Left win the SHA – but it’s not over yet

The Startled Socialist reports on a bizarre national AGM of the Socialist Health Association

You can see below the result of the week long online ballot that concluded on Wednesday 17th March. The Labour First-run slate #SupportforNHS lost the election, with the left OurSHA slate winning all three officer positions and all 20 national Central Council (CC) delegate positions. 

Esther Giles has been elected as Treasurer which meant that her CC position had been automatically substituted with a member of the #SupportforNHS slate from the national CC list of candidates with the next highest number of votes.  Three substitutions were made at the AGM: the Chair and Secretary were replaced as CC delegates from their local branch by others and one branch delegate had already withdrawn and was substituted similarly.

On Saturday 20th March, 307 people out of a total membership of 2,504 participated in a meeting by Zoom lasting 1 hour 17 minutes, a meeting called by the outgoing officers of the national SHA.  Presumably the poor turnout, for a Zoom meeting, can be explained by the fact that there was to be no debating or voting by members and everyone had been informed of the national polling results on Thursday afternoon.

There was a 30 second silence for all those who died in the pandemic.  The Chair spoke of the government’s ‘elective manslaughter’.

All members were muted throughout the meeting, except for a brief moment when the newly elected Chair asked to speak. We were asked to put any questions into the chat, directed to the host and co-hosts only.

Brian Fisher, the outgoing Chair told the meeting that no CC meeting had been arranged to take place after the AGM, as would normally happen. Indeed this AGM will not be concluded: the auditor’s report and all annual reports are to be ratified at a later meeting; this AGM was to be adjourned until “a face to face meeting is possible”.  

Clearly this was a startling prospect, potentially an adjournment for months.  Later he said that he remains Chair until the AGM finishes, the new CC begins immediately after that and there is “nothing wrong or unconstitutional about this.”  Yet he conceded that the new Officers and CC would be introduced at the end of this Zoom call. 

There are now 94 delegates to the Central Council plus the three executive officers.

Brian Fisher took us through the predictable agenda items, including speaking to the Chair’s annual report which he sent out in advance and which had upset many members as being gratuitously divisive. 

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth then arrived and gave his keynote speech criticising the government’s handling of the pandemic and the derisory NHS pay offer for staff and emphasising the need for a public inquiry.  On social care, he acknowledged that Labour’s policy in the 2019 General Election was “free social care” but now we need a proper debate across the labour movement to reach a settled view for social care, with various possible organisational structures.  

He answered questions, most importantly about Labour’s view of the Integrated Care Systems (ICSs).  ICSs have been ‘illegally’ rolling out in one iteration or another over the past seven years, but now require legislation if the government is to place them on a legal footing, sweeping away the 2012 Act.  He outlined the various Boards, a “bureaucratic structure”, recognising that the NHS White Paper reveals a move to greater deregulation in order to hand contracts to the private sector, and that Labour “cannot allow the private sector to win contracts”.

Saliently he noted that the “scrapping of competition regulation”- much praised in the mainstream media – only deregulates contracts, but does not actually stop contracting out.  Critics of the NHS White Paper have separately pointed out that if you are going to have contracting in the NHS you must have regulation otherwise business is uncontrolled. We of course seek an end to all contracting and outsourcing in the NHS and want the service publicly owned and provided.

We should note that between 2017 and 2019 Labour Party policy officially supported (or at least was underpinned by) the NHS Reinstatement Bill drafted by Professor Allyson Pollock, the SHA’s President, and Peter Roderick.  This is one of the SHA’s greatest achievements, borne of a close relationship with the Shadow Front Bench.  The SHA’s predecessor, the Socialist Medical Association is arguably responsible for the NHS itself. It is vital that there is no slipping of this vision for a Labour-run NHS.

The Chair’s report continued.  He referred to “election irregularities in London”, presumably around its AGM on 12th January.  He said the outgoing executive wants an in-depth audit of London, as it is unhappy at the possibility of a number of people from Newham having allegedly auto-joined. 

This is the first time the London branch executive has heard of this alleged problem, announced some 67 days after the AGM at which Brian Fisher, a London branch member was present.  London had waited six days after its AGM for online polling to be concluded, the votes analysed and approved by the two outside supervisors from the West Midlands.  Surely any dubious membership applications from Newham should have been identified before London’s AGM, not 67 days afterwards.  

On Sunday I heard of two pairs of cases where people paid their membership by Paypal, the one paying jointly for themself and another, both pairs with personal explanations as to why they had paid in pairs. Apparently this presented difficulties upon joining the national AGM on Saturday.  If these events on the day are the subject of the allegation, it seems very hasty for the outgoing national executive to have decided on an investigation without consulting or informing London branch executive following these incidents.  London branch officers are perplexed.

Other AGM questions that were required to have been sent in advance were orally answered, many answers simply referring to documents that are already available to be seen on the SHA’s website. 

There was a presentation from the outgoing Treasurer and an Auditor.  The Secretary was absent due to illness. 

There were many questions also about SHA officers’ bills for advice from lawyers, the accounts and administration generally.  These topics will be returned to in a future article outlining the progress towards the transfer of the finances, the list of members and various other administrative matters to the new SHA leadership.  This transfer cannot happen soon enough.  I shall report after the first CC under left leadership.

There is much work for the labour movement, including promoting the Zero Covid campaign – not yet SHA policy – informing and mobilising against the ICSs, and organising against Operose, owned by the USA company Centene, taking over 49 general practices. The  SHA wants to play an active part, not only in advising the Shadow Front Bench, but also campaigning with others on these and the myriad of health and social care-related matters, not forgetting mental health in all this.

Then the adjournment was announced by the outgoing Chair.  The new officers and all CC delegates present were allowed to raise their electronic hands to introduce themselves.  Although it seems the AGM was adjourned and is technically not concluded, it was said that the handover to the new officers and CC delegates would start after the AGM.  Although many members may be understandably confused, I understand the handover has already started.

Election results

CONTEST: Election of National SHA Chair 2021

RESULT 1 to elect

Mark LADBROOKE 856 ELECTED

Katrina MURRAY 699

Number of eligible voters: 2,387

 Votes cast online: 1,560

 Votes cast by post: 5

Total number of votes cast: 1,565

Turnout: 65.56%

Number of votes found to be blank: 10

Total number of valid votes to be counted: 1,555

CONTEST: Election of National SHA Secretary 2021

RESULT 1 to elect

Punita GOODFELLOW 858 ELECTED

Jean HARDIMAN SMITH 694

Number of eligible voters: 2,387

 Votes cast online: 1,560

 Votes cast by post: 5

Total number of votes cast: 1,565

Turnout: 65.56%

Number of votes found to be blank: 13

Total number of valid votes to be counted: 1,552

CONTEST: Election of National SHA Treasurer 2021

RESULT 1 to elect

Esther GILES 858 ELECTED

Martin BROOKS OBE 687

Number of eligible voters: 2,387

 Votes cast online: 1,560

 Votes cast by post: 5

Total number of votes cast: 1,565

Turnout: 65.56%

Number of votes found to be blank: 20

Total number of valid votes to be counted: 1,545

CONTEST: Candidates for SHA Central-Council 2021

RESULT 20 to elect

Irim ALI 864 ELECTED

Ekua BAYUNA 835 ELECTED

Nicholas CSERSO 817 ELECTED

Mary WHITBY 816 ELECTED

Esther GILES 807 WITHDRAWN

Jeff SENEVIRATNE 804 ELECTED

David DONOHUE 804 ELECTED

Lesley SPILLARD 802 ELECTED

David TOLLER 800 ELECTED

Tony BEDDOW 800 ELECTED

Alan GIBBONS 798 ELECTED

Catherine SMITH 796 ELECTED

Brian GIBBONS 790 ELECTED

Mike ROBERTS 789 ELECTED

Steve PRICE 783 ELECTED

Dr Andrew THOMPSON 780 ELECTED

Derek TIMMINS 777 ELECTED

Jon SHAFFER 776 ELECTED

Mervyn HYDE 772 ELECTED

Tanagrajabu NALA-HARTLEY 744 ELECTED

Dr Sarah Grace CLARK 678 ELECTED

Marianna MASTERS 674

Dr Patrick FRENCH 664

Dr Zahid CHAUHAN 662

Dr Jane JONES 658

Lisa BANES 654

Dr Lopa WINTERS 654

Rizwan JALIL 651

Chris BAIN 648

Vanessa SHAND 638

Linda HOBSON 636

Sally YOUNG 636

Gillian BLACK 634

Christina FUNNEL 629

Neil NERVA 625

Sian TAYLOR 624

Steve RACE 615

Barry HENLEY 610

Paul LEAKE 607

David TAYLOR-GOOBY 592

Tony JEWELL 98

Pam WORTLEY 90

Stephen WATKINS 74

Stuart EGLIN 65

Alan HALL 40

Number of eligible voters: 2,387

 Votes cast online: 1,560

 Votes cast by post: 5

Total number of votes cast: 1,565

Turnout: 65.56%

Number of votes found to be blank: 25

Total number of valid votes to be counted: 1,540

Image: https://www.rt.com/uk/379439-nhs-protest-london-healthcare/ © 50_shades_of_gracey © Instagram, licensed under creative commons licenses

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