Dr Brian Fisher: Election result must inspire NHS campaigners to redouble efforts

The general election showed that voters are open to a more left-leaning approach to government, and NHS campaigners must take this opportunity to press for a new approach and more investment in health services, argues Socialist Health Alliance vice chair Dr Brian Fisher.

Dr Brian Fisher (Photo: Dan Wootton)
Dr Brian Fisher (Photo: Dan Wootton)

The general election on 8 June showed that many people across the country welcomed a left-leaning set of policies.

The financial crisis and the right wing’s austerity response to it has left the country poorer and more unequal both financially and socially. By offering a comprehensive manifesto that showed a practical route towards more investment in the country, its institutions and its people, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have broken the assumptions of Labour Party policy-making since 1997.

Political conversation in the UK has moved so far to the right in the last 20 years that social democratic polices commonplace across Europe are seen by the media as radical and left-wing here. And Keynesian economic policy was seen as dangerously radical.

NHS privatisation

So, at least we can feel on more popular ground demanding an end to privatisation and more investment into the NHS.

The NHS should not even be seen as a cost to the state and to all of us. It is an investment with at least a 4:1 return.

As the economist Ha-Joon Chang wrote in The Guardian earlier this month: 'Both Labour and the Tories see tax as a burden that needs to be minimised. But would you call the money that you pay for your takeaway curry or Netflix subscription a burden? You wouldn’t, because you recognise that you are getting your curry and TV shows in return. Likewise, you shouldn’t call your taxes a burden because in return you get an array of public services, from education, health and old-age care, through to flood defence and roads to the police and military.'

He argued that the rich don't all move to countries where income tax is low, in part because those low tax rates deliver poor public services. They also don't abandon countries like Sweden where the top tax rate is high, in part because of the high quality public services those taxes help to deliver.

Strong public services

Mr Chang argued: 'Japanese and German companies don’t move out of their countries in droves despite some of the highest corporate income tax rates in the world (31% and 30% respectively) because they get good infrastructure, well-educated workers, strong public support for research and development, and so on.'

So, we should be demanding right now an end to this unstable DUP/Tory connection – even if the DUP interest in more state investment in public services comes into play. We want a comprehensive set of policies that tackle not only the immediate requirements to prevent a Greek-style collapse of the health service, but an approach that begins to tackle the causes of the causes of ill-health: health inequalities, child poverty, poor housing, degradation of the educational system, isolation, communities under pressure with reducing support and civic life.

While we wait for this unstable arrangement to collapse, we need to keep making clear demands for the NHS and the wider system. If necessary, GPs and nurses must go further than at present towards industrial action. We cannot wait for the NHS to unravel.

We now have a far clearer mandate – we can take forward a left-leaning set of policies and feel that we are not alone.

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