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Stroud: Labour lets NHS down again
Chris Moore, Gloucestershire Socialist Party
Gloucestershire group Stroud Against the Cuts has recently had a campaign and legal success in slowing down the privatisation of the county's NHS through the transfer of 3,000 NHS staff and community services to a social enterprise or Community Interest Company.
Despite this policy having been introduced by the previous Labour government, the local Labour Party, ever keen to portray their party as defenders of the NHS, invited Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham and Shadow Public Health Secretary, Diane Abbott to attend a local anti-cuts meeting discussing the issue.
Stroud Against the Cuts members were not so sure about the invitation, recording a split vote when asked if their attendance was useful for the campaign. An article about the meeting in a local paper underlined the fact that most people find it hard to tell the difference between the coalition government and Labour.
Under the headline 'Labour big guns back NHS protest' the name of Andy Burnham appeared under a photo of Health Secretary Andrew Lansley - most people never noticed.
Despite the build-up and billing, the 'big guns' fired blanks, failing to turn up for the meeting. It was left to a Socialist Party member to remind the audience that to be effective you have to know which way the big guns are pointing.
Private Finance Initiative (PFI) was used as an example. A scheme that meant buildings were built by private companies then leased back to the NHS at enormous profit, was introduced in the 1990s by a Tory government, with Labour opposing it as 'backdoor privatisation'.
Yet when in government Labour massively expanded PFI. It shows that anyone believing Labour's promises to defend the NHS, such as their opposition to the Health and Social Care Bill, are likely to end up victims of what some may claim is 'friendly fire'.
If Labour really wanted to defend the NHS it could call on all council's under its control to call a referendum on the future transfer of NHS services to social enterprise and commit to stopping all forms of NHS privatisation, by supporting a national demonstration and co-ordinated industrial action, and taking all services already transferred to social enterprise and PFI back into public ownership.
But this is virtually impossible because just like its MPs are mistaken for Tories, so are its policies.
In The Socialist 21 March 2012:
Fighting the cuts
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