Thalido­mide So­ci­ety op­poses blue plaque for ‘de­spised’ Pow­ell Con­tro­ver­sial Mid­land MP was min­is­ter who ‘sold vic­tims down the river’

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Lynne But­ler

NEWS of a bid for a blue plaque to recog­nise Enoch Pow­ell, Wolver­hamp­ton’s long­est-serv­ing MP, has sparked anger among mem­bers of the Thalido­mide So­ci­ety.

More than 50 years af­ter the thalido­mide scan­dal first broke, UK sur­vivors are still fight­ing for recog­ni­tion, ad­e­quate fi­nan­cial sup­port and com­pen­sa­tion.

Many Thalido­mide So­ci­ety mem­bers re­mem­ber the strug­gles of their par­ents half a cen­tury ago when Pow­ell was head of the NHS.

Dar­ren Mansell, orig­i­nally from West Bromwich, voted against a Pow­ell plaque in a re­cent on­line poll. Of the 20,000 who took part, 70 per cent were in favour.

“He may have been a won­der­ful MP and looked af­ter his con­stituents but in terms of us thalido­miders he sold us down the river,” Mr Mansell said, speak­ing from the Chel­tenham home he shares with wife Louise Me­dusMansell, also a sur­vivor.

Mr Mansell, 56, a re­tired West Mid­lands Po­lice ac­coun­tant, was born with de­formed arms.

Pow­ell, MP for Wolver­hamp­ton South West from 1950 to 1974, is re­mem­bered for his no­to­ri­ous Rivers of Blood speech. But the con­tro­ver­sial Con­ser­va­tive’s legacy was not only shaped by his di­vi­sive views on mass im­mi­gra­tion. Pow­ell was Min­is­ter of Health when came 1961.

Between 1956 and 1961 thou­sands of ba­bies were born with de­for­mi­ties to their limbs. Oth­ers were born blind and deaf, with spinal cord de­fects, brain dam­age, or heart and kid­ney prob­lems and cleft palates.

Their moth­ers had taken med­i­ca­tion deemed safe for preg­nant women.

World­wide, more than 24,000 ba­bies were af­fected, with around 2,000 of them in the UK. the thalido­mide scan­dal to light in the win­ter of

So se­vere were the ef­fects of the drug that half died within a few months.

Ex­perts now es­ti­mate thalido­mide caused 10,000 ba­bies to be still-born or mis­car­ried in the UK alone.

Chemie Grü­nen­thal with­drew thalido­mide in Novem­ber 1961, and Dis­tillers, its UK distrib­u­tor, did so the fol­low­ing month.

But there was a five-month de­lay between the UK with­drawal and a let­ter from Pow­ell’s chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer, ask­ing doc­tors to warn women who might still have ac­cess to the drug not to take it.

Pow­ell also re­fused to is­sue a pub­lic safety warn­ing, launch a pub­lic in­quiry or meet with par­ents of thalido­mide chil­dren.

Mr Mansell added: “My opin­ion is he was a very ar­ro­gant and stub­born man. Our par­ents wanted a pub­lic in­quiry and they were de­nied it.

“When us thalido­miders wanted to cel­e­brate our 15th an­niver­sary, we were po­litely told we couldn’t have a blue plaque.

“We enough.”

The Thalido­mide So­ci­ety was formed the year af­ter the scan­dal broke.

Fam­i­lies cam­paigned for com­pen­sa­tion and sup­port – but it took a decade for an ini­tial set­tle­ment with the Gov­ern­ment to be reached.

“Enoch Pow­ell is de­spised by Thalido­mide So­ci­ety mem­bers,” said a spokesper­son for the char­ity.

“At a time when their par­ents were faced with the dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects of thalido­mide, he re­fused to of­fer any as­sis­tance and, in fact, turned fam­i­lies away.

“No­body in the thalido­mide com­mu­nity would wel­come a blue plaque to cel­e­brate Enoch Pow­ell.”

Wolver­hamp­ton Civic and His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety has yet to formally con­sider the Enoch Pow­ell blue plaque ap­pli­ca­tion.

If suc­cess­ful it will join over 90 other pri­vately funded plaques in the city. weren’t im­por­tant

Enoch Pow­ell is de­spised by Thalido­mide So­ci­ety mem­bers Spokesman

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> Dar­ren Mansell and wife Louise

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