Magazine article The Spectator

Three Women Showed Me How Bad Things Have Got

Magazine article The Spectator

Three Women Showed Me How Bad Things Have Got

Article excerpt

Bryan Forbes reflects on Jacqui Smith, Jade Goody and a heroic doctor, and their respective lessons to us all about our corrupt polity and morally impoverished culture

Over the last week I have been pondering the lives of three totally different women. The first was our dim, weaselworded Home Secretary, adept at letting others fall on their sword but unwilling to follow suit. Second, the late Jade Goody with her sad, manufactured martyrdom, and last a hard-working NHS doctor responsible for the operation of a large A&E department. In recent television programmes all three revealed different aspects of our fractured society and, more and more, I found myself becoming 'as mad as hell', like the character in Chayefsky's film Network.

Jacqui Smith, inexplicably holder of one of the great offices of state, has proved herself totally incapable of admitting that she is truly shamed by her greed. Parallel to a squalid, unrepented chapter in her personal affairs has been the painful, public demise of Jade Goody, acted out for our delectation as defined by those wonderful creative minds who give us Big Brother. Finally, to redress the balance, I was greatly moved by the splendid A&E doctor in the Channel 4 series The Hospital, who spoke honestly about the broken bodies she tries every night to mend, but admitted that she was realistic about being able to bring about any change in the futile lives of vomiting hordes of feral teenage binge drinkers. If and when he forms a government, Cameron should parachute her into a safe seat and immediately make her Minister of Health. She is somebody who works at the coal face, not behind a desk, and knows the extent of the problem.

In contrasting the fates of these three different women (one sadly now buried with all the manufactured sorrow the celebrity media could generate), I was again struck by the way in which we are deliberately misled as to the true state of the nation's woes and made victims of all the injustices that flow from Downing Street's institutionalised chicanery. Ignore tragic Jade Goody's deathbed fortune (ironically her best chance in life came when she was dying). Contrast the salaries plus expenses of ministers with that of the average A&E doctor. The vaudeville act of Beckett and Smith, before the proposed crackdown, were able to go for multiple houses. But if the good doctor portrayed in the television documentary manages to buy just one home, she will have to stump up the stamp duty and be unable to claim for a new kitchen, patio heaters or bath plugs. How, I wonder, does she view the inequality of her life compared to that of the ever-complacent Geoff Hoon, defence minister during the critical period of the Iraq war, who was unable to ensure that our troops were sent into action with adequate equipment, but managed to clothe himself in the fiscal armour of a property empire?

As yet another legless teenager is deposited in her overworked ward, preventing her team from attending to genuine emergencies, does she believe anybody in government will ever have the guts to stand up and admit to the endemic dishonesty that has been its hallmark from the moment when Bernie Ecclestone parked his Formula 1 autos on Tony Blair's lawn?

All too late, what we are now discovering is that, for more than a decade, we have been ruled by a gaggle of administrators, shuffled around like a poker dealer's pack, none of whom proved to have any practical knowledge of the real world, and were controlled by instructions paged to them by non-elected spin doctors (viz. …

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