When I read Jonathan Coe’s What a carve up! back in the 1990s it was as a satire on the deep unpleasantness of the Thatcher government. The rapaciousness of some of the characters was slightly cartoonish but none the less disturbing. Yet, the more I think about it the more it appears a work with a strong prophetic edge.
The book’s take on the Thatcher years and the extent to which the book’s protagonists were enamoured of private profit may have felt a bit over the top at the time – it was hard to imagine quite such odious people. Perhaps that was my youthful naivety back then.
But now we’re subjected to the regime of Thatcher’s children – turbo-Thatcherism. The direction of the current proposals for health reform suggest we’re back in Coe country again. And this time there’s a danger that Coe’s book could be taken as a documentary account of some of the thinking currently abroad. The commercial sector is circling around the NHS, sniffing major profit opportunities, and the government are keen to facilitate the process of hiving off functions to it. Despite all the public protestations to the contrary. It’s all a bit depressing.