Several years ago I quit party politics, quietly resigning from the Labour Party in a fit of disillusionment that I’ve documented here. The superficiality, the blatant careerism and the detachment from the real concerns of real communities had just become too much. Today I did something I thought I’d never do again, and joined a political party.
Since I heard about the National Health Action Party I reflected for some time about whether to support it. I’ve never been particularly one for single-issue politics. My interests are broad and eclectic. I have political views not just on the NHS but also on social inequality, the environment and foreign policy. Then again, parties that started out as single-issue have evolved into broader-based platforms. The Greens are a good example of this.
What is unarguable is that people in the NHS (and people who work elsewhere in health and social care) need to stand up and shout. I’m on the Celtic fringes, so I’m not affected by the wranglings over Clinical Commissioning Groups. Even so, I’ve seen services shrinking: not just in my CAMHS team, but in the social services departments and the schools with which we liaise regularly.
During the recent party conferences, it was depressed how little rhetoric there was about the most vulnerable in society – people with low incomes, or with disabilities and illnesses, the unemployed. If they were spoken about at all, it was to castigate them as scroungers, feeding off the “strivers”. The Tories were the worst for this, unsurprisingly, but Labour were notable for their deafening silence.
There’s a simple reason for this: the poorer and more vulnerable you are, the less likely you are to vote, effectively making you an unperson in political terms, to be ignored while the “squeezed middle” are assiduously courted. Theirs is a silent voice that needs to be heard.
Perhaps a party formed by healthcare professionals can go some way towards raising the unasked questions in politics. Lord knows we could do with a party that doesn’t contain the career politicians who have blighted the Tories and Labour. The recent documentary Young, Bright and On the Right showed just how divorced some of these strutting self-promoters are from the real world, and illustrate the ghastly process that spawned the likes of George Osborne and Jeremy Hunt.
Even if they don’t break out into the mainstream, single-issue parties can sometimes have an impact in terms of pushing the existing parties to deal with issues they’d previously ignored. Again, the Greens are a good example, forcing the Thatcher government to embrace environmental policies after being hurt at the ballot box.
From today, the NHA Party are getting my cautious support. It’s clearly a fledgling party, but it’s one that deserves to be given the opportunity to see what it can do. I’m in.