“I’m voting Labour because of the NHS.’’ How many times have you heard it? A statement worn as a badge of altruistic honour; a noble creed that raises the Labour Party above the sordid cesspool of party politics. The very definition of how Labour is different, how Labour cares. In fact, this claim is just as brainless, bigoted and thoughtless as, “I’m voting UKIP because they’ll kick all the immigrants out.’’
That Labour can still be trusted by the public on the NHS truly baffles me. The Mid Staffs disaster, in which thousands suffered as a result of a culture imposed and enforced by Labour, should have been enough to put this myth to rest. If that wasn’t enough, the resulting inquiry by Bruce Keogh into 14 other hospitals with dangerously high mortality rates should have closed the case. If that still wasn’t enough you can throw in the travesty of PFI; saddling trusts with insurmountable debts which will cripple them for decades. Then there’s the £10 billion wasted on the aborted NHS computer system and the mess they made of GP contracts, making it even harder to see your family doctor and overwhelming A&E as a result.
In the face of such a damning rap sheet how can millions continue with their hypnotic, myopic support for Labour on health?
The real crime though is not that hospitals failed under Labour, but that they were prepared to do anything to conceal the truth about these failures. Labour flatly refused a public inquiry into what happened at Mid Staffs; claiming it was a single case of mismanagement and not symptomatic of their target culture. The Francis Inquiry, delivered by the Tories, proved this was not the case.
Under Labour, any criticism of the NHS is simply not allowed, there is a Stalinist suppression of the truth; those who defy this are mercilessly censured. The bullying and intimidation faced by Helene Donnelly at Mid Staffs was a chilling example of this, and an even more disturbing aspect was the extensive use of gagging orders; paying staff vast sums of money to prevent them from speaking out. Whilst there is an obvious moral question over paying people not to raise legitimate concerns about patient safety there is also the very real question – How many lives could have been saved by those millions? Their blood is on Labour’s hands.
Labour has always argued that it is prepared to invest in the NHS but the experience of the 2010 election, where unlike the Tories Labour refused to ring-fence NHS spending, contradicts this. Not to mention their failure during the 2015 campaign, again unlike the Tories, to commit to the extra £8bn the NHS had asked for. When you add all this up the Labour Party’s record on health is, quite frankly, indefensible.
Yet still the public still lap up Labour propaganda on the NHS as gospel. The ’24 Hours to Save the NHS’ claim they trot out at every election is just one example of their Orwellian attempt to rewrite history. In his recent autobiography Alan Johnson, the former Labour Health Secretary, claimed that my mother, the patient safety campaigner Julie Bailey, put up a sign outside her café that declared, “NHS STAFF NOT WELCOME.” The accusation is utterly baseless but a former Labour frontbencher could say anything on the NHS (The Tories are going to sell it off to Trump/China/Voldemort) and brain-dead lefties would swallow it whole.
It is at this point that any self-respecting lefty dusts off the faithful old dog-whistle – Privatisation!
The Left seems to have a caricature in their mind of a grotesque Steve Bell Grauniad cartoon – Theresa May sitting in a gothic castle cackling demonically as lightning strikes, salivating at the prospect of flogging off the NHS to her posh chums as she gorges on caviar, Foie Gras and roast suckling Syrian refugee.
Yet on privatisation the facts don’t add up. Labour privatised around 4% of the NHS while in office– double that of the Tories – How does that make it the party protecting it from privatization?
Privatisation is not the issue, patient safety is. The NHS is not sacrosanct, human life is.
Ultimately, the NHS is nothing more than a government agency – could you imagine DVLA workers dancing at the Olympics opening ceremony? – and it should never be elevated above the people it exists to serve.
So vote Labour if you want higher public spending, vote Labour if you want higher taxes, vote Labour if you think Corbyn would make a good PM, but do not vote Labour because of the NHS. To do so is an insult to the multitudes who suffered at their hands and an invitation to continue where they left off.
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty