by Mike McNabb
When will Britain accept that it is no longer a colonial power that can organise the world along its own lines and instead start looking after the people who live here?You would have thought that the lessons of the years following the second world war would have been learned. But no. Even if the pith helmets, bayonets and sundowners have long disappeared the mentality that brought us that richness of risibility remains.
It was in those austerity years that a health service was launched, generously funded by the cash-strapped taxpayer. But Britain hadn’t been at peace for five minutes when it decided that, though technically bankrupt, it would not only somehow find the money to join the nuclear family (that’s the family of the bombing genus, by the way), but become one of the five
permanent members of the UN security council with all the financial implications that entailed, and then head off for another war, this time in Korea.
It is hardly surprising that the nascent NHS was soon in trouble. One feels it has never made a full recovery. But it also makes one wonder what could have been achieved had Britain avoided costly conflicts in every single decade since the war: Korea, Suez, Northern Ireland (spanning several decades some achievement), the South Atlantic, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq again (rapidly becoming a candidate for the Northern Ireland Long Service Award).
Earlier this year, MPs on the House of Commons defence select committee were told that the cost of the Iraq war was set to exceed £1bn in 2007. The NHS debts totalled £512m. Make up your own mind where the money would be better spent.
While we are on it, the remaining £500m could go towards social care. Practically every single social services department in the land is calling for financial help. Granted, that £500m would be a drop in the ocean.However, when the independent Iraq Analysis Group estimates the cost of the entire campaign in Iraq at nearly £7.5bn so far, there is a feeling that this is the sort of sum that could be invested more wisely. And that doesn’t even take into account the new Trident system that has been estimated to cost £76bn over 30 years.
But this can¹t happen – partly because it has already gone but mostly because we still need to show the world what a big country we are: even if that means that child poverty rates remain stubbornly high; that arguments continue over who should fund school meals; that families continue to live on sink estates whose living spaces are adorned with mould; and governments
tinker with benefits to manipulate the figures and try to look tough for Daily Mail readers.
But if a disturbance breaks out tomorrow in the Aleutian Islands, you can be sure we¹ll be there.
Better dust off that old pith helmet, just in case.