An inquiry has been ordered into vicious intimidation of candidates at the general election after a barrage of complaints by MPs, among them Diane Abbott. Her fellow diabetic DAVID BANKS updates his plea for understanding.
YOU might not care for the way Diane Abbott speaks, looks or dresses, nor for her political outlook, but must she be so cruelly abused? Is that part of public life?
Reasonable people will say No; that threats of violence and downright hostility based on another person’s size, skin colour, religion or political views are beyond the pale.
Abbott has spoken out movingly and angrily. As a result of her and other politicians’ experiences – and following the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox last year – an investigation has been ordered into the growth of this disturbing phenomenon in British politics.
A week ago I, as a fellow diabetic, attempted to defend Diane Abbott’s popularly-perceived ‘stupidity’ in a radio interview. This is what I wrotei:
WHATEVER you might think of Diane Abbott, her politics or her personality – and, no, I’m not her number one fan, either – I think I can reassure you that her LBC interview ‘stuff-up’ over the cost of Labour’s proposed increases in police manpower WAS almost certainly caused by temporary neglect of her Type 2 Diabetes.
I know whereof I speak: I, too, am Type 2 diabetic. I, too, have suffered similar confusion and agitation and inability to concentrate when a ‘hypo’ (hypoglycaemia or dramatically low blood sugar) strikes. Sudden sweating, confusion, agitation and trembling are the inevitable outcomes when a sufferer’s blood sugar count, untreated, drops below a ‘6’ on the finger-prick scale.
It’s not hard to correct: a can of Coke or a cup of sugary tea followed by food will normalise the situation. Any fellow diabetic will have recognised her symptoms. Indeed, in the same week she tripped up in two pre-election interviews (you’d think she’d have learned her lesson the first time, wouldn’t you?) I suffered three similar ‘hypos’ as a result of a slight change in my daily medication routine. Fewer tablets immediately remedied the situation.
Fortunately, no one other than my wife witnessed my distress; no one other than the diabetic team at the Borders General Hospital – whom I phoned for advice – knew what occurred. Politicians, on the other hand, are sadly but necessarily under an unrelenting microscope.
And social media was quick to follow the mainstream media’s reporting of the Shadow Home Secretary’s seemingly extraordinary lack of grasp of her brief.
“Is it cos I is black? Is it cos I am a woman?” mocked one Facebook contributor, presumably not a fellow-sufferer because he continued: “Is it cos I have Type 2 Diabetes?”, finally concluding “No, Diane Abbott, it is because you are useless!”
Others were equally unsympathetic, even though their remarks betrayed a lack of understanding of an increasingly commonplace condition.
“Many people suffer from Type2 Diabetes and it does not turn them into a rambling wreck,” wrote one. Another made the point that the Prime Minister, Theresa May, suffers from “the much more serious Type 1 Diabetes, but she just gets on with it and doesn’t complain”.
All quite true, of course: Abbott could and should have taken more care to eat and medicate sensibly (as should have I!) to avoid such a car crash condition. But there is an important difference between the two types of diabetes: Abbott’s Type 2 means her body creates insufficient insulin, meaning it must be controlled by strict diet or supplemented by medication; May’s Type 1 means her body is incapable of producing any insulin, which means she must routinely self-inject insulin three or four times a day or risk a diabetic coma and will for years have been keenly aware of the routine.
Abbott’s Hackney electorate sympathised with her plight and jacked up her majority by 11,000 to more than 35,000 (interestingly, a majority almost as great as Mrs May’s entire support). But mainstream mockery continued.
“Not since Lazarus rose from the dead has there been a more fantastic miracle than Diane Abbott putting her ‘deadly’ diabetes behind her,” wrote one Facebooker in faux amazement. “She’s back in the shadow cabinet. . . next week she will walk on water!”
And so it continues, largely through ignorance of the effects and outcomes of both types of the same condition. There are an estimated 4 million people living with diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes in the UK, six per cent or one in 16 of the population. Untreated, it is a killer.
I have delayed writing on the subject until now in the hope that the circumstances would be made more clear, that the medical profession might see this as an opportunity to publicise the ‘good life’ epidemic that has become the scourge of the rich, developed world. But politicians themselves have popularised the notion that experts and expert opinion are a waste of space (one of Environment Secretary Gove’s finest contributions to the Brexit referendum debate).
So see for yourself. You can find out more by clicking here. Symptoms include increased thirst, headaches, lack of concentration, frequent need to pee and general fatigue.
Oh yes. . . and getting your figures muddled up during pre-election media interviews!