Dr Clive Peedell explains why we cannot afford to wait for Labour to wake up:
It’s impossible to avoid the Labour leadership competition, whether you feel you have a stake in it or not. It’s equally impossible to avoid the fact that people who left the Labour Party for another party (or simply stopped their membership) are now wondering whether they should go back.
I am not going to hazard any guesses about the leadership campaign. The Labour Party’s decisions are theirs to make. What I do know is that the election doesn’t take place until the end of September. They then have to return to Parliament, and a shadow cabinet has to be formed.
Their disarray gives the Tories a clear run, and being in summer recess has not slowed them down.
But it’s not just about the time frame. Whether they coalesce or fragment around Jeremy Corbyn’s challenge to the status quo, the Labour Party’s very open disagreements may actually contribute to the formation of a new political landscape. The SNP has shown itself capable of reigniting political passions in Scotland. The Green Party grew in the 12 months leading up to the general election. Labour’s own membership has increased since the general election. There is an appetite for a new politics. All this against a backdrop of a Tory government claiming a mandate on less than 24% of the eligible vote. Clearly our democracy itself needs an overhaul.
What concerns us, however, and with pressing urgency, are the actions of the government on the NHS and our public services during this period when the Labour Party is otherwise pre-occupied.
On Thursday, the first CCG announced it would be passing its responsibilities on to an as-yet-unspecified provider led accountable care organisation. Reported in the Health Service Journal, Northumberland CCG’s proposal is part of its overhaul of its care and contracting. It was one of the 29 national vanguard sites identified in March. We heard from campaigners in other vanguard sites that they were expecting similar announcements to follow soon. And it was very soon, as NHS England announced a support scheme for those vanguards on Friday.
There is precious little debate or publicity around these changes.
There is no explanation in the media of where this path is leading. The use of US insurance based ‘buddying partners’ such as Kaiser Permanente to develop the NHS is now established as the model of choice. American hospital managers from Virginia Mason have been brought in to teach ‘lean management’ to five NHS Hospital Trusts.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt has set an ultimatum for a September deadline on negotiations over doctors’ contracts, warning he will impose a contract unilaterally.
The doctors are fighting back and Saturday’s Independent supported them. But we are seriously concerned that this frames the debate as Jeremy Hunt’s personal failure to understand the NHS or respect the doctors. And we note that he also says a ‘huge effort’ is required to keep the NHS publicly funded.
Which brings us back to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership contest. I agree that a huge effort is required to keep the NHS publicly funded. I can also see that every step towards the adoption of US systems of management and ‘accountable care’ takes us one step further towards co-payments and insurance instead.
I just can’t see anyone taking time out from the Labour leadership contest to shout very loudly ‘look what’s happening right now, this summer, to the NHS’.
And since that isn’t happening I ask you to stay with us, stay with our fight to keep this on the agenda, help us to spread the word and fuel the rightful anger that first prompted me and my colleagues to form this party. It’s an anger which should be spreading like wildfire.
There’ll be time enough to reconsider allegiances if and when the Labour Party rejoins the fight for public service. But I firmly believe we don’t need an oppositional democracy with only two parties that take turns. That way leads to stagnation and the systemic corruption of the revolving door. We need a progressive alliance.