In spite of being a rather unpleasant man, W S Gilbert was probably the finest satirical librettists this country has produced. If he were alive today, the comic opera he could have produced after the latest full meeting of Walsall Council would have been a masterpiece.
In amongst the usual stuff regarding potholes, recycled light bulbs, bus routes, footpaths, parking and the evasive drivel from cabinet members, there was an interesting Notice of Motion from the normally supine Labour group regarding reforms to the NHS. What the suddenly invigorated lefties wanted was for a majority of councillors to agree that the NHS bill currently going through the Lords is not in the best interests of patients and that the NHS should be protected and not undermined.
With the vast majority of doctors, nurses, health unions, patient groups and anyone else with an ounce of intelligence firmly opposed to Lansley`s privatisation of a service providing health care at the point of need, this does not seem to be a difficult decision for elected representatives to make. Of course, we must take out of the equation the doomed Tory group of councillors who will believe anything that Conservative (to rhyme with chive) Central Office tell them, parrot the diktat and vote as a flock against anything that remotely resembles common sense. But with the scores tied between left and right, it was down to the centre to call the tune and as the single independent councillor did not bother to turn up, that moment in the spotlight was reserved for the five Liberal Democrats. They decided to destroy the NHS.
Instead of slinking off to a dark, quiet place reserved for those that have abandoned principle, honour and promises, LibDem leader Ian Shires came out fighting. Imagine, if you will, the opening of the second act of Iolanthe by Gilbert and Sullivan. Private Willis of the Grenadier Guards is on sentry duty at the palace of Westminster. He sings:
“When all night long a chap remains
On sentry-go, to chase monotony
He exercises of his brains,
That is, assuming that he’s got any.
Though never nurtured in the lap
Of luxury, yet I admonish you,
I am a intellectual chap,
And think of things that would astonish you.”
Ian Shires has certainly astonished us with some of the things he thinks. Who would have thought, for example, that the Welfare State was created by David Lloyd George in 1909 and that the “great Liberal thinker and social reformer” William Beveridge invented the NHS even as bombs were falling on Pearl Harbour? It is worth pointing out, for the sake of accuracy, that “Beverage”, as councillor Shires describes him, was not everyone’s cup of tea. He was, in fact, an economist and civil servant greatly under the influence of the Fabian Society, you know, lefties, and formulated the idea of free heath care as early as 1911. Only after serving under Churchill during the war, he moved to the centre and joined the Liberals. He served briefly as a Liberal MP for Berwick upon Tweed and was elevated to Lords as a Liberal Peer.
It is interesting that this “great Liberal thinker and social reformer” had a life-long interest in eugenics and once proposed that the state should support people who could not work on the condition that there should be a “complete and permanent loss of all citizen rights – including not only the franchise but civil freedom and fatherhood.” Hmm…nice guy for a great Liberal thinker and social reformer. Perhaps the soon to be Mr Shires is still under the influence of “Beverage” rather than Beveridge.
It seems that our LibDem leader in Walsall told us that everything is fine and not content with mangling history in the council chamber, gave us the benefit of his “impassioned speach” on his rather bizarre blog. In it, he accused the Labour group of being cynical, opportunistic and praying on the weakest in society. Fortunately there are no mirrors in the council chamber. Walsall LibDems voted to destroy the NHS.
This hypocrisy and cynical opportunism of Shires and his four chums is reflected nationally in the upper and lower houses. Millionaire Clegg is happy to increase tuition fees and scrap EMA after stating the opposite. In so doing, he has thrown his policies out of window to support a Conservative (to rhyme with chive) government. Baroness Williams, once the LibDem pin-up in the Lords, speaks fine words in public about saving the NHS, but enters the government lobby when it’s time to vote. She is now among the dead and the dying Conservative (to rhyme with chive) back benches. With a very small number of LibDems propping up an attack on human rights in Walsall and Westminster, liberalism and democracy only exist in the title of this two-faced, deceitful apology for a political party. They really are away with the fairies.
As Private Willis in Iolanthe intones:
“I often think it’s comical
Fal lal la, fal lal la
That nature often does contrive
Fal lal la la
That every boy and every gal
That’s born into the world alive
Is either a little Liberal
Or else a little Conservative.
Fal la la, fal la la
Is either a little Liberal
Or else a little Conservative.”
To rhyme with five.