Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Letter for a friend

Here's the full text (anonymised) of a letter I wrote for a friend.

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to you to ask you to reconsider your decision, if you have not already done so, not to prosecute the case regarding the act of arson that claimed the lives of four canines and destroyed the home and possessions of Ms __________.

Although Ms _____ is a friend, I am writing as an animal lover and as an advocate for justice.  I believe that this case should be prosecuted because, as a species, the human race has a special duty to protect the lesser species we have domesticated and made our pets and companions.  The loss of home and possessions is a tragedy but they can be replaced over time; the loss of an animal cannot.  Individuals who take animals into their homes as companions form deeper attachments with them than they do with their human family as they have chosen those specific animals and those pets have as great a need for their owner as a child does for a parent.  Ms _____ did not just lose her home and possessions that day; she also lost four members of her family, just as dear as any human family she may possess.

It is distressing to think that the four dogs died in fear and pain, their fur burning and their flesh seared, unable to escape from a place in which they had felt safe in the past and had the right to feel safe and secure.  Even if Ms _____’s dogs had survived the cowardly act of arson of which they were victims, they would have been unable to demand justice for themselves so it is the duty of your office to be their voice as it would be for any victim of murder or manslaughter.

I realise that there are financial considerations regarding which cases you can or cannot prosecute; however, for justice to be done, there are some cases that must be prosecuted.  This case is one such case.  It is not whether you win or lose the case, it is whether, morally and ethically, you fight the case to send a message to the world that acts of animal cruelty are abhorrent to us as a species, that spiteful and cowardly acts such as this are not to be tolerated by society.  It is only by fighting such cases that society’s ethical and moral standing can be raised to the point that crimes such as these are eradicated.

As a society and as a species, we must show that animals we have domesticated have a special place in our culture and must therefore be given certain inalienable rights befitting that place.  If the victims of this crime had been human children, the case would have gone to court.  Ms _____’s dogs have a right to justice, equal to any human victim and perhaps more so, because of our responsibility to them as their guardians.

I hope this letter will change your decision and that you will prosecute the person accused of this heinous crime.  Be the voice of the innocent victims of this tragic event.  Be the true agents of justice that you entered your profession to be.  Win or lose be damned; do what is right, morally and ethically, and justice will be done.


Myles Cook (Mr)

And here's the reply...

Thank you for your input. The decision not to pursue this case is based entirely on the law, applicable to the admissible evidence - and the fact that animals perished does not change the rules of evidence, or the law.

Our decisions are based on facts, evidence that is admissible under the rules of evidence, and the existing law - not emotion. The decision will not be reconsidered.

Gary Beatty

Birthday blues

I really do not like my birthday.  Like most men in their late 30s and early 40s, I get the blues around the very thought of my birthday and the reflection on one’s lack of achievements.  I wanted to have achieved so much by now and I have achieved very little.  Each birthday just brings that lack of forward momentum into full focus, in crystal clarity so that even the most unobservant person could not fail to miss it.  As a result, I do not bother celebrating my birthday.  My family are not so obliging though and I am forced to sit through a ‘party’ and the gift-giving that I have expressly asked they do not do.
It is nice to see the birthday greetings on my Facebook profile, simply as it is recognition that I have somehow made it onto someone’s radar as a blip worthy of noting, but Facebook is the exception to the rule.  I find some comfort in the fact that I have been acknowledged in some small way but, although I am not against people knowing of my birthday, I would rather the event be ignored by everyone.  Perhaps one day, when I have earned some acclaim, I will change my stance because my birthday will not be such a glaring display of my complete failure in life; for now though, let me be the miserable old fart who hates his birthday.
Until next time…

Saturday, 19 May 2012

An Open Letter To The Leaders Of The Three Main Political Parties

Here's the full text of a letter I have sent to a number of UK newspapers, Mr Clegg and Mr Miliband. I couldn't find an e-mail address for Mr Cameron.  I will, of course, post any replies I get right here!

Dear Mr Cameron, Mr Clegg and Mr Miliband,

I am writing to try to convince you all to put aside your ideological differences and work together to solve the financial crisis that the country finds itself in at the present time.

I am sure that I am not alone in being sick and tired of the constant blame game, buck-passing and excuses that the political parties in this country engage in.  They do nothing but stall any hope of getting any real progress made.  Yes, Labour left a financial mess when they left office but it was not all their fault as the major global banking crisis too its toll as well.  It would be nice if Labour held their hands up and accepted some responsibility but I believe we are passed the point of apportioning blame.

It angers me that the Coalition keeps on blaming Labour for the financial mess they left when the country has been under Coalition control for two years and the country has dropped into the double-dip recession the austerity measures were meant to avoid.  The Coalition cannot blame Labour for their own measures being ineffective; that is the Coalition’s fault and their fault alone.

Is it any wonder that the voters of this country are disaffected with politicians?  All you seem to do is compound each other’s errors and barrack each other like schoolchildren, playing the blame game and making excuses.

Surely, in a time of crisis such as the one the country finds itself in at present, you could forget your petty differences, look at the expertise within all the political parties and offer individuals with specialist knowledge or interests positions within a larger Coalition encompassing all political creeds?

I am not suggesting that members of opposition parties are given ministerial positions; it is only right and proper that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrat Coalition takes the lead.  I am suggesting, however, that members of opposition parties may have knowledge and ideas that may be of great value in solving the country’s troubles.  I am suggesting that even the smallest parties should be utilised in the collaborative undertaking; for instance, Green MP Caroline Lucas could be offered an advisory position on energy and environmental issues.

I believe that there is a time for party politics and there is a time to put party politics aside.  The current crisis is a case for the latter.  The electorate is disaffected with politicians and the only way to re-engage voters in the political process is showing them that, when it really counts, you can work collaboratively in the interests of the entire population.  Only then can you start to address the trust issues the electorate have with politicians as a group.  Only then, will the public start to engage with politics again.

I am not a politician.  I am not an expert in politics. I am an ordinary member of the public who is tired of this country as a whole suffering, of the poor and disadvantaged suffering whilst the rich prosper.  I am an individual who finds it distasteful that politicians deal in the politics of fear and scape goating instead of dealing in the politics of aspiration for all.  I am a man who wants to have respect in the people who are supposed to represent me and my views in Government.  I am a person who sees what UK society is and what it could be and weeps to see the enormous gulf in-between caused by the inability of politicians to put aside their ideological differences for the greater good.

Yours sincerely,

Myles Cook (Mr), Grays, Essex

Thursday, 17 May 2012

At last! Jackie Doyle-Price replies.

Here are the scans of the replies I got from Jackie Doyle-Price on the last three subjects I e-mailed her on.  The only thing missing is my address and that is because I get enough hate mail in the mail as it is! LOL

Make of them what you will...

Until next time...

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Royal Question

Last week I was asked by a Facebook friend for my views on the Monarchy.  I dutifully gave a short answer with a promise of a longer response to be posted here.  This is that answer.
Actually, the question cropped up at an opportune moment as I had been running through my addled brain some ideas of where, if at all, the Monarchy would fit into The Enlightenment Project’s political group’s discussions.  I am not exactly a fence-sitter on the subject of the Royal family, despite not really liking or disliking them.  I personally think that they still have a place in British society; I just think that it is not the same place that they have held in the past.
I will probably surprise some readers with my belief in the need Britain has for the Monarchy.  They bring a great deal of tourists to the UK, being only one of a small handful of Western countries that still has a monarchy, and the UK needs the revenue that such tourist trade brings in.  However, more than this, Britain needs to keep the Monarchy for the link to its own history; for good and for bad, the Monarchy is inextricably linked with everything the UK has become.  Monarchs have given a true sense of majesty to this country’s history and have even brought about changes in the way religion was observed.  Was it not Henry VIII who gave us the Church of England to get around the tricky subject of divorce when the Pope refused to grant him one?  Without Henry VIII, England, at least, would be a Catholic country and our unwanted troubles with Ireland would never have occurred; a whole generation of British citizens could have had much less eventful lives, free of the fear of terrorist bombings by the IRA.
The other obvious advantage of keeping the Monarchy is the fact that we would otherwise be in the inevitable position of having a Presidential-style leader.  Would many people want to visit here if we had President Cameron, for example?  I would hazard a guess that the answer would be a resounding no.  Yes, it is true that we are, in fact, ruled by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet Ministers but the Queen is our figurehead leader and her family, for good or for bad, are our constants in an ever changing landscape.
The Queen is also the UK’s most respected and hard-working ambassador.  There is no party political agenda behind her as, regardless of her own political views, she acts in a non-partisan way; it would be difficult, if not impossible, for her to act in any other way with the regular changes in the administration of Government.  Queen Elizabeth II is respected by world leaders around the globe and it would be ridiculous to divest ourselves of her now.
That said, however, there is a real need for the Monarchy to change, especially in these times of austerity.  The Royal family is a drain on the public purse despite having some of the richest people in the country in their ranks; this is hardly fair on the poor and middle income families who are struggling to make ends meet.  One example of this financial drain is the £10,000 or so spent on decorating the university dorm of Prince Andrew’s daughter.  Why could she not have gone to Homebase or some such DIY supply store and buy some paint with some of her father’s cash?  I want my house redecorated but I am pretty sure that the public purse will not pay for it.
It is time for the Royal family to live off the riches they have stored away and the income from their business ventures so that the public funds they currently receive goes to the people and institutions that need the money.
There is a compelling argument for getting rid of the Monarchy and that is the fact that most of the Royals are now more of an embarrassment to the UK than a positive.  In fact, Queen Elizabeth II is probably the last of the truly ‘royal’ Royals.  She conducts herself with dignity, quite a mean feat considering the constant embarrassment doled out by her children and husband.  The Queen is someone who would probably have made an excellent ruler in the absence of an elected Parliament, someone you could look up to as a role model, but sadly that was never on the cards.
The change that the Monarchy must undergo is one of instilling the regal-ness and majesty that is currently lacking in the younger members of the Royal family, especially those closest to the throne.  The high jinks that Prince Harry gets up to may be quite normal for a young man of his age but are quite out of the question for a young man in his position; his mistakes, easily swept under the carpet by an ‘ordinary’ person, make headlines and erode the respect we should have in ‘our’ Royals.  All Royals should be groomed, as was Queen Elizabeth II, into the roles for which, one day, they may be called.
If the Monarchy is to remain a part of British society, they must start to live on their private funds and regain the respect they once had in the past or forever remain buried there, an anachronistic institution.
Until next time…

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Another dark day

I am getting rather sick of apparently wasting my time posting the wisdom that runs around in my head and it reaching so few people.  I would dearly like to see huge numbers reading my stuff in the hope that it may actually change things for the better.  My last Your Thurrock blog about the case for political change ended up being posted here as I was sick and tired of waiting for it to be posted on YT whilst a blog by a new columnist called Thomas got posted.  I will not go into whether I thought it was a well-written piece or not but I will say this, it was a column about why he did not vote in the local election and covered a lot of the same ground that I have covered in my YT column.  This would not be so bad if it were not for the amount of readers who commented that it was a good piece and highlighted some of the problems in the field of politics.  This seems like a slap in the face to me, seeing as how I have been saying all of this in my column for months and got nothing for it except a personal attack.  Where is the justice in that?
As I said in an earlier posting, May is not the best month for me because of the reasons I gave in that posting.  I now have even more reason to hate this month – my cat, Merlin, is ill again.  He has been throwing up a lot and he has now had to be put on a prescription only diet food for cats with kidney problems that is so expensive that he will actually be eating better than anyone else in the family.  Money is getting extremely tight and I am frightened every time a brown envelope hits the doormat as all I can think about is the fact that my benefit will be stopped or reduced due to the cuts in public spending that are actually doing nothing to solve the problem of the national debt crisis.  Each trip to the front door makes me so nervous that it is a wonder that I can actually make it every day.
I am beginning to think that my life is never going to improve, that whatever I do to try to improve it will blow up in my bloody face and just make things worse.  I just want something good to be able to cling to, something to make my journey through life just a little less dark.  Is that really too much to ask?
Until next time…

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Mid-life crisis 2012

May is a really crappy month for me.  Come the end of the month, I will be forced to celebrate my birthday against my wishes just to pander to the wishes of my family.  I would rather forget the whole business.  My life consists of nothing but disappointments and misery and I can think of nothing better than to forget the fact that I have notched up another pointless year of existence.
When I was a young boy, my life stretched before me, full of promise and potential, only to end up empty and full of darkness.  The world was my oyster; it is now a prison.  I find myself wishing for an end to my journey through a Hell populated by other people and the constant discrimination and prejudice I face because of my mental health issues.  I spend my time trying to fill the long, lonely, depressing hours with whatever I can find to do, mostly for no recompense and with precious little recognition for the ideas I put out on to the internet in the vain hope that it may do some good.
It may seem a little early to be getting depressed about my birthday but it is not just that that makes May a horrifying month to live through.  It is also a painful reminder of the one person without whom my life is empty, my Grandma, who was born towards the early part of the month and who departed this mortal coil way back in 1989.  She was the only person in my family who saw me as an individual and treated me as such, rather than as my brother’s younger sibling.  I do not think I ever recovered from her death or the two years I spent as her carer after she had a stroke.  Every May, I am haunted by the ghost of what she became after the stroke, a woman trapped in her own body paralysed down one side and unable to communicate.  I see her lying in her bed, making a horrible moaning sound, having soiled herself and being unable to move her because of the amount of weight she had put on.  I can still smell the excrement and feel the utter helplessness, knowing that Grandma was embarrassed and horrified by the situation.  And then, I remember what she was before the stroke and it depresses me even more because I know how much I lost even before her death.
Just to add insult to injury, my Grandma’s birthday was also my Great-Aunt Maddie’s birthday and she passed on in the last couple of years – the only connection I had left to my Grandma.
On top of all of that, I will be forced to celebrate another year passed of my empty life.  A life so devoid of anything light, of joy, of hope.  So forgive me if I am a little down at this time of the year, I am just hoping to make it to the end of the month without having a breakdown or a major depressive episode.  That, or hoping that I will go to sleep one night and not wake up the next morning, saving myself the effort of yet another failed suicide attempt.
Until next time…

The Case For Political Change

The following article was written for Your Thurrock but has yet to be added so, despite the fact that it may infuriate my boss at YT, here it is.

Before I start this month, I would like to warn anyone with a politically closed mind just to pass on by.  If you have an open mind and can actually think for yourself, welcome.
I also have one final initial warning before I plough on – if you are a particularly ideologically imprisoned individual with strong affiliations to a political party, you will probably be offended because I will be sticking it to politicians of all parties including our beloved MPs Jackie Doyle-Price and Stephen Metcalfe.  You have been warned!
Several things have happened or come to light since the General Election that have demonstrated the need for political change and not just a change of administration but a change in who can and should represent us.
Let us begin with a look at the leadership of the parties…
The leaders of the big three political parties have not only become increasingly divorced from their supporters but from the real world of the people they represent.  Yes, politicians have always been rather isolated from reality but it has now truly become an impenetrable bubble.  It was revealed recently that the three leaders have the lowest approval ratings for quite a time and voters have become so disaffected with them that the repugnant George Galloway actually won a seat in the Bradford West by-election.  Is it any wonder that voters are so disaffected?  Ed Miliband has shown himself to be a rudderless, ineffectual leader with the charisma of a soggy dishrag, certainly no competition for his brother David who should clearly have been the one of the two brothers to have won the leadership contest.  David ‘Call me Dave’ Cameron is a smarmy millionaire who is married to a millionaire, already divorced from the real world by the privilege such riches provide; beyond that fact, he has shown himself to be a leader who either could not control his party members, like Andrew Lansley, or simply did not know the plans Lansley was working on which is just as bad.  Cameron certainly seemed surprised at the extent of the measures in the NHS Reform Bill when it was presented and such wide-ranging reforms were not in the Conservative Manifesto; yet Cameron pushed on ahead, illegally, some would say, implementing actions to prepare the way for the main reforms before any of them had gained Royal Ascent and passed into law.  Then we turn our attention to Nick Clegg, a verminous individual who had in his hands the balance of power, the gift of bestowing the ability of one major party or the other to form a Government, but sold his soul and that of his party to obtain a scintilla of power that amounts to almost nothing.  Yes, joining with Labour may not have been enough to have formed a full Government, but it would have led to the Conservatives having a minority administration; surely a better guarantee of slowing the Tory agenda than capitulating to the weight of numbers and selling their principles down the river for a taste of power.  How could anyone truly respect these men?  The disaffection of the voters was surely an inevitability.
The recession that ended Labour’s stranglehold on Government, caused by the worldwide banking crisis and Labour’s deregulation of the banking sector, certainly left a financial mess to clean up.  This situation made worse by the extremely high levels of public spending and years of Blair’s ‘Thatcherism Lite’, Labour having thrown off its socialist garments to stand, diluted of identity, as followers of a true child of Thatcher.  And when the public could take no more, they turned back to the Conservatives under Cameron and his “compassionate Conservatism” only to be betrayed as the austerity measures they implemented saw the poorest, the disabled and most vulnerable hit the hardest whilst the rich found themselves better off, especially those who manage to avoid paying the various taxes.  The divide between rich and poor widens whilst the current Government looks on, its members unaffected, and Labour denies its role in the disaster.  The Liberal Democrats stand by idly watching, professing to act helping the poor, but are on the whole, ineffectual in their minor Coalition role.
It seems as though there is no one to speak for the common man in a world entirely hostile to him.  National Government is the province of the ‘professional’ politician, individuals so far out of touch with the real world that they may as well come from a different planet.  So, how can the common man take back some modicum of control over the Government?  By instigating three simple changes – 1) replace all ‘professional’ career politicians with non-partisan representatives who are willing to work together for the betterment of all and supported by knowledgeable non-partisan advisors, 2) scrap the current wage structure for MPs and instead cover the elected representative’s modest living expenses – being an elected representative should be seen as a public service, not a money-spinner – although the members of the Cabinet will obviously get more so they ‘look the part’ on the international stage, and 3) any hint of impropriety, wrong-doing or scandal from any elected representative that is found to be true will result in their immediate removal and a lifetime ban from standing for office again – our elected representatives should act as an example of integrity.
This is how Government should be run so that the needs of the many far outweigh the needs of the privileged few and the current culture of scapegoating and fear mongering that dwells at the black heart of the world of politics is forever banished.  Representatives, in this form of Government, may not always do what people want or find palatable but it will always be done in the interests of all.
This method is easily adopted at a Local Government level as well; it certainly needs as much reforming as National Government as it too suffers from the tribalism of partisan politics, an evil neither level of Government can afford to live with.
We now come to two examples that form the case for change in our political system – local MPs, Jackie Doyle-Price and Stephen Metcalfe.  In building this case, I have consulted three prominent websites – (which contains “Hansard and official reports for the UK Parliament”), (which contains the voting records for all MPs and Lords) and Wikipedia (for the General Election 2010 results).  I already knew Ms Doyle-Price’s record from a previous piece I wrote about her but, in the hopes that she had reformed and to make this piece as up-to-date as possible, I accessed They Work For You and The Public Whip websites on Tuesday 17th April, taking the liberty to check Mr Metcalfe’s record as well.  I was desperate to find out that I was wrong about them, especially Mr Metcalfe following his speech about assisted suicide, a subject very close to my heart.  Unfortunately, Mr Metcalfe’s voting record is even more horrifying than Ms Doyle-Price’s record.  I am, however, getting a little ahead of myself but these opening remarks had to be covered prior to the case being laid before you.
Firstly, both our local MPs are supposed to be representing the residents of Thurrock (and South Basildon, in the case of Mr Metcalfe); this is their duty and beyond dispute.
Secondly, we have to examine whether either individual represents a true majority of their constituents; to do this I accessed the voter numbers for both areas, voter turnout and the number of votes cast for each candidate at the 2010 General Election on Wikipedia (accessed on Wednesday 18th April) and then calculated each candidate’s percentage of the votes, both as a percentage of voter turnout and as a percentage of the total electorate.  The statistics are both interesting and rather damning of our ‘first-past-the-post’ system whilst calling into doubt the legitimacy of both MP’s claims to represent the views of the majority of their constituents, let alone the entire population of their areas.
Amazingly, the voter turnout was higher than I expected to find with 45822 casting their vote in Thurrock, which represents 59% (rounded up) of the total electorate, and 44735 casting their votes in South Basildon & East Thurrock, which represents 62.3% (rounded up) of the total electorate.  As a percentage of votes cast, Jackie Doyle-Price gained 36.8% of the votes in Thurrock whilst Stephen Metcalfe gained 43.9% of the votes cast in South Basildon & East Thurrock.  Not bad you may think as both successful candidates gained between one third and a half of the votes; however, when we look at the results as a percentage of the total electorate of each area, the results are poor to say the least – 21.7% in Thurrock and 27.3% in South Basildon & East Thurrock.  Therefore, the successful candidates actually represent significantly less than one third of their constituents, assuming they ignored the views of those who either did not vote at all or voted for someone else.  Yes, that does seem like a huge assumption to make but I will back up that assumption in a moment.  On these figures, it hardly seems representative, does it?
It is not my intention to place the blame for this terrible, undemocratic system on Ms Doyle-Price or Mr Metcalfe for we have had this system since time immemorial and, for some reason, the electorate have accepted it to the point that, when given a chance to change it, the chance was not taken.  Every MP, however, is a beneficiary of this system, one that is held up as a sign of a democratic electoral system but results in the few dictating to the many who will lead the country.
The case for change now rests on whether our elected representatives actually represent the views of their constituents despite their minority support shown by the statistics.  To do this, we must look at the voting records (I bet you had thought that I had forgotten about those) of both individuals who I have taken as my examples in favour of the case for political change.
The voting record of an MP gives a good indication of how their thought processes work, where their allegiances are and how willing they are to represent the views of constituents who have opposing views.  Oh dear, things do not look good when you look at our local MP’s voting records. 
Taking Jackie Doyle-Price first, as she is ‘my’ representative, we find that They Work For You says that she “hardly ever rebels against their party in the parliament”.  A good sign you may believe…until you actually look at the full record of the votes she actually attended.  To her credit, Ms Doyle-Price attended 456 votes out of 508 (89.8%), according to The Public Whip; this is described by They Work For You as “well above average amongst MPs”.  However, of the votes she attended, she has rebelled on only four votes (0.9%).  These votes must be on subjects of vital importance for so loyal a Conservative MP to rebel against her party thusly – the reforms to the NHS and the benefits system or, perhaps, ‘workfare’.  You would be making a grave error in thinking Ms Doyle-Price had that kind of integrity.  The rebellions of which ‘my’ beloved representative is guilty of all took place on a single day (20th January 2012) on the vital subject of the Daylight Saving Bill.
Each line of the voting record below is in the following format: Subject; whether the MP is in the majority or in the minority; Con vote; MP’s role (either loyal or rebel).
Ms Doyle-Price’s record of rebellion:
1) Daylight Saving Bill – Clause 1 – Report to be prepared on advancing time; minority; aye; Rebel
2) Daylight Saving Bill – Clause 1 – Report to be prepared on advancing time; minority; no; Rebel
3) Daylight Saving Bill – Clause 4 – Power to advance time by one hour for trial period; minority; aye; Rebel
4) Daylight Saving Bill – Clause 4 – Power to advance time by one hour for trial period; minority; no; Rebel
From the evidence we have seen thus far, Ms Doyle-Price seems to be picking a rather minor point on which to rebel against her party so she can say that she does not always blindly follow the party line.
Let us look at some other statistics from They Work For You to get a deeper impression.  It is stated that Ms Doyle-Price has: “spoken in 23 debates in the last year – below average amongst MPs”, “received answers to 42 written questions in the last year – average amongst MPs”, and “voted in 89.72% of votes in this Parliament with this affiliation – well above average amongst MPs”.  It is also stated that “people have made 0 annotations on this MP’s speeches – well below average amongst MPs”.
From the statistics above, an impression emerges of a person who attends most of the votes she should attend but says little in debates compared with other MPs and says little worth annotating in her speeches.  As for attending votes, I would put forward the case that that is her duty.  Speaking little in debates could mean that she has little to contribute to the topic; depending on the subject of the debate, that could be positively worrying.  Finally, no annotations on her speeches indicates that she makes speeches to audiences who already feel the same way she does and that is a good indication of lack of originality in her thinking.  Does any of that make you feel secure in Ms Doyle-Price’s ability to act as your representative?
Let us now look at Mr Metcalfe’s record…
They Work For You states that Mr Metcalfe “hardly ever rebels against their party in the parliament” - already not a good sign.  To his credit, Mr Metcalfe attended 453 votes out of 508 (89.2%), according to The Public Whip; this is described by They Work For You as “well above average amongst MPs”.  This attendance record is very similar to Ms Doyle-Price’s record.  However, of the votes he attended, he has rebelled on only one vote (0.2%).  This singular rebellion against his party (7th September 2011) is, however, about an issue that could be considered a matter of conscience.  The record follows the same format as for Ms Doyle-Price’s record.
Mr Metcalfe’s record of rebellion:
1) Health and Social Care Bill 2011 – Independent Abortion Advice; minority; no; Rebel
From the evidence we have seen thus far, it appears that there may be hope for Mr Metcalfe as his act of rebellion may have been one solitary incident but it was on a major Bill and on an issue that shows a modicum of conscience.
Let us look at some of Mr Metcalfe’s other statistics from They Work For You to get a sense of his personality.  It is stated that he has: “spoken in 45 debates in the last year – above average amongst MPs”, “received answers to 9 written questions in the last year – below average amongst MPs”, “voted in 89.13% of votes in this Parliament with this affiliation – well above average amongst MPs”.  It is also stated that “people have made 0 annotations on this MP’s speeches – well below average amongst MPs”.
From the statistics above, an impression emerges of a person who attends most of the votes he should attend, is more vocal in debates compared with other MPs but says little worth annotating in his speeches.  Again, I would put forward the case that attending as many votes as possible is his duty.  Mr Metcalfe seems to be better value for his constituents with a better than average number of contributions to debates but, like Ms Doyle-Price, no annotations on his speeches indicates that he makes speeches to audiences who already feel the same way he does and that could indicate a similar lack of original thought.  How do you feel about Mr Metcalfe’s ability to act as your representative now?
All of this makes me wonder whether either of our ‘representatives’ are actually truly representative of the electorate of their respective areas.  Such obedience to their party and a lack of original thought brings to mind the members of other groups, such as cults, religious fundamentalists and the migrant ‘slave’ workers in the garment districts of LA.  Can such people find it within themselves to stand up for someone who has opposing views?
The case for political change is almost complete and you may be thinking that I have been unduly harsh on our local MPs.  Perhaps I have.  I have taken them as examples simply because they are local but I believe that there are many other MPs in Parliament who are similarly lacking.
I have, however, two more pieces of evidence to present, a piece that is exclusively about Ms Doyle-Price.  I have built, in my opinion, a fairly solid case against our local MPs as being unfit to represent the views of the entire electorate of their respective areas.  The following pieces of evidence seals the deal for Ms Doyle-Price.
First of all, during the run up to the referendum on the Alternative Vote system, Ms Doyle-Price wrote a piece for her column in the Thurrock Gazette about why the Alternative Vote was a bad idea and why she was not in favour of a change in the voting system.  For someone in her position to voice that opinion prior to the referendum was unacceptable as some voters may have read that piece and interpreted it as the authoritative position on the subject.  If Ms Doyle-Price was a freethinker, she should have presented the arguments for and against the Alternative Voting system so that her constituents could have made their own choice in an informed way.  If her thought processes were anything but drone-like and subordinate to the Conservative hierarchy, she would have kept her own views on the issue to herself, holding as she does a position of authority in the community.  She did not and may have unduly influenced the local outcome of the referendum as a result. I hold no position of authority in the community but I do hold a minor position in the public arena and I kept my views on the Alternative Vote to myself until the referendum was over.  I am obviously much more professional in my amateur journalistic career than Ms Doyle-Price is. 
Some readers may believe that I am attaching too much power to Ms Doyle-Price’s column concerning its ability to influence the result of the referendum.  Possibly.  However, I make this point – people who vote normally vote the same way as their family has done for years; they do this because their parents have a position of authority within their lives and therefore act in a similar fashion.  Such is the power of authority.  Ms Doyle-Price has a position of authority and her opinion therefore carries with it the authority of that position whether she is right or wrong.
The last piece of evidence is regarding a request from myself asking Ms Doyle-Price to  support the case for releasing the Transitional Risk Register (TRR) on the then proposed NHS reforms.  As ‘my’ representative, and that of every other voter in the Thurrock constituency, she should have honoured that request, even though it was against her own opinion on the matter.  I am not suggesting that my request was any more important than any other requests she receives.  I am suggesting that, as the NHS reforms were a potentially explosive issue and one that I would not be alone in worrying about, she should have seen the wisdom in having the TRR published.  In my last column, I included extracts from Ms Doyle-Price’s reply to my request and extracts from the Tribunal’s judgement on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asking for the TRR to be released which concluded that the Government had a duty in the public interest to publish the TRR.  It seems that she follows the party line unquestionably.
I think I have shown that there is, indeed, a need for political change, a change from the tribalism of partisan politics to a non-partisan representation in Government and a change in who can and should represent us.  The world is changing and so is society therefore it only makes sense that the political system changes too.
I know I may have been a little harsh on our local MPs; however, my comments are not aimed against the people but against their thought processes.  I have no doubt that Ms Doyle-Price and Mr Metcalfe are delightful company and are good people.  They just need to show that they are willing to put the views they may not agree with forward as forcefully as they do the ones they do agree with.  They need to prove to that they are in Parliament to represent the full range of views of their constituents, fairly and without bias.
If there is any phrase that sums up my “dark philosophy”, as one particularly uninformed commentator called it, it has to be this – let us all just get along, cut out the tribalism and work together to build a society we can be proud of for generations to come, built on the principles of integrity, equality and fairness.  I was going to go for “Truth, justice and the British way” but that seemed a little on the nose.
Until next time…
If you would like to comment on any of my columns, please send them to or you can check out my personal blogs at or  You can also find me on Twitter (@valen1971).

Jackie Doyle-Price (accessed 17 April 2012)

Stephen Metcalfe (accessed 17 April 2012)

2010 General Election results


Saturday, 5 May 2012

Why does everything have to be so hard?

I think the title says it all really.  Everything I am involved in at the moment seems to involve the sort of pain you associate with root canal surgery for very little personal return.  I have drawn up plans for a continuation mental health service user involvement project to take over from the current one that is due to finish at the end of August this year but progress is almost non-existent at the present moment and that does not even take into account the time it will take to raise the funds to kick start the project.  The presentation I gave a week or two ago has been leaked to groups outside of the committee who saw it even though it was a confidential meeting so it is now hard to work out who I can trust to work on the new proposals.
Beyond that project, my pet personal project, The Enlightenment Project, seems to have stalled before it has even begun.  The couple of people who have expressed interest in the project have not come back to me so it seems it will be a project of one which does mean I have complete control over it but is hardly what I planned.  My project work for the Politics Group has been put on hold whilst I deal with the service user involvement project and hence the output of the project as a whole is nil.
I am still struggling to find a readership for this blog.  Yes, I am into double figures with regards to readers but, if there is any hope of actually affecting any change - politically, socially and ethically – I need the readers and I just have not got enough.  One man can make a difference but only if he is heard or read; otherwise, that man is just whistling into the hurricane of apathy and faces the oblivion of anonymity.  Hardly a good thing when that person may have a lot to offer if only he was heard.
My blog on Your Thurrock gets published but how many people actually read it?  I have also been personally attacked because if it.  I am fine with people attacking my views if they do not agree with them, I am putting my views out into the public arena,  but to attack me personally is below the belt and not really playing the game ethically.
I am feeling that, perhaps, I am just wasting my time trying to put my ideas ‘out there’ in the hopes that someone will find what I say or do of value and worthwhile to act upon to change our society into something worth being part of.  Should I just forget about trying to change things for the better?  Should I just climb into bed, pull the duvet over my head and forget the rest of the world exists?  It would certainly make for an easier life for me.  A dull life, for sure, but is my life any more exciting for all the pain I am experiencing and the effort I am expending?
I know that this posting may seem a little self-indulgent and coming across as a ‘me, me, me’ piece but have I not got the right to be self-indulgent occasionally when I have done my utmost to affect a change for the better?  I will leave you to decide on that point.
Until next time…

Friday, 4 May 2012

Local Elections 2012 – The Aftermath

The counting of votes is still under way but it seems clear that the Conservatives are paying the price for their savage cuts programme and the Liberal Democrats are being severely punished for selling their support to the Tories for a miniscule bit of power like so many cheap hookers (although I feel that is being a little harsh on hookers because they have more integrity).
Labour must be rubbing their hands in glee at the result but they must keep in mind that the voters may well have been using them as a protest vote against the Coalition much in the same way as the Liberal Democrats were used during successive Tory or Labour administrations.  Also bear in mind, that the voter turnout figures were low; for the local examples in Thurrock, we see the highest turnout being only 35.51% in Corringham & Fobbing and the lowest being 19.25% in Tilbury St. Chads.  For the full results of the Thurrock elections, go to
Nationally, several councils that were under No Overall Control (NOC) have swung over to Labour control, a clear sign that the Coalition partners are seen in a very dim light.  If the voter turnout figures follow a similar pattern to those in Thurrock, the level of voter apathy is even higher than usual and must be an indication of almost wholesale disaffection in the entire process of elections.  This disaffection could be due to the electorate finally believing that there is no one who can truly say represents them.  The three main parties are getting less and less in touch and the smaller parties have no hope of gaining any significant power, a sign that the age of party tribalism is ending, perhaps?
The indications are that the next General Election will be a vicious affair with a battle to the death for all concerned in order to get the votes they need.  Casualties will be high.  The question is – will the casualties be the electoral candidates or the members of the UK electorate?
Until next time…

Thursday, 3 May 2012

I don’t say things on Facebook just to get a reaction

Now that the local election is over for me, I can get back to entries that I have been putting off for one reason or another.  One such item concerns a comment someone made on my Facebook profile page following an incident where someone gained access to my account and posted “is gay” as my status.  One of my friends wrote a comment that gave the impression that I say some things on my Facebook profile just to get a reaction.  Now, I am not having a go at said friend but I thought I would make the situation over what I post on Facebook clear for everyone – I do not say things on my profile page just to get a reaction.  I have, on occasion, made some comments on my status that have given rise to some concern amongst my friends it is true but they have always been my exact feelings at the time of writing them.
One such occasion was the time that I had posted that I had failed in my attempt to hang myself.  It was a statement of fact that I really had just failed in a suicide attempt and that I felt an even bigger failure than normal.  I have also posted twice about feeling like throwing myself from a bridge into the river at Chelmsford following two very disheartening meetings at the university.  This, too, was a statement of how I was feeling at the time.
So, why do I feel the need to post such comments if it is not to provoke a reaction?  The answer is simple.  I have no way of hiding my mental health problem from people since I bared my soul at the mental health awareness events I organised, the first of which has footage on Your Thurrock/YouTube for all to see.  My life has been thrown into the public arena and hence into the crapper because of it.  I, therefore, see absolutely no reason to hide my moods and feelings from Facebook.  This does mean, however, that I do not have many friends and I seem to lose a few every so often.  I believe that, as I have basically screwed my life over anyway, I may as well continue to tell the truth about how I am feeling on Facebook in the hope that it helps others understand what I have to live with. 
The only crime I am guilty of on Facebook is the crime of omission.  I feel that there are some details of my life that are, and should remain, private so I do not mention them.  These omissions are rare and at least give my friends something to speculate about me, lending me a slight air of mystery.
I hope that clears things up for everyone.
Until next time…

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The Final Results – Grays Riverside Local Election Running Commentary part 5

So, we come to the last episode of my running commentary on the current local election and it has been a much better fight for the position of Grays Riverside councillor than last year.  Below is the final scores for each candidate based on the rating scale I created.
The Candidates and Where They Stand
Below is a table of the scores each candidate received.  I have not, however, identified the names of the candidates but simply used their party affiliation as there really is no reason to pour scorn on the candidates until they are elected.

Party à
Lib Dem
Ratings â
(3 leaflets left)
(1 leaflet left)
(2 leaflets left)
(3 leaflets left)

Local focussed?
3/2/(2) [2.5]
2/0/0 [0.7]
2/1/(3) [1.5]
1/0/0 [0.3]
Blame Game
3/0 [1.5]
2/1/(2) [1.5]
1/1/1 [1]
Willingness To Work Together
0/0/(1) [0]
3/2/(3) [2.5]
2/0/0 [0.7]
Fear mongering
0/0/(1) [0]
1/0/0 [0.3]
Exactly how will you ensure your pledges will be enacted?
0/0/(1) [0]
1/0/0 [0.3]
Bonus Points

Total Score

Please note: Examples using the format above for the numbers in brackets are listed below so you can see why the score was assigned.
·         (2) – the score for a leaflet that is about the party and not the candidate and was, therefore, removed from the candidate’s score.
·         [2.5] – the score in square brackets is based on the average score if more than one leaflet was left.
As you can see it was a very close race for top spot between the Labour and Conservative candidates and the Liberal Democrat candidate came a very poor last with a complete no-show.  Of course, my rating scale is based on my subjective judgement on the evidence to hand and I feel that I have actually been over-generous in some of the allocation of my scores.  Yes, there was much more of a contest this year but the candidates still did not really sell themselves as well as they should have and, in this respect, the contest was as lacklustre as last year’s performance.  In fact, it could be said that last year’s contest was better, in that, the one candidate who did make an appearance actually did sell herself very well; it was only my feeling that I could not vote at all without some knowledge of her competitors that prevented me from voting for her, something I deeply regret.
I will, however, be voting this year as I have had the chance to weigh up the candidates and I will be voting for the Labour candidate, not because I am a Labour supporter but because his leaflet was the most persuasive in showing him to be the best person for the job.
Just in case last year’s candidate is reading this, I would like to say this – I did not vote for you last year for the reasons I have already given but, should you stand again, you have my vote with no need to ask for it.  When my good name was smeared by a fellow blogger, you pledged to support me if I wished to make an issue of it even though I told you on the telephone that I had not voted for you.  That is an act of a true representative and should be recognised as such. So, Ms Morris-Cook, when you run again you can be assured of one enthusiastic vote because I know you have my interests to heart, from your recent actions and our conversation on my doorstep last year.

Until next time...