On Tuesday 11 March 2014 Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs voted to award the health secretary Jeremy Hunt the power to shut down hospitals at short notice, without any kind of public or staff consultation.
The decision to award these draconian new powers stems for the High Court ruling in October 2013 that Jeremy Hunt had exceeded his powers in trying to shut down the emergency care and maternity units at Lewisham Hospital.
This is a classic example of what Tories do when they are defeated in the courts. They quickly rush through draconian new "We're above the law" legislation, to undermine the legal principle that stopped them from doing whatever the hell they wanted in the first place.
Another example of this kind of "We're above the law" legislation was rushed through parliament in March 2013 after Iain Duncan Smith's Stalinist Workfare schemes were declared unlawful by the courts. Instead of abandoning his unlawful schemes by which the state confiscates the labour of the individual and distributes it to highly profitable corporations, Iain Duncan Smith just got his Tory and Lib-Dem mates to pass a bunch of retroactively written rules, so that his Workfare schemes would have been lawful had they been written that way at the time they were declared unlawful by the courts!
Jeremy Hunt's draconian new powers to shut down hospitals at short notice are extremely dangerous. It won't matter a jot how good the quality of care at the hospital is, and it won't matter how well the hospital is performing from a financial perspective. If Jeremy Hunt wants it shut down for whatever reason, he'll be able to get it closed within 40 days, no matter how strong the opposition from the staff, patients and local community.
What makes these powers so dangerous is that Jeremy Hunt is a man that is ideologically opposed to the NHS. In 2009 he co-authored a book which described the NHS as a "60 year mistake", and called for the NHS to be abolished.
It is almost unbelievable that the Tories see Jeremy Hunt as an appropriate man to put in charge of the NHS, but it does make a perverse kind of sense. As far as the Tories are concerned, the role of the Health Secretary is not to run the health service, but to carve it up for privatisation as quickly as possible.
Perhaps the most important point to note about these new powers is that they will only apply to public hospitals, because the hospitals that are owned by PFI consortia, or the ones that have been sold off to Tory party donors will be entitled to huge amounts of compensation if the Health Secretary unilaterally decides to shut them down at incredibly short notice.
These draconian new powers will only ever be used to shut down public hospitals, often to suit the financial interests of neighbouring private hospitals that the government can't afford to shut down because of the inflexible nature of the long-term contracts they've signed with the private health companies that operate them (and in many cases donate to the Tory party).
In conclusion, if you care about the NHS at all and you vote Tory, you must be completely immune to cognitive dissonance. The Tory party is bankrolled by the private health industry, and they're on an ideological mission to carve up the NHS and privatise the pieces, and now they've just awarded themselves the power to shut down hospitals that remain in the public sector as quickly as they can, no matter how strong the local opposition.
If you value the NHS, voting Tory would be a completely insane thing for you to do.
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