Tag Archives: uk politics

5 Reasons We Need A General Election

NHSpace looks at the arguments for calling a snap general election this autumn.

1 – The Country Dislikes ‘Unelected’ Leaders

When Gordon Brown took over the premiership in 2007, there were moans from the press that he was ‘unelected’. This wasn’t strictly true. Brown had been elected by his constituency, inherited the role of Labour leader from Tony Blair, and had been invited by the Queen to form a government. However, he lacked the mandate that many leaders gain by leading their party through a general election. George Osborne later stated that such leaders lack democratic legitimacy, and William Hague claimed that such leaders are “unacceptable” to the majority of the public. Of course they were talking about Brown; they may not feel the same way when the boot is on the other foot.

2 – Cameron and Johnson Have Abdicated Control

Having lost the EU referendum, David Cameron found himself lacking the legitimacy to continue leading the country. But his Brexit counterpart Boris Johnson has pulled out of the Tory leadership race, apparently knifed in the back by the charmless Michael Gove. The favourite for the leadership is now Theresa May, who backed the Remain campaign. With the options for Tory leader now consisting of Remainers and second-tier Leave figures, the public is unlikely to be happy whatever the result.

3 – There Was No Brexit Manifesto

Despite making a range of promises regarding NHS funding, immigration and the single market, the Leave campaign did not have a formal manifesto. (Since the referendum, they have in fact gone back on several promises and deleted almost all the content from their campaign website.) The manifesto on which the Tories were elected last year also did not detail how they would manage a Brexit vote. Nobody in Westminster has a specific mandate from the public on how to deal with Brexit. The public should now be given a chance to elect MPs based upon their plans to deal with the referendum outcome.

4 – The Country Needs Certainty

The Brexit vote has plunged the country into uncertainty. The country is currently leaderless, nobody is certain if or when Article 50 will be triggered, and the markets have responded by plummeting to historic lows. Without a general election, there will continue to be a lack of strong government, and discontent will continue as the country remains divided by the referendum result.

5 – The Public Want An Election

While most are against the idea of a second EU referendum being called, polls indicate that the majority of the British public want a general election this year. This includes 4 out of 10 Leave voters, some of whom feel they were misled by the Brexit campaign claims.

5 Steps For A New Politics

NHSpace looks at five key steps required to achieve true political reform in the UK.

1: Transparent, Evidence-Based Politics

Decisions made by government are often based on political ideology and are not subject to challenges from outside of the Westminster bubble. The result is a system that puts the needs of the government before the needs of the people. What’s needed is an evidence-based approach to politics, where decision making is supported by expert advice and can be transparently justified to the public, without spin.

2: No More Wasted Votes

Unless your favoured candidate won a seat at the last election, you aren’t truly represented in Parliament. With 50% of votes going to losing candidates in last year’s general election, it’s pretty clear that the First Past The Post system is not fit for purpose. We’d like to see a move towards a proportional voting system, so that the wide range of political opinions in this country can be fairly represented in Parliament.

3: A Cleaner Politics

UK politicians are infamous for indulging in self-centred behaviour, as any reader of Private Eye will no doubt be aware. The expenses scandal in 2009 led to some minor reforms, but many problems remain. MPs are permitted to vote on matters despite having vested interests. Parties take large donations from corporations, then hand privatised services to them. And MPs are still free to pass through the “revolving door”, taking jobs from companies in return for political favours. The system is in dire need of reform.

4: Respect For Public Services

Public services in the UK are currently poorly funded and subject to constant political interference. There is little evidence that perennial reforms to healthcare and education have had any beneficial effect, despite costing billions of taxpayers’ money. We believe that public services should be publicly owned, properly funded, and managed at arm’s length from government, by experts rather than politicians.

5: Economic Reform

Political and economic reform are strongly interdependent. The current political system strongly favours the richest 1% of the population, who in return support the two party system. Deregulation has led to a global financial crash and growing inequality. There is a need for economic reform, including greater regulation of the financial sector and an end to the austerity regime. The party also supports a fair living wage and investment in jobs in public services.

We Need To Talk About Jeremy… Corbyn

Dr Clive Peedell explains why we cannot afford to wait for Labour to wake up:

It’s impossible to avoid the Labour leadership competition, whether you feel you have a stake in it or not. It’s equally impossible to avoid the fact that people who left the Labour Party for another party (or simply stopped their membership) are now wondering whether they should go back.

I am not going to hazard any guesses about the leadership campaign. The Labour Party’s decisions are theirs to make. What I do know is that the election doesn’t take place until the end of September. They then have to return to Parliament, and a shadow cabinet has to be formed.

Their disarray gives the Tories a clear run, and being in summer recess has not slowed them down.

But it’s not just about the time frame. Whether they coalesce or fragment around Jeremy Corbyn’s challenge to the status quo, the Labour Party’s very open disagreements may actually contribute to the formation of a new political landscape. The SNP has shown itself capable of reigniting political passions in Scotland. The Green Party grew in the 12 months leading up to the general election. Labour’s own membership has increased since the general election. There is an appetite for a new politics. All this against a backdrop of a Tory government claiming a mandate on less than 24% of the eligible vote. Clearly our democracy itself needs an overhaul.

What concerns us, however, and with pressing urgency, are the actions of the government on the NHS and our public services during this period when the Labour Party is otherwise pre-occupied.

On Thursday, the first CCG announced it would be passing its responsibilities on to an as-yet-unspecified provider led accountable care organisation. Reported in the Health Service Journal, Northumberland CCG’s proposal is part of its overhaul of its care and contracting. It was one of the 29 national vanguard sites identified in March. We heard from campaigners in other vanguard sites that they were expecting similar announcements to follow soon. And it was very soon, as NHS England announced a support scheme for those vanguards on Friday.

There is precious little debate or publicity around these changes.

There is no explanation in the media of where this path is leading. The use of US insurance based ‘buddying partners’ such as Kaiser Permanente to develop the NHS is now established as the model of choice. American hospital managers from Virginia Mason have been brought in to teach ‘lean management’ to five NHS Hospital Trusts.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt has set an ultimatum for a September deadline on negotiations over doctors’ contracts, warning he will impose a contract unilaterally.

The doctors are fighting back and Saturday’s Independent supported them. But we are seriously concerned that this frames the debate as Jeremy Hunt’s personal failure to understand the NHS or respect the doctors. And we note that he also says a ‘huge effort’ is required to keep the NHS publicly funded.

Which brings us back to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership contest. I agree that a huge effort is required to keep the NHS publicly funded. I can also see that every step towards the adoption of US systems of management and ‘accountable care’ takes us one step further towards co-payments and insurance instead.

I just can’t see anyone taking time out from the Labour leadership contest to shout very loudly ‘look what’s happening right now, this summer, to the NHS’.

And since that isn’t happening I ask you to stay with us, stay with our fight to keep this on the agenda, help us to spread the word and fuel the rightful anger that first prompted me and my colleagues to form this party. It’s an anger which should be spreading like wildfire.

There’ll be time enough to reconsider allegiances if and when the Labour Party rejoins the fight for public service. But I firmly believe we don’t need an oppositional democracy with only two parties that take turns. That way leads to stagnation and the systemic corruption of the revolving door. We need a progressive alliance.

Greece, the NHS, and Democracy

Deborah Harrington draws parallels between the Greek economy and England’s health service.

Three things stand out in the documents Wikileaks published showing the detailed bailout terms for Greece: the removal of political power, giving them no other option but to the privatise their services; the sequestration of their public assets into a private holding company; and the removal of choice over their economic policy. Together these form the effective removal of their democracy.

It is not only the immediate decision that has that effect, but in the long term, what is left for a Greek government to legislate on, other than the deployment of their armed forces and police to quell the riots?

Has democracy in the UK already gone the same way, but with the cooperation of the government in our case? Our public assets are being sold off at extraordinary speed, and have been transferred into private company portfolios pending sale. The NHS is being privatised in profound ways. The Health Secretary is no longer legally responsible for the NHS. We no longer have a right to healthcare. Austerity and privatisation were forced on Greece; here our government accepted them voluntarily.

Selling England By The Pound

Hospitals we used to own are being demolished whilst the new PFI ones are not in our ownership, but in private consortia. We have to lease them back and are tied into maintenance contracts whose combined cost can be more than 20% of the annual budget, financially destabilising the hospital and damaging patient care.

All this and more – contracting out, complex relations between different fund holders – has enormous cost attached. This is not about ‘NHS management’ but about the proliferation of private healthcare management companies involved at every stage – negotiating contracts for PFI, drawing up tender documents for every kind of service from cleaning to cancer care and advising on the financial ‘viability’ of hospitals, which can now be bankrupted as they are businesses, not public assets. When the Trusts are put into liquidation the administration process is also run by these companies.

We are so deeply enmeshed in this ‘depoliticising’ of our administration that we can’t even see it. Where was the outcry when the ownership of some of our schools and hospitals was found in the offshore tax avoiding accounts of HSBC who had been advised by PwC? Why is PwC still involved in advising at government level and running our public sector at operational level when the Public Accounts Committee said they were responsible for ‘industrial scale tax avoidance schemes’?

Like Pasok in Greece, the Labour Party agrees with the political Right that management of the economy under austerity rules is the only acceptable proposition. They may (possibly) deviate on the means to achieve it, but not the principle. We have a dominant political voice agreeing that There Is No Alternative. Labour and Tories alike have called for the state to be reduced and ‘resilient’ communities built. (A resilient community is one that can survive on an individual and collective level without state support mechanisms.)

NHS Healthcare on a par with NHS Dentistry?

The list goes on… but the NHS won’t. The devolution project will split the national NHS budget into a hundred pieces to be privatised by local councils and city mayors. As with social care the NHS will become a last resort for the poor, whilst the rest will end up as means tested and chargeable, either through co payments or insurance. Imagine the health service being operated on the same lines as dentistry and you’ll get the picture. Local authorities will provide a minimal service for the poor, in health, social care and social security combined. At the dentist the free or low cost treatment is called ‘NHS’ treatment, but it’s as far a cry from the principles of universal, comprehensive and equitable treatment that have characterised the NHS as it can possibly be.

Those people who keep saying ‘it doesn’t matter who provides the service’ had better buck up their ideas and start fighting against this. Otherwise we may well find, as in Greece, that when the NHS is gone, democracy has gone with it.

It’s Time To End Political Corruption

UK politics is systemically corrupt. The examples are almost too easy to find:

The weaknesses of the UK political system are there for all to see. We have a First Past The Post system that encourages a two party state in which most seats are safe and ‘swing voters’ opt for the lesser of two evils. The majority of party funding comes from private donations. The largest donations come from big companies and rich individuals, and there is no limit on donation size. Politicians are allowed to vote on bills where they have a conflict of interest, and once they leave government they are free to take up a highly-paid role in a private corporation that benefited from said votes. The end result is a corrupt government passing laws to benefit itself and its corporate sponsors.

How do you end political corruption on such a scale? NHSpace has a few suggestions:

  1. Put a cap on donations – both for individual donations and the total amount a party can receive.
  2. Put an embargo on MPs and peers having shares in private firms. They can easily do without.
  3. Make it harder for MPs and peers to support bills where they have a conflict of interest.
  4. Close the ‘revolving door’ and end the outsourcing of government duties to private firms.
  5. Link MP’s earnings to the minimum wage and cut back on extravagances.
  6. Make it easier for constituents to remove their MP from parliament.
  7. Make the move to a proportional voting system and end the two party system.