Reflections on a busy weekend: Boyle, Olympics, the NHS, Tory reaction – and hope..

It’s been an interesting and busy weekend. When I sat down late on Friday night, wanting to write a quick post on my thoughts about Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony and encapsulate some of the Twitter comments I’d made as I watched it, I didn’t expect what was going to follow.

Since I started this blog in May, the biggest day in terms of readers had 1,138 visits. Since I write because I think – correctly or not – that I have ideas and insight worth sharing, about things which the government and its supporters would much rather we didn’t think about, rather than just to get things off my chest, I’m glad when I see my posts being read. But with the post about the message of the opening ceremony to the government, I must have struck some kind of nerve.

I uploaded it at 11pm. By midnight, over 2,300 people had read it. Over the following day, my ipod was constantly pinging as just over another 9,000 took a look. I was thunderstruck – though of course, very happy to be able to communicate with so many people.

The reactions, via the blog comment facility and on Twitter, have been very interesting. Overwhelmingly, they’ve been positive and supportive, but of course it didn’t take long before the right-wingers jumped in. A few of the comments from the right were genuinely interesting, and those who made them genuinely engaging. Most weren’t, failing to rise above the ‘magic money tree’ faux-ridicule level, or resorting to simple insult.

Ah well. It wasn’t just commenters on my post or tweets, either. The right seems to have got its knickers into a serious twist about Danny Boyle’s thinly-veiled criticism of the Tories and their Lib-Doodles – or even into a panic.

Laughably, predictably but gamely, Tory MP Louise Mensch – hardly a stranger to the outrageously hypocritical soundbite – tweeted how proud she was, after the NHS tribute section, that Prime Minister David Cameron had ‘protected the NHS and increased its funding’. Her ability to take the obvious and blatantly say it means the opposite is perversely impressive – like a person who insists on going for a walk and saying it’s a lovely day when it’s pouring down, simply because they had their heart set on it being sunny, they’re not going to let a little rain stop them, and they can’t really acknowledge that it isn’t what they’d hoped for (Dad, are you listening?! lol)

I gently suggested to her that she should ask any NHS worker whether they felt protected and valued – and then should run. Very, very quickly. She didn’t respond. Maybe I’m blocked now, which I gather is quite the socialist badge of honour.

Fellow-Tory MP Aidan Burley – another paragon of propriety. moderation and commonsense – described the ceremony as ‘the most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen – more than Bejing, the csapital of a communist state!’ (how anyone aged 33 can be a Tory is simply beyond me, but there you go). He also railed against its multicultural aspects, the ultimate irony since he’s a foreigner born in New Zealand. So clearly I wasn’t the only one getting the message, even if some hated it as much as I applauded it.

Meanwhile, the Daily Fail was its usual poisonous self, describing the ‘glorification’ of the NHS as ‘disgraceful’ and, among other things, describing nurses as ‘self-indulgent’. If only our millionaires were so self-indulgent as to be ready to work themselves to exhaustion for the sake of patients and to spend all day cleaning up other people’s shit, instead of expecting us to clean up theirs.

The tone of the article was desperate and panicked (even managing to misspell ‘Ormond’ AND ‘Guardianista’!) , as if the right-wingers who wrote it and edited it were falling over themselves in their panic to try to negate the boost the NHS received in the nation’s collective heart. And well they might be, since they and other papers have – no doubt under government encouragement – conducted a constant attack on the NHS’ esteem and credibility, escalating every time the government was preparing a new assault on the nation’s flagship achievement. The Fail appears to have realised that it’s terribly misjudged the nation’s mood, as it has deleted the article from its website:


But someone was too quick for them and saved a copy, so you can read the whole thing in all its abhorrence here. The retraction is far too little, far too late. The ‘newspaper’, which once supported Britain’s fascist ‘Blackshirts’, has demonstrated itself once again not even to be worthy of contempt. Anyone who continues to read this rag after its latest obscenity should hang his/her head in shame.

Overall, though, even the Fail’s hatefulness had a perverse effect on me – it intensified the sense of hope that the majority of the response to my ‘opening ceremony’ post had lit in me.

I’ve contended since the start of this blog that the majority of people are apathetic about politics, and acquiesce to the government’s destruction of what’s good in this country, because for the most part they just don’t realise it; that the government and its friends in the media are constantly working to maintain that ignorance and to misdirect outrage at other targets; and that if we can just communicate the truth effectively to people, they’ll become outraged at the right targets, waking up to realise just what’s being stolen from us, and who the thieves are. That’s been the aim and premise of this blog since I started it – to make some small contribution to that effort.

The massive upswell of interest and affection that Danny Boyle’s wonderful, subtle, subversive show on Friday caused – and the evident panic and distaste of the Tories and their allies – is evidence that it’s true: people do care and will care, and can be engaged, if we just find the right ways to make them aware of the right things.

And last Friday, Danny Boyle showed it can be done..


  1. I loosely concur with your sentiment. I would like to know what Danny Boyle’s take on this is and how he managed it but I guess he will keep it tight lipped or maybe he has replied and I haven’t seen it yet.

    In a particularly ruffled moment, it was the bankers bonuses’s I think I blogged a bit in a not dissimilar vein. I replicated it in eCademy, a business oriented networking site and it created quite a stir. Anyway if you are interested then it’s at http://suitcriminals.wordpress.com, there’s only 3 articles because I didn’t pursue it, the 10th January article was the fruit of my disdain at the time.

  2. Agree. It strikes me that what has rattled the Tories so badly is the very idea that ordinary British people could be so energised and filled with pride at our own contribution to history.
    After all, aren’t we just compliant, downtrodden fodder for the Tories’ ideological purge? Isn’t our only purpose to serve and enrich them?
    It’s harder to keep proud people down. And Danny Boyle’s ceremony reminded us that we have a lot to be proud of.
    More than anything, it was a fanfare honouring the working class who have made this country worth living in and given it its unique identity.
    From agriculture, industry, coal mines and steelworks to suffragettes, soldiers and nurses, it showed how WE built this country and everything in it worth having.
    Not a coterie of Eton toffs who think they were born to rule. Not millionaire bankers or private sector sharks. Us.
    WE did that.

  3. Looks like I get to be the first right winger to comment!

    Being honest I watched the ceremony with interest, I loved lots about it, especially Jerusalem at the start as it’s a hymn that was sang at both my grandparents funerals. I was awestruck by the industrial revolution and I still have no idea how Danny Boyle did that, the man deserves an honour of some form though after the amazing show.

    The NHS bit I also enjoyed, as an ex medical student and coming from a family of NHS workers of various kinds I swelled with pride. There seems to be some kind of myth that it’s incongruous to be right wing capitalist and an NHS supporter. I will come clean and say yes I do think it needs reform, ironically I watched the Yes Minister empty hospital episode last night and I entirely agree it has too many administrators. The plot if you haven’t seen it revolves around a newly built hospital with 500 staff (mostly admin) who are run off their feet with work and have been for 18 months yet have no patients! There are perhaps plans to get some but probably not for a couple of years. Well, you might say it’s a comedy and therefore not entirely relevant however this does actually happen. Rotherham District general hospital was open like this for a long time before it ever opened its doors to patients, much to the amusement of a good friend of mine who’s a Consultant there. It isn’t the only case though and the amount of admin is getting crazy. Yes we live in litigious times but that doesn’t really justify anywhere near the amount of admin staff hospitals run with. I also say this as someone who’s mum was a very senior hospital administrator for many years – she also agrees with me on this. I’ve heard a fair few counter arguments to this, mainly along the lines that the NHS has no more management staff than say Bupa and while this is very true the comparison doesn’t really work. Bupa is a business, to function it needs a sales force, marketing, an expensive finance function staffed by actuaries and accountants, customer service people, compliance and risk professionals, none of which the NHS needs.

    Also on a personal front a few years ago my grandmother died in Scarborough hospital and while I don’t want to dwell too much on this her experience was relevant. The care she received was almost third world, the nurses were poor (something I never thought I’d say), they were far more concerned with box ticking than patient care, even basic needs were missed or put off. I was lied to by the locum consultant in charge of her care while she was there, he clearly assumed we had no medical knowledge and because of her great age she was very low priority. Poorly trained nursing staff on three occasions tried to perform a routine procedure (inserting a naso-gastric tube) and each time messed it up with the result that the tube sat uncomfortably in her lungs for several hours at a stretch not to mention during the process she was in great pain as they clearly were not used to doing this. Eventually I insisted they bring a consultant anesthetist to perform the procedure, it took ten seconds and worked perfectly. I’ve no problem whatsoever with nurses doing this but only if they’re trained and able to do this with minimal distress to patients. Lastly in the two months that she was there the ward had three separate diarrhea and vomiting outbreaks, usually caused by poor cleanliness. In the old days this would have been a big thing to happen once a year, staff were so blase about it that three times in 8 weeks appeared routine!

    Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not having a go at doctors or nurses in general, I’m sure Scarborough is simply a poor hospital, after going there myself for a very severe burn I was no less disappointed and since then I have to say Edinburgh Royal Infirmary were excellent with my mother, as were Rotherham District General.

    In short I’m a big supporter of the NHS but that doesn’t make me blind to its faults. I’ll happily concede there’s large chunks of the Tory NHS reforms I’m uncomfortable with but I can see there’s need for change. The administrators have too much power and are simply too large, there’s a balance to be struck there, many years ago doctors held all the power and that too was wrong but we’ve gone too far the other way now. Let’s have an objective look at what we want the NHS to be and how best it will serve the patients, the money we currently waste on huge administration functions let’s funnel towards clinicians, let’s have some minimum standards of care and cleanliness and empower the clinical staff a bit more.

    As for the rest of the opening ceremony I thought it was brilliant, just the right amount of self deprecation and humour. It felt like the ceremony was made for the UK people, not made for how people from abroad view us, which in my view was a triumph and Danny Boyle deserves all the accolades he gets!

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