As a rule, I eschew the I-told-you-so genre of journalism. Tooting one’s own horn invariably produces discordant music in questionable taste.
And in any case, anyone writing regularly will get some things right on the strength of statistical probability alone. Pointing them out invites one’s detractors to cite things one got wrong, and that list may well be longer.
However, Charles Moore’s piece in today’s Telegraph has emboldened me to exercise a bit of vanity. For this is the first article I’ve ever seen in the mainstream press saying that the problems with the NHS just may be, to use the medical parlance, systemic rather than symptomatic.
Comparing the ways coronavirus is being fought in Britain and Germany, Mr Moore correctly states that our fully nationalised system can’t respond with the same efficacy and flexibility because it’s weighed down by parasitic, top-heavy bureaucracy.
In common with all such bureaucracies, it’s mostly concerned with protecting its own turf. This makes the NHS congenitally hostile to the private sector.
That’s why it fought for a fortnight against the rapid construction of a badly needed 4,000 bed hospital in East London. Once the NHS was forced to relent, the private sector stepped in and took just nine days to put up the UK’s largest hospital.
Mr Moore was also right in pointing out that, while some intrepid critics may at times find something wrong with the NHS in detail, no one has so far dared criticise the very principle on which it’s based.
It’s at that moment that a broad grin forced its way onto my face. For, ever since I moved to London 32 years ago, I’ve been saying and writing that the NHS has become an object of worship, if not downright deification. (If you tap ‘NHS’ in the search function of this blog, you’ll find dozens of pieces to that effect.)
No substantive criticism of it is possible – for the same reason that major religions discourage heresy and apostasy. The NHS is a surrogate deity, not a highly questionable way of financing medical care.
Even a close friend of mine, himself an NHS doctor and a conservative writer to boot, almost snapped my head off when I mentioned some 30 years ago that no entity built on egalitarian, which is to say false, premises will ever be successful. Since then he has changed his views, but then he’s an extremely intelligent man and therefore eminently capable of self-correction. Most people aren’t.
Part of his objection then was that I proceeded from a priori first principles, in that case that any large-scale socialist enterprise is corrupt by definition. Sooner or later, even if it didn’t start out that way, it’ll begin serving itself rather than the public.
The next step will be for the socialist enterprise to communicate the message that the public is supposed to serve it, rather than the other way around. Hence the PROTECT THE NHS slogan prominently displayed all over the country.
Mr Moore took exception to that self-serving message, but I (Me! Me! Me!) beat him to it by several days. Such quicker response comes from faith in first principles – provided I’m satisfied they are correct.
That’s me done – no more self-aggrandisement for any foreseeable future. Back to my self-effacing, vicariously British self.
Meanwhile, I hereby propose that Pontius Pilate be canonised, to assume the name of St Pontius, the patron saint of hand-washing and personal hygiene.