Thursday, July 31, 2008

That Miliband Manifesto

I've just steeled myself to read the Miliband manifesto. He's been going around saying it's policies not personalities, so presumably it's policies he's majoring on. But here's all I could find:

1. "More power and control to citizens over the education, healthcare and social services they receive". But isn't that what everyone now says? The tough question is how do you do it, and on that he's silent.

2. More government regulation over "high polluting products" - er... like what? Summer holidays in Menorca? (And remember, Labour's green policies have already ramped the cost of our annual domestic fuel bills by £77 per household)

3. New planning policy to "facilitate" nuclear power stations... so after Labour's 11 years of faffing around while Britain's energy gap gets ever closer, now suddenly he wants to build a nuke down the bottom of your garden.

4. Er... umm... that's it.

A pretty slim manifesto.

And on that issue of power to the people, he doesn't give us any clue as to why he wants to offer more choice. We want it so we can drive up the quality of public services via the operation of choice and competition, but Miliband doesn't mention that. Instead, he seems to view the desire for choice as "a challenge", which has somehow, and most unfortunately, welled up from our obsessively consumerist society.

True, he couldn't risk talking about real customer choice, given his dependence on all those public sector union votes to get elected. But much more fundamentally, he, just like the rest of Labour, still sees power and control in old fashioned socialist terms. "Citizens" are people from his old Dad's Marxist lectures he heard across the kitchen table; they are never the same thing as individually empowered consumers.

While he's poolside in Menorca, Mili might like to reflect on the latest appalling twist in the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust C difficile scandal, in which 90 patients died (see all previous blogs on the "Kent and Snuff It" here). After a lengthy police and Health and Safety Exec investigation into the deaths, nobody is to face prosecution. Nobody.

As BOM's long-time correspondent HJ puts it:

"Nobody has paid the price, because it's a public sector monopoly. In the private sector, if they had let this sort of thing happen and if their money came from attracting patients, then they would have found that they were somewhat short of new patients because nobody would choose to use their hospital. They would pay the price financially and with their jobs. This would have provided strong incentives for it not to happen in the first place.
Somehow, because it's the NHS, everybody says "how dreadful" and carries on as normal."

Spot on.

And here's the latest grim NHS scorecard:

MRSA Deaths

C difficile Deaths

You see Mr M, we need consumer choice and competition because nothing else works. Your old Dad might have pined for local soviets of worker citizens in charge, and you were very fond of him. But in the real world beyond the niceties of Marxist philosophy, the market is the only thing that has any chance of working properly.

PS Tyler went to hospital for a regular check up last week. Fortunately, he has BUPA, so it was at the local private hospital. It has never had a single case of C diff or MRSA. But in conversation with a consultant who also works in the local NHS hospital, he was told the latter - despite its recent deep clean - is still rife with the bugs: "they've colonised the place". "So what's the solution?" asked Tyler. "Burn it down" was the serious reply. "Burn it down, and rebuild from scratch - it's the only sure way". And that's what we've come to.

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