Struggling financiers in full battle regalia at CBI annual dinner
This week readers, I bring you a tale of great heroism, a tale to inspire and refresh the tired heart. The story begins in sadness and suffering among the small percentage of private individuals and organisations who control most of society’s resources. The block of money controlled by the government, that is, the tax take, had always caused them great pain. It is true that the money people take back control of many parts of it – much of the military budget for example, increasingly even the welfare budget. But something was still causing them an enormous amount of distress: the NHS budget.
Because the NHS budget was big. Very big. It was a big pot of gold they had no access to, save for the 10% of it going to pharmaceutical companies. 90% of a big pot of gold out of their reach was an unbelievable, horrendous ordeal for them, a nightmare scenario of a wealth redistribution mechanism that did not favour them.
People, we can barely imagine what they suffered. It’s true that a higher and higher percentage of government budgets was going to the money people through PFI, through outsourcing, through consultancy, and through corrupt and incompetent procurement procedures. This was some small comfort to them, but there was still that big pot of gold, still tempting them, still untouchable. The pain! The agony! How they must have tossed and turned at night! Pray that you never experience such suffering.
But this is a tale of heroism, and I can tell you that those money people did not give up. The odds were stacked against them, but they had a few things on their side: hundreds of millions of pounds with which to buy governments, hundred-thousand-pound-a-year sinecures to offer politicians on retirement, and the global triumph of an ideology that explicitly favoured profit-making over public service. With nothing but these meagre tools the money people fought and fought for their rightful share of the pie – that is to say, all of it. It was hard work, it was slow work, and the public mood was initially against dismantling the NHS, but they did not get downhearted, their lobbyists worked ceaselessly and their PR people fought the NHS through insurgent media organisations who backed them.
One day, after great struggles waged in society’s darkest places – high-end restaurants, politicians bank accounts, the national media, the social network of similarly-minded people who hold most of the wealth and power – the money people finally got what they had longed for through all their long years of suffering: a government whose sole political mission was redistributing money from ordinary people to them. The money that had for so long been distributed through the NHS could now return to the hands of its rightful owners: those who already held most of it.
Against all the odds, the money people and their agents the private health companies had achieved their dream. Their agony was ended. Within months the government began re-organising the NHS as a channel to move taxpayers money into profit-making organisations. So complete was the triumph of the underdogs that no party in the country saw fit to oppose them.
Those who fought this bitter battle, its grimmest days thankfully in the past, have reached some level of contentment now. Their dogged determination in the face of a national consensus on the value of the NHS stands as an inspiration to us all. To anyone else who suffers like they did, they offer humble words of advice: be rich already, know the right people, buy the right people, and one day – however dark things seem right now – everything will go your way.