Conspiracy theorists were quick to attack Omar Salem after he confronted Boris Johnson about the state of the NHS in the hospital where his infant daughter was being treated and quick to condemn the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg for simply doing her job. But Salem and Johnson’s responses were wonderful.
The political class has not exactly been covering itself in glory of late. Indeed, some of Boris Johnson’s actions have prompted The Scotsman and others to voice concern for democracy itself.
However, a highly charged encounter between the Prime Minister and an understandably emotional Labour party activist, Omar Salem, in the hospital where the latter’s infant daughter was seriously ill brought out the best in both. The worst, this time, came from the public.
Salem berated Johnson over the state of the NHS, saying it had been “destroyed – and now you come here for a press opportunity!” “My daughter nearly died yesterday,” he added. “This ward is not safe for children. There was one registrar covering the entirety of this ward and the neonatal unit. That is just not acceptable, is it?”
Whipps Cross University Hospital later admitted there had been “an unexpected emergency” that had created “temporary pressure”. So Salem had reasons to be angry and upset.
Johnson looked flustered – he’d hardly have been human if he had not been – and slightly bizarrely denied that the press were there, when they were just a few metres away filming the scene, which Salem pointed out.
However, Johnson later tweeted it was “part of my job is to talk to people on the ground... it doesn’t matter if they agree with me. I’m glad this gentleman told me his problems”. Imagine Donald Trump’s reaction if he had been confronted in a similar way by a Democrat? He would have sought to whip up his most ardent supporters to pour a deluge of hate upon his critic. Regrettably, the deluge came anyway as people started to concoct conspiracy theories centring on Salem’s Labour activism even though his Twitter bio makes his politics public.
Then, when BBC journalist Laura Kuenssberg identified him as the person who confronted Johnson – something he had already done – she was accused of trying to make Salem a “target” for right-wing trolls – by scores of the left-wing variety. To his ever-lasting credit, Salem intervened. Kuenssberg, he tweeted, was “doing her job without fear or favour, which is a vital part of democracy”.
So, congratulations to Salem and Johnson, you acted in the true spirit of democratic respect, and foul scorn upon those who pollute serious debate with blatant inventions and ‘questions’ used to hide a lie.