Voices: Whose fault is the NHS crisis? Anyone but the government’s, apparently

Here’s a fun parlour game that could keep you busy right up until the end of January: run up a ladder, jump off that ladder and then, as you wait around for the rest of the month for an ambulance that isn’t going to turn up, keep your mind off the unbearable agony by trying to piece together whose fault all this is.

An easy place to start would be by going through a list of everyone Rishi Sunak has blamed. First there’s the coronavirus. The reason your grandma is waiting for 28 hours in an ambulance outside A&E, while paramedics rotate shifts just to hold her hand – and then when she finally does get admitted she can’t get out again because she’s got a horrible illness she didn’t have when she got there – that’s Covid’s fault, apparently.

Covid is exacerbating pressure on the NHS. This is partly true, but then, the trouble with blaming Covid for everything is that there is not a single country in the world that didn’t have to deal with Covid, and there are a great many countries in the world where excess deaths are not up 20 per cent.

The UK – quelle surprise – currently has the highest excess mortality rate in western Europe, at least according to research by the King’s Fund. And also, Rishi Sunak blaming Covid for his problems is just plain ungrateful. But for that once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic, and the once-in-a-hundred-year opportunity for an actual chancellor of the Exchequer to spend all summer throwing out subsidised Big Macs to anyone who wanted them – would he even be prime minister at all?

It’s also Vladimir Putin’s fault, naturally, but again we must ask whether there are, potentially, other nations who are also feeling the effects of rising fuel prices but aren’t witnessing an estimated 500 people a week dying through not being able to access emergency healthcare.

At some point in your cycle of agony, it’s highly likely to roll around to Wednesday lunchtime at least once, and you can take your mind off your new life of perpetual misery by tuning in to Prime Minister’s Questions and making things even worse.

At this week’s edition, Rishi Sunak had no new ideas about whose fault it was, but he had come up with some vaguely new ways of blaming Keir Starmer. He wanted to know why it was that the Labour Party is refusing to back his new plan to make it harder for public service workers to go on strike. That that’s how you sort all this out, by blaming the workers. That all he was trying to do was bring about “minimum safety standards in line with Canada, Australia and the USA” where “blue light services can’t go on strike”.

Even as the waves of torture come upon you again and again and again, it’s possible you still won’t be dim enough to actually try and work out why there’s not much to be gained from trying to work out why it is that a leader of the Labour Party isn’t going to support action to block the right to strike.

Try, instead, to ask yourself why this is all happening now. Why has no one ever had to bring in legislation to stop nurses from striking before? And see if you can work out the answer – that the Royal College of Nursing has never actually gone on strike before. That it’s never been this bad before. And see if you can work out who it is exactly that’s brought us to this point. A good place to start would be to work out who’s been in government for the last 13 years.

Rishi Sunak knows very well that he has got no answers. And if you needed any proof of that, you only need to know that at one point during Prime Minister’s Questions, he looked over the despatch box at Keir Stamer and said the words: “If it had been up to him, Mr Speaker, we’d still be in lockdown.”

And therein lies the choice before you and the rest of a worn-out, debilitated, knackered nation crying out for help. Who do you believe? Do you believe, maybe, that the NHS might be in a better state if someone else were in charge of it? Or do you believe that, under Labour, the UK would be about to enter its 22nd straight month of lockdown, a complete outlier in all the world.

Do you believe, in other words, that all this is absolutely everybody’s fault but the Tories? And if you do, well, I’m sad to say you’re now delirious, but also, there’s nothing anyone can do to help.