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Why GPs should spoil their ballot paper

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 The seduction of the last Labour administration by the fetish of the commodity and the marketplace has simply been replaced by a government even more at ease with those principles.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