Dr Grumble has been away. Like Jobbing Doctor he is keeping his carbon footprint respectable. His annual sojourn away from the hustle and bustle of the hospital has been spent in the UK not so very far from the birth place of William Henry Davies. It gave Dr Grumble a chance to draw a big breath and think. It was almost like being on a retreat. There’s very little time for thinking in the NHS. We are all so busy. It’s not just those in the NHS. Everybody is so busy. Sometimes you need time just to stand and stare. There’s nothing new about this. William Henry Davies wrote the poem below long before Dr Grumble was born:
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
But where is all this leading? What has Dr Grumble been thinking about? He has been thinking about something that has been perplexing him for some time. He has been wondering why doctors are getting such bad press. And he has come to the conclusion that it all comes from the government who are out to get us.
Some weeks ago Dr Grumble exchanged a few words with Thomas Stuttaford who, incidentally, is a real gentleman. Many will know Dr Stuttaford from his column in the Times. In passing Dr Stuttaford recommended a book. Dr Grumble rarely reads books so he likes to choose his reading material carefully. If somebody recommends a book Dr Grumble takes the view that they must have got something out of it and he has a policy of jotting down the details and putting it on his Amazon wish list. Then, when he is on retreat, he will order the book and start reading. The book Dr Stuttaford recommended was called The Triumph of the Political Class by Peter Oborne. According to Tom Stuttaford that was the book to explain what Westminster is all about. He was right. It has. It’s a book that demands to be read. It’s important. It accounts indirectly for some of what has been happening to doctors. But it is important to everybody.
There is only space here to whet your appetite. Dr Grumble would hate to give away the book’s punch line but the author does this himself in the introduction. The introduction alone caused the scales to drop from Dr Grumble’s eyes. Read the introduction if nothing else. The rest of the book argues Oborne’s case in detail.
So what is the bottom line to this masterpiece of analysis? It’s about how politicians are out to nobble us all. You knew that did you? But do you know the extent of these shenanigans and how they are all in cahoots with each other? If not, this book is for you.
Many moons ago Dr Grumble used to have a lively interest in politics. There were those on the left and those on the right. To some extent each had their own supporters. The left were for the workers. The right were for the toffs. But there was some overlap and genuine heart-felt arguments were put forward to support the views of each side. Now there’s the politics of the middle of the road. Politicians are more like managers than politicians. It’s as if they have all agreed, right and left, that the best way forward is somewhere just to the right of centre. There used to be talk of the need for clear blue water to distinguish the two major parties but this risked pushing those on the right further from the middle. If you were to analyse voter views you would presumably find a bell shaped distribution. And, of course, that is exactly what the parties along with their marketing cronies have done. They realise that to get votes it’s no good having clear blue water and policies two standard deviations from the mean.
That’s why politics has become so boring. Many doctors are clamouring for a change of government but will the others be any different? The answer is that they won’t. The same influences that make New Labour what it has become are at work on the alternatives.
The essence of the Oborne book is in the title. It is that the Political Class have triumphed. Right and left are in cahoots. They are out to clip the wings of anybody and everybody that gets in their way. They are just out for themselves. They have no concept of any sort of higher ideal. They have had a go at a lot of powerful groups. They have destroyed the Civil Service. That’s why quick decisions now get made on the Downing Street sofa. This never used to happen. It shouldn’t now. They have had a go at judges. Do you recall the many occasions when the likes of Blunkett, Reid or Blair have interfered with judicial decisions just to curry favour with the baying mob of Sun readers. That’s just not right. It’s not professional. Parliament too has generally been bypassed. Announcements are now made in the press. And the press have been bought as well. They’ve cocked a snook at the Queen. And while it doesn’t say so in the book, you can be sure that somewhere for some reason there is an agenda to privatise the NHS. Probably it’s something to do with money and party support. (If anybody knows Dr Grumble would be interested.) And, of course, the medical profession too has been consistently attacked by a manipulated press. The Political Class see doctors as a group with power and apparently believe that doctors are just out for themselves. They believe this because they move in that sort of world. They also believe that business people are the same and that standards in business are no higher than in politics. They use this belief to justify their own low standards. But, according to the book, this is not at all true. Standards in business are high and much of what politicians get away with would not be allowed in large companies. Business people have the same low opinion of the Political Class as the average doctor.
So that, in brief and with a few embellishments, is what Dr Grumble took away from the book. What Oborne describes is of momentous importance. It’s about the destruction of our democracy. It’s about the concentration of power in a clique of people with no experience of life outside politics. It’s about decisions being made without the normal safeguards that evolved over the last century. And it’s about appalling errors such as the Iraq war being made as a result. And, probably, it sets the scene for the impending destruction of our much-valued (pdf) primary care and our NHS and the constant attacks on our profession.
Why do we put up with the standard of service we get from our politicians?
A sign of the future?
Photographed by Dr Grumble himself.
As Dr Grumble was uploading this picture he was reminded that the opening hours for this US medical centre were not that great. This, of course, is quite contrary to what our government would have you believe. In fact, until their Verschlimmbesserung access to GPs in the UK must have been second to none. It is another theme of the Oborne book, which gives a number of examples, that information given to the press is quite often completely wrong and known by Number 10 to be wrong. While not mentioned in the book this has patently been the case for many of the unfounded accusations made against GPs.