Posts Tagged ‘NHS Privatisation’

Richard Tice Calls for the Partial Renationalisation of the Water and Power Companies

February 1, 2023

Reform posted this short video, just over two minutes long, on their YouTube channel. In it, their current fuehrer calls for the partial, and rather half-hearted renationalisation of the water and power companies. He tries to connect this with Brexit, and has a dig at Starmer for initially backing it and then dropping it, saying he was no longer interested. Tice begins by stating that we are being badly served by the water companies, who are foreign-owned and so use various dodges to avoid paying tax. No other country allows vital parts of their infrastructure to be owned by foreigners. This is quite true, and Mike has been pointing this out on Vox Political since forever and day. This has been the case since they were privatised by the Tories great, molten idol of private enterprise, Maggie Thatcher, in the 1980s. He wants them partly renationalised – 50 per cent owned by the state, 50 per cent owned by pension funds, and placed under private management. This, he feels, will bring it the best of both state and private enterprise.

He’s wrong, of course. There is no magic solution behind private industry. When they’ve been handed state enterprises or institutions, their policy has always been the same: sack people and make those who remain work for less in poorer conditions in order to deliver profits and shareholder dividends. This has been done in the NHS, when hospitals and doctors’ surgeries have been handed over to private companies. In the case of GPs, this has also resulted in unprofitable patients being dumped and their surgeries closed. It also reminds me slightly of the restructuring of industry under the Nazis. Companies were linked together in a series of industrial associations, set up as private companies but membership of whom was mandatory under the Nazi regime. These associations were under the direction of the state planning apparatus running the economy. And the head of these industrial associations always came from private industry, even when the companies under him were state-owned. Obviously Tice isn’t calling for an extension of this system to British industry as a whole or its transformation into a centrally-planned economy. But he makes the same assumptions that Hitler and the Nazis, as well as the Italian fascists did, about the superiority of private industry. And as a true-blue Brexiteer he tries to link it to Brexit by saying that, as with the departure from the EU, this is all part of Britain taking back control.

Still, Tice has got something right, even though I think his speech is partly influenced by a BBC report today that Oxford Council has called for the end of water privatisation, as well as the outrage of the massive profits the private power companies have been making while energy bills have rocketed.. He’s clearly looking around for policies which he thinks will resonate with the public, and so has recognised, albeit grudgingly from the half-hearted way he wants it done, that the majority of the British public want the renationalisation of the public services. Of course, he’s still extremely right-wing in demanding more cuts to the welfare state, which he’s justified with the bogus explanation that British people need to move into low paid jobs in order to stop the British state importing more foreigners to do them. I posted a piece yesterday rubbishing that, and you should also read the comments on the piece left by the greater people reading this blog, who have added much more relevant information. But it is interesting that in this area of policy, Reform has moved left of Labour.

Not that I’ll believe they’ll keep their promises, anymore than I believe Starmer will.

How Can I Get My Book and Pamphlet Against NHS Privatisation Out to the Wider Public?

February 1, 2023

Okay, a few years ago – I was when Cameron was in power – I was so worried about NHS privatisation that I wrote a couple of pieces of literature about it. One was just a pamphlet consisting of a few pieces of A4 folded together giving the main points about NHS privatisation and how it was killing the health service. Another was a short book, Privatisation: Killing the NHS, which I self-published through Lulu, the print on demand service. Since doing so, I’ve had next to zero interest in them. I have a page about them on this blog. Simply go to the relevant bar, and look at ‘pages’ and you’ll find them there, along with other books I’ve self-published. Here’s the pieces about them from that page.

Don’t Let Cameron Privatise the NHS, David Sivier, A5, 10pp.

This is a brief critique of successive government’s gradual privatisation of the NHS, beginning with Margaret Thatcher. Tony Blair’s New Labour were determined to turn as much healthcare as possible over to private companies, on the advice of the consultants McKinsey and the American insurance companies. The Conservatives under David Cameron have continued and extended Blair’s privatisation, so that there is a real danger that the NHS, and the free, universal service it has provided for sixty-five years, will be destroyed. If the NHS is to be saved, we must act soon.

Long Anti-NHS Privatisation pic

Privatisation: Killing the NHS, by David Sivier, A5, 34 pp. This is a longer pamphlet against the privatisation of the NHS. It traces the gradual privatisation of the Health Service back to Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, John Major’s Private Finance Initiative in the 1990s, the Blair and Brown ‘New Labour’ governments, and finally David Cameron and the Conservatives. There is a real, imminent danger that the NHS will be broken up and privatised, as envisioned by Andrew Lansley’s, the author of the Tories’ Health and Social Care Act of 2012. This would return us to the conditions of poor and expensive healthcare that existed before the foundation of the NHS by the Clement Atlee’s Labour government in 1948. Already the Tories have passed legislation permitting ‘healthcare providers’ – which include private companies – to charge for NHS services.

The book is fully referenced, with a list of books for further reading, and organisations campaigning to preserve the NHS and its mission to provide universal, free healthcare.

If you would like one of the pamphlets, please get in touch using the contact form below. All details will of course be kept strictly confidential, and will not be passed on to third parties. If you only want single copies of the above, let me know and I’ll post them free to you.’

Now with the NHS facing a truly devastating crisis and the Tory and hard-right sharks circling and demanding its privatisation, I want to get these out to as many people as possible. And I’d be grateful for any ideas.

Of course, one way would simply be to have multiple copies of these pamphlets printed off and to set up a stall in town, and especially right when there’s a strike. But I only have a very small number of copies of the books around at the moment. Also, the myeloma means that I am not as mobile as I once was, and the council and bus companies in their infinite wisdom have cut the direct route from where I live into the centre of Bristol. But I’m hoping this might still be an option.

For the self-published book, one solution might be to go to see the buyer for my local branch of Waterstone’s and see if they would be interested in stocking it.

I’m also considering writing to my local Labour party and asking if they would be interested in stocking them, as well as contacting my local Labour MP to see if she would also like copies. I’m hesitant to do this, however, as I put the blame firmly where it lies – not just with Thatcher and the Tories, but also with Blair and New Labour. Kier Starmer is a true-blue Thatcherite and devoted follower of Blairism. He has said some ominous things about using the private sector to aid the NHS, even though it’s due to privatisation, as well as underfunding, that is responsible for this crisis. The local MP for south Bristol, Karen Smyth, is very firmly on the side of the health service, but she’s also an admirer of Starmer. Reading her messages about the health service, while she says much about how it’s been run down, she doesn’t condemn outsourcing. I can therefore see the pamphlets being extremely unwelcome in certain right-wing Labour circles.

Beyond this, any suggestions?

I’d be interested to know if there are any left-wing organisations that would be willing to accept copies of the book and pamphlet and/or publicise them. I’ve tried looking on Google for small press associations and organisations that might be suitable, but none have so far turned up. One possibility could be contacting some of the left-wing news and comment sites on YouTube and the Internet, but I’m not sure how willing they’d be to say anything about them. I haven’t had much luck in the past when I sent some of my literature to the Canary and a few others.

If you therefore have any ideas, please let me know in the comments section below.

Hurrah! The Green Party Wants to Renationalise the NHS

January 27, 2023

I don’t usually watch the party political broadcasts. I find them too boring, depressing and, in the case of the Tories, infuriating. But I caught a bit of the Greens’ broadcast last night, and was impressed. They stated that as part of their platform of policies they would renationalise the NHS, end its outsourcing and make social care free at the point of use as with the health service. Excellent! This is what the Labour party should be doing, and should have done 16 years ago when Blair won his landslide victory in 1997. But I’m afraid Starmer won’t. Everything he’s said has raised warning signs that he means to privatise more of the health service following Blair’s precedent, starting with using private healthcare providers to clear the backlog of cases. This is exactly what the Tories have been saying. Or course, Jeremy Corbyn wanted to renationalise the NHS, along with the public utilities and restore and revitalise the welfare state. Which is why they smeared him, first as a Communist, then as an anti-Semite, enthusiastically aided by Starmer’s allies in the Labour party.

I’ve very mixed feelings about the Greens. They’re very woke. There was a controversy a few years ago about the schools in Brighton, which I think is a Green council or their MP is Green, teaching Critical Race Theory and White Privilege. In Scotland the Greens are behind the SNP’s wretched Gender Recognition Act, which would lower the age people can legally declare themselves trans to 16 amongst other reforms. I don’t doubt that it’s meant well, but I strongly feel it will do much harm by encouraging confused young people to pursue medical treatment that may be totally inappropriate for them and could lead to lasting harm.

But I entirely support their demand for a properly nationalised and funded NHS.

I am just annoyed that it’s the Greens, who are regarded as an extreme, fringe party, demanding this and not Labour.

Well, a few years ago the Greens took a number of local seats from Labour in the council elections in Bristol until they were only one or two behind them on the council. I would therefore not blame anyone if, in the forthcoming council elections, they turned their votes away from Starmer’s Labour and voted Green instead.

Spat Between UKIP and Reform as Tice Refuses Offer of an Alliance

January 23, 2023

This comes from a video by right-winger Mahyar Tousi on YouTube. UKIP has been trying to organise some kind of alliance with the other right-wing populist parties and splinter groups. They have said that if they join this alliance they can keep their leaders and independence under an agreement intended to bring all these groups an electoral victory which would be beyond them as individual, separate groups. To join this proposed alliance, all that was necessary was that 95 per cent of the parties’ views should be the same. Today UKIP’s deputy fuehrer, Rebecca Jane, announced that the only one of these smaller right-wing parties to have ignored the Kipper’s overtures was Reform. She stated that it because its Duce, Richard Tice, believed that he could challenge the other parties alone. This was a mistake. She also criticised him for criticising the Tory MP, Andrew Bridgen, who had been thrown out for attacking the Covid compulsory vaccination programme. Tousi himself declared that this was splitting the right, and that it was all a clash of personalities rather than any real disagreement over policies..

I was surprised that UKIP was still going. I thought it had absolutely collapsed and been wound up following the departure of Nigel of Farage, his replacement by Gerard Batten and the entry into the party of Count Dankula, Carl Benjamin and Paul Joseph Watson. I also thought that whatever remained of the party had been reconstituted as Reform, but that’s evidently not true. As for these parties remaining separate and splitting the right, I am more than happy to see that continue. From what I’ve seen, they’re all hard right, Thatcherite parties, who’d continue the Tories’ attack on the welfare state and NHS. The only difference I can see is that they’d be more overt about it. And that is quite apart from their aggressively anti-immigrant policies.

I therefore think it’s no bad thing that these right-wing, populist parties are divided. Labour’s not perfect, but I want them to gain power and overturn 12 wretched years of Tory misrule. And these parties splitting the vote between hopefully makes that easier.

Sajid Javid Now Calling for Patients to Be Charged for GP Visits and Going to A&E

January 21, 2023

Here’s further evidence of the Tory campaign to run down the Health Service until they can sell it off and introduce an American-style private healthcare system where people have to pay for their care through private health insurance. I’m ashamed and horrified that this man comes from own, fair city of Bristol. According to Sky News, Javid has an opinion piece in the Times (prop: the Dirty Digger) pushing the idea that the health service should charge people going to their doctors and Accident and Emergency with means-tested fees in order to cut waiting times. Javid says that this would follow Ireland, Norway and Sweden, and the appreciation of the Health Service should become a religious fervour blocking reform. The broadcaster also notes that Sunak himself wanted people charged for missed appointments, but was forced to withdrawal that nasty suggestion. Sky’s report says that the current PM till the next one says that he is not considering the idea. Wes Streeting, in a rare occasion of standing up for proper Labour values, said that it would violate the 75 year old founding principle of the NHS that treatment should be free at the point of delivery. Only Labour, which set up the NHS, could properly reform it, and that the imposition of fees would happen ‘over my dead body’.

Well said. I just wish I could believe him.

Of course the Tories hate the NHS as it’s a nationalised service. They don’t understand or sympathise with the principles underlying it and so want it privatised. We’ve already seen another right-wing maniac from their benches calling for it to be run ‘like a business’. These people have their voices magnified by appearing on GB News, where they spout the same nonsense, along with newsreaders and commenters like Nana Akua. As for the nonsense about this cutting waiting times, that’s really only a pretext. I went to a meeting of my local Labour party a few months ago in which the Tories’ attack on the Health Service was being discussed. Someone there said quite clearly that the health service was in particular danger because of the pandemic because the Tories never fail to exploit a crisis. And now Javid has raised his head above the parapet to prove it.

The Sky report states that Javid will not be seeking re-election at the next election. Which is why he probably feels free to make this monstrous suggestion. He has nothing to lose. Unfortunately, his mentality is still shared by his party, and will remain there long after he’s gone.

As for the Labour party, I very much doubt that Starmer will honour his promise to make doctors state employees. He has also said he wants to make a rational use of private industry to clear the backlog. Over the past decade, doctors’ surgeries have been acquired by private healthcare companies like Circle Health, who have then sought to maximise profits by sacking staff and making working conditions worse. The standard privatisation modus operandi. Blair was enthusiastic about privatising the NHS, and Starmer shares the same ideology. He also said something about making a rational use of private healthcare companies. I honestly doubt that he will stop the privatisation of the NHS once he gets his behind in No. 10. If he allows private healthcare companies to continue to acquire doctors’ surgeries, then obviously the doctors working there will not become state employees. Starmer has massive previous for breaking promises, and I think it’s very clear that he intends to break this one.

But the main threat meanwhile is the Tories.

Get them out before they privatise the health service and start charging for care.

Reform Party Promising to Protect British Freedoms against the Government, the EU and Unelected Organisations

January 20, 2023

Okay, I just found a brief video on YouTube, posted eight days ago, on Nick Buckley’s channel. Buckley’s a former police officer and campaigner against knife crime, who’s appeared a couple of times on the Lotus Eater’s channel. I wasn’t surprised then, when he posted this video interviewing Richard Tice about Reform’s ‘Eight Principles’. In the video, however, he only talks about four of them. These are largely about protecting British democratic rights against the threat of the state and unelected organisations and quangos. According to Tice, Brits are aware that they’re born free and have inalienable rights unlike in the EU. Thus, Brits are able to whatever they like unless prohibited, while in the EU they can only do whatever the EU tells them to.

The irony about this is that the idea that humans are born free comes from a continental philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau has been condemned as one of the founders of totalitarianism. One Conservative American group made Rousseau’s The Social Contract one of the most evil books of all time alongside Marx and Engels’ The Communist Manifesto. The philosopher Isaiah Berlin included him among his Six Enemies of Freedom and the Lotus Eaters have also put out videos attacking him. But Rousseau’s book begins with the words, ‘Man was born free yet everywhere he is chains.’ The idea that you should be free to do whatever you want unless the law says otherwise, I think comes from John Locke a century before, and is the foundation of modern liberal ideas of freedom. However, other European philosophers also had views similar to Locke’s, that the state should be limited to the role of a night watchman, in the sense say that it should protect its citizens’ lives and property, but otherwise not interfere. This is the view expressed by the German philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt in his Grenzen Der Wirksamkeit der Staat – ‘Limits of the Effectiveness of the State’. I don’t know what the underlying philosophy of government of the European Union is. I suspect there isn’t one beyond harmonising various trade and other regulations between member states and allowing for the movement of labour and capital. The original intention was to create a united trading bloc to preserve western European economic independence from America or communist eastern Europe. The Eurosceptic right has frequently ranted about the EU being some kind of totalitarian state with comparisons to Nazi Germany and communism, but I’ve seen no evidence to support it. And rather than limiting freedom, I think the EU believes it is actively creating and nurturing freedom in its member states. Such as when it condemns Poland and Hungary for their legislation banning homosexuality and gay rights.

Now let’s go through the principles as explained by Tice and Buckley in the video.

  1. The state is our servant not our master.

I don’t believe any believer in liberal democracy, whether of the left or right, would challenge this. The only people who would are either Fascists, following Mussolini’s pronouncements that the individual is nothing before the state, followers of Hegel’s dictum that ‘the state is the divine idea as it exists on Earth. We must therefore worship the state’ and supporters of Soviet Communism before Gorby’s brief reforms. However, in the context of Reform, a party of the right, it seems to me that this is yet another bland statement intended to justify further privatisation and the expansion of the power of private industry and the destruction of the welfare state against working people, the poor, the unemployed and disabled.

2. Lend us your power and we’ll give you back your freedom.

This could be said by just about any political party, even those which were real enemies of freedom. Hitler, in one of his rants at Nuremberg, declared ‘Everything I am, I am through you. Everything you are, you are through me’. The Nazi party anthem, the Horst Wessel song, also has lines about German freedom. Hitler also talked about preserving freedom through separating the different spheres of party and state and preserving private industry, though in practice under the Nazi regime the party and state apparatus were intermeshed and private industry ruthlessly subordinated to the state. Mussolini also made speeches about how the freedom of the individual wasn’t limited under fascism, except in certain ways, all of which was equally rubbish.

3. People are free.

This means, as he explains, that people naturally hold certain rights and liberties that should always be protected and defended. These include freedom of speech, religion and conscience. This does not mean that certain types of speech have no consequences. I interpret this as meaning that he feels that people can say what they want, but people are also free to express outrage and take action against others for offensive or dangerous speech that is not otherwise banned by law. Tice goes on to say that in practice, while people believe in this principle, they negotiate to give up a certain amount of this freedom with the state.

I think here he means particularly the legislation on hate speech, which in his view prevents proper criticism of certain protected groups in order to combat racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and so on. He has a point, as opponents of gay rights, who have made their opposition very clear in speeches, often quoting the Biblical prohibition against it, have been arrested. In Scotland Maria Miller, a gender critical woman, was arrested for hate speech simply for putting up stickers with the slogan ‘Scots Women Won’t Wheesht’, meaning that they wouldn’t be silent, in her campaign against the proposed gender recognition legislation north of the border. In my opinion, arresting someone for saying that goes beyond a concern about stirring up hatred against trans people into active attempts to police thoughts and opinions about trans rights.

But there are good reasons behind the legislation banning hate speech. In the case of racism, it’s to prevent Nazi groups stirring up hatred against vulnerable minorities like the Jews, people of colour and gays, all of whom have been or are targets of abuse and physical assault.

4. National Sovereignty

This means protecting British traditions, institutions and culture from enemies both external and internal. The external foes include the EU. The internal threats to British tradition and democracy are unelected pressure groups and organisations. These include big tech and companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook. This is a fair point. These organisations can and do censor material posted on their platforms. The right have been complaining about their posts disappearing or the algorithms governing their availability in searches being altered so that they become invisible, but the same censorship is also inflicted on the left. If Tice and his crew get the chance, I’ve no doubt they’ll demand greater freedom of speech for their supporters while maintaining or even strengthening the censorship against their opponents on the left.

Other threats, unsurprisingly, are the European Union, while among the unelected organisations wielding power he puts the environmental groups Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and the gay rights organisation Stonewall. Tice states that a few years ago Greenpeace published their manifesto for Yorkshire, which was a diatribe against the car, and therefore, in his view, an attack on the automobile industry in west Yorkshire. One of the accusations the extreme right is throwing at environmental groups is that they wish to ban cars and private transport as part of their plan to establish Green Communism. He also includes Stonewall and the massive influence it wields, although no-one has elected it. There is a problem with Stonewall in that the advice it has been giving to companies, the government and the civil service has been wrong. They deliberately gave a wrongful interpretation of the legislation covering trans issues which was very much what they wanted it to say, not what the law actually did. As a result, a number of groups cut their connections to the organisation.

But unelected groups like Greenpeace, Stonewall and so on acquire their power through possessing, or being perceived to express, expertise and competence in particular issues. In the case of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, it’s the environment. Amnesty International is respected because of its thorough investigation and documentation of human rights abuses, even though governments may pay no attention to its findings. Stonewall is taken notice of because it speaks, or claims to speak, for Britain’s gays and articulates their concerns and recommendations to combat prejudice.

Even in the 19th century governments had to pay attention to popular protest organisations, such as the massive abolitionist campaign against slavery, the Anti-Corn Law League set up by Cobden and Bright to have the corn laws repealed so that the price of grain would fall and working people able to feed themselves. There was also the anti-war protests against the Crimean War led by John Bright and others. There are problems with unelected groups exercising power beyond their competence or suitability, but modern governments have always had to deal with organised groups. Tice’s singling out of the environmental groups and Stonewall seems to me to be as much to do with a hatred of their views – the Brexiteers are full-scale behind the right of private industry to trash this country’s green and pleasant land – than with their supposed power outside of the formal sphere of elections. I doubt that Reform would ever go as far if they were in power, but it reminds me more than a little bit of Mussolini’s statement that there should be ‘nothing outside the state, nothing against the state’, and similar bans on private quasi-political organisations in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

But what you’ll also notice is that these principles tell you absolutely nothing about how Reform as a party intends to act on them, except by reading the lines. What does Reform intend to do about the health service? Not said. I suspect, in fact, that as a party of the right they’ll want to privatise even more of it. What about the welfare state and the scandal of millions of people using food banks? No answers there, either. I suspect, however, that in practice you’d get more mantras of encouraging people to be independent, find work and so on, coupled with rants about welfare scroungers. What about industry? Again, the reality is almost certainly that they want more deregulation. Well, we’ve had four decades of Thatcherite privatisation and deregulation, and the result is the mass poverty and failing economy we’re now experiencing. Industry should be acting for the good of society and its employees and not just shareholders and senior management. This means limiting economic freedom, but as the Liberal journalist J.A. Hobson said, in order for the mass of people to be free you need to limit the freedom of the rich. Which is obviously toxic to the Conservatives and other parties of the right.

To sum up, what Reform seems to be doing with these principles is to try to position themselves as defenders of traditional British liberties against the threat of the evil EU and pesky Green and gay groups. But this hides an illiberal ideology that views such groups as somehow subversive, would probably remove the obstacles against real, dangerous expressions of racial and other prejudice, and which would promote the interests of private industry against ordinary Brits.

We can’t afford to be taken in by sweet words hiding their true intentions.

We Own It Appealing for People to Attend Planned Protest Against NHS Privatisation

January 20, 2023

I’ve also had this email from the pro-NHS, pro-nationalisation organisation, We Own It about a planned demonstration they’re holding against the privatisation of the NHS in February. They’re appealing for people to go to it. I can’t, due to expense and illness, but I’m putting it up here in case there are people interested in it, who may be able to attend.

‘Dear David,

BREAKING: private health companies donated £800,000 to the Conservative Party over the last decade. Now we know why the government is doing nothing about NHS privatisation!

A recent Oxford study linked NHS privatisation to the preventable deaths of 557 people.

It is time to make the government feel the power of organised people over organised money.

Can you sign up to become one of 557 people in Parliament Square from 2 – 4pm on Saturday, 25th February demanding an end to NHS privatisation?

So far, 541 people have signed up. We need 89 people to reach our final goal of 630 (that is, 557 people representing the victims of NHS privatisation, 43 people to help carry signs and banners and 30 stewards to help manage the event).

Sign up to become one of the remaining 89 people on Saturday 25th February in Parliament Square

You are involved in our NHS campaign because you believe that our NHS should work for people, not the greedy private companies that donate to the government.

Unite the Union, Just Treatment, Doctors for the NHS and Socialist Health Association fully agree with you. That is why they are now supporting our action.

It is time we make the government feel the power of organised people over organised money.

We want to bring together 557 people representing the 557 people whose deaths are linked to NHS privatisation to put on a powerful display that can get into the papers.

More press coverage means more pressure on the government. The more of us there are at the action, the more likely the action is to get press coverage.

We need 89 more people to reach our goal. Can you sign up now to join us?

Sign up to take action from 2 – 4pm on Saturday 25th Feb in Parliament Square

Because of the incredible efforts of our NHS nurses and ambulance workers who are fighting to save our NHS, the government is already feeling pressure.

With the recent study that links NHS privatisation to 557 preventable deaths, there is no better time than now to pile onto that pressure they are feeling.

The government already knows that over 75% of the public, according to our last poll, want to end NHS privatisation. But they don’t feel that people will fight to see that happen.

You can show them from 2 – 4pm on Saturday 25th February in Parliament Square that you will.

The more people join this action, the more powerful it will be. The more powerful it is, the more likely it is to receive coverage from the press.

This coverage will pile on the pressure on the government and start forcing them to take action.

I will stand up and fight to force an end to NHS privatisation

We need 557 people to represent the 557 people whose deaths are linked to NHS privatisation, according to a recent Oxford study.

But we need even more people to make sure the action is big and effective. So after signing up, please send the link to your friends and family, especially those who live in London and ask them to sign up too.

Thank you so much for always standing up against NHS privatisation.

Cat, Johnbosco, Matthew, Kate – the We Own It team

PS: 30 years ago today the British Coal and British Rail (Transfer Proposals) Act 1993 was passed, paving the way for privatisation of our railway. We’ve put together a list of 30 top failures of rail privatisation from the last 30 years. Take a read and share with friends and family.’

Peter Hitchens on Tony Blair’s Stupidity

January 16, 2023

Yeah, I know this ad hominem, but it is funny. Novara Media’s Aaron Bastani interviewed Tory iconoclast Peter Hitchens the other day. The two don’t really have much in common, but Bastani justified the interview saying that if you want to be certain in your political views, you should test them by talking to people who hold the opposite. Hitchen’s is very much a man of the right, and some of his views are odd, if not barking. He believes, for example, that we shouldn’t have gone to war with Germany as it was not in our interests. Perhaps it wasn’t, but we had signed the defence pacts with France and Poland, And if we hadn’t gone to war, I think we would have still lost the empire sooner or later. Plus we would have been excluded from a continent under Nazi domination. And this is not to mention the carnage that would have been perpetrated by the Nazis, with the Jews and Gypsies becoming extinct in Europe, followed by the Czechs and the Slav populations enslaved as peasant farmers supplying produce to their German overlords.

On the other hand, Hitchens has said that he never supported Thatcher’s sale of the council houses or the privatisation of the prison system, because justice, as a principle, should be in the hands of the state. He also states in one of his books that he was shocked into an awareness of how fragile civilisation was after visiting one of the failed African countries as a journalist in the 1980s. The country had descended into vicious gang violence, but walking through its capital Hitchens saw everywhere grand architecture and all the signs of modern corporate development. I think this gives an insight into the basis of his own Tory views. I remember reading in the Spectator years ago that the right-wing philosopher Roger Scruton abandoned the left when he witnessed the rioting in Paris during the 1968 student and workers’ protests. He was alarmed by their ‘anti-civilisational rage’.

Back to the interview, Hitchens described Blair’s spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, as being frightening intelligent. He mentioned people, who really thought for the first few months of Blair’s regime that it was Campbell running the country. He joked that it was probably because of Campbell’s mighty intellect that he was kept away from voters, as he would probably frighten them all away.

But Blair, on the other hand, wasn’t terribly bright and Hitchens doubted that he could have run the country without Campbell. To illustrate his point, he told the story of how he briefly met Blair just before the 1997 election. Blair was in Oxford, travelling in his motorcade. Hitchens was following him by bike, but as the traffic was bad, he got to Blair’s destination before him. After Blair had arrived, he was immediately surrounded by a crowd taking pictures. Hitchens wanted to talk to Blair, and so, after the crowd had finished and dispersed, he walked up to the future Prime Minister. He decided to open the conversation by asking who the crowd were. Blair replied, ‘They’re Brazilians. I’m very popular down there.’

‘Oh, you should learn Portuguese then,’ replied Hitch.

‘What?’

It turned out that Blair thought they spoke Brazilian in Brazil. Hitchens concluded that what Blair really wanted to be was a pop star, and you didn’t need to ascribe any deep ideological motives to him.

There was, nevertheless, an ideological basis to his policies. He was a product of BAP, the British-American Project for the Successor Generation, which was set up by Reagan to influence the rising generation of British politicians from both the Conservatives and Labour. Blair had started out as a supporter of nuclear disarmament, but after going on a BAP-sponsored trip to America and hearing the views of various right-wing think tanks, he came back as an opponent. He was fervently Thatcherite, believing in the superiority of private industry and strongly influenced by the American political system. Private Eye ran several pieces about the American private healthcare and prison companies lining up to donate to New Labour in the hope of getting some of that nationalised action. He took over advisers and staff from private healthcare companies as well as other businesses, and pushed the privatisation of the NHS further than the Tories would have dared. As stupid as he may have been, he set the course for right-wing Labour, and Starmer shows every indication of returning to it.

Starmer’s Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, Receives Donation from American Private Healthcare Firm

January 16, 2023

Some of the great commenters on this blog have been discussing the danger that Keir Starmer, once in power, will push through even more privatisation of the NHS like his Thatcherite predecessor, Tony Blair. In June last year, Left Horizons published an article reposted from the Skwawkbox reporting that his noxious Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, had received a £15,000 donation from a hedge fund which owns one of the giant American private healthcare firms, which is involved in the privatisation of the NHS. The article, ‘Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, takes donation from Tory donor with private health interests’, begins

‘Keir Starmer’s Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting accepted £15,000 from a donor with huge interests in privatised health care. The Electoral Commission’s register of donations shows that Streeting reported the receipt in January 2022 of the donation from John Armitage, a hedge fund founder and manager who has given over £3 million to the Tories.

Armitage, ranked number 138 on the 2021 Times ‘rich list’, is co-founder and director of the Egerton Capital hedge fund. According to the HedgeFollow site, among its almost £19bn of investments, Armitage’s fund owns shares worth almost £834m in UnitedHealth (UH), a vast US private health corporation that has spent millions lobbying US politicians for its interests. NHS campaigners told Skwawkbox that UH has played a key role in the ‘americanisation’ of the NHS that began under New Labour and continued apace under the Tories:

*the Health and Care Bill has just put into law an American scheme reducing state-funded services to profitable standards and pushing patients to pay for the rest, by rewarding providers who cut ‘unprofitable’ care (known as ACOs or ICSs)
*UnitedHealth was among the companies who developed this system with New Labour. Blair advisor Simon Stevens even became UnitedHealth CEO, before being appointed by the Tories to run the NHS to push through their ‘reforms’
*UnitedHealth subsidiary Optum is ’embedded in the whole process’. Optum was accused in a 2019 Science Magazine study of racial bias in its systems that result in less money being allocated for the care of black patients. Optum responded that its systems help “clinicians provide more effective patient care every day“’

The article states that the donation has raised concerns among NHS supporters trying to protect the service’s mission to provide medical care free at the point of delivery.

It also notes that Streeting was approached for comment, but didn’t reply.

Starmer’s Plans for the Health Service: Some Good Promises, but More Privatisation?

January 15, 2023

This is the sequel to my post earlier today speculating on whether Starmer is planning to privatise the health service even further. I based that on his interview on the Beeb this morning, where he said he wanted to use private enterprise to clear the backlog, and that his reforms may include a greater use of private healthcare companies. I caught more of this on the ITV evening news, and while some of it looked good, it still included private healthcare companies. He laid out his plans for reforming the NHS in today’s Torygraph, which is a warning from the start. From the choice of paper it’s clear that he’s aiming at Tory voters rather than traditional Labour. Which, by previous experience of the way he and the Blairites generally side-line traditional Labour supporters and members, is what you would expect. According to ITV, he promised to recruit more NHS staff. This is good, but so blindingly obvious that the Tories have also been making the same promise over the past few years. They’ve repeatedly broken it, and working for our health service is now so bad that a large proportion of them are planning to leave. This leaves questions of how Starmer is planning to persuade more people to work for it and retain them. The report said nothing about Starmer promising them better wages or reducing the workload. He also promised to make doctors NHS employees. This is excellent. Pro-NHS groups like We Own It have said that doctors should be NHS employees in order to avoid the privatisation and sale of GP surgeries to the private healthcare giants. These have enhanced their corporate profits by closing those surgeries they deem unprofitable and sacking staff. The result is that many patients find themselves without a doctor, and the remaining doctors and staff have poorer working conditions. But hey, you gotta keep that tax money rolling in for the private healthcare firmes!

And then there’s the bit that worries me. Starmer has said he wants to make better use of private healthcare, but is still concerned to keep it free at the point of delivery. This says very strongly to me that he’s going to privatise more of the NHS and outsource services to the private sector. And as I’ve kept saying, this is one of the problems with the health service. Privatisation had resulted in poorer services and massively increasing bureaucracy and administration costs. Starmer has said he wants to cut down on the bureaucracy, which is more Tory cant. He could, if he renationalised the NHS. But he obviously doesn’t want to do that.

Among the people responding to Starmer’s proposals was someone from the NHS unions, who said that it wasn’t true that they were against change. They just wanted to see everything costed. The fact that Starmer hasn’t done that, or at least, not in the article he wrote for the Torygraph, suggests to me that he really won’t increase funding, or perhaps not by the amount necessary. With the exception of the proposal to make doctors state employees, his reforms come across very much as something the Tories would also say, while also crossing two fingers behind their backs. He did make a fourth commitment, but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten it.

I want the Tories out, but I do not want Starmer to carry on with their policies, as the Blairites have done in the past. And I think that if he gets the chance, he’ll ditch the promise to make the doctors employees of the state. It’s socialist, and he hates socialism and socialists.