Actions speak louder than words, they say. Not when your name is Boris Johnson it seems.

First published in December 2019.

Contrary to what he might want the electorate to believe, Boris Johnson has not always claimed out loud his absolute love for the NHS. In fact, before being the Leader of the Conservatives in a General Election he publicly stated his dispise for the national health service and the way it is financed and run.

On 17 April 2002, for example, the then Conservative MP for Henley contributed to a debate on the National Debt and the public revenue in the House of Commons during which he criticised Tony Blair’s Labour Government’s stance on taxation and specifically its health service reforms and policies. He also unashamedly called the NHS “a top-down monopolistic health service”.

He indeed told fellow MPs:

“The Chancellor (Gordon Brown) hopes to take a huge amount of money from the public and he thinks that the time is right to do that. Labour Members may be right that the public are in a generous mood and are prepared to pay more in taxes. What the public want more evidence of, however, is that those taxes, if taken and spent exclusively by the Government, will deliver a better health service.”

“We have had umpteen health service reforms, and we now have more health administrators than beds. More people are on waiting lists than when the Government came to power and we are now driven to the crazy expedient of using taxpayers’ money to send patients to France and Germany in the hope that they will be cured there. I wonder how the Chancellor can call the NHS the envy of the world, or whatever fatuous phrase it was that he used, when people are driven to go to South Africa for cataract operations and to India for heart surgery.”

“More people than ever before are now being forced to use their own resources to pay for operations. That is not because the Labour Government have been particularly kind to private medicine; on the contrary, when the Government came to power they took away the tax break for private health care for the elderly, with the result that 200,000 people immediately gave up their policies.”

“People are being driven to use private medicine in despair at the NHS. There should be no shame in pointing that out. It should not be sacrilegious to say that the NHS is failing. I think that Nigel Lawson said that the NHS is the religion of the British people, and, to some extent, that is true. We all sign up in a general way to the objectives of the NHS. I think that the Chancellor said today that the NHS amounted to a definition of the character of this country. It is all very well to treat the NHS as a religion, but it is legitimate for some of us to point out that, in so far as it is a religion, it is letting down its adherents very badly.

“It is wrong of the Chancellor to set his face against the experience of other countries that have a far better record of health care provision, a far better life expectancy, and a far better record of dealing with cancer and coronary heart disease. Those countries do so not just because they spend more money on health but because they do not rely exclusively on a top-down monopolistic health service of the kind that we have in this country.

“The Chancellor has decided that there is only one model for health care in this country — the NHS model — and he has decided that it is unimprovable except through the addition of more taxpayer’s money and platoons of auditors to swell the ranks of the administrators. The best auditors of health care in this country should be the patients, and it would be far better if they were given more control over how money was spent for their health care.

“We have had five years of bluff about the Labour Government's tax and spending intentions. Now, at last, we are getting the reality – in their hearts they are deeply wedded to tax and spend, and they have no more imaginative prescriptions for the NHS than those outlined by Labour Members today. All the froth, the candy floss and the spin of new Labour have finally been blown away.”

“People such as the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Labour MP John Trickett) have been revealed in their true colours as taxers and spenders and believers in the NHS unreformed and as it is – monolithic and monopolistic. They think that that is the only way to improve health care in this country. I hope that they are right; I fear very much that they will be proved wrong.

There is no doubt that Boris Johnson might now want to make people believe that he is a born-again convert to the NHS... alike his conversion to Euroscepticism and Brexit in 2016, his conversion from Trump denouncer to Trump’s BFF, his conversion to Big Sugar, his conversion to feminism, his conversion to One Nation conservatism, etc.

Wherever the electoral wind blows is where Boris Johnson goes.

Whatever suits the man in any given circumstance is where Boris Johnson lies, literally and figuratively.🔷

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[This is an original piece, first published by the author in on 3 December 2019. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Pixabay.)