‘Some of us are in fear of our livelihoods; others only of our luncheon.’
Thus, with beguiling directness, wrote Matthew Parris in his Times article yesterday (1 January 2011: ‘Don’t kid yourselves. There must be victims’).
‘We are not … all in this together; or not all as deep as each other…. People will embrace retrenchment in principle then lament any cut affecting them. Shrouds will be waved, illiteracy and infant malnutrition predicted, and in the opposition imagination old people will be starving or freezing to death in countless wretched hovels. The demise of theatre, ballet, museums and day care centres…. will be pronounced imminent. Charities, think-tanks and academics will write to The Times to call ministers deaf to reason…‘, said Parris in his article.
Well, it didn’t take long for some shroud-waving to happen; we also read in the national press yesterday, that same day, that the new President of the Royal College of Obstetrictians and Gynaecologists, Tony Falconer, believes the NHS offers an inferior service to women who give birth at night, placing vulnerable women and babies at avoidable risk.
And now Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, accuses the Prime Minister of backtracking on a high-profile pledge made before last year’s election to hire 3,000 extra midwives, saying that ‘Despite repeated and persistent requests [from the RCM] for his government to honour this pledge, they will not’.
The upshot, Warwick tells us, is that ‘Maternity services are not coping and are under assault’… a claim which, like Tony Falconer’s, is supported by Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust.
Already, then, The Mirror, The Telegraph and The Observer and no doubt others are helping to prove Matthew Parris’s point that whingers in the media abound.
What’s to complain about? Perhaps the leaders of the RCOG, the RCM and the NCT need to understand, as Matthew Parris so succinctly puts it, that ‘Howls of indignation from co-ordinated bands of identifiable losers will drown out quiet murmurs of approval among the ungalvanised majority’.
Or maybe Falconer, Warwick and Phipps – presumably amongst Parris’ ‘identifiable losers’? – need to understand no such thing. For the ungalvanised majority will approve not one jot the idea that the lives and well-being of babies and mums are being put at risk by the broken promise of the Prime Minister.
Will we see another U-turn before long? Perhaps Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is working on it already. In the current administration they happen all the time.
Whatever, we have already seen in what Matthew Parris has written no apology or concern beyond the politics of the situation. ‘Better,’ he says, ‘to shrug off the hostility of those this coalition can never please, keep faith with those it can, and plough on…. Mr Cameron knows what’s coming’.
If Mr Cameron does in fact think there’s no mileage in pleasing people like the heads of the RCOG, the RCM and the NCT, I’m afraid the Government and its supporters really are an incredibly unpleasant lot.
And I guess, desite his protestations to the contrary, that ultimately Parris’ ungalvanised majority may well concur.