Notes from the Green Party MEP for East of England. Biographical reflections on life as an MEP. Longer reflections and discussions on issues relating to policy, the good life, justice, equality, anti-austerity economics and the future of the planet. This is also a forum for exchanging ideas on how to tread lightly on the planet and avoid supporting exploitation and corrupt practices. Here we go...

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Defending the NHS and reversing privatisation and marketisation in the NHS

Today I have answered hundreds of e-mails received over the last few days from constituents concerned about protecting the NHS and alarmed by the way in which it is being sold off to private companies, and contracts signed for supply of services from private care organisations. I paste in here my reply to these worries, explaining where I stand on these issues.

If I were elected, I would support the inclusion of a Bill in the first Queen’s Speech after the election that would reverse 25 years of marketisation in the National Health Service, abolish the purchaser-provider split, re-establish District Health Authorities and other public bodies and fully restore the NHS in England as an accountable public service. This Bill is known as the NHS Reinstatement Bill, and you can find the proposal here: 

I would support inclusion of a Bill such as the one described there, without delay, to halt all the privatisation and marketisation of all parts of our crucial public infrastructure, and especially the NHS; and to initiate the quickest possible reversal of all the private finance initiatives and other market driven schemes. This is exactly the kind of thing that I shall be supporting with all the efforts I can muster, should I be elected in 2015. 

Indeed, I am already campaigning as a private citizen to prevent further marketisation in the NHS. But without a seat in parliament, there is only so much one can do. So please, if you care about a public NHS, vote for me in the coming election and encourage others to do so. The Green Party stands a chance of carrying some weight in the new parliament, if everyone who believes in these things votes sincerely for what they believe in.

To be frank, I cannot myself see how anyone who cares about these things could do otherwise than to vote Green in most constituencies in England, since there is no “least bad alternative” among the main parties available to us here. All three of the main parties seem either to support privatisation and marketisation of our public institutions or to have been complicit in it during the last five years of coalition. Let’s not be deceived by the promises of “x number more nurses”. This is just a cover for cutting costs in all sorts of other ways. I see no grounds for entrusting those other parties with this most precious part of our welfare state. We need a party that is promising to end the cuts and reverse the austerity programme: to develop a country we can be proud of where everyone is cared for and we are not taking funds from the weak and the vulnerable to feed the greedy and powerful. That’s the Green Party through and through.

There is absolutely no reason to change to a cumbersome, costly and unkind insurance system instead. The free NHS, without questions asked and without means tests or contributions requirements is the crowning glory of our welfare state, and is an essential tool in ensuring that we have healthy able-bodied mentally healthy working people to produce the resources we need, and create the society we can be secure and happy in. It is a nonsense to suggest that we can’t afford to give this free to all. We can’t afford not to. Do we want dying drunkards or sick refugees bleeding on our streets while millionaires drive by in their Porsches bought from their Swiss Bank accounts? Not for me a country that could do that. I will fight to the death to prevent any such thing.

I expect that you’re also concerned about TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) which is being cooked up in the EU, and poses a major threat to this country if our health service is undergoing privatisation, and would be bought up by American health care providers, with the risk of major legal action against the UK if we ever took them back into public hands or enacted legislation to keep costs down. The Green Party (including myself) is totally opposed to the whole of TTIP of course, and if it goes through (over our dead bodies), will definitely fight with white knuckles to keep the NHS and all other public services fenced round with impenetrable ring fences! No other party is coming out against TTIP, though they are making every effort to bluff their way into your hearts as though they cared about the NHS and would protect it. If they are not against TTIP, and not keeping the NHS out of it, they are not protecting the NHS at all. I trust you will not be deceived by the lies of other politicians who don’t want you to know what they are selling to the USA.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

What's to fear about TTIP

Several dozens of my prospective voters in the South Norfolk constituency have written to me to ask me for my commitments regarding TTIP, which is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, being debated in secret by EU officials.
I record here a generic version of my thoughts on this topic which I have been sending over the last few days to these voters:

I believe that TTIP is among the great threats that we face, and this one is from within our own EU—not some aggression from Russia or foreign terrorists. This is our own politicians, entrusted with the care of our interests, and they are betraying us in secret. The episode is symptomatic of the complete disregard for democracy, and for the interests of the country as a whole, or for the common good. It’s a deal that stands to benefit no one but the largest corporations and multinationals. Its effects on small businesses in the UK, on farmers and producers and on workers wages and rights will be devastating, and the government will lose more in falling income from import duties and greater costs due to falling wages/increased poverty at home than it stands to gain in trade.

This is not just about the NHS (though that is a worry anyway, with or without TTIP: we in the Green Party are in favour of keeping the NHS public and getting rid of existing PFI systems and privatisation schemes, but much of the evil has already been done and will take years to unpick)—but is about the whole structure of the modern neo-liberal consensus across parties and across Europe, which is generating ever greater inequalities between the haves and the have-nots. I know why the EU is working on the TTIP: because the austerity programme in Europe has ruined the EU's trade and prosperity from within and created a long and unprecedented period of depression, because all the markets are affected together by the coordinated austerity programme. The solution is not to sell out to the US (or anyone else) but to stop the programme of austerity that’s causing the problem, and look for an economic system that can cope with stability instead of growth and a long-term self-sufficiency that does not involve exploiting the labour force and the planet. Let’s face it: we have immense wealth in this country, or would have, if it were not siphoned off to tax havens for the millionaires, but it’s not being fairly or gainfully used to support the right investments in the right projects to benefit the working people or the planet. Thankfully Greece has started a move to resist the old consensus and ask the difficult questions.

Only the Green Party offers a coherent solution to this combination of issues. As was evident in the debate in Norwich, the other parties are all fudging it, because they are all (including Labour) committed to the TTIP (even UKIP have not come out against it but have been voting for it insofar as they vote at all in Europe, though Stuart Agnew seemed to be trying to erase that truth or make some virtue of it). Only the Green Party is explicitly *against TTIP*, and in favour of reforming Europe to be more democratic. The Green Party favours an in/out referendum on Europe. It favours ending the austerity economics that is causing the downturn in trade in Europe and worldwide. It favours investing in making Britain and Europe energy-self-sufficient and sustainable on a slow to zero growth basis for the future without fossil fuels, so that prosperity can return and wages can rise to a level at which no one must beg for loans and food parcels. This is a new look Europe and a new look Britain, fit for a planet which is overheating and becoming too unequal and unkind.

This is my Party, and my position, and if you vote for me I will not compromise these principles.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

I've pledged my support for local pubs and real ale. If any pub in South Norfolk would like to invite me to come and meet the locals, or help behind the bar, please contact me :)