NHS

George Osborne Lies about Responsibility for the Collapse of Carillion

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/01/2018 - 4:51am in

No, not Marillion, who had a hit in the 1980s with the classic, ‘Kayleigh’, and whose singer was called Fish, ’cause he drank like one, but Carillion, the outsourcing giant which has gone belly-up.

Mike’s put up a post about Carillion’s collapse, pointing out that the company was in dire financial trouble, and had issued at least three profit warnings. But miraculously it was still able to win government contracts.

George Osborne, our former comedy Chancellor to Dave Cameron’s comedy Prime Minister, decided to put his oar in today. Faced with the question of who was responsible for awarding these contracts to the ailing company, Osborne did what every Tory does: he lied and spun. Oh no, whined Osborne, now the editor of the Evening Standard, it’s not the Tories’ responsibility they got government contracts. It’s all the fault of civil servants.

Er, no, George. It’s not. It’s your fault, and the fault of every Thatcherite government since the days of John Major.

If you enter the civil service, you will be told that it is your duty to provide the government with impartial advice. This marks the British civil service out from its continental cousins, where the upper levels of the civil service belong to the ruling party, and so change with each election. There have been cases when the civil service has been less than impartial, such as when the rail network was privatised. This was the brainchild of a particular civil servant, who was a keen promoter of free market private enterprise. But this particular mandarin has been and gone.

Looking back, a scandal like Carillion was almost inevitable. When outsourcing began in the 1990s under John Major, firms like Capita, dubbed ‘Crapita’ by Private Eye, became notorious for the way they continually got government contracts, despite coming in late and over budget on just about all those they had been awarded. Or else the systems they installed just didn’t work. But it was Tory – and Blairite – ideology that private enterprise was always better than the state, even when, to most people, it most certainly wasn’t. And there was a revolving door between these firms and the Tory party. Under John Major, the various ministers responsible for privatising particular firms magically got jobs on the board of the same, now private companies, afterwards. Amazing! But civil servants weren’t to blame for that, although certain high level civil servants did benefit from the revolving door, particularly and most notoriously in the MOD. The system got so bad that John Major’s government got a justifiable reputation for ‘sleaze’. But a French politician was much more accurate in his description of it. He said that in Britain, we called it ‘sleaze’, but in La Patrie, they simply called it ‘corruption’. Indeed. Over the other side of La Manche, a civil servant or politician has to wait two years after they’ve retired from office before they can take up a job with a private firm. Which means that their address book, which is what the firm really wants, is out of date, and they’re of no value to them. Problem solved.

Carillion was allowed to go on because of a series of legislation put in place by the Tories to protect the outsourcing companies. Like as private companies, they are not subject to FOIA, and any attempts to probe their financial affairs is automatically denied by the government on the grounds of ‘corporate confidentiality’. You see, such requests would jeopardise their position by opening them up to scrutiny by their rivals. We’ve seen this used when justifying giving contracts to private firms in the NHS. NHS performance is published and scrutinised, but not those of the private firms angling for lucrative NHS contracts.

This has been brought in by the Tories, including Dave Cameron and George Osborne.

And while we’re at it, let’s make the point that much government advice doesn’t come from the civil service. It came from private consultants, like Anderson Consulting, who were responsible for turning the Benefits Agency as was into the shambles it now is. Under Tony Blair this grew to enormous proportions, so that Blair was taking advice from SPADs -Special Advisors – from private industry, rather than the civil service.

So it’s fair to ask which set of private consultants argued that Carillion ought to be given a contract? Perhaps no-one did, but I think it’s a fair question, given just how much sponsorship the Tories received from private industry. Was Carillion one of their corporate donors?

So who’s responsible for the government awards given to Carillion? You are, George. You, Cameron, and your whole disgusting party. Now stop lying. You were rubbish as chancellor, and you’ve got no business editing a paper either.

Torygraph Pushing for NHS Privatisation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 13/01/2018 - 11:15pm in

I found this nasty, grim piece from the Telegraph quoted in ‘The Opinion Matrix’ section of today’s I, where the newspaper reprints extracts from the rest of the press. It shows the Torygraph’s hatred of the NHS, and its determination to push for its privatisation.

The piece is headlined ‘Nation is infatuated with the NHS’, and runs

Regarding the National Health Service, we have become like an abused partner who cannot tear themselves away as a nation, we know something is wrong but we can’t admit the truth. Such is our love affair with this failing institution that even the smallest of reforms are shouted down. Politically it’s virtually impossible to propose the funding shake-up required.

A Royal Commission has been suggested but you’ll never get cross-party support for meaningful reform, for the left, the NHS is too useful a weapon. And so we beat on, until eventually the system breaks, or indeed as would occur under Labour, the system breaks the economy itself.

This was written by Jeremy Warner, and the piece comes under the headline A Tax on Healthcare. It’s on page 18 of the I, for Saturday, 13th January 2018.

In fact, the NHS is by far the most efficient, cost effective healthcare system than the American system of private healthcare. The Americans spend massively more on their healthcare service, which certainly doesn’t cover everyone in America. According to Bernie Sanders, 40,000 people die every year because they can’t get medical care. And until the Tories took over, it compared very favourably with the other healthcare systems in the rest of the Europe, which receive considerably more funding. Way back in the 1979, a committee of inquiry concluded that there wasn’t any problems funding the NHS. They expected funding to increase naturally to cover expenditure. As for the comments about the ‘last Labour government’, the knee-jerk response of Tories with no other form of defence and nothing else to say, under Labour the NHS was in budget. I’m not a supporter of New Labour and its healthcare reforms, because Blair really did want to privatise the NHS by opening it up to private industry, just like every Thatcherite politico before him. But he did keep it in budget, which is far more than can be said for the Tories, and specifically Andrew Lansley and Jeremy Hunt.

If the NHS is failing now, it’s because it’s being deliberately run down by the Tories, who desperately want to introduce a system of private health insurance like America. This won’t make healthcare more efficient. By contrast, private healthcare is far less efficient than state medicine in dealing with illness. Private health companies do not like dealing with the disabled and long-term sick, and so the people, who find it easiest to get health insurance are the well. In other words, those who need it least. Private hospitals are smaller than state-run hospitals, and vastly more inefficient due to the costs of management, advertising, legal departments and so on. All of which can be a real surprise to Tory drones, used to believing all the crap that private enterprise is more efficient than state industry.

The Tories have no interest in improving state healthcare, despite the specious lies Jeremy Hunt has said about how they ‘treasure’ it. They want to privatise it for the corporate profit of their friends in big business. And this clearly includes grasping newspaper magnates like the Torygraph’s owners, the weirdo Barclay Twins.

This little piece shows the determination of the Tory party to privatise the NHS, and the lies they’re using to justify it, all while Hunt and May deny that they are doing any such thing.

Conservative Lady Claims Labour and Momentum Supporters Responsible for Misogynist Abuse – But Is This Real?

There was a bit in the I today, reporting a speech made in the House of Lords by a female Tory peer, in which she broke the taboo against saying the ‘C’ word. She said it as an example of the misogynist abuse, which she claimed was coming from Labour and Momentum supporters. Mike’s already covered this issue over on his blog, pointing out that it’s been condemned by Jeremy Corbyn. Mike’s fully behind the condemnation, saying that death threats and other abuse have no place in civilised politics, and we shouldn’t lower ourselves to the Tories’ level. Which is absolutely correct, though looking at the incident, I wonder how much of the abuse, and the good lady’s outrage over it, is actually genuine.

Remember, one of the accusations that the Blairites tried to use against Corbyn and Momentum was that they were all terribly misogynist, and subjecting to poor, middle class corporatist Blairite women to vile abuse. This was taken over wholesale from Killary in the US, and her attempt to demonise Bernie Sanders’ supporters. In fact, the ‘Bernie Bros’ she claimed were responsible for all this abuse didn’t exist, and on examination neither did the misogynist abuse the Blairites were claiming came from Corbyn’s supporters. But clearly the tactic has made an impression, and it’s become part of the right-wing narrative that Corbyn’s supporters are all terrible misogynists, as well as anti-Semites. None of which is true.

It also seems to me something of a diversionary tactic. This is the week that Toby Young came under fire as May’s appointment for the universities’ regulatory board, because of the highly offensive nature of comments he’d made and written. These really were sexist and misogynist. There were Tweet after Tweet in which Young commented on the size of women’s breasts, including those of Claudia Winkleman, whom he told to ‘put on weight’. As for a photograph that seemed to show him touching a female celebrity, he also Tweeted that he had his ‘d**k up her a**e’. Labour’s women and equalities minister, Dawn Butler, rightly condemned Young’s comments as vile and misogynistic, and demanded Young’s removal from the post.

Which makes the Honourable Lady’s comments about misogyny from the Labour left, and how it was turning women off politics, seem somewhat contrived. It looks as if she was trying to take attention away from how terrible Young, and those like him in the Tory party are, by making a similar claim against Corbyn and the Labour party.

Now I share Mike’s and Corbyn’s views on such abuse. It’s clearly not acceptable. But I can understand the rage behind it. If people are sending hate messages to the Tories in May’s cabinet reshuffle, including Esther McVile, some of the anger is because they feel powerless. This government has done everything it can to humiliate and degrade working people, and particularly the sick, the disabled and the unemployed. Thanks to Tory wage restraint, jobs don’t pay. There is rising poverty, and move people are being forced to use food banks. At the same time the Tories are engineering a crisis in the NHS so they can eventually privatise it and force people into a private insurance-based system, like America. Where 40,000 people die each year because they don’t have medical coverage. The unions, with one or two exceptions, have been decimated, so that working people are left defenceless before predatory and exploitative bosses. And the benefits system has been so reformed, so that claimants can be thrown off it for even the most trivial of reasons. All so that May and her cronies can give their corporate backers even bigger tax cuts, and a cowed, beaten, compliant workforce.

In this situation, I think people have every reason to be angry. Especially when it comes to Esther McVie. When she was in charge of the disabled at the DWP, she was directly responsible for policies that threw thousands of seriously ill people off benefits, on the spurious grounds that they had been judged ‘fit for work’ by Atos and then Maximus. As a result, people have died, thanks to her policies. Personal abuse is unacceptable, but people have every right to express otherwise how loathsome she is, and how she is manifestly unsuited to have any responsible post dealing with the vulnerable.

If people are angry, and they can’t find any other way to express their anger, then it will turn into abuse. I don’t know how much of the abuse the Tory lady claimed is real, but if it does exist, it’s because the Tories have left people feeling powerless, and feeling that they have no other means of expressing their anger and fear.

And I also find it highly hypocritical that this woman, who is rich and entitled, should accuse those below her of abuse. Quite apart from the fact that I’ve no doubt that you can find similar comments expressed by the Tories on their websites, Tweets and blogs, various Tory grandees have in the past made their contempt for working people very clear. Such as the infamous comment by one of them – was it Matthew Freud? – that the homeless were the people you step over when coming out of the opera. The Tories are very well aware how controversial the appointment of these new cabinet ministers are, especially Esther McVile, the minister in charge of culling the disabled, as she’s been described by Mike and others. It looks to me very much like part of the purpose of this accusation was to silence genuine criticism of the grotesques, bigots and corporatist horrors with which May has decided once again to fill her cabinet.

I therefore have strong doubts that there was misogynist abuse directed at Tory women, or if there was, whether there was any more than usual, or the same amount of abuse directed at female Labour MPs. If you want an example of really vile abuse, take a look at some of the comments the Tories have made about Diane Abbott, which manages to be both misogynist and racist. It all looks very much like a ploy to stop people noticing the vile abuse coming from Toby Young and the Tories, by repeating the lies spewed by the Blairites in an attempt to silence justifiable criticism of May’s murderous new cabinet appointments.

‘Please let me continue with my privatisation of the NHS Theresa, please’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 09/01/2018 - 6:15pm in

Tags 

NHS, Politics

Jeremy Hunt pleaded for his job as Health Secretary yesterday, and kept it.

Why did he plead? For those on trolleys in A&E? I don’t think so.

No: I am sure he pleaded for Branson to get more contracts.

And I’ll guarantee that he pleaded for the new Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs) that are anything but that and are instead the Trojan horse for widespread private control of our health service.

My belief is that he pleaded for the vision of Redwood and Letwin that I explained here.

And he won his case. He kept his job despite all his failings.

And that’s because the case for privatisation won.

Yesterday was a bad one for the NHS.

May & Varadkar Swap Dysfunctional Healthcare System Stories Over The Phone

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/01/2018 - 9:08pm in

DESPITE the recent months bringing a legion of disagreements over the Irish border, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Theresa May have finally found some common ground in the form of amusing anecdotes over how dysfunctional their country’s health systems have become on their watch, WWN can reveal. With winter bringing a very precedented influx in patient... Read more »

No, Theresa, Apologising for the State of the NHS Is Not Good Enough: Resign!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 05/01/2018 - 5:36am in

I couldn’t let this go. I’m afraid I’m still struggling with the cold that’s been going round, and for several days this week simply haven’t felt well enough to blog. But the appearance of Theresa May on the news just now, blandly apologising for the state of the NHS, just annoyed me that little bit too much for me to want to let it go. Of course the NHS is in crisis, with cancelled operations, increased waiting times and extra strain put on doctors, nurses, surgeons and ambulance crews. That’s the way the Tories want it. And it’s happened every winter, ever since they were elected into power under Thatcher. Thatcher wanted to privatise the NHS, and although she was prevented by a backbench revolt, this is what they’re doing, piecemeal, by stealth. By opening it all up to private competition, handing over hospitals, clinics and other services to private healthcare providers like Virgin Health, Circle Health and others. Meanwhile starving the NHS of funds, in the hope that the crisis in care will cause more people to become disillusioned with this grandest of British institutions, so that there will be little outcry when they finally announce that state healthcare is gone, and we must all buy private medical insurance.

I caught the news about Jeremy Hunt apologising for the state of the NHS this morning. According to Mike over at Vox Political, Jezza was originally unable to be found, but someone decided that he had better put his face before the cameras and try and salvage something from the situation. And so he did a very carefully stage-managed interview.

Now I’ve seen Theresa May do more or less the same on the Beeb. She apologises for the state of the health service, and declared that she knows the situation is difficult.

I dare say she does. She knows, but in my view, doesn’t remotely care. She’ll still carry on with its privatisation, with starving it of resources, with manufacturing resentments among its staff, so that there’s a personnel drain. All to provide a pretext to get more private firms into the NHS. All done with the same glowing fanfare about ‘bringing the expertise of private industry to state the sector’. I’ve heard it so often I can practically write the nauseating script for it.

Enough’s enough. I’ve heard enough insincere apologies from our mendacious leaders, and had more than enough weasel words from Hunt and his vile mistress. Words are cheap. And I don’t trust the Tories to do anything to correct this. Oh, they might make an announcement that they are putting more money into the NHS if people become really angry, and declare that they’re putting more money into it than ever before, and certainly more than the last Labour government. But as has been shown, this is always a lie. The stats are chosen so that they look impressive, but when compared to what spending was like under Labour, they’re always shown to be well below. Meanwhile the Tories dig out once again the well-worn script about how we all must pay for ‘high-spending Labour’, even though it isn’t ‘high-spending Labour’ that’s created the economic crisis. It’s the Tories, pure and simply, and their determination to cut welfare services, privatise the NHS, and grind British working people down, all to give more power and tax money to their friends in big business.

No more insincere apologies. No protests about how awful this is all is, while secretly delighted with the chaos being inflicted on the health service. May is not sorry, as she and the Tories keep on doing this. They only want to appear sorry so that they don’t get voted out.

It’s far too late for that. If we want to save the NHS, then May, Hunt and the rest of this vile, murderous Tory government has to go. Now. And if May wants to show she cares about the NHS, the only thing she can do is resign. And take Jezza with her.

George Galloway and Dr. Bob Gill on the Tories’ Planned Privatisation of the NHS

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 04/01/2018 - 2:12am in

In this clip from Sputnik, George Galloway, his female co-host and his guest Dr. Bob Gill, discuss the Tories’ planned, programmatic privatisation of the NHS. Galloway states that he’s due to see a skin specialist, but that this has been put back another couple of months, so that it will be about five months before he sees a skin specialist.

The Doctor informs him that this is certainly not be accident. Historically, spending on the NHS has been at 4 per cent. However, since 2010 it’s been a 1 per cent, and the cracks are beginning to show. But it is a mistake to think that this is incompetence. The Tories wish to make the British public turn against the NHS. Hence they are determined to run it down and to do all they can to force confrontations and demoralise the staff. Dr. Gill warns that the privatisation won’t be a ‘big bang’. Instead, the middle class will drift away to seek private medical help. They point to how the private health insurers Vitality are already taking out adverts at football grounds and in the Metro. The female co-host mentions Virgin Care. They expand on this, to say that Virgin Care has done a deal with Vitality. And then, when the British public’s faith in the NHS is broken, they’ll present them with the false solution of going over to a private insurance system.

They point to the fact that people are already paying for a ‘once-off’ just to beat the queues, and George Galloway himself states that he has been tempted with the months he’s been waiting for a skin specialist. He is very firm, however, that he hasn’t and he wouldn’t, but nevertheless, the temptation is there. Dr. Gill states that if someone like Galloway, who believes so very passionately in the NHS can be tempted to go for private health care because of these manufactured delays, so it’s going to be much more tempting for an ordinary person without Galloway’s commitment.

I think Dr. Gill, Galloway and the young lady co-presenter all are all exactly right. This isn’t about incompetence. If it was, Hunt would have been banished long ago. This is a determined campaign to run down the NHS and replace it with a system of private insurance, exactly like the system that is destroying America’s healthcare. All for the profit of the big healthcare companies like Vitality, Circle Health and virgin Care, who have been funding the Tories and Blairite Labour.

The threat to the NHS

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/01/2018 - 7:34pm in

We have another NHS crisis. It will cost lives, unnecessarily. It will cause untold long term harm as staff give up, voluntarily or otherwise, under the pressure brought to bear on them. And nothing about this crisis is made up: this is the real thing, resulting from real demand, and no edict from Westminster will solve that.

I am not claiming medical expertise. Nor am I suggesting that I can solve all the problems of the NHS overnight. But I do know that the NHS need not suffer a cash shortage. What it is, instead, suffering is a political crisis. I explained why in an article I was asked to write for the British Medical Journal last summer, which did not get published as there simply wasn’t time to deal with the shortening in length that the editor requested from me before publication was planned. I share it here instead:

The threat from and to the NHS

There is a widespread belief that the NHS is under threat. A recent conference at the Royal Society of Medicine, which attracted considerable media attention as a result of the exchanges it generated between Jeremy Hunt and Prof Stephen Hawking, was premised on the assumption that this was the case. If this is true it is, however, important to understand why the NHS is itself threatening to some and why those threatened wish to threaten the NHS as a consequence. Without that understanding the threat to the NHS cannot be appraised.

Who and what the NHS threatens

The creation of the NHS has to be seen as the consequence of a circumstance of chance that occurred at a particular point in history. But for the Second World War, the concept of the welfare state to which it gave rise, the election of a Labour government in 1945, the creation of Keynesian economic thinking during the recession of the 1930s and the willingness of that 1945 Labour government to spend despite the massive accumulation of debt that the war gave rise to there would have been no NHS. That this coincidence happened indicates something deeper, which was the creation of a post-war political consensus that meant that the founding principles of the NHS continued in existence after Labour fell from power.

Those three principles were clearly stated in July 1948 when the NHS began to operate. They were[i], in the words of Nye Bevan, that the NHS would meet the needs of everyone; that it would be free at the point of delivery and that its services would be supplied based on clinical need and not ability to pay. The survival of the NHS suggests that these principles resonated across political boundaries. The evidence is that they still do: if the UK has anything close to a national religion in the twenty first century it is faith in the NHS.

That faith does, however, reflect a very particular worldview. It assumes that there is a state. Quiet explicitly, it suggests that the state has a role in people's lives. In saying so it explicitly rejects the notion that the market can meet all need. In its place it substitutes central direction of the supply of at least some services and it assumes that hey will be paid for by taxation. Implicitly this assumes that the price signalling mechanism of the market is an unsuitable indicator for allocating resources with regard to health: explicitly need is substituted instead.

This worldview was predominant in 1948, and for a long time thereafter. But this does not mean that there was no other worldview at the time that the NHS was created. In the year before it was founded Frederik von Hayek founded the Mont Pelerin Society[ii]. To do so he brought together thirty-six academics, journalists, financiers and other interested parties to discuss how their alternative vision of society might be promoted in the face of what they perceived to the threat of socialism which would lead, as Hayek put it, to 'The Road to Serfdom'[iii]. With the creation of the Mont Pelerin Society the political economic philosophy of neoliberalism was born.

The defining principle of neoliberalism is that it is competition for resources that defines their optimal allocation within a society. Alternatively, as William Davies has argued[iv] neoliberalism is hostile to what it sees as political discourse and it seeks to put in its place explicit economic indicators for which the market price system is the model. It does not allow for any alternative: it is this principle that dictates optimal solutions, it says.

A number of obvious conclusions follow from this logic in the context being discussed here. The first is that it is markets that should allocate resources. The second is that the only role of the state is to underpin the smooth functioning of markets. The third is that taxes must be minimal to allow individuals to engage to the maximum possible degree within the market. Fourth, this requires that those engaged in the supply of any service must be capable of failing or the pressure of competition cannot be brought to bear upon them. And, since this pressure is also only possible if the capital available to any provider is limited it also follows that suppliers must either be in the private sector or, at least, be removed from government control and access to its capital.

What this analysis makes clear is that the culture of the NHS, based as it is upon universal state provision that has sought to minimise cost by seeking to supply consistent, high quality care in a non-competitive environment, guaranteed by medical ethics rather than by market imperatives, is very different to neoliberal thinking. This would not matter to neoliberal thinkers if the NHS did not work, but it very obviously does. Both its popularity and the success of the NHS in rankings, such as that of the Commonwealth Fund[v], where in 2017 it was found to be the overall most effective health care system in the eleven advanced economies subject to appraisal, spreads this perception that there is an alternative to the neoliberal model. Unsurprisingly those who promote neoliberalism as threatened as a result. Their response is to threaten the NHS.

The origins of the threat

The threat to the NHS has its generic root in the rise of neoliberalism, so successfully related by Nancy MacLean in her 2017 book 'Democracy in Chains'[vi]. As she relates, the challenge to the state and its agencies, like the NHS, is organised and well funded, most especially through secretive think tanks. The Institute of Economic Affairs, the Adam Smith Institute and the Centre for Policy Studies are simultaneously at the forefront of this attack on the NHS[vii] and think tank secrecy in the UK: a 2017 study found they were almost entirely opaque about their sources of revenue[viii].

One paper published by the Centre for Policy Studies is particularly notable in this respect. Written by John Redwood, then (as now} Conservative MP for Woking, and Oliver Letwin, who had then to start his House of Commons career, it was entitled 'Britain's Biggest Enterprise: ideas for radical reform of the NHS' and was published in 1987[ix]. In a quaint reminder of the way things once were, the very obviously type written text remains available on the web. It is laden with barely veiled attacks on the NHS, behind the usual expressions of support for the NHS’s long suffering employees encumbered, as they were, by having to work in such a hostile system. But what really matters is the prescription it made for the direction of NHS reform, which it recognised could only be achieved in piecemeal fashion. The incremental goals would, it suggested, be:

  1. Establishment of the NHS as an independent trust;
  2. Increased use of joint ventures between the NHS and private sectors;
  3. Extending the principle of charging;
  4. A system of 'health credits';
  5. A national health insurance scheme.

Looking at the NHS in England it is clear that the first and second goals have largely been achieved and are now deeply embedded within its structures. In social care charging is similarly profoundly embedded. So too is the concept of a 'health credit’ becoming more commonplace in some aspects of NHS service[x]. That said, whilst it is still appropriate to note that options three and four are far from complete, it is not unfair to say that they are works in progress. In that case the concern that an insurance system remains the direction of travel, as expressed by Professor Stephen Hawking[xi], appears to be entirely realistic in the circumstances. The neoliberal assault on the NHS is very real.

What I would also argue is that the assault is conducted on more than one level. What might be called the Redwood / Letwin assault is explicit, and direct. It may be thirty years old and only partially successful, but it is well funded and continuing. The assault also exists at another level, for which the last decade has been little short of a gift. This second assault was accurately described by Noam Chomsky in 2011 when he said[xii]:

There is a standard technique of privatization, namely defund what you want to privatize. .... [F]irst thing to do is defund them, then they don’t work and people get angry and [then] they want a change.

The threat from austerity

The political choice to pursue the policy of austerity, adopted by the incoming UK government in 2010, has resulted in very limited real term increases in NHS funding per capita in England since then, and no forecast increase at any time in the foreseeable future[xiii]. In the face of changed demographics; real cost increases as better procedures become available, and imposed costs from reorganisation that have distracted resources from patient service provision the result has been a real reduction in resources available for patient care, a reduction in beds available for the supply of that care and enormous stress on a system that has, in the opinion of many practitioners, reached breaking point. Many economists, me included, have argued that none of this was necessary: austerity was a choice and not a necessity. It is indisputable that in 2017 the policy has failed to achieve its stated goal of a balanced budget: in the current financial year the UK government deficit is expected to exceed £58 billion. The consequence has not, however, been the abandonment of austerity as a policy but is instead its promised perpetuation: the assault on the NHS budget is to continue, remorselessly. That is why the Redwood / Letwin solution has to be still be considered to be on the table.

Two other factors contribute to this assault. One is the deliberate creation of confusion within the structure of the NHS in England. The 2012 Health and Social Care Act achieved its goal of shattering the NHS into as many parts as possible with no obvious lines of control remaining intact. This was not by chance: a private sector health service cannot be subject to central control and in England there is no effective way that it is now. In addition, neoliberal dogma demands that this service must have built into it the possibility of failure. Again, that is precisely what the 2102 Act delivered. The fragmented trusts that now make up the NHS, each with a balance sheet left fragile by under-funding, has been created to open the possibility of widespread financial failure, as Chomsky predicted. After all, how can an organisation suffer the pressure of competition if its risk of financial failure is insignificant? That patients might suffer as a consequence of that failure is inconsequential: the dogmatic goal of creating market risk is being achieved, come what may.

The illusion of patient choice is the third component in this process of undermining the NHS. Most practitioners will realise that choice is token in many cases: in an emergency it's far from a patient's concern. But for the neoliberal it exists for a reason: it is there to undermine the idea that the NHS might, firstly, exist to provide universally good care, and secondly that it is the only option that the state might fund. Choice exists to provide openings for the private sector, and not for patient benefit.

What can be done to counter the threat

The threat to the NHS is not from an ageing population, increasing costs, migration or even, ultimately, from a shortage of trained staff, because all those issues can be managed if the right political will exists. The threat to the NHS is that the political will that it succeed in the task that it has undertaken for the last near-seventy years does not now exist amongst some politicians. The fault is not that of one political party, although it is fair to note that the problem appears to be peculiar to England. The solution to the problem is, in that case, political and particular to the deeply divided English political, social and economic environment, where the relationship between London and the south east and all remaining regions is one of deep division and significant inequality.

The solution can only be found in a willingness to accept that this division and inequality is similar in effect to the stress that, in a different way and at a different time, gave rise to the need for the NHS. This, then, requires that the founding principles of the NHS be reinstated and that their replacements, which can tolerate so many of the characteristics of the neoliberal vision of healthcare, be themselves consigned to history.

With those principles restated what has to then be understood is that it isn't money that constrains the NHS. That is because the economic reality is that there is no limit to the amount of money a government can create if it so wishes. Money creation is, after all, costless. It is also technically limitless. That does not mean a government should be reckless. There is, of course inflation to consider. But that is what tax is for. It is government spending that creates the ability to tax. Where else, after all, does enough government created money to pay tax come from if government does not create it in the first place? Quite emphatically, it is not tax that creates the capacity for government to spend; that capacity always exists. Instead it is taxation that limits inflation when the government is spending to meet social purpose, for example, by funding the NHS. And spending in that way is always desirable, and there is always a gain to society, until the point is reached then the economy is working at its capacity, from which point the UK as a whole has been so far adrift for so long a time. That’s precisely why any constraint on NHS spending is inappropriate at present.

When this is appreciated it also has to be understood that there is literally no shortage of capital to invest in the NHS at present. In fact there is a shortage of government bonds in issue in the UK right now. That is because government bonds underpin most private pension funds and as more baby-boomers retire the demand for bonds is growing. In fact, people are queuing up to lend the government the money it needs to invest in the NHS. It is dogma alone that is denying people the chance to save in that way, and the economy (and NHS) the investment it needs. Poor facilities, a lack of training and failed systems all exist because of government choice as a result, and not because they need to. And since, right now the effective interest rate that has to be paid on the funds in question is near enough zero per cent, despite which the funds still roll in, it’s almost scandalous not to use them for social purpose and yet that is what is happening.

This is the economic reality that we face. Money is available for the NHS if people are able to work in it. But there is a problem. Because that money would come via the state, and would require central organisation and control to ensure it was well spent (which cannot happen in the current incoherent NHS management structure) there are those who politically oppose that use, not because it is economically rational to do so, because it clearly is not, but because of dogma alone.

The NHS need not be under threat. The NHS could be, and should be, well funded. It could be and should be the basis on which opportunity for new generations in need in this country could be built. But that requires a new generation of economists, politicians, health care professionals and others to believe, as some did in 1948, that they can make a more effective difference to people's lives through the provision of state provided healthcare than they could by promoting a market based system. Those who believed that in 1948 were right. The current threat to the NHS suggests that their vision is at risk. That vision, of universal care for people who are, whatever their economic situation considered to be of equal value, needs to be restored. Nothing else will tackle the threat to the NHS.

[i] NHS Choices http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/thenhs/about/Pages/nhscoreprinciples.aspx Accessed 3 September 2017

[ii] The website of The Mont Pelerin Society  https://www.montpelerin.org/about-mps/  Accessed 3 September 2017

[iii] Hayek, F.A. ‘The Road to Serfdom’, 1944. London: George Routledge & Sons

[iv] Davies, W. ‘The Limits of Neoliberalism: Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of Competition’. 2017. London: Sage Publications Limited. Available at https://uk.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/79542_Davies___The_Limits_of_Neoliberalism___Chapter_1.pdf . Page 6.  Accessed 3 September 2017.

[v] Schneider, E., Sarnak, D., Squires, D., Shah, A. and Doty, M. ‘Mirror, Mirror 2017: International Comparison Reflects Flaws and Opportunities for Better U.S. Health Care’. The Commonwealth Fund. Available at http://www.commonwealthfund.org/~/media/files/publications/fund-report/2017/jul/schneider_mirror_mirror_2017.pdf  Accessed 3 September 2017.

[vi] MacLean, N., ‘Democracy in Chains’.  London: Scribe Publications, 2017.

[vii] See, for example Niemitz, K., ‘Universal healthcare without the NHS’. Lodnon: The Institute for Economic Affairs, 2016. Available at https://iea.org.uk/publications/universal-healthcare-without-the-nhs/ accessed 3 September 2017.

[viii] See the ‘Who Funds You?’ website http://whofundsyou.org/ accessed 3 September 2017

[ix] Available at https://www.cps.org.uk/files/reports/original/111027171245-BritainsBiggestEnterprise1988.pdf Accessed 3 September 2017

[x] See, for example, the NHS Choices web page on Personal Health Budgets. http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/patient-choice/personal-health-budget/Pages/about-phb.aspx Accessed 3 September 2017

[xi] Hawking, S. ‘The NHS saved me. As a scientist, I must help to save it’. London, The Guardian newspaper, 18 August 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/18/nhs-scientist-stephen-hawking Accessed 3 September 2017

[xii] Chomsky, N. ‘The State-Corporate Complex: A Threat to Freedom and Survival’. Text of lecture given at the The University of Toronto, April 7, 2011 (Transcript courtesy of Yvonne Bond). Available at https://chomsky.info/20110407-2/ Accessed 3 September 2017

[xiii] I have summarised the data at http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2017/08/22/nhs-spending-data-necessar... Accessed 3 September 2017

Kevin Logan on Milo Yiannopolis’ Editor’s Notes

I’ve been avoiding talking too much about politics this week as I simply haven’t had the strength to tackle the issues in as much detail as they deserve. Quite apart from the fact that the issues that have been raised in the media this week – the continuing running down of the NHS, the growth of food banks, homelessness and grinding poverty, all to make the poor poorer and inflate the already bloated incomes of the Tory elite, all make me absolutely furious. I’ve been feeling so under the weather that, quite simply, I couldn’t face blogging about them and making myself feel worse mentally as well as physically.

But this is slightly different.

Slate has published a piece about the guidance notes Alt-Right Trumpist cheerleader Milo Yiannopolis has got from his publishers at Simon and Schuster. In this short video, scourge of anti-feminists, racists and general Nazis Kevin Logan goes through the notes, and it’s hilarious.

There are pages and pages of them. And the more you read, the funnier it gets.

You remember Milo Yiannopolis? He was one of the rising stars of the Alt-Right. He’s anti-feminist, anti-immigration and in many peoples’ eyes, racist, although he’s denied that he actually has any Nazi connections. All this despite the fact that he was filmed in a bar getting Hitler salutes from a party of Alt-Right fans.

He was the IT correspondent for Breitbart, many of whose founders, managers and leading staff are racists, and have been described as such by the anti-racism, anti-religious extremism organisation and site Hope Not Hate. Yiannopolis has constantly denied that he’s racist or bigoted by playing the race and sexuality card. He’s half-Jewish, gay, and his partner is Black. And so he argues that he can’t possibly be prejudiced against people of different ethnicities and gays. Well, possibly. But he has said some extremely bigoted, racist and homophobic comments, quite apart from his anti-feminism.

He describes himself as ‘a virtuous troll’. Others just call him a troll. That’s all he is. He’s only good at writing deliberately offensive material, but is otherwise completely unremarkable. But he’s British public school elite, and so Americans, who should know much better, assume that somehow he’s more cultured, knowledgeable, better educated and insightful than he actually is. Sam Seder commented on Yiannopolis that if he wasn’t British, nobody would take any notice of him. I think it’s a fair comment. But it does show the snobbery that goes with class and accent. Incidentally, when I was a kid reading comics, my favourite characters were the Thing in the Fantastic Four, and Powerman, in Powerman and Iron Fist. And it was partly because of their accents. Stan Lee has a terrible memory, and to help him remember which character said what, he used to give them different voices, sometimes based on who was in the media at the time. He made the Thing talk like Jimmy Durante. He was a space pilot, but his speech was that of New York working class. I liked him because he was kind of a blue-collar joe, like my family.

The same with Powerman. He was a Black superhero, real name Luke Cage, who had been subjected to unethical medical experiments to create a superman by a corrupt prison governor after being wrongly convicted. I didn’t understand the racial politics around the strip, but liked the character because he was another lower class character with a working class voice. He also had the same direct approach as the Thing in dealing with supervillains. Whereas Mr. Fantastic, the leader of the Fantastic Four, and Cage’s martial artist partner in fighting crime, Iron Fist would debate philosophically how to deal with the latest threat to the world and the cosmos, according to the demands of reason and science in the case of Mr. Fantastic, and ancient Chinese mystical traditions, in Iron Fists’, the Thing and Powerman simply saw another megalomaniac, who needed to be hit hard until they cried for mercy and stopped trying to take over the world or the universe.

But I digress. Back to Milo. Milo was due to have a book published, but this fell through after he appeared on Joe Rogan’s show defending child abuse. Yiannopolis had been sexually abused himself by a paedophile Roman Catholic priest, but believed that he had been the predator in that situation. From what I understand, the victims of sexual abuse often unfairly blame themselves for their assault, so I’m quite prepared to believe that something like that happened to Yiannopolis. What was unusual – and revolting – was that Yiannopolis appeared to feel no guilt and regret at all about the incident.

Very, very many people were rightly disgust. He got sacked from Breitbart, along with a lot of other companies, his speaking tour had to be cancelled, and the book deal he had managed to finagle fell through.

Well, as Sergeant Major Shut Up used to say on It Ain’t ‘Alf Hot, Mum, ‘Oh, dear. How sad. Never mind.’ It couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke, and Yiannopolis got a taste of the kind invective and vitriol he poured on the ‘SJWs’ and the Left.

He appeared later on to ‘clarify’ his statement – not an apology – saying that he now knew he was the victim of child abuse, and stating that he didn’t promote or approve of the sexual abuse of children. But the damage was done.

Now it seems Yiannopolis’ book deal is back on, though Simon and Schuster really aren’t happy with the manuscript.

Comments include recommendations that he remove the jokes about Black men’s willies, doesn’t call people ‘cucks’, and stop sneering at ugly people. One of these is particularly hilarious, as his editor writes that you can’t claim that ugly people are attracted to the Left. ‘Have you seen the crowd at a Trump rally?’ Quite. I saw the front row of the crowd at BBC coverage of the Tory party convention one year, and they were positively horrific. It seemed to be full of old school country squire types, as drawn by Gerald Scarfe at his most splenetic.

The guidance goes on with comments like ‘No, I will not tolerate you describing a whole class of people as mentally retarded’, and then factual corrections. Like ‘This never happened’. ‘This never happened too.’ ‘No, you’re repeating fake news. There was no Satanism, no blood and no semen’. At one point the editor demands that an entire chapter be excised because it’s just off-topic and offensive.

Here’s the video.

There probably isn’t anything unusual in the amount of editing that Simon and Schuster require. Mainstream publishing houses often request changes or alteration to the manuscript. It happens to the best writers and academics. Years ago I read an interview with the editors of some of the authors of the world’s most influential books. One of them was Germaine Greer’s. Greer had sent in a manuscript about cross-dressing in Shakespeare. A fair enough subject, as there’s a lot of female characters disguising themselves as boys in the Bard’s plays. But she had the insight that Greer was far more interested in gender roles, and suggested she write about that instead. And the result was The Female Eunuch.

At a much lower level of literature, Private Eye had a good chortle about one of ‘Master Storyteller’ Jeffrey Archer’s tawdry epics. Apparently the gossip was that it went through seven rewrites. Ian Fleming’s editor for the Bond books, according to one TV documentary, was a gay man with a keen interest in dressing well. Which is why some of the sex in Bond was less explicit than Fleming intended, but also why Bond became suave, stylish dresser fighting supervillains in impeccably cut dinner suits.

No shame in any of this, then. But what makes it funny is that it’s happened to Yiannopolis, who seems to have been too much of an egotist to think that anything like it could ever really happen to him. Looking through the comments, it’s also clear that the editor really doesn’t like his bigotry, and the invective he spews against racial minorities and the disadvantaged. I got the impression that he or she really didn’t want to have anything to do with book, but has presumably been told they had to work with Yiannopolis because the publishers were going to put it out anyway, no matter what anyone else in the company felt.

And the editor’s clear dislike of his bigotry is a problem for Yiannopolis, because he’s a troll, and that’s just about all he does: pour out sneers, scorn and abuse, like a male version of Anne Coulter, another right-winger, who’s far less intelligent than she thinks she is. And I know that grammatically standards are a bit looser now than they were a few years ago, but when you have the comment ‘This is not a sentence’, it’s clear that Yiannopolis is failing at one of the basic demands of any writer from the editors of small press magazines to the biggest publishing houses and newspapers and magazines. They all insist that you should write properly in grammatically correct sentences. But Yiannopolis has shown that he can’t do that either.

As for the kind of literary snobbery that used to look down very hard on comics and graphic novels, while promoting opinionated bigots like Yiannopolis as ‘serious’ writers, my recommendation is that if you’re given a choice between going to comics convention or seeing Milo, go to the comics convention. You’ll be with nicer people, the comics creators on the panels are very good speakers, and themselves often very literate and cultured. I can remember seeing Charles Vess at the UKCAC Convention in Reading in 1990. Vess is a comics artist, but he’s also produced cover art for SF novels. He gave a fascinating talk about the great artists that have influenced him with slides. And one of the highlights was listening to the publisher of DC, Roy Kanigher, who was very broad New York. Didn’t matter. He was genuinely funny, to the point where the interviewer lost control of the proceedings and Kanigher had the crowd behind him all the way.

Which shows what a lot of people really know already: just because someone’s got a British public school accent, does not make them a genius, or that they’re capable of producing anything worth reading. Comics at their best can be brilliant. They open up children’s and adults’ imaginations, the art can be frankly amazing and quite often the deal with difficult, complex issues in imaginative ways. Think of Neil Gaiman, who started off as one of the writers at 2000 AD before writing the Sandman strip for DC. Or Alan Moore.

Yiannopolis is the opposite. All he does is preach hate, trying to get us to hate our Black, Asian and Latin brothers and sisters, despise the poor, and tell women to know their place. He has no more right to be published, regardless of his notoriety, than anyone else. And the editor’s demand for amendments show it.

Oh, and as regarding publishing fake news, he’d have had far less sympathy from Mike, if by some misfortune Mike had found himself as Yiannopolis’ editor. Proper journalists are expected to check their facts, which Mike was always very keen on. It was he was respected by the people he actually dealt when he was working as a journalist. The problem often comes higher up, at the level of the newspaper editors and publishers. In the case of Rupert Murdoch, I’ve read account of his behaviour at meetings with his legal staff that shows that Murdoch actually doesn’t care about publishing libellous material, if the amount of the fine will be lower than the number of extra copies of the paper the fake news will sale. Fortunately it appears that Simon and Schusters’ editors don’t quite have that attitude. But who knows for how long this will last under Trump. The man is determined to single-handedly destroy everything genuinely great and noble in American culture.

RT Shows Clip of Triple Suns Seen in China

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/12/2017 - 7:17pm in

This is a bit of fun and Fortean weirdness to cheer people up after the gloom and chaos of the seasonal weather and the continuing Tory destruction of the NHS, the economy, and everything decent in our society. A couple of days ago, RT put up this very short video of the triple suns seen in the sky over Hailun City. The blurb for the video states that it mesmerised the residents, and appeared at about half eight in the morning.

It’s an illusion, of course, which the RT blurb duly mentions. I think these type of illusions are called Sundogs, or parhelion. The large, middle sun is the real sun, whose light is refracted by ice or water crystals in the Earth’s atmosphere, thus creating the illusion that there are two smaller suns either side of it. It’s been seen several times in history. I think one appearance is recorded in one of the medieval chronicles for the 12/13th centuries, where three suns were seen by the people of one particular county in England.

I have read attempts to explain the strange creatures seen by the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel as sundogs. When these appeared in the sky before him, they were travelling in strange vehicles like wheels, which also had other wheels revolving within them. This doesn’t actually sound like a sundog to me, and I think the incident is far better explained as a visionary experience. Of course, the UFO crowd have also tried to claim that what Ezekiel saw were really visiting extraterrestrials in their spaceships, following the theories of Von Daniken and the like. I really don’t believe that explanation either. Von Daniken’s ideas have been massively influential in promoting the ‘ancient astronaut’ hypothesis – that Earth has been visited throughout its history by aliens. But it’s also been extensively critiqued itself. Von Daniken got much of his facts wrong, and misinterpreted the archaeological and anthropological evidence he used to support his ideas.

But whatever your view of visiting aliens and UFOs, I think we can all enjoy this strange and weirdly beautiful spectacle.

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