Mark Wood has died at the age of just 44. He was a member of the Green party and it is in this capacity that I knew him. Others in the West Oxfordshire Green party have shared their memories of Mark to supplement my own meager stock. I wish I had known Mark better.
Mark was a quiet, gentle soul, anxious to join in the activities of a local branch of a political party, but desperate not to intrude. He seemed so glad to be asked to help out with a stall or to deliver leaflets. During the last general election, when there was much to be done, he was especially happy to be involved.
What attracted Mark to Green politics? He was hardly a Green in tooth and claw, and was far from strident in expressing his political beliefs. I think Mark wanted to join in something with which he felt comfortable. Not that this was in any way easy for him; he struggled gamely with public transport to reach events in Witney from his home in Bampton.
The coroner reports that Mark starved to death. His benefits had been cut following a re-assessment and a decision that he had become fit for work. Coverage in the local and national press presents Mark’s death as a consequence of an evil system. It is, but Mark would not have seen it this way. Mark was not a political animal. He was not out to change the world: he wanted to be part of the world and giving what he could was his way of being part of the world. For him, the perpetual struggle to find the bus fare from Bampton to attend Green events in Witney was purely a matter of mathematics. It would never have crossed Mark’s mind that he should not have had to struggle. And this is perhaps the ultimate tragedy of Mark’s death: he would have accepted his reduced state as right and proper, as what he deserved. He deserved better.