New party?

NHA PartyYesterday, the National Health Action Party launched.

The idea behind the NHA Party is one I support: since the Labour Party is unable and unwilling to properly defend the NHS against the Tory attacks – unable because it is at present a minority party with an unpopular leader, unwilling because properly doing so would involve backtracking and acknowledging that the Labour Party itself went hellishly wrong during the Blair years – there must be political pressure on Labour to force them to act when, as I hope, they win the next election.

Founded by a group of health professionals, our party strongly opposes the Health and Social Care Act. We believe the Act is wrecking the NHS in England by allowing it to be broken up and sold off. We intend to put up around 50 candidates in carefully chosen general election constituencies, and we will urge the Labour party to repeal the Act. We’ll also field candidates in local council elections.

Party co-leader and cancer specialist Dr Clive Peedell said: “For generations we’ve trusted the NHS to be a safety net for everyone in times of need. Putting the values of business and the markets ahead of those of patients and communities will ruin the NHS. This destruction is being fast-tracked by Tory and coalition policies. We hope our new party will halt this process.”


Their plan has a wicked simplicity, and – in principle – could work, thanks to the First Past the Post system that the Tories fought so viciously to keep. (See: Dear LibDems, climb out of the window now)

  1. Pick fifty constituencies where the two front-runners in previous elections are either a Tory or a LibDem.
  2. Bonus points if the Tory invariably wins on a minority vote – if Labour and LibDem voters together could oust the Tory.
  3. Bonus again if the Tory or LibDem won by a razor-thin margin.
  4. Bonus again if there’s already a strong Labour vote in the constituency.
  5. Find fifty locally-based and locally-respected candidates who can, over the next three years, build a standing in that constitutency and make clear they are campaigning for a return to the National Health Service before Thatcherism exhausted it, New Labour wounded it and Cameron’s Tories gutted it.

From the polling data, short of a popular war (wait, let’s not give David Cameron ideas) the Tories will not win the next election. The problem is that Labour are running to the right, accepting the principle of the Tory cuts and “reforms” to welfare and the NHS, refusing to stand up and declare utter opposition to what is being done.

A new party that successfully took seats from Tories and LibDems without splitting the Labour vote, running explicitly in opposition to Tory “reforms”, could be just what the next Parliament needs to force Labour to go leftward, to reverse and heal the Tory cuts.

At the very least – contrary to LibDem and Tory scaremongering – this campaign would not lose Labour a single seat, while it could – done well – smash the Liberal Democrats as a Parliamentary party and ruin the Tory objective of being able to form a government, even a minority one, at the next election. The Tory objective for 2015 is to win 50 seats (36 from Labour, 14 from LibDems) not to be fighting rearguard actions in constituencies they considered safely theirs.

Standing fifty candidates for a Parliamentary election is expensive. It has to be assumed for financial security that all deposits may be lost. Every constitutency campaigned for will cost them money.

They announced on Facebook:

Our “Top Five” target seats at next election will be: Cameron, Lansley, Hunt, Osborne, and Laws.

David Cameron shouldn’t be a target. Witney has been a Conservative hold at least since 1983: David Cameron won in 2010 with a majority significant enough that even if LibDem, Labour, and Green voters had all voted for an alternative candidate, Cameron would still have won.

Andrew Lansley, Health Minister for NHS Reform, is a slightly better target and I admit the good symbolism, but he too has a solid majority in South Cambridgeshire and has had for years. Still, in the last election, if LibDem, Labour, and Green had all voted together they could in principle have unseated Lansley, so it’s a slightly less appalling choice than David Cameron’s constituency.

Jeremy Hunt, current Health Minister, is not an acceptable target. South West Surrey has been a Conservative hold since 1983: Hunt won last time with the same kind of comfortable majority as David Cameron. Yes, he’s currently the Health Minister, but this is still a waste of NHA Party funds.

George Osborne again shouldn’t be a target. The Tatton constitutency isn’t quite as invulnerable as Cameron’s or Hunt’s, but Osborne still has a solid majority over the combined Liberal Democrat and Labour vote.

David Laws holds Yeovil on a comfortable Liberal Democrat majority. It’s possible some of that will peel away as he was outed as an expenses cheat and public anger at LibDem betrayal, even though he’s now back in Cabinet. But there isn’t a strong Labour vote – in the 2010 election, the combined UKIP and BNP vote in Yeovil was larger than the Labour share.

All in all, not a promising set of choices at all. I hope the other 45 choices were more sensibly chosen.

7 Comments

Filed under Elections, Healthcare, Politics

7 responses to “New party?

  1. Dan Sutton

    Those 5 seats, although unwinnable do represent excellent value for money from a publicity point of view.

    The deposit for standing for the Commons if I recall correctly is £500 (it might have gone up to £1,000 recently.)

    I would say that the news reports of the hustings between David Cameron or Andrew Lansley and their NHA party opponents would be worth a few grand in lost deposits.

    Overall, I think this plan is likely to lead to a stronger Tory majority in the Commons. I’ll need to think about it a little. Gut feel says that people more likely to vote Tory are less likely to vote against a Tory policy on the NHS so the NHA is going to pick up votes from the Green Party, Labour Party and the Lib Dems, in that order of likelihood. Meaning that many of those Tory – Lib Dem marginal go Tory and reducing the chance of the Labour Party being able to form a workable coalition with the Lib Dems.

    I think they would stand a better chance if there were a strong UKIP presence in the seat.

    • I would say that the news reports of the hustings between David Cameron or Andrew Lansley and their NHA party opponents would be worth a few grand in lost deposits.

      In theory yes. In practice, while hustings are supposed to include every candidate, you can opt to have a hustings with candidates only from “the major parties”, defined as those already having a seat in Parliament.

      Overall, I think this plan is likely to lead to a stronger Tory majority in the Commons.

      Providing the NHA Party stick to seats where the two front runners last time were either Tory or LibDem, I don’t see how it can possibly do that. Labour won’t win those seats, so they won’t be taking anything away from Labour: LibDems are crashing, so seats which will either go Tory or LibDem are more likely to go Tory: but it’s possible that NHA Party might win both LibDem and Labour votes in those constituencies and take a few seats away from the Tories.

      Gut feel says that people more likely to vote Tory are less likely to vote against a Tory policy on the NHS so the NHA is going to pick up votes from the Green Party, Labour Party and the Lib Dems, in that order of likelihood. Meaning that many of those Tory – Lib Dem marginal go Tory and reducing the chance of the Labour Party being able to form a workable coalition with the Lib Dems.

      Oh, I really hope Labour doesn’t plan ever to ally with that toxic little crappy closet-rightwing party ever again. Or at least not until the current lot who went Tory with Cameron are all out of office / retired.

      But in any case, I think the one sure thing about the next General Election is that there’s going to be a LibDem wipeout. They’ll be a toxic party to ally with no matter how many seats they get, and they’re not likely to get enough seats to be a credible coalition party even if anyone wanted them.

      • Dan Sutton

        I would say that the news reports of the hustings between David Cameron or Andrew Lansley and their NHA party opponents would be worth a few grand in lost deposits.

        In theory yes. In practice, while hustings are supposed to include every candidate, you can opt to have a hustings with candidates only from “the major parties”, defined as those already having a seat in Parliament.

        In which case the news reports of angry NHS supporters turning up outside the hustings 5 times to protest their exclusion would be worth £2.5k

      • Dan Sutton

        What Labour plan to do and what the electorate will let them do are two very different things.

        Labour don’t lose any seats but I think a likely outcome of the NHA endevour is to cost Lib Dems seats to the benefit of the Tory party.

        If the NHA take votes off Lib Dem candidates in Tory – Lib Dem marginals you are therefore more likely to get a Tory MP than a Lib Dem MP. Which turns a potential minority Tory Government into a majority Tory Government or turns a potential Lab-Lib Dem coalition into a Tory-Lib Dem coalition with the Tories having more influence than they currently do at the moment.

        I think talk of a Lib Dem toxic wipe out is an exageration. They tend to do much better where they have an incumbent and they are very good at organising local campaigns. The most sensible analysis I’ve seen puts them on between 6-12 seats at the next general election, even on current vote share. The same analysis also sees Labour about 6-12 seats short of a majority.

        So unless you see the Labour party going in to coalition with the DUP or the SNP then I reckon it’s about even money that Labour’s route into government in 2015 is through coalition with the Lib Dems.

        And if that is the case then a few extra Lib Dems and a few fewer Tory MP’s might be significant.

        I might also ask the question why, if you think that the Tory’s are openly hostile to the NHS, the Lib Dems are at best closetly hostile and the Labour Party is a bit dodgy on the NHS and has facilitated the destruction of the NHS through it’s earlier reforms why there appears to be no majority in the country for saving the NHS?

        • Labour don’t lose any seats but I think a likely outcome of the NHA endevour is to cost Lib Dems seats to the benefit of the Tory party.

          I think that LibDems will lose seats to the benefit of the Tory party, but the only party responsible for that is the LibDems. (The LibDems will also lose seats to the benefit of the Labour Party, the SNP, and even possibly the Greens.) The NHA Party at least offers the possibility that some of the seats that would otherwise certainly go Tory may instead go NHA.

          I think talk of a Lib Dem toxic wipe out is an exageration. They tend to do much better where they have an incumbent and they are very good at organising local campaigns.

          Yes, but the incumbents have voted to privatise the NHS, to destroy the benefits system, and in many instances gone back on a solemn promise not to vote for raising tuition fees.

          . The most sensible analysis I’ve seen puts them on between 6-12 seats at the next general election, even on current vote share.

          Well, I’d say that 6 seats in Parliament for a party that at present has 57 seats is a toxic wipe-out.

          So unless you see the Labour party going in to coalition with the DUP or the SNP then I reckon it’s about even money that Labour’s route into government in 2015 is through coalition with the Lib Dems.

          Or with the NHA Party, assuming that out of 50 seats, well-targeted, they can win more than the LibDems.

          I might also ask the question why, if you think that the Tory’s are openly hostile to the NHS, the Lib Dems are at best closetly hostile and the Labour Party is a bit dodgy on the NHS and has facilitated the destruction of the NHS through it’s earlier reforms why there appears to be no majority in the country for saving the NHS?

          Money is more powerful than votes.

          • Dan Sutton

            Let’s assume a best case scenario for the NHA Party. In the 50 seats they are contesting they win half, taking nearly all of the Labour Vote, half of the Lib Dem Vote, most of the votes of other small parties apart from UKIP and a handful of Tory votes.

            So they pick up 25 seats and the other 25 are all wins for the Tories instead of being a mix of Tories and Lib Dems. Depending on your view of the NHA Party as a credible coalition party for the Labour I think this makes a Tory government slightly more likely but it’s probably neutral on the immediate legislative effect on the NHS.

            The failure mode of the NHA Party gambit is that they don’t win any seats and you get 50 Tory seats instead of a mix of Lib Dem and Tory MP’s. Your mileage may vary on whether, from the point of view of protecting the NHS 50 Tories instead of a mix of Tories and Lib Dems is a good, bad or indifferent thing. I’d say it was a bad thing.

            So, best case this is maybe slightly better for the NHS and worst case it results in a Tory Majority Government.

            AS for the NHA Party being a coalition partner for Labour I’m not sure that they could really offer a coherent coalition option to the Labour Party. What I think you get with the best case for the NHA are a group of 25 independent MP’s who are against the current NHS reforms but who have no coherent policy on defence or pensions or transport. What is the NHA policy on Lords Reform? What about use of the Single Transferable Vote for Local Government? Are they for same-sex marriage or against or a mixture? Are they even able to reach agreement on how to make the NHS more efficient and effective without changing it’s structure? At best you get a confidence and supply agreement and are left playing Electoral Roulette on everything else with a bunch of GP’s, surgeons and head nurses.

          • The failure mode of the NHA Party gambit is that they don’t win any seats and you get 50 Tory seats instead of a mix of Lib Dem and Tory MP’s

            Yes. But I think that’s pretty likely anyway. People who voted LibDem last time because they saw them as a credible alternative to the Tories are going to see them now as a bunch of lying toerags who don’t stand for anything. With Tories at least you know what you’re getting: with LibDems you get a bunch of seats who’ll turn to anything or anyone and won’t stand up for anything. There’s literally no point voting for that.

            So they pick up 25 seats and the other 25 are all wins for the Tories instead of being a mix of Tories and Lib Dems. Depending on your view of the NHA Party as a credible coalition party for the Labour I think this makes a Tory government slightly more likely but it’s probably neutral on the immediate legislative effect on the NHS.

            For the Tories to secure even the least chance of majority government, they have to win every seat they won last time, plus twenty more.

            The NHA Party (I’m pretty confident of this) can do electoral maths as well as you or I. If I were them, I’d opt to pick 19 LibDem-held seats and 31 Tory-held seats, or some such split. This way, even if they lose in all 19 LibDem seats and those become Tory gains (which, as noted, they likely would have anyway) this still doesn’t gain Cameron a majority government. (Not that, in all honesty, anyone needs to worry about that; the Tories are going to lose seats to Labour in 2015. The LibDems are the only party less popular.)

            AS for the NHA Party being a coalition partner for Labour I’m not sure that they could really offer a coherent coalition option to the Labour Party.

            Well, certainly not unless Labour intend to repeal the Tory “reforms”, which currently they’re not committing to. But with coalition partners whose reason for being in Parliament is to make them, they’d have to.

            What I think you get with the best case for the NHA are a group of 25 independent MP’s who are against the current NHS reforms but who have no coherent policy on defence or pensions or transport. What is the NHA policy on Lords Reform? What about use of the Single Transferable Vote for Local Government? Are they for same-sex marriage or against or a mixture? Are they even able to reach agreement on how to make the NHS more efficient and effective without changing it’s structure? At best you get a confidence and supply agreement and are left playing Electoral Roulette on everything else with a bunch of GP’s, surgeons and head nurses.

            …who at least are likely to be more reliable on pensions, transport, and healthcare than either the LibDems or the Tories.

            What is the NHA policy on Lords Reform?

            What’s the LibDem’s policy on Lords Reform? No one knows: it’s whatever Cameron tells Clegg it’s to be.

            What about use of the Single Transferable Vote for Local Government?

            What about it?

            Are they for same-sex marriage or against or a mixture?

            Why worry? By 2015 Scotland will have same-sex marriage, and England/Wales will have to follow us.

            Are they even able to reach agreement on how to make the NHS more efficient and effective without changing it’s structure? At best you get a confidence and supply agreement and are left playing Electoral Roulette on everything else with a bunch of GP’s, surgeons and head nurses.

            Which is a definite improvement on watching the LibDems vote with Tories.

            And I don’t believe it’s impossible. If it was done in 1948, it can be done again in 2015.

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