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The good, the bad, and the not so ugly

29 Apr 2007 - Bruno Prior

JG has been highlighting the MTAS fiasco. Besides the fine illustration it provides of this Government's incompetence and refusal to take responsibility for their mistakes, it also sheds an interesting sidelight on another bad Labour policy. On Thursday's Question Time, Caroline Flint, the Public Health Minister, explained the necessity to scrap the old system in the following words:

"I have heard, for example, from clinicians about how applications used to turn up at hospitals, they'd put them in a pile and literally pull them out at random. So it was all agreed that that system wasn't right."

A bad system is no reason or excuse to introduce something worse. And one of the main criticisms of MTAS is that it made the selection process more, not less random. But equally importantly, does this not describe almost exactly the "lottery" approach to assigning places in schools to students, introduced by egalitarian Labour councils and approved by this Labour government? Why is a random approach wrong for selecting junior doctors but right for selecting students?

But let's be fair and give credit where credit is due if a Minister manages to be sensible (a task made all the more compelling by the fact that Ms Flint is by a long chalk the hottest minister and probably the hottest MP in parliament, and that is not intended to damn with faint praise). Yesterday's Telegraph reports that Ms Flint has taken a robust and rational stance against the call from Alcohol Concern to make it illegal for parents to give their children alcohol. If parents can't teach their children how to drink responsibly, it is hard to know who should have that responsibility. And how would such a law have been enforced? Ms Flint is to be congratulated on resisting blinkered pressure groups, giving short shrift to such a nannyish idea, and choosing masterly inaction over ill-considered action.

Now if she could only teach the rest of her colleagues to apply the same approach, we might have fewer MTAS-style fiascos.

Organisations: UK DoH

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