Some called it a strike, others called it industrial action, whatever it was, it was a sign that something wasn’t right. The last time doctors took industrial action was in 1975.
Yesterday’s strike was greeted with the usual round of media booing and hissing. Wednesday I received a couple of tweets from Kathryn Stanczyszyn of LBC Radio. The first asked if I knew anyone who’d had a routine operation or an appointment cancelled and the second said “the BMA say it’s not a strike”. I didn’t know anyone, so I couldn’t help. I sent a final reply, “Like I say, if GPs are taking industrial action, then something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. I wasn’t expecting a reply and I didn’t get one.
I support any industrial action. People have the right to withdraw their labour and that includes doctors. This government hasn’t been able to label the British Medical Association (BMA) as ‘trots’ but they have trotted out the usual spiel about the strike being “wrong” and “pointless” (Lansley’s word not mine). Industrial action is never pointless and most certainly isn’t wrong.
The front page of today’s Evening Standard (which came with an “EXCLUSIVE WORK BY DAMIEN HURST FOR OUR READERS”) screams, “PATIENT FURY WITH STRIKING DOCTORS” adding “But four out of five London GPs refuse to join pension protest”. The article continues on page 4 where we are greeted with a quote from non-striking GP, Dr. Aseem Malhotra, “Other people are facing hardship, this is an own goal for the BMA”, he opines. Pravda couldn’t have done a better job. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that this paper was owned by a Russian oligarch. It is, you say? Well, there’s a surprise!
MPs even suggested ministers should now look at further cuts to medics’s “gold plated” pensions, which are far higher than those for millions of workers in the public and private sectors.
Now they’re laying it on with a trowel. Notice how these hacks casually drop in “public sector”. This is the same public sector that the Evil Bastard has been attacking since the Con-Dems took power. To give their article a veneer of ‘balance’ they provide the views of a doctor who “didn’t vote for industrial action” and one who did. The doctor who didn’t is… yes, you guessed it, the same doc who was quoted earlier. Yeah, that’s objectivity.
The BMA’s chairman, Dr. Hamish Meldrum, gets a single sentence in which to offer a defence, compared to the smirking, smarmy Lansley, who gets three paragraphs, his case made for him by the trio of hacks who wrote the article.
The strike is over but the backlash from the right-wing press will continue. For them a strike is always wrong and the government line should never be questioned. And that’s the problem: the media never asks why. Instead they try to find vox pops that support their predetermined position and thus create the impression that there is a consensus against industrial action.