Sunday, 26 December 2010

Unexpected side effects....

I have been on medication recently and, as well as addressing the illness, it had side effects, in my case dry and itchy skin. But then it's well known that most drugs have unintended or unexpected side effects. What is less well known is that Tory Governments also have unpredicted (not unpredictable) side effects.

There is a post on ConservativeHome asking "What is Conservatism?". The answer involves subtle philosophical and historical judgements, referencing Margaret Thatcher, the Whigs and the philosopher Burke (but not Hare).

It's not clear to me that the question is actually answered but, to my mind, it misses the point in any case. Conservatism may indeed be a product of historical and philosophical forces (how could it not be), it may indeed range across a number of possibilities and outcomes. But, if I may be practical for  few minutes, it's not the esoteric roots of Conservatism that concern me, it's the actual effects of Tories in government that worry me the most. And these are visible as much from the indirect as direct consequences of having Tories run the show.

Everybody knows that the Tories want "small Government". In their eyes, Governments interfere and are bossy and unpredictable, and are better out of our lives, taverymuch. Which sounds commonsensical, until you experience the practical results of this philosophical stance.

Example. The Conservatives believe that Government "shouldn't tell you what to think". So they have stopped public information advertising: it's  expensive and a waste of money. We don't need to be lectured. Nanny state. Blah blah blah. One effect is that this year there is no government funded campaign to get people to take their flu jabs. No TV advertising, no spreading of the message that vulnerable groups should get the jab from their doctor or the local NHS clinic.

But then there is the "unintended" consequence. No advertising of the message means that fewer people get the flu jab and, lo and behold, more people get flu. But winter flu is deadly to some people. So, more people getting the flu means more people seriously ill from the flu and more people dying from swine flu this year than last (last year swine flu was a pandemic, this year it's just around...).

There you have it. People may buy the message to vote Conservative for a "smaller government". But they forget to tell you that a "smaller government" can be a less effective government. So you save a few pennies on tax, and don't get bothered with TV adverts for flu jabs, but a few more people die early and unnecessarily.

I'm sure that many people voted Tory in May in the expectation of "small government": that's what they wanted. I'm also sure that none of them voted on a platform of more deaths from swine flu. Unfortunately, in the real world, it amounts to the same thing: it's just the unexpected side effect of having a Tory Government.

No comments:

Post a Comment