Posts Tagged ‘Frank Field’

The politics of mutualising the NHS and reviving National Insurance offers Labour a big opportunity

25/09/2014, 06:20:52 PM

In the second of an occasional series of posts, from Uncut contributors, that look at the policies and political positioning needed to win the next election, Jonathan Todd reflects on Frank Field’s case for restructuring how the NHS is funded.  

by Jonathan Todd

In March 1992, 22 per cent of voters thought the Conservatives had the best policies on the NHS. 52 per cent thought Labour did. This didn’t stop the Tories winning the general election two months later. This experience should caution us against seeing the lead that Labour currently enjoys on the NHS as sufficient to secure Labour general election victory. Labour’s trust and popularity on this issue is not a passport to election victory. But it is a political asset that might be deployed to create such a passport.

Some perceptions of Labour strength and weakness that are relevant are:

The support Labour enjoys on the NHS is emblematic of the sense that Labour’s heart is in the right place. No one believes that Labour enjoys seeing nurses being made redundant, whereas there is a lingering suspicion, perhaps unfairly, that Conservatives do. Nonetheless, there is also a widespread recognition that government involves taking tough decisions, as well as a sense that the Conservatives are more prepared to take such decisions than Labour. While there are relatively few doubts about Labour’s heart, there may be more about Labour’s judgment and resolve around difficult decisions.

As popular as the NHS is, there is also a recognition that tough choices need to be made on healthcare. Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) consider the NHS to be one of the UK’s greatest achievements. Yet more than four in ten believe the NHS will not survive in its current form to the end of the current decade.

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The Labour case for an NHS mutual

25/09/2014, 11:42:22 AM

In the first of an occasional series of Uncut posts that look at the policies and political positioning needed to win the next election, today we are looking at the NHS. Here, Frank Field sets out the policy case for a radical restructuring of how the NHS is funded.  

by Frank Field

A programme of fundamental NHS reform – on financing and ownership – could, paradoxically, convince the electorate of Labour’s financial competence and play a crucial role in rebuilding Labour’s fast collapsing core vote.

Labour has to combine two financially opposing objectives.  About two thirds of the structural budget deficit remains to be eliminated.  So, while cutting at twice the scale of the so-called ‘tough’ Coalition, Labour will face the mother of all NHS crises.  The Coalition’s pledge of maintaining the real value of the £95 billion NHS budget is now hardly a mirage.  Real cuts in the NHS budget have been in progress over most of this Parliament and there is an impressive array of witnesses reporting to this effect.

Differential NHS inflation, a growing aged population that makes disproportionate health and social care demands, and an abundance of advances in ever more expensive medical technology, will take an even greater toll on NHS budgets during the next Parliament.  NHS England estimates a deficit to end all deficits of £30 billion in 2020-21 – very nearly a third of current NHS expenditure.

The electorate senses the NHS is facing mounting difficulties.  They are willing to input additional monies into their NHS.  But, despite the supportive showing the polls for significant increases in NHS contributions, neither Labour nor the Coalition is currently prepared to address the issue.  They present getting through the election without seeking a mandate on NHS finance as what the clever boys do.

But, as events all too often show, the clever boys – and they are still largely boys in every sense of the word – have lost the plot.  Either the NHS is refinanced or, during the next Parliament, it will cease to exist as we have known it.

We can conclude that, as the collapse of the NHS as we have known it will send the electorate into a god almighty spin, there will be a major injection of new funds into the NHS during the next Parliament.  But, if the current cross-party evasion continues, the next government will have no mandate to raise new revenue.  Ever greater cynicism will be the result of what will inevitably be a broken promise. But will the current Tory position hold?

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At least Ukip’s EU and immigration policies are consistent. John Denham can’t even manage that.

03/06/2014, 01:47:18 PM

by Atul Hatwal

John Denham’s article about immigration on Labour List yesterday was a disgrace. Not because of his anti-immigration stance – it’s perfectly possible to disagree with a view without believing it to be disgraceful – but because of the incoherent politics at the heart of his argument.

Within the Labour party, two distinct groups have now emerged on the anti-immigration side of the debate.

One is consistent and has a coherent case, albeit with potentially major deleterious economic consequences. The other is muddled and guarantees a disastrous electoral denouement for Labour. John Denham’s post was a case study in the latter.

The starting point for the first group is scepticism about the EU. There is a legitimate case to be argued for applying the same entry rules to all migrants, whether from the EU or outside and that if the EU does not change on freedom of movement, Britain will withdraw.

Central to this argument is an acceptance that a British exit from the EU is likely.

When Angela Merkel visited Britain in February she made the German position on reform of freedom of movement abundantly clear, “freedom of movement is intended to allow people to work in different countries, not immigration into social systems.”

There might be some tightening of access to benefits and public services for EU migrants but no fundamental change in freedom of movement across the EU.

Given the government’s own figures indicate that only 4 in every 100 EU migrants claim Job Seekers Allowance, it’s a fair assumption that benefit restrictions will have virtually zero impact on the net flow of EU migrants into Britain.

It’s evident from what MPs like Frank Field, Kate Hoey and John Mann have said in the past that they are prepared for a British withdrawal from the EU and there is a small but growing group within the PLP who take this view.

This is broadly also the official Ukip position. Stripped of the inflammatory and racist language sometimes used by Ukip representatives, it has the merit, at least, of being internally consistent and demonstrates clearly how EU migration would be reduced.

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