Friday, 30 January 2015

Alan Milburn’s conflict of interest in the NHS debate

Last night Newsnight led with the story that former Blairite Labour ministers had criticised Andy Burnham and the current Labour party for their pledge to revoke the Health and Social Care Act and restore the NHS as the preferred provider – reversing the tide on the increasing marketisation and fragmentation of the NHS.

Allegra Stratton’s package reported that a steady stream of Burnham’s predecessors have denounced him. In particular, Stratton reported that “Alan Milburn warned that Labour risked sticking to its comfort zone and being a pale imitation of the 1992 election campaign”.

Yet, Newsnight failed to inform its audience that Alan Milburn has direct financial interests in the private healthcare industry. As the article argues, journalists should report such relevant information about conflicts of interest. Not to do so is a dereliction of duty and the BBC ought to do better. Stratton should be interrogating such critiques, not parroting them verbatim.

John Harris has also written a Guardian column on this theme highlighting “the spectacle of former ministers urging the breaking-up and selling-off of public services while filling their boots”.