I would like to repeat a story that I heard recently as I believe it bears telling more widely. It is a story of trains and supermarkets.
There is a supermarket in South London called Food Four All. It was doing well and wanted to expand. The local council would only allow them to expand if they rented the land from a consortium of local builders and financiers who put the rent up year on year until Food Four All was in such dire financial straits that they called in the administrators.
The administrator told the other big supermarkets in the same part of London that they would have to refer a quarter of their customers to Food Four All. They were also to change their web sites so that a quarter of all customers that tried to log on to one of their web sites was automatically routed to the web site of Food Four All.
“You can’t do that” said the big supermarkets.
“I can, and I shall” said the administrator.
“You can’t do that,” said the judge, “it’s illegal.”
“Then I shall change the law” said the Secretary of State. And he did.
I was so disgusted when I heard this story that I left the meeting and decided to head for home.
When I got to Euston I was not in a good mood. I faced a three and a half hour journey to get home, but at least I would be back in my own bed tonight.
Imagine my fury when I was told that my train was cancelled and I would need to take a different route involving four changes and taking five hours.
I tackled the inspector.
“Why was the train cancelled? No driver? Broken down train? Accident?”
“No,” said the inspector, “the Special Train Administrator has ordered main line train companies to cancel a quarter of their services in order to force more people to use other train companies who are in financial difficulties.
Is this the craziest reason for cancelling trains? But that, dear reader, is what is happening in the NHS.