‘Parkinson’s makes you wish you were never born’, says Jeremy Paxman

A police officer receives a large box of papers from Jeremy Paxman at the door to No 10. the broadcaster has a long beard and uses a walking stick
Paxman handed his petition and charter in to Downing Street on Thursday - Matt Crossick/PA

Jeremy Paxman has said Parkinson’s disease “makes you wish you hadn’t been born”, as he called for better treatment of sufferers of the disease.

The former University Challenge and Newsnight presenter made the comments as he delivered a list of recommendations about the condition to Downing Street.

Accompanied by fellow presenters of the Movers and Shakers podcast – which discusses the challenges of living with the disease – he marked World Parkinson’s Day by presenting the “Parky Charter” and a petition with tens of thousands of names to No 10.

The podcast also features Rory Cellan-Jones, the former BBC journalist; Mark Mardell, the broadcaster’s ex-Europe and North America editor; Gillian Lacey-Solymar, a former correspondent; Sir Nick Mostyn, the divorce barrister for the late Diana, Princess of Wales; and Paul Mayhew-Archer, the Vicar of Dibley co-writer.

The Parky Charter has five key recommendations: swift access to specialists for individuals with Parkinson’s under the NHS, the introduction of a Parkinson’s UK pamphlet for enhanced awareness and support, the implementation of a Parkinson’s passport granting automatic entitlement to specific benefits, improved comprehensive care, including regular consultations with a Parkinson’s nurse, and increased government funding for research for a cure for the disease.

The podcast hosts stand in a row outside Downing Street. Several use walking sticks
Mark Mardell, Paul Mayhew-Archer, Rory Cellan-Jones, Jeremy Paxman, Gillian Lacey-Solymar and Sir Nicholas Mostyn - Matt Crossick/PA

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, praised the charter, saying he is “very supportive of the excellent work that the Movers and Shakers do” and promising “the charter will rightfully receive the attention it deserves”.

However, Paxman said he believes the charter and petition will have “no effect whatsoever” on the Government. He said: “The fact that they have ignored all their responsibilities to date indicates to me that they’re not going to get any better.

“And I suspect that the form of words devised by the ministry of health will confirm that. I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere. You feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall.”

The Leeds-born broadcaster also voiced his frustration with the public’s treatment of Parkinson’s sufferers. He said: “You want to say, get the f--- out of the way, that’s what you want to say.”

In May 2021, Paxman announced he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and stepped down as the host of University Challenge.

‘You wish you hadn’t been born’

The 73-year-old, who began his broadcasting career on the BBC’s graduate trainee programme in 1972, said: “[Parkinson’s] may not kill you but it will make you wish you hadn’t been born.

He added: “There’s nothing in it for the drug companies, it’s just more money for them.”

About 153,000 people have been diagnosed with the condition, although estimates suggest more than 200,000 may be affected.

Caroline Rassell, the chief executive of the charity Parkinson’s UK, said: “The Movers and Shakers are an incredible group of people with Parkinson’s who are using their combined voices to create a powerful platform for change.

“We support the principles of the Parky Charter, which echo the issues that the Parkinson’s UK community raises with us.”

‘Incurable, degenerative and progressive’

Carl Beech, the chief executive of charity Spotlight YOPD, said: “When I was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s, I’ll never forget the words ‘incurable, degenerative and progressive’ ringing in my ears as I left the consultant’s room.

“I knew that life was different now, and looked for help. The Movers and Shakers podcast was the first thing I listened to. It gave me great comfort to know I wasn’t alone.

“However, I was young and so I had a similar but also different battle on my hands. One of having to work with declining health and yet no easy access to financial help. Having to fight and often failing to get the help needed is soul-destroying.”