Is Gordon Brown still fit for office? A blog posted today by the journalist John Ward on his websitenotbornyesterday.org suggests that the PM may be in worse health than the public realise. He claims there are signs the PM is taking powerful drugs to control both depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Ward bases his hypothesis on a tip-off from a senior civil servant that Brown has recently been given a "long list of forbidden foods". The civil servant, who works regularly with the PM, told Ward that Brown had been banned from eating and drinking several specific things "because of the drugs he's on".
Top of the list of foods that Brown can no longer touch, the source told Ward, were cheese, Chianti and over-ripe avocados - which immediately rang alarm bells for Ward. "Every doctor in Britain would recognise these contra-indications instantly: for they are the great verbotens for people taking MAOI drugs."
MAOIs - which stands for Mono Amine Oxidase Inhibitors - are generally a last line of treatment for major depression, when other anti-depressant drugs have failed. They can also be very effective in treating OCD. But they are potentially extremely dangerous. If the patient eats or drinks the wrong thing, they can result in death – hence the PM's "long list of forbidden foods".
The civil servant who told Ward of the banned list apparently wrote it off as quackery and "nonsense", unaware of its potential significance.
Ward readily admits that, without a doctor's note to absolutely prove the PM's state of health, his hypothesis is an easy one for Downing Street to refute - or frame as yet another anti-Brown smear campaign. But Ward makes the point that, if he's right, it won't be long before he gets his proof. "If it's true," says Ward, "Brown's entourage must be sending out strict dietary requirements ahead of his regularly catered public engagements; one could even monitor what he eats on such occasions."
There have been rumours about Brown's health and mental state for several years, of course. In 2004, Simon Heffer wrote in theSpectator that the PM displayed many signs of Asperger's Syndrome, including obsessional behaviour patterns and humourlessness. And it is well documented that Brown, already blind in his left eye, has been losing sight in his right eye.
If Ward has got it right, then the pressure on Brown this autumn could become severe. After a miserable first week back at the office – the Megrahi controversy, more deaths and disagreement in Afghanistan - there are already growing rumours of an October putsch, with Martin Kettle suggesting in today's Guardian that we might be approaching an "in the name of God, go" moment.
So the clunking fist may be headed for the padded cell sooner than we figured, well it will be a relief to every taxpayer in the land when the chaps in white coats take him away.
Previously posted here...