Sunday, September 05, 2004

The future's not orange

No, not a reference to 'Nokia' Davies - quite the most unfortunate choice to fight Hodge Hill on behalf of the LibDems and now off to pursue the Shrewsbury seat to be vacated by the sometime Labour MP and dodgy poet, Paul Marsden. Liberal Democrats seem to be into poetry - LibDem Watch found a charming piece from Jody Dunn, the candidate in the upcoming Hartlepool by-election.

This is about the new Orange Book detailing some proposed policies for a 'New LibDem' manifesto. One of the most interesting policies is a proposal to break up the NHS, which would be independently managed and funded through social insurance. Privatising the NHS - not even Maggie tried to slip that one by us (although I don't doubt that it is on the agenda for the Tories). It isn't so long since the LDs were critical of the government over the new plans to open the NHS up to patient choice.

Now, this isn't a good idea. To allow for choice, you need to have over-capacity and I don't want to pay extra taxes to support this inefficiency. In any case, how is this choice supposed to work? The examples of choice demonstrated so far - taking parental choice in education as an example - suggest that the only people with any real choice are those at the top of society. They can choose private or state education and pay the inflated house prices to move to an area with decent schools. Most people can't do that, so they have to make do with their local schools.

I believe that most people aren't bothered by choice when it comes to healthcare - they just want to know that their local medical services are up to scratch. I'd rather see my taxes going towards improving the standard of healthcare across the board, rather than being used to provide us with a false sense of choice.

Another item on the privatisation list is the Post Office - but then this has been on the manifesto for a while. This rather undermines the vocal LibDem campaigns to save Post Offices across the country, while the plans are there for a Liberal Democrat government to fling the Royal Mail entirely into the marketplace. I'm prepared to place a small bet that this would lead to an awful lot more Post Office closures.

Another item is that they would want to rewrite the UN Charter to legalise international intervention in states guilty of repeated human rights abuses. Apart from the improbability of the UN member states letting this one by, it would have provided a clear legal justification for the invasion of Iraq.

While this is some way from becoming party policy (apart from the Royal Mail privatisation), there are some big front-bench names attached to parts of the book and Charlie Kennedy wrote the forward, so it isn't without force.

No comments: