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Boris Johnson, then foreign secretary, and Donald Trump at the UN in 2017. The Johnson government has “left the door open” to including the NHS in the UK/US trade deal, the writer maintains (photo:  Public Domain,

Why the Tories still cannot be trusted with our NHS

While the country’s ability to fight the Covid-19 virus continues to be hampered by the government’s insistence on prioritising private means over public resources, Michael Madden finds no reason to change the conclusion he arrived at in May, that the Tories cannot be trusted with our NHS.

Since I first wrote in late May about how the Tories cannot be trusted with our National Health Service, it has become even more clear that the danger of losing our treasured ‘free at source’ NHS, as envisaged by Aneurin Bevan, may be more imminent than we thought. The closer Britain gets to its final split from the European Union and its ensuing reliance on trade deals made with other countries – especially the USA – the closer the danger gets.

At a debate on the trade bill in the Commons on 20 July, the Labour Party tried to pass a motion to pledge the government not to include NHS contracts to American companies in any future UK/USA trade deal, but Government ministers argued it was unnecessary as the NHS was not on the table and the amendment was voted down.

The Tories refused, because they claimed they would never do such a thing. But anyone who looks at their track record can see that they may well change their minds OR just continue chipping away as they have been for many years. The issue was fully dissected by Labour MP Emily Thornberry in an article in The Guardian two days later.

It is obvious that the Tories have ‘left the door open’. But the NHS has been picked at and restructured over the past 40 years so that it hardly resembles Bevan’s brilliant, world-beating (until recently) and visionary system. The Tories have awarded billions of pounds worth of NHS contract to private companies such as Circle Health and Care UK, whose investors and top executives have donated generous amounts to the party.

The practice was rife under the Cameron/Clegg Coalition. Research reported last year found that £14.7bn of the £24bn of outsourced contracts awarded since 2015 went to private companies.Worrying insights into the likely effects of further privatisation – and the damaging effects of government policy on the NHS since 2010 – have been given in letters to The Guardian from NHS staff.

The government’s insistence on awarding contracts to private companies – often without any competition – while ignoring the expertise of public health bodies has resulted in a testing system inadequate to our needs and unable to cope with the resurgence of the coronavirus, as has been amply documented in this New York Review of Books article, along with other evidence of the damaging effects of their privatisation policy.


It is hardly surprising that people are disillusioned with our so-called ‘democracy’, when a party can sell Brexit to voters with a pretence that they were going to give millions of pounds annually to the NHS, then get into Government with a claim that the NHS is safe in their hands, while continuing to give NHS public service contracts to their corporate cronies.

Of course, some readers may look at all these criticisms and say that they all come from agents of the extreme Left. But they are not. There is no extreme Left left in Britain, so the claim is absurd. All these people are doing is pointing out facts.

As Nick Dearden, head of the Campaign for Global Justice, says: “Modern trade deals are about so much more than tariffs. They are about regulation, how you run public services, what kind of food standards you have.

“For the US, a trade deal is contingent on opening up British markets in food, farming, pharma, and health services, and that will mean battering down the existing standards and protections that came with EU membership. With those lowered standards, the UK would not be able to carry on trading in the EU market.

“The Conservative manifesto for last December’s election promised not to compromise on Britain’s food, animal welfare, and environmental standards. But Johnson’s government has since backtracked on those commitments, refusing to guarantee that chlorinated chicken from the US would stay off UK shelves, and refusing to amend a recently passed agriculture bill to include greater protections for British farmers.”

Were we, as voters, ever asked to vote on these or on the continual privatisations of the NHS or lowering of standards. Did anyone who voted Brexit know that lowered standards and the biggest recession the UK has ever faced may well be be the outcome? Is this what people sought for their future, their children’s or grandchildren’s futures?

Surely, given the “national treasure” status of the NHS, it merits at least a referendum.

Here is a petition asking for one that any reader who is concerned about this can sign (if they haven’t already).


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Posted 18:42 Wednesday, Oct 7, 2020 In: Politics


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  1. Michael Madden

    For Chris Lewcock.
    Yes, I totally agree with you on the whole. It’s just that I don’t think Labour would ever privatise the NHS, whereas I think the Tories would and might, and have been the worst offenders so far.

    Comment by Michael Madden — Tuesday, Oct 13, 2020 @ 01:46

  2. Eadweard

    Well said Michael. Selling off parts of the NHS has largely and clearly been a disastrous policy with very few exceptions. The writings and campaigning of the great Alyson Pollock have been pointing out and proving this for at least 20 years as the politicians who are in the pockets of big pharma/big healthcare have ploughed on to our detriment. See her Ted lecture at Read also ‘Doctor’ columns in Private Eye for a fornightly dose of maladministration and malfeasance not to mention outright larceny by those who are highly paid to run the NHS. It is an outrage and has to be campaigned and fought against, as you are. Keep up the good work.

    Comment by Eadweard — Monday, Oct 12, 2020 @ 22:24

  3. Chris Lewcock

    Well yes of course Michael, sharp and apt as usual, but would Labour really be any better? Bevan started by taking social care away from Beveridge’s original ideas, stuffed the consultants’ mouths with gold (his words) and GPs have always been private contractors. Wasn’t it Barbara Castle who introduced prescription charges? And whilst John Major introduced PFI contracts to fund hospital construction it was Gordon Brown – during 13 years of Labour stewardship -who doubled down on them to keep the sums off Treasury books, creating humongous long term debts. Beating each other over the head with party labels doesn’t seem to get us anywhere positive?

    Comment by Chris Lewcock — Monday, Oct 12, 2020 @ 15:42

  4. Simon Marshall

    Another informative and level-headed article, Mick. Thank you and keep them coming!
    You are right to raise the ghastly spectre of the new Trades Bill. It should be added that, “Talks between the USA and UK, already underway, are not subject to scrutiny and the Trade Bill in its current form will mean that they continue to be conducted in secret with little Parliamentary or public involvement.” (From:
    Yes, that’s right, the NHS can be sold, and could already be being sold, in secret.
    And yet the opposition seems so tame. Why don’t we hear at EVERY PMQ the question “Now that this Prime Minister and this government is committed to breaking international law by tearing up sections of its own Withdrawal Agreement, will the PM, to allay public fears, now initiate a process by which the selling of the NHS to any their party contravenes UK law?”
    Around a month ago I posted a question on Facebook asking people if they know about the Trade Bill and its secret clauses. Not one person said that they knew. Not one. There is great attention paid, and rightly so, to the malevolent practice of peddling “fake news.” However, there is less focus on “no news.” The Emily Thornbury article that Mick cites here is the only one that shone through the July murk, when this fetid bill swanned through the Parliamentary lobby.
    We should do well to remember that lying by omission is every bit as pernicious as lying by commission.
    The NHS therefore already on a very secret table. The Tories well sell everything.
    End of.

    Comment by Simon Marshall — Saturday, Oct 10, 2020 @ 14:13

  5. Bernard McGinley

    What a sobering article about the threat to our health service — thanks. Chlorinated chicken is a short (though incomplete) measure of the government’s integrity, or its decline in it.

    This new article helps explain why the American model is not to be emulated:

    The NHS is not perfect and hardly could be, but the alternatives – and the language they come with – are to be treated with severe scepticism.

    Comment by Bernard McGinley — Friday, Oct 9, 2020 @ 23:11

  6. Kendal

    Well put Michael, thanks. Now Johnson in his conference address seems to sound more like Corbyn, with more christmas promises for even less crumbling taxes. did i hear correctly that it may come from corporate revenues? i suspect this will not be as Labour wished to recoup (from unredeemable taxes) but more from the panicked ‘propping up’ of private corporations and more of the mythical trickle-down theory that has proven to be a complete con. health included in this proposal, as it is already almost consumed by it.

    Yet more alarming is some reference to the genius of the “National Insurance’ creation, i suggest as a flimsy net curtain obscuring the view of planned mandatory private health insurance, he is at pains to obscure from the light of day like so many Tory policies that exacerbate economic disparity and fragment social cohesion.

    Comment by Kendal — Thursday, Oct 8, 2020 @ 10:02

  7. Francis Sheppard

    Michael’s recent submission to HOLT. Perfectly describes the future scenario that the country and its NHS can expect if this government has its way and continues in 2024 which is still a real possibility. But this is not the only major problem this country is having to face. Armageddon is facing this country on a scale never experienced before. He is right to a point in identifying that there is no longer a left left opposition in political circles but this is to fall into the trap of labelling certain factions into either or scenario. Equality fair treatment dignity for all are not the sole property of the left. This has derived from the time when certain people were suppressed kept down by the selfish traits that exist in everyone to a certain degree. Being aware of these debilitating traits and constantly fighting against the selfish parts of our nature should be the priority of everyone. Politics is a divisive entity thought up by those who sometimes seek control for their own ends. In the times when the world needed total solutions take for instance the U.K. at the start of the Second World War a coming together of different (factions) enabled the best available to work together to get solutions. This moment in time is one such time for the able to come together and defeat the common enemy of the day which are many at the moment. Covid 19 as an example can be thwarted as New Zealand has again shown. The British people are generally a good kind loving race who hate injustice and have accepted in to their country millions of visitors through the ages and integrated with them they must take back who they really are and fight the selfishness of the few. Then we will really have what the tourist industry has gained from for years showing the real picture and nature of the British people.

    Comment by Francis Sheppard — Thursday, Oct 8, 2020 @ 07:57

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