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The News Line: News Angry ARM turns on BMA leaders
Hundreds rallied in Ealing on Tuesday night to discuss action to stop the closure of Ealing and three other West London hospitals
BMA leaders narrowly escaped censure for their lack of leadership during the struggle against the Health and Social Care Bill yesterday, when 44% of the BMA ARM voted no confidence in their leadership.

The motion of no confidence at the BMA Annual Representative Meeting in Bournemouth was lost by 53% against, 44% for, and 3% abstaining.

This was in an electronic vote after the chairman’s ruling that it was lost on a show of hands was challenged.

BMA Council Member Jacky Davis, from Islington Division, moved Motion 370, which stated: ‘That this meeting believes that the BMA Council failed to maximise the voice and influence of the profession by its failure to seek the views of the membership of the Association directly, over the recent Health and Social Care Bill.’

Davis told the meeting: ‘The Health and Social Care Bill passed into law against the will of the profession, yet Cameron was still claiming that doctors supported it.

‘Our message was not strong enough. We had an SRM (Special Representative Meeting) and an ARM (Annual Representative Meeting) where we voted for the withdrawal of the bill.’

She stressed: ‘What would have been powerful would be a survey of our members.’

She added that what was needed was ‘evidence of the memberships’ views to counteract the pernicious claims of politicians.’

She added: ‘But we failed to use the strength of our voice.

‘The ARM passed a motion to call on the BMA to consult our members. This is not about laying blame, it’s about learning from our mistakes.

‘We’ve had no discussion on this about what went wrong and what lessons can be learned. We wouldn’t accept that in our clinical practice, let’s not do that in our trade union activities.

‘We will be facing further attacks – let’s be stronger in our opposition.’

Speaking against the motion, medical student Mr Arrash Yassaee said: ‘I call on representatives to oppose this motion. It will divide us.

‘By laying the blame on the Council it will further cause division.’

He added: ‘More attacks will come and we will have to fight again and do it better.’

Speaking in support of the motion Gerald Reissmann, from North East Division, said: ‘As doctors we must reflect on our practice and learn.

‘I was told it was wrong to move to an SRM and we should move to critical engagement.

‘After the government’s listening exercise, I was told not to oppose the bill.

‘The BMA did not seek the views of the membership, because if it had it would have heard loud and clear that the membership wants to fight and wants the BMA to fight.’

In his advice to the meeting, BMA Chairman Hamish Meldrum, said: ‘Nobody is saying we should not reflect and learn. We will be looking at what else we can do against the most pernicious clauses of the bill.’

He claimed: ‘Nobody is saying there should be no discussion. We engaged with the membership throughout the course of the bill.’

In her reply to the debate, Jacky Davis said: ‘As a member of Council, I never heard any debate about what we did wrong.

‘The pensions campaign demonstrates what the BMA can do when we pull out all the stops. We never had that for the bill.’

She said that fellow Council member Dr David Wrigley had initiated an online survey which got a tremendous response and saw the Royal Colleges oppose the bill.

She added: ‘That was the sort of survey we needed, but Cameron was able to say he still had the support of doctors.’

Later, angry representatives dealt a blow to the BMA leadership by voting decisively for Motion 372 from Enfield and Haringey Division, which stated: ‘That this Meeting calls for the deliberations of the BMA to be transparent. It proposes that motions on medical, political and trade union issues at BMA Council be recorded so that members can see what council members stand for.’

Mover BMA Council member Anna Athow said: ‘The BMA Council is the executive of our union and as such has considerable powers, including the right to ballot for industrial action and finance projects and campaigns.

‘I’ve just done a four-year stint on Council, and this motion derives from a realisation that Council in many respects runs like a closed club.

‘It is important that those voted onto Council to do this very responsible job, are accountable to the membership.

‘Many BMA members cast their votes for Council members on the basis of what is written in little election statements every four years.

‘I voted for someone two years ago who said in his election statement that he was for “defending the NHS”.

‘I have watched him on Council vote against having an SRM to allow the membership to discuss the health White Paper, vote to support a policy of “critical engagement” with government to modify the Health Bill for 18 months and vote against the BMA organising a public campaign against the bill, despite the fact that five of us on Council fought valiantly for all these policies from July 2010.

‘I will never vote for him again, you can only really judge a person by their deeds.

‘The problem for ordinary members is that they don’t know what goes on in Council, so the deeds are hidden, there is no transparency.’

She added: ‘We are entering a period of huge cuts and privatisation in the NHS, where entire services are under threat of being sold off.

‘We need a leadership on Council that is going to fight.’

There were no more speakers taken by the chairman and after an initial card vote he insisted on an electronic vote. This was won with 54% in favour, 43% against and 3% abstentions.

At this point, Chairman of the GPs committee Dr Buckman rushed to the podium to demand the electronic vote be taken again, claiming not everyone had been able to vote and the buttons weren’t working.

The chairman began to attempt another electronic vote and said there was a problem with the buttons and the vote would have to go back to a card vote count.

This resulted, to the dismay of the Council, with 240 votes for, 137 against, and nine abstentions.
 
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