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The need to heal

White pigeon on black shutterstock_27792397


I don’t think anyone could have predicted the volume of stressful, unexpected events which have happened recently.


Today is my 43rd birthday. I would’ve been born at 6 pm during the World Cup, in Glasgow. These days, when I think of Glasgow, I tend to think of Tommy Whitelaw or Sir Muir Gray.


When Sir Muir Gray was once asked by Eddie Mair what he would like to be spoken to as, the reply came “Muir’s fine. That’s my name.”


Whatever achievements other people have or don’t have, I think we should all avoid being so judgmental. I know what it is like to have your reputation demolished. Recently, I even had experience of ATOS that I don’t have any needs at all as a disabled citizen.


But it’s easy for us all to forget what is going right with the world. Even with the mudflinging about the safety of cladding in the Grenfell Tower block, the community response has been sensational.


I rang up my previous employers (pro bono) at the North Kensington Law Centre last week. They haven’t stopped for a moment. Imagine for a second having your hopes and dreams being obliterated instantly.


Whatever problems you might have, never underestimate for a second what others are dealing with in relative silence. It never ceases to amaze me what pressures and worries people harbour in total silence.


Inequality and lack of fairness can only make me angry, but, having survived a six week coma exactly ten years ago, having had a cardiac arrest, I must emphasise that the only way is to look constructively to the future.


I don’t blame people getting focused on the minutiae in their own lives, micromanaging every minute detail, but it is worth remembering that successes can disappear as quickly as they come. And so thankfully can failures.


Despite the innumerable inadequacies of my own life, I am more than aware of the remarkable kindness of certain individuals who do not need to keep busy to promote their own self-worth.


I’ve always held that anything can happen to anyone at any time, and I think that all any of us can do is to die with the minimum number of regrets possible.


We are all on a steep learning curve, however titled, qualified or experienced, and, to remind us of someone who died exactly one year ago just days before her birthday and mind, there’s a lot more which unites us than divides us.





Reasons to be cheerful – my review of 2014

There were many reasons to be cheerful this year for me. One of them was going down at the invitation of Lisa Rodrigues (@lisasaysthis) for Prof Sube Banerjee’s inaugural lecture as Chair of Dementia at Brighton and Sussex Medical School.

Reasons to be cheerful

Sube called his lecture, a timely view on where we’ve got up to in English dementia policy, “reasons to be cheerful”.


Kate (@KateSwaffer) is a world class advocate for people living with dementia.

I have found Kate’s work on stigma and language particularly interesting. Kate is Chair Elect of Dementia Alliance International (@DementiaAllianc), and I expect this group, consisting in the vast majority of people living well with dementia, to be extremely influential in 2015. As this group becomes more influential, I am sure it will attract more scrutiny, and it will be necessary both to manage people’s expectations and not be unduly swayed by externalities.


The University of Wollongong (@UOW) is where Kate did her Masters of Science degree in dementia care. I only received a Commendation for my Master of Law, but that was in commercial and corporate law, and not really my strongest love. For Kate to receive a Distinction is no less than Kate deserves, and I was genuinely utterly thrilled for her.


Chris and Jayne

I tried to get out more this year, fuelled by seeing friends Chris Roberts (@mason4233) and Jayne Goodrick (@JayneGoodrick). Louise and Rachel from the Dementia Action Alliance Carers Call to Action (@DAACarers) have worked amazingly hard, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for this arm of English policy. Here’s a picture of me, Chris, Sally (@nursemaiden) and Ken Clasper (@ken_kenc)  at the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster.

Great pic

I do strongly believe that ‘experts’ are a potentially false concept in dementia. I certainly don’t believe in experts by longevity – people who’ve professionally been studying dementias for ages. I do agree with Chris though – people living with dementia do become experts in their own experiences at their particular times. We all can learn from this.

Chris dementia expert

Here’s Chris holding the Dementia Alliance International flyer. This was in a crowded foyer during the conference. I am not sure what we were doing at that precise second. I reckon I might have been panicking about the poster session on my findings of the use of language in the G8 summit. That poster session was very enjoyable for me, as I got a chance to chat with Prof Mary Marshall whose influence on design and dementia has been enormous at Stirling. Mary remembered me from a workshop I attended in Notting Hill once. And I remember her. She spoke with me for ages, when she had no need to at all.

Happy memory

Dementia policy in England and Scotland

I thought this was a parody of a Monty Python sketch until one of my bright Twitter followers advised me it was a parody of the Two Ronnies sketch. That’ll learn me. Anyway, here I am with Chris and Tim Lloyd Yeates (@alivetim) whom I am confident to report is one of the most polite and well mannered persons I have ever met in my life.

Famous sketch

Ultimately, I have limits to my understanding of dementia, having not lived with dementia myself to my knowledge, and definitely not been involved in a family caregiving way. I am all the time mindful there is close to a million unpaid family caregivers in the UK, who are the backbone of dementia policy. They are central to care and support. Sally Marciano is a very experienced nurse, but also knows from the closest of family connections how dementia can affect someone. Prof Alistair Burns (@ABurns1907), the national clinical lead for dementia, often remarks that when a diagnosis of dementia is disclosed, it’s not only given to the person with dementia, but to his or her friends and family. This, I feel, is absolutely true.

Sally Ann

I first met Toby Williamson from the Mental Health Foundation (@MHF_tweets) when he chaired a groupthink session in one of the fringe meetings of the Alzheimer’s Europe conference in Glasgow. We were discussing stigma in dementia, and thinking of possible strategies for overcoming stigma. Toby is at the Mental Health Foundation, and I find him extremely interesting to talk with. He shares a number of policy interests with me, namely human rights, equality and personal budgets. I name dropped Toby in a comment on Prof Julian Hughes’ excellent presentation on ethics at the annual meeting of the Dementia Action Alliance.

Toby Williamson

Thanks to Sam (@yeweestoater) for her unending support. I really value this – and I had a great time when I met Sam for the first time at the Beardmore Hotel in Glasgow earlier this year, for the clinical research network day hosted by Scotland.


I was invited by Norman Macnamara (@norrms) to a talk on global positioning systems and people living well with dementia. As it happened, I got lost on the way back to the lift of the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre, and Norman was very helpful! The Purple Angels continue to be an enthusiastic force of people raising awareness of issues to do with dementia.

Here's my impression of a duck

I have decided I am no longer going to take photos on my digital SLR camera, as something always go wrong on them. Here’s a photo of Suzy (@suzysopenheart) and Jayne not taken on my iPad as it should’ve been (like Tommy Dunne (@tommytommytee18), I adore my iPad).

Suzy Jayne shimmer

I was really pleased that Lucy Jane Masters (@lucyjmarsters) was able to make it to my book launch of ‘Living well with dementia’ earlier this year.

It was great to see Marian there (@mariannaidoo). Also, I really appreciate Beth (@BethyB1886), Dr Peter Gordon (@peterDRLOW) and Margaret Kilby (@mkilll) making it too.

Lucy is a specialist nurse in dementia, and also studying at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School. Like me, Lucy shares a passion for the positive rôle specialist nurses can play in proactive case management in dementia, which I anticipate will be an important service provision change innovation shortly.

From the archives

Travelling back to Glasgow was highly emotional for me; so was meeting people who’ve become a big part of life through Twitter. You certainly can’t fault Tommy Whitelaw (@tommyNTour) for the sheer dedication he has shown to raising awareness of lending a hand of support for caregivers. Besides, he’s a Glaswegian, and given that I was born in Glasgow in 1974, Glasgow is a special part of my own personal life.

bit fuzzy

There are people I met in 2014 – and I wish they’d come into my life earlier, really. I was always aware of the huge amount of work Agnes Houston in the Scottish Dementia Working Group was doing as well as Donna. It was only until I saw Agnes (@Agnes_Houston) and Donna whizzing around in the Alzheimer’s Europe (@AlzheimerEurope) conference in Glasgow that the penny finally dropped.

Happy memories of 2014

I don’t think I ever met Tommy Dunne until this year. Meeting Tommy and Joyce were definitely highlights of my year – and I think Suzy Webster is genuinely fantastic too. With them, there’s no bullshit at all. They exhibit kindness. They are not distracted by others – their focus and attention is a clear indication of their dignity and the amount of respect they command. I think some of the happiest times I had in total in 2014 were through the Dementia Action Alliance Carers Call  to Action (@Dementia_Action; @DAACarers). They’re the sort of occasions where you do genuinely feel you’ve known people for ages – like weddings without any of the family traumas!


Twitter can bring with it some degree of mystique. But a general enduring trend of mine was that the people I met in real life were invariably even more impressive than how I knew them from Twitter. One clear example of this was Darren (@mrdarrengormley). I think I share attitudes and values with Darren. Darren really ‘gets it’. A real privilege to know – I’ve got a lot of time for Darren.

Utterly unbelievable


To say Charmaine (@charbhardy) is ‘strong’ would be to do Charmaine a disservice. I am completely in awe of how Charmaine doesn’t ‘complain’. Charmaine thinks she’s doing her best, but she’s doing infinitely more than that. I am extremely grateful for the time I had this year in going to Robertsbridge and seeing for my own eyes the garden that Charmaine works so hard on. And I am proud of everything Charmaine does. I am proud of her community. Her friends adore her (look at the bunch I met for example at the Ostrich and Tony especially). I loved meeting G who spontaneously showed me his PhD thesis from around the time when I was born (I was born in 1974). This photo of Charmaine and me was taken at University College London, where completely thanks to Charmaine I was able to attend a support group for carers of people with frontotemporal dementia. There, I had a long chat with Katy Judd. It was great to catch up with Katy, whom I remember working with at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurology, at Queen Square, more than a decade ago. Prof Martin Rossor (@martinrossor), whom I think is wonderful, was the head of the clinical firm.


I’ve learnt a huge amount from the support groups this year. It also reminds me what an enormous privilege it is to know something about dementias in a professional and academic capacity, and what an honour it is to use this knowledge for the public good.

PDSG support group

I’d love to go to the Ostrich in Robertsbridge some time in 2015 for a holiday; not least as it will give me an excuse to see Charmaine G and family.


The international forum

Before I got a chance to finish my sentence, ‘My name is…‘, Marc Wortmann (@marcwort), CEO of Alzheimer’s Disease International (@AlzDisInt), explained to me that he knew ‘exactly who (I am)’. I had a chance to thank Marc twice this year for the work of the ADI – once for the work on national strategies in dementia, and one for his report in which the ADI recommended avoidance of the word “institutionalisation”.

Marc W

Helga in many ways is larger than life. Helga Rohra (@ContactHelga) just beams encouragement, drive, wisdom, leadership, principles, justice, realism, and charisma. A real joy to spend any time with. Here’s us in Glasgow.

The happy couple

Prof Facundo Manes (@manesf) was in the same research lab as me at Cambridge. He is one of the world experts in frontotemporal dementia now. I have extremely fond memories of his friendship at Cambridge, and he has become a lifelong friend. He is a ‘proper neurologst’, and has a huge amount of common sense as well as a real talent for research. I love his attitude to life, and the fact that he is so clearly very bright. He has taken the field of decision making in dementia into parts I could have only dreamt of, and of course I am eternally grateful for that. Facundo, as well as being a Professor at the University of Favorolo in Buenos Aires, leads at INECO – a huge tour de force in cognitive neurology and cognitive neuroscience in South America; and he is Co Chair of the research division of dementia, aphasia and other cognitive disorders for the World Federation of Neurology.


This year, I got put onto the International Advisory Board of the ADI conference to be held in Perth, Australia, this year. I really enjoyed reviewing about fifty abstracts mainly on stigma, younger onset dementia and dementia friendly communities. I look forward to these being presented, when I attend in person next year.

ADI conference

The law

One of the biggest honours I had this year was being asked onto the Board of Governors of the BPP Students’ Association. Prof Carl Lygo (@carllygo), Professor of Law, and CEO of BPP, has been of massive support to me personally. He’s supported me through the stormiest of weather. Also, Shahban Aziz (@ShahbanAziz), CEO of the BPP Students Association, has become a true friend of mine. I get enormously proud of them both whenever I see them in real life, or on Twitter.

Carl and Shahban

In one part of my life, I thank enormously for the happy times I’ve had at BPP Law School. I not only studied for my ‘graduate diploma in law’ (and bachelor of law), but I also did my legal practice course there. This was via brief detour of doing my MBA at BPP Business School and my Master of Law at the University of Law. BPP has been a massive part of my professional and personal rehabilitation. Now, my understanding of business strategy and law make complete sense.

Here I am with Shaun (@DiasShaun) and Shahban.

Three amigos

I had the pleasure of talking to Gary at great length this year twice. Our conversations ranged from conflicts of interest to conspiracy theories. I think it’s fair to say I have met few people as thoughtful or as intellectually versatile as Gary Slapper (@garyslapper). We share very similar values. I am looking forward enormously to his new edition of ‘English legal system’, which reminds me of the second love of my life – the legal profession.



I have enormous respect for Prof Wendy Savage (@wdsavage). Wendy Savage and I share not only a passion for the NHS, although Wendy’s campaigning is in altogether different level to mine (being far superior). And Wendy, I suspect, shares similar feelings about the medical regulator, the General Medical Council, as me.

Wendy Savage

This year saw me trying to get out and about a bit more. I met Sharon (@SharonAvraham) outside the Harold Wilson room for a meeting which Jos Bell (@jos21) had brilliantly organised. Jos has worked so hard as Chair for the independent Socialist Health Association London division this year. Jos has also been a real rock of support this year, which has been tough for me. I am inevitably eternally grateful for this.


I saw Andy Slaughter (@hammersmithandy) speak for the first time in Portcullis House. I am of course fully aware of the West London hospital reconfiguration, and I thank Andy enormously for campaigning on this issue. I am also grateful for Andy’s lead against that nasty Legal Aid and Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (2012) which saw legal aid being throttled. I am a firm believer in access to law and justice, as well as access to medicine. Of course I am mindful that Sadiq Khan, currently the Shadow Justice Secretary (@sadiqkhan), will have a difficult year ahead.

Andy Slaughter

For the first and only time this year, I had an amazing smoothie and cheeseboard selection in the restaurant of the National Gallery. Like the late Baroness Thatcher, I have developed a habit of turning up to everything early. I turned up to the event in Trafalgar Square to support the NHS early. Jos knew I would. I had a great time, though.


A poor start

The very beginning of my life I don’t feel was a poor start.

I am Scottish. I went back to Glasgow twice this year in fact.

Glasgow is where I was born in June 1974.


Undeniably I feel I’ve come a long way since that I day I had an epileptic seizure at the Royal Free Hospital due to bacterial meningitis in 2007. Things got worse when I had a cardiac arrest, and then had six weeks in a coma. While I am physically disabled now, I am happy of course that I have been in recovery from severe alcoholism for about seven and a half years now. I feel strongly that anything can happen to anyone at any time.

Discharge summary


I went up to Manchester several times in 2014 to see the GMC – my meeting with them was adjourned the first time around.

I ended up, therefore, contemplating in Starbucks.

With the free Wifi, it was like being on holiday.

It was amazing to meet @kyrakee who found me there. Kylie had just hopped off a tram, perhaps having worked out the clues from my cryptic Twitter clues?

Great photo

I know this Starbucks now, like the Arnedale Centre, like the back of my hand


2014 was an opportunity to apologise to the medical profession which I strongly feel that I had let down previously. My late father amongst many others would have wanted me to have made this apology to the GMC (@GMCUK).

GMC registration

It was a massive honour to be put back onto the GMC register. I don’t think I have ever been happier. To be put on the UK register having lost the opportunity to be there is a massive deal. The GMC oppose all restoration requests not because they’re fundamentally difficult; but because the burden of proof must be on the applicant to prove that they can fulfil their duty of patient safety. There is therefore a necessarily high threshold for this, and now that I am in recovery, I don’t underestimate the enormous privilege to be regulated by both the medical and legal professions.

Shibley GMC

Martin Rathfelder (@SocialistHealth) took great care of me in my numerous visits to the GMC in Manchester this year. I have very happy memories of the numerous Chinese restaurants we frequented too. Martin was a crucial component in me trying to think positively about the whole experience. Manchester, after all, had been a very sad place for me and my father back in 2006. On a different note, I currently enjoy being on the ‘central council’ of the Socialist Health Association.


I am completely in awe of the GMC. I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Happiness at last

All these life experiences encourage me to try to take life easy when I can. Like a Koala, I can present #KoalaKlaws. I can even, if pushed, go for the #KoalaKill. I therefore have natural affinity to the Koala.

Just posing

The man on the right of course needs absolutely no introduction. I think it’d be impossible for the English dementia policy to be universally liked by everyone. That I say not as means of an excuse, but because I am genuinely in admiration of how Prof Alistair Burns has served as the clinical lead for England. I met for the first time this year Alistair (here at the DAA Carers meeting at Smith Square, Westminster). I also met Sally Greengross (the Baroness Sally Greengross) for the first time this year. Sally’s the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for dementia. I promised Sally in fact that I would include a chapter on arts, music and creativity in my next book. I like Sally would like to include some of the positives too in the narrative, and looking into this for Sally was a huge delight.


Next year will be a gruelling one. The last few years have not adequately safeguarded against causing misery for disabled citizens. Legal aid was murdered. Criminal barristers were in uproar. The NHS saw a piece of legislation which imposed a heavy penalty for the first time for NHS contracts not put out to competitive tender in all cases other than a sole bidder. The record waits for A&E were a disgrace for the operational management of the NHS in England. We now have a situation where it is difficult sometimes to discharge people in a timely fashion to social care. Bringing together health and care next year, if there is a majority Labour government in the UK, as “whole person care”. The repeal of the Health and Social Care Act (2012) which turbo-boosted the privatisation of the NHS, defined as the transfer of resources from the public to private sector, is now desperately needed. I wish Andy Burnham MP (@andyburnhammp) well. I sincerely hope he can start work as Secretary of State for Health and Care in 2015.



Conferences: a necessary evil?

I really didn’t know what to expect in the Alzheimer Europe conference in Glasgow. I must say that people with dementia and carers were certainly not involved in any tokenistic way. I was happy to be there. Thanks to all at Alzheimer Europe for such a brilliantly run conference; including the work done by Gladwys and Jean (@JeanGeorgeAE).

Alz E poster

The conference brought me back to my academic roots – which is no bad thing.

As I grew in confidence this year, not just personally, but also in my opinion of the national train service providers and the London termini, I wanted to travel to conferences about dementia more. As the year progressed, my attitude changed from conferences wanting to sell you something, to conferences being happy places where you shared knowledge and experiences. Besides, they for me became happy places for me. Here’s James Murray-White (@sky_larking) and Chris at the Future Inn, Bristol, just shortly before our day hosted by Alzheimer’s BRACE (@AlzheimersBRACE).

James and Chris

Tommy Dunne and Chris Roberts were sat right at the front of my talk in Manchester. The turnout wasn’t massive, but it meant a lot to me that they were there. There was also somebody in the front row who was very nice to me; his mother had just been diagnosed with a dementia. To make a small difference to just one person means a lot to me. I’ve also felt this about ‘Dementia Friends’ (@DementiaFriends) – it’s not the quantity of the actions, it’s the quality.

Alzheimer Show Manchester

Getting a chance to fill a void in print about living well with dementia meant a lot to me this year.

Book cover


I straddle currently two professions, but I’ve been attending out of support (but not participating in, due to my disability) the legal aid walk for the last few years. Thanks so much to Bob and Natalia who invite me every year. I volunteered once pro bono in the North Kensington Law Centre, the oldest law centre in England, in welfare benefits. I had a brilliant time, and I would strongly recommend this type of work to any law student.

Legal aid walk

My books

This was a bit of sneaky product placement for my book, of course.

Alz E bag

I was totally amazed to see my book in print. I dedicated my book ‘Living well with dementia’ to my late father, but of course without both of my parents this book would’ve been impossible.


Thanks to Prof John Hodges in NeuRA, previously Chair of Behavioural Neurology at the University of Cambridge, for the support he’s given me for my first book ‘Living well with dementia’ (where he indeed kindly wrote a Foreword), and also for my second book ‘Living better with dementia’.

I admire Alistair’s energy, so it was extremely nice to receive this from Prof Burns earlier this year.

Many thanks to Alistair


Above all, I was reminded from Truthful Kindness (@truthfulkindnes) this year not to worry about things which were clearly out of my control. This mantra, the “Serenity Prayer”, is how we conclude each meeting for people who’ve had alcohol problems. There comes a time when some people, having successfully survived a period of abstinence, go into a period of recovery. That’s when you get used to life in the absence of alcohol, and it’s normal. You don’t get cravings – you don’t notice alcohol – you can go into pubs without it even being an issue. So if things don’t go my way, invariably out of my control, I don’t fret about it any more.

serenity prayer

Thank you for making my year such a happy one.

My Christmas message!

Merry xmas 2014!


Merry Xmas



My name is Dr Shibley Rahman.


Some of you will know of my existence from Twitter or Facebook.


You may have even met me in real life.


I would like just a few minutes of your time.


I’ve always felt that anything can happen to anybody at any time.


And my heart goes out to you if you can think of things which brought you particular sadness this year.


I entered a coma in 2007 due to bacterial meningitis.


I had been resuscitated from a cardiac arrest by the emergency on-call at the Royal Free Hospital.


From that experience, I became physically disabled.


But it is true that I owe my life to the NHS.


I had been an alcoholic.


I have now not touched a drop from alcohol for seven years.


I am now back being regulated by the General Medical Council (GMC).


I in fact went to Manchester several times for this purpose this year.


I’d like to thank Martin Rathfelder for looking after me then during this anxious time for me.


It was nice to be recognised by a Twitter follower in fact – that has never happened to me before!


Hello to Kylie.


I tell London cabbies all the time, that it’s not how you fall.


It’s how you get up again.


I am also regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.


I have told friends in private that being back on the Medical Register is the biggest honour of my life.


I love the medical profession.


I welcome the publication of the independent report of unexpected deaths of Doctors awaiting Fitness to Practice outcomes.


I know myself of two Doctors who died during this painful period.


I am aghast how little attention there has been to this in the mainstream press.


But I am not altogether surprised.


I would nonetheless go onto happier things for me.


Having completed my pre-solicitor training last year at BPP Law School here in London, I have been asked to be a member of the Board of Governors for the BPP Students Association.


This is a real honour for me.


Next year, BPP will be participating in the National Students Survey.


It will be valuable for us, I feel, to treat this as a learning exercise.


I believe feedback is important for any organisation that wants to learn.


I have no doubt, though, BPP will shine in the process.


I love the legal profession.

I have been dismayed about the murder of legal aid and the fact the barristers were completely exasperated at the way they have been treated.


I had tea with Prof Gary Slapper twice, putting the world to rights, on subjects ranging from conflicts of interest to conspiracy theories.


This year has also seen me reconnect with dementia as well as the medical profession.


I am particularly grateful for the clinical lead given by Twitter pal, Prof Alistair Burns.


I did my Ph.D. in dementia at Cambridge under Prof John Hodges.


I later then did my junior medical job at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, under Prof Martin Rossor.


I both have the utmost of respect of them.


This year has seen a volte face with me and conferences to do with dementia.


At the beginning of the year, I was resolutely against attending conferences.


For me, they had become synonymous with people selling things.


Nonetheless, I’ve had a wonderful time, being invited to various conferences.


I loved “The Alzheimer’s Show”, both in London and in Manchester.


I went to Copenhagen later this year for the Alzheimer’s Association conference.


In Copenhagen, I had a long chat with Martin Rossor.


I was actually in Copenhagen at a book stand.


I have had good feedback about my book, “Living well with dementia”.


This was published by Radcliffe Health in January 2014.


At its peak, it reached number 3 on Amazon even.


This, rather than being a slogan, is the name of the 2009 English dementia strategy, co-authored by Prof Sube Banerjee.


I met Sube twice this year in fact; once having been invited by Lisa Rodrigues down to his inaugural lecture as Professor of Dementia at Brighton and Sussex Medical School.


And secondly at the Dementia Action Alliance conference the other day at Westminster in the Methodist Central Hall.


That was the same venue as where I did my written exam for the diploma of the Membership of the Royal College of Physicians in 2004.


I passed that.


It’s the same venue as my graduation ceremony for my Master of Law.


I passed that too.


It’s the same place where Clem Attlee organised a rally after winning the General Election of 1945 by a landslide.


For that election, a different man had asked ‘to finish the job’.


His name was Winston Churchill.


The Methodist Central Hall’s also the same venue where I met Andy Burnham for the first time ever.


I had the pleasure of meeting Andy this year at a local meeting of Labour down in Southwark.


My good friend, Jos Bell, invited me.


I think “whole person care” will be pivotal in integrating health and care when it is finally introduced by the Labour government.


Health and care services are fundamentally dependent on each other.


When one is in chaos, the other quickly feels the effects.


NHS and care are not simply ‘political footballs’.


They’re literally a matter of life or death.


Tom Flynn was there too: he’s a friend of mine, and of Jos.


Tom knows Jos Bell, who has become a very good friend of mine this year.


Jos I feel really understands what I feel about stuff.


I met Chris Roberts and Jayne Goodrick in Manchester.


Since then, I’d like to say we’ve become good friends.


Indeed, I then met Chris and Jayne at the Alzheimer’s Europe conference in Glasgow.


That conference was on dignity and autonomy.


I was generally impressed by all the people working in dementia policy in Scotland.


I learnt loads from them.


We’ve moved a long way from tokenism, I hope.


We’ve moved onto a more rights-based approach, advanced by equality and human rights.


Through this legal lens, I hope we may move aspirational friendliness into enforceable parity.


That conference in Glasgow was very special for me, where I met Helga Rohra and Agnes (and Donna) for the first time.


It is also where I was born in 1974.


In the space of that time, I feel as if I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards.


But when I look at people I admire, like Clare Lally, also from Glasgow, I feel humble.


I met Tommy Whitelaw in the clinical research day at Glasgow for the first time this year.


When you meet truly magnificent people, any achievements you have get totally dwarfed.


Somebody who totally dwarfs me is Kate Swaffer.


It’s not that Kate remembered my birthday.


Nor the fact she has taught me the majority of what I know about dementia policy.


Nor is it the fact that she got a Distinction in her Masters of Science in dementia care at Wollongong last week.


It’s much more than that.


I hope to be seeing Tru, Chris, Jayne, Kate, Pete and Boris next year around time of the Alzheimer’s Disease International conference in Perth, Australia.


I am on the international advisory board for that.


I reviewed about 50-60 posters for that conference.


They were all of a superb standard.


Next year, my trip to Oz will come just before my next book, ‘Living better with dementia’.


Chris Roberts suggested the title.


And Prof Alistair Burns is doing the main Foreword.


I am honoured at this.


And the fact that Jessica Kingsley Publishers are publishing my book.


So I’ll leave it there.


This year wasn’t too bad for me.


I only blocked a handful of people on Twitter.


Conversely, there are some brilliant people on Twitter whom I have met in real life.


Jenni Middleton, editor of Nursing Times.


Mandi and Alex Andreou, Spurs supporters.


Comrade Nick Cohen.


I find ‘round robins’ telling me how wonderful people are at Christmas quite annoying.


But I wanted to thank you for your friendship and most of all how much you’ve taught me.




Being restored to the GMC Medical Register has been a massive dream come true


I spent nine years at medical school, and about very few as a junior doctor.

I’ve now been in recovery for just over seven years.

But in that time I do remember doing shifts starting at Friday morning and ending on Monday night. I remember the cardiac arrest bleep in Hammersmith at 4 am, and doing emergency catheters at 3 am in Norfolk.

I had an unusual background. I loved medical research at Cambridge. In fact, my discovery how to diagnose the behavioural variant of frontotemporal dementia is cited by the major international labs. It is in the current Oxford Textbook of Medicine.

Being ensnared by the General Medical Council in their investigation process devastated my father. He lated died in 2010. I remember kissing him goodbye in the Intensive Care Ward of the Royal Free, the same ward which had kept me alive for six weeks in 2007.

I of course am completely overwhelmed by those events widely reported, especially in the one in 2004. The newspapers never report I was blind drunk. The media when they do not mention my alcohol dependence syndrome are missing out a key component of the jigsaw.

Until I die, I will never be safe with one alcoholic drink. I will go on a spiral of drinking, and that one event I am certain would either see me in a police cell or in A&E.

One event did change my life. I was blue lighted in, after a year of heavy drinking after I was erased by the GMC in 2006, having had a life-threatening epileptic fit. The crash team attempted emergency intubation, but I ended up having a cardiac arrest which was successfully resuscitated.

I do not wish to enter any blame games about what happened a decade ago. It turns out that the Trust which reported me as dishevelled and alcoholic, and having poor performance simultaneously, is in the Daily Mail this morning for a running a ‘chaotic’ A&E department.

It also turns out that another Trust in London which reported me as dishevelled and alcoholic, and having poor performance simultaneously, had its A&E department shut down this week.

I was in denial and had no insight. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I needed sick leave and a period of absence and support. But I do not wish to blame anyway for those events I wish had never happened some time ago.

But the GMC referrals were absolutely correct. I had a proper medical plan put in place for me when I awoke from my coma. I followed religiously my own GP’s advice too.

I am now physically disabled, and have had no regular salaried job since 2005. But I am content. I live in a small flat with my mother in Primrose Hill. I regularly go out to cultural events. I maintain my interest in dementia, going to a fourth conference this year for Alzheimer’s Europe in October, where I have been chosen to give one of the research talks. It’s actually on an idea which David Nicholson inspired me over.

I’ve done four books on medicine, including one on living well with dementia. The Fitness to Practice panel in their judgment note my contribution there, which I am pleased about.

The Panel also crucially made the link in their judgment that my poor performance in conduct and competence coincided with my period of illness, the alcohol dependence syndrome, for which I am now under a psychiatrist.

I go to AA sometimes, and the weekly recovery support group at my local hospital. Being in contact with other people who are starting the same process of getting their life back continues to inspire me. I also attend the suspended doctors group for the Practitioner Health Programme, which helps me understand myself too.

I believe that there is no higher law than somebody’s health. I understand the pressures of why trainees preventing them from seeking help in the regulatory process.

But I do have an unusual perspective. First and foremost, I am a patient myself, and proud of it.

Secondly, I am regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. I can become a trainee solicitor, if I want to be. I had a careful due diligence process in 2010, and I thank the legal profession for rehabilitating me.

Thirdly, I will now be regulated once again by the General Medical Council pending a successful identity check on October 7 2014. Having my application to be restored to the UK medical register is a massive honour for me. I caused a lot of hurt to others during my time with the medical profession last time, and this time I would like things to be different, and be of worth.

This, I hope, will mean a lot to my late father.

I am grateful to all the people at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, and to the GMC prosecutor for presenting a fair case on behalf of the GMC who need to promote patient safety.

I am encouraged that the GMC’s new Chair, Prof Terence Stephenson, “gets” change for the better for the profession, and has an excellent track record as a clinical leader.

I love my law school, BPP Law School. They got me through this. I have become a non executive director of their Students Association now. There’s a lot of work to be done there, but I am lucky that there are two colleagues there of mine who are simply the best: Shahban Aziz and Shaun Dias.

I am now about to be regulated by two professions. I could not be happier.

Thanks for your support. I couldn’t have done it without you.

I can see why some Doctors would be driven to suicide. I was mentally ill, and felt the same with the GMC FTP.

ITU bed

At least 96 doctors have died while facing a fitness-to-practise investigation from the General Medical Council since 2004, though it is not clear how many of these cases were suicide.

I can understand exactly how this has happened.

I had a prolonged GMC investigation between 2004 and 2006. At no point during this process was I told when then this mentally arduous process would come to an end.

I think now, seven years into recovery, that there by the grace of God go I.

The media have a remarkably high level of detail of understanding from the perspective of the General Medical Council about forthcoming cases. It is impossible for the Doctor to get his side across in the media.

The GMC claim they don’t do show trials.

But my father was fully humiliated with the media storm.

My father was faced with a Doctor son who was in denial and lacked insight. My father is now dead, but I should like to say he probably died in complete humiliation of his son.

My experience is of a GMC which plays to people’s weaknesses in low self esteem and low confidence, a personality trait shared by many with addiction disorders.

Not one report in the mainstream media reported that I was severely alcoholic. And yet the GMC, prior to their erasure of me, erased me with five independent reports stating clearly that I had at least a severe alcohol problem; and that I needed help.

One of the referrals to the GMC was when I attended the A&E of a hospital with acute intoxication. In addition to the referral to the GMC by the Consultant in A&E, I was not offered any post-event support for alcoholism.

The GMC know how to present themselves in the media, but this is in contradistinction to the experience of those who have experienced the Fitness to Practise process first hand.

Dr Peter Wilmhurst writes in 2006 in a wide-ranging criticism of the GMC as follows:

Wilmhurst 2006

In wishing to infer ‘bad character’, the General Medical Council must not go beyond its statutory duty of promoting public safety. Otherwise, there is simply mission creep and a torrent of smears into a hate campaign by the regulator or its company.

In 2005, one year before I was eventually due to see the GMC, I was suspended. This was due to an alcoholic bender in Northwick Park. I was crying all day in a pub because I could not cope with the investigation any more.

I had waved goodbye to my late father, and lied to him saying I was going shopping.

I didn’t. I ended up being sectioned by a psychiatric hospital in North London, and my father spent ages talking to the medical staff there.

I was then suspended. It was at that point, I wished to call it a day.

I phoned the Samaritans, and they talked me out of it.

I have never told anyone this story. I feel very strongly about what the General Medical Council did to me, even though it might have been merely a product of their inefficiency.

Nobody appears to wish to want to change the system. I’m pretty sure that there are juniors who wish to hold tight until they are Consultants.

What happened to me is that I had consultants in two Trusts in West and North London who said I was ‘late for work’, ‘smelling of alcohol’ and ‘dishevelled’.

None of this got reported in the main media.

I was erased. To this day, I still have no idea who retrospectively complained in graphic detail about my alcoholism did not offer me sick leave, or help with occupational health.

One of them even had the gall to write in his witness statement for the GMC that he gave me the phone number of a private clinic.

I find this particularly ironic as I was later done for incompetence, when that North London trust had allowed me to finish my medical job there, successfully running cardiac arrests there. I passed my Advanced Life Certificate there. I even have the certificate to prove it.

I feel disgusted by the way that the General Medical Council goes about its business.

Far too many one-sided media reports appear in the media containing detailed accounts, as yet unproven. There’s a sense of being hung before you even go to the gibbet.

I am now in my seventh year in recovery. I have done four books, and my Bachelor of Law, Master of Law and Master of Business Administration.

I even completed my pre-solicitor training, as I am regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

My late father died two months before the Solicitors Regulation Authority gave me permission to finish my legal training, after a meticulous consideration of various factors including details of my erasure.

I am now applying to be restored. And so everything gets racheted up again. The dogs will get unleashed.

And so far they’ve dragged me up to the City where I was struck off, without my late father, surrounded by the same bars and clubs and restaurants. I didn’t have a relapse. Care and compassion are simply two words which are not in the GMC’s dictionary.

I am even applying to go to a desk, non “facing job”. I am now following my erasure newly disabled, so I would not wish to do clinical medicine in any form.

I do not want to be in public health with the stigma of having been erased, for a period of life when I was very ill, and the undoubted discrimination that that would entail.

I had one year of sitting in a pub all day after I was eventually erased in 2006.

This was an extremely dangerous part of life. For my father, it was unbelievably distressing. Nonetheless, he came to visit me every day on the ITU when I was in a coma due to this a year later.


I so understand why there have been so many deaths of Doctors waiting GMC FTP. That could easily have been me.

But I am fighting fit now, and looking forward to my hearing very much.

Whose turn is it for us to alienate now?

One of my latest memories of the dying Thatcher government in 1990 was how it seemed that they were in office but not in power, and how they were just picking off sectors of society to alienate one by one.

I see history repeating itself, and the challenge now for Labour is that it should be seen as vaguely representative of the general population – not of the political class. I have no direct experience of how much of a power base Ed Miliband’s SpAds have, but it’s clear that the party still has a major problem in basic communication. How on earth could a massive report recently be summarised as a soundbite of Labour tubthumping over its benefit toughness? It’s struck me and others how Ed’s “inner circle” does seem perhaps rather male dominated? According to Wikipedia, a “patriarchy is a social system in which males are the primary authority figures central to social organization, occupy roles of political leadership, moral authority and control of property, and where fathers hold authority over women and children. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination.”

In fact, a scroll down the Labour shadow cabinet demonstrates many outstanding female politicians. But a whiff of patriarchy still embues how Ed Miliband’s inner circle go about their business, with political selebs in the form of Lord Glasman and Jon Cruddas. Despite Harriet Harman’s enormous influence, it can mean that box office events at Compass or the Fabian Society can appear somewhat imbalanced on issues of family vs. cohabitation. And, in the ever feisty debate on benefits, Labour often forgets that it could be reframing the narrative as ‘social security’. Sometimes disabled citizens appear to be airbrushed from the discussion altogether, with Labour seeming to escape the national average of physically disabled citizens. What a refreshing change it might make if Labour were to stand up for offering guidance for every disabled citizen about how to negotiate the disability benefits system for example. About five years ago, I found myself in an underground room in the old building of the Fabian Society in Westminster, London. The speaker, whose identity I think I can remember, said to our small group: “And it was if, in government, they were thinking whose turn is it for us to alienate now?”  This current government, whatever Ed Miliband MP and Rachel Reeves MP say on benefits, has alienated resoundingly citizens with disability.

Debates about the National Health Service always seem to be approached from the perspective of the hospital manager, health policy wonk, or doctor; and not an embattled nurse fed up with savage staffing cuts to his or her word. The platitude which Jeremy Hunt was able to recite at the NHS Confederation this year, that there is nothing more valuable than the people of the National Health Service, clearly pales into insignificance if staff do not receive a payrise. And are staff able to speak out safely against the management and leadership of toxic cultures where they exist in the NHS? One of the NHS’ strategic goals this year – 2014/5 – is a ‘productive’ workforce, and yet an ill workforce is an unproductive workforce. It’s even been cited in previous reports that a sick Doctor is as unproductive as a Doctor completely out of the system. Whilst the Conservative Party have clearly been milking problems in the Welsh NHS, hardly any mention is given of the Scottish NHS which has rid itself of inefficient competitive markets. Why has Ed Miliband been strikingly quiet on the devolved nature of the NHS under his construct of “One Nation”?

Clearly Jon Cruddas needs to get his bum off his seat and deliver whatever policy conclusions he has taken years in formulating. People are simply unable to campaign on the doorstep without a clear idea about a Labour government will deliver. There are piecemeal scraps, such as action on ‘zero hour contracts’, the national living wage, better regulation of the energy markets, and yet showpiece items such as ‘whole person care’ remain parked in the garage. Social care is currently on its knees, so if Labour intend to plan a big reform of the social care system, it would be useful if voters knew about it sooner rather than later. For all the talk of the Conservatives having produced a ‘top down reorganisation’ of the National Health Service, it is still rather clear how Andy Burnham will break down silos between the NHS and social care, and produce the infrastructure for coordinated care, without spending more money or a cultural upheaval? Clearly Burnham himself has been concerned about this, which is why he has signposted ‘whole person care’ wherever possible, such as at the NHS Confederation recently.

And the present Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition have done a pretty standard demolition job on sectors of society, in behaviour usually reserved for the NHS whistleblower. First of all, they are discredited; secondly, they are outright attacked; thirdly, they are ostracised; finally, they are completely ignored. And a usual pattern emerges of the way that this Government, like previous Conservative administrations, handles people in the name of a ‘clear vision’ and ‘there is no alternative’. The teachers have experienced it from Michael Gove, and the police have got it from Theresa May. The probation service and criminal barristers have been treated with contempt by Chris Grayling. And GPs have been attacked by Jeremy Hunt for failing to diagnose two of the most important long term conditions, dementia and cancer. Of course Hunt does not want to mention the mental health services which are know on its knees due to chronic underfunding. And it’s a government which doesn’t care about lying – whether it’s its performance on universal credit, or arguing incessantly over the proven point that NHS funding has gone down not gone up. Of course, this should be rich pickings for Ed Miliband, and the criticism for lack of policies from Labour still remains alarming. There’s an argument that Labour doesn’t want to reveal its hand too soon, but people are still uncertain about Labour’s precise legislative steps on safe staffing, or its precise policy decision about the PFI financing of NHS hospitals. But it does come from an inherently advantageous position in trying to offer something constructive to those groups of society which have been alienated. There is less than one year to go, but the basic issue is that the current Government is running out of groups to alienate. You know when a Conservative led Government is coming to an end, when they run out of things to privatise.

The unlikeliest of advocates from Primrose Hill, Alan Bennett, comments beautifully as follows in an article called “Fair play, fair play: a sermon before the University, King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, 1 June.”

“Unlike today’s ideologues, whom I would call single-minded if mind came into it at all, I have no fear of the state. I was educated at the expense of the state both at school and university. My father’s life was saved by the state as on one occasion was my own. This would be the nanny state, a sneering appellation that gets short shrift with me. Without the state I would not be standing here today. I have no time for the ideology masquerading as pragmatism that would strip the state of its benevolent functions and make them occasions for profit. And why roll back the state only to be rolled over by the corporate entities that have been allowed, nay encouraged, to take its place? I am uneasy when prisons are run for profit or health services either. The rewards of probation and the alleviation of suffering are human profits and nothing to do with balance sheets. And these days no institution is immune. In my last play the Church of England is planning to sell off Winchester Cathedral. ‘Why not?’ says a character. ‘The school is private, why shouldn’t the cathedral be also?’ And it’s a joke but it’s no longer far-fetched.”

Maybe that’s their game. They are in fact alienating everyone apart from the multinational corporates: maybe ultimately that was their Big Society?

A personal statement about what I will say to the General Medical Council tomorrow morning


I will be giving my evidence tomorrow, to seek humbly restoration to the General Medical (“GMC”) Medical Register. I’m encouraged that the GMC states clearly it wishes to support sick doctors, through initiatives such as the Practitioner Health Programme, with leadership on this matter from their CEO, Niall Dickson. I intend to present my evidence to the GMC that I want to draw a line on my former self, which I do not substantively recognise at all. If anything else, I have now chronic disabilities and have pursued recovery from severe alcohol dependence syndrome since my life threatening coma of six weeks in 2007. The cardiac arrest and epileptic seizures which I had were possibly the defining end to a very painful period in my life.

I will argue that it has taken years of support from my friends to arrive at a place where I have come to terms with such an unpleasant past. I will offer a full apology to the medical profession therefore, and ask forgiveness for disgusting events which caused the medical profession disrepute. I hope that, through various books and articles on postgraduate medicine and English health policy, I have shown my commitment to a profession, which I should like to give a re-birth following a nine year undergraduate degree in medicine at Cambridge (1993-2001).


Will the catalysmic implosion of the market ideology now move onto the NHS?

This week, David Cameron MP mocked Ed Miliband MP for sounding like a person who’d rung up a radio show whingeing.

Cameron replied, “And your problem is caller?”

The problem is a complete collapse of ideological position which has lasted decades.

Ed Miliband keeps up the moment today with the market failure of the energy oligopoly (see article by Patrick Wintour in the Guardian.)

It is argued that one of the precursors of Thatcherism was a revival of interest in Britain and worldwide in the work of the Austrian economist and political philosopher, Friedrich Hayek, who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 1974.

Alongside Milton Friedman, who won his Nobel Prize in 1976, Hayek lent great prestige to the cause of economic liberalism, helping to create the sense of a rightward shift in the intellectual climate, complementing the approach of Ronald Reagan across the pond.

These principles of dogma have seen successive Conservative and Labour governments reaching for the drug of privatisation and outsourcing.

But these drugs are not only failing to work. They are having devestating side effects which are killing the patient.

The markets have been outed for being far from liberalising. They create inequality. It is alleged that the austerity-based policies have led to a marked decline in mental health and rates of suicide even.

But it’s not the shocking Gas bill which has delivered the knock-out blow for the Conservatives’ religion.

“Here is the reality. This is not a minor policy adjustment—it is an intellectual collapse of the Government’s position.”

This was Ed Miliband’s verdict in Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions.

Only a day previously, BBC Radio 4’s had played a voxpop of various members of the public speaking about ‘payday loans’ as a prelude to interviewing George Osborne MP.

“I don’t accept it’s a departure from any philosophy. The philosophy is we want markets to for people. People who believe in the markets like myself want the market regulated. The next logical step is to cap the cost of credit. It’s working in other countries. In fixing the banks, we need to fix all parts of the banks and the banking system. It helps all hard-working people.”

During the time of the previous Labour government, the King’s Fund was head-over-heels promoting competition.

It was known that, by shoehorning competition as a policy, private providers would make a killing.

All you had to do was to bring in a £3bn ‘top down reorganisation’, a 500 page Act of parliament containing no clause on patient safety apart from the abolition of the National Patient Safety Agency, and beef up a new consumer regulator (“Monitor”).

But meanwhile back to payday lending, an evidenced case of market failure.

“We’ve always believed in properly regulated free markets, where there’s competition, but where the market is properly regulated. That’s why we created a new consumer regulator.”

Far from being a loveable buffoon Boris Johnson, Johnson has revealed himself to be the toxic political mess he is.

Suzanne Moore, at the risk of being hyperbolic, called out Johnson as ‘sinister’.

Johnson had launched this week a bold bid to claim the mantle of Margaret Thatcher by declaring that inequality is essential to fostering “the spirit of envy” and hailed greed as a “valuable spur to economic activity”.

In an attempt to shore up his support on the Tory right, as he positions himself as the natural successor to David Cameron, the London mayor called for the “Gordon Gekkos of London” to display their greed to promote economic growth.

He qualified his unabashed admiration for the “hedge fund kings” by saying they should do more to help poorer people who have suffered a real fall in income in recent years.

And what’s wrong with greed being good if this improves patient care in the NHS?

The issue always remains ‘zero sum gain’. It’s a problem as it diverts tax-funded resources directly in the coffers of the private sector.

Arguably, it’s not just the failure of the market which is the problem, but ‘the undeserving rich’ who have never ‘seen it so good’ since Tony Blair’s New Labour period of government.

In August 2009, the then leader of the Opposition and Conservative leader, David Cameron, MP defended a shadow health minister for advising a firm which offers customers an alternative to NHS doctors.

Lord McColl was on the advisory board of Endeavour Health, which promised a quick and convenient access to a network of “top” private GPs.

It was claimed then that Endeavour Health is a company set up by two hedge fund advisers which purported to be Britain’s first comprehensive private GP network.

In a video yet to be deleted off You Tube, David Cameron argued that there was nothing ‘improper’.

This was interpreted at the time that the Conservatives “favoured private alternatives”.

Nonetheless, David Cameron claimed that the Conservatives was ‘totally dedicated to the NHS’, but he wished ‘to expand the NHS so that people don’t have to use the private sector’.

What actually happened was the Health and Social Care Act (2012).

In July 2013 in the British Medical Journal, it was reported that the private sector is in line to secure hundreds of millions in NHS funding from services placed out to the open market under the UK government’s latest competition regulations, a study has shown.

Research by the pressure group the NHS Support Federation found that contracts for around 100 NHS clinical services totalling almost £1.5bn (€1.7bn; $2.2bn) have been advertised since 1 April 2013, with commercial companies winning the lion’s share of those awarded to date.

Data from official tenders websites showed that only two of 16 contracts awarded since the government’s section 75 regulations of the Health and Social Care Act came into force have gone to NHS providers, with the remaining 14 going to the private sector.

A few days ago, it was reported tonight that David Cameron is intending to ban branded cigarette cartons, having originally decided last July not to proceed with the plans.

In the summer the Government said it was waiting to see how plain packaging worked in Australia, which introduced the measures a year ago, before making any changes. It has since maintained it is monitoring the situation.

That is the spin. Behind the scenes, it is well known that tobacco corporates have throttled public health policy.

In the third volume of Law, Legislation and Liberty, Hayek argued that there are not two but three kinds of human values: those that are “genetically ordered and therefore innate”; those that are “products of rational thought”; and values that had triumphed in the course of cultural evolution by demonstrating their suitability to the successful organization of social life.

Hayek believed that these values were a cultural inheritance, survivors of a competitive struggle, and essential conditions for the successful evolution of our society.

David Cameron is indeed right to be worried.

There has been a collapse of the ideological position that he and his predecessors, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, stood for.

This is in relation to the markets.

This fundamentally changes the terms of reference for a market-based NHS.

Contagion is likely politically.

If payday lending or the energy markets are anything to go by, there could be trouble ahead.

So what’s the issue? The caller’s problem is that “the markets don’t work”, “they only make you feel worse again”.

And now the caller’s finally worried about the NHS.



My blog on dementia is here:

Like Nick Clegg, I was taught by 'unqualified teachers' at the same school. His hypocrisy stinks.


I was also taught by ‘unqualified teachers’.

I knew many of the same unqualified teachers Nick Clegg did in fact, like the late David Hepburne-Scott who taught me physics, Theo Zinn and Richard Stokes.

This is because I went to the same school as Nick Clegg MP. This is the same school as Tristram Hunt MP. That is Westminster School in the middle of London, SW1.

In my personal case, I think the biggest ‘education’ for me was waking up on the top floor of the Royal Free Hospital in London in the pitch dark. I had just been a six week coma. Thanks to the much maligned NHS, I had been wired up to a ventilator in ITU. I am lucky to be alive now, although I happen to live with physical disability since this coma.

I woke up to find that Tony Blair was no longer Prime Minister. There had also, separately, been an outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth Disease.

The Royal College of St. Peter in Westminster, better known as Westminster School and standing just behind Westminster Abbey in London, is one of Britain’s leading independent schools, with the highest Oxford and Cambridge acceptance rates of any secondary school or college in Britain.

With a history going back to the 11th century, the school’s notable alumni include Ben Jonson, John Dryden, Robert Hooke, Christopher Wren, John Locke, Jeremy Bentham, Edward Gibbon, Henry Mayhew, A. A. Milne, Tony Benn and seven Prime Ministers.

In fact, I was a year below Dido Armstrong (who is ‘Dido’ the pop singer) and Martha Lane-Fox (social digital guru, who founded ‘’). Logically, therefore, they weren’t taught by qualified teachers either.

As I am nearing 40, with school having been left behind me like the latin ablative absolutes I was once able to translate, I am mildly amused about this war on unqualified teachers which has now erupted.

Like many at Westminster School, I went onto Cambridge. My ‘education’ at Westminster was great, and I achieved very good exam results.

Whilst I have bene unemployed from full salaried employment for the last seven consecutive years, I do owe my relative ‘social mobility’ to the fact I was awarded a Queen’s Scholarship there at the age of 13, in 1987. This meant, in my case, I didn’t have to pay any feees.

I took an exam otherwise known as the Westminster School “Challenge”. The last exam I ever took, in this complex entrance exam, was an Ancient Greek translation. I would of course not be able to do that exercise today, like all of my A level papers either.

It meant that I was in College, the same ‘house’ as Adam Boulton was in. My politics are not from the same stable as Adam Boulton. Nick Clegg’s parents were fee-paying though as he was ‘Up Liddell’s’, a different (inferior) house.

I dare say the lack of qualified teachers didn’t do any harm to my school friends, one of whom is a Consultant in Radiology at University College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust on Euston Road, London, as we speak. Our class sizes were small, so therefore discipline wasn’t any problem ever in my five years there.

I do remember my teachers being amazingly intelligent though, paradoxically more impressive than my supervisors at Cambridge. They marked my homework (called ‘preparation’) meticulously. I didn’t ever think to doubt their academic abilities for some reason. I didn’t ask to enquire about their certificates.

But as I reach 40, I also wonder about the banality of academic qualifications. I have now nearly ten academic degrees and diplomas in medicine, law, natural sciences and business management, and I would say that it’s not about the knowledge. What it is about is an ability to learn how to learn. This doesn’t come easy.

As I reach 40, I also see people who are CEOs of medical charities who’ve never set foot on a medical ward, and yet are highly influential in medical policy (such as diagnosis of conditions, or how patients could pay for their treatment). Like unelected MPs, they are people who’ve largely played the system, and gone from one CEO job to the next, and there is no end to their fortunes.

I dare say Alan Sugar doesn’t miss his MBA. I dare say also, very controversially, that César Milstein doesn’t miss, that much, not being awarded a Professorship by my University, Cambridge, several years ago. His invention of monoclonal antibodies made a profound impact on the world of medicine and therapeutics, such that he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology. A delightful man. I remember his low cholesterol diet – we were both on the ‘Top Table’ once for some reason.

I can’t help feeling that Nick Clegg is throwing his toys out of his pram for effect. I suppose he is making a stand. I just wish he’d made a stand on the Health and Social Care Act (2012).

The senior solicitor of a law centre I once did pro bono warned me to fight battles to the hilt, but she also advised me to choose my battles first correctly.

Nick Clegg has clearly not done that.

Should politics 'russell re-brand' itself?




Take two people called Russell and Jeremy in a hôtel room in London, and ask one of them to put the world to rights.

Fringe meetings for Labour Party conferences for as long as I can remember have run panel discussions about how we can engage more people in the political process. For virtually of these fringe meetings which I have attended, almost invariably is the fact that political parties introduce policies for which people didn’t vote almost every parliament.

These issues remain dormant on the mainstream media for months on end, and yet continue to enrage people in the social media. Many issues under the umbrella of social justice continue to cause anger and resentment: these include the closure of English law centres, or the NHS reforms. The media continues to be skewed against such issues. For example, the flagship programme on BBC1 every Thursday, “Question Time”, regularly features a candidate from UKIP, a party which as yet has failed to elect a single MP. They have never featured a candidate from the National Health Action Party, and yet the running of the NHS continues to be a totemic issue.

Blaming the media would be like a bad tap-dancer wishing to blame the floor. And yet protest votes are not easily dismissed. Recently, in France, the right-wing National Front has taken the lead in an opinion poll before elections for the European Parliament, in a development that has truly shocked the French political establishment. The survey, which gave Marine Le Pen’s party 24 per cent of the vote, marked the first time that the party founded in 1972 by her father has led before a national election. The centre-right Union for a Popular Movement, which led in the previous equivalent poll, stood at 22 per cent and the Socialists at 19 per cent.

Part of David Cameron’s problem is that the initial friendship towards his Conservative Party was lukewarm to begin with. The intervening years (2010-2013) have seen a Party which just appears ‘out of touch’, which makes Sir Alec Douglas-Home look trendier than a hip-hop artist. But likewise, Russell Brand is not a ubiquitously popular man himself. Whilst some people feel he stands up for their views, irrespective of his reported wealth, others find him narcissistic and nauseating.

Russell Brand is however successful at being famous, and this is a peculiar British trait. He often begins his set by talking about his love for fame: ‘My personality doesn’t work without fame. Without fame, this haircut is just mental illness.’ He has found his way of getting his name in the news, and in the tabloids. His comedy is not even that popular, but at least he has the ear of the British media. The National Health Action Party would have loved ten minutes with Jeremy Paxman, although it’s quite unlikely a ten-minute video with Clive Peedell would become an instantaneous viral hit.

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, the UK Labour Party almost seems to have re-discovered its mojo. The triangulation of the past appealed to those in Labour who felt they could win simply by appealing to floating Tory voters. But it is a strategy that ran out of steam in 2010, leaving abandoned Blairite commentators to become embittered and self-consumed in a passion of self-destruction, while spitting bullets at Ed Miliband. Labour’s traditional supporters did not come out and vote, while floating voters saw through the cynical vote-grabbing exercises. Labour did not appear particularly ‘socialist’ any more.

Russell Brand didn’t mention the deficit once. Russell Brand did not have to appeal to his fans to say that there will be no return to the days of lavish spending. He did not have to say that he had learnt lessons from the past.

And yet deep-down voters do have excuses, if not reasons, not to vote Labour. There are some people who believe that Ed Miliband will need to identify Labour’s mistakes – the blind eye to a City running wild; an over-reliance on both high finance and a house-price bubble; or being ‘weak on welfare’.

And yet we are in a society which is absurdly superficial. Should Russell Brand have to bite the bullet for riding the crest of this banality? This strange Universe is not just occupied by reality TB stars. Many famous people are famous for being famous. Nicole Kidman is famous for being famous. Arguably, Nicole Kidman famous for divorcing Tom Cruise. At the same time when Russell Brand was selling what he sells best, that is Russell Brand, Cher was on BBC1 on ‘The Graham Norton Show’. And nobody sane can claim that Cher is the world’s best singer.

This does not necessarily mean that Labour should ignore the polls, although Labour will invariably say it ignores the polls when they are bad. From level-pegging to an 11-point lead in 10 days, Labour has plainly had a good conference, in terms of public opinion polling. After a difficult summer, YouGov’s poll put Labour at its highest level, 42%, since June. 30% now said Ed Miliband is doing well as party leader – his best rating since May. When people were asked who would make the best prime minister, Miliband (25%) was now within three points of David Cameron (28%). That was the narrowest gap since Miliband became party leader three years ago.

Ed Miliband is the one who keeps on saying that he wants ‘to tell you a story’. After the recent coverage of Ralph Miliband, paradoxically people appear to have warmed to the narrator as much as the story. In Russell Brand’s case, there is a curious mixture of some people liking the narrator as well as the story.

And yet for all of Russell Brand’s themes, such as global warming, inequality, or dominance of corporatism, for Brand it is simply entertainment. For many viewers, it is simply entertainment. Life is far from entertaining from some who have deeply suffering in this Government. Social injustices, such as in the personal independence payment or Bedroom Tax, have literally taken their casualties, and the myth of ‘the record number in employment’ has been blown out-of-the-water.

Russell Brand can be thanked for his form of escapism. But at the end of the day it is superficial crap, and not the solution to more than thirty years of failed triangulation in UK politics.

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