For the past eight years, the Conservative governments of David Cameron and Theresa May have received high levels of criticism and scrutiny over cuts to the National Health Service. Although real healthcare spending has increased year on year, there is a fair argument to be made that expenditure has not risen at a fast enough rate to meet with growing demand.
It is also fair to observe that the NHS has struggled recently in certain areas. Waiting times increasing, junior doctors striking, and patients being left on beds in ward corridors are just a few examples of where things have gone very wrong.
The left, however, chose to solely blame the actions of the Conservative government and failed to consider the fact that the NHS itself may be a fundamentally flawed system. Even in the New Labour years of massive increases in spending, the NHS was still ranked lower than many other healthcare systems in developed countries, most of which have universal healthcare provided through a social insurance system.
The NHS is unique in the fact that it is funded entirely by the taxpayer. Very few countries have a system like the United Kingdom as most conclude that it is not a desirable model. Most opt for systems that maintain the universal element of healthcare, due to a government safety net, but achieve substantially better outcomes due to the increased role of the market.
What this shows is that the left was originally wrong to blame the problems in the healthcare sector solely on the Conservative government, since the system itself has fundamental flaws which have been ignored due to its sacred cow status. The hypocrisy does not end there though.
In what was quite a surprising development, Theresa May recently announced a £20bn boost to the NHS. Such a figure would see the healthcare system receive its greatest spending increase in years and much more than the amount that Jeremy Corbyn promised in his 2017 general election manifesto.
The attack on the government’s healthcare policy prior to this announcement was based on the argument that negative trends in the NHS are the government’s fault and have little to do with fundamental problems inherent to the system. You could, therefore, safely assume that leftists believe it is the responsibility of the government to fix any problems.
Yet this logic has now been completely abandoned by the left, a group of people who are completely unwilling to admit that a Conservative politician could reform the NHS for the better.
This hypocrisy was best displayed in Monday’s Guardian, which read: “NHS to outline plan to save half a million lives”. Notice the very subtle language change: past headlines would never have read “NHS outlines plan to cut back on spending”, or “NHS fails to deal with junior doctor strike”, they would instead shift the blame on Theresa May, David Cameron, Jeremy Hunt, or any other relevant Conservative scapegoat.
The previous idea that changes to the healthcare system are the responsibility of the government has smoothly transitioned to the idea that changes to the healthcare system are fundamentally the responsibility of the system itself. And the reason for this? It is all because it doesn’t suit the left’s narrative to admit that Conservative healthcare policy may just prove beneficial – no matter how big or small the change.
This tribal approach to politics is extremely tiresome, but above all it is harmful. I am a card-holding Conservative and I will happily criticise my party when I believe it is making a mistake. For example, I do not believe that universal credit is a good system. I am also open to complimenting Labour on its more positive policies; such as proposals to reform the House of Lords.
My point is that media outlets and politicos need to stop looking at every political issue from a purely partisan perspective. Because if this continues, our political system will simply become more polarised and opportunity for positive change may be missed.
Criticise your enemies all you like, but do so fairly, with consistency and integrity. If this attitude becomes widespread, I assure you that our political system will become far more productive than it is in its current form.