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X marks the spot

Three months to go and I have had enough.

I have never been a fan of fixed term parliaments. I liked the old system under which the incumbent Prime Minister could choose the moment to ask the electorate for a renewal of his mandate, or be forced to do so by the loss of a confidence vote in the Commons. Change, however, was forced upon us as a by-product of the rose garden agreement, the cobbled together coalition which has seen us through the last five years.

Has that administration worked? In some ways it has. Unfettered Toryism has been reigned in, the NHS and education, for all you hear to the contrary, are actually no worse than before, still doing a marvellous job in the face of interminable tinkering, our troops are no longer dying in Afghanistan, and the economy has made slow but steady progress. But now we’re at the sharp end, heading for a polling day that has been known for the last five years.

And we are saddled with an election campaign that began the moment that Ed Miliband judged that the voters had forgotten the destruction wrought by the last Labour Government, and might be prepared to allow his crew another chance, given the lack of a strong alternative, and the surge in Europhobia under Nigel Farage, every man’s idea of the archetypal pub bore.

Many weeks after the sparring began, we have just gone through the hundred day barrier. Three more almost interminable months stretch out before us; God help us all.

In common with nine out of every ten people that the pollsters will stop in the street, I know already how I’m going to vote. Nothing that I read, that I am told, or that I am shown in Party Propaganda Broadcasts is going to change that. With a view to securing the best possible future governance of Scotland, I will vote SNP, even at the risk if seeing a minority Labour government in Westminster. Whatever their individual allegiances, the great majority of people on our islands feel the same way, of that I have no doubt.

So please, can we cut the rest of the crap and vote tomorrow?

Categories: Politics
  1. Edwin Bonner
    February 3, 2015 at 11:38 am

    Quintin, I agree with much of what you say about the election, but must disagree strongly on your belief that the NHS has not been damaged by the coalition Government.
    All parties went into the last election, saying there would be no top down reorganisation of the NHS. Within a few weeks of taking office the coalition came up with Andrew Langley plans, written on the back of a cigarette packet. This plan to get rid of Primary Care Trusts ( in England) and replace them with NHS England Area Teams, Clinical Commissioning Groups and Service Support Organisations, all for Primary Care. So all the senior posts have been multiplied by at least 3, thousands of middle managers and primary care clinical advisors were made redundant at a multimillion pound cost, and the vast majority were re-employed after 28 days on a new contract in one of the new organisations. Others, like myself, took the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy with a large payout, instead of waiting a few months until my natural retirement day came. Millions of pounds that could have been paid on patient care went to unnecessary redundancy payments.
    And let’s not forget, despute the Government’s statements, that the UK borrowing is rising, not falling.
    As am ex pat Scot, living in Yorkshire, I look enviously on the Holywood Parliament and hope whichever set of, I would love to say clowns, but that would be unfair on the few genuine politicians, decide we need devolution to an English Senate of some sort, away from Westminster to get rid of the so called West Lothian Question , and leave the Westminster parliament for the non devolved matters. Re that West Lothian Question, why did mo one raise it when Mrs T’s Tory Government instituted the poll tax on Scotland a year before the rest of the country. How many Tory Scottish MPs were there to make that decision?

  2. February 3, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    Okay, Edwin. Occasionally I am mischievous; I thought that might flush someone out. I have been a user of the NHS over the years, but, I confess, in Scotland not England. Some of that customer experience has been personal, the rest vicarious, as both my wives required serious treatment.

    I have been impressed throughout by the quality of the care we received. Last year, Eileen had one of those time-bombs go off, a thing called a Triple A. Even the description of the surgery required was scary, but there was no alternative. In the event, we were sustained by the calmness and confidence of Dave Lewis and his surgical team and the outcome was excellent.

    Over twenty years, I have been left with only one question, and it didn’t dawn on me until it was too late to ask. After Irene was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1996, we were referred to the Oncology Department in Edinburgh. At our first meeting our consultant introduced herself as ‘Doctor *****’, meaning that she was a physician, rather than ‘Ms *****’, a surgeon. As you will understand, that meant that a decision had been taken, without our involvement, that the condition was non-operable. If we had been part of that discussion, then at the very least the question would have been asked ‘Why not?’ As it was, it was a death sentence with no offer of appeal, or hope of reprieve.

    I am reliving that because it’s a burden I carry, and also to make this point: the NHS is about clinical judgment first, then clinical care. Yes, politicians will dick around with the structure of what is after all the biggest public undertaking in Europe. They’d be failing in their duty if they didn’t try to make it as operationally efficient as possible. (They might be idiots, but we have to assume that they’re sincere idiots.) But at the end of the day, the big questions must be 1) has clinical judgment declined? and 2) is clinical care poorer? Last night, I watched Panorama do a typical Panorama scare piece about the pressures on the system in England, but even that didn’t demonstrate a negative in either area.

    Mind you, I’d still rather live in Scotland.

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