No Child Wasted: Why We Have A Responsibility To Vote

An NHS campaigner shares their thoughts on why it is vital to exercise our right to vote.

Children can’t vote. So they rely on the rest of us to cast ou​r votes in a way that will protect them. Protect them from hunger, deprivation, exploitation, lack of hope, so that they can grow up healthy, happy and productive. And therefore able, in their turn, to exercise the same protection for the next generation. That is why voting is not just a privilege of adulthood but a responsibility – however onerous and frustrating it may be.

Most of us in Britain have grown up protected, at least in principle, by a system that was created after the Second World War to ensure that no child should ever again be wasted – as poverty, ill-health and inequality had wasted British children by the million in generations gone by.

After 1948, a child born in the NHS would be nurtured and cared for – free – until he or she reached adulthood. Would be educated – free – to reach their full potential as citizens. And, if his or her potential was such, would be supported through a – free – university education. And when these children had children of their own, they too would all have access to decent housing – privately or council-owned – regular employment and world-class healthcare, free at the point of need.

In this way, it was hoped, no child in the post-war world would suffer the full effects of the poverty or disability or death or separation of their parents. No child would be penalised for their parents’ inability to advance the career of their children through their own wealth and contacts.

A terrible war had shown that every person had something to offer; henceforth no child would be wasted. That was the promise the post-war Welfare State made to all the people who had fought, together, for freedom against the forces of darkness and destruction.

It wan’t a promise that was always fulfilled by any means. But for the passage of a generation there was no real challenge to the idea that the protection of all our children, collectively undertaken and collectively paid for, was a noble – a sacred – trust.

But then, even as the nation as a whole became richer, a new force, a new idea, started to gain ground in some elevated circles, which argued, “Why should the rich and powerful pay to put their children on a level playing field with the children of the poor?” This was not an electoral pitch that would gain sufficient votes to secure power from the necessary non-rich of course, so it had to be couched by the grandees in slightly different terms if it was to appeal to the masses.

The appeal to selfishness of, “Why should you pay to support the well-being, and the prospects, of someone else’s child?” – which attracted the immediate, obvious, riposte of mutual benefit and therefore greater security for all – also required that the “someone else” be demonised in order to work to an electoral asset. Demonised as foreigners wherever possible of course but, as Enoch Powell showed, that could be counterproductive. However no one seemed to have any interest in defending the foreigner within – the “undeserving poor” of the Victorian era, now revived and reinvented to play The Other again in right-wing demonology.

The more recent pejorative of “council-house kid” was clearly no longer of any use as an alienation tool once doctors, lawyers, movie stars and Cabinet ministers nurtured by the Welfare State could boast proudly of having been a council-house kid themselves (thus showing that it was nurture, not nature that had kept the poor down for so long). But, in this new vision, anyone who was lucky enough to secure one of the deliberately dwindling supply of council houses was to be envied by many, and so could be dubbed with the working-class insult “scrounger” – and if they could be shown to be foreign too, so much the better.

And, even if not literally foreign, they could be made to seem so. With the eager assistance of a crass and compliant media, the affectionate chavi, meaning child in the Romani language, quickly became a viral hit of hatred that dubbed the disadvantaged child as a separate nationality, confirming just how alien it was to respectable society: The Chav. Even if they had money, and few did, they spent it on the wrong things, the wrong clothes, the wrong food, the wrong home gadgets. So there was no point in taxing away your hard-earned money just to waste it on a Chav child.

Even before the coining of the term ‘Chav’, the groundwork for this was well-laid. In 1974, Sir Keith Joseph warned that “our human stock is threatened” by the breeding of young mothers in social classes 4 and 5. Where once our proud British commitment was to every child that was born,now we were told that: “A high proportion of these births are a tragedy for the mother, the child and for us.”

And by the time these “tragedies” had reached the age of 11, their educational future was in the hands of this same Sir Keith Joseph. It had been placed there by Margaret Thatcher who, in her own “milk-snatcher” days at Education had, according to Cabinet minutes: “Said that she had been able to offer the Chief Secretary, Treasury, rather larger savings than he had sought on school meals, school milk, further education and library charges.”

And it was Thatcher who, as Prime Minister, destroyed our manufacturing base in which so many of these “tragedies” one day hoped to work, sold off our houses in which they one day hoped to live and raise a family, and gave away our national and municipal assets that served to keep those families’ needs within the reach of a single living wage.

A consensus on the utter worthlessness of The Others was built up through a co-operative media under the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, but did not die with the massive public rejection of Toryism in 1997. Tragically, it remained largely unchallenged through the ruthlessly vote-chasing years of New Labour, which abandoned Old Labour’s principles of solidarity for its “hard-working families” mantra. For reasons of its own, the party machine shunned association with the millions cast to the bottom of the pile by unemployment – even in areas strip-mined of employment by Tory policies.

By the time New Labour collapsed in a morass of unregulated bankers, super-casinos and ID cards, even Dave “hug a hoodie” Cameron and Nick “scrap tuition fees“ Clegg offered a more hopeful and humane vision to a wavering, betrayed and bewildered electorate.

Once in power, of course, it was business as usual with the likes of Lansley and Duncan-Smith unleashing a venomous assault on The Others that Thatcher and Joseph could have only dreamed of.

Money is drained from the budgets of the poorest families with a VAT hike that subsid​is​es a cut in the higher tax income rate for the rich. Money is drained from the education of all our children to subsidise the education of those in new, privately run “academies”. Money is drained from the benefits safety-net we all pay into, in order to subsidise corporation tax cuts for below-living-wage employers. Money is drained from our National Health System to subsidise tax-dodging corporations who spy a profit to be made by taking small bites out of it, and who walk away leaving a service bleeding if it turns out there isn’t.

In 2015, the ranks of The Others are now bursting at the seams and, it seems, could soon encompass us all. If you are a child whose parents are unemployed, you’re in. If they are working, you still have a pretty good chance of being in. If they – or you – are disabled or have mental health needs then you are definitely in.

And even if you are not included in the ranks of The Others today, your prospects of staying out for long are dwindling fast. By 2020, on this government’s own figures, 21% of British children will be living in absolute – not relative – poverty, up from 17%  in 2010-11.

So take five children: one will live in a financially secure home 2020 (so long as it is spared family bereavement or bankruptcy); one will be in absolute poverty (and possibly homeless); the other three teeter somewhere between, hopeful to rise and fearful to fall.

Currently, at least all five would be guaranteed the very best medical care available, free at the point of need, through our NHS – although hunger and poor housing would put some in more need of it than others. In 2020 that may no longer be so. In a Britain incalculably richer than the one that set up the Welfare State, it seems we will no longer be able to afford, as they did, to give them even an equal chance to be born healthy.

Already we can see how, as in Morecambe, the drive to marketise the NHS has helped to cause the actual deaths of actual babies. Get used to it. As the drive to privatise our National Health System drains more and more money from what it offers,​ free and equal to all, and pushes more and more services into ability-to-pay disparity, this will only get worse.

And, horribly, all that this Labour Party seems to be offering is that it will all get worse a fraction more slowly.

But look back to the beginning of this article and to the commitment that the post-war Labour government made to all the children of Britain – born and yet-to-be – in 1948. If it still seems to be as sane, humane and worthwhile a commitment to you as it seems to us, then all you have to do is vote for it to bring it back into our national life. Not just in the coming general election, but there and within your union and within any other bodies you belong to and with your feet and with your voice and on the streets and wherever you can make yourself heard.

How can it make sense to vote for anything else?

Dear Andy: Labour Need To Sort Themselves Out

Dear Andy Burnham,

We know you probably haven’t heard of NHSpace. That’s fine; everyone has to start somewhere. What matters is we believe in something, and we’re willing to stand up for what we believe.

We thought you were too, Andy. We saw you give a talk to NHS staff last year, and we took notes. You said:

  • “I prefer the NHS model over a more marketised system. A more marketised system means more costs.”
  • “The NHS model avoids the inflationary pressures, rising costs and fragmented care that affects a market-based system.”
  • “We will repeal the H&SC Act, and we will include that in the first Queen’s Speech of the next Labour government.”

So why, Andy, are you now supporting the marketisation of the NHS? You would reverse the H&SC Act only to replace it with a different flavour of privatisation in which the NHS and charities are ‘preferred providers‘. Such a system will still welcome private firms, be governed by European competition law, and waste billions on contracts and tenders.

You’re a nice guy, Andy, and you give good speeches. But what you’ve got lined up for our NHS just isn’t good enough.

Labour have strayed too far to the right and are now helping the Tories sell off the welfare state that Aneurin Bevan helped create. The Labour Party isn’t the same party that you joined at age 14 to fight the Tories, and it’s certainly not a party that  Bevan would recognise. You of all people should be able to see that Labour need to sort themselves out.

Yours sincerely,

NHSpace 

5 Forms Of NHS Privatisation You Should Know About

Anyone who knows what’s happening to the NHS should know that a large part of the NHS budget is now controlled by CCGs, who are forced to offer NHS contracts up to private companies. You’d be forgiven for thinking that was the only form of privatisation taking place in the NHS. It’s not. Here are five forms of NHS privatisation that you really should know about.

1 – PropCo

NHS Property Services Ltd (PropCo) was launched in April 2013 and now owns £3 billion worth of NHS land and buildings. These assets were once held by the now-abolished Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities; now PropCo is responsible for selling them off to property developers. Furthermore, while the government currently owns all of PropCo’s shares, the Act that created PropCo allows for private firms to buy the majority of these shares. Thus large swathes of NHS land could quickly pass into private hands.

2 – PFI/PF2

You’ve probably heard of the Private Finance Initiative and its sequel, PF2. You may think these are merely expensive loans with Wonga-style interest rates. Certainly these deals are bad value for the taxpayer and have pushed many hospitals into the red, but they’re more than just that. For at least the 25-30 year repayment period, the private firm providing the loan actually owns the hospital. Thus, more than a hundred NHS facilities are owned by banks and shell companies.

3 – Commissioning Support Units

Although CCGs were created by the 2012 Act to decide where the money goes, it is the CSUs that provide the infrastructure. CSUs are there to run tenders, manage contracts, provide IT and HR services and other back-office admin functions. The Act created CSUs as part of the NHS structure, but from 2016 the CSUs will become independent businesses to be bought out by private firms. In fact, the sale has already begun. If private firms take over the CSUs they will have a huge influence on the funding and rationing of healthcare in this country.

4 – Personal Health Budgets

Personal Health Budgets (PHBs), in which an individual is allocated a limited amount of money to cover their healthcare needs, are already being introduced in England. While there is the obvious spectre of ‘top-up’ payments for those who exceed their allocated budget, there is another issue here. The classical pattern of funding in the NHS is that money is allocated to Trusts according to the amount of work they need to do. PHBs allow for a move to the private insurance model, where everyone pays in a premium (in this case their PHB) and the private firms then decide who gets treated/which claims to pay out on. You can just imagine the worried well opting to pay their PHB into a private insurer in return for cheaper gym membership and money off their holidays. Meanwhile, the genuinely-ill would end up paying top-ups to access increasingly rationed basic NHS treatment. Combine universal PHBs with privatised CSUs and you get an American-style health system.

5 – Foundation Trusts and Mutualisation

If the land, buildings, back office and budgets have all been privatised, what does that leave? That’s right, the NHS Trusts themselves. All hospital trusts now have a mandate to become independent businesses known as Foundation Trusts. These are standalone organisations which have to keep themselves in the black, and can do so by taking on as much private work as they want. As with the CSUs, the FTs are units ripe for privatisation, which in this case is dressed up as warm and fuzzy “mutualisation“. This means passing from public ownership into the hands of ‘stakeholders’. That’s right, privatisation.


NHSpace thinks that the NHS should be publicly funded, owned and regulated. If you agree, please consider following the blog and sharing this post. Thank you.

It’s Time To End Political Corruption

UK politics is systemically corrupt. The examples are almost too easy to find:

The weaknesses of the UK political system are there for all to see. We have a First Past The Post system that encourages a two party state in which most seats are safe and ‘swing voters’ opt for the lesser of two evils. The majority of party funding comes from private donations. The largest donations come from big companies and rich individuals, and there is no limit on donation size. Politicians are allowed to vote on bills where they have a conflict of interest, and once they leave government they are free to take up a highly-paid role in a private corporation that benefited from said votes. The end result is a corrupt government passing laws to benefit itself and its corporate sponsors.

How do you end political corruption on such a scale? NHSpace has a few suggestions:

  1. Put a cap on donations – both for individual donations and the total amount a party can receive.
  2. Put an embargo on MPs and peers having shares in private firms. They can easily do without.
  3. Make it harder for MPs and peers to support bills where they have a conflict of interest.
  4. Close the ‘revolving door’ and end the outsourcing of government duties to private firms.
  5. Link MP’s earnings to the minimum wage and cut back on extravagances.
  6. Make it easier for constituents to remove their MP from parliament.
  7. Make the move to a proportional voting system and end the two party system.

Open Letter To Harriet Harman

Jessica Ormerod and Deborah Harrington have some advice for the Labour deputy leader.

Have we really not moved on since 1953? Take one look at Harriet Harman and her pink campaign bus and you’d be forgiven for thinking we haven’t. The idea that Labour are going to sweep up the mummy vote with a pink bus and a patronising wink from Harriet as she talks woman to woman would be laughable if it weren’t so vomit-inducing.

Since the coalition stumbled into power we have all been the losers, but women and children have been hit the hardest. Labour are neither saying nor doing anything to stop the horrific effects of austerity on the most vulnerable in our society.

I can tell you, Harriet, just what keeps us women folk up at night. Like you, I live in South East London. Unlike you, my children go to the local comprehensive school and over the last few years I have seen families made homeless by the wicked austerity agenda. An agenda that your party defends. To use the patronising parlance of government, these are ‘hard-working families’ who have been turfed out of their houses because the landlord has decided to ride the property market and sell the flat, leaving families with no recourse but to pack their bags and go to the housing office. Because there is no housing stock left in Lewisham, these families are re-housed in the appalling conditions of so-called ’emergency accommodation’, often far from their jobs and their children’s schools. Mummy lies awake listening to the drug addicts and alcoholics shouting at each other in the room next door, worries about the three buses they will need to get to school the next morning, worries if she’ll even be able to get on the bus because if there’s one pushchair on there already the driver shoos you away. And anyway, everyone will have to be up at 5am in order to make the journey of 5 miles because buses are late, buses get stuck in traffic and there’s always a walk at the end with three miserable, tired children who might not have eaten because, and here’s another worry, Harriet, there’s not enough money for everyone to eat breakfast.

Women bear the brunt of plummeting household finances, they go hungry to keep their children fed, they take their children to hospital, they work zero hour contract jobs, they get beaten up by their partners and have nowhere to go…

So, Harriet, let’s talk about what women want:

Housing

Women, and especially women with children, are most affected by the unaffordability of decent homes. They are more likely to have inadequate incomes and suffer from draconian reductions in benefit. Don’t just talk about building more homes, talk about what kind of homes. Council homes at council rents sounds good. Don’t use that awful term ‘affordable’ which mostly is only marginally less affordable than current market prices. How about decent jobs in areas where homes are standing empty so people can live happy lives there?

Childcare

Don’t offer more ‘free’ hours and vouchers, these have led over the last 20 years to the cost of nursery places in England being the highest in Europe – put more money into any given area of the private sector and the prices go up (but not always the standards). Build on local council provision instead, or provide more kindergartens attached to primary schools.

Social care

Do something urgently about the drastic reductions in local authority social care budgets which hit women harder than anyone. Women already provide a lot of the care for the generations below and above them, and what support and relief they were getting has been torn away by this government.

Health

Women bear the children and also tend to look after their household’s health. If they suffer inadequate housing, low wages, failure of local provision of service, their health suffers – and then who looks after the children?

Domestic violence

Where can we take our children to be safe from abuse now that the refuges have been savagely cut?

Education

I want to send my child to a normal state comprehensive but I am faced with an array of foundation schools, academies and free schools that I don’t trust and I don’t like.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. I say, get out of your bus and get real about what is actually happening to women: to their children and their partners; to their everyday lives. Don’t tell us what we worry about – ask us and we’ll tell you.

We want a new politics. We want a healthy NHS. We want a better Britain.

5 NHS Strategies That Make UKIP Unelectable

1 – Constantly Threaten NHS Privatisation

Having already covered UKIP’s love affair with privatisation, NHSpace promises not to go over old ground. There’s no need to, as we have brand new evidence!

UKIP are just waiting for public opinion to change so they can safely reveal their privatising agenda. But if that’s the plan, why has the UKIP general secretary just gone on record saying that the NHS is the “Reichstag bunker of socialism” and needs privatising? Maybe he just couldn’t wait.

2 – Promote Politicians Who Know Nothing About Health

The UKIP spokesperson for health is an MEP who knows absolutely nothing about healthcare. Nothing. This is the person that UKIP would make Health Secretary.

3 – Play The Immigration Card

Despite the fact that the UK has a net gain of £2bn per year from migrants, and despite that fact that migrant health professionals make up 35% of NHS staff, UKIP still think that their NHS policies should involve bashing migrants as much as possible.

Whether it’s the spread of infectious disease or just traffic on the M4, you can be sure that Farage will find some way of blaming immigration. But hey, who needs real policies when you can blame ethic minorities?

4 –  Go On A Crusade Against Breastfeeding

As if anyone could ever forget, the UKIP leader is anti-breastfeeding and would prefer breastfeeding mothers to cover up and hide in a corner.

5 – Don’t Bother Having Any Real Policies

With weeks left to go, UKIP actually don’t know what their election policies on the NHS will be. Apparently it’s down to their “National Executive Committee”, although NHSpace suspects they’re just waiting for Farage so smoke a few more packets so that they’ve got somewhere to scribble down their latest ‘policies’.

We need democratic reform – urgently

Deborah Harrington gives us her view on the current two party system.

If there are only two parties which can achieve power in the current system then, even if Labour is successful in 2015, we will inevitably revert to a Tory government at a future date. And this need not even be a Tory majority – by forming a coalition with a smaller party, the Tories are willing to lever themselves into power from a minority position. Whenever they do return, they will wreak havoc on the NHS and the Welfare State. The civil service is smaller now than at any time since 1948 and the Tories have sold off 20% of all our public land and assets in the last 4 years. We are running out of things to save.

If the predictions of another market crash in the next couple of years are true and Labour is in government then, as far as the public and the Tory spin machine are concerned, Labour will be held responsible for two successive crashes. That leads to the real possibility of a Tory government being returned in 2020.

The main thrust of much of Labour’s politics at the moment appears to be ‘we’re not the Tories’. That seems to me to be an absolute argument for political reform. Give us a parliament with more Independents, more Greens, SNP and Plaid, to represent the major environmental concerns and devolution/local agenda issues. Let’s have some political presence to really represent the NHS, and Left Unity and TUSC to stand up for the working classes, the unemployed and the disabled. Let’s have a politics where voters feel they can choose the party they agree with, not just the party that ‘isn’t the Tories’.

I would like to vote for a party that has solid core principles. At the moment the Labour Party has substituted ‘compassion’ for social justice. Not the same thing at all. Until – or unless – it regains its senses I hope all left wing voters will opt for getting together behind whichever candidate genuinely best represents their views, regardless of party (although I assume Tory and UKIP are not in the running for those votes in any circumstance whatsoever!).

I shall be thinking of the future when I cast my vote this year, not just about the short term. I hope you do too.