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The Friday Surgery

Final Friday Surgery Thoughts

Well, it’s the final Friday surgery from me and I’ve decided to leave it with an account of something that happened when I was campaigning in 2014 as an NHA candidate for the general election. It was in the lead up to remembrance day when a friend suggested that it’s good for candidates to go to the Remembrance Day ceremony and that I should go, and take my kids too, in case the press were there. In Worthing we were fighting the uphill battle to see off the BUPA privatisation of our Musculoskeletal service (MSK) and so any way of raising awareness of our big public meeting had to be a good thing. I was immediately conflicted. First, I couldn’t imagine that anyone in the entire town would care whether I was there or not, regardless of my emerging presence as a public figure.

But more importantly it felt icky. Attending an event where people commemorate dead relatives for political capital was not an especially enticing proposition. I felt like Edward Norton at the start of Fight Club when he visited bereavement groups as an emotional tourist. I had, however, already developed the key political tool of ‘immediate rationalisation.’ Immediate rationalisation (IR) is a device that politicians (and wannabe politicians) use to justify some of the most hideous impacts of their actions. How it works is as follows, just before your brain allows you to think about the real world consequences of your nefarious actions, the immediate rationalisation tool kicks in and fills your thoughts with how your actions will contribute to the greater good. In my case, my IR let me sate my anxieties regarding my disappearing dignity by laying a nice big comfy ‘but it’s for the NHS’ blanket over them. After all, to suggest that my own sense of self-respect could be privileged over the health of the nation’s children would be solipsistic to the point of recklessness. Thanks IR, good work.

So Ruth and I took the kids. When we got there all of the other political candidates were already there with their partners, keeping one eye out for the local press while maintaining a veneer of statesmanlike solemnity. Indeed they looked like they were competing in a ‘see which poppied politician can look the most solemn’ competition. The Labour candidate was winning. He did great solemn.

My 6 year old daughter Anna was humming away next to me while we listened to the vicar do the service. For some reason people started looking around at me in horror (or at least the Worthing version of horror where you look a bit put out). And then I realised why. Anna had never done it prior to that day and she hasn’t since but for some reason my six year old daughter had decided to sing (word perfect) Deutschland Deutschland Uber Allez, the German national anthem.

Now there are a lot of places where the German national anthem plays well. In Germany, for instance, is a good one. But at British remembrance days? Not so much. Suddenly confronted with a ‘political candidate’s daughter upsets remembrance day by singing German national anthem’ headline, Anna and I jointly decided that silence was a better option for the time being. The ceremony then went into respectful silence. Tim Loughton, the sitting conservative MP went to lay the wreath. Anna spotted him and became animated about the man she overheard me indiscreetly talking about at breakfast that morning. Suddenly the silence was perforated with a six year old voice shouting, “Daddy, look it’s the clown! Remember, you said he was a clown”.

Turns out this didn’t play too well either with the people surrounding us. Some of the ageing local Tory grandees gave me their best scowl, the one they usually reserve for ‘bloody travellers’ and the loss of national service. Calling wreath layers a clown while they lay a wreath for war dead turns out to be second only to the German national anthem in terms of remembrance day no-nos. For the first time in my life I came to understand the phrase ‘discretion is the better part of valour’ and we turned to leg it out of there for some ice cream. After all, it was looking like little political capital was to be had here.

On the way home I was thinking that maybe I wasn’t cut out for this kind of thing. Activism and political campaigning were looking like worlds that were one step too far from mine.

Three days later we held our MSK public meeting where, to a packed audience of 150 people, TV cameras, press and local politicians we kicked off a campaign that would eventually see BUPA kicked out of West Sussex and the MSK contract returned to the local Trust. Where it belongs.

The moral of the story is simple. Defending the NHS against the various footsoldiers of scavenger capital can feel like the most hopeless uphill battle at times and one fought against seemingly insurmountable odds. But we are a big part of what stands between an NHS and a fully private US health care system.

Thanks for all the shares, likes, tweets and retweets over the last 5 months and keep up the good work folks.
NHA's 'Friday Surgery' is a sometimes satirical blog. We would like to thank Dr Carl Walker for his many funny and serious contributions to the Friday Surgery.

The Friday Surgery will return with new contributors. If you would like to write a piece to be published you can send it to us at info@nhaparty.org.

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