Bell Principles revised, BNP and commercialisation of NHS

The Executive Board of the IN met to make further plans and discuss a range of issues a couple of days ago in London. I joined in courtesy of Skype.
At our first meeting Martin Bell had contributed a draft of some principles for us to consider and on this occasion we refined them:
The Bell Principles (Reviewed 23/10/09)
The Independent Network will endorse candidates who:
• are non-discriminatory and abide by the Seven Principles of Public Life set out by Lord Nolan in 1995: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.
• make the practice of transparent politics their highest priority.
• are beholden to no party or pressure group, but only to their constituencies and their consciences.
• will both challenge and conciliate their political opponents, influenced by considered evidence, their conscience and their constituency, whilst at all times treating them with respect and courtesy.
• will resist abuses of power and patronage and work to achieve the highest standards of democracy.
• are committed to pluralism. This is reflected in the diversity of the Independent Network’s endorsed candidates, their real world experience and their expertise.
• listen and are committed to constant and innovative community consultation.
• once elected to a body, will choose one of their number as their spokesperson, but will have no formal or informal whip. They will operate as a group, but not as a party.
• will maintain modest and transparent expenses.

Any comments on these principles will be most welcome.
Have we all heard enough about the BNP yet? I found the Question Time, in which Mr. Griffin appeared, unwatchably bizarre and consequently saw no more than about five minutes of it. The consensus in the media subsequently seems to be that nobody emerged from the episode with much credit.
Making much of individuals and parties, as has happened to the BNP, is counterproductive. Within the bounds of the law, let those who will, speak, and they will be judged come the election. If there are candidates with unsavoury views or antecedents and they get elected then I think the blame falls as much on the other contesting parties as on anyone.
The electorate are rational actors who are, nonetheless, sometimes vulnerable to populist messages when the alternatives are uniformly unpalatable or untrustworthy or incomprehensible and the perceived threats are great. Simplicity may appeal more than subtlety; direct action may be more attractive than deliberative process. It is up to the contesting parties to convey their message effectively rather than rely on vulgar vilification of others.
Almost everyone has heard of the BNP and will have formed an instant opinion and in that I am no different. So, in the interests of being able to offer a better informed opinion, I surveyed their website. Having done so, I can see why some might be tempted; it is quite a slick item. Whilst a number of their key points could be restated in unexceptionable terms, the general tenor was uncongenial to me. Several of the key points I would directly oppose – e.g. on Europe, I am definitely in the Europhile camp though concerned to secure not a few changes to ensure better supra-national government in the future. Simple instantaneous withdrawal from Europe has no objective benefits that I can see and many costs.
On immigration the character of the BNP’s stance seems unbalanced, depending, as it does, on a mixture of forced and incentivised repatriation. The over-populated status of our islands is beyond negation but many other more civilised options exist for dealing with the problem.
The variety of opinion in the population is, for practical purposes, infinite. This is why I rail against the orthodoxy that would have you believe that sixty one million people’s views can be adequately represented by two and a half parties. For democratic health we need far more plural and proportionally representative government. This is the role of the Independent – to represent the people – not the party, to catalyse deliberative process, to stimulate proper debate, to advance alternative views, to ensure local opinion is heard in Westminster and heeded, to facilitate properly responsive legislation/regulation and so much more besides.
In a worrying article in The British Journal of General Practice this month the problems with for-profit providers of general practice are highlighted. Amongst other things it shows:
• that there is no effective competition between providers bidding for contracts (tender process waived or only one bidder)
• there is no effective data collection on performance or value for money
• much critical data was withheld (deeply suspicious and reprehensible behaviour)
• in four cases even the nature of the services provided was withheld(!)
Only one non-profit organisation was identified.
The question that taxpayers should be asking of the three conventional parties, who all, more or less openly, support the commercialisation of healthcare, is ‘Given that tax is being squandered as profits for business, in an unaccountable way, rather than on care for taxpayers, how do you justify such waste ?’


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