This evening I went to a Comunication Worker’s Union Question Time even at the Mechanics Institute in Manchester. The panel constituted of two Labour MPs, a Labour Coucillor, Two Trade Union Members, and a journalist from The Mirror. Surprisingly,the Journalist came across as the most likeable, and Left-Wing (maybe that isn’t a surprise).
Many of the panel were living in a hypothetical world where Labour had won a majority, the journalist reminded us that this may not happen.
Questions ranged from the living wage, to the relationship between Labour Party and Unions, and not surprisingly, ATOS. There was much criticism of the private corporation that makes millions from taxpayers by judging people’s capacity for work, and rightly so. The politicians quickly jumped on the ATOS hating bandwagon, but failed to mention that under the last Labour Government, ATOS earned substantial sums of money, including a £300million contract from NHS Scotland. Let’s be under no illusion, Labour also have a bad record when it comes to privatising jobs normally conducted by the accountable, elected state.
When it was my turn to speak, I pointed out that youth unemployment in this country was three times higher than the average, and that I myself have had period of unemployment, even though I was promised that university would open the door to success. Under labour, there was a massive push towards getting people in to higher education – 50% was the actual target. Whilst this seemed like a very noble idea, there was a slight problem in that there were not enough graduate jobs, or even universities to occupy all these students and graduates. We have a situation now where 40% of graduates are unemployed after 6 months of graduating, and an average of 80 applications for every graduate jobs – the number for non-graduate jobs can be much higher and can have many graduates applying.
I actually asked what a hypothetical Labour government would do about this, and what a got in return was a lot of waffle about education being key, but it is already common knowledge that there needs to be jobs available in order to get employment down in all age groups, having qualifications just simply isn’t enough. Actually, what one does need is experience, and one of the ways a person can get this is by doing unpaid work, but this is often located away from home, and makes living and commuting very difficult, unless you have a rich family (hence why many positions of political and media power are held by the already rich elite in this country).
The Labour councillor did say that they would guaranteed work after two years of unemployment, but I defy anyone to live on £55 a week for two years.
After the lively discussion, there was (to my delight) a free buffet, and vouchers for two alcoholic drinks, and at this delicious spread, I found Michael Kane, who apologised for being somewhat harsh in telling me to change parties. This was not a problem, for the biggest change Labour made in their premiership was the death rate in the Middle East (of course, there was the minimum wage and working tax credits, but come on, this has to be a bit satirical!) I said to him that I have personal experience from ATOS, as my mother had a stroke last autumn and is therefore on Disability Living Allowance and had to go through the tests, he seemed sympathetic to this as one would expect. What I was shocked at though was the response I got from the statement I made which was:
“I saw an ambulance earlier on that had the logos for Arriva (a below par train operator in Wales and the North West of England) and the NHS (humanity’s greatest achievement), and this made me feel a little sick as I hate seeing public services being sold off”. He replied,
“Well you can’t blame the government for handing out that contract.” Here we have a recently elected Labour MP, a member of the party that founded the NHS supporting the private sector making money off patients needs.
There used to be a time when you knew that Labour could be trusted with the NHS, and the Tories couldn’t. Whilst it seems that the latter has, is, and always will be true, the same cannot be said for the first.
It is our duty to make sure that our health, and therefore the NHS is always there for us, and us alone. No one should make a penny out of someone’s ill health, and members of the government most certainly should not be involved with private healthcare companies (many senior Conservative MPs have financial interests in private medical firms and would benefit nicely from the selling of NHS services).
We must make sure that the NHS does not simply become a logo, it needs to stand for fairness, impartiality, and good service. Do not let the work of Aneurin Bevan go to waste, sign every petition you can, show your support, because once the NHS has gone, it will be very difficult to get it back.