Wheelchairs, buggies and buses

Doug Paulley

Doug Paulley

What a muddle we seem to have with the First Bus Company having been found guilty of discrimination when a wheelchair user (36-year old Mr Doug Paulley) was unable to board one of their buses because the single space reserved on the bus for a disabled wheelchair passenger was occupied by a lady with a buggy who refused to move because her baby was sleeping.

Now, I can understand Mr Paulley being upset because he could not board the bus. had to wait for a later one and, therefore, missed a train connection  I can also understand the lady not wishing to wake her sleeping child although, technically it seems she was occupying a space specifically reserved for a disabled passenger so one might feel she was in the wrong here.  However, why the bus company should be found guilty of discrimination baffles me.  Indeed, why the bus company should be in the dock at all baffles me.  Should the driver have stopped the bus, ‘phoned his bosses and sought instruction, thus delaying everyone?  Should the company have told him to eject the lady and her pram, using force if necessary?

Royal Courts of Justice

Royal Courts of Justice

Now First Bus is appealing the decision of the County Court and, guess what, the appeal will be heard in the Appeal Court and is expected to last three days!  I assumed Mr Paulley was on legal aid but research shows that his costs are being funded by the Equality & Human Rights Commission which still means us the taxpayer.  No doubt the bus company is having to stump up its costs from its own resources which means its fare payers.  The net result, regardless of the outcome, is that the public will bear the cost of this unseemly dispute either through the legal aid bill that comes out of our taxes or because the bus company has to foot a hefty lawyers’ bill which will come out of their passengers’ fares.  Only the lawyers win here.

Where has common sense gone in this fruitless pursuit of equality?  What would have happened if the bus had already taken on board another wheelchair user who was lawfully occupying the single disabled passenger’s spot?  Would Mr Paulley still have won his discrimination case then?  Is this about creating a larger space in every bus for disabled users?  If so, isn’t it for legislators and not judges to make this decision and to reflect on the cost of such a requirement?

I rather think that, in 99% of incidents like this, common sense would have prevailed.  The wheelchair user, seeing a sleeping baby in the buggy might well have said “don’t worry lady; I will catch the next one”.  Equally, the lady might have picked up her baby, squashed him onto a seat and moved the buggy for the wheelchair if there was space.  We seem to have had a collision of two obdurate characters here; a wheelchair user demanding the full extent of his rights and a mother unwilling to disturb her baby’s sleep.  The victim, caught in the middle, is the poor old bus company and its driver stuck between a rock and a hard place and having to pay heftily for the privilege.

A little Googling reveals an interesting side to Mr Doug Paulley.  It seems he is a regular Tweeter and has his own web site in which he describes himself as a “web designer, environmentalist, animal rights activist and a disability activist” which may explain why common sense and good manners never featured in this case. I suppose he will be out with the hunt saboteurs next and taking some farmer to court for not providing disabled access across his farmland!

About Keith R Mitchell CBE

Qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1967. Pursued a successful career in financial training and publishing until selling his interests in 1990. Elected a County Councillor for the Bloxham Division in 1989. Leader of Oxfordshire County Council 5 November 2001 to 15 May 2012. Chairman of the South East England Regional Planning Committee July 2002 to July 2005. Chairman of the South East England Regional Assembly July 2005 to July 2008. In HM the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours, appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of services to local government.
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60 Responses to Wheelchairs, buggies and buses

  1. Keith S says:

    Similar to recent reports in the press re trhe Saville compensation claims cases. It appears that his 3Million left behind. will all go in legal fees, and all the compensation claimants will end up with zero. I am in the wrong Proffesion.

  2. emma594 says:

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding this, but aren’t YOU a regular tweeter with your own website? How is that something to hold against someone?! If it’s such a bad characteristic for a human being, then presumably you’re intending to close this website and your own Twitter account? If not, you are hardly in a position to criticise others for doing as you do. And as to common sense and good manners, having sympathised that Mr Paulley missed his train, you still seem to imply that he was equally in the wrong, despite the fact that the baby could have been taken out of the pushchair so it could be collapsed. In case it hadn’t crossed your mind, Mr Paulley does not have the same flexibility as regards his arrangements. And as to the hypocrisy of a politician who now works in consultancy to preach to others about wasting taxpayers’ money, I’ll give you marks for bare-faced cheek. You’re despicable. Shame on you.

    • Hello, Emma. Not sure if you are a Guardian reader or a UKIP voter! Maybe both! I was interested to see Mr Paulley portrayed in the Guardian as a badly wronged and defenceless disabled chap. With a little Googling, I find he is an articulate and left-wing campaigner for disability rights and animal rights. I make no secret of my irritation with those who rest their case entirely on rights without regard to responsibilities. As a lifelong hunt follower, I have little sympathy for animal rights activists of any kind.

      • emma594 says:

        When did Mr Paulley negate his responsibilities? And why shouldn’t he and others like him speak up about their rights? It’s not like people like you bother to respect them otherwise!

      • Samantha Covington says:

        I am afraid that the fault must be the Guardian’s in its reporting, not Mr Paulley’s. Further, what difference does it make that he is a left-wing activist? I am an animal rights activist, and now it appears a disability rights one too, but I have never voted anything other than Conservative – until now. You are a disgrace.

        Isn’t it time you entered into the debate, instead of picking on spelling errors?

    • Hello, Emma, again. Evidence, please of my lack of qualification to avoid wasting taxpayers money or are you, in fact, a Daily Mail reader who does not believe in facts? As a Chartered Accountant, I gave up a career that would earn me a six figure income to serve as a Council Leader paid the same as an Oxford bus driver. Where is your evidence that I failed to introduce good financial discipline? Put up or shut up.

      • Samantha Covington says:

        As a matter of interest, was your remuneration as Council Leader (comparable to that of an Oxford bus driver) augmented by a private income, from stocks and shares, or property, for example?

  3. Harry Wright says:

    Interesting piece. You of course are perfectly entitled to your opinion. As a disabled person myself I think this issue deserves airing. 32 years ago we had the UN International Year of Disabled People, yet still we are discriminated against on a regular basis. Illegal use of Disabled parking bays; inaccessible buildings; inconsiderate parking on pavements – the list goes on. We’re not asking for the world, just equality.

    • I am not sure how you understand equality? Do you want to equalise everyone down to a lowest common denominator or equalise everyone up and does cost ever matter? For example, children are born into different families and with different mental abilities. To eliminate family differences, you would need to remove them from their parents at birth and place them in state institutions where they could all be treated equally but, I suspect, without much love. To provide equality of opportunity, schools would need to proceed at the pace of the slowest to ensure all maintained the same level. This is called comprehensive education and all it has done in this country is to achieve comprehensive failure.

      • Samantha Covington says:

        I am greatly in favour of aspiration, but everyone should be able to compete on a level playing-field, and if that mean enabling people with disabilities to travel, work, and indeed play then, to be fair them, it must happen. To equalise up is aspirational, and shows compassion, thought, understanding and respect – qualities which can be handed down to our children and to their children – thus ensuring a fair and just world.
        You, sir, have shown none of those qualities in your blog and your replies, neither did the woman with the child who refused to move from the space specifically designated for wheelchair users.

  4. paulweaver47221493 says:

    Please sir can I have more, ops I mean equality? I know Mr Paulley and he is one of the most sincere ( dictionary definition- to be free from pretence or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings) people out there. The Tory Party, alongside the members of the Labour Party have obviously lost the plot when it comes to equality. When a person seeks equality of access is it wrong that we should demand to be treated with equality of access to services. Next thing if you have not already said it you will be saying that we shouldn’t have access to the Internet but that would be another story. Access to the Internet gives us a voice where we are otherwise the opressed (oppressed defintion – subject to harsh and authoritarian treatment) minority . Thanks for the usual discrimination we exxpect from the Tories and your fellow members, we at least get consistency. 🙂

    • Hello. Interesting to read your political rant. So – Conservative and Labour parties are not your choice. Where then? The nearly-defunct Liberals who are only a poor imitation of Labour without the ability any longer to pretend to be different. The Greens – totally mad and further to the left than most Labour politicians who learned from Blair that Socialism is dead and buried but can’t admit it? UKIP – well maybe that is your home – but they will struggle if they ever occupy a position of power and influence because they will discover that people expect them to rationalise their policies and to apply the same principles across the country. They will end up like the Liberals – buried.

  5. Mrs Blakeley says:

    Disabled areas on buses are meant for disabled people, not prams. In the day we had to fold buggies before getting onto a bus, if baby was asleep we walked and enjoyed the fresh air. All I see now are prams occupying disabled spots on busses. This needs to be stopped. Disabled spots for disabled people. Surely that is common sense Mr Mitchell?

    • Hello Mrs Blakeley. So – disabled people, however minor their disability, always rank above mothers or fathers with small children in prams or buggies. How lucky you are to have such a clear and unambiguous view of life. I am heartily sick of people’s rights being imposed without any opportunity for recognising corresponding responsibilities and for allowing a bit of common humanity and common sense into proceedings. There was a time when people would have negotiated their respective needs and timings and found an amicable solution. Now we seem to have growing numbers of irreconcilable camps demanding their rights. Where is the right of the poor old bus driver to get on with his job without a militant disabled rights chap fighting with an angry mother, defending her sleeping baby?

      • emma594 says:

        Hang on, what about the the mothers and fathers with prams and buggies negotiating to find an amicable solution?! Why should it always be the disabled person that loses? This whole thing is entirely about a woman who was asked to close her buggy to make room for Mr Paulley and REFUSED. I think you’ll find you need to check your facts a little more carefully before commenting on this.

      • Samantha Covington says:

        You saiD: “There was a time when people would have negotiated their respective needs and timings and found an amicable solution.” Excuse me? There was no need for negotiation in Mr Paulley’s case – the woman with the buggy should have moved. She refused. Mr Paulley was wronged.

  6. Tim Turner says:

    Impressive to see a politician openly siding with the large private interest against the ordinary citizen. At least your voters know that they can rely on you to defend companies against them, rather than guessing that this might be the case.

    • Hello Mr Turner. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I am no longer a politician. I stepped down in May 2013 after 24 years as a county councillor and 11 years as leader of the council. So I am afraid I no longer have any voters to worry about.

      You sound very much like a Guardian reader, wholly unable to realise that legal costs imposed on a bus company can only impact on the customers in higher fares or shareholders in lower dividends and a lower share price. The former is in danger of driving customers back into their cars. The latter is likely to inhibit the bus company’s ability to raise fund to continue investment in their buses including reducing particulate emissions and improving disabled access.

      I am heartily sick of single issue activists who cannot see beyond the ends of their own noses and human rights lawyers who feed their frenzy in order to supplement their incomes. However, I am greatly amused to find my modest entry into the disabled debate has produced so many activists emerging from the woodwork.

      • Tricia H. says:

        I’m interested that you mention ‘improving disabled access’ when discussing the issue of funding. What’s the point of improving disabled access for customers when, having accessed the bus, there is nowhere for them to travel safely – because the space which was provided as a result of disability discrimination legislation – not altruism on the part of the bus company – is occupied by a buggy with or without a sleeping child in it. Does this make sense to you? It doesn’t to me.

      • Chris Squirrelpot says:

        Emerging from the woodwork? Most certainly yes! And it isn’t your sneering little diatribes that have brought us out of the woodwork. We have been emerging from the woodwork for many years now: the woodwork of the institutions where for generations we have been imprisoned; and the woodwork of our homes, where for generations we have similarly been imprisoned by lack of such simple adjustments as kerb-drops, hearing loops, ramps, accessible buses and trains with priority wheelchair spaces, access to employment and access to all the agreeable leisure facilities available to the majority of people, who are not disabled.

        Having emerged from the woodwork, we are quite rightly making a noise about the various ways we have been imprisoned by the society we live in, and we are demanding change, so that we too can participate on an equal footing. And because the society we live in has civilised values diametrically opposed to those of Nazi Germany (which not only imprisoned but also murdered its disabled citizens) our society has responded to our demands and has implemented many of the necessary adjustments, along with the legal underpinning making them not an option but a requirement.

        This process of change is slow – too slow for many of us – and much remains to be done. Our campaigns and our successes will not be deterred or distracted by the sneering and sniping of the ever more insignificant minority of smug ideologues who claim not to grasp the idea that everyone should be allowed to participate in society without the barriers originally set up by that society itself. It is the removal of these barriers which, with good will and some supporting legislation, can completely liberate us from the woodwork into which we were long ago driven by unkindness, intolerance and narrowness of vision exemplified by your disagreeable utterances.

      • Samantha Covington says:

        I quote you: “Now I am too old to consider running for Oxfordshire’s Mayor, [. . .]!”
        Phew – what a relief!

  7. Chris Squirrelpot says:

    Rights and responsibilities. Disabled people’s right to access to services, including transport, is enshrined in the Equality Act 2010. This right has therefore been conferred in law. It is not fictitious contruct invented by disabled activists. The responsibility, in law, is on service providers to provide equality of access, and to make anticipatory provision of this access, not to wait until the access is needed.

    Equality. You perversely misunderstand the meaning of equality in this context. Equality in this context means allowing disabled people to have the same opportunity as everyone else to access services. It is about allowing everyone in society to participate fully in society. That’s all. It has nothing to do with lowest common denominators.

    You say “disabled people, however minor their disability, always rank above mothers or fathers with small children in prams or buggies.” No. This is a gross distortion: “however minor their disability” is not the point. The specific disability relevant here is that the person requiring access to the wheelchair space is a wheelchair user and does not have a choice in the matter of being a wheelchair user. The question of major or minor disability does not arise here.

    The wheelchair space in a bus is designated for wheelchair users, and wheelchair users have priority in that space. The wheelchair space is not a crêche space. If it is required by a wheelchair user, it must be given up. If a baby buggy is in that space, it must be removed from that space. If the baby is asleep, it may perhaps be woken up. It will fall asleep again. Before wheelchair spaces existed, all baby buggies and pushchairs were folded and stored in the luggage space. This was accepted as a necessity. Occasionally this necessity will arise again, when a wheelchair user appears. Parents have the option to fold their buggies and clear space. Wheelchair users do not have this option. This is why they have priority. And the reason for that priority is to allow them to participate fully in the life of our society just as everyone with normal mobility can.

  8. Samantha Covington says:

    Doug Paulley fights for the rights of all disabled wheelchair users, and the fact that he is intelligent, articulate, and not afraid to stick his neck out does not make his case against the ‘poor’ bus company any less valid. He did not choose to be disabled, but the buggy-pusher had a choice – to breed or not to breed. Her child being asleep should have had no bearing on whether or not she had a right to the wheelchair-users’ space. Anyone not minded to give a disabled person assistance might like to say to themselves “one day that person could be me and how would I like to be treated?”.

  9. Robin Fishwick says:

    Good point, Samantha, I was on a charity bike ride with Doug Paulley years ago before he became disabled, if an activist is someone who tries to make the world a better place , I think we should be thankful that Doug can and does continue to be one. I think it’s a bit unfair what you say about the mother’s choices, though. Parents’ protectiveness towards their children is natural and generally commendable. Sometimes, however we parents have to be reminded of the wider needs of the community. The problem here is that there was a lack of clarity and yes, it is down to the bus company to provide that clarity. Bus drivers have a difficult role in exercising their judgement as to who can come on board and what with – a sandwich? an open bottle? a sheet of plywood? (how big?). The more guidance they are given in their training, the easier their job is. If the driver had been properly briefed on the fact that a wheelchair user has priority in the use of a wheelchair space, he could have been more confident in telling the mother she had no choice but to fold the buggy up.

  10. Jennifer Snow says:

    Well, I’m neither an activist nor a Guardian or Daily Mail reader, but I think you’re wrong, wrong, wrong. What labels are left for me, I wonder?

  11. Mike Williams says:

    Mr Mitchell, it is not a sufficient contribution to any discussion such as this to keep saying that you are “heartily sick of” this, that and the other. Your personal feelings of malaise should have no place in an intelligent discussion of the issues and nuances of this debate. The discussion should be conducted dispassionately, with due regard for the details of the incidents involved. I’m sorry to say that your “I’m heartily sick of…” approach here does lay you open to your own accusation of not being able to see beyond the end of your nose.

    You say, for example,

    “I am heartily sick of people’s rights being imposed without any opportunity for recognising corresponding responsibilities.”

    The generalised sense of malaise you report here does not add anything to the debate. What rights have been imposed here? And what responsibilities have not been recognised? Under what circumstances is the formation, by a democratically elected parliament, of a law conferring rights, an imposition? And which responsibilities has Mr Paulley abrogated? Please be more precise.

    Having read your blog, and your contributions to the ensuing discussion, I see what you have done. You have assimilated, at some earlier point in your life, maybe half a dozen very simple ideological clichés, and you are now using them in the present debate without applying what I must assume for courtesy’s sake is your considerable intelligence to it. A far more nuanced approach than your own is needed in order to discuss this subject – and most other subjects – in a truly intelligent way.

    It is important to avoid two pitfalls when attempting to approach this sort of debate with the required intelligence: (i) to exclude as far as possible your own emotional reactions (evidenced in such expressions as “I’m heartily sick…” and “I make no secret of my irritation with…”) (ii) to avoid the (no doubt in former days vote-catching) temptation to make a big dramatic splash with a sweeping generalisation. In the present debate you have stumbled on both these points.

    There is also the question of being well-informed. The present debate needs a much better understanding than you have of (i) the British legal system and how law actually comes into existence (ii) the Equality Act 2010.

    You could perhaps be excused for not being well-informed in these two areas of the law, insofar as your career has been entirely within the limitations of provincial politics, where the wider picture and the required depth of understanding for the present debate cannot perhaps be cultivated.

    But what cannot be excused are your glib, emotive, supercilious and sneering comments, your sarcasm, your ad hominem attacks on those who have commented on your blog, your absurd extrapolations, and your wilful misunderstanding of the word ‘equality’. Can this really be the behaviour of someone who was once leader of a County Council? Am I naïve to expect such a person to make wiser, more intelligent and kinder utterances than we find here?

    You would also do well to remember that the “I’m heartily sick of…” emotive approach to politics was the type of thing that led to the formation of the policies of the Third Reich, which – as another commentator here has pointed out – did not just imprison its disabled citizens, but also murdered them in large numbers.

    • Well, Mr Williams, what a fine patrician tone you set and how confident you are in the efficacy of our legislation. I am also impressed by the time you clearly have to write such a long and worthy response. I am less fortunate in terms of free time so I will reserve my right to reply until my more pressing responsibilities are sorted. I will simply observe that I prefer to be more challenging of received wisdom, particularly in those areas where many people are too frightened to open their mouths. I refer to racial politics and disability rights. I thought the responses to my original blog exemplified the way in which the debate has become skewed because many people are just too frightened to say what they think while exponents of their rights are only too ready to crowd onto the public stage.

  12. emma594 says:

    So essentially, are you saying, Sir, that you disliked the fact that anyone had the audacity to pipe up in disagreement with your attitude and therefore that excuses you throwing out labels, stereotypes and insults instead of addressing the issues actually being raised?

    • I rather thought that described your rush to attack my original blog. However, I will make a more considered reply to the swarm of disability activists that I seem to have aroused but only when my more immediate priorities have been addressed.

      • Samantha Covington says:

        Actually I am not a disability activist. I am a person who has a sense of what is just and fair and I am truly appalled by your unfair assessment of Doug Paulley, and by your attitude towards the needs of people with disabilities. You really do need to get out more, and I do suggest you do it in a wheelchair to learn how to appreciate how difficult daily life can be for people less able-bodied than you and me.

  13. Roz Evans says:

    Mr Mitchell, I can’t help but wonder how well represented your disabled constituents felt through the 24 years you served as their county councillor and whether your leadership of said council for 11 years demonstrates the same, apparently, deliberate misunderstanding of legislation regarding equality issues? I suspect council records would provide evidence, but I have always been more of a fan of those people who act, rather than talk, so I don’t think I’ll do go down that path at the present time – I’d rather support Doug Paulley in more positive ways.

  14. Becca Rosenthal says:

    Your original blog is quite disturbing in that it completely ignores all of the work that has taken place to guide society into recognising, and responding to, the challenges of ‘equality of opportunity’. It’s a term mentioned in the comments above but seems to refer to treating everyone equally, where as this is not the case. Equality of opportunity is less about treating everyone the same, and far more about fairness. It’s about creating a level playing field so that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate as full members of society. And that means a little adaptation – for some it might mean brail so they can ‘read’ a door sign to access a pulic toilet, for others it might be mobility equipment such as a frame or a wheelchair, for some it may be text on particular coloured paper, and of course for others it might be a space on a bus available to them when no other person with a disability is using it.
    The medical model (as dispayed in your own article) is very antiquated. I wonder, Mr Mitchell, if you were to fall ill tomorrow, for example to have a stroke, which disabled the limbs of your body that helped you to walk and you had no other choice but to use a wheelchair – how would you like to be treated? Seeing as our society is primarily built for able bodied people, you would be at a natural disadvantage to everyone else – would you want your contemporary, forward thinking communities to recognise your disadvantage, acknowledge the unfairness and make the small provisions necessary to give you access to the world, and a fair chance to be the individual you are, to have the chance (should you choose to take it or not) to fulfil your potential and just be the best you can be? Or would you be content with a society that, through no fault of your own, denies you that equality of opportunity? An experience that could increase your social isolation and leave you feeling completely disengaged from society?

    p.s. please don’t try to define me by the newspaper I may or may not read – not all of us are easily influenced by the media and certainly have more depth than shallow minded media content….

  15. James says:

    Mr Mitchell,

    If I maybe kind and ask if you can come down from your turret I would like to bring you back down to earth.

    Your the part of the problem in why this Country is like it is.

    If you actually tried to do your job when you were the head of Oxfordshire Council and tried and help persuade the local bus operators that the disabled bay on buses be for disabled folks, you may have obtained a lot more cudos from the ‘Common Man’.

    Perhaps I am being mean, perhaps you cared more about stocks and shares and less about doing what a politician is paid to do.

    If your well rounded posterior is able to get in my spare wheelchair, your welcome to borrow it for a week to see your friends in big business using public transport. But I honestly worry about your neck. I am not sure that your neck is able to look upwards as your blog entry and general consensus from the public seems to indicate that you spend a lot of time looking down on people.

    I doubt that you have a bus pass, (even if you do, I hope that your not using it, due to how much you have been given by the tax payer, also I am sure that your want to help those poor bus drives and big bus Companies further their profit margin).

    If you truly knew anything about the wheelchair and buggy debate, your know that a wheelchair has to be in the wheelchair area, facing backwards with its brakes on. However, your allowed to pile in as many buggies as the interior space can handle.

    Once again, I ask you to borrow my wheelchair and see for yourself what it’s like being left at a bus stop. But no cheating and asking your Butler to pick you up. (My wheelchair doesn’t fold so good luck getting it into your German saloon car.

    I just hope that the size of your ego doesn’t get you thrown out of the bus.

    Sorry, your well liked, I forgot!
    http://m.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/9347665.UPDATE__Keith_Mitchell_confirms_exit_as_Oxfordshire_County_Council_leader/?ref=rl

    Now if Politicians did their job and come up with guidelines to help the above situation rather than battling with opposition politicians and feeding the media to further promote your over paid career we wouldn’t have UKIP being where it is.

    So would you leave rape to run unpunished in the community and let individual Councils punish or not punish them as they please? What’s the difference?

    I have Cerebral Palsy and a paid job. I punch well above my weight, I stop shoplifters not physically, but with ‘Gift of the gab’, something your acid tongue is capable of – if you only tried. Getting on buses helps me work and keep my job and give back to the tax payer, but overpaid, posh, snobs like your good self, don’t help my stress levels and my travel plans.

    I am no activist, I just want to get on with my life like everybody else.

    • Rude, aggressive and factually incorrect. Not worth anything more by way of reply.

      • Mike Williams says:

        Come on Mr Mitchell, bottling out on the pretext that someone is ‘rude’ is one of the oldest tricks in the book, and I’m sure that as a former politician you know that book by heart. Another trick you have deployed is stalling on the grounds of being too busy to reply.

        But it’s clear what’s happened. You have indeed now been truly cornered, and there is no disguising any more the fact that you are lost for words, you have lost the argument, you have nothing intelligent to say to anyone who has contributed to this debate, other than your rather silly spurts of personal invective, your strange and even sillier wish to categorise contributors by your presumptions about what newspapers they read, and your equally silly presumption that we are all disability activists. I for one am not – I am simply an able-bodied man with enough sense to look beyond the end of my nose and to see that not everything in society is organised fairly for people with disabilities.

        If only you could look beyond the end of your own nose, instead of bringing down some very defensive steel shutters when you begin to sense that you are losing the argument.

      • That is precisely what I thought when I read your blog. I’m glad others thought differently though – it’s been quite heartening to see so many Human Beings (to label them) “coming out of the woodwork” to challenge and correct you.

  16. Harry Wright says:

    May I be permitted to ask what, if any, personal experience of disability you have, and what during your time as leader of Oxfordshire Council, you achieved to make it possible for people with disabilities, fully participate in the kind of day to day activities that able-bodied people take for granted?

  17. Sorry, Mr Williams but I understand the tactics activists use and it is to deluge someone with responses in the hope they will shut up and go away. Sorry to disappoint. You will get a further blog but it will be when I have the time. My voluntary work for local community organisations is more important to me than responding to the likes of you.

    • Mike Williams says:

      I rest my case.

    • Samantha Covington says:

      I beg to differ, there is nothing more important than you taking a hard look at yourself.
      Common decency should make you realise that what you have written is so wrong.
      So, please, take the time to understand what it must be like to have a disability so that you can acquire some empathy.
      Secondly, please show some respect for those who have communicated with you and respond appropriately.
      Finally, I don’t really care how much voluntary work you tell us you do if your heart is so dark that you do not care about those less able than yourself.

      • Mike Williams says:

        Good points, Samantha, and you’ve got me thinking about dark hearts. It is generally in the nature of dark hearts that they…

        – Have no empathy for fellow human beings
        – Cannot tolerate the possibility of seeing another person’s point of view
        – Have rigid patterns of thought
        – Simplify complex issues to suit their paramount emotional needs
        – Interpret disagreement as a personal attack
        – Allow their emotions to cripple any attempt at arguing reasonably
        – Are extremely defensive
        – Wholly lack kindness and warmth
        – Cannot form close or enduring relationships with other people

        These symptoms are often the result of parental cruelty in early life.

    • I hate to deflate your ego, but there is no orchestrated campaign by “activists” to “deluge you with responses”. I don’t know, or even know of, a significant proportion of people who have commented – I certainly don’t know Mike Williams for example, though I would very much like to!

      Of those that I do know, a significant proportion of them are not disabled, and a significant proportion are not “activists” (not that I think there is anything wrong with being an “activist”, for that matter.)

      To the best of my knowledge, there has been no request sent by anybody to anybody to “deluge (you) with responses”. I’m sorry that this doesn’t fit with your world-view, but it would seem that this assortment of human beings has challenged you and your beliefs in comments on your bog simply because they, individually, wanted to do so and decided (independently) so to do.

    • paulweaver47221493 says:

      You can do voluntary work if you wish but its the element of true community spirit with which you do it that counts. If you do your volunteering with an agenda other than the true spirit of volunteering, not seeking something for yourself, you are no better than the person who does nothing to help their community.

      You use your volunteering like a sheild to stop you having to discuss things with us. Does your community know you do this?

      I think I would question you connecting the volunteering with your writing here if I was part of the management group of the voluntary organisation!!

  18. emma594 says:

    Oh dear, poor Mr Mitchell thinks that he is the only person in the world who does voluntary work for his community and therefore he can say what he pleases without the need to defend or justify or respond to questions, because he has to go away and polish his halo. I feel bad now. I have been so mean to him, asking him to stop insulting people and answer some questions about the things he said on a public forum. What was I thinking? What were any of us thinking? We need to leave this poor man alone with his CBE (for services to local government, not for anything charitable, mind). He has community work to do. He doesn’t need us criticising the logic or lack of thought behind the bile he spouts on his blog. It’s his blog and if he wants to spout inarticulate hate gibberish with no thought to content, logic or meaning, that’s his democratic right and we should respect that.

    Oh no, wait. Didn’t he say he hates people who assert rights without accepting responsibilities?

  19. Mr Mitchell, let me first explain that with one single exception I have never met and do not know the other people who have commented above. Nobody has asked or encouraged me to join this debate. If you truly believe that the responses you have received to your post are indicative of an orchestrated campaign of “activists’ tactics” you are mistaken, and clearly somewhat paranoid. I, no doubt like the other commenters above, have joined this debate in good faith simply because I feel compelled to do so by your ill-informed and at times quite childish comments, which at one point left me wondering if your blog persona were some kind of satirical hoax (as surely no intelligent person with an ounce of compassion in their bones could truly hold these views?).

    It is very telling that you set up this blog, stating that you intended to increase your blogging activity, but now that people have disagreed with you, you say you have no time to engage in debate – even though this is a blog post you yourself created. It seems you want to encourage “debate” as long as only your side of the debate is respected. Why not engage properly with respondents like a grown-up, by actually considering their responses intelligently and courteously, and thinking before reacting, rather than taking your bat and ball home? People have taken the time above to make well-reasoned, polite and informed comments and in response you have simply been offensive and reactionary, and then tried to claim the moral high ground in fleeing the debate by claiming to be too busy with voluntary work to respond. Shame on you. I actually feel embarrassed for you… It is clear that you have simply run out of steam on an issue about which you are shockingly ill-informed and yet over-opinionated.

    To claim that the reason you are too busy to engage in a properly-reasoned debate is because of voluntary work is a reprehensible excuse. Are you so lacking in self-awareness and so blinded by your own halo (invisible to others) that you think this will impress anyone? If it were really true that you are too busy with voluntary work to respond to comments on your own blog site, you would of course have to close down the blog – you certainly wouldn’t add any more posts to it if you are too busy to engage sensibly with debate regarding existing posts.

    I would be interested to understand how you square your approach to equality of access issues with the Conservative Party’s notion of the “Big Society”. Your approach is disrespectful and disempowering to anyone with additional challenges around access and equality. One can only hope that you and your loved ones never become disabled and therefore need on rely on the flexibility, kindness and thoughtfulness of others, let alone rely on access legislation in order to be able to live a “normal” life and participate in “society”.

    I wonder whether you would still side with Firstbus over the woman who refused to give up the wheelchair space on the bus if the wheelchair-user needing the space had been a frail elderly lady known to you through the Conservative party, or perhaps the child of one of your Freemason chums, rather than a 36-year-old “web designer, environmentalist, animal rights activist and disability activist”. You seem to feel that some disabled people deserve to be left out in the cold – literally – if their views do not correspond with your own. In fact you have demonstrated that you dismiss anyone whose views do not coincide with yours…

    As someone who has held senior management roles within various charities/voluntary organisations, including having run a Volunteer Bureau and worked as a Project Manager for a Council of Voluntary Service, I know that the vast majority of voluntary organisations are very mindful of equality issues and disability access rights. You really are letting them down (abjectly) with your approach to this issue. I can only imagine that if other people involved in the community organisations you say you volunteer for have read your comments here, they must be wincing with embarrassment.

    I spent a number of years during my career working within Universities, supporting students with disabilities to enable them to engage fully with their studies. In the past I also set up and managed a local authority-funded regional service to connect individuals with neighbourhood and community support services – this project required me to undertake considerable research into the difficulties a surprising number of people experience in engaging with “normal” life for a variety of reasons. It demonstrated beyond question that people’s impairments are often not what prevents them accessing “normal life” – it is often instead barriers (physical or attitudinal) put in place by an uncaring or simply unthinking society. I am also very aware that people with disabilities of all kinds often go to great efforts not to draw attention to their disabilities, and don’t like having to ask for help. I am also very aware that some selfish people are not prepared to inconvenience themselves one iota even if it makes a huge difference to somebody with access challenges. This example of a woman refusing to give up the wheelchair space on a bus which was not full, when she could easily have held her own baby and put the buggy in the luggage space, is a case in point. On the project I managed we liaised with organisations such as Shopmobility and local transport providers to try to ensure that people could access normal life with the minimum of fuss. I learned that the success of such an enterprise depends almost wholly on the attitudes of individual people who can either help or hinder, often depending on their mood or their individual opinion as to the “worth” of a particular disabled person.

    That particular project was undertaken before the Disability Discrimination Act or Equality Act came into being. Since those days, legislation has been a catalyst for considerable improvement, enhancing the lives of many people who through no fault of their own find it more challenging to access “normal” life. But unless society engages willingly and fairly with the legislation in everyday life, people who care about fairness and equality will always have to end up highlighting those selfish few who actively choose not to engage with it, in order to preserve the hard-won legal (and moral) rights of others. As a student (in my spare time) of Contemporary Social Policy I have found it fascinating to learn about the history of different approaches and policies in our society. I find it baffling when people seek to dismiss the need for upholding hard-won rights just because in their own self-centred experience they do not personally benefit from those rights. I commend Doug Paulley for taking this case to court in the first place, and I am appalled by Firstbus’s attitude.

    I feel it is important to add that I am disabled myself. Fortunately, I do not require a wheelchair – I narrowly avoided that permanent outcome following a paralysing spinal cord compression injury some years ago at the age of thirty, but I initially had to use a wheelchair while recovering from surgery and I found this very challenging. I never imagined that I would become disabled, or that I would face the ongoing difficulties I have done since suffering this injury, through no fault of my own. Like many people I have met who became disabled after years of being fully able-bodied, not to mention those who have been disabled since birth, I am truly grateful to all those campaigners who contributed to the development of this country’s equality legislation – without it my life would be much more difficult and I would not have benefitted from the opportunities I have had to contribute to society in a meaningful way. Becoming disabled (and I become increasingly physically disabled with each passing year) has been a real eye-opener for me, even as somebody who previously worked in the voluntary sector upholding the rights of disabled people.

    Speaking as somebody with this life experience, I would sincerely urge you, Mr Mitchell, to walk the walk before you talk the talk – I am sure you would learn a lot from spending a few days in a wheelchair or with somebody in a wheelchair, attempting to live your normal life and access all your normal activities. I am sure you would find life a lot more tiring, time-consuming, disempowering and frustrating, and I am certain that if you experienced that you would find it unfair and would on occasion have to assert whatever rights the law gave you or opt out of normal life, temporarily or permanently. It would be very illuminating for you, I am sure. I am also sure that many local and/or national voluntary organisations would be more than willing to help facilitate such an exercise if you were to undertake it in good faith. I am sure they could also facilitate introductions to individuals who face the same difficulties with access to public life which prompted the court case at the heart of this debate. Certainly I, and no doubt other respondents to your blog post, would gain a lot more respect for you if you were to undertake such an exercise before offering any further opinions on these issues.

    • Mike Williams says:

      Very good points, Woody, superbly argued and lucidly presented. I would like to take up the excellent point you make when you say “If it were really true that you are too busy with voluntary work to respond to comments on your own blog site, you would of course have to close down the blog – you certainly wouldn’t add any more posts to it if you are too busy to engage sensibly with debate regarding existing posts.”

      Mr Mitchell, we will judge you on your actions, not on your spiteful and evasive words.

      If we find that you have started writing blog entries on other subjects, without making some intelligent responses to the many comments here, then your excuse about being too busy to address our comments will be shown for what it is: a vacuous, dishonest evasion, an admission that you have indeed been routed, that you have lost the argument and have nothing left to say.

      Let us watch your blogs, monitor your actions, and judge you accordingly.

  20. Harry Wright says:

    I note, with some disappointment, that KRMCBE has resorted to the last bastion of the politician and the uninformed, that of the “I’m too busy.” Every comment he has posted shows that any claimed knowledge of disability and disabled people is, in fact a fallacy. Just about the only thing that he hasn’t said to date is the need for euthanasia for the disabled, but to be scrupulously fair to him, I am prepared to give him time.

  21. Sorry to disappoint, Mr Wright. The truth is that I have more important issues to address in the short term. I know you will not like that and frankly, my feelings are the same as the heroine in Gone the Wind.- I don’t give a damn. You will all get a collective reply although I am afraid you won’t like it very much either.

    • I trust that your reply will be true to the ideals you expouse as a devout Mason. To quote your blog:

      “a Mason is one to whom the burdened heart may pour forth its sorrow, the distressed may prefer their suit, whose hand is guided by justice and whose heart is expanded by benevolence.”

  22. You have me quivering in my boots, Mr Williams. Do what you like – as I have just said to Mr Wright, I don’t give a damn. As for spite, look back at the responses I have had – all posted to this site and most of them not worthy of any further response.

  23. emma594 says:

    Dear Mr Mitchell,

    You have called me a Guardian reader, a UKIP voter AND a Daily Mail reader (none of which are true, incidentally) and refused to answer any questions put to you by perfectly polite, if critical, members of the public. I do not know any of the other people who have commented (apart from Mr Paulley, whose comments you apparently ignore anyway), and I do not think it sufficient for you to give a “collective reply” to all of us. I asked you a few questions and you should have the courtesy to answer them. Lumping me together with everyone you disagree with and disapprove of just adds further insult to the already dismissive and ignorant messages you have left.

    You clearly have nothing of value to say by way of defence, otherwise you would just say it, instead of repeatedly insulting me and others who have called your attitudes into question. Your vitriolic invective does you no service. If you’re too ignorant and stupid to give proper responses when you are questioned, then so be it, but that isn’t our fault, that’s yours.

    And luckily, this row is on a public forum, recorded in writing for all time, for anyone to read (even if you try to delete it, of course). Good luck to you with your horrible little life in your manifestly small mind. I do hope that someday you find yourself wheelchair-bound, even if only temporarily, so that you get to experience your own prejudice from the other side.

    Oh, and by the way, it wasn’t the heroine who didn’t give a damn, it was the man walking out on their marriage (after having killed their only child) who said that. Nice choice of role model.

  24. You are certainly a persistent activist and you clearly have a lot more time on your hands than I do. I still work a 100 hour week; blogging is a very small part of that and if you have not got the message yet, let me spell it out for you. You and your bilious comments are not a high priority for me. You will get a response in my time and when it fits in with the other tasks I have and that carry a higher priority for me. In the mean time, threaten away; whoever said it on the film, I do not give a damn.

    • James says:

      My invitation to have my wheelchair for a week to use on public transport still stands.

    • I don’t know where you get the impression anybody has threatened you: “quivering in my boots”, “threaten away”.

      You seem to have a notable disconnect between the reality and your perception of it.

      You suggest that you have stirred up a swarm of disability activists: you haven’t. You suggest there has been a concerted campaign by activists to deluge you with comments as a tactic: there hasn’t. You suggest that people are challenging you as a result of their party political affiliation or which newspapers they read: they haven’t and you are the only one to have inferred (incorrectly) such an influence. You posit that you have been threatened: you haven’t.

      It is difficult to say how to react to such misinterpretation of people’s actions and motives; without even beginning to look at the actual issues you purport to discuss. If your misinterpretation is unintentional, I worry for your mental health. If it is intentional, you are a truly despicable piece of work.

      Either way, I think it is fairly clear that you have validated what was said about you in the poll and comments section of the local paper after you retired / resigned – http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/9347665.UPDATE__Keith_Mitchell_confirms_exit_as_Oxfordshire_County_Council_leader/ . 70% thought you had not done a good job as leader of Oxfordshire county council because “his outspoken comments and policies have been damaging.” The comments talk about your vitriolic verbal abuse of individuals online, your rudeness, your self-aggrandisement; somebody who is unable to debate politics without engaging in personal slurs – and further. Much or all of which has been echoed in your blog and comments.

      As has been demonstrated, one can lead a horse to water but one cannot make it drink. It is very clear that a huge preponderance of people have made it clear precisely what they think of your opinions, your actions and your big-headedness. Your continued disbelief, evasion, blaming, labelling, paranoid conspiracy theories of orchestrated personal attacks and other supposed escape mechanisms make it clear that you are either delusional or pretending to be so. In the former case, it would be unkind to continue arguing; in the latter, further responses would (to my mind) be fruitless and make a mockery of those (without exception genuine) people who have challenged you and in the process would inflate your ego.

      tl;dr my original tweet is indubitably correct: “@krmcbe is a Gove-supporting parasitic Tory twunt so IDGAF what he thinks, he’s as relevant as Blair on pacifism”

  25. emma594 says:

    No one has threatened you, Mr Mitchell. On the contrary, it seems to be you doing all the threatening. All we have done is ask you questions and get annoyed when, instead of answers, we just get insults. Is this the way you speak to everyone who disagrees with you? You must be very lonely indeed.

  26. Mr Mitchell, I have just re-read the Guardian article about this case as I was curious to see what could possibly have caused you to describe it as having portrayed Doug Paulley as “badly wronged and defenceless”.

    I note that the only references pertaining to Mr Paulley state that he is “disabled”, a “wheelchair user”, is 36 and “was denied access to the bus after the woman with the sleeping baby refused to move”. This facts are surely indisputable, even by yourself.

    I can find no evidence of editorial judgement being imposed in the article to “side with” Mr Paulley or imply in any way that he was “badly wronged” – in fact the article reports the indisputable facts quite dispassionately and makes no comment as to the rights and wrongs of the scenario, simply explaining that it is being considered by the Court of Appeal.

    The article in no way implies that Mr Paulley is “defenceless”. In fact it clearly explains that “Paulley’s defence of the Isaacs decision is being funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission”.

    It is pointless to misrepresent the content or tone of a media article which is in the public domain and is easily verifiable. You have disingenuously attempted to do so in order to bolster your flimsy case for attacking disability access rights in general and Mr Paulley in particular, whom it is clear you simply dislike – although it appears you do not actually know the man. Mr Paulley is a free man, tenacious of his liberties, and I should have imagined that you, as a Freemason, would applaud that, as it is something Freemasons are supposed to value (according to your own website).

    Your approach – using your public profile to make snide and potentially damaging comments about disability access in general and a disabled individual in particular – is a form of “trolling” which is deeply unpleasant and discredits not only yourself, but also the Freemasons and the Conservatives with whom you align yourself. By wilfully misrepresenting the facts you show yourself up as somebody with little or no integrity.

    If you were genuinely as busy with good works in the community as you claim to be, you would surely avoid wasting time on negative pastimes such as commenting on issues which you patently know little about (you are clearly unfamiliar with the content of the Equality Act and yet you feel you can pontificate about the law) and which you have no intention of debating like an adult. You have also chosen not to engage with any suggestions of ways in which you could potentially learn about the reality of these issues before making further comment. It is abundantly clear from your reaction to people’s responses to your comments that your blog is simply an exercise in vanity and lacks any integrity. Shame on you.

  27. You’re an odious little man aren’t you? A true Tory. I regret visiting your pathetic, inaccurate blogging attempt and rather poor excuse for an article. It’s just as well that you work a 100 hour week because you’ll never make it as a writer.

    • Greetings militant and aggressive disability rights activist! You do not seem to understand my motivation so let me make it clear that I will approve all responses to my original blog however rude, personal and aggressive they may be. This will enable anyone with the time to read them to make a judgement about all of you. I made that judgement early on in this debate and you have done nothing to change it – in fact, quite the reverse. I now have a clear picture of the sort of people you are. Whether or not others share that view is a matter of some indifference to me. You may or may not worry but I hope you have some idea of the utter contempt in which I hold those who have stooped to rudeness, aggression and entirely inappropriate personal vindictiveness. By all means keep posting. I will continue to upload to expose you for what you are.

      • Doug Paulley says:

        That response was true to the Masonic maxim you state elsewhere: I can truly sense that your “hand is guided by justice” and your “heart is expanded by benevolence”. Good on you.

        You are like the child who sticks his fingers in his ears and goes “La la la la la I can’t hear you.” This is compounded by unjustified and unevidenced labelling of your interlocutors. One shudders to imagine what it must have been like “debating” points with you when you were leader of the Council.

        If you’re not prepared to debate the issues you discuss in your blog and on Twitter in an adult fashion then I suggest you stop using these supposedly two-way means of communication.

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