The sick truth about those political gaffes

To explain some of the antics of politicians you need a good medical dictionary, says Glenda Cooper
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The Independent Online
Have you noticed how many politicians lately seem unable to control what they are saying? Political analysts often tell us they have made a "gaff" or are playing some sophisticated power game. But could they simply be ill?

Tourette's Syndrome is a rare disease of which two common manifestations are shouting obscenities and making inappropriate comments. Leafing through a medical textbook, this suddenly seems ominously familiar. Is David Evans, previously seen as an obnoxious right-wing Tory, in reality a misunderstood type suffering from the syndrome?

Looking back at the news coverage this week, he might not be the only one. What about our Secretary of State for Health, Stephen Dorrell, most recently in the news after his faux pas over the single European currency? His friends - well, John Major - may describe his remarks as a "slip" or a "mistake", but such obscenities as the Scottish parliament or the single currency fall from his lips all too frequently for us to see them as anything but a medical condition.

A doctor could see that these two politicians are not alone in their suffering. Look around the House of Commons - perhaps itself a victim of Sick Building Syndrome - and many others appear to be medically challenged as well.

Are the Euro-sceptics suffering from Munchhausen's Syndrome by Proxy - a syndrome whose sufferers inflict harm on other people to gain attention? Sound familiar? Certainly they have succeeded in damaging the credibility and unity of the Conservative Party. And everyone now knows Teresa Gorman's name.

On the opposition benches, there is an increasing danger of Paradise Syndrome - the debilitating feeling that things are going so well that they can only get worse. The polls may show that Labour has an unassailable lead, but all Austin Mitchell, MP for Grimsby, can do is gloomily mention Tony Blair in the same breath as Kim Il Sung and describe himself as a "squashed hedgehog on the road to the manifesto".

At the other extreme there is the Jerusalem Syndrome, which describes the condition affecting some visitors to Jerusalem who identify with, and temporarily believe, that they are a major figure such as St John the Baptist or the Messiah. Does this not remind you of Sir James Goldsmith, who since he moved to France has seen himself as a British Charles de Gaulle, ready to lead us out of Europe and into the Promised Land?

Finally there is de Clerambault's Syndrome - a form of delusional erotomania where a person believes that someone loves them when there is no evidence for this. Does this not exactly describe John Major's relationship with the electorate? But there is another possibility. He could be suffering from Option Paralysis, the inability to make a decision [such as the date of the general election] when faced with an excessive range of choices. But don't try to cure yourself, John. After months of waiting for the election, we're all suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome anyway.

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