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National Health Service History

Geoffrey Rivett

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The Rt Hon Dr John Reid MP



John Reid

Born in Scotland in May 1947, John Reid went to school at Coatbridge. He read History at Stirling University, staying to take a Doctorate in Economic History.  He worked as a research officer for the Labour Party from 1979 to 1983. He acted as political adviser to Neil Kinnock from 1983 to 1985 and organised Scottish Trade Unionists for Labour from 1986 to 1987. Since 1987 John Reid has been MP for Motherwell North (renamed Hamilton North and Bellshill) - so that though health has been devolved to Scotland, the English NHS was in the care of a Scot representing a Scottish constituency.

He has held the following posts in Parliament: Opposition Spokesman on Children 1989-90; Opposition Spokesman on Defence 1990-97; Minister of State for Defence 1997-8; Minister for Transport 1998-99; Secretary of State for Scotland May 99- Jan 2000; Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Jan 2000 - Oct 2002; Minister without Portfolio and Party Chair Oct 2002 - Apr 2003; Leader of the House of Commons and President of the Council Apr 2003.
John Reid enjoys reading history and solving crosswords in his spare time. He is married to Ms Carine Adler. 

The Guardian has described him as a hard man with a past, a Glaswegian ex-communist trusted by Tony Blair to deliver the goods.

John Reid moved to the Ministry of Defence in May 2005

Guardian profile
Article in The Times, 28th September 2004 - David Chantler

John Reid is a man on a mission. The Health Secretary, whose own political philosophy has evolved considerably from his Communist beginnings, is trying to convert the rest of us to new Labour's new view of the public sector. There is a subtle but significant change in the way in which Reid will present his vision for the public services at the Labour Party conference. Instead of the emphasis being on what the Government can do for us, the onus will be shifted on to what the public, and especially the deprived, can do for themselves. "The core of new Labour's political and philosophical approach is to increase the power that people have over their own lives," Reid says. "If people do not take up this power, very little happens, and equality does not improve. Government supports the reduction of inequality but disadvantaged people do the hard work of making it happen."

This refinement of Labour's mantra of "choice" in the public services can be seen as a response to a battle raging with the Conservatives to take big central government out of people's everyday lives. Not only are the two main parties competing to downsize the Civil Service, but both are also keen to offer "personalised" public services, which individuals can negotiate to meet their own needs, rather than have a one-size-fits-all  service thrust upon them.
Reid's aim this week is to re-educate those within Labour who feel that only the "sharp-elbowed middle classes" will make the most of their new choices - and to disabuse these of the notion that encouraging private providers is the same as privatising the NHS or other core services Reid, a working class intellectual with a doctorate on the 19th Century West African slave trade, realises that creased emphasis on personal responsibility leaves him open to the suspicion that Labour is gradually lowering expectations of what it can achieve before the next election.

It will also sound to some in the Labour movement like Tory type thinking of the type used by Lord Tebbit when he told the unemployed to get on their bikes and look for work. Reid counters "The parodying of this position is that John Reid says the poor have only themselves to blame - there is no responsibility of government. But the new Labour Government provides support develop people's motivation" Labour created the New Deal, which helped people to help themselves back into work, he says, and on NHS services such as smoking cessation, Labour provided the pro­gramme but success not be achieved without personal effort from the individual.

But the underlying philosophical justification lies in the key attitude change towards the public sector that Labour wants to create. Its personalised public services achieve, in Reid's mind, nothing less than a class revolution. "Our future policies must be about empowerment," he enthuses. "Choosing the time you go for a hospital appointment and choosing the doctor you see gives you power over your life. Giving up smoking gives you power over your life. The government that achieves this will enable people and not instruct them. In fact, the government that instructs them takes away from their power and reduces their capacity. Since disadvantaged people depend upon public services more than others do, policy that demands a personalised public service will have a better impact on their lives than on people who are better off"








home inheritance1948-19571958-19671968-1977 1978-1987 1988-1997  1998-2007 2008-2017 2018 - 2027 envoishort history London's hospitals



Geoffrey Rivett©