The language of the left is a truly transformative grammar, so I suppose Noam Chomsky would heartily approve. There are words which, when uttered by a leftie, lose all sense of themselves — such as ‘diverse’ and ‘vibrant’ and ‘racist’. It is not simply that these words can mean different things to different people — it is that when the left uses them they are at best a euphemism and at worst a downright lie. And from that you have to draw the conclusion that their whole political edifice is built upon a perpetually shifting succession of imaginative falsehoods. Such as when they tell you you’re a ‘denier’ of something — child sexual abuse or climate change, for example. They are attempting to lump you in with maniacs who think that the Holocaust didn’t take place. Denier! It has the whiff of Salem about it, that particular accusation, and flung about simply because some people doubt the efficacy of wind farms or think we might be overdoing the old Operation Yewtree stuff.
Or there’s ‘you’re on the wrong side of history’, as if history was a living and deeply moral entity, a bit like God, except more understanding about transgenderism, and He definitely hates you for your views. And so you come to spot the leftie by these chimeric and virtually meaningless terms and, as they are speaking, you begin to tune out, turn off the radio or TV or leave the room as they witter on and on, having excreted one of these noisome linguistic turds somewhere in their rambling analysis of why Brexit, Farage, Trump and Theresa May are evil — an immediate indicator of their idiocy or dishonesty, or both.
There are a couple of new ones I’ve heard during the discussions about our National Health Service, and in particular Accident and Emergency departments. The first is hyphen-shaming. They use that a lot, the left. Fat-shaming, for example, is taking the view that hulking, sweating, northern lardbuckets waddling from KFC to Maccy Ds are somehow at least partly to blame for their own discomfort and early deaths. No, you fascist, it is an illness, and they are not to blame at all. You have been fat-shaming. Within the NHS debate, the variant they use is ‘patient-shaming’. So if you attempt to point out that one of the many problems faced by A&E is the profusion of people who turn up who should not be there at all because there is next to nothing wrong with them — at the very least 30 per cent of those sitting on their chairs with their little tickets, desperate for the attention of a doctor — then you are not simply stating a fact accepted by almost everybody within the NHS, you are patient-shaming. I’ve heard that used twice recently, on both occasions by people who think the problems with our NHS have been occasioned exclusively by the Conservative scum who run our country and they simply will not accept that there may be any other contributory cause at all. This kind of monomania and absolutism is a serious mental affliction itself, isn’t it?
Then there’s ‘humanitarian crisis’. One of the tropes of the left is to take a phrase which once had momentous impact (such as Holocaust denier) and apply it to something entirely unsuited to the term (such as sex abuse denier). So, when the British Red Cross described the overcrowding of our hospitals this winter as a ‘humanitarian crisis’, I immediately stopped listening to what they had to say because I knew, beyond all possible doubt, that they were politically motivated halfwits out to cause trouble.
I accept that lying on a gurney for 12 hours in one of the five — five — NHS trusts that have posted quite unacceptable waiting-time figures is not pleasant, and might well endanger health. But it’s not Darfur or Rwanda, is it?
There is another thing they do, the left. The egregious sin of omission. Listening to the A&E debate on Radio 4 this week I was struck by the fact that nobody at any time mentioned that one reason why our wards might be overflowing could be the enormous levels of uncontrolled immigration foisted upon this country by successive governments. It was not mentioned at all. They ticked all the other boxes — the reduction in beds and doctors, the ageing population — but not immigration. That would be immigrant–shaming, you see. And yet it must, it must, be in there somewhere, no?
It is almost impossible to have a rational debate about the NHS, for all the reasons quoted above and several more besides. Bevan’s behemoth has become a bunker into which the Labour party retreats when everything else it says is revealed to be palpable nonsense. We will protect the NHS! And yet that imprecation, like the rest of the stuff the liberal left clings to, is an epic delusion. Even by capping incomes to £32,000 and taxing companies out of the country, Labour couldn’t sustain the NHS.
We have come to expect too much of this institution; it has become a vast mammary gland upon which we suck with greater and greater impatience and greed. A little like the benefits system, which has become a grim and corrosive parody of itself, and which many are happy to exploit endlessly because they have been taught that it is their right to do so. As I havered over the referendum last June, the thing that most made me want to vote Remain was the cry from Nigel Farage and others that every penny we save from EU membership could be diverted into the NHS. Christ, no, please, I thought. Not that vast, gaping, fathomless void. And yet to question the existence of the NHS is political suicide, because so many work for it and we think that they are angels, and the thing itself sepulchral and irreplaceable. And so stymied we muddle on, marooned on our ideological gurneys, not for 12 hours but for decades, no doctor in sight.