Mayor Martin, “Mongols” and the Swindon question

Following the resignation of Nick Martin as Mayor of Swindon over his offensive views, Ian Macrae looks behind the outrage at a deeper menace.

The now former Mayor of Swindon has rightly been flamed in the press, by charities and on social media for the ill-chosen, ignorant disabilist comment which ultimately resulted in his resignation from office.

In the apology, which can only have been motivated by a desire to save his civic status rather than to redress the highly dubious and anti-social political views he’d expressed, he flapped around the limp excuse that “Mongol” was a word he’d grown up with. It’s worrying that someone whose supposed political interest, activism and ambition can have missed, disregarded or, more likely, simply ignored important changes which have occurred in the social fabric since his childhood.

But there. He’s resigned, and good riddance. Except, except, except…

He’s reported to have said: “Are we still letting Mongols have sex with each other?”

In which case, his use of a demeaning, outmoded and offensive word could well be the least of his transgressions. For surely, underpinning that statement, question, view, whatever it is, is a much more malevolent creed.

My mother used to tell the story of how, as a blind woman on the hospital ward with her first child (me), who had just had the first of many eye operations, one of the nurses (who was aware of my own blindness) said to her: “People like you should be stopped from having bairns.”

This was not long after the war in which the use of death and sterilisation as a means of population control and “cleansing” was all too fresh in the memory. Even back then, such an attitude in someone who was paid by the public purse to attend to the care and welfare of my mother and me was regarded as unacceptable. The surgeon in charge dismissed the nurse on the spot.

How much more worrying it is that there are still people holding such views striding around the political landscape and finding success in it as leaders. Because former Mayor Martin’s views are as plain as the nose (now somewhat out of joint) on his face.

There can be only one motivation for asking whether we are “still letting Mongols have sex with each other”. Because if “we” are, his argument goes, then “we” should put a stop to the “letting”. The further implication being that it can only result in one thing: the procreation of yet more “Mongols” which in Martin’s world is something not to be allowed or tolerated.

I’m not one of those who very much revels in those times which periodically come around when it’s seen as open season on talking about disabled people and sex. Do we have it? Do we enjoy it? Do we engage in the same varieties of sexual activities with the same degree of spirit and pleasure as everyone else? The answer to all of those questions is, of course, a resounding yes as long as we are not denied the opportunity. But often lurking in the background of such discussions, particularly if they’re instigated or led by people who aren’t disabled, is that other question: should we really be allowed to, particularly if, as in the case of my mother or Mayor Martin’s “Mongols”, it’s likely to result in more of us being born.

The answer again is an unqualified and unapologetic yes. And if, as seems likely, there are other politicians who share Nick Martin’s view to the contrary, they should ask themselves whether there is a place for such fascistic opinions in the politics of today.

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