Journal column - 27/06/18


HOW to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries is a dilemma, particularly when you’re well north of 21 and don’t wish to be reminded age is marching relentlessly on.

Many want cards, some presents and others a party. There are those - not me, I hasten to add before you rush to the shops - who like all three.

Next month there are a couple of biggies worth celebrating with the full works including cakes, balloons, streamers and bands.

Happy Birthday to our wonderful National Health Service for Thursday, 5 July when the nation’s darling is 70.

Born in 1948 the child of Aneurin Bevan and Clement Attlee in the innovative post-war Labour Government which introduced medical care free when we need it and funded by taxes. The NHS was a fundamental part of the process of rebuilding the country after defeating the Nazis, Bevan famously stating it would look after us “cradle to grave.’

Before the NHS, as some older citizens in the North East will recall with a shudder, you had to pay for every visit to a doctor or take out an insurance policy with stings, as ever, in the small print.

Throughout the years, the NHS has made a number of remarkable advancements. DNA structure to the first kidney and heart transplants, hip replacements, making the contraceptive pill widely available, first test tube babies and the introduction of comprehensive breast screening.

But after almost a decade of austerity under a Tory coalition with the Lib Dems and now a Tory Government with a Brexit cherry on top has brought Our NHS to her knees.

Theresa May has remarkably made a claim £20-billion NHS spending can be financed through a windfall delivered by a Brexit “dividend”. It can’t. That £350m down the side of Boris Johnson’s bus was nonsense greater than the pledge to lie in front of the Heathrow bulldozers.

The Brexit “dividend” didn’t, doesn’t and won’t exist when the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies and everybody else who does the sums knows the hit on the economy will far exceed the amount saved when we divorce our European family.

To May’s embarrassment the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, admitted the Tories will put up taxes.

After years of life-sapping austerity I believe you can’t trust the Tories with our NHS and they’ve yet to produce so much as spin to tell us how they’d repair terrible damage cruelly imposed on social care.

Labour is pledging a 5% increase for the NHS this year and we are being honest with how we would pay for it.

We are more than matching what the Tories propose on spending - our manifesto detailed £30bn over a Parliament - and we’d find it not by taxing most grafters but reversing part of the huge corporation tax cuts for big companies and a bit extra from the top 5% of earners on more than £80,000 a year.

Labour would aim to equip the NHS to deliver free and world-class healthcare, as we believe all NHS staff do make a real difference to people’s lives thanks to their dedication and goodwill. It is truly inspiring to see how amazing staff handle the awful situations and it is a testament to every healthcare worker throughout the UK. You are a credit to our nation and we couldn’t be more proud.

What would we do without you?

Despite all the adversity that’s thrown at them: poor pay, bursary cuts, hospital parking fines and staff shortages to name a few; they continue to become stronger and relentlessly attempt to deliver fantastic healthcare to the nation.  

So we’ll celebrate the NHS birthday and here in the North East we have the 134th Durham Miners’ Gala on 14 July.

The brass bands and banners create a fantastic party atmosphere at a solidly working class celebration that’ll be bigger than the royal wedding.

So get along and join the fun with a fair and speeches by Jeremy Corbyn and others from a platform on the Old Racecourse.

I go every year, and I don’t wish to tempt fate for next month, but the sun has shone the past few years on what is a glorious day.

The Gala is a unique combination of tradition and a spirit of hope, parading communities demonstrating an uplifting unity and solidarity.

So get your glad rags on and celebrate next month. The NHS and Durham Miners are two reasons to be cheerful.

Meet your MP


Stephen Hepburn has served the Jarrow Constituency as MP since 1997.

He was last elected to serve in June 2017 and won the seat with a conclusive 17,263 majority.

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