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The Socialist Inbox
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Featured letter: Real cost of NHS cuts
The scale of the funding crisis in the NHS is most often measured in eye-watering figures, but the effect of the cost-cutting and stampede towards privatisation has tens of thousands of human faces caught up in this escalating care nightmare.
Campaigning outside of the Bristol Royal Infirmary, two patients stopped to detail their own case histories.
The first, still dressed in pyjama bottoms, had been due earlier that morning to undergo a cancer operation. He'd been prepped for surgery, and was awaiting taking down to theatre - when he was told that, due to there being no acute beds available, he would have to go home, even though the surgeons were waiting for him.
Bewildered, angry and close to tears, he said this was the second time the operation had been cancelled. Now, as he stood shivering waiting for a friend to come and pick him up, he despaired of whether he'd get his operation at all.
Another patient had arrived from her home in Torquay and recounted how she had had to travel to Bristol for a scan that her own local hospital had declined to perform, even though staff said they possessed the means to do so. Ferried 108 miles by NHS transport, she was fuming about the cost and the absurdity of having to make a journey for a procedure that had taken just a couple of minutes.
She laughed bitterly at the notion that we still have a national health service, commenting that every trust is in a dog-eat-dog fight to maintain its own sectional budget.
A third patient came out while we were talking and unleashed a volley of abuse against Richard Branson, whose Virgin Care group had gobbled up a lucrative long term contract to run community care services in Bath. Her hatred for privatisation was visceral, her comments unprintable.
All agreed that the NHS we've grown up with in our lifetimes is in peril. We fight for it or we lose it. Next March's national demonstration to defend our NHS cannot come quickly enough.
Robin Clapp, Bristol
One member, one vote
The right wing of the Labour Party has had interesting takes over the years on 'one member one vote' (OMOV) in the party.
In the 1980s, when local parties wanted to deselect right-wing MPs, the right wing, which had vehemently opposed deselection, suddenly decided they were in favour.
But only if it was voted on by OMOV, instead of the local Labour Party meeting together and involving elected delegates from local trade union branches.
Now they are equally vehemently fighting OMOV being used for shadow cabinet elections, and are against reselection of MPs by OMOV.
But there is one exception to this rule. OMOV has been introduced for the election of the Welsh representative onto the national executive committee (NEC). The only problem is that only one member will get a vote!
The right wing forced through Labour Party conference, without even a debate, rule changes that are intended to ensure a right-wing majority on the NEC. Part of this means the Welsh representative on the NEC will be 'elected' by just one person - the Labour leader in the Welsh Assembly (currently Carwyn Jones) who will select a frontbench member to attend the NEC.
This has to be the smallest electorate in history. So frightened is the right wing of losing control that it has not even dared allow the Welsh NEC rep to be elected by the Welsh executive committee, let alone by the Labour Party Wales conference.
As the late great Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly said: "Funny old game, isn't it?"
Dave Reid, Cardiff
I caught my last bus recently - not by choice! Where I live, to travel into the nearest town, Malvern, you either have to have a car or use the bus service, which up until a few months ago was running fairly regularly.
First Bus, which took over running Worcestershire County Council's buses, suddenly decided that they weren't making a profit on our route, so were withdrawing it! No notice, just a helpful driver who informed some passengers a couple of weeks before the service disappeared.
Due to the uproar in the various villages, the council was forced to put on a temporary service, although the route was altered so it wasn't very useful, which we all thought was deliberate to ensure that not enough people used it so that too would be 'uneconomic'.
Sure enough, after the trial period we were informed that it was being replaced by a dial-a-ride service - once a day - which could get you into Malvern early in the morning, and you had to return before lunch! Woe betide you if you have an afternoon appointment or anything else - and, presumably, if the charity minibus is full when you ring the day before, you are told to try another day...
As I pointed out at one of the parish council meetings where our county councillor was present, if the county council hadn't privatised our bus services, this wouldn't have arisen. Speaking to someone on the bus on Saturday, we are still determined to fight on.
Ruthie McNally, Worcester
Words not enough
Mere words will not force a Tory retreat. The cant, hypocrisy and callousness of the Tories are displayed by just two of their latest measures.
1. The cuts in benefit entitlements to the unfortunate, which will plunge thousands of families into even deeper poverty. The phoney mantra that work should pay more than benefits is deployed to depict the workless as scroungers, the oldest slander in the book.
2. The rejection of the Orgreave campaign for a public inquiry into the behaviour of the police. This is a monumental cover-up designed to protect those who gave the police the order to smash the miners by any means necessary, including the use of army detachments. The revolting spectacle of heavily protected police being unleashed with military precision on miners dressed in summer tops and trainers will live in infamy in this country's history.
But words of condemnation are not enough. We need a powerful mass movement to defeat a Tory party bankrolled by hedge-fund managers, private equity spivs, rack renting landlords and international tax dodgers.
As a first step, Labour councils should refuse to implement any more draconian Tory cuts. Secondly, give full backing to the Orgreave campaigners in their fight for justice.
Tony Mulhearn, Liverpool
I hope our leading comrades have the ear of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to explain the dangers inherent in left reformism. History is littered with this unintentional betrayal, including recently with Chavez in Venezuela, and more tragically Allende in Chile in 1973.
Trotsky warned the comrades of this in the 1930s. The power of capital must be broken with the democratic public ownership of the banks and financial institutions, along with big business. If this policy is not carried out, our enemies - which include the Blairites - will create the conditions for counterrevolution against a left Labour government.
Jeremy and John must show iron discipline and ruthlessness against our opponents.
We must be implacably opposed to all compromises with our enemies, including the Blairites. Because one thing's for sure: they are just biding their time to strike against Jeremy and John.
We must learn the lessons of history to avert what would be a big setback for the working class. We have been warned. Let us make sure it doesn't happen again.