As Gordon Brown explains to Labour MPs how he believes they can still fight and win the next election, can I report the outcome of another less high profile – but ultimately successful – campaign.
It was the campaign to get the Speaker’s Conference on access to politics and Parliament to recommend removing a discriminatory piece of legislation which states that MPs cannot be barred from office on grounds of physical health, but can be so barred if they are detained under the Mental Health Act.
64. We believe that s141 of the 1983 Mental Health Act is unnecessary and damaging. It embodies attitudes which stigmatise and sap the confidence of people with mental illness. Section 141 should be repealed as soon as practicable. (Paragraph 327)
Amen to that. As the law stands, an MP could be a coma, incapable of speech or thought, after a stroke or accident say, and with no likelihood of recovery. But there is nothing in law that bars that person from continuing to be an MP. But if the same MP undergoes sustained treatment for a serious mental illness, they can be booted out of the Commons.
It won’t surprise you to know that this piece of legislation has never been used. Which is why when, along with Rethink, I gave evidence to the Speaker’s Conference, we argued that its removal from the Statute Book would be a symbolic but important anti-discriminatory move. I am pleased that they have called for it to be made in such clear terms, and now hope the government takes the relatively simple step of making it happen, again as recommended by the Conference. If there is no time between now and an election, then Labour and the other parties ought also to be able to find a line in their manifestoes to make this pledge.
If one in four of us will at some time struggle with mental illness, why should our MPs be any different? It is simply wrong to assume that someone who had a mental health problem can’t get better and still do a demanding job, like the former Norwegian PM who had serious depression, took time off, came back and got re-elected.
Sometimes symbolic change can be emblematic of deeper change taking place and I hope that this shift on Section 141 signals a deeper change going on in British society about attitudes to mental health, the talent stifled, and the opportunities denied as a result of discrimination caused by stigma and taboo.
The election of course will be fought on issues other than this. Despite last week’s kerfuffle over the Hoon-Hewitt letter, I agree with the analysis being put to MPs today that the election is not over, and that whilst the Tories are still ahead in the polls, with a lot of political and economic factors to their advantage, they can still be beaten.
It requires however all ministers and MPs to believe that, act like they believe it, then get on with the fight.
Good news as you say, and such an easy hit for the parties all to put in their manifestoes. I have just read their report and I think they have good ideas on women too, which should be embraced. Politics has taken a big knock in recent months with expenses etc but we need good people going into Parliament and we need a broad range of them. I hope the government and opposition both embrace this report
You have given a lot of impetus to this campaign with your public stance and your book and films and so forth. Please now put all that energy into helping Labour keep the Tories out. I sense the public concern about a Tory government growing but we need people with real experience of campaigning to get involved. I know you do a lot for Labour but they really need people like you more than ever now.
I nearly choked on my cornflakes in finding myself in agreement with part of that crusty old Tory William Rees-Moggs article in todays times.
Reading past his negative spin about Gordon, he talks about the appeal of Harriet Harman as a centrist with much of the John Smith middle class appeal. I hope that she will be allowed to front the campaign and will not be too heavily curtailed by the other triumvarists.
Her appeal to the silver vote is manifest and her easy swatting of bluebottle Haig in PMQ has been a delight. My only concern is whether she can deliver the killer humourous Dave put-downs. To this end possibly the Times photo showing him resting his head on Harriets shoulder is a good indication. I hope we can also anticipate image labels of the ‘tucks his underpants…’character from the master ?
Labour are allowing the Tories to quote the Wilson economic days – a fading (or non-memory) for most.However the ‘head’ of the 80s Tory tyrany, to many, should be dug up and hung on the Tory gate’.’Nicey’ Heath soon gave way to the harsh broom sweeper. Dont let ’em forget !
It’s good to see. Kjeil Magne Bondeveik is so genuine and matter of fact in discussiong his depression, it really makes a difference to see political leaders talk about mental ill health. Interestingly I note the facebook campaing to get ‘Mrs.Robinson’ into the charts, in realtion to Iris Robinson, now receiving acute psychiatric treatment. Will be interesting to see how the story pans out. Nevertheless, this is an important step, along with that allowing people with MHPs to serve on juries, which are small, but in terms of civil rights massive in reducing enforced social exclusion.
Trudi: The only public concern is that Labour just might scrape in and complete the national bankruptcy it is well on the way to achieving.
“It requires however all ministers and MPs to believe that, act like they believe it, then get on with the fight”
One missing ingredient here – the electorate. Try, like I have, canvassing over a number of weeks and months in London and the South.
Then come back and report on the widespread view about Labour in general, and the Prime Minister in particular.
Cameron McWhat’s a plumber is still oozing by with far too much lube. I want to see the class war dry him up a notch, his contacts with Murdoch exploited and his beef with ofcom stewed out far and wide. Irate principals crying, “Think of the children!” Brown needs to grow a pair instead of posting Maggie on his wall. Crivens.
surely the poster campaign for the tories with cameron then a comment should read: We will add at least another 15% to your next fuel bill, Bring back Vat at the full rate on fuel bills!!! we need to remind people that he will screw the normal man in the street while lining the pockets of his rich friends
I wonder how I would feel if I had to read about me the kind of blogs that are prevalent about you? Does it not bother you that people think you are a liar with blood on your hands and share the responsibility for the deaths of women and children? Or that you are, along with brown, one of the most loathed individuals in the UK?
So far not good in attempt to get people who deliberately misled the public and Parlaiment in a disastrous and costly war to face proper punishments
I just want to say that I am appalled that you say to the iraq inquiry that you are proud of our role as a nation in the war in Iraq. There is no doubt that the war was illegal and no doubt that the basis upon which it was waged involved a wholesale misleading of parliament and the British people. Your role in this disgrace will never be forgotten.
Congratulations. I have always had the contrary view from the majority and will not change my mind until I am told of someone who believed before the invasion that Iraq had no WMD. As you mentioned today President Chirac did not and Robin Cook did not, Dr Kelly did not I’m sure I could go on.
How foolish would it have been to withdraw our forces( without whose presence the Inspectors would not have been allowed back in ) and give Saddam Hussein carte blanche to use his dangerous knowledge with a free hand.
Anyone who paid attention to the evidence of the Hutton Inquiry and did not take their knowledge from newspapers etc. must agree.
Alastair, from the bits I saw of the Inquiry today: well done, great stuff, don’t let them knock you down.
Moving on -why is the media and the “me-too left” so obsessed with wmd s. If Germany had been invaded -as it should have been -in the mid 1930s -probably no Zyklon B would have turned up either. Fascist regimes need to be overthrown by willing democratic states -the rest is just trivia.
Re the previous red card verdict on Alastair’s performance at the Iraq inquiry, let me say that there are others who nominate him as man of the match.
Thank you. I worked in Iraq. I saw brave people getting their lives back and brave people helping them. I know we did the right thing. Whatever I or others may think, selective memory does not help us make better decisions. Thanks for reminding us all of what actually happened. In a non-classified kind of way, I remember, too.