Nobody wanted Boris Johnson dead.
At the same time, hardly anybody would have rent their garments in grief if word had come that he’d burbled his last.
Latest reports say he’s not entirely out of the woods. Those who had been anticipating his demise with inappropriate relish may think it wise to keep their powder dry and their cliches at the ready – good enough for him, comeuppance, poetic justice, couldn’t happen to nicer fellow, just deserts, slap it up him and so forth.
In most contexts, remarks of this sort would make us queasy. We should care for all human lives – even the life of the gunman who was shot dead by police after he’d massacred 16 people in Nova Scotia in Canada. But our sorrow will have been muted by the fact that he did sort bring it on himself. A bit like Boris Johnson and Covid-19.
Is there a single person in the whole world who, given the power of life and death, would choose Boris Johnson over John Prine? And yet the tousled Tory thug has (so far) survived while the great singer-songwriter is gone.
It’s a cruelly ill-divided world, in death as in life.
At least, there’s now a near consensus among commentators that Johnson behaved abominably in the period when the pandemic was surging across Europe. He couldn’t be arsed attending cabinet office meetings called to discuss slowing or stopping the spread of the disease.
A lazy, irresponsible sod, then. Except that that’s letting him off the hook.
Johnson, Rabb and the rest of the posh rabble at the top of the Tory Party ignored the oncoming virus for weeks not out of stupidity, ignorance or laziness but because they didn’t think it would affect the lives of their sort of people. They were serene in the belief that they had acquired herd immunity from all manner of ills on the playing fields of Eton. They were more concerned with sustaining their position in society, lording it over the lower orders, stirring working-class communities against one another, raking in zillions from tax frauds and favours to tyrants, snuggling up to Donald Trump, thieving from the public purse, contemplating the wreckage they’d made of working-class communities while dreaming their dreams of imperial grandeur. They had no time to pay attention to stuff like pandemics. And no respect for a health service which they hardly ever used themselves, having private clinics to avail of, with swanky fittings and no waiting times as long as you had the dosh to skip the queues.
Johnson and his ilk had for years been spitting poison into the face of the National Health Service, jeering at its alleged inefficiencies and wastefulness, offering it up to businesses with no experience of medicine or of providing care for anyone, but with a track record of squeezing profit from any public service their could get their paws on.
Nobody who has stood on picket lines in recent times with health and social care workers forced to parade with placards calling for decent pay and conditions and adequate staffing will respond to Tory protestations of concern for the NHS with anything other than bitter loathing.
Tories like Johnson, Hancock, Patel, Rabb etc. just don’t get the NHS. They are bewildered at the notion, spelt out by its founder – Labour Health Minister Aneurin Bevan, back in 1947 – that the service would provide “health care for all, free at the point of provision, from the cradle to the grave.”
Free? For everyone?
How could that make sense?
They live in a world where nothing ain’t worth nothing if it’s free. Especially if it’s free to all and sundry.
The NHS has been under attack since its inception. The rich didn’t fancy the hoi polloi having access to the sort of health care they’d come to believe was their exclusive right. Means-tested payment for particular treatments were brought in at an early stage. Ever since, governments, New Labour as enthusiastically as the Tories, have striven to erode the bedrock principle on which the NHS was built.
What’s stopped them, or at least slowed them, has been the steady resistance of NHS workers backed by the overwhelming majority of the general population who could instinctively, as well as on the basis of direct experience, understand the inestimable value of health care as of right.
The NHS was an expression of the demand for a better world in the aftermath of the Second World War. If we want a better world to emerge from the fraught time we are living through, we will have to stay alert to repel the Tory scavengers again.