Sunday, March 27, 2005


Fine principles - and having to win power

There is a readable article from Fraser Nelson in Scotland on Sunday about the crash of Howard Flight. Some might say that Mr Howard has thrown him to the wolves as he threw Boris Johnson - except that Mr Howard took from Mr Flight not only his post but expelled him from parliament as well.

At election time, the implication is, you never know who is concealing a tape recorder. Poor old Mr Flight, a successful merchant banker and business man, had not grasped, says Nelson Fraser, that in politics, the commodity of truth
Telling the truth and revealing the bizarre illogicality in one's own party policies hasn't done the career of Kevan Jones, Labour MP for North Durham much good either.

Mr Blair decided to pour money into the NHS at the beginning of 2000. It is now the largest employer in Europe - but ask real doctors and nurses in England about insensitive centralisation and waste of money and their eyes swivel heavenwards. Thick glossy pamphlets in bright, dreary GovernmentSpeak are at the foot of every bed - but hospital departments are closing down all over the country. An example is Cirencester where people of all ages and types flocked to support the much loved local hospital. It was an extraordinary show of strong feeling and solidarity. It was ignored.

Kevan Jones has been pointing out that his constituents have to travel 20 miles for a scan when the local hospital has a perfectly good machine that can't be used because needed Government money to set up scan clinics has gone to the Private sector. The government has spent £90 million on a deal with Alliance Medical, a private company which provides scanners. Mr Jones has been "rebuked by local party officials". Rebuked for telling the truth - or is it that Mr Jones' questions have raised unwelcome speculation about Labour's election supremo, Alan Milburn?

When Alan Milburn took over from Frank Dobson as Health Secretary, the Labour Party could not use the word 'private' without a shudder of self-righteous distate. In December 1999, just before Mr Blair promised huge new spending for the NHS, Mr Milburn said that 'an expanded private sector can only mean a contraction of the public sector'. (See Telegraph 04/11/2000

Things changed and not only did money pour into the NHS but that tenet of the Labour Party about Private Health was airbrushed out. Mr Milburn turned his coat. What's more, during the short time that he opted to spend more time with his family While he was on Bridgepoint's books, the £90 million deal with Alliance Medical, which aims to provide over 600,000 scans across the country over the next five years was signed.

The involvement of the private sector in the NHS is politically useful. It can temporarily paper over the cracks in the NHS. The political usefulness of politicians who will paper over the truth in order to get power at any price may be of value to their leaders - but not to the cheesed off electorate. Lord Callaghan was described today by David Owen in the Sunday Times We all benefited from Jim's honesty and generosity I mourn the passing of such decent politicians just as I shudder at the elevation of such as Alan Milburn. The NHS has become another political football. Common sense has gone a long way down on the waiting list.

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