So far, so good for Labour

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The Labour Party Autumn Conference 2015 - Day 3

He’s doing okay so far is Mr Corbyn. Of course I’m hesitant to celebrate as I am old enough to remember being disappointed by politicians since…forever really. But there is something fundamentally different about Jeremy Corbyn and that’s being genuine. Whether you agree with his politics or not you have to respect the man has walked the walk and talked the talk for over thirty years as a politician and before that as an activist.

And it’s that honesty and candour that appeals to so many people like myself who had become disillusioned with political leaders. The Spin Doctors and media whizz-kids have put up a barrier between us and our leaders – we don’t feel any connection with them and because of that the simple “like-ability” test has been lost. Don’t misjudge that for only looking at him and not the substance of his policy ideas and aims because that’s where it really starts to get interesting.

He’s not proposing the end of the world as many on the right and in the Tory press would have us believe. He’s not rising or retaliating to the personal comments and mudslinging. He’s not going to tax the rich unfairly or drive business away – in fact the opposite is true. The 50p top rate of tax coming back in is almost a gesture to show that those at the very top of society should contribute that wee bit more. Also the top 60,000 people who have benefitted from the cuts in inheritance tax are being told that the reversal of the cut is on the cards too.

The welfare state will support everyone who needs it. He’s not naive enough to think that there aren’t problems but he knows that there are those who have been and will continue to be hammered by a Tory led economic strategy. The working single parent, carers, the disabled and the self-employed are being considered, with the possibility of statutory sick pay, pensions and maternity/paternity a real possibility under a Corbyn led administration. Supporting Entrepreneurs? Labour’s out flanking the Tories on that front.

Not everything is perfect or shaped yet, but for only a couple of weeks into the job he is making some strong sweeping changes. Finally a voice to challenge the SNP north of the border and calling them out for the privatisation of areas of the NHS, cutting college places and damaging Further and Higher Education by the amalgamations and funding approaches and looking at the huge damage done by CfE. The SNP’s rhetoric has gone without anyone seriously challenging them and Corbyn is determined to stop that and ask people to look at the real issues. The SNP’s projected increase in majority is under threat now and they need to fight to protect what they have got never mind add to it.

Most of all I like the man’s principles. The idea of “Straight Talking; Honest Politics” is one that everyone would prefer, so why has it taken Jeremy to bring that to the table? We’re all fed up of Spin and lies and refusing to answer the question. He’s made it clear he doesn’t support the cyberbullying and misogyny that has crept into politics; he’s asking you and I to stand up for what we believe in – to protest peacefully and challenge decisions we disagree with; he’s openly challenging the idea that we need Nuclear Weapons, which in a modern world are pretty much redundant anyway and the money would be much better spent elsewhere; he’s engaging with us as individuals and that’s refreshing.

He will make mistakes. I’m sure at times I will question his opinions and policy proposals but at least I feel like the country is being represented rather than a few at the top who have paid for the privilege – both in the Tory and New Labour Parties. If we’ve learnt nothing from Lord Ashcroft’s book (apart from the fact Cameron stuck his dick into a dead pig’s mouth) it’s that those with money think they can get jobs and demand power over the politicians they pay for. Hedge fund managers investing £55m in a system that let’s them benefit by over three times as much in tax cuts. You know that with Jeremy Corbyn we won’t have that. He won’t allow it. And I like that honesty and representation in my politicians.

Really it comes down to these questions: Do you think he means what he says? Do you think he is determined to change politics and the Labour Party for the better? Do you think that a few to the right of the Labour Party will be able to remove a man who has the biggest mandate to be leader in the party’s history? Do you think the tens of thousands of people joining the Labour Party across the country don’t want change?

This is a grassroots groundswell demanding change – a change that many have said was coming and Corbyn is the start of it. Long term he might not be the solution, but where he leads many of us will gladly follow and support to bring about the new politics we so desperately need.

JD

Really?

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It’s probably because I’m getting older, but I do find myself asking the question: “Really?” an awful lot these days. From stupid things people say to what constitutes news on the TV I am becoming more bewildered as they days pass. I’ve come to the conclusion that dementia – as horrible as it is – is the only way the human mind can cope after a certain amount of bullshit.

Take Donald Trump, please somebody take him away. He’s the US version of Boris – a bumbling twat with a mouth not tuned into reality let alone his brain. He thinks that people like and respect him but he’s confused attention with respect. He’s the latest incarnation of the human freak show; we all gather around to see what absolute shite he’s going to spout next. Yet the worrying thing is that he is still in the lead for the Republican nomination. No matter how ridiculous his ideas it appears that because he is the best known of the candidates he can do no wrong. President Trump? Really?

Another thing that is really rubbing me up the wrong way at the moment is Scottish news. Regardless whether it’s the BBC or STV we are being provided a repeat minutes after we see the original. Maybe it’s time for someone to point out to Jackie Bird that if the grown up news that is on before you covers a story then you don’t have to, only this time with a half-wit doing the interview and reporting at the scene. Here’s an idea for you: if it is on the main news then don’t cover it – not even from a “Scottish” perspective, we’re clever enough to work that out thanks. And here’s an other idea, like Channel 4 just have the main news for an hour and if the story is worth covering, they’ll cover it. News? Really?

Then there is the rise of the idiot. More and more we are opening our homes to the most useless, talentless and pointless of human beings through our TVs. Joey Essex, Rylan Clark, Dave Berry, the list is endless. Even this year’s “Strictly” has Peter “I love my kids” Andre and Daniel “dead behind the eyes” O’Donnell clogging up a usually enjoyable show. Why is there this celebration of ignorance? It all started with Jade Goody – daft but likeable, but that was in 2002 for fuck sake can’t we please move on. I’m sure he’s nice but I’m seriously fed up of Mr Essex and his friends. Famous for that? Really?

Those are just the tip of the iceberg of nonsense in our daily life:

Videos of kids getting hurt while parents film it; websites where you watch a frog vomiting rainbows for as long as you can; David Cameron’s Pulled Pork experiment in his student days; Snapchat being a secret that everyone can see; see through leggings because the woman hasn’t bought the right size for her postcode arse; people talking into their mobiles like the dickheads on “The Apprentice” rather than on the side of their head; Journalists hovering around Jeremy Corbyn to see if he’s going to make a mistake; People who don’t understand the difference between a Migrant and a Refugee; Nicola Sturgeon now wanting another Referendum and not understanding the phrases “Once in a lifetime” or “Once in a generation”; Using the word “like” instead of the English language; the complete ignorance of anyone who posts anything from “Britain First” on Facebook; and finally two words: Sepp Blatter.

You do just end up with one question unanswered each time: Really?

JD

Hajj Tragedy

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Not believing in any religions, I am always baffled at these tragedies. Today over 700 have died because of poor crowd control and it’s not unusual for these things to happen – think about the times we have heard about similar events in India and Saudi Arabia over the last twenty-five years, the figures are nearly always in the several hundreds.

I can understand the idea of a pilgrimage – I’ve seen it with my own eyes at the Vatican in Rome. There I saw just how determined people were to push and shove their way through our kids we’d taken on a school trip just to see Pope Francis in the flesh. There was a total disregard for their fellow humans and it’s that element that confuses me. For those who claim to believe in a higher benevolent power who preaches about love and hope many of those i came face to face with that day had obviously missed that day at Sunday School.

I don’t mean to trivialize the horrible event and deaths today, or the rituals of pilgrimage that the Muslims were carrying out in their trip to “stone the devil”, but you have to wonder if the cost of human lives is worth it. Saudi officials are almost shrugging their shoulders over this and blame the crowds of people which could easily be the case – but they must face up to the facts that this is becoming a regular occurrence. Was there not a separate system for people entering the area of the Mina that has the Jamarat pillar as opposed to those leaving? It appears that the officials closed off two exits without explanation which contributed to the problem.

The fact that people were climbing over each other shows that our animal instincts still kick in when it comes to survival. Most of the deaths were caused this way according to officials. These tragedies are too commonplace in the same venues year after year, yet no lessons are learned from them. I know that every Muslim is expected – as long as they can afford it – to attend this pilgrimage once in their life, but when two million people turn up for a free for all what do people expect is going to happen? You can guarantee that many of the dead will be children too as they will not have been able to survive the crush from above.

If these travels to places of religious significance mean anything is neither here nor there, in the end it comes down to human tragedy. There is however a question for those in charge of the religions and the responsibility they have in protecting their followers. There need to be clear instructions, safety measures, advice and information available and a reminder of what the trip is truly about. A pilgrimage should be to solidify and express your beliefs and not be a life threatening experience.

To be cynical for a moment – I know who’d have expected that – I do worry that these events are seen as money-making exercises by the locations in which they are held. While the religious relevance will be a factor, so will the influx of money to the region with that volume of people too. One of my real bugbears with religion is the overt greed at the top of many major religions that you can see in their palaces, temples, cathedrals and places of worship while those who are believers are sometimes going without life’s essentials.

I sincerely hope that I’m wrong but you do wonder why these things happen on an almost annual basis and nothing is really done to stop it. I know how important Hajj is as the fifth and final pillar of the Islamic faith – but I would question whether the loss of life justifies the pilgrimage and rituals involved.

Sympathies go to all those affected and to those who find their once in a lifetime experience soured by the tragedy. If religion brings hope, love and happiness to you it shouldn’t be taken from you in this way.

JD

The metaphorical rollercoaster has stopped

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I appear to have plateaued. Last week it felt like the start of a big dip, but thankfully I have levelled off in the last couple of days. To use the lazy cliché of a rollercoaster for an experience I think I’m stuck somewhere but it’s not doing me any harm.

One of the problems with Bi-polar is the transition between one extreme and the other. If you’ve been down you assume that the lift in mood is a return to the “norm” when actually it could as easily be the beginning of the move to the other extreme – and vice versa.

Some people experience fairly regular periods of ups and downs and that’s where I was before I was diagnosed. I could almost set my watch by the major downs appearing four times a year at set points, the manic phases in-between and indeed during those downs were more sporadic. The danger with the spikes are that they were always more difficult to predict or understand.

Once I was diagnosed with the depression and anxiety it became easier to manage those periods, but then the manic phases started to show more clearly as they weren’t being treated. Ironically now the fluctuations between the two extremes and the base level betwixt them has become much more unpredictable.

I also wonder if the school year had a lot to do with my dips in mood as they often appeared at the same point each term – could be connected to tiredness and a heavy workload and then the depression increased the pressure. It’s hard to know and unfortunately from speaking to my consultants and GP, as well as reading about the illness online there doesn’t appear to be much consensus about how these ups and downs work.

I can find myself obviously struggling with a depressive phase and the next day I’m feeling the rise and manic moments – I don’t know how the medications effect the chemicals in my head but they have made the experience of living with this disorder much more “entertaining” to say the least. I hope that I am more aware now of where and when the moods are moving but you cannot be sure. Last week I thought I was returning to a darker period just after recovering from one, but it only lasted a couple of days. And that in itself causes me to worry.

While taking medication is hugely beneficial and has made a big difference, I wonder whether the idea meds only have a limited period of success or if I need to look at additional therapies to help me deal with the diagnosis. I’m back to the consultant in November so I will bring it up then and see what they feel is the best step forward.

It’s been five years since my initial diagnosis and coming up on two years since my bi-polar was defined and I’ve come on leaps and bounds. I do know that I’m likely to be on medication in one shape or another for the rest of my life to help me deal with the mood swings, but only the experts can best guess the approaches that will work.

So I’m almost normal at the moment with both regular peaks and troughs as anyone else has. I know it won’t last so I’m going to enjoy it for a while.

JD

Why down now?

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It’s back as soon as it’s gone. It’s hard to know if the last bout of depression was chemical or just how I was feeling because of the issues surrounding getting back to work. You’re never ready for the chemical dip to start as there isn’t always a warning sign – it just happens. I still don’t understand it but I know it’s going to happen and that’s okay because I’ve always made it through before and I will again. Doesn’t mean it’s easy though.

It’s as if we as humans are jigsaws – we all have multiple pieces which combine to make us the image we are seen as. Those with depression randomly have pieces removed; sometimes one or two, other times it feels like a handful have gone and you don’t quite feel complete. Others don’t always notice, which is not their fault, but you wonder how they can’t see you’re incomplete.

The sense of loss, of being without something important is a difficult thing to convey to others. It’s not like grief or mourning as you have a specific issue that can be pinpointed, it’s more that you feel part of you dies and you are the only one worse off for it. It could be self-worth, confidence, happiness, patience, comfort or a sense of belonging – I can say that I’ve felt all of those over the years and each time it’s a slightly different cocktail of missing parts.

Just now it’s just a general melancholy that’s hovering around me. No specifics, just a malaise – like Eeyore’s rain cloud, it follows me around. Oh Bother!

And think on that jigsaw puzzle with the pieces missing – we can all think of a time when we spent ages putting it together to get frustrated that it’s not what we hoped it would be and that’s where I find myself. So far it is just bubbling away in the background and I’ve no idea if it will pass within a few days or if I’ve weeks to enjoy this visit from the black dog. You don’t get handed a timetable with this manic-depressive illness – if you did I’d make sure I was off for the highs so I could enjoy them more.

Ultimately life goes on. You can’t stop to overthink things; there’s no pause button that allows you time to sort your head out; you can’t stop the clocks from barking with a juicy Sunday best…or something like that. Something’s missing and I’ll either have time to find out which boxing glove will hit me and the introverted pop-psychologist in me will try to work it out – or it’ll pass and I’ll be none the wiser. And that’s where the anger, impatience and darker traits of living with this condition appears.

You don’t want to be short with people or find anger bubbling up at inopportune moments but it happens the further into the darkness you end up. That’s the illness becomes a real issue. When it begins to impact on others you really start beating yourself up and that ends up with the snake eating its own tail. You end up hating yourself and the depression can then take hold. You can hear the words and volume as you spit vitriolic words out to those you care about and who only want to help you. You know it’s wrong but you can’t stop yourself.

A well-worn phrase is that you only understand what someone else’s life is like if you walk a mile in their shoes – as Jimmy Carr says then you’re a mile away and you have their shoes – but I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. All you hope is that those around you don’t walk away.

JD

 

Dear Mr Corbyn

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Firstly congratulations on your victory. Regardless of all the scaremongering stories that we heard in the lead up to the result you are a deserved winner and you should be congratulated on your sensible approach during the campaign also.

Secondly I want to say that in the short time you have been in charge I’m already impressed with the way you have carried yourself and the decisions you have made. To speak at the rally in support of refugees wasn’t a stunt as you had already signed up to do it – but the speech you gave was one of the most passionate and common sense I’d heard from a politician for a long time.

Then you decided that a constituency event raising money & awareness on Mental Health was a bigger priority than appearing on the Andrew Marr show. To then appoint a Minister for Mental Health in your new Shadow Cabinet showed that you are serious about doing things not just saying them. As someone who lives with Bi-polar disorder and has faced some issues because of this I openly applaud such a bold and long-overdue move. Thank you for recognising the issue.

Not playing the games that the media try to lure you into is going to be tough, but you should stand your ground and be your own man – from all I’ve seen and read about you this won’t be difficult. What the media – especially the right-wing rags – will do is try to shout you down, but already you’ve made history by appointing more women than men in the Shadow Cabinet and have ignored the usual merry-go-round appearances on the radio & TV many others would have agreed to because they we’re told to my spin doctors and “experts”.

I look forward to see what  you do in the coming months in terms of policy and how you take ideas from all sides of the party. Already you are surrounded by a spectrum of beliefs around the table so I don’t doubt your sincerity when you say you want to listen. At the same time I would encourage you to keep up the honesty and frankness that got you elected. We’re fed up of the manicured men in designer suits hovering in the background having written every word, reference and joke their puppet makes – you offer a refreshing alternative so please don’t fall into that trap.

Also be brave in terms of what you want to achieve. Trident, Europe, Railways, investment in Infrastructure and Refugees are hugely important and dividing issues but if you can be the voice of reason there is no reason why those, like me, who have moved away from being a Labour voter to alternatives will come back. In Scotland you offer a direct challenge to the SNP as we know you can actually be in a position of power to do things they can only make empty promises about. In Wales and the North of England we should see those red areas reappear in 2020, and for the man and woman on the street working hard to make ends meet you will find support. By not cozying up the bankers but listening to those who are the most important people in this country – the working and middle class; the engine of the nation.

I would only ask one thing though: please don’t take us backward in ambition. While I can understand the socialist, left-wing approaches you favour, you need to balance that with opportunities for normal people to better themselves. Too often the far left have wanted to mute and equalise when in truth give options and opportunities to all within a collective, supportive and progressive framework could bring the UK back to its best.

I genuinely wish you and your team well – and you never know, I may even sign up as a member if the man I’ve seen in these last few months builds on the great foundation of common sense and honesty and proposes a fairer and more equal society.

Yours in anticipation

JD

Right to die

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118 ayes to 330 nos. MPs are flying in the face of public opinion with today’s vote against a change of law for assisted suicide. Many polls show that up to 80% of the general public support some form of euthanasia, yet they are happy to leave the current muddled laws in place instead rather than have a strong and open debate on the subject.

How often have you heard the phrase “You wouldn’t let an animal suffer like this” when we talk about seriously ill people? I have lost count and have yet to meet anyone who opposes it in principle. We are all aware that there are grey areas and we need to ensure that the patient has the final say and that professionals need to ensure the balance between the Hippocratic oath and the best thing for the patient.

There are so many people who have broken the law already in this country – both relatives who can’t stand watching the slow disintegration of their loved ones, and doctors and nurses who prescribe a wee bit too much morphine to allow those in serious pain the chance to die. There are also questions around the relatives of those who go abroad to euthanasia clinics abroad who on their return may be questioned or charged.

What we need is a proper national conversation about this rather than all speaking in private to friends and family. I know that I  were terminally ill and had no quality of life I’d much rather be helped to die at that point than sit and suffer at the hands of life-preserving machines and medicine.

And that’s a huge point that is always overlooked in this area – the advance of medicine and technology. While they have helped many – including myself – to beat illnesses like cancer, heart disease, strokes and other ailments, there is a point where we are keeping people alive beyond the natural points of death. At least four of my grandparents have lived beyond their times because of the miracles of chemistry and machinery – but it also involved us watching people we loved slowly disappear in front of us.

Stuck in a home, minds still reasonably alert stuck in bodies that were broken. Pain was an issue; damaged organs an issue; immobility an issue; loss of use of limbs an issue – is this really the future for us too? A decision taken by a human while in sound mind should be legally binding. If I make a living will that I want to be put to sleep in certain circumstances then that should take priority. So if technology and medical advances allow us to live longer – surely the balance is that those same methods should allow us to die too.

For our MPs to ignore the public on this matter (and many others) shows yet again they are not representing us and I hope that they and their families are never faced with relatives or friends in a situation where allow them to die would be the right thing to do.

JD