Well, they managed to take so long over organising the election that I was back in time to vote. I’m thankful for that, at least. But otherwise, I have to say the mood here is gloomy and not a little anxious. And I feel frustrated that some of the people hardest hit by the policies of our current government somehow still don’t link their own struggles with the cruel policies that have by and large caused them.
And I’m annoyed that so many people who live here and work and contribute in many ways to our society don’t get a vote, because they are from somewhere else.
But none of this is significant compared with the daily torrent of horror stories I hear about people stuck in our totally dysfunctional asylum system, under constant threat of being sent back to life threatening situations. And the stories of ordinary local people taking their own lives because they just can’t see how they can feed themselves and their families, even though they are working, because they are not paid enough and the work is based on a zero hours contract which, let’s face it, is no contract at all.
Then I remember my own story. Not so long ago, I was diagnosed with cancer, and became the grateful recipient of thousands of pounds worth of world class medical treatment on the NHS. My oncologist friend quietly informed me at the start of this that if I had loads of money and went for private healthcare, it would make no difference, because the private system would refer me to the NHS for my treatment anyway. Because our NHS is that good, it can’t be beaten by private healthcare when it comes to cancer treatment. Just stop and reread that for a moment. And I paid nothing for this, because the NHS exists to treat people at their point of need, irrespective of their income or social standing.
And yet recently, I heard of a guy stuck in the asylum system for over ten years, who’s been sent bills for thousands of pounds for his life saving NHS treatment, because our current government is committed to creating a “hostile environment” for all asylum seekers. He literally came out of a coma to be presented with a bill he can have no hope of paying because this government won’t let him work. He’d love to work, but he’s not allowed to. But they want him to pay for his treatment.
I am appalled that anyone in our country has voted to let this type of situation continue, and no doubt get worse. And this is not some random urban myth. I know the guy’s Dad, also stuck in the asylum system for over ten years, who was released from detention and threat of deportation just a few months ago only because of a change.org petition, which went viral instantly due to the guy’s tireless voluntary work in the city, and a Guardian headline, which forced the Home Office to give him a reprieve. Temporarily.
These stories are the stories of my friends. I am ashamed to live in a country where we not only think this is OK but we vote to let it continue. I’ve stayed up this late watching the election. I hope the result is not as the predictions suggest, but I fear it will be.
Whatever happens, there is tomorrow. We’re never beyond redemption, but we are going to need to help each other and encourage each other in the days ahead. And I’d love to challenge myself and everyone else to consider people who, often through no fault of their own, have fallen on hard times. Anyone can get cancer, or be made redundant, or suffer a mental illness that makes it impossible for them to work. Today it might be someone else, tomorrow it could be me or you. I’d love to see a government that actually gave a damn about those vulnerable people, and made some provision for them.
…And don’t even get me started on climate change. Until we start taking that much more seriously the world literally is going to hell in a handcart.