LABOUR’s DISARRAY – it could not even hold the once safe seat of Copeland when the local maternity hospital is threatened with closure – is such that it cannot effectively hold the Government to account. Cabinet Ministers like Jeremy Hunt (Health) and Sajid Javid (Communities) have not been properly challenged by the Opposition over the disconnect between hospitals and social care that is exacerbating the beds crisis.
It’s left to thoughtful former ministers, like Hull’s much-respected Alan Johnson, to use backbench debates to explain that the additional levy on council tax bills to fund the care of the elderly has been more than offset by costs incurred by local authorities in implementing the National Living Wage. Even then, it is junior Ministers who are entrusted with defending the Government’s decision-making.
This matters because Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, a scrutiny body that is proving far more effective than the Shadow Cabinet, has warned that public “bickering” between Theresa May and the NHS over funding is an “insult to taxpayers”. Statistical semantics detract from the fact that such strains will only intensify as a result of an ageing population and that there needs to be effective oversight of the Sustainability and Transformation Plans tasked with implementing the latest changes. And while most patients want a consensus, even this requires Labour, the party which founded the NHS, to engage with the process. Yet where is Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ainsworth? Who is he – and what is he doing?