James Forsyth

Can we have a constructive debate about the nearest thing we have to a national religion?

Can we have a constructive debate about the nearest thing we have to a national religion?
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I must admit that I find this whole NHS controversy profoundly depressing. First of all, Dan Hannan by criticising the NHS in the context of the US healthcare debate has perpetuated the idea that there are only two options, the NHS or a US-style system. But the response to Hannan has been more emotional than rational. As Liam Murray has written, many of the Twittered defences of the NHS are at the same intellectual level as the more extreme American attacks on it. Finally, Hannan, by setting off this controversy, has hardened the Tory leadership’s resolve not to say anything remotely controversial about the NHS or think about reforming it in any way.

One wonders whether we will ever be able to have a rational debate about the merits of the NHS in this country. Health inflation always run ahead of inflation and we have an ageing population, the combination of these two things mean that at some point we need to have a conversation about whether the current NHS model, and the way it is funded, is sustainable. But I fear that any attempt to talk about this will be instantly drowned out by emotional responses and shut down by politicians nervous of being on the wrong side of public opinion.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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