The way Labour feel about the NHS

14th March, 2012 3:11 pm

Some things in politics are technocratic. Some are ideological, some things are pragmatic, some are defensive, some optimistic. Some things are designed to make things better, some to make things less worse.

The best advances combine the best of our passion with the best of our ideology and the best of our know how. The NHS is all of this and more.

Other parties should understand how Labour activists feel about the NHS. It is our Thatcher; it is our Churchill; it is our religion; it is our monarchy, our republic and our patriotism. It is our Potemkin, our Bastille, our Gettysburg. It is our Brittania, our John Bull, our Uncle Tom Cobley and all. It exemplifies for us the very best of the Britain we believe in. It goes to the heart of our values, and it lives in our hearts.

If the coalition had want to ensure the most ferocious election campaign ever, they couldn’t have gone about it more bullishly. Every Labour activist in the Party has been fired up by this Bill. Every doorstep in every marginal in the country will be hearing about the NHS and the damage done to it from now until 2015.

But Labour mustn’t just focus on the NHS as an electoral issue. We need to take that passion and commitment and apply it equally to planning the future of the NHS and long term care. Andy Burnham has, quite rightly, said that we will repeal the Bill. But we will need to do so carefully. The NHS will have gone through enough shocks and any re-reorganisation will take care, time and most vitally the support of the professionals. We need to work with the experts with whom we have built such a strong coalition in fighting damaging change. We need to listen to them, to work with them and to draft together a strong, long-term, sustainable future for the NHS. One that once again reflects everything we want to present to the world about what it means to be British.

This was originally posted at Scarlet Standard.

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  • “The best advances combine the best of our passion with the best of our
    ideology and the best of our know how. The NHS is all of this and more.”

    Completely agree.  On a practical level, the NHS is (or was?) something amazing.  Despite all criticism it has been found time and time again to be very efficient for a system of its size, saving millions of lives at a relatively-low cost.  It isn’t perfect, but anecdotal failures aside, it’s pretty damn good.

    It also stands for something.  It, alongside the rest of the welfare state, stands for never being abandonned.  Right from the ill and disabled knowing that even if they are unable to work, they don’t have to worry about medical bills; through to entrepreneurs, only able to put everything into their dreams because of the safety net that the welfare state provides.

    It represents a contract by the state, in return for taxes paid by the fortunate, to hold up basic health and welfare as fundamental, unwaivable human rights.  A contact that the Tories have taken it upon themselves to destroy.

    • madasafish

      Yes the NHS is amazing.
      Sometimes amazingly good.
      And sometimes amazingly bad. So bad, if it had been a private organisation, its Chief Executive and many of its Directors would be in jail for manslaughter.

      Blind adulation and no acknowledgement of failure is a recipe for disaster… 

      • Dave Postles

         Reminds me of Bhopal/Union Carbide/Dow – sponsors of your great Olympics in London.

        • madasafish

          Yes: but with one difference. Someone was prosecuted and fined for Bhopal.
          The NHS   ? promoted those responsible… No prosecution , nothing…

          • Dave Postles

             No one was jailed for manslaughter and responsibility for cleaning up the mess has been disregarded.  Still must go.

        • GuyM

          Dow had nothing to do with Bhopal, other than to buy out the parent company some years later.

          Unless you believe in sins of the father being an acceptable way of laying blame (I think Germans might be a bit upset) then getting worked up over Dow being an Olympic sponsor is inane.

          In any case take it up with the Olympic body itself rather than Locog as it is an arrangement with the Olympic movement rather than the London games.

          • Dave Postles

            Naive in the extreme.  When you buy out a company, you take on the responsibilities for cleaning up the mess which Dow has failed to do.  Take Trafigura, if you like.  Parts of the private sector are simply amoral.
            Here’s Greg Smith’s letter about his resignation from Goldman Sachs as another example.


          • GuyM

            Actually you don’t have to take on anything at all.

            For instance you could buy simply a shell of a former company (especially one in administration), for a nominal price and no historic debt.

            You could agree a purchase with a set of creditors to pay a debt at a certain level of pence in the pound.

            You could purchase a company but have the immediate divesting of certain assets as part of the take over.

            In political terms the convention is that an incoming government is not to be bound by the decisions of preceding governments.

            If we took your logic to it’s natural conclusion few company restructurings would ever take place and companies in financial problems would have to fold rather than have any chance of take overs or white knight deals that involved only partial payments of creditors.

            Caveat Emptor, in terms of dealing with commercial organisations, investing in them or buying them out.

            M&A law practice covers all eventualities and is added to by official administrators looking for the best deal for failing organisations and creditors.

            In the specific case of Union Carbide, the Indian government reached a “final settlement” in terms of compensation. You don’t get to keep having “final legal settlements”.

            Also with regard to Dow, the London Olympic organisers LOCOG have no say in official Olympic movement sponsors, so again can I suggest you direct you complaint at the Olympic body, not the London games.

          • Dave Postles

             None of your first propositions apply in this case and you neglect to mention preferential creditors in any case.  It’s obviously not regarded as a ‘final settlement’ by the current Indian government which, indeed, does not regard itself bound by the government of that time.  Compensation was agreed by the Supreme Court as equitable at the time, but the full details were not discoverable.  My complaint was directed ages ago in the online petition against Dow, so I see no point in repeating it, thank you.

          • GuyM

            The first set of propositions all apply to show clearly you are wrong when you stated “when you buy out a company, you take on the responsibilites..”.

            Completely and utterly wrong.

            Dow bought  a company who had settled a final settlement, how are they to be held subsequently responsible?

            You go have your petition, no one will take any notice, Dow will sponsor the Olympics and no one will care one way or other down here in London.

          • Dave Postles

             ‘When you buy out a company, you take on the responsibilities for cleaning up the mess which Dow has failed to do. ‘  We shall see what happens. 

      • Totally agree. The one word that convinced me that the NHS needed reform – and urgently – was “Stafford”.  

  • GuyM

    Yep, you are so muddle headed wedded to the NHS that even when in desperate need of reform your vested interest groups all club together to have a sceaming hissy fit.

    What exactly would have happened in 2010 had Brown one and cut the NHS budget (which wasn’t ring fenced)? The same sorts of hissy-fits? Somehow, I think not.

    Total hypocrisy playing on the worries of a part of the population too dumb to know better…. but then that is Labour’s sole selling point isn’t it.

    • Dave Postles

      Your USP seems to be your denigration of ordinary folk.  My sibs are actually very perspicacious, without having the benefit of HE.  I’m often reminded by your posts of some of the attitudes in ‘Summer Street’ in Surrey in A Room with a View – not the film version (the usual flattening of the issues), but Morgan Forster’s original novel.  It no doubt reflected some of the attitudes which Forster encountered whilst he lived at Abinger Hammer (West Hackhurst).

      • GuyM

        And I stand by my analysis.

        Labour’s modus operandi is to simply scare monger with “Tories to privatise NHS” over and over and over.

        Your average Sun and Mirror reader when confronted with issues like the hugely complex NHS bill looks to a few sound bites and opinion leaders to form his or her view.

        I spent years canvassing in my youth and early 20s and I’m afraid that most of the people you get on the doorstep are simply not that bright and they have simplistic views based upon little information at best and party loyalty at worst.

        2 years ago Labour sheep in the population would have been defending Blairite reforms of the NHS, including private provision of services. Now in 2012 Labour sheep will be fed a diet of “4 legged Labour private provision good, 2 legged Coalition private provision bad” and they will lap it up and bleat the required tune with relish.

        I know you’d like to pretend that 80% of the population are graduate calibre and all therefore intellectually gifted, but the majority simply are not. All political parties play a dumbed down message of sound bites, scare stories and vague promises of jam tomorrow in order to move the sheep into the voting booth.

        • Dave Postles

          Oviously a lapse of memory in your old age … 80% density in HE was Dave Stone, not me.  As to the rest, well …

          • The sock-puppet hysteric must have muddled his notes.

          • GuyM

            I’m surprised you have time to comment, I’d have thought you’d have started a crusade to get Kyle and Kylie with their 5 GCSEs in media studies, general studies and the like viewed as a future nobel prize winners….

          • AlanGiles

            Guy, you really do need to get some help with your snobbery.  

            It is starting to get very tedious. Since none of us seem to come up to your high intellectual standards, why do you continue to go slumming with us?

            I think you model yourself on the ascerbic writings of Frederick Forysth, who writes columns for the Express and Peter Hitchins, but somehow – if you’ll allow me to say so, your pieces lack wit and grace  – you sound like an outraged and irritable  Mother Superior  who has run out of Preparation H.

          • Jeff_Harvey

            I think Guy is actually really very funny although, sadly, unintentionally and sincerely.

          • GuyM

            And you need toget help with your deluded belief that the underclass are the moral worth of others and that the intellectually weak are the academic equivalent of others.

            You are deluded from a leftist ideological viewpoint. You can not bring yourself to accept some are better than others, so you twist endlessly.

          • GuyM

            One left wing Dave is the same as any other to me……

            Both as batty as each other.

          • Left wing! Moi? I’m just a pretty straight sort of middle-of-the-road moderate.

          • GuyM

            I note you alos decided to omit any response to the rest of the post… too difficult for you to accept?

          • Dave Postles
  • AnotherOldBoy

    So what you are really saying is that Labour activists are not capable of rational, dispassionate thinking about the NHS.  I have to say that you are probably right about that.

    • Jeff_Harvey

      Has LabourList become a game of Chinese Whispers?

  • Winston_from_the_Ministry

    Less feeling, more thinking please.

    • Jeff_Harvey

      I think you might feel differently one day.

      • Winston_from_the_Ministry

         Differently to what Jeff?

  • What if the health bill actually improves the NHS? If you’ve gone all-in on this, you’ll be banjaxed.

    • AlanGiles

      You could say “what if?” anything, though couldn’t you Toby. It is a massive risk to take, especially when advice from all quarters advises caution. It is very easy to start something, or dismantle something, but not so easy to put it together again.

    • Dave Postles

       Well, of course, what we need to see is the risk register for this specific piece of legislation, for a start – for this specific piece of legislation, not in general for the NHS.  Will the Coalition comply with the Information Commissioner?

      • GuyM

        No they shouldn’t comply.

        If they do then it sets a precedent for all legislation and will merely lead to internal documents no longer being so honest, but instead written on the basis of expectation of being forced into the public domain.

  • You couldnt be more right Emma, particularly when more people wake up and find out whats being done. My parents and grandparents fought for the NHS, one of the few Labour pillars of security (Beveridge) left from the achievements of that great 1945 Labour Government- establishing the NHS when we had 200% debt of GDP…. !
    Still have bills from the GP to grandpa, and his 1948 July letter with news that he no longer had to worry….
    After 30 years in the NHS, under all governments, and after fighting the bill since it started, I cant believe what theyre doing…. morally and economically wrong.

  • JC

    The problem as I see it is that for Labour, it is essential that the NHS is a fully national owned (except the GPs), state run centralised system where “one size fits all” and you get exactly the same care in Newcastle as you do in in Penzance. The Tories see it as a system where you get treatment “free at the point of delivery” and it is locally driven to suit the needs of the locals.

    In the former, there is talk of “No privatisation”, but the GPs are outside the NHS. In the latter the talk is of efficiency and optimal use of tax payers money.

    It is obvious to all that whatever form the NHS takes, there will never be enough money to pay for it, but both sides pretend there will. It is also obvious to many that the healthcare needs of Newcastle differ from those of Penzance, but it is heracy to say so. What we need is a proper debate where politicians can be open and honest (well maybe not honest, they are politicians after all) about the needs of the people rather than the special interest groups they serve.

  • Tom Keeley

    Great post.  Unfortunately, I think our passion for the NHS, and select issues within it, massively handicapped our opposition to the bill.  Listening to the health debate last week the opposition was all passion but very VERY little content.   


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