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Hi, this is Gerry, and this is my News Digest for Friday 20th July, 2018. Today’s show is a special one. You’ll find out why at the end. Before that I have an extraordinary story of a pair of twins who might be said to embody  what we understand by globalisation. After that, it’s a big year for anniversaries here and I’ll tell you about two of them.
In 2016, Mrs May attracted both approval  and a lot of criticism when she said the following: “If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very  word ‘citizenship’ means.” She was addressing  Brexit-related questions about immigration and the wish to take back control of our borders. These questions about identity - who we are, where we belong, etc. - are very topical . However, many of us now have family members either living somewhere else or who’ve come from somewhere else so that it’s difficult sometimes to decide who we are in traditional national and regional terms.
The reason why this phrase, “a citizen of nowhere”, was on my mind  this week is because of an extraordinary story that I heard from friends. We were talking about English grandparents travelling to provide child care for their children, and my friends told me about a couple who travel to China three or four times a year to help their son’s family there. That was extraordinary enough but the biography of the children they look after is even more incredible. They are twins, a boy and a girl. The biological father is Chinese and he is the partner of the Englishman. Under British law they’re married, but not under Chinese law. They live in China. The biological father provided sperm but the eggs came from a white South African woman. The fertilisation took place in vitro , and the fertilised eggs were placed in a surrogate mother  who is Indonesian. When the babies were born in Indonesia, there was the problem of how to take them to China. What papers could they have? In the end the only way to do this was for the Englishman, not the biological father, to adopt the little girl and boy. Now they’re in China, where the biological father is not recognised, so they can’t become Chinese citizens and participate in Chinese education and so on as Chinese children.
It’s an extreme example, perhaps, but there are more and more of us who don’t fit  into our old national categories and who don’t match  the old images of what a Swiss or a Swede or an Indian or a Russian might look like. Incidentally, the twins I was talking about are not identical, and the one looks very Chinese, the other looks European. Citizens of the world.
2018 is a year of many anniversaries, and in fact I’ll be taking part in an evening where a friend and I will be reading poetry and prose  to mark some of them. We’ll be starting with the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, but that year also marked the first time that some women got the vote  in Britain. In 1918 some women were given the right to vote for the first time. They had to be over 30 years old, and they had to own property  or be married to men who owned property. The other women had to wait till 1929 before they all got the vote, like men. The right to vote is called suffrage , and the women who demanded this right were known as suffragists or suffragettes. The suffragettes were the more militant  ones. They broke windows, set off small bombs, threw themselves in front of horses, were sent to prison, went on hunger strikes  and so on. They were the hardliners . It’s interesting to look back 100 years later and realise that we remember the suffragettes better than the suffragists. Every generation likes to condemn  violent protests, but it’s a sad fact that people often don’t get justice simply by asking for it. “Deeds  not words” was one of the suffragettes’ slogans. In June this year big marches were held by women in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast to celebrate women’s suffrage. One of the main messages was that women still have to fight if they want true equality.
Another important anniversary this year is the 70th anniversary of the creation of Britain’s National Health Service. It was first launched in 1948 by the Minister of Health at that time: the Welsh socialist Aneurin Bevan. The core  principles of the NHS, as we call it, have remained the same since it was set up. They are that it meets the needs of everyone; that it is free at the point of delivery , and that it is based on clinical need, not the ability to pay. It’s funded through general taxation. It’s a very different form of health service from the insurance-based model that you have in Switzerland, for example. People complain about the time that you have to wait for appointments and treatments, although it’s generally thought that urgent and acute cases are dealt with well. As a national public health service, it works well enough. Our public health statistics compare well with other countries with other systems. As an individual patient  of the system, you might not be so happy because you’ll have less choice and perhaps less comfort than you might in a system like you have in Switzerland. Having said that though, most British people love the NHS. It’s even been described as the “closest thing the English have to a religion” these days. I don’t know if you remember the opening show for the London Olympics but one of the aspects of Britain that was celebrated was the NHS. Because it’s paid for out of general taxation the NHS is always short of  money. With an insurance scheme you can raise premiums , and that’s easier than putting up taxes. I remember my Swiss medical insurance premiums going up every year at a higher rate than my salary was rising or the general cost of living. I suspect Swiss people would have been less likely to  accept that if it was their taxes that were rising that fast. But in the UK there’s no real wish to get rid of our NHS. In fact it seems that most people would be ready to pay more tax if the money was going to be spent on improving the service.
And that’s it. Not just for today but for ever. This is my 211th and final News Digest. After ten years, it’s time for me to retire. I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to me as much as I’ve enjoyed doing these shows. My last Diary will be out on August 31st and it’ll be an interview with my son about my podcasts. PodClub will be bringing you new shows that I’m sure you’ll enjoy. But from me, it’s goodbye. I’ll sign off for the last time as I always have: take care!