Westminster drink culture blamed for death of former MPPosted by Ellee on Feb 5, 2007 in Uncategorized | 24 comments
A husband has blamed the Westminster drink culture for the death of his wife, a former MP. Ten years ago Fiona Jones was one of Blair’s Babes, but after losing her seat and becoming embroiled in allegations of election fraud, of which she was eventually cleared, and being unable to find new work, she turned increasingly to drink.
Chris Jones says his wife hardly drank before she became elected, that if she had not become an MP, she would still be here today. The tipping point came after she lost her seat in 2001:
“She was devastated. She took to her bed and drank more and more. She’d pass out then decide to sort herself out. She went for interviews but nobody wanted her. Then she’d drink again.
“She hardly drank at all before she was elected but the Commons has a boozing culture that people should know about.”
His wife refused to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for fear of being recognised. I am assuming there was no support available at Westminster.
“As the pressures grew, so did her drinking and I’m angry with the Labour Party for not supporting her when she needed them. There are several bars in the Houses of Parliament open for 24 hours.
“Fiona would go to them with the others to wait to vote. It’s seen as a place to drink as well as conduct business. Soon she’d gone from the occasional glass of wine to much heavier drinking. At home she drank vodka to hide the smell from the children but down there she drank whisky because nobody cared if she drank.”
This is a very sad and cautionary tale, I wonder if the disturbing questions it raises about alcohol abuse will be followed up, if other politicians with a drink problem feel they can’t turn to anyone for help because of their high profile position, the fear of being recognised and the stigma that goes with admitting a drink problem.
And tragically she has left two sons around the same age of mine, 17 and 14, who witnessed her spiralling decline.
I know the devastation caused by drink problems, how it changes a person’s character, that you cannot force someone to seek help if they don’t want it, my friend Sue died last week as a result of her addiction.
These stories will undoubtedly sadden Veronica Callanan, a reformed alcoholic, who runs a private clinic in Cambridge. She is inspirational proof that it can be overcome, I am meeting her later this week to discuss how we can campaign on these issues. Maybe we should start at Westminster…