Sunday, 3 February 2013

Hospital unity crumbles over by-election

Bitter recriminations have been traded in recent days between former allies who came together across party lines to defend this borough’s hospitals. First Labour put out leaflets in the by-election taking place in Wormholt & White City backing their candidate and saying he would fight what they claimed were “Tory” cuts – both to hospitals and our police station.

This was then repeated by a Labour motion at last week’s Council meeting.

Responding to the motion, which of course was defeated by the Council’s large Conservative majority, Cllr Peter Graham had this to say:
"Tonight, we have seen exactly what happens when you try to work with the Opposition: they throw it back in your face".
He recalled this rally when he said:

"For the sake of my hospital, I climbed onto a platform bedecked in GMB flags; in front of a hundred Socialist Worker placards; in the company of Labour MPs, Christine Blower and the Middle Eastern Workers’ Solidarity Network. There they all were, arrayed with Andrew Slaughter to the left of the stage, while, as solitary representatives on the right, it was just me... and Cllr Cowan".
adding of Labour:
"their stance is the worst, shameless, knee-jerk, intellectually bankrupt, immature, hypocritical, self-indulgent examples of posturing I can recall".
It’s hard to see the two tribes coming together again after that.

Why is this important? Because it is exactly what those making the decisions over which hospitals to cut want to happen. A quick glance over to Lewisham shows that when decision makers are confronted by united opposition they start to back down, whereas our own politicians have now decided to adopt the ferrets-in-sack approach instead.

It’s difficult to see what strategy lies behind H&F Labour’s decision to break ranks and attack, apart from positioning. They chose to do so over a by-election that they are already guaranteed to win, so it’s not as if their hands were forced. Those in the red corner reading this will angrily reply that the cuts are indeed a result of Government policy and they are simply calling a spade a spade.

Which is fine, except for the fact that with a unified local political opposition to them we all stood a better chance of saving the hospitals, and the lives that depend on them. That’s no longer possible, and you have to wonder at the tactical wisdom of throwing that unity away.

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