No smoke without a fire, they say, and Hot Burning Coales appears to be doing her best to hot things up, not to mention generate much smoke. Her posts and tweets continue to appear and disappear faster than a Swiss clock cuckoo – a post posted earlier today has already gone – but when in view they tell a story that suggests the Royal College of Caring and Sharing isn’t perhaps quite as caring and sharing as its senior members want us to believe. A report earlier this year in the Telegraph, linked to by HBC, tells how College employees repeatedly taunted another hapless member of staff with xenophobic jests and sexual jibes. She suggests, though Dr No has not been able to find supporting evidence, that the College has upset College candidates and members arriving on the other bus by cosying up to the Sultan of Brunei, who rules over a country infamous for locking up fudge packers (but not, for some reason, crack snackers). She has even all but charged the College with institutional racism, alleging that the lower Clinical Skills Assessment pass rate for international medical graduates stems not from a lower quality of candidates but from a systemic bias by College examiners against our overseas colleagues. And last, but by no means least, she accuses the College of constructive dismissal, insofar as it made her life as a Council member so intolerable that she was forced to resign.
As it happens, Dr No can believe, which is not to say it is assuredly true, much of what HBC alleges. Just as the Church of England is the Tory party at prayer, so the medical establishment is by and large the Tory party at work – and old traditions die hard. Coales has not on the other hand distinguished herself as the most clubbable of College members; instead, she has been a rude thorn in their sides, and Dr No can imagine, and for this there is evidence, both in the responses by senior College members to the recent news coverage of HBC’s camp candidates should de-camp advice, and the attempt earlier this year by the College to bump her off the Presidential candidate list, that there are those in the College who would gladly be shot of her.
That much, given what we know, is understandable, but what bothers Dr No is that the College may indeed have taken an understandable desire on its part to be shot of her, and put it into effect, by making Council membership intolerable for HBC, and so, as HBC puts it, constructively dismissing her (she appears to have submitted her letter of resignation from Council some time in the last week). Such practices, in an organisation that claims to be open and democratic, are unacceptable. Whether or not other Council members agree with HBC views, the unavoidable fact is that she was voted on to Council, and that means she has a place on Council, whether other members like it or not.
But, if only it were that simple! For we also know that HBC is a delicate flower, prone to allege bullying and harassment at the slightest of prompts. So we might ask: to what extent did she jump, and to what extent was she pushed? Dr No remains firmly of the view that those who achieve or aspire to achieve public office are, by nature of their public position, and – and this is perhaps the important bit – the powers they have or will have in office, obliged to accept a greatly raised threshold before they can allege bullying. They must, of necessity, develop thick skins.
HBC does not appear to have developed such a skin, and so was perhaps more easily pushed. But perhaps we should say that the College has a duty, founded on the democratic legitimacy of a candidate voted onto Council, not to trample on delicate flowers, however tempted it might be. But equally, we could say that delicate flowers voted into office have a duty to those who have voted for them to tough it out. By resigning, HBC has not only hit out at the College, but also at those who voted for her – her fans.
Neither side in this messy debacle emerges with any credit.