After Nine Years of Austerity, and to Save the NHS, Please, Please, Please Vote the Tories Out!

11.12.19

The photo of four-year old Jack Williment-Barr, with suspected pneumonia, sleeping on the floor of Leeds General Infirmary, which has focused attention on Tory cuts to the NHS. The photo was featured in a Yorkshire Evening Post article, and was then included in a front-page article in the Daily Mirror.

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I haven’t, to date, waded into the fray regarding tomorrow’s General Election in the UK, in large part because I am so profoundly dismayed that we still have such an antiquated voting system — first past the post — that massively favours the Tories, and, to a lesser extent, Labour, at the expense of all the other parties, and in part because, in the echo chamber world created by the tech companies’ cynical and divisive algorithms, I’m bound to be preaching to the converted.

However, I don’t want tomorrow’s polling to take place without throwing a few thoughts your way, so here’s my gambit: if you live in a constituency where the race is tight, please vote wisely to get the Tories out. This means that, whoever is the closest challenger to the Tories should get your vote, whether that is Labour or the Liberal Democrats.

If our opposition politicians were truly grown-up, they would have stood aside for each other in closely-contested constituencies where a divided vote will do nothing except return the Tories to power, and they would have spelled out to voters how the main drive of this election needs to be to make sure that the Tories, led by the execrable Boris Johnson, are removed from power. However, a pact hasn’t materialised, because politicians tend to be idiotically tribal, and because far too many of them have been so conditioned by the inadequate first past the post system that they’d rather come third and allow a Tory to win than demonstrate the kind of responsibility that we, as a country, so desperately need at this perilous time.

Typically, since 2010, and with 2017 as the most recent example, first past the post has allowed the Tories, with around 24% of eligible voters, and around 42% of those who vote on the day, to take around 50% of the seats, skewering any notion that we live in a country with any kind of genuine representative democracy — and if the Tories don’t get a majority on Thursday, it really is time for a non-Tory government to change the voting system to one involving proportional representation, to make sure that they never get in power again, and also to make sure that every party is fairly represented.

In a fair electoral system, every party securing 50,0000 votes would get an MP, so that, for example, the Green Party could have dozens of MPs, instead of just one, putting their eminently sensible environmental commitments, and their concerns with social justice, into the deliberations of coalition governments that would be required to put aside their narrow tribalism for the common good.

Mainly, though, we need to get the Tories out because, after nearly ten years, they have bled the country dry with their austerity programme. cynically introduced in 2010 to destroy the state provision of services, which has ended up entrenching an ever-widening gap between the rich (who continue to be slavishly serviced by the Tories) and the ever-growing number of the poor, with poverty now, genuinely, returning to Victorian levels.

Austerity has not only been a colossal moral failure; it has also failed economically, with the deficit level much more severe now than it was when the Tories took power in 2010. A programme of Keynesian borrowing to invest is the only sensible way forward, putting the failed neo-liberal project — introduced by Margaret Thatcher and maintained ever since by the Tories, by New Labour and by the Lib Dems in their five-year coalition with the Tories from 2010-2015 — in its grave once and for all.

And yet the Tories — and far too much of our corporate-owned mainstream media, the mainstream establishment including, sadly, far too many of the BBC’s news teams, and our fellow citizens who are susceptible to their poisonous messages — cannot bear any notion of fairness and redistribution to be undertaken to halt the otherwise relentless widening of the chasm between rich and poor, and the manifestation of ever greater levels of deprivation for those most in need of support.

Although the Labour Party remains dangerously infected by neo-liberalism amongst many of its MPs — and particularly in its social cleansing councils, in thrall to big developers — Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and their allies in the Party’s leadership have a genuine vision for a better Britain that should be taken seriously when people vote tomorrow. Without hope, what is there?

But as I say, if a Liberal Democrat can beat a Tory, they deserve your vote instead. Let’s please get the Tories out of power tomorrow!

The malignant ghost of a hard Brexit

In conclusion, another reason to get rid of the Tories is, of course, Brexit. While the Lib Dems have taken a position of scrapping the referendum result, which can only implacably alienate many of the people who voted to leave the EU in that colossally stupid referendum in June 2016, Labour has pledged to allow a vote on a final deal, which is almost certainly the only fair way forward.

The Tories, meanwhile, pushing for a hard, no deal Brexit under Boris Johnson, have been taken over by dangerous ideologues for isolation, for making the UK a vassal state of the US, and for selling off whatever hasn’t been sold off to whoever else wants a slice of the fifth largest economy in the world (China and the Gulf states, for example) — both via the Europe-hating isolationists of the European Research Group, typified so abysmally by the ludicrous Jacob Rees-Mogg, and since summer, by the rabidly pro-American drive of Boris Johnson and his puppet master Dominic Cummings, whose insatiable enthusiasm for a hard Brexit that will do more to destroy our economy and to entrench unthinkable levels of poverty remains firmly in place, despite the resistance of the 21 Tory rebels who were sacked for putting the country’s well-being above their leader’s narrow and suicidally stupid ideological obsessions.

Despite all Boris Johnson’s protestations, the Tories want to kill the NHS and hand it over to US healthcare companies to make huge profits at the expense of almost the entire population of the UK. Hopefully, Johnson’s callous disregard for a four-year old child with pneumonia forced to lie on a pile of coats in an A&E department in Leeds because of Tory cuts to the NHS will be something of a tipping point, because otherwise the future looks, genuinely, quite extraordinarily bleak.

So please — please, please, please — do whatever you can to vote the Tories out tomorrow. The health and future of our nation depends on it.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here, or here for the US, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.55), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from seven years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

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9 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my call to arms for tomorrow’s General Election, urging people to vote tactically to get the Tories out if they live in a marginal seat, to prevent a hard Brexit, which would be catastrophically damaging to our economy, to save the NHS, which is clearly “on the table” in Brexit discussions with the US, and continues to be starved of adequate funding, as the photo of four-year old Jack Williment-Barr, with suspected pneumonia, sleeping on the floor of a hospital in Leeds showed, and also, of course, to get rid of the execrable Boris Johnson.

    I also call for urgent reform of our profoundly unfair and unrepresentative first past the post voting system, to keep the Tories out of power forevermore, to ensure that every party is fairly represented. It’s time for the damaging and antiquated “winner takes it all” mentality that particularly favours the Tories, and to a lesser extent Labour, at the expense of other parties, to be brought to an end once and for all.

  2. Anna says...

    Have no time to read it right now – and cannot vote anyhow – but my fingers are getting numb from keeping them crossed and hope I’ll manage to keep my bloodpressure down tomorrow.
    Will have friends visiting over the weekend, if you guys manage to get rid of Boris, we’ll celebrate. GOOD LUCK 🙂 !

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Anna. All good wishes welcome! Feeling very nervous right now …

  4. Anna says...

    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, may the bloody exit polls be wrong …

    There must be a few million people close or already in tears, me one of them. DAMN !!!

  5. Tom says...

    Watching from over here. Sorry that Corbyn lost. Will he quit as Labour leader?

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    So it’s Friday the 13th today, Anna – that seems quite appropriate really. A very sad day indeed for Britain.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    I can’t imagine that he can stay on as leader after this, Tom, even though it wasn’t really his fault. Lots of people were behind him, but not parts of his own party, and certainly not the media, and in the end it’s turned out that all the pro-Brexit people are still as obsessed as ever with destroying the UK. ‘Get Brext Done’ indeed. I wonder how they’ll feel when Johnson fails to get it done, because it will take decades, during which time the UK will contonue to slowly collapse as a credible coherent economy. Probably they won’t notice, because they’ll still be played by the corrupt mainstream media. A very depressing result.

  8. Anna says...

    Dear Andy, other UK friends and basically all inhabitants of your islands – including the total nitwits who believed Boris’ empty promises and many of whom will soon find themselves direly regretting their folly – my sincere condolences.
    And I mean that quite litterally.

    December 13th, albeit dating back to 1981, also brings sad memories in Poland. So the radio just played Górecki’s 3rd symphony, with its heartbreaking lament.
    Sadly appropriate for your tragedy, for unless Boris unexpectedly sees the light, you’re all in for a very hard time in the coming years. Press spin will not magically improve the NHS.
    Poor Corbyn scapegoated for the defeat, mostly by his own party members. He’s not perfect but never stood a chance with his party’s elite, who preferred the comfortable status quo over his rocking the boat.
    But like Bernie in the US, he will have inspired many, especially young ones, to believe that things can be different. May they remember. Hang in there!

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your commiserations, Anna, and for the encouragement not to give up hope. At least now Boris Johnson owns Brexit – and all the disasters that implementing it will bring.
    And yes, a sad anniversary in Polish history – the day martial law was imposed, which lasted for a year and a half: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martial_law_in_Poland

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
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