rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
[personal profile] rmc28
BBC News are using a clip of the speech's best line in the hourly news bulletin, and it's been quoted in a number of newspapers.  So you may as well have the whole speech, as best as I can reconstruct it.

First, some procedural background for those who are interested (and don't already know this stuff):

There was a debate on the NHS at LibDem Conference this morning. It wasn't on the original agenda for conference, but there's an "emergency motions" slot. First people have to get at least 10 voting representatives or 1 local party to support their motion. Then voting representatives at Conference choose the motion to debate (by STV of course). Then we debate and vote on the motion in the Sunday morning timeslot.

There were two competing NHS motions submitted: "Withdrawal of the Health and Social Care Bill" and "Protecting our NHS: the Shirley Williams Motion". There was also a motion on the Justice & Security Green Paper, and another on Syria. However, they got far fewer 1st preferences than either of the NHS motions. The "Withdrawal" motion won on first preferences 270 to 246, but the "Shirley Williams" motion won after transfers, with 309 votes to 280.

Note in passing, this is my 3rd party conference and I couldn't help noticing there was a distinct lack of protestors around the conference entrance.  There were a wide variety of groups with more-or-less professionally produced flyers on the theme of "Kill the BIll".  The only variant was a small group from the Jubilee Debt Campaign who were a bit outnumbered but at least gave me something different to read about.  For a topic that wasn't even officially on the agenda, the NHS was getting a lot of attention.

I put in a speakers card, but without much expectation of being called, as it was clear many people felt strongly on the topic and were submitting cards.  I made a point of putting on my card the main points I wanted to make, which I hoped made a more nuanced speech than a simple "anti-Bill" statement.  I polished the speech anyway - the last thing I wanted if I did get three precious minutes rather than someone else was to waste it flailing.  To my surprise, I was called to speak about half-way through, making this my third speech to Federal Conference, and by far my largest audience.

So anyway, here's what I said, based on the notes I prepared for the speech, and my memory of giving it.  It was filmed (clearly, given the BBC clip) but I don't have access to a full video.  I didn't write it all out in advance, so I can't give you a neat text, and I definitely mangled my sentences in a couple of places.

Conference.  There are a number of ways you can approach deciding on a difficult topic, such as this NHS BIll.  You can consider the merits.  You can consider the politics.  And you can consider who you trust and what they are saying about it.

I have heard a lot of bad arguments against this Bill.  Whatever the BIll will do, and it is hard to tell, it will not destroy the NHS.  Such hyperbole is actively repelling, and 24 hours ago I would not have expected to be speaking against this motion.  But it is not clear what this Bill will do - and I have tried to read it and its amendments.

The arguments for the Bill seem to amount to "there's something good here, something good there, we're stopping something nasty over here, and there's another good thing in this area".  There's no coherent case for this Bill, and no evidence base to support it.

I've heard some bad arguments for the BIll: we've come too far to stop now.  We've already started work in anticipation of it passing.  These are terrible arguments.  We have to get away from a macho fear of U-turns.  To change your mind at the last minute, because it is the right thing to do, is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.

The politics of this bill are poisonous.  To be blunt, we are screwed if we pass it, and we are screwed if we don't.  Don't think we'll be rewarded for "killing the bill".  Labour will find hyperbole and vitriol to throw at us about something else.  And if we help get it dropped, it'll be much harder to get things we want through the Coalition, with a lot of unhappy Conservative backbenchers.  [this bit got mangled in delivery]

So, merit, politics, and trust.

I have a lot of trust in our parliamentarians, and a lot of appreciation for the work they have done on this Bill, especially Baroness Williams.  We all see the power in her brand, her name on this motion.  But Baroness Williams is not the only person in this party whom I trust on health: and a lot of the others are wearing LibDems Against The Bill badges.

In summary Conference: the merits are unclear; the politics are poisonous; the people I trust are divided.  I cannot support this BIll.  Please vote to remove the lines in the separate vote [I had failed to note the numbers] and if that does not pass, please reject this motion.  Thank you.


And then I went back to my seat and my usual post-speaking shakes were 'enhanced' by quietly bursting into tears for a bit.  Adrenaline reactions are strange.  I'd just about got myself back together when we voted on the removal of lines in support of the Bill, which was sufficiently close that it went to a manual count (usually votes are clearly carried one way or the other).  The lines were deleted by a vote of 314-270, and then the amended motion itself was clearly carried.
 

Date: 2012-03-12 00:39 (UTC)
kalypso: (Vote)
From: [personal profile] kalypso
Thank you.

Date: 2012-03-12 01:54 (UTC)
sir_guinglain: (UKPolitics)
From: [personal profile] sir_guinglain
Well said. In an ideal world, the contents of bills would be more easily digestible than this one, but it isn't alone; far too much policy is debated on the basis of misleading headlines.

Date: 2012-03-12 16:37 (UTC)
sir_guinglain: (Charles II)
From: [personal profile] sir_guinglain
I'm more familiar with seventeenth- and eighteenth-century legislation, successful or otherwise, which is generally more succinct and more comprehensible, even when in draft with handwritten amendments all over the manuscript...

Date: 2012-03-12 20:08 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pjc50.livejournal.com
The complexity of the bill should be a warning sign in itself. You know software and management, you know that complexity is the enemy of effectiveness. It's almost as if the complexity is a deliberate part of the construction to repel public participation, along the lines of the US thousand-page unreadable monstrosities that sneak the evil in on page 679.

When people are faced with complex health issues, they often look to respected experts like Ben Goldacre:

https://twitter.com/#!/bengoldacre/status/178612290898235392
"As it's too late to stop them, I hereby commit to tirelessly reminding the 2015 electorate what #LDconf do on #NHSbill this weekend."

http://bengoldacre.posterous.com/what-do-doctors-nurses-say-about-the-nhsbill : pretty much everyone against it

https://twitter.com/#!/bengoldacre/status/178938111106088960
"The #LibDems say we need their #NHSbill because of the rising drugs bill. NHS spend £100bn. Drugs bill £10bn. Lies."

The Toynbee is against it as well:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/mar/12/sorry-shirley-williams-nail-health-bill-myths?CMP=twt_fd

Meanwhile the people in favour of it are the same sort of people in favour of Capita, A4E, Atos, etc; no clear arguments from them. It smells very, very bad.

Date: 2012-03-13 16:27 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pjc50.livejournal.com
I think you underestimate how many people used to support LibDems as an anti-Tory option, and how angry and betrayed they feel. This includes me. The next election is going to be ugly.

Date: 2012-03-13 16:28 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pjc50.livejournal.com
On a more constructive note, what is the alleged positive case for the bill?

Date: 2012-03-12 15:07 (UTC)
miss_s_b: (Default)
From: [personal profile] miss_s_b
Thank you for saying this in front of all those people (hug)

Date: 2012-03-12 16:14 (UTC)
miss_s_b: (Default)
From: [personal profile] miss_s_b
That must have been hard :(

Date: 2012-03-14 08:10 (UTC)
From: [personal profile] sassy_scot
Rachel, this for me was the speech of the weekend. In a few short sentences you managed to sum up the ghastly situation in which we find ourselves. It was so heartfelt and had none of the destructive language we're seeing in some places within the party. Well done.

Date: 2012-03-14 08:13 (UTC)
From: [personal profile] sassy_scot
This is Caron, by the way. Great to meet you this weekend.

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rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Rachel Coleman

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