Monday, 22 January 2018

Doubling down on the lies

Apparently, Goebbels never actually said that "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”, although he’s frequently quoted as having done so.  It seems that he believed that truth made for better propaganda.  He did, though, write this: "The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous." 
It is, of course, unfair to smear a whole nation in such a way, but that doesn’t mean that one can’t find individuals who fit the bill.  Boris Johnson, for example.  The infamous slogan on the side of that big bus has been debunked time and time again, but Boris is like the arsonist who cannot help returning to the scene of his crime.  Last week, he told us that the figure was indeed wrong – it should have been higher.  But then, looking ridiculous is nothing new to Boris, especially if he has some union flags to wave at the same time.
There are, at least, some Tories who seem to have enough honesty to be at least a little embarrassed by such misleading claims.  The Maldwyn MP, Glyn Davies, repeated at the weekend his previous suggestion “Let’s agree to invest £350 million per week more into health and social care” as a means of lancing the damaging sore which the inflated claim has caused.
I don’t know whether that would work or not; it might, but it would also undermine the claim that we can’t find the money for the NHS if we want to, a claim which is central to the government’s policy.  Glyn Davies claims that it would ‘shoot the fox’; but it seems to me it would also be shooting both his government (and himself) in the foot by exposing the other great lie, which is about government finances and what is possible within them – which is why the government is unlikely to follow his advice, preferring to twist in the wind as the bus promise continues to haunt them all.
He starts his piece by saying “The stark reality is that it will never be possible for the NHS to meet the demands of a growing population, an aging population, and the irresistible costly advance of clinical science.” which is a wholly unevidenced assertion based on his, and his party’s, own priors about levels of spending and taxation.  The claim that the government can and should simply add £350 million a week to the NHS budget with no attempt to identify the source of such funds is enough to fatally undermine the assertion.
We can have the health service we want, with or without Brexit (although it’s probably easier without Brexit given the likely damage to overall government finances in the first few years after leaving the EU).  It is ideology, not economics, which prevents that.  Repeated often enough, the big lie that it can’t be done will also end up making the liars look ridiculous.


Anonymous said...

But what health service do we 'want'?

Agree on this and I suspect the NHS wouldn't have half so many of the problems it appears to be facing today. Indeed, we might even find there is money we can take back from the NHS and plough into education, road repair or defence of the realm.

See, this is the problem. Just adding money to something without working out what it's for doesn't do anyone any good at all. And no amount of money going into the NHS is going to stop people getting fat or drinking too much or deciding to smoke or risking life and limb with extreme sports or whatever.

But if the population was better educated ........

John Dixon said...

"Just adding money to something without working out what it's for doesn't do anyone any good at all." Actually, I agree with that. But agreeing with that isn't the same as saying that the NHS doesn't need more money, of course; it's merely agreeing that simply throwing money at a problem without first deciding what we are trying to achieve is an expensive way of failing to solve a problem.

The key, as you say, is "what health service do we 'want'?" In the interests of keeping posts shortish and dealing with only one issue at a time, I haven't even touched on that in this post, because it isn't the point that I wanted to make. That might sound like a cop-out, but perhaps I'll come back to it in another future post. The point of this post was simply that saying 'we can't afford it' is as big a lie as saying that there is £350 million a week available after Brexit. That just isn't the way government finances work.

Penderyn said...

An ideal health service, one which offerstangible benefits, would be a health services that focusses equally on prevention as well as cure.
That would be educating the population as to what constitutes a healthy lifestyle, to mitigate for example issues that are proven to hand in hand with obesity: diabetes, joint replacement, heart problems etc.

By encouraging people to get more exercise (also by means of extrinsic motivation through sports clubs, employers etc), to eat more healthy, reduce alcohol and smoking. All pretty obvious and all have been tackled previously, albeit half-hearted.

On the other hand, the pharma industry has a strong lobby, and has no interest in having a healthy population. Sick people need medication, medication produced and sold by the pharma industry.

Therefore appropriate regulation is required by our government. Who are lobbied by the pharma industry, who are sitting on health boards and being pandered to by the pharma industry.

It is a vicious circle. And one that can only be broken if the will is there.

Nevertheless, the prevention measures can be paid for out of the savings made from the curative measures. And as the health system is paid for by all the population, those who insist on maintaining an unhealthy lifestyle are ultimately behaving anti-socially, and must therefore reckon with reduced services.

Spirit of BME said...

I must endorse Penderyn `s statements, in fact the architects of the NHS believed that when the “nations health” had been cured of the illnesses of poverty and deprivation, the service would shrink. My father told me that the unwritten fundamental on its launch was that people would be mindful of their health, actions and behaviour in order to limit the call on the public purse. Fat chance of this happening today, as politician over the decades have raised expectations of this service to gain power, without considering the financial burden. This cash eating machine cries for more money every year – the higher management are quite brilliant at it and hold politicians to ransom each time, as they pull on the emotional strings.
Politicians of all parties lack the cojones to expose the myths of this failing model, but as I have said before more cash is the last thing it requires, but if the UK and Wales had stayed in the EU there would have been a chance that it would be radically reformed on the German/French models.

John Dixon said...


"...the architects of the NHS believed that when the “nations health” had been cured of the illnesses of poverty and deprivation..." and for all the gains in relative terms, the eradication of these particular illnesses is still some way off.

"...more cash is the last thing it requires..." On that, we don't agree. Short term, that is exactly what is required, although how much is a 'known unknown'. And the government can make that cash available anytime that it eants to; the problem is that it really doesn't want to. But if you'd said that short term cash alone is not enough, we'd be in agreement.