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.
- Extract: "The tragedy of British elections is that rational discussion goes out of the window - each party tries to misrepresent their rival’s arguments. It is a time for every member of every party to watch every word they say. .."
- " must be carefully rationed, stretched and distorted"
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
- "... Alan Milburn was paid £30,000 for a six-month consultancy to the venture capitalists Bridgepoint, which owns Alliance Medical. ..."The Sunday Telegraph today
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
"....He believed in cabinet government and presided over a happy ship where colleagues from left and right of the party could exchange views with a measure of trust and confidence that we have not seen under any prime minister since. This can be called old-style politics or old Labour if one wishes but I would prefer to call it honest government. .."