Mental health and the political stifling of rightful dissent…

In another striking example of the problem with consensus politics, the government has sacked Professor David Richards – despite being an independent advisor – for writing an article that questioned whether the promised £400 million for the newly announced mental health initiative was to be paid for from new money or through the existing NHS budget, saying:

“I personally feel very aggrieved that mental health is being used by this government to shore up its very poor opinion poll ratings and I don’t want to be part of it.”

With striking similarity to the sacking of Professor Nutt, sacking Richards for merely seeking clarification illustrates the profound conflicts with democracy at the heart of the institutions the West try to indoctrinate other countries to adopt, often through force:

His comments and sacking resulted from his frustrated efforts to get an answer to three important questions, he says. He wanted to know to what extent the money would come from cuts elsewhere in the budget; what mechanisms there were to ensure every penny was spent on training and therapy; and what systems had been put in place to ensure existing funds were not slashed as NHS cuts bit.

Whilst the Tories supported Nutt’s dismissal, Chris Huhme provides another classic quote re Nutt’s dismissal illustrating how unprincipled the LibDems have become:

“What is the point of having independent scientific advice if as soon as you get some advice that you don’t like, you sack the person who has given it to you?”

Exactly! Shame Huhme has given up defending these principles.

Regardless, any benefits from the mental health policy will be cancelled out through the effects of the £81bn cuts the government is enacting as communities are destroyed and public services are shut down as the banks and fat cats line their pockets. The NHS itself is to undergo serious reform which has been criticised from all sides of the debate, but again a very restricted ‘consensus’ decision has meant this criticism has been totally discredited. Whilst the mental health strategy sounds encouraging (especially considering what it influenced on Twitter), when framed within the political and economic context the situation seems rather different:

There will also be concern that the £400m, which is coming from existing allocations for NHS primary care trusts, may not find its way to the intended schemes. Ministers are not ringfencing the cash and other mental health services are under growing pressure, with hundreds of hospital beds threatened with closure.

Furthermore, let’s not forget that mental illness is a form of disability and with the 20% attack of disability benefits this strategy seems even more like a token. Cutting to this extent illustrates an ideological commitment, not a ‘necessity’, and undermines any attempt to promote mental health and disability in general as something other than a stigmatic’ problem’.

Again, I revert to the wonders of Murray Bookchin, who was very critical of consensus politics but also anarchists who promoted ultimate autonomy and instead advocated for a consideration of dissent within majority rule. People may argue that this is what we have now, but when considering how the social political and economic relations shut out people who fail to conform to hegemonic constructs, this is rather factious.

In contrast, Bookchin’s vision of a future reality is important to work towards, this involves campaigning against such reductions of political debate. Only in a society where dissent is not stifled and we have real informed public debate will we begin to overturn the democratic deficit so ripe within society:

If consensus could be achieved without compulsion of dissenters, a process that is feasible in small groups, who could possibly oppose it as a decision-making process? But to reduce a libertarian ideal to the unconditional right of a minority — let alone a “minority of one” — to abort a decision by a “collection of individuals” is to stifle the dialectic of ideas that thrives on opposition, confrontation and, yes, decisions with which everyone need not agree and should not agree, lest society become an ideological cemetery. Which is not to deny dissenters every opportunity to reverse majority decisions by unimpaired discussion and advocacy – Bookchin.


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