Rhodes on NHS slogging on and reluctance to fly Branson

The latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Come fly with me – for £160,000
Come fly with me – for £160,000

Despite the pandemic, the NHS slogs on, sometimes with surprising efficiency. I rang my GP about a patch of pigment on my head which tends to appear every summer. Just three days later he removed it by cryotherapy, freezing it off with liquid nitrogen.

Thence to the dental hygienist, another health professional keeping calm and carrying on, while wearing plastic cape, face mask and visor. There are some advantages to this. A large part of the hygienist's job is telling you off for not flossing religiously. Behind mask and visor, the telling-off is diminished and sounds like: “Wurble, durble, blurble, furble,” and you just nod guiltily when the moment seems right, and agree to do better in future. “Okay, I promise to floss every day.” “Urble, furble, wurble?” she responded, proving that even a face mask cannot filter out suspicion.

Back from the edge of space in his flying machine, Sir Richard Branson believes everybody wants to boldly go where he has led. Yet he admits: “My wife Joan is about the only person in the world who doesn't want to go.” The queue may not be as long as he imagines. Not everyone is as pumped up on adrenaline as Richard Branson. Most mortals are perfectly happy to wait until the technology is a little more tested and the tickets, now £160,000, are a tad cheaper.

Told you so. I suggested in March that the inevitable outcome of the Black Lives Matter movement would involve hard cash. Sure enough, Jamaica has unveiled plans to demand an estimated £7.6 billion from the UK in compensation for the evils of slavery on that beautiful island.

If I were a Jamaican descended from slaves I might rightly rage against the white men who brought my ancestors out of Africa to be worked until their death picking sugar cane or cotton. But I think I'd save my bitterest anger for my brother Africans who, over many centuries, rounded up and shackled literally millions of their neighbours to be sold to European slavers. Slavery was a huge industry in parts of Africa long before the white traders appeared. Some African chiefs continued buying and selling slaves for many years after it was banned throughout the British Empire. Some of the beneficiaries of Africa's slave dealing are identifiable to this day. Is anyone chasing them for reparations? If not, why not?

While the principle of reparations is sound, the money should come from companies, universities and those who made millions from slavery. If it was simply paid from our national wealth in the Exchequer, it would include money wrung out of poor, innocent white taxpayers and millions of black Britons, which would be not only unfair but bizarre.

The devil is in the politics and the detail. Pardon my cynicism, but if Britain paid £7.6 billion to Jamaica tomorrow, how much of it would the average Jamaican see?

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