Eoin Clarke and The Green Benches

Eoin Clarke is the author of a blog called The Green Benches on which he has been very critical of the coalition government and, in particular, their apparent attempt to privatise parts of the NHS in England. He does, however, have a habit of apologising for things he has written that have, apparently, turned out to be wrong. He’s apologised to Lord Ashroft for things he said that turned out to be incorrect. He’s apologised to Circle Health, who now run Hitchingbrooke hospital, and yesterday he apologised to Virgin Care.

This is all a little confusing as, although he appears to be hated by many on the right, he is often still given credit for the effort he puts into sifting through lots of information and is regularly given credit for typically providing evidence for what he writes. He has, however, removed all of the posts that he has apologised about, so I can’t even go and check what it is that he said or what evidence he provided. I actually linked to some of these posts in some of my earlier writings. I had wondered if I should remove these but decided that I would leaves things as they are.

After one of his first apologies I thought that it was commendable that he was willing to apologise when he was wrong. I assumed that he was single-handedly digging through lots of complex information and could well make a few mistakes. Now that he’s apologised for the third time, this seems less likely. He is clearly left-leaning and a Labour supporter. He clearly opposes privatisation of the NHS. Was he really making things up to suit his ideology?

What was a little strange was some of what he claimed in his most recent apology. He says

  • Virgin Care does NOT put profit before patient care. Virgin Care has been instrumental in helping to strengthen the NHS by providing high quality services that are valued by patients and improve health outcomes, whilst saving the taxpayer money.

This seems a quite extreme for someone who has been highly critical of NHS reforms in England.  Why did he need, in his apology, to not only correct his claims but to then imply that actually this is a great company who provide a high-quality service that is valued by patients and that is saving the taxpayer money.  It may be true, but I would imagine that, at this stage, the evidence for this is weak. Why did he feel the need to go this far?

It almost feels like it could be some kind of sign. It’s as if he’s saying “I have to apologise, but I’m going to say something very out of character so that you’ll know that I don’t really mean what I’m saying”. I also noticed that he seems, today, to have left twitter. He was getting some fairly severe abuse after his most recent apology, so it may well be that he just couldn’t take this anymore. I don’t really know what to make of this. I thought he was providing lots of interesting and well-researched information about what was going on with coalition policy and with changes to the NHS. He certainly seemed to be annoying a number of people, which would typically suggest he might have been getting close enough to the truth to make people nervous. Alternatively, he was driven by ideology and was making things up to suit his views and also to increase his blog readership. It would be sad if someone who was providing a voice for the left turns out to have no credibility. I think we need people to be doing this, but to be doing it honestly and properly. I guess there might be a more sinister alternative but there is no evidence, at this stage, to suggest that this may be the case.


10 thoughts on “Eoin Clarke and The Green Benches

  1. Seems like I may have been wrong. I had thought that Eoin Clarke had left Twitter, but he seems to be back with the original account.

  2. The Virgin Care post read like a response to the threat of litigation. They must’ve threatened to sue. There would be no other reason for him to word the post in that way, in my opinion.

    • Yes, that possibility did cross my mind. He also gave a rather cryptic reply on Twitter (essentially saying I can’t tell you, but you should be able to work it out for yourself) to someone who asked if Virgin Care had asked him to write the post. He’s since deleted that tweet.

  3. Clearly Eoin Clarke has been threatened with legal action by the Tory big guns (Lord Cashcroft) and the Private Sector Profiteers Branson/Virgin – which must mean that he’s either digging up dirt that worries them – or he’s fabricating stories and defaming them? Either way they’ve clearly threatened legal action to shut him up. We have a complete press “blackout” on the NHS – are we now to prevent bloggers/critics from revealing the truth about the destruction of the NHS also?

    • That his apology has remained as the lead on his blog for more than two weeks does suggest that he is obliged to leave it there for some period of time – or (I guess) that he indeed feels so apologetic that he feels it should remain there for a reasonable period. There are, however, a number of aspects to the apology that seem a little over the top which suggest that it wasn’t written by him alone (or at least he’s making it clear that it isn’t what he would say if it was up to him alone). I guess it could be a double bluff though.

  4. I notice that Ali Parsa, the CEO of Circle Health who now run Hinchingbrooke hospital, stepped down in early December. He has received a payment of £400000 despite the Hinchingbrooke hospital being £4 million in debt less than a year after Circle Health took over running the hospital. Something I read in Private Eye suggested that Circle Health could pull out of the 10 year contract if the annual debt exceeded £5 million.

  5. Can someone tell me then how much of the governments increase in private sector jobs is accounted for by the transfer of public sector services to the private sector providers?

    • I don’t have a definitive answer, but I did write a post about this early in 2012. It was based on an article in the Guardian by Zoe Williams suggesting that most of the new private sector jobs were simply public sector roles that had been transferred to the private sector. Having read the article again, I’m now a little confused by the numbers but I think it is saying that in the final quarter of 2011 there were 5000 new private sector jobs but they could easily find more than 1000 new private sector jobs that were simply outsourced public sector roles. It seems that a significant fraction of the news jobs were essentially funded by the public sector. It would certainly be interesting to have a better idea of the numbers.

  6. Pingback: The Green Benches | To the left of centre

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