Superficial headline grabbers

When I was younger and still had some faith in humanity left, I liked to be kept informed about what was happening in the outside world.

So I would buy Time every week and read it cover to cover. I was particularly interested in the Middle East; it was the time of the Iranian revolution and Time's coverage seemed informative and objective.

Then I began to realise that its coverage of the Northern Ireland 'Troubles was inaccurate; I realised this because I knew something about what was going on in Northern Ireland, being unfortunate enough to live there.

If Time's reporting on Northern Ireland was so inaccurate, then it seemed likely so were all its other reports.

So I cancelled my subscription and went back to reading the Sporting Life and Playboy. In those days you needed a hard neck to buy Playboy, as it was considered quite raunchy, but it had many interesting articles on motor cars.

The same general principle applies to New Labour. I know little about economics or about the situation in Iraq, about education or transport.

One might presume that with all the resources at their disposal, New Labour would have some notion about what they were doing in all these different areas; their policies sound plausible enough to the uninformed observer like myself.

However, I do know something about practising medicine and looking after sick people, and all I see coming from New Labour in the areas I know something about are superficial populist policies that are designed to look good and provide easy sound bites, with no proper rationale behind them. It is all spin and no substance. Which leads to the conclusion that their other policies are developed with the same goals and the same degree of thought and foresight.

The Sunday headlines the day before the White Paper provided yet another prime example of such empty spin. 'Free MOTs from your GP', 'Super-surgeries', 'Personal trainers for everyone'. This is a perfect recipe for propagating millions more of the worried well and using up scant resources in an ocean of paperwork and red tape.

But as long as New Labour makes the Sunday front pages, that's all that matters, isn't it?

- Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh.

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