Yesterday, the National Health Action Party launched.
The idea behind the NHA Party is one I support: since the Labour Party is unable and unwilling to properly defend the NHS against the Tory attacks – unable because it is at present a minority party with an unpopular leader, unwilling because properly doing so would involve backtracking and acknowledging that the Labour Party itself went hellishly wrong during the Blair years – there must be political pressure on Labour to force them to act when, as I hope, they win the next election.
Founded by a group of health professionals, our party strongly opposes the Health and Social Care Act. We believe the Act is wrecking the NHS in England by allowing it to be broken up and sold off. We intend to put up around 50 candidates in carefully chosen general election constituencies, and we will urge the Labour party to repeal the Act. We’ll also field candidates in local council elections.
Party co-leader and cancer specialist Dr Clive Peedell said: “For generations we’ve trusted the NHS to be a safety net for everyone in times of need. Putting the values of business and the markets ahead of those of patients and communities will ruin the NHS. This destruction is being fast-tracked by Tory and coalition policies. We hope our new party will halt this process.”
Their plan has a wicked simplicity, and – in principle – could work, thanks to the First Past the Post system that the Tories fought so viciously to keep. (See: Dear LibDems, climb out of the window now)
- Pick fifty constituencies where the two front-runners in previous elections are either a Tory or a LibDem.
- Bonus points if the Tory invariably wins on a minority vote – if Labour and LibDem voters together could oust the Tory.
- Bonus again if the Tory or LibDem won by a razor-thin margin.
- Bonus again if there’s already a strong Labour vote in the constituency.
- Find fifty locally-based and locally-respected candidates who can, over the next three years, build a standing in that constitutency and make clear they are campaigning for a return to the National Health Service before Thatcherism exhausted it, New Labour wounded it and Cameron’s Tories gutted it.
From the polling data, short of a popular war (wait, let’s not give David Cameron ideas) the Tories will not win the next election. The problem is that Labour are running to the right, accepting the principle of the Tory cuts and “reforms” to welfare and the NHS, refusing to stand up and declare utter opposition to what is being done.
A new party that successfully took seats from Tories and LibDems without splitting the Labour vote, running explicitly in opposition to Tory “reforms”, could be just what the next Parliament needs to force Labour to go leftward, to reverse and heal the Tory cuts.
At the very least – contrary to LibDem and Tory scaremongering – this campaign would not lose Labour a single seat, while it could – done well – smash the Liberal Democrats as a Parliamentary party and ruin the Tory objective of being able to form a government, even a minority one, at the next election. The Tory objective for 2015 is to win 50 seats (36 from Labour, 14 from LibDems) not to be fighting rearguard actions in constituencies they considered safely theirs.
Standing fifty candidates for a Parliamentary election is expensive. It has to be assumed for financial security that all deposits may be lost. Every constitutency campaigned for will cost them money.
They announced on Facebook:
Our “Top Five” target seats at next election will be: Cameron, Lansley, Hunt, Osborne, and Laws.
David Cameron shouldn’t be a target. Witney has been a Conservative hold at least since 1983: David Cameron won in 2010 with a majority significant enough that even if LibDem, Labour, and Green voters had all voted for an alternative candidate, Cameron would still have won.
Andrew Lansley, Health Minister for NHS Reform, is a slightly better target and I admit the good symbolism, but he too has a solid majority in South Cambridgeshire and has had for years. Still, in the last election, if LibDem, Labour, and Green had all voted together they could in principle have unseated Lansley, so it’s a slightly less appalling choice than David Cameron’s constituency.
Jeremy Hunt, current Health Minister, is not an acceptable target. South West Surrey has been a Conservative hold since 1983: Hunt won last time with the same kind of comfortable majority as David Cameron. Yes, he’s currently the Health Minister, but this is still a waste of NHA Party funds.
George Osborne again shouldn’t be a target. The Tatton constitutency isn’t quite as invulnerable as Cameron’s or Hunt’s, but Osborne still has a solid majority over the combined Liberal Democrat and Labour vote.
David Laws holds Yeovil on a comfortable Liberal Democrat majority. It’s possible some of that will peel away as he was outed as an expenses cheat and public anger at LibDem betrayal, even though he’s now back in Cabinet. But there isn’t a strong Labour vote – in the 2010 election, the combined UKIP and BNP vote in Yeovil was larger than the Labour share.
All in all, not a promising set of choices at all. I hope the other 45 choices were more sensibly chosen.