The Trouble with Labour

This present ConDem government is by some way the worst I can remember.  It’s unprincipled and corrupt. I’d hoped that the Lib Dems might prove to be a moderating influence on the worst of the Tories, but they have proved to be clueless on this, standing up for a few points of irrelevance and simply failing to address the really important things that the Government has screwed up with.

Of all the ConDems’ many failings, the most egregious, in my mind, is their treatment of the NHS.  The Health and Social Care Act 2012 (HASCA) fundamentally changes the way the NHS works, so that it will, eventually, be unrecognisable. It’s not about GP commissioning – actually, that’s not a bad idea – it’s about the way it has been opened up to private provision.  The reason this matters is that the NHS, for all its failings (and any organisation of its size will have many) is still the most cost-effective health system in the developed world.  It achieves most of this cost-effectiveness by not focussing on cost, but rather on care.   An insurance-based system with private provision necessarily involves a huge admin layer to direct the cost of your care to the right insurance company, and thus back to you. Private-sector provision, whoever pays for it, makes it all about cost not care. Particularly when the patient him or herself doesn’t pay (if they’re the choosing and paying customer, hospitals will make sure there are fresh flowers in reception).

The reason this matters is that this all started under Labour. It didn’t go as far as HASCA, but it started. Labour “reformers” bought into the ideology.  They carried the torch for NHS privatisation while the Tories were in opposition.  So I’m just as unlikely to trust the Labour Party as any other current party. They pushed such misleading notions as “patient choice”. We don’t want it. We want the best possible care at the best possible time.

Another reason I don’t trust Labour is that they failed to deal with the problems of financial services. For most of their time in office, it seemed like the goose that kept on laying golden eggs; they were reluctant to kill it. But any serious economic analysis would have found it wanting. There were plenty of warning that things were seriously out of kilter, but Labour didn’t do anything about it.  The most damning indictment of their time in office is that between 1997 and 2010 the gap between rich and poor widened.  We all got richer, but the rich got richer much quicker.

And then of course there’s the war.  Ifs buts and maybes whatever, but wouldn’t it have been better for Saddam to go in an Arab Spring than at the end of overwhelming Western force? He was a nasty dictator amongst many, but the cost of the war in Allied and Iraqi lives, not to mention in pounds and dollars surely outweighs many times over the benefit of his departure.

Nevertheless, I voted Labour in 2010, for my excellent local anti-war MP.

Not all ConDems have been quite as bad about the NHS; and Labour itself was split on the “reform” question. There are plenty of Labour apologists, and factions within Labour, who still support the “reform” agenda (that is, the stealth privatisation of the NHS by opening it up to competition and introducing patient choice).  While it’s still divided on this issue, I can’t wholeheartedly support it as the best option to reverse HASCA. The necessary reforms will need a much stronger party.

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