Health, education, Europe. That’s the combo which Tim Farron will set out as being at the heart of the Liberal Democrat message in his conference speech later today.
Of course, regular readers will know how often the Lib Dem message has changed since the general election. The likely life span of this trio is however looking rather more promising than some.
Europe is – post-referendum – very firmly established as a key Liberal Democrat issue, with a practical set of policy demands agreed by party conference this week. Education is, Tim Farron has just told us, his top priority and has been a long-standing favourite in the party for any list of priorities. Health, meanwhile, is where Norman Lamb is starting to carve out some distinctive political space for the party.
In his speech, Farron will go further than Norman Lamb’s speech and call for the creation of a National Health and Care Service to bring care into the NHS. Added to that, he will say, “If the only way to fund a health service that meets the needs of everyone, is to raise taxes, Liberal Democrats will raise taxes”.
He will invoke his own family history to present this policy, showing once again his knack of deploying personal stories to make policy demands both more convincing and more audience-grabbing:
In my Grandpa’s journey through Alzheimers, he had good care in the home he spent his last couple of years in. But when he first became ill after the death of my Grandma, the place he was put in was despicable.
Lonely, unclean, uncaring. It’s a few years back, but as I fought to get him out of that place and into somewhere better, it occurred to me that this was a standard experience for too many older people and their loved ones.
And if some people can just shrug and accept this, well I can’t.
I’ve seen enough terrible old people’s homes. And I’ve seen enough people who’ve had to wait forever for treatment – particularly people who don’t have someone to fight their corner.
It’s not civilised to let people slip through the net.
It’s not civilised towards the people who love those people, who go out of their way to try and make their lives easier when everything else is making their lives harder.
It’s not civilised and it’s not good enough.
I worry about this, not just for the NHS in general, but, if I’m honest, for myself and my family.
We will all, if we’re lucky, grow old.
We all deserve to know that, no matter what happens, we will be cared for properly and treated with dignity and respect.
If the great Liberal William Beveridge had written his blue print today, when people are living to the ages they are now, there is no doubt that he would have proposed a National Health and Care Service.
So let’s today decide to do what Beveridge would do. Let’s create that National Health and Care Service.
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