The crisis in the NHS is overwhelming this week. It has reminded me of conversations I had with my late father on how to manage within the state sector. I think they're worth sharing.
My father worked for the nationalised electricity industry from the late 1940s to late 1980s. He spent much of that time as a fairly senior engineer. He was committed to what he did. He believed electricity supply was a human right. And he sought to delver it.
He left the industry and retired when he realised that privatisation challenged what the believed in. The priority was no longer supply. It was, instead, profit. He had a clear example of the difference this made. It was about emergency management.
In his day the state electricity boards ensured that they had all the capacity they needed to manage emergencies to keep supply going as well as possible, come what may. It meant there was excess capacity. But it wasn't wasted - maintenance and training was done instead.
Privatisation saw that excess as waste, and it went. It was assumed contracts could buy in support when needed. My father believed that was dangerous - because when demand was strongest the most inexperienced people would be put to work on the job.
We can see the same logic now in the NHS. Instead of having capacity to deal with an emergency a decade of cuts have delivered a survive reduced to the most basic level possible. And what we've seen is that outsourcing cannot make up the slack. And that is dangerous.
The NHS is now being overwhelmed. Coronavirus was predictable - and predicted. What was also predictable was that an NHS with reduced beds, staff, equipment and even training because of a lack of slack to let it happen would not be able to cope. And that's happening.
People are going to die now, because of a failed management ideology - that lower cost is always best when what is at stake is the supply of essential public services. So, some questions are appropriate.
Were the tax cuts to big business and the well off worth the deaths we are now seeing from coronavirus?
Was the goal of a balanced budget worth having people die for?
Could we have done better by committing to a universally high standard of basic public services - supplied by an integrated NHS?
Will we learn the lesson now and provide a properly resourced, staffed and trained NHS in the future?
Are people still going to have to die in pursuit of an economic dogma that puts profit before people, and cutting government spending above people's lives?
This is not the time to delay asking these questions. This is the time to ask them. Now is when we have to decide. We need commitment to care, not commitment to cutting deficits, and we need it now. It's time for politicians to deliver that, now.

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More from @RichardJMurphy

9 Jan
I know that I am in denial about what is going to happen over the next few weeks as the NHS is overwhelmed by Covid 19 and tens of thousands of people die, unnecessarily. But I should not be. I should be nurturing my anger that our government has chosen to let this happen.
They were too late last March, too early in June, wildly optimistic in the summer, irresponsible in September, feeble in November, reckless about Christmas and too late again in January. Whenever they could make this crisis worse that’s exactly what the government’s done.
Why has that happened? Three reasons. First, this government has never cared about the NHS and the people working in it. They treat them with the contempt they have for all private sector employees. Several in the Cabinet have been open about wanting to privatise the NHS.
Read 6 tweets
29 Dec 20
I am bored by being patronised by those telling me ‘don’t you know Remain is dead?, closely followed by ‘Move on.’ I can tell you, I have. That’s why I want to Return. To Europe, for sure. But to something much more than that.
I want to also Return to a positive politics. That’s the form rooted in compassion, care and genuine concern. But it’s also one that’s also learned that economics has moved on from what was taught by that subject in the 1980s, as has our understanding of the environment.
I want a politics that is not based in materialism. Or jingoism. Or nationalism. Or populism. Instead, I want a Return to the principles of mutual respect, tolerance, acceptance and co-existence, with each other and the rest of this world, human and otherwise.
Read 20 tweets
28 Dec 20
The more I read it the more I am perplexed by the Brexit deal.
It is an OK deal for trade in goods. Except for a mountain of very expensive and burdensome red tape, that is. And red tape and burdens on business are the thing the Tories always supposedly hated.
And the priority on the trade in goods also makes no sense for a service economy, which we are since the Tories abandoned manufacturing.
Read 20 tweets
20 Dec 20
I am bemused by those who demand that we repay the UK government’s debt. It makes me wonder, do they know what it is? And how do they think it can be repaid? And do they appreciate the consequences? A thread is coming on......bear with me, because I think you need to know this.
First, what is the UK government’s debt? I’ve immersed myself in this issue and can confidently say the Office for National Statistics’s figures are wrong, most especially because they claim that the UK government is in debt by owing money to itself. That’s not possible.
Whatever the Office for National Statistics like to claim, money you owe yourself is not debt, and so quantitative easing cancels about £800 billion of UK national debt right now. There are other mistakes in their numbers, but I’ll just stick with this one for the moment.
Read 95 tweets
12 Dec 20
I keep hearing people complain that the ‘mainstream media’ does not understand economics and that we’re talked down to as if everything must be explained as if the economy is a household. In this thread I explain all you (and they) need to know. Economics in one thread then....
Very few people seem to understand how money is created. Mainly that’s because when they’re told it seems so simple that they can’t believe something that’s so important that we’re willing to pay a lot to get it is created so easily. This thread explains how money is created.
What this thread also explains is that if we understand money we can completely reimagine how the economy really works, which is the pathway to rebuilding from the mess we are in. Which makes this a pretty big deal. I make no apology for its length as a result.
Read 66 tweets
10 Dec 20
As those I know best could confirm, I have long feared a No Deal Brexit. I could not see how Gove and Johnson could or would agree to anything else. But now it’s apparent that it is going to happen I am still shocked.
I am shocked even though in one way this does not impact me. I have had an Irish passport for decades. I am one of the lucky ones. So are my close family. We can all still enjoy freedom of movement. But I am still bereft. England has been my home.
I am ashamed of England tonight. I am pleased that Scotland and Northern Ireland held out against Brexit. I could never blame the Welsh. Brexit is an English initiative. The exceptionalism that underpins it is England’s alone. And that is why it is of a England that I am ashamed.
Read 12 tweets

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