jeremy corbyn is a stalinist fraud with mccluskey’s union money behind him

Labour’s pose as defender of the NHS exposed
Robert Stevens, WSWS, Dec 11 2019

The crisis facing Britain’s NHS has dominated the closing stages of the general election campaign. Starved of funds for a decade under two Conservative-led governments, research by the Patient Association published by the Guardian found that 5,500 NHS patients have died over the past three years due to spending so long on a trolley in overcrowded hospital Accident and Emergency units. Much of the NHS is now in the hands of private sector, as depicted in John Pilger’s new film, The Dirty War on the National Health Service. Labour’s claim to be the only party that will defend the NHS is the main reason many support the party, but like most of its main pledges, this too is without genuine substance. The most devastating rebuttal of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s rhetoric about there being just days to “save the NHS” by electing a Labour government was provided by his Shadow Health Secretary, Jon Ashworth. On Monday, a news report went viral of Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson refusing to look at a photo of a four-year-old boy suspected of having pneumonia lying on the floor of Leeds General Infirmary for the lack of a bed. Ashworth was dispatched by Corbyn Tuesday morning to promote Labour’s NHS policies in the media and explain that the photo episode sums up the Tories’ callous attitude to the NHS, after a decade of austerity cuts that have brought it to the brink of collapse. But this gave the Tory blog Guido Fawkes the opportunity to leak a recent phone conversation between Ashworth and one of his Tory friends, Greig Baker, a former chair of the Canterbury Conservative Association and chief executive of the GUIDE Consultancy, which “helps companies affected by political change,” by providing a “political and commercial intelligence service.” During the call, Ashworth is heard repeatedly denouncing Corbyn and insisting that under him Labour cannot win the election. He states of the Blairite coup against Corbyn in 2016:

We fucked it up in 2016 when we went too early. People like me were internally saying this isn’t the right moment, but I got ignored. We went too early, so now I’m afraid.

Ashworth went on to tell Baker that the civil service would have to “safeguard security” if Corbyn enters Downing Street Friday. This sounds ominously in light of threats by senior military figures to organise a “mutiny” against a Corbyn government. Baker puts this to Ashworth:

If it works out alright, as I assume we both hope, and there is some sort of workable majority for Johnson, how long do you reckon it will take Labour to get its act back together and get rid of Corbyn? We talked about this before, haven’t we?

Ashworth replies that moves are underway, reassuring Baker:

Well, that is the thing that a lot of us are … It is on our minds. I think things can change quickly. I think things change more quickly generally now … I think things are more fluid.

This is the Blairite scoundrel that is to be placed in charge of the NHS by Corbyn if he wins office tomorrow! Ashworth is just one of the many right-wing MPs that Corbyn has worked cheek-by-jowl with for years as leader. He began working for the Labour Party in 2001 as a Political Research Officer and within three years was a close adviser to Blair’s chancellor, Gordon Brown. When Brown took over from Blair as PM in 2007, Ashworth was appointed deputy political secretary, specifically to liaise with the trade unions. The NHS can never be defended by these anti-working-class forces, who are conspiring with the Tories to ensure a Johnson victory while being shielded by Corbyn in the name of “party unity.” Moreover, even if Corbyn did succeed in implementing his policies in government, they would not even scratch the surface of the crisis facing UK healthcare. Some policies would even make things worse. Corbyn’s foreword to the manifesto on defending the NHS promises:

Labour will give the NHS the funding it needs, end privatisation, and never let our health service be up for grabs in any trade negotiation.

But Labour offers only the most minimal cash injection for the NHS, even less than the right-wing Blair government and barely more than the Tories! The document states:

Labour will invest in the NHS to give patients the modern, well-resourced services they need. We will increase expenditure across the health sector by an average 4.3%/yr.

This headline figure includes Social Care spending, with the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) noting that under Labour’s plans NHS spending in England will increase by just 3.8% in real terms. Labour’s NHS spending pledge is a reduction on what was pledged last June, when Ashworth said:

Labour would top up NHS spending growth to around the 5% which is needed.

Blair and Brown’s governments (1997-2010) saw annual average real growth rates in NHS expenditure reach 6%, according to the IFS. Since then, more than £20b has been slashed from the NHS in “efficiency savings” by the last two Tory governments. Nowhere in Corbyn’s manifesto is this mentioned, let alone any pledge made to reverse it. The manifesto notes that the NHS requires 100,000 more staff, including 43,000 nurses, and that social care staff numbers are down by 120,000. But it makes no pledge to recruit the massive numbers of staff desperately needed and halt the jobs cull. In addition, Labour’s manifesto pledges that if Britain leaves the EU, freedom of movement for EU citizens “will be subject to negotiations,” meaning it will be ended. Its immigration policy will be based on a “work visa system” that “must fill any skills or labour shortages that arise.” This policy would have devastating consequences for the NHS, when 65,000 NHS employees in England, 5.5% of all staff, are EU nationals. Moreover, 13.1% of NHS staff list their nationality as non-British. The Health Foundation warned last month:

A growing workforce crisis threatens patient care, with 1 in 8 nursing posts vacant across the NHS. International recruitment is the only way to fill the gaps. We will need at least 5,000 nurses from other countries each year for the next 5 years.

Labour has outlined vague plans to reduce the working week to 32 hours (a four-day week) over the next decade. This was to include the 1 million workers employed in the NHS. On Tuesday, however, Jeremy Corbyn declared:

The whole point is that over a period, increases in productivity will lead to lower working-time hours, but it’s not going to be forced on the NHS.

He added that a reduction in hours for any group of workers under Labour would be funded “through productivity in all industries and places of work.” Labour’s manifesto promises to abolish the Tories’ 2012 Health and Social Care Act, which accelerated the privatisation agenda imposed by successive Labour and Tory governments and removed the duty of the health secretary to provide a universal healthcare system in England. It adds:

We will end the requirement on health authorities to put services out to competitive tender.

This cannot be taken at face value. An identical pledge to scrap the Act was contained in Labour’s 2017 manifesto, but Ashworth himself clarified just days prior to the 2017 election that Labour would only partially repeal the Act. As noted by the Health Care Times, Labour would only remove the Act’s Section 75 regulations, used to enforce competition and tendering on a compulsory basis, through the regulator, Monitor. Ashworth insisted:

There has always been a private element of health provision in this country.

The NHS will not be defended by any of the parties of big business, including Labour. The social right to healthcare can only be defended on the basis of the independent initiative of the working class and the fight for a workers’ government.

Pilger documentary goes to the heart of the struggle for democracy today
Jean Shaoul, WSWS, Dec 10 2019

The Dirty War on the National Health Service, written and directed by the BAFTA and Emmy award-winning journalist and film director John Pilger, has opened in several UK cities. The screenings, some accompanied by Q&A sessions with the director, have been sold out. The film will reach a far wider audience on ITV, but it will only be aired after the election on Dec 17 because of the political sensitivity of the issue, following a ruling by the television regulatory authority Ofcom. Pilger’s work is a passionate appeal to working people to oppose the decades-long, covert assault on the National Health Service (NHS) by all three major parties. Even for this writer, whose professional work was bound up with exposing the secret privatisation and balkanization of the NHS, the film proved deeply shocking. Pilger introduced The Dirty War saying that he had wanted to make it for some time, even though he had already made a couple of films about the NHS. He noted that the war on the NHS had been going on a long time but was at a crucial stage now. The NHS, said Pilger, has become a major issue in the election precisely because it “represents democracy.” But what was at stake was more than “just” the dismantling by the corporate vultures of a system that was, in principle at least, a comprehensive and universal service, free at the point of use from the cradle to the grave. Pilger explains in the film:

Britain’s deadly disease was class. The NHS was not given from on high, but won in struggle. It exemplifies what is good in British society. The NHS is a deeply democratic institution. The leaflet announcing the NHS to the British people and given to everyone said, ‘Open to all, rich and poor.’ But the corporations hate the NHS. They and the politicians are carrying out a war against it. We have to fight for it. We should have done so earlier, because it touches all our lives. It is the great connector between all of us. If the NHS goes, everything else will go.

Pilger had had to turn to crowdfunding to finance the film. He acknowledges in the credits all the people who had donated. The Dirty War opens with scenes shot in Pindostan of “patient dumping” by which patients discharged from hospital in the middle of the night are thrown onto the streets or into some refuge without so much as informing the care workers, much less asking for their consent. One was severely disabled, another had had open heart surgery just nine days earlier. It is nothing short of barbaric. This was in order to make way for new patients and additional income. Switching to Britain, a homeless charity says this is happening here too, as hospitals need a rapid turnover of patients in order to make a profit. Pilger shows that the creeping privatisation of the NHS in Britain meant an early death for one worker, when a private ambulance came with a non-functioning defibrillator and was unable to contact anyone at the company’s call centre to obtain another. In another case in which the NHS had subcontracted a surgical procedure to a private hospital, the patient had to be blue-lighted (rushed by ambulance) to an NHS hospital because when things go wrong the private hospital has no back-up facilities. Pilger points out that the system designed to give us all “Freedom from Fear” has been attacked by every political party on behalf of big business.

Privatisation by stealth began in the 1980s under Conservative PM Margaret Thatcher, who commissioned a report from McKinsey’s that led to the creation of the “internal market” in 1991. In 1988, Conservative MPs Oliver Letwin and John Redwood had proposed a switch to an insurance-based system, in a pamphlet titled, “Britain’s Biggest Enterprise: ideas for radical reform of the NHS,” but it was Tony Blair’s Labour government that set it all in motion with the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), whereby the private sector built, owned and operated hospitals, using private finance. So expensive were these new hospitals, despite being considerably smaller than the ones they replaced, that many other hospitals were closed and land was sold to pay for them. Nevertheless, the commissioning trusts were soon in financial distress. Since they could not be allowed to fail, the non-PFI trusts were sacrificed to bail out the PFI hospitals. After 2010, the “reforms” speeded up. David Cameron’s Conservative-Lib Dem coalition escalated the privatisation process, introducing the disastrous 2012 Health and Social Care Act, removing the duty of the Health Sec to provide healthcare for the population and “freeing up providers to innovate,” opening the door to private healthcare companies and management consultants. The Dirty War shows privatisation continuing under the Conservative government of Boris Johnson, with current health secretary Matthew Hancock waxing lyrical about a smartphone self-diagnosis app called Babylon, no doubt a mechanism for eliminating whole swathes of GPs and nurses. A Babylon spox has the gall to tell Pilger its diagnoses are “100% safe, but not all of the time.”

There is a revolving door between government, public officials and the private health care sector. On leaving government in 2013, Labour Sec State for Health Alan Milburn became chair of Price Waterhouse Coopers’s UK Health Industry Oversight Board, whose purpose is to engineer the privatisation of the NHS and help PWC increase its share of the “health market.” He also joined the private equity firm Bridgepoint Capital, whose activities include financing private healthcare companies providing services to the NHS, including Care UK. In a sign of the NHS’s intended trajectory, its current head is Simon Stevens, who spent 10 years as a senior executive at United Health Group in Pindostan, becoming CEO of United Healthcare’s $30b Medicare business. Pilger makes clear that the dirty war on the NHS is aimed at giving free rein to the corporate sector, who cannot wait to get their hands on the service’s £120b/yr funding, with author and Spinwatch campaigner Tamasin Cave describing the NHS as a “£120b opportunity” for the powerful healthcare corporations. It will mean a healthcare system that will deliver profits, not treatment and care for those who need it. The writer-director illustrates this graphically, pointing to what happened at the privatised Hinchingbrooke Hospital, which in 2012 was put in “special measures” and eventually returned to the NHS after just three years of a supposed 10-year contract. In a very moving scene, one of the senior nurses who had worked for 24 years in the hospital before being sacked by the private company running it explains that putting profit before patients changes the relationship between the clinical staff and their patients. It means cutting costs, working long, unsafe hours, closing down hospital and GP services, increased waiting times and not addressing patients’ clinical, social and personal needs. She is not alone. Doctors, nurses, academics and campaigners all warn Pilger about the risks involved in the NHS becoming a two-tier system, with the free NHS providing only a minimal service. Now, with Johnson seeking Brexit-related trade discussions with Pindostan that include plans to “sell out” the NHS as part of any deal, there is the added danger that the NHS will replicate the disastrous Pindo system where some 87 million people either have no healthcare insurance or healthcare insurance that demands unaffordable co-payments. According to a leaked transcript of the discussions, a Dept of International Trade boxtop reassured a Pindo trade rep by writing:

Wouldn’t want to discuss particular health care entities at this time, … you’ll be aware of certain statements saying we need to protect our needs; this would be something to discuss further down the line.

So although the Johnson government has publicly pledged that the NHS is not “on the table” in any post-Brexit trade deal with the Trump administration, later on selling it off “would be something to discuss.” Pilger says that no-one in the Conservative government responded to his request for an interview. There is a short clip of Labour Shadow Sec State for Health Jon Ashworth making the bald and unconvincing claim that a Labour government will end the privatisation of the NHS. The Dirty War on the NHS ends with a scene that drew gasps from the audience: a visit to a free healthcare initiative in Pindostan known as a Remote Area Medical, run by volunteer clinical staff in Wise, Virginia, a small town in the Appalachians where there are no healthcare facilities. RAM provides pop-up medical clinics delivering free dental, vision and medical care to those without healthcare insurance. Stan Brock, a Londoner, originally established it in the 1980s to treat people in the developing world, but latterly treated those in need of health care in the US. The message was unmistakable. This is the future in Britain if the dirty warriors have their way and the NHS becomes an insurance-based system. This deeply moving film should be seen by everyone. It not only provides the most convincing case for socialized healthcare. It points to the better world that would be made under a system where the goods and services so essential to humanity are produced based on social need, not profit, and made available to all.

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