Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Human rights in El Salvador

This afternoon there was a wreath-laying ceremony in memory of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador below Great West Door of Westminster Abbey, who died at the hands of a death squad as he was saying Mass on March 24, 1980. He has been recognised by the Abbey as one of the 10 great Christian martyrs of the 20th century, whose images can be seen above the Door.

We then trooped over to the Palace of Westminster for a reception given by Mr Speaker in his apartments and the presentation by the Ambassador of El Salvador to Sir Peter Bottomley MP, former MP Kevin MacNamara and me of the Dr Jose Gustavo Guerrero Medal for Diplomatic Merit Silver Category, in recognition of the nomination by us and other Members of both Houses from the Parliamentary Human Rights Group of Archbishop Romero for he Nobel Peace Prize in 1980,

As I said in my brief remarks, our nomination was unsuccessful, but his work for peace in El Salvador had now been recognised at an even higher since he had been beatified in May his year.

I recalled that the Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHG)had sent a delegation to El Salvador at the end of 1978, headed by the late Lord Chitnis and including Peter Bottomley MP and Dennis Canavan MP, after the assassination of priests and nuns had been launched with the killing of Fr Rutilo Grande in March of that year and leading in the end to the murder by the death squads of more than 9 priests and nuns. It was perhaps the largest number of Christian priests yo have been martyred in any internal conflict since the second world war,

Obviously the PHRG had no power to bring the death squads to justice, but in the long run maybe our voice, together with the voices of other international NGOs, had a little role to play in restoring human rights and the rule of law.

With Julian Filochowski, Sir Peter Bottomley MP< Kevin MacNamara & H E the Ambassador of El Salvador

With Sir Peter Bottomley MP, former MP Kevin McNamara & H E the Ambassador of El Salvador


Speaking at the awards ceremony

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Update on operations

Lindsay steadily improving since her nephrectomy 9 days ago, and she managed to get the district nurse to come in and change the dressings today. The main exit wound via which the kidney was extracted is still a bit sore but the nurse said it was OK. She has gone out for a gentle walk in the park with her friend Mary.

I'm also making satisfactory progress three days post angioplasty. Discharge note reads:

'Elective admission for left leg angioplasty - critical limb ischaemia, ulcers and rest pain, due to SFA occlusion. Angioplasty performed to good effect, patient discharged the following day with marked improvement both symptomatically & functionally'.

The occlusion will probably return, but as I said to Dr Jason Wilkins, who carried out the procedure, as long as it lasts for my expected remaining 12 months of life I'm  perfectly satisfied.

Blood results last 9 months
3.07 17.06 9.06 27.05 25.03 2.03 21.02 24.12 26.11 Normal
Hb 104 107 93 96 98 98    101 104 109 130-180
WBC 2.85 2.25 2.55 2.91 3.15 3.36 3.52 4.00 3.02  4.5-10.0
Neutrophils 1.16 1.17 1.14 1.3 1.57 1.78    1.6 1.8 1.16 2.0-7.5
Plt 249 232 296 342 369 449    494 551 391 150-450

Haemoglobin shot up after I had he blood transfusion in June, and I'm hoping it will stay above 100 if the Hydroxycarbamide can be maintained at 3/week.  That depends on the platelets remaining within normal levels.

Friday, July 03, 2015

At the back door this afternoon - look, no stick


I was discharged from hospital at lunchtime today after a stay of less than 48 hours! The surgeon Dr Jason Wilkins, cleared the obstruction of the artery, which extended all the way from groin to knee, using catheters with balloons on the end to push the walls of the artery open, Several of the balloons burst, because the calcium deposits in the artery which let to its occlusion have jagged edges. I wonder if I should be taking calcium tablets, which are intended to remedy falling bone density, but haven't achieved that purpose.

The procedure took 90 minutes, and I had to lie still flat on my back for 3 hours afterwards, to allow the plug closing the perforation in the groin to access the artery to settle down.

The result is very satisfactory, because I no longer have pain in the leg at night or when walking, and with luck the artery should remain free of occlusions for the remaining estimated 12 months of my life. I'm going to start work again from Monday.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Thursday 2nd July 2015 17.15 hrs

Report from Lindsay:

Eric has been returned to his ward from Theatre.  He just had the angioplasty and did not need the bypass operation, which is good news.  He tells me that Jason Wilkins, who unblocked his renal arteries last summer, carried out the procedure, which took about 1 and a half hours.  Several bubbles/balloons were inserted into the femoral artery - a few exploded because there is a calcified lining to the artery - but stents then followed in.  He now has to lie very still for a few hours and we
hope he may be allowed home tomorrow or at the weekend.  More news to follow.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Tomorrow I'm going in to King's College Hospital for an operation on my leg to deal with an occlusion extending most of the way from groin to knee. First an angioplasty will be tried (http://bit.ly/1R1OSj5) and if this can't be done the artery will have to be replaced by a graft from the vein in the same leg. Angioplasty is relatively simple, involving one night in hospital, but if it needs a graft that would be a week or more.

While I'm in hospital, Lindsay or JW will post bulletins on this blog to save having to write to everyone individually. Hope to be in touch personally before long.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The House magazine, a weekly journal of Parliament, asked me to write a Diary piece on a week in the Lords, and I reproduce below the copy I sent them. They made an editorial decision to delete the first paragraph when it was too late for me to object, but some readers would have been amused by the anecdote about Patrick Cormack, so here is the unexpurgated text.

They said they had checked with Lord Cormack and he couldn't remember the incident. However, I dare say the records would confirm that my final article as opera critic, appeared some 30 years ago.

It was so exciting to be asked to write a diary for the House Magazine, some 30 years after I last appeared in their pages. My daughter was acting editor of the magazine at the time, and I was just settling into a new career as the opera critic when Patrick Cormack, then Chair of the Editorial Board, discovered this innocent piece of nepotism and I was summarily dismissed!

The Lords is meant to be a self-regulating House, but it does a bad job of controlling the length of questions.  David Alton asked about people trafficking recently. He took 142 words to put his supplementary, but the Minister Joyce Anelay,  Leader of the House, averaged 158 words in her first two replies.  

This week again Joyce Anelay took 152 words to answer a question, but two new Ministers beat her record with 155 and 181 words respectively.

When Ministers so flagrantly abuse the Companion to Standing Orders’ limit of 75 words, its not surprising that backbenchers ignore it widely too.

I was delighted that Rob Marris MP, who drew No 1 in the Commons ballot for Private Members’ Bills, is bringing forward the Assisted Dying Bill, which had a thorough discussion when Charlie Falconer introduced it in the Lords in the last Parliament. 

That Bill ran out of time, but the largest ever poll on assisted dying conducted  in its wake showed that 82% of public support law change. There’s a very good chance it will get through unscathed this time, and I look forward to serving on Dignity in Dying’s Parliamentary Advisory Group, which meets for the first time on Thursday.  

I’m expecting to die of myelofibrosis, a form of blood cancer, around July 2016, so it will be good to be one of the first to have the right to an assisted death.

In the debate on the Queen’s Speech I spoke about the growing menace of the IS – or as I prefer to call it, the Daesh, since it isn’t a state. These terrorists now occupy huge swathes of Iraq and Syria, and are metastasising into the rest of the Arabian peninsula, South Asia, North and West Africa.  I pointed out that the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia is similar to the theology of the Daesh, which in fact uses Saudi textbooks on Islam in its schools.

The difference between them is political rather than theological, because of the Daesh claim that its caliph has jurisdiction over the whole of the ummah – the worldwide Muslim communities - and its practice of killing infidels in territory under its jurisdiction who refuse to convert to its particular version of Islam.

In their use of cruel and inhuman punishments for expressions regarded as blasphemous, the Saudis are no different from the Daesh.

On Thursday last week when I asked a Question about the barbarous and inhuman punishment of 1,000 lashes on Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger and founder of the Liberal Saudi Network, concern was expressed on all sides of the House.

Joyce Anelay, who replied, didn't say whether she agreed that it was inappropriate for a country with such laws to be a member of the UN Human Rights Council and whether the UK would try to get Saudi Arabia removed from the Council.

The second round of 50 lashes was postponed on Friday without explanation, and perhaps the weight of international opinion calling for an amnesty may prevail on this occasion. But it's the ideology that lies behind the sentence, a cancerous growth on Sunni Islam, that is the real problem.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Update on Lindsay's and my operations

Lindsay goes into King's tomorrow at 06.00 to have a kidney removed by keyhole surgery, and Victoria comes to stay for the next four days to mind the shop and make sure I don't fall getting into or out of the bath. The hospital reckons she will be in until the following Monday, but she will have to kahe it easy for a couple of weeks after being discharged

Unfortunately L had to spend much of the day wheeling me to a series of appointments in King's starting with a scan of both legs at 11.15. An ultrasound scan of the bad leg later, to see exactssly how far down the occlusion extends, and ending with a consultation with Professor R at 15.15. Much to our surprise, he said they were going to attempt an angioplasty as Plan A, and if that doesn't work they would do the full replacement of the occluded section with a graft from the vein in the same leg immediately. Its good that the surgeon thinks there is a good chance of success with the angioplasty, though it might have been a better bet four years ago when the occlusion was first scanned.

The bad news is that the operating list is full up for the next two weeks unless a patient cancels, and its no fun having to live with a painful leg for the next two weeks minimum. I take Tramadol and Panacetamol but they don't seem to work too well at night and I never get a good night's sleep.