Busy party conference season for the RCM

By Stuart Bonar, RCM Public Affairs Advisor on 03 October 2018

The RCM is and always has been neutral in party politics. We don’t take sides. We work across the political spectrum, and we are always looking to influence the Government and Opposition.

It’s for this reason that we go to 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, one week later, the Conservative event in Birmingham.

We held events on the fringe of both conferences. At Labour, we worked with Unions 21 to debate how Labour 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 AM.

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 in the long term.

At Labour, Gill was also invited to speak at an event encouraging the party 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 either 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.

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

At the Conservatives, Gill spoke at an event about postnatal care organised by the RCM, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the NCT. They were joined by Conservative MP Victoria Prentis, who helped us launch the England edition of the State of Maternity Services Report in Parliament last month.

Gill and the president of the RCOG, Professor Lesley Regan, then worked together during the day to meet Conservative MPs to discuss a whole range of issues, such as baby loss, that will be discussed by Members of 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 we are engaged in those debates or not. It’s best for us to be in there – working and speaking with politicians across party divides – to get the best deal for our members.

And, finally, it’s to say, of course, that RCM staff attend the conferences of many other parties too, right across the UK. Our influencing work goes on all year round.