Sep 152012

This story from the Telegraph this morning provokes an understandably immediate and cheesed-off reaction: “Who knew?”  As a newly-appointed junior minister admits the government screwed up over the NHS reforms, it’s hardly surprising that the reactions prior to the bill’s passing should already, back in February, have been thus.

But the big story for me today is not that the government finally admits it screwed up.  The big story for me today is that the government is bad before it’s mad.

Any intelligent and sentient beings, understanding that things were getting as grave as they have been with a subject as impactful as the nation’s health service, would surely have found it within themselves to seek support and help across party lines in order to resolve the encroaching mess.  Now I’m not arguing that Cameron & Co are anything but intelligent and sentient beings.  What I am saying is that, despite this fact, they are sufficiently lacking in self-confidence – even now, two and a half years after half-winning/half-losing a general election – for them to feel incapable of such acts of sensible politics.

They’re not primarily mad ideologues out to destroy the entire fabric of English society – though this may yet be the case – but, rather, simply awfully insecure politicians who don’t really know what they’re doing to our country and, actually, in the light of these recent declarations, know they don’t know.

The world suffers often from the securities of the single-minded.  But there is a moment in the political cycle when the insecure and inept are far more dangerous than the pig-headedly decisive.  And that moment has now arrived.  That moment is when the insecure and inept realise they may not be up to the job they are responsible for; that their previous decisions have made things far worse; and that history will almost certainly judge them poorly.

When the insecure and inept realise – with security – how inept they are, and even so do not want to give up on the responsibilities which make their lives so astonishingly attractive and powerful, is when the rest of us do need to begin to watch our steps.  Nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal, after all.

Nothing more dangerous than ineptness in charge.

Feb 292012

Paul makes a pertinent point at Never Trust a Hippy (the bold is mine):

Have we been sold a hospital-pass with the widespread use of the term ‘neo-liberalism’ to describe the current economic impasse we’re in?

Are we, in fact, in a managerial age instead, where all economic activity is designed to increase the status and value of administrators at the expense of workers and the professions?

And – in doing so, are we missing an opportunity to say the right thing and enjoy all kinds of political benefits that we don’t currently enjoy?

My slightly flippant response was:

We’re probably missing that opportunity because those who could take it are managers and administrators of political parties quite before they are workers and professionals.

Do you as an explanation? 

If truth be told, the real issue now to hand is bully boys’ beef with democracy.  The latest example is the astonishing rejection of an e-petition requesting that the NHS bill be dropped, and which has been signed by no fewer than 160,000 good souls.  Couple the latter with the refusal by Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, to attend a public meeting in his own constituency, and it’s clear that the behaviours this government is exhibiting go way beyond the vigorous cut and thrust of normal political activity.

In the piece quoted at the top of today’s post, we see Paul suggesting it’s a conflict of almost personal interest and self-enrichment over the ideals of public service which is knocking our democracy sideways.

I’m inclined to be a little more visceral than that.  This is an obvious example of corporate CEO-types – used to ruling in their pyramidal environments through their position, wealth and ability to bestow patronage – finally taking full and direct control of our democracies.

They’re not used to being questioned; they’re not used to be told “no”; they’re not used to having to negotiate with any chance of losing.  They’re accustomed, only, to getting their way.  As well as being rewarded whatever the results.

In New Labour times, and perhaps a little before, the big companies which really rule our planet only had the ears of our politicians.  Now the situation is entirely different: our politicians and our big companies are impossible to differentiate.

Bad times for democracy.  Good times for bullies.

Feb 102012

As I underlined in a previous post, it would appear that even the zombies might soon be against the NHS reforms the Coalition government has been foisting on us.  The writer of the article I allude to in that post has been widely praised for suggesting the Tories should ditch their healthcare reforms in order not to lose the next general election.  There is an inference that bravery of the very highest order has been shown.

I’m sorry.  I just don’t see it.  I don’t see on a scale of 1 to 10 that withdrawing a policy you believed in firmly from the start – and just so you can stay in power – merits even a 1 on the spectrum of courageously historic political acts.

I also don’t see how the corporate sponsors of the Tory Party will be prepared to simply up sticks and move on – like the rapacious locust storm they represent – to some other bewildered and hapless nation state.

Proof of my cynical inability to believe the proclamations that have swept through social media this morning, then, is the following letter from the insurer Aviva – which has just proceeded in a most timely fashion to pop into my letterbox.

These are the three paragraphs which caught my attention:

In just a few words, we’d like to show how you can benefit from fast treatment, excellent care and comfortable surroundings.  After all, we think that’s what everyone deserves if they’re unwell – we’re sure you agree.  But the best news is that these facilities are easily accessible and affordable, at your local private hospital.

The letter goes on to reassuringly underline:

Healthier Solutions is a healthcare policy that’s designed for you.  The policy includes a wide range of core cover, but it’s up to you which additional benefits you want and which ones you don’t by choosing from a list of options.

But it’s the last paragraph of the three which is the real killer application:

And by choosing the TrustCare hospital list, you can reduce your monthly premiums by 25% by simply using private facilities within NHS hospitals. […]

Great, eh?  Remember, a targeted mailshot to a household in Chester & District Housing Trust properties which offers discounts for choosing to use “private facilities within NHS hospitals”.  I can only shudder to think what’s already been going on – and for how long – in the leafier suburbs of the city I live in.

Can anyone really believe that after years of careful planning, these large companies will simply walk away from the juicy pickings they’ve been contemplating for so long?  So cherry-pickingly juicy in fact that their disclaimer is pretty brazenly breezy:

Like all insurers we are unable to cover pre-existing conditions.  If you would like a copy of the full policy cover and exclusions, we’ll be happy to send them to you.

The Lord forbid that you might have a pre-existing condition.

And probably only the Lord – or, in His absence (as the destiny of this country increasingly appears to suggest is the case), Mr Lansley himself – knows where such a condition might end up receiving the treatment it properly deserves.

Feb 102012

This tweet defines the current situation perfectly:

Doctors, Nurses, Patients and now Conservatives are against the NHS Bill Only ones left in favour are the Dead.

And I do wonder if this is now becoming a case of even zombies against the NHS cuts.

But Conservative Home couches its disavowal of such policies in a rather careful way.  It is, for example, being politically accurate when it says the following:

The NHS was long the Conservative Party’s Achilles heel. David Cameron’s greatest political achievement as Leader of the Opposition was to neutralise health as an issue. The greatest mistake of his time as Prime Minister has been to put it back at the centre of political debate.

But it is being wrong when it implies that from the resulting social point of view, the NHS does not deserve to be at the centre of the political stage.  It does.  Any prime minister who resisted the need to prioritise the NHS thus would be rightly criticised of dodging a number of major issues.

I do however get the feeling that the real argument underlying ConHome’s position has more to do with questioning strategic and procedural matters than entirely disagreeing with the need to savage the NHS.  That is to say, if it were possible to proceed in the manner Lansley has wanted to without affecting the Tory Party’s electoral chances, then they would be entirely in favour of proceeding.

This, for example:

Most observers think that meeting “The Nicholson challenge” – £20 billion of essential efficiency savings – was always going to be nightmarishly difficult but that it didn’t require new legislation. Nearly all of the necessary efficiencies could have been delivered with existing powers. That has certainly been the consistent argument of Stephen Dorrell MP, the influential Chairman of the Commons Health Select Committee.

And this, too – which wheels out the thesis of John Major-ly times (and thus, quite similarly, perhaps indicates a certain degree of denial) that it’s the presentation and not the content itself which is at the heart of Lansley’s reign and its weaknesses (the bold is mine):

Soon, in a wider resuffle, Andrew Lansley will have to move on. He will have to move on because he hasn’t been able to communicate these reforms in a streetwise way and he has been unnecessarily confrontational with NHS staff. […]

Whilst ConHome does then accurately spread the load as it reminds us of all the other parties who signed up to the present chaos that is healthcare reform:

[…] It would be very wrong, however, for him to take the full blame. Cameron and Clegg both put their signatures on the reforms. Oliver Letwin went through the draft legislation with a fine toothcomb, supposedly ‘bomb-proofing’ them. And, then, after last year’s pause the whole Cabinet consented to the compromises with the Lib Dem rebels and NHS professionals. Lansley is a man of integrity and intellectual seriousness. Unfortunately, however, the NHS has become a big negative for our party again and it’s easier to move forward with a new frontman or a new frontwoman.

So.  It would seem even the Tory Party is coming to its political senses – but only in a survivalist sense.  The conclusion to the ConHome piece simply underlines this, as it indicates the following in a most revealing way:

[…] The NHS Bill is not just a distraction from all of this but potentially fatal to the Conservative Party’s electoral prospects. It must be stopped before it’s too late.

Essentially, what they seem to be saying is: “We must discard this proposed policy as soon as we can – but only because it will become toxic for the Party’s chances of re-election.”  And not, we should remind ourselves, because they don’t still believe – even now – in both lining the pockets of discrete corporate sponsors as well as re-engineering a wider society.

Feb 072012

Yesterday, I wondered how it was possible that the Prime Minister’s office could sanction calling for Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, to be “taken out and shot”.  It did later make me wonder if we weren’t already metamorphosing into an Eastern-bloc state of the 1960s or thereabouts.

Today, however, everything just gets more bizarre as the Prime Minister’s office now straightfacedly assures us that Cameron doesn’t want Lansley shot after all.  Yes.  They’re clearly not interpreting it as a joke at all but, rather, a potential reality which needs to be denied.  As the Telegraph goes on to confirm:

Andrew Lansley has the full support of the Prime Minister, despite reports that Number 10 thinks the Health Secretary should be “taken out and shot” over his handling of NHS reforms, Downing Street has said.

Hanged, drawn and quartered, then, anyone?

You never know.  The relevant surgical skills of a number of health professionals might just be freely available – and on the table.

Feb 062012

Remember the Twitter Joke Trial?  If not, refresh your memory here.  In particular, this unwise tweet:

23. Later, on 6th January 2010, Doncaster Robin Hood Airport was reported as being closed due to adverse weather conditions. The Appellant became aware of the closure through an alert on “Twitter”. In response to hearing of this closure of the airport, the Appellant posted the following “tweet”:-

Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I am blowing the airport sky high!

Now compare and contrast the above with this story from Political Scrapbook tonight:

  […] it is Rachel Sylvester’s vicious briefing from an anonymous Number 10 source which will give the health secretary nightmares:
“We’re back to square one,” says one exasperated insider. “Andrew Lansley is just a disaster.” Dogged and determined at his best, the Health Secretary is at his worst described as a “law unto himself”

And it gets worse:

“Andrew Lansley should be taken out and shot,” says a Downing Street source. “He’s messed up both the communication and the substance of the policy.”

So whilst on the one hand it’s a punishable offence for a voter to use an electronic means of communication to make – clearly – foolish comments about the security of a public space, on the other it’s perfectly all right – via an august British newspaper – for a government communications professional to “playfully” threaten the life of precisely the Secretary of Health with summary, and presumably state-sanctioned, execution!

One law for the voter then, another for the spin doctor?

Jan 312012

Three recent cases.  First, we have Iain Duncan Smith, apparently responsible for implying the following:

Someone said he also called working people “normal” too – which I presume makes claimants “abnormal”


A comment whose original source – if you search on the web – seems to have gone suspiciously to ground somewhat.

Then we have Andrew Lansley accusing:

[…] the British Medical Association of being “politically poisoned” in its opposition to his NHS shakeup.

Lansley infuriated the doctors’ union by repeating a description first used by Aneurin Bevan, the founding father of the NHS, at the time the service was created in 1948. The putdown came in a pre-prepared speech in Liverpool at the launch of a new children’s health initiative, rather than in an off-the-cuff remark or interview.

Finally, today, Michael Gove opens the free schools’ debate up to Twitter – and then accuses parents and school governors who don’t like his ideas of being extreme left-wing agitators:

Education Secretary Michael Gove has labelled campaigners against turning a school into an academy as “Trots”.

The forthright views of the education secretary were delivered to MPs on the Commons Education Select Committee.

This was at a session in which MPs’ questions were informed by 5,000 Twitter messages from the public.

Now I’m not a psychiatrist or anything – so will have to leave you to draw your own conclusions. 

Even as it does, quite seriously, occur to me to worry a little for the collective mental wellbeing of a government with so many active fronts on the go.

Jan 272012

It’s been announced tonight in a sweeping programme of privatisations – leaked in exclusive to this blog for some utterly unknown reason – that Andrew Lansley, the man irresponsible for health services in England, has drawn up a blueprint to privatise 99 percent of all known viruses and bacteria.

The rationale behind such a move is unclear at the moment but it is believed that five extra layers of viral and bacterial management may serve to slow down the capacity of such organisms to attack English citizens – especially the still gainfully employed who may yet serve the nation well. 

Meanwhile, in a separate announcement, Iain Duncan Smith (or IDS as we prefer to call him), the man irresponsible for generating a more inclusive level of poverty in the realm, has publicly admitted for the first time in polite society that the government is working closely together with the famously philanthropic Close The Stable Door After The Horse Has Bolted Foundation to develop a brand new type of anti-serum designed to target those poisoned individuals who don’t agree wholeheartedly with all Coalition policies. 

It would appear – at the same time – that IDS is also working hand-in-glove with Theresa May, the woman irresponsible for emptying the streets of hard-working police officers, as they attempt to rid the country of all abnormal people classified by the DWP as officially workshy.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, are said – as I write these very lines – to be preparing their barricades and defences.

And that’s the way it is.

Good night.

Dec 272011

The Guardian currently has this poll up on the news that English NHS hospitals will be able to earn up to 49 percent of their income from private patients.  The usual spin is being spread around that this will be done in order to benefit the public:

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley insisted NHS reforms would benefit patients, saying: “Lifting the private income cap for foundation hospitals will directly benefit NHS patients. If these hospitals earn additional income from private work that means there will be more money available to invest in NHS services. Furthermore services for NHS patients will be safeguarded because foundation hospitals’ core legal duty will be to care for them.”

Two observations occur to me on hearing this despicable and weasel-like news.  The first is: why only 49 percent?  For this really does sound as if it has come out of the mindset of the rankest form of private industry where shareholder power is defined in terms of who has 50 percent plus one – as if the 49 percent cap put in place were supposed and able to calm our understandable fears.

Broadening the right of an NHS hospital to raise 49 percent of its income from private patients will lead to a hefty percentage of the most expensive and up-to-date resources being reserved for the richest in society – willing and prepared to pay only for the best.  In the meantime, if you do not have such incomes, you will find yourself at the front of the queue for the easy stuff nobody wants to pay extra for and right at the very back for the stuff that might just save your life.

Let us be clear: it’s not just percentages that count here – it’s also which machines and high-tech procedures are used for whom, when and why.  As well as how hospitals which learn to depend on the rich for their very survival will begin to prioritise who gets the access they need and deserve.

But there is another far more profound and philosophically upsetting thought which comes to my mind as I cogitate further the implications of this selfish and demonstrably retrograde step: that is to say, one important clause of the modern Hippocratic Oath which defines the relationship between doctor and patient in this absolutely clear and unequivocal way:

I will remember that I remain a member of society with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

All my fellow human beings?  How so?  If 49 percent of my income will soon proceed from 11 percent of my patients, how can I possibly attend to the needs of all those people the Hippocratic Oath so manifestly defines as forming part of my constituency?

Andrew Lansley is a man of money and little more.  And as such he is in consonance with so many unhappy members of his political party.  What he will achieve with such a miserable and evil mindset – at least, that is, in England – is subvert and destroy the very base of ethical English medicine, as he makes it virtually impossible for its practitioners to comply with the historical tenets of their profession.

In the meantime, through such a corruption of the noble at heart, he is bringing to the English NHS the same yardsticks, thought patterns and ways of seeing which have already brought our banking industry to its moral knees.

Whilst our economy – infirm as it is – stumbles because of people who act in other industries just as Lansley chooses to in health, we witness – apparently unable to react or do anything effective to prevent their imposition – the application of the same bankrupt processes and procedures to an institution such as the NHS.

Who would wish to live in a land such as Lansley’s?  A land once allegedly fit for heroes is fast becoming a moral vacuum of impossible sadnesses.

I mean for God’s sake, where on earth is Lansley’s moral compass to be found?  Where on earth is Cameron allowing this nation of brave souls to be led?  Where on earth lies the gentleness of those gentlemen and women of old who brought up generations of young people in the principles of tolerance, justice and solidarity?

What has happened to that once prevalent society of the good and generous English?

Where … where … where has it gone?

When did we lose it?

And why?

Nov 112011

This is what Cameron said yesterday (background here and here):

“I want to know how we drive the NHS to be a fantastic business …”

No.  Don’t look away.  I know you’d prefer to.  But don’t.  Stick around and watch him say it.  Watch it several times.  On a day like today, you really cannot afford not to remember …

Meanwhile, as Cameron claims there are no risks to such a misadventure, we get this story from the Standard this afternoon:

Andrew Lansley was today ordered to release a secret report on the risks he is taking with his NHS reforms.

The Evening Standard has won a landmark legal victory forcing the Health Secretary to hand over the document which his department had sought to keep under wraps for nearly a year.

The Information Commissioner Christopher Graham found that the Department of Health twice breached the freedom of information law in failing to disclose its strategic risk register.

The document is expected to reveal the risks to patient safety, finances and the very workings of the NHS from the unprecedented reshaping of the health service.

Read it in full.  It’ll also make you want to weep.

Finally, the Mirror reports earlier today that:

MINISTERS sparked outrage yesterday by handing an NHS hospital over to a private healthcare company with strong Tory links.

Circle Health will start running the hospital early next year under the landmark 10-year deal worth £1billion.

Medics say the move has set a worrying precedent, while unions think it amounts to privatisation and could lead to millions of patients and staff being put at risk.

Circle is backed by two City hedge funds run by Crispin Odey and Paul Ruddock, who have donated £790,000 to the Tories.

And the company employs former Conservative Party health spokesman Mark Simmonds as well as Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s ex-aide Christina Lineen.

No way is that in the spirit of armistice, Mr Cameron. 

In fact, if we’re being at all objective, all we can really conclude is that it constitutes total war on all possible fronts.

Oct 122011

Breaking wind, more like.  There David Cameron was, after the riots in the summer, allegedly seeking advice from the Chinese government on how to control the heaving masses.

And there we were, thinking he’d put it all on the backburner.  But no.

First, we discover that we’ll have to opt in to access online porn (does that mean, by so doing, the ISPs – and government as legislator – will both act as effective guarantors of the aforesaid content’s legal acceptability?  Bet neither of yous thought of that one).  (Neither is the problem, of course, the blocking of porn – but, rather, how you define the stuff in the first place.  I once tried to access my Spanish language-learning blog in a school – only to discover my students, actually all adults, were unable to see or use it because of the filter which, you guessed it, alleged “adult content” …)

But if all this wasn’t enough to signpost overarching authoritarian instincts, even where well-intentioned, we find out this week that whilst the Coalition aims to move on its merry way an NHS bill absolutely no one outside government seems to approve of, all those influential Blackberry users who just need to access their personal and work emails – in order to a) read what the heaving masses are sending them in their hundreds and thousands and b) organise an effective rebellion of the wise and good before it’s too late – are suddenly, and coincidentally, and for the period of the bill’s passage through the Lords, left with no reliable coverage or service.

Preventing rioters from rioting?  That’s the least of the Coalition’s worries.  Preventing our dear crossbencher Lords from doing a dirty on Cameron’s precious long-term plan to fill deep corporate pockets – and, by the by, make evil cherry-picking profits out of health in a way we’ve never seen before: well, that’s surely far more important in their pecuniary eyes.

And far more to the point for their overarching authoritarian instincts.

Update to this post: in the end, no rioting in the Lords – just plain and desperate exasperation in the rest of the country.  The amendment which would have guaranteed proper oversight of the bill has failed to gain sufficient votes – 262 in favour, 330 against.  It would appear that extra-parliamentary action is the only way to properly get the people’s voice heard these days.  A bad day for the NHS – and a bad day for politics.

Oct 062011

If you’re prepared to do it barefaced, in public and on stage, the Lord only knows what you do behind closed doors.  These two pieces on Osborne’s recent claims about Labour’s legacy make it absolutely clear – if you were, in any way, still in doubt.  Once the decision to lie is taken, it would seem, everything is then perfectly possible.

But this government doesn’t only lie.  It also tells half-truths – truths designed to hide the real impact and intentionality of its actions.  This one, for example, from yesterday’s speech by Cameron to the Conservative Party Conference 2011, where he makes astonishing claims about the relationship between Tory policy and the NHS:

[…] The NHS is the most precious institution in our country – to my family, to your family. At the last election, it was Labour policy to cut the NHS. It was Liberal Democrat policy to cut the NHS.

It was our policy – Conservative policy – to protect the NHS and spend more on it this year, next year and the year after that because we are the party of the NHS, and as long as I’m here we always will be.

What, of course, this PR man doesn’t underline is that more and more of that spending will end up in the deep corporate pockets of Andrew Lansley’s erstwhile corporate sponsors.  So he might be right to say spending will go up – but he’s utterly half-truthed to imply this will benefit the people it should.

This obfuscation, however, does in fact go even further.  Not only does this government tell barefaced lies, not only does it tell conscience-soothing half-truths, it also goes out and deliberately steals the best lines and most vigorous arguments used by Ed Miliband barely a week before.  Now, of course, you might argue this is as a result of Labour’s own tendency towards triangulation – but I really don’t get the feeling Miliband is positioning himself as the kind of politician triangulation comes naturally to. 

That one of the curiosities of modern British politics is that people should copy so very much each other’s policies and yet be quite unable to exchange the slightest of politenesses – or agree on the most moderate of way’s forward in the interests of the wider nation at large – is something I shall never be able to get entirely over.  But there you have it.

In the meantime, and in the absence of such adult behaviours, consensus and intelligence, the lies, half-truths and outright theft of this Coalition government are now the order of the political day. 

Sad, ain’t it?

Oct 012011

Paul has some really good overviews of tons of stuff.  When we meet up, which is far too occasionally, for me anyhow, I find his ability to synthesise big ideas and break them down into gobbets I can understand one of the most exhilarating things about his conversation – and, by extension, though less frequently these days than might be the case, via the words he lets slip in his blog Never Trust a Hippy.

This evening, for example, I am struck by this paragraph:

As far as I can see, the Tories are moving ever-closer to a subscription model of the state – one where a higher-rate taxpayer expects a higher level of service, and where a freemium model of public service is advanced. You can almost see all politics as a tug-of-war in which active citizens game the tax and benefits system (I fleshed this out more here a few weeks ago).

And he goes on to conclude (the bold is mine):

To my poor mind, this isn’t an argument or fight that can be ducked. Nor is it one on which we can’t land heavy blows. Watching the way both the US and the EU are floundering at the moment, tracing the lack of historical vitality – governments that don’t believe that they have the legitimacy to act – this isn’t a trivial issue either.

I think Paul is absolutely spot-on in what he says, when he argues we can’t duck the fight.  And I think the reason we can’t goes much further than simply politics.  It may be the case, very shortly, that the most important development of the last ten years – and here I refer to the Internet – will end up looking like a futile and unhappy blip in our sociocultural history: really what I’m saying here is that I suspect the encroaching monetisation of the Internet – via Facebook, Apple, Amazon and its Kindle and a multitude of other splintering impulses – is acting as an undeniable customisation of our shared and common mindscapes which will lead inevitably to the monetisation of many other parallel worlds; worlds which to date have remained analogously free.

That is to say, the importance of this battle to maintain through the Internet a certain liberty of movement of ideas and content is much much bigger than simply guaranteeing a means of communication.  If we lose the marvellous commons which to date this Internet has more or less brought us, we may almost certainly run the risk of losing a whole raft of other realities. 

Is it really too wild, then, to suggest that the progressive monetisation of the Internet might make the Coalition’s plans to – similarly – monetise the Welfare State far more likely?

For just as the Internet has radically changed the way we think nowadays, and online behaviours have influenced what we accept offline, so the monetisation of the Internet may change what – in a much wider context – we feel we have a right to expect.

Thus it is that, in reality, I fear for the Welfare State not because of the Andrew Lansleys and Jonathan Djanoglys of this world.

Rather, I fear for the Welfare State because of the Mark Zuckerbergs and Steve Jobs.

Sep 222011

Says it all really.  I wrote on this story already here:

Till today, the real confusion has lain in why the government has a) doggedly preferred its own proposals to the aforementioned plan; b) doggedly preferred the consequently minimal access it promises for the vast majority of people to proper legal support; and c) doggedly preferred – in these times of supposedly serious economic crisis – the £350 million they aim to save with their proposals to the £384 million the Law Society suggests might be practicable with theirs.

There was me thinking it all had to do with greasing the levers of corporate power.

But, in the light of the Guardian report this evening I link to above, it would appear the real reason strikes much closer to a much more tawdry home than that.

And so I ask the following question: are certain members of the Coalition now running the government entirely in their own self-interest?

Now we have another story from the selfsame newspaper – the repercussions of which as far as I can see have been more or less limited as far as the rest of the press is concerned:

Jonathan Djanogly, the justice minister piloting controversial plans to cut legal aid and curb payouts – a move that could benefit the insurance industry to the tune of £1bn a year – has investments worth at least £250,000 in companies with insurance arms.

He is also weighing up proposals that may have a profound effect on his brother-in-law’s business, which advertises compensation claims for accidents. Labour wrote to the cabinet secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell, on Monday night to demand an investigation following the Guardian’s inquiry.

And I’m really looking to get my head round the reality this lays out before us: how is it possible for ministers responsible for our Welfare State – for let us be clear: Legal Aid is the fifth pillar of that raft of services and institutions which dragged Britain out of the mindsets of the 19th century – to be bankrolled by, family of or directly involved in companies whose futures and future profits will depend on the decisions they are currently piloting through Parliament? 

Why do so few people care about these apparent conflicts of interests? 

Why don’t more people find this outrageous? 

Will, in fact, the abiding achievement of this Coalition government be to even disengage our ability to disengage?

Sep 172011

This is how it used to be.  As recently as 2007, in fact – at least according to the Guardian newspaper:

The post-war Labour government established the four pillars of our welfare state: the NHS, free education, social security and public housing. Sixty years on, these institutions are rightly cherished and any major attempt to reform them can expect to provoke much public and media controversy.

The same government established the legal aid scheme (sometimes described as the fifth pillar of the welfare state) having recognised that equality of access to justice and the right to representation before the law were as fundamental to the creation of a just society as free healthcare and education. The scheme ensured that everyone who needed a lawyer should have one, regardless of ability to pay.

Now the Tory-led Coalition is in the process of dismantling the Welfare State – and, whilst as with the lead-up to Iraq almost a decade ago, there have been many murmurings, puzzlements, ideological disagreements and political accusations, the real reason would appear to be becoming evermore clearer.

Iraq, in the end, wasn’t about weapons of mass destruction.  It was, so clearly, a combination of assuring necessary supplies of oil to Western consumers whilst at the same time guaranteeing – in a wider sense – that mainly American economic interests could take financial advantage of the situation.

All that stuff about the end of history, the clash of civilisations and that neo-conservative century of newly politicised democratic endeavour was, in the end, I am sadly afraid, just a pile of incomprehensible burblings.

Remember this, at least for the rest of the post: it was all about – and nothing more than a question of – making pots of money.

And so we have, from the Telegraph as long ago as last year, an unhappy thesis in relation to the person now most responsible for engineering the dismantling of the first pillar of the Welfare State – that is to say, the NHS:

Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, is being bankrolled by the head of one of the biggest private health providers to the NHS, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Meanwhile, yesterday I posted on a story which came yet again from the Guardian.  In this case, the article seemed to indicate in a fairly convincing manner that the person most responsible for dismantling the fifth pillar of the Welfare State as mentioned above – the Legal Aid system – will be in a position to benefit personally from some of the changes he is looking to push through.

As I said at the top of today’s post: this is all you need to know about the dismantling of the Welfare State – in one easy lesson.

A transfer of masses and masses of pots of money.

To those who already have plenty …