There’s an awful lot of conjecture and speculation floating around about UKIP’s position on the National Health Service. I appreciate the scrutiny: but the reporting simply isn’t accurate, nor does it represent Ukip’s unshakeable commitment to a healthcare system that is free at the point of use for the British people.
Having to deal with your political and ideological opponents’ mud-slinging is something I’m very much used to. But I think that most people, like I am, are tired of the NHS being used to score political points. It is worth so much more than that. But I suppose I have to be political about it to respond, so I hope you’ll forgive my brief foray into this territory.
The Labour Party thinks it owns the NHS. Let’s get that straight. It does so despite having been the party responsible for the privatisation of vast chunks of it.
Public Finance Initiatives, or PFIs, are set to cost the taxpayer up to £300bn by the end of their lifespan. What are they? They were Labour’s attempt to take billions of pounds of spending off the books, allowing private companies to charge the NHS exorbitant amounts in interest for taking on major building projects, the debt of which has now been passed on to a new generation.
But because I’ve suggested that government ministers like Jeremy Hunt, Andy Burnham, and Kenneth Clarke aren’t necessarily always the best arbiters of how healthcare is provided, suddenly I’ve been accused of calling for an “American-style” healthcare system. The left-wing press have lapped it all up.
Alas for them and their spin doctors; it’s untrue. I don’t want to hand faceless private sector companies control of our health service. We’ve now have two successive governments who have done that and it is clear that it doesn’t work.
What I am keen to do is work out how we can get more value for money for the system we currently have. Labour’s plan, along with everything else, is to raise your taxes and throw more money at it, regardless as to whether or not the system is set up to make the best use of it. The Conservative plan is not dissimilar. For all the talk and demonstrations about “NHS cuts” – spending has increased since 2010. Have you seen a marked difference?
We’ve been very clear, but I’m going lay it out again because it does seem to take Mr Miliband a few times to get things correct (isn’t he on his fifth or sixth relaunch now?).
Ukip will keep the NHS free at the point of use. Ukip will stop any further use of PFI, and encourage local authorities to buy out their PFI contracts early where it is affordable to do so. Ukip will ensure GPs’ surgeries are open at least one evening per week where there is demand for it. Ukip opposes plans to charge patients for visiting their GP. We will make sure that visitors to the UK and migrants who have been here for fewer than five years have NHS-approved private medical insurance, saving the NHS around £2bn per year.
In numbers: the NHS crisis
We’ll end hospital car parking charges. We’ll replace the centralised, top-down organisations such as the Care Quality Commission with elected county health boards which will pay more attention to local problems and whistleblowers.
Ukip won’t sell NHS data to the private sector. We’ll make sure foreign-trained healthcare professionals are properly qualified and can speak English to an acceptable standard. We’ll amend working time rules to give trainee doctors and nurses decent environments in which to train, and we’ll make it a duty for all health staff to report low standards of care.
And that’s just scratching the surface. But you wouldn’t get that from how the media and Mr Miliband have reported it. And that’s because as we draw closer to a general election, the gloves are coming off, and lies are coming thick and fast.
Today, I challenged Ed Miliband to a head-to-head debate, since he is willing to stand in front of a room full of students and declare his deep-seated loathing for what Ukip stands for. He chickened out, saying that he wants to wait until the general election campaign for all four major party leaders to debate.
Well Mr Miliband: if you’ll come on live television and debate with me in the next few weeks, you can defend your party’s commitment to PFI contracts, and publicly oppose the policies I’ve set out above.
No one should be discriminated against for supporting Ukip
Do you remember when, last year, a couple in Rotherham were forced to give up their foster children by the local council, simply because they were members of the UK Independence Party?
The entire scenario was an indictment of the bias displayed by some of those who occupy decision-making positions in the public sector. Eventually, they had to row back and apologise.
Yesterday I was made aware of a similar situation in Whitby in Yorkshire. An independent councillor who recently came over to Ukip felt pressured to resign his position as the chairman of a board of school governors simply because of his political beliefs.
The exact nature of the incident is thus far unknown, though North Yorkshire County Council has found it important enough to launch a full investigation into the matter – and rightly so.
For a man like Cllr Ward, who has served Eskdale School for eight years, being chairman for the past five, to feel discriminated against because of a recent political decision of his is deeply disturbing.
Even some of my less Ukip-friendly followers on Twitter agree. Messages have poured in, stating that while they may not like or support Ukip, they oppose discrimination like this outright. That’s the decent response.
For the sake of the school, I hope this incident can be swiftly resolved. And for the sake of our democracy, I very much hope we never see anything like it again.