Communists and fascists agreed that an efficient society requires a strong element of focused terror – the fear of physical attack. We may think we have moved on but in fact, ever since the 70s, we have been moving back, back towards an older idea that an efficient society requires a strong element of unfocused terror – the fear of economic insecurity.
Nothing better illustrates this slippery slope than the Coalition’s plan for privatisation by stealth in the NHS, which having been waved through the Commons by the glove puppet party has recently begun its progress through the Lords. At our policy meeting last month we agreed a statement on health, namely that the Party:
· condemns the introduction of market forces into the NHS and the corresponding erosion of democratic accountability for the use of public funds;
· notes and condemns the fact that the drive for marketisation has been and continues to be supported by all the major London parties, denying any effective choice of direction;
· notes that in Scotland and Wales the NHS remains true to its founding principles and is organised through local health boards, co-ordinated by the respective devolved health ministers;
· notes that health policy for Wessex is made nationally by the London regime and is imposed on Wessex regardless of local or regional opinion;
· believes that health care should be provided by, or in close collaboration with, elected local bodies with unfettered powers to make decisions and to scrutinise and correct the decisions of others in this field, where not solely concerning the exercise of personal clinical responsibility;
· sees a role for regional action to support local choices, similar to the role of the health ministries in Scotland and Wales and the former regional health authorities in England, and demands that Wessex should form one such regional unit;
· recognises that a major cause of ill-health is the pressured nature of our society and calls for a fundamental reassessment of priorities so as to improve future health at source.
The Coalition parties claim as their aim the replacement of the Big State by the Big Society. Underlying this thinking is no great philosophical depth but simply a desire to rebrand more public assets for private benefit. Having found the State mired in debt, thanks to their banker chums, the only room for manoeuvre they perceive is to get the voluntary sector into debt too.
Less stupid folk will recognise straight away that the biggest society of all, the most comprehensive expression of the common good, IS the State. The real challenge is not to monetise and dismantle its institutions but to decentralise and democratise them, recreating opportunities for volunteers to exercise their skills and enthusiasm WITHIN the public sector, not through some amateurish substitute for it. The ongoing process of stripping out democracy, cutting the number of councils, cutting the number of councillors, giving them less to do, tying them up in rules that ruin their role, handing power to paid officers, executive members and elected mayors to do secret deals with the propertied and moneyed classes, is but the doing of a clueless flock of sheep, now well on their way to be butchered.