Saturday, July 28, 2012

Olympics Opening Ceremony Wasn't Political

Friday's Olympics Opening ceremony was a great spectacle. Many have drawn attention to the £27m price tag and suggested that such largesse could hardly fail to provide success. Well, perhaps, but then I'd point to the Millenium Dome as an example of even greater expenditure that wasn't so well received.

But the real value we get from that expenditure is derived from the international attention the ceremony gets. The whole show portrayed a positive, some might say romantic, view of Great Britain and that can only benefit us in terms of international trade and tourism. This is important at a time when the Euro Zone (which currently repesents almost 50% of our current international trade) is lurching from one crisis to another, weakening our trading opportunities. We need to build a strong brand image across the globe to make up for Europe's slump. And of course a boost to tourism in this country won't go amiss either.

Watching the ceremony on the television was very enjoyable. Normally Twitter adds an extra dimension as people share their observations either witty or critical. However, on this occasion I found it significant detracted from my enjoyment. This was one event I was hoping could bring people together and certainly wasn't expecting party political point scoring. However, the inclusion of three letters in a set peice was enough to ignite an explosion of party political animosity that I foolishly failed to ignore.

Mention the NHS to any normal person and they'll think of hospitals, GPs, illness, cures, the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, a whole range of thoughts and emotions both positive and negative. People don't genially think of Tories or Labour socialism, centralised state provision of localised private provision, free at the point of use etc. No, but politicos do.

As soon as those letters appeared, left wing politicos erupted with claims that this ceremony proved, beyond doubt, that they were right about everything and Britain was really a socialist nation after all. "The best Labour Party political broadcast ever" claimed one Labour MP. Right wing politicos reacted similarly, that this was a left wing ceremony portraying Britain as a socialist state. Then, the lefties attacked the righties for politicising the ceremony. If there's one thing you can always rely on the Left to deliver it is hypocrisy. And enormous national debt, obviously. But I digress.

I may be in a minority of one, but I don't see any justification for party political point scoring. Yes, the NHS was mentioned, but such is the political consensus, there is no lack of commitment from the leadership of either party to a free at the point of use health service available to all.

The left want you to believe otherwise about the Tories. But that is because their idea of the NHS is fundamentally idealogical. All services must be provided by the state and all employees must be state employees. This ideological stance isn't even shared by everyone on the left or in the Labour party. The Blairite wing has long since worked out that a centralised Brobdingnagian organisation can't deliver the services required at an affordable cost to the nation. The Governemnt's NHS reforms were aimed at ensuring the concept of a national health service providing free care to all can survive in the coming decades of pressure on the public purse, by allowing GPs real choice in who provides the services they prescribe for their patients. This is an anathema to those with truely left wing beliefs as it could lead to charities, not-for-profit organsiations or even, heaven forfend, private providers, servicing patients, if they can provide better care and value for money. And so, they paint the Tories as anti-NHS. What they really mean is they are anti-reform of the NHS.

But whether you are pro or anti reform of the NHS, the ceremony wasn't making a political point. It was celebrating British institutions, including the monachy, hardly an institution close to the heart of your average lefty. It's a shame us politicos can't sometimes put politics aside and just enjoy a national spectacle when we see one.


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