by Kiri Kankhwende 

Never Mind George Osborne, Here’s a Deficit That You Can Actually Do Something About

Brexit will either usher in an economic apocalypse or a sunlit upland of prosperity and democracy, depending on who you’re listening to. Honest campaigners will admit the truth: Brexit will be uncharted territory and there’s a lot we just don’t know. That hasn’t stopped some men (because it’s mostly men – named Boris) from massaging the truth – on the NHS in particular.

Some say the NHS is the closest thing we’ve got to a national religion next to football and a lot of people were left with “something in their eye” during that glorious 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony which alternately baffled and delighted the world. Understandably then, the NHS has become the latest political football in the EU referendum debate.

The Brexit argument is that the £350 million that Britain sends to the EU every week will be pumped into the NHS if we leave the EU. Simples! Hard to think what was stopping us before. It must have been that EU jackboot on our necks.

But even the Leave campaign’s most prominent health expert, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, has distanced herself from these claims. First of all, the £350 million amount doesn’t take into account the rebate that Britain gets from the EU – putting the figure at closer to between £110 million and £135 million.

But most importantly, who seriously believes that the only thing holding the government back from properly investing in the NHS is our payment into the EU? Last week NHS hospitals in England revealed a record deficit of about £2.45 billion – and experts say it could be even more. That’s the cumulative effect of cuts and budget squeezes in George Osborne’s austerity passion project.

If these MPs, some of whom are Cabinet members, care so much, why haven’t they done anything about it to date? The Guardian points out that understaffing is ballooning costs as the NHS pays to bring in agency staff – though we’re told that less immigration thanks to Brexit is supposed to help the NHS. Never mind that immigrants, both from the EU and outside of it, have helped to build and sustain it.

Many prominent Brexiters are actually committed to privatising the NHS; people like Daniel Hannan MEP and Jeremy Hunt – he of the regressive Junior Doctor’s contract that caused such consternation and upheaval this year. The new agreement will be voted on at the end of this month, but the junior doctor’s were protesting about more than just a contract; it was about the future of the NHS as we know it.

Dr Youssef El-Gingihy, who has written for Media Diversified’s Other Politics political series about how the Health and Social Care Act paved the way for the privatisation and eventual abolishment of the NHS, has warned again that the privatisation of the NHS is well underway. Previous Labour administrations are also culpable, but if you look at the sale of national assets like Royal Mail and the Land Registry, it’s under the Tories that it’s gathering pace.

The Democratic Deficit

Does it make you mad? It should.

It’s accepted wisdom to say that the EU has a democratic deficit. It’s one of the main emotional reasons for wanting to leave. But do you know where else has a democratic deficit? Britain.

One of the stories that still hasn’t blown wide open is the #ToryElectionFraud. To recap, ten police forces are investigating 28 Conservative General Election candidates about their expences and the SNP has called for the Met to investigate whether the Tories attempted to subvert the Representation of the People Act.

Research shows that the media is biased in favour of Brexit. Given that most of our media is in the hands of a gilded few like Rupert Murdoch, you have to question why they’re so keen. And they’re closer than you or I to those in power in the country – do we want to leave on their terms?

The financial deficit in the NHS is too big to fix on our own, but the democratic deficit only requires us to take part. There are 14 days till the registration deadline of 7 June.

Vote.

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White Men Dancing is a weekly column. Kiri Kankhwende and Maurice Mcleod keep an eye on Westminster. Politics is too important to leave to politicians.

Kiri Kankhwende is a Malawian journalist and blogger specialising in immigration and politics. She has a background in French and Chinese language studies and holds an MSc in International Political Communications, Politics and Human Rights Advocacy. An accomplished public speaker, she has also written for the Guardian and the Independent, and has been a contributor to BBC TV and radio, Al-Jazeera and Fox News. Find her on Twitter @madomasi 

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