Killing the NHS: Why Are The Tories Getting Away With It?


In the US, because of that country’s notorious fetishization of self-reliance, it has been appallingly easy for would-be exploiters to portray anything cooperative as being Communist, with the result that the gulf between the rich and the poor is horrendous, healthcare is a privilege and not a right, and it is possible for weird, self-defeating movements like the Tea Party to persuade ordinary people that is somehow a good idea to slavishly empower the same super-rich people who have treated them with disdain for three decades and outsourced all their jobs in search of greater profits for themselves and their shareholders, and then conjured up the greatest theft in history through deregulating the financial sector.

In the UK — the US-lite, in so many ways — it has taken a while for Tea Party-style self-defeating stupidity to take root, but successive governments — and their corporate advisors — have long been fascinated by the profits to be made in following the hyper-capitalism of the US, and, following the deranged property-driven bubble of the Labour years (which almost everyone bought into, and which is still preserved in the inflated house prices in London and the south east), the Tory-led coalition government now appears to be succeeding in its efforts to con British voters into accepting an artificial, ideologically driven “age of austerity.”

In this latest cynical assault on the British people, the Tories and their cowardly or deluded Lib Dem accomplices — while largely shielding the City thieves and corporate tax-avoiders from public scrutiny — have managed to persuade voters to believe that “we’re all in it together” in having to “tighten our belts,” even though those making these pronouncements are wealthy Etonians whose face fat alone ought to indicate that they’re not “in it with us” at all.

Such is the power of the “austerity” message that the Tories managed to persuade their own voters, in many cases, to accept the ideological slashing of state support to all arts, humanities and social science courses at Britain’s universities — even though this may permanently impoverish Britain’s cultural abilities, just when they are needed the most. They then encountered  opposition to their plans to sell off Britain’s forests, which they apologised for, but then pressed ahead with once everyone thought they had won. However, despite this blip, they unequivocally found and fostered new buds of neo-fascistic intolerance for their demolition of welfare for the disabled and unemployed, and they even seem to be getting away with their plans to hollow out the NHS, filling it instead with corporations anxious to erode vital services to boost their profits.

Given that the NHS is the most popular institution in the country by far, this may well come back to fell these arrogant vandals at the ballot box, but while critics have, understandably, been targeting Lib Dem MPs and peers, in the hope of persuading them to recall that they are in a coalition with Tory executioners, but are not actually Tory executioners themselves, no one seems to have considered for a moment that it would be worth targeting Tory MPs as well, beginning with those with the smallest majorities and working upwards.

Yesterday, for example, as two last-ditch attempts to derail Andrew Lansley’s disgraceful NHS privatisation bill failed in the House of Commons — a “drop the bill” amendment by Labour, and a genuinely last-minute not “in its current form” amendment by the Lib Dems, inspired by an e-petition opposing the bill and signed by 174,000 people, and by dissent at the LIb Dem spring conference at the weekend — the Tories who overwhelmingly voted for it never came under scrutiny for a moment. Like an impregnable wall, made up not of individual MPs with constituents, but of undiluted, unelected arrogance, the 305 Tory MPs followed the party line, while the government’s majority of 84 (which depends on the 57 Lib Dems) was cut to 56 in the Labour amendment and 54 in the Lib Dem amendment, as various Lib Dems dared to dissent.

This is not quite the end of the Parliamentary process for the bill, although it was a depressing day, as, in the House of Lords, where it was also being debated, the government “also won a string of votes on amendments by Labour and cross-bench peers,” as the Guardian explained, “including a motion calling for the third part of the bill — introducing more competition into the NHS — to be delayed until beyond the general election in 2015.” That was the final vote of the day, and the government won by 237 votes to 178.

What remains is the controversial risk register, analysing the impact of the planned reforms, which Andrew Lansley has persistently hidden, and which the government has now been ordered to release twice by a tribunal — most recently, last Friday. I first wrote about the risk register in November, and discussed the government’s dissembling reasons for refusing to release it last week, but it now appears to be the last barrier to the coalition’s plan to destroy the NHS, as the cross-bench peer David Owen — Lord Owen — has recognised.

A longtime opponent of the bill, Lord Owen has not followed his colleague, Shirley Williams, into deluded acceptance of the bill, after a year of amendments that still leave its core aims unaffected. Instead, he “has tabled an amendment calling for the final reading of the health and social care bill in the House of Lords to be delayed until the risk register is published,” as the Guardian explained, noting, “The move will put pressure on Lib Dem peers, whose party members last weekend refused to vote at their spring conference for a motion calling on them to support the bill.”

Last week, after the tribunal ruled that the risk register should be published, Lord Owen “urged peers to vote for his amendment on Monday,” as the Guardian also explained, and did so with a powerful reminder of how the Tories have behaved scandalously in pushing forward within their planned legislation, and how it is imperative that the Lib Dem peers refuse to accept the bill being railroaded through Parliament while the risk register remains unpublished.

These were his words, and it only remains for me to encourage readers to write to every Lib Dem peer before Monday to ask them to pay heed:

To go ahead with legislation, while appealing to the high court, would be the third constitutional outrage associated with this legislation. The first was to legislate within months of the prime minister promising in the general election that there would be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS. The second was to implement large parts of the legislation without parliamentary authority. The attempt to railroad this legislation through both Houses of Parliament has raised very serious questions about the legitimacy of this coalition government. Now at the last moment parliament has a chance to assert its democratic rights and the many Liberal Democrat peers, who know in their heart of hearts that this legislative procedure is fundamentally wrong, have the opportunity to stand by their principles.

Note: If you’re in London, please attend the protest outside the Department of Health, on Saturday at 2.30 pm (79 Whitehall, opposite the Cenotaph), and also please circulate the information about this protest. We need to make it as big as possible. What are you doing on Saturday afternoon? Shopping?

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

31 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Alces Acres wrote:

    Yes, of Course. Cause the system works so Well in the US…

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    For the profiteers, yes. Not so good for the people. of course, if you can’t afford the insurance. But then David Cameron is the first modern British Prime Minister to make it obvious that he actually doesn’t care about the people at the bottom of society …

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Charmaine Dolan wrote:

    Of course some previous prime ministers didnt care either but they made it less obvious 😉

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Alces Acres wrote:

    Too many of them ya know, for profit prisons next on the agenda? Harvest the Unwanted Eaters for Profit.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Charmaine, and thanks again, Alces. You’re right, of course, Charmaine, about previous unfeeling PMs. I’m thinking here, as I’m sure you are, of how Labour began the unforgivable assault on the welfare bill for the disabled. However, this government coincided with an economic depression (perhaps THE life-changing economic depression), so punishing the unemployed was particularly cruel, as the unemployed had no other option, and I find that particularly sickening. Plus, Cameron and his butchers have really ramped up the hostility towards “scrounging” disabled people. Have we really sunk this low?

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Alces Acres wrote:

    No Low, is Too Low, in the Race to the Bottom. Are We Winning Yet?

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Charmaine Dolan wrote:

    Yes agree with all the above. I was thinking as far back as Maggie! With right to buy everything was hunky dory but they never put any money into rebuilding new social housing. As you say things took another fall hitting the poor the hardest with the so-called economic downturn. And yes, the welfare bill is abominable as is the unemployment rate – highest in how many years?

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Charmaine. “Jobless total at 17-year high,” the BBC tells me:

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I’m sharing this, Andy.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, George. Much appreciated.

  11. damo68 says...

    why are people so brainwashed and passive…even thatcher knew not to fuck with the nhs..i can believe wots happening in this country its time to leave .the nhs was the reward for all the sacrifice the british people made during ww2 and thease chinless wonders are handing it over to the corperate trough pigs,the very same theives lyers and shysters that caused this finnantial crisis..thease monsters have nothing but contempt for anyone who isnt one of them,we are useless eaters to them ,they dont care if you live or die as long as theres money to be made,new labour were no good they were stinking champage socialists..shoot every single politition in the country.start again.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    What a brilliant analysis of everything that’s gone wrong, Damo. Thanks.

  13. Universal Citizen says...

    The Government is getting away with this because there is very little if any coverage in the mainstream Media …so the general public are unaware of just exactly what the hell is going on … I suspect that the reason for this lack of information in the media is due to the fact that people like Murdoch are in thick with Gove … and the Director of the BBC has invested heavily (is a director of) a number of private health companies, who stand to make huge profits from their involvement in the privatised NHS ….. in short …. our country is now riddled with CORRUPTION ……

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s very interesting, Universal Citizen. Do you have a source for the claim that the BBC DG is involved with a number of private health companies?
    In general, i do think that a huge problem that we have with corruption — which largely goes unmentioned — is that people in positions of power and responsibility have investments that, very obviously, cloud their judgment and lead to a bias in favour of these interests. Presumably we aren’t supposed to notice …
    I’m also reflecting that, although MPs and peers are required to declare any involvement they have with outside companies, in reality it means nothing. Those with a vested interest in the privatisation of the NHS, for example, simply shouldn’t have been allowed to vote at all. That would have been interesting. I doubt that the government would have won if all those who have been bought off by private companies were prohibited from playing any part in approving the legislation.

  15. Universal Citizen says...

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank, Universal Citizen. I hadn’t seen that.

  17. Universal Citizen says...

    Hi Andy …the link above shoud take you to the article about the BBC guy and his interests.
    I am feeling increasingly dismayed at what this Government is doing …. they are destroying all the great things that were in place which gave us a chance at social equality …. it’s appears they are spitefully pulling out everything that Labour put in place …. Cameron listens to no one …. He is displaying all the signs of someone with a Narcisistic Personality Disorder. (look up a list of traits and you’ll see the similarities) M.Ps should be required to have independant mental health assesments …. (in my opinion)

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Universal Citizen. I changed the link to the direct URL. Very interesting.
    I think unfortunately Cameron does listen to a few people, but only from his own narrow circle of mostly like-minded, equally arrogant Etonians. I’d like us to stop having to elect people whose only qualification is their desire for political power, and not any actual experience of anything practical.

  19. Universal Citizen says...

    Oh happy day …. surely the bstrd’s goose is cooked now … with this latest outrageous revelation concerning the filmed admittance of corruption in the Conservative party: If a rich businessman wants something changed in ‘Policy’ he just has to part with £250,000 and dinner will be arranged with Cameron and Co …. where your concerns will be listened to and considered re policy making …. Although I noticed that the BBC has already run a news report on this; suggesting that if party funds are not raised in this way then the public will have to pay to support the Party through Taxes …. which strikes me as an attempt at more ‘subtle’ oppression of the masses through mental manipulation ….

  20. Universal Citizen says...

    Six year jail term for first person convicted under the UK Bribery Act

    Posted by Louise Roberts on November 22, 2011

    Back in September 2011, we reported on this blog how the first proceedings under the UK Bribery Act 2010 had been commenced against a Court clerk who had accepted money from various people to help them avoid prosecution for motoring offences. Mr Patel, the Court clerk, was charged with requesting and receiving a bribe intending to improperly perform his functions, an offence under section 2 of the Bribery Act 2010.

    Mr Patel faced a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and / or an unlimited fine under the Bribery Act, but life imprisonment for the offence of misconduct in a public office, with which he was also charged. Mr Patel was sentenced on Friday (18 November 2011) to 3 years for the Bribery Act offence and 6 years for misconduct in a public office. The sentences will run concurrently.

    Although this case did not involve a corporate and so provided no indication as to the level of sentences that may be imposed for the corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery, the case does show that the Courts are willing to impose tough sentences, including imprisonment, on those engaged in bribery. It is likely that other cases will follow in the near future.

  21. Universal Citizen says...

  22. Universal Citizen says...

    interesting stuff …. ???? (above)

    I think Cameron only listens to people who are saying what he wants to hear …. I agree … our current system , clearly has major flaws and could allow complete madmen into postions of incredible power … which they then are apt to abuse …. I’ll see if I can find something for you about Narcisists …… clever, manipulative but ultimately uncaring people, with a single minded goal …. to have things ‘their own way’ : for mine is the Kingdom the power and the glory …. a man ) :

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, thanks, Universal Citizen. I agree with you re: narcissism, and often mention my related feelings that psychopaths/sociopaths are suited to positions of power, because of their concern with power and their insensitivity.
    Thanks also for the information about the Bribery Act, which I hadn’t seen, and which would seem to be of relevance.
    As for the revelations about the Tories, I really do hope they don’t get away with this. Sleaze is endemic, as the passage of the NHS privatisation bill has demonstrated — far too many MPs and peers have vested interests (on the NHS, specifically in companies that will benefit from the planned reforms), making them unable to act impartially. It’s been striking me recently that, of course, this type of corruption involves almost every MP. It’s time for this casual corruption to end, obviously, or we might as well forget about even pretending that MPs are even vaguely concerned about the interests of the people they are elected to represent.
    No MP should be allowed to vote on any legislation that involves companies in which they have any sort of financial involvement.

  24. Universal Citizen says...

    Here’s an interesting piece about the characteristics of those with Narcisisstic Personality Disorder …. they have the sort of ‘qualities’ that might lead along the path to powerful positions …. but they are not the sort of people you would want heading a Democracy.

  25. Universal Citizen says...

    Hi Andy … it’s a pretty devistating realisation isn’t it … the whole ‘ Democratic political system’ is begining to look like a sophisticated con.

    It’s not acceptable.

    I hope they don’t manage to weasel their way out of this (Cammy is already telling us that he will launch an investigation, but he can’t investigate himself, that needs to be independent and unbiased) … what do we, the electorate/people, need to do to make sure they don’t get away with it?

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    I think this is the moment when sleaze has attached itself to the Tories, and will not be easily removed, Universal Citizen. The majority of people are more apathetic than ever, it seems to me, but even so there has never been a political party that made itself impervious to criticism, and no one can tell what scandal or misconceived policy decision, whether singly or in conjunction, will begin to change people’s minds. The last week really ought to be the beginning of the end for the Tories.

  27. Universal Citizen says...

    Lets hope so … would be nice to see a completely new way of ‘governing’ manifest Globally …. based on the noble values of wisdom and compassion …. headed by experts in each department …. perhaps a World Council of esteemed advisors ….. things have to change , don’t they …. people the world over are up in arms about the greed, cruelty corruption etc, that is enveloping the planet.

    I thought you might find the following link interesting …. it’s a blog by a legal bod who seems to be an expert on the Anti Bribery Act ….

    night night ….. take care x

  28. Universal Citizen says...

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, and good night. Excellent links:
    “Being found out was completely unacceptable … I’ll make sure there is a proper party inquiry to make sure being found out never happens again.”

  30. b says...

    because the nhs is shite and needs to be changed
    tories suck as do they all but i do agree this nhs shake up needs to happen get rid of pct they do sweet FA

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    Some evidence might be nice, but you’re entitled to your opinion, of course.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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