Domestic

In a major interview with The Guardian, Lord Owen discusses The Independent Group, the Labour Party and Brexit.

Read Lord Owen’s interview here: Guardianarticle21.3.19

This is no SDP rerun, but a younger socialist could still take Labour to power.

Lord Owen writing in The Sunday Times, 24 February 2019.

Read the full article here: Sunday Times article

Extracts:

“…Disowning the largest democratic vote in our history, and commitments made as recently as the 2017 general election to deliver in parliament the referendum result, is, to put it mildly, an odd basis for starting a new centre grouping intended to destroy the other two parties, as the Independent Group of MPs did last week…

“…Of course, in the Independent Group MPs leaving their parties, there are some similarities to the creation of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1981. Yet 38 years ago the debate in the Labour Party turned on two vital policy issues.

“Michael Foot… refused point blank to promise a referendum before withdrawal from the common market, and reiterated his commitment to full unilateral nuclear disarmament involving Nato.

“In our Limehouse declaration… there was a specific disavowal of any intention of creating a centre party. We pledged to take the Marxist/Trotskyist, authoritarian, trade union-dominated, block vote, policy-making Labour Party head-on in a bare-knuckle fight to replace or transform it.

“…It was when Shirley Williams declined to stand in the Warrington by-election and Roy Jenkins did so instead (he went on to become party leader by beating me, not Shirley) that we became irretrievably linked with the Liberals as a centre party.

“If this Independent Group of MPs now goes down that same centrist route, it may well, like Nick Clegg, form a coalition with the Conservatives, but not with Labour.

“…All is not yet lost for the Labour Party if more of its MPs join the Independent Group.

“…It is imperative, however, that Corbyn agrees to step down as early as 2020, when he will be 71, for a younger leader not afraid of being called a socialist but able to present themselves as a modern prime minister not tarred by the past and ready to work with the Scottish National Party in government.

“There is a traditional Labour agenda out there, somewhat reminiscent of 1945’s, ready to be grasped in modern form…”

Lord Owen speaks in the House of Lords about establishing a UK-wide Constitutional Convention.

Lord Owen’s speech on 13 December 2018 in the Debate on the current constitutional challenges within the UK and the case for the establishment of a UK-wide Constitutional Convention to address issues of democratic accountability and devolution, particularly in England.

View the speech here: Constitutional Challenges

Read the text here: HL13.12.18

 

 

NHS at 70: not fit for purpose and very close to losing its whole founding principles and its ethical and vocational basis.

Royal Society of Medicine podcast: ‘The NHS at 70.’ Released 2018

 

Excerpts:

“I think it’s a very bad time to be holding a celebration for an organisation that is under severe attack and very close to losing its whole founding principles and its ethical and vocational basis.

“…NHS England has to be more or less turfed out, the whole bang lot of them: the Chairman, Chief Executive and most of the Board members… They’ve stopped every form of criticism from within and without. They’ve made it very, very difficult for people to raise their voices from within and they’ve been able to disparage those from without… The thing is rotten at the moment and it’s rotten from the top. So you’ve got to change the top.”

Lord Owen argues for the very costly Health and Social Care Act 2012 to be urgently revoked and the vocational, ethical and moral foundations of the 1948 legislation restored.

Keynote speech to a conference on ‘Brexit and the NHS’ held by the UK in a Changing Europe initiative at the Wellcome Centre, 14 March 2018. Full text here: Brexit&NHSspeech

“I am genuinely puzzled why the main NHS charities that dominate discussion on the NHS – the King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust – continue to champion [the] external market? They have become not charities in the true sense of the term to serve those in need; but partisans fighting for a political view of the NHS held by a managerial class and MPs which poll after poll shows is not supported by public opinion.

“At last the Labour Party is changing its position and they know that reverting to the principles of the 1948 Act will be much easier outside the EU legislative framework than inside.”

Radio interview: Lord Owen comments on the current General Election.

Lord Owen is interviewed by David Mellor as part of his LBC series ‘The Election Experience’.

Hear the interview here

A flexible full-exit timetable, under UK control.

From an LiamHalligan7.5.17
The Telegraph Business, 7 May 2017

 … Amid breathless accounts of the Downing Street dinner last week… Juncker’s spin was presented as the only possible version of events, proof the Government’s Brexit plan is “unrealistic” and “deeply flawed”…
Even if the Brexit talks go well, though, the UK government feels “an implementation period” will be required after March 2019, when the Article 50 window closes and we formally leave. This, too, is in the white paper and will be in the manifesto. To that end… I had an interesting conversation last week with the former Foreign Secretary Lord Owen – an influential Brexiteer who remains one of the shrewdest political analysts around.
Some pushing for “soft Brexit” want Britain, having left the EU, to remain inside the European Economic Area. This “Norwegian option” means on-going single market membership. But it also means accepting continued multi-billion pound annual payments and the EU’s freedom of movement rules. As such, EEA membership isn’t Brexit. Lord Owen agrees with me that EEA, as a final destination, would betray our referendum result. He thinks, though, the EEA membership could be useful during the “implementation period”.
Should the Article 50 negotiations get really nasty, with the EU refusing cooperation on customs clearance and the “mutual recognition agreements” that facilitate trade, UK exporters could face disruption in March 2019. Staying in the EEA for a period, and by extension the single market, would avoid that. Once we’re in the EEA but outside the EU, Lord Owen says, the EEA treaty contains a vital clause that allows us to leave at a time of our own choosing, albeit with a year’s notice.

This avoids any “cliff edge” business nervousness that, Lord Owen fears, could become significant if diplomatic relations sour. Some Brexiteers will view even the transitory use of the EEA option with suspicion. Lord Owen’s scheme may also fall down on legal grounds, as some say retaining EEA membership come March 2019 is impossible. This idea may be worth exploring, though, using the EEA on a strictly time-limited basis, to give Britain what Lord Owen calls “a flexible full-exit timetable, under UK control”.

Access the full  article here: Negotiation over dinner leaves a bad taste

Return to Lord Owen’s EEAA paper here

Halt the march towards a US healthcare system.

Writing for The Times ‘The Red Box’, 23 January 2017.

…. The game being played between the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and the chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, over money is like the rattle of two drying peas in the same pod; they both want to bring to England the costly US healthcare system.

…. Our English politicians, whether Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat, have set a course heading for the costly US system, though only very few ever acknowledge this. They do not seem to realise that the STPs (changes of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan) coming soon are, in private, planning considerable hospital bed closures at a time when the Royal College of Surgeons has said that we cannot manage with less beds. They also plan on reducing services across the board.

These cuts are to finance a costly, predominantly US-designed external market healthcare system that our politicians have been introducing since 2002. They have done this with the support of newspapers who are headlining every NHS scandal. This includes, shame on them, the hand-wringing Guardian. Very few in England are daring enough to admit that the direction of travel is towards a US healthcare system and Red Box should call them out.

….

Why not, in the next budget speech, make all those over-65s who continue to work pay national insurance? It would raise, I am told, over £1 billion. I worked in business for 12 years past the age of 65 and could easily have paid national insurance. My generation were allowed to set mortgages and any related endowment insurance schemes against income tax. It was far easier to become a homeowner at an earlier age then. The elderly still working in England are now, I suspect, ready to pay more to return the NHS in England to the sustainable planned model that they have relied on for most of their life.

Download the full article here: HaltMarchtoUS4