[First published 19 September 2019. Lightly edited.]
Look at this photo:
Or watch this video footage:
The British prime minister Boris Johnson visited a hospital yesterday, where the father of a sick child confronted him with the deteriorating quality of provision in the state National Health Service. The man then said that at such a time “Now you come here for a press opportunity”. Johnson, put on the spot, reacted in a Donald Trump fashion – by lying, claiming “Well actually, there’s no press here”. Note his patronising use of the word “actually”. In reality, he knew damned well that there was a lot of press there, because the whole reason for his visit was publicity and, more than that, there were press personnel standing right by them. He might as well have said they weren’t “actually” in a hospital but in a field of daisies. He has clearly believed all his life that whatever the lower orders think or know about anything isn’t worth a fig compared to what people from his own caste believe, know, or wish to assert is the case. The man replied “What do you mean there’s no press here? Who are these people?” – totally destroying Johnson’s position.
What strikes me most about the video footage – and it also comes across well in the photo – is the attitude of three of the officials present, at least two of whom seem to have a clinical role. I mean the two women on the left and the man who is wearing glasses. The women seem absolutely horrified at the complaining parent’s actions, at his daring to express criticism to the prime minister. “How dare you, you vermin!” is what their body language conveys. It’s as if they believe the man to be conducting himself in a terrifyingly, criminally antisocial fashion. It’s like he is breaking wind in church or something, and as if he’s got a holdall with him in which he might have an axe or a gun. They don’t like people who break with their allotted roles in the hierarchy and bring reality to the fore. Their concept of the purpose of a hospital clearly differs wildly from any decent person’s. But who was it who was doing something related to improving health at that time? It certainly wasn’t them!
Meanwhile the guy in the glasses who seems to be more senior is angry that this is being caught on film and he uses fake politeness in a “Come on now” fashion to the parent. You can easily imagine him being unable to speak to any person who is lower down the hierarchy than himself without being fake. I strongly doubt that any of the three would bat an eyelid if the man were taken outside to be beaten with iron bars and left for dead by the secret police, or if he were tortured to death in the public square for daring to spoil what they clearly view as a natural social order. As for the woman on the far right, I cannot completely read her attitude. It is possible she is a hospital orderly and perhaps she is OK. Her thoughts might be “Come on, you’ve said your piece. We know you’re right, but that’s enough now. You shouldn’t say such things except in private.” But the other three, especially the two women on the left! Take a good look at this, because this is the British flavour of fascism. It has always been here and it is rising. These pictures say so much about this country.