Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Lansley’

Despite the Fullsome Praise, BoJob Still Wants to Privatise the NHS

April 13, 2020

Yesterday the news reported that Boris had finally been discharged from hospital. He will not be starting work immediately, but has gone to Checkers to recuperate after his battle with Coronavirus. But before he did so, he gave fulsome to praise the hospital staff, including two nurses, who cared for him. The NHS, he made clear, had saved his life, and we would beat the Coronavirus because it was the beating heart of Britain.

I’m very glad Johnson has recovered. I don’t wish, or anyone else’s death, and I’m very glad that he is showing his sincere, genuine gratitude to the nursing staff and the great institution that has saved his life. He’s not the only Tory politico to owe his life to the NHS. Back in the 1980s the Fabian Society published a pamphlet arguing very forcefully against privatisation of the NHS, and made very telling comparisons about the US system, which is funded by individual insurance. The pamphlet quoted a Tory politician, who stated that the NHS had very definitely saved his life when he had suffered heart problems, and that there is no way he could have afforded such treatment in America.

But you’ll forgive me if I say that I found such praise coming from Boris a tad hypocritical and hollow. Right-wing governments since Thatcher – and that includes Tony Blair’s – have been doing their level best to privatise the NHS piecemeal by stealth. And the series of Tory governmental trainwrecks since Labour lost the 2010 election are no different. Cameron went on with the privatisation, passing Andrew Lansley’s wretched Health and Social Care Bill, which absolves the Health Secretary from his or her historic role of having to make sure that everyone has health care free at the point of use. NHS trusts and doctor’s surgeries, organised in Community Care Groups, are enabled and required to consider commissioning services from private healthcare companies. More and more contracts – it is now more than half – have been awarded to private healthcare companies. Despite the lies and smooth assurances to the opposite, this privatisation is for the private sector’s benefit, not ours. On its own, private healthcare can’t compete with that provided by the state. Private hospitals are smaller, and don’t offer the range of services the NHS provides. Private health insurance works well for the affluent, young and largely well, who don’t require long term or complicated treatment. It does not work for the old, the poor, the disabled or the long term sick. Which is why Lyndon Johnson had to introduce Medicare and Medicaid for those groups in the US. Despite this, 40,000 people still die through lack of affordable healthcare in the US, and the top cause of bankruptcies over there is medical costs.

But over here the Tory drive for privatisation continues. I noticed a Torygraph headline reproduced on one the blogs, which very graphically showed this. This proclaimed that it was due to the NHS’ cumbrous bureaucracy that PPE equipment weren’t getting to NHS staff. The Tories have been very keen to tell everyone that introducing the private sector is going to cut bureaucracy. And this is another example of the truth being the direct opposite of anything Johnson, Cummings and any other Tory will tell you. The Tories’ privatisation has actually increased the bureaucracy through setting up organs within the NHS to ensure competition and value for money. Also private healthcare firms have larger management bureaucracies that the NHS. In extreme cases, these can account for 40 per cent of the companies operating costs. But there were over 100 MPs in Cameron’s government, who had connections to private healthcare firms. And so, despite rising costs and inefficiencies, it’s immensely profitable to them and the heads of those companies.

Treatment by the NHS is supposed to be free at the point of use, but the Tories have been introducing charges, or expanding the range of services for which charges may be made. One of those supporting this move is Jacob Rees-Mogg.

But despite their determination to sell it off, the Tories give their unstinting praise to it. One recent Tory health secretary even declared that they ‘treasured it’. This was after the fact it was revealed that he, or one of the other Tory MPs, had written a book advocating the incorporation of private healthcare into the NHS to such an extent that the NHS would cease to exist. Which is privatisation.

With this in mind, I see absolutely no reason to take Johnson’s praise at anything like face value. No, I don’t deny he’s grateful – now. But this gratitude will wear off a soon as he steps back through the doors of No.10 and starts listening once again to his Tory friends and fellows, and although the advisers that have trooped into government from private industry.

Then, whatever Johnson said yesterday, he’ll go back to privatising the NHS.

So no one else will be able to get treatment for a disease like Coronavirus without paying for it. And heaven help the poor if they can’t.

Corbyn Warns that Fighting Against Corona Virus Will Be Harder Due to Tory Cuts

March 13, 2020

Yesterday the papers were falling over themselves to praise BoJob’s wretched budget to the rafters. It was the first populist budget since Maggie Thatcher! There would be more spending on the NHS to help it combat the corona virus. The Tories were now committed to spending more on the economy and the infrastructure. Boris was giving the public what they wanted. It was all A Very Good Thing indeed.

It seems it was only Jeremy Corbyn, who struck a more sober, realistic note. According to a piece in yesterday’s I, by Richard Wheeler and Sophie Morris, the former Labour leader warned that fighting back against the virus will be harder because of 10 years of cuts. The article ran

Jeremy Corbyn urged the Government to be straight with people about how the coronavirus response will be “much tougher” after 10 years of “deeply damaging” cuts.

The Labour leader welcomed Budget steps taken by Chancellor Rishi Sunak to head off the economic impact of the spread of Covid-18.

But the UK enters the crisis with its public services “on their knees” and with a “fundamentally weak” economy, Mr Corbyn added.

Replying to the Budget, the Opposition leader said: “The Chancellor shows not some but a lot of brass neck when he boasts that measures to deal with coronavirus are only possible because of his party’s management of the economy.

“Look outside – in the real world, we’re still living through the slowest economic recovery in a century. Our economy is fundamentally weak.”

He told the Commons: “The steps the Government has announced today to head off the economic impact of the coronavirus are obviously welcome, but I have some points I wish to raise.

“We have to be straight with people, it is going to be much tougher because of the last 10 years of deeply damaging and counterproductive cuts to all of our essential public services.”

He added the Budget “doesn’t come close” to delivering on the Government’s election promises to working-class communities.”

Bristol South Labour MP Karin Smyth on the Budget

I was at a meeting of the local Labour Party in south Bristol yesterday. Our MP, Karin Smyth was there to give her report to us all. And she was very scathing about the Budget and the Tory response to the coronavirus. She said first of all that the Tories should not be congratulated for doing something they’d destroyed. The money they promise to put back into the economy will not restore it to 2009/10 levels. And at the moment, it’s just headlines. The money has not been allocated and there is no infrastructure. She didn’t say it quite like this, but this is what is: guff. Empty, vapid guff and promises. She also said that it showed how far removed from the lives of ordinary people that they really didn’t understand how Statutory Sick Pay worked, or that people with the virus would have to go into work because otherwise, thanks to their cuts, they wouldn’t have any money.

Her comments on the state of the NHS and social care also bore out Corbyn’s comments. Before she became a local MP for Bristol, she was involved in the CCGs – the commissioning groups set up within the NHS by Tony Blair – in north Somerset and then in Bristol. She stated that Bristol was well placed to tackle the coronavirus, but this was only through the work of the local authority. The party’s LGBT officer stated that Bristol was also strongly placed to tackle the disease, as she worked in the virus labs. However, this was solely due to the local authority and NHS groups working to develop the machinery to deal with emergencies like the virus themselves. The Tories had destroyed the national machinery to deal with them with the introduction of Andrew Lansley’s pestilential Health and Social Care bill of 2012.

Tory NHS reforms and partial privatisation have damaged this country’s ability to respond to the coronavirus. 

I ended up talking about the coronavirus emergency with the taxi driver coming home. He too was mightily unimpressed with BoJob’s response. And he was furious at Johnson’s statement that people would die. Now I think Johnson meant it as a mere statement of fact, but the driver, and many others I’m sure, have taken it to mean that Johnson is completely indifferent to the deaths of the poor, the disabled and the elderly. Mike has commented to that effect. So has Zelo Street. And they’re right. Johnson’s government has repeatedly shown that they have no interested in preserving the lives of the vulnerable. Quite the opposite – they do seem to see the mass deaths they’ve inflicted through the work capability cuts and the benefit sanctions as ‘culling the herd’.  Which brings me back to another comment Smyth made – that the government’s welfare reforms means that the welfare safety no longer exists. And the effects will get worse towards the end of this government in 2024.

People are going to die because Johnson and the Tories hate the welfare state for keeping the poor and vulnerable alive and imposing taxes on the rich.

Private Eye: Tory NHS Privatisers Heading Back into Government

March 5, 2020

This fortnight’s issue of Private Eye, for 6th to 19th March 2020, has a worrying piece, ‘Smear Campaign’, in their ‘HP Sauce’ column on page 13. This reports that Boris, having won the election, is reneging on his promise not to privatise or commercialise the NHS. Instead, two Tory MPs with connections to the Serco and the private accountancy firm, McKinsey, respectively, which were deeply involved in the privatisation and outsourcing of NHS services seems to be coming closer to getting into government. It also names another senior NHS official, who is also in favour of privatisation and who also has connections to the same wretched bunch of profiteers. The article runs

“There has been no increase in NHS privatisation and there won’t be under a Conservative government”, the Tories insisted during the election campaign. But two of Boris Johnson’s new health ministers come from leading health privatisers.

Edward Argar, minister responsible for NHS England, was chief lobbyist for outsourcer Serco before he became an MP in 2015. Serco’s involvement in NHS privatisation includes some what the Tory manifesto liked to call “Labour’s disastrous PFI deals.”

Then there’s Helen Whatley, the MP for Faversham and Mid Kent and now minister for health and care integration, who was a management consultant in the health division of consultancy McKinsey from 2007 to 2015. McKinsey’s long-running interest in NHS privatisation includes helping former Tory health secretary Andrew Lansley draw up the reforms in 2012 that created many more opportunities for private firms to be “commissioned” for NHS work.

Though th egovernment was keen to close down NHS commercialisation as an issue during the last election, the appointment of a former McKinsey consultant as health minister suggests it is no longer worried on this score now it has such a big majority.

McKinsey’s influence was further cemented in January when NHS England appointed Penny Dash, its head of healthcare for Europe,to chair one of London’s five “integrated care systems” (ICS). These were set up to make the NHS and local authority social care work better together – a responsibility that will now be overseen by new minister and ex-McKinseyite Whatley. NHS England tells the Eye that Dash is “in the process of retiring” from McKinsey, though there is no set date: thus she will simultaneously work for NHS England and McKinsey until her retirement is complete.

Dash, who has also worked for the health department, typifies McKinsey’s enthusiasm for privatisation. In 2016 she talked up the Alzira plan, a Spanish scheme whereby a private firm takes responsibility for providing care to a given population in return for a fixed, per-capita payment. In 2011, Dash tried to revive interest in an idea rejected by Tony Blair, which would have given women needing a smear test or patients wanting an X-ray a voucher to shop around among providers. Will ideas like smear vouchers soon be back on the agenda? Watch this space…

I sincerely hope not, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they will. Nor would I be surprised if Cummings and crew aren’t discussing them even now.

There should be absolutely no surprise that the privatisation of the NHS is back in the Tory sights. As Mike’s pointed out in his piece today about Boris’ mendacious answers about nurses’ bursaries and free hospital car parking, the Tories are absolutely incapable of telling the truth. As for the guff about ‘Labour’s disastrous PFI deals’, well, yes, they were disastrous. But who dreamed up the Private Finance Initiative in the first place? You guessed it – the Tories. It was Peter Lilley’s big idea to open up the NHS to private investment.

The fact that Boris and his sordid band were desperate to deny they were going to privatise the NHS at the election shows how important it is that Labour should oppose NHS privatisation and demand its renationalisation. As for Serco and McKinsey, they should be thrown out of government contracting immediately. And Dash, Argar and Whatley should be kept as far from government and the NHS as possible.

Don’t believe the Tories lies – they are determined to privatise the health service. And that is something this country cannot afford.

Alan Milburn Attacked Cameron for Not Going Further in NHS Privatisation

February 8, 2020

Here’s a piece from Private Eye from 9 years ago, in the edition for 24th June to 7th July 2011. And it shows exactly why the Blairites should not be allowed back into power. It’s about an article Alan Milburn, the former Health Secretary under Blair, wrote in the Torygraph in which he actually criticised David Cameron for not having privatised the NHS enough. And it exposes Milburn’s own personal connections to private healthcare firms eager for a piece of NHS action. The article runs

Alan Milburn was characteristically modest in last week’s Telegraph when he attacked the coalition for backpedalling on NHS reform: “When I introduced private sector providers, some claimed it would be the end of the health service as we had known it. In fact, they strengthened it.”

Labour’s former health secretary wanted and expected more of the same from Andrew Lansley and David Cameron. Instead, he wrote: “Every single local decision-maker will read [the U-turn] as a signal to weaken competition, not strengthen it, and to protect the public sector incumbent over the private or voluntary sector insurgent. The debacle has set back for a generation the cause of market-based NHS reform… GPs’ ability to drive more services out of hospital and into the community has been severely compromised.”

At no point in this tirade did Milburn or the Telegraph decide that etiquette demanded he declare his financial interest. As the Eye has regularly pointed out, Milburn is now the chairman of the European advisory committee at Bridgepoint Capital Limited, whose website drools in the prospect of “excellent growth prospects and consolidation opportunities for those private sector players that can offer flexible, efficient and innovative business models in this evolving environment. Bridgepoint has long experience of investing successfully across the European healthcare sector.”

He is also a member of the healthcare advisory panel at Lloydspharmacy Limited, whose managing director Richard Smith indicated his firm’s enthusiasm for driving more services out of hospitals when told the Times in 2009 that “the pharmacy is the frontline in the NHS, but we have to change mindsets about it being part of the NHS. I believe that the pharmacy giving a solution is better value than a doctor.”

Milburn’s concern for the nation’s wellbeing extends only so far, however. He also happens to be a member of the advisory board at Pepsico, whose portfolio includes such healthy delights as Walkers Crisps and Sugar Puff.

Milburn wanted to reduce the NHS to a kitemark for services provided by private healthcare companies. As Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis show in their excellent NHS – SOS, private healthcare companies are less efficient than state hospitals and healthcare, not more. Furthermore, instead of cutting costs the inclusion of private sector companies has actually increased it by 6 per cent. And the end point of all this privatisation is an American-style system funded by private health insurance. And under that system, if you can’t pay, you don’t get treated. or just received minimal treatment in the Emergency Room. Millions of Americans can’t afford their health insurance and 40,000 people every year die because they can’t afford medical treatment in the Land of the Free.

This is what will come if the Tories are allowed to privatise the NHS. And by pushing privatisation and competition, Blair, Milburn and their wing of the Labour party will have helped them.

The Beeb’s Biased Reporting of NHS Privatisation

January 2, 2020

The Corporation’s General Right-wing Bias

The BBC is infamous for its flagrant right-wing bias. Writers and experts like Barry and Savile Kushner in their Who Needs the Cuts, academics at the media research centres of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff Universities, and ordinary left-wing bloggers like Mike and Zelo Street have pointed out time and again that the corporation massively prefers to have as commenters and guests on its show Conservative MPs and spokespeople for the financial sector on its news and political comment programmes, rather than Labour MPs and activists and trade unionists. The Corporation relentless pushed the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. But it has also promoted the privatisation of the NHS too through its biased reporting.

Biased Towards NHS Privatisation

Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis’ book on the privatisation of the NHS, NHS – SOS, has a chapter by Oliver Huitson, ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’, discussing the biased reporting of the NHS’s privatisation by the media in general. Here, however, I will just confine myself to describing the Corporation’s role. The Beeb was frequently silent and did not report vital pieces of information about successive privatisations, such as the involvement of private healthcare companies in demanding them and conflicts of interest. On occasion, this bias was actually worse than right-wing rags like the Daily Mail. Although these ardently supported the NHS’ privatisation, they frequently reported these cases while the Beeb did not. When the moves towards privatisation were reported, they were often given a positive spin. For example, the establishment of the Community Care Groups, groups of doctors who are supposed to commission medical services from the private sector as well as from within the NHS, and which are legally allowed to raise money from the private sector, were positively described by the Corporation as ‘giving doctors more control’.

Lack of Coverage of Private Healthcare Companies Role in Privatisation

David Cameron and Andrew Lansley did not include Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill in the Tories’ 2010 manifesto, because they didn’t believe they’d win the election if they did. But in all the two years of debate about the bill, the Beeb only twice reported doubts about the bill’s democratic mandate. (p.152). In October 2010, Mark Britnell was invited to join Cameron’s ‘kitchen cabinet’. Britnell had worked with the Labour government and was a former head of commissioning for the NHS. But he was also former head of health for the accountancy firm, KPMG, which profits greatly from government privatisation and outsourcing. He declared that the NHS would be shown ‘no mercy’ and would become a ‘state insurance provider, not a state deliverer’. But the BBC decided not to report all this until four days after others had broken the story. And when they did, it was only to explain a comment by Nick Clegg about how people are confused when they hear politicians stating how much they love the NHS while at the same time demanding its privatisation. (pp.153-4).

On 21 November 2011 Channel 4 News reported that they had obtained a document which showed clearly that GP commissioning was intended to create a market for private corporations to come in and take over NHS services. But This was only reported by the Groaniad and the Torygraph. The rest of the media, including the Beeb, ignored it. (pp. 156-7).

Lansley was also revealed to have received donations from Andrew Nash, chairman of Care UK, another private healthcare firm hoping to profit from NHS privatisation. But this also was not reported by the Corporation. (pp. 157-8).

In January 2011 the Mirror reported that the Tories had been given over £750,000 from donors with major connections to private healthcare  interests since David Cameron had become their chief in 2005. But this was also not mentioned by the Beeb. (pp. 158).

The Mirror also found that 40 members of the House of Lords had interests in NHS privatisation, while the Social Investigations blog suggested that it might be as high as 142. The BBC, along with several papers, did not mention this. (pp. 158-9).

Sonia Poulton, a writer for the Heil, stated on her blog that 31 Lords and 18 MPs have very lucrative interests in the health industry. But this was also ignored by the Beeb, along with the rest of the media with the exception of the Guardian. (p. 159).

The Tory MP, Nick de Bois, was a fervent support of the Tories’ NHS privatisation. He is a majority shareholder in Rapier Design Group, which purchased Hampton Medical Conferences, a number of whose clients were ‘partners’ in the National Association of Primary Care, another group lobbying the Tories for NHS privatisation. This was also not reported by the Beeb. (pp. 159-60).

The Beeb also chose not to report how Lord Carter of Coles, the chair of the Co-operation and Competition Panel charged with ensuring fair access to the NHS for private healthcare companies, was also receiving £799,000 per year as chairman of McKesson Information Solutions, part of the massive American McKesson healthcare company. (p. 160).

There were other links between politicos, think tanks, lobby groups and private healthcare companies. The health regulator, Monitor, is dominated by staff from McKinsey and KPMG. But this also isn’t mentioned by the press. (pp. 160-1).

Beeb Falsely Presents Pro-Privatisation Think Tanks as ‘Independent

The BBC, along with much of the rest of the media, have also been responsible for misrepresenting spokespeople for pro-privatisation lobby groups as disinterested experts, and the organisations for which they speak as just independent think tanks. This was how the Beeb described 2020health.org, whose chief executive, Julia Manning, was twice invited onto the air to discuss the NHS, and an entire article was given over to one of her wretched organisation’s reports. However, SpinWatch reported that its chairman, former Tory minister Tom Sackville, was also CEO of the International Federation of Health Plans, representing of 100 private health insurance companies. Its advisory council includes representatives of AstraZeneca, NM Rothschild, the National Pharmaceutical Association, Nuffield private hospital group, and the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services. (p. 162).

Another lobby group whose deputy director, Nick Seddon, and other employees were invited onto the Beeb to discuss the proposals was Reform. Seddon was head of communications at Circle, the first private healthcare company to take over an NHS hospital. Seddon’s replacement at Circle was Christina Lineen, a former aide to Andrew Lansley. None of this was reported by the Beeb. Their corporate partners included companies like Citigroup, KPMG, GlaxoSmithKline and Serco. Huitson states ‘Through Seddon’s and other Reform Staffs’ appearances, the BBC may have facilitated private sector lobbying on a publicly funded platform without making relevant interests known’. (163).

Beeb Did Not Cover Protests and Opposition to Bill

Pages 164-5 also discusses the Beeb’s refusal, with few exceptions, to interview critics of Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill, the rightwing bias of panels discussing it and how the Beeb did not cover protests against it or its discussion in parliament. Huitson writes

At the BBC opportunities were frequently missed to provide expert opposition to the bill on a consistent basis. the RCGP’s Clare Gerada was largely the exception to this rule. Many of the most well-known and authoritative critics of the bill – the likes of professors Allyson Pollock or Colin Leys, doctors Jacky Davis and Wendy Savage from Keep Our NHS Public – never appeared on the BBC to discuss the plans. Davis recalls being invited to appear on the BBC a number of times but the item was cancelled on every occasion. ‘Balance’ is supposedly one of the BBC’s primary objectives yet appearing on the Today programme of 1 February 2012 to discuss the bill, for instance, were Shirley Williams (who voted in favour of the bill, however reluctantly), Nick Seddon of ‘independent’ Reform (pro-Bill), Steve Field (pro-Bill) and Chris Ham (pro-Bill). It’s difficult to see how that is not a breach of BBC guidelines and a disservice to the public. One of the fundamental duties of an open media is to ensure that coverage is not skewed towards those with the deepest pockets. And on that issue the media often performed poorly.

Further criticism of the BBC stems from its curious lack of NHS coverage during the climactic final month before the bill was passed in the House of Lords on 19 March. One such complaint came from blogger and Oxford Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology Dorothy Bishop, who wrote to the BBC to ask why it had failed to cover a number of NHS stories in March, including an anti-bill petition that had been brought to the House by Lord Owen, carrying 486,000 signatures of support. In reply, the BBC confirmed that the bill had been mentioned on the Today programme in March prior to the bill’s passing, though just once. Bishop replied:’So, if I have understood this right, during March, the Today programme covered the story once, in an early two-minute slot, before the bill was passed. Other items that morning included four minutes on a French theme park based on Napoleon, six minutes on international bagpipe day and eight minutes on Jubilee celebrations.’

Other BBC omissions include Andrew Lansley being heckled by angry medical staff at a hospital in Hampstead, as reported by both the Mail and Sky News. On 17 March a peaceful anti-bill march took place in central London. Those out protesting for their national health service found themselves kettled by riot police despite being one of the most harmless-looking crowds you’re ever likely to see. The protest and the shameful police response were completely ignored by the media, except for a brief mention on a Guardian blog. On social media numerous examples have been reported of protests and actions opposing the bill that were entirely absent from national coverage.

Then, on 19 March, the day of the final vote on the bill, the BBC ran not a single article on the event, despite this being one of the most bitterly opposed pieces of legislation in recent history – it was as if the vote was not taking place. The next day, with the bill passed, they ran a full seven articles on the story. Three days after the bill passed, Radio 4 broadcast The Report: ‘Simon Cox asks: why is NHS reform mired in controversy?’ Why this was not broadcast before the Lords’ vote is a mystery. 

When the Bill was passed, the bill scrolling across the BBC News’ screen ran ‘Bill which gives power to GPs passes’. (166). Huitson remarks that when the Beeb and the other news networks reported that the Bill gave power to GPs and allowed a greater role for the private sector, it was little more than regurgitating government press releases. (p. 168).

Beeb Bias Problem Due to Corporation’s Importance and Domination of Broadcast News

Huitson also comments on the specific failure of the Beeb to provide adequate coverage of NHS privatisation in its role as one of the great British public institutions, the dominant role it has in British news reporting. On pages 169-70 he writes

Campaigners may not expect more from the Sun but they certainly do from the BBC, given its status as an impartial public service broadcaster whose news gathering is supported directly by licence fee payers. The BBC accounts for 70 per cent of news consumption on television. Further, the BBC accounts for 40 per cent of online news read by the public, three times that of its closes competitor, the Mail. Quite simply, the BBC dominates UK news. The weight given to the BBC here is not purely down to its dominance, however, but also because, along with the NHS, the BBC remains one of our great public institutions, an entity that is supposedly above commercial pressures. Many of the stories ignored by the BBC were covered by the for-profit, right-wing press, as well as the Guardian and Channel 4, so the concern is not that the organisation failed to ‘campaign’ for the NHS, but that it failed to report facts that other outlets found newsworthy.

The BBC’#s archive of TV and radio coverage is neither available for the public to research nor technically practical to research, but there are a number of reasons for confidence that their online content is highly indicative of their broader output. First, BBC online is a fully integrated part of the main newsroom rather than a separate operation. Consequently, TV and radio coverage that can be examined is largely indistinguishable from the related online content, as demonstrated in the examples given above. During the debate of Lansley’s bill, the BBC TV and radio were both subject to multiple complaints, the figures for which the BBC has declined to release.

Beeb’s Reporting of NHS Privatisation as Biased as Coverage of Miners’ Strike

He also compares the Beeb’s coverage of the bill, along with that of the rest of the media, to its similarly biased reporting of the miners’ strike.

The overall media coverage of the health bill brings to mind a quote from BBC radio correspondent Nicholas Jones, on the BBC’s coverage of the miners’ strike: ‘stories that gave prominence to the position of the National Union of Miners could simply be omitted, shortened or submerged into another report.’ (pp. 172-3).

Conclusion

The Beeb does produce some excellent programmes. I really enjoyed last night’s Dr. Who, for example. But the right-wing bias of its news reporting is now so extreme that in many cases it is fair to say that it is now a propaganda outlet for the Tory party and big business. It’s utterly indefensible, and in my view it will only be reformed if and when the newsroom and its managers are sacked in its entirety. In the meantime, Boris and the rest of the Tories are clamouring for its privatisation. Godfrey Bloom, one of the more prominent Kippers, has also put up a post or two in the past couple of days demanding precisely that.

If the Beeb was genuinely impartial, it would have defenders on the Left. But it is rapidly losing them thanks to its bias. And to the Tories, that’s also going to be a plus.

Thanks to the Beeb’s own Tory bias, it’s going to find it very hard to combat their privatisation.

And in the meantime they will have helped destroy the most valued of British institutions, the NHS, and free, universal healthcare to Britain’s citizens.

Of Course the Tories Are Privatising the NHS

November 29, 2019

More lies from the party of smear and bully: they’re denying they’re selling off the NHS. At around 10.00 O’Clock on Wednesday Jeremy Corbyn appeared, brandishing a copy of the documents of the negotiations between Donald Trump and his British counterpart, Boris. And two minutes after he made his speech, the Tory spin machine trundled into action using what Peter Oborne has called its paramilitary wing, Guido Fawkes. The site stated that they had all six of the documents Corbyn had seen, and one didn’t mention the NHS at all. And the second, he declared, showed that Britain was heading for cheaper drugs through the deal with the Americans.

The Torygraph’s Christopher Hope then claimed that Corbyn was a threat to national security, as those documents had been marked secret. Zelo Street has pointed out how hypocritical this is, coming from the man or the paper that leaked ambassador Kim Darroch’s confidential views on what a massive imbecile Trump is. Tory chairman James Cleverly decided to add his tuppence worth’s, a declared that this breach of confidentiality by Corbyn showed his wasn’t fit to be Prime Minister. This was then refuted by Aaron Bastani of Novara Media, who pointed out that if that was true, then what about Fawkes, which had uploaded the documents with the civil servants’ names attached. Which Corbyn hadn’t done. And Pete tweeted that the documents actually showed that NHS access to generic drugs is an issue for the US.

This was confirmed by Steve Peers, who cited the relevant texts to disprove the Fawkes’ lies utterly. Peers tweeted

This is either ignorant or dishonest about Trump’s trade policy on drug pricing. It’s the other way around – Trump’s policy is to *increase* the prices paid for drugs outside the US … Here’s Trump’s policy on drug pricing in his own words, objecting to ‘unreasonably low prices’ outside the US – from the House of Lords library briefing on ‘the NHS and future trade deals’, 4 July 2019.

Some have objected to Corbyn saying that Trump seeks ‘full market access’ for medical products. But this phrase is found in the Trump administration’s own public document setting out its objectives in the US/UK talks … this falls short of the claim that “the NHS is for sale” in the trade talks with Trump. But we do know: a) patents/NHS drug pricing is under discussion (although we can’t be certain what final FTA would say on this) … b) Trump’s objective is NHS paying *more*, not less.

Zelo Street concluded its coverage of this with the comment

‘Labour’s revelation has cut through. The Tory boot boys have confirmed it. Game changer.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/labour-nhs-leak-validated-by-tory-spin.html

But the Tories are still pursuing a policy of NHS privatisation even without the wretched trade negotiation with Trump.

They and the Blairites have been doing it for forty years, ever since Thatcher got into power in 1979. She really did want to privatise the NHS completely, but was only prevented by a cabinet revolt. So she contented herself with privatising the ancillary services by opening them up to private tender, and trying to encourage a target of 15 per cent of the British population to take out private health insurance instead.

This piecemeal privatisation continued under John Major, who introduced the private finance initiative, in which private firms would cooperate with the government to build hospitals. A few years ago Private Eye published a piece on this, revealing that its architect, Peter Lilly, saw it as an opportunity to open up the NHS to private enterprise.

Then in 1997 Blair’s new Labour came to power, and the process of privatisation was ramped up. Blair was no kind of socialist. He was an ardent Thatcherite, who the Leaderene in her turn hailed as her greatest success. He immediately pushed through a series of reforms in which the management of hospitals would be opened up to private healthcare companies. At the same time, the NHS could also contract in private healthcare providers like hospitals. The new polyclinics or health centres that the Blair regime established were also to be privately managed by companies like BUPA, Circle Health and Virgin Healthcare. And the Community Care Groups of doctors, which were supposed to be responsible for allowing doctors to manage their own funds, were part of this policy. They could raise money through private enterprise and contract in private healthcare companies.

One of Blair’s Health Secretaries wished to reduce the NHS to nothing more than a kitemark on services provided by private companies.

And this policy was continued and expanded in turn by the Tories.

They have done nothing to repeal any of this legislation. Instead they have taken it further. Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill is particularly obnoxious as underneath its convoluted verbiage it absolves the Health Secretary from the responsibility of ensuring that everyone in the UK has access to proper healthcare. This overturns one of the core principles of the NHS that has been there ever since it was set up by Nye Bevan and the Labour Party in 1948.

And it has gone on. The Tories wanted to give whole regions over to private healthcare providers, which would have brought the NHS’ complete privatisation that much closer. At the moment the majority of medical contracts have been given to private healthcare providers. Mike revealed on his blog that about 309 contracts had been given out, thus refuting the Tory claim that they aren’t selling the Health Service off.

Let’s be clear: Corbyn is not wrong and the Tories ARE selling the NHS – now

This is a process that has been going for decades. But it is extensively covered by books like Raymond Tallis’ and Jackie Davis’ NHS – SOS. I’ve also written pamphlets on it, one of which is still available from Lulu. See my publications’ page on this site. And there are other books. Many others.

The Tories are selling off the NHS, and it is only Corbyn and his team that oppose it. The Blairites in Labour and the Lib Dems are utterly complicit in it.

If you still value the NHS, vote Labour.

Cameron Blames Lansley and Lib Dems for His Act Promoting Privatisation of NHS

October 3, 2019

This fortnight’s issue of Private Eye also has a few choice things to say about David Cameron’s new book, For the Record. This seems to be largely his attempt to justify his wretched tenure of 10 Downing Street and the havoc he caused. The book’s reviewed, and comprehensively and thoroughly trashed, in their ‘Literary Review’ column on page 34 in a piece titled ‘Shed tears’. It’s a long review, which can be summed up by saying that Cameron keeps trying to claim that his government left Britain stronger, more stable, and more prosperous. To which the Eye’s answer – and just about everyone else’s – is Brexit, and a few telling details refuting the Old Eton’s bogus claims.

The magazine’s ‘Medicine Balls’ column also attacks some of Cameron’s claims. It begins by refuting BoJob’s claim that he’ll build 40 new hospitals, before going on to tackle Cameron’s little stories. Including the former PM’s claim that he wasn’t really responsible for the Health and Social Care Act of 2012. This is a nasty little piece of legislation which, behind its convoluted verbiage and tortuous clauses, exempts the Health Secretary from having to provide Brits with universal healthcare which is free at the point of service. It’s a piece preparing for the wholesale privatisation of the NHS, and is duly attacked as such in the book NHS – SOS. As Prime Minister, Cameron is responsible for the Act. Except he claims it’s all the fault of his Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, and the Lib Dems. The Eye writes

Then there is the small matter of repairing the disastrous Health and Social Care Act, a Trojan horse for outsourcing NHS services to the private sector via an astonishingly wasteful process of repetitive, competitive tendering. David Cameron, in his autobiography, places the blame for the act on his health secretary Andrew Lansley, the Lib Dem coalition partners and the British Medical Association (BMA): “Andrew Lansley … was too submerged in the detail. The jargon he’d use was baffling. I remember sitting in cabinet when he shared his reform white paper. it was like an artist unveiling a piece he’d spent years on, and everyone wondering what on earth it was.” So why did he allow such chaos to progress?

It was the Lib Dems fault, claims Cameron, that he was forced to abandon his pre-election pledge of “no top-down” reorganisation” of the NHS, because they insisted that primary care trusts should be abolished rather than left “wither on the vine”. Then there is the BMA, which Cameron declares “will oppose anything, whether it is a good idea or not.”

(Eye page 17).

From this it’s clear that there was little ideological difference between Cameron and the Lib Dems. Both wanted the primary care trusts to go. It was simply a difference of the means.Cameron wanted them to decay quietly, the Lib Dems wanted abolition.

The column also attacks Comedy Dave’s pledge to support the NHS:

But he also promised to “always support the NHS with the funding it needs”, which he manifestly failed to do. And the promises in his 2015 manifesto – “to make the NHS the safest and most compassionate health service in the world” – were always phoney given the lack of resource, capacity and staff.

The article does admit that Cameron did some things right, such as highlighting the dangers of anti-microbial resistance, but attacks his role in provoking the junior doctor’s strike by demanding they work weekends, based on flawed, decades-old statistics.

From this it’s very clear that, whatever he says about Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act, Cameron was in favour of the privatisation of the NHS. No surprise there, then. He’s a Thatcherite, and Maggie Thatcher wanted to privatise the NHS. She couldn’t, because her Personal Private Secretary, Patrick Jenkin, found out how awful the American, insurance-based system was, and there was a massive cabinet rebellion. But she was determined to open it up to private industry. This was taken over by Peter Lilley and John Major, who introduce the Private Finance Initiative, and then by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who expanded it in their turn. It was then taken up, once again, by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Tweezer. And I’ve no doubt Johnson also wants to privatise it, after he gets through ruining the country with his assaults on the sovereignty of parliament and a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

And the Lib Dems share the Tories’ determination to destroy the NHS. At the last election, Nick Clegg stated that he wanted to open the NHS up to private industry, as those countries, whose healthcare had a mixture of state and private provision had ‘better outcomes’. It’s a flat-out lie, or it was until he and the Tories started their disastrous campaign of trashing the NHS. And Swinson shares his goal of privatising it. She consistently voted for the government’s bills, and supported them far more than some front bench Conservatives.

Despite this, she claims that she and her party are ‘progressive’, solely because it ostensibly supports ‘Remain’. But this is sheer opportunism. When it came to the referendum, she issued a single, lukewarm tweet and was nowhere to be seen, while the Labour leader she reviles was travelling up and down the country. As for her party, the proportion of Lib Dems who support ‘Remain’ is only two per cent higher than that of the Labour party. Her whole pro-Remain stance is a lie, as is just about everything she says.

Don’t be fooled. Both the Tories and Lib Dems want to privatise the NHS. The only person who doesn’t, and will block it, is Jeremy Corbyn.

 

The Tories and Blairites Cannot Be Trusted to Defend the NHS from Trump

June 11, 2019

Last week the orange generalissimo managed to cause massive offence and outrage on his state visit here. And it wasn’t just for merely being present, although that was certainly a major factor in the protests his visit provoked. No, Trump and his spokesman were touting for a trade deal with Britain after Brexit. And he demanded that ‘everything should be on the table’, including healthcare.

Which means the NHS.

MPs from all sides of the House immediately swung into action to condemn the Fascist cheeto’s demands that the NHS should be opened up to private American healthcare companies. There were a string of high profile Tory MPs, including former health secretary Andrew Lansley, loudly denouncing Trump’s demand, and stating that they weren’t going to include the NHS as part of the Brexit deal and were going to defend this most precious of British institutions. Lansley in particular was scathing about Trump’s opposition to the way the NHS controlled drug prices. He was afraid that if Trump has his way, this would be discarded to allow predatory American pharmaceutical companies to charge excessive and unaffordable prices for needed drugs.

He’s absolutely right.

One of the current scandals with the American private, insurance-driven healthcare system is that the drug companies can and do charge whatever they like for their products, which means that these are often beyond the ability of ordinary Americans to afford. I’ve blogged on here about a piece from The Young Turks about how Americans are hoarding drugs or buying those intended for animals from vets because they can’t afford them. And the worst example of a drug company actually raising prices is the case of Martin Shkreli. When he took over one company, he raised the price of an anti-AIDS drug to well over $300 a pill. He said he only wanted rich Americans to be able to use it, not poor Indians. He was rightly massively vilified for his gross racism and profiteering, but continued to defend himself, as he really couldn’t see that he had done anything wrong.

But while it’s heartening to see all these politicians stand up to defend the health service, I don’t believe them. With one exception, of course: Jeremy Corbyn. The Tories and the Blairites simply can’t be trusted to defend the NHS because they haven’t done it up to now. Indeed, they’ve done the exact opposite, all the while denying it.

Remember how Maggie Thatcher loudly declared that the NHS was ‘safe with us’, and she would keep her wretched claws off it. She even put it in her memoirs, denouncing the claims of the Labour party that she was planning to privatise the health service as lies. But she herself was lying. Cabinet minutes released a couple of years ago showed that she very much wanted to privatise the NHS. She was only stopped because of a massive cabinet revolt and the fact that her Personal Private Secretary, Patrick Jenkin, had visited the US and had seen personally what a travesty American private healthcare was.

So she satisfied herself with cutting its budget and trying to encourage Brits to take out private health insurance instead. She was aiming for about 11 per cent of the British population to take out such insurance.

She was followed by John Major, whose health secretary Peter Lilley was, I believe, one of the others who attacked Trump’s demand for a slice of NHS action. But Lilley was responsible for the Private Finance Initiative, under which private firms were to be allowed to bid for NHS contracts and building and running hospitals in partnership with the government. It was deliberately introduced with the intention of opening up the health service to private healthcare companies. And Lilley was advised in his health policies by John Lo Casio of the American private health insurance fraudster, Unum.

Well, the government changed with Labour’s 1997 electoral victory, but the Thatcherite privatisation of the NHS remained on course. Blair was an unashamed Thatcherite, and she had reciprocated his feelings by calling him and New Labour her greatest achievement. Blair also took over Lo Casio and Unum as his advisers on health policy, and continued the stealth privatisation of the NHS. The Community Care Groups of GPs he set up to contract in healthcare services were given the power to purchase it from the private sector and to raise funding privately themselves. The health centres and polyclinics he set up were to be run by private healthcare firms, like Circle Health, BUPA and Beardie Branson’s Virgin Health. NHS contracts, including out of hours services in many regions were privatised and the contracts awarded to private healthcare firms.

And yes, American healthcare firms were among them. Private Eye reported how Blair was surrounded by American public sector contractors, all lobbying for their share of British state business. Like the private American prison company, Wackenhut. And this included private healthcare companies. Blair was particularly impressed by the private American healthcare provider, Keyserpermanente, which he thought provided better value for money than the traditional NHS structure. It doesn’t, but that was ignored, and the American company provided the model for his NHS reforms. His health secretary, Alan Milburn, wanted the NHS to become nothing but a kitemark for services provided by private companies.

And this continued under David Cameron and Tweezer. Despite the loud shouts by Lansley and Jeremy Hunt that they ‘treasure’ the NHS, both of them preferred private healthcare and previously stated that they wanted the NHS effectively abolished and the lines blurred between state and private provision. There’s also a solid block of Tory politicians that would like the NHS sold off completely. Like the Devon Tory MEP, Daniel Hannan, dubbed by Guy Debord’s Cat ‘the Lyin’ King’ because of his gross mendacity. The majority of NHS contracts are being awarded to private healthcare firms, rather than kept in-house, and they have been angling to win the contracts for whole regions. Which brings the complete privatisation of the NHS even closer.

Andrew Lansley’s convoluted Health and Social Care Act of 2012 also enabled its privatisation by removing the obligation of the health secretary to provide healthcare to everyone in the UK, which had been a statutory requirement since the founding of the NHS in 1948. The Tories have also consistently voted to introduce charges for certain NHS services. Mike over at Vox Political has frequently given the voting record of some of the worst Tories, who have not only done this, but also supported other attacks on the poor like cutting welfare services, raising tuition fees and supporting the bedroom tax.

And I don’t trust the Lib Dems either. They went into coalition with the Tories and did absolutely nothing as their partners in government continued to attack the welfare state and the NHS. Indeed some of them, like the former MP for Taunton Dean, strongly supported it.

I have to say that I think that the outrage from the Tories at Trump’s demands is largely hypocritical. They’d very much like to make a deal with Trump, that includes the NHS along with other essential services that should only be run by the state. But, as with the cabinet revolt against Thatcher, they’re afraid that if they agree, they will be voted out in a devastating landslide, possibly never to get back into power.

The only person, who can be trusted to defend the NHS and keep it safe from Trump and the other privatisers, is Jeremy Corbyn.

Don’t trust the Tories. They still want to and  are privatising the NHS. Nor the Lib Dems or ‘Centrist’ Labour, who are exactly the same. The only real hope of defending and reviving the NHS is with Corbyn and the victory of a genuine, socialist Labour party at the next election. 

Private Eye on ChangeUK MP Stephen Dorrell’s Role in Disastrous and Exploitative Tory Policies

May 1, 2019

This fortnight’s Private Eye, for 3rd – 16th May 2019 has an article about the major role the former Tory MP Stephen Dorrell played in creating and promoting the disastrous Tory policies of rail privatisation, the Private Finance Initiative and the privatisation of the NHS. These are policies which the magazine speculates will make him unpalatable to those centrist Labour voters that ChangeUK hopes to appeal to. The article runs

The adoption of former Tory health secretary Stephen Dorrell as a Change UK candidate in the European elections may be a Tory too far for ex-Labour voters wanting to switch to the centrist cause.

Dorrell’s Tory CV harks all the way back to the dying days of the Thatcher era when he was a whip – a supposedly “wet” Tory helping push through her ultra “dry” policies.

Under John Major, he became a Treasury minister, active in the Rail Privatisation Group behind the sale of the railways. Against expert advice, Dorrell was one who pushed for separation of responsibility between trains and track – with dire results. Railtrack, the privatised track operator, eventually collapsed after lethal crashes caused by poor maintenance.

As health secretary it was Dorrell who began the 20-year disaster of the private finance initiative (PFI) in the NHS. “I am a strong supporter of the PFI,” he told the Commons, calling PFI “the best opportunity that we have had in the history of the NHS” to “deliver the best healthcare.” It wasn’t. And it didn’t.

Dorrell launched a failed bid for the party leadership in 1997 and never held a ministerial job again. Later, under the coalition, he was seen as a critic of Andrew lansley’s NHS reforms – but not too loud a critic.

Having left parliament in 2015, he has kept up his interest in giving corporations access to the NHS, chairing Public Policy Projects, a subscription-based outfit “focused on the big issues in health and social care”. His group arranges breakfasts and receptions for businesses to meet political and NHS insiders. Recent events have included meals iwth health secretary Matt Hancock, housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire, Treasury committee chair Nicky Morgan and top NHS officials.

Dorrell has also worked as a healthcare and public services adviser to KPMG since 2014; and last year became an “associate” of Cratus Communications, a lobbyist for developers. If Change UK really wants to fix the UK’s “broken politics”, it may have to cast its net a little wider. (P. 7).

These are all very good reasons why genuine Labour voters shouldn’t vote for him. But they’re also reasons why traditional Labour voters shouldn’t vote for any of the former Labour MPs in Change UK. All of the so-called Labour ‘centrists’ are really nothing of the sort. They’re red Tories, as fanatically keen on privatisation and the dismantlement of the NHS for the profit of private healthcare firms as the Conservatives. Blair was responsible for the introduction of much of the legislation allowing the NHS to purchase services from private healthcare providers, including the operation of the health centres and polyclinics, which he hoped would be run by private firms. His health secretary, Alan Milburn, wished the NHS to become simply a kitemark for services provided by private healthcare firms.

The real centrists and moderates are Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, who wish to renationalise the NHS, the rail companies, water and part of the national grid. These are policies both the Tories, Change UK and the Labour ‘centrists’ loathe and detest. Just as they loathe and detest his plans to renew and strengthen the welfare state and give workers back proper employment rights and powerful trade unions able to defend them.

As Mike, Zelo Street and the various other left-wing bloggers have described on their sites, Change UK and its mixture of former Tory and Blairite Labour MPs shows that there really isn’t any difference between the two.

Private Eye’s article is thus a very good reason not to vote for Dorrell personally nor his wretched party in general. And the solid support for Blair’s own privatisation and destruction of the welfare state by Change UK’s former Labour MPs and their fellows still in the Labour party also demonstrates why working people need to see a genuine socialist Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn once again in power and winning elections, from the European all the way to Westminster.

Helping Labour to Win in the Countryside: Encouraging Rural Industry

December 16, 2018

As well as helping to bail out farmers, Labour could also help to reverse the decline of the countryside by encouraging businesses to relocate there. Shirley Williams, the former Labour politician who defected to found the SDP, which merged with the Liberals to form the Lib Dems, discusses this possibility in her 1981 book, Politics Is For People, published by Penguin as an example of what may be done to promote small businesses. She writes

The Wilson Committee jibbed at setting up a Small Business Agency, though the case for its seems strong. What the Committee did propose was a loan guarantee scheme, under which loans to small businesses would be partially underwritten by the banks, and an English Development Agency with similar powers to those of the Scottish and Welsh Development Agencies in relation to small firms. Thresholds for government support schemes which small firms are unable to cross, the Report said, should be reviewed.

This would be a useful start, but if the long drift towards concentration is to be reversed, much more is needed. The new agency should positively go out and look for products and services which small firms can produce, as COSIRA (Council for Siting Industry in Rural Areas) has done so successfully in rural areas. New firms should be able to qualify for capital loans at a subsidized interest rate, and they should be entitled to similar help when they reach the breakthrough point of rapid growth. This is the stage at which many small innovatory firms go under, because they cannot finance expansion on the scale needed to meet demand. Good legal and accounting services should be readily available through the new agency, which should also offer advice on government schemes that may be helpful. Red tape and form-filling needs to be kept to a minimum, since small firms rarely have the bureaucracy to cope with complicated application forms. The Microelectronic Applications Project introduced by the Labour government of 1976-9 has been successful in attracting several thousand requests for its consultancy scheme, not just because the government met the first 2,000 pounds of the consultant’s fees, but because the procedure for applying is so simple. (p. 121).

Williams is far from my favourite politician because of her role in founding the SDP and its subsequent move to the right. She is also personally responsible for helping the passage of Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care bill, which is part of the Tories’ continuing privatization of the NHS, through parliament by voting for it when others, like Dr. David Owen, voted against. But the book has interesting ideas. It struck me that IT is industry that could easily me moved to the countryside, if only in the form of software developers, who may not need quite so much expensive plant.

Many working people have dreams of running their own businesses, and G.D.H. Cole in one of his books on socialism argued that socialists should make common cause with small businesspeople against the threat of big business. And it is big business that is also threatening the countryside. As George Monbiot has described in his book, Captive State, the big supermarkets drive out the small businesses in their areas. This has a devastating effect on the area generally, as these industries employ more people than the supermarkets themselves. Furthermore, the supermarkets use very exploitative contracts to force their suppliers to provide them with goods at very low prices. New Labour and no doubt the Tories after them have done much to harm the country generally as well as rural areas by supporting the big supermarkets, like Sainsbury’s, against local shops like grocers.