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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hartlepool by-election revisited

Labour politicians in the North East of England have egg all over their face this week after the Hartlepool Mail reported that, following a near four-year review of hospital services, Hartlepool's hospital is to be replaced with a single new one somewhere north of the Tees.

Until that is built – perhaps within as little as four years – maternity and children's services in Hartlepool will be downgraded and the consultant-led services will be centralised at the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton.

During the by-election in September 2004 Liberal Democrat Candidate, Jody Dunn, made saving the hospital a big feature of her campaign. In response Labour issued leaflets such as this one in which they insisted that the government had forced a re-think over health officials' plans to run down emergency and maternity services in the town.

In addition, and as the paper reports, days before the by-election the Prime Minister himself told the Mail: "There is no question of the hospital closing or services being rundown. John Reid (the then Health Secretary] is saying it won't close, I'm saying it won't close. I don't know what the next authority is you go to."

It is funny how things change when the media spotlight moves on. Who said that the Health Service was safe in Labour's hands? Certainly not the local MP, Iain Wright, who the paper tells us has resigned his government position over the issue.
Iain Wright resigned in the Tom Watson insurrection last September.

That was probably the nail in the coffin for the hospital ...

Labour's assurance at the time of the by-election was that the hospital would not close whilst John Reid was Secretary of State for Health. It would have been impossible to make any longer term guarantees at the time.

The local Labour MP, Iain Wright has campaigned against the closure.

I ask, what difference would a Lib Dem MP really have made?
I think the question is not what difference any other MP could make but who was telling the truth in the first place. This leaflet makes no reference whatsoever to the caveat you refer to David. In fact it is quite explicit - the hospital is safe, it will not close and services will be improved. It says that the Lib Dem candidate has tried to scare the people of Hartlepool by saying that the hospital will close. "She knows it's not true." Really? I think Jody Dunn has been proved right and the people caught out are Labour.
It is impossible to make long-term promises on specific issues like this when you're in Governement, Peter. Thankfully you will never be in a position to make these though decisions, but if you were, perhaps you would have a bit more perspective.

Has Jody Dunn also been proved right in her decision to resign her membership the Liberal Democrats?
Believe it or not David I have been in Government which is why I was astonished at the emphatic promises made by Labour during the Hartlepool by-election. Having made the promises they should have stuck by them or else not have deceived people in the first place.
The Lib Dems were running a "Save Hartlepool Hospital" campaign. What was the point in the if you accept the couldn't have saved it.

I repeat, has Jody Dunn also been proved right in her decision to resign her membership the Liberal Democrats?
I don't accept that the Hospital cannot be saved, that seems to be your position. The hypocrisy here is yours. You were the ones who said it had been saved and then abandoned it after it the by-election was over.

This thread is not about Jody Dunn so I am not going to embark in a debate on her. I will say that I do not know her reasons for resigning so I cannot pass judgement either way.
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