Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for January 26th, 2012

A Jolly Look at NHS Reform

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 26th January, 2012

Andrew Lansley’s proposed reforms of Britain’s health service came as a shock to many Liberal Democrats, as they were not part of the Coalition agreement; in fact, there had been an assumption that there would be no major top-down reorganisation. So it’s not surprising that the ensuing debate has been both extensive and contentious. Paul Burstow, as junior Minister, has done a great deal to ensure that the Bill stumbling its way through parliament has a significant emphasis on social care. But a lot of the most dogged attempts to make the proposed changes more palatable have occurred in the House of Lords, so it was good to have the opportunity last night to hear from Baroness (Judith) Jolly — at a Pizza and Politcs put on by Islington Liberal Democrats — her take on where we are at in the process. One element she stressed was the way that competition based on price (as originally proposed by Lansley) has been succesfully replaced by the concept of a an agreed price for which providers would then compete on the basis of quality of delivery. There is also now much more emphasis on the patient, though more progress still needs to be made. Judith had good experience working with health trusts before being elevated to the peerage last year and is therefore up to speed on much of the detail. But as I pointed out in the discussion following her presentation, it is very difficult to get a persuasive case based on detail across on the doorstep. In the London Mayoral and GLA elections this May, the Labour Party is bound to attack the Liberal Democrats on the issue of NHS Reform, even though health is not a competence of the Mayor or Assembly. Judith’s points were subtle and nuanced, but London politics is neither. I suspect the Labour approach will be like a twin-bored shotgun, with the two pithy criticisms: that the Coalition is destroying the NHS, and that it is privatising the NHS. Neither accusation in its blunt form is true. Health care will still be free at the point of delivery. And the opening up of parts of the service to private elements was in fact initiated by Labour. But we Liberal Democrats need equally pithy messages to refute Labour’s distorted charges. And we need them quickly.

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Tahrir: A Critical Explosion

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 26th January, 2012

What better way to celebrate in London the first anniversary of the 25 January Egyptian Revolutionary movement than to join a stimulating crowd of fellow hacks, human rights activists, Arabists and UK-based Atab intellectuals at the launch of a new book about the extraordinary events in Cairo last year by Abdel Latif El-Manawy, who had the job of overseeing news content at the state broadcaster, the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU), in the ancien régime’s final days? From his privileged insider position he was able –and willing — to tell Hosni Mubarak it was time to go, but that still makes him a controversial figure among many Egyptian revolutionaries who wonder quite how he was able to slide gracefully from the old situation into the new one in which the army has essentially been in charge. Mr El-Manawy last night described what happened at Tahrir Square as a ‘critical explosion’. I picked up my copy of ‘Tahrir: The Last 18 Days of Mubarak’ at the party thrown by Gilgamesh publishers at Daunt Books in Marylebone, so have not yet had the chance to read it. But I shall be fascinated to digest not only Abdel Latif’s El-Manawy’s take on the events between the first mass occupation of Tahrir Square and Mubarak’s stepping down, but also to see how he reconciles what he did at the head of an organisation essentially treading a tightrope between media objectivity and propaganda. In the meantime, I shall reserve judgement. Besides, everyone at the launch was too exhilirated by the events of the past year to carp, despite concerns about how successful Egypt’s revolution will prove to be in te end, and even deeper fears about the prognosis for Syria. But in the cold light of morning, we shall see. I shall review the book in due course.

Link: http://gilgamesh-publishing.co.uk

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