February 21, 2022 5.41 pm

‘Too many trying to find offence’ – Lincoln MP responds to Andy Burnham “schizophrenic” dig critics

He believes people are trying to be too easily offended

Karl McCartney, MP for Lincoln, has accused people of being too easily offended “when no offence is meant, given or even made” after a mental health advocate criticised his flippant use of the term “schizophrenic” during a select committee meeting.

Mr McCartney had made the comments on February 2 during a Transport Select Committee inquiry into the Integrated Rail Plan, outlining government proposals to transform transport for the north and midlands in England.

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

The Mayor for Greater Manchester Andy Burnham had questioned the funding levels, suggesting they are considerably lower than originally agreed by the government.

Mr Burnham was questioned by Karl McCartney if he understood the meaning of “do not bite the hand that feeds you” during the inquiry, before describing his challenging of the government as “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 comments were widely criticised online, and Thomas Dunning, otherwise known as the Mental Health Runner, issued a letter to Mr McCartney to greater understand his meaning of the term “schizophrenic”.

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 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

The letter asked if the Lincoln MP had utilised mental health stigma for political gain, and called for either a full explanation, an apology, or both.

Mr McCartney has now responded with a letter of his own, in which he refuses to apologise for his comments, instead pointing the finger at wider society for its reaction to his remarks.

He said in the letter: “It is clear that the phraseology you refer to is used in an alliterative sense. The vast majority of the public would understand that to be so and that it was solely used for that purpose.

“Too many people in this world who try to find offence, when no offence is meant, given or even made.”

McCartney went on to say he has “no need to list” his supportive actions for mental health awareness, as they have been public “for quite some time”.

He concludes the letter by saying: “I do not accept your premise that anything I have said or done, at any point, increases mental health stigma.”

Dunning, 30, said the MP’s response did precious little to justify his reasoning for using the term, and instead highlights a wider issue with society as to how many people deem it appropriate to use serious mental health conditions as the punchline of a remark or joke.

Thomas Dunning. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Thomas made The Lincolnite‘s 30 Under 30 list in 2021 for his outstanding contribution to mental health awareness, channeling his own experience from surviving multiple suicide attempts to launch his Mental Health Runner project.

He said of the letter: “Giving respect to his opinions, I do have to still challenge him and call out where something doesn’t sit right. There are too many people like myself to sit back and accept the stigma that’s forced on us though individual ignorance at all levels, from the working man to the people who “run” the country.

“The statement which I find really troubling in the letter is: ‘There are currently too many people in this world who try to find offence, when no offence is meant, given or even made’. He can’t even see that the phrases he used are marginailising the mental health community to a mere group of “people in this world who try to find offence”.

“How far does that statement even go? Has he just said that anyone who wants a voice to be heard and wants to feel welcome, loved and accepted in their local community should just accept the way it is? We might as well go back hundreds of years and remove women’s suffrage while he’s at it!”

Poignantly, Thomas refers to the times that schizophrenic psychotic episodes nearly cost him his life, meaning that comments such as Mr McCartney’s became very personal to him and made him want to pursue answers.

He continues: “He also stated “I will not be agreeing to them”? He’s too much of a [redacted] to even just say ‘sorry to those affected, but I didn’t mean to offend those with what I said’.  It’s not like I nearly died because of my schizophrenic psychotic episodes.

“On a final note, I would like to say this. There are too many people in this world who are not brought to account for the things they say or do, and are happy to just offend others and bring communities into disrepute.”

The Lincolnite has contacted Karl McCartney regarding this issue.