28 June 2007

Get Up, Like A Sex Machine! Introducing James Gordon Brown

Three questions about the political events of this week demonstrate the absurdity of the way we elect our government...

1. How can a PM effectively be a constituency MP?

2. Does anyone imagine that Tory defector Quentin Davies's 'constituency link' will mean he retains his solid Tory seat for the Labour party? Yet this is 'their local MP' that they have known and supposedly loved for over 20 years. In truth, we all know that any personal vote an MP might have, is marginal when compared to the 'party vote'. This blows out of the water any pretence that people vote for the person rather than just along party lines - so please, none of this 'with FPTP the MP is selected by the electorate not the party' rubbish.

3. How can the Tories claim Gordon Brown hasn't got a mandate when their slogan at the 2005 election was 'vote Blair get Brown'? Well, at least it was the Tory slogan until they realised it was being counterproductive and boosting Labour popularity...

Despite my better judgement, I think all would agree that Gordon Brown has actually been quite impressive so far.

The Quentin Davies defection is a big surprise, and whatever people think his motives might be (and I doubt he will ever get any sort of front-bench job). This is someone who has been in the Tory party for 30 years and I think his criticism of Cameron as 'all image and no substance' rings true. He points out the absurdity of Cameron's position on Europe - always being 'too busy' to attend EPP meetings when many European PMs regularly turn-up, this demonstrates how isolated and pathetic Cameron would be if he ever became PM.

Blair's standing ovation on leaving the commons was unprecedented and I think fitting for a PM who more than anyone changed this country for the better. His many successes of course overshadowed by Iraq but nevertheless when people ask if this country got better, I think history will have to judge that it did.

What people forget about the NHS is that in 1997 it was getting worse - it was not uncommon for people to be waiting longer than 2 years and this was going to get worse - now average waits are 9 weeks. There are over 500,000 more operations every year than there were in 1997. That is half a million households better off every year thanks to this Labour government (however, whether many of them realise this is doubtful - thanks to our unfree media).

Of course, whether this represents good value for a near tripling of spending on the NHS is a moot point. But the choice is not between a Tory government that would provide better value and a wasteful Labour one. The choice is between a Tory government that will cut frontline services and give tax cuts to an already very wealthy minority and a Labour government who have set taxes still well below France, Germany and Scandanavia and still lower than our own historical tax/GDP average. The extra funding for the NHS is still below what a lot of other countries spend - including the USA (Anyway I would rather taxes wasted on NHS salaries than spent on new yachts for the wealthy).

What is true for the NHS is true in other areas of public spending as well. If we want better public services we need to pay for them. That is not to say that the present level of spending could not deliver much more - it could, but electing a Tory government under Cameron would not be the way of achieving it.

I welcome the Tories new ideas on the NHS (and I plan a post on what is good and not about them) - there are too many targets - but abolishing them all is just giving up on improving the NHS.

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