Britain’s hard-working entrepreneurs and the employees of their profit-making private firms are what make the NHS possible.
That was the message of the Olympic opening ceremony, which thrilled audiences across the globe.
Well, it’s one possible interpretation. But it’s not a view that critics on the right have chosen to adopt. What’s interesting about the controversy over the ceremony is the way right-wing critics have been determined to see what they don’t want to see.
It’s not just Aidan Burley, the Cannock MP, who had their doubts about the ceremony. Some of the Cabinet Ministers who saw the a preview apparently expressed concerns too.
But it’s strange to see British righties giving up so much ground.
In what way was the ceremony left-wing? It began as a celebration of Tory-voting rural England before showing how private enterprise created the modern world. Isambard Kingdom Brunel, played so nobly by Sir Kenneth Branagh, was employed by Bristol and London businessmen to build the Great Western Railway, not the state – which nationalised the line 100 years later.
As the ceremony illustrated, British private industry provides the wealth which allowed the creation of the welfare state and the NHS.
It also highlighted the way that individual wealthy people have traditionally benefited society. Margaret Thatcher once said that the Good Samaritan was only able to help others because he was wealthy – and who proves the truth of this more than JM Barrie, who specified that the copyright of Peter Pan should go to London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Imagine how many children would have suffered if punitive tax rates had made this type of generosity impossible!
A partial and biased reading of the ceremony, perhaps? Yes, indeed.
But it’s no less valid than the idea that it was a celebration of socialism. The fact that the right prefers to feel slighted and offended suggests a certain lack of confidence on their part today.