Junior doctor strike: stethoscopes at dawn

The NHS returns to the top of the political agenda today as junior doctors go on strike in protest at the terms of a new contract proposed by the Government. A poll from Ipsos Mori shows voters unusually supportive of industrial action, with two thirds backing the doctors. The number in favour drops for any strike that affects A&E services, but those walking out today will feel public opinion is behind them.

The show of support for the doctors has encouraged Labour, traditionally wary of appearing to back strikes, to endorse the action. The NHS remains one of the few issues the party continues to poll well on and is a cause that unites all of its warring factions. But leading on the NHS did not help Labour get into power at the last election, and backing the walkout so clearly may reinforce perceptions of a Labour leadership seen as in the pay of the unions.

Ironically, Jeremy Corbyn’s endorsement of the doctors comes as he faces a showdown with union chiefs over the main issue that divides him from them, the Trident nuclear system. The head of the General Members’ Union Paul Kenny launched a strong attack on Corbyn’s plans to fast-track a change in party policy yesterday, and it is reported the most powerful union, Unite, will also not yield on its support for the deterrent. With more shadow ministers resigning and relations with all sides of the party plummeting, can the Labour leader afford a battle with some of those most disposed towards him? 

Photograph: Chris Marchant

Larry Smith

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search