Ludlow Hospital in Shropshire, like most NHS hospitals, is desperately in need of funds. Fortunately, a group of local people has raised money for the hospital every summer for the last thirty years. It organises something called the Ludlow Bed Push, which takes place on a day in June. Men dress up in nurses’ uniforms and run round the town asking for donations. They used to wheel a hospital bed through the town, but they don’t do that any more because the beds have become too expensive. Nevertheless, they still manage to raise reasonable amounts of money for the hospital. This year’s bed push produced £2,500 (to be used to help purchase an ECG machine).
Rather cheerful news. Until you discover that the NHS Trust which runs Ludlow Hospital has refused to accept the money donated by the people of Ludlow. It disapproves of men dressing up as women, They demean “health professionals”. The Trust is no longer prepared to dirty its hands by accepting money raised in such a disagreeable way. It would rather do without a new ECG machine than be thought of as approving men dressing up as female nurses.
This elevated moral position has been communicated to the fund raisers by the Chief Executive of the Trust, Jan Ditheridge, and its chairman, Mike Ridley, though it looks as though Mr Ridley was just doing what Ms Ditheridge told him to do.
You will not be surprised to learn that Ludlow Hospital’s nurses are horrified by Ms Ditheridge’s decision to reject the donations made by members of the public. Some of them have even been brave enough to reveal their names when expressing their disgust at their chief executive’s behaviour. Others have been more cautious, presumably fearing that their livelihood may be at risk if they are identified as disagreeing with Ms Ditheridge. The people of Shropshire have been polled by the Shropshire Star. 96% of them disapprove of the Trust’s decision. The BBC and the Guardian have each, after a great deal of investigative journalism, managed to find one “health professional” who agrees that money raised by men dressed as women should not be accepted. But even those champions of political correctness have had to accept that the vast majority of doctors and nurses take the opposite view.
What do we make of Ms Ditheridge? First, and obviously, she is remarkably humourless. She plainly has no idea that other people find the sort of slapstick humour favoured by the Ludlow fund raisers amusing (which is probably why they give money to them). She would certainly be horrified to witness a typical London teaching hospital’s rag week (lots of male medical students dressed as women as they hold buckets for commuters to fill with money for good causes). I daresay, if anyone were ever rash enough to invite her to a pantomime, she would swoon in despair as she discovered that men were dressed up as women and not being prosecuted. One must pray she has never seen a Carry On film. The shock might well be terminal.
But she is not just humourless. She is also extraordinarily unintelligent for someone with such a well-paid job. I assume she is wholly devoted to the cause of political correctness. She must want us all to sign up to it. And, here I lose at least half my readers, that is not necessarily an evil aim. If, by political correctness, we mean that people should not offend other people unnecessarily, it is surely quite a good thing. But if we extend it, as Ms Ditheridge has done, to include attacks on entirely inoffensive behaviour, just because we imagine, with no evidence, that one or two rather odd people might be offended by it, we risk alienating all those whom we had hoped to convert to the cause.
Surprisingly, though this may change tomorrow, no newspaper, other than the Shropshire Star, has carried any opinion piece on Ms Ditheridge’s lunacy. Of course, we can predict what the Mail, the Telegraph and the Sun would say. But what is really needed is a strong leader in the Guardian or the Mirror explaining why those on the left should be even more distressed by Ms Ditheridge’s idiocy than those on the right.