Stephen Hawking has weighed in on the debate about the future of the NHS with warnings about creeping privatization. His intervention has been widely celebrated on the left, but it is nothing but standard left-wing drivel (we refute the arguments against privatization here). Setting the tone in his Guardian column, Hawking initially makes the patently false statement that he ‘would not be here today if it were not for the service’, implying that only the NHS and no alternative health system could have facilitated him surviving his motor neurone disease. Pathetically attempting to present his opinion as scientific fact, he then ludicrously states the he has analysed the ‘system in terms of levels of approximation’. His rigorous approach leads him to conclude that ‘public provision is not only the fairest way to deliver healthcare, but also the most cost-effective’ – obviously without providing a sliver of evidence for his scientific conclusion. Continuing to conduct his ‘analysis’ without support of evidence, he goes on to make the outlandish claim that the UK is moving towards ‘a US-style insurance system’. Further revealing his economic ignorance he includes a naïve soundbite about ‘multinational corporations, driven by their profit motive’ (he doesn’t say if that includes the evil corporations who produced the computers that allows him to communicate). Job done. Cue hysterical applause from the left, as if Hawking was some oracle on health economics, not a life-long Labour voter.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has tried to defend himself. He has taken to Twitter to refute the scientist’s claim about creeping privatization, tweeting ‘those with private med insurance DOWN 9.4% since 2009!’. He’s right – there is scant evidence for the perceived privatization. But Hunt is going to loose the debate anyway. He is fighting on enemy territory.
Hunt and the Tories have for years valiantly fought to keep the growth in the NHS budget within reach of affordability, in the face of unrealistic spending commitments from Labour. To increase efficiency, private companies have been allowed into limited areas of the health service. But the Tories have refused to take the debate about the advantages of privatization – competition, customer focus, accountability, cost control – and instead tried to argue that no privatization is taking place. Cowardly, they have tried to align themselves with the left instead of providing an alternative argument. This is not only intellectual surrender but opens them up to caricaturish accusations of privatization as a means of enriching their corporate fat cat chums – what else could be the reason, if no arguments are ever made in favour of privatization?
Hawking is nothing but an opinionated layman when it comes to health care, but the left is using his reputation as a brilliant mind as a smoke screen to promote standard left-wing drivel about the evils of private business. The Tories are making it too easy for them to get away with it.