This Mirror frontpage today, via the always sharp Political Scrapbook, is a sad recognition of a reality we can no longer deny.
The reference it makes to both Tory and Lib Dem gloating at the passing of the NHS bill in question will surely capture your attention. There is a simple reason for this: the object in Tory and Lib Dem sights is not the NHS itself – even as it is neither just the Legal Aid bill, also stumbling through reasoned objection to mindless implementation.
If we were simply talking about bringing down discrete institutions, we could not explain the massive and evil joy these top-flight politicians are expressing.
Not even the prospect of massive self-enrichment can surely explain their satisfaction.
No. The issue is quite separate and different from all the above. It’s neither the NHS nor Legal Aid nor a wider raft of other institutions which find themselves under attack here but the much broader concept and idea of English socialism itself.
The NHS in particular was effective and efficient English socialism writ large. With its example to remind us of what a humane economy can do suddenly and succinctly wiped from the political and socioeconomic landscape, it’s not just a national health service they’ve destroyed but a whole alternative way of thinking about and doing politics.
No wonder these beasts are as happy as sandboys.
I bet Tony Blair & Co are similarly pleased as punch with themselves.
Truth of the matter is that a long period in opposition can lead to politically effective and highly strategic government once back in power. The latest wizard wheeze I read about the other day – structuring the pay of public sector jobs in terms of the average wealth of a region in particular – is clearly aimed at making the task of unions evermore difficult. Little by little, therefore, these bods are picking off their targets. It may not be quite Machiavellian quite yet – but it’s certainly well on its way.
The Mirror‘s tombstone got it wrong. It’s not the NHS which died today but the very best example of socialism in England we’ve ever had the privilege to witness. And, as a result, perhaps any chance to weave in the future an alternative tapestry of ideas to neoliberalism’s inevitable and overwhelming power over those who reach the top of these disgustingly greasy poles.