Alex Massie

The Outrage is What Isn’t Seen as Outrageous

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Terrific Nick Cohen column today, decrying the feebleness of a new ITV political satire show that oh-so courageously portrays Gordon Brown as some sort of Scottish miser. The truth, of course, is quite different:

Brown couldn't be further from a Dickensian miser if he tried. For 10 years, he has thrown other people's money around with the abandon of a Roman emperor or Renaissance pope..

Try a thought experiment and suppose they had more confidence in themselves and their viewers and decided to deride Brown's Britain intelligently. They might then have looked at the NHS, which Labour promised to save in 1997. In fairness, it has all but doubled the health budget in real terms to £97bn, brought down waiting lists and built new hospitals. But the waste has been out of all proportion to the gains. As Craig points out in his most depressing chapter, the number of managers has doubled to 40,000. They are paid lavish salaries, even though they are so incapable of doing their jobs they need to spend £600m a year on management consultants to hold their hands and tell them what to do. Further down the hierarchy, New Labour struck an incredible bargain with GPs: the taxpayer gave the doctors a 60 per cent pay rise in return for the doctors working fewer hours. What funds were left, the Department of Health then decided to pump into a grandiose computerisation programme that every independent expert on information technology says will never work.

As the money flowed to the professional classes, hospitals became death traps. Rates of MRSA and C diff rose far in excess of any other European country. The highest estimate of avoidable deaths in its hospitals NHS admitted to in 2006 was 34,000. To put that in perspective, the United Nations estimated that in 2006, 35,000 died in the civil war in Iraq.

None of the quangos New Labour has set up to regulate in the public interest, such as the Health Protection Agency (annual cost £252m) or the National Patient Safety Agency (average salary £55,200), pointed out that while spending an extra £269bn on the NHS since 1997, Labour has presided over a sharp cutback in the number of hospital beds...

Truly 'unforgiving' writers wouldn't show Brown as a reassuringly old-fashioned pillar of the kirk, but as a demented spendthrift who stuffed the pockets of bureaucrats, IT salesmen, management consultants and hospital consultants while the patients whose money he had taken lay in NHS beds slowly dying in pools of their own excrement.

But that would be satire with 'real bite,' and you are not going to see it on mainstream television.


Of course, the Tories complaint (like that of the SNP in Scotland) is that Labour hasn't been spending enough.

[via Mr Worstall]

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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