Friday, 12 February 2010

Social Care

An interesting instalment from PoliticsHome

Continuing from the debate at PMQs this week, the polling website asked some questions about people's attitude to social care.

With regard to the quite delicate issue, people were asked whether they'd prefer to see a cross-party consensus, or a politicised battle. The results make for quite interesting reading.

81% of the people asked said they would prefer to see a cross-party consensus. Of that 81%, the majority of those with a party identification were Labour identifiers. In contrast, 16% said they would prefer to see a highly politicised battle on the issue. Yet within that 16%, the majority of those who identified with any party were indeed Conservative identifiers.

Considering that elderly people are one of the main demographics of recipients of social care, it's interesting that they are traditionally considered as Tory voters when the Tories would rather a battle on this issue than a consensus leading to solutions. Just the other day, Cameron was in the Commons praising the Prime Minister for his work in Northern Ireland and everyone agreed that the progress in Northern Ireland was largely down to a cross-party consensus. I think it is clear therefore that the Tories have actually selected the issue of social care as a battleground issue; somewhat disgracefully.

It is clear that cross-party talks were ongoing until now. Sadly, this seems to have broken down. Norman Lamb, FibDem Health Extraordinaire, said it was in part due to

"...a wholly inadequate bill from the Government"

and also in part due to,

"...some pretty shabby campaigning from the Conservatives".

Intriguing that the Liberal Democrat spokesman for Health doesn't care to mention what his party were doing to help build the consensus. Nothing, I assume. Oh, wait, no.... he did have an input. As he says,

"I was advocating the parties coming together and trying to build a consensus.... It was agreed that Andrew Lansley and Andy Burnham would submit their ideas to me"

What, no policy idea input from the Lib Dems? Well, I never.

Anyway, back to his original finger-pointing.

I'll extract some of my disdain for the Lib Dems first. Lamb was clearly working to try and aid the discussions. If not adding anything innovative, he did apparently draft a statement of "clearly shared principles". And Labour's whizz-kid Burnham seems to have played a very active role in proceedings. It also seems that his ideas didn't warrant the criticism from the other parties. The bill drawn up may have had it's faults, but the point of the consensus would have been to work hard to iron out the creases. Saying that, I personally would like Burnham as a future leader. So question the provenance on this one.

Anyway, any and all work that had been done by messrs Burnham, Lansley and Lamb ended when, as Lord Baron King Emperor of Foy, The British Empire and Business Mandelson said, David Cameron,

"drove a wrecking ball through the consensus on care"

Cameron, like 16% in the aforementioned survey, wanted to make this a politicised battle; forsaking the importance of the issue with his petty "R.I.P. Off" posters, claiming Labour was planning a £20,000 death tax. As PM Brown touched upon at PMQs, this is the same David Cameron who said he wanted an end to "Punch and Judy Politics". In that same speech, he said,

"We must...make the Conservative Party the engine room of new political ideas - engaging with academics and think tanks; the brightest and best minds producing detailed policy for the long term, not policy by headline."

Well, apparently Andrew Lansley didn't even clear the cross-party talks with Cameron before he went and joined them. I'm no expert, but you should probably engage with your own front bench before branching out to academics and think tanks.

But then, this was the famous speech when the Airbrushed Saviour of all said,

"We must have faith in the social and economic benefits of the free market. A real programme for prosperity will progressively remove the barriers to wealth creation in Britain today. We need to open ourselves to risk and treat adults like adults."

I'm not into line after line of transcript, but this stuff is priceless....

"The stock of regulations must be reduced: we should trust people to make their own mistakes and learn from them."

Bravo! Or, trust people to make mistakes and let the masses of the lower salariat learn from them?

I've digressed. The point is this: The Conservatives lead by this man cannot be trusted with those issues that affect the vast majority of normal people. In particular, those in need of social care cannot be put in the hands of a Tory government. Social care's place on the agenda has risen massively under Labour and, arguably, even more under Gordon Brown. A Tory victory would take it right the way down the agenda. The Shadow Health Minister even went behind Cameron's back to try and work towards a consensus: he clearly doesn't trust him on this either.


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