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Jun
2014
Friday 13th
posted by Morning Star in Features

SOLOMON HUGHES looks at the role of a top Tory in Alliance Medical’s NHS landgrab


Senior Tory MP Malcolm Rifkind has a new £60k-a- year job as a director of Alliance Medical, an NHS privatisation firm currently under investigation by the Competition Commission for a deal which might hurt the National Health Service.

Rifkind announced the new job as a part-time director of Alliance Medical in the latest register of MPs’ interests. Rifkind says he is being paid over £1,500 an hour by the firm.

Alliance Medical sells scanning services to the NHS in competition with existing NHS radiology and medical imaging services.

The Office of Fair Trading referred Alliance Medical’s takeover of another imaging firm, IBA Molecular, to the Competition Commission this March just before Rifkind’s appointment.

It looks like Rifkind has been hired at just the point Alliance Medical needs help dealing with government regulators.

IBA Molecular, the company Alliance Medical has purchased, produces FDG-18, a chemical which is injected into patients to help scanning machines locate cancers.

Regulators are worried that the takeover will give Alliance Medical over 45 per cent of the FDG-18 supply business, giving the firm too much power over the NHS.

The OFT’s chief economist Chris Walters said the merger “could lead to an increase in cost to the NHS and a reduction in the reliability of supply” of the vital chemical.

When Alliance Medical first expanded in the NHS in 2005, critics, including the Royal College of Radiologists, said contracts with the firm were “interfering” in NHS budgets for MRI scans and diverting NHS money away from training and investment.

Alliance Medical was heavily criticised for taking money for scans that never happened and for the quality of the scans it did undertake. Poor-quality reports meant the NHS had to duplicate its work.

Rifkind is one of the most senior Tory backbenchers. He first became an MP in the 1980s and has served as defence and foreign secretary.

David Cameron made him chairman of the powerful intelligence and security committee in 2010, showing that Rifkind is still very influential in top Tory circles.

Rifkind was chairman of Alliance Medical around eight years ago but left the firm in 2006 when the company was sold on by its then owner, Bridgepoint Capital.

Alliance Medical built up a strong NHS business under Bridgepoint, but since the sale the firm has been in financial difficulty.

It had so many debts that in 2010 Alliance’s Dubai-based owners lost control of the firm to their creditors.

Alliance is now owned in part by Lloyds Bank — which is in turn partly publicly owned thanks to the 2008 bailout.

Bringing Rifkind back on to the board is part of Alliance Medical’s strategy to get the business back into profit, as a struggling NHS privatiser obviously sees having a Tory MP on board as a valuable asset.

 

IN the wake of the “Trojan horse” letter affair, Michael Gove wants schools to teach more “British values.”

But what are British values? Gove himself pushed the academy plan that invited religiously minded governors to run state schools.

Then he used a fake letter to declare any Muslims who took advantage of his offer were part of a terrorist plot.

So there we have one set of British values — hypocrisy and bigotry. An urge to have the vicar preach in front of everyone. A fear that any non-Christians who reject his preaching are part of a plot that will kill us all in our own beds.

Gove thinks the values that suffused the British empire, the golf club and the commuter-belt market town are British values.

But other British values are available. You can get some from the Sleaford Mods.

This duo, whose latest LP Divide And Exit came out in April, started with the British value of confusing naming systems — they are not from Sleaford and they aren’t mods.

Instead the band have a brutal minimalist electro beat powering angry and often mordantly funny lyrics.

The songs are filled with the “British values” of bitterness and dark wit. They are very abrasive, but with a bit of elliptical poetry about them which has led to comparisons with The Fall.

They also bear a certain similarity to the Streets’ first album in that these are everyday tales set against simple electronic music.

It’s a stream of consciousness between a drag of a roll-up and a drink of cheap high-strength cider set against a digital hammer.

The songs can be harsh enough to take the skin off your ears and are peppered with profanity.

They aren’t sloganeering but they are casually political, complaining about “The prime minister’s face hanging in the clouds like Gary Oldman’s Dracula.”

Perhaps more politically, they  describe ordinary life in hard times, about having “crap ideas about clearing arrears” through “selling booze from the back of a van,” with “cheap midget gems” for a treat.

They are sometimes described as a “voice from the underclass.” You can see why with, for example, Jobseeker, one of their standout tracks describing the delights of signing on with a biting sarcasm.

But they are describing the life of everyday people — from managers of high-street shops and supervisors in fast-food outlets to any number of people in low-paid regular employment where “the wage don’t fit” (although a “free cream cake on a Friday” is available). It’s a caustic view of working-class life, not an “underclass.”

The band have been running in one form or other since 2007, so along with Divide And Exit, which is in record shops now, I’d recommend their back catalogue.

If you have a taste for their entertaining, incisive, elliptical rant, previous LPs including Chubbed Up and Austerity Dogs are available as low-cost MP3s through the Bandcamp website.




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