Tory Attack On UK Doctors Is Only The Beginning

Featured in Organized Rage, the view of Tommy McKearney on the threat to the health service in the UK and its knock on effect in Ireland. Tommy McKearney is active with the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum.

Tommy McKearney

Do you, like me, subscribe to the view that Britain’s Conservatives are an unscrupulous lot, forever searching for new ways to make the rich even richer? With this in mind, and in spite of the absence of documentary proof, it strikes me that the intensely bitter dispute between junior doctors in Britain and the Tories’ secretary of state for health, Jeremy Hunt, is about more than just pay.

Of course, the young medical practitioners are refusing to accept the imposition of a reduction in their terms and conditions, and they are entitled to do so. However, the depth of intransigence displayed by the Tory minister, with uncritical support from his cabinet colleagues, suggests that Thatcher’s heirs have more in mind than merely trimming the health budget. It appears that they intend inflicting a strategic defeat on this crucial sector of state employees similar to the one their heroine meted out to the National Union of Mineworkers thirty years ago.

As with that epic struggle during Thatcher’s premiership, defeating and demoralising the junior doctors would now have a ripple-out effect, not only throughout the National Health Service but also among all public-sector professionals and beyond.

In a general way, this attack on the doctors may be defined as part of the continuing process of proletarianisation of the middle class. More specifically, though, we are witnessing capitalism making preparations for the next phase of its neo-liberal onslaught. The grand strategy is to further weaken working-class organisation through a series of one-sided trade deals and specifically, in this case, by the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

In Britain, as in Ireland, TTIP has yet to receive the necessary and widespread public attention and opposition that it is getting, for example, in Germany. In spite of this weak response there is measurable concern in significant sections of British society about TTIP’s detrimental implications for the health service.

Right-wing elements advocating the agreement have dismissed these concerns, telling the public that the health service will be exempt from TTIP’s remit. However, legal advice provided to Unite suggests otherwise.* The report states that so-called protections do not appertain to the NHS, “because of the competitive co-existence of public and private providers in the NHS as well as the private funding and commercial activities of NHS Foundation Trusts.”

If this legal opinion is correct—and there is no reason to question its accuracy—the potential for industrial unrest and further strike action among workers in the health service will grow rapidly. In this light, the campaign by the Conservatives’ capitalist aristocracy to confront and break the junior doctors (the group of health-service workers with most leverage) can be seen as a pre-emptive strike.

Ironically, the Tories appear to have a greater appreciation of the power of organised labour than some leading British (and Irish) trade unionists, who argue that the European Union is protective of workers’ rights, when in effect it is that very institution that is at present facilitating the drafting and eventual implementation of this profoundly neo-liberal trade deal.

Let’s be clear about one thing. This battle being fought by the doctors in Britain is of real significance for those of us who live in the Republic of Ireland. After all, it is intended that TTIP will apply to all regions within the EU; and moreover, the global neo-liberal agenda does not bypass Ireland. Don’t ignore the fact either that this treaty is not confined to health services: its provisions will facilitate the undermining of legislation protecting workers’ rights, will diminish food safety regulations, and will encourage still more cowboy banking practices—and that’s far from a comprehensive list of its negative impact.

It’s obvious that if we are to prevent the imposition of this damaging trade agreement there is an urgent need to promote and organise for mass political action. Nobody can doubt that, had it not been for the huge demonstrations on the streets, the water tax (and at the significantly higher original rate too) would now be in operation and would be as permanent as VAT.

Something that must be emphasised is that water tax is as much a part of the neo-liberal agenda as is TTIP and the cynical attempt to crush the spirit of junior doctors in Britain. It is important that these right-wing initiatives be resisted. It is equally important, nevertheless, that the opposition to these attacks is coherent and unified and all the while promoting a realisation that the long-term, permanent solution lies in constructing a socialist order, rather than dealing with each neo-liberal assault as a single and isolated issue.

In spite of the obvious urgency demanding that such a movement be constructed, obstacles remain. The biggest difficulty facing progress is the old problem of a proliferation of claims and ideas about how to go about creating that necessary movement. A great deal of honest reflection, frank discussion, fraternal debate and even negotiation has to take place in order to create the necessary vehicle.

For example, we need to persuade the trade union movement that the organised and mobilised working class, rather than EU legislation, is the best protection workers have. There is also a need to understand both the lure and the limitations of purely electoral strategies and overcome the divisiveness engendered by such policies. Finally, we must root out the political sectarianism that places party advantage above that of the workers. With apologies to Messrs Marx and Engels, it is worth repeating that such a movement should have no interests separate and apart from those of working people as a whole.

The Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum is exploring means and methods to help bring this about and is happy to hear from all those interested in building a mass movement capable ultimately of establishing a workers’ republic. The forum will be holding a number of events throughout the country later this year in order to advance this process and project, and further information will be provided as details emerge.

*Dr Kyriaki-Korina Raptopoulou, “The Legal Implications for the NHS of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.”

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

17 comments to ''Tory Attack On UK Doctors Is Only The Beginning"

  1. TTIP is what we might describe as 'the corporatocracy' gearing up to exploit people and resources on an even larger scale than what we've experienced until now. We are living in highly dangerous times as predatory capitalism continues its insane rush to devour itself - and all of us with it. And yet the vast majority of people are completely unaware of this insidious negotiation and its sister agreements in the making. Indeed we have the like of Henry Joy and others constantly telling us that modern society, which is morally bankrupt, represents the triumph of human progress, that everything is just hunky dory... move along please. Is it really any wonder things are as they are when we have slaves peddling the myths of their masters as though they were Gospel.

  2. Tommy has had an awful hard and unfair life and it shows in that photo. I feel for the man, I really do. Tommy do yourself a favour, take a world tour and don't look back over your shoulder while doing it.

  3. Sean

    I'm far from seeing modern society as representing a triumph of human progress. Any model that depends on rampant consumption of finite resources and that detrimentally contaminates the environment from the resulting production of those consumables is inherently flawed.

    What I advocate for is living life on life's terms ... adapting to circumstance when not having agency or achievable options and stepping up to the plate when an actionable plan or strategy exists.
    Of course a certain amount of discernment or wisdom is also necessary for evaluating differences between those positions.

    As I've said before, if I were to decide to become a Henrietta then an actionable plan is available.
    Other grander and nobler aspirations such as world peace I can make my contribution to by living peaceably with my fellow man but nevertheless that objective will be limited and constrained dependent as to the actions of others. Such grander objectives require a workable strategy to be outlined if others are be brought along. The potential for success of grand objectives is dependent on a sustainable strategy being formulated and compellingly articulated.

    Until that happens you'll be forever and a day repeatedly pushing boulders up the incline. But if you can imagine yourself happy while you're at it then I suppose what harm.

  4. I'm sorry 'Henry Joy' but that just doesn't wash and we don't need to have 'wisdom' to 'evaluate' your mindless guff.

    Rather than 'stepping up to the plate' should the time ever be right you are intent on no more than the constant lambasting of the efforts of those who would seek to change what you now admit is a troubled world.

    You also have no notion of how we can effect world peace or movement towards that noble goal, despite your high-faluting nonsense. The only way to change the world is to change ourselves and to encourage others onto the same path. That is the power residing within each and every one of us.

    You though are intent on promulgating the myth that your 'life on life's terms' society we all share is the best that can be achieved and we should cease striving for change.

    You might have a fair grasp of the English language but when you strip it all back you're as false as they come. You are a slave and worse still a slave hell bent on talking others into accepting bondage.

    You, more than anyone else I've come across on the Internet - and there are some servile characters on there rest assured - remind me of that old Steve Biko quote every time you pile in with your psycho-babble bullshit:

    'The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.'

    Sin é.

  5. Sean

    the slavery and bondage you speak of are merely metaphorical.

    You've become so subsumed in your ideology that it appears as if you no longer can easily differentiate between your metaphorical creations and the real world.

    Scary stuff ... the mind of a fundamentalist.

    Give me a list of a half dozen things you're not free to do and give me another 1/2 dozen things you need to be freed from ... then we might just be able to continue a rational discussion.

    Otherwise as AM advises deal with substantives or just leave it out.

  6. You are mentally enslaved and that is the substantive. Don't drag Mackers into it as though you are bosom buddies and share some special kinship. It exists only in your servile mind

  7. why not email each other and allow the rest of us to follow a more substantive discussion?

  8. this site is now the henry joy show. ive no problem with that. just change the photo of mackers on the home page to a silhouette of the mysterious thesaurus swallowing henry joy.

  9. The substantive of the discussion is that modern society is bad for your health and TTIP intends to make things worse. Those who put forward an alternative vision for that society are lambasted as deluded, misguided and even twisted by a faceless commentator you have encouraged, who employs such rhetoric, hyperbole and psycho-babble to undermine those who would set out the need for radical change - absent which there will not even be a society in 50 years or less. That is the substantive of this conversation and while it might be of nuisance to you it cannot be got around.

  10. Is the real problem Sean not more to do with your inability to make a case that sounds remotely persuasive? It is not as if you have not been afforded the opportunity. Were you to refrain from being baited and restricted yourself to making arguments that people can take seriously you might put him in the box you feel he should go to. I am not going to use up valuable time monitoring the comments if this is the level they have descended to. I have the option of checking the comments one a day or every few days and if things don't pick up I will exercise that.

    As for encouraging him: we encourage everybody who has something worthwhile to say. Your own proffering on the referendum which most found torturous and convoluted, would have been ruled inadmissible had we applied your ban babble suggestion.

  11. Sean,

    "Give me a list of a half dozen things you're not free to do and give me another 1/2 dozen things you need to be freed from ... then we might just be able to continue a rational discussion."

    HJ has set out a challenge, this would be a good one to respond to for the OIOV.

    Agree with your assessment of TTiP, we are fighting TPP here in Asia.

  12. Sean

    republicanism outside of the political system offers nothing. The problem for republicans is that whilst wanting to destroy the system/structures they cannot muster up a fart just now. Were bombs decimating town centres for fun I'm certain there would be no strategical turmoil for some cohesive political direction. The war is over, join the SDLP, a truely republican party, and hold hands with HJ. lol

  13. Steve Ricardos

    you in Asia? Lob my CV into a few schools there for teaching ingurlish wud ya? Someone needs to teach em ta spake rite out there.

  14. Steve, freedom as we know and have been conditioned to think of it is an illusion - as is democracy. We are free to consume in return for allowing power to devour all and everything it touches. We are free then to march towards our own destruction and to marvel at its wonder along the way.

    A small example of how Henry Joy's celebrated society actually works and for who can be found in the actions of Paul Duffy, head of planning for Mid and East Antrim Council, who took advice from the oil drilling company 'Infrastrata' on how to respond to queries made from a local Councillor as to the likely environmental impact of the company's Woodburn Forest project.

    That offers us a glimpse of how this freedom we enjoy is anything but. I assert that a 'freedom' propped up by bribery, assassination, exploitation, drugs, prostitution, child rape, terrorism, shock and awe and untold corruption is anything but.

    To cut a long story short, while I should know better and realise they are exactly the type of people we need to reach, those who ignore all that and decry others for proposing change make me want to puke.

  15. Larry,

    Yes, but moving to Australia soon for hopefully a longer stay this time. Joking aside go to Japan to teach English, it is the most extraordinary place.

    But given your 'colourful' past maybe the land of convicts is a better spot? LOL


    I well know. I've seen the massive discrepancy in the distribution of wealth throughout some of the worlds poorest places. Just yesterday I bought Chomsky's latest tome, the very first chapter nails exactly why this is happening. Give it a read.

    But play the ball kicked towards you Sean, HJ did ask a few valid questions.

  16. Steve, aside from the answer I've given - which dealt with the man's point - when you're not even free to go to a football match out the road without being accosted we get an idea of just how free we are. We are free to do as we're told and constantly monitored to ensure we comply.

  17. Steve Ricardos

    Tone down your vocabulary in the wonderful land of Aus'. Leprechans always fared better the farther they were removed from home. I have relatives there all in the police. One or two are even 'defectives'. But yes Japan is an option. I was there for the 2002 World Cup. Did the tea ceremony and stayed in a Ryokhan guest house. Was also at hot springs when they were doing a travel show and can claim to be the only leprechaun I know who ended up on Japanese tv in a hot spring naked with an ex sumo wrestler. Never dull where I go! Though Spain is nearer home and has its own draws. Time will tell.


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