Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Blog Mission Statement

This post is a re-edited version of a note I put on Facebook within days of the General Election. It pretty much sums up how I feel about most things....

Within days of the Labour victory in 1997, we won a cricket match, we won the Eurovision Song Contest and my first child was conceived.

When she was born, and was almost immediately diagnosed with Sturge Weber Syndrome, we realised we would be facing the prospect of a lot of interaction with the National Health Service. When, at 6 months, she suffered her first seizure, we were ushered straight in to our GP's surgery and within minutes we had been sent direct to Acorn Ward the old Manchester Royal Infirmary, where we remained for a week while the medics tried to stabilise her.

Over the years she has been treated by a paediatric neo-natal specialist, neurologists, psychologists, Manchester dental hospital, Manchester Royal Eye Hospital; she has had 9 years' laser surgery to reduce her birthmark, an operation on a detached retina which saved her from having an eye removed, radiotherapy and cataract surgery. She has seldom had to wait very long for appointments and has had exemplary service from the medical professionals she's been involved with.

It's been the same with Education. She attended an excellent local authority-run nursery and then a very good barrier-free primary school where she received 1:1 in-class support from a number of excellent Teaching Assistants. At nine, she was additionally diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum; her ASD diagnosis came in time for us to be able to plan her secondary education carefully and she has made a successful transition to a mainstream secondary school, still with support, but with a level of independence she would not have in a special school. At her first Parents Evening we received comments such as "a pleasure to have in my class". Anyone who knew us when she was in Reception/Year 1, would appreciate how much that means to us!

That's why I voted Labour on 6 May - I'm proud to have done so make no apologies for it. As a family, we've had a far better life under Labour than we had under the Tories, but it's not just about us - millions of other ordinary families did, too. 13 years in which legislation gave protection from discrimination, lower crime rates (we were burgled 4 times between 1993-97; 0 times 1997-2010), where a less antagonistic attitude to Europe gave us greater credibility and influence, and where the concept of "society" was reintroduced. I have to say I never liked or trusted Tony Blair (even when everyone else seemed to), but was prepared to put up with him because - and here's a thing - I was more concerned with party's policies than the personality of the leader. Some of the trashing of Brown has been, frankly, disgraceful and I think it shows the mettle of the man that he's put up with it. In time, I think his reputation may recover - after all, John Major is now seen as a genial elder statesman!

I fear for the next five years - the proposed removal of a right of appeal in school expulsions (you get a right of appeal if you're convicted of murder for god's sake!); the very real possibility that 'stopping the closure of special schools' has a corollary of 'let's get these pesky SEN kids out of mainstream'; the concept of paying to see your GP; the re-demonisation of those who are 'different', be it gay, unmarried, disabled, etc. It was quite nice to have 13 years where I wasn't constantly told I was a second class citizen.

That's not to say there weren't times when I despaired of some of the things that were happening. The decimation of the social housing stock was not reversed, the ridiculous relaxation of the licensing laws which could only have been thought up by people who spend far too long in Tuscany, getting sucked in to the Bush War on Terror, some frankly unacceptable assaults on civil liberties and, on a personal level, the mania for outsourcing government projects to BPOs (at vast expense) which ends up costing far more and delivers a poorer service for the 'customer' than local authority provision did.

That aside, the overall movement of the country since 1997 has been towards a more tolerant, inclusive nation. Of course it's possible that the sainted Nick Clegg will be able to show the Tories the error of their inward-looking, exclusive ways, but I wouldn't hold your breath.

Seven months on, I can't say that I'm reassured....

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