At any given moment, there exists at least one delicate subject that all mainstream political parties would much rather not discuss.
Now the subject which nobody wants to talk about is the National Health Service. It is just over a week since the publication of the Francis report into Stafford hospital, where some 1,200 patients died in appalling circumstances. Had any other institution been involved in a scandal on this scale, the consequences would have been momentous: sackings, arrests and prosecutions. Had it involved a private hospital, that hospital would have been closed down already, and those in charge publicly shamed and facing jail.
Astonishing to relate, nothing has happened. Politicians have made perfunctory expressions of concern, while agreeing that there must be “no scapegoats”, and that Sir David Nicholson (the senior figure responsible) must remain in his job.
Good thing he’s been knighted. His suit of armor will protect him from unwarranted attacks.
But how can this be? How can 1,200 people die at the hands of a government-run health service—and no one be responsible?
A rhetorical question, of course. It’s precisely because it is a government-run health service that no one is responsible. As Ronald Reagan once said: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” Those may well have been the last words those 1,200 poor souls heard.
So, what has the government been doing instead of holding accountable those who engaged in such mass murder that would make Sweeney Todd blush and Jack the Ripper faint?
Or horse meat, to be exact.
Consider the utterly false and inverted set of priorities at Staffordshire County Council, which (as we know from the Francis report) sat on its hands while hospital patients were dying in agony.
Staffordshire County Council has been among the first to jump on to the horse flesh bandwagon. Courtesy of the current issue of the Staffordshire Sentinel we know that the local council, so negligent and dismissive over the local hospital, has ordered that beef should not be served at the local school as a “precautionary measure”, even though it poses no threat of any kind to human health.
The Labour Party – like Staffordshire council, useless when patients were dying – has been leading the national hysteria. Mary Creagh, shadow environment secretary, has made a series of inflammatory remarks which have added to the alarm and confusion. Some of her claims (such as her assertion that 70,000 horses have been unaccounted for in Northern Ireland) have been not merely inflammatory but grossly inaccurate, as Ian Paisley expertly exposed in his Commons intervention last Tuesday.
That’s right: horse meat was discovered masquerading as beef, and the country goes mad; 1,200 people are essentially tortured to death in state hospitals, and everyone shrugs.
Again, how can this be?
That is all that needs to be said about horse flesh, at best a minor affair which will be forgotten in a few weeks. The really interesting question is about the NHS, and why a story about what was effectively the manslaughter by the state of more than 1,000 people has been ignored.
What we have here, I believe, is a conspiracy of silence, just as we had a conspiracy of silence over phone hacking and over MPs’ expenses. None of the mainstream parties want to admit the blindingly obvious fact that there is something very wrong with the NHS, as Stafford demonstrates in the most tragic and horrifying way. Labour can’t or won’t admit this, because it founded the NHS and claims it as its own. Likewise the Lib Dems are bound into this consensus. The Tories fear it would be electoral suicide to do something serious about it.
Nigel Lawson famously remarked that the NHS is the nearest thing we have these days to a state religion. Nobody can criticise a state religion. It’s much easier, and far more agreeable, to pretend that horse meat is the big story. Psychologists would call the events of the last week “transference”. And if British politicians (of all parties) carry on changing the subject, the more certain it is that there will be fresh Staffords to come.
Doesn’t that sound ominously familiar? Isn’t that how the Left has sold socialized medicine, from Nancy Pelosi’s blind faith (we have to pass it to find out what’s in it) to the legion of Priuses with the “I Love ObamaCare” bumper stickers? Lemmings to liberal orthodoxy, lining up to leap into the lashing waves?
Our society faces an end-of-life decision: “Maybe [we're] better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller.”
Lagavullin, please, and leave the bottle.