The Retail Raptor is developing a social conscience. Hot on the heels of her project to put the High back into High Street, she has moved on to save Britain’s dying textile industry. Following the trend set by Hacksaw’s there is ‘no such thing as society’, which taken to its logical conclusion means there is no such thing as Britain, and the rise of globalisation, Britain’s textile industry has, like many others, gone west by going east. Here at home, the looms lie still, the sewing machines silent, the thread of manufacture first snagged, then cut short. The grim jaws of benefit dependency have bitten across generations; the darkness of despondency and despair lies thickly in the air. This is the kind of blight up with which the Raptor will not put.
Conveniently, the Health and Social Care Bill completed its final parliamentary stage on the eve of the budget, ensuring it was in hours knocked off the top of the news pile by Porgie’s Biddy Tax. But, mean as the Biddy Tax is, it is not the erosion and loss of the Pensioner’s Allowance that will hit Granny hard in the years to come, it is the erosion and loss of the NHS brought about by the Tories’ now soon to be unleashed health service reforms that will hit Granny – and indeed the rest of us when we need healthcare – hard. So the question arises: what are we going to do about it?
Yesterday, Dr No was putting together a post on Mary’s Bottom Line, a Channel 4 documentary in which the Retail Raptor revealed not only her smalls, but her softer side. It seems to Dr No there are parallels between what markets did to Britain’s clothing industry, and what markets will do to the NHS when the HSCB becomes law. He wondered if in a decade’s time we might not come across another Channel 4 documentary, Mary’s Life Line, in which a clutch of long-term unemployed doctors and nurses reoccupy derelict NHS premises and start a renaissance of NHS practice.
As he wrote the post, he became aware via twitter of a drop-the-bill rally in central London being met with not just a solid police presence, but armed riot police, kettling, and all the paraphernalia of police state control. By twitter accounts, the rally was peaceful, and the police response outrageous, but then twitter is not Reuters, so Dr No turned to the established media for confirmation. And what did Dr No find in the established media? Nothing.
Dr No doesn’t really get Hendrix; nor does he get migraines. But if he did get the latter, listening to the former might bring on the latter. Given Dylan’s own haunted enigmatic recording of All Along the Watchtower, why strangle genius in a dustbin of dying cats?
Such odd thoughts come to Dr No as news emerges that the Land of the Baskervilles is soon to decide on who should run Children’s Services in Devon. There are two front runners: neither is NHS; both are for-profit. One is Branson’s Virgin, the other SerCo – the ‘Service Company’.
The Ollie Wright/Indy/Number 10 axis of spin has spun again, choosing today to front page a week old ‘let’s be friends’ letter from Dr Clare Gerada to the Prime Minister. Why The Indy ran last week’s news as today’s front page is quite beyond Dr No. Perhaps the wheels of spin spin slowly at the Indy’s offices these days. Those at the BBC however were up to speed, at least when it came to peddling the Indy spin. Radio Four’s Today programme grabbed the week old story and put it at the top of the day’s news, and gave Dr Gerada one of the coveted post-eight o’clock news slots: doctors in massive climb-down. In the event, the story back-fired. Humph humped, but Clare was clear: the RCGP position remains the same – the bill must go.
Right queer goings on at the Lib Dem Spring Conference this weekend, after Shirley Williams started bowling from the pavilion end last week. A procedural vote yesterday to decide which NHS motion should be debated today had the ditch-the-bill motion win on first past the post; and then, by some quirk of bent Lib Dem voting logic, the Williams didn’t-we-do-well motion won. Since the two motions were in some respects mirror images of each other, it did not seem to Dr No that yesterday’s vote was the end of the world: a vote against Squirls’ motion sends much the same message as a vote for the ditch-the-bill motion, the only significant difference being the former lacks the explicit ‘ditch’ directive of the latter.
The Faustian nature of the coalition pact is now plain for all to see. In the run up to, and now at their Spring Conference, the Lib Dem grandees have been forced into an ignominious cul-de-sac of bombast. The crowing and gloating fools no one except those who crow and gloat. The empty rhetoric of influences exerted and battles won sounds ever more like a catastrophe of paperclips rearranged, files shuffled and deck-chairs shifted this way and that. Baroness Bloomers has emerged from the parliamentary salon sporting a new blue rinse, her blustering opposition seen to have all the substance of a wet paper bag. She may say that the amendments she has brought about are substantial and significant, but even a cursory examination shows them to be insubstantial and insignificant: the central thrusts of the bill remain unchanged. Professor Pollock, the thinking doctor’s crumpet, provides an excellent of just how little real change Baroness Bloomers – definitely not the thinking doctor’s crumpet – has achieved here.
So – the Lib Dem peers have folded up their cardboard swords faster than an Edwardian maid folding up her ladyship’s drawers, the fat lady has failed to sing, or rather sang on the wrong side of the choir, Chief Pongo ‘No Regrets’ Farron is crowing, and Clegg, ever the tetchy head of a minor public school, wants his flock to ‘move on’. To many, ‘shove off’ may seem les mots plus justes.
Meanwhile, the Medical Royal Colleges have been doing a bit of wobbling. The Royal College of Caring and Sharing cares so much it wants to hold Dave’s hand as it stabs his beloved bill in the back. The Royal College of Surgeons yesterday cut itself down the middle, and voted narrowly against calling for the bill to be withdrawn, by 99 to 76 votes. The Physicians, as ever, are still deliberating: their decision is due next week or the next, perhaps within hours of the bill gaining Royal Assent.
An extraordinary paper published in that hot purple-top The Journal of Medical Ethics has ignited a storm of controversy. The naïve authors argue that a newborn is morally no different to a foetus – both being ‘merely potential persons’ – and thus infanticide – renamed after-birth abortion by the authors – should be permitted on the same grounds as those used for abortion. The pro-life lobby reacted predictably, and demonstrated forcefully that for many of them, pro-life sentiments do not extend to academic philosophers who espouse eugenic arguments. Quite the opposite, in fact: the authors, and the JME for publishing the paper, have been subjected to a torrent of hate, abuse, fire-crackers and death-threats.