I can't help feeling a bit sorry for prime minister Gordon Brown. As a child he probably realised early on he was never going to play professional football, nor be the lead singer in a rock band.
He wasn’t going to make it as a firefighter, the circus weren’t hiring and when he went along to the comedy club Footlights – Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie were blocking the door.
And so he set his sights on being prime minister. He worked hard, waited his turn and when his moment came, he sort of realised he had forgotten why he wanted any power in the first place. And now he is losing arguments to, of all people, David Cameron – a shouting man-child with all the ideas and convictions of a pomegranate. It is a bit sad. Maybe Mr Brown should give football another go – or he could stop administrating and reintroduce politics to an age afraid of principles? Nah, that would never work.
Meanwhile, over in Ohio, a 69-year-old man lost the tip of a finger in a model aeroplane accident. His brother, who happens to work in regenerative medicine, gave him something called ‘extracellular matrix’, or pixie dust as the media have renamed it, and, lo and behold, the man’s finger grew back. ‘It’s a miracle,’ some said. ‘It’s a made-up story about a bloke who exaggerated having a cut finger,’ said other more sensible people. But we all like a good miracle story.
Everyone wants a little magic in their lives. We want to be surprised in a ‘pixie dust made my finger grow back’ kind of way. We want small, life-enriching miracles and the warm glow that comes with them.
Of course, working in the health service you do get to see the odd ‘miracle’ and, arguably, how you respond to it tells you how long you have been working there. But you can also get worn down by the erosion of hope and a sense that any purpose to the day is hampered by pointless bits of politics designed by silly, unimaginative politicians who are essentially guessing.
Which brings me back to Messrs Brown and Cameron. Their respective visions of the health service are indistinguishable, really. They don’t have any grand plans, they don’t have any principles. They have lots of slogans but they do not, either of them, engender any hope. Not in the nurses, nor in their colleagues. They get excited about polyclinics, waiting times and make up nonsense about choice. They are tampering without any purpose whatsoever and it is time for them to get out.
An independent NHS would be a start. A charter to guide it and no point-scoring politicians messing with the most important institution in the country. And who knows, maybe that might breed a bit of confidence in Mr Brown, who might remember why he wanted to be in ‘public service’ rather than a rock band in the first place?