Grassroots Lib Dems expect Clegg and Burstow to deliver on changing NHS reforms

Liberal Democrats have left with a with a clear direction of travel on NHS for both the Party's leadership.

Liberal Democrats and members of the press turned up to Spring Conference in Sheffield expecting a destructive rebellion to surge through the party, not least on the proposals to reform the NHS. In the end we had an impassioned but reasoned debate, but no bloodbath. The result was a grassroots victory on the health motion that felt a little odd but that gave a clear direction of travel for both the Party’s leadership and its members.

Many of the concerns raised in Friday night’s fringe meeting – where health minister Paul Burstow withstood a barrage of criticism over the government’s health reforms – were tabled formally in Saturday’s floor debate at main conference in the form of amendments.

These sought to cement local democratic accountability and to ensure that the Lansley reforms are significantly altered by Lib Dems before being passed into law, preventing marketisation and ensuring the NHS is not opened up to price competition and fragmentation.

The full Social Liberal Forum (SLF) amendment is available here.

Following outstanding speeches – Dr Charles West, John Pugh MP and Andrew George MP as well as the indefatigable Dr Evan Harris deserve special mentions – conference heard from Cllr Richard Kemp that, to the astonishment of most delegates, the leadership was happy to support all amendments.

The motion was duly adopted as amended with overwhelming support; we left the room happy that we had modified party policy but concerned as to where things go from here.

It is clear that the pressure is now on  Paul Burstow and Nick Clegg to deliver significant changes to the government’s Health and Social Care Bill that conference called for so overwhelmingly.

As the measures in the health bill were not in the coalition agreement, Dr Harris said that Lib Dem ministers should now signal:

“…to their Conservative coalition partners that we will not accept market reform of the health service, any fragmentation or destabilisation of NHS services by new private providers or the lack of accountability for the spending of public money envisaged in the model of GP commissioning promoted in the bill.

“The onus is now on the government to respond fully to the democratically expressed views of the Liberal Democrats.”

There’s little question that the vote to amend the health reforms to make them less market-oriented puts the Lib Dem leadership in a bind.  Do they respect the democratic mandate of conference and fight for these significant changes to their coalition partners, or do they press ahead with the reforms as proposed by Lansley?

Both Burstow and Clegg said they had listened, but will they now act? Will their coalition partners allow them to do so? The Liberal Democrat party grassroots – and significant branches higher up – have made their voices heard and will accept nothing less than a marked change in the direction of travel for the health reforms.

It is time for Lib Dems to show that they assert their values in Government by making the NHS reforms fairer.

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14 Responses to “Grassroots Lib Dems expect Clegg and Burstow to deliver on changing NHS reforms”

  1. Kevin Dykes

    RT @leftfootfwd: Grassroots Lib Dems expect Clegg and Burstow to deliver on changing NHS reforms http://bit.ly/eDfteq by reports @pratee …

  2. Andrew Forrest

    RT @leftfootfwd: Grassroots Lib Dems expect Clegg and Burstow to deliver on changing NHS reforms http://bit.ly/eDfteq by reports @pratee …

  3. Martin Johnston

    RT @leftfootfwd: Grassroots Lib Dems expect Clegg and Burstow to deliver on changing NHS reforms http://bit.ly/eDfteq by reports @pratee …

  4. Prateek Buch

    RT @leftfootfwd: Grassroots Lib Dems expect Clegg and Burstow to deliver on changing NHS reforms http://bit.ly/eDfteq by @prateekbuch

  5. EcoJon

    I think the LibDem Party and the Parliamentary Leadership have noe reached the crossroads.

    Clegg and his supporters have to decide whether to go along with Tory dismembering of the NHS or follow party policy.

    Protecting the NHS cannot be done by tinkering around the edges of the Tory Bill and rewording the odd clause. The Bill has to be scrapped in its entirety and I have grave doubts whether Clegg will go down that road as everything about his actions lead me to believe he will duck and dive and try to remain onside with Cameron.

    I trust the good people of principle in the LibDems will win this fight as the NHS is depending on them.

  6. markblackburn

    RT @prateekbuch: RT @leftfootfwd: Grassroots Lib Dems expect Clegg and Burstow to deliver on changing NHS reforms http://bit.ly/eDfteq b …

  7. Simon

    Grassroots Lib Dems expect Clegg and Burstow to deliver on changing NHS reforms http://bit.ly/fvUsdu

  8. Trevor Cheeseman

    Prateek, Congratulations to those Lib Dems willing to stand up for the NHS, and I hope they will join the campaigning coalition aginst the reforms, such as via 38 degrees and the NHS Support Federation.

    Am I right that the amended motion passed is now official Lib Dem policy, irrespective of the leadership’s personal views? If so then does this mean either the Bill is very substantially watered down or Lib Dem MPs must vote against it? And what happens if neither of these things takes place?

    Would welcome your views.

  9. Richard Blogger

    “NHS plans will not change significantly: Downing Street. Downing Street has ruled out “significant changes” to government NHS reforms following their rejection by Liberal Democrat members.”

    So if no significant changes are needed, does that make your suggestions trivial? I don’t think so, so perhaps you delivered the wrong list of demands to Number 10?

    Remember, you are the junior partner and disposable. The Conservative government already has a majority provided by the blue-Liberal ministers who are resigned to becoming alienated from their party, (perhaps, in time, becoming National Liberals?). You grassroots and backbench LD’s are another party to them. You are the opposition too, but with out Short Money. The coalition may well mean the end of the Liberal Democrats, and Lansley (and his intransigence over changing the Health Bill) will be the main catalyst.

  10. Richard Blogger

    Oops, the quote in #3 was from the BBC News website:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12734324

  11. Mr. Sensible

    Yes Richard I saw that.

    In which case I would call on Lib Dem MPs and peers to back the will of Lib Dem Conference and make the government change its mind.

    The government is in an absolute mess.

  12. Terry Gilbert

    Hear hear, Prateek. My hunch is that Clegg will find warm words but come up short on action. But also that he will find it harder to defy Lib Dem Conference than Blair found it to defy Labour Conference, since, ultimately, he has no union block vote to defend him.

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    […] last month’s Liberal Democrat spring conference, the party’s views on Andrew Lansley’s health reforms could not have been made clearer; the Health and Social Care […]

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    […] the Lib Dem conference voiced significant concerns at our Spring Conference, the Government took the unprecedented step of pausing to listen to the […]

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