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A heretic speaks, the mob… cheers?

“Boris Johnson will be branded a Covid serial killer but no one will lay a glove on our bloated NHS”, writes Jeremy Clarkson in the Sunday Times.

Jeremy Clarkson that Jeremy Clarkson – is rich and famous and has a well-established persona as an opinionated loudmouth. He can get away with saying things that the ordinary man or woman could not get away with. Nonetheless, I wonder if he did not take a swig of liquid courage before typing this heresy:

All those things contributed to our high death toll, but none to quite the extent of the biggest problem. And this certainly won’t be raised in the inquiry. That the NHS is useless.

Oh I know you’re all flying those rainbow flags and that every night last year you went out and banged your saucepans together. So you don’t want to hear it. But you were clapping a big, stupid, expensive monster.

I’m not talking about the doctors and the nurses, of course. Many of them are far from useless. But the organisation they work for? Dear God in heaven, it’s so far past its sell-by date, you’d die from taking a single whiff of it.

The problem is simple. Unlike every successful entity, it does not exist to make money. It exists to spend it.

If he did, he didn’t have to. The Times commenters loved it. Here are the first sentences of the most recommended comments:

“Bullseye Mr Clarkson, and whilst the vast majority of care staff are acceptable, good or excellent, there is a significant minority who shouldn’t be in the job. Laziness being the main problem.”

“You are omitting the elephant in the room – hospital hygiene.”

“Clarkson is spot on. Abolish the NHS, it’s useless.”

“Nailed it. My heart sank the other day when I saw a survey which suggested that the NHS was the thing which made most Britons most proud.”

“JC is spot on. The NHS is a sacred cow and no politician would dare to challenge its behemoth incompetence as they’d be unelectable.”

“As a doctor of over 25 years I can sadly recognise this theme. The are a whole raft of people I work with that I can’t help but think “if their job didn’t exist it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference”.”

As ever, remember that Times commenters are not representative of the nation. They are not even representative of Times readers. But I do not think you would have seen that response from Times commenters to the opinion that the National Health Service is a “big, stupid, expensive monster” before the pandemic.

By the way, many of the comments go out of their way to express gratitude to NHS staff, and several of them say that the vaccine rollout has shown the NHS at its best. But in all the praise there is something reminiscent of the way Britons spoke of the British Empire in 1945. The Empire’s extent was never greater than in the year of victory. But they knew in their hearts it had to go.

13 comments to A heretic speaks, the mob… cheers?

  • The Times? (For the benefit of our transatlantic readers) that would be the remainer/remoaner paper? That would be Sir Humphhrey Appelby’s preferred paper?

    Times commenters are not representative of the nation. They are not even representative of Times readers.

    Indeed not; I don’t think the Brexitref would have won if only Times’ commenters had been eligible to vote.

    One caveat: Guido’s “seen elsewhere” list of today included Clarkson’s article. That could affect who comments. Maybe some regular Times’ comment readers are getting a useful broadening of their idea of ‘accepted’ opinion.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    You may be right that Guido’s heads-up has prompted extra comments from Times readers who are also Guido readers, and who without Guido might perhaps have sailed past Clarkson’s column because they don’t usually go for his petrolhead schtick. But don’t forget that only those Times readers with a paid subscription can comment on its website. So almost all the commenters had to come from the existing pool; the number who were prompted to sign up by that Guido mention might not be zero but is unlikely to be large.

    Edit: Also don’t forget – as I did throughout this post – that it is not the Times proper but the editorially separate Sunday Times.

  • Alexander Tertius Harvey

    The NHS needs to be replaced by a national health system that actually works. Alas, I can see no reform of the NHS that will bring this about. It needs replacing ab initio.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Cattalaxy is an Australian libertarian website, and they often comment that of all the national health services, if you feel you have to have one, then Australia’s is the best. Perhaps you could do a survey around the world, and see how good or bad each service is?

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    I meant ‘Catallaxy’ as in catallaxy Files, in your Commentary section.

  • John B

    Few know that prior to the 1911 National Insurance Act, 75% of the UK population had private health insurance via a network of mutual, friendly societies, community and trades Union plans – also available were unemployment and sickness plans. All that was swept away for purely political reasons.

    In 1948 the NHS just took over what already existed; it had mostly done that during the War, and in fact didn’t build its first hospital until 1963.

    In other words it’s a con, brainwashing, that there would be no medical care without the NHS and most people would not be able to afford care. A medical service was already there pre-NHS and people could afford it.

    The NHS is a cost centre. Absent revenue and profit, it cannot attract private investment, nor is there any accurate means to assess labour productivity or efficiency. Without a price system and free competition, consumers have no way to determine if they are getting value for money, nor able to make choices, all of which, as elsewhere in a free market, drives prices down and quality up, and encourages innovation.

    Government deadbeats out of one side of their mouths tell us monopolies are bad for consumers and break them up, then out the other side of their mouths say monopolies are the best thing for consumers – as long as they are running them of course.

  • Alexander Tertius Harvey

    Having lived in Australia, I agree with Catallaxy – the main downside is that under the Australian federal system, health is supposedly a state function. But the Commonwealth (i.e. federal entity) runs the Medicare system – so there is a deal of bureaucratic overlap and churning. Their tax concessions for, and incentives to, take out private health insurance are a good first stage.

  • Paul Marks

    Early Treatment for people in vulnerable groups is the key point about Covid 19.

    Early Treatment with a combination of long standing medications can save about 80% of the people who, otherwise, die from the disease – this has been pointed out for a very long time now by many medical doctors (and some academics as well – including from such universities as Yale) and I have no patience left with the TINET (“There Is No Early Treatment”) forces.

    Does the NHS practice Early Treatment? No it does not – but then neither does a lot of the Corporate medicine in the United States and elsewhere. So it is not a matter of “government bad, private corporations good”.

    The constant SMEARING of Early Treatment in the United States continued even after the United States Senate hearings, conducted by then Committee Chairman Senator Ron Johnson, exposed the lies against Early Treatment by the establishment.

    Hard to blame the very distressing American situation on the NHS – not that I am saying the NHS did any better (it most certainly did not).

    By the way, even keeping up Vitamin D3 levels is not stressed – not in the United Kingdom or the United States.

    The general behaviour of the international establishment in relation to Covid 19 has been terrible. There has been disinterest in curing individual patients – and a massive “Public Health – Public Policy” push to use the virus as a justification for long standing plans – drawn up before the pandemic (not in response to it). The reaction to the virus should have been “how do we cure the sick” not “how do we use this to push our political agenda”.

    Regardless of the origins of the virus (and this may have been an ACCIDENT rather than a deliberate release from the Wuhan research establishment) – the reaction to the virus by the international establishment has been criminal.

  • Paul Marks

    The main Covid 19 health policy in Australia, as in Taiwan and New Zealand and some other countries, has been to try and KEEP OUT the virus.

    To be fair to the British NHS they are not responsible for the decision in very early 2020 to NOT close the borders of the United Kingdom – indeed even after the “lockdown” of March 2020 the borders remained open. The mocking statement of the time being “pubs shut – borders open”.

    Policy in the United Kingdom was utterly baffling, although very early in 2020 the World Health Organisation was engaged in a disinformation campaign (ordered by the People’s Republic of China CCP dictatorship) to try and convince countries that the virus was no real problem – and that they should keep their borders open. Dr Fauci was busy on television saying that there was very little chance the virus would spread to the United States.

    Sadly there is very little chance that Dr Fauci, Peter Daszak and others will face any serious consequences for what they have done – indeed Dr Fauci is presented as hero figure by the Corporate Media.

  • DP

    Dear Miss Solent

    “As a doctor of over 25 years I can sadly recognise this theme. The are a whole raft of people I work with that I can’t help but think “if their job didn’t exist it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference”.”

    It’s worse than that; in some instances, it would make a blind bit of difference because the existence of the job is damaging to patient care.

    When asked if I was allergic to anything, I replied “government and bureaucrats”, the doctor responded “I have the same problem with managers”.

    I recall an incident about 20 years ago when a surgeon was suspended and operations cancelled for numerous patients over a matter of a few croutons in the hospital canteen.

    That was a bureaucratic decision made by someone who perhaps had an inflated opinion of his role in the NHS.


  • Lee Moore

    When asked if I was allergic to anything, I replied “government and bureaucrats”, the doctor responded “I have the same problem with managers”.

    And yet….I have an American friend who is a sole practioner doctor. She is the “girliest” girl imaginable – she needs compliments about her appearace like the rest of us need oxygen, any sign that anyone doesn’t like her provokes tears; she’s like a small bouncy dog, desperate to make friends. Conflict terrifies her, so she’s put up with a useless bad tempered receptionist for years because she can’t face firing her. Her political views are inhaled from CNN, with no processing by the cortex at all (though she must have a cortex, to become a doc.)

    When Obamacare came in, she was delighted by all the emoticons that CNN implanted in her head. But then came all sorts of extra rules and regs, some imposed by Obamacare directly, some imposed by insurance companies but indirectly from Obamacare. She weeps at the extra work imposed by having to do electronic records – so much that she gets to spend less time actually doctoring actual patients, which is what she enjoys and why she went into medicine in the first place. What’s more her cortex knows all this extra admin and non medical c**p comes from Obamacare.

    But the cortex does not connect the wonderful caring loving expansion of healthcare that her CNN brain worships, and the reality of a giant bureaucratic morass that she encounters each morning, and which reduces the number of hours she actualy spends providing healthcare. It’s like a gear that keeps slipping its notch. The rational brain knows what’s happening, but when it feeds into the emotional brain, the gear slips, and the emotional brain just chugs on, loving its torturer.

    Some people do not recognise their own doom. They cheer it on.

  • Lee Moore

    That was a bureaucratic decision made by someone who perhaps had an inflated opinion of his role in the NHS.

    The fact is that a proportion of humanity lives for the joy of exercising power over other people. It’s not that such folk in the NHS have particularly clear or firm views on how health services in West Barsetshire should be delivered, it’s simply that a post in the administration of the West Barsetshire NHS provides the opportunity to exercise power over other people.

    Folk whose personalities encompass different dopamine addictions – eg lust, gluttony etc – are not particularly attracted to jobs of the “yippee ! I get to order you about !” type. Consequently it is not surprising if those who finish up in positions where they can indulge their enjoyment of power over you, are more often than not of the pocket Napoleon personality type. (The Harveys and Jeffreys of this world do not seek power for power’s sake, they seek power lust’s sake. Not the same vice.)

    The fundamental socio-political consequence of all this is inescapable. The bossy-boots, like the poor, will always be with us. Aside from all the extra stuff that capitalism provides, one of its greatest and most benificent glories is that capitalism provides roles for incipient megalomaniacs and pullers of legs off spiders in which their desire to exercise power over others is much less harmful than in non capitalistic polities.

    I may have mentioned before, that once, in the line of business, I met a couple of very senior fellows in the Disney Corporation, and I had not enjoyed their company for more than five minutes, than I could focus on little else than that they were both precisely my idea of what a Gauleiter or Commissar would be like. Except that the domain in which they indulged their lust for power was the production of cartoons. Certainly there were humans who felt the lash of their tongues, their bullying and intimidation. But how wonderful capitalism was that their domain was a cartoon Empire, which unhappy humans could walk straight out of, rather than an actual captive population, from which there was no escape.

    I have always felt that this should be part of the banner advertising for capitalism :


  • Paul Marks

    Lee Moore – there are a lot of people like the one you describe (although perhaps not so extreme in their behaviour – and a lot are men).

    In one part of their brain they know something does not work – but they go along with it because they assume it has good intentions.

    I my case I both know that various things are harmful and have BAD intentions – but there is nothing I can do about it.