Editorial Wednesday 29 June 2016: More on the clandestine McDonnell health policy review
Since publishing yesterday's piece revealing the clandestine review of health policy by John McDonnell, I have had various challenges by email and social media about my sources.
The documentary source material is from the minutes of a grouping of health campaigners. Two separate individuals sent me the same document. Helpfully, I've since seen that it's on their website.
To be extremely clear: this grouping of health campaigners is perfectly legitimate, and is not the 'secret process' I described. I don't know most of them, and I don't know whether they are Labour Party members. (I have also clarified my description of "hard-left" in what I wrote yesterday to "left-wing", as on reflection I think this is fairer.)
My additional sources are other individuals who worked in and for the former shadow health team. (Note: since publication, three other individuals with knowledge of the situation have been in touch to confirm the accuracy of this account.)
The notes (from which I have redacted most individuals' names in pursuit of fair balance between privacy and the public interest) refer to the creation of this secret process, yet they describe a meeting in Parliament on 13 April with former shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander and John McDonnell.
"Ah," I hear my interlocutors say, "how can it be a secret process if Heidi Alexander was there?"
It'd be a good point, if she'd been invited.
But she wasn't.
Her team found out about it from someone who was uncomfortable that she hadn't been invited, and she had to gatecrash the meeting.
Think about that: John McDonnell set up a meeting and ongoing process about shaping Labour's health policy, and he didn't inform or invite the shadow health secretary or her team.
That's secret and clandestine, right there.
Is there a glimmer of hope when it later states "This is an important opportunity to have an ongoing dialogue with the shadow health team and JMcD’s team"?
There is not, unfortunately. The shadow health team were not informed about or party to this plan or process. They were deliberately excluded. This was led by John McDonnell: as the document states, "we are invited to form an advisory group at John McDonnell’s request".
And Momentum's name crops up a fair bit.
This describes how the Labour Party is supposed to formulate policy, and there is more detail here.
And it's unambiguously not what's been going on, as described in the extracts from this document, and confirmed by multiple sources.
The document: relevant sections
Influencing the Labour Party
Name Redacted described the request from Name Redacted (John McDonnell’s assistant; 21 April) for HCT to put together an advisory group comprising no more than seven people to advise Labour on the NHS. Name Redacted described the meeting held at the Houses of Parliament with John McDonnell and Heidi Alexander which preceded this (13 April), and outlined the proposal to assign categories to the seven-person group (Appendix B) with some suggestions as to who might best represent each category and/or support those on the advisory group itself (which need not necessarily have the same people on it at all times).
The proposed categories for the advisory group, its purpose, and the political reasons behind it were discussed.
ACCEPTED: the seven categories were accepted nem con as interim categories to proceed with, but subject to some flexibility.
AGREED: A broad consensus was reached. Name Redacted was asked to liaise with individuals to determine their role in the ‘policy research’ and ‘campaign research’ categories, which is not confined to members of HCT member-organisations. Names Redacted to be approached about the ‘NHS Bill’ category. Momentum NHS to represent the ‘Labour Movement/NHS’ category. Names Redacted to liaise with other clinicians as to who should represent the ‘clinicians’ category. 999 For The NHS will determine who should represent the ‘local activist network’ category. Keep Our NHS Public will work with other national campaigning groups to determine who should represent the ‘National NHS campaign knowledge’ category. Name Redacted is to coordinate this process overall.
Name Redacted to ring Name Redacted (John McDonnell’s assistant) on the Monday following the meeting (25 April) and outline what had been achieved.
Motions to Labour (and other CLPs) and trade unions
Name Redacted introduced the model motion (Appendix C) which was then described and discussed in further detail. Name Redacted (Momentum) agreed that a shorter version of the model motion should be drawn up. He also outlined the process for drafting a contemporary motion, to be submitted to Labour Conference, which would reflect the substance of the model motion.
Discussion paper on advising Labour
We are invited to form an advisory group at John McDonnell’s request. This is an important opportunity to have an ongoing dialogue with the shadow health team and JMcD’s team. They have suggested an advisory group of no more than seven places in meetings.
What kind of advice does Labour need? The answer to this question informs how we propose the advisory group.
• Labour needs to be up to date and informed on health and social policy research, including economic and health inequalities data;
• It needs to know about the impact of Tory/NHSE policy changes and reconfigurations on local services and populations;
• It needs to be up to date on the clinical impact on the NHS and to be advised on up to date clinical;
• It needs to engage with the drafters of the NHS Bill and the well-thought out rationale behind the draft
• It needs to be informed about work in the labour movement in health unions on the NHS;
I see seven areas of input that would be beneficial in aiding Labour to develop appropriate NHS, health and social care policy. I suggest that one or two leads for each should work with other key persons with relevant expertise in each category could work as a mini-team keeping in touch with each other between meetings.
Attendance at meetings would be by one rep, with cover for continuity and collaboration between meetings.
Many people have been involved at every level of NHS work and could bring knowledge and expertise to several categories.
It is important that the advisory group has an informed overview, with mechanisms of ensuring they are informed, by networking;
John McDonnell’s team has asked that GPs and junior doctors feed into this process.
It is important (a) that there is a balance of gender and (b) to avoid a London dominated grouping
I propose these categories for a 7-place forum and I make suggestions:
* policy research: Names Redacted.
* campaign research: Names Redacted.
* NHS Bill: Names Redacted.
* National NHS campaign knowledge: KONP as the longest lasting national body
* Local activist network: NAN/999 to agree between them
* Clinicians: Names Redacted. Labour movement NHS: Name Redacted, Name Redacted, Momentum
Update: More on this story here .