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.