With Royal weddings top of the news agenda, it won’t be too long (in historical terms) before Royal babies come along … which brings me neatly to the subject of midwives, which brings me swiftly to the subject of cuts. Oh it will take more than a Royal wedding to knock me off message …
No wonder David Cameron bounced out of Downing Street with a big smile on his face to announce to the world that he had been slipped a piece of paper with the news, told the Cabinet, who immediately started banging the table. (By the way, I fear the Number 10-Palace relations cannot be working too well if this was really the first time the PM knew … perhaps they’ve been cut.)
The smile was partly that which landed on lots of lips yesterday on hearing the news that Prince William and Kate Middleton are to be married, and showed that many people still like a good old Royal wedding. It was the smile too of a Home Counties man who has made it to the top, and sees a Home Counties woman doing likewise. But it was perhaps above all the smile of a politician who knows that between now and the wedding and for some time thereafter, the future King and Queen will operate as a major news sponge which will take a lot of attention away from the doom and gloom of cuts and ideological reforms.
So to midwives, and an article Mr Cameron wrote in The Sun earlier this year (pre-election) saying that a Tory government would deliver, no pun intended, more midwives to help the hard-pressed midwives we already have.
Of course now, he would say (were he pressed on it, which this far he has not been) that when they finally got into office, the books were far worse than they imagined and therefore terribly sorry, old girls, but no more midwives, no can do. Belt-tightening and all that … hey, I’ve even had to lay off my personal photographer.
Yet at the time he was penning the midwives article he was also lambasting the government for economic incompetence and mismanagement, saying how dreadful he expected the books to be. The line that ‘the books were worse than we expected’ will not stand up to examination. He knew when he made the promise on midwives that George Osborne would not let him keep it.
I’m afraid the midwives were just one more group who happened to be good bandwagon material and as they entered DC’s political radar, he leapt aboard.
So while I feel sympathy for the Royal College of Midwives, who have emerged from a meeting with health secretary Andrew Lansley with the pledge of 3,000 extra midwives somehow lost in translation from opposition to government, I do not feel surprised.
Lansley’s excuse is seemingly that the birth-rate has slowed since Cameron made his promise. It’s a variation on ‘the books are worse than we expected’ … ‘we’ve looked at the books on birthrate and they’re better than expected … so thanks for believing us at the time, thanks for voting for us, now sod off.’
They’re taking on a fair few groups at the moment. The nurses are already on the warpath re cuts to the frontline. Now the midwives are joinign them … good luck both in their campaign to get the government to deliver what they promised.