IT SEEMS that the bells ringing for midnight on New Year’s Eve also marked the start of a general election campaign!
In the weeks ahead there are two basic truths to keep in mind.
The first is that everyone reading this, everyone you know and all the millions of people in this country who you don’t know will continue to have cutting-edge healthcare free at the point of delivery for the rest their lives.
The second is that anyone who thinks that this can be paid for by a country that can’t afford to pay its own way in the world is simply wrong.
We don’t run the NHS as we did when it started in 1948. But we don’t run very many things as we did in 1948.
That is because of one simple factor – progress. Both in terms of technology and attitudes, the world is a very different place, but the NHS does and will continue to provide free healthcare that is the envy of much of the world.
Why is it the envy of much of the world? It’s because much of the world doesn’t have a health service which is free at the point of delivery.
That isn’t because other countries don’t want one; it’s because most countries can’t afford one.
That is the simple but important link that some people seem not to understand.
We have a great many things in this country that are a source of pride to us and of envy to others.
We have them because a strong economy allowed us to pay for them.
There were economic problems, serious ones – if you don’t remember Mr Healey going cap in hand to the IMF then Google it – but overall economic growth paid for public services right up until the growth slowed and the gap was filled by borrowing.
With the borrowing came interest payments and soon much of the work of the economy was to provide enough to repay the debt.
And then came the crash. If you are using your money to repay interest and debt you have less to spend on yourself and a country is just the same.
If you can’t afford your debts, you’re in trouble. A country is no different. It really is straightforward – a modern free health service needs a country where economic growth pays for things and doesn’t just pay off things.
Very best wishes for the New Year,