Austin Mitchell MP’s review of Growing Old by Des Wilson in the House magazine


‘First the bad news. Des Wilson has grown old.  Now the good news.  The great campaigner, founder of Shelter and PR for the Liberal Party, is still campaigning. Against death his toughest opponent in the long life of struggle the Oomaru kid has waged since he arrived in this country. Des feels in his heart that though his campaigns so far have nearly all been successful, this is one he’ll lose in the end. Yet  his book does outline some pretty effective battle plans and reveal several weaknesses in the enemy’s case. So I wouldn’t put money on the outcome. Not just yet anyway. 

Our 73 year old hero sets out the terms of the battle, explores his enemy’s weaknesses and his own and brings out the fact that his campaign is a day by day struggle because that’s how old people must live, with each day a triumph over the enemy. He calculates the odds and his prospects of another eleven years of healthy living and concludes that death isn’t the real problem. It’s old age. And that there’s even a possibility that God (wearing a T-shirt and playing golf) is watching the process. 

All very interesting to an oldie like me, though it begins sadly with Des’s 70th birthday party surrounded by friends in London. “I don`t look old do I?” he begins his speech. “No” they roar back. He feels fit, healthy, top of the world, but then immediately afterwards realises that he’s crossed an invisible line. The faxes and emails dry up. The invitations stop. No friends come to visit and all the usual excitements fade. “I seemed to vanish from view” Des says. “In my London days I had been in demand. The phone rarely stopped ringing…letters and emails piled up…invitations came by the armful…I was on the inside track…in demand…I was a player. Now…days went by without a phone call…More often than  not the letter box was empty.  Emails and invitations there were none. If it were not for Spam I would have felt completely abandoned…To sum up, I seemed to be becoming infirm and invisible at the same time.” 

A sad and moving transition and one which reached me too late. I read it only after telling a heartbroken Grimsby Labour Party that I’m going to retire at the next election. If only Des’s book had reached me a few days earlier I might have tried to stay on. As it is the only possibility now is to read, learn and thoroughly digest Des’s formula for not going gentle unto that goodnight.’

Austin Mitchell MP’s review of Growing Old: The Last Campaign by Des Wilson.  Go here to read our Chairman’s blog post on Des Wilson and Growing Old: The Last Campaign. Get your copy of the book today!