Matt Hancock’s walk of shame
“Grimacing Aneurin Bevan retches as he is forced to eat camel penis, sheep vagina, and cow’s anus during gruesome I’m A Celebrity eating trial”, would have made a startling Daily Mail headline in the 1940s.
Substitute “Matt Hancock” for Nye and my interest wasn’t even piqued enough to watch. So jaded have I become with the tawdry lightweights that populate Westminster, I translated the headline to: “Grubby Little Man Does Grubby Little Thing” and carried on with my day.
It’s 25 years since William Hague was accused of demeaning the office of Leader of the Opposition because he allowed himself to be photographed wearing a baseball cap on a log flume. Tellingly, as it turned out, he was pictured at the top of the log flume, having innocently chugged up there from a world that still knew shame.
Was the fall of Rome like this? Were underpaid Centurions further burdened with tedious news of Nero’s exploits in the vomitorium when all they wanted to know was whether they could afford the bill for the underfloor heating they now regretted inventing?
Dismally, much of the press has contrived to confect a moral debate over whether the TV show is the right setting for the former Secretary of State for Health to issue an apology to the nation for his conduct during the worst pandemic since the Spanish Flu.
How awry does your compass need to have got if you are even considering the possibility that Boy George might be an appropriate confessor for everything that went on during Mr. Hancock’s stewardship of a national tragedy?
As he munches his way to four hundred grand, it will be interesting to see what thoughts Hancock has about the planned nurses’ strike.
If you are encumbered with friends or relatives who are blanching at the nurses’ 17% pay demand, I can recommend a jolly little game where you get to adopt the crass, reductive stance so beloved of Tories and turn it back on them.
‘17% is ridiculous, the country can’t afford it.’
‘You believe in the free market, right?’
‘Yes, I have Milton Friedman’s face tattooed on all my children’s arms.’
‘Well, there’s a shortage of 40 000 nurses. What happens to the price of something when it’s in short supply?’
You can further twist the knife thusly…
‘But there might be a way to make up the shortage quickly…’
‘I knew it, the free market never advantages public sector workers!’
‘Yes, all you have to do is reverse your immigration rules.’
There, in a nutshell, is the hypocrisy of Brexit orthodoxy laid bare. Subtracting thousands of overseas workers would, we were told, cause wages to rise. Now, here we are in that exact scenario and anybody wanting a higher wage is accused of fuelling inflation.
‘Our NHS’ was the supposed beneficiary of a process that has seen it stripped of its overseas workforce whilst those remaining watch both major parties deny the market reality of their pay demand.
The NHS that was plastered on Boris Johnson’s bus is purely conceptual. Like Paddington Bear or James Bond, it exists as an emotional touchstone to be invoked whenever it is expedient to manipulate the electorate.
The actual NHS, as experienced by those who work in it or are treated by it, is as remote from what they had us banging pots for as performative memorialising at the Cenotaph is from a Flanders trench.
As people wait for days in A&E departments and are advised to take taxis rather than wait for ambulances, we must be clear-eyed about who is responsible for their suffering.
The usual suspects will be wheeled out: the Civil Service, NHS managers, diversity programmes etc. will all take a ritual shellacking from those with a vested interest in defending the state of the UK as it stands.
Historically, nurses have been immune to direct criticism from government, owing to the respect they command amongst the electorate.
We used to say that about miners, though, and a little government disinformation goes a long way.
Enjoy the spectacle of Hancock eating the nether regions of exotic animals in the jungle.
Forcing him to do it is the nearest thing we have to accountability.
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