There is no obvious precedent for a conference debate so one-sidedly opposed to
the Lib Dem leadership as that at Sheffield on the government’s proposed changes
to the National Health Service.
The government’s proposals are neither Liberal Democrat policy nor in the
coalition agreement (and, for that matter, are not Conservative policy either).
The conference therefore felt no inhibition about saying what it thought.
And it thought that health minister Paul Burstow was talking rubbish. Burstow
was unwise to put up a motion that said, in effect, that the government’s
proposals were perfect, and he might have expected a tough debate. This, though,
was a massacre.
As Evan Harris, John Pugh, John Alderdice, Andrew George and Shirley Williams
rubbished the government’s plans to loud applause, it became plainly obvious
that the two hostile amendments would be passed easily.
Then something strange happened. Richard Kemp, summing up for the motion, said
that the mover (i.e. Burstow) wished to accept both amendments. This might seem
odd, given that one of them effectively trashed Burstow’s position. Kemp said
later, however, that Burstow had decided to accept both amendments the previous
day. Kemp added he had been surprised Burstow didn’t say so in his proposing
If Burstow had accepted the amendments at the outset, it would have taken the
heat out of the debate and made it look less like he had been slaughtered by the
conference. Did he simply forget this apparently rather important part of his
Also in Radical Bulletin 345:
Click here to return to the home page.
- TRIPLES ALL ROUND
- ANGELS ON A PINHEAD
- MUSICAL CHAIRS
- LONDON KILLS ME
- BOUNDARY SCORED
- PAPER TIGERS
- ANIMAL CRACKERS