October 20, 2015

The resignation of Lord Warner from the Lords’ Whip is very good news for the Labour Party, and an indication that its policies are heading in the right direction.

In a grandiloquent letter to Corbyn to announce his resignation, Warner branded the democratic election of the Labour leader “unacceptable” and slammed Corbyn’s policies, writing that “The approach of those around you and your own approach and policies is highly likely to worsen the decline in the Labour Party’s credibility.”

Again betraying a fundamental distaste for party democracy, Warner bemoaned “activists secur[ing] ever greater control of the party’s apparatus and processes” before making the bizarre suggestion that Labour adopt “a policy approach that wins back people who have moved to voting Conservative and UKIP, as well as to the Greens and SNP.”

No wonder senior Labour figures like Lord Prescott and the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith have said that Warner’s departure will be “no great loss.”

Smith rightly noted that Warner has become notorious for advocating heavily privatised NHS services, including charging £10 per week for patients occupying hospital beds.

Warner has also served as a lobbyist for firms that stand to benefit from privatisation of hospital services, and also serves as a senior figure at Reform – one of the leading pro-privatisation think tanks. Deriving its funding from firms like KPMG, Barclays and Deloitte – Reform never misses a chance to advocate creaming off public money to private corporations.

As Health Minister under Tony Blair, Lord Warner constantly agitated for hiving off work from clinicians to technocratic managers or private companies, arguing that they were naturally more efficient and, conversely, that the NHS was hopelessly inefficient.

He had nothing to say about the findings of the Commonwealth Fund that, across the world, the NHS “ranks first overall, scoring highest on quality, access and efficiency.” Taxpayers in the UK spend around £2000 per head on their health service, compared with £5000 in the USA – and we receive much better outcomes.

According to Warner, under New Labour the workforce of the NHS expanded uncontrollably, leading to nose-diving productivity and “lousy services”. In a 2011 book to publicize his views, he wrote that “No one else in the world would be running an £80bn or £100bn business based on the kind of appalling financial management we have in the NHS.”

Warner also argued for “an end to national pay bargaining to allow flexibility in local labour markets” He even channelled Normal Tebbit, bloviating that “It’s not about handing stuff over lock, stock and barrel to the private sector; it’s actually getting on your bike and going to look at how other businesses do their business.”

The key word there is “business.” Lord Warner reduces the complexity of the NHS – which achieves near-miracles of health provision on a slender budget – to the ledger book of a corner shop.

The surprise is that Warner held on as an official Labour whip for so long. His outlandish views rightly jibe with those held by the hundreds of thousands of people who voted for Jeremy Corbyn, and there is no place for a man who holds them in any left-wing party.

I wasn’t much taken by the analogy of Blairism to a “virus” by one union leader during the Labour leadership campaign. However, due to Warner’s health background, the comparison is irresistible. The immune system of democracy has purged one pathogen from the party. Let’s hope others follow.


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