David Cameron is quoted in an interview in one of today’s papers as saying that sitting opposite Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, during Prime Minister’s Questions is, “Like having someone with Tourette’s sitting opposite you.”
What do you mean David? Is there something wrong with having someone with Tourettes sitting opposite you?
Are you drawing on the old stereotype that anyone with Tourettes is incoherent and swears a lot? Or perhaps you mean that if Ed Balls had Tourettes what he had to say would be irrelevant? I’m assuming you don’t mean he has motor tics that seriously limit his mobility or make him punch himself in the head repeatedly? Or that he shouts “Biscuit” sixteen times every waking minute of the day.
For lots of people Cameron’s casual use of a disability to insult another politician will be shocking. For many other people it won’t, either because they think Tourettes is a fair target for jokes (because of the common misconception that everyone with Tourettes swears). Or perhaps because they’re familiar with the government’s abhorrent attitude to disabled people and the raft of policies it’s forcing through that hit them the hardest. It’s easy to forget that the man in charge had a disabled son himself and is the patron of a well-known charity for disabled children.
The reality is that Tourettes is a complex condition which can be both physically and socially disabling. The assumption that it’s only about swearing makes it even harder for the 90% of people who have it but who haven’t ever ticced an offensive word.
So if I was sitting opposite David Cameron I know what I’d be saying to him. I’d be challenging his assault on the NHS, on the Disability Living Allowance and on all the other sweeping cuts to services. These reach into the lives of everyone in the country but they’re having the biggest impact on the most vulnerable.
Of course a weak apology has been issued. But it’s too late David. You’ve revealed a hateful attitude towards disability. Your ‘Off the cuff’ comment was a desperately cheap joke and no-one’s laughing.
But there is one funny thing about all of this – he made the comment in an article in which he was claiming to be creating a ‘fairer Britain’. I’m used to hearing ignorant, lazy comments about Tourettes. But what really angers me is that there’s nothing fair about the Britain Cameron’s creating.
Don’t apologise to people with Tourettes for your stupid comment David, apologise to the country for your policies.
And if you’re feeling down in the dumps about what you’ve said, here are a few tics that might raise a smile:
“Strike David Cameron off the list for heaven.”
“Cameron declared humanity a horrible horse.”
“Don’t think, it’s bad for the government.”