5 Reasons We Need A General Election

NHAspace looks at the arguments for calling a snap general election this autumn.

1 – The Country Dislikes ‘Unelected’ Leaders

When Gordon Brown took over the premiership in 2007, there were moans from the press that he was ‘unelected’. This wasn’t strictly true. Brown had been elected by his constituency, inherited the role of Labour leader from Tony Blair, and had been invited by the Queen to form a government. However, he lacked the mandate that many leaders gain by leading their party through a general election. George Osborne later stated that such leaders lack democratic legitimacy, and William Hague claimed that such leaders are “unacceptable” to the majority of the public. Of course they were talking about Brown; they may not feel the same way when the boot is on the other foot.

2 – Cameron and Johnson Have Abdicated Control

Having lost the EU referendum, David Cameron found himself lacking the legitimacy to continue leading the country. But his Brexit counterpart Boris Johnson has pulled out of the Tory leadership race, apparently knifed in the back by the charmless Michael Gove. The favourite for the leadership is now Theresa May, who backed the Remain campaign. With the options for Tory leader now consisting of Remainers and second-tier Leave figures, the public is unlikely to be happy whatever the result.

3 – There Was No Brexit Manifesto

Despite making a range of promises regarding NHS funding, immigration and the single market, the Leave campaign did not have a formal manifesto. (Since the referendum, they have in fact gone back on several promises and deleted almost all the content from their campaign website.) The manifesto on which the Tories were elected last year also did not detail how they would manage a Brexit vote. Nobody in Westminster has a specific mandate from the public on how to deal with Brexit. The public should now be given a chance to elect MPs based upon their plans to deal with the referendum outcome.

4 – The Country Needs Certainty

The Brexit vote has plunged the country into uncertainty. The country is currently leaderless, nobody is certain if or when Article 50 will be triggered, and the markets have responded by plummeting to historic lows. Without a general election, there will continue to be a lack of strong government, and discontent will continue as the country remains divided by the referendum result.

5 – The Public Want An Election

While most are against the idea of a second EU referendum being called, polls indicate that the majority of the British public want a general election this year. This includes 4 out of 10 Leave voters, some of whom feel they were misled by the Brexit campaign claims.

5 Steps For A New Politics

The NHA are calling for a new politics to replace the out-of-date model still used in Westminster. But what would this entail? NHAspace looks at five key steps required to achieve true political reform in the UK.

1: Transparent, Evidence-Based Politics

Decisions made by government are often based on political ideology and are not subject to challenges from outside of the Westminster bubble. The result is a system that puts the needs of the government before the needs of the people. The NHA has called for an evidence-based approach to politics, where decision making is supported by expert advice and can be transparently justified to the public, without spin.

2: No More Wasted Votes

Unless your favoured candidate won a seat at the last election, you aren’t truly represented in Parliament. With 50% of votes going to losing candidates in last year’s general election, it’s pretty clear that the First Past The Post system is not fit for purpose. The NHA has called for a move towards a proportional voting system, so that the wide range of political opinions in this country can be fairly represented in Parliament.

3: A Cleaner Politics

UK politicians are infamous for indulging in self-centred behaviour, as any reader of Private Eye will no doubt be aware. The expenses scandal in 2009 led to some minor reforms, but many problems remain. MPs are permitted to vote on matters despite having vested interests. Parties take large donations from corporations, then hand privatised services to them. And MPs are still free to pass through the “revolving door”, taking jobs from companies in return for political favours. The system is in dire need of reform.

4: Respect For Public Services

Public services in the UK are currently poorly funded and subject to constant political interference. There is little evidence that perennial reforms to healthcare and education have had any beneficial effect, despite costing billions of taxpayers’ money. The NHA believes that public services should be publicly owned, properly funded, and managed at arm’s length from government, by experts rather than politicians.

5: Economic Reform

Political and economic reform are strongly interdependent. The current political system strongly favours the richest 1% of the population, who in return support the two party system. Deregulation has led to a global financial crash and growing inequality. The NHA has called for economic reform, including greater regulation of the financial sector and an end to the austerity regime. The party also supports a fair living wage and investment in jobs in public services.

Bye Bye, Heidi

NHAspace reflects on the sudden departure of the Labour shadow health secretary.

To be honest, we were hoping this day would come. Meetings involving Heidi Alexander have all ended in disappointment. The shadow health secretary persisted in supporting Simon Stevens and his privatising Five Year Forward View. She was a damp squib when it came to the doctors’ strikes, and she did nothing to support the NHS Reinstatement Bill.

As NHA executive member Dr Bob Gill puts it:

“I have been in 2 meetings with HA. She refused to go on [junior doctor] picket lines. She refused to even wear a BMA badge. Her stance on health policy supported the ongoing privatisation in the form of Stevens 5YFV. Quote ‘I believe Stevens has the best interests of the NHS at heart’. A former UnitedHealth president here to complete the transition to an American style insurance system has her confidence. That says it all.”

Now that the Blairites liked Heidi Alexander are leaving Corbyn’s cabinet, there’s hope that JC will install someone who truly supports the NHS as his shadow health sec. Someone who will come out strongly in favour of a renationalised NHS, and recognise that things don’t have to be the way that Hunt and Stevens want them to be.

The STP hospital closure plans are already being rolled out, and it won’t be long before A&Es and DGHs start being forced to close in order to pay off local NHS ‘debts’. Labour need to start shouting from the rooftops about these sorts of healthcare issues. With the right MPs in charge, maybe they will.

United We Stand

NHA exec member Alex Ashman ponders the need for a united left movement.

There are too few houses, because the government don’t build them any more. There are too few jobs, because government austerity is preventing economic growth. The NHS is suffering, because the government refuse to fund it properly.

But with the current system, it is hard to fight back against the government. The 51% win for Brexit looks slim when you consider the 63% who voted against the Tories last year. There was a huge protest vote, with a swing towards the Greens, SNP and UKIP, and yet the Tories remained.

And then people were given another outlet for their discontent. Some of those voting Leave will have done so in protest of the lack of housing, jobs and healthcare, thinking the EU was to blame for their woes. But once more, the government remains the same, and so nothing will change. Who will people blame next, once they realise that the problems are still there? Nationalism is on the rise, and populist right-wingers will continue to blame migrant workers and benefit frauds for all our woes. Just because Farage has won his precious Brexit doesn’t mean he’ll retire and go home. Quite the opposite, in fact.

If ever there were a pressing need for a united left movement, now is the time. Voters protesting against the government need to be offered an alternative narrative. A narrative that recognises that the real villain lies in Westminster, not Calais. A narrative in which austerity is rejected and public services are properly supported. A narrative in which Britain is great because we support each another, instead of blaming one another. Until the left unites, though, the Tories will continue unchecked. Action is needed, and soon.

Open Letter from Dr Clive Peedell to Jeremy Hunt regarding the legality of the latest top-down NHS reorganisation

To the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, MP, Secretary of State for Health

Dear Mr Hunt

I am writing to you on a subject of great urgency regarding the changes to the NHS proposed on 19th May 2016, by Simon Stevens, CEO of NHS England.

Mr Stevens has suggested that the health service could create a form of ‘combined authorities’. He talks of spanning hospitals and commissioners and consolidating CCGs.

These proposals appear to run contrary to the provisions of the Health & Social Care Act (2012) and contrary to the stated objective of the Act of a locally driven commissioning service provided by GPs, who have an intimate knowledge of their local community needs.

Whether or not the CCGs have fulfilled this function satisfactorily, they are, nonetheless, a legal creation. I am, therefore, asking for clarification of the legal status of the changes being made under the Sustainability and Transformation Plans.

Mr Stevens has also referred to removing veto powers. Does that mean, in effect, that no-one will be able to object to changes as they will be imposed? Could you clarify which powers are being removed, under what statute were those powers granted, and what legislation been passed to allow their removal?

This announcement was paired with the publication of the funding allocations expected for 2020-2021. Mr Stevens said that these numbers would give a better focus than the funding ‘gap’ numbers people try to come up with. His predicted figures are shockingly low.

I do not write as a legal expert, but as a doctor with great concern for the impact of these extensive changes on my patients. I ask that you clarify with urgency the law that is being used for these changes which are happening on a large scale with great speed.

My specific concerns are about transparency, responsibility and accountability. There does not appear to be adequate time to prepare proper risk or equality impact assessments.

I look forward to hearing your response on these serious matters.

Yours sincerely

Dr Clive Peedell
Leader of the National Health Action Party

cc Rt Hon David Cameron MP, the Prime Minister
cc Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition
cc Hon Heidi Alexander, Shadow Secretary of State for Health

#PublicDuty Twitterstorm

Last January, we organised a mass-whistleblowing. NHA members and NHS staff united to send 30,000 tweets exposing the Tories, with the hashtag #PublicDuty trending UK-wide on Twitter that day. The catalyst was this tweet from NHA leader Dr Clive Peedell:

clivetweet

Now we’re calling for a repeat performance. The Tories have done nothing in the last year but anger and upset thousands of NHS staff, patients, and members of the public. We want to take that energy and focus it, exposing the Tories with a coordinated action on the eve of the next doctors’ strike.

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Sign up to our Thunderclap campaign, which will schedule an automatic tweet for you at the start of the Twitterstorm.
  2. Join us on Twitter at 7pm, Tuesday 8th March and tweet with #PublicDuty. We suggest tweets along the lines of “As a (job) with (number) years NHS experience, it’s my #PublicDuty to inform you that the Tories are dismantling and privatising the NHS“.
  3. Use the Twitter search box to find and retweet other #PublicDuty tweets.

Thank you in advance for your support. Together we can cut through the spin and send a clear message to the public.

An All-Out Strike?

On Thursday 11th February, Jeremy Hunt announced that he would be unilaterally imposing a new contract on front-line doctors. In his infamous imposition letter, Hunt claimed he had the support of a whole raft of NHS CEOs. In fact, most of them had never seen the letter and did not agree with the imposition.

The BMA had proposed an alternative contract that was ‘cost-neutral’ (no more expensive than the existing deal) but kept Saturday as a weekend day with appropriate pay. Hunt couldn’t accept this because of his obsession with a ‘7-day NHS’, which we all know already exists. He therefore vetoed all such deals offered by the BMA, preventing any settlement that might scupper his plans to force doctors to work extra weekends for no extra pay. To add insult to injury, Hunt claimed that no doctor would work consecutive weekends, and then published ‘example rotas’ that had doctors working three weekends straight.

The BMA has now asserted that, by failing to provide “appropriate funding for the required level of workforce needed to deliver safe services and adequate training”, the government has broken the original ‘heads of terms‘ agreed during the initial negotiations in 2013. There will be no more talks based on ‘cost neutrality’ – that horse has now bolted, and the BMA will settle for nothing less than a fully-funded workforce. As Dr Johann Malawana of the BMA puts it, “We also know – and the public understand this – that if the Government wants junior doctors to take the brunt of delivering more services across seven days, they need to put their money where their mouth is.”

So will we be seeing an all-out strike in the coming weeks and months? The BMA have made it clear that they do not take such action lightly, and have done all they can to avoid harming patient care. But with the Conservative government working to impose an unacceptable contract that is based upon flawed ideology rather than evidence-based medicine, full strike action may be the only option left.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 139 other followers