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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

And take us back again, Comrade Gordon

Britain’s worst-kept secret is now out in the very public domain. Chancellor Gordon Brown announced his annual budget today and, as widely-expected, has hiked up National Insurance (a type of payroll tax) in order to increase funding of the National Health Service.

This was called the ‘Budget For Health’ by the government. Whose health? Certainly not the health of the economy. The business sector will have to stump up a whopping £3.9 billion a year more in taxes in a desperate attempt by the government to placate its public sector supporters and defer the dark day when the NHS simply collapses.

And it probably will collapse in due course. The NHS is Britain’s version of Yasser Arafat; an odious, Soviet-inspired monstrosity that has caused countless deaths and yet is mysteriously exempt from anything even approaching a critical word. Its status among the British is that of Sacred Cow, nay Red Heiffer. It is the Holy of Holies, the state of which is the barometer by which every government is finally judged. It is hardly a surprise that the press roundly trumpets opinion poll results which overwhelmingly endorse tax rises to improve the NHS when an answer in the negative is probably more outrageous than supporting legalised child-prostitution. The left never miss an opportunity to hector the British public with the admonition that, if they want improved health care, they have to pay for it. I agree, of course. I just think they should cut out the middle-man.

But the cracks have been showing of late. Too many people have been travelling abroad for their health care treatment, forking out for private insurance or watching their elderly relatives expire on trolleys in dank state hospital corridors and you can’t keep that kind of disquiet from spreading. Everybody seems to know or sense that the NHS is crocked and beyond redemption but they are prepared to shut their eyes and wish very, very hard that the government will hose enough money at it to make it all wonderful, gleaming, efficient and keep it free.

It won’t work in the long-term or even the medium-term but the government is gambling that the massive cash boost will tide them over to the next election when they will be able to annouce that they have ‘saved’ the NHS and ensured its future as ‘the best insurance policy in the world’. On the face of it, it is a dangerous gamble. The Labour government was elected on the promise that they had put behind them, for ever, their old ‘tax and spend’ policies and it is at least pragmatic to assume that they will be judged harshly for breaking their promise without delivering.

On the other hand, it might just fool ’em by providing a glimmer of ersatz hope. It is almost impossible to underestimate the sacred status of the NHS. The faith it is has traditionally inspired may prove a strong enough medicine to anaesthetise the public’s critical faculties and enable them to go on believing in the Easter Bunny.

In the meantime, we’re all going to get poorer. Poverty is bad for your health.

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