Health and Social Care Bill

John Redwood Wants Your Letters

John Redwood, MP for Wokingham, would like residents to email him to tell him that they oppose the Health and Social Care Bill.

It may surprise readers to learn this, but I don’t always watch the BBC’s flagship political debate show, Question Time. I enjoy it (most of the time) and with the advent of twitter and the #bbcqt hashtag it makes it all the more interesting to be able to interact with and contribute to the debate as it’s unfolding. Of course, the counterpoint of this is that it can sometimes be a little trying as an experience.

Last week, however, I did watch it. I had debated whether or not to, with the excellent Rachel Reeves being a mark in the plus column, and the increasingly barking and offensive David Starkey a reason against. I didn’t actually know that Wokingham’s own John Redwood, a man not-undeservingly called “The Vulcan”, was representing the Conservative side of the argument until I turned on.

When John was asked by an audience member why, if the Health and Social Care Bill is so good, it is taking so long to pass, he predictable blamed that old red axis of the Labour Party and the Trades Union. He then went on to make this statement:

“I don’t find, as Rachel does, that this is a matter of great controversy in my constituency. I’ve had very few letters and emails about it, and my general practicioners are just getting on and implementing it because they like it and they want to make a success of it.”

At the time, I took the route of the cynic and simply tweeted this:

I didn’t think much beyond that, to be honest, but John decided to make his own digital response- not to me specifically, but tweeters in general. This is something of a pleasant surprise, as since Mr Redwood’s twitter account only tweets new posts to his blog, I hadn’t thought it was manned by him or even a real person. But clearly someone checks tweets directed at it, so I guess they aren’t in vain. Hope springs eternal.

On his blogged response, John further claims that the emails he has received to date have had no addresses attached, so he concludes that they were not from constituents. I don’t think this is a particularly unreasonable conclusion, but I do stand by my tweet. I am convinced there is opposition to this inherently flawed bill, even within Wokingham. I don’t, however, expect John “heir to Thatcher” Redwood to find any problem with the privatisation and fragmentation of the health service.

John goes on to say this:

“If any constituent does wish me to consider objections to the Bill or wants me to take matters up with Mr Lansley, I remain as always very happy to do so and will reply personally to you as I always do. I would be grateful for you to include your address so I can see you are a constituent.”

Which, as they say, sounds like fighting talk. So, if you live in Wokingham constituency and want to let your MP know your feelings about the Health and Social Care Bill, why not drop him a letter or an email (with your address included) to the below address(es):

The Rt Hon John Redwood MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

And just as an explanatory note, I haven’t (and won’t) write to Mr Redwood, as I’m not a constituent of his. By a quirk of electoral boundaries, whilst lying within Wokingham local authority Wargrave is inside Maidenhead constituency; so my MP is the Rt. Hon. Theresa May. I will, however, be writing to the Home Secretary to outline my opposition to the bill, because according to John that’s what counts. I would have thought that my letter to the Maidenhead Advertiser the other week, signing the e-petition against the bill, and previously holding forth against it in all manner of media would have been enough, but there you go.

If any of you are interested, I may post my letter to Ms May on this blog, so you can use it as a template.

Standing up for the NHS

The Health and Social Care Bill is probably the biggest threat the NHS has faced since its conception.

Nye Bevan is a personal hero of mine. Aside from being a lifelong devoted socialist, and a staunch enemy of the Tories, he was the man who brought the NHS into existence in this country. In a very real sense, Bevan left the world a better place than he found it. Whenever I think of Bevan, one quote in particular springs to mind:

“The NHS will last for as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”

These are dark times for the NHS. The Health and Social Care Bill threatens the very fabric and purpose of the NHS, far beyond anything ever proposed by the Blair and Brown administrations. The expansion of the private sector to up to half of a hospital’s income will be the first major step to a two-tier health service, and the massive reorganisation at the same time as £20bn savings will cripple it.

But through all this, I have not lost heart. Why not? Because of the response of the British public. You see, those with the faith to fight for the NHS are alive and well across the country. Just look at the official e-petition calling on the government to drop the health bill: it hit the magic 100,000 signatures last week, and at present it’s standing at 160,394. It is the most popular petition on the site. All across the country, people are standing up to protect what Nigel Lawson once called the closest thing to a national British religion.

This includes me. Tomorrow, at 10am, Maidenhead Labour Party will be holding an NHS-themed campaign stall in the high street. Outside Wilkinsons, we will be handing out flyers and asking people to sign petitions. We’ll be campaigning on both national issues, and local health matters such as the already announced closure of Charles Ward.

If you’re in the area, come and see us. If not, you can still help. Every signature on that petition, ever letter to an MP, every word we say against the dismantling of the NHS is a step forward.