Two adjacent thoughts.
First up: Jeff Zeleny’s piece in the New York Times, wondering what happened to that slick Obama machine:
As the health care debate intensifies, the president is turning to his grass-roots network — the 13 million members of Organizing for America — for support.
Mr. Obama engendered such passion last year that his allies believed they were on the verge of creating a movement that could be mobilized again. But if a week’s worth of events are any measure here in Iowa, it may not be so easy to reignite the machine that overwhelmed Republicans a year ago.
Well, Malcolm assures you, Jeff: it may not have dynamised the grass-roots in Iowa, but — sure as hell — it’s got the liberal consciences here in the UK up-and-running.
So, second thought: what hit the [London] Times today? Just yesterday, the thunder came from the Right:
The deficiencies of what the Americans call “socialised medicine” are amply exhibited by the NHS. Four-month waits for treatment and limited patient choice are no great cause for British patriotism. The problems with the NHS are all the more stark when they are contrasted with the best of American healthcare. The better insurance plans provide an unmatched rapidity of response and quality of care. The teaching hospitals at American universities lead the world in research and development.
That could have been lifted from a (uniquely literate) briefing by the US healthcare/ health insurer lobby.
“Four-month waits” are nothing that Malcolm can recognise. His appointment, arranged last Tuesday, is four-weeks away — and that’s for non-urgent audiology. His sister-in-law, who was an urgent case, entered one of the best hospitals in the UK within hours of first diagnosis. Several CAT-scans, biopsies, and two major four-hour operations later she is home, has received, and will receive no demand for her credit card, no bill.
The week ended with an exchange of views between David Cameron and Daniel Hannan, MEP, who used an appearance on American television to set out why he thought Republicans were right to use the NHS as a stick with which to beat President Obama’s reform plans. Mr Cameron was quick to dismiss Mr Hannan as “eccentric” and added his own obligatory profession of love for the health service. But Mr Hannan cannot be so lightly tossed aside. There is a serious argument to be had about the future of healthcare that politicians of all parties are keen to avoid. But, more than that, Mr Hannan’s view, that the NHS was “a 60-year mistake”, exposes a political flank that Andrew Lansley, the Shadow Health Secretary, has been keen to protect.
That looks as if the heart of the Times is still way out there on the unreconstructed Right. The article is entitled The New Progressive Agenda; which the Times reckons it’s a recipe for future Tory “tensions”. As Sue, the band-leader in Some Like It Hot, with her broadest wink, almost says: “… and the Times intends to keep it that way”.
And yet, we turn to the main Opinion page (page 21) to find Cameron well and truly dissed by a cartoon, which has a sniff of a Gerald Scarfe but is “Bunday on Saturday” (right). Then the humdinger: Janice Turner (significantly, a recruit a few years back from The Guardian, to add some empathy to “women’s issues”). Turner blasts away:
America has no right to speak ill of our NHS
Free healthcare is the mark of a civilised society. It is the one principle that unites British politicians across the spectrum
Well, that puts Dan Hannan neatly outside the spectrum.
Out here, where Malcolm occupies his perch on the left, it has been a good week. For the first time in a long while, the focus has shifted to the inconsistencies and aching voids in what has been allowed to go as Tory “thinking”.
If that’s just one week of Mandelson: