Andy McSmith's Diary: An MP revealing his depression? It hardly seems like news any more


Slowly, the stigma of mental illness is falling away. Lunacy, as it was then called, used to rank alongside imprisonment and bankruptcy as automatic grounds for disqualifying an MP from remaining in the Commons.

The Lunacy Act was invoked to remove an MP in 1916. One post-war member who had a breakdown took the precaution of getting a signed affidavit from his psychiatrist saying that he was cured before returning to Parliament. Afterwards, he would boast that he was the only MP who could prove he was sane.

In the USA, during the 1972 election, the Democratic candidate for the vice-presidency, Senator Thomas Eagleton, was revealed to have been treated for depression several years earlier. He was dropped from the Democratic ticket soon after.

Today, John Woodcock, the Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, was a visible presence around the House of Commons, receiving the good wishes of almost everyone who stopped to speak to him. The reason that he drew so much goodwill was that he had posted a blog that morning which declared: “My latest ailment shouldn’t be treated any differently from physical injuries. I am just going to come right out and say that I am clinically depressed. I went to see a doctor this week who prescribed me medication.”

That disclosure follows a remarkable debate on mental health in the Commons last year, during the course of which the Labour MP Kevan Jones spoke publicly for the first time about a bout of deep depression he had suffered 17 years earlier, and the Tory MP Charles Walker, who has obsessive compulsive disorder, came out with the startling statement: “I have been a practising fruitcake for 31 years.”

Mr Woodcock said that by the end of the day he was “overwhelmed” by the kind comments of others.

Mind the gap

The Sun’s second-day coverage of Tom Daley’s decision to come out focused on the man in his life, Dustin Lance Black, who, the paper noted, is “20 years older”. You can see why The Sun might think that a problem, when you recall the recent case of an ageing media mogul marrying a woman 37 years younger than him, which did not work out so well.

From the jaws of defeat...

It takes a politician’s skill to find the words that make a serious setback sound like victory.

In January, the executive of the Thirsk and Malton Conservative Association voted not to adopt the sitting MP, Anne McIntosh, as their candidate for 2015.

It was up to her to decide what to do next, but months went by with nothing happening, until the Conservative Party’s national board ruled that her future will be decided by a ballot of local party members.

She then issued a press release proudly proclaiming that she had been “invited to put her name forward as Conservative candidate”.

That only made the president of the local association, James Holt, a farmer from Hutton-le-Hole, even more cross than he already was. He is quoted in the Northern Echo calling her statement a “travesty of the facts”.

She responded: “My statement is factually correct according to the rules. Of course I have my detractors: don’t we all?”

Bad sex, but worse ignorance

The most shocking thing about Tuesday night’s Bad Sex Award ceremony in Westminster was not the explicit words and racy descriptions read out deadpan by the actors, nor the failure of the winner, Manil Suri, to be there in person to receive his trophy: it was that the night’s compère, Alec Waugh, did not know who Woody Guthrie was.

That is like meeting an educated American who does not know that Waugh’s grandfather wrote satire.

Guthrie may have written a bad sex passage in a forgotten novel, but he also wrote a lovely lyrical tribute to the actress, Ingrid Bergman – “This old mountain it’s been waiting all its life for you to work it, for your hand to touch the hard rock, Ingrid Bergman.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?