Posts Tagged ‘David Owen’

Labour’s Warning of the Destruction of the NHS under the Tories

June 6, 2017

I caught Labour’s election broadcast last night, and found it deeply moving and very informative. The short film featured interviews with doctors and other healthcare professionals talking about the current crisis in the NHS. One of the speakers was a senior doctor, who explained that the NHS is being underfunded by 3 per cent per year. This debt has accumulated to a shortfall of 10 per cent, and is expected to grow to 30 per cent. He and the other medical professionals made the point that this was part of the Tories’ campaign to privatise the NHS.

They made the point that the NHS is on the verge of collapse and privatisation. Over half of NHS services are now commissioned from private healthcare providers. There are record levels of people waiting for operations and increases in diseases such as cancer.

The senior doctor was visibly moved to the verge of tears when he described one boy, who had a serious illness, but the nearest hospital that could take him was in Scotland, despite the fact that he and his family lived in England. They thus had to make a four hundred mile round trip to visit him.

This section was followed by a teacher, a young Asian woman, talking about the way education too, and teachers, was being deliberately starved of funds. She and the doctor made the point that the Tories were only interested in running services for profit.

And this will include the NHS.

The doctor warned that if the Tories win another Term, they’ll destroy it.

This is exactly what Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis have been warning about in their book, NHS-SOS. As has Dr. David Owen in his book, and very many others.

Thatcher wanted to privatise the NHS, but stopped due to a cabinet revolt and warnings about how appalling the American private healthcare system was. Nevertheless, she carried on with a campaign to encourage 25 per cent of British people to take out private health insurance.

And it was Peter Lilley, the prancing pratt with the ‘little list’ of people he hated at a 1990s Tory conference, who set in motion the handing over of NHS hospitals and services for private companies like Circle Health, Virgin Healthcare, et al to run, because he wanted to open up the state sector occupied by the NHS to private industry.

This programme of privatisation has been carried on by Blair, Brown, Cameron, Clegg and now May.

Don’t believe May’s lies about increasing NHS funding. She and her party have lied so often before you can’t trust anything she says.

Believe Labour.
And vote for them, to reverse the privatisation of the NHS on June 8th.

This may be our last chance to save the NHS.

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Vox Political: Torygraph Spreading More Lies about Break-Away Labour Group

May 11, 2017

It seems the Torygraph will publish any old rubbish, not matter how hackneyed and obviously wrong, to undermine Jeremy Corbyn. Yesterday Mike put up a piece about an article in it, which claims that about 100 Labour MPs are in talks with potential donors about setting up a new ‘Progressives’ group in parliament if Corbyn stays on after a Tory landslide.

As Mike says, this is just the same old rumours that right-wing Labour MPs were planning to split the party that were circulating just before Corbyn won his second leadership election with a landslide.

He concludes

This is just a stupid smoke-and-mirrors bid to sap support for Jeremy Corbyn after Labour’s storming campaign launch and yet more blunders from ‘Team Terrible’ – I mean, Team Theresa.

I notice the name of the Torygraph reporter is ironically appropriate – C Hope? There’s no hope for Tories to see here.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/10/how-many-times-must-we-read-this-twaddle-about-mps-breaking-away-from-corbyns-labour/

A little while ago Florence, one of the great commenters on this blog, posted this remark about similar rumours of a Labour split:

It seems you may not have long to wait, as rumour has it that Blair is indeed trying to found a new party (or should that be a New Party?), with Sainsbury’s money being redirected from Progress to the New Blair Party. I have no doubt at all that this will claim to hold the middle ground as long as the ideals of neoliberalism seem centrist and “moderate”. I also have no doubt that this is yet another attack on the working people of the UK.

Let’s just stick with the current Labour party, that has promised to represent the 99%, and not the 1%?

My guess is that the Torygraph writer has heard some of these same rumours, and decided to repeat them as fact. It might be true that Blair wants to set up a new ‘Progressives’ party – the title of this new ‘moderate’ – read: neoliberal – group touted by the Torygraph seems to be based on ‘Progress’, the Blairite faction in Labour. Blair himself wants to return to British politics and was in the papers a week ago spouting on about how he wishes to spread ‘moderate’ politics.

I doubt he would have any chance of forming a new party. As Richard Seymour has pointed out in his book on Jeremy Corbyn, Progress is tiny numerically. It’s only causing trouble because its members have seized key position in the party. Furthermore, Blair himself is politically toxic, though like Thatcher he has no idea that he is long past his political sell-by date. Mike and Seymour in his book have pointed out that from 2002 to the end of their administration, Labour lost five million votes. He alienated voters with his right-wing policies.

And even some Tories despise him for reasons that are entirely right and correct. The Mail on Sunday columnist, Peter Hitchens, refers to him as ‘the Blair creature’ and voices his intense disgust at him for starting the needless wars in the Middle East which have cost so many brave men and women their lives and limbs.

My guess is that if the 100 Labour MPs did split off from Labour, it would result in them immediately losing their seats. The party would then be able to put up proper left-wing candidates, who would support Corbyn – or a suitably left-wing successor. These proper Labour MPs would then win the seats previously held by their Blairite predecessors.

But as Mike said, rumours of these splits have run before, and been wrong. The Blairite MPs themselves have been desperate to hold on to their nominations as Labour MPs by any means, fair or foul. We’ve seen whole local Labour parties suspended on trumped up charges because they’ve scared the Tom Watson and his minions by threatening to deselect their Blairite MP.

And Barry Davies, one of the long-term commenters over on Mike’s blog, raises the spectre of what happened to the SDP:

Well let’s honest if they “moderate’s” broke away what are they going to do, renew the social democrats?, start another party? join the lib dems, whatever they would be assured of losing their cushy jobs.

Yes, what did happen to the SDP? They were supposed to be about to break the mould of British politics. I can remember David Owen telling his troops to go back home and prepare for government.

It didn’t happen.

But he did get an invitation from Screaming Lord Sutch to join the Monster Raving Loony Party. Sutch said in his autobiography, Life As Sutch, that if Dr Owen had joined them, he’d be in government by now.

This looks like wishful thinking at best from the Torygraph. They’ve been one of the most venomous and persistent of Corbyn’s critics in the media. Possibly this is due to the paper’s very blatant right-wing bias, made worse by its ownership by the weirdo Barclay Twins, and desperation to ingratiate itself to potential advertisers by spiking stories that reflect badly on them. According to Private Eye, this prostration before the advertisers has resulted in readers leaving it in droves. I got the impression that this has resulted in mass sackings by doddery CEO Murdo McClellan and the Gruesome Twosome in order to keep the paper’s share price up.

Either way, it’s the Torygraph that’s in dire straits, not Labour. And hopefully one result of a Labour victory will be to utterly discredit the Telegraph and the other right-wing denizens of Fleet Street as influential opinion-formers.

My YouTube Video Urging People to Vote Labour to Defend the NHS

April 30, 2017

I’ve had my own YouTube channel for a few years now. I haven’t posted anything on there for quite a while, and most of the stuff I have posted up there is about archaeology, early musical instruments and few home-made space videos. However, today I put up a video urging people to vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour to prevent the Tories privatising the NHS.

I state that it began when Margaret Thatcher came to power as part of her campaign to dismantle the welfare state, but that Thatcher was stopped from doing so by her a cabinet revolt and her Personal Secretary, Patrick Jenkin. The cabinet realised that if she did privatise the NHS, it would immediately result in the Tories losing an election. Also, Jenkin went to America and realised just how bad the American system of private healthcare was. So Maggie settled for trying to expand private healthcare in Britain, aiming to have 25 per cent of the British people take out private health insurance.

A few years later in the 1980s there came a dispute between her and the dentists, which resulted in very many of them leaving the NHS. The result of that is that, while there still are NHS dentists, you need to look for them. And private dental care is not cheap. So people are going without proper dentistry.

After that, Peter Lilley in John Major’s administration introduced the Private Finance Initiative, under which private corporations build and manage hospitals for the NHS. It’s essentially a scheme to keep the costs of construction and management off the books. In practice it’s massively more expensive than simply having them build by the state. Those hospitals, clinics and other medical services built through it also tend to be smaller than through ordinary hospitals built by the state. See the chapter in George Monbiot’s Captive State. This was all done to open up the NHS to private investment.

This programme was expanded by Tony Blair, as he, like the Tories, was approached by private healthcare firms such as Unum, Virgin Health, Circle Health and BUPA to privatise more NHS services. His health secretary, Alan Milburn, wished to reduce the NHS to a kitemark for services provided for the state by private healthcare companies. He split the NHS up and handed its management to CCGs – Community Care Groups. This was supposed to be giving doctors greater freedom and more choice. However, it doesn’t do this as most doctors simply don’t have enough time to spend on administration. The CCGs were given the power to raise money privately, and commission services from private healthcare providers. Again, hospitals and the health centres or polyclinics Blair also built were also to be managed by private companies.

This programme did not stop when David Cameron’s new Conservative government was voted into power in 2010. Cameron had claimed that he going to stop further cuts in the NHS. He didn’t. He expanded the privatisation programme even further. The 2012 healthcare act formulated by his health minister, Andrew Lansley, is a convoluted document, but it removes the Health Secretary from having to provide medical services. Furthermore, the Tories have also passed legislation allowing the NHS to charge for services, even ambulance care. And this is still going ahead under Theresa May.

There is a real danger that the NHS will be abolished, and the country will return to the way it was before the Labour government introduced it. Private healthcare is not more economical and efficient than state healthcare. Private insurance companies and hospitals spend much more on management, including advertising, legal teams and simply trying to raise money from investors, to make sure their shareholders see a profit. There are about 50 million Americans without health insurance. 33,000 Americans die every year from lack of medical care. And it was like that before the NHS, when the charity hospitals, where people were sent if they didn’t have private health insurance, or weren’t covered by the state health insurance scheme, spent much of their time trying to raise money. And millions of people were denied healthcare, because they couldn’t afford it.

Jeremy Corbyn has said that he will renationalise the NHS. Dr. David Owen has also sponsored a bill to renationalise the NHS. They need our support. And so, if you want to keep the NHS, you should vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

For further information, see the following books:
NHS-SOS, edited by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis (London: OneWorld 2015)
Dr. Youseff El-Gingihy, How to Privatise the NHS in 10 Easy Steps (Zed Books)
and my own, Privatisation: Killing the NHS, published by Lulu.

Books on the Criminal Psychology of Tony Blair

April 10, 2017

Looking through the politics section of one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham the other day, I also found two books arguing that Tony Blair was malign and psychologically unfit for office. One was by the Old Labour MP, Leo Abse, the other by the founder of the SDP and now Lib Dem, Dr David Owen. Abse’s book, the Politics of Perversion, used psychoanalytic theory to argue that Blair had the ruthless psychology of a clinical pervert. Owen’s book, the Hubris of Power, argued that Bush and Blair had spent so long in power, that they had become arrogant, believing they could get away with anything, no matter how unjust or despicable.

I only casually flicked through them, but just looking at Blair’s single-minded promotion of the Iraq Invasion, which in turn involved peddling lies, deceit and the persecution of dissenting officials – to the point where one of them, Dr David Kelly, took his own life – strongly bears this out. Wood in his book The Case against Blair, which argues that the former Labour leader should be prosecuted for war crimes for his role in the Iraq invasion, in one chapter compares Blair to Hitler. Both could be charming, a trait that in Hitler’s case masked his utter ruthlessness and which seemed to do the same in Blair’s case. I realise it’s a case of Godwin’s Law, but it is warranted. Blair’s participation in the Iraq invasion has also resulted in horrific crimes against humanity. And many clinical psychopaths can be extremely charming as they manipulate those around them without scruple or conscience.

Owen points out in his book that Bush and Blair aren’t the only leaders to be overwhelmed by power and a sense of their own importance. Indeed not. Maggie Thatcher also had the utter conviction that she was right and above criticism, whatever horror she and her government committed. And if she, Bush and Blair became intoxicated with power, you wonder what Owen thinks of the present incumbent of the White House. Trump is, after all, a massive megalomaniac who insists that everything he’s doing is ‘the best ever’, and insults, mocks and threatens anyone, who dares to say otherwise.

The Iraq invasion, which Blair ordered despite a million or so Brits marching against it and the opposition of 100-150 MPs, is doubtless the worst decision Blair made. It has resulted in at least 100,000 Iraqi casualties, the displacement of around 7 million people, and the descent of the region into carnage and civil war.

But this isn’t the only decision that Blair made that has actively harmed people. Domestically, Blair wanted to carry on the Tory project of privatising the NHS. His government set up the Work Capability Tests, which had also been urged on the Tory government by Unum, the American insurance fraudster, and its president, John Lo Cascio. These tests assume that most disabled people seeking government aid are malingerers, and so should be thrown off benefit. The result has been an increasing number of disabled people, who have died through starvation and misery. It was also Blair’s administration, that ended tuition fees, thus saddling millions of British students with thousands of pounds worth of debt.

This does not excuse the Tories from continuing these policies and massively expanding them in their turn, so that the death toll from those thrown off various disability benefits now adds up to several tens of thousands. But it does show that there was a ruthless streak in Blair, which did not care about the harm he caused, so long as he continued to get Tory votes and the approval of the Tory press for carrying out Tory policies.

Abse and Owen were right. And Blair is now trying to get back into politics, by positioning himself as representing the political middle ground. He wasn’t. Blair was a political extremist. The Tories at the time complained that his privatisation of the NHS was far more extreme than they had dared to perform through fear of criticism from Labour. His domestic policies continued the growth in poverty and disease, which began with Thatcher and which have received a massive boost by Cameron, Clegg and May. And his participation of the Iraq invasion destroyed a relatively wealthy, secular Middle Eastern state, with a good welfare state, high status of women, and religious toleration for the benefit of Israeli hawks, Saudi and American oil interests, and American multinationals, keen to loot the country and its natural and biological resources.

Blair’s policies were wicked, and he should not be allowed to return to power, whatever charming mask he’s now adopted to fool people into thinking he is the face of moderation.

Vox Political: Red Cross Called in Because of Lethal Tory NHS Cuts

January 7, 2017

Mike today put up a post commenting on the report in today’s Guardian that the Red Cross has been called in to help the NHS manage the crisis in care this winter. As a result of the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS and their deliberate starvation of the Service of funds, 50 hospitals have said they cannot cope, and two people have died needless at a hospital in Worcestershire. Mike states

It is no coincidence that the money handed over to private healthcare – to part-fund their shareholders’ profits – along with the administration costs that go with the part-privatised system add up to around £22 billion.

So the Conservative Government – Jeremy Hunt, Theresa May, the current cabinet, and previous ministers including David Cameron and former health secretary Andrew Lansley – have engineered this crisis and would rather pay public money, your money, into the bank accounts of shareholders in Virgin Health (for example) than use it to save people who are dying on hospital trolleys as you read these words.

His article also includes a long list of tweets from people, who recognise this artificial crisis for what it is. As well as rightly blaming Jeremy Hunt and the Tories, they also make it clear that this crisis was also caused by the Lib Dems, and in particular Shirley Williams, supported Andrew Lansley’s bill. To be fair, one of the chief opponents of the bill has been David Owen, who is trying to have it reversed and has written his own book on the attempts of the politicians of New Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories to privatise it. Owen is a medical doctor, and clearly sees the danger to British healthcare, which the others don’t.

But this crisis, and the Tories’ continued demands that the NHS budget should be cut, also show how mendacious the Tories have been in their promises made in the run-up to the 2010 election. Cameron and his team claimed that they were the defenders of the NHS against the cuts inflicted by Tony Blair. They campaigned against the closures of A&E and maternity departments, and claimed they would reverse the cuts once in office. Of course, once Cameron was safely in No. 10 and Lansley head of the health department, they completely jettisoned this promise, and were back to closing everything they could and announcing that the NHS needed to be reviewed.

Of course, recently the Tories have also claimed that they’re going to give extra funding to the NHS. But these claims need to be read with care. The article in the I which reported this, several weeks ago, then followed it by stating that the Tories still intended to cut the NHS budget by so much. So what the Tories were in fact saying was that they intended to cut the NHS, only not by as much as they originally intended. If you believe them – and there are plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t. But by placing the news of extra funding first, it gives the impression that they really are going to give more money to the NHS. And so skewed reporting and clever press statements help the Tories cover up their continuing dismemberment of the NHS.

More on Progress, the Groaniad, and the Israel Lobby

September 27, 2016

Lobster 70 also had some very interesting little snippets about the Israel lobby, and its connections to sections of the Labour party and the press, specifically ‘Progress’, and the Guardian.

‘Progress’ is the Blairite faction within the Labour party. In ‘Tittle-Tattle’ for that issue, Tom Easton praises Solomon Hughes in the Morning Star for his work investigating and exposing Progress and its dodgy donors. Hughes had written about the close connection between Tristram Hunt and David Sainsbury. As I’ve blogged previously, Sainsbury was a big corporate donor to the Labour party under Blair and Brown. He stopped funding the party as a whole when Ed Miliband became leader, but, according to Hughes, he continued funding Progress. Just as he continued funding the SDP rump under Dr David Owen after the rest of it had merged with the Liberals. One of the SDP’s members was Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee.

In November 2014 Hughes described Hunt’s speech at the previous Labour Conference, in which he made a joke about the secretive and numerically small nature of the faction, which did not go down well with the Progress hordes. He wrote

‘When I went to the Progress rally at the last Labour conference, Tristram Hunt was one of the speakers, where he declared he was “delighted to be with Progress” because “you might be an unaccountable faction dominated by a secretive billionaire, but you are OUR unaccountable faction dominated by a secretive billionaire”.

Here were two dozen true words spoken in jest. Hunt’s joke was so close to the bone that the shiny happy people of Progress — this is one of the biggest events on Labour’s fringe — seemed embarrassed into silence.

Hunt’s insistence that Progress was “the Praetorian Guard, the Parachute Regiment, the Desert Rats of Labour” also raised few laughs, even though the meeting took place in a Comedy Club at the edge of the Labour conference site. Even joking that Progress is new Labour’s shock troops was a bit too much.’

One of Progress’ board members is Patrick Diamond, who is a long-time associated of Peter Mandelson. He is the Vice-Chair of Mandy’s Policy Network, as well as frequently contributing columns to the Guardian. Progress’ president is Stephen Twigg, a former chair of Labour Friends of Israel. Progress’ chair, John Woodcock, the MP for Barrow and Furness, contributed the foreword to the Labour Friends of Israel’s The Progressive Case for Israel. And when it seemed Liz Kendall was about to don the mantle of leadership for New Labour, she got a positive press from the Jewish Chronicle. The week after Labour lost the election, the newspaper ran the headline, ‘Labour Must Now Pass the Israel Test’. Which shows just how close New Labour is to the Israel lobby. And in another item in the same column, Easton states that another former chairman of the LFI is Jim Murphy, the head of Scottish Labour. Which sheds yet more light on his determination to block Rhea Wolfson’s attempts to get on to the NEC. Murphy persuaded her local Labour party not to back her because of her links to that terrible anti-Semitic organisation, Momentum, despite the fact that they’re not, and Wolfson herself is Jewish.

A further item, ‘Grauniada’, also comments that that the Graun’s connections to Zionism goes back ‘to the early days of both’, noting that the newspaper itself had told the story of its relationship with Israel in 2008 when it published Daphna Baram’s Disenchantment: The Guardian and Israel. The same item also notes that Jonathan Freedland, one of the leading critics of Jeremy Corbyn, is also a columnist for the Jewish Chronicle.

All this shows the very strong connections between New Labour, the Labour Friends of Israel, and the Jewish Chronicle, and how they are absolutely united in their hatred of Jeremy Corbyn.

The same item in Lobster also speculates on how long the connection between the Graun and Zionism will survive, now that the new editor-in-chief is Katherine Viner. Viner and Alan Rickman produced a theatre production based on the diary entries and writings of Rachel Corrie. Corrie was the American peace activist, who was killed by bulldozer driven by the Israeli Defence Force in Gaza in 2003.

There’s also another section in that part of the magazine specifically about the Israel lobby. Most of the politicians reported in that item, ‘Israel Lobby News’, are Conservatives and Lib Dems, such as Eric Pickles, Nick Clegg’s head of communications, James Sorene, who went off to head BICOM, while local councillors elected in May that year were invited to join the Local Government Friends of Israel by Rachel Kaye, the Executive Director of We Believe in Israel. Kaye stated that the director of We Believe in Israel was Luke Akehurst, a former Labour councillor for Hackney, and had worked with Peter Mandelson’s former press secretary in the PR and lobbying firm Weber Shandwick.

Labour Rebels Want to Create Party within a Party, and Corbyn’s Response

July 31, 2016

Mike’s put up two pieces reporting and commenting on the plan of unnamed Labour rebels to set up a separate party within the Labour party against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

It was reported in the Mirror and Torygraph that senior Labour rebels were so convinced that Corbyn would win the leadership, they want to create virtually a second party, with its own shadow cabinet and leader. They would also issue a legal challenge to get control of the Labour party’s name and assets, and would petition John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, to nominate them as the official opposition.

Mike comments that the idea seems ‘hopelessly naive’. He makes the point that if they did carry out their plans, they would disrupt opposition to the Tories, and convince the majority of Labour members and supporters that they are really ‘Red Tories’ – Conservatives in disguise. Any attempt to gain the party’s name and assets would fail without the support of the majority of members. Mike also notes that they are also making a huge assumption that the majority of their rebel MPs would stay with them, when one of them, Sarah Champion, has already recanted and re-joined the Corbynites. He also notes that none of the leaders of this supposed plot have had the courage to reveal their identities, thus demonstrating once again the cowardice that has led their detractors to call them the ‘Chicken Coup’. And without knowing their identities, for all we know the story may have been made up by the Mirror and Torygraph. He concludes by stating that the only thing this will do is undermine Owen Smith’s own bid for the leadership.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/30/contempt-for-democracy-labour-rebels-plan-to-start-their-own-party-within-a-party/

Later yesterday Mike also put up a piece from the Groaniad, reporting Corbyn and McDonnell’s response to news of the plot. Corbyn said

“We are getting into some fairly bizarre territory here where unnamed MPs, funded from unnamed sources, are apparently trying to challenge – via the Daily Telegraph, very interesting – the very existence of this party.”

He stated that the Labour party was founded by pioneers, brave people, and that under the registration of parties act, they are the Labour party. There isn’t another, and he was very proud to be the leader of the Labour party. He also stated that it was nonsense that his leadership could cause a split, as membership had doubled since he became leader, and activity had increased.

McDonnell urged Smith to condemn the minority of MPs supporting his campaign, who were trying to subvert the election and damage the Labour party. Smith, when asked for a comment, said he refuses to indulge in gossip.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/30/bizarre-labour-rebels-can-never-steal-the-partys-name-and-assets-corbyn/

The Labour party has suffered a series of splits over its century-long history. Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation, which was one of the Socialist groups involved in the foundation of the party, later split away in the 1920s to form, with other groups, the Communist Party. Keir Hardie’s ILP also split, to carry on as a radical Socialist party. One of its most distinctive policies was a complete rejection of the wages system. Outside the Labour party it very swiftly declined. The last time I heard anything about it was thirty years ago, when I found a copy of its magazine/ newsletter in Cheltenham Public Library.

The most recent and notorious of the splits was that of the SDP in the 1980s, formed by the right-wing Labour MPs Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins and David Owen. They claimed to be ‘breaking the mould of British politics’, and Owen at the 1987 election told the party faithful to go back home and prepare for government. There was then, almost inevitably, a Tory victory. Screaming Lord Sutch later offered Owen a place in his Monster Raving Loony Party, saying cheekily that if Owen had joined them, he would be preparing for government. The SDP forged an alliance with the Liberals, and the two eventually merged to become the Liberal Democrats. They have also signally failed break the mould of British politics, despite the Guardian telling everyone to go out and vote for them at the 2010 elections. As for Owen, in the 1980s he was so desperate for power that at one point he even offered to support the Tories in a coalition, just as thirty years later Clegg decided to get into bed with Cameron.
And the SDP were also influenced by the neoliberal ideas of the Chicago School. Ann Soper, their Shadow Education Minister, was a fan of Milton Friedman’s ideas for school vouchers, which parents could use either on state education, or private.

If such a split did occur, it would be extremely unpleasant indeed. The wrangling about party assets and name could take years to settle. The vast majority of grassroots members would depart, and stay with Corbyn. And I’ve no doubt that rather than establishing themselves as the ‘official’ Labour party, the coup plotters would find the British public turning their backs on them as treacherous and untrustworthy intriguers. They’d decline into another rump party, while Corbyn’s faction would probably expand. They might also go the same way as the SDP, and try to join the Liberal Democrats after the number of their MPs declined past a certain point, no doubt all the while grumbling about ‘unelectable’ Corbyn being somehow responsible for the misfortunes they had all brought down on themselves.

NHS Privatisation: Cuts to My Local Health Centre

June 19, 2016

NHS SOS pic

Visiting our local health centre the other day, my parents, along with the other local people enrolled there, were handed a letter, explaining that due to funding cuts the health centre was having to cut back on services. It also advised its patients that if they wanted to raise their concerns about the restriction in their service they could contact:-

1. NHS England at FAO Linda Prosser, Director of Assurance and Delivery, NHS England South West (BNSSG), 4th floor Plaza, Marlborough Street, Bristol BS1 3NX
2. your local MP at the House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA
3. Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, via his website http://www.jeremyhunt.org

Unfortunately, this is happening to the NHS and GPs’ services all the country. It is no accident, and it is certainly not the fault of the many dedicated doctors, nurses and other health professionals working in the NHS.

It is the result of over 30 years of privatisation begun with Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher and her former Chancellor, Nigel Lawson, denied that they wanted to privatise the NHS. They merely stated that they wanted to include more private provision in the NHS. This is a lie. Released cabinet minutes showed that Thatcher and Geoffrey Howe wanted to privatise the NHS along with abolishing the rest of the welfare state. They were only prevented from doing so because the rest of the cabinet realised that this would be the death knell for the Tory party. And a fact-finding mission to the US to see how their private healthcare system worked by Patrick Jenkin showed that it was massively inefficient.

Nevertheless, the amount of private healthcare in the NHS was expanded, and state provision duly cut by successive governments. It was Maggie’s government in 1989 that ended the state support for care for the elderly in nursing homes. As a result, the families of those, who need this kind of care, are forced to fund it themselves, often through selling or remortgaging their homes because of the immense expense. It was also Maggie’s government that ended free eye tests, and picked a feud with the doctors that saw the majority of them leave the NHS.

This privatisation has continued under Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and now David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt. Blair and Brown were deeply impressed with American private healthcare firms such as Kaiser Permanente, and wished to reform the NHS on their model. The ultimate intention was to replace the publicly owned and operated NHS with private healthcare funded by the state, but administered by private health insurance companies. As a result, NHS work has been given to private hospitals and clinics, and private healthcare companies have been given NHS hospitals to manage. Alan Milburn, Blair’s health secretary, wanted the NHS to become merely a kitemark – an advertising logo – on a system of private healthcare companies funded by the government.

This has been carried on the current Conservative government. And they have used the same tactics Margaret Thatcher did to force private healthcare on this nation. The dispute with the doctors over contracts a few years ago was part of this. It has left the majority of NHS GPs wishing to leave. Yet elements within the Conservative networks responsible for foisting these demands have seen this as an opportunity for forcing through further privatisation. Penny Dash, of the National Leadership Network, and one of those responsible for the NHS privatisation, has looked forward to the remaining GPs forming private healthcare companies. Furthermore, an report on the Care Commissioning Groups now in charge of arranging healthcare in the NHS by one of the private healthcare companies also suggested that they could form private healthcare companies, and float shares on the stockmarket.

Further privatisation has come with Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care bill of 2012. This exempts the state and the Secretary of State for Health from their statutory duty, as the ultimate leaders of the NHS, to provide state health care. It is carefully worded to disguise its true meaning, but that is what has been intended by the bill. Dr David Owen, one of the founders of the SDP, now part of the Lib Dems, has tabled amendments trying to reverse this despicable bill. He and many others have also written books on the privatisation of the NHS. One of the best of these is NHS SOS, by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis, published by Oneworld.

This process cannot be allowed to continue, and I strongly urge everyone to resist the creeping privatisation of the NHS, Britain’s greatest public institution.

Murdoch’s Editorial Interference and Right-Wing Bias

June 7, 2016

The phone hacking scandal has been rumbling on for what seems like forever now. For a moment it looked like Murdoch himself was going to end up in court, because of allegations that he personally interferes in editing his newspapers. According to Private Eye, he almost appeared before the beak a few years ago on a libel charge, after Michael Foot sued the Times for claiming that he was a KGB agent, based on the unlikely word of Oleg Gordievsky. Gordievsky was a former KGB agent, and self-confessed liar. From what I recall, a number of the Times’ staff were highly sceptical of the allegations, with the exception of the editor, David Leppard. And so the paper printed the story that Foot, a principled democratic socialist, whose loyalty to his country should never have been in doubt, was a KGB agent codenamed ‘Comrade Boot’.

Murdoch’s managed to escape these scrapes with the law, and wriggle out of them when he has been forced to appear before public enquiries and parliamentary committees, by claiming that he doesn’t interfere with his papers’ editorial policies. Mark Hollingworth, in his book The Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship, points out that Murdoch largely doesn’t need to. He appoints editors he knows will follow his political line, like Andrew ‘Brillo Pad’ Neil, who before he became editor of the Sunset Times was one of the editors on the Economist. Neil told his staff at a meeting of the Gay Hussar pub in London that he fully supported Thatcher’s policies on monetarism and privatisation, although on macroeconomic policy he claimed he was further to the left, and more like David Owen. (p. 18).

The News of the World

But Hollingworth makes clear that the Dirty Digger does interfere with the editor’s running of his newspapers, and certainly did so when he took over the News of the World at the end of the 1960s. Hollingsworth writes

However, when Murdoch was faced with an editor who didn’t share his political views and wanted a semblance of independence, the situation changed dramatically. when he took of the News of the World in 1969, Murdoch told the incumbent editor, Stafford Somerfield: I didn’t come all this way not to interfere.’ According to Somerfield, the new proprietor ‘wanted to read proofs, write a leader if he felt like it, change the paper about and give instructions to the staff’. As the paper’s long-serving editor, Somerfield was used to a fair amount of independence and he tried to resist Murdoch’s interference. In 1970 Somerfield was dismissed by Murdoch.

A similar fate befell another News of the World editor a decade later. Barry Askew had been appointed by Murdoch in April 1981 after a successful career as the crusading editor of the Lancashire Evening Post during which he published a series of stories about corruption among local public officials and institutions. However, when Askew and the News of the World declined, like the Times under Harold Evans during the same period to give the Conservative government unequivocal support, Murdoch took action. ‘He [Murdoch] would come into the office,’ said Askew, ‘and literally rewrite leaders which were not supporting the hard Thatcher monetarist line. That were not, in fact, supporting – slavishly supporting – the Tory government.’

Askew believes the big clash came over an exclusive story about John DeLorean, the car tycoon. A freelance journalist, John Lisners, had persuaded DeLorean’s former secretary, Marian Gibson, to reveal details about her boss’ business practices and alleged irregularities. It was a superb story, backed up by other sources and also cleared by Gibson’s lawyer-Clarence Jones.

However, just after noon on Saturday 3 October 1981, Murdoch telephoned Askew, as he invariably did every week, to discuss the main stories. Askew told him about the DeLorean scoop and Murdoch appeared initially to be enthusiastic. Later that afternoon Murdoch arrived at the office in Bouverie Street and went straight to the ‘back-bench’ to read the DeLorean material. One of the key sources was William Haddad, who had worked for Murdoch on the New York Post. On learning of Haddad’s involvement, Murdoch said: ‘He’s a leftwing troublemaker’, although he later denied saying this. ‘I may have referred to Bill’s love of conspiracy theories.’

Murdoch then consulted his legal advisors and they decided the story was legally unsafe. The story was killed. The next day the Daily Mirror published the same story on its front page and the rest of the media followed it up. Interestingly, according to Ivan Fallon and James Srodes’ book DeLorean, it was Murdoch who arranged for Lord Goodman to act as DeLorean’s lawyer to discourage the rest of Fleet Street from pursuing the story. Within a year DeLorean’s car firm was bankrupt. Within two months, in December 1981, Askew was dismissed and he returned to Lancashire a bitter man. ‘I don’t think Fleet Street gives a damn about ethics, morality or anything else. It gives a damn about attracting a readership that will attract an advertising situation which will make a profit which will make the press barons powerful politically.
(pp.18-20).

The Times

This editorial interference did not stop with the News of the World. It also extended to the Times, when that august paper was under the editorship of the highly respected journalist, Harold Evans. Hollingworth continues

But by far the most revealing example of Murdoch’s desire to set the political line of his papers also came during 1981 when the Conservative government was very unpopular because of high unemployment. when Harold Evans was appointed editor of the Times in March 1981, he was given official guarantees by Murdoch about editorial freedom. On 23 January 1981, the new owner of Times Newspapers had given formal undertakings that ‘In accordance with the traditions of the papers, their editors will not be subject to instruction from either the proprietor of the management on the selection and balance of news and opinion.’

Within a year, however, Evans had been dismissed, claiming he had been forced to resign over constant pressure by Murdoch to move the paper to the Right. Evans’ added: ‘The Times was not notably hostile to the [Conservative] government but it wanted to be independent. But that was not good enough for Rupert Murdoch. He wanted it to be a cheerleader for monetarism and Mrs Thatcher.’ Murdoch denied the charge: ‘Rubbish! Harry used to come and see me and say, “Rupert, it’s wonderful to have you in town. What do you want me to say, what do you want me to do, just let me know.”‘ On this crucial point, Evans told me: ‘Lie plus macho sneer with a useful ambiguity. It is a lie that I ever asked him what to say… It is true that I asked his view from time to time on developments of the paper. The truth is that far from asking Murdoch “what to say”, I followed an editorial policy often in opinion at variance with his own Thatcher-right-or-wrong view.’

The evidence certainly gives credence to Evans’ interpretation of events, although he also fell out with some of the staff. According to leader writer Bernard Donoghue, features editor Anthony Holden and executive editor Brian Macarthur, there was political pressure on Evans because of what Mrs Thatcher called ‘the Times centrist drift’. When unemployment had reached three million in the summer of 1981 Murdoch and Gerald Long, Managing Director of Times Newspapers, wanted the Times to emphasize the number of people in work. Evans declined and Murdoch snapped at him: ‘You’re always getting at her [Mrs Thatcher].’ The Times editor and his proprietor continually argued over economic policy and on one occasion Evans received an extraordinary memorandum from Gerald Long: ‘The Chancellor of the Exchequer says the recession has ended. Why are you have the effrontery in the Times to say that it has not.’

Evans believes the Times was simply taking a more detached, independent editorial position. But by early 1982, Murdoch was clearly losing patience. According to Bernard (now Lord Donoghue, a leader writer and now a stockbroker at Grieveson & Grant, Murdoch had promised Mrs Thatcher that the Times would be back in the Conservative camp by the Easter of that year. But the editor refused to submit to what he later called ‘political intimidation and harassment’. On 12 March 1982, Evans wrote the following editorial: ‘ Unemployment is a social scandal… We favour a more competitive society as against one which is subject to the monopoly power of capital or the trade unions. Three days later Evans was dismissed.

Such lack of sovereignty and independence by the editor has been prevalent throughout the Murdoch empire. ‘I give instructions to me editors all round the world, why shouldn’t I in London,’ he told Fred Emery, home affairs editor of the Times, on 4 March 1982. However, since 1983 all four of Murdoch’s London papers have taken a consistently pro-Conservative government line and so there has been no need to interfere. According to a report on the Sunday Times’ ‘Insight’ team, this is how the system works: ‘Murdoch appoints people who are sympathetic to him. Thus most of the senior staff like Hugo Young have left or been completely emasculated or replaced… To survive you have to self-censor. You approach a story in a different way than if you’d run it in the way you wanted to.’ (pp. 20-1).

The Sun

Hollingsworth concludes that Murdoch actually rarely interfered with the Sun, as under its editor Larry Lamb, who was knighted by Thatcher in 1980, it had already moved to the Tory right, a policy that was continued by the succeeding editor, Kelvin MacKenzie. (p. 21).

So while Murdoch may not interfere in the day-to-day editorial matters of his newspapers any more, they do reflect his personal political opinions and his own personal style of journalism, as carried out by compliant, sympathetic editors.
There was an outcry when he tried to buy the News of the World in 1969. The paper’s then-management were worried about how he would change the paper. And the same fears were raised again when he went off and bought the Times in the late ’70s or first years of the ’80s. There were indeed plans to refer his proposed purchase to the monopolies and mergers commission, though that might have been when he bought the Daily Herald and turned it into the Scum.

And his critics were right. He is not a fit and proper person to own a paper, and he should never have been allowed to buy them. It says much about Thatcher’s grubby, domineering leadership that he was.

The Tory Privatisation of the NHS: List of NHS Services for Which Fees May Be Charged

June 7, 2016

NHS SOS pic

I’ve been reading the book, NHS SOS, edited by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis, with growing fury. I bought it a week ago so I could learn a bit more about the Tories and Lib Dem’s privatisation of the National Health Service. The book provides a very detailed description of this process, and the very limited opposition Lansley’s wretched Health and Social Care bill received as it passed through the Commons. One of those, who actually stood by the NHS and fought it was David Owen, one of the founders of the SDP. And one of those, who added their crucial support to the bill, was his Lib Dem colleague, Shirley Williams.

As it stands, the bill effectively dissolves the NHS as a single administrative unit responsible for the entire country. The Secretary of State is no longer responsible for the Health Service as a whole, but merely in charge of commissioning. Vast areas of the NHS have been given over to private healthcare companies, and funding by private health insurers. The book also details how what remains of the state-run parts of the NHS are being deliberately starved of cash, which is now being funnelled to private healthcare providers.

And the government has also repealed the statutory duty of the NHS to provide a universal health service free of charge. Instead, the law has been amended so that fees may be charged for the following services:

* Services and facilities for pregnant women, women who are breast-feeding.
* Services for both younger and older children.
* services for the prevention of illness.
* Care of persons suffering from illness and their after-care.
* Ambulance services.
* Services for people with mental illness.
* Dental public health services.
* Sexual health services.
(See the above book, p. 194).

Which looks like just about every part of health care in this country.

This is part of a long campaign, going right back to Margaret Thatcher’s review of the Health Service and plans for the dismantlement of the welfare state in the 1980s.

It’s disgusting. And we must fight against it with every fibre of our beings.