Friday, 7 January 2022


Since 2010, private sector involvement in the National Health Service has gone up by 93 per cent, and waiting lists by 200 per cent. But we should not blame Wes Streeting for his advocacy of yet further NHS privatisation. It did not start in 2010. It started in 1997.

NHS privatisation was the signature domestic policy of the only Labour Government in the lifetimes of more than half the population. Before then, the very concept of it had been confined to the outer fringes of the think tank circuit.

New Labour, eh? Well, yes and no. Before Streeting was born, and beginning in the month of my conception, the last Labour Government before 1997 had imported the monetarism of Pinochet's Chile. Margaret Thatcher's sex was the only notable thing about the result of the General Election in 1979. There was no ideological shift. That had happened in December 1976.

For 71 years and counting, the Labour Party has dined out on a mere six years that did not impress the electorate at the time. It is true that Winston Churchill lost the 1945 Election while the War was still going on, that he lost again in 1950, that he barely scraped a victory in 1951 having lost the popular vote, and that his own party had to remove him before the one in 1955. But it is equally true that once the Attlee Government had a record on which to be judged, then it was barely reelected in 1950, and it lost office in 1951.

At the heart of its myth is the NHS. But even that had been in all three manifestos in 1945, so that it would have happened, anyway. The Conservatives who voted against the legislation on technicalities never had any intention of repealing it, and in the 1950s they never did. It was rather more recently that the process of privatising the NHS, but only in England, was begun by Tony Blair, Alan Milburn and Paul Corrigan, when Labour had an overall majority of 179.

Streeting is in that tradition, and why not? Just so long as the rest of us do not have to vote for the party that would make him Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. We need to make our own arrangements instead.


  1. Doesn't Streeting know that the doctors in private hospitals are moonlighting NHS consultants?