The NHS, Protest and Guilt

A few very obvious points on the NHS:

The Health and Social Care Bill is going to pass and over the coming years it will have a catestrophic effect on the quality and provision of healthcare in the country. Even if Labour are elected in 2015 and Andy Burnham makes good on his promise to undo the legislation, the damage will already have been done and the wheels of privatisation (which were, yes, set grinding under the previous Labour government) will be spinning too fast to stop. The NHS is a political anomaly and I don’t believe it could exist again. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
The bill is going to pass. The bill was always going to pass. The government has a three line whip, which¬†supersedes¬†public pressure. The bill is going to pass because by this stage its failure to do so would be a defeat the Coalition could not recover from. The bill is going to pass because its proposed reforms are already being put into place and there’s no going back. No amount of writing to MPs and Peers, no amount of signatures on a petition, no amount of candle light vigils, no amount of protests and rallies are going to change this.

This has been obvious for some time (though the more terrifying details and confirmation of our more pesimistic fears have been coming thick and fast in recent weeks). So, where was the left? There has been a lot of talk about how ashamed we should all be for our failure to stop this bill. ‘How will we look our children in the eyes and tell them that we failed?’ etc. There has been a lot of talk of people ‘doing everything they can’ (which in practise usually means writings to Peers and signing a petition). Out of this have come an entirely undeserved sense of sanctimony from some, and an equally undeserved sense of guilt from others.

Some people’s frustration over this political inevitability has manifested itself in a poorly disguised contempt for the public for allowing this to happen. ‘If you’re not prepared to fight for it, you don’t deserve free healthcare’ the hateful mantra runs. This is bullshit. To lay the blame for this toxic legislation at the feet of those who have tried to oppose it, or those who didn’t know it was happening at all, is dull and obnoxious. The government (in collusion with private health firms) wrote this bill, they are forcing it through, they are to blame. Many people I know are afriad of what the future holds which, frankly, is sensible, but too many of us are compounding that stress with guilt for failure to act. All of the forms of protest we have available to us to stop a piece of legislation being passed can be boiled down to simply asking the people with the power to act in as we want them. If they choose not to listen (as they have done, consistently), we have no further way to compell them.

Part of the desire to blame ineffective campaigners rather than an uncaring government may stem from a refusal to accept powerlessness within our Parliamentary system. It’s preferable to think that we just dropped the ball this time around than that we never stand a chance of winning, perhaps. The truth is, the government doesn’t need our approval to get things done. If you don’t like the government’s NHS reforms, don’t vote for them again at the next election. That’s it; that’s your democratic power; that’s the recourse that’s open to you if you work within the system. It’s in three years time. How many staff and patients will have had their lives changed in that time?

If this farcical travesty of a legislative process can be good for anything, let it be that we can no longer have any delusions about our power within a representative democracy. Stop blaming ourselves; we never stood a chance. This was their battleground, they set the terms and they always win. If we really want to fight them, we need to think, dream and act much bigger.

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9 Responses to The NHS, Protest and Guilt

  1. EdinburghEye says:

    I agree with this entirely.

    I believe the group of doctors who have said they will stand as MPs in the next general election (they plan to displace both senior LibDem MPs and marginal Tories) should be supported, first because this pressure group in the Commons would be the most effective means of ensuring that the next government does all it can to reverse the changes made, but also because politicians who do this kind of thing – who enforce massive changes that they have no democratic mandate for – should be kicked out of office.

    The Tory manifesto had no platform for far-reaching changes to the NHS, but I suppose we all knew that the Tories would do this if they got the chance. Nick Clegg, despite trying to claim this was purely a Tory bill, has done all he possibly could to ensure it passes: he’ll certainly be on the doctors’ list of targets, and while he obviously deserves much worse, the very least we can do is to make sure that Clegg goes.

  2. Alex says:

    I for one am glad the bill will pass!

    Whats wrong with private sector intervention?! Most people couldn’t care less as long as they and their loved ones are treated.

    You are just politically and ideologically wedded to an outdated and discredited model i.e. Centralised, buerocratic state planning.

    How many hundreds of thousands of people have died through NHS neglect? How many old people have been neglected? We need change, a health care system for the people NOT the producers!

    Wake up and smell the coffee. Your whole article is small minded and ignorant.

  3. F****** word:

    “Part of the desire to blame ineffective campaigners rather than an uncaring government may stem from a refusal to accept powerlessness within our Parliamentary system.”

  4. Agreed – our parliamentary system is poorly version of democracy at best.

    Blair exploited the same parliamentary system to get lass than popular legislation through too, so this isn’t a single party issue.

    Sad thing is we blew a chance at reform of voting etc. with the voting Referendum. That was an utter failure of campaigning, and a clever move by the Tories to do it when they did.

    The two main parties are reasonably happy with the system, as two party systems always are, for the same reasons they always claim.

    Sad thing is disillusionment with politics continues to increase, and crap like this won’t change it.

  5. have you any alternative proposal;s for reform of the NHS or do you think it should have been left exactly as it was?

  6. Nooen is laying the blame for the bill at ‘the left’s’ door. People have just rejected the left as a way of fighting anything. Which is fair enough and has been the case for 30 years. Not just Thatchers fault.
    The subsumation of real politics of marketisation, the nasty culture that descended on the cuts, and the arrogance and dogmatic crap the left perpetuate rather than acknowledge that what they are is an exogenous body defined solely by their political allegiance. THe culture of the left. Which is expected. Given the left is a sub culture orbiting neo liberalism. The left is a word that wont be heard in a year or so, in order for people to fight for themselves they have to push pasty ou. And they will. And have. The left are not responsible for anything. You are a culture which upholds the status quo and keeps us where we are. Its what the left have always been. Most grew out or drifted away from the left, this time they wont cos they cant. The left are(and I mean you and your friends) ARE responsible for refusal to ever allow the anti-cuts movement out of their grip. That’s why occupy developed and occupy will have to develop beyond its own issues/, THe left is an entry ground to media and politics, playing for the attention of the media. Not a place whree nurses, doctors, medical professionals, teachers could discuss marketisatiiin- for fear of finding themselves in the centre of a 5 day torrent of abuse should their reality contradict the left.
    The fight about what is happening has moved beyond the left,. THe bullying nature of this culture should anyone dare suggest they do not see a possibility for change there, why the word left get criticised. The tantrums you all throw not really relevant to anyone.

  7. Fighting through the left, means ‘the left’ considering themselves a sorting hat through which the rest of us need to fight for our communities, equality- and I’#m sorry but we dont need to. And we dont want to. And quite frankly if the left had been more concerned with fighting and less concerned with acting as a sorting hat for who was entitled to fight and how, ‘the left’ wouldnt be facing this criticism. You are right the bill always would have gone through.

  8. An engine for social change needs to know the difference between right and wrong as well as left and right. And you and your friends dont- your social network ensures that any considerations of basic right and wrong disappear as soon as the majority say so. I saw myself what that means. The left that I met last year are not an engine for change. They are an expected consequence of a political vacuum and their arrogance and sense they have the right to be seen as natural successor to what went before, regardless of validity of ideas, regardless of fact that noone voted for you, is the problem. It isn’t a problem that is huge, because peopel dont need you. But if you want to assist them in fighting while you fight for the things important to you, you are probably welcome. You were never expected to stop the bill on our behalf. You dont have teh knowledge or the ability. ‘The left’ if it ever had a purpose, would only ever have succeeded had they understood that. You and your friends dont. It is not an insult to the left to reject them the way everyone else has.

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