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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Shades of Bartlett

As an aficionado of The West Wing I was fascinated to read this morning that Gordon Brown is going to use his conference speech to promise patients cancer tests within one week of referral. He is going to pledge to divert £1 billion over five years from building new hospitals to buying diagnostic treatments that will guarantee a patient’s right to a test and results within seven days. Anyone who does not get the test and results in seven days would be entitled to go to a private provider free.

In the 55th episode of The West Wing, President Bartlett demands that a passage ambitiously promising a crusade to cure cancer within 10 years be included in his State of the Union speech. However, for political reasons the crucial passage is excised and the pledge never made.

Clearly, the Prime Minister's promise is a bit more realistic (some might say less ambitious) but a noble one nevertheless. His problem though is that he is just addressing England and not the whole of the UK, though I doubt if he or his spin-doctors have considered that. They will no doubt hope that the citizens of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland do not notice that small detail and expect the promise to apply to them too.

The key part of this promise is that it is being paid for by money already commited in the capital programme of the English NHS. In other words it is not new money and that means that the devolved nations will not get a Barnett consequential. If Stormont, Holyrood or Cardiff Bay wish to follow suit (and they should) then they will have to find the money from their own resources.

So, unless Gordon Brown is clear that he is only making the promise for England, then he will be building up expectations elsewhere that most probably cannot be met. For Wales, with poor survival rates for cancer, that is a major blow. We desperately need that kind of investment and people will very reasonably want to know why England is getting it and not us.

Unless the Health Minister has an announcement of her own up her sleeve for next week, she will be fielding questions on this for some time. That is devolution.
If you cut the Welsh Assembly's subsidy to the Welsh Eisteddfod and end those Welsh translations in the Welsh Assembly, I think you will find that's £500,000 saved for starters. Rocket science! Now, don't get me started on those highly questionable Cardiff Bay expenses claims? Are you listening Nicholas Bourne? Hee! Hee! Hee!

I do worry about the Welsh Assembly. What will happen first? Will Wales be declared bankrupt (and not only in ideas) or will the BNP sweep to power in 2015. Remember, they nearly won a seat in north Wales last time and, whatever happens, we don't want that happening. In the end, I sense, something will give and I am not sure what. The people's finances or their patience.

There is another way. A sensible and grown-up way. A Lib Dem/Tory coalition in the Welsh Assembly. Vote for it in 2011. Or you may seriously regret the consequences. For the people of Wales deserve better than all this Labour/Plaid Cymru "failure to deliver".
I can't believe I just read that.
We have been trying to persuade MP's to say England instead of britain for years.
Cable did not make it clear that his mansions tax was for England only as well.
We all know that because of devolution most westminster policies are only for England so why did not your glorious leader Clegg spell out lib/dem policies are mainly for England too?
scared of England that's why.
NHS England expensive equipment underused


Making the NHS work instead of soundbiting might be better from a Prime Minister with no electoral mandate in England and no authority in his own country, Scotland
Actually tally, although we are by no means perfect the Liberal Democrats are amongst the better ones for taking account of devolution in their policy making. All of the motions to Federal Conference for example have clearly defined applicability though they do not always get it right. Our manifesto for the last two General Elections has also been written with devolution in mind and we have been praised for that.

Cable's Mansion Tax does apply in Wales. What he was not clear on was the administration of it and how he would deliver it. But that detail can be worked up.

The point of this piece though was not to criticise Brown for getting his applicabilities wrong but to point out that there would be no Barnett consequential and that therefore Wales may not be able to afford to deliver the promise.
I think the lib/dems in Wales and Scotland have done very well for their constituents.I'm still waiting for them to do something liberal and democratic in England.
You say that if certain benefits are given to English patients then the Welsh will want to know why they aren't getting it too?

I know EXACTLY how they feel (free parking, drug availability to name a few); but every time I ask why we aren't getting the same benefits as the Scots or the Welsh I am told that it's their money they can spend it as they wish.

And now because you won't be getting a flow on free hand out from Barnett you actually seem aggrieved. (Cue total lack of sympathy from the English) Are you aware just how pathetic you sound?

Fact of Life Peter, with self-determination comes responsiblity and part of that is providing for yourself. If you can't afford it get rid of the Assembly and rejoin the union.

Personally I'd bid you all a fond but permanent farewell and sympathise when you went broke.
Michele, we have never left the union and nor would I want us to. However, it is right that we are able to determine our own policies to fit our own circumstances and the same should apply in England.

The fact is that Wales is under-resourced in relation to its needs and so is the North East of England, simply because the distribution formula is not based on any rational criteria.

And yes, I know that if Wales wants cancer testing it needs to find the money from its own resources but Brown will be creating expectations across the UK that he will not be funding and surely that is worth pointing out.
The sooner this wretched Union is dissolved the better - this Englishman can't wait for the day that Scotland and Wales stop picking Englands pocket and pay their own way.

Home Rule For England !
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