Is Gordon Brown living in the past, or on another planet?

Let them waste less food and go without rights, says Brown.

What century is this man living in?

He’s flying off to a G8 summit in Japan, but he can’t help lecturing us about the food we throw away before stuffing his face with a six course meal.

He’s denied all along that his police state “anti-terror” measures are eroding our rights, but admits that there are rights taken by previous governments that have not yet been returned.

From yesterday’s Morning Star:

Living in the past
(Monday 07 July 2008)

GORDON Brown apparently believes that successful governments are those that do not hark back to the past.

So why does he hark back to the industrial relations regime imposed by Margaret Thatcher in the anti-union 1980s rather than supporting the kind of basic trade union rights that almost every other developed capitalist country regards as normal?

Why is he hooked on the tradition begun by Mrs Thatcher and continued by John Major and Tony Blair whereby Britain is singled out by the International Labour Organisation as being in breach of ILO conventions?

Sound bites such as “combining fairness and flexibility” are meaningless waffle that serve to camouflage new Labour’s subservience to big business.

Trade unions have been patient with new Labour, far too patient, as it has demeaned Britain’s 6.5 million trade unionists, sought to weaken the unions’ link with the party they founded and flaunted its preference for big business and wealthy individuals.

While individual Labour Party membership has plummeted, contributing to a financial crisis, new Labour’s rich fair-weather friends have done a runner now that they can no longer expect knighthoods and House of Lords seats for their largess.

No less than 90 per cent of the party’s finance now comes from Britain’s trade unionists.

Given that the Prime Minister is effectively a dead man walking, just one more lousy election result away from the sack, why should the unions put up with his arrogant disdain.

From the earliest days of Bernie Ecclestone’s £1 million donation coinciding with the government’s watering down of its ban on tobacco advertising on TV, big business has received a return on its investments in Labour.

In contrast, the trade unions have continued to fork out cash for little or nothing in return.

As one prominent leader put it, “We give cash to Labour to secure a Labour government not to buy policies.”

This differentiation between the industrial and parliamentary wings of the labour movement is understandable except in a context where the party’s internal democracy has been suspended, with conference denied the right to take policy decisions and delegates serving only to provide ego-boosting standing ovations for the leadership.

Labour is sleepwalking to electoral oblivion and yet the only response is for unnamed prominent people to suggest that loss of Glasgow East would mean a challenge to Gordon Brown’s leadership.

The situation is too important for such personality games. What improvement would there be if he were replaced by Charles Clarke, Alan Johnson, Alan Milburn or any other of his partners in crime?

The fault lies not with individuals. It lies with new Labour’s entire neoliberal approach, which is undermining the NHS and all public services and driving down living standards for working people, pensioners and the poor.

That approach has to be changed or Labour will go down to be replaced by a Tory-led government that will be, if anything, worse.

However, to expect Labour’s lost voters to return solely on the basis of claims that the Tories will be worse would be futile.

The unions have to force a change in government policies or look for an alternative political vehicle.

And today’s Morning Star editorial points out that the popularity of the nationalists in Wales and Scotland is because of their commitment to the public services:

Lessons on health care
(Tuesday 08 July 2008)

DOES the Prime Minister ever stop to wonder why the Scottish National Party government in Holyrood and the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition in the National Assembly of Wales constantly outflank it to the left on health issues?

Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to take action to prevent notorious US health privateers taking over GP surgeries did not arise out of a doctrinaire hostility to the private sector.

SNP willingness to take the Brian Souter shilling, or, more accurately, about 10 million of them, and to drop its commitment to public ownership of Scotland’s rail services indicates a certain political flexibility.

The SNP is engaged on a strategy of seeking to use the early years of its minority administration in Holyrood to broaden its appeal, to win over many left-of-centre voters who traditionally vote Labour and to use this greater constituency to win an independence referendum in 2010.

Like the coalition in Cardiff Bay, it is aware that a non-commercial attitude to the health service is popular with the public.

In Wales, the cancellation of prescription charges and the abolition of car parking charges in hospitals, which served as a tax on the sick and their families, have proved extremely popular.

And the stock of impressive Welsh Health and Social Services Minister Edwina Hart has never been higher by virtue of her principled refusal to countenance the internal market nonsense that has become an article of faith for members of Gordon Brown’s Cabinet.

Despite the disapproval of Westminster Welsh MPs and of erstwhile colonial governor Peter Hain, both Welsh Labour AMs and their sometimes difficult allies in Plaid have stuck to their guns.

Why? Because voters understand that public is better than private when it comes to health care.

They know that health privateers owe priority to their shareholders’ dividends, whereas the NHS ethos is based on care and service, paid for out of the public purse.

Every pound paid out to a United Health shareholder is one pound less to be invested in better care and services. It’s not rocket science.

Voters understand it, but it seems beyond the superbrains of the Labour Cabinet who, bizarrely, equate private with efficient.

It seems inexplicable that a Labour government would seek to learn lessons from the example offered by the US.

Yes, they spend more money on health in the States than anywhere else and they have some of the most modern, state-of-the-art facilities in the world.

Well, that’s not surprising. It’s the richest country in the world, but having the largest health budget doesn’t mean having the most efficient or comprehensive.

They spend most because their health-care model is based on private insurance, encouraging high and ever-rising costs of surgery and bloated bureaucracy, to meet the needs of corporate shareholders.

There is nothing efficient about a health-care system that omits 50 million citizens, who are sidelined because they have no valid insurance.
The US ought to be the last country to which a Labour government looks to learn lessons.

In fact, given new Labour’s obsession with the mythical land of middle England, perhaps it might be better placed to look to Wales and Scotland for brighter examples of rational health care.

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2 Responses to “Is Gordon Brown living in the past, or on another planet?”

  1. Chris Abbott Says:

    Actually, the Barnett Formula allows better standards of health care, free prescriptions, etc, in Scotland and Wales. It’s a system which discriminates against every citizen of England and was put in place by the Labour administration of the late 1970s.

    It’s something the head of the BMA chose to ignore in his speech, as is the fact that the “English disease” in the NHS is something imposed on us by a PM representing a Scots constituency, who has proclaimed himself “proud to be Scottish” and that Foundation Hospitals were foisted on England by non-representative MPs from Scots constituencies – who overturned the vote of MPs from England.

  2. charliemarks Says:

    Well, the Barnett formula means that the devolved national administrations are handed an ammount of money and can choose their own priorities, as far as I understand it. The marketisation and privatisation of healthcare in England is but a form of subsidising corporate profits, and I’m sure that a devolved English parliament with a fair voting system would deliver an administration willing to undo the damage done to the NHS over the last few decades.


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