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…