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Opinion: Defending the NHS

Michael Goldfarb — and thousands of Britons — cry foul as Americans diss U.K. health care.

Sister Melissa Strickland comforts 19-month-old Harley Frakes on the Parrot Ward for neurosurgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and NHS Trust in central London July 4, 2008. Britain's National Health Service was launched on July 5, 1948, by then Labour Health Minister Aneurin Bevan. (Dylan Martinez/Reuters)

LONDON — Here is the true voice of socialism: "Britain's National Health Service is one of the great achievements of the 20th century."

Oops ... fooled you. It's not really the voice of a socialist but the words of the leader of Britain's Conservative party, David Cameron.

Here are some more of this true blue conservative's words on the subject: "Under a Conservative government, the NHS will remain free at the point of need and available to everyone, regardless of how much money they have in the bank."

Americans, overheated by a severe case of August Health Care Fever, should meditate on those words. They are the true expression of mainstream Conservatism in Britain. Where does Cameron's view come from? Well, unlike virtually any commentator in America — from the all-mouth, no-brain radio shock jocks, to the Ivy League educated columnists at glossy intellectual magazines — Cameron has had actual experience of the NHS.

Here is his story:

Cameron's first child, Ivan, was born with a devastating combination of cerebral palsy and epilepsy. For the six years of his life, the boy was cared for constantly by the NHS. Sorry, Sarah Palin, there was no "death panel" to rule about the child's right to life. He simply received the best care the service could provide.

David Cameron, a graduate of Eton and Oxford, comes from money and has done very well on his own. He is nobody's socialist, but faced with the overwhelming needs of his child, it was the NHS alone that could provide the constant care Ivan needed. When the boy passed away earlier this year, even in his grief Cameron paid special tribute to the NHS caregivers who made his life more bearable.

Cameron's words are absolutely sincere, and from them he gains a great deal of political benefit. With his staunch defense of the service, Cameron has neutralized the one advantage the Labour Party always has over the Conservatives at election time: that it will be the better steward of the NHS.

The simple fact is that the people of this country love the NHS, even when they complain about it. And many of them are getting downright angry about the way its reputation is being dragged through the mud by the revived Know Nothing Movement sweeping across America this summer.

"I'm really getting angry," said Robert Chetwyn. "And I'm sure there are an awful lot of people like me."