Bernard Ingham: Why Gordon Brown is still to blame for Britain’s woes

Gordon Brown.
Gordon Brown.
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KING John was the worst of the bad lot among our monarchs. But at least he left – admittedly unintentionally – the eventual making of British democracy in the form of the Magna Carta.

So far Gordon Brown, the worst of our post-war Prime Ministers, has no mitigating legacy. He keeps coming back like a bad penny even if he did keep us out of the euro and is credited with rescuing the capitalist system after the 2007-08 collapse.

All that is small consolation to old folk who have seen only derisory interest on their investments for the last 10 years. This is not to mention his wrecking of the private pension system as soon as he could tax its operations.

Then there is his infamous deal with family doctors, which excused weekend working and put hospital A&E departments under new pressure. That, in turn, has produced a strike-happy BMA, faced with a Government determination to end the risks to hospital patients of inadequate weekend manning.

I am not unduly impressed by complaints of long hours of duty after being continuously on call for 11 years as the No 10 press secretary and regularly working 60-70 hours a week. But I do not admire a system that has a junior doctor working seven 12-hour days on the trot and welcome the suspension of next week’s planned strike.

Indeed, I wonder how NHS managers can justify exploiting the younger medics and allowing a poorer service to patients to develop at weekends.

Similarly, how can doctors square their Hippocratic Oath – “I will remember that I remain a member of society with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm” – with the present system and strikes?

In short, a lot of people face a lot of questions as well as Brown.

But I have not done with him. His partiality for funding public works through the extortionate Private Finance Initiative (PFI) has left hospitals facing bankruptcy.

This, and his deal with the doctors, was all of a Brown piece – throwing money at the public sector and its servants to make the latter electorally grateful. It didn’t, of course, work, least of all in Scotland, where Labour was all but annihilated last May.

But there was only one consequence for a Prime Minister who believed he had ended boom and bust. He left the nation with a monumental £156bn budget deficit when the bust duly came.

Typically, the Left is now conducting an unprincipled campaign against so-called austerity – what austerity? – or more correctly the curb on spending that Brown’s largesse has made necessary.

Which brings me to Brown’s protégé, former Labour leader Ed Miliband, who once chaired Brown’s council of economic advisers at the Treasury.

This prize specimen is credited with introducing an open invitation to militant ne’er-do-wells with his £3 membership gimmick to take over the party that Neil Kinnock cleaned up.

The result is the overwhelming election of Jeremy Corbyn and his Toothless Tridents as party leader.

Labour is now in the grip of Marxists, Trots and other nutters. Corbyn probably cannot believe his luck that Brown’s legacy is a very congenial harp on which to play his familiar tunes. As the enemy of austerity, he can appeal to all those who feel hard done by.

And the mess in hospitals helps his medico-lackeys in Momentum – the new guise of Militant – to stir up trouble with threats of strikes of one kind or another.

The poor bloody infantry are induced to brandish banners outside hospitals saying “We are a profession”, as if it can ever be professional to withhold a service you are sworn to provide. They also call on us to “Save the NHS”.

From whom? Themselves?

Such is the desperate state of public education in Britain that even the brightest seem to have no concept of professional behaviour or how to save the NHS. It will certainly not be achieved by causing operations to be cancelled and treatment to be delayed.

May I remind the deluded that the Hippocratic Oath also states: “I will remember that there is an art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug”.

It’s called reassurance.

I feel sorry for all the young doctors who have been dragged into all this. But I have a fair amount of contempt for their seniors and top management for allowing discontent to simmer and Corbyn’s friends to pull the BMA’s strings.

Gordon Brown’s escutcheon is stained a deeper red.