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RIP the NHS. What Now For Labour?

“We have lost the battle, but we have not lost the war”.

Labour’s Hessle Councillor Paul Hogan said this during his speech to the Hull NHS Candlelit Vigil, which attracted over 70 campaigners to Victoria Square on Monday night and featured on page two of Tuesday’s Hull Daily Mail.

It wasn’t until the hated NHS Health and Social Bill actually became law last night that I started to reflect on what Comrade Hogan meant, and what lessons we have to learn from this tragedy in the context of our Labour history.

The Bill is irreversible. Let’s not kid ourselves here. The destruction of the PCT’s replace by private management companies will be impossible to unpick due to legal minefield regarding the fact that the NHS is now subject to EU competition law. This means that our next incoming Labour Government in 2015 will not be able to restore the PCT’s as care commissioners because this would be “unfair” on the private companies formed either by GPs themselves, or more than likely “bought” in because doctors will be overwhelmed.

This is the ultimate irony! The Tory Party, full of bilious rhetoric for the European Union are now hiding behind Brussels regulation to protect their privatisation of the NHS. You couldn’t make it up!

GP Dr.  Sarah Colvin told Sky News;  “The problems won’t surface in the first one or two years. What will happen is that the process of commissioning care will overwhelm GPs.

 “We are not trained in this, or are we accountants, so we will be forced to buy in management companies to help us, and they are driven by profit. 

“The care decisions will be far removed from the people on the ground, and I won’t be able to give people what they need in the way that I can now”. 

Let’s be totally clear about one thing. This is Tory Bill. It was dreamt up and implemented by Tories. They hate the NHS and have declared war on it, in the same way that they declared Class War with their first Budget and Comprehensive Spending Review when they got the keys of Number Ten by default in May 2010. 

This is not a “Coalition” Government in any way, shape or form. The Lib Dems were finished in Government as soon as they rolled over on tuition fees. Remember that this was the centre plank of Clegg’s campaign in 2010 and delivered him seats such as Cardiff, made Hull North marginal and bolstered his own majority in Sheffield. His supine performance over VAT strangled at birth any influence the Lib Dems have in Government, and this contempt that Cameron has for his Deputy was sealed in December 2011 when the Prime Minister single handedly wrecked agreement in the EU over financial arrangements without even a phone call to Clegg.

We must resist the urge to play the Tory trap of expending needless energy on the Lib Dems at national level. The leadership MUST focus all it’s energy on exposing the Tories and leave us at the grass roots to see the Liberals off Ward by Ward.

The Coalition must be a dream come true for Dave Snooty and his Etonian pals, ably assisted by self-loathing types such as Gove, Warsi and Patel. The Lib Dems are the hate figures in the country, acting as a lightening rod for public and Leftist anger. Clegg is despised as much as Thatcher. But remember he is only the facilitator. The drive for all this mayhem comes from the natural loathing that the Tories have for anything that deals with compassion and help for your fellow travellers in this life. From paying their fair share of tax, to the NHS the Tories detest anything which is a helping hand from Government such as working tax credits that they do not feel that is “earned”, even though these said tax credits subsidise the wage bill of may firms such as Tesco because the money that they pay their workers isn’t enough to get by on.

What now for Labour?

Firstly we must not send out a message of hopelessness to the nation, and especially to our young people. Having my politics formed in the conflict and hatred of the 1980’s, it is my memory of attending Labour meetings, rallies and observing the Miners strike that we channelled far too much energy in getting worked up over the injustices meted out by Thatcher to all and sundry. Guilty as charged on this front.

All I was hearing was hopelessness and despair. Militant offered an alternative because they articulated that anger but had a (ludicrous in retrospect but hey, I was 18) historical context and a logical analysis of why things were happening, and a programme to put it right. That’s why I spent four years with them, but also being active in the Labour Party.

Kinnock was a great orator, and he told us exactly what we wanted to hear, but these were speeches Labour people were making for each other. They meant very little to those outside our core. The pendulum swung far to far the other way and by the end of the Blair Government we had lost 3 million votes because we had blatantly refused to listen to the issues of Labour’s bedrock vote over issues such as immigration and the desperate straits our young people were in regarding housing and jobs.

We need to become “Forensic Labour” (trips off the tongue, not) by scrutinising and harassing the Tories over every single last word of legislation that comes before Parliament, and using the Freedom of Information Act to expose the impact of their policies.

Yvette Cooper has shown the lead on this, showing how the Tories have stuck the boot into women and vulnerable groups the most with their benefit reforms. Andy Burnham has done a similarly good job at Health and lets hope we can show how the Risk register will prove just how destructive this NHS Bill really is.

Education is in the firing line. From fees to the roll out of Academies into the Primary sector we can be sure the Tories are on the warpath. After all Thatcher was caught out in 1986 when her hand written note to Education Secretary Kenneth Baker at the bottom of a memo was leaked to the Guardian. It said, “The purpose of education is to teach people to know their place”. Yet in our radically Labour household we couldn’t remember who our Shadow Secretary of State was. Can you? Stephen Twigg is the answer. As Delia Smith might put it, “Where are yer? Let’s be ‘avin yer”.

The Labour Party needs to portray a vision of hope, a vision that we can make this country come good again by presenting ourselves as credible, alternative Government with a firm programme to take into power.

What we must avoid at all costs is a sense of drift and hopelessness, assuaged only by a thumb sucking feel good sense of self-righteousness that we hold the moral high ground and that’s all that matters.


About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.


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