Labour have no moral high ground when it comes to the NHS
They have failed to win the trust of voters on other core areas, such as the Economy and Immigration. Let’s face it, they probably don’t even want to discuss the Economy, they made such a hash (I’ll avoid the obvious pun on Ed Balls name here) of it last time. Ed Balls and Ed Miliband were complacent (at best) or downright ignorant (at worst) when it came to the upcoming economic crisis of 2008.
Let’s look at a few core areas affecting the NHS, and we’ll see where they stand (or stood) with regards to it.
The farce that is PFI
The PFI (Private Finance Initiative) Policy was launched by the Tories in 1992, it was seen as a method of bringing in Private Investors to provide some much-needed Capital Funding to the NHS (and Education). Labour, then in opposition, attacked the policy like all good Socialists thought they should – then they seriously cranked up the Policy under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s governments, turning what could have been a good idea into a major millstone around the neck of the UK Taxpayer.
It was a no brainer for New Labour. They saw this as a way of being able to provide many new hospitals and schools, making them very popular politically throughout the UK. What they did not consider though was that these PFI contracts caused a huge amount of toxic debt which would have to be repaid over the next 30+ years.
How the initiative works is, rather than the public purse funding a new hospital, they allow a private consortium to do this. The private company borrows the money (at higher rates of interest than the government would have paid), builds the facility (hospital, school or whatever), charging for the maintenance of the buildings and provision of services in a tightly-worded contract over a period of 25-40 years.
The PFI idea is sound (in its original format), but the Labour Party allowed this to get completely out of hand. They enjoyed the public support when they were providing all of these new facilities and services, considering nothing except the political strength of their own party. Basic long-term financial planning seemed to go completely out the window to ensure that they stayed in power as long as possible.
The PFI contracts were all expensive, inflated by lengthy negotiations, expensive city lawyers and consultants. The government could have borrowed the money at lower interest rates, and the profits these private consortiums were demanding were immense. The cost to the UK Taxpayer was and is ridiculous and we will be repaying this madness well into the next generation.
I’m not going to completely absolve the Tories either, they allowed a few more contracts when they returned to power and did little to really spell out the dangers when Labour were signing our money away. They are also guilty of not publicising the extent to which Labour have lumbered us with these huge debts, maybe frightened to let the General Public know how frivolous their government can actually be with our money.
The Financial Times estimated in 2007 that, after 10 years under Labour, the Total Capital Value of PFI Contracts (not only Health, Education too) across the UK was £68 billion – but this would generate £215 billion in revenue for the private consortiums over their contract period. By November 2010, this “payment obligation” had rocketed to £267 billion. It is now widely reported to be in excess of £300 billion.
The BMA (British Medical Association) warned that PFI was “distorting clinical priorities”, but their voice went unheard as Labour basked in the popularity their new facilities brought.
The BBC provided an excellent Panorama Investigation into PFI, but sadly this is no longer available on their iPlayer service. I have asked the BBC for comment, but am awaiting a response – I will update if anything comes from them.
NHS in Wales is failing miserably
We see Labour, in their attempts to win voters away from the Tories, use every possibility to scandalise the NHS in England. They conveniently forget the mess they have made in Wales of the NHS.
Labour has run the NHS in Wales since the start of devolution in 1999. They cannot blame anyone for the failings in Wales except their own Labour representatives who have simply not stepped up to the task given to them.
Research for 2013/14 by the House of Commons Library compared performance between Wales and England in some key areas, such as waiting times, hospital and ambulance performance. This research showed that the NHS is performing dramatically worse in Wales.
Labour would argue that this report is skewed because of “differences in the way NHS performance is measured in England and in Wales”. This is bluster, the research asks some specific questions and Wales falls down on every single one.
Mr Miliband and Mr Balls will not fight the General Election using any comparison between Wales and England – they will instead simply point out any failings in England, completely ignoring the fact that the NHS is failing everywhere and much worse in areas they are responsible for.
So what have we learnt?
We have learnt that the current Labour hierarchy have been involved in the PFI Policy being used (in Health and Education) to garner political gain for their party, at the expense of the UK Taxpayer and the NHS services themselves.
We have learnt that, in Wales where Labour have run the NHS since 1999, the system is failing more miserably than anywhere else.
We have learnt that the Labour Party, since the concept of ‘New Labour’, have strove to do anything they can to improve the welfare of their party – and we, as the people of this once-great nation, pick up the tab whilst being provided with a service that one can only call LACKING.
I’m not sure, if pressed, the Labour Party can honestly say they are best positioned to fix the much-maligned NHS. Even if they promised to increase the budget, would it be used to provide services or to pay through the nose to private consortiums simply to achieve political gain.