DateSaturday 12 February 2005

Netimperative: what’s wrong with government telling us about technology

Over at Netimperative my latest piece is on what Alastair Campbell’s incapability with a Blackberry, the Treasury’s missent emails and a press release from Common-Info tell us about those who would – or do – rule us.

Labour’s pointless offer of “choice” in the NHS – which isn’t what we want

I’m still surprised by how people like Alan Milburn can do interviews with apparently intelligent interviewers and spout stuff in their faux-manifesto manner about how they’re enabling “choice” in the NHS or schools.

It’s time to call them on this crap. When someone is considering hospital care, they don’t want the false “choice” of having their operation in the nearest hospital, or one 200 miles away. Or even 100 miles away. People don’t want to have to make a “choice” about that.

What they want is to be able to get excellent health care at the nearest hospital.

What Labour, in power, should be doing is trying to raise the average for all hospitals’ care, and narrow the standard deviation of the quality of that care. Offering “choice” is like offering a drowning person the choice of green or blue lifebelts if they’ll swim to them. What you want is the lifebelt right there where you need it. Ditto with schools: you don’t want the “choice” of sending your child halfway across the city. You want a good school close by. If Milburn et al wanted to make a difference in the hospital sector, they could start by revoking the privatisation of cleaning which is so obviously the direct cause of the rise of MRSA. Outsourcing something as essential to hygiene – which is what hospitals are about – immediately means you have gaps in oversight. The bacteria aren’t interested in contracts. They’ll thrive while lawyers argue over clauses.

Mendacious use of language like “choice” – along with stupid apologies for things that weren’t their responsibility (the potato famine, Gerald Conlan’s wrongful imprisonment) while evading honest apologies for things that were their fault (the WMD dossier) is why people do not have faith in politicians. Adults apologise when they’re wrong. Children evade. You have to be an adult to vote. But why vote for children?

And that’s why people’s trust in politicians has dropped, in my view.