Listening to and watching Cameron pitching the government’s misguided plans for the NHS in the speech and media interviews on Monday, I was struck by the sheer gall of the man, as well as his ‘class arrogance’, or perhaps it should be his ‘class ignorance’. Actually it is both.
Initially he baldly told John Humphrys on the Today programme that the scheme was designed to redress inequalities in health in this country. Ever since the Black report, first reluctantly published by the Thatcher government in 1980, it has been a simple sociological fact that the stark and shameful inequalities in people’s health and life spans is the result of the severe class inequalities that disfigure our society – and it is a fact that has been reinforced several times by further studies since. (Incidentally, Peter Townsend, the principal author, got one over on Thatcher by taking the report to Pelican for wider publication).
Of course, Humphrys failed to challenge Cameron on this blatant nonsense, as did Nick Robinson to whom the Today programme turned for comment. More class ignorance.Later on Cameron dropped this argument, relying instead on the claim that Lansley’s ‘reforms’ are not motivated by theory or ideology, but were designed directly to meet people’s needs through the transfer of responsibility to GPs from NHS trusts. This shift, plus even more severe competition within the NHS, would give people ‘choice’. More class arrogance/ignorance. It is a well-known sociological phenomenon that that the professional and middle classes take far more from public services than working people; ‘choice’ tips that balance even more firmly in their favour. It is not exactly a surprise that TV coverage basically left it to Labour to spell out the nature of the privatisation that will take place.
The utter hypocrisy of the coalition government’s position is that at the same time Theresa May has refused to implement the clause in the Equality Act that would have required public bodies, including the NHS, to pay regard to the socio-economic – i.e. class – factors that lead to inequalities such as the grossly unequal health outcomes which Cameron pretends he is addressing.