Project Fear 2: This Time It’s Personal
This week the Labour newsletter, the Daily Record, have run a story about a poor NHS nurse/actress who was allegedly abused for appearing on a political leaflet. It’s a brilliant piece of propaganda, on one hand it manages to taint all progressive voices with the “Vile Cybernat” label despite not producing any evidence of any abuse. On the other, it also keeps alive the constant NHS fear campaign that we are going to hear from Scottish Labour from now until the General election. In other words it’s Project Fear again. The furore erupted after Wings Over Scotland published a piece speculating that Suzanne, who appeared in the leaflet, may actually be an actress and not a nurse.
Turns out that she is both.
Forget that that nurse’s picture does appear on casting websites, and forget that she is personally acquainted with the Labour politician who created the leaflet. And forget that one person’s politically motivated opinion is not representative of the state of the NHS. She is a victim in this case. It is against NHS rules to appear on a leaflet wearing the uniform. She has been used as a political pawn in this issue by Labour and The Daily Record and her lack of adherence to the NHS code has been exposed to a much wider audience than would have been possible by vile cybernats alone. (Incidentally, they caused this mass furore on the same day they were obliged to publish a correction for a deliberately misleading article regarding The Vow). I really hope she doesn’t get into trouble by all the publicity the manufactured tale has caused.
She is also partially correct about the NHS. It is in crisis and there is nobody, except for Better Together pre referendum, trying to deny this. I know so many people who work in the NHS who are really not enjoying their jobs at the minute due to the amount of pressure they are under and I’m sure Suzanne is no different to them. However, where Labour are being deliberately disingenuous and turning themselves into a laughing stock is by suggesting that the problem has been caused by the Scottish Government. The NHS is in crisis because it is under more strain than it has ever been under, because we have an ageing population, because we are a country that has growing levels of obesity causing chronic illness and because of austerity.
Now, Scottish Labour could make a positive argument for fixing the problems within the NHS but instead they choose to put it down at every opportunity. Every week in FMQ’s Kezia Dugdale just brings up negative statistic after negative statistic. The Daily Record have headline after headline of shock stories putting down the system. The reason that they do this is that they have no positive case to make. Labour are committed to Tory austerity cuts in the next parliament and are therefore committed to the continued underfunding of the NHS. Also, the NHS in Scotland now, although missing some tough targets, is outperforming the NHS under the last Labour administration at Holyrood. This report, by Nuffield Health compares NHS statistics from 1996 to 2013 for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireand. It shows that the NHS in Scotland is operating at at similar level to the NHS in England and outperforming the NHS in Wales which is run by a Labour administration. It shows that since 2007, when Labour left office in Scotland, almost every metric has improved. And it shows that the majority of people are satisfied by the NHS in Scotland.
That’s not to say we don’t have problems, but under scrutiny the claims of Labour on the NHS don’t hold up. That is why they try to drum up fear by cherry picking statistics and using personal anecdotes from politically compromised NHS staff. However, despite the rhetoric not matching up with the data, the Project Fear 2 policy may work. This is because lots of people who are presented with the message will not be capable of or willing to employ scrutiny. We know that fear works, Blair McDougall admitted it after the referendum campaign. And it works because a lot of us would rather be spoon fed our politics than think for ourselves. Just as a lot of the stress on the NHS is caused by ignorance or laziness when it comes to looking after our own health. So too does our ignorance and laziness allow us to be manipulated by these messages. If Labour and the Daily Record really cared about the health of the nation and the NHS they would do well to stop putting it down. They would offer cogent policies for improvement instead of putting individual nurses in the glare of publicity. And if they are not willing to break from austerity, they could at least stop the negativity and use their influence to promote people taking responsibility for their own healthy living. But it probably suits their style of politics to have us scared and dependent.
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