Press "Enter" to skip to content

Politicians beware! Doctor will see you now


Politicians beware! Doctor will see you now Patrick Burns Political editor, Midlands Trust me I’m a doctor  What is it about doctors and politics? Maybe it’s the profession’s general reputation for unimpeachable respectability that confers so much authority on them  I can reel off the names of just some of those who have gone on to forge careers at Westminster without really trying: Liam Fox, David Owen, Dan Poulter, Michael Winstanley, Robert Winston, Sarah Wollaston  And no doubt you can think of many more yourself.  What’s more, there’s a long line of party politicians who have been at the sharp end, having been identified as suitable cases for treatment by the politico-medics Spin doctors Take two examples from north Worcestershire of how the professions of politics and medicine are intertwined  Medicine certainly turned toxic for Wyre Forest’s Labour MP David Lock two decades ago when the former hospital doctor Richard Taylor captured the seat on a tide of public indignation over the closure, proposed under Tony Blair’s government, of Kidderminster’s District General Hospital  Dr Taylor achieved the remarkable distinction of not merely keeping the hospital open, but also of serving two consecutive terms as the Independent MP  His colleagues in Independent Health Concern seized control of Wyre Forest’s District Council as well  It was not until 2010, when the Conservatives once again became Westminster’s largest party, that Wyre Forest reverted back to them: the Tories had long considered it a relatively safe seat up until Mr Lock’s triumph in the 1997 Labour landslide  Having been defeated when Dr Taylor won his second term in 2005, Mark Garnier finally exacted his revenge in 2010 and has remained the Conservative MP ever since  But Wyre Forest’s place in this epic medical drama cannot be erased.  To quote one of my news reports from Kidderminster at the time: “It shows how a health issue can cut through to the heart of a community’s politics like nothing else “Referred pain  At exactly the same time, nerve endings were becoming equally frayed in the next-door constituency of Bromsgrove  During those years leading up to that 2010 general election, another hospital doctor was doing his rounds  A consultant neurologist at City and Sandwell hospitals, Hagley-based Dr David Nicholl had already become known locally as an Amnesty International campaigner against the USA’s treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay  But by the late ‘noughties his prime target was closer to home: his local Conservative MP, Julie Kirkbride  Remember, the Commons expenses scandal was at its height. Dr Nicholl was among Ms Kirkbride’s fiercest critics as public pressure intensified her accommodation claims  Six months before polling day she was forced to announce she would be standing down  Four months after it, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards cleared her of any wrongdoing and dismissed the complaints against her  But by then Bromsgrove’s new Conservative MP Sajid Javid was establishing himself as one of the top talents in the 2010 intake, clearly destined for high office  Having unintentionally helped to clear the way for the future chancellor’s arrival in Bromsgrove, Dr Nicholl is now bidding to stop the chancellor in his tracks Parliamentary prognosis? Still a committed campaigner, this time for the cause of Britain remaining in the EU, Dr Nicholl was recently selected as the Liberal Democrats’ candidate to stand against Mr Javid in Bromsgrove  The Tories may have a 16,000 majority there, but Mr Nicholl’s party leader Jo Swinson told me last month politics is undergoing a “seismic change” as Remain sentiment strengthens in the face of what she sees as the threat of No-Deal  For Remain supporters in Bromsgrove, Dr Nicholl’s appeal is obvious.  It was his warnings about post-Brexit disruption to medical supplies, revealed in the leaked Yellowhammer Report, which triggered the first major political storm of this unpredictable autumn  Dr Nicholl says patients could well be harmed or may even die if deliveries of their medications are delayed  He also accuses the government of “winging it” as they prepare for the various medical eventualities Repeat prescription? Just to add to the intrigue, some of the strands of this 20-year drama will be brought back together this weekend when two of the principal actors join me in the studio: Mr Garnier, bidding to be re-elected for a fourth term as Conservative MP for Wyre Forest, and Dr Nicholl, hoping to claim one of Westminster’s most famously gleaming scalps  Also with us will be another top professional. Not, this time, a medic but a barrister; Shabana Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood And yes, there are lots of lawyers in the Commons too. But that’s another story. Sunday Politics Midlands is on BBC One in the West Midlands at 10 00 BST this Sunday, 13 October, and available to watch afterwards on iPlayer.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *