“So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin. They condemned millions of people to semi-starvation.”
So said Labour hero Aneurin Bevan, at a Labour rally in Manchester in 1948.
I wonder what adjective Nye would use about today’s versions, under the stewardship of Theresa May, if he were still with us.
My community, people with diabetes, have been some of the chief beneficiaries of the institution whose creation he spearheaded, the NHS.
Those same Tories are now threatening both it and our lives through their insane Brexit.
I write as Diabetes UK and the JDRF, a charity focused on Type One diabetes, have issued their strongest statement yet with respect to that.
Here it is: “With just a matter of weeks between now and 29 March and, despite reaching out directly to the Department of Health and Social Care in December, we still have not seen the concrete detail needed to reassure us – or people with diabetes – that the UK government’s plans are robust enough to guarantee no impact on insulin and medicine supplies in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
“We are increasingly hearing from worried people who do not feel reassured by existing published guidance on this issue. With the information available to date, we feel unable to fully alleviate their concerns.”
These charities are not headbangers. They do not indulge in scaremongering. Quite the reverse. They have spoken out because the threat is frighteningly real.
I’m also going to share the response of David Buik, a Brexiteer acquaintance of mine, who often serves as the media’s go-to voice of the City on account of having worked for various brokerages, when I put the issue to him.
It displays the sort of crass ignorance that is all too common among his creed and which you’ll regularly hear variants upon.
“If the EU cannot cope with the supply so be it, let it come from US or Japan,” he bombastically declared with reference to my medical supply. He did concede that it should be “non-negotiable”. But it clearly is negotiable to the Brexiteers he cheerleads for.
The problem is the disruption of a no deal will affect supplies from everywhere, as the charities, which know what they are talking about in a way that Mr Buik and his friends do not, make clear.
And you can’t simply swap one sort of insulin for another. We are all of us on very particular treatment regimes, that require specialised equipment (syringes, pumps, pens, blood monitoring machines and strips) as well as medication that is imported from various sources, both from within the EU and from outside it.
Changing anything is difficult, dangerous, and should only be done under the sort of close medical supervision that may be rather difficult to obtain during a national panic.
I’ve written on this repeatedly, but while the message is getting through abroad – I have spoken to several media outlets as have others – it is not getting through here. The BBC has barely touched on it despite the fact that there are in excess of 3 million people with diabetes in the UK. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions as to why.
Type 1s such as myself require insulin to stay alive. It’s an autoimmune disorder that usually strikes when you are young. Many type 2s, which has different causes, and can sometimes be controlled by diet, also use it.
Theresa May, who acquired type 1 rather later than most of us, surely won’t go short. She’s a wealthy woman with the funds to procure it.
There is a theory that what she is doing here is an attempt to blackmail MPs into backing her dismal deal and that she won’t really push the button. If so it’s case of “vote for my deal or the diabetics die, and so will the economy, and get set for long queues and price rises at Tesco which your constituents really won’t like”. The word for that is blackmail.
But another says it’s her default option, because she will always, always put her party above her country and its citizens, who were never told by Leave’s liars during the EU referendum that it could lead to this. She has repeatedly bowed to the extremists with a cowardice Bevan would have railed against in the past.
Both are equally contemptible. And so yes, I will refer back to Nye’s quote. She and her colleagues are sick, sick puppies.
I should state that the charities have received a commitment that they will be “given the opportunity to view detailed plans in relation to continued supply of both insulin and other diabetes-related medical supplies”.
But that shouldn’t have been necessary.
I should stress at this point that I exempt the couple of handfuls who have (so far) been prepared to put their heads above the parapet and to defy their party in the national interest.
However, I would include within the description those who are facilitating May from across the floor of the Commons. It pains me to say that includes members of Nye’s party, and the wider Labour movement, the John Manns, Caroline Flints, Len McCluskeys, and, yes, the Jeremy Corbyns of this world.
Nye was no Europhile. But his biographer, Nick Thomas Symonds, the Labour MP for Torfaen, told Wales Online back in 2016 that believed the left winger would have voted Remain to protect the NHS and out of alarm at the prospect of an extreme right-wing Tory government afterwards.
He also cared about people in a way that the leaderships of both the two main parties appear not to.
His “vermin” speech was described by The Guardian as “a bitter attack”.
As I look at the prospect of my own health crumbling in the wake of a Tory Brexit, I’m not bitter. I’m bloody furious.
Vermin? Yes I’ll endorse that term. It doesn’t go far enough.
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