This was an apt tribute to the most successful legacy of Fabian gradualism. The ideological principle of healthcare free at the point of need now underpins our most cherished national institutions, accepted as a constitutive part of our national identity by voters across the political spectrum.
Nigel Lawson called the NHS "the closest thing the English have to a religion".
But my favourite quote on this subject comes from progressive Conservative David Cameron, when he was speaking about why the British commitment to the NHS, which he feels deeply, had nothing to do with ideology at all.
It's not to do with ideology, or philosophy, or any abstract political theory.
It is the simple, practical, common sense, human understanding of a fantastic and precious fact of British life:
That the moment you're injured or fall ill...
...the moment something happens to someone you love...
...you know that whoever you are, wherever you're from, whatever's wrong, however much you've got in the bank...
...there's a place you can go where people will look after you and do their best to make things right again.
That's why we're committed to the NHS, and to the principle of a healthcare system that is free at the point of use, based on need and not the ability to pay.
What progress habitually owes to conservatism is that talent for living with changes which they previously opposed.
I mentioned Cameron's unwitting tribute to Fabian gradualism in speaking to last Autumn's Fabian AGM, as an important example of how political values can reshape what we think of as 'common sense'
It’s great he thinks so. If it is just simple British common sense, Beatrice Webb might wonder why it took 40 years for the idea of the NHS to become a reality after the Fabians first proposed it. I expect Nye Bevan might be surprised, and wonder what his ferocious battle to establish the NHS was all about too. Barack Obama might raise an eyebrow too, especially when he even has right-wing Brits like Daniel Hannan flying out to help his opponents.
Values and ideology shape and change what we think of as the common sense of our societies. At a time of crisis – in 1945, in 1979, and today - the battle of political ideas can shape the politics of the next two or three decades.
The British Social Attitudes survey shows that satisfaction with the NHS has risen to record levels, as John Appleby reported in the BMJ, rising from 35% to 64% between 1997 and 2009.
Universal healthcare through a national health service was part of the vision for modern services proposed in Beatrice Webb's 1909 minority report to the poor law commission. F Lawson Dodd's 1911 Fabian pamphlet 'A National Medical Service' can be read in the Fabian pamphlet archive at the LSE (tract 161). These are the ideological forerunners of good old British decency and common sense!