One person's ‘sexism' may well be another person's habit or learned backwardness from another age. But who will police this if the UK's NHS goes ahead with its plan to ban treatment to racists & sexists?
Just when you thought that the ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest' farce of the modern Labour Party (and the wider left) couldn't get more ridiculous, along comes Boris Johnson's NHS establishing that identity politics madness can and does cross the aisles, and is spreading like a virus across the ‘liberal' world.
In Labour's case it's the mere denial of the facts of biology - the madness of transgender fanaticism - in the case of the NHS, it's the proposed denial of medical treatment to citizens who fail the litmus tests of liberalism. If you're an ‘ist' or an ‘obe' as defined by the Guardians of the Prevailing Orthodoxy, you may be denied essential healthcare - for which you've already paid, mightily, through the tax and national insurance burden.
The new NHS guidelines would extend current red-lines allowing staff to refuse non-critical care to patients displaying "aggression or violence" to include "sexist or racist remarks" made by sick people towards staff or other patients.
Sticks and stones can break your bones of course, and must necessarily be barred from the medical wards and doctor's surgeries. But names can never harm you, at least not so much as to warrant passing the sick and injured by on the other side of the road.
Apart from the fact that sick or injured people - even when they are not in serious condition - might not just be thinking quite straight when they let slip a "racist or sexist" remark, apart from the fact that, odious or not, the patient has a legal right to be treated in an NHS paid for - compulsorily - by the taxpayer, there is the vexed question of what will constitute said remarks, who will define and interpret them, what level of political incorrectness will be tolerated and what will not?
Someone my age (and class) sometimes can't help themselves from calling women - including medical staff - ‘love' or even ‘darling'. Up north, women often call men ‘duck'; in Scotland, women are often called ‘hen' by men and women. I've been told all that's now taboo. Should a ‘thanks love' passing my lips as I go under the anesthetic render me beyond the medical pale?
‘Probably not', I hear you say, but then what if the ‘love' in question takes exception and downs medical implements? One person's ‘sexism' may well be another person's habit, or learned backwardness from another age. Who will police this?
And having been routinely (sometimes savagely) described as a ‘racist' for the simple act of voting for Brexit, how can one be confident that some right-on zealot will not consider a remark made by a sick or injured person is too ‘Benny Hill' to be broadcast and again cause a withdrawal of service.
Surely the Hippocratic Oath trumps the playbook of 21st Century sexual and racial etiquette? The injunction to ‘do no harm' surely hasn't been caveated to ‘unless the Guardian standards are offended'. Even the Guardian has had to suspend its recent editorial guidance that ‘Cis-woman' is the style to be employed in describing "women who identify with the gender assigned to them at birth" after all. Would a failure to add the ‘Cis' be adjudged to be taking the p*ss and cause a medical picket-line to be mustered?
One would imagine not of course, but again, who could tell? And what if it did?
All of this follows earlier threats to withhold treatment from people who smoke or are too fat for their own good - none of which have been made good on but were seriously canvassed as possible causes of non-intervention by the health service and it comes amongst a bewildering series of IdPol - Identity Politics - controversies which are tearing the ‘progressive left' apart and causing a state of confusion amongst the public.
Would insisting on the exclusion of males identifying as women from toilets or changing rooms, women only wards and spaces be ‘sexist' under these proposed guidelines, or worse, the worst of the worst this week, ‘transphobic'? Would it, could it, result in doctors and nurses downing tools ?
‘Who knows' is the answer and that is the overarching point.
It all adds a new level of anxiety and uncertainty to people already anxious and uncertain about being ill or injured. ‘Mind how you go' is a traditional British injunction issued to the unsteady of foot. Let's not substitute ‘mind your language' for that kindliness. ‘Live and let live' is the best rubric for rubbing along together. Leave the political correctness police at the hospital door.
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was a member of the British Parliament for nearly 30 years. He presents TV and radio shows (including on RT). He is a film-maker, writer and a renowned orator. Follow him on Twitter @georgegalloway