NHAP representative’s write-up of The People’s Parliament – Save Our NHS

Following the successful launch of the NHAP European election campaign I decided to attend a session of The People’s Parliament last night in the House of Commons. It was the first time I had ever set foot inside the Houses of Parliament. I was unsure what to expect.

The only snag came during the screening upon entering the complex. While I encourage you to carry your #stickupfortheNHS stickers with you at all times, if you try to take them into parliament your stickers will be confiscated, despite my assurances that I’m not going to plaster stickers everywhere. I’m not a child. Tempting mind! Thankfully a receipt was issued and stickers were returned.

You can read more about the panellists who spoke at the meeting here. The panel included Dr Jacky Davis of Keep Our NHS Public. Dr Davis gave the National Health Action Party credit for pressuring Labour into taking a stance (of sorts) to exempt the NHS from TTIP. More on Labour and TTIP here.

Opposing TTIP was a key theme of the discussion. Read this article to learn why we at NHAP think it is so vital to exempt the NHS from the treaty. This is not an anti-trade stance, this is not an anti-American stance. This is an anti-entombing-the-NHS-in-privatisation-forever stance. I pointed out that people need to be more vocal about the fact that the ‘public consultation’ is a sham. I’m going to try to grapple with this some more. I believe that the online questionnaire (full version here) is designed to be inaccessible.

Here’s the intro:

Given the length of this consultation we strongly recommend that you print out the consultation notice and the consultation document and prepare your answers off-line before completing the questionnaire.

It is not technically possible to save your answers in the questionnaire and come back to it later. Your session on-line will remain open for 90 minutes for you to fill out your answers.

I can only assume that it is deliberately complicated in order to put us off. I feel highly motivated to oppose the ISDS element of TTIP in particular. I simply do not have half a day to devote to completing this questionnaire. The issues are in fact not impenetrable so why is the alleged consultation so unwieldy? As I stated during the meeting, this consultation is only taking place at all very late in the whole process because people from many EU countries are opposing TTIP. This questionnaire is designed not for consultation but to give the authorities something to which they can refer back and tell us that we had the opportunity to have input and we elected not to make good use of that opportunity. In short, this stinks!

The People’s Parliament was set up by Labour MP John McDonnell to stimulate debate in the build up to the 2015 general election. It would be good to have a broader cross-section of views represented within the People’s Parliament. I wonder whether the other main parties can be tempted to join? It would be good not to have need for a People’s Parliament. Isn’t parliament meant to be the people’s parliament anyway? We can dream. The anti-Labour feeling in the room must have made the Chair, East London MP John Cryer feel uncomfortable.

There was a great discussion about what must be done to put the Labour leadership under pressure to have faith in the public’s faith in the NHS and their strong desire to keep it. There was a gentle reminder that some pressure should be applied to the Lib Dems too. Many of their supporters are strongly pro-NHS. The NHS could be an election-winner. The plain fact is that the majority of Conservative voters want the NHS to remain public. The merits of appealing to the party to repeal the Health and Social Care Act are beyond me but I’m interested to hear whether anyone thinks it an idea worth pursuing.

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I received a round of applause when I introduced myself as an MEP candidate for the National Health Action Party which was unexpected. I took this as a welcome sign for the party’s prospects. We just need to get our message out more broadly so lend us your voices please!

As I have said, there was a lot of talk around ‘what to do about Labour?’. One of the other panellists Jill Mountford, from Save Lewisham Hospital said people need not to vote for “all of these smaller, fringe parties” and get Labour into government in 2015 while pressuring Labour into recovering its passion for the NHS. The National Health Action Party view is in accord with this train of thought which is why we intend to focus our General Election 2015 efforts on contesting around 30 constituencies that are currently held by Conservative or Liberal Democrat MPs. Thankfully Jacky Davis made this point. We had been told nobody was going to get a second chance to speak so that was me gagged.

It was clear from the mood in the room that enough people think Labour have split their core vote themselves. Unfortunately for everyone who loves the NHS, which is pretty much everyone in the UK, we will need a Labour majority government in order to restore the NHS and make it the brilliant service we need for the 21st Century.

All the best,

Andrew Sharp
Prospective MEP for London

Disclaimer: I feel it only fair that I point out that I am not generally a Labour supporter. I have voted for them once or twice. I’ve also voted Conservative and (far more often) for the Lib Dems. Have voted Green too. Have never, would never vote UKIP.

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Stick Up for the NHS – a relative’s perspective on the NHS and politics

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The National Health Action Party held its launch event for London’s European election at the Roxy in Borough. What follows is the transcript of East London resident Andrew Sharp’s (second from right) speech for this Stick Up for the NHS rally.

UPDATE: a recording of Andrew’s speech is now available here.

“My brother Matthew died of cancer aged six. I was four. Matt’s death had a huge impact on my life, on my sister’s life. It’s only since having kids myself that I can appreciate the horrors my parents endured. Our story though sad is not unique. We all hold love and loss in common. They are part of life for all humanity. In England we hold the NHS in common too. It supports us in our times of deepest need.

What would have happened to my family without the NHS? Steve Smith, creator of the Big Up the NHS blog made me question this during the #withouttheNHS twitter storm in March. I contributed two tweets that sum up why I must now stick up for the NHS.

The first was about Matt and my family. It reads:
#withouttheNHS my parents would have had to bankrupt their young family when my older brother was ill with cancer”

For two years the NHS cared for Matt, just as it cares for us all. No payment required beyond the taxes we already pay. If forced to pay my parents surely would have bankrupted themselves trying to save Matt’s life. And then failed. Don’t be fooled by my accent. We weren’t rich. I’m the milkman’s son, and not in some jokey metaphorical way. Any parent would willingly bankrupt themselves wouldn’t they, if they thought they could save their child’s life? And if that attempt failed? They’d lose their child, their home and their other children’s prospects in one fell swoop. Without the NHS this could happen to any of us. That can’t be right can it? Not when we already have a better way; a National Health Service way.

Some people think the NHS will always be there but it’s looking precarious right now. Some would say ‘get health insurance’. Well, cancer care is an expensive business and have you ever known an insurance company dodge paying out in full on an expensive claim? For your car? A burglary? It’s happened to me. It happens all the time. It happens to millions of people in America where healthcare is startlingly expensive.

Did you know that healthcare costs are the number one cause of bankruptcy in the US, causing 62% of bankruptcies? People go bankrupt just trying to stay healthy or to keep a loved one alive. Of these people over 75% do have health insurance, but it doesn’t pay out leaving them destitute. And what of those who lack the means to pay? Should we let them suffer? Just let them die?

We don’t need to worry about any of this do we? We have the NHS. Our politicians have promised that our healthcare will remain free at the point of need. So whilst they marketise and privatise our NHS we’re being promised private healthcare for free, right? Don’t believe that, not for one moment. Free at the point of need is just what they say now, a stop gap. Charging will follow.

Politicians and their promises lead me to my second tweet of the twitter storm which reads:
#withouttheNHS I would have less pride in this country. The NHS speaks to our democracy, compassion and civility. Let’s keep it!
We all rely on the NHS at some time in our lives. The NHS is a power for good, a democratic institution that looks after every man, woman and child irrespective of social status or financial means. It’s a marker of great civilisation.

We see how politicians subvert democracy to pursue their own agendas for the NHS. Do we see compassion and civility? Do we see them in the coalition government’s approach to sick and disabled people and the work capability assessments? Where is the compassion towards those forced from their homes and into destitution via the implementation of the ‘bedroom tax’? Where is the civility to people who face the humiliation of having to rely on food banks to feed their families? A growing number of people suffer from malnutrition across the UK. Government policy is doing real harm to people’s health and placing further strain on an already beleaguered NHS.

I don’t see much compassion or civility in our politics, yet I do know that our nation is full of compassionate, civilised people. I only recently started campaigning and already I have seen so much passion for the common good, so much will to sustain the NHS that sustains us all. This fills me with hope and propels me forward in my certainty that I too must stick up for our NHS. I know that when I need it, the NHS is there for me, just as it was for my brother. Just as it is there for all of our loved ones. I want the NHS to be there for my kids, and for their kids too. Please join me in this fight. Vote for the National Health Action Party on 22nd May and together let’s stick up for the NHS.

Thank you.”

Andrew will be campaigning at St Thomas’s Hospital on Thursday 1st May from 17:00 to 18:30. Andrew’s brother Matthew was cared for and sadly passed away at St Thomas’s in 1977. Please join him. It’s also his birthday on Thursday – no gifts required but a donation to The National Health Action Party would be appreciated. You can donate here.

Vote NHA to send a message to politicians that you will not stand for the demolition and privatisation of our NHS.

The National Health Action Party will be fielding candidates in the London region of the European Elections on May 22nd.

A big vote for the NHA party will send a strong message to politicians across the political spectrum that the public will not stand for the demolition and privatisation of our NHS.

The other main plank of the campaign is making it a top priority to exempt the NHS from the secretive TTIP trade agreement being negotiated between the EU and the US. This deal would open up the NHS to American private health companies and make privatisation permanent. Any future government would not be able to get out of contracts with private companies even if it wanted to.

Dr Louise Irvine, chair of the Save Lewisham Campaign, will be the lead candidate on the NHA Party’s list. The theatre and TV star Rufus Hound, a passionate NHS supporter, will also be running. The full list of 8 candidates will be announced shortly.

In the Euro Elections, you vote for a party not an individual. Voting is via proportional representation with seats allocated according to the number of votes received by each party. The more votes, the more people on the party list will be elected. It’s estimated that around 200,000 votes are needed in the London region to get one MEP elected.

If you want more information on the NHA Party, please check out the NHA Party website: http://nhap.org/

For more on the Euro Elections, go to: http://nhap.org/european-elections-may-22nd/

There will be campaigning in areas across London between now and the election on May 22nd. See the Events page of the NHA Party website for details: http://nhap.org/events/

If you would like to volunteer to do leafleting in your area or outside your local hospital, please email: contact@nhap.org

Please help us by sharing this blog post with friends, family and colleagues. We need to spread the word.

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