Dear Conservative Voter,
Hello. Congratulations on the party you voted for winning the General Election. You must be pleased. You are probably also aware that a lot of people aren't so pleased. Roughly four fifths of the electorate didn't vote Conservative including, to be fair, a lot who didn't vote at all. None of this, of course, is your fault. I don't want to castigate you for voting for a party because I don't agree with them. What I've noticed over the past few months is that our parties and their supporters in the press have traded accusations and insults with increasing ferocity. I think that now is the time for the rest of us to have a proper chat about the issues they've debated. I'll be honest, some of the things the Conservative Party intend to do fill me with dread. I fear their consequences for me, for people I know and have met, and for the country as a whole. But I don't believe that the Conservatives are supported exclusively by people who are indifferent to the feelings or the well-being of others. So what I'd like to do is kick of by raising two things which are dear to my heart and, I think, under threat from the current Government. Maybe from this jumping off point we can find a broad consensus about where we stand and can, collectively, demand that our Government behaves in the way we all want.
I think we're all pretty much agreed about the NHS aren't we? Widely agreed to be the thing Britons are most proud of, and rightly so. If the generation that fought in the war want a single legacy to stand testimony to their sacrifice and endeavour, then a system that provides free health care to every man, woman and child in the country is surely as good as they could wish for. What we perhaps need to settle on is how to make this a continued reality. The first thing I would suggest is that we accept that the NHS is expensive. Of course it is. Have you ever read one of those articles in your local paper about funds being raised to buy your local hospital an MRI scanner or something? That stuff is expensive. And that's just the equipment. We're used to the argument that we need to pay big money to get the best talent in banking, business and politics but somehow when it comes to medical professionals the thinking seems to be that we need to look after the pennies. Well the NHS is better use of money that anything else the Government can possibly do with our taxes. Does anyone disagree on this?
Then there's the issue of privatisation. Does anyone know of an instance of privatisation where it has actually made the thing better? Not more efficient, more profitably or anything else, we're only after 'better' here. Because the great strength of good private industry (never forgetting, of course, that some private industry is terrible) is making money. I have no issue with that in itself. I once worked for a company who was bad at making money and I ended up redundant. But it's not what we need for the NHS. If they make a penny of profit, that's a penny they would usefully have spent on bandages or insulin. Achieving profit is not the goal of the NHS, and as such handing over control to people who's skill set is making a profit will drag it's focus in entirely the wrong direction.
Can we talk about welfare? One thing that makes me really nervous is that the Conservative Party have focused their budget cutting -all £12bn of it- on welfare, and they never said where the axe was going to fall. It's hard to read that without feeling that the welfare budget is a really low priority for the Tories, and also one they assume voters care so little about that they don't really have to bother costing it. Benefits have been demonised over the last five years in every possible way. David Cameron likes to talk of a 'something for nothing' culture. The press have relentlessly filled their pages with stories about benefit scroungers and immigrants. So I wouldn't be surprised if you were under the impression that welfare was all spent on undeserving foreigners and people faking back ache in order to get their rent paid. It isn't like that.
Benefits exist to support people with short or long term illness preventing them from being able to work. They exist to support people who's illness or disability impair their ability to live a normal life without support. They support people who are out of work and people who, even though they are in work, sometimes full time, who suffer because the difference between the minimum wage and the generally accepted living wage means they aren't earning enough to pay the bills. They are not something for nothing, they are protection for the vulnerable, a safety net for those who need it. If that is what David Cameron wants to bring to an end, he does not speak for me. How about you?
So that's my view. Tell me what you think. Let's not leave this for politicians to yell at each other about. Let's have this debate ourselves.