I managed to get a letter published in the Guardian yesterday. It highlighted the dilemma for all would-be Labour supporters. Given that the Labour Party remains committed to a part-privatised NHS, which leaves it exposed under EU rules to continuing privatisation, will the NHS really be safe under Labour’s present policies?
This is the challenge that the NHS (Reinstatement) Bill – with its comprehensive policies for de-marketising the NHS and restoring it to its public service remit – poses for the Labour Party leadership and policy makers.
So it seemed admirable that new campaign group the People’s Vote For the NHS invited speakers for the Bill to their Westminster Convention last Saturday as the People’s Vote leadership don’t support the Bill – in fact their panellists refused to sign a petition to support it presented by a rep of the National Health Action Party (NHA), Keep Our National Health Public (KONP) and 999 Call For The NHS.
The People’s Vote remain notable absentees from a list of campaign organisations that back the Bill including the veteran KONP, grassroots org 999 Call For The NHS and the NHA Party, who are fielding doctors as candidates at the Election.
The reasons for this were apparent at the Convention when a People’s Vote panellist spoke openly in support of Labour’s NHS policies, indeed pleaded for them. She, like others among its leadership, has affiliations with the Labour Party and/or appears to be a staunch supporter of it.
They seem to belong to the don’t-rock-the-Labour-boat camp who seek to avoid any divisions over Party policy which they feel could benefit the Tories. The dread of a Tory victory – shared across the board by all Save The NHS campaigners – fuels a resistance to proper critical debate over Labour’s NHS policy before the Election.
This looks self-defeating to those who believe that constructive critical debate could benefit the Party in ensuring that its policies maximise their appeal to the public mood of disenchantment with the machinations of the finance and corporate sectors, the ravages of austerity and the vast transfer of wealth to the few under free market zealotry. Of which the NHS and its crises can readily be shown to be victim.
This resistance was evident at the Conference. No time was left for Q & A’s on the NHS (Reinstatement) Bill following presentations by its drafters Professor Allyson Pollock and barrister Peter Roderick. When repeated requests were made from the floor for a vote on the Bill, where there was a lot of interest and support for it, they were turned down by the People’s Vote chair to consternation among attendees.
That I, too, had my request to film at the Convention turned down by the People’s Vote organiser further suggested a lack of real will by the People’s Vote leadership to see any proper, informing engagement with the substance of the Bill.
Which is a shame as a commitment to the Bill by all NHS campaign groups, including the People’s Vote, could be a rallying point for uniting the divided campaign camps.
This could help pressure the trades unions – a need convincingly urged by impressive speakers like War On Want’s John Hilary and health policy writer Dr John Lister – and in turn Labour Party policy makers into a similar commitment to the full range of the Bill’s policies.
Which would evidence, to the doubters and critics like 999 Call For The NHS and many others, that Labour is truly committed to freeing the NHS from the privateers and restoring it as a publicly funded service.
So why the continuing reluctance of the Labour Party, and its acolytes like the People’s Vote leadership, to embrace the comprehensive nature of the NHS (Reinstatement) Bill’s policies, which would properly secure the NHS? Who and what are influencing present Labour policy making?
That’s a question that haunts Joanna and the Crazy Gang’s journey through the murky world of big game politics in Groundswell.