David Cameron and the uninvited doctors: that No. 10 guestlist in full

Groups that have called for NHS reforms to be scrapped are excluded from special summit on the healt

What do you do when people disagree with you? Well, excluding them is one option. David Cameron is holding a special summit on the NHS bill today -- very special, as it will only include medical colleges and health practitioners that back the bill.

Strikingly, the British Medical Association and the Royal College of General Practitioners have not been invited, despite the fact that the centrepiece of the bill is giving more power to GPs.

This graphic by Ben Goldacre sums up the invite list:


Downing Street has acknowledged that the guest list is built around supporters of the health bill, stressing that the discussion today is about how to implement the health bill, not about amending or abandoning it. On that basis, they said, there is little point inviting those who have opposed the reform from the start.

However, Cameron has been accused of playing divide and rule with health practitioners. Peter Carter, the head of the Royal College of Nursing was incredulous: "We don't know why we haven't been invited but we, like others, find it extraordinary because at the end of the day, it is nurses, doctors, physios, GPs that actually keep the health service going."

The Prime Minister, who has taken personal responsibility for pushing the changes through, will make it clear today that he believes that it is too late to change course. While excluding dissenting groups may be expedient, such tactics are unlikely to go down well with the public: a Unite/YouGov poll found that six times as many people trust health professionals over Cameron and Andrew Lansley on NHS reorganisation (60 per cent and 10 per cent respectively). Labour has opened up a 15 point lead over the Tories on the NHS. Fifty-nine per cent of people already feel that Cameron has not honoured his pre-election promises on the NHS. Visibly going against the will of medical professionals could seriously compound that loss of trust.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.