The politics of fearBMJ 2011; 342 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d1273 (Published 01 March 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1273
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Fear is a primordial and potent trait most politicians exploit to
push dubious 'reforms and policies' unlikely to withstand reason or the
sign of times. It is usually underpinned by evidence-free pronouncements
The use of fear as an instrument to achieve an outcome, mostly
unpalatable to the general public but rewarding for the instigator, has
been well documented in the classic text on the politics of power by
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, over five centuries ago. Does this
strategy still work in the 21st century?
It worked for George W Bush jr who went on to win a second term in
office as the most powerful leader in the world on the back of 'war on
terror'. You could argue same for Tony Blair. He was awarded one of the
highest medal in the US and also appointed a super envoy of the 'free
world' to the Middleast.
Now, is this not a feat worth emulating by Tony Blair's self-styled
successor? What better place to start than the NHS?
The flow of fear is not unidirectional. The fear of what the public
might do ensured the current government kept their 'reform policies of the
NHS' out of their manifesto. When in power, one can afford to show ones
real intention especially if elections appear 'hundred years' away. Not
even a million person march in the centre of London would instigate a u-
The overwhelming majority of clinicians, NHS staff and indeed the
general public are not in agreement with the real objectives of the NHS
reform bill as espoused by Andrew Lansley and David Cameron. They
nontheless maintain that clinicians are at the fore-front of this drive!
Gaddaffi did say that ALL LIBYANS LOVED HIM even in the face of an
unprecedented uprising by the Libyan people!
When what you hold in the highest esteem, in this case the NHS, is
about to be dismembered for the benefit of a powerful few, fear ceases to
be an instrument to instil docility in the people. The people must speak.
Competing interests: No competing interests