NHS news review

“Liberals” and “Democrats” to meet with whole-hearted NHS abolitionist and orange-booker (Tory) Nick Clegg.

Conservative election poster 2010

Nick Clegg faces stormy conference as activists vent fury at NHS reform – UK Politics, UK – The Independent

Nick Clegg faces a challenge to his authority at the Liberal Democrats’ annual conference as party activists plan to rebel over four of the Coalition Government’s policies.

by Andrew Grice

When the Birmingham meeting opens tomorrow, grassroots members will challenge a ruling by conference managers to deny delegates a vote on the Government’s controversial NHS reforms. Although Mr Clegg extracted concessions from David Cameron, some Lib Dems believe they did not go far enough.

A conference vote in favour of further amendments to the NHS and Social Care Bill could undermine Mr Clegg’s attempt to convince the public that the Lib Dems are punching above their weight inside the Coalition.

The party is more democratic than the Conservatives or Labour and their conference decides party policy. Some activists fear that the current plan to stage a health debate without a formal vote would mark the first step towards the event becoming a “Conservative-style rally.”

Evan Harris, vice chairman of the party’s federal policy committee, said yesterday: “There is a lot of anxiety among party activists that the conference is being turned into an event where votes are avoided. That’s not our style.” Grassroots revolts are also in prospect over the Government’s plans to cut £350m from the legal aid budget and reduce state benefits for cancer patients and over its response to last month’s riots.

Lawyers plan to confront Mr Clegg over the withdrawal of legal aid from most cases of family breakdown, medical negligence, immigration, debt and welfare benefit, and to make claimants to pay legal fees out of compensation payments. The moves were rejected in a vote at the party’s spring conference.

Alistair Webster, chairman of the Liberal Democrat Lawyers’ Association, said: “I don’t think that, either inside the Government or in the parliamentary party, people have done anything like enough to push the [party’s] agenda. I’m more than disappointed – I’m appalled.”

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