December 31, 2013 § Leave a comment
Well, what a year eh?
So much has happened that it’s literally impossible to try and cover it all here, so instead I’m going to pinpoint a few highlights.
First of all it’s remained (and remains) the greatest honour of my professional life to represent the good people of Barwell as their Councillor; in March, as the Barwell representative on HBBC’s Planning Committee, I was proud to successfully propose an important new development for my village, which will bring in almost £40million of inward investment…including vitally needed new infrastructure!
I was also proud to vote, along with colleagues, for thousands of new jobs coming into the Borough and-after years of people talking about it but not delivering-to vote for a new Bus Station development in Hinckley.
A Lib Dem administration delivering for the people of Hinckley and Bosworth!
I’m also proud of our Lib Dem-run Parish Council in Barwell and, especially, our newest Councillor-elected in a by-election in February-Charlotte Green who, I think, is going to have a very bright future in our Party.
Meanwhile, in 2013, I’ve traveled up and down the Country with the Lib Dems, from Manchester, to Brighton, Birmingham, to Glasgow; all in the name of spreading the good name of Liberal Democracy.
Autumn Federal Conference, in Glasgow, in September, was a particular highlight…making my Conference floor debut, asking a question to the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (about free transport for young people, since you asked) and also appearing on a number of national news/politics programmes: BBC Parliament, 5 News, The Daily Politics, and a live edition of Newsnight.
Earlier this year I also appeared on The Big Questions and, recently, on the East Midlands opt-out of The Sunday Politics.
In the run-up to Conference I was exceptionally honoured to be shortlisted for the Lib Dem Voice website’s Lib Dem Councillor of the Year.
Although the title itself went to someone else, even to be shortlisted was wonderful and very affirming that all my hard work is appreciated.
I’ve also been fortunate to be able to indulge another passion…writing.
I’ve written for, among others, The Guardian, the New Statesman’s Staggers blog, and PinkNews-Europe’s Largest Gay News Service.
I’m proud to be part of a number of organisations which do tremendous work and was honoured, earlier this year, to become a Director of Republic-The Campaign for an Elected Head of State, whilst continuing as a Council Member of the Social Liberal Forum, a pressure group within the Liberal Democrats.
Locally, I’m so very proud of the work we’ve achieved on moving forward with ensuring we provide the best service we can for the LGBT community in Hinckley and Bosworth.
Proud Generation (part of Next Generation, of whom I’m a Management Committee member) continued its locally groundbreaking work as the Borough’s first LGBT Advocacy and Advice service.
Meanwhile I also created a little bit of history, bringing the first LGBT item to my Council’s Scrutiny Commission…and making a speech talking about my experience of Coming Out a couple of years ago.
I was also proud this year to become Coordinator of Lib Dems For A Republic and Cofounding, with my lovely mate Matt Whittles, Fairtrade Future, the Fairtrade movement within the Liberal Democrats.
Also, there’s far too many highlights to mention, over the past year, in my HBBC roles of Children and Young People’s Champion and Fairtrade Champion.
Outside of politics, I’ve loved all the things I’ve been able to do locally…including Co-Chair Barwell Carnival with the fantastic Alison Poxon, and helping to organise/compere a number of events, including ‘Brass On The Grass’ and ‘Barwell Schools Sing Christmas,’ as well as being part of two shows directed by the fabulous and lovely Jenni Hunt.
Another joy was being able to meet and work with Love Hinckley, a group set up to help promote local Small and Medium Sized businesses…here’s to the two ladies behind it, Cathy Phayres and Clare Farrell.
In work, it’s remained an honour to be a member of staff at local charity, The George Ward Centre.
And finally, but most importantly of all, I couldn’t do any of this without the love and support-and occasional much needed guidance-of my family and friends.
You mean more to me than I can say!
So, that was 2013…here’s to an even busier and more fantastic 2014!
December 18, 2011 § Leave a comment
This is my fourth blog post for The Huffington Post online newspaper, in which I argue it’s time for the Occupy St Paul’s protesters to go home:
February 28, 2011 § 11 Comments
SO, IT’S my Birthday today, I turn 31!
Well, it’s kind of my birthday…you see I’m a Leap Year child, born on February 29th 1980.
Not sure if it’s the birthday adrenaline coursing through my veins, but I’ve decided the time has come to be true to myself and to be true to others.
Long since time to ‘come out of the closet’ and tell the world that I’m gay.
It’s a shame, in one sense, that being gay is not seen as normal enough for people like me not to have to ‘come out’ like it’s some kind of circus performance.
However, I do so today not only because it’s time I was honest with the World about who I am, but also because I believe that the more of us homosexuals who stand up and tell people who and what we are, the more courage it will give to other people to do the same.
I’ve been blown away, in recent weeks, since I first ‘came out’ to my brilliant friend Daniel (who I thank for his friendship, integrity and advice) with how cool people have been when I’ve told them, how quick they’ve been to reassure me that this doesn’t change anything, and, in terms of my brother and father, how much they love me.
And, of course, it shouldn’t be something to get worked up about…and I know I should have done this years ago, but you just don’t know how people are going to react; it’s the fear of the unknown that is the key to this.
A friend of mine put it starkly to me when he noted that at 31, I could be nearing half-way through my life-span and that it’s time I lived my life how I wanted to.
I couldn’t do this without the support and love of countless friends; Daniel, Helen, James, Simon, Stuart, Andy, Harvey and others I’ve probably forgotten to mention; your support, in recent weeks, has been fantastic.
And, of course, to my family…to whom I owe more than I than I can easily express.
Of course, in many ways, this changes nothing: I’m still the same bloke; still a bit of a geek, still a Lib Dem, still a Christian, still a Republican, still pro-European, still love radio and current affairs, still think I can sing when really I can’t, and so on.
I could go on for longer, but I think I’ll leave it at for now.
It feels like a huge weight lifted from my shoulders.
Many thanks and much love.
January 30, 2011 § 2 Comments
Later this year it’ll be twenty years since my Mum and Dad split up and, subsequently, divorced.
I’ll never forget that late Summer’s day, just a fortnight before I was due to start high school (great timing, dad) when my father came home late from a night shift, went upstairs to pack his things, came downstairs to where me and my Mum were sitting in the living room and told my mother he was leaving her.
He’d met someone else.
Though I tried to remain strong for my mum-as, by default, I was now ‘The Man’ of the house, and though I never let on to anyone at school what had happened (neither did my Mum-she later told me-until the first parent’s evening when she informed my Tutor, Mrs Boobyer…no sniggering, please…that she and my dad had split up…I’m chuffed to say my Tutor informed her that she would never have known and that I was a pleasant child and doing well in my school work), the split up was chewing me up deep inside.
I started wetting the bed due to my anxiety at what the future held for me and my family.
With Dad only paying the most basic maintenance and Mum not earning very much from her factory work, we also didn’t have much money.
But Mum wouldn’t let that stop me from following my dreams.
She encouraged me to go to the Church Lads’ and Church Girls’ Brigade twice a week and Hinckley Swimming Club twice a week (I was fit once, you know!?)
I did alright at school; not a star pupil, but not an underachiever either. I guess I was average.
I went to FE College and then on to Nottingham Trent University, from where I graduated in 2002 with a BA (Honours) in Broadcast Journalism.
This is a very truncated version of what happened to my family in the 90’s and early 00’s.
Back when Dad and Mum split up, separations let alone divorce-were not to be discussed in polite society.
Divorce, especially, was still pretty rare…well, compared with today anyway.
Though I always stayed in contact with my Dad, often more at my request than his, Mum was my rock and my guide.
A few years ago my Dad’s second wife sadly passed away and, at his time of greatest need, I felt it important to be there for him even though-to be frank-I felt like he hadn’t always been there for me.
Now, as my Mum and Dad are shortly to enter their 70’s, I realise just how much I love and owe them both, especially my Mum.
Me and Dad are now closer than ever before and he recently told me how proud he was that I was a Lib Dem Candidate in the up-coming local elections.
That meant a lot to me.
I never thought I’d write such a personal blogpost, even one which just skims the surface of the myriad of emotions I’ve felt down the years, but I felt it needed to be written.
Some people have levelled at me that, as a Lib Dem in 2011, I must be a yellow-Tory; a right-winger hiding in left-wing clothing.
That I, somehow, don’t know what it feels like to be struggling in modern Britain.
The truth is, I know too well. From my parents separation and divorce, to years of struggle, to finding some success as a radio reporter, to then being made redundant (in 2009) and facing a period of unemployment, before re-inventing myself as a community organiser and aspirant politician.
In many ways, despite the hardships, my life has been blessed.
For whatever has happened in my life, my Mum has always been there…offering love and support and providing a safe, warm and (for the most part) happy home.
So, people, who use clichés and stereotypes to attack Lib Dems such as me need to realise, we know all too well what it’s like in the ‘real world,’ we live in it each day of our lives.
That is why I, for one, support a socially liberal agenda, that aids social mobility, that makes work pay, and that helps the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.
That is why, even with the tough choices and compromises, I support this Coalition Government.
I’ve come along way since that shy eleven year old, whose family faced an uncertain future, back in 1991.
I made it through the rain.
I believe this Government will help others walk from rain to sunshine too.
January 7, 2011 § 1 Comment
O.k., I admit it, when I first heard about the idea of the Big Society I thought ‘another piece of what Margaret Thatcher might have once described as ‘windy rhetoric”-that might sound all very nice, but was really about dismantling the State and getting lots of well-meaning people to do it all for free.
However, I’ve had something of a ‘see the light’ moment since then; i’ve become a genuine convert to the cause.
Let me be clear from the outset, I do not believe-and have never believed-that Britain is a ‘broken society’ and I think David Cameron and his party were wrong to use such palpably ludicrous statements back when he was Leader of the Opposition.
Many Lib Dems condemned him at the time and were right to do so.
Which is not to say that this country didn’t have its social problems, of course it did, but individual problems are not necessarily examples of a more general societal collapse.
I also must state early on that I believe in an enabling Government and that people pay their taxes and are right to demand that good quality services are provided for them by people on the public payroll.
However, I also now believe that encouraging volunteerism, social entrepreneurship, social activism, etc, is key to making this country the fair and decent place we surely all want it to be.
My own village of Barwell in Leicestershire is a good case in point.
As many of you will be aware Barwell has had its fair share of individual incidents which have made the national news in recent years-by the way I utterly condemn some of the biased, sensationalist coverage of our village by the London-based media-but it is, at heart, a great place to live populated b, overwhelmingly, good and decent people.
Now, begins the work of rebuilding my little community.
That must, inevitably, involve a great many people from a number of agencies; the police, the parish council, the Lib Dem-run Borough Council, etc.
But, official bodies, no matter how close to the ground they are, can do everything.
Barwell’s re-birth, if I can put it like that, will not fully take place unless the talents, enthusiasms and, yes, the power of its people are put to good use in the interest of serving the local community and making it better for local people to live, work and play in.
This means voluntary groups, youth organisations, the local business association, and so on coming together, to come up with ideas that can help not only re-build our infrastructure, provide better services, but also make sure that no one is left behind, no one forgotten, no one feeling they are not a part of this big adventure.
I work as a Centre Co-Ordinator at the new George Ward Centre in Barwell (named after the late former boot and shoe manufacturer and philanthropist who went on to become Hinckley and Bosworth’s Liberal Member of Parliament) and we are working tooth and claw to make sure we are providing affordable activities for people right across the age and social strate spectrum.
Now, yes, I’m a paid employee, but we also rely on our fantastic team of volunteers to man our cafe area, etc.
My village also relies a lot on faith-based organisations.
For example, I’m a Member of Barwell Methodist Church which provides a range of different services/events each week.
I’m reminded that, outside of Government, the Christian Church provides more welfare than any other group/organisation in this country.
Getting back to Barwell and I’m also hoping, with other like-minded people, to try to set up a committee of volunteers whose aim is to put on events for local people and help to promote the village as a great place to live.
So call it the Big Society, call it social activism, call it volunteering gone large…indeed call it what you like, but I believe this is just what is needed to help us turn around many of our areas across the country.
Above all, call it liberal for I, at least, believe it matches perfectly with the all-important preamble to our constitution:
‘The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance and conformity.’
December 31, 2010 § 1 Comment
How many Lib Dems, even in their wettest of wet dreams, at the start of 2010 would have dared to believe that by the end of it (indeed, the middle of it) we’d be full partners in the first Coalition Government since the 2nd World War?
Who would have thought that a Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister would have addressed politicians and diplomats, from around the world, at the United Nations headquarters in New York?
You’d have probably been derided as an overoptimistic fool if you’d have envisioned a year where countless Lib Dem manifesto policies have been put into action:
From the pupil premium, to taking many of the lowest paid workers out of tax altogether, to action on Climate Change, to delaying a decision over replacing Trident and on and on.
Who’d have believed, at the start of the year, that our Leader would have lit up the election campaign with his peerless performances in the first ever TV leaders’ debates in a UK general election?
We Liberal Democrats…all of us!…should be proud that all of this…I say again, all of this, has come to pass.
This has been a remarkable, historic year for our beloved party.
Have we faced difficulties? Yes, of course.
Have we made some very tough choices? Most certainly.
Will we have upset some people? It was inevitable.
But I would argue that this was the year our party-22 years old in its modern form-finally grew up.
It left its impossibly idealistic teenage years way behind it and is beginning to realise that hard, raw politics is about-like it or not-having to be both idealistic and pragmatic…it’s about the ‘art of the possible.’
As Barack Obama recently said in an interview with Jon Stewart on the brilliant Daily Show:
“Yes we can, but…”
Well if the most idealistic (at least in terms of rhetoric) politician of our age is having to qualify people’s hopes and expectations then we shouldn’t be surprised that Clegg and Cameron are having to do the same here.
There’s no doubt at all that the tuition fees issue has been damaging for our party and for our party leadership-and I disagreed with it-but, in a sense, it was the decision which showed just how much the Liberal Democrats have grown up.
Look, for decades we could be as idealistic as we wanted, we could promise the world, because-in our heart of hearts-we never expected to get anywhere near being in Government.
Now, that is all changed. So, yes, its a tough old learning curve for our party and some people may never forgive us…whether it be for joining a Coalition with the Tories or supporting a policy we had expressly campaigned against…but, I tell you, in time we’ll get the support of plenty more people who used to consider voting Lib Dem to be a waste or used to think we were a joke of a party.
Today, whatever you think about some of the decisions being taken by Lib Dem Ministers and Secretaries of State, you can no longer claim, with any credibility at least, that we are not to be taken seriously.
So, no doubt there are more tough days ahead but we should be proud of how far we’ve come this year.
Happy New Year to all of my readers!
December 17, 2010 § Leave a comment
As many of you know I used to work in journalism and very much still enjoy contributing to various media platforms, including presenting weekly on Hilltop Radio (a local community radio station in the Hinckley area) and writing regular columns for the Hinckley Herald and Journal newspaper.
I’m also part of a very innovative scheme, started by a great bloke called John Coster, called Citizen’s Eye, a news agency for citizen journalists in Leicester and Leicestershire.
As part of my work for Citizen’s Eye I record a regular local news video bulletin called ‘Le10 News,’ with stories from across the Hinckley area (see the archive here: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_filter=1&suggested_categories=25%2C17&search_query=Le10+News&page=1 …the first fifteen are my videos.)
These have proven popular and so I’m now beginning to expand my output; this week I recorded my first video bulletin reviewing the week’s newspapers.
It’s called ‘The Week in Print,’ and is set to become a regular broadcast.
You can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJ1rzrFeUkw
Do let me know what you think…as long as you’re polite.