February 7, 2022 4.55 pm

Mental Health Runner demands Lincoln MP explains “schizophrenic” comment aimed at Andy Burnham

“Are you utilising a mental health stigma for personal gain and attack on another party?”

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney has faced criticism for his use of the term “schizophrenic” to describe Andy Burnham’s strategy for the Integrated Rail Plan, with one constituent writing a letter demanding an explanation, apology, or both.

Mr McCartney made the comment during a Transport Select Committee inquiry into the Integrated Rail Plan on Wednesday, February 2, which outlined the government proposals to transform transport networks for northern regions of England.

The plan has come under scrutiny, with many opposition figures suggesting the levels of funding are set to be significantly lower than initially promised by the government.

The Integrated Rail Plan was first published in November, and detailed the HS2 Eastern leg to Leeds, which has since been curtailed to not reach Yorkshire, as well as a high-speed line between Leeds and Manchester, which will now be the cheaper alternative of Warrington to Marsden.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

This came to a head during the select committee inquiry, when Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, told the government it must properly fund the North to stop it having “second-best for 200 years or more”.

The Conservative MP warned Mr Burnham “do not bite the hand that feeds you” in response to complaints of a lack of funding for the North and Midlands, before calling Mr Burnham’s strategy of challenging the government “slightly schizophrenic”.

He said: “In private saying ‘please sir can I have some more’ like Oliver, then coming out in public and trying to beat the government up like the Incredible Hulk, do you think that’s delivering for you and the people of Manchester?”

The Greater Manchester Mayor’s response to this was: “You are kind of saying we should just get what we’re given, how about get what we were promised? Because it’s actually your government that promised all of this.”

Karl McCartney’s comments were widely criticised online, with a number of people questioning whether such flippant mentioning of a serious mental health condition should be condoned.

Thomas Dunning, otherwise known as the Mental Health Runner, wrote a letter to Mr McCartney asking him to explain what he meant when using the term “schizophrenic”.

Thomas Dunning was named in The Lincolnite’s 30 Under 30, and won an NK Community Champion award, in 2021. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

In the letter, Thomas says: “Your statement towards Mr Burnham is one which I find troubling and distasteful, and thus the subject matter of this letter.

“I want to know exactly what you mean on how a strategy can be ‘slightly schizophrenic’.

“Are you utilising a mental health stigma for personal gain and attack on another party? Are you stating that Mr Burnham is not fit for the subject matter due to mental ill-health? Are you suggesting on a national platform that Mr Burnham’s fair response is one only someone in psychosis can say or make sense of?”

Around one in 100 people will experience schizophrenia at some point in their life, with symptoms including delusions, changes in body language and emotions, and disorganised thinking, while sufferers experience audio and/or visual hallucinations.

Thomas, who featured on The Lincolnite‘s 30 Under 30 list for 2021 thanks to his Mental Health Runner project, continues by offering some suggestions on what he would like the Lincoln MP to do going forward.

He continues: “I want you to retract your statement to Mr Burnham and confirm what you meant publicly. There are too many people and charities in the UK and the world trying to combat mental health stigma and prevent attempted or completed suicides for sufferers; all for people like yourselves in political power to feel it is okay to do so.

“I am happy to provide a platform for an apology to Mr Burnham and the mental health community. I might suggest taking part in a mental health awareness course so you can see both sides of how your statement can be seen.”

The Lincolnite has contacted Mr McCartney for a comment on this, but he had not responded at the time of publication.