Left Watch

« Liberal Democrat bloggers have a nerve claiming their MPs are the most liberal and least authoritarian in the Commons | Main | Alistair Darling contradicts his deputy on tax »

Gordon Brown's words are cold comfort for the mother of the unequipped solder killed in Afghanistan and the son of the 86-year-old woman who died in her local hospital

Gordon Brown 2010 square BBC1's Politics Show is on at 2.15pm today and features a recording of Gordon Brown being challenged by an audience of undecided voters in the key West Midlands marginal of Stourbridge.

I have seen an advance transcript of the programme and note with particular interest the complaints of two people who have lost their nearest and dearest. What strikes me is the way in which both are fobbed off by the Prime Minister, whose answer in each case is to offer investigations into their losses.

Here's an excerpt from his dialogue with Ann Probyn, whose son was killed in Afghanistan in 2007:

AP: A bomb went off the side of him.  He was on a night patrol and that’s all the information that was given, there was a bomb above ground level went off.  Well this is what we was trying, we have been trying to sue the MoD for the equipment what he should be carrying, his ECM equipment, to counteract these IEDs... He didn’t have any equipment at all so my son was sent out on a night patrol in the dark just his gun, that’s fair enough.  He knew he was a soldier but would you, would you like your son to go out on a night patrol with no equipment?

GB: I’m very, I’m very sorry about what happened to Daniel and I’m very sorry for the grief that deaths in Afghanistan have caused people.  And you’ve always got to ask yourself whether you’re doing the right thing by having troops in Afghanistan but in the case of your son, there should be a full investigation that will give you all the information you need.

That would be quite a turn-up for the books: this Government has thus far been far from willing to admit its failures relating to lack of equipment for our troops.

Another audience member is Mike Weston, who explains what happened to his mother:

MW: My mother was an eighty-six year old, very active, lived on her own and suddenly broke her hip and waited seven hours in A&E before she was taken to a ward because there were no porters and waited a further twelve days, two operations, three operations in the end and sadly died because she simply couldn’t take it. And my feeling was that the, there was an obsession with, with targets and there were flawed systems and self-assessment, and a culture of blame and fear and most of all patients seemed to be at the bottom of the pile.  Prime minister, what could you say to somebody that suffered that sort of situation?

GB: I am very very sorry what’s happened.  I mean the first thing that should have happened is that she should have been treated in Accident & Emergency within the time that is a guaranteed time.  So there was a breaking of the rule.  Now if that rule is broken in future, there will be compensation for the patient but equally she should not have had the other difficulties that she faced further down the line, and if you wish this to be investigated, it should be investigated.

Compensation for failing to meet targets in future? Just what bereaved relatives want to hear.

Jonathan Isaby