Think Left

The purpose of Think Left is to present a view of politics from a left-wing perspective.

Trumping the NHS

Donald Trump wanted to buy Greenland  in   August, and undoubtledly eyes bits of Old Blighty, the odd coastline, maybe a castle or two, or even a mountain, like Snowdon. Now it seems absurd that someone could even own a mountain, never mind sell one, but a few years ago,  Blencathra, a mountain in the Lake District, was put up for sale. People love Blencathra and they crowd funded to save it. As a result, it was withdrawn from the market, although it is  still privately owned.

If there is one thing the British people love, it is our  NHS, and the wonderful staff who work in the NHS, even more than that mountain. And the difference about the NHS, is that we own it. It is ours. We would never think of wanting to sell it. It is the envy of the world, and as  Rob Delaney  in this video clip describes it, as the “pinnacle of human achievement”. Rob Delaney has lived under both the  insurance-based US health system, and the NHS. The NHS is vastly superior.

There aren’t many people alive now, who can remember life before the NHS, like Harry Leslie Smith wrote about. Before the NHS, health poverty was commonplace. Indeed, because few of us can remember being without it, it is often taken for granted. It has aways been there for most of us. How we will miss it when it’s gone!

It was Margaret Thatcher who began the sale  of our public utilities such as or water, rail, mail, and energy, public assets which are now all  in the hands of foreign companies. The water we drink is owned by companies in foreign lands. Thatcher knew the love the British people have for the NHS, and  even she knew it would mean political suicide to privatise it. As Jeremy Corbyn has said, re-election of a Boris Johnson’s Tory government introducing his Brexit would be like  “Margaret Thatcher on steroids.”

The Tories have always known it would be a political risk to privatise the NHS. Donald Trump eyes our NHS as a rich source of profit. Trump is very keen that the NHS will be part of any trade deals with the EU, after Brexit. The Tories have already been in secret  trade talks and there are  plans to include the NHS. When  Labour’s Aneurin Bevan gave us the NHS,  pre-war health poverty became history. A return to a privately operated health service would see a return to health poverty, self medication, or unregulated operators. Only Labour can be trusted to keep our NHS in public ownership, and  to invest in it, and  to invest in training its staff adequately.

During the debates for the Queen’s Speech in October, the Labour Party sought to protect the NHS from any future trade deals, and tabled an amendment, which was supported by the SNP, and Green MP, Caroline Lucas, but the Lib Dems scuppered it and reverted to Coalition mode. Every single Liberal Democrat MP abstained, and it was narrowly defeated.  Jo Swinson, has said she would not rule out the NHS from future trade deals.  She has also said, that if the Labour Party were the largest party, she would not support them to form a government, and the Liberal Democrats would force another General Election. That doesn’t sound very liberal or democratic to me.

Image 27-11-2019 at 17.09

In October, Channel 4 screened a ‘Disptaches’ programme  revealing they they had evidence that there had been meetings in which  ‘drug pricing’ had been discussed in secret between drug firms and British civil servants. US government and its powerful pharmaceutical industry want the NHS to pay more for their medicines which are much more expensive across the Atlantic. They want to remove the UK’s ability to block American drugs not deemed “value for money” and restrict our powers to allow cheaper alternatives to be prescribed to patients which save the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds a year.

Government response:

In a statement to Dispatches, the Department for International Trade said: “The NHS is not, and never will be, for sale to the private sector, whether overseas or domestic‎…The sustainability of the NHS is an absolute priority for the government. We could not agree to any proposals on medicines pricing or access that would put NHS finances at risk or reduce clinician and patient choice.”

Freedom-of-Information applications on details of the visits, resulted in the release of documents which were heavily redacted, which Jeremy Corbyn showed during the recent  BBC  Question Time Leader’s Debate. On the 27th November,  Jeremy Corbyn called a press conference, announcing that  evidence had been obtained showing  451 pages of uncensored documents, revealing that the NHS, had indeed been discussed as part of the Trump trade deal, despite being categorically denied by  Prime Minister Boris  Johnson. If this is untrue, firstly I ask why were the original pages redacted,  why go to 451 pages of a document, and secondly if the NHS is to be excluded,  why did the Tories vote against the Labour amendment to the Queen’s speech to specifically protect the NHS from any trade deals?

It has been practice of Tories prior to privatisation to deliberately underfund public services, so that:

  1. The services fail to function, and the Tories can claim to be ‘rescuing’ a failing service, and claiming that privatised the privatised company perfoms better and is more cost effective than when publicly owned. Our NHS has served us well for 70 years, but  is currently in crisis because of chronic underfunding and a lack of commitment to investment in training staff.
  2. The underfunded service allows lower valuation, and a cheap sell off of public assets allowing boosted profits for the speculators on the stock markets.

Staff working in the NHS are very aware of the underfunding, and the NHS operating at unprecedented  levels of poor performance, shortages of beds, A and E departments closed down, and those remaining open seeing several hour long queues never known before. Several of these staff  attended the press meeting and were sat in the front row.

NHS ‘imploding’ as figures reveal worst ever A&E performance and scale of deterioration under Tories 

Press Conference

Daily MIrror Reports

Jeremy Corbyn first showed heavily-redacted government documents, obtained by campaigners, relating to months of trade talks between the US and the UK. But he then dramatically held up a second bundle – the uncensored versions. It comes after weeks of denials from Boris Johnson, who claimed it was an “absolute invention”, “completely untrue” and there were “no circumstances whatever” in which the NHS would be on the table in a post-Brexit trade deal.

The Tories today accused Jeremy Corbyn of lying as Mr Johnson said: “We are absolutely resolved that there will be no sale of the NHS, no privatisation. The NHS is not on the table in any way … in no aspect whatever.” If Johnson’s word is to be trusted, and experience has shown a lack of trustworthiness, then why did the Tories vote against Labour’s amendment to the Queen’s speech explicitly excluding and protecting our NHS from any future trade deals, and why was it not categorically reject it the first instance, in part of the 451 pages?  Why the secrecy, if not because the Tories  know it will be immensely unpopular with the public.? We are being hoodwinked. The Tories’ claim does not ring true at all.

Jeremy Corbyn said:.’These uncensored documents leave Boris Johnson ’s denials in absolute tatters. The US is demanding that our NHS is on the table in negotiations for a toxic deal – it’s already being talked about in secret. That could lead to runaway privatisation of our health service.”

Reactions of Trade Unions:

  • UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The Tories have no scruples about letting US firms get their hands on the NHS. The Conservatives started the process with the Health and Social Act and can’t be trusted with our precious health service.“It will be crippled by these greedy corporations and their overpriced wares. The cost of drugs alone will soar by hundreds of millions of pounds a week.”

  • TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes added: “This will serve as a wake up call for the British public – that this election is certainly not about Brexit but about saving our treasured National Health Service. Trump – keep your small, greasy fingers off our NHS. We have 15 days to save our NHS.”

Two relevant small examples of the 451 pages, shown below suggest

  1. That a No Deal Brexit would open the doors and all ‘would be to play for’.
  2. A UK Commitment to a EU single market and Customs Union would make it a ’ no starter’.

The second document, after a separate meeting, quotes the UK’s lead negotiator as saying:

  1. “The impact of some patent issues raised on NHS access to generic drugs (i.e. cheaper drugs) will be a key consideration going forward.” 
  2. It also mentions meetings with ‘stakeholder’ engagement.


There seems a possibility that ‘stakeholders’ could refer to  US pharmaceutical companies, or US-style Insurance based health sectors , where claiming on a policy would put up future premiums. Campaigners fear drugs prices could soar in a US trade deal if price controls are changed or removed. In 2017 pharmaceutical spending was £365 per person while in the US it was £946, according to the OECD.

In 2011, James Astor wrote an  article The Pfink Tank (Think Left) about the involvement of drug companies in promoting laissez-faire capitalism.

‘Through think tanks, multinational companies can radically re-orientate party political policy along the lines of free-market corporatism. A firm that funds free-market groups on an epic scale is the world’s largest pharmaceutical firm, Pfizer.

Pfizer have been involved in funding think tanks since the 1980s, particularly under the 22 year guidance of Catherine Barr Windels. As Senior Director for Worldwide Policy Mobilization at Pfizer, she helped to create new think tanks and networks of think tanks in Europe, Canada, Africa, Asia, and the US.[1]  Paul Belien of the conservative Brussels Journal has described Windels menacingly as the “godmother of think tanks”:

 The Daily Mirror revealed UK trade minister George Hollingbery held a meeting with a US drugs giant last year, where they discussed “future trade” deals post-Brexit. They met at pharma firm Eli Lilly at the firm’s US HQ in Indianapolis in August 2018 and discussed pricing controls, according to papers obtained under Freedom of Information law by campaign group Global Justice Now.

Polls have shown that the main issue  concerning  voters , and which issue most likely to influence their vote, is the NHS, with 60% of voters, and has overtaken  Brexit as the greatest concern. These current relevations, showing the deceitful way the Tories appear to have forged a deal with Trump, when clearly the NHS has been under discussion could well affect the outcome of the General Election.

The Labour Party Election Manifesto  oulines the party’s plan to halt all privatisation plans for the NHS, to remove all elements of profiteering from the NHS, and Jeremy Corbyn has said  Labour would pass an emergency NHS ‘protection law ‘ to ensure that powerful US pharmaceutical companies cannot infiltrate the health service and dramatically force up the price of drugs. The Labour Party also  will establish a generic drug company. If fair prices are rejected for patented drugs they will use the Patents Act provisions, compulsory licences and research exemptions to secure access to generic versions, and  aims to increase the number of pharmaceutical jobs in the UK.

The Tories have kept their cards closed to their chests, secretly pursuing trade deals, and certainly the NHS has been part of those discussions. If elected, with a majority, they are poised to pay their ‘trump’ card, and their winnings in this global game is  profits and windfalls from our publicly funded health service. It will be ours no more.

The Tories  would never risk a referendum on the sale of the NHS, and there are many issues under discussion at this election, but   preventing the sale of the NHS is certainly the priority  concerning most voters. It is, effectively an ‘NHS Election’ . If we do not elect a Labour government, the NHS will be lost, it will be gone and we will see a return to health poverty, and it will be a social catastrophe.

Please, everyone, go out and  Vote Labour on Decemebr 12th,  for your future, for your loved ones, for your communities, and for our precious NHS.


1 thought on “Trumping the NHS

  1. Pingback: Trump’s Silver Platter and the NHS. | Think Left

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