Today saw the horrific Health and Social Care Bill being passed through its first reading in the House of Lords, with not a squeak from the mainstream press, and certainly with no efforts being made to explain the real contents of the bill.
The Tories started this privatisation back in the 80s, Labour continued it, and now it's been finished by the Tories and Libdems, covering all three major parties in the UK. Before the coalition was elected this time we knew private healthcare companies were funding the Tories, and from the moment they got into power we knew they were promising 'big opportunities' for those companies wishing to 'enter the fray'. We knew the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley was being bankrolled by private health companies for his personal office, we knew the web of links between the government and private healthcare companies was tangled – and we even had access to leaked emails between the Department of Health and Helios, a German private healthcare company. And during all this David Cameron and Andrew Lansley were, in the spirit of Bill Clinton's "I had no sexual relations with that woman", looking us in the eye on television and saying there would be no privatisation of the NHS.
So we took action: we got out onto the streets and told people about it, we collected names on petitions and did stunts in the streets to bring attention to the matter, while the mainstream press started to look the other way. When the Bill was passed through the Commons the BBC and all the other outlets of the MSM pretty much ignored it.
Last weekend I attended the Rebellious Media Conference, with Noam Chomsky and Michael Albert speaking, and was relieved to hear about the 'Propaganda Model', which has given me some useful arguments as to why this may have been, and has hopefully stopped me sounding like such a paranoid weirdo to my friends. So when we went to 'block the bridge, block the bill' on Sunday I was surprised to see a positive article about it in the Daily Mail, the most renowned right-wing tabloid in the country (and that's me in the top picture, face hidden by a banner!) – before realising that, nope, they still hadn't mentioned the issues.
Today the Lords voted the Bill through, with no amendments, meaning the government will no longer have a legal duty to provide a comprehensive healthcare system in the country, and opening the NHS up to unfettered private ownership. There's no mention of this on the main page of the BBC website, and most of the population are still blissfully unaware of the ramifications.
So what's to be done? It's silly to feel let down by a decision made in self-interest by a bunch of unelected elites, but the last democratic hope for the NHS was snuffed out today. Having said that, it's now much more obvious that corporate-led representative democracy isn't working – will this make it easier to argue for a more participatory approach? Though I wonder how much worse it will have to get before more of the population see through it and feel willing and able to do something about it.
We talked on the bridge on Sunday and made plans to occupy the London Stock Exchange – I think that's valid in and of itself, but could we also be occupying the private healthcare companies' head offices and shouting louder about the NHS? When that goes it'll be much harder to get back (it took years for Tanzania to win against Biwater for their water fiasco, though they did win in the end).
Is there another way? I'm a nurse in the NHS and, until I lose my job (a much more real possibility now), I cannot take months out to occupy places. I'm relatively new to this form of politics – I feel as though I've only recently 'taken the red pill' and am still journeying down the rabbit hole – so am aware that others aren't as shocked by what's happening, as they've seen it all before. So what did they do? And where do we go next?