Sunday, 17 October 2010

Emotion in politics

I was watching Sky news yesterday and there was a debate about NHS funding. At the same time there was a message at the bottom of the screen with breaking news about a group of female demonstrators who had handcuffed themselves to lorries and blocked roads in protest over climate change. If you asked the man in the street what they think about NHS funding or climate change they may give an answer but I think you are unlikely to find anyone who is so moved that they wish to do something about it.

How do we motivate members of the public so that they become politically active? Well one way is to use headlines. What attracted me to listen to the debate was when one person said "I couldn't disagree with you more". His view (I think) was that the NHS is so important that we can't rely on private companies to come in and improve it. His adversary in the debate then asked the rhetorical question as to whether private companies can support the NHS and improve it. I say rhetorical because he gave the immediate answer that we don't know the answer because it hasn't been done.

Well it has. There are lots of examples of private companies coming in to the NHS, doing a job and then leaving. The PFI means that the NHS is paying private companies because they provided the funding for expensive projects. Private companies don't do this out of the goodness of their heart. What this means is that it is more efficient to pay private companies than it is to organise it within the NHS. These decisions relate to general principles of whether we want private involvement in public expenditure. And that's where you find emotion. That's when you get handcuffed to lorries.

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