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From: The Socialist issue 676, 22 June 2011: All strike together

Search site for keywords: PFI - NHS - Labour - Health - Engels - Trade unions

News in brief

PFI man

Predictably many Tory backbenchers regard the prime minister's cosmetic changes to the government's health and social care bill as a capitulation. Another politician critical of "David Cameron's retreat" is Labour's former health secretary, Alan Milburn.

Milburn, who is Cameron's social mobility adviser, went on to describe the token changes as the "biggest nationalisation since Nye Bevan created the NHS in 1948".

This bizarre comment has no basis. Privatisation through Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes is continuing, with Tory chancellor George Osborne approving another 61 schemes worth 7 billion. This, despite rubbishing PFI schemes when in opposition.

PFI schemes were introduced into the NHS by Alan Milburn during his tenure at the department of health. They involve private corporations building and refurbishing hospitals and then leasing them back to the NHS for a fat fee thereby draining the NHS of resources.

Last August the department of health said NHS organisations will, through PFI schemes, eventually pay over 50 billion for buildings worth 11 billion with maintenance charges adding a further 15 billion.

Withering comment

Another Labour politician talking out of his hat is Lord Beecham. The life peer wrote to the Guardian following the newspaper's recent light-hearted reference to Frederick Engels, the socialist revolutionary who collaborated with Karl Marx.

According to Baron Beecham, "it was Engels who advocated 'the withering away of the state' which the government is sedulously promoting." That phrase by Engels referred to the gradual dissolution of class society and the instruments of class oppression during the transition from socialism to communism - unfortunately not a description of the UK in 2011 and certainly not a future desired by the leaders of the Labour party!

Fat fee

Pity the Lib Dems whose fluffy, caring image has been brutally shattered by climbing into bed with the Tories.

However, as their electorally popularity slumps due to the coalition government's savage cuts, it's not all bad news. It seems that their image has soared in big business circles. So much so that they can now charge bosses 3,500 for a table of ten at their first gala dinner. And according to the FT the Lib Dems "are introducing new 'premier' tables, with opportunities for corporate branding, for a steeper fee of 5,000."

They will also be hosting a 'corporate day' this September for chief executives and directors, charging the fat cats 350 a head - the same price as Labour's business dinner.

It figures

Tory minister Francis Maude has attacked the 'low turnout' in the trade union ballots for strike action on the 30 June. Maude omitted that postal ballots were imposed on the trade unions by the Thatcher government deliberately to weaken democratic participation. He also failed to mention that the combined general election votes of the Tories and Lib Dems were only 38% of the electorate - not exactly a majority!

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