By Paul Halas

Our television has led a charmed life in recent weeks. Every time a Conservative minister appears behind a lectern emblazoned with “Protect the NHS” it’s a miracle the set isn’t smashed by a flying vase.

Abraham Lincoln somehow failed to mention that you can fool most of the people most of the time, but looking at the Tories’ popularity ratings that appears to be the case. Keir Starmer’s less than scintillating opposition could be a factor, but how on earth has a party that has systematically run the NHS into the ground, ignored the 2016 Cygnus Report that warned of our acute unreadiness for a respiratory virus pandemic, and followed such a flawed strategy that we now have the largest number of Covid deaths in Europe, managed to hoodwink so many? The media – with a few noble exceptions – has acted as an uncritical government mouthpiece, repeating misinformation and failing to challenge ministers for a string of failures. We truly deserve better, and regarding the NHS the government really should be held to account.

… [the government] hasn’t just taken a leaf out of Tony Blair’s book in finding a good time to bury bad news, it’s nicked the entire book.

Perhaps the most outrageous aspect of the government’s hypocrisy over “protect the NHS” is the fact that it’s still running it down while the country is in lockdown. In fact it hasn’t just taken a leaf out of Tony Blair’s book in finding a good time to bury bad news, it’s nicked the entire book. In recent weeks ministers have been using special powers to bypass normal tendering and award new contracts to private companies without competition. The Tories’ own rules are being broken!

A string of corporations, many with ties to Tory figures, are getting new business regardless of their suitability or expertise. These include Deloite, Mitie, Boots, Sodexo and Serco, and Covid data processing is now in the hands of an American organisation. All, let’s not forget, at taxpayer’s expense. Dismantling and privatisation continues unabated.

Margaret Thatcher, Nicholas Ridley, Theresa May, George Osborne, Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Jeremy Hunt, Nick Hancock, Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove, to name but a few, have all at various times stated their ideological disapproval of a state welfare system and preference for an insurance-funded private health service instead. A few thousand extra deaths aren’t going to throw that off course.Protect the NHS? They’re having a laugh. Our TV remains in a high risk category.


Paul Halas’s escape from 1970s hippidom was the discovery that he could invent stories. He spent forty years contributing to various Disney magazines and books, as well as a variety of non-Disney comics, books and animated films. His retirement from commercial writing coincided with Jeremy Corbyn becoming the Labour Party leader, which led to five years’ political activism. He left the party two years ago with a heavy heart.

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