THE sick child could have belonged to anyone. The attitude shown to him by Boris Johnson, though, could have only have come from a Tory. And not just any Tory, but the full 2019, Brexit version, the essence of which millions of Russian roubles and US dollars have been spent trying to conceal during this election.

The sick boy who, owing to a shortage of beds, was photographed lying on a floor in the A&E department of Leeds General Infirmary, isn’t just any sick child. His name is Jack Williment-Barr and he had been admitted to hospital with suspected pneumonia. He belongs to a family who form part of a living, breathing, British community. It’s important to give him his name because the sort of hard-right political doctrine that is chiefly responsible for creating conditions like this in our hospitals uses mass anonymity to anaesthetise our senses and take the edge from our outrage.

The man who, in all probability, will be responsible for the welfare of millions of children like Jack, couldn’t bear to look at the image of him lying on a hospital floor, covered in coats to keep him warm during a five-hour wait. Often, you can’t bear to look at an image because it is upsetting or distressing or simply offensive. That wasn’t why Boris Johnson couldn’t bring himself to gaze at it.

The National:

In that instant when he was shown the picture on a reporter’s mobile phone he knew immediately that he was trapped and that the picture was a rebuke to a decade of austerity imposed by his party. In these moments Johnson was stripped naked and unable to rely on the artifices of his puppet-master, Dominic Cummings. In a little while his Health Secretary would arrive to calm the horses, armed with some honeyed sophistry about the Tories’ future commitment to the NHS. For a little while, though, Johnson was on his own and in a place beyond the reach of lies and spin, one where only honesty and gut instinct would stand up under scrutiny. And so, the Prime Minister’s gut instinct kicked in and he grabbed the offending smartphone with its wretched image in the same way that a child might put his hands over his face or her fingers in her ears to blot out something bad.

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Another politician, even one who knows that he can’t escape the revealed truth of an image like this, would have reacted differently. A sense of basic humanity would have brought forth a mumbled apology; an expression of regret or compassion for the suffering of a child, even while knowing that there was no way they could emerge from this looking good. Johnson, though, just wanted the picture to go away and desired only self-preservation.

Some have since sought to see in this picture of a sick child curled up on a hospital floor as a metaphor for the state of the NHS in England and Wales, and perhaps it is. But our Prime Minister’s reaction to it was certainly a metaphor representing the essential inhumanity that courses through 2019 Conservatism. It would also be wrong to disparage previous iterations of Toryism in this way or to think that Johnson’s inhumanity is indicative of the way that ordinary Tories view their fellow human beings.

I simply can’t envisage Theresa May or David Cameron grabbing a reporter’s phone from his hand when asked to comment about a sick child lying in a hospital floor. The policies pursued by each of these two former Conservative prime ministers can be criticised for leading to needless suffering in a land of plenty but I can’t believe that either (perhaps I’m being naive here) was impervious to the plight of another human being.

Jack Williment-Barr is one of the many thousands of British citizens who will suffer needlessly at the hands of a political creed which views many of the rest of us as something less than fully human and, as such, not really deserving of anything fully merciful: only a second or third-class version of it.

The Brexit mutation of the modern Conservative Party is pursuing an agenda last witnessed before the middle of the 19th century when the Poor Laws were passed. This was when the British government became alarmed at the amount of money it was paying out needlessly to help poor people (the vast majority of the population). It thus sought to ensure that conditions inside workhouses were so bad that people would accept any type of poorly paid or squalid existence outside them. And since you couldn’t get any type of benefit or relief from poverty unless you lived in an official workhouse then you would accept anything above actual slavery and thus cease to be a burden on the middle classes.

It’s this hostility to disadvantaged people which runs through the benefit reforms imposed by the Department for Work and Pensions. It’s creating a hostile environment for poor people by blaming them for their own poverty or disability and then punishing them. “Why should hard-working, affluent people fund fecklessness?”

THIS also lies at the heart of historic Tory hostility to the NHS. “Why should anyone get anything for free?” Brexit has given the current, pitiless strain of British Toryism to address this too. A Prime Minister with a history of lying in every aspect of his professional and personal adult life has vowed to ringfence the NHS in any future trade negotiations with the US, the world’s most capitalist country and another that views poverty as a form of weakness.

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Donald Trump, a president who thinks nothing of selling his country’s security to foreign states, states that he’s not interested in Britain’s NHS.

Not that he’ll ever get to decide. The US pharmaceutical industry, comprising some of the richest firms on the planet, spends billions every year influencing government policy and bribing both Democrats and Republicans in the manner of the National Rifle Association.

Does anyone think they will pass up this historic, one-time-only opportunity to feed on the NHS of a desperado country that, post-Brexit, will be there for the taking?

And so the picture of a child lying stricken on a floor is not merely a metaphor either. It is the NHS of Christmas present and the NHS of all our Christmases to come.

Boris Johnson’s Tories used dark money illegally to fund a campaign of anti-immigration and fear of others to persuade working-class people to vote for Brexit.

Any working-class person who still insists on voting for Boris Johnson tomorrow is participating in their own future downfall. The only part of the UK that can escape this fate is Scotland, by voting for independence.