Vox Political on Owen Smith and the Privatisation of the NHS

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece discussing Owen Smith’s contradictory attitudes towards the NHS. Smith claims he believes in a ‘100 per cent’ publicly owned NHS, and hugely admires Nye Bevan. Except eleven years ago, when he was working as a PR man for the drug giant, Pfizer. The company had produced a report endorsing the policy of opening up the NHS to private companies. Smith declared “We believe that choice is a good thing and that patients and healthcare professionals should be at the heart of developing the agenda.” Smith’s endorsement of creating greater private sector involvement in the NHS had been revealed by the Times, whom he accused of doing ‘a hatchet’ job, and he was challenged about his comments on Radio 4. That was when he spoke about believing in a publicly owned NHS. He has also said that he would prevent further involvement of private companies in the NHS. As for his comments in 2005, he tried to shrug them off, saying that this was when Labour was using ‘choice’ to describe hip, knee and cataract operations. He also claimed that it was a gross distortion to refer to a report commissioned by Pfizer before he worked there. Mike points out that this is immaterial. The date the report was commissioned is irrelevant, as Smith was working for Pfizer when it was published, and he date make the comments endorsing it.

Mike also makes the point that the Tories – Andrew Lansley, Jeremy Hunt and now probably Theresa May, have all made speeches stating that they believe in a nationalised health service, while doing everything they can to privatise it. And stating that he would prevent further public sector involvement is also contrary to what the masses of Labour supporters actually want, which is that privatisation should be reversed and the private sector removed from the NHS.

Mike has also put up a couple of memes pointing out the contrasts between what Smith says, and what he does. For example, he says he is against nukes, but votes for Trident. He states that he is against austerity, but doesn’t vote against austerity measures. He also can’t make up his mind on whether he supported the Iraq invasion or not.

Mike also quotes the report on this in the Guardian, which says But he conceded that Labour made a mistake while in power for the way it communicated the use of private providers in the NHS.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/21/owen-smiths-vision-for-the-nhs-is-the-same-as-the-conservative-partys/

There’s a considerable amount of deliberate falsehood and distortion in Smith’s statements, beyond what Mike has identified. Firstly, New Labour was committed to a policy of NHS extensive NHS privatisation. NHS – SOS by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis provides extensive evidence that Blair’s Labour party wanted to privatise the NHS and introduce a system of insurance-funded healthcare similar to that in America. It was not simply a case of private companies performing a limited range of operations, such as knee and hip operations. Furthermore, New Labour, like Maggie Thatcher and the Tories before them, realised that if they made the extent of their plans to privatise the NHS public, they’d lose the election. Hence they were very keen to keep the whole process quiet. Remember – Alan Milburn stated that he wanted to keep the NHS as a logo for services delivered by private companies under an NHS ‘brand’. So Smith’s endorsement of NHS privatisation, along with the official policy of the Labour party at the time, was much more radical than he is now claiming.

Whatever Smith says now about supporting a publicly owned NHS is false. He supported its privatisation over a decade ago, and there is absolutely no reason to believe that his views have changed since, or are substantially much different from those of his Conservative opponents.

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