Roll-up, roll-up, the circus in town

If you live in a target seat this week it will feel like a circus with all the major parties lining up to entertain and excite you with their promises, and critical analysis of the status quo. It’s not easy to decide at the best of times who you would like to run the country, but this year seems particularly baffling. If you use social media you can’t tell if the information is being posted by party activists or genuine supporters, and even on TV debates, the questions and audiences can seem rigged. Then there are the manifestos, are they worth reading? Well probably, but who has time. So in the end we usually go on something like the candidates themselves, their record locally, or who has bothered to speak to you that week.

The Lib Dems (of whom I am a member) are not making much of an appearance in York Outer this year, they are focusing on the seats where they already have an MP such as Leeds, rather than campaigning to win new ones. I will still vote Lib Dem though, and still helping the local candidates for the City of York council election by posting leaflets. I really hope we have a better result than the polls are predicting. There are several reasons I am still a paid up member of the party:

1) Leadership: Nick Clegg is not only tall, dark and handsome, funny (he’s apparently mates with Louis Theroux), multi-lingual, married to a feminist, but has actually done a decent job I think. He fought for the implementation of the findings of the Leveson report, and is therefore not likely to get any coverage at all from the right wing press. He went into coalition with the Tories, and lost the support of many grassroots LibDem activists who (like in York Outer) had been fighting the Tories in the campaign leading up to the last election. So noone likes him much on the left or the right, but he doesn’t apologise for what he’s done, despite all the criticism.

2) Getting the job done: if you look at our manifesto from last time, over half our ideas have been implemented. The things that we’ve got right include the pupil premium, raising basic rate of tax, and for me the new focus on mental health in the NHS is a vote winner, that has been led by Norman Lamb. We’ve kept the Tory right from dominating the debate about Europe, and Vince Cable as business secretary has ensured the graduate tax on university education is paid by those who benefit from this, not those who have no access to further education. More people on low incomes now go to university since we re-introduced support for students on low income.

3) Keeping it to the centre-left: if the Tories get back in without a  Lib Dem coalition we will see further cuts to the welfare budget, and less progressive measures to tax the most wealthy such as the Mansion Tax etc. For people with disabilities the last 5 years has been really difficult and I can’t say I am proud that the Lib Dems have been in office whilst the bedroom tax was invented, but we are only 10% of the government, and I think the Tories will go further in reducing income for those at the bottom of society. If Britain is a bad place for people with disabilities, it’s a bad place for everyone. The Lib Dems will also maintain committed to human rights and protecting civil liberties.

4) Coalition:  Lib Dems have somehow invented coalition government, which like it or not makes things more interesting, and hopefully increases the chance of a democratic choice of who represents you.

For more information on the Lib Demn 2015 manifesto go to…. http://www.libdems.org.uk/read-the-full-manifesto

For those of you like me who work in NHS commissioning this section is particularly relevant:

  • Secure local agreement on full pooling of budgets between the NHS and care services with a target date of 2018, consulting on a legal duty for this. The details of how services are commissioned will remain a matter for local areas. In this way we will build on the radical proposals to integrate health and care funding in Greater Manchester.
  • Continue to develop Health and Wellbeing Boards to take a broad view of how services can improve wellbeing in their area, ensuring democratic accountability for local care.
  • Combine the public health, adult social care and health outcome frameworks into a single national wellbeing outcomes framework to ensure the NHS and local government work together towards common goals.
  • Support new joined-up services such as GPs providing services like scans and blood tests closer to home, or hospitals having GP surgeries within A&E departments.
  • Encourage the development of joined-up health providers, which cover hospital and community services, including GPs, learning from international best practice. We will permit NHS commissioners and providers in a local area to form a single integrated health organisation where appropriate.
  • Work with Monitor to reform NHS funding systems, moving away from payments for activity to tariffs that encourage joined-up services and preventive care.
  • Liberal Democrats are committed to repealing any parts of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 which make NHS services vulnerable to forced privatisation through international agreements on free markets in goods and services. We will end the role of the Competition and Markets Authority in health, making it clear that the needs of patients, fairness and access always come ahead of competition, and that good local NHS services do not have to be put out to tender. After determined negotiations, we now have a clear guarantee from the EU that member states’ rights to provide public services directly and not open them up to competition are explicitly enshrined in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and we will ensure this remains the case for TTIP and any future trade agreements.

In terms of social care….We will:

  • Finish the job of implementing the Dilnot Report proposals for a cap on the cost of social care.
  • Provide more choice at the end of life, and free end-of-life social care for those placed on their local end-of-life register if evidence shows it is affordable and cost effective.
  • Ask the Care Quality Commission to showcase examples of good and bad practice in care commissioning by Councils.
  • Raise the professional status and training of care home managers through statutory licensing.
  • Ensure those who work in the care sector are properly trained and suitable to practice by introducing a statutory code of conduct backed up by a care workers’ suitability register.
  • Work with local government and providers to promote paying a Living Wage.

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