Now the election is lost, we are already seeing the Tories' priorities. Not to reassure the public and those who have suffered under austerity, but to announce their first three priorities: lifting the ban on fox hunting, confirming the £12 billion cuts to the welfare system and the scrapping of the Human Rights Act. Within one day their supporters in the media, don’t call on the government to try and heal a divided nation, but like the Telegraph, they call for the NHS to be replaced with a private health system. Within hours the DWP releases documents on cuts to disabled work access scheme. It really doesn’t take long. The sad thing is they were not even a wolf in sheep’s clothing. They were a wolf in the Emperor’s new clothes. Trouble is not enough people in England saw they were wearing nothing at all, and off they go waving at the crowds for another 5 years.
"The sad thing is that they were not even a wolf in sheeps clothing. They were a wolf in the Emperor's new clothes."
For the NHS this result has a grave impact. A government without the shackles of a coalition, under the misapprehension that it carries the will of the (English) electorate will go all out to attack what it sees as an easy enemy: us. They will come after our unsocial hours because they believe that it is the average worker not the wealthier taxpayers who should fund a 7 day a week NHS. This is a double whammy of pure spite. We will end up paying for a 7 day NHS through cuts in our wages. Meanwhile the Eton mess of millionaires that sit in Government will hive off the NHS to their Tory donors and owners of private providers taking advantage of lower wage bills - lowered by the abandonment of our unsocial hours. And if we kick up a fuss? Oh, they’re going to make it illegal to strike by introducing a 50% threshold for industrial ballots; a voting percentage that they don’t need to form a government. Still “all in it together”?
Every day stewards in our branch are battling the consequences of cuts on the NHS. Community teams are under stress from crippling case-loads, patients are sent all over the country in the search for beds, attempts to chip away at terms and conditions are made at every policy review, mutual resignation schemes are introduced, and administration staff endure reorganisation after reorganisation. This is about an organisation being forced to implement millions and millions of pounds of savage savings, year in year out with their workforce taking the hit.
"This was a catastrophic failure to present a complelling and bold narrative to the electorate, not about not turning right to a Blairite Britain."
When we see the swathes of blue across the constituencies in our Trust it is a stark reminder of the failure of the Labour Party to attract enough votes in a period when all except the very rich are feeling the effects of austerity. This was a catastrophic failure to present a compelling and bold narrative to the electorate, not about not turning right to a Blairite Britain. The SNP in Scotland and Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion campaigned on an anti-austerity platform, the Tories and UKIP campaigned on the politics of fear and division. All were more successful (percentage wise for UKIP rather than seats of course) in their messages than a meek Labour Party whose electoral promises would have been better carved on pumice than Portland stone, such was the impact.
"Labour's electoral promises would have been better carved on pumice than Portland stone, such was the impact."
This is not to say that Branch regrets directing members towards voting for the Labour Party and we would do it again. We desperately needed to get rid of this pernicious government and repeal the catastrophic Health and Social Care Act and only Labour were in a realistic position to do that. Our communications received some criticism for this stance, though mainly from people that had the fortune to live in Caroline Lucas’ constituency. Other than Brighton Pavilion and the two Liberal constituencies in East Sussex, Labour were the only party placed to kick the Tories out and we needed it to happen.
Yet Caroline Lucas provides us with a clear direction. No MP is clearer at providing a compelling and bold narrative then her. Even in the relatively privileged south east an anti-austerity MP who works hard for her constituents can be elected. The other non-Blue was Peter Kyle in Hove and Portslade possibly the safer example of defeating the Tories that Labour are already making moves toward in the jostling around the leadership election.
"We need a bold, radical, clear vision from the left framed in the narrative of humanity, equality, progression and hope, where aspiration is both collective and individualistic."
However, I feel this is a mistake. A lurch to the clichéd centre is not necessarily the answer. We live in a country of nearly 5OO food banks whose capital has more billionaires than anywhere else in the world, we live in a country where the prime minister has just signed away £780 million pounds of our NHS money to pay for private companies to clear up the operation and treatment waiting lists that his government created. Scrabbling around in the centre will not solve these. A bold, radical clear vision from the left does not need to scare the English voter away, it doesn’t have to be anti-capital and non-inclusive but framed in the narrative of humanity, equality, progression and hope, where aspiration is both collective and individualistic.
The moderate don’t-scare-the-horses approach led our union standing down too readily over our pay rise. Just two half days of strike action brought the government back to the negotiating table. Yet rather than press home the advantage we were told that this was a far as we could go, that we would never be able to negotiate anything better. Really? According to the government, the turnout for strike action was minimal, yet we still dragged out a deal. Would further action, still supported by the public, really have not achieved further concession?
"Miliband lost because, pummelled by the right wing press he would not risk a strong anti austerity message framed by clear economic argumant."
Now the detractors of Miliband are saying he was too much of the left to appeal to the electorate, that the message needs to be more moderate to gain back the trust of the voter. Miliband lost because he had no clear vision and, pummelled by the right wing press, would not risk a strong anti-austerity message framed by clear economic argument.
"The NHS will not survive with a line in the sand, something stronger, deeper and higher is required and we must be there to build it."
Whatever the approach the leadership in our union or our political affiliates follow, we do not have the option not to be bold in the future. The NHS is at such a critical juncture that we can no longer afford to not participate in defending it. The NHS will not survive with a line in the sand, something stronger, deeper and higher is required and we must be there to build it.
Nick McMaster is Branch Communications Officer. This article has been written in a personal capacity.