Monday, September 25, 2006

What should the unions make of Brown?

So Gordon Brown is starting to tell us what he wants to do as Prime Minister. The whole speech is online thanks to the BBC.

Dave Prentis, our General Secretary reportedly said of the Chancellor’s keynote speech to Labour Party Conference: "This was a speech with vision, based on working together, something we have not heard for a long time." I hope this didn’t reflect any shift away from the commendable caution Dave showed in commenting on plans for a “board” to run the NHS. Dave rightly said that " The last thing NHS staff need at the moment is another gimmick. We've had reform after reform, pushing services into the private sector and we need to slow that down. We would want to know how any proposed NHS board would operate and how it would be accountable. It could end up with a board controlled by big business with the interests of big business being put before those of patients and the NHS. We would want to be reassured that the health service is not being placed in the departure lounge for privatisation."

UNISON has already told Party Conference to listen to its supporters. We won’t get far by praising the architect of privatisation – Gordon Brown.

Left-wing leadership challenger John McDonnell said Mr Brown’s speech had been "content-less" and was offering only more of the same.

That seems right to me – look at what Brown has to say about our NHS;

“But when some people say as they do, why all that modernisation? Why all these New Labour reforms? Why continue to change?
I tell the country:
This is not reform for reforms sake but reform to deliver the best service possible, and Britain cannot lead the world by standing still.”

At one level this is vacuous nonsense worthy of Tony Blair. It can all too easily be read, however, as a pledge for “business as usual” from a Government seemingly committed to dismantling our health service.

Also, we know that Brown would replace Trident nuclear submarines – and that Party Conference is not even going to be allowed to debate this issue.

Let’s hope the union leaders don’t fall for the illusion that they can have the influence with Brown that they used to tell us they had with Blair!

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