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Lord Owen winds up the Rye Arts Festival

September 27, 2009

David OwenNot in the sense you’re thinking!

It was just that he was the last literary event of the day today.  And a good one it was too.

Lord Owen had come to talk to Rye about his new book ‘In Sickness and in Power’, which looks at some of the medical problems that world leaders have had whilst in office.

There was a bit of the cosmic about the timing of it all as well, with Andy Marr on his 9am show having asked Gordon Brown if he is on prescription medication…

I must say that, as a mental health social worker, I found some of Dr Owen’s ideas really interesting.  Particularly the (traceable) link between poor health and bad political decision-making.  And I will definitely get the book once it’s out in paperback (as it’s a whopping £25 at the moment)!

Not sure that I agree with him that Churchill didn’t have any discernible traits of mania, thus ruling out bi-polar affective disorder. 

From Roy Jenkins’ biography, it seems that Churchill’s spending habits as a young man, and the hyper-productivity in his later life (particularly in respect of his writing) might constitute periods of activity which might be thought manic.  And his mum was noted ‘in society’ for her sexual licentiousness or (as a psychiatrist might term it) disinhibition.  Was this as a result of psychopathology I wonder?  Or was she just a libertarian ahead of her time?

Owen said that he thought Churchill had been particularly blessed with a canny wife and good friends who were able to advise him well, and that this must have mitigated the problems associated with any mania.


It is certainly true that it matters not one jot.  It is wonderful to have people with drive, energy, high levels of creativity and productivity – in all walks of life.  Whether this is as a result of personality, circumstance or illness is so much flotsam…


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One Comment
  1. An interesting post, Nick. Having also read Jenkin’s biography, and quite a lot of other material on the great man, I have to agree with you. His levels of activity were super-human at times but he also had remarkable “down” periods.

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