Tag Archives: collin brewer

Good News Friday #13

Sorry this is going up a bit late (again), but you see my first bit of good news this week is that Collin Brewer (the councillor who talked about doing away with disabled children like lambs smashed against brick walls) has resigned. And I had to write about it. So I messed up my own blogging schedule by writing a post about that. But you know, it was important and good news, so hopefully worth delaying this.

This week’s had it’s challenges, I must say. Boo has lost his one-to-one at nursery as we move from one funding pot to another. The new funding should kick in in 2 weeks and buy him more one-to-one each day, but in the meantime I’m putting him in nursery for as short a day as possible on the days I work to have him with boot camp mummy for as long as possible. The result: working until the day after today most nights. But I wouldn’t do things differently. However, the tiredness (although not as bad as you’d think) certainly made an unexpected appointment to discuss an EEG Boo had 5 weeks ago and we were told was OK (98% normal) a bit harder to take. Turned out it was a wasted appointment where I was just told the same things again rather than the bad news I feared I’d been called in to receive. Never have I been so glad of a wasted appointment.

In other good news, I really feel a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders after telling so many people I work with about Boo. Getting through the first day of last week’s conference, during which over a hundred people asked me how Boo was doing, was pretty hard. But it is such a relief to know people know now and to see that it hasn’t changed anything in terms of how they see me. I’m still me. Just a slightly more ragged and, in other ways, more improved me.

I’m happy to report that Sissyboo is doing well at school and outside school (post about that planned for Monday for Magic Moments), although her maths needs work (in other words, Mummy doesn’t spend time doing numbers with her because we are too busy). I cannot believe she has only a few days left in reception. How did that happen?

What else? Oh yes, the sun in shining and I had a lovely day with Boo and some friends from the US at Dover Castle on Tuesday. (Note to self, lugging a 10kg, non trunk-controlled non-toddling toddler to the top of the Great Tower is not great for your back!)  I even got out for a run. My fitness has plummeted since getting injured after my half marathon and going back to work so let’s hope I don’t get that London Marathon ballot place. No: let’s hope I do. I will get fit again.

Oh and I was listed in the Tots100 Fresh Five this week by the lovely Mummy Pink Wellies. I am humbled, gobsmacked and otherwise thrilled.

I hope you have found lots of sunshine through the clouds too, this week. I love hearing from you. So please share your good news below.

Cllr Brewer’s Resignation: or, why I’m not popping a cork just yet

Cllr Collin Brewer of Wadebridge East, Cornwall, has officially resigned. Finally. (In case you don’t know who he is, you can read my earlier post about his improbable re-election to the local council earlier this year and his horribly offensive comments about disabled children here.) I met the news of his resignation as it broke yesterday with relief and some delight that someone with a modicum of political sway had been prevented from allowing the phantoms of personal prejudice to find a voice in public discourse and, possibly, to affect the lives of disabled people like my son, Mr Boo, in very real ways.

But rather like Hayley of Downs Side Up, for whose peaceful blog protest linky against Brewer I wrote a post some weeks ago, I couldn’t get too excited about this. Why I kept asking myself? Common sense and compassion had prevailed. This was a good thing. But I still felt uneasy. Correction: I feel uneasy. Why?

It’s partly that Cllr Brewer was re-elected in the first place. His discrimination against disabled people (especially children) was already well known. He shouldn’t have been allowed to stand and he really shouldn’t have been re-elected. And when he was re-elected and again indulged the press with his concerns over how children with additional needs placed unacceptable pressure on scarce resources and, where possible, should be terminated at birth, there should have been systems in place to remove him from office. There weren’t. He could, in theory, stand again.

But all’s well that ends well, right? Well, no. Not really. The real source of my disquiet is that I know that Collin Brewer is not a solitary figure; he’s just a public one. He had the nerve to say what he thought to the papers. Others say similar things to their friends or families in pubs or living rooms. Their comments are no less insidious for their privacy. Quite the reverse. I know people who hold such views are in the minority. I know they are wrong. It doesn’t stop their views hurting, though.

You see as Boo gets older his disabilities (epilepsy and as yet formally undiagnosed, but likely, cerebral palsy) are becoming more apparent. He may have been born 11 weeks early but he doesn’t look it. He looks like a one-year-old in size and stature. But you don’t have to look too much harder to see he can’t carry himself like one. His trunk is floppy, his head control weakens when tired. Most noticeably (apart from his very noticeable, and very cute, glasses) he can’t sit, roll, crawl or stand. People notice this in parks or public places. We are there to have fun. Instead he and we are judged. We go to cafes or restaurants and we get offered a high chair for him, we politely decline (he can’t sit in them) and then the cogs start turning. People often don’t know what to say or think. Some show or even verbally express pity. Others look at us as neglectful parents. How come we haven’t taught or child to sit? Bad parents! Others, I fear, judge Boo rather than us. In a few seconds of looking at him it’s as if they have mapped out his life. And I don’t think they see Paralympics. They see special school, a life on benefits, a drain on resources…

I’m pleased Brewer is gone, but I don’t feel I can pop a champagne cork until everyone who thinks like him learns to think differently, to open their eyes to the amazing achievements and life-enriching contributions disabled people make to their families and their communities. This skirmish is over but the battle is ongoing. And eventually, not now but some day, we will win. With words and love.  Now, I’ll drink to that.



Rare sighting of the Boo Bear

A Modest Proposal for Cllr Collin Brewer

Desperate times call for desperate measures. In a world where resources are becoming increasingly scarce, the climate has become our enemy, and global competition threatens formerly strong economies, tough decisions have to be made. Resources have to be deployed to assist those who can do most to get the nation out of this mess: that is, those with the money and influence to serve the public good as active citizens. Those who cannot are an unacceptable drain on resources. They are a problem and we shouldn’t be afraid to find a solution to the problem their existence creates for the rest of us. Children need to be destroyed.

These are the sentiments of the author of Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift, or more accurately, they’re the arguments of the viciously ironic persona he adopts as the author of his famous satire A Modest Proposal for preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden on their Parents or Country, and For Making them Beneficial to the Public. You know? the one where he famously shocked the British reading masses into compassion towards the poor of Ireland by persuading them to cannibalise their babies? The grotesque humour of the Proposal gripped readers from its publication in 1729 and the essay is still taught widely at schools and universities around the world as a fine example of literary irony and satire.

It’s an essay I’ve taught many times before and the humour of it savages me with its brilliance every time I go back to it. But lately Swift’s words have ceased to be so funny and not just because it’s tedious for the tenth year in a row to be confronted with the one poor student who can’t even be bothered to go onto Wikipedia (the refuge of hungover undergraduates the world over) to find out that Swift is NOT BEING SERIOUS. No: it’s ceased to be funny to me because the sentiments have been unironically resurrected by Collin Brewer, an independent councillor for Wadebridge East, Cornwall, who, after being forced to resign once for his discriminatory comments against disabled people, has since been improbably reelected.

Even Swift, with his wild and extraordinary imagination, could not have made this up. Although I wonder if somewhere in the back of his mind, Mr Brewer was recalling Swift’s proposal when he likened disabled children to deformed lambs who should be aborted or smashed to death after birth because of the cost of their lives to the economy. I would go into the ins and outs of his remarks (I can’t call them arguments as that would credit them with underlying reason), but to be honest, they’ve had more than enough air time.

Instead, I just want to say a few things about my little lamb, Mr Boo, and how he has changed our lives. For as Swift implicitly points out in A Modest Proposal, it’s much easier to write off people if you refuse to see them as individuals and dehumanise them as a group: the poor, the disabled, animals.

My son has disabilities, but is not his disabilities. He was born prematurely, but sadly we had no inkling of what was to face him and us, despite having 4 ultrasound scans during pregnancy. So we missed the abortion window, Mr Brewer, darn it. (Oh, I’m being Swiftian, didn’t you realise?) No: my son contracted meningitis at 3 days old. It is most likely because of that, not some pre-birth condition or event, that he has epilepsy, developmental delay and likely cerebral palsy. He was struck down, you might say, like people can be at any age. Like men in their 20s or 60s, say, can be hit by a stroke, for example, another potentially devastated neurological problem that can leave lives marked. Oh sorry, I forgot you know about that. So should we withdraw aftercare from stroke victims? No? Oh I see … (Actually, I don’t see, where’s Wikipedia when you need it?)

Hang on. You were being Swiftian weren’t you? You didn’t mean it, did you? You were ironically trying to draw our attention to the myriad ways children and adults with disabilities contribute to the families and communities they live in. How they contribute through their ‘ABILities’, the word Mr Boo’s 5-year-old healthy sister (oh, good we get to keep her!) uses to describe the cognitive and physical challenges faced by those she has come to know and love in the last year. (‘Why do people call them “DISabilties”, Mummy, when these people can do loads of things?’… Out of the mouths of babes, as they say.)

Who knows where Mr Boo’s abilities will take him. But wherever that may be he has touched so many already in his short life. He has made me a better person and a more compassionate person, a campaigner, an advocate, a volunteer. And if it’s hard, for you to see the value of the love and compassion he inspires,  let me tell you he has generated some real notes too, encouraging others to give up their hard-earned money when I ran a half marathon on his honour. It’s the first of many such ventures I’m undertaking, but I’m sure you’re not interested in that.

Let me just say I’ve tried to give something back. For him and for my gratitude that we have him. But not because I am persuaded by the spurious economic valuation of human life to which you subscribe and that Swift’s essay shows us was already outdated by the early eighteenth century.

I do this because I am grateful, I am compassionate and I love and am loved more than I ever knew was possible and fear you may ever understand. And all of this contrives to make me a better citizen than you will ever be.

This post was inspired not just by my indigination but by a call for a peaceful blog protest by the wonderful Hayley on her blog Downs Side Up. Please take the time to read all of the fabulous posts on this page. More are being added over the coming two weeks, so keep popping back.