Sunday, 4 October 2015

Poor old England: suffering so many blows, with such a long way to climb back up...

There are times when for nations, as for individuals, everything just seems to be going wrong.

Today, its apparently England’s turn.

We find that the English National Health Service is heading for a record £2 billion loss. That’s worrying but hardly surprising: we’ve known for a while that things were hurtling downhill fast. But now we learn that the government was keeping the figures under wraps so that the news wouldn’t overshadow the Tory Party conference, which is depressing but again far from surprising: we know this government has no aptitude for doing good things or doing them well, but boy it’s a past master at making it look as though things are going just fine.

We also learn that half of all teachers in England, according to a recent poll, want to find a new job outside teaching in the next two years. That makes it sound as though the school system depends for its survival on there being enough general unemployment to stop teachers finding other work. Upsetting but, again, not a huge surprise given the attitude of government.

Finally, those of us who could sit through the experience, watched the England rugby team being clinically taken apart by an Australian XV that didn’t just beat them, but outclassed them. Outclassed in much the same way as Barack Obama outclasses Dubya Bush, except that there were times the England team didn’t seem to be as quick on the uptake as Dubya.

So England’s in the doldrums.

England shattered
But Rugby may not be our most serous problem
Of the three perturbing developments, only two can really be attributed to the government (though it would be fun to blame them for the rugby defeat too). The first two are, as it happens, the most important, but hey, at least Cameron and his mates didn’t actually sell us to the Aussies (at least, as far as we can tell).

Curiously, but unsurprisingly, the only one for which we’ve had any kind of apology was the rugby. Both the team captain and the head coach have expressed their regrets for the lousy performance. Naturally, Cameron and his mates will issue no such thing. The collapse of healthcare and education won’t affect them unduly, since they can buy themselves whatever they need. Far from apologising, they are more likely to celebrate such decline as taking us in just the right direction – reducing government spending without damage to anything that matters to them personally.

When nations, or indeed individuals, go through a bad time, it’s often simply part of a cycle. There will be an upswing later. The trough leads to a demanding climb, but the effort will eventually take us back to a peak.

It certainly happens in sport. The England rugby team were world beaters in the early years of the century. They will probably be world beaters again. Fixing their problems will be tough, but it can happen quite quickly.

Sadly, when it comes to health and education, the solution tends to cost a great deal more and take a great deal longer. There’s going to be a protracted battle ahead. If we’re going to win it, we need to get started immediately.

Which probably means that, painful as it was, the quicker England puts its rugby defeat behind it, the better.

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