Dyslexia & Paul Clapp
The Wisbech Standard has a report this week on the removal of UKIP Councillor Paul Clapp from his very senior post at Cambridgeshire County Council.
Now I must admit that I was never impressed by the choice of Cllr Clapp for his earlier Children & Young People Role, nor for his role as Chairman of one of the most senior Committees – and most challenging – in the entire County. But my reasons for that were more about his personality, affiliations, past comments and overall experience and ability.
So now it turns out that Paul Clapp has been diagnosed dyslexic and it appears this prompted a vote of “No Confidence” threat which has pushed him to quit his post. Or did it? Because the newspaper isn’t clear on the issue nor in the role the new diagnosis played in the group leaders decisions.
The newspaper says that the reason they wanted Cllr Clapp gone was:
•struggling to cope with the role
•forgetting to call for votes on committee items
•failing to realise when the next item should be introduced
•reading recommendations from different items to that being debated
•is generally failing to ensure the meeting follows due process
Now if this was happening because Paul Clapp is simply not very good at such a vital and serious role, then fair enough. But tying this to dyslexia is completely inappropriate. Dyslexia is certainly a major challenge for sufferers, but it does not in any way preclude a successful career, nor the holding of an important role. It certainly means that the individual has to work harder, but Paul Clapp doesn’t seem the sort of man to shirk at putting in some extra work.
Dyslexia didn’t stop Actor Anthony Andrews (Bodie, from the Professionals) from having a long and successful career. It didn’t stop United States Senator Michael Bennet. It didn’t stop Hugo & Nebula Award Winning Sci-Fi Writer Octavia Butler. It didn’t stop legal clerk and environmental activist Erin Brockovich, upon whose achievements a successful movie was based. It didn’t stop British Art Historian Timothy Clifford. It didn’t stop Tom Cruise, or Paloma Faith or Noel Gallagher or Steve McQueen or Ozzy Osbourne or Keanu Reeves. Galileo’s dyslexia doesn’t seem to have done too much harm to his historic career as a physicist, mathematician, engineer, astronomer, and philosopher – although it’s certainly true the world didn’t revolve around him. Director Guy Richie. Business tycoon and philanthropist David Rockefeller. Novelist John Irving, IKEA founder Ingar Kamprad, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. Famous Dragon’s Den celebrity Theo Paphitis. Pablo Picasso. Steve Jobs, for goodness sake.
So let’s not pretend that the fact that somebody suffers from dyslexia should be a barrier to success. That’s demeaning to people who have the condition all over the world and it’s a crock. But again, it’s not entirely clear that this was actually any part of the reason why the group leaders removed Paul Clapp. Indeed, the only people who actually seem to mention his dyslexia in the article are the UKIP people.
Cllr Bullen said: “The swap is being recommended to help support Councillor Clapp who has had a recent diagnosis of severe dyslexia.
“While this means he finds it hard to cope with the amount of paperwork a chairman needs to deal with and read it also gives him vital insight for his new role on health. “Equally Councillor Rylance, with a background in caring, will be an ideal chairman for the adults committee. The council will be supporting Councillor Clapp following the recent diagnosis.”
This statement makes me angry, actually. Because it tries to push the idea that Cllr Clapp was threatened by a vote of no confidence because of his dyslexia, when closer reading reveals that it was actually his poor performance which led to the group leaders being uncomfortable with him continuing in the role.
If Cllr Clapp is actually being removed because he has dyslexia and it is causing him to struggle, then I think it’s absolutely the wrong reason to do it. UKIP’s Paul Bullen says “we want to support him.” By agreeing to move him to a lesser role? Don’t give me this “he’ll have vital insight for his new role in health” guff. Everybody has insights into the role of health, because we are all affected by health. That’s just flim flam to excuse pushing the bloke aside for the wrong reason. What would have been better – IF the reason for his problems as Chairman are due to his dyslexia – would have been to “support him” by giving him help in his role as Chairman. Not sacking him from it. Doesn’t he have a vice-chairman?
Because it really boils down to this. Do they think he is a bad Chairman? Or do they think he is a good Chairman who just needs some support because of a disability? If it’s the former, then stop blaming dyslexia. It’s a slap in the face for the many dyslexics who struggle heroically to beat the odds and succeed. If it’s the latter, then give him the support to be the great Chairman you believe he can be.
Cllr Paul Clapp being interviewed by the BBC film crew at the Waterlees Spinney
play area this week. Picture: Steve Williams. From Wisbech Standard.