Posts Tagged ‘voting’

Election Day

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

Today I will be voting, as I have done in every election, local, European and national, since I was old enough to vote. Not that my vote will really count but I think it is a duty, part of being a citizen rather than a subject, though I have often been tempted to write ‘None of the above is suitable‘ on my ballot paper.

For the last 45 years I have lived in a safe Conservative constituency, and in a ward of that constituency which also has a large Tory majority. None of the MPs (and few of the councillors) have been people I felt I could trust or who had the interests of the majority of the country rather than their own careers and interests at heart. The current candidate, now a leading figure in the party, seems to turn up here only for the occasional photo-op and seems to have little interest and even less knowledge of the area, has some strange right-wing economic views, clearly wants the NHS to be privatised and will certainly not get my vote.

The last person I voted for who became an MP was Gerald Kaufman, back in 1970 in Manchester Ardwick. I took this signed portrait of him in 1908, and more recently talked to him at an event not long before his death in 2017, still and MP, when he was amused by me telling him this.

Although Boris Johnson and the others in his party keep telling us this election is all about getting Brexit done, it isn’t an argument that resonates with me. Firstly because I think any Brexit they are likely to get done (and it doesn’t finish with the withdrawal agreement) will be something of a disaster, but also because I don’t feel this is the most important issue facing this country.

Top of the list is of course the climate emergency. This is something that is not just a matter of things getting a little worse, or of us getting a little poorer while the rich make more money to hide away in their tax havens, those treasure islands supported by Britain, but of the continued existence of life anything like we know it on the planet. Personally I’m likely to die before the crisis really bites, but I’d like to think that my children and their children will have a future to look forward to.

And secondly, there is the welfare state in general and the NHS in particular. I was born just as the war ended, when the country had been near bankrupted and austerity was real, but then it prompted a great vision and hope for the future – though I was less than two months old and so unable to vote. But I did benefit from the NHS as a toddler, with free orange juice and (though I didn’t thank them at the time) cod liver oil, and access to a doctor when I was sick without my parents having to worry if they could afford the bill (and they would have found it very hard.) And I benefitted from free education all the way to degree level, getting a full maintenance grant as well as paying no fees.

Since Thatcher, succesive governments have chiselled away at our public services – and Blair and Brown were certainly a part of this, particularly for the NHS. If you’ve not watched the recently released film ‘The Great NHS Heist‘ you should do so, as it goes into great and convincing detail about how the NHS has been systematically undermined and prepared to change into a US-style insurance system – with people in key posts who have long advocated its privatisation. In the run-up to the election there were some organised screenings and the whole two hour film was available to view for free. I thought I knew about what was happening to the NHS, but it is even more advanced than I thought.

Nye Bevan may never have made the famous quote attributed to him, “The NHS will last as long as there‚Äôs folk with faith left to fight for it“, but it remains true. When Tory and New Labour tell us the NHS is “safe in our hands” they mean safely being turned into a privatised system. Unless we fight for an NHS run as a public service we are going to lose it, and we are rather a long way down losing it already. And the NHS may not last my lifetime.


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