ourNHS

Beyond fake promises and blind faith, is there a glimmer of hope for post-Brexit NHS politics?

The main 'leave' narrative blamed the wrong people, but people may yet realise they've been duped - and there are some interesting flashpoints ahead.

Greg Dropkin
1 July 2016
nhs not trident pic.jpg

Image: Flickr/Geoff Holland

I am furious with those on the left who advocated Leave.

Whatever their motives, that judgement was blind to the upsurge of racism which Brexit was always going to trigger - here and across Europe. Whatever the anti-racist opinions, credentials or track record of left Leavers, the referendum was not about them or their parties, and its consequences, on that front, are bad for all of us.

Of course, voters were duped. Since 2008, we've been paying for the massive bail-out of the banks and the political decision to impose austerity. In the NHS, that started with the McKinsey report commissioned by Gordon Brown, which recommended £20bn efficiency savings over 5 years, a policy which has continued ever since. None of that has anything to do with immigration.

Aside from that, the promises of more money for the NHS from Brexit are already evaporating and the £20bn which Simon Stevens himself now thinks is needed, will not be on offer from the last few months of Cameron or the incoming regime of Gove, May et al.

What's promised is a free market bonanza, the exact opposite of what's needed to address climate change. I expect the Tory government will sign up to whatever version of TTIP the US offers.

But here are two things to consider. Scotland will demand independence. That means, sooner or later, Trident will need to move south if it is renewed. Cue massive protests, wherever they try to put it.

The Blairites within the Labour PLP have declared open war on Corbyn. If he doesn't buckle, and if he is re-elected as Leader, that means the project of appeasing the right-wing of the PLP is over. Corbyn can then only fight a general election from the left and local reselections are a prospect.

Millions of people who voted Leave also cherish the NHS. Those who voted on the basis of a promise of more NHS cash are already starting to realise  – as a Question Time audience member last night said – that they have been “played”. They may, perhaps, come to see what is really siphoning away its resources: the healthcare market, procurement, PFI, continuous redisorganisation. If Corbyn survives and his team makes renationalisation of the NHS a policy platform, that would be a small glimmer of hope amidst the despair. 

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Boris Johnson's government stands accused of 'COVID cronyism', after handing out staggering sums of money to controversial private firms to fight COVID-19. Often the terms of these deals are kept secret, with no value-for-money checks or penalties for repeated failures which cost lives. And many major contracts have gone directly to key Tory donors and allies – without competition.

As COVID rates across the country surge, how can we hold our leaders accountable? Meet the lawyers, journalists and politicians leading the charge in our free live discussion on Thursday 1 October at 5pm UK time.

Hear from:

Dawn Butler Labour MP for Brent Central and member of the House of Commons Committee on Science and Technology

Peter Geoghegan Investigations editor, openDemocracy, and author of 'Democracy for Sale: Dark Money and Dirty Politics'

Jolyon Maugham Barrister and founder of the Good Law Project.

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Chair: Mary Fitzgerald Editor-in-chief of openDemocracy

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