"The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it"
Aneurin Bevan

Monday, 26 August 2013

The Nasty Party never went away

"There's a lot we need to do in this party of ours. Our base is too narrow and so, occasionally, are our sympathies. You know what some people call us - the Nasty Party." - Theresa May 2002
This statement was part of Theresa May's plea to the Tory Conference in 2002 to restrain their inclinations and make the party electable. Unfortunately for her message, Michael Howard appointed Lynton Crosby (yes, him) as their election coordinator and in the 2005 election campaign the party ran with the slogans: "are you thinking what we're thinking?" and "it's not racist to impose limits on immigration". The Nasty Party had not changed. After their disastrous 2005 election the Tories chose David Cameron as their leader and he spent the five years until the 2010 election trying to convince the electorate that his party was now "modern".

The current campaigns, like the racist van or the #immigrationoffenders tweets of Border Agency officers arresting people they did not like the look of (both from Theresa May's department), shows that when in government the Tories are still the Nasty Party. The Liberal Democrats have shown that they have failed in their sole raison d'etre as part of the Coalition (that is, to withstrain the Tories).

Now we find that the Tories have a two pronged xenophobic attack on people who do not look English: NHS charges. The first is from May's department in the form of the new Immigration Bill. The Ministerial Statement (pdf) starts with this:
The forthcoming Immigration Bill will make it more difficult for illegal migrants to live in the UK unlawfully and ensure that legal migrants make a fair contribution to our key public services
Any law that says its purpose is to make it difficult for someone "to live in the UK" is worrying. Note that the purpose is not to deter people from coming to this country, it is to make difficult the lives of those here illegally. Even those migrants here legally will be treated differently to the rest of the population because they will be required to make a "fair contribution" which means NHS charges. When it comes to healthcare this means charging such people if they use the NHS, and denying care if they are not willing to pay. Two people, same needs, one gets the treatment the other doesn't: this is not the NHS.

The other attack is from Jeremy Hunt, who is coordinating the dog-whistle campaign. Hunt, however, is typically incompetent in delivering the message. Is it charges for non-British to visit GPs? Is it charges for EU citizens resident in the UK? Is it a one-off charge for non-EU visitors applying for a work or study visa? It appears to be all of these things, or perhaps none of them. Hunt does not know, but what we do know is: the Nasty Party has returned and is getting nastier.

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