- Conservative election poster 2010
A few recent news articles about the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat(Conservative) coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.
If the Tories wanted to tell opponents of NHS privatisation (that’s most of the country, by the way), to commit an obscene act on their own person, appointing Jeremy Hunt as Secretary of State for Health was a pretty effective means of delivering the message.
Here is a man who, throughout the Murdoch scandal, proved an instinctive champion of corporate power. A pamphlet he co-authored in 2005, Direct Democracy: An Agenda for a New Model Party, called for the NHS to be denationalised and replaced with a national insurance model. It is even rumoured he attempted to remove the moving NHS tribute from the Olympics Opening Ceremony.
And it gets much, much worse. The new guardian of our health pushed for his constituency’s own NHS Trust to be taken over by Virgin Care in a deal worth £650m. When Hunt was appointed, some mocked that he was about to hand the NHS over to Rupert Murdoch; it turns out Richard Branson is one likely beneficiary. If anyone was wondering what the future of the NHS looks like under this Government, look no further than the backyard of the Secretary of State for Health himself.
Jeremy Hunt, the new health secretary, personally intervened to encourage the controversial takeover of NHS hospitals in his constituency by a private company, Virgin Care, raising fresh concerns last night over his appointment.
Hunt, who replaced Andrew Lansley in last week’s cabinet reshuffle, was so concerned by a delay to the £650m deal earlier this year that he asked for assurances from NHS Surrey officials that it would be swiftly signed.
Virgin Care, which is part-owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, subsequently agreed on a five-year contract in March to run seven hospitals along with dentistry services, sexual health clinics, breast cancer screening and other community services. The takeover took place despite concerns being raised in the local NHS risk register about the impact on patient care following the transfer of management from the NHS to one of the country’s largest private healthcare firms, until recently known as Assura Medical.
The director of nursing highlighted the danger of “significant issues” emerging during the first year of Virgin Care control, which NHS Surrey has tried to ameliorate through contractual controls. There was also prolonged wrangling between NHS Surrey and Virgin Care over the terms of the deal, including staff’s terms of employment. However, during the lengthy delay before the deal was agreed, Hunt intervened to ask for assurances from the head of the primary care trust “that the delay is to ensure the best possible outcome for patients and staff”. Writing on his website about the issue, he added: “I hope that Assura and NHS Surrey are able to complete the transfer of services soon, but I am glad they are crossing every T and dotting every I.”
The shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, said last night that the revelation would add to concerns about Hunt’s appointment and his affinity to big business so soon after the furore over the minister’s relationship with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp while he was culture secretary during the attempted takeover of BSkyB.
“We do want to break up the NHS. We don’t want to privatise it, we want to break it up.” Nick Clegg.
Opponents said the comments about the NHS, in a 2005 interview in the Independent, showed that Mr Clegg had no understanding of the way the health service works.
In the interview, carried out while Charles Kennedy was leader and two years before Mr Clegg took the job, he said: ‘I think breaking up the NHS is exactly what you do need to do to make it a more responsive service.’
Asked whether he favoured a Canadian or European-style social insurance system, he said: ‘I don’t think anything should be ruled out. I do think they deserve to be looked at because frankly the faults of the British health service compared to others still leave much to be desired.
‘We will have to provide alternatives about what a different NHS looks like.’
Under a social insurance system, members pay into an insurance scheme, either themselves or through an employer, to guarantee their healthcare. It means that those who pay into a more expensive scheme can get better care.
Under the NHS, however, everyone pays into the same scheme through taxes – and is then guaranteed care that is ‘free at the point of use’.
In the interview, Mr Clegg said ‘defending the status quo’ is no longer an option. Instead, he called on his party to ‘let its hair down’, ‘break a long-standing taboo’ and be ‘reckless’ in its thinking.
‘We do want to break up the NHS,’ he said. ‘We don’t want to privatise it, we want to break it up. Should the debate be taboo? Of course not, absolutely not.’
A year earlier, Mr Clegg had contributed to the notorious Orange Book in which those on the right of the party discussed how policies should change under Mr Kennedy’s leadership. The conclusion of the book outlines in more detail the type of insurance scheme he was outlining.
‘The NHS is failing to deliver a health service that meets the needs and expectations of today’s population,’ it said.
John Lister, of the lobby group Health Emergency, said: ‘These comments show Mr Clegg does not understand the NHS. He seems to be ignorant of the fact that social insurance schemes in Europe are far more expensive.’
Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘The NHS is one of Britain’s most loved institutions. People will be worried that Nick Clegg wants to “break it up”.’ [!!! That’s Andrew Lansley pretending that the NHS is safe in Tory hands before the election !!!]
What Britain now has is a blue-orange coalition, with the little-known Orange Book forming the core of current Lib Dem political thinking. To understand how this disreputable arrangement has come about, we need to examine the philosophy laid out in The Orange Book: Reclaiming Liberalism, edited by David Laws (now the Chief Secretary to the Treasury) and Paul Marshall. Particularly interesting are the contributions of the Lib Dems’ present leadership.
Published in 2004, the Orange Book marked the start of the slow decline of progressive values in the Lib Dems and the gradual abandonment of social market values. It also provided the ideological standpoint around which the party’s right wing was able to coalesce and begin their march to power in the Lib Dems. What is remarkable is the failure of former SDP and Labour elements to sound warning bells about the direction the party was taking. Former Labour ministers such as Shirley Williams and Tom McNally should be ashamed of their inaction.
Clegg and his Lib Dem supporters have much in common with David Cameron and his allies in their philosophical approach and with their social liberal solutions to society’s perceived ills. The Orange Book is predicated on an abiding belief in the free market’s ability to address issues such as public healthcare, pensions, environment, globalisation, social and agricultural policy, local government and prisons.
The Lib Dem leadership seems to sit very easily in the Tory-led coalition. This is an arranged marriage between partners of a similar background and belief. Even the Tory-Whig coalition of early 1780s, although its members were from the same class, at least had fundamental political differences. Now we see a Government made up of a single elite that has previously manifested itself as two separate political parties and which is divided more by subtle shades of opinion than any profound ideological difference.
27/11/13 Having received a takedown notice from the Independent newspaper for a different posting, I have reviewed this article which links to an article at the Independent’s website in order to attempt to ensure conformance with copyright laws.
I consider this posting to comply with copyright laws since
a. Only a small portion of the original article has been quoted satisfying the fair use criteria, and / or
b. This posting satisfies the requirements of a derivative work.
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