NHS privatisation challenge; a challenge for David Amess

Created in 1948 by the then Attlee-led Labour Government, the NHS is one of our greatest achievements and our most important institution. But it is under threat from a Conservative-led government which puts privatisation before patient care.

We need action to save our NHS. This is why I am backing Labour MP Clive Efford’s Bill which would scrap David Cameron’s new market framework for the NHS and ensure NHS patients will always be put first.

The NHS has never been more vulnerable than under the present government. The Conservatives wasted £3 billion on an unnecessary and damaging top-down reorganisation. The new rules allow hospitals to earn up to 49 per cent of their income from private patients, which risks pushing NHS patients to the back of the queue. And their new competition rules force doctors to open up services to competition from the private sector.

Labour will ensure that the NHS once again puts patients before profits. We will invest the millions of pounds saved from scrapping competition red tape in ensuring people can get a GP appointment within 48 hours, or on the same day if they need it.

I have no hesitation in backing this bill as it will make sure patients in Southend West are put first once again. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for our current MP. That’s why I’m challenging David Amess to back the Bill and vote for it in Parliament on 21st November.

Patients in Southend West are relying on him to do the right thing by backing this Bill so that we can put an end to market forces being put at the heart of the NHS. David Amess is fond of saying how he always puts his constituents first; its time he backed this up with action by voting for this Bill on 21st November.

The Conservatives have not just destabilised our health service; they are holding it back from meeting the challenges of the 21st century as well. We need to pass this new Bill so we can end the creep towards NHS privatisation, bureaucracy and red-tape, and instead put patients back at the heart of the NHS . Labour will rescue the NHS with our £2.5 billion Time to Care package which will fund new staff including 20,000 more nurses – investment the Conservatives will not match

I have written to David Amess on the subject of Lord Freud

Dear Mr David Amess MP

I am writing to ask whether you agree with the comments of Lord Freud, your government’s Minister for Welfare Reform.

Lord David Freud, talking amongst friends at Conservative Party Conference, said he thought there was “a group” of disabled people who are “not worth the full wage”.

In my view, Lord Freud’s remarks were completely unacceptable, and it is also unacceptable that someone with these views remains in charge of such an important post in your government.

This is not just my view, but also that of Ester McVey, your government’s Minister of State for Employment, who said, “those words will haunt him. I cannot justify those words, they were wrong.”

It seems, however, that David Cameron does not agree. He did not speak to Lord Freud personally and yet gave him a clean bill of health to allow him to keep his post.

It is incredible to believe that, while leading disability charities have said that Lord Freud’s comments were offensive and shocking and called on him to reflect on his position, the leader of your party is seeking to duck the issue. This is a lack of moral leadership at best. It is unclear how far a member of your government or party would have to go in offending disabled people in order to lose their job, when in many other walks of life the comments by Lord Freud would have led to a resignation.

Can I ask you whether you agree with Lord Freud’s statement that there is “a group” of disabled people who are “not worth the full wage” and that some should work for as little as £2 per hour?

If you do not, will you ensure you vote in favour of a vote of no confidence in Lord Freud on 29 October?

If you do agree that Lord Freud’s views should be government policy and that he should remain in post, you must urgently justify these views to the people of Southend West.

By supporting a vote of no confidence, you have the chance to show that compassion is not yet completely dead in David Cameron’s Conservatives.

If you cannot support this vote and in turn back such heartlessness comments, you will show that David Cameron’s Conservatives cannot stand for the majority in Britain today.


Cllr Julian Ware-Lane
Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Southend West

Westborough intouch Autumn 2014 – as delivered in Prittlewell

AmessInTouchWestboroughI picked this odd beast up in Prittlewell ward. Aside from questions as to whether Westborough Tories understand where their ward begins and ends, I find this a somewhat amateurish effort. (It is also dated Autumn 2014 – Summer may be near to ending, but it is still with us.) It looks like it was created in Word and printed on a standard computer printer. Perhaps this was the effect Westborough’s Conservatives were after.

This newsletter has a proliferation of font types and oddly worded headlines. What does ‘STOP! the fortnightly waste collection’ mean? – Westborough enjoys a weekly collection in common with the rest of the borough. This is either scaremongering or stupidity – take your pick; either way it is wrong.

The reverse includes three photographs of places outside of the ward (and one not even in Mr Amess’s constituency) – not one picture of Westborough in the whole thing.

Mr Amess’s letter manages to be factually inaccurate in relating the results of May’s elections. He describes it as if all fifty-one council seats were being contested, whereas the truth is that only eighteen contests were staged. They won four out of eighteen, are far less impressive ratio than nineteen out of fifty-one.

It contains little in the way of real news, and certainly no celebration of all that the MP has done in Parliament. If I was an MP I would be reporting back on what my Government was doing to make lives in Westborough better. That Mr Amess does not refer to his Government speaks volumes in itself. Of course, he raises questions on such topics as the EU, immigration, and the benefits system – and not one mention of education, employment, the cost of living, workers’ rights, public services, etc.

In it to win it

My selection as Labour’s General Election candidate in Southend West has inspired the Liberal Democrat’s sole surviving blogger in the borough to write not one, but two, pieces about it. You can almost sense the rising panic at Southend’s equivalent of Lib Dem Central, so much so that they want to me to give in just as I am getting going.

Neil Monnery believes that fielding a strong candidate (I am flattered to be thus described) has damaged our chances. He writes that Labour shoot themselves in the foot in Southend in an argument that suggests my contesting in Southend West will weaken Ian Gilbert’s chances in Rochford and Southend East.

I am not sure quite what Neil’s campaigning credentials are although I do know he stood in Westborough ward in 2012. He came sixth place in a ward that at the time had Lib Dem representation; sixth out of six, with a 90 votes and 5.4% of the votes cast. I will leave it to the reader to pass judgement on this but if the strategy was to do as badly as possible then Neil’s campaign was a roaring success.

I have fought quite a few campaigns, losing far more often than I have won. However, if you factor in those that I have supported and organised (as opposed to those I have contested) then my record is reasonable. I understand about targeting, and about maximising scarce resources. I also know about our membership and what they deserve, and what a long game involves.

Neil’s attempts at analysing David Amess’s chances miss out a chunk of the story. Whilst he may be right in his view that Mr Amess will get re-elected, he ignores evidence that suggest change is possible.

Labour did come a poor third last time around in what was Labour’s worst General Election result since 1919. The Nick Clegg bounce significantly boosted the Lib Dem vote; this time around it will be what is known as a dead cat bounce – voters are deserting a party that has kept Cameron at number ten and enabled him to foist all sorts of unpopular legislation on the UK.

Despite Labour’s unpopularity, David Amess’s vote share went down slightly – hardly a ringing endorsement given the political climate in May 2010. He attracted 46.1% of the vote, with a turnout figure of 65.1%. Of course I am aware of the dangers of hypothesising about unused votes, but Amess’s vote share as a percentage of the electorate stands at 30% – meaning that 70% did not care to support him.

I am in the contest to win it. Southend West Labour Party members deserve a candidate who tries his best, Labour supporters deserve a candidate who tries his best, the electorate in Southend West deserve a candidate who tries his best. David Amess deserves an opponent who will take the fight to him. That a Liberal Democrat views this as bad news merely serves as an additional incentive.

British players for British teams?

David Amess, Conservative MP for Southend West, has spoken out about foreign players in the Premier League. My first observation on his latest outburst is that in thirty years of involvement in local football in Southend-on-Sea and surrounding areas I have not encountered Mr Amess once – I do question his footballing credentials. But setting that aside, I guess he is entitled to his opinions in spite of his distance from the sport.

He says that we (England) will never win the World Cup again if we have all these overseas players. I am unconvinced that our international failures are linked to the nationality of the players in any division. A look back at our international record shows just the one success, and that was in large measure a result of hosting the 1966 tournament. All those past failures were set against a backdrop of league teams largely consisting solely of UK players.

Our current FIFA ranking of 20 suggests that the recent performance in Brazil was about as expected. We are not entitled to success, and featuring in the latter stages of many international tournaments is beyond the expectations of many countries.

Foreign-born players feature in all levels of football, including the grassroots. If Mr Amess wants to boycott teams that include foreigners why stop with the Premier League?

I also wonder whether Mr Amess’s objections extend to foreign-born political advisers, because if they do then he ought to have a word with his boss.

As for the high pay, is there an irony in a representative of a party which has a laissez-faire approach to economics now advocating restraint in the salaries of high earners?

Mr Amess must be having doubts about his leader

Adding to my ever increasing pile of replies from my Member of Parliament is a recent response to an email I sent to David Amess regarding BSkyB and News International.

His reply includes the following:

“I simply cannot understand how the then Labour Government was seemingly unaware of what was happening right under their very noses. It beggars belief, in terms of who was actually running the country! Tony Blair was the then Prime Minister and John Prescott was his deputy for ten years. I hope that the House of Commons will insist that when the inquiry takes place they both appear before it to explain what their relationship was with this organisation and why, when issues were raised about phone hacking, they were seemingly satisfied by the responses given to them by the police. I would expect the same inquiry to ask questions of the Labour Home Secretaries at the time.”

We now know that there as a rather lacklustre investigation by the Metropolitan Police, perhaps understandable in light of accusations of their corrupt practises. Like Mr Amess I would be happy to see ministers from the last Government interrogated, but other than the obvious relationship between politicians and press I am not sure what he expects to unearth. After all, News International very publicly threw its considerable weight behind the Conservative Party in the long run-in to the last General Election.

What will require explaining is how the current Prime Minister ignored warnings when hiring former News Of The World editor, Andy Coulson, as his communications director. Under a cloud before joining Mr Cameron’s team, Mr Coulson left under another when his controversial character came under further scrutiny.

The Conservative Party hold power with the connivance of the Liberal Democrats, sought to buy the election through Lord Ashcroft’s tax-avoiding millions, and had their media strategy mapped out by an ex-editor of a newspaper who thought it acceptable to bribe policemen and hack the phones of celebrities, dead soldiers and murder victims. Has integrity been sidelined in the desperate hunt for power?

If Labour people are at all implicated in any dodgy dealings then I will condemn. However, Mr Amess must be having some doubts about the judgement of those at the top of his party.

David Amess does not support AV

I have written a few times to my MP recently. Since I am largely critical of David Amess’s party and government I cannot imagine he looks forward to my missives. Nonetheless, whether we agree on little or not, he is my representative.

One of my communications concerned the impending referendum on AV. I quote from Mr Amess’s reply:

I have always been a supporter of the First Past the Post system. Whilst it may not be perfect, I believe that the unique link between one’s voting intention and the constituency Member of Parliament is something to be cherished and embraced. The current electoral system has stood the test of time and importantly is the system most likely to allow voters the power to eject failed Governments from office. I’m sure you will be aware as a Labour activist that many Labour Members of Parliament do not support the AV system. Indeed, Labour members of the House of Lords are at present blocking the measure.

I should also add that over the years that I have been an MP, very few people have raised this issue with me. I don’t recall it being mentioned ‘on the doorstep’ during last year’s general election campaign.

It is unsurprising that Mr Amess is opposed to AV; this is the default position for members of the Conservative Party. However, he does raise some interesting points and I will address them here.

Firstly, AV does nothing to dent the link between voting intention and MP. I would go further and add that since AV makes tactical voting irrelevant the link is enhanced.

The current system certainly has stood the test of time. It harks back to the days of rotten boroughs, bought elections, small electorates, and little choice. It was perfect for the battles between Whigs and Tories, but fails in the pluralism of today’s politics.

His point about the system most likely to eject failed Governments bemuses me – he will be aware of what a safe seat is, his is one. Mr Amess does not attract 50% of those who vote, yet has withstood Labour landslides. AV, by assuring that every MP has to attract more than 50% of the popular vote makes MPs more accountable. Even in landslide elections two-thirds of seats are safe; this is not a ringing endorsement for the current system.

I am aware that many of my Labour colleagues are opposed to AV. Some of this will be principled objection; some are hacked off with Nick Clegg and his party. However, Labour peers are blocking the bill not because of the referendum, but rather because the bill contains other measures regarding the reduction in the numbers of MPs and the equalisation of constituency sizes that they find objectionable.

On his final point, about the doorstep and it not being mentioned; this argument has been put to me by my Labour colleagues too. I have two answers. Firstly, since doorstep conversations are in some part governed by the canvasser’s agenda then this will depend on who is doing the knocking. Mr Amess may not instigate these types of conversations; I am an electoral reformer and do. Secondly, many measures are passed into Law that do not originate from doorstep conversations.