Round one has concluded. Dirty tricks displayed by the career politicians versus counterpunch tactics by the team wanting to maintain the moral high ground. A brief half time review:
- Commenced negotiations. This seemed to always be their objective. It is not clear whether these Acas conciliated talks are based upon the DDRB report, but I imagine that content is forming a large chunk of proceedings.
- No huge concessions. No real ground has been lost despite the u-turn regarding Acas as imposition threat still looms. Their fast flurry of preconditions failed, but it was a cheap shot. The hard work begins in meaningful negotiations.
- Strike averted (for now). No matter which way you look at it; a first medical strike in 41 years would have been catastrophic. Comparisons to Thatcher's reign have already been made, but those would have intensified with actual industrial action.
- Further denigration of the medical profession. Throughout the timeline of events jabs have been thrown towards the solar plexus of our medics. By stringing out the inevitable and suggesting they are resistant to elevating patient care along the way, some falsely advertised information would seep into the pores of the public.
- Manifesto justification hangs by a thread. Ulterior motives aside, attacking the junior doctors with the basis for increasing urgent and emergency care seven days a week is utterly ludicrous. They are the ones precisely providing this. Their contract has absolutely nothing to do with improving it, unless of course you want them to work more antisocial hours for less recompense.
- Commenced negotiations. If accurate, the aforementioned DDRB report was set in stone. The negotiation via Acas appears to have secured a basis for purposeful negotiations. As their primary objective, it seemed therefore odd they would press ahead with the strike despite negotiations taking place.
- Member support. This will be somewhat divided. Rile the masses and gear them up to do the unthinkable - walk out on their patients. To then stall the planned action 12 hours before risks the loss of support.
- Mandate extension. This might go some way to soften the blow of the lack of action as the threat still remains if negotiations turn sour.
- Imposition averted (for now). As outlined previously, if the imposition stance was reverted permanently it would give the trade union a massive upper hand. The lack of that forthcoming could have been handled better, given the eleventh hour strike postponement.
- Time. Being inexperienced in the political spin sphere, the ongoing tussles will only benefit the BMA. They appeared to have learnt a trick by affecting the power shift with the proactive tactic of requesting Acas. Much more of the same is needed and ongoing media presence is necessary so the government cannot sweep the juniors under the rug.
- Public support. The constant smear tactics from the government risked undermining the underdog image portrayal. A strike complete with inevitable media blast could have scorched the picture. The battle for the Great British public remains alive.
Had the BMA called off the strike once Acas were involved, I would have said the clear winner was the trade union. They had achieved their initial demands - negotiations without preconditions - without any cost to patient safety and all this bolstered by a huge mandate lurking in their back pocket.
However, their subsequent changing of demands complete with last minute cancellation has taken the shine off. Hunt looks like his intervention has saved the day, and the organisational blunder complete with confusion has weakened the BMA. It may be that Hunt manufactured it, and that genuine reassurance was not received until that time, but the effect remains.
So on to round two. Much ferreting behind scenes sidled with a slow leak of information. This will be met with bluster and understanding from the doctors, spin from the politicians and confusion for the public. Expect a relative lull in action until the New Year - the time the industrial action mandate expires.