Please share this widely.
Julie Bailey, the founder of “patients’ group” Cure the NHS (Cure), has won an award. She has been awarded the ‘Strategy’ prize by Westbourne, a communications agency.
The prize, part of Westbourne’s “Change Opinions Award” campaign, was awarded to Bailey for being ‘so Change Opinion’, specifically for ‘daring’
to take on the once great NHS, an institution which, until she shook it by the throat, was sacrosanct
and for being
a “human JCB” who won’t stop until she has bulldozed her way through a health service she says is in terminal decline.
Westbourne’s article about the award goes on to elaborate,
When considering this campaign, it is important to note who her opponent was. The NHS has one of the most professional communications departments, and spends vast amounts of money to keep it that way. The respect they command is highlighted by the fact that many politicians do not dare speak out against its practises (sic). Yet, Julie Bailey’s campaign managed to invert a well-established formula, taking on the caring, people-based aspect of the NHS, and highlighting its extremely hierarchical nature. The campaign became the voice of the people versus the medical practise (sic), a phenomenon that would not have happened before in Britain.
So, the NHS ‘was’ once great and is now in ‘terminal decline’, and we should all be on our knees thanking Ms Bailey for ‘highlighting’ it. Hmm. The article is evidently nonsensical (as well as evidencing a poor grasp of grammar and spelling, or perhaps an American influence). For one thing, politicians are certainly demonstrating no shyness about ‘daring’ to criticise the NHS.
The article also praises Ms Bailey for ‘taking on’, and overturning, the NHS’ ‘caring, people-based aspect’. How telling that comment is, we’ll see shortly.
To understand why this ‘award’ is so important – and not in the way I’m sure Ms Bailey would like to think – we need to take a closer look at Westbourne. First, a quick look at its client base, according to its website:
You can click on the image for a larger version, but the highlighted clients are:
- Conservative Home, the self-styled ‘home of Conservatism’
- the ‘New Schools Network‘, an organisation (yet another of those ‘charities’ devoted to Tory ideals) dedicated to spreading the ‘free school’ model that Education Secretary Michael Gove loves and is using to pave the way for companies to run schools for profit
- Bain Capital – an asset-management firm controlling over $70 billion, which declares itself to be one of the world’s leading investors in the healthcare sector
So far, so Tory. But the Conservative party influence does not stop with the company’s clients. Most of the leading players in the company have deep, true-blue roots, including:
- James Bethell, the 5th Baron Bethell and a former Tory ‘A-list’ parliamentary candidate with strong links to the US
- Campbell Storey, who, as the site states, “worked at the heart of the Conservative policy process on two of the most radical sets of policies currently being implemented by the Coalition: welfare and police reform” and “was senior policy adviser for the shadow Work and Pensions and Transport teams”. Mr Storey’s fingerprints are therefore all over one of the most poisonous and loathsome departments of this government, the DWP – a search of this blog will soon show you the true nature of the DWP if you are in any doubt.
As if to put the cherry on top of the cake of its right-wing connections, the most recent entry in Westbourne’s website Twitter feed talks about how great it was to have two extreme neoliberals at its awards night:
The Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) founded by Matthew Elliott, who describes himself as a ‘free-market libertarian’, is a group devoted to extreme low-tax policies and the slashing of state spending, and is a darling of the Conservative party. The TPA set up a ‘charity’ (yes, another of those), which then funnelled 90% of its first two years’ of gift-aided income straight back to the TPA. In other words, a group set up ostensibly for saving taxpayers’ money took a huge subsidy from…taxpayers’ funds. The Charity Commission carried out an investigation of the TPA and its ‘charity’ and warned them about their conduct – but the CC’s report on the matter seems to have mysteriously disappeared:
George Eustice MP is a Tory backbencher and failed UKIP candidate in the 1999 European elections, which says it all, really. He also used to work for Portland Communications, a company with very strong links to Westbourne. So Westbourne was thrilled to welcome two extreme right-wingers to its awards bash. As I said, the cherry on the cake, really.
And this is the company that is thrilled by Julie Bailey’s ‘bulldozer’ campaign smashing through the NHS to turn on its head the public impression that our NHS cares for us and is better than any private alternative.
This is the nearest yet to a public admission by the Right and its health lobbyists that Ms Bailey and her ‘Cure the NHS’ are smashing the NHS – and that they love her for it.
Westbourne is not the only organisation with strong links to right-wing health-privatisers that strongly supports Ms Bailey and Cure. Julia Manning, founder of yet another health ‘thinktank’, 2020health, has been a staunch supporter. As an excellent Social Investigations blog pointed out last week, Ms Manning has written to government ministers complaining about
bureaucratic obstructions to market access
and asking them to launch a ‘charm offensive’ to draw international corporations into the UK health sector. I’d recommend reading the SI article in full.
Julie Bailey’s ‘award’ from Westbourne has served to crystallise a situation that I’ve been highlighting now for some time: a supposedly pro-NHS group (one of a number of similar organisations) that is, in fact, serving to promote a toxic right-wing agenda – to destroy the public’s trust in, and affection for, this country’s greatest institution (and still the greatest, in spite of Westbourne’s dismissive summation and the government’s relentless emaciation through cash-starvation and the cutting of numbers).
I’d love to think that Ms Bailey is just a well-intentioned dupe being exploited for this purpose. But the evidence suggests otherwise. One of her favourite dismissive categorisations of any dissenters is to write them off as ‘Labour activists’. She was at it again just today:
And this is not a new tack. Here are just a couple of other examples from her Twitter feed:
So it would hardly be surprising if you were to conclude that Ms Bailey is fully aware of the impact of her ‘campaign’, for all her protestations that she only wants to ‘cure’ the NHS.
But whether wittingly or no, it’s really beyond question to the objective observer that she, Cure and other similar groups are the darlings of the Right for one reason only – that they are a useful, easy, convenient weapon in the hands of those who are ideologically and/or venally committed to the end of the NHS.
It’s essential that the truth gets out, and that the few in the media who are prepared to admit the truth start to broadcast it, to neutralise and then counteract the prevailing, corrosive narrative being cynically pedalled by politicians and media.