The UK: Not a democracy, more a dictatorship by distraction

Governments refusal to debate NHS Bill proves they no longer represent the UK people

11th March 2015; it was to be a day of reckoning for the Conservative government and their increasingly obvious plans to dismantle and privatise the NHS. Parliament was to listen to the 2nd reading of the Green Party’s NHS Reinstatement Bill…….

FOR MORE ON THIS STORY, PLEASE CLICK HERE.

How YOU can help save the NHS

NHS Reinstatement Bill to be debated in Parliament 11/03/2016

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So we’re in to the 2nd day of the 4th round of industrial action by junior doctors‬. It’s a disgrace that our highly trained and valuable medics have been put in this position by a government intent on breaking their promise that the NHS would be “safe” in their hands. As with Jeremy Hunt’s handling of this entire situation, it was a lie.

When the junior doctors return to work tomorrow, the battle for the future of the NHS will continue, inside the Houses of Parliament. The NHS Reinstatement Bill, which has cross party support, aims to remove our health service away from the prying hands of private contractors and keep it in public hands, ensuring that the most important thing remains patient care, not shareholders bank balances.

MP’s must vote in favour of the bill to ensure this happens, that’s why today I have written to our local MP asking her for support. I ask you please to do the same. You can write to your local MP by entering your postcode at https://www.writetothem.com/.

You can read more information on the NHS Reinstatement Bill at http://www.nhsbill2015.org/

Please help to do what the Conservative government clearly can’t – keep the NHS safe.

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Adios 2014…

I’ve just realised how long it’s been since my last piece. Things have changed a heck of a lot recently, most notably I became a full time stay-at-home dad back in September for my two kids. How on earth I even remotely thought I’d have time to keep on top of regular writing is beyond me. It got so hectic I’m seriously considering adding a sub-heading to my second book. Mind, I’m a little unsure about “High Heels & White Trainers: A Novel Relationship Or I Would Have Written This Earlier If It Wasn’t For These Meddling Kids”.

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So if you read one of my previous articles you’d be forgiven for thinking I see 2014 as a year that truly sucked. In many ways, I still see it that way; maybe it’s the overly concerned father figure in me. I mean is it truly possible that relationships between the west and North Korea worsened because of Seth “Not Funny Since 40 Year Old Virgin And Even Then Paul Rudd Was Way Better” Rogen? I mean, sure it’s possible that Sony was hacked by Kim Jong Un’s lackies. It’s also possible Sony, or even Rogen himself did the hacking to get the film some much needed publicity. A small part of me likes to think that someone in North Korea did the hack, not out of malice, but simply because they have good taste and couldn’t stand another Rogen onslaught. (If the latter is the case then where are you for the Brett Ratner and Michael Bay films eh?!)

In other news Doctor Who was a mild personal disapointment. I found myself frequenting a certain popular coffee house mainly because of the free warm milk drink for the kids, which inevitably lead to growing personal consumption of various coffee based beverages. A massive personal gaff considering 4 years ago I refused to even touch the stuff. Fatherhood changes you.

But my biggest annoyance was E4’s Made In Chelsea – not because it’s the kind of show that I should loathe more than a 24 hour telethon with nothing more than Piers Morgan singing “I’m A Barbie Girl” in a constant loop, but because I actually started liking it. What started as an exercise in creating a Made In Chelsea drinking game (every time they say “like” – shot! Every time there’s an overly dramatic pause – shot! Every time someone pulls a stupid face – shot!! Seriously, hammered within 5 minutes!!) soon became a marital bonding session bathed in the pseudo-reality of posh-knob stupidity.

I mean look at this guy – he pulls more stupid faces in 5 minutes of screen time than Michelle Roux manages in an entire episode of Masterchef! I honestly can’t decide if it’s the sleep deprivation, the growing amounts of caffeine in my blood, or this programme melting my brain! (I can’t blaime Seth Rogen as I physically can’t watch him anymore!)

beakSo as we speed towards the year of 2015 some resolutions are already written down – less coffee, less Made In Chelsea, more writing. I’ve already pencilled in the entire month of February to blitz through my second book. “High Heels & White Trainers” must be published simply to free up space in my brain.

So here’s to you and your 2014, and the changes you want to make for 2015.

See y’all on the other side!!

It’s The 21st Century – Why Are The Fairer Sex Treated So Unfairly

A lot can change in a century. We humans have done some pretty amazing things – we’ve taken to the skies, flown to space, broken numerous records, destroyed 50% of the planets wildlife (minus 100 points). It still boggles the mind though that as a species that we could treat one half of us different, lesser to the other half.  Women have only had the right to vote since 1917 – that’s not even a hundred years. That’s when the race for equality started, and it’s sad to see that it’s still being run. What’s worse is the gap between men and women is still there, and just as big.

"Sexism is built into our society – it’s easy to miss and it’s easy to get used to it”.

“Sexism is built into our society – it’s easy to miss and it’s easy to get used to it”.

I read an interesting interview with actress Gillian Anderson just now, highlighting Hollywood’s attitude toward women. It’s short and to the point, but one thing stands out during the read – it’s not just Hollywood where it remains intolerable.

A survey published in August showed that female bosses are paid up to 35% less than their male counterparts. This is 40 years after the Equal Pay Act 1970, and the 2010 Equality Act were enforced to stop less favourable pay and conditions in the workplace for women.

Going back to the arts, female comedians are often talking about sexist heckling while on stage. One comedienne I follow on Facebook said “I wouldn’t mind if they were heckling me for the jokes, but they weren’t.” Miranda Hart, interviewed back in 2011, said that sexism is rife in comedy, and female comedians should be assessed only on their work, not their appearance.

GAThere’s also the cases of sexism turning sinister. You probably saw the news of a man jailed for abusing a woman over Twitter – threatening to sexually assault her, all because she wanted to replace Charles Darwin with author Jane Austin on the face of the £10 note. The campaign, started by Caroline Criado-Perez, a freelance journalist who writes for womens websites and blogs, was a response to the Bank Of England replacing social reformer Elizabeth Fry with Winston Churchill on the £5, leaving no female presence on any English bank notes. Despite the threats, Miss Criado-Perez made sure that we all knew that the abuse she received was just “a drop in the ocean” compared to the abuse other women receive.

Another, possibly more talked about example of this more tech-savvy sexism is the recent iCloud scandal, which saw celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence, Rihanna, Kate Upton (to name but a few) learn that alleged nude photo’s of them had been leaked online. Note the celebrities were all female. The outrage was global, and instantanious. Debates were made as to how or why the pictures got online, or even existed in the first place. (The best example is this brilliant piece by John Sharp)

It seems like any time a woman tries to reach further than “the norm”, if they achieve something greater than what’s intended for them, then they must be brought back down to earth – to be mocked, ridiculed, sexualised. This is not right or acceptable.

Sept. 21 2014: Emma Watson's moving speech about gender equality and the he for she campaign

Sept. 21 2014: Emma Watson’s moving speech about gender equality and the he for she campaign

Emma Watson recently spoke at the United Nations in a bid to change all this, to change “gender inequality”. She launched the HeForShe campaign, asking for men to help in the cause. There was no men bashing, which for some reason has become synonymous for some reason with feminism. (That’s right – “feminism” isn’t a dirty word!) The sad thing is that literally hours after her moving, thought-provoking and often emotional speech, the one-time-woman-wizard was facing rumours of her own private pictures/videos of her being leaked on the internet. Yes it turned out to be fake, revealed to be some sick marketing ploy by something called Rantic. Ignoring this organisations disgusting motives for spreading such a malicious lie, it threatened to over-shadow Emma Watson’s speech, while at the same time highlighting the very thing she was talking about – women lack respect, whether for their ideas, their work, who they are…

The HeForShe Campaign has of course generated the requisite #HeForShe craze, giving people the opportunity to show the world through social media how much they support and agree with the cause. But a hashtag is not enough. If we really want to remove everything that I’ve mentioned in this article – the pay differences, the heckling, the threats, the violence – then we need to actually make those changes in attitude and perception towards women (and men), not just tweet about them with a suitable selfie. This is not to belittle Miss Watson’s message – it’s imperative that gender inequality stops. I sit here, the home-husband of a hard working doctor, nervous for my little girl growing up in this same unequal environment, and planning steps to ensure my son will never believe in the tripe that is said against women.

When Humanity Rises

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As we get in to September there will doubtless be many looking back over this year known as 2014 and starting to compile their own End Of year Review. You know the one’s, where we are reminded of various events and facts from the previous 12 months, often using a mildly witty and amusing point of view. Thing is, as I look back from my point of view, 2014 could be seen as, well, not the best year we’ve had. In fact I could go on record and say 2014 sucks. Look at what’s happened recently (no, Wonder Woman’s costume in the Batman V Superman film or someone leaving someone elses ice cream out of the freezer did not make the list. And yes, that was a Great British Bake Off reference!):

  • Escalated conflict in Gaza
  • Chemical warfare in Syria
  • Militant uprising in Iraq
  • Race related riots in Ferguson, Missouri
  • Plane crash and invasion in Ukraine
  • Young girls forcibly taken from their schools and still missing in Nigeria
  • A 9 year old girl killing her gun instructor with an Uzi
  • The Ebola outbreak in Western Africa
  • The mysterious missing Malaysian Airlines plane
  • The prosecution of many public figures for abuse charges, and their subsequent convictions. 

In many of these examples, and many I’ve not even mentioned, you could argue that this year has not been humanities finest hour.

Or has it?

I started thinking about this when I saw this recent excerpt from the Adam Hill fronted “The Last Leg” (Channel 4). For those who haven’t seen the preceding clip, a certain extreme church in America (I’m not even going to write their name on this article as they’ll probably take it as some kind of promotion) announced they were going to boycott Robin William’s funeral. Adam Hill was so outraged, he announced live that he would “personally pay for every member to fly first class to Iraq”. And then this happened.

This is just one of hundreds of examples of basic decent humanity standing up to any form of negativity, any form of hate, and turning it around. It happened when Jon Snow returned from Gaza and put his feelings on YouTube which kickstarted a massive outcry for more awareness to be raised. It happened with the #BringBackOurGirls putting social pressure on Nigerian powers-that-be to find kidnapped children. It happened with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which incidentally caused some in Gaza to do their own Rubble Bucket Challenge. Yes it was a blatant sarcastic jibe at the ALS campaign, but at least it proved they still had a sense of humour!

Humanity is flawed – governed by emotions feelings and beliefs that not everyone can agree on, but as we’ve seen through the various awareness and fund raising campaigns, humanity always rises to the occasion. Many of the events in this year have been of terrible, catastrophic, heinous levels, the likes of which should make us ashamed of ourselves as a species. But it’s our reaction to these events, how we’ve been so outraged by these acts and what we’ve done to make even a small difference to the outcome that proves we do care. We want to be better. We want to do better. As long as we can hold on to that desire, then humanity can defeat it’s own inner demons, and when you see the inevitable 2014 End Of Year Review you will know that we are not beyond hope. 

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Why We Need Doctor Who

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One of my vivid childhood memories is going to see my family GP, and thinking that I’d seen him on TV before, running around all of space and time in a little blue box. But there he was with his blonde hair, a stethoscope around his neck asking about my recent high temperatures. My GP bore a striking resemblance to Peter Davidson, the 5th Doctor. My real life Doctor was also my TV Doctor.

It blew my mind!

Back then I was never really a full blown fan of Doctor Who, more of an appreciator. I knew about the TARDIS and the Daleks, and understood that at some point Peter Davidson would regenerate in to someone completely different. I didn’t have an overwhelming need to watch the show, but when I watched an episode, it stayed with me. For example, remember those weird glass globes with the electric in them. You touched the globe and the electricity went to your hand? According to a Who episode with Sylvester McCoy that is some kind of weird alien bomb or something. Seeing that stacked on the shelves in Hamleys still makes my 12 year old self question the kind of “toys” they’re selling.

It blew my mind!

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It wasn’t until Christopher Eccleston stepped out of the TARDIS I became a true fan. It was mostly down to the return of the Doctor, but it was also a relief from the now standard judge based “talent” shows that continue to blight our televisual viewing. Doctor Who is the perfect vehicle for good old fashioned escapism, while at the same time being, to a certain extent, very realistic. I’m not talking about the aliens, the monsters, the mutants, the demons or any of the other foes the good Doctor squares off against on a weekly basis. I’m talking about the emotions. For a programme based around an alien time traveller, Doctor Who is one of the most human programmes ever made, because it deals with a whole variety of feelings. One episode of Who will give you laughs, scares, tears, anger… Beloved characters, often the Doctors companions have been known to be killed. Good people die no matter what the Doctor does to try and save them. The series covers birth, life and death and everything in between. Pretty heavy when you consider this is “just” a kids show.

It also deals with change. As we gear up for the new series of Doctor Who (19:50, BBC 1, 23rd August) expectation is reaching fever pitch, not just because the Doctor is returning to our screens, but because he’s doing it with a new face. Peter Capaldi will be the joint eldest Time Lord of the entire 50 year + run, putting certainly newer fans of the show in unfamiliar territory. With Eccleston, David Tennant, and previously Matt Smith, the Doctor was relatively young looking and, as my wife would put it, fairly “easy on the eye”. Capaldi, at 56, is bringing a complete change in the look and tone of the show, and everyone wants to know what that means for the show. The Doctor himself is even seem asking in a trailer for the new series “am I a good man?” If he doesn’t know either, we’re in for a heck of a ride. That’s what TV should be about; adventure, escapism, surprise, a rollercoaster of emotions. That’s why, in a constant sea of talent shows, reality shows, fly-on-the-wall shows etc., we need Doctor Who. We need him to take us on a crazy adventure, even if it is just for an hour a week.

Robin Williams: The Sum Of All Parts

It’s a weird thing when a celebrity dies, especially a celebrity that you’ve seen and heard all of your life and you’ve been a fan of. One that you’ve become almost attached to. This week alone we’ve lost actress Lauren Bacall to a stroke, and comedian/actor Robin Williams to a tragic suicide. Sad losses for the industries, the fans, and of course the loved ones they left behind.

I’m a huge fan of Robin Williams – his stand-up, his films. He was lightening fast in interviews, even if it wasn’t actual words that came out of his mouth. He could make you laugh with a simple gesture, cry with a simple word, or cringe with a simple look. A comic genius by any standards, but an amazing actor as well; Oscar winning no less. As we’ve been increasingly told in the last few days all these accolades and comedic antics have hidden this well documented more turbulent personal life, and it’s this that the media seem to be concentrating on. It’s like they’re trying to turn him in to a poster boy for despair and death rather than a shining example of joy.

He’d struggled with depression all his life. His battles with alcohol and drug addictions are well documented. Check some of his stand-up, it’s their in the routines. He was an alcoholic, or has he described it “ethanol challenged”. He’d recently come out another stint in rehab, he was rumored to be having financial trouble, and the latest was that he was in the early stages of Parkinsons disease. Whatever the reasons, we of course cannot ignore what he went through in his life or what drove him to end it. Topics like this need to be addressed. I read earlier this week that suicide rates in British men under 35 is three times more likely than in women of the same age range; a shocking statistic which highlights the lack of resources towards helping people with mental health issues, certainly within the UK. Hopefully one thing we can take from a story such as Williams’ is that it can highlight that necessity for those resources.

No matter what we learn from the stories associated with Robin Williams, it is essential that we remember this was not all of the man; it was just a small part of a much greater story. It was not his whole life.  A man has died, a family has been broken, and an amazing talent has gone.

So lets not ignore his problems, but also lets always remember everything else the great man was. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Robin Williams. May he rest in peace.

See, genius!!