“The question – and it is a very real one – is can the SNP and the Labour Party in Scotland do anything other than fight each other for the next five years? On this it has been encouraging that the London based UK leadership of Jeremy Corbyn has appointed Jon Trickett an influential Shadow Cabinet member with an additional task of embracing a cross-party Constitutional Convention. The prospect of developing some mutual respect in Scotland hinges on progress over creating a Convention in one form or another.
“[Nicola Sturgeon’s] own nationalism and how she conducts herself is critical as to where the UK will end up. A UK becoming more united or a UK heading for separation.
“Pacts or deals do not involve merging of parties or the loss of their identity, but they can be the means to legislate for a constitutional accord. Such an accord might be one where the parties that want to separate agree to stay in the UK, to participate in a federal union and have proportional representation across the UK. … This is radical politics such as we have not seen for many years, but it is cross party, not one party. Inclusive, not exclusive.
“This is not hard left. Nor Trotskyist but socially responsible and capable of uniting the UK.”
Read the full text here: ReferendaCrossPartyConvention
The Hidden Perspective: The Military Conversations 1906 -1914 (Haus Publishing, 2014)
Lord Owen discusses Labour’s 2015 leadership elections and media speculation that it could lead to an SDP-style split in an interview on BBC Newsnight. View the interview, from around 16’50” in the programme, here.
Please note, access is time-limited by the BBC, expires approx 17 August.
The Campaign for the Reinstatement Bill has, in essence, been adopted in this new Parliament by Caroline Lucas in her Private Member’s NHS Bill which has received a First Reading. The importance of this Bill is that prior to the Election it was supported by Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Green MPs and now this newly tabled Bill continues to be supported by that same grouping though slightly different names.
This, in my view, provides the basis for a progressive alliance in UK politics to emerge. It is best for them to focus first on the health service in the UK as a building block for quickly moving on to a constitutional convention which should be established on the understanding that if the Conservatives were ready to involve themselves that would be far better but that in the absence of such cooperation others should get on with it. I recognise for the SNP and Labour in Scotland that will be a difficult dialogue and therefore I believe it would be wiser to establish it on a UK basis. Such an alliance might move then into austerity and economic and social policy. It will have to sort out a proportional system for the Westminster elections and agree it before a general election. This is not an academic issue: it is a question for political horse trading when they have got used to the concept of working together to form a government in 2020. If they have any sense they will also enter into negotiations over standing down from specific constituencies in order to help each other beat the first past the post system.
This may be all too ambitious. But starting on the health service gives substance and structure to a cooperative project so that by the time the Second Reading of Caroline Lucas’s Bill comes before the House of Commons on 11 March 2016 I would hope there is a readiness of the SNP MPs to stay on in London to ensure 100 MPs are present to enforce a closure debate when, as is inevitable, Conservatives try to talk the Bill out. I also hope that then in Committee, in the light of changes in the NHS in England and elsewhere in the UK, the Bill can be amended and that this process will continue throughout the Parliament. It will not of course become law but that same Bill could be reintroduced if someone wished, having been lucky in Private Member’s ballot, in every session until the Election, all the time adjusting and reflecting changes and new thinking.
Letter published in the Guardian, 28 May 2014:
On the issue of fiscal convergence, David Cameron must not repeat the mistake of Margaret Thatcher who ignored Nigel Lawson’s twice-repeated warning…. that “the inclusion of European monetary union as a treaty objective would be a political commitment going well beyond previous references to EMU.” Without a parity of esteem for an EU of multiple currencies there can be no basis for a UK renegotiation.
Read the full letter here
Watch the 15 minute programme here: BBC BOOKtalk (available until 26 February 2015)
The Health of the Nation: NHS in peril is Lord Owen’s latest book. On its release Lord Owen wrote in the Guardian:
“The Health and Social Care Act 2012 – engineered by the former health secretary Andrew Lansley – was a massive blunder, and even senior Conservative ministers now admit the scale of its disastrous repercussions.
“The main thrust of the Lansley project was to take the NHS down the American healthcare route, creating an external market and mandating the compulsory marketisation and commercialisation of services.
“Such a grave mistake as Lansley’s reform must be corrected. A reinstated NHS would be far better placed to provide a comprehensive, cost-effective healthcare service for England, which is similar, although not the same, in all parts of the UK. Repealing the 2012 act is not a realistic political option but its worst aspects can and must be excised, and the best opportunity to secure a commitment to doing that is before the 2015 election.”
Buy a copy of The Health of the Nation: NHS in peril from the Book Depository here: The health of the nation
Or, order direct from the publisher Methuen. Search for ISBN 978-0413777720
All profits from the book between now and the May 31st 2015 will go towards the Campaign for the NHS Reinstatement Bill 2015
SATURDAY, 4TH OCTOBER 2014. A campaign is being launched today to reverse the failings of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and fully restore the National Health Service (NHS) in England as an accountable public service. It is encouraging voters to ask candidates in the general election to support including a Bill that would do just that in the first Queen’s Speech after the election. The campaign’s website is here: www.nhsbill2015.org
To read the full press release please click here
Speech by Lord Owen at the `Way With Words’ Festival
Dartington, Sunday 10 July 2011
The present Coalition Government that emerged after a few days negotiation owed almost everything to the openness and generosity of the speech that David Cameron made on the Friday once he realised he had lost the General Election. It was the surprising nature of his words that made it possible for Liberal Democrats to set aside merely supporting a Queen’s Speech of any party that had both a majority of the seats and a majority of the votes and instead actually become part of a Conservative-led coalition government. To read the full speech please click here