John Major isn’t the sharpest chisel in the box – in fact, he resembles the box more than a chisel. But at least the box used to be seen as solid and sturdy, if dull-grey.
Yet the man who signed away Britain’s sovereignty and then engineered the ERM disaster, costing the taxpayer £3.4 billion, has gone barmy. As one symptom, he has lost touch with reality.
The other day Major fulminated against Mrs May, Brexit and all the fools and/or knaves who had voted for it. This was followed by the customary litany of disasters to befall a Britain no longer governed by Angie the Merkin and Jean-Claude Junk.
Brace yourself, for the future is gruesome. We’ll have to “change Britain’s economic model”. Now make sure you’re sitting down: we’ll have to run a low-tax, low-regulation economy.
You know, the kind that has proved a stratospheric success everywhere it has been tried. For example, that’s how all those Asian lambs turned into tigers, how Germany produced her post-war economic miracle (snappily called Wirtschaftswunder), how Britain herself had become a global empire before the likes of Sir John took over.
So why is it such a bad thing? Well, you see, “We cannot move to a radical enterprise economy without moving away from a welfare state”. Crikey. No welfare state, fancy that. How did Britannia ever manage to rule the waves without it?
And, a catastrophe of all catastrophes: the NHS will have to be dismantled. Let’s see. The NHS kicked off in 1948. Major signed away Britain’s sovereignty in 1992. How did the NHS manage to survive for 44 years in the interim? It did soldier on, with no Maastricht Treaty yet in sight.
One wonders what part of sovereignty Sir John doesn’t understand. All of them, by the sound of him: “…people who voted to leave Europe in the belief that it might improve their lives… their expectations will not be met and whole communities will be worse off.”
Well, I didn’t vote for Brexit in the expectation of a better life, at least not economically. It’s just that, for historical, constitutional and moral reasons, I want to live in a sovereign Britain, not one bossed by Angie the Merkin and Jean-Claude Junk. And from what I’ve heard, many share my feelings.
Reducing the whole thing to economics is missing the point – even when done by people who understand the discipline, a category that emphatically doesn’t include Major.
His limp grasp of economics was amply demonstrated during his tenure as chancellor and then prime minister. He doesn’t seem to know that these days cutting taxes and regulations isn’t just the best but the only known recipe for prosperity.
Nor does Major have the moral sense to realise that continuing to brainwash people about the NHS is appalling demagoguery. Or rather it’s not just morality that he lacks but also the ability to think sequentially.
Forgetting for a second that, like all giant socialist projects, the NHS was designed to serve not the people but the state, let’s look at it from a practical viewpoint.
Let’s start with the unassailable assumption, born out of empirical evidence, that civilised countries provide adequate medical care one way or another. Though these ways differ from country to country, they fall into three broad groups: wholly or predominantly socialist (Britain), wholly or predominantly private (US), a balanced mixture thereof (Western Europe).
The NHS is therefore not the end but a means, to be weighed against other means. Such a weighing exercise will show that wholly or predominantly socialist medicine is by far the worst possible way of looking after people’s health.
That’s why no other Western European country, some of which are in general more socialist than Britain, has chosen it, relying instead on a mixed system. And medical care in, say, France and Germany is provided more efficiently.
What they have may not be ideal, but the French don’t have to wait three weeks for a GP appointment, nor three years for a hospital bed. We do, which suggests that socialism doesn’t work in medicine any better than anywhere else.
Yet, following 70 years of relentlessly stupefying propaganda, the British attach sacramental significance to the NHS. It’s off limits for criticism, just as God is to believers. And this is the fallacy that Major is exploiting in his fear-mongering.
Tackle Tory hardliners, he hectors Mrs May, or it will be the death of the NHS. Is that a promise or a threat, Sir John?
Supposing, against all available evidence, that Britain regains economic sanity following Brexit, does this mean people will die in the streets with no medical help available? Of course not.
Medical care will be provided, and in a better way. Why, we may even increase our number of hospital beds to a pre-NHS 400,000, from today’s puny 140,000. We may even start building hospitals at the 1930s rate, a decade in which 10 times more hospitals were built than in the seven NHS decades.
Sir John ‘Edwina’ Major ought to be ashamed of himself for appealing to false idols so blatantly. But he won’t be. Shame isn’t something his kind can feel.