As if to confirm its status as house journal of the Tory Party, the Maily Telegraph is today on guard to rubbish any proposal coming from any other party, and especially Labour. So when Mil The Younger announced that patients should be able to see a GP within 48 hours, a move that could prove popular, there had to be a swift and decisive rebuttal, however desperate.
And so it came to pass: “Labour 48-hour GP plan 'would cost 30 times more' than promised ... Labour say plan for 48-hour access would cost £100 million, but doctors say true cost is £3 billion”. As Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. One, note those quotation marks to show the part the Tel couldn’t stand up. And two, we need to ask just how many doctors have made this assertion.
So how many doctors? Well, only one doctor, actually: despite Matthew Holehouse telling “Ed Miliband’s promise to give all patients a ‘same-day consultation’ and a guarantee of an early GP appointment was questioned this morning after the Royal College of GPs said the policy would cost £3 billion to implement”, readers should read a little further down his copy.
There, they will find the real story: “‘It is not anywhere near enough to give any sort of guarantee,’ said Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners ... Providing a ‘proper general practice service’ would mean increasing the GPs' share of the NHS budget from 8 per cent to 11 per cent, at a cost of £3 billion, said Dr Baker”. And there’s something else the Tel isn’t, er, telling.
Maureen Baker has been promoting stories of breakdown in the GP service for a while now – nothing wrong with that, as that’s her job – but, had the Tel been straight with its readers, it would have told them that, as well as stressing that this was one person’s opinion, before telling that “Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said he did not accept the figures and said Labour’s plans are ‘clear and costed’”.
Instead, the real purpose of the article is then made clear: “Labour was dealt a blow last night when two opinion polls showed the party is now trailing the Tories. According to polling by Lord Ashcroft, the former Tory deputy chairman, the Tories are on 34 per cent and Labour are on 32 per cent”. This has been selectively edited to ignore Sunday’s Opinium poll for the Observer.
That is because it recorded a Labour lead of 4%. Yes, the Tel, with only a year to go before a General Election whose date has already been set in stone, is quick to tell readers to “look over there” and that Labour is both frit and finished, while trying not to tell those same readers that it’s not quite as simple as that. But it does make a pleasant change from accusations of “class war”.
Former paper of record falls even further from grace. And that’s not good enough.