Labour's health policy

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.311.6997.75 (Published 08 July 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:75
  1. Rudolf Klein
  1. Professor of social policy Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY

    Marks a retreat from ideology

    The NHS presents the Labour party, as the next government in waiting, with a particularly difficult political challenge. On the one hand, the party's apocalyptic prophecies about the consequences of the changes in 1991 have been betrayed by events: the NHS has not disintegrated, nor has it been privatised. On the other hand, the party's commitment to financial austerity, should it be returned to office, inhibits it from buying support by making any promises about more generous funding. In the circumstances, the Labour party's manifesto on health, Renewing the NHS,1 is a remarkably skilful document. It signals a retreat from dogmatism and an acceptance of the need for a pragmatic policy under a smokescreen of ideological rhetoric.

    The rhetoric is designed to reassure the party faithful. The manifesto evokes a mythical past when everything was splendid in the NHS. It describes a demonised present in which the Conservative government is corrupting the NHS's ideals. But the proposals are designed to reassure the public and the professionals working in the NHS. They turn out to be surprisingly modest, often building on the much denounced changes of recent years, largely cosmetic in character, and designed to allow scope …

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