Health minister Simon Burns has accused opponents of the health bill as being ‘zombie-like’ for continuing to write to their MPs outlining concerns over the reforms, in an attack opposition MPs have labelled as ‘insulting’ to voters.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Mr Burns, a Conservative MP who represents Chelmsford constituency, said campaign groups like 38 Degrees were scaremongering over the health bill and labelled them as ‘zombie-like’ for encouraging people to write to their MPs with their concerns over the NHS reforms.
Mr Burns was responding to a parliamentary question regarding a request from 38 Degrees, which has 950,000 members, for the Government to release the risk register on the NHS reforms.
Mr Burns said: ‘It is marvellous how the right hon. Gentleman repeats his soundbite every time he discusses the NHS. I have to tell him that he is wrong.’
‘He knows that the NHS has to evolve. He knows that we have to improve and enhance patient care. I think he does himself a disservice by simply joining the ranks of organisations such as 38 Degrees, which is frightening people and getting them, almost zombie-like, to send in e-mails [to ministers].’
Senior Liberal Democrats and Labour MPs attacked Mr Burns for ‘insulting’ voters by dismissing their concerns.
Tim Farron MP, President of the Liberal Democrats, said:‘I don’t think 38 Degrees members, or anyone else who takes the trouble to contact me, is a zombie.’
‘It’s a totally inappropriate way for an elected politician to talk about their voters. We should be encouraging people to get involved in the political process not insulting those who do.’
Stella Creasey, a Labour MP in Walthamstow, East London, said:‘Rather than calling people zombies and dismissing their concerns, ministers may wish to reflect on why their healthcare proposals have generated such a strong response from their constituents.’
The comments have also triggered anger among 38 Degrees 950,000 membership, many of whom have already written to Mr Burns in the wake of his remarks. Campaign leaders at 38 degrees told Pulse they are already planning a ‘zombie-themed’ protest event in Mr Burn’s Chelmsford constituency.
David Babbs, executive director at 38 degrees, told Pulse:‘As far as we’re concerned we’re citizens, not zombies.’
‘Whoever you voted for, whatever you think of these reforms, you have every right to contact your MP and be treated with respect.’