Why are we constantly waiting?

Neil Parish. Ref mhh 48 19TI 0358. Picture: Terry Ife

Neil Parish. Ref mhh 48 19TI 0358. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Chair of the East Devon Alliance, Martin Shaw, writes for the Herald.

Martin Shaw

Martin Shaw - Credit: www.ricardbadia.com

What’s that noise in the Tiverton and Honiton constituency? Could it be a cry of ‘Why are we waiting?’ from around 100,000 people who’ve now been unrepresented in Parliament for several weeks?

The normal procedure when an MP resigns, as the disgraced Conservative Neil Parish has done, is that their party initiates a by-election to elect a new MP.

Yet the Conservatives haven’t done this for Tiverton and Honiton. Could it be that, despite winning a 24,000 majority just two years ago, they are now running scared of facing the electorate?

Of course, the noise could also be that of chickens coming home to roost.

Since the Conservatives took power in 2010, the NHS has been chronically underfunded, especially in Devon, where they closed most of our community hospital beds and would have closed and sold off the hospitals themselves if we hadn’t protested loudly.

There’s a lot of waiting going on in the NHS. Across the South West, people consistently have to wait longer for ambulances than anywhere else in England.

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Half of people who go into A&E have to wait more than five hours to be treated or discharged, when the target is for 95 per cent to be seen in under four hours.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands in East Devon are waiting ever longer for hospital treatments.

Last week, a Devon MP, Gary Streeter, was himself forced to wait six hours for an ambulance.

My guess is that Conservative MPs don’t usually have to wait. With comfortable salaries often topped up by lucrative outside work, they can jump the queues by going privately whenever possible, and no doubt encourage anyone who can afford it to follow suit.

I’m not criticising people who are desperate for treatment for using their savings, and sometimes a large part of them, to gain relief from pain.

But looking at the overall picture, what’s going on is an insidious privatisation, which takes the pressure off the government to fix the NHS for everyone who needs it.

We’ve had a lot of experience of waiting in recent years. Complying with the restrictions which were necessary to save lives before vaccines were available, we waited months to see our families and friends, to celebrate births and birthdays.

Some people waited for their relatives to die of Covid, without being able to properly say goodbye.

Many also waited to see relatives in care homes, some of whom died because infectious people were transferred from hospitals.

My friend Dr Cathy Gardner, an East Devon Alliance councillor in Sidmouth, waited nearly two years to bring Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock to account for this policy, which the High Court ruled unlawful last month.

Johnson himself, of course, did not wait. Such is his sense of entitlement, I doubt he ever does.

He broke the law, as he has admitting by accepting a fine from the Metropolitan Police. He allowed 10 Downing Street to become the biggest centre of rule-breaking parties in the whole land.

The sense of entitlement seems to be infectious.

Apparently Neil Parish is thinking of standing in the by-election which he caused. Has he become aggrieved that he had to resign when all the other Tory rule-breakers are still in office?

Well, bring it on, Neil. You’ll be lucky to save your deposit.

A focus group of a dozen people who supported you in 2019 showed that local Conservative voters are disillusioned and angry with your whole party.

Almost all said they were going to vote Lib Dem, so I doubt many will give you their vote this time.

It’s true that the Tiverton and Honiton has waited a long time for a non-Conservative MP.

But as soaring prices put more and more pressure on local people, we can’t wait any longer for an MP who will truly represent us. Bring on that by-election now!