Before we start, let’s make this plain: we will NOT be submitting any sort of complaint to any healthcare body regarding what we’re about to discuss, and we ask readers not to either. When push comes to shove, we don’t want nurses losing their jobs.
We just wish Scottish Labour felt the same way.
Earlier today we ran a piece exploring a theme we’ve covered several times on Wings – the unique freedom of political parties to lie with impunity. By way of example we showed a Scottish Labour election leaflet depicting an NHS nurse, who we suggested might been posed by an actress, for several reasons outlined in the article.
The broad point having been made, we were happy to leave it at that. But this afternoon Scottish Labour’s shadow health minister, Dr Richard Simpson, posted the above tweet, angrily insisting that the woman in the leaflet WAS a real Scottish NHS nurse. A number of alert readers tracked her down on several “Better Together” leaflets, and it became apparent that her full name was Suzanne Duncan.
Ms Duncan was an active participant in the No campaign. She even appeared in her own blog on the “Better Together” website, talking about the NHS and how it was devolved to Scotland.
Like every Scot, I’m incredibly proud of our NHS. Since 1999 the NHS has been under control of the Scottish Parliament. The decisions about how the public spending on Scottish hospitals is made in Scotland by people who understand the specific health concerns that affect us.
This clear understanding of the principles of devolution makes it slightly odd that Suzanne is also to be seen on an election leaflet, saying that she’ll be voting for Scottish Labour in a WESTMINSTER election “because they’re the only party who can get rid of the Tories and pull our NHS back from the brink”.
She also appeared in a BT leaflet alongside the claim that a No vote would “secure the future of the NHS” – though we should note that those words aren’t attributed to her directly – and in several others from the No camp.
But all this is by the by. Suzanne Duncan is perfectly entitled to believe and campaign for whatever political ends she likes, no matter how confused. She is, after all, hardly alone in Labour when it comes to telling Scots that the NHS was totally safe as long as Scotland stayed in the Union, then suddenly deciding that, having won that No vote, it was in deadly peril after all.
Hurray! Scotland voted No! The NHS is safe, right?
Oh. But as we say, that’s all fine. Lying, as we established in this morning’s piece, is something political parties are allowed to do. But for NHS employees to campaign for political parties in identifiable NHS uniforms, not so much.
That, we presume, is why all the “Better Together” material featuring Nurse Duncan was very careful to cover up the NHS Scotland logo on her tunic. Scottish Labour, however, aren’t that competent or conscientious.
None of which would have mattered if Richard Simpson had been able to keep his mouth shut. Anyone who saw our article would have come away thinking she was probably an actress and leaving it at that. But by compounding Labour’s ineptitude in leaving the logo on the leaflet, by insisting on shouting all over the internet that in fact she’s a real nurse, Simpson (and his equally brainless parliamentary assistant Craig Miller) have dropped poor Suzanne Duncan right in it.
Once again, we reiterate: we will not be submitting any complaints and we urge readers not to either. But contrary to Unionist and media assertion, this site does NOT control every angry cybernat in Scotland. These leaflets have been put through untold thousands of doors and disseminated widely online. The information is already out there and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.
We hope – sincerely – that nobody is bitter and poisoned enough to act maliciously. But if they do, the responsibility for it will lie squarely with the hate-blinded, tribal idiots of Scottish Labour, and with Dr Richard Simpson. When your crazed loathing of the SNP has driven you so demented you start risking the livelihoods of young Scottish nurses, perhaps it’s time you stopped and had a long hard look at yourself in a mirror.