In this last post before the election I wanted to speak about Sunday’s NHS meeting featuring veteran social justice campaigner Harry Leslie Smith. 92-year-old Harry is touring the country telling people about what he remembers of the days before we had a national health service. Harry’s sister died of tuberculosis in a workhouse because their family had no money to treat her. Harry remembers hearing neighbours crying out in pain as they slowly died of cancer because they could not afford any treatment for their pain.
We also heard some moving words from Geoff Braterman whose wife very recently died of leukaemia after a year or more battling the illness. Geoff spoke of how much they had appreciated Nikki’s treatment, which included several long bouts of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, all of which necessitated long stays in hospital and some specialised treatment in London. Under a different system of healthcare, a standard health insurance policy would have run out of money and they would have been looking at selling their house and spending everything they had to pay for it. But Nikki received excellent care, good pain management and specialist treatment, and all on the NHS.
The whole meeting underlined that the way we feel about the NHS and healthcare is often about personal things and what has happened to people we are close to. For no other reason, the repeal of the Health and Social Care Act and seeing the NHS back in the hands of the party which created it and which is most committed to seeing it retained, is enough of a reason to vote Labour on May 7th.
But there are other reasons. In questions afterwards, a couple of audience members asked Purna Sen why she was standing for parliament against such a well-known progressive incumbent. Purna’s answer was to describe the differences in her values compared with Caroline Lucas. Where Lucas talks of independence, Purna is interested in solidarity and in being stronger by standing together. When David Lepper was in government and the MP for Brighton Pavilion, he was able to serve the city better because he was part of the governing party. Lucas, in contrast, will always be on the outside knocking on the door, and as a consequence less able to make a difference for her constituents.
Purna mentioned the progress that has been made since the 60’s in taking on discrimination against disabled people, racism and homophobia. As a child of immigrant parents she has lived through this and rightly points out that ALL the progress that has been made on this has been due to Labour governments. Of course there will be areas of disagreement within the party, but the important thing is to stand together and accept those disagreements without disowning each other, for the sake of what can be achieved for society.
On reflection it is Caroline Lucas that has the more difficult argument to make. Brighton Pavilion is a marginal seat which Labour could win. The vast majority of people we speak to on the doorstep would prefer a Labour government to a Conservative one. It makes sense therefore to vote Labour here, in a seat which will make a difference to the number of Labour MPs. To argue in the face of neck-and-neck national polling that a potential Labour seat should be given away to another party seems counter-intuitive to me.
Caroline Lucas is not even campaigning as a Green Party candidate. She describes herself as an “independent Green” and does not want to associate herself with the Green Party run council locally at all. It is her personal attributes that she is promoting. I don’t have anything against her as a person, but there is no way I would like her, or indeed anyone else, enough to justify five more years of David Cameron as Prime Minister.
In short, it’s really very simple. We have an excellent progressive Labour candidate with a fantastic and inspirational career behind her standing in a seat which Labour could win, at an election where every single seat will matter. So please, if you want a Labour government on May 7th – vote Labour.