An exchange which reflects the NHS debate ...

Labour MP Ian Lavery made himself look exceptionally stupid today at Prime Minister's questions when he asked about former NHS manager Mark Britnell. But there was no fundamental distinction between the point he was attempting, and spectacularly, failing to score and the current approach of the Labour party to the NHS, including the way the party campaigned on the NHS in recent local elections.

The only difference is that the specific details of Mr Lavery's question, apparently based on an article in the Observer last Sunday attributing views to Mark Britnell which Mr Britnell has said does not reflect his position, made it particularly easy to highlight the double standards of Labour's position. This was the exchange at PMQs:

So the reason why the present Prime Minister had never been in a position to sack "his NHS Adviser David Britnell" (sic: I note in passing that the Labour member for Wansbeck couldn't even get the gentleman's name right) is that Mark Britnell left the NHS, in which he had been appointed to several very senior positions under the previous Labour government, about a year before they left office. See here for a Health Service Journal report in June 2009 of Mr Britnell leaving the post of NHS director general for commissioning and system management to join private sector consultancy KPMG.

Ian Lavery M.P. looked like a buffoon today. But is what he was doing any different from the way Labour is presenting the Lansley reforms as privatising the NHS when they continue in the same direction as the changes Labour introduced, and roll out nationally the pattern of GP commissioning which Labour introduced in Cumbria several years ago?

Or, for that matter, any different from what shadow education secretary Andy Burnham was doing when he described as "An attack on state education" the coalition government's policies such as extending academy schools, which were introduced by Tony Blair?

Mr Lavery's question was more evidence that, as the Spectator argued this week here, "Nothing remains of New Labour." However much I may have disagreed with some aspects of New Labour, it was a movement which dominated British politics for more than a decade, but which the present leadership of the Labour party has now abandoned. To quote the Spectator again,

"A party that does not recognise its past failures is bad enough. But Miliband seems unable to recognise Labour’s successes, and that is worse."

All that is left of New Labour is a number of the better policies which they started being continued by the present government - and the unedifying spectable of the present-day Labour party attacking the government for policies which Labour themselves introduced.


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