Here is a link to the piece I wrote for the Campaign for Science and Engineering: http://sciencecampaign.org.uk/?p=16376
Tag Archives: 2015 general election
22 October 2014 – for immediate release
NHS debated by Labour’s Richard Wilson and Guildford’s Conservative MP
Letters exchanged between two contenders to be Guildford’s MP next May reveal that the NHS will be the key battleground in the general election.
In August, Labour’s parliamentary candidate, airline pilot Richard Wilson, wrote to the current MP, Conservative Anne Milton, to ask her to clarify how her position on the NHS has changed since being elected. He asked her to vote for the NHS private members bill being tabled by Labour’s Clive Efford MP on 21 November to reverse some of the Coalition Government’s privatisation of the NHS.
Ms Milton replied to say she would consider the bill “in detail” before the debate. Since then, a senior cabinet minister has told the press that the Conservative-LibDem top-down reorganisation of the NHS was the government’s “biggest mistake”. On 20 October, Richard Wilson wrote again to request that Ms Milton tell the people of Guildford where she stands on the NHS.
Richard Wilson said, “David Cameron’s MPs were elected on a pledge to avoid top-down reorganisations of the NHS. Voters deserve to know if their MP agrees with cabinet ministers that breaking this pledge was a terrible mistake. I have asked Anne Milton whether she is in favour of restoring the 48-hour guarantee for a GP appointment and ensuring cancer tests and results are available to patients within one week. From speaking to many NHS staff and patients recently, it is clear to me that voters in Guildford place the NHS high on their list of priorities when deciding how to vote next May.”
This is the fifth in a series of posts about the 2014 Labour Party Conference in Manchester.
I am writing this a week after getting home from Manchester and a few hours after watching David Cameron give his speech to the Conservative Party Conference. In Manchester last week, there was great excitement for Ed Miliband’s speech and I made new friends in the queue to get in and in the conference centre and the bars afterwards. We all could see that this was one half of showing the British people what the choice is next May. The other half was today.
I have met Ed a few times now. As a PPC (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate) I have an equal chance to speak to Ed and the Shadow Cabinet as other candidates throughout the country. My honest opinion is that Ed is a good man. He is not cynical or driven by calculations of popularity like in The Thick of It. On the contrary, my experience is that he thinks deeply about the real issues affecting people in the UK, and the world. He can see what the moral, ethical and decent solution is to these problems and he pursues it. He took on Murdoch because it was the right thing to do. No other party leader has had that moral bravery in my lifetime. He is a threat to the right-wing establishment so they smear him continuously. Is anyone surprised by that?
Cost of Living
Only Ed talked about the failure of the economy to provide for ordinary people. Cameron cannot touch this subject. This is what I hear on the doorstep and in the street when I speak to voters. 9 million people, including 2 million children, live in private rented housing. The numbers doing so in Guildford have rocketed since 2010. Only Ed is on their side.
Only Ed and Labour can intervene in the energy market to freeze utility bills. Cameron can’t touch this, his donors would blow a fuse.
Wages are stagnating and more and more people find themselves on zero-hour contracts or earning below the living wage. Only Ed Miliband and Labour will stand up for those people. Disabled people have been targeted by the cruel Tory-LibDem Bedroom Tax. Only Labour will scrap it.
A fair society is a strong society. People should be fairly rewarded for work and protected from predatory corporations. Ed can do this, Cameron cannot.
The Next Generation
In Ed’s speech there was a vision for how the country could be. If the economy worked for working people and we did more for each other, together, then the next generation need not be worse off than their parents.
Ed spoke about climate change and its threat to our world. Cameron forgot that section of his speech, if it ever existed. Rampant climate change will wreck large parts of the globe. It will bring poverty, famine and mass displacement. We have an obligation to our fellow world citizens to play our part in combatting it. Ed will, Cameron won’t.
Ed’s vision is one of hope. Hope, that our country can change to share the proceeds of globalisation with everyone, that we can keep our planet liveable for all peoples, and hope that the next generation can have the opportunities that their parents did.
Cameron’s vision is one of fear. Fear, that other countries will betray us, that entrenched privilege will be threatened, and fear that new ideas and culture will reach us and challenge us.
Does fear trump hope? If it does then the next generations will live a less fulfilled existence than their ancestors. This is The Choice.
The National Health Service typifies how British people want to care for each other. I am old enough to remember how Thatcher ran it down so that patients were waiting for hours on trolleys in corridors. Labour rescued the NHS then and will need to rescue it again. Cameron and Clegg are selling off our NHS. Everything is up for grabs.
In Ed’s speech he set out how we will combine health and social care and provide the funding required to secure the future of Britain’s most loved institution. Cameron didn’t.
I told BBC Surrey about Ed’s speech here:
Ed offered carefully costed plans to save the NHS and clear direction on the environment. He offered hope to the next generation and a way to make the country and the economy work for everyone, not just a small elite.
Cameron offered an excuse to bash the most vulnerable, austerity without end and a massive pile of cash to the richest in society.
The choice is clear. The election is on 7 May 2015. Which will you choose?
Fascism, racism and anti-Semitism are growing all across Europe. In French local elections recently the National Front made huge gains. In Greece the Golden Dawn draws support from inside police stations and not just from the occupants of the cells. Geert Wilders in the Netherlands “says what everyone is thinking” according to one of his supporters I spoke to. The True Finns, now known as The Finns Party, got 19% of the vote in 2011. Far right parties in Latvia and Poland are members of the same grouping in the European Parliament as the British Conservatives since David Cameron took his MEPs out of the more moderate EPP grouping. Some of these MEPs hold an annual commemoration of the Latvian Waffen SS of the Second World War.
Here in the UK, Ukip and Conservatives are pushing the same buttons, whipping up anti-foreigner sentiment, blaming economic austerity on immigrants and the vulnerable. Since 1945, Europe has been largely at peace because we have cooperated with each other. Increasingly now nationalism and xenophobia are returning.
On 22 May, the UK will elect its Members of the European Parliament by proportional representation. Every Labour vote will count, wherever it is cast. Now is the time to stand up against the rising fascism and racism. In a few years time it will be too late. I’ll be pulling out all the stops for this election. The general election is just over one year away. Next month’s election will be the most significant electoral event here this year. It is absolutely vital that all Labour supporters do everything they can over the next 5 and a bit weeks to ensure we elect as many Labour MEPs as possible to counter racism from the UK and the other 27 members of the EU.
Join me (and ‘like’ this) on the campaign trail and let’s make sure we leave it all on the field!
As regular readers will be aware, Conservative Guildford Borough Council is rushing to war on the Green Belt. Their acceptance of developers’ wishes to build on pristine greenfield sites instead of previously developed brownfield ones has met with huge public opposition. There have been well-supported petitions and marches, and not just from people who normally oppose Conservative policies either.
Hapless, two-time drink-driver Cllr Stephen Mansbridge, who is still Leader of Guildford BC, has blamed central government and the Planning Inspectorate. He claimed that if GBC submitted a Local Plan which did not meet independently assessed housing needs then the Inspectorate would force a change in Green Belt boundaries. He tried to persuade people to accept a reduction in the Green Belt of their choosing rather than have one forced on us, which he said was inevitable.
It turns out he was wrong, either deliberately or inadvertently. The Planning Minister, Nick Boles, sent a letter to the Planning Inspectorate last week (and made a written submission to Parliament) on this subject which couldn’t clearer: Nick Boles letter
He says that the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, will prevent the Planning Inspectorate overruling local authorities if they decide not to change Green Belt boundaries, even if it means they miss their housing targets. A link to the statement is here. The second bullet point claims that Boles is:
re-affirming green Belt protection, noting that unmet housing need is unlikely to outweigh harm to the green Belt and other harm to constitute very special circumstances justifying inappropriate development
This puts Cllr Mansbridge and Tory Guildford Borough Council in a rather tricky spot. I was interviewed on BBC Surrey radio last Thursday about this.
I think it is time for Cllr Mansbridge to listen to the public and scrap plans to change Green Belt boundaries within Guildford Borough. He has claimed that the council cannot live within its budget and needs the New Homes Bonus that building on the Green Belt would bring. He has also raised Council Tax this year by the maximum allowed. However, the cut to GBC’s non-ringfenced central government funding has only been 2.1% since 2010, much less than the 34%+ suffered by some less fortunate authorities.
Under Mansbridge, GBC seem unable to make efficiencies or even meet basic expectations of residents. He recently wrote a very long letter to the Surrey Advertiser grumbling and moaning about how it wasn’t his fault that Council Tax was rising, the traffic in Guildford is impossible, the Green Belt was about to be lost and there was no hope of building the new homes we need.
Guildford needs new leadership. We need to get a grip. Protect our Green Belt. Force developers to use the planning permissions they already hold. Sort out the abysmal traffic and transport problems. And stop demanding ever higher Council Tax from even the poorest families in the borough.
Cllr Mansbridge has had two warnings already. He told the Prime Minister that he expects to lose control of the council along with the parliamentary seat in 2015. People in Guildford can’t wait that long. Mansbridge should go now before extending his record of failure. He has run out of excuses.
On 27 November 2013 I was selected by the members of Guildford Constituency Labour Party to be their Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) in the next election. I am incredibly pleased and honoured to have been selected and I’m very grateful to the members for voting for me.
The vote followed an evening of speeches by all the potential candidates and questions from the audience. I have addressed hustings before but this was the first time I had applied for selection as a PPC. It was a fantastic experience and a really friendly atmosphere. Guildford CLP is very well organised (and the selection evening went very smoothly) and has many active and engaged members. I really enjoyed chatting to everyone before and afterwards. Members are very well informed about political issues and asked some very testing questions.
The last two days have been a blur of activity. I have been talking to many voters about some of the key issues: the NHS, the cost of living crisis, the bedroom tax, local democratic deficiencies, the living wage, the housing shortage, school places, rail fares, Britain’s place in Europe, etc. The Tory-LibDem Coalition is dismantling the NHS, preparing schools for privatisation, trashing our environment, scrapping social security and attacking workers’ rights.
In Guildford, only Labour can stand up for ordinary people. We have a great dedicated team here. Over the next 18 months we’ll be running an active energetic campaign for a fairer more equal society. I hope you’ll join us on the journey. Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for take-off!
The one political issue which means the most to me is the NHS. It exemplifies how I believe we, as a society, should look after each other. It is the greatest achievement of the Labour Party and the best-loved institution in the United Kingdom.
While the NHS is a national issue, hence the name, I am committed to local, community, campaigning. Someone asked me recently where I see myself on a scale from the left to the right of the Labour Party. I answered that I’m not on that one-dimensional scale. You have to add a dimension, top-to-bottom, to find where I am. I’m down at the bottom, in the grass roots, fighting for change in communities with real people. You don’t have to be a Trot or a Blairite to realise that, for example, GP surgeries using premium rate numbers for patients to make appointments is morally wrong. The way to end this is through ground-up campaigning.
We’ve got your number
As the Tory-LibDem Coalition races on with the privatisation and fragmentation of the NHS, small but noisy local campaigns can still have successes for local people. The most commented on post on this blog is this one about the premium rate phone numbers used by local GP practices. By highlighting this breach of the doctors’ contract publicly and repeatedly I drew much criticism and even threats of legal action. However, I’m pleased to announce that one of the two local surgeries using the 0844 numbers has scrapped it and is now exclusively using a local number. The other one, Lightwater, continues to rip off its patients by having an 0844 number but also has a local number. This is inadequate, of course, and the campaign will continue until they scrap their premium rate number and apologise to their patients and me for their misleading and derogatory statements.
Ethical or unethical healthcare?
Another promising development, after a long local campaign, is that Surrey Heath Clinical Commissioning Group have agreed to consider changes to their constitution proposed by the Surrey Heath members of 38 Degrees. This would help ensure that only ethical providers of healthcare are used and not tax evaders or companies with criminals on their boards. Here is the latest letter I received from Dr Andy Brooks, the CCG’s Chief Officer:
It is important to remember that local Conservatives have opposed any restrictions on the commissioning of healthcare. A local Tory councillor, Denis Fuller, took to the letters page of a local newspaper to vilify me as a ‘hypocrite’ among other names, for trying to keep healthcare providers ethical. He objected to them having to pay tax in the UK.
This is what we are up against: the Conservative agenda is to sell off all of our public services and channel the money from them to private companies which they and their supporters benefit from. This is happening apace in the NHS and is why it is absolutely vital that we have a Labour government after the 2015 election. If I have to take some public abuse from blustering Tory councillors or some legal threats from greedy businessmen to achieve these local successes, so be it.