UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Monday, 28 December 2009

The NHS is in mortal danger from the Tories‏

At an early stage in his leadership of the Conservative Party David Cameron recognised the importance of neutralising the NHS as a political issue. Cynical Tory strategists were aware in equal measure of the enduring popularity of the NHS and the recognition by voters that the Tories had run down the NHS in the Thatcher/Major years and therefore placed greater trust in Labour to preserve a universal health care system.

In his first policy speech - almost 4 years ago on 4 January 2006 - Cameron committed the Tory Party to support ‘an NHS free for all at the point of need’:

"Other people - some of them in my own party - urge me to go much further. They want me to promise that, under the Conservatives, the NHS will be transformed beyond recognition into a system based on medical insurance. I will never go down that route. Under a Conservative government, the NHS will remain free at the point of need and available to everyone, regardless of how much money they have in the bank".

In subsequent years this phoney repositioning worked in public opinion terms and, combined with NHS budget crises and Labour’s health care market experiments, has led to the Tories becoming more trusted on health in opinion polls.

However the true Tory attitude to the NHS was revealed back in August of this year by the intervention of Tory MEP Daniel Hannan in the US health care debate when he told Fox News that the NHS was a "60-year-old mistake" and by a linked Observer report which revealed that leading Tory MP’s including senior shadow Minister Michael Gove are listed alongside Hannan as co-authors of ‘Direct Democracy’ a book which says the NHS "fails to meet public expectations" and is "no longer relevant in the 21st century".

So the report in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph - that David Cameron had brokered a meeting with hard line NHS privatisation campaigners - comes as no surprise.

The far right front organisation ‘Nurses for Reform’ (NFR) is linked to other right wing, free market organisations such as the Centre for the New Europe, the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Libertarian Alliance.

The NFR analysis of the NHS chimes with the views of Hannan and the silent Tory majority:
"Sixty years on from the inception of the NHS, British patients, voters and politicians are rightly moving away from the calamity of fully nationalised health care. Britain is a society that is fast turning against the dystopian realities of unsustainable Soviet-style medicine."

Health workers and the wider public need be under no illusions about the direction of travel on health care policy if the Tories are elected back into Government. Like their Republican counterparts in the USA, British Tories are ideologically and instinctively opposed to a socialised health care system.

The unions must ensure that the NHS is centre stage in the 2010 General Election campaign.

We can save the NHS only by keeping the Tories out.