NHS, migrants, trucks and ferries: the Brexit circus is back

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8 January 2019

One week ahead of the Commons' so-called "meaningful vote" on her divorce deal, May has launched, with great fanfare, her "10-year plan" for the NHS.
    Although described as "historical", just like everything else her government does these days, this so-called "plan" is not actually new:  it's just a remake of the "Brexit dividend" she boasted about in June, with a few bells and whistles added, to make it sound more impressive.
    Nor is it actually a "plan" either - in any case, not a "10-year plan" - since its funding is only guaranteed for the first 5 years.
                                                                       
Turning the NHS into a staff-less "app"?

So what is May boasting about?  She claims that "Up to 500,000 lives could be saved through 85,000 fewer premature deaths a year", "150,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases" - these are just some of the plan's pledges.  But it’s bare-faced spin!
    As if they knew!  This government is proving incapable of putting enough resources into the NHS to avoid yet another meltdown this winter.  And yet it is able to say how many lives it will "save" over the next decade?  Who do they think they're fooling with such nonsense?
    And what about their much-trumpeted £20 billion injection into the NHS budget?  Since it won't be effective before 2023, it only amounts to a 2.3% annual increase in the NHS budget over and above inflation in each of the coming five years.  This may be more than the derisory 1.4% annual average due to Cameron's and May's squeeze on social expenditure since 2010.  But it's hardly anything to boast about compared to the 6% yearly average increase over the previous 6 decades!
    Even more cynical is the claim that May's "plan" will work wonders thanks to so-called "high-tech".  Hasn't this government starved the NHS of high-tech investment, to the point that it now has fewer scanners per head than any other rich country?
    Of course, there's the much vaunted "online NHS" which will allow us to "see" a GP by using an app on our phones.  But it won't make up for the fact that Britain lags far behind the rest of the industrialised world, with just one doctor for every 356 inhabitants!  In particular, no hand will pop out of this "NHS app" to take our blood pressure, feel a lump, or probe our abdomens!
    As to the real problem - the 111,000 full-time NHS vacancies in England alone - May has no "plan" to fill them.  Instead, her vicious "hostile environment" policy against migrant workers, soon to be extended to EU workers by Brexit, is bound to further deplete NHS staff.  Something the 114 EU doctors, nurses and health assistants working at the Liverpool Children's hospital, where May chose to announce her "plan", certainly didn't fail to notice!
    
From farce to outright lies

All this spin, designed to cover May's lying about the NHS, is a transparent exercise aimed at diverting our attention from the on-going Brexit circus.  Especially at a time when her chances of getting the Commons to pass her deal next Tuesday look slim and while her government's alleged preparations for no-deal are turning into complete farce.
    What with Transport minister Grayling being caught paying millions of pounds to a newly-formed ferry company which has no ship, in order to use Ramsgate as an an overflow for Dover in case custom controls are restored!  And then came the symbolic "dry run" in which just 89 trucks were artfully parked on a disused RAF airport, north of Dover, allegedly to "simulate" the mayhem which custom controls would cause for the 10,000 lorries which go via the harbour each day!
    And while his colleagues were playing the fool, Home Secretary Sajid Javid was busy orchestrating hysteria over the "threat" of refugees crossing the Channel.
    In fact, according to his own figures, this "invasion" involved 539 refugees over the whole of 2018, 227 of whom were stopped by the French police!  Compared to the 549 refugees who reached Spanish coasts during last weekend alone, this was nothing - and certainly nothing compared to the hardship which is pushing millions of people from Africa and the Middle East to risk their lives in order to try to find a safe haven in Europe.
    Nevertheless May and Javid considered it expedient to make a show of their anti-migrant stance - and appease the Tory hard-Brexiteers - by calling in the Navy to patrol the Channel!  No less!
    This latest spell of hysteria could be interpreted as just another farcical act in the Brexit circus, like any other.  It could, but it shouldn't.
    Because May, Javid and their Tory colleagues, who choose to whip up anti-migrant prejudices and fears with such posturing, are as much our enemies as they are the enemies of the migrant workers they target.  And they need to be treated as such.