Politics, As She Is Played

Yesterday, the New Statesman ran a story saying “Andrew Lansley To Announce Removal of Cap On NHS Private Income”.

I knew, instantly, on reading the story, that it was completely false. It had to be, because Lansley doesn’t, under the NHS Act, have the power to raise private income for NHS trusts.

A couple of hours later it reversed the story to now say “Oops, Andrew Lansley NOT TO Announce Removal Of Cap On NHS Private Income”. That did not stop, in the meantime, dozens of people on Twitter hurling insults at myself and my wife for daring to be Lib Dems. Only one person — Jim Werdsmiff — had the decency to apologise for retweeting the original article (which two minutes’ thought would show was obviously incorrect *somewhere), and he hadn’t been one of the ones being abusive. Thank you, Jim.

Today, “Liberal” Conspiracy has a story up claiming that an NHS walk-in centre in Sheffield is charging a small fee for whiplash treatment. That centre is run by a private company. Therefore, once again, I have had to deal with abuse from strangers on the internet, accusing me of having blood on my hands, because I’ve personally privatised the NHS apparently.

Except that two minutes on Google shows that the walk-in centre in question was privatised in 2009 under Labour legislation, and that it’s charging according to the Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Act 1999 (and its subsequent amendments up to 2007).

Now, I don’t know whether what it’s doing is legal or illegal under that act (they say they’ve had advice from the BMA that it is, my reading of the act would suggest otherwise, but I’d defer to the BMA in this case), but a company that was brought in under Labour, using a Labour NHS Charges Act to justify NHS charges, cannot *possibly* in any sane world be blamed on either the Lib Dems or (much as I like to blame them for things) the Tories.

Yet of course rather than apologise for the abuse, when confronted with the facts the trolls (mostly one person in this case) just doubled up on the abuse. Because of course just because once again the exact opposite of what they said had happened was actually happening, that doesn’t mean that I was in any way right or them in any way wrong, obviously.

I am getting less and less tolerant of ignorant buffoons hurling abuse at me, my wife, and many of my closest friends for our membership of a political party they disagree with. By all means debate things and discuss them. Even get angry — getting angry at something bad happening in the world is a *good* thing.

But setting out assuming bad faith of anyone who disagrees with you (something I used to do too often a few years back but don’t think I do any more) is not a good way to start. And more importantly, if you get angry about something you’ve seen reported in the news (and I really *must* do the blog post about how the Guardian seems to use many of the same tactics as the Mail in its reporting), and it later turns out to be false, apologise to anyone you’ve been angry at. If you saw someone who looked like they were breaking into your house, of course you’d get angry and might well attack him. If it turned out that it was actually the postman delivering a letter and your eyesight had been faulty, it might be *tempting* to say “Yeah, well, he’d probably done something”, but the right thing to do is to apologise as quickly and profusely as possible.

And if you don’t apologise, don’t be surprised if I block you without warning. There is only so much unfounded personal abuse one person can take, and I’ve more than had my share.

And of course none of this will matter when I read a story tomorrow about how the eeevul ConDems have made someone pay hundreds of thousands for a heart operation, and a correction comes out later that day that the operation was on someone in America…

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4 Responses to Politics, As She Is Played

  1. lucidfrenzy says:

    “the walk-in centre in question was privatised in 2009 under Labour legislation, and that it’s charging according to the Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Act 1999 (and its subsequent amendments up to 2007).”

    Probably a little tangental to your main point, but I don’t really see privatisation of parts of the NHS under the last government as any better than under the current one. To me it just suggests the continuity of government, that whoever’s in power will prioritise appeasing the private interests who want these (ludicrously rigged) contracts above NHS patients. (Which we’re all likely to be, at one point or other.)

    Obviously, I’m not suggesting that any of this justifies personal abuse being hurled at you, or anything like that.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Oh, absolutely. I wasn’t happy with the last government’s changes to the NHS, and I’m little or no happier with the current set of changes (I *think* that on balance they might make things *very* slightly better rather than slightly worse, but I’m suspending judgement until everything’s had a chance to settle down). They’re on very similar ideological lines, and Blair himself said that Lansley’s original bill was pretty much what he would have done had he remained in office.

      My problem isn’t with people disagreeing with the changes made — I do myself — or with Labour’s changes. My problem is with people blaming the Lib Dems for things which were done under the previous government, acting as if this proves this government is ‘the most right-wing in living memory’ (when sadly, given that it *is* a horribly right-wing government, in many ways it may be the most *left*-wing in at least thirty years), blaming the Lib Dems, the left-wing part of this coalition, for these right-wing measures, and then blaming me, someone on the left of the Lib Dems, for every action the Lib Dems take.

      (Except of course that it’s not even the Lib Dems taking those actions, but old Labour policies just now getting noticed).

      And this is a repeated pattern — ATOS turn someone down for benefits, I get attacked (even though ATOS were brought in to run benefit assessments under the last government). Guardian runs a report saying “Police are being privatised” (which turns out if you read their source material to actually be “two police departments outsourcing clerical staff under regulations brought in by Labour”) I get attacked. And so on and so on.

      This government has done enough bad things to keep an honest critic going for months — and I won’t defend those bad things. They’re what happens when two parties with fundamentally different values have to compromise, but that doesn’t mean I want them to happen. But attacking this government for the failures of the last — and attacking me, personally, for those failures — is just not right.

  2. John says:

    Yet the real political problems exist thus:

    1. With an ageing population, rocketing drug prices just how are we supposed to keep the NHS in its current form – yes, in an ideal world we’d all like a tonne of oil money and a magic wand – the reality is that we’re transiting from a period of `head in the sand short-term political gain – ‘ere aren’t the tories evil, innit` politics to one where politicians are just going to have to say it as it is.

    2. An opposition that enjoys unprecedented access to information yet provides a total lack of responsibility – thus we still have the shadow health opposition spokesman still has his tweet up 24 hours later saying that Lib Dems are complete mugs etc etc – utterly appalling behaviour.

    3. No alternative costed plans as part of a budget – it seems Labour employ a convenient `any soundbite will do` kind of politics – if they don’t like something they shout it down yet never say how it’s going to be paid for as part of a costed plan. Of course, if you say that they say `we don’t know what the economy will be like in 2015` or `we don’t have to tell you that’s your job`. I see – so why are they paid millions of pounds in short money for use for research for being the official opposition?

  3. rankersbo says:

    There’s a type of person who can’t reign in the emotion and express themselves like an adult. To them there is no difference between expressing a critical opinion and what you and I would call abuse.

    Some of these people also think expressing yourself nicely, like a mature adult, is being condescending and having your head stuck up your backside.

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