I mentioned the Liberal Democrats and their potentially Faustian Pact with the Tories last week. This weekend saw the Liberal Democrats spring conference. One of the motions carried was about the proposed reforms to the NHS in England. The Liberal Democrat rank and file seem very concerned about effects of the possible changes. The motion carried included this part:
Conference welcomes our Coalition Government’s commitment to the founding principles of the NHS: available to all, free at the point of use, and based on need, not the ability to pay.
In many ways this can be seen as the LDs worrying about part privatisation of the NHS which they rightly or wrongly feel is the direction of travel the reforms are signalling. Clegg denied that he was at odds with his party over the issue and stated: “Yes to reform of the NHS – but no to the privatisation of the NHS,”
Although that might be Clegg’s position it seems that the Orange Book of which Clegg was one of the authors took a different position. In it David Laws (very briefly Chief Secretary to the Treasury before having to resign over his expenses) argued for a health system based on a national health insurance scheme. Although Clegg was not an author of that part of the book it seems that some in the Liberal Democrats at least used to be less committed to the NHS than they (or the Tories) now claim to be.