[back] Wakefield GMC Hearing 2007

Just When You Thought it was Safe to go Back in the Water

by Martin Walker


In the last 13 working days, the panel has sat only on 5 interrupted days (Wednesday 23rd April, Tuesday 29th April, Wednesday 30th April, Tuesday May 6th , and Wednesday 7th ). This is hardly the agenda for a group that in the Health Minister's words, should consider the case of Dr Andrew Wakefield ‘as quickly as possible'. Still, never mind we know that the whole plan and objective of the GMC is to ensure that Dr Wakefield is ‘out of play' sitting in the sin-bin for as long as is possible, while the government and science lobby groups press their case for the safety of MMR and other combined vaccines, beyond the hearing.

Such extensive delays, however, make the reporting of the case difficult and I feel that I should remind you of the form which this hearing –   the hearing that the Chairman last week returned to calling an enquiry   - takes.

You will remember that last year after an interminable opening speech during which Miss Smith described in detail the prosecution case, she presented the prosecution witnesses. This process took from July until October, almost three months.

When we returned on March 27th 2008, Dr Wakefield began presenting his Evidence in Chief. This took the form of him being led through this evidence by Keiran Coonan. Coonan's approach to this was masterful, done with the ease of consummate summary. However, despite the logical and progressive narrative that Coonan and Wakefield provided, it was actually difficult to present a complete narrative until the prosecution had revealed all of their hand during the cross examination of the defendant. As I have said before, the GMC prosecution case is based fundamentally on Dear Brian's narrative and because this narrative is threadbare and lacking in proper proof, Miss Smith's prosecution is inevitably oddly anarchic, waving about like a wind-sock in a gale.

So it was the case that after the defence had been well and logically presented and it was Miss Smith's chance for cross-examination, she didn't so much as respond to the defence Evidence in Chief but embarked a second time upon the presentation of the prosecution. Dr Wakefield must have wondered why he had just given his evidence because Miss Smith seemed not to have heard - or at least believed   - any of it. Nor had she altered her case as a consequence of it. Instead of picking up on the vulnerable elements of Wakefield's Evidence in Chief, although these are hard to find, she began at the beginning, once again stating the prosecution case.

Miss Smith's cross-examination began on Friday April 11th and lasted until Tuesday April 29th, nine working days that must have seemed like nine years to Dr Wakefield. Inevitably it crossed my mind, as it would anyone's ,   that Miss Smith was a Time Lord and that the GMC had cleverly converted the room on the 3rd floor into a Tardis ; the nine days seemed to stretch interminably over eons. The cross-examination was made more mind-numbing because, inconsistent and inconsequential as it often was, Miss Smith never wavered from her original prosecution brief, so everyone listened to the same, by now, oft-repeated story.

The various mechanisms of the trial allow for the gradual unfolding of two stories. In theory, at least, a well conducted trial or a court case should be organic, in which matter should gradually adhere to one or more allegations creating a complete and believable picture. The jury that has listened attentively following the information as it comes in, considers at the end of the case which story or which aspects of the stories are most complete and believable.

In the case of Dr Wakefield's narrative, presented by the defence, Mr Coonan has moved expertly throughout the hearing to develop the story, so that by the end of the hearing it will be logical, continuous and simple. While the defence has moved like a sapling in the wind, Miss Smith herself and the prosecution narrative (which might more properly be called an un-narrative) has stayed ram-rod stiff,   like a tall concrete post in the path of a hurricane. The Prosecution took their story in all it's main features from Dear Brian and the GMC guided by an unfathomable desire to destroy Dr Wakefield,   appears to have made little attempt to properly investigate these claims. The prosecution entered the hearing with a half-baked story that was full of holes and written with venom. Of course they have only themselves to blame for the lack of proper narrative that they now find themselves clinging to, like a drowning sailor to a ship's wreckage.

Wednesday April 23rd

Everyone had expected Miss Smith to finish on, or by, Wednesday April 23 rd but when that day dawned she simply availed us of the same detailed, anarchic confusion of questions that she had inflicted on all present over the last two weeks. Clearly getting close to finishing, Miss Smith appeared to create delays with even more trivia than usual.

Other than that, Wednesday was fairly event free. Miss Smith covered Conflict of Interest, the Lancet paper and the Transfer Factor patent - to no great effect. For reasons unknown, Miss Smith did change her tack on that part of the prosecution that had from the beginning maintained that the Legal Aid Board money had paid for the work on the Lancet paper - a theme very dear to the heart of the prosecution -   to the slightly more subtle idea that the children chosen for the Legal Aid Board study were in fact the children used for the Lancet paper or the rejected Lancet science paper.

Miss Smith was to return to this misaligned allegation over and again in the next week. She did this despite the fact that it had been established beyond question that no LAB money had been used for the Lancet paper and the agreed LAB study had definitely not been started by the time the Lancet paper was published.

This new proposition of Miss Smith's went some way to supporting the prosecution case based on Horton's suggestion, encapsulated in the Rouse letter to the Lancet, that there was litigation bias in the sample used by clinicians and researchers in the Lancet paper, while at the same time shakily supporting the idea that it was Richard Barr and Dawbarns that had recruited and passed on 'legal case' children to Dr Wakefield's research at the Royal Free.

This new variation on a distorted history of the Royal Free clinical and research work also gives a good motive for Dr Horton's apparent reluctance to put   detailed information about the Legal Aid money and the 'LAB study' before the Panel; information that we now know had been in Horton's possession for some significant time before the publication of the Lancet paper.

There was no hearing on the Thursday or Friday of this week or the Monday of the next. I had a short break from London on the days that the hearing did not sit. Immediately I sat again in the hearing, I was struck by how bad the sound was in the chamber. The poor quality sound that has dogged the defence case and Miss Smith's cross examination adds to the overall feeling that the GMC care very little for the public or the parents. Despite sending in observers on the days that complaints are made, even on the last day of the hearing - the stenographer was having to stop the proceedings to tell them she couldn't hear   - nothing has substantially changed and on the morning of April 29th, it was a considerable strain for anyone in the public gallery to hear any submissions. The other thing that is indicative of the approach of the GMC, although this might be idiosyncratic to this case, is the lack of information about when the hearing will not be sitting. Many of the parents whose children have been deeply involved in Dr Wakefield's work, might have to spend anything up to £150 for a rail ticket that gets them in to London in time to attend the hearing. Having made this outlay, the sudden announcement that the prosecution or the panel want to go off and play bowls in their local park for the afternoon comes as upsetting news.

Tuesday 29th April saw the fag end of Miss Smith's cross examination. She jumped through the last few simple matters like a disturbed flea, from one issue to another. Miss Smith dealt briefly with one aspect of   'the blood at the birthday party', but as is her wont, like a drunken bob-slay driver, she can't help but introduce extraneous accusations into the cross examination to make her point appear more venous or substantial than it is in reality.

Miss Smith introduced the scientific study - the second paper submitted to the Lancet that was turned down at peer review – in order to discuss why control group bloods were needed. However, always happy to muddy the water she veered off to make the point that this study was ‘the LAB study', i.e. the one organised and carried out for the Legal Aid Board using LAB money. Of course, it wasn't, but Miss Smith's barmy brief demanded that she say it was, so she insistently made the point. She even managed, on this purely incidental point to get in a ‘The truth is …. '.

Dr Wakefield dealt with this spurious allegation as he dealt with others, explaining in a clear and level voice that this study had been funded by the Royal Free Trustees and was carried out before the LAB money was deposited with them.

Having made nothing of this point, Miss Smith moved on to ‘the retraction', but really there was little rhyme or reason in Miss Smith's cross-examination at this point. In fact she was reeling around like a punch drunk boxer at Bethnal Green Baths, swinging a left here and a right there.

Perhaps the ‘retraction' is the most perfect metaphor for the whole of the case against Dr Wakefield. First, of course it is never properly explained that those who put their names to the retraction were not retracting the science of the paper nor the valuable scientific information that had been uncovered by the doctors at the Royal Free about the measles virus and IBD; that they only retracted the interpretation that   the measles virus element of MMR was the possible cause of subsequent bowel disease and regressive autism. Miss Smith harangues Dr Wakefield about this retraction over and again, stating that he was left mainly with the support of Dr Harvey, everyone else having deserted him and signed up to Dr Richard ‘the weasel' Horton's retraction. Wakefield argues, logically that you can't retract a possibility. He says calmly that he read the paper over and over again but could find nothing that he thought should be retracted.

This infuriates Miss Smith who jumps heavily on his observation. 'Well', she says, if you didn't agree with Dr Horton's retraction, you could have agreed another one. Evidently to Miss Smith one retraction is as good as another.

When Dr Wakefield stares at her bemused, she trundles on like a runaway pantechnicon , ‘Not only did you not retract the paper, you defended your position'. By Jesus and Mary, Dr Wakefield, why didn't you just confess? Why didn't you just save yourself all this trouble and strife? Miss Smith echoes the guilt of torturers throughout history - all I asked was that you sign the confession.

Anyone with a whiff of sense can see that there is something going unmentioned here. What kind of pressure was put on the authors who did sign the retraction? Did they all willingly and autonomously sign the retraction and happily distance themselves from Dr. Wakefield. In fact, there are still authors lodged in other countries who will not speak to even their closest colleagues about those dark days of the Horton inquisition.

Miss Smith moved on to her Swan song, the blood at the birthday party. Because this last wilting issue is perhaps the strongest point in the whole prosecution case she used her reference to it as a final dénouement.

At around 11.45, we were treated to the video taken at the time of the Press Briefing organised by Professor Zuckerman, just prior to the publication of the Lancet paper. This video, with poor camera work and atrocious sound, was being shown for the second time. After the first showing an argument had ensued. The hearing had provided a partial transcript of the event, so that the panel could tell what was being said in specific instances, but after watching and listening to the utterly uncommunicative film they demanded a full transcript; this had now been produced and the hearing re-watched the dead images while reading the transcript.

It is indicative of the GMC's attitude to the parents and people in the public gallery, that none of this embellishment is provided for them. Although it is impossible that justice is seen and ‘heard' to be done, the GMC seems determined that the whole event maintains its status as a circus for barristers and not the public edification.

My attention was distracted during the video by the odd wig-like look of Dr Wakefield's hair - smoothed out by the poor quality of the recording - and the manner in which the now retired Professor Zuckerman had aged over the last decade. But what I suppose is stunning about the video is that while it represents a watershed in the narrative about Dr Wakefield and the attack upon him and his science, it is clearly the case that the Press Briefing was as normal an event as the non-arrival of a 24 bus in Charing Cross Road in the rush hour.

In fact, had the film been of better quality and had the defence counsel been more inclined towards the post-modern, it is my contention that this film, interpreted by specialists in semiotics, linguistics and body language, could have provided the whole of the defence case. Here is represented a group of clinicians and medical researchers, giving a very ordinary report on the results of their latest work. There is support all round for the precautionary principle and the monovalent (single) vaccine. The only evidence of a jarring note and the beginning of a skid that would lead to the crash that was to come, was in relation to the Government, to whom the research and the pleas about the precautionary principle were addressed.

At the end of the Tuesday April 29 th , the prosecution cross examination finished and Mr Coonan rose to tell the hearing that his re-examination of Dr Wakefield would take only ‘one-session' the next day. Mr Coonan's use of the expression 'one-session', showed yet again how the legal profession is clearly inarticulate outside the use of legalese. Constant discussion amongst audience and participants got nowhere near Mr Coonan's meaning. It transpired that what Mr Coonan had meant by ‘one session' was simply ‘as long as it takes'.

Wednesday April 30th

I don't know how Dr Wakefield felt when Keiran Coonan rose to re-examine him at 9.25 on the morning of April 30th, but my whole body relaxed as he began to draw together the threads of the defence case. I wrote in my notes, ‘Suddenly you feel that Dr Wakefield is again in safe hands'.

As the re-examination went on, something else became blindingly evident. Despite the fact that Miss Smith had driven her rickety horse and cart backwards and forwards over the pot-holed landscape of the case in an attempt to confuse her pursuers, the full absence of her case was now exposed and in the simplest and most dignified of strategies, Coonan and Wakefield reclaimed the narrative.

Dealing with the re-examination under headings in sequential order, Coonan and Wakefield put back the information missing from, or distorted by, the GMC's case. When the case had been told through re-examination, there were few remaining unanswered questions.

Many of Miss Smith's founding accusations were vaporized by this beautifully clear re-examination. The fundamental question - that Miss Smith had chewed over like a mongrel dog - that of the Legal Aid Board (LAB) study, in fact being the Lancet case review or possibly the science paper sent to the Lancet at the same time, was settled simply and unequivocally; no LAB money was used to research any of the data presented in either of the papers submitted to the Lancet. LAB money was spent on nothing other than the studies agreed with the LAB to service the case of the vaccine damaged claimants handled by Richard Barr.

Of course, had it not been for the fact that Miss Smith had a predilection for accusing Dr Wakefield of not being truthful, had this been an ‘enquiry' of any kind, these matters could in fact have been answered during her cross-examination; many of them were, but Miss Smith chose not to hear or believe them.

The re-examination of Dr Wakefield by Mr Coonan became, as it flashed by, the best example I have witnessed of the defence resurrecting the whole defence case following cross examination. This was possible, principally because Miss Smith's cross examination rather than clarifying the prosecution case, touched, over and over again, on the points of misinformation upon which it was founded. These specific prosecution-created confusions were easily ‘filled-in' and re-narrated by Dr Wakefield in reply to Mr Coonans simple questions. Some of these matters were simple in the extreme but had been trodden like grapes beneath the feet of Miss Smith so they must now have been mush in the minds of the Panel:

Did you have contact with Dawbarns over any of the children in the Lancet paper?


Did you have any knowledge of these children's legal aid status?


Did you have any knowledge of any of these children's parent's desire for litigation at the time?


How did the parents get to know about you?

They came to know of us through newspapers.

Why did they come to you?

Because we were willing to act on the children's problems.

These simple rebuttals of the confused prosecution case, were amplified with occasional flashes of brilliance from Dr Wakefield. e.g.

‘The suggested linkage (by parents) between MMR, bowel disease and autism had no effect on the clinical care of the children. It raised clinically useful questions but the first step was always to diagnose and treat the child for gastrointestinal problems.'

On being asked about why he had spoken to GP's, made enquiries about particular   children and even written to some parents enclosing information about such things as Crohn's disease - which acts had been exalted by Miss Smith to the status of High Crimes - he answered.

‘My training is a clinical one. My interest in research went outside the laboratory, to look at other people's clinical views'.

Inevitably, anyone not fitted with Miss Smith's software programmes would understand this intellectual promiscuity as being the very foundation of intelligent research.

In effect, this one day of re-examination told the whole story of, and for, the defence. While it could not have been articulated with such simplicity, had it not been for the churning weeks of misrepresenting cross-examination, I did suddenly find myself wondering why a case so patently based on misinformation that could be answered so simply, was taking so long and costing so much money. One can only hope that there comes a time in the future when the GMC is brought to account for this perversion of justice. There was a singular beauty to the whole simple process of putting the defence case, in rebuttal to Miss Smith's confusing cross-examination, as if one was suddenly presented   with an Andy Warhol silk screen print of a complex picture such as the Mona Lisa.

It must have been galling for Miss Smith to watch the case rebutted in such a way and it was evident, that Mr Coonan used some new words and concepts with which she was not familiar. I noticed for instance that when Mr Coonan used the phrase, ‘at the risk of repetition' a frown etched its way into Miss Smith's forehead as if she was wrestling with one of Wittgenstein's propositions. There was clearly no translation of this expression in her language programme.

Mr Coonan's re-examination was quite creative in allowing Dr Wakefield to explore some slightly more personal views on the case that had been brought against him. And for Coonan himself, in a very reserved way, the re-examination provided a slight margin for scorn, referring to the prosecution assertion that Barr and Wakefield had claimed unused money from the LAB, Coonan said, ‘The second part of this accusation, if I understand it is that you spent the money on things other than laboratory work'. Coonan's ‘if I understand it' was a hardly veiled reference to the opacity of Miss Smith's reasoning.

At 14.15, Mr Coonan, made a mistake which one hopes had no deeper psychological meaning. Asking Dr Wakefield about safety standards and Transfer Factor, Mr Coonan inadvertently addressed him as Dr Southall, a doctor of ill-repute whom he had previously defended unsuccessfully before the GMC. This slip caused immense mirth at the prosecution table and Alli Edwards who was sitting next to me quipped that at least a £1,000 should have just been wiped off Mr Coonan's bill.

Tuesday May 6th

Modern popular cinema is replete with final sudden-shock last scenes, where the almost-dead move with speed and agility, the almost-vanquished assail the good guys and the all-but-wiped-out swim suddenly into the frame again. Perhaps one of the most effective of these scenes is the one at the end of Fatal Attraction. Alex (Glenn Close) has gone to the home of her one-night-stand weekend lover Dan, whom she is now stalking, to boil the family's pet rabbit, when Dan (Michael Douglas) returns to the house. The murderous fight they have is inter-cut with shots of Dan's wife and family - who have been away for the weekend - driving home. Finally Dan gets the better of Alex, drowning her in a full bath. As Dan breathes a sigh of relief and turns to leave the bathroom, Alex's hand rises from the bath water, clutching a carving knife.

I was reminded of all this hokum as I watched Miss Smith end her cross examination a couple of days before. Having asked her last question before closing her notebook, as lawyers do when they finish, she suddenly darted to her right, bending to ask her clerk an evidently serious question, as if a final onslaught had just occurred to her. In fact, Miss Smith was to rally on yet another couple of occasions following Mr Coonan's   re -examination, which followed her cross. As I have mentioned before, Miss Smith is an expert at the 'groundhog day' strategy and I, amongst others, worried each time she rose to break Mr Coonan's flow that she was again about to embark upon the reiteration of the full and complete case for the prosecution.

As it happened, Miss Smith's re-examination that followed Mr Coonan's re- examination, was subdued. At this stage in the proceedings, one of Miss Smith's main concerns seemed to be that the Lancet science paper that had been turned down at peer review, had actually been the LAB paper.

Miss Smith's main contention in this ‘proof' was based on the peculiarly twisted logic that the name of Ms Sym, who had been doing the viral tracking work for a future LAB funded study, had had her name taken off the paper, despite having obviously made a contribution.

During this part of the re-examination, Miss Smith displayed a classic piece of body language. Miss Smith's junior, Owen, (‘ Todger One' as he has come to be affectionately known in the public gallery), reached across, as he did frequently during the case, to pass a suggestion to her. While she usually reacts with interest to his insistent notes, this time she was clearly flustered by either the suggestion or the manner in which her concentration had been disturbed. Without the slightest movement in the rest of her body and continuing to address the witness she executed an energetic and perfect flick of the wrist consigning her junior to high dudgeon. Even without high shiny leather boots and a whip, that flick was worthy of the highest addressing the lowest and it spoke volumes about Miss Smith.

Miss Smith was at her most bizarre during this re-examination, despite the fact that this paper, in the form in which it had developed over months of being submitted to journals, had actually stated an acknowledgement of the LAB funding and should therefore have gained Miss Smith's praise. She accused Dr Wakefield of somehow tacking this acknowledgement on to the paper at a latter date. All we might hope is that Miss Smith has not been corrupted by the observation of such practices amongst lawyers at her chambers.

By 12.15, on the Tuesday, the hearing was ready to hear questions from the Panel members. These questions lasted until around 15.45, with an hours break for lunch, and many observers were surprised at the perspicacity, focus, erudition and pertinence of them.   What struck me, I think, was that none of the questions addressed the bigger issues of the hearing. It was almost as if any bigger issues had already been settled and what really needed examination were the more detailed aspects of the prosecution case. None of the panel appeared to be antagonistic to Dr Wakefield and if anything one could sense what might have been a thaw in the vague hostility with which some panel members had inflected earlier questions.

One of the Panel's medical representatives, Dr Webster had noticed that in the case of two of the children, no note had been made of biopsies having been taken. Whether or not this observation was indicative of Dr Webster's general level of appreciation of the papers in the case, we do not know, but on this specific issue, he was the only person associated with the case who had noticed the omission.

Dr Kumar's questions stood out as being the most combative, although it was difficult to understand how the subject of his questions spoke in any way to the charges. Like Miss Smith, Kumar seemed excessively concerned that Dr Wakefield had got out of his box and addressed GP's. Like Miss Smith, Kumar seemed to be suggesting that the rigged barriers of medical professionalism that exist between nurses, GP's, hospital doctors and consultants, as well, of course, as those between patients and doctors, should be kept in place and attempts to bye-pass such barriers could only lead to professional and ethical anarchy. I couldn't myself believe that such an idea could play any real part in a finding of unfit to practice against any doctor practising in contemporary society.

Wednesday May 7th

The very last day of Dr Wakefield's defence was highlighted by a very good illustration of how Miss Smith is always eager to put a distance between the Panel and any evidence which might turn their heads in the direction of Dr Wakefield's innocence. Keiran Coonan asked the permission of the Panel to read into the evidence two statements, both of which had been agreed by the defence and the prosecution.

Mr Coonan obviously wanted to introduce these statements because both ,   supported the arguments of the defence. One statement made by Dr Rouse, indicated that a letter of his that had been published in the Lancet had been massaged on it's journey by Lancet Staff.

The whole matter appeared fairly straightforward until Miss Smith rose and put the prosecution's view. The statements were, she said, statements of rebuttal that argued against Dr Wakefield's defence. Given that they were statements of rebuttal, they should only be read into the evidence mid-way through 2009 when closing speeches were being made. Everyone looked at Miss Smith as if she had just stepped out of a spacecraft and walked on air through the glass walls of the GMC building.

After a little argie-bargie between Coonan and Smith the good offices of the legal assessor were called upon, who likened the exchange to analysing the meaning of angels on pin- heads. Mr Legal Assessor (who is always addressed as such by Mr Kumar )   has an urbane turn of reasoning which, though articulated in a rather high sounding manner, is always eminently sensible.

The legal assessor began by chiding Miss Smith, telling the panel and the hearing in general that the two statements were obviously not rebuttal statements but additions to the defence case and as such, they should be read into the evidence now rather than at some indeterminate time in the future. As to who should read them, this being a quandary of Miss Smith's who seemed in some odd way to be claiming ‘ownership' of the statements, the legal assessor himself was happy to seal their authority as part of the defence case. He duly read the statements into the evidence.

As if searching for trivia, the panel chairman Mr Kumar re-introduced the matter of whether Richard Barr should be called to give evidence. This matter had first arisen during Miss Smith's mammoth cross examination. Putting questions to Dr Wakefield, Miss Smith had suggested that Dr Wakefield had manipulated the request for Legal Aid Board funding, entering eagerly with Richard Barr into a conspiracy to defraud the LAB of more money than they needed for research at the Royal Free.

Having listened to the tennis match to- ing and fro- ing between Dr Wakefield and Miss Smith, that had at least on Miss Smith's part the tone of playground spite of the ‘Yes you did', ‘No I didn't' variety' the Panel were curious to know whether either side might want to call Mr Barr in order to further explain the argument. Both the prosecution, for obvious reasons, and the defence, for less obvious reasons, were reluctant. It was at this point that the legal assessor jumped in to announce, in a quite deliberate manner, that the panel itself could of course call Mr Barr, were they so minded; they would consider this matter, he said.

Rather oddly, when this matter re-emerged as an outstanding consideration on Wednesday, it was again introduced by the legal assessor, who called on both sets of counsel to educate the panel in their opinion as to whether or not they wanted Mr Barr to give evidence. Counsel were reluctant to do this and the matter languished with the legal assessor saying for the second time that the Panel would discuss it.

Up until the Tuesday of this last week, I had been of the opinion that the date of April 2009 represented the final date for the announcement of the Panel's verdict in the case. Stupidly optimistic I think are the words best used to describe this self- deception. As we went out of the hearing room at lunch time on Tuesday, I turned to Professor Walker-Smith and said sympathetically, ‘ Your turn next', to which he forcefully enunciated like a Shakespearean character, ‘Yes, but when, when, when'. Of course it has not been only Dr Wakefield who has been ‘under the cosh' these last three weeks, Professor Walker-Smith has been waiting with the emptiness that accompanies a collective hanging and poor old Professor Murch doesn't even have the satisfaction of a rough date upon which his defence might commence. The rumour   now is that his defence will not be heard until April 2009.

If Miss Smith can be proud of little else, she can congratulate herself on this weird prosecution by default, that has isolated, as intended, Dr Wakefield from his research colleagues, Professor Murch from his patients and Professor Walker-Smith from his long earned retirement.

*      *      *

Dr Wakefield ended his defence case on Wednesday 7 th of May, I saw him leave the GMC building, saying goodbye to all and sundry, with a wave and a sharp comment about never having to return to this building again. Unfortunately, no one paid much attention; courts and tribunals no longer present the opportunity for public spectacle they once did and Dr Wakefield is seen by many as just another grain in the mill of justice.

The last half century has seen massive changes in the attitude of the general public to those engaged in righteously wrestling with the judicial system. While in the last century and before, some battles against the power and authority of the law created popular adulatory following, more recently we have been left with the campaign to free George Davis and the contemporary campaign Father's-4-Justice. The days when the public considered the court and its hearings as a from of popular entertainment, in which they might participate, has long since gone and a powerful establishment has done all in it's power to sever the gaze of the population from both the subjects and the objectives of 'justice'.

It was a shame, I thought, that today so many people were so cowed by the authority of the law, that they would go to considerable lengths to separate themselves from anyone on trial or threatened with prosecution of any kind. I was pondering these thoughts as I did my shopping a couple of hours after leaving the GMC.

Around 6pm an Evening Standard Newspaper poster crashed into my consciousness as I wandered down Baker Street: ‘Top barrister shot in police siege' my heart jumped into my mouth. Had Dr Wakefield's re-examination been just too much to bear. What about Miss Smith, was she now lying in the morgue somewhere; tears rolled down my cheeks.

I was much relieved on buying a paper to find that Miss Smith – the ‘top' barrister who has become my constant obsession – was not the one in question.

*      *      *

Just as I finish this piece, news has reached me of the new slogan upon which the Labour Party manifesto for the next election will be based. After a swift discussion in cabinet, it was decided to replace B liar 's , 'education, education, education', with the more effective, 'vaccination, vaccination, vaccination'. Apparently, this had competed with 'compulsion, compulsion, compulsion', which some of the cabinet felt was more to the point.

After a slightly longer discussion, a new series of strategic imperatives were agreed to support the idea of compulsory vaccination .

There was one final caveat that was quickly tagged on to the end of what is being called 'the new social contract', and although it's wording has not been officially released, those close to the cabinet believe that it is worded more or less in this way. 'All first time parents must sign an agreement that clearly states that they pledge the lives of their children to New Labour and President Bush. It is believed that a last minute addition to this codex was added that read 'Whether or not they are alive or dead or in power at the time'. Another idea discussed in cabinet was that Tony B liar and George Bush should formally be made legal 'Uncle' to every child born in Britain and the United States since 1997. This idea was apparently only narrowly defeated by Gordon Brown who claimed that he would make a better 'Uncle' than Tony.

A spokesman for New Labour said last night 'We are convinced that this new Manifesto commitment will bring to an end all infectious diseases in Britain, Europe, the world and the known universe and end all criminal opposition to the absolutely, utterly, totally and completely safe vaccines that it is envisaged will come of age over the next 50 years. These vaccines, as I have just said, will end all human suffering with the single exception of vaccine damage, but we expect to have a cure for this by the year 3008.

There can be no doubt that with this kind of manifesto pledge New Labour stands a good chance of winning the next General Election. Critics, however have pointed out that there would inevitably be problems for the government once it assumed power.

The clause for instance that denies education to children who have not been vaccinated, has already been fought over in the European Court of Human Rights, where it has been ruled more than once that it is a child's inalienable right to an education and that this cannot be withheld by threat or promise of any other regulatory compliance.

All of this goes a long way to proving what many of us have been afraid of as we have watched the rigmarole at the GMC become indefinitely stretched out. It has clearly been the intention of New Labour , the GMC and the pharmaceutical industry to contain and neutralise Dr Wakefield, who was undoubtedly one of the most effective critics of MMR and combined vaccinations.

On the pronouncement of the new manifesto promises, a spokesman for the BMA called the new policies 'Stalinist'. Those of us who have been following the Wakefield affair know that Stalinism is in fact a major foundation of New Labour and one of its clearest manifestations has been the protracted trial of Dr Wakefield, Professor Walker-Smith and Professor Simon Murch.