Where now for the #SavetheNHS campaign?
Last night the Health Bill, to all intents and purposes, became law. The government was solid in defying the democratic wishes of everybody who attended a protest, signed a petition, even told a pollster how they felt. I think its pretty fair to say they defied not just those people but the vast majority of the people in the country. It therefore failed in its first duty as a government, to represent the people who elevated it to its position.
How can people then respond? Well, one good way is to try to reclaim the democratic process and that is exactly what a group of doctors are looking to do by standing in seats against those who pushed through the Bill. In each and every area this happens, Labour will have to consider its position very carefully. How to approach independent candidacies of this nature is partly a tactical question but it’s also a principled one when the disenfranchised try to take back power that has been taken away from them as is happening here.
Other ways exist to use the current process to keep the issue on the agenda like the use of local referenda. We need to keep these changes on the agenda and in the public mind because precisely the reason they have been rammed through so relatively early in the electoral cycle is to avoid them being a major issue when the next election rolls around. So, we need to have an aggressive media strategy that highlights the consequences of this bill and how they have damaged the NHS.
If we do that, it will increase the pressure on the next government to repeal the Bill and reverse the changes. This needs to be the new aim of the campaign because realistically that is what we are now looking to achieve. The government will want their reforms so far entrenched that they can deem this fiscally or logistically impossible so we also need to consider how we hold up implementation for as long as is practically possible. All is not lost, the battle has just moved into a slightly different arena; the NHS can still be saved and it needs to be, not just for this generation but for all those that are to follow.