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‘We must keep the NHS in mind when voting in the election’

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So we have these new cats. We got them through the RSPCA. One of them is a proper cat: skilled in the ways of cat, bounds around the garden like Zorro, walking tightropes, chasing birds, teasing next door’s dog.

The other may be part beaver: jumps on to the garden fence and falls off, stalks, kills and proudly presents very small leaves to us. She behaves like an animal doing an impression of a cat, while not really feeling that she is being appropriately rewarded for her efforts. Like those students on a minimum wage who have to dress up as elves at Christmas.

“Zorro Cat will often come in from a hard day’s catting and go and sit on Pretend Cat’s head”

Anyway, we like them both and they seem to like each other. Zorro Cat will often come in from a hard day’s catting and go and sit on Pretend Cat’s head. Pretend Cat doesn’t mind as much as I think I would.

I’m watching them now: Zorro is behaving like a panther in the garden, Pretend Cat is imitating a small, exhausted rug. We’ve wondered if she might be afraid of heights. When Zorro Cat goes bounding off across the rooftops, Pretend Cat looks at her and it is hard to know if she is thinking “I wish I could do that” or “idiot cat”. She is quite inscrutable.

I don’t really want to talk about the election. I have a sense that most important things have been rendered unspeakable by the wall of noise that is the modern world. Plenty of people say the NHS should be at the heart of this election. It has been under long-term assault from profound underfunding and privatisation by stealth, and everyone I know who works in the NHS is exhausted, disillusioned, angry or planning to retire.

Yet despite the fact that the electorate claims to care about the NHS, there seems to be a reluctance to save it. Or even debate it. It seems, all it takes is someone to say “Oh no, we are paying in more money than ever” and everyone thinks, “Oh OK then, sorry to ask. Carry on”.

Of course, if we want to understand NHS funding we have to look at the percentage of GDP we spend. Those of you who have been around for a while will know things felt easier in the years after 2000. In 2000 we spent 6.6% of our GDP on health and the government wanted to bring that up to around the same level as the rest of Europe (8.5%). By 2009 we were up to 8.8% – still behind most of Europe because they increased spending too. Last year we were back down to 7.3%, and that is projected to be back at 6.6% by 2020. Do you feel underresourced? That’s because you are.

“Personally I loathe my local MP – he is everything I dislike in a man”

Now, I haven’t got time for politicians. I just look at the policies. Labour’s is to: a) fund the NHS properly and b) stop the creeping privatisation that is stripping the health services of funds. That’s better isn’t it? And no amount of “yeah, but…” or name-calling changes that, does it?

I get that we all have specific and deeply constructed beliefs and prejudices around voting and leaders and parties and stuff. Personally I loathe my local MP – he is everything I dislike in a man: self serving, shallow, morally bankrupt and badly dressed. But if I don’t vote for him, the people who want to destroy the NHS may get another seat. So I shrug and do what I must to protect the best institution this country has ever produced.

Zorro Cat’s real name is Bo by the way. Prince Bohemond the third of Antioch to be precise. My daughter named her because she is into the Crusades. Pretend Cat’s real name is Rosa Parks. My daughter named her because she believes in resistance to wrong. Proud of that. Shame she doesn’t get to vote.

Mark Radcliffe is senior lecturer, and author of Stranger than Kindness.

Follow him on Twitter: @markacradcliffe.

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