Parliament Squared by Derek Wyatt
Whither the future of the Labour Party?
The polls for them have been dire for the past eighteen months and show no signs of improving.
Corbyn's abject leadership has extraordinarily led to a renewed interest in what was fast becoming another defunct party: the Lib Dems. They took Richmond from Zac Goldsmith (though to be fair they had held the seat from 1997-2010) and have done extraordinarily well in local council by-elections too.
Neither party though threatens the hegemony of the sitting Tories. This is not good for democracy at a critical juncture in the nation's future. To make matters worse, Labour lost Copeland to them. This was the first time they had lost this seat since the party was formed.
Corbyn has to stand down for the good of his party otherwise, it is doomed. Politics is about winning power: it is not a lifestyle option.
This begs the question as to what happens to the middle ground in UK politics? When Tony Blair spoke at the Open Europe event three weeks ago he disappointed. He should have proposed a new political party - a version of the Gang of Four - which begat the Social Democrats.
We have a one man party called "FarageUKIP" or FUKIP for short whose sole raison d'etre was to campaign to take us out of Europe. Well, it is time for a REMAIN party to fight to keep us in. It could work as Remain/Scotland, Remain/Wales, Remain/NorthernIreland and Remain/England. It would take seats across the board and it ought to fight the next by-election to test the water.
As it is, aside from someone called Trump, Brexit continues to dominate the airwaves. The European cause will be tested with general elections in the Netherlands and France over the coming months. Attention is re-focusing on Marine Le Pen as she nudges ahead in the polls. Are the French about to shock us all by electing her? That would be seismic.
The biggest problem facing us in the UK is not Brexit or the train strikes on the Underground and Southern Railways - though they are tedious and self serving - it is the future of the NHS. I hear the call for a Royal Commission but this would just be an excuse to kick the decision making process into the long grass and past the next general election. The public is not that stupid.
But if the Tories - who are taking soundings on a Royal Commission - do appoint one it will be a most cynical act. We have had different political parties spending £bb on reorganising the NHS to little or no effect over the past forty years. This just shows the lack of imagination there is in Whitehall and the scale of the problem.
Not a single political party has come forward with a manifesto for a NHS that is fit for the 21st century. A pox on all of them. We want giants not pygmies. But it is the latter who fill the corridors of power at Westminster.
When the NHS was formed in 1948 life expectancy for both sexes was in the early to mid 70s not the early to mid 80s as it is now. We knew little about cancer treatments or heart disease or psychotherapy. We certainly could not have anticipated stem cell research and replacement knees and hips. Fortunately, for all of us there have been the most profound scientific changes for the good over the past seventy years.
The NHS is simply overwhelmed. It has indifferent leadership, appalling management, chaotic administration and yet somehow it struggles. Still, amazingly, we love it. But we all recognise it will tip over if there is not a master plan for the next thirty years. So, here's a thought, why not give the NHS to the cities to administer? Let them become the hubs for the towns and villages in their hinterlands. Let them decide their own priorities and funding models. Let us have less NHS and more LHPSS - Local Health, Pensions & Social Services - under one body locally elected.
The case must be made that we should be pay a little more on top of our NHS contributions to include care packages in addition to second pensions. We already do this with prescriptions, glasses and teeth. Why not poll the public on what else they would be prepared to contribute to? And then have a referendum. The nation needs to be involved. We know so far as the politicians are concerned they are hiding about their intentions.
We will still need to have single national centres of excellence for cancer, for heart, for neurology, for rare diseases et al but let the cities have the authority to decide how they want to structure health, pensions and social services for their own populations. It would be radical. There would have to be an agreement for national funding for a decade or so to allow the transition to bed in but it would be a different and what's more we would have voted for it.