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Thanks from Time to Change to Charles Walker and Kevan Jones

Posted on 14 June 2012 | 3:06pm

Just back from Dublin, just home for a quick change before heading out to chair a debate on class in politics, inspired by the West End play based on David Cameron and Co’s Bullingdon Club, POSH.

But before I go a quick word of thanks for Tory MP Charles Walker and Labour MP Kevan Jones for speaking about their own mental health issues, respectively OCD and depression, in the Commons debate on mental health today.

I heard the news in an excited text from Sue Baker, who heads the Time to Change campaign aimed at breaking down the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness. She and I have been saying for ages that the campaign, for which I am an ambassador, would really benefit from MPs being more open. So to have these two men come out like this today will really help. I also believe they will quickly see that any fears they may have had that it will lead to people thinking worse of them will be disproved. Yes people can be cruel, but not the majority, not by a long way.

The Independent have asked me to do a piece on this for them for the morning, and once they have published it, I will put that on here.

Now off to POSH … quite looking forward to discussing class in politics with Rachel Johnson, editor of The Lady, privately educated Labour MP Luciana Berger, the play’s director, and an academic who studies class and politics.

Despite Cameron’s little pot shots at Leveson, I will endeavour to be objective about one of the ‘two arrogant posh boys who doesn’t know the price of milk’ now running the country (copyright Nadine Dorries MP)

  • I was concerned at the empty green benches.
    I commend those M.P.s on their candour.
    For those able to believe in hope or change, most especially social mores, this may seem like a real possibility of things finally, possibly, maybe improving.

  • Libdem

    Probably too late but perhaps you should ask Luciana her views on candidates ‘parachuted’ into prospective safe seats? Isn’t it a case of central office wanting to ‘control’ everything?

  • Vicki

    Hi Alastair, Just a quick update – Sarah Wollaston and Andrea Leadsom have also just spoken about their own mental health. What an important day!

  • Carmelm_hennessy

    So glad 2 MP’s spoke of their mental health experiences. For one thing it they might well help others who go through the same but also it can give a bit of security. No politican in the Rep of Ireland has every admitted to mental illness that I know of. Is that because a) they are embarrassed by it or b) they think it’s shows weakness? Now if that is their thinking then they are not representing real people as 1 in 4 have mental health issues at some stage.

    If they are ashamed to admit it or think it shows weakness then how the hell are we supposed to trust them to run a health service which includes mental health ?

    I look forward to reading the piece you’ve written for the independant on this.

    I’m sure you will be a great chairperson tonight. Enjoy!!

  • reaguns

    I reckon Alastair has a think for the posh blonde ladies ie Nadine Dorries and Rachel Johnson. Know where you’re coming from Al.

  • reaguns

    Is good to hear from those two MPs though. Depression, or mental health issues may hold people back due to perception of their ability to do such a job, but not their actual ability to do it, as evidenced by Churchill and Lincoln.

    Would say Alastair too but someone will say “He’s not a politician.”

  • reaguns

    No AC on Question Time tonight, but Tim Farron very strong.

    Grant Schapps one of the more competent Tory communicators on there too, another one talked of as future Tory leader, I dunno.

    Farron definitely future Libdem leader though.

  • reaguns

    Portillo, Neil and Jacqui Smith all spot on – no one has had a skewering or a grilling by Leveson or Jay. Pure fantasy, or political manipulation, or if you will – spin, to suggest otherwise.

    As Portillo says, the skills of the politicians, and business people, have been far greater than the skills of Jay and Leveson.

  • reaguns

    “What did you make of gordon brown’s performance Jacqui?”
    “Erm…”

    “Did you believe him when he said he didn’t set his advisors to brief against you Blairites?”
    “Erm…”

  • Gilliebc

    Good on those two MP’s  Charles Walker and Kevan Jones!     

    I’m sure those involved in the Time to Change campaign are delighted.  Perhaps it might help pave the way for more people in high profile jobs to speak out.

  • Michele

    I wish I could find a BBC article I read earlier in the week claiming that short bouts of depression can actually be healing!

    Meantime this one about running makes a lot of sense, I’m sure it applies more to running outdoors (and the added benefit of sunlight / Vit D) than it does to running on a treadmill :
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7240545.stm

  • Janiete

    I’ve just seen the clips of three MPs speaking of their own mental health problems yesterday. It’s really clear how difficult it was from them to speak about these very personal issues in the context of widespread stigma. I’m so full of admiration for their courage in doing so and it will really push back against prefudice and ignorance. Brave people indeed!  

  • Michele

     How can you admire Schapps?

    When a social housing completion was mentioned in PMQs several months ago he stood smirking as if it had been his doing.
    There is such a lot of misinfo and exploitation of too little detail.  7
    Duncan-Smith pronounced recently that social housing building was at its highest since the 20s ….. no mention of whether he was on about a particular area or the whole UK or whether he was meaning provision compared to varying needs per decade.

    Look in to that and let us know how honest these people are.

  • Michele

     Would you like to describe a single decent thing Portilli did when in Govt?

  • Gilliebc

    It may or may not be interesting to read Leveson’s report when it eventually comes out.  At the moment it appears to be just another farce, which is costing millions of pounds.  I don’t question the professional skills of either Jay or Leveson.  But I would question their ‘impartiality’.

  • reaguns

    Nothing that I can remember. Makes a good case on This Week though (as do the other guests when called upon ie Alan Johnson, Jacqui Smith etc.)

    And I agree with him on this. Leveson and Jay feeble in the extreme. Typical British inquiry – total whitewash so far. We may end up with the worst of all worlds, new restrictions on all press (including its good elements) but no punishment of wrongdoers from the past, no sanctions for Cameron, Hunt, Murdoch etc.

  • reaguns

    I don’t admire Schapps, I think he is an apologist for this government, I know very little about anything he has achieved, less still about his beliefs. So he is not the type of politician that would appeal to me regardless of party. He is however a good communicator and thats the sort of thing that impresses other people.

  • reaguns

    I think I’d have to agree with you Gillie, otherwise why would they be so so soft on the witnesses?

  • Michele

     It could well be the case that GB’s people briefed against others because they presumed what he might have wanted them to do; they could have been wrong or right :-s , what’s he supposed to do … control them?

    Most subalterns/advisErs could, out of sheer independence, opt for publicising what they want / believe.

    Checking what the bosses want risks putting them in a situation where they could be told what to NOT say/do. 

    Some of us use someone else’s platform for what we, autonomously/selfishly, want to put out. 

    Some of us on this blog could be thinking our behaviour should be mild, pleasing to people that might look in, not wishing to give the Gilli/HillBilly types the ammo to claim that AC runs a blogful of subservients.  Then some others hope he just carries on passing everything through whether he agrees with it or not (I don’t know whether anything indecent might have been stopped!).

  • Michele

     I’ve not heard Portillo call Leveson extreme or feeble, are you sure you have?

    Are we in to this new activity of ‘channelling’ or a.k.a. projecting?

    I believe we’ve had several exposures of Murdoch as a liar = perjurer in the past few days.

    However, as I’m due away in just a few hours I won’t see any reply 🙁

  • Michele

     What do you not understand about an Inquiry?
    As far as I understand things they publis findings, collate at the end, not during it.
    Which of us is gormless?

  • For 10 years Alastair was the lonely voice from Westminster who openly admitted to having experienced mental health problems. He kindly gave his honest perspective as part of Mind out for Mental Health – an anti-stigma campaign that I ran that was the precursor to the brilliant Time to Change. I applaud the four MPs for speaking out.  Given 1 in 4 of us will have a mental health problem at any time it would suggest that in the House of Commons there should be another 200+ MPs with personal experience. I hope others follow the excellent lead of Alastair, Kevan Jones, Charles Walker, Sarah Wollaston and Andrea Leadsom. We need people in positions of authority across politics, business, media and culture to speak up in order to break down the stigma and shame which can tragically stop people seeking the help that they need. 

  • Anonymous

    Saw Charles Walker on the box this morning – an OCD Tory? Interesting.

    Brother of my daughter’s mother has the same affliction, can’t just turn a tap off, he has to tap(!) it a number of times befors he is happy. And my dad, oh jeezuz, if things are not in the usual place, and at the right angle, he just does not like it.

    Why do I lack stable minded people in my life, just some, that is all I ask. Just a couple. Been though hell looking after my dad, if only he could have a little self-perception of himself, that would help, but no, the rest of life is out of step, not himself.

  • Gilliebc

    OCD is a difficult condition for most of us to understand I would think.  People that become slaves to their self-imposed ritualistic behavior makes no sense at all to most of us.  

    Regarding your dad Ehtch, (or is it Huw?)  I am wondering if he has always been a little that way inclined?  Or maybe it is something that has come along with old age and infirmity?  

    Many old people become that way.  Perhaps it’s because they no longer have much say or control in many areas of their lives that they focus on having control over to what most of us would consider to be the ‘little things’ in life.       

    When they get like that though I know from personal experience it is very ‘trying’ to put it mildly!  After spending a couple of hours with my now late mother,  I was almost at screaming point.  So how you cope 24/7 Ehtch, I really don’t know.  Being a carer of a close relative is one of the toughest jobs in the world I think.

  • Michele

     It’s called an Inquiry not an Inquisition, it’s not a film or a play or about a hero lawyer who’s going to sock everyone on the chin or pluck their pubes! 

    It’s about plain simple facts and if you don’t appreciate their civility and reliance on the sequence of questions that turn in to hooks just go rent a Hulk epic!
    They knock spots off Mrs Mensch with her vacuous self-promoting description of how ‘tough’ her questioning was going to be ….. :-s

  • Michele

     I’m not #1 fan of Shami Chakrabarti but as she is advising to the Inquiry I think you can take it for granted that the Press won’t be restricted after it in any way that actually matters (for anyone not wanting salacious rubbish anyway).

  • Michele

     So you admire that he’s good at communicating what others think?

    Hokay :-s

  • Anonymous

    No, he has always been that way, never ever has been the easiest person to communicate with, the ones perceptive and honest in my extended family have always said so. He goes into his own world.

    But if anything, he has become more self-perceptive with old age, which helps, especially when he see’s me slowly banging my head literally on the wall when looking for an answer about something from him. The thing is, I don’t usually wooly about, and just say the truth. But I am his eldest son after all, so do know him better than anyone.

    His father, when he was alive, used to despair at him at times, but never ever in a nasty way, he just found it hard to communicate with my father. Suppose they call it these days a degree of social awkwardness as with asperger. But there we go, we get by.

  • reaguns

    Which of us is gormless, are you sure there is only one position available lol!

  • reaguns

    Why aren’t you a fan of Shami Chakrabati? I had read about her a lot, seen her lambasted in just about every publication apart from a few suspects in the grauniad. But since I first saw her on TV, and in every appearance I’ve seen since, I couldn’t find fault with anything she has said, it has all seemed logical and balanced to me! Saw her argue with Alan Johnson on This Week but to be honest I couldn’t pick a side in the argument… to be even more honest I couldn’t fully understand it.

  • reaguns

    And maybe some of us are here to “criticise” AC the same way Fraser Nelson, Niall Ferguson, Peter Oborne, the rest of the telegraph and even bloody Douglas Carswell and Daniel hannan “criticise” David Cameron, ie they pretend to be critical so that it seems a stronger statement when it is found out that they actually support him!

    Anyway I hope I am one of those who show it isn’t a blog of subservients! Its always good to hear the counter argument, strengthens your own argument, I know Blair and Powell preferred Machiavelli but I’ll go for the Sun Tzu’s “Know your enemy”.

  • reaguns

    I said I don’t admire him, read again please.

    But I also said he has the type of skills that, unfortunately, are at a premium in our politics, ie communication. Isn’t Cameron a PR man? Didn’t Brown, much as I don’t like him, or Major or Miliband, suffer unduly for those reasons.

    Wouldn’t it be better to have people like Clement Attlee of whom Thatcher said “Contrary to the modern politicians, he was all substance and no style.”

    It would better, but unfortunately its not how things are.

  • SueS

    Heard both of them, it was very powerful. It was clear that it wasn’t an easy decision for Kevan Jones to share his story and I’m sure Charles Walker had to do some hard thinking before he did it too.  Both very brave people who’ve shed light on this hidden area of health in a very important place. Sod the politics on this one – well done to both of them.