Excellent Result in Oldham East and Saddleworth

Labour Party

Excellent news in Oldham East and Saddleworth. Gaining more than 42 percent of the vote with a majority of over 3500 Labour has demonstrated that we are coming back strongly. We are once again a force to be reckoned with.

Tellingly the Conservative vote collapsed, a mere 4500 votes, just under 13 percent, a very poor third indeed. As we may have expected the Liberal Democrats took 31.9 percent, unsurprising perhaps in this Liberal area.

Our new MP, Debbie Abrahams, is an expert on health and I very much hope she will put this to good use in the House of Commons. There is, indeed much to be done, not least in response to the Tory-led coalition’s recent public consultation document.  

Martin Rathfelder, Director of the Socialist Health Association (SHA), recently panned Liberating the NHS: Greater choice and control saying Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s idea that free market competition will drive up standards and drive down prices was communicated in a duplicitous way.

The words ‘private’, “market” or “commercial” do not, in fact, appear in the 58-page document. Instead, commercial services are referred to as ‘any willing provider’ or as ‘independent providers’, obviously an attempt to stop people saying what they think about NHS privatisation. Companies owned by shareholders and hedge funds are not independent. They are accountable to owners who want to see profits.

The British Attitudes Survey has already found that the public are suspicious of private organisations running or providing public services. Less than a third of those surveyed favoured private companies providing NHS hospital services. It is sad when a public consultation document that claims to be ‘about giving people the information they need to exercise control’ is doing the opposite, for fear of the public saying what the Conservative-led government already knows they think. 

The SHA have said they support choice for patients over treatment options and amongst existing (mostly NHS) providers, as indeed do I. Most patients want more choice about how they are treated. Fewer want a choice about where they are treated, and most money is spent on patients who are too ill to choose. The examples of choice in the document are choices which are already available to patients. The plan to fragment services so that every aspect of the patient pathway is exposed to competition is not apparent to the reader.

You may be interested to know that the Socialist Health Association, which helped to establish the NHS in 1948, has seen its membership shoot up 10% since the publication of Mr Lansley’s plans for the NHS, graphically illustrating that people do not trust the Tories with the NHS.

More women at Davos but not enough standing in Oldham

Labour Party

It may well be that turn-out in today’s by-election in Oldham East and Saddleworth will be the determining factor and respected leading pollster Peter Kellner has already made this point on LabourList. As they say, all we can do is wait, apart, that is, from encouraging people to vote Labour.

It may have escaped your notice that all the mainstream party candidates are men apart from Labour’s Debbie Abrahams. While entirely predictable, it’s a sure sign that party politics in the UK is still a very much a male preserve. Although I obviously want a Labour victory I would also hope to have seen more women on the ballot paper. 

Yet there in one organisation in the news today which is determined to see women playing their full part. According to the Guardian the World Economic Forum has introduced a gender quota demanding that its strategic partners, including Barclays, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, must bring along at least one woman in every group of five senior executives sent to next week’s high profile meeting at Davos in Switzerland. Since these strategic partners make up about 500 of the 2500 participants at Davos, this is a significant move in getting more women involved.

About time too. The annual Davos gathering has always been far too male dominated as indeed is the whole financial sector. Less than three percent of chief executives of the top 500 companies world-wide are female and only 15 percent of government and parliamentary positions are held by women. As far as the Davos meeting is concerned, between 2001 to 2005 the percentage of female attendees ranged from 15 percent to as little as nine percent.

 If the traditional and conservative world of finance is able to improve its gender balance, surely politics can do the same.

Best wishes to Debbie Abrahams in Oldham East and Saddleworth

Labour Party

While it would be folly to claim victory prematurely in Oldham East and Saddleworth, there’s no doubt it’s looking good for Labour. The latest polls point to a comfortable Labour victory and by a margin much larger than that achieved at the 2010 general election.

Polls conducted by ICM and Populus both placed Labour 17 points ahead of the Liberal Democrats. ICM put Labour on 44%, the Lib Dems on 27%, the Tories on 18% and others on 12%. Populus put Labour on 46%, the Lib Dems on 29%, the Tories on 15% and others on 10%.Labour selects candidate for Oldham East & Saddleworth by-election

And Labour has a woman candidate, Debbie Abrahams who was Labour’s candidate in Colne Valley at this year’s general election. If and when elected she will be a huge asset in Westminster. A public health consultant, a former director of public health research at Liverpool University and the former chair of Rochdale primary care trust she is set to make a truly valuable contribution. Health is, after all, Labour’s flagship policy area where we must do all we can to fight the Tory-led coalition’s cuts.

What is more, Debbie lives in Oldham who has promised to deliver the best possible deal for local people.

There are currently 95 female Labour MPs – three times the number of those in all other parties put together. However, according to the Fawcett Society it would still take Labour 20 years to get an equal gender split in the House of Commons.

If you think that’s bad, the Liberal Democrats would need twice that amount of time.  But, as ever, it’s the Tories who have the real problem; they would need 400 years before they had the same number of women as male MPs.