Today’s Star columnist: His final column: David Blunkett

The Right Honourable David Blunkett  'Picture by Dean Atkins
The Right Honourable David Blunkett 'Picture by Dean Atkins
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In deciding what the theme of my final article should be as we come up to the General Election, it struck me that sometimes it is personal experience that determines not only whether, but which way, people cast their vote.

In campaigning in Sheffield and around the country, I have once again seen just how important the National Health Service is to us all.

For me, this has been brought home more profoundly than I could ever have expected.

Within a matter of weeks, triumphs and tragedies have befallen those I care for and the value of our NHS and social care have, once again, shone through.

A very close relative in their late 80s, whose husband is seriously ill, could no longer cope, and has moved into residential care.

The support received from the carers who looked after them at home was exemplary, and when emergency accommodation was needed, a local home was there – willing and able – to help out until long-term places could be found.

One of my closest friends was taken seriously ill, with a life threatening condition which, without the expertise of medical staff, here in the city, would undoubtedly have proved fatal.

The critical care received since has, once again, reinforced for me the need to protect value and invest in our Health Service.

And, despite the tragedy of the death of another friend, who could not be saved, the care and compassion and the humanity in supporting the family, as well as taking every possible step to prolong life, was exemplary. But, of course, decisions taken about priorities, about where our money goes, and whether we make the rich richer or provide equal treatment for all of us, whatever our background or income, is not by chance, but by choice.

Now, after 45 years, I represent no-one except myself but of course, the willingness to campaign for and hold dear the values that have driven me over all these years still remains.

That is why those who do not vote on May 7 must realise that they have handed their small but significant amount of power to someone else.

Someone else’s vote is now weighted more heavily because those abstaining have decided to opt out of the democratic process.

When they do so, they also opt out of the right to complain when public services are cut, when decisions they do not like are taken by others, and when they eventually discover that all politicians and politics are not the same.

Above all, we must remember that we do have choices in life and carry responsibility for making those decisions count.

So, thank you to all those who, over so many years, took the trouble to put their cross against my name and to those on May 7 who will, once again, take the trouble to do so for those local and national candidates who are committed to the National Health Service, in what is an absolutely crucial election.