Labour Party activists in Bristol have called on a Liberal Democrat MP to apologise for describing a man with HIV as talking “complete drivel” in protesting at his party’s stance over the controversial Health and Social Care bill.
Bristol West MP Stephen Williams told 48-year-old self-employed businessman, Andrew Schofield, his assertions that the government would withdraw medication from people with HIV was “my most nonsensical email of the day”.
“As one of the party’s MPs who happens to be gay I find your assertion that ANY of my colleagues would countenance such a proposal to be grossly offensive,” he said.
His condemnation of the HIV-positive businessman from Salford was backed by Andrew Stunell, MP for Hazel Grove, who emailed Mr Schofield: “Consider just how counterproductive it is likely to be to send an unsolicited bar-room rant to a load of very busy people at the end of a long day.”
Mr Schofield sent an email sent to Lib Dem MPs, saying they had “betrayed the British people” by supporting the NHS bill and would be punished by the electorate.
“As you walk away from public office I hope you hangs your miserable heads in shame, and take your shame for consenting to this ugly despicable act to your graves,” he wrote.
He has raised the “unacceptable and insulting language” with the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, which oversees the conduct of MPs and is seeking an apology.
The chair of the Bristol Labour Party has now called for an apology from Mr Williams.
“People like Mr Schofield with chronic illnesses know more than most how vital our NHS is. For his concerns to be dismissed by Mr Williams as ‘complete drivel’ shows both a lack of empathy and a concerning ignorance of the views of the majority of Bristolians who oppose this Bill,” Darren Lewis told Bristol24-7 this morning.
“I think Mr Williams should recognise this was a human being, shaped by his own reliance on the Health Service, crying out ‘stop!’
“Mr Williams should apologise, sit down with critics of the Health Bill and reflect on whether their experiences should change his mind on the privatisation of our NHS.”
But the Bristol West MP has said he will not apologise for the comments, telling The Huffington Post UK that he had no regrets about his reply.
“Of all the scaremongering stories about the Health Bill that’s the most ludicrous I’ve been sent,” he said. “There is no risk whatsoever of anyone with a long-term condition being charged for it.
“He told me that as a gay MP I should hang my head in shame, well actually as a gay MP I find what he was saying completely offensive. It’s a ludicrous scare story being circulated.
“This is the idiocy of the internet, where nonsense gets circulated and gets given currency it doesn’t deserve. What this government has done is actually make it easier for many people with HIV to get treatment. What he has said goes against the grain of what the government’s doing.”