Gavin Barwell’s bill seeking to remove laws preventing people who have been sectioned for than six months from becoming MPs is a welcome move
It cannot be said that the Palace of Westminster has in recent years overburdened the population of Britain with heart-gladdening news. All the more reason, then, to seize the opportunity to be delighted at Gavin Barwell’s private member’s bill, which seeks to remove laws that ban “mentally disordered persons” from doing jury service, allow the removal of company directors “by reason of their mental health”, and stop those sectioned under the Mental Health Act for more than six months from becoming MPs.
Yes, of course it’s one of those feel-good things that is doable because it doesn’t cost money. But it was great, hearing cross-party MPs describing the mental distress they have suffered from, or continue to suffer from, not least because it can still be held against them. It wasn’t so long ago, after all, that supposedly intelligent people seemed to think that if Gordon Brown was on medication related to mental health, then this damaged his ability to be prime minister. Brown was obliged to deny that he was on such medication. Nevertheless, it remains strange that unacknowledged and untreated depression is tacitly considered to be less damaging to a career than a condition that is being managed by medics.
MPs became carried away talking of “historic moments” and declarations about “a clear message that discrimination is wrong”. But, as I say, it’s a complicated world, and opportunities in this economic climate to do something that is simply right, moral and welcome, are sadly thin on the ground.