Tuesday, 12 April 2011

How policy is made

According to http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13028624 "One of Nick Clegg's closest advisers has threatened to quit unless ministers make changes to a proposed overhaul of the NHS." The advisor in question, Norman Lamb, was the Lib Dem health spokesman before the election, and Nick Clegg does rely heavily on his advice. When added to the opposition expressed by the Lib Dem rank and file at the spring conference, this puts a lot of pressure on the Coalition to think about and maybe rein in the implementation of the policy.

Which is exactly how it should be.

Both Conservatives and Liberal Dempcrats want to see reform of the health service, but they have different priorities regarding the form that reform should take. As I said on the 5th, Liberal Democrats want elected health boards while Conservatives for the most part want to give control of the NHS budget to GP consortiums. This is a difference that has to be worked out, through persuasion and through the application of appropriate pressure. This will likely involve some give and take, which makes it especially important to speak up about what the most important sticking points are. For instance, Liberal Democrats support a minimum price for alcohol, which the Tories oppose. There might be some concession on this point, in return for guarantees on something which is more important, the future of the NHS.

But shadow health spokesman John Healey said Mr Lamb's comments "added to the confusion throughout the Conservative-led government over its handling of the health service" and showed the plans were "flawed", which makes me think, yet again, that Labour may not understand dissent or even discussion. Most plans are "flawed". We live in a "flawed" world, which is why we seek to change it to the best of our ability, and when we see that one approach isn't working then maybe we try another. Unless we are Labour, perhaps.

Change the world.

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