Nigel Farage will face ritual humiliation on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! - David Behrens
The likely sight of Nigel Farage selling himself on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! will be an exercise in bear baiting; a ritual humiliation for a man who in 2016 had nothing to lose and everything to gain but now has not even his dignity. Or his bank account.
And the viewers’ vote could be a better barometer of his standing than the referendum ever was. It will come down to another single question and this time it will be even less nuanced. Essentially it will be this: Who would you rather see – a washed-up politician or a supermodel taking a shower in a swimsuit? Not even the most impassioned Brexiteer (in fact, especially not) would pass up the model.
If I were Farage I’d have gone on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? instead. But that’s easy for me to say; I can find a friend I could phone.
As it is, the next three weeks of entertainment will play out in roughly the same way as if Ant and Dec were hosting GB News.
There is a reason Farage is such a divisive figure and it’s not just the air of idiocy he radiates, though that’s part of it. It’s that in 2016 he sold us the lie that the £350m a week we sent to Brussels could be spent instead on improving the NHS. It was emblazoned on the side of a bus. Six years on, the NHS has not improved at all. It’s in a worse state than ever.
That big bus slogan – conceived by Farage’s ally Dominic Cummings and rendered in huge type so he could read it without an eye test – was wrong on two levels: it did not take into account the money we got back from Brussels in subsidies and it ignored the fact that the NHS could not simply spend its way out of crisis. Its precipitous state was the result of inefficiency more than penury and that remains the case.
It was demonstrated again this week by the revelation that the consultancy firm McKinsey has been hired at vast expense to conduct a 10-week inquiry into why hospitals are treating fewer patients than before the pandemic, despite having 200,000 more staff and an extra £20bn in funding.
It’s a glaring indictment of management when outsiders have to be brought in to tell them what it’s their job to know already.
The inquiry will also look at why performance is so much worse in some parts of the country. At Hull Royal Infirmary, for instance, it was claimed on Tuesday that the queues of ambulances at the door were so long that it was often quicker to drive patients the 65 miles to Leeds.
At the same time, a poll found that nationally, fewer than half of NHS managers believed they were offering a high quality of care.
It all points to the same failing: the inability of the health service to prioritise the resources it has. Time that could be invested directly in caring for the sick is instead squandered on pointless administration.
But don’t take my word for that; take the word of Dr Caroline Johnson, a consultant paediatrician who is also the MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham in Lincolnshire. She told an NHS conference this week that she was made to forsake time with patients to complete up to 29 mandatory training courses a year, answering questions that were obvious even to her eight-year-old son.
One such question – and this was being asked of hospital consultants – was as follows: “True or false – it is important to lock your computer or mobile device when you’re not using it.”
A manager somewhere will have paid good money to a training consultant to come up with that, on the basis that it ticked a box on a list of “performance targets”. It’s not an isolated example; it’s the sort of condescending practice that’s endemic right across the health service and it wasn’t ever something that could be put right by leaving the EU.
Had there been a proper debate in 2016 we might have realised this sooner. As it was, the campaign slogans operated on the same, crude level as an NHS training paper, reducing complex issues to the language of an eight-year-old. Nigel Farage might care to reflect on that over the coming days as he chokes on his cockroach.
Meanwhile, the newly ennobled Cameron – officially now Lord Snooty – will be taking his meals in the rarified Peers’ Dining Room, where insects are strictly off the menu. As is humble pie.