← Labour counts

Foundation Hospitals:  some political arguments

At the Bournemouth conference four public sector unions won the argument on  Foundation Hospitals. The argument, summarised under composite 4, included two significant assertions: the assertion that  competition-based reforms are not models for improvement; and the assertion that the policy of Foundation Hospitals did not feature in the 2001 manifesto. Neither assertion was challenged during the debate. 

First, on the issue of competition: paragraph 2 clause IV of the Labour Party constitution requires the party to join forces with the "enterprise of the market and the rigour of competition". Rigorous competition is a core principle of the reconstituted clause IV - it is therefore difficult to see how an argument based on challenging this mechanism can be logically sustained. 

On the issue of the 2001 manifesto: on page 7 of the manifesto, top-right panel, it says:

  • The NHS needs radical reform

  • We will decentralise power

  • We will create a new type of hospital

  • We will allow successful hospitals to take over failing ones

And at the foot of page 17 it makes these further pledges:

  • Private-sector providers should support public endeavour 

  • A spirit of enterprise should apply to public service 

These manifesto commitments provided a very clear signal on the broad idea of Foundation Hospitals and those arguing otherwise are obfuscating important political pointers which perhaps would now be better highlighted and reaffirmed. 

And finally, a further look at clause IV: paragraph 4 specifies trade unions and co-operative societies as the main organisations forming the Labour partnership. It is significant that the co-op have developed an intelligent and convincing campaign supporting foundation hospitals - based on the benefits of mutuality. Yet the public sector unions, with less political representation and less stake holders than the co-op movement, have been able to dominate this historic partnership and seemingly ignore their partner's interest.

So, in pursuing their campaign, the public sector unions are:

  • denying clause IV and the social benefits of enterprise and competition

  • ignoring the reality of manifesto commitments 

  • dismissing the "new mutuality" of a modern, progressive and increasingly influential co-operative movement.

Mike Allott
Romsey CLP
4 October 2003

← Labour counts