Save the NHS - The Shirley Williams Motion 309
Withdrawal of the Health and Social Care Bill 280 after transfers
So the result of the ballot on the emergency motion came as a disappointment to me. The outrage that flowed on Twitter afterwards less so following on from the number of tweets urging conference to drop the bill in the last 24 hours. That was something that as I had access to a left of centre blog with more Labour readers I chose to write about elsewhere.
However, there are a few things to note about that outrage.
Firstly there have been 1,000 amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill. The majority of these have come from Liberal Democrats and not from Labour. So don't believe the lie that Labour did all they could to change this bill.
Last year the Liberal Democrats did pass a motion that had 13 sizeable changes on them to make the Health and Social Care Bill fairer. Of these 6 are now included in the Bill, as demanded by Lib Dem conference last May. So see the Lib Dem activists have been working on getting these changes for over a year, not just the last 24 and not just the fours hours from 9am to 1pm that the Emergency Motion Ballot was open. Indeed Liberal Democrats have been writing to their MPs of ALL parties and yes that does include the Northern Irish parties about making the right changes to this Bill, not just hounding Lib Dem activists for the last 24 hours.
The vote itself was within 30 votes. Yes it was on transfers, but you don't hear any Lib Dems lamenting that the decision is made under AV, only those who were urging us from outside to vote to drop the bill. Some are lamenting the failure of democracy, but Lib Dem party democracy has yet to run its course. Sure the establishment motion with the witty moniker Shirley Williams* has got through but there will still be a vote on that motion, democracy within my party had not ended yet, there will be a debate, there will be a vote. And with less that 30 votes in it when it comes to the emergency motion nobody can tell how it will go once the arguments are laid out (I speak from experience there).
What you may have are people who not knowing the issues fully transferred their second preferences to the issue that bore the name of Shirley, but if the Drop the Bill speaker(s), and there will be at least one, called in the dabate put a strong enough case, there may be swing votes in the hall that reverse the decision of today (again Lib Dem Conference can be a volatile place in this mood).
There have been a number of personal attacks to me on my own Twitter feed. Obviously from people who have no idea of my stance on this matter, even with my current Twibbon. Some saying that MY Voters will never vote for me again. Thankfully I know from the messages (by Twitter or email) that my voters have sent to me over tuition fees, over taxation, over the NHS over the past 21 months that actually my voters, know exactly where I stand on such issues, and more, are would quite happily vote for me again. They also know that I have moved away from Scotland so I may have to find a way to get back.
As for the Lib Dems we will survive. We will continue to fight on. We have brought changes to what a majority Conservative Government would have wanted to do with the NHS, in time people will see that, because their manifesto will take them further along the line, doing the things that Lib Dems in Government have prevented them from doing.
Update BBC New briefly went across the Q&A session with Nick Clegg who said:
"We need to say tomorrow we're on Shirley Williams' side & not on Andy Burnham's."
Seeing as I thought we were an evidence based not a personality based party I find the assumption that the 280 Conference reps who voted to drop the bill are being knocked aside with such a line from the leader. If he hasn't listened to the people, and isn't listening to his own reps so far, we'll have to make him listen in the morning.
* Having seen this tactic used by the SNP in 2007 I'm seriously considering a Constitutional Amendment that no motion entering the emergency ballot can pull on the name recognition of any party member over the substance of the arguments.