In a speech to Conservative Party members last week, British Prime Minister David Cameron invoked the death of his disabled son in 2009 to argue that he has a “personal” commitment to protecting the National Health Service (NHS). Ivan Cameron, who was six years old and suffered from epilepsy and cerebral palsy, died in February 2009 in the care of NHS nurses fifteen months before Mr. Cameron became Prime Minister.


Delivering the keynote address at this year's Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, England, Mr. Cameron took on accusations of cronyism and corruption by charities, opposition politicians, and leading members of the NHS itself, accusing these figures of scaremongering and claiming “for me this is personal.”


In a reference to Ivan's death, Cameron said “I'm someone who has relied on the NHS and whose family knows more than most just how important it is, who knows what it's like when you go to hospital night after night with a sick child in your arms, knowing that when you get there, there are people who will love that child and care for that child just as like it was their own.”


The Prime Minister finished by adding, "how dare they suggest I would ever put that at risk for other people's children? How dare they frighten those who rely on the National Health Service?” Mr Cameron's wife, Samantha, was photographed close to tears as this part of his speech was delivered, while the audience delivered a standing ovation.


Cameron's speech was widely hailed as one of his greatest ever by his allies in the right wing press. Support was voiced by the Daily Mail, belonging to Lord Rothermere; the Daily Telegraph, property of the Barclay brothers; and by the multiple media outlets belonging to Rupert Murdoch, such as the Times, the Sun, and Sky News. Many ran stories whose main emphasis was on Mrs Cameron's tears.


The problem with this narrative is that it conveniently ignores all of the hard work Cameron's government has done in the past four years to destroy the NHS and everything its founders stood for.


Prior to the 2010 election, Mr Cameron promised voters that any budget by his government would ring-fence the NHS from cuts and sell-offs under austerity, but since entering office this government has handed over healthcare contracts to Conservative Party donors, worth in excess of £1.5bn ($2.4bn) of taxpayer money.


The government was accused in of “privatization by stealth” by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the country's leading medical body, due to the fact that the contracts being pawned off to Conservative donors have been replacing functions previously served by the public sector. The AMRC wrote that "unnecessary competition [will] destabilise complex, interconnected local health economies, in particular hospitals, potentially having adverse effects on patient services".


In the past 25 months alone over 84 lucrative NHS contracts have been put out to tender, collectively worth over £5.6 billion pounds ($8.9bn).


Britain's world-famous healthcare system, which has been a free service for all citizens for the entirety of its nearly 70-year history, has been consistently supported by the majority of the population since it was founded at the end of the Second World War. A poll released in June suggested that over half of the population would be personally willing to pay higher taxes to keep the NHS free at the point of delivery – an especially generous national sentiment given that over the past ten years median incomes have stagnated while living costs have soared.


But nearly half of public healthcare leaders surveyed by the Nuffield Trust think tank this summer felt that within ten years the NHS was no longer going to be a free service, pointing out a growing deficit in the healthcare budget since 2013 and warning of a “funding crisis this year or next”. There are growing accusations from opposing figures that this situation has been engineered by the Conservatives, that rather than having funding problems as a result of a national budget deficit, the NHS is being prised open for market reforms for reasons that are either ideological or corrupt, with the Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, saying “the government is guilty of mis-selling its NHS reforms. Far from letting doctors decide, ministers are mandating the medical profession to carve open the NHS to full commercial competition”.


The government failed last year to pass a bill that would have opened most NHS services to tender thanks to an overwhelming backlash from the entire medical profession. But rather than making the government change course, it merely made them more subversive in their tactics, for instance the insertion of “clause 119” into the upcoming Care bill, which gives new powers to special administrators of financially failing hospitals to reconfigure services affecting providers across an entire region.


Health campaigner Matt Dykes pointed out that this “could mean making proposals to close financially healthy and outstanding hospital services simply because they neighbour another Trust that’s in financial distress”. The government has already attempted to do this with several high-performing hospitals, the most famous example being Lewisham Hospital in South London where an enormous local campaign of resistance halted government plans. Clause 119 would rob local communities of the ability to mount the same kind of challenge by removing the need for any kind of local consultation with special administrators appointed by central government.


Burnham commented that “what ministers failed to achieve last year by the front door they are now trying to sneak through by the back door. They will clearly stop at nothing in their drive to privatise the NHS and are treating the professions and parliament with utter contempt.”


The financial mechanism by which many public hospitals are lead to failure is the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), a method of public funding for new hospitals and facilities which borrows huge amounts of high-cost loans from construction giants and the financial sector whilst keeping the cost initially out of the public books. PFI was nascent under Margaret Thatcher, but proliferated enormously during Tony Blair's famously finance-cozy government.


A recent study of official treasury figures by the Guardian calculated that while PFI contracts are currently funding hospitals schools and other public facilities with a capital value of £54.7 billion ($87.4bn), by the time they are repaid the cost to taxpayers will have amounted to over £300 billion ($479bn). Contracts are still being signed off by today's government, with 39 contracts which will cost the taxpayer nearly $8bn signed off between 2010 and 2012, despite David Cameron publicly condemning PFI under the last government.


Balfour Beatty, the company with the highest net gain from PFI contracts since Thatcher introduced them, has been a generous Conservative Party donor for decades.


Recent research by the trade union Unite has revealed that 24 Members of Parliament and Lords in the upper chamber have links to 15 private healthcare companies, demonstrating clear conflicts of interest. The general secretary of Unite, Len McCluskey, said “David Cameron promised there would be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS but he lied. How can we be in a situation where dozens of his MPs, voted for the sell off act and had links to private healthcare companies, knowing this would open up new opportunities for the companies that pay them?”


It is worth noting that seats in the undemocratic House of Lords are granted by the Prime Minister and last for life, and that John Nash, the chairman of Care UK (who has received a contract worth over $150 million from this government), was recently given a lordship by Cameron after making a donation of $394,000 to the Conservatives.


The argument on the right that there is a need for cuts in the name of efficiency and balanced budgets does not stack up in the least. After pledging not to cut frontline services the government fired 7,000 frontline clinical staff, redundancies whose immediate cost to government was over $2.2 billion. The subsequent gap in staffing in struggling wards then cost the state $6.2 billion when they hired temps on a massive scale.


The biggest beneficiary of this disastrous spending spree was Blackstone, a Wall Street firm whose CEO Steven Schwarzman was a big donor to George Bush and whose annual lobbying bill in Washington has exceeded $4 million. Other Wall Street winners include Bain Capital, whose $400 million purchase of Britain's main blood plasma resource will yield a 5-year profit of $32 million, straight from the taxpayer.


There has been no attempt to explain how this sweating of huge value from British healthcare by foreign firms at the expense of patients' safety is going to help the economy. Given that the national debt has increased by over a third in only four years, suspicion as to the fiscal wisdom of the Conservatives' austerity program seems like the only sensible choice.


And so we return to Cameron's invocation of the death of his son as 'proof' that he is committed to the NHS. There is not much room here to find good in the Prime Minister's intentions. Mr Cameron could, possibly, be the most oblivious person ever to take the reins of government, a well-meaning buffoon who simply doesn't realise that he is accidentally facilitating the catastrophic financial failure of a once great health service. Perhaps he thinks that the healthcare providers giving his party millions of pounds are just doing it because they're nice, and sees no connection between their donations and his priorities. It is not facetious to find this proposition unlikely.


Far more probable is that David Cameron's commitment to the NHS is an intentional sham, and that he is fully aware that the men who bankroll him fully expect a good return on their investment. After all, Mr Cameron is a firm believer in the free market, and to such men the quid pro quo is to be embraced, not denied.


In which case, we can only call Conservative health policy what it undoubtedly is: barefaced, crystal clear, good old fashioned corruption. If we charitably assume therefore that Mr Cameron is at least partially lucid as to whom he owes his debts, what does his emotional nod to Ivan's death say about the attitude of the governing party?


That the Prime Minister is presiding over the greatest act of institutional corruption in modern British history does not reflect well on his character. That he intends to distract the public with a cheap rhetorical device would make him no different to any other lying politician on the take. But that he would twist his own grief over the death of his child in order to carry on siphoning public money to his party donors and trashing a formerly world-famed health service for ideological reasons, all the while lying through his teeth about his intentions – that is a depth of cynicism that surpasses even this vile gang of disingenuous thieves.