Until I reached chapter 5 on the effect of Thalidomide in Great Britain I was impressed by how well written and readable this book was and took what it said at face value.
It is difficult to judge a book about something of which one has very little knowledge but when it touches on a subject one does know something about one can begin to make such a judgement.
It says of the highest court in Great Britain
"Since there is no separation of powers , instead of an independent Supreme Court there is a court of Parliament: a tribunal of the aristocracy within the House of Lords decides the fate of such cases that float to the top, unresolved in lower courts"
This is so misleading as to be completely wrong. The House of Lords is our supreme court but it is not made up of members of the aristocracy with nothing better to do. The Judges in the House of Lords are appointed from the cream of the Judiciary, who themselves are selected from the cream of our barristers. If a judge is chosen to sit in the House of Lords he will be granted a peerage if he has not already been given one for services to the Law.
The Judges are made peers, the peers are not made judges. As in United States once appointed they cannot be dismissed.
The statement in the book indicates a total lack of a research on this matter and given the fact that Rock Brynner's original degree was from Trinity College Dublin the error is unforgivable.
In the very next paragraph the book makes the following statement.
"The Tories choice to lead the National Health Service is incongruous enough to guarantee a chuckle of disbelief, to those familiar with his name: Enoch Powell, the Minister for health during the thalidomide crisis, was the fanatical Conservative who became England's most outspoken and unapologetic racist railing against immigrants, Indian and Pakistanis in particular".
It is clear that all he is familiar with is the name. Once again it is clear that no serious research has been done and they know nothing about the man and his history.
Enoch Powell studied classics and became the youngest professor in the British Empire when he became Professor of Greek at the University of Sydney at the age of 25. When War broke out in 1939 he left Australia and enlisted in the British Army as a Private. He left the Army at the end of the war as the youngest Brigadier in the British Army (roughly the equivalent of a One Star General in the US Army).
Whether he ever was a racist is a serious question for Historians. It is true he made a speech pointing out that uncontrolled immigration would cause racial tensions which would be likely to lead to violence. (this proved correct). However:
1. He was one of only two MPs who forced Parliament to do something about the treatment of Mau Mau Terrorists detained by the British in Kenya.
2. As Minister of Health he oversaw a huge increase in the number of coloured people employed in the NHS.
3. There is no evidence that he treated his black and Asian constituents any differently from his white constituents.
4. One of the languages he spoke was Hindi.
He was certainly a maverick who said what he thought however unpopular that might have been. He was not a particularly pleasant person. Although he was certainly branded a racist, the evidence to support that accusation is at best ambiguous. What is certain is that intellectually he was something of a giant.
Once again the quality of the historical research was positively shoddy and there is a certain element of vindictiveness about some of comments in the book. One fears that expressing this vindictiveness might have overtaken any desire to present the truth.
Overall I am left with the feeling that no one can really rely on any of the statements made about the history of Thalidomide.
This is sad. Those who suffered deserve better.