After a highly successful March for the Alternative, successful campaigning from a plethora of campaign groups ranging from the grassroots to large trade unions to ‘online catalysts’, and a rap song, we’re gaining ground. We’re winning important battles but the NHS front on the war on British society is far from won.
It may be that Clegg has been spurred on by his own party to whisper a little louder to Cameron who very recently has sounded a retreat, forcing Lansley to make the unusual step of announcing a halt in the bill’s progression through the House of Commons. Now, they’ve decided to conduct a ‘listening exercise’ to hear what other people have to say about Lansley’s regressive reforms. Does this suggest that they’ve ignored everything that’s been said already? All those concerns ‘expressed in various quarters’, by the Royal Colleges, the BMA, the Big Society NHS… have all our concerns been heard up until now?
It’s quite clever really. They’ve listened enough, they know what we want already, but this is a useful 2 month pause for them to a) let things blow over a bit, b) build some public support, and c) bolster their local election campaigns. After the 2 months, they may offer some small changes and force through the bill anyway.
So perhaps it’s a big PR exercise. You’ve heard of MPs surgeries, well Clegg, Cameron and Lansley went on a political ward round at Frimley Park Hospital with their sleeves rolled up, their ties tucked observing infection control policy. I suppose it looks good for the cameras but it was enough to make me feel nauseous.
So they want to show the Coalition as a strong unified government. But the reality is that Lib Dem and Tory bedrock of support is eroding – fast. Norman Lamb, one of Clegg’s closest aides has threatened to resign; Conservative MPs getting jittery according to ‘a Tory grandee in the Commons’; Lib Dem activists call on Lib Dem MPs to respect the outcome of the Spring Conference; York City Council officially opposes the reforms; Norman Tebbitt, the former Chairman of the Conservative Party, expresses strong concerns about the reforms too.
We’ve got them on a PR defensive, but they’re professional politicians. We need to step up the pressure and act smart if we plan not only to write letters and sign petitions, but to actually defend the NHS from ideologically-driven destruction.