Just like the good old days… Peter Hammond prancing like a tit in the council chamber; John Bees slamming down his copy of The Daily Star, stubbing out his Lambie and reprising his tired old working class, man of the people, I’m-union-’til-I-die schtick and Helen Holland wiping her brow copiously and being oh-so-concerned for the downtrodden of city.
Meanwhile over on the Tory benches Tweedle-Dee, Peter Abraham, and Tweedle Dum, Richard Eddy, are revisiting their obscure moral point scoring routine for old time’s sake while all 30-odd Lib Dem councillors sit, dumbstruck, shuffling papers and staring at their feet, praying that one of them will eventually stand up and manage to string a few coherent sentences together that resemble an argument.
Haven’t we been here before? Twice to be precise. In 2003 when the Lib Dems made huge gains at the local election and declined to form a minority administration and again in 2004 when the Labour Party walked away from “The Rainbow Coalition” after Barbara Janke declined to inform anybody about what she may have known about John Astley’s sexual pecadilloes.
This time round the issue is home care. The Lib Dems wanna privatise it, the Labour Party don’t and the Tories seem to see it as a useful political tool to get their tired old stagers Eddy and Abraham back in the cabinet and at the top end of the councillors’ pay scale.
To be fair to the Lib Dems they did offer to form a minority administration – three times! Although admittedly their efforts were muted – Comer, Hopkins and Dr Jon Rogers mumbling a few words from hastily drawn up notes on the back of fag packets – knowing full well that the Labour Party, on a very high moral horse indeed and supported by the Tories, would reject their offer unless they agreed to do a u-turn on home care.
The Lib Dems declined the u-turn, got voted down by the Labour/Tory alliance and then invited Labour to form an administration. And this is where things get murky. Throughout the evening, one after the other, Holland, Hammond and Bees thundered – to applause from their union friends’ carefully orchestrated audience of home care workers – that the people of Bristol had spoken at the elections and wanted an end to home care privatisation.
So why couldn’t Labour form a minority administration with the support of their Tory friends and carry out the will of the people that they had been so eloquently expressing in the council chamber?
Um, er… They haven’t answered that one yet! Which, let’s face it, is pretty cheeky. Having run an election campaign to save the home care service, they are now declining to save the home care service. Having got the home care workers to campaign on their behalf at the elections to save their jobs, they are now declining to save their jobs. What a bunch of frauds. What’s going on?
It’s simple really. The Labour Party has made election promises they simply can’t keep. Firstly, it is Labour Party policy nationally to privatise home care services and they can’t go against that.
Secondly, home care privatisation is a Bristol Labour policy. In 2005 they personally selected at great expense a new-Labour consultant, John Parrrott, to devise a new social services strategy after they had run up a £21m debt in the department.
Parrott’s report clearly sets out a blueprint for the privatisation of adult social services including home care. The whole of the city council unaminously agreed to adopt this strategy at a full council meeting in March 2005 with little debate or scrutiny of what Parrott really had in mind. The resolution to accept the strategy was proposed by Labour Leader Peter Hammond – now a born again anti-privatisation campaigner – and seconded by then Social Services boss Robin Moss, who lost his seat for his troubles.
When the city council accepted the Parrott Report in its entirety there was virtually no opposition to it. Apart, that is, from a few ‘Save Bristol Day Care’ campaigners sat in the public gallery of the council chamber desperately waving copies of Parrott’s report and trying to tell seemingly ignorant councillors it was a privatisation plan. For their troubles, the campaigners got a considerable amount of abuse – much of it personal – from councillors of all parties.
Back then the trade unions were nowhere to be seen. The policy to privatise Bristol’s adult social services went through courtesy of Labour and with the tacit support of the unions. Precisely, now, the people objecting to it.
Moreover, since the debate and discussion over the Parrott Report was so cursory no other proposals were ever put forward. Privatisation of Bristol’s adult services was a fait accompli delivered by the Bristol Labour Party. It’s the policy they left behind when they left office in 2005 and it is a policy that has been pursued now for two years. Along with the Tories, Labour now seem to be disowning their own policy. Why didn’t they do that at the time? It stands to reason that if you do not agree with your own policy you can, if you want, reject it and come up with something you do agree with.
As things stand, the Bristol Labour Party has lied to the electorate and they have lied to the home care workers. They are the privatisers. Home care privatisation is a Labour policy locally – they devised it – and it is also their government’s policy. If this is not the case, why don’t they grow up, stop poncing about, stop hurling soppy abuse around the council chamber, stop blaming Lib Dems, stop blaming officers, take control of the bloody council and do as they promised?
Isn’t it the purpose of a politician to run things not mince around a council chamber offering up theatrical excuses why you can’t?
What’s really stopping the Labour party then? Surely they’re not promoting policies in opposition that they can’t deliver in power. Perish the thought!
COMING SOON: What next? Lib Dem stick or twist?