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JUN
09
0

Hung parliament – what we know so far

Hung parliament – what we know so far

 

 

 

Having only just got over the shock of the Brexit result (just about) and Theresa May’s decision to hold a snap election, the country is once again plunged into uncertainty as the Election Results for 2017 reveal a shocking outcome for the Conservative party. What was meant to be a straightforward win for the current Prime Minister – or so she thought – has instead ended in the humiliation of a hung parliament. As a result of this, Mrs May and the rest of her party face the prospect of having to form a minority government – a far cry from the majority vote and ‘stronger mandate’ she was hoping for.

In comparison, the election has been somewhat of a victory for Jeremy Corbyn and the labour party, who have gained a considerable number of seats across the UK, including Sheffield Hallam which was previously held by the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg.

To form a minority government, Theresa May will require the assistance of the Democratic Unionist Party, who she says will work together having “enjoyed a strong relationship over many years”. Were anything to happen, however, the Tories will not have the 326 seats required for a majority to pass a legislative programme.

Labour, in the meantime, will likely turn their efforts to forming their own minority government. After all, if the Conservative’s plan doesn’t pan out the way they want it to, Jeremy Corbyn could yet become Prime Minister. The question is where does this leave the dental profession?

Before the results were even properly announced we saw a fall in the value of the sterling compared to the dollar and the Euro. Between the uncertainty of a hung parliament and speculation about how the final result will impact Brexit negotiations moving forward, we are once again faced with the prospect of higher imported goods’ prices and an increase in overheads.

As for how dental practices, along with other small businesses will be affected by the whole thing, it is not yet clear what the future holds. What we do know, however, is that if May is successful in forming an alliance with DUP, there will be a number of changes made to taxation throughout 2017 into 2020. Personal Allowance, for instance, would rise to £12,500 as planned, as would the Higher Rate Threshold, which Mrs May has promised would increase to £50,000 by 2020. With scheduled reductions also due to take place to Corporation Tax (CT) if the Tories stay in, it is clear that dentists would have much to gain from a Conservative government. In regards to pensions, dentists must consider how proposed changes would affect their financial planning moving forward.

In the event that Jeremy Corbyn steps in and tries to run a minority government or form a coalition, it could be somewhat of a mixed bag. Indeed, while Labour’s promise to review business rates and bring in a small profits rate of CT for SMEs would no doubt be welcomed by many in the profession, increases in Income Tax for those earning over £80,000 certainly wouldn't be, nor would an increase in CT for larger businesses.

Brexit, in the meantime, is scheduled to go ahead as planned, so the best any of us can do is wait and see what happens!

 

For more information please call 0845 345 5060 or 0754DENTIST.

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.money4dentists.com

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JUN
01
0

Promises, promises; can anyone really save the NHS?

With days to go before the UK once again goes to the polls and a large number of voters still undecided on how to cast their vote, there is still a huge amount to play for in the General Election 2017. The handling of the NHS is critical to any party’s success, so we have scrutinised the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat’s offerings in the lead up to June 8th. If you don’t have the time or energy to trawl through hundreds of pages of manifesto pledges, read below for a helpful summary of NHS commitments.

The Commitments

 

The Conservative Party

 

1.       A commitment to the founding principles of the NHS; a service that meets the needs of everyone, based on clinical need not ability to pay and care should be free at the point of use.

2.       Spending will be increased by £8 billion in real terms over the next 5 years.

3.       Create a “truly seven-day healthcare service”, with GP weekend and evening appointments for all by 2019. Hospital consultants will be supervising patients every day, with weekend access to key diagnostic tests.

4.       Current 95% A&E target and 18 week elective care standard will be maintained.

5.       Prioritise during the EU negotiations that the 140,000 staff from EU countries “can carry on making their vital contribution to our health care system”, whilst continuing to invest in training medical students. Will encourage and develop new roles and create a diverse set of potential career paths for the NHS workforce.

6.       The most ambitious investment in building and technology that the NHS has ever seen, to ensure that care is delivered properly and efficiently.

7.       The NHS will become a “better employer”, strengthening the entitlement for flexible working and introducing better support services for employees.

8.       To implement the recommendations of the Accelerated Access Review to make sure that patients get drunk treatments faster, whilst ensuring value for money for the NHS.

9.       GPs will be expected to provide greater access, more innovative services and offer better facilities. A new GP Contract will be introduced.

10.   The role of the CQC will be extended to cover health related services commissioned by local authorities.

11.   10,000 mental health care professionals will be recruited. The co-ordination of mental health services with other local services will be improved.  

12.   Radical changes to social care for the elderly. Aligning the current means-testing for domiciliary care with that for residential care. The value of the family home will be taken into account, along with other assets and income when assessing the amount of funding that an individual will receive from the state. The current cap of £23,250 will be increased to £100,000. Individuals will be able to defer payments if receiving care at home in order to avoid selling their home during their lifetime.

13.   End of life care will be improved. Families who lose a baby will be offered additional bereavement support.

None of the above pledges have been costed in the published manifesto.

 

The Labour Party:

1.       A commitment of over £30 billion in extra funding over the next Parliament. Paid for through increased income tax for the highest 5% of earners and an increased tax on private medical insurance. Money will be freed up by halving the fees currently paid to management consultants.

2.       A new office for budgetary responsibility will be introduced to oversee health spending and scrutinise how it is spent. “Sustainability and transformation plans” will be halted, and a review undertaken, asking local people to contribute, considering patient need rather than available finance. A new regulator “NHS Excellence” will be introduced.

3.       Privatisation of the health service will be reversed. A legal duty will be introduced on the Secretary of State to ensure that excessive private profits are not made out of the NHS at the expense of the patient.

4.       Promise investment to give patients a modern, well-resourced service. Guaranteeing access to treatment within 18 weeks, taking a million people off the NHS waiting lists by the end of the next Parliament. Patients will be seen in A&E within 4 hours. Mixed sex wards will end.

5.       The Cancer Strategy for England will be fulfilled by 2020.

6.       Funding will be increased to GP services and cuts to pharmacies halted, and the current position reviewed.

7.       Patients will be given fast access to the most effective new drugs and treatments, and “value for money” agreements will be negotiated with pharma companies.

8.       To make the country “autism friendly”; with specialised care plans in place and access to condition management education.

9.       High quality and personalised end of life care.

10.   A commitment to completing the trial programme for PrEP, and rolling the treatment out to high risk groups to reduce HIV infection.    

11.   Free parking for patients, staff and visitors at hospitals by increasing tax on private medical care premiums.

12.   For the work force the pay cap will be scrapped, with an independent review body making the decision. Bursaries and funding for health related degrees will be scrapped (University tuition fees will be scrapped).

13.   The rights of EU nationals working in the NHS will be immediately guaranteed.

14.   The foundations for a “National Care Service for England” will be laid. Social care budgets will be increased by £8 billion. Place a maximum limit on lifetime personal contributions to care costs, raise the asset threshold below which people are entitled to state support, and provide free end of life care.

15.   Funding for mental health services will be ring fenced.  Out of area placements for young people will be ended by 2019. Early intervention for children and young people’s mental health services will be prioritised. Counselling services will be available in all secondary schools.

 

The Liberal Democrats:

1.       Pledge to put a penny on the pound on Income Tax to raise £6 billion in extra revenue for NHS and Social care funding. This money would be directed to key areas, including social care, primary care, mental health and public health.

2.       Commission a dedicated health and care tax following consultation.

3.       Guarantee the rights of all EU NHS and social care staff to remain in the UK.

4.       End the public sector pay freeze for NHS workers and reinstate nurse bursaries.

5.       Transforming mental health care and reducing associated waiting times to no more than 6 weeks for a therapy appointment for depression or anxiety. No young person will wait for more than two weeks for treatment when they first experience psychosis. The focus will be on young people and pregnant women/ new mothers.

6.       An end to out of area placements and improving front line services in schools and universities. Ensure LGBT and inclusive mental health services receive funding and support.

7.       Establish a cross party health and social care convention to carry out a review of the long term sustainability of the health and social care finances and workforce. Introduce a statutory independent budget monitoring agency for health and care, similar to the Office for Budget Responsibility.  

8.       Improving the integration of health and social care; ultimately creating one service with pooled budgets.

9.       Implement a cap on the cost of social care and increase the earnings limited from £100 to £150 per week for eligibility for carers’ allowance, and reduce number of care hours a week for qualification.

10.   Provide more choice of end of life care and move towards free end of life social care. Expanding the work of hospices.

11.   Promote easier access to GPs, expanding evening and weekend opening, encouraging the use of on line appointments, whilst supporting GPs to prevent practice closures.

12.   Using innovative funding to promote GP led multidisciplinary health and care hubs and ensure access to local pharmacies.

13.   Helping people stay healthy in the first place through a National Well Being strategy, including public awareness campaigns on cancer and by developing a strategy to tackle childhood obesity and a sugar tax.

14.   Introduce a minimum unit pricing for alcohol.

15.   Make PrEP for HIV prevention available on the NHS.

What will these pledges cost?

The Institute of Fiscal Studies has undertaken its own review of the funding behind each of the above pledges and state as follows;

The Conservative manifesto:  Would suggest an increase in Department of Health (DH) spending to £132 billion (in today’s prices) in 2022­–23, if the other (non-NHS) aspects of DH spending were frozen in real terms over this period. This would be an average growth in real spending of 1.2% per year between 2016–17 and 2022–23.

The Labour manifesto: promised a larger increase in health funding. Labour would increase spending relative to current government plans by £7.7 billion in 2017–18, rising to £8.4 billion (in nominal terms) by 2021-22. This could take DH spending to around £135 billion (in today’s prices) in 2021–22. This would be an average 2.0% per year real increase in spending between 2016–17 and 2021–22.

The Liberal Democrats: have pledged to increase spending on health and social care in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by approximately £6 billion each year, with £2 billion ring-fenced specifically for social care. This could imply DH spending of £131 billion (in today’s prices) in 2021-22, and average growth in spending of 1.4% per year in real terms between 2016–17 and 2021–22.

However they also conclude that the planned spending of all three parties is well below the historical 4% per year growth in health care spending per year that has been seen since 2009/10. The difference between the parties spending plans is in fact reasonably modest and as such the NHS will continue to suffer financially whoever will win the general election.

Julia Furley, Barrister, JFH Law LLP

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MAY
05
0

Decision Time!

Decision Time!
Decision time!
 
Now we have all the manifestos. We've had all the debates. We've had more hustings than in normal years. I've had over 10 in my constituency and some candidates in other seats have had over 20. We've had independent and "independent" reports. It is now decision time. 
 
I know that I had planned to report on the various manifestos, but having seen this post manifesto drama play out over the past few days, it has become clear to me that NONE of the parties can implement their manifestos in full and that ALL manifestos are more likely Talking Points for coalition negotiations. What we are seeing are not set-in-stone manifestos, but pre-negotiation posturing. That is an observation I hold as a candidate who is not from the world of career politics. Obviously all parties have their Red Lines and things they will not compromise on, but hey, if all stay rigid on everything, there will not be a government formed unless there is a single party majority which we know will not happen! Manifestos made sense when there was single party government, but in this new world, unless parties fight elections as coalitions with a common programme, individual manifestos can be seen as starting points, no more, no less. I think any business or any individual who has ever gone into any negotiation of any kind will understand this simple reality. Whatever else any party leader says is just part of the script of electoral theatre! 
 
We can only know what levers any party can use when the final figure of votes and seats is known. Any party that sits in opposition or refuses to negotiate to form a government will have NONE of its manifesto commitments implemented. This is a message not only to Liberal Democrats, but to any voter or activist of ANY party who may be wedded to a particular manifesto commitment or any voter who pretends that some party that will not participate in government formation will magically achieve its objectives just by being there in parliament! I say this knowing fully well that we are not only electing the next government but also the next opposition, we are not only electing an individual to represent the constituency but also someone who may play a substantive role on many parliamentary committees, the work of which is as important if not more important than the work of governments and oppositions. Finally, the power of an individual voter is limited to voting for one person. It is then up to a collection of such elected persons to decide who will form the next government and the next opposition. 
 
We are entering a new phase in our democracy. Gone is the 2 party state. We are now a multi-party democracy. It may not feel that way to a reader who is in a safe seat, but where I'm standing, Edinburgh South, it has been marginal for years! This time, thanks also in part to local factors, the seat could well be a 4 way marginal with the balance tipping only if tactical voting comes into play. A state of affairs that shows how unfit our First Past The Post system is for a multi-party fight. Strangely enough, it is that very system, which was designed for a two party fight and one party rule that has brought this about! But it has brought with it the spectre of tactical voting, which means that we can never really truly assess what people want or the parties and policies they really support, and we have to go more by what they DON'T want or their lesser of the evils choice. Surely, a big failure of our democracy. In Scotland, there is the likelihood, as much as I hate the idea, of tactical voting in favour of the SNP by voters who voted YES to independence, and tactical voting in favour of the party best positioned to defeat an SNP candidate by voters who voted NO in the referendum. Can you even imagine the pain on the faces of Labour and Conservative voters facing the prospect of voting for each other's candidates? 
 
What I'm also seeing is support for coalition. I could never have imagined that there would be so many Conservative voters so keen to vote for me, a Liberal Democrat. It does help that I stand for fiscal responsibility and that I'm strong on defence, but what I see is a possibility that moderate Conservative and Liberal Democrat supporters have warmed up to each other due to the shared experience of coalition. We have travelled together a long way these past five years and though there remain fundamental and wide differences on many issues, there is recognition of the fact that the coalition has worked for the country and we have surprised ourselves and each other on our ability to work together in the national interest, setting aside differences and making the necessary difficult decisions. I'm sure that there may be Conservative candidates in other seats that have seen some reciprocity too. 
 
This spirit of co-operation and consensus is to be welcomed and I do hope that the next government, whatever its combination of voices can work in the same way. 
 
I will give you a post match analysis next weekend, but for now, I have voters to meet! 
 
 
 
Image credit - André Zehetbauer  under CC licence - not modified.
 
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APR
27
0

Evolution of a Revolution?

Evolution of a Revolution?

These are politically exciting times in which we live. The earth shaking events in Nepal are unrelated of course and to those of you connected in any way, I hope that our thoughts and prayers provide comfort.

The French have had their revolutions. So have the Russians. The North American history is littered with conflict. Closer to home the Scots were victim of some brutal clearances.  The Irish found themselves on a similar receiving end of some English-driven realpolitik. The English have had their civil wars be they flower based or parliamentary in origin.

The definition of the word revolution includes this:

  • a dramatic and wide-reaching change in conditions, attitudes, or operation.
    • synonyms:  dramatic change, radical change, drastic/radical alteration, complete shift, sea change, metamorphosis, transformation, conversion,innovation, breakaway;

 

The 8th May - the day things changed

 

And now we are about to witness a UK wide political revolution.  A conflict of ideas and ideals as dramatic as any more military revolution.

On Friday the 8th May, the manifestos of the various parties will be torn into small bargaining chips. All political discussion will become secret and behind many sets of closed doors as the hidden powerhouses of advisers thrash out a deal which allows either Mr Miliband or Mr Cameron to pay a visit to Her Majesty and request that they be allowed to form a Government.

Your conversation with your patients on Friday 8th will at least be a bit different from the usual weather and holidays. But what will you think?  If we have no clear large party, by definition we have a coalition at best and minority Government at worst.  First past the post only work if you have a winner. Imagine you are overseeing a race and because you forgot your stopwatch and glasses, the result looks like a sort of fuzzy dead heat where does that leave the voting system?  In dentistry of course we used to have transferrable votes for electing the GDC - heady days, eh? We were ahead of the game I suggest.

Where does this leave dentistry in the minds of our politicians?

I for one find it quite extraordinary that less than a year ago we as a profession were making headlines with child dental health and child hospital admissions being the headline concern, but allied to issues of obesity, diet and refined carbohydrate.  You all know what it takes to be dentally healthy.

The drive for caries-free children is not a mystery. You all know that.

 

Dentistry... why, is there a problem?

 

So has dentistry been, if not a headline element, perhaps a second string part of any debate?

Nah.  Non.  Nyet.  Not a dicky bird.  It’s as though the 45% of the population who never visit a dentist are happy to take their own teeth out, [and for those of you so inclined to listen again, our colleague Dr Tony Kilcoyne had to endure a strange slot on Jezza Vine on BBC R2 recently].[1]

Meanwhile the 55% of the population who do visit a dentist are commendably happy with their service and experience, and are no doubt filling out the FFT as we speak.

Well they will be, until told by dentist A that their crown and root canal must be privately funded, and yet dentist B can provide the same treatment for a friend under the NHS and everyone is correct!

Clarity of NHS provision in dentistry is a ticking political time bomb with a shortening fuse. The lawyers are the ones who keep relighting the fuse and at some point it will be a major problem.

And yet sadly, dentistry has as a profession and an NHS Primary Care service been parked in the sidings of political irrelevance. We have in political terms, been marked with a large tick.

Have the politicians taken their eyes off the dental ball? You might think so. If you read the NHS Confidence Survey by Practice Plan, [2]  the mood of dentists is darkening from so many angles it is hard to find true optimism anywhere for Government funded activity. [3]

Well come the 8th May we are going to witness the start of a Revolution whoever polls the most votes.  Indeed those who poll the least may feature the most.

Perhaps dentistry will feature during the post-election negotiations?

 

And of course for those of you in Manchester for the BDA Conference…  [4]   Well maybe that will be the long-needed start of a dental revolution.

It’s not too late to check in and go have an excellent three days of networking and updating across a huge range of dentistry

A chance perhaps for at the very least a bit of private revolution.

Enjoy the long weekends coming up.  That grass is still growing...

 

[1]  Dr Tony Kilcoyne on BBC R2  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05qsjpl

[2]  Practice Plan NHS Confidence Monitor  http://www.NHSDentistryInsights.co.uk

[3]  Dr Claire Roberts at Dentistry portal http://www.dentistry.co.uk/2015/04/22/reflecting-future-nhs/

[4]  BDA Conference agenda 
https://bdaconnect.bda.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Conference-Preview-Brochure-2015-WEB.pdf

 

 

 

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FEB
10
1

The Dental Professions and the 2015 General Election

 
The Dental Professions and the 2015 General Election
 
I write this at a time when I'm a dentist, and a candidate for what will be the most unpredictable General Election that most people can remember. There are just so many factors in this election that only a fool would even attempt to predict its outcome. With such unpredictability also comes power. Power to the voter. The voter can now expect every candidate to work hard for their vote. I never liked the two party state or the disgusting reality of safe seats. The very idea of safe seats is so disempowering! Imagine a seat which is so predictable that your vote doesn't change much locally, that your MP takes their seat for granted and never really has to fight for your vote! The sad reality is that there are too many such seats. But, 2015 could change that to some extent, with the arrival of a multi party democracy like we haven't seen before. Where every candidate and every party will have to fight for every vote. I welcome this new era. 
 
Now how can dentists benefit from this? What is it that makes dentists vote one way or another? Dentists are a very well educated, articulate and intelligent lot! There will not be one or two issues that sway them, but a range of issues and not always dental issues. But dental issues are important, and not just to dentists who predominantly work in the NHS. 
 
Here are some issues which face dentistry over the next five years:
 

1. What do we do about the General Dental Council? 

 
The GDC is now viewed as being draconian and out of touch with the profession. I can't see any world where it would be acceptable to demand such an extortionate Annual Retention Fee. I have discussed this with many politicians, patients, and other people whom I meet on the campaign trail, and every last one of them is alarmed at the figure of £890. I have contacted the health team of my party and requested them  to include  a line about reform of the GDC in our manifesto. Obviously, there will have to be further discussions about this and I am hopeful that we can do something about this in the next parliament. Reform of the professional regulator is something on which almost all dentists agree! 

 

2. What do we do about NHS dentistry in England? 

 
I have worked with the Unit of Dental Activity ( UDA) system in England. I worked in the North of England ( Middlesbrough, and then Hull ), areas of high dental need where this system just did not seem fair to performer dentists. My bigger problem with the system was a lack of transparency and fairness. With the fee per item system in Scotland ( which was the system in England prior to 2006) the fees were clear for all to see and distribution between owners and associates was visibly fair, also patients knew exactly what they were paying for . But with UDAs, associates having no Idea what the real value of a UDA was, it was easy for them to be squeezed! I struggle to see fairness in the system. Fairness for the patient who does the right thing and may need the occasional filling or crown , but finds themselves paying a lot more under this system for that filling or crown. Fairness for the conscientious dentist who would like to practise the way they were taught dentistry, the way it is to be practised, with emphasis on prevention. There doesn't seem to be any provision for prevention to be done properly!  Fairness for the provider who may be in an area of high need but who may be stuck with a lower UDA rate than the needs of the area demand. 
 
I'm not saying that fee per item is the best system. I currently work in this system in Scotland and it has its disadvantages, but it is transparent and it is generally fair to all parties concerned. ( Obviously we would like to see higher fees for certain items of treatment, but that must be tempered by the fact that  I'm yet to meet a dentist who would ever say that any particular fee was high enough! ) 
 
There are many pilots in operation and we must study them carefully. I believe that healthcare planning and delivery in England must be devolved. The needs of the Home Counties are very different from the needs of Wales or Northern England. A one size fits all approach just cannot and does not work! I really hope the BDA takes this change very seriously! It is easy to accept a new system, but when the system doesn't work very well, it does take an awfully long time to change it as we are all seeing. 
 
If there is one reform to healthcare in England that we must achieve in the next parliament, it must be devolution of planning and delivery ( with protected budgets for areas of high need, and/or deprivation ) 
 

3. What can all dentists look forward to in the next parliament? 

 
NHS or private, we can all agree that regulation of all forms has gone insane! We are over regulated! It just appears in some cases to be regulation for regulation's sake! We must review the regulation that currently strangles the profession and do away with unnecessary regulation, definitely with double regulation ( it just doesn't make sense for the same criterion to be regulated by multiple regulators! ) Simplification of Regulation! Another thing that I will bring up with my party's health team. 
 
In general terms, dentists as citizens care for the same things that most other citizens do. A strong economy, a just and fair society, an environment where we and our children can thrive happily. Whichever party or combination of parties as is more likely the case in this era of coalitions, delivers all that will deserve our votes. 
 
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Dental Profession, 2015 Electi...

Pramod "I have worked with the Unit of Dental Activity ( UDA) system in England. I worked in the North of England ( Middlesbrough... Read More
Wednesday, 11 February 2015 09:14
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JAN
11
0

So why did I join the Liberal Democrats?

So why did I join the Liberal Democrats?
In the heady days leading up to the general election in 2010, when the political tone seemed to be very hostile towards immigration and immigrants,  the only sane voice seemed to be that of Nick Clegg's. Now for someone like me who at that time still was on a temporary work permit, that made a big difference. The UK can seem very hostile to immigrants in their early years here. Especially recently, and I lived for years in fear of that hostility. Nick's calm welcoming voice was a relief from all that I was hearing at that time.
 
I was so impressed by that first debate that I decided to donate some money to this good party, I went online and made the payment. I also ticked a box which then made me a member of the party. 
 
Now that made me research the party and then it was a no brainer. 
 
Liberalism, it really is a no brainer. It sounds right, it looks right and it is right ( well , centre or left of centre we would be more likely to say generally ) 
 
I found myself agreeing with all of the various liberal strands. Personal, Political, Economic and Social
 

Personal Liberalism:

 
Respecting personal freedoms, and protecting individuals from state and majority oppression, from the surveillance state ,from conformism. This is so important now in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo and other killings in France. The importance of freedom of expression, of the freedom to live as we may choose and without the expectation of conforming to any ' norms' defined by any single person or any group of persons, whatever their number.
 

Political Liberalism: 

 
Power is best exercised by or closest to the people affected by it. The idea of localism, the idea that brought about devolution, the idea of local and regional structures taking on more responsibility and not being dependant on Westminster and Whitehall. At the same time,the idea of internationalism and international co-operation. A recognition that we are all citizens of the planet and that there are too many artificial barriers that we tend to erect. 
 

Economic Liberalism:

 
The idea of the free market, of the freedom to make our choices of work and enterprise. The idea that monopolies, either state or private are bad. The idea that the market can and will find the solutions to our economic problems ( though needing a nudge at times to guard against excesses ). The idea that people should be free in the spirit of enterprise to make their mistakes, but that we should not let anyone sink beyond a minimum level and ensuring that the minimum is always getting better than the day before, the week before, the month before, the year before and so on. The state cannot be better than the individual in deciding what works best for them. The state should help where it can and then get out of the way! Only intervening where necessary to ensure fairness when there is obvious exploitation of the vulnerable.

 

Social Liberalism: 

 
The idea that more equal societies are also more happy societies. Now absolute equality is impossible to achieve and I would argue that there is no such thing! But we can do our best to ensure equality of opportunity as far as possible, to break down barriers where they exist or where they are artificially erected by vested interests. And while we can never ensure equality of outcome even where we remove inequalities of opportunity, we must strive to keep on getting better. This concept of always, continuous improvement, something that is the cornerstone of our dental CPD also applies to life in general and to society as a whole. 
 
 
When I considered all the above, I knew that I had joined the right party. I was a candidate for council in a Middlesbrough in 2011.  When I moved to Scotland, I was made the Scottish EMLD ( Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat) representative and then I won an internal selection to be selected as the PPC ( for Edinburgh South ) and here I am now, to fly the flag of liberalism in this week when liberal values have been so threatened, and knowing that in early January almost 4 million people marched all over France and in the UK too expressing solidarity with their fellow citizens. Here I find myself, selected as a PPC a mere four and a half years after joining the party, a mere nine and a half years after having moved to the UK. I am definitely happy and proud of the distance that I've covered, but Oh! There's so much more to do and I've barely got started! 
 
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