Life in Politics column with Richard Burgon, Labour MP for Leeds East: Celebrating the 70th birthday of our NHS

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I’ve been enjoying being part of a series of events taking place here in Leeds and across the country to celebrate the 70th birthday of our NHS.

It’s important young people know that our NHS hasn’t always been there. The days before our NHS were a needlessly grim time indeed for people struck by illness.

As a Labour MP, I’m proud that it was a Labour Government that created our NHS - with coal miner, trade unionist and socialist Aneurin Bevan MP in the driving seat as Health Secretary.

But the birth of our NHS was anything but pain free. The Conservative Party voted 21 times in Parliament against the creation of our NHS. Conservative Shadow Health Secretary described the creation of our NHS as “a fatal step”. His party colleague Viscount Davidson even warned that the creation of our NHS “may lead to civil war”.

Luckily, the Conservatives failed and our NHS - Britain’s proudest peacetime achievement and a wonderful example of socialist principles put into practice - was created. But we should never take our NHS for granted. If it’s going to be here in another 70 years, we need to ensure it is properly funded.

And we can’t allow our NHS to be turned into a USA style healthcare system where they feel for your wallet before they feel for your pulse.

On its 70th birthday, the hardworking staff who keep our NHS running day in, day out deserve a big thank you – and a proper pay rise.

The other week, I was delighted to welcome pupils from Corpus Christi school in Halton Moor down to Parliament. Corpus pupils had been taking part in a competition based around the idea of ‘Solutions for the Planet – Big Ideas’. They had to come up with an idea to practically help people in our community and around the world. The pupils designed a mobile phone app that would remind people to refill and take their medicines. Their idea and design were very impressive. The pupils are a credit to their school, families and our community. There’s so much talent and potential in East Leeds.

I was proud to be one of the speakers at a celebration of multicultural Leeds recently. Our wonderful city hit the headlines for the wrong reasons when fire attacks on a mosque and a Sikh temple followed hot on the heels of far right extremists marching through town.

The decent majority are clear that far right extremists travelling to Leeds to cause trouble and frighten our neighbours aren’t welcome here.

These extremists and their poster boy, former BNP member Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (whose PR name is “Tommy Robinson”), want to divide working class communities in all their diversity.

This lets off the hook those who are to blame for the mess our country is in.

Cuts to public services, the lack of affordable homes and the difficulties people face in finding decent, secure, well-paid work are the fault of the political and economic establishment – not our neighbours!