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'How do the Liberal Democrats sleep at night?'


We have just moved house. Packed everything we own into boxes, labelled them vaguely – “stuff for upstairs” and “maybe the shed” or, in one case, “can’t remember what I put in this one” – waited for the cat to go out and changed houses.

OK, I’m lying about the cat. He is very happy because there is a whole array of birds in our new garden, which he likes very much even though they seem to be taking the mickey out of him by using the power of flight.

We visited the house we have bought twice before making an offer. Frankly my wife has spent more time buying shoes so by the time moving day arrived we were saying things like “I hope we like it” and “Did it have a kitchen?” But despite the inevitable surprises – a carpet of 1970s green with a hint of orange that is welded to the floor and water pipes that send out a long high-pitched 40-second hum whenever anyone has successfully used the toilet – we are happy. We don’t know where anything is and don’t have a cooker but it’s all quite funny and I think that is important don’t you?

Fortunately we haven’t moved very far. Which, given pre-Budget rumours about the next wave of attacks on public service workers, is just as well. It seems the government wants to get rid of national pay rates for “some” public servants. It is telling perhaps that, in the first instance, this erosion of pay and conditions targets some civil servants, according to the BBC. People, perhaps, who don’t really benefit from public sympathy – workers from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency for example. While they are at it, they may want to throw in traffic wardens. After all nobody is going to get too worked up about the working conditions of traffic wardens are they?

It is plainly wrong to get rid of national pay rates and nowhere is that clearer than in health and education. It gives rise to the idea that the healthcare provision for an older person in Bury or the education of a child in Middlesbrough is of less value than that of someone in Oxford or Hampstead. And we know that that way lies something ugly and Victorian.

The very idea that pay rates of public servants should be set according to the going rate of a particular region’s private sector means the reference point for work that underpins the wellbeing of the public – and ultimately enables society to function – is established by those parts of the private sector that are creating jobs. Or“Tesco” as we like to call it.

The Treasury claims that driving down pay in the public sector would make the private sector more competitive. So would a less rapacious demand for profit by the excessively rich but that argument appears to be too unfashionable to countenance.

Politically it is very predictable. We know the Conservative party has long resented the NHS, what with its blatantly unprofitable focus on human need. But – and forgive me if this is too blatantly political – if you are the Liberal Democrats how do you sleep at night? In government the party is purportedly a conscience in the face of rampant profiteering but, in fact, it’s silent, impotent and without guile.
I understand clarity of purpose is not always easy but losing clarity around principles shouldn’t be as easy as the Lib Dems make it look, should it? Let’s face it, there is no political restraint being placed on this assault on public service workers. You can call it a coalition if you like but it is a Conservative government – the Lib Dems seem to just work the doors and lay out the biscuits.
“The Lib Dems must show they do more than lay out the biscuits”


Readers' comments (53)

  • The Lib Dems are completely intoxicated on their power trip. They haven't realised that mantras like:
    "No tuition fees"
    "The NHS is safe with us"
    "No top down reorganisation of the NHS", and,
    "Free ice creams for all on hot sunny days"
    may have been the tacticts that got them into power, but will undoubtedly make tham irrelevant at the next election. I may have made up the bit about ice creams. But it isn't as important as, say, healthcare, education, or tuition fees.

    Mr Clegg will say that he put the brakes on the health bill and it's now just fine and dandy as a result of his intervention. But when any 'willing' provider is changed to 'qualified' provider you have to question the validity of their claims (do you really think that healthcare would have been sold to 'unqualified' providers?)

    Although I disagree with the 'Me, myself and I' mentality of the Tories at least I admire them for being unapologetic for it. All public services will be sacrificed on the private business altar - at least the Tories are open about it. On the other hand, the Lib Dems have ensured they are about as poloitically relevant as the nursing unions.

    So whilst the Tories try to squeeze the public services into a private, market based economy (or square peg into a round hole), all the while watching that almost undefinable quality of the NHS be suffocated (you could call it altuism?), and pat themselves on the back whilst their pals in big business make a fast buck. But at what cost?

    How do the Lib Dems sleep at night? I suspect they sleep very well, sipping the nectar of the power trip, ignorant of what waits ahead for them at the poles.

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  • Mr Clegg has enough money to go private if he or his loved ones need care he will just skip the waiting lists and get treatment in a very comfortable private hospital so I suspect he sleeps very well at night.
    As for the rest of us poor people we have disturbed nights worrying about the future of our healthcare.

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  • tinkerbell

    Over 60 years of social reform down the drain. Only the rich will sleep soundly at night knowing they can afford to be healthy.

    Lib dems = turncoats. Tories = millionaire spivs

    = NHS SALE everything must go.

    combined they are possibly the worst combination this country could have got as a government.

    I am now looking forward to anyone of their candidates knocking on my door for local elections in May. I will tell them to 'get orf my land before i call the police'. Or depending on my muse i may do a 'You cannot be serious' like that tennis player who's name escapes me. Not good with names always remember a face though debate on how we should address patients.

    I will need to restrain myself so that i don't boot them up the arse as they retreat. I would also like a sling shot and good aim. Can you still buy them? I'd like to give them a good pinging with a few pebbles.

    Or i may just go for 2 words begining with F and O. It could go anyway or a comibation of all 3.

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  • tinkerbell

    Also determining how well a lib dem sleeps at night if being recorded on the nurse notes it is no longer satisfactory to say 'they appear to have slept well'. We cannot objectively say that, we would need their subjective opinion, so we can only now write in the notes that they remained in bed all night and were observed to have their eyes closed whilst breathing in an out or some such load of old toot.

    Yes, yes i understand the rationale behind it all and i concur, but give us a break. We're up against a mountain of bureacracy, buckling under the weight of everything else that's going on and can no longer say 'appears to have slept well on all checks'. Now we have to find new words to do the fan dango.

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  • The Lib Dems can sleep at night because they don't give a s--t about the carnage they have a part in creating, and the ruination of the NHS. They are snakes in the grass., and I only have to look at Clegg to get really angry. I agree with Tinkerbell that a slingshot would be good fun to pelt missiles at the retreating back of a tory or lib dem councillor, but a fling trap would hurt more if you could find one big enough!!

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  • tinkerbell

    i get the impression my GP is avoiding seeing me recently. Maybe he is inundated with the new paperwork and hasnt got time.

    I try to mostly avoid going to the GP too. But having fallen over like a sack of spuds last monday and damaging my ankle i was told when i phoned the GP to go to the local minor injuries. Sound advice i thought, so went. When my ankle was still not improving i phoned my GP and asked for a referral for an x ray. I was told to go back to minor injuries as he didn't need to be involved. So i did.

    When i phoned my GP and asked could i have a sick note as had been offf work for over 7 days receptionist said she would get GP to do me one and to come and collect it 48 hours later. When i went to collect it, they'd never heard of me and asked why i hadn't seen my GP. Quite frankly i don't even know who he is, they are mostly locums at my surgery now. Where have all the regular GP's gone, probably on a training course on how to manage a budget.

    My GP phoned me today at home and asked what it was i wanted. I thought that was nice of him.At the end of his call i asked what his name was (as proof when i go to the surgery that all this happened), i think he said his name was Dr Cardigan but can't be sure as he then put the phone down on me. Maybe i shouldn't have asked, we were getting along fine until then.

    I know there are far more people in dire need of seeing a GP than I.

    Anyway all being well i should be able to hobble back to my Gp's surgery later today and collect the sick cert. But half of me is expecting for the receptionist to tell me again 'never heard of you, who did you speak to, have you seen a doctor?' and we will have to get back on the merrygoround all over again.

    I'll be photocopying that sick cert once i get it in my grubby mits.

    The last one i had a few years ago i lost in asda car park. Of course it would have to be raining. When i eventually found it it was covered in tyre marks, illegible and needed to be dried out but i still handed it in at work and they accepted it as one big, black soggy mess.

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  • 'scuse me? but why can't your GP fax the certificate to your workplace instead of expecting you to go to the surgery again when you are off sick?

    that seems to be the problem nowadays with all these automated services. However, one would think that modern communications would make this easier instead of making further complications and isolating and alienating people leaving them to fend for themselves which is particular difficult for the more vulnerable and frail or those who human and professional contact for reassurance.

    nobody takes responsibility for anything and trying to get through to somebody for a service, advice or what little help is still available is like trying to penetrate a brick wall. Yet we nurses still bend over backwards to go the extra mile to help anybody. this is what we expect of ourselves (and hope for from others when we are on the receiving end and need it), is expected of us and is heavily criticised when we are unable to deliver.

    As an example of the modern bureaucratic and uncaring service, not related to healthcare but to a similar system, I once spent £7 on my phone bill to HMRC trying to find information about my local tax office which is no longer in the local phone book. All I wanted was to phone them to see if they still had an office in my town and still offered assistance with filling in tax returns, as I hadn't used this service for several years, but had to go through the national call centre. I hung on as it is not possible to know how long the waiting time will be and there is a set up charge each time you ring back. I needed a rapid response as I was only in the country for a couple of days. I never did get a reply so in had to walk well over a mile on a very hot sunny day, with little time to spare, and in a hilly town, and I am not young, to go and find the office which I did not know whether it still existed or not. Fortunately I found it but was informed that they could see me by appointment only and I would have to phone to make one but they did not have local number! Rather a dilemma as I was not prepared to phone the call centre again and risk increasing my phone bill even further, nor was I prepared to use the costly services of an accountant just to fill in very few of the boxes, nor could I simply ignore these forms! I pleaded my case and eventually the receptionist asked a colleague who fortunately had a few minutes to spare before his next client.

    I have also had two similar experiences with medical call centres who have sets of questionnaires relating to a part of the anatomy which vaguely corresponds to your complaint although the questions do not necessarily appear to have much to do with your presenting signs and symptoms! After answering the questions put to you the nurse or doctor compare these to algorithms which tell them to tell you that you need to see a doctor, the time delay in which you need to consult a doctor, or you do not need to go and see a doctor. It is fairly obvious that this call is time limited and allows none for any small talk, reassurance or empathy!

    This is happening more and more in healthcare services as well unfortunately and such poor service could be on the increase which is more unacceptable for those who are unwell when they may not have the energy to battle with such a system to receive the care they need and this most certainly does not constitute good service in any sense of the term.

    Good training, with caring for one's job, understanding others and their needs as well as efficiency, or at least giving the impression of being in control, in reception areas can go a long way to alleviate such problems.

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  • "Tea and biscuits at the Department of Health? That'll be £109,000.
    Officials at the Department of Health have spent more than £100,000 on tea and biscuits so far this year."

    Photo: Peter Byrne/PA
    By Stephen Adams, Medical Correspondent1:46PM BST 29 Mar 2012

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  • Lansley's sweet tooth!

    Reference in above comment. Please note LAST PARAGRAPH!!!!!

    ""They have racked up a hospitality bill totalling £109,017 in the three months from January to March, according to an answer to a parliamentary question posed by Jon Trickett, Labour's Shadow Cabinet Office Minister.

    Mr Trickett said the department was guilty of "reckless spending", after it also emerged that its civil servants spent almost £43,000 on taxis between August 2011 and this January.

    Minister have initiated a "full and urgent review" to understand why the department's elevenses is so high.

    Mr Trickett accused Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, of losing control of his own department.
    "It is clear that the chaos engulfing the NHS reforms has resulted in Andrew Lansley completely losing his grip on his own department’s reckless spending," he told the Evening Standard.

    "This money would have been far better spent supporting NHS workers on the frontline.""

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  • or is it DH Agent who has been quietly consuming all the biscuits?

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