Secret E-Diary

Health dominates the General Election

“Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half.” – Gore Vidal

One matter that I hope will be investigated by the Green Party is whether or not winter ‘bugs’ are getting worse. I think they last longer with vicious post-viral coughs that seem, like some aging repertory actor’s curtain-call, to keep returning for another bow.

Since Christmas I have had laryngitis thanks to my cousin, viral bronchitis from Chambers and a chesty cough that never quite clears. In all the many health-guides online I note that coughs lasting longer than three weeks should be investigated. Leaving my junior to cope with a witness none of us could remember fully binding, I visited my doctor last week. Sadly, her cough was infinitely worse than mine. “I have had it for weeks,” I said. “I know,” she observed, before beginning a paroxysm of her own, “and me.” I turned to treatments: “I have taken everything from gargles to cough mixtures – drowsy, non-drowsy and unspecified. Nothing works.” “No, they’re useless,” she agreed. “The best thing to do is rest.” I ended up giving her one of my own throat sweets before returning to the trial.

Also, as well as antibiotics, which are now apparently beginning to fail, all the other treatments seem to be the same as those given to me as a child. Presumably all those economic scenarios being touted by our political class, based on the average life expectancy of the citizen moving into treble figures, will shortly be redundant as mediaeval survival rates become the reality. However, the truth is that political medicine is rather like my cough stuff: it all sounds vaguely reassuring until you actually take it, when you realise it is of no use or ornament.

One of the comforting things about Chambers is that we never discuss party-politics. We blame each party’s failure when in power to fund legal aid properly and to desist from passing extensive quantities of unintelligible legislation. I would not know who was a conservative or a socialist, a liberal or a ukipper, a nationalist or a monster raving loony.

Take Hetty Briar-Pitt, for instance: she and her High Court judge husband have a rambling pile in the country which may show conservative leanings unless sufficiently west country to drift into liberalism. On the other hand, her husband has German blood and thinks too much about things, which could end in socialism. In fact, I asked her whether she had a strong political preference only very recently. “I’m a Green,” she said. “It’s the horses. You can’t imagine how badly treated they are on the continent. By the way, if one of them had a cough like yours, I would have the vet round.” That was certainly a thought. The vet could hardly be more useless than my doctor had been on this occasion. Thank goodness I had not asked our resident ‘trimmers’, the brothers Twist. I imagine their front windows have one party’s posters on show whilst at the rear are those for their diametric opposites.

However, Paddy Corkhill, whose alcoholic consumption probably debars him from treatment under the modern NHS, had overheard my question and my state of health and suggested various tonics in our usual hostelry and in my weakened state I succumbed.

“Politicians!” he said, swigging back a double Underburg before starting on Scottish remedies. “Have you met anything with less shame?” “This time, they are just making up policies as they go along. Here is my new plan, which I just thought up ten minutes ago. And then we vote in that day’s opinion poll like six continuous weeks of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’”. I was used to these rants from Paddy and tended to switch off until his finger, or a glass, was being placed in close proximity to my forehead.

This time, however, he seemed morose. “No new plans for us,” he said. “We’re a dead-duck whichever party gets in. Our demise is about the only thing they all agree about. We should get those doctors’ leaders on our side. They can persuade them to spend the entire gross domestic product on the health service.” I cleared my throat sympathetically. “I know they do good things, amazing things,” he continued, “but is cosmetic surgery or a hip replacement more important than someone being wrongly banged up for 30 years of his life or a child being permanently removed from its natural parents?” “Plus,” he said, staring at me in a disturbing way as I began coughing again, “in some cases, medical treatment just seems a waste of time.”

William Byfield Gutteridge Chambers

William Byfield is the pseudonym of a senior member of the Bar. Gutteridge Chambers, and the events that happen there, are entirely fictitious