Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Our Health Service and our Labour Party - a personal view


The National Health Service is, of course, the greatest achievement of democratic socialism in the United Kingdom. The popularity of our NHS is the rock on which the waves of privatisation are breaking.

The NHS gets a lot of stick because – in this country – information about our health service, its strengths and weaknesses, is public information (meaning that it is easy to access information about, say, how your local hospital is doing – because, unlike in the USA, this information isn’t “commercially confidential”).

But as much as those, in Government and the media, who would like to use criticism of this or that shortcoming of the NHS to undermine our health service may try they cannot shake the support of the British people for our health service.

Whilst we should not be complacent, as it is unwise to underestimate the capacity (or the urgent need) of capitalism to open up new opportunities for capital accumulation, I saw some compelling evidence of the popularity of our NHS a couple of weeks ago.

Attending the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath (in the heart of true blue Mid-Sussex) I saw, proudly displayed upon the reception desk, a 70th birthday card to the NHS from the local Labour Party.

There, in somewhere which is as close to a Tory heartland as you can get, was evidence of the popularity of support of the Party of the left (under socialist leadership) for our Party’s greatest achievement.

Like most readers of this blog, I am a fan of our health service. I was born in an NHS hospital, as were my children. When my sister suffered fatal injuries in a road accident, the NHS was there to fight valiantly to try to save her life.

Now I have a new reason to care for our health service. As I mentioned I was up at the Princess Royal in Haywards Heath recently. That was to be told that I had been diagnosed with prostate cancer (as one in eight men will be told in our lifetime).

Obviously, this is a bit of a pain in the arse (though not perhaps as much as a transrectal ultrasound guided biopsy) and is a bit upsetting for me, and for those who have the misfortune (or doubtful judgment) to care for me.

However – the survival rate for prostate cancer is impressive and – thanks to the NHS – I don’t have to worry about the cost of treatment (and thanks to generations of trade unionists I don’t have to worry about not getting sick pay should I need it).

So, I am not keeping this to myself (although I won’t necessarily go into detail) – and not only because I understand the provisions of the Equality Act which protect me from discrimination because I have been diagnosed with cancer.

Hundreds of thousands of people are living with cancer and getting on with their lives, and I am now simply one of them. I don’t just intend to carry on as Chair of Brighton Pavilion Constituency Labour Party and of Brighton and Hove Labour Local Campaign Forum – I intend to seek re-election to each position.

Of course, whether or not I retain any position in the Party is a matter for the members, casting their votes – that’s democracy (the sort of democracy which mandatory reselection of Labour MPs would perhaps exemplify).

However, whilst I may suffer from a bit of fatigue (and – thanks to hormone therapy – the occasional hot flush), my reinforced commitment to our health service, the creation of our Labour Party, is a good reason to step up my commitment to the Party.

In the mean time, to borrow from Harold Wilson, I’ll tell you what’s going on.

I am going on.

And on and (as regular readers Sid and Doris Blogger will know) on and on and on…

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