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.
Quite why the Indy has chosen to become Lansley’s barking spider is a mystery, but it appears it has. Today’s bark, complete with washed out mug shot of the red haired firebrand Gerada as if to emphasise the article’s point, follows a similar bark last month by the same reporter in the same newspaper, intended to slur ‘Ms Gerada’ – she wasn’t even afforded the title Dr – as a racketeering doctorpreneur who only opposed the bill because it threatened her profits. The article was quickly shown to be absurd, and one hoped that the Indy had learned its lesson: today’s front page suggests it has not.
Even the headline is absurd: ‘Doctors give up fight with Government over NHS reforms’. The letter, available here, is perhaps too conciliatory for comfort (or perhaps merely pragmatic) and the language circumlocutory – the bill ‘risks leading to negative outcomes’ (‘will f*ck up the entire NHS’ would have been better) – but it does nonetheless say ‘the College’s position on the Health and Social Care Bill remains consistent’ – a circumlocution for we continue to want the bill dropped. Later, it reinforces the College’s opposition to the bill: ‘we do not agree on the need for, and potential impacts of, parts of the proposed legislation’.
At no point does it say Dr Gerada, or the RCGP – let alone, as the Indy’s headline suggests, doctors in general – have given up the fight over the reforms. Indeed, RCGP press releases, and other statements by Dr Gerada, make it crystal clear that both Dr Gerada and the College continue to want the bill to be withdrawn – and that is hardly giving up the fight.
Of course, Dr No may be reading too much into all this. Perhaps the Indy just can’t get the staff these days. Perhaps this is what happens when political hacks cover health stories. Perhaps. But Dr No is reminded of the dictum of his esteemed colleague, Auric Goldfinger: ‘Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action’. The Indy has now barked twice; if it barks a third, then Dr No for one will be persuaded that it is indeed Lansley’s barking spider.