In the second part of our exclusive interview with Bim Afolami, the MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, we discuss national politics.

To begin, I ask whether Mr Afolami thinks the country is in a better place now than it was in 2010, when the Conservatives came to power.

He says yes, and elaborates:

"I’d pick three things. One is that Gordon Brown was temperamentally unsuited for the role of prime minister, a bit like Liz Truss was. We’ve got somebody [in Rishi Sunak] who, regardless of one’s politics, can do the actual job, and I think that matters.

"The second point is, if I look at our financial situation in 2010, things were very, very, very hairy indeed … I mean, we were knocking on a Greece-like situation.

"Now, there were a lot of complex reasons for that, and not all of that was the Labour government’s fault – but a lot of it was.

"I think that where we are financially now is a much more stable situation, and we’re not under the threat of going completely bankrupt.


"And the third thing was the state of our welfare system. Our welfare system in 2010, uniformly, even by people on the left, was [seen as] not fit for purpose.

"We had a system where work didn’t pay, people were disincentivised from getting into work. We’ve changed that with Universal Credit, which I remember at the time was violently opposed by the left, and actually now they are saying it’s quite a good thing.

He says that "for me, the job now for the 2020s" is that:

"Yes, lots of people are in work – the question is what is the quality of that work, how well-paid are you, can you afford the stuff you need? That’s where we need to get to but it’s a lot harder to get to that place if you’re not even in work in the first place."

We finish with a discussion about the problems afflicting the NHS.

"I won’t pretend this is a complete answer, but I think it’s a big part. The theory in the management circles in the NHS for 20 years, started under New Labour, was we should effectively reduce the number of beds, and then people would be treated in the community, or at home, or whatever.

"That makes sense, in so far as you don’t want anybody in hospitals for a minute longer than they need to be, because a hospital is not a very good environment and it’s very expensive to keep them there.

"But what we didn’t do sufficiently was expand the places where those can go to, which means that we reduced our capacity, which was fine until you have Covid.

"The health system did not really prepare – it was not resilient, and we didn’t focus on resilience, we focused on efficiency.


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"With Covid, everybody now knows we need to think about resilience. But we’ve got to remember that people didn’t realise that something like Covid was going to happen.

"The stuff around strikes is really hard to manage because we all want to pay nurses more – we definitely want to do that – but the problem is when you do that in one public service, you genuinely make inflation worse and longer-lasting because everybody will now demand the same pay-rise, and I’m afraid that is unsustainable."

He equivocates when I ask if nurses should get a pay rise in-line with inflation.

"Partly it depends when you start it calculating it from. They definitely should get a pay rise, but I just don’t know … there’s a lot that goes into how [these decisions are made], and by the way, nurses have been prioritised. If you look at the last, say, five years, the nurses were getting pay rises when other people weren’t, so we have recognised the importance of it."