NHS funding, the spirit of 1964 and truly radical social policies | Letters

Readers respond to Simon Jenkins’ article urging Labour to offer real radicalism to win his floating vote

While I agree with much of Simon Jenkins’ article (If you want my vote, give me true radicalism, 8 November), I could not understand his comment “as for the NHS and the courts, they are straitjacketed by professional splits and demarcations. Yet no one has the courage to tackle the vested interests, the doctors and the lawyers.” I cannot speak for the courts – though, like the NHS, they have suffered from cuts in finance.

Re the doctors, this has shades of the now cuddly Kenneth Clarke’s snide remark, circa 1990, about doctors reaching for their wallets. In fact doctors (and other NHS staff) have had various “reforms” imposed upon them, culminating in the egregious Lansley legislation of 2012. And surreptitious reforms, not legislated, are currently being imposed – primary care networks, integrated care organisations and amalgamation of clinical commissioning groups.

The two major problems faced by the NHS are shortage of staff and lack of money (the two are linked). Since 2010 the average real-terms increase in NHS funding is 1.5%, while health economists estimate it needs a minimum of 3% just to stand still. As for “better regulated in Sweden”, try comparing budgets.

If Jenkins has evidence of vested interests being even a minor factor in NHS problems, let him devote a future article to the subject.
Prof John Jarrett

• Simon Jenkins says that what he describes as the two main parties’ borrow-and-spend plans will return us to the cycle of stop-go, and that “the last go slammed up against a brick wall in 2008”. This is a category error on his part, in that he implies that the 2008 financial crash was the result of the then Labour government’s overspending; in doing so, he repeats (no doubt inadvertently) the old lie endlessly asserted by the Conservatives.

That was not the cause of the crash: it was the direct result of the reckless behaviour of the bankers, not one of whom has paid for their mistakes – and that is a real scandal.
Dr Richard Carter

• Simon Jenkins’ otherwise excellent piece on “true radicalism” claimed that the 1964 Wilson government “ended school selection”. Really? So why do we still have several hundred wholly, partially and subliminally selective secondary schools carefully distributed throughout every region of England?

A truly radical Labour manifesto would end, once and for all, the obsolete 11-plus test, and its various proxies, thus attacking one of the root causes of England’s chronic levels of inequality.
David Chaytor
Todmorden, Lancashire

• Nice to see Simon Jenkins giving the 1964 Labour government the credit it deserves for moving social policy forward, but he misses a couple of other critical achievements of that government: keeping Britain out of Vietnam, and setting up the Open University as a means of encouraging greater social mobility. Radical in deed!
Mike Smith
Hythe, Hampshire

• Simon Jenkins says he is a floating voter and takes the advice to “always chuck the rapscallions out”. I ask myself three questions: 1) What kind of Britain do I want? 2) Which party is least likely to achieve this? 3) Which party is most likely to keep them from office? It can mean I have to use a nose peg. If we had PR rather than FPTP things would be different.
Michael Heylings
Mitcheldean, Gloucestershire

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