This post is going to be provocative. Distasteful to many. Distasteful to me to have to write it. And I have no doubt at all that publishing it is going to provoke vilification and insult toward me from those who will not like its content or its conclusions.
But I make no apologies for it. Some things have to be addressed – and can only be addressed provocatively. There’s a despicable hate campaign going on involving Julie Bailey of ‘Cure the NHS’ (Cure) that I need to highlight to you. But it’s not what you might expect if you’ve read the papers.
More of that anon, but first I need to share with you a sketch from the old comedy show ‘Harry Enfield and Chums’. I’d love to show you it, but it doesn’t appear to be online anywhere – although you can see a different sketch with the same character on YouTube here. So I’ll have to describe it to you instead.
The sketch involves the brilliant Paul Whitehouse in character as ‘Michael Paine, nosy neighbour’, and it begins with ‘Paine’ looking out of the window through a pair of binoculars. Slowly, he turns to camera and lowers the eyepiece:
My name is Michael Paine, and I am a nosy neighbour. Oh yes. I recently acquired a pair of binoculars, which have enabled me to see into number 81, a house previously beyond my field of vision.
It is a good thing that I did. Because the old lady who lives there had a nasty accident in which she fell, and cracked her head off the marble fireplace.
Do you know, I was able to observe her lying there, unattended, on the floor for 3 days before anyone come to her aid.
Sometimes I despair of the human race. I really do.
Whitehouse plays it deadpan, providing a perfect backdrop for the comedy of the script to work. “Of course”, we think, “no one could ever really be that heartless – or that blind to irony”. So we laugh.
But truth is ever stranger than fiction. The genius of the comedy is nothing compared to its seeming prescience in foreshadowing and perfectly framing the nonsense of claims made by Julie Bailey, founder of “patients’ group” Cure.
As I’ve highlighted previously on this blog, the claims of Ms Bailey – who freely flings accusations of callousness and heartlessness at nurses and other NHS workers – contain such serious flaws that either their veracity must seriously be questioned, or Ms Bailey is so callous that for her to accuse others of it is nonsense.
Ms Bailey makes two claims that are particularly problematic. First, she claims that she sat and watched her mother, Bella, die in agony and terror, begging for painkillers. You or I, seeing our mother in that position, would if necessary frogmarch a nurse into the room to provide pain-relief. We certainly would not sit by and leave a loved one to die, terrified and in terrible pain.
Ms Bailey is clearly no shrinking violet, as her persistent campaigning and enjoyment of the limelight shows. But we are asked to believe – and dozens of professional journalists have apparently believed without comment or question – that she sat passive while her mother endured a terrible death.
Second, she has claimed – in person, from her own lips, on a radio 4 show at the beginning of April – that she sat in her mother’s room while people in neighbouring rooms fell out of bed and then cried out for help until they grew too weak to cry out any more and fell silent.
Do you see the similarity to ‘Michael Paine’? Ms Bailey was mere feet away from people in dire need of help – not once but several times, according to her account. She knew, if her story is to be believed, that no one was coming to help – and yet she just sat there. Any sane person would go and drag someone to help, if necessary – or, if they felt it was genuinely impossible to leave their relative for even a moment, would stand in the doorway of the room and shout.
And then shout, and shout, and keep shouting until someone paid attention. Ms Bailey’s claims are not comedy – but they are so outrageously flawed that any journalist worthy of the name would have to question them. Yet none have, while many have repeated Ms Bailey’s stories as simple fact.
All this is deeply unpleasant – but I believe absolutely essential – to highlight. And so we come to the ‘hate campaign’.
On Twitter today, Ms Bailey made some serious accusations against another Stafford woman, complaining that she was responsible for a hate campaign against her, and is a liar:
This is not a new phenomenon. A few weeks ago, she joined in a Twitter conversation about the same lady with this:
and a couple of weeks earlier, this:
Her supporters follow Ms Bailey’s lead, exhibiting classic ‘mobbing’ behaviour toward any dissenter. NHS ‘whistleblower’ Gary Walker, whose chosen Twitter ID of ‘modernleader’ poses obvious questions, has joined in the slurs on more than one occasion:
And other hangers-on have done likewise, in equally reckless and often histrionic fashion:
By contrast, Ms Smith – accused of a hate campaign – shows exceptional restraint, and an exemplary lack of bile, in her responses:
It’s very obvious that there is indeed a libellous hate-campaign going on, centred on Julie Bailey and Cure. It’s equally clear that they are more culprits than victims. Ms Smith is not the only one to have been ‘mobbed’ for disagreeing with Cure. I’ve experienced some of it myself, and others have suffered far worse.
Cure seem perfectly happy to dish out bile and vilification while crying ‘foul!’ if anyone dares to disagree with them, freely using words like ‘disgusting’, ‘offensive’ and ‘disgraceful’ in strident and often aggressive responses.
Cure’s accusations against Ms Smith are laughable in the light of a comparison of their behaviour and that of the accused. Ms Bailey’s claims about what happened around her mother in Stafford hospital are so flawed and outlandish as to be nonsense.
This is the group and its leader who are feted by politicians and who claim that they are going to ‘cure’ an NHS that was imperfect but by no means broken before this government got its hands on it. The group, and its leader, who are wheeled out for every NHS-bashing piece in the media.
A group that exhibits the classic, collective behaviour of a bully – eager to dish out punishment but unable to stand any contradiction.
It’s extremely distasteful to have to write this article, and I resent deeply that I have to. But I have to, because this group is not what it’s represented to be – and its continued status as media darlings is one of the most serious threats to the NHS that the vast majority of us rely on and that most of us still respect and appreciate.