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The Dirty War on the NHS

Philip Roddis

I saw this film last night at a one-off screening in Derby. It’s all you’d expect of a John Pilger documentary. Polished and professional? Well of course, but more importantly:

Hard hitting, its straight-from-the shoulder interrogations of power a far cry from the posturing of mainstream interviewers who, doubtless in all sincerity – albeit of the self serving kind – mistake Paxmanesque aggression for the real deal.[1]

Comprehensive, its lengthy passages from across the pond showing the deathly realities of an American model to which our leaders, Blair and Milburn absolutely included, have for four decades secretly aspired. (Pilger offers a plethora of smoking guns to leave us in no doubt on the point.) In this they have been driven by a mix brutally familiar to those of us not fully asleep. This blend of evidence-defying fanaticism with revolving door venality is already their political legacy, and will assuredly be their most fitting epitaph.

Joining the dots. Though Dirty War on the NHS remains focused on that iconic institution and its ancillaries in the Beveridge vision of a welfare state, there are clues throughout as to the wider generalisability of what we are seeing, and slowly waking up to in our own lives. Ours is not a democracy in any meaningful sense of the word. Ours is a world in which an elite class pursues its narrow interests through a grotesque but sophisticated parody of the same. To the techno-managerialspeak of our brave new era – war is peace, truth is lies and ignorance is strength – we can add privatising the world is progressive, the end of collectivism the true goal of reform.

As credits rolled to Hubert Parry’s arrangement of William Blake’s Jerusalem, the lights slowly undimmed and a man in the front row stood up, mike in hand. Knowledgeable and a confident speaker – but without that love of his own voice which too often accompanies those qualities – he said a few words then opened the floor for questions.

With a train to catch, I shot up my hand to grab the mike:

I’ve come from Nottingham, where there’s no public screening. I only learned of the film today, from a Facebook friend. We’re some sixty hours from polling stations opening up for the most important general election since 1945.[2]

I could have watched this at home online, strictly between six and ten pm, by purchasing a code allowing access. I thought it more fitting to see it with others. Now I want to alert everyone I know to a powerful film that could hardly be more urgent. But I can’t, can I?

Why was the viewing so restricted?

Other than sympathetic noises from the host, and from the three questioners immediately after me, I received no answer. Nobody knew.

I slipped out as quietly as I could. On the first bitterly cold night of the year one wreck of a man shuffled up to ask for spare change. All I had in my wallet were plastic and my rail ticket.

[1] For an up-to-the-minute account of one small instance of how slavishly ‘our’ media have served to distract us, see Kit Knightly’s piece today in OffGuardian.

[2] Anyone sensing a contradiction between this assertion, and my earlier one that we don’t live in a meaningful democracy, might wish to contact me. I wanted to keep this post short but am happy to discuss that particular aspect of the matter elsewhere.