This is our truth, tell us yours
Junior doctors go on strike again today.
It takes both sides to start a strike. It’s a modern cliche… Except…
I am, as someone who spent some time working in high volume vertical drinking establishments, not a stranger to violence. I’ve had a few fights in my time. The last time I took anyone seriously when they said to me it takes two to start a fight was Miss Morgan in Year Four of school, when she tried to insist I should turn the other cheek to the boy who was bullying me. I was in love with Miss Morgan so I agreed with her for as long as it took to get out of school. I then sorted it out with the bully on the old tram road that ran between the school and the tips. I felt inordinately proud of not crying as the fight stumbled to a conclusion, and the bully left me alone thereafter. In a postscript worthy of a gothic novel or an Ian Rankin Rebus novel, eleven years later the bully killed his best friend with a twelve bore shotgun in an ‘accident’.
The point of that meander down memory lane is that, despite what the supposedly wise or disinterested say,it only takes one act of aggression to start a fight. The aggressor does what they do, and the victim makes their choices. As a child, I chose to fight the class bully because I figured the other options were worse. I didn’t think I’d win, but he might pick another target in future, and, if I got battered, that was only what he kept threatening to do anyway.
I got battered.
The bully left me alone thereafter.
That’s where my analogy, between the junior doctor’s dispute and my childhood diverges. If the junior doctors lose, the bully, the Health Secretary and his privatizing colleagues, will keep coming back.
There are times in industrial disputes where you are no longer fighting for the point at issue. You’re fighting for the principle that there is an industrial relationship, between employer and employed, that is characterized by dialogue and negotiation.
That’s where the junior doctors are now. Like the miners, like the lawyers over legal aid, like so many groups of workers over the years, they are fighting for the principle that we have a society in which we prize dialogue and negotiation, and that most beautiful and British of things, the compromise.
The junior doctors deserve our support.