JOHAN Malawana, the Chair of the Junior Doctors Committee, addressing the BMA annual conference in Belfast, told delegates that: ‘This was the year when we were all put to the test. Our motives, our determination and our unity, all placed under the harshest possible spotlight.
‘There were many times when we had to prove whether “One profession” was more than just a slogan.’ He added: ‘And every single time we rose to that challenge. That’s what our friends and opponents alike learned from this year.’
He asked: ‘Why on earth did this government pick a fight with junior doctors?’ and answered: ‘I think the government picked a fight because they thought they could win. They thought the medical profession would just roll over. We didn’t, we shouldn’t, and I’m confident to say that in the future, we won’t.’
In fact the reason why the Tories picked a fight with the junior doctors is not that they were punch-drunk or fighting mad, but that contract imposition on the junior doctors was the trial run for imposing new contracts on all NHS staff and workers, as the basic requirement for NHS privatisation, or ‘denationalisation’ as Hunt calls it.
In fact, it was the junior doctors that fought like tigers, and their defence of the NHS rallied thousands and even millions of workers to their cause, that is, the active defence of the NHS. With the BMA leaders in a state of shock and with the TUC leaders paralysed with fear at what was emerging, it was the junior doctors that had Hunt on the ropes.
He had to be rescued by ex-TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber, now the head of ACAS, who created the conditions for the junior doctors’ leadership to abandon the strike actions by bringing forward a new, but still a wage-cutting, contract.
Another feature of Malawana’s speech was, despite his assumption or hope that the junior doctors struggle ‘is behind us’, he had to admit that there was a very good chance that it was not.
He told the BMA: ‘It’s now time to vote, and I urge all eligible junior doctors and medical students to do so. I know our members hold different views, but what I think is beyond argument is that we are only in a position to have anything to offer them because we stood up, together, for what we believe in. I think we have delivered a good deal despite unbelievable odds. Our unity must be maintained, because there is so much else for which we must fight together.’
In other words, because the leadership is bankrupt, the junior doctors should have the good grace to keep the movement united by accepting this bankruptcy as a way of life – by accepting the new wage-cutting contract.
He counselled: ‘The government should learn from the last year that problems which are ignored tend to get bigger, and they don’t come much bigger than the £22 billion deficit faced by the health service. On this issue and every other, we should speak with one voice, because that voice will be louder and impossible to ignore.’
In fact, at the BMA conference, the leadership did everything possible to avoid the challenges ahead by signalling to the government that it was willing to continue the new-found collaboration.
A resolution from Enfield to agree to affiliate to the TUC was treated with the utmost hostility, since it was emphasised that such an affiliation would be to allow the BMA to battle inside the TUC to mobilise all of its seven million members to win the battle to defend the NHS by bringing down the government with a general strike.
Another motion that demanded that the BMA approach the TUC to ‘propose the organisation of a National Demonstration in defence of the NHS and junior doctors’ was a closer-run thing, with 46% for and 54% against.
Malawana concluded that: ‘The BMA has rekindled it’s fighting spirit. Let’s make sure that we all strive together for a strong trade union that will always be here to defend doctors, our patients and our precious NHS.’
The best way for this to be done is for the junior doctors to reject the new contract in the ongoing ballot, and then to resume their strike actions demanding that the TUC unions stop alongside them, to win the struggle by bringing down the government, and bringing in a workers government.