When Air Force One landed at Stansted airport last night, it can be safe to say that Britain’s health service wasn’t at the top of the US President’s agenda.
Yet, arriving in London for a meeting this week with NATO leaders, President Trump – POTUS (President of the United States, y’all) – is being welcomed by protestors convinced that he is on a mission to “privatise” “Our NHS”. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also, it seems, written him a wish list which includes – unsurprisingly – vague demands about “privatisation” and – surprisingly – a sensible but impossible request for NHS data to remain off limits.
I’m not sure what Magic Grandpa’s other Christmas letter – you know, the one to you know who – says and I don’t know if he’s been naughty or nice. It’s not for me to say.
It’s probably safe to say, though, that the President won’t take much notice of either letter – and nor should he. Chances are – and I could be wrong – that he and his advisers might be occupied instead with, uh, the odd geopolitical matter, global security, the domestic US agenda and other, erm, Presidential issues.
Or maybe not.
Because in the popular dialectic, President Trump would have been sat on Air Force One playing the video game Call of Duty on his X-box, chucking M&M’s into his selfish orange face as he climate-changed his selfish orange way onto the runway at Stansted airport in front of a morally impeccable carbon-neutral flight to Fantasia, with the specific intent to squeeze every last cent out of taxpayers who have no choice in any case but to pay for Anna from Acton who needs a hip replacement or Ruby from Redcar who has cataracts.
There he sat, no doubt, spurting between big handfuls of M&Ms (probably orange ones): “China? Small beans. Russia? In the bag. Israel-Palestine? Sorted. Afghanistan? Who cares. Yemen? Whatever. Somalia? Old news. Global security? Meh. Energy? Immigration? Duh. NATO? Cheapskates. Trade wars in Latin America? Yawn. Space? I thought we’d done that. Impeachment? Fake news.
“But wait! What’s that you say? A small island that that has a public health service that is politically impossible to ‘privatise’ – at least in the next 100 years? Now you’re talking! Let me get my teeth into that tiny hot dog! Tell China, North Korea and Russia they can all wait their turn. Yip, tell them they’ll have to wait, like those Brits do in the NH – what was it again? – S. Yip. They’ll have to wait.”
Except. President Trump probably didn’t spill his M&Ms, probably wasn’t playing Call of Duty, nor, I doubt, is he possessed by a demonic calling to “privatise” something that barely comes onto his radar.
Believe it or not, but the President of the USA – and that could be Mr Trump, Mr Cruz, Mr Obama, Mr Biden or Mr Bloomberg or, well, anyone else – has much more on his mind than Britain’s health service, or any other country’s come to that.
Yes, he’s spoken about the NHS before – once calling it “broke and not working” and another time a “great system”.
Naturally, POTUS has been slated for, apparently, contradicting himself. In any case, when he was pressed on the issue this morning, President Trump said he wouldn’t take the NHS “even if it was offered on a silver platter”.
Not that you would know it from the noise being made here in Britain.
Because, yes, protestors are out once again, attacking the President for his supposed maniacal, psychoneurotic desire to “privatise” the NHS.
It’s all a matter of perspective, of course. People care about the NHS because they’ve had babies there, they’ve had their cancer cured there and it has helped their relatives to die in as much comfort as possible.
Bizarrely, they also care about the NHS because they have also waited in A&E for four hours when they could have just taken a paracetamol and wasted countless hours of GP appointments they didn’t turn up for.
And then there are some that profess to love the NHS so much that they often go the extra mile and punch a female paramedic in the face after a Christmas Party.
But the President’s visit and the imminent general election in Britain – please make it all stop – has exposed, again, the elephant in the room.
In Britain, today, there is no genuine mention of funding and delivering healthcare in a different way.
In the pre-election playground scuffles, there has barely been a mention of looking at the other Western countries that have different healthcare systems and yet have better outcomes than the UK.
It would be silly, of course, to suggest that US healthcare and Big Pharma don’t have an eye on healthcare in the UK.
Equally, the big tech companies – tying up with insurers and pharma – are coming. Ironically, most NHS acolytes will be eagerly unwrapping their Christmas smartphones, smartwatches, tablets and Amazon deliveries, before happily supplying their data to the agents of POTUS that are, so we’re told, on a mission to destroy the NHS and kill us all.
Who knows where this obsession with the “NHS/USA” came from. A myriad of private companies from other countries – Australia, South Africa and nations within the EU for a start – all profit more from supplying products and services to the NHS than US companies currently do.
But I suppose President Trump is a more convenient punchbag to bash than President or Prime Minister Whatevertheirnameis from South Africa, Australia and, erm, Belgium or wherever.
In any case, as Air Force One takes off again, the NHS will still keep stumbling around the ring like a heavyweight boxer past his best.
It will still be a “great system” that is “not working”. It might – after the mines-bigger-than-yours cash pledges by all political parties – be a little bit less “broke”. But probably not.
One thing is for sure though. It will be – as ever – up to the private healthcare sector and the health insurance and protection industry and their customers to fill the gaps that it leaves.
And it will be – as ever – the private healthcare sector and the health insurance and protection industry and their customers that get taxed, but not thanked, for doing so.