Archive by Author | Liberal Guerilla

UKIP illiteracy

One of the lessons of this election has been the illiteracy of many of UKIP’s candidates.

The literature you distribute is one of the ways you reach those you hope to represent. A failure to spell basic information correctly – you know, like the constituency – risks saying to voters ‘I don’t know your area and don’t even care to pretend to know it’. Similarly, if you can’t communicate coherently with your voters, how can they trust you to be able to communicate clearly on their behalf?

Here are some of the finest examples.

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False Liberals: the appalling collusion of the Liberal Party with UKIP

Earlier this month, the Western Morning News reported that the rag-tag bag of political misfits that constitute the Liberal Party had decided to withdraw candidates in Cornwall and encourage its supporters to back UKIP.

In a disgraceful betrayal of liberal values, the Liberal Party is using the cloak of its anti-European policy to encourage support for a party that is the antithesis of a vibrant, liberal and tolerant Britain.

The remnants of the Liberal Party should be utterly ashamed of themselves and I trust that the Liberator Collective will sever any remaining connections it has with them.

Simon Danczuk, John Mann and avoiding the tawdry politicking of child abuse

Since Simon Danczuk highlighted the appalling crimes of Cyril Smith by raising them under privilege in the House of Commons, he and fellow Labour MP John Mann have campaigned vigorously on behalf of those who have had to live with the consequences of historic child abuse.

They have also been dogged in pursuing any cover-up by the establishment.

Danczuk and Mann’s investigations have also had a political angle. They have levelled numerous accusations at Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats. For instance, Danczuk clearly thinks Clegg must have known about the allegations around Smith:

Mr Danczuk says the Liberal Democrats have been “defensive, slippery and shifty”. “They are a party in denial,” he said. “I don’t think they’re fit for government. They are a small political party, I find it incredible that they are claiming that they didn’t hear the rumours about Smith.”

Recently, he accused Cameron and Clegg of colluding to cover-up Smith’s abuses. If he has evidence, he has yet to produce any and, if such allegations of conspiracy are unfounded, his remarks must surely border on the slanderous.

Mann has also made unfounded assertions about what the Liberal Democrats must have known:

‘I don’t believe that they knew nothing. The Liberal Democrats need to hold their own investigation into what they knew and what they covered up.’

With typical sanctimony, Michael White, writing in The Guardian, argued:

‘Nick Clegg may have been a child in 1979, but that was no excuse in 1988 (when Smith was knighted) or 2014 to pretend the Lib Dem machine did not know about the allegations. But that goes for everyone else, too – most conspicuously the police, who failed to prosecute Smith and his network despite powerful evidence, and for those in higher authority, including No 10 and Buck House.’

What is not widely reported – or acknowledged by Danczuk, Mann, White etc – is that Clegg has done more than any other party leader to take the issue of historical child abuse seriously. It is clear from The Daily Telegraph that, rather that cover-up Smith’s activities, Clegg has been determined to ensure maximum openness and co-operation:

‘Nick Clegg wrote to every Liberal Democrat MP, Peer and former MP last year urging them to come forward with any information that could help unearth the truth about what happened.’

It’s apparent from his LBC show  that he has also been proactive by instructing comprehensive interviews of former MPs and searches of his party’s archives. Those are not the actions of a party leader seeking to cover-up the activities of a child abuser. That these activities don’t produce the information that Danczuk, Mann and White want doesn’t mean they haven’t been carried out and carried out in good faith.

Since the revelations regarding Smith, allegations have been made about a number of other politicians. They include the Labour MPs Leo Abse, George Thomas and Greville Janner (now Lord Janner, who has strenuously denied the allegations). Conservative MPs Peter Morrison, Leon Brittan, Rhodes Boyson and David Atkinson have also been the subject of equally shocking allegations. Perhaps most shocking of all is the allegation that Conservative MPs were present at the murder of some of those being abused.

There is also mounting evidence of some form of cover-up. Thatcher is said to have known about Smith and Morrison. There are questions emerging over the role of the police. Uncomfortably for Danczuk and Mann, the establishment, at the time of the most substantiated allegations against Smith (from the late sixties and early seventies), was dominated by Labour politicians and sympathetic officials.

Danczuk and Mann are rational, intelligent men. If they are also honest men they must accept the logic of their arguments:

  1. Allegations are now encompassing a significant number of Labour and Conservative politicians;
  2. To continue to be regarded as being interested in championing the issue, rather than political point scoring, they need to start asking the same tough questions of Ed Miliband and David Cameron.

If Clegg is expected to have known the rumours about Smith, the logic of Danczuk and Mann dictates that Miliband knew the rumours about Abse, Thomas and Janner and that Cameron should have known the rumours about Morrison, Brittan, Boyson and Atkinson. To remain credible, Danczuk and Mann must show they are interested in the issues above party considerations and pursue Miliband and Cameron at least as doggedly as they have pursued Clegg.

What did Cameron and Miliband know? What did successive Labour governments from 1997 to 2010 know? What did Tony Blair and John Prescott know? What did John Major know? Where are the instructions from Miliband? What effort is being made by Labour to quiz MPs of the era or trawl the whips’ black books? At least Cameron instructed his whips to open their books.

But Danczuk and Mann are strangely silent.

Despite accusations around seven Labour and Tory MPs, Danczuk and Mann remain fixated on Smith and the Liberal Democrats. They do not harangue Miliband and Cameron the way they pursue Clegg. They do not encourage the press to pursue them and make the sort of unsubstantiated accusations made against Clegg.

It’s not good enough for Danczuk and Mann to leave these questions to the Goddard Inquiry. That will rightly take its time to examine the evidence in forensic detail, but it will be years before its conclusions are published. To avoid accusations of tawdry party politicking, if Danczuk and Mann have names and evidence regarding other MPs, whether still serving, out of office or deceased, they should make them known now. They should ask the tough questions now.

Ahead of the General Election. However uncomfortable that information is for Miliband, Cameron, Clegg or any political party.

In the end, Danczuk and Mann cannot have it both ways: they cannot accuse people of a cover-up and then not volunteer what they themselves know.

Our politics deserves more than that.

The victims deserve more than that.

David Steel: STFU and do something useful

Apparently David Steel has been speaking for me and plenty of other party members about the future of the party. Except he is not speaking for me in the slightest.

How anyone who was out of touch with his party even as party leader can claim to know what the party is thinking when he hasn’t dignified a conference for years, is basically unknown to many younger Lib Dems and lives on for others as one half of a Spitting Image double-act is beyond me.

In his wisdom he says that:

“I’m pretty certain that the mood in the party will be to say the very most we would accept would be confidence and supply.

“I just detect that there’s a general feeling that we need to recharge our batteries and recharge our values and that association with another party is not the way to do it.”

I’m also not sure what sort of idiot thinks a confidence and supply arrangement would help us recharge our batteries? It seems like a recipe for all of the criticism and none of the credit. And I don’t know what sort of idiot thinks talking about in the ins and outs of post-election arrangements is a Good Thing? Perhaps one who hasn’t been involved in democratic politics for the best part of twenty years and who has not engaged properly with the party in coalition or been an advocate for its achievements.

Such considerations are for the other side of May 7th, not pointless and distracting speculation at the start of the campaign.

Steel should stop patronising the electorate and the party, get off his ermined backside and get out and campaign hard to ensure Lib Dem achievements in government are championed and as many Lib Dem MPs as possible are elected. (They’re called leaflets, David. You put them through letterboxes.)

Medical Innovation Bill update 3 – not moved #SaatchiBill

For those concerned about the Medical Innovation Bill being put through the House of Commons without any proper debate or scrutiny, you will be relieved to know that it wasn’t moved at 2.30pm. As this was the last Friday on which Private Member’s Bills could be considered, it will not become law in this Parliament.

Medical Innovations Bill update 2 – Wellcome Trust flags concerns #SaatchiBill

Charities have banded together under the banner of the Wellcome Trust to send MPs the following briefing on the Medical Innovations Bill. The bill is due to come in front of the House of Commons tomorrow and they are calling for its progress to be halted unless there is adequate scrutiny and debate:


Briefing on the Medical Innovation Bill

House of Commons Second Reading – 6 March 2015


We, as a coalition of medical research charities, non-commercial organisations and patient groups, believe that the Medical Innovation Bill will not achieve its aim of encouraging medical innovation, and could result in potentially harmful unintended consequences. We believe that this legislation is unnecessary, and, far from protecting doctors from litigation, it could actually increase the risk of litigation faced by doctors by introducing greater complexity into the legal framework.  These complex issues need careful consideration, and we call on MPs to object to any motion to pass the Bill without adequate scrutiny and debate.


The Medical Innovation Bill is a Private Members Bill introduced by Lord Saatchi, which aims to encourage innovation in medical treatment by clarifying the circumstances under which a doctor may pursue an innovative treatment without fear of litigation. The Bill is currently scheduled to have its second reading in the House of Commons on Friday 6th March.

Key points

Is the Bill necessary?

  • The Bill aims to make it easier for doctors to pursue innovative treatments without fear of litigation. However, we are not aware of significant recorded evidence that doctors are being deterred from medical innovation due to the fear of litigation.
  • We are not convinced that legislation is the best way to address this issue, given this lack of evidence. There are significant other barriers to medical innovation that the Bill does not address – including funding, regulatory complexity, and clinical training and development. We believe efforts are better focused on understanding and tackling these wider barriers.

What are the risks?

  • The Bill risks subverting the frameworks currently in place to preserve patient safety. There may be unintended consequences for patients who could be at risk when receiving treatments for which the evidence base is not fully established, including treatments which could prove ineffective or harmful.
  • The Bill may discourage patients and their clinicians from participating in clinical trials by encouraging the provision of novel treatments on an ad hoc basis. Without properly controlled studies, it is not possible to develop the evidence of efficacy necessary to support wider adoption of new treatments in the NHS.
  • The Bill could introduce a degree of ambiguity to the law governing clinical negligence, potentially placing doctors at risk of further litigation.

What are the alternatives?

  • We believe that the best way to assess the efficacy and safety of treatments is through robust research studies with appropriate clinical monitoring and collection of data and other evidence.
  • It is essential that provision is made for collecting and sharing data in order to ensure that information of both beneficial and harmful effects of treatment is captured for the benefit of subsequent patients.

Other mechanisms already exist to increase access to innovative treatments. We believe efforts are better directed through existing mechanisms, with proportionate regulation and evidence review.

Further information and background:

Aims and rationale of the Bill

  • The main premise of the Bill is that doctors are being deterred from medical innovation due to the fear of litigation. We are not aware of significant recorded evidence that doctors are currently being deterred.  We believe there is a need for a better evidence base to support this premise, and to provide greater clarity on the best way to address this issue.
  • The Bill does not address other highly significant barriers to medical innovation within the structural and organisational levels of clinical service.  Without addressing these barriers we believe that the Bill cannot achieve its overall aim. They include:-
  • the complexity of the current regulatory system which can make it time-consuming and expensive to set up clinical trials;
    • the lack of financial incentives, clinical engagement and training for the development, adoption and diffusion of innovative approaches and treatments.
  • We support other mechanisms that currently exist to increase access to innovative medicines, and believe that efforts are better focused to build upon existing mechanisms such as:-
    • The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency’s recent announcement of the Early Access to Medicines Scheme  to provide a rapid approval mechanism for innovative medicines when there is a clear unmet medical need and before phase III trials;
    • The European Medicines Agency’s decision to provide adaptive licensing through its ‘adaptive pathways’ pilot project;
    • The ‘named patient’ provisions of Section 9 of the Medicines Act 1968 also allow doctors to prescribe unlicensed medicinal products; ensuring widespread information about these provisions could also provide a stronger basis for innovation.

The importance of research in assessing novel treatments

  • The Bill does not make adequate provisions for follow-up or data collection.  This is a key aspect of innovation since new interventions require an evidence base to demonstrate safety and efficacy and to ensure effective uptake in practice.  A lack of data collection or follow-up could also lead to some practitioners continuing to provide untested and ineffective (or potentially harmful) treatments to patients.
  • We are also concerned that the Bill may discourage patients and their clinicians from participating in clinical trials by encouraging the provision of novel treatments on an ad hoc basis, leading to a failure to develop the robust evidence of efficacy necessary to support wider adoption of innovations in the NHS.
  • The Bill contains no specific provision for the testing of novel treatments in comparison with existing treatments, as is standard in many research studies. Without appropriate collection and sharing of results – locally and centrally – it would be impossible for the clinical community to learn from existing and new evidence.
  • We believe the best way to assess the efficacy and safety of treatments is through full and robust research studies with appropriate clinical monitoring and collection of data and other evidence, on a rigorous statistical basis and with appropriate ethical approval(s).
  • We welcomed the commitments made during the debates in the House of Lords about the importance of collecting data and recording the outcomes of innovative treatments.  We further welcome that this is now reflected in the draft Bill, in particular the requirement for doctors to comply “with a scheme for capturing the results of innovative treatment (including positive and negative results and information about small-scale treatments and patients’ experiences)” (Clause 1 (e)), and to record details of such treatments in the patient’s medical record.  However we consider there remains a need for greater clarity over how such a scheme will work in practice, and the professional requirements for doctors to comply with it.

 Relation of the Bill to existing law and regulation

  • Even with the safeguards provided in the Bill, we are concerned that the Bill risks subverting the appropriate frameworks currently in place to preserve patient safety. There may be unintended consequences for patients who could be at risk of receiving treatments for which the evidence base is not well established, including treatments which could prove ineffective or even harmful.

While we welcome provisions in the most recent amendments to clarify the Bill’s intersection with common law, (Clause 2), we feel that the Bill still risks introducing a degree of ambiguity to the law governing clinical negligence, potentially placing doctors at risk of further litigation.  We would welcome further clarification of how the Bill will work in practice in relation to, and without conflicting with, existing law or regulation, particularly in relation to research.

Medical Innovations Bill update #SaatchiBill

Contrary to the report in the Telegraph, which claimed that the bill was “pulled at the eleventh hour”, Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovations Bill, sponsored in the Commons by Michael Ellis, is still listed for consideration tomorrow. You can see it in the Order Paper under Future Business at No. 37.

Whilst it won’t be debated, it is theoretically possible for the bill to pass all its stages at 2.30pm tomorrow.

As the Liberal Democrats have refused to back the bill, there should be no agreed government position and so the bill should be blocked by a government whip shouting ‘object’ (they seem to block all private member’s bills which the government don’t support).

I hope that opponents of the bill will be on hand to make sure that does happen – or to shout object themselves in the event that the whip forgets.

In the interests of good science and patient safety, please ensure the Medical Innovations Bill doesn’t make any further progress and instead throw support behind Lib Dem Health Minister Norman Lamb’s sensible proposition in the Telegraph report:

‘So, faced with this level of concern, but recognising the profound importance of innovation and of saving lives, the best way to proceed is surely to appoint an eminent person examine what the barriers to innovation really are and how best to overcome them.

“I am not interested in pushing this into the long grass. It should be given priority but we must get it right. Such an examination of the issue should involve patient organisations, legal bodies, royal colleges and medical unions.’

You can read more about the Medical Innovations Bill here on my earlier blog post.

‎Champion disappoints with misleading statement on gender pay bill

I have admired Sarah Champion for quite some time. She has always come across as a refreshingly honest and engaged MP. She has also been a tireless advocate for those affected by the awful revelations regarding abuse in Rotherham.

It was with quite some disappointment that I read Champion’s statement on her ten minute rule bill. For someone who has made candid plain-speaking a trademark, it is depressing to see she is very willing to deliberately mislead the public when it suits her politically.

Champion’s bill is an important one, with a single, substantive requirement:

“Require the Secretary of State to make Regulations under Section 78 of the Equality Act 2010 to require employers of more than 250 employees to publish information relating to the pay of employees for the purpose of showing whether there are differences in the pay of male and female employees.”

Champion’s speech is well worth a read. And it is reassuring testimony to progressive politics that both Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs voted overwhelmingly for her bill, opposed only by a handful of entitled, dinosaur Tories.

My complaint is not a big thing in the grand scheme of things. It is one for the constitutional nerds among us. It also speaks volumes about honesty in our politics, however.

Champion claims that:

“A second reading had been planned for next week, on the 27th February, but the Government scheduled it as the 16th bill to be read, meaning in reality it would never get called.”

Champion “strongly criticised the Government for kicking her recent motion for gender pay equality into the long grass.”

This is simply not true.

Her bill is a form of private member’s bill known as a ten minute rule bill. They are called this because, unlike other bills, the person hoping to introduce the bill is allowed to make a ten minute speech at the point of introduction, making the case for the proposals. Unlike other bills, it is at the point of introduction that votes are often taken on ten minute rule bills.

After introduction, a day is nominated by the MP in charge for the bill’s second reading (usually a Friday). It will take the first available slot after other bills already nominated. This is done entirely by the MP without any input from government. There are various complex rules which inform the ordering or private members bills, but one thing is very clear: the government has no say in deciding the order bills will be considered. It is not a regular business day.

Champion’s bill was introduced late on in the private member’s bill process and so naturally fell behind bills introduced earlier. The government did not schedule it to come sixteenth on the 27th February. Champion did – by nominating a day on which other bills were already scheduled.

Either Champion has poor understanding of procedure, or else she is deliberately misleading people to manufacture a reason for bashing the government.

If it is the former, I am sure she will be quick to issue a correction. If it is the latter, it is disappointing that someone like Champion would play on the public’s understandable ignorance of arcane parliamentary rules quite so cynically.

The really stupid thing is she has a great point to make about transparency in gender pay and doesn’t need to mislead people in order to make it.

Mistruths, grotesque insults and the Medical Innovation Bill

The Lib Dems have been the recipients of heavy criticism in recent days from The Telegraph, The Express and, bizarrely, Andy Burnham, for their decision to block Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill. Even the normally sensible Guardian gave more column inches to Lord Saatchi than an explanation of why the Lib Dems vetoed his proposals.

The Telegraph’s position should come as no surprise. They have acted as a mouthpiece for Lord Saatchi throughout. Then, a week ago, the Telegraph reported quite seriously on the complaints by David Tredinnick MP that we should use astrology to reduce pressure on the NHS. At least they had the good grace to admit that his claim that those opposed to astrology were ‘racist’ was ‘bizarre’. Strangely, the Telegraph report didn’t offer any comment from medical professionals as to whether using astrology to reduce pressure on the NHS was a good idea or not. The only criticism came from an unimpressed Liberal Democrat councillor, Michael Mullaney, who is challenging Tredinnick for his seat. Similarly, you would expect a right-wing populist paper like the Express to leap gleefully on another chance to indulge in another round of Clegg-bashing.

Burnham’s criticisms and the Guardian’s less than critical reporting of the bill are not so easily explained and are, frankly, disappointing.

There is no doubting the passion and commitment with which Lord Saatchi has committed himself to this cause. There is also no doubting the grief that has driven him, having lost his wife to cancer. However, the resultant headlines are an insult to the intelligence of most of us, who could all be struck down with these terrible conditions and illnesses (some of us suffering those conditions right now), and distract from the very real threat to patient safety that this bill presents. One might also hope that the Labour Party, and a national newspaper that prides itself on rational, critical journalism, might spend a bit more time scrutinising the details of the bill and, indeed, the processes around it.

First of all, the bill itself.

The Medical Innovation Bill’s innocuous-sounding purpose is to ‘Make provision about innovation in medical treatment.’ Lord Saatchi and his supporters are understandably most concerned about the highly emotive issue of horrendous, often painful, terminal illnesses for which the rate of development of new treatments often seems frustratingly and distressingly slow. Its basic premise is to protect doctors who try experimental treatments where conventional treatments have failed from claims of medical negligence.

And on the surface, it is very appealing.

The bill tries to do this by bringing forward an element of the four-fold test used to establish whether or not medical negligence has occurred to an earlier point. However, that is where the first problem lies. The test component it seeks to emulate is known as the Bolam Test and requires a doctor to find a responsible body of medical opinion to support the fact that another doctor night have made the same decision. The very purpose of the bill means this cannot happen, as the required body of medical opinion doesn’t exist. Instead, whilst misleading comparisons are drawn to Bolam, Lord Saatchi’s Bill actually redefines the test entirely (relying on the opinion of a single other doctor) – and then makes following that advice optional (presumably to protect the second doctor from any liability).

Despite securing passage through the House of Lords, the bill did not receive unanimous acclaim and indeed various amendments were suggested. One of these was for innovations to be registered. This was trumpeted by Lord Saatchi and his supporters as a response to critics and enough to allow the bill to progress. However, the Medical Innovation Bill doesn’t provide that register, doesn’t provide the means for creating it, provides no indication of who should administer it and provides no legal framework for the register’s operation and governance.

The public consultation on the bill conducted in 2014 is also worth reading. Not a single major organisation representing medical professionals or patients, and none of the leading charities, offered unqualified support for the bill. Almost all expressed reservations and some outright opposition, whilst appreciating and expressing sympathy with the motivations for wanting to accelerate innovation.

Surely, when people are at their most vulnerable, they need to be protected from potential treatments that could offer false hope or, worse, place them at increased risk? Reading David Hills writing on the campaign site for those opposed to the bill, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Lord Saatchi’s Bill risks becoming a ‘Quack’s Charter’. As I read it, a doctor with a pet theory (astrology?) could get the nod from a fellow doctor, perhaps who shares the view or who works in the same practise, and that would be deemed to be the required consultation (and which doesn’t even have to be taken into account), all with a view to preventing a future claim of medical negligence.

How can that be right?

Aside from the contents of the bill, it is worth pausing to consider exactly what is going on here in terms of making law.

Lord Saatchi’s bill was a private member’s bill. The Telegraph says that Norman Lamb told Jeremy Hunt that the Lib Dems could not support the bill, but there is scant evidence of Hunt championing the bill. Indeed, on the GOV.UK website, the only recent comment on the bill is from a PM spokesperson in 2014: “When asked about the Medical Innovation Bill, the PMOS said on the basis of a number of amendments to the Bill, the government was minded to support the Private Members Bill as it proceeds through Parliament.” That is not a ringing endorsement. Indeed, Hunt’s statement of 22nd November 2013 used very careful language. In announcing the public consultation that went on to draw out a large number of concerns, he said that “My second commitment is that the government will seek to legislate at the earliest opportunity, subject to the results of the consultation.” He did not commit the government to supporting Saatchi’s private member’s bill. He commited to legislating on the issue of medical innovation and working closely with Lord Saatchi in order to do so. They are not the same thing at all.

As a private member’s bill, the Medical Innovation Bill is one of a large number that was before the House of Commons. The Telegraph says that it was due to be debated 6th March but was pulled at the eleventh hour, presumably because the Lib Dems were blocking it. Interestingly, despite the report of it being pulled, it is still on today’s Agenda under Future Business and hasn’t been withdrawn at all.

But what does that mean?

Anyone who has any knowledge of how private members bills works will know that this is disingenuous. It is rare for the Commons to get past the first three or four private members bills on a sitting Friday. On the Summary Agenda for Thursday 26th February, two days before the Telegraph story, the Medical Innovation Bill was listed at number 45 for 6th March. It was never going to be debated on 6th March. Clearly, Lord Saatchi and his supporters were hoping that it would go through all its stages, on the nod, without any debate at all. Whatever your position on the bill, no-one can seriously believe that it would be good law-making to tackle such a controversial and emotive issue, where there are such strongly held and different views, without proper scrutiny.

All it takes to block a bill at 2.30pm on a Friday is for any member of the House of Commons to shout ‘Object’. The objector isn’t even identified in Hansard. As the Telegraph makes clear, Sarah Wollaston MP, the Tory chair of the Health Select Committee, was also opposed to the bill and so could have blocked the bill. It wouldn’t have to be a Lib Dem.

Rather, reports of blocking suggest that the Lib Dems have blocked some sort of deal inside government to give Lord Saatchi’s bill special treatment. Given that government doesn’t usually interfere in the order in which bills are considered on any given day, special treatment would have been – to use Lord Saatchi’s words – a grotesque insult to the House of Commons. Whilst it is a perfectly worthy bill, why should it take priority over the forty-four bills ahead of it on that day? What reason would government have to justify giving Lord Saatchi’s bill time but not giving time to Norman Baker for women’s refuges or Mark Garnier for road fuel pricing? Interestingly, there is also a footnote on the Agenda against the Medical Innovation Bill to say that “The National Assembly for Wales has not approved a Legislative Consent Motion in respect of this Bill”. This suggests that there may be a dispute between the UK government and the Welsh government as to whether or not the bill applies in Wales.

Lord Saatchi is a very well-connected and influential Conservative peer with access to all the political, scientific and medical advice that an eminent institution like the House of Lords (and being a prominent supporter of the Conservative Party) affords. He also cares passionately about this issue. But none of that justifies special treatment for a bill in the House of Commons and it is a credit to the Liberal Democrats that they have not bent to Tory pressure.

What this also shows is that the Telegraph and the Express are prepared to trade on people’s ignorance of the way that parliament makes law, as well as an understandable fear of serious illness and the suffering of those we love, to engage in appalling party-political attacks using disgusting and grotesque insults about Nick Clegg handing down death sentences. That Burnham joined in this ugly display shows how weak and contemptible the Labour Party is, too fearful to stand up for what is right when it might give rise to public criticism. That the Guardian’s coverage is so poor demonstrates how providing easy ‘balanced’ copy now trumps getting to the truth behind a story.

Disappointingly, none of the concerns about the bill are properly addressed by Saatchi or his supporters. Instead, those who raise concerns are criticised vehemently by those who believe their well-meaning motivation means the bill and its implementation should be taken on trust.

Medical innovation is something that all parties should champion. It is a more than worthy cause. Lord Saatchi is right to highlight the fact that progress is not fast enough. But medical innovation should be discussed in a considered and thorough way. It should not be rushed through in a badly-drafted and flawed private member’s bill on a poorly attended Friday.

Thankfully, in the interests of patient safety, sound science and proper parliamentary scrutiny, the Lib Dems seem to have their heads screwed on.

And if Michael Ellis, the person who is sponsoring the Medical Innovations Bill in the Commons, doesn’t withdraw it, I hope someone is present to shout object.

Supporters of the bill can find more information here.

Opponents of the bill can find more information here.

Bill O’Reilly: Truth as a casualty of war (except he wasn’t in one)

Occasionally I turn on Fox News. There is something about the way it is so brazenly partisan that fascinates me.

To someone who occasionally under appreciates the enforced neutrality of the BBC and the general objectivity of our other broadcast media (yes, even Sky News), Fox News is a useful way to reset my critical compass.

There is no-one as odious, sanctimonious and downright unpleasant as Bill O’Reilly. America is an incredible country of opportunity. It is politically and culturally diverse and its landscapes and cityscapes can be awe-inspiringly beautiful. Its people are a remarkable testament to optimism and hard graft. O’Reilly, however, is the caricature that misinforms so many British and European views of Americans.

His bigoted ignorance and his resort to insult to ‘win’ arguments make for entertaining current affairs television. He also encapsulates the fantasy of that small, but vocal and influential section of the population who are angry, middle-aged, wealthy white men: gun-toting, church-going, apple-pie loving, R&B listening, testosterone-driven conservatives who cloak their prejudices (and insecurities) beneath a trumpeting of values and freedoms that they hate extending to those who are not like them.

Unpleasant as these characteristics are to many, none disqualify you as a journalist. What does destroy your credibility, however, is screwing around with the truth.

Bill O’Reilly has been caught with his metaphorical pants down and it is not a pleasant sight.

Like veteran NBC news anchor Brian Williams, he has apparently lied about his experiences as a ‘war’ reporter, including in El Salvador and the Falklands War. It was this latter assertion that prompted me to write, as his coverage has the potential to influence the views of our closest ally on that conflict and how it was conducted.

This article in Mother Jones started off the furore. Subsequent reports in the Washington Post reveal quite how serious O’Reilly’s position is. More recent reports still are suggesting that Fox has stopped defending O’Reilly.

It couldn’t have happened to a nicer man.

The USA is a liberal democracy and, like Britain, proud of its raucous, chaotic free press. And so it should be. But truth should not be a casualty of war in a liberal democracy, particularly amongst those who claim to uphold the torch of press freedom. We have to be able to have confidence in those who report on what is happening in government and between governments.

If these revelations result in the final dispatch of Bill O’Reilly, both our democracies will be stronger for it.