Posts Tagged ‘‘NHS – SOS’’

My Email to South Bristol Labour Party Complaining about Conference Delegates Support for Starmer

October 22, 2021

Last week my local Labour party held its monthly meeting, online because of the continuing Covid lockdown. There was a monthly report from our local MP, Karin Smyth,along with reports from the two conference delegates. This was followed by a speech from the Unison liaison – I’m afraid I’ve mistakenly said that she’s Unite in the letter, for which I apologise to Unite – and that’s when I got sick and tired of it all and quietly left.

Smyth’s talk was highly informative and chilling in her description of the government’s continuing campaign to privatise the NHS and replace it with a system financed by private health insurance as in America. She supports Starmer, but is very committed to protecting the NHS for which I respect her.

I was less impressed with the two delegates, who supported Starmer and David Evans’ measures destroying party democracy and purging the left. It’s blatant factionalism and the reasons they gave were spurious. They claimed that as Starmer only had 200 MPs, he needed to shore up his support so that he has 40 to form a cabinet. But he has no shortage of supporters in the parliamentary party, and so the rationale makes no sense. They did, however, vote for the Green New Deal, but didn’t vote for the measure supporting the Palestinians. They claimed they didn’t understand it. I think it’s far more likely they shared Starmer’s aggressive Zionism and support for the current far-right Israeli government’s colonisation of Palestine through the construction of illegal settlements and the consequent suffocating restrictions on those of the indigenous Palestinians.

But I was most annoyed by the Unison liaison’s speech talking about how she’d been indifferent to the problem of Labour anti-Semitism, but had just attended a ‘powerful’ presentation about the terrible abuse our Jewish brothers and sisters in the Labour party were suffering from the Left. What was this abuse? Why, it was all tropes, as you’d expect. This is just Zionist propaganda. Tropes are invoked to smear reasonable criticisms of Israel by decent people through contrived parallels to real anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and myths. As I have said ad nauseam, the people targeted for these smears are mostly genuine anti-racists and opponents of anti-Semitism, many of whom – indeed the majority – are self-respecting Jews. These are people, who frequently lost relatives in the Holocaust and have suffered genuine abuse and violence from real anti-Semites and Nazis.

I have therefore sent off this email of complaint. It criticises the delegates’ Starmerite factionalism, and the leadership itself for calling for a return to Blairism. I attack Blair’s further privatisation of the Health Service, the introduction of the Work Capability Tests and the bullying tactics used by the DWP on claimants. I also attack Blair for his illegal invasion of Iraq and Libya, and the consequent destabilisation of the Middle East. A destabilisation that prepared the way for the rise of ISIS. I also make it plain that I oppose Blair’s corporatism and his grant of government positions to the captains of industry and his support for big business over the wishes of communities and their small businessmen and women. I make it very clear that I feel Blair and his policies are not to be supported or revived, and that Starmer has shown that he is completely treacherous and untrustworthy. He will, I feel, turn on his own supporters the moment it suits him, and his support for the NHS at this moment is merely tactical.

I also attack the Unison lady’s talk, pointing out that this has probably been given by JLM, a Zionist organisation, who aren’t interested in Jews but protecting Israel and its barbarous treatment of the Palestinians. I denounce the mass purges from the party of Starmer’s critics and critics of Israel, and briefly describe my own experience of being so accused. I end by asking to present my case at a future meeting of the party.

I may well have set myself up for expulsion as another evil lefty troublemaker, but I can’t let these evil policies and falsehoods go unchallenged. Here is my email below:

“Dear Sir/ Madam,

Thank you for sending me this month’s reports. However, I must express here my very strong disapproval and dismay of some of the views expressed by the speakers at this month’s meeting and particularly the actions of the conference delegates. This does not extend to the great work of our local MP, Karin Smyth. I very much appreciate all the very hard work she does for her constituents and defending the NHS against Tory privatisation.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same of the Labour leadership. Keir Starmer’s return to Blairism is a source of severe concern. Tony Blair in office continued and extended further the Thatcherite policies of the previous Tory governments. Indeed, they have complained that he went further in his privatisation of the NHS than they would have dared if Labour had stuck to its traditional defence of the Health Service. For example, when the Community Care Groups were set up they were given powers not only to purchase services from private medical companies, but also to raise funds privately. The polyclinics were supposed to be privately run, and he continued handing over doctor’s surgeries to private health companies as well as the management of hospitals to private healthcare chains.. Please see books like Raymond Tallis’ and Jacky Davis’ NHS – SOS for further details.

I am also disgusted by the bullying attitude towards welfare claimants and the Work Capability Tests that Blair also introduced. This has seen genuinely poor and disabled people thrown off benefits for the most trivial reasons, leading to great hardship, deprivation and death. This should be ended now. The unemployed and disabled should not be supported by food banks but by a properly funded and functioning welfare state, and damn whatever Rupert Murdoch and Geordie Greig say in their wretched propaganda sheets. But I see precious little evidence of this from Starmer. Indeed, he seems to favour extreme right-wing members, who believe that conditions should be made even harsher for the unemployed!

We also suffered from massive corporate corruption by Blair giving places in government to the private companies that the same departments were supposed to be regulating. The result was a colossal increase in the expense of public works and the favouring of these companies over the wishes of local communities and their businesses. See Bremner, Bird and Fortunes’ You Are Here and George Monbiot’s Captive State, for example. Blair also showed his absolute contempt for international law and the British people with his illegal invasion of Iraq. Yes, Saddam Hussein was a monster, but the invasion of Iraq left the country in chaos and destroyed what had been one of the most secular societies in the middle east with something like a welfare state where women could pursue careers outside the home. This is all gone. 200,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced, contributing to the refugee crisis we see now. Moreover it gave a space for the emergence of the monstrous ISIS. It has also, in my opinion, further contributed to the alienation of Muslims in Britain and abroad, as has Blair’s similar participation in the overthrow of another tyrant, Colonel Gadaffy.

I am utterly disgusted that Kier Starmer should believe Tony Blair is a leader worth emulating and to whom the Labour party should return and refer for its policies. I do not trust him to continue defending the NHS once is power, and I am afraid MPs like Karin will be faced with the difficult choice of supporting the leader or supporting the NHS. The purges and long list of broken promises to members show that Starmer is, in my opinion, utterly without principle and treacherous and I am afraid that valued MPs like Karin will also be purged if they dare to show any independence against him.

I am deeply disgusted by the conference delegates’ support for the leadership’s motions affecting party democracy. These are entirely partisan, and go against both the democratic traditions of the party and the views of many of the ordinary members. Starmer seems determined to purge the party of the left and make Labour into another, perhaps not even paler, version of the Conservatives. At the same time, he seems to have done precious little to oppose them in parliament, to the point that he has been easily ridiculed and mocked by Johnson, to the applause of the media.

I was also disappointed by the delegates’ refusal to support the motion in favour of the Palestinians. The motion is not difficult to understand. The Israeli state is colonising Palestinian territory with the construction of illegal settlements in defiance of international law. At the same time there is a system of apartheid in Israel that persecutes Palestinians as second class systems. This has to stop if Labour really believes in peace and equality in the Middle East. I fear the delegates’ refusal to support the motion has less to do with a failure to understand the situation than Keir Starmer’s support for the hard-right government in Israel.

This brings me on to the comments by the Unite liaison officer and her praise for the ‘powerful’ training she had received showing the ‘terrible abuse’ Jewish members of the party had received from the left through tropes. She comes across as a thoroughly decent woman, though naive and uninformed, and I fear that she has been terribly mislead by people I can only describe as liars, propagandists and smear merchants. People who, in my certain experience, have smeared thoroughly decent, genuinely anti-racist people, including staunch opponents of anti-Semitism, as Jew-haters. Starmer handed over anti-Semitic training to the Jewish Labour Movement, an extremely partisan and biased organisation. According to the organisation’s Jewish critics, they used to be Paole Zion, ‘Workers of Zion’, a Zionist organisation which describes itself as the sister party to the Israeli Labor Party. This organisation was moribund until it suddenly received an injection of funds from persons or persons unknown a few years ago.Its Jewish critics have pointed out that its members do not have to be either Jewish or members of the Labour party, as is the case with their ideological opponents in Labour, Jewish Voice for Labour. Yet the Jewish Labour Movement is somehow privileged as speaking for Labour’s Jewish members and Jewish Voice for Labour demonised as anti-Semitic ‘commies’ by right-wing Labour MPs like Neil Coyle.  

In my experience organisations like the JLM are not interested in tackling anti-Semitism. They are there to counter criticism of Israel and Zionism, and the use of literary tropes is the only method they can use to do so. And their targets have been overwhelmingly Jews. Jewish Voice for Labour have complained that Jews are 300 times more likely to be accused of anti-Semitism than non-Jews. Those accused have included self-respecting men and women, who frequently lost relatives and friends in the Shoah, and who, along with their gentile friends and supporters, have suffered real anti-Semitic abuse, harassment and assault from genuine Nazis and anti-Semites. I cannot express sufficiently my absolute disgust at this deplorable persecution. Miri Hillel, a Jewish journalist, has said that many Jews are afraid of speaking out against this campaign of official harassment because of the effect it has on their families. Those accused of anti-Semitism are subjected to horrendous, foul abuse because of these lies and smears.  . 

As for terrible anti-Semitic tropes, this is being done to silence criticism of Israel by finding spurious literary and historical parallels with real anti-Semitism. Thus, any mention of Israeli embassy official Shai Masot’s covert negotiations with British civil servants to exclude Alan Duncan, a critic of Israel, from the cabinet, as a plot or conspiracy is loudly denounced as an example of the old myth of Jewish conspiracies like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But Masot was plotting and engaged in a conspiracy in the true sense of the word. Describing it as such does not connect it to real, poisonous anti-Semitic myths like the infamous Protocols or the more recent myth of the Great Replacement. Such literary criticism, and that’s all it is, is done not to protect Jews, but as a cynical campaign to deflect criticism from Israel by misrepresenting its critics as anti-Semites.

I myself haver personal experience of the witch hunt against critics of Israel. A few weeks ago I was told I was under investigation following complaints of anti-Semitism about an article on my blog. What the complainants objected to was almost wholly statements I had made criticising Zionism. They objected to my statement that all states and ideologies, including Zionism and Israel, should be open to examination and criticism, even though the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism says that criticism of Israel is perfectly acceptable provided the country is not held to a higher standard than others. They also didn’t like my statement that many gentiles initially did not support Zionism because it was too closely linked to real anti-Semitism, even though this is historically documented fact. They also considered that I was being anti-Semitic simply for stating another historical fact, which is that Zionism was, up to the Second World War, a minority position among European Jews. Most of them wished to remain in their homes, fighting for equality and to be accepted as fellow Brits, Frenchmen, Germans, Poles and so on rather than move to a country to which they felt no connection. Again, documented historical fact. I am further disgusted by the deplorable way Starmer is trying to silence reasonable opposition to Israeli’s barbarous treatment of the Palestinians through mass expulsions and the proscription of organisations defending those unfairly purged, such as Labour Against the Witch Hunt and the Labour In Exile Network.

I was so outraged at the Unite lady’s speech defending the JLM training that I left the meeting. I feel that the meeting has been very one-sided in the views presented. I would therefore very much like to talk about my experiences of what I can only describe as a factionalist with hunt the demonises and expels decent people and exposing them to real anti-Semitic abuse and violence at a forthcoming meeting.

Yours faithfully,”

Loach’s Documentary Shows Why We Still Need the Attlee Government

October 4, 2021

The Spirit of ’45, director Ken Loach, Dogwoof, Sixteenfly Limited, British Film Institute & Channel 4.. Running time 92 minutes, with 420 minutes of extras, 2013 release.

This superb documentary provides great evidence for one of the real reasons Keef Stalin has purged Loach from the Labour party. Quite apart from being a staunch critic of Israeli barbarism, Loach is a socialist whose films show the misery, poverty and degradation inflicted by capitalism. This documentary shows not just the great achievements of Attlee’s reforming government of 1945, but why we still need these reforms today. Why, indeed, we do need to turn the clock back against the Thatcherites to 1945 again. And as an ardent Thatcherite, that’s something Keef and his cohorts really can’t tolerate.

The film consists of interviews with ordinary men and women, former workers in the affected industries, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals as well as academics, along with interviews and footage from the period. These include tales of real struggle and hardship, often moving, and sometimes inspiring anger. It begins by describing the horrendous conditions people lived in before the foundation of the welfare state. One man describes how, as a child, he and his four siblings lived in a slum crawling with vermin. They had to sleep in the same bed, infested with lice and fleas. This is accompanied by footage showing a hand turning over blankets in a bed in which just about every inch was alive with such parasites. And the man recalls that after a night of this, he was beaten at school for having dirty knees.

The film states that the welfare state and its founders were determined not to repeat the situation following the First World War, where demobbed troops returned to unemployment, depression and poverty. The film is divided into sections for each part of the economy that was nationalised – coal, the Railways, the NHS, housing and electricity.

There had been demands for the nationalisation of the coal industry for decades. It was divided between various coal companies, some of which were extremely small. These companies were individually too poor to pay the miners a decent, living wage. Former miners describe how hard and dangerous conditions were. Miners were paid according to the amount of coal they hewed. They weren’t paid for putting up the props that stopped the mine shafts collapsing. As a result, not enough props were put up and terrible accidents followed. One man recalled seeing one his workmates killed in just such a rock fall because not enough props were put up. Nationalisation resulted in much better conditions, but disappointed many of the miners. They were hoping for something like workers’ control. Instead the same people were left in charge, including one manager, who was appointed leader of the industry, who had written extensively against nationalisation. Naturally this left many miners angry and disappointed.

Medicine before the NHS for working people was poor and expensive. Some workers were covered by insurance schemes for their industries, allowing them to see panel doctors. This did not, however, according to the film, cover their families. I’m not sure about this, because my mother remembers cases in Bristol where family members were seen by the panel doctor, but this may have been the exception. You had to pay to see a doctor, and they weren’t cheap. Very low paid workers, like farm labourers, were paid six shillings a week, and seeing the doctor could cost one of those. Patients were very often in debt to their doctors, who employed debt collectors. Death from disease was common. One man angrily recalls how he became an atheist after the death of his mother, who died following complications in childbirth because she could not afford proper treatment or an abortion. One former GP tells how he went round to call on a family of his patients the very day after the foundation of the NHS. When he inquired after the boy he’d been treating, the mother informed him he was well. But the man could hear coughing, and so continued to ask. The mother replied that the coughing was his brother, who was recovering because they’d given him half of the bottle of cough medicine he’d given to the other boy. When the doctor said he could still hear coughing, the woman replied that it was her mother. When the doctor offered to treat her, she refused, saying they couldn’t afford him. The doctor replied that this morning they could. This part of the documentary includes comments from Jacky Davis, a great campaigner for the NHS and one of the editors, with Ray Tallis, of the excellent book, NHS – SOS.

The railways before nationalisation were in a comparable state as the mines. The rail network was divided between different companies, who also owned their own track. As a result, services by the different railway companies frequently interfered with each other. One old railways worker recalls how one train going to Exeter was held up for half an hour by a train from another company. And the system was incredibly bureaucratic. The first thing to go at nationalisation was the clearing house. This was a massive office of 50+ clerks just passing chits to each other as the various companies billed each other for the use of their services. I suspect something similar goes on in the privatised railways when you buy a ticket that involves more than one network.

The film also describes the massive improvement in housing that came with the government’s programme of building council houses. There were queues to get into these, with many workers amazed that they would live in such massively improved conditions.

The film also covers the nationalisation of the electricity network, with an historian stating that it was generally agreed that it made more sense to nationalise it and amalgamate it into one company than leave it in the hands of a multitude of competing small companies.

The film moves on to the destruction of the welfare state following the election of St. Margaret of Monetarism. All of these have been disastrous. The spit up of the railways led to a series of terrible train disasters, with the companies involved refusing to accept responsibility and blaming each other. It was so appalling that the track had to be renationalised in 2002.

As for the NHS, service is becoming worse as the government has privatised more of it. NHS workers and ordinary folk made it very clear how much they hate its privatisation. One gentleman says that those who want to see it sold off should be put in a bottomless boat, sent out in the North Sea, and told to swim back. I quite agree. Jacky Davis makes it clear that this isn’t making the service cheaper or more economical. Under the NHS, administration costs were 6 per cent. A little while ago they were 12 per cent. Now they’re heading up to American levels of 18-24 per cent.

The NHS has become less efficient because of four decades of Thatcherite privatisation, all for the profit of private healthcare companies.

The film is a superb piece of social history and documentation, directed by one of the masters of British cinema. And makes a very strong case for socialism. Attlee and his government weren’t without their faults, but they created the modern welfare state following the Beveridge Report. This shaped British society for more than three decades afterwards, and which still demands our support against the attacks of the likes of Blair, Starmer and Boris.

NHS Privatisation: Do You Want to Pay the Equivalent of $200 to See a Doctor?

September 20, 2021

This comes from a video on YouTube I was watching the other day. It wasn’t about health services except that at one point the person talking mentioned that where she was – America – you have to pay $200 simply to see a doctor. And that’s before he treats you or gives you medicine.

At a very rough estimate, that’s about £130 or so. Very roughly, and I might be wrong.

But it used to be like that over here as well before the establishment of the NHS by the 1945 Labour government. And people suffered and died because they couldn’t afford to pay for it. I’ve been watching Ken Loach’s excellent film on the establishment of the British welfare state, The Spirit of ’45. This is another flick I fully intend to blog about in due course and highly recommend it to anyone interested in the origins not just of the welfare state, but of the mixed economy that gave us jobs and prosperity for thirty years before the election of Thatcher. And it clearly shows as well how and why capitalism is failing but still being pushed, and why we must never allow the NHS to be privatised. It mixes archive footage from the period, including speeches by Clement Atlee, Nye Bevan, George Lansbury and others with filmed interviews with politicians, activists, writers, union representatives and ordinary working men and women. These include not only the awesome Tony Benn, but also Jacky Davis, a consultant radiologist who co-edited NHS: SOS against the privatisation of the NHS with Ray Tallis. Doctors appearing in the film explain that before the NHS was established, you had to pay half a crown simply to see the doctor. Very poorly paid workers, like agricultural labourers, could be paid five shillings a week. If they fell ill, one of those shillings would be taken in doctor’s fees. And doctors employed debt collectors to get money owing from patients, who’d paid on credit.

This is what is going to happen if Johnson and his jackals privatise the NHS.

I mention this because there was a news report last week that more people are taking out private health care. This is not by accident. It is a deliberate Tory policy. Thatcher would have liked to have privatised the NHS, but she was prevented by a cabinet revolt. Patrick Jenkin, her private secretary, had visited America and was shocked by the American private healthcare system. Unable to get her way, Thatcher instead aimed to get a certain percentage of the British public to take out private health insurance.

As Mike has pointed out again and again, the way the right prepares industries for privatisation is by starving them of funding until they are near collapse and then claiming that privatisation will provide more investment and improve services.

And this is what the Tories have been doing since they got into power eleven or so years ago. The NHS is in crisis with cancelled operations and treatment due to priority being given to combating the Coronavirus. But the Tories never waste a crisis, and they are using it to demand further privatisation. The mad internet radio host, Alex Belfield, released a video last week yet again demanding the privatisation of the NHS because of the crisis and the suffering it was causing his listeners, some of whom had relatives die as a result.

I have every sympathy for them. But the truth is that people are suffering and dying not because of any inherent fault of the NHS but because it is deliberately being run down so the Tories can privatise it.

Boris and his cronies would like to take us to a completely private healthcare system, financed through private health insurance. And if that happens, people will once again have to pay money simply to see a doctor.

And so we come back to the question: do you have the equivalent of $200 to see a doctor? Because this is what it’s going to cost you if Johnson and the private American healthcare companies that want a bit of NHS action get their way.

Right-Wing Internet Host Belfield Now Pushing for NHS Privatisation

May 7, 2021

It’s now the morning after the council and elected mayoral elections that were being held up and down the country yesterday. And to no-one’s surprise, Labour lost the Hartlepool bye-election to the Tories. The media commenters have identified Brexit as the cause of the defeat. For those of us on the left of the party, Brexit was a major factor, but it was also partly due to the shoddy, ineffectual leadership and arrogance of the current leader, Keir Starmer. Starmer parachuted into Hartlepool his preferred candidate, a Remainer, over the heads of local Labour party members, activists and supporters. Mike on Vox Political predicted that this would lead to defeat, and so it did. Because of this, the right-wingers on the Net were putting up videos stating that Labour was insulting Hartlepool’s working people. This was further compounded by the fact that Starmer has been such an ineffective opposition leader, that some people didn’t know who he was. Mahyar Tousi, one of the Brexiteers with arch-Thatcherite views, included a clip from Sky News on his video about Labour in Hartlepool yesterday. This showed Starmer earnestly talking to people. The presenter then stopped a passing woman and asked her if she knew who that man was over there. She didn’t. The presenter told her it was Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour party. The woman still didn’t know. So much for Starmer’s glittering leadership.

And it was also yesterday that right-wing internet radio host, Alex Belfield, put up a video openly calling for the NHS to be handed over to private management. This isn’t the first time he’s done this, and I doubt that it will be the last. He’s already put up videos with titles like ‘Private NHS Now’. Belfield is vehemently against the lockdown, which he feels is unnecessary and actually harmful, as it has prevented the elderly in nursing homes being visited and comforted by their relatives. It has also created another crisis in the NHS, as the concentration on the Coronavirus has meant routine operations, examinations and treatment have been postponed to the point that waiting times have increased. Highly vulnerable people, like those suffering from cancer, are going untreated.

This is a terrible problem, and much of it, like the grotesque mishandling of the Coronavirus crisis that has seen well over 100,000 die from the disease, can be put down to Boris Johnson’s ineptitude and his cavalier disregard for human life over the economy. Plus the way the NHS has been run down, starved of funds and partially privatised over the past ten years.

But not to Belfield. The ginger-headed man with the tiny man-sausage, as he has described himself, knows better. He put up a rant yesterday claiming that it was all due to increased bureaucracy and ‘box-ticking Celia Imrie types’. Belfield has a feud going with the BBC, and he never fails to include jabs at that organisation. I don’t know whether he has anything against Celia Imrie, or whether it’s just he’s using the kind of parts she’s played as an example of a certain kind of fussy, totally unnecessary management type. You know, the sort of people the Golgafrinchams put into an ark to send into space and crash on Earth on the grounds that they were ‘a bunch of useless bloody loonies’ according to the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The solution, according to Belfield, is for the NHS to be handed over to private management.

This is no solution, as it is private management that has created this situation.

Jacky Davis and Ray Tallis have comprehensively shown in their book, NHS – SOS, that private enterprise is very definitely not as efficient as state healthcare. It’s actually more bureaucratic, as the US private healthcare companies can spend as much as 40-50 per cent of their income on management and legal issues. A book I bought a few years ago discussing the privatisation of healthcare in places like Canada as well as Britain found that the privatisation of parts of the health service over here had actually increased costs by 6 per cent. Parts of the NHS are being handed over to private management, and the effects are not good. Private enterprise is all about profit, not service, and so we’ve seen the private healthcare chains close down doctors surgeries even though they were needed by local people who were then left without a local GP. At the same time, Tory MPs have been demanding the levying of payments for users of certain NHS services, which are supposed to be free at the point of service.

This is all part of the long-time project of privatising the NHS, and turning it into a for-profit healthcare system like the American.

And Belfield is fully behind it.

Belfield likes to present himself as an ordinary working class lad without a degree, who’s despised by the middle class White liberals. His audience seem to be the middle aged, White working class, who feel left behind, excluded from political representation in favour of ethnic minorities. The kind of people, who voted for UKIP.

But these are exactly the people, who will suffer if Belfield’s political aims are realised. If Belfield and the other Tories have their way and privatise the NHS, it will be the working class – and that includes the White working class – who will struggle to pay for healthcare treatment. It’s already happening now, through hospital and GP closures due to private management. And thanks to the privatisation of the dentists, many people have been struggling for a long time to find dentists, who will take NHS patients.

Belfield may well be a working class lad, but his politics are those of the upper classes, who wish to impoverish and exploit working people.

And that means privatising the NHS, even, or especially, if it harms working people’s health.

They won’t care, so long as it turns a profit.

I’m not going to post his video, but if you want to see it, it’s on YouTube at Booze 🇬🇧 Disaster 🍻 Told Ya 🤦‍♂️ Chickens 🐓 Coming 🍺 Home To Roost 🍷 Price Of Last 14 Months – YouTube

Just remember, it is right-wing, pro-privatisation propaganda.

How Can I Trust Keir Starmer to Protect the NHS When Blair Wanted to Privatise It?

April 9, 2021

The parties have been running their election broadcasts this week in the run up to the local, elected mayoral and other elections in May. I caught a bit of Labour’s the other night, and wasn’t impressed. The piece I glimpsed consisted of Starmer sitting in front of the camera, urging people to vote Labour to protect it from the Tories’ privatisation. And the Tories are privatising the NHS by stealth, all under the cover of bringing in best practice from the private sector. And the Lib Dems have been exactly the same. They were the Tories’ partners in David Cameron’s wretched coalition government, which carried on the privatisations. Nick Clegg did nothing to stop it. Indeed, he gave every assistance to the Tories and seemed to be fully behind the handing over hospitals and doctor’s surgeries to private enterprise to run. Just as the Liberals and SDP were way back in 1987, when the two allied parties had declared that it didn’t matter whether doctors and hospitals were public or private, provided that the treatment was free. Except that the Tory privatisation of the NHS will definitely not retain free treatment at the point of use, as provided by the terms of the NHS’ establishment. The Tories wish to turn the NHS into a fully private system funded by private medical insurance like the American health system.

There are Labour MPs who are fighting tooth and nail to protect the NHS. I’m thinking here of the people on the Labour left, such as Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Burgon, Diane Abbott, Rosina Allin-Khan. I also believe that others from the Labour right are doing so. At one meeting of my constituency party here in south Bristol, our local MP Karen Smyth said she joined the Labour party and became an MP because she was so appalled at what Cameron and co. were doing to the Health Service.

But I find Starmer’s claim that he will protect our NHS much less than credible. He’s an arch-Blairite, who has spent his tenure as leader so far in conjunction with the wretched NEC trying to purge the party of left-wingers and socialists. This has involved all the usual trumped-up, fake charges of anti-Semitism. And sometimes there’s no explanation given at all, like when the NEC barred three of leading Labour contenders for elected mayor of Liverpool. Worse than that, he has broken all of his leadership promises. He claimed that he would continue to uphold Labour’s manifesto promises of returning the utilities to state ownership, reversing the NHS’ privatisation and properly funding it, strengthening the welfare state and workers’ rights and restoring power to the unions. But in practice he hasn’t done any of that. It might put off all those rich donors he’s trying to attract. He has shown no real opposition to Johnson’s government, and what little he has shown has been glaringly opportunistic. So opportunistic, in fact, that right-wing windbag and broadcasting egomaniac, Julia Hartley-Brewer, asked him if there was anything in fact he stood for when he appeared on her wretched show on LBC radio.

And if this isn’t ominous enough, the fact remains that Tony Blair also went ahead with the right-wing programme of privatising the NHS. The polyclinics and health centres Blair set up were opened up to private management. He continued handing over doctors’ surgeries and hospitals to private healthcare firms. And the Community Care Groups, the groups of doctors which were supposed to manage local NHS doctors’ budgets, were granted the ability to buy in services from private sector companies, and raise money from the private sector. His Health Minister, Alan Milburn, wished the NHS to be reduced to a kitemark logo on services provided by private industry. And I fear Starmer will do exactly the same.

Brian Burden, one of the great commenters on this blog, posted this comment noting Starmer’s telling lack of opposition to another Tory appointment.

Hi, Beastrabban –

I refer you to p19 of the April 7 issue of Socialist Worker: Samantha Jones, formerly of Openrose Health, owned by US health insurance giant Centene Corporation, has recently been appointed a top adviser to Boris Johnson. Openrose took over scores of NHS GP surgeries earlier this year. Centene has faced a number of fraud and corruption law suits in USA. Socialist Worker believes that Johnson is moving towards the full privatisation of the NHS. Not a whisper from Starmer about any of this.

I wasn’t aware of this appointment, though I haven’t been paying much attention to the news recently. Not that I think it would be in the news. Ray Tallis and Jacky Davis have a whole chapter in their book, NHS – SOS to how the BBC has supported the privatisation of the Health Service. I’m not a fan of the former Socialist Workers’ Party, but I’ve no doubt they’re correct about this and are right to publicise it. And Starmer’s silence is telling.

I doubt very much that Starmer’s serious about protecting the NHS. And everyone else seems determined to privatise it with the exception of the much-reviled Labour left.

So forget the vile propaganda and smears against them and support the real people of principle who are standing up for this most precious of British institutions.

Private Eye’s Demolition of Fraudulent New Labour Pro-NHS Privatisation Paper

August 5, 2020

This is another piece I found in an old issue of Private Eye, for 15th-28th October 2004. New Labour was as keen as the Tories to privatise the NHS, all in the name of introducing into it the supposedly greater efficiency and management skills of private enterprise. They were heavily influenced by the American private healthcare company, Kaiser Permanente, which was used as a model for their NHS reforms. But the report comparing the supposedly greater performance of Kaiser Permanente to the NHS was biased and fraudulent, as Private Eye’s article ‘NHS Privatisation – Kaiser bill’ revealed in that issue’s ‘In the Back’ section. The article runs

LAST WEEK’s NHS modernisation Agency conference on the much-hyped treatment centre programme – the mix of private and NHS one-stop units springing up around the country to offer quick and relatively easy diagnosis and surgery – struck a self-congratulatory note.

But a study published this summer suggests there is no evidence that bringing private companies into the NHS is increasing efficiency or reducing costs. Quite the opposite in fact.

This news will not please the government, which has always promoted health secretary John Reid’s favourite private US healthcare providers, Kaiser Permanente, citing a seven-page research paper in the British Medical Journal in 2002 which purported to show that Kaiser offered “better performance at roughly the same costs as the NHS”.

This conclusion, extolling the benefits of competition, was manna from heaven for health minister who had been criticised for closing 10,000 NHS beds since Labour came to power. But it seems it was all nonsense.

For a start, two of the report’s three authors,used to work for Kaiser; and their paper triggered a storm of protest in the US and from the medical and scientific community here, highlighting its flawed analysis and conclusions. It emerged that Kaiser’s costs were deflated while NHS costs were inflated; Kaiser patients were the “working well” but NHS patients included the poor, elderly and chronically ill; and individual Kaiser charges for visits and treatment were ignored.

Nevertheless, the protests were ignored and the paper – described by one leading academic as “not worthy of a first year student” – went on to form British government policy, featuring in the 2002 review of NHS funding by Derek Wanless and the subsequent white paper on how to deliver the NHS plan. The department of health even joined forces with Kaiser in “learning from Kaiser Permanente” projects managing chronic conditions and care.

In the summer, however, the scientific record was finally put straight with a paper in the British Journal of General Practice which comprehensively exposed that the Kaiser paper was propaganda masked as science. It detailed the way in which authors used counting tricks including a curious foreign exchange currency conversion which had the effect of almost doubling NHS costs. Despite this evidence the Kaiser paper has still not been officially withdrawn. Instead it is still promoted on health department websites.

Allyson Pollock, professor of health policy at University College London and one of the authors of the critical BJGP paper, said: “There is no evidence that introducing private companies increases efficiency or quality or reduces costs. Indeed all the evidence goes the other way. Markets – even those underwritten by the state – do not deliver comprehensive universal healthcare. Research in the US has shown how private health providers select the profitable patients, treatments and conditions and at a greater cost than public providers.”

Professor Pollock is a very long-time opponent of NHS privatisation. I think I put up another article from Private Eye from nearly 20 years or so ago, in which she led a campaign against the New Labour closure of a hospital in Wyre Forest. She’s also one of the contributors to Jacky Davis’ and Raymond Tallis’ book attacking the privatisation of the NHS, NHS – SOS.

But New Labour continued in their piecemeal privatisation of the NHS, and this has been followed by the Tories. Boris Johnson wants to include it in a trade deal with the US, but has kept it and the rest of the deal secret. Jeremy Corbyn revealed what the Tories were doing, and our mendacious, scumbag media howled that he was lying. But it’s the Tories who were.

Corbyn promised to renationalise and revitalise the NHS. That was one of the reasons the right-wing political and media establishment hated and reviled him and his supporters: he threatened to return the Labour party to its working class, socialist roots, empowering ordinary people and restoring the welfare state. And dismantling the zombie economics of Thatcherism. And that really couldn’t be tolerated. Hence the smears of him as a Communist, Trotskyite and anti-Semite.

Now we have Keir Starmer instead, another Blairite, who seems determined to restore the power of the Thatcherites in the Labour party. And carry on with their failed, destructive policy of NHS privatisation.

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

July 24, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Conservative Accusation of Liberal Bias at the Beeb

February 15, 2020

Robin Aitken, Can We Trust the BBC (London: Continuum 2007).

Robin Aitken is a former BBC journalist, and this book published 13 years ago argues that the BBC, rather than being unbiased, is really stuffed full of lefties and the broadcaster and its news and politics programmes have a very strong left-wing, anti-Conservative bias. Under Lord Reith, the BBC upheld certain core British values. Its news was genuinely unbiased, giving equal time to the government and opposition. It also stood for essential institutions and such as the monarchy, the constitution, the British Empire and Christianity at home, and peace through the League of Nations abroad.

This changed radically between 1960 and 1980 as the BBC joined those wishing to attack and demolish the old class-bound institutions. Now the BBC stands for passionate anti-racism, ‘human rights’, internationalism and is suspicious of traditional British national identity and strongly pro-EU. It is also feminist, secular and ‘allergic to established authority whether in the form of the Crown, the courts, the police or the churches.’ This has jeopardised the ideal at the heart of the Corporation, that it should be fair-minded and non-partisan.

Aitken does marshal an array of evidence to support his contention. This includes his own experience working for BBC Scotland, which he claims was very left-wing with a staff and management that bitterly hated Margaret Thatcher and made sure that the dismantlement of the old, nationalised industries like shipbuilding was properly lamented, but did not promote it as ‘creative destruction’ as it should, nor the emergence of the wonderful new information industry north of the border. A later chapter, ‘Testimonies’, consists of quotations from other, anonymous rightists, describing how the Beeb is biased and bewailing their isolated position as the few Conservative voices in the Corporation. He is particularly critical of the former director-general, John Birt. Birt was recruited in the 1990s from ITV. He was a member of the Labour Party, who brought with him many of his colleagues from the commercial channel, who also shared his politics and hatred of the Tories. He goes on to list the leading figures from the Left, who he claims are responsible for this bias. These include Andrew Marr, the former editor of the Independent, and the left-wing, atheist journo and activist, Polly Toynbee.

Aitken also tackles individual topics and cases of biased reporting. This includes how the BBC promoted the Labour Party and the EU before Labour’s landslide victory in the 1997 general election. The Conservatives were presented as deeply split on the issue and largely hostile to EU membership. The EU itself was presented positively, and the Labour Party as being united in favour of membership, even though it was as split as the Tories on the issue. Another chapter argues that the Beeb was wrong in challenging the government’s case for the Iraq Invasion. He claims that in a poll the overwhelming majority of Iraqis supported the invasion. The government did not ‘sex up’ the ‘dodgy dossier’ in order to present a false case for war, and it was wrong for the Beeb to claim that Blair’s government had.

The chapter ‘The Despised Tribes’ argues that there are certain ethnic or religious groups, who were outside the range of sympathy extended to other, more favoured groups. These include White South Africans, the Israeli Likud Party, Serb Nationalists under Milosevic, the Italian Northern League, Le Pen and the Front National in France, the Vlaams Blok in Belgium, American ‘Christian Fundamentalists’, conservative Roman Catholics, UKIP ‘and other groups who have failed to enlist the sympathies of media progressives’. These include the Orange Order and Ulster Protestants. He then claims that the Beeb is biased towards Irish Republicans, who have successfully exploited left-wing British guilt over historic wrongs against the Roman Catholic population. He then goes on to claim that Pat Finucane, a lawyer killed in the Troubles, was no mere ‘human rights’ lawyer but a senior figure in the IRA.

The chapter, ‘The Moral Maze’ is an extensive critique of a Panorama documentary claiming that the Roman Catholic condemnation of premarital sex and contraception was causing needless suffering in the Developing World through the procreation of unwanted children and the spread of AIDs by unprotected sex. This is contradicted by UN evidence, which shows that the African countries with the lowest incidence of AIDS are those with the highest Catholic populations. The Catholic doctrine of abstinence, he argues, works because reliance on condoms gives the mistaken impression that they offer total protection against disease and pregnancy, and only encourages sexual activity. Condoms cannot offer complete protection, and are only effective in preventing 85 per cent of pregnancies. The programme was deliberately biased against the Roman Catholic church and the papacy because it was made from the viewpoint of various groups with an explicit bias against the Church and its teaching on sexuality.

Aitken’s evidence is impressive, and I do accept part of his argument. I believe that the Beeb is indeed in favour of feminism, multiculturalism and human rights. I also believe that, the few remaining examples of the Beeb’s religious programming notwithstanding, the Corporation is largely hostile to Christianity in ways that would be unthinkable if applied to other religions, such as Islam. However, I don’t believe that the promotion of anti-racism and anti-sexism is wrong. And groups like the Northern League, Front National and other extreme right-wing political and religious groups, including UKIP, really are unacceptable because of their racism and should not be given a sympathetic platform. Their exclusion from the range of acceptable political and religious views is no bad thing.

But the book also ignores the copious documentation from the various media study units at Cardiff, Glasgow and Edinburgh universities of massive BBC Conservative bias. Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis have a chapter in their book on the gradual, slo-mo privatisation of the NHS, NHS – SOS, on the way the media has promoted the Tories’ and New Labour’s project of selling off the health service. And this includes the Beeb.  The Corporation was hostile to Labour after Thatcher’s victory, promoting the SDP splinter group against the parent party in the 1983 election, as well as the Tories. This pro-Tory bias returned with a vengeance after the 2010 Tory victory and the establishment of austerity. Barry and Savile Kushner show in their book, Who Needs the Cuts, how the Beeb excludes or shouts down anyone who dares to question the need for cuts to welfare spending. Tories, economists and financiers are also favoured as guests on news shows. They are twice as likely to appear to comment on the news as Labour politicians and trade unionists.

And we have seen how the Beeb has pushed the anti-Labour agenda particularly vigorously over the past five years, as it sought to smear Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party as institutionally anti-Semitic at every opportunity. Quite apart from less sensational sneering and bias. The guests on Question Time have, for example, been packed with Tories and Kippers, to whom presenter Fiona Bruce has shown particular favour. This has got worse under Johnson, with the Beeb now making it official policy not to have equal representation of the supporters of the various political parties in the programme’s audience. Instead, the majority of the audience will consist of supporters of the party that holds power in that country. Which means that in England they will be stuffed with Tories. Numerous members of the BBC news teams are or were members of the Tory party, like Nick Robinson, and a number have left to pursue careers at No 10 helping Cameron, Tweezer and Boris.

The evidence of contemporary bias in favour of the Tories today is massive and overwhelming.

With the exception of particular issues, such as multiculturalism, feminism, a critical and sometimes hostile attitude towards the monarchy, and atheism/ secularism, the BBC is, and always has been, strongly pro-Tory. The Birt era represents only a brief interval between these periods of Tory bias, and I believe it is questionable how left-wing Birt was. Aitken admits that while he certainly was no Tory, he was in favour of free market economics.

This book is therefore very dated, and overtaken by the Beeb’s massive return to the Right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alan Milburn Attacked Cameron for Not Going Further in NHS Privatisation

February 8, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Privatisations Not Nearly as Popular as Maggie and the Tories Claim

January 3, 2020

I found this extremely interesting snippet in Oliver Huitson’s chapter on the way the media, including the Beeb, promoted the Tory privatisation of the NHS in Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis’ NHS – SOS. Huitson states that despite the massive media bias and their highly distorted reporting, there was a sizable chunk of the British public that fully understood the issues involved and did not like it one little bit. He goes on to write that trust in politicians is at an all time low – 19 per cent of people trust them, just two per cent above journos at 17 per cent (p. 171). And then there’s this passage in which he explains that privatisation wasn’t as nearly as popular as Thatcher and her poodle press claimed:

It should also be remembered that the public have now had thirty years’ experience of the privatisation of state assets and services, as well as the rhetoric that accompanies such moves, and they are increasingly cynical about the purported aims and efficacy of such ‘reforms’. Margaret Thatcher spent millions of pounds marketing her privatisations to the public, yet polling revealed that support for this policy never rose above 50 per cent. In the wake of the Iraq War, the expenses revelations, the financial crash and the phone-hacking scandal, public trust in the political class as a whole, including in the national media, is extremely low. (p. 172).

For the past forty years we’ve had it rammed down our throats that privatisation was not only necessary, it was massively popular. Everyone was right behind Maggie and Major on the issue, and if you weren’t, you were an evil Commie. But like neoliberalism and austerity generally, it’s a massive lie.

No wonder the Tory media are now screaming that Labour lost because Corbyn was ‘too far’ left, and only a return to Blairism will make the party popular.