Week 11: Prat – Paul Burstow MP

by Jackie_South on March 16, 2014

LibDem_pratThis week, we are giving our award for the biggest prat of the last seven days to Paul Burstow, the Liberal Democrat MP for Sutton & Cheam

It has of course long since stopped being a novel experience to have a Liberal Democrat MP to talk big when it suits him and then wimp out at the crucial point when it really matters.

But it never ceases to amaze me that they still puff themselves up and apparently to pick up the cudgels bravely on all our behalf time and time again when the disappointment has long since become inevitable. The fact that they still think it will fall anyone shows that the ones they are really fooling are themselves.

This week’s example of Lib Dem prattery came courtesy of Paul Burstow, who you probably don’t recall was a junior health minister in the Coalition for about five minutes but has been slumped pointlessly on the backbenches for the last eighteen months.

That health experience made him a natural frontman for a rebellion by twenty fellow backbenchers from both Coalition parties against Jeremy Hunt’s poisonous Clause 119, which allows him to close financially and clinically healthy hospital departments to balance the books in a nearby failing hospital. Hunt was putting forward Clause 119 in response to the successful judical review of his decision to close the Accident & Emergency and Maternity departments at Lewisham Hospital in such circumstances.

So, come the big day on Tuesday it appeared that Labour might have the votes to stop Clause 119 in its tracks with those rebels. Burstow even tabled an amendment to do this, signed by seven Lib Dems, two Labour MPs and Caroline Lucas.

And then, inevitably, the rebellion failed to materialise. Burstow agreed not to put his amendment to a vote, explaining that this was because he had been given assurances that Hunt would not use the power very often. Well, that’s all right then – it is not as if there are any recent examples of Hunt trying to do this after all. Particularly not in, say, South London. Nope, nothing to see here. Move on.

Oh, and Burstow gets to chair some committee writing the guidance on it. Which Hunt will inevitably screw up and throw in the bin.

What a totally, utterly, pointless prat Burstow has shown himself to be.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Killingworth March 17, 2014 at 11:33 am

He will of course say in his next election literature that he campaigned against hospital closure and obtained an assurance from the Secretary of State.

Hunt will not screw up Burstow’s “guidance”. His successor as Secretary of State will.

What I would like (but won’t get) is a Royal Commission on health finance, charged in particular with identifying the causes of financial difficulty for the NHS. These are several (the desire of this government to privatize it is only one), including:-

– the increasing cost of healthcare, compared to other commodities and services, due to technological change;
– the increasing demand for healthcare due to an ageing population;
– a rapidly declining sense of social solidarity, which itself has a number of causes, to wit:
— very few of us have experience of wartime (certainly by comparison with the late 1940s);
— multi-ethnicity (you & I may wring our hands about this, but it’s still true);
— software engineering and allied skills are essentially solitary practices rather than the result of teamwork (it may even be the case that the emotionally immature make better designers), and so – by comparison with previous generations, a lot of our brightest young are opposed not only to State provision but also to any insurance policies;
— liberal sexual morality (easy and effective contraception, legal homosexuality etc) depresses the birth rate.

I’m all for blaming Tories and other politicians for what they do, but try not to blame them for deeper socio-economic trends…


George_East March 17, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Mike – we still spend far less than most of our competitors on health care partly because the NHS is actually pretty efficient. There is a long term demographic issue for sure, but it is not where we are now. At the moment it is still a question of choices.


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