The NHS Price List Story Might Be Damaging To The NHS In Subtle Ways

I think the NHS price list story could undermine the NHS a little bit.

The majority of people in the UK love the NHS. So everybody circulates the NHS price list motivated by an instinct to save the NHS from privatisation, which I share.

But as a result, everybody sees the big numbers on the price list and relates it to their income and the price of a loaf of bread, and starts to think “Jeepers! Medicine is expensive!”

And that lays the groundwork for opponents of the NHS to say: “Yes – don’t you think we as a nation deserve better value for money?” Or: “Do you think you, struggling to pay your bills, should be made to pay for someone else’s healthcare?”

If they get you to accept this conception of how public money works (which it doesn’t), the privatisation vultures have already won.

So, two points:

1. NOTHING is expensive (in terms of money) for a government that creates its own currency like ours. Our government can never “run out” of pounds.

2. The best healthcare in the world is not expensive to our government. The best healthcare in the world is what you’re entitled to here in the UK, whoever you are, whenever you need it. It’s a human right, it’s our inheritance, and it should be what we’re leaving to our children and grandchildren, because they’re entitled to it, too.

It might look expensive to someone who has to toil long hours to make ends meet, but that’s not the position the UK government is in. They are the issuers of the currency, we are the users of the currency.

Not reversing the dismantling of the NHS and making it whole again will be cripplingly expensive, though.

So, stop looking at the pound signs and tell these bastards to write the cheque (like they do when they want to bomb something or get a duck house on expenses) – or even better vote them out at the earliest opportunity for someone who will.


Happy 40th, Comedy Store!

The first time I gigged at the Comedy Store, I think it was 1999, and I was playing in Rich Hall’s band. We played a monthly residency and had exciting, famous guests.

When I started doing my own trial spots there, a couple of years later, it was a bit scary, but Rich gave me a great pep talk and I’ll share it with you, free of charge: “Just remember this. Everybody dies.”

You’re welcome!

Anyway, just want to say thanks to The Comedy Store for having me on their line-ups. Always a compliment to be on the bill with amazing people, some of whom inspired me to be a comedian in the first place, and all of whom inspire me to be a better comedian.

To all the comedians, thanks for accepting me as one of the tribe, or being polite enough to keep your feelings about musical comedy to yourself around me.

I love our job, I love our culture and our little community.

Thanks to Don, for giving us a place to show off and getting all those audiences to show up for us (for 40 years!). And thanks to Simon, Simon, Sylvie, Sebastian, Graham, Riz and Paul for making it feel like home.

And thanks again to Rich Hall for taking the pressure off and staying away from my first gig. “I’m not a big fan of public executions.” Literally a quote.

Happy 40th, Comedy Store!


The White Guys Are At It Again

The white guys are at it again, referring to what’s happened to Danny Baker as him being “burned” or being a victim of some kind of lynching. I find the lynching rhetoric about as insensitive (you know, given history) as the failure to comprehend why black people might still, after all these hours, be upset and angry at Danny Baker’s “monkey” tweet (yes – even in spite of an apology!)

Nobody rounded up a posse and called for Danny Baker to be put to death. He’s just working through the consequences of his actions. One of the consequences is people are saying negative things about him on the internet (generously peppered with “he can’t be racist, I met him once and he didn’t kill any people of colour”-type comments). The other consequence is he got fired. These things are not: a public flogging, a lynching or a burning at the stake.

Literally a white hot take


“There’s no other term to describe a situation in which close to half the population either has second-class rights, or no rights whatsoever. That’s an apartheid situation.” – Norman Finkelstein on Israel

“I don’t think it is any longer controversial whether or not Israel is an apartheid state.

There are, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, roughly 12 or 13 million people.

That includes the West bank, Jerusalem, Gaza – and Israel has controlled the West bank, Jerusalem and Gaza for more than a half-century, and the Israeli government has made it clear it has no intention whatsoever of returning to the borders of the June 1967 war [when Israel did not control the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza].

So we can’t any longer talk about an occupation, we have to be talking about an annexation. The territories have been de facto annexed. After a half-century, that seems to me to be the reasonable conclusion.

So [of] all that population that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, roughly speaking, about half has either second-class status, or overwhelmingly no rights whatsoever in the state. No voting rights, and from there down.

They don’t even have rights to property. Property can be confiscated overnight, at a whim, with the support of the courts.

So it seems to me – again, trying to be rational, trying to be objective, trying to be dispassionate – there’s no other term to describe a situation in which close to half the population either has second-class rights (that would be within Israel proper) or no rights whatsoever (which would be The West Bank and Gaza). That’s an apartheid situation.

I have a vivid recollection during the last days of apartheid [in South Africa], Ronald Regan supported the apartheid regime, as did Margaret Thatcher. Until the very end, Regan and Thatcher were calling Nelson Mandela and the ANC terrorist organisations.

So, until the very end, our government was supporting South Africa because it saw it as a bastion of western ‘civilisation’ in Africa – so for the same reason they support Israel in the middle-east.” — Professor Norman Finkelstein (speaking on The Jimmy Dore Show, link below).

If you’re new to the topic, I think this conversation is a great way to start understanding the situation that Palestinians face today.

I support the non-violent tactics of boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Israeli government as means to achieving justice and peace for the people of the region.


The Conservative Party’s Murder Problem

The Conservative party and their enablers have killed 120,000 of their own citizens in recent years, but it’s weird how we never hear every day about The Conservatives’ Systemic Murder Problem.

They meant to do it as well. With policy. I’m not talking about regretted tweets or de-contextualised comments. This is an organisation killing people in doctrine and deed.

Imagine the press doing what naive people imagine the media’s job to be: holding the powerful to account. Imagine the constant front page stories, the resignations, the cries of “too little, too late!” and the actual lives saved.

I guess whether or not something gets viewed as urgent comes from which stories we want to tell, and how we tell them.

If, say, a company has rules and a process for dealing with racism in the workplace, and if we see people within the company able to call out racism, and people who break the rules being disciplined and dismissed, and we see the number of incidents involving racism declining over time, you could say it’s evidence that the rules are working, that the organisation is functional.

Or you could say it’s evidence that the organisation has a permanent racism problem (like most of the world has a permanent racism problem) every day, depending on what you want to achieve.

For the Labour party and the Left, it feels to me like the bar has now been raised to having to prove that zero anti-Semitism resides in anybody aligned with them. Which of course is ideal, but hard to prove. Organisations can make rules and sanction people who break them, monitor and invite outsiders to measure what can be measured, but of course it’s going to be impossible to *prove* zero prejudice. And It feels to me like that’s the point, to make this the story forever.

I think if those of us on the left choose to accept this framing, the framing of our ideological opponents, anything we do or say on this issue will always be characterised as not taking this permanent (and rightly urgent) challenge seriously enough.

Our opponents can choose to tell our story this way. It’s a free discourse.

But let’s also remember there’s this other story of the Left. A story of anti-racist, anti-imperialist social movements that have spent their whole existence struggling (and succeeding) to devolve power away from a privileged few to the hands of the many. Let’s also remember that story, and be energised by it.

Because the body count being racked up by the Conservatives’ Institutional Murder Problem is also an urgent crisis, and it needs to end. Yesterday.


Noam Chomsky. Still Got It!

Rarely a day goes by when I‘m not grateful for the teachings of Noam Chomsky.

Just before I go into that, here’s a half-remembered half-joke…

A man from the USSR travels to the USA. He says: “This place is amazing. Everybody here thinks the same way. Where I’m from, to get the same result we have to pull fingernails, use secret police, The Gulag…” *

The thing that always springs to mind when I think about Noam Chomsky is that at political talks people often ask him: “This is all well and good, but what can we do?”, and he often says something like: “It’s interesting. I get this question a lot in privileged societies. When I travel to less privileged places they don’t ask me ‘what can we do?’ – they tell me what they’re doing. There’s a feeling of helplessness that goes along with being in relatively free societies. Truth is, we can do just about anything we want.” **

Then why don’t we?

In totalitarian states, it doesn’t matter what people think, they can hate the government all they want, they can think anything they want, all day long. Violence and the threat of violence is what keeps people in line.

In more free societies this is inverted.

Maybe, if you’re reading this, you might be lucky enough to be living in a society made a bit freer by the struggle and sacrifice of organised, disobedient, nameless, faceless people in mass movements. Abolitionists, suffragettes, freedom riders, unions… people who had a vision and maybe gave up life and limb. Yes, there’s a long way to go, but I think the thing about civilisation not living up to its name is not to get down-hearted, but to see how far the powerless have come and pick up where brave people left off.

Chomsky often underlines that in societies which are relatively free from state violence, it becomes more important to regiment what people think – that’s what replaces physical coercion.

So for me, the gift Noam Chomsky gave us, which I am constantly grateful for, is a very practical way to understand the mass media. I think it should be taught in primary school.

Here’s an overview of what I’m talking about, it takes five minutes to read, but if you’re in a rush, I’ll boil it down like this…

These days, when we’re using Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc and getting angry about them selling our personal data, I’m sure we’ve all got a clever friend who will remind us: “If you don’t pay for a product, *you’re* the product”.

Well, Noam (and Ed Herman) said that in 1988.

Another favourite Chomsky quote:

“Changes and progress very rarely are gifts from above. They come out of struggles from below.”

What can we do? Just about anything.


*this is a half-remembered joke. Apologies for almost certainly getting it wrong!

**this is a paraphrase. Couldn’t find an exact quote in print, but this is something like it.

Oh, and of course – happy (belated) 90th, Noam!