Stick to the policies

[This post is a syndication of my latest Ruberyvillage MattSez column]

Using individual cases in election campaigns is cowardly – let’s have a proper debate on the real issues.

The Conservatives must be delighted to have found Margaret Dixon, and now Maria Hutchings. It’s the easiest form of politics to play – because you can’t be proved wrong. All the government can do is promise that it’s a rare case and repeat their usual statistics, but end up looking like they are out of touch with what real people’s lives. So instead of a sensible debate, we get this mess. A five year old could play that game.

Luckily, the public are usually able to see through it, they did when Labour tried to pull the same trick in 1992 with ‘Jennifer’s Ear’. Not to mention that the political pawns wheeled out to complain are hardly whiter than white – after recounting the old rubbish about the MMR jab on five last month, Mrs Hutchings declared “I don’t care about refugees”. (For the record, they probably don’t care about you.) The problem is that it’s turning people off debating the real issues around the NHS, which is dangerous because it means one person’s grievances may end up tilting the election towards one party or another.

What we really need is for politicians to lay out exactly what they plan to do. Mr. Howard is understandably queasy about doing that at the moment, because his real plans are so unbelievably dangerous they would destroy the very fabric of our health system.

Under the Tories, you would be allowed to go private with half the cost being taken out of the NHS to pay for it. In other words, if you’ve got the money, you’ll go to the front of the queue. If you haven’t, well tough luck, because there won’t be any left for you back in your local hospital, especially with the cuts in taxes and public services they’ve got planned. Heaven knows how this is supposed to cut down on ‘bureaucracy’ – obviously I’m not smart enough to figure out how getting people to apply for 50% rebates is going to reduce form filling.

The trouble is – the logical answer would be the government to say how much extra money they’ve put into the NHS, what results they’ve got, how MRSA has now fallen (see BBC News – bet you missed that story!) and even wheel out some happy patients. But newspapers don’t like printing the shock news that Mr. Smith had a successful operation on Tuesday and is recovering well, or that the latest scare is not that bad after all. They want sensationalism, which is what this is all about. Blair should ignore it and go about his plans – the voters will judge on polling day what they think his record has been. The important questions are about the future – what is Labour’s policy on the NHS? What is the Liberal Democrat view? We need to hear more about these as well, from a sensible media, not a press conference or emotional trickery.

Only cowards use people as ‘human shields’ as the Health Secretary John Reid has termed it. The result will be more apathy while the policies we don’t want sneak into Downing Street unnoticed.

©; We own MattSez, don’t mess.

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