Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Lessons in forgiveness

Last Saturday, in glorious spring sunshine in the Lake District, I read a lovely interview about a lovely man, who plays one of my favourite TV characters: Peter Capaldi is not Malcolm Tucker in real life, but I would certainly be one of the people who would go up to him and ask him to tell me to ‘Fuck off’. In fact, it would make my year.

We all know the kind of intelligence that goes into writing a series like The Thick of It, and Armando Ianucci has been a hero of mine for some years, for being the kind of person who says the kind of things that I wished I had thought of, in a way I wish I could do. Peter Capaldi clearly fits the mould quite well: thoughtful, intelligent, and reflective.

There was one paragraph in his interview that struck me, and I think it is worth quoting it here:

"For a long time I carried this... it's not resentment, it's fear. It was a fear of not being good enough, not being Daniel, or not being Hugh Grant or not being Colin Firth. It took me years to realise it was me bringing that stuff to the table – that when I would get into a situation if I was working with people, I'd blame them. Once I realised that it was a great eye-opener." When did that happen? "Probably not until I was about 40.

Brilliant. Honest. In many ways, it reminds me of what I have been going through this year on the Darzi Fellowship: at intervals, I have been invited to understand some startlingly uncomfortable things about myself, and although it has been hard, it has been hugely empowering and rewarding.  Realising something about yourself that has been evident for years, but somehow hidden from you is both frustrating and uplifting: frustrating that it took you so long to work it out, uplifting that you have gained the insight to do something about it.

And this brings me closer to the point that I want to make today: what Peter Capaldi shows us is that if we choose to, we can learn important lessons throughout out entire lives. We do not necessarily reach a point where we have become the people we are - in fact, who we are is always subject to revision.

I thought of this today, when I caught up late in the afternoon on my Twitter feed (being back on the wards in a hospital with poor mobile reception means that I lag behind Twitter-time now), and caught umpteen references to the vote about Lansley and the reception he got from the Royal College of Nursing.

Now I am many things, but I am not a Tory apologist, and I do not like the healthcare reforms one bit, but I was a little shocked about what I was reading. The nature of the dialogue struck me as trying to exclude meaningful debate. However much concern we have that the listening exercise is a sham, it seems shameful not to engage. What I read told me one thing only: we do not wish to engage in dialogue with the government on where to go with the health reforms.

I would be surpised if this is what the men and women who voted were trying to achieve, but think about where this puts Andrew Lansley: he has realised over the last few weeks, that he has failed spectacularly to convince both the public and the healthcare profession of the need to reform healthcare along the lines of his vision. Whether through integrity or cynicism, he has embarked on a listening exercise, which for us is an opportunity, but when presented with the opportunity to put their views across, he is told that we have no confidence in him. This is not about the RCN - if the BMA was ballsy enough, I’m sure that he would have heard exactly the same.  

But what has this to do with Peter Capaldi? Well, given the nature of the discussion that we are having with Lansley, do you think we are giving him the space and the opportunity to become a better health minister? Are we giving him the space and opportunity to actually listen, or are we drawing a line in the sand, and digging our trenches on one side? One may well argue that this is a fight that he started, but healthcare is something that we care deeply about, and if we discuss what to do about it in the language of confrontation, then it is confrontation that we will have.

Peter Capaldi learned something really important about himself: that his failures were down, in part, to assumptions that he had made about the world, and these assumptions impacted negatively on the impression he created on other people. Whatever Andrew Lansley has done, we bring a lot of ourselves into the debate about healthcare reforms, and it is not always helpful. Whatever the grounds for cynicism, we need to fight it, because no honest and heartfelt debate about healthcare can happen if we are all cynical and belligerent.

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