GP Survival committee wishes to comment on recent events regarding the RCGP’s decision to revoke their invitation to Julia Hartley-Brewer to take part in a panel event at the forthcoming autumn RCGP conference.
When GP Survival first learned of the decision to invite her, there was considerable dismay amongst the GPS membership that such a controversial figure should be invited to speak at a RCGP-endorsed event. A members’ petition was quickly launched and received the support of hundreds of GPs within hours of its launch. To their credit, the RCGP quickly recognised the strength of feeling within the profession and revoked the invitation to Ms Hartley-Brewer.
GP Survival would like to make quite clear that it no way endorses censorship of free-speech. Julia Hartley-Brewer has numerous existing platforms in which she is free to promulgate her views.
We agree with the college, however, that a private event such as the RCGP conference should be used to extend a speaking invitation to those whose values align more closely with RCGP values, and that to choose someone with her track record would be a poor use of the considerable fees that RCGP members pay for such events. Furthermore, we believe that she has nothing useful to contribute at a time when General Practice is itself in crisis. There is little in her recent outbursts or previous work to disprove this. Her invitation to the college would have represented an irritating distraction from the real issues facing our profession.
We are glad that the college has seen fit to correct its inappropriate choice of guest speaker on this occasion, and we thank the college for listening to, and respecting, the views of its grassroots members.
Far from being an example of ‘no-platforming’, this is simply a case of an unwanted – indeed unwelcome – guest at a private event.
In response to Ms. Hartley-Brewer’s comments about one of the individuals on the committee (who as campaign lead actioned the committee decision), it should be made clear that this petition is not politically motivated. The individual she identifies is not (as she wrongly states) a Labour Party member. Indeed, the committee is made up of individuals who hold a range of political views. The committee, and the 750+ doctors who signed the petition, are a diverse group of individuals who vote for different parties and have contrasting views on our political direction. However, they all share concerns that this broadcaster promotes controversial populist views, which have contributed to the rise of hatred in the UK, and thus her presence is not in keeping with the tradition of inclusivity that is the bedrock of good general practice.