Blogger Ward says he has every right to ask if Brown is on anti-depressants
The man who caused the row between Labour and the BBC over the Prime Minister's mental health denies he is right wing and stands by his claims
The man who floated the theory that the Prime Minister might be taking anti-depressants - now the centre of an escalating row between the BBC and the Labour party - has talked to The First Post today about what motivated him.
Labour has lodged an informal complaint with the BBC after Andrew Marr asked Gordon Brown on his Sunday morning BBC TV show whether there was any truth in the rumour that he was taking "prescription painkillers and pills". The party is now deciding whether to make a formal complaint as senior members, including Lord Mandelson and Alastair Campbell, have expressed their fury at Marr for picking up on what they see as right-wing gossip.
John Ward, who raised the question of anti-depressants earlier this month on his website notbornyesterday.org, is equally furious - first, because he believes he had every right as a former depressive himself to raise the question, and, second, because he categorically denies being a right-wing smear artist.
"I am not ultra-right, I'm not even right-wing," Ward, a retired marketing executive told The First Post. "In fact I only ever voted Tory once, in 1979, when I thought the TUC had become a threat to the sovereignty of parliament. And I've always regretted that vote.
"Otherwise, I've voted Lib Dem or Green - I'd describe myself as a centre-Liberal. If Peter Mandelson calls me a right-winger, I'll sue him."
Ward defended his original posting - and the right of Andrew Marr to follow it up - because as a diagnosed depressive 20 years ago he was prescribed the pills he believes Gordon Brown may be taking. "They were the best thing around at the time," he said.
The current row began when Ward posted an item on September 4 about a social gathering he had attended where a senior civil servant described how the Prime Minister had been given a new diet. It banned him from eating some very specific items - namely cheese, Chianti and over-ripe avocados.
Ward's ears pricked up because these are top of the list of banned items for anyone taking strong anti-depressants called MAOIs (Mono Amine Oxidase Inhibitors). "Every doctor in Britain would recognise these contra-indications instantly," wrote Ward, "for they are the great verbotens for people taking MAOI drugs."
Ward stressed that the civil servant, who he said had worked closely with the PM, appeared to be quite unaware of the significance of the banned foods and was not in any way "selling" him a story; indeed, he talked about the banned list as if it were a diet advocated by a "quack" doctor. Ward knew otherwise - that if such foods were eaten by someone on MAOIs, they could die.
The First Post's Westminster insider, the Mole, picked up on Ward's post on September 4 and the Mole's post was in turn picked by other political websites.
In a second post on the subject on September 9 - again reported by the Mole - Ward backed up his earlier theory with evidence that Brown's well-known personal tic of clenching his jaw is a well-known side effect of anti-depressants.
Asked today whether he regretted his posts, Ward stood by them because, he says, if it is true that Brown is on such severe anti-depressants, then the public have the right to know. He does not believe Downing Street or the Prime Minister have the right to dismiss the matter as a "personal intrusion".
Said Ward: "As someone who suffered the kind of depression that necessitated taking MAOI drugs, I can tell you: there is no way you can behave and take actions without your judgment being clouded.
"I am a private person, and so it was no one else's business. But Gordon Brown has to make decisions about sending men to war. If he is taking such drugs - and I have not claimed that he is, only that the clues are there that he may be - then it is serious and we have the right to know."
Ward added: "I am not hounding the guy, as has been suggested. I am hounding the system that allows the truth to be hidden from public view."
Trained as an historian, Ward recalls the case of Anthony Eden. "Only a decade after his erratic behaviour during the Suez crisis did it emerge that he had been taking amphetamines for tiredness. Basically, he was on speed." ·
Comments are now closed on this article