I’ll come on to ‘vote Labour’ in a moment, but first …. It’s amazing how
quickly your spirits can be restored if you get outside the noise of the
Westminster media bubble.
I mentioned yesterday I was on my way to a mental
health conference in Hull, part of ‘Business Week’ on Humberside. My event was
aimed at persuading employers of the business case for tearing down the stigma
and taboo which surrounds mental illness, and pointing out the risks of
overlooking good and talented people who admit to a mental health problem. It
was at the Hull Truck theatre, an impressive venue currently showing a play
about the ups and downs of following Hull City.
I did my usual stuff, most of
which will be known to regular visitors either from my ‘Cracking Up’
documentary (in the vlog archive) or from when I was helping to launch the Time
to Change campaign. Copies of the ‘World Without’ report we did on great
historical figures with mental health problems were lying around the place and
I was introduced with the help of a short government ad suggesting Florence
Nightingale would likely be rejected by modern nursing recruiters on the
grounds of her own mental health record.
I did a q and a, in which almost all
of the questions were about mental health issues. I then did interviews with
about half a dozen journalists, mainly radio. Again, nearly all the questions
were about mental health, just a couple added on the end about the current
Westminster frenzy, and GB’s future.
Ah, I hear the big willy journos from the
nationals saying – local hacks, just don’t get it … Expenses and GB meltdown
is the only show in town.
But is it? In the q and a one of the questions I
didn’t answer terribly well was my assessment of how well or otherwise I
thought the Labour government had done in improving mental health services. It
was the kind of question I would have been able to answer with a battery of
facts and figures back in the days when it was my job to carry them around in
my head or my briefing folders. So I blathered on a bit about how successive
health secretaries ‘got’ the issue, Alan Johnson had made it a priority,
Labour had provided the resources, the NHS had worked with the grain of reform
and I thought things had improved.
But a far better answer came from the
woman from the NHS who spoke after me and who could not have been clearer that
the government had delivered huge extra resources for the NHS, and the NHS
staff were making that money work to deliver real improvements. And as she
spoke, I thought what a crazy world we live in – that Labour promised to ‘save
the NHS’, has done so, with enormous consequences for people’s lives and
livelihoods, and there is a risk of the country voting in extremists and
opportunists because Gordon is copping it for every MPs’ expenses claim.
said from day 1 that the expenses story is a serious one, not to be sniffed at.
But the way the media has allowed it to drown out all other news and debate has
done a disservice to its role in democratic debate ahead of today’s elections.
What, in the end, is more important? Improving the NHS or Douglas Hogg’s bloody
moat? But we’re not angry about the NHS, the voices in my head (figurative …
relax, doctor) answer back … We’re angry about expenses. Fine, I say, get as
angry as you like … And don’t blame me if you get angry and ashamed at the
antics of the BNP if they get a foothold in the European Parliament, or you get
angry at Lib Dems cutting council services they described as vital, let alone
the anger you’re going to feel if the Tories revert to type should they get
their hands on the NHS again.
Like I said at the top … Vote Labour.