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Norman, Conquest and New Labour

March 12, 2008

Every quite often, something happens to remind me why I didn’t join the Labour Party.

This week there have been more reminders than usual, and I want to share a couple with you, because they are connected.

The first was a positive one. On Saturday I attended Lib Dem Spring Conference in Liverpool. It was a miserable day with the wind howling, but in the afternoon I took part in the debate over our party’s new health policy [see link: http://www.libdems.org.uk/news/liberal-democrat-spring-conference-backs-radical-plans-for-the-health-service.14000.html].

This was a fantastic debate, with some really radical ideas to make the NHS more accountable to local people. Following the votes on Saturday, Lib Dems will be seeking to introduce directly elected Local Health Boards – so we don’t have the situation which occurred recently over local maternity services, where the PCTs voted against what local people wanted.

We will also be seeking to protect our older people in need of care, and those suffering from mental illness, by introducing a ‘Care Guarantee’ (£2 billion invested in a personal care payment for all elderly people requiring care, based on need and not their ability to pay) and giving greater emphasis to Direct Payments and individual budgets.

Not only is the Liberal Democrat Party the only party that still makes party policy on the Conference floor, but we are coming up with empowering, costed, popular policies with which to go in to the next General Election.

It was Norman Lamb MP, our Shadow Health Secretary, who guided the Health Policy through Conference on Saturday. And I am delighted that Norman will be visiting Hastings on Thursday this week: to stop off at the Conquest Hospital, and to boost the election campaign of Margaret Williams – our candidate in Conquest Ward.

However, Norman is not the only political visitor to Hastings on Thursday. Harriet Harman, Deputy Leader of New Labour, is also in town. And it has been the PR around her visit that provided me with my second reminder…

You see New Labour is still not being straight about fundraising. You will remember that they have had their fingers burnt recently about illegal ways of receiving donations.

There is ambiguity about whether Harriet Harman is coming to Hastings in her role as Minister for Women, or as a Labour politician – the PR says she is coming as part of the commemoration of women’s involvement in the political process.  But what she will be attending is a Labour Party fundraiser.

This is just typical. The Lib Dems will be out on Thursday trying to get a local woman elected to the Borough Council. The Labour Party will be commemorating the Suffragette cause by, what a surprise, looking after its own interests.

You see the Labour Party has one overriding concern. It has one love. At the end of the day, what matters to New Labour more than anything else – more than principles, more than ideology, more than social justice, more than you and me – is itself.

That is the key to understanding everything that is New Labour.

And that, among other things, is why I am not.

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