Jeremy Hunt waits to deliver a speech at the Evelina London Children's Hospital on July 5, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.
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The Tories can't avoid the blame for hospitals being put in special measures

The emergency action is a damning indictment of the pressures the government has created on the frontline.

Today, Jeremy Hunt shockingly tried to claim credit for the number of hospitals placed in special measures. He spoke as if these problems on the frontline were nothing to do with him – and that his role was simply to call them out. He placed 11 trusts in special measures last year following a review by Sir Bruce Keogh and five more have gone into special measures since.

The truth is that this Tory-led government has caused huge problems in the NHS. And the fact that so many hospitals have had to be placed in special measures is a damning indictment of the pressures the government has created on the frontline – and for which they have never apologised.

In Spring 2013, three years after David Cameron began his vast, top-down reorganisation of the NHS, Bruce Keogh inspected 14 hospital trusts and found worrying care problems. Some of these hospitals had been under pressure for some time. But far from getting to grips with the problems, the Tory-led government made matters far, far worse.

First, they turned the NHS upside down with an unnecessary reorganisation that sucked £3bn out of patient care. When David Cameron was forcing his health Bill through, NHS leaders warned the reorganisation was putting services at risk. But he refused to listen and ploughed on regardless.

Second, in the first three years of the Parliament, Cameron presided over the loss of thousands of NHS nurses. Unsurprisingly, the Keogh Review said nursing shortages were a key cause of the problems they found – yet the government has never taken responsibility for this. The fact that the NHS has now had to scramble to recruit more nurses is an admission the Government made a monumental error letting numbers fall so far in the first place. Equally worrying are the cuts we have seen to nurse training places – 10,000 fewer trained over the last four years – which is only storing up problems for the future.

Astonishingly, Jeremy Hunt talked about the need for transparency in the NHS. But the government still refuses to comply with the Information Commissioner’s ruling that they publish the risk assessment for their NHS reorganisation – despite the fact that Robert Francis, who led the inquiry into Mid-Staffordshire hospital trust, called for these assessments to be made public. Were the government warned their reorganisation would lead to the haemorrhaging of nurses and widespread care problems? Were they warned their reorganisation would hit A&E? While they continue to cover things up, I guess we’ll never know.

The vast majority of NHS staff now say that David Cameron’s reorganisation has harmed patient care. Incredibly, just 3 per cent say it has improved patient care. A recent survey for the Nursing Times found the majority of nurses saying their ward was dangerously understaffed, and more nurses said that safety has worse over the last year than better. The sad truth is that by turning the NHS upside down with a damaging reorganisation and causing a crisis in A&E, the government has made care problems more likely, not less.

I’m proud it was the last Labour government that introduced independent regulation of healthcare, and we support tough inspections of hospitals. That shouldn’t stop us asking how we can prevent care problems occurring in the first place, though – and scrutinising the damage this government has done to patient care.

Jamie Reed is Labour MP for Copeland.

Photo: Getty
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How the row over Jackie Walker triggered a full-blown war in Momentum

Jon Lansman, the organisation's founder, is coming under attack. 

The battle for control within Momentum, which has been brewing for some time, has begun in earnest.

In a sign of the growing unrest within the organisation – established as the continuation of Jeremy Corbyn’s first successful leadership bid, and instrumental in delivering in his re-election -  a critical pamphlet by the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL), a Trotskyite grouping, has made its way into the pages of the Times, with the “unelected” chiefs of Momentum slated for turning the organisation into a “bland blur”.

The issue of contention: between those who see Momentum as an organisation to engage new members of the Labour party, who have been motivated by Jeremy Corbyn but are not yet Corbynites.

One trade unionist from that tendency described what they see the problem as like this: “you have people who have joined to vote for Jeremy, they’re going to meetings, but they’re voting for the Progress candidates in selections, they’re voting for Eddie Izzard [who stood as an independent but Corbynsceptic candidate] in the NEC”.  

On the other are those who see a fightback by Labour’s right and centre as inevitable, and who are trying to actively create a party within a party for what they see as an inevitable purge. One activist of that opinion wryly described Momentum as “Noah’s Ark”.

For both sides, Momentum, now financially stable thanks to its membership, which now stands at over 20,000, is a great prize. And in the firing line for those who want to turn Momentum into a parallel line is Jon Lansman, the organisation’s founder.

Lansman, who came into politics as an aide to Tony Benn, is a figure of suspicion on parts of the broad left due to his decades-long commitment to the Labour party. His major opposition within Momentum and on its ruling executive comes from the AWL.

The removal of Jackie Walker as a vice-chair of Momentum after she said that Holocaust Memorial Day belittled victims of other genocides has boosted the AWL, although the AWL's Jill Mountford, who sits on Momentum's ruling executive, voted to remove Walker as vice-chair. (Walker remains on the NEC, as she has been elected by members). But despite that, the AWL, who have been critical of the process whereby Walker lost her post, have felt the benefit across the country.

Why? Because that battle has triggered a series of serious splits, not only in Momentum’s executive but its grassroots. A raft of local groups have thrown out the local leadership, mostly veterans of Corbyn’s campaign for the leadership, for what the friend of one defeated representative described as “people who believe the Canary [a pro-Corbyn politics website that is regularly accused of indulging and promoting conspiracy theories]”.

In a further series of reverses for the Lansmanite caucus, the North West, a Momentum stronghold since the organisation was founded just under a year ago, is slipping away from old allies of Lansman and towards the “new” left. As one insider put it, the transition is from longstanding members towards people who had been kicked out in the late 1980s and early 1990s by Neil Kinnock. The constituency party of Wallasey in particular is giving senior figures in Momentum headaches just as it is their opponents on the right of the party, with one lamenting that they have “lost control” of the group.

It now means that planned changes to Momentum’s structure, which the leadership had hoped to be rubberstamped by members, now face a fraught path to passage.

Adding to the organisation’s difficulties is the expected capture of James Schneider by the leader’s office. Schneider, who appears widely on television and radio as the public face of Momentum and is well-liked by journalists, has an offer on the table to join Jeremy Corbyn’s team at Westminster as a junior to Seumas Milne.

The move, while a coup for Corbyn, is one that Momentum – and some of Corbyn’s allies in the trade union movement – are keen to resist. Taking a job in the leader’s office would reduce still further the numbers of TV-friendly loyalists who can go on the airwaves and defend the leadership. There is frustration among the leader’s office that as well as Diane Abbott and John McDonnell, who are both considered to be both polished media performers and loyalists, TV bookers turn to Ken Livingstone, who is retired and unreliable, and Paul Mason, about whom opinions are divided within Momentum. Some regard Mason as a box office performer who needs a bigger role, others as a liability.

But all are agreed that Schneider’s expected departure will weaken the media presence of Corbyn loyalists and also damage Momentum. Schneider has spent much of his time not wrangling journalists but mediating in local branches and is regarded as instrumental in the places “where Momentum is working well” in the words of one trade unionist. (Cornwall is regarded as a particular example of what the organisation should be aiming towards)

It comes at a time when Momentum’s leadership is keen to focus both on its external campaigns but the struggle for control in the Labour party. Although Corbyn has never been stronger within the party, no Corbynite candidate has yet prevailed in a by-election, with the lack of available candidates at a council level regarded as part of the problem. Councilors face mandatory reselection as a matter of course, and the hope is that a bumper crop of pro-Corbyn local politicians will go on to form the bulk of the talent pool for vacant seats in future by-elections and in marginal seats at the general election.

But at present, a draining internal battle is sapping Momentum of much of its vitality. But Lansman retains two trump cards. The first is that as well as being the founder of the organisation, he is its de facto owner: the data from Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaigns, without which much of the organisation could not properly run, is owned by a limited company of which he is sole director. But “rolling it up and starting again” is very much the nuclear option, that would further delay the left’s hopes of consolidating its power base in the party.

The second trump card, however, is the tribalism of many of the key players at a local level, who will resist infiltration by groups to Labour’s left just as fiercely as many on the right. As one veteran of both Corbyn’s campaigns reflected: “If those who have spent 20 years attacking our party think they have waiting allies in the left of Labour, they are woefully mistaken”. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.