It's the election, stupid

Our correspondent questions the reasons for calling a snap election and has some advice on the message that should be delivered to candidates

What do politicians, estate agents, bankers, and builders have in common? It’s not a trick question. According to the national veracity index, created by Ipsos MORI, these are all people we do not trust to tell us the truth.

Of all groups in society, politicians are the people we trust the least. But are they really so bad? The bent MPs who fiddled their expenses are long gone and the ones who are there now are respectable, aren’t they? They run the country. One of them is the Prime Minister: she gets to meet the Queen every week, for heaven’s sake! We see them on our televisions: well-dressed, well-spoken, and seemingly well-informed, so why all the fuss?

Perhaps we in the world of community pharmacy have been so embroiled in our own parochial concerns that we’re the ones who are out of touch.

I had expected that the main items of discussion among us for the next few months would have been the pharmacy cuts and the High Court judgment (hopefully in our favour). But no: the PM has trumped it all by announcing a snap election. It was necessary, she said, to strengthen her hand in negotiations over Brexit (providing she wins).

I’ve rarely heard such sanctimonious drivel. Now, I’m no fan of David Cameron, but I think that he and the other fellow (Clegg, I think his name was) were right, in 2011, to introduce the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.

The intention was to prevent a future Prime Minister from exploiting an advantageous position in the polls by calling a snap election. It was good, sensible, and long-overdue legislation that strengthened our democracy.

Roll the clock forward to 2017 and MPs of all stripes have gleefully voted to gift Theresa May the snap election she so craves. I don’t get it. Only six years ago, MPs thought (rightly) that snap elections would favour a particular political party should be consigned to history.

Is the uncertainty over Brexit now so great that an early election is vital? Hardly. Until very recently, even May herself said it wasn’t; both main parties have accepted the referendum result; Article 50 has already been invoked. Brexit is going to happen and it would have happened during the lifetime of the parliament in which Theresa May had a small, but working, majority.

I’ll never be persuaded that this election is about Brexit. It’s about the disarray in the Labour party and the significant lead the Tories are enjoying in the polls – the conditions the (not-so) fixed-term legislation was expressly intended to prevent from being exploited.

The hypocrisy so extravagantly exhibited by our politicians and the denials that the snap election had anything whatsoever to do with the polls, rolled out with such breath-taking selfrighteousness, are exactly the behaviours that make the rest of us snigger whenever the words “politician” and “truth” are mentioned in the same sentence. The Conservatives insist the election is about Brexit. And it will be – if we let them get away with it.

But we don’t have to take it lying down. I for one have had enough. I’m not saying Brexit has no place in this election (hard, or not so hard?), but there are other important issues that we ignore at our peril – the economy, education, social care, housing, employment, the environment, and the NHS.

It’s not my place to pontificate here on subjects on which I have neither sufficient knowledge nor experience, but, the NHS is something I do know and about which I am passionate.

Let’s be clear: since 2010, first the Conservative-led coalition and then a majority Conservative government have made an unqualified mess of the NHS, adding to this by starving the NHS of the funding it needs under the guise of “austerity”.

We have witnessed a litany of failures, abandoned targets, increasing waiting times, but little accountability. And then, doubly galling after we had made such efforts to cooperate with the government in what it said it wanted from us, we were on the receiving end of the calculated kick in the teeth of an unparalleled cut in our funding with the deliberate intention of decimating our numbers.

But I’m not one for sour grapes. Here’s my plea: let us do everything we can to make the NHS a dominant issue in this election.

Predictably, our national bodies have already reverted to their wishy-washy mantras. Everyone should have access to a pharmacist’s expertise. Yeah, yeah! Candidates should be “made aware of the value community pharmacy teams provide . . .” Yawn! And guess what – guidance is going to be issued to LPCs on what they can do during the election. Holy moley!

Here’s what I implore you to do instead. Ignore the instantly forgettable platitudes about the “value of pharmacy”. Nobody cares. Give a lead in your community in support of the NHS. Ask your patients and customers what they think about how the NHS is being run and whether it’s important. Ask who they think is responsible.

What I will be saying, to anyone who cares to listen, is this: if you really value the NHS, think very carefully before you vote Conservative.

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