Essex's nurses deserve more than spin

THE strategy is clear - having flushed out of the Conservative right that it favours large tax cuts, Labour will hammer home the message that the Tories want to slash public spending, even though it is the very opposite of official policy.

By Graham Dines

THE strategy is clear - having flushed out of the Conservative right that it favours large tax cuts, Labour will hammer home the message that the Tories want to slash public spending, even though it is the very opposite of official policy.

This was clearly demonstrated in the Commons when Chancellor Gordon Brown refused to defend health cuts which mean nurses are being trained in Chelmsford only to join the dole queue, but instead launched into an attack on “irresponsible” tax cuts.

The Tory tax commission was chaired by John Redwood. Party leader David Cameron is as likely to take notice of this right wing fanaticism as Tony Blair would if Tony Benn chaired a Labour commission into nuclear weapons.


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Perhaps Mr Cameron deserves what he gets. Policy initiatives are few and far between from the Tory leader, so any proposals emanating from within the party are talked up by opponents because that is all they have to clutch on to.

Nevertheless the Chancellor - who strangely runs to earth when anything goes wrong in the Treasury, and overpaying child tax credits is a perfect example - really ought to know better than to pretend that John Redwood is setting Conservative taxation policy.

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If Mr Brown does become Prime Minister, he will bang on and on about this, even though he knows the official Conservative position is not to cut taxes at the expense of public spending, especially on the crisis-hit National Health Services.

Which brings us back to Chelmsford. The town's Tory MP Simon Burns challenged the Chancellor to agree “that there is something seriously cock-eyed in the relationship between skills in the work force and economic growth and performance when people such as those at my local university in Chelmsford, who have trained for between two and three years to become highly skilled nurses, could not find a job when they completed their training because the local NHS Trust had to make 250 nurses redundant last week.”

Mr Brown said 80,000 new nurses were being employed in the NHS and more than 20,000 new doctors under Labour.

“The health service budget will expand next year. I believe that nurses now in training will get jobs in the future, but the only policy that would prevent them from doing so, and prevent us from expanding the NHS, is to go for irresponsible tax cuts in preference to investment in public services,” said Mr Brown.

An answer that made absolutely no reference to either Anglia Ruskin University or Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford.

Mr Burns said afterwards: “Rather than insult those in Chelmsford who have been adversely affected by

this situation through his patronising New Labour spin, he should have recognised the seriousness of the situation.”

While university graduates such as nurses have no guarantee of a local job and should be prepared to move to areas where there are chronic shortage, there really ought to be some sort of inquiry into why the East of England is suffering huge health debts resulting in service cuts - in New Labour jargon “reconfiguration” - while Labour voting areas are awash with NHS cash.

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