Private Eye on Successful Campaign against Blairite Hospital Privatisation by Pro-NHS Group

One of the political developments prompted by New Labour’s wholesale adoption of the Tory programme of the destruction of the welfare state and privatisation, including that of the NHS, is that opposition to these policies moved away from the party to popular organisations set up by concerned professionals, activists and members of the public. This was particularly true of organised opposition to the privatisation of the NHS, which led to the formation of the NHS Action Party. In the same issue of Private Eye which revealed how Blair and his cronies in private industry wished to force through even more privatisation, 15-28 June 2001) the very first article was about how a New Labour politico had suffered a series of humiliating defeats at the hands of opponents of plans for the closure of beds at Kidderminster Hospital and the transfer of services to a new, PFI-funded hospital at Worcester. The article, ‘Wyre, Oh Wyre’, ran

The best election result by far was at Wyre Forest, where the ambitious junior minister at the lord chancellor’s department, barrister David Lock (10,857 votes) was hammered out of sight by the Health Concern candidate, Richard Taylor (28,487 votes).

The Eye was one of the first to appreciate the challenge from Health Concern. Under the heading Wyres Crossed way back in June last year, we traced the the circuitous record of David Lock over the key local issue of the proposed closure of all acute services at Kidderminster Hospital (Eye 1007). Lock was against the proposals when he stood for the seat and won it unexpectedly in 1997. But his enthusiasm for the campaign against closure waned as he climbed into the government.

His ire was directed against those who opposed plans for the new hospital, especially professor Allyson Pollock of the University College of London’s school of public policy. Mr Lock complained not to Prof Pollock herself but to the chairman of the University College council, Lord Young of Graffham.

The Eye article drew a mocking reply from the MP who proclaimed himself a regular Eye reader and bitterly attacked Prof Pollock, who, he wrote, “didn’t bother to check her facts with the health authority before going to print”. This letter drew a furious and devastating response from Richard Taylor, a retired consultant, whose letter (Eye 1007) exposed Mr Lock as, well, having been economical with the truth.

This was followed the following issue (1008) by a letter from Allyson Pollock pointing out that her facts about the hospital were quite correct. The cost of new PFI facility at Worcester replacing the services at Kidderminster had risen from £49m to £108m, all to provide 44 percent fewer acute beds for more patients.

So besieged was Mr Lock by the campaigner for the hospital that he resorted to his lawyers. Eye 1023 reported that he had threatened to sue Frank Baillie, a vice-chairman of Health Concern, for telling the left-wing weekly Tribune that Lock “had gone for promotion instead of standing side by side with the people of Wyre Forest”. Lawyers for the local authority (where Health Concern was and is the largest party) told Mr Baillie that they would not meet the costs of a libel action, and Baillie was forced to issue a grovelling and humiliating apology to Lock for saying something that was demonstrably true.

Mr Lock had not finished yet and his next assault on his critics won him the much-coveted spot of Man In The Eye (1026). He had rung a small publisher of a local magazine called For You who had had the nerve to reprint the Eye’s reports of the above events and as usual threatened them with a libel writ and demanded and an apology and substantial damages. He objected in particular to the observation: “It is a racing certainty that an Independent MP who will truly represent the wishes of the people will be elected.” Somehow the litigious MP did not get his apology or his damages before the election, when the magazine’s prediction came so handsomely true.

There is talk up in Kidderminster of a amss phone-in to the former MP demanding an apology and even substantial damages for contest the now rather obvious fact that enormous majority of his constituents did not agree with him.

Professor Pollock is the author of a series of works attacking the privatisation of the NHS, and I think she’s also a contributor to Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis superb NHS -SOS, which minutely describes and exposes it. I think Health Concerns victory at Wyre Forest may be exceptional, because of the difficulties in getting a small, independent party or organisation off the ground and gathering enough votes to challenge the big parties.

But unfortunately, as Starmer shows himself keen to push through the Blairite agenda of the early 21st century, this may be the only tactic available to people who really want to preserve the NHS, and the health, prosperity and welfare of their fellow citizens.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: