I love the NHS. I’m proud of the fact that your NHS number is one of the first things you receive when you’re born. Perhaps before you even have a name, you’re given a guarantee that your healthcare will be taken care of – free at the point of use – from cradle to grave. It’s universal, it’s comprehensive and it’s the most successful (and popular) embodiment of the flawed beast that is British Social Democracy.
And like many people within Labour and on the left I’ve spent recent months demonstrating, letter writing, petitioning, tweeting, emailing and cajoling in an attempt to bring Andrew Lansley’s flawed “reforms” to a halt. Of course he didn’t listen – he never does.
When the fight over the NHS moved to the Lords, I cheered the small victories, but I feared the direction this fight was heading. Democratic Socialists fighting a guerrilla war against an elected government through the unelected Lords? It didn’t sit right with me. But I was able to reconcile myself to it – just – because this reform wasn’t something the Tories took to the country, and because these unelected Lords were (on the most part) put in place by democratically elected leaders.
In such grey areas does much of modern politics take place.
But now some NHS campaigners have decided that the long and bloody NHS war cannot end. There must be no surrender to the defeat in parliament. But they do not urge direct action, strikes, demonstrations or calls to repeal legislation. They call on the Queen to turn down royal assent. A gift to the people for the Jubilee – the abolition of democracy.
And that makes me wonder – have some NHS campaigners lost their minds?
Asking the Queen to begin arbitrating on what is good legislation and what isn’t is the politics of the mad house. I’m a Republican, but as I’ve argued in the past, I’m a reasonable one. The Queen is popular, I get that. So what I want most of all is for her constitutional powers to be removed. And yet some, in the desperation to save the NHS, would call on the Queen to issue an effective coup d’etat over parliament.
Is this really a road we wish to go down? If it begins here, where does it end? Will a future King Charles strike down a house building program because he disapproves of the architecture? Will a future King William strike down cuts to the coast guard? Are we really willing to hand over our (admittedly flawed) democracy for the prize if retaining the NHS in its current form?
If so, all perspective has been lost. Those who would back such plans are like the soldiers found long after WW2 – still fighting the war unable to reconcile themselves to their defeat.
If this is all we have in the locker, then we have already lost the battle. If not, then let’s employ tactics that are credible, workable and democratic, and retain our sanity.