The Daily Smackdown: ‘Save Our NHS’ Fanatics Thwart Essential Reform

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Trialling a new addition to Semi-Partisan Politics – the Daily Smackdown. Basically a repository for the zingers and comebacks that pop into my mind but which I lack the time to work into a full article, these will be one or two-paragraph responses to a specific piece or trending topic in the national media. The aim is to allow the blog to cover more ground each day, while challenging lazy thinking or rhetoric from across the political spectrum – as well as giving you all more to read!

Dr. Rob Galloway writes an “open letter to members of the British public” in Think Left today, deploying all of the usual tired catchphrases (“our NHS” is “on its knees”, etc. etc.) in an effort to persuade us that we should continue pumping endless money and human resources into an anachronistic healthcare delivery system from the 1940s.

From Galloway’s letter:

The NHS is on its knees and unless things change, it may not survive.  It has been attacked, part privatised, demoralised and starved of funds.

So the NHS’s defenders have been saying since 1948. But do go on:

We have tried to highlight what is going on; through the media, marches, speeches and endless tweets and face-book posts.  But it is not working.  Things are getting worse and the NHS, which we all care so much about may soon no longer, be able to care for us.

It’s almost as if endlessly sharing and re-tweeting the same sanctimonious, scaremongering articles within your own closed information loop of like-minded friends and acquaintances doesn’t actually effect meaningful change, isn’t it? Maybe talk to Ed Miliband about that one, I hear he’s thinking of starting a support group.

The only things which might save it is if the British public no longer just accept what is happening – but start to fight back.  This is above party politics.  This is about what we want our society to be like.  Fight back for the greatest safety net we have – the knowledge that as a UK taxpayer if we get sick, then we will be looked after; an envy throughout the world.

The envy of the world? Sorry, I’ve had enough of that one. I always forget how people in Canada simply collapse at the side of the road and go untreated until they swipe a valid credit card.

People who say the NHS is the “envy of the world” have clearly never used their passport and gone to another country. You don’t have to embrace the US model (often world-leading hospitals and treatments, with runaway costs and a crummy patient access system of giant private healthcare providers wrapped around them) to recognise that other countries somehow manage to provide good healthcare to their citizens without resorting to a monolithic, monopolistic, inefficient state provider like the NHS.

It’s funny – in so many areas, many people are self-deprecating about Britain and our national greatness, almost to a fault. Many of us can often be found negating our successes, apologising for our history or (in the case of the coming Brexit referendum) believing that an economic, cultural and military power like the UK somehow needs to remain yoked to that mid-century relic of a supranational political union, the EU, just to stay relevant in the world.

But on one issue alone – the National Health Service – we have convinced ourselves that we in Britain have created perfection itself, that no other nation on earth comes close to matching our achievement, and that health secretaries from Ottawa to Canberra secretly covet what we have. And yet surprisingly, few countries are beating down our door for advice on replacing their existing systems with one modelled on “Our NHS”. Shouldn’t that tell us something?

Let’s stop singing hymns to a 1940s anachronism or praying to Saint Aneurin Bevan to Save Our NHS for a moment, and actually re-examine British healthcare from the bottom up. If we were to do so today (not that we will), we would in all likelihood end up with something far better – and probably quite unlike – our current National Health Service.

Further Reading:

Treat the NHS as a religion, and you give it the right to run your life

Our deadly obsession with the NHS

Agree with this article? Violently disagree? Scroll down to leave a comment.

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Britain First Are Abhorrent, But Banning Their Party Conference Is Wrong

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If you don’t protest the forced cancellation of the Britain First conference in Chesterfield, don’t call yourself a supporter of free speech

Let’s skip the near-obligatory paragraph restating for the record just how odious and hateful Britain First are. Britain First’s racism, paranoia, manipulative social media campaigns and grotesque subversion of patriotism are abhorrent; that much really goes without saying.

But something else should also go without saying, yet is not being widely said: no matter how nasty that party’s speech and campaigning activities may be, the decision by Chesterfield council to cancel the venue booking for Britain First’s conference at the last minute is a brazen violation of the dual freedoms of speech and assembly.

From the Derbyshire Times:

A far-right political party has been banned from holding a conference in Chesterfield due to “the risk of public disorder”, it has emerged tonight.

Britain First had booked a Chesterfield Borough Council venue for its seven-hour meeting next Saturday.

But in a letter to the nationalist party’s leader Paul Golding, the council’s chief executive Huw Bowen said: “I am writing to advise you that a decision has been taken to cancel this booking because of the risk of public disorder. Your fee of £379 will be credited to your account.”

And the Huffington Post’s jubilant, gloating report:

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Stop Using The N Word: We Are Not Living In A “Neoliberal” Age

Neoliberalism - Anti Austerity - Capitalism

The state is as large and active as it has ever been, yet millions of us sincerely believe that we live in a Thatcherite/Reaganite dystopia

Pick up any bestselling left wing political book or listen to any prominent left wing commentator on television or radio today, and chances are that you will almost immediately be confronted with the N-word.

No, not that one. The fashionable N-word of today is “neoliberalism”. You’ve probably heard or seen it blaring from Guardian editorials, phlegm-lobbing anti-Tory activists and Owen Jones’ YouTube channel.

The basic argument goes something like this (I paraphrase):

We live in a neoliberal age now where the Corporations and the Bad people and the Profit do bad things to the Society and the Good People and the Community. Rich people take money from the pockets of poor people because neoliberalism.

Neoliberalism is destroying Our NHS with the profits and the privatisation and the One Per Cent. Local shops and artisan bread makers and steel manufacturers are put out of business because neoliberalism and the giant supermarkets and the GM food. George Osborne gives your money to millionaires and billionaires because neoliberalism, and wants to socially cleanse London because neoliberalism and the housing crisis. Heartless Iain Duncan Smith kills disabled people in his spare time because neoliberalism. Save Our NHS from neoliberalism, Saint Bevan [genuflect].

Britain only re-elected this hateful neoliberal Tory government with an increased majority and share of the vote because the neoliberal media confused the minds of the people with their neoliberal propaganda and made them forget just what a star-spangled awesome prime minister Ed Miliband would have been.

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In Defence Of Tristram Hunt, In Praise Of The One Percent

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In qualified defence of Tristram Hunt

Was Labour MP Tristram Hunt wrong to call for the top one per cent to assert their leadership in the Labour Party?

Lots of people seem to think so, at least judging by the online hysteria now picking up steam following Hunt’s address to the Cambridge University Labour Club last week.

From the Independent:

Labour-supporting students at one of Britain’s two elite universities have been told by a Blairite MP to lead a campaign of “dissent” in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory.

Tristram Hunt, the former shadow education secretary, told students at Cambridge University Labour Club that they were the “top one per cent” and needed to show leadership within the party.  

“The way you serve the Corbyn leadership is to be as dissenting and creative as possible,” he told the students, according to the Cambridge University newspaper Varsity.

“You are the top one per cent. The Labour Party is in the shit. It is your job and your responsibility to take leadership going forward.”

But the truth is a little more complex than an outraged headline in the Independent or an angry Facebook post. And ultimately, it depends on what 1 per cent Tristram Hunt was talking about.

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The “Remain” Campaign: Wrong On Economics, Cavalier With Democracy

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The pro-EU lobby is wrong on the economic argument. But their lack of concern for democracy is far worse

Over the past week, a lot of scaremongering warnings and cautionary tales have been flung around by the “Remain” campaign, talking down Britain and painting the risible picture of the UK as a small, insignificant country that would be overwhelmed and destroyed if we tried to follow the examples of Norway, Switzerland, Singapore or any other country (all less powerful and consequential than ourselves) and re-engage with the world as an independent power.

We have seen the Prime Minister travel to Iceland and lie about the Norwegian option, misrepresenting facts and figures to make it seem as though Norway has to pay almost as much per capita for access to the Single Market as Britain, while having no influence over the rules. Both of these claims, of course, are false. Much of Norway’s contribution is voluntary and goes directly to the recent accession countries in eastern Europe, and are in no way a prerequisite for trading with the EU. And Norway has far more of a say over global rules because unlike EU member states, they retain their own, voting seat at the World Trade Organisation and other key global standard-setting forums.

We have seen Michael Froman, the US trade representative, seek to bully the British electorate with equally laughable claims that the United States would not be interested in pursuing a free trade deal with its strongest and closest ally in the event of Brexit. Again, this is pure nonsense – the US may prefer negotiating trade deals with large blocs, but so crucial is UK-US trade to both parties that a free trade agreement could be hammered out in minutes, were it absolutely necessary. Besides which, we need to learn to distinguish between what the US would like us to do and what is actually best for Britain.

And we have seen the CBI continue to misrepresent British business in general and its own membership, claiming that majority want the UK to stay in the EU based on highly selective  and manipulative sampling methods.

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