Wednesday, June 3, 2020
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Claptrap for Our Carers

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IT must have been lurking before, but the first time the awful streak of mawkish sentimentality in this country came to the fore was after the death of Princess Diana. I was working near Kensington Palace at the time so I went to see the pile of rotting flowers as people streamed to add their cellophane-wrapped bunches that were making florists a fortune. I hasten to add that I did not take any.

This sentimentality has now been harnessed in the cause of OUR NHS, as witnessed last night with the second ‘Clap for Our Carers’.

Here is the Times:

‘We heard it on the streets. We heard it in the inner-city estates and the well-heeled suburbs, the millionaire mansions and the humblest of country cottages. But above all, it was felt in people’s hearts.

‘Last night hundreds of thousands of people ventured out once more to applaud and show their thanks to the people battling on the front line against the coronavirus pandemic.

‘Clap? They did so much more than clap. They rang bells, they banged saucepans, they played the bagpipes: anything to make a noise, anything to express their gratitude.

‘If they were in their cars, they sounded their horns: if they were still shopping, they just applauded at the supermarket checkout.

‘Most extraordinarily, they were doing it all for a second time. And, if anything, people’s response was even bigger than last week. ITV stopped its programming so viewers could go outside to clap. Boris Johnson, still in isolation, came to his front door to applaud.’

Those who remember the Sunday Express editor John Junor will recall his catchphrase ‘Pass the sickbag, Alice.’

The Times reports that more than 70 ‘celebrities’ lent their support. They included Sir Paul McCartney, Daniel Craig, Stormzy, Benedict Cumberbatch, James Norton and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Is there a certain pattern emerging? Have we not recently heard from some or most of these folk on the topics of climate change, equality, diversity, racism . . . zzz . . ?

Sorry, but I did not clap last night. I respect their work but I have the old-fashioned notion that people are employed and paid to do their job. For NHS workers that job is taking care of the sick. Other people are also getting on with their jobs and enabling us to keep living comfortably – gas, water and electricity workers, refuse collectors (without whom we’d have a genuine plague), farmers, postmen and post office staff, newsagents, delivery drivers, shop staff. Shall we allocate an evening a week to each task? I am very grateful to them all, but I don’t need to take part in an orchestrated display to say Thank you. Nor am I prepared to be bullied into participating in this collective madness.

In the temporary removal of the causes listed above to the back burner, the Left have found another stick to beat us with, the implication being that if you don’t join in with this campaign you don’t care, you are hard-hearted, you are inferior to those who do.

I am pleased to say that at 8pm last night I did not hear a single clap, bagpipe or saucepan in our village. We’ve got more sense.

Margaret’s feelings were shared by MICHAEL FAHEY, who writes: As thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands if not millions, braved the cold night to clap for the health service, I watched and listened and thought of why this gesture was the wrong thing to do.

The NHS has been on a pedestal for years. In every election, the NHS is forefront in politicians’ minds, with vast amounts of money being promised by competing parties. Politicians label it ‘our national treasure’ and words like ‘immense’ and ‘heroic’ have been bandied about over the last few months. It is rather worrying that an entire system can be treated as if it could do no wrong when in fact, it is an organisation which, like any other, makes mistakes and should be held to account. No organisation should be free from criticism and that’s what I fear this gesture will do; raise the NHS to the point where it is far above scrutiny. The police, I should add, face an immense task all the time, not just in these days of Covid-19, and yet they are not free from criticism, as we have seen in the last week or so, so why should the NHS be closed for scrutiny?

The fact is that parts of the NHS are great, some are average and others poor. They are not infallible but I fear that after the dust clears and society returns to normal, the health service will be revered even more and they will be free to continue making mistakes far beyond the reach of proper scrutiny. That should worry us all.

So clap if you want to. Congratulate where praise is deserved but don’t make it a public spectacle. A simple thank you can mean as much as sparking a nationwide event. Just remember, in all this, that the NHS is the sum of its parts and some of those parts do not work as they should. The health service would be so much better if we did not view it through rose-tinted glasses.

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Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth is a retired national newspaper journalist. She runs the Subbing Clinic in a hopeless attempt to keep up standards, and co-runs A & M Records where she indulges her passion for 60s pop.

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