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Fiddling While The NHS Burns: The General Election As National Emergency

12/05/2017 10:45 BST | Updated 12/05/2017 10:45 BST
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It is our human predicament to worry about the wrong thing. Theresa May, backed by most of the press and broadcasters, would have us believe this is the Brexit election. We see her every day now, standing in some airless space emptied of voters, proclaiming that only she can negotiate Brexit. The Conservative Party itself is increasingly airbrushed from the scene, its logo appearing in miniature if at all. Instead we are given Team Theresa. There is, in truth, no team in sight. There is only our current Prime Minister, so terrified of Jeremy Corbyn that she must refuse public debate, so terrified of her own citizens that she must hide in the most stage-managed campaign in living memory. A Stepford candidacy aimed at turning Brexiters into Stepford voters, the Tory campaign is so uninspired that Theresa May must robotically repeat "strong and stable" for the cameras, a small group of party faithful strategically placed behind her, faces that appear glazed with boredom.

Back to Brexit. I call it the Great Distraction. I am not saying it has no importance. Like all Remainers, I was heartbroken after the result. Like all Remainers, I fear the social and economic disaster that awaits us should we leave these negotiations to the Tories. But my real fear is that we are about to empower Theresa May to fiddle while the NHS burns.

Here is the real emergency: if the Tories are re-elected, then we can all say goodbye to the National Health Service. This is not a Brexit election. It is our last chance to stop the final obliteration of our NHS and its founding principles: that it meets the needs of everyone, remains free at the point of delivery, and is based on clinical need, not ability to pay. It's up to the voters to defend our Health Service, but time is short. Here then are five emergency measures you can take immediately:

-Get the facts about what has happened to the NHS since the passage of the Health and Social Care Act in 2012. Share those facts widely. Complain when the BBC fails - as it does so thoroughly and regularly - to report them accurately. Join a local NHS campaign or the pre-election Week of Action.

-Remember, and tell everyone you know, that the NHS is emblematic of the attack on all our public services: housing, education, social care, the post-war achievement of a welfare state in which we could all take pride. Think of the NHS as the Emergency Room, the literal and metaphoric space for all the losses and injuries that the destruction of these services will bring. Think of underpaid teachers and nurses; think of foodbanks, think of those subjected to cruel benefits sanctions. Go see the Ken Loach film, I, Daniel Blake - it opens in a hospital and takes us on a tour of the jobcentre and foodbanks, before ending in a funeral. Ask yourself what should be written on your own tombstone if you give your vote to a party that casually causes such suffering, that will use you to get itself elected, and then forget about you as it hands out tax breaks to its wealthy friends and donors.

-If you live in South West Surrey, vote for Dr Louise Irvine who is running against our so-called Health Minister, Jeremy Hunt, in order to challenge the final destruction of the NHS by the Tories. There, a brave cooperation between local party members has emerged in support of Dr Irvine's candidacy.

-For the rest of us, the battle in Jeremy Hunt's constituency is emblematic too - of our other problem - the failure of Labour and the Liberal Democrats to put party dictates and differences aside in order to face this emergency. Caroline Lucas has called on the other leaders to join the Greens in a Progressive Alliance to defeat the Tories, but they have refused her. If you belong to one of those parties, then insist that they work together to defend our public services. This will mean standing down candidates in key constituencies, sharing time, people, and resources in an unprecedented act of unity, one that would surely earn voter trust and respect.

-If, as seems likely, our parties fail to put us first, if they fail to cooperate against the Tories, then we must do it for them. We can take ownership of this election and organize ourselves at the grassroots to campaign and vote tactically to Stop the Tories. I joined Labour with great enthusiasm for Jeremy Corbyn and I hope for every possible Labour success, but right now my loyalty to the NHS far exceeds my loyalty to a single candidate or party. Labour can expel me if it likes, but emergency times call for emergency measures.