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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Why GPs should spoil their ballot paper

Dr Mark Sanford-Wood has had enough of politics

Democracy is a precious thing. This is a truth conceived in Magna Carta, gestated through the Peasants’ Revolt and delivered of the enlightenment. It is a belief so strongly held that men and women have suffered and died in its name. Their sacrifices have delivered to us the means to be heard. Their struggles have given us the privilege to choose.

But what are the democratic options we find ourselves with? What will be the consequences of the way we wield that rare privilege so hard won? There was a time when there was a choice. A choice between the market and the collective. A choice between the social and the individual. A choice between profit and pathos.

In the last 30 years we have become dominated by a ruling class of all colours whose only mantra is the market, whose only paradigm is profit. This pernicious malaise has spread its demoralising tendrils over our public services and threatens the very heart of our beloved NHS. The guiding principle of the market is the survival of the fittest. The heartbeat of any caring health service must surely be the survival of the sickest. And yet we see that a growing tide of half-baked subcontracting and ill-conceived pseudo-regulation has fragmented the holistic dream of integrated care into a patchwork of disparate independent providers vying for market share while the sick wait.

My politics have always been moderate, straddling social democracy to one-nation conservatism. In the ideological battles during the eighties I found myself drawn to Liberal Democracy. Now I find myself without a political voice. The seduction of the last Labour administration by the fetish of the commodity and the marketplace has simply been replaced by a government even more at ease with those principles.

I believe passionately in the principles of our NHS. The NHS whose sole concern was the delivery of care, not the bottom line. I am tired of ignorant politicians meddling with a system they do not understand. I am angry at the ubiquitous denigration of our profession. And I am sick of a ruling elite who use my NHS as the playground for their petty debating society squabbles.

In centuries gone by I would have picked up my musket and marched on the despots, lazy in their assumption of their right to rule. But to cast aside my vote would be to betray the libertarians in whose shadow I walk. The weapon of the modern age is popular opinion, so I shall instead take up my pen and spoil my ballot paper. I shall mark it with the legend “I vote for a caring NHS, free from the market”. It may be in vain. It may be for nought. I may even be vilified for suggesting such a course. But if we send our message en masse then we cannot be ignored.

Dr Mark Sanford-Wood is medical secretary of Devon LMC. He is writing in a personal capacity, and his views do not represent those of Devon LMC or the GPC

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Readers' comments (16)

  • wonderful words.

    Unfortunately I can help feeling despondent about the future( and I left Gp land) .

    Reality is we have the worst politicians and media out there and things will get worse. Desperately seeking some hope!

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  • 'The seduction of the last Labour administration by the fetish of the commodity and the marketplace has simply been replaced by a government even more at ease with those principles.'

    That's not actually true. The private sector only accounted for around 6% of the NHS budget in 13/14.

    If the government really trusted the markets it would offer a European style mixed private and national system like the rest of the world but the politicians are not prepared to have an honest debate with the public about affordability and expectations. Instead they prefer to sell us out via the back-door of section 75.

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  • Vinci Ho

    See. I could be an 'idiot'(somebody called me a coward , no hard feelings) calling for blank vote from day 1. This is what on www.blankvote.org.uk:
    Blank votes
    UK and internationally

    The Blank Vote is available as a choice in some electoral systems around the world. It provides the voter with the option to indicate her/his disapproval with all of the candidates in an election.
    Like 'None of the Above', the Blank Vote is based on the important democratic principle that public support for elected candidates is only meaningful if people also had the option to show that they did not support any of the candidates.
    'Blank Vote' is established practice in Spain (voto en blanco), France (vote blanc), Colombia (voto en blanco), and in the United States Green Party.
    In France, voting machines include a blank vote option. Here the BBC reports a young man's vote in the presidential elections: http://news.bbc.co.uk/… Here are links to two French organisations for the Blank Vote: Association pour la reconnaissance du vote blanc www.vote-blanc.org
    and Les Citoyens du Vote Blanc www.parti-du-vote-blanc.fr/
    In Colombia, March 2014:
    'With "Voto en Blanco" emerging as a more popular candidate than at least five other presidential hopefuls, Colombians have started to pay attention to this curious option.' http://colombiareports.co
    In Spain, blank vote is an established tradition. We first heard about it when a good friend in Malaga described voting blank as the most important thing she could do. Here a campaign site responds to a doubtful citizen. www.votoenblanco.com/ To translate, it says:
    'The Blank Vote is a democratic rejection of all the current political options, with a continued belief in democracy. It is the vote most appropriate when all the parties are corrupt, or when their intentions are not attractive, or when they breach these programs, or when they have exceeded their lawful power, or when they have perverted the system…'
    Blank Vote in the UK?
    We believe that a 'None of the Above' or 'Blank Vote' option should be provided in the UK. It is not good democracy to imply that people only have a choice between supporting a candidate or not being counted.
    The 2008 London Mayoral and Assembly elections set the precedent for blank votes being formally recognised and retained in results. In the Mayoral election, 13,034 blank votes were cast, and in the Assembly Member election, 39,894 blank votes were cast. http://static.london.gov.uk
    As we show on the Protest Votes Count page, the Electoral Commission guidelines advise that protest votes be classified as 'voter intention uncertain'. To challenge and change this advice, protest votes need to be clear beyond dispute. So don't leave your ballot blank, and of course don't put a cross anywhere!
    Write NONE across your ballot paper, and put a line through all the boxes.
    Protest votes will count when enough people vote NONE and make the protest newsworthy.
    If you want a better democracy and politics in the UK, vote for a candidate who you trust and want to represent you, or vote NONE in protest.

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  • The government does not have enough money to fund the NHS as it is at the moment, let alone promise any extra funding.

    So out of the £120 billion a year it costs to run the NHS £90 billion is borrowed money. So the government can only afford £30 billion per year out of tax revenue, without going into debt. This is how bad things are.

    So to maintain the present poor standard of care patients would have to pay £90 billion per year out of their pockets In order for the country to break even!!!

    So in order for the country to achieve a balance of payments every person in the country would need to contribute £1,125 per year as a copayment for the NHS. And this is just to maintain the present standard of care!!!

    Tax revenues are not increasing and it is looking increasingly likely that this horrendous scenario will happen eventually.

    Do not believe a single word that any of the politicians say.

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  • Dr Mark,

    My Musket is charged, gunpowder dry and ready!!

    Shall we attack at first light on 07th May?

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  • 11:30

    - or amazon and starbucks would need to pay tax/leave Britain.

    either or really.

    - anonymous salaried!

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  • Spoil and soil.

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  • Even if one could bring in all the extra tax revenue from the multinational companies, assuming that they didn't use another country for their tax domicile, this would only bring in an extra £30 billion. So the government would still be short of £60 billion per year in order to balance the books. And this is not even talking about paying the actual debt back.

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  • Vote Labour

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  • Read Owen Jones " The Establishment " - well written and illuminating .

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