Reported in the Sunday Times this week …
Ministers are preparing to allow people labelled "idiots" and "lunatics" to stand for parliament. Though it may come as a surprise for voters, laws dating back to Elizabethan times bar this category of people from becoming MPs. Idiots are defined as those "incapable of gaining reason" and lunatics as people only "capable of periods of lucidity".
The rules ban lunatics from standing as MPs in "their non-lucid intervals". They also ban anyone sectioned under the Mental Health Act from standing for parliament, even if they have made a recovery. MPs have to give up their seat for life if they are sectioned for six months.
Bridget Prentice, the justice minister, is to consult on scrapping the laws after complaints from MPs and mental health charities that they are discriminatory.
"People who have suffered mental health problems can function at a very high level", said a spokesman for Mind, the mental health charity. "Look at Stephen Fry. He has been open about his manic depression and people would be shocked if somebody like him were not eligible to stand".
A survey of MPs found that 27% had experience of mental health problems. One in three said the stigma stopped them from being open about it.
The GOS says: No comment needed from us, I think.
I would like to pose this question, though: shouldn't this principle be applied in many other walks of life too? If it's "discriminatory" to bar a lunatic from being an MP, isn't it also "discriminatory" to ban, say, a paedophile from being a teacher? And couldn't we recruit criminals into the police force? Or ordain atheists into the priesthood?
On a personal note, I have two unfulfilled ambitions, to be a brain surgeon and to play cricket for England. It's highly discrimatory to prevent me from doing so on the flimsy excuse that I have no medical training and am a useless cricketer.
I think that makes me an oppressed minority, doesn't it?
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
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