A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Medical Bulletin

Occasionally this blog drifts from political commentary into being a way for me to update friends about what's going on in my life.

As it's been a funny few days, this is one of those posts.

On Thursday I had the gutting news from doctors that contrary to expectations, I won't be able to walk when I get home on 28th August. My quads (thigh muscles) are not recovering fast enough for me to get from sitting to standing or to bend my knees when standing unsupported - basically because the speed of nerve repair is too slow. The Rehab team here at the National want me come back in at the point when they can really help get me walking again - which could be any time in the next two years. A longer stay now won't help. They also sounded a note of caution that if I am unlucky the nerves will never quite repair right and I won't walk again.

Big problem - going home in a wheelchair to a flat on two floors with 10 steps to the front door means going home to be imprisoned there for an indeterminate sentence. The medics recommend that we rent out our flat and rent an accessible one.

To the rescue comes my fantastic and extremely organised partner Linda, who within 48 hours found a great new flat (wheelchair-friendly), in the same street we already live in, and available for when I go home on the 28th. So today I checked it out in my wheelchair for door widths, turning circles, toilet and bath accessibility etc., then sat outside my old house unable to get in due to the steps thinking how on earth did it come to this... went on a bus for first time since March (the ramp only broke once - thankyou to the kind driver who helped carry me off!) ... felt elated being back in wonderful Stoke Newington and eating outside at the Z Bar for first time since going into hospital... discovered that the only restaurants locally with ramped or level entrances appear to be Yum Yums, Il Bacio Mare and Nando's...

Next question to ponder ... is there a CLP out there ready for a PPC in a wheelchair?


Anonymous M said...

Thinking of you.

9:07 pm, August 01, 2009

Blogger Sunder Katwala said...


Thanks for the update, and wishing you well with the continuing treatment and your new home at the end of the month.

On CLPs being ready for PPC in a wheelchair ... Yes, of course they should. With your determination and commitment, I think they will too.

11:51 pm, August 01, 2009

Blogger Oldrightie said...

I wish you well. Of course there is a place. I believe you have such an MP already. Very best of luck.

12:14 am, August 02, 2009

Anonymous R. J. Lewis said...

Speaking personally, wishing you all the best.

And speaking as a CLP Secretary, I do not for a second see why not.

12:38 am, August 02, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds very "Rear Window". Best of luck.

7:24 am, August 02, 2009

Blogger Stuart Bruce, PR Consultant said...

Luke, I sincerely hope that there are numerous CLPs (where we can win) that would welcome a candidate of your calibre, wheelchair or not. All the best.

8:19 am, August 02, 2009

Blogger John Moss said...

There is a Tory Association quite happy to have one.

Islington North and Stoke Newington candidate Adrian Berrill-Cox.

8:32 am, August 02, 2009

Blogger Bob Piper said...

Speaking personally, wishing you all the best.

And speaking as a member of a CLP that already has a right-wing MP, I do not for a second see why disability should be a bar to being an MP, but not here thank you.

8:40 am, August 02, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I am trying to see the positive side of this, I would truly hope that being in a wheelchair will give you no hinderance at all in being a PPC (and indeed in your overall journey through life). Hopefully this unfortunate confinement will give you more space to come up with those winning arguments and killer punchlines. I would sincerely hope you have no trouble whatsoever being a 'chaired PPC, and it's not exactly unknown. And if some idiot gives you grief on that, come and join us in the Tories! I reckon you'd make a wonderful Conservative MP. You're nearly there anyway and you know it makes sense!!!

9:05 am, August 02, 2009

Blogger Didactophobe said...

Good to see you Labour people are on the ball. Your party has had a wheelchair-bound MP since 1997: she obviously hasn't made much of an impact on you!

10:05 am, August 02, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get well soon Luke.

Angry voter

11:38 am, August 02, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The wheelchair may make canvassing a bit more tricky, but I guess you can be the comrade with the clipboard!

Good luck with the move and your continuing recovery.

11:45 am, August 02, 2009

Anonymous Paul Richards said...

Luke, you should a) go for seats with 10,000-plus majorities, so the difference between winning and losing isn't the number of contacts made personally by the candidate, and b) make your disability (hopefully not permanent) into a positive campaigning tool, highlighting accessibility issues. Read Jack Ashley's autobiography for inspiration!

1:45 pm, August 02, 2009

Blogger Shamik said...

Best wishes with your recovery mate.

In terms of looking for a seat: Dartford; go for it!

2:28 pm, August 02, 2009

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


I'm not convinced that being on wheels rather than foot will reduce the number of voters I can personally contact.

5:17 pm, August 02, 2009

Blogger Steve Horgan said...

Luke, it's going to be tougher with a disability, and your health must come first. Having said that, this is the 21st century and disability alone is no bar to political success. It hasn't in the past either, though he had to conceal it for much of the time, the most successful President of the US, at least in electoral terms, was wheelchair bound. So, there is no argument that can be made that a lack of mobility is a bar to leadership at the highest level.

The best of luck.

8:04 pm, August 02, 2009

Blogger Chris Paul said...

If you can train up your wheelchair to manage a lurch or even a mild re-triangulation to the left there could be a greater chance ... and being parachuted in somewhere could technically be more of a challenge. But good luck.

8:22 pm, August 02, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done Luke your being very brave. Hope it all turns out well in the end.

Best Wishes from a
Hackney Council worker

9:33 pm, August 02, 2009

Blogger Barrybbb said...

Wont be easy canvassing in those blocks without lifts. But there is always the ground floor to do!


6:20 am, August 03, 2009

Blogger Martin Meenagh said...

Very best of luck to you, and I hope that the next two years bring you good news

1:14 pm, August 03, 2009

Blogger Kelvin Blake said...

Hi Luke,

I am glad you are facing the difficulties head on. Remain positive and focus on the things you can do rather than the things that are impossible from a wheelchair.

Before I say much more do we know each other? have you had anything to do with Bristol politics?

Anyway, Im Kelvin. Involved with the Labour Party for sometime now here in Bristol. Was a Labour Councillor from 1997 til 2003. Tony Blair got elected on my coat tails :)

Came off the Council cos my job was just too busy. Ran Kerry McCarthy's campaign in 2005 and ran Cllr. John Bees's campaign in 2006.

Two days after helping John get elected I had a motorcycle accident and ended up breaking my back amongst other things. 7 months in hospital I emerged in the world a full time wheely...

I have been on the parliamentary panel since 2001 however I only ever wanted to fight a seat in Bristol.

Anyway, my chance came while I was in hospital. Doug Naysmith decided to retire.

I put myself forward along with 38 other people.

Got down to the shortlist but didnt get it. It was a shock because most of the activists, existing councillors, existing MP's and Doug himself supported me.

I am sorry to say the wheelchair did play a part. Even though most people ignored it it was raised by some and that can make a difference in being selected. Dare I say some of the other candidates would use subtle references to being able to get to every door.

So, the parties need to do much more to support disabled candidates. There is a lot of work going on to move this forward. Anne Begg chaired the speakers conference recently on the subject. SCOPE have produced a report for the political parties. I am happy to share this with you if your interested.

After not getting the PPC I moved on quickly. I am on two charities and have been appointed as a Non Executive Director on University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust. I wanted to be an MP in Bristol because I wanted to make a difference for the people of Bristol. There are many ways to achieve the same thing.

Happy to talk soon. Kind regards,

Kelvin Blake

3:02 pm, August 03, 2009

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Hi Kelvin

we may have met as I lived in Bristol from 1990 to 1995 - was an officer of Bristol West CLP, county and city council candidate and worked on Doug's 1992 campaign in NW.


5:38 pm, August 03, 2009

Anonymous SZO said...

I do hope you make a speedy recovery, I don’t know whether you had an opportunity to attend Council, but I do hope you attend before the six month deadline. Not just to prevent a by-election, but I look forward to seeing you re-election (as a Conservative of Course ;-) ) you can and MUST use your knowledge to advance the cause of the disabled. Despite the progress we have made over recent years, there is still much further to go, even in Hackney!

5:48 pm, August 03, 2009

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


July council resolved nem con to exempt me from the six month rule.


6:09 pm, August 03, 2009

Blogger Merseymike said...

Luke....glad to hear that you are making progress, albeit slowly

It will be interesting to see how you view the world from a wheelchair - I am not impaired but have disabled friends and their world is one of difficulties I do not even begin to think about.

Anne Begg MP has done a great job as an MP.

And make sure you are claiming all you are entitled to - full DLA, certainly

2:37 am, August 04, 2009

Anonymous Susan Brown said...

Glad to see someone finally mentioning the excellent Anne Begg MP. Best of luck Luke, both in terms of recovery and also selection.

12:31 pm, August 05, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish you a speedy recovery too. Meanwhile, welcome to the world of wheely. The excellent staff at hospital are probably briefing you on all sorts so apologies if this excellent publication has already been recommended: "If Only I'd Known That a Year Ago". You can order the most-necessary RADAR toilet key from them too; not that there are many wheelchair accessible toilets (public or otherwise) in Hackney to use the key in!

3:09 pm, August 05, 2009


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