On Thanksgiving, I give thanks for a thoroughly British thing – the National Health Service

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL November 28, 2019

The First Thanksgiving, 1621, Plymouth Colony, MA. The Pilgrims didn’t call it Thanksgiving

Really and truly. Family and friends will gather round the turkey and the Vegan Wellington this evening in a nicely American celebration. But when we get to the Pumpkin Pie, I’m probably likely to give thanks for a thoroughly British thing – the National Health Service (NHS).

On Wednesday, November 27, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn claimed that the Conservative government’s post-Brexit plans for the NHS were likely to privatise key bits of it. Brandishing a 451-page “dossier” that showed UK and US officials had discussed drug pricing and access to NHS contracts, Mr Corbyn warned against the implications. The Conservatives accused him of “out and out lying” and said he appeared to be “getting desperate” as the election campaign continues with the Tories in the lead.


Perhaps not.

I for one don’t believe that Boris Johnson cares a hang either for the NHS or the health of other people. Remember when Mr Johnson’s government announced a wide-ranging review of so-called “sin stealth taxes”, saying they seemed to “clobber those who can least afford it”?

Remember the words Mr Johnson used at the time? “If we want people to lose weight and live healthier lifestyles, we should encourage people to walk, cycle and generally do more exercise. Rather than just taxing people more, we should look at how effective the so-called ‘sin taxes’ really are, and if they actually change behaviour”.

Somewhat the same sentiment – in the very same words – is to be found in the leaked papers brandished by Mr Corbyn.

Apparently, they showed that the US wants the UK to do the following:

  • remove as many regulatory barriers as possible on goods, particularly agricultural products
  • allow chlorine-washed chicken
  • push back on labelling food with high sugar content

That last point is particularly interesting in the context of the doubt Mr Johnson cast on “sin taxes”. The US officials apparently said labelling food with high sugar content was “not particularly useful in changing consumer behaviour”.

Truly, we should give thanks for food-labelling (and the NHS) as long as they last.