Following my posts last week about Jeremy's resignation he has written more about his reasons for leaving the party - concerned that we seem to be obsessed with tactics rather than policy issues -
Firstly thanks Linda for featuring my decision to leave the party on your 'Lindylooz Muze' blog. I do appreciate the kind things that you have written about my contribution to the party over the last 30-years!
I have just cancelled my accommodation booked for the March Sheffield conference. And I will miss the Lib Dem Conference particularly for two main reasons:
- the excellent level of debate of the important political issues facing the country
- the friendships made over many years.
I have read the comments on your earlier posts and I am disappointed that people writing in seem more interested in 'tactical issues' (like the positioning of the Lib Dems) rather than the more important (in my view) political issues. The most important is the way the cuts that are going to affect individuals and communities right across the country.
In my view many aspects of the cuts will particularly affect less well off people and those who are 'less able'- in their everyday lives. The cuts will affect those on benefit and those who are most vulnerable and rely on 'services'. The government is planning to cut some 25% of many services over the next 4 years. This will drastically reduce vital 'services' that include:
Benefits / schools / special education support services / early years childcare / job training / social housing / libraries / Care services (from birth to old age) / mental health services / drug services / alcohol services / police / youth services and Connexions / probation/ leisure and culture and the whole of the voluntary sector!
In my view these cuts will hit those who are poor and least able (and the most deprived communities) most severely. Also, I think that there will be a huge social cost from these cuts for individuals and local communities.
Many people will know that Nick Clegg has repeatedly said that he is concerned about the 'public health statistic' that some people live 7+years less long in the most deprived ward in Sheffield compared to the most affluent ward. Nick has said that he is committed to reversing this; but sadly the proposed cuts are likely to make the longevity / mortality differences even greater!
I think the other major social policy problem will be in the 'disorganisation' of the NHS - as a result of the radical shake up planned. I worked with others in the party to draft our policy on the NHS, which was agreed at the 2008 Conference. We agreed no major reorganisation; so did the Tories, and so did the coalition agreement! Yet Messrs Lansley and Burstow have decided otherwise. They have not listened to wider consultation with many of us (including the Doctors, Nurses, NHS confederation) who replied to the NHS White paper consultation this autumn. The planned reorganisation (to GP commissioning consortia and a national commissioning board) will waste many £millions and cause massive uncertainty within the NHS. On top of the impact of the cuts this will disadvantage those with long-term health conditions and those in the most deprived areas – including the ward in Sheffield where people have the shortest life expectancy.