How Politicians Really DO Make Us Sick; Filthy Hospitals, Fraudulent Elections, Illiterate School-Leavers and Violent Crime.A Top Philosopher Explains Why the World's Fourth-Richest Country Is Turning into a Third World Society

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), April 17, 2005 | Go to article overview

How Politicians Really DO Make Us Sick; Filthy Hospitals, Fraudulent Elections, Illiterate School-Leavers and Violent Crime.A Top Philosopher Explains Why the World's Fourth-Richest Country Is Turning into a Third World Society


Byline: ANTHONY O'HEAR

WE ARE the fourthrichest economy in the world. Yet our hospitals actually make people ill. Some 7,500 patients have contracted superbugs, occupying 1.4million bed days per year.

A fifth of our children leave primary school unable to pass the Government's basic test in reading.

Indiscipline is rife. Violent crime and town-centre drinking are out of control. We are the home of parliamentary democracy, yet in the past couple of years we have had voting fraud so blatant even Robert Mugabe would find it embarrassing.

And we have no idea how many foreign terrorist operatives are at work in this country, or what we are allowed to do with them if we actually catch any.

It is not that Government legislation or resources have not been thrown at these troubles. On the contrary, we are deluged with initiatives to sort out problems previous ages dealt with simply and without fuss.

We have an expensive and complicated 'literacy strategy' for schools - with precious little result, because it is a mess itself. There are endless directives about school discipline and children's rights, the net effect of which is to make it virtually impossible to control disruptive pupils or to expel them.

The police and the courts are up to their ears in Government strategies, while still being unable to deal sensibly with offenders and hooligans. The voting fraud - which may yet prove crucial in the forthcoming General Election - is the direct result of Government intervention to 'modernise' the system so people who can't be bothered to walk to a polling station can vote .

AND we have a complicated and costly asylum system and human rights legislation. Yet, precisely because of this, we are unable to deal with foreign nationals the Government itself believes are a threat to national security (and to solve this further problem the Government is proposing to remove historic rights from all of us).

The case of the superbug is classic.

Experts tell us MRSA infection rates would be dramatically reduced if doctors and nurses simply washed their hands between patients and properly sterilised their equipment - what, in fact, has been known since the mid-19th Century when it was also noticed that patients in hospital could be made more ill by poor hygiene.

Yet what we see from the Government is the ubiquitous 'raft of measures' to tackle the crisis.

Complex guidelines are being issued to the low-paid staff who clean (or fail to clean) wards, many of whom can speak little English.

A conference of Britain's top clinical minds is being convened which will no doubt issue yet more recommendations and action plans. To cap it all, what should be utterly uncontroversial is now taking centre stage in the General Election campaign.

Amazingly, we did once have clean hospitals without superbugs because, under the old-style matrons, all staff were imbued with a culture of cleanliness.

We had discipline in schools, and straightforward teaching which did teach children to read. There was a culture of personal responsibility in which widespread binge drinking was not tolerated.

Nor were you in danger of being mugged outside your home. …

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