A series of rows has marred the work of the Lib Dems policy working group on public services, resulting in both an expected minority report and a complaint to Federal Policy Committee chair Duncan Hames about the way the group has been run.
FPC set it up with a unwieldy brief to examine education, health, transport and ‘cross cutting public services’, each of which could probably have sustained a working group in its own right.
There was a dispute right at the start when the chair was awarded to Jeremy Hargreaves, a long-serving denizen of the party’s policy processes, and not to former Romsey MP Sandra Gidley, who is viewed as unsound by what many refer to as ‘the Clegg children’.
They do not of course mean his actual children but rather the coterie of academically bright but politically clueless young advisers with whom he has seen fit to surround himself.
Most prominent among the dissidents is Charles West, a general practitioner who fought Shrewsbury and Atcham at the last general election.
In is complaint to Hames, West has noted: “You may be aware of the fact that a number of us in the policy working group discussing public services have been seriously concerned about the way in which the group has functioned.”
He went on to set out concerns that Hargreaves had acted autocratically and rejected input with which he disagreed, and that votes had not been held on contentious matters.
West has elaborated on his concerns and it now looks like the Glasgow conference in October will be presented with either a lot of options or amendments.
Hargreaves told Liberator that disagreements had arisen over West’s wish to commit the party to ending the purchaser/ provider split in health. He said the rest of the group had simply not agreed with West.
It was quite usual for FPC to be given differing views by a working group but Hargreaves said West had suddenly called for a vote on the split long after the group had rejected the idea and this had not been taken. He described the group’s work as “very consensual”. How consensual will no doubt become apparent at Glasgow.