on March 19th, 2012 at 03:41 pm
You are probably not aware of this, even if you are British, but the Government is currently trying to push through a bill that will take a major step towards privatising the NHS. Chances are very high that they will succeed.
Almost no one is reporting it. Go the BBC News homepage right now. Unless they have suddenly uploaded a story, it’s not there. My beloved BBC News, who I have trusted for years to actually tell me about important events taking place at home and around the world, is silent on something that will affect the entire nation. (ETA: Ha, just as I post this, the BBC tweets that the Speaker grants an emergency House of Commons debate on the bill tomorrow. Maybe this will work? I don’t know. I’m not very hopeful.)
This Saturday I joined a protest against the bill. We blocked Whitehall, we marched up the Strand and blocked that too. We held up signs and chanted and discussed the issue among ourselves. We were 100% peaceful. There were elderly people, disabled people, middle aged people, families with their infants and small children, young people and students, all joining together peacefully to protest a bill that could lead to our lives being completely changed. One woman had a cross-stitched sign. Anonymous showed up but mostly hung around with their masks off, as peaceful as everyone else. The Socialists handed out signs saying SAVE OUR NHS and LANSLEY MUST GO. It was a depressingly small protest. It was full of frightened and friendly people, welcoming to all who wanted to join. As I said, there were the elderly, the less able-bodied and children in prams.
The protest was intimidated, repeatedly kettled and broken up by riot police.
Cai Wingfield, a friend who was at the protest with me, has written this post about it. Another angry woman has also written a post about it. Please read these. So far, these participant posts are the only coverage I have seen of the protest.
I repeat: The media has remained almost entirely silent about the bill that could begin privatisation of the NHS. The media has also remained silent about a peaceful protest against the bill and about the police suppression of that protest.
Here we are, doing what we could:
But the police and the media have silenced us.
If this silence doesn’t terrify you, what will? I could give you some horror stories about the US healthcare system, which is what we’re in danger of heading towards. I could tell you how people let themselves die rather than go to hospital because they can’t face the five-figure (or higher) bill. I could tell you how people have to pay for their own ambulances. I could tell you how insurance doesn’t even cover everything. While we’re not facing the wave of Christian extremism that’s fuelling the war on women currently taking place in the US, the potential for other patterns of abuse in a privatised, business-run system is so much vaster. The US is not a beacon of civilisation, it is not a model that anyone in the world should be aiming for.
As Charlie Brooker says in “The future of the NHS? Cough up, fleshbags” at the Guardian website:
“The theory is that introducing an element of competition will improve the level of quality and range of choice for patients. And it doubtless would, if businesses behaved like selfless nuns, which they don’t. Any business that wants to succeed has to cut corners somewhere to turn a profit. It also has to juggle a strange set of priorities, which means if you entrust your health to a corporation, the cost of your kidneys could end up being weighed against the spiralling cost of the CGI budgerigar voiced by Joan Collins they want for their new TV commercial.”
I can’t think of many scarier things to do my healthcare system that let it be run by businesses. Given the state of the Western economy right now, surely we can agree that there is something wrong with our capitalism. David Cameron makes wishy-washy hand-motions towards an idea of “better capitalism”; even he acknowledges that capitalism is broken! Well, how about we fix that before we trust our lives to a broken system?
The Lib Dems are worried that dropping their support for the bill will mean a Labour victory. To quote someone on Twitter, ARE WE IN A FUCKING PLAYGROUND? This should not be about the Lib Dems clinging to the scrap of power they’ve been given like 7-year-olds who’ve inexplicably become friends with the bully. This should be about what’s good for Britain. Politics should be above brattish antics – but it’s not, it’s never been, and there’s nothing I can do to change that.
Mediocre Dave really sums up how I feel right now when he talks about why we shouldn’t feel guilty:
“To lay the blame for this toxic legislation at the feet of those who have tried to oppose it, or those who didn’t know it was happening at all, is dull and obnoxious. The government (in collusion with private health firms) wrote this bill, they are forcing it through, they are to blame. … All of the forms of protest we have available to us to stop a piece of legislation being passed can be boiled down to simply asking the people with the power to act in as we want them. If they choose not to listen (as they have done, consistently), we have no further way to compell them.”
This is why I’m getting increasinly disappointed with the kind of democracy we have in the UK. Yes, we have the privilege of being able to vote from the age of 18 without harassment and assault, and I don’t want to belittle the efforts of the reformists and suffragettes who suffered to get me that vote but I really don’t feel that my vote makes a difference. I love this song and video, turning Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” into a really fucking moving summation of the suffragette movement in the US, but I watch and I think “Then what?” The first-past-the-post system means our votes can amount to nothing. I grew up in what was once the safest Tory constituency in the country. It’s still a Tory stronghold. My Green or Lib Dem or Labour vote does nothing to change the smug Tory git who allegedly represents me. I still vote, because I want to honour that ability, but it doesn’t amount to anything. And then the Government that I didn’t elect goes to war without my agreement and puts through life-changing bills without my agreement – and without the agreement of the nation – and we call this democracy? Really? We’ve got it better than a lot of places around the world, sure, but to say we’ve got it right is a big fucking joke. To attempt to spread our “democracy” to other countries is fucking sick.
Look, I know the idea of every single person getting a voice isn’t possible. My head is not up in the clouds. There are millions of British people and we can’t run the country on committee. I am not in principle opposed to the idea of elected representatives making decisions on my behalf. I’d just like to, for once in my life, feel that they are actually working for anyone’s interests but their own thirst for power.