On Saturday the 28th of April the toddler Alfie Evans tragically died. He was admitted into hospital only seven months after he was born and has remained there ever since as a result of a degenerative neurological condition. This February the doctors at Alder Hay hospital decided that it was not worth trying to preserve Alfie’s life. When the parents tried to remove Alfie from the UK and take him to Italy for treatment, they were not allowed. In the eyes of the law, the opinions and personal convictions of the doctors counted for more than the parents of the child.
This should be a big moment for British culture.
Call it ‘national mythology’ or sentimental, but a large part of British culture is the belief that in Britain, the relationship between citizen and the state is one of mutual respect. Our politicians are not supposed to be despots. They may be idiotic and fumbling but the popular perception is that dictatorship is just ‘not British’. This rosy view is representative of the way we Britons view the government. British civil servants are competent instead of corrupt and nepotistic. British policemen are ‘bobbies’ rather than armed to the teeth pseudo warriors. While many counties have had a difficult relationship with their secret security services we turn our spies into much-loved action heroes. And what British child did not grow up with the notion that although the American army has more guns than we do, the British Army is still (somehow) the best in the world?
Whether any of this is actually true is highly debatable. But the popular view that the British state is a benign, measured entity is a pervasive feature of our national character. The Alfie Evans case could change this. Here we have the state openly flouting the will of a family to save their young son. This certainly does not fit into the view of the gentle state myth we are so used to.
The Alfie Evans controversy should be a watershed for British culture. State power has grown unchecked for decades, to truly frightening levels.The delusion that the British government exists to serve the people is a silly mistake at best, and dangerously deranged at worst. Across the country conversations about the scope of state power will be happening. Let’s hope that people come to the right conclusion. That the state has grossly overstepped it’s mark here and that it should not be tolerated.