Apr 102012
Richard Branson at the Virgin America OC Launch.

Richard Branson at the Virgin America OC Launch. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The corpse of Aneurin Bevan’s National Health Service is still warm, but this Conservative-Lib Dem coalition Government has already started to sell bits of it off, with an indecent haste worthy of Hamlet’s mother’s second marriage. The spokesdroids will probably try to argue – on a technical quibble – that it’s not actually being privatised, but I would be interested to learn how else one can in all honesty describe National Health staff being forced to accept the transfer of their employment contracts to a private company or lose their jobs.

I do wonder how easily Liberal Democrat MPs are sleeping these days. Without their support, this bill would never have passed and with its passing they lost a huge number of voters. NHS staff, of all political colours, were massively against it. For many of them, their chances of re-election are now very slim indeed.

My personal view on this is that if something is essential to the country’s infrastructure, it should be publicly owned: major roads, railways, airports, inner city transport systems and social services, including health. These are all services which can only remain effective if profits are fully reinvested into modernising and improving them. Shareholders have no place in a system intended to be of benefit for all.

This doesn’t mean that private clinics, airports, bus companies cannot exist. It means they should not be the only ones running the show. We already saw what happened with British Rail: it was chopped up into a collection of greedy regional monopolies. Prices soared, service plummeted and the taxpayers paid over more, not less, to keep them running. The British railway system is now a public embarrassment, to the extent that the staunchly conservative French politician, Alain Juppé, once reacted with horror at the suggestion that tentative plans to allow private trains onto the French national network in addition to the existing SNCF services could mean France would end up with a railway system similar to the UK’s.

Incidentally, doesn’t Richard Branson’s company Virgin have a railway franchise which uses trains so badly designed they have a permanent smell of excreta from the toilets?

Anyway, yesterday morning the conservative UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph ran an op-ed critical of the NHS carve-up and the signing-over of healthcare and prison management for the whole of Surrey to Beardy Branson and his companies. The article immediately became hugely popular, not least because it has been published by a news source that has traditionally always supported the Conservative party. It would seem that Branson was mightily displeased. The following call for rallying round Max Pemberton, the journalist in question, went out today:

Just been sent this in regards to http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/features/9193015/Healthy-competition-in-the-NHS-is-a-sick-joke.html Please read and help!

Dear All,

I have been reliably informed that Branson is threatening to sue the Telegraph and the journalist, Max Pemberton, personally for his Choice and the NHS article published yesterday which covers Virgin takeover of community services. People will be waking up to the fact that the NHS is no longer the provider of care in many areas.

It appears that Branson is demanding a half page reply; a high court injunction was served on Sunday to try to prevent the article being published. Branson is said to be unhappy too about the tweeting and using it as part of the case. Max could face costs of up to £90,000.

It appears too that the DoH have also engineered major media campaign to dampen down press interest hence the underreporting by the BBC and other media of these takeovers.

Branson Virgin actions are very worrying sign of things to come for those that dare question and dissent. So it’s up to us all, can people please write today if possible to letters page of the Telegraph re the article on Virgin(they need to know we care) and also think about their response to Virgin London Marathon Protest.

The real concern is that dissenting voices will be silenced and made afraid so it is important to speak up and write in in support of Max’s article and others should speak out if they face similar intimidation.

Please send on widely if you have access to a list serve.

— Tiernan Douieb (@TiernanDouieb) April 10, 2012

That was the message going around this afternoon. When contacted on Twitter, this was Branson’s reply:

So, was all the fuss over nothing? Did Virgin intend to sue but shied away from the bad publicity? Clearly we can’t tell on so little evidence, but the fact that Branson is considering a “right of reply” does suggest that a nerve was touched. Watch this space.

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anarchic teapot

Site owner. Opinionated bugger. Qualified accountant, IT bod and French-English translator. I swear a lot.
anarchic teapot has written 65 posts on this blog.