Thursday, 14 November 2013

Dear Pop Stars Remember You Are Made of Star Dust Not Sexism

Dear All Pop Stars,

I love music, I love old music, I love new music I love music I’m too embarrassed to let Spotify post on my Facebook status (we all know that feeling).

 I also love it when my role models and idols make me smile and remember they are more than a sex object, more than a marketing gimmick, but are human beings with a beautiful talent that we all want to experience and share.

I don’t expect my role models to be perfect or for them to put on an artificial butter wouldn’t melt in their hot and talented mouths persona, I don’t even expect them to always make the right decision (lets be fair we all don’t go through a day without making at least one mistake), but I hope that if you make a career out of being so important in all our lives that you try to bring your special sparkle and glitter into our world its much more fun than all this old fashioned sexism.

I know that controversy can sell and we all have to make a living, but if I love your voice, your music videos, your dance moves and your personality I’m still going to want to buy your MP3 from itunes and make you the sound track of my day I promise and I know I’ll want to recommend you to my friends too especially when they are round for that bottle of Rose on a Friday night.

I know that growing up no one thinks “I want to be a bad influence on others” or even be part of the nightmare that pulls other people’s lives apart. That’s why I want less blurred lines in the world and more girl power hitting our airwaves as the former makes little angels cry and the latter will make you the pop goddess and gods we all know you are.

As people we naturally want to be ourselves so instead of letting your marketing manager or band of digital image consultants want to twist and hide the real you, behind a fantasy stardom template air brushed and behind a personality that even your mum would struggle to see you through. Let the real star glowing inside you out, the body that holds your talented voice and dazzling dance moves (I promise you that alone makes it beautiful) be centre stage . Let your personality out through the clothes you want to wear and lifestyle you want to lead instead of someone else’s story shaped by an agent design to attract controversy instead of selling the you that you want the world to see.

Remember that before you were a pop star, rock star or even a TV star that you always had a star inside you the star dust that makes us all. You don’t need someone to shape you to be a star you just have to look inside yourself and let out the star dust you have had all along.

Keep dancing, keep singing and keep bringing glitter and magic into our lives.

Yours Faithfully

Tara Hewitt

Fan, feminist and fellow stardust made human being

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

DONT PANIC - Transgender Journalism 10 Positive Steps

If you are a journalist no matter what area you are working in be it art and fashion, politics and current affairs, crime and justice or even sport it is more and more likely that you will come across stories involving the full diversity of the trans community. With a tight deadline and with little experience in this area what do you do?


Here are some top tips to help make your article shine:

1. Do talk to the trans person you are writing the story about we don’t bite honest! We know best when it comes to writing about our own identity, so why re-invent the wheel?

2. Do Speak to All About Trans or Trans Media Watch. Facebook, Twitter, or Email them it doesn't matter which. They will give you everything you need to ensure you don’t fall down with any common mistakes.

3. Remember you are a fabulous journalist and not a bibliographer. You are probably writing a great story best to stick to that and let it shine not digging round in the mundane previous life of a trans person.

4. Do pose your trans subjects in a suitably glamorous pose, you will probably get more attention for flattering your subject rather than accidentally embarrassing them.

5. Do use a recent photo, not one of them that appears like a different person the main reason being the person in the photo is the wrong gender (I’m talking about past before and after pics not big or clever they just suck).

6. Do criticise trans people who do bad things, we are all people we can all do bad things. Trans people are not exempt from criticism but remember criticise what they have done not that they are trans that’s the story not their gender.

7. Do report news, we like news, we like scandal, we like entertainment and we even like the pull out fashion spreads many newspapers have. Now you are reporting news you won’t have space for those pointless “someone has transitioned” articles. Trans people haven’t suddenly come down from the moon, we have been around forever despite what the gossip circle in some shire town is telling you.

8. Do give trans people a voice. Ok I would say that I’m trans and I’m writing about improving media presence for trans people, but you will be surprised how many fabulous experts and commentators across a range of subject areas out there are Trans. Don’t be afraid to let us speak, we can do more than talk about our gender in fact most of us would prefer it instead of having to discuss ourselves all of the time.

9. Do use the normal dictionary of words you use in other articles they aren't broken so why try to fix them? No need to bring in “Sex Swop” “tranny” or “Sex Change” they just aren't cool and you just end up being the classroom bully instead of the dazzling journalist we all know you can be.

10. Finally DO REMEMBER the person you are writing about is more than a story, more than being transgender, they are human and have so much more to give than having their gender objectified if their gender history isn't relevant to the story why include it? 

Now you have all the tools to be a journalist with extra gold stars and the tips to make your story shine. Go forth and continue to make our lives interesting with stories, glamour and news which ever part of the media industry you work in.

Here are some positive messages from Trans people that may help too:

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Think Global Act Local

Guest Article by: Katie Redmond

Katie is a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate and Engineering Consultant specialising in the Defense and Nuclear sectors

I like my politics like I like my sweets, bite sized, neatly wrapped and easy to chew on.

The easiest way to describe conservative politics is minimised taxation and maximised responsibilities. It really is that simple and easy to swallow. We have a shared belief in a small government and a self sufficient society.

There are many different ways to crack the nut or skin the cat, so to speak, but I believe the best person to turn to if you want to change the world is in the mirror.

That's where all your ideas are going to come from, the energy to enthuse others and the vision to work it through. The way to change the world is to change your world. 

And that's what I mean when I say think global act local. You won't get any more local than that. It's more than just a catchy phrase or a fluffy idea. It's your part to play in the theatre of politics and there's no dress rehearsal.

So if you want a small government, low taxes, size 10 jeans, whatever floats your boat, first you have to start the with yourself. 

Even a journey of a hundred miles starts with a single step. And that small step is to ask yourself what small things can be done to chip away at the mountain you're trying to move. If they're small things we can all do, then we can work together to move that mountain pretty fast.

If you're interested in politics and the world around you, you don't need to get elected to start making a difference. There are many things going on around you in your local community that you can lend a hand with, and many hands make light work.

I enjoy spending maybe a couple of evenings a week with local community groups, a couple of hours here and there on a weekend helping out with bits and pieces in my local area. 

Hardly much to mention, but little and often can make a big difference over time. If you can learn something, teach something, fix something or feed something, then you've taken some weight off the state and you're building your own skills at the same time.

When we delegate to the state, we strip ourselves of the fibres that weave the fabric of society. We take out all the goodness, like an over-processed loaf of bread. It satisfies the stomach but it doesn't do us any good.

Start switching to wholesome whole grain, butter up your community and use your loaf. It's been the staple diet of self-sufficient society for civilisations. Let's us shape our future, knead it, bake it, keep it where it works best - in our own hands.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Pink List 2013 - Tara Hewitt

Taken from the Independent on Sunday Pink List 2013

43. (new entry) Tara Hewitt @Tara_Hewitt


Recently elected chair of Wirral Conservative Future and deputy chair of Conservative Future North West, the trans and human rights activist is being assessed as a potential parliamentary candidate. She is a freelance diversity consultant, sits on a school board and is on the board of the Deafness Support Network charity.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Student Union Turns It's Back On Armed Forces

Guest article by Charlotte Woods

Charlotte is Chairman of Manchester Conservative Future and an Intern for the growing and innovative think tank Peel Policy Forum. Both can be found on Twitter @charlywoodsy & @peelpolicyforum

I've been a student at the University of Manchester for 13 months now. That’s 13 months I've had to put up with the extreme left that, like the extreme left do, sit in their hierarchical positions dictating what the students of Manchester university apparently ‘want to hear’. As a students union (SU), University of Manchester Students Union (UoMSU) should, in my eyes, be politically neutral and represent all voices on campus to the highest extent they can. Usually, I can grit my teeth and put up with the ridiculously bias and unrepresentative Student Union’s motions, but something happened last week that made me want to kick out and alert people of what the University of Manchester Student’s Union is really like.

Last week, UoMSU took it upon themselves to remove the Manchester University Royal Navy Unit away from the SU building during welcome week – whilst continuing to allow a Socialist propaganda stall to stand outside hurling abuse at me and my peers of a right-wing nature (“Tory Scum”, “Go Home Tories” etc – I’d like to point out I’m a young 19 year old girl who has never been involved in a physical fight, works hard in the education system, has had a job since the age of 15 and has been involved in lots of charity work in my 19 years – I’m not sure which part of me is ‘scum’ but that’s a different issue.) Now this is a problem for two reasons. The first issue with this is, the Armed Forces do an absolutely amazing job in and for this country. To dismiss them as an unimportant and irrelevant to students is disgusting and disturbing. The armed forces are relevant in everybody’s lives. The society had also paid £300 prior to occupy the space from the council – therefore making it the councils business to decide whether the Royal Navy’s presence was appropriate and not the Student’s Union.

The second issue with this, is it is simply another example of the Student’s Union bullying ways, constantly pushing around those that it’s extreme left-leaning leaders don’t agree with, but ignoring what the wider student body thinks. Just this week, the Student’s Union had the chance to decide whether its new policies needed 500 votes in favour of new motions in order for them to be passed. Just 500 students out of 40,000 is just over 1% of students – hardly representative or even a large number, but the Student’s Union blocked this motion, keeping voter numbers even smaller and ensuring that a small number of students, usually those working for the SU or their friends, could vote on motions and pass motions that the SU wanted and not the whole student body. On the same day The Sun was banned on campus due to the small presence of the Ban Page 3 rearing its head in the executive.

By kicking the Armed Forces off campus, the Student’s Union is flexing its left wing muscles and crushing the freedom of speech for others. If you want to see UoMSU apologizing and reinstating the Armed Forces on campus, please sign our online petition. We've got the Student’s Union to apologies before and we can do it again.

To Get involved and support the campaign to defend our armed forces please sign the campaign's petition here:

Photo by Mikey (Flickr) - used under creative commons license

Friday, 27 September 2013

On The Touchline

Guest article by:

Robert Douglas Griffiths
Deputy Chairman Political West Cheshire Conservative Future

So the scores are being chalked up and conference season is now in its last innings. Up at the crease we have Dave Cameron, who’s having a rather better time of it recently given the weak pitching by Ed Miliband and crew. No sixes as yet, but we’ll have to see what he’s like on the final day of play. That’s enough cricketing (I’m no sportsman, the analogies would soon wear thin pretty quick). It’s politics and the commentary thereon that are my forte and why I’ve been asked to guest-write on this blog. However, I do think that with conference season closing, it’s as good a time as any to compare what’s gone on over the past couple of weeks and give a little speculation as to what we’d certainly like to hear on 2nd October. 

So we’ll start with the Lib Dems, who kicked off in Glasgow last Sunday. I’m betting that most of us were simply only paying attention to it via the headlines and interviews, rather than the blow-by-blow stuff on BBC Parliament. Nevertheless, the one theme that emanated from their few days was that they’d like to be in coalition again and it apparently doesn't matter with whom. My guess is that secretly Nick would quite like another round with us. Vince Cable on the other hand would of course like to see the bird roost in the rose bush. Either way the message was loud and clear “we’re here (we think), we’ here! Get used to it!” Whether or not the average Briton believes that coalition is now to become a norm in political life, it’s certainly now not entirely fashionable to rule it out. How exactly this will manifest itself in 2015 is anyone’s guess. I’m a fan of the long game, so we’ll see. 

Sidestepping the UKIP sideshow that they claim was a conference (here read The Godfrey Bloom Show); we’ll head to Brighton where Labour has recently vacated. Much has been made of Red Ed’s pithy proclamation claiming a desire to re-introduce socialism. As I said in my own blog post, and indeed in the wider blogosphere, this may be popular with the voters right now, but what will they prefer when May 2015 rolls round? The only credible Tory offer right now seems to be tax breaks and indeed that’s what we should be offering. Having more money to spend on what one wants or needs on a personal level rather than give it to the collective for it to be misspent and frittered away is a much more attractive option. 

So then we come to Manchester and we’re on the starting grid come Sunday. I’d certainly like to see some consolidation this year. We are now just over a year away from the general election and it’s time to start taking stock of our record in government and begin to think about where we want to go. Certainly a harder line on immigration, the welfare and education reforms to be further entrenched and taxes to be cut further. It must be made clear to the Prime Minister that he has to re-stamp his authority harder than ever before on the party. We must think about being tougher on the EU and actually putting up a fight to repatriate powers lost to Brussels. Better investment in our health services is vital and this must be stressed by Jeremy Hunt. That said, we’ve an awful lot to be proud of. Theresa May will be coming with the victory earlier this year of deporting Abu Qatada back to Jordan. George Osborne has just stood up to Brussels when they tried to make us cap bankers’ bonuses. William Hague has had a marvellous three years as Foreign Secretary, re-affirming our principles abroad and giving us a broadly dignified foreign policy.

I look forward to the Conservative Party Conference each year with excitement and trepidation. Usually the latter dissipates rather quickly and I’m hoping this year to be no exception.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Gay Abused Russian? Dont Worry Because The Olympic Charter Wont Be Broken

"Everything is really magnificent" - The Words of the International Co-ordination Olympic Committee Chairman J
ean-Claude Killy as he describes the up and coming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi Russia.

Well I have a message for the IOC speak to the teenage Gay boy too scared to come out at school and is contemplating suicide, Speak to the Gay Man beat up and forced to drink urine by neo nazis, Speak to the Bisexual Man abused in the street as Russian Police walk on by. I'm sure "magnificent" isn't the word that would be on the top of their list to describe the situation in Russia right now.

Whats worse is the claim by the IOC president that despite all this people regardless of Sexual Orientation are "Welcome in Russia" well if that's what a Russian welcome looks like I'd rather stay at home thank you.

in 1936 the Olympics was taken to Nazi Germany despite widespread antisemitism racism and the rise of the fascist state. in 2014 the world is going to hand that flame to Russia and the shame of the cruelty delivered to LGBT people will be on the hands of all of those not willing to stand up and condemn the abuse and recognise that allowing a nation that abuses its own people to be the flag bearer for an institution that claims to stand for freedom and peace is beyond parody and blackens the name of all those involved.

I certainly wont be watching the Olympics in 2014 and I hope my friends and allies of the LGBT community will join me in refusing to support the continued abuse of LGBT people through the promotion of one of the worlds largest sporting events being gift wrapped to their abusers.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Red, Red Lines

Guest Article by 
Julie Lenarz  Executive Directior Humanitarian Intervention Centre
Simon Schofield - Senior Fellow Humanitarian Intervention Centre

Washington wants to stay out of Syria at any cost. With his inaction, Obama is betraying the core principles of American benevolence.  He is belittling his country’s power and influence in the world and empowering dictatorships and crime regimes. Our allies are left out in the cold, whilst our enemies are stronger than ever. Moreover, the administration’s lack of leadership and credibility is putting the lives of hundreds of thousands of Syrians at risk, and further risks emboldening Assad, who may decide that America’s moving red lines allow him to act with impunity.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a genius offer to President Obama with his proposal to have Syria withdraw and destroy all of their chemical weapons. This plan allows Obama to stick to what appears to be his current foreign policy position of determined inaction, whilst saving face on the international stage. As Obama’s ‘red line’ only covered chemical weapons, the USA backing Russia’s plan allows Obama to enforce the red line without honouring his moral responsibility to protect Syrian citizens from the murderous butcher they are forced to call ‘President’. One would have thought that over 100,000 deaths through conventional weapons would constitute a red line in and of itself.

Russia’s proposal, as well as ignoring the root cause of the issue, which is the senseless murder of well over 110,000 civilians, is ridiculous on a practical level too. For starters, Russia cannot be trusted with its own WMD arsenals, let alone anybody else’s. Russia announced in 2009 that it was dismantling a large part of its chemical weapons arsenal and required around $1bn in support from the USA through the Nunn-Lugar programme in order to do this.

Given the chaotic nature of the battlefield in Syria, quite how this transfer is going to be done securely is completely impossible to ascertain. When UN inspectors were recently in Syria to investigate the chemical weapons attacks they were fired on by as-yet-unidentified snipers. At present there is no evidence of rebels having possession of chemical weapons, but this proposal would pose a good opportunity for them to remedy that. If, by some small miracle, 99% of the chemical weapons were securely withdrawn and destroyed this could still leave ten tonnes of weapons unaccounted for. This would include the Sarin nerve agent used in Ghouta and the world’s deadliest compound, VX, which could well resurface on the streets of London or New York in a terror attack.

American dithering will, in turn, send signals to Iran that US red lines are not necessarily as defined as might be stated initially. Many inside and outside Iran will now be questioning Obama’s declared commitment to preventing the country from developing nuclear weapons capability. If his red lines for Syria become flexible whenever it looks as though he may be expected to order military intervention, why would they be any less so for Iran?

The use of Sarin gas in Ghouta constitutes yet another attempt by Assad to test out his boundaries. We have seen a similar policy before, when Assad slowly increased his air campaign to await the West’s response. When it eventually turned out that the establishment of a no-fly zone was out of the question, the regime shifted its modus operandi accordingly.

It is not the first time that the Obama administration widened the definition of its “red line” concept. In the earlier stages of the conflict, the President declared that “a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around” would lead to US action. He then shifted his position to the point where the US will only get involved if Assad uses chemical weapons on his own people. That point has now been reached, yet the consequences are as unclear and undefined as ever.

Taking the classic Clinton option of doing nothing whilst looking like doing something by ordering Tomahawk cruise missile strikes should be considered a half-hearted strategy at best. Such a tactic is likely to embolden rebels, provoke the regime and give false hope to suffering Syrians, whilst making no meaningful contribution to reduce human suffering.

The Syrian problem is not going away and the longer we wait, the uglier it will become. As Tony Blair pointed out: “Intervention can be uncertain, expensive and bloody. But history has taught us that inaction can merely postpone the reckoning. 

We haven't paid the bill for Syria yet. But we will.” Or as one Syrian woman put it:  ‘We will not forget that you forgot about us.’

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Stigma Kills

Earlier this week I was shocked to read the mocking of people suffering depression by the current chairman of Exeter Conservatives Association. In reference to a campaign ran by local young people helping to combat depression asking for Ruth Smith's support she responded with "Dont talk about depression" - "Go away and do something creative like making quilts".

Mental Health Issues will effect 1 in 4 people in their life times and the impact of self harm, isolation and in extreme cases suicide can be far reaching on friends, family and the wider community. In recent years we have come along way from the outdated attitudes of the past where "man up" and "just get on with it" were common language even from your GP or local doctor however sadly it appears for some the seriousness and importance of supporting those with mental health issues doesnt seem to have sunken in.

I myself am very aware of the effect mental health conditions can have on both your life and those around you having in the past have made attempts to take my own life and suffered spouts of depression leading to self harm and periods of deep sadness in my life. This can put a huge strain on friendships, family relationships and your judgement, which can have far reaching consequences long into your career and future life as people fail to understand the context in which you were making decisions and living at a particular period of your life. Often people are not aware that trans people in particular face suicide rates of upward of 40% and self harm rates of 80% or higher and when looking at the broader Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual community you see equally shocking rates of self harm and attempted suicide. Research carried out by Stonewall UK shows this in more shocking detail.

Depression and Mental health can be a lonely place where often you burn your bridges quite fast and make yourself more vulnerable through self imposed isolation and internalised emotions, which is why support groups and campaigns showing that young people and all those with depression are not alone and that there is support available for them is all so important.

In a society where talking about self harm suicide and mental health issues is still met with deep breathes, sounds of "awww" and shock at how open someone is being, the continued stigma and ignorance around mental health is a barrier to a more engaging and open world that empowers survivors and encourages open support for all those that are facing mental health challenges in their lives.

I'm a Conservative and I believe very much in the values of celebrating those that overcome challenges and barriers to succeed and empowering others to do so. I know this is the message most in my party share and I hope the comments made by this one party officer were merely mis placed and un thought through rather than part of the stigma and ignorance that still perpetuates too much of our society when it comes to mental health.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Week the West Blinked

Two game changing events took place this week in world politics. firstly we saw UK MPs shamefully vote to rule out any military action in response to the genocide taking place in Syria, signaling the dawn of a new isolationist agenda in the UK. Then today President Obama addressed the world to climb down from his threat of an imminent missile strike on the Assad Regimes' key military assets and replaced it with a future vote in the US Congress to gain their support for any further action.

In one of the first major tests in the post Iraq and Afghanistan era, in the face of a cruel dictator unleashing chemical weapons on 14 occasions and just this week the dropping of napalm on one of his country's own schools the West has done the very thing we could not afford to do we have blinked.

David Cameron took his eye off the ball when it came to ensuring his whips were doing their jobs in making sure he had the numbers in parliament, the whips failed to see the small but present group of conservative MPs determined to push an isolationist ideological agenda at any cost, Ed Miliband turned this way and that way and by the close of play he had ended up at no way and today we heard the President of the USA facing the choice of unilateral strikes against Syria without the support of his closest ally the UK or a political climb down, instead he chose to pass the buck to his congress shirking his duty as commander in chief.

But the people who are clearly not blinking are the Assad Mafia (government is clearly not a fair description of them) and his allies Russia and China. Following President Obama's speech today we saw the artillery which had been silent since firing chemical weapons into the rebel held suburbs a week ago opening fire again in almost a gleeful celebration of Obama's live streamed backing off speech. We also heard earlier today Syria's biggest President Putin facing the cameras to condemn the words and allegations made by the USA about the regime making it very clear that there is no thawing of Western Russian relations on this issue. 

While all this goes on the people who are really the losers are the Syrian people, the children still dying due to the severe burns they received from a government napalm laced bomb and the families too scared to leave their homes worried about being shot for simply being out on the street. So far the focus of this debate has been around personalities, Cameron, Miliband and Obama a sign of the state of the political system we live with today. The debate that really needs to happen  is about people, mothers, fathers, daughters and sons no different to those living in the UK or the USA other than where luck had them born. People who are facing the cruelest circumstances with no end in sight and the use of Chemical Weapons which so far has gone unchallenged putting at risk people anywhere there is a dictator who may feel free to use such heinous tools to do his evil bidding now the lease of international pressure has been loosened.

On Friday I sat numb watching the vote in the UK and was very vocal in expressing how ashamed I was of my countries parliament but today I saw that shame turn to anger as the last bastion of hope for Syrian people the USA start to turn their backs on the people too. "Great leaders take on the burden of life and death when it is in the interest of their nation and the world", Despite seeing what had happened in the UK Obama has failed to live up to this maxim and has shown how many politicians in today's world are willing to pass the buck when it benefits them most.

Its time to keep our eyes wide open face up to the evil taking place in Syria and deliver a critical blow to the regime of terror that's in place there.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Our Shame Over Syria

I write this after a night where I ever never been more ashamed to be involved in politics, a night where my opinion and respect for our political elite hit a new low and after a night where innocent children and families in Syria where told their suffering doesn't matter by the UK Parliament.

Watching the debate in Parliament you would think that the conflict that we were all discussing was that of Iraq and that we had suddenly entered a time warp going back to the dark days following 9/11. MP after MP rose to give so called pearls of wisdom of how the government had made the wrong decisions when they decided to act over the Iraq war and others warning of entering into a "war with Syria". Yet the honorable members were actually debating a motion of principled future military action if necessary in Syria not Iraq and indeed no mention of all out war or a grand invasion that seem to be being implied by some of the principled opposition to the motion in the chamber.

The tone of debate was even more bizarre when MPs from my own party rose to read out how they had taken straw polls and received 250 emails from busy bodies opposing any intervention in Syria. While at the same time BBC NEWS was showing footage of children being burnt to death by Napalm in a school in Syria.

Ed Miliband added to the Circus that was the House of Commons when he decided that playing a game of twister turning this way and that over whether we should intervene and in the end finished with simply a position of party politics clearly demonstrated further by disgraceful Labour MPs calling out in repugnant fashion for the Prime Minister to resign following the government losing the vote on the motion in the chamber.

We have a proud history as a nation of standing up for the vulnerable and innocent around the world that have found their basic human rights threatened in the face mass genocide from a brutal dictator, but last night MPs shattered that reputation in one spineless walk through the lobby and the real losers as a result are the 1000s of innocent Syrians who will now continue to be murdered by the Assad regime.

We have set down in principle that a dictator can use WMDs and chemical weapons indiscriminately as long as they do so during the fog of war relying on the west's fetishistic obsession with its own mistakes over Iraq and culture of the political elite more concerned with opinion polls and their majorities than the lives and suffering of innocent people facing genocide in another nation.

War is repugnant and the cost of military action is a tragic one but one that far outweighs the cost of refusing to act when a nation has decided it is free to exterminate vast chunks of its own people.

I will never shape my views by straw polls or let the fact that I may be criticised for taking such a strong view on Syria, some things go far beyond politics and elections this is one of those issues I am a good Samaritan and I wont apologise for that.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Sex offenders should face a life in custody for the lives they have ruined

Today the state of the UK Criminal Justice System was visually and horrifically summed up by the sentencing of the evil child abuser Stuart Hall to just 15 month in Prison, for physically and mentally abusing 13 girls over a life time of abuse and torment. For a man who lived a life of luxury and celebrity while he secretly destroyed the lives' of young girls to feed his evil desires all paid for by the British License Fee Payer, its another two fingers up to natural justice and the system. The injustice that he has received less than one and half months for every life he has destroyed and in reality will only be behind bars for just over two weeks for each of those lives is enough to stick in the throat of anyone with a conscience or a heart beat looking at this case.

I am a big supporter of prison reform, I've done case work for clients on death row in the USA, I've supported the work of the Howard League for Penal Reform and I've spoken at events and conferences on the need for fewer people in prison and more focus on rehabilitation and restorative justice. This is a cause I believe in philosophically and economically, prison is filled disproportionately with people from poorer backgrounds, those with mental health issues and those from specific ethnic backgrounds compared with wider society. Locking everyone up has been shown in the USA to be an admittance of a failure to solve the challenges these communities face and society washing its hands of chunks of it it that it doesn't know how to change. Equally locking large numbers of people in prison costs the tax payer a fortune for each and every individual locked up, and with a very large probability that after their release they will end up right back behind bars after failing to be rehabilitated by the system. The solution to this is simple, for offences that are not a danger to the public none violent, sexual and non repeat offenders alternative sentencing should always be the norm, forced work programs, restorative justice schemes, large fines deducted straight off wages or benefits reflective of earnings to inflict same level of penalty on the criminal and proper supported probation schemes paid for by results not on block contracts.

At this point you might be confused and starting to think i'm one of the same old do gooders that has lead to Stuart Halls appallingly soft sentence today for abusing 13 young girls, the truth is you couldn't be further from the truth.

Over the last decade Prison has increasingly been filled by those serving lesser offences, first time criminals and those people who are not a real risk to the public and at the same time we have seen criminals on longer sentences continue to get let out for "good behaviour" only serving half of their sentences, and life sentences  actually meaning life being the exception rather than the rule. By freeing up the system from those people who do not benefit from time behind bars we can refocus the entire justice system into a two tier approach. The first tier being for rehabilitation for those criminals who can become productive members of society again and for who prison would be barrier rather than the answer. The second tier should be all about protecting society from the most dangerous people in it, this includes all violent and sex offenders, child abusers and serious persistent offenders. This tier should involve mandatory severe sentences of tens of years and many where life sentences mean life. The regime in prison with not needing to focus on rehabilitation can be basic and reflective of the damage these individuals have caused on other peoples lives, whilst at the same time respecting we are a civilised society we will not cause even the most evil undue harm, but equally this extends to basic facilities and not the luxuries experienced in prison today.

Finally sentences should reflect the society we live in today regardless of when the crimes were committed, historic sex offenders should not face the luxury of gaining leniency by the sheer fact their horrific crimes happened in a different era and instead we should look at how long does society need protected from this individual something you can expect to be counted in decades and not months as we have seen in the case of Stuart Hall.

This is an issue that has the majority of public support behind it, its time to end piecemeal law making and take a bold positive step to keep our children, our families and our communities safe. Its time to reform criminal sentencing and the prison system to one that serves society and not the criminals.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Can We Change Politics? Yes We Can

(My Comment Piece posted on "The Politico Daily Blog")

We are living in a generation where arguably politicians are as out of touch with the electorate as they have been at any point in history since universal suffrage. With the expenses scandal making way to the Leveson enquiry and most  recently we have seen the lobbying scandal too, the public is constantly seeing messages of how disengaged politicians are to the life they are living day after day.

Politics has become stale with the same old “politicos” brought out onto panel debates in the media talking in abstracts and failing to make a coherent message that connects with voters outside of the usual tribalism that exists within our political system. In the middle of this we have seen the rise of reactionary parties such as UKIP who have gained popularity in the polls feeding off disillusionment, the impact of economic climate we live in and the generational shift within conservative politics.

Despite the shake up we have seen because of the political scandals and the introduction of the UKIP wild card to the mix the mainstream red yellow and blue political juggernauts have failed to run at full throttle. They have failed to engage the disillusioned electorate and inject the energy needed to get the knockout punch at the general election in 2015.

All the main parties still believe working harder and faster on the same old tried methods of political engagement is what will get them over the line come election day. This involves carbon copy leaflets often full of party branding, big think campaign messages drawn up in the Westminster bubble, all at the end of the day looking very similar and in a creative sense “grey”. Party Political broadcasts roll out of party HQs all glossy and new and PR consultants very happy with themselves that they have produced the “real deal” the package that will give a real boost to the party in the polls. But back in the real world how many people actually watch party political broadcasts? And of those that do what impact do they genuinely have on them? Id propose the truth is very few people take notice of the broadcasts that now fall into insignificance when it comes to the 100+ channels now available in most people’s homes. Of those people that do end up watching party political broadcasts the same old political spin repackaged with different issues and played out with a senior politician doing a voice over to a pre prepared script, probably turns most people off politics and politicians even more.

It’s often said and for good reason that politics is the home to political careerists, too many ex parliamentary researchers and people who spend their whole life in the Westminster bubble, these are the people that end up round the table when it comes to developing policy, developing campaigns and shaping messages and so the vicious circle continues.

But does it have to continue? Can we break the cycle?

As famously said by US President Barack Obama “Yes we can”. As a Conservative I want to see a conservative majority elected in 2015 and to do this I believe we have to change politics and solve the issues all parties face. We need to change the playing field of the political arena. The election is not going to be won at the policy tables of Whitehall or the big think groups made up of political party regulars but at the dinner tables, on the computers,  on the smart phones, in the workplaces and in the communities of voters across the UK not just the Westminster square mile.

Talent needs to shine through but we need talent that brings different voices to the table, we need people who come from all backgrounds and bring their experience and connection to the electorate with them. A politician asking you to vote conservative is never going to be as strong as your friend, your brother, your neighbour or a community leader telling you they are voting for their futures by voting conservative so why don’t you too? As party membership falls we need to be making cases to people outside the party on why they should support and share our policies and our vision. We need to be involving these people (party members or not) in helping to shape our vision and let them be the ones to lead and share it in their own communities.  

 Times are changing we live in an age of social media, visualised communication and fast moving lives. The same old methods of contacting voters might not be dead but it is certainly on the wane. We have seen in the presidential elections in the USA media being used to shape a vision, develop a connection with the electorate and to encourage an emotional response on why they should vote for the candidate they are promoting. This is how we need to transform our approach when it comes to party political broadcasts and centralised communications. Over the last week I have produced a few cheap simplistic video clips using free online software. These have just been about community campaigning (Campaigning Video), sharing information about me as a person and one on loving “Wirral” where I live (I Love Wirral Video). The response has been overwhelmingly positive; they deliver clear fun messages in a way that makes people want to watch. Another example I can give is the video by republican candidate Rick Santorum “Game on” (Game On Video) it’s hard for anyone to watch this video without feeling a connection and affinity to the candidate and feel upbeat about his agenda (until you look into what that actual agenda is). Targeting DVD messages at key community members, sharing over a cup of coffee, asking them to pass it on or pass the message on can be a great way to create a buzz about key messages or a candidate in a local community, as well as improving overall people’s perceptions of politicians and the political process, in effect bring political world kicking and screaming into the modern world.

Finally candidate selection needs to be open and involve the community, planned out well in advance and be genuinely designed to involve people from across a constituency. Open Primaries are the only way we are going to reach out into constituencies where the electorate are feeling disillusioned or disconnected with the party and politics as a whole. We need to nurture talent from across the country built on their campaign, community and professional experience and break the perception that candidates are all pulled out of a group selected by CCHQ.

Our overall message needs to be about being open, engaging, energetic and based in communities standing up for voters instead of in Westminster standing up for our political parties. know the road to 2015 is going to be hard and the road to change even harder but if I am asked the question can we do it? My answer is YES WE CAN!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Conservatives For All British Communities

Picture of Conservative representatives from Operation Black Vote C/O OBV Website

As someone who comes from a minority background and having experienced my own fair share of discrimination, challenges and barriers in life and having over come many of them to achieve what I have today, I understand and can relate closely to the experiences of many black and minority ethnic (BME) voters in the UK. I also spend my life reaching out to different communities developing engagement with organisations that have traditionally failed to engage people from a variety of backgrounds and empowering people to take control and hold their local services to account.

This is why as a Conservative I feel passionately in us holding open permanently our doors to all communities in the UK and letting anyone who supports the values of hard work, aspiration and success walk through knowing that they are welcomed and are helping to shape the direction of the party, their community and ultimately the country we all are proud to call our home.

If we look across the sea to the USA the Republican Party have consistently failed to engage and reflect the diverse communities that now exist across the USA and as a result have struggled to maintain a winning vote share at the last two presidential elections which have seen the Democrats take the electoral prize. This isnt because BME communities in the USA dont believe in many of the traditional values of the Republican Party but that they see a party that have traditionally opposed many of freedoms that they now have to over come barriers they faced from discrimination and social injustice and who have failed to be a party that actively looks to reflect the communities it claims to represent.

In 2010 the Conservative Party managed to convince just 16% of all BME voters to trust us with their votes, this compares to 68% of BME Voters choosing to vote for the Labour Party. This is an example of the dangerous curve the party is on that reflects the situation that has already played out across the pond in the USA.

Its not that because of your ethnic background your more likely to be a socialist or less likely to support business or believe in traditional conservative either social or economic values. In fact in most polling many voters from BME communities do have traditional social and or economical conservative values much more aligned with a Conservative ideology than that of a Socialist one. However over the years just like in the USA communities have seen the "Conservative Party" oppose many of the progressive advances in equality legislation and seen unhelpful rhetoric when discussing topics about immigration that have at times fell into the realm of race rather than robust policy and reason. This perception and dialogue of policy is one which it is hard to challenge and over come and one which can be a self perpetuating vicious circle with less BME faces out discussing the party the image of a White internally focused out of touch with cultural issues is one we have to accept as Conservatives some BME voters have of the party, rightly or wrongly if we are to move forward we need to accept the perception and views that are out there and challenge them with the actual party that exists and that I am proud to be a member of today.

As Conservatives we shouldn't be afraid to look at the issues and challenges many people in BME communities still face: higher than average deprivation, higher levels of unemployment, hate crime, impact of failed multiculturalism policies and need for integration. These aren't political correct madness or minority issues of little importance but are the key if we are to show how Conservative values are values that can give success to all communities in the UK and that as a party we are working to empower communities to help develop solutions to the challenges they face. This will take more than nice words and friendly faces like mine reaching out to different groups. What is needed is real policy engaging communities, the third sector and key stakeholders to develop actions that can help individuals facing the barriers and challenges I've highlighted, empowering them to  reach the success they deserve regardless of their background.

Policies and actions need to be local and national its no good parties simply doing what we have always done before coffee mornings and other standard local association events (although of course we should continue to run these events as well) but we should be looking to attend events organised by third sector or community organisations in BME communities whether they are traditional Tory heartlands or not. We should be inviting key stakeholders onto conservative social action planning groups again whether they are already conservative members or not and we should be making sure messages we develop are not "This is what we will do for you" but "This is what we can do together".

Im Proud to be a member of a Conservative Party that is evolving and moving forward in 2013 a party that is proud of its traditions and believes its values of aspiration hard work and success are ones which are not only for one community but for ALL communities.

Now its time to get out there and truly show we are all in this together.


Thursday, 23 May 2013

Help give a little girl the chance of life

My friend got in touch on Facebook this week to ask me to help promote a campaign to support a little girl. This little girl is called Amelia Mae shes has been diagnosed with the aggressive form of childhood cancer known as Neuroblastoma. 

Her only chance in fighting this horrendous disease is a life saving trip to the USA and a chance at a newly developed treatment that could give a little angel the chance to enjoy the life she was born to live.

The only way children in the UK can get treatment for this terrible disease one that takes children's lives so young is by getting onto a clinical trial here (which is so difficult) or parents have to rely on the support of charities and fundraising to go to the USA and pay for newly develop treatments not available here on the NHS.

Reading this I was truly touched at the care and love for their children from truly dedicated parents and the strength many of these children have in the face of such terrifying circumstances. Anything we can all do to help support these parents help their children, and to give a child the chance of a life is something that pulls at the core of all our humanity.

Please read Ameila's Story and information about this horrendous disease and help save a life today.

Amelia Mae's Story and Just Giving Page

Learn about Neuroblastoma and UK Charity set up to children and their families


Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Extending Civil Partnerships would be like renaming Christmas as Winter Wonderland Celebration

I am what would be described as a modern Conservative I joined under David Cameron's leadership after beginning my  political life as a young Blairite supporter in the Labour Party. I joined the party after seeing David Cameron and others vision for the future, a Conservative Party built around opening up the party's values to all, uniting people across society from all backgrounds behind the Party's core values of success built on hard work, economic restraint,  fairness and liberty. 

The Equal Marriage debate symbolises the future of the party it takes the traditional institution of marriage one that all conservatives value and says "no one should be denied the benefits it brings to people's relationships". The policy is about extending the benefits of conservative policy and perspectives to the modern society and the world we find ourselves in today. When I speak to other conservatives young and old who are looking to our future this is the direction they see the party going if we are to maintain our broad church, reach out to wider society and ensure its conservative values that our society is built on this is the road we need to travel.

A modern vision for the party is far from turning our back on the party's old values and supporters but enhancing and extending them to all voters. That is why the idea of extending civil partnerships is one that doesn't fit this agenda. It would be to set up an alternative to marriage akin to re branding Christmas as a winter wonderland celebration. The bill before parliament aims to enhance and promote marriage, it is as conservative a institution and concept as it gets. Where as ironically the suggestion to create a parallel institution to this one of Civil Partnerships for all would suggest marriage isn't necessarily the best option for relationships and be at odds with the core conservative value of marriage directly.

Its time as Conservatives we looked forward, the future of the party stands on the right side of history on equal marriage and I'm proud I intend to be part of that future.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Conservative Party future can be defined by marriage for all

Today we have heard MPs from all sides of the House of Commons speak in support of Equal Marriage. Overwhelmingly there is a simple message everyone should be able to celebrate their love through the great institution of Marriage.

However it would be wrong to deny that there is not a significant minority who do oppose the idea of Equal Marriage the idea is opposed to their values and the values of the religion they hold close. This is also true of a minority in the Conservative Party.

What is telling though is not that some Conservative MPs oppose Same Sex Marriage from a cultural commentators perspective that is something that would be expected from history, but that a large number support it and that its a Conservative led government who is introducing equal marriage. When we look at polling of younger members in the party the support for equal marriage extends further.

What does this all mean? Is it that the conservative party is slowly selling out to a political correct agenda? or has the party been infiltrated by the left? If you listened to some in the media and indeed those claiming to speak for the Conservative Grass roots you would believe that to be true. Reality is that the Conservative party is changing, its is changing because times are changing, social perspectives are changing and people are changing. When I talk to fellow Conservatives under 35 the politics I see is one built around being united on Thatcherite Economic Policy, principle of success through hard work and the values of liberty, freedom and Diversity. This is also the message in a similar terminology coming from the so called modernisers in the party. Policies such as Equal Marriage are not about selling out, not about swinging left right up down or indeed out of control (if you believe some of the commentators) but about swinging behind a traditional institution. The Policy is saying the door shouldn't be closed to some as it has in the past from being able to benefit from the benefits of marriage simply because of their sexuality when in 2013 we consider people equal regardless of race sexuality gender or any other protected characteristic. As Conservatives we want everyone to benefit from the values we hold close and that we believe help achieve a society that is successful fair and one where liberty is at its core. This is a message that those still shaped by the culture of the past and shaped by their own religious perspective has been hard to see as one they can support, however as we go forward and the mist of change becomes clearer we will see people who have wrestled with their own consciences seeing the positives in other embracing their conservative values they hold close and we will see a country that is better for it too.

The Equal Marriage debate is a metaphor for change in the conservative party and its change for the better its time we wedged open our dusty wooden doors that have kept our values only accessible to some and made them accessible to all. I'm Proud to be a member of the Conservative Party and I want many more people to join and be proud too.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Time to Clean up the Drunks

This country has an epidemic of the kind we haven't seen since the Gin riots of the 18th Century. Our town centres and high streets are plagued by the presence of drunks cruising in what can be best described as gangs from bar to bar or staggering down alone in search of a local takeaway.

Tonight I was a subject of the abuse many thousands of decent UK residents face every week as they navigate our town centres in the evening either off to socialise with friends themselves or while making their own way home. Being transgender the abuse was the typical transphobic hate filled vileness that no one should be subject too not least someone stood quietly waiting to catch a bus home. However whether discriminatory or simply vile abuse this description of distressing incident on our streets is all too common in Britain today.

Over the last decade we have seen the continue decline in the respectability of our city and town centres as spaces to be enjoyed in the evening and at weekends. We have also seen a rapid increase in the amount of abuse, assaults and anti social beahviour that have left our streets as no go areas to  many people who don't consider drinking binges the best way to spend a Friday night or Weekend.

The disaster zone thou doesn't just stop there, not only are our streets filling up with drunks and abusive behaviour so are our hospitals and A & E departments. Heaven forbid you are the subject of a sporting injury or accident at home on a Saturday night as you will face the gauntlet that is your local Accident and Emergency Department. Every Friday and Saturday night thousands of dedicated medical professionals deal with the aftermath of UK binge drinking culture and the violent effects and behaviour of many who partake in this damaging past time. They have to deal with threats, abuse, assaults and patients running amok while all the time trying to deliver the high quality healthcare we have come to expect from the NHS.

All of this costs the UK tax payer and public billions and billions of pounds. Crime cost estimates range from over the £11 billion figure and the cost to the NHS from over £3 billion. In a time when we are counting the pennies and tightening the belt we can ill afford to allow this blatant abuse of public funds and impact on the UK economy to continue. Not to mention its the very victims of the anti social behaviour experienced on our streets who themselves are having to contribute towards allowing it to continue.

Government policy to date instead of tackling this problem head on has instead facilitated its continuation and escalation. From relaxing of licensing restrictions, introduction of 24 hour drinking and police policy of managing city centres instead of zero tolerance approach has meant that we are now at the stage we last faced as a country during the Gin riots of the 18th century.

But it doesn't have to be this way. We have a conservative lead government and as a party we have a long history of tackling crime and delivering strong criminal justice policy this is what we as conservatives should be focusing our attention on. No more "tough talking" or "police campaigns" we need radical new policy that will tackle this issue and make our city centres safe once again for all of us living in the UK.

Firstly I call on the government to introduce £1000 surcharges for everyone convicted of drunk and disorderly offences to be deducted immediately from convicted person's benefits or wages directly, no exceptions. This surcharge should be on top of any other court sanctions and fines and is to go towards funding the immense bill alcohol related mayhem places on the UK tax payer every year, its time we made those to blame and not the victims pay for this mess.

Secondly I call on the government to introduce 1 strike and your out anti social behaviour zones for anyone convicted of being drunk and disorderly for an automatic 1 year from all license premises all day and from all UK city centres after the hours of 7 pm. This will show help to reclaim our streets from those determined to continue to cause mayhem week after week. We need to come down hard to ensure this isn't a policy that can be ignored the impact is too great to our communities.

Finally we need to put an end to this policy of "managed city centres" where numerous offences of drunk and disorderly and premises serving "drunk customers" is ignored. We need to bring back properly restricted licensing rules and build drunk tanks in all our UK city centres separate custody suites that are safely managed but reduce the red tape and paper work needed for police officers to arrest those committing the offence of drunk and disorderly on our streets. We need to introduce a policy that no amount of causing disorder due to alcohol will be "let off" and start clearing up the streets of people who are determined to cause suffering and give abuse to others. This would make a significant difference to the state of our streets and start to reset the balance towards the rights and freedom of respectable UK residents to walk in their own city and town centre's over the rights of drunks to abuse and carry out continued anti social behaviour every week.

This is an issue that is coming to a head and one that would make a difference to the lives of millions of hard working UK citizens who simply want to not have to worry about walking home at night or those who want to enjoy respectfully a nice peaceful night out. Instead of worrying over policies such as a snoopers charter and worrying over the sentencing of ex government ministers for speeding this is a real criminal justice issue the government should and must deal with I urge them to listen to me and millions of others and do so.

Its time to clean up our streets.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Thank You

Today was a historic day when the main hurdle for the Equal Marriage Bill becoming law was passed thanks to the votes of 400 Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour MPs.

I want to say thank you to the brave and strong leadership of our conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. In the face of opposition from his own benches he today put the needs of the country and its people first and pushed forward with the Equal Marriage proposals. The reforms David Cameron has made as leader of the Conservative Party are one of the reasons I felt able to join the party and its great to see this culmination of his hard work. Thank you for helping LGBT people across the UK be one step close to being able to celebrate love, Transgender people be able to stay married to their loved one and for leading the Conservative Party into the progressive 21st Century.

I also wanted to say thank you to Maria Miller MP. When she took over as Equalities Minister she faced a raft of abuse and criticism focusing on her past and not looking at her skills and commitments she had made for the future. Today saw her leading on bringing forth the Equal marriage Bill and challenging the arguments made against introducing Equal marriage in England and Wales. She was forthright, clear and determined and  I respect her a great deal for the role she has played in carrying equal marriage bill through and leading the debate in the chamber. Thank you Maria Miller I know people across the UK are feeling happier tonight thanks to your hard work.

Finally I would like to thank Liberal Democrat and former Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone MP. She is an MP I respect a great deal, her hard work, persistence and passion has helped drive the equal marriage work within government as well as the wider equality agenda. She has been a fantastic advocate on transgender issues (which is often an issue hard to find advocates in the House of Commons on) and has remained positive and engaging on the issue of equal marriage winning people over and make a clear argument for why we should be supporting its introduction. I know many LGBT friends will join me in saying thank you Lynne we are proud of you and all your work!

A big thank you for every single person who has written to their MP, spoken on the radio, spoken to MPs in person, written blogs and done a whole variety of campaigning activities trying to show positively why we need equal marriage in the UK you have all made a difference and together shown what we can achieve when we unite across political, social and stereotypical divides to focus on an issue to bring happiness to 100 000s of people in the UK.

Finally a big thank you to the religious MPs Labour, Lib Dem or Conservative who voted to allow freedom despite their personal views on marriage and sexuality and those MPs that in the face of 100s of letters from constituents against equal marriage had the strength of their convictions to do the right thing for over 2.5 million LGBT people in the UK you have stood on the right side of history today and I thank you for the difficult decision you have made.

Equal Marriage is on its way to becoming law and the UK is better for it!