accountable for most things Westminster.

Iain Gray

  • Leader since 2008
  • Saw a loss of 9 seats (20% Loss)

Having held his own constituency seat by a mere 151 vote, Iain Gray reported on Friday that he would be standing down in Autumn.

“There are many hard lessons we must take forward from this election, not least my own responsibility and role as the Scottish Labour Leader.

After consulting with colleagues I have decided to stay on until the autumn as we conduct a fundamental and radical reappraisal of the structure and direction of Scottish Labour.”

Any new leader will have the task of reconvicting a disgruntled Scottish electorate that Labour still stands for them. Even a year after Labour left Westminster office, it seems the hangover continues. In the next year Labour are likely to distance themselves from the old ‘new labour’ movement, and start a fresh drive for new support.

Tavish Scott

  • Leader since 2008
  • Saw a drop of 11 seats (69% Loss)

In his resignation speech Scott announced:

“Thursday’s Scottish General Election result was disastrous and I must and do take responsibility for the verdict of the electorate.

The party needs a new direction, new thinking and new leadership to win back the trust of the Scottish people.”

This may be wildly optimistic, the Liberal Democrats coalition strikes the Scots as a deal with the devil, and at the very best stabbing them in their electing backs. The Scottish LibDems will be eager to distance themselves from the events in Westminster, but in all likelihood, the Liberal Democrats will remain low in Scottish politics for a generation.

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Election Results 2011

The final results from across the UK on May 5th 2011:

PARTY

PERCENTAGE

Labour 39%
Conservative 37%
Liberal Democrats 10%

Although these are not results from a general election, there is an interesting trend here. Despite their austere cuts, the Conservatives are not taking the hit in the polls. Furthermore, Labour have a very marginal lead, one that they could form no government with, were it a general election.

Labour will realise they need to step up their game, negative politics is not serving them well enough in opposition. If Labour want to have hopes in the next General Election, they need to reengage with the electorate, and decide on a positive direction for opposition. The critical opposition strategy will only wash if they offer a viable alternative, and it just doesn’t seem like they are just now.

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Nick Clegg- The Face-Saving Campaign

 

 

In the aftermath of the Liberal Democrats’ disastrous election results, Nick Clegg has made a statement that could boost LibDem confidence.

In order to demonstrate the libdem’s influence within the coalition, Clegg has promised to veto the existing plans for NHS reform.

As far as Government legislation is concerned, no bill is better than a bad one, and I want to get this right. Protecting the NHS, rather than undermining it, is now my number one priority.

“I am not going to ask Liberal Democrat MPs and peers to proceed with legislation on something as precious and cherished – particularly for Liberal Democrats – as the NHS unless I personally am satisfied that what these changes do is an evolutionary change in the NHS and not a disruptive revolution.”

This comes the morning after Ed Miliband had called for disillusioned Liberal MP’s to defect to labour.

Clegg insists the Liberal Democrats have ‘a platform from which we can recover’ but concedes:

‘The lesson I have learnt listening to people on the doorsteps is that people want a louder Liberal Democrat voice in Government.’

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Ed Miliband Makes a Move

Ed Miliband has found his voice.

He today said “If they [Lib Dems] are in favour of new politics they should start by keeping their promises and reflecting the will of those who put them into parliament. If they are not in favour of these Tory policies they should stand up for what they believe or leave the cabinet. They can come and work with us. My door is always open.”

Could this be the end for the coalition?

In an atmosphere with heightened tension after the aggressive AV campaign, and after such heavy Lib Dem losses in the very recent elections, Miliband could have chosen the optimum time to launch an offensive in this manner. While a mass scale exodus is unlikely yet, a trickle of MPs may be enough to put possibility into the opposition of more extreme right wing policies.

Although Vince Cable has committed to remain in coalition he said:

“Some of us never had many illusions about the Conservatives, but they have emerged as ruthless, calculating and thoroughly tribal.”

Former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown added: “We are bloody but unbowed. We have been here before and have always confounded the prophets of doom. But what makes this particularly hard to bear is the widespread, and in my view justified, feeling in the party that the Tories were either allowed to – or encouraged to – join a national vilification of our party leader and seem to have benefited from that.”

The next week could be a tell-tale sign for the future of the Liberal Democrats.

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Scottish Parliamentary Election Results

PARTY

CONST

REGN

TOTAL

+/-

SNP

53

16

69

23+

LAB

15

22

37

7-

CON

3

12

15

5-

LD

2

3

5

12-

OTHER

0

3

3

1+

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