General Election Diary: Week 1

Last week saw the dissolution of Parliament, the event that marks the formal start of the General Election campaign. So rather than focus on a particular topic, for the next six weeks this blog post will be in the form of a diary – the reflections of a parliamentary candidate on the week past.

The most significant news for me last week was the conclusion to the national negotiations between the Green Party, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru regarding an election deal in key constituencies aimed at not splitting the ‘Remain’ vote. I have had pressure, from many directions, to stand down in West Dorset and to encourage Green Party supporters to vote for the Liberal Democrat candidate in the hope that we could prise the constituency out of the Conservative hands. However, as the final ‘Unite to Remain’ deal did not include West Dorset I have made it clear that despite this pressure I will be standing. My position has always been that I will follow the directions of the national party on this. If they asked me to stand down because by doing so a Liberal Democrat candidate stood down elsewhere, I would have been happy to do so. If they want me to stand, which they do, then I will do that.

On the local front, I was one of several councillors who attended a meeting with the management team of Bridport Community Hospital to discuss public concerns about the loss of beds. This is not the place to go into details of that meeting. But the nagging thought that I’m left with is: To what extend are the local managers, those who are effectively charged with defending the Dorset Health Care policy, fully aware of the background politics informing this policy. To what extent, for example, are they aware the influence that large American corporations like McKinsey and United Health have had on the development of their Integrated Care System? Are they aware that the new director of NHS England, Simon Stevens, in his previous role as CEO of United Health, had led corporate opposition to the introduction of Obamacare?

On a slightly lighter note, on Thursday I watched the National Theatre live screening of Hansard, the new play by Simon Woods. This was a brilliant two handed single act play set in 1988, and portrayed, during a single morning, the relationship between a junior member of Thatcher’s cabinet (Alex Jennings) and his long suffering wife (Lindsay Duncan). What struck me most about this play was the resonances to our current political situation, in particular to the arrogant lack of understanding and sense of privilege of the privately educated ‘elite’, and the sheer ineffectiveness of the opposition leader. I really do hope things change soon.

And on the following night I went along to a fundraiser for our local food bank, Cupboard Love. It is a damning inditement of our current political and economic system that not only do such charities exist, but that the number of people who rely on their support continues to grow. The atmosphere in the pub that put on this event, and the talent of the local artists that performed, was inspiring. But the very fact that such fundraisers are necessary should shame us all.

And to close the week on a sombre note, yesterday I attended Bridport’s Remembrance Sunday parade. I have to confess that, for a number of reasons, I don’t usually attend these. Whilst I am more than willing to acknowledge the huge sacrifice so many people have made in the numerous armed conflicts since the First World War, but particularly the obscene waste of life of the ironically named ‘Great War’, I react badly to both the infusion of the military and religion into such remembrances. However, I avoided most of the religion by, along with several others, not attending the church service and, instead, attending a secular period of reflection – made particularly poignant through the singing of John Lennon’s Imagine. I have to say, though, that I found the comments of one of the religious leaders, her thanking ‘God’ for our ‘victory’, most offensive.

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