Lib Dem MP John Leech writes

My recent post on Manchester’s ID card trial has prompted my local Lib Dem MP, John Leech, to email pointing out that he is the only Manchester MP to consistently oppose ID cards and vote against them. He also points out that Mike Joslin, who so naively argued for them in a student newspaper is a very active campaigner in support of Lucy Powell, John’s Labour opponent, who John reckons is an ID card supporter.

John then complains that I treat him most unfairly on this blog. And that hurts.

So to be fair, John is not all bad. I’ve asked to sign a number of Early Day Motions since he was elected on all sorts of issues and most of the time he’s obliged me.

Elections are like wars and so it’s often forgotten that Liberal Democrat and Labour Party members often agree on a great many individual issues. In Manchester the lack of a significant Conservative presence further exaggerates the differences between us and as a result it can all get a bit personal and petty at times, which is unfortunate and reflects badly on us all.

Nevertheless, while we may agree on many issues I see no evidence of any underlying philosophy or set of principles behind Liberal Democrat policy. There is nothing to suggest the Lib Dems have a vision for the country and they certainly do not have a vision for Manchester.

Recently, John’s used his communications allowance to write to me about his work on animal welfare and on this issue he pushes the right buttons. He’s also written to me about pubs on which I’m sceptical, fearing his u-turn is a bit late. And he’s written to me about health, on which I think he’s taking the piss.

John leads on polyclinics, on which we had a lengthy private correspondence but on which I didn’t blog because, as Johh knows, the NHS was a client at the time. Rebranded as GP led health centres, it’s a great shame that none were ever proposed for John’s Manchester Withington constituency.

Very few people realise – many are surprised, even shocked to learn – that the NHS does not generally employ GPs and that the preservation of the right to private practice is a key object of the BMA. GPs are private sector contractors who receive a package of support to rival that of MPs. They tend to be directly employed by the NHS only in situations where a practice would not be economically viable, in rural areas say.

John surveyed his constituents and, while he doesn’t say exactly what he asked them, he does reveal that nine out of ten rejected private sector GP practices. And yet there is no hint of a proposal to nationalise existing GP surgeries.

Had John asked if constituents would like the option to see a GP on the weekend or late into the evening, I am confident he would have received a very different answer. Had John asked if constituents would prefer the additional £250m made available for polyclinics and GP led health centres be used to fund tax cuts, the results would have been more interesting.

This sloppy approach to the NHS in particular has earned John Leech a reputation for scaremongering, most notably on world leading cancer hospital Christie’s. Stories like this provoke genuine anxiety among some of the most vulnerable people.

Nevertheless, I don’t believe that John deliberately sets out to stir up NHS scare stories. I reckon that health professionals, whose political agenda he has not taken the trouble to understand, have exploited his hunger for cheap votes.

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