Lord Owen hopes cooperation over Caroline Lucas’s NHS Bill could lead to a wider progressive alliance amongst the political parties.
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.
In ‘Reflections’, historian Peter Hennessy asks senior politicians to reflect on their life and times.
In this episode, Lord David Owen discusses the transition from his early days as the son of a Welsh doctor in Plymouth to his election as a Labour MP while still in his twenties. Lord Owen reflects on his rise in politics, the events surrounding the formation of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and his public life since he stood aside from its merger with the Liberals.
Listen to the programme here: Lord Owen: ‘Reflections’
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
The end of the NHS as we have known and understood it in England will take place before 2020 if whichever party or parties that win the 2015 general election does not change the 2012 NHS legislation ….around that moment the issue of Scottish independence will be back on the political agenda with a vengeance. The two are linked in more ways than have yet been fully recognised.
The New Statesman (online), 21 April 2015.
Read the article here: The coming election
Lord Owen comments: “In the outline agreement reached two days ago in Geneva between Iran and the US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany, we can see the relevance of Pakistan’s history and its possession of nuclear weapons.” Read his Statement in full here: Pakistan & the Nuclear Deterrent
“All the members of the committee deserve to be congratulated on the report and on the tone that they have brought to this discussion…. We have to develop a much greater understanding of the complexity of the issues and we must do so fairly urgently….
“A great deal has been said about this whole issue of why Russia feels encircled. History shows us exactly the same: if you look to the origins of the 1914 war, there is no question but that encirclement was a big factor. It was felt not just by Russia at various stages but byGermany and by other countries…..
“We must return to this area to try to find our way through these difficult questions.”
View the full text here: H.LDebateonEU&Russia24.3.15
Lord Owen says the “limited, tinkering reforms” of the EU which David Cameron envisages by 2017 will not suffice.
“The situation will be very different to the 1975 UK referendum. BREXIT will by then be forced on to the agenda in a very risky way.”
Speech by the Rt Hon Lord Owen to LSE German Symposium on Wednesday, 11 March 2015 in reply to the Symposium question, “to what extent is the nation state an antiquated notion?”