Boris Johnson held a lavish party to sell our NHS, and used taxpayer money to pay for it

Boris Johnson
Fréa Lockley

CORRECTION: The original article stated that Ipex Capital is a branch of the PA Consulting Group. In fact, Ipex was spun off from PA Consulting in 2008. The article was corrected to make that clear at 1.50pm on 21 November.

Boris Johnson blew taxpayers’ money to host a “lavish launch” for a US thinktank. The Initiative for Free Trade (IFT) wants US companies to compete with the NHS in post-Brexit trade deals.

On the table?

In 2017, the Times reported that Johnson, then foreign secretary, was set to back the IFT launch. It also reported that the thinktank:

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wants to work with ministers and businesses to dodge restrictions on negotiating deals before Britain withdraws from the EU in 2019.

In 2018, the Times also shared details of a joint report between the IFT and the US Cato Institute. The report calls for a “level playing field” between US and UK companies to compete for both goods and services. As the Times also noted:

Daniel Ikenson, one of the report’s editors, described the NHS as an “incumbent” healthcare provider that should have competition. “The purpose of liberalising trade is to expose incumbent businesses to competition, including healthcare providers,” he added.

Campaign group Led By Donkeys shared details of Johnson’s links with the group on Twitter. This revealed that Johnson used taxpayers’ money for a lavish event to launch the IFT:

Shadier and shadier

As Led by Donkeys showed, using Freedom of Information (FOI) documents, Johnson waived the £6,000 fee for IFT to use the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for its 2017 launch. This meant taxpayer money funded the party. The move was clearly controversial, and Theresa May’s office questioned it:

Nonetheless, Johnson went ahead:

Daniel Hannan, who’s mentioned in the emails, is a Conservative MEP and the IFT president. In 2009, Hannan said that “he wouldn’t wish” the NHS “on anyone”. He’s got a long history of showing derision for the NHS. In 2012, he called it inferior to the US model and asked, “Why would any sane people cling to such a system?”

In 2017, Hannan declared that he was being paid by Anthony Bamford, owner of JCB. Bamford is also one of Johnson’s major donors.

Johnson’s MP register of interests shows that donations from Bamford and JCB total £145,000 in 2019 alone. The Bamford family has an estimated wealth of £3.6bn. Since 2001, Electoral Commission records show the Bamfords and JCB have given “almost £10m in political donations”, primarily to the Conservative Party and groups “campaigning to leave” the EU. In June alone, these donations totalled £36,000.

As Led By Donkeys also revealed, Johnson’s “lavished praise on the IFT”:

It doesn’t stop there…

The joint report mentioned by the Times was co-written by the IFT and the Cato Institute. This US thinktank was co-founded by Charles Koch, co-owner of Koch Industries. This is the:

US’ second-largest privately owned company and the largest privately owned oil company, with annual revenues of more than $30 billion.

According to Greenpeace:

every journalist, scientist and politician needs to know – that denial of climate change is not something based on healthy scientific scepticism and debate: it is manufactured and bears the “Koch” brand

And as if that weren’t enough to cast shade on Johnson’s links with IFT, Jon Moynihan, who sits on its executive board, is another huge Tory and Vote Leave funder. Moynihan is also chair of Ipex Capital, which was spun off from PA Consulting Group in 2008. In 2017, an FOI request by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) revealed that this company “held 15 passes” that allowed its staff access to Ministry of Defence (MoD) buildings. Brian Kingham, also on the executive board, is another major Tory funder.

Hands off our NHS

Given the amount some of these players have donated to the Tory party, perhaps £6,000 may not seem like much to Johnson. But the fact is, that’s taxpayers’ money. And the shady links behind the IFT show just how deep the web goes and how under threat our NHS might be if Johnson wins the election. We’ve got one chance to stop Johnson on 12 December, and for the sake of our NHS, it’s vital we do.

Featured image via YouTube – Guardian News

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    1. Perhaps Daniel Ikenson would care to explain the reasoning behind his statement quoted below?

      “The purpose of liberalising trade is to expose incumbent businesses to competition, including healthcare providers,”

      In what respect is the taxpayer funded NHS a business? Does it have owners to whom a dividend is issued? Is it quoted on an exchange? Is its declared primary motivation generation of profit? Does it operate under a legally sanctioned monopoly?

      The answer about monopoly, if indeed that it be, is the only one conceivably relevant to to making a case based on competition. However it is not a monopoly provider of services. Nothing has prevented private enterprise and privately working healthcare professionals from setting up services. Individual citizens are free to spend their money as they wish on healthcare. They are not empowered to opt out of funding via taxation the NHS, but that is no greater burden than not being able to opt out of funding state provided education and a host of communal infrastructure services (e.g. roads, the factory inspectorate, public health surveillance, food safety standards enforcement, the military, and keeping our beloved royal family in the style to which it claims entitlement).

      Perhaps the NHS is so large that it stifles competition and innovation? Yet, it might be the UK private sector is small because many who could afford to access it choose not to do so; arguably that is because private providers do not offer an attractive value for money service. There is no evidence of private healthcare providers (for profit) in the USA or elsewhere being anywhere near the forefront of any kind of innovation; in the USA they do tend to be early adopters of new technologies (made available for a price with extensive profit margin) but when adequate pre-rolling-out evaluation (clinical and in other regards too) has not taken place the result is wasted resource (the patients’) and iatrogenesis.

      All that said, the argument is unproductive for two reasons. The first is that onus for demonstrating private healthcare provision in the context of the UK would be production of ‘better’ results rests entirely with Ikenson, Hannan, and self-proclaimed geniuses employed by ‘think tanks’. Their first task is to promulgate widely acceptable criteria for what ‘better’ means. These must include measures of promoting public health, timely and universal access to health services, clinical outcomes, and value for money whatever its source may be.

      Of course ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’. So, proponents of privatising UK health services ought present an exemplar of excellence in that regard. As the push is coming mainly from US financial interests it should be obvious home grown US healthcare provision must be wondrous to behold. Show the British how well it performs according to criteria of excellence. Demonstrate that vocal political demand (e.g. among candidates for the presidency) for restructuring the finances of health emanates only from the mouths of knaves.

      The second reason why countering assertions from Ikenson and his ilk with argument is unproductive rests with the nature of the discourse. It is a clash of two incommensurable ideologies. That to which I subscribe centres on the existence of ‘society’ as mutual interdependence among people; in the UK political parties since the mid-nineteenth century have gone along with, at least mouthed, this sentiment; they differed with respect to degree of mutual dependence and responsibility devolved to the individual. Conservatives, Liberals, and Labour supporters, had commonality of many core values. Perhaps two major wars helped shape a largely agreed concept of decency.

      Consensus slowly evaporated from the 1980’s until recently. In government now are uncompromising ideologues of the nastiest kind; that need not imply that most people hitherto members or supporters of the Conservative party have crossed to the ‘dark side’.

      The incommensurable ideologies may simply be summed up as neo-liberalism versus pretty much all the rest. Tenets of neo-liberalism demand blind faith in markets left to their own devices. They assume each individual acts according to a ruthless game-theory scenario wherein the Devil takes the hindmost. The ‘fittest’ survive in a crude parody of Darwinism; subtleties of that great theory, even as originally written about by Darwin, fly over their heads.

      Neo-liberals are base materialists unaware of values transcending possessions and power. No wonder so many neo-liberals admire writings of Ayn Rand, she who among other things wrote a defence of ‘selfishness’ (I could do that quite convincingly in the role of Devil’s advocate but Rand was a true believer); the USA Ayn Rand Institute serves to proselytise her dismal pseudo-philosophy as evinced from the following quotation from its website.

      “Discover how reason, rational self-interest and laissez-faire capitalism can make a positive impact on our world.”

      I would consign the Institute’s credo to the dustbin of cults along with the likes of Scientology were it not for its appeal to powerful people (rather than Hollywood actors). Without wishing to stretch the point too far, Ayn Rand’s views along with those of Hayek (as interpreted by non-economists) rank with those of Nazism (but not Fascism): their application in neo-liberalism implies clear distinction between the worthy and others not even meriting charitable succour.

      The upshot is, that the malignant works of neo-liberalism cannot be countered by reason alone. Thus, neither can its particular project concerning our NHS.

      Neo-liberalism must be vanquished at the ballot box, assuming that facility lasts much longer. Failing that, other measures are necessary but not for discussion in front of the squeamish.

      —–

      Released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 international license (sic).

      1. It stuns me that anyone could be so gullible as to believe that the NHS is ‘off-the-table’ just because Trump and Johnson say it is, when their actions speak so loudly otherwise.

        Also of equal mind-boggling veracity, is the supposed logic behind the idea that private markets can do anything better than any other well-organised grouping of specific talent, like nationalised services. It’s all people-powered, and people make mistakes no matter what the ideology behind them, but an ideology that works on the basis of profiting from Humanity’s misery, is an ideology which will (and provably does) promote that misery for profit.

        Neo-liberalism turns people into arrogant, programmed, sociopathic, narcissistic, machine-like thinkers, all of which are historically considered negative (weak) traits in our species because of the damage these traits do to, and within our society. Neo-liberalism is an excuse to behave horribly towards each other, an excuse to become less caring, less loving towards each other and the planet, and to put profit before wisdom.

        All anyone needs to do to see what a shit-show Neo-liberalism is, is to look to the USA, which although it is a Global Super-Power, does not have the best health-care, education, policing, or legal systems in the World, as you might reasonably expect of such a supposedly ‘Great’ Nation.

        Neo-liberalism itself has only got to where it is through deception and corruption, because as an ideology it cannot stand on its own merits. In order for anyone to be able to see it as being of any merit, it has needed a long-term concerted campaign by the MSM, in cahoots with government, educational institutes, and big business (corporations and smaller alike), and now it is a dangerous reality threatening everything we hold dear, including the fate of this World.

        I didn’t know what ‘Iatrogenesis’ meant so thank you for that, here’s Wikipedia’s description;-

        “Iatrogenesis (from the Greek for “brought forth by the healer”) refers to any effect on a person, resulting from any activity of one or more other persons acting as healthcare professionals or promoting products or services as beneficial to health, which does not support a goal of the person affected.[1][2][3][4][5][6]”

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iatrogenesis

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