There was I just finishing my meal when at the table next door a bubbly posh bird asked her boyfriend "shall I ask for an NHS discount?" I could not help but stick my nose in and had discovered pretty soon that if you show a card showing you work for the NHS (and unbelievably the BBC) you get a staff discount. I thought of asking if someone who risked his capital to employ people to pay the taxes that funded the NHS and biased BBC would get an even better discount. But I bit my lip. That restaurant will not get my custom again.
Of course if a restaurant wants to offer discounts to NHS staff (God knows the world's third largest employer has enough of them) or BBC workers or members of Al-Qaeda that is its call. It is its commercial decision. But...
I suspect that it is in part driven by the old notion that staff in the NHS/Civil Service/BBC etc are not very well paid. That is simply no longer the case. On average a State sector employee earns more than the average private sector employee. They get longer holidays, bigger pension arrangements, take more days off sick and have greater job security. They are getting bigger pay rises right now despite a "freeze" on pay rises by simply moving up pre-agreed salary scales. So there is no sympathy needed there from those of us in the private sector.
But the NHS does vital work. I shall not even try to argue that case for the BBC as that is, as we know, risible. Yes the NHS saves lives. Nurses are not paid a fortune for doing so - but are not badly paid these days. But they attract my respect. Doctors are paid a fortune and have obscene pension arrangements (and still some of the greedy mothers want to go on strike for more). But the world's third largest employer - I repeat that as I want you to remember that there are only 60 million people in the UK - also employs armies of managers and folks who are not engaged in front line medical treatment or, indeed, in doing anything particularly useful at all.
Perhaps the bubbly bird was involved in the NHS programme to design sex apps for 13 year olds? Perhaps she was on the programme that offers hair removal therapy for transsexual prisoners? Or maybe she is involved in a programme doing something even more useless. The heavy statistical odds are that she was not involved in the delivery of front line medical services but is a bureaucrat. She could equally be a pen-pusher in the private sector but, ceteris paribus, that would involve a pay cut/less sickies/fewer holidays/a lower pension she would have to entirely self fund/shorter maternity rights/etc.
When I asked the bubbly bird if she was serious about the discount she looked at me as if I had just suggested that she was a child molester (she worked for the NHS not the BBC so I guess the odds are against it). Her eyes looked at me as if to say "how dare you attack the NHS?" Well it about time some of us started to dare. The maths do not stack up. The NHS as it stands is an indulgence Britain cannot afford. The idea that all NHS staff should be pitied and cosseted is just a joke.
I think I shall work on a scheme offering a 10% discount at Real Man Pizza Company to anyone who can show that they are self employed or has started their own business. What do you think?