On politics: party season

on 23 November 2018 Midwives Magazine Politics

The RCM is and always has been neutral in party politics.

We do not take sides. We work across the political spectrum – not just at Westminster but in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast too.

At the UK level, we are always looking to influence the government and opposition. It is for this reason that we attend the party conferences, and this year’s party get-togethers were busy ones for the RCM.

Chief executive Gill Walton attended both the Labour conference in Liverpool and the Conservative event in Birmingham.

We held events on ‘the fringe’ of both conferences. At Labour, we worked with Unions 21 to debate how the party should respond to the government’s commitment to increase the NHS budget in England by £20bn. Gill spoke alongside panellists like Anita Charlesworth, a top health economist from the Health Foundation, and Wales’s cabinet secretary for health Vaughn Gething.

The event gave us the opportunity to speak about many of the long-term improvements in health that maternity services can deliver – improvements that would also end up saving the health service money. The fact that Gill did this while sitting alongside the person in charge of the health service in Wales is an illustration of the value of this work.

It is important for the RCM to be seen and heard in political debates

Gill was then invited to speak at an event encouraging Labour to back a ‘People’s vote’ on any Brexit deal. The RCM remains concerned that the deal that the government eventually secures, if it secures one at all, will look nothing like what was promised back in 2016 or even at last year’s general election. The threats to the NHS and midwifery remain, and we believe it should all only go ahead if the people sign off on the deal, just like unions ask their members to sign off on any deal with employers – once the details are known.

Gill also met with NHS leaders, Labour MPs and shadow ministers, and contributed to the party’s review of its international development policy.

At the Conservative conference Gill spoke at an event about postnatal care organised by the RCM, RCOG and NCT. Conservative MP Victoria Prentis, who helped launch the England edition of the State of maternity services report, joined them.

Gill and RCOG president Lesley Regan worked together during the day to meet Conservative MPs to discuss a range of issues, such as baby loss, which will be discussed in parliament this autumn.

It is important for the RCM to be seen and heard in political debates. Decisions will be made that affect midwives, MSWs and maternity services whether or not we are engaged in those debates. It is far better therefore for us to be in there – working and speaking with politicians – to get the best deal for members.