Saturday, 30 March 2019

Brexit Britain, bitter and divided, should heed the advice and experience of its oldest of old men, Bob Weighton and restore its once greatest virtue : the art of compromise

Bob, who is the oldest man alive in Britain and was 111 years old this week, when interviewed in 2017 said : "If there’s anything that characterises the present world, it is the recrudescence of tribalism in Brexit, Trump, Putin." He was drawing attention to the fact that, in his long life he was seeing the 'recurrence of an undesirable condition' in the shape of the nationalism he had seen in the 1930's when he was a young man in his twenties.

Between his birth and today Bob has lived through two world wars, seen 21 prime ministers, five monarchs, the rise and fall of communism and fascism, the moon landings, the birth of the NHS, the transformative power of technology and his country convulsed in Brexit.

Prime Minister, Theresa May, invoked Article 50 for Britain to leave the European Union on his 109th Birthday in 2017, with a view to the country leaving two years later on his 111th Birthday. He said, at the time, he was a "bit irked" to be celebrating his 109th birthday on the same day Brexit was triggered and although he was "not enamoured" with all of the European Union's decisions and spending, he felt quitting was a "mistake." He said he did not regard Theresa May's signing of Article 50, as "a step forward at all" and joked : "She didn't ring me up to see what my reaction would be."

In the event of Britain's departure being postponed this week following Britain's failure to leave the European Union on his birthday this week, he said Brexit was "a total mess" and "my own feeling is that if there were defects, and there were quite obviously defects, we can negotiate on the inside rather than walking off the field with the cricket ball and saying 'I'm not playing'."

He has described himself as "very internationally minded", partly because his grandchildren and great-grandchildren are "scattered around Europe", including some in Germany. He said that Britain leaving the EU would be like a divorce : "You can't just walk away and expect it not to have any repercussions. It's not like resigning from a golf club because you don't like the secretary, it's more like a divorce with all of the heartache and recriminations that follow. However, you have to live with the way things are not the way you would like them to be."

He was not in favour of Brexit, he said. “I have a son who married a Swede, and a daughter who married a German. I flatly refuse to regard my grandchildren as foreigners. I’m an internationalist but I’ve not lost my pride in being a Yorkshireman or British. I’ve lived in a number of countries and I felt I was at one with the people there. You can make as good a friend with a German or an Argentinian or a South African as you can with the man next door.”


He has lived through “times that have been exciting, times when it’s been very scary, times when it’s been the dawn of a new day. At the moment, it’s a total muddle – you’ve got Trump, Putin, and political stalemate in Britain.”

"My experience is that, although you recognise differences and you have to do that to be realistic, it's no hypothetical matter, but in the end I found it possible to have the same sort of human relationships with with anybody else; different though they may be. And you've got to find a way of living together constructively. You have to live together in some way and you have to give and take and reach a reasonable conclusion. You can't live in a world where everything is perfect for you and destructive of somebody else's point of view. But if you want to know I feel is the outcome of all my experiences I would say that sums it up : 
It's far better to make a friend out of a possible enemy than it is to make an enemy out of a possible friend. 
This is something I have lived by throughout my life.”

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Brexit Britain is a country where old soldier, Brigadier Stephen Goodall, took to the streets in protest against the threat to the peace in Europe for which he once fought

In one of the biggest demonstrations in British history, a crowd estimated at over one million people yesterday marched peacefully through Central London to demand that MPs grant them a fresh referendum on Brexit. The 'Put it to the People' March, which included protesters from all corners of the country and many EU nationals living here, took place amid extraordinary political turmoil and growing calls on Prime Minister Theresa May to resign in the ongoing political crisis.

Near the head of the march and pushed along in his wheelchair was the partially-sighted, 96 year old, ex-Army Brigadier, Stephen Goodall, who had travelled to London from Devon with four generations of his family including his great-granddaughter. He led the 'Veterans For Europe' Group as their 'Honorary Commanding Officer.'

Before the March Stephen had made the plea : "More than anything else, it is because I served in the British Army during the Second World War that I am resolved to do what I can to protect and defend the peaceful and democratic Europe that so many of my generation, including my friends, paid such a high price to secure. I may now be an old man but, like the soldier I once was, I am ready to march again for a better future. Please join me. "

"Sometimes I wish that Shakespeare’s famous line from Henry V, the great English warrior king, "Old men forget, yet all shall be forgot," were true, because I can never forget the many young men who fought and too often, died with me in the jungles of Burma and India 75 and more years ago. We won our battles then and we should rightly proud of the victory over a cruel Japanese conqueror, just as we should be pleased about how we successfully defended European freedom in the Cold War. But we should never mistake that pride for a love of battle."

Born in 1922, after a boys public school education, Stephen began life as an undergraduate studying mine engineering at Birmingham University the age of 18 in 1940 in the second year of the Second World War. Given the fact that mining was classified as a 'vital occupation' he was excused active service, but nonetheless, at the age of 20, he volunteered for service in  the Royal Engineers in 1942.

He subsequently served in India and in the 'Burma Campaign' which involved a series of bloody battles involving Britain, USA and China against Japanese forces invading British territories in Southeast Asia. He was almost killed behind enemy lines when a bullet was deflected off the wristwatch which he had received on his 21st birthday and was awarded the Military Cross in 1945 for his 'acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy' during the crossing of the Irrawaddy River. He was 23 years old.

He recalled : "I fought in Burma in the Arakan and at Imphal, before crossing the Irrawaddy on 14 February 1945. All of these were victories, in fact some of the finest in the long and proud history of the British armed forces. But they were unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. In fact, on that river crossing I was seriously injured and had to be evacuated by air. I served for another 27 years, including in the Malayan emergency and I completed three tours in northern Germany – where we were always ready for the threat of war from the Soviet Union – all before finishing as a Brigadier at the Royal School of Military Engineering."

In addition to his tour of duty in Malaya and Germany, Stephen spent two years in the USA as the British Liaison Officer to the US Corps of Military Engineers. The fact that his Army experience brought him into close contact with former European friends and foes and may explain why he has said : "I know soldiering is necessary, but it is equally essential to do all we can to build international institutions that reduce the need to risk the lives of young men and women in the future."

It was, however, his experience in the War which left an indelible mark on him : "More than anything else, it is because I served in the British Army during the Second World War that I am resolved to do what I can to protect and defend the peaceful and democratic Europe that so many of my generation, including my friends, paid such a high price to secure. The European Union is just such a body. I have never pretended it is perfect. How could it be? But it has helped maintain peace for more than 70 years and perhaps it is up to those like me, who remember how much blood was once spilled across Europe, to remind people that the EU is a whole lot better than what existed before its creation."



 He continued : "My generation was not the first to face continental or even global war, but it has so far, thankfully, proved to be the last. There is no doubt that the EU, Nato and the other institutions of the Atlantic alliance, founded on democracy and the rule of law, have played their part and we risk them at our peril. When I look at the politicians in Westminster who are now so recklessly seeking to sever some of the ties for their own narrow purposes, I feel a sense of shame and despair."

Before the March he said : "Nothing breaks more hearts, destroys more lives and is more likely to make the living envy the dead than war, even when it is necessary and unavoidable as it was for us in Burma. Instead we should love and cherish peace and do everything we can to nurture and preserve it and it is for that reason that I am so pleased and proud to be once again marching for a People’s Vote on Brexit on Saturday."


"I am an old man and the outcome won't affect me - but it will affect my family and many people that I know for years to come."

Stephen was interviewed by the 'Independent in June 2018 :
https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-peoples-vote-march-british-army-second-world-war-eu-second-referendum-a8390116.html

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Britain is a country where old men say "Happy Birthday" to Pattie Boyd who inspired George and Eric to write and play love songs to her when all of them were young

'Pattie', who is 75 years old today, as born Patricia Anne Boyd in the penultimate year of the Second World War, in 1944, in Somerset. Sixty-three years later she would publish her autobiographical book, 'Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me', but back in the early 1960s, when she was in her late teens, she took her first step towards the book when she moved with her family to London. She was working as a 'shampoo girl' in Elizabeth Arden’s salon, when a client from the fashion industry spotted her potential and
she was launched into the world of modelling. She went on to work in London, New York and Paris and appeared in the British  and Italian editions of Vogue Magazine, as well as in several commercials. Then in 1964, when she was cast in a very small part in the Beatles’ film, 'A Hard Day’s Night', she met George Harrison.

In the romance which followed, according to Pattie, who was already in a relationship photographer Eric Swayne, George apparently said : “Will you marry me? Well, if you won’t marry me, will you have dinner with me tonight?” Two years later, she sealed her affair with George in a wedding with Paul McCartney as their best man. His love for her apparently inspired his "Something" which appeared on the Beatles' 1969 album, 'Abbey Road'. It drew praise from the other Beatles and their producer, George Martin, with John Lennon saying that it was the best song on the album.

"You're asking me will my love grow
I don't know, I don't know
You stick around now it may show
I don't know, I don't know"

During the following period, when George indulged in alcohol and drug overuse as well as numerous affairs, he became a close friend of 'Derek and the Dominoes' guitarist, Eric Clapton, writing music and performing with him as seen here in 1969. When Pattie received a letter in which someone, who signed themselves as 'E' and declared his love for her, she thought little of it. She assumed that she just had a secret admirer, until one evening at a party in Eric' s manager’s house, when he, who she thought of as a friend, showed up and asked her if she had received his letter ?  Shocked, but at the same time flattered, Pattie couldn't hide the unfolding melodrama from George, who saw what was happening at the party. Asked to decide who she was going to go home with that night ? she decided upon George and subsequently said : “I held marriage very dearly, but felt torn at that moment.”

Deeply infatuated with Pattie, when she spurned his advances, Eric's unrequited affections prompted most of the material for the Dominos' 1970 album, 'Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.'   'Layla' was inspired by the classical poet of Persian literature, Nizami Ganjavi's  'The Story of Layla and Majnun' which had profoundly moved Eric with its tale of a young man who fell hopelessly in love with a beautiful, unavailable woman and who went crazy because he could not marry her.

"Layla, you got me on my knees
Layla, begging, darling, please
Layla, darling, won't you ease my worried mind?
I tried to give you consolation
When your old man let you down
Like a fool I fell in love with you
You turned my whole world upside down"

In 1974, Pattie decided to separate from George due to his endless infidelities and described the last year of her marriage with him as “fueled by alcohol and intolerable” but before this she had refused Eric’s advances and he had descended into heroin addiction and deep depression.

Having now started her relationship with Eric, he wrote 'Wonderful Tonight' for her on 7 September 1976, while waiting for her to get ready to attend Paul and Linda McCartney's annual 'Buddy Holly Party'.

"I feel wonderful because I see
The love light in your eyes
And the wonder of it all
Is that you just don't realize how much I love you"

In 1979, she decided to move in with him and then married him. Тhe period of love’s delusion and sweet delight was soon over, though, when the couple faced marriage struggles. Regular drug and alcohol abuse, as well as Eric’s many affairs, provoked Pattie to leave him in 1987 and divorce him in 1989. In a recent interview, when asked : "who was her greatest love ?" she said, “That is so difficult", but chose George, "He will always stay with me."
Pattie interviewed in 2012 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-J1c9qQYhU

Of 'Wonderful Tonight' she said  : "For years it tore at me. To have inspired Eric, and George before him, to write such music was so flattering. 'Wonderful Tonight' was the most poignant reminder of all that was good in our relationship, and when things went wrong it was torture to hear it."  

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Britain is no country for old men looking to live longer and longer lives

While some European countries have seen a slowing of improvements in life expectancy, none has fallen back to the extent seen in Britain in England and Wales. The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, which calculates life expectancy on behalf of the British pension industry, has said that it now expects men aged 65 to die at 86.9 years, which is down from its previous estimate of 87.4 years, while women who reach 65 are likely to die at 89.2 years, down from 89.7 years. This slowing down in life expectancy first emerged around 2010-11 is 'a trend as opposed to a blip' and has accelerated. Last year’s analysis cut forecasted life expectancy by two months. This year it took off another six months. All in all, compared with 2015, projections for life expectancy are now down by 13 months for men and 14 months for women.

Tim Gordon, Chair of the Institute's 'Continuous Mortality Investigation Projections Committee', has said: “It’s now widely accepted that mortality improvements in the general population since 2011 have been much lower than in the earlier part of this century. Average mortality improvements between 2000 and 2011 were typically over 2 per cent per year but have since fallen to around 0.5 per cent per year. The causes of the slowdown, and whether these current low improvements will persist, remain a subject of considerable debate. The CMI 2018 Model itself reflects increasing evidence that the lower level of improvements may be due to medium or long-term influences, rather than just short-term volatility.”

There maybe trouble ahead, since falling life expectation comes at a time when retirement age is increasing. The state pension age is planned to rise to 68 in 2037 and the Government has floated the idea of increasing it to 70, but will come under pressure to backtrack if longevity continues to drop. Tom Selby, Senior Analyst at the investment firm AJ Bell, has said : “It is somewhat ironic that this latest downgrade in life expectancy projections comes the day after the first increase in the state pension age came into force. If life expectancy improvements stall or even go into decline, questions about whether future increases in the state pension age should be implemented will inevitably grow louder.”

On the other hand, pension companies are rubbing their hands together and have already begun to cash in on falling expectations. Old men and women not living as long as previously expected is good news. Legal & General said it was releasing £433m of the reserves it holds to pay future pensions because of the reductions in longevity expectations. In addition, City analysts immediately pencilled in more huge shareholder gains. RBC Markets said: “If you thought reserve releases to date were large, just wait. Today’s model will result in major reserve releases, as insurers will pay annuities for a shorter period of time than they previously reserved for.”

Academics have put forward a number of theories on why life expectancy has stalled. Sir Michael Marmot, Director of University College London’s Institute of Health Equity, has said it is “entirely possible” that the Government's austerity policies have had an impact, while dismissing the idea that humans are reaching the limits of their natural lifespans.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Britain is no country for old men with bladder cancer

Bladder cancer is the seventh most common cancer in Britain, with just over 10,000 cases diagnosed each year. These are unevenly split between men, for whom it is the fourth most common cancer and women, for whom it is 11th most common cancer. More than twice as many men as women are affected and of those, the age group most affected, are old men between the ages of 75 and 79. About 5,000 men and women in Britain die from bladder cancer each year.

Given the fact that any delay between diagnosis and treatment can be a potentially life threatening for cancer patients, it has now been revealed that patients with bladder cancer are having to wait almost five months, or approximately 150 days for treatment, far beyond the 62 days that National Health Service rules say is the longest delay anyone should face. 

Why is this ?

Well, apparently, people with the disease have been forced to endure this long wait because of a “loophole” in NHS cancer waiting time guidance. This flaw in the guidance means a patient who has had a biopsy, which is a surgical, diagnostic procedure requiring the patient being anaesthetised, is counted as having been 'treated' and thus the 62-day countdown stops and their clock begins again at day one, even though their cancer may have spread and they require further treatment. When that happens they may not undergo treatment for many weeks and sometimes for months.

'NHS Improvement', the health service regulator, acknowledged the problem in a report last year. It found that bladder cancer patients were waiting up to 144 days after being referred to undergo surgery or radiotherapy to tackle their invasive disease.

Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Health Secretary, has written to his counterpart in Government, Matt Hancock, urging him to act so that people with bladder cancer start to get their care within 62 days. He said : "I am concerned that this loophole is hiding the true picture of patient waits, concealing the fact that patients with bladder cancer are having to wait nearly five months for their first treatment.” He went on : “However, if the cancer is more advanced, there can be further cancer tissue in the body and patients will, invariably, then need definitive treatment of the cancer, such as surgery or radiotherapy.” 

Old men who have had their biopsy should take note : Surgery usually involves removing your bladder in a procedure called a cystectomy and for your long term prospects, the quicker this is done, the better. Unfortunately, for you the Secretary of State for Health's Department of Health and Social Care did not respond to a request for comment. In fact, the Department of Health and Social Care refused a request to comment, beyond saying said that it had not received a letter from Jonathan Ashworth about the issue.

Andrew Winterbottom, the founder and Director of 'Fight Bladder Cancer', said : “A technical problem with the government’s cancer waiting times guidance makes the NHS’s key 62-day waiting time target for cancer treatment redundant for thousands of bladder cancer patients. We see the impact every day, with vulnerable patients left to wait far too long for potentially life-saving treatment, with devastating results.”

Matt Case from 'Cancer Research UK' said: “Despite the best efforts of NHS staff cancer patients – including patients diagnosed with bladder cancer – are waiting for more than two months to be treated for cancer after an urgent GP referral. Staff shortages are harming the NHS’s ability to diagnose cancer quickly and at an earlier stage.” In fact, waiting times for cancer treatment in England are among the longest they have been since records began.

Having undergone a cystectomy for bladder cancer, preceded by a course of chemotherapy, as a cancer patient, I know from experience that feeling that in my treatment, time was of the essence because, like rust, the bad guys never sleep. I am only thankful that my own treatment in 2016 preceded the emergence of the more recent loophole, which has given rise to the delay in treatment for too many today.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Britain is a country which once made and has now lost its Giant of Disability Rights Activism and Father of the Social Model, Professor Mike Oliver

Mike, best known as the first exponent of the idea that removing the disabling barriers that limit and oppress people with impairments is a social not an individual responsibility, was born able-bodied son of Edna and Fred, a boilermaker, in the Dockyard town of Chatham on the banks of the River Medway in Kent in the February of 1945. It was to be the last year of the Second World War and he was brought up in a working class family in the village of Borstal, just outside Chatham's sister town of Rochester.

A bright lad, he passed the 11+ exam when he was 10 and was given a place the local grammar school for boys, which in his case would have been the Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School. It stood in High Street, founded by the 17th-century MP for Rochester, for the teaching of navigation and mathematics to the sons of Freemen of the City and bound for work in the nearby Royal Dockyard.

He left school at the age of 16 in 1961, as he recalled : "Almost a grammar school failure, I only had 3 O levels when everyone else was getting 7 or 8. I then worked for a year as a clerk in an office and to my shock and horror I discovered that being at work was even more boring than being at school." The office was in the nearby HM Prison Rochester, a Reform School for male juvenile offenders, housed in the grounds of Fort Borstal.


Then, at the age of 17 in 1962, while on holiday with friends in Butlin's Holiday Camp at Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, his life changed dramatically when he dived into a swimming pool, broke his neck and spent a year being rehabilitated in Stoke Mandeville Hospital before he returned home to live with his carers, his parents.

At the age of 20, having been discharged from hospital and confined to a wheelchair, Mike was marooned without transport because neither disability benefit nor mobility allowance existed."Stuck at home, thinking I was unemployable and all the professionals who came to see me also thought I was unemployable."  He recalled : "One day there was a knock on the door and this very eccentric looking bloke came in and said "D'you want a job ?" and I said "Yes, I'd like a job but I don't have any vehicle whatever, how am I going to get there ?" He said : "Don't worry. I'll come and pick you up in my car. I'm the Education Officer at the Borstal up the road. We've had a man in a wheelchair working for us for years and he's taking retirement, so we've got a job set up. I want you to do some face-to-face work with some of the inmates who have trouble reading and writing."

Mike was now forced back into education and adult education classes in Rochester and found himself in the classroom "reluctantly becoming a teacher. I had to go to night school and do extra courses so I was one step ahead of everybody else in the class, so it was like I was teaching today what I'd been taught the week before." It was not to last. When the Labour Government decreed, in 1969, that new teachers entering state schools required professional training : "My boss came to me and said : "Look you are going to have to go away and train as a teacher or get a degree, because otherwise I won't be able to continue to employ you."

It was a formative moment because he had already "fallen in love" with the Sociology based on a unit on his adult education course and reading American sociologist C Wright Mills, 'The Sociological Imagination' and later said that "his insistence that, as sociologist, we must seek to translate 'private troubles into public issues' strick a chord with me." As a result he thought : "I don't really want to be a classroom teacher for ever. I'll go and do a degree in sociology."

In December last year he recalled : " For the first time everin my educational experience, I encountered something that was relevant to me and it was about life. In a sense it was about understanding why people are positioned in the kinds of positions they are in society. How that happens. What people do about it. How they cope with it. It was the first time ever that I felt I wasn't  dealing with abstract mathematical concepts, or the kings and queens of England who, frankly, I couldn't care less about. It was the first time education ever spoke to me, and it was like I've been involved in that dialogue between learning about the way the world works and learning about my place in it ever since."

For his choice of University, in 1971, at the age of 26, Mike eschewed the nearer University of Kent at Canterbury and chose Reading, after being attracted, "seduced almost", by "this charismatic doctor who was making name for himself and for the university being very open about taking disabled students." Unfortunately, not enough thought had gone into his requirements and concluded : "All he'd done wahe'd told the local health authority that I was in the area and so I was reliant on district nurses coming in the morning to get me up and put me to bed at night and, as anyone will tell you, not just then but even now, if you have to rely on the district nurses there's no guarantee you could be in bed at two o'clock in the afternoon and you could be put back into bed at six o'clock at night."

Unable to live a student life, Mike :"kind of survived for about 10 days" before he went to see the Director who said to him : "Look this is clearly not going to work. If there's no other sensible arrangement, I'm going to have to leave. He said : "You have to be honest with yourself and realise that, maybe you're not up to and capable of participating in university education." My own health was much more important than his kind of snide comments, so I left."

Mike's journey back to his home must have been difficult and he recalled he "almost had to go back with my tail between my legs and all my friends in the village and community, it was as if I'd come back as a failure. But I was determined that I was still going to pursue a degree in sociology. So I applied to the University of Kent and they offered me a place for the following year which I took up but as a day student. So I used to travel in from Rochester to Canterbury every day." 


Mike began life as a sociology undergraduate in 1972, travelling back and forth from home in the hand controlled car he'd bought with the £55 compensation he'd received from Butlins. It was a
time when there was no Disability Access Officer at the University and found : "I internalised that my not being able to walk was my problem and not an access problem and so there was no question of changing the timetable so that lectures would go on in a accessible venue. I just went wherever I was timetabled." He soon created coping strategies : marshaled other students to lift him up and down steps; learnt how to be assertive and not to be afraid to approach people and to be very much in charge : "I knew how I needed to be lifted. I knew how many people I needed and they had to do it my way. In a sense I already developed that skill - this is me this is my responsibility. All you're doing is being my arms and legs." 


When he travelled to London to either socialise or attend courses : "I would drive up in my hand controlled car. I would then need to get somebody on the street to get my wheelchair out for me and I learnt to be careful about who I selected. I learnt that the hard way. One day in Tottenham Court Road where there were these four young men walking by and I thought: 'They look fit and healthy and I'm sure they'll be willing to help me.' But they turned out to be drunken Scottish football supporters and all five of us ended up rolling around the pavement in Tottenham Court Road. So I learnt that kind of lesson : If you want people to do it, you have to be in charge of what you want but you have to selective and sensitive about who you ask and when you ask."

At a time when there were no blue badges and no reserved disabled parking space on the University Campus, Mike had an issue of where to park to get to the Cornwallis Lecture Theatre and found the nearest place in the loading bay at the rear of Library and it was here that he came to an arrangement with 'Fred', the Library Head Porter, with whom he left his keys and who helped lift his wheelchair out and back into his car. He recalled : "Fred was absolutely wonderful and when I got my PhD, I dedicated it to him because it made my life so much easier." 

Having graduated in 1974, Mike followed his Masters degree with his doctorate and recalled : "When I signed up to do my PhD I wanted to do something at the way epilepsy was managed in borstals and prison because, when I was teaching in the Borstal I'd met a number of inmates who were diagnosed as epileptics and they used to regularly have fits in my class room but I never knew anybody outside the walls of the prison or institution who had epilepsy and I never saw a fit. So there was a problem there and I wanted to investigate this."

Mike achieved his doctorate at the age of 33 in 1978 and it taken him on a revelatory journey : "I was just going to read stuff around criminology and what was then called 'the Sociology of Deviance', but I had to broaden it out and I had to read quite a lot of stuff on medical sociology as well and other stuff around the psychology of disability and when I got into that literature I couldn't believe how 'individual model focus' it all was. It was all about impairment and even the sociology, which you would have thought would have been about structures and barriers, was very much about starting from medical definitions of impairment and building out from there, rather than starting the other way round and you start from social structures and then you build back to what can we do in order to improve the lives of individuals. So that kind of changed my thinking, without that, who knows ? I might never have been got into disability studies. I might have been a criminologist instead."

It was around this time that his life had been changed by a UPIAS booklet, 'The Fundamental Principles Of Disability', published in 1976, which argued that “the root cause of our problems was the way society was organised and the disabling barriers we faced”. This meant, he said, that he “no longer had to accept full responsibility for my impairment” and “now understood that my personal troubles were also public issues”, an insight that led him to develop 'The Social Model of Disability.'

With a young family to support, Mike had only part-time employment, working in the Adult Education Department at the University, with Open University students an a course entitled : 'The handicapped person in the Community' and occasional teaching at the Borstal. He spent nine months looking for a full-time job, but found the "same kind if prejudice which existed in the 60s. Nothing had really changed. I'd changed in that I had 6 years of a solid work record behind me. I also had an undergrad degree and post grad degree, but it didn't make me any more employable." 

Then in 1979 the University got a grant to run a course based on the premise that : 'People with disabilities need better trained social workers' and as a result he was appointed Course Director and Lecturer for the 'MA in Social Work with Disabled People.' By this time his philosophy had matured : "I didn't want the course to be about impairment. I didn't want people to come in give a lecture on 'This is spinal injury' and 'This is multiple sclerosis' and 'This is motor neurone'. I wanted it to be much more socially focused and and relevant to what social workers and professionals do. I also wanted to incorporate as as much as I could of disabled peoples' experience into the course." 

He was also contracted one a day a week to work for Kent County Council Social Services Department and so was grounded another way, in seeing issues from point of view of service provider. He hammered out the philosophy for course with students and Kent Social Services and said : "I wanted to provide an alternative more optimistic picture which wasn't about simply seeing 'disability as personal tragedy', 'disabled people as unemployable' and that it was about having an optimistic view of what disabled people could achieve if many of the barriers they faced were removed." 

His first book, 'Social Work with Disabled People' published in 1983 was the product of his thinking at this time and developed his thinking on the Social Model which became influential to the extent that, he acknowledged, many disabled people saw it "almost like their mantra" and he himself admitted : "It was important for collective political consciousness that we had a slogan."

In 1990 he published 'The Politics of Disablement' which he considered a case of being in the right place at the right time : disability studies were about to take off at university and it was almost as if, as he later reflected, it became the "marque text" for that change. Academic recognition came when he was appointed the first 'Professor of Disability Studies' in Britain and indeed, the world, at the University of Greenwich and later, in retirement, continued as 'Emeritus Professor of Disability Studies' at the University.
The 90s also him publish 'Social Work, Disabled People and Disabling Environments' and 'Understanding Disability, from Theory to Practice'. These were years when he was active in the BCODP, the 'British Council Organisations of Disabled People', which he saw as a key platform to agitate for the anti-discrimination legislation and which the BBC recalled in 2015. He said "The big charities will tell you that they then got on board and they lobbied the Government and the Government changed, but the reality was it was the direct action network and action on the streets. In the 90s people chained themselves to buses. London was clogged up on several occasions. we manged to stop Telethon from going out after 1992." 




"Even then, when the Government decided it would introduce its own Bill, which eventually became the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995, in my view they still sold disabled people and our aims for that legislation, down the river. It adopted a medical definition, it made the legislation virtually unenforceable and it proved ineffective. It had a negative effect in that it split the disability movement. Some thought : 'It's the best were going to get. We have to join in. We have to work with the Government in order to make it work. We know it's not what we wanted. It's the best we're going to get for now.  Let's work with it and do what we can. I was in the other camp which said : "No it's crap. We've spent 15 years building up a strong power base. We've got a good lobby. We've got the Direct Action Network who terrify the life out of politicians in the 90s".

He thought that between "1979 to '95 the Disability Activism Movement was controlled by disabled people, passionate in their beliefs and based on pride but since then "Disability Corporatism has replaced disability activism and the big charities have reinvented themselves. They now call themselves the 'Disability Movement'. They are just corporate entities who are only concerned in promoting themselves, like most corporate entities." As a result, because they are the ones who are regarded by Government as 'the authentic view of disabled people', organisations of  disabled people have been starved of funds and have lost contracts.

"The whole Disability Activist Process has been shifted away from 'disability pride' into what I call under Disability Corporatism, 'special pleading'. That we've now moved to special pleading because, basically what these organisations now say is : "Please do not be nasty to disabled people because this personal tragic thing has happened to them and they need all the benefits and all the support they can get." So we're are in we have been moved back to where we were 30, 40, 50 years ago, when I first started out on this kind of intellectual and academic activist journey." 


"If we don't do it ourselves then society will get it wrong. Whatever their motivations, whatever their interests, If we'd had left it to well-meaning, able-bodied people in the 60s, we'd all be living in nice institutions looking out on beautiful countryside but doing bugger all. If we leave it to well- meaning professional now, we'll all have comfortable lives in the community, but we won't be doing all the other things that other people take for granted. We won't be taking risks. We won't be autonomous about our futures, even about everyday things like when we get up in the morning and when we go to bed at night and all that nonsense, because we know from the history of the last hundred years that whatever their intention, whatever there motivations, when able-bodied people do it for us they get it wrong one hundred percent of the time."

Mike finished a lecture he gave at the University of Kent in 2017 entitled 'Disability History, Bleeding Hearts and Parasite People' with :

“What disability history teaches us is that we cannot rely on the bleeding hearts brigade and parasite people to do it for us. We have to do it for ourselves. We have to insist that our personal troubles are public issues that need to be resolved."


In acknowledgement to Jonjo Brady's interview with Mike and insight into his thinking, published on YouTube last December : 'Kicking Down the Doors: from Borstal Boy to University Professor'. Without it, this post would not have been possible.