Speaking last night at an excellent anniversary dinner to mark 25 years (yes, 25 years) of Liberal Democrat control on Sutton Council, Nick Clegg said the party has been successful in taming and reshaping the NHS reform plans.
The run of political and electoral success achieved by Liberal Democrats in Sutton is, as Clegg pointed out, a standing answer to anyone who doubts that you can achieve and then hold political power whilst continuing campaigning and staying true to your liberal roots. One of the key people in that success was Ruth Shaw, who Nick Clegg personally presented with the 2010 President’s Award that she had been awarded by the (national) party last year. Another of the key people is Graham Tope, who at various times has been an MP, council leader, European regional committee member, London Assembly member and member of the House of Lords (one who has repeatedly voted to abolish himself there). A book of conversations between him and his son Andrew about his political career has just been published by the local party.
As for the NHS, party sources have broken down the party’s Spring conference motion into 13 separate demands and are predicting that the revised government plans will see 11 of them met in full and 2 of them met via different routes than the ones called for in the motion. As I mentioned yesterday, leading critic of the original plans Shirley Williams is pleased with how the revisions are taking shape. They’ll be presented in detail to Liberal Democrat Parliamentarians on Monday night.
The two motion points not directly met will be the demand that half of the members of commissioning consortia boards be local councillors and only to give additional freedoms to Foundation Trusts that successfully engage substantial proportions of their local populations. Instead, the proposals are likely to use local Health and Wellbeing Boards (which can have a councillor majority if the council has so decided) to improve the accountability of commissioning consortia boards and to retain a supervisory role for Monitor over Foundation Trusts.
As today’s newspapers show, the spinners were indeed busy yesterday. Notable that both the Sunday Telegraph and Mail on Sunday run stories that overall are favourable about what the Liberal Democrats have achieved (the Mail on Sunday in part, no doubt, motivated by knowledge of how unpopular the original proposals were with many of its readers): “Clegg: NHS U-turn is big win for Lib Dems” and “Tories furious as Clegg humiliates Andrew Lansley by boasting he ‘won’ fight to water down NHS reforms“. Notable too that the most critical write-up is from the Guardian newspaper group, with today’s Observer article.