Margo MacDonald: Stitched up for being stuck-up

Should the MP whose misdeeds led to an incident reminiscent of the scrapes associated with the TV character Alan B’stard be forced to resign from his government job as Chief Whip?

Judging by the near-hysterical calls from some interest groups, Andrew Mitchell should be hung, drawn and quartered and his severed head 
displayed in Trafalgar Square or some other prominent place so that anyone thinking of swearing at a policeman will change their mind, pronto.

I think he’s a prat. He was appallingly rude, foul-mouthed and disrespectful to the police who tried to persuade him he couldn’t do as he claims to have done perhaps three times a day. 
But I think Yvette Cooper, Labour’s shadow home secretary, is exaggerating her fears of the end of civilisation as we know it. She’s asked for a thorough investigation and formal inquiry into the words exchanged in the heat of the moment.

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She’s posturing. Andrew Mitchell has already apologised and, if he’s wise, in a show of contrition he should lob a generous donation into the police benevolent fund.

And just as Ms Cooper should stop over-reacting, so the police officers detailed to recount the incident and notes they made of the incident should stop trying to prove, horror of horrors, that he called them plebs.

If that’s the worst they’ve been called, they must lead sheltered lives. I’m routinely called much more unpleasant things, like anybody else making a spectacle of themselves in public.

Rude, sometimes hurtful, sometimes perceptive comments are made by people it’s easy to label as intellectually challenged, or thick.

We all revert to playground insults when we’re utterly frustrated, and I can’t help feeling that Mitchell’s “plebs” equates to my “thick”, more than his use of the word betrays a deep study of the socio-economic divisions in society, and of his place in the top tier.

But whether I’m right to think him guilty of extreme rudeness rather than bullying, studied superiority, he has still dismantled in one crass mis-
judgement the acceptable face of posh boys running the country constructed with such patience by his boss, David Cameron.

I’ve no doubt he’s snobbish, and a toff, but that’s not a good enough reason for being sacked. But it is a strong enough reason for offering to resign . . .

Healthy debate

DOCTORS are complaining, rightly, that they are constrained by some of Scotland’s health boards in prescribing the most up-to-date medicines and using the most advanced 
surgical procedures. They identify the sole reason as being cash shortages in the NHS Scotland.

I watched the new Health Minister, Alex Neil, who scarcely has had time to get his feet under the desk, trade statistic for statistic with Labour’s health spokeswoman, Jackie Bailey. In last week’s debate, I knew both spoke the truth. There is a shortage of nurses, yet thousands have been lost to the NHS during the time in office of the last two health ministers. Alex Neil could point to the extra funding provided to health boards, and an election promise kept by the SNP to ring-fence expenditure on the NHS. Yet Jackie Bailey wasn’t exaggerating when she demanded an explanation for the shortages of supplies such as 
pillows, for example.

I’ve a shrewd idea that the new Health Minister won’t go for a quick fix in meeting any of the varied criticisms of the NHS. As you read this, I imagine there’s a team working in the bowels of St Andrew’s House to pinpoint where service delivery is breaking down, and the reason why. After this, he’ll move decisively to transfer resources, responsibility and accountability, and I bet he’ll try his best to sharpen up the information given to patients.

But at the end of the inquiry, even if the Health Minister does find improvements in the structures or processes of the health boards that could release more money, he’ll still have to oversee a service that can never afford to provide all the services for which it has the necessary 

Each new discovery of the near-miracles that can be achieved through IVF or reconstructive surgery will mean an even harder competition amongst both professionals, patients and the voluntary groups that support them.

Medical knowledge and capability can be compromised if techniques are not practised, and so it doesn’t necessarily indicate a consultant surgeon, for example, is in the empire-building business if he or she fights for more procedures in a specialism that at first glance may not seem to be as urgent or serious as the competitors for resources.

Given the Scottish record of heart diseases and conditions, should pacemakers for elderly patients take precedence over IVF? Alex Neil will need the wisdom of Solomon, public trust in his fairness . . . and luck.