Quick thought on the NHS bill
I think the NHS bill is a bad bill, but it’s not as bad as its detractors say, now. It’s entirely possible that Lib Dem conference will vote to kill the bill tonight, but even if they don’t, I don’t think it will do the things its detractors say, now that it’s been amended significantly in response to previous Lib Dem objections. I think it’s a waste of time and effort and yet more bureaucratic meddling and change for change’s sake, but it won’t hurt anything.
That said, the people arguing against it do have one thing absolutely right – the NHS is one of the most important things in this country, and it is vital to defend it. I don’t care especially how it’s structured or how much is contracted out to different organisations – whatever works, works. What I care about is that we have free healthcare, provided to anyone whatever their means.
So I, at least, will make the following absolute commitment:
If, at any time between now and the next election, I or anyone I know in England makes a GP or hospital visit and gets charged (for anything other than services which are already charged for such as elective vaccinations when travelling abroad) I will quit the Lib Dems and campaign for any party which would in my view restore free-at-the-point-of-delivery healthcare. A lot of us have talked about what red lines we have in coalition government, and this one is one of mine.
That said, I’ve made a commitment, is there any supporter of a non-government party who will make either of these:
If the Lib Dems successfully kill the bill altogether, they will never again, for the lifetime of this parliament, say that the Lib Dems have been ineffectual or have made no difference in government.
If the Lib Dems decide *not* to kill the bill, and if by the next election none of the conditions I mention above apply (so no-one’s getting charged to go to hospital or visit their GP, and from the point of view of the typical patient nothing’s much different), they will admit, publicly, that their party’s leadership have been outright lying and can’t be trusted to tell the public the truth about the NHS, and will campaign instead for the Lib Dems as the party which actually did something useful and fixed the bill so it wouldn’t harm patients.
I suspect not. I am absolutely certain that one of the two options above will happen, and within three years everyone will have pretty much forgotten there was a bill at all. I am equally certain that this won’t stop supporters of other parties (not just Labour – the Greens and SNP are as bad) making up horror stories about the next piece of legislation that comes up, so “the ConDems” will be privatising schools, bringing back hanging, declaring nuclear war on Sweden, or whatever.
I hope to be proved wrong.