There are around 200 more members of the unelected House of Lords than sit in the House of Commons, surely an indictment of the state of democracy in the UK. Westminster is rotten at its core. The shamefully undemocratic nature of government in the UK is boosted and bolstered by the self-proclaimed progressive parties; Labour and Liberal and their eager members eyeing up a place in the second chamber – men such as Alistair Darling – one-time socialist and now new boy to those coveted red leather benches. Our politicians don’t so much represent life outside Westminster as create a parallel existence within its walls that can extend to careers beyond the normal stretch of a working life. Labour, the fundillymundily party, has huffed and puffed for over a century but it is a game it plays and its supporters pretend to believe it is serious when it promises to reform the Lords. All bluster of course for Labour MPs and their cronies are falling over each other to reach those red benches alongside their pals, where the powerful go prior to death. There are inevitable attempts at justifying their pampered existence – claiming to bring experience and expertise to scrutinise government but only to a point for only the most corrupt of governments in the world operates a chamber as iniquitously stuffed as this one. As the Conservatives, Labour and Liberals all support the Lords there is no prospect of real advances in democratising government in the UK, certainly not under the party which speaks so often of reform then goes on to inflate its membership there, Labour. In any case why is it talk of reform? There should be no place for any such unelected chamber that makes government into a perk for the few in the 21st century. No the fundilymundily party is in love with the whole panoply of the Lords; the ermine robes, the cosy camaraderie within its soporific atmosphere, optional working hours, the £300+ a day plus expenses, the subsidised food and drink – what’s not to like for erstwhile lefties such as Alistair Darling? List of Labour Party peers Labour Peers
If you believed John Knox long dead you would be wrong. He is dead but his coarse ranting against the unnatural desires of women to assume equality with men live on in the hearts and minds of the Labour Party in Scotland, as was made apparent in the rapturous reception and support for its stark misogynist message to the women of Scotland last weekend.
I came on a passage from John the Resurrected in the Party’s Wee Red, White and Blue book of handy things to say on doorsteps (but don’t mention alcohol at football anymore). I’m summarising for reasons obvious if you’ve seen the actual text.
The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regimen of Women
(Aye there was not a ‘t’ on Regimen – refers to rule or governing)
The head of woman is man, and she must be commanded and give homage and obedience and appear before him, honouring him with the distinction of his position for man has received a certain glory and dignity above the woman. Scotland has drunk the enchantment and venom of Circe (a sorceress) to its own shame and confusion.
How abominable before the Party, (that was one-time called socialist but that was a long time ago and now we are exceeding right-wing and intolerant [as is our right]) is the empire or rule of a wicked woman (yea, of a traitress and bastard); and what may a people or nation (not Scotland you understand because we don’t believe we are a nation but a fiefdom of brother England wherein are domiciled our imperial masters) carry on destitute of a lawful head, a mere wee lassie in a tin hat.
I see our country intent on challenging the natural order that Scotland shall remain a region of England and yet there are those who would question this order for a monstrous empire [government] of a cruel woman.
It is more than a monster in nature that a woman shall reign and have empire above man. And yet, with us all there is such silence. I know the natural Scotsman, enemy to the Nats, shall find many causes why we should hold our tongues and ought not to speak out on these things in these dangerous days before a General Election: first, for that it may seem to lose us votes; secondarily, that it may lose us more votes.
But woe be to me, if I preach not the evangel of the doctrine of the Labour Party in Scotland!
If any think that the empire of women is of little importance, that to speak of such is to hazard our MPs their seats I answer, that it is the duty of every true messenger of the Party to let women know their place. For what, I pray you, is more able to cause a woman to forget her own condition, than if she is lifted up in authority above man? It is a very difficult thing to a man (be he never so constant) promoted to honours, not to be tickled somewhat with pride (for the wind of vain glory does easily carry up the dry dust of the earth).
But as for woman, it is no more possible that she, being set aloft in authority above man, shall resist the motions of pride, than it is able to the weak reed, or to the turning weathercock, not to bow or turn at the intensity of the inconstant wind. And therefore I say forbid all women to intermeddle in the office of man.
For it is written in de Viginibus Velandis: “It is not permitted to a woman to speak in the parliament, neither to discourse, neither to reason, neither to vindicate to herself any office of man.” For it is written of a place called Scotland where there is a great monster in nature, that women in those parts are not tamed nor abased by consideration of their own sex, but that, all shame laid apart, they make use of their intellect, and question the word of men, and take pleasure in this way that they care not what men think of them and will not be subject to man.
The Labour Party in Scotland abhors all attempts by women to promote themselves as leaders over men for it has been written long ago in smoke clouded rooms that it is the nature of women to be inferior to men.
A vote for Labour is a vote to keep women repressed and bridled at all times.
Is my repast ready? Toot toot.
In the week of International Women’s Day we got a stark reminder that women have not yet won the battle to be judged the equals of men in the minds of too many men, and shamefully a number of women. Few had heard of the bullish Labour MP David Hamilton before he took to the stage at a special one day conference of the Labour Party in Scotland on Saturday. This swaggering individual is pretty well known now not to say notorious. I don’t know what else he said other than that outrageous sexist jibe at the First Minister because I wasn’t watching but I couldn’t avoid the firestorm his words caused on social media and there was Youtube to catch up on his moment. (I understand the Labour Party in Scotland pulled the video in an attempt to bury bad news but life on social media and with the wonders of modern science concealing what’s been said is no longer as simple as that.) Now I don’t have problems with political attacks on fellow politicians, and Nicola Sturgeon must be scrutinised in her role as First Minister but that was not what Hamilton was up to. He was out to win over his audience, to ingratiate himself with his comrades who were lapping up his rhetoric as he sought to take the First Minister down a peg or two. Oh yes, they were up for that. And he did it in the way that came most naturally to him – he condemned her for being a woman doing a man’s job. His audience of Labour Party members loved it. Oh how they laughed – he’d got to the essence of Nicola Sturgeon’s weakness – she was a wummin – wait – wait – not even a wummin but – what’s even less regarded than a woman – a wee lassie. Nicola Sturgeon was a nothing but a wee lassie dressing up – hence the tin hat (worn by men, real men – usually ‘heroes’) to act out a role that should have been done by a bloke. Oh how his audience lapped it up. What’s not to like? The First Minister was being ATTACKED – put down, sneered at not for her political beliefs or record but the sheer basis of her gender. Nicola Sturgeon too photogenic, too friendly, too popular was getting her character – for thinking she could make it in a big man’s world. It is the easiest thing in the world to label men such as the bluff Hamilton as Neanderthals. It’s not really appropriate for Neanderthals were of their time – Hamilton and his type are relics, or should be, of a past age. Their ability to offer a coherent political analysis of opponents is negligible and so they try to conceal their lack of intellect with humour. Well Hamilton succeeded. We know where he stands on women in politics, and we can surmise from that, women in other ‘male’ spheres of influence. If there was anything even more depressing than the sexist display on stage at the Labour conference it was the reaction of many of its top Scottish political figures who couldn’t get to twitter quick enough to share with the world the ecstasy of the moment as they ejaculated excitedly in praise of Hamilton and his misogynist outburst. That rush of adrenalin was only matched by the later stampede to their twitter pages to delete their support for Hamilton’s mysoginist outburst. That only happened when it was pointed out by their political opponents how outrageous his remarks were. Until then these guys, the same ones who approved the thick wee woman political broadcast during the referendum debate and the pink lady bus, were unaware there was anything amiss with demeaning women – och, can’t you take a joke? Remember that? You will if you were part of the women’s movements from, well – as far back as you like but let’s stick with the 1970s. Picture the scene – Aberdeen during the miners’ strike and a group of miners went around the country looking for help when the Tory government was intent on starving them back to work. In Aberdeen there was a strong Women’s Liberation group and members, all just getting by themselves, bought groceries and donated cash to help the miners’ families. When handing it over the all-male contingent looked at each other and laughed conspiratorially – they didn’t believe in women’s lib they said. A bit non-plussed the food and money were, nevertheless, handed over and accepted, albeit with a few sniggers, but it was perplexing how anyone in a struggle during the 1970s could still think in that way – that women anywhere were a subclass of human. Hamilton, a former miner, was expressing this same bankrupt view of woman over 30 years later. It is ignorance and stupidity and prejudice all rolled into one unedifying performance. And yet even more disturbing was the reaction of women in the audience. Labour Party women laughing their silly heads off at this man’s comments. Reminds me of the Eric Bogle song about the silly women who stay on with abusive drunken husbands – who but a silly woman – he returns home, tanked up – slap – where’s my tea? – kick – the boys didn’t win the day so I’ll take out my frustration on you – punch. (Dovetails nicely with Jim Murphy’s demand that alcohol be allowed to be drunk again at football matches. I’ll bet quite a few women were terrified by that announcement.) Disappointingly there are women who are complicit with the demeaning behaviour of sexist dinosaurs. We saw that in the audience on Saturday. The trades union movement was steeped in sexism. Attitudes and practice that prevented women getting equal pay and conditions with men for over a century. Hamilton proved they are still very much with us now and his audience of Labour Party men and women exposed themselves as a hindrance to the efforts of women to be taken seriously in work, any type of work. I suspect International Women’s Day will have given rise to quite a number of winked asides based on the idea of women getting above themselves. Now we know this is the official position of the Labour Party in Scotland. Lassies get back into the kitchen and get my tea on the table and you can forget about International Women’s Day.
PS Brother Hamilton has just been elevated or whatever the term is – by the Queen. Another man of the people happy to join the elite of the British Establishment by accepting a knighthood – and what has he done to deserve one? You may well ask.
It was a dog of a day.
A guy carrying a placard reading
Existentialists Oppose Mindless Civic Vandalism
If anyone on the verge of action should judge himself according
to the outcome, he would never begin.
(Dedicated to Jenny Laing and Willie Young 2014/15)
‘Have you got a light mac?’ he asked.
‘No, but I have a dark brown raincoat,’ I replied.
‘That makes two of us,’ he said as he trudged away to gaze meaningfully up at the magnificent frontage of Marischal College.
He looked familiar. Like a man who was once Chief Executive of Aberdeen City Council. I said to him one time, Marischal College should become the council HQ. He turned to me and from the side of his mouth mumbled something along the lines of,
I dinnae really like it.
Happily he is no longer Chief Executive and Marischal College is the council HQ but that’s not where the story ends. Local government is like a cesspool. It is infested with the kind of low life attracted to cess pools. As Titania once said in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, shit rises to the top.
People, several hundreds, were gathered to voice their opposition to those miserable plans to destroy Aberdeen city centre from Muse Developments.
The people gathered around the tenacious old warrior Robert the Bruce were looking for a fight. Eyes turned to the Town House – was he there? Was Willie Young in there looking out at us looking in? sneering?
People expressed incredulity that anyone in their right mind would support the Muse proposals.
They say money doesn’t smell, said one, I sometimes wonder.
Willie Young Wanted
the banners read. Only in a manner of speaking. No-one there today wanted him in a good sense.
Party dogma has been driving this agenda.
A list of councillors in favour of snuffing out all vestiges of a civic square was read out.
In another time the gibbets would have been erected but Aberdeen is a peaceful city. The miscreants were let off lightly – instead of rotten tomatoes their names were received with boos.
Some were booed louder, much louder than others.
Several names were greeted with, fa? Those councillors you find everywhere -the ones no-one has ever heard of – they just turn up and pocket the cash, keep schtum, don’t rock any boats – play the role of their party’s bitches, vote when told when and how and trust no-one will notice next election time. They got off lightly in the booing stakes.
But not all.
It’s clear some councillors are in the dog-house as far as the voters gathered there today were concerned. They don’t reckon them at all and these guys will be hounded next time they present their credentials to the public.
Biggest boos of the day were given to Alan Donnelly, Yvonne Allan, Lesley Dunbar, Ramsay Milne (big time), Neil Cooney (big time), Len Ironside (big time), Marie Boulton (big time), Fraser Forsyth (big time), Barney Crockett (BIG BIG time), Jenny Laing (GIANT BIG time), Willie Young (SCREAMINGLY LOUD ENORMOUSLY BIG time).
There aint no sanity clause might have been written for Aberdeen City Council. This local authority has apparently drawn up a contract that not only sells off public space but agrees to pay the developer compensation in the event they cannot lease out all its retail outlets in what was council land.
I don’t believe it – do you? No-one in their right mind would sign that off?
Sacking is too good for these individuals.
In a dog-eat-dog world Aberdeen has been sold a pup.
A real dog’s breakfast of a deal for the city.
There are more dog-fights to come – in the council chamber, on the pages of the local newspaper and across the airwaves on local radio stations over this.
People are going nowhere.
As the great man once said,
Common sense always speaks too late. Common sense is the guy who tells you ought to have had your brakes relined last week before you smashed a front end this week.
As he went on to say,
Such is the brutalization of commercial ethics in this country that no one can feel anything more delicate than the velvety touch of a soft buck.
I looked at the banner billowing in the breeze. Willie Young’s face gazed out over his accusers.
The moment a man talks about one commercial development being essential that’s proof he’s fresh out of ideas.
The Yes Scotland Campaign
We’ve taken on the Tories
We’ve taken on the BNP
We’ve taken on the Orange Order
We’ve taken on the Labour Party
We’ve taken on the Britannia Party
We’ve taken on the Liberal Democrats
We’ve taken on the National Front
We’ve taken on Ukip
We’ve taken on the BBC, determinedly propagandizing on behalf of the Union
We’ve taken on the luvvies with their enormous egos and holiday homes in Scotland
We’ve taken on the distortions of our views, our desires, our ambitions in the press
We’ve challenged and sang and laughed and chapped on doors in the sun in the rain in howling gales
We’ve spoken at meetings and shrugged off abuse and attack
We’ve turned ordinary Scots into activists
We’ve introduced young people to political participation
We’ve challenged lies and more lies and dirty tricks
We’ve shaken our heads at political posturing and stunts
We’ve shaken our heads at Labour politicians advocating people do not use their democratic vote
We’ve faced up to the whole panoply of aggressive misrepresentation thrown at us by a mischievous media
We’ve used social media to counter media distortions and lies and censorship of our opinions and ideals
We’ve taken on millionaires and billionaires and city folk who aim to buy support
We’ve taken on self-serving corrupt politicians motivated by self-interest who feather their own nests with inflated expense claims paid for by people who are reduced to feeding their families from food banks
We’ve taken on threats and personal attacks from No supporters
We’ve countered the hysterical rantings of fanatical rightwing commentators
We’ve countered the hysterical ranting of Kensington lefties
We’ve grown more confident
We’ve loved being part of a movement that is positive and ambitious to help the majority in our little country of Scotland
We’ve taken the flak and shrugged it off because we’ve been empowered to speak out
Thank you all fellow YESers
It’s been great
Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive: BBC Scotland and the Labour Party
Welcome to The Family; the BBC Scotland family aka the Labour Party.
The Family resides in Glasgow and is presided over by Ken McQuarrie. Ken MacQuarrie’s Head of News at BBC Scotland is John, John Boothman. John is married to Susan, Susan is Susan Deacon. Susan is a former Labour MSP and Health Minister at Holyrood.
Ken’s Head of Online News is Tom, Tom Connor. Tom and John are said to have offered media training to Labour Party wannabe politicians. Tom’s department operates BBC Scotland blogs; infamous for their ban on public comments, unlike any other part of the UK.
Another Tom is Tom McCabe. Tom is a member of the Scottish Labour Party and used to be an MSP. Tom also used to be the partner of Lorraine, Lorraine Davidson. Lorraine’s career has swung between the Labour Party and the BBC. She used to be a spin-doctor – with the Labour Party or was it the BBC? Not too sure on that one. Lorraine became a weel-kent voice on BBC Scotland frequently ushered in to air her views on all the big issues of the day. Lorraine is now married to David.
David is David Martin and he’s a Labour Party MEP. David Martin is friends with Catriona, Catriona Renton. Catriona loves politics which is good because that’s what she covers as a BBC Scotland reporter. Catriona was a Labour councillor in Glasgow with ambitions to become an MSP but sadly didn’t get elected in 2003. Catriona is a friendly sort of lady with Facebook chums the likes of Jackie Baillie ( herself a very friendly lady who is also chums with Gary Robertson and Alan Clements hubby of Kirsty Wark ), Yousuf Hamid, Tom Harris, Mike Dailly, Frank McAveety, John Robertson, John Park, Steven Purcell, Dave Watson – is there Labour person Catriona isn’t chummy with?
I don’t know if Catriona knows Raymond, Raymond Buchanan that is. Raymond used to work for BBC Scotland until the little matter of his mis-representing what was said by an Irish Minister, Lucinda Creighton, on EU membership of an independent Scotland along with another little matter of a so-called ‘leaked SNP document’ suggesting Scotland’s reliance on English consumers to cover the cost of Scottish energy encouraged Raymond to make a strategic withdrawal. Whichever – Raymond has retreated to the Outer Hebrides from where he loves to tweet about politics and, well you can make up your own mind where Raymond’s heart lies.
Raymond’s brother-in-law is Brian, Brian Wilson (allegedly). Brian used to be a Labour MP, you know the one put in charge of Labour Vote No Campaign in 1979 in the devolution referendum campaign. Brian loves and promotes nuclear power, and why wouldn’t he for he was a non-executive director of Amec Nuclear Holdings. Brian is no stranger to BBC Scotland which likes nothing better than to canvass his views on everything from tweed to nukes.
Then there’s Ken or rather was Ken. Ken Macintosh, like many before and since, has found his career slipped seamlessly between the Labour Party and the BBC. Currently Ken is a Labour MSP with an eye on leadership if only Ed Miliband could remember who he is. Ed Miliband lives in London where lots of Scots migrate to from wee Scotland to enhance their careers, and why not. You’ll be familiar with Andrew, Andrew Marr.
Andrew decided his future lay in London. And one day BBC London noticed North Britain was jumping up and down trying to draw attention to itself. Now BBC London was not in the habit of encouraging such self-promotion but decided some canny handling of independence matters was required. It looked around and spotted the lovely Andrew who despite all evidence to the contrary turned out to be Scottish! Andrew, they realised, was the perfect person to embody Scotland; to go out and explore this backwater in the north and enlighten the good people of Britain why it was the whingeing Scots were whingeing. And Andrew obliged because he’s that kinda guy. He’s also the kinda guy who discovered the Labour Party suited him nicely while a student. And Andrew is married to Jackie.
Jackie is a journalist, oh and broadcaster, which takes her into the BBC quite a lot. Jackie is the daughter of the late Jack Ashley. Jack was a Labour MP which might be why Jackie specialises in the Labour Party, according to Wikipedia, though I’m not sure what that means. And she supported Gordon Brown’s government, so it says. Think you might be on your own there Jackie.
Now for all I know Jackie and Andrew might be friends with James, James Naughtie. James or Jim as he’s sometimes known also found himself taking the road south to find fame and fortune. And behold the BBC discovered that Jim is also a Scot and who better to add some gravitas to the wretched Good Morning Scotland and demonstrate how to tackle the issues making the natives restless. And if you’re waiting for an argument from me on that one you will wait a while. I don’t know much about James except he hails from the very lovely Milltown of Rothiemay and my friend Graeme and one-time journalist says he used to think him one of the better reporters. So that’s Jim – cleancut and non-affiliated unless you think his comment of ‘if we win the election’ when interviewing Labour’s Ed Balls during the 2005 General Election suggests anything. But hey, it’s an easy slip to make as many at the BBC will tell you. Welcome back to Scotland Jim and a warm welcome too to Laura and Sarah. Don’t pay any attention to those harping on about what it’s costing – big bucks (the new Scottish currency I’m told) but just hold on, they’re worth it. Don’t you agree?
Laura is the lovely Laura Kuenssberg, daughter of Nicholas. You know – that Nicholas -one of the donors to Wendy Alexander’s campaign that went so badly wrong. You must remember all those donations of £995 that meant donors could remain anonymous. Got it now? Okay, so Nicholas, father of Laura was one of those people lending support to wee Wendy. Wendy, once even led Scottish Labour at Holyrood but perhaps her greatest claim to fame is being the sister of Douglas, Douglas Alexander.
Douglas is a Labour MP and often asked to appear on political shows, which is as it should be. Douglas is a canny politician knowing not to say too much and he has never been accused of dodgy practice over campaign funding and certainly hasn’t uttered Wendy’s catchphrase of ‘Bring it on’ which only brought on her own downfall which I’m sure Laura’s father Nicholas Kuenssberg would have been sorry to witness.
Wendy is married to Brian, Brian Ashcroft. Brian is Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute. The Fraser of Allander Institute is often cited on BBC Scotland as an independent think-tank which coincidentally issues lots of warnings about the weakness of the Scottish economy. Oh well everyone’s entitled to their opinion – although not all have access to them being aired by the BBC but life’s not fair is it Wendy?
A friend of Wendy’s is Sarah. That is the Honourable Sarah Smith, daughter of the late John, one-time leader of the Labour Party who also found the invitation north impossible to refuse. Sarah had a lovely wedding not so long ago which she shared with her friends the Alexander twins and their father who married Sarah (as minister officiating not, well you know). Other guests included the great and the good (it’s a phrase okay) from the Labour Party. Sarah’s sister is the daughter-in-law of the Right Honourable the Lord George Robertson of Port Ellen, KT, GCMG, FRSA, FRSE, PC and of the Labour Party. Do you think he says that every time he answers the phone? Sarah’s political shows on BBC Scotland have not been well-received but that’s no reason for her not to keep trying. Go Sarah go!
Which all proves nothing very much at all other than it’s not what you know that matters as much as who you know.
I was sorry to have missed the hour-long programme on Alba on Brian Wilson. Lucky man.
http://www.heraldscotland.com/summary-of-commission-interview-with-wendy-alexander-1.847788 http://www.newsnetscotland.com/index.php/affairs-scotland/9619-the-dirty-dozen-the-case-against-bbc-scotland-part-2 http://gaiusmarcellus.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/unacceptable-links-between-labour-and.html
Please take time to read the blog linked below – an extensive unpicking of the unhealthy relationship between Labour in Scotland and the BBC. There is a holy trinity at work encompassing BBC Scotland, the Labour Party in Scotland and Glasgow University that has become unpleasantly incestuous and hugely undemocratic.
Private businesses operating within the National Health Service must be pretty pleased with how policies pushed by successive governments at Westminster have allowed their interests to flourish. Why would they not be? Opportunities in this area of social provision are staggering and perfect to boost company profits. Shareholders must be drooling at the prospect.
There was a time when those responsible for safeguarding and running the NHS – politicians – were proud to declare it the best health service in the world and one of the greatest achievements in history – and some still do though what they mean by this now is less clear. The NHS became something of a sacred cow – a marker for how civilised the UK was compared with other countries with their piecemeal services based on health insurance and unequal access to care.
You don’t hear so much of that now – now that the NHS is steadily heading towards the American health care model – the steady incursion of private providers such as Serco and Circle increasingly managing aspects of public health care. Serco’s expertise takes in everything from nuclear weapons to health. Circle, established by former banker Ali Parsa, is run along mutual lines with doctors holding a stake in the business. I should point out in passing that just last week Serco’s finance director of outsourcing was on the point of resigning over a financial scandal involving the government.
In 1948 the NHS was started as a comprehensive health and rehabilitation service for the prevention and cure of diseases in response to the miserable health provision available to the majority of people in the UK. The NHS was established as free at the point of delivery and available to all, paid for by the people through public taxation.
We all know how successful the NHS proved to be, and rather than fewer people accessing its services the healthier the population became, the scale and variety of specialist care led to increasing numbers turning to the NHS with issues never envisaged at its initiation e.g. IVF treatment for fertility problems and gastric bypasses.
When a national health service was proposed opposition from some quarters, notably well-off doctors who feared a loss of income through restrictions on private practice, were well aired. For most ordinary people, however, the NHS was welcomed and proved a revelation. Lives were saved and improved enormously. It is not possible for any of us in the UK today who didn’t live through the years before 1948 to fully comprehend the awful misery inflicted on the poor having to make choices between paying out paltry earnings on keeping a roof over their heads, putting something in their bellies or paying for essential medical treatment.
Over the last half century the lives of people in the UK have been transformed by the opportunities for decent care provided by the National Health Service and life expectancy as a result has risen by around 10 years.
The cost of upkeep of the NHS has also risen year on year which is why Westminster governments have looked to ways of offsetting some of that financial burden onto the private sector – outsourcing to private companies to manage aspects of care. The private sector is regarded by some as more efficient than the public. That efficiency does come at a price – private is more ruthless in regards to its employees but it is not per se any better at the job it does although it does bring in alternative means of funding such as raising cash through shareholders.
So where is the NHS heading?
I fear that in England there is little chance of what today we would recognise as the NHS still being around in another 10 to 15 years time with increasing numbers of health trusts outsourcing multi-million pound contracts on the open market for everything from mental health provision to tests and diagnosis. In Scotland things are a little different. Here there has been strong resistance to interfering with what is regarded as a vital system of health care.
But in England there is a different perspective, from government at least. A choice between direct infusion of funds into the NHS or outsourcing to the private sector has come down firmly in favour of private. Austerity measures drive this to an extent, it is argued, but that doesn’t wash in a country that supports Trident. Funding for the NHS is ideologically driven and pretty well shared by Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats.
England’s move into privatisation will no doubt lead to patients becoming clients and will be accompanied by the well-rehearsed refrain of those clients being provided with greater choices over their care. That great myth of choice and the right to choose – such choices are always conditional in such circumstances. The concept of choice so loved by rightwing commentators from both Labour and Conservative sides is not absolute – in some areas there will never be real choices of provision and moreover choice is mainly exercised by the wealthy and the middle classes creating gulfs in what was once a fairly equitable health service.
A health care system operated by the markets will have as its number one goal, irrespective of claims from business people and politicians (sometimes the same people), the company’s profits. Why would they not? That after all is their raison d’être.
Why are privately operated companies more likely to employ temporary rather than permanent employees? How does having transitory staff in hospitals fit in with putting the patients’ interests first?
Any private health care business will think carefully about where it operates to try to ensure success. Their bottom line is never going to be the service to be provided irrespective of cost. So what happens to the universal provision of care – does it become ghettoised? Like schools? Replacing the notion of universal care for competition at the heart of health planning has meant private providers are able to get more snouts into more troughs of readily available public cash.
In these so-called times of austerity NHS budgets are squeezed. Deciding that aspects of NHS care should be opened up to private companies is a political decision. It is dressed up as opportunities to improve care through competition therefore enabling ‘best value’ for patients or taxpayers or whoever – ie us. The slick, market-oriented operators breathing down the necks of cash-strapped health trusts are having a field day.
A second rate service provided by the state as a kind of safety net for the socially excluded and those not willing or capable of exercising their choices will probably jog along for a time but the best service, the one that will be held up at election times as epitomising the best of British, will be that which is used by the better-off and the determined or pushy.
Of the billions of pounds paid out by UK taxpayers to provide essential services much will be siphoned off to pay for outsourced services from enterprising agencies and this is a national disgrace.
Such a trend has meant ‘putting multinational companies in the driving seat of the NHS,’ according to former health secretary Frank Dobson. He was talking about the Labour government’s push to contract out to private and third sector providers.
Health care in England is being transformed and unlike the public body that is the NHS private enterprise does not have a duty to provide a comprehensive range of services only ‘such services or facilities as it considers appropriate.’
Who then is making decisions about health priorities in the UK?
Circle’s profits have risen from £170.3million to £192.7million encouraging the company to build more private hospitals in England. It and Capita (the UK’s biggest outsourcing company which earns half its turnover from the public sector) expect to continue to pick up contracts from NHS trusts whose incomes are stretched to breaking point. Privatisation in England is there to stay – hospitals and clinics springing up in Cambridgeshire, Manchester, Birmingham, Bedfordshire, Nuneaton, Bath, Reading – anywhere and everywhere.
For those who judge the NHS by the state of its waiting rooms and chipped paint corridors such rampant privatisation will be just what the doctor ordered. For those who recognise that each time a contract is put out to tender and won by a company operating for profit another part of the NHS is being undermined. At some point the whole edifice will go in all but name with implications for staff as well as patients. Actually the terminology has already changed from National Health Service with all that suggests to healthcare market.
Health care is devolved thank goodness. In Scotland at present the SNP government is adamant that the structure of the NHS is safe and there are no moves into the kind of health privatisation happening in England.
I don’t think we should be complacent however. Scotland has seen examples of reckless behaviour from Holyrood. In 2005 when Scottish Labour was in coalition with the Scottish Liberal Democrats Andy Kerr then Minister for Health and Community Care announced a Scottish Regional Treatment Centre pilot at Stracathro funded under PPI which was duly opened in a blaze of publicity in 2007 by Jack McConnell then First Minister. The white elephant of the Golden Jubilee National hospital in Clydebank also established under New Labour had to be bought by the NHS.
While both the Scottish National Party and the Green Party in Holyrood have stated opposition to any privatisation of clinical services in Scotland’s NHS there must be a question mark over what will happen in the future if Scottish Labour and the Liberal Democrats and Tories (those two in coalition presumably) get back into power.
Scottish Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats have been criticised for their underhand methods when it comes to privatising health care – omitting mention of it in their election manifestos. The Labour Party, very keen on Public Private Initiates, did include references to mixing private and public health care in its Westminster manifesto of 2005 – all in the guise of providing better, ‘more quality healthcare’ to ‘expand provision’ and ‘reduce waiting times’ but there was nothing in its Scottish manifesto before setting up the pilot at Stracathro and the National Waiting Times Centre later renamed Golden Jubilee National hospital – all £180million of it built in 1994 and having consequently failed, bought by the public purse as an NHS hospital in 2002.
John Reid one-time Health Secretary at Westminster under Tony Blair tried to persuade Scots the ‘the medical market place’ was the way to go. Reid would no doubt welcome chief executive of LaingBusiness (a so-called healthcare intelligence company) William Laing’s observation that Circle’s success is ‘significant for all private sector providers to the NHS.‘
There doesn’t seem any way back for the NHS in England but here in Scotland we have a chance to hold onto what has proved an excellent provision for the past 60 plus years. Voting no in the referendum will put Scotland’s NHS at risk of going the way of England’s. It’s time for people to wake up to the real danger of losing this brilliant health service.
A positive vote for independence is the only chance we have to retain our universal health service, free at the point of use. Use your vote well.
Why did they want to censor this film?
Watch it to find out.