Friday, October 06, 2006
Could NHS prove to be Labour's Achilles Heel?
'Despite massive increases in spending and staff numbers since 1997, the Tories now lead Labour by two points as the party with the best policy on the NHS. That compares with a 14-point Labour lead when Britain went to the polls last year.'
Indeed, the economy was the only major policy sphere at that time to register a Labour lead, and even that a reduced one. More recent polls confirm a trend which could prove fatal to Labour, given that Cameron has apparently chosen the NHS as his main battle-ground. Cameron's bold move is supported by poll evidence and the poor book-keeping which has caused well publicised cuts has exacerbated the situation. The campaign to save Bedford hospital might even produce a repeat in 2009 of the 2001 Wyre Forest upset when Dr Richard Taylor stood for the Commons on saving a local hospital and defeated a Labour junior minister.
Most users of the NHS which I have encountered are sure that it has improved greatly since 1997 but the public image-informed by hostile press coverage- has not reflected this. For instance- a very personal example- in 1992 when I suffered a major turning point in my life- a stroke while jogging- I slept that night in a corridor(no, not the one in the picture); last year when I had a minor operation to remove a cyst, I was in and out within a day and within a month of my GP's referral. Solving this problem for Labour will not be easy as the Guardian comments today.
But the Conservatives' antidote- while apparently popular- is nowhere to be seen; so far they have exploited current popularity and added their own, 'Dave's family' spin. One small ray of hope for the government might be Labour's perennial port in a storm, Oliver Letwin, the Conservative head of policy development. According to the lastSunday Times, he has indicated his party is 'gung ho' on privatising this sacred national monument(specifically, he said that under a Conservative government, there would be 'no limits' to the use of private provision). If Labour can exploit that admission it might have a chance of regaining the initiative on this, it's traditionally strongest issue.
It's certainly a bold move by Cameron to pitch for dominance in such a traditionally Labour area but it may yet work. It's an interesting question of why Labour have, as Polly says "failed to wrap their spending around a bolder narrative of social justice”. While I'd conceed that previous Tory governments have been far too ruthless in trying to weed out waste & bureaucracy and just ended up stripping funds from worthwhile & effective programmes - all that’s happened over the last decade is that Labour have done the opposite. Their worthy progressive zeal has moved beyond the point of addressing real need into meddling and thinking there’s a government programme to address every problem. Surely if the massive investment Labour has made in the public sphere had anything like the impact it should have done given the cost then it wouldn’t need a pro-active and conscious effort to convince people of it?
I have progressive friends who are steadily coming to the conclusion that ‘something’s wrong’ or that we have a real ‘value for money issue’ here. They’re not quite ready to sign-up to the Cameron fan club yet (and may never be) but this consensus on the limits to the efficacy of public spending spans left & right and so Cameron may be onto something here.
It makes me very gloomy but, given our collective desire apparently to pay not a penny piece more in tax, I wonder for how much longer a free to all for everything service can survive.
The problem for Labour would soon become the problem for the Tories were they to win. They are playing for high stakes on this issue ...
To Hughes - America pays far more for health provision (something like double, re GDP?), a situation which Americans apparently find sustainable.
Apologies, if anyone's bothered, for the lack of blog action - I can't seem to get on it in Oxford.
I blame Margaret Thatcher and the Daily Mail for promoting such daft feelings in the UK. Mind you I blame them for most things that I don't approve of ...
I live in a country where we have no Soviet style system. I have to have an operation in two weeks, and I have delayed plans top come back to the UK, so that I can have it here rather than the NHS. Truth be told I would rather take a chance with nature than risk the NHS. Cameron may be an idiot, but he is right in one way. Britain deserves better than this hopeless system. It won't matter how you vote, both parties will phase it out over time. I just wish it could be a more instant solution. But then a lack of speed will be one of the defining characteristics of the NHS, even in its abolition it seems.
The NHS is crap and no amount of fake stats will hide the fact.
And speaking of unemployment, well the Tory party knows all about that.
As for the NHS saving lives...tell that to the thousands of people who get MRSA every year in the filthy hospitals. Most people see it for waste of space it is.
We could have a long debate about where 1600 deaths is "thousands". Note that I did not say DEATHS, I mentioned people who get the infection, which is obviously thousands. And I doubt in any case most of the MRSA deaths are honestly reported on death certificates by a medical establishment that has an interest in covering their collective backs. I suspect there are probably tens of thousands of deaths from this disease that are not reported. Shame on them all.
To summarise - all MRSA is drug resistant. The very name MRSA tells us this!
Just face it, the NHS is the deadest of dead horses, and we should stop flogging it. Destined for history's rubbish bin.
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