The failure of Circle Holdings’ management of Hinchingbrooke Hospital has one serious consequence for all political parties – but particularly Labour – and it is this: The British public will no longer tolerate any suggestion that private firms should participate in the National Health Service.
The reason Labour is singled out for special attention in this regard is that Labour has made the repeal of the Conservative Party’s Health and Social Care Act a key campaigning pledge (yes, it was passed in Coalition with the Liberal Democrats, but Andrew Lansley – Conservative – was the MP who spent around seven years working on the legislation in secret while his party leader promised all and sundry, with his ‘sincere’ face on, that the NHS was safe in Tory hands).
Unfortunately for Ed Miliband’s party, such promises are being met with scepticism by the people who should be Labour’s core voters. Only a couple of days ago, Vox Political posted this image to its Facebook page:
Here are some of the responses:
“Labour are just another neoliberal party serving the financial elite,” wrote Max Anstey. “The economic ideology ‘neoliberalism’ involves the privatisation of things. As Labour are neoliberal, they will not renationalise the NHS. A claim to ‘restore’ the NHS is not good enough from a neoliberal party. We need our public services back in our hands.”
Here’s another, by Gareth Jones: “I would love to see an honest resurgence of socialist ideals in this country. I’d love Labour to be Labour again. However, I just don’t see Ed Miliband being the one to bring it about. Ed is no Tony Benn.”
And Janet Kaiser added: “Labour (if it can still be called that) are going to do bugger-all. You can hope as much as you want, but the fact is the party has been taken over by venture capitalists and shouting the contrary is not going to change anything.”
That is the attitude Labour has to overcome. What’s sad is that it is an attitude that, in many ways, Labour has created. Only today, this blog posted a link to an article by Labour MP Michael Meacher in which he criticised his own front bench’s failure to attack the Conservatives over the economy – and much of what he said there can be applied to the NHS as well.
“Why doesn’t Labour hit out against the Tories where it could so easily secure some significant breakthroughs?” he asked. Why indeed.
The voters didn’t want private companies interfering in the NHS when they went to the polls in 2010. Now that they’ve experienced what it means – and don’t forget the Tory NHS crisis that is most clearly being seen in Accident & Emergency departments is also a symptom of this – they are vehemently against it.
Hinchingbrooke is a perfect opportunity for Labour to lay its cards on the table and promise that all of the expensive, bureaucratic and utterly pointless measures imposed by the Tories, to ensure that private firms get preferential treatment in the awarding of NHS contracts, will be removed – and to vow that the NHS will be restored as a state service providing the best care along with the best value for money.
And Labour stays quiet.
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