On this past Tuesday something quite remarkable happened. Respected MP and former Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, stood in The House of Commons and alleged there has been "an orchestrated campaign to prevent the truth being told" about the contaminated blood scandal. He went on to present evidence of:
Numerous times he used the phrase 'criminal acts' and admitted he finally 'got it', the scale of it, the nature of the contaminated blood scandal, and that the only way the truth can be reached is by an inquiry.
He went on to challenge the Government to instigate a Hillsborough style inquiry panel so that the truth can finally be established, and if they do not, he pledged to take his evidence to the police so that a criminal investigation can be begun.
For a short time campaigners let out a collective sigh of relief. This is it, this our time. We will be vindicated, we are not mad, this stuff did actually happen and it will be resolved. Andy Burnham gets it, everyone will follow suit now, how can they not?
That relief lasted until lunchtime Wednesday.
At Prime Minister's Question Time, the Prime Minister was asked directly, would she join with Labour and the SNP and issue a manifesto pledge to hold a Hillsborough style inquiry into contaminated blood. A simple question, and in the light of Andy Burnham's speech, surely an obvious answer. The Prime Minister did not answer this question. She instead chose to read a near identical statement to that given by Nicola Blackwood the previous day in response to Andy Burnham's speech. A statement campaigners know to be so full of holes it borders on fiction. At least Ms Blackwood had the decency to look uncomfortable as she spoke on an issue that is not even her ministerial responsibility.
Meanwhile in Scotland they had an inquiry, co-infected individuals are starting to receive payments that will give them financial piece of mind, their widows and bereaved families are acknowledged and are also receiving financial support. Discretionary budgets are being increased so that as many of those affected by contaminated blood can benefit from it as possible. The Scottish scheme is not perfect, many are still not supported, but it is moving in the right direction. In Wales they have agreed to keep regular payment increases that the English were supposed to get, but now won't. Even the Haemophilia Society has acknowledged and apologised for mistakes it made in the 1980s during the height of the contaminated blood crisis.
Even Iran had hearings and held officials to account!
Does that not seem odd? That a country we like to cite as having poor human rights records, allegedly harbours extremists and that we believe should not have nuclear weapons, does investigate how its citizens were infected by contaminated blood, but our fair and democratic country does not? Surely when a former high ranking Government Minister and respected MP produces compelling evidence of wrong doing in the House of Commons, it should be sufficient to trigger some sort of investigation.
At the last election many campaigners will have voted Conservative on the basis of David Cameron's promise to 'do more'. As we race towards another election David Cameron's promise is in utter tatters, the current Prime Minister is ignoring questions and health ministers are repeating the same statements over and over again in the hope that we eventually agree with them. This situation is sadly all too familar to us. We know the evidence is there, we have supportive MPs, we can see other countries doing the right thing, but we are met with resistance from the Government of the day to the point of contempt. But maybe, just maybe, this time its different. The media coverage isn't over and there is a new generation of campaigners taking up the baton. This isn't a last ditch effort, it's another beginning.
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