Tony Blair: “the NHS is safe in our hands”

7 Feb
In 2021, Blair told ITV News, “vaccination is your route to liberty.” He called unvaccinated people “idiots” and  urged the UK government to introduce vaccine passes. What he didn’t say was that his Tony Blair Institute for Global Change had received millions in donations from pro-vaccine organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Nick Corbishley in  Naked Capitalism
Thatcher cited Blair as her greatest accomplishment. Here in the US Nikki Haley called Thatcher one of her inspirations. While governor, Haley was big on public/private partnerships, same as our local business Republicans. While President, Bill Clinton joked: “we’re the Eisenhower Republicans” versus the Gingrich Reagan Republicans.
Blair is smarter than Haley but both are Thatcher’s children. The Gingrich Repubs wanted to drown government in the bathtub but the Thatcher uniparty pols see it as a giant cookie jar.
‘Carolinian’, commenting below the Corbishley piece

My title’s a fib. It wasn’t Blair who said the NHS “is safe in our hands”. It was Mrs Thatcher, who claimed him as her greatest legacy. Say what you like about either, the man’s frequent returns to our screens and front pages to knock sense into the befuddled heads of lesser mortals show that legacy to have been nothing if not enduring.

Iraq? Let’s not go there. Let’s instead recall the championing of Private Finance Initiatives as a key plank of his ‘Third Way ‘ Does Carolinian overstate his smarts? Is Nikki thicker than I knew? Or are we up against the power of personal enrichment – estimates coalesce around $60m – to induce selective stupidity of the kind Upton Sinclair skewered? After all, that other Third Way salesman over the pond, a Bill Clinton said to have – FWIW – one of the highest IQs of all US presidents, also got stinking rich after leaving office.

Here’s what The Independent had to say of a PFI whose upfront cash injections so bedazzled its devotees they forgot to read – or alert us to – the ruinous T & Cs buried in the small print:

The great PFI heist … Britain’s economy left high and dry by a doomed economic philosophy

PFI debt for the British taxpayer is more than £300bn for infrastructure projects, with a value of £54.7bn. To put it into perspective, the PFI debt is four times the size of the budget deficit used to justify austerity.

Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), recently made an astonishing admission on BBC1’s Question Time when he stated that private finance initiatives (PFI) had been a “fraud on the people” …

… Yet [they] are far from dead and buried. The Naylor Review – a report recommending the disposal of NHS land and assets to generate investment – is rehabilitating PFI …

Before I get to Nick Corbishley, who makes the short hop from PFI to selling NHS data, let me note a comment by ‘Petra’, two up from Carolinian’s below Nick’s piece:

In fairness, what is overlooked are potential benefits of precision health. So, integrating different medical information across a diverse population, there are validated methods to predict risk and onset of certain diseases and minimize side effects of medications, or tell whether a medication will work with this cancer and this patient. When data is transferred, it’s often in the form of aggregated statistics .

By ‘precision health’ Petra means using aggregated data to improve healthcare delivery. Well of course big data can do that, and bring a good many other benefits to humankind. But we’re not speaking in a vacuum. We’re speaking of a state run by and for sociopaths who rain bombs on Yemen to abet genocide in Gaza, and kibosh peace talks that would have spared hundreds of thousands of lives and kept Ukraine territorially intact; of rentiers  who at home use class war austerity such that hired moral midgets opine in all seriousness that raising state pension age for those without $60m fortunes is a regrettable necessity.

Over to Mr Corbishley, lightly abridged:

Why Is Tony Blair So Keen for the UK’s National Health Service to Sell Off Its Patients’ Health Data to Private Companies?

What is being proposed is obviously a terrible deal for NHS patients. But could the Tony Blair Institute’s biggest donor benefit handsomely?

Blair may have left office two decades ago but has definitely not retired from politics. Britons are reminded of this every few months when their former prime minister reappears on TV to call for some drastic new government policy, usually involving AI or other digital technology. As the FT reported last June, his TBI think tank is in effect a global consultancy to the UK government.

In 2021, he made one of the most Orwellian statements of the COVID-19 pandemic. “In the end,” Blair told ITV News, “vaccination is going to be your route to liberty.” He called unvaccinated people “idiots” and repeatedly urged the UK government to introduce vaccine passes. What he didn’t say was that his Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, or TBI, had received millions of dollars from pro-vaccine organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

A year later, he joined erstwhile rival William Hague to call for introduction of a digital identity system as part of a “fundamental reshaping of the state around technology” — which, as luck would have it, is exactly what the UK government is trying to do. Last week, the Hague-Blair duo was back in the news, now calling for the UK’s struggling NHS to sell off patient health data,  “to fund cutting-edge treatments” and raise much-needed money for the health system …

A Bad Deal for Patients

What is proposed may provide significant benefits to the UK’s burgeoning biotech sector but is a bad deal for NHS patients. Personal data is to be hawked in return for a vague promise of future economic development, which few patients will benefit from. By then the NHS will be even more a shadow of its former self, its vital functions harvested out to the private sector — something Blair has repeatedly called for.

Will patients be able to consent to their data being used in this way? Presumably not, since most would opt out. Blair and Hague insist that patient data sold to private companies will be anonymised and de-identified. But as Electronic Frontier Foundation noted in a recent article, that is almost impossible to guarantee:

Corporations often claim to de-identify our data to remove all personal information, which can also be aggregated to protect user privacy.

Saying personal data is “anonymized” implies a one-way ratchet where it can never be disaggregated and reidentified. But data rarely stays anonymous. Says Professor Matt Blaze, cryptography and data privacy expert, “what seems anonymous rarely is, even if designed with the best intentions.”

Blair in government helped intensify piecemeal privatisation of the NHS by opening it up to commercialisation and saddling it with crippling debts through PFI …

Continue reading at Naked Capitalism …


NB my dissing of PFI implies a better way of financing infrastructure – health and education no less than railways and ports – essential to wealth creation. There is one, and it needn’t on the face of it invoke the fantasy of overthrowing capitalism with armed bodies of workers’ militia. That ship has sailed. We do need however to move from the homely but specious analogy, yet another Mrs T legacy, of running a national economy with a fiat currency as a scaled up version of managing a household or company. (Have people really looked into the nature of a National Debt to be paid off at cost of such suffering for the many, such ‘cookie jar’ enrichment for the rentier  beneficiaries of PFI and its ilk?) We need also to rethink what wealth is, and how it gets to be created.

Both are subjects for another day.

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2 Replies to “Tony Blair: “the NHS is safe in our hands”

  1. The great PFI heist.

    The lunacy does not stop with the financial basis of these contracts. Most public bodies who are thus contracted with private companies through the PFI format no longer have the personnel with the time or requisite experience to monitor contract compliance effectively. Unfortunately this often results in mouth wateringly expensive services not be delivered at all – or to an unacceptably poor standard – with little or no accountability.

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