Thalidomide Society opposes blue plaque for ‘despised’ Powell Controversial Midland MP was minister who ‘sold victims down the river’
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.
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
> Darren Mansell and wife Louise