When rightwhingers demand nuance, count the spoons…

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.

Warmest regards,

Director of Developement
Liberal Vision


  1. That’s progressive vision that’s done that.

    I note with irony that you yourself have written about the argument itself without going into detail about what Should Be Done about the NHS.

    Perhaps the reason why some of us have been rather baffled by the hash tag is that we don’t love the NHS and we don’t really feel the need to defend the NHS against idiotic GOPers.

    That’s what bugs me about this, the way that because another nation is critical of our healthcare (unfairly critical) we think it’s perfectly acceptable to plunge into reactionary nationalism to stick up for a mediocre health care system on pure emotional grounds. Which as far as I’m concerned I hate whether it comes from Labour, Tories.. and in this particular case even Lib Dems.

    You’re condemning what I’m saying about the hashtag because of my politics without really being able to condemn what I’m actually saying, which… well… look it’s just really really cheap. You can do better.

  2. That’s progressive vision that’s done that.

    Okay, how about “Progressive Vision, of which Liberal Vision is a wholly owned subsidiary, and Liberal Vision’s Director of Development. Its supporters include Liberal Vision’s Director”?

    I note with irony that you yourself have written about the argument itself without going into detail about what Should Be Done about the NHS.

    There’s nothing ironic about it. You can support and value something while being critical of it. My personal experience of healthcare would be a LOT worse if I had to rely on a private insurance model (assuming I could even get insurance with my BMI).

    it’s perfectly acceptable to plunge into reactionary nationalism

    It isn’t reactionary nationalism. Where is the reactionary nationalism? People are just stating they value the NHS. Since when does that become comparable to flag waving and beating up immigrants (and you complain about framing the debate…).

    You’re condemning what I’m saying about the hashtag

    I’m not condemning you. Over on Lib Dem Voice I’ve been sticking up for you. I am however mocking you. And I do so again: all you seem capable of doing is pissing on the parade despite having an opportunity to put across a positive argument about what would be better. And you’re doing it, here, again. There’s nothing to condemn, but it is pitiable.

  3. I’m not trolling; no more than you anyway. I mean it: this is your opportunity to put forward a positive message instead of just bemoaning everyone else’s positivity.

    If the only thing you pick up from that is “troll”…

  4. By troll I mean:

    You write a blog post “mocking” (not condemning?) ‘right wing’ bloggers (another bonus) who’ve said “nothing of particular merit” (in your opinion) and you link to a post I’ve written as an example.

    I take offence, and you then tell me that you’re mocking me and you pity me, and then you finish up by telling me what I should be writing on my blog.

    I don’t know how you think all this comes across, but I’m not sure it makes you look as cool and clever as you think it does.

  5. Gosh, “trolling” involves expressing opinions now? Sheesh! How dumb do I look? Did I miss a memo?

    I’ll never get the cool kids to hang out with me now!

  6. On a serious note, it is somewhat shameful to bemoan about how other people are avoiding a “rational debate” and then, when I suggest that a rational debate might be something you might want to lead you start with this troll name-calling nonsense.

    This helps a “rational debate” how exactly?

  7. James, you can’t really patronise people and admit you’re laughing at them then complain when they won’t engage in an adult, rational debate with you.

    There’s nothing to debate. You’re taking the piss and you know it.

  8. I’m not asking you to engage in a rational debate with *me* – I’m pointing out that you could be blogging about alternatives to the NHS instead of just trying to drag other people down for participating in a positive campaign and accuse them of dodging rational argument. And then when I point that out, you dodge any rational argument in favour of flaming me about trolling.

    Am I jerking your chain? To an extent, yes. You’re a past master at this so you can hardly cry foul. You’ve been moaning at how people just read your flaming headlines and don’t engage in the debate with you, yet that is exactly what you’re doing her.

    The only conclusion is that you have nothing of substance to say.

  9. “I note with irony that you yourself have written about the argument itself without going into detail about what Should Be Done about the NHS.”

    That is pretty much what Progressive/Liberal Vision are doing though. Certainly the Facebook group contains little in the way of alternative suggestions and the only posting I could find on the PV website dates form over a year ago.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.