May 7Liked by Sam Freedman

You do wonder, with the voter ID thing, if the Tories have hit inadvertently on a selection advantage for the Lib Dems.

I think, certainly for mayoral elections, all the opposition parties should insist on a change back to a preferential system. Electing someone with significant executive power on a third of the vote doesn’t lead to policy making with community consensus

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.. apologies for precipitate comment .. I’ll be brief ...

.. inadequate lense through which to observe the problems of the NHS.

Lots of people won’t like this - including many from my ‘tribe’ on the liberal centre left - but we have to be willing to contemplate new models for the national health service. But I see no signs of Starmer’s getting a grip on this.

There is a general acceptance at senior levels of the NHS & the medical establishment generally that the government is set on privatising the NHS by one means it another.

We are training doctors and nurses but not giving them enough hands on supervision in their early careers. Consultants are absent doing private work. Clinical decisions are woefully slow and risk averse as a result. Triage rates in A&E speed up tenfold when consultants step into the trenches.

Nurses are ill served by the move from bursaries and nursing college to university & debt.

On the shop (hospital) floor staff are undermanaged and allowed to forget that they should be driven by their caring vocation not by employment demarcation. This is partly to blame for the fact that patients are routinely left unhydrated or in soiled linen.

Procurement practices, hospital food, and lack of adoption of successful /

best practices elsewhere in the service are all a disgrace.

I’m as keen as anyone on seeing nurses and junior doctors well (better) paid, but this won’t on its own make the service better or safer.

The NHS needs root and branch rethinking- and not by politicians.

I strongly advocate the establishment by the next Labour government of a Royal Commission with a brief to propose the best way forward disregarding politics and dogma, and preferably setting it on course to be operationally independent of governments.

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May 6Liked by Sam Freedman

Great news re podcast. Can you push Alastair Campbell on his fixation on message over substance (I think a big problem for Kier S) and a recognition that it isn’t 97 anymore and the liberal order (and the associated free market consensus) he clings to is pretty much dead.

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I'm not so convinced as you that the LD/Green vote in the rural south is truly anti-Tory in a way that would be repeated in a general election. Particularly in the case of the Greens, voters have noticed how much the party has started pandering at the local level to the traditionally Tory, and extremely powerful, NIMBY vote (which is why those same Greens were slung out by genuinely progressive voters in Brighton). These people won't be voting Green in a general election (though they might well be staying at home).

Of course, the Labour victories in the traditional marginals - Swindon, Medway etc - are really much more relevant data with regards to 2024. They're on course for a majority whichever way you slice it.

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I think pretty much the only firm conclusion we can draw from the results is that voters are fed up with the Tories, and their path to re-election is narrow. Going from this to 35+% of the national vote in the next election is going to be a real uphill battle.

Even if they could they’d need Labour to lose a lot of ground rather than maintain or add to its vote share, which also feels very unlikely. They’d also need Labour’s vote distribution to be less favourable than it appears based on these results. Labour winning Medway, Dover and Swindon is a bad sign for the Tories on this.

But I think the major unanswered question is how tactical voting will play out. The other wild card is the kind of campaign the Lib Dems will run. Jo Swinson ran a pretty terrible campaign in 2019, which I think partly explains why they fared so badly in the generals compared to locals earlier that year. I don’t expect Ed Davey to make the same mistakes.

Big implications for a confidence and supply/minority arrangement vs Labour majority. A more aggressive rapprochement with the EU and electoral reform become more in scope with a minority government. Planning reform obviously not. I’d expect a minority government reliant on the Lib Dems to focus more on the how of government, like our relationship with the EU, elections, and local/regional powers, than the what.

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One thing that you didn't mention in your analysis of a Labour success at the next election is how much trouble the labour left could cause Starmer if he has no majority or a small one.

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While everyone says that the SNP will not tip out a Labour government to put the Conservatives back in, the history of 1885 to1914 shows the dangers when a big party is dependent on its survival in government on a numerically much smaller party which has a single focus on separating that part of the United Kingdom where it is dominant from the remainder of the UK. The only Parliament in that period when the Liberals were not dependent on Irish Nationalist MPs was that elected in 1906. Too little attention is being given to the questions "Will Labour have more MPs that the total of Conservatives, DUP and SNP?" and "Will Labour plus LibDems have more MPs than Cons plus DUP plus SNP?"

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You mention the NHS being one of the electorate’s two top priorities by far (along with the economy).

We need much more widespread, detailed & analytical, evidence-based attention from serious journalists into exactly what the state of the NHS is.

For various reasons I have a good deal of contact with senior consultants both NHS and private; and it is clear to me that a tug of war over funding and pay levels is a woefully inadequate

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