With talks having broken down between the government and the British Medical Association again, junior doctors held their first strike in over forty years on Tuesday over a controversial new contract being negotiated by the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Attempts have been made by the government to try and undermine the recently announced set of strikes, presumably to turn the public against junior doctors and forcing them to call off the strikes. Instead, their feeble attempts at demonising junior doctors have only helped convinced the public that their cause is a just one.
To somehow suggest that these strikes are politically motivated and that the contract being offered to them is fair is entirely mistaken. Over 98% of junior doctors voted in favour of strike action in November, showing the sheer level of frustration among the medical community. If people are really claiming that these strikes are politically motivated they are also implying that 98% of junior doctors balloted in November hold left-wing views and are using this as an opportunity to express those feelings. Obviously, such a claim is absurd, and no doubt there would have been junior doctors among those who took action on Tuesday who vote Conservative. Perhaps it is the case that those making these 'politically motivated' accusations are in fact themselves politically motivated.
With such a large portion of junior doctors backing strike action, it can only be conceivable that the BMA is correct in saying that the new contract offered to their workers is unfair. I trust thousands of junior doctors across the country who work tirelessly every day and would not take such action without proper cause more than I do Jeremy Hunt who will likely face repercussions if he fails to implement these changes.
But with it being clear that junior doctors are right in taking action against a government which is pushing for a contract which will force stretched doctors to work even harder and consequently endangering patient safety, and with the public overwhelmingly supporting these strikes, the question to Dan Hodges, who said 'Labour's backing of the junior doctors' strike will stain its MPs for a decade,' and other Labour supporters sceptical of this action is: why wouldn't Labour support these strikes, and what does the party stand for if they had failed to?
A party founded on standing up for hard-working people across Britain should not even have to think twice about supporting a set of strikes which is fair and has public support. In fact, one could even say that it is their duty to do so. The grave concern is what would have been Labour's position if a so-called 'moderate' candidate had been elected leader instead of Jeremy Corbyn. With this faction of the party reluctant to support strike action, it seems likely that Labour would be condemning these strikes rather than supporting them. This, in turn, may have swayed public opinion away from junior doctors and put pressure on them to accept the regressive contract being offered.
If ever there was an example of how workers are stronger with the Labour Party's support surely this is it. No longer can Labour condemn strikes which are rightfully called on as a result of unfair treatment. That is why Jeremy Corbyn's decision to back these strikes and support junior doctors must be welcomed by those who strive for fair working hours as well as a healthy and prosperous NHS. Having workers who spend their lives dedicated to helping others and are already facing extreme work pressures told that they are to work even more hours, which will inevitably push many towards a state of dysfunctionality, is unacceptable. That's why Labour is right to stand up for junior doctors and it is what they must continue to do in the future: support hard-pressed workers who are weaker without their vital support. It's what the Labour Party was founded to do and it is that fundamental function which continues to hold relevance under a government hell-bent on destroying the public services the British people hold dear.