As this blog pointed out at the time, one thing that the right-wing press were going to do as soon as Leigh MP Andy Burnham declared his candidature for the Labour leadership was to wheel out the smears about his connection with the episodes of unacceptably poor care at Stafford Hospital. Showing that I was right is the latest highly imaginative slice of knocking copy from the Mail On Sunday on that very subject.
Andy Burnham - more smears
“'Grossly unsuitable': Mid-Staffs hospital whistleblower's verdict on ex-Health Secretary who is hot favourite to be Labour leader” thunders the headline, with the supporting article containing several totally untrue statements. But these are attributed to one of the Stafford Hospital campaigners, which makes calling them out difficult: one does not want to trample on those who lost loved ones at the hospital.
But the first whopper is pulled by the MoS, telling readers that Burnham “was Health Secretary when the true scale of neglect at the NHS Trust emerged”. The Healthcare Commission revealed the severity of the situation at Stafford Hospital in March 2009 - which was, in any case, after the event, as measures to eradicate poor care and improve matters had already been put in place.
Burnham became Health Secretary in June 2009. Then the MoS hands over to campaigner Julie Bailey, who asserts “From ignoring repeated warnings about high hospital death rates, to dodging calls for a public inquiry, Andy Burnham put politics before patients every time”. And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. One, Burnham established the Francis Inquiry the month after he became Health Secretary.
That does not sound like the picture Ms Bailey paints. And two, this is what Robert Francis, who chaired the Inquiry, said of the argument over whether it should have been a public one: “I am confident that many of the witnesses who have assisted the Inquiry by written or oral evidence would not have done so had the Inquiry been conducted in public”. There are times when a public Inquiry is not necessarily the best way to proceed.
Ms Bailey then claims of Burnham “Still today, he shows no remorse, has offered no apology and accepts no wrongdoing”. Let me refresh her memory. Here is what Burnham said to the Commons in February 2010: “Last year, the Prime Minister apologised to the people of Staffordshire. On behalf of the Government and the NHS, I repeat that apology again today. They were badly let down”.
He also paid tribute to Ms Bailey, and others prepared to speak out: “I pay tribute to the people who had the courage to come forward and tell their stories and to expose the failures of the past, in order that they could protect others in the future”. But one cannot ascribe fault to Julie Bailey on this occasion: the MoS have gone looking for adverse comment, with their storyline already formed. And it won’t be the last.
Andy Burnham actually did the right thing back in 2009. Not that the press will tell you.
Little talked about following the election is that the Press didn't want Labour to get in because it looked likely that Labour would implement the Leveson recommendations.
Which the Press certainly didn't want, because that might stop them hacking murdered girls' voicemail and bribing coppers.
(Anonymous - because I don't want The Sun harassing my gran out of political spite)
And for the same reason they don't want a strong leader in charge of the Labour Party after the election.
Although to be scrupulously fair to the NOTW and Glenn Mulcaire they were hacking,at the time, a "missing" girl's voicemail.
Although what they were doing obstructing an investigation into the Daniel Morgan murder case leaves a lot to be desired and more of an explanation than the nonsensical one that was given by Rebekah Brooks at the time.
Still think there are a lot of grans and other relations that need to be wary - newspapers are in desperate straits and as recent events have shown the bullies, as cultured as their owners, are still in situ.
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