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The Friday Surgery

Building a nation of referendum turkeys- The Brexit NHS debate

Leaving the European Union could allow the UK government to spend an extra £100m a week on the NHS by 2020” Michael Gove

So, there are a group of farm turkeys in a turkey coop. One day a particularly clever turkey unexpectedly learns how to undo the gate. This leaves the turkeys with a decision. The farmer sees what is happening and panics. He realises that rather than just lock them up he's going to have to finesse them if he's going to be able sell them for Christmas lunches.

Now a fox prowling outside sees what's happening and spots his opportunity. The fox tells them that for too long they've been trapped by this coup, that they need to flee and be masters of their own destiny, away from the stifling control of the farmer.

Not so fast”, says the Farmer, "you have to stay where you are. Look at this report by the Association of Turkey-Eating Wolves. It shows you will be 20% worse off if you leave."

The turkeys look at the report- the figures do seem to add up but they are not sure about it. The farmer, though, presses home his advantage, “Look, 9/10 Turkey abattoir owners have clearly come out and said that you will have a better quality of life if you stay in the coop. You really have to listen, everyone is saying this.”

The fox grimaces. The establishment hasn’t come out in his favour but he has one ace up his sleeve, “Listen Turkeys, at the moment you have no control over who comes in and out of your coop. The Farmer can just put any turkeys he likes in, at any time, and you have no say over it. And these turkeys are from elsewhere, they could have diseases and questionable sexual practices.” The Turkeys are shocked. They’d never known that foreign Turkeys had questionable sexual practices. In fact, they don’t think about sex much at all. They prefer to just peck things and mosey around.

You can’t believe anything he says”, says the Farmer, “all he wants to do is eat you.”

That’s rich coming from you fatty!" (It was getting personal), "And, I suppose, come Christmas time you’ll be telling the slaughter van to give your place a miss this year?”

This was proving difficult. The Turkeys were not sure who to believe. Both sides seem so believable.

At the end the Fox and the Farmer came together. “Look, it’s your choice and we’ll respect your answer either way. It’s the choice of a generation for you.”

I managed 11 Friday blogs without writing about the EU. And it would have been 12 if it hadn't been for the curious sight of an over-made up Michael Gove reinventing himself as the saviour of the NHS on the telly this week. The Boris bus, with its hideously hypocritical NHS slogan, I could just about swallow. After all, I could convince myself on any given day that his clownish attributes outweigh his frankly sociopathic ideological tendencies. I could even work with both sides pulling nonsense statistics from out of their backsides about the importance of protecting the NHS - this is business as normal. After all, this government have become a political tour de force in presenting solemn and emotive vignettes on how the NHS saved/cured/cared for their son/daughter/mum/dad/dog while surreptitiously tearing it to shreds.

But Gove? Something just clicked when this most invidious of Tory Hawks joined the fray in his shiny new Nye Bevan cloak. And so, I apologise for this EU post but, as with many things, it’s Michael Gove’s fault.

So, wading through the reams of rhetoric, the question remains. Putting all other factors to one side, should the NHS be a key factor in how people vote? Well in short yes. Ish. Because, cutting through the hyperbole on how the NHS can be financially boosted by being in or out of the EU, the referendum vote will have one, clear difference. If we vote to remain we can reasonably safely assume more of the same. The same being hidden mass privatisation and systematic defunding that is hurtling the NHS downhill toward the two tier, US-inspired private insurance system that Jeremy Hunt wishes for when he blows away eyelashes. And if we leave? The same but slightly quicker as the balance of power shifts toward the (even more) radical right.

So the EU vote matters to the NHS. It’s the difference between being sold off and starved quickly or being sold off and starved really quickly. No more, no less. The choice on the ballot paper is not fundamentally about immigration, democratic accountability, juridical control, and social and consumer protections, although these factors are certainly all implicated in, and relevant to, the debate. It is about which flavour of hyper-capitalism you prefer. If you prefer the version where Eurocrats funnel the blind desires of barely regulated financial institutions toward bringing indebted countries to their knees then stay in. Here you get to see other people’s public services torn to pieces a little bit quicker than your own. Alternatively you can have Brexit hyper-capitalism and enjoy watching an upscaling of the UK war on the poor and the destruction of your own public services at a slightly faster rate than would otherwise be possible.

So take your choice on the 23rd June knowing that the NHS will continue to be destroyed either way.

What turkeys really need is a referendum on neoliberalism. But I don’t think we’ll see that on the side of the Boris battle bus any time soon.


NHA's 'Friday Surgery' is written by Dr Carl Walker who is a member of the party's executive committee.

The EU referendum will be held on 23rd June 2016. You can find details of how to vote here.

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