Posted by: Witch Doctor | February 13, 2008

Hubris and the job-share pied piper



The views of Allyson Pollock seem to be so contrary to the culture of the DOH, that My Black Cat and I decided to try to find how Sir Liam Donaldson felt about her views. We therefore did a google search linking Liam Donaldson and Allyson Pollock. What we found named the two names in a speech given by a former chairman of the BMA, but the names were not linked in any way. However, although we didn’t find what we were looking for, some interesting information was revealed.

Sandy Macara, former Chairman of the BMA Council, gave a long speech to the Bristol Medico-Chirurgical society on 12 October 2005 when he reminisced quite a bit.


It gives some interesting insights.



Here is an extract. The bold italics are mine.

“I move on to a very different reception, and an ostensibly different Government. The scene, Number 10. The occasion, a bash for New Labour lovies, pop stars, media celebrities and the like with a sprinkling of more conventional guests, including Leslie Turnberg, President of the Royal College of Physicians, soon to be ennobled as a Labour peer.”

“Our daughter, monitoring the TV coverage of arrivals from our holiday chalet in Scotland, which we had forsaken for the day, was bemused as the cameras scanned Sylvia and me walking in, to hear the commentary, “there are also a few ordinary guests”.

“Inside, one fell to chatting, as one does, with Alan Milburn, then Minister of Health to Frank Dobson as Secretary of State. Some imp prompted me to pull his leg over the volte face over the private finance initiative, which Labour had robustly condemned inopposition, with ammunition from the BMA and Allyson Pollock.”

Ah. The Pied Piper job-share!

It seems the BMA and Allyson Pollock were used by New Labour while they were in opposition, before they did a complete about turn about PFI when they came into power.

Allyson Pollock has since moved from London to Edinburgh.

“Ah”, replied Alan, “Peter is our expert”, and summoned over Mandelson, so beautifully described by David Starkey the other night on television as the patron saint of New Labour.”

“Without turning a hair, Mandelson explained that “we are going to make it work”.

“Classic hubris, especially as I knew that Frank Dobson, who we will welcome next month as our Long Fox lecturer, was at best sceptical about it. When Milburn came to power, succeeding Dobson, he was no stranger. Notorious for running a failed bookshop in Newcastle ‘Haze of Hope’ predictably dubbed ‘Days of Dope’, we first met when he, who had been the beneficiary of priceless briefings from the BMA, which helped him to make his reputation as an opposition health spokesman, addressed a Consultants and Specialists Association meeting in York. As the after dinner speaker I had arrived early to hear him castigating the BMA in the usual way as a reactionary repository of vested interests. This was well-received by that audience. When I was introduced to him afterwards I made so bold as to advise nevertheless that before speaking to the gallery, he should ascertain who were in it.”

“In contrast to Frank Dobson whom he succeeded as Secretary of State, he was no great friend of public health despite Our Healthier Nation (of course) which Ken Calman had masterminded as CMO before moving to Durham as Vice Chancellor, to be succeeded by Liam Donaldson whom some of us taught. The public health section of the NHS Plan 2000 under Alan Milburn’s jurisdiction was a pallid reflection of a feisty modernisation action team chaired by Liam in which we had combined forces to advocate positive public health policies. Symbolically it appeared as chapter 13, almost as an after-thought. In marked contrast to Scotland, where a similar exercise put prevention of disease and promotion of health up front.”

So Alan Milburn was ‘Putting down” Sir Liam Donaldson’s work relegating it to unlucky chapter 13 of the NHS plan.

Public Health was not the real agenda for The Great NHS Plan, My Black Cat?

Do you suppose the CMO was annoyed?

You bet he was, My Black Cat!

“Nor was Alan any friend of the profession. Witness his demands for the GMC to set up an interim orders committee with power to suspend doctors from practice, pending a professional conduct committee hearing, which was bound to lead to injustice as it has done, and to extend to 5 years the period which must elapse before reinstatement can be sought by a practitioner who had been erased from the register. In the absence of the President on Safari in South Africa, terrorising the wild beasts, the Registrar asked me as “Father of the House”, (I had been there longer than anybody else), to Chair an urgent extraordinary meeting of members to give the immediate response demanded. That response was truly extraordinary. A unanimous decision, including all the lay members including those who normally failed to support the doctors, to resist. The President suddenly returned from South Africa and I never learned what followed because no report of the meeting ever appeared and I have never seen any response from the Secretary of State, but the rejected measures were imposed immediately with no reference to any objection from the General Medical Council.”

Hubris. Classic Hubris again.

No objections are taken into account when hubris is in full flight.

That is why hubris is dangerous in a democracy, My Black Cat.

Dangerous TO a democracy.

And then we did another Google search………..


  1. […] After all, it is easy to be mesmerised when hubris is in full flight. […]

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