Monday 22 December 2014

Even the rich may need an emergency ambulance.

I have just ordered, but not yet received, a book by Professor Sir John Hills entitled: "Good Times, Bad times: The Welfare Myth of Them and Us". According to the review that prompted me to buy the book, Hills's argument is that our welfare state is not, as the tabloids and Tories pretend, a system by which a virtuous tax-paying majority subsidise a growing minority of layabouts in a "life style choice" (David Cameron) of idleness.  Rather, "Britain's welfare state remains a resource for the great majority, not just the feckless few."

This weekend's leaked proposal that the government intends to introduce slower emergency ambulance responses is a case in point.  Even the rich have heart attacks, road accidents and all the manifold perils and dangers to which the flesh is heir. As far as I know BUPA runs no emergency ambulance service, nor trains any paramedics,  so cutting back on that bit of the state's provision could be just as inconvenient for the wealthy  as for the rest of us.

This illustration came too late for Hills's book, but, as the review points out, not just the very wealthy but so called "Middle Britain" (that is, most of us) benefit considerably from such as tax subsidies for the purchase of houses and the tax-subsidised  pensions which on average we receive for longer than those at the bottom of the pile.  And then there's the heart bypasses which may be beyond the capacity of the private hospitals, and the mental and physicals disabilities for which the private medical sector makes little provision, but which affect indiscriminately all sorts and conditions of men (and women and children) regardless of wealth.

Hence not just the poorest but all of us should be fighting to maintain and indeed improve the level of state services, and fiercely resisting the proposed further cuts.

I look forward to reading the book and having my natural prejudices reinforced by facts.

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