The Right isn’t particularly famed for its sense of nuance. The shenanigans going on in the US over healthcare rather suggest that and even the touchy-feely Cameroons are not exactly strangers to Mister Brickbat. Yet when lefties employ the same tactics (as is the nature of politics), they suddenly lurch up on their hindlegs and demand to be treated like sensitive, intelligent human beings. It won’t wash.
The current source of the UK Right’s distress is this #welovetheNHS twitter thing. Now, to most people participating in the meme, this was little more than a way of standing up and being counted and reacting against the nonsense happening in the US. That nonsense has been made all the worse by people like Dan Hannan spreading outright malicious falsehoods about how the healthcare system actually works. At one point Hannan even claims that our system is inefficient compared to the US system, despite the fact that it costs twice as much as our one and has measurably worse outcomes.
The effort has been a sucess. Yesterday, and to a lesser extent today, was informally declared LoveNHS Day by thousands of people. You had a choice: piss or get off the pot. It isn’t really something worth intellectualising; it wasn’t even orchestrated – merely a phenomenon. But boy have they been having a go.
None of the points being made are of particular merit. Apparently we are meant to be awestruck by the recognition that the NHS fails a lot of the time. Strangely, this is a point being made repeatedly by many of the #welovetheNHS crowd.
The Rightwingers who complain that they neither want the current US healthcare system or the NHS in its current form have a golden opportunity here. They could be telling us what they do want and why it would be better than either of the alternatives. This seems particularly appropriate because the Obama proposals seem to be more along the lines of mainland Europe than the UK. Lib Dem “Orange Bookers” (in this case the term is appropriate because David Laws’ chapter on health in the Orange Book was indeed about health insurance) could be singing its praises, or at least adding constructive criticism. Instead, they seem to be stuck in bleating mode about how dreadfully unsophisticated the argument is. The conclusion one draws is that either their own ideas aren’t actually much more sophisticated than “the NHS is a bit shit really” or their views are somewhat closer to the likes of Dan Hannan than they feel comfortable admitting. Indeed it is interesting how few friends Hannan seems to have. No-one appears to be rushing to his defence, and yet his views are surely representative of a significan minority. He did get elected by Conservative members in the South East at the top of their list after all.
I’ve got to be honest and admit that the lack of intellectual debate here is beginning to bore me too. The nature of these things is however that as time goes on, the debate will inevitably move on. Remember the expenses scandal? After that, we had a very creative debate about how to fix politics. A debate, it should be noted, that the usual forces of conservativism have been doing their damndest to stop ever since.
Having firmly established that the NHS is an institution the country supports, we really do now badly need a debate on why it isn’t better. We might have a better healthcare system than the US, but other countries are delivering more effective systems for the same cost. But you will excuse me if I spend just one more evening enjoying the discomfort of people whose ideas I’m pretty confident would leave us, and especially the poor, much worse off.
UPDATE: Sunder Katwala is also calling for a debate.
UPDATE 2: I take it all back
Progressive/Liberal Vision Progressive Vision, of which Liberal Vision is a wholly owned subsidiary, and Liberal Vision’s Director of Development have launched a campaign in defence of the Dan Hannan position. Its supporters include Liberal Vision’s Director. Charlotte Gore of Liberal Vision is keen to emphasise that this is not a Liberal Vision project, but Sara Scarlett is being permitted to use the Liberal Vision Facebook group to promote it:
In conjunction with Nurses for Reform, Progressive Vision has launched the #no2NHS campaign.
Show your opposition to socialised healthcare by joining the #no2NHS campaign and invite all your friends! Our target is to make #no2NHS the No.1 trending topic on twitter and make the case against the NHS.
Director of Developement