I have long admired Shami Chakrabati. Mainly because of her determined, intelligent and reasoned support for human rights but also because she’s short, dark and gorgeous. So when I heard her speak on Any Questions on Friday I felt my opinions were being well represented. Even on the subject of the NHS, where she admitted was a layman, she made some good points.
Then Simon Jenkins, chairman of the National Trust, said that he thought that health services in the world which appeared to work best are those where the county council pays but delivery is handled by private companies and he highlighted Scandinavia as exponents of this style of health care. Ms. Chakrabati then had a hissy fit and derided the idea that “rare cancers” and “heart surgery” should be handed by “parish councils”. Amazing! Ms. Chakrabati, of whom I expect intelligent and honest debate, had drifted off into the tactics of New Labour and was deriding an argument that had not been made.
In a democracy it is right that there is debate over ownership of industry and public services but what I find objectionable about “the left” is their automatic assumption that they have the moral high ground. They don’t. It is perfectly moral to argue that private companies are, overall, more competent than large state run organisations. Any debate should be over technical aspects such as quality of delivery and costs.
I am old enough to remember the monolithic nationalised industries which were the norm in the 60s and 70s and I well recall their arrogant disregard for their customers. I dislike the hyper-commercialism of the 21st century but would not welcome a return to the days when public services were run for the benefit of their workers and British Leyland thought that innovation meant square steering wheels.
The lesson here is that, while Ms. Chakrabati is an absolute heroine on the topic of human rights, we should resist the urge to idealise her. Idealising leaders must be some kind of natural human drive as we tend to do it quite a lot. These days pop stars seem to gain most from this phenomena though why we should consider that singers are any more intelligent or moral than the rest of us I don’t know. I remember seeing Madonna in a documentary and was gob smacked by the shallow drivel which she spouted. (Telling her father she couldn’t tone down her act because it would be “….compromising my artistic integrity….” – Yeh, OK, just zip yourself up and sing your song ay love!.)
Like many people I was impressed by Barack Obama when he became president. His speeches seem moral and reasoned. However, one of his first acts, on gaining office, was to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and declare that Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel handing the Israelis a victory and betraying the Palestinians without even understanding what he had done. One might also wonder why the President thought his first action should be to address AIPAC at all. To be fair to him I think this was probably an honest mistake on his part but it does show once again that our leaders have feet of clay.
Men are not Gods and should not be worshiped. Some opinions of some leaders will concur with our own, but many will not.
Bob Dylan said it best: “Don’t follow leaders”. What a guy, he’s my hero….D’oh!!!