I wake up this morning to Twitter and Facebook still going off on one about Danny Boyle’s tribute to the NHS in last night’s Olympic opening ceremony. There have been a lot of comments about how it seemed to support a left-wing agenda. But it didn’t. Really, it didn’t.
Yes, Aidan Burley is a twat. But no more so than those who attempted to hijack the imagery of the opening ceremony in support of an anti-reform agenda. There’s an absolutely important point in the narrative, possible missed by those watching (especially by the inane BBC commentators), but directly alluded to in Danny Boyle’s programme notes, that the industrial revolution is something to be celebrated for what it gave us, and the NHS is one of those things.
The “progressive” elements of society that were part of last night’s show, including the NHS and the suffragettes, were not a counter-reaction to the industrial revolution. Rather, they were a direct consequence of it. It was industry that spread democracy and wealth and made progress possible.
Without the money from industry to finance it, the NHS could never have existed. Universal suffrage would not have happened without the social changes wrought by industry. If you want to defend the NHS, then you also have to defend the things which enable it – a free, entrepreneurial society that encourages the creation of wealth.
That was a point woven into the fabric of the Olympic opening ceremony. It’s in the words of the famous song which introduced it. Jerusalem doesn’t just happen. It has to be built. I agree with Danny Boyle when he writes of
The idea of Jerusalem – the better world, that A belief that we can build the world of real freedom and true equality, a world that can be built through the prosperity of industry and the caring nation that built the welfare state, through the joyous energy of popular culture, through the dream of universal communication. A belief that we can build Jerusalem. And that it will be for everyone.
And there’s nothing left-wing about that.